Obesity: Friendship Fills a Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul

Please view How Obesity Spreads Through Social Networks

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

I awoke to the question; Are Your Friends Making You Fat?  Apparently, according to a longitudinal study involving 12,000 people, if your best friend is obese you are more likely to gain weight.  Researchers say obesity is growing as an epidemic would.  The results did not surprise me; the reaction to such a speculation did.  People postured; “I make my own choices.”  “My friends and family do not influence my decision to take good care of myself.”  The research is flawed.  The findings are faulty.  It is not possible.  Friends cannot make friends fat.

Yet, according to this well-respected study, Obesity Spreads In Social Circles As Trends Do.  All around us we see overweight people.  There are more hefty individuals than there were in years past.  The chubby, chunky, and corpulent fill the streets.  These persons find it difficult to sit comfortably in a chair.  On airlines, the flabby stuff themselves into small seats.  These individuals are stigmatized and suffer physically.  There are many health risks when one’s weight is high.

As the researchers’ note, obesity is virtually epidemic.  Scientists wanted to know why this is and what might be done.  They explored.

The study, involving more than 12,000 people tracked over 32 years, found that social networks play a surprisingly powerful role in determining an individual’s chances of gaining weight, transmitting an increased risk of becoming obese from wives to husbands, from brothers to brothers and from friends to friends.

The researchers found that when one spouse became obese, the other was 37 percent more likely to do so in the next two to four years, compared with other couples.  If a man became obese, his brother’s risk rose by 40 percent.

The risk climbed even more sharply among friends — between 57 and 171 percent, depending on whether they considered each other mutual friends.  Moreover, friends affected friends’ risk even when they lived far apart, and the influence cascaded through three degrees of separation before petering out, the researchers found.

Several state, the theory is thoughtless.  It is obvious, ‘Birds of a feather flock together.’  Even the esteemed doubt the veracity of the study.

Some researchers, however, questioned whether the study had fully accounted for other factors.

“People pick friends because they are similar in the way they eat or the way they move,” said Barry M. Popkin, who studies obesity at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  “It’s a nice piece of work but still stops short of being able to deal with causality.”

I understand this statement.  Look around you.  It seems the rotund rally round the obese.  The plump find pleasure in spending time with others that will understand their plight.  Often we see a heavy miss or missus with a portly mister. 

Some say the truer cause of obesity is in the genes.  Many a chubby child has a corpulent parent, or two.  However, recent trends, a population growing large by leaps and bounds may disprove that theory

Any physician, dietician, or athlete might tell you there are other matters to consider.  We must take cause and effect into account.  Each of these experts has evidence.  They can demonstrate numbers make a difference.  Calories count.  Exercise is important.  If you want to lose weight, get off the couch.

Certainly, friends cannot make us eat what we choose not to.  Most individuals think themselves freethinking, independent, separate from all others.  Numerous persons interviewed on the topic declared, ‘Friends and family cannot and do not influence my food intake, or much else.’

Considering one ‘close’ association, I could make that argument.  I was never a victim to peer pressure.  I was, am, can be very independent.  I revel in my autonomy.  Acknowledging that I do care about every aspect of life, what others think, say, or do has an emotional effect on me.  However, I do not recall a time that I let the desires of another affect my decisions.  I did not, and do not, follow the crowd.  Dawn’s eating did not direct mine.

Dawn and I have been friends since Middle School.  We attended the same High School.  We hung out together.  Up until little more than a year ago, we lived only fifteen miles apart.  At times, our weight was similar, on other occasions it was not.

I recall during our freshman and sophomore years in secondary school, Dawn and I spent hours doing whatever it was we did.  We lunched; did dinner, and yes, of course, there was snack-time.

I often felt as though my friend was encouraging me to eat.  ‘Here, have this.’  ”Try that.’  It is delicious.  I recall contemplating, did Dawn want me to be fat?  If I gained weight, would she think it fine for her to add a few pounds?  It seemed to me, she wanted to be the thin one.  If I lost weight, I sensed that she thought she too would have to reduce the tonnage.  I cannot be certain; nonetheless, I experienced a subterranean competition. 

Since childhood, I shied away from competition.  Rivalries feel antagonistic to me then and now.  Perhaps that is why I never fully related to Dawn.  There was an air, an aura that I found disturbing.  When we were young, some thought we looked alike.  Each of us said aloud, we do not see it.  Possibly, she too knew we were not close.  We have known each other for decades, and no matter the miles between us, remain [barely] in touch.  However, our weight gains and losses do not support the findings.  Therefore, one might think that I would consider this study lacking; yet, I do not. 

Appearances are deceiving.  Often companionship is an illusion.  People may seem close and still independent; However, I experience if an individual authentically admires their chum, they are influenced by that person, In my estimation, truth be told, Dawn and I are not good friends.

For me, observations corroborate the conclusion of this study.  I think the results of this report are valid.  Ample investigation reveals that the influence of friends reaches far beyond the superficial.  Individuals do not merely imitate those they spend time with.  Nor do people choose to engage with others that do as they do.

I believe this comprehensive report considers the cause and effect of obesity beyond calories and exercise.  We all wonder why do the pounds not peel away when we diet and deliberately do our calisthenics.  Many muse; why do I often slip back into old habits, or how might I adopt new, more productive, patterns of behavior. 

Some seek social environments that promote weight loss.  For a few, this works.  However, consciously or not, for most, a little help from their friends does more than assistance from strangers might.  Those we are fond of ignite a fire that fills the heart, mind, body, and soul.  Miles do not lessen the effect of a strong association.

This research compares and contrasts the power of our connections.  For centuries Social Scientist have acknowledged, people learn from those they most admire.  Friends speak a language that cannot be replicated.  Reciprocal reverence helps us to realize what we would never dare imagine on our own.

As emotional resources, friendships furnish children with the security to strike out into new territory, meet new people, and tackle new problems.  Friends set the emotional stage for exploring one’s surroundings, not unlike the manner in which caretakers serve as secure bases for the young child.

I recall the influence of a true friend, two, three, four, or more had on me.  My experiences replicate and validate the portion of the study that addresses the benefits of letting another human into your life.  As the experts explain, much of this examination relates to weight gain, for currently, worldwide, and particularly in the United States, people are expanding their girth.  However, not everyone engages in unhealthy practices.  Numerous individuals lose weight with thanks to their friends.  Others not feeling the need to transform their appearance chose healthier habits, just as those closest to them do. 

The same effect seemed to occur for weight loss, the investigators say.  But since most people were gaining, not losing, over the 32 years, the result was, on average, that people grew fatter.

Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School and a principal investigator in the new study, said one explanation was that friends affected each others’ perception of fatness.  When a close friend becomes obese, obesity may not look so bad.
“You change your idea of what is an acceptable body type by looking at the people around you,” Dr. Christakis said.

Those we admire often look good to us; we see the beauty within.  As we share, we have an opportunity to experience the wisdom that makes them as special as they are to us.  In my own life, those physically near and far have the most amazing, beneficial effect on my decisions and me.  Proximity, in an emotional sense enhances and enlightens my life.  My bodily health is improved as is my psyche, all with a little help from my friends.

I met the person I often title my closest and deepest friend when we worked together.  Danae does not enjoy disruptions.  For her, chatting while at the office is a distraction.  She is focused.  I understand this.  I too prefer being productive.  Stopping to converse, for me, takes me away from the task I wish to complete.

While we worked, Danae and I walked and talked.  We each apologized in advance for the possible lack of eye contact.  We were only willing to split our attention slightly; however, not completely.  Over time, we grew very close; however, I left that job.  I lived almost thirty miles away and took a position close to home.  Danae does not like to drive; nor do I.  For years, Danae and I rarely, if ever saw each other.  Nonetheless, we spoke on the telephone for hours at a time, almost daily.  We discussed everything, and then some.

I recall sharing that my skin was dry.  Every ointment and lotion I tried did little to relieve the itch.  I was scratching myself until I broke the skin.  I stopped using conventional soap.  I switched to Cetaphil® recommended by dermatologist for babies.  While this helped greatly, I never forgot the words Danae uttered as I searched for a solution.  She said, “It is not what you put on your body; it is what you put in it.”  Danae went on to explain much about diet, not in terms of losing weight, but in respect to good health.

I never forgot this statement.  Slowly I began to consider what I put into my mouth.  I studied the effects each food had on my health.  The transition was measured; however, deliberate.

My friend Heather was also a huge influence on my eating.  Heather is a nurse.  Health is her main concern.  Studying the body, chemistry, and physiology are her hobbies as well as her profession.  Heather observed my poor eating habits and said so.  Most of the calories I consumed were in the form of fluids.  Heather spoke of the nutritional value of fruits and how juices cannot compare.  I read much and realized she was right.  I already understood the damage soda does.  I lived it.

You may recall, dear reader, for decades I struggled with bulimia. The idea of putting solid food into my stomach and keeping it down was both a psychological problem and a physical peril.  My body was no longer accustomed to digesting fodder.

Nevertheless, my conversations with Heather helped.  Again, I progressed at a snails pace.  Still, I did not forget all that Heather taught me.  Ultimately, with much effort I was able to eat normally.  To this day, I chomp on whole foods.  I swallow my meals.  The only fluid I consume, excluding a great soup, is water.

Friends or those we are fond of can truly influence our food choices.  I know of mother and son that are not biologically connected.  Circumstances help to create a unique and friendly bond.  They spend much time together.  They snack, eat supper, and raid the refrigerator together.  Each is obese, and each has health problems.  Nonetheless, emotionally they support the other.

Often, one human does provide reason, a rational for the actions of another.  Interestingly enough, though the adage is “Monkey See; monkey do,” indeed, it man is the species that emulates the behavior of others.  People wish to please their compatriots.  In an experiment conducted by Yale University, graduate student, Derek Lyons scientists discovered, as Victoria Horner and Andrew Whiten, two psychologists at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland did.  Three to four year old children imitate the behavior of their ‘teachers’ even if better options are obvious.  Chimpanzees will only do as taught if they are unable to see other, superior opportunities.

Mr. Lyons sees his results as evidence that humans are hard-wired to learn by imitation, even when that is clearly not the best way to learn.

While researchers in the chimpanzee studies conclude imitation may be glorious, emulating another may also at times be hurtful.  Other experiments tell us that at any age we engage in behaviors in order to accommodate or please others.  Scientists in this novel study realize, we are likely to do as those we love do, even if they live far from us, or if they have habits that hurt their health.

Christakis and James H. Fowler of the University of California at San Diego took advantage of detailed records collected between 1971 and 2003 on 12,067 adults who participated in the well-known Framingham Heart Study. The researchers were able to construct intricate maps of the social connections among the participants, identifying spouses, siblings, neighbors, and both casual and close friends.

Sophisticated statistical analyses revealed distinct groupings of thin and heavy individuals, and found that siblings and spouses had less influence than friends, supporting the idea that the study’s findings were not the result of people eating the same food, engaging in the same activities or sharing genes.

And though environmental factors such as living in neighborhoods with lots of fast-food restaurants and no good grocery stores or sidewalks probably play a role, the researchers found no effect among neighbors unless they were friends, and being friends had an effect, regardless of whether they lived nearby. That ruled out common surroundings as explanations for the findings, the team said.

Fowler, speculating that friends could influence one another just by getting together once or twice a year, said, “We were stunned to find that people who were hundreds of miles away had just as much impact on a person’s weight status as friends who are next door.  This is not due to people eating or exercising together.”

The researchers also found that one person’s weight gain increased another’s risk only if the second person considered the first to be a friend.  If not, there was no effect. If each considered the other a friend, the effect was magnified.

“This shows that this is a social process that goes on here,” Christakis said.  “If it was because you had two people exposed to the same fast-food joint or there was something in the air, then the direction of the friendship should be irrelevant. The fact that it is relevant helps us to exclude spurious or confounding effects.”

That was reinforced by the fact that people of the same sex influenced one another the most.  In same-sex friendships, an individual was 71 percent more likely to become obese if a friend did.  But friends and siblings of opposite sexes had no increased risk.

“People are more likely to copy the actions of people they resemble,” Christakis said.  “What we think is going on here is emulation.”

Imitation, emulation, whatever we wish to call it, doing as those we love do may not be wise.  It could be wonderful.  Perhaps, if we are aware of the human tendency to mirror our mentors we will learn to choose wisely.  We may wish to assess not only what our gurus gravitate to, but also what we make available.  If we know that fast food is not healthy, might we consider not placing it in the path of one person, or his pal.  If we are aware of our unhealthy habits and discuss these with those that care astounding change occurs, at least it did for the person I consider my soul mate.

I often find this tale hard to accept.  However, I have heard it repeated often enough, perhaps I must believe it to be true.  As I stated, I was anorexic, then bulimic for many years.  Although I thought surely everyone knew, indeed, only a very few say they did.  The person I call the yin to my yang, the one that I relate to in a manner I cannot describe definitely was aware of what I was doing. 

Regrettably or perhaps fortuitously, she interrupted my deed one day.  I was “caught in the act.”  Yet, I trusted, she would not judge.  Summer understood my pain, as I did hers.  During a bad bout, Summer considered bingeing and purging.  I am unsure how I knew this with certainty, for deciding to regurgitate food is not something either of us felt a need to discuss.  Nonetheless, I had a feeling.

As with most of my friends in Southern California, we lived very far apart.  We met while working together years earlier.  One night, I telephoned.  Summer did not answer.  I had a feeling, I know not why.  I left a message on her answering machine.  The voice-activated recorder accepted my lengthy monologue.  I believe I went on and on for near forty-five minutes. 

I shared all the trauma I lived as a bulimic.  I pleaded, asking Summer not to begin.  I stated that, while I did not understand the physiology, neurology; nevertheless, I knew that this affliction was far more than a psychological choice.  Once the path was taken, turning back was not possible.  As Robert Frost offered, “The only way out is through.”

Later I learned, Summer was seriously contemplating the possibility.  She was definitely disheartened and thought inhaling and exhaling food would numb the feelings.  My speech took her by surprise.  For whatever reason, perhaps because our friendship is as meaningful as it is, she was able to hear my words.  Summer internalized the sentiment.  She trusted my affection was authentic, as was my fear.  Before she traveled too far, Summer decided to save herself.

I personally believe I did little; yet, in her mind I did much.  If nothing else, Summer and I can give credence to this report.  Friends are a phenomenal influence.  We need not blame them for what we do.  Let us embrace them.  I do not think it dreadful that another can influence my choices.  I consider the possibility glorious.  Friends are forever; with thanks to them we are wiser.  I can only speak for myself; nonetheless, may I say, I am grateful that those I love have the power to teach me.

The Thin, Fat, Fit, and Friendship . . .

  • The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years, By Nicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and James H. Fowler, Ph.D.
  • Are Your Friends Making You Fat?  By Allison Aubrey.  National Public Radio. July 26, 2007
  • Obesity Spreads In Social Circles As Trends Do, Study Indicates, By Rob Stein.  Washington Post. Thursday, July 26, 2007; Page A01
  • pdf Obesity Spreads In Social Circles As Trends Do, Study Indicates, By Rob Stein.  Washington Post. Thursday, July 26, 2007; Page A01
  • Barry M. Popkin. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
  • Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis., Harvard Medical School.
  • James H. Fowler.  University of California at San Diego.
  • Find Yourself Packing It On? Blame Friends, By Gina Kolata.  The New York Times. July 26, 2007
  • pdf Find Yourself Packing It On? Blame Friends, By Gina Kolata.  The New York Times. July 26, 2007
  • Children Learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do.  Chimps Don’t. By Carl Zimmer. The New York Times. December 13, 2005
  • pdf Children Learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don’t. By Carl Zimmer. The New York Times. December 13, 2005
  • Bulimia. Anorexia. By Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
  • Bush Aide Blocks Global Health Report

    A Bush Aide, William R. Steiger, blocked a report. The Global Health Draft 2006 was rejected.  It was not released because the research was deemed politically incorrect.  This study detailed a correlation between poverty and poor health worldwide.  Steiger realized this information might hurt the Administration, or hinder the Bush Cheney cause. Thus, this man helped to hide what might harm the “right” agenda. 

    Steiger, an interesting chap, is well connected.  For generations, he and his family have mixed and mingled with American ‘dignitaries.’  They are closely connected to the Bush Dynasty.  Now, William Steiger works as an Aide.  He is prominent, powerful, and perhaps responsible for keeping Americans in the dark.

    American citizens understand, or might know by now, truth, when it does not serve this Administration well, is blocked.  Citizens cannot read what might reveal America is in a state of crisis.  Nor are we given an opportunity to assess how the global state of affairs affect us.

    In recent months, it is increasingly evident, “executive privilege” rules in this ‘The Bush – Cheney Era.’  Any report that might jeopardize this reign is rebuked.  Persons that place the White House in peril are removed.  However, on occasion, evidence of what is real is exposed.  Today, the people are privy to a report the Administration hoped to conceal.

    A surgeon general’s report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration’s policy accomplishments, according to current and former public health officials.

    The report described the link between poverty and poor health, urged the U.S. government to help combat widespread diseases as a key aim of its foreign policy, and called on corporations to help improve health conditions in the countries where they operate.  A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post.

    Three people directly involved in its preparation said its publication was blocked by William R. Steiger, a specialist in education and a scholar of Latin American history whose family has long ties to President Bush and Vice President Cheney.  Since 2001, Steiger has run the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Richard H. Carmona, who commissioned the “Call to Action on Global Health” while serving as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, recently cited its suppression as an example of the Bush administration’s frequent efforts during his tenure to give scientific documents a political twist.  At a July 10 House committee hearing, Carmona did not cite Steiger by name or detail the report’s contents and its implications for American public health.

    Carmona told lawmakers that, as he fought to release the document, he was “called in and again admonished . . . via a senior official who said, ‘You don’t get it.’ ” He said a senior official told him that “this will be a political document, or it will not be released.”

    After a long struggle that pitted top scientific and medical experts inside and outside the government against Steiger and his political bosses, Carmona refused to make the requested changes, according to the officials. Carmona engaged in similar fights over other public health reports, including an unpublished report on prison health.  A few days before the end of his term as the nation’s senior medical officer, he was abruptly told he would not be reappointed.

    However, the appointee that blocked the release of this report was not threatened.  Let us meet and greet William R. Steiger, the man responsible for withholding this report.  Realize once more, nepotism and neglect take precedence in the Bush White House.  As we review the resume of this official and then, assess the vital details we learn much.

    The ‘honorable’ William Steiger is 37 years of age.  He is a godson of former president George Herbert Walker Bush.  Steiger is also the son of a moderate Republican who represented Wisconsin in the House.  The senior Steiger hired a young Dick Cheney to serve as his intern. 

    In 1989, President Bush 41 appointed Steiger’s mother to the Federal Trade Commission.  Apparently, according to biographical sketch of William’s mother located at the American Bar Association’s Web site, we can see that the Steiger family was well acquainted with the Rumsfelds and the Bushes.  They were “lifelong friends” all “representing” our nation together.

    In the résumé, Steiger submitted to Congress, we learn this Bush appointee is not only well connected, he is also well educated.  However, health is not his area of expertise.

    [Steiger] he obtained a doctorate in Latin American history from the University of California at Los Angeles before teaching at a university in the Philippines and consulting in Angola for the International Republican Institute — a nonprofit group that is associated with the party and promotes democracy around the world. He was an education adviser to then-Gov. Tommy G. Thompson (R) of Wisconsin and came to Washington when Thompson became HHS secretary. He is now awaiting a Senate vote on his nomination as Bush’s ambassador to Mozambique.

    Bill Hall, an HHS spokesman, said Steiger promoted interest in global health at the department while more than doubling the number of expert staff members overseas and participating in international negotiations on issues such as avian influenza. “You have to look at his skills as an executive leader in spite of the fact that he doesn’t have a medical degree or a public health degree,” Hall said.

    Public health advocates have accused Steiger of political meddling before. He briefly attained notoriety in 2004 by demanding changes in the language of an international report on obesity.  The report was opposed by some U.S. food manufacturers and the sugar industry.

    This is obviously not the first time this “gentleman” chose to obstruct the release of information.  It seems Steiger works at the pleasure of the President, much to the detriment of the people.  The question is will we, the people, allow such subversion to continue.  Will Congress ever consider the impact such cronyism has on our nation, not only now, but in the future.  As long as we allow such actions to flourish with little more than acknowledgement or a verbal reprimand, life in this White House, in this country will be as it is. 

    The words crooked and criminal come to mind when I contemplate this and other Administrative undertakings.  My wish, my plea; Congress please stop the madness.  Impeach and bring integrity back to America.

    I offer a link to the draft of this suppressed report. 

    Please note: This copy of the unpublished Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Global Health is a draft document that its authors expected to update and revise before making public.  It is not a final version.

    The Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Global Health 2006 Office of the Surgeon General.  United States Department of Health and Human Services.

    The Secret and Sources . . .

  • Bush Aide Blocked Report, Global Health Draft In 2006 Rejected for Not Being Political.  By Christopher Lee and Marc Kaufman.  Washington Post. Sunday, July 29, 2007; Page A01
  • pdf Bush Aide Blocked Report, Global Health Draft In 2006 Rejected for Not Being Political.  By Christopher Lee and Marc Kaufman.  Washington Post. Sunday, July 29, 2007; Page A01
  • The Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Global Health 2006 Office of the Surgeon General.  United States Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Clinton, Obama; To Communicate or Not to Communicate?

    Obama Clinton Feud on CNN Debate Question

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert.

    In recent days, I am reminded of my own life as I watch the Democratic Presidential candidates quibble, over the timing of peace talks.  Throughout the airwaves, and in every periodical, reports discuss the divisive dynamic.  Senator Hillary Clinton thinks Barack Obama is naïve.  She states the comparison he makes when discussing her point of view is silly.  Thus, the former First Lady emphasizes a theme that has haunted the junior Senator.  Is the Senator from Illinois too young and inexperienced to be President of the world’s superpower?

    In the July 2007 Democratic debate Barack Obama stated, within his first year in office he would speak with world leaders from “rogue” nations were he President of the United States.  Senator Obama stressed the harm that befalls a nation, indeed the world when Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Heads of States do not meet.  Obama referred to earlier events in our history.  He mentioned, even the revered Ronald Reagan and the much-admired John Fitzgerald Kennedy spoke with those considered dictatorial. 

    Senator Obama said, I would.  And the reason is this, that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous.


    Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire.  And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward.

    And I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them.  We’ve been talking about Iraq — one of the first things that I would do in terms of moving a diplomatic effort in the region forward is to send a signal that we need to talk to Iran and Syria because they’re going to have responsibilities if Iraq collapses.

    They have been acting irresponsibly up until this point.  But if we tell them that we are not going to be a permanent occupying force, we are in a position to say that they are going to have to carry some weight, in terms of stabilizing the region.

    Nonetheless, the former First Lady disagreed.  Hillary Clinton thinks it unwise for the President of the United States to reach out before diplomats do their deeds.  Clinton continued to counter; she would not meet with leaders of “particular” countries in her first year in the Oval Office.  The Senator did not wish to be used as a pawn, a tool for propaganda.

    Well, I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year.  I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort because I think it is not that you promise a meeting at that high a level before you know what the intentions are.

    I don’t want to be used for propaganda purposes.  I don’t want to make a situation even worse.  But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration.

    And I will purse very vigorous diplomacy.

    And I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way.  But certainly, we’re not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and, you know, the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.

    Former First Lady Clinton envisions herself as an expert, more experienced in the finer points of negotiation.  After all, she spent eight years in the White House and many more years meeting with dignitaries.  Senator Clinton believes herself senior and more superior pertaining to issues of State. 

    Perchance, this is the reason the Clinton campaign chose to force focus on this issue.

    Hillary Clinton and her supporters considered her calculated response worthy of praise.  The Senator from New York sought further substantiation for her position, and she received it.

    Seeking to attack Sen. Barack Obama’s greatest perceived weaknesses – lack of experience – Sen. Hillary Clinton’s campaign today used a former secretary of state to subtly question an answer he gave in Monday night’s debate.

    Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a member of Bill Clinton’s administration, did not specifically criticize Obama’s response to a question about meeting, without preconditions, with leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea during his first year in office.

    But she did strongly suggest that her candidate gave a much better answer.

    “She gave a very sophisticated answer, which showed her understanding of the whole process,” Albright said on a conference call this morning with reporters.  “If you look back at real breakthroughs in diplomatic history, what you basically find is that in order to understand where the situation is, to clear the underbrush away, it is necessary to have lower level people make the initial contact.”

    All this bickering leaves me wondering.  Many muse that my own peaceful posture is infinitely naïve.  I am frequently criticized for speaking with anyone and everyone, for trusting people for too long.  In my own life, I have been bruised and blistered with barbs again and again before realizing that I may need to separate myself for safety and sanity.  Even still, I keep hope alive.  I trust all beings evolve.  If I choose to close myself off, I may miss an opportunity to reconcile with those that, in a moment of anger, brutally, verbally attacked me.

    Granted on the world stage, people in power may use others as pawns.  They may employ the innocent to impose their destructive and debilitating desires.  The blameless may die and more than a heart is hurt.  However, I believe and history seems to bear this out, more perish and over a longer period of time if world leaders do not speak to each other.

    The new world crisis brought about by the lack of strategic foreign policy thinking in the US since 2001 will get worse unless Washington uses its historic strengths instead of believing the myths of its military superiority.

    The US did not destroy the German army in the Second World War – the Soviet Union did. Chinese peasants fought America to a standstill in Korea and Third World Vietnam defeated America two decades later. Polish workers sapped Soviet imperialism’s will to rule, not threats of Star Wars. America withdrew from Lebanon in the 1980s and Somalia in the 1990s at the first whiff of murderous violence.

    Rumsfeld is no exception to the rule that when America does war, it often does it badly. But it has defeated fascism, communism and will defeat jihadi terrorism by using the unstoppable power of its democratic, multi-faith, multi-race, rule-of-law, open-market ideology to make a better offer than any other ideology.

    America now has to find the confidence and strength to try ‘jaw-jaw’ instead of ‘war-war’. Nowhere is this more needed than in the region which has robbed Dick Cheney and the Republicans of control of both houses of Congress. Under Bush, America gave up diplomacy and international politics and surrendered foreign policy-making to the Pentagon. So far this century, America has forgotten the old maxim that peace works by talking with your enemies.

    It is not just America. To be sure, the US won’t talk to Iran. But France won’t talk to Syria. And Syria won’t recognise Lebanon as an independent nation. Most Arab states won’t normalise relations with Israel.  In turn, Israel won’t talk to elected leaders of the Palestinians.  No surprise that the alternative is war.

    If we decide to be indignant, to declare a person a dictator, and therefore, not speak to that individual then we can expect that person to act as any of us might when we are judged or feel attacked without reason.  No one of us purposely does what we think wrong. 

    Humans rationalize and justify whatever it is they do, even if only belatedly.  Perhaps, the perfect example in my mind is all religions claim to command, “Thou shalt not kill.”  Yet, for centuries mankind has engaged in religious wars.  When we battle, blood is spilled. 

    Accuse others of wrongdoing, make no attempt to understand their position, and the indicted will react.  Refuse to speak to the person [or national leaders] you blame, or send a subordinate to speak for you and watch the resentment grow.  Ultimately, as you assess the situation, or contemplate your options, so too will your opponent.  Without direct dialogue between the concerned parties, nothing will change.  Resolution will be fragile.  Ultimately, as we have seen, the combat will begin.

    Un-ringing a bell, although beautiful in the abstract, is not possible in the physical world.  What we choose initially will set the tone for future interactions.  As an educator, as a human, I am reminded of this daily.

    You may noticed my last name; “Angert.”  At the beginning of each school year, students also observe what you may have just realized.  The root word in my surname is anger. 

    As an instructor, that knows what she values and says so at beginning of class, on the first day, at the first bell, I often hear students snicker, as they refer to the deeper meaning of my surname.  As our first meeting begins, I stand tall, all five feet of me.  The expression on my face is extremely serious.  The tone of my voice is strong, not loud, just firm.  I insist the class be silent as I prepare to state my standards.  All the indicators validate for the pupils I will be a taskmaster and I will adamantly dictate their responsibilities.  While it is true, my students are extremely productive; that is their choice.

    I begin.  I first mention what they have already observed, my name on the board.  I explain what I realized as an adult.  I was decades old before anyone ever hollered at me.  I assert; clearly, it was not a member of my family.  My relatives “talk,” as indicated by the “t” in my last name.  Thus, there is no need for “anger.”

    I continue.  The faces are wide-eyed.  Students listen intently.  Soon they discover that my tale is informative, not punitive.  I am actually human, just like them. 

    The yarn I share helps to explain that people, pupils have choices astounds many a learner.  Possibly, it confuses some.  The narrative is not baffling.  Indeed, students are captivated as they take the saga in.  What confounds those sitting in the class is that I am so open about my life.

    I discuss my own awful habits and how I adopted these when I was so very young, I did not realize there were other options.  I offer analogies.  A talkative child believes that is their nature; they constantly chatter.  They always have.  A young girl or boy with “nervous energy” never considers that they may be bored, seeking any form of attention, or that they are perhaps frustrated.  People do as they do, and more often than not as was done to them.

    As I tell my tale, I speak of my own progression and realizations.  In my life, in my family no one drank milk; nor did I.  I mention the first time I ran away from home at the age of eight.  My Dad wanted me to drink the milk left in the bottom of my cereal bowl.

    I tell new students of how, when, and why I developed a dependency on soda.  I share the realization, the repercussions from too much carbonated water.  I speak of my own choices and the challenge to change. 

    Quickly, they discover our shared qualities.  They understand my demeanor.  They accept “anger” is not a place I travel to.  We develop a relationship.

    I consciously choose to create a communicative, creative, caring, and peaceful environment in the classroom.  In truth, I endeavor to establish a tranquil milieu in each aspect of my life.  For me, reciprocal reverence reaps abundant rewards. 

    I am acquainted with those that yell.  As I said, after many years of calm, I met someone that screams, that stops speaking when he feels agitated.  I learned.  People do what was done to them.  If as children, the people we most admire are punitive, we are likely to be similar as we age.

    How many of us can recall a time in our youth when we stood in awe of our mother or father’s foolish behavior and said, “I will never do that to a child of mine.”  Yet, a score later we find ourselves repeating the pattern we learned at our parents’ knee.

    As I witness a scholar, a successful attorney, a Senator, and some say a threat to the security of a Clinton win called “silly” by his opponent I must wonder.  What was learned, accepted, and rejected.  What habits were formed when the Senator from New York was so young she did not realize there were other options.

    I inquire.  Why would this well-informed, intelligent Presidential hopeful, the former First Lady, Hillary Clinton think it naïve to speak with world leaders as soon as possible?  I can only ponder why the senior Senator thinks she might be used as a pawn.  I cannot imagine why in her mind punitive measures are proper.

    It seems Senator Clinton thinks accentuating her experience and asserting her skepticism are strengths, or possibly, she wishes to emphasize there is a difference between Senator Obama and she.  However, this was always obvious, even to the casual observer.

    Journalists commented, Hillary Clinton is totally in control in this campaign.  In the most recent broadcast, her body language spoke volumes.  Senator Clinton is self-assured.  Many thought the Senator from New York was confident going into the Cable News Network forum.

    The Clinton camp put forward . . .

    [T]he aura of inevitability: “Face it, she’s going to be nominated.  Better get on the bandwagon now.”

    The CNN-YouTube debate in Charleston, South Carolina, Monday night could look like seven against one: seven Democratic contenders trying to challenge Clinton as “The Inevitable” — and competing with each other to become “The Alternative.”

    Everything was going well; each moment was predictable.  Hillary Clinton was placed center-stage.  Cameras focused on her, as did the moderator and the audience.  How could they not? 

    The former First Lady wore a striking orange and pink jacket.  Her tone was firm.  When Senator Clinton answered a question, and she was given an opportunity to answer most every inquiry, Clinton spoke with certainty.  An air of authority surrounded this esteemed front-runner.  Even up until the moment, the controversial instant when the split between Senator Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was glaringly evident.

    Washington (CNN) – The spat between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is really about calling attention to your opponent’s weakness.

    In politics, just like in prizefighting, you look for your opponent’s weakness and pound away at it.  In the debate this week, Obama portrayed himself as new and different – the total opposite of George W. Bush.  “The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous,” Obama said in the CNN/You Tube debate on Monday.

    Clinton portrayed herself as experienced and knowledgeable. “You don’t promise a meeting until you know the intentions.  I don’t want to be used for propaganda,” she said.

    She was going for Obama’s weakness – his lack of experience.  She kept hammering away at it the next day.  “I thought that was very irresponsible and, frankly, naïve to say you would commit to meeting with Chavez and Castro or others within the first year,” she said.

    Obama came back punching at Clinton’s weakness.  “If there is anything irresponsible and naïve it was to authorize George Bush to send 160,000 young American men and women into Iraq apparently without knowing how they where going to get out,” Obama said.

    -CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider

    I did not think Barack Obama appeared weak as he stood strong stating his convictions; communication can change the world.  The Illinois Senator avowed we, the people want a “uniter” in the White House.  The current “decider” has divided us for too long.  In a speech delivered days after the now infamous YouTube debate, at the College Democrats of America convention at the University of South Carolina, Senator Obama stated. 

    “The reason that this president has failed to lead this country is because he hasn’t been able to unite our country.  He’s polarized us when he should have pulled us together.” . . .

    “That’s why the experience we need in the next president is the ability to bring this country together.

    “It’s not enough to just change parties.”

    Perhaps, I understand his contention because it parallels my own life experience.  When Barack Obama offers his philosophy, I relate.

    Not to be undone, defeated, or denied a righteous place in this crucial crusade the Clinton crowd fought back.

    The New York senator’s campaign contended Obama, with his remarks, had broken a pledge “to elevate our political discourse.”

    Yikes.  The Eleventh Commandment now lives large in the Democratic Party.  However, lest we forget, this credo, “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow [candidate],” is a Republican principle.  Perhaps that is the essential problem.  When we, the Progressives mirror the musings of those on the right, when we adopt their doctrine, we forget the spirit that makes Democrats great.  As Will Rogers, political Humorist and Philosopher explains, the Party often criticized for its intellectual repartees is quite a phenomenon.  Those that declare themselves liberal understand. “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.” 

    Let us not walk in lock step.  May we never stop speaking or delay when world affairs beckon us.  We must accept that Heads of State will not feel safe or honored when speaking solely with diplomats.  If our own President were slighted in negotiations there would be no peace.  Perchance, we might each adopt the Angert family practice.  Talk to ensure that anger will never arise.

    Resources, references, rage, habits that hurt  . . .

  • Clinton calls Bush-Cheney comparison ‘silly’. Cable News Network. July 27, 2007
  • Clinton-Obama Commander Duel. Obama. The New York Times. July 24, 2007
  • Fourth Democratic Debate. Clinton. The New York Times. July 24, 2007
  • Fourth Democratic Debate. The New York Times. July 24, 2007
  • Clinton, Obama Camps’ Feud Is Out in the Open, By Chris Cillizza and Dan Balz.  Washington Post. Thursday, February 22, 2007; Page A01
  • pdf Clinton, Obama Camps’ Feud Is Out in the Open, By Chris Cillizza and Dan Balz.  Washington Post. Thursday, February 22, 2007; Page A01
  • Obama Calls for Uniter in White House, By Nedra Pickler. The Associated Press. Washington Post. Thursday, July 26, 2007; 8:25 PM
  • pdf Obama Calls for Uniter in White House, By Nedra Pickler. The Associated Press. Washington Post. Thursday, July 26, 2007; 8:25 PM
  • Bush must be told: talk to your enemies, By Denis MacShane.  The Observer. Sunday, November 12, 2006
  • The Campaign. RonaldReagan.com.
  • President Bush Meets with Al Arabiya Television on Wednesday. Office of the Press Secretary.  White house.
  • Childhood Obesity. Adult On-Set Diabetes. Osteoporosis. Soda. By Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.
  • Clinton, Obama trading jabs, By Christi Parsons. Chicago Tribune. July 26, 2007
  • Attorney General Gonzales Commits Perjury. Indict? Impeach!

    Olbermann reports on Alberto Gonzales hearings on 7.24.07

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    The proof is in.  The truth be told, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied under oath, again.  In the past, we were not as fortunate.  We did not have the documents in hand. 

    Thus, Americans could not establish with certainty that the person considered the chief law officer and highest legal counsel in the land lied.  Tonight we do.  Here is the story.

    Documents Contradict Gonzales’ Testimony
    By Lara Jakes Jordon
    The Associated Press
    Wednesday, July 25, 2007; 8:12 PM

    WASHINGTON — Documents indicate eight congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration’s terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

    The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, come as senators consider whether a perjury investigation should be opened into conflicting accounts about the program and a dramatic March 2004 confrontation leading up to its potentially illegal reauthorization.

    A Gonzales spokesman maintained Wednesday that the attorney general stands by his testimony.

    At a heated Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Gonzales repeatedly testified that the issue at hand was not about the terrorist surveillance program, which allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on suspects in the United States without receiving court approval.

    Instead, Gonzales said, the emergency meetings on March 10, 2004, focused on an intelligence program that he would not describe.

    Gonzales, who was then serving as counsel to Bush, testified that the White House Situation Room briefing sought to inform congressional leaders about the pending expiration of the unidentified program and Justice Department objections to renew it. Those objections were led by then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey, who questioned the program’s legality.

    “The dissent related to other intelligence activities,” Gonzales testified at Tuesday’s hearing. “The dissent was not about the terrorist surveillance program.”

    “Not the TSP?” responded Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. “Come on. If you say it’s about other, that implies not. Now say it or not.”
    “It was not,” Gonzales answered. “It was about other intelligence activities.”

    A four-page memo from the national intelligence director’s office shows that the White House briefing with the eight lawmakers on March 10, 2004, was about the terror surveillance program, or TSP.

    Senators, please do not consider an indictment.  This man has repeated slammed and damned you.  Attorney Gonzales has perjured himself, defied the Constitution, and ignored the rules of the Geneva Convention.  This Attorney General serves at the pleasure of a President that thinks him a fine fellow.  They have been close friends forever.  George W. Bush will not ask the Attorney General to resign.  Only you can take legal, Constitutional action.  Please do!

    It matters not that the proceedings might continue until this Administration leaves office.  As long as we, you Congresspersons allow such behavior to continue, a precedence will be set.  This Bunch of Bushies might miss the vital message; however, it will not be lost in history.  Act now.  Follow your principles not this nation’s leader.  Indict, impeach; be insistent.  Alberto Gonzales, it is time to go!

    This is Amazing! Must See! Alberto Gonzales Testimony.

  • Documents Contradict Gonzales’ Testimony, By Lara Jakes Jordon. The Associated Press. Washington Post. Wednesday, July 25, 2007; 8:12 PM
  • pdf Documents Contradict Gonzales’ Testimony, By Lara Jakes Jordon. The Associated Press. Washington Post. Wednesday, July 25, 2007; 8:12 PM
  • Primary Elections Lost; Electability Lives

    2008 election primary disaster for democracy

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Tonight we witnessed a change.  Apathy is no longer part of the American election process.  Cable News Network brought citizens to the tube and the televised Democratic debates to you, the voter.  We, the people were given an opportunity to participate as we have never done before.  Throughout the airwaves, the word is “This event was a success.”  The format helped to develop a dialogue.  The conversation flowed.  The panel was far more authentic.  Responses were not rehearsed; the interaction was more real.  Thus, we have reached a consensus.  All agree, except for at least one, me.  I think this broadcast was the pinnacle of what has been standard in politics since 1960.  The medium is the message.  Image makes a President.

    A candidate is sold to an expectant public.  Theatrical events are exciting, exhilarating, even entertaining.  Everyone rushes to be part of the process, so much so that America holds primary elections in name only.  Primaries in the year 2007 are the main event.  Each state is vying for eminence.  They want to be the earliest to lure Presidential hopefuls to their region.  Mostly, each territory yearns to select the national nominee.  Apparently, it is a privilege to claim, ‘we picked the President.’

    The 2008 presidential race will be shaped, in unpredictable ways, by a parallel competition among states leapfrogging one another in pursuit of a greater voice in the nominating process.

    The maneuvering threatens the traditional roles of Iowa and New Hampshire as gatekeepers of the White House competition. It has the potential to change the dynamics of the battle among the candidates and significantly alter its terrain of issues.

    Measures now poised for consideration in legislatures across the county would mean that voters in some of the largest states would be able to cast primary ballots weeks before the first Iowan enters a precinct caucus.

    Gone are the days when a nominee represented the whole, the Party wrote the platform, people were able to meet, greet, and speak with the contenders personally.  The public once shaped a national strategy.  Now advisors and advertisers do.

    In this nation, we spend months and much money in an attempt to determine who we think will win.  Politics are polls.  Primaries pick the person representing the Party.  Our countrymen and women do not familiarize themselves with the depth and breath of a candidate’s position.  Indeed, if a Presidential aspirant does not meet the presumed height or weight requirement, they do not have a chance of being heard, let alone seen.

    Those of us who watched the recent debate might have noticed, the production was well staged.  The mis-en-scene was marvelous.  Every aspect, lighting, color, placement, the particulars were well crafted.  The “decided” “front-runners” were placed front and center.  They dressed in vibrant shades; clothes make a statement.  The top performers were more comfortable in their position.  Body language spoke volumes. Perchance, hand motions were a reflection of their perceived rank among registered voters or their prominence in the political community.  The camera followed those who stand tall in the eyes of promoters, and oh, yes, thanks to advocates that “delegate” authority these candidate now are considered powerful and perfect in the minds of future voters. 

    The moderator, articulate, and handsome Anderson Cooper favored the big three.  If a citizen video asked an individual a question, that person answered.  However, if the query was not meant for one of the notables, the fave few were still given an opportunity to reflect aloud.  Time restraints were less tight for the preferred.  An inquiry intended for all was infrequently addressed to each of the possible respondents.  However, we could be certain the privileged had a chance to discuss and deliberate.  That’s entertainment.

    We have heard that at least two of the top contenders wish to lessen the number of hopefuls on a stage.  For them, Senators Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, the process is nearly over.  The point is to be seen or heard widely on screens nationwide.  These candidates know image sells, issues are irrelevant.  A scant sense of where a campaigner stands is enough to garner support.  There is no need for more.

    Thus, this televised debate was, as elections are in recent years, staged and set.  Decisions are made.  Content is excluded.  Context is crucial.  The primary, as far as the public is concerned is the general election.

    Currently, campaigns are produced and directed by the mainstream media, public relation persons, marketers, advertisers, and promoters.  The people, unknowingly are pawns.  The process is void.  In these times, primaries promote a single agenda, electability.

    In days of old electing a President was a progression.  Primary elections allowed even the most unrecognized candidate an opportunity to be known.  Those on the stump traveled to the early primary states.  They gathered in regions that held caucuses.  They met the people, the common folk.  Aspirants kissed babies, hugged mothers, and shook the hands of papas.  A Presidential participant could be seen in a local dinner, in the home of your neighbor and on the streets. 

    The campaigns were not a snapshot or two.  Sound-bites did not dominate television screens.  Crowds gathered without be invited or screened.  The people on either side of a Presidential hopeful were genuinely interested in the candidate’s position.  Town people were not purposely placed to create an impression.  In the past, decisions were grounded in dialogue.  Citizens did not choose to support an entrant because he or she had great hair, a nice smile, or wonderful commercials.

    The process of electing the President is essentially divided into four stages:
    (1) the pre-nomination phase, in which candidates compete in state primary elections and caucuses for delegates to the national party conventions;
    (2) the national conventions?held in the summer of the election year?in which the two major parties nominate candidates for President and Vice President and ratify a platform of the parties? policy positions and goals;
    (3) the general election campaign, in which the major party nominees, as well as any minor party or independent contenders, compete for votes from the entire electorate, culminating in the popular vote on election day in November; and
    (4) the electoral college phase, in which the President and Vice President are officially elected.

    That was then.  This is now.  Admittedly, there were problems in the past.  America is an expansive territory.  There is much land to cover, many people to meet.  Sadly, only a few citizens followed their potential leaders.  Often the wealthy and influential wielded much power.  Principally, the affluent brokered the election, and the apathetic remained poorly represented.  Much has changed, or so it would seem.  Indeed little is different.

    In this, the Information Age, people consider themselves connected, cognizant, and active.  Grassroots organizations flourish.  Some say elections today are as the founding fathers intended them to be.  Participation is far broader than it was in early American history.  More individuals, from every walk of life, now help determine who the nominees will be.  Witness last evening’s glorious broadcast.  Cable News Network reached out to you, the common man, everyman, and made it possible for any of us to speak to the nominees.  We could watch from the comfort of our homes and determine whom we would support in the “primary” election.  That is, unless we had already decided.  It seems most of us had.

    If we had any doubt about which candidate we want in the White House, there is one thing the majority of people agree on; they want to win.  If a Presidential hopeful leans towards the presumed party platform, they have a chance.  However, if they are thought too far astray, they alienate the voters.  If a contender genuinely embraces the issues that people say are important to them, that petitioner may be thought too bold.  A true Liberal is extremely far left.  An actual Conservative is a kook.  “Electability is essential.

    The longer a particularly party is out of office, the more desperate they become.  Witness the Democrats in 2004, or in this, the 2008 campaign.

    Democrats’ Litmus: Electability
    Key Issue for 2008 Race
    Poses Hurdles for Clinton, Obama
    By Jackie Calmes
    January 11, 2007

    WASHINGTON — For a party long known for subjecting presidential wannabes to a battery of litmus tests, on issues from abortion to trade, Democrats are uniting in raising one big issue for 2008: electability.

    Who can win? That question is paramount for many activists, donors, and voters, desperate to reclaim the White House. In addition, it’s one that poses a big hurdle for both Democratic front-runners, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.

    Widespread concerns about whether either could get elected — Mrs. Clinton because she is a woman, and a polarizing figure; Mr. Obama for being African-American, and relatively inexperienced — potentially prevent either from running away with the Democratic nomination. That, in turn, is what keeps hope alive for about a half-dozen rivals maneuvering for advantage should the leaders stumble. Of that pack, polls and early organization suggest the best-positioned is former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the 2004 vice-presidential nominee. Today Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut officially joins the race with his announcement on the syndicated radio show “Imus in the Morning.”

    That was the belief in January 2007,only seven short months ago.  In the winter of this year, who could have predicted the fate that would eventually befall Don Imus.  In July, who might know with certainty whether Hillary Clinton will perform as promised.  In this era, it may not even matter.  Winning is what counts, even in the primaries, at least so say the Democrats.

    The primaries have taken on the aura of a national election.  Citizens no longer care if one candidate has a position more reflective of their personal philosophy.  Potential participant plans go unread, unless the possible nominee shows promise.  The public wants to be assured that the contender might take the Presidential prize. 

    Much is based on image.  Senator Clinton appears Presidential, and indeed she may well be.  The former First Lady knows how to persuade and please a crowd.  Senator Clinton had a successful career as a lawyer.  She met husband, former President of the United States, Bill in law school.  While serving as the First Lady Hillary Clinton learned much, she did plenty.  During the July debate, Senator Clinton reminded the audience that she is well traveled; she has met with many world leaders.  Clinton confirmed she was greeted with confidence; dignitaries had no doubt that she was their equal.

    In last evening’s debate, Clinton dressed to impress and used large sweeping hand gestures that suggest she is strong and confident.  The Senator stood center stage; camera angles were flattering.  The cool and calm Clinton could be seen clearly, no matter where a viewer might look.  The day after the July 2007, debate people said Hillary looks and sounds “Presidential.”

    There was a key moment, however, and once again it pitted Clinton, the New York senator, against Barack Obama, her counterpart from Illinois.  The question was whether they’d promise to meet in the first year of their presidency with the leaders of such enemy nations as Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, and Syria.

    “I would,” Obama said, foolishly showing his inexperience, and perhaps his naiveté as well, in foreign affairs.  After all, he said, President Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and still talked to Soviet leaders. “I think it’s a disgrace we haven’t talked” to leaders of the five anti-American countries, Obama said.

    Clinton benefited from getting to answer after Obama, and she made the most of it. She said, firmly and coolly, that she wouldn’t promise to meet with them. Clinton said the new president had to be careful not to be exploited by hostile leaders for propaganda purposes and not to do anything “that would make the situation worse.” Before any meeting, she’d have to know “what the way forward would be.”

    The verdict on whose answer was better, Obama’s or Clinton’s, came from John Edwards, the next candidate to speak. He echoed Clinton.

    Seemingly, unshaken and perhaps contemplating that Hillary Clinton could in practice, craft a policy reminiscent of the Bush Administration,  ruling out “early” talks and possibly even later diplomatic discussions with nations defined as ‘rogue,’ Obama stood steady.  Senator Obama may understand what occurs when America waits to engage in diplomacy.

    Barack Obama appeared quite “fine” with his answer, and did I mention is quite fine-looking  The Senator, also an Attorney, and former State Legislator, is a long, and lean man.  He is keen on the issues.  Senator Obama eased any concerns; he is experienced enough, and well seasoned.  The long primary process alone has helped hone his skills.  Barack Obama can cook a goose, even if it belongs to the former First Lady.  Senator Obama is indeed a rising star.

    Obama Narrows Gap With Clinton
    By John Harwood
    The Wall Street Journal
    April 26, 2007; Page A6

    Orangeburg, S.C. — Sen. Barack Obama has pulled close to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race for the 2008 Democratic nomination, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that suggests doubts about his electability are diminishing.

    As all Democratic presidential candidates gather here for their first televised debate tonight, the poll shows Mr. Obama trailing Mrs. Clinton by 31% to 36%; 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards runs a solid third with 20%.  Last month, Mr. Obama lagged 12 percentage points behind.

    Moreover, the poll shows that rank-and-file Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters don’t perceive a wide gap between the two front-runners in their ability to defeat the Republican nominee in next year’s general election; 39% say Mrs. Clinton has the “best chance,” while 32% say Mr. Obama does.  The finding indicates that, just as the first-term Illinois senator’s robust early fund-raising has undercut one of Mrs. Clinton’s presumed advantages, his relative inexperience hasn’t emerged as a major impediment in his competition with the former first lady who now represents New York in the Senate.

    Mr. Obama “seems to be gathering momentum as the candidate of change,” says Neil Newhouse, the Republican pollster who helps to conduct the Journal/NBC survey.  At a time when Americans want a new direction on Iraq and in Washington generally, adds his Democratic counterpart Peter Hart, “Sen. Obama comes closest to matching what voters are looking for in the broad political environment.”  The telephone survey of 1,004 American adults, conducted April 20 to 23, carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

    The percentage of voters supporting John Edwards is high in some communities; however, not in all.  John Edwards is definitely a looker, and he is smart.  Each may work to his advantage.  Nonetheless, as of yet he is not considered the media darling.  Perchance, his loss in the 2004 Vice Presidential bid had a lasting effect. 

    Senator Edwards received much sympathy when his wife Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer.  Nonetheless, his decision to continue with the campaign drew ample criticism.  Neither may be the reason for his current standing.  It may simply be that being a white man holds him back.  America has seen many a Caucasian male in office.  The people say they want a change.  clearly considering Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are far more moderate than the other Democratic hopefuls, a novel approach in policy is not enough to convince an expectant public that you are Presidential.

    As the former Vice Presidential participant, Senator, Edwards perceives a need to strengthen his position, to change the way people see him.  Interestingly, John Edwards chooses to focus on an issue the front-runners avoid.  The hope is this will solidify the impression he is authentic.

    Edwards’ travels could bolster his image as the most liberal of the leading Democratic candidates, a shift from his 2004 run for president.  He has staked the position with uncompromising opposition to the Iraq war and an expansive healthcare proposal.

    Though poverty may not resonate as an issue with most Americans, “there are few groups that are more concerned about the poor than Democratic primary voters,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.

    Edwards could also benefit from talking about poverty, precisely because there is apparently so little political gain, demonstrating a personal conviction that transcends polling.

    He has laid out perhaps the most comprehensive program of any Democrat running.  His goal is eradicating poverty within 30 years through tax credits and other incentives, programs expanding access to healthcare and higher education, and government creation of 1 million “stepping-stone jobs” for adults who have struggled to find work.

    In the Information Internet, always connected, cyberspace age candidates are running as fast as they can.  The delegates at a national political convention no longer choose the Party’s nominee, you and I do.  We sit in front of the television or at a computer screen and consume audio-visual information.  The media massage the message they believe we want to see or hear, as do the advertisers, public relations persons, and decidedly, the aspirant.  America has no time to waste.  Winning is all that counts.

    If a candidate is short or stout, small or diminutive they do not have a chance.  A scream can destroy the democratic process.  There is no defending what some think “inappropriate behavior” for a Presidential campaigner.  Electric shock treatment is inexcusable.  Americans hesitate to vote for a candidate that sweats or sighs during a debate.  A scowl also can cause criticism. 

    If you are not a macho man, never, ever dress in camouflage fatigues and place yourself in a tank.  Cameras are everywhere.  The American public can be less than forgiving, especially when the tape is rolling.  In the Information Age, the medium is the message.  A picture is worth far more than a thousand words.  Considering few citizens read periodicals, let alone Presidential platform papers, this adage is truer than ever.

    Nonetheless, Americans think themselves knowledgeable; convincing them that they are not is quite a challenge.  People have fragile egos and are firm in their commitment to electability.  Everyone you ask will tell you they are informed.  “I watch the news, read the papers, and peruse the Internet.”  In January 2004, Americans surveyed by Pew Charitable Trust reported just how connected they are.

    Cable news networks are the most frequently cited source of campaign news for young people, but the Internet and comedy programs also are important conduits of election news for Americans under 30.

    One-in-five young people say they regularly get campaign news from the Internet, and about as many (21%) say the same about comedy shows such as Saturday Night Live and the Daily Show.  For Americans under 30, these comedy shows are now mentioned almost as frequently as newspapers and evening network news programs as regular sources for election news. 

    But people who regularly learn about the election from entertainment programs ­ whether young or not ­ are poorly informed about campaign developments.

    In general, Americans show little awareness of campaign events and key aspects of the candidates’ backgrounds: About three-in-ten (31%) can correctly identify Wesley Clark as the Democratic candidate who had served as an Army general and 26% know Richard Gephardt is the candidate who had served as House majority leader.  People who say they regularly learn about the campaign from entertainment programs are among the least likely to correctly answer these questions.

    In contrast, those who learn about the campaign on the Internet are considerably more knowledgeable than the average, even when their higher level of education is taken into account.

    Nonetheless, even among the more educated the desire to support a winner can influence who they choose.  Pragmatism is the prominent consideration, particularly for Democrats.  In 2008, after four plus four years of George W. Bush the cry continues, “Anyone but Bush.”  Progressives, Liberals, Blues, and Greens feel they must move forward, regardless.  Issues be damned; these are important, but not worth the sacrifice.  Democrats declare, ‘We must beat Bush.’

    As for the liberals who make up Democrats’ base, for all their passion about jobs and global trade, health care, the environment, abortion and gay rights and especially the war, these days the left cares “big time” about whether a candidate can get elected, says Robert Borosage, co-director of the union-supported advocacy group Campaign for America’s Future.

    Likewise, feminist leader Kate Michelman says that in her travels, “I hear people talking about ‘electability’ all the time, and Democrats are going to continue talking about it.” Even among audiences eager to see a female president, she says, skeptics ask, “Do you think the country is really ready for a woman?” Ms. Michelman is supporting former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards — not, she says, because she considers the front-runners unelectable but because Mr. Edwards is the best candidate for women’s issues, and electable.

    Even the most ardent activist cannot deny the electability factor filters his or her familiarity or that more than half a year before the primary her mind is made up.  Indeed America has changed.  The primaries no longer provide the average American citizen with a voice.  We, the people do not build a Party platform.  The guiding principles are established before we reach the polls. 

    John Kerry was thought to be electable, and some say the Senator won the popular vote in 2004, I among them.  Nonetheless, can we, will we continue to negate that the win was not a landslide.  Electability does not guarantee a win.  Electability is a myth.  The numbers do not always add up.  Please do the math, take the measure of a man or woman into consideration.  Subtract the electability factor and then decide whom you will choose.  A candidate may look good on screen; they may be well trained.  However, if they do not represent you as a whole do you really want, them in the White House.

    Please America let us not settle.  Images are nice, but they will not exit Iraq immediately. Nor will they meet with Heads of State, unless they think the time is right, if it ever is.  America has seen the damage caused by such a stalwart stance. 

    A perfect Presidential posture does not endorse marriage for all people, no matter their sexual preferences.  A suave Sue or Sam will not necessarily work diligently to insure all citizens universally have health care.  An attractive and accomplished Joe or Jane  may not have a care for  our well-being.  A lack of Social Security or Medicare will not be their undoing.  They will be paid and cared for regardless of the reverence they show for us, the people that elect them.

    Contenders say, ending poverty must be a priority.  However, did you hear the candidates speak?  The vast majority of these contenders were never poor.  They are willing to work for minimum wage because they can.  How many millions sit in their bank accounts gaining interest?  Without supplementing the windfall from these funds, many struggling Americans could easily survive on the principal alone.  If the future President did chose to live on a minimum wage, it seems certain their “constituents” would donate to their cause.

    Educating the Whole Child and improving schools is surely an issue that affects most Americans.  Yet, almost all these aspirants sent their own children to private schools.  A few stated that when their children were younger they attended public school for a time.  However, more than one mentioned they were glad they later transferred their children to a private institution.  You know how the media can badger a famous offspring. 

    Global warming is definitely a crisis.  The rise in water temperature directly correlates to our use of oil.  Nonetheless, little was proposed beside fuel efficiency.  Our dependence on petroleum will likely not be dealt with.  Candidates that ask Americans to sacrifice their cushy lifestyle may not be electable.

    There is so much more to ponder and peruse than electability.  Please, let us do and be more, our planet, people, young, and old depend on us.  I invite you to read the plans of each Presidential hopeful.  Do not glance at only the proposals of those you think pretty enough to pass the electability test.  Remember this is a primary election, not the general and final opportunity to cast your ballot.

    Tell the Presidential entrants what is really important to you before it is too late.  You may recall, in 2000, George W. Bush thought George W. Bush was a likable guy.  He had a record; the junior Bush was Governor of a large state.  That is certainly impressive.  He was personable, in good shape.  His wife was cute. In 2000, people voted for a personality.  Powerful political plans were thought to be less important.  Witness our current circumstances and then consider.

    Now, we have a chance to be more cautious.  We can choose carefully.  Each of us could tell the candidates where we really stand.  You, dear reader, might express what you need. Perchance, the primary election could be as it was intended to be, an opportunity to tell your Party what you, we, I value.  The national Party can shape a platform, rather than rely on one individual to determine what is best for us, everyone of us, as a whole.  This primary election could demonstrate the power of the people, or . . .

    Alternatively, Americans can do as is done in the Information Age.  Citizens can profess to be educated and vote for the candidate they think will win, regardless.  We can presume that a participant understands our experiences, that essentially, he or she has the qualities we desire.  However, if we do not take advantage of the primary process, use this time to familiarize ourselves with the aspirants one by one, face to face when possible, if we do not remember and acknowledge this is not the general election, we will get what we accept, an impressive image.

    Primary, Secondary Sources . . .

  • Democratic Debate, July 23, 2007. Cable News Network. 
  • Race For the White House. Cable News Network.
  • Presidential Debates. Cable News Network.
  • States vying to vote early primary primacy, Presidential primary muddle could reshape entire campaign. By James O’Toole,  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Sunday, January 28, 2007
  • Democrats’ Litmus: Electability, Key Issue for 2008 Race Poses Hurdles for Clinton, Obama. By Jackie Calmes. The Wall Street Journal. January 11, 2007
  • pdf Democrats’ Litmus: Electability, Key Issue for 2008 Race Poses Hurdles for Clinton, Obama. By Jackie Calmes. The Wall Street Journal. January 11, 2007
  • Dems shouldn’t put all of their eggs in the ‘electability’ basket, By Walter Shapiro.  USA Today. November 4, 2003
  • Your voice to be heard in historic debates. Cable News Network.
  • White House 2008: General Election. Polling Report.
  • Bush: No early Iran-Syria talks. British Broadcasting Company. December 7, 2006
  • Bush must be told: talk to your enemies, By Denis MacShane.  The Observer. Sunday November 12, 2006
  • John Edwards road-tests poverty theme, By Mark Z. Barabak.  Los Angeles Times. July 13, 2007
  • pdf John Edwards road-tests poverty theme, By Mark Z. Barabak.  Los Angeles Times. July 13, 2007
  • Obama Narrows Gap With Clinton, By John Harwood. The Wall Street Journal. April 26, 2007; Page A6
  • pdf Obama Narrows Gap With Clinton, By John Harwood. The Wall Street Journal. April 26, 2007; Page A6
  • 2008: 7/23 straw poll results. By Kos.  Daily Kos. July 23, 2007
  • Edwards: Wife’s cancer returns, campaign goes on. Cable News Network. March 23, 2007
  • Defending Dean’s Scream, It Just Wasn’t That Weird, By Dick Meyer. CBS News. January 23, 2004
  • Thomas F. Eagleton, 77, a Running Mate for 18 Days, Dies. By Adam Clymer. The New York Times. March 5, 2007
  • The Health and Medical History of Richard M. Nixon. Doctor Zebra.
  • Reaction Shots May Tell Tale of Debate, Bush’s Scowls Compared to Gore’s Sighs. By Dana Milbank. Washington Post. Saturday, October 2, 2004; Page A10
  • Kerried Away, The Myth and Math of Kerry’s Electability. By William Saletan. Slate. Wednesday, February 11, 2004, at 12:41 AM ET
  • A New Compact to Educate the Whole Child. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Online poll: Bush is likable. By Michael D. Clark. The Cincinnati Enquirer. September 10, 2000
  • Democrats Debate; Directed By Cable News Network

    CNN/YouTube Debate: Part 1 a

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Last evening we had an opportunity to assess the candidates, or perhaps their performance, produced and directed by Cable News Network. 

    Please, scan the stage.  Be a critic, an analyst, or a theorist.  Study the mis-en-scéne.  Attempt to separate yourself from your political philosophy and your preferred candidate.  What do you see?  Examine the lighting, the colors contenders choose to wear, or the producers suggested they might don.

    Observe the camera angles, and discern whom the audience is directed to consider the main character in this performance.  Supporting actors also fill the scene.  There are those clearly staged as background players.  Might you recognize these.

    In every concert, there is a climax.  All that precedes it is foreshadowing.  The dramatist walks the viewers through the set.  Each moment builds on the other.  Every event is planned in hopes of maximizing the effect.  Sequencing is important.  The first entrance is often more memorable, only the close of the play supercedes the introduction.

    As a member of the audience, as an objective observer, what causes you to marvel.  Do the speeches dazzle you, or does the “point of view” affect your ability to choose what interests you.  Are you mesmerized?  Perhaps, a few dominant deliveries distract you or the absence of others disturbs your sensibility.  Remember, to truly be an effective reviewer you must do what no human can, separate your heart and heady soul from this scene.  Report as though you have no care in the world . . . if that is possible.

    Health and the Candidates, Sickooooo

    Debate Question for Democratic Candidates

    I have written much on health care in America.  You may have read . . .

  • Congress and Bush Clash; Children’s Health and the Commonwealth
  • Health, A Right or a Privilege For The Few
  • Miracle of Medicine Kills President Garfield and More
  • Health Insurance is the Catalyst for Consensus
    For now, I prefer that Michael Moore speak for me.

    I offer a few of the “facts” presented in Moore’s film, SiCKO.  You may wish to visit his webpage for more information.

    ‘SiCKO’ Factual Backup

    SiCKO: There are nearly 50 million Americans without health insurance.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually reported that 54.5 million people were uninsured for at least part of the year. Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, 2006. Centers for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/n…
  • The amount of uninsured is rising every year, as premiums continue to skyrocket and wages stagnate. From 2004 to 2005 the number of uninsured rose 1.3 million, and rose up nearly 6 million from 2001-2005. Leighton Ku, “Census Revises Estimates Of The Number Of Uninsured People,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, April 5, 2007 http://www.cbpp.org/…. With 44.8 uninsured in 2005, in 2007 the number will be much higher. Professors Todd Gilmer and Richard Kronick, in “It’s The Premiums, Stupid: Projections Of The Uninsured Through 2013,” Health Affairs, 10.1377/hlthaff.w5.143, “project that the number of non-elderly uninsured Americans will grow from forty-five million in 2003 to fifty-six million by 2013.” According to these authors, by now the number of non-elderly uninsured by this date clearly would be nearly 50 million.

    SiCKO: 18,000 Americans will die this year simply because they’re uninsured.

  • According to the Institute of Medicine, “lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States. Although America leads the world in spending on health care, it is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage.” Insuring America’s Health: Principles and Recommendations, Institute of Medicine, January 2004.  http://www.iom.edu/?…

    SiCKO: Richard Nixon and John Ehrlichman are heard discussing the concept of a health maintenance organization in Oval Office Recordings.

  • On February 17, 1971, Richard Nixon met with John Ehrlichman to discuss the Vice President’s position on health maintenance organizations, as heard in the film. The Miller Center of Public Affairs has this audio recording (conversation number 450-23. “Richard Nixon – Oval Office Recordings,”  http://millercenter….
  • The next day, Nixon called for a “new national health strategy” that had four points for expanding the proliferation of health maintenance organizations, or HMOs. “Special Message to the Congress Proposing a National Health Strategy,” February 18th, 1971, http://www.presidenc…
  • The term “health maintenance organization” was coined by Nixon advisor Paul Ellwood. Patricia Bauman, “The Formulation and Evolution of the Health Maintenance Organization Policy, 1970-1973, Social Science & Medicine, vol. 10. 1976. After Congress passed Nixon’s HMO Act in 1973, HMOs in America increased nine-fold in just ten years. N. R. Kleinfield, “The King of the HMO Mountain,” New York Times, July 31, 1983.

    SiCKO: The American Medical Association distributed a record featuring Ronald Reagan discussing the evils of socialized medicine.

  • Ronald Reagan’s recording was widely available in the 1960s, and was a part of the American Medical Association’s “Operation Coffee Cup,” a coordinated rebuttal to Democrats’ push for Medicare. Max Skidmore, “Ronald Reagan and Operation Coffee Cup: A Hidden Episode in American Political History,” Journal of American Culture, vol. 12. 1989.

    SiCKO: $100 million spent to defeat Hillary’s health care plan.

  • “Even before debate began in Congress, a powerful coalition had been cobbled together to fight Clintoncare, as opponents labeled it – congressional Republicans, the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Business Roundtable, the Christian Coalition, the conservative radio talk show network. Those groups spent between $100 million and $ 300 million to defeat it. And the battle was fought like a presidential campaign – with a TV advertising campaign, a network of field operatives and public relations experts to lobby members of Congress back in their districts.” Rob Christensen, “Who killed health care reform? Answer: Everyone,” News & Observer, June 19, 1996.
  • “In 1993-94, the Health Insurance Association of America, a trade group, spent about $15 million on advertising to defeat Clinton’s proposed overhaul of the nation’s health care system.” John MacDonald, “Proponents, Opponents Join Battle Over Drug Price Limits,” Hartford Courant, June 21, 2000.
  • “‘We spent $1.4 million to fight President Clinton’s plan,’ [Mike Russell of the Christian Coalition] says.” Harold Cox, “Business will spearhead Health Reform II ; Old enemies of Clinton’s plan in lead,” Washington Times, December 27, 1994.
  • “A study by Citizen Action, a consumer group, reports that doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and other providers of medical services made campaign contributions of $ 79 million during the 1993-1994 election cycle. The insurance industry passed out $16 million. The American Medical Association, which objects to cost-control measures, contributed $ 3 million.” Froma Harrop, “The big lie about health reform,” Rocky Mountain News, August 20, 1995.
  • “According to [Citizens for a Sound Economy] spokesman Brent Bahler, the group has not bought any airtime for commercials but has ‘tentative plans’ for a grassroots advocacy effort that would include an advertising component. Last year, Bahler said, the CSE spent more than $2 million on print, radio and television advertising to defeat Clinton’s health care reform plan.” James A. Barnes, “RNC Turns To TV Ads On Budget,” National Journal, 5.16.95.

    SiCKO: The United States is ranked #37 as a health system by the World Health Organization.

  • “The U. S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance, the report finds.” “World Health Organization Assesses The World’s Health Systems,” Press Release, WHO/44, June 21, 2000. http://www.who.int/i…

    SiCKO: Health industry companies accused of wrongdoing in Sicko.

  • Aetna: “Aetna Inc. ? settled with the plaintiffs, which include the medical associations of California and Texas. Aetna agreed to pay the plaintiffs $120 million.” Milt Freudenheim, “Class-Action Status Is Upheld for Doctors Suing Insurers,” New York Times, September 2, 2004. See also, Susan Beck, “HMO Postmortem,” American Lawyer, October 10, 2003. Settlement Agreement, http://www.aetna.com…
  • Blue Cross/Blue Shield: “Sixty-seven Blue Cross/Blue Shield companies across the nation have paid the United States a total of $117 million to settle government claims that Medicare made primary payments for health care services that should have been paid by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield private insurance companies, the Department of Justice announced today.” “Blue Cross/Blue Shield Companies Settle Medicare Claims, Pay United States $117 Million, Agree To Share Information,” Department of Justice News Release, October 25, 1995.  http://www.usdoj.gov…
  • Cigna: “Cigna Corporation, [has] settled with the plaintiffs, which include the medical associations of California and Texas. ? Cigna agreed to pay $85 million.” Milt Freudenheim, “Class-Action Status Is Upheld for Doctors Suing Insurers,” New York Times, September 2, 2004.
  • “HCA Inc. (formerly known as Columbia/HCA and HCA – The Healthcare Company) has agreed to pay the United States $631 million in civil penalties and damages arising from false claims the government alleged it submitted to Medicare and other federal health programs, the Justice Department announced today. ? Previously, on December 14, 2000, HCA subsidiaries pled guilty to substantial criminal conduct and paid more than $840 million in criminal fines, civil restitution and penalties.
    Combined with today’s separate administrative settlement with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), under which HCA will pay an additional $250 million to resolve overpayment claims arising from certain of its cost reporting practices, the government will have recovered $1.7 billion from HCA, by far the largest recovery ever reached by the government in a health care fraud investigation.” “Largest Health Care Fraud Case In U.S. History Settled; HCA Investigation Nets Record Total Of $1.7 Billion,” Department of Justice News Release, June 26, 2003.  http://www.usdoj.gov…

    SiCKO: Executive Compensation

  • Michael B McAllister earned $3.33 million in compensation as CEO of Humana. “Forbes 2006 Executive Pay list,” April 20, 2006.  http://www.forbes.co…
  • John W Rowe earned $22.2 million in compensation as CEO of Aetna. Rowe has since left Aetna. “Forbes 2004 Executive Pay list,” April 21, 2005.  http://www.forbes.co…
  • Bill McGuire has stock options worth $1.6 billion at the end of 2005, as CEO of UnitedHealth Group. Robert Simison, “SEC Investigates UnitedHealth Over Stock-Options Practices,” Bloomberg News, December 27, 2006; Michael Regan, “Business 2006: Who Won, Who Lost,” Associated Press,December 26, 2006.

    SiCKO: There are four times as many health care lobbyists as there are members of Congress.

  • According to the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org), in 2005 there were 2,084 health care lobbyists registered with the federal government. With 535 members of Congress, that’s 3.895 lobbyists per member.

    SiCKO: Hillary Clinton became the second largest recipient in the Senate of health care industry contributions.

  • “As she runs for re-election to the Senate from New York this year and lays the groundwork for a possible presidential bid in 2008, Mrs. Clinton is receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from doctors, hospitals, drug manufacturers and insurers. Nationwide, she is the No. 2 recipient of donations from the industry, trailing only Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a member of the Republican leadership.” Raymond Hernandez and Robert Pear, “Once an Enemy, Health Industry Warms to Clinton,” New York Times, July 12, 2006.

    SiCKO: Drug industry money to members of Congress, and the president, who led the effort to pass the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

  • “The health industry gave $14 million total to the eleven elected officials largely credited with negotiating the bill. Pharmaceutical company PACs, employees, and their families gave more than $3 million in campaign contributions to (those) eleven elected officials.” Buying A Law: Big Pharma’s Big Money and the Bush Medicare Plan, Campaign Money Watch, January 2004.  http://www.ourfuture…

    SiCKO: The Medicare Part D plan will hand over $800 billion of our tax dollars to the drug and health insurance industry.

  • According to the Congressional Budget Office, for the ten-year period, 2006 through 2016, the projected spending is $848 billion. “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2008 to 2017,” Congressional Budget Office, January 2007. http://www.cbo.gov/f…

    SiCKO: The elderly could end up paying more for their prescription drugs than they did before under Part D – and a majority of senior citizens could still pay over $2000 a year.

  • “For all patients, Medicare covers 75 percent of the first $2,250 worth of drugs. But after that, coverage drops to zero – and doesn’t resume until the patient hits $5,100 in expenses. Then Medicare kicks in again, paying 95 percent of costs. But it’s this gap – of almost $3,000 – that many sick and disabled seniors call unaffordable.” Medicare’s ‘Donut Hole,’ CBS News, July 26, 2006.  http://www.cbsnews.c…
  • “Nearly 7 million seniors and individuals with disabilities who purchased stand-alone prescription drug coverage are now at risk of falling into the ‘doughnut hole.’ According to a report released today by Senior Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee? nearly 88 percent of new drug plan enrollees, roughly 7 million individuals, are at risk of losing coverage for their medications while they continue to pay monthly premiums to their insurers.

    The report further details how few individuals have enrolled in plans without doughnut holes, presumably because of the prohibitive cost of such plans.” “88% Of New Medicare Drug Program Enrollees At Risk Of Falling Into The ‘Doughnut Hole,'” Joint News Release From Representative Charles B. Rangel, Ranking Democrat, Committee On Ways And Means, Representative Pete Stark, Ranking Democrat, Subcommittee On Health, Committee On Ways And Means, Representative Sander M. Levin, Ranking Democrat, Subcommittee On Social Security, Committee On Ways And Means, September 21, 2006.  http://www.house.gov…

  • “Over the past year, Part D drug prices have increased several times faster than the rate of inflation. Families USA analyzed the prices for 15 of the drugs most frequently prescribed to seniors. We examined prices for each of the plans offered by the largest Part D insurers, which together cover about two-thirds of all Part D beneficiaries. We then compared the lowest available Part D price for each drug in April 2006 with the lowest available price for the same drug in April 2007. The lowest price for every one of the top 15 drugs prescribed to seniors increased, and the median increase was 9.2 percent.” Medicare Part D Prices Are Climbing Quickly, FamiliesUSA, April 2007.  http://www.familiesu…

    SiCKO: Fourteen Congressional aides went to work for the industry; Billy Tauzin left Congress to become CEO of PhRMA for a $2 million annual salary.

  • See, e.g., The Medicare Drug War: An Army of Nearly 1,000 Lobbyists Pushes a Medicare Law that Puts Drug Company and HMO Profits Ahead of Patients and Taxpayers, Public Citizen Congress Watch, June 2004,  http://www.citizen.o…
  • “Retiring Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., who stepped down earlier this year as chairman of the House committee that regulates the pharmaceutical industry, will become the new president and CEO of the drug industry’s top lobbying group?Public Citizen, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, called Tauzin’s hiring ‘yet another example of how public service is leading to private riches.’ Tauzin gets a pay package reportedly worth at least $2 million a year, making him one of the highest-paid lobbyists in Washington.” “Tauzin switches sides from drug industry overseer to lobbyist,” USA Today, December 15, 2004.. http://www.usatoday….

    SiCKO: Canadians live three years longer than we do.

  • The 2006 United Nations Human Development Report’s human development index states the life expectancy in the United States is 77.5, and the life expectancy in Canada is 80.2. Human Development Report 2006, United Nations Development Programme, 2006 at 283.  http://hdr.undp.org/…

    SiCKO: Tommy Douglas, who pioneered Canada’s health care system, was heralded as the nation’s singular most important person.

  • “In November 2004, Canadians voted Tommy Douglas the Greatest Canadian of all time following a nationwide contest. Over 1.2 million votes were cast in a frenzy of voting that took place over six weeks as each of 10 advocates made their case for the Top 10 nominees in special feature programs on CBC Television? . From his first foray into public office politics in 1934 to his post-retirement years in the 1970s, Canada’s ‘father of Medicare’ stayed true to his socialist beliefs — often at the cost of his own political fortune — and earned himself the respect of millions of Canadians in the process.” “The Greatest Canadian,” CBC, 2004. http://www.cbc.ca/gr…

    SiCKO: Canadian “wait times” not nearly as long as some try to allege.

  • According to Statistics Canada, the official government statistical agency, “In 2005, the median waiting time was about 4 weeks for specialist visits, 4 weeks for non-emergency surgery, and 3 weeks for diagnostic tests. Nationally, median waiting times remained stable between 2003 and 2005 – but there were some differences at the provincial level for selected specialized services.? 70 to 80 percent of Canadians find their waiting times acceptable” “Access to health care services in Canada, Waiting times for specialized services (January to December 2005),” Statistics Canada, http://www.statcan.c…
  • A recent study of emergency care in Ontario found that overall, “50% of patients triaged as CTAS I [most acute] were seen by a physician within 6 minutes and 86% were seen within 30 minutes of arriving at the [Emergency Department]. In contrast, the 50% of patients triaged as CTAS IV or V who were seen most quickly waited an hour or less, while 1 in 10 waited three hours or more. Understanding Emergency Department Wait Times: How Long Do People Spend in Emergency Departments in Ontario? Canadian Institute for Health Information, January 2007.  http://www.cihi.ca/c…
  • “Gerard Anderson, a Johns Hopkins health policy professor who has spent his career examining the world’s healthcare, said there are delays, but not as many as conservatives state. In Canada, the United Kingdom and France, ‘three percent of hospital discharges had delays in treatment,’ Anderson told The Miami Herald. ‘That’s a relatively small number, and they’re all elective surgeries, such as hip and knee replacement.’ John Dorschner, “‘Sicko’ film is set to spark debate; Reformers are gearing up for ‘Sicko,’ the first major movie to examine America’s often maligned healthcare system,” Miami Herald, June 29, 2007.

    SiCKO: Drugs in England only cost $10.

  • For much of 2006, the standard charge for a prescription was £6.65. “The cost of an NHS prescription in England is to rise by 15p to £6.65 from the start of April.” “Prescription charge to rise 15p,” BBC News, March 13 2006.
  • From April 1 2007 to present, the charge is £6.85. “There are many unacceptable inequities and anomalies in the present system. Although around four out of five prescriptions are exempt (see below for list of exempt categories), the price of a prescription (£6.85 from 1 April 2007) often hits those who cannot afford such charges. There are many people with chronic conditions who are not exempt and those on low incomes find it very difficult to pay. This causes a disproportionate levy on a limited section of the population.” British Medical Association, “Funding – Prescription Changes,” March 2007. http://www.bma.org.u…

    SiCKO: After losing 42,000 civilians in eight months during a vicious bombing campaign during World War II, Britain pulled together and instituted a National Health Insurance program in 1948.

  • “The Blitz was September 7, 1940 through May 11 1941. “42,000 civilians are estimated to have died during the campaign, with over 50,000 injured, and around 130,000 houses destroyed.” See, “Remembering the Blitz,”  http://www.museumofl… “Living With War; Air Raids,” The Discovery Channel,  http://www.discovery…
  • “The NHS was set up in 1948 and is now the largest organisation in Europe. It is recognised as one of the best health services in the world by the World Health Organisation but there need to be improvements to cope with the demands of the 21st century.” “About the NHS,” NHA website,  http://www.nhs.uk/Ab…

  • Please ponder your options.  Tonight as you view the Cable News Network debates assess the candidates, their answers to Mister Moore’s question, and any information in this text that refers to them.

    Michael Moore on Countdown with Keith Olbermann

  • Open Thread. July 22, 2007 Art is Born

    “The man’s the work. Something doesn’t come out of nothing.”
    ~ Edward Hopper
    Born on this Day 1882

    “If you can imagine a thing, conjure it up in space then you can make it . . .
    The universe is real but you can’t see it.
    You have to imagine it.
    Then you can be realistic about reproducing it.”

    ~ Alexander Calder
    Born on this Day 1898

    Be an artist in motion.  Imagine what is within you. 
    Then create it for all to see. 
    Please share your thoughts, your tales, talk to us. 
    Together we are the art, the beauty, and the beholder all in one.

    Potential Commander-In-Chief Hillary Clinton Blames Iraqis

    Senator Hillary Clinton on Iraq at South Carolina Debate

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    In times of war, it is often difficult to distinguish the wrongdoers from those in the “right.”  Each bumps and bruises the other.  Frequently, both participants in a dispute share blame.  However, there are those occasions where one party pounces, beats the other to a pulp, and then places the onus on the victim.  The Iraq war may illustrate such a dynamic.  Indeed, this conflict may be the epitome of what occurs when men and women justify their fight.

    On Thursday, July 19, 2007, the Penatagon rebuked Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for her statements regarding the war. 

    In May 2007, the Senator urged the Pentagon to begin planning for the withdrawal of American forces.  Days ago, there was a response.  Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman reprimanded Hillary Clinton, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for requesting such a move [forward.]  In a letter to Missus Clinton, Edelman wrote.

    A copy of Edelman’s response, dated July 16, was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

    “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia,” Edelman wrote.

    He added that “such talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.”

    Missus Clinton is now considered the scapegoat for this war.  The Bush Administration is not at fault.

    For years, President Bush often held Saddam Hussein responsible for his decision to attack the nation of Iraq.  Mister Bush blamed the former dictator for the bombs that fell on innocent Iraqi civilians, men, women, and children.  Were it not for United States supported despot, we would have never gone to war.  Then, just as now the Iraq conflict is not the Bush burden.

    The American people are familiar with this blame game.  The diversion has been popular for a while.  However, on January 13, 2007, the usual drums droned out a louder beat.  The sound came from a different direction.  At first the noise was muffled, somewhat muted; nevertheless, gained strength.  It continues to ring in my ears. 

    Hillary Clinton spoke out; she stated her fervent opposition to the Iraqi government.  Senator Clinton claimed the Iraqis had failed us.  The physically and psychically wounded citizens in this war-torn nation have let the United States of America, and the American people down.

    Clinton had tough words for the Iraqi government, which she said has failed repeatedly to deliver on its promises.

    “I’m skeptical that the Iraqi government will do what they have promised to do, and that I think is the concern of all of us who have heard this before,” she said.  “All the promises, and intentions in the world don’t substitute for action and we haven’t seen a lot of action.”

    Missus Clinton not wanting to draw further attention to her own actions, her vote of support for the attack on Iraq, or her decision not to apologize for such a gesture, is willing to blame anyone, and everyone but herself.  Senator Clinton blames faulty Intelligence, the President of the United States, the Vice President, and the Secretaries of State and Defense.  Admittedly, when given the opportunity to read the official Intelligence reports, the esteemed Senator from New York and Presidential aspirant did not avail herself of this chance.  Missus Clinton asserts she was briefed.  However, Clinton remains certain she was fully informed.

    Indeed, the Senator has access to secrets often known only by those residing in the White House.  It is said, “Politics makes for strange bed-fellows.”  Hillary Clinton shares her boudoir with the former President Bill Clinton.

    On February 7, 2007, the Senator again hammered her message into the minds of a war weary public.  Americans [and she] are not to blame for this protracted conflict, the [American led] Iraqi government must hold its own.  They, the victims of our occupation, must be accountable.  After all, did we, the Untied States of America, not “give” them billions of dollars and a guiding light? 

    On the floor of the Senate in a lengthy speech the candidate, perhaps the future Commander-In-Chief declared.

    [W]e should put pressure on the Iraqi government in a way that they will understand there are consequences to their empty promises and their continued inaction . . .

    So what should we do?  Well, many of us believe — and we’ve been arguing for this and voting for this for more than a year-and-a-half — that we have to chart a new course that emphasizes greater Iraqi responsibility.  I still believe that is the path we should be taking.  Instead, the President has chosen a very narrow course that relies heavily on American military force . . . 

    [A]s a means to increase our leverage with the Iraqi government and to clearly send a message that there are consequences to their inaction, I would impose conditions for continued funding of the Iraqi security forces and the private contractors working for the Iraqis.  My legislation would require certification that the security forces were free of sectarian and militia influence and were actually assuming greater responsibility for Iraqi security along with other conditions.  We must not let US funds, taxpayer funds, be used to train members of sectarian militias who are responsible for so much of the violence in Iraq.

    “Responsible for so much violence in Iraq.”  Missus Clinton, might that be the United States you are speaking of?  Prior to the unilateral American led assault, the people in Iraq felt as though the quality of their life, while not great was vastly better than it is.  The Iraq Living Conditions Survey 2004 offered insight.  The weight of warfare was already taking a toll and continues to worsen.

    Only 18 percent of Iraqis have confidence in U.S. and coalition troops, and 86 percent are concerned that someone in their household will be a victim of violence.

    _Slightly more than half of Iraqis _ 51 percent _ now say that violence against U.S. forces is acceptable _ up from 17 percent who felt that way in early 2004.  More than nine in 10 Sunni Arabs in Iraq now feel this way.

    _While 63 percent said they felt very safe in their neighborhoods in late 2005, only 26 percent feel that way now.

    The major cause for this sharp reversal in Iraqi attitudes is the continuing violence _ bombings, attacks by roving gunmen and kidnappings _ that has overwhelmed the country since the U.S. invasion four years ago this week.

    As the Iraqis suffer we scream.  “It is all their fault.”  When a blast rocks the streets in New York City in July 2007, the first thought is “they” are attacking us, the innocents.  Americans label those fighting for freedom aboard terrorist.  However, we, the people of the United States, as aggressive and arrogant as we might be, never consider that we are brutal invaders of a sovereign nation.  Those in the Middle East did not and do not welcome our intrusion into their homeland.  Nor did they ask us to murder en mass their fathers, sons, women, and children.  Yet, we do.

    Nations, not our own, acknowledge what we the blameless Americans have done and continue to do.The Humanitarian Briefing on the Crisis in Iraq concludes . . .

    Iraq is in crisis; Iraqis are suffering and their circumstances are deteriorating daily.  The escalation of violence has severely constrained humanitarian space, with the result that suffering people are not heard, and their needs are not met.  In order to avert the impending regional crisis, swift and appropriate action is needed from all.

    Iraq’s recovery process now depends upon ending a climate of disorder and impunity where rights violations are increasingly commonplace.  The targeting of civilian populations by all parties to the conflict must cease.  The GoI [Government of Iraq] should be urged on a priority basis to take all necessary steps to fulfill its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights laws.  The donor community is encouraged to re-evaluate its current focus on long-term reconstruction and development programmes, and to support efforts to address the crisis immediately, before more damage is done, and more lives are unnecessarily lost.  The UN stands committed in its role as neutral broker to coordinate the humanitarian response so urgently needed.

    Nonetheless, Hillary Clinton harps on.  This Senator, and perhaps, soon to be the President of the United States of America howls.  Her cries are contagious.

    On June 7, 2007, even the current President, George W. Bush, followed Senator Clinton’s lead.  The Commander-In-Chief stated.

    “I would like to see us in a different configuration at some point in time in Iraq,” the president said at a Rose Garden news conference on May 24

    Other Federal officials concur.  Congress joined in .  They too call for accountability.  Senators and Representatives shout, ‘How dare the Iraqi government recess when American boys and girls are dying everyday.’  The lives of the liberators are in danger.  Granted Congress could have cut the funding and brought our troops home; yet they chose not to do that.  Senators and Congresspersons claim the President is putting the soldiers in harms way.  The White House declares the Congressional Branch is at fault.

    Lawmakers divided over whether to keep U.S. troops in Iraq are finding common ground on at least one topic: They are furious that Iraqi politicians are considering a lengthy break this summer.

    “If they go off on vacation for two months while our troops fight – that would be the outrage of outrages,” said Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn.

    An indignation indeed; however whom might be the focus of such humiliation.  Perhaps it is we?  Are we, the people of the United States not the abusers, the ones that attacked another nation without cause, and are we not now the ones placing the responsibility on our victims?  Had they not made US angry, had they been able to govern for themselves, we would have not needed to change their regime or occupy their countryside.

    I sigh and reflect, as the drumming echoes in my ears.  Hillary Clinton took the podium during the Democratic debates weeks earlier.  There she stated publicly as she did again at a recent rally.

    “The American military has succeeded.  It is the Iraqi government which has failed to make the tough decisions that are important for their own people.”

    Yes, America can proudly proclaim mission accomplished.  We have served ourselves well.  We have sacrificed American lives in the name of freedom and justice; yet, I ask who is liberated and what is righteousness.  If might makes right, I think I’d rather be wrong.  I prefer heartbeats to those of a drum.

    “There are no justifications for targeting civilians, in Iraq or anywhere else, said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division.  “Armed groups as well as governments must respect the laws of war.”

    The Sound of War, Sources . . .

  • Clinton: Iraq War Bush’s Responsibility, By Mike Glover. Washington Post. Monday, January 29, 2007; 7:03 AM
  • pdf Clinton: Iraq War Bush’s Responsibility, By Mike Glover.  Washington Post. Monday, January 29, 2007; 7:03 AM
  • The Cycle of Violence.  Domestic Violence Services.
  • Pentagon Rebukes Sen. Clinton on Iraq, By Devlin Barrett.  The Associated Press.  Washington Post. Thursday, July 19, 2007; 8:18 PM
  • pdf Pentagon Rebukes Sen. Clinton on Iraq, By Devlin Barrett.  The Associated Press.  Washington Post. Thursday, July 19, 2007; 8:18 PM
  • Bush blames Iraq’s instability on Hussein. Cable News Network. Wednesday, March 29, 2006
  • Exclusive: Sen. Clinton: Iraq Situation ‘Heartbreaking,’ Senator Speaks Out Against the President’s Policy in Iraq. By Jonathon Karl.  ABC News. Jan. 13, 2007
  • Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Speaks on Iraq on the Senate Floor.  Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.  February 7, 2007
  • Iraq After 2008, By Michael Hirsh. Newsweek. June 7, 2007
  • Hillary Clinton: No regret on Iraq vote. Cable News Network. Wednesday, April 21, 2004
  • Floor Speech of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on S.J. Res. 45, A Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. October 10, 2002
  • Poll: Iraqis Gripped by Fear and Anger, By Will Lester.  The Associated Press.  Washington Post. Monday, March 19, 2007; 9:58 PM
  • pdf Poll: Iraqis Gripped by Fear and Anger, By Will Lester.  The Associated Press.  Washington Post. Monday, March 19, 2007; 9:58 PM
  • Iraqis Endure Worse Conditions Than Under Saddam, UN Survey Finds, By Chris Shumway.  Health Now. Wednesday 18 May 2005
  • Hillary Clinton: Why is she hated by progressives and right-wingers alike?, By Leonard Doyle.  The Independent. 15 July 2007
  • Iraq: Insurgent Groups Responsible for War Crimes,  Human Rights Watch.
  • EPA Proposes Lower Toxic Reporting Standards

    copyright © 2007 Possum Ponders.  Sedalia Tales

    A recent report issued for the Colorado Public Interest Group, Toxic Pollution and Health, PDF analyses the release of toxic chemicals into air and water in America.  Current standards of reporting require industries to monitor more than 600 toxic chemicals.  Under new rules promulgated by the Bush admininistration, these strictures will be reduced.  That may mean we will see few or no more reports like the one just released.

    The Environmental Protection Agency has a mission statement which states the following is their responsibility:

    to protect human health and the environment.

    To accomplish their stated purpose the EPA employs more than 17,000 people across the nation.  The agency sponsors research and publishes information necessary to the public interest.  Sorting through the current body of laws and regulations is a daunting task, but the information is available for those so inclined.

    Now we hear the EPA wishes to stop the oversight of

    waste that companies say is destined for recycling and reuse in the manufacturing process

    This will leave the public and American consumers without the protections we previously enjoyed. 

    Critics say the rule change could lead to mismanagement of hazardous materials, creating new toxic dumps and increased risks to public health.

    The proposed rule allows companies to provide a one time reporting which states the name of the company and the address.  No requirement for quantity or disposal means is required to be reported.  And since this is a program of exclusion, the EPA, according to director of hazardous waste in the Identification Division Bob Dellinger, will not

    be doing an environmental risk assessment because it was not an “appropriate analysis for these kinds of exclusions.”

    The Bush administration once again demonstrates its opposition to fair and responsible treatment of the American public and the environment in response to industry pressure.  The new regulations will more than likely be cheaper than the old ones.  And maybe there will be a savings in overall paperwork, but the question remains, will this be better for our world?  I submit the damage is predictable only in that it will occur.  The magnitude of the damage will not be known since we can get no information under these rules.

    This writing is based on an article in The New Standard which may be read here. and from RH Reality Check.