Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Take Action in 2010

Jim Hightower at the 2008 Texas Book Festival,...Image via Wikipedia

Six Things to Do in 2010

by Jim Hightower
In my travels, I've heard many cries of despair from you good folks about the timorous Obama presidency. On issue after issue, it's been go-slow and don't-rock-the-corporate boat. "Where's the 'audacity of hope?'" people are asking. "Where's the 'change you can believe in?'"
The answer is that in our country's democracy, audacity and change are where they've always resided: out there with you and me, at the grassroots level. For some reason, the guy who was elected by running from the outside is now trying to govern from the inside - which is where change is taken to die.
The good news is that the American majority is with us on nearly every issue, so the chance for change remains strong - if we can push it. Now is the time for us to be more aggressive, more demanding, more active than ever. Many of you have asked, "Fine - but how?" Here are some suggestions:
1. Start by considering what's reasonable for you. Few of us can be full-time activists, and the list of issues and problems is long and complex. So, just take one bite, choosing an issue that interests you the most, then start contributing what you can (time, skills, contacts, money, enthusiasm, etc.) to making progress. Every little contribution helps - it all adds up. As a young Oregon woman said of her half-day-a-week of volunteer door-knocking in a legislative race: "I was only a drop in the bucket, but I was a drop. And without all of us, the bucket would not have filled up."
2. Inform yourself. A little effort can quickly connect you to accessible, usable information and insights on any given topic, helping you gain a "citizen's level" of expertise so you can talk to others about it. Read progressive periodicals, tune in to progressive broadcasts, get information from public-interest groups and plug in to good websites and blogs.
Don't know how to go online? Nearly all public libraries not only have computers, but also librarians and volunteers who'll help you find the info you want and teach you how to use the machines.
Or, find a youngster (maybe your granddaughter or someone at church) who'll help you. Yes, you can do this!
3. Democracy belongs to those who show up. Join with others. Everyone feels better when they're part of a group, a movement, a community (whether real or virtual). In your own town or neighborhood, many others share your progressive outlook and are either already working together or willing to help form a group - seek them out, maybe at bookstores, book clubs, coffee shops, events, churches, blogs, websites or other meeting places.
4. A community is more than a collection of issues and endless meetings. Get to know each other by combining the serious with the social. Remember the Yugoslavian proverb: You can fight the gods and still have fun! So discuss your issues and strategies at potluck suppers, throw an annual festival of politics, establish sessions of beer-mug democracy at local taverns or political coffee talk at the coffee shop, etc.
5. Become the media. Create a local newsletter, blog, online bulletin board (or, a real one), an Internet radio broadcast, etc. Just as importantly, enlist high school or community college speech and journalism teachers to help others learn how to do radio and TV interviews and how to get local media to cover your issues. Also, get them to train you and others in public speaking, so you can have your own speakers' bureau to address clubs, churches, schools, etc.
6. Hold your own "what to do" sessions in your community. National progressive groups haven't figured out a cohesive strategy for focusing people's anger about the meekness of the Washington's Democratic leaders, so don't wait on them. Instead, have your own discussions about what should be done nationally - if anything - and start zapping those ideas to other communities, heads of national groups, progressive media outlets and so forth. Let the ideas/discussion percolate up from a thousand localities!
If you're looking for genius, don't look up, look around where you are, and trust you're the wisdom of your own community. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, "Common sense is genius with its work clothes on."
National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Another Lump of Coal

Single-payer rallyImage by Public Citizen via Flickr

Healthcare Bill a Nightmare Before Christmas

by Billy Wharton
Call it the nightmare before Christmas or Santa's lump of healthcare coal. Either title captures the disastrous qualities of the healthcare reform bill passed by Senate on Thursday. After months of media coverage, a summer of wild town hall meetings and all the high-sounding rhetoric one could swallow, a 2,000 page monster has been birthed. Though President Barack Obama hailed the bill's passage by declaring, "This will be the most important piece of social legislation since Social Security passed in the 1930s," it carries few of the universal qualities or public control of the Social Security legislation. For all the political theater associated with the bill, remarkably little in the bigger picture of healthcare in America has changed - private health insurers still run the system, Washington politicians are still gathering in the campaign contributions and millions will still be left without health insurance.
Bad Gets Worse in the Senate
The Senate bill is even weaker than the already comprised piece of legislation passed by the House of Representatives. The number of uninsured capable of gaining insurance will be somewhere around 24 million. With private plans as the alternative, estimates are that more than $450 billion in tax-payer money will be transferred to private insurers in order to allow the uninsured to gain coverage. However, that coverage will be something akin to the lowest form of car insurance - you get by before the eyes of the state, but get into an accident and you will find yourself facing massive debt. Estimates are that the low-coverage plans would only cover 60% of costs. Even worse news comes for the more than 20 million people who will likely remain uninsured. They will now also have to forfeit 2% of their annual income because of it. A nightmarish scenario indeed - uninsured and penalized!
Smaller parts of the bill also promise negative outcomes. Medicare plans are still being trimmed by $43 billion. Democrats claim it is fat-cutting through the elimination of tax-payer subsidies to private insurers. Seniors fear the long-term impact of the cuts will result in reduced services, especially for quality of life issues such as the ability to participate in exercise programs for free. Reproductive rights also took a hit. While the Senate bill moves off the harsh language on abortion proposed by the Stupak amendment in the House bill, it still represents a serious reversal of reproductive rights on a national scale. If a female subscriber wishes to use her healthcare plan to pay for an abortion, she will have to pay into a separate fund connected to plan. Given the unexpectedness of most unwanted pregnancies, this measure practically eliminates the ability to use insurance to obtain an abortion. The Stupak amendment was defeated in
words, but its content seems certain to return in practice.
Finger-pointing Misses the Big Picture
Who is to blame for such a fiasco? Much progressive ink has been spilt in examining the days leading up the Christmas Eve coup. Joe Lieberman has been a particular target, and even Bernie Sanders has taken some grief for removing his single-payer amendment and, ultimately, voting yes on the bill. Yet this focus on the theatrics of the approval misses the larger structural dimensions of how this bill will become law. Sure, Lieberman converted his leverage as a fence-sitting Conservative into a further watering of bill and Sanders left the field without much of a fight, preferring a go-along-to-get-along approach in order to fight another day. Neither of these statements says much about how this bill came to be.
The real story of this bill is rooted in two moments. One came from the campaign trails of 2008, where massive sums of campaign contributions from health insurers and pharmaceutical companies tipped the balance of national and local elections throughout the country. Democrats drank deeply from this revenue stream and proved to be loyal servants to both the insurance industry and the pharmaceutical lobby. The contributions were targeted - committees that would be formulating the healthcare reform bill, such as the House Committee on Ways and Means, received an inordinate amount of funds. No wonder then, that when candidate Barack Obama declared a goal of "universal healthcare coverage," little rebuttal was heard from the normally vocal insurance lobby. The fix was in and it was insured by some $2 million dollars in donations to his campaign.
Just to insure that things went well for the healthcare lobby, an army of lobbyists was mobilized at a critical juncture in May 2009. The lobby spent a reported $2.3 million a day peddling influence. Such a massive expenditure of political and financial resources insured that the perspectives of private insurers were represented at every committee meeting and in the offices of every elected representative. The lobby was also buffered by the efforts of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which successfully exported their free-market notion that "insurance exchanges" could cure the ills of rising healthcare costs. Soon everyone - from Barack Obama to Harry Reid and even Howard Dean in his statement opposing the bill - was parroting this line. This, despite the fact that nearly sixty years of private control, through free-market policies, over healthcare has created a national emergency in the cost and access to care. So much for learning from
Single-Payer: Union Hall or Lobby Day?
There was some resistance to this process as single-payer proponents did their best to fight the good fight. Massively outgunned in the realm of financial resources, they turned to a campaign of civil disobedience that bore witness to the sheer hypocrisy of the proceedings. Democracy was not in motion in the House committees that formulated the bills, and doctors, healthcare activists and victims of private insurers rallied to express their dissent. For their trouble, these activists received stinging rebukes from some of the very same politicians they had championed as friends. Not only Sanders, but Representative John Conyers, the author of the single-payer bill HR 676, voted in favor of the watered-down reform proposal. Both yielded to expediency and provided a useful lesson in how power politics work in Washington, where you are only as good as your next campaign contribution or legislative horse-trade.
In the end, the movement in support of single-payer was too thin - not able to mobilize large numbers or exercise any influence on a political process saturated with corporate funds. Single-payer activists will have to return to running broad educational campaigns with an eye toward developing a movement with solid roots in working communities throughout the country. They may pick up some new allies from a labor movement that recoiled from unfettered support of the Democrats once the terms of the Senate bill were released. Now wonder then that the bill was swiftly forced through - popular support was rapidly dwindling. In the end, a painful lesson may have been learned - only the ungovernability of the people in motion can win single-payer. To accomplish this, the church congregation, the dinner table and the union hall are more potent weapons than cultivating "friends" in the Senate or House.
The Healthcare Scrooges
Like Scrooge before his revelation, the health insurance industry and their Democratic and Republican representatives have one-track minds - money, money, and money. Such a singular pursuit blinds one to the reality of the social suffering that the three ghosts introduced old Scrooge to. A day may come, perhaps even sometime soon, when the millions of sufferers wake up from this nightmare in order to assert the only quality that no socio-economic system can strip them of - their humanity. Then we might not be willing to offer our healthcare Scrooges the chance to reform themselves. It will be right to the political grave for the private insurers and their political lackeys in order to insure that healthcare becomes the birth-right of all the people. What a wonderful Christmas present that would be.
Billy Wharton is the editor of The Socialist and the Socialist WebZine. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Monthly Review Webzine, The Indypendent, and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.]
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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Local Bias Sends Holiday Cheer

ATC "Dear God"Image by angellea via Flickr

There was a man who worked  for the Post Office whose job was to process
all the mail that had illegible  addresses.

One day, a letter came addressed in a shaky handwriting to God  with no
actual address. He thought he should open it to see what it was  about.

The letter read:

Dear God,

I am an 83 year old  widow, living on a very small pension.

Yesterday someone stole my purse.  It had $100 in it, which was all the
money I had until my next pension  payment.

Next Sunday is Christmas, and I had invited two of my friends  over for
dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with, have no  family to
turn to, and you are my only hope. Can you please help  me?

Sincerely, Edna

The postal worker was touched. He showed the  letter to all the other
workers. Each one dug into his or her wallet and came up  with a few dollars.

By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $96,  which they put into
an envelope and sent to the woman.

The rest of  the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of Edna and
the dinner she  would be able to share with her friends.

Christmas came and went.

A few days later, another letter came from the same old lady to God.

All the workers gathered around while the letter was opened.

It  read:

Dear God,

How can I ever thank you enough for what you did  for me?

Because of your gift of love, I was able to fix a glorious  dinner for my
friends. We had a very nice day and I told my friends of your  wonderful gift.

By the way, there was $4 missing.

I think it  might have been those bastards at the post office.

Sincerely,  Edna

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Elevated Blood Sugar a Symptom, Not Cause of Diabetes

Overview of the most significant possible symp...Image via Wikipedia

Diabetes & Obesity: Why Conventional Medicine Makes Things Worse

If you are diabetic, overweight, or suffer from insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, or any of the other conditions conventional medicine associates with "elevated blood sugar," I want to share a startling new discovery with you: Lowering your blood sugar may increase your risk of death.
These are the findings from an extraordinary new study that was recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine, and in this blog, the second in my three-part series on diabesity, I am going to tell you all about that study and its profound implications for the treatment of obesity, diabetes, and other related conditions.
In last week's blog you were introduced to the concept of diabesity, and learned that conventional treatments typically don't work to treat it. Today we'll see WHY those treatments don't work and look at the REAL way to treat the problem. Let's start with one of the most fascinating medical studies published in recent times ...
The ACCORD Study: Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Diabesity
In 2008, an extraordinary study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. It is called the ACCORD study (i), and it is one of the most profound pieces of literature that exists regarding why conventional treatments for diabetes simply do not work.
In the study 10,000 patients with diabetes were designated to receive intensive or regular therapy to lower blood sugar. These patients were monitored and their risks of heart attack, stroke, and death were evaluated. The patients who had their blood sugar lowered the most had a higher risk of death.
Let me repeat that, because I really want you to understand it: The patients who had their blood sugar LOWERED the most had a HIGHER risk of death. How could this happen if, as we believe, elevated blood sugar is the cause of all the evils of diabetes? Why would lowering blood sugar lead to worse outcomes?
Amazingly, the study had to be stopped after three and a half years because it was evident that the aggressive blood sugar lowering led to more deaths and more heart attacks. This completely explodes the way conventional medicine understands and treats diabetes. It's a revolutionary study. Yet for those of us who have been working to understand the REAL causes of diabesity, it isn't all that surprising.
How could LOWERING blood sugar INCREASE your risk of death?
The reason is simple: Elevated blood sugar is actually a symptom of underlying metabolic, physiologic, and biochemical processes that are out of balance ... and lowering blood sugar with medications does not address the underlying issues that gave rise to the high blood sugar in the first place. This may surprise you, but many of the methods used to lower blood sugar such as insulin or oral hypoglycemic drugs actually make the problem worse by increasing insulin levels.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease of too much, not too little, insulin. Insulin is the real driver of problems with diabesity. That means you don't simply need more insulin in your blood to lower your blood sugar. Instead, what you need to do is treat the underlying causes that gave rise to the high blood sugar and insulin in the first place. And that is insulin resistance.
Insulin Resistance: The Real Cause of Diabesity
Insulin resistance occurs when your diet is full of empty calories and has an abundance of quickly absorbed sugars, liquid calories (ii), and carbohydrates (like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes). When this happens, your cells slowly become resistant to the effects of insulin. You need more and more to do the same job of keeping your blood sugar even. Thus you develop insulin resistance.
High insulin levels are the first sign of a problem. The higher your insulin levels are, the worse your insulin resistance. As a result your body starts to age and deteriorate. In fact insulin resistance is the single most important phenomena that leads to rapid and premature aging and all its resultant diseases including heart disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer.(iii),(iv)
As your insulin levels increase it leads to an appetite that is out of control, increasing weight gain around the belly, more inflammation and oxidative stress, and myriad downstream effects including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low HDL, high triglycerides (v), weight gain around the middle, thickening of the blood, and increased rates of cancer, Alzheimer's, and depression. These are all a result of insulin resistance and too much insulin. Elevated blood sugar is not the source of the problem.
Understanding this has a profound impact on the whole way we think about diabesity. It's not simply a matter of shifting our focus from one type of medication to another. This completely alters the fundamental way we understand the disease.
In fact, in some sense, diabesity isn't a "disease" at all. It's simply a continuum that stretches from optimal health to full-blown illness. Let me take a few moments to explain this, because it is essential for you to understand if you want to fully realize the potential of this new paradigm to prevent or reverse diabesity.
The Continuum Concept
Most medicine is based on clear-cut, on-or-off, yes-or-no diagnoses. Most conventional doctors are taught that you have a disease or you don't, you have diabetes or you don't. There are no gray areas. This approach is not only misguided, it is dangerous, because it misses the underlying causes and more subtle manifestations of illness.
Practicing medicine this way completely ignores one of the most fundamental laws of physiology, biology, and disease: The continuum concept. There is a continuum from optimal health to hidden imbalance to serious dysfunction to disease. Anywhere along that continuum, we can intervene and reverse the process. The sooner we address it, the better.
When it comes to diabesity most doctors just follow blood sugar, which actually rises very late in the disease process. Conventional medicine tells us if your blood sugar is 90 or 110, you don't have diabetes; if it is over 126, you do have diabetes. But these distinctions are completely arbitrary, and they do nothing to help treat impending problems.
I remember one patient, Daren, came to see me with mildly elevated blood sugar. I asked Daren if he had seen his doctor about this. He said, "Yes". I then asked "What did your doctor say?" Daren's doctor told him, "We are going to wait and watch until your blood sugar is more elevated, then we are going to treat you with medication for diabetes."
Given our current level of scientific understanding of diabesity, I find this concept of watching and waiting until more serious disease occurs unfortunate, misguided, and in some cases it's deadly.
It is also why diabesity is so woefully and inadequately diagnosed and treated. Millions of Americans are suffering needlessly from chronic symptoms. Nearly half of all diabetics are undiagnosed. Nearly ALL of the 100 million Americans with pre-diabetes are undiagnosed.
Why? Most doctors just don't know how to diagnose it, or what to do about it, because there is no good drug treatment.
The truth is the road to diabetes starts as early as childhood.(vi) We now know that there is an epidemic of type 2 diabetes in children as young as eight years old (vii), and pediatric diabetic specialists who used to only care for type 1 diabetes, now find their offices are overwhelmed with cases of type 2 diabetes.
By the time you get diagnosed with diabetes you have had problems with insulin and blood sugar that could have been detected twenty to thirty years earlier. That is, if you knew where to look, which most doctors are not trained to do.
Insulin resistance and diabesity is often accompanied by:
• Belly fat
• Fatigue after meals
• Sugar cravings
• High triglycerides
• Low HDL
• High blood pressure
• Problems with blood clotting
• Increased inflammation
These clues can often be picked up long before you ever get diabetes and may help you prevent the disease entirely. Why is this important? Because insulin resistance can cause SUBSTANTIAL health risks even in the absence of full blown diabetes.
In part one of this blog series I reviewed some of the common complications of diabetes. But what most people (including most doctors) don't realize is that insulin resistance or pre-diabetes can be just as bad and can lead to nearly ALL of these complications even in the absence of a technical diagnosis of diabetes.
In fact, many people with pre-diabetes never get diabetes, but they are at severe risk just the same. We could eliminate many of the long-term complications of diabesity if we simply addressed these symptoms and diagnosed the problem much earlier in the process--that is to say, much earlier on the continuum.
This leaves us with a couple of questions:
1. What is causing our insulin resistance?
2. How can we address the fundamental underlying problem of our bodies resisting the effects of its own insulin?
It is only by answering these questions and addressing the real causes of diabesity--the factors that are leading to this problem with insulin resistance--that we will effectively treat this terrifying disease.
Any hope we have for resolving this pandemic must use a new approach to the diagnosis and treatment of diabesity. That approach is called Functional medicine. And I am going to explain what it is and how you can use it to help you heal from diabesity in the next blog in this series.
By applying this new form of medicine to your health problems you may overcome diabesity and become vibrantly health once again.
Now I'd like to hear from you ...
Are you taking insulin and if so, how has it helped, or not, with your diabesity?
What do you think about conventional medical approaches to treating this problem?
What do you think about the continuum concept? Has your experience with diabesity reflected this continuum?
Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, MD
(i) Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes Study Group, Gerstein HC, Miller ME, Byington RP, Goff DC Jr, Bigger JT, Buse JB, Cushman WC, Genuth S, Ismail-Beigi F, Grimm RH Jr, Probstfield JL, Simons-Morton DG, Friedewald WT. Effects of intensive glucose lowering in type 2 diabetes. N Engl J Med. 2008 Jun 12;358(24):2545-59.
(ii) Chen L, Appel LJ, Loria C, Lin PH, Champagne CM, Elmer PJ, Ard JD, Mitchell D, Batch BC, Svetkey LP, Caballero B. Reduction in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with weight loss: the PREMIER trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1299-306.
(iii) Bhashyam S, Parikh P, Bolukoglu H, Shannon AH, Porter JH, Shen YT, Shannon RP. Aging is associated with myocardial insulin resistance and mitochondrial dysfunction. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2007 Nov;293(5):H3063-71.
(iv) Ryan AS. Insulin resistance with aging: effects of diet and exercise. Sports Med. 2000 Nov;30(5):327-46. Review.
(v) Gaziano JM, Hennekens CH, O'Donnell CJ, Breslow JL, Buring JE. Fasting triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, and risk of myocardial infarction. Circulation. 1997 Oct 21;96(8):2520-5.
(vi) Nelson RA, Bremer AA. Insulin Resistance and Metabolic Syndrome in the Pediatric Population. Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2009 Nov 29.
(vii) Silverstein JH, Rosenbloom AL. Type 2 diabetes in children. Curr Diab Rep. 2001 Aug;1(1):19-27. Review.
Mark Hyman, M.D. practicing physician and founder of The UltraWellness Center is a pioneer in functional medicine. Dr. Hyman is now sharing the 7 ways to tap into your body's natural ability to heal itself. You can follow him on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, watch his videos on Youtube and become a fan on Facebook.
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Obama Blistered

Now I’m Really Getting Pissed Off

by David Michael Green
Hey did you hear about the iconic African-American guy who plays golf, and whose relationship with the public is in a free-fall lately?
No, as a matter of fact - I'm not talking about Tiger Woods.
You know, I've really been trying not to write an article every other week about all the things I don't like about Barack Obama.
But the little prick is making it very hard.
Like any good progressive, I've gone from admiration to hope to disappointment to anger when it comes to this president. Now I'm fast getting to rage.
How much rage? I find myself thinking that the thing I want most from the 2010 elections is for his party to get absolutely clobbered, even if that means a repeat of 1994. And that what I most want from 2012 is for him to be utterly humiliated, even if that means President Palin at the helm. That much rage.
Did this clown really say on national television that "I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of you know, fat cat bankers on Wall Street"?!?!
Really, Barack? So, like, my question is: Then why the hell did you help out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street?!?! Why the hell did you surround yourself with nothing but Robert Rubin proteges in all the key economic positions in your government? Why did you allow them to open a Washington branch of Goldman Sachs in the West Wing? Why have your policies been tailored to helping Wall Street bankers, rather than the other 300 million of us, who just happen to be suffering badly right now?
Are you freakin' kidding me??? What's up with the passive president routine, anyhow, Fool? You hold the most powerful position in the world. Or maybe Rahm forgot to mention that to you. Or maybe the fat cat bankers don't actually let do that whole decision-making thing often enough that it would actually matter...
But, really, are you going to spend the next three interminable years perfecting your whiney victim persona? I don't really think I could bear that. Hearing you complain about how rough it all is, when you have vastly more power than any of us to fix it? Please. Not that.
Are you going to tell us that "I did not run for office to be shovel-feeding the military-industrial complex"? But what - they're just so darned pushy?
"...I did not run for office to continue George Bush's valiant effort at shredding the Bill of Rights. It's just that those government-limiting rules are so darned pesky."
"...I did not run for office to dump a ton of taxpayer money into the coffers of health insurance companies. It's just that they asked so nicely."
"...I did not run for office to block equality for gay Americans. I just never got around to doing anything about it."
"...I did not run for office to turn Afghanistan into Vietnam. I just didn't want to say no to all the nice generals asking for more troops."
Here's a guy who was supposed to actually do something with his presidency, and he's turned into the skinny little geek on Cell Block D who gets passed around like a rag doll for the pleasure of all the fellas with the tattoos there. He's being punked by John Boehner, for chrisakes. He's being rolled by the likes of Joe Lieberman. He calls a come-to-Jesus meeting with Wall Street bank CEOs, and half of them literally phone it in. Everyone from Bibi Netanyahu to the Japanese prime minister to sundry Iranian mullahs is stomping all over Mr. Happy.
And he doesn't even seem to realize it.
Did you see him tell Oprah that he gave himself "a good solid B+" for his first year in office? And that it will be an A, if he gets his healthcare legislation passed?
Somebody please pick me up and set me back on my chair, wouldya?
I am seriously beginning to worry that this cat is delusional. He has lopped off twenty full points from his job approval rating in less than a year's time, falling now below fifty percent. His party, once dominant in generic congressional election poll questions, is today almost even with hated Republicans in the public mind. Last month, Obama's inverted coattails (don't even ask where those go) got two Democrats clobbered running for governor in New Jersey and Virginia. The otherwise obnoxious George F. Will (very) rightly points out that in Kentucky, "a Republican candidate succeeded in nationalizing a state Senate race. Hugely outspent in a district in which Democrats have a lopsided registration advantage, the Republican won by 12 points a seat in Frankfort by running against Washington". Wow. Obama is now wrecking state senate races! What's next? Will local Republican candidates for sheriff win office just by opposing the embarrassment in the White House who chooses abysmal policies and then refuses to fight for them, lest he should ruffle any feathers?
"For Democrats, the red flags are flying at full mast," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart in a recent AP article. "What we don't know for certain is: Have we reached a bottoming-out point?"
Au contraire, Peter. Au contraire. I think anyone more sentient than a newborn amoeba can answer that question. The first thing to note is that the economy is not coming back anytime soon, if it comes back at all. Unless, of course, you're a fat cat Wall Street banker. Then you're just fine, because the Bush-Obama administration took care of you quite nicely, thanks very much. The rest of us poor slobs out here in real-world land, on the other hand, got a "jobs summit".
I can't even begin to describe how insulting Obama conducting a "jobs summit" is to me, or what an unbelievably ham-fisted piece of public relations that was for the White House, which is increasingly showing itself not just to be sickeningly regressive, but also fully inept. I think I speak for a whole lot of Americans when I say that, one year into his stewardship over a destroyed economy that was actually atomizing for at least six months before inauguration day, I don't want my president sitting around a table, running a dog-and-pony show, pretending to kick around ideas on how to generate jobs. I wanted him to have those ideas, himself, before he was inaugurated. I wanted those to be real ideas, that produce real jobs for real Americans who are really hurting. I wanted that to be, and still be, the be-all and end-all of his presidency, not some distant fourth-place priority, behind healthcare and the White House dog selection process. And, especially not some fourth-place priority behind jive healthcare reform.
Which brings us to the second answer to Mr. Hart's question. If Democrats think they'll be screwed next November because of unemployment, wait till Congress passes this healthcare monstrosity. Or doesn't. At this point, either way they're gonna get slammed for it, and rightly so.
If they don't pass anything, they will be seen as unable to govern. This perception will be quite true because they will have failed to pass a major piece of legislation, despite having 60-40 majorities in both houses of Congress and control of the presidency. It doesn't get much better than that for a governing party in the American system. But it will be true in an even more profound sense, because the whole priority structure of the Democratic agenda is wrong. Sure, people want healthcare reform right now (especially if it were to miraculously also have the virtue of being authentic healthcare reform), but what they really want, overwhelmingly, is jobs. This choice of priorities is the equivalent of, say, invading Iraq when you've been attacked by people in Afghanistan. Surely no president would be that stupid, right? Surely any political party would realize the costs of having priorities so divorced from those of the voters, right?
On the other hand, the Democrats and their hapless president are probably in worse shape if they actually pass this legislation. Especially now that it's been stripped of nearly every real progressive reform imaginable, it has become an incredibly stupid bill, from the political perspective. It will force people who can't afford it to spend a giant amount of money on lousy insurance, without any real choice to hold down costs, and it will fund this by hacking away at the Medicare budget. No wonder an insurance industry lobbyist broadcast an email last week declaring: "We WIN. Administered by private insurance companies. No government funding. No government insurance competitor."
But here's a little riddle that any sixth-grader can easily figure out, although it seems to have eluded the brain trust at the White House: If insurance companies are winning big-time, then who is doing the losing? Something tells me that if Democrats are dumb enough to pass their own legislation, voters will provide them the answer to that puzzle in November of 2010, and then again two years later. What could be stupider than saddling thirty-five million Americans with a new monthly bill that will probably represent the second or third biggest item in their budget, in exchange for crappy private sector health insurance that is unlikely to pay out when needed, and wastes a third of the dollars paid in premiums on bureaucracy and profits anyhow? Slapping big fines on them if they don't pony up for the insurance, perhaps? Yep, that's in there too.
This bill alone could mobilize legions of people to go to the polls and vote for whichever party didn't do it, and I'm pretty sure the GOP won't be shy about reminding Americans who that is. I mean, if Democrats were searching for legislation less likely to win them votes, why didn't they just bring back slavery or the debtor's prison? Why not come out for pedophilia? It would have been so much more efficient. At least they wouldn't have spent the last year looking like idiotic bunglers who, in addition to sponsoring really unpopular ideas, also inadvertently left their testicles at the coat check and have spent the last thirty years trying to find their way back to the gala.
Ah, but wait! If you order now, there's more!
As I understand it, the bill doesn't even actually force insurance companies to cover people, at least in the sense that they can charge prohibitive amounts to those with whatever they define as pre-existing conditions. You know, like the young woman who had a policy but died when she was denied cancer treatment because she had a bad case of acne as a teenager.
This will be a total train wreck for the Democratic Party. Already, the public opposes the plan by a ratio of 47 to 32 percent. And they haven't even been handed the bill for it yet. And they haven't even had their premiums skyrocket yet. And they haven't even seen insurance corporation executives buy small countries for use as second homes with the increased compensation they will be floating in. And they haven't even found out what this does to their Medicare yet. And they haven't even seen the impact on the national debt yet. And they haven't even realized that the ‘good' parts of the bill don't go into effect until FOUR YEARS from now.
You know, elite Republicans may be sociopaths, and they may be lower on the moral totem pole than your basic cannibal, but they're not stupid. I bet they're salivating at the idea that this thing passes. I bet they'd even have Olympia Snowe vote for it if necessary, just to put it over the top. They must be laughing their asses off at this gift. All they have to do is oppose it right down the line, then say "Told ya so!" at the next election, squashing the pathetic Demognats, one after the next. Hey, even if worse comes to worse and the thing eventually becomes popular, they can always wait a decade or two and become champions of the new publically beloved healthcare system - just like they did for Medicare, Social Security, civil rights, etc.
This is President Nothingburger's great gift to America, along with doing nothing about jobs, doing nothing about the Middle East, nothing about civil liberties, nothing about civil rights, and now doing nothing at Copenhagen. Regarding the latter, the world is literally on fire, and he jets in, gives a speech haranguing the delegates that "Now is not the time for talk, now is the time for action", then splits even before the vote in order to beat the snowstorm headed to the east coast that might delay him getting home to his comfy bed. I'm not kidding. You can't make this shit up, man.
This guy is killing me, though at the same time I still can't quite figure him out.
Here's what I get: This president is a corporate hack. Like Bush or Clinton, he has constituents, alright - but you and I are not on that particular list.
Here's what I don't get: He is radically tanking, at a moment when people no longer have patience for those kind of politics anymore.
Here's what I get: This president has his fingers in many pies, as he needs to, ranging from global warming to economic implosion to two wars abroad to massive federal debt.
Here's what I don't get: Why does he bother to do these things in a way that pleases no one, and only dramatically undercuts his own political standing? Why does he refuse to make anyone his enemy, thus making everyone his enemy?
Is he just massively deluded? I wouldn't have thought so, but watching the guy give himself a very good grade for 2009 - straight face and all - during the same year he's lost twenty points off his job approval rating, and at a moment when even blacks and gays are deserting him, you know, you have to wonder.
Is he happy just to be a one-term president - just to say he's been there and done that, and then sell some more books - even if he is reviled as one of the worst in history?
Maybe. But what about the rest of us?
The rest of us, indeed. It's been quite some time since anyone in the White House ever cared about that sorry pack of rabble.
Obama looked like he could've been something different. He ain't.
So this is it, folks.
Change you can believe in?
More like bullshit you can take a bath in, if you ask me.

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Senate Fails at Reforming Health Care

'Party of No' Blocks Debate on Bernie Sanders' Real Reform

by John Nichols
The Senate almost debated health care reform this seek. No, not the tepid tinkering proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, in the compromised for demanded by Senator Joe Lieberman, I-Insurance Industry. We're talking real reform.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has always understood that the real reform involves a lot more than enriching insurance companies with massive new infusions of federal money.
The real reform takes the insurance companies out of the equation and replaces them with a single-payer Medicare-for-All system that provides care to all Americans and cuts costs by eliminating corporate profiteering.
The Medicare-for-All reform has always been the right fix. Barack Obama, as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2003, said as much.
"I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program," he told a crowd of union activists. "I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that's what (reformers are) talking about when (they say) everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that's what I'd like to see."
Obama was right six years ago. Unfortunately, he has opted for compromise and the result is the unfocused, lobbyist-driven, spin-defined debate over so-called "reform."
Sanders has kept to the real reform path and, on Wednesday, he was supposed to get a vote on a proposal to amend the Senate health-care reform bill to replace all the compromises with a single-payer plan that would provide health care and dental coverage for every American, save money, and improve health care results.
"In my view, the single-payer approach is the only way we will ever have a cost-effective, comprehensive health care system in this country," explained the independent senator from Vermont. "One of the reasons our current health care system is so expensive, so wasteful, so bureaucratic, so inefficient is that it is heavily dominated by private health insurance companies whose only goal in life is to make as much money as they can."
Like many of the amendments proposed by Democratic and Republican senators during the current wrangling over health-care reform, the Sanders amendment was not going to pass. But the prospect of the debate on it offered a rare opportunity for the Senate to engage in real debate about what needs to be done to provide care for all and eliminating unnecessary costs.
The Sanders amendment offered senators a chance to get serious about the fiscal responsibility they are so very inclined to discuss but so very disinclined to embrace.
As Sanders and his aides explained in their argument for the amendment: "The 1,300 profit-making private insurance companies administer thousands of separate plans and waste about $400 billion a year on administrative costs, profiteering, high CEO compensation packages, and advertising. Health care providers spend another $210 billion on administrative costs, mostly to deal with insurance paperwork. As a result, the United States spends $7,129 per person on health care, almost double the amount spent by nearly any other industrialized country. Nevertheless, 46 million Americans lack health insurance, 100 million Americans cannot access dental care, and 60 million Americans do not have access to primary care."
Compare that $7,129 per person figure for the U.S. with per capita health spending figures for countries with genuine national health care plans, such as Canada's $3,895 and Austria's $3,763 on health care costs. Both of these countries provide fuller care for people who live longer and healthier lives than do Americans.
Those are the facts, and those facts terrify "Party of No" Republicans and the many Democrats who imagine that they represent the insurance industry rather than constituents who need more care at less cost.
How terrifying?
Rather than allow the Sanders amendment to be debated as every other proposal to improve a fundamentally flawed Senate proposal, Republican senators engaged in extreme obstructionist tactics to block consideration of the amendment. Rejecting Senate tradition and standard practice during the current debate, several conservatives demanded that the clerk of the Senate read every word of the 767-page amendment Sanders proposed.
Recognizing that the move would stall action not just on health care reform but on a host of economic issues that are critical to unemployed Americans, Sanders had no choice but to pull the amendment off the floor. But he was not happy about what happened.
"The fact that 17 percent of our people are unemployed or underemployed, one out of four of our children are living on food stamps, we've got two wars, we've got global warming, we have a $12 trillion national debt, and the best the Republicans can do is try to bring the United States government to a half by forcing a reading of a 700 page amendment. That is an outrage," Sanders said. "People can have honest disagreements, but in this moment of crisis it is wrong to bring the United States government to a halt."
Opponents of real reform made the sad and frustrating spectacle that is the current debate all the more sad and frustrating.
But Sanders still has history on his side.
"At the end of the day -- not this year, not next year, but sometime in the future -- this country will come to understand that if we are going to provide comprehensive quality care to all of our people, the only way we will do that is through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system," the senator says.
That is the truth, uttered by an honest reformer, in the midst of a debate on which Americans will one day look back in anger. Real reform is not coming this year or next. But it will, it must, come. And when it does, it should be remembered that Bernie Sanders tried to get the Senate to do the right thing.
John Nichols is Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor of The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin. A co-founder of the media reform organization Free Press, Nichols is is co-author with Robert W. McChesney of Tragedy & Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy - from The New Press. Nichols' latest book is The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders' Cure for Royalism.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mass Biomass Study a Sham?

Subject: CRUCIAL MEETING 12-17-09,HOLYOKE 6:30 PM


Thursday 12/17/09, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 245 Whiting Road in Holyoke
    From Route 91 North:
Take the Ingleside Mall Exit 15. Take a right off the exit heading towards the mall. Turn left at the first set of lights (gas station on the left). Take second driveway into Holiday Inn parking lot.
    From Route 91 South:
Take the Ingleside Mall Exit 15. Take a left off the exit heading towards the mall. Turn left at the first set of lights (gas station on the left). Take second driveway into Holiday Inn parking lot.

TALKING POINTS (from Chris Matera of Mass Forest Watch))

The “sustainability” study is unfortunately just a political move to lull the public into thinking the State is doing something to slow down biomass proposals.  Its scope and players are openly biased in favor of, and have vested interests in, wood fueled biomass burning.  Also, if the State was sincere, it would stop permitting the wood burning biomass plants and would choose an objective body.

1.  The study has been framed as “how much” to “sustainably” burn rather than examining the wisdom of increased cutting and burning forests. 

2.  We already know that increasing logging and burning will negatively affect the forest, air quality, and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, so we do not need to spend $100,000 taxpayer dollars studying this matter.

3.  The State is still handing out permits while the “sustainability” study is in process

4.  The study is being performed by folks with a vested interests in biomass burning and logging and questionable objectivity, see some of this background info below:


A.  All three consultants to the Manomet study, The Pinchot Institute (; , the Forest Guild (; and the Biomass Energy Resource Center  (; ) and are proponents of wood burning biomass energy plants.   

B.  Roger Milliken Jr. who chairs the advisory board of the Manomet Forest Conservation Program is the CEO of a commercial timber company with 100,000 acres of Maine timberlands (; ) and is the former chairman of the Maine Forest Products Council, the principle lobbying group for the timber industry in Maine . 

C.  Manomet's president, John Hagan, has written about the need for environmentalists to stop trying to "save the environment" and instead focus on "sustaining human well-being.";

D.  Tom Walker, who is the co-leader for the Manomet biomass study, and who has played a central role in drafting up the “forest futures vision” plan for the future management of our public forests, was a participant in the following pro-biomass “roundtable” on December 4;

Our first panel, Sustainable Forestry/Biomass and Energy in New England, explores how we can sustainably manage our forests while ramping up woody biomass production  and harvesting for electricity generation, wood heat, and potentially even liquid fuels.  With RGGI, state renewable portfolio standards, and eleven northeast states now considering a low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) for both transportation and heating fuels,  now is the time to determine the role our forests will play in satisfying important energy and environmental goals.


David Cash , Assistant Secretary at MA EOEEA, will kick off the conversation.  A representative of NESCAUM will then explain the contemplated LCFS concept and discuss the modeling work done to date on woody biomass.  Tom Walker, a natural resource economist, will describe the study that his consulting team will be conducting for the Commonwealth on this topic .  Jasen Stock of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association, will discuss how New Hampshire manages its forests while aggressively pursuing wood energy projects.   Finally, a representative from Maine's Forest Service has been invited to discuss how the state of Maine is approaching these issues.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Homeopathy Explained

Click here to find out more!
Dana Ullman

Dana Ullman

Posted: December 12, 2009 09:30 AM

How Homeopathic Medicines Work: Nanopharmacology At Its Best

It is commonly assumed that homeopathic medicines are composed of extremely small doses of medicinal substances. And yet, does anyone refer to an atomic bomb as an extremely small dose of a bomb? In actual fact, there is a power, a very real power, in having atoms smash against each other.
Homeopathic medicines are made through a specific pharmacological process of dilution and vigorous shaking. However, when skeptics say that there is nothing but water in homeopathic medicine, they are proving their ignorance, despite the incredible arrogance in which they make these assertions. Dr. Martin Chaplin, a respected British professor who is one of the world's experts on water, has verified that "homeopathic water" and "regular water" are not the same, and his review of almost 2,000 references to the scientific literature on water (!) confirm this fact (Chaplin, 2009).
It should be noted that a large number of homeopathic medicines sold in health food stores and pharmacies are made in doses with known physiological doses. In fact, there are several thousand (!) studies in conventional scientific journals showing a wide variety of biological effects from extremely small doses of various substances on specific systems.
Homeopathic medicines can and should be considered to be a type of "nanopharmacology" (Ullman, 2006). Although the word "nano" also means one-billionth of a size, that is not its only definition. In fact, "nano" derives from the word "dwarf," and "nano" is the only word in the English language that is used on common parlance as denoting extremely small AND yet extremely powerful. Homeopathic medicines are both extremely small in dose and yet extremely powerful in their therapeutic effect.
For 200 years now, millions of physicians and hundreds of millions of homeopathic patients have observed and experienced the power and effectiveness of homeopathic medicines

The Power of Nano-doses
Precisely how homeopathic medicines work remains a mystery, and yet, nature is replete with mysteries and with numerous striking examples of the power of extremely small doses.
For instance, it is commonly known that a certain species of moth can smell pheromones of its own species up to two miles away. It is no simple coincidence that species only sense pheromones from those in the same species who emit them (akin to the homeopathic principle of similars), as though they have developed exquisite and specific receptor sites for what they need to propagate their species. Likewise, sharks are known to sense blood in the water at distances, and when one considers the volume of water in the ocean, it becomes obvious that sharks, like all living creatures, develop extreme hypersensitivity for whatever will help ensure their survival.
That living organisms have some truly remarkable sensitivities is no controversy. The challenging question that remains is: How does the medicine become imprinted into the water and how does the homeopathic process of dilution with succussion increase the medicine's power? Although we do not know precisely the answer to this question, some new research may help point the way.
The newest and most intriguing way to explain how homeopathic medicines may work derives from some sophisticated modern technology. Scientists at several universities and hospitals in France and Belgium have discovered that the vigorous shaking of the water in glass bottles causes extremely small amounts of silica fragments or chips to fall into the water (Demangeat, et al., 2004). Perhaps these silica chips may help to store the information in the water, with each medicine that is initially placed in the water creating its own pharmacological effect. In any case, each medicinal substance will interact with the silica fragments in its own idiosyncratic way, thereby changing the nature and structure of water accordingly.
Further, the micro-bubbles and the nano-bubbles that are caused by the shaking may burst and thereby produce microenvironments of higher temperature and pressure. Several studies by chemists and physicists have revealed increased release of heat from water in which homeopathic medicines are prepared, even when the repeated process of dilutions should suggest that there are no molecules remaining of the original medicinal substance (Elia and Niccoli, 1999; Elia, et al., 2004; Rey, 2003).

Also, a group of highly respected scientists have confirmed that the vigorous shaking involved with making homeopathic medicines changes the pressure in the water, akin to water being at 10,000 feet in altitude (Roy, et al., 2005). These scientists have shown how the homeopathic process of using double-distilled water and then diluting and shaking the medicine in a sequential fashion changes the structure of water.
One metaphor that may help us understand how and why extremely small doses of medicinal agents may work derives from present knowledge of modern submarine radio communications. Normal radio waves simply do not penetrate water, so submarines must use an extremely low-frequency radio wave. The radio waves used by submarines to penetrate water are so low that a single wavelength is typically several miles long!
If one considers that the human body is 70-80 percent water, perhaps the best way to provide pharmacological information to the body and into intercellular fluids is with nanodoses. Like the extremely low-frequency radio waves, it may be necessary to use extremely low (and activated) doses for a person to receive the medicinal effect.
It is important to understand that nanopharmacological doses will not have any effect unless the person is hypersensitive to the specific medicinal substance. Hypersensitivity is created when there is some type of resonance between the medicine and the person. Because the system of homeopathy bases its selection of the medicine on its ability to cause in overdose the similar symptoms that the sick person is experiencing, homeopathy's principle of similars is simply a practical method of finding the substance to which a person is hypersensitive.
The homeopathic principle of similars makes further sense when one considers that modern physiologists and pathologists recognize that disease is not simply the result of breakdown or surrender of the body but that symptoms are instead representative of the body's efforts to fight infection or adapt to stress.
Using a nanodose that is able to penetrate deeply into the body and that is specifically chosen for its ability to mimic the symptoms helps to initiate a profound healing process. It is also important to highlight the fact that a homeopathic medicine is not simply chosen for its ability to cause a similar disease but for its ability to cause a similar syndrome of symptoms of disease, of which the specific localized disease is a part. By understanding that the human body is a complex organism that creates a wide variety of physical and psychological symptoms, homeopaths acknowledge biological complexity and have a system of treatment to address it effectively.
Although no one knows precisely how homeopathic medicines initiate the healing process, we have more than 200 years of evidence from hundreds of thousands of clinicians and tens of millions of patients that these medicines have powerful effects. One cannot help but anticipate the veritable treasure trove of knowledge that further research in homeopathy and nanopharmacology will bring.

Nobel Prize-winning Scientist on Homeopathy...
Brian Josephson, Ph.D., (1940-) is a British physicist who won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1973 for work he completed when he was only 22 years old. He is currently a professor at the University of Cambridge where he is the head of the mind-matter unification project in the Theory of Condensed Matter research group.
Responding to an article in the New Scientist (October 18, 1997) that expressed skepticism about homeopathy, Josephson wrote:

Regarding your comments on claims made for homeopathy: criticisms centered around the vanishingly small number of solute molecules present in a solution after it has been repeatedly diluted are beside the point, since advocates of homeopathic remedies attribute their effects not to molecules present in the water, but to modifications of the water's structure. Simple-minded analysis may suggest that water, being a fluid, cannot have a structure of the kind that such a picture would demand. But cases such as that of liquid crystals, which while flowing like an ordinary fluid can maintain an ordered structure over macroscopic distances, show the limitations of such ways of thinking. There have not, to the best of my knowledge, been any refutations of homeopathy that remain valid after this particular point is taken into account.
A related topic is the phenomenon, claimed by Jacques Benveniste's colleague Yolène Thomas and by others to be well established experimentally, known as "memory of water". If valid, this would be of greater significance than homeopathy itself, and it attests to the limited vision of the modern scientific community that, far from hastening to test such claims, the only response has been to dismiss them out of hand. (Josephson, 1997)
Later, when Josephson was interviewed by the New Scientist (December 9, 2006), he chose to emphasize that many scientists today suffer from "pathological disbelief"; that is, they maintain an unscientific attitude that is embodied by the statement "even if it were true I wouldn't believe it." Sadly, such scientists are simply showing evidence of an unscientific attitude.
Quantum Medicine
Quantum physics does not disprove Newtonian physics; quantum physics simply extends our understanding of extremely small and extremely large systems. Likewise, homeopathy does not disprove conventional pharmacology; instead, it extends our understanding of extremely small doses of medicinal agents. It is time that physicians and scientists began incorporating both Newtonian and quantum physics into a better understanding of what healing is and how to best augment it.
The founder of homeopathic medicine, Samuel Hahnemann, MD, rewrote and updated his seminal work on the subject five times in his lifetime, each time refining his observations. Homeopaths continue to refine this system of nanopharmacology. While there is not always agreement on the best ways to select the correct remedy or the best nanopharmacological dose to use, the system of homeopathic medicine provides a solid foundation from which clinicians and researchers exploring nanopharmacologies can and should explore.

Dana Ullman, MPH, is America's leading spokesperson for homeopathy and is the founder of He is the author of 10 books, including his bestseller, Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. His most recent book is, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. Dana lives, practices, and writes from Berkeley, California.
Chaplin, Martin. 2009 (updated regularly)
Demangeat, J.-L., Gries, P., Poitevin, B., Droesbeke J.-J., Zahaf, T., Maton, F., Pierart, C., and Muller, R. N. Low-Field NMR Water Proton Longitudinal Relaxation in Ultrahighly Diluted Aqueous Solutions of Silica-Lactose Prepared in Glass Material for Pharmaceutical Use, Applied Magnetic Resonance, 2004, 26:465-481.
Elia, V. and Niccoli, M. Thermodynamics of Extremely Diluted Aqueous Solutions, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1999, 879:241-248.
Elia, V., Baiano, S., Duro, I., Napoli, E., Niccoli, M., and Nonatelli, L. Permanent Physio-chemical Properties of Extremely Diluted Aqueous Solutions of Homeopathic Medicines, Homeopathy, 2004, 93:144-150.
Josephson, B. D., Letter, New Scientist, November 1, 1997.
Rey, L. Thermoluminescence of Ultra-High Dilutions of Lithium Chloride and Sodium Chloride. Physica A, 2003, 323:67-74.
Roy, R., Tiller, W. A., Bell, I., and Hoover, M. R. The Structure of Liquid Water: Novel Insights from Materials Research; Potential Relevance to Homeopathy, Materials Research Innovations, December 2005, 9(4):577-608..
Ullman, Dana. "Let's have a serious discussion of nanopharmacology and homeopathy". FASEB. 2006;20:2661.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Flaw in the Ointment. Medicare Buy-In a Bust

CONTACT: Physicians for a National Health Program
Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H.
Mark Almberg, Physicians for a National Health Program, (312) 782-6006,

‘Medicare Buy-In’ Is Really a Subsidy to Private Insurers: Harvard Professor

WASHINGTON - December 11 - The Senate proposal to allow uninsured people over age 55 an opportunity to buy into Medicare constitutes yet another government subsidy to the private health insurance industry, a leading health policy analyst and single-payer advocate says.
Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told a radio host Wednesday morning, “One of the better provisions of the reform legislation was that it prohibited charging older people more than twice (or thrice in the some versions) as much as you charge younger people in the individual market. But by saying everyone over 55 in the individual market can be picked up by Medicare, you’ve really let the insurance industry off the hook.”
Woolhandler continued: “That is, the highest-cost patients in the individual market will be taken off their hands and paid for by the taxpayers; and private insurance will remain the only option for people under the age of 55 and for anyone who gets their insurance through their employer. Another way of saying that is: if you now have private health insurance and you don’t like it, you’re forced to keep it.
“The buy-in to Medicare is only for those 55 to 64 and it’s only for people who are not offered private health insurance through an employer. So it turns into just a subsidy to private health insurance: the taxpayers will pay for the high-cost patients and the health insurance industry can take the lower-cost patients.”
Woolhandler, who also practices primary care at Cambridge Hospital in Massachusetts, is a prominent advocate for single-payer national health insurance, sometimes called an expanded and improved Medicare for All. She says research has demonstrated that replacing today’s multi-payer system, with its wasteful paperwork and bureaucracy, with a streamlined single-payer system would save about $400 billion annually, enough to assure everyone comprehensive, quality care.
“I want to remind people that at its core, this bill takes $450 billion in new taxes from the taxpayers, and hands it over to the private health insurance as subsidies. So, the core of the bill is a financial strengthening of the private health insurance industry. Now, one of the small things that was good about the plan, that is, forcing the insurance industry to lower the prices for older enrollees, has been taken out of the bill, essentially.”
Woolhandler also said the proposal for an exchange of private, nonprofit insurance plans for those under 55 will be of little benefit, noting, “It’s similar to the menu that is offered to federal workers, but of course federal workers actually get money to buy the health insurance. They don’t just get the menu, they get the money.”
A full audio recording of the interview, conducted by an affiliate of KPFK Pacifica radio in Los Angeles, is available here.
Woolhandler is also co-author of several studies published in prominent medical journals this year, including one showing 62 percent of personal bankruptcies are linked to medical bills or illness and another showing that nearly 45,000 excess deaths annually are attributable to lack of health insurance.
Dr. Woolhandler and other leaders of Physicians for a National Health Program are available for interview on the most recent developments in the emerging health reform legislation.
Physicians for a National Health Program is a single issue organization advocating a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program. PNHP has more than 15,000 members and chapters across the United States.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Voices of a Peoples's History of the United States

'Great Man' Theory? History Is Driven by the Little Guy

by Viggo Mortensen
Actors have the privilege of exploring fictional characters, to see the world from the perspective of another person's imagined life. Sometimes, usually less often, we have the opportunity to speak the words of historical figures, to say the words they themselves spoke. This presents a different kind of challenge, in many ways, something I have been thinking about personally since becoming involved with a performance project and now documentary film called The People Speak, which is airing on History Channel, Sunday, December 13, at 8 pm (7 pm Central). (A soundtrack of music from the film is available from the Verve label December 9.)
The project is inspired by Howard Zinn's books A People's History of the United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History of the United States, two books that have had a deep influence on how I understand this country. Howard's books provide a history of the United States from below, from the standpoint of ordinary people often overlooked in our textbooks and in our culture.
In 2005, I had the chance to be part of reading in Los Angeles with a remarkable lineup of actors, including Sandra Oh and Josh Brolin, which we called Voices of a People's History of the United States. The enthusiastic reaction of the audience to hearing the words of people in our country's history who have spoken out, fought injustice, and made a change, demonstrated how empowering it can be for people to reclaim this history and to make it their own. And how enlightening it is to shine the light of history on the issues and concerns of the present.
The success of these performances throughout the country -- some in high schools and some in theaters, some with professional actors and musicians, some with high school students -- led a few of us to think that we should make a film that could highlight and preserve these stories. The stories of people like Plough Jogger, a farmer in Shay's Rebellion, who asserted "We've come to relieve the distresses of the people."
Or an anonymous member of the Industrial Workers of the World who was arrested for denouncing World War One, saying, "This war is a businessman's war and we don't see why we should go out and get shot in order to save the lovely state of affairs which we now enjoy."
Or Orlando and Phyllis Rodriguez, who lost their son on 9/11, and issued this heartfelt statement a few days after: "Our son died a victim of an inhuman ideology. Our actions should not serve the same purpose. Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray. Let us think about a rational response that brings real peace and justice to our world. But let us not as a nation add to the inhumanity of our times."
What we have found in making this film over the past two years is that people respond to these voices is profoundly personal and emotional ways. They take inspiration from seeing how people struggled in the past, often against far greater odds than we face today, to make their voices heard and to right historic wrongs. They find insight from these expressions of the past into how they feel and live in the present. And they also find hope for a different future.
As Howard Zinn has often pointed out, history told from above -- from the standpoint of generals and kings and presidents -- encourages passivity, a sense of helplessness. In this version of history, "great men" make history, not ordinary people. But looked at from below, history has another lesson. Whenever change as happened, it has been through protest, dissent, struggle, social movements, ordinary people picketing, striking, boycotting, sitting down, sitting in. All this mans that we make history, history is effected by our everyday decisions. And we have a responsibility to speak out when we see injustice. We can't wait on others to "lead" us or solve our problems for us. We have to participate, to engage, every day and not just once every four years.
Howard Zinn's work also reminds us that we always need to ask: what stories am I not hearing? Whose voices am I not hearing? And that if no one is telling our stories, we need to find ways -- creative, dynamic -- ways of telling them ourselves.
Viggo Mortensen in an acclaimed actor who will appear in John Hillcoat's The Road, the highly anticipated film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's best selling novel.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Costs of Nuclear Power Prohibitive

Published on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 by The Herald News (Mass.)

Nuclear Power: Too Expensive, Too Risky

by John LaForge
Lofty claims about the benefits of nuclear power are coming from the Nuclear Energy Institute and others.

Meanwhile, news, financial and energy journals make clear that boiling water with uranium is the costliest and dirtiest energy choice. Even Time magazine reported Dec. 31, 2008, “It turns out that new (reactors) would be not just extremely expensive but spectacularly expensive.”

Florida Power and Light’s recent estimate for a 2-reactor system is a shocking $12 to $18 billion. The Wall St. Journal reported on nuclear’s prospects May 12, 2008 finding, “[T]he projected cost is causing some sticker shock ... double to quadruple earlier rough estimates. These estimates never include the costs of moving and managing radioactive waste — a bill that keeps coming for centuries.

Radioactive tritium has poisoned groundwater near at least 14 U.S. reactors, including Kewaunee in Wisconsin. Water under Braidwood, Dresden, Brookhaven, Palo Verde, Indian Point, Diablo Canyon, San Onofre and Kewaunee is all contaminated at levels above EPA and NRC standards.

Nuclear power is so clean that Germany legislated a phase-out of its 17 reactors by 2025. Germany’s 1998 decision was based partly on government studies that found high rates of childhood leukemia in areas near its reactors. In July 2007, the European Journal of Cancer Care published a similar report by Dr. Peter Baker of the Medical Univ. of South Carolina that found elevated leukemia incidence in children near U.S. reactors.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., attacked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2005, writing “The nuclear industry and the NRC have automatically dismissed all studies that link increased cancer risk to exposure to low levels of radiation. The NRC needs to study — not summarily dismiss — the connection between serious health risks and radiation released from nuclear reactors.”

The New York Times reported five years ago that owners of nearly half the reactors in the U.S. “are not reserving enough money to decommission them on retirement, according to Congressional auditors, who also say the NRC is not tracking the money carefully.”

In its July 2007 study “Too Hot to Handle,” the Oxford Research Group calls the hope of quickly building new reactors a “pipe dream.” Dr. Arjun Makhijani, the president of the Institute for Energy & Environmental Research, says in his book, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, “Even the leaders of the nuclear industry have said that they will not build new plants without 100 percent federal loan guarantees.”

In his 2008 report “The Flawed Economics of Nuclear Power,” Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, concludes, “While little private capital is going into nuclear power, investors are pouring tens of billions of dollars into wind farms each year.

And while the world’s nuclear generating capacity is estimated to expand by only 1,000 megawatts this year, wind generating capacity will likely grow by 30,000 megawatts.”

The Washington Post reported Nov. 24 that “leading environmental figures, including former Vice President Al Gore, remain skeptical of nuclear’s promise,” because of the high cost of building and the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation. Indeed, but leading security and big business figures are skeptical for the same reasons.

The federal Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism has called for halting subsidies that promote nuclear power’s expansion.

In the commission’s Oct. 21 report “The Clock Is Ticking,” recommendation No. 3 is, “The U.S. should work internationally toward strengthening the non-proliferation regime ... discouraging, to the extent possible, the use of financial incentives in the promotion of civil nuclear power.”
And no less than Jeffrey Immelt, current CEO of General Electric — one of the world’s richest nuclear engineering firms — discourages new reactor construction because of financial liabilities.

In the Nov. 18, 2007 London Financial Times, he says, “If you were a utility CEO and looked at your world today, you would just do gas and wind. You would say (they are) easier to site, digestible today and I don’t have to bet my company on any of this stuff. You would never do nuclear. The economics are overwhelming.”

The plague of radiation-induced illness is overwhelming too. Let’s re-write the milk add: Got cancer?
John LaForge is on the Nukewatch staff and edits its quarterly.