political convention

political convention

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pharmaspeak: In Pill, Liquid or Tablet Form

The names for many common drugs advertised on television have no medical significance.   They sound like real words and are meant to evoke pleasant emotions or scientific authority. But in reality they are coined by advertising agencies or paid word doctors and tested with focus groups to make sure they produce the intended effect.  Might these words become part of our everyday vocabulary?  Here is the story of a harried business executive translated into Lingquest, the brand name for generic pharmaspeak: 

“I was up to my neck in spiriva. I longed for the days when I felt the ambien that made working in business eliquis, even allegra at times. But things weren't the same anymore in this prilosec. Symbicort had filed a zantac in court that probably meant prevacid, if not final crestor. It was going to be a complete farxiga for my business and probably my cialas.  Luckily, Brisdelle called.  What a lyrica that woman is. She suggested we meet at a salonpas and have a nexium or two to celebrex the levitra we still had together and our boniva lunestra. But I just couldn't get the face of Vitorin, the Symbicort CEO, out of my mind.  Feeling utterly plavix, I downed a shot of cymbalta. Suddenly everything became clariton. I would tell my lipitor to file suit to get a requip and put a stop to this raid on my flomax. Then I could look forward once again to the avandia I had always dreamed of.”
 
 
 
 
 


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rand Paul, the 'Libertarian-ish' Senator

Usually called a libertarian by the media, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said recently he thought a better description would be “libertarian-ish” because he is also a Republican.

The libertarian hate-government ideology is hopelessly out of place in a complex and diverse modern society. But its more thoughtful believers are sometimes right on questions of fundamental freedoms such as speech, religion and personal liberty.  So how does Rand Paul rate on the “ish” part of his self-description? Not very well it turns out. Below, for example, is Senator Paul’s position on abortion from his official website, www.paul.senate.gov. [Sanctity of Life].  On this issue, Senator Paul has no problem with big government intruding into the lives of individual citizens. Analysis added by LaughingStockNation. 

●I am 100% pro-life. I believe life begins at conception and that abortion takes the life of an innocent human being. It is the duty of our government to protect this life as a right guaranteed under the Constitution.

Consequences:  In addition to abortion, birth control methods that impede the fertilization of a human egg, such as “the pill,” could be outlawed if Senator Paul’s ideas became law.  A fertilized egg possesses “personhood,” according to the senator’s view, and conception happens at the behest of God.  Using government to impose this religious belief on those who disagree violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.

●I strongly oppose any federal funding of abortion and will attempt to stop the flow of tax dollars to groups who perform or advocate for abortion.

Consequences: A non-profit group that merely advocates on behalf of a woman’s right to have an abortion could lose its tax exempt status and contributions to the organization would no longer be tax deductible. In addition, groups like Planned Parenthood that provide vital pre-natal care to thousands of women will be excluded from any kind of government grants or funding. Punishing an organization simply because of advocacy violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.

●I believe we may be able to save millions of lives in the near future by allowing states to pass their own anti-abortion laws. If states were able to do so, I sincerely believe many -- including Kentucky -- would do so tomorrow, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

Consequences:  Conservative state legislatures across the country will be able to use their governmental powers to force a woman to carry her pregnancy to term no matter the circumstances of conception or the woman’s wishes.

 I would strongly support legislation restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade. Such legislation would only require a majority vote, making it more likely to pass than a pro-life constitutional amendment.

Consequences:  Such a law violates the Constitutional principle of separation of powers and would stand little chance of being upheld by the courts. If, however, Senator Paul’s proposal was passed by Congress, signed by the President and sustained in court, it would prevent citizens from exercising one of their most fundamental rights—going to court to challenge injustice and the improper exercise of government power.

Friday, August 22, 2014

ISIS Beheading: President Putts While Cheney and Others Hit the Rough

Has anyone noticed the gaunt features and tired demeanor of President Obama lately? It’s not surprising with the unrelenting deluge of crisis and turmoil he’s faced since taking office: Deep economic disaster, bitter and obstructive hatred from Republicans, a Congress significantly controlled by right-wing crack pots, two wars, Libyan crisis, Syria, Iraqi dissolution, Putin, Ukraine… The latest of these challenges is the Islamic terrorists group called ISIS, which now controls large swaths of Iraq.  Last week, ISIS fighters beheaded an American hostage, journalist James Foley.  President Obama went on television to sadly console Foley’s parents.  And then he promised “relentless” pursuit of the terrorists.

It is hard to imagine being President of the United States. To go on television to discuss the gruesome murder of a fellow citizen and then to address his parents is a task that would leave most ordinary people emotionally exhausted.  Most people would never want to do it again and probably would never have to.  Not so for Obama. 

A month before Obama's televised remarks,  the United States military on the President's orders secretly attempted to rescue James Foley and at least one other hostage.  The special forces operation failed because ISIS had moved the hostages just before the raid. No one knows whether other plans are in the works to save remaining ISIS prisoners or what other torturous decisions await Obama.  Despite being on vacation, the President looked careworn before the cameras.

Afterward, Obama went for a round of golf. The New York Times reported that former vice president Dick Cheney told Fox News, the President “would rather be on the golf course than he would be dealing with crisis.”  A New York tabloid headlined: Prez tees off as Foley’s parents grieve.”  According to the Times, liberal blogger Ezra Klein tweeted that “golfing today is in bad taste.” Times columnist Maureen Dowd contributed flimsy satire on presidential golf through the ages. 

It isn’t publicly known how the President felt or if his exhausted appearance improved after an hour or so of relaxation on the golf course.  Perhaps returning to the cacophony of Washington or sitting alone in silence while anxiously ruminating about the next crisis, or standing by for the next fateful phone call, would have done wonders for his state of mind. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New York Times Confirms that Bald Eagle Poop is White and Robin Poop is Purple

The following correction ran on page A19 of the New York Times ,Wednesday, August 20:

An Op-Ed essay on Monday described bald eagles and ospreys incorrectly. They eat fish, and their poop is white; they do not eat berries and excrete purple feces. (Other birds, like American robins, Eurasian starlings and cedar waxwings, do.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Global Warming, Drought in California, Jihadi Victory? It's All Obama's Fault

President Obama is one of the most powerful men in history.  Alexander the Great ranks a little higher because he conquered nearly all the great nations of the ancient world and imposed his Hellenistic culture and values on their inhabitants.  But Obama is catching up, and some of his accomplishments have been downright magical.

Among them:

He’s prevented the U.S. Senate from approving numerous ambassadorial appointments simply by snubbing senators who are anxious to work with him. According to the New York Times, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid was thunderstruck at a recent White House meeting when the President told him to go back to his office and talk to his senatorial colleagues if he wanted a vote on the new ambassadors.  Reid could only blubber in his customary manner.

Obama’s powerful reach from the Oval Office also continues to slow down other important Senate actions.  Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, says that if only the President held hands with legislators and gave them encouragement, issues like immigration reform and climate change could be resolved.  Manchin, who is considered a centrist by undiscerning journalists, is a regular advocate on behalf of the coal industry and the NRA.  These groups seem to love holding his hand.  
 
Governor Rick Perry of Texas is also keenly aware of the President’s might.  Perry was indicted by an Austin grand jury for abusing his power as governor by threatening to withhold funding for a state ethics commission.  According to Perry, Obama exerted his influence on grand jurors and prosecutors to invent the felony charges against him.  Obama has no legal power in a local matter, but we now know that he has god-like omnipotence when it comes to Texas politics.

According to Sen. John McCain, the President also has great power internationally. He has made it possible for jihadist rebels in Syria to achieve huge gains in their campaign to destroy the Assad regime.  Like Zeus, the President’s ability to pick winners and losers among mortals is extraordinary. 

Likewise, Hilary Clinton sees Obama as a colossus who long ago  could have resolved the Syrian problem by sending equipment and advisors to help anti-Assad  moderates.  But now she chafes under Obama’s Zen-inspired diplomacy, which has allowed the Kurds to effectively take on ISIS fighters in northern Iraq without significant ground involvement by the U.S. 

There is not enough space here to detail other great acts by the President.  But according to observers, he has been a major cause of climate change; has abetted the drought in western states; has promoted mass immigration to the U.S. by not throwing out unaccompanied children who have illegally crossed the border; has insured continued war between Israelis and Palestinians; and is destroying the American economy and the educational system. 

The President's power is awesome…and it really helps to have someone to blame for all our problems. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Poor People Hurt as Right Wing State Politicians Reject Medicaid Funds

About 5 million people across the country don’t earn enough to pay for medical insurance under the new government exchanges set up by Obamacare. Yet they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, the program partly funded by the states that covers the poorest people. 

To address this problem, Obamacare required the states to expand Medicaid eligibility so that millions of the working poor would receive health care. However, the Supreme Court in its review of the new health care law ruled that states could not be compelled to participate. Twenty-four states have declined.Their excuse is that expanding Medicaid will be too big a financial burden, driving the them toward bankruptcy.

But how real is this threat?   Not very. For the first three years of Medicaid expansion the federal government picks up the full cost.  After that it continues to fund at least 90 percent. Is there another reason for opposition to the Medicaid plan?

The answer is yes. All of the 24 rejectionist states are controlled by Republicans—either by gubernatorial or legislative power, or both. And the reason for opposing Medicaid expansion is hardly about balancing the budget. It stems from a deep-seated hatred of Obamacare because it has the potential to be a popular and successful government program and it was created by a president they loathe.  In Texas, for example, not only have the legislature and governor refused to accept Medicaid funding, but they have actively sought to prevent Obamacare insurance exchanges from signing up clients.  In Virginia the legislature has stymied attempts by the newly elected Democratic governor to provide Medicaid for some 400,000 uninsured Virginians. They include thousands from the Appalachian region of the state, one of the poorest places in America.

Once again, large numbers of Americans are being victimized by extreme right-wing ideology. 

(This post includes commentary originally posted on LaughingStockNation  April 7, 2014.
See:  60 Minutes and the Missing Facts on Medicaid)


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Goldilocks and the Elephants

Not too hot and not too cold, but just right. It's the Goldilocks zone, just like the porridge preferred by the annoying little girl who stars in "Goldilocks and the Three Bears."  Astronomers use the term to describe the distance a planet needs to be from a star for life to evolve.  It also describes today’s Republicans, some of whom prefer very hot tea while others are like cold mush, hoping voters on the crackpot right won’t notice. Goldilocks would have a hard time at this party because they’ve run out of just right.   

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Rand Paul, the 'Libertarian-ish' senator

Usually called a libertarian by the media, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said recently he thought a better description would be “libertarian-ish” because he is also a Republican.

The libertarian hate-government ideology is hopelessly out of place in a complex and diverse modern society. But its more thoughtful believers are sometimes right on questions of fundamental freedoms such as speech, religion and personal liberty.  So how does Rand Paul rate on the “ish” part of his self-description? Not very well it turns out. Below, for example, is Senator Paul’s position on abortion from his official website, www.paul.senate.gov. [Sanctity of Life].  On this issue, Senator Paul has no problem with big government intruding into the lives of individual citizens. Analysis added by LaughingStockNation. 

●I am 100% pro-life. I believe life begins at conception and that abortion takes the life of an innocent human being. It is the duty of our government to protect this life as a right guaranteed under the Constitution.

Consequences:  In addition to abortion, birth control methods that impede the fertilization of a human egg, such as “the pill,” could be outlawed if Senator Paul’s ideas became law.  A fertilized egg possesses “personhood,” according to the senator’s view, and conception happens at the behest of God.  Using government to impose this religious belief on those who disagree violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion.

●I strongly oppose any federal funding of abortion and will attempt to stop the flow of tax dollars to groups who perform or advocate for abortion.

Consequences: A non-profit group that merely advocates on behalf of a woman’s right to have an abortion could lose its tax exempt status and contributions to the organization would no longer be tax deductible. In addition, groups like Planned Parenthood that provide vital pre-natal care to thousands of women will be excluded from any kind of government grants or funding. Punishing an organization simply because of advocacy violates the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.

●I believe we may be able to save millions of lives in the near future by allowing states to pass their own anti-abortion laws. If states were able to do so, I sincerely believe many -- including Kentucky -- would do so tomorrow, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

Consequences:  Conservative state legislatures across the country will be able to use their governmental powers to force a woman to carry her pregnancy to term no matter the circumstances of conception or the woman’s wishes.

 I would strongly support legislation restricting federal courts from hearing cases like Roe v. Wade. Such legislation would only require a majority vote, making it more likely to pass than a pro-life constitutional amendment.

Consequences:  Such a law violates the Constitutional principle of separation of powers and would stand little chance of being upheld by the courts. If, however, Senator Paul’s proposal was passed by Congress, signed by the President and sustained in court, it would prevent citizens from exercising one of their most fundamental rights—going to court to challenge injustice and the improper exercise of government power.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wilhelm and Bush, Jocose to a Fault

In her book “The War that Ended Peace” about the causes of World War I, historian Margaret MacMillan describes German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II as a man who tried hard in public to seem forceful and decisive but in private was insecure and often childlike.
 
Part of Wilhelm’s contradictory nature was his tendency to be jocose, as he was once described by the French ambassador to Berlin. He liked practical jokes and other attempts at humor, some of which were more cruel than funny. He compelled a group of husky soldiers to dress up as women and found the spectacle hilarious. On another occasion, he cajoled his army chief of staff into dancing dressed in a tutu and feather hat. The poor man died of a heart attack during the performance.

MacMillan says the Kaiser was inattentive to duty and impulsive and bellicose in foreign affairs. While Wilhelm was not the sole cause of World War I, he was one of the primary instigators, abetted by a personality that oscillated  between insecurity, indifference, and nationalistic pugnacity.

When George W. Bush was president it became evident that he shared some of the Kaiser's predilections for jocosity. At the G8 summit in 2006 he came up behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel and briefly massaged her shoulders. Merkel reacted as if set upon by the Boston Strangler. 
 
More recently at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at the LBJ Library, Bush quipped that "former presidents compare their libraries the way other men may compare their, well…” 
 
Like the Kaiser, Bush was antagonistic to other countries, including allies. He also began a war and prematurely celebrated victory thousands of miles from the battlefield while wearing a military uniform. The Kaiser favored military uniforms and, like Bush, never went into battle himself.   

 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Paul Krugman calls it the Trahison Des Nerds: Betrayal by Economists

Paul Krugman ,New York Times columnist and Princeton economics professor, came up with an amusing description of economists who tell the rich and powerful what they want to hear (NY Times 5/2/14).  He thinks such people are engaged in the Trahison des nerds. Even though they should know better, they write analyses that support the conservative fiction that slashing government spending will help the economy grow by boosting fiscal confidence. Trahison is the French word for betrayal or treachery.  French philosopher Julien Benda may have used the construction first when he titled his 1927 book, “La Trahison Des Clercs.” It described how German and French intellectuals in the 19th and 20th centuries became apologists for warmongering, nationalism and racism (http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/). Also in 1927 René Magritte named one of his most famous paintings, “La Trahison des Images.” It shows what looks like a pipe, but a caption reads "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" (this is not a pipe). The point Magritte seems to be making is that images are constructs that betray our perceptions.  The painting isn’t a pipe. It’s an image painted on a flat surface with lines, arcs, and colors that the observer chooses to imagine as a pipe. As semanticist Alfred Korzybski noted, the map is not the territory.  Krugman’s choice of the word nerd to describe the treacherous economists he has in mind isn’t very hard to understand.  It’s the columnist having fun by choosing to infantilize his wayward colleagues.

Supreme Court Approves Prayer at Government Meetings: A Small Southern Town Responds

Transcript of the meeting of the Littletown, Mississippi water commission.

Chairman:  The meeting of the board of commissioners of the Littletown, Mississippi water district is called to order.  As usual we'll begin our meeting with a prayer and Rev. Smith of the Littletown  Baptist Church is our regular prayer leader. Well, he’s kind of the only show in town (laughter).  Now, the Supreme Court tells us that it’s OK to pray before our meetings but we can’t have the same preacher from the same church every time. That makes it look like we’re pushing just one religion. Well, there’s only one church in town (more laughter). But we do have these Iraqi immigrants living out by the air base. There’s a group of them here tonight. They want the commission to approve repairs to the old water pipes going out their way.  They also brought their shaman…ah…imam  with them.  Mr. Hussein.  He’s going to give us a prayer. Now the way I think this works is that you all remove your shoes and kneel on the floor facing east.  Oh, all you gals will have to move to the back of the room (Loud shouting and general hubbub). Order, order. The Supreme Court didn’t say you had stay and listen. The meeting’s adjourned. Mr. Hussein go ahead and do your thing.  We’ll all be back next week when Rev. Smith will give us a proper prayer. No. There won’t be any action tonight on those busted pipes. 

Letter published in the New York Times, May 7, 2014
To the Editor:
It always seems that the very same people (and justices) who believe that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct have no trouble meddling with the First. I have no doubt that if our country’s founders could see the unending string of tragedies resulting from a dogmatic interpretation of the Second Amendment and the repeated trashing of the First, they would make some changes to the Bill of Rights.The Second Amendment would be dumped and replaced with the following: “Please reread the First Amendment!”
BOB ROSENBLUTH
Lincolndale, N.Y., May 6, 2014

Friday, May 2, 2014

California Voter Misguidance


By now registered voters in California should have received the official state election guide for the June primary.  However, if you’re looking for information about most major candidates for statewide office, you won’t find it in this strange document.  You won’t even find a clearly labeled list of who’s running. 

What the guide does include are campaign statements from more than a score of candidates running for governor, attorney general and other important statewide offices.  Most of these people are political unknowns and have virtually no chance of winning.  There are also a few who do have broad name recognition but not because they have distinguished themselves as office holders or leaders.  One, for example, is Orly Taitz, who identifies herself as a lawyer, dentist, and former real estate agent.  Taitz, who was born in the Soviet Union, is best known for her campaign to remove President Obama from office because she believes he was born in Kenya and is controlled by the Chicago mafia. Clearly she has the kind of keen legal mind that qualifies her to be state attorney general, which is the office she’s running for.


                                                                         Orly Taitz

Why does Taitz merit a paragraph in the voter guide and not Kamala Harris, the widely respected incumbent?  The reason is a wacko scheme passed by California voters designed to curb campaign expenditure excesses. Couple that with a new open primary law and you have a recipe for electoral confusion.   

So here’s the picture:  The campaign expenditure law requires candidates to declare whether or not they will comply with certain spending limits.  If they accept the limits they become eligible to buy space in the voter guide for their campaign statements and also get an asterisk by their name.  Those who don’t agree are on their own and don’t get an asterisk.  Major candidates and incumbents, of course, can usually raise significant amounts of money so they don’t typically volunteer to limit expenditures.  
 
The problem is that under the new open primary system there are no longer separate primaries for each party. All candidates for an office are lumped together on the ballot.  However, the voter guide, one of the tools people use to decide how to vote, not only bans campaign statements by candidates who've declined expenditure limits, it doesn’t even prominently list all the contenders. For example, you might want to look in the guide to check whether Jerry Brown, the incumbent governor, is running again.  He is, but because he doesn’t have a paragraph in the guide, it takes a concerted effort to find the answer.  The only place Brown’s name appears is at the bottom of page 22 in the list that identifies who has or hasn’t volunteered for spending limits.
 
You might say it’s just tough luck if Brown wants to spend more money than the limit and forego a paragraph in the voter guide.  However, the tough luck actually goes to voters who want to know, among other things, how many people are running for a particular office and what their names and party affiliations are. This is the kind of information that isn't provided in the television spots "rich" candidates like Brown can afford by choosing not to limit their expenditures. 

 

 

Monday, April 7, 2014

60 Minutes and the Missing Facts on Medicaid


60 Minutes is the most widely viewed and respected public affairs program on television.  But after one recent edition (4/6/14) its reputation for incisive reporting may have earned the kind of steely look Mike Wallace once turned on interview subjects.   

The lead report tells the engaging story of two registered nurses who travel the back roads of Virginia’s Appalachia in an old RV bringing medical care to some of the poorest people in America. The two women fight a nearly hopeless battle against disease, poverty, and ignorance. And, oh yes, the other thing they encounter is government indifference, and 60 Minutes leaves the impression that one of the main culprits is Obamacare.
 
The story begins with President Obama’s exuberant announcement that 7 million people have signed up for the government plan, a significant victory.  But the President has left something out, correspondent Scott Pelley tells us. Another 5 million people aren’t getting covered and are at risk because of it.

It turns out that most of the uninsured in Appalachia, like those being served by the traveling nurses, as well as thousands of others across the country, don’t earn enough to pay for insurance under the new government exchanges.  But they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, the longstanding government program that covers the poorest people. 

To address this problem, Obamacare required the states to expand Medicaid, a system they partly fund.  By widening the Medicaid umbrella, millions of the working poor would receive health care. However, the Supreme Court in its review of the new health care law ruled that states could not be compelled to participate. Twenty-four states have now declined--and for good reason, 60 Minutes leads us to believe. 

Pelley notes that Obamacare imposes extra costs to the states that expand Medicaid coverage. The federal government picks up the bill for three years, but after that the state pays. According to Pelley, “Virginia and other states that opted out fear that the cost in the future could bankrupt them.” 

Perhaps all of this sounds reasonable if you want your state to manage its fiscal affairs without breaking the budget. However, what Pelley fails to report is that after those first three years when the federal government pays the full cost of expanding Medicaid, it continues to fund at least 90 percent from then on.*  It is hard to believe that a state such as Virginia, with its burgeoning high tech industries and large numbers of federal government workers, won’t be able to afford the tab in the future.  Is there another reason?

The answer is yes, but Pelley doesn't say so. He neglects to tell viewers that all of the 24 rejectionist states are controlled by Republicans—either by gubernatorial or legislative power, or both. And the reason for opposing Medicaid expansion is hardly about balancing the budget. It stems from a deep-seated hatred of Obamacare because it has the potential to be a popular and successful government program and it was created by a president they loathe.  In Texas, for example, not only have the legislature and governor refused to accept Medicaid funding, but they have actively sought to prevent Obamacare insurance exchanges from signing up clients.  (Virginia has now elected a Democratic governor, but the Republican-dominated legislature is preventing him from taking the state into expanded Medicaid.)

The 60 Minutes story is captivating as it portrays the saintly work of the two nurses traveling Appalachia in their RV. But the story is marred by the factual omissions.  Most important, the report obfuscates the real reason thousands of poor people in  Appalachian Virginia and elsewhere lack health care under Medicaid. It is that Republican governors and legislators have chosen to disregard the health needs of fellow citizens for reasons of right-wing political ideology. They are the ones being indifferent to the needy people served by the nurses in the RV.


Mike Wallace
Scott Pelley










*See:  http://www.commonwealthfund.org/News/News-Releases/2013/Dec/States-Rejecting-Medicaid-Expansion-Costing-Taxpayers.aspx