Sunday, March 19, 2006

Drug pushers, the NSA and the DNC

Warning: the following is a rant. I've just got to get this off my chest. I'll post something nicer soon. You have been warned.

I guess I could title this posting "Three things that irk me".

First on the list is drug reps, which I just read about in this Atlantic article. It is an astonishing exposé; I think every doctor and every patient should read it. So should everyone in congress who voted to deregulate direct-to-consumer drug ads. When we lived in Japan, I was astonished at the corruption built into the medical system -- a doctor's fees were capped, but prescriptions (filled right there in his clinic, rather than at Long's or PayLess) were not. So did they over-prescribe? How could they not?

Could you blame them? A little, maybe. But the system has more than a little to do with the problem. And my complaint isn't really with a drug rep (nor is it with a doctor paid $300,000 to promote off-label uses of a drug); rather, it's with the logical (albeit inhuman) consequences of our market system -- of which the pharmaceutical industry is just one piece. Our market system is terrific at producing what powerful people want. But because our market system has made money the one and only measure of corporate success, well, we're reaping the fruit of that system. These people have to make money, and they have to make a lot of it, or their shareholders will fire them. And every dollar invested in a mutual fund is a vote in favor of that system.

When we lived in Japan, I had a friend tell me that the main difference between a policeman and a yakuza (gangster) was the uniform he wore. What is the difference between organized crime and an industrial complex ruled by money? I'm not sure exactly, but I believe it's a difference in degree rather than in kind.

We recently watched The Godfather on VHS (the younger teen was out of the house at the time), and it struck me that Marlon Brando's character was pragmatic. He wasn't above killing people, but he didn't want to deal drugs. Why not? It wasn't his personal morals, he said, but that his political support would evaporate if he went into the drug business. Unlike gambling and prostitution, which politicos tended to view as victimless crimes, drugs were considered a corrupting influence on society. So in spite of the huge profits to be made, he said, the Corleone family would never participate in a drug-related venture. It was just too dangerous, he said.

Don Vito Corleone would have been impressed with the achievements of the pharmacological-industrial complex in our day.

Domestic Spying

Another annoyance: the notion that the NSA could be spying on you or me without the protection even of the FISA court. I seem to remember reading that this court denied less than 0.1% of law enforcement requests, and required modifications in less than 3%. Thus were some 97% of NSA requests for domestic surveillance granted with no modification whatsoever.

But this administration deemed 97% as too low a number. This is bizarre.

And stupid. Why did 9/11 happen? Not enough information? Wrong. We had plenty of information, that we couldn't get through the layers of suspicion and non-cooperation between agencies. So we need more information that we also won't be able to get through the non-cooperation...? Fixing intra-agency cooperation (which the commission said isn't happening) is much more important than bypassing even the FISA court to get more information that nobody can use for national defense. (I'm afraid they'll instead use information the way J. Edgar Hoover used it :^<) Unless the democrats do something really stooopid (like nominate Hillary), I predict a democratic president come 2009.

Which brings me to the DNC

Listening to NPR on the way home, I heard an interview with Fran Lebowitz, who sounded just like our friend Nancy, only not as smart. But I found this comment of hers very clever:
The Right tells simple lies. The Left tells complicated lies. Simple lies work better.
When I heard this, I said, "Damn right" -- uh, I mean I said, "Amen! Preach it, sister!" I didn't agree with a lot of what she said, by the way, but she got this one right.

I mention this because of a survey I got the other day from the Democratic National Committee. It was a survey of "Democratic Leaders." I am a registered republican, so I think this must have been somebody's idea of a bad joke. But I played along. On most of the issues, I find myself in agreement with the democratic party: Rich people do not need tax cuts. Unfunded mandates to "improve education" are wrong-headed. It is short-sighted and evil to trash the environment in the name of the almighty dollar. But because the DNC has taken such a strident, extreme position on abortion, I simply cannot bring myself to register democrat or to contribute to the DNC.

I've heard that the democratic party isn't as extreme on this as the Right-wingers say it is, but this survey listed "reproductive freedom" among the Top Ten issues (which it asked me to rank). Then one of the questions asked how I felt about a woman's right to choose. I objected to the wording of that question and everywhere crossed out "choose" and replaced it by "kill her baby." If the question had been, "How do you feel about access to abortion?" that would have been a more neutral way to phrase it. And my answer might have surprised you. But the actual wording spoke volumes about the DNC's priorities and attitude. And about its contempt for those who do not toe the line. (By the way, why is Howard Dean the DNC chair? His own party threw him off the ticket! Why do these clowns think he's the one who will bring voters [back?] to the democratic party?)

And look at the results! How did George W. Bush get a second term? It wasn't because of his great skill as an orator. It wasn't because his policies in Iraq or Afghanistan were such successes. It was because the accursed DNC has driven the party off a cliff! People like me will never register democrat, never raise money for the DNC, never encourage our friends to vote democratic, so long as the DNC sticks to its pro-abortion (call me anti-choice, I'll call you pro-abortion) rhetoric.

I voted for Kerry in 2004. I'll vote democratic in 2008 if I can. Nominate Hillary and I won't be able to. I know it's not logical. I'm not logical. Neither are you. And from reading the DNC survey, I know Howard Dean isn't, either.

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