Pages

Monday, June 29, 2009

Iran Revolution Needs You

After the previous frivolous post, I wanted to write and say that even though the MSM is obsessed with celebrity deaths, there are some websites that are continuing their excellent coverage on Iran and I'm still tracking the uprising day and night. Not everybody has the kind of patience I have, to track through all the Twitter posts and sift the real stuff from the crap (and there's a lot of crap), but I have learned many, many things.

If you want a reputable place to go online to get the latest news, I suggest following Nico Pitney on Huffington Post, who continues to live blog. He has now started separating his posts by day, so you can click here to keep up with his Monday post.

Andrew Sullivan is also doing an excellent job keeping up with Iran developments here. And you can get great information at Anonymous Iran.

In Twitter, I've been following the #IranElection hash tag, but it can get weighed down with spam, and it's become pretty dangerous to click on links and to retweet information, unless you really, really know the source. Since I've been tracking Twitter from the beginning of the vote debacle, I know who the real insiders are and I've followed them so that I can just get their posts versus wading through #IranElection. I've noticed that they don't always add the hash tag to their posts, so it's important to follow them separately. If I know you, and you want to know who those people are and how to follow them, just leave a comment here and I will email you. If I don't know you, I won't respond.

A few of the old reliables in Iran have dissappeared from Twitter. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that they are either in hiding, arrested or dead. If they had resurfaced under a new name, I would have known. The Iranian government may have been able to obstruct or slow down access to the Internet for their citizens, but they have not been able to stop them electronically. Instead, they do some simple research based on the user's IP address and other available information, and go and arrest them. Geeks from all over the world have united in setting up proxy servers on their own machines using Tor, which allows Iranians to mask their IP addresses and appear as if they are Twittering from another country. It's easy to download Tor but I have yet to figure out how to make my laptop a server, even though the instructions online are great. The problem is, I'm staying in other people's homes and the Internet here, for instance, is way too slow for me to set up a Tor relay. Tor relays takes bandwidth away from your own usage, since you are allowing other people to hop on and use your bandwidth, so this would not be cool for me to do.

If you are interested in setting up a Tor relay, you can go here for downloads and go to Anonymous Iran's Tor page and go check out Ian's Brain for step-by-step setup instructions with graphics. Even without the Iran crisis, I use Tor when I'm outside of the US to mask my location so that I can watch US TV online, such as The Daily Show and Colbert Report, so it can be useful for you outside of this situation. If you don't want to do this yourself, then donate to AVAAZ.org's fundraiser to supply anonymous bandwidth to Iranian protesters.

In general, I believe there is no turning back because the will of the people is incredibly strong and the world knows too much now. Iran's current regime is and will continue to crack down. They have the guns and the money. But the movement has people in huge numbers, and if united, they can overcome the guns and the money. They need encouragement though, so if you can post a tweet of love and encouragement (avoid nasty comments about the regime and any encouragement towards violence) and append the #iranelection hashtag to your tweet, this is a grand gesture, believe me. It helps drown out the spam tweets, and it lets the Iranian people know that they are not alone.

Gay Men And Republicans Reportedly Eat And Drink In Same House; Dancing Could Have Been Involved, Too

I'm in Vegas visiting my Republican girlfriend. I've known her for twenty-two years, so I figure if I was going to infest her with any dirty liberal germs, I would have done so by now. You know, the kind of germs that would threaten the entire institution of marriage (worldwide) or open up our borders to octobillions of government-tit-sucking Mexicans who already threaten the closure of the entire US hospital system by crowding our emergency rooms with riot-level frenzy (rather than the sleepy torpor that is usually assigned to them) and who will steal all of your children's menial-labor jobs (and my children's jobs, if I wasn't such a mortal-sinning birth-control-taking baby slayer) and whose wives (working as our maids for cash under the table) will steal our heirloom Lladro figurines and take minute scoops out of our $75 face cream jars (you know, over time, it adds up!!) and... let's see... what other cataclysmic thing do the Repubs want to make the American public think we nasty liberals will perpetrate upon them... the entire destruction of the happy-go-lucky, corporate-run, free-market, plastic Shangri-La in which we live right now?

I even slept with my girlfriend. Uh-huh. Yes I dih-id. OK, well, but nothing interesting happened. Otherwise, I'd be blackmailing her right now. In addition to the blackmailing I've already been doing - about that trip to Greece. (She thought I gave her all the negatives.)

Anyway, I helped her celebrate her 60th birthday Friday night. It was me, two gay guys and 75 Republicans. How did I know about the gay guys? Wey-uhl... When my girlfriend was getting roasted, the roaster mentioned how sad it was when my girlfriend lost her political race to a Democrat (Isn't that the damndest thing?). On the word "Democrat," the entire crowd moaned, "Boooooooo!" and I piped in with an elated, "Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!" Suddenly, very suddenly, the Boooooos stopped. There were a few shocked "Ohhs!" ...then silence. Except for two voices still going Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Mine, and a snappily dressed fellow over at the bar. Later, he found me in the crowd and said, "It was me over there saying Yay! along with you. When I heard you, I just couldn't help myself!"

Always been a trend setter. That's just me. Leave it to me to yell "Michael Jackson!" in a KKK BBQ. Hey, it makes me a popular party invite, if you are just dying to stir up some shit.

I did meet some nice people. Like the craps dealer with a PhD who brought his 87-year-old Dad with him to the party. My friend had already told me about how she met him when she was going door to door during her campaign. He and his dad have been big fans of her ever since. She told me he is brilliant, and he definitely is. (But I just cannot, for the life of me, understand how a PhD can watch Fox news. I just can't. But, that's just me.) He and I and his dad stood outside to share a smoke and we had a great time. He agreed with me that American traditional media was useless. He also agreed that it's a good idea to read and watch an array of news outlets, so you can try and find the truth buried somewhere down under all the fluff and bullshit. I was happy to know that he reads/watches the Guardian UK, MSNBC and CNN in addition to Faux News. I mentioned how amazing Al Jazeera is, and he stunned me when he said he has watched Al Jazeera online. So few Americans a) know how to do that and b) would even bother watching it if they did know how to find it. He said he felt it was too biased. More biased than Faux News? Anyway, it was a friendly and stimulating conversation and I look forward to changing his mind more.

Here are some things I observed about Republicans at close range...

I don't know if it was because I was in Vegas, but there were a good many men at the party who had cemented pompadores just like Silvio Dante in The Sopranos.

Every conversation I walked by was political. (At least they're paying attention? Or are they just whining?)

Republicans show up for a party either early, or right on time. And we were not ready. Not by a long shot. I have always liked to be on time for parties. But from now on, I think I'll be late.

Republican men are just as bad at dancing as Democrats. I, on the other hand, danced alone, like I have for most of my life. I love music and I love to dance and I don't wait around for some guy to ask me to dance so I can gain access to the dance floor. And as soon as I got up there and started jumping around, my girlfriend said with slight dismay, "You're not dancing alone, are you?" "Yes, I ammmm!" She, and a phalanx of other women, rushed to surround me and dance too, as if they were protecting me from the fact that the last time I'd visited the "powder room," I'd accidently tucked the back of my dress into my pantyhose. Now that I'd started a trend, all the other women crowded onto the dance floor, and we had a... gay old time. But after a while, they all drifted away. It could have been all the staring that was going on. I'm just assuming that was the case. I wouldn't know, because I had my eyes closed.

Suddenly, a man also felt the need to save me from my lonely Snoopy dance. He took both my hands and we began to do something, but I'm not sure what. This happens to me ALL THE TIME. Men try to lead, and I refuse to follow. It's not spiteful. (I just don't want to follow any men. Anywhere. Ever. Again.) After all, one dangerous dip n' swirl can lead to illegitimate children and heroine addiction, at least. Or maybe me dancing with a man doesn't work because I never color inside the boxes. If there are two beats and my partner takes two steps, I'm taking eight. There's just a lot of extra foot and hand work on my side of the sweaty divide. So, I said the SAME THING I ALWAYS SAY, "I'm sorry, I've just never been good at letting the man lead." (because, of course, it's ALL my fault.) He said, "I know. I'm just trying to be a gentleman."

I certainly hope he didn't hurt himself trying.

The next morning, while my girlfriend, her daughter and son-in-law and I were holding our heads, counting empty bottles and watching ants carry off half-eaten sushi and ham sandwiches, the son-in-law said, "Was I imagining things or were there a couple of gay guys at the party?" I said, "Yes there were, sonny boy, but as long as they don't want to get married, they're welcome here." (I didn't really say sonny boy. It just sounded like it should be in there.) My girlfriend's daughter said, "Oh, so you've obviously met my mom." hehe. Yes, I have.

And I still love her, even if she's severely misinformed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Do You Do?

What do you do when you're in a fake-ass French restaurant in Scottsdale Arizona, celebrating Father's Day with your 87-year-old dad, your mom, sister, brother and brother's adorable girlfriend and the conversation goes something like this:

Bro: Every day I see financial ruin in this city and the worst hasn't hit yet and nothing...nothing...is mentioned in the press about this. Why isn't anybody talking about this?

Dad: Because they don't want to go against that nigger president...Oh, I'm sorry..."our" president...

Fuck.

Here's what I did. I sat there and took the hit. Didn't say a fucking word. Let it go by. After all, it was my Dad's day. It was a party for him.

So, I felt sick to my stomach. Felt all the hate of the world at one moment in every part of my smartly-clad body. Little polka-dotted print skirt. Colorful little top. Strappy French shoes. Dressed like one should when one goes to a fake-ass French restaurant in Scottsdale Arizona where everyone is older than dirt and the food is made to match. Nothing on the plate that could possibly threaten dentures. No conversation that could possibly threaten reality. The little pile of corn on my plate was as decrepit and tasteless as the clientele. And the wine list was an expensive joke. Thirty bucks for a bottle of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay.

Fuck.

Then I went outside because that nigger word was eating at me. I had to do something, separate myself from it somehow. So I harmed myself, of course. I stuffed it all down with a cigarette, got dizzy, felt sick, went back and ate too much, drank too much, so that I wouldn't open my dangerous mouth.

Then they started talking about my niece and how she's working for a Republican candidate in Sacramento or somewhere in that area. The conversation went like this:

Bro: If I go to the candidate's website, will I see anything that our niece is working on?

Mom: I don't know the details. I think she's an administrative assistant, maybe... But I sure do like that candidate.

Bro: Yeah, me too. I read about her and I like her.

Mom: Yeah. Except that she's pro-choice (said with a Snidely Whiplash sneer).

ME: Good for her!

Mom: Oh, DON'T say that to me!

ME: Well, don't call Obama a nigger then.

...

My dad came out of his reverie and said, "What?"

My brother changed the subject. Deftly.

I went out for another cigarette. And outside, there was the most amazing rainbow ever. What are the odds of that happening? I mean, think about it. What are the odds?

And as I turned to gaze at the sky behind me, the clouds were tinged with gold and orange and pink. If there is a god, she was there for me to behold, in all her glory.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Global Shift Of Consciousness

I really am amazed at what I'm seeing transpire in Iran. This is so much more than a protest supporting one candidate or another. Mousavi is the more popular candidate, but there were three other candidates who also ran against Ahmadinejad. While some protesters carry Mousavi's image, most carry signs that say, "Where is my vote?"

This is not a student-led movement. These crowds are full of young and old men, young women and grannies,  women wearing veils and black gowns and women wearing makeup and jeans and heels, poor people and wealthy people, people from the city and people from the country.

This is not a movement against Islam or Iran's Islamic government. This is not about religion. It is a movement against suppression, lies and fraud.

What strikes me most, above and beyond the incredible numbers of people who crowd together on a 7-lane highway for five or more miles, is the silence of the protesters. They walk peacefully, in silence. This speaks a strength that is unstoppable. It's a strength that's not derived from threats, shouts, violence or burning motorcycles or buildings.

When I see this amazing picture of a protester running with flowers, as if he were doing the most beautiful ballet on a stage, and watch videos of protesters giving flowers to soldiers, I know that this simple gesture has the power to melt hatred and fear.

When I watch total strangers from all over the world stay up for three days so that they can help Iranians stay connected on Twitter, I know that there's hope for humanity.

There are stray voices on Twitter asking why we should give a shit about Iran, or making ignorant, derogatory comments. But they will be silenced too. We give a shit because we are all one. We all want the same thing - to be free to express who we are, to practice our trade and our religion, to be safe in our own homes, to watch our children grow and thrive.

Peace has never been so loud in its silence, and so powerful in its gentleness.

I've watched the video below three times. Mousavi has asked the protesters to call out "God is great!" from their rooftops at 10, 11 and midnight. From Nico Pitney, who has been liveblogging this revolution almost non-stop for three days:

"Allaho Akbar!" Such haunting video. Midway through, you'll hear a woman's voice, whose words were translated by emailer Lily:
The woman in this video is saying something that really touched me. She is saying that they can take our phones, our internet, all our communication away, but we are showing that by saying "allaho akbar" we can find each other. She ends it my saying that tonight they are crying out to god for help.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Who Says Civil Unrest Is Out of Control?

This is an amazing video from the Iran protest today, with the videographer doing a blow-by-blow in Italian.

First of all, it shows a peaceful walking throng of protesters. Next, the crowd begins to scream and scramble. Then you see what has now become a common image - motorcycles with two policemen, one driving and one with a baton beating people as they drive by - plowing directly into the crowd of protesters. Next, you see that the crowd somehow separates one of the policemen from his motorcycle and burn the motorcycle.

The next part is the most amazing. The crowd PROTECTS the policeman. They surround him and give him water. One gentle hand touches him as he puts cool water on his face. He is terrified, and he is comforted.

There is hope for us all in this one video.

Iran Twitter Revolution: Thoughts From Fifty Thousand Feet

If I step back from the fast-moving intricate tweet data that I've been staring at for many, many hours, there are a couple of things that occur to me now, and some things also occurred to me when I did the same thing during the Mumbai terrorist event:

  • You can quickly separate the geeks from the commoners. Geeks write tweets like this: "News bureau estimates 1-2 million protesters. Unconfirmed." Commoners write "OMG! BILLIONS of people rise up against the fascist Iranian government!!!!!!!!! Fight for your freedom! We're with you, Greens!!!" When I worked for an internet game company and the servers crashed, geeks would say, "The servers just crashed. Interesting." The marketing and sales people would say (as they were charging across the room to the nearest geek), "OMG! WTF! How can this be happening! You have to fix this NOW! NOW!"
  • There are always people who want to try to trick you into clicking on their links, such as the person who kept saying that Steve Jobs or "The Queen" had died. Somehow, the seriousness of the situation drowned out the tricksters. Being ignored must suck.
  • There was little to no nastiness in the millions of tweets that I read. In other words, if there were right wing American nutjobs or fundamentalist Iranian hardliners on there, they may have been lurking, but they were not trying to tweet their case. I was only following #IranElection, so maybe the arguments were happening at #Ahmadinejad. But I doubt it, because #IranElection was the highest-trending hash tag and nutjobs of any kind would be attracted to that level of possible attention like bugs to a flame.
  • When there were stupid or nasty tweets, they got lost and eventually drowned in the sea of worthy information.
  • As always, the best people bubble to the top of the pile and soon you know where to get the most reliable information.
  • You have to be patient when following a huge trend like this. Sifting through that much information takes time and analysis. You end up "feeling" the overall reality more than taking each tweet separately.
  • You can't jump to any quick conclusions or have any knee-jerk reactions. You have to watch trends ebb and flow until you know which ones are sound, and which ones are not. You have to check the source and compare one piece of information with all the other pieces you've seen before. Once you verify for yourself that a source is trustworthy, you stick to them like glue, and you watch who they talk/listen to, and stick to them too. A great example of this was when people started panic-posting that YouTube was taking videos down. Then, in the midst of hundreds of "Those bastards!" tweets, there was the sane geek voice that said, "If you have 'dead' or 'death' in your video title, they'll take it down. Just categorize the video as 'Adult" and it will not be taken down."
  • You will see old data (photos, videos, etc.) redistributed as brand new, sometimes with completely false attribution or description. If you're a journalist and haven't had the patience to watch everything from beginning to end, you won't know when this happens.
  • If you don't have anything verifiable or valuable to add to the conversation, then get the fuck out of the way. Tweeting just to stroke your own ego is annoying.
  • There is something that happens that is bigger than any one individual, bigger than any one politician, bigger than any one country. A completely spontaneous movement like this, one that is fueled by its own cohesive momentum, not organized by any one individual but collaboratively propagated of its own volition, is impossible to crush. It doesn't matter what happens in the days or weeks to come in Iran. The world has shifted on its axis, and it cannot go backwards.
  • It will probably be impossible from now on for Western politicians to depersonalize the Iranian people with derogatory labels like terrorists, jihadists, etc. Anyone who spent any time on Twitter in the last two days knows that many of the protesters are Muslims, and that is no longer a scary or bad thing. It has become crystal clear that Iranians are people, just like us. And the majority do not want nuclear war, do not want to destroy Israel, nor are they Haters of America. That was always bullshit, but now, me and you aren't the only ones who know it.
  • Speaking of Israel, I didn't see any tweets from the Iranians against Israel. Iran's supposed leaders might be spewing anti-Israel rhetoric, but I didn't see any of it amongst the real people tweeting on #IranElection.
  • There was only one MSM journalist that I observed who "got" Twitter and was actively and smartly participating with other tweeters: Jim Sciutto (ABC). He rolled up his sleeves and worked side-by-side with everyone who was closely involved.
That's all I can think of for now. I believe that Twitter's role in this event constitutes a psycho-social phenomenon. How people interact with total strangers to accomplish not only the dissemination of vital information, but also to effect a gigantic social and political change, is nothing short of amazing.

Maybe when CNN stops whining about how unfairly the Twittermass trashed their coverage (see #CNNfail), they'll start reporting on the importance of this phenomenon? Nah. Prolly not.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dennis Ross Ousted?

I don't know what to make of this yet: Why is Dennis Ross being ousted as Obama envoy to Iran?

Too early to tell if this is good news (meaning his influence on Obama is lessening) or bad news (meaning he is moving into a position of higher influence). Making him go away completely is the best solution.

My background posts on Dennis Ross.

Quote From Iran: Baseej Have Guns; We Have Brains.

In support of my premise that geeks should rule the world, here is a quote from a protester in Iran: we honour and thank the people of Iran and especially the hackers. Baseej have guns we have brains.

Hackers have been systematically taking down pro-Ahmadinejad and government websites all night long and this morning as well. Geeks have also been Tweeting new proxy server addresses so that the students and other grassroots protesters could continue to Tweet and upload images and video, even while the government was shutting down or blocking cell phone and Internet service. Geeks rule.

Baseej are the civilian-clothed, baton and baseball bat-wielding, pro-Ahmadinejad thugs who have been terrorizing university students in their dorms all last night and who may be behind the gun shots and death(s) in the crowds at Azadi Square in Tehran.

Quote From Iran: Ahmadinejad Called Us Dust, We Showed Him a Sandstorm.

I haven't had much sleep. Been glued to Twitter, watching the Iran revolution unfold. You can watch history in the making too.

Brilliant quote in my post title comes from an anonymous person in Iran.

Another brilliant quote came from Mousavi as he addressed the throng: "these masses were not brought by bus or by threat. they were not brought for potatoes.they came themselves". Potatoes is a reference to how Ahmadinejad bribed people in the villages with potatoes during his campaign. The first part of the quote refers to rumors that the crowd of admirers at Ahmadinejad's speech were bussed in from outside Tehran, or were threatened or paid to be there cheering.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iran Elections

UPDATE: Of course, it didn't take long for neocon Richard Perle to blame Obama for Ahmadinejad's power grab:

Richard Perle, a neoconserva-tive and former Pentagon adviser, said Obama must share the blame for Ahmadinejad’s power grab. “Normally, when you unclench your fist it benefits the hardliners, because Obama appeared to be saying we can do business with you even with your present policies.”

I've mostly been following Twitter on the Iran elections since American media is so freaking useless (see #CNNfail). Although, Christian Amanpour allegedly has balls of steel. If you go to search.twitter.com and enter a search term (click on any of these to get to its individual page: #iranelection #iran #ahmadinejad #mousavi #iranelections), it will constantly let you know when new tweets come, so you can refresh it. I thought that if I put all the hash/search terms in the search box I'd get all tweets with ANY of those search terms, but instead, I got only the tweets that had ALL of those terms. So, you'll have to pick one or have multiple tabs/windows open and track each search term separately. If anyone knows a better way, let me know. The highest trending search term right now is #iranelection (without the 's').

This really is the only way to get news from people actually involved. However, Iran is suppressing everything they can - Twitter, Facebook, journalists, closing down news bureaus, cutting off cell phones, etc. But the thing about geeks is that they always find a way around it. Geeks should rule the world. I'm convinced. Um. After women, of course.

Andrew Sullivan has great coverage, analysis, commentary and new information of the alleged actual vote tallies. Huffpost is liveblogging it here.

Of course, the neocons want Ahmadinejad elected so they can get their Israeli pals to bomb Iran. The Israeli press machine is in full action already. Just look at CNN's home page and the number of Israel-related articles, especially the one saying half of the Israelis want to bomb Iran. Niiiice.

Please also read this article about long-time neocon propagandizer Con Coughlin: Trans-Atlantic Con Man.

Of course, this is an excellent time for me to encourage you to go to Jstreet.org, the "the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement." (@jstreetdotorg) It's important for everyone to know that there are sane Israelis who want peace. However, they have nothing on their blog or Twitter about Iran yet.

I had a lovely but unfortunately misinformed (by her fundamentalist church) girlfriend the other day say that "it's always been a holy war over there" and it's just "end times." George Bush and his Israeli neocon pals made it a holy war, and if anybody is moving it towards "end times" it's those bastards.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Now You Can Hate GM Just Like You Hate ATT

He doesn't know anything about cars now, and he didn't know a damn thing (or care) about net neutrality then. Meet Ed Whitacre, Mr. Control Freak: GM's New Chairman -- You Won't Drive on My Roads for Free.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Healthcare Reform: Where's The Unemotional Fact Analysis?

I'm in Arizona right now, visiting with family and friends and taking care of some bidness. It's a vacation for me, after an intense final push to finish up two writing contracts I had at the same time. I don't turn away work, but the result of all that intensity is that the left side of my body is pretty much numb. I sit in bed and write on my computer, because when I sit at a desk I always slump, which caused back problems. But now I guess I need to also pay attention to how I work sitting up in my bed too.

So...I went to my brother's massage therapist for some relief, but it looks like I might have a pinched nerve somewhere, so I have an appointment Monday with the chiropractic neurologist in the same office as the massage therapist. As I was sitting in the waiting room, I started chatting with the doctor's mother, who is the receptionist. She's Canadian, with an American green card. Here's how our conversation went:

Canadian: You don't want socialized medicine.
Me: Yes, I do.
Canadian: No, you don't.
Me: Yes, I do.
Canadian: No, you don't.
Me: Yes, I do.

She gave up, because she's nicer than me. Then...

Canadian: But I've experienced socialized medicine in Canada and it's terrible. Long waits for appointments and in the doctor's office.
Me: I've experienced socialized medicine in France and it's great.
Canadian: Well, ok, but in Canada, even somebody with throat cancer has to wait six months just to get in to see the doctor.
Me: That sounds like a Republican fear mongering talking point.
Canadian: No. That's my story. I had throat cancer and I couldn't get to a doctor for six months.
Me: ...

Woops.

This repartee underlines what I've been thinking about recently. In a land of sound bites, "socialized medicine" is a huge sweeping general term that is loaded with emotion but, like most sound bites, is a quickie phrase that inadequately sums up a very complex issue. When the Republicans utilize this phrase, they distract all of us from really discussing the nuances of worldwide health care practices and their underlying values, and coming up with viable solutions. It just becomes a hot potato that politicians throw at each other, while the American people suffer the inadequacies of the system first-hand but have very little data to help their elected representatives come up with a solution.

What the generic term doesn't cover is the fact that all health care systems are run by people and processes, whether they be people within the government, people within insurance companies or healthcare providers or healthcare consumers. And something I discovered when working for the government (contractor to the marine corps) and inside corporate America, is that people are fallible and processes can be overly complicated, completely inadequate or amazingly smart. It just depends on the skills and foresight of the fallible people who define the processes. So, it's not a surprise that the efficacy of healthcare in different countries differs.

I have British friends who say that healthcare in Britain is terrible. When I lived near London twenty-five years ago, I experienced it first-hand. All I had was a cough and sinus infection that wouldn't go away, and when I arrived at the doctor's office I had to take a number from one of those dispensers you see in American grocery stores at the meat or deli departments. Then I waited forever until I could go into the doc's office. He was a grumpy old geezer who listened to my symptoms and then made me take off my shirt AND my bra, so he could listen to my chest, supposedly. There was no reason at all for me to take off my bra, but he was probably bored to death and decided it would be fun to see young American girl breasts. In the end, he told me to go to a pharmacy and buy cough syrup. Needless to say, I was underimpressed.

My current British friends say they come to France to get better health care. I have some friends who are Canadians and they tell me they like their healthcare system, but the first-hand stories I heard at the chiropractor's office yesterday indicate that the system is not so great. The receptionist's son, with whom I will visit on Monday, is also a Canadian, but he struggles to make money as a doctor in the American system. Because of the insurance companies, he can only make money if he limits each patient appointment to a maximum of 15 minutes, but he doesn't believe in that.

Who or what is the culprit here? I don't know enough to say at this point. My brother asked me, "What do the French do differently than the British or Canadians that make their healthcare better?" I don't know the answer to that. I think Denmark was recently listed as one of the best countries to live in, and that their socialized medical system is wonderful. If that's true, I wonder what the differences are? While American politicians run around yelling emotionally-charged sound bites at each other, is ANYBODY analyzing the structures and processes of successful socialized healthcare systems and using that hard data to define America's new and amazing approach? I sincerely doubt it. That approach makes too much sense and doesn't get your political mug on the news, doesn't get you vilified by Rush Limbaugh so you can get MORE news coverage of your shocked and outraged defense against his vilification. That's the game that's being played here, instead of people working together to create a solution that works. What a shame.

My gut tells me that the insurance and pharmaceutical companies are at the root of the American problem. There's a commercial greed factor that can't be denied. It's built into the system because both are for-profit entities. And Americans go to Canada to buy their drugs, the very same drugs they get in the states, but at a fraction of the cost. How does that happen?

Do you or should you profit from healthcare? Is healthcare a basic human right? I believe it is. Then, how do the pharmaceutical companies fund the many-year drug development process required to bring drug solutions to the market, if they don't reinvest profits? In my mind, drug development should not be in the private sector, but should be done in the universities using government money.

I see my right-wing brethren rolling their eyes at the last statement, touting the overused hype, "Oh Lisa, government money is the tax payer's money, don't you know that?" No, actually, I'm a fucking moron and have no idea that when the government pays for something, it's using my tax dollars. (snark) I pay taxes happily. It's my privilege as a citizen. But I don't always agree with how our tax money is spent. I'd be much happier if my taxes funded drug research in the universities and I could buy drugs at a reasonable price, than if my tax dollars are paying off the loans that BushCo took from the Chinese to fund an illegal and immoral war in Iraq, kill American soldiers for NO good reason and kill, maim and displace MILLIONS of Iraqis. Or I'd much prefer my government tax dollars went towards insuring America's children rather than giving billions in no-bid contracts to murderous Blackwater/Xe and incompetent and greedy Halliburton/Dick Cheney.

So, fuck you, Republicans, every time you start that cheap-shot, intellectually bereft Government-Tit talk.

The doctor's mom/receptionist and my right-wing brother both agreed with me that the insurance and pharma companies are a big problem. As Obama has been saying recently, let's focus on what we can agree on, and this seems to be a shared value. But there's way too much industry lobby money flowing into politicians' pockets on both sides of the aisle, to ever see the end of insurance/pharma in America.

Is there any effort out there to do what I'm suggesting and unemotionally analyze and compare successful and unsuccessful healthcare systems and construct a new way? If you know of any, let me know. THAT's a productive discussion I'd like to be a part of. All the rest is political pandering and obfuscation.