Tag Archives: Politics

Lungs O' Doom

“Can Primatene Mist contribute to airway remodeling?” I asked the nurse.

She looked horrified by my question. “You’re not using Primatene are you?” she asked.

I shook my head. There’s no need for me to use Primatene. I have pretty good health insurance through my employer, and I happen to live in California, where it is illegal for employer-provided health insurance to refrain from covering pre-existing conditions. And since I’ve had asthma since birth, it definitely counts as a pre-existing condition. So fortunately, my insurance will pay for me to use Proventil, an albuterol-based inhaler which is considered the front-line medication for asthma patients having serious attacks (though recently my co-pay increased from $10 to $20, a result of a new remix using more ozone-friendly propellant, meaning the drug no longer qualifies as a “generic”).

Primatene Mist, by contrast, is an over-the-counter inhaler meant to treat mild asthma attacks in patients whose asthma is pretty well under control without medical intervention. It is NOT recommended for people with diagnosed asthma, because in patients with moderate to severe asthma, it can just do much more harm than good. And while it doesn’t contribute to airway remodeling (a phenomenon where the airways in the lungs change permanently due to chronic asthma-induced inflammation, leading to decreased airflow and lung capacity, and often alarming physicians who take X-rays of my chest), Primatene can cause long-term damage in asthma patients. This is why the nurse told me in response to my question.

Years ago, though, there was a time when I relied on Primatene Mist. I’ve had asthma since birth, as I’ve mentioned, and when my student insurance ran out after I graduated from college, I had no way of treating myself. I couldn’t afford to go to a doctor. I went deep into debt for the occasional hospital visit due to severe attacks; at such visits, I’d get a prescription for an albuterol inhaler, but I wouldn’t get them filled because I simply couldn’t afford it. (Of course, because I was unable to pay for my ER visits, the costs simply carried over to other patients). So I used Primatene. It was available without a prescription, I could afford it, and it worked for short-term relief. It caused damage to my lungs, worsening my asthma in the long-term, but it’s all that was available to me at the time.

MediCal was recommended to me as a way to get medical coverage during this time. Unfortunately, I was earning too much money at the time to qualify for MediCal; I was working two part-time jobs, neither of which provided any insurance, but I needed the income to pay rent (even though I had two housemates to help cover the cost of rent and utilities). It was  a choice for me between MediCal and shelter. I suppose there would have been resources to help me keep a roof over my head while I sacrificed part of my income so that I could get proper treatment for my asthma, but I wasn’t too keen on going on welfare. And, of course, I could not afford private health insurance, since my asthma counted as a pre-existing condition that would have made my premiums prohibitively expensive (and yes, I did look into it).

Fortunately, after a life-endangering episode, I finally got in touch with Dr. G., a local allergist and pulmonologist, who agreed to see me for a minimal cost. Dr. G. gave me the sample medications that drug reps gave him when they came to visit, including an albuterol inhaler so that I no longer had to use Primatene. And because he knew my financial situation, he agreed to see me monthly for the absolute minimal cost that he could — $10 per visit. This meant he wasn’t charging me for any of the tests that he performed, the spirometry and blood pressure and other tests that he performed regularly to keep tabs on my asthma. It was, as I understood it, at least partially dodgy for him to do so since he had to account for all of these tests, but believe me, I appreciated it. Of course, my asthma was aggravated by severe allergies, and, of course, he couldn’t give me the immunotherapy (allergy shots) that I really required to keep my asthma under control; and the drugs he gave me were barely adequate. In short, my asthma was under control, but just barely, and any irritation was liable to cause a serious flare-up which might require a hospital visit.

When I finally got a full-time job that offered health insurance benefits (after years of working part-time for a newspaper where I was regularly exposed to particulate matter in the form of paper dust and ink mist), Dr. G. was thrilled because now I could get the top-of-the-line medications he wanted me to have, and start on immunotherapy. I was thrilled to, although with my employee contribution to health insurance and all of the co-pays I was now paying for office visits and prescriptions, I was earning just under what I’d been earning before with my two part-time jobs. Still, six years after I graduated from college, I finally had adequate health coverage.

All of which is just to point out that the health care system in our nation is a joke. It’s full of pitfalls and traps. You might be able to qualify for state-run health care, but you have to go on welfare to do so because the job you need to pay your rent simply pays too much, putting you at just above the poverty level. If you have children, you have a better chance of getting assistance from the state, though if your child has a major condition — such as asthma — then you’re in trouble (my mom was still paying off my childhood medical bills even when I was in high school). God forbid you have to go on private health insurance, especially if you have a pre-existing condition, which pretty much rules out any notion of self employment. And me, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be working all my life instead of retiring, since I’m sure my asthma and other conditions will simply be too expensive to treat under MediCare or Social Security, without supplemental income. That is, if these conditions don’t kill me before retirement age anyway.

And from what I can tell, I’ve been lucky. I’ve known people with worse medical conditions than mine who can’t get any coverage at all. 68% of bankruptcies in our nation are caused by astronomical health care costs. Of those, 70% of the people filing for bankruptcy have health insurance. 50 million Americans have no form of health care coverage at all, and the majority of those people are children. And children who are sick pose health threats to other children, to say nothing of people in low-wage jobs who have no insurance (or inadequate insurance), who must stay on their job anyway because they can’t afford to take any time off.

The health care debate in our country isn’t just an issue of poor people not having access to adequate health care, it’s a public health issue as well. Diseases spread. Untreated diseases spread further and more aggressively. Even if you have adequate coverage, exposure to someone who is uninsured and sick and still preparing your food or driving your bus will make you sick as well.

That’s why I am totally in favor of health care reform in our country, and why I favor a public option as well. Vague threats about “socialized medicine” don’t scare me at all (and, to be honest, I’m convinced that most people throwing around the boogeyman of “socialized medicine” don’t even know what the term means). I don’t give a tinker’s cuss about insurance companies that link health care to profit and deny previously-guaranteed coverage when an illness becomes too severe. Our “system” is not any sort of system; it’s a convoluted mess of half-assed measures, cracks, and loopholes for executives.

Thus, I support President Obama’s goal of reforming the US health insurance industry to provide affordable health care coverage for all Americans. I’m not a Communist or a Socialist (and again, I think most people who use these terms as perjoratives have no idea what they really mean), though neither am I a Libertarian or a hard-core capitalist. I’m simply an American who believes that when all other Americans have access to adequate health care coverage, the entire nation will benefit.

Right wing lunacy

Is it just me, or has the extreme end of the right wing jumped off the edge of reason and landed gleefully into a pit of pure batshit insane? Between Glenn Beck’s bursting into tears at the very mention of America and Michelle Bachman’s deliberate misinterpretation of a new community service program as a sort of network of camps for the “re-education” of America’s youth (not to mention Chuck Norris’s outright jumps of joy at the notion of right-wing terrorist cells popping up all over the country), it just seems that loony conspiracy theories, once the exclusive domain of the darker corners of Usenet and street corner pamphlets, are turning into whatever passes for “news” on the Extreme Right Wing Apologist Network Fox News Network.

I swear, it’s like they learned nothing when President George H. W. Bush ceded America’s sovereignty to the United Nations and took everyone’s guns in 1992; or when Janet Reno became dictator and took everyone’s guns after Waco and Ruby Ridge; or when President Bill Clinton did the same thing in 1999 and also threw all the right-wing conservatives into concentration camps (not to mention ceding America’s sovereignty to the United Nations and placing the entire country under martial law) all under the guise of the dangers of Y2K. Glenn Beck says he can’t “debunk” the idea that concentration camps are being built to right-wing conservatives, which is kind of like me saying I can’t debunk the idea that Bigfoot has impregnated Amelia Earhart with a space baby. Despite all evidence to the contrary, there will always be people who believe. Since January, Fox News, especially Glenn Beck, has been possessed by the spirit of Morton William Cooper, and become the fodder for mockery and an episode or two of The X-Files.

It is, of course, disingenous at best and mind-explodingly stupid at worst to suggest that all conservatives are represented by this sort of conspiracy thinking, just as it’s disingenuous at best and mind-explodingly stupid to suggest that all liberals want to enforce mandatory abortions on every child in America and turn everyone gay. Of course, if you believe either of these positions — and I know folks on both sides of this particular fence — then no amount of contradictory evidence or reason will dissuade you.

Of course, most of this posturing is just that: posturing. Fox News, like Rush Limbaugh, exists primarily for entertainment rather than information, and as long as the ad revenue keeps flowing in they don’t care that they’ve turned the Republican party and the conservative movement in America into a parody of itself. And that’s what saddens me. Conservatives in America used to be best represented by reasonable, thoughtful folks like Barry Goldwater; people I could disagree with but who I was sure would actually give issues serious consideration and not jump to conclusions that are not just silly but outright batshit insane.

And what saddens me even more is that people believe this shit.

Let's hear it for Iowa

Iowa court says gay marriage ban unconstitutional

It’s funny, because these things usually start out in California and move east. But this time California went stupid and decided that majority rule was enough to strike down something that the state’s Supreme Court had ruled was a right protected by the state’s Constitution, an action that violates one of the basic principles that the United States is based upon. Left up to majority rule, many of the rights that minorities in the United States now enjoy would not even exist. Remember that when President Obama was born, his parents’ marriage was illegal in many states until the Supreme Court ruled that bans against interracial marriage were unconstitutional.

The California Supreme Court is currently reviewing the legality of Proposition 8. I’m not a lawyer, but in my opinion, the passage of Proposition 8 was in violation of the state’s constitution, since overturning the State’s Supreme Court on an issue of protected rights requires, according to the law, a supermajority(two-thirds) to pass instead of a simple majority. Let’s hope that they do the right thing and let the rule of law prevail over fear and prejudice.

21 hours to go, and counting

As of this moment, there are about twenty-one hours until 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time on January 21, 2009, when this guy will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States:

President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

And for the first time in nearly a decade, I’m finally going to be able to say, “I’m an American” without cringing. I’m sick of BushCorp, an administration more corrupt and more beholden to corporate interests than any we’ve seen in a very long time. While Bush may not have been the very worst President in the history of the United States of America (I personally believe that honor belongs to James Buchanan, under whose administration the nation quite literally fell apart), Bush’s role in the mess that our country is in now simply cannot be denied. I’m looking forward to a President and an administration which values the rule of law, and places at least some value on the Constitution and the values that made our nation great in the first place. I’m sick of a President whose interest in political promotion and whose grandstanding and pandering to right-wing special interest groups overshadowed any progress he could have made for our nation, both at home and abroad. I’m also just sick of a President who wouldn’t hesitate to fling our nation into wars which are unaffordable, morally unjustified, and politically disastrous.

I’m looking forward to a President who seems to act with integrity, and who understands the seriousness and the gravity of the position that he holds. Bush, for all his talk of how he was a “uniter” and “the decider” never quite grasped, in my opinion, just what it meant to be President. Obama hasn’t even been sworn in yet, but already he’s done more to restore the integrity and dignity of an office which got drowned in cowboy diplomacy and a President more suited to the frat house than to the White House.

Barack Obama won’t be the perfect President. From time to time, those of us who voted for him with the highest of hopes will be disappointed, and that disappointment will hurt. Some of us may even end up feeling betrayed.

Honestly, though, after what we’ve been through since Bush “won” the election in 2000, it’s hard to imagine that we could end up with anything worse.

More on prop 8 (I can't help myself)

Today, the California Supreme Court has agreed to take on three lawsuits challenging Proposition 8. Let’s hope they do the right thing, and overturn it. According to the article, “All three cases claim the ban abridges the civil rights of a vulnerable minority group. They argue that voters alone did not have the authority to enact such a significant constitutional change.” This has been my own position all along, and the primary reason why I chose to oppose Proposition 8. Constitutions exist primarily to protect the rights of the minority against the whims of the majority.

A couple of random thoughts.

First, a number of folks who poured money into the “Yes on 8” campaign have complained loudly and vociferously that they are being “unfairly targeted and singled out” for their beliefs. I have to ask them, “Gee, what’s that like?” Seriously, I really can’t bring myself to feel sorry for these people. While I don’t think harassment or vandalism is acceptable, it’s still difficult for me to feel much sympathy. Gays have had to put up with this sort of thing for decades. Centuries, really.

Second, I’ve heard several say, in response to news of the court’s challenge to the ban, something like, “Proposition 8 has passed, it’s the law, deal with it.” I don’t think this is an appropriate response; after all, saying the same about interracial marriages or separate seats on the buses would not be appropriate. Besides, why wouldn’t these people just “deal with it” when the Supreme Court said that gay marriage was protected by the Constitution? They decided that they needed to respond to that, so other people are responding the other way.

Third, I can’t help wonder if the people who funded the “Yes on 8” campaign had anticipated the volume of the backlash that has erupted. Some gay activists have said that the passage of Prop 8 may have been the best thing possible for the gay rights movement. It really seems to have galvanized them.

Finally, I think same sex marriage is inevitable in this country. If the California Supreme Court does not overturn the ban, then it will take a few more years, but it will happen.

Proposition 8: The Aftermath

California, which voted overwhelming for Barack Obama and which passed Proposition 2 (requiring better living conditions for egg producing chickens) somehow also passed Proposition 8, which removes the right of same sex couples to marry in California. To my way of thinking, this is ludicrous. I’ve stated before, and I’ll state again, that in a democracy, you don’t get to vote on civil rights; otherwise, you don’t have a democracy. And Proposition 8 is an amendment to the state Constitution; and, honestly, a Constitution is not the place to define terms like “marriage” or whatever, but rather to protect the rights of the minority from the whims of the majority. Sometimes the people are foolish, and the courts end up stepping in to make sure this aspect of the Constitution is properly implemented (which is why interracial couples can get married anywhere in the country instead of just the 38 states where it was legal when Barack Obama was born).

Unsurprisingly, there has been serious backlash against the passage of Proposition 8. And equally unsurprisingly, the backlash has been targeted largely at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — the Mormons. The Mormon church — which has traditionally and historically always upheld the traditional notion of marriage as strictly between one man and one woman — poured a lot of money into the “Yes on 8” campaign. There are petitions to encourage the IRS to revoke the Mormon Church’s tax exempt status; I’m in favor of this, but what the church done is not, unfortunately, a violation of federal law, no matter how little business the church has in meddling in the affairs of California. The fact that the Prop 8 campaign utilized mostly fearmongering and blatant lies to move its message only makes me feel even more queasy. I try not to be prejudiced against any group, but I’m going to find it very hard, the next time Mormon missionaries arrive at my door, to not shout, “Get the hell away from my house!” at them.

There is also a movement to boycott Utah, the home of the Mormon church. I approve of this as well though I’m not sure how well it will go over. I’d personally also like to see a boycott of California, which was stupid enough to pass this particular bit of idiocy in the first place. This probably also won’t happen, though it would do my heart good to see, say, some major celebrities announce that they will no longer work in California because of this. This would certainly have an impact on California’s economy, and, in this case, that could only be a good thing. The state is probably already going to feel a financial impact from this anyway.

I think the most promising challenge to the passage of Proposition 8, though, is the legal challenge. In California, there are two methods for changing the state’s constitution; according to Article 18, Section 3 of the Constitution, the electors may amend the constitution by a majority vote, but there are questions as to whether this is the proper sort of procedure for such a major change to the Constitution. After all, this proposition effectively redefines the notion of equal rights in California, something which is guaranteed in the Constitution. It will be interesting to see how this goes. I’m not a lawyer, but I do think that the passage of Proposition 8 sets a very dangerous precedent.

We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully saner heads will prevail. There’s a protest rally at the State Capital right now. I dropped off Jennifer and I was going to go myself but there was literally no parking within a half mile. And since I was going to have to leave early anyway, I just headed on home. There were hundreds of people there even half an hour before the rally began; hopefully the turnout will be huge.

It will be interesting. The gay rights movement has had decades to work on creative and snarky means of civic action within the state. I can only hope that the state gets its collective head out of its collective ass and does the right thing.

(On another note, I read a very disturbing article suggesting that African Americans in California are being targeted as scapegoats for the passage of Proposition 8. While it’s true that minorities voted overwhelmingly in favor of the initiative, I think that targeting anyone as a scapegoat is misguided and counterproductive. So if you’re doing it, stop it right now, you bad person you.)

'80 vs. '08?

Looking at the current Presidential election, I can’t help thinking of parallels with the 1980 Presidential election. Not that I remember a whole lot, since I was 12 years old at the time and more caught up in other interests besides politics, but I’ve read some history on line and I do have some memories. Consider:

  • In both years the incumbent party was saddled with a major international crisis involving the Middle East; Carter and the Democrats were facing scorn for their handling of the Iranian hostage crisis, and this year Bush and the Republicans can’t seem to get out from under the shadow of the Iraq war.
  • In both years, the main challenger to the incumbent party had a well-run and well-executed campaign, while the incumbent party’s campaign was disorganized and shoddy.
  • In both years, the main challenger was an unlikely candidate. Ronald Reagan was an actor, for crying out loud, and even though he’d served as governor of California, he was still better known as an actor, not a politician. And Barack Obama will very likely go down in history as the nation’s first African American president.
  • In both years, the incumbent party was reduced to nothing but negative campaigning. I seem to recall that Carter’s ads toward the end of the campaign focused pretty much on the fact that Reagan was an actor, not a politician. I’ve seen ads from that period and they’re pretty nasty. In 1980 this tactic arguably led to a landslide victory for Reagan, and McCain’s negative advertising will very likely lead to a landslide victory for Obama (according to many sources and in my own humble opinion).
  • Reagan seemed to be made of Teflon, and Obama does as well. And not just Teflon, but Teflon infused with heavy amounts of rubber. Not only are McCain’s charges against Obama not sticking, but they’re bouncing back and sticking to McCain himself.
  • Finally, in both years the challenger brought with them a positive message about change and renewal. Reagan’s slogan was “It’s morning in America”, and Obama’s is the inspiring “Change we can believe in”.

I’m not a political scientist or analyst by any means. These are just some random thoughts I had, and I’m interested in some feedback.

Voting No on Proposition 8

Here’s what happens if Proposition 8 fails:

  • Homosexual couples will retain the right to marry in California


  • Churches will NOT lose their tax exempt status if they choose not to perform same sex weddings

I haven’t been keeping up on the “Yes on 8” literature and advertising, but I understand that the fear of churches losing their tax exempt status if they refuse to perform same sex weddings has been the centerpiece of their campaign. It is, however, not true. In fact, from the state ruling: “no religion will be required to change its religious policies or practices with regard to same-sex couples, and no religious officiant will be required to solemnize a marriage in contravention of his or her religious beliefs.”

  • Schools will NOT be required to teach children about same sex marriage

Nothing in the text of Proposition 8 mentions this anyway. Nor does the ruling which legalized same sex marriage. Furthermore, California state law forbids the teaching of anything about health and family issues without their parents’ consent.

There’s quite a bit more, which you can find at the No on 8 website. Ultimately, though, the only reason to object to same sex marriage is the “ick” factor. It’s what’s driven anti-homosexual sentiments in so many societies throughout history, even in societies which were nominally atheistic (I would NOT want to be a homosexual man in China, for example, or in the Soviet Union before it collapsed). In all honesty, I get icked out by the thought of homosexual sex myself. But that does not matter. What it comes down to for me, and what it has always come down to, is that you don’t get to vote on rights in a democracy. Especially in a democracy, I would say.

Anyway. Vote no on 8.

More glass houses, more stones

First of all, a message from Governor Palin to the AIP:

Now, a little bit of history:

Vogler’s greatest moment of glory was to be his 1993 appearance before the United Nations to denounce United States “tyranny” before the entire world and to demand Alaska’s freedom. The Alaska secessionist had persuaded the government of Iran to sponsor his anti-American harangue.

Yep, Iran. As in, “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran!” Of course, it’s not particularly relevant that Iran supported Vogler’s speech, but neither is it particularly relevant that Obama sat on the same board of education that Ayers was a member of (a board which many Republicans sat on as well).

So, if we’re going to play the “Guilt by association with folks who long ago were terrorists”, why not throw this one into the mix? Because the AIP no longer supports the violent overthrow of the Federal government? So what? Ayers doesn’t either. I’ve already mentioned that I don’t approve of this sort of blame throwing, but as the McCain/Palin campaign continues their strategy of “Don’t vote for the terrorist! He’s going to eat your babies!”, I think it’s important to know who’s saying it.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Sarah Palin.

(Via Boing Boing, via the Jed Report, via Salon.)

McCain/Palin: Afraid of the issues, telling more lies.