Archive for the ‘Middle Class Conservatives: Their Own Worst Enemy’ Category

LungCACXR

Not really mine, but I thought it looked good. Thanks Wikipedia. I’ll post the real X-ray when I get it from my doctor.

That we had actually arrived at the hospital at the designated time made me a little nervous. Jessie and I hadn’t been on time for anything in thirty years, so the mere fact that we had gotten there on the dot — at five-thirty in the morning, no less — reminded me how serious the next few hours would be.

The Kaiser pre-op area was an enormous, fluorescent-lighted room with at least 15 bed-cubicles situated along its perimeter. By my count, ten of these little cubicles were now occupied. In just a few minutes, ten souls in various states of disrepair, including your narrator, Russell S. Buchanan, would be cut open and — if all went as planned — repaired.

While we waited for them to come wheel me to the operating room Jess posed an interesting question.

“Hey, how do you think they make sure they’re working on the right — I mean, the correct — side?”

Hmmm. The confusing way she asked her question, with the homonymic “right,” made the question all the more compelling. My left side was the target, of course. But how would the surgical team know that for sure before they started carving me up?

As I began planning my escape, my surgeon, Dr. Yakoub, entered the cubicle, introduced himself to Jess then signed his name under my left armpit with a black Sharpie. Whew.

______________

Let’s back up a little, though. What brought me to this world of scalpels, gurneys and black Sharpies began in January with a persistent variation in my body temperature, including a slight fever. There was also a bit of a worry about the weight I’d been losing for about a year and a half. Even though I had shed about 30 lbs. over six months, the weight loss was somewhat more explainable and less concerning for a few reasons. We had purposely been eating smaller portions to lose weight over much of that time — Jess had lost weight too. Also, I had been walking my dogs religiously at 4:30 every day for up to an hour, up and down the calorie-burning hills around my house. Not to mention, I’m about to turn 64. If my dad’s “spindly shanks” — as my mom called dad’s legs during his autumn years — were any indication, losing weight is just something male Buchanans do when they get old. There was also the comfort in knowing that my Anthem/Blue Cross doctor, who was aware of my weight loss, had given me a clean bill of health just two months before, after giving me a complete check-up that included a chest X-ray. Oops.

But the temperature fluctuation was another matter. I’d wake up many mornings with my thermometer reading 100. An hour later, back to my normal low of 97.7. Two hours later, 96.7. Then back up to 101. No cough, no shortness of breath, no other symptoms at all. I even bought a snazzy new digital thermometer to be sure the problem wasn’t in my analog one, which had probably been handed down through ten generations of Buchanans. I went to see my new GP at Kaiser, Dr. Slingenberg.

Based on my fevers and what the chest X-ray indicated was some wispiness in the lower lobe of my left lung, Dr. Slingenberg figured I had managed to develop a bit of pneumonia there. So the doc wrote a prescription for antibiotics and I went home.

As you might have guessed by now, that was not the end of the story. Dr. Slingenberg called a few days later.

“Hello, Mr. Buchanan. It’s probably nothing to worry about, but remember that wispiness in your chest pictures?”

“Uh-huh?”

“Well, I’d like you to have another chest X-ray. Something about that wispiness looked unusual.”

Unexplained weight loss, mystery fevers, lifelong smoker of cigarettes? I had hoped to live my entire life without hearing the words “you,” “chest,” “X-ray” and “unusual” uttered in one sentence by my doctor. But Dr. Slingenberg had just scuttled that hope.

Even with my cancer indicators, though, the chance of me actually having lung cancer was remote. No cough, no malaise, no cancer markers in my blood tests. Not to mention, nobody in my family — grandparents, parents or sister — had developed any type of cancer during their long lives. Cancer does not like my DNA, I kept telling Jess and myself… again and again.

In fact, the first time cancer seemed like a real possibility to me was right after my second chest X-ray. It was something about the contrast in the way the tech spoke to me before and after the session — the way he said “good luck” after he’d had time to look at the pictures. Not only had there been a subtle change in the way he spoke, but his tone and transition sounded vaguely familiar. Then I remembered — it was the same way Dr. Slingenberg sounded during his last call about the wispiness. Both of these guys’ voices had become more intimate and personal — more careful and compassionate.

The second X-ray again showed signs of trouble in my left lung’s lower lobe and proved to be the healthcare equivalent of the umpire yelling, “play ball.” Batteries of tests were ordered — blood tests, breathing tests, CAT-scan — and, of course, my first bronchoscopy.

Imagine a colonoscopy. Now, imagine a little higher. Rather than inserting a camera in your rectum to examine your bowels, the camera goes into your mouth then down into your lungs. In my case, the bronchoscopy confirmed what the CAT-scan had indicated — and what my doctors had suspected — a mass about the size of a pecan was growing inside the bronchus of my left lung.

As an inveterate body abuser — eat-what-I-want, smoker, ex-dope fiend, former touring rock-and-roller (and all the sleepless nights and debauchery that suggests) — I believe it is a minor miracle that I had, until now, never experienced ill health of any sort, let alone serious ill health. In other words, I am a very grateful guy who would be the last person on earth to shake his fist at the sky and shout “Why me, lord?” I know darned well why. But at the same time I must admit that all this talk of cancer and diseased lungs was beginning to put me in a philosophical mood. I began thinking of shortcuts I might take that would complete the album I’ve been working on for the last three years. I mean, dying with 14 almost-finished songs trapped in my computer would have made me very cranky in the afterlife. I found myself reviewing my life a lot and began worrying about Jess worrying about me. Hell, I even worried about my dogs, and how distraught they would be — however briefly (squirrel!) — if the cancer killed me.

As it turned out, my morbid musings were unnecessary. Though they couldn’t be sure without biopsy — and biopsy of the mass would not be possible until its removal — Dr Yakoub and my pulmonologist, Dr. Drucker, were both confident that mine was a rare, slow growing, non-metastasizing (in my case) type of cancer known as a carcinoid, a type of growth that until recently was not even considered a cancer. Apparently, I had picked the right kind of tumor.

However, it did have to be cut out of my body. The date of my deliverance was set for April 14.

_____________

Anyhow, a few minutes after Dr. Yakoub signed the correct side of my chest, my anesthesiologist, Dr. Chung, came in and introduced herself, then left. I sat on the gurney marveling at all the activity going on around me.

“Honey, I know it’s idiotic, but I can’t help feeling guilty about all this,” I said to Jess.

“Guilty about what?” answered a male voice on my right. It was Dr. Yakoub, whom I thought had left the cubicle but was only hidden by a computer cart.

Great, I thought. Not only does Dr. Yakoub think I just called him “honey,” but now I get to spout useless guilt in front of him, as well.

“Well, here I am with lung cancer brought on by stupid life choices — namely smoking — and now I’m blithely expecting all these people to snap to and come to my rescue. It just feels wrong and irresponsible and unfair. Hell, I don’t even have any pain… ”

Dr. Yakoub cut me off as he continued typing away at the computer. “Oh, your carcinoid has nothing to do with smoking,” he said. “We’re not really sure why carcinoids occur.”

That’s the last thing I remember before partially regaining consciousness in the recovery room. According to Jess, I was fairly miserable when I awoke – lots of shallow breathing and grimacing. I remember being wheeled through the halls to my hospital room, where apparently, I insisted upon placing my oxygen mask on my forehead.

My four-hour surgery had been successful. My growth — or “friend,” as Dr. Drucker called it, was biopsied immediately after it was removed and turned out, in fact, to be a carcinoid — a blessed little carcinoid. Dr. Yakoub also found a touch of pneumonia in my lower lobe behind the mass, just as Dr. Slingenberg had surmised.

The six-inch gauze pad and two drainage tubes under my left armpit told me that the simpler, less invasive thorasocopic procedure that Dr. Yakoub had hoped to employ, which would have left me with two tiny holes and a much shorter hospital stay, had not been an option. Dr. Yakoub explained to me later that my tumor’s proximity to a major artery required him to go in the old fashioned way — through my ribs.

I spent four days in one of the many rooms of the post-op wing of Kaiser Panorama City, the same hospital that took my tonsils 50 years ago – my only other surgery and hospital stay. Sadly, they were in the process of tearing down the actual building of my tonsilectomy, but I got to see its gutted shell from a fourth floor window every day during my doctor-prescribed walk around the wing.

In just four days the post-op staff at Panorama took my already good opinion of Kaiser and put it in the stratosphere. Nurses, kitchen staff, on-call doctors, housekeeping — every single person I dealt with during my stay — was professional, upbeat, caring, smart and pleasant to be around. I now have an appreciation for nurses that borders on worship. These gals and guys on the fourth floor were constantly busy with patient medications, bathroom assistance, assorted emergencies, etc., but always came to my room right away when I hit that button. They even walked the floor with me the first couple of days. One of my fondest memories will be my petite Philippine/American nurse and me strolling down the corridor, belting out old Chi-lites and Commodores hits (she belted, I kind of grunted and winced), while I guided my IV tree with one hand and valiantly tried with the other to keep my butt from peeking out through my half-open hospital gown.

As a sworn enemy of America’s health-as-commodity, private insurer-based system and Anthem/Blue Cross survivor, I can’t believe I am now going to sing the praises of a health insurance company, but here I go: Ever since I joined Kaiser Permanente in December I have been in various stages of awe and admiration. The past month, with all my appointments, tests and such has only intensified my appreciation of this behemoth org.

I’m new at Kaiser so I’m still trying to figure out what makes this company so good at its job while others continue to fail so miserably. Of course, Kaiser’s one-stop shopping, with labs, diagnostics and doctors of all specialties located in one place is a godsend. With Anthem I’d still be waiting for my first X-ray, which, if approved, would likely be conducted at an imaging center twenty miles away at rush hour. Also, I assume one big reason my doctors Slingenberg, Drucker and Yakoub have been so clear and patient with me and so expert with my case is that with Kaiser handling the administration, traffic, marketing and other non-medical duties doctors traditionally loathe, Kaiser doctors are free to be healers. Well-informed healers, at that; according to my Internet research, doctors are often flummoxed by the very uncommon carcinoid. Not my Kaiser doctors, though. They were all on the carcinoid trail well before the bronchoscopy pictures all but confirmed the theory.

Overall, Kaiser seems to have hit upon a magical formula of super-efficient, digitally-driven healthcare administration combined with absolutely top-level employees. The computers take care of the pain-in-the-butt-but-important stuff, such as parking (digital readout of available spaces and their location) and blood-test traffic (take a bakery-type number at lab entrance and wait for your number to be called. I’ve yet to wait longer than 20 minutes, usually far less time). The employees take care of the actual healing and support duties along with their job of representing the organization to the patient and making the patient feel valued.

________

Well, I am home now. My carcinoid is probably in a landfill somewhere or may still be in Panorama City, getting to know my tonsils. I feel surprisingly good, considering that just nine days ago the good Dr. Yakoub opened me up, bent my ribs out of the way, cut through a few centimeters of my muscle, adipose and lung tissue and then sewed me shut.

At the risk of diminishing the wonderful sympathy I’ve been getting from Jess and the few others who knew about this thing, I must confess that the pain has been curiously minimal. Minus the hours after the procedure, which I really don’t remember very well, and the occasional attention-getting tweak from my drainage tubes, which were removed before I was discharged, the discomfort has really been much closer to annoying than excruciating. Granted, I was taking Percocet every four hours with an occasional shot of Dilaudid for four days, but even so I expected the pain to be much worse.

I’m glad it wasn’t.

The following is a letter and link sent to me by my old chum and wonderful Minneapolis composer, Mark Gottlieb — and my response.

http://insider.foxnews.com/2016/02/12/video-indiana-workers-learn-jobs-going-mexico
Hi Russ — Check out the video and the incredibly callus manner he explains to the pink slipped worker how “…this will have an impact….”.
Even in their vocal anger there is a quiet and more subtle heartbreak.

I sent my US Rep Keith Allison, a fairly decent fellow a note suggesting such a move makes good sense if all their product remains in Mexico or south. But then asked that once Carrier Corp moves to Monterey, Mexico what % of their product will end up here.

Russ, I’ve probably sent several hundred letters, calls, emails to my reps and others. I should have saved every response and made a book.
It would have been the funnest and most depressing book .. all at the same time.
I don’t know how you keep at it without needing gallons of antacids.

Love,
Mark (really a more musical guy than political)

Hey Mark –

Well, isn’t this heart warming? This little Scrooge has the gall to scold the “class” for being too noisy after telling them he has pawned their livelihoods. This is what the corporatocracy looks like. Began in earnest with “Close-the-Pits” Thatcher and “Fire-the-Air Controllers” Reagan, maintained and encouraged by Clinton, then went into overdrive with Bush/Cheney

I knew things had changed when my unions last went on strike. As a member of long standing, I had seen my fair share of strikes and near-strikes so I was used to the adamant cries of poverty by producers — how much productions cost theses days, you actors are breaking us, blah blah blah. But from both sides I could always feel a sense of resigned inevitability, that there would ultimately be compromise and a deal would be struck.

Fast forward to the commercials strike of 2000. After a few years of trickle-down economics, free trade pacts, right-to-work and other union-killing legislation and, most importantly, our government’s abrogation of its anti-trust responsibilities that allowed and encouraged ad agencies to gang up with multi-nationals, like Seagrams and Sony, who had gulped down every film and production company in the universe, we members of SAG/AFTRA now encountered a monolith of power that saw us as ants at THEIR picnic. Compromise was out of the question. Management’s attitude toward us had morphed into something like, “How dare they ask for more money and better conditions? Don’t they understand that we are the King, and we do and pay what we want?” This was not a negotiating tactic — they meant it. Needless to say, the strike went on forever and was ultimately a failure.

The responsibility for all this, of course, lies with the American people — the chumps of the universe. As one of my favorite political writers put it, “Where did America’s middle class go? It committed suicide in the voting booth.” Okay, I confess, that writer was me, but I always liked that line, depressing as it is.

Be well, my friend –

RB

[Originally published in Examiner.com]

In a political landscape full of pundit-speak, spin and dancing politicians, it’s often difficult to cast a truly informed vote. So it’s good to know you can still get politics served up straight, bold and unapologetic in Texas.

I’m speaking, of course, about the brand new 2012 platform of the Texas Republican Party. Epic in scope, breathtaking in its lunacy, this platform covers everything from evolution to space exploration and is a clear, unambiguous glimpse into the worldview of today’s Republican Party — a must-read for all who might be thinking of voting in that direction this November.

The Texas GOP platform reminds you that today’s Republican Party is not your father’s Republican Party. It’s not even his father’s Republican Party. As you read it, you’ll feel as if you’re being transported back in time to an age when scientists were considered evil sorcerers, women needed men and/or the government to decide how to manage their lives, and education was something you did to children, rather than for them.

Education

This is how the new GOP believes kids should be taught about theories of evolution and global warming:

“We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is [sic] produced.”

Sounds reasonable enough. But I wonder if it would be OK with Republicans if teachers teach their students that it was, indeed, only after many scientific challenges to both of these theories that scientists accepted them as the likely answers to the questions, “How did we develop as a species?” and “Why is the Earth getting so darned warm?”

Though today’s Republicans are big on challenging evolution and man-made global warming, it seems they don’t want children to challenge much of anything.

“We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

As Texas Christian University professor of economics, John T. Harvey, writes in his excellent piece at Forbes,

“… do they really and truly believe that teachers and school boards across the State of Texas are designing curricula specifically aimed at training children to challenge their parents?”

Actually, there are probably very few people who know exactly what the Texas GOP means about critical thinking “undermining parental authority” but they do manage to interject a little paranoia into the old “father knows best” adage.

Harvey continues:

“Were we to implement such a policy, we’d have to be certain that we had already identified the concepts and values that were ‘correct’ (whatever that really means). Even a cursory reading of their platform makes it very clear that this is precisely what Texas Republicans believe and what those concepts and values are. This begs the question, who is really aiming to force their beliefs on our children, Texas schools or Texas Republicans?”

If kids do have the temerity to think critically in class, though, Texas Republicans know what to do.

“We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.”

Women

Or how about Republican plans for women — more specifically, women’s bodies?

It may be approved by the FDA, considered safe and effective by the American Medical Association and available at your local Walgreen’s, but Republicans know better.

“We oppose sale and use of the dangerous ‘Morning After Pill’.”

In their ongoing attempt to send abortion back to its back-alley roots, Republicans want to place themselves firmly between women and their doctors.

“We support legislation banning of abortion after 20 weeks gestation due to fetal pain.”

Once again, the GOP knows better than them smart aleck research scientists, who find no scientific evidence to support such legislation.

The platform does make one sensible pronouncement regarding women, however.

“We strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children.”

It’s just that the platform declares no such support for women who choose to do anything else.

Homosexuality

Americans are gradually warming to the idea that gay and lesbian folk are as good, bad, decent and indecent as we heteros. We are also beginning to recognize the cruelty, impracticality and unfairness of marginalizing this large segment of the American population. But, Republicans see it a bit differently.

“We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.”

Homosexuals have been part of the human family ever since Peking Man found another Peking Man attractive. Not to mention, same-sex attraction occurs in every species, from gut worms to primates. Doesn’t that qualify homosexuality as one of God’s “unchanging truths?”

Anyone thinking about homosexuality with a clear, bias-free mind understands that it is neither a choice nor harmful to society. Who would choose to spend his or her life fighting for rights we straights take for granted? And, can anyone explain to me how on earth I am negatively affected by another person’s fondness for members of his or her own sex?

Voter Beware

There are many more equally nutty views espoused in the platform, including support for returning the dollar to the gold standard, abolishing income tax in favor of a national sales tax, abstinence-only sex-ed, gutting public education and, of course, deregulation, deregulation and more deregulation. But this is what Republicans stand for today. By purging moderates and independent minded conservatives from its ranks, the Republican Party has managed to reduce itself to a thick soup of right wing extremism that even Ronald Reagan would have a hard time recognizing as his beloved Grand Old Party.

It seems every presidential election is hyped as “the most important election in history.” This time, however, it may very well be. And that makes the Texas Republican Party Platform equally important.

Read it, get to know it and then… run screaming back to the Democratic Party. Your nation will thank you.

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Drawing Credit: Freakout Nation

[previously published at Examiner.com 3-14-12]

A conversation I had with an old friend yesterday should strike fear in the hearts of all Democrats.
“Hey, what’s with this Obama guy?” my friend asked.

“What do you mean?” I replied, trembling. I was reasonably sure if I heard one more usually apolitical friend spouting Republican talking points my brain would explode.

“You know, I used to like Obama,” my buddy explained, “but he wants to force everybody to buy health insurance.”

Obama the Tyrant

Fighting the urge to bury my teeth in his neck, I calmly explained to my friend that the mandate for everyone to purchase insurance was necessary to get insurance companies to agree to insure people with preexisting conditions. It was also the only way Obama and the then-Democratic majority in the legislature could get insurance companies to stop un-insuring people when they get sick and/or leaving them high and dry when their medical bills got too big. In other words, in order to persuade the insurance companies to operate their businesses in an ethical manner, the government had to promise them a whole bunch of new premium payers — that is, every adult in the country.

I looked my buddy in the eye and said, “Obama’s mandate was the only politically viable way to prevent 46,000 Americans per year from dying of lack of insurance and to reduce American bankruptcies by 60 percent — without denying insurance CEOs their polo ponies and summers in the Hamptons, of course.”

“Oh,” said my friend, clearly surprised by my pushback. “I guess I don’t really know that much about it.”

Repeat the Lie Long Enough…

In fact, until that moment, the only thing my buddy “knew” was that “this Obama guy” was tyrannically forcing Americans to buy insurance — whether they wanted it or not. Why? Who knows? It’s just the kind of thing tyrants do.

I suppose after months of Republican presidential contestants on TV repeatedly characterizing Obama and “Obamacare” as the Devil and the Devil’s work, respectively — repeatedly characterizing the Affordable Care Act as a government takeover, job killer and fast-track to Socialism — it shouldn’t be too surprising that some of the rhetoric managed to ooze through a few Americans’ “Wait, this makes no sense” barriers. The expected overturning of the law by five-ninths of the Supreme Court probably didn’t help much either.

But here’s the kicker: My intelligent, talented and usually reasonable friend also happens to be a quadriplegic. Due to a decade-old medical condition, he was one of those unfortunate, uninsurable souls with a preexisting condition when he fell and broke his neck three years ago. Needless to say, his finances were quickly reduced to zilch by subsequent operations, therapy and round-the-clock care. So today, Medicare and Social Security pay for his board and care at a convalescent/rehab facility in the Valley.

That my friend’s opinion of Obama and the Affordable Care Act — a law with such dramatic influence on his life — had been informed by the ravings of Herman Cain, Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry is disturbing. That these soundbites might even have influenced his vote this November and prompted him to side with the party that has repeatedly vowed to straight razor the very safety nets that are keeping him alive — well, I’m hoping that our little talk will keep him from leaping off that particular bridge.

Citizens United

But if Romney, Santorum and friends were able to plant the Obama-as-tyrant idea in my friend’s head with just a few months of Republican primary news coverage, what will a sustained campaign of Citizens United-fueled, anti-Obama TV and radio commercials do?

This will be our first presidential election since the landmark Supreme Court decision made a present of our democracy to corporations and other special interests. It will be interesting to see how democracy holds up.

Already, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers are planning to spend $500 million to defeat Obama. Who knows how much money large corporations and other “one-percenters” are planning to contribute to the same end?

The Great Equalizer

Although Mitt Romney may very possibly be the least appealing, most gaffe-prone, no-there-there presidential candidate in modern American history, there’s no telling what kind of equalizer a half-billion dollars shouting, “Obama is an American hating, communist-fascist-despot-sissy-foreigner” over and over again for six months might turn out to be. Toss in a sluggishly recovering economy, a disappointed left and a weird, vestigial racism simmering in a disgraceful number of American hearts and it’s easy to see that this election will be no cakewalk for the president.

The big question in our new Citizens United world is how on earth do real, individual human beings fight back?

I don’t know.


Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association, Wayne LaPiere, has taken his organization’s paranoia to new heights with his latest anti-Obama tantrum.

In LaPiere’s speech to fellow gun enthusiasts in Florida last Friday, he accused Obama of plotting to take America’s guns by fiendishly NOT proposing any anti-gun legislation during his first term. Oh, that Obama–you gotta watch him every second.

“President Obama will remind us that he’s put off calls from his party to renew the old Clinton assault weapons gun ban, he hasn’t pushed for new gun control laws, and he’ll even say he looked the other way when Congress passed a couple of minor pro-gun bills by huge majorities. The president will offer the Second Amendment lip service and hit the campaign trail saying he’s actually been good for the Second Amendment.

But it’s a big fat stinking lie, just like all the other lies that have come out of this corrupt administration. It’s all part — it’s all part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment in our country.”

Put aside for the moment LaPiere’s cloddish, “big fat stinking” characterizations of a president’s administration and intentions, and think of the persecution complex rattling around in this guy’s brain. You can almost hear the little metal balls clinking in his hand.

This man has access to firearms, for crying out loud.

I wrote “Double-D Breast Implant Deflects Bullet: NRA Cries Foul” a while ago as a snarky exaggeration of NRA’s paranoia. But after hearing LaPiere’s speech, I’m not sure how exaggerated it is.

*

Double-D Breast Implant Deflects Bullet

NRA Cries Foul

(originally posted March 10, 2010)

A miraculous combination of manufactured voluptuousness, luck and tensile strength saved Lydia Carranza’s life last summer when a bullet fired point-blank at her heart was deflected by her double-D breast implant.

After seven months of healing, Carranza was scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery last Friday.

Carranza’s Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Ashkan Ghavami, told KTLA News he believes “her implant stopped the bullet from hitting her heart.  The bullet fragments were millimeters from her heart and her vital organs.  If not for the implant, she might not be alive.”  He added that the implant absorbed much of the bullet’s impact, limiting most of the damage to the breast itself.

NRA Response

Upon hearing of Carranza’s close call, the National Rifle Association (NRA) issued the following statement to its membership:

Dear Member:

“Although we are glad that Ms. Carranza is alive and well, we at the NRA feel we must address the growing problem of bullet-deflection by breast enhancement implants.

We believe the 2nd Amendment gives all Americans the right not only to own and use firearms, but according to our legal experts’ interpretation, it also carries an implicit protection of the right to hit intended targets without fear of ballistic deflection caused by cosmetic medical devices–devices that left unchecked, could very well send us hurtling down a slippery slope to total gun confiscation in America.

In our ongoing struggle to protect your Constitutional rights, the NRA feels obligated to bring this issue to your attention.  As more American women opt for this type of procedure, the possibility of bullet trajectory impairment grows.  After all of our efforts on behalf of American gun owners, including the defense of your right to own 30-round handgun clips, military-style assault rifles, armor-piercing ammunition and untraceable cartridges, we believe it would be irresponsible to drop the ball on the issue of bullet deflection by breast enhancement.

As always, you can be sure your NRA is on the job, defending your right to total gun freedom in America.

To the manufacturers of bullet-deflecting implants and doctors who specialize in these types of anti-gun procedures: Know that the National Rifle Association has you in its sights.”

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Tea Party favorite Rep. Allen West wants people to know two very important things: He encourages his opponents to speak out at his town hall meetings… and he is armed.

____________________________________________________

let’s play…SPOT THE REPUBLICAN

_____________________________

Double-D Breast Implant Deflects Bullet

…NRA Cries Foul

A miraculous combination of manufactured voluptuousness, luck and tensile strength saved Lydia Carranza’s life last summer when a bullet fired point-blank at her heart was deflected by her double-D breast implant.

After seven months of healing, Carranza was scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery last Friday.

Carranza’s Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Ashkan Ghavami, told KTLA News he believes “her implant stopped the bullet from hitting her heart.  The bullet fragments were millimeters from her heart and her vital organs.  If not for the implant, she might not be alive.”  He added that the implant absorbed much of the bullet’s impact, limiting most of the damage to the breast itself.

                                                   NRA Issues Response

Upon hearing of Carranza’s close call, the National Rifle Association (NRA) issued the following statement to its membership:

“Although we are glad that Ms. Carranza is alive and well, we at the NRA feel we must address the growing problem of bullet-deflection by breast enhancement implants.

We believe the 2nd Amendment gives all Americans the right not only to own and use firearms, but according to our legal experts’ interpretation, it also carries an implicit protection of the right to hit intended targets without fear of ballistic deflection caused by cosmetic medical devices–devices that, left unchecked, could very well send us hurtling down a slippery slope to total gun confiscation in America.

In our ongoing struggle to protect your Constitutional rights, the NRA feels obligated to bring this issue to your attention.  As more American women opt for this type of procedure, the possibility of bullet trajectory impairment grows.  After all our efforts on behalf of American gun owners, including the defense of your right to own 30-round handgun clips, 50-round assault rifles, armor-piercing ammunition and untraceable cartridges, we believe it would be irresponsible to drop the ball on the issue of bullet deflection by breast implant.

As always, you can be sure your NRA is on the job, defending your right to total gun freedom in America.

To the manufacturers of bullet-deflecting implants and doctors who specialize in these types of anti-gun procedures: Know that the National Rifle Association has you in our sights.”

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As I emerge from my post-election funk, the blood slowly returning to my face, I survey the damage done to the world by Fox News and half a nation gone nuts, and ask the only appropriate question… “WTF?”

We’ve elected to the Senate a guy who publicly condemns the Civil Rights Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act; we have put in Congress a passel of people who believe that Obama–the centrist’s centrist–is actually a covert Muslim/Communist bent on world domination, and we’ve emboldened an Alaskan female, secular version of Elmer Gantry into thinking she has a chance at becoming president.

So what on earth is there to be thankful for?

Culture Wars

If you believe, as I do, that the culture war is the 500-pound aardvark in the room–the reason that ostensibly sane voters would elect utterly unqualified people to lead the country, the reason for the Tea Party’s successes, and the reason for the strange disconnect between Americans’ self-interest and their votes, then raise a glass this Thanksgiving for Generation Y,  AKA the “Millennials.”

On almost all the culture war/wedge issues, the current crop of Americans under 30 are trending far more progressive than X-ers or Boomers did when they were pups. When it comes to reproductive choice, acceptance of homosexuality, role of government, the environment and race–this group is turning out to be Pat Buchanan’s worst nightmare.

Nowhere are this generations’ progressive leanings more evident than in its acceptance of homosexuality. According to the 2010 Pew survey, Religion Among the Millennials, 61% believe homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared to 51% of Americans aged 30-49; 48% of ages 50-64 and 35% of those over 65. Though every modern generation of young Americans has increasingly turned its back on bigotry, the Millennials seem to be running from it at light speed.

Staying Power

With this group, the old, “sure, they’re liberal now, but wait until they get older” bromide doesn’t wash. Hard data and the nature of today’s young adulthood suggest that this group’s rejection of socially conservative politics is different than that of earlier generations, and is more likely to last. Additionally, their desire for more government services suggests their progressive leanings may not be limited to social issues.

According to the L.A. Times’ “Walking Away From Church,” young people are leaving their churches at five times that of previous generations, and the number-one stated reason for leaving is the conservative political orientation of their church. It’s not that they are running out to dance with the Devil, mind you–Millennials tend to hold on to their Christian faith–they just can’t stand the us vs. them poison spewing from the pulpit and from older parishioners.

This phenomenon is not lost on the Christian press. Drew Dyck writes in Christianity Today, “…the life-phase argument may no longer pertain. Young adulthood is not what it used to be. For one, it’s much longer. Marriage, career, children—the primary sociological forces that drive adults back to religious commitment—are now delayed until the late 20s, even into the 30s. Returning to the fold after a two- or three-year hiatus is one thing. Coming back after more than a decade is considerably more unlikely.” Though Dyck is probably correct about losing young people for good, he misses the fact that Millennials’ commitment to religion is still very much alive. They’re just taking it away from what they see as non-Christian influences.

Young Americans to the Rescue

So this Thanksgiving, think of your turkey’s  wishbone as the letter “Y” and give thanks for the Millennials. Yes, four years with our new ultra-right House of Representatives will be difficult to stomach, but remember there’s a whole new crop of young folk out there who have refused to drink the conservative Koolaid and will soon be flexing their political muscle. Like a lethal gene diminishing within a family line, the old, intolerant, Calvinistic mentality seems to be heading for well-deserved extinction.

Who knows, after a few years of seeing this new Congress in action, the Millennials might even become politically active (be still my heart). But for now, I’ll be grateful for their votes.

It used to make me crazy that votes cast by uninformed citizens carried as much weight as those cast by folks who at least cared enough to learn something about the candidates and issues on the ballot.  It seemed unfair that a person with no historical reference, someone who couldn’t be bothered to read – or even watch – the news had every bit as much influence in the voting booth as someone who could name one of his state’s senators, knew that the Gettysburg Address was not part of the Constitution and was pretty darned sure we did not fight North Vietnam during World War Two.

There oughta be a voting test, I thought.  Kinda like a DMV driving test—a short, maybe 10-question exam, that would separate the civic numbskulls from the not-numbskulls. Score 7 out of 10, and you get your ballot.  Simple.

But there was a problem. Who would design the test? The temptation to skew the test toward one ideological direction or other is too great to leave the job to some overzealous or corruptible employee of the Registrar of Voters.  In other words, we would have to select the proper test by public referendum—putting us right back where we started. Damn. Democracy is messy.

Eventually, I realized that it really didn’t matter anyway. All the votes based on criteria, like “Hey, this candidate has the same first name as my second cousin” and “Wow, this proposition’s number is my wife’s lucky lotto number!” would cancel each other out, leaving the more reasoned votes to battle for the direction of our glorious democracy.

Or so I thought.

Rebels Without a Clue

How was I to know that fear, anger, a wrecked economy and a rightwing TV network would one day marshal those once unconcerned voters into a potent “throw the bums out” voting bloc called “The Tea Party?”

Though it appears the Tea Party-ers’ new passion for politics has not compelled them to become any more informed than they were before joining the movement, don’t worry; Fox News tells them everything they need to know in short, easy-to-parrot catchphrases. So, instead of directing their anger toward the poodle politicians who continue to sell Americans’ health and standard of living to the highest corporate bidders, they blame Obama, a president who has at least shown some inclination–timid though it may be–to rein in the robber-barons of the insurance, energy, healthcare and banking industries.

Chumped

As the Tea Party screams about socialism and Big Government’s intrusion into the private sector, guess who sits back in their $15,000 ostrich leather recliners, gleefully rubbing their hands together like Snidely Whiplash, salivating in anticipation of the next Tea Party victory—the board members of the very corporations whose gambling, outsourcing and greed created the Great American Mess in the first place; that’s who. Bravely marching on, waving their “Obama is a Communist Nazi” signs, the Tea Party-ers have no idea that they’re actually being led down a Stars and Stripes-festooned chute to a fiscal slaughtering pen.

It’s not that Tea Party candidates or members are any smarter or dumber than your average extremist, war-happy, nativist, homophobic, rightwing Republican. It’s just that I would have hoped a sweet, home-grown candidate like the Tea Party’s newest champion, Christine O’Donnell, might at least see economic matters a bit differently than Establishment Republicans, whose ideas of personal adversity run toward catastrophes like late limo drivers and overcooked chateau briand.

Unlike the upper-crust Republicans who populate Capitol Hill, O’Donnell is a working gal who, like so many Americans, has personally felt the sharp pain of financial insolvency. You’d think that at some point while trying to dig herself out of  IRS liens and threatened home foreclosures, Ms. O’Donnell would have noticed how dramatically the deck has been stacked against working Americans by large  corporations and their handmaidens in Congress. That in her darkest moment of despair she would have been struck by a blinding flash of understanding that a gambled-away economy, stagnant wages, unaffordable healthcare and a disappearing middle class are not the results of over-sized government, but of corporate avarice and power run amok; that Big Government isn’t the problem…Owned Government is.

The Loopy Bunch

“Throw the bums out,” has been the rallying cry of a disgruntled electorate since the founding of our democracy. Members of the Tea Party movement, however, have added  their own unique codicil: “Throw the bums out and replace them with people who are as clueless as we are.”

Case in point: Tea Party favorite and Republican nominee for the New York gubernatorial race, Carl Paladino.  Sure, he’s unbalanced and looks like he could spontaneously combust at any moment, but he also appears to be unbelievably stupid. Did he not see the cameras and lights when he threatened to “take out” New York Post reporter Fredric Dicker? Did he not realize that he would come off looking like a temperamental maître d’ doing a really bad Goodfellas routine? And of all the news organizations on the planet to go after, which does Paladino choose? Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post–trumpet of the Rabid Right, and friend to Paladino’s campaign…until Paladino went thug on them, that is.

In Kentucky there’s the Tea Party-approved,  tousle-haired Rand Paul, publicly voicing his opposition to both the Civil Rights Act and Americans with Disabilities Act, while O’Donnell’s past dabblings in witchcraft, and rejection of evolution and masturbation continue to provide insight into the early development of a Tea Party great.

Good lord, I wouldn’t trust these people to park my car!

The Tea Party movement could be a blessing, though. It is already causing wide-spread panic throughout the Republican Party, which is always a good thing. GOP leaders are now forced to answer two difficult questions,  “Do we sign on with these loons and risk losing the few sane people we have left, or do we ignore them and pray that their amazing facility for self-destruction quickly slides them back under the rock?” The first strategy would surely strike terror in the hearts of many Independents, driving them back to the Democrats; but strategy #2 might cause the Crazed Right to stay home on election day — an interesting dilemma.

The Tea Party movement also serves as a kind of national bellwether. If my countrymen are crazy enough to put that crew into Congress, where their votes could actually influence what goes on in my country and my life, I’ll know that it’s time to move to Greenland.


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This is the first of ten installments examining the biggest and fattest, most unapologetic out-and-out whoppers that Republicans will be running on this November. It was hard to narrow the list down to just ten (I could have done volumes on Michele Bachmann alone), but after extensive study and fact checking, these are the winners of “The Ten Biggest Republican Lies.”

Extending the Bush Tax Cuts Will Reduce the Deficit

To grow the economy, I, King Russell of Buchania, have decided to extend a 5% tax reduction to my subjects. For most Buchanians the 5% reduction will merely postpone the wolf’s scratching at the door, but for my fellow aristocrats the cuts will result in a doubloon windfall—a cascade of cash that they will then invest in Buchania businesses and the creation of jobs for my many unemployed subjects.

I will then be able to collect enough taxes from my happy, gainfully employed people that I will be able to replace the amount Buchania’s treasury lost by cutting taxes in the first place. The Deficit of the Realm will be reduced, and I, their beloved sovereign, will then be able to pay for better roads and better education for their children.

The deficit reduction caused by my tax cuts will also calm the fears of our creditor kingdoms, Chinathia and Germandria, whose growing nervousness about our out-of-control spending might have eventually caused them to dump—for pennies on the doubloon—the trillion in Buchania Treasury Notes they now hold… a situation so devastating we would long for the relatively good old days of the Black Plague.

However, when Buchania’s unemployment reaches 20% and my subjects have discovered that my tax cuts only fattened the deficit and the bank accounts of my fellow aristocrats, their love for me will diminish. When it is further discovered that instead of investing in Buchania’s economy, my wealthy chums used their tax cuts to purchase fine country estates and caviar for their polo ponies, it will not sit well with the Great Unwashed. After losing their livestock, thatched huts and sanity, they will storm my castle and hang me from the outstretched arm of my beautiful, jewel-encrusted statue of Adam Smith.

The Voodoo They Do

Voodoo Economics” is what Bush Sr. called this particular piece of “supply-side” theory eventually signed into law by his Voodoo-friendly son. Before Senator John McCain became “Weather Vane” McCain, he too loudly inveighed against this obviously unworkable scheme.

N. Gregory Mankiw, former chair of Bush Jr.’s Council of Economic Advisers, broke it down like this: The money kept in the private sector by cuts in capital gains taxes generates only about half of the government revenue lost by the cuts, while payroll tax cuts replace about 17% of what the government would have collected without the cuts.

In other words, continuing across-the-board tax-slashing while our deficit turns into a fiscal version of “The Blob” is economic madness; only a fraction of the money kept in the private sector due to tax cuts finds its way back into government coffers.

Economists with impeccable conservative bona fides, including Alan Greenspan and Reagan budget chief David Stockman, predict fiscal disaster if the Bush tax cuts don’t expire when they’re supposed to at midnight, December 31, 2010.

Bush’s Folly in Perpetuity and the “Small Business” Canard

If Bush’s tax cuts are allowed to continue, the wealthiest Americans–by far the major beneficiaries of the cuts–would simply pile those millions on top of the money they’re already hoarding. The only jobs created: crews for their new yachts.

Small business owners–the folks Republicans claim are in Obama’s “over $250,000 ” bracket — AREN’T.  John McCain can shout, “23 million small-business owners will see their taxes go up under Obama’s scheme” all he wants, but he can’t make it true. In fact, a number of those business owners will see their taxes go down.

According to FactCheck.com’s analysis, “McCain is counting mostly ‘business owners’ with no workers, including those who simply report small amounts of income from sideline or freelance work. McCain is arguing that Obama’s tax increase would “destroy jobs,” but he’s counting mostly firms that don’t produce any.”

Business Week tells us that “8.9% of individuals who report small business income or loss (including self-employment income, income from S-corps, partnerships and limited liability companies, farm income and income from rental property and royalties) have household income greater than $250,000. But fewer than 2% of those filers fall into the top two tax brackets.” From Business Week, no less–not exactly a champion of wealth redistribution.

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, extending Bush’s tax cuts would add $2.6 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

We’d have to really hate our kids and grandkids to leave them holding that kind of bag.

When you add to the Bush tax cuts our current policy of continual war, our red ink begins to take on biblical proportion–plague, locusts and the American deficit.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Just two policies dating from the Bush Administration — tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — accounted for over $500 billion added to the deficit in 2009 and will account for almost $7 trillion of the deficit from 2009 through 2019, including the associated debt-service costs. These impacts easily dwarf the stimulus and financial rescues. Furthermore, unlike those temporary costs, these inherited policies (especially the tax cuts and the [unpaid for] Medicare drug benefit) do not fade away as the economy recovers.”

Republican Whoppers

We’ve gotten used to Republican end runs around the truth with “death panels,” global warming-as-hoax, Iraq’s WMDs, etc., but those claims at least offered some sort of plausible deniability, i.e., “Everybody thought Saddam had WMDs,” or “Obamacare does mention ‘panels’ and ‘death’ at different points in the legislation.” But the bold assertion that tax cuts will reduce the deficit is not only the biggest and fattest of big fat Republican lies, it leaves no credible dance steps toward the wings for its minstrels.

Once Americans see the original Bush tax cuts and their extension as tragic fiscal policy, Boehner and crew could try, “You heard us wrong, we said, Let’s end, not extend,’ ” but somehow I don’t think anybody will buy it…or prevent us rabble from carrying our pitchforks and torches to the voting booth.

Click here for next Republican Whopper: We are the Party of Family Values

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Opposition to the planned building of mosques in New York City and Temecula, California has oozed firmly into bigotry territory.  But, don’t worry…it’s just anti-Muslim bigotry.

An ad produced by the National Republican Trust PAC  proclaims the proposed N.Y. City mosque as a “celebration of the murder of 3,000 Americans.”  In a CNN interview, majordomo of the PAC and producer of the ad, Scott Wheeler, confirmed his belief that the people establishing the mosque are doing so to honor the “19 martyrs” who leveled the Trade Center Towers. In other words, Wheeler is saying for all the world to hear that NYC Muslims–some of whom not only lost family and friends in the tragedy, but also put their lives on the line as first responders to the attack–not only condone mass murder, but also hold the 9-11 murderers in the highest esteem.

Meanwhile, 3,000 miles to the left, anti-Muslim bigotry is running full tilt in the rolling hills of Southern California wine country. Muslims in Temecula, CA, who have been saving for over a decade to build a new mosque and community center, are getting the same kind of treatment.

“The Islamic foothold is not strong here, and we really don’t want to see their influence spread,” said Bill Rench, pastor of Temecula’s Calvary Baptist Church. “There is a concern with all the rumors you hear about sleeper cells and all that. Are we supposed to be complacent just because these people say it’s a religion of peace? The two religions mix like oil and water, it would create a confrontational atmosphere,” Rench added.

Sadly, the good reverend is not the only Islamophobe in town. Members of a conservative group called Concerned Community Citizens are circulating a petition to stop the mosque.

Leaders of the town’s Muslim community are surprised by the level of opposition to the center, telling the L.A. Times that their current makeshift mosque and community center — a converted industrial warehouse — has been in town for more than a decade and members always have felt welcome in the community. “Our children go to the same schools their children go to. We shop at the same stores where they shop,” said the mosque’s Imam Mahamoud Harmoush. “All of a sudden our neighbors wake up and they’re opposed to us building the Islamic center there, the mosque. I hope it’s a small group,” he said.

Imam Harmoush will find out how large the group is at next week’s planned protest in front of his current mosque/warehouse. According to Temecula Valley News, an e-mail blast was sent out last week by a local “conservative coalition,” announcing that a one-hour “singing – praying – patriotic rally” would be held and that participants should “bring” their Bibles, flags, signs, dogs and singing voices to the rally. The email explained that singing voices would be needed because “Muslim women are forbidden to sing.”  Why the dogs? You guessed it — Muslims “hate dogs.” If these concerned citizens could only find some singing dogs they might be able to frighten Temecula’s Muslims into abandoning the mosque altogether. “If we see so much as a shovel at that site…we un-muzzle the hounds!”

Zero Tolerance of Intolerance

Planned Temecula mosque

The words “ignorance” and “lack of understanding” have popped up in a number of articles about opposition to the planned mosques. Conspicuously absent are words like “bigotry,” “scapegoating” and “hateful.”

To their credit, major networks are refusing to run Wheeler’s ad condemning the New York mosque on the grounds that it is offensive, and the Temecula Interfaith Council, a group of local religious leaders, has endorsed the proposed Temecula mosque, saying “It’s important for people to see our neighbors, and for them to be part of our community,”

As admirable as the networks’ refusal is, their characterization of Wheeler’s ad as “offensive” should also have included the words “stupid, “hateful” and “dangerous.” The Interfaith Council’s similarly welcome-but-tepid endorsement of the Temecula mosque  is sorely lacking a stinging repudiation of the bigotry spewed by fellow minister Rench and the singing dog-wranglers.  “The Islamic foothold is not strong here, and we really don’t want to see their influence spread” sounds like Rench is defending his community from an outbreak of malaria rather than a faith practiced by 6 million Americans – the vast majority of whom are as peaceful as the vast majority of Baptists. His “oil and water” line is frighteningly reminiscent of the old “birds of a feather” mantra howled by 60s era segregationists. Poisonous statements like these should be attacked mercilessly at every opportunity.

Reactions to the 9-11 tragedy in particular and Muslim extremism in general have led to a dangerous new tolerance of intolerance. Though most Americans would find Rev. Rench’s remarks to be out of line if he were talking about, say, a Jewish community center, many are giving him a pass because, after all, it was a group of Muslims who caused 9-11.

Therein lies the danger. That a Christian leader is attempting to drive a faith-based wedge between Americans is sad enough, but worse is his implicit belief that he can make anti-Islamic statements with impunity and by extension, question the peacefulness and motives of the 150 to 200 families that have been quietly practicing their faith in Temecula for years.

Are Rench’s parishioners OK with his views? How about the op/ed pages of the local press? What about his church’s governing body? How do Temeculans feel about it?

Or is it now OK to make public statements disparaging entire groups because of the actions of a few of their members?  Is it now acceptable to bash the whole of American Mohammedanism because a group of Muslim zealots believed mass murder was their ticket to glorious eternity? If so, let’s tar Protestants for their witch-burning indiscretion years ago and the anti-Constitutional stance on gays currently taken by many in their number. While we’re at it, let’s pillory Catholics for their pedophile priests and the Inquisition.

Pastor Rench and Scott Wheeler’s widely disseminated us-against-them remarks are not only divisive, unfair and decidedly un-American, they also play directly into the hands of Muslim extremists looking to paint all Americans as crusading anti-Islamists.

Rest assured that comments like his are being played over and over in the world’s madrassas. Who knows? Rench’s “oil and water” reference alone might have been good for two or three Al-Qaeda recruitments today.

It’s time to call this anti-Muslim crap what it is…plain old, unadulterated hate.

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