Scientific Failure and Self Experimentation

In 2005, John P. A. Ioannidis wrote “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” that was published in PloS journal. It is the most cited paper in that journal’s history and it has led to much discussion in the media. That paper was a theoretical model but has since been well supported — as Ioannidis explained in an interview with Julia Belluz:

“There are now tons of empirical studies on this. One field that probably attracted a lot of attention is preclinical research on drug targets, for example, research done in academic labs on cell cultures, trying to propose a mechanism of action for drugs that can be developed. There are papers showing that, if you look at a large number of these studies, only about 10 to 25 percent of them could be reproduced by other investigators. Animal research has also attracted a lot of attention and has had a number of empirical evaluations, many of them showing that almost everything that gets published is claimed to be “significant”. Nevertheless, there are big problems in the designs of these studies, and there’s very little reproducibility of results. Most of these studies don’t pan out when you try to move forward to human experimentation.

“Even for randomized controlled trials [considered the gold standard of evidence in medicine and beyond] we have empirical evidence about their modest replication. We have data suggesting only about half of the trials registered [on public databases so people know they were done] are published in journals. Among those published, only about half of the outcomes the researchers set out to study are actually reported. Then half — or more — of the results that are published are interpreted inappropriately, with spin favoring preconceptions of sponsors’ agendas. If you multiply these levels of loss or distortion, even for randomized trials, it’s only a modest fraction of the evidence that is going to be credible.”

This is part of the replication crisis that has been known about for decades, although rarely acknowledged or taken seriously. And it is a crisis that isn’t limited to single studies —- Ioannidis wrote that, “Possibly, the large majority of produced systematic reviews and meta-analyses are unnecessary, misleading, and/or conflicted” (from a paper reported in the Pacific Standard). The crisis cuts across numerous fields, from economics and genetics to neuroscience and psychology. But to my mind, medical research stands out. Evidence-based medicine is only as good as the available evidence — it has been “hijacked to serve agendas different from what it originally aimed for,” as stated by Ioannidis. (A great book on this topic, by the way, is Richard Harris’ Rigor Mortis.) Studies done by or funded by drug companies, for example, are more likely to come to positive results for efficacy and negative results for side effects. And because the government has severely decreased public funding since the Reagan administration, so much of research is now linked to big pharma. From a Retraction Watch interview, Ioannidis says:

“Since clinical research that can generate useful clinical evidence has fallen off the radar screen of many/most public funders, it is largely left up to the industry to support it. The sales and marketing departments in most companies are more powerful than their R&D departments. Hence, the design, conduct, reporting, and dissemination of this clinical evidence becomes an advertisement tool. As for “basic” research, as I explain in the paper, the current system favors PIs who make a primary focus of their career how to absorb more money. Success in obtaining (more) funding in a fiercely competitive world is what counts the most. Given that much “basic” research is justifiably unpredictable in terms of its yield, we are encouraging aggressive gamblers. Unfortunately, it is not gambling for getting major, high-risk discoveries (which would have been nice), it is gambling for simply getting more money.”

I’ve become familiar with this collective failure through reading on diet and nutrition. Some of the key figures in that field, specifically Ancel Keys, were either intentionally fraudulent or really bad at science. Yet the basic paradigm of dietary recommendations that was instituted by Keys remains in place. The fact that Keys was so influential demonstrates the sad state of affairs. Ioannidis has also covered this area and come to similar dire conclusions. Along with Jonathan Schoenfeld, he considered the question “Is everything we eat associated with cancer?”

“After choosing fifty common ingredients out of a cookbook, they set out to find studies linking them to cancer rates – and found 216 studies on forty different ingredients. Of course, most of the studies disagreed with each other. Most ingredients had multiple studies claiming they increased and decreased the risk of getting cancer. Most of the statistical evidence was weak, and meta-analyses usually showed much smaller effects on cancer rates than the original studies.”
(Alex Reinhart, What have we wrought?)

That is a serious and rather personal issue, not an academic exercise. There is so much bad research out there or else confused and conflicting. It’s about impossible for the average person to wade through it all and come to a certain conclusion. Researchers and doctors are as mired in it as the rest of us. Doctors, in particular, are busy people and don’t typically read anything beyond short articles and literature reviews, and even those they likely only skim in spare moments. Besides, most doctors aren’t trained in research and statistics, anyhow. Even if they were better educated and informed, the science itself is in a far from optimal state and one can find all kinds of conclusions. Take the conflict between two prestigious British journals, the Lancet and the BMJ, the former arguing for statin use and the latter more circumspect. In the context of efficacy and side effects, the disagreement is over diverse issues and confounders of cholesterol, inflammation, artherosclerosis, heart disease, etc — all overlapping.

Recently, my dad went to his doctor who said that research in respectable journals strongly supported statin use. Sure, that is true. But the opposite is equally true, in that there are also respectable journals that don’t support wide use of statins. It depends on which journals one chooses to read. My dad’s doctor didn’t have the time to discuss the issue, as that is the nature of the US medical system. So, probably in not wanting to get caught up in fruitless debate, the doctor agreed to my dad stopping statins and seeing what happens. With failure among researchers to come to consensus, it leaves the patient to be a guinea pig in his own personal experiment. Because of the lack of good data, self-experimentation has become a central practice in diet and nutrition. There are so many opinions out there that, if one cares about one’s health, one is forced to try different approaches and find out what seems to work, even as this methodology is open to many pitfalls and hardy guarantees success. But the individual person dealing with a major health concern often has no other choice, at least not until the science improves.

This isn’t necessarily a reason for despair. At least, a public debate is now happening. Ioannidis, among others, sees the solution as not difficult (psychology, despite its own failings, might end up being key in improving research standards; and also organizations are being set up to promote better standards, including The Nutrition Science Initiative started by the science journalist Gary Taubes, someone often cited by those interested in alternative health views). We simply need to require greater transparency and accountability in the scientific process. That is to say science should be democratic. The failure of science is directly related to the failure seen in politics and economics, related to powerful forces of big money and other systemic biases. It is not so much a failure as it is a success toward ulterior motives. That needs to change.

* * *

Many scientific “truths” are, in fact, false
by Olivia Goldhill

Are most published research findings false?
by Erica Seigneur

The Decline Effect – Why Most Published Research Findings are False
by Paul Crichton

Beware those scientific studies—most are wrong, researcher warns
by Ivan Couronne

The Truthiness Of Scientific Research
by Judith Rich Harris

Is most published research really wrong?
by Geoffrey P Webb

Are Scientists Doing Too Much Research?
by Peter Bruce

Health From Generation To Generation

Traveling around the world, Weston A. Price visited numerous traditional communities. Some of them hunter-gatherers and others agricultural, including some rural communities in Europe. This was earlier last century when industrialization had yet to take hold in most places, a very different time in terms of diet, even in the Western world.

What he found was how healthy these people were, whether they consumed more or less meat, dairy or not — although none were vegetarian (the typical pre-agricultural diet was about 1/3 to 2/3 animal products, often a large part of it saturated fat). The commonality is that they ate nutrient-dense foods, much of it raw, fermented, or prepared traditionally (the singlemost nutrient-dense food is organ meats). As a dentist, the first thing Price looked for was dental health. A common feature of these traditional societies was well-developed jaws and bone structure, straight uncrowded teeth, few cavities facial symmetry, etc. These people never saw a dentist or orthodontist, didn’t brush or floss, and yet their teeth were in excellent condition into old age.

This obviously was not the case with Price’s own American patients that didn’t follow a traditional diet and lifestyle. And when he visited prisons, he found that bone development and dental health was far worse, as indicators of worse general health and by implication worse neurocognitive health (on a related note, testing has shown that prisoners have higher rates of lead toxicity, which harms health in diverse ways). Between malnutrition and toxicity, it is unsurprising that there are so many mentally ill people housed in prisons, especially after psychiatric institutions were closed down.

Another early figure in researching diet and health was Francis M. Pottenger Jr, an American doctor. While working as a full-time assistant at a sanatorium, he did a study on cats. He fed some cats a raw food diet, some a cooked food diet, and another group got some of both. He also observed that the cooked food diet caused developmental problems of bone and dental structure. The results were worse than that, though. For the cats fed cooked food, the health of the next generation declined even further. By the third generation, they didn’t reach adulthood. There was no generation after that.

I was reading about this at work. In my normal excitement about learning something new, I shared this info with a coworker, a guy who has some interest in health but is a conventional thinker. He immediately looked for reasons for why it couldn’t be true, such as claiming that the generations of cats kept as pets disproves Pottenger’s observations. Otherwise, so the argument goes, domestic cats would presumably have gone extinct by now.

That was easy to counter, considering most pets are born strays who ate raw food or born to parents who were strays. As for purebred cats, I’m sure breeders have already figured out that a certain amount of raw food (or supplementation of enzymes, microbes, etc that normally would be found in raw food) is necessary for long term feline health. Like processed human food, processed pet food is heavily fortified with added nutrients, which likely counteracts some of the negative consequences to a cooked food diet. Pottenger’s cats weren’t eating fortified cooked food, but neither were the cats fed raw food getting any extra nutrients.

The thing is that prior to industrialization food was never fortified. All the nutrients humans (and cats) needed to not only survive but thrive was available in a traditional/natural diet. The fact that we have to fortify foods and take multivitamins is evidence of something severely wrong with the modern, industrialized food system. But that only lessens the health problems slightly. As with Pottenger’s cats, even the cats on a cooked food diet who had some raw food added didn’t avoid severely decreased health. Considering the emerging health crisis, the same appears to be true of humans.

The danger we face is that the effects are cumulative across the generations, the further we get from a traditional diet. We are only now a few generations into the modern Western diet. Most humans were still consuming raw milk and other traditional foods not that long ago. Earlier last century, the majority of Americans were rural and had access to fresh organic food from gardens and farms, including raw milk from pastured cows and fertile eggs from pastured chickens (pastured meaning high in omega-3s).

Even living in a large city, one of my grandfathers kept rabbits and chickens for much of his life and kept a garden into his old age. That means my mother was raised with quite a bit of healthy food, as was my father living in a small town surrounded by farms. My brothers and I are the first generation in our family to eat a fully modern industrialized diet from childhood. And indeed, we have more mental/neurocognitive health problems than the generations before. I had a debilitating learning disorder diagnosed in elementary school and severe depression clearly showing in 7th grade, one brother had stuttering and anxiety attacks early on, and my oldest brother had severe allergies in childhood that went untreated for years and since then has had a host of ailments (also, at least one of my brothers and I have suspected undiagnosed Asperger’s or something like that, but such conditions weren’t being diagnosed when we were in school). One thing to keep in mind is that my brothers and I are members of the generation that received one of the highest dosages of lead toxicity in childhood, prior to environmental regulations limiting lead pollution; and research has directly and strongly correlated that to higher rates of criminality, suicide, homicide, aggressive behavior, impulse control problems, lowered IQ, and stunted neurocognitive development (also many physical health conditions).

The trend of decline seems to be continuing. My nieces and nephews eat almost nothing but heavily processed foods, way more than my brothers and I had in our own childhoods, and the produce they do eat is mostly from nutrient-depleted soil, along with being filled with farm chemicals and hormones — all of this having continuously worsened these past decades. They are constantly sick (often every few weeks) and, even though still in grade school, all have multiple conditions such as: Asperger’s, learning disorder, obsessive-compulsion, failure to thrive, asthma, joint pain, etc.

If sugar was heroin, my nephew could be fairly called a junky (regularly devouring bags of candy and on more than one occasion eating a plain bowl of sugar; one step short of snorting powdered sugar and mainlining high fructose corn syrup). And in making these observations, I speak from decades of experience as a junkfood junky, most of all a sugar addict, though never quite to the same extreme. My nieces too have a tremendous intake of sugar and simple carbs, as their families’ vegetarianism doesn’t emphasize vegetables (since going on the paleo diet, I’ve been eating more organic nutrient-dense vegetables and other wholesome foods than my brothers and their families combined) — yet their diet fits well into the Standard American Diet (SAD) and, as the USDA suggests, they get plenty of grains. I wouldn’t be surprised if one or all of them already has pre-diabetes and likely will get diabetes before long, as is becoming common in their generation. The body simply can only take so much harm. I know the damage done to my own body and mind from growing up in this sick society and I hate to see even worse happening to the generations following.

To emphasize this point, the testing of newborn babies in the United States shows that they’ve already accumulated on average more than 200 synthetic chemicals from within the womb; and then imagine all the further chemicals they get from the breast milk of their unhealthy mothers along with all kinds of crap in formulas and in their environments (e.g., carcinogenic fire retardants that they breathe 24/7). Lead toxicity has decreased since my own childhood and that is a good thing, but thousands of new toxins and other chemicals have replaced it. On top of that, the hormones, hormone mimics, and hormone disruptors add to dysbiosis and disease — some suggesting this is a cause of puberty’s greater variance than in past generations, either coming earlier or later depending on gender and other factors (maybe partly explaining the reversal and divergence of educational attainment for girls and boys). Added to this mix, this is the first generation of human guinea pigs to be heavily medicated from childhood, much of it medications that have been shown to permanently alter neurocognitive development.

A major factor in many modern diseases is inflammation. This has many causes from leaky gut to toxicity, the former related to diet and often contributing to the latter (in how the leaky gut allows molecules to more easily cross the gut lining and get into the bloodstream where they can freely travel throughout the body — causing autoimmune disorders, allergies, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, etc). But obesity is another main cause of inflammation. And one might note that, when the body is overloaded and not functioning optimally, excess toxins are stored in fat cells — which makes losing weight even more difficult as toxins are released back into the body, and if not flushed out causing one to feel sick and tired.

It’s not simply bad lifestyle choices. We are living in unnatural and often outright toxic conditions. Many of the symptoms that we categorize as diseases are the bodies attempt to make the best of a bad situation. All of this adds up to a dysfunctional level across society. Our healthcare system is already too expensive for most people to afford. And the largest part of public funding for healthcare is going to diabetes alone. But the saddest part is the severe decrease in quality of life, as the rate of mood and personality disorders skyrockets. It’s not just diet. For whatever reason (toxins? stress?), with greater urbanization has come greater levels of schizophrenia and psychosis. And autism, a rare condition in the past, has become highly prevalent (by the way, one of the proven effective treatments for autism is a paleo/keto diet; also effective for autoimmune conditions among much else).

It’s getting worse and worse, generation after generation. Imagine what this means in terms of epigenetics and transgenerational trauma, as nutritional deficits and microbiotic decimation accumulates, exacerbated by a society driven mad through inequality and instability, stress and anxiety. If not for nutrients added to our nutrient poor food and supplements added to our unhealthy diet, we’d already be dying out as a society and our civilization would’ve collapsed along with it (maybe similar to how some conjecture the Roman Empire weakened as lead toxicity increased in the population). Under these conditions, that children are our future may not be an affirmation of hope. Nor may these children be filled with gratitude once they’ve reached adulthood and come to realize what we did to them and the world we left them. On the other hand, we aren’t forced to embrace fatalism and cynicism. We already know what to do to turn around all of these problems. And we don’t lack the money or other resources to do what needs to be done. All that we are waiting for is public demand and political will, although that might first require our society reaching a point of existential crisis… we are getting close.

The stumbling block is that there is no profit in the ‘healthcare’ industry for advocating, promoting, incentivizing, and ensuring healthy diet and healthy conditions for a healthy population. Quite the opposite. If disease profiteering was made illegal, there would be trillions of dollars of lost profit every year. Disease is the reality of capitalist realism, a diseased economic system and social order. This collective state of sickliness has become the norm and vested interests will go to great lengths to defend the status quo. But for most who benefit from the dysfunctional and destructive system, they never have to give it much thought. When my mother brought my nephew to the doctor, she pointed out how he is constantly sick and constantly eating a poor diet. The doctor’s response was that this was ‘normal’ for kids (these days), which might be true but the doctor should be shocked and shamed by his own admission. As apathy takes hold and we lose a sense of hope, low standards fall ever lower.

We can’t rely upon the established authority figures in seeking better health for ourselves, our families, and our communities. We know what we need to do. It might not be easy to make such massive changes when everything in society is going against you. And no doubt it is more expensive to eat healthy when the unhealthiest foods (e.g., high fructose corn syrup) are being subsidized by the government. It’s no accident that buying off the dollar menu at a fast food is cheaper than cooking a healthy meal at home. Still, if you are willing to go to the effort (and it is worth the effort), a far healthier diet is possible for many within a limited budget. That is assuming you don’t live in a food desert. But even in that case, there is a movement to create community gardens in poor neighborhoods, people providing for themselves what neither the government nor economy will provide.

Revolutions always begin from the bottom up. Or failing that, the foundations of our society will crumble, as the health of our citizenry declines. It’s a decision we must make, individually and collectively. A choice between two divergent paths leading to separate possible futures. As we have so far chosen suicidal self-destruction, we remain free to choose the other option. As Thomas Paine said, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”

* * *

Primal Nutrition
by Ron Schmid, N.D.
pp. 99-100

Parallels Between Pottenger’s and Price’s Work

While the experiments of McCarrison and Pottenger show the value of raw foods in keeping animals remarkably healthy, one might wonder about the relevance to human needs. Cats are carnivores, humans omnivores, and while the animals’ natural diet is raw, humans have cooked some foods for hundreds of thousands of years. But humans, cats, and guinea pigs are all mammals. And while the human diet is omnivorous, foods of animal origin (some customarily eaten raw) have always formed a substantial and essential part of it.

Problems in cats eating cooked foods provided parallels with the human populations Weston Price studied; the cats developed the same diseases as humans eating refined foods. The deficient generation of cats developed the same dental malformations that children of people eating modernized foods developed, including narrowing of dental arches with attendant crowding of teeth, underbites and overbites, and protruding and crooked teeth. The shape of the cat’s skull and even the entire skeleton became abnormal in severe cases, with concomitant marked behavioral changes.

Price observed these same physical and behavioral changes in both native and modern cultures eating refined foods. These changes accompanied the adoption by a culture of refined foods. In native cultures eating entirely according to traditional wisdom resulted in strength of character and relative freedom from the moral problems of modern cultures. In modern cultures, studies of populations of prisons, reformatories, and homes for the mentally delayed revealed that a large majority of individuals residing there (often approaching 100 percent) had marked abnormalities of the dental arch, often with accompanying changes in the shape of the skull.

This was not coincidence; thinking is a biological process, and abnormal changes in the shape of the skull from one generation to the next can contribute to changes in brain functions and thus in behavior. The behavioral changes in deficient cats were due to changes in nutrition. This was the only variable in Pottenger’s carefully controlled experiments. As with physical degenerative changes, parallels with human populations cannot help but suggest themselves, although the specific nature of the relationship is beyond the scope of this discussion.

Human beings do not have the same nutritional requirements as cats, but whatever else each needs, there is strong empirical evidence that both need a significant amount of certain high-quality raw foods to reproduce and function efficiently.

pp. 390-393

Certain groups of these cats were fed quality, fresh, undenatured food and others were fed varying degrees of denatured and processed food, then the effects were observed over several generations. The results from the inferior diets were not so startling for the first-generation animals but markedly and progressively so in subsequent generations. From the second generation on, the cats that were fed processed and denatured diets showed increasing levels of structural deformities, birth defects, stress-driven behaviors, vulnerability to illness, allergies, reduced learning ability, and, finally, major reproductive problems. When Pottenger attempted to reverse the effects in the genetically weakened and vulnerable later-generation animals with greatly improved diet, he found it took fully four generations for the cats to return to normal.

The reflections that Pottenger’s work casts on the health issues and dietary habits of modern-day society are glaring and inescapable. […]

Pottenger’s work has shown us that progressive generations with poor dietary habits result in increasingly more vulnerable progeny and that each subsequent generation with unhealthy dietary habits results in impaired resistance to disease, increasingly poor health and vitality, impaired mental and cognitive health, and impaired capacity to reproduce. It is all part of what we are seeing in our epidemic levels of poor health and the overwhelming rates of autism, violence, attentional disorders, childhood (and adult) behavioral problems, mental illness, fertility issues, and birth defects.

Deep Nutrition, Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food
by Catherine Shanahan, M.D.
pp. 117-123

The Omega Generation

When I was living and working in Hawaii, four generations sometimes came in to my clinic for an office visit all at once, giving me a front-row view of the impact of modern food. Quite often, this is what I saw: great-grandma, born on her family’s farm and well into her eighties, still had clear vision and her own set of teeth. Her weathered skin sat atop features that looked as though they were chiseled from granite. More often than not, she was the healthiest of the bunch and had a thin medical chart to prove it. The youngest child, on the other hand, often presented symptoms of the whole set of modern diseases: attention deficit, asthma, skin disorders, and recurrent ear infections. Like many of today’s generation, one or more of his organs wasn’t put together quite right. Maybe there was a hole in his heart, or maybe he needed surgery to reposition the muscles around an eye. While the exact effects may be hard to predict, what is predictable, given the dwindling dietary nutrients and proliferation of toxic materials, is some kind of physiologic decline.

Within a given family, the earlier the abandonment of traditional foods for a diet of convenience, the more easily perceptible the decline. I’m thinking of one little boy in particular, the great-grandchild of one of Hawaii’s many wealthy missionary families who developed an ear infection during his visit to Kauai from another island. This little boy bore none of his great-grandmother’s striking facial geometry. His jaw was narrow, his nose blunted and thin, his eyes set too close, and his cheekbones were withdrawn behind plateaus of body fat. The lack of supporting bone under his eyes made his skin sag into bags, giving him a weary look. His ears were twisted, tilted, and protruded, and his ear canals were abnormally curved, predisposing him to recurring external ear infections.

Narrow face, thin bones, flattened features—sound familiar? This is a dynamic symmetry shift. The nature and degree was something I’d expect to see if he were child number three or four of siblings born in quick succession. But the young man sitting on my exam table was only the couple’s second child, and though mom had given herself a full four years between the two, it hadn’t protected his health. He was the fourth-generation product of a century of nutritional neglect and the consequential epigenetic damage. The last century has derailed our entire culture from the traditions that sustained us, so he is far from alone in enduring visible epigenetic damage. And the consequences impact more than a child’s skeletal system; his entire genome is at risk. I believe this is why, according to a landmark 2003 Center for Disease Control (CDC) report, this child, like all others born in 2000, had a one-in-three chance of developing diabetes, a condition that reduces life expectancy by between ten and twenty years. 179 What is going unreported is the fact that it isn’t just diabetes on the warpath. Every year, growing battalions of familiar diseases are cutting a wider and wider swath of destruction through the normal experiences of childhood. 180

Whereas in previous centuries part of a parent’s responsibility was to work hard to prevent their children from getting sick, today so many of us are sick ourselves that we’ve grown to accept disease as one of life’s inevitables—even for our children. Today’s kids aren’t healthy. But rather than make such a sweeping and terrifying declaration, we avert our eyes from the growing mound of evidence, fill the next set of prescriptions, and expand our definition of normal childhood health to encompass all manner of medical intervention. This latest generation of children has accumulated the epigenetic damage of at least the three previous generations due to lack of adequate nutrition along with the overconsumption of sugar and new artificial fats found in vegetable oils. The family genome has been getting battered relentlessly for almost a century—even during key, delicate periods of replication. The physiologic result of these accumulated genetic insults? Distorted cartilage, bone, brain, and other organ growth. Many physicians have noted an apparent increase in young couples complaining of problems with fertility which, given the implications of epigenetic science, should come as no surprise. Children born today, I’m afraid, may be so genomically compromised that, for many, reproduction will not be possible even with the benefit of high-tech medical prodding. This is why I call these children the Omega generation, referring to the last letter in the Greek alphabet.

Born by cesarean section (often necessitated by maternal pelvic bone abnormalities), briefly breast-fed (if at all), weaned on foods with extended shelf lives—the human equivalent of pet foods—these Omega generation children see the doctor often and, whether first-born or not, will likely suffer from both biradial and dynamic symmetry shifts. In the same way we talk about bracing for the aging baby boomers’ medical needs, we had better reinforce the levees of our medical system for the next rising tide: medicine-dependent youth. These children will age faster, suffer emotional problems, and develop never-before-seen diseases. In my experience as a doctor, parents have an intuitive sense that their children are already dealing with more health problems than they ever did, and they worry about their future, for good reason. But no parent is helpless. If you have children, or are planning to, I can think of at least one child who can do something to avoid all this illness and start getting healthy—yours.

Restoring Your Family’s Genetic Wealth

If having an Omega generation baby sounds terrifying, you can do something about it. You can get off the sugar and vegetable oils that would block your child’s genetic potential. That means cutting out processed food, fast food, junk food, and soda. And you should give yourself at least three, preferably four, years between pregnancies and make every effort to fortify your body with vitamin-rich foods (or if you can’t, at least use prenatal vitamins) before conception. Those who want to do everything possible to have a healthy baby will find additional instruction throughout this book. But this discussion opens up a new question: If I do everything right, how beautiful and healthy can I expect my child to be?

My first answer to that question is that, of course, all children are beautiful. But if you’re asking if your child will have extraordinary health, excel scholastically and in sports, and be so physically striking as to elicit the envy of peers, then the answer is, It depends. It depends on how much genetic wealth you gave him. Which, in turn, depends on what you inherited from your parents.

Genetics is all about information. Your genetic wealth is a function of how much of the information in your genes has been damaged or remains intact, and how well the supportive epigenetic machinery is able to express the surviving data contained in your genetic code. To gauge the present condition of your genetic data, you can begin by asking your parents and grandparents what they ate when they were little. Find out if you were breastfed. Were they? Learn whatever you can about who was born when (including birth spacing). Dig up as many family pictures as you can find to look for the telltale signs of Second Sibling Syndrome. The more you know about your family history, and the more objectively you measure your health and appearance along with that of your partner, the more clues you will have to assess your genetic, and epigenetic, health.

Let’s give it a try. Let’s attempt to gauge a person’s genetic momentum using Claudia Schiffer as our case subject. Though both her parents were tall and reasonably attractive, you wouldn’t guess they could produce the superstar beauty they did. Their genetic equation was complicated by the fact that her father and mother were born during the Depression and raised under the conditions of post-war food shortages. Claudia’s secret weapon of genetic wealth may be that her great-great-grandmother grew up in the most wholesome and remote of farming communities in Austria, a town near Elbigenalp, which changed very little in the thousands of years before Claudia’s grandmother’s birth. 193

This close relation to someone living in a successful, stable, indigenous society is truly a rare gift. Adding to this, Claudia’s father’s family was affluent, meaning that (during their formative years) he and his parents presumably had access to the best foods of the early twentieth century. Put the two together, and keep the good food coming, and— voilà —a genome operating under moderate duress for a spell is effectively rehabilitated.

Let’s look at a broader example of genetic rehabilitation, this time dealing with height. Height is one of the most desirable proportions for a man. Aside from the obvious social and mating advantages, the professional advantages gained with every additional inch of height are well documented. Studies show that tall men take home higher salaries, obtain leadership positions more often, and have more sex. 194

Hawaiian archeological evidence shows that for hundreds of years a man’s stature helped to secure him a better official position in the class hierarchy. Our language—”big shoes to fill,” “big man on campus,” “someone you can look up to”—reflects society’s universal preference for the tall. The positive perception of the taller among us often extends to women, as well. I am not suggesting that taller people are better, only that height affords certain physical and social advantages. With that in mind, can relatively diminutive parents who want those advantages for their children have a baby who might someday walk tall and rise above the fray to stand head and shoulders above the rest?

Absolutely! This potential is encoded in our genetic memory. We’ve all heard that we used to be a lot shorter, how few of us could fit into one of those little suits of armor worn by medieval knights. But around the world, accumulating evidence suggests that thousands of years prior, our Paleolithic predecessors were at least as tall, if not taller, than most of us are today. 195 Even in the early Middle Ages, 1,000 years ago, European men were nearly as tall as they are now. What caused the temporary skeletal shrinkage? As the population grew, crowding reduced access to nutrients until stature reached an all-time low in the early 1700s. 196 Improvements in agricultural technology, most notably the series of inventions attributed to lawyer-turned-farmer Jethro Tull, revolutionized the process of tilling soil, vastly increasing productivity. 197 By the late 1700s, having recovered some of its former nutritional inputs, the European genome rebounded—and with it the average European’s height. But it would probably have dipped again, so that a tall man today might measure just over five feet, were it not for the early twentieth-century invention of refrigeration. The ability to freeze food meant that fishermen could travel as far as they needed and fill their hulls to brimming. Refrigeration also meant that even during winter, wealthy countries could reach down to the tropics for summer fruits and vegetables, making it profitable for millions of acres of rain forests around the globe to be converted over to crop production. For the past 100 years, industrialized nations have had consistent access to enough nutrition to achieve our Paleolithically pre-programmed height. Of course, height doesn’t equal health. But generally speaking, when a genome has access to a surplus of complex nutrition, it is far better positioned—and may be said to have a built-in preference—for the production of offspring with more robust, larger frames.

179. Lifetime risk for diabetes mellitus in the United States, Venkat Narayan, KM, JAMA, 2003, 290:1884-1890.
180. America’s children in brief: key national indicators of well-being, 2008, Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.
[…]
193. Anna Stainer-Knittel: portrait of a femme vitale, Kain E, Women’s Art Journal, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 13-71.
194. Mirror, Mirror … The Importance of Looks in Everyday Life, Hatfield E, SUNY Press, 1986.
195. Stature of early Europeans, Hormones, Hermanussen M, Athens, July-September 2003, 2(3):175-8.
196. New light on the “dark ages”: the remarkably tall stature of Northern European men during the Medieval era, Steckel RH, Social Science History, 2004, 28(2), pp. 211–229.
197. The Cambridge World History of Food, Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Parasites Among the Poor and the Plutocrats

Hookworm rates in parts of the United States have reached the levels seen in developing countries.

This was a major problem in the past, specifically in the rural South. It was thought to have been largely eliminated, although that might not have been true. The most harmed populations just so happen to be the very populations most ignored — these are mostly poor rural populations with little healthcare and hence limited availability of public health data. The problem was maybe more hidden than solved. Until a study was recently done, it apparently wasn’t an issue of concern beyond the local level and so there was no motivation to research it.

As hookworm is a parasite, with it comes the problems of parasite load. Parasitism and parasite load effect not just general health but also energy levels, neurocognitive development, intelligence, and personality traits; for example, toxoplsasmosis is correlated to higher rates of neuroticism and parasite load is correlated to lower rates of openness. Populations with heavy parasite load will behave in ways that are stereotyped as being poor, such as acting lethargic and unmotivated.

Research indicates that poverty rates are an indicator of diverse other factors, many being environmental. People dealing with such things as stress, malnutrition, and parasites literally have less energy and cognitive ability available to them. Under these oppressively draining conditions, the body and mind simply go into survival mode and short-term preparedness. This is seen on the physiological level with stressful conditions causing early sexual maturity and increase in fat reserves.

This relates to the worsening poverty in many parts of the country, exacerbated by growing inequality across the country. But in many cases these are problems that aren’t necessarily worsening, as they have simply been ignored up to this point. Put this also into the context of problems that are clearly worsening, specifically among lower class whites: unemployment, homelessness, stress-related diseases, mental health conditions, alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicides. It’s not just poor minorities that have been shoved out of the way in the march of progress. Even the middle class is feeling the pressure, many of them falling down the economic ladder.

This is why most Americans at present neither trust big government nor big business. And this is why economic populism has taken hold. Since the DNC silenced Sanders in order to maintain the status quo, we got Trump as president instead. If we ignore these basic problems any longer, we are looking toward the possibility of an authoritarian takeover of our government and that would mean something far worse than Trump. That is what happens when a large part of the citizenry loses faith in the system and, unless a democratic revolution happens, are willing to look to a strongman who promises to do what needs to be done.

Simply put, we are long past the point of tolerating this inequality. This inequality is not just of income and wealth but also of political representation and public voice, of life opportunities and basic health. We shouldn’t tolerate this because the oppressed will only tolerate it for so long. Once we get beyond the point of collective failure, there is no turning back. The upper classes might prefer to continue ignoring it, but that isn’t a choice that is available. If push comes to shove, the upper classes might not like the choice that the oppressed will eventually demand by force. That is precisely why FDR created the New Deal. It was either that or something far worse: fascist coup, communist revolution, or societal collapse.

It would be nice if we Americans proactively solved our problems for once, instead of waiting for them to become an emergency and then haphazardly reacting. We probably won’t be so lucky to get another Roosevelt-like leader with a sense of noblesse oblige, belief in the duty to defend and uphold the public good. With that in mind, a useful beginning toward preventing catastrophe would be taking care of the basic the public health issues of rampant parasitism, lead toxicity, etc. That is the very least we can do, assuming we hope to avoid the worst. If we need an existential crisis to motivate ourselves and gain the political will to take action, we appear to be at that point or close to it.

Yet before we can deal with the parasites in poor areas, we might have to purge the body politic of the more dangerous parasites breeding within the plutocracy. That might require strong medicine.

* * *

Hookworm, a disease of extreme poverty, is thriving in the US south. Why?
by Ed Pilkington, The Guardian

These are the findings of a new study into endemic tropical diseases, not in places usually associated with them in the developing world of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, but in a corner of the richest nation on earth: Alabama.

Scientists in Houston, Texas, have lifted the lid on one of America’s darkest and deepest secrets: that hidden beneath fabulous wealth, the US tolerates poverty-related illness at levels comparable to the world’s poorest countries. More than one in three people sampled in a poor area of Alabama tested positive for traces of hookworm, a gastrointestinal parasite that was thought to have been eradicated from the US decades ago.

The long-awaited findings, revealed by the Guardian for the first time, are a wake-up call for the world’s only superpower as it grapples with growing inequality. Donald Trump has promised to “Make America Great Again” and tackle the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, but he has said very little about enduring chronic poverty, particularly in the southern states. […]

The parasite, better known as hookworm, enters the body through the skin, usually through the soles of bare feet, and travels around the body until it attaches itself to the small intestine where it proceeds to suck the blood of its host. Over months or years it causes iron deficiency and anemia, weight loss, tiredness and impaired mental function, especially in children, helping to trap them into the poverty in which the disease flourishes.

Hookworm was rampant in the deep south of the US in the earlier 20th century, sapping the energy and educational achievements of both white and black kids and helping to create the stereotype of the lazy and lethargic southern redneck. As public health improved, most experts assumed it had disappeared altogether by the 1980s.

But the new study reveals that hookworm not only survives in communities of Americans lacking even basic sanitation, but does so on a breathtaking scale. None of the people included in the research had travelled outside the US, yet parasite exposure was found to be prevalent, as was shockingly inadequate waste treatment.

The peer-reviewed research paper, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, focuses on Lowndes County, Alabama – the home state of the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, and a landmark region in the history of the nation’s civil rights movement. “Bloody Lowndes”, the area was called in reference to the violent reaction of white residents towards attempts to undo racial segregation in the 1950s.

It was through this county that Martin Luther King led marchers from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 in search of voting rights for black citizens, More than half a century later, King’s dream of what he called the “dignity of equality” remains elusive for many of the 11,000 residents of Lowndes County, 74% of whom are African American.

The average income is just $18,046 (£13,850) a year, and almost a third of the population live below the official US poverty line. The most elementary waste disposal infrastructure is often non-existent.

Some 73% of residents included in the Baylor survey reported that they had been exposed to raw sewage washing back into their homes as a result of faulty septic tanks or waste pipes becoming overwhelmed in torrential rains.

The Baylor study was inspired by Catherine Flowers, ACRE’s founder, who encouraged the Houston scientists to carry out the review after she became concerned about the health consequences of having so many open sewers in her home county. “Hookworm is a 19th-century disease that should by now have been addressed, yet we are still struggling with it in the United States in the 21st century,” she said.

“Our billionaire philanthropists like Bill Gates fund water treatment around the world, but they don’t fund it here in the US because no one acknowledges that this level of poverty exists in the richest nation in the world.” […]

He added that people were afraid to report the problems, given the spate of criminal prosecutions that were launched by Alabama state between 2002 and 2008 against residents who were open-piping sewage from their homes, unable to afford proper treatment systems. One grandmother was jailed over a weekend for failing to buy a septic tank that cost more than her entire annual income. […]

The challenge to places like Lowndes County is not to restore existing public infrastructure, as Trump has promised, because there is no public infrastructure here to begin with. Flowers estimates that 80% of the county is uncovered by any municipal sewerage system, and in its absence people are expected – and in some cases legally forced – to provide their own.

Even where individuals can afford up to $15,000 to install a septic tank – and very few can – the terrain is against them. Lowndes County is located within the “Black Belt”, the southern sweep of loamy soil that is well suited to growing cotton and as a result spawned a multitude of plantations, each worked by a large enslaved population.

The same thing that made the land so good for cotton – its water-retaining properties – also makes it a hazard to the thousands of African Americans who still live on it today. When the rains come, the soil becomes saturated, overwhelming inadequate waste systems and providing a perfect breeding ground for hookworm. […]

“We now need to find how widespread hookworm is across the US,” said Dr Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, who led the research team along with Rojelio Mejia. Hotez, who has estimated that as many as 12 million Americans could be suffering from neglected tropical diseases in poor parts of the south and midwest, told the Guardian the results were a wake-up call for the nation.

“This is the inconvenient truth that nobody in America wants to talk about,” he said. “These people live in the southern United States, and nobody seems to care; they are poor, and nobody seems to care; and more often than not they are people of color, and nobody seems to care.”

Public Health, Public Good

There is rarely genuine public debate about almost any important issue in American society. Listening to healthcare reform on the corporate media, I was reminded of this. It didn’t slip past my notice that the entire frame of discussion is seeking corporatist solutions to corporatist problems in a corporatist political and economic system. The fact of the matter is that there is no way to provide better and cheaper healthcare to more citizens, as other countries do, through the capitalist system. In particular, the last thing in the world we need is further aligning big business with big government.

Here is what is rarely brought up. Consider the simple fact that 40% of the deaths worldwide are caused by pollution. And that is one small part of externalized costs, externalized often by corporations that make immense profits from that externalization that goes hand in hand with internalizing benefits. Most of the people harmed by these externalized costs are the lower classes who are the least able to seek healthcare to treat health conditions caused by wealthy and powerful interests. First of all, we should stop these corporations from externalizing costs. But to the extent that isn’t always possible, we should tax these corporations to pay for those externalized costs, which is to say those who benefit the most from the system should pay the most to offset the costs of the system.

This is common sense. Only a sociopath could argue against it, but sadly we have a system that promotes the sociopathic mindset and gives a platform to the sociopathic rhetoric that justifies it. The plutocrats who are harming others for their own self-interest have the morally depraved sense of privilege to complain that taxes are theft. These are the same plutocrats who have spent their lives stealing from the commons, stealing from the public good. They internalize  and privatize the benefit from resources taken from public lands, from their dominant use of the public infrastructure, from highly profitable government contracts (often crony no bid contracts), from control of the government (through lobbying, revolving door, regulatory capture, legalized bribery, etc), from free trade agreements written in their favor to help them dominate global markets, from a military that serves to protect their interests (maintaining international relations, keeping open trade routes, ensuring access to natural resources on foreign public lands, etc), and on and on. All paid for with public wealth and resources. This gives the appearance of legitimacy to the illegitimate.

There is an important point that gets lost here. The plutocrats are half right about one thing. We shouldn’t rely on taxes of plutocrats to fund the public good. Rather, we simply shouldn’t allow plutocrats to steal from the public good in the first place, such that taxation becomes necessary. Once that theft has happened, the plutocrats will treat this theft as their right and privilege. As they see it, everything that is public is theirs to take, even the government itself. It’s all theirs and so if we don’t let them rape and pillage freely across the world, we are stealing from them just as the starving peasant was stealing from the lord when he gathered some food for his family from what once was feudal commons. They accuse others of theft out of bad conscience, knowing that their entire way of life is theft.

The reality is that the US is the wealthiest country in the world. In global capitalism, the public wealth and resources regularly given away and wasted for private interests is easily in the trillions of dollars on a yearly basis. It might be trillions in just considering the direct benefits corporations have on US land and waters. The precise amount has never been calculated because the corporatist don’t want to know or rather don’t want the rest of us to know, although I’m sure they have a good sense of the approximate amount of what is being sucked out of the system. Whatever the exact amount, it’s guaranteed that it could pay for healthcare for every US citizen, along with so much else.

There is the basic problem that healthcare can’t operate as a free market for many reasons, the most basic of which is that sick and injured people aren’t in the mindset to be able to make rational choices, even if we had a system that offered real choices. The problem goes so much deeper than that, though. It’s the entire system that has failed and so no solution can be found within the system. In fact, this system is designed to fail according to the standard of public good for the simple reason that the interests it is designed to serve are not we the people.

This is what is never stated in a straightforward manner. There is no lack of public wealth and resources. The question is where is it going, when it is redirected away from the public good and siphoned off into the private sector. This question is not allowed to be fairly and fully discussed in the corporate media and corporatist politics that the plutocracy controls. The final proof that we live in a banana republic is that we the public are effectively silenced in public debate about our own public good, such that the majority has yet to realize it is a majority. The public majority demanding public healthcare reform that benefits most Americans should be heeded by the political system claiming to represent we the people.

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”
~ President Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Every time they raise your tuition you are paying for the cost of empire. Every time they cut funds to the state of Wisconsin you have to make up the difference. Everywhere I go… and, when I pick up the local newspapers, it often seems like the same paper and every paper has the same story for a while, factoring when the fiscal year was ending, it would say: ‘State facing huge deficits’, ‘City council voting cuts in budget’…
“That is the cost of empire. What happens then is our economic democracy is under attack.
“Not everyone, as they say, pays the costs. Some people profit immensely.”
~ Michael Parenti, Ph.D.

* * *

An Invisible Debt Made Visible
True Costs are ‘Punitive
Losses Outweighing Gains
Costs Must Be Paid: Social Darwinism As Public Good
Socialized Medicine & Externalized Costs
On Welfare: Poverty, Unemployment, Health, Etc
Athens is starved so that Sparta can be fed.
On Infrastructure and Injustice
Investing in Violence and Death
Government Efficiency: Public’s Lack of Knowledge
Public Opinion on Tax Cuts for the Rich
Most Oppose Cutting Social Security (data)
Public Opinion On Government & Tea Party
Democracy and Propaganda
Public Intellectuals As Thought Leaders
The Establishement: NPR, Obama, Corporatism, Parties
Corporate Bias of ‘Mainstream’ Media
What Does Liberal Bias Mean?
The Golden Rule and Reality
Homelessness and Mental Illness
A Sense of Urgency
A System of Unhappiness
Capitalism as Social Control
It’s All Your Fault, You Fat Loser!
Social Disorder, Mental Disorder
Social Conditions of an Individual’s Condition
Rationalizing the Rat Race, Imagining the Rat Park
Frrrreeeeeddoommmm?????
Not Funny At All
Protecting Elections From Democracy
Of Dreamers and Sleepwalkers
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
By What Right?
But Then It Was Too Late
Then What?

Health Care Reform: What is the real issue?

Here is a discussion I had on Facebook in response to this article about Obama’s health care reform (or rather health care insurance reform). It ‘s not a bad article and makes a good point, but I’m ever the critic. Here was my first comment:

I’ve never been one to think in black/white terms. I didn’t assume the health care reform either had to be a total success or a total failure. It has both some good aspects and some less-than-good aspects. From my perspective, it simply isn’t what the majority of Americans wanted which was either public option or single payer.

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/health-reform-public-option-polls-other-info/

If not for lobbyists, we would already have public option or single payer. But Obama threw those off of the table. Why should we be satisfied with crumbs instead of demanding the whole pie? Yes, crumbs are nice when you are starving, but that should be the bare minimum of a starting point.

I understand looking for the positive. Anything is better than nothing. But let us not be overly grateful in begging for these crumbs. We shouldn’t have to beg for crumbs in the first place.

My friend Nicole responded with this:

“Agreed but there is a difference between being overly grateful and being downright hateful (not you personally but so many people on “Obamacare”)”

Continuing my criticism, I make a plea for balance:

I understand what you are saying. I just get tired of both sides that either want to attack or idolize Obama. There is no need to apologize to Obama just because there is some good in health care reform. One would hope there is some good in any health care reform. Anyway, apology wouldn’t be necessary if one didn’t react with emotional criticalness in the first place.
Let’s stand back and look at politics without becoming identified with one side or the other, without getting emotionally drawn in. Let’s have a discussion based on the known data.

After losing a posted comment, I added some further thoughts on a related issue that came to my mind:

That is odd. I posted a comment after your last comment, but it is no longer shown here. Where did it go. I don’t even remember all that I wrote. Part of what I said was that I understand that you are willing. I wasn’t criticizing you or people like you. I wasn’t criticizing your having posted this. I wasn’t even criticizing the act of pointing out the positve aspects of a particular policy promoted by Obama.

But that isn’t the reason I came back to this post. I was thinking about Obama last night. I was thinking about what is good or bad about him or else what is just neutral, the neutral part standing out to me.

In particular, I was comparing in my mind Obama and Bush. The reason I was doing this is because Obama has continued many of Bush’s policies, not all but many. Even Bush proposed some health care refom such as with his Medicare prescription drug program. Bush was a ‘compassionate conservative” which meant that he was as interested in social programs (health care, education, etc) as a Democrat like Obama. In the opposite direction, Obama is just as interested in promoting the power of the presidency as any neocon Republican, is just as interested in promoting the security state (with its undermining of civil liberties) as any war hawk Republican.

So, what makes Obama and Bush different? This is where it gets interesting.

In terms of personality and career, Obama and Bush couldn’t be more different. Obama was more of an outsider who worked his way up and Bush was born into wealth and power. Obama learned to play the game well becoming a professional politician and Bush was used to things being handed to him without having to work for it. Obama was intelligent and well-educated and Bush was just average.

It’s the professional politican aspect of Obama that stands out. Bush isn’t a professional politician. Bush is where he is because he has done what people have told him to do. He inherited political connections from his dad. Bush is a puppet. As a puppet, he is as good or bad as those pulling the strings. Obama isn’t a puppet. Instead, Obama acts according to pressure. Obama listens carefully to the public and to lobbyist groups and he guides his political career carefully.

What this means is this: Obama will only do good if pressure forces him to do good. So, the good that came about in health care reform came about to the exteent there was enough pressure to do so. He chose to push for health care reform because he was paying attention to polls and saw that it was in the air. Bush, however, isn’t pressured in the same way. Rather, Bush just does what his handlers/advisers tell him to do, and so its his handlers who respond to the pressures and filter them accordingly. A big difference is that Bush’s handlers/advisers happened to be evil geniuses who were heavily mired in the power structure of lobbyists and good ol’ boy politics. No amount of public pressure would likely have influenced Bush, but enough public pressure will influence Obama.

By the way, after posting that I went back to the article and noticed an added response by the author. Unsurprisingly, there were many haters of the view she expressed in her original article, mostly partisan attacks I presume. Here is her response to the “haters”:

“I wrote this piece to give the health insurance crisis in this country a common face.  My objectives in writing it were to hopefully get people to see themselves in me and my family, and I wanted people to know what Obama has done for people who have pre-existing conditions so they can get health insurance through PCIP.  My husband and I both knew that by doing this, we would invite hatred into our lives, and that indeed has happened.  To those of you who don’t want to see the commonalities between me and my family, let me pose it to you this way:  If your sister or mother lost her job and health insurance, and then turned up with breast cancer, what would you do?  Would you let her die?  Would you pick up the cancer tab yourself?, or would you tell her about PCIP?”

That is fair. She is making a good point. Such discussions aren’t just ideological battles or philosophical debates about abstract ideas. No, that isn’t the real issue, despite that being what politicians and pundits too often make it into. This is ultimately about real people. I might be dissatisfied with the results. Any rational person would have to admit that health care reform could have been better. It would be a cold-hearted person who would dismiss the people who have actually been helped.

Health Reform & Public Option (polls & other info)

I was doing websearches on health reform. My main focus was on public option and polls, but I was checking out all the various issues. I keep coming across rightwingers who claim that Americans don’t want health reform and don’t want public option. I realize critics have their arguments and the data can be confusing. Still, after all my websearching, it still seems clear that support for public option has remained steady. 

Rightwingers have only two responses when confronted with the fact that most people want health care reform, that most people support systems such as public option or single payer.

First, they attack the polls. They’ll claim that some polls show the opposite, but this excuse falls apart when it’s shown that the polls against are exceptions. Then they’ll say the polling is biased which simply dismisses that polling experts are well versed in potential bias and are careful to prevent it.

Second, they attack the American public. They’ll claim people are stupid, uninformed or easily manipulated. However, this misses the point that a majority of doctors also support health care reform and public option. So, they’ll claim that personally doctors benefit and so are biased which translates into we can’t trust doctors to actually care about their own patients.

This type of rightwinger will go around and around.

Below are some relevant data, videos and links (mostly about public option). What I found interesting is the fact that, along with most doctors, most church-going Catholics support public option and so are in agreement with most Americans in general. Even more interesting is the fact that the church-going Catholics even support a national plan that includes funding for abortion.

 
 
 
 

A batch of state polls by the non-partisan Research 2000 shows that in multiple states represented by key Dem Senators who will have to decide whether to support reconciliation, the public option polls far better than the Senate bill does, often by lopsided margins.

Here’s a rundown, sent over by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which commissioned the polls:

* In Nevada, only 34% support the Senate bill, while 56% support the public option.

* In Illinois, only 37% support the Senate bill, while 68% support the public option.

* In Washington State, only 38% support the Senate bill, while 65% support the public option.

* In Missouri, only 33% support the Senate bill, while 57% support the public option.

* In Virginia, only 36% support the Senate bill, while 61% support the public option.

* In Iowa, only 35% support the Senate bill, while 62% support the public option.

*In Minnesota, only 35% support the Senate bill, while 62% support the public option.

* In Colorado, only 32% support the Senate bill, while 58% support the public option.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Maddow on Women’s Healthcare

This analysis makes a lot of sense when compared to other data. In the poorest states (which of course includes the Southern states such as South Carolina), the rich vote Republican and the poor vote Democrat. Rich people in poor states don’t care about the poor. The politicians in these states do whatever they can to disenfranchise the poor and to fear-monger towards the electorate because otherwise they’d never get elected.

IRONY ALERT: Rush Limbaugh Touts Socialist Health Care

IRONY ALERT: Rush Limbaugh Touts Socialist Health Care (UPDATED)

Rush Limbaugh on the care he received in Hawaii after his heart attack scare (via the Denver Post):

Limbaugh couldn’t resist a few political comments in the short press conference at the hospital. He said he got the best health treatment in the world “right here in the United States of America.”

“I don’t think there’s one thing wrong with the United States health system,” Limbaugh said.

He thinks he’s being a smart ass; that he’ll show Obama by holding a news conference to tout the care our current health care system provided him.

Unfortunately for him, or fortunately for his health, Hawaii has pretty much had what amounts to universal health care since 1974.

His treatment, under the Hawaiian system, and one he’d call socialist on any given day, was the best possible care he could have gotten despite being very similar to that dreaded “universal health care” he rails on and on about.

From Paul Abrams:

Yes, Rush. That’s the point! American medicine is superb–for those who can get it. And, in Hawaii, no one gets special treatment, because everyone can get it.

[snip]

Hawaii has had nearly-universal employer-mandated health insurance since 1974. Although its Pacific Island location makes the costs of everything–from gasoline to milk to ice cream to housing–the highest in the nation, health care premiums in Hawaii, for comprehensive care with small co-pays and deductibles, are nearly the lowest and their costs per medicare beneficiary are the lowest in the nation.Why? There are a variety of reasons, most traceable to universality. With everyone covered by primary care, emergency room visits tend to be for real emergencies, not the non-emergent care mainland ERs dispense for people without coverage. That reduces the costs of ERs and the costs of non-emergent medicine since patients can be handled less expensively and more effectively by their primary docs. Hospitals have not overbuilt, acquiring expensive machines to compete with their neighbors for patients. Insurance companies have instituted screening and other measures to improve wellness among their covered populations.

We can all be pleased that Rush appears to have survived his encounter with socialist medical care. He seems to be very happy himself, commenting on the results of a socialist angiogram that showed no disease in the arteries that feed his heart muscle.

Now, of course, Rush does not live in Hawaii and so his costs are not covered by the Hawaiian insurance system, but having that “socialist” system for more than 3 decades has not reduced the quality of the care he received. Who would have thunk it!

read more…

But, Rush doesn’t really have to worry about costs — like 95% of the rest of us (h/t BarbinMD):

Conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh Wednesday inked an eight-year contract for around $400 million …

In his efforts to show up the President, all the fat, sweaty bouncy one did was show what an ignoramus he truly is.

 
 

Lie of the Year: ‘Death panels’

PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year: ‘Death panels’

Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest.

“Death panels.”

The claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion. In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn’t made in an interview or a television ad. Sarah Palin posted it on her Facebook page.

Her assertion — that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care — spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings. Opponents of health care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink. Still others scratched their heads and said, “Death panels? Really?”

The editors of PolitiFact.com, the fact-checking Web site of the St. Petersburg Times, have chosen it as our inaugural “Lie of the Year.”

PolitiFact readers overwhelmingly supported the decision. Nearly 5,000 voted in a national poll to name the biggest lie, and 61 percent chose “death panels” from a field of eight finalists. (See the complete results.)