Friday, August 14, 2009

Dr. Rush Limbaugh's Racial History of the U.S.


Obama Kidnapped by Ruling Class?

No gov't health care

The library books nobody wants to borrow

A website revealing the worst books on library shelves has become a surprise hit

unwanted library booksA blog set up by two public spirited librarians from Detroit cataloguing the worst books on library shelves has become an unexpected internet hit. From the 1983 hit Hanging Out - The Upside Down Exercise Book, to Vans: The Personality Vehicles, Holly Hibner and Mary Kelly hope that drawing attention to the books will encourage fellow librarians to clear their collections of obsolete, and just plain dreadful, titles.

Those featured on Awful Library Books have been languishing dusty on shelves for years. "It is a difficult thing to swap old books for new," says Hibner. "But in some subject areas – such as medical, legal and financial – having the most current information is crucial." Kelly agrees: "Librarians have a duty to make sure the best information is available." How To Get Out Of Debt, from 1976, for example, is on the shelves of a library in an area of Michigan that has been badly affected by the economic downturn. "They're giving them this? Wow. That's the librarian equivalent of malpractice," says Hibner.

Illegal immigrants face life-and-death decisions without health insurance

Trying to pay for organ transplants and follow-up medicine can be overwhelming
Immigrant health care
Liliana Cruz, 16, receives dialysis this month. An adult sister is willing to donate a kidney to her, but a hospital declined them because the sister's part of the surgery would not be subsidized. (Tribune photo by Alex Garcia / August 4, 2009)

As he pushes his cart around the Southwest Side selling steamed ears of corn, sliced cucumbers and other street food, Omar Castillo embodies a potential life-and-death issue that has become the third rail in the debate over health-care reform.

Peddling snacks -- doused with lime and chili powder and priced at $1.50 each -- is how Castillo, 19, is trying to pay for expensive medication he needs to stay healthy after receiving a kidney transplant last year.

Because he is in the U.S. illegally, he has no ready access to aid for such long-term medical expenses. To cover such needs for an estimated 6.8 million undocumented and uninsured immigrants in the country, some health-care advocates have proposed broadening the health-care proposals before Congress. But fierce opposition has kept the idea off the table.

As it is, Castillo received his transplant and a year of free medicine only as part of a hospital study at the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center, after a Latino activist campaign and a call from the governor's office got him included. With the study over, his last free prescription is running out, and with it, his chances for a healthy life.

"We don't know what we'll do when the medicine is gone," said Castillo, holding two nearly empty bottles of pills he takes to ward off an organ rejection.

Immigration activists say it is "immoral" for hospitals and doctors, as well as a nation, to deny health care to the seriously ill, no matter their legal status. But proponents of tougher Immigration enforcement -- and others fighting to contain runaway health-care costs -- fear that providing such services would only encourage more undocumented immigrants to cross the border.,0,3342811.story?page=1

Les Paul Photo Gallery

Les Paul Rare Photos...

The duet sensation: Les Paul and Mary Ford!
Les Paul's famous "The Log" solidbody guitar (made from a 4x4) with detachable wings.
Close up detail of The Log.
George Benson stops by the weekly Les Paul show to jam.
Two famous Pauls get together for some fun.
At the 1999 TEC Awards, Les Paul Award recipient Sting receives a custom Gibson guitar. Shown here is engineer/producer George Massenburg, TEC's Karen Dunn, Sting, Les Paul and TEC's Hillel Resner.
Les lays down a hot solo at NYC's Iridium during his 85th birthday performance in 2000.

Pot Collective Sprouts In Retirement Community

by Debra Baer

It's been more than a dozen years since California became the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for medical use. In some California cities, cannabis dispensaries are springing up like, well, weeds.

But in more conservative communities, patients have a harder time finding legal marijuana. That difficulty has led a group of senior citizens in Orange County to start setting up a pot collective in their luxury retirement community.

Identifying A New Need

For decades, Leisure World's resort lifestyle has attracted retirees to its swimming pools and golf greens, tennis courts and dance halls. Resident Margo Bouer's passion is synchronized swimming.

"The water's magnificent," Bouer said. "I'm me in the water. This is what keeps me alive."

Bouer, 73, is one of the younger members of the Aquadettes, a synchronized swimming group in Laguna Woods, Calif. A retired nurse, she moved to Leisure World — also known as Laguna Woods Village — 16 years ago. For Bouer, water is more than fun — it means relief from multiple sclerosis.

In the water, she doesn't shake, or lose her balance, need a walker or worry about a new symptom that began last year.

"Suddenly, I'd have a wave of nausea," she said. "And from that wave, I'd vomit, and I'd vomit from the tip of my toes all the way up. And I had no clue as to what was going on."

In April, a physician neighbor encouraged Bouer to go to a meeting about medical marijuana. She says it was a stretch for her — a former psychiatric nurse whose generation considered cannabis little more than a gateway to harder drugs. But she went, and then she experimented.

"That night, I'm sitting out on my balcony," she recalled. "That wave of nausea came. I lit that pipe and I just held it in my mouth, afraid to even inhale. But I held it in my mouth, blew it out, like that," she said, inhaling and exhaling.

"I was so preoccupied: 'Now what's happened?'" she remembers thinking. "Well, what happened is that nothing happened, except that I wasn't nauseated."

Actor: Gay Racism Worse Than in 1980

Actor: Gay Racism Worse Than in 1980

"People tend to believe that racism, on all sides of the color lines, is something that stops at the gates of the LGBT community… It just doesn't happen that way," writes actor Doug Spearman in an essay for the Human Rights Campaign's Equality Forward series.

Spearman, best known for his role as Chance on the Logo series Noah's Arc, observes that when he came out in 1980, he was welcomed as "the kids of the 1960s and early '70s -- those that had created the gay movement -- were still on the dance floors of America elbow to elbow with the people who'd marched in Vietnam protests and Black Power parades, and had been active participants in the original civil rights movement."

Spearman laments that this feeling of acceptance has evaporated with the existence of separate black gay pride and Latin gay pride festivals, which he claims "exist because a great many men and women feel unwelcome in mainstream gay communities."

In the essay, Spearman also takes issue with gay activists who blamed black voters for not supporting Prop. 8 in last November's election. They "assumed that since theirs was an issue of equality and civil rights, that they'd have natural allies among a people who'd spent centuries being discriminated against," he writes.

“You Don't Cut Deals with the System that Has to Be Replaced”: Ralph Nader on Secret White House Agreements with the Drug Industry


The Obama administration admitted last week it promised to oppose proposals to let the government negotiate drug prices and extract additional savings from drug companies. In return, drug companies reportedly pledged to reduce costs by up to $80 billion. The White House has tried to back off the reported agreements, but the drug industry says it expects the White House to uphold its pledge. We speak to former presidential candidate and longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

President Obama is headed to Belgrade, Montana today and Grand Junction, Colorado tomorrow for a pair of town hall meetings on his healthcare reform legislation. The meetings are part of a final public relations push by the president to answer critics of reforming the healthcare system before the Obamas go on vacation.

While much of the media coverage has focused on right-wing criticism of the bill, there is also growing concern by advocates of reform that the Obama administration has secretly made concessions to the healthcare industry and pharmaceutical industry.

A recent article in Business Week was titled "The Health Insurers Have Already Won." The piece details how UnitedHealth and rival carriers have maneuvered behind the scenes in Washington and shaped health-care reform for their own benefit.

Meanwhile the Huffington Post has obtained a memo that shows the White House and the pharmaceutical lobby have secretly agreed to precisely the sort of wide-ranging deal that both parties have been denying over the past week.

The memo says the White House agreed to oppose any congressional efforts to use the government's leverage to bargain for lower drug prices or import drugs from Canada—and also agreed not to pursue Medicare rebates or shift some drugs from Medicare Part B to Medicare Part D, which would cost Big Pharma billions in reduced reimbursements.

In exchange, PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Association agreed to cut $80 billion in projected costs to taxpayers and senior citizens over ten years.

On Thursday NBC reporter Chuck Todd questioned White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the White House-PhRMA deal.

To talk more about the healthcare legislation we are joined by former presidential candidate and longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate.

Who Won the Recession? McDonald's.

McDonald's. Click image to expand.

Now that the recession is most likely over, it's time to start looking at which companies, institutions, and individuals thrived during this grim period. In the harsh downturn that began in December 2007, success was redefined—flat became the new up, and muddling through became a triumph. In a recession that hit all rungs of the income ladder and ravaged the wealthiest consumer markets—the United States, Europe, Japan—there were very few safe havens. But some countries, such as Peru, managed to grow right through the global recession. And some companies arranged their business so that they resisted the contraction and benefited from trends affecting their industry. Some even managed to make decisions during the trough that brought in more business.

Chief among the Great Recession's winners is McDonald's. McDonald's sales growth in 2008 was greater than in 2006 and 2007. While many restaurants scaled back, it opened nearly 600 stores in 2008. And the chain has notched same-store-sales growth in each of 2009's first seven months.

‘Take Back the Beep’ Campaign

Update | 11:17 p.m. AT&T's Mark Seigel has asked that complaint messages be sent to a different e-mail address, provided below.

Update | 7:50 p.m. Will England of Sprint says the company has now created a brand-new customer forum dedicated to this topic.

Update | 5:19 p.m. T-Mobile had deleted hundreds of complaints on this topic from its forum, and even blocked any new messages containing the word "beep." But it has now created a new forum just for complaints on this topic, linked below.

Over the past week, in The New York Times and on my blog, I've been ranting about one particularly blatant money-grab by American cellphone carriers: the mandatory 15-second voicemail instructions.

Suppose you call my cell to leave me a message. First you hear my own voice: "Hi, it's David Pogue. Leave a message, and I'll get back to you"–and THEN you hear a 15-second canned carrier message.

* Sprint: "[Phone number] is not available right now. Please leave a detailed message after the tone. When you have finished recording, you may hang up, or press pound for more options."

* Verizon: "At the tone, please record your message. When you have finished recording, you may hang up, or press 1 for more options. To leave a callback number, press 5. (Beep)"

* AT&T: "To page this person, press five now. At the tone, please record your message. When you are finished, you may hang up, or press one for more options."

* T-Mobile: "Record your message after the tone. To send a numeric page, press five. When you are finished recording, hang up, or for delivery options, press pound."

(You hear a similar message when you call in to hear your own messages. "You. Have. 15. Messages. To listen to your messages, press 1." WHY ELSE WOULD I BE CALLING?)

I, the voicemailbox owner, cannot turn off this additional greeting message. You, the caller, can bypass it, but only if you know the secret keypress–and it's different for each carrier. So you'd have to know which cellphone carrier I use, and that of every person you'll ever call; in other words, this trick is no solution.

[UPDATE: Apple iPhone owners don't hear these instructions--Apple insisted that AT&T remove them. And Sprint already DOES let you turn off the instructions message, although it's a buried, multi-step procedure, which you can read in the comments below.]

These messages are outrageous for two reasons. First, they waste your time. Good heavens: it's 2009. WE KNOW WHAT TO DO AT THE BEEP.

Do we really need to be told to hang up when we're finished!? Would anyone, ever, want to "send a numeric page?" Who still carries a pager, for heaven's sake? Or what about "leave a callback number?" We can SEE the callback number right on our phones!

Second, we're PAYING for these messages. These little 15-second waits add up–bigtime. If Verizon's 70 million customers leave or check messages twice a weekday, Verizon rakes in about $620 million a year. That's your money. And your time: three hours of your time a year, just sitting there listening to the same message over and over again every year.

In 2007, I spoke at an international cellular conference in Italy. The big buzzword was ARPU–Average Revenue Per User. The seminars all had titles like, "Maximizing ARPU In a Digital Age." And yes, several attendees (cell executives) admitted to me, point-blank, that the voicemail instructions exist primarily to make you use up airtime, thereby maximizing ARPU.

Right now, the carriers continue to enjoy their billion-dollar scam only because we're not organized enough to do anything about it. But it doesn't have to be this way. You don't have to sit there, waiting to leave your message, listening to a speech recorded by a third-grade teacher on Ambien.

Let's push back, and hard. We want those time-wasting, money-leaking messages eliminated, or at least made optional.

And here's how we're going to do it.

We're going to descend, en masse, on our carriers. Send them a complaint, politely but firmly. Together, we'll send them a LOT of complaints.

If enough of us make our unhappiness known, I'll bet they'll change.

I've told each of the four major carriers that they'll be hearing from us. They've told us where to send the messages:

* Verizon: Post a complaint here:

* AT&T: Send e-mail to:

* Sprint: Post a complaint here:

* T-Mobile: Post a complaint here:

Three of the four carriers are just directing us to their general Web forums. Smells like a cop-out, I know.

Yet all four carriers promise that they'll read and consider our posts.


Health care for all

It's all so sad. Well-organized conservatives have launched a full-scale attack on health care reform. And they appear to be winning -- for now.

Their victory strategy involves deliberate distortions of the truth and scare tactics. Under the plans Congress is considering, a government bureaucrat will come between you and your doctor, their TV ads intone ominously. You will lose your private health insurance, dumping you into an inferior government plan. You won't be able to choose your doctor, they say.

The desperate opposition also claims we will have "socialized medicine," rationed care and forced euthanasia for the elderly.

Those falsehoods and calls to disrupt congressional town hall meetings are being peddled by right-wing organizations such as, which is directed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas, now a Washington lobbyist with clients including a major international pharmaceuticals company.

I covered the battle to create the Medicare system back in the 1960s. The cries of "socialized medicine" worked for years until President Johnson rammed Medicare through Congress in 1965.

Johnson signed the Medicare legislation on former President Harry Truman's desk in Independence, Mo. Truman had first proposed a health care program for the elderly back in the 1950s.

Truman, still feisty at age 81, was all smiles.

I remember a newsman went up to Johnson and told him "my mother thanks you."

Johnson turned to him and said: "You should thank me," meaning Medicare would help families with the increasingly heavy financial burden of caring for seniors.

What kind of a nation are we if we do not provide everyone with the excellent medical care that only some of us now receive?

I continue to think the so-called single-payer system is the only answer to the nation-s obligation to make sure that no one lacks health care. Yes, single payer means a government-run health insurance program for all -- the prevailing system in Canada and in many nations in Europe.

At this point under the current employer-provided private health insurance system, 47 million Americans have no coverage and more are losing what they have every day through job loss in this devastating recession.

President Obama is making a big mistake by ignoring the single-payer proposal.

Because the words "single payer" have been subjected to such pervasive demagoguery and misrepresentation, its polling numbers do not reflect how popular it really is.

In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll last month, 58 percent of Americans either strongly or somewhat favored a program to provide insurance "through an expanded, universal form of Medicare-for-all."

That's basically the same as single payer. But once the same poll actually used the words "single payer" to describe the program, support dropped to 51 percent.

In 2003 before he became a U.S. senator from Illinois, Obama actually called himself a single-payer "proponent." But now that he is president, Obama has buckled to Republicans and conservative Blue Dog Democrats in pursuit of consensus. My question is if Congress passes a watered-down version of health care that doesn't truly cover everyone, is the result worth it?

The president has given no hearing to the advocates of a single-payer system and neither has the media.

He also had worked out a deal with the drug manufacturers not to use the federal government's massive bargaining power to negotiate lower drug prices -- although now the White House appears to be having second thoughts.

Single payer works; it is not code for substandard medical care.


Questions for Dr. Marcia Angell

By Anne Underwood

DESCRIPTIONDr. Marcia Angell is a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School and former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. A longtime critic of the pharmaceutical industry, she has called for an end to market-driven delivery of health care in the United States. She spoke with freelance writer Anne Underwood.

President Obama hopes to increase the number of Americans with insurance and to rein in costs. Do you believe any of the plans under consideration by Congress will accomplish those goals?


They won't, and that's the essential problem. If you keep health care in the hands of for-profit companies, you can do one or the other — increase coverage by putting more money into the system, or control costs by decreasing coverage. But you cannot do both unless you change the basic structure of the system.


Segments of the health care industry — pharmaceutical companies, for instance — are promising to cut costs.


It's not going to happen. These are investor-owned companies. Their fiduciary responsibility is to maximize profits. If they behaved like charities, heads would roll in the executive suites.


But what about market mechanisms for reducing costs? Wouldn't the public option, for instance, provide competition for the insurance companies?


Theoretically it would, but I doubt the public plan will pass. Industry is lobbying against it, and the president has not said this is a "must." Even if it does pass, I'm afraid the private insurance industry will use their clout in Congress — and they have enormous clout in Congress — to hobble the public option and use it as a dumping ground for the sickest while they cream off the young and healthy for themselves.


How? Won't insurance companies have to cover all applicants regardless of health status?


It's hard to regulate an enormous industry without setting up a bureaucracy to oversee it. That's very expensive and creates a whole new set of problems.


How about the individual mandate? Wouldn't it reduce costs per capita by bringing in young, healthy people who are currently uninsured?


No. In Massachusetts [which enacted an individual mandate in 2006], there is no real price regulation. Essentially what the mandate does is say to people, you will go into this treacherous market and buy insurance at whatever price the companies choose to charge. In effect, it's delivering a captive market to these profit-oriented companies.


Are people at least getting better health care in Massachusetts now?


Massachusetts already spends one-third more on health care than other states, and costs are rising at unsustainable rates. As a result, they're chipping away at benefits, dropping beneficiaries and increasing premiums and co-payments.


Then what's the path to meaningful cost control?


The only way to both control costs and have universal comprehensive coverage is a single-payer system — a nonprofit, single-payer system. Nothing else will work. All other advanced countries have some form of a single-payer system, and they pay less than half as much per person as we do. We should be asking, why is that so? It's not because we provide more basic services. We do provide more tests and procedures for those who can pay, but not more basic services — and we don't cover everybody. So why is it so? We are the only advanced country that delivers health care in a system that's set up to generate profits, not to provide care.