Saturday, February 19, 2011

Good Saturday morning, people. We are back in the cool temps for a while. A new storm is approaching but the snow should stay north of us. If we get rain it should go a long way to clearing the rest of the snow off the patio. I can actually see the better part of all of my containers. Update on the cuttings I took last fall--only one basil, one sage and one stevia are left, and the first two are not looking good. I think the light level through the winter is simply not sufficient to keep them happy. During the summer I get strong reflected light off the white fence but I don't have that in the winter. I don't think I will take cutting for plants to keep over winter any more.

Has anyone else noticed the emphasis the news media have been placing on the Wisconsin labor story? They concentrate on a broke state and the cuts the governor wants to make to the state workers' pensions and health care (by making them pay more of the costs). When the workers or the labor leaders mention the cancellation of collective bargaining rights the reporters and commentators pass it off without comment. It makes it appear as if the state workers are coddled, spoiled, overcompensated brats throwing a tantrum. Then ABC last night juxtaposed interviews with a retired couple, both retired state workers, who spoke generally about how they felt they earned their comfortable retirement and mentioned that they and other union members took smaller pay raises to get the health and retirement benefits against the owner/operator of a small coffee house/restaurant who complained that he had to put aside hard to come by money for retirement and was spending almost $400/month for health insurance (without vision or dental) which required a $5k+ deductible for each family member. He resented 'paying' for the cushy lives of state workers. This is something I have noticed frequently over the past decade--the politics of resentment. One of the candidates for Chicago mayor played this card last week. He eulogized his youth growing up in an ethnic neighborhood working at his father's business and bragged about how they lived 'paycheck to paycheck' while the target of his ad grew up in an affluent north suburb in privilege and wealth. At that point, if I were a Chicago voter, I would have voted for Mickey Mouse before I would have voted for him. I am sick and tired of the politics of resentment and envy. I would have been impressed with the business owner if he had detailed the costs he had to wring out of his business and then said he thought the benefits state workers' had won by hard collective bargaining should have been extended to everyone. As it is, I am sorry he is such a resentful asshole.

I agree with you, Kay, absolutely and totally. I applaud the Wisconsin Democratic Senators for their stand. I am also concerned and a bit afraid because I see this country going backward a century to a time I do not want to experience. I have read too much of the history to want that. Does anyone really want to go back to a time when shop girls could only eat a slice of toast and a cup of weak tea most days because they had to spend most of their meager earnings on lodging and on maintaining their 'respectable' appearance to keep their jobs? Do we really want to go back to a time when children younger than 10 worked 12 hour days (or more) for one-quarter the wages of a grown-up or women were paid half of what a man was paid? Do we want to go back to a time when the elderly were either a burden on their families (if they had families) or went to the 'poor house' which had a deservedly ghastly reputation? And can any working person really look fondly on a time when they had no choice but to accept what ever pittance an employer wanted to give or starve because any attempt to join forces with other workers to collectively bargain was met with hired thugs, often Pinkertons? We say we value education but at the time I am discussing most white children completed less than the6th grade and black children much less than that. My grandfather qualified as a teacher with an 8th grade education. Teaching paid so little he went back into farming.

I will admit that I have my own resentments and this is one of them. I resent it on two levels. First, I resent that we are even building this infrastructure in Afghanistan when I read about towns and counties in this country turning paved roads back into gravel because they can't afford the upkeep, when Hawaii is going to a four-day school week to save money, when medicaid cuts are terminating life-saving treatment for our poor and when the governor of Wisconsin engineers a budget crisis to justify cancellation of state workers' collective bargaining rights. I also resent paying American companies good money for a shoddy job (I would have used another 'sh' word but I have already sworn a bit in this post.) And that, unfortunately, seems to be the standard for 'reconstruction' in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a number of news stories, not given much coverage in the mainstream media, have revealed.

This MSNBC story deals with another of my resentments--the fact that despite a lot of money and time spent on investigations of the mortgage fraud there have been few charges and no jail time for the perpetrators.

On the cancer issue I posted yesterday--I would have agreed with you, Lois, some 30 or 35 years ago and so would most cancer researchers that we should have a cure already. At that time I was a biology/zoology grad student researching steroid hormone action and many of the cancers were linked to that class of hormones. What researchers found was that there is no such thing as 'cancer.' Rather there are a variety of cancers and many of them may look very much alike, are very hard to tell apart and they respond very differently to treatments. There is only one form of cancer I can think of off the top of my head that has been linked to one and only one cause--mesothelioma which is a lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure. There may be others now and I haven't kept up with the field. Most are like breast cancers. Some are statistically linked to dietary factors and frequency of childbearing/breastfeeding. But others can't be linked to any specific factor. Some require estrogen; others don't. The treatment for one group doesn't work at all for others and may actually cause more harm than good. The same holds true for almost every other class of cancers. When I was that much younger (and extremely enthusiastic) grad student most researchers believed that we would have a cure for cancer within a very short time. Needless to say, reputable researchers aren't that sanguine any more. Given the past history, I think any 'cures' developed will be expensive and have harsh side effects and may not (depending when in a person's life time the diagnosis comes) lead to any great improvement in the quality or quantity of the patients life. As I have said here often, I am a medical minimalist and the mere fact that there is a palliative for a given condition out there doesn't mean I think it is worthwhile in all situations. I don't mind the research going on or that it is paid for with tax dollars; I do mind when pie-in-the-sky predictions are made on the basis of preliminary results and when the news reporters mine the studies for the most dramatic items at the expense of sober consideration of those results.


Kay Dennison said...

As usual, you and I agree on the politcal stuff. I have my problems with most politicians except perhaps Anthony Weiner who is my favorite firebrand.

I was really interested on your take on cancer. It makes perfect sense to me and explains a lot. I always forget your science background. It's one of those things that I just couldn't get excited about although I got good grades and now I'm sorry I didn't pay more attention.

And yeah, my synapses were out of sync on 'red shirts' and it niggled at me but I went with it anyway. Actually, I kind of liked Garibaldi. Thanks for the heads up! I stand corrected.

Looking to the Stars said...

Great Post! First, I'd like to say I would vote for Mickey Mouse :)

I've been doing some research on how did this country get so greedy & the 'don't care about the other guy' attitude. Going to do a post on just one of things I found.

Loved your view on the cancer. My dad had cancer, he brought a Cuban doctor who studied in France & was working in Chicago to Colorado Springs. My father paid for the research & facility which was radical. I use to go with my dad for his treatments. It was working, if he hadn't been murdered I would say he would've been cancer free.

After my dad's death, the doc went to work for the gov't. They set him up with his own lab in Minn. or Michigan can't remember which state. He passed away a couple of years ago. Every time I hear of someone being cured, I wonder if it was Dr. Del Gato's cure.

take care :)