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March 31, 2005

House and Senate OK Stem Cell Bill

Veto-proof majorities. Romney crushed, now officially irrelevant, but liberated: free to shop his résumé of non-achievement elsewhere. Sure did great with those Olympics, though...

(Some of our readers are concerned about the gastronomical implications --  I hadn't thought of that.)

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 10:53 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack

DemocracyForAmerica MA

Local organizer Shai Sachs reports that Democracy for America Massachusetts meetups are being held in over a dozen towns throughout Massachusetts.  Most meetups are at 7 pm on the first Wednesday of each month, but some (including Cambridge, North Shore, Ipswich, Sturbridge, Framingham, and Palmer) are held at different times.  Meetups are a great opportunity to meet fellow progressive activists and to find out what's going on in and how you can get involved.  Recently, for example, members of the Boston, Cambridge and Northampton DFA meetup groups were involved in the special elections to replace outgoing state representatives Tom Finneran, Brian Golden and Peter Larkin; they helped get out the vote for Linda Dorcena Forry, Tim Schofield, and Rhonda Serre.  In the next few months, DFA members will be gearing up for the Democratic state convention and working to protect Social Security.

Click here for a full list of DFA meetup groups in Massachusetts.

Posted by Bob at 10:24 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

No, no, NO! Bad liberal! No biscuit!

Well, Sam Rosenfeld at TAPPED gets it completely backward:

The much-cited Wall Street Journal editorial attacking DeLay had me panicked that Democrats and their allies might actually succeed in securing the Hammer’s imminent fall, which would prove utterly disastrous for the prospects of nationalizing the 2006 mid-term elections with a reformist message that could topple many Republicans.

So, he wants DeLay to stick around so that the Democrats can run against him in '06.

Folks ... that is insane. It is the kind of shortsighted thinking that has led to our failures since 1994, which boils down every news cycle to "Good for the Dems/Bad for the Dems", and assumes that things will stay static until the next election. It is unprincipled, not to mention a huge risk: What if DeLay survived, and came back stronger than ever? Disaster.

It's not worth it to try to keep him around so that the Democrats can run against him. If we can't make a national case for reform -- with or without having Tom DeLay to kick around -- then we don't deserve to win. We want more out of Congress than just more Democrats; if we want real reform, we've got to get rid of the anti-reformers.

Tom DeLay is a bad guy. I don't want bad guys in Congress. He's drowning -- now throw him an anvil.

(Here's a good discussion of the hopefully ensuing Passion of Tom DeLay.)

(Argh. No biscuit for Oliver Willis, either.)

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 08:45 PM in National | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Hate: an equal opportunity affliction

It's nice to know that irrational hatred of gay people isn't confined to Christian extremists in the good old U. S. of A.  A ten day gay pride festival is being planned for the city of Jerusalem in August.  And the NYT reports:

Now major leaders of the three faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - are making a rare show of unity to try to stop the festival. They say the event would desecrate the city and convey the erroneous impression that homosexuality is acceptable.

"They are creating a deep and terrible sorrow that is unbearable," Shlomo Amar, Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, said yesterday at a news conference in Jerusalem attended by Israel's two chief rabbis, the patriarchs of the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches, and three senior Muslim prayer leaders. "It hurts all of the religions. We are all against it."

Abdel Aziz Bukhari, a Sufi sheik, added: "We can't permit anybody to come and make the Holy City dirty. This is very ugly and very nasty to have these people come to Jerusalem."

Listen to that language: "very ugly and very nasty" for "these people" to set foot in Jerusalem.  Because they will make "the Holy City dirty."  That is not even "hate the sin, love the sinner" language (for which I don't have much patience, but it's at least a gesture).  That is just out and out hate, and it's terribly sad that that seems to be the one thing that Israeli "religious leaders" of the three major faiths can agree on.

It's also ridiculous.  I am confident that if Jerusalem survived the Babylonians, the Romans, the crusades, the Ottoman Empire, and the wars of 1948 and 1967, it can survive a gay pride parade.

Fortunately, it is only the extremists in each of these religions that are taking this view.  More from the NYT article:

Organizers of the gay pride event, Jerusalem WorldPride 2005, said that 75 non-Orthodox rabbis had signed a statement of support for the event, and that Christian and Muslim leaders as well as Israeli politicians were expected to announce their support soon. They said they were dismayed to see that what united their opponents was their objection to homosexuality....

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, co-chairwoman of the festival and the rabbi of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, a gay synagogue in New York City, said the controversy was another sign that each religion had become polarized between its liberal and conservative wings.

The global Anglican Communion split deeply over homosexuality in the last two years after its American affiliate ordained an openly gay bishop and the Canada affiliate decided to allow blessings of same-sex unions.

"I reject that they have the right to define religion in such a narrow way," Rabbi Kleinbaum said of religious leaders who denounce homosexuality. "Gay and lesbian people are saying we are equal partners in religious communities, and we believe in a religious world in which all are created in God's image."

The world's major religions - all of them - are well down the road to splitting apart over issues like homosexuality, the beginning of life, and the end of life.  I don't pretend to know what, if anything, can or should be done to avoid that.  All I know is that it's coming.

Posted by David at 11:43 AM in National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

RIP Terri Schiavo

She died this morning.

Posted by David at 10:40 AM in National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's what Terri would have wanted.

A willful living will from Bob Friedman at the St. Petersburg Times in FL:

Like many of you, I have been compelled by recent events to prepare a more detailed advance directive dealing with end-of-life issues. Here's what mine says:

* In the event I lapse into a persistent vegetative state, I want medical authorities to resort to extraordinary means to prolong my hellish semiexistence. Fifteen years wouldn't be long enough for me.

It goes on. Funny and horrible all at once.

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 30, 2005

The Economist on drugs

[Try accessing the articles referenced below from this page.]

OK, OK, so I just got around to reading the Economist from a couple of weeks ago ... and I'll have what they're having:

Stronger FDA enforcement of post-marketing studies and stronger signals from payers—especially the federal government, which will cover much of elderly America's drug bill from 2006—are needed to encourage drug firms to provide rigorous, unbiased evidence of the cost-effectiveness of their new products. This is something drug firms ought to welcome, despite short-term costs. In the long run, it is better for them, as well as for the public, to have pricing based on reliable evidence than on politicians currying popular favour. An industry which prides itself on science should surely welcome a more scientific approach to its own regulation [my emphasis].

Say whaaaa? That is some good stuff they're on in England. "Oh, of course, out of jolly good old-fashioned economic principle of free markets, they should welcome it, dear lad!"

Uh ... What. Ev. Er.

As I've said before, we've got the mother lode of market ignorance over on this side of the pond, and Big Pharma is pumping us like derricks. Luckily some states are fighting back:

But a few states have been successful [in controlling drug costs]. The Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds, which covers 240,000 public workers, retirees and their dependants, managed to reduce its drug bill by 23% last year, while maintaining the same level of prescriptions. The secret, says Eric Stanchfield, head of health-care purchasing, was a strict reimbursement list based on drugs' clinical effectiveness, a pharmacy benefits manager with transparent accounting and a willingness to be tough in negotiations with drug firms [my emphasis]. The programme is so successful that the governor plans to expand it to cover the uninsured, and General Motors has also been taking a look.

Do we have anything like that in MA?

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 10:33 PM in National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Bubble bubble toil and trouble: The Blog

Good news for people who love bad news at HomeBubble.

(Thanks to Adam at Universal Hub, and apologies to Modest Mouse.)

Posted by Charley on the MTA at 03:12 PM in Massachusetts, National | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Stem Cell Debate: Freedom versus Fear

The current stem cell debate is best framed as a contest between freedom and fear. Progressive Democrats believe that if we give freedom to our finest minds cures may result for scourges like Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and Multiple Sclerosis. Optimism and responsibility are watchwords.

Regressive Republicans fear change and scorn responsibility. These extremists, like Willard, reject hope and ignore the suffering propagated by their intolerance. They seek to impose their personal religious prejudices on the entire community.

"People suffering from Parkinson's, from deafness, from diabetes and from a host of other diseases and conditions potentially alleviated by stem-cell therapies should not be forced to suffer -- or die -- for the sake of someone else's religious belief," writes the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Amen.

Posted by Bob at 02:28 PM in Massachusetts | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

History 101: Bill Frist, Cat Torturer

An occasional series on U.S. History.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wrote In his 1989 book "Transplant" that when he was a student at Harvard Medical School in the 1970s he routinely went to animal shelters, pretended to adopt cats, then practiced surgery on them until they died. Frist wrote that he told shelter personnel he would care for the cats as pets. Frist, who has been called "the cat world's answer to Dr. Mengele" has subsequently denounced himself for his conduct, according to Moon cult wire service UPI.

Posted by Bob at 01:30 PM in National | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack