So, what is socialism?

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(c) AlexMax http://www.fotosearch.com

If you were alive during the cold war the words “communism” or “socialism” can easily bring back memories of the stories we heard of the bleak life behind the Iron Curtain.  I think the words “democratic socialism” which we hear on the political scene quite a lot today call up those memories for a lot of people.  Memories of stories of a system where you lived where the State told you, worked where the State told you, and the State took and doled out all the goods.  During those days we heard the stories of the want, the poverty of both material goods and of spirit that was life as we heard about it within communist countries.  But the democratic socialism being talked about today is not your father’s socialism.  This picture sums up what we in the U.S. heard about socialism behind the Iron Curtain:

konstant www.fotosearch.com
(c) konstant http://www.fotosearch.com

Does that look appealing to anyone?  How could it?

In spite of all the efforts to equate democratic socialism as practiced in Scandinavia and as advocated by Bernie Sanders with the bleak conditions of life in the Iron Curtain countries, that comparison just isn’t reality.  But the detractors from the messages from democratic socialists today don’t seem to be able to grasp the differences.  Often the issue seems to be haggling over the word “socialism”.  It would be great if a different word had been pulled up when ideas about universal healthcare, state funded (tax-payer funded) higher education and other current “democratic socialist” ideas began being espoused.  But, as the ideas have to do with the well-being of our society, socialism seems a pretty descriptive term, even if the new socialism has only a distant relationship with socialism ala Marx/Lenin.

If someone has visited Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, (I don’t mention Norway because I haven’t yet visited Norway) and paid attention to how things were working, the term democratic socialism doesn’t take a lot of explanation.  It has nothing to do with soviet Russia or communist China.  It has everything to do with a healthy population, living in healthy communities.  It’s not about the State owning everything, millions in poverty, having massive parades of tanks and missiles and turning in your neighbor for stealing bread.  Come to think of it, substitute “predatory capitalists” for “the State” and that pretty much resembles what’s happening in the U.S., not Scandinavia.  

What today’s Scandinavian democratic socialism is about is the majority of people who are engaging in capitalist, private enterprise businesses, of the workers in all the various industries, agreeing that there should be certain guarantees to protect the material well-being of all the citizens.  This isn’t “warm and fuzzy” thinking.  People in Scandinavia, from what I’ve seen, are expected to work to support themselves and contribute, via taxation, to the social benefits:  universal healthcare, publicly funded higher education, public sports and music opportunities, pretty pervasive public transportation, and of course fire and police services to name a few.  Along with that there are the unemployment and welfare benefits for those that need them.  “Need” being the operative word.  From what I’ve seen, thinking “I don’t want to work, take care of me.”, doesn’t qualify as need.

Democratic socialism, as practiced in Scandinavia, does mean people in towns and cities actually experience a substantial return for their tax dollars.  What a novel idea.  They don’t let their government spend it all on bonuses, extravagant salaries and retirements, extravagant “defense” and other government contracts and cronyism.

What I’ve personally seen this system deprive a people of are:  bankruptcies from medical expenses, wasted talent because one can’t afford higher education, being trapped in a job because the one you really want doesn’t offer medical benefits, seeing people sleeping on the street and in doorways (for the most part).  It seems that thinking in terms of having a healthy society (along with having a healthy personal life and bank account) shows itself in other ways also:  people being more conscientious about not littering, people respecting each other on the street to name a couple.  Little things?  Not when they don’t exist within a culture.

The other thing the E.U. has brought to these countries are immigrants and refugees.  Immigrants and refugees these individual countries may not have admitted before.  Of course the immigrants and refugees are often coming from countries despoiled by western corporations.  So…what can we learn from this?  On a more recent trip to Helsinki I was saddened to see some people sleeping in doorways and much more litter in the street than I had ever seen before.  It was kind of like seeing a beautiful woman show up to the party in a soiled dress.

However, western style cutthroat capitalism is insidiously finding it’s way into these countries, it seems especially since the formation of the E.U.  Businesses are starting to “offshore” production, the idea of wanting to be a billionaire, as opposed to just having a really nice lifestyle, seem to be creeping in.  “It’s all about me” thinking seems to be finding a foothold.

The insidious infection of “me, me, me, it’s all about me” being pushed by many in the movies, TV shows, music, magazines, even by sports celebrities is a particular challenge to democratic socialism in Scandinavia today.  Are Scandinavians immune from contagious narcissism and greed?

As mentioned above, democratic socialism as being touted today is not your father’s socialism.  There needs to be a new definition in the dictionary, and, in fact, that change is in process.  I found this in Merriam-Webster online:

“In the many years since socialism entered English around 1830, it has acquired several different meanings. It refers to a system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control, but the conception of that control has varied, and the term has been interpreted in widely diverging ways, ranging from statist to libertarian, from Marxist to liberal. In the modern era, “pure” socialism has been seen only rarely and usually briefly in a few Communist regimes. Far more common are systems of social democracy, now often referred to as democratic socialism, in which extensive state regulation, with limited state ownership, has been employed by democratically elected governments (as in Sweden and Denmark) in the belief that it produces a fair distribution of income without impairing economic growth.”

Of course even “extensive state regulation” is going to send some dyed-in-the-wool individualists into a spin.  And, truth be told, “extensive state regulation” and “oppression” are cousins which are known to sometimes travel together.

 This brings us to the inescapable reality that no matter what social/economic system a people employ in their attempt at creating and maintaining a civilization, ultimately whether that civilization succeeds or fails depends upon the wisdom and the intent of the people themselves.

Which, while wisdom, intent, and knowledge are not necessarily the same thing, it is still a pretty good argument for publicly funded higher education.  Because, the more we learn about how things function here on this Earth, the more it is becoming apparent that our fates our interrelated.  We ignore the well-being of our fellow humanity and our environment at our own peril.

 

 

The relationship between freedom, tyranny and oppression.

All tyranny arises (2)We in the U.S., and elsewhere, hear and read a lot about “freedom”.  It seems everyone wants it, some want all they can get of it, the more the better.  It sounds alright at first blush, right?  What can possibly be wrong with lots of freedom?  And let’s throw liberty in there as well.

Actually, a lot can be wrong with too much freedom.  Perhaps it’s better to state that a lot can go wrong with too much freedom.  When I want the freedom to choose my own vocation, to pursue higher education, to access medical care, to travel where and when I want and am able to, to open my own business, live where I choose and am able to, to read what I want and to express my viewpoints freely, to marry or not marry, to choose my spouse, these freedoms are some of the more obvious ones most, if not all, of us want.  Maybe these are the freedoms that come to mind when we see or hear the word “freedom”.

But, unfortunately, this isn’t the case with everyone.

Some see freedom from a different perspective.  They interpret freedom as the freedom to engage in what are essentially predatory business practices.  The freedom to pollute the environment.  The freedom to misrepresent products and services.  The freedom to oppress others.  As absurd as it may seem to many of us, some interpret their freedom as the freedom to engage in tyranny; allowing them to take away freedoms from others.  Of course there is a difference between “freedom” and “power”.  Some would say that tyrants are exercising power, not freedom, when they oppress others.  Actually it’s some of both, but true, it’s mostly power.

However, at some point in their rise to power as a tyrant, that person was most likely doing so exercising the freedoms the people who were to become their victims, gave to them.  Freedoms like freedom of speech, the freedom to assemble, the freedom to acquire armament, and if not involved in it themselves, most tyrants seem to make alliances with those busily exercising their freedom to engage in predatory business practices.

Interestingly, some of the freedoms tyrants customarily take away from others are the very ones that allowed them to come to power.  They include:  freedom of speech, movement, assembly, to own armament, and various freedoms associated with financial/business dealings.  And we can be sure tyrants give little or no freedom for the public to view government meetings.  It seems freedom is great until a sociopath or psychopath discovers a way to exploit it.

So what’s the answer?  None of us want to give up our basic freedoms, at least no one I know.  

But neither do we want to keep “bumping into doors” like children playing hide and seek with blindfolds on…do we?

Somehow, there is a reality in which freedom is tempered with responsibility, compassion, and wisdom that is the answer.  Perhaps part of the key is to be found in the Buddhist “Middle Way”?  In the reality that within moderation we find a path to community harmony?

When we see our economic resources being drained from our lives and our communities; when we see our air, water and earth becoming polluted; when we see essential goods and services being priced out of reach of the average person; I feel safe in saying that we can be assured we have allowed somebody to take criminal advantage of the freedoms we desired for them.  

(Add. 11/9/2018)  We need leaders, of industry and of government, who have genuine humility and who recognize that all the benefits and blessings of civilization and progress that we enjoy are the result of the work of millions throughout many centuries.  That all these millions had and have dreams and hopes for a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, for their descendants.  To ignore and negate these hopes and dreams is to ignore and negate the foundation upon which all progress has relied.

 

The irony of NFL players taking a knee.

Kneeling figure
(c) ylivdesign http://www.fotosearch.com

NFL players taking a knee to protest social injustice in the U.S.  There is such a level of irony in that scenario I don’t think anything could best it.  Is there social injustice in the U.S.?  You bet there is.  First and foremost is the injustice of economic imbalance, the predatory economic system running amok.  There are those who, while most of the citizens simply worked at their jobs, working to keep their lives and communities on a stable footing, were busily working with the single-minded purpose to acquire more.  Often stealthily, behind closed doors, working to see cronies obtain key political positions to shore up their single -minded purpose.  Working to see laws passed to aid in the furtherance of their, by default or by design, malevolent advance.  Always grasping for “more”.  Using force, force of law, or sometimes simply force, to both create their path and protect their rear.  All in the name of inordinate gain with very little, if any, return of substance to the public they feed upon.

Kind of like professional football.  As a matter of fact, not kind of like, exactly like.

The NFL is quite possibly the number one mascot for the thinking, the spirit, that has created and maintains the economic imbalance in the U.S.  They do a lot, quite possibly more than any other recognizable entity, to keep the spirit of “I got mine, too bad about you” alive and well.  I can remember when street gangs wore NFL jackets as their “colors”.  I can’t be the only one who saw the synchrony in that.

The NFL is a crude microcosm which exemplifies the spirit within the more sophisticated, unjust, macrocosm that some within the NFL’s ranks are protesting.  And as such, this renders the NFL a de facto PR agent of that predatory system.  Undoubtedly one of the most well known and effective PR agents of that system.  The media coverage of the NFL plays to the minds of the young, and older folks alike.  The media glorifies the greed rampant within the NFL and entices fans to lust after inordinate wealth.  And it glorifies brute force in the process.  The glorification of greed which is part and parcel of the reality of the NFL, helps white-wash greed everywhere.  So, the irony of NFL players protesting the larger system’s injustices is, at the very least, ironic.  Possibly even grotesquely so.  But maybe it’s a start?

The last great extinction event on Earth?

Fotosearch_k22192444
(c) AlexMax http://www.fotosearch.com

(Significantly edited on 9/19/18.)

It’s happening all around the world.  Once thriving oceans, seas, lakes, rivers are dying.  People are experiencing various forms of cancer at unprecedented rates.  Also hypothyroidism, diabetes, and other diseases are increasing in prevalence.  Then there are the dis-eases often categorized as mental disorders:  anxiety, depression, anger, and more.  What do all these things have in common?  All of these maladies, environmental and human, are either caused or exacerbated by one or more of the various forms of pollution which are rampant in our world today.

These forms of pollution include pollution of our water, air, earth, bodies, minds, and spirits.  Many types of corporeal pollution are listed above.  Regarding our minds and spirits, we are currently experiencing widespread pollution of human kind by greed, fear, hate and anger.  It only takes picking up a newspaper to find instances of this pollution at work.

Who to blame, or is there anyone to blame?  Do we always have to look for someone to blame?  In this case, yes, there most definitely are people at the root of the problem.

One source; a company, a government, a religion, or other agency with financial or other special interests produces “X” amount of physical and/or mental/spiritual pollution, another company produces 2 times as much.  Another company maybe only produces 1/2 as much.  And all of them are saying that they do not produce enough pollution to be causing such problems.  And all of them are right.  And all of them are wrong.  If you aren’t familiar with Aesop’s fable of the “The Crow and the Pitcher”, I hope you’ll read it.  It explains a lot.

Regarding the environmental pollution, where is the E.P.A. in all of this?  They’ve been busy repeatedly firing Dr. William Marcus and then repeatedly trying to defend that action in court.  And I imagine other activities of similar ilk, all conducted behind closed doors.  Don’t ask, don’t tell.  Many believe that today, under the Trump administration, the fox has been put in charge of the henhouse at the E.P.A.  (Personally I think that has effectively been the case for at least a few decades.)

Regarding the mental/spiritual pollution, what human agency is watching out for the common person?  At this point, no one.  We are pretty much on our own to decide what ideas, beliefs, we incorporate into our lives.  Which, in order for us to retain our humanity, is as it should be. Free will is a wonderful thing.  Yet, why are so many so quick, so willing to incorporate ideas filled with greed, hate, fear and anger?  One reason, I believe, is because those are the ideas people are being repeatedly exposed to by, again, those with the reins of power around the world.

Around the world, we see people being led to embrace greed, hate, fear and anger en masse by those whom those people trust to tell them what’s happening in the world. Special interests have most definitely infected many of the media, schools, and religious institutions. I heard a proverb years ago that: “When interest enters in, truth flies out the window.” Again, it’s a matter of no one contributing source being the whole problem, and again, the fable of “The Crow and the Pitcher” tells the story.

Don’t we see what’s happening?  Don’t we understand the real and potential problems associated with pollution?  Don’t we, with all our technology, possess the means to prevent and correct such problems?  The answer to all these questions is the same:  “Yes we do”.  However, there is another question and an answer which, together, underlie all these problems:  Don’t those with the reins of power around the world possess the wisdom and will to value our planet’s ability to sustain life, and the myriad benefits of humankind cooperatively coexisting, more than the unbridled acquisition of power and material wealth?  Unfortunately at this time, the answer to that question which we are seeing repeatedly demonstrated is:  “No”.

Too many people want their stock dividends, too many CEO’s want their large bonuses, the power and influence of too many public offices are for sale.  Amongst the common folk, apparently too many people are contributing to the culture of pollution with the purchases we make.  To some extent we are at the mercy of those in control of production and marketing.  However we should all be mindful of the impact our purchases have upon the burden of waste in the world.  And, I would add, too many are too readily accepting the “reasoning” being put forward by those in power for why our natural resources and our treasuries are being managed in the way they are.  And too many people are accepting the special interest driven “reasoning” being offered for why we should embrace greed and hold hate, fear and anger toward others.

I think at some point in the future when archeologists, quite possibly from another planet because Earthlings will have become extinct, look for the “whys” to the last great extinction event on Earth, they will find a direct causative chain of:  human greed – pollution – willful ignoring and exacerbating of the problems – extinction.

Yet, around the world, little by little, people are waking up.  So the last question is;  will enough people be awake and taking corrective action before it is too late?  It truly is a case of “United we stand, divided we fall.”

I am using the same artwork for this article as the last one because, well, it is just so appropriate.  And I would rather think optimistically then post a picture of the pollution, and it’s effects, which we can all see without any great effort.

Re-humanizing our World

Fotosearch_k22192444
(c) AlexMax http://www.fotosearch.com

This is a “laundry list” of things which, if put into effect, would go a long way toward effectively stabilizing human culture, re-humanizing humanity, doing away with war,  decreasing the prevalence of many illnesses, and making life worth living!  None of these, except one (I won’t say which one), are my original ideas.  They are from people who have studied the issues and weighed the related factors.  As I have accumulated them over years I apologize that I do not cite the source.  In the interest of brevity I have sometimes combined what were originally separate ideas but which dovetail nicely together.

  • A three day work week with a living wage.
  • Abolish the stock market.  Keep companies in the hands of their founders and workers (employee ownership).  Let the consumers decide via their purchases, or lack thereof, when a company’s product is no longer desired.
  • New ideas for products/companies can be financed via bank loans, personal loans or the sale of bonds.  All at a reasonable rate of interest and able to be paid off.
  • Eliminate speculation in agricultural or any other products.  This only artificially raises prices thereby fueling inflation.  (Essentially do away with a “casino economy”.)
  • All industrial or other waste which poses a threat to the health of our environment must be discontinued or treated in such a fashion as to effectively neutralize any threat it may pose.
  • Legalize the production, sale and use of all natural substances which may be categorized as “drugs”.  These include marijuana, coca, poppies and their derivatives.  No prescription needed for these substances.  In order to purchase these substances a person must have a card indicating they have completed an introductory class of at least 3 hrs. in duration about the potential dangers and benefits of each substance they wish to be allowed to purchase.  Including tobacco and alcohol.
  • Re-institute regulations around the number of television stations, radio stations, newspapers and other media outlets that any one person or corporation may own.
  • Via regulations affecting banks, arms manufacturers and other government contractors, remove the the profit motive from war.
  • Make the dissemination of false and/or misleading information by elected and/or appointed government officials/employees a criminal offense (if it isn’t already) and enforce it.
  • Restrict election financing.  Cap the dollar amount any one candidate can spend during an election campaign.  Make it a felony with significant penalties for any person, corporation or foreign nation, or any agent thereof, to give donations, gifts, or make promises of future financial/material gain to any elected or appointed government official/employee.  Or for any elected or appointed government official and/or employee to receive such donations or gifts.
  • Maintain and adequately fund community based (not private) and regulated police forces, fire departments, schools, parks, hospitals, ambulance/EMT services (universal healthcare) and other services.  Such as concert and sports venues as a community desires and can support.
  •  Income from concerts, sporting events, etc, above and beyond that used to pay workers, performers, athletes, etc., should go to public coffers and to fund public services and infrastructure.
  • Establish and enforce both a minimum and maximum personal income.  The minimum income would insure basic housing, food and essentials for all.  There could be some work requirement (public service) upon those receiving it.  The maximum income would include income from all sources combined.  This would be in force for all people regardless of profession.  The maximum income should be no more than 7 times the minimum wage (not the minimum income which may be slightly less than the minimum wage).  

While in a rough draft format, as mentioned above this is at least a partial “laundry list” of actions which, if instituted, would serve to stabilize and re-humanize our cultures and our world.

Setting a new course…

IMG_1995For the next few weeks, months, years (?), I am going publish short commentaries on what’s happening in the world rather than longer essays.  My goal is to publish one a week, on Saturday mornings.  I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to read, “liked” and/or commented on articles on my blog!

 

A lot of (most?) people in the U.S. have played “Monopoly” at some time. The board game that’s designed to produce a winner and losers in an imaginary battle to acquire wealth. There is maneuvering for advantage, developing properties, lucky and unlucky roles of the dice. In the end someone bankrupts everyone else and owns it all. Then everyone can put the game away and head to the kitchen for snacks. That’s the part that’s missing in real life.
As in the game, in real life most (all?) people contribute in some way to building up and maintaining our communities. Most contribute throughout most of their lifetime. Building, serving, performing tasks meant to help keep the community vibrant. Unfortunately, these days it is happening within a system that is increasingly resembling the board game: designed to produce a relatively few big winners and lots of losers. Because we live in a finite system, there cannot be unbelievably extravagant winners without a whole lot of losers.
In the U.S. it hasn’t always been this way. Regulations against monopolies, a progressive tax system, wages and benefits people could thrive on, social safety nets and other safeguards kept the playing field more balanced; viable for the majority of, if not all, people. Then, those with more wealth began to find ways to manipulate the system. The regulations and safeguards which previously existed to protect the well-being of the whole have been, and are being, dismantled. This is leading to increasing economic imbalance with all the attendant debilitating effects on the general population that one can expect, even predict. We’re now seeing individuals with more wealth than millions of others. Others who have also been contributing.
The system needs repair. We need to restore lost safeguards. We need greater community mindedness. We need greater recognition of our inherent interdependence.

Update, 6/15/18:  The best laid plans of mice and men and all that.  I thought this was a good idea at the time, however, life has intervened and this plan for my blog did not materialize.  I’m not quite sure what I’m doing in terms of blogging these days.  I am certainly in a period of transition in my life.  To everyone who has read my blog at some time, maybe “liked” it or commented;  thank you!  I hope to be more actively involved at some time in the future…

What happens when good medicine is “bad for business”?

 

Med Symbol 2Last night I watched the movie “Me Before You”.  It’s about a man who is quadriplegic after an accident with a scooter.  Long story short, he decides he doesn’t want to live any longer with the limitations and pain he endures and …………….(spoiler alert) ……………………………ends his life.

The movie brings attention to the issues of assisted suicide, personal relationships and quality of life.  It also begs the question of why on Earth is anybody still having to endure, long term, the medical issues of paraplegia or quadriplegia?  By this I don’t mean why doesn’t everybody with paraplegia or quadriplegia kill themselves.  I do mean that in cases in which a person’s spinal cord is severed in an accident, why aren’t we using the therapies that are known to result in the body healing this damage?

Although I’ve heard of others, for example, one involving the use of white blood cells that must be performed within a short time frame after the injury, what I am mainly referring to is stem cell therapy to facilitate healing of the spinal cord.  Why isn’t this being performed regularly?

I have seen an excellent video of a mouse who had it’s spinal cord severed, and even after a period of time during which it experienced atrophy in the affected limbs, it was able to regain use of the affected limbs after a stem cell transplant.  I just checked online and I was unable to locate that video (??).  Where did it go?  But mice aren’t people, right?

Remember Christopher Reeve?  He played Superman in movies a couple decades or so ago.  He suffered a spinal cord injury and spent years as a quadriplegic.  During this time he became active as an advocate for issues relating to spinal cord injuries.  Stem cell therapy is one issue he was involved with.  I just looked at the Wikipedia article about him and it cites his work to get stem cell research funded.  Research is a necessary prerequisite to treatment, however, research is not treatment.  Why even mention this obvious truth?  More on that later.

Shortly after his death I read an article in “Readers Digest” about a woman in South Korea that had suffered a spinal cord injury many years ago and who had recently received stem cell therapy.  She was, according to the article, recovering use of the affected limbs.  It was around 2004 when I read this article, it was a recent article at the time.  I thought it poignant that this article should appear so shortly after Christopher Reeve’s death.  It brought to mind the question of why didn’t he ever receive stem cell therapy?

What are the problems with stem cell therapy?  Why isn’t it being used?  When stem cell therapy first began receiving widespread coverage in the mainstream press, to my recollection, it was immediately coupled with the issue of having to use stem cells from aborted babies.  So, essentially, stem cell therapy was given a “black eye” right out of the gate.  Dead babies?  If we open the door to stem cell therapy we’re going to be up to our eyeballs in aborted fetuses, right?  Women will be selling their unborn babies so rich folks can have stem cell therapy, right?  Women might even be getting pregnant just to have a fetus to abort and sell.  Horrible, but not an unthinkable scenario.  And the media saw to it we were all thinking it.  Stem cell therapy was cast in the roll of the therapy from hell:  avoid it at all costs.

Stem cell therapy isn’t the only potential treatment to undergo this type of demonization.  How many decades did “Reefer Madness”, and other misinformation define the public perception of marijuana?  (And still does in some places.)

However, during the 1990’s there was another, infinitely less, publicized event taking place in the State of Washington, U.S.A.  A company named CellPro, in Bothell, Washington, was working on a method of extracting stem cells from an adult human body that could be used by the person they were extracted from for stem cell therapy.  Pretty anti-climatic in comparison to being led to believe stem cell therapy would lead to the gates of hell being greased with the bodies of dead fetuses.  From the point of view of selling news with sensationalism, I can see why the CellPro story might not be appealing to the marketing folk down at the press.  But is that the only reason most people in the world have never heard of CellPro nor their success?  That’s right, success.

During the 1990’s, CellPro successfully developed a method of extracting stem cells from an adult human being that can be used by that person for stem cell therapies.  No chance of rejection, no lifetime of anti-rejection medications, and maybe that touches on why it received so little publicity (?).  CellPro’s relatively inexpensive method was successfully used to save one life, one.  A case involving cancer.  Did I mention it was planned to be relatively inexpensive, around $10,000 at the time?  Again I find myself asking:  is that touching on why most people in the world have never heard of CellPro?  If you want to know what happened to this company and the blessing they were getting ready to unleash on the human race, there is a book about it.  The person who’s life was saved wrote a book.

He was the CEO of CellPro.  The book is:  “Patient Number One”, by Rick Murdock and David Fisher.  If you’re interested in learning more about the convoluted interrelationship between medicine, big business, government, and the people affected by it, I recommend this book.  It’s not an easy read, but it’s worth it.

Again, long story short, CellPro was, in effect, shut down by a U.S. District Court judge.  At the very least the judge’s ruling made sure the words “relatively inexpensive” would no longer be applicable.  The reality turned out to be that, in effect, CellPro’s fate was sealed.  That was a U.S. District Court protecting us…from what?  Good health care?

As I mentioned above, medical research is not medical treatment.  Obvious?  Should be, but the reality in the U.S. has to give one pause.  In an article updated in 2005 on NBC News.com, the amount spent on medical research, each year, in the U.S. was 95 billion (with a “B”) dollars.  What should we be expecting for 95 billion dollars a year?  Are we getting it?  There can be no doubt that there is BIG money in medical research.  How about cures?  Maybe not so much?  Look what happened to CellPro with their relatively inexpensive method of procuring transplantable stem cells.  What’s that about?  The fact is medical research is often touted as if it were treatment.  It’s not.

There are a significant number of people, and I would say an increasing number of people, in the U.S. and elsewhere that suspect treatments which would actually cure various diseases are, when discovered, buried, kept secret, in order not to jeopardize the multi-billion dollar medical research industry.  The case of CellPro definitely pushes this notion a step away from the realm of conspiracy theory and into the realm of conspiracy fact.

The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation has a website which gives estimated costs for individuals living with a spinal cord injury.  The least figure they give is for “Incomplete motor function (any level)”.  Those costs are given as:  $347,484 the first year and $42,206 every year thereafter.  The lifetime estimated costs for someone in this category who experiences the injury at 25 years of age, are given as:  $1,578,274.  From there, as they get into the costs of paraplegia and other more profound loss of ability, the costs, as one would expect, go up.  A lot.

Compare this with the costs of one time stem cell transplant with no ongoing anti-rejection medication needed.  Tripling what, in the 1990’s, CellPro estimated would be their costs in obtaining the needed stem cells, from your own body, would put that cost at around $30,000.  Then there would be the cost of the implant itself, an injection.  If we think extortionate costs for that procedure, that might be around $100.000.  Even at extortionate pricing it doesn’t come close to the estimated costs for a lifetime of medication, medical devices, ongoing medical evaluation, caregivers and whatever else would enter in.  But what does that have to do with anything?

Is the system of medical care in the U.S. and the treatments employed the best in the world?  Let’s hope not.  I’m sure most of the medical industry’s P.R. folks would use descriptors like:  excellent, stellar, state of the art, etc.  It seems some of these treatments might be more accurately portrayed as:  the costliest we have, obsolete, ineffective, barbaric.  I’m sure there are a lot of good doctors in the U.S., thank goodness.  However, when even good doctors are at the mercy of a larger, institutionalized, business oriented medical system, well, sometimes their hands are figuratively tied.  Extravagant malpractice suits are the sword of Damocles hanging over the head of each and every physician in the U.S.  Sometimes the malpractice suits even make the extortionate pricing too often used by hospitals, clinics and other providers look trivial.

By designing/allowing extravagant malpractice suits into the bigger picture of the healthcare system those controlling the system gave themselves a ” big stick” with which to threaten recalcitrant physicians. 

The stem cell issue is just one of many treatment issues which have plagued our medical system over the past few decades.  The healthcare system in the U.S. has developed a track record of giving highly preferential treatment to those treatments marketed by big, wealthy corporations.  Pharmaceuticals immediately come to mind.

Some of the treatments which are either hard to obtain, largely ignored or actively lobbied against, even made illegal at some point if they still aren’t, include:  marijuana, stem cell therapy, neurofeedback, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and various cancer treatments offered in other countries but banned in the U.S.  I’m sure there are more.

The point is this:   Our healthcare system needs to be primarily and uncompromisingly dedicated to supporting and sustaining good health for all people.  Right now it is severely compromised by individuals who are using the importance of health and healthcare to contaminate our healthcare system with, what amount to, various avenues and degrees of extortion in a sociopathic pursuit of inordinate wealth.