Saturday, October 27, 2007

Little Eddy #8 The nerve or some people.

Isn’t it wonderful the nerve some people have, and most particularly the nerve of our erstwhile leader. He sends his people to Congress to ask for another 46 billion dollars to pay for his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (this brings up the total money requested to 196.4 billion dollars), after vetoing a bill to fund poor children’s health care which would would have cost a mere 15 billion over several years to fund. And when that Democratic California Democratic congressman joked that Bush would send children to fight in Iraq for his amusement providing they survived long enough without health care to come of age Republicans in their almighty shrillness demanded an apology. They even put forth a bill censuring the gentleman, a bill which happily failed to get a majority.

But I’m sorry to note that the congressman apologized anyway. I find myself agreeing with Natalie Maines, lead singer of the Dixie Chicks. She once apologized for criticizing Bush, but now doesn’t express regrets for her criticism, saying she doesn’t feel the president deserves an apology. I couldn’t agree with her more. However, if there really is a God lurking somewhere up there in the Great Above, and if he is taking any interest at all in guiding the destiny of our pack of woefully misguided leaders, please God, please my dear Lord, keep the Shrubby One healthy, and whatever happens please do not let him falter. Dear Benevolent Lord Deliver us from evil if you must, but deliver us not a Cheney presidency.
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I watch CNN every day from noon to seven in the evening. Ever notice how often that obnoxious commercial from the pharmaceutical industry, the one where an obsequious Montel Williams touts about how, "the American Pharmaceutical Industry wants to help," plays these days. You damn right the industry wants to help, help keep those outrageous profits rolling in while giving lip service to helping a few needy persons pay for their grossly overpriced drugs. “Call to see if you qualify . . .” “America’s Pharmaceutical Industry, on the road to helping you!”

Well you know when they run that commercial several times an hour all day long they are quaking in their diamond studded boots. They are paying good money for that air time, as well they should be, for that commercial is performing no public service. If is pure propaganda in the hope that we will swallow their bait and leave their unconscionable pricing system alone. If anyone can explain to me one good reason why Americans should have to go online and order their drugs from Canada because they are half as expensive as the same drugs bought in these United States, other than the fact that the drug companies need to make all the profit they can squeeze out of America’s ill and elderly so they can make their executives and their stockholders wealthy, then I would be more than happy to listen to it.

But the fact is, the drug industry, like every other part of our health care system, is completely out of whack. Like in Broken. Wheels without a speck of grease. So play on with your commercial, drug industry, and maybe all of that repetition will pay off for you in the end. Like it did in 1993 when the for profit drug, insurance, and health care industries all combined and managed to kill then first lady Hilary Clinton’s attempt to bring America a fair health care system. For god sake’s people, be alert this time. Please don’t let them buy you out again.

I discussed the sorry state of America’s healthcare in my blog #3 while reviewing Michael Moore’s remarkable film “Sicko.” I pointed out that if the United States is to truly have a health care system which covers all Americans it will have to be under a Democratic administration, for the repugnant Republicans only believe in privately managed health care, and a system that’s for profit will never be able deliver truly affordable and equal health care. Just like the private sector can’t manage a police department, a fire department, or public libraries. There’s no money in them. Of course that doesn’t stop those making a religion of ME as opposed to US from mouthing off against any attempt to amend the present system into one of fairness and equality.

What we have really lost through these many years of Repugnacant Rule of SELF and MEism has been our sense of community. Repugnacants believe in free enterprise, they believe in every man for himself, and the rich should rule because only they can afford buy their way. But there’s more to life than Repugnacantism. The extraordinary fires in California were likely fueled by Santa Anna winds no doubt exacerbated by the very global warming which our erstwhile Shrub of a president has refused to admit exists nor supports reducing. But in the flames of tragedy the people of California have discovered community. The firemen didn’t ask for a resident’s credit status before they try and save his house. They fought the fire as best they could, one house at a time. Rich or poor didn’t matter, even though most of those houses were undoubtedly owned by people who were well to do. One returned resident whose house had burned to the ground found framed family photographs which had been hanging on the walls of her house. They had been wrapped up in a blanket and were laying in her front yard. A firemen, possibly at the risk of his life, had evidently gone in and rescued those priceless momentoes of their lives from the burning dwelling, and then carefully wrapped them in a blanket for their owner to find. That’s not the Repugnacant way, that’s the community way. What a shame it is that it takes a tragedy like those fires to teach us how to be human beings and part of a community again?

America needs to return to the spirit of community before its too late and our war mongering leaders have bankrupted not only us but our children and their children. We need to start right now by taking care of our children’s health. They are our future. And the health of all of our children, not just those of parents that can afford insurance is important. Dedicated capitalists believe that people ought to pay their own way. But true public health experts know that all of the community’s health care needs must to be taken care of, lest the malady that being poor has left untreated spreads to us all. Remember the lessons of the Bubonic Plague in Europe, how the nobles locked themselves in their castles and partied until someone from the outside world broke into their refuge and infected them. The Canadians know enough to take care of their ill citizens, as do the British and the French. How can we in America, which used to be the world’s richest country before Republican rule brought us to our knees, how can we stand for anything less than what the French and English and Canadians do for their people? Demand an answer to that from your representatives. Just don’t call it “socialized medicine” for that raises a red flag. Instead let’s call it medicine for the people. People is not a dirty word as certain Repubnacants would have you believe. People means us. You and me. Pure and simple. And in the words of Nike, let’s just do it! And let our new motto ring loud and clear, Congress Persons need to put a moratorium on their own extravagant health care plans until they enact an equal health care plan for the rest of us. The American People should accept nothing less.

Let me close out these thoughts by repeating the words of Linda Peeno, the former medical reviewer for Humana whose hushed, tear choked voice told a Congressional Committee why a health care system for profit is doomed to fail (the following is from Michael Moore’s “Sicko” by way of C-Span) “I am here primarily today to make a public confession. In the spring of 1997 as a physician, I denied a man a necessary operation which would have saved his life, and thus caused his death. No person and no group has held me accountable for this, because in fact what I did, I saved the company a half a million dollars. And furthermore, this particular act secured my reputation as a good medical director and it insured my continued advancement in the health care field. I went from making $300 a week as a medical reviewer to an escalated six figure income as a physician consultant. And in all my work I had one primary duty, and that was to use my medical expertise for the financial benefit of the organization for which I worked. And I was told repeatedly that I was not denying care, I was denying payment. I know how managed care maims and kills patients, so I am here to tell you about the dirty work of managed care, and I’m haunted by the thousands of pieces of paper on which I had written that deadly word, denied.”
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Speaking of CNN Lou Dobbs is a very nice man and I’m sure a very well meaning man who has lots of good ideas about how the middle class is getting royally screwed by an administration gone more than slightly off its rocker, but his bitterest rants these days are leveled against illegal aliens, who he seems to credit with doing the lion’s share of the nation’s crime. Lou kinda goes ape, frequently teetering off the deep end as he ruminates on his favorite subject. It gets embarrassing sometimes when he talks about being illegal as if that was itself a violent crime punishable by permanent exile. Sure being illegal is a crime, so is fudging on your income tax which each and every one of us legals have probably done at one time or another. However I have a confession to make. I am currently housing not one but two illegal aliens. One of them, Roman Martinez, came to Houston from Mexico when he was fifteen years old. He could neither read nor write. (Mexico has no public education. That’s why Davy Crocket and those ragtags fought Santa Anna, for the right of their kids to have a public education. They lost at the Alamo, but Sam Houston defeated the Mexican Army as San Jacinto.) Think of this. Roman could speak no English. He had no money. He walked from Brownsville all the way to Houston. I have to tell you, I can’t help but admire a fifteen year old kid with that kind of will. I’m afraid I would have barely made it to the outskirts of Brownsville before I would have sat down on the curb and bawled like a baby.

Roman is tall, and obviously of Indian descent, American Indian, not the India kind. When my sister, the late Mary McCormick, saw him for the first time she had me return the key to her house, which I had so I could feed her animals when she was in the hospital. However, looks deceive. Roman is as gentle as a pussy cat and a lot less temperamental, plus he is a sweet human being and a good father to Claudia Martinez’s five children, two of whom he fathered. Roman fitted Mary’s television into a cabinet which the tv set did not want to initially fit into, and Mary eventually saw the fallacy of her initial impression and returned to me the key to her abode just in time for me to feed her animals during her next hospitalization. That was the thing about Mary. If there was one word I could use that would have summed up her personality it would have been Cautious. The one word which Mary would have used right back to sum up my personality would have been Foolish. We were both right.

Roman is in Mexico at the present time. His father died and he went there to attend his funeral and I’m sure to comfort his mother. His wife Claudia went with him, but she plans to be back on Sunday. She had to pull her children from school and leave them with one of her sisters, and she needs to get back so she can get her kids back to school come Monday morning. Roman has paid an attorney for paper work towards getting him a resident status and hopefully eventual citizenship, and I’m told his lawyer is preparing papers which should allow Roman to get back into this country. He needs to be with his children, and he needs to work for their support. He does not have a fake social security card, and he is not taking a job any Texan would want. He works for a man who does many odd jobs, and who pays him not a penny more than he has to and and then only whenever he feels like it. However, it is a living, and he needs to make it.

I felt the need to say this all of this in lieu of Mr. Dobbs nightly painting of the illegal alien community with the broadest of brushes, accusing them of every crime known to civilized man. If his mind wasn’t so closed I would suggest that Mr. Dobbs get to know one or two illegals himself. I’m sure he would find them just as human as are his many friends of a legal status. A person’s legal situation is no measure of his character, any more than is the color of his skin as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once reminded us. And furthermore when you are of age fifteen and with no money in your pocket, and you can neither read, write nor speak a word of English, and you walk on foot from Brownsville to Houston, now there you’re talking character.
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I would like to take a few moments to welcome the latest evolution of Apple’s Macintosh OS 10.5 Leopard, which came out of its virtual cocoon and into an Apple Store near you just yesterday. I have used Macs since 1990 when I bought a Mac Classic, and I have watched every evolution of the Mac OS since. I suppose Apple detractors would call me a fan boy. I don’t mind, I find it nice to be able to get excited about something in this bland world of little innovation. My latest computer is an iMac which I bought in January of this year. It has OS 10.4 Tiger on it, and I am well satisfied with it, and am in no rush to update it to Leopard. I will instead read all of the comments and reviews of Leopard.

But to anyone who can see clearly there’s no secret as to why Apple under the direction of Steven Paul Jobs has become the most respected and envied technology company in business today, with it’s stock prices dwarfing that of Microsoft at $186.35 a share to Microsoft's topping $36 a share on Thursday. The days of Apple as a counter culture phenomonon are long since past. The iPod’s virtual lock on the digital music player market plus the incredible introduction of the iPhone has placed Apple up in the stratosphere with IBM. Apple’s secret weapon is an obsession with simplicity. Make your products beautiful to look at, but primarily make the software work seamlessly with the hardware and make them both as user friendly as possible. It took a few years for this to sink in to the buying public, but it finally has. Apple’s share of the American computer market is 8%, up from 3%.

And what has been the final piece in Apple’s puzzle of the selling of it’s products, computers, music players, and now cellphones? Sell them in your own stores with experts who know your products backwards and forward to guide your customers. Gateway tried this several years ago but without the experts or the product, and they failed miserably and have since closed their stores. They forgot the primary rule for sales in the America of today: instant gratification. You could play with Gateway’s products all you wanted but you couldn’t walk out of the store with them. You had to order them for later delivery.

But in an Apple store you can not only play with the merchandise to your heart’s content, but when you have made up your mind you can hand them your credit or debit card, and walk out of the store with the machine of your choice. You don’t even have to go over to the counter. The sales representative swipes your card with a wireless, handheld gadget he or she holds in his or her hand, asks you if you want the sales slip printed or emailed (it is quicker to have it emailed) then hands you your purchase and you’re on your way. I found my last two Apple store purchases the easiest and most pleasant experience I ever had in parting company with my money. The only easier experience was on the iTunes online store. Evidently they had my debit card number when I downloaded a free Pixar 10 minute preview movie of Ratatouille which was free. So one night I got the urge to buy Perfect Timing (This Morning) by Orba Squara, the catchy tune that plays under the iPhone commercials. It cost 99 cents, I got an email to that effect, and when I went to my iTunes library there it was, appearing magically between Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Crazy Mary by Pearl Jam. By far the easiest 99 cents I ever dropped.

Here’s another characteristic of the stores. Anyone, and that includes children, can come in and play with any of the machines to their heart’s content with not a worry in the world that some store employee will run them off because just they’re obviously not going to buy anything. A few weeks ago I went to Apple’s Memorial City store in Houston to buy a set of external speakers for my iMac, and the salesperson took me to several machines which had speakers hooked to them to demonstrate the speakers. He apologized he could not demonstrate a pair of Klipsch speakers, they were connected to a machine a nine year old girl was playing games on, and he was didn’t want to interrupt her playing even for the few minutes it would have taken for the demonstration. That astounded me at the time though in a very pleased way.

I ended up buying a set of Bose speakers. Looking around there were a lot of children in that store. Don’t you know when they get a little bigger they are going to grow up being devoted fans of Apple. What an insurance policy? That’s the genius of Jobs. Make your store truly accessible to everybody. Even the children, for someday they too will grow up to and be your devoted customers. Pay close attention, Michael Dell. It’s a pity you don’t have the imagination to do anything but make clones of clones.

I would like to close out this section of the blog by reporting on one of the latest Mac programs I have installed. It is an automation program called iKey. It allows you to have your computer perform certain actions with the pressing of two keys, or if you like, at a certain time each day. I have control plus letter keys to open many of the applications I use frequently, and in some cases I have the machine perform two distinct actions with the pressing of the option key plus a letter key. And every morning I have my energy controls panel wake up my computer from sleep at 6 am and at 6:10 each morning iKey opens Camino which opens: Http:// so that when I get through with my morning routine I can go to my computer and there is the morning paper ready for me to read. Way cool, iKey.
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When I was a kid some wise joker said, “what the world needs these days is a good 5-cent cigar.” Well, a river of time has flowed by since those words were uttered and these days most rational people would amend that to say, “what the world certainly does NOT need today is a good 5-cent cigar.” I say that because I smoked for 30 years, from age 16 to age 46, and I was lucky to have quit before it was too late. Everyone I have known who didn’t quit smoking has died, most of them from lung cancer. I had the gumption to quit because I had the example of my father who had smoked for years, and one day he just up and quit. And so I knew that it could be done. I count myself as one of the lucky ones. Aside from some bronchitis I seem to be free from tobacco damage. However, it’s enough to make one consider the freedom to smoke very carefully. Should smokers be allowed to smoke in public places and so give nonsmokers the risk of developing lung cancer. Certainly not, and these days smokers are very rightly shown the door to the outside where a breeze can quickly dissipate the byproduct of their addiction. For tobacco is addictive. It is the most addictive substance I have ever used. And I remember pounding the walls in frustration during that fall that I finally broke the habit.

Yes, a person should have the freedom to smoke, suppression doesn’t accomplish anything except make the thing you suppress even more desirable and expensive, however if a person has the freedom to smoke tobacco, whose health effects are well known and notoriously lethal, why should he not have the freedom to smoke marijuana, whose health effects are not nearly so lethal as tobacco, though its use (either recreational or medicinal) is highly illegal? Not sure about marijuana? Why not research the health effects of heavy marijuana use by studying the Rastafarians, who use cannabis constantly as part of their life style? How are their lungs? Are they prone to lung cancer and heart disease as heavy tobacco users are? How is their behavior under the influence, are they wildly criminal (as portrayed in the film “Reefer Madness”) or are they sedate living their lives in peace and tranquility?

Interesting questions those, questions our health authorities don’t want to find answers to because they’re afraid of what they will find. Remember Lyndon Johnson’s marijuana study during the 60’s. After the report came out Johnson made his chief scientific officer denounce the study which had found out that during heavy marijuana use certain skills like driving an automobile were actually improved under the influence. Probably marijuana made heavy users better drivers when high because the weed seems to allow the brain to slow down time. I used to do a lot of reel to reel tape recording back in my marijuana smoking days. I could never stop the tape in time to keep it from running off the reel unless I was high. But when I was high I could stop the tape in time to keep it from running off the spool every single time. That’s when I realized just how full of it the American establishment is in regards to certain subjects like pot and sex.

There are lots of out and out lies about cannabis perpetuated by our so-called authorities. One of the primary ones is that marijuana is addictive. Nothing can be further from the truth. I pounded the walls of my Brooklyn apartment during my cold turkey withdrawal from tobacco. John Lennon made his escape from addiction, probably heroin, an unforgettable experience in song. But no one ever had withdrawal symptoms when quitting marijuana. No walls had ever been pounded on. No imaginary insects ever crawled over the skin of the abstainer. No addiction at all unless you’re addicted to the effects of freeing up your mind so that you can really enjoy such things as music, food, and sex.

But unfortunately marijuana will probably never get a clean bill of health from the feds, no matter how much truth comes out about it’s medicinal properties. And that is because politicians hate it because for some strange reason it makes one see right through the bullshit of the establishment politicians. That’s why it was the national drug of choice of the 1960’s. Coupled with the book “Catch 22” it gave those who cared to look a mirror through which to see our society’s absurdities. It’s practitioners saw right through Lyndon Johnson’s phony justifications for the Vietnam war, seeing it for what it really was, a senseless disaster in the making. A disaster that Richard Nixon stubbornly continued until his own failings began to catch up with him.

Let me close today’s blog by giving you the classic example of marijuana’s peaceful use. Picture if you will half a million young people gathered in a farmer’s field near Woodstock, N.Y., gathered for a weekend of listening to rock and roll music and getting themselves high on pot. 500,000 people, that’s no small community gathered in one field. There were two deaths that weekend, one fellow in a sleeping bag was run over by a tractor, I forget what caused the other death, it was likely a hard drug overdose. There were mosquitos galore, lots of rain, all kinds of discomforts, but no fights. Not a single one. Think about that for a minute. Remarkable. Imagine for another moment a gathering of half a million beer drinkers, not to mention hard liquor drinkers. Fighting would abound. The blood would have been flowing like rivers in springtime. And yet beer and alcohol and smoking tobacco are acceptable pastimes in this society of ours, albeit heavily taxed. Marijuana, truly a symbol of peace, is not. Is this society messed up or what? Back in World War II we had a word for it, SNAFU. It st0od for Situation Normal, All Fucked Up. Why must we continue living such SNAFU’d lives in our America of the 21st Century? You tell me.

The Real Little Eddy