Friday, November 28, 2008

Halfway Around the World is Halfway Home

Do you believe in coincidences? Do you think events happen at random? Do you feel alone in this big universe, with no direction and no meaning?

I emailed my sister happy Thanksgiving--"aren't you glad your daughter is not in Mumbai?" After the events of the last two days with over 160 dead and more injured due to terrorists in Mumbai, India, this greeting seemed appropriate, since my niece had spent last summer as a student from Princeton working on setting up housing in Mumbai. Yes my sister agreed, although in fact, at the time my niece was in Mumbai in July, there were a synchronized terrorist attacks in a nearby town, Ahmedabad, that now appears may have been a dry run for this week's horror.

At the time my niece was in Mumbai, my sister was "skype"--ing her from her laptop in a hospital room at Mass General, where my mom was about to undergo heart bypass and aortic valve replacement surgery. Mom was feeling pretty good, and didn't want to be constrained in a ward room in Boston when her favorite past time was to play several rounds of 18 holes of golf at her home in Palm Beach, FL. 80 years young, symptomless, and active, that's where mom bumped into her cardiologist who wanted to test some new fangled equipment for measuring heart blood flow in cardiac stress tests, and suggested while walking down the fairway that mom try out this equipment for free, on the house, 4 months before she was due for her regular cardiac check up. That's when they found the 2 life-threatening situations--clogged arteries and a very narrow aortic heart valve.

That's how the tall, handsome physician of Indian descent explained it to mom and me in the hospital room in Boston (I had flown in from Los Angeles in case mom needed extra moral support) the day before he was going to open mom's chest and "easily" repair the problem, which otherwise would "kill her momentarily." Seemed like divine intervention to me at the time, what with the cardiologist "bumping" into my mother on the golf course, and her not having any symptoms to make her run to the doctor's office for a checkup. The tall handsome Indian heart surgeon said she may have weeks to live without surgical intervention, certainly not months. If mom was ever going to hit the links again, she was going to have to have the surgery right away--they wouldn't allow her to leave the hospital.

I had heard about the terrorist attacks in Ahmedabad and decided not to mention it since my sister and mom might not have heard about it, and my niece was within shouting distance of the area of travesty half a world away in Mumbai. Meanwhile, this very busy and business-like heart surgeon said he just got off the plane from Holland; he had been at a medical conference in Eindhoven. He asked politely, expecting a "no" answer, had we ever been to Eindhoven, Netherlands? It just so happened that Mom had married a guy who ran a subsidiary company of the giant electronics firm Dutch Phillips, headquartered in Eindhoven, so she politely responded yes, she'd been there many times, and how was the doctor's trip, considering he was going to do lengthy surgery on mom the next day she hoped he'd had a comfortable and restful flight...How many Indian heart surgeons who had just been to Eindhoven were there at Mass General last July?

Then a young Doctor trepidatiously entered mom's curtained-off space, with permission from mom's surgeon, to ask if he could do a study during mom's open heart surgery about the accuracy of an ear thermometer--the most exact measurement of human body temperature comes from the chamber of the heart accessible directly during open heart surgery, which made my mother's upcoming procedure convenient for this young researcher's needs. He wouldn't be in the way, and only needed to take several dozen measurements of her heart temperature and compare it with the ear thermometer while she was under anesthesia and wouldn't know about it anyway. Mom definitely wanted to help advance the cause of knowledge in medicine considering the circumstance under which she would probably be dead shortly had it not been for that very same advanced medicinal knowledge to which she had the advantage. When the young Doctor said he was from India (another one!), after we asked about his obvious and almost unintelligible non-American accent, my mom said her granddaughter was there right now, and as I cringed about what was next on the conversational agenda, this nice young fellow asked had we heard about the awful violence going on over there right now, almost exactly where granddaughter/niece was? Oh well, my half-hearted attempt at keeping the international news secret was for naught, it might have popped up on the CNN news crawl on the TV hanging over mom's bed any minute anyway...

So I and my family had Thanksgiving lunch yesterday here in the San Fernando Valley at the rest home of my mother-in-law who has befriended an elderly man of 90 who comes from Boston, where I lived so long ago and met my ex-wife, who I haven't seen or heard from in 30 years. So we dined with my mother-in-law's pal's family as well. It turns out I found out recently that my mother-in-law's elderly friend had moved out to California from Boston a few years ago, is my ex father-in-law, whose only surviving daughter is (coincidentally) my ex wife, and somehow her dad and my mother-in-law became close friends in the rest home without knowing the former connection of their children, as well as the children not knowing either. As Spock would say, the odds of this chance relationship are astronomical, and as Captain Kirk would respond, the odds are always improving.

My ex-wife's present husband is an immigrant South African who as an attorney handles immigration cases--mostly Indians. He was explaining to me during our lunch about the value that these people bring to the United States, and how awful so many of them were feeling about the current events in Mumbai. My ex-wife's husband also said that based on his travels and experience, he felt that America is the greatest country on earth. His welcome of immigrants wouldn't be extended however to those from "south of the border," as he explained, because of the deleterious effect on the economy the huge numbers of "illegals" presented. I started to reply that US government statistics show an economic boost from all immigrants no matter of origin, but we were interrupted by lunch or whatever, and just as well, since I'm not about to change any opinions of the guy who married my wife during our first lunch meeting anyway.

I thought about the bigotry that surrounds us all the time, and of the tremendous anti-Muslim feeling throughout the world right down to my neighbors. I wondered about how many cross-currents and moments of serendipity we all experience, and pass off to coincidence, ignoring the underlying element of care and concern that the universe really contains for us all, regardless of our religions or nationalities. As we hear of events in South Asia, a place where most of us have never visited, and see Jews from New York being killed by murderers who aren't even clearly identified, and a major city in India under siege because it represents one of the biggest icons of freedom on earth, and the irrational increased hatred that will be engendered against Muslims because the killers may be Muslim, a voice of reason writes an op-ed piece in today's Los Angeles Times--Indian former undersecretary-general of the United Nations:

"If these tragic events lead to the demonization of the Muslims of India, the terrorists will have won. For India to be India, its gateway -- to the multiple Indias within, and the heaving seas without -- must always remain open."

Who may listen to these thoughtful words, and how many of us still believe in coincidences?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Welcome the Intellectually Elite Leader of the Free World

Obama's election is even the more remarkable because of the latent fear and suspicion aroused in the average American towards the intellectual elite. Obama is a supreme example of the educated, well-read, smart achiever who rises above the mediocre yet doesn't condescend to his audience. In fact, he is the ultimate teacher who asks those around him to rise to his level, while making them feel that it's possible if not inevitable.

The clarity of these aspects of his character--humility alongside of confidence--were clear in his first press conference today as President Elect. In his brief answer to a question about what he is reading to prepare for taking office, he simply stated,

"I have re-read some of Lincoln's writings, who's always an extraordinary inspiration."

What is fascinating about this remark is that, with all due respect to a good guess, Obama has probably read more than the reporter who asked the question, not to mention most of his fellow citizens. The reference to the Lincoln passages are assumed to be a throw-away line from a man who most likely devours more, in a single sitting, of articles and literature than most of us do in a lot longer amount of time.

So it came as no surprise in a short AP blurb in the Los Angeles Times to read that Obama is considered a peer among his fellow writers, including some of the greatest of living authors.

"Dreams From My Father" and Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" have each sold millions of copies and have been praised as the rare works by politicians that can be read for pleasure. Obama's student poetry was even lauded -- and compared to Langston Hughes' work -- by the most discerning of critics, Harold Bloom.

JFK, a speed reader and quick on his feet, and Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar and considered brilliant among presidents, were two who occupied the White House within memory who triumphed because of their intellect. No doubt Obama follows in this tradition, but even more obvious at this point in history, following the presidency of one of the prime examples of willful ignorance and stupidity, is the shining reason this country needs leadership of the true elite, intellectual as well as courageous. And we can take pride that's what we voted for.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

McCain: How to Try to Win an Election Without Using Your Brain

The screamers are out there calling Obama a socialist and even a communist.

My Master's Thesis was a script for a documentary film about the Alger Hiss case. I was in the graduate program for film production at Boston University class of 1974, and the country was in the middle of the Watergate quagmire and the Vietnam War. Young readers might ask, "Who (or what) is Alger Hiss?" Younger readers still might not remember Watergate or Nixon at all.

During the days of Watergate hearings in the US Senate, and then the House Judiciary Committee debating articles of impeachment against then president Richard Nixon, I was researching the Hiss case because it had so many parallels with Watergate, not the least of which was the central character of Richard M. Nixon in both.

Alger Hiss had been a member of the Truman State Department in the late 1940's, and was later President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In the late 1940's, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), of which the young freshman congressman Nixon was a member, interviewed anybody they could find who would implicate democrats working in the government as communist agents for Russia. The plan, which often worked, was to paint, through association and innuendo, the named democrat as being friendly to Russia.

While Russia was a US ally during WWII, in the post war climate communism became as big of a threat as nazism in the mind of the American public. As a dictatorship under Stalin, Russia really was more of a totalitarian oppressive regime than it was a dedicated ideological expression of any such promise of political communism--if there was such a thing. But the demonstration of taint was enough to help republicans get votes because of the fear of the democratic party being more left-wing oriented and therefore closer to communism, and possibly even containing communists among them.

This highly-flawed and detrimental tactic proved so successful in getting republicans elected, that Nixon himself used it repeatedly from congressman, to senator, to VP and then president. When Nixon ran against Helen Gahagan Douglas, a respected democratic member of congress, for senator from California, he referred to her as "the pink lady," because communists were considered "reds," and he said she was "pink right down to her underwear." He won. Two decades later, Nixon won a huge landslide over democratic challenger George McGovern for president, partly by stating constantly that McGovern's left-leaning politics were dangerous.

The Watergate break-in of the democratic party headquarters, which initiated the exposure of Nixon's, and his aides', criminal activity, purportedly was to find evidence of funding contributions from foreign communist sources, such as Cuba, for the McGovern campaign. That way, the republicans would be able to continue to implicate democrats as tainted with communists.

The persistent denouncement of Barak Obama by John McCain as a "socialist" is more of the same routine now, 60 years after Alger Hiss first appeared before HUAC. Maybe younger folks don't remember the joke of McCarthyism and the ruination of careers and lives caused by mindless false accusations. Or maybe they're not paying that much attention to the details of another smear campaign, but there's no doubt some of this nonsensical finger-pointing has an impact, or it would not still be used. The host of the number-one-rated cable TV show, Bill O'Reilly, on the TV show "The View" called Obama a communist.

Pandering and fear tactics are one thing when used by a desperate politician like McCain, but one wonders about media mavens appealing to the lowest common denominator by repeating that Obama's a "socialist." After all these years of communist witch hunting, it would seem time has come to find a new issue to showcase--one with which we the people really need to grapple.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

You Won't Get The Flu

You probably won't get the flu. You might get sick with some sort of systemic virus, but your doctor would have to swab and culture your throat to get a definitive positive result from a lab that you have one or another form of the 860 - plus influenza viruses out there. Most people don't do this, their doctor just says stay home and get plenty of rest, and patient assumes it was the flu.

That doesn't stop the big government snow job from the CDC saying there are 36,000 deaths from the flu every year. They haven't got a clue how many people die from flu, but there are vaccines to sell and big pharma lobbyists stuffing pockets of US government agents to stand in as shills:

A CDC spokesman, Mr. Curtis Allen told Insight Magazine

“There are a couple problems with determining the number of deaths related to the flu because most people don't die from influenza - they die from complications of influenza - so the numbers [of deaths] are based on mathematical formulas. We don't know exactly how many people get the flu each year because it's not a reportable disease and most physicians don't do the test [nasal swab] to indicate whether [the symptoms are caused by] influenza.”

The CDC also says

Yearly, adults can average one to three and children three to six influenza-like illnesses (ILIs). The vaccine does not prevent influenza-like illnesses caused by infectious agents other than influenza [strains found in the shot], and many persons vaccinated against influenza will still get the flu.

In the year 2004, when the flu vaccine shortage was a huge news item for months, the number of flu cases were lower than any recent year:

An unusually mild flu season in 2004 cut the flu death rate -- the number of deaths per 100,000 people -- by 7 percent. And it likely had a ripple effect by not worsening the condition of frail patients who ultimately died of something else, government health scientists said.

At a time when the government is asking the congressional representatives for a 700 billion dollar bailout of big banks and saying, "trust us or else," shouldn't we question everything we're told by these guys, like how important it is to spend $25 on a flu shot that doesn't work? And I had to hear Charles Osgood quote the CDC about this on the radio with not so much as a peep of skepticism. Journalists are now PR spokespeople for drug makers. Buyer beware.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Obama is the new Lincoln; Sorry JFK

Got an email from a friend I met in Trader Joe's who is "wary" of Obama's candidacy. "I just don't feel I can trust Obama..," she writes. She referenced a piece by David Brooks in yesterday's New York Times, "Where’s the Landslide?" which implies there should be one by now with Obama trouncing McCain in the polls. Couple of Brooks's notions:

His age probably has something to do with it. So does his race. But the polls and focus groups suggest that people aren’t dismissive of Obama or hostile to him....the root of it is probably this: Obama has been a sojourner.

Brooks is making a case of Obama being "removed" from the battle, an observer who is interested but not affected. My friend from Trader Joe's has a "funny" feeling and Brooks's piece struck a chord.

I don't know how it's possible for me to remember the 1960 election since I was 10 years old at the time, and I have trouble remembering the names of several of the members of my immediate family. But I remember clearly that John F. Kennedy was perceived as a neophyte, with little experience against the towering figure of 8 years Vice President Nixon, who was now going to slide into the office after his boss, Eisenhower, was done. That's how my family, friends, and schoolmates saw the process back then. Yet both Kennedy and Nixon were young, just like Obama. And the ultimate winner then was no proven entity any more than Obama is now. And then as now, Kennedy and Obama both make amazing, rallying, and inspiring speeches.

Brooks can write all he wants about the experience and back ground and whatever else about Obama, but I will let you in on a little secret--about American society, and elections, and human nature--the Obama doubts center on one thing and one thing only, and that is the inherent inability of my fellow citizens to overcome their natural instinct for prejudice and bigotry. "Sojourner" my ass -- Obama doesn't fit the comfortable mold of any one's mindset.

There was another candidate for President of the US who had a varied back ground and didn't seem fit for the job:

His family was forced out of their home.
He had to work to support them.
Failed in business
Ran for state legislature - lost
Also lost his job - wanted to go to law school but couldn't get in.
Borrowed some money from a friend to begin a business and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spends the next 17 years of his life paying off his debt.
Ran for state legislature again - won.
Was engaged to be married, sweetheart died and his heart was broken.
Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
Sought to become speaker of the state legislature - defeated.
Sought to become elector - defeated.
Ran for Congress - lost.
Ran for Congress again - this time he won - went to Washington and did a good job.
Ran for re-election to Congress - lost.
Sought the job of land officer in his home state - rejected.
Ran for Senate of the United States - lost.
Sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party's national convention - got less than 100 votes.
Ran for U.S. Senate again - again he lost.
Elected president of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln. But you knew that. He was a young guy, with a weird sense of humor, prone to bipolar attacks of depression, visions, and not handsome to boot. But he was a wonderful speech writer, regardless of how he sounded when he gave the speech--and that seems to be a big plus in esteem and popularity: Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt, JFK, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Reagan, and now Obama. Anyway, any thing's better than the criminal dolt who's in there now, or the absent-minded dufus who wants to take his place. They can't configure a sentence that's coherent.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Renegade from Roots

Last week I had lunch in Boston for the first time since I left 30 years ago. I was having one of those political discussions with my 23 year old nephew where everyone agrees about the issues and values, and everyone is arguing about the details and methodology. This young man is brilliant, a recent graduate of Brown, and 4 years ago in high school he wrote what I consider to be a defining treatise on the back ground, development, and deployment of the Patriot Act, which essay is perpetually clickable on the left side of this blog.

I mentioned that my friend, Chris Dickey, was in the southern US preparing a piece on the South and the upcoming elections for his venue, Newsweek Magazine. My nephew proceeded to explain to me how bigoted and racist all those southern rednecks are, and how bad the whole business is compared to us sophisticated and tolerant native northerners.

Au contraire, my dear nephew--people are the same everywhere, specifically in regards to human nature, which based on the term itself assumes a rhetorical universality. I decided that a personal story of my last residence in Boston would best prove my point. I worked selling yearbook portrait contracts for high schools, and during that time, a court ruling ordered that a certain percentage of students in schools had to be white and African American. So one day, a program began of busing students from one area of the city to another in order to get the percentages right.

The day Boston school-busing integration began, I went to Charlestown High School, which is situated next to Bunker Hill, on top of which stands a huge obelisk similar to the Washington Monument in our capitol, in commemoration of the battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War. Even though the British won that battle, the cry of colonial patriotism that rang from that event was used in propaganda of the day to light the fire against the British and keep the cause of independence alive. Reminds you of that document with the words, "All men are created equal..."

As I parked my car on the incline and got ready to make my familiar trek into the hallowed hallways of this aging edifice--my company already had the contract for this school's business so I visited there often--I noticed some very unfamiliar trappings. There were overtly obvious police snipers lying in prone positions with rifles armed at the shoulder on the rooftop of the building, and instead of walking directly into the entrance, I had to stop and go through an airport-style archway of metal detector. There had been threats of violence and at least knife-wielding students, due to the disagreement with the court-ordered busing for integration purposes.

Later that day, I also had to be detoured in my car because police were setting up a tear-gas barrier at another intersection across town, where other unhappy and protesting Bostonians were expressing their opinions against integration.

Southern rednecks got nothing on north easterners when it comes to making your feelings known about whites and blacks being schooled side by side. That's the story I told my nephew, and even though it happened 30 years ago, I know not much has changed because I hear the degrading terms and tones used in daily conversation toward all sorts of ehtnic and national groups by all sorts of other groups, no matter where I go in our great land. I wrote a book about racism in America several years ago, which hasn't been published yet, but the title is the message about human nature and the issue: "Pardon My Prejudice -- America's Excuse for Bigotry."

Meanwhile, Chris's article is the cover story in this week's Newsweek, and Editor John Meecham eloquently expressed what to me is the cornerstone of Chris's in-depth interviews and experiences while he combed the route of Sherman's Civil-War march to the sea:

"The American South, to borrow a phrase from the caricature cupboard, just ain't that different anymore. It was once, but the Civil War is the exception that proves the rule that the South tends not to contradict but to exemplify, if sometimes in an exaggerated way, what much of the nation thinks and feels. Understanding America's politics, then, requires understanding the South's..."

As I wrote to my friend, Chris, I will state here--every school child in this country should read his article. And as for me, as a student of people and history and politics, I'm really glad I did!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

You Can't Keep a Drug Maker Down

We're down on Merck. Have been for some time. Merck manufactures lots of drugs. Some are vaccines, which are mostly unnecessary and bad for you. Others can lower blood serum cholesterol, which in theory is a good thing for those with a high level of that ingredient, because statistics show that people with cardiovascular disease die earlier if they have high blood serum levels of cholesterol, than those who don't.

Why then are we "down on Merck?" Merck manufactures a brand drug called Zocor, which is a member of the family called "statins" (I take a generic form of one of them, Mevacor, which is lovastatin) which act on the liver in such a way as to limit the production of cholesterol, which in the blood stream can theoretically deposit as "plaque" on the sides of arteries and narrow the opening of these vessels for the flow of blood and thereby cause heart attacks and strokes. I use the term "theoretically," because there is no cause-effect proven action between serum cholesterol in the blood and cholesterol from ruptures in plaque causing heart attacks and strokes. The connection seems obvious and likely, but other factors in the "statins" may also inhibit cardiovascular catastrophes: statins reduce a form of inflammation in the system on which medical research is still tilling the ground. But this reduction of "inflammation" may be more related to the statistical lowering of early death rates due to heart attacks and strokes in patients taking statins, than the actual measurable lowering of cholesterol level on the blood. Or it may be a more complex combination of factors.

One reason there may be more factors than just cholesterol involved, is that the combination drug sold by Merck and Schering-Plough -- Vytorin -- which has Merck's statin drug Zocor along with Schering-Plough's "Zetia," has not shown any indication of additional lowering of death rates despite the measurable factor of lowered cholesterol in the blood. The "Zetia" factor in Vytorin blocks the uptake of cholesterol from the gut when food is eaten. "Zocor," or "simvastatin," the generic name, lowers cholesterol levels in the blood and has been proven statistically to lower early death rates, however it acts in the system. Zetia alone, or in the combination drug with Zocor, "Vytorin," has not shown the same results even though it lowers serum cholesterol.

In fact, a new study show that Vytorin is not better than Zocor, or simvastatin alone, and may even cause cancer, although that new study is quite controversial. What is definite is that the generic version of Zocor, simvastatin, costs a fraction of the brand drug Vytorin, and Merck and Schering-Plough stand to lose a literal financial fortune if patients buy simvastatin and don't buy one of the brands Vytorin, or Zocor, or Zetia.

Even more fascinating is the reason the tests were done in the first place, that have pointed to a cancer issue: Merck and Schering-Plough wanted to show in clinical tests that Vytorin is a wonder drug that could have a positive effect on aortic stenosis, which is a huge cause of heart operations, in which the aortic valve inside the heart is replaced because the valve has shrunk which inhibits its ability to allow blood to move from the heart to the body. Aortic stenosis can cause sudden death in patients, mostly elderly in which the disease is more common, because the heart muscle is overworked and can become damaged.

So in looking for a reason to promote this unnecessary combination brand drug, Vytorin, executives of Merck and Schering-Plough may have inadvertently pushed their companies' stock shares into figurative cardiac arrest.

Couldn't happen to a more honorable bunch of guys. Just kidding! Meanwhile, just because the Dr. went to school longer than you doesn't mean you can't do your own homework and bone up on your medical needs. You might save your own life, or, at least, your money.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to Teach a Pediatrician to say F*ck You Nicely

OK sorry for the potty-talk. Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center doesn't put out newsletters with that kind of language, but the title of this entry is what she's telling us the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) wants to do.

In another fit of pique aimed at the growing number of vaccine-educated parents questioning pediatricians about the safety of vaccines, the largest private medical organization representing medical doctors treating children - the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) - recently announced to its membership that it will fight doubting parents in their offices, in the media, on the internet and through a partnership with other wealthy and powerful organizations funded by a pharmaceutical industry committed to doing the same thing.

Unless there is an assumption of adversarial confrontation between parents and their childrens' pediatricians, why would the wording be so strong? What do the kindly children's physicians have to gain by being so heavy-handed? Essentially, having been brainwashed to believe that an unvaccinated infant is an incomplete human being, the doctor has his honor and soul to save, in his own eyes.

The brain washers--pharmaceutical vaccine manufacturers--have nothing like that on their agendas: their sole motivation is profit, and we're talking almighty mountain-moving profit, because vaccinations involve everyone's children, and that's a lot of shots!

In case you're confused by the mixed messages of doctors and drug companies--by that I mean that you or a family member or friend just took a pill that saved a life--let me explain the dichotomy. Take the case of lipitor, the cholesterol-lowering statin. This one little pill is worth $12 billion dollars a year to it's manufacturer, Pfizer Inc. It really does lower blood cholesterol levels which statistically has been proven to lower the incidence of heart attacks in the population. It can have pretty bad side effects on the liver and muscle, plus unknown time-latent problems on the human system that haven't popped up yet due to the short venue of lipitor's existence on the market. I can't take lipitor, for instance, because is really screws up my liver so I use a different, generic, statin.

Again we have all been brainwashed that the end--lowering blood serum cholesterol--is worth any means--taking a drug with possible adverse side effects, because the risk is worth the reward. I am not sure, as I said above, that we know all the risks, but the issue here is again not medical or public health--it's the money, honey.

Any company with a $12 billion dollar cash cow that is under threat of losing that income will do anything to prevent that from happening. I'd like to say "almost" anything, but I think I'd be understating the truth.

Pfizer Inc. and India's Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. agreed to keep copies of the cholesterol pill Lipitor off the U.S. market an extra 20 months, protecting $12 billion in sales for Pfizer.

Under the terms of a lawsuit settlement, Ranbaxy won't sell a generic version of Lipitor, the world's top-selling drug, until November 2011, New York-based Pfizer said Wednesday.

Analysts had projected Ranbaxy would enter the market when the main patent expires in March 2010, though Pfizer sued to block it until 2016.

The deal buys Pfizer Chief Executive Jeffrey Kindler time to find drugs to replace as much as $12 billion a year at risk when Lipitor copies reach the market. Investors doubt the former lawyer can offset losses by boosting sales of current products, cutting costs and speeding drug development. [L.A. Times 6/19/08]

You see no mention in this article of cost savings to consumers by having a generic alternative to Lipitor, or even saving the insurance company benefit payout for this high-priced prescription drug, although I highly doubt that price savings would be passed along to health insurance premium payers.

When I paid for lipitor it cost around $100 for a 30-day supply. My co-pay at the supermarket down the street for generic-equivalent drugs is $4.

One might argue that the cost of R & D on new drugs warrants the high mark-up of sales in the marketplace. It's true the cost of bringing a new drug to market is in the hundreds of millions of dollars for development, testing, and advertising. But 50% of the cost of development of new drugs comes from government grants--free money--which the drug companies would rather not publicize too much in case you and I catch on to the game.

So, getting back to the dichotomy--in the midst of developing any new drug that can add to the bottom line of a drug company, researchers stumble onto helpful and life-saving medicines as well as harmful ones. The difference is that when a drug company like Pfizer is about to lose its holy patent rights on lipitor, it scrambles to produce a "me-too" substitute, or combine a blood-pressure-lowering drug with a cholesterol-lowering drug, in order to put another high-priced patent drug on the market--that's when the public health issue becomes confused, commingled, and subsumed, by the money-mongers, and their means to the end is the same--dollars.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Green Our Vaccines=Filter-Tipped Cigarette

Remember those old I Love Lucy TV ads with Lucy and Desi describing how mild Philip Morris cigarettes were for your throat? Desi died of lung cancer. Then they told us filters would be healthy. The filters didn't really work. Now there is a movement quasi-titled "Green our Vaccines." On the Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) web site, there is this promotional explanation:

Please join Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey for the most historical event of 2008, the Green Our Vaccines Rally. Jenny and Jim are working hard to eliminate all toxins from our children's vaccines and have our national health agencies reassess the mandatory vaccine schedule, as our children are receiving TOO MANY, TOO SOON. While Jenny and Jim support the vaccine program, like many, they feel vaccines are too toxic. This country has the ability to provide a safer vaccine supply and schedule to our children and they ask you to join them to demand this for our country's greatest asset, our children.

No, this country doesn't have that ability, since the toxin in the vaccine is the very essence of what it's makers theorize makes it work: the germ itself. Granted, the proponents of a "safe" vaccine mean that removing such toxins as mercury preservative and other chemical additives including formaldehyde, would satisfy the "green" process. But the culprit in the MMR vaccine that causes harm to the immune system is the rubella itself, as proven by several studies which have been conveniently tossed by the medical powers that be both in the US and UK.

The NVIC is endorsing the above rally with this choice verbiage:

NVIC is endorsing the June 4 "Green Our Vaccines" rally in Washington, D.C. and the call by organizations representing children with autism to remove toxins from vaccines and allow more flexibility in administration of the 48 doses of 14 vaccines pediatricians give to children before age six.

48 doses of 14 vaccines by age 6--when I was growing up in the 1950's, we got a couple of shots and then what were called "booster" shots which were basically the DPT re-injections because one dose was not considered enough. The concomitant increase in dosage amounts and numbers so closely corresponds with huge increases of so many auto-immune dysfunctions seen in young children, that the logical assumption that vaccines cause the problem should be obvious. Only big money for big pharma keeps the truth murky.

Recently I was at my ten-year-old daughter's school at the end of a recess. Several of the children in her class ran from the playground straight to the nurse's office. I asked what was wrong and was told, matter-of-factly, that the kids were getting their inhalers. They all had asthma.

No one had asthma when I was in school. Asthma is a problem with the auto-immune system, one of which causes can be damage by toxin overload. It's not the water we drink or air we breath--it's in the 48 doses of vaccines children's bodies are bombarded with before their immune systems are ready for such an onslaught.

Greening vaccines is like putting a filter tip on a cigarette: sounds like a nifty idea, but in fact the human body wasn't meant to inhale smoke or have germs injected into the bloodstream.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Mumps Shot Doesn't Work

C'mon folks--why are we still doing this? Anybody see the "John Adams" episode with the rudimentary smallpox "vaccination?" How barbaric can this process be, and it hasn't changed in 250 years:

Most of the college students who got the mumps in a big outbreak in 2006 had received the recommended two vaccine shots, according to a study that raises questions about whether a new vaccine or another booster shot is needed.
The outbreak was the
biggest in the U.S. since shortly before states began requiring a second shot for youngsters in 1990.

Nearly 6,600 people became sick with the mumps, mostly in eight Midwest states, and the hardest-hit group was college students ages 18 to 24. Of those in that group who knew whether they had been vaccinated, 84 percent had had two mumps shots, according to the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments.

That “two-dose vaccine failure” startled public health experts, who hadn’t expected immunity to wane so soon — if at all.

Autism, Asthma, ADD, Developmental Delay, Childhood Diabetes--exponential increase in the last 3 decades: Vaccine dosages--exponential increase in the same time period. If you can read this, you can think well enough to know you've been lied to by those who stand to gain the most--drug companies who manufacture vaccines that the US government has made MANDITORY for ALL children! Even Ford and GM don't get that kind of endorsement! plus the vaccine-makers are held free of liability through the Vaccine Adverse Injury system.

Enough is enough--and you can't wake up too soon!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Obama - Clinton Ticket or How I Changed my Mind

At the beginning of this month I made the case for ending the Obama campaign for president and having a Clinton-Obama ticket:

"The invectives flying from each democratic candidate to the other makes it increasingly clear that the campaign has completely deteriorated from one of issues, to a clash of personalities...I choose Obama for VP because after 8 years of seasoning as number two, he gets to run for President of the United States again at the ripe young age of 52."

It appears that Obama is ahead of Clinton by a nose, and that nose is growing into a football field. Of all the issues of concern to us as Americans, the number one is that we don't want another presidential term with Bush policies and ideologies, which is what we would get with McCain. How do the democrat leaders assure that this won't happen? By doing anything else than what they are doing now, which is infighting, name calling, and ego-stroking.

And it goes beyond the ego--it approaches fanaticism:

"We cannot go forward until Florida and Michigan are taken care of, otherwise the eventual nominee will not have the legitimacy that I think will haunt us," said the senator from New York. "I can imagine the ads the Republican Party and John McCain will run if we don't figure out how we can count the votes in Michigan and Florida."

Asked if there was a scenario in which she would drop out before the last primaries on June 3, Clinton said no. "I am committed to competing everywhere that there is an election," she said.
So I changed my mind--who cares if Hillary or Barack is inaugurated into office next January? As long as it's one of them and not John "stay the course" McCain. But it appears the democratic leaders are not on my side--Hillary and Barack do not want to give up the shot at being pres. And that alone is a disappointment of leadership to me. Either one conceding at this point would garner enough points to get nominated and elected as president next time around. And it would be one less day and who knows how many less points given to McCain because of the lack of clarity of his opponent.

So Hillary, with a win seemingly out of reach, it's time to bite the bullet and give a speech worthy of an Al Gore concession, and wait your turn not only for the sake of the party and the nation, but possibly for the whole world. The ball's in your court, let's see if you're worthy of my constant support.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Beyond 1984: My Free Country es su Free Country?

Barbara Loe Fisher, founder and head of the National Vaccine Information Center, has once again done our homework for us:

The discrimination begins, always, with the majority in a society pointing the finger at a minority for somehow endangering the public health and welfare. Individuals in the minority group are singled out as different - ethnically, biologically, spiritually, morally - from the majority. The human impulse to fear, judge, marginalize or eliminate those different from the rest has left a blood soaked trail winding throughout the entire history of man from the Great Inquisition to the Holocaust; from the killing fields of Cambodia to Rwanda, Serbia and Tibet; while the persecution of those with leprosy, TB, AIDS, mental illness, and handicaps continues in every society.It was with a heavy heart that I read the March 21 New York Times article, "Public Health Risk Seen as Parents Reject Vaccines." Then I waded through the venomous comments posted on the NY Times website attacking parents of vaccine injured autistic children and those supporting informed consent to vaccination, specifically legal exemptions.

The letters she quotes are truly bizarre in their invective. My reaction is that it must be wonderful to be able to sit in judgment of one's fellow human without having to wear that person's shoes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Teacher Layoffs = Homeland Security

Here's a bunch of dichotomies for ya--some might call it hypocrisy, but I'll defer to myself and take the higher road: California is a "rich" state. Put it this way--where in the world can you drive down a neighborhood street and see several Rolls Royce Phantom-whatevers, priced at $400,000 per auto, or any other of such enormous high-dollar (that phrase from a former client who sold upgraded RV's and had that southern drawl that made "high dollar" sound like melting dark chocolate in your hand) vehicles that you wonder how all that money got concentrated in such a small geographic area.

Then you read the latest piece of news about school teacher layoffs because the state income tax is down due to the economy, or whatever else the "state" needs to spend money on is leaving not enough for the requisite number of teachers, hence the layoffs.

Not that the school curriculum in its present form is any good, as anyone who's read this blog knows, but less teachers-per-student makes a bad setup worse.
One of those Rolls Royce's could cover 7 plus a fraction of teachers--not that I would begrudge a rich guy his perks. That's not my business--what is my
business is when my government chooses to spend money on a set of priorities that is not within the realm of reality. That's the question. What is
reality. I have the answer here--it's really that simple!

I thought I was under the safe assumption that all the money the US spends on weapons--military might, including planes, nuclear submarines, tanks, bombs,
bullets, you-name-it--was a necessary sacrifice with which we taxpayers have to go along in order to provide the sacrosanct security of our own backyards.
They can have that awful war in Iraq, but we'll keep Hill Valley immune from such awful events such as bombs, bullets, and destruction by paying dearly for

Never mind the untold waste of defense contractors, who charge the US government ridiculous amounts for something like a pliers--$1,000--or a toilet seat and on and on--we've all heard and read about this business. It's all in the
name of keeping the homeland free from hassle.

Well, that isn't exactly how it works: the US military is occupying Iraq with a force of 150,000 troops. Could any country in the world effectively come
to US shores and bother this country like that? Not on this planet, in our lifetimes. Oh, but you say there are those pesky nukes.

Intelligent people have written about our misguided fears, guided intentionally by selfish interests, weapons manufacturers, and how much of taxpayer money has gone to greasing their pockets due to this fear mongering:

"America faces real threats that need no embellishment. But...politicians have often exaggerated threats for political advantage. "Fear is a very dangerous
thing," said British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin after World War I. "It is quite true that it may act as a deterrent in people's minds against war, but
it is much more likely to act to make them want to increase armaments...."

"...Paul Nitze, the principal author of the 1950 NSC report, intentionally exaggerated Soviet nuclear capacities and minimized those of the US in order to "bludgeon the mass mind of 'government' "—as Nitze's superior, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, admitted years later. Although the Soviet Union had lost at least 25 million people and half its industry in World War II, Nitze portrayed the
USSR as a fanatical enemy that, within a few years, would threaten
America with an estimated two hundred nuclear weapons. According to his report, the then American stockpile of 1,400 weapons would be insufficient to counter such a threat. Nitze's report came at a time when international events, including the Korean War, seemed to validate this dark vision. In response, Truman quadrupled the defense budget and began a strategic program that would increase the US nuclear arsenal to some 20,000 thermonuclear bombs by 1960 and 32,000 by 1966."

The money spent on armaments takes away from all of our domestic needs: health care, education, and all the rest. It has continued throughout US history:

"In 2000, the Rumsfeld Commission on space weapons again used a series of worst-case assumptions to conclude that the country faced an imminent "space Pearl Harbor." That report led to the current US strategy to deploy new weapons—such as orbiting interceptors to target other nations' satellites and missiles—for total US domination of outer space. In fact, no nation credibly threatens the vast US satellite system. "

So now when I read about teacher layoffs, in sunny Southern California, I think about the guys at the top levels in charge of allocating the money, and what
kinds of cars they drive. But only uninitiated actually drive cars--the fear mongerers are, and have always been, in the back seat with a chauffeur
handling the mundane traffic.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mortal Sins, Drugs in the water, Flu Shots, and Whores

I tried to cover the whole thing in the headline--hopefully the search engines will direct billions of hits to this blog. What a fun day for the press/media/news folks! The governer of New York, on the trail of bad guys for years now, gets caught on the phone asking for a hooker to travel between states for several thousand dollars so he can get a good lay. It makes me flash to my favorite-joke memory from an old Oscar Levant line: "I don't know what they mean by a bad lay--it's good for me every time."

Governer Spitzer's mistake is the NUMBER ONE news story anywhere you look tonight. Here are some other stories from today's news:

Prescription drugs are in the tap water, and no one tells us.

The Vatican lists a bunch of new really bad sins, for which good Catholics who are not repentant could burn in hell.

The CD says we should all get flu shots even thought they don't work.

Government says Gulf War Syndrome is caused by pesticides, even though all the soldiers got vaccine cocktails that would sicken a normal mortal.

The Iraq War could cost over 1 trillion dollars.

But the lead story is how Elliot Spitzer was going to pay over $5,000 to get laid. And my kids look at ME like I'm nuts!! I think we're all crazy!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Obama Concedes; Wins Presidency in 2016

It's becoming increasingly crystal clear that the continued fight between Obama and Clinton gives points to the republican side every day. It's also clear that a whole lot of brains are churning on what to do about this chaos. What's mostly chaotic is that Hillary and Barack are in agreement on the major issues, and yet they hurl slings at each other as if they were each other's worst enemy. And as intelligent as both of them are, unlike their opponents in the republican party, they both know the enemy is not "us," as Pogo would say, but them.

An interesting point of view in the Palm Beach Post today says that we were misled about which democratic battle is going to sink the ship:

Many feared that a bitter and bloody primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would doom Democrats' chances in November.

Now, some say the damage could come from a prolonged power struggle between the state and national parties.

Then in order to continue the squabble, Howard Wolfson, a Clinton spokesman, equated Obama with Ken Starr, the independent prosecutor responsible for Bill Clinton's impeachment:

"After a campaign in which many of the questions that voters had in the closing days centered on concerns that they had over his state of preparedness to be commander in chief and steward of the economy, he has chosen instead of addressing those issues to attack Sen. Clinton," Wolfson told reporters. "I, for one, do not believe that imitating Ken Starr is the way to win a Democratic primary election for president."

And I started thinking about what office Obama and Clinton are running for, and how the qualities required for that office include more than being able to raise a lot of money (George W is king of that) or turning a great phrase, or harking back to your age and experience (Nixon ran on that against Kennedy). So I summoned my interest, and quite frankly, annoyance, at the state of this campaign and wrote the following trenchant letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times. I'll let you know if they print it, but instead of repeating it's essence here, I'll just copy and paste it:

The invectives flying from each democratic candidate to the other makes it increasingly clear that the campaign has completely deteriorated from one of issues, to a clash of personalities. While this makes for great TV news bites, the back and forth name calling between Obama and Clinton leaves 350 million fellow Americans out of the program.

The simple truth is Barack and Hillary want to be leader of the free world, the biggest job, and responsibility going. Leadership is exactly what our country needs in this time of the perfect storm crisis of the failing economy, lack of adequate health care coverage, and Iraq occupation. By refocusing on the needs of the party, and beyond that, of the nation, Obama or Clinton could concede the battle and graciously accept the second spot for the good of everyone--especially since the ensuing carping gives measurable ground to McCain every day it continues.

I choose Obama for VP because after 8 years of seasoning as number two, he gets to run for President of the United States again at the ripe young age of 52. And in his concession would lie the seeds of great leadership to come.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Have Drugs Will Travel

Even with the best of intentions, columnists with band aid solutions often muddy the real issues. Case at hand: lousy US health care and very high cost of drugs. In today's Los Angeles Times article Cost is the real drug threat by David Lazarus, the way to help US citizens curb the cost of their prescriptions would be

The Food and Drug Administration should be authorized to certify leading Canadian pharmacies as reliable suppliers of medications.
At the same time, U.S. and Canadian officials should negotiate a treaty that permits U.S. doctors to fax or electronically transfer prescriptions to Canadian pharmacies. This wouldn't necessarily solve the conundrum of uninsured Americans being unable to afford doctors' visits, but it would allow prescriptions to be more easily

Why regulate the cost of drugs from domestic big pharma, who have the lock on our legislators already? Might as well go certify Canadian cheapo drugs, and while you're at it, why not include Indian and Chinese pharmacies as well--they must be cheaper than Canada.

Lazarus paints a grim picture of the out of reach cost of many life-sustaining, and-saving drugs that Americans can't afford, and how 48 million of our fellow citizens are not even medically-insured which alone is a national tragedy. Too bad he closes on such a ridiculous and unfeasible solution.

But the heartening news is that in the same "Business Section" of the Times comes the report that the two anti-viral flu drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, will be re-labelled to show they may cause psychotic reactions of delirium:

Roche Holding and GlaxoSmithKline said Tuesday that they had added new labels to their prescription flu medicines that contain reports of abnormal psychiatric behavior in some patients.

Both drug labels say the cases "appear to be uncommon."

...FDA staff described reports of about 700 cases of adverse
psychiatric events for both drugs and 25 cases of pediatric deaths in patients taking Tamiflu, reported to the agency through May 2007.

It tends to be a "common reaction" to the families and friends of the 25 who died.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

It's the Gender, Stupid

Just when I thought we had this whole democratic campaign issue nailed that the press was overstating a case for Obama in the lead, and therefore further killing Hillary's chances, two academics--Abigail Thernstrom is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Stephan Thernstrom is a professor of history at Harvard University; they are the coauthors of "America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible," published in 1997--try to set the record straight that it's the end of racism in white American males.

How does that song go?--

Oh give me a break,
where the buffalo roam,
and the pundits and pedantics plaayyyy...

But seriously folks--the editorial in today's Los Angeles Times, titled "Taking the race out of the race," (well, we all can't be as cute as me) is an amazing stab at micro-analyzing the results of polls in the latest primary elections. Seems that white women democrats "...have been drawn to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton through a strong sense of sisterhood," while "...In a remarkable number of states, according to exit polls, Obama won more than 40% of the white male vote."

Now comes the literally incredible conclusion: "If Clinton weren't running (and pulling away votes based on her gender), there's no reason why Obama's numbers among white women wouldn't be as high as his numbers among white men."

What's my problem with this obviously logical reasoning? Unless you're supremely altruistic and so is everyone else who votes, then the logical converse has to be considered, which is what if all those unbiased white guys were not voting FOR Obama as much as they were voting AGAINST Hillary? Not even a glancing mention of this point in the editorial. Not a chance. Sisters vote for sisters, and white men vote for men with a partial African-American heritage. Makes total sense to me--not!

The editorial concluded that we are entering a new age of enlightened lack of racial bigotry: "Today, it is even clearer that race has become less of a factor in voting...The enormous and heartening appeal of Obama among white voters certainly suggests that is the case. Whites refusing to vote for black candidates has finally gone the way of segregated water fountains. Or so we hope."

Well and there it is--"so we hope." Guess they're not entirely sure either.

So as usual, incensed as I became reading of the death of racism by isolated eastern intellectuals once again in our racist-ridden society, I fired off this letter-to-the-editor of the L. A Times:

While micro-analyzing why so many white males overcame any racial prejudice in voting for Obama, your conclusion as to motives misses a bigger point about gender bias: it's more likely the white male voter was "choosing the lesser of two evils" by voting against a woman in favor of a man of any color.

I hear the undercurrent of racism, homophobia, and xenophobia every day in simple conversations on the street, in supermarkets, even with family. But the overwhelming emotional irrational constant claim of one man to another, "because she's a woman"--rather than because she's a nut or because she's ignorant or whatever other excuse for an attitude problem--will trump racial enmity every time.

I'll let you know if it gets published.

Friday, February 29, 2008


David Kirby writes on Huffington Post about a court decision last fall that concedes that vaccines aggravated a condition that led to autism. Part of the decision:

Medical personnel at the Division of Vaccine Injury Compensation,
Department of Health and Human Services (DVIC) have reviewed the facts of this case, as presented by the petition, medical records, and affidavits. After a thorough review, DVIC has concluded that compensation is appropriate in this case.

In sum, DVIC has concluded that the facts of this case meet the statutory criteria for demonstrating that the vaccinations CHILD received on July 19, 2000, significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed her to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder. Therefore, respondent recommends that compensation be awarded to petitioners in accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-11(c)(1)(C)(ii).

David Kirby wrote Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy.

You may find out a lot of facts and become informed about choices by clicking on the needle:
Vaccine Risks Report

Tonight on Larry King Live: Do childhood vaccinations cause or contribute to autism? That's the question at the center of a case involving an Atlanta girl.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Seizures are Good for You

Merck has a combination vaccine (one of many) that is causing more seizures and convulsions in children than the components would cause if given separately. ProQuod is a combination of the mmr (mumps, measles, rubella) shot and the chicken pox vaccine.

Physicians and the government like to give kids multiple-ingredient shots in order to avoid so many separate needle-sticks. At 36 dosages required prior to starting school, I can see why a kid would prefer this as well.

The mmr vaccine has been sited as the chief culprit among parents whose children developed autism following that shot at around the age of one. Chicken pox, which is a form of the herpes virus--a menacing and exotic germ that can inhabit a nervous system and stay there until the host dies--is less a problem symptomatically than it is as a vaccine. Humans who acquire chicken pox as children generally suffer itching and mild sickness for a week, and then have a lifelong immunity against ever getting chicken pox again. Those children who get the vaccine may or may not develop a temporary immunity, definitely not lifelong, and who knows what that little herpes menace does when injected directly into the bloodstream--attacking nervous cells including the brain without any prior antibody build-up in the primary immune system--the gut.

Aside from the whole vaccine business being just that--a business as opposed to a public health boost--the remark in the AP story about the results of a study showing the deleterious effects of seizures and convulsions from ProQuod says it all with regards to any concern of Merck and our government for you, me, or our children:

"The study focused on children who develop fevers and then go into convulsions - an occurrence that frightens parents but usually has no lingering consequences."

Yeah those convulsions definitely scare the crap out of me--good thing they're not bad for you!

Click Below to get the latest information
Vaccine Risks Report

26,000 Nuclear Bombs for Us!

McCain has edge over Democrats reads this morning's Los Angeles Times poll report. And this could happen how?--Oh yeah, because McCain's more experienced than Obama and Clinton. It's like one of Jay Leno's questions to the man on the street, who invariably knows nothing:

"I just think he's older, he's more experienced, and he's got the betterment of the country in mind," said Robert Fear, 79, a registered Democrat from Newton, Ill., who said he planned to support McCain in November.
In case you're a reader who wants real information beyond the dullard remarks of an average (read idiot-sorry, I'm losing patience) American citizen, there is my friend Christopher Dickey's trenchant take in Newsweek online today on McCain and the Iraq "thing," as a Republican relative of his puts it:

But when I heard Sen. John McCain talking this morning about the "success" of the war in Iraq, I was the one cringing. Admittedly, I live across the Atlantic, but I had to wonder: has the whole country gone as crazy as my contentious relation, Mr. Republican?

Let's hope not. And I think not. But one senses in the GOP a hint of furor and fantasy akin to 2003, when authoritative and experienced men like Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, the walrus and the carpenter of American policy, persuaded the president, the public and Congress that embracing war was the best way to bring peace to the Middle East. Supine as oysters, the vast majority gave their assent.

Now McCain would have us believe that more war, and then still more war—"bomb, bomb Iran" to the Beach Boys' melody—remains the best course to follow. "We will never surrender," he likes to say, "and they[meaning Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama] will." A more realistic appraisal: McCain will never come to his senses.

Nicely written, entertaining and ironic--a terrifying notion in its simplicity. McCain represents probably half of our fellow citizens who "will never come to [their] senses." Not a happy prospect considering the totality of issues facing us folks on the earth--inadequate medical care, nuclear weaponry, intransigent racial and ethnic hatred. And here we are focusing on Iraq stay or leave, as if there were an intelligent argument to be made in favor of ever going there at all.

Michael Kinsley, Los Angeles Times former editorial page editor, former editor of the New Republic, Slate and Harper's, said this in an op-ed piece on Sunday:

Imagine that you had been told in 2003 that when George W. Bush finished his second term, dozens of American soldiers and hundreds of Iraqis would be dying violently every month; that a major American goal would be getting the Iraqi government to temper its "de-Baathification" campaign so that Saddam Hussein's former henchmen could start running things again (because they know how); and "only" 100,000 American troops would be needed to sustain this equilibrium.

You might have several words to describe this situation, but success would not be one of them.
By the way--in case it crosses one's mind that terrorists pose any threat because they might get hold of a nuclear bomb and use it, how many bombs would it take to cause a stink on our planet? 1 in New York could kill a million people. 110,000 died in the Hiroshima nightmare. 10 nuclear bombs would wreak untold havoc if placed in heavily-populated areas. Would it make sense that several dozen nuclear bombs held by any country would be a major deterrent to another country not to press anyone's buttons-literally?

Then it should shake one's inner core of reason to read the following which is part of a review of several books in the New York Review of Books on the development of nuclear capabilities and it's consequences since the invention of the atom bomb seven decades ago:

US went from the atomic discoveries of the 1930s to the irrational situation in the 1980s in which a total of 65,000 nuclear weapons were held by the United States and the Soviet Union. Although the global arsenals have since been reduced to some 26,000 bombs, the United States and Russia continue to possess most of the world's nuclear warheads, with the other seven nuclear nations together holding the remaining one thousand.
Seems like a LOT of bombs, no?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

We the People not Oscars R US

I'm reading about the Clinton campaign being upset about Obama campaign mailings. Hillary described the pronouncements as " she described as false and shameful attacks on her record."

I saw a movie with my wife and daughter called 27 Dresses. It's a corny romantic comedy with some performances that are worth examining because of the charisma and charm involved. Interesting human relationships surpass most issues of the day in importance.

I have been reading about the amazing book and movie The Diving Bell and the Butterfly in the New York Review of Books, about the former editor of Elle who had a totally-debilitating stroke and of the Painter/artist-turned filmmaker Julian Schnabel who brings this story to film. See the hopeful human spirit which is perfect and complete.

My point is this--Hillary and Bill and Obama have to come to some sort of arrangement to end this squabble over nothing. The presidency, the country, are not at stake--either one wins next November and the winds of change will be huge and cleansing--we the people are needing some relief--from the wasteful and expensive Iraqi incursion, from the lack of proper health-care coverage in our great land, from the poverty-stricken masses who can't live the dream of which we all share, because our government of the people is not just that.

Get a grip, Clintons and Obamas, and get together now--solve the problems, and forget who gets to sleep in the front cabin of the big plane--It's time to deal with issues, and not who is most popular on the red carpet--leave that to the Oscars, not to US.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Flu Shot No Good

The year of the big flu shot shortage there were fewer cases of flu than in most years. This tends to make one think that the correlation between the flu vaccine and getting the flu is not there.

Now MSNBC reports that this year's flu shot is not effective because of the varieties of the virus itself.

Haven't we the people been hoodwinked enough by these money-grubbing drug companies to realize that we're better off washing our hands a lot, staying home if we catch the flu, and taking care of ourselves, than getting this waste-of-time-and-money flu shot that everyone's been brainwashed into believing it's a good thing?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What a Rape in Africa Means to Me

We have a President who takes a month off for vacation every summer. What could be done during that month is concentrating on an area of the world that needs more help than most, and more understanding in order to provide that help. Africa has gotten some attention from celebrities like George Clooney and Don Cheadle, who take a real interest and spend major time and money of their own to bring the modern holocaust that is happening to media forefront.

But this attention doesn't last. In case you've been sleeping the last few months, you must notice that the headlines are consumed with the US presidential election, which is still 9 months off. Once in a while a natural disaster or world political event usurp the election coverage--not to mention the obnoxious and journalistically immoral targeting of an obviously clinically-sick Britney Spears--but the events of Africa easily seep onto the back-burner due to the distance, and complexity, of the issues.

Darfur, in the Sudan, has reached a level of public interest due to Clooney, Mia Farrow and others drawing the public eye to the debacle of misplaced thousands of people from their homes, murders, and atrocities committed on women and children. The Chinese conveniently don't want to ruffle international feathers, so by standing by their allies who run Sudan, who are believed to be the cause of the strife, today's news was that Steven Spielberg was backing out of being artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics. That ought to send an intense message to the Chinese that we mean business here--and therefore, to the whole world, that us Yankees won't cotton to mistreatment of our fellow human beings anywhere, anyhow.

I don't aim to detract from Spielberg's act and motives, only that the rest of us "yankees" really don't measure up to any kind of sentiment over the realities of what's happening on this planet. The biggest news today was Roger Clemens testifying in congress about using or not using human growth hormone while pitching his way to utter greatness in major league baseball. While 150,000 US troops are sweating it out in Iraq, and millions of Africans are being killed and raped, and in our great country millions of people have no health insurance, thousands live in homeless shelters, and everything isn't quite right everywhere--whether or not a big league pitcher used exotic and bizarre drugs to increase his performance levels shouldn't be the most important issue on our collective minds. At least not all the time.

Here's my reality: Darfur is now the tip of the iceberg--it seems that the African continent houses strife beyond what is imagineable in our cozy American minds. Unicef claims rape is a weapon of conflict across Africa, and this is about our fellow human beings from age 2 to 82. Now look at Hillary and Obama criticizing each other and think about what's important to you. And according to Newsweek, Somalia's situation is worse than Darfur.

Cabinet member and friend Henry Morgenthau reluctantly went to President Roosevelt about the killing of Jews in Europe during WWII, and asked Roosevelt do something. We look back in horror today at what was not done and the immense injury and death that might have been avoided had something been done. And we don't want to repeat those mistakes. But part of the new problem is more than forgetting the past and repeating it, as George Santayana said. It is that we are being so distracted and "numbed up" by a ratings and profit-motivated media bombardment of non-reality news issues, that we miss the point of our common existence.

And we really need to know that our brothers and sisters, homeless and under-compensated in our own country, and beaten, raped and murdered across the world, are as close as our real neighbors next door, and in fact as our own true family.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Pimp my Ass--Modern Journalism as Oxymoron

I would say the death of intelligent mass media journalism came with the exit of Edward R. Murrow from CBS and his acceptance of a position with the US Information Agency, US's propaganda arm for radio broadcasts overseas

It was at the beginning of the 1960's. There was a glimmer of hope insome columnists who were termed as muckrakers--Jack Anderson was what would today be the tabloid king, and I. F. Stone, who would be today's only on a much less PR-minded level and much more objective journalism.

Walter Cronkite, pretty much accepted as the queen of great television journalism, was depicted in a documentary film about I. F. Stone, aptly named after Stone's own published newspaper, "I. F. Stone's Weekly," as an aloof establishment TV news reader who was not interested in the vagueries of digging into the realities behind a story. That depiction tainted my view of Cronkite since then--30 years ago--even though the revisionists now would haveus believe it was Cronkite's reporting from Vietnam that turned the tide of American public opinion against the Vietnam War and Johnson's actions.
I don't think so. The real great 20th century American journalists, names like Schirer, Lippmann, Reston, and many more--they're likes and ilk are gone. In the 1970's I read the Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, andthe New York Times every day--if I didn't read James Reston's regular collumn I felt like I was out of touch.

No major entity can finance the nuances of such true journalistic objectivity any more. It's really not the fault of the publishers and owners--as Murrow said when he quoted Shakespeare in a famous broadcast, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

The great journalist I. F. Stone--Izzy Stone as his comrades would have known him--would have been aghast at what has happened in modern American journalism. My good friend, Christopher Dickey, who writes for Newsweek about terrorism and just about any other relevant subject germane to us modern folks--he is not well known outside of literary and journalistic circles, within which he is highly respected if not utterly admired for his research and writing skills, and talent. But this is not popular media--this is what's left of objective journalism in the new age. Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times is another example of research--muckraking if you will--and entertaining enlightening writing. But this discussion is not about how to find the great writing--it's about how hard it is for the avaerage "cool" reader or viewer to find.

The number 1 rated evening news show anchor, Brian Williams, gets advertising plus from his appearances on Saturday Night Live and the Tonight Show. This isn't a bad thing, except that Williams himself represents the denoument of the evening news TV show credibility. His over-the-top sincerity delivery belies the ratings cache to which his network is pandering. Telling us there is a presidential contest is not the same as examining the truth behind John McCain, who is less the "maverick" as depicted in the mass media than a Bush clone crony who just wants that big job.

Now we come to the disgusting affair of a news reporter using inflammatory language like "pimp" to refer to the Clintons' daughter, Chelsea, campaigning for her mother, Hillary's, presidential candidacy.

No matter how a news reporter may feel about the motivations or issues at hand, where does the editorial inflective become appropo? That's how far the fourth estate has dropped in thenew millenia.

Hey, I don't have a problem getting at the truth--I can dig on line to find the reporting I trust,and I know which journalists to go to--I can read the New York Review of Books and get a point of view unavailable to the average TV viewer. I know where to go, and I have the time and interest.

But what about John Q. Public who just wants his news delivered while he's choking down his breakfast toast and coffee, or reads his newspaper on the toilet because that's whenhe has the time to sit and think? Mr. Public will have to deal with today's mass-media provisions which are ratings-driven, not necessarily the truth, and definitely pandering to the least common denominator which may be moved more by how Britney's day went than whether or not our government is really serving us, the people.

Murrow's speech before the Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA) for being "fat, comfortable, and complacent" and television for "being used to detract, delude, amuse and insulate us," hasn't changed things in 50 years.

The solution lies in the responsibility of the owners of mass media to require old-fashioned objective jouralism from their employees. The unfolding of events in the world should provide enough sensation that the reporting of an event will garner high ratings based on the ability of the journalist toget the story as soon as possible.

Just get me the facts--when I need a thrill, I'll go to the movies.