Monday, October 31, 2011

Last Call

And finally, should you need to get rid of your pumpkin this year, the Cincinnati Zoo recommends giving it to your baby aardvark, should you have one on hand.

Gave that aardvark a pumpkin.  Aardvarks love pumpkins.  Who knew, right?

Tebowed, But Not Tebroken

Should you still need a last minute Halloween outfit for tonight, might I suggest Tim Tebow?

Tebowing: (vb) to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different. 

Oh, and he's still a lousy QB.

Obama To The Rescue! Drug Shortages To Be Addressed

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Obama is directing the Food and Drug Administration to take steps to reduce drug shortages, an escalating problem that has endangered patients and raised the possibility of price gouging.

Patient deaths have been blamed on the shortages, which tend to affect cancer drugs, anesthetics, drugs used in emergency medicine, and electrolytes needed for intravenous feeding. Hospitals have been forced to buy from secondary suppliers at huge markups. Surgeries and cancer treatments have been delayed.

A White House official said Obama planned to sign an executive order Monday instructing the FDA to take action. The order would be the latest in the president's campaign to move on initiatives that do not require congressional approval.

Obama also will announce his support for House and Senate legislation that would require drug makers to notify the FDA six months ahead of a potential shortage, the official said. Under current regulations, drug manufactures are only required to notify the FDA if medically necessary drugs are being discontinued. Notification of shortages is strictly voluntary.

Of course, I'm curious to see how the GOP will turn this into a hostile act towards citizens, but seriously... this should have been done some time ago, and thank goodness he's stepping in and doing it now. People are dying to protect the bottom line, and that should never be. Hand mixing sterile solutions should never be what we are reduced to because the sterile version isn't available. The rules of the marketplace should not extend to life-saving treatment, period.  I've been following this for a while, reading cases of people who are dying or facing painful delays in treatment because the medicine they need is just not available, or insurance companies are balking at new prices.  In a word: unacceptable.

Up In Smoke - Legalize It Already

WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress are calling on the Obama administration to end the federal crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in California, citing Attorney General Eric Holder's past promise to maintain a hands-off approach toward pot clinics operating in compliance with state law.

Although most of the nine signatories on a Friday letter to the White House were California Democrats -- including Reps. Barbara Lee, Pete Stark, Lynn Woolsey and Sam Farr -- the group also contained a California Republican, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who is an outspoken medical marijuana advocate, and a Tennessee Democrat, Rep. Steve Cohen.

"We write to express our concern with the recent activity by the Department of Justice against legitimate medical cannabis dispensaries in California that are operating legally under state law," the lawmakers said.

Should marijuana be available to patients it can help? Hell yes. I think it should be available to anyone over 21, but particularly so in the case of patients who need the effects or the relief. There are many helpful benefits to marijuana under the right circumstances, and the people who need it most should have access.  Like any other restricted drug, when a benefit is found for an ailing patient, concessions are made.

I can vouch personally for how much it helped a friend of the family who died of cancer. It was a brutal and painful process, and the man had never so much as watched a Cheech and Chong movie. When he was given marijuana he resisted, but finally took it out of desperation. His appetite improved, he regained some strength, his mood improved and his final weeks were much improved. He died about a week after composing a letter to our governor stating how much medicinal marijuana had helped him.

It's time we separate science from myth. People don't smoke pot and disappear into the night talking to imaginary elves. It's more stable and less harmful than alcohol, and could be a cash crop for the U.S. as well as taking the rug out from under foreign drug empires. We have more money to make from sales than from the prosecution process. But if they are going to be so damned stubborn, at least allow it as a mercy to peole who are suffering. People that could be helped if they would allow it.

It's time to put an end to this stupidity once and for all.

Republicans Gaming The Stimulus And The System

Next time when you hear Republicans attack "Obama's failed stimulus" or any federal aid to states in general, remember that whenever federal money is given to the states, it's up to the states themselves to use the money as intended.  Not all of them do, particularly states under GOP control.  Take Kansas Republicans and the money they received for loans for home weatherization projects, for example.

The weatherization program, known as Efficiency Kansas, began with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the federal government’s stimulus package to get Americans back to work.

The state planned to use $32 million in federal energy efficiency funds to create the revolving loan fund. State officials promised to lend most of that to Kansans to repair their homes within three years.

The program was expected to create 1,150 jobs, such as weatherization auditors, and heating and cooling, roofing, insulation and window workers, according to the KCC.

But the KCC did not get the loan program moving quickly. In the first six months of Efficiency Kansas, only 13 people had taken out loans.

When concerns were raised last winter that all the money would not be lent by the March 2012 deadline, Brownback, a supporter of the biofuels industry, reallocated $20 million from the loan fund to grants and gave the money to two organizations in that industry.

Banks didn't want to make the program loans in the first place, and when Republicans came into power halfway through the program's lifespan, they stonewalled the program from ever really going anywhere, allowing Brownback to raid the fund to give to corporate biofuel producers instead.  Due diligence on the part of Democrats to make sure the program wasn't abused or defrauded turned into deliberate sandbagging by the Republicans who gleefully dismantled the program instead.

The same "set up to fail" scenario has already been put into motion by Gov. Brownback for the state's health insurance exchanges.  Brownback's not the only GOP governor to reject funding grants for setting up health insurance exchanges either, as Republicans are counting on enough states refusing to implement health care reform so that the entire Affordable Care Act collapses regardless of whether the law is repealed by the GOP or not.

As I've said before, this is why wresting state control away from Republicans is as important or more so than at the federal level.  It doesn't matter what federal reforms you want Democrats to pass in Washington if blood red states simply ignore the laws or refuse to implement them.

Cain Unable, Part 6

And the Cain Train just derailed all over the Monday morning headlines as claims of sexual harassment are coming forward from Cain's days as head of the National Restaurant Association lobbyist outfit in the 90's.

Politico reports “at least two” women working at the NRA when Cain ran it “complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior” by the man who is now the national frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.
Details on the incidents described in Politico include “conversations allegedly filled with innuendo or personal questions of a sexually suggestive nature” and “descriptions of physical gestures that were not overtly sexual but that made women who experienced or witnessed them uncomfortable and that they regarded as improper in a professional relationship.”

Ever notice that anybody who gets close to/ahead of Mittens in the primary polling suddenly gets a "bombshell revelation" dropped on them that reveals the clearly obvious fact that they are a grifter lunatic that couldn't operate a paper bag correctly, a trenchant observation apparent to anyone who isn't a Tea Party mouth-breather and has a functioning frontal lobe?

First it was Ron Paul, then Shelly Bachmann, then Rick Perry, now Herman Cain.  The Tea Party wants anybody other than Mitt to win this thing so badly it hurts, but the real people in charge of the GOP won't let that happen.

(More after the jump)

A Poor Student Of Debt

Glenn "Instawrong" Reynolds gets to play in the NY Post's sandbox with this whopper of a false analogy that of course absolves the GOP of all responsibility for the student debt crisis.

The problem is, “college” isn’t an undifferentiated product. Companies can’t hire enough mechanical engineers, but there’s no bidding war for majors in Fine Arts or Women’s Studies, degrees that cost just as much, but deliver a lot less in terms of employment. In an economically rational market, it would be harder to borrow money to finance fields of study that were unlikely to produce enough income to pay back the loans. But since the federal government subsidizes everything -- and makes student loans un-dischargeable in bankruptcy -- there’s no incentive for lenders to care, and even less incentive for colleges and universities to care. They get their money up front, after all -- just like the people who wrote the subprime loans that fueled the housing crisis.

Got that?  Not only should the price of your major in higher education be subject to the whims of the  free market, but if you can't afford the price, tough crap.  If you're not willing to fill the "needs of the market" then why should you be taking up valuable educational resources, since the only goal in life is to make money?

Even worse, Reynolds argues, why should we "subsidize" education at all?  Short of the meritocracy of scholarships, education should only go to those who can A) afford it and B) who can then use that education to become Our Precious Job Creators.  No more room for lotus-eating ivory tower academics in our hypercapitalis,t globally-competitive society, no sir.

And you have to admit, the narrative is tailor-made for the Tea Party.  "We're paying our tax dollars to subsidize all these egghead underwater basket weaving graduate parasites who think they are smarter than we are!"  (Did I mention Glenn here is a law professor and "an author (writing An Army of Davids), a columnist, and a writer for academic journals" too?  No?)

Reynolds does see the next debt bubble here in student loans, but let's not forget that this "subsidization" he complains about as he calls the Occupy Together movement the "Hoovervilles of our age" was as much a subsidy bonanza for -- you guessed it -- the same banks in the heart of subprime loans mess (which, by the way, President Obama put an end to last year) as well as the for-profit colleges that follow the economic model that Reynolds champions.

Also, let's not forget that the main reason why students have to borrow more is that states are slashing the budgets of colleges and universities because we can never, ever raise taxes and anything that tax dollars go to that aren't tax cuts for Our Precious Job Creators is impeachable generational theft or something.  I know, let's fire all the government university professors (Hi Glenn!) and close down state schools and save taxpayer money.  I'm sure that won't raise the price of tuition at the remainder of the private schools or anything due to supply and demand (and hey, if God wanted you to go to college, you'd either be smart enough to earn a full scholarship or rich enough to pay for it.)

The larger problem is like voting, political power, socioeconomic power, and moral authority, today's Tea Party conservatives think the more we limit higher education to the truly deserving few (or education in general for that matter) the better off America will be.  That their criteria for who is "truly deserving" happens to always be themselves is just coincidence, especially when that power they derive comes at the expense of the dupes they have suckered into believing that they fall into that category too, or at least that by voting to exclude everyone else, they'll be handsomely rewarded with the share that once went to "those people."  The reality is of course that the super-rich will take that share too and laugh, but the dupes aren't supposed to know.

But to do that they need folks like Glenn Reynolds writing op-eds in the NY Post equating Occupy Wall Street protesters to the people that caused the financial crisis (and then absolving the people that actually caused the crisis.)  It's good work if you can get it.


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