Friday, April 28, 2006

Clooney Heroes and Darfur

Hero: A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.

This is the face of a hero. Think I'm star-struck? Think he's just an actor? Sports announcers call athletes who make great plays "heroes." George Clooney and his dad, Nick, took their lives into their hands to bring a spotlight to the killing of hundreds of thousands of African Muslims in order to save more from dying. Isn't that heroic?

I have always been a fan of the cause. The cause is everything. It's all there is worth living for. Yet there are so many worthwhile causes that choosing one or several is daunting in itself. George Clooney has several causes about which he uses his special circumstance as celebrity to speak out. That's nice, and admirable, but not necessarily heroic.

Clooney's successful career in TV and feature films has given him more freedom than most of us could imagine: he is financially independent, has the gift of good looks and charm--how many of us would look for more burdens and work than we already had to get to the pointr where is Mr. Clooney?

Clooney and his father, Nick, a veteran journalist and TV figure, traveled to the region of Darfur, between the countries of Sudan and Chad, because the "government of Sudan is systematically trying to get rid of a race of people" there, leaving millions homeless and hundreds of thousands killed. The journey of the Clooneys was fraught with danger. They didn't need to make the trip. They went out of concern for fellow human beings being treated worse than animals, and they wanted to call attention to this holocaust by virtue of their celebrity. They are heroes based on the definition of the word.

The issues of the Darfur travesty are huge and complex. I wrote about some of the background here last year. The US government, while not to blame for the horrors of Sudan, is not entirely free from complicity.

But my aim here is to add to the growing tide of awareness of this three-year-old catastrophe before it is too late, as the Clooneys pointed out: Rwanda happened before the world caught on; the killing fields of Cambodia were beyond media surveillance--the list goes on. As Nick Clooney stated on the Today Show, something really can be done to prevent the killing this time.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gulf War Syndrome Cont.

The biggest mumps outbreak in twenty years in the Midwest is prompting the government to ship in mumps vaccine to help pump up the immune systems of those who likely were ALREADY VACCINATED for mumps:

The CDC has pledged to provide 25,000 doses of measles-mumps-rubella vaccine to the state from the agency's stockpile. And Merck & Co., the vaccine maker, is giving another 25,000 doses to the CDC for distribution to other states…--CNN Mumps outbreak worst in 20 years, 4/20/06

It is refreshing to have the sublime coincidence of the Scotsman’s interview with Ken McClure, author of The Gulf Conspiracy, a thriller which centers on the theory that vaccinations were responsible for Gulf War Syndrome, as mentioned here April 11.
Here are some key points:

SOME 250,000 of the returning allied forces from the first Gulf War in 1991 (15 per cent) went down with illness that they insist was related to their service in that war. Of these, 10,000 are already dead…

The French forces who served in the Gulf were not vaccinated. Their commander in chief did not think the vaccines were safe. The question is did 15 per cent of the French troops come down with Gulf War Syndrome on their return like the other allied forces? The answer is, no, they did not…

… the Government still maintains that there is no such thing as Gulf War Syndrome and is determined to adhere to this view until anyone can demonstrate the scientific detail. Shame on them. Science cannot demonstrate the exact link between smoking and lung cancer but only a fool would maintain that there wasn't one.

Bravo, Mr. McClure!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

If It’s in Black and White, Don’t Believe It!

I have good news and bad news.

Good news first:

The first clinical trials to study the safety of mercury amalgam dental fillings showed no mental or physical impairments in children carrying the fillings for as long as seven years, according to two studies published today in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.Studies Find no Ill Effects in Mercury Fillings, L. A. Times 4/19/06

I know people, including my wife and me, who have these types of fillings going back, in my case, 50 years. In the course of current dental work, we have slowly but surely been replacing these old mercury fillings with newer resin ones. We have read and become informed about the dangers of mercury in the use of vaccine preservatives, and tooth fillings, and it is quite clear that mercury can cause all sorts of major health problems so we’d like to have the stuff out of our mouths.

So here’s the bad news:

Critics, however, charged that the studies were not designed to detect problems that might manifest themselves in adulthood, as has been observed with some other metals, such as lead.

This is starting to feel like the earlier discussions by Merck of how Vioxx is a safe drug because it went through all the “standard” testing—typical pharmaceutical testing of new drugs is done by the manufacturer and then presented to the FDA during the approval process—and then Vioxx was killing a few folks who took it and now Merck is paying out huge lawsuit judgments and, oh yeah, they were aware of a problem during testing but they didn’t know it was such a big deal…yada yada…

When your dentist says amalgam fillings are the best and have been used for 150 years and it has been proven that the mercury is safe, tell him or her you want the resin filling and check back with you in about 50 years…

And that’s not all—

Just when you’ve been brainwashed that medicare Plan D for seniors is the best thing to come along since social security, guess again. You’ve been warned in this blog over and over that George Bush and his special interest backers are on their own side, not yours, especially in this drug deal, and here’s another round of assurance that the American senior is being hosed for the sake of better living for the few—super wealthy few, that is.

When premiums, co-payments, coverage gaps and other costs are figured in, the Medicare plans' drug prices are sometimes little better, and sometimes worse, than those offered at low-margin pharmacies.LA Times, Medicare Drug Plans Often Not the Bargain Some Expect, Valerie Reitman, 4/18/06

You might be aware of a controversy over this drug plan initiative promoted like crazy by George W and his pals. The key here is who is benefiting from this alleged “plan” to help seniors get better deals on their medicine—the seniors, or the drug companies, or maybe even the insurance companies?

...the government agreed to pay the for-profit insurers running the plans an annual subsidy that now is at least $1,124 for each Medicare beneficiary who enrolls. The insurers also collect annual premiums from seniors averaging about $324 nationally plus whatever co-payments they charge.

Jamie Court, consumer advocate and Huffington Post contributor, got the message:

How is it that Costco, a lean and efficient but still for-profit company, can provide consumers with prescription medications for a lower price than a government program subsidized by hundreds of billions, yes billions, of taxpayer dollars? The only possible answer is that the privatized prescription drug "benefit" being forced on U.S. seniors is meant chiefly to pour profits into Big Pharma, not to help Medicare recipients get a better bang for their pharmaceutical buck.

Healthcare, immigration, dependence on oil—these are major problems. There are real solutions which the present leadership of this country does not want to deal with, because it means giving up all the great payola involved in profiteering, by the drug companies, the insurance companies, the oil refineries, and big business. Yikes, we’re surrounded.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Clear the Air and Hold Hearings on Bush

I chastised the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in an email today for constantly asking for money, while congress remains inactive about bringing Bush et al to accounting in hearings:

Your constant email solicitation of funds is becoming more of a source of
annoyance considering the pervasive inaction of the Democrats to institute Bush and Cheney impeachment hearings and to bring the oil companies to accountability for windfall profits monopolizing international crisis mentality.
I'll give you more money when you go to work.
And don't write me about how much you're doing--it is seriously NOT happening and you know it!

I was probably too harsh, but in case they skim over the emails, they'll get a good gist of what I'm saying while they skim.

Tonight, by way of the Huffington Post, I see that Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame has taken the same tack:

In terms of imminent, meaningful action by the Congress, however, the question of whether the president should be impeached (or, less severely, censured) remains premature. More important, it is essential that the Senate vote—hopefully before the November elections, and with overwhelming support from both parties—to undertake a full investigation of the conduct of the presidency of George W. Bush, along the lines of the Senate Watergate Committee's investigation during the presidency of Richard M. Nixon. --Senate Hearings on Bush, Now by Carl Bernstein, Vanity Fair

It's in the air, and only fear and complacency stand in the way of getting this country back on track.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Vaccines Don't Work

How do I know vaccines don't work? Every time there is a story about the spread of some thought-to-be vaccine-protected disease among the vaccinated population, the media quote the medical yahoos' statistics that are supposed to prove otherwise:

Mumps outbreak now in 8 states:
Federal health officials said Friday they are looking into whether air travel is spreading mumps through the Midwest.
In addition to Iowa, which has seen an epidemic of more than 600 suspected cases since December, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman, other states reporting cases are Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin. The agency has not yet released the name of the eighth Midwestern state...

...The mumps outbreak is the nation's largest in 20 years...

...The best protection against mumps, [CDC Spokesman] Allen said, is to be vaccinated. One dose is about 80 percent effective, and two, which is what most U.S. children get, work about 95 percent of the time, Allen said.

The introduction of the vaccine in 1967 has helped reduce mumps cases in the United States by 99 percent, he said. --CNN 4/14/06

Of the 600 cases reported so far, some or, more probably all, had to have been vaccinated--so does that mean at 95% rate of effectiveness, 600 cases represents a possible 12,000 cases that would have been reported had there not been a vaccine?

More likely, the vaccine either didn't work, or was given so long ago to the individuals that it wore off (which does not happen with naturally-occurring immunity--that confers lifelong protection).

What the MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) vaccine does help to initiate in the immune system, is a breakdown of its effectiveness as part of the interaction of development from the gut absorption of nutrients, to the brain cells themselves:

Vaccines can cause conditions that eat away at the intestinal lining,create leaky gut syndrome, and behavioral and physical problems due to nerve cell damage. Vaccines can cause central nervous system demyelination transverse myelitis.

These conditions are when the nerve cells deteriorate and dissolve away. Other reactions from this condition are arthritis, autism and colitis. The MMR vaccine sticks to the gastrointestinal tract and causes chronic measles infection in the gut. This causes the intestinal wall to become inflamed and then expand to make holes where harmful substances can leak out into the bloodstream. These morphine like substances cause abnormal behaviors, especially seen in autism. --The Truth About Vaccines

Several years back the National Geographic did a report on Americans traveling for the first time to formerly Communist countries behind the "Iron Curtain." The article said that some Americans contracted diphtheria, and blamed this on the poor sanitary conditions and lack of vaccines in these areas. The piece went on to explain that as the sanitation improved, the cases of diphtheria diminished.

What kind of backwards logic was this? Similar to the explanation of the mumps cases now, the article failed to see a connection with sanitation and disease, and instead blamed the diphtheria cases on lack of vaccination--well, the Americans who went to those countries were most likely vaccinated with the DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus) shot at some time in their lives before they journeyed to Eastern Europe. The fact is, the anti-toxin constituent of the DPT shot that supposedly protects against diphtheria only works for about two weeks, and even then is not an immune-system booster as are most vaccines, but an anti-toxin agent.

Media treatment and irrational statistical ties can't change reality even when written in black and white--the truth is, vaccines are dangerous and don't work like your revered family doctor would have you believe.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

007 License to Kill

Thanks to our friends at NVIC (National Vaccine Information Center), Barbara Loe Fisher and Kathi Williams, for alerting us to this story: Sean Connery may star in a movie about vaccines as the cause of the Gulf War Syndrome.

The former James Bond actor, who earlier this week said he did not want to act again, has been in contact with Ken McClure about bringing his controversial novel The Gulf Conspiracy to the big screen...

...In the novel, a vaccine designed by British scientists becomes contaminated in a freak accident, and military leaders decide that it must remain a secret. Twelve years later, veterans are dying from a Gulf War Syndrome.

Dr McClure is a former medical researcher and holds a PhD in microbial genetics.

He says that although the book is a thriller, he did a year's research beforehand and was "absolutely convinced" by the end of it that it was caused by vaccinations.

Even vaccines that are not "contaminated in a freak accident" are believed by many to cause harm to the immune system and the development of the myelin sheath of the spinal column and brain. The death of reporter David Blume, blamed on an embolism caused by bodily constraint in the close quarters of the tank he was riding in at the beginning of the Iraq invasion, may have initially been exacerbated by the probable "cocktail" of vaccines he took prior to going on his assignment.

The promotion of doubt and concern about vaccines that the proposed Connery film would engender, is worth the price of admission, and then some. Stop blathering on with Monneypenny, Bond, and get on with it!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Lessons in Political Reality

"I wannabe President." "Me too!" "No me first!"

“Daddy, my Mexican friend is worried his family is going to have to split up. Is this going to happen to our family too?”


Our family will not have to be split up because we are all American citizens. Congress is trying to pass a new law to help families like your friend’s. Your Mexican friend was born in this country, so he is an American citizen. But under the new law, your friend’s father came here less than two years, so he will have to leave our country and return to Mexico, since he did not get the proper documents for entry into this country.

Your friend’s mother, who has been here for 5 years and also did not have the proper documents, will have to go back to Mexico, but only for a short time, then she can return with a temporary work permit. Your friend’s uncle, who has been here the longest, can just stay here with your friend.

“Wait daddy—my friend won’t want to stay here without his mommy and daddy. And when can his daddy come back with his mommy?”


Your friend’s daddy will have to wait his turn to get back into our country just like anyone else trying to move to the US.

“But daddy, my friend says that’s almost impossible with all the people who want to come here to live. Don’t we like any of these people?”


Well, some people in our country don’t like people from other countries.

“Why can’t they come here? Are they not as good as us?”


Yes, all people are equal, but some Americans think foreigners aren’t entitled to the same consideration to be in the US as we are.

“That seems unfair, and my friend is really scared. Why would congress do such a scary thing? And why did they come up with such a silly system?”


They’re scared too—of losing their jobs because so many people who voted for them don’t like foreigners.

“Then why doesn’t congress just pass a law to keep them all out?”


That would be too unfair and also, there aren’t enough policemen to make sure that could happen.

“Daddy—I don’t want to grow up to be a senator or congressman—they’re all a bunch of silly fraidy-cats.”

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Republican Attrition--They Start Dropping Like Flies

Delay is out. He's not going to run for re election. Most of these tough politicians hang in there when the going gets rough. Nixon didn't quit until the tape recording of his own voice was played proving he tried to cover up a crime with hush money. Johnson decided not to run when the Vietnam War got overwhelming and he couldn't face another day in hell. Clinton's debacle is a case all by itself.

Delay said things were going to get "nasty." Can you imagine what he means by that?

Here's what was in this blog about his troubles:

"Tom Delay trifles with reality and the wind he blows will soon pass. The democrat onslaught of justified criticism only serves to keep Delay on the rampage, instead of showing him up for what he is: a misdirected ambitious wannabe trying to appeal to the same right-wing minority he perceives put and kept George W and company in power, in order to avoid the wrath of troubles he's in right now."

The date on that entry was April 2, 2005, one year ago. It took a year between the start of the Senate Watergate hearings and the House Judiciary Committee reporting impeachment articles on Nixon for him to resign--the same amount of time as it took for revelations of lobbyist impropriety to get Delay to quit. Considering how long it takes for congress to act, a year is starting to look like about the right amount of time for this sort of exposure of illegal activity, and subsequent consequences, to play out.

We've known about Bush's lies and incompetence for longer than a year--what's taking so long this time?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Love Thy Neighbor Get Lost

Minuteman Project rally near Three Points, Ariz. Today

Turbulent times accompanied the birth of Hinduism and Buddhism in India, Confucianism and Taoism in China, monotheism in the Middle East and rationalism in Greece. All shared a core vision for building a better world that was both simple and drastic: Do not harm others.--Great Faiths Began With a Theme: the Golden Rule, by Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times 4/1/06

"We are living in a world united now — whether we like it or not —electronically, economically and politically…"
"The only way we can end this hostility is to learn to think that other nations are as important as ourselves," she said, "and to practice the golden rule — do not do unto others as you would not have done unto you — which was first proposed by Confucius about 500 years before Christ. It's the only safe way…"
… All you need to do is be kind to everybody. It doesn't matter what tradition you belong to. Compassion and kindness bring you into the presence of what monotheists call god, but which is also known as nirvana, Brahmin, or the Way.
--author Karen Armstrong, quoted by Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times 4/1/06

In the “hey get a life!” file, I’m a big proponent of causes. In life, the cause is everything, it’s all there is. Unless you have something to fight for, you’re wasting space in the planet while others are waiting to get here to help. Peace is a great cause. Better health care, honesty in business, prosperity for everyone—these are causes worth fighting for.

It’s Saturday night in Southern California (around the world it has been or will be, but this is southern California so we’ll focus on that). People are going out instead of staying home. They’re visiting friends, or in my case friends are visiting us. There’s plenty to do—go to the movies, see a play, rest on your sofa and read a good book. Hug your children.

If someone asked me tonight if I want to go to the border of Mexico and the US, sit in the cold on a lawn chair, in the dark, in the middle of nowhere (That big yellow border line you see on the maps isn’t on the ground—it’s just dark and cold and rocky), and wait to see if someone hiking from out of the dark is coming forward to sneak across the international border to enter the United States of America without going through proper channels—if that was what someone would ask me if I wanted to do tonight, I would say, “no.” Here are my reasons: In an order of priorities, catching people running across the US/Mexican border is not on my list; But even if it were, I don’t want to sit out in the cold desert and miss visiting with my friends and family; I thought we pay income taxes this month in order to hire guys to watch out for problematic invaders from foreign countries; I already had my night-time funnies at summer camp when I was ten years old in the cold in Massachusetts when we would sneak out at night just to prove we could do it, I don’t need to be running around a real desert with rattle snakes and other strange lizards and animals, not to mention the humans who might be there with guns even though they’re not real police.

Silly as that all sounds you get my point. In the 1930’s guys would get a pole and try to walk across a rope between two buildings 20 stories above the ground in Manhattan without getting killed by falling, in order to get some headlines. These days, Jim Gilchrist and his fanatic followers go to the US/Mexican border under the nomen “minutemen,” and notify the press what they’re up to in order to get headlines. I don’t know who’s more to blame, Gilchrist and his fanatics, or the Orange County Register for giving these guys a venue:

Nearly two dozen Minuteman border watch volunteers gathered today along a two-mile stretch of dirt road that divides Mexico and California, near the town of Boulevard, about 140 miles southeast of San Diego.
They are here to look for illegal immigrants -- and call attention to illegal immigration.

Some of the border watchers, bundled in hats and jackets to ward off a strong, chilly wind, looked through binoculars. Others set up lawn chairs.Orange County Register 4/1/06

Nope—it ain’t April Fools. Scroll down a few entries in this blog and you’ll find out all about Gilchrist and his friends. What’s sad is that they’re the few who will actually do this “vigilante,” as President George W describes them, bullshit, but they represent a huge number of fellow citizens who hate immigrants, and use all sorts of rationale to tell you and me why immigration, legal or illegal, is bad for this country. They’re all shooting blanks because the facts show that immigration is mostly good for the US, economically and socially. Facts are not the issue here.

I know I’m not alone in my research and understanding of this issue, but lately I’ve been feeling a little lonely about taking the hard stance that the US should allow immigration without all the red tape and start talking about helping the Mexican economy so the low pay scale of Mexican labor doesn’t force so many Mexicans to want to leave their homes out of desperation. The good ole USA might be great for us here, but home is home no matter where you started. That’s why they come here—not out of greed or to make mayhem—foreigners leave their homes and families to come to our country to try to make a better life for themselves and their families. Now that’s a cause worth fighting for!
Today I feel less lonely. One erudite, articulate voice, who always speaks rationally and reasonably, Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times, writes a clear piece about the sloppiness and irresponsible presence of one Lou Dobbs on CNN:

Ever since Fox News took over the top spot in the cable news ratings, CNN has thrashed from one failed strategy to another. At the moment, the network's reporters and anchors bleed all over every story they touch.

Does anybody really care how they feel about doing their job? Apparently not, if the ratings are to be believed. The most recent numbers show that even the hapless MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has eclipsed CNN in his time slot among the most desired viewer demographic.

The network's one modest success story is Lou Dobbs. His shtick is to take a page from Fox's playbook and retool the talk-radio sensibility for the tube. No real reporting, just lots of opinion aggressively presented with a recurring focus on the requisite obsession — in his case, illegal immigration and, to a lesser extent, what the correspondents on his nightly program have taken to calling "so-called free trade." Night after night, he rages against illegal immigrants and "unconscionable acts," like the Senate's Kennedy-McCain bill. How far does he go? Well, in a report from the Cancun summit Thursday, viewers were told that illegal immigrants were bringing leprosy into the United States.

"Fair and balanced" already is taken, so one supposes that Dobbs' slogan will have to be "bully and bluster."-- Lou Dobbs: Bile across the border, By Tim Rutten Los Angeles Times 4/1/06

While Rutten’s criticism is more about CNN allowing Dobbs the platform, and Dobbs misusing and abusing his position on a news network to extrapolate his personal bias, Rutten still gets to the meat of the immigration issue and those who are the bigots, by using the appropriate quotes:

As for Dobbs' distaste for any display of ethnic origin — it is, at least, consistent. In a recent televised exchange with Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, he explained how offensive he found it when demonstrators displayed Mexican flags:

"I don't think that we should have any flag flying in this country except the flag of the United States. And let me tell you something else, since we're talking about double standards ... I don't think there should be a St. Patrick's Day. I don't care who you are. I think we ought to be celebrating what is common about this country, what we enjoy as similarities as people."-- Lou Dobbs: Bile across the border, by Tim Rutten Los Angeles Times 4/1/06

Meanwhile, back at the border, there is a lingering smoldering sludgy smell about to envelop this nation. It is the creeping stench of ethnic hatred, and the mistrust, anti-humane vitriol, and physical violence that human prejudice and fear engender. This bigotry is as old as human history, and the greater wisdom of our higher selves to overcome it, like the relentless ocean tide, can come none too soon.

In another outburst of brilliance from a Los Angeles Times regular, Dana Parsons, comes the cry for an end to this spat, despite the depth of the animosity on both sides of the issue:

Out of that mishmash of statistics, you could make the case that immigrants don't hurt the job market and are assimilating into the culture. Yes, they're a drag on social services, but that lessens as they move up the economic ladder.But those findings don't soothe all the frayed nerve endings that are part of the overall immigration debate, such as the "lawbreaking" that defines it and the sense that the "cultural identity" of the country is changing…

… Demographer Mark Baldassare, a former Orange County resident and now research director of the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco, thinks the issue has reached a critical mass. "It seems to me like all sides are at the point where denial doesn't work anymore," he says, noting that in the last five years, he's picked up a sense of the pervasive nature of the immigration debate in the country.In a functioning society, that would demand a solution. I ask Baldassare if he's confident it is coming. "It depends on how much presidential politics gets in the way," he says. "But I think there's a reasonable chance something will happen this time around."
-- It's Time to Settle This Immigration Issue, Once and for All Dana Parsons, Los Angeles Times, 3/31/06

Human nature says there is no solution, and that yes, “something will happen this time around.” Hope it ain’t something awful.