Friday, November 27, 2009

Pig Nation: Americans Waste 40 Percent Of Food Produced Here

By Manifesto Joe

Here's a day-after-Thanksgiving thought. According to a new study, 40 percent of all food produced in the United States is thrown out. The waste, per person, has gone up by 50 percent since 1974.

Here's the news link.

It's bad enough to have wasted 26 or 27 percent of U.S. food back in '74 -- that's ridiculous, considering how many people in the world were hungry then. The amount of hunger is at least as bad nowadays, and stands to get worse with climate change.

As much swinelike behavior as there is in America, what with people rushing into retail stores to trample the help to death on "Black Friday" (see my posts of about this time last year), this seems to me the most criminally swinelike thing of all.

It would be hard to believe that people act like this if it wasn't so evident in public situations. Where I work, we have a community refrigerator, and one has to be careful using it because of the quantity of leftovers, and even the newly purchased food, that is forgotten, sits in the box for weeks, and rots. Some of us there are vigilantes, throwing out spoiled food to make room for the fresh and get rid of the rancid smells. But, this has to be a large number of our employees who are guilty of this negligence, because the problem is so pervasive, stubborn and recurrent.

For one thing, with the U.S. economy in the tank as it is, it's astonishing that a lot of people even think they can afford to be so wasteful. Most Americans only 75 years ago, during the Great Depression, wouldn't have dreamed of it. What kind of transformation has happened, in what is historically such a short time?

Perhaps there is some cultural element involved. I haven't had a lot of experience with people from other cultures, but what I've seen gives me the impression that they eat leftovers and try not to overbuy. "It's a sin to waste food," I once heard a young woman from Germany say.

Why do I feel this way about it, as a baby boomer, a member of the most pampered generation in American history?

Well, I wasn't typical of my generation. My folks weren't well-off to begin with, and my dad got sick with a terminal illness and had to go on disability when I was 11. Food simply wasn't wasted in our house unless it was so far-gone as to be a health risk.

I remember eating a lot of hamburger, cheap chicken, pasta, potatoes, canned tuna, salmon patties, white-trash beans and cornbread, canned or frozen vegetables and fruit, homemade sandwiches, stew and such -- steak was a rare Sunday luxury. Fish? Other than what came out of cans, that was Mrs. Paul's sticks with some ketchup, or occasionally some catfish that my grandfather caught in a nearby lake.

Leftovers were refrigerated and eaten the next day. There was a lot of cold cereal and skim milk for breakfast. Our vegetables often came from a large backyard garden. This was South Texas -- for a time we had a big orange tree in the back yard, and it was my job get up on the tree and pick the oranges for fresh juice.

It wasn't quite the Depression during my small-town '60s childhood. I never went hungry, and no, I never had to walk more than maybe a third of a mile to school. But the lesson was never lost on me that one should never, ever take eating for granted.

I suppose there's no way to legally bust the kind of piglike hominids who commit this waste, but it could certainly be made into something socially unacceptable. With all the social pressure that's been brought to bear on the slinking minority that U.S. cigarette addicts have become, one would think that this wouldn't be a very hard follow-up.

If it were up to me, I'd make it something thought of as on a par with drunken driving or domestic violence. It does unspeakable harm to many -- but the perpetrators aren't compelled to look upon their victims in court, or in the morgue.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

An Unusual Thanksgiving Wish, Courtesy Of Al Green

While you're digesting all that turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce today, take a few minutes to dance off some calories, courtesy of the most righteous and soulful Rev. Al Green.

And give thanks that you live in a country with so much multicultural wealth.

Take Me to the River, by Al Green (1946 - ), circa 1974

Monday, November 23, 2009

Baby, I've Been Wrong Before

Are you old enough to remember the old show Shindig?

Related to the previous post, here's a blast from the past:

I was only 9 in 1965, watching Shindig on backwoods TV. I get the impression it would have been a pretty good time to be 29, and living someplace like London or New York.

Performed by Cilla Black. Song by Randy Newman.

Lieberman Just Wants To Keep His Chairmanship

Unless the ghost of Hanuka Past comes for a midnight visit, count on Liar Joe to be the key vote that kills the public option.

By Manifesto Joe

The one and only thing that makes the Bush presidency look good in hindsight is the thought that this man could have been a heartbeat away from the presidency. Liar Joe Lieberman voted with the Democratic majority Saturday night to bring the health care bill to debate on the Senate floor.

Barring divine intervention, consider that to be Liar Joe's ass-covering vote, the one that will save his chairmanship as a member of the Senate's majority Democratic caucus.

Don't count on any more of them. I think this man made his Faustian bargains long ago, and the time has come for Lucifer to collect the bill. Liar Joe will vote with the Republicans every time after this, I predict -- once again, unless the gods intervene. I've been wrong before, as the old Randy Newman song (a 1965 hit for Cilla Black) went. And I sincerely hope I'm wrong this time.

Liar Joe is chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, because the Democratic Senate majority accepts him as a caucus vote and permits it. I think they made a huge mistake back when. It was bad enough in 2006, when he got past the challenge of Ned Lamont. The Democratic Party should have kicked his scrawny ass to the curb when he campaigned for John McCain.

But, here he is, and here this is. Look for the upcoming vote to be, quite possibly, 59-41 "against" cloture of the health care filibuster -- with Liar Joe the deciding vote.

I honestly hope he will surprise me. Baby, I've been wrong before.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Price-Gouging On Drugs: Another Argument For Single-Payer

By Manifesto Joe

For decades, I've heard that one big reason drug companies charge so much for their products is that they need plenty of money for R&D (research and development). Staying on the pharmaceutical cutting edge, the argument goes, is part of what has given America "the greatest health care system in the world." Yeah, it works just great -- for CEOs, stockholders and wealthy people in general.

The difference between what the drug companies are charging and what Americans pay for most other products is astonishing. Duff Wilson, reporting for The New York Times, wrote that drugmakers raised prices on their wares by an average of 9 percent during the past year, according to industry analysts. That compares with a decline of 1.3 percent in the Consumer Price Index. Read the full story here.

That's an awful lot of R&D. (And, it comes just before major legislation is anticipated. Coincidence?) So, what are we consumers getting for it?

Well, for starters, there are the drugs that don't work. Nearly two years ago, a study cast much doubt on the effectiveness of the alleged state-of-the-art cholesterol drug Zetia. Here's a report. And, more recently, a study found that a form of niacin actually had more effect on slowing the buildup of plaque on artery walls than did Zetia or a similar drug, Vytorin. That story was in a lot of newspapers today.

Another thing we consumers seem to be getting is a lot of adverse drug reactions to all these exotic new panaceas. There's now a plethora of lawsuits related to liver damage from Zetia and Vytorin regimens. And, these newer meds are more expensive than the older statin drugs, which are often prescribed in tandem. The drug companies had studies years ago indicating all of the above problems, but they persisted in misrepresenting the drugs because that meant higher profits for them.

For that matter, the statin drugs are bad enough. Three days for my mother on Zocor, and she collapsed and landed in the hospital. Three days on Lipitor for me, and I couldn't remember people's names.

So, all we seem to be getting for all that R&D we pay for are drugs that sometimes don't work, and even when they do, the ADRs can at worst kill you, and at best turn you into a zombie.

The payroll as a source of price-gouging?
On to another classic argument: "Those people have to be paid!" an obvious Limbaugh dittohead exclaimed to me during an drugstore argument back in 1992. She was referring to the assorted technicians, skilled laborers, etc., who work for the drug companies.

Last time I checked, it wasn't the rank-and-file lab workers who were pulling in the seven-figure salaries and bonuses. In 17 years we've learned a lot more about that, so forget about that canard.

The stockholders have to be paid, too, right? (Hmmm)
The third in this unholy trinity of drugmaker arguments is that the stockholders have to get a good return on their investments, otherwise they might not gamble on pharmaceuticals. It's considered a high-stakes, and high-risk, investment.

But recent studies, apparently some from the insurance companies themselves, have said that the insurers' profit margins aren't relatively high -- only around 6 percent. Why, then, am I paying more and more every year for needed medications? As the insurance companies keep jacking up co-payments and changing their preferred drug lists, why don't THEY make more money?

Based on the recent analysis, I think we know who's really raking it in. The insurers are just passing on the costs. And we, the consumers, seem to be getting about the same thing for good stockholder returns as we've been getting for all that "R&D."

The answer? Let's take the profit motive OUT OF MEDICINE.
Back in 1992, the same dittohead I mentioned earlier argued that a government takeover of medicine would inevitably lead to lower quality in health care.

I'm going to write something that might be considered astonishing. If that is the case about a "government takeover," I honestly do not give a rat's ass.

The reasons are simple. I'm not rich, and I've had lifelong health problems. I'm not satisfied with the standard of health care I've gotten for over 53 years now; I can't see how flat-out socialized medicine could make it that much worse, and at least what treatment there was would be guaranteed, pre-existing conditions or none.

If I were rich, being flown to Houston for the finest open-heart surgery would be no problem. But I'm not rich, so what good does all that state-of-the-art do me? I just want something I can afford, and can DEPEND ON.

In a single-payer system, there are probably many drawbacks. We've certainly heard all about them from the greedy interests who are fighting U.S. health care reform. But I've noticed something -- not one of the advanced nations that has single-payer, not even conservative-leaning Australia, is debating a change to an American-style "land of the fee" system. Nor do I hear any beneficiaries of Medicare -- a single-payer system for those 65 and older -- say they are willing to give up what they have.

Single-payer would get the profit motive out of medicine, on many levels, including drug prices. However long it takes to get real reform done, the debate will always take us back to that simple truth.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Odds Are Against Real Health Care Reform In Senate, But House Vote Was Worth It

By Manifesto Joe

The public option for health insurance probably doesn't stand a chance in the Senate. Renegade Joe Lieberman and several "blue dog" DINOs are very likely to stop it from getting to an up-or-down vote like we saw in the House late Saturday. But it was worth it to go this far, for three big reasons.

1. The debate has been educational, and the American public needed schooling on this subject.

I confess that I didn't know before this summer that private insurers, in the current system, have an exemption from federal antitrust laws. They've had it for many decades, all the way back to 1945. (Here's a link.) And yet these Tea Party imbeciles persist in bellowing about free markets, and patient choice? Unfortunately, there's no FDA-approved treatment for stupidity on the "free market" yet.

This antitrust exemption was apparently, in part, the brainchild of U.S. Sen. Pat McCarran, D-Nev. (Another link.) McCarran (1876-1954) was one of the era's notorious Red-baiters, chief sponsor of the McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950, which required Communist Party members and those in affiliated "fronts" to register with the government. By the way, the act was never enforced, and major provisions of it were ruled unconstitutional in 1965 and 1967, as it was decided that even commies have free-speech guarantees. This "distinguished gentleman," Sen. McCarran, was living proof that DINOs were around in the 1940s, too.

Another thing that this year's debate has made clear: The majority of U.S. bankruptcies are the result of catastrophic illnesses -- combined with a monopolistic private health insurance system that doesn't cover 47 million people, or can simply refuse to cover many others because of "pre-existing conditions."

(2) Democrats, real ones, can beat Republicans over the head with this in next year's midterm congressional elections.

The public option won in an up-or-down vote, 220-215, in the more representative and "little-d" democratic part of our legislative branch. And polls show that a majority of Americans favor a public option. There's an opportunity to pillory Republicans here, if Democrats will capitalize on it. The Republicans are ready to block something that a majority of the public had decided it wanted. Make the insurance-company prostitutes pay at the polls.

(3) If health care reform fails this time, or is diluted into just another subsidy for the private insurance industry, the eventual outcome may well be a single-payer system.

Saturday's vote in the U.S. House came against great odds -- the well-financed and ruthless opposition of the American health insurance monopoly. The vote came about because the anger that has been building among the American people for decades finally overpowered the insurance companies' almighty dollar.

If the status quo, or something like it, continues, the pressure from below will keep building. Some of the Tea Party fools may have been through illness and bankruptcy by then -- sometimes personal experience can make somebody realize that they've been a chicken supporting Colonel Sanders.

In time, we may finally get real reform: a single-payer system. If it takes misery and financial ruin for millions to get this done -- well, so be it. It took the Great Depression to turn enough Republicans into independents, and independents into Democrats, to get us something as basic as Social Security back in 1935.

I can see in this the beginnings of history repeating itself.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rush Limbaugh, Obama, Ad Hominem, Ad Nauseum

By Manifesto Joe

One of the things that's remarkable about right-wingers is their chutzpah. Herr Rush Limbaugh, postmodern court jester for the Third Reich, may be the biggest, or at least the fattest, example.

Lardbaugh's latest outrage was his tirade last week against President Barack Obama. Huffington Post reported that:

During a rant in which he Limbaugh accused senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett of unfairly pressuring the Chamber of Commerce, the controversial radio host slammed Obama as "this little boy, this little man-child president whose primary job, if you will, in life has been leisure. This guy is more practiced at leisure than anything else."

You can view the video here.

Let's see, now. A "man-child president whose primary job ... has been leisure."

Perusing Wikipedia's biography of Lardbaugh, one notices things such as these:

Limbaugh graduated from Cape Central High School, in 1969. His father and mother wanted him to attend college, so he enrolled at Southeast Missouri State University. He dropped out after two semesters and one summer; according to his mother, "he flunked everything", even a modern ballroom dancing class.[1] As she told a reporter in 1992, "He just didn't seem interested in anything except radio."[4]

It appears that Herr Lardbaugh's mouth, clearly hyperactive in more ways than one, has been his ticket to getting through life. He was no student then, and regarding his accuracy, the easiest job on the planet today would be a gig as his fact-checker.

Here's more from Wiki:

Draft status
Limbaugh's birthdate was ranked as 152 in the Vietnam War draft lottery. No one was drafted above 125. He was classified as "1-Y" (later reclassified "4-F") due to either a football knee injury or a diagnosis of Pilonidal disease.[1][5]

He came from a well-to-do family, lousy with lawyers. More from Wiki:

Limbaugh was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the son of Mildred Carolyn "Millie" (née Armstrong), originally from Searcy, Arkansas, and Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Jr. His father was a lawyer and a World War II fighter pilot who served in the China-Burma-India theater. The name "Rush" was chosen for his grandfather to honor the maiden name of family member Edna Rush.[1] His family has many lawyers, including his grandfather, father and brother David. His uncle, Stephen N. Limbaugh, Sr. is a Ronald Reagan-appointed federal judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and his cousin, Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr., is currently a judge in the same court, appointed by George W. Bush. Rush Limbaugh, Sr., Limbaugh's grandfather, was a Missouri prosecutor, judge, special commissioner and served on Missouri's state House of Representatives from 1930 to 1932.[2] Limbaugh's grandfather was a longtime president of the Missouri Historical Society. Rush, Sr., died at age 104, and was still a practicing attorney at the time of his death. The Federal Courthouse in Cape Girardeau is named for Limbaugh's grandfather.

Let's see some more. He's been married, and divorced, three times. You wonder what's wrong when a guy as rich as he was born, and as filthy rich as he got later, just can't stay married. Does it have anything to do with the fact that he's a world-class misogynist asshole? Or maybe with his apparent need for 100-mg. Viagra pills?

More still: His weight problem has been obvious for decades. He's been addicted to illegal drugs (oxycodone and hydrocodone).

His racism has been on display regularly throughout his radio career. More from Wiki:

On March 19, 2007 Limbaugh referred to a Los Angeles Times editorial by David Ehrenstein which claimed that Barack Obama was filling the role of the "magic negro", and that this explained his appeal to voters.[39] Limbaugh then later played a song by Paul Shanklin, "Barack the Magic Negro," sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon".[40]

Here's Limbaugh on NFL star Donovan McNabb:

Sorry to say this, I don't think he has been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well, black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve ...

[On "free trade"] If we are going to start rewarding no skills and stupid people, let the unskilled jobs, let the kind of jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do, let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work.

Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?

There's plenty more along those lines. I'd say it calls into question his qualification to assess Barack Obama accurately in any way.

His misogyny is, of course, richly documented. Let's not leave out his homophobia:

The difference between Los Angeles and yogurt is that yogurt comes with less fruit.

And, let's not leave out his brazen hypocrisy:

I'm appalled at people who simply want to look at all this abhorrent behavior and say, "Hey, you know, we can't control it anymore. People are going to do drugs anyway. Let's legalize it." It's a dumb idea. It's a rotten idea, and those who are for it are purely, 100 percent selfish.

When you strip it all away, Jerry Garcia destroyed his life on drugs. And yet he's being honored, like some godlike figure. Our priorities are out of whack, folks.

There's nothing good about drug use. We know it. It destroys individuals. It destroys families. Drug use destroys societies. Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods, which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.

Finally, there's the matter of ego. The Pigman has depicted Obama as having a titanic one. Can he be serious? To wit, Lardbaugh's descriptions of himself:

Half my brain tied behind my back just to make it fair.

Talent on loan from GOD.

When I think of Herr Lardbaugh, somehow another, very different metaphysical region comes to mind. Well, that's enough of this for now. Barack Obama, self-made sort of guy with a JD from Harvard Law, physically fit fellow, author, law professor, married only once and still married with two kids, etc., etc. ... he seems to have accomplished quite a bit for a man of such abundant leisure.

Contrast him with a fat, thrice-divorced, draft-dodging, ex-drug-addicted college dropout who is all opinions and no background, all prejudice and no facts, who has made a fortune with his mouth. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Monday, November 2, 2009

H.R. 784: Confucius Say, Congress Fools Need To Pull Heads Out Of Rear Ends

By Manifesto Joe

It's nice to know that members of Congress sometimes exhibit a sense of history. I just wish they would quit neglecting the burning issues of the present while revering the ancient past.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted, 361-47, with 13 members voting "present," to honor Confucius. That's right, Confucius, on his 2,560th birthday. The resolution, H.R. 784, is one "Honoring the 2560th anniversary of the birth of Confucius and recognizing his invaluable contributions to philosophy and social and political thought."

No one spoke against the resolution, which was sponsored by Rep. Al Green, D-Houston, and drew 40 co-sponsors. Yet, 60 members either voted against the resolution or voted "present." The breakdown by party: 234-12-2 among Democrats, 127-35-11 among Republicans.

It's somewhat reassuring to know that a majority of Congresspeople, even wingnut Republicans, realize that some of civilization's great hallmarks go back 4,500 years, predate Christianity by many centuries and often weren't Western in origin. I read that even Michele Bachmann voted for this one.

But if I'd been there, I'm not sure I wouldn't have just silently and sullenly opposed this myself, as a simple protest.

With a quagmire war in Afghanistan that's getting away from us, with the Iraq war still clearly not over in view of periodic terrorist violence, with joblessness pushing 10%, with 47 million Americans lacking health insurance, etc., etc. ... doesn't our Congress have something far better to do than spend time passing resolutions like this one?

It gets even worse. While just casually following the actions of Congress in recent weeks, I noticed resolutions congratulating collegiate wrestling and lacrosse teams on their championships, and one recognizing country-Western music as a uniquely American art form that has greatly enriched our culture.

It's all very nice, but I don't go to the polls every two years to have them piss away taxpayer money like that. Why not put some of that time and energy into advancing a health care overhaul? Or, pay attention to one of the many other pressing issues confronting America?

I'm suspicious that some of those 35 Republicans may have opposed the resolution because they thought Confucius was a Marxist or a Muslim or something. Yeah, yeah, I know such ideologies and religions didn't exist then, but do certain of them know that? I can imagine a private conversation: ("He wuz a Chinaman, weren't he? Never liked me none of them. They's atheists an' Reds.")

But, as much as I hate to think that I might have voted, out of disgust, with some of the GOP wingnuts, this is one instance in which I might well have done so.

Of course, there's about as much chance of me sitting in the U.S. House as there is of Confucius coming back from the dead -- or getting a talk show on AM radio.

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.