Avoiding Obama; Cuba's health care for oil

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Some polls show that President Obama has a negative rating in Missouri of 60 percent. So it was not surprising that Secretary of State Robin Carnahan was missing during Obama's visit to Missouri last week. His visit included a fundraiser announced for U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, but the bulk of the proceeds are really to be channeled into Carnahan's campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Instead of being proud of her liberal legacy, Carnahan will strain to dissociate herself from the policies of Obama, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi.

I don't blame her. But few Missourians will ultimately want to send support to Washington to help those three.

Cuba's doctor abuse, health care: Remember Cuba's vaunted medical missionaries -- those who treated the poor abroad for nothing, supposedly out of selfless motives? A lawsuit shows they were nothing but a communist slave racket.

It ought to bear a few lessons for our own country as the role of doctors in the health care debate drags on.

Back in 1963, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro launched a much-praised initiative to share Cuba's medical doctors with the poor around the world. The idea, of course, was to appear to be acting on higher motives than the profit-driven doctors in free societies. It was small scale and propaganda-oriented.

But in 2003, Castro went big and shipped 20,000 doctors and nurses to Venezuela's jungles and slums to treat the poor, doing the work "selfish" private-sector doctors wouldn't. Hugo Chavez touted this line, and the mainstream media followed.

Now the ugly facts are getting out about what that really meant: indentured servitude to pay off the debts of a bankrupt regime.

This week, seven escaped doctors and a nurse filed a 139-page complaint in Miami under the RICO and Alien Tort acts describing just how Cuba's oil-for-doctors deal came to mean slavery.

The Cuban medics were forced to work seven days a week under 60-patient daily quotas, in crime-riddled places with no freedom of movement. Cuban military guards known as "Committees of Health" acted as slave catchers to ensure they didn't leave.

Doctors earned about $180 a month, a salary so low many had to beg for food and water from Venezuelans until they could escape.

What they endured wasn't just bad conditions common inside Cuba. The doctors were instruments of a money-making racket to benefit the very Castro regime that has ruined Cuba's economy.

"They were told, 'Your work is more important to Cuba than even its sugar industry,'" their attorney, Leonardo Canton, told IBD.

That's because their labor was tied to an exchange: Castro took 100,000 barrels of oil each day from Venezuela's state oil company in exchange for uncompensated Cuban labor.

Most of the oil was then sold for hard currency, bringing in cash. Cuba also charged Venezuela $30 per patient visit, earning a $1,000 daily haul per doctor. But the doctors never saw any of it.

Nationally and in their newspaper Granma it was reported as a "humanitarian" effort to benefit the people of those countries.

-- Investor's Business Daily

Note: I visited Cuba and its medical training facility about eight years ago. It was obvious it was a Castro communist propaganda effort mainly to spread communism to Venezuela and Africa, but I didn't realize the economic benefits to Cuba.

Some of my best friends are lawyers (including one of my sons-in-law), and they are understandably sensitive when I mention things like this:

"Since 1990 the sums donated to federal political candidates by lawyers -- excluding lobbyists -- exceeds $1 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Lawyers as a group have given more to federal candidates than any other industry or profession. Their ability to keep tort reform out of the health care reform bills is unsurprising. Congressional campaign contributions by lawyers in the last election cycle were about $25 million more than the combined total of political donations from doctors, pharmaceutical companies, HMOs, hospitals and nursing homes.

-- James Copland, The Wall Street Journal

Last Thursday, The History Channel featured a replay of the 9/11 Twin Towers and Pentagon terrorism attacks to set up a re-enactment of Flight 93, the plane that fought back and crashed in Pennsylvania while possibly on its way to crash into the White House. It featured cell-phone calls to spouses and friends, their realization that their hijacked airplane was on a suicide mission and the improvised and coordinated effort that saved many lives but killed all on board.

This was followed up by a re-enactment of the Christmas Eve attempt by the "underwear bomber" to blow up a commercial airliner heading to Detroit.

Again it was passenger action that helped prevent the explosion.

Both programs were reminders of what happened, what could have happened and the threats this country still faces.

"When the Pentagon released its review of the Fort Hood massacre -- the one in which Maj. Nidal Hasan, a jihadist in an American uniform, opened fire on defenseless people, killing 13 of them and wounding 43 ... the 86-page report does not mention the words "Islam" or "Muslim" once. It is soaked in the political correctness that in all likelihood prevented Hasan's superiors from interviewing him.

-- Magazine excerpt

Gary Rust is chairman of Rust Communications.

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