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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