Saturday, January 16, 2010

MUSINGS FOR JANUARY 2010

Human Frailty. The devastation in Haiti is a brutal reminder of our frailty and mortality, as well as our shortcomings. The pain and suffering of the Haitian people, coupled with our own individual feelings of helplessness to do something - anything - meaningful to help them, is a humbling feeling. We've donated money; we'll donate more. But somehow this doesn't help me feel that things will change in the long run. A 7.0 earthquake will certainly kill people anywhere, as one did in California in 1989, even though the building codes in California require seismic safety. But the level of devastation in Haiti, and the level of unpreparedness to deal with it, is unacceptable, and is directly linked to the failure of government to provide for it's citizens. I'm one of the very fortunate people in the world; I can afford to sit here with my laptop pondering the fate of humanity. I am dogged, however, by a feeling in my gut that the human animal probably won't ever get it's act together.

Did Johnson & Johnson Kill my Mother-in-Law? The federal government filed a complaint against Johnson & Johnson yesterday alleging a massive kickback scheme to promote the use of one of it's expensive drugs. Federal prosecutors, using information provided by two whistle-blowing former J&J employees, allege that the corporation paid off Omnicare, Inc., the largest dispenser of prescription drugs in nursing homes, to push the use of Risperdal for elderly patients. Risperdal is a powerful schizophrenia drug, and Omnicare pharmacists pushed it's use for elderly patients with signs of Alzheimer's disease. Risperdal has been found to increase the risk of death in the elderly.

My mother-in-law died last June in a nursing home where she lived after a stroke 11 years earlier (don't get me started about how the for-profit medical system failed to provide the measures that could have kept her stroke from being so debilitating). I think she might have been put on Risperdal for a time during the past 1-2 years for some signs of dementia. I think my wife finally decided to take mom off the drug because of what she felt could be negative symptoms. We'll never know if Risperdal was a factor in mom's death, but I'm angry that, once again, corporate greed outweighs any sense of right and wrong.

Google Stands Up to China. We were in China last year, and the Chinese people are warm, friendly and generous. But the Chinese government is something else, and I think we, as Americans, have been too afraid to challenge the Chinese government because of their control of our economy. So when Google decided to stand up and say "enough" to the Chinese government, I cheered. Google has told the Chinese that, unless they stop controlling web access and using google searches to persecute Chinese dissidents, the company will pull it's services out of China. OK, so the cynic might say that this is a purely business decision by Google; I'd like to think otherwise.

Neanderthal Cosmetics. This just in from the world of archaeology: Neanderthal people might have used make-up. Archaeologists have found what appear to be hand-crafted sticks of pigment that might have been applied to the skin as makeup. But why is this discovery so surprising? I mean, think about it; if you looked like that, you'd use makeup too!

So now I'm wondering if these archaeologists will find evidence that the first Republicans were Neanderthals. This would certainly make sense to me, based on the present-day behavior of this group. And, um, this adds context to the saying about "putting lipstick on a pig."

The Real Reason Palin is on Fox News. Yes, she's there, lipstick and all! I watched the first Palin appearance on Fox news - Palin the Political Commentator (common tater?). Well, I actually only lasted for 3-4 minutes before I had to hit "stop." This was classic Palin: down-home, gussied up, and dumb as a stump. Her stuff was funny, in a heart-sickening way; I mean, you couldn't write stuff this funny, really. Which led to my realization of what Fox is doing - Palin is the Fox News answer to Jon Stewart! Fox News is now directly competing with the Daily Show for the top comedy-as-news show. I think they have a chance.

Is the Bra Bomb Next? OK, this is a sensitive topic, but it has to be spoken out loud. First there was the shoe bomb, then there was the undies bomb; what's next? I think it's intuitive that the bra bomb will be next. So will airport security start profiling women with large breasts? And the bra, because of its two compartments, provides a new paradigm for design. For example, one cup could be filled with Pepsi, the other cup filled with Mentos, with a tube and valve gizmo connecting them. Yikes!

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