Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Throwing Stones

What a mess. What a total, complete, unadulterated, absolute MESS. It's hard to come up with anything more descriptive to say about the debacle that is the Republican temper-tantrum, i.e. the current government shutdown, which officially began at midnight. (I keep thinking of the Grateful Dead song that is the title of this post.) Of course, we talked about it at length on Occupy the Microphone today.

The puzzling thing, to me, is that Republicans don't seem to mind being perceived as the party that prefers the American people stay unhealthy and uninsured. "Anything to keep people from having health care!" is how most of the GOP congressional representatives sounded, proudly venting on various news shows late last night. It's worth it to STOP OBAMACARE! Do they know how they sound? Or is their own re-election the primary factor in their decision? Robert at Blue Heron Blast sums up a lot of my thinking:
The problem is that the House Republicans have all gerrymandered themselves into safe seats in safe districts. Any flak they will receive will be from their right in the primaries. Although I am sure that many are concerned with the health of the nation, at least I hope so, the overriding motive has to be getting re-elected. So there is really no hope for common ground.

The optics of this debacle are pretty clear. A CNN/ORC poll found that Republicans in Congress would shoulder more of the blame for a shutdown. Forty-six percent of Americans said that Republicans on Capitol Hill would be mostly responsible for a shutdown, versus 36 percent who would blame Obama and 13 percent who would blame both.

So 25% of Americans polled will blame you more than the other guy and you don't care, because it will play so well for the folks in your district and frankly, what else matters? Bravo!

I went to the outfitting store to get some straps to hitch my borrowed monopod to my camera pack this morning. The vacation to the National Parks between Wyoming and Montana that are scheduled to be closed at midnight tonight barring an unforeseen stroke of sanity barreling down on the beltway, which you should certainly not hold your breath for.

I will make do, lots of nice state parks I am looking at in the area, there are worse prison sentences than spending a week on a bar stool in Jackson Hole. But it sucks. And it even sucks worse for the man helping me in the store, who is in the naval reserve and ferries Navy Seals around on missions. He is now on no pay as are many of the private contractors who aid our defense effort. Awful thing we are doing to them, not to mention furloughing 800,000 civil servants and leaving millions without pay. Oh, I forgot, we hate the government and the people who work for them.
Yes. The party that loves war, does not want to pay their soldiers. Irony!

And such a depressing, demoralizing spectacle.


While waiting for Republicans to come to their wacked-out senses (might be awhile), we can work on getting us some gay marriage rights, and thus, continue to drive (some of them!) crazy.* From the Advocate, here is a great piece by Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, whom I was fortunate to meet during our local Campaign for Southern Equality demonstration in January.

Op-ed: How Resistance Will Change the South:
Growing numbers of people across the South are finding the courage to stand up to such laws by taking public action. Since the We Do Campaign launched two years ago, I have stood with more than 80 LGBT couples as they have requested — and been denied — marriage licenses in their hometowns across the South, from small rural towns in Mississippi to cities like Charlotte, N.C. To watch LGBT people stand at the marriage license counter, many with their children at their side, is to witness courage firsthand. In the face of a legal system that denies our humanity and tells us we have no right to even approach this counter, these families are expressing powerful truths: We are human, we are equal, this is our home, and we have a fundamental right to marry.

As we continue to grow the We Do Campaign, we are now actively seeking a public official in the South who will stand up with us and issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple as an act of conscience. Marriage license offices in New Mexico and Pennsylvania have recently started doing this, and in years past it has happened in California and New York as well. In Pennsylvania, Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes has said of his choice, “I firmly believe that I’m on the right side of history.”

Can this happen in the South? We have contacted marriage license offices in more than 600 counties to pose this question. There may be a Bruce Hanes somewhere in our region. Or it may well be that the power of these discriminatory laws is so great that even those public officials who support marriage equality — and they exist — feel that the risk of acting on this belief is too great.
It's an interesting strategy, and I will be watching carefully to see how it goes.

*I acknowledge there are SOME Republicans who are in favor of legalizing gay marriage, foremost among them Cindy and Meghan McCain.


JoJo said...

I have to admit I'm somewhat confused by this Affordable Care Act. I was under the impression that it meant health care like they have in England or Canada, where the govt pays for it. I admit, I'm not terribly on board w/ having to incur another bill I can't afford. I didn't know that the American people were going to have to pay for it. I can't help but think that maybe doctors and big pharma don't need to make gobs and gobs of money. Maybe THOSE prices/costs should be significantly reduced. Have you ever seen an itemized bill from a hospital? $14 for ONE pair of disposable gloves or shoe coverings? $10 PER PILL for Advil?

Blue Heron said...

The inmates are running the asylum.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Jojo, if you have insurance, you don't need to re-apply for govt insurance; you can keep your own. The fact is (and I always assume everyone knows this already!), you are NOW paying for every ER visit by people with no health insurance, who end up going to Emergency Rooms for every single health crisis--and at about 6 times the rate of a regular doctor visit.

If you've heard our radio shows, you know that we agree with you and want prices reduced; in this post, I talked about how Japan and Taiwan have been able to use their govt-sponsored health care systems to force companies to reduce costs (I heartily recommend the documentary "Sick around the World"--which describes health care systems worldwide). What the Green Party prefers is Medicaid for all, a much more affordable system... but that is seen as even more socialistic (by the Republicans) than Obamacare, although of course it is expected and utilized by the majority of old people.

At this point, with the government shut down, there will be a lack of vaccinations and health dept revenue from the feds, so there will be even MORE sick people, as well as veterans untreated... obviously what the GOP wants? Or are they just not thinking through the ramifications of this stunt?

Robert, inmates indeed.

Sevesteen said...

We need to stop spending money we don't have, period. Make some real cuts--cut the military at least. Cut bunny inspectors. Have independent review of regulations and regulators--does the federal government really need to fine my company if our help desk paperwork isn't filled out the way that WE said it should be? (Apparently they can....)

I have a hard time faulting the side that says "we want you to stop borrowing even more", regardless of other motives.

Penalizing people for not buying insurance they still can't afford from the companies responsible for making it unaffordable isn't a solution to health care--it's a politically expedient trick that will make it even harder to find full time entry level jobs.

We need to either pay doctors well or reduce the education requirements for doctors, otherwise not enough smart people will spend that much of their life in training. I want smart, motivated doctors. You can't force people to be good doctors, you can only reward them. You can't force companies to develop new drugs. (We do need FDA reform--They shouldn't be the ones deciding which drugs I can take, whether pot or prescription--rather they should make sure that the true risks and benefits are available from sources other than the manufacturers)

We should probably require doctors and hospitals to have rates published, and allow patients to bring their own advil.

We've had a War on Drugs, a War on Poverty, a War for Homeownership, War for Education...none of which have come even close to meeting their stated goals, most with eventual disasters. The War for Universal Health Care isn't going to do better. I'd love for affordable care to be available to all--but I'm not going to blindly support anything claiming those goals.

A lot of the shutdown is show. Many .gov websites still have all their content running...but the home page has been set to a "We're closed". (I'm a professional network admin. This would cost just as much as leaving the page running) Apparently the Fed has RENTED barricades to block off monuments that are normally unstaffed. They sent men with guns to shut down a museum on federal land that has been self-supporting with NO federal funds since 1980. Didn't Nixon do the same sort of cheap publicity stunts with the Washington Monument?

DaisyDeadhead said...

Sevesteen, like Ron Paul, I would close all 150 foreign military bases and bring every single soldier and bureaucrat home. No more meddling in other countries. No Guatanamo and no CIA-games abroad.

There--I just saved billions, enough to map the genomes of every man, woman and child in the USA ... medical care is the least of it.

We lack the political will/ideology to do that. But that is my opinion of where the $ for health care could easily come from.

In Japan, they have forced their pharm companies to lower prices... in Taiwan, they strictly regulate foreign workers and do not provide health insurance for them thru any govt plans. And I don't want Big Pharma employees sitting on the FDA and foisting pricey shit on us. Etc. Again, these things take political will, and do we have any?

Depressing, since I think the answer is obviously no.

(PS: As for jobs, its often impossible now to switch jobs since you give up your health care every time; entry level jobs frequently have probationary periods in which you can't buy insurance.)

Sevesteen said...

How do you force Big Pharma to lower prices, but keep them doing the expensive research on new drugs, without at least one major market where research costs can be recovered? (We need to find a way to promote research into new uses for existing, off-patent drugs--merely legalizing most of them would be a good first step)

We also need reform in tax policy to help with health care portability. It is absurd that employer-paid health care is in pre-tax dollars, but employee-paid is after-tax. Is there any good reason for the government to favor employer paid plans?

Virtually everyone agrees we need to spend less, everyone wants to cut the other guy's stuff first, while adding theirs. You want me to pay for Obamacare? We can't afford it without cutting something else first. Cut the military, that's great. (Servicemen must be paid on time until they are free to quit their jobs without criminal charges) Cut subsidies to solar, wind and ethanol power, (and conventional power) electric cars, foreign aid, student aid, mortgage aid, pension bailouts, most federally funded local projects (like my town's gold-plated library) etc. Eliminate the DEA, Department of Education, cut the BATFE and Agriculture to almost nothing, reduce the number of federal departments with guns (why does the Department of Education need guns?) to the Department of Defense and Federal Marshals. Any federal agency that comes up with something as stupid as requiring written disaster plans for magician's rabbits (I'm not making that up) needs their budget cut and their director fired.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Sevesteen: How do you force Big Pharma to lower prices, but keep them doing the expensive research on new drugs, without at least one major market where research costs can be recovered?

How do they do it in Canada, Israel, UK and Japan? I would propose we adopt one or several of their methods. Some would say they are way ahead of us in that regard.

I am skeptical most of their "research" is as costly or as necessary as they claim. (Let's see the receipts... for some odd reason, they keep them very, very top secret.)

War is evil and imperialist, so it goes first, of course. Many of the things you mention cutting are good, and many are bad. Of course, I would say that the unethical should go, and the ethical should stay. We need to brawl over every single one, electing reps that will make that case for us... at least that is how democracy is *supposed* to work.

PS: Equating schools and libraries with wars on impoverished desert-dwellers and the failed drug war? Really? See, this is my whole problem with libertarianism, no moral compass.

Sevesteen said...

The other countries don't force Pharma to do research, they ride the coattails of the U.S. Without at least one large market that allows large profit, research will be sharply curtailed. Not necessarily a bad thing, current research is biased towards patentable drugs to solve common conditions that already have effective treatments.

Your attitude here is one of the problems. I question the effectiveness of federal student aid and the federal Department of Education, and you accuse me of being against education and books. (If you think I'm against books, you haven't been in my living room). Not everyone can benefit from a traditional degree--we need plumbers, mechanics, network administrators, all sorts of jobs that need training other than a BA or BS. Education is wonderful and necessary--but going deeply into debt for a traditional degree (except now taught by mostly part time, poorly paid adjunct instructors) or more likely an incomplete degree isn't beneficial to most people. Student aid has caused massive inflation in education prices.

The War for Education has been almost as much a failure as the War Against Drugs. Education isn't cheaper, degrees don't necessarily prepare you for a career, and being a college grad is roughly equal in the job market to being a high school grad 30 years ago.

Recognizing the failure of education policy doesn't make me against education.

DaisyDeadhead said...

I think all children need to be educated; I don't want uneducated people trying to make change from my $20, or draw my blood... or continuing to vote for religious dolts... we see here in the south just how that has last one turned out. It is NO accident that the dumbest states spend the least on public education and coincidentally have the most hands-off rules concerning "private" (read: religious yahoo) schools and homeschooling.

It's not an option to me. How do you propose educating everyone, if not public education? I am grateful for public education. Perhaps you come from educated, affluent people and that is not a concern of yours, but I don't, and my family, husband, grandkids also benefit from public education.

We are here parting ways, Sevesteen. There is plenty of money for everything--going to moon, even. Its called taxing the rich. Its called making the 1% pay their fair share. If they can't, the name of the country is Switzerland. Leave. Except changing citizenship should ALSO cost them an "exit tax" or "exile tax"--just like the UK. In fact, that will cut the number of slacker-Eurotrash over here, too... good deal all around.

The Koch brothers ALONE, can pay down a good fraction of the national debt. They can never use all of that money; if the debt concerns them, let them pay it down. If not, I hear Geneva is really nice this time of year. But warning: they have nationalized health care. And maybe that's why. (In Finland, they do not even allow private schools.)

The 1% of the 1% should be glad we are not seizing their assets and jailing them for theft of labor from the poor, like the USSR did. We are being EXCEPTIONALLY POLITE to them, considering they are criminals and thieves.

You do know who you are talking to, right?

((sings first verse of Internationale))

Sevesteen said...

It really sounds like you are saying "We need public education to make sure southern kids know who to vote for...(the urban minority kids whose education currently sucks don't matter, they already know who to vote for)"

I'm on the fence about public K-12 education--but even the potential for that sort of indoctrination BS pushes me pretty strongly against it. At least with a mixed system there would be mixed indoctrination.

I'm fully aware of southern schools. I went to public school 2 years in West Virginia and one in Kentucky. in Ky PUBLIC SCHOOL, we had missionaries once a week to lead us in hymns and tell bible stories. My teacher got tenure before they required a college degree, tried to break me of being left handed, and would hit kids in the side with her paddle without warning. She had relatives on the state school board, and my parents (we were there because it was the only job teaching college English that Dad could find) had no other choice but to send me there. I'm extremely thankful that Mom taught me to read before Kindergarten, that made up for those years.

I don't know what the replacement to public schools would be, and I don't want to dismantle the current system until there IS a viable replacement. Education should be mandatory. What I want is to allow innovation and competition, to make it possible for lower and middle income parents to have choices other than the public system. I'm fine with using taxes to pay for education of the next generation. If the public system is spending 15,000 per year on students (most spend less, some spend more), make 2/3 of that money available to parents who responsibly educate their kids privately. (Or at the federal level, let the federal funds go with the kids regardless of what local boards do) The places that need it most will get options. I'm pretty sure that Dad and his colleagues could have made some arrangements for a decent elementary school for their kids, and chances are they would have welcomed locals. (Almost all the teachers there were from out of state)

Yes, some parents will make some bad choices--but I can't imagine them being significantly worse than my year in Kentucky.

Allowing private schooling without the majority of funding going with the kids isn't real choice, that's only choice for rich people.

But the current system won't even begin to allow real choice. Everyone must have the same uniform education by unionized teachers where they learn to rely on authority and are properly indoctrinated. and nobody is left behind because everyone goes at the speed of the slowest.

...and most of my complaints in the last comment were meant to be against federal college funding.

Conseglieri said...

The money spent, often government money, to create new medicines is dwarfed by the money spent on advertising.

The question of "forcing" someone to buy health insurance is valid, but only in that it forces us to pay excess profits to paper pushers. We ALL pay for healthcare, whether our own out of our own pockets, via insurance premiums, via emergency room bills left unpaid by others etc.

The question is, do you want an equitable and low cost healthcare system or a high profit health insurance system.

I'll reiterate, the pharma companies pay only a portion of the research dollars spent to produce new drugs comes from private sources. Most is done in university labs, government labs or non-profit labs. We've even outright given the right to produce medicines created in government labs to drug companies who do so at a profit.

Sevesteen, Willie Sutton robbed banks because "that's where the money is". The government money is, by and large, NOT spent on real human beings, but on corporate programs and the military. That's where the money is, not in Meals on Wheels, Medicaid, education or anything else which actually meets a human need,

Sevesteen said...

The question is, do you want an equitable and low cost healthcare system or a high profit health insurance system.

That may be the question, but Obamacare isn't the answer--it won't be equitable OR low cost.

At minimum--we need to end the tax advantage of employer-paid vs individual health insurance. (Same for retirement, although there are far more reasonable options there)

I'll reiterate, the pharma companies pay only a portion of the research dollars spent to produce new drugs comes from private sources. Most is done in university labs, government labs or non-profit labs. We've even outright given the right to produce medicines created in government labs to drug companies who do so at a profit.

In a nutshell, given the Food and Drug Administration’s safety and efficacy standards, it takes 12 to 15 years and upwards of a billion dollars to bring a new drug to market, but only pennies a pill to manufacture it thereafter. Obviously, drug companies need strong patent protection or they’d never undertake that research and development.


We need to legalize drugs. Drug companies should have to be honest and transparent in their trials, including failures. The government could judge that a particular drug is unsafe, but it should remain available to adults. You shouldn't have to be Rush Limbaugh to get an unlimited supply of Oxycontin without risk of arrest--and it shouldn't take a billion dollars to convince the government to allow a drug.

Sevesteen, Willie Sutton robbed banks because "that's where the money is". The government money is, by and large, NOT spent on real human beings, but on corporate programs and the military. That's where the money is, not in Meals on Wheels, Medicaid, education or anything else which actually meets a human need,

I don't disagree with you all that much here, although I would add most big organizations--labor unions, school administrations and a lot of professional organizations that are gatekeepers to particular types of services.

Conseglieri said...

Sevesteen, if you're looking for support for the Afordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, you'll find lukewarm support from many of us. Part of the reason for this is that, as you point out, costs will likely not be restrained by this new program. As to it's being equitable, unless you are complaining about having to carry a bit of your poorer neighbor's costs, I have seen nothing to leade me to believe this will not be a much more equitable way to meet the uninsured's healthcare needs.
Government funded research labs have produced a number of medications and devises at taxpayer expense. These have been shown to have generated billions in profits. The companies involved, often not US based corporations, have been given the benefits of this research without paying any meaningful portion of the costs. I can't for the life of me understand why this doesn't get under your skin.

You also seem to be under the impression that the USA is the only place on the planet where such research into new medicines and devises happens. I am pretty sure these are other nations where such research happens.

The idea that we should allow ineffective or unsafe medicines and devises on the market is astonishing. The world's thalidomide babies might differ with that proposition.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Sevesteen, Obamacare is preferable to a system where people have to give rock concerts to raise money for tots to afford kidneys. Anything is better. Anything. At least, I am willing to try it. If its a worse disaster, I will admit it. But first, lets try it. Not equitable? People having SOMETHING is better than people having NOTHING, as it is now. How is that not "equitable"? You have a strange definition of equitable.

Understand: Its against my faith to be anti-karuna (compassion), for the sake of money or the deficit or anything else. Period. I am as dead set about that as the conservative fundies are about THEIR various articles of faith.

I think its funny that the GOP realizes that Obamacare will be too popular to repeal once people actually have health care. What does that tell you?

Do you really think its fair for kids to die just because their parents have to skip from one job to another?

Sevesteen said...

"Carry a bit of my poorer neighbor's cost" is pretty loaded. How do I prove I'm doing enough for my neighbor--is it a percentage of income? At what percentage would I be allowed to begin to object?

Whether I'm willing depends on the neighbor, whether and why they can't afford their own care. I don't want to pay anything for someone who can afford $35 per week on cigarettes, for example. (I used to smoke, glad I quit for both health and financial reasons. I know quitting smoking is hard...so is earning enough to pay for both my family and others) I know poor people who don't deserve help, who leech and steal, who can't afford necessities, but can afford cigarettes, drugs and beer. I also know poor people who are worthy of help, including some who are poor because they help others so much.

As for drug company location--US or non-US based makes little difference to where a company is based--I've spent most of my life working for non-US based corporations with major operations in the US, currently working at a Japanese company that has considerably more manufacturing in the US than in Japan. It doesn't matter where a new drug is invented or manufactured, it still costs millions or billions to develop and test sufficiently.

Why shouldn't the US carry some of that cost for poorer neighboring countries?

Who would take Thalidomide once the risks were known? What if we discover that it is a miracle cure for some postmenopausal disease? On the other hand, there are people suffering because the drug that will save them has some rare side effect that is far less of a problem than the disease they have. Aspirin probably couldn't get approved today as nonprescription (and possibly not at all), and marijuana certainly has excessive risks for approval. The current bias is towards "perfect safety", an impossible goal. I'll settle for "perfect disclosure".

The FDA should give us good information, and let us make up our own minds in consultation with our doctors. There are some drugs that should be controlled, where misuse harms others--antibiotics are an example, and probably things with substantial potential for birth defects would be included there.

As for ineffective medicine, we already have homeopathic magical crap legally sold in major stores--often with the homeopathic part in fine print on the back of the package. That should be legal to sell, but it should NOT be legal to claim it cures anything.