Sunday, October 21, 2007

Living the Nightmare

Okay... this one is coming after some conversations with friends, reading the weekend Op-Ed pieces, and just some things I have been thinking about over the last few years. We need solutions, problems we have aplenty :(.

How about term limits - for every federal official. I think everyone of them should serve 6 years (one-third turn-over every 2 years so that there are senior members to show juniors the ropes). At the end of that term they MUST sit out a full term before running for that (or any federal) office again. I am really fed up with our elected officials - our employees (to the tune of 6 figure salaries a year and health care for life) spending their entire time in office running for office! They start fund raising for the next election on the day they are elected. When do they have time to do our business? Votes are missed because they are at fund raisers; they knuckle under to party pressure to get the backing to run again; and on and on. Also, if they are worried about their vote endangering their chances of re-election, they are less likely to vote their conscience or the way their constituency wants them to vote. Bottom line, if they are worried about keeping their jobs, they are more worried about their futures than ours. I want our representatives worried about OUR future! OUR Country's future.

Contractors - if you want to do business with the federal government, especially in areas of national security, you have to be incorporated 'on shore' and pay taxes here to the good ol' US of A. No more companies like KBR who are now based for tax purposes in I believe the Canary Islands but have billions of dollars in US contracts in Iraq. So let's get this straight: The US hires them to do lots of jobs that are of a national security nature, and they escape the bulk of their tax responsibility because they are incorporated off-shore. What am I missing here, other than an opportunity?

Congress - READ THE CONSTITUTION! It is your obligation to declare war, not to abdicate that responsibility by giving the executive branch a blank check to circumvent the system. Part of your job is to read bills that are being debated and voted on, not abdicate that to "well the leader says we should/shouldn't vote for that and I have to be a good party member", or "they released it at 3 a.m., the vote is 9 a.m. the same day, and it's 1300 pages, who has time???" If you don't have time, then neither do the other members; have the balls to say that, and postpone the vote until you all DO have the time! Or at least are able to have YOUR staff read and give you a summary evaluation. I don't send my representatives to serve in government to party and do what they are told, I send them to think and represent me. Hopefully everyone else who votes feels that way too. It is also your responsibility to use your brains and assess situations - understand when you have been manipulated and recognize the tactic when it is used again!!! Like is being done now with Iran! This same tactic was used in the 60s with Viet Nam, certainly with Iraq, come on folks, I have to hope Congress members have at least as much intelligence as a 5th grader though I do doubt it sometimes. Hey... Senators and Representatives time to stop saying Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa baaaaaaaaaaaaaa... and being lambs to the slaughter.

Appointments - there should be an experience standard applied to all political appointees. Being a frat brother of the President is not a qualification for heading a federal agency; being a major donor to a party and/or campaign is not a qualification; being the brother of the president, vice president, et al is not a qualification; being a business partner or previous employer is not a qualification, etc. If you are being considered for a position in security it is necessary to have security background, educationally as well as employment. What private sector company, or even federal agency for that matter, would hire someone without experience or education in the field in which employment was being sought? Why should appointees be any different? If you are being appointed to go to Iraq to manage their bank, it would be nice if you had some accounting experience and weren't just a good Christian [supposedly].

I had hoped the days of smoke filled rooms and Boss Tweed were over, but they are so far from over and in this administration they have been over the top! There may not be smoke filling the room but there is tons of hot air, corruption, and cronyism! I'm sure there are lots more ways we can fix this system - but of course, the people who would have to fix it are the ones who would be adversely affected - talk about living the nightmare.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

History Lessons

I find it fascinating that the old saw that states "the only thing we learn from history is that we don't learn" is alive and well and still true as ever it has been. I just finished reading the book I reference below, and it struck me quite forcibly that we need to fire everyone in Congress, etc. and start over again, because obviously the majority of them have no clue as to what they need to be doing, and what their role is under this system of government - and sadly that includes both sides of the aisle.

Some background: As you may recall, during the Viet Nam war there was the Tonkin Resolution based on a battle that may or may not have taken place in the Gulf of Tonkin. Two destroyers in the Gulf were supposedly fired upon and they returned fire to the tune of approximately 400 rounds of ammunition, depth charges, they even tried to "ram" their unseen attacker (it was dark out). Rather than wait to investigate this incident further as recommended by the Pentagon, Johnson et al started bombing North Viet Nam. The following paragraphs are quoted from the book entitled "Unsolved Mysteries of American History" by Paul Aron.

". . . In their [Johnson and McNamara] eagerness to use the incident to push through the congressional resolution, both ignored a good deal of evidence that the attack never took place, and both undeniably misled the public and the Congress when they described a complex and ambiguous incident as a clear, unprovoked attack [Edi-tori-al note: much like Congress and the country (even the world) were told that there certainly were WMD and that was really clear and unambiguous based on the intelligence presented]. Only days after the resolution had passed, Johnson admitted he knew more than he'd told. In a private comment to George Ball, his undersecretary of state, he said: 'Hell, those dumb, stupid sailors were just shooting at flying fish.'

"Some of the blame for what followed, however, must be shared by Congress. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution was only the latest in a series of congressional abdications of its constitutional power to declare war. Congress had stood by as Truman sent troops to Korea without any congressional authorization; it had given permission for Eisenhower to deploy U.S. forces 'as he deems it necessary' to protect Taiwan against a communist assault [Edi-tori-al note: at least Eisenhower was a military man who had a clue what that meant in a very real way]. Like Johnson, many Democrats in Congress were positioning themselves for the upcoming elections, and they feared Republicans would portray a vote against the resolution as unpatriotic or weak."

Sound familiar? BushCo has already pushed through the resolutions on Iraq, and has done it again in form with the resolution to declare the Iranian Republican Guard terrorists and thereby giving him "tacit" approval to attack them. Once again he has asked for and received a virtual blank check to do what he wants with respect to war, and Congress let him do it AGAIN!!!! Republicans are the only ones it seems who can claim patriotism - must be because they know how to put on a flag lapel pin without pricking their fingers and bleeding out - and they know quite well how to accuse anyone else of not being patriotic. What boggles my mind is that they can make it stick!!!!

What is wrong with the electorate in this country that they don't follow even Bush's mangling of the sentiment "fool me once, shame on ... shame on you . . . We can't get fooled again"? Obviously we can!!! That's how they pushed through the FISA renewal last summer - BushCo "convinced" everyone in Congress that there was potentially another attack imminent around the anniversary of 9/11 and without these broad sweeping wire tap procedures without oversight or judicial approval, they would probably miss the pieces they need to put the puzzle together. In other words, he played the fear card again, and our elected (or selected) officials just voted the way he wanted. They are trying to redo the authorization so when it sunsets during the new year they can do it right, but you KNOW BushCo is going to play the "intelligence - oh what we know and you don't" card to get what they want. Much like they claim to have briefed Congress on the torture memos, yet no one in Congress seems to remember anything about said briefing, or even the existence of the memos. Why are we willing to put up with this degree of naiveté on the part of our representatives (and that is being kind to them!!).

On another shame on us - how can we let the right get away with trying to destroy the family of a 12 year old boy, who advocated SCHIP and who correctly said in an address in response to Bush's Saturday address, that he wouldn't be here without the program. This child has been attacked from the right (originating it appears from an e-mail sent out by the Senate Minority leader's staff) to the degree that his family is receiving death threats; their address has been made public on the internet; untrue statements have been spouted by right wingnuts accusing him and his family of taking undeserved compensation from the government (both parents work, they have 4 kids, and earn a combined income of $45k, and neither employer offers health coverage), etc. And as a country this is being allowed!!! What do you think would have happened had a Republican child been attacked this way by the left??

Maybe Ed Schultz (Progressive talk radio) is right... maybe we all need to go buy ping pong balls and send them to our representatives and senators, and tell them if they can't grow a pair maybe they can pretend with these!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Big Pharma Big Industry

I am afraid of the established medical community as a whole. Yes, I know there are some that are very good and there are a lot that are barely adequate. What makes it most scary to me is this system is dealing with people’s lives, the quality of their lives, along with whether there is any quantity of time down the road for the people they treat. I have watched the medical community treat members of my family and friends – some better, some not so good, and some who have been left with long term deficits due to treatments that were perhaps not the best options.

Add to that the FDA, a regulatory agency that doesn’t do its job the way I would expect or hope it should. They are literally in bed with big pharma, and are run by political appointees that depending on the persuasion of the appointer (the decider?) are less or more competent, less or more ethical, less or more able.

I recognize that when dealing with something as complex as the human body, the chemical reactions and effects that can and do occur, along with the different reactions over time, age dependency, interactions, etc., that it is not an easy thing to regulate the drugs that are available or in use. However, I do have a real problem with remedies that have been in use for tens or hundreds of years, many even longer, being trashed and discounted in favor of much more dangerous options that are supported by big corporations, research that may or may not be accurate or skewed, pay-offs, and such. Just a note, don’t you think drugs like medical use of marijuana would be in wide usage, advertised and advocated, if the pharmaceutical companies could figure out a way to patent it and charge big bucks for it?

Yes, modern medicine has done some incredible things to preserve life, and my beef today is not with medicine as whole but with the pharmaceutical industry in specific. Many years ago I worked in the advertising department of a major pharma corporation. They have come up with some amazing drugs that have done a world of good, along with some that were not so good. I had some personal ethical issues working there since part of my job was to try to convince pharmacies, and doctors, to only prescribe / recommend / carry, their brand of drug exclusively. As noted before, the human body is very complex, what might be right for me may not be right for you, even if the cause of the problem is the same – so carrying or recommending only one of the many options out there could be detrimental, seriously so, to at least some of the target audience.

Then there is the cost of medications particularly prescription drugs that are still patent protected. Yes, I understand that the cost of years of research has to be recouped by the company, but why must we also pay for things like glossy logos and packaging, after all, the drug is what it is, the audience is an industry professional, why should the “presentation” be important? How much could we save if the medicines were packaged in regular boxes, with the name and instructions on the bottle / box– most of them are going to be rebottled by the pharmacist anyway, right?

And how about advertising… I wonder how much a 30 second ad costs during the evening news? We are either grossed out and scared to death during dinner hour by the various and sundry possible side effects (this drug is to make you sleep, and one possible side effect is sleepiness - Duh!) then they tell us to take their drug implying the potential pitfalls are irrelevant while green fields roll by and music swells; or we are told to go ask our doctor if drug X is right for us, even though we have no clue from the ad what Drug X was developed to do? Maybe I’m old fashioned but I think drug companies should convince the doctors through hard scientific evidence along with anecdotal experience that theirs is a good option – it’s not my job or place to call up and say “Hey I just saw an ad for Viagra – I’m a woman is that right for me??”

I wonder how many people are taking drugs they don’t need and perhaps shouldn’t have, because of some advertising campaign that caused them to push their doctor or even suggest that they want it, and voila… they have the drug – the company gets richer, the insurance rates go higher, and someone is polluting their system with something they likely should not take, and probably don’t need. How much less expensive might our drugs be if the advertising fees didn’t have to be paid because they weren’t allowed to advertise? Maybe free market could take over and pharmaceutical companies would have to charge what was fair because there is competition out there!

What sparked this rant tonight is an article I saw in the NY Times yesterday. The knowledge of this practice is not new, but I guess over time I let the outrage of it slip into the far recesses of my mind. Here’s the pertinent quote from the article:

“Two of the world’s largest drug companies are paying hundreds of millions of dollars to doctors every year in return for giving their patients anemia medicines, which regulators now say may be unsafe at commonly used doses.”

According to this article, “a group of six cancer doctors received $2.7 million from Amgen for prescribing $9 million worth of its drugs last year.” Am I the only one who thinks that’s obscene?? That pay-off is 30% of their income for prescribing this one drug, and that doesn’t count the cost of the drug itself charged to the patient and insurance company! And we wonder why health insurance costs are going through the roof. We wonder why some people have to decide if they will die by lack of a medication they can’t afford or by malnutrition because the grocery money went to the meds.

I no longer wonder why I continue to feel like Peter Finch in Network – with this overwhelming desire to go out on a balcony and shout that I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore! What stops me is the sure knowledge that no one with any power to stop it would really care, though they might start pushing a drug to me that they are sure would help . . .

Friday, April 20, 2007

Memorials and Moments of Silence

Once again we in this country find ourselves mourning the senseless killing of our citizens by others who are warped, deranged, ideologically skewed, or whatever other psychological affliction they suffer from or reason they choose to claim. Columbine eight years ago, the Amish school children last year, VA Tech a few days ago – makes you wonder about our society that these things continue to occur despite the passage of time, the analysis, the post mortem of who, what, where, when, and of course the how. The horror of it brought home – makes it easier to imagine how the people of Iraq feel 24/7!

This week we lost 33 students at a university nestled in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a beautiful setting and one would hope a peaceful setting. This week the world lost over 200 people, killed in Iraq, in the desert or nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The totals for April so far are 69+ American dead, 10+ British and 1038 Iraqi Security Forces and Civilian Deaths. These are unofficial numbers but if anything they are underestimates.

Death is always sad and most times tragic; violent death is ALWAYS tragic. I do not mean to belittle the 33 who died in Virginia this week, but I want to know why we do not honor those who die and are wounded day after day serving our country in a senseless war of choice in Iraq, in the war we needed to fight in Afghanistan, and other places throughout the world. Is it only because these were innocent kids who were struck down because (we think) of a mentally unstable man who bought guns, practiced, and showed up on campus ready to make them pay for his perceived hurts? Are those who are struck down by IEDs, gunfire (friendly and enemy), etc. any less important because they volunteered to serve our country?

The real difference between them perhaps is that while the students in Virginia were victims of a horrible circumstance, those who die in Iraq are victims of a Bush league administration’s choice – a circumstance dictated, orchestrated, encouraged, and perpetrated by a group of political idealists, power-hungry, arrogant fools. In some ways I don’t see them as any less disturbed than the perpetrator of Monday’s massacre, and in many ways I think they are more disturbed. Sadly they functioned well enough to achieve positions of true power so their mental challenges adversely affect large populations, not only at home but abroad.

Today at noon I heard the tolling of bells ticking off the moment of silence declared for the dead at Virginia Tech. Shouldn’t we have a publicized daily or weekly moment of silence to commemorate the deaths of our troops, honoring them, keeping them in our hearts and minds, until those still alive return home?

Monday, April 9, 2007


Sometimes I find myself rising to the defense at least partially of something with which I basically disagree. Today is one of those times. I am referring to the furor over a remark made by Don Imus last week when referring to the Rutgers women’s basketball team. I won’t repeat his comment here, but it had racist overtones albeit said in a typical Imus way.

For those who have watched or listened to Imus over the years he in many ways is a shock jock but not with the foul language of others but more with sarcasm and offensive (usually political) remarks. A lot of the nastier remarks are directed toward him by other cast members and guests. In short, he is not and never has been politically correct. It is part of his trademark and truthfully he is an equal opportunity offender – I don’t think there is one group he has not gone after in some offensive way over the years. In that I find him unique among others insofar as others go after one ideology or group regularly, for example Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, et al. Certainly they don’t spread their venom in an equal way.

And while his remark was insensitive, crude and insulting – it was part and parcel of his format – a remark intended as crude humor, and while wrong it was no different than many others made over the years by him and others. At the same time, does anyone look at and take notice of all the good done by Imus such as: raising money for the new state-of-the-art hospital in Texas for the wounded returning from Iraq and Afghanistan; the Imus Ranch for Kids with Cancer, a totally non-profit ranch that gives children with an awful disease a chance to be kids and see that cancer isn’t the end, that they can still be kids, and do physical things like ride horses, compete in rodeos, etc.; campaigning and bringing to light real health issues that normally go under the radar if not actually ignored; and much more.

Others have made similar and worse remarks, and while I think Imus did not mean anything other than making a rather unthinking crude shock remark, others have really meant what they said, and have received a whole lot less attack. What about Rush and his comments (and crude acting) about Michael J. Fox and Parkinson’s, or Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a faggot, or Coulter referring to Helen Thomas as an “old Arab” who should not be allowed within yards of the President, or how about Bill O’Reilly (there are SO many here) when referring to a minority singing group being late saying he hoped they weren’t out in the parking lot stealing hubcaps, and many slurs referring to groups using racist terms, like wetbacks for Mexicans, etc.

Imus has issued several on-air apologies, and being a listener of many years I am prepared to accept his sincerity particularly in light of what I have seen of his actions in so many arenas that are responsible and positive. In addition he is going to Rutgers to apologize in person to the women on the team he insulted. Certainly others have apologized for incautious remarks but the sincerity was lacking in many if not most of those apologies. No, sorry doesn’t make it all better or right, but remorse is not a bad thing if it is real.

And yeah, I need to get politics in here too. While Imus and many others have made remarks that were wrong and insulting, listeners have a choice, they can turn his show off… Troops in Iraq can’t turn off Bush or their orders to march into harm’s way without adequate training or equipment, sooner than expected without the rest needed. Maybe the analogy here is “sticks and stones will break my bones, etc.” – I do not think there is a person out there who has not made a remark that was incautious or insensitive or insulting to someone. My grandmother used to say “when the words are in your mouth they are yours alone, once they are spoken they belong to everyone whether or not you wanted them heard.” Maybe we all need to take a chill pill and look at what really matters in the world. Would Al Sharpton been as vocal about this if the remark were anti-Semitic, anti-gay, et al?

All those who are so vocally attacking this, perhaps they need to go back to the words of someone they all claim to revere and respect, even hope to emulate and remember His words to not cast stones unless they themselves are without sin.

There is so much out there that really needs attention, outrage, and action. I cannot believe this rises to the level of those.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Something Rotten

There are so many gates opening under this administration I am wondering how they are managing to stay afloat. We have Tillmangate (yes, it always is the cover-up that gets you), and we have Iraqigate (a.k.a. how you say Viet Nam in Arabic), then there is Katrinagate (also known as Heck-of-a-job-Brownie gate), no one could forget Shootergate, and on they go.

Now we have Gonzogate. As all the others go, this one is probably the least offensive inasmuch as no one died or was maimed. But the deceptive and underhanded behavior is still inexcusable and just plain wrong. I have no real beef with Alberto other than I think he is way out of his depth, and while he was doing his job when he got the Shrub out of jury duty (have to protect the client dontcha know) so the DUI would not be revealed, I cannot say I like that he did it. Of course the fact that people have been getting Dubya out of trouble his whole life is the reason we have him where he is today. If his real record including his AWOL, the DUI, his behavior as a frat boy at Yale, among other things, were documented public knowledge we might have been spared the thousands dead in Iraq, the destruction of our reputation around the world, the economic status we now “enjoy” of being a wholly owned subsidiary of other countries like China, and those are only the highlights!

The brief summary of Gonzogate as I understand it is Karl The Architect Rove identified eleven states that could be a problem to the Republicans maintaining (regaining) power in 2008. It is critical therefore that the judicial process in those states be maintained by Bushies – i.e. those friendly to the administration and their cronies. An analysis was done of which U.S. Attorneys were and were not company pawns as determined by the Rove yardstick, and those that were deemed to be most independent (Imagine! An independent minded judiciary!) and less willing to do the bidding of the big boys were removed. These turned out to be eight U.S. Attorneys who also happened to be, conveniently, in eight of the eleven states identified by the Turd Blossom (Bush’s nickname for Rove).

Before I go on, I know there has been a lot of rhetoric by the right wing-nuts that Clinton fired all of his … and that is true. But so did many other presidents fire or request the resignation of all or most political appointees including U.S. Attorneys at the beginning of their first term… Reagan, and Bush 41 are just two examples of that… in fact Harriet She Coulda Been A Contenda Miers advocated just that to Shrub after the 2004 election. Truth is multi-term presidents don’t usually remove appointees en masse since they are their own appointees.

One dismissed attorney was fired for the reason that he was in Arkansas and one of Rove’s proteges wanted to start his political career there and needed the position. While it sucks, I cannot argue with that, it is a feature of the system. But to trash the person being replaced by saying his performance was subpar is unforgivable.

Another replaced (displaced?) attorney was in a state where he was looking into Democratic election fraud, but did not find enough evidence to issue an indictment, certainly not before the upcoming elections which he was being pressured to do – and yup, he’s outta there! Still another attorney had indicted and put away a Republican Congressman for corruption, and was investigating others. The excuse for her was that she wasn’t investigating immigration cases yet her office had something like 50% of their caseload in that arena. And lest we forget the attorney in a state that had a contested Governor’s race in 2004 who could not find sufficient voter fraud to overturn the will of the people allowing the elected Democrat to take office.

Bottom line on these attorneys is they did not pursue Democrats sufficiently (the way perhaps the Republicans went after Clinton?) to please their handlers.

What makes this almost amusing is that people who are slated to testify are all starting to announce in advance they plan to plead the 5th! What are we dealing with here, Mafia Dons? Actually, maybe that shouldn’t be a question . . . Where there is smoke there is fire, and with this many unwilling to go under oath and tell what went on the apparent guilt is fairly dripping off the White House and DOJ. I’m waiting for the Congressional Committee to offer some immunity so maybe more than just hints of this sludge can hit the fan!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Right Wing vs. Right Thinking

At what point does political attack change from fair or at least acceptable behavior in the cut throat world of politics and opinion? When do we as human beings stop for a moment, brief or otherwise, and think about the commentary and the motivation. I have to ask myself why this type of bad taste is allowed to go on in the world of public media when other things much less toxic are decried and punished.

Today ladies and gentlemen I am talking about the right wing talk show hosts, and in particular one Rush Limbaugh. Ayup, he is at it again. While I have no proof that this man kicks puppies and steals toys from little kids, I would be surprised to find out that he doesn’t. It was bad enough when he made fun of Michael J. Fox at the time of his testifying in front of Congress on Parkinson’s which Mr. Fox has. Not only did he attack him in rhetoric but he imitated the motions he claims Fox was faking for sympathy. He obviously spoke from the total lack of knowledge, decency, humanity, compassion … a position we are well used to hearing from Mr. Rush to Judgment.

We were all saddened, those of us on either side of the political spectrum who have hearts, to hear about the return of Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer, and hearing that it is stage 4. While it is treatable, it is not at this time considered curable. She has a tough road ahead, psychologically and physically. She and her husband John Edwards made what I consider a courageous decision to go on with his presidential bid while she undergoes treatment, stating that this is bigger than just the two of them. She firmly believes that he would be good for the country, and rather than selfishly ask him to stay with her, she committed to campaigning with him as her health permits, and to his commitment to continue seeking the Presidency. Talk about courage, positive attitude, and a certain selflessness.

But, we were then treated to Rush “Oxycontin/Viagra” Limbaugh trashing this announcement by indicating it was done for political reasons. Now folks, while you can say the desire of one party or another wanting to subpoena witnesses from the White House as being politically motivated, or that some people stating they want to bring our soldiers home is politically motivated, but I find it very hard to even contemplate someone announcing stage 4 cancer as politically motivated! He stated that this whole situation including the advance reporting on (from an unnamed source) was to jump start Edwards’ campaign with the implication that if the campaign doesn’t get a poll boost he’ll have a set up reason to drop out. While I haven’t seen or heard Rushie state that implication it was left unspoken but fairly obvious from everything else he said.

Why do we as a population continue to support stations that play this kind of destructive programming? Janet Jackson had a “wardrobe malfunction” and whether it was purposeful or not is irrelevant – I do not see how exposing a breast is worse than the vituperative venom spouted by Rush and his ilk. Yet there was a major brouhaha over breast-gate, with fines and outrage, yet this type of attack is left out there, and sadly I bet there are a lot of right wing nuts who agree with him. They all make me nauseous – good thing they aren’t close by or I would probably be tempted to hurl – and then get sued by them for assault.

And while I am in trash Rush mode… why is it that he abused prescription drugs, obtained them illegally in some cases, and received a slap on the wrist and rehab, but a woman who is suffering from cancer, who is legally using marijuana according to the laws of the state in which she lives, is subject to Federal prosecution for trying to save her life!

Why do I feel that believing I live in what was once a free country that stood for equality is erroneous and that in reality I am a cock-eyed optimist to believe that state exists under the current regime. Why are We the People allowing this abhorrent behavior to continue and be supported? And what does that say about us?