“Those people.”

Warning: Rant ahead.

Good lord, does it ever stop? Words fail.

[Twitch.] [Twitch.] [Facial tic.]

OK, words are beginning to return. If you didn’t click the link yet, it’s about the testimony, yesterday, of Dr. Richard Carmona, surgeon general from 2000 to 2006. It turns out — brace yourself for a revelation sure to shock — that even the office of the so-called nation’s doctor is not safe from the black hole of evil that is Karl Rove…oh, hell. The black hole of evil that is this entire administration. Ahem:

“Anything that doesn’t fit into the political appointees’ ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried,” he said. “The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds.”

As you may suspect, among the things that didn’t fit into the political agenda were embryonic stem-cell research, questioning the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex-ed programs, secondhand smoke, even global warming research. But the whipped cream on the cake had to be this exchange (from an NYT story, not the one linked above):

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to a “prominent family” that he refused to name.

“I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said.

The Special Olympics is one of the nation’s premier charitable organizations to benefit disabled people, and the Kennedys have long been deeply involved in it.

When asked after the hearing if that “prominent family” was the Kennedys, Dr. Carmona responded, “You said it. I didn’t.”

Yes, don’t make an appearance at the nation’s premier event for the developmentally disabled. You don’t want to help “those people.”

Like most Americans, I never gave a thought to the surgeon general unless I was lighting a cigarette, until C. Everett Koop came along. Dr. Frank, my old buddy, considers Koop a personal hero, and explained why one day over lunch, although it should be obvious to anyone who remembers the Reagan administration. Koop, the proverbial “deeply religious” doc, a pediatric surgeon, found himself occupying the office during what would become the most profound public-health crisis of the latter half of the 20th century, and perhaps all of the 21st — AIDS. There was a lot of loose talk about God’s punishment and quarantines and maybe even detention camps. William F. Buckley made his notorious suggestion about buttock-tattooing to indicate the HIV-positive, if you recall. What a time it was.

And Koop, who could very well have gone along with all of this, issued a report. It contained the words “anal sex” and “condom” and other things polite people didn’t talk about. It also advocated AIDS education in public schools. He thought it would be a good idea if we instructed people — yes, even young, unmarried people — on the proper use of condoms. This made him few friends in the administration, but Reagan supported him. He even supported him when he called smoking “as addictive as heroin” and changed the warnings on cigarette packs from “may be hazardous to your health” to “causes cancer.”

For all of this, Dr. Frank admired Koop greatly. He was unafraid to speak uncomfortable truths, but most of all, he upheld the doctor’s core value: He placed the welfare of his patients — in this case, the whole country — ahead of his personal attitudes and beliefs. (This was a big thing for Frank, who is a pulmonologist. Every day in his practice, he saw people who willingly consumed the poison that was killing them, who wouldn’t even go outside so their asthmatic kid wouldn’t suffer. The urge to punctuate medical advice with a few brisk smacks to the jaw must have been overwhelming. But it also made him nod in agreement when Koop said that part about heroin.)

Koop left big shoes to fill, and I don’t think anyone really has. But the shoes have been there. And yes, in the interest of fairness, I will say that Bill Clinton screwed over his own surgeon general. Everyone with half a brain knew what Joycelyn Elders was saying when she said masturbation should be taught in schools. She wasn’t advocating wanking lessons and instructional videos. She was saying that maybe kids should be told the truth about masturbation. It was political cowardice to hang her out to dry.

But that was nothing compared to this. It is perhaps naive to expect politicians not to be politicians, but tell that to a person with a chronic disease hoping for a stem cell-based treatment in his or her lifetime, who might appreciate a little straight talk on the subject. The country that gave the world the Salk vaccine long ago ceded its scientific leadership in this field. Guess who’s rushing into the vacuum, luring the world’s top scientists to do research in their friendly country? Singapore. Have a nice day.


OK, rant over. Let’s go straight to the bloggage before I start sweating.

I wonder how the president of Chevrolet felt, after last night’s All-Star Game, having to hand the keys to his all-American hybrid SUV to a Japanese guy named Suzuki? Probably pretty good. It was a great performance.

I know, intellectually at least, that every day could be my last. I’ve been guilty of a morbid interest in strange, sudden deaths, if only because it usually motivates me to clean out my underwear drawer. Some deaths are worse than others, however; this one has to be one of the top five. And I’m not talking about the people in the plane; I’m talking about the people in the houses. Of course we heard the 911 tapes from the neighborhood on the late news; I know you will be as astonished as I was to learn that the people sound panicked and upset. “News,” you know.

Now I’m in the proper mood for aggressive journalism. I pick up my lance, and off to the home office.

Posted at 9:08 am in Current events |

35 responses to ““Those people.””

  1. ashley said on July 11, 2007 at 9:20 am

    I was on a jet blue flight that hit something, and dropped for about 25 seconds. I know the amount of time, because, amidst all the screaming, I was able to pull out my cell phone, turn it on, and begin dialing my wife to tell her and the kids goodbye.

    People around me were hysterical, but for some reason, I managed to stay calm enough to do this. I mean, at that point, what else could I have done?

    I agree with you about Koop wholeheartedly — I even agree with you about Reagan’s support for Koop, but remember, that didn’t happen until Reagan had ignored “the gay plague” for about 2 years.

    605 chars

  2. nancy said on July 11, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Ashley. It is expressly forbidden to use a cell phone on a commercial flight. I’m shocked and disappointed.

    107 chars

  3. brian stouder said on July 11, 2007 at 9:55 am

    …on the other hand, the interference his phone created might be what saved all the souls on the plane!

    104 chars

  4. Dorothy said on July 11, 2007 at 9:58 am

    I’ve had several bad dreams since watching the house behind me burn last Tuesday morning. This morning watching this story about the plane on the Today show just made me shiver. I hate just walking past the debris when I walk my dog. I can’t wait until the house is razed.

    275 chars

  5. alex said on July 11, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Koop is one of my personal heroes, and so is Elders. I saw Elders on a “60 Minutes” segment that aired before anyone ever heard of Bill Clinton. As a state official in Arkansas, Elders was dealing with one of the highest pre-teen pregnancy rates in the country and treating it like the public health crisis it was — by encouraging frankness in the public arena and the schools.

    378 chars

  6. John said on July 11, 2007 at 10:31 am

    I interpreted “those people” to mean the Kennedy’s not the Special Olympians. Not defending those numbskulls, but merely offering a different viewpoint. Although I admit, I thought the same when I first read the quote.

    222 chars

  7. nancy said on July 11, 2007 at 10:35 am

    They were talking about the Kennedys, I think. I was struck by the equation of “participating in an event embraced or supported by the entire country” with “helping the Kennedys.” Nothing is not politics to this administration.

    227 chars

  8. ashley said on July 11, 2007 at 10:51 am

    “I hate just walking past the debris when I walk my dog.”

    Dorothy, come on down to New Orleans. I’ll give you the tour. Bring the dog.

    BTW, I wasn’t the only one on that flight pulling out the phone. I counted about 3 or 4 of us.

    I’m sorry you’re disappointed. ;^)

    286 chars

  9. Danny said on July 11, 2007 at 11:12 am

    …Bring the dog.

    The cadaver dog?

    Nancy, at this point I am not surprised by anything in this admin, but there is some incongruity with a story I remember from a few years ago having to do with Ted Kennedy and family coming to the WH regularly on social visits for “movie” nights. Weird, huhn?

    308 chars

  10. Dorothy said on July 11, 2007 at 11:51 am

    I do not know how you do it, Ashley.

    We had a big rain storm last night, and almost all the “Do Not Cross” police tape blew away from the burned house. This morning Augie and I went past it, and he cautiously stuck his nose out towards their grass, but then pulled back. Even he doesn’t like it. Bad vibes.

    311 chars

  11. LA mary said on July 11, 2007 at 11:54 am

    How is Augie? Poppy sends her golden mix regards.
    I’m having a crap week at work, and I think my dogs are keeping me sane.

    123 chars

  12. MarkH said on July 11, 2007 at 12:51 pm


    “Nothing is not politics” to ANY administration. See your line above about “political cowardice”. There are, after all, just different levels of intelligence. Good or bad, Bill Clinton was/is the greatest political animal of all.

    Other half of my brain speaking here: if it’s not “wanking lessons and instructional videos”, which is what I would expect in such a venue, just what is the “truth about masturbation” kids should be taught in the public education arena? If it’s what I think you mean, it’s personal enough that I want it to be handled at home, which is what my wife and I did with our son and all things sex-ed related. Things have worked out well so for; just graduated high school, he’s socially active, and no STD’s, unwanted pregnancies, or emotional stigma (so far). His fight with diabetes takes up a lot of his emotional strength.

    Having said that, I’m not against teaching the “mechanics” and consequences, which my son had (and I had in 8th grade way back in ’66). But, how do parents know who is doing the teaching of the social and emotional end, and do they, or should they have a say in such a thing? We have wonderful public educators in my community, but not knowing them all, why should parents cede everything them?

    While I will defer to health education to experts, I’m just saying it’s not as easy as having the SG throw out a mandate for such a thing.

    1415 chars

  13. nancy said on July 11, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Well, sex ed IS health ed, after all.

    Here’s what I’d like taught about masturbation: That it’s perfectly normal, harmless and a safe alternative to partnered sex. I know some would object to even those facts, but that’s their problem, because that’s what they are: Facts.

    The emotional aspects of sexuality are more complex and should certainly be open to discussion.

    I guess certain religious sorts would like to quibble over “harmless,” but that’s a matter for Sunday school, maybe. I know as recently as my own distant youth, some kids were still being told that it could be physically harmful.

    Where Elders got screwed was that her remarks were reported as “masturbation should be taught in schools,” which summoned up uncomfortable images and lots of late-night TV jokes. The quote was, “I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught.” It’s clearly an off-the-cuff response, and not a word of it is untrue. I read her comment as “taught about,” but maybe not others.

    1022 chars

  14. Peter said on July 11, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    This is really easy for someone like me to say, but sometimes you just have to stand up for what you think is right and let the crap hit the fan. Mark is right when he says that every administration looks first at politics. Clinton did it, and so did Reagan. Yet Koop did what he thought was right. This schmuck could have done the same, although that would mean he’d have to give up the admiral’s jacket.

    I’ve had a few occasions in my career where I had to choose between a client’s wishes and the public’s good, and on each occasion I and/or my firm was fired from the project. My usual coping response was to believe that if I didn’t get fired over that one issue, it would have been another one a few weeks later, so it’s better to go out on principle.

    765 chars

  15. Dorothy said on July 11, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Augie kindly returns the greeting to Poppy! He misses his “dad” (i.e. my husband) I’m sure. Mike started his new job in Ohio on June 18th. Having Josh and Alli here last week helped. Gave Augie someone (two someones) to rough-house with.

    241 chars

  16. brian stouder said on July 11, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Yet Koop did what he thought was right. This schmuck could have done the same, although that would mean he’d have to give up the admiral’s jacket.

    An excellent point! Even the hated Ashcroft told those folks Enough is Enough when crunch-time came.

    As we learned yesterday, the Chinese will occasional execute the high government official who fails the public badly enough…and while I’m not advocating THAT – maybe (for example) Heckuvajob Brownie shoulda got 5-10 in the slammer for gross negligence (I know, I know – it would only have been commuted…but still!)

    Leaving all that aside, and sorta on the subject of sex-ed/health ed, here’s an excerpt from an msnbc article which I won’t link to (so as to avoid the spam condom)

    With this shoe, I thee brain …
    Bride arrested after attacking groom with stiletto heel during reception

    Updated: 2:13 p.m. ET July 10, 2007

    LONDON – Scottish bride Teresa Brown’s dream of a perfect wedding day probably did not include attacking the groom with her stiletto shoe and spending the weekend in a cell.

    Police arrested the 33-year-old in the couple’s hotel room in April while her wedding reception continued downstairs, prosecutor Alan Townsend said Tuesday at Aberdeen Sheriff Court. She spent the rest of her wedding weekend in a cell.

    The distraught groom, Mark Allerton, 40, staggered to the front desk, clutching a bloody towel to his head, Townsend said.

    and I closed the tab!! Yippee

    1489 chars

  17. John said on July 11, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    “Harmless”????? Some of us sufferers are wearing glasses that resemble Coke bottle bottoms!!!

    94 chars

  18. MarkH said on July 11, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Nancy, all points well-taken.

    And, of course, I knew your original point all along. I agree, acknowledgement and acceptance of a natural human urge and occurance is what we’re after here. My (excess) verbage was just to raise the issue of where and when the discussions should take place. I remember well the outcry and public misinterpretation when Elders spoke out, but never disagreed with her premise: talk about it! No sense ignoring the elephant (monkey?) in the room.

    And, yes, Nancy and Peter, Koop has always been my idea of what an SG should be. Truthful, bold, politically detached. And that stern, fatherly/avuncular appearance and demeanor didn’t hurt, either.

    680 chars

  19. czucky Dimes said on July 11, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Best bumper sticker of the new century: Would someone please give George Bush a blowjob so we can impeach him?

    111 chars

  20. joodyb said on July 11, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Good joke, John. I’m surprised it took that long for it to come up, so to speak.
    but i think that abusive myth is among the ones Elders was trying to slay. it’s a lot easier to threaten your kid with the loss of one of his senses than to sit down and have an uncomfortable discussion that might save you both some grief down the road. pay now or pay later, puritans.

    368 chars

  21. Marcia said on July 11, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    Nancy, you know I love you and think you’re the cat’s ass when it comes to everything journalistic.

    However, in my very humble opinion, you do kind of skew the words “those people” in this particular screed. You acknowledge in the comments section that you realize it was meant towards the Kennedys, but in the original post, it seems to me that you’re intimating that the testimony slams all of those differently abled.

    Stop it. I’m cowering here, facing the great one. But still.

    490 chars

  22. nancy said on July 11, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    That’s a perfectly valid criticism, and it was unclear. Sorry. I guess what amazes me is that the Bush WH thinks “helping Special Olympics” = “helping the Kennedys.” Until I read this, I had no idea the Kennedys were big movers in S.O. It’s the sort of thing they stick into a Parade magazine profile of Caroline or one of her cousins, and you read, nod, think, “yeah, Rose and Joe had a retarded daughter, that makes sense” and promptly forget. It’s not like they have multiple Kennedy photo ops during the events.

    Or maybe they do. Maybe I’m just not reading the right newspapers.

    Anyway, sorry it was unclear. Those people make me nuts.

    647 chars

  23. Jolene said on July 11, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    Carmona’s comment is a little odd, actually, because in July 2006 GWB held dinner at the White House to honor Eunice Kennedy, the Kennedy who founded the Special Olympics.

    Just happened to see something about this on the news one night. Heard Bush’s toast, which was very gracious. Dealt with “the difference one person can make”. Ted was there, and was, in words that I don’t recall also acknowledged in a gracious and humorous way by the president.

    672 chars

  24. nancy said on July 11, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    One of the many depressing revelations of “Imperial Life in the Emerald City” was how many of the screwups we sent to rebuild Iraq post-invasion were utterly wet behind the ears. Arab-speaking foreign-policy vets were passed over for 25-year-old true believers in the GOP revolution, time and time again. And so you had kids who’d run little more challenging than a fraternity mixer trying to redesign Baghdad’s traffic patterns according to the model used by the Maryland Department of Transportation.

    Which is to say, it wouldn’t surprise me if the people overseeing a surgeon general’s activities for Wrongthink might be loaded in that direction, too. Rove seems to attract these folks. Common sense would say yes, go to the Special Olympics and soak up the positive press, and don’t worry about the Kennedys, but the eager beavers of the White House midlevel staff want to overthink everything.

    901 chars

  25. alex said on July 11, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    The fact that Slick Willie and HW are tighter than tits in an underwire says it all.

    84 chars

  26. Marcia said on July 12, 2007 at 8:15 am

    Well, I certainly agree with you, Nancy, on how sickening all of this is.

    And John, ick. Keep that to yourself.

    117 chars

  27. wade said on July 12, 2007 at 8:52 am

    I thought “those people” referred to the neo-cons. And John, my eyesight improved after I got married, for what that’s worth.

    125 chars

  28. Danny said on July 12, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Nancy, you know I love you and think you’re the cat’s ass when it comes to everything journalistic…

    However, in my very humble opinion…

    …I’m cowering here, facing the great one. But still….

    Marcia, what was that?! C’mon, girl, this is Nancy we are talking to. She loves the smell of blogosphere napalm in the morning. But if you keep up this mewling tone, you are sure to get banned. So quit it.

    458 chars

  29. Danny said on July 12, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Remember, you’re supposed to be surly on the internets.

    55 chars

  30. John said on July 12, 2007 at 10:03 am

    Surly and Lumpy, the forgotten Dwarves who didn’t make the cut.

    63 chars

  31. Danny said on July 12, 2007 at 10:04 am

    I didn’t know Lumpy was a dwarf. His limbs looked of normal proportion on “Leave It to Beaver.”

    96 chars

  32. nancy said on July 12, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    Because the word is now officially buried, I’ll say only this: Marcia, you’re still my n-word.

    94 chars

  33. brian stouder said on July 12, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    (and now arises the philosophical question – is this a good thing, or a bad thing?)

    97 chars

  34. Marcia said on July 12, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Man. I thought I was your bitch.

    33 chars

  35. Marcia said on July 12, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    Oh, and Danny? I gotcher surly. Right here.

    45 chars