Publications
On Medical Authority Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

2106(Guernica August 5, 2015)

Is it just me or do you, too, notice that the preponderance of published and reviewed books about medical matters are by doctors, not patients? Is this just my ego griping, the author of a memoir about heart disease, who lingers, uncalled, in the waiting room of the healthcare debate? Perhaps. But I want my voice heard because patients speak to health and illness as participants and not, as doctors do, as witnesses. It’s a perspective largely neglected in our culture. If the media gatekeepers show any interest in what we write, it’s to question our credentials. What medical authority does the patient have in a system run by experts?

I’ll tell you mine. I’m a survivor of three heart attacks over a recent five-year period in which I was shocked awake to my problems: the deadline stress of a journalist, extra weight, crappy diet, and a lousy genetic hand—all of which caused the disease. I was saved by three angioplasties but I received no nutritional or lifestyle advice, and nary a nod to that health-trade axiom, “patient empowerment.” I got stents, I got drugs, I got fixed, but I felt a divide between me and my overburdened cardiologists. Every visit to the doc, I would count 20 other discouraged people waiting for their precious eight to ten minutes. I put these things in a memoir—a patient’s story. But mine, like thousands of others, has fallen by the wayside, due in part to our media’s imperial deference to doctors and advice-hawkers.

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Review: One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Created Christian America by Kevin Kruse Print E-mail
Criticism

One-NationUnderGod(The Humanist July/August 2015)

In 1952, with the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower as president, a small, chariot-driving clan of Christian evangelicals stormed the national stage, bent on foisting their religious claims into American law, custom, and ceremony. The chief drivers—the Congregationalist James Fifield, the Methodist Abraham Vereide, and the Baptist Billy Graham—enlisted the pliable Eisenhower, a self-described man of “deeply-felt religious faith,” and used his popularity to foment legislative and judicial changes dear to their cause. In return, these media-savvy pastors, along with fellow-traveling capitalists, delivered audiences to any politician blessing their credo. To vote is a faith-based proposition, believing in what the candidate stands for. The outcome was a new corporate-political movement, later termed “Christian libertarianism,” which mixed piety and patriotism and trademarked free enterprise as every American’s “divine right.”

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Child No More Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20150722(San Diego Reader July 22, 2015)

Little for Sherry Sotelo growing up was how she wished it would be. She, her four siblings, and her mother lived wherever they could—in an accommodating relative’s house or a complex of two-bedroom apartments somewhere south of I-5. Her mother was single, with limited English, and hard-pressed to find work. When Sotelo was 12, her mother secured a job in Tijuana, so the family moved there. But then Sotelo wanted to go to school in the U.S., so she came back. She enrolled as a freshman at Hoover High, rooming “with whoever would let me stay.” After a while, she says, the loneliness got to her. “It was tough, not having my mom here, so I went back with her for another year.” At 15, she returned to San Diego. She began dreaming of a college education and a career in veterinarian medicine, yet still vulnerable to temporary quarters, no steady income, and a dearth of nutritious food.

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Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, & the New Bible Empire Print E-mail
Articles

FI AM cover copy(Free Inquiry April/May 2015)

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Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and son of its founder and CEO, David Green, loves to tell the story of the company’s brush with financial ruin and salvation via divine intervention. David founded the craft-supply store in 1972, at first a modest Oklahoma City picture-frame business. By 1985, Hobby Lobby had expanded to several more area stores and become the go-to supplier of gewgaws for home decorators and holiday artists.

It seems that the company erred in its enthusiasm, growing too big too fast. Soon it was slouching toward bankruptcy. As journalist Brian Solomon recounted in Forbes, David Green had “overleveraged the business and diluted the inventory with off-brand, expensive products like luggage, ceiling fans and gourmet foods.” David, an evangelical Christian, blamed himself for the sin of entrepreneurial pride.

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San Diego For Sale Print E-mail
San Diego Reader

20150401(San Diego Reader April 1, 2015)

Dr. Ken Anderson, the affable owner of Pacific Beach’s Anderson Medical Clinic, has his hands sagely folded, fingers interlaced, on his desk. He’s remembering the date, September 26, 2010. That day, the temperature over 100 degrees in Del Cerro, the humidity an untypical 78, he and his wife were playing another couple at the Lake Murray Tennis Club. The two pair were the only players at the club. In the middle of the third set, Anderson tells me, he went down: “I wasn’t breathing and I wasn’t moving.” His heart had stopped. Neither his wife nor their friends had any medical training, though his friend’s wife did notice an automated external defibrillator (AED) near the front desk. She ran for the device, put it beside Anderson’s motionless body, and unzipped the canvas top. The machine started speaking. It told them to apply the panels to his chest. Then, in robot voice, “Shock advised. Stand clear. Press the orange button. Shock delivered. Start CPR.” As a doctor, Anderson reminds me, he knows how perilous the moment was. “Had the AED not been there I would not have made it.” For cardiac arrest, which was his diagnosis, the heart needs to get back to its normal rhythm in five minutes—before the brain loses oxygen.

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Dick Cheney and the Worship of Torture Print E-mail
Essays and Memoirs

16577178-mmmain(Counterpunch February 10, 2015)

“I knew what I was doing,” Harry Truman said after the atomic bombs he ordered dropped not once but twice on Japanese cities—140,000 people dead in Hiroshima that night; 80,000 three days later in Nagasaki; many thousands more, slowly of radiation sickness. “I have no regrets,” Truman boasted. “Under the same circumstances, I would do it again.”

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Having None of It: Parenting Without Religion Print E-mail
Articles

Descent of the Modernists E. J. Pace Christian Cartoons 1922(Written February 2015)

The book the mother is showing me is Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories. It’s an illustrated first Bible, ages 4 to 8, which, according to the back cover, the author “lovingly brings to life.” She starts paging and stops, her nearly three-year-old son beside her, pounding Play-Doh. “OK, God creates the world, but then”—flipping pages and quoting text—“‘Adam and Eve disobey God,’ and ‘Cain kills Abel,’ and ‘God unleashes a flood’ and kills everyone but Noah and the family. Huh?” She pauses, huffs, and glances at her apartment’s mess—toy-strewn like Christmas morning. “I’m not going to read this to Justin. He’ll be terrorized.”

Thus begins, in this thirty-two-year-old Mom, as it does in millions of other secular parents, the once unorthodox, rhetorical questions. Why should my child know about a God who sanctions such continual violence? Why expose anyone to a religion I don’t believe in? Such queries are being asked and answered by millions of millennials—Pew Research, as of May 2015, shows 35 percent are Nones—who refuse to indoctrinate their children into any faith.

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