Pelosi's Plea for Calm

However you feel about Nancy Pelosi’s performance as Speaker of the House so far, or however much you agree or disagree with her views, yesterday’s comment (as reported by San Francisco Chronicle Washington staffer Carolyn Lochhead) is worth both consideration and support.

For the first time anyone can remember, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi teared up at a news conference Thursday morning in response to a question about the current state of political discourse.

Visibly struggling to retain her composure, Pelosi recalled a time in San Francisco when emotions ran out of control, referring to the 1978 assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk by former Supervisor Dan White.

“We are a free country, and this balance between freedom and safety is one that we have to carefully balance,” Pelosi began. She then became emotional as she recalled the events, startling the reporters gathered for the weekly news conference.

“I saw this, myself, in the late ’70s in San Francisco,” she said. “This kind of rhetoric was very frightening and it created a climate in which violence took place.”

I was not it San Francisco at the time, but those who were affirm that the intensity of anger, fear and hostility abroad in the community at large offered the ground out of which such an appalling act could grow. Many say the movie Milk accurately caught that mood, and watching the movie made my heart rate accelerate. I don’t think we need any more heart rate acceleration in the U.S. right now.

Regaining control, (Pelosi) expressed a wish that “we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made” and “take responsibility” for what is said.

Those of us who have lived through other periods of polarization in this country — the McCarthy witch hunts, the Vietnam war, the battles for civil rights — retain vivid memories of too many brutalities, assassinations and cruelties. Pelosi is right about the need to retain a balance between freedom and safety. Unless we return to some semblance of civility in the public discourse we stand the chance of losing either, or both.

via Emotional Pelosi urges civility in discourse.

Hospital Safety 101: Didn't Mom Teach You to Wash Your Hands?

San Francisco Chronicle Washington Bureau writer Carolyn Lochhead reported today on a new idea somebody had about making hospitals safer: get folks to wash their hands. Hello?

The president of a leading medical standards organization announced a new program Thursday that is designed to improve health care safety practices, starting with a rigorous approach toward hand-washing by hospital staffers.

And this is serious business.

Hand-washing failures contribute to infections linked to health care that kill almost 100,000 Americans a year and cost U.S. hospitals $4 billion to $29 billion a year to combat, said Dr. Mark Chassin, who leads the Joint Commission, which sets standards and accredits hospitals and health care organizations.

Chassin’s announcement came after Hearst Newspapers published the results of an investigation, “Dead by Mistake,” which reported that 247 people die every day in the United States from infections contracted in hospitals.

Anyone who has ever come home from surgery with an infection, or more specifically anyone whose spouse has come home from surgery with an infection (nasty-wound-tending not having been fully explained in those for-better-or-for-worse lines) will applaud the new program, but it’s hard not to wonder what has taken the medical profession so long. Hospitals have found, Lochhead reports, that “caregivers washed their hands less than 50 percent of the time when they should.”

If there’s ever been a good example of potential savings to pay for universal health care, this is one to top the list. Consumers, we who would do well to wash our own hands when visiting or inhabiting hospitals, owe a debt of gratitude to the Joint Commission (and to Hearst Newspapers for the excellent ‘Dead by Mistake’ series.)

Maybe more sinks will be adorned with the sign that gave my husband and me a healthy chuckle during a recent visit to the Kaiser emergency room:

“Hand-wash unto others” it read, “as you would have them hand-wash unto you.”


Hospitals urged to strictly enforce hand-washing.