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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

This is the best news story I’ve read today! http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/healthday/649732.html

Can you imagine the guilt on the mind of the staffer who lets the President bum a cigarette, knowing full well that the President is trying to quit? Somehow I just can’t picture anyone saying, “Sorry, sir, you need to tough it out today.”

Tough it out…isn’t that what quitting smoking is like, though? You have this confidence surge every time you resist the temptation, because it’s hard to put the pack down and you know it. If you can resist for a while, you start feeling tough. You start telling yourself, “If I can get through this, I can get through anything.”

But it’s a fight. It’s a constant battle between your lungs and your brain. If you want to quit but it hasn’t happened, your brain says, “I must not be ready to quit.” If you want to quit and it has just happened, you’re fighting the crabbiness and the agitation, and you’re about three steps away from making it all stop by simply having another cigarette. If you don’t want to quit but you’re being hassled about it, your brain says, “It’s my life.” Meanwhile, your lungs are on fire and you’re in denial about it. But on some level, you know that your time is about up if you ever lose your lungs.

I’ve quit smoking three times, and each time I only stopped smoking when the stress in my life eased up on me. I had a hard time being without a cigarette in my mouth when life wasn’t exactly smooth sailing.

Can you imagine trying to go through that as the leader of the free world? I would be lighting up every time I spoke to the Republicans in Congress. I would bring my own carton to a weekend summit of world leaders. I would be frantically signalling staffers to get me an ashtray every time a call came in on that little red emergency phone.

Barack Obama has been going through something similar for at least the past nine months, all while he was functioning in one of the toughest jobs in the world.

If reports of your quitting aren’t greatly exaggerated, Mr. President, congratulations for doing something positive for your health and trying to tough it out. If you can handle this, you can handle anything.

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I actually found a completely rational explanation of the corporate bonus debate in an article today:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34809700/ns/business-answer_desk//

The best thing about it? The writer goes through a whole article on that particular subject without once pointing fingers at people who had nothing to do with creating the mess. Gotta respect a guy like that. Danke, Mr. Schoen.

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This isn’t your father’s town hall meeting anymore. This is disturbing.

The coverage of the local town hall meetings across the country has been interesting, to say the least. I don’t know whether some of the townspeople are shooting themselves in the foot or having trouble extracting it from their mouth. The yelling, the rudeness, the harsh words that have nothing to do with healthcare – you’re being compared with primates, for Pete’s sake.

These town hall meetings are supposed to be a forum in which we the people can voice our concerns in person. Our elected officials are making time to listen to us, and in some cases, we’re showing appreciation by blowing up on them. We’re going backward, not forward – and by “we,” I mean the bellowing, belligerent blowhards that keep disrupting the meetings. This isn’t productive conversation. This is the Middle Ages, complete with ignorant peasants and public stonings largely due to hearsay.

If you need to yell at public officials because you’re unhappy with the current healthcare bill, you need to know that you’d get your point across better with a carefully-worded question based on mutual respect and the need to clarify what the hell is going on. You don’t have to agree with the politician at the podium, but it would be a good idea if you respect him or her as a person and realize that this person is probably not personally responsible for the bottleneck.

You’d get more done if you stay on point, too. You won’t solve anything by telling a speaker that they will go to hell for what they’re doing. The subject is Healthcare, not Religion. And by the way, your God is probably pissed at the way you’re trying to make that call for Him.

Get a grip, people, and save the yelling for your therapist. Don’t let the angry rants of others get in the way of your ability to think for yourself. Make good use of the time at those town hall meetings, because if you want your voice to be heard – if you don’t want to be dismissed as an out-of-control, crazy jerk – you might want to present your justifiably strong opinions in some sort of civilized manner.

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It’s April – have you filed your taxes yet?  Are you going to?  Of course you will – you consider yourself a law-abiding citizen and you’re afraid of the IRS.

There is a case to be made about how taxation borders on socialism.  The ‘redistribution of wealth’ argument has been staring us in the face ever since the beginning of the 20th century, when the tax code began to take shape and become enforceable.  Most people agreed, however, that financing a war or two was a little too daunting for volunteer efforts, so off we went.

When the tax code began to allow for social programs and complicated business practices, it began to get messy.  Various administrations began to use it as a motivational tool for different purposes, and eventually to manipulate the economy. 

Did we go too far with that?  There’s a question – but I’m not qualified to answer that one.  I’d love to hear the answer, though.

The difference is that, while taxation is meant to be somewhat of a mandatory collaborative effort to provide common services to the people, our government and our tax code are kept in check by Congress – the representatives of the people.  If we don’t like how they do things, we can replace them.

In a socialist government, the government doesn’t just keep the economy in check, the government owns the economy.  They own the resources and don’t allow for private ownership.  They plan the economy, they manage the distribution of the GDP, and they make sure everyone gets some no matter who earned what, all without respect for private enterprise.

We are nowhere near socialism.  For instance, whether or not President Obama’s bailouts were the right thing to do is debatable, but they don’t qualify as socialism for the same reason that sane bank presidents generally insist that you prove that you are responsible with your money before they lend you enough to buy a car or a house.  In a way, they own the property, but only until you pay it off.  That’s not socialism.  That’s just good business.

Property taxes have always been around in some form, but we are still free to own the property.  Income taxes have been around for years, but we are still free to start our own businesses and charge our own prices.  Our government has been running the country for over two hundred years, but we are still free to elect our own representatives to participate in setting policy.

In America, there is no danger of us giving up our property rights, our entrepreneurial spirit, or our free market economy.  In this country, we can implement social programs without practicing socialism.

Socialism is not in the future of the United States of America – not even with a qualifier of “if we don’t…“.

The loud voices of the people do serve a purpose.  Be loud to keep things in check, though, not to scare people about something that isn’t going to happen.

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A lot of people seem to be trying to psychologically explain what happened to the economy.  Was it greed?  Impulsive risk instead of calculated risk?  How about the need to crawl back into the womb?

I don’t know about that last one, but even Freud would have acknowledged that the other two are getting a lot of press.

There is a certain perception of the people who control the financial markets.  We don’t hear their stories very often, so all some of us see  are guys and gals who dress up in fancy suits, playing an adult version of Monopoly with other people’s money, and thinking “what they don’t know won’t hurt them.”   It’s easy to attribute that to greed and impulsive behaviour.

Most of those guys and gals are probably thinking that they worked hard to get where they are, they are just normal people with nicer clothes, and in their business, they have to think fast to keep up.  If they take a risk and lose, that’s the way the game is played.  That’s why they call it RISK.  True, true, and true.

Perceptions aside, there’s one phrase that keeps popping up when the psychologists speak up:  human nature.

Scientific American ran an interesting article today about this, with a word or two by the author for those who think that the free market will work everything out itself. 

He’s not so sure about that, given the “what they don’t know won’t hurt them – and if it does, that’s the breaks” mentality.  He seems to think that completely rational behaviour isn’t as common as people think it is.

What do you think?  Are you feeling it?  Is it really that simple?

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Here’s another encouraging bit of news:  mental health is getting more funding in the form of grant money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  The main requirement is that those funds be used for research projects that have the potential to make a difference in scientific advancement in under two years.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which bills itself as The Nation’s Medical Research Agency, really does sponsor a great deal of medical research, so feeding over $8 billion to the NIH was probably the best way to provide research funding to the most projects at once.  Autism research was one of the main target areas, along with opportunities for science educators and existing short-term research projects which were running out of funds.

Some of that money is going to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  On their web pages, I found a couple of interesting grant opportunities that I’d like to keep an eye on.

One priority area is developing new ways of evaluating the brain without actually cutting into it.  From what I understand, just about every other organ in the body can be biopsied and analyzed without significant damage to a person’s health.  I’ll bet there aren’t very many people who are willing to give up a chunk of their brain for the advancement of science, so this new technology (whatever it is) will be great.

They would also like to get a report card on the current system of “community re-entry programs” for prisoners in need of mental health services.  I have a hunch that they’ll find that it needs major help.  I know a guy who knows a guy who regularly steals something when he’s having a hard time coping just so he can go back to jail.  He thinks that the struggle to survive is easier there.  Most jails are now being seen as modern variations of the “funny farms”, so new information here could have an impact on quite a few areas.

The grant money will also target the nature of schizophrenia and other major mental disorders, the genetics of mental illness, how to improve services for racially and ethnically diverse populations, intervention strategies for youth and young adults, and how to develop low-risk drugs that might be better solutions for some of us, among other things.

The big news will have be the results of the “Grand Opportunities” grants.  The NIMH is going to give out money to anyone who comes up with research studies which will find out more about brain development (or which part of our brain went haywire at what point to impact our symptoms), which genes specifically affect the risk of mental illness, and – my personal favorite – “Neurodevelopmental Genomics:  Trajectories of Complex Phenotypes”.

In plain English, this means we could end up with a better understanding of how genetics, physical growth, environment, and behaviour all work together over time to make us who we are.  We could end up with a more accurate system of categorizing mental and emotional disorders, which in turn might make it easier to accurately diagnose and treat them.

Click here for the full story on what the National Institute of Mental Health is doing with their piece of the pie.  I’m really looking forward to the “How Are We Doing?” page on the federal government’s ARRA website to see how this all plays out.

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I try to be open-minded, but I’m done with this guy.  In case you didn’t catch my last reply to the thread, I thought it needed repeating.  I am done trying to listen to Mark Levin.

I was on another long drive yesterday, and tuned in to his radio show again.  Right after I found the station, a lady named Lisa called in to ask a question, and she happened to have a mousy little voice.  I’m sure she was asking a legitimately intelligent question, but I never did hear it.

Mr. Levin started to groan as she was talking, and upon hearing the first few words of her question, he decided he had to make fun of her instead of treating her with respect.  In his whiniest voice, he started to talk over her.  “Honey, what do you want for dinner?”  (Imagine a very sad, mopey Edith Bunker impression.)  “Waah, waah, waah…are you married, by any chance?”  He continued to hassle her, and ended the call by saying, “Get off the phone, you big dope.”

For a constitutionalist, he sure did a great job of revealing his true nature by slamming free speech yesterday.  Callers who were saying, “Thank you just for being you,” got through, and callers who had the nerve to ask him to defend his opinions were cut off.  Fine – the caller’s voice was annoying, but his rudeness was scary, considering how whiny his voice is.

Mark Levin is not educating anyone, really.  He is preying upon decent, hard-working, traditional American families who are very angry at our current economic situation but who aren’t quite sure who to direct their anger to because the answer is complicated for most of us.  We rely on the media to help us narrow that down, and he’s jumping on the opportunity to stir the pot in his own direction, keep the conservatives outraged, and promote his book.

I take back what I said about wanting to buy his book and see what he’s really about.  I don’t want to learn anything from this guy.

So this one’s for all the Lisas in America:  Get off the radio, you big dope.

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