Saturday, April 14, 2007

Obama Gives Back All Money from Lobbyists

In an effort to change the system, Obama does the unthinkable:
Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign has returned more than $50,000 in political contributions after discovering the donors were lobbyists.

Obama, who has pledged to change the ways of Washington, has repeatedly said he will not accept money from lobbyists or from special interest political action committees.

"I am concerned about the role of lobbyists and campaign donations generally in our politics," Obama told The Associated Press while campaigning in Florence, S.C. "That's part of the reason I don't take PAC money and I'm not taking federal lobbyist money in this campaign."

Friday, April 6, 2007

What Does Being a Christian Mean Today?

CNN's Roland Martin writes a striking commentary on the current state of Christian affairs:

Ask the nonreligious what being a Christian today means, and based on what we see and read, it's a good bet they will say that followers of Jesus Christ are preoccupied with those two points.

Poverty? Whatever. Homelessness? An afterthought. A widening gap between the have and have-nots? Immaterial. Divorce? The divorce rate of Christians mirrors the national average, so that's no big deal.

The point is that being a Christian should be about more than abortion and homosexuality, and it's high time that those not considered a part of the religious right expose the hypocrisy of our brothers and sisters in Christianity and take back the faith. And those on the left who believe they have a "get out of sin free" card must not be allowed to justify their actions.

Many people believe we are engaged in a holy war. And we are. But it's not with Muslims. The real war -- ­ the silent war ­-- is being engaged among Christians, and that's what we must set our sights on.

As we celebrate Holy Week, our focus is on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But aren't we also to recommit ourselves to live more like Jesus? Did Jesus spend his time focusing on all that he didn't like, or did Jesus raise the consciousness of the people to understand love, compassion and teach them about following the will of God?

As a layman studying to receive a master's in Christian communications, and the husband of an ordained minister, it's troubling to listen to "Christian radio" and hear the kind of hate spewing out of the mouths of my brothers and sisters in the faith.

In fact, I've grown tired of people who pimp God. That's right; we have a litany of individuals today who are holy, holy, holy, sing hallelujah, talk about how they love the Lord, but when it's time to walk the walk, somehow the spirit evaporates.

(continue onwards)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Tommy Thompson Declares Candidacy

Tommy Thompson today made official his candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination.

Who is Tommy Thompson? The Washington Post offers this:
Thompson billed himself as a "reliable conservative, one who puts principles into practice." The former four-term governor of Wisconsin and ex-secretary of Health and Human Services in President Bush's administration pledged to apply his experience to help "get America and our party back on track."
But so wait. Who is Tommy Thompson?

Well, up to about three weeks ago, he was the chair of the VeriChip Corporation--a company he took HUGE, HUGE sums of money from during his stint as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

So I guess the better question is what is VeriChip and what is Tommy Thompson's relation to it?

In a nutshell, VeriChip is a company that evolved from those RFID chips they implanted into dogs so their owners could find them when they got lost. They extended this to its logical conclusion--let's put them in people! Obviously. Their tagline is "RFID for people!" You know, as if there is nothing wrong with this. Alright.

So this will be literally the first and only presidential candidate in American history to have a piece of corporate spyware embedded in his body.

Anyway the point is that this man has a lot of invested interest in the implantable microchip. He has it in his own body. He has 150,000 shares in the company. As a rational human being (and seeing as though his platform is health care reform), do you wonder what will happen in regards to these stupid little chips? Does it take a considerably strong imagination to conceive of mandatory injections--for the sake of, oh, I don't know, health record information? Sounds innocuous, right?

But think about it. You have HIV. You have cancer. Your employer gets hold of one of these RFID readers and knows your entire medical history.

But what if we put in criminal records in the chip? Educational records? Political party? A lot of shit can be stored on an RFID chip.

Grumble, grumble, of course, but I find Thompson's private investments to be considerably troubling given the amount of political influence a president would hold over the American people. It's worth thinking about.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Cancer Vaccine Too Expensive for Most Young Women

Gardasil, a vaccine that promises to prevent cervical cancer, is considered by some to be revolutionary. However, many are saying that it's too expensive for the only people who actually need it-- young women--because their health insurance won't pay for it or worse, they have no insurance at all.
Gardasil is getting used less than doctors would like. Pediatricians and gynecologists from Arizona to New York are refusing to stock Gardasil because of its $360 price for the three doses required and "totally inadequate" reimbursement from most insurers.

Pediatricians, in particular, are rebelling, fed up after years of declining insurance reimbursement for vaccines, an explosion of new vaccines and fast-escalating vaccine prices.

Many practices must tie up $50,000 or more in vaccine inventory, run multiple refrigerators, insure the vaccines and spend lots of time on inventory management. They also must absorb the cost of broken or wasted vials and say that's not possible with most insurers reimbursing at just $2 to $15 over the $120 per dose charged by Gardasil's developer, Merck & Co. of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey.


With many 18- to 26-year-old women uninsured, gynecologist Dr. Rhoda Sperling at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York said only about half her patients who are not in long-term monogamous relationships are getting Gardasil.


Dr. Jill Stoller of Chestnut Ridge Pediatric Associates in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, said the inadequate insurance reimbursement for Gardasil is keeping "a wonderful new vaccine" from many patients.

"It really is a shame," said Stoller.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Obama Calls for Post-Boomer Politics

On the generational divide between Obama and Clinton candidacies and the dispute of politics:
Mr. Obama says he recognizes that the flashpoints of the 60s — war, racism, inequality, the relations between the sexes — still animate American politics and society and remain largely unresolved. And he acknowledges, as a child of a white Kansan mother and black Kenyan father, that his own prominence and prospects would have been impossible without the struggles of those who marched in Selma and Washington. But he argues that America faces new challenges that require a new political paradigm.


Modern presidential campaigns are essentially character tests, and for 20 years or longer the cultural and political divides of the 60s served as presumed signposts to a candidate’s character. Did he protest the war, trip to Hendrix, march in solidarity with women? Or enroll in R.O.T.C., rush a fraternity, join a church? As a young man, Mr. Obama did not have to make many of those choices, and he now has an opportunity to define himself on his own terms and not be instantly caricatured based on personal decisions he made four decades ago. (He has, of course, acknowledged some marijuana and cocaine use in his youth; that does not seem to have dimmed his prospects.)

“Where you were on these issues really told people who you were,” said Chris Lehane, a former Clinton White House official who is now a political consultant in California. “But 2008 will represent a hinge moment in generational politics, not just because of the prominence of a post-boomer candidate but because this will be the first cycle when a whole new range of issues as big, if not bigger, than the big issues that defined the boomers will be front and center: Iraq, the war on terror, global warming, energy, technology and globalization.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"We are Canada's Mexicans"

Ted Rall writes an excellent piece about the state of a US health care system forcing many uninsured Americans to seek medical help they can't get here from Canada:
Some people are just cheap. Others are playing the odds, reasoning that paying for doctors and prescription medications on an ad hoc basis will prove cheaper than the $500-plus per month they'd have to shell out for health insurance. But most of America's 47 million uninsured live and die without coverage because they can't afford it. Worse than a national scandal, our failing healthcare system is an international disgrace. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are so desperate that they travel overseas in order to leech off socialized medical care systems, which are prevalent in other industrialized nations.

"We are overwhelmed by you (expletive deleted) Americans," an exasperated emergency-room physician at a Canadian hospital across the border from upstate New York told one of my friends, whose girlfriend had driven him the eight hours from Manhattan to Quebec after he'd fallen down some stairs and broken his arm.

We are Canada's Mexicans.
But even those who have insurance are pissed--because it SUCKS.
[...] there's a second, even bigger healthcare scandal that no one ever talks about. There are 250 million other Americans--those of us "lucky" enough to have health insurance--who aren't much better off than the uninsured.

Workers and employers pay an average of $465 per month each to insurance companies who use every shady trick in the book to avoid paying out claims. Pre-existing condition? Not covered. Don't want to drive hours to see a doctor who belongs to your plan? Pay out of pocket. Suffering from an unusual condition that requires the expertise of a high-priced specialist? Denied. You might think a chronic condition calls for long-term care, but to a claims analyst it's merely another excuse to refuse to pay up.
He concludes:
The solution is obvious: nationalize the healthcare system. Doctors and nurses should be federal employees. Hospitals should be healing centers, not for-profit corporations beholden to shareholders. If socialized medicine is too radical, however, there's always the single-payer system. The key, in that case, is to put the insurance companies--which are squeezing doctors and patients alike--out of business.

The unbridled greed of corporatized healthcare is breathtaking. United HealthGroup, currently listed as #37 on the Fortune 500, earned $3.3 billion in net profits in 2006--up 28 percent from the year before. Wellpoint made a whopping $2.5 billion, a 157 percent increase. When is the last time you got a 28 percent raise? 157 percent? It's blood money, pure and simple. How much profit is generated by the death of an uninsured or undertreated American?