Monday, September 26, 2011

ANS -- An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer

Here's another cancer cure story.  The guys working on this one need to talk to the guys working on the other one (that I sent out a few days ago). 
Find it here:   

An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer

Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times

CLOSE-UP Dr. Carl June examined re-engineered T-cells last week in his Philadelphia lab.


Published: September 12, 2011

PHILADELPHIA ­ A year ago, when chemotherapy stopped working against his leukemia, William Ludwig signed up to be the first patient treated in a bold experiment at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Ludwig, then 65, a retired corrections officer from Bridgeton, N.J., felt his life draining away and thought he had nothing to lose.

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Gene Therapy


Attacking a Tumor
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University of Pennsylvania
Tiny magnetic beads force the larger T-cells to divide before they are infused into the patient.
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Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times
FULL OF LIFE William Ludwig, 66, in his RV parked at his home in New Jersey.
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Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times
MAJOR ADVANCE Dr. Bruce Levine lifted cells from a freezer in his lab in Philadelphia last week. Special cell-culturing techniques may have contributed to the lab's success.

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Doctors removed a billion of his T-cells ­ a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors ­ and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig's veins.

At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst.

A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia.

There was no trace of it anywhere ­ no leukemic cells in his blood or bone marrow, no more bulging lymph nodes on his CT scan. His doctors calculated that the treatment had killed off two pounds of cancer cells.

A year later, Mr. Ludwig is still in complete remission. Before, there were days when he could barely get out of bed; now, he plays golf and does yard work.

"I have my life back," he said.

Mr. Ludwig's doctors have not claimed that he is cured ­ it is too soon to tell ­ nor have they declared victory over leukemia on the basis of this experiment, which involved only three patients. The research, they say, has far to go; the treatment is still experimental, not available outside of studies.

But scientists say the treatment that helped Mr. Ludwig, described recently in The New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine, may signify a turning point in the long struggle to develop effective gene therapies against cancer. And not just for leukemia patients: other cancers may also be vulnerable to this novel approach ­ which employs a disabled form of H.I.V.-1, the virus that causes AIDS, to carry cancer-fighting genes into the patients' T-cells. In essence, the team is using gene therapy to accomplish something that researchers have hoped to do for decades: train a person's own immune system to kill cancer cells.

Two other patients have undergone the experimental treatment. One had a partial remission: his disease lessened but did not go away completely. Another had a complete remission. All three had had advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia and had run out of chemotherapy options. Usually, the only hope for a remission in such cases is a bone-marrow transplant, but these patients were not candidates for it.

Dr. Carl June, who led the research and directs translational medicine in the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said that the results stunned even him and his colleagues, Dr. David L. Porter, Bruce Levine and Michael Kalos. They had hoped to see some benefit but had not dared dream of complete, prolonged remissions. Indeed, when Mr. Ludwig began running fevers, the doctors did not realize at first that it was a sign that his T-cells were engaged in a furious battle with his cancer.

Other experts in the field said the results were a major advance.

"It's great work," said Dr. Walter J. Urba of the Providence Cancer Center and Earle A. Chiles Research Institute in Portland, Ore. He called the patients' recoveries remarkable, exciting and significant. "I feel very positive about this new technology. Conceptually, it's very, very big."

Dr. Urba said he thought the approach would ultimately be used against other types of cancer as well as leukemia and lymphoma. But he cautioned, "For patients today, we're not there yet." And he added the usual scientific caveat: To be considered valid, the results must be repeated in more patients, and by other research teams.

Dr. June called the techniques "a harvest of the information from the molecular biology revolution over the past two decades."

Hitting a Genetic Jackpot

To make T-cells search out and destroy cancer, researchers must equip them to do several tasks: recognize the cancer, attack it, multiply, and live on inside the patient. A number of research groups have been trying to do this, but the T-cells they engineered could not accomplish all the tasks. As a result, the cells' ability to fight tumors has generally been temporary.

The University of Pennsylvania team seems to have hit all the targets at once. Inside the patients, the T-cells modified by the researchers multiplied to 1,000 to 10,000 times the number infused, wiped out the cancer and then gradually diminished, leaving a population of "memory" cells that can quickly proliferate again if needed.

The researchers said they were not sure which parts of their strategy made it work ­ special cell-culturing techniques, the use of H.I.V.-1 to carry new genes into the T-cells, or the particular pieces of DNA that they selected to reprogram the T-cells.

The concept of doctoring T-cells genetically was first developed in the 1980s by Dr. Zelig Eshhar at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. It involves adding gene sequences from different sources to enable the T-cells to produce what researchers call chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs ­ protein complexes that transform the cells into, in Dr. June's words, "serial killers."

Mr. Ludwig's disease, chronic lymphocytic leukemia is a cancer of B-cells, the part of the immune system that normally produces antibodies to fight infection. All B-cells, whether healthy or leukemic, have on their surfaces a protein called CD19. To treat patients with the disease, the researchers hoped to reprogram their T-cells to find CD19 and attack B-cells carrying it.

But which gene sequences should be used to reprogram the T-cells, from which sources? And how do you insert them?

Various research groups have used different methods. Viruses are often used as carriers (or vectors) to insert DNA into other cells because that kind of genetic sabotage is exactly what viruses normally specialize in doing. To modify their patients' T-cells, Dr. June and his colleagues tried a daring approach: they used a disabled form of H.I.V.-1. They are the first ever to use H.I.V.-1 as the vector in gene therapy for cancer patients (the virus has been used in other diseases).

The AIDS virus is a natural for this kind of treatment, Dr. June said, because it evolved to invade T-cells. The idea of putting any form of the AIDS virus into people sounds a bit frightening, he acknowledged, but the virus used by his team was "gutted" and was no longer harmful. Other researchers had altered and disabled the virus by adding DNA from humans, mice and cows, and from a virus that infects woodchucks and another that infects cows. Each bit was chosen for a particular trait, all pieced together into a vector that Dr. June called a "Rube Goldberg-like solution" and "truly a zoo."

"It incorporates the ability of H.I.V. to infect cells but not to reproduce itself," he said.

To administer the treatment, the researchers collected as many of the patients' T-cells as they could by passing their blood through a machine that removed the cells and returned the other blood components back into the patients' veins. The T-cells were exposed to the vector, which transformed them genetically, and then were frozen. Meanwhile, the patients were given chemotherapy to deplete any remaining T-cells, because the native T-cells might impede the growth of the altered ones. Finally, the T-cells were infused back into the patients.

Then, Dr. June said, "The patient becomes a bioreactor" as the T-cells proliferate, pouring out chemicals called cytokines that cause fever, chills, fatigue and other flulike symptoms.

The treatment wiped out all of the patients' B-cells, both healthy ones and leukemic ones, and will continue to do for as long as the new T-cells persist in the body, which could be forever (and ideally should be, to keep the leukemia at bay). The lack of B-cells means that the patients may be left vulnerable to infection, and they will need periodic infusions of a substance called intravenous immune globulin to protect them.

So far, the lack of B-cells has not caused problems for Mr. Ludwig. He receives the infusions every few months. He had been receiving them even before the experimental treatment because the leukemia had already knocked out his healthy B-cells.

One thing that is not clear is why Patient 1 and Patient 3 had complete remissions, and Patient 2 did not. The researchers said that when Patient 2 developed chills and fever, he was treated with steroids at another hospital, and the drugs may have halted the T-cells' activity. But they cannot be sure. It may also be that his disease was too severe.

The researchers wrote an entire scientific article about Patient 3, which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Like the other patients, he also ran fevers and felt ill, but the reaction took longer to set in, and he also developed kidney and liver trouble ­ a sign of tumor lysis syndrome, a condition that occurs when large numbers of cancer cells die off and dump their contents, which can clog the kidneys. He was given drugs to prevent kidney damage. He had a complete remission.

What the journal article did not mention was that Patient 3 was almost not treated.

Because of his illness and some production problems, the researchers said, they could not produce anywhere near as many altered T-cells for him as they had for the other two patients ­ only 14 million ("a mouse dose," Dr. Porter said), versus 1 billion for Mr. Ludwig and 580 million for Patient 2. After debate, they decided to treat him anyway.

Patient 3 declined to be interviewed, but he wrote anonymously about his experience for the University of Pennsylvania Web site. When he developed chills and a fever, he said, "I was sure the war was on ­ I was sure C.L.L. cells were dying."

He wrote that he was a scientist, and that when he was young had dreamed of someday making a discovery that would benefit mankind. But, he concluded, "I never imagined I would be part of the experiment."

When he told Patient 3 that he was remission, Dr. Porter said, they both had tears in their eyes.

Not Without Danger to Patients

While promising, the new techniques developed by the University of Pennsylvania researchers are not without danger to patients. Engineered T-cells have attacked healthy tissue in patients at other centers. Such a reaction killed a 39-year-old woman with advanced colon cancer in a study at the National Cancer Institute, researchers there reported last year in the journal Molecular Therapy.

She developed severe breathing trouble 15 minutes after receiving the T-cells, had to be put on a ventilator and died a few days later. Apparently, a protein target on the cancer cells was also present in her lungs, and the T-cells homed in on it.

Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer in New York also reported a death last year in a T-cell trial for leukemia ( also published in Molecular Therapy). An autopsy found that the patient had apparently died from sepsis, not from the T-cells, but because he died just four days after the infusion, the researchers said they considered the treatment a possible factor.

Dr. June said his team hopes to use T-cells against solid tumors, including some that are very hard to treat, like mesothelioma and ovarian and pancreatic cancer. But possible adverse reactions are a real concern, he said, noting that one of the protein targets on the tumor cells is also found on membranes that line the chest and abdomen. T-cell attacks could cause serious inflammation in those membranes and mimic lupus, a serious autoimmune disease.

Even if the T-cells do not hit innocent targets, there are still risks. Proteins they release could cause a "cytokine storm"­ high fevers, swelling, inflammation and dangerously low blood pressure ­ which can be fatal. Or, if the treatment rapidly kills billions of cancer cells, the debris can damage the kidney and cause other problems.

Even if the new T-cell treatment proves to work, the drug industry will be needed to mass produce it. But Dr. June said the research is being done only at universities, not at drug companies. For the drug industry to take interest, he said, there will have to be overwhelming proof that the treatment is far better than existing ones.

"Then I think they'll jump into it," he said. "My challenge now is to do this in a larger set of patients with randomization, and to show that we have the same effects."

Mr. Ludwig said that when entered the trial, he had no options left. Indeed, Dr. June said that Mr. Ludwig was "almost dead" from the leukemia, and the effort to treat him was a "Hail Mary."

Mr. Ludwig said: "I don't recall anybody saying there was going to be a remission. I don't think they were dreaming to that extent."

The trial was a Phase 1 study, meaning that its main goal was to find out whether the treatment was safe, and at what dose. Of course, doctors and patients always hope that there will be some benefit, but that was not an official endpoint.

Mr. Ludwig thought that if the trial could buy him six months or a year, it would be worth the gamble. But even if the study did not help him, he felt it would still be worthwhile if he could help the study.

When the fevers hit, he had no idea that might be a good sign. Instead, he assumed the treatment was not working. But a few weeks later, he said that his oncologist, Dr. Alison Loren, told him, "We can't find any cancer in your bone marrow."

Remembering the moment, Mr. Ludwig paused and said, "I got goose bumps just telling you those words."

"I feel wonderful," Mr. Ludwig said during a recent interview. "I walked 18 holes on the golf course this morning."

Before the study, he was weak, suffered repeated bouts of pneumonia and was wasting away. Now, he is full of energy. He has gained 40 pounds. He and his wife bought an R.V., in which they travel with their grandson and nephew. "I feel normal, like I did 10 years before I was diagnosed," Mr. Ludwig said. "This clinical trial saved my life."

Dr. Loren said in an interview, "I hate to say it in that dramatic way, but I do think it saved his life."

Mr. Ludwig said that Dr. Loren told him and his wife something he considered profound. "She said, 'We don't know how long it's going to last. Enjoy every day,' " Mr. Ludwig recalled.

"That's what we've done ever since."

A version of this article appeared in print on September 13, 2011, on page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

ANS -- Scientists discover virus that kills all types of breast cancer ‘within seven days’

Here is an interesting short article.  Has anyone heard any more about this?  the experiments were done in 2005 it says - shouldn't we have heard more by now if it was working? I'm skeptical....
Find it here:  

Scientists discover virus that kills all types of breast cancer 'within seven days'

By Stephen C. Webster
Friday, September 23rd, 2011 -- 4:48 pm

[] Tags: breast cancer cells, cervical cancer cells, penn state scientists

Scientists at the Penn State College of Medicine said this week they have discovered a virus that is capable of killing all types of breast cancer "within seven days" of first introduction in a laboratory setting.

The virus, known as adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2), is naturally occurring and carried by up to 80 percent of humans, but it does not cause any disease.

Researchers learned of its cancer-killing properties in 2005, after Penn State scientists observed it killing cervical cancer cells. They also found that women who carried the AAV2 virus and human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, had a lower propensity to develop cervical cancer.

When combined in a lab recently, AAV2 eradicated all the breast cancer cells "within seven days," according to researchers. Better still, it proved capable of wiping out cancer cells at multiple stages, negating the need for differing treatments used today.

"If we can determine which viral genes are being used, we may be able to introduce those genes into a [therapy]," explained Penn State research associate Samina Alam. "If we can determine which pathways the virus is triggering, we can then screen new drugs that target those pathways. Or we may simply be able to use the virus itself."

The Center for Disease Control says that breast cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting American women, causing more deaths than any other form of the disease.

The American Cancer Society estimates that up to 39,520 women in the U.S. will die from cancer just this year, out of about 230,480 new cases discovered by doctors.

Image credit: Flickr user Caitlinator, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

ANS -- Economics Works Backwards Now

this is a short article about work, and some questions about the future of work, but it doesn't try to answer the questions.  It's a conversation we should be having, but it would be pretty impossible in today's atmosphere of "Stupid Cow Disease".  How far does our civilization have to fall before we can pick ourselves up again?  the article is from the Weekly Sift. 
Find it here:   

week at a time

Economics Works Backwards Now

Do you ever think about how strange it is to worry about "creating jobs"? Wednesday, Douglas Rushkoff observed this:

Our problem is not that we don't have enough stuff ­ it's that we don't have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff.

Originally, economics was supposed to be about scarcity. People didn't have enough food, clothing, housing, or tools. So you worked to make some, and then traded your surplus for somebody else's surplus of the things you needed.

Today it's all backwards. We produce plenty of goods, and if necessary we could dial the process up and produce more. What's scarce now is work.

Try to imagine that on a personal level: It's dinnertime. You're hungry. There's so much good food in the frig that you worry about it spoiling. But you haven't justified your meal yet and you can't think how you're going to do it. So you have to sit there and be hungry until you can create a task for yourself.

Or on a family level: The kids each had jobs to do to help with dinner. But then we got a dishwasher, so now Jenny doesn't get to eat dinner because we haven't found a new job for her yet.

Crazy, isn't it?

This week the big news was President Obama's jobs speech, the Republican reaction, and the various economists who mostly told us that these were pretty good ideas.

But think about that speech's focus. Not that we need to grow more food or make more cars or build more houses because those things are needed, but that we need to produce more of something so that people can be employed producing it. He tried to justify the needfulness of the jobs, but all the same it would miss the point if Obama could accomplish the same things by snapping his fingers instead of hiring people.

Rushkoff again:

it seems to me there's something backwards in that logic. I find myself wondering if we may be accepting a premise that deserves to be questioned.

I am afraid to even ask this, but since when is unemployment really a problem? I understand we all want paychecks ­ or at least money. We want food, shelter, clothing, and all the things that money buys us. But do we all really want jobs?

John Kenneth Galbraith was making similar observations half a century ago. In The Affluent Society he described the following paradox: We judge our nation's economic success by how much it produces, and we justify production because it satisfies demand. But demand has to be created by advertising, because without constant hectoring people would not want all the things we produce.

After a certain point, Galbraith said, "Production only fills a void that it has itself created."

So why are we doing all this? In theory, our society could work less, produce less, advertise less, and we'd have no more unmet desires than we have now. But then there wouldn't be as many jobs.

If production is a paradox, productivity as an even bigger one. On the one hand, productivity is our best friend. The reason the standard of living today is so much higher than in the Middle Ages is that an hour of work now (with the assistance of machinery, electronics, fossil fuels, and a better-organized society) produces so much more than an hour of work did then. Beyond an occasional hobbyist project, why would you choose to work all week making something that you could buy for 20 minutes worth of your salary?

But productivity and new technology kills jobs. Rushkoff begins his essay talking about the Post Office, which faces massive layoffs because email and electronic bill payments don't require human sorters and couriers.

Again, that's not a new idea. The French economist Sismondi satirized the pure productivity-is-good view in 1819 in New Principles of Political Economy:

In truth then, there is nothing more to wish for than that the king, remaining alone on the island, by constantly turning a crank, might produce, through automata, all the output of England.

That fantasy gets closer and closer to reality. In his 1995 book The End of Work, Jeremy Rifkin wrote:

The quickening pace of automation is fast moving the global economy to the day of the workerless factory.

Sismondi's image of the king turning a crank captures the social problem of the workerless factory: The only reason to care whether it is in Topeka, Taipei, or Timbuktu is who owns it and who gets to tax it. Wherever it is, it will make goods, but it won't provide jobs.

So even if "the output of England" stays the same, all the value of it now belongs to the crank-turning king (or maybe to the Workless Factory Corporation). No matter how plentiful those goods are, what can the people of England trade in order to get them?

In 1930, at the depths of the Depression, John Maynard Keynes wrote the hopeful essay "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren":

We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come ­ namely, technological unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour.

But this is only a temporary phase of maladjustment. All this means in the long run that mankind is solving its economic problem.

Imagine if humanity really did "solve its economic problem". Suppose we got off the hamster wheel of ever-increasing desires, and kept improving our productivity until we could comfortably supply everything people really wanted.

Now imagine that we could do all that with only a few people working. The way we're currently organized, that would be Hell. Whoever owned the machines and the natural resources would have the whip hand over the rest of us, who would scratch and claw to get the few remaining jobs.

So I want to suggest this: Yes, in the short-to-medium term we really do need to create jobs. But maybe our economic problems seem so intractable because we're using economic tools to attack what is really a social problem. Currently (because in centuries past scarcity seemed eternal and the production system needed as many workers as possible) jobs organize our lives, give us our identities, and (most of all) allow us to prove that we deserve to eat.

But unless we either outlaw progress or keep inflating our desires until we consume the planet, eventually we're going to have to rethink our lives, our identities, and the system that distributes goods. Otherwise we're headed for Cornucopian Hell.

ANS -- Hasn't Ralph Nader done enough damage?

Here is an opinion piece from Donna Brazile (she chaired the campaign for Al Gore when he ran for Pres.).  Should Ralph Nader challenge Obama in the Dem primary?  What do you think?  Here's what Brazile thinks. 
Find it here:   

Part of complete coverage from
Donna Brazile
[]  [] [] [] []

Hasn't Ralph Nader done enough damage?

By Donna Brazile, CNN Contributor
updated 6:02 PM EST, Wed September 21, 2011
Ralph Nader speaks at a conference on Transportation Security A
Ralph Nader speaks at a conference on Transportation Security Administration procedures in January.
  • Ralph Nader suggested Obama should face primary challenge
  • Donna Brazile says Nader should beware creating Democratic disunity
  • She says his candidacy in 2000 took key votes away from Al Gore
  • Brazile: Progressives should unite to prevent GOP victory in 2012

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee, a nationally syndicated columnist and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000 and wrote "Cooking with Grease."

Washington (CNN) -- Ralph Nader floated the idea this week that a primary challenge to President Obama will help the president and the country.

He is flat-out wrong. His views are based on a faulty premise and a myth. We will start with the faulty premise and get to the myth later.

Remember back to 2000, when Nader himself ran as a third-party candidate? He's not proposing that here -- at least not yet -- but it's important to remember what happens when Nader gets involved in challenging a Democrat. In 2000, he siphoned enough votes from Al Gore in Florida to swing the election to President Bush. It gave us eight years of Bush-Cheney politics and policies.
Donna Brazile  
Donna Brazile

If Nader were being honest with himself, he'd look to 2000 as an example of what the consequences can be for the country and progressive causes when progressives don't stick together.

A primary challenge could further divide the party and possibly dampen Democratic enthusiasm. These races could erode our ability to reach swing voters, who are crucial to electoral viability, by forcing candidates to draw a sharper contrast on issues than necessary to win an election. On most issues, Nader agrees with the Democrats more than the Republicans.

By running as an independent and drawing votes in Florida that might otherwise have gone to Gore, Nader helped usher in eight of the worst years our country has ever seen. Bush ignored or trampled on Nader's major concerns.

Look at the record: Bush took President Clinton's budget surplus and squandered it. He used part of the surplus to offset the costs of his tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. He used the rest to begin funding an elective war in Iraq.

Bush policies allowed predatory lenders to dupe families seeking mortgages for homes. Wall Street bankers got the green light to play by their own rules. Bush created the bubble that burst and continues to rain on us. Bush policies cost millions of Americans their jobs. Middle class workers watched as their wages stagnated. They looked on helplessly as corporate executives reaped obese compensation.

Obama took over an economy that was shedding 750,000 jobs every month. He came into office with the nation in two wars and with crumbling bridges and superhighways, a health insurance system financially crippling middle class families, plus multiple other domestic maladies. We will be dealing with the repercussions of Bush's eight years for generations. And Nader thinks a primary challenge is a good idea? The question is for whom?

Primary challenges against moderates or centrist candidates work both ways. Does Nader suppose the primary challenges in November that wiped out veteran moderate Republican legislators and left the national GOP where it is today -- with energized extreme right-wing purists almost in control -- was good? Does he really want to be the Democratic Party's equivalent of a tea party purist?

Nader knows there is another progressive activist: Cornel West, who also seeks to stir a primary challenge against Obama. West has honest but debatable differences with President Obama. He rightly should challenge every politician to wage a battle against poverty and injustice in the United States. I see no reason for West to go beyond his rhetorical challenge to the president to address these issues and hold every elected official more accountable to the middle class and working poor.

Here's "the myth": Nader's and West's advocacy of primary challenges is based on the premise that Obama neither speaks to nor fights for progressive ideals. They're wrong. Look at what Obama has done, with pit bull opposition fighting him inch by inch.

Obama repeatedly called for a tax system in which all people pay their fair share, including the wealthiest Americans. The steep deficit cut Obama proposed this week mandates even-handed taxing and closes the tax loopholes that CEOs use to slide by with paying taxes at lower rates than their own secretaries do.

Our country witnessed the end of "don't ask, don't tell" this week. That finally allows brave men and women to serve openly and proudly in our armed forces, regardless of their sexual orientation.

In less than 30 months, the president signed health insurance reform that expanded everyone's access to quality, affordable health care. He outlawed the use of those so-called pre-existing conditions that forced many Americans to go without health insurance or pay exorbitant premiums.

He signed the Fair Pay Act to end workplace discrimination and to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work. He appointed two highly qualified women, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, to the Supreme Court. For the first time in our history, there are three female justices.

The question facing progressives is not whether Obama should have a primary challenger. Rather, it is: Do they want to return to the disastrous economic and social policies advocated by the tea party and the Republican presidential candidates today?

As Gore's former campaign manager, no one knows more than I do what the consequences are of efforts like Nader's. If he and West care about the progressive causes they purport to hold dear, they won't, still once again, risk putting another Republican -- and perhaps another swashbuckling governor from Texas -- in the White House. America cannot afford to go backward. It's time progressives unite for change we all believe in.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

Friday, September 16, 2011

ANS -- Six True Things Politicians Can’t Say

More political stuff from Doug Muder.  He's a great thinker, a great writer, and his comment section gets interesting and contentious. 
Find it here:  

Six True Things Politicians Can't Say

Remember how things were in high school? If a truth was unpopular, you'd be ridiculed for saying it, no matter how obvious it was. Even people who knew you were right wouldn't defend you, because then they'd be ridiculed too. They might even think they had to speak against you, just to be safe.

Politics is like that, but mostly just on one side. The rich and powerful can emphasize the effect when it works for them (by hiring professional ridiculers) or minimize it when it works against them (via spokesmen and front groups who absorb ridicule until things are safe for conservative politicians). If the PR professionals do their jobs well, the pro-wealth politicians don't have to offer evidence or answer opposing arguments, they can just laugh and scoff ­ like the cool kids used to.

But a popular lie that damages the poor or even the middle class can go unchallenged for a long, long time. If we want to hear the corresponding truths, we'll have to start saying them ourselves.

1. Most government money is well spent. The opposite idea ­ that government pours money down a rat hole ­ is broadcast every day. But strangely, anybody who sets out to find this wasteful spending and eliminate it ends up firing teachers, getting rid of food inspectors, letting bridges fall down, or cutting off somebody's medical care.

I'm sure the people in the path of Texas' wildfires appreciate the "waste" Gov. Perry managed to cut from the budgets of volunteer fire departments and the Texas Forest Service. When the antibiotic-resistant plague gets rolling, I'm sure we'll be similarly grateful to House Republicans for the "waste" they're finding at the CDC.

Speaking this truth in public takes courage, because the ridiculers can point to famous anecdotes of government waste ­ bridges to nowhere, $600 toilet seats – and nearly everyone knows some story of a mismanaged local project, an acquaintance who scammed disability, or a lazy civil servant who can't be fired.

But the private sector has its own examples of spectacular waste. How many welfare cheats would it take to equal the $300-500 million CEO Dick Fuld "earned" by managing Lehman Brothers into extinction and touching off the 2008 financial collapse? I can find waste in my own apartment ­ things I didn't need, never used, or paid too much for. A certain amount of waste is the natural friction you'll find in any human activity.

Government is a human project, so it has waste in it and always will. Except for unnecessary wars, is it more wasteful than the private sector? Does its inevitable waste cancel out the vital services it performs? Could we get those services without waste? No.

2. Regulations save money and lives. Corporations can often make a short-term profit doing something that eventually costs the public far more than the corporation makes. (The guy at Hooker Chemical who suggested burying toxic waste at Love Canal saved the company a bundle. He probably got a raise.) Stopping those bad deals is what government regulation is all about.

We hear every day how much companies spend complying with regulations, as if that were the whole story. What we gain from that spending is far more valuable. In the 60s and 70s, the auto companies fought tooth and nail against making cars safer. A car with seat belts used to cost extra. Air bags weren't even an option, much less standard equipment. Hard, unpadded, and sometimes even sharp steering wheels killed thousands.

Traffic deaths in the U.S. peaked in the late 70s, even though the number of people, cars, and miles driven keeps going up. That's government regulation for you.

Or consider this: Taking the lead out of gasoline has made American children measurably smarter. What's that worth to our future economy? What's that worth personally, to them and to us?

3. The rich are job destroyers, not job creators. You can't have a mass-production economy if the masses can't afford the products they make. So when the rich get too rich, growth suffers.

The last time the rich captured this much of our nation's income was 1929 ­ the last time the economy crashed this badly. It's not a coincidence.


4. Rich heirs are parasites. In political rhetoric, rich people are all hard-working, risk-taking entrepreneurs. Because politicians need contributions from the rich, they can't point out just how useless most second-and-third-generation millionaires and billionaires are.

We are encouraged to resent the unemployed worker who doesn't try hard enough to find a new job, but not the heir who never works. We're encouraged to resent the black or Hispanic who gets into Harvard through affirmative action, but not the "legacy" Ivy Leaguer whose test scores are even worse.

Our plunging inheritance tax has increased inequality in the worst possible way, and makes us more like the hereditary aristocracies of 18th-century Europe. In spite of the pop-culture vampire revival, we're still missing the underlying social metaphor of the original Dracula: Those exotically beguiling aristocrats are sucking our blood.

5. The U.S. government can't go bankrupt (unless it decides to). Even President Obama has been invoking the spectre of government bankruptcy, but it can't happen in any literal sense.

Why? The overwhelming majority of federal government's expenses are in dollars. Its debt is in dollars. So what are dollars? Whatever the Federal Reserve says they are.

The Fed creates dollars the way that Delta creates frequent flier miles: It enters them on a spreadsheet. The U.S. Treasury has an account at the Fed, which the Fed can replenish by creating dollars to buy government bonds. Or it could just let the Treasury's balance go negative. No sparks would fly out of the Fed's computers. Negative numbers work just fine.

The only way the U. S. government can go bankrupt is if it creates a crisis for itself, like the recent debt-ceiling debacle. As long as Congress is willing to authorize the government to pay its debts, the government can pay its debts.

Though it can't go bankrupt, the government could pay a penalty for running a big deficit in two ways: The markets could drive up interest rates ( which isn't happening), or the Fed creating dollars could increase inflation ( which isn't happening, but should).

6. Some inflation right now would be a good thing. The official mandate of the Federal Reserve is to balance inflation against unemployment. It doesn't. The Fed goes on red-alert at every hint of inflation, but the current unemployment is not inspiring similar alarm.

An easier money policy would lower unemployment at the "cost" of inflation ­ which would actually be a benefit. Anybody who lived through the 70s remembers the mindset inflation brings: You don't sit on piles of cash. You buy or invest now, because stuff is only going to cost more later.

Corporations are sitting on a trillion dollars of cash. Rich people are probably sitting on even more. A little fear of inflation would get that money moving again.

7. Fill in your own unspoken truth. …

ANS -- For Kids With ADHD, Regular 'Green Time' Is Linked to Milder Symptoms

this is an interesting bit of science.  Nature is calming.  I knew that.  didn't you?
Find it here:   

Science News

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For Kids With ADHD, Regular 'Green Time' Is Linked to Milder Symptoms

ScienceDaily (Sep. 15, 2011) ­ A study of more than 400 children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has found a link between the children's routine play settings and the severity of their symptoms, researchers report. Those who regularly play in outdoor settings with lots of green (grass and trees, for example) have milder ADHD symptoms than those who play indoors or in built outdoor environments, the researchers found. The association holds even when the researchers controlled for income and other variables.

The study appears in the journal Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9.5 percent of children aged 4-17 had been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2007. Symptoms include severe difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity and poor impulse control.

Although many children with ADHD are medicated, most "would benefit from a low-cost, side-effect-free way of managing their symptoms," wrote University of Illinois crop sciences visiting teaching associate Andrea Faber Taylor and natural resources and environmental sciences professor Frances (Ming) Kuo, the authors of the study.

Previous research has shown that brief exposure to green outdoor spaces -- and in one study, to photos of green settings -- can improve concentration and impulse control in children and adults in the general population -- individuals without ADHD.

These findings led Taylor and Kuo to examine whether children diagnosed with ADHD, which is characterized by deficits in concentration and impulse control, might also benefit from "green time." In a study published in 2004, they analyzed data from a national Internet-based survey of parents of children formally diagnosed with ADHD and found that activities conducted in greener outdoor settings did correlate with milder symptoms immediately afterward, compared to activities in other settings.

The new study explores other data from the same survey to determine whether the effect also is true for green play settings that are routinely experienced -- the park, playground or backyard that a child visits daily or several times a week.

"Before the current study, we were confident that acute exposures to nature -- sort of one-time doses -- have short-term impacts on ADHD symptoms," Kuo said. "The question is, if you're getting chronic exposure, but it's the same old stuff because it's in your backyard or it's the playground at your school, then does that help?"

To address this question, the researchers examined parents' descriptions of their child's daily play setting and overall symptom severity. They also looked at the children's age, sex, formal diagnosis (ADD or ADHD) and total household income.

The analyses revealed an association between routine play in green, outdoor settings and milder ADHD symptoms.

"On the whole, the green settings were related to milder overall symptoms than either the 'built outdoors' or 'indoors' settings," Taylor said.

The researchers also found that children who were high in hyperactivity (diagnosed with ADHD rather than ADD) tended to have milder symptoms if they regularly played in a green and open environment (such as a soccer field or expansive lawn) rather than in a green space with lots of trees or an indoor or built outdoor setting.

The researchers found no significant differences between boys and girls or income groups in terms of the relationship between the greenness of play settings and overall symptom severity.

Kuo noted that the findings don't by themselves prove that routine playtime in green space reduces symptom severity in children with ADHD. But in light of all the previous studies showing a cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to nature and improved concentration and impulse control, she said, "it is reasonably safe to guess that that's true here as well."

The study was performed with Hatch Act funds, and with support from the USDA CSREES National Research Initiative with a recommendation from the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council.
See Also:
Health & Medicine
Mind & Brain Earth & Climate Living Well

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ANS -- That was my brother's death you were cheering, you a$$holes

This is so sad.  It was truly disgusting that the Republicans cheered for letting the patient die if he doesn't have insurance.  What has this country come to?  This has "bad language" in it. 
Find it here:,-you-a$$holes  

Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 01:05 PM PDT

That was my brother's death you were cheering, you a$$holes

by Susan from 29
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permalink 233 Comments

To all of those tea-jadist assholes at last night�s GOP debate: I don�t generally care to use profanity, but I fear that English is above your comprehension level, so in terms you might better understand, may God damn your worthless souls to hell for all eternity.

I had not planned on watching the debate because it conflicted with more important activities, like a new episode of The Closer.  More importantly, it was being held at a time when I had committed to posting a diary for The Grieving Room.  That diary was about the death of my brother from a very painful, uninsured struggle against metastatic cancer.

I had planned to write about his journey through what passes for health care in a nation fixated on the profits that that care brings.  In a nation where his death was cheered in front of a panel of politicians, none of whom had the decency to object.  It is not a capital crime in this nation to be uninsured.

Steve worked 14 hours a day building beautiful guitars.  Songs will not be sung because he died and will make no more.  Thanks to the Republican Party�s theft of our national wealth, he barely eked out an existence with financial help from my husband and me. Money for health insurance?  Don�t be ridiculous.

He was 63.  He had to start Social Security early so he could afford to eat.  He was too young for Medicare and too male for Medicaid.  This nation does not recognize the years he spent working for others and making this economy grow, it only focused on the years he worked for himself, creating instruments of rare beauty.

When he had a pain in the butt, he had to wait until early in the morning of December 3rd to present himself at the ER of Highland Hospital, the Alameda County medical facility.  There are guards at Highland, and a football field full of plastic chairs for the indigent to use while they wait treatment.  He was sent home with a handful of Vicodin and a suggestion to follow up with a pulmonologist for the 3 cm spot the Xray showed on his lung.  The soonest appointment was Feb 25.

He was in so much pain that he could not stand up for more than a few seconds at a time.  He got Vicodin.  And steroid suppositories. 

His buddies came up with the $2000 a proctologist wanted to do an outpatient surgery.  But the hospital wanted $20,000 for use of the room for the brief procedure because he was uninsured.  Because the pain didn�t matter half as much as the profit.

For six weeks he suffered at home.  You bastards, you would have liked to watch that, wouldn�t you?  Too bad there were no cameras to catch him as he collapsed when he tried to microwave his oatmeal.  No microphones to catch his cries of pain or despair.

He was finally admitted to Highland after his heart started to fail in the emergency room late one night early in February.  The staff there are dedicated, caring compassionate people who work their hearts out trying to save the sickest and poorest Americans.  They have only limited resources with which to do that.  And they make every one of those resource count.

By then, of course, the cancer from his lung had spread to his buttock where it attacked the bone.  It wrapped itself into the nerves that travelled up its spine.  The pain was indescribable.  Perhaps his medical records could serve as pornography to sate your sick lust for the pain of others.

The morphine and the cancer combined to cause psychotic breaks from reality.  Worse, he knew they had occurred.  He was so intelligent, so very caring that these breaks wherein he would roundly curse the staff that cared for him, throwing whatever was handy at the walls, were incredibly shaming and emotionally devastating to him.  Cancer is so very cruel, but not half as cruel as the cheers you uttered last night.

The county nursing home where they finally had to warehouse him as the cancer weakened him to the point where chemotherapy would have killed him, looks like a minimum security prison.  Half of the staff did not understand English which further frustrated him as the morphine clouded his mind.  It was dirty and depressing and I was so grateful that he often did not even know he was there.

He hated it there and was so grateful when an infection sent him back to Highland for treatment.  He only lasted a few more days at Highland. I was holding his hand as he drew his last breath.  Have you ever seen a man die, you bastards?  His fingertips turn grey, his breathing becomes shallow.  His grip weakens.  And he simply stops breathing.  And all of the laughter and love goes away with that last breath.  The intelligence, the creative beauty, the caring compassion.  They all disappear.  But that probably wouldn�t matter to you since it is doubtful you would recognize any of it.

Love, compassion, beauty.  Laughter, intelligence.  And the ability to realize a dream.  A dream that never included cruelty or indifference to the suffering of others. 

And I cannot, for the life of me fathom why he is only ashes today and you are walking this earth.  But then, I am not the hero my brother was.  He would have forgiven you.  He would have understood the source of your fear that caused those cheers.  I don�t want to. 

I think you are scum.

Originally posted to Susan from 29 on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 01:05 PM PDT.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos, DFH Local No 420, Frustrati, and Healthcare Reform - We've Only Just Begun.


ANS -- The culture of fear

This is about fear.  And little things that symbolize fear, and cause small rips in the fabric of our civilization.  It's short.  It's written by Alan Cooper (who happens to be my little brother.) and is the next speaker at the Commonwealth Club. 
Find it here: 

The culture of fear

by Alan Cooper on September 13, 2011 | Comments (1)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his inaugural address as the 32th President of the United States, uttered his now famous phrase �The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.� How right he was.

He further identified his target as �nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.� He spoke early in 1933, during the darkest days of the American depression, when millions were out of work, no safety nets existed to help them, and there was no recovery in sight. What�s more, the specter of European Nazism, with its saber rattling, and strident, irrational racism, was waxing. In the face of these actual reasons to be afraid, Roosevelt fingered the real danger: irrational fear; fear for its own sake; being afraid simply because it�s easier than not being afraid.

Largely, the nation heeded Roosevelt�s admonition. We refused to succumb to fear, the economy recovered, we vanquished our foes, and emerged as the world leader for the rest of the 20th century.

Unfortunately, in the 21st century, we have quite failed Roosevelt. We have become a terrified nation and live in a culture of fear. We act afraid and we let baseless fear drive our choices. Mutual trust is the basis of civilization, and our nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror is unraveling the fabric of our society.

You can see the telltale traces of our fear everywhere. Everything we buy comes with voluminous safety instructions exhaustively detailing how it all might conspire to hurt us. The panoply of products and services with which we surround ourselves collectively laugh at our foolish anxiety. Every product we own is plastered with scary warning labels exhorting us to not act like an imbecile or we might suffer.

All of our cars have utterly useless alarms on them. They go off accidentally and annoy entire neighborhoods, but they don�t deter professional car thieves.

Our roads are lined with warning signs telling us to be careful even though such signs not only don�t work, but are dangerously distracting.

Even though violent crime is way down our mass media over-hypes every crime into an epidemic, every mugging into a crime wave.

Our airport security strips us of all dignity while performing its useless charade of frightening cowardice.

But that isn�t what I want to talk about. I want to talk about passwords. More specifically, I want to talk about hiding passwords with asterisks when we have to enter them on websites.

Our software programs conceal our passwords with coy little asterisks and our trust in each other erodes. We begin to suspect our co-workers, fellow transit riders, and even our family members of trying to steal our identities. It is another palpable example of nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, and this one is right in the backyard of interaction designers.

I have no complaint against passwords. They are useful tools to protect our data and our online accounts. It�s just that software should not hide my passwords from me, and only in extremely rare cases does it need to hide them at all.

The only reason why passwords are hidden is because we have become a nation of terrified little mice, riddled with chickenhearted fear, suspicious of every innocent shadow. Every time a website conceals a password from the person who is entering it, we witness a small victory for fear itself, and a minute but very real rip in the fabric of our society.

While identity theft is a real problem, there is abundant evidence that it comes from institutional sources: from hackers breaking in to corporate databases or from gross security leaks on a mass scale. I have seen no evidence whatsoever that individuals are stealing passwords by over-the-shoulder spying.

Recently there�s been a long discussion on the IxDA list regarding the proper way to conceal passwords. Some brave voices have suggested that concealment may not be necessary. They are far outnumbered by those who mindlessly accept that fear itself must triumph and everyone is out to steal your Amazon account and crack into your tweet stream. Bah!

I�ve been trying to imagine a scenario where passwords really need to be concealed. I couldn�t imagine one. I thought of a few, but they were all based on the assumption that people mostly stood around, waiting to catch a glimpse of my password so that they could...what? Send me spam? Post embarrassing pictures of me on Facebook? I�ve got news for them: That train has left the station!

One of my colleagues suggested that entering a password during a presentation would unnecessarily reveal your password to the audience. While I can�t argue with the specific case, as an interaction designer it bothers me. What kind of messed up software would force a person to enter a password at the start of a public presentation? What kind of badly designed software would not allow the user to request that his password be concealed just this one time?

And anyway, what would happen if the audience did see your password? It takes far more courage to show your vulnerabilities than it does to conceal them. Showing your strength in this way is a better deterrent to petty crime than any defensive measure is. If you doubt this, ask any police officer.

In my 1999 book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum, I point out that remote alarm buttons on automobile keyfobs are an utterly unnecessary feature that surely had its roots in some engineer saying, �Hey! Look what I can do!� Thereafter, every remote entry fob has had to have the alarm button so as to not appear to have a deficient feature list. I have no doubt that the asterisk-covered characters in a password field had identical origins. Some engineer figured out a clever way to subclass a text entry field to put the moral equivalent of tailfins on his program, and ever since then others have been following suit to not appear deficient.

Normally, such mindless behavior would disgust me, but in this case it angers me, too. Because it isn�t just simple bad interaction design, but it is a bold assertion of that nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror of which Roosevelt warned. It is another tiny crack in the wall that keeps us from barbarianism. Every time you put a concealed-password field on your website, you degrade our society, debase our culture, and demonstrate your irrational fear; your fear of fear itself.

Monday, September 12, 2011

ANS -- Progressive, Heal Thyself

This article is completely right on, except that I don't agree that Alan Grayson is a nut.  It is important that we both vote for Obama and vote in a strongly Progressive House and Senate.  Then, we will start seeing some movement in the direction we want.  There's one or two comments I will include, just for fun.  You can go there and read the rest if you like. 
Thanks to Wade for finding this article.
Find it here:  

Progressive, Heal Thyself

September 11, 2011
By David E. Phillips

[] I think it's fair to say that many progressives and liberals are disappointed in the Obama Presidency. There is no small number of us on the left that feel he has compromised too often, not fought hard enough on core issues, and in some cases, simply been too slow in action. I share some of these frustrations.

I recognize that Health Care Reform did not go as far as we would have liked. I am certainly aware that he escalated the war in Afghanistan, that the Bush tax cuts were extended, and that the debt ceiling deal, well, it kind of stunk.

However, this isn't just about the president. I'd also like to talk about us in the progressive population. Because, the fact is, we have disappointed too.

Let's look at the 2010 mid-terms in particular. Aided and abetted by the Tea Party movement and the right wing "birthers," "deathers," and science deniers, the Republicans took back the house in what can only be described as a complete democratic blood bath. The far right marshaled their armies, disrupted town halls, spread misinformation, and busted our ass at the ballot box.

The question we should ask ourselves is how did we allow this? Where were we during the town hall hijackings in the summer of 2009? How did we allow the fringe of the fringe to dominate our discourse? Look, I know it's easy to blame someone else–specifically the president­but is that entirely fair? I think not. Of course, I've heard the argument that progressives were too deflated after the so called "Capitulator in Chief's" first two years in office. I would ask though, after eight years of Bush, if someone told you that the next president will pass Health Care Reform, save the auto industry, and repeal DADT, I think a whole bunch of us would not have only been happy­even ecstatic­but some of us would have been heading off to Rushmore with a hammer and a chisel. Now I know that there is a fuller discussion to be had on the first two years of the Obama Administration, and that's fair. Still, I wonder how we could have given up so fast and not turned out in 2010.

It seems now that a significant number of us would like for the President to be primaried, even at the risk of handing back over the government to the people who we think are trying to destroy it. Usually, when these discussions are had, it comes down to these five candidates:

1: Howard Dean­Already said he isn't going to run. The last time he did, he melted down with a shriek and lost to the electrifying personality that is John Kerry.

2: Bernie Sanders­Not going to run, and he's an avowed socialist. Next.

3: Russ Feingold­Not going to run. Couldn't get reelected in his own state.

4: Dennis Kucinich­Not going to run. Considering moving to Washington state to carpetbag a house seat now that his has been eliminated in Ohio. Sees UFO's.

5: Alan Grayson­Not going to run. Couldn't get reelected in his own state. Also, a bit nuts.

So, in breaking down this list, we have 5 people who aren't going to run, and would have no chance if they did. The only thing they would accomplish would be to weaken the President and strengthen Perry or Romney. How does that not frighten you?

But let's dig deeper. Of the 5 possible candidates I mentioned, three are legitimate. You can toss out Kucinich and Grayson right away. Decent guys, right on the issues, not a chance in hell. I love Bernie Sanders as much as the next guy. He's the real deal. However, if Obama can get beat up for being a socialist, what do you think will happen to an actual socialist?

That brings us to the two most viable candidates. Dean, who already lost once when running for President, and Feingold who got beaten by a Tea Party candidate as an incumbent Senator in his own state.

Which brings me to a greater point, if Feingold can't win in Wisconsin with a great record of service in the senate then why are we even discussing this? Furthermore, how weak are we as progressives if we couldn't get out and support Feingold and Grayson in 2010 against weak opposition? Now, we want them to run for President? If so, what are we going to do differently this time around?

It's been said, that 90% of everything in life is showing up. Well, in 2010 we didn't show up. Our reasons for not doing so are really just excuses. We didn't get our way, I want it all, he's not good enough, etc. And maybe all of that is true. However, if we were looking to punish the President by not supporting our congressional majorities during the mid-terms, then I say "Job well done!" Unfortunately, that bit of petulance has also left us with a completely intransigent Republican House and a soft majority in the Senate. As you may have already noticed, that means that NOTHING gets done, not the big stuff we wanted or even the small stuff we would like. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling pretty punished myself right about now.

The truth is, if you want a more progressive President, then try electing a more progressive congress. One of the things we hated so much about Bush is that he acted more like King George than he did a President. For all his shortcomings, Obama is not George Bush. He needs congress, and we took it away from him. With it, went our progressive goals.

So here's an idea. How about in 2012, we suck it up, support our "disappointing friend" and not only vote for him, but vote for our congressional hopefuls as well. Yes, I know, we need a viable third party. While I would never begrudge a person for voting their beliefs, I would suggest that winning is better than losing, and that forward­even in small steps­is better than backwards. And until we go to either a parliamentary system or institute run-off elections (good luck with that), then we really only have two choices, the Democrats or the Republicans. I don't know about you, but I'll be damned if I'm going to allow myself to be so disappointed that I forget what eight years of Republican rule was like and stay home or lodge what amounts to be a protest vote.

If you want to heal our country, I would suggest that we start with ourselves first, and let's start now, because in 2012, there will be way too much at stake to still be in the position of sorting out our feelings and qualified misgivings.
Xocowolf on September 11, 2011 at 9:47 PM

Okay, yeah, it's true. The Democratic frontrunners you identified aren't going to run, and have slim-to-nil chances even if they did.
Let's talk about another slate, and possibly keep it in mind for 2016.

1.) Hillary Clinton. I'm no "What if ­?" case, and frankly I'd like to step away from the "Bush-Clinton-Clinton-Bush-(Clinton)" dynastic pattern that would have been the case had she won the nomination and the Presidency, but look at the cold facts: She's a stateswoman. She's seen the government from several angles ­ as First Lady, as Senator, as Presidential candidate, as Secretary of State. That's a powerful resumé. The work she's done in the Obama Administration would far, far eclipse the Whitewater scandal that everyone was afraid would shadow her through the campaign (the whole birth certificate nonsense was more vexatious than that).

2. Bill Richardson. Currently, he's out of office. His former constituents are sad because his successor is doing his level best to throw out everything good he did for New Mexico. And I daresay, his political resumé is at least as impressive, if not moreso, than Hillary's. When then-Senator Obama appeared in Portland, ORE with Mr. Richardson at side, every Progressive within a thousand miles was in ecstasy at the mere thought of an Obama-Richardson ticket.

3. Senator Jay Rockefeller. He's a progressive Senator from one of the Reddest states in the union. He isn't keen on same-sex marriage but gays and lesbians are human first, and the issues he supports will protect them as human beings.

4. Kathleen Sebelius. Another Progressive from arguably thee Reddest state in the union. Think about this: she was Governor of Kansas when that whole "replace Evolution with Creationism" fol-de-rol happened in Kansas; she looked the Kansan theocratic minority in the eye, opened up a can of Blessed Sensibility on 'em, and didn't bat an eyelash. We NEED someone gutsy, that stands firm on our core issues, and stand off the Tea Party.

5. Olympia Snowe. Yes, I know she's Republican. Michelle Bachmann used to be Democrat. Dianne Feinstein used to be Republican. Ms. Snowe is also pro-healthcare; I'm suspecting she voted "No" on Obamacare because she thought it didn't go far enough. Let me explain:
I was one of several hundred LiveSTRONG delegates to Capital Hill back in '06 and '07. And Senator Snowe was right there with us on LiveSTRONG Day, in Senate Park for the press event. That year, we were asking our Congressmen and -women to support legislation that would open up the Federal Employees health plan for every American, man, woman, child, infant ­ everyone. Everyone, pay $75 a month ­ $2 a day ­ into the plan and be covered, for everything. It was a 20-page piece of legislation, wouldn't add a dime to the deficit, and unfortunately never made it out of committee.
At the very least, she wouldn't spend Day One in the White House dismantling President Obama's legacy.
  • [] Jax6655 on September 12, 2011 at 7:00 AM
    Dream on. Reply

Sunday, September 11, 2011

ANS -- Rootworms, Monsanto, and the Unity of Existence

Here is an article from The Weekly Sift by Doug Muder.  It's about looking at various problems as connected problems -- something he says that conservatives do better than liberals. 
Find it here:  or   

Undermining Americans' belief in their own institutions of self-government remains a prime GOP electoral strategy. 

Mike Lofgren, retired Republican Congressional staffer
" Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult"

In this week's sift:
  • Rootworms, Monsanto, and the Unity of Existence. Liberals like to use the word holistic, but conservatives are the ones whose ideology connects everything. Why a down-on-the-farm issue like Bt-resistant rootworms has larger lessons to teach.
  • Blowing Smoke About Clouds. If you have enough media power, you can hijack the prestige of the biggest names in science and use it for your own purposes. Witness how climate deniers just hijacked the coverage of an article in Nature by researchers at CERN.
  • A ConConCon and other short notes. Lawrence Lessig tries to make common cause with the Tea Party. Cheney's book tour. Geo-engineering. Rolling Stone covers voter suppression. Convoluted music copyrights. Relative costs of the Libyan and Iraq interventions. More on Libertarians.
  • Last week's most popular post. Traffic mostly went back to normal last week, except for continuing interest in Why I Am Not a Libertarian (18K total views) and One Word Turns Around the Tea Party (7K). (Between them they're still accounting for more than half the blog's traffic.) Last week's Barack, Can We Talk? got a more typical 450 views. However, it took off when I reposted it to Daily Kos, where it went to the top of the recommended list (800 recommendations, 800 comments).
  • This week's challenge. Try to put words around the political message you're waiting to hear. What could a politician say or do that would give you a surprised reaction of "This person really gets it!"?
September 5, 2011 – 11:38 am Categories: Weekly summaries | Comments (2)

Rootworms, Monsanto, and the Unity of Existence

You know what I envy most about the Right? They're holistic.

I know that sounds crazy. Conservatives are individualists, liberals are the ones who understand that everything is connected. And yet … liberals get involved in labor issues (if they belong to a union), education (if they have children), race and gender (if they're black or female), and so on. Otherwise, life is short and energy is finite. We can't all be into everything.

But conservatives happily take on a wide range of issues, because they've got an ideology that pulls it all together.

This week there was a news story about rootworms in corn fields in Iowa. Probably you're not an Iowan, a corn-farmer, or a rootworm, so your eyes are glazing over. But bear with me. Everything is connected.

Bt and Monsanto. The rootworms are newsworthy because they're not supposed to be there. The fields were planted with a corn seed that Monsanto genetically modified to kill rootworms. It contains a gene from bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring insect-killing bacteria. Apparently the Iowa fields have evolved a rootworm resistant to Bt, or at least to this particular expression of Bt.

That's bad ­ and not just for Monsanto.

This possibility was considered when the Monsanto corn was approved by the EPA in 2003. The remedy was for farmers to plant 20% of their fields with non-Bt corn. Basically, you want to prevent insects with low-level resistance from mating with each other and producing high-level resistance. The 20% "refuge" area keeps non-resistant rootworms in the evolutionary picture, so that the species as a whole doesn't become resistant.

Now it looks like 20% wasn't enough. That's what independent scientists told the EPA in 2003. They wanted 50% non-Bt corn, but Monsanto lobbied the EPA down to 20%. Now it looks like their lobbying screwed up their own product.

Everything-is-connected Lesson 1. Smart government regulations aren't job-killing or money-wasting. Corporations are short-sighted. In the long run everybody ­ even industry ­ does better if government doesn't let industry do whatever it wants.

Monsanto vs. the farmers who buy its seed. Since the dawn of agriculture, farmers have saved some of their crop to plant the following year. Since the dawn of the seed industry that has been a problem, because seed companies always want to sell farmers new seed.

So the 20th-century seed industry developed high-yielding hybrids that were either sterile or would regress in subsequent generations. You could save your seed, but if you wanted the 100-bushel-an-acre corn, you had to buy new.

When it couldn't figure out how to make that tactic work for genetically modified seeds, Monsanto changed its retailing model to be more like Microsoft's. Like Windows 7 DVDs, Monsanto's seeds are just media. What farmers are really buying is a one-year license to use the patented genetic information in the seed. Farmers who replant the descendants of their purchased seeds risk being bankrupted by Monsanto's patent-infringement lawsuits.

A lot of law had to be changed or re-interpreted to make this scheme work. For one thing, the whole idea that naturally occurring genes can be patented is not obvious, and may even be a little bizarre. Property law could just as easily have settled out the way that seemed like common sense to one unintentional patent-infringer: "I assumed that after I paid the tech fee [the seeds] were mine."

Everything-is-connected Lesson 2. Conservatives talk about property rights as if they had been sacrosanct since God evicted his tenants from Eden. But in the real world property is whatever corporations want it to be. If centuries-old notions of property get in the way of corporate profits, the rules will be changed.

Everything-is-connected Lesson 3. The term judicial activism is hardly ever applied to cases that expand corporate rights. But patenting life-forms stems from Diamond v. Chakrabarty (1980), where it is the liberal dissent of Justice Brennan that invokes judicial restraint: "We must be careful to extend patent protection no further than Congress has provided." He lost.

Monsanto vs. the farmers who don't buy its seed. Some farmers who never bought Monsanto seed are growing patented plants because birds drop seeds on their property or pollen blows in from a neighbor's field. Other farmers who stopped using Monsanto seed nonetheless see "volunteer" seeds from last year's crop sprout in their fields.

Occasionally such a farmer loses a patent infringement suit. And no one knows how many innocent farmers – less determined than this family profiled by CBS ­ just pay up when confronted with evidence of patented plants in their fields and the threat of Monsanto's expensive legal team. (Sixty different organic-farming organizations have preemptively filed suit against Monsanto to avoid being sued later for inadvertent patent infringement.)

Farmers who hope to export to countries that ban genetically modified crops are harmed if the wind blows Monsanto pollen onto their fields. But Monsanto's licensing agreement puts this responsibility on the farmer who plants its seeds. So you can sue your neighbor, but not Monsanto.

Everything-is-connected Lesson 4. Corporatist political rhetoric often emphasizes freedom and responsibility. But it's all one-way. The corporation has the freedom and you have the responsibility.

Organic insect control and the genetic commons. Being a naturally occurring bacterium, Bt is one of the few insect-control treatments available to organic farmers. They typically use it sparingly. Their first line of defense against insects is to rotate crops (as all farmers used to do). That way, eggs of corn-eating insects will hatch in a field of soybeans, and vice versa. When organic farmers use Bt, it is applied only to the insect-infested field, and it soon washes away.

Monsanto's Bt seeds, by contrast, expose the entire field, all season long. And one of the seed's touted advantages is that you don't have to rotate. The Iowa fields where resistance developed had been planted in corn for many years in a row.

So, used as directed, Monsanto's seeds are breeding Bt-resistant rootworms. (It's not clear yet if the Iowa worms are universally Bt-resistant or just resistant to the particular protein Monsanto engineered its seeds to produce. In any case, they are a step in the direction of Bt-resistant rootworms.)

Once they exist, these rootworms are unlikely to respect property lines. They'll be a problem for everybody, including the organic farms. So Monsanto has profited by using up a common resource that could have lasted for centuries otherwise.

Everything-is-connected Lesson 5. By their insatiable nature, corporations make all tragedy-of-the-commons problems much, much worse. Antibiotic-resistant disease is a similar story, as the meat industry uses massive quantities of antibiotics without concern for the consequences. Ditto for air quality, water rights, and any other common asset that a corporation can profit from. If there's a horse in the common stable, a corporation will ride it to death.

How do we connect everything? Urban or suburban liberals may find such farm-based issues uninteresting, but conservatives of all stripes jump into opposition if anyone tries to fix the problem. Why? Because government is evil and industry is good. It's that simple to them.

If liberals are going to unite efficiently, we need to develop a few reality-based but easy-to-apply lenses of our own, so that we have a common view of many diverse situations.

I propose this one: Corporate rights are driving out human rights.

Even if an issue seems to have nothing to do with you, check whether this lens brings it into focus. Because the battle for dominance between corporations and humans is everybody's battle, and we need to fight it on all fronts.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

ANS -- The Fifth Stage of Grief for the Middle Class Way of Life

Brad Hicks seems to be writing again.  this is really depressing to me, but I had to share it with you.  What do you think?  Are we doomed?  the discussion is also very interesting.  I'll let you go there to read it. 
Find it here:  

The Fifth Stage of Grief for the Middle Class Way of Life

  • Sep. 4th, 2011 at 3:42 AM
Voted for Dean
Denial: Yes, I know that they're breaking the unions, and laying people off left and right. But we're the strongest, smartest, most productive people on earth! Our way of life will survive, it has to! Anger: They can't get away with this! Take to the streets! Bargaining: Maybe if we adopt some of their proposals, create something called New Labor, or become Third Way Democrats, they'll let us keep our middle class way of life? Despair: Oh, god, no, they won't, not after the bankers successfully blackmailed us into covering 100% of their losses, and certainly not after Citizens United. And Obama keeps selling us out. I'm so depressed, I can't even watch the news any more.

Those were all natural stages of the grieving process for the way of life that the G.I. Generation, the Greatest Generation, intended to leave to us as their legacy. The time period from roughly 1946 to 1972, in America and in the UK and in Japan and in parts of western Europe, was one of the rare times in human history where people -- in this case, the people who lived through the Roaring 20s, the horrors of Prohibition gangsterism, the further horrors of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, the even further horrors of World War II -- set out to build for us a world where nobody was so poor that they had nothing left to lose, and where nobody was so rich that they were above the law.

It was a beautiful world. It was a dream worth fighting for, and they fought for it. It was better than what we have to day. But it's been hit by one hammer blow after another since the OPEC oil crisis of 1973. And now, that dream is dead. You've had your time of denial in the 1980s and 90s, and your time of anger during the second Bush administration, and you spent the whole 2008 election cycle and the almost three years since then bargaining. Which is why most of you have already reached despair. And that's good. It was necessary to your healing process. But now, maybe, it is time to move on to the final stage of grief for that lost egalitarian dream: Acceptance.

The winners, the right wing Democrats and the Republicans, New Labor and the Tories, have said it out loud, and repeatedly: they consider the "middle class" to be people between the 85th and 95th percentile of income, and everybody below that to be poor. And as several of them have said lately, they deeply resent the generosity with which they allow poor people, in America and elsewhere, to cling to unnecessary luxuries ... like air conditioning. And a telephone. And a refrigerator. They resent that they let you keep those luxuries, which means if you're not in the 85th percentile of income for your country, you better take it for granted: those luxuries are going away. Period. In the post-Citizens United world, a world where the people who fund the only candidates who can win in either party's primaries are universally convinced that any resources that are going into lifting the bottom 85% of society out of poverty are wasted resources, where that's taken for granted by vast voting majorities of the elected representatives of both parties no matter what else they quibble about? In that world, no amount of denial, or anger, or bargaining, nor despair; neither angry violence nor peaceful protest; neither inspirational speeches nor cynical compromise, is going to change that.

It's a done deal. Maybe it's been a done deal, as some people warned us at the time, since Reagan dissolved the Professional Air Traffic Controllers' Organization, but whether or not it was then, it certainly is after Citizens United. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can get on with what's really important. Maybe, for you, that's still a life in politics, if what you care about are other issues, like women's rights, or the environment, or whatever. If not ... and for me, if we can't get that right, it's mostly not ... if not, for the rest of you who are like me? It is time for us to get on with planning for what our new lives are going to be like once the changes are done.

[] Welcome to the rest of your life. Specifically, welcome to this: Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh's 2006 book, Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor. If you haven't done so yet, you need to read this book. I don't know how many of you read the last book I begged you all to read, Nick Taylor's American Made. I get the sense it was maybe a quarter of you. But if you want to know what your life is going to be like if you aren't already in the 85th percentile of American life or up, you cannot do better than to read this book, and I'll tell you why.

Sudhir Venkatesh is a sociologist with some training in economics who dedicated eight years of research (1995-2003), most of it embedded with his subjects living and working alongside them, to trying to understand better than has ever been understood before how it is, exactly, that people survive in an urban ghetto: what do they do all day, where does the food that feeds them come from, how do they survive the brutal winters and the summers, how do they deal with crime in a neighborhood where, at most, the cops come every 20th or so time you call them, and never stay longer than an hour or two before going back to some neighborhood that actually has property values left to protect? What he found surprised him; if you haven't lived that life, it'll probably surprise you several times, too. But more about that later; here's why it's important to you:

The older people in this south Chicago neighborhood, a couple of blocks from where Cabrini Green used to be, reminded him that they remembered a time when, due to harsh segregation both of housing and economics, south Chicago had black poor people, a thriving black middle class, and a modest group of wealthy blacks. When housing desegregation came, those middle class and rich people left that neighborhood, commuting back in to their old family churches but otherwise never seen again ... and that was in the 1960s. The neighborhood he studied is one that is almost entirely literally post-economic, in exactly the way that your life is going to be: a place with few honest imports, and few honest exports, a world down to its last couple of people living anything that you or I would recognize as a middle class way of life. A world where only 4% of the population has the luxury of never doing business with people who are, at least technically, criminals ... not coincidentally, the 4% of the population who have jobs nowhere near the neighborhood and who don't socialize with anybody near where they live. A world where technically 20% of the population was unemployed even before the 2007 financial collapse, and where 40% were unemployed by the broader (U-6) measure of unemployment. But on the other hand, it's also a world where almost literally everybody works, actually works, at least an 8 hour day, frequently a 10 to 16 hour day ... just, mostly, off the books, getting paid 25¢ to $2.00 a day plus barter.

And yet, they live. They, and their parents, and in some cases their grandparents, have lived without anything you would recognize as a middle class standard of living for longer than most of you have been alive. One that goes almost entirely without reliable health care, and certainly goes without anything resembling honest law enforcement. A life that includes bouts of sleeping in abandoned buildings or basements or alleys for nearly everybody, at least a couple of times in their lives, lives that are shorter than you were lead to expect and you're not going to get now. They come to the bus stop after the last bus has left, or hang out on stoops of abandoned buildings during the day, or make out with each other on thown-away alley couches because, crammed 20 or 30 people per house, that time outdoors is the only privacy they get. (If you think Facebook is eroding your privacy, wait until you find out what poverty will do to it.) And the ghetto is a horrifically awful place for children, and they know that; even the prostitutes and the drug dealers struggle with how can they better provide for their children with no more resources than they have and no more help than they're going to get, without sacrificing what little income the community has that feeds those children?

It is not a life that you would want, although if you're a majority voter in the 85th percentile of income and up, it is a life you think is entirely fair for people who deserve less than the truly deserving do, the 15% of us you consider to be the only productive members of society. And it is, as that majority of the upper-middle-class and the wealthy will certainly argue, a life that is humanly possible, and one that has love in it, and even occasional moments of happiness, for almost everybody. And if you're not in the 85th percentile by income or above already, and you don't know how you, personally, will live, when the people you think of as "middle class" and that your rulers think of as "the poor" or "the working class" are reduced to ghetto levels of poverty and scarcity and danger? This is the best book that I've found, yet, to get you started about asking yourself this question: when it comes to that, which of these people do I want to be like? How will I live?

Will you be like one of the three truly powerful women he got to know, in the neighborhood -- women who owned big but run-down houses free and clear, who operated off-the-books boarding houses to the hustlers and prostitutes? Or will you be one of the prostitutes, or will one of your family members be one of the prostitutes who bring home the money so that once in a rare while the family can afford some fenced black-market penicillin or the occasional tooth extraction? Will you be one of the three or four shade tree mechanics per neighborhood, undercutting the above-board garages while paying a couple of bucks a day in protection money to the local street gang so you can work unmolested in an alley, giving the corrupt cops deep discounts on their oil changes so they don't run you in? Will you be the woman who runs an illegal unlicensed catering business, selling $2 lunches to the construction workers around town who work on the rich peoples' houses and office buildings, or one of the army of street hustlers getting paid $2 a day plus lunch to hand-deliver those meals for her? Will you be one of the hustlers who interviews and vets homeless people, getting paid a small commission by the property owners of the empty properties, to find reliable homeless people willing to get paid $1 to $2 per week plus free rent to sleep in the basements of those properties to ward off the copper thieves? Or will you be one of those homeless people? Or will you be one of the less reliable homeless people, who get paid $1 a week or less and the bartered right to use a store's bathroom, store your stuff in its storeroom, sleep under cardboard in the alley behind it, and sleep indoors on the stockroom floor during (and only during!) the worst couple of nights of the year, in exchange for a promise to be there, in that alley, from sundown to sunup to call the police or the fire department or the street gang if needed? Will you join the gang, and provide contract negotiation services between hustlers and their clients, and security that sometimes does extend beyond the protection racket to the trying-to-be-above-board stores? Will you own one of those stores? Or will you be the guy selling (probably shoplifted) socks and underwear for $2 as you walk down the street or in the park? (Or, to pick an example I see every time I take the train, the guy selling pirated DVDs of newly released movies for the same price?) Will you be one of the storefront pastors who try to keep peace in the neighborhood, and try to provide for the children, even though most of your salary and all of your church's rent are covered by the $2000 per gangland funeral you collect?

Unless you are already in the 85th percentile or above, you need to read about these people's lives, and ask yourself which of their niches you will fit into when the ghetto comes to you. Because only when you find one or two that you could be comfortable in can you start to plan, and only once you start to plan can you begin to be prepared, and only when you're prepared can you put your mind at rest. Only then will you be ready to get on with the rest of your life in what reduced standard of life, like the reduced standard of life after any loss, will pass for happiness. Only then will you be ready for acceptance.
  • Mood: calm calm