Pharmaceutical Companies Face Changes in Democratic Congress

I’ve often described Bush’s Medicare plan as a major act of corporate welfare to reward the pharmaceutical and insurance companies for all their support. The Washington Post reports on the changes on K Street following the elections, with the pharmaceutical companies in particular facing changes:

Drug companies are particularly hungry for Democratic help, including the industry’s trade association. “We woke up the day after the election to a new world,” said Ken Johnson, spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “We’re going to have tough days ahead of us.”

A post-election e-mail to executives at the drug company GlaxoSmithKline details just how tough. “We now have fewer allies in the Senate,” says the internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post. “Thus, there is greater risk over the next two years that bad amendments will be offered to pending legislation.” The company’s primary concerns are bills that would allow more imported drugs and would force price competition for drugs bought under Medicare.

The defeat of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) “creates a big hole we will need to fill,” the e-mail says. Sen.-elect Jon Tester (D-Mont.) “is expected to be a problem,” it says, and the elevation to the Senate of Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) “will strengthen his ability to challenge us.”

The e-mail also mentions that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) “has worked closely” with the company and that the firm’s PAC had supported six Democratic senators who faced reelection. “These relationships should help us moderate proposals offered by Senate Democrats,” the e-mail says.

Explaining the memo, GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman Patricia Seif said: “It’s important that we’re knowledgeable about the positions of the members of the next Congress.”

Posted in Congress, Courts, Health Care. Tags: . 2 Comments »

Maureen Dowd on Civil War

Marureen Dowd is becoming increasingly fed up with the Bush administration’s rationalizations that Iraq is not in a civil war:

The New York Times and other news outlets have been figuring out if it’s time to break with the administration’s use of euphemisms like “sectarian conflict.” How long can you have an ever-descending descent without actually reaching the civil war?

Some analysts are calling it genocide or clash of civilizations, arguing that civil war is too genteel a term for the butchery that is destroying a nation before our very eyes. Anthony Shadid, The Washington Post reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for his Iraq coverage, went back recently and described “the final, frenzied maturity of once-inchoate forces unleashed more than three years ago by the invasion. There was civil-war-style sectarian killing, its echoes in Lebanon a generation ago. Alongside it were gangland turf battles over money, power and survival; a raft of political parties and their militias fighting a zero-sum game; a raging insurgency; the collapse of authority; social services a chimera; and no way forward for an Iraqi government ordered to act by Americans who themselves are still seen as the final arbiter and, as a result, still depriving that government of legitimacy. Civil war was perhaps too easy a term, a little too tidy.”

It will be harder to sell Congress on the idea that America’s troops should be in the middle of somebody else’s civil war than to convince them that we need to hang tough in the so-called front line of the so-called war on terror against Al Qaeda.

With Iraq splitting, Tony Snow indulges in the ludicrous exercise of hair-splitting. He said that in past civil wars, “people break up into clearly identifiable feuding sides clashing for supremacy.” In Iraq, “you do have a lot of different forces that are trying to put pressure on the government and trying to undermine it. But it’s not clear that they are operating as a unified force.” But Lebanon was a shambles with multiple factions, and everybody called that a civil war.

Mr. Snow has said this is not a civil war because the fighting is not taking place in every province and because Iraqis voted in free elections. But that’s like saying that the Battle of Gettysburg only took place in one small corner of the country, so there was no real American Civil War. And there were elections during our civil war too. President Lincoln was re-elected months before the war’s end.

Posted in Iraq, Op-eds. Tags: , . 5 Comments »

Deepak Chopra’s False Alternative of Random Chance

Deepak Chopra is currently centering his hostility towards science on Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion. In these posts he demonstrates just how low he will go to try to get some affirmation of his beliefs from readers. His latest game is to set up choices between his bizarre views and a straw man he creates, hoping that least the readers not realize there are other alternatives and might settle for agreement with him. he’s up to the fourth part of his attacks on Ronald Dawkins. In part three he returns to specious attacks on evolution, writing:

As the astronomer Fred Hoyle declared the probability that random chance created life is roughly the same as the probability that a hurricane could blow through a junkyard and create a Boeing 707.

Of course, as anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of evolution and biology knows, evolution provides a mechanism for the development of complex life forms that is far from random. Chopra is once again taking ideas from the religious right in falsely characterizing evolution as random chance. Despite claiming that his posts are a refutation of Dawkins’ book, he fails to note that Dawkins both addressed and thoroughly refuted this argument in chapter four of The God Delusion. However, those who do not understand evolution might fall for this logic, and he begs them for support:

Before proceeding with the next step in refuting the anti-God position, let’s pause to see what responders think. Do you think a random universe of concrete objects colliding by chance is the right model for creation?

Chopra tries to get away here with claiming that creation by God or random chance are the only alternatives. He is similarly dishonest in part four where he touches on his belief of that the universe is conscious by distorting science. He takes a number of physical constants which are necessary for life, a topic Dawkins also addressed at length, to claim that “random chance is one of the worst ways to explain how the universe evolved” again ignoring the fact that random chance is not the scientific alternative to creationism:

It means that there may be governing forces at work which allow the existence of universal consciousness. The self-aware universe is a plausible theory. Many writers have described it, although Dawkins disdains such theories.

He appears to be preparing to discuss his belief in a self-aware universe in the next installment after offering it here as a seemingly plausible alternative to his straw man of random chance. Once again he tries to get readers to support his views by offering false choices:

First I’d like to hear responders’ views. Do you think you are conscious and intelligent, or are you being fooled by random chemical reactions inside your skull?

Chopra apparently thinks that readers, knowing they are conscious, will see no choice but to agree with him as opposed to his straw man. There is far more activity in the brain than random chemical reactions, and if such activity creates conciousness nobody is being fooled. There’s no attempt for an explanation yet for Chopra’s leap from consciousness in the individual, which science does not dispute, to consciousness in the universe as a whole.

More posts on Deepak Chopra

Update: Deepak Chopra and Considerations of Us vs. Them

Locating Your Nearest Hate Group

The Southern Poverty Law Center has mapped out the locations of various hate groups around the country. Their map allows you to get more specific information for each state. The numbers are for the number of hate groups active in 2005, including neo-Nazis, the KKK, skinheads, and Christian identity groups.

(Hat tip to Stupid Evil Bastard.)

Sci Fi Friday: Masters of Horror

Showtime’s Masters of Horror series get involved with politics again. Last season they featured Homecoming, in which dead vets came back to get their revenge against those responsible for Iraq. Tonight Masters of Horror gets involved in the abortion controversy. Slice of SciFi reports:

Caitlin Wachs, who stars as a pregnant teenager in the upcoming Masters of Horror episode “Pro-Life,” told SCI FI Wire that she’s bracing herself for the controversy that may result from the potentially polarizing hour. John Carpenter (Halloween) directed the episode, about 15-year-old Angelique (Wachs), who arrives at a clinic to abort her baby. Matters escalate, not only because Angelique’s anti-abortion father (Ron Perlman) and his three sons try to liberate her by force, but also because the child inside her is growing frightfully fast.

“I know there are a few pretty intense scenes,” Wachs said in an interview. “I’m kind of bracing myself for anything. I had a lot of fun working on it, and I stand by my work. I don’t think it’s necessarily the right thing, but I think that women do have the right to choose. Just the fact that it takes place in an abortion clinic can piss off a lot of people. So I’m kind of preparing myself for anything, really. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

In other science fiction news of the week, this week’s episode of Heroes had the hightest ratings of any show for the season on NBC. All the hype over “save the cheerleader, save the world” paid off. Now that the cheerleader is safe, we will have to see how they do save the world. Sci Fi Channel is hoping for higher ratings for Battlestar Galactica when they move it from Fridays to Sundays this fall. Such a move worked for X-Files after they build up a cult following on Fridays and moved to Sundays, but developing such an audience will be much harder on SciFi Channel as opposed to the networks. There have been rumors of NBC (which owns SciFi Channel) moving the show to the network’s schedule, but so far no signs that this is really going to happen. Currently they do broadcast Heroes on NBC on Monday and on SciFi Channel the following Friday. Battlestar Galactica is also reboradcast on HD Net, but not for several months after the original airing on SciFi Channel.

United States Not Ranked Highly as Democracy

We have often been concerned with the damage to democracy under George Bush and the Repubilcans, including the theft of the 2000 (and possibly 2004) elections, the break down of checks and balances from Congress, and the K Street Project. The flaws to our democracy are particularly of concern with the United States using spread of democracy to justify a foreign policy which has been both immoral and contrary to our national interests. The Economist has ranked democracies and the United States only comes in at number seventeen:

  1. Sweden
  2. Iceland
  3. Netherlands
  4. Norway
  5. Denmark
  6. Finland
  7. Luxembourg
  8. Australia
  9. Canada
  10. Switzerland
  11. Ireland
  12. New Zealand
  13. Germany
  14. Austria
  15. Malta
  16. Spain
  17. United States
  18. Czeh Republic

The Unites States’s major partner in spreading democracy to Iraq, the United Kingdom, is ranked number 23.

Kerry’s Health Care Proposal Returns As Solution For Auto Company Woes

During the 2004 campaign, Bush often mischaracterized Kerry’s health care proposals as a government takeover of healthcare. Actually Kerry’s plans were very business-friendly. Big business, at least in the auto industry, are finally realizing that Kerry’s plan would have helped them in remaining competitive against foreign auto companies in countries where the govenment, as opposed to the employer, provided health care. Scott Lehigh notes this in The Boston Globe.

Last week, the chiefs of Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler went to Washington to meet with the president, the vice president, and various administration officials about the auto industry’s woes.

Among their complaints: The heavy healthcare costs they shoulder are hindering their ability to compete.

And what did they suggest by way of a solution? Something John Kerry proposed during his presidential campaign: a reinsurance arrangement to pay for chronic or catastrophic healthcare costs, thereby effectively taking those cases out of private health-insurance plans.

“One possibility they discussed conceptually was a pool to address the disproportionate costs associated with those who have chronic or serious illnesses,” says Greg Martin, Washington spokesman for GM.

Not that anyone mentioned Kerry’s name in the West Wing confab; that would have been impolitic indeed.

But certainly the Massachusetts senator is the one that nostrum is most associated with.

In his 2004 campaign, Kerry called for having the federal government pay three-quarters of the additional expenses for patients whose healthcare costs exceed $50,000 a year, provided savings from that cost relief helped reduce employee health-insurance premiums.

Removing those costs from private plans could have big effects. Although they constitute less than 1 percent of all cases, catastrophic care accounts for 20 to 30 percent of healthcare expenses.

If the government were to pick up most of the bill for catastrophic care, health-insurance premiums wouldn’t be under such constant pressure. According to some estimates, premiums would be 10 percent lower than if private plans continued to pay for such care.

Now, Kerry’s political stock isn’t exactly soaring. But at a time when some on the left see a politically unattainable single-payer system as the only true solution to the nation’s healthcare problems, and some on the right insist that impractical, unproven health savings accounts are the proper prescription, the senator’s concept represents pragmatic middle ground.