Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Drugs are overpriced but can justify those high prices while health insurers are parasites who offer no service or manufacture any product.

High costs of life saving medicines are somewhat more acceptable than the cost of health care insurance.

From cancer treatment to HIV, from diabetes to blood pressure drugs, I think that most of us agree that drugs and medicines to treat life-threatening conditions are way overpriced.
That being said, we also don’t find it these high prices terribly odious since they represent a life or death option and we are willing to pay those high prices when it comes to saving our lives or that of a loved one.
But if the cost is so prohibitive and the person needing the medicine has no insurance you are sure to be screwed…just hurry up and die as Allen Grayson would say.
So much crap and misinformation is out there demonizing Obama’s Health Care Reform, more commonly referred to as “OBAMACARE” and it has been coming from the extreme political right that at the end Americans are somewhat confused and ambivalent about any regulation, any law, any program that deals with health care. And that is precisely the desired result of all this nonsense about repealing “OBAMACARE”.
We have to consider what is at stake here; the health insurance companies stand to lose a lot if healthcare ever becomes like those in other industrialized nations…commonly depicted as some kind of socialist hell. But they love their healthcare systems and they would not trade it for ours.
Sure, there are arguments that under the Canadian, British or Israeli systems of healthcare you may have to wait for an elective surgery or that you are limited in picking a doctor, so that you can’t keep the one you have.
But seriously, do we take those excuses as valid arguments when right here and now, under the system we have (or many millions don’t have) you really don’t have much choice as to which doctor to see because that doctor of yours may not be on the insurer’s list.
And as far as waiting for some medical procedure to be done I find that option preferable than not getting any treatment at all if you don’t have insurance.
I think that the reason for the great resentment against health insurance companies comes because they put profits above patient care and because of the gross abuses they have been perpetrating against the American people…like dropping you when you get sick or not insuring you when you have a pre-existing condition.
The contrast with the drug manufacturers is obvious; the reasons too are crystal clear: the insurance companies are parasites that exist only to extract a profit and not take a risk or actually perform any useful service. They merely exist for the bottom line: GREED.
The pharmas are somewhat different even if they overprice most drugs. Let’s face it, they had to incur a lot of expenses in research, testing and eventually bringing that drug to the public. And nobody can say that they didn’t try to keep a stranglehold on these high prices when in 2001 for example an attempt by thirty-nine major pharmaceutical companies to prosecute the South African government for passing a law that allowed easy production and importation of generics. Big Pharma was eventually forced to back down and drop the case following a tremendous outcry from the international community including the South African government, the European Parliament and 300,000 people from over 130 countries who signed a petition against the action. One of the pharmaceutical companies involved in the case, GlaxoSmithKline, even granted permission (called a voluntary licence) to major South African generics producer Aspen, to share the rights to their drugs AZT, 3TC and the combination Combivir without charge. This was a significant case as it brought access to medicines for poor countries into the public consciousness.
The FDA at times is much too sluggish in testing and approving some of these drugs, so do the complaints go, but at the end when a drug is effective and patented a drug manufacturer can exact a profit and do so ethically. Sure, these drugs would leave you wondering if they are made of gold dust or ground up diamonds and most of the costs are so exorbitant people without insurance or the financial means would not be able to afford them.
Let’s take a look at just some examples of some drugs and their out of the ball park prices and how generic drugs have offered competition so that brand name drugs have had to come down in price:

The graph below illustrates the effect of generic competition on proprietary drug prices between 2000 and 2001. It shows the lowest world price per patient per year of triple combination therapy made up of stavudine (d4T)+lamivudine (3TC)+nevirapine (NVP).8

Monday, July 30, 2012


Imagine what they had done when faced with marrying a same sex couple.

(AP) JACKSON, Miss. - A Mississippi couple says the church where they planned to get married turned them away because they are black.
Charles and Te'Andrea Wilson say they had set the date and mailed invitations, but the day before their wedding they say they got bad news from the pastor of predominantly white First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs: Some members of the church complained about the black couple having a wedding there.

Now, the pastor didn’t do the right thing in my opinion, because he knew all along that it was wrong to give in to those racist church members and performed the ceremony elsewhere anyhow.  But what this pastor doesn’t realize is that he is going to be fired anyhow and it would have been better if he had stood for what is right in the first place.

Only in America…we have still a long ways to go.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


This file picture taken under a microscope shows the HIV 1 virus burgeoning on a lymphocyte. Photo: AFP/Institut Pasteur

Cancer drug flushes out lurking AIDS virus

While we have to be either cautiously optimistic to completely skeptical, we are informed of some kind of treatment, of some kind of “miracle” drug that promises to eradicate the HIV virus from the body.

I have posted several of these in the past years, always taking into account the organization that was running the experiments and their credentials. I am almost certain that an organization like The Journal of Nature and those that have come forward during the International Aids Conference that they are not just reputable but also credible.

And thus I continue with my guarded optimism that in my lifetime I will get to see a cure not just for HIV but also for so many other diseases.

My doubts only involve the ability of the big pharmas to block or hinder the development of a drug, vaccine or treatment. We have to keep in mind that these drug companies have very powerful and influential lobbies that compare or even surpass the formidable NRA.

“SCIENTISTS in the United States say they have used a cancer drug to flush out the AIDS virus lurking dormant in trial patients' white blood cells - a tentative step towards a cure.
The ability of the HIV genome, or reproductive code, to hide out in cells and be revived after decades poses a major obstacle in the quest for a cure.
Being able to expose the virus in its hiding place would allow scientists to target the host white blood cells in a killing blitz.
"It is the beginning of work toward a cure for AIDS," David Margolis, co-author of the study published in the journal Nature, told AFP as the International AIDS Conference was under way in Washington.
HIV is a retrovirus, inserting its DNA into the genome of host white blood cells, CD4+T cells in this case, and turning them into virus factories. Sometimes it goes into hiding in some cells even as others keep on producing.
Some 34 million people around the world are living with HIV, which destroys the immune system and has caused about 30 million AIDS-related deaths since the disease first emerged in the early 1980s.
In the latest study, researchers in the United States used the chemotherapy drug vorinostat to revive and so unmask latent HIV in the CD4+T cells of eight trial patients.
The patients were also on antiretroviral drugs, which stops HIV from multiplying but have to be taken for life because they do not kill the virus hidden away in reservoirs.
"After a single dose of the drug, at least for a moment in time, (vorinostat) is flushing the virus out of hiding," Margolis said of the trial results - the first drug ever shown to do so.
"This is proof of the concept, of the idea that the virus can be specifically targeted in a patient by a drug, and essentially opens up the way for this class of drugs to be studied for use in this way."
The drug targets an enzyme that allows the virus to lie latent.
The researchers cautioned that vorinostat may have some toxic effects and stressed this was merely an early indication of feasibility that had to be explored further.”

Saturday, July 28, 2012


What if every billionaire in America was patriotic enough to love his/her country more than their money?

What if the Koch brothers would donate those $100 million to charity instead of trying to buy off politicians and put out misleading ads?

What if the Mitt Romneys of America could be persuaded to bring back their companies registered abroad so that they could avoid paying taxes?

What if we stopped subsidizing oil companies, encouraging firms to close down their manufacturing plants in America and taking them abroad?

What if we placed tariffs on products made by American companies abroad?

What if we actually had regulations that would prevent those “too big to fail” financial institutions to be broken up in order to prevent another financial crisis? 

What if we actually would have UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE and exclude the parasite insurance companies? 

What if it was possible for America to ever return to the same tax rates that existed before George W. Bush? 

What if before entering into a conflict America would actually think it through and 1- have an exit strategy and 2- Try to avoid war by using diplomacy and worldwide pressure?

But all of these questions have a resounding no if you ask almost all Republicans. What we do get is:

What if Social Security was privatized?

What if we can end Medicare, Medicaid and repeal “Obamacare”?

What if we can end the food stamp program?

What if we can privatize public education?

What if we start celebrating and congratulating those vulture capitalists instead of demonizing them?

What if there were no regulations whatsoever, be it pollution, product safety, public safety or worker’s rights?

What if we could deport 12 million aliens?

What if we could only grant the right to vote to those who own property and have wealth?

What if we can declare the United States a Christian Nation and outlaw abortion, criminalize homosexuality and impose prayer in the schools?

What if, what if, what if indeed.

PHOTO SOURCE: http://regtremblay.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/warren-buffett-how-to-fix-congress/



Friday, July 27, 2012


Of course, that is no big deal coming from a group of people who actually cheered when America didn’t get the 2016 games.

Once more, why would we be surprised if Mitt Romney makes another dumb statement when these types of people who think of themselves as patriotic keep hurting America and think that just because they wear a flag lapel pin or plaster their car bumper with nutty right wing nonsense it gives them the authority to speak for America…yet, most of us are ashamed of them as we are ashamed of Mitt Romney.
Conservatives are so against President Obama that they actually hoped America would lose the 2016 bid for the Olympics. That would have been a huge stimulus package, but Republicans show their true colors about job creation for their own country; have we forgotten about that?
Amazingly, Americans for Prosperity have pulled out any and all photos and videos that make reference to their glee when in 2009 Chicago didn’t get the Olympic Games.

 In this Oct. 2, 20099 file photo, a Chicago 2016 supporter reacts after Chicago was eliminated on the first vote in its bid to host 2016 Summer Olympic Games during an announcement ceremony at Daley Plaza in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

Americans for Prosperity show their hatred for America.
During the Americans For Prosperity's "Defending the American Dream Summit," blogger Emily Marie Zanotti of American Princess interrupted a discussion about engaging the right online to announce that Chicago was out of the running -- and the room erupted in applause.

Meet The Press: Rachel Maddow Calls Conservatives "Disgusting" For Cheering Chicago's Failed Olympic Bid

On Meet the Press, Rachel Maddow just can't believe the level of Obama Derangement Syndrome necessary to cheer against an American victory:
The unseemly cheering on the right for America losing the Olympic bid I think is going to be the taste that lingers a long time after this failure. Certainly, the President tried to get something and he didn’t get it, and people who hate the President feel like that’s a cause for celebration, but to see, for example, the Weekly Standard, post “Chicago loses! Chicago loses! Cheers erupt at Weekly Standard headquarters” I think says a lot more about the Weekly Standard, says a lot more about the right now than it does about this loss.
What would Hitler have said? Watch these videos.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Watch the video below and see if it isn't relevant, particularly since it is more than two decades old.

It is amazing to some of us that we are still fighting the same battles more than 25 years later with the same narrative of the conservative assholes. Actress Dixie Carter was most famous for playing wisecracking Southerner Julia Sugarbaker on “Designing Women,” which ran on CBS for seven seasons from 1986


If you look at the programs they will eliminate, if you look at what the Republicans are against and then look at what they are for which is hardly anything, then the future is dismal.

I know firsthand about teaching since I taught for a while and found the work poorly remunerated demanding, difficult and very time consuming. I eventually had to leave teaching in order to be able to feed my family and support them properly.

When you have a political party that demonizes teachers, reduces education budgets, increases class sizes and pays the teachers less than livable salaries you are bound to have people like myself who will look for another way of making a living…those who will be left are going to be either too needy or too incompetent to do anything else.
Please don’t tell me that charter schools are the answer or that some kind of voucher program will replace public education. I firmly believe that if you turn education over to a private profit making enterprises the results will be disastrous because when you enter the greed factor the teachers will be underpaid and overworked and the facilities will be neglected…as budgets will shrink in order to improve the bottom line.
Vouchers are not even a good placebo for education because we all know that the cost of education will go up and the profit motive will increase; therefore the voucher would only cover a fraction of the cost of that education, a fraction of the tuition…and who is going to suffer? The middle class and the poor.
Pretty much can be said about law enforcement. We have in our country thousands upon thousands of private security firms who employ retired or personnel whose qualifications are at best questionable.
If the Republicans have their way the police will be reduced in numbers and their pay drastically cut. What do you think that a private security guard will do when faced with a life and death situation? It is hardly worth losing your life when you are making minimum wage. At least that is what my dad used to think and I am sure that many of the security personnel across the country feel as well no matter how dedicated and how brave.
So what happens if the Republicans are successful in decimating law enforcement and replacing it with private enterprise? I really doubt that the crime rate would go down or that we would feel safer, I dare say that the climate of chaos and lawlessness will be the order of the day.
What about firefighters and the military? We have seen how well these private contractors have worked out whenever they are faced with conflict…the names of Haliburton and Blackwater are still fresh in our minds. An all volunteer firefighter force across the country would not work out so well either…firefighters are professionals, well trained and should be well paid.
The post office, what will become of it? Do you think that a service like the post office can be successfully replaced by some private concern? Even if the post office is or would be solvent if Congress hadn’t placed some impossible levy on the postal service it would be more than solvent
And how about Social Security? Replace it with some kind of private retirement program and increase that retirement age when the whole program is solvent and will be so for the next decades. It is a complete travesty, an injurious and insulting measure to just hand over our retirement funds to those fat Wall Street speculators who are just salivating at the prospect so that they will somehow manage within a very short period of time to cause some Stock Market crash and all those contributing to the fund will see their money evaporate…and then again, don’t tell me it can’t happen because I was one of those who lost my pension to some Wall Street speculator who is now living in the Hamptons and throwing fund raising parties for Romney.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Those certainly were the days when flying was actually enjoyable.

Back in the 50’s and 60’s people would actually dress up to go on a flight. Men wore suits and women very nice dresses and the inevitable hat…no self respecting female would be caught in a flight without some head gear…not even for short flights.

The airlines were in competition to capture people’s imagination and their travel dollars. They were pinned against one another to see who could outdo the food, the leather seats, the foot space and most of all, the kind and attentive flight attendants whose job was to make you feel not just comfortable but welcomed. 

Most of the good airlines are now gone and the ones that have remained seem to not give a flying fuck about the comfort and convenience of the passengers, gone too is the elegance, the excitement of traveling by plane.

The seats have gotten smaller, leg room is non-existent and there is a conspicuous lack of food…unless you pay through your ass for a stale chicken sandwich. Even drinks have been eliminated in some flights and the obligatory bag of peanuts is gone with the wind beneath the wings. I am just beside myself when I have to cut a steak with a fucking plastic knife.

A few years back I took a shuttle flight from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro and it was incredible. The flight lasts a little over 45 minutes and yet, they had the audacity to serve us a snack that was plentiful and delicious…what would have easily qualified as a full lunch in first class in one of the US carriers. Of course, should you have taken a much longer Varig flight to Europe or the States you would have been offered three full meals, all gourmet and all accompanied with wines…and that is in economy class.

Arguably there still are some air carriers that care about the passenger and offer not just good service but also some of the best food aloft. Swiss Air, Air France, Cathay Pacific, Varig and EtihadTurkish Airlines which scored a massive 86 percent for its in-flight meals on a Skyscanner passenger poll, with restaurant-quality eats including stuffed eggplant and walnut pear tart. In the same poll Singapore Airlines scored 81 percent. Singapore Airlines, which has a "culinary panel" of top international chefs, came in second place with a score of 81

From left: Etihad Airways; Cathay Pacific Airways.

For crying out loud, it is unthinkable if you are flying from Miami to Seattle as I usually do to visit my daughters, that there are no direct flights and since the flights are both less than four hours you don’t get one morsel…zilch, nada. It is not very pleasant to spend a good 12 hours between the flights, the trip to the airport and clearing security and actual flying time…without eating, I get testy and bitchy. It is not surprising that some passengers fly off (no pun intended) the handle and even some flight attendants and pilots or other crew that go absolutely bananas.

But one of the most disturbing things that’s happening with American carriers is that they are nickel and diming the passengers to death…charges from drinks and coffee to luggage fees and carry on charges…it is absolutely incredible. 

You have most likely heard of Steve Slater, who was hit on the head with the luggage of a passenger who not only refused to apologize, but proceeded to bombard the wounded flight attendant with obscenities. In response, an enraged Slater took the plane’s PA (Public Address) System and repeated said obscenities-only this time, addressed at the guilty passenger. Slater then bid the flight, and his job, goodbye, grabbing not one, but two beers from the plane’s galley.  After this he slid down the aircraft’s emergency exit chute onto JFK airport’s tarmac.

I still remember as if it was yesterday some of the iconic advertising for airlines; some have endured and even become part of the lexicon. Prime example "The friendly skies of United." I often hear people use the term friendly skies even when they fly another carrier. Just tossing out a couple other of my favorites:
BA - World's Favorite Airline
EA - Wings of Man (although I had a much lower opinion of the airline)
CO - Proud Bird with the Golden Tail (referring to their older liveries)
Air Florida: “Hi, I’m Wendy, fly me”
1978 - Braniff Flies You in Leather (it didn’t translate well into Spanish – “vuela en cuero” which means “fly naked”)
Many major US carriers are now gone, bankruptcies and air crashes did them in. Among the best known and largest are: Air Florida, Aloha, America West, BRANIFF, Eastern, Midway, Northeast, Ozark, PSA, PANAM, TWA, Western and many other regional smaller carriers.