News Capsules (March/April 1999)

High Crimes and Misdemeanors and Impeachment


Despite my misgivings in "The Founding Fathers, High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and Impeachment" (Medical Sentinel 1999;4(1):18-20), the U.S. House of Representatives stood by the Constitution and on December 19 performed the unpleasant task of impeaching the President of the United States: The first article of impeachment (i.e., perjury for lying to the grand jury) passed by a vote of 228 to 206. Five Democrats voted for impeachment while five Republicans opposed the article.

A second article of impeachment charging the president with obstruction of justice by encouraging Monica Lewinsky to lie in the Paula Jones lawsuit passed by a vote of 221 to 212. Two other articles charging the president with perjury in the Paula Jones lawsuit and abuse of power by lying to the public about the Monica Lewinsky affair were rejected by the House.

The official impeachment resolution read: "Wherefore, William Jefferson Clinton, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States," (HR 611, the official resolution of impeachment).

The president defiantly vowed to remain in office "until the last hour of the last day of my term." Holding Mrs. Clinton by the hand, the president stated, "we must get rid of the poisonous venom of excessive partisanship, obsessive animosity and uncontrolled anger." He blamed his impeachment on the "politics of personal destruction."

The resolution now goes to the Senate where the president will be tried, and if convicted (which right now seems unlikely), will be removed from office and disqualified from holding any other office under the United States. As I write this, the word is that a negotiated settlement is underway to censure (i.e., a fine and a condemnation of the president's conduct) rather than conviction and removal of the president from office. Be that as it may, and no matter how one stood on this issue of presidential impeachment, one thing that becomes crystal clear from watching the debate on impeachment both during the proceedings of the House Judiciary Committee (December 11 and 12) and subsequently by the full House (December 18 and 19), is that the proceedings, although definitely partisan, were conducted as prescribed in a constitutional republic under the rule of law and as intended by our Founding Fathers. As correspondent Ralph Z. Hallow writing for The Washington Times (National Weekly Edition, December 28, 1998-January 3, 1999) wrote: "Republicans risked their future as a majority party by voting to impeach President Clinton on Dec. 19 [despite a 65 percent public approval rating of the president because of the magnificent economy] but managed to emerge united and to share with their rank-and-file voters a renewed pride in their party. When the smoke clears, the GOP may find the electorate rewarding it with continuing majority status in Congress --- and with the presidency --- in 2000. Or the party may be punished by losing both."

Peggy Noonan, former speech writer for President Reagan commented in The Wall Street Journal (December 21), "And it was moving, because they did it against the odds, and they stood on principle, and they didn't let the polls rule them, and they acted in a way that may have put them in both short-term and long-term political jeopardy. But they did what they thought was right. And down the road, Republicans may see these nerve-jangling days as the time when their party, long buffeted by doubt and confusion, began to find its soul again."


Safe Sex and AIDS Prevention


Addressing the UN on AIDS prevention, cinema star Sharon Stone (who has never had any children) recommended that parents should supply their children with condoms: "I believe that if you truly, truly love your children, you need to supply condoms in a place in your home, at a quantity that makes it a non-judgmental situation for them to have them. I mean put 200 in a box in some place in the house where everybody isn't all the time, so that your kids can take them."

Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders agreed with the actress. When asked if she would have provided her own son condoms at age 13, she responded, "most certainly." (The Washington Times, National Weekly Edition, Dec 14-20, 1998) Elders had once told pro-life activists to get over their "love affair with the fetus." However, as this new episode reveals, she has not given up her own love affair with the condom. She once said: "If I could be the condom queenI would wear a crown on my head with a condom on it. I would."("The Clinton Record," Center for American Values, Washington, DC.)

 

Japan's Industrial Policy Infecting Health Care


Writing for The Asian Wall Street Journal (Dec 30, 1998) Robert M. Goldberg, senior research fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC writes, "The virus that is weakening Japan's economy is also infecting its health-care systemLike the overall economy, Japan's health care is organized to protect a favored few from competitive forces." Although he does not call it specifically so, Japan's health care system, like its protectionist trade policy and corporate business practices, is marching along in the footsteps of corporativism (or corporatism), a form of socialism in which big business and favored special interests are granted monopolistic government protection at the expense of free market capitalism and to the detriment of ordinary citizens. He writes: "At first glance, Japan's health system looks too good to be true. It provides universal health-care coverage and allows everyone to see any doctor they choose, yet Japan spends only 7 percent of its GDP on medical treatment. The Japanese also have the longest average lifespan of any people on earth."

True enough, but what health care pundits have not observed is that the Japanese have been living longer than the European and Americans before they developed their own brand of corporate socialized medicine. This may be due to both genetics as well as well-known salutary dietary practices. The reality is that Japan's system of health care is "rigged to supplement [low] physicians' fees. The result," writes Goldberg, "is a distorted system of care that provides everyone with greater quantities of low-cost medical treatment." Because Japan spends 20 percent of its health care budget on prescription drugs (the U.S. spends only 9 percent), Japanese doctors earn most of their money by filling their own prescriptions and therefore, the average doctor prescribes 13 different medications to each one of his patients. New drugs are very expensive and therefore there is not incentive for pharmaceutical companies to introduce new innovative medications. Instead, "the vast majority of new Japanese medications cannot be marketed elsewhere because they are useless."

Because doctors own mid-size and smaller hospitals in Japan, the average hospital stay is approximately 39 days in Japan, whereas, in the United States it is only 8 days. On the other hand, large hospitals which are usually teaching and government funded hospitals are overcrowded, and thus goes the Japanese saying "three minutes treatment after three hours waiting." At the heart of the problem is the Minister of Health and Welfare which Goldberg says is "dominated by members of doctors' group equivalent to the American Medical Association," which he writes, "is controlled and created by physicians who use their clout to maintain their income relative to other health care interests." Goldberg proposes "a real marketplace where businesses compete in terms of price, quality, and convenience which will force doctors to reach beyond their parochial approach and take into account consumer needs."

Clinton Targets Medicare Fraud, Abuse


President Clinton's first budget proposal for fiscal 2000 is a crackdown on Medicare fraud and abuse that could bring the government another $2 billion. This budget would help the Health Care Finance Administration continue its war on fraud and abuse which was initiated by government policy to begin with and has created a veritable police state of medicine.

The plan includes eliminating markups in the prices Medicare is charged for drugs, so Medicare would pay only what a drug costs the provider. Medicare covers only certain drugs that must be administered by a doctor or in a hospital, such as those used for dialysis or organ transplants.

HCFA also plans to award contracts this spring for additional Medicare "fraud fighters." (The Associated Press, Dec. 7, 1998)


Gender-based Biology


Medical researchers, and perhaps more importantly the media, are finally coming to terms with the self-evident truth that men and women are different. AMNews has reported: "The difference between men and women go far beyond the obvious and findings from research in the emerging field of gender-based biology could one day lead to treatment that vary depending on the sex of the patient."

The brains of men and women are indeed different. Moreover, hormones affect their brains and their thinking, emotions, sex, and even disease processes and response to drug therapy differently. Will somebody please tell the military.(AMNews, Dec 7, 1998)


Gun Safety


The NRA's solution to reducing firearm accidents has remained consistent and successful: education and training. "In the last eight years alone, we have spent more than $100 million on firearms safety and education. Our award-winning Eddie Eagle Gun Safety Program has reached 11.6 million schoolchildren, and has helped reduce fatal firearms accidents among children to an historic low." (http://www.nra.org)

 

Violent Crime at 25-Year Low


A significant decline in violent crimes has occurred in the last quarter-century, according to the Department of Justice. The Bureau of Justice Statistics also reported that rape and sexual assaults were the only categories not to show declines in 1997. "A household survey reported nearly 35 million crimes against people and property in 1997. That was down from...44 million in 1973, when the annual surveys began." (Anne Gearan, The Associated Press, Dec. 28, 1998) The latest statistics show that the nation's violent crimes declined 7 percent and murders declined 8 percent in 1997. "The 18,210 homicides recorded nationally ranked a 28 percent drop from the number five years earlier." The FBI's figures for 1997, in fact, showed the nation's murder rate at the lowest in 30 years.

While President Clinton claimed credit for the encouraging statistics stating that "these figures again show that our strategy of more police, stricter gun laws, and better crime prevention is working," experts attribute the drop in crime to other factors. (Michael J. Sniffen, The Associated Press, Dec. 14, 1998) These factors include "the aging of the baby boom generation beyond the crime-prone years; police efforts, especially in big cities, to get guns out of the hands of teenagers; increased police-community cooperation; stiffer sentences, particularly for violent criminals; prevention programs for children with little supervision; the improved national economy and a reduction in crack cocaine use and in the warfare between drug gangs." To which should be added one of the most important factors of all: concealed carry legislation allowing ordinary law-abiding citizens to carry guns for self-protection which has resulted in the most dramatic and sustained decline in crime in those states e.g., Georgia, Florida, Texas, in which the legislation has been implemented (See "Guns and Violence as Public Health Issues," Medical Sentinel 1998;3(5):163). Today, 31 states (including Vermont which requires no licensing) have right-to-carry laws which mandate issuance to a "qualified" applicant of a concealed carry license unless there is good cause for denial. Other factors that should have been (but were not) mentioned in this report include the getting tough policies against convicted criminals at the state level such as: increased use of the death penalty (i.e., 74 prisoners were executed in 1997, an increase of 29 convicts over 1996. This was a record number of executions since 1955 when 76 convicts were executed.); the building of more prisons and jailing of more violent criminals (i.e., from 1996 to 1997, the number of prisoners increased 5.2 percent and those in jail 9.3 percent); more truth-in-sentencing so that criminals are serving more of their time in jail, and implementation of "three strikes and you're out," locking and throwing away the keys for violent repeat offenders. (In Georgia, we have "two strikes and you're out," as well as boot camp!)

NRA Defends Privacy of Gun Owners


Charging Attorney General Janet Reno and the Justice Department with "illegal snooping on law-abiding citizens," the National Rifle Association filed a federal lawsuit on Dec. 1, 1998 to block the FBI from keeping a national government computer list of law-abiding gun purchasers. The NRA suit contends that the creation of such a list of private records is a violation of the Brady Act and a gross intrusion into the private lives of lawful minded citizens. "Janet Reno has turned Congress' intent to keep records of convicted felons into an Orwellian nightmare of keeping tabs on perfectly law-abiding Americans. The federal government has no business keeping lists of law-abiding Americans in their federal computers," said Wayne LaPierre, NRA Executive VP. "Every American values the right of personal privacy."

When the Brady Law was debated in 1993, the critical issue was over the waiting period versus the instant check system, which NRA supported as the preferred alternative. Congress passed the Brady Act, which provided for a five day federal waiting period prior to the purchase of a handgun to last for five years, in order to give the Justice Department time to implement the national instant check system. Gun Owners of America (GOA), a group known for its uncompromising support for the Second Amendment had already warned the AMA and gun owners that the NICS could indeed be used to register lawful gun owners. Its admonitions proved to be correct (http://www.gunowners.org).

 

Gun Accidents At All Time Low

Last fall, the National Center for Health Statistics reported that "for the third consecutive year fatal gun accidents again hit an all-time low in 1996, totalling 1,134 nationwide," a per capita fatal firearm accident rate of 0.4 per 100,000 for the first time ever. "Among children (ages 0-14), the 1996 number of fatal firearm accidents nationwide was 138, also an all-time low and a 24 percent decrease from 1995. Since 1975, such accidents have decreased about 75 percent." (NRA Alert, 10/23/98)

This edition of News Capsules was compiled by Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel of the AAPS. It appeared in the Medical Sentinel 1999;4(2):44-46. Copyright©1999 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.