It's not often that drug companies get to take the high road and, as the expression goes, throw shade on someone in public eye. But -- well, Roseanne meet Sanofi, the maker of Ambien.
I only belatedly learned that March 21 had been World Down Syndrome Day. Reading about this last night, I was reminded of when I worked on the 1988 movie, The Seventh Sign, which was back in my dark days as a movie publicist. One of the small roles (although it turns out to be central to the plot) centered around a character with Down Syndrome. It was played by young man named John Taylor, and I got to spend a good amount of time with him, along with his mother and two sisters who came with him to the set.
John was upbeat, friendly, and loved movies, but he especially loved Demi Moore, who was the film's star. When she was shooting a scene, John was there, watching. Always. Two particular things about this stick in my memory.
The first is that later in the production when John finally had his particularly-big scene, everyone was surprised to see Demi there on the soundstage, as well, even though she wasn't in the sequence. It was odd to see since, when actors aren't filming, they're almost always back in their dressing room, resting or working. But Demi was there on set. And when John saw her, he was thrilled, absolutely overjoyed. I remember her explaining to him, "Well, you're always on the set watching me when I'm filming, so it was only fair that I come and watch you." And it wasn't a token appearance for the first shot, which still would have been thoughtful, but she stayed the whole time, probably 45-minutes to an hour.
The other thing I remember related to all this is that on John's last day of filming, Demi bought him a gift. A puppy. As you might imagine, he was thrilled by that, too.
I was able to track down most of that scene. The video quality is a bit soft, but it's fine. In the film, John played a a young man in prison for having killed his parents because he insists God had told him to. (The movie was about prophecies and the end of the world, and this is all tied into that. My recollection is that the parents were pretty high on the Sinners Scale. I'm not saying that that justified them being killed, or even that the son did hear voices, just that that's part of the plot, as well.) In this scene, Michael Biehn played Demi Moore's husband, a lawyer trying to represent the young man who doesn't really want to be represented. Akosua Busia is another lawyer brought in to help.
For the past 10 years on Bill Gates' blog, "Gates Notes," he and his wife Melinda post their annual letter about their huge foundation. This year, for the tenth anniversary they did something different, and it's very interested. The each separately answered the "10 Toughest Questions We Get."
And the questions are good, and blunt. I don't think they're as "tough" (as in difficult to answer) as they are blunt, but they certainly aren't softball.
Here are the questions:
• Why don’t you give more to the United States?
• What do you have to show for the billions you’ve spent on U.S. education?
• Why don’t you give money to fight climate change?
• Are you imposing your values on other cultures?
• Does saving kids’ lives lead to overpopulation?
• How are President Trump’s policies affecting your work?
• Why do you work with corporations?
• Is it fair that you have so much influence?
• What happens when the two of you disagree?
• Why are you really giving away your money–what’s in it for you?
You can read their individual responses here.
To draw attention to this, the couple appeared on Good Morning America. And then answered questions, as host Robin Roberts took questions from the studio audience.
On the news today, I heard that enrollments to ObamaCare are not only UP over last year!, but UP by 179%! Very impressive, most-especially considering the Trump administration efforts to kill it and hinder sign-ups. It shows how highly the public actually thinks of the healthcare program.
By the way, normally I refer to the program as the Affordable Care Act. But given how profoundly Trump wants to destroy the program, particularly because it's from Barack Obama, I just figured that "ObamaCare" was far more appropriate today...
Yesterday, I had a small surgical procedure done that sounds far worse than it was, removing a squamous cell carcinoma from the top of my head, and all's well. Of the two most-common types of skin.cancer, squamous cell is the more serious, though it's really not particularly problematic. It's largely localized on the skin and easily removed, To be clear, if untreated for a long time, perhaps a decade, that can be deeply serious, deadly, in fact. But under normal conditions, it's a simple procedure. And given that (for reasons too long to go into) I now have a skin checkup every six months, the likelihood of me going even two years without discovering such things has plummeted drastically. That's why this was a no-big deal, other than an annoyance.
I was told that the process could take up to four hours. Until decide to be a correspondent for WebMD I won't go through all the details, but let's just say that they deal with it in steps depending on the node. And mine was so surface that I was out of there in only a couple hours. Very easy. There was almost no pain in the slightest, thanks to the anesthetic, even with them taking a rusty shovel into my scalp. The doctor kept saying, "This will sting a bit," and I kept replying, "Nope." Anesthetic is a fine invention!
And so I traipsed home happily, with my instructions on how to deal with post-surgical things for the next two weeks when they'll take out the stitches. All's fine and good and swell. Done.
Well, it turns out not completely done. There is one other, small, pesky thing that's part of the process.
That's when, during the evening, the anesthetic started to wear off.
Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. Anesthetics wear off. Silly me.
Honestly, it's not bad at all. Especially compared to the reason I had to go through all this. But still -- when you're all chipper and think everything is over with, and suddenly there's an unexpected pinging on your head, and then eventually it starts to get a wee sore, and soon things start to throb a little and become somewhat distracting, you just feel like something of an idiot for forgetting about the concept of anesthetics wearing off. "Oh, yeah, right, I forgot, they actually cut into my head and then dug in there, and I didn't feel it because they NUMBED the whole thing! How do you forget that??" And maybe when they told you about the differences between Tylenol, Advil, Aleve and aspirin and which to avoid you should have paid closer attention, but let your mind wander because after all it was so comfortable at that moment. You had freaking surgery, how do you forget that?? (I guess it helps the forgetting process somewhat because, being on the top of my head, that makes it really hard to see the bandages unless you have incredibly-impressive peripheral vision that doesn't just go horizontal, but also up and then backwards.) I don't tend to check myself out in mirrors all that often, and was wearing a baseball cap driving home like usual, but later in the evening I went into the bathroom and, yes, there's actually a really big bandage up there, so that might explain things. (It comes off on Friday...)
As I said, all's well, it's not a problem, mainly just annoying and something that's fortunately easy to deal with, most especially when caught and dealt with early. And this morning the soreness has largely abated. But I don't think it's proper to write about this and not end with some sort of medical observation. So, okay, here then is the take-away with today's Medical Tip:
Anesthetics wear off.
As readers of these pages have long-since figured out, I absolutely love Anthony Rizzo, first baseman for the Chicago Cubs. I've written about him often, most notably here about overcoming Hodgkins lymphoma at the age of 18 to become a major league All Star -- while being an all-around wonderful guy, regularly visiting hospitals and sick children, and raising money for cancer through charity events. And most recently, this August piece about him donating $3.5 million to a family center from his Rizzo Family Foundation. And then a month later, his foundation pledged another $650,000 to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Health System.
Happily, I get to write about The Rizz once again. Because yesterday, Major League Baseball honored Anthony Rizzo as this year's recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award. It's presented to the player who "best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field."
Hey, as I always say, I tries nots to steers ya wrong.
"To win this is amazing," Rizzo said. "That's the impact we want to make. A lot of organizations do amazing work, and we want to impact families directly, and this foundation, that's what the staple is.
"It's insane over the last few years how many people have come up to me and said how we've helped someone's friend of a friend of a friend, and it gets back to me. To touch lives like that, it's something you can't explain."
It doesn't come without a tinge of sadness, when this is the sort of charity work you do. Only two days early, a little girl, Mia, who Rizzo had met when he started his foundation and stayed close with the family, passed away. And Rizzo addressed it with his normal grace.
"Every time I saw her, she was a breath of fresh air," Rizzo said. "The last time I saw her was at Wrigley [Field], and she wasn't looking too good, she was in a wheelchair. But I remember her smiling at me. Losing her is tough, because she was close to the foundation.
"Going through this now for five, six years and visiting kids, there's been a lot of positives that we do and help with the families. But when you lose kids who become close to the foundation and are basically a staple of the foundation, it's not easy," Rizzo said. "That's part of doing this. You have lives you're saving, and then you lose some, and when you lose some, it's not easy to deal with."
I am absolutely sure that all the finalists for the Roberto Clemente Award are wonderful people and would have been highly deserving if they'd been the recipient. But I'm just really pleased to see Anthony Rizzo get recognized, because I think he's a gem.
"Eventually everyone who was in that nursing home will die,
-- Florida state Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), defending 14 deaths during Hurricane Irma, after 4 emergency calls were made to Gov. Rick Scott without response.
No, really, he said that. And yes, this is a now officially a nominee for Quote of the Year.
Ladies and gents, meet your Florida Republican Party! Steeped in philosophy. Of course, what they understand is that we ALL will eventually die -- so that explains the Trump Policy in Puerto Rico, which is just rushing the date up a bit, perhaps to make room for all those in the Northern California wildfires.
And in Hurricane Harvey. And the Pacific Northwest wildfires. And the four Green Berets killed last week which Trump as yet to mention. As he hasn't yet mentioned the California fires either. And Trump trying to get rid of health care, period. It's a Lion King animated cartoon sort of thing, the Circle of Life. Or maybe more Woody Guthrie-related, harkening back to that Weavers song I've been posting, "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You."
Or maybe it's just Dickensian. Decrease the surplus population and all that Bah, Humbug stuff. Though, of course, if one carries this philosophy to its logical, full conclusion, that we ALL will eventually die, it decreases the entire population....
But it does make one thing more clear. No wonder Republicans tried to make such a big deal about the non-existent "Death Panel." They thought it was a waste of time, and had a better plan to save money naturally, as God intended.
UPDATE: There's a "fun" addendum to all this. A friend of mine who knows a good deal about Florida politics told me a Fun Fact about State Senator Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala). It turns out that the dear man himself owns six funeral homes! So, it's in his best interest to look forward to people dying. No wonder he's okay with all those deaths! It's where get his business...
Hmm, okay, so let's get this straight. Trump is happy to call a black NFL quarterback a "son of a bitch" and say that someone like that should be fired for exercising his 1st Amendment rights -- while also telling us that there are some very fine people who march with the Nazis and KKK. The more he speaks, the more I think that the whole "He's a white supremacist" narrative has a chance of building up steam...
It speaks volumes about how little Ann Coulter is thought of these days when she can call for "Death Squads" against immigrants, and pretty much no one cares. And yes, she did actually say that. You can read it here. Though you might want to wear protective eye gear so that your eye balls don't sear off. And maybe have a barf bag handy.
It would be fascinating if a monumental mass of NFL players all protest Trump calling one of their members a "son of a bitch:and on Sunday kneel in support of their fellow-member. In fact, here's hoping that happens. The protest, to be clear, would not be against the Anthem or Flag, but of Trump.
It's been pretty clear to me for a while that the GOP push for this insane TrumpCare bill -- that is opposed by pretty much every major health care organization and the insurance industry -- has nothing to do with health care. It's that by repealing the Affordable Care Act, hundreds of millions of dollars will be freed up, allowing Republicans to cut corporate taxes. And now come reports that big GOP donors are telling senators that is precisely what they want.
Still waiting on Trump to finally at least mention the wildfires that devastated the Pacific Northwest. And it would be really nice if he made clear that he actually had serious concern and was taking action for Puerto Rico almost being wiped off the map. Never mind that it's a U.S. territory and 3.5 million American citizens live there.
I've long-thought that the Republican push for repealing the Affordable Care Act is just bizarrely counterproductive for the GOP. It only has something like 12% support in the country. If Republicans do get this latest attempt passed (which has had far-more angry criticism from both the healthcare and insurance industries), there will be overwhelming outrage from the public, including from their base which may be hurt more than anyone.
Joe Scarborough said something similar on his MSNBC show on Thursday. “Have that process, have those hearings, let the senators, let the congressmen hear who is going to be hurt by the bill, instead of just seeing this in stories six months after a bill passes. I promise you, Republicans, you’re the ones that are going to pay in the end. You think I’m being a son of a bitch right now? No, you should listen to me. What you’re doing is radical, and you will end up paying horribly in the end. I don’t know what pressure you think you are under right now (but) wait until you go back to your voters supporting this bill. It’s inhumane.”
How quaint that Mr. Scarborough used the very same "son of a bitch," as Trump, though in his case without being stupid or a bully. I guess it's the phrase of the week.
The best tweet of last night came from Teresa Kaepernick, mother of Colin, that quarterback who Trump slammed yesterday. She wrote, "Guess that makes me a proud bitch."
By the way, this whole TrumpCare bill is a rock-and-a-hard place for Republicans. If the pass it with only 12% approval and throw 30 million people off healthcare, the public (including their base) will take it out on them. But if they don't pass it, their base will be furious that they did nothing. What they should have done is continue the bipartisan work that Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray were doing to fix issues in the Affordable Care Act. It would have pleased the public -- though upset their big donors.
Between Trump calling for the firing of an ESPN host and also an NFL quarterback, it seems like he's going in the wrong direction with the whole job market thing. Maybe he just misses hosting The Apprentice. As for suggesting that the NFL quarterback should be fired, someone should tell Trump that thus far no team in the league has hired him. So, it's almost like he got his wish.
And that's the news. Or as much of it as I can bear typing about at the moment...
Since Republican officials keep trying to hit back at Jimmy Kimmel, he keeps responded. And last night had his third terrific monologue on the TrumpCare bill, written by senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy.
My only disappointment is that he taped earlier in the evening. That's because later in the night -- are you ready? -- the MedicAid Directors of ALL 50 STATES (!!) came out against the TrumpCare bill. All of them. Red states and Blue states. Every single one. Yes, even Alabama. And Arkansas. And South Carolina -- Lindsey Graham's home state. And Louisiana -- Bill Cassidy's home state. Every last state in the union. They are ALL AGAINST the TrumpCare bill. All 50 states. Honestly, I didn't think you could get all 50 states to agree on anything, including liking puppies. But -- in case the import of this wasn't clear, to repeat -- the MedicAid Directors of all 50 states announced they were ALL against the TrumpCare bill.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's sure would seem to make it much harder to justify and defend. Not that most Republican senators will try.
And of course, this doesn't count pretty much all the major healthcare organizations and insurance industry being against it. But then, what do they know...?
By the way, I'm being polite when I say "pretty much all." Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Eugene Robinson was on MSNBC last night and said he had spent the day trying to track down healthcare organizations who were for the bill -- and he couldn't find one.
Which brings us back to Jimmy Kimmel.
After Jimmy Kimmel's blistering monologue Tuesday night where he tore into the Graham-Cassidy health care bill and particularly co-sponsor Bill Cassidy (R-LA) for lying to him, the segment got a great deal of attention yesterday. A good deal with praise, particularly from families with healthcare concerns, but also some criticism, most notably on Fox and also the bill's co-sponsors.
So, Kimmel came back last night with a response -- in fairness, showing the criticism and answering it, but being just as withering as before, if not more so. He also included a "Barrista Theater" comedy sketch to help explain some problems with the bill. And the monologue went on for an impressive 10 minutes.
As I said yesterday, for a fellow who postured his career as a goofball shlub, not bad.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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