There’s some good news!!!! (and then there’s the news we don’t actually care about)

Hey, it’s a party! The richest, shiniest 400 families in America have gotten 5 times richer in the past 15 years!!!!

And OMG BONUS!!!! Their tax rates fell to the lowest rate EVAR!!! Couldn’t you just die??!!!!

Sources: Tax.com NY Times WSWS.org

WHEEEEE!!!! LOOK AT THAT INCOME RISE!!!!

Incomes Go Up!

YAYYYY!!!!! GO AWAY BAD TAXES!!!!!!

Taxes Go Down!

Total income for our top earners was $138 billion in 2007.  That’s up  $263 million from the previous year. They got an increase of 31%!!!  Yayyyy!!!!  they deserve it.

But how much did the shiny 400 pay in taxes? A mere $23 billion. Isn’t that JUST SUPER?!!!!!!!

Our top 400 Awesome Rich People made more in 2007 than the yearly output of most of the world’s countries; rivaling the GDP of Chile .

If the shiny 400 had paid their 2007 taxes (even at the 1995 rate) the resulting $18.4 billion would have covered California’s entire 2010 budget shortfall. Aren’t you just so proud?

Bill Clinton’s administration started the report back in the day to let us ROOT! ROOT! ROOT! for our rich. But the Grumbledy Meanies in the Bush administration shut it down. Leaving us without any way to know how super and shiny our rich people really, truly are.

And guess what! The wealthiest 1% took 2/3rds of ALL the income generated between 2002 and 2007.  But, ya know what? I think they deserve it.

They took 90% whole percent!!! But they deserve it.

Some Economy Guys named Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez  said income for the top 1 percent grew 10 times faster than that of the bottom 90 percent.

10 TIMES FASTER!!!!!!!!

And don’t we all think that’s just FANTASTIC?!!!

Okay, okay, not be a Debbie Downer, but I did promise that other news (we don’t really care about anyway)

It seems the whiny old states think they might have needed those tax dollars. Pouty Pusses.

Center for Budget and Policy

Those Silly Little Recession Numbers

Current.org
As states cut back their budgets, governors are targeting public broadcasting along with other educational and arts programs. Some stations could face a total funding loss.

But really who needs that stuff anyway? That’s all just local musicians and news and artists. We don’t need to know what they are doing, as long as the rich can get richer. Right?

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
At least 44 states plus the District of Columbia have enacted budget cuts that will affect services for children, the elderly, the disabled, and families, as well as the quality of education and access to higher education.

Look, I know it’s tough. But if you are old or disabled, you are going to die soon anyway. And frankly that might be a blessing, because you aren’t pretty to look at in that condition either.

But if you are young and uneducated, the rich are always looking for somebody to trim hedges or cut the grass, you’ll get by. Heck, I bet you could get Timmy out of daycare and the SUPER SHINY RICH could put him to work in a trice!!!

Little fingers like Timmy has are just perfect for making those big expensive wool rugs the rich like to hang on their walls. It takes patience though, so tell Timmy to work steady or there will be no gruel for dinner. Wait…… that’s right. The rule is one meal a day.

Bonus!!!! Timmy won’t have to eat gruel for dinner, cause there’s no dinner!!!! Yay!!!!!!

Don’t we just owe the Rich EVERYTHING?

One could just SWOON…..

Swooning

Swooning

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In the Midst of the Health Care Debate and the H1N1 Vaccine Crisis

“The modern “heresy” that medical care (as it is traditionally conceived) is generally unrelated to improvements in the health of populations (as distinct from individuals) is still dismissed as unthinkable in much the same way as the so-called heresies of former times. And this is despite a long history of support in popular and scientific writings as well as from able minds in a variety of disciplines.”

The Questionable Contribution of Medical Measures to the Decline of Mortality in the United States in the Twentieth Century

by John B. McKinlay; Sonja M. McKinlay

Published in 1977 in the Milbank Memorial Quarterly, Vol. 55, No.3. pp. 405-428

In this study, the McKinlays explore a steep decline in the top 10 communicable diseases. (Tuberculosis, Scarlet Fever, Influenza, Pneumonia, Diptheria, Whooping Cough, Measels, Smallpox, Typhoid, Poliomyelitis) This unified decline occurred over a period of about 100 years from 1900 to 1973 . Even the most virulent of these diseases were near their currently flat expression when science developed the means to mass produce vaccines in the years leading up to 1949.

Male and Female Mortality Rates Since 1900

As this chart from the paper shows, the decline in mortality from 1900 to the 1970’s for both males and females was markedly dramatic.

They compare this decline in mortality to similar declines in the communicable diseases listed previously.

Decline in Communicable Diseases since 1900

Decline in Communicable Diseases since 1900

Decline in Communicable Diseases Since 1900 pt. 2

And also included is a graph charting causes of death from the early 1900’s in comparison to the years just prior to this paper’s publication.

Changes in Causes of Mortality since 1900

Changes in Causes of Mortality since 1900

Which leads to the authors’ conclusion:

In general, medical measures (both chemotherapeutic andprophylactic) appear to have contributed little to the overall decline in mortality in the United States since about 1900-having in many instances been introduced several decades after a marked decline had already set in and having no detectable influence in most instances. More specifically, with reference to those five conditions (influenza, pneumonia, diphtheria, whooping cough, and poliomyelitis) for which the decline in mortality appears substantial after the point of intervention-and on the unlikely assumption that all of this decline is attributable to the intervention-it is estimated that at most 3.5 percent of the total decline in mortality since 1900 could beascribed to medical measures introduced for the diseases considered here.

This graph shows the diseases and their declines in comparison:

Compilation Graph

Compilation Graph

I would imagine that even the average lay reader, on viewing this graph of the mass decline, can easily imagine each disease effortlessly reaching current levels without the advent of commonly available vaccines. But if vaccines are not responsible for the dramatic decline in mortality, how else can it be explained?

It is widely known that a sea change in patient survival came after more stringent practices regarding hygiene and sterility of spaces and implements used in medical procedures were undertaken for both patient and physician. And as medicine and science progressed in their research of communicable disease and underlying factors that allowed them to spread. Along the way researchers and doctors also began to understand the things that create health.

Massive public campaigns, programs and projects were implemented. For instance swamps were drained to reduce breeding grounds for mosquitoes. And a broad swath of society, from low to high, were educated about cleanliness and hygiene.

From the CDC’s website:

In 1900 in some U.S. cities, up to 30% of infants died before reaching their first birthday (1). Efforts to reduce infant mortality focused on improving environmental and living conditions in urban areas (1). Urban environmental interventions (e.g., sewage and refuse disposal and safe drinking water) played key roles in reducing infant mortality. Rising standards of living, including improvements in economic and education levels of families, helped to promote health. Declining fertility rates also contributed to reductions in infant mortality through longer spacing of children, smaller family size, and better nutritional status of mothers and infants (1). Milk pasteurization, first adopted in Chicago in 1908, contributed to the control of milkborne diseases (e.g., gastrointestinal infections) from contaminated milk supplies.

Refrigeration became commonly available. That and other household inventions like window screens, indoor plumbing, and strategies to deal with outhouse placement in relation to well placement and other improvements made possible by gains in real income.

Because, according to the McKinlay’s paper:

With the appearance of his book, Who Shall Live? (1974), Fuchs, a health economist, contributed to the resurgence of interest in the relative contribution of medical care to the modern decline in mortality in the United States. He believes there has been an unprecedented improvement in health in the United States since about the middle of the eighteenth century, associated primarily with a rise in real income.

In light of a number of similar reports, which have been ignored or overlooked questions about vaccines begin to center on efficacy versus the potential for harm. There are those “skeptics” who are quick to label any such questions as the “heresy” described by the McKinlays’. One would hope, at this point, they might review the widely accepted definition of skepticism as one of continuing exploration. There are no concrete truths in science, only evolving theories that should, in the best of all possible worlds, be continuously re-examined and re-tested.

We should also consider similar themes of hygiene in relation to income levels through the lens of such ideas as: mandated control of working conditions, food preparation and storage, statutes for safe drinking water and the establishment of agencies dealing specifically with issues of public health. Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle can act as a literary touchstone for the ideas presented here.

Now is the time for us to ask ourselves: Would the money spent on the now all-but-neutered health care bill be used more effectively by developing jobs for the populace so that real income levels rise for those most affected by the downturn? Would a combination of public health education and income increases work to reduce the current spate of common causes of death as it did in the first half of the last century even though the cause of mortality has changed? I think we need to take a broader view of what has worked in the past, as it is evident that medicating the problems will not solve them now any more than it did then.

Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk.

Osteoporosis Research Center, Creighton University, Omaha. This randomized trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT00352170.

RESULTS: When analyzed by intention to treat, cancer incidence was lower in those receiving  Calcium +Vitamin D than in the placebo control subjects.  When analysis was confined to cancers diagnosed after the first 12 months, RR for the Calcium +Vitamin D group fell  but did not change significantly for the Calcium-only group. In multiple logistic regression models, both treatment and serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations were significant, independent predictors of cancer risk.

CONCLUSIONS: Improving calcium and vitamin D nutritional status substantially reduces all-cancer risk in postmenopausal women.

All cancer.

I guess they only question left is: Won’t somebody think of the Pharmaceutical Companies?!  How are they supposed to survive if you can cut your cancer risk by getting some sun and eating a few strawberries or sardines?

It’s the: Same as it Ever Was – Health Care Debate Contest. With Nifty Prizes!

I was browsing a Funny Times magazine yesterday and came across a cartoon on the Health Care Debate. I thought it might be fun for them that’s interested to guess the Month and Year this cartoon was published in the Funny Times.

Submit an entry in the comments section and the first entry with the correct information will win their choice of the following prizes (what’s laying around the house that I can post to you cheaply):

A packet of mixed heirloom and non-hybridized open pollinated seeds for next years garden: tomatoes, okra, squash, cantaloupe, green-beans, purple peas and green peas. Or a packet of 3 blank note cards bearing images of the flower series by artist Karen Parker. I want thank Lloyd Dangle, cartoonist and let him know that I removed the copyright date for the purposes of this contest. But acknowledge that the copyrights to this work lie with him.

Have fun and always remember: And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack. And you may find yourself in another part of the world. And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful Wife. And you may ask yourself-well…how did I get here?

Link to Larger Image

Same as it ever was.

Same as it ever was.


The Lie Machine: Rolling Stone Report on the Health Care Debate

The story here.

On the first day of August, a mob of 200 right-wing Texans stormed the parking lot of a Randalls grocery store in southwest Austin. They were united in a single goal: Disrupt the “office hours” that Rep. Lloyd Doggett, the district’s congressman, had scheduled for his constituents. The protesters targeted Doggett for his role in crafting the House’s bill to reform health care, brandishing signs that read “No Government Health Care” and “No Government Counselor in My Home!!!” But their anger seemed to encompass a universe of conservative fears: higher taxes, illegal immigration, socialism. The threat of violence was thinly veiled: One agitator held aloft a tombstone with the name Doggett. Screaming, “Just say no!” the mob chased Doggett through the parking lot to an aide’s car — roaring with approval as he fled the scene.

Conservatives were quick to insist that the near-riot — the first of many town-hall mobs that would dominate the headlines in August — was completely spontaneous. The protesters didn’t show up “because of some organized group,” Rick Scott, the head of Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, told reporters. “They’re mad about the stimulus bill, the bailout, the economy. Now they see that their health care is about to be taken over by the government.”

In fact, Scott’s own group had played an integral role in mobilizing the protesters. According to internal documents obtained by Rolling Stone, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights had been working closely for weeks as a “coalition partner” with three other right-wing groups in a plot to unleash irate mobs at town-hall meetings just like Doggett’s. Far from representing a spontaneous upwelling of populist rage, the protests were tightly orchestrated from the top down by corporate-funded front groups as well as top lobbyists for the health care industry. Call it the return of the Karl Rove playbook: The effort to mobilize the angriest fringe of the Republican base was guided by a conservative dream team that included the same GOP henchmen who Swift-boated John Kerry in 2004, smeared John McCain in 2000, wrote the script for Republican obstructionism on global warming, and harpooned the health care reform effort led by Hillary Clinton in 1993.

Rolling Stone: Sick and Wrong

How Washington is Screwing Up Health Care Reform

Let’s start with the obvious: America has not only the worst but the dumbest health care system in the developed world. It’s become a black leprosy eating away at the American experiment — a bureaucracy so insipid and mean and illogical that even our darkest criminal minds wouldn’t be equal to dreaming it up on purpose.

Mother Nature Network: Wal-Mart and McDonald’s gift cards used as a lure for syphilis testing

The story is here.

I’m completely fractured over this.

I’ll put the socially responsible adult reply first: Good for the health workers who found a way to motivate people who might not otherwise be tested.

I’ll put my gut reaction second: Oh…My…God…

Closely followed by my inner 10 year old snickering and the near simultaneous linking between cheap and easy food and cheap and easy sex. Followed by an internal wince over the fact that I’m from North Carolina.

Then I starting thinking about the overarching links between Corporate Giantism and the downfall of the economy, leading to economic uncertainty, leading to risky sexual behaviour, leading to increasing rates of venereal disease, leading to even more money for already bloated corporations.

Oh, it’s th’ ciiiircle, the circle of liiife…….

Always a party in my head.

A Poker Run for Danny, 10 am Saturday as a form of Socialized Medical Care.

The name has been intentionally altered.

The name has been intentionally altered.

There seems to be a number of  willfully misinformed people who continue to insist that Socialism is solely a political system. A system imposed by an Authoritarian structure. Well, in its most complex incarnation that is a completely factual assessment.

But socialism (small “s”) fundamentally, is a group in which each person contributes what they can, so that all are supported as necessary.

By way of example: When Widder Walkins needs a barn raised, because her man was crushed dead felling trees for lumber; her neighbors get together and do the job for her. They don’t do it because they benefit directly. Some might. But most do it because it is the human and humane thing to do.

And as part of the social contract (which is the part that seems to be getting lost in the shuffle, so to speak) the good Widder will do her part in the future, when Gladys Mays needs help with that new baby’s teethin’ or Macon Tally comes down with the influenza and needs some chicken soup delivered to his bedside.

If these people don’t help each other, by neglect or by refusal, eventually they will all stumble and fall. Some, if not all, will perish. They will fail to thrive individually and as a community, because there are too many hardships for each to bear alone. Without a loose communal or tribal support structure to help them in times of need, they will, without question or exception, come up short somewhere along the line.

So lately, to satisfy my own morbid curiosity, I have been taking a loose count of the number of local requests for help with medical expenses through individual and community actions. These would include: Poker Runs, Cycle Runs, Bar-B-Que Dinners, Church fundraisers, Bake Sales, plastic jars on the counters of locally owned gas stations, posters on store windows and so on. This, by the way, does not include formally organized requests (i.e. recognized charities or non-profits) or those found in the newspaper or on the Internet.

In my very small range of territory (20 miles or so) I estimate that there is at least one fundraiser every 2 miles in any direction within a 360 degree radius. Now granted we are not talking an infinite number of points leading outward from me. (See, I’ll even admit I’m not the absolute center of the universe). But yesterday I took note of two local stores, a church, a fire station and a fruit stand all within 4 miles of me. There were 6 requests. That’s on 2 roads. I live in a very rural area, in one of the least populated parts of this county.

As I see it, allowing someone a little more savvy and organized than Henry Lee down at the Stop and Shop to manage and distribute that money allows for a number of positive things to occur:

  • Henry Lee can go back to shilling for the Stop and Shop instead of working for Suzie’s parents, keeping track of the money bucket, taking phone calls, answering questions and the like. He can work for himself as a shop keeper, rather than working for every underinsured or uninsured family in crisis.
  • Suzie’s parents can go to one place to request help. They don’t have to rely on the generosity of their neighbors who may be in worse shape than they are. They won’t have to worry that Henry Lee won’t keep an eye on the till so that drunken lout George Sacks, can’t pilfer through it and drink away the last hope for their daughter’s treatment.

There are some who are so set against any entity larger than a gas station collecting and using their money for the common good that they would rather cut off their noses to spite their faces.

Following this masochistic path to its logical conclusion, let’s say if these folks don’t want to participate they should be allowed to opt out. They will pay no more monies (taxes, surcharges, user’s fees) that are collected and utilized for a collective good. (read also as: lower costs for everyone participating because greater participation lowers costs)  In doing so, most will opt out of use of systems and lifestyles that utilize:

Fire departments

Water and sewer use and maintenance

Trash collection

Postal delivery

Police protection

Clean air

Clean water

Meat inspection

Paved roads

Traffic signage and signals

Structurally sound buildings with safety features like emergency egress and fire suppression, along with handicap access.

Public education

Elevator safety and inspection

Driver’s licenses

Public libraries

Public hospitals that treat everyone, regardless of ability to pay

So in the end, these folks suggest, by logical extension, that they can live in a poorly built shack with no lights, air conditioning, refrigeration, or running water. They will use an outhouse, heat and cook with wood, walk to get food from their garden or the nearby woods (as available), hunt their meat, burn or bury their waste, never travel on paved roads to any towns or cities and be utterly illiterate, uneducated and unemployable.

I can see that working out for them.

Interestingly some of the people I hear howling the loudest about creeping socialism are Medicaid recipients or have parents on Medicaid or Medicare and who literally could not survive without government assisted prescription coverage. Some work for state, local or county governments or the postal service, have cushy jobs and sponsored benefits like health insurance. Benefits and jobs that my taxes pay for. Go figure.

Some folks will say that they will gladly chip in and help others in need; so it’s not the collectivistic aspect that bothers them. They claim the problem is having a government run program. All the while failing to consider that our government is made up of people who elect representation to develop, run and maintain these very programs.

As long as we are a Democratic Republic we are a collective of people who run the country through representation. If we were simply a Democracy, them with the most votes would get their way. But we are not a democracy. Our system is designed to consider those who are so weak and so powerless that their voices get lost in the crowd. Like Suzie’s parents, who need help paying for her medical treatments. Or like Margaret in Hospice or Wanda with lymphoma or the half a dozen folks whose names, faces and personal tragedies are plastered on plastic buckets in the Stop and Shop or on a 5 foot sign in front of the local volunteer fire department that reads: Poker Run for Danny, starting at 10 a.m. this Saturday.

From the Independent: The Brutal Truth about American Healthcare

This link to the Independent follows a makeshift medical center set up in an arena.

Thousands of people lined up for basic healthcare services. Maybe all the folks disrupting town hall meetings have health care they are happy with. They should consider themselves lucky. And consider that not everyone has the advantages they take for granted.

I often wonder where their sense of Christian goodness fits in with their views on helping those among the least of them.

Matthew 25:40 And the King will make answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Because you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

2004 Study Shows Universal Coverage Could Save Enough to Pay for All (and then some).

Link to TradeWatch.org PDF

“A study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and
Public Citizen published in the January issue of the International
Journal of Health Services finds that health care bureaucracy last year cost
the United States $399.4 billion. The study estimates that national health
insurance (NHI) could save at least $286 billion annually on paperwork,
enough to cover all of the uninsured and to provide full prescription drug
coverage for everyone in the United States.

The study was based on the most comprehensive analysis to date of
health administration spending, including data on the administrative
costs of health insurers, employers’ health benefit programs, hospitals,
nursing homes, home care agencies, physicians and other practitioners in
the United States and Canada. The authors found that bureaucracy
accounts for at least 31 percent of total U.S. health spending compared
to 16.7 percent in Canada. They also found that administration has
grown far faster in the United States than in Canada.”

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