Chris Powell: What have you got for this patient?



Hey, supporters of "Obamacare" -- the Affordable Care Act: Take a look at the case of the 10-year-old girl in Oxford, Conn., whose story was told the other day by the Waterbury Republican-American. Her small intestine has failed and she needs a transplant. She's ready for surgery at a hospital in Pittsburgh but her family's medical insurance won't cover the whole cost and the hospital won't undertake the surgery without proof of full funding.

So the girl's family and friends are holding little events in the community and soliciting neighbors as they try to raise the $65,000 needed. They're still about $35,000 short.

While it is denounced as sweeping and intrusive, "Obamacare" won't help the girl or thousands of others like her with remediable conditions whose families have been reduced to begging for their lives even as the government pours money down toilets from Afghanistan to the National Endowment for the Arts.

And hey, opponents of "Obamacare": What have you got for that girl and her family? The slogan used by opponents of "Obamacare" in Congress has been “repeal and replace,” but while they have held many votes to repeal, they have not yet offered any plan to replace.

People having to beg for their lives or those of loved ones when saving them is entirely possible -- what kind of society is this?

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Recognizing the clamor about excessive sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, President Obama has commuted the sentences of eight federal prisoners who already had served at least 15 years for involvement with crack cocaine. Incredibly, six of them had been sentenced to life.

Three years ago federal law reduced crack cocaine sentences to the level of sentences for powder cocaine, but thousands of people remain in prison serving the harsher sentences even as there is no sign that the criminal-justice approach to drugs is anything but an economic stimulus program for employees of law enforcement and the illegal drug trade. The criminal-justice approach to drugs is also oppression of the poor, who disproportionately see the drug trade as economic opportunity and end up in prison for it.

At least Connecticut's Sentencing Commission is recommending reducing from 1,500 feet to 200 feet the circumference of the silly “drug-free” zones around schools. Since very few drug sales are to children, those zones don't protect kids; they only enable police to pile extra criminal charges on anyone caught doing drugs in cities.

Arguing for medicalizing the drug problem, LaResse Harvey of Hartford's Better Way Foundation told the commission that the best way to protect children from drugs is to help their parents overcome addiction. But in Connecticut most people in authority couldn't care less if half the young men of color are imprisoned over drugs as long as the other half can be hired to guard them.

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South Windsor Conn.'s police department soon may lead the way toward greater accuracy and accountability in police work and criminal justice in Connecticut. Chief Matthew D. Reed says the department is studying whether to equip its officers with body cameras to record every word and movement in their work.

Like many police cruisers, the South Windsor department's are already equipped with dashboard cameras, but what they record is very limited.

Besides serving as a comprehensive record, video and audio from body cameras can protect people against police misconduct and protect officers against the false complaints commonly made against them by criminals and traffic scofflaws. If there's videotape, there will be far fewer false charges by officers and their targets alike and there will be much less time spent in court sorting out the credibility of witnesses.

Being videotaped, more people will be on their best behavior -- at least until the so-called victims' rights movement gets police videotape exempted from Connecticut's freedom-of-information law because disclosure might hurt somebody's feelings.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.