The Week’s Kudos and Catcalls

Once again, real life never ceases to amaze me.  There were lots of catcalls this week accompanied by, alas, fewer kudos.  So let’s get started on the week’s blunders.  I, of course, include many interesting articles for your weekend reading.  It is time to get smart again.  I extend advance apologies for the length of this entry.

Remember those adventurous American hikers in Iraq who inadvertently wandered into the borders of Iran in the beginning of August?  To refresh your memory, please see my post:

Well, these three nature lovers were deemed to be spies this week by the Iranian powers-that-be and will be tried in court.  Here we go again.  For an offense that may be punishable by death, these Americans opted to take a hike in the woods where they were not wanted or welcome.  In all of the entirety of our Mother Earth, could they not have found a more suitable hiking venue?  Their total lack of foresight is so outrageous that perhaps they truly are spies.  Catcalls to these bumbling idiots.

Even stronger catcalls go to the Stupak Amendment.  The inappropriateness of both Republicans and Democrats to attach this provision to health care reform still angers me.  It is outright blackmail using American women as their bargaining chip.  I am not a token to be used to advance the greater good.  I am not a negotiable piece of meat nor are my constitutional rights.  Read Judith Warner:

Catcalls also go out to the geniuses who support electronic medical records.  Right off the bat, no electronic records, whether personal, related to the military, deriving from government agencies, and especially personal and financial corporate data on individuals, have been exempt from technological theft or hacking.  Additionally, having our private insurers in charge of that information could lead only to mayhem.  As long as profit is the motive of insurers, our confidentiality will be violated.  We already know their greedy and corrupt practices in denying health coverage.  Why would we expect anything different from them regarding our medical histories?

Whether electronic records will be eventually hacked into or “lost” is almost a moot point when you consider the gatekeepers of this information are so duplicitous in their intentions.  So right from the get-go then, we know that these electronic records will not be secure and that there is a good chance that they will be used against us in the future.  Once our private medical information is out, Honey, it is out.  No take-backs.  There could be serious consequences to our current employment, future job opportunities, and overall well-being.  Without establishing safeguards and significant fines for said violations before we institute electronic medical record keeping, we will be knowingly subjecting ourselves to much heartache down the road.  Plus, if electronic medical record keeping has been historically so subject to malevolent intervention in the first place, then why we are placing our private insurers in charge of that process and anoint them to be the pirates of  our privacy?   Hello!!  Talk about having the gift of foresight and not using it:

Boos and hisses go out to the overused and under-explained phrase by our politicians and special interest groups “We need to grow the economy”.  Enough of this empty adage.  Bob McDonnell, the Republican who recently won the Virginia gubernatorial election, opened and closed every sentence with that phrase.  Numerous other business and political groups, e.g. the Chamber of Commerce,  also use this meaningless phrase in their advertisements.  Granted: with unemployment at such a high rate and our economy still far from recovery from our most recent recession, the idea seems quite palatable.  However, there is no way we can ever sustain exuberant growth.  It was a fallacy before the recession and still is a fallacy today.  As I have written before, for corporations to constantly expect (and therefore adopt ethically tenuous practices to achieve such ends) higher earnings is not realistic.  The dangerous repercussions can include economic bubbles that ultimately will bust.  Good old America: what’s so wrong about steady economic health?  Why does the “successful” business have to be typified by double-digit growth factors?  It is the same old disease: more equals better.

Finally, tears and jeers go out to our Sarah upon the release of her new book.   As I have said before, what we know about her does not hold a candle to what we do not yet know.  Levi Johnston, equally as scummy as our Sarah, said that our Sarah knows what he has on her.   I do believe that if this “truth” ever is unveiled, our Sarah will defend herself by saying that she did it for her family and kids.  This is just a hypothesis of mine, but nonetheless, that would be pure blasphemy.

Our Sarah is just a vacuous, money- and fame-seeking entity.  However, the reason why we should not just ignore her is because there are too many women in America who identify with her “just a hockey mom” public aura and too many men in America who vote not with their brains but with that other organ.  A week or so ago GOP strategist Mike Murphy asked: “If Sarah Palin looked like Golda Meir, would we even be talking about her today?”  The clear and present danger is not the actual silliness and lack of substance of our Sarah, but the fact that she could use the politics of nothingness to garner electoral support.  Even more criticism is extended to Oprah and Barbara Walters for providing a public launchpad for our Sarah’s ambitions.  They are all equally guilty of participating in a feeding frenzy for their own fame and fortune.  No difference.  Let them all feast upon themselves.  Cannibals.

As for the “record sales” of our Sarah’s book, three weeks ago I said to my son that the book had risen to the top of the bestseller lists because it reflected the huge orders placed by the big box stores and book retailers.  The book was not even released to the public until this week, and guess what?  Just as I thought, the books are not selling well and the best scenario has been the discount bin:

Oh well.  Our Sarah’s literary legend will be good for the earth: we can use the book as firewood and in the process, save our forests and cut down our energy bills.

Now let us review the kudos earned over the last week.  I have a definite affection for Warren Buffett, scion of industry, the vision of investment sanity and an example of honesty and ethics in business.  Yes: he bought an equity position in Goldman Sachs a while back.  Unlike a lot of people who deem this transaction to be cavorting with the devil, I choose to believe that Buffett will bring some amount of ethical behavior to Goldman.  Call me ridiculously optimistic and naive if you will, but I admire and respect Buffett’s long-term investment outlook (versus the instantaneous, immediately gratifying, day-trading outlook by many business types) and constant rosy outlook for America.  He is probably our country’s biggest fan and he puts his money where his mouth is to prove the point.  His company, Berkshire Hathaway, presents itself as probably the best “mutual fund” that any American can buy today.  Further, Berkshire is backed by Buffett himself, and his simple, honest and ethical formula for long-term economic success.

In line with my admiration of Warren Buffett, I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place when I want to make investments in stock shares.  I am so wary of the intentions and business practices of the corporations themselves, along with their executives and Boards of Directors.  I worry about the ethical profile of each company.  I fret over the exorbitant compensation packages offered to employees of these publicly held corporation.  I become totally frustrated when I object to some policies of companies I own shares in and cannot break through the firewall they have set up to protect themselves from public censure.  It was brought to my attention this week that there is a service that actually evaluates corporate ethics.  It is called the Corporate Library and I am so glad it exists:

I cannot vouch for the morality of this business but I can hope they are honest.  Kudos to the Corporate Library for providing  a huge service to the investing public.

Things aren’t always what they seem.  As a followup to my post yesterday, “The Mammogram Wars”, it has come to my attention that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, who introduced the new guidelines this week, is not a fully owned or funded government entity.  I am hoping that you can help me get more information.  I have been told that this task force’s breast health inquiry was funded, at least partially, by the private insurance industry.  If true, that fact would not necessarily invalidate the findings, but it sure would taint their recommendations somewhat.  Please help me uncover who funds this task force and specifically, this particular study on breast health.

After mulling over this breast health controversy, I call for moderation of irrational fear, careful weighing of all factors involved and, above all, an open mind to the scientific developments and technological advancements.  As a corollary to having an open mind to science, one must also realize that information and technology is in a constant state of flux and so our recommendations must adjust accordingly.  For example, based on the majority of mammogram x-ray machines in existence today, the build-up of radiation in our bodies is of consequence.  However, the new digital machines dispense a lesser amount of radiation, but they are very expensive and not a large number of them are in service.  If these new machines should experience wider service, perhaps it would be okay for women to have more frequent scans.

Unless an absolute life-saving option, I have a rule of thumb for new medications: let five to eight years pass before you take that medicine.  The HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) debacle was the classic example of finding that quick fix at the expense of suffering serious medical consequences.  HRT was supposed to reduce a woman’s incidence of heart attack and breast cancer, besides making her look damn good.  Lo and behold, the exact opposite turned out to be fact after a number of years in use.  HRT users experienced a higher amount of heart attacks and breast cancers.  Oh yeah: but they still looked good.

In addition, the standard of measurement in the task force’s new guidelines was “number of lives saved.”  Sometimes, absolutes have to be sacrificed for whatever we can get.  For example, if a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer when her child is eight years old and treatment allows the mom to live an additional seven to ten years, surely that is better than succumbing after only two years.  The child will have then had her mother until she was almost grown.  So half measures sometimes are better than nothing, and if mammograms can extend the lives of women through early detection, even though they might not ultimately save their lives, the process was worth it.

Americans love a silver bullet.  However, sometimes life is a crap shoot with only incomplete or premature data available.  We  have to sift through the existing knowledge, integrate it with our own specific histories and needs, and then make a decision, knowing that the information can change tomorrow.  It is the best we can do with what we have.  Yet, I again extend kudos to the mere fact of somebody somewhere, anybody anywhere,  actually conducting research and offering updated guidelines on issues of women’s health.

Finally, a balanced response to an issue that needs a healthy dose of that same balance:


Once again, my readers at DailyKOS have come through for me.  Please go to my diary, the comment section, at that site for a succinct explanation of who exactly the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is, how its members are chosen, and the nature of this organization:


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