Sunday, April 30, 2006

Make hay while the sun shines and laugh all the way to the bank

I've never objected to anyone making an honest dollar but the current business environment is about to turn me into a raving socialist.

Via Melanie - oil companies aren't the only ones crying poor while screwing the public and raking in the dough -
...we learned this week that the Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting Association - a state-backed insurance group - will soon ask the state to approve a 400 percent increase in annual premiums for thousands of homeowners insured by the association.

This might give you the impression insurance companies are struggling financially.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, hurricanes cost insurers more than $53 billion in 2005.

However, despite these record losses, insurance companies also reported record profits.

According to information compiled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners - information cited in an April 5 report on the ABC News - "Insurance company filings with all 50 states show an unprecedented $44.8 billion in profits in 2005."

The truth is, insurance companies have the financial ability to continue providing homeowners' insurance - at reasonable rates - throughout the hurricane zone. (Hattiesburg American)
(emphasis mine)

Like they don't make enough money screwing us over on health insurance?


Friday, April 28, 2006

Could it be?

From the TPM Muckraker:
Speaking on behalf of the director, CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise Dyck said, "This is horribly irresponsible. He hasn't even been to the Watergate in decades."

When I asked if Goss had attended Wilkes' parties at the Westin or other locations, Millerwise Dyck repeated the denial. "It's horribly irresponsible. Flatly untrue."
Sounds like one of those "it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is"- moments.

Continuing the "Anti-Clinton" administration meme

‘As Many as a Half a Dozen’ Members of Congress May Be Involved in Prostitution Scandal
SCARBOROUGH: Your sources are telling you that he used these limousines to bring prostitutes to the hotel. Also, apparently, he is cooperating with investigators. Is there a possibility that this black book with information may be turned over to the FBI and other high ranking Republican congressmen could be in big trouble?
I defy the GOP to whine "this is no worse than Bill Clinton".

Clinton didn't have to send someone looking for it and nobody had to pay for it.

Ya gotta love CNN's headline writers
"Bush rejects tax on oil companies' windfall profits"

"President expects companies to invest in alternative fuels"
Let's add:

"President has head up butt"

Pretty please?

NOW he's asking?
Bush called on Congress to give him the authority to set the standards for passenger cars sold in the United States as a means of reducing the nation's demand for gasoline.

"I encourage them to give me that authority," Bush told reporters during a visit to a service station in Biloxi, Mississippi. "It's an authority I used for light trucks, and I intend to use it wisely if Congress will give me that authority."
So, Bush didn't need to ask permission for torture, kidnapping, illegal wiretapping, preemptive war - but he needs 'authority' to raise fuel standards?

Given the way he's misused his authority in the past, anyone who gives this man authority over anything is a fool.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

ScottishPower gets go-ahead for Europe's biggest onshore windfarm
Engineers were yesterday granted permission by the Scottish Executive to build the largest onshore windfarm in Europe, after they agreed to erect a new radar tower for Glasgow airport.

ScottishPower's new windfarm, at Whitelee, south of Glasgow, will cost £300m to build and its 140 turbines will produce enough electricity to power 200,000 homes. The new facility, the company's second big windfarm in Scotland's central belt, is expected to generate some 322 MW of electricity when it enters full operation in 2009.
If my currency converter skills are up-to-date, that translates to $540,294,868.29 in U.S. dollars.

Math was never my strong suit, so please feel free to shoot me down.

The Republicans propose giving $100 to each taxpaying citizen to show us they "feel our pain" at the gas station.

In 2000, 48 million federal tax returns were e-filed. Mind you, that's just e-filing.

One hundred dollars for each of those returns = $480 million dollars.

Add that $480 million to those taxpayers who did NOT e-file, and you get a pretty good-sized windfarm and a lot of American homes operating on wind power.

But I dream.....

The real B.P.O.E.

Just now returned from a lovely dinner with delightful Greg (Life in the Coastal Empire) and his terrific partner C.C. who are in my neck of the woods for the semi-annual High Point Furniture Market.

I realize once again (as if I needed a reminder) that the best people on earth and the most enjoyable dinner partners are progressives.

The evening inspired me to look up the nearest Drinking Liberally location, which unfortunately is 20+ miles from my home. After some liberal drinking, I'm not sure I could wobble my way back home without a D.U.I. conviction.

Still, I treasure the opportuntiy to meet with like-minded friends. If anyone is interested in meeting me out in the Middle of Nowhere, North Carolina - give me a shout. I'll even bring the booze.

Thanks, Greg & C.C. - let's do it again soon!

Senators to push for $100 gas rebate checks
Every American taxpayer would get a $100 rebate check to offset the pain of higher pump prices for gasoline, under an amendment Senate Republicans hope to bring to a vote Thursday.
There's many an old-timer who remembers candidates standing outside the polling places handing out dollar bills or bottle of whiskey in exchange for votes.

While one hundred dollars isn't something I'd readily turn down, I'd much prefer they invest my $100 in solar and wind power development. Maybe bribe some auto executives to make an affordable, fuel-efficient vehicle.

With Republicans, it's always the short-term gains - never the long-range planning.

It's that "vision" thing.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I like Mike

Republicans Anonymous

Ah, spring of an election year - when myriad "Vote For Me" signs, large and small, assault the city and countryside.

In this neck of the woods, one principle has held true for more years than I care to remember. Republican candidates always - always include the word "Republican" somewhere on their sign, usually in letters equal to the size of the candidates name.

Democratic candidates are coy - no party affiliation on the sign, as if maybe they can eke out a few votes by fooling the voters into thinking they're voting for a Republican?

It's different this year.

I only need the fingers of one hand to count the number of candidates who include "Republican" on their signs.

It's not just my immediate area, either. I just got back from a visit to the mountains, and noticed the party affiliation lack on the mountain area signs.

Now, I don't imagine for one minute Republican candidates are changing parties. But they certainly are being a bit more cautious about proclaiming their affiliation.

Interesting....very interesting.

Just returned

...from the beautiful North Carolina mountains, attending the "Honors and Awards" ceremony at my kid's college.

I'll spare you the emabarrassing bragging, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention she won two honors (selected for Who's Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities" and "Campus Life Special Recognition") plus two scholarships.

These were for all sorts of stuff like character, superior academic achievement, leadership and so on. Fortunately, they left off "in spite of her mother".

Regular proud mama blogging to resume later today.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why should I pay hundreds of dollars

...for a stand-up 'seat' on an airline flight when I can get the same thrill for a couple of bucks on a Gravitron?

The Gravitron has become a staple in the carnival industry. Riders are fastened to the walls through the use of centrifigual force. As the ride accelerates, the walls rise.( link)

Monday, April 24, 2006

GOP leaders urge price-gouging probe on gas
Congressional GOP leaders on Monday formally called on President Bush to launch an investigation into possible price gouging by oil companies, as gas costs shot up nearly 25 cents a gallon in two weeks.
Pardon me while I laugh hysterically and pull out my hair.

They have a fox in the chickenhouse, and holler "yessir!!" to everything the fox says.

Probably outcome: Bubba's Convenience Store and Great Gas will be raided by the feds and relieved of the few pennies he makes per gallon of sold gasoline.

All shall be punished

If you live long enough you will probably at some time find yourself suffering excruciating pain. Or you will stand by helplessly as a loved one goes through the ordeal.

Patients suffering debilitating pain and their physicians have been squeezed in the last several years between the Federal Drug Administration, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Justice Department.

On the one hand, a recent study by the GAO found that the FDA "does not have clear policies for addressing drug safety issues and that it sometimes excludes its best safety experts from important meetings".

...except, of course, when it comes to over-the-counter emergency contraception or imported drugs from Canada.

On the other hand, the DEA and Justice Department have been cracking down on physicians who prescribe pain medications and their patients -
the Drug Enforcement Administration and Justice Department -- alarmed by the seemingly widespread diversion of opium-based prescription drugs such as OxyContin and Dilaudid to addicts and abusers -- have investigated, arrested and prosecuted as "drug dealers" scores of pain doctors who allegedly misused their authority to write prescriptions for narcotic painkillers. On the other side, many pain doctors and patients have protested the DEA's approach as overly aggressive and punitive, saying that it's unfairly penalizing pain patients.
Dr. Howard Heit, profiled in Sunday's Washington Post, sums up the Bush administration 'vision' quite clearly -
"It now is apparent to me that the spirit of cooperation that existed between the DEA and the pain community to achieve the goal of balance has broken down," Heit wrote in a much-discussed commentary in the journal Pain Medicine last month. "The DEA seems to have ignored the input and needs of the healthcare professionals and pain patients who actually prescribe, dispense, and use [prescription opioids]."
Is it too much to suggest these government agencies have better things to do?

There will always be weak, greedy individuals who abuse a system or product or medication or whatever (see Presley, Elvis)

As Dr. Heit says, the balance between serving the common good and the urge to punish is out of whack.

The punishers rule the roost in the Bush administration; the innocent are unprotected and victimized.


Friday, April 21, 2006

The active/negative preznit

If you want to read John Dean's If Past Is Prologue, George Bush Is Becoming An Increasingly Dangerous President tonight, you'd best do it before dark or at least with the lights on.

Scary stuff.

I wouldn't go in the basement for years after reading Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", and took care for months to only take tub baths after reading "Psycho".

I'm not sure what steps to take after reading what John Dean has to say.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Rove still directing policy

So....Unka Karl is no longer directing Bush administration policy?

What policy?

The only Bush administration "policy" pursued that I'm aware of is "get elected and stay in office".

Oh, and "Yee Haw!" foreign policy, though I believe that was Cheney's area, mainly.

So Karl is still safely ensconced in the White House, directing election strategy.

What I want to know is - who's paying him?
Digging his own grave

It's bad enough when Condi disses the military, now Rummy chimes in with his two-cents worth of disrespect.

Think Progress -
Rumsfeld: ‘The Implication That There Was Something Wrong with the War Plan is Amusing’

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been doing a series of softball interviews with hosts like Rush Limbaugh in an effort to rehabilitate his image. On Monday, Rumsfeld appeared on the Bill Cunningham Show and had this to say about the retired generals criticizing his management of the Iraq war:

"Of course the implication that there was something wrong with the war plan is amusing almost because of the fact that the war plan’s fashioned by the combatant commanders and it’s reviewed in great detail by the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then it’s recommended to me and the President."

In other words, Rumsfeld is arguing that there is nothing wrong with the Iraq war planning — but if there was anything wrong it wasn’t his fault. He’s blaming the combat commanders and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Will this bring out more generals, retired and otherwise?

The brown boogeymen/women/children

I've been fending off very offensive emails forwarded to me by winger acquaintances who assume since I work at a church and live in this southern state I must be a fellow traveler.

The common thread, in a nutshell, is that legal AND illegal immigrants are soaking up our taxes by getting free health care, welfare checks, and breeding us good white Christians out of existence.

In response, I've been reminding them of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 - passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by (Democratic) President Bill Clinton.
* Legal permanent residents (LPRs) who were residents of the United States as of Aug. 22, 1996, are barred from receiving food stamps and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Each state, however, is allowed to offer LPRs Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid. Since 1997, states have been mandated to provide State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) coverage to immigrant children legally in the US before Aug. 22, 1996.

* LPRs entering after Aug. 22, 1996 are not eligible for food stamps or SSI. However, they can apply for Medicaid and TANF benefits five years after entering the country legally, and are then allowed benefits at each state's discretion. States may use the maintenance of effort requirement to serve post-1996 legal immigrants who would be eligible for TANF if not for the five-year bar. In addition, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 restored immigrants' access to food stamps.

* Refugees and asylees are eligible for benefits seven years after their date of entry.

* Nonimmigrants and undocumented immigrants are barred from receiving benefits. They are eligible, however, for public health, emergency services, and programs identified by the attorney general as necessary for the protection of life and safety.
What these wingers really don't like are the following -

*Brown people
*Non-English speakers
*Food stamps

I can't do anything about the first three except call them on their bigotry, but I do enjoy reminding folks that Medicaid and food stamps are there for everyone, not just for immigrants. "Stuff happens", as one Cabinet Secretary is famous for saying, and it isn't always good. There, but for the grace of God, go I...and you...and anyone else on earth.

And of course I relish the moment I tell them the Evil Clenis signed the legislation.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Congratulations to all the Pulitzer prize winners, but especially to one of my favorites, Mike Luckovich.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Just a reminder

To businesses large and small that depend on cheap labor, here’s a friendly reminder that the current administration – your good buddies – really aren’t your friends:
So as House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) prepared his border security bill last year, the Justice Department asked him to include a provision making unlawful presence in the U.S. a crime. Sensenbrenner, on the House floor in December, said the idea came from the Bush administration, and an administration official last week, speaking anonymously, confirmed his account.
Got that?

The Bestest-Friend-of Bidness Bush administration, the guys to whom you give boatloads of money, wanted to arrest and incarcerate all those workers who make it possible for your pocketbooks to overflow.

Whether you hired them in good faith or turned a blind eye – it doesn’t matter. The Bush administration would not only take away your cheap labor but would penalize YOU.

Got that?


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Cute alert

My grand-puppy at six weeks, looking less like a fat little hamster and more like a Chihuahua.

At this precise moment, his name is "Pippin", though that is subject to change (I like it).

Looks like trouble to me.



Saturday, April 15, 2006

A Republican worth my vote and the Great Chicken Sting

Or..."See, I can be nice to Republicans!"

That would be Sheriff Litchard Hurley, an unassuming professional law man who has ably served the residents of my county for sixteen years.

Despite my long-ago vow never to vote for another Republican, I did vote for him at least two of those terms. He's a good man.
In a letter to the media, Hurley says he's not seeking a fifth term because he wants to be able to spend more time with his family.

Hurley thanked the citizens of Randolph County who "have placed their trust in me for the past sixteen years." He also extended thanks to his fellow employees at the Randolph County Sheriff's Office for their support of the department.

The only person to ever be elected as Sheriff of Randolph County for four terms, Hurley is also the only Sheriff from Randolph County to serve as the President of the NC Sheriff's Association.
Knowing the man a bit and his family more, I have no doubt he really will be spending more time with his family and not indulging in the traditional Republican second career of lawyering up.

Yes, he's a "tough on crime" Republican, but he has never adopted the stupid, macho techniques of other blowhards. He doesn't toot his own horn and gets the job done.

I guess it won't be his last case, but the case of Rudy the Rooster - as we say down here, "beats all" and provides a good glimpse into Sheriff Hurley's character.
Rudy is the raucous rooster condemned to death in a real court order issued by Chief Magistrate Roger Greene on Jan. 24 for terrorizing the Weaver Street area in Randleman, then pardoned last week after Hurley caught him and appealed for clemency.

Sheriff Litchard Hurley was raised on a farm though and he knew there had to be a way not to have to kill this bird. He personally took on this task. He tried to capture the bird with many of the same failed methods that the Randleman Animal Police had pursued. Finally Sheriff Hurley had an idea...an ingenious idea that could have solved this problem in one day.

Hurley brought an old dog kennel to the yard where the rooster was most active. He put a tarp over it to keep the bird in. He scattered corn on the ground near the entrance. He used a string to remotely close the gate of the kennel. And he used the power of Sex to lure the Rooster into the kennel.

In a dog carrying crate placed in the kennel he put two of his own hens. In less than an hour after putting the plan into place....Rudy went in to check out the females....the lady at the house pulled the string and Rudy was locked in and was caught.
I'm sure the good sheriff wishes all his cases were as easily solved. We do have plenty of crime to deal with out here in the sticks, but Sheriff Hurley has never given up on any of his cases...including Rudy.

Sheriff Hurley's capture of the criminal was documented by local TV. Unlike some of his colleagues, he didn't mind it a bit - his grin was of the ear-to-ear type as he relentlessly tracked the culprit, luring him into captivity.
We caught up with Randolph County Litchard Hurley Thursday night, and he gave us the low-down on Rudy the Rooster’s incarceration.

Hurley — who got custody of the stray Rudy when no one else claimed him — said he’s keeping a close eye on the plucky outlaw.

But the conservative, tough-on-crime sheriff is taking what sounds like a feel-good liberal approach to the rooster’s reformation during the lifetime of community service ordered by Greene.

Rather than forcing Rudy to cluck to juvenile delinquents about his many transgressions to “scare them straight,” or peck up trash by the roadside under the supervision of a shotgun-toting deputy, Hurley’s already giving Rudy hen house privileges.

That’s right: Rudy’s getting cozy with the hen that Hurley used as “bait” to catch him in a makeshift trap on April 6. Hurley hopes to kill two birds with one stone (just a pun, folks) by helping Rudy settle down and by making an “honest woman” out of the hen who played the scarlet lady in the chicken sting operation.

Hurley said he’s had a lot of fun with the Rudy case and can’t believe how many concerned people have wanted to talk to him about the chicken. He’s gotten many offers to adopt Rudy — one from a man way out in Indiana.

So, like a true politician, Hurley has worked out a plan to please everyone. He’s proposing to hatch an army of little Rudys, so everybody who wants one — and lives out in the country — can have their own aggravating rooster.

If Hurley wasn’t retiring in December, you might think that sounds like a campaign promise to put a chicken in every pot ... uh ... yard.

Sorry, Rudy. (links here and here)
Here's wishing Sheriff Hurley a serene, blissful, healthy retirement and many more years enjoying his grand-babies.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

It's the immaturity, stupid

No less than six generals are now calling for Rumsfeld to be fired, but none has been so eloquent as Lt. General Gregory Newbold, retired director of operations at the Pentagon's military joint staff:
I will admit my own prejudice: my deep affection and respect are for those who volunteer to serve our nation and therefore shoulder, in those thin ranks, the nation's most sacred obligation of citizenship. To those of you who don't know, our country has never been served by a more competent and professional military. For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it.
One measure of maturity is taking responsibility for your own mistakes and not blaming others.

Bill Clinton was right - "They (the Bush administration) remind me of teenagers that got their inheritance too soon and couldn’t wait to blow it.”

And now that they've blown it they can't wait to put the blame elsewhere - exactly like spoiled, immature brats.

It's an unattractive trait in an adult; it's a dangerous and despicable trait in our leadership.

Universal...not so much

Having just endured five doctor appointments in five days (I'm not counting the weekend), I'm more than a little interested in the vagaries of American health care insurance and rising medical costs.

So I'm watching Massachusetts with some interest -
Massachusetts governor signs health-care measure

In historic Faneuil Hall, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signed groundbreaking universal health-care legislation Wednesday that promises to cover nearly all of the state’s 515,000 uninsured residents by 2010.
While I certainly don't know everything about this plan, it does strike me it has a lot of moving parts.

Working efficiently and economically will require cooperation between the state, the Feds, corporations, small businesses, insurance companies, charities, and probably a partridge in a pear tree.

If one segment doesn't pull it's weight or breaks down completely, it drags the whole system down. With medical costs rising at an alarming rate, it wouldn't take much for the whole contraption to collapse.

I don't want to sound pessimistic - insuring all residents of the state is certainly a step in the right direction.

But does it take so many connective pieces to build something so simple as universal health insurance?

And when was the last time you heard about a corporation or insurance company acting in the best interest of citizens health?


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Wild speculation"

With just those two words, George Bush summed up his administration's policy toward everything and branded his entire sorry 'legacy'.

If there's one thing that has become tragically obvious in the last five years, it's that their 'speculations' have always turned out to be dead wrong.

They made the wild speculation that cutting taxes on the wealthy would create millions of well-paid jobs...for Americans...in THIS country.

Global warming? Let's just ignore science and speculate that it's a fantasy.

Natural catastrophe? Let the locals handle it.

Create a program that will fill Big Pharma's pockets, and they'll shower our neediest citizens with cheap drugs!

In their dreams, taking away a woman's right to choose means she just won't have to make any choices.

Weapons of mass destruction! We know where they are!! No 'wild speculation' there.

Invade a country with a completely different culture and install American-style democracy? Why, it's a slam-dunk!

Dropping a bomb...any kind of bomb...on Iran? Why, they will love us for it!

These people are insane. I thought I'd never say this, but the United States needs a good, old-fashioned military coup.


Monday, April 10, 2006

More health care insurance fun

Our preznit is touting his tax-break for the wealthy "Health Savings Account" scheme as the saviour of the health care dilemma.

Here's a clue, Mr. Bush:

2005 - Cigna reports higher profits
Cigna Corp. announced Wednesday that its second quarter net income was $720 million, up from $504 million the year before.
Cigna profits soar in 2004
Cigna Corp. said its profits for 2004 rose to $1.6 billion on $14.2 billion in revenues, buoyed by better profit margins in its health insurance operations and accelerated recognition of gains from a sale of its retirement benefits business.
So, how many millions did YOUR health care insurer rake in lately?

Senior stuff

From the latest AARP Bulletin you might get the idea Republican solutions on senior-related issues aren't going over too well.

***Health Savings Accounts - our preznit's solution to the health care crunch.

In a nutshell, they work just fine if you're healthy and either have a generous employer contributing a big chunk OR you are well-off financially.

They shift more of the cost of health care from employers to individuals, and those individuals often end up skimping on preventative care.
But what about someone who doesn't work for a generous company? Or someone who retired at age 60 and has chronic illness or cannot afford to put away hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for anticipated medical expenses? HSAs may not work for them.

Edwin Park, a senior health policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, says people in relatively poor health may have trouble buying health insurance on their own in the first place. And those with little income aren't going to have the money to put in HSAs, no matter what the tax advantage.

"These are primarily tax shelters," he says. "If you are high-income, you can take advantage of them. And if you're healthy, you can sock away money; if you're not healthy, you can't" because you are using it to pay medical bills. People who can't afford high deductibles would have to go into plans with lower deductibles, which are more expensive.

Some critics worry that HSAs transfer too much of the burden for health care costs from employers to individuals. Others are concerned that people who have HSAs and are trying to save might skimp on care and delay screenings, immunizations or treatments.

On a more global scale, Park estimates HSA tax breaks could boost the federal deficit by $156 billion over 10 years, increasing the pressure to cut spending for programs like Medicare and Medicaid. And with more employers dropping health benefits, more workers may be forced into the individual market, where sicker people may be unable to get coverage at all.

Big Pharma cashing in...again

From the print version of the AARP Bulletin (April 2006, article not on-line)
Are You Throwing Away Good Drugs?

Every year Americans throw away billions of dollars' worth of prescription medication because of manufacturers' expiration dates or "discard after" instructions from pharmacists.

But do they really need to? Do drugs always stop working or go bad after the expiration date on the package?

Gerald Murphy, a retired pharmacist in Ormond Beach, Fla., doesn't think so. He argues that lots of drugs remain both safe and effective for years beyond their state expiration dates - most of which, he says, are "fictitious" and serve mainly to enrich their manufacturers.

For more than a decade Murphy has been waging a crusade to require that expiration dating of medicines be based on science rather than on arbitrary periods chosen by their manufacturers or others in his own profession. (In many states pharmacists routinely add discard-after warnings with even less time than the expiration dates stipulated by manufactureres). "They make money by having people throw things away," Murphy says.

Murphy scored a small victory last year when the state legislature told the Florida Board of Pharmacy that it could no longer require pharmacists to use discard-after dates on prescription labels, as it had done since 1993.

Murphy isn't alone in his belief that the expiration dates on most medicines don't really mean that much. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in tests for the Defense Department, has determinied that most prescription and over-the-counter drugs remain safe and effective long after the manufacturer's expiration date - in some cases, many years longer.


In 2001 the Americna Medical Association asked the pharmaceutical industry to invest in such studies, but its request went unaddressed.
Of course it went unaddressed, and is likely to remain unaddressed as long as they can make a buck and their CEO's are in bed with the current administration.

....another bad idea

From the AARP Bulletin...and remember, this is the same organization that advocated FOR the miserable drug benefit plan...
Low participation in drug plan frustrates subsidy advocates

Medicare's new drug coverage hasn't caught on with the seniors who stand to benefit most from it.

They're the older adults who, because of limited incomes and assets, can qualify for extra help with out-of-pocket drug costs.

"Too few seniors have applied for the low-income subsidy, and too few are getting it," said Cheryl Matheis, an AARP executive who's tracking the prescription drug program's rollout. "It's been the biggest disappointment."


Advocates thought lower-income seniors would jump at the chance to apply to the Social Security Administration for the subsidy and save an average of $2,100 a year in drug costs.

"This was supposed to be a no-brainer," said James Firman, president and chief executive of the National Council on Aging.

But the numbers tell a different story. Of an estimated 7.2 million Medicare beneficiaries entitled to the extra help, only 1.5 million - about 20 percent - have completed the application and qualified.
The only "no-brainer" has been the plan itself and the administration and legislators that foisted this monstrosity upon us.

A gentleman from The Woodlands, Texas says it best in the AARP Bulletin "Mailbox" -
"I just want to thank Congress for Medicare Part D. Mom's Coumadin copay went from $20 to $60. Dad's inhaler copay went from $25 to $55. Figuring out which insurer to use was so complex that when their pre-Medicare D carrier said my parent did not need to change, they didn't.

For this stellar performance, most of Congress deserves early retirement without a pension."
Health insurance companies are taking advantage of the Part D confusion and government subsidy to increase their own charges.

And finally - some good news.

In our mobile society, it's a real tragedy when a previously-independent senior has to give up driving.

Indedpendent Transportation Network and ITN America fill the void sensibly, inexpensively, and with dignity.

Anyone over 65 or visually impaired is eligible for membership. If you know someone who is unable to drive and meets those qualifications, please check to see if it's available in your community.

Consider becoming a volunteer yourself; if there's no program in your area, consider starting one.


Friday, April 07, 2006

"We will win on Sunday and Monday because we aren't assholes"

Quoth Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

You'd think one of Bush's poodles would have learned a thing or two. It's not only possible for assholes to win, but the United States has spent the last six years blazing the way for political assholes everywhere.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Prevention First Act
The Senate Democratic leadership says it has found a wedge issue to strengthen the party’s position on abortion rights, which top strategists think has become a liability in recent years.

The wedge is legislation expanding access to contraceptives and sex education, which polls show a majority of Americans support but which Democrats are betting will be difficult for social conservatives in the Republican base to accept.
So, what took them so long?

What was it the Big Dog said in 1992? Something about keeping abortion safe, legal - and rare?

I can remember him pausing for a second to emphasize "and rare".

I've never met anyone - Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, or Martian who advocated wholesale abortion-for-the-fun-of-it.

Nor have I ever met anyone who was opposed to including abstinence as a viable method of birth and sexually-transmitted disease control.

"Safe, legal....and rare" was a winner in 1992, and it's every bit as much a winner today.

If Republicans want to stand up and be counted as anti-birth control, please - be my guest.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Kiss me, I'm a grandma!

Andantette has presented me with my first grandchild, a beautiful little boy.

In the circle of life, the young leave the nest and form their own family.

Andantette, though not quite out of the nest, is continuing the great family insanity hobby of Chihuahua herding.

He's only four weeks old and can't leave his (canine) mother yet, but like indulgent grandmothers everywhere, I can't wait to get my hands on him.
Comfortable retirement, here I come

The Collective Sigh Retirement Plan kicked off on March 30, 2006 when North Carolina joined the rest of the east coast with a state lottery.
North Carolina lost its label Thursday as the only East Coast state without a lottery, getting off to a quick start as commuters, casino-players and the curious snatched up the first batch of instant tickets.

Attracted by the promise of $400 million annually for education and spurred on by Gov. Mike Easley, the General Assembly narrowly passed a lottery last summer, following the lead of 41 other states and all of its neighbors.
The lottery has been a hot topic around the state for years; every opinion poll in recent memory confirmed the big majority of North Carolinians wanted an education lottery.

True to form, anti-government-regulation Republicans blocked every other attempt to bring a lottery to North Carolinians.

Government regulations on businesses = bad. Government regulations on private citizens = Republican Duty.

So, how's it going? Judging from day one, pretty good:
Ticket sales by then had reached about $6.5 million, well beyond the early $2 million estimate of lottery officials. Executive director Tom Shaheen estimated that sales would reach more than $10 million for the day.

At least 35 percent of the proceeds from every ticket sold must go public-school construction, class-size reduction, need-based college scholarships and a voluntary prekindergarten program.

North Carolina will join the multistate Powerball numbers game in late May. The lottery law also sets aside up to $1 million to assist problem gamblers and requires strict advertising restrictions.
Strict advertising is right - the signs are small and discreet.

The corner convenience store cleared out some old junk and created a "lottery parking lot" with it's own tiny sign.

On the home front, the Collective Sigh Retirement Plan isn't off to such a hot start.

Expenditures from Andante: $1.00
Expenditures from Mr. Andante: $1.00
Total expenditures: $2.00

Total return: One free Tic-Tac-Toe scratch-off ticket.

Okay, maybe it's not such a great plan, but don't feel sorry for us - save your pity for the state of Virginia.
Virginia officials say North Carolinians make up 7 to 10 percent of their ticket sales -- an estimated $91 million to $130 million.
Not only does the North Carolina lottery eat into Virginia's sales, but they'll be getting a new resident...Tom DeLay.

I'd rather lose two bucks any day than have Tom DeLay in my neighborhood.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Jesse Helms suffers from dementia
Former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, in increasingly poor health since he left office three years ago, has vascular dementia and has moved into a convalescent center near his home, his wife said.

''He has his good days and his bad days,'' Dot Helms told the News & Observer for a story Sunday. ''He still sees friends. Company is good for him. He is still signing books. But he is not able to conduct any business or make any speeches.''

The 84-year-old Republican has been slowed by illnesses including a bone disorder, prostate cancer and heart problems. He decided against seeking a sixth term and left Congress in January 2003.

Helms' wife of 63 years said that friends visit him daily. ''His manners are always intact,'' she said. ''He is very gracious when people come to see him.''
I wouldn't wish vascular dementia on my worst enemy. Ol' Jesse falls into that category, so I'll just hold good thoughts for his wife and family as they cope with this ordeal.

'Nuff said. That's about as charitable as I can get.


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