Nat Hentoff: Resquiescat in Pace

Sunday, January 8, AD 2017



Nat Hentoff has died at the age of 91.  Hentoff was a life-long liberal who actually believed in things that liberals purport to believe in:  freedom of speech, civil liberties and tolerance.  He was a committed pro-lifer which in his social circles was akin to supporting cannibalism.  Hentoff didn’t care.  Throughout his life he did what he thought right, consequences to him be hanged.

Here is a column he wrote on my birthday in 1989:


Planned Parenthood recently assembled 13 distinguished civil rights leaders so that they might express their scorn for the notion that there is any moral connection between the Operation Rescue demonstrations “and the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.”

The leaders — including Jesse Jackson, Andrew Young, Julian Bond, John Jacob, Mary King and Roger Wilkins — deplored the pro-lifers’ “protests to deny Americans their constitutional right to freedom of choice. They want the Constitution rewritten.” And in the unkindest cut of all, these leaders — once themselves demonstrators against laws they considered profoundly unjust — compared the nonviolent Operation Rescue workers to “the segregationists who fought desperately to block black Americans from access to their rights.”

Actually, however, a more accurate analogy would link these pro-lifers to the civil rights workers of the 19th century, the Abolitionists, who would not be deterred from their goal of ensuring equal rights for all human beings in this land. They believed, as these 13 civil rights leaders later did, that social change comes only after social upheaval.

What the Abolitionists were opposing was the rule of law — ultimately underlined by the Supreme Court in its Dred Scott decision — that people of African descent, whether free or slaves, had “never been regarded as a part of the people or citizens of the State.” They had no rights whatever. They were the property of their owners, no more. The Abolitionists did indeed want the Constitution rewritten.

Now, the pro-lifers, aware that the Supreme Court has declared itself in error before, are protesting the holding in Roe v. Wade that “the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.” Although that decision also spoke of a time when the fetus becomes viable and then may be protected by the state, in fact we have abortion on demand.

As Justice Harry Blackmun said in Doe v. Bolton — decided on the same day as Roe v. Wade — the mother’s health is paramount, and that includes, among other things, “physical, emotional, psychological, familial” factors. Abortions can be obtained for these reasons, and more.

So, like the slave, the fetus is property and its owner can dispose of it. Increasingly, for instance, women are undergoing prenatal testing to find out the gender of the developing human being inside them. If it’s the wrong sex, it is aborted.

Pro-lifers who maintain the fetus should have equal protection under the law are not limited to those driven by religious convictions. There is the biological fact that after conception, a being has been formed with unique human characteristics. He or she, if allowed to survive, will be unlike anyone born before. From their point of view, therefore, pro-lifers are engaged in a massive civil rights movement. In 16 years, after all, there have been some 20 million abortions.

Some pro-lifers, like some of the abolitionists, feel that nonviolence, however direct, is insufficient. They are of the order of John Brown. As noted by James McPherson in “Battle Cry of Freedom,” Brown stalked out of a meeting of the New England Antislavery Society, grumbling, “Talk! Talk! Talk! That will never free the slaves. What is needed is action — action!”

Those relatively few — and invariably isolated — pro-lifers who follow John Brown’s flag are surely not in the tradition of Martin Luther King, and the 13 civil rights leaders have reason to keep them at a far distance. But Operation Rescue, and similar demonstrations, are not violent. Entrances are blocked, and so they were in some nonviolent civil rights demonstrations. There is shouting, some of it not very civil, back and forth across the lines, but so there was in the 1960s.

The only actual violence connected with Operation Rescue has been inflicted by the police, most viciously, in Atlanta where one of the Planned Parenthood’s 13 civil rights leaders is mayor. A member of the Atlanta City Council, Josea Williams — himself a close associate of Martin Luther King — has said: “We who were the leaders of the movement in the ’50s and ’60s are now political leaders. And we are doing the same thing to demonstrators that George Wallace and Bull Connor did to us.”

Hentoff was an atheist.  However, I hope that when he came before God for his Particular Judgment hundreds of millions of little character witnesses successfully pleaded his cause.


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10 Responses to Nat Hentoff: Resquiescat in Pace

  • A very early Catholic said this in his First Apology…St. Justin Martyr:
    ” We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them.”
    Justin saw Christ as Logos and all who acted reasonably til death as partaking of Christ. If the rest of Hentoff was rational to the end in the higher Aristotelian sense of unity to the natural law at least in obvious matters ( the saints fought each other in the non obvious like usury )….then I worry more about pro abortion Catholics then anti abortion atheists as to eternal damnation.

  • Hentoff loved.
    Love does indeed cover a multitude of sins, and his realizations and reasonable convictions to love the property of the property of the owners. They are the slaves of the property owners, and his conviction and connection is honorable.
    As you said, Mr. M…. “Hundreds of millions of little character witnesses successfully pleading his cause.”

    Let us hope all, believers and non-believers, will have the same convictions to the life of the unborn as the late Mr. Hentoff.
    God help the property.

  • I have a book by him about Cardinal O’Connor (NYC). I participated in Operation Rescue multiple times in Austin in the late 1980’s when I lived there — in fact I was at the first one. I don’t recall seeing any violence at them but there were arrests (for “trespassing”) and helicopters overhead. I don’t remember at this time if the helicopters were news or police. It did succeed in shutting down clinics for a day and saving at least some lives. I know Operation Rescue was and is controversial even among pro-lifers but I don’t know if you can argue with a non-violent tactic of civil disobedience which puts even a small dent in the baby-killing business.

  • Article by Nat. I knew him as a jazz expert. Good to know he was so pro-life. Accordingly, perhaps we could call him a crypto-Catholic in his pro-life position. Let us ask God to show him mercy. Here is a pro-life article he wrote in 1992.

    ‘Pro-choice bigots: a view from the pro-life left. by Hentoff, Nat’, ASAP, November 30, 1992

  • Michael Dowd.

    Great link.. Thanks.

    “Censorship in America” at Nazareth after He was dropped from their agenda a year earlier… Beautiful.

    Enslavement at the onset of the arrival of the fetus is truly an amazing description.
    Liberal feminist who claim to be in bondage due to the fetus are incredibly selfish and no less terrorist terrorizing themselves.
    They are enslaving themselves by their “choice” and committing themselves to hard labor, a life of self hate until they are willing to be forgiven through the generous offer by Christ himself found in reconciliation.

    So it goes.

    A mentality disturbed, corrupted and a selfishness that is fueled by fear.

    No room in the womb. Mom can’t be bothered now. You must die so Mom can be free. A sick culture, the left who, unlike Hentoff, can’t tell the difference between love and hate.

  • Perhaps Hentoff died of a broken heart. I myself am outraged at the hypocritical conjugation of Planned Infanticide and any civil right movement.! Let’s call it Stalin’s Daycare.
    Timothy R.

  • “Hentoff was a life-long liberal who actually believed in things that liberals purport to believe in: freedom of speech, civil liberties and tolerance. He was a committed pro-lifer which in his social circles was akin to supporting cannibalism. Hentoff didn’t care. Throughout his life he did what he thought right, consequences to him be hanged.”
    A real man. Atheist or not, may God have mercy on his soul, for if he cannot receive mercy then surely I am damned.

  • Rest in Peace Mr. Nat Hentoff. Your search for Peace and Justice is accomplished. May 60,000,000 aborted human souls bring you to Paradise.

  • Pro-Life in Texas: all public domain and public places belong to the citizens in joint and common tenancy You own it all and I own it all. For the police to arrest you on your sidewalk is totalitarian and a move against ownership and freedom. The laws they make up to cover their usurpation do not function as true law. If you are standing on common ground, they cannot arrest you.You are entitled to your opinion and your public places even for a Nativity scene Here in Maryland the state police arrested pro-lifers. The Pro-lifers sued and won $30,000.00. See INDWELLERS.

  • Nat Hentoff defended our constitutional POSTERITY. Read The Preamble

Free Speech for Me But Not For Thee

Sunday, November 22, AD 2015


My favorite liberal, Nat Hentoff, takes aim at the campus brownshirts seeking to eradicate free speech:

Hostility to the exercise of free speech on American college campuses is nothing new. But what happened at Yale University, the University of Missouri and other colleges over the past two weeks is something new and frightening. The suppression of speech in academia has begun to spiral out of control.

Nicholas Christakis is a professor at Yale who lives with his wife in a student residence hall on campus. An internationally renowned physician and sociologist, Dr. Christakis was surrounded by dozens of angry students who showered him with curses and threats. Dr. Christakis’ offense? He refused to publicly apologize for his wife’s email that defended free speech and urged tolerance of offensive Halloween costumes.

Greg Lukianoff, the President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), was on the Yale campus to attend a free speech symposium and witnessed the incident. In the video Lukianoff posted on FIRE’s website, Christakis appears on the verge of being physically assaulted.

“Nicholas addressed the crowd for more than an hour, even after it became clear that nothing short of begging for forgiveness would satisfy them,” Lukianoff wrote in The Washington Post. “I’ve witnessed some intense campus disputes during my 14 years fighting for free speech, but nothing like this.”

The next evening — at a William F. Buckley, Jr. Program conference on free speech that had been planned months in advance — Greg Lukianoff’s speech was interrupted by a student who rushed the podium, shouting, before he was dragged out of the building by campus police. Attendees then braved a gauntlet of angry Yale students who cursed and ridiculed them. The Yale Daily News reported that “several attendees were spat on as they left.”

At the University of Missouri, a student photographer freelancing for ESPN was confronted by a mob of angry anti-racism protesters who tried to eject him from the public commons area where they had gathered. After he refused to leave, the students begin a coordinated effort to both psychologically and physically intimidate the reporter into leaving.

The protesters subjected him to intense ridicule, sometimes chanting in unison, as they gradually forced him backwards. They then began to falsely accuse the reporter of the very conduct that they themselves were directing against him.

MU’s student body vice president later tried to justify the students’ self-imposed restrictions on the press during an interview on MSNBC. She suggested that the First Amendment “creates a hostile and unsafe learning environment.”

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32 Responses to Free Speech for Me But Not For Thee

  • Soul disfigurement.

    The souls of these students are dark and unrecognizable. The venom spills out.
    Hatred is their opponents disorder, not thier’s.
    They are so engrossed with their own viewpoint being the ONLY correct one that they can not see the hatred they harbor and unleash on others.


    I’m in the middle of the Miraculous Medal Novena. St. Kolbe used these “silver bullets,” as he called them, to cut through the stain of darkness and remedy the disordered soul by Mary’s pure hands. She will lead that soul back to the Sacraments.

    Have a handful of these sacramental’s, blessed of course, in your pocket or purse.
    The Holy Spirit will open the door to bring the bullet into the target.

  • The notion of “Repressive tolerance” is not new. It goes back at least to Herbert Marcuse’s 1965 essay of that name and similar ideas were expressed by Felix Dzerzhinsky at the time of the Russian Revolution.
    Marcuse argues that tolerance which enlarges the range of freedom is an end in itself but it has always been partisan and intolerant toward the protagonists of the repressive status quo. For him, the issue is only the degree and extent of this intolerance.
    Hence, “Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left. As to the scope of this tolerance and intolerance: … it would extend to the stage of action as well as of discussion and propaganda, of deed as well as of word.”
    Marcuse justifies this privileging and protection of radicalism on the Left on historical grounds: left leaning revolutionary movements are driven “from below’” by the masses in a fight against injustice while radical right movements are drive from above by the ruling classes and only result in further repression and control.
    This is what Alain Badiou, the Grand Old Man of the French Left means, with his ridicule of those who want a “decaffeinated revolution – 1789 without 1793” and his insistence that “if you say A – equality, human rights and freedoms – you should not shirk from its consequences and gather the courage to say B – the terror needed to really defend and assert the A.”

  • Marcuse is an idiot. Mao, Stalin, and all the other dictators of the left laugh in his face. And the tens of millions of those from the people down below never drove anything but were driven to gulag, torture and execution.

  • Prof. Alan Charles Kors (emiritus at Penn) had this to say: “I confess to Schadenfreude. I’m watching the Red Guards go after the zealots and apparatchiks who taught them.”. Dr. Kors put in considerable time in largely fruitless efforts to improve campus climates regarding discussions of public affairs (among other things, helping found the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education).

    The problem we face is that the Bourbons who run academe are perfectly satisfied with their performance and fancy that the role of the rest of society is to keep the money flowing without any annoying oversight. The legal profession manifest in our repulsive judiciary is commonly willing to run interference for them. The state legislatures are usually otiose and the trustees lickspittles of the Bourbons and concerned only with edifices, sports, budgetry, and public relations. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it is.

  • One thing that gets you is the complete failure of adult authority. The yo-yos who run these places are emotionally incapable of impartial administration of behavioral norms (see the recent mess at Dartmouth). The adults at all these institutions are failing to do the one thing the rest of us can reliably do for the young: to help them put their problems and discontents into perspective,. In fact, a critical mass of those adults are encouraging these youths to play the self-centered, histrionic, borderline nightmare. These youths have an artificial language to describe the artificial feelings with which these adults have equipped them. It is a scandal.

  • The common response to criticism among leftists today in this country is to attempt to howl it down, ban it or criminalize it.

    That’s the rabble’s job. The faculty and administration traffick in sophistry, evasion, and pretense.

    Maybe some of the lawyers here adept at rapidly parsing other lawyers’ canny verbiage might have some spare time to put their skills to work on a distillation of this man’s prolix intervention: . My eyes glazed over pretty quickly.

  • Scratch the thin veneer of schmooze and liberal swear-words (unjust, unfair, racist, homophobe, climate change, polluter, fundamentalist, Christian) and you will find a fascist. Treat them accordingly. The only logical response is “Screw you.”

    “At the core of liberalism is the spoiled child — miserable, as all spoiled children are, unsatisfied, demanding, ill-disciplined, despotic and useless. Liberalism is a philosophy of sniveling brats.”

    P. J O’Rourke

    “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
    George Orwell


  • Hold on a second. Let’s not pretend that the email incident was the sole catalyst for this outrage. A Yale fraternity hosted a “White Girls Only” party and a woman of color entry into said party. Also, cultural appropriation in the form of Halloween costumes is actually ubiquitous in college campuses. These are problems that shouldn’t be silenced in the name of free speech. I agree that Yale and Mizzou students are going too far with their demands. But a lot of colleges, such as my own, are engaging in dialogue with one another to fix these racial issues.

  • Kids no longer hear there old phrase “Stick and stones may break by bones, but words will never hurt me.” Of course words can hurt, but we should teach our kids to have thicker skins and not gain all their self worth from what others say or think about them. The source of some of this crazy is that this idea is now passé. We teach our delicate snowflakes that authority figures are there to protect them from any kind of pain or discomfort, mild insults and unintended slights included.

  • Chairman Mao would be proud of the Cultural Revolution 2.0 ….actually quite funny. The monsters that left wing academia has created over the last few generations are finally going to turn on them and devour them. Like Kerensky and the Bolsheviks . A little justice maybe ?

  • Ditto to Mrs. Zummo.

    Oppressive stupidity!

  • Apparat from some bad language, this is awesome.

    Ben Shapiro crashes safe space at Mizzou.

  • A Yale fraternity hosted a “White Girls Only” party

    I wonder how many were viciously raped in a bed of broken glass. (Or not.)

    cultural appropriation in the form of Halloween costumes is actually ubiquitous in college campuses.

    Yes, we’re aware of the problem here.
    Although, I have to ask, what gives you the right to decide what is or isn’t an authentic cultural appropriation, hmmm?

  • I thought Kirsten Powers was your favorite liberal.

  • Nat has been my favorite liberal for decades.

    Until this column however, I assumed that he was retired. At 90 he certainly has earned the right to no longer be involved in the public square, but, God love him, he still has a heart for the fight!

  • T Shaw quoted George Orwell, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”
    This called to mind an anecdote of Wittgenstein, recounted to me by Miss Anscombe. Wittgenstein reflected on the shrewdness of Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic, in replacing the traditional Arabic script with the Roman alphabet and also the elimination of Arabic and Persian loan-words. This reform, introduced in 1928 for school text-books and all official and public communications, including the press, was backed up by the 1934 law on copyright.
    Wittgenstein remarked that within a generation, the population would be completely severed from its past; for them, their national story, its religion, literature and culture would exist only in officially approved text-books; a propaganda coup far beyond anything attempted by the Bolsheviks or the Nazis.
    Newspeak indeed.

  • I suspect that soon the graduation diploma will be replaced with a black “SS” armband.

  • “We teach our delicate snowflakes that authority figures are there to protect them….”

    The idea is to give them a pat on the head, and a puppy biscuit when they are being obedient. And, never forget–the single goal is to establish obedience.

  • @Ernst Schreiber Sorry, not trying to sound condescending or uninformed. I just know students of color who legitimately don’t feel safe on our campus through no fault of their own. Most of these kids aren’t loudmouths or bullies at all, despite what the media would have you believe.

  • And they charge tuition? The First and Second Amendments are really an inseparable pair. An interesting article from The Washington Post here:

  • @RodneyHood1314 Then these kids need to grow the [expletive deleted] up.

  • @Ernst Schreiber No, they aren’t the ones who need to grow up. It’s the white kids throwing “Around the World” parties drinking themselves into a stupor and and captioning the photos they take of themselves with immature jokes about green cards. That’s just one example from my college. Why should they get a repreive? Why criticize minority students who just want to expose these issues, and why ignore the ones actually causing them? Because the ones getting the most media attention are too radical? I don’t understand why all social activist students of color deserve your scorn.

  • That’s just one example from my college. Why should they get a repreive? Why criticize minority students who just want to expose these issues,

    Because the ‘issues’ are unimportant and do not implicate public officials.

  • Unimportant, eh? My mistake then, how foolish of me, I’m so naive, etc. I feel like I’m shouting in a vacuum here. The kids I know don’t want to implicate public officials. They see it as a student body issue. They want to work with the administrative resources at their disposal, not oppose them. I agree with you all that the Yale and Mizzou activists were in the wrong. But their behavior shouldn’t be representative of the norm on college campuses.

  • I dunno. I put three young men through university. They never had any issue such as this.
    There is a Constitutional right to free speech and association. That right is operative to the point of inciting violence or property destruction.
    There is no Constitutional right to outrage at another’s free speech.

    Similar to gay privilege nonsense, I don’t care what the campus party crowd does or says in their 3AM drunken bacchanals, and over-sensitive minority students shouldn’t, either.
    They should concentrate on their studies because aren’t as qualified as the rest of the student body. I were a voterin Missouri, I would write my elected representative and habve the state U system defunded.

  • To reiterate, I am as much in favor of free speech rights as all of you. “Overly sensitive” or not, however, there are students who feel ostracized and can only find solace in their respective racial communities. Many young black women have to ask other students not to touch their hair multiple times. A certain portion of our dining hall has been called “Cafrica.” I have been in a room, during an enlightening discussion open to the public, where all minority students could do while talking about their problems with race is cry. And you would argue that they should just focus on their studies? I know a Latina student who has reduced others to tears with her powerful rhetoric. She is a talented spoken word poet. This same student is incredibly shy and reserved, doesn’t party like crazy, and has been recognized by our college for her academic work. Yet she still feels unsafe on campus. Should I just go up to her, tell her her problems are unimportant, accuse her of being too sensitive, and remind her of those privileged drunks’ First Amendment rights? She doesn’t want to silent dissenters. She just wants to stand up to these bullies. I’m confused by the lack of sympathy on this forum.

  • Unimportant, eh? My mistake then, how foolish of me, I’m so naive, etc. I feel like I’m shouting in a vacuum here. The kids I know don’t want to implicate public officials. They see it as a student body issue. They want to work with the administrative resources at their disposal, not oppose them. I agree with you all that the Yale and Mizzou activists were in the wrong. But their behavior shouldn’t be representative of the norm on college campuses.

    Yes, unimportant. No society is so carefully policed that it can protect you from insults and banal social friction. The effort to do so will have costs out the back end. The three complaints at the University of Missouri concerned trivia. The complaints about ‘microaggression’ are offered because there are no macroaggressions (or any aggressions at all to someone not a social ideologue).

    This may come as a surpirse to you, but about 55% of the personnel at baccalaureate granting institutions in this country are public employees. At associate’s granting institutions, it’s north of 95%. That aside, it’s not the job of the dean of students to save you from petty interpersonal conflicts or personal embarrassment. You’re going to have to handle that yourself, as you will and you must the rest of your life.

  • there are students who feel ostracized and can only find solace in their respective racial communities.

    ‘Feelings’ are not necessarily reasonable and are not their own justification. People around you should reflect reality back at you and give you some toughlove when you might benefit from it.

    You haven’t called attention to the simplest explanation for all this: reversal of fortune. Here you have moderately competent high school students thrown into a situation where they’re having academic problems because they did not have the preparation for the pacing, and they did not have the preparation because they were given mulligans in the admissions process. Why do you suppose a mess of black militants invaded the college library at Dartmouth and made a godawful nuisance of themselves to people who were doing nothing other than studying? Why mightn’t the library be a poignant locus?

    And you haven’t called attention to another source of this: adolescent narcissism harbored by youths who’ve been lied to and told they’re Special when they are ordinary. So, when they’re treated like they’re ordinary, they’re disoriented. The sheer effrontery of a mess of these complaints suggests this. Prudent men do not throw rubbing alcohol on open flames.

  • Fair enough. You’re right. College kids shouldn’t be coddled and have to learn to deal with adversity. All I’m saying is the rhetoric that black student activists are militant leftists isn’t what I’ve been observing on my campus.

  • A recent poll by pew said 40% of my fellow 18-34 year olds favor government censorship of offensive speech. This is bad…REALLY BAD. I mean, I suppose I should be glad that’s not technically a majority. But it should NOT be that high!

  • In his “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”, Robert Bork warned that America would be taken over by barbarians and that these would be our own children.

  • I don’t understand why all social activist students of color deserve your scorn.

    I scorn the white ones too, when their activism revolves around juvenalia, like playing dress-up on halloween, or wallowing in hurt feewings.

Nat Hentoff on the Death Panels

Wednesday, August 19, AD 2009

Obama Fear

Nat Hentoff has always been my favorite Leftist atheist.  A strong pro-lifer in a New York milieu where pro-lifers are regarded with less tolerance than cannibals, Nat Hentoff is a man of the Left who always has been a strongly independent voice and mind.  In an article today, which is here, Hentoff confesses to being scared of the Obama administration:

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17 Responses to Nat Hentoff on the Death Panels

  • All that any government panel would do here is say what the government pays for; you’d be free, as always, to buy your own medical care above and beyond that. It’s quite odd to see so many conservatives acting as if a government welfare program absolutely must pay for anything and everything that someone wants, without regard for necessity, quality, or usefulness.

  • SB under ObamaCare there would rapidly be no private insurers. Without private insurance there would be no effective recourse from denial of coverage for treatment except for the independently wealthy which is precisely the case in Great Britain. This is of course why the US routinely is the destination for medical treatment by wealthy idividuals seeking treatment in this country that will not be paid for by the national health care plans in their country. This leaves aside the issue that many national health care plans forbid private payment for health treatment.

  • Donald, didn’t you and Nat Hentoff get the memo from Sharon Begley? This stuff about ‘death panels’ is all a ‘lie’.

  • Having just returned from Europe, I can report a great exasperation over the US debate. For what it’s worth, the NHS is by far the most popular part of the welfare state. When a Tory MEP went on American media to criticize it, Cameron stronly rebuked him. Europeans are absolutely disgusted that there can be opposition to the simple goal, the human right, of providing healthcare for all.

    And as for “death panels”, it is precisely the for-profit system that weighs human life by cost. In states today, hospitals have the power (even if family does not agree) to terminate life in cases where they deem not worth living. And for a direct comparison of the US and UK, consider what happened to Elizabeth Anscombe’s daughter.

  • Europeans are absolutely disgusted that there can be opposition to the simple goal, the human right, of providing healthcare for all.

    Well, bully for them

  • And bully for the Catholic church, which also sees it as a basic human right. And yet I have yet to see a single credible plan from the opponents of reform that would guarantee universal healthcare.

  • We will simply have to bear up under the disapproval of Europeans.

    In regard to the British National Health System here is a section of an article written in defense of that system which appeared in the New York Times recently:

    “But there are limits. Without an endless budget, the N.H.S. does have to ration care, by deciding, for instance, whether drugs that might add a few months to the life of a terminal cancer patient are worth the money. Its hospitals are not always clean. It is bureaucratic. Its doctors and nurses are overworked. Patients sometimes are treated as if they were supplicants rather than consumers. Women in labor are advised to bring their own infant’s diapers and their own cleaning products to the hospital. Sick people routinely have to wait for tests or for treatment.

    Because resources are finite and each region allocates care differently, waiting times can vary widely from place to place. So can treatment, as in the United States, regardless of how it is paid for.

    Limited in what treatments they can offer, doctors sometimes fail to advise patients of every option available — or every possible complication. American doctors, conversely, often seem strangely alarmist about your future and overeager to prescribe more expensive treatment.”

  • Donald,

    I fully expect that in this iteration, there will be a market for non-approved care (and perhaps insurance to pay for it). Should non-approved care be deemed illegal in the next iteration, as was proposed in Hillarycare, this would be a black market. This, of course, would be the exclusive province of the wealthy.

    What I yet fail to grasp about the whole proposal is how doctors will stay in business with malpractice risks remaining static, and thus malpractice insurance premiums remaining high, while approved compensation is reduced.

    The “right” to healthcare becomes more difficult to obtain when there are fewer doctors.

  • Death Panel a Lie? The bill stipulates 11 people, none a spiritual advisor, come up with the guidelines for what a “provider” (not necessarily a Dr.) will be required to tell you regarding end of life counseling then record your wishes (answers) in a database. The goal is to quit spending money to keep people alive. “Death squad” is strong language, but not entirely out of line.

    Funny I have never heard any real evidence that people would actually chose to quit suffering. Certainly you could argue that families are keeping people alive that may have opted out of critical life support, but equally there are people who’s loved ones pulled the plug, where the patient may have decided not to. What makes anyone think the margin of error is not 50/50. Additionally what about the people like me that let my wife know my wishes, but have given her the permission for final say so. I worry about her burden more then my suffering. Suffrage is part of our salvation.

    Can you see it now, a spouse arguing “keep him alive” and the government computer with a DNR checkmark next to the patient’s name, which was made by a government worker put in a database built overseas to the lowest Bidder? National rent a car just charged my business rental to my home credit card. They blamed a “software refresh”.

  • In regard to the British National Health System and euthanasia, I don’t know what else to call this except deathcare:'sPathwayToEuthanasia.htm

  • “The “right” to healthcare becomes more difficult to obtain when there are fewer doctors.”

    Oh DMinor, ye of little faith! His Obamaness will simply bring forth new legions of doctors through government fiat: complete government control of their practice, less money, longer hours, who could resist that!

  • I have been following the uproar in the British press regarding MEP Daniel Hannan’s comments. The thing that struck me was that both his critics and supporters seem to agree that mixed sex wards are a bit much.

    I think most Americans would balk at the very idea of wards, nevermind mixed sex ones! I have had more experience of being a patient than I would have liked over the past few years. Being an inpatient is not fun, even if you have a private room. Being in a ward with 29 strangers of both sexes – oh, yes, that’s quite “progressive” – by the standards of 1870.

  • Anyone who thinks that citing European snobs is helpful when arguing with Americans is letting his passion get the better of his ability to make an argument.

    Anyway, I don’t get the passion here. I care about whether people are healthy. But, as any literate person knows, insured-status is a very poor proxy for whether someone gets healthcare, and then getting healthcare is a very poor proxy for whether someone is actually made healthy.

    For the information of people not blinded by ideology and rage, listen to this amazing fact: The number of people killed by getting healthcare (hospital infections, doctor error, etc) is 43 TIMES the number of people who die for lack of health insurance. (Compare and

    43 times the number of dead people. Killed by healthcare.

    Too startling a figure, you say? A more conservative estimate comes from Barbara Starfield’s JAMA article in 2000, which estimated that 225,000 people die every year from getting too much healthcare. That’s 12 times the number allegedly killed for a lack of health insurance.

    But people who wouldn’t know a JAMA article from a NEJM article are all whining about how to give more healthcare to more people.

  • S.B.’s argument that from 12 to 43 times as many people die FROM healthcare as from a lack of health insurance would seem to indicate that we should be arguing for LIMITING health insurance coverage instead of expanding it.

    Or, rather, it would if you followed the same logic as those who insist that the allegedly vast numbers of people dying from lack of health insurance proves we need a national or universal health care system.

  • Ivan Illich was something of a crank, but he did have a point to make about the degree to which life expectancy is fairly insensitive to the sophistication of medical practice and the degree to which illness can be iatrogenic. I have a wretched example in my immediate family.

  • MM,

    Did you see fit to inform your European interlocutors that Americans are (when they bother to think of the continent) totally disgusted with the collapse of religion and the family in Europe, with the overall low wages and economic opportunity, and with the social acceptability of sport event violence and public drunkeness? Or do you only convey disapproval one way — from former colonial masters to their ex-subjects who better stop dragging their knuckles and bloody-well get with the program? Overall, the fact that more Europeans relocate to the US than Americans relocate to Europe probably tells us more about how people really feel than your discussions with like-minded friends across the pond.


    In a sense, the comparison is a bit simplistic. I think a better analysis might be the percentage of people admitted to hospital who die from (or are seriously injured by) hospital contracted diseases and malpractice versus the percentage of the uninsured who die from lacking essential mediate care.

    Still, the overall point is very important: Health care and health are not synonymous. For example, if you eliminate accidents, suicides and homicides, the US actually has a higher life expectancy than any of the countries our health care system is usually compared to. And although everyone (except apparently MM) recognizes the UK’s NHS is a total cluster, and death rates from nearly all specific ailement (especially preventable hospital-contracted diseases resulting from lack of sanitary conditions) are much higher in the UK than elsewhere in Europe, their life expectancy is actually pretty much the same as in countries with much more functional health care systems.

    Medical care can help individual people life longer, but the effect of health care provision on overall population life expectancy is much more remote. (I suppose because how long you live _after_ beign diagnosed with cancer doesn’t have all that much effect on the overall population life expectancy — as compared to factors like how common cancer and heart disease are overall.)

  • Elaine — that’s an interesting idea. For example, there is a very good case for having the government implement a Pigouvian tax or a fine on the use of antibiotics. The overuse of antibiotics has led to resistant superbugs, such as MRSA, which then kill or maim people. It’s a public health hazard. It’s surreal that we’re talking about making the health hazard worse (i.e., helping people pay for antibiotics).

Nat Hentoff takes President Obama to task

Friday, May 29, AD 2009

Nat Hentoff’s characteristically blunt and ‘no b.s.’ columns used to be one of chief attractions of the Village Voice, before they made the foolish mistake of letting him go. Politically he’s not one you can apply a label to — in 2003 he supported the removal of Saddam Hussein’s murderous dictatorship on humanitarian grounds, but as a supporter of the First Amendment and civil liberties, harshly criticized the more excessive measures taken by the Bush administration.

Unapologetically pro-life, he is a staunch opponent of the death penalty and abortion (the latter apparently causing some tension with his liberal colleagues at the Voice) and vigorously opposed the court-ordered murder of Terry Schiavo.

Not surprisingly, he established a rapport with the feisty John Cardinal O’Connor, about whom he wrote an appreciative biography.

A self-described “member of the Proud and Ancient Order of Stiff-Necked Jewish Atheists,” he is also one who might merit the attribution: “on the side of the angels.”

Now, he takes aim at President Obama’s faux-support for “dialogue” at Notre Dame:

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5 Responses to Nat Hentoff takes President Obama to task

  • “No matter how much we want to fudge it … the fact is that at some level, the views of the two camps are irreconcilable”

    – I have to agree with that.

  • We rejoice in seeing that the esteemed Mr. Hentoff has found a place to hang his polemical hat- the Cato Institute, no less. His former employer, the usually Marxist Village Voice, recently terminated his 50-year relationship. So gratifying to see he is not mellowing in his golden years. Also gratifying to see that this Support Pregnant Women Bill is sponsored in the Senate by our own PA Senator Bob Casey Jr. No doubt communing with the ghost of Pop who is saying remember the family tradition and support the women and babies. Not surprising that no record exists of Dear Leader’s support for the bill- tends to shy away from those messier intramural skirmishes, like supporting La Pelosi from the Intelligence Community’s wrath. So bravo to Prof. Dr. Hentoff and ad multos annos and many more years of comforting afflicted and afflicting comfortable. In a word, embarrassing the young sellout whippersnappers holding sway in the MSM these days.

  • Oh might I add that fewer Americano writers have been more insightful on the topic of American Jazz- AKA A Legit Americano Art Form. Also worth examining from the esteemed Dr. Hentoff.

  • Nat Hentoff, my favorite liberal atheist! If one had to give an award for an unending dedication to the pro-life cause in a hostile environment, I would unhesitatingly give it to Mr. Hentoff.

  • The word “Dialogue” seems to be the latest sacrificial victim on the altar of ideological codespeak.

    Dia-logos, opening-words, seems to take for granted a hope in the existence of objective truth buried in the words of another and a sincere desire to find it.

    Doesn’t really apply to what happened at Notre Dame’s commencement, but it sounds really good.