Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Al Franken Senate!

Today, at long last, Minnesota decided maybe it should actually have two senators in Congress.

Pity the poor GOP, whining and obstructing non-stop. Is it too much to hope that they'll start cooperating? Yes, of course it it. Is it too much to hope they'll just go away? Yes.. but they're so busy alienating everyone that nobody will miss them once they've all been voted out.

Here's hoping the Democrats manage not to screw the pooch, now that the national agenda belongs to them.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Debate Over Socialized Police Heats Up!

Salon has a great article today showing how ludicrous is the debate over The Public Option for health care.

Now that the president and the Democrats in Congress have set a fall deadline for legislative action on universal police protection for all Americans, battle lines are being drawn on Capitol Hill. On the right are conservative defenders of America's system of for-profit, private mercenaries. The Democrats are divided among progressives who favor universal, publicly funded police who would protect all citizens against crime, and moderate and conservative Democrats who argue that any citizen security reform should leave America's existing system of soldiers for hire in place.

"Do we want long wait times when we call for the police, like people in countries with socialized police forces?" Sen. Russell Flack, R-Ga., asked during a floor debate yesterday. "Under our system, we can choose our own police officers, as long as we pay for protection out of our own pockets. Do we want some government bureaucrat choosing the police for us?"

Progressives, however, argue that the American system of privatized policing is no longer affordable. They point to data showing that the U.S. spends twice as much per capita on police protection as countries in Europe and East Asia, where police are public servants paid out of taxes. Although the U.S. pays twice as much for police as the average developed country, more than 40 million Americans remain without police protection because their employers do not pay for crime insurance and they cannot afford to purchase it on their own.

It's funny and to the point, but our current police system is already more socialistic than the most radical of health care options before us. Single-payer health care AKA Medicare-for-everyone only socializes payment - doctors and hospitals would be in private practice, and choice would be up to the consumer.

Just like it is in those scary socialistic countries like Canada and France.

America doesn't need a health insurance industry. We'd be much better off without one.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Which Religion Allows This?

When Mahtab and her colleagues tried to leave the shop to go home, she said, the forces began clubbing them while shouting the names of Shiite saints. “They do this under the name of religion,” she said. “Which religion allows this?”
All of them, unfortunately.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Oppression Has the Upper Hand in Iran

Are we done mourning Michael Jackson yet?

People are still getting beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered in Iran.

HAARM on Health Care

It would be funny if it wasn't so true.

Republican lie about everything, why should we expect different behavior regarding the public option:

My favorite one, and the talking point most often brought up by the lying liars of the GOP and the Faux News parrots.
GOP: Canada’s government decides who gets health care and when they get it. While HMOs and other private medical insurers in the U.S. do indeed make such decisions, the only people in Canada to do so are physicians. In Canada, the government has absolutely no say in who gets care or how they get it. Medical decisions are left entirely up to doctors, as they should be.
Of course the noise level of a GOP official on the subject is directly proportional to the size of his/her contributions from the health insurance industry.

I'm shocked, shocked..

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iran Proves the Need for Separation of Church and State

It's both sad and thrilling to see developments in Iran.

Sad, because the theocracy that Iranians brought upon themselves in 1979 is still trying to bully them back to the 8th century.

Thrilling because, well, look at what the people are doing despite the incredible dangers to themselves and their families. And imagine the courage it's taking to do that. (It's especially amazing to Americans given how placidly we accepted the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004).

I hope Iran finds its way out of oppression and religious dominance. Whether or not the bulk of people there choose to remain Muslim is a lot less important than the fact that giving clerics final say (or any say) in running a country is a recipe for disaster.

Religion is all about control. Worse, it's about dehumanizing opponents in order to coerce them. Richard Dawkins says that you need religion for good people to do bad things. That's really at the foot-soldier level - we're seeing pretty clearly how evil and corrupt are the people at the top.

And we very nearly let it happen in the US. Margaret Atwood said that she wouldn't have been able to write The Handmaid's Tale recently because it's "too possible".

Here's wishing peace, enlightenment, and freedom to the people of Iran. They have suffered way too long, for 25 years under a dictator we helped to install, and for another 30 under an oppressive theocracy. They are proving to the world that they deserve better, and I hope they finally achieve it.

We Don't Need A Health Insurance Industry

A couple weeks ago I watched an excellent Bill Moyers program on health care. In the last part of it, he interviewed a pair of doctors who made several points, some of which I hadn't heard before.

The most interesting to me was how Canada decided to do away with its health care industry and replace it with the single-payer system they have today. And despite what you hear from right wingnuts, Republicans, main-stream media .. and even elected Democrats (shame!), the Canadian system is a huge success.

And you will pry single-payer health care away from the Canadians only from their cold, dead hands.

Check out The Greatest Canadian AKA Tommy Douglas (also the father of Donald Sutherland and grandfather of Keifer "24" Sutherland). As premier of Saskatchewan, he presided over the junking of its health insurance industry in 1962, an experiment so successful that it was voted in to all of Canada in 1966.

"OMG it's socialism!" - Damn straight, and it works. Actually it's less socialistic than, say, having collectively funded highways, police forces, etc etc, because in a single-payer system, the health care entities themselves are private. It's just the funding that's public. No bureaucracy, no red tape, no 200% overhead to deal with insurance companies. Private physicians, clinics, and hospitals provide care, they bill the government, and we all pay less tax to support it than we're paying in health insurance premiums now.

The next time you see an elected official bad-mouth single-payer and/or repeat the line that the health care industry knows best, or deserves a seat at the table, whatever... follow the money and find their motivation. These people aren't ideologues, they're just corrupt, for-sale jerks who are forsaking their constituents and giving their benefactors an incredible return on their investment.

In what other endeavor than bribing a politician can you get trillion dollar returns for a few measly million? Only in the United States Congress!

Don't let the health insurance industry buy Congress and the media away from the people who overwhelmingly support single-payer health care. Forget the Republicans, they can't be reasoned with, they don't care about what's best for the country, and they don't matter. They lost BIG, remember? And the only reason they have 40 seats in the Senate is because there's only 1/3 turnover every 2 years.

Forget "the public option". There should be only Medicare, which will suddenly become much cheaper per capita when it isn't just covering old and disabled people.

The health insurance industry is the least essential industry - we need a new word, something like dis-essential - in the world, and we won't miss it one bit when it's gone.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

These Statements Have Not Been Evaluated by the FDA

And why the hell not? Isn't that what we pay it to do??

I always thought my father was a hypochondriac. He took an amazing array of vitamin supplements every day, in what I was sure was a vain attempt at immortality.

Yet today, and every day, I take at least as many pills as he did. I can give you good reasons for every one of them. At best, each will do its part to stave off the ravages of aging. I hope that at worst they are a waste of money (and an unpleasant test of my highly developed gag reaction).

Actually, I think most of them don't make a difference, either because they correct deficiencies I don't have or because they don't actually do anything in the first place.

And the FDA isn't helping one bit. Every one of these pills comes in a bottle with carefully worded statements of the form "this may help do blah blah blah" and the standard disclaimer, "These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA".

If the FDA was doing its job, it would make a serious investigation into the benefits of taking 3 grams of vitamin C daily. Or 15 grams - I know people who take that much when they aren't sick.

What about the Glucosamine/Chondroitin complex I've taken since before my knee surgery? Does it help or do nothing?

I've been taking Alpha Lipoic Acid and Carnitine since attending a talk by Bruce Ames, the cancer-in-rats researcher at Berkeley who said his rats "did the macarena" after being dosed. This stuff is supposed to keep my DNA from getting replication errors. Sounds good to me, and it's backed by research and theory .. but can the FDA puh-leeez sponsor some big studies to support or refute these claims?

Again, it's what our tax money is supposed to pay for.

My list goes on - Lysine/Proline complex, B12, CoQ10, Omega3, Piracetam (and friends), Huperzine/Vinpocetine. I probably take a dozen pills a day, with full knowledge that probably 90% are unnecessary. If only I knew which 90%...

Even the Saw Palmetto "Prostate Formula" things, which have a measurable and repeatable effect, carry this useless disclaimer.

Why is this? I don't buy the line that supplement manufacturers would rather thrive on uncertainty than have their claims possibly disproven. I think it's because America has been drinking the "Free Enterprise Is Always Right" Kool Aid for so long, it doesn't know any other way.

I'm no fan of Big Government, and I can think of lots of things I really don't want the government to run. But I do expect it to provide police, highways, environmental oversight, etc etc etc. And I want the FDA to actively evaluate everything that is claimed to have an effect on health. That what we pay them for, because this is not a job for capitalism.

Friday, June 19, 2009

امیدوار به بهترین در ایران

زمانی که در این دوره از وقایع انسانی آن را برای مردم لازم می شود که خودشان را از یوغ استبداد دینی و آزاد ، جهان را به نفس خود
را نگه دارد.

(من نیز امیدوار است که گوگل "فارسی - آلفا" خدمات ترجمه آثار بسیار خوب!)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Poor Iran

Watching the impending elections with hope, and seeing the awful theft and its aftermath makes me both sorry for the people of Iran yet proud they are trying to do something about it.

We saw pretty much nothing after the stolen US elections in 2000 and 2004 - perhaps partly because the GOP and Diebold were a little more subtle about it than Iran's rulers. Just a few thousand votes in a few Florida (2000) or Ohio (2004) counties, and George W was installed and retained. By and large, people seem to believe he actually won, both then and to this day.

About all we could muster in 2004 were a bunch of "Sorry Everyone" pictures, which unfortunately didn't stop the dreadful violence in Iraq or any other of the multitude of Bush II disasters.

Would a fair election and peaceful change of leadership in Iran fix the Mideast? No.. there are belligerents and grudges enough to last for a few thousand more years. But having even one country over there become a little less theocratic wouldn't hurt.

It's sad the US literally can't do anything about Iran's situation. Decades of meddling and in particular the last 8 years of George W have made us the anti-ally of democracy in the area. We can't even say stuff like "overthrow your oppressive regime" because everyone remembers what happened after George HW urged the Kurds to overthrow Saddam.

Then again, maybe there's something we can do. If instead of talking about being a beacon of light, we actually became (or returned to being) one, people over there would take notice and have one less country to demonize.

Bring Back the Fairness Doctrine

Was it too much to hope that the right wing noise machine would shut down .. or at least quiet a little .. once the people had spoken and elected Barack Obama? (Not by a little, but by a lot, and with a Congress and a mandate to Do Something, Dammit. But more on that later.)

Apparently it was. Fox News and its right wing nut cases have been working overtime to undermine the new administration, the losing and totally out of touch GOP has become comical in its overreaching drive to block any and all progress, and Big Fat Idiot (AKA Rush Limbaugh) is spewing more hate and black-is-white illogic than ever.

Not coincidentally, we've had an upswing in bigoted and/or religious nut case violence, egged on by Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Rush.

However, my guess is these guys aren't as stupid as they sound, and they understand they're in the entertainment business. If only their listeners did .. but if they were smart enough to realize that, they wouldn't be listening, would they?

Anyway, enough is enough. Hate speech is not free speech, and unchecked continuous scare drivel is mean and irresponsible. It may be a coincidence that Limbaugh's program showed up the year after Reagan repealed the Fairness Doctrine, and I don't expect him to crawl back into his hole if we get it back (I can hope, though).

But really, if there was 1/10th the oversight of right wing nut media as of Janet Jackson's boob, we'd all be a lot happier, and probably a lot less riled up.