If you didn't get a chance to see John Oliver's main story this past Sunday night on Last Week Tonight, it was on what's called "compounding pharmacies." These are pharmacies that individually make drugs to fill prescriptions that would otherwise not be available in a standard pharmacy. As you might imagine, that is not the end of the story. The piece they put together is wonderful, galling and often very funny.
You've most-likely seen clips of Jon Stewart's moving testimony yesterday in the House hearing on funding for 9/11 First Responders. The full comments go to another level. They only run nine minutes.
By the way, I suspect most people consider Stewart's humor the reason for the great success of The Daily Show under his time with the show. His humor was magnificent and certainly high among the reasons -- it can't be otherwise. But I would suggest that what we see in this video is most-probably the top reason, because it's the foundation of who he is, and informs everything about him, including his humor.
What should not be overlooked is that these words were not carefully crafted and written out beforehand to make sure he would be able to get his substantive points across. That this eloquence is done extemporaneously speaks even louder to it informing who he is.
On last night's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the main story was on medical devices, and it was wonderful -- pointed, in-depth and yet very funny.
One point of interest -- I think. Somewhat early in the piece they show a clip from a very old informational Public Service film by the FDA explaining that not all medical devices should be considered safe and why one should be careful. While it helps make the point Oliver and his team were driving at, I'm sure it got lots of chuckles for its stylistic presentation of the age -- except that if my observation is correct, it's much more interesting than that because I'm pretty-near certain that the spokesperson was none other than Raymond Massey, one of the most acclaimed actors of his era.
I suspect that most readers of these pages know Raymond Massey, though plenty don't. He was most-famous for his stage role in the play Abe Lincoln in Illinois by Robert Sherwood, a performance he recreated for the movies and for which he got an Oscar nomination. He also played the comic role originated on stage by Boris Karloff in the classic comedy Arsenic and Old Lace. And starred as James Dean's self-righteous, religious father in the film East of Eden. What I also suspect is that they didn't identify him because -- just a guess -- they didn't know it was Raymond Massey...)
But back to John Oliver and his look at medical devices --
This is an article from ZDNet by Jo Best that I don't fully understand -- though I get the point of it well-enough that I'm utterly fascinated by it. It's about medicine and technology, and how one of the impressive things about their future is also one of the most problematic -- how being able to collect data on a patient remotely (like those with pacemakers) and provide diagnostics is also fraught with risks due to hacking, since when you send anything by remote, it has the possibility of that data being read by those who shouldn't have access. The hacking has to be done reasonably near by, within about 30 yards, but in a medical facility that could be most anybody. However (and this is the utterly fascinating part, even if I don't have the technology exactly right), when there is a wire connecting servers it's more difficult to intercept -- one would have to be within centimeters -- and researcher's at Lafayette's Purdue University have recently found that one way to accomplish this is for the person with the implanted device to basically be the "conduit" themselves! Sensors would be attached to the patients and the signal would be routed through their body, "which dramatically cuts the distance over which any data can be read." What the researchers have developed is a way to keep the signal completely within the body.
As I said, I have no idea how this actually works or why. The article goes into meta-details which meant nothing to me, but skimming to the readable parts was able to get across the basics. Including that the technology not only helps prevent hacking, but is actually much more efficient which has its own benefits.
"'When you take information and put it onto electromagnetic carriers to communicate, which is what we do with our wireless technology -- Bluetooth, 5G -- you take a lot of energy because you have to generate that high-frequency electromagnetic wave...' Dr Shreyas Sen, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue University, tells ZDNet.
"'When you communicate over a wire,' Dr. Sen continued, 'it's 1000x more efficient. We started exploring how we might use the human body as a wire -- bringing the wireline kind of techniques into the human body to make it act like a wire. It really created interest in this technology.'
"That means EQS-HBC has a practical advantage over wireless body networks: less energy demand means longer battery life for any implantable devices using the network. And a longer battery life means such devices won't need replacing as often -- for someone with a pacemaker, that could add up to a whole lot fewer invasive surgeries over their lifetime.
There's a great deal more in the article that's worth reading -- even if (like me) you can't grasp it all (like talk about nanojoules and picojoules, and that's some of the easy part...). However, that's why God created skimming, and it's very simple to get through it all and come away with a lot that way. You can find the whole article here.
The other day, I wrote here that whatever the courts decide, Trump's plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act was now the official Republican Party policy. Unless the majority of Republicans in Congress speak out publicly against the plan to repeal the ACA, then the GOP supports it.
Little did I expect that Trump would make it worse for the Republican Party.
On Tuesday, after no doubt being pressured by utterly-frantic Republicans, Trump turned tail and backed off his "Repeal the ACA." However, that action was only a for now, and he said very explicitly that he wants to bring it up again after 2020 if he and the GOP wins.
So, this is an even bigger election issue than before. This remains the GOP plan, until their party leaders and elected officially discredit it publicly. When people go to the voting booth in November next year, this is their healthcare proposal for the 2020 election. Be prepared to see repeated ads from Democratic candidates for the House, Senate and White House pointing out that Trump has said that repealing the ACA will be on the table after the election -- with videos of him saying it -- and every Republican candidate for national office will have to either support their party leader (who will be running on the ballot himself for re-election) or cut ties with him on the issue. As we've seen for the past two years, the latter seems unlikely since it hasn't yet happened.
And even if a Republican speaks out against Trump, they still have a problem. That's because they still have to deal with the head of the ticket on the record calling for the repeal of the ACA. And also because so many terrified Republican candidates insisted before the 2016 mid-term elections that they were for actually, really, truly, no honestly for protecting pre-existing conditions from the ACA, despite never having taken that position before, here the party is again backtracking and on record wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It's the whole, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me" Gambit.
Here's how stupid it was for Trump to temporarily withdraw his plan until after the election. The one hope the Republican Party had on this issue was that it was something the administration was going to challenge in court. ONLY if the courts agreed and threw out the ACA would Republicans be stuck with nothing and risk enraging the public -- which had voted for a Democratic landslide in the House in 2016 with healthcare being the #1 issue. But if the courts upheld the Affordable Care Act, which is a reasonable possibility, then Republicans could have been spared the hell of not having a health care plan to replace what their party destroyed. They'd still be tied to the action, but at least it would have been in the past and nothing they'd have had to vote on or take a public position on.
But now?? Now it will not only be an election issue in 2020...it may possibly be THE election issue.
Here's how bad it is for Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a statement yesterday saying that there is now "no daylight" between him and Trump on healthcare. So, any Republican hoping for a reprieve and wishing to run without being tied to the GOP plan to repeal the ACA...that is not just out the window (since it was long gone), but the window is slammed shut.
By the way, and all this begs the question of "Why???" Why delay trying to repeal the ACA and announce your better, beautiful health care? Okay, we know "why" Republicans really truly aren't doing any of that, but how on earthy are they going to explain to the public "why" the delay. They've had two years under Trump to figure out a new, better, beautiful health care.program. They've had NINE years to do so since the party has been yammering about it. So, why wait another two years?!! On the surface they can say, "It's because we don't control the House, so it wouldn't pass" (although until only a few months ago they did control the House -- and Senate and White House). But if you've got a great, new, beautiful better plan, usually you'd put it out for the country to see before the 2020 election to let the country be impressed by it and vote out all those awful politicians who won't support it. and vote in all those grand politicians who will help bring it to fruition. So...why wait another two years to present it??!!
And we haven't even gotten to the trouble Republicans are in if Trump goes ahead and closes the border with Mexico -- our biggest trading partner -- and risks pummeling the U.S. economy, most especially the auto industry that relies of parts and factories in Mexico.
And for all this, Republicans only have themselves to blame. Because as has been the case for a long time, this is not about Trump. We know who he is. This is about the elected officials of the Republican Party who have enabled and supported Trump, and brought this about. And they only have themselves to blame.
And so, yesterday the Trump administration said that they will no longer defend any challenges to the Affordable Care Act, they want the courts to help them get rid of the current health care system in its entirety, just strike the whole thing down. Pffft, gone, goodbye.
The immediate impact of this would be that 21 million Americans who were able to get health care because of the ACA would lose it. It would additionally mean that the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions would be at risk of not being able to health insurance. It would also mean that all young Americans would not be able to stay on their parents' health insurance until they're 26 years old and therefore risk losing coverage if they can't afford it. It would also mean that every American on Medicare would likely begin paying more for their medication. And all of that's just for starters.
Here's the thing --
Yes, it would be horrifically disastrous to the health of Americans if the conservative courts went along with this, though I'm sure such an action would get challenged and make its way to the Supreme Court. I would like to think that this Trump effort would not survive challenges and the law, and I could be very right. Or not, I have no idea. I do have an idea of one thing about this, though: in one very important regard it doesn't matter what the courts decide.
Why not? Because however the courts rule, politically Trump has thrown down the gauntlet and now officially declared that this is his plan, he wants the American healthcare system thrown out in full and offered nothing to replace it. And given what we've seen from the Republican Congress over the past two years, it's a safe bet that at least most of the GOP will support this, as well. Perhaps they all will, though I don't think so since there are still at-risk Republican politicians who don't have a death wish. Because make no mistake, this risks crushing the GOP -- whether or not the courts allow it. This is now the Republican platform. It is what Trump wants. Getting rid of our healthcare system and offer nothing to replace it is Trump policy.
Remember the 2018 mid-term election? It was about five months ago and in all the papers. And in that election, there was a massive Blue Wave that swept Democrats back in control of the House of Representatives to the point where they didn't just squeak in, but now have 38 seat majority. And what was the #1 issue that voters said was the most important above all? A hint: it was not the economy, it was not jobs, it was not Russia, it was not immigration (despite there apparently being a "National Emergency!" [sic] as hordes of rampaging aliens invaders were supposedly outside our door coming to attack America). It was -- health care.
Health care was The Most Important Issue to Americans just a mere five months ago, and throughout the country they overwhelmingly voted Democrats back in control. By A LOT. And this cam when there wasn't a massive worry about losing their health care, just concerns about how the Republican Party was chipping away at their protections through Republican Congressional actions and GOP state lawsuits, and the voting public wanted to support it.
And now? Now, Trump -- the leader of the acquiescent, enabling Republican Party -- has laid out his plan to get rid of absolutely everything in the U.S. health care system, throwing out the Affordable Care Act.
How much do Americans actually like the Affordable Care Act. Last October, right before the mid-term election, a "Fox News" poll (and to reiterate, this is "Fox News," remember...) showed that the American public supported the ACA -- also know as Obamacare (!!! -- and again, this is "Fox News" and Obama) by a margin of 53-45%.
And yes, the Trump-led Republican Party wants to get rid of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act and have nothing in place to fix what they.are now on record trying to get rid of in its entirety.
You want to talk about actually, truly, really "putting us all at risk"? This is that on steroids, a policy that wants to literally put the lives of tens of millions of Americans at risk -- maybe as many as 100 million Americans.
And even if the courts don't allow it to happen -- Trump and the Republican Party want it to.
This is their plan. This is now GOP policy. Whatever happens in the courts. This is what the Republican Party WANTS.
Just five months after the public overwhelmingly voted for candidates who support the Affordable Care Act, this is one of the most insanely stupid political policy decisions I have ever seen. And that's separate from the timing and separate from personally hating it. As a political matter, mind you, I'm thrilled to see the fascist-enabling Republican Party destroy itself. As a human being, I'm aghast by it, and don't want to see the GOP destroyed by this action coming to fruition. The good news though is that hopefully we'll get the best of both worlds -- the courts not allowing it to happen, and voters destroying the Republican Party at the polls in 2020 because they know that bizarrely this is actually what the GOP wants.
Yes, yes, I'm sure the most base of the Trump base will love this, as the lemmings go over the cliff. (Though, to be fair, some of the base might have their hair set on fire when they realize their Grand Leader wants to take away their health care.) So, cool, Republicans will now get the 20% of voters who they were already going to get anyway. The huge problem for them now is that this policy locks in every Democrat including those who voted Republican in 2016, and risks almost everyone else among all Independents, and even the rest of the non-base GOP. There were 135 million Americans who voted In 2016, Republican can now comfortably count on 30 million of them. Democrats can count on 65 million. And the remaining 40 million know that the Republican Party policy is to take away their health care -- which was the #1 issue among voters when they cast their ballots only five months ago. And none of this even considers all the other many issues that has kept Trump's approval around 42%. Rest assured that Democrats will run on this issue -- they did five months ago and it worked Really Well for them. They're not idiots. They'll remember. They'll do it again. They're probably already make the TV ads.
To be clear, no, the election is not over. There's a long way to go. Many things can happen and change -- whether in favor of Republicans or even more so against them. But this is a really, really, really bad starting point for Republicans on the #1 issue to voters.
Trump actually wants the courts to throw out the Affordable Care Act and take away health insurance from many tens of millions of Americans. And as critical as that is from a health standpoint, from a political perspective it doesn't matter what the courts decide -- this is now the official Trump Republican policy. It is insane.
"Repeal and Replace with the best, most beautiful health care you can imagine, folks" usually implies that there not only will be a plan that is, in fact, the best, most beautiful health care you can imagine -- but that you replace it with something.
And no, a poison pill doesn't count.
This is a great story that I heard about briefly yesterday on ESPN'S Pardon the Interruption. It's about Laurent Duvernay-Tardif who plays offensive guard for the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL -- and this past year became the first player in league history to not only graduate medical school, but be a practicing physician.
The Canadian-born Duvernay-Tardif (who speaks fluent French -- or perhaps it should be better put, also speaks fluent English) graduated from McGill University, which gave him an extended program allowing him to complete his training. What oddly leaped out to me in the short report is perhaps the one idiotically-gnawing part of the whole, great story. After he graduated, Duvernay-Tardif petitioned the NFL to allow him to put "M.D." after his name on his jersey. For reasons inexplicable to Man, the petty, small-minded league said "No."
That pathetic foolishness aside, here's a very good video on him --
Many people on the far right don't believe in science, considering it more of a "faith-based system,", so it's only appropriate that "Fox News" host Pete Hegseth became their poster boy this morning when explaining on air that he hasn't washed his hands in 10 years, “Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them. Therefore, they’re not real.”
Keep in mind, this is someone who viewers there trust to deliver information about the world to them. Which explains a lot about "Fox News" in a nutshell.
Note to self: don't shake hands with Pete Hegseth.
It's also worth noting that Trump was recently quoted as saying "Nancy Pelosi will never see my tax returns." Apparently he believes in the Pete Hegseth Theory of Life, where if you don't see something it doesn't exist.
Anyway, I'm sure that at some point in the coming days Pete Hegseth will say he was "just joking," although at the same time he will continue to not wash his hands. In the meantime, here are some other things Hegseth apparently must believe aren't real --
When a waiter spits in his soup
The other day, I posted a video of the wonderful presentation at last week's ESPY Awards on ESPN for the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. It was given to the over 300 young women who, as little girls, had been abused Olympic gymnastic doctor at Michigan State University, Larry Nasser, and spoke up to help get him convicted for life.
Emotional as the presentation was, with dozens of women after women walking out on stage, I knew something was missing because the video only began moments before the women appeared. I saw that the ESPYs were going to be repeated last night, so I recorded the broadcast and fast-forwarded to that moment. Indeed, there was more. Much more.
It was a 9-minute film that was powerful, moving, horrifying, and yet ultimately uplifting for the women's survival. Wonderfully done. And here is that short film, missing only the impactful, live introduction by presenter Jennifer Garner.
And to complete the story, here again is what followed, as the stage filled up with a great many of those women, along with the three excellent, brief speeches.
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.
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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