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Friday, December 21, 2012

"...and it brings us to tonight's..."

            I just watched the CEO of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, make his address to the nation.  After a week of heart wrenching coverage of a most heinous act, there was much speculation of what the NRA statement would be.  He was very careful in his choice of words.  Now, I don’t agree with everything he said, nor I did not find everything he said to be outlandish or insulting to the families or victims of this tragedy.  What I was more concerned with was the coverage afterwards.  Let me start by saying, I am pretty liberal.  I have some conservative notions, but on the whole, I live a very liberal life and I don’t like to assign arbitrary rules to ever changing and evolving situations.  There may always be new solutions to the same problem.  With that said, it will be tough to appear objective, but (excuse the wordplay) that is the objective.  I think it is fairly understood that FOX “news” is biased and often lives in a world of fantasy.  Many people accuse MSNBC of the same infractions, just for the other side.  Now, I do think there is some truth to that, but on the whole, I believe they are trying to discuss issues and not attempt to enforce a personal paradigm.  That is, until the coverage of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.  It feels like much of the rhetoric and talking points are on the arbitrary rules and definitions that, I believe, will not make much of a difference at all.  Instead of solutions, it is a level of semantics that assumes what the audience wants to hear, and the bounds of the argument are made on those assumptions.  The only one that has merit, and has not been given its rightful shot, is the care we give to the mentally ill, but we’ll come back to that one. 
            Most of the back and forth is about the varying definitions of what is an “Assault Weapon”.  There’s talk of military style, high capacity clips, flash suppressors, and a whole range of rifle accessories in an attempt to do something.  Now, many people have been fighting this battle for years and decades even, and I don’t want to get caught up in a personal preference argument.  I just want to deal with logistics for the moment.  I personally don’t believe that any future regulations will vastly differentiate consumers’ guns with those of the military or law enforcement.  Ultimately, that is the heart of the second amendment.  It does not exist so anyone can own whatever crazy weapon they choose to own.  It exists to make sure there is no huge separation between a potentially oppressive government and the militias that people in the community must be forced to build.  So, I don’t see a gun ban getting to that point.  The next elective on the table is the High Capacity Magazines.  Right now, there are standard magazines that hold up to 30 rounds and others that can hold 100.  In California, for instance, the state max is 10.  But when we are talking about a civilian community where there is no equal opposition, like the case in Newtown, the time a person would need to change 10 round magazines would be negligible.  We’re talking a 2 second delay.  However, in a warzone or a shoot out with police (like the ones that happen in California) that 2 seconds may make a difference in the apprehension or suppression of said madman.  But in the case that is being discussed at great length, it would have made no difference.  It is talking points like this one that confuse and muddle the argument.  There is so much time spent talking about these minute details and not enough weight given to actual solutions. 
            Going back, one of those solutions is how we as a society deal with our fellow human beings, more specifically the mentally ill.  There are children growing up in communities all over America with no access to proper care.  These children have the potential to grow up and become one of these deranged adults that we all look at after a tragedy like this and say, “if we had only…”  But here we are living in a country that cannot make decisions.  For the past two years, we have watched our government argue over spending money on our people or giving tax cuts to the rich.  My entire life has been filled with the observation that schools, local governments, public institutions, medical facilities, police and fire departments have all had shrinking budgets every year.  Each organization has to do more with less.  This is something we are all watching happen.  We are not funding any of the institutions adequately enough to do their jobs.  And when each of these does their job well, America can grow stronger and better and more efficient.  But that is not what is happening.  Each of them is struggling just to get by.  Much of the work is swept under the cracks despite all the hard work and dedication by the people involved.  Since the Republicans at the moment do not want to spend any money on the people of America (how ever it may be defined), where do we as a country think it’s going to come from? 
            So the CEO of the NRA gives his speech and the people at MSNBC react like FOX “news” does when creating their narrative.  There were several things that Wayne LaPierre stated in his address.  One was the fact that we do protect our money, our investments, and other things we deem to have value, with armed guards.  I am not suggesting we arm the teachers or even fill schools with firearms.  But that is an interesting point.  He was talking about trained professionals.  My only question would be, do we fund those professionals from the underfunded police departments or the underfunded schools?  Because, after watching this congress for so long, it is clear we are not going to fund either of those institutions any more than they have.  In all likelihood, we will probably cut funding in future years.  Another was a suggestion about violent video games, a subject that I have done a lot of work on and will have to address that at a later date.  In short, the entertainment that kids are exposed to is a product of their household.  If the mind in question is not stable enough for such exposure, I believe it is the parents’ responsibility to monitor such activities.  If it becomes a serious concern for that individual and/or beyond the capacity of his parents, I again fall back on the lack concern for social workers and mental facilities and education in our society.  Sometimes people need help and it’s just that simple.  Unfortunately, MSNBC heard him say we should “arm the teachers”.  I have heard that argument on the 24-hour news cycles for days now, but Mr. LaPierre did not mention that at all.  The News coverage from the left seemed to work in their talking point just as easily and as falsely as FOX does with it’s regular programming.  This was concerning, due to the fact that we all do want a solution to this menacing problem and rhetoric like that is more aimed at a high horse rather than a solution. 
            After all that, I began to wonder why the NRA is affiliated so much with the right wing.  It seems the NRA should be a huge Democratic sponsor.  It seems that they are invested in the same interests.  For the last two years, the Republican Party has been fighting in every way possible to cut social programs to preserve the tax rate for the super rich.  History has shown that the right wing is willing and consistently chooses to cut the budget for the Department of Education to supplement any other program, many of which do not need that extra money.  So why isn’t the NRA supporting Democratic initiatives to raise the taxes and preserve our spending on institutions?  They should be doing one better and proposing even more spending for the future well being of our country.  They have been billed as the most powerful lobby organization in the country.  There is no actual threat of the second amendment disappearing, yet rhetoric from Wayne LaPierre, himself accuses high ranking members of this administration as “trying to destroy the Second Amendment”.  Much of that debate just boils down to fear, ego, and assumptions.  More to the point it has to do with protecting people’s interests, i.e. Money.  Guns and the gun lobby business are quite lucrative, and to paraphrase LaPierre’s speech, shouldn’t we protect our children like we protect our money?  The first step to protecting our children, unfortunately, is a long road.  I know we all want answers now and to fix things now, but much like the rest of our country, it is an investment.  It is an investment that we never have to cash in.  It grows and matures and manifests its return as a better, more productive society.  It is a prescription that we must fill regularly in anticipation of the future.  We have to decide as a country if we are going to continue to spend ridiculous sums on war and never devote a fraction of that to our children’s futures.  We have to decide if we are going to teach fact or what’s popular. The children of the future are an investment, one that must come from somewhere.  And if we aren’t willing to sacrifice the profits from our businesses, we must be willing to sacrifice our children. 
“…And that’s the Word”

Saturday, December 15, 2012

National Discourse

Are we doomed to suffer the tragedies set forth by the few disturbed individuals that will continue to arise as time goes on?  We can try and anticipate the future and all the intricacies that it may entail, but will we ever see it all coming?  Will every variable be hammered down so we can go on living peaceful lives without worry?  Why is it that our country is plagued by these senseless tragedies time and time again?  There are just too many questions.  The emotions are so heightened that it is hard to keep a clear head and get a clear understanding.  I don’t think anyone really knows. 
We as a society, (especially after something like this) want answers, want security, want easy fixes or at least permanent fixes.  I think we are willing to do the work, but what is the work that needs to be done. 
People talk of gun control.  Buzzwords like “evil” and “insane” and “education” are tossed around to attempt to define the moment.  We look for any kind of answer to make sense of this unthinkable act.  The argument gets muddled and politicized until the arguing sides aren’t even connected to the point.  It’s a sick and twisted mess that unfolds all on primetime.  It is one of the only acts of learning that is overflowing with sadness.  There is nothing that can make it right. 
We can only look to the future and speculate as we navigate the roads of taking responsibility for our actions.  But it’s responsibility that is consistently being denied or past over in our society.  We assign responsibility to someone else or something else, anything to prove to ourselves that we are victims too.  We are lost in the illusion of control, never knowing we are at the whim of others.  Again, it is usually the actions of a few that change the course for the rest of us.  The rest of us don’t see how we are all responsible.  And I admit, it’s difficult.  But we cannot change the past, we can only look to the future.  So, what do we do?
In short, I don’t know.  If the answer is gun control, then to what extent?  Cities like NYC and the entire state of Illinois have outlawed guns completely.  No matter what your Second Amendment rights say, those places have made it illegal for people to keep firearms.  But what has that done?  Those places in particular hold high levels of gun violence, anyway.  Countries like Canada own just as many guns per person that the United States, but their history of gun violence is a fraction of ours.  We here in America have an annual average of 11,000 gun deaths a year.  That dwarfs every other countries’ statistics despite whatever level of security they assign to their citizens concerning gun laws. 
How about the opposite?  Back in the days of the Wild West, anyone could carry a gun. It changed the dynamic of our society where any argument could end in a shooting death.  People defaulted to the gun for protection and devalued all other forms.  We make it sound like good people will over come the bad, but that is not the demonstration history has left for us.  I don’t think we as a society are going to go that route again, but it happened.  We should be able to learn from history, but that is a problem we as a society have been having concerning a host of issues. 
So are we just crazy?  Are we inevitably on the path of instability and self-destruction?  Again, I don’t know.  I don’t know what makes us so detached from our fellow man. 
Is it the internet or video games or overblown action movies?  Again, other countries don’t have that problem.  So what is it about us? 
I feel that, like most cases, the fault lies in education.  There is a dark side to our species that we cannot afford to deny.  If we are to grow as a people and as a society, we have to understand our capabilities our desires our fears and all of our natures.  We are animals and we have been attempting to tame ourselves with civilization.  Are we succeeding?  At times, of course we are.  But there is a side that will always exist; a side that proves the few can hold the many hostage.  Whether it’s planes as weapons or weapons as weapons, chances are the victims will be innocent.  We all want to protect those innocent lives and make sure future doesn’t display those horrors ever again.  But can we? Are we able to protect the innocent from all future horrors to come?  I do not believe we, as a society, should spend our time and life imagining the atrocities that the deranged will ultimately surprise us with.  We should spend time training ourselves and our kin to deal with the negative aspects or our world and choose positive, life affirming reactions.  Evil does not combat evil.  And Education is not glamorous (at least not instantly).  It is a slow process, one that takes generations, and in the end, we would be stronger for it.  Unfortunately, our world is too used to quick fixes and easy answers.  We have developed into a society that sensationalizes vengeance, war and combat as well as deny the merit of learning and understanding.  Even the reactions to President Obama’s heartfelt speech included rhetoric that assign innocent victims to his watch and therefore should be fodder for his resignation.  This type of thinking is the sickness that fuels the confrontational nature inside us that will one day explode in anger and violence.  It is a clear demonstration that the mass population does not have the respect and understanding to develop into the civilized world we so idealize.  So, if we are not willing to do the work on ourselves, how can we continually be surprised by the outcome and even point the finger at others?

My heart, along with the rest of America, goes out to the families confronted by this horrible tragedy.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Horse's Pill Mouth

Have you noticed this country has recently got the diagnosis of low T?  How is it that all of a sudden there are so many advertisements pumping testosterone at America?  Are they all just sitting on these formulas just waiting for the FDA or precedents to be set so they can hit the market?  I have a feeling that all of these big drug companies have created a library of ridiculous drugs and are doing just that.  As soon as one gets one into the market they all push the button and flood the gates.  In this case they’re flooding them with testosterone, and high concentration recipes at that. 
It’s no secret that people don’t want to get old.  Women don’t want to lose their beauty, and men don’t want to lose their virility.  It’s perfectly understandable.  But in this day and age where people are used to getting their own way, no matter how particular it could be, we are staring at the inevitable in sheer denial.  We are inventing any and every way possible to slow or stop that process.  Now I’m all for raw foods, a healthy balanced meal, exercise, meditation, good judgment, whatever your into.  But the problems with creating chemical drugs to mitigate the natural world are the repercussions.
If you just heard the list of side affects to some of these high concentrated doses it would be enough for one man’s bathroom to literally change the direction of the biology of our species.  Not to put that lawyer’s fine print voice in your head, but the side effects can include women growing mustaches and children showing signs of puberty.  All of this so old men can continue to have sex with the younger wives they could afford to have.  It really doesn’t seem fair for the future of our population to suffer for a few individuals’ selfish needs.  In addition, high levels of hormones like this cannot be completely cleaned from our finite and recycled water system.  It is the same water system with the ever- increasing concentration of artificial hormones that our grandchildren will be drinking.  Who knows what future problems await us that modern day science fiction has already predicted. 
Now in a bout of hypocrisy, I have always been in favor of “the pill”.  We live in a complicated world and I suppose I am selfish about a few things.  But it is also a hormone that gets introduced into our ecosystem that can’t wash out.
Over time these introductions will take it’s toll on our biology and influence our way of life in possible drastic ways. 
But what interests me is the influx of similar drugs that all come out at similar times.  This is not the only time something like this has happened.  It’s like how movie studios release identical movies to compete for audience share.  Now, coming from my time in Hollywood, I know for a fact that the business world is directly influenced by the social world.  People talk and secrets are spilled and competition is birthed.  They know that someone is making a movie about a killer volcano and the market gets hit with more spontaneous volcano movies than most people would think possible.  It happened. 
I don’t know if one pharmaceutical company has spies in another and they just work on the projects the other guy is investing in, or if they all just work on the craziest flights of fancy that man has been dreaming of for decades.  (Of course not cancer cures see “My Two Cents”).  What I mean is the ones that can bring a profit.  And apparently the ones that bring a profit also cost people more than money.  People sacrifice many aspects of their quality of life to cope with the natural course of life. Again, they are not just sacrificing certain aspects of their own lives, but putting lives not yet born in jeopardy. 
If they indeed are expecting these intense concentration of hormones and drugs to become legal, who knows what else they’re sitting on, waiting for the day America will accept the next crazy life enhancement.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Money v. Medicine

            I’m not sure if many of you have heard about the new groundbreaking cancer research going on in Edmonton, Canada.  Of course, it would be Canada that invests their scientist and medical researchers on actual cures and not just the quelling of symptoms that goes on in America’s health care system.  Dr. Evangelos Michelakis, along with researchers at the University of Alberta, have experimented with a cheap and already known product called DCA (Dichloroacetic acid). The experimental compound has shown extreme reduction and even elimination of tumors that cause lung, breast, and even brain cancer in rats.  To avoid a long explanation of intense scientific jargon, the drug works to activate enzymes in each of our cells to ultimately cause the cancer cells to self terminate.  It does all this with scientists boasting no side effects.  All that technical mumbo jumbo isn’t the kind this article is about.  It’s about the kind of mumbo jumbo that keeps money from reaching Haiti or leads the reaction after 9/11 to attack the wrong country.  It is about the politics, plain and simple.  Right now, the process works on rats and needs more testing.  They need funding to begin clinical trials on humans and to achieve all the assurances that the modern day public has grown to expect. However, the public often wants but never expects the occasional miracle.  Pending test results and ultimate usability, the DCA compound is cheap and easily manufactured, virtually anywhere.  If all goes well, it could be exactly what the world has spent decades wishing for.
            So, what’s the problem?  Well, Michelakis has approached many sources for funding to continue and further the trials and has received no support from pharmaceutical companies: the very companies supposedly charged with our health and well-being.  We just came off of a huge election where lots of money and talk was spent on what’s best for Americans.  One of the major issues was and is Health Care.  I’ve heard rhetoric that “American healthcare is the best in the world.” The best in the world should be the smartest, most efficient, and highest quality.  And I’ll give them one out of three, if you can afford it.  Most people receive average care, and those who can’t afford it get the bare minimum if any at all.  If there’s an emergency, it costs more and gets billed to everyone.  In the end, we just have the best Healthcare business in the world.  We talk of doing the “right thing” and dissect moral issues until the cows come home.  Our country can easily get swept up in the glamour of campaigns and every individual begins to think they know what’s best after hearing it so carefully presented to us.  But there is no doubt that they all claim to want to help you and your family.  You’d think that funding promising research for a cheap cure for cancer would be a no brainer. 
            Apparently, there is no patent on the compound and the profit margin isn’t enticing enough for drug companies.  It is clear to the most basic observer that those companies, as rich and profitable as they are, do not seem to be interested in the human benefit but more the financial one.  It is more profitable to keep the public sick and knocking on their door when our medical needs approach dire straits.  Somehow they are under the illusion that helping people get better will stop them from ever getting sick, and maybe they will lose all the profits they’ve been plotting so hard to achieve.  Look Healthcare Industry, you’ll never be broke.  People will always get sick and need medical attention: its just biology.  The idea that we should squeeze every dime out of people because they want to live a healthy life is unconscionable.  It seems contrary to the ideals this country was founded on in the first place.  There are too many cases of people losing their homes or life savings due to an unforeseen illness.  Of course if we had a universal healthcare system most of this wouldn’t be a problem.  It feels like there is something akin to Police and Fire Departments; something that a civilized world provides for it’s people.  I can say throughout the course of my life the quality and attentiveness of the general practitioner has gone downhill.  There are too many cases of doctors pushing drugs and complex chemicals to quell the symptoms of the disease, but not actually address the root of the problem.  It is all about what can make the most money.
            Again, So what?  Didn’t we all expect that?  Don’t we all roll our eyes at the cliché melodrama of greedy corporations fighting to make a buck at any cost?  The idea is so implanted in our heads that our first reaction is generally something like, “well of course they only care about money.”  But is that the world in which we want to live?  Is it only a promise of a great reward that fuels our risk?  Is this great reward only measured in dollars nowadays?  I say to you that this is the danger of Capitalism.  We stand behind that label as if it is the definition of America.  We place all our eggs in that one basket and out of some insecure narcissism we defend it at all costs.  The cost this time is human life, biological progress, peace of mind, even the financial cost at the hospital and the future security that the growing numbers of families are facing each day.  I don’t want to sound like I’m beating on America or our doctors, but there does seem to be a lost sense of responsibility and ethics in the way we practice.  Of course they’re some of the best doctors in the world here in America.  It is not their fault that the system ties their hands while operating in an impossible budget. 
            Much of the population has speculated that pharmaceutical companies are “evil” and “don’t really care about helping people.”  A lot of critical talk about the healthcare system is either dismissed by pundits with some vested interest or the arguments get muddled in the heated political misdirection of today.  Well, here is a clear case on which to judge them.  It is resoundingly obvious that helping you and your family is not a goal on their agenda. 
            Surely it must be in someone’s financial interest to have people live longer.  Maybe groups of credit card companies or hedge fund operators or cigarette companies or even all the small businesses that don’t want to fund employee healthcare programs month after month can all get together and invest in their future sales, and maybe inadvertently help some people.  It is just unfortunate that we, in the greatest country in the world, have a healthcare system that makes an increase in quality and notable progress, conflicting ideals. 
            Americans are constantly plagued by health concerns and growing cancer related illnesses. Either due to our lifestyle, the food we eat, or the ever-growing artificial presence in our lives, our trips to the hospital and doctor are assured to come.  Let’s finally put our money where our mouth is and help fund this and any research that can help better the future of this country.  It’s either that, or we can stop with the charade that politicians and big companies care about people and stop getting swept up in their marketing campaigns.  We may finally understand that the safety and well-being of our friends and families is in our hands.