Friday, October 21, 2011

For Pete's Sake I'm Running for Office

A new study designed to address critiques of climate science by skeptics has confirmed that “global warming is real” and that the world’s average land temperature has risen by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since the mid-1950s. Eight years ago, a courageous former governor of one of our fifty states correctly summed up the dilemma of the impact of current industrial energy practices by supporting environmental controls on a coal-fired power plant, despite warnings that the plant might be closed,. He declared “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people.”

Actually, that was Mitt Romney, back in 2003 — the same politician who now demands that we use more coal. The same guy avers that "Romneycare," which serves as the Massachusetts model for so-called "Obamacare" is different from the latter because, while 65% of the people in Massachusetts are strongly supportive of the Romney plan, it would be socialism if Obama's plan were to extend to the rest of the nation. Go figure! But these limited observations, and there are more (such as his switching positions on abortion, DADT, etc.), are understandable by consideration of the most honest statement that Romney has made in his six year run for the presidency during the latest Republican debate in Las Vegas. In reacting to Rick Perry's accusations that he had flip-flopped on immigration issues and previously hired illegal workers to work on the lawn of his estate, Romney shared the conversation that he apparently had with the owner of the lawn care company about this issue. In effect, he said that he told the owner that he could not use illegal immigrants to work on his lawn because "For Pete's sake, I'm running for office."

To summarize, we now know why Romney holds the views that he says he does. He's running for office. The views are not based on principle or core beliefs. I suppose that smart independents should take a great deal of reassurance from this knowledge, because the subliminal message to us is that Romney is really not who he currently claims to be. He is, in fact, a wolf in sheep's clothing, namely a liberal who is simply pretending to be a conservative so that he can obtain the right to run for the presidency. The analogy to Reagan's site selection for starting his presidential campaign in a red neck hot bed of racial animosity is a perfect fit. Without saying more, Reagan made it clear as to what his values were and he carried the deep South in nearly landslide fashion. Romney is doing the same thing. He is telling us moderates that while he was once for us, he must now be against us, so that he can be for us again.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jeff's Latest Adventure

I was going to go on and on about Jeff's latest adventure. Rather than me doing so I will simply provide the details on what my oldest grandson has to say:


On October 16, 2011 by admin
Latacunga Ecuador
October 15, 2011


I am not afraid of flying. That does not mean that I don’t take precautions.
I buckled my belt and performed my once-over of the plane using my limited aviation knowledge:
While leaning over my neighbor trying to see into the cockpit I knocked his beer (where did he get that?) all over his lap. He calmly looked into my eyes, and inquired as to my current state of mind. Confused by his question, I assured him that I had been nervous lots of times, and that I was sorry for his pants.

“Do you know how many backup systems there are on this plane?” He continued. He gave me a technical overview of how crash-proof planes are, and by the time he finished his pants were dry and I was convinced a lapdog could keep a 747 aloft.

And so it began.

My friends and family have suggested many reasons for me leaving again. Most are along the lines of ‘personal edification’ and they are partly right. Other theories put forth are “attachment dysfunction,” me being a “hopeless romantic,” involvement with American intelligence agencies, and my personal favorite, that I have been a step ahead of bounty hunters for the last six years, and have to leave the country every so often to keep them off my trail.

The reality is much less mysterious and much more pragmatic. After graduation I went right to work in Europe leading bike trips in France and Italy. As great as it was, something was missing. I wanted to do something more related to my Biology degree and I missed academia and graduate school seems to be beckoning; completing a Fulbright grant had the potential to help hone in on a program. The U.S. Department of State placed me in Latacunga Ecuador where I will be teaching at a local university as a TA while conducting my own side project which will involve environmental sustainability, ecology, public health or something else not yet known to me.

Why Ecuador? My love for this country started with National Geographic and its stories on the Galapagos Islands. I was also inspired by the book The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner, and from watching the movie The Motorcycle Diaries. This inspiration led me to take a semester off during college to volunteer and travel in South America (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and Argentina) with Tyler Depke which gave me first hand experience working with environmental projects in Ecuador – especially Quito, Jipijapa, and Chiriboga. I had to come back.

The country with the most biodiversity per area, it is a naturalist’s dream. The ocean coasts, Galapagos Islands, high sierra, and Amazon rainforest transition zones and microclimates are enough to send shivers up my spine.

It is a country made of as many diverse people, languages and customs as geological formations. Regional foods, words and traditions keep mountains, rivers and caves company. There are always new places to explore, people to meet and things to do.

It is also a country in need of help. Some forests are protected, but this protection is threatened by the need for oil. Clear cutting for farmland is common even in areas where it is prohibited. Glaciers are disappearing and with them steady sources of water. Waste disposal is often limited to flushing sewage to the ocean or dumping garbage in non-safe conditions. Education systems are being restructured while budgets are becoming tighter. Larger cities are becoming more dangerous and tourist traps abound.

Senator Fulbright established the Fulbright Program after seeing all of the debt that European countries had accrued toward the US. He proposed a payback of cultural exchanges instead of hard currency, hoping that a cultural exchange between Americans and their host countries would grow stronger political bonds as well as increase mutual understanding.
It is refreshing then to reflect on the other ‘ambassadors’ that I have met through this program. Indeed the Fulbright program is still sending a strong message. I hope to add to this voice.

My photos, videos and writings contained in this blog will try to give my experiences in this magnificent and dynamic country a modicum of justice. I doubt they will.

I have found that the most important things that I bring with me when I travel are not in my suitcase. They are works in progress, but with these, any situation can be overcome:

A sense of humor.
The love of people.
Reserved judgment.
A sense of adventure.
The curiosity of a child.

I’ll keep you updated with how it’s going. My early forecast? It’s going to be a great 10 months.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Perry and Who's At Risk?

Who’s at Risk?

Decisions about what government can do for (and to) citizens need to be placed in an appropriate perspective. In Virginia and 17 other states, lawmakers are considering requiring young girls to be immunized against a little-known virus that public health officials say is responsible for nearly 7,000 cases of cervical cancer each year. Legislatures are doing so at the urging of New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., which in June earned approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Gardasil, its new vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV). Suffice it to say that Merck stands to earn millions, if not billions, if its efforts to require the vaccination of female children are successful nationally.

There are two specific points here; first, this virus is transmitted by sexual activity, so why not require the vaccination for young boys too? (Just think how popular that would be with the electorate). Or better yet, why not vaccinate just boys and leave the little girls alone? If the contentions about this vaccine are correct, these male devils, eventually fueled by Viagra (does Merck have an erectile dysfunction drug?), will have a heck of a lot more sexual partners than the little girls over the course of a lifetime. As they sow their wild oats, they will also convey the virus to every sexual contact they make unless they have been vaccinated. In the past, thousands of young women died or were maimed by blood clotting from the side effects of birth control pills and intrauterine devices, so why not let little boys take the inevitable risks of being exposed to another pharmaceutical product this time? (Author's note; I am not a 'manophobe' as I have four wonderful grandsons in addition to four wonderful granddaughters. I am just trying to make a point here).

Second, what level of risk to the general population is required to trigger, absent the obvious profit motive of Merck in contributing financially to politicians, governmental action to protect the electorate? It is said that nearly 7000 women a year will develop cervical cancer as a result of the transmission of this virus. Let's talk about Texas inasmuch as it is the first state to mandate the use of the vaccine in young girls, not boys. As large as that state is, it is obvious that a figure substantially smaller than the total of 7000 will be "protected" from cancer. A generous estimate might be that less than 500 young Texas girls in the entire state are at annual risk if this vaccine is not administered to the entire young girl population. While there is no intent whatsoever to demean a young woman who has a diagnosis of cervical cancer, oftentimes the treatment is simple outpatient surgical ablation of cervical tissue. In short in many cases it is a minor procedure. But in fairness, the disease does have its victims and the figures suggest that it is important to diagnose and treat the disease early. The mortality rate for cervical cancer is stated to be:
2.7 white women per 100,000 in the US 1996-2000 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review, National Cancer Institute, 1975-2000)
5.9 African American women per 100,000 in the US 1996-2000 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review, National Cancer Institute, 1975-2000)
2.9 Asian American and Pacific Islander women per 100,000 in the US 1996-2000 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review, National Cancer Institute, 1975-2000)
2.0 American Indian and Alaska Native women per 100,000 in the US 1996-2000 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review, National Cancer Institute, 1975-2000)
3.7 Hispanic Latino women per 100,000 in the US 1996-2000 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review, National Cancer Institute, 1975-2000)

A brief purview of these statistics suggest that certain ethnic groups are at greater risk which carries with it the implication that these groups deserve better medical care than they are currently receiving. Perhaps the millions of dollars that Texas (and other states) are willing to spend to expose millions of young girls to the risks, known and unknown, of this vaccine (Yes Virginia, there are risks) would be better committed to the provision of a higher quality of medical care to these ethnic groups.

By way of comparison, Texas is the state with the second most drunk driving deaths of any state, having been edged out of first place by California in 2005. At least 1500 people each year since 1982 have died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in Texas. Do the math. That's more than 36,000 deaths! This is illustrative of a problem which is a national disgrace several degrees of magnitude greater than cervical cancer. All states have similar numbers proportional to the size of their respective populations. There is a drug called Antabuse which will make a person ill, nauseated, flushed, headache, etc. if alcohol is ingested while taking the drug. The purpose of the drug is to stop the drinking of alcohol when the drug becomes a problem. I propose putting Antabuse in the nation's drinking water. The stockholders of another pharmaceutical house, Wyeth, would love it.

Submitted by Tom Bleakley (author of Rx for Mass Murder)
7016 Whitemarsh Circle
Bradenton, Fl 34202