Sunday, October 10, 2010

A shande for Israel

Just as BushCo was a source of international embarrassment for the Americans who neither supported them nor believed in their policies, Bibi Netanyahu and the Israeli right-wing is a continued source of shame for the vast majority of Jews worldwide.

The distinction between Israel and Jews is not one non-Jews make. Much of the vitriol spewed against Israel and her policies come in the form of complaints/comments about "The Jews" and "Jewish people". When people (usually Jews themselves) try to point out the difference and that the statements about the evil Jews are misdirected anti-Semitic ones, we are accused of using the bigotry card when the attack is allegedly targeted at Israel or are told that, since "Jews support Israel's right to exist" we are one and the same. Seriously, nasty comments about the Jewish cabal not only show up in comments to online postings relating to Jews, they show up in comments to reports on Park51 right alongside the anti-Muslim cracks. Note to those who say they're only bashing Israel: use the word Israel (heck, or even refer to the Israelis who support their government) don't use the word Jews/Jewish or anything else that expands your criticism well beyond your supposed target.

Despite the fact the insistance in coupling all Jews to the actions and policies of the Israeli government is far from accurate, it continues to be an uphill battle to correct the perception and that grand-supreme asshat that is Bibi Netanyahu, along with the Israeli right-wing, is doing everything they can do to make sure that misperception continues. Case in point, the loyalty oath the Israeli cabinet approved. As a Jew, I am utterly disgusted by this oath as much as I am disgusted by Israel's refusal to stop the settlements. I would find this type of oath offensive if enacted by any other government but, again, as a Jew I find its approval in Israel even more repugnant as I know the world generally sees it as a Jewish thing and conveniently ignores Jews like me, who support Israel's right to exist with safe borders (as we do with any other country) but do not support the destructive policies of the Netanyahu government.

J Street opposes the proposal Israel’s Government is considering to amend the oath that non-Jewish applicants must take to acquire Israeli citizenship.

The oath, which currently asks new citizens to pledge loyalty to the state of Israel and its laws, would now include the phrase “as a Jewish, democratic state.” Israel’s laws and its Declaration of Independence speak for themselves in affirming Israel’s Jewish and democratic nature. Adding the new language serves no purpose other than furthering the political agenda of some factions in the present governing coalition.

Further, the new language will put Israel at odds not only with other democracies, but with its stated commitment to full equality for its Arab, Druze, Muslim, Christian and other non-Jewish citizens. We are unaware of another democracy in the world that requires an oath of loyalty to the religious identity of the state. Certainly none discriminates in this manner in the conditions for citizenship on the basis of religion.

We share the concerns expressed by such leading Israelis as Deputy Prime Minister and Likud Party member Dan Meridor who said “the proposal would harm relations with Israel’s Arabs and damage the country’s international reputation,” and Minister for Minority Affairs Avishai Braverman who said “this is an outrageous, irresponsible move that pours oil on the fire of Israel’s de-legitimization around the world.” As renowned Israeli political observer Nahum Barnea put it this morning, “With this bill, Israel is buying an exit ticket from the family of nations and an entry ticket into the family of Kahane. This is an anti-Zionist bill.”
tags: Israel; Netanyahu; Middle East; Jews

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Congratulations, you've been Pfizered!

Patients, Americans, Consumers, lend me your ears. . . federal prosecutor Mike Loucks comes not to praise Pfizer, he comes to tell us we're Pfucked.

According to Loucks, Pfizer is just too big to be penalized in any truly significant way because the appropriate and legally prescribed penalties would not only exclude the company from Medicaid and Medicare, they would lead to the company's collapse and:
"a lot of the people who work for the company who haven't engaged in criminal activity would get hurt"
Instead of punishing the company in a way that would send a message that pharma companies must remain in compliance with federal regulations, Loucks has sent a completely different message that companies should pretend to take regulations seriously but, for a miniscule percentage of their profits, they should just keep conducting business as usual. In Pfizer's case, what seems to be an incredibly huge fine is, in fact, only about 14% of the revenue from sales of the drugs that were marketed illegally between 2001 & 2008 or, to put it in real perspective, just a little over 1% of the company's profits between 2004 & 2008. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that Pfizer was breaking the law while already under a Corporate Integrity Agreement from their acquisition of Warner-Lambert?

Instead of taking punitive action that would encourage compliance, the federal government has decided that Pfizer was just too big to nail, hitting them with a headline making fine that had no negative impact of any significance and then allowed Pfizer to get even bigger and more immune to penalties by approving the company's acquisition of another huge pharma company (Wyeth). Heck, they also allowed two other huge companies with dubious histories (Merck and Schering) to merge as well.

So, what about all those jobs that would be saved by limiting punitive action against Pfizer? As well all know, Pfizer has been able to keep some people employed (FWIW, the layoffs only include those directly employed by the company - parts of Wyeth used contracting organizations to provide a large percentage of the staff for many of their departments, so there are hundreds to thousands more folks who have been or will be laid off but not included in the official count).

There are ways to punish Pfizer (and other big Pharma companies) that would actually be better for the economy, healthcare & patients:
  1. prosecute executives who knew or should have known what was going on and have them debarred
  2. debar any person directly involved in this fraud or other overtly non compliant activity
  3. force the break up of these huge companies into smaller/mid-sized companies who can't use they "we're too big to fail" and/or patients will be hurt if the company is debarred excuse
    • this will benefit patients/consumers and the economy by forcing more competition in drug development, more competitive pricing and employ more people to do the work
  4. Force the sale of the company's drugs to other firms or negate the patent on those drugs to open the door to generic competition and ensure patients have access to these medications

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Thursday, January 14, 2010


I'm not a big fan of the Red Cross so my donations will be made to really great organizations:

Medicine without Borders - which has already set up medical tents to treat victims


International Medical Corps which is a great organization despite having Sienna Miller as an ambassador.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What Jay Leno and a bottle of Massengill have in common

Art by Mike Mitchell.

Late to the Meme and not normally inclined to comment on late night TV, I just felt I'd add my $0.02.

While the focus of the blame for this late night debacle is NBC's epic failure when it comes to network TV programming and piss poor handling of the situation, I just feel the need to point out that Jay Leno and his ego (which is exponentially larger than his prominent chin) played a key role in creating this situation. Leno agreed to and announced his scheduled retirement from The Tonight Show ages ago and O'Brien signed his contract to take over the show. This was a transition made with a lot of planning and fanfare. By insisting he be back on the air in a similar format in the same calendar year he "retired" from The Tonight Show, Jay Leno undercut and undermined Conan O'Brien's takeover of the show. Leno then completely exacerbated the situation and further bitch-slapped O'Brien by announcing publicly that he'd be glad to have his old time slot back.

If Leno has second thoughts on his retirement and stepping aside for O'Brien, he could have approached NBC (and O'Brien) about the possibility of delaying his scheduled retirement well before his much hyped final season, but he either did not or did but would not take the refusal to give him exactly what he wanted gracefully. Why NBC went along with this is beyond me. If they were really interested in an experiment with a prime time chat show, let alone one starring Jay Leno, they would have had more luck had they waited at least a year to give time for O'Brien to find his groove with The Tonight Show so Leno's "new" show didn't seem to be just the early Tonight Show which just leant the appearance that The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien was some sort of 2nd string/understudy version following the local news.

If Jay Leno had any class or integrity, he would have insisted that his return to television not undercut his program. Instead Leno has shown himself to be something other than a windbag. It seems as though the bouquet of Leno's ego has an awful lot of notes of vinegar. . .


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Saturday, December 19, 2009

When Bull met Bingo

I've said this before and I'll say it again (and again. . . ): People put way too much emphasis on words to the point where people can find (or create) slight where is does not exist. At the rate we're going, it's just a matter of time before it will only be safe to communicate through binary code. For once, the assault on language is coming from the EU which seems to be taking a hard line on any terminology or phrases it considers "gendered" which includes "‘right hand man" (will Joan Osbourne's song be banned?), "Old Masters" and "gentlemen’s agreement." What they plan to replace these terms with is beyond me but it really smacks of the feminist extremism that undermines the equality and right of self determination the movement is supposed to be about. I can understand taking a hard line and refusing to use terms that are meant to be derisive but demanding people change old heritage gaming terms, as well intentioned as it may be, is downright silly.

Rob Hutchinson at the online bingo club and bingo enthusiasts are staging a pre-emptive strike with a poll @ Maybe "Lady Humyn Being Luck" will smile upon them and people will finally learn to choose their battles wisely lest they face losing the war.


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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Roman Polanski promises the Swiss he'll be a boyscout

Roman Polanski is once again proving that great artistic talent does not make him an honorable human being. In the face of his victim, Samantha Geimer, requesting the charges be dropped due to the negative impact the media attention to the situation has had on her health, Polanksi is promising to cough up lots of cash to the Swiss government so they will release him from jail even though that will ensure continued media coverage.
The Associated Press reports that attorney Herve Temime told a French radio station on Sunday that the 76-year-old's latest bail offer would be in cash, after Swiss authorities rejected a previous bail offer last Friday that was not a cash offer. Temime also told the radio station that Polanski would accept any decision on extradition "whatever it is," adding that the filmmaker would not act "like a fugitive," says the AP. The Insider

Wow, Polanski says pretty please with some cold hard cash on top and promises not to act like a fugitive? What the Hell does that mean?! That, unlike your average fugitive, he'll carry on living a lavish lifestyle in private as well as in the public? Since he's now claiming that he's willing to accept any decision on extradition, maybe his promise not to act like a fugitive should be backed up with waiving his right to fight extradition so he can submit himself to the jurisdiction of the court to submit a legitimate request to reopen his case (the court has ruled he has no standing to do so as a fugitive) or complete the piddly amount of time he would serve under the terms of the original plea plus whatever limited time is added due to his decision to flee.

It seems to me, the path to getting this whole ordeal out of the media spotlight and lightening Ms Geimer's emotional load as the outed victim of this crime, would be for Polanski to just come back to the US, accept the court's decision, complete his sentence and then pay Ms Geimer the balance due, plus interest, on the settlement they reached in her civil case against him.


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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Wye not?

Wasn't the FTC supposed to relay a decision on Wye-Pfi yesterday? I'm hearing crickets chirping, but nothing else from Pfizer, here in Pharm Country. Could it be that the FTC is doing some Pfizering itself and making the "too big to fail" drug giant jump through hoops?

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

FDA cracks down on corporate drug dealers

In this case, the renegade drug company is none other than General Mills purveyors of such nasty contraband as Cheerios®. My first reaction was to crack up hysterically at what, on the surface, appears to be histrionics in the face of overblown health claims for something that is no more than a tasty treat (and pretty darned good potty training tool). In all honesty, General Mills' advertising is fraudulent and something should be done but I still have a problem with the fact that neither the FDA nor the FTC do anything about so-called nutritional supplements until at least a couple of people die. The reason the FDA does nothing is because that old bag of vinegar & water, David Kessler, and his buddy Orrin Hatch sold out the agency's regulatory authority over herbal/nutritional "supplements" & vitamins in an effort to get the Senate to approve FDA user fees. This eventually lead to the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994.

I'm cautiously optimistic that the FDA's willingness to threaten to pull every box of Cheerios over fraudulent but relatively innocuous claims (and no real potential for adverse effects to consumers) will be parlayed into attempts to regain the truly necessary oversight and regulation of the vitamin and supplement industry. The fact that FTC chairman, Jon Leibowitz, has grown a set to look into the marketing of that that bastion of addiction liability and dangerous treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder, Frosted Mini Wheats® makes me wonder why that agency has only decided to act because some kids believe an animated mini wheat that says they'll be more attentive if they eat the cereal when the energy could be much better spent holding the enormous diet industry accountable for overtly fraudulent and deceptive advertising practices (some of which are on products that have never been proven to be safe, let alone effective). Is the agency afraid to go after these companies because their reaction to FTC suggestion they may want to expand oversight of advertising to include testimonials on blogs and make it clear that user testimonials aren't evidence of product efficacy was for the diet industry to lobby for a right to make false advertising claims?

Both the FTC and the FDA need to get their priorities straight and take action against the more egregious manufacturers of dietary supplements before they go after the breakfast food industry.


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Monday, March 09, 2009

How long before big Pharma companies have their hands out for more?

Today's announcement that Merck will buy Schering-Plough just marked another notch in the belt of bad news for not only the economy, but for drug development and healthcare worldwide. Pharma company failures, unlike the banking industry, not only have the capacity to wreak havoc on the economy with the job losses but also brings with it the threat of negative impact to drug supply and effective monopolies that impede instead of advance development of new therapies and cost containment of those treatments. The sheer size and industry control of so few large companies is also likely to blunt any attempt to control this industry worldwide (seriously, when a penalty of $1.5 Billion dollars for regulatory infractions is just seen as the cost of doing business, companies are way too big for the good of anyone but senior management). It's time for the government to refuse to approve these mega-mergers.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

When the trickle down drippage from the golden parachute isn't gold

So, according to CNN, President Obama has announced that he'll deflate Golden Parachutes for execs who take bail out money:

"For top executives to award themselves these kinds of compensation packages in the midst of this economic crisis isn't just bad taste -- it's a bad strategy -- and I will not tolerate it. We're going to be demanding some restraint in exchange for federal aid -- so that when firms seek new federal dollars, we won't find them up to the same old tricks," the president added.

Under Obama's plan, companies that want to pay their executives more than $500,000 will have to do so through stocks that cannot be sold until the companies pay back the money they borrow from the government. CNN

What I'd like to know is will company execs still be able to provide these huge payouts to execs if they take money from banks who've received bailout money that was, ostensibly, meant to help the economy and prevent job loss for the unnecessary acquisition of another large company that will cause massive layoffs and do significant damage to local economies in two states. . .you know, the Wye-Pfi deal?

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