I say "Romney" in quotes because it has become painfully obvious that the real Romney is nowhere to be seen, the Romney on the stump being a sort of cipher, a suit, or, as one wag put it, an automaton designed and built in Japan, begging Repubs to provide a provenance in much the same way that the more loony of their number called for Obama to present his birth certificate.  Now that Romney has chosen Paul Ryan as his running mate, at least there'll be real person stumping. All too real -- and downright scary.

The real Ryan wants to return us to the GWB fiscal policies of even larger tax breaks for the super rich, a return to "trickle down" economics, laissez-faire capitalism, anti-regulatory government that led to deficit spending on two foreign wars and other horrors.  Even disregarding the death-knell to Medicare as we know it, drastic cuts in spending on anything benefitting the poor and middle class, and other shocks to the system, there is another aspect to a Ryan run that should alarm all members of this community, one he spoke of during his speech in Virginia after introduction by the robot Romney.

During the speech, he said: "...America is more than just a place...it’s an idea. It’s the only country founded on an idea. Our rights come from nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes."  That's right, he injected something called "God" into the proceedings.  And the reference to "nature" is a coded message, one pegged to his religious beliefs, as it is primary tenet of Roman Catholicism that man has no rights apart from "natural rights," and natural rights are those bestowed upon man by a supreme being.  If anyone wants a hilarious send up of this ridiculous dogma, check out Robert Anton Wilson's Natural Law, or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy (1987).  Wilson points out that the church relies almost entirely for its anti-gay, anti-women, anti-birth control, &c. policies by claiming they are "against Natural Law."

In an epigraph, Wilson quoted A. E. Housman, which deserves reprinting here:

The laws of God, the laws of Man,
He may keep who will, and can;
Not I: let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me.

— A.E. Housman

You might want to check out Ryan's voting record on all such matters, too; you'll find that he has a 100% homophobic & misogynist record.  It's clear he believes in the David Barton farce that holds that the founding fathers wanted America to be "a Christian nation," such that the way is paved for theocracy to be established on our shores, the better to deprive us of religious freedom, even perhaps the right to believe in nothing.  Fortunately, his positions on these things will be exposed by the Dems.  They have a new whipping boy to attack.  There's not much point in attacking Mittens Rumney.  The worst that can happen is that a part will be smashed, and the Chinese or Japanese factory that made him can ship in a replacement.

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I am depressed that a Conservative (Harper) is in power in Canada.  If you added up the Liberal and NDP vote it would turf the Conservatives out but that vote is split and we have Stephen Harper. 

Yet, he wouldn't dare touch universal healthcare, relax the gun laws or as an anti abortionist challenge pro choice head on.  Our conservative is a socialist liberal south of the border.

I hope you don't go the Romney/Ryan route now or the Ryan route in the future. The ideas that may cross the border with them is the big business bias , super rich tax breaks etc. 

One example of the power of big business lobbying is with drugs. Our pharmaceutical costs are a lot lower than U.S. drugs.  But the phoney argument that the extra money goes to R & D is being raised here as a rationale to raise prices.  Marcia Angell (New England Journal of Medicine Editor) discredited that B.S. in a recent book about the drug industry.  The power of big money selling people on stuff not in their interest is an export I could do without.     

It was a fine Canadian, Peter Jennings, in one of his unbelievably incisive Reports, who blew the whistle on Big Pharma's campaign of lies.  For one thing, he said that their claim that the high cost of drugs to Americans was due to the expenses of R&D when, in fact, the National Institutes of Health pays almost all of this with our hard-earned tax money.  So the drug companies are double dipping. When Bush passed Part D (lower drug costs to seniors), Big Pharma passed on the costs to Latin American countries, and my sister in lasw in Mexico tells me they pay out the nose now. 

I love Canada and Canadians and have a very good friend in B.C. (Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island).  She talked to me often about the health care there and how when she got intestinal cancer, she was diagnosed on a Friday and had it removed on Monday; how she never had to wait weeks for an appointment; &c.  Single payer is the way to go!  Obama knows this; the thieves in Congress do, too, but they are addicted to special interest money and the pitches of former congressmen now working, cynically, as lobbyists.  What a fucked up country!

I think Obama is above all else a pragmatist.  He knew the GOPS in particular would raise the ugly specter of "socialist medicine" and point to "failed European models" and nip single payer in the bud.  So he changed the call for S.P. to one for a "public option," which as close to S.P. as he could get, and the opponents knocked that down, too.  We must remember: never in history has a president encountered such obstructionism in all the things he set about to do.  It continues unabated.  I am not sure if it was in Sicko, Michael Moore's documentary on health care, but a British MD was interviewed in his flat in London and asked how much money he made and what kind of lifestyle he lived and so forth, and it turned out the guy had modest digs, a fairly inexpensive car, and so on, illustrating what I have maintained for some time: that the medicare problem in this country is driven by greed and the American opposition to government working closely with industry is crippling our progress.  In England, the medical industry works for the benefit of people, not corporate profits.  England is a capitalist country too, but it is the particular kind of capitalism that makes the difference.  Being a person with chronic leukemia, I observe a lot of doctors up close.  The median income for each is well over $150K a year. Specialists make many times that.  Surgeons make much more than they should: a V.A. doctor friend says they are the "dumbest doctors alive."  Because being a specialist is so lucrative, primary care givers are disappearing.  Our most prestigious address is on a Malibu-like drive on a bluff above the bay here and there are very few (and those are mostly older) homes along the way costing less than a half-million.  The flashiest of the McMansions are owned by doctors.  They think that because they keep people alive they are gods, not men.  I depend on them to keep me alive, but my oncologist is very self-conscious about the kind of money he makes: he continually protests that he lives modestly, has a modest car, &c.  But I bet he makes as much in a month as the Brit doctor in the movie takes in in a year.

If Romney/Ryan win the election the tie of health insurance to jobs may be weakened considerably. Included in Ryan's plan, but obviously not emphasized, is an end to the exclusion of the costs of healthcare given by an employer from taxable income. Under Ryan's plan, the premiums your employer pays for you would become taxable income to you. This of course is a tax increase, which is why it doesn't get mentioned.

In the latest version of his plan for Medicare, Ryan has made the vouchers voluntary—everyone would have a choice of traditional Medicare or a voucher. Neither party is anxious to emphasize this. For the Democrats it weakens their voucher argument. Republicans do not want to talk about it either since 1) it reminds people of the specter of vouchers and 2) it means the program will not work to reduce the costs of Medicare—consequently their argument that they are the ones saving Medicare falls apart.

That is true James.  The greed of big pharma has made me quite angry.  Marcia Agnell argues that a lot of the current research is on "me too" drugs based on slightly altering a drug that is losing its patent protection to cash in on a new patent. That is where you see so many statin varieties Lipitor, Crestor etc.  The schools that used to do original research are now kowtowing to big pharma who supply funding with strings attached. So you can reduce taxes for funding education and allow a special interest group to fill in some of the void.  Probably something Ryan loves but not the best way to govern if you are looking for the best results for the people.

Two of the drugs that had the most impact are Salk and his polio vaccine and Banting and Best with insulin. Salk never sought a patent and Banting sold his to the U of Toronto for 1/2 dollar.  Good thing those older researchers who contributed something that saved countless lives were not greedy.

These were exceptional men.  Altruists are a vanishing breed, and in D.C. they would appear to be rarer than hen's teeth.

While research is expensive these days, the costs of research are only loosely tied to the cost of the final product. One reason is that so many candidates are tested in vitro, perhaps 10,000 initial compounds against a given target. Some may survive into preclinical (animal) testing and then be discarded for one which works better. How do you account for all the costs along the way in a rational manner? It is quite difficult to evaluate the cost of drug discovery.

When Congress wanted to tackle the problem of orphan drugs (drugs whose development and marketing would never justify the research expense because too few people would use them) one of their requirements for providing funding for these drugs to pharmaceutical companies was that the companies would provide explanations of their pricing methods. Every large pharmaceutical company said it would not participate on that basis.

I know the topic is Ryan - but he represents unfettered capitalism and Big Pharma is an example of where there is a need for regulation.

I think Drug expenditures for R & D cover off those difficult to quantify costs that Dr. Allan Clark mentioned. It is a lot of money but still a very low percentage of sales - 11 percent in one year. And there is no pure research focus that we got from the universities being more in charge of the research.  Big Pharma Marketing and Admin costs are 36 % and Marcia Angell shows in her book how a lot of that is used to sway people with influence on drug usage with gifts, phoney holiday conferences etc.

From Marcia

“The me-too market would collapse virtually overnight if the FDA made approval of new drugs contingent on their being better in some important way than older drugs already on the market. Probably very few new drugs could meet that test. By default, then, drug companies would have to concentrate on finding truly innovative drugs, and we would finally find out whether this much-vaunted industry is turning out better drugs. A welcome by-product of this reform is that it would also reduce the incessant and enormously expensive marketing necessary to jockey for position in the me-too market. Genuinely important new drugs do not need much promotion (imagine having to advertise a cure for cancer). “

11% for R&D, but some of that isn't for finding innovative drugs it's for developing tricky reformulations in order to extend copyrights.

It seems to me if we're ever to create a sustainable world, part of that will be to just support actual drug research and cut out the fat of "gifts" for doctors and free to doctors "conferences" at golf resorts in Hawaii. The Republicans are always touting efficiency in government, but somehow just the opposite is a fantastic virtue when private industry does it.

I don't know what I like better - listening to the great arguments or the Irish accent of this Irish president's debate with a Tea Party person.





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