Saturday, January 21, 2006

Random Neurons Firing

Google was apparently alone, among major search engine companies, in standing up to the Adminstration's brazen demand that it cough up data on the search habits of its users. On fears of a confrontation with the Injustice Department, Google's stock tanked today. While there is a lot to fault in Google's relentless hype, here is one issue on which we should all stand with the company. Yahoo, meanwhile, caved quietly, and deserves only our scorn. From having once been a symbol of edgy rebelliousness, Yahoo has become just another gutless corporate stooge. But we saw it coming. Their tie-up with the likes of SBC amounted to a wholesale sellout of both companies' customers.

Following their setback in Dover last month, a few of the Religious Rats have been jumping ship. Suddenly, congressmen like Rick Santorum, the Apostle of Ignorance, are standing up for science. We'll see how long that lasts. In Santorum's case, it can be traced to an acute attack of re-election anxiety. Some of the rats are turning on each other: the moderates (Creation as Metaphor) and the extremists are accusing each other of hurting the cause. Meanwhile, America remains the only industrialized country in which a majority reject the scientific account of how we got here. A whole lot more rats are going to have to devour each other before that changes.

Administration spokesmen (and their buddies on the right-wing talk radio stations) continue to defend their desire to spy on us. First it was the Patriot Act. Now it is catching web porn users. For a crowd that continually thunders about limiting government power, these people are remarkably cavalier about telling us we should give up our rights. The question: if this kind of government power is OK, then just what does it mean to talk about "getting government off our backs?" Oh, I forgot, the Constitution doesn't say anything about privacy.

Meanwhile, as institutional panic about Avian flu builds, governments are stockpiling a treatment of dubious value. The company that makes it once had Donald Rumsfeld as its Chairman. Unfortunately, conspiracy theorists on the Left are using this as a pretext to claim that Avian flu itself is a hoax, or at best, overblown. If they have their way, we won't do anything about it until 40 million people have died, and then they will point fingers at the "callous" establishment for not having prepared adequately. This doesn't have to become another Katrina (think 30,000 Katrinas), but it appears there are too many agendas for us to expect our institutions actually to do the right things.

On a quasi-personal note: as we try to help our mom navigate through the healthcare system, a few things are obvious: Without Medicare, or children of means, people like her would just have to suffer and die in the streets. In spite of Medicare, some die there anyway, because our system is beyond broken. But the Republican campaign to bankrupt the program is simply unconscionable. It needs to be fixed, not destroyed. We could start by applying a means test for eligibility, and allowing the program to negotiate drug prices, as it does with services.

More on the system: Having the means to pay for care is not enough. We have been taking turns hounding the doctors, nurses and administrators at the hospitals, to make sure they do not forget our mom. (We are talking about some of the best hospitals in the country.) Patients without such advocates may as well just hurry up and die, and many do, in great pain. Most doctors and nurses went into their professions in part because of an idealistic desire to heal other human beings. What is it about our system that leaves them so jaded and exhausted that they don't pay attention unless you badger the crap out of them?


Anonymous Jim Usdan said...

I have had two family members in the hospital recently: one in Colorado Springs, CO and one in Medford, OR. In both cases, the inability of either (community) hospital to hire and/or retain sufficient nurses to provide basic, acute care lead to significant quality-of-care problems.

Hospitals all over the USA are struggling with this issue. I wonder if the managers at CMS or at the HMO's understand what is happening?

January 23, 2006 2:52 PM  
Blogger Carlos Zapato said...

Not sure anyone has the bandwidth to care.

January 26, 2006 10:31 AM  

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