Saturday, October 9, 2010

Skin Cancer Awareness

If its a fall Saturday, I must be watching football. And, during a rare moment when I didn't fast-forward through the commercials, I watched a skin cancer awareness ad that the Ad Council was running.

The message is that risk of skin cancer starts young, so don't let your children play outside in the sunshine without protection. And it shows a mom covering her little girl's bare skin with sun screen.

These days, that's probably good advice.

But, how did us monkeys survive until some other monkey invented sun-screen? Isn't it odd that we are now a species who's natural environment around us is threatening and harmful to us?

That doesn't appear to be a natural state of things. A species will evolve to suit its environment. A species that would all die off at young ages from skin cancer if it dared to walk out into the sunshine without inventing clothing or sun screen seems unlikely to survive for very long. And its not like we all just lost all our hair in one or two generations.

What's happened is that our environment has changed. The sun didn't use to be deadly to us monkeys. Today it is. Something has changed.

Its hard to spot such changes in every day life, as they happen so slowly. You can only spot them by noticing the slow changes over time. You spot these changes by noticing things like today everyone is supposed to wear sunscreen if they go out to check the mail, while 50 years ago everyone just took their shirt off and played and worked in the sun.

Some of that certainly is education and awareness. Probably we should have used more sunscreen back when we used to play and work shirtless all the time. There was some skin cancer around back then. But, judging from today's tv ads, we should have all ended up with a body covered by tumors by playing in the sun like we used to. There was some skin cancer around, but it wasn't so bad that we were all afraid to go out into the sunshine.

It seems like something has changed. During the 80's, we realized that all of the CFCs that we were releasing were doing damage to the ozone layer that helps to protect us and our skin from the sun. This was addressed by one of the rare moments of international environmental cooperation at a meeting in Montreal that led to the phase-out of these CFCs.

But, just how much damage did we do to the ozone layer that we all now have to hide beneath hats and suncreen if we want to go down to the mailbox and check the mail? You don't see any stories that document how much damage we did to our planet? You just see lots of public-service ads that tell parents to never, ever let their kids play outside without protection from the sun.

In a democracy, the people are supposed to have the information required to make good decisions. A democracy is where the people have the final say, so the people need to know the truth so they can make the decisions for their society.

We are constantly told that this path of industrialization and free markets is the only way. But, what if industrialization and free markets were responsible for doing major damage to our planet? Shouldn't we be told this clearly and plainly? Not only should we be told not to let our children play in the sunshine, but we should be told why our children can't play in the sunshine these days.

Because the answer to why lets our democracy make the appropriate choices about whether massive industrialization and unbridled free markets unhampered by regulation are really good for us. If there's a case where this led to world-wide use of CFCs which then destroyed the ozone layer so badly that our children can no longer play safely in the sunshine without protection, then that's something the people of a democracy need to know.

The information about why our children can't play in the sunshine is at least as important to a democracy as the message to parents that they should not let their children play in the sunshine. Because, if unbridled industrialization and free markets without regulation are creating a world where our children can't play in the sunshine, then we need to know about this so we can pick a better course.

Of course, that's the question for this democracy. Is it allowed to consider some very basic questions? Are unregulated free markets good for us? Has massive industrialization and growth been good for us? Is all of this creating a better world for our children? Or, are we destroying the world our children will have to inhabit?

Aren't these important questions for the free citizens of a democracy to be asking? And, if these sorts of choices have been ruled 'off-the-table' for the citizens of a democracy, doesn't that raise questions about whether we really live in a free democracy. Because, it a real democracy, the ultimate power lies with the people themselves, and nothing is 'off-the-table' unless the people put it there.

Why aren't we told why our children can't play in the sunshine without sunscreen?

From wikipedia .....
Ozone depletion

Ozone depletion describes two distinct, but related observations: a slow, steady decline of about 4 percent per decade in the total volume of ozone in Earth's stratosphere (the ozone layer) since the late 1970s, and a much larger, but seasonal, decrease in stratospheric ozone over Earth's polar regions during the same period. The latter phenomenon is commonly referred to as the ozone hole. In addition to this well-known stratospheric ozone depletion, there are also tropospheric ozone depletion events, which occur near the surface in polar regions during spring.

and later down ....
Effects on humans

UVB (the higher energy UV radiation absorbed by ozone) is generally accepted to be a contributory factor to skin cancer. In addition, increased surface UV leads to increased tropospheric ozone, which is a health risk to humans.[29]

1. Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinomas — The most common forms of skin cancer in humans, basal and squamous cell carcinomas, have been strongly linked to UVB exposure. The mechanism by which UVB induces these cancers is well understood—absorption of UVB radiation causes the pyrimidine bases in the DNA molecule to form dimers, resulting in transcription errors when the DNA replicates. These cancers are relatively mild and rarely fatal, although the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma sometimes requires extensive reconstructive surgery. By combining epidemiological data with results of animal studies, scientists have estimated that a one percent decrease in stratospheric ozone would increase the incidence of these cancers by 2%.[30]

2. Malignant Melanoma — Another form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, is much less common but far more dangerous, being lethal in about 15–20% of the cases diagnosed. The relationship between malignant melanoma and ultraviolet exposure is not yet well understood, but it appears that both UVB and UVA are involved. Experiments on fish suggest that 90 to 95% of malignant melanomas may be due to UVA and visible radiation[31] whereas experiments on opossums suggest a larger role for UVB.[30] Because of this uncertainty, it is difficult to estimate the impact of ozone depletion on melanoma incidence. One study showed that a 10% increase in UVB radiation was associated with a 19% increase in melanomas for men and 16% for women.[32] A study of people in Punta Arenas, at the southern tip of Chile, showed a 56% increase in melanoma and a 46% increase in nonmelanoma skin cancer over a period of seven years, along with decreased ozone and increased UVB levels.[33]

3. Cortical Cataracts — Studies are suggestive of an association between ocular cortical cataracts and UV-B exposure, using crude approximations of exposure and various cataract assessment techniques. A detailed assessment of ocular exposure to UV-B was carried out in a study on Chesapeake Bay Watermen, where increases in average annual ocular exposure were associated with increasing risk of cortical opacity.[34] In this highly exposed group of predominantly white males, the evidence linking cortical opacities to sunlight exposure was the strongest to date. However, subsequent data from a population-based study in Beaver Dam, WI suggested the risk may be confined to men. In the Beaver Dam study, the exposures among women were lower than exposures among men, and no association was seen.[35] Moreover, there were no data linking sunlight exposure to risk of cataract in African Americans, although other eye diseases have different prevalences among the different racial groups, and cortical opacity appears to be higher in African Americans compared with whites.[36][37]

4. Increased Tropospheric Ozone — Increased surface UV leads to increased tropospheric ozone. Ground-level ozone is generally recognized to be a health risk, as ozone is toxic due to its strong oxidant properties. At this time, ozone at ground level is produced mainly by the action of UV radiation on combustion gases from vehicle exhausts.[citation needed]

Put the numbers together. A 4% decrease in the ozone layer per decade. And a 2% increase in skin cancer for every 1% of increase in UV radiation. You can't just add them together, since the first is the decrease in volume of the ozone and that's probably not linearly related to the amount of UV radiation penetrating the ozone layer.

But still, our ozone layer took a big hit. And now, for every 1% of extra UV radiation that results, skin cancer rates go up by 2%.

When we make a mistake, there's often not much we can do but to live with the consequences. Except, that we can try to learn and not make the same mistake again. And in this case, shouldn't our democracy be asking how it was we let our industries pump so much of these gasses into our atmosphere and do this damage. Shouldn't we learn to be more careful.

In this age of propaganda against government regulations and any government interference in businesses and their making of profits, we should stop and think every single time we put sunscreen on our children whether all of this is really making a better world for our children.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Karl Rove's Political Playbook.

Remember how back in the bad old days of the Bush administration, there used to be highly exaggerated 'terror' threats that would come out just in time for the elections?

Barack Obama accused of exaggerating terror threat for political gain By Simon Tisdale and Richard Norton-Taylor for the Guardian (UK)

A US terror alert issued this week about al-Qaida plots to attack targets in western Europe was politically motivated and not based on credible new information, senior Pakistani diplomats and European intelligence officials have told the Guardian.

The non-specific US warning, which despite its vagueness led Britain, France and other countries to raise their overseas terror alert levels, was an attempt to justify a recent escalation in US drone and helicopter attacks inside Pakistan that have "set the country on fire", said Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the high commissioner to Britain.

Hasan, a veteran diplomat who is close to Pakistan's president, suggested the Obama administration was playing politics with the terror threat before next month's midterm congressional elections, in which the Republicans are expected to make big gains.

and ....
"I will not deny the fact that there may be internal political dynamics, including the forthcoming midterm American elections. If the Americans have definite information about terrorists and al-Qaida people, we should be provided [with] that and we could go after them ourselves," Hasan said.

"Such reports are a mixture of frustrations, ineptitude and lack of appreciation of ground realities. Any attempt to infringe the sovereignty of Pakistan would not bring about stability in Afghanistan, which is presumably the primary objective of the American and Nato forces."

Apparently Karl Rove forgot to burn his secret political playbook before leaving the White House. Because Obama and the Democrats are running the same 'politics of fear' that the Republicans used to run.

The Democrats are so morally bankrupt that this is all they have to offer America. They constantly scream about the 'tea-party' to scare loyal Democrats into voting for their pro-war, pro-corporate party that opposes everything their base believes in. Now they are running Bush-style 'exaggerated' terror threats the month before the election.

If you miss Karl Rove, then vote Democrat this fall.
If you wanted real change, then do not vote Democrat this fall.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ignorance and/or Dishonesty

Currency Wars and Accounting Identities By DEAN BAKER via

When you hear 'economics on TV, you are often hearing BS. Chalmers Johnson, author of "Blowback" talks in the introduction to that book of how 'Economics' has become more religion than science. Believe in the free market. Believe in unbridled capitalism. Take it on faith that this will makes us all rich and create a utopia for all of us to live in.

For real economics, read this article by Dean Baker. Remember, he's one of the people that was writing about the housing bubble back while CNN et al were telling you how wonderful the economy was and how you should go buy your Enron stock today.

The whole piece is worth reading. Its hard not to copy it all into here. But, here's the part he ends with.

This raises the possibility that perhaps the deficit hawks don’t really give a damn about the deficit. Perhaps the deficit hawks just want to cut Social Security and Medicare and other programs that benefit the middle class and moderate-income people. Of course, it is also possible that the deficit hawks are just confused when it comes to economic policy. It’s hard to know for sure, but these days ignorance and/or dishonesty appears to be the price of admission to Washington policy debates.

Government of the ignorant and dishonest, government by the ignorant and dishonest, and government for the ignorance and dishonest shall not perish from this earth.

Certainly as not as long as we just keep voting for Democrats or Republicans. And if we even have a hint that this government is ignorant and dishonest, then voting for any incumbent seems suicidal.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Time to Kick the Donkey

FBI Raids and the Criminalization of Dissent By Amy Goodman via ZNet.

Early in the morning on Friday, Sept. 24, FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota’s Twin Cities kicked in the doors of anti-war activists, brandishing guns, spending hours rifling through their homes. The FBI took away computers, photos, notebooks and other personal property. Residents were issued subpoenas to appear before a grand jury in Chicago. It was just the latest in the ongoing crackdown on dissent in the U.S., targeting peace organizers as supporters of “foreign terrorist organizations.”

Everyone refers to this as just the "FBI".  What's missing is that this is Obama's FBI.

At least now we know why Obama's FBI wasn't arresting the Bush era criminals who tortured and illegally spied on Americans.  And, at least now we know why Obama's FBI wasn't arresting the Wall Street crooks who cost Americans trillions of dollars of wealth by first creating a speculative bubble in the housing market that was American's primary avenue of investment, which of course was followed by the inevitable crash of that speculative bubble.  Nope, Obama has his FBI infiltrating and investigating peaceful antiwar activists.  Obviously spying on peaceful activists is more important to Obama and the Democrats than going after Bush-era torturers or Wall Street crooks.

The open question is, when will the majority of Americans, who oppose these wars and who think our children and our money should come home, when will they stop supporting Obama and the Democrats?  Not only has voting Democrat led to a never-ending war in Iraq and bigger and bigger wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but now Obama is sending his FBI to kick in the doors of people who dare to disagree.  Obama is sending his FBI to kick in the doors of people who dare to suggest that we shouldn't be getting our children killed and maimed.  Obama is sending his FBI to kick in the doors of people who dare to suggest that we shouldn't be spending hundreds of billions of dollars on these useless wars in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. 

Obama's stance is clear.  Obama has declared open war on the antiwar movement by sending his FBI to kick in these doors.  The question is, are the anti-war voters of American foolish enough to still continue to vote Democrat?

The secret no Democrat wants to mention is that the Democrats win their elections on anti-war votes.  No matter what your estimate of the strength of anti-war public opinion in this country, if the anti-war votes do not support the Democrats, the Democrats lose to any Republican with a pulse.  It doesn't matter if you picture the anti-war movement as the 60% of Americans who consistently tell pollsters that they want these wars to end, or if you picture it as 20% of committed antiwar voters on the left of the Democratic party.  Even that smaller number is far larger than the Democratic margin of victory in almost any race.

What you can destroy, you can control.  The anti-war voters of America have the power to destroy any Democratic campaign by their opposition to it.  The Democrats simply do not have the number of votes to win without the anti-war votes.  Which leads to a very simple response to these raids.

DO NOT VOTE DEMOCRAT in NOV.  Not even for dog-catcher.  DO NOT VOTE DEMOCRAT.

That may not lead to an immediate utopia of a peaceful world the second week in November, but it will send a powerful message that the Democrats will hear and which will change the future.  And I don't mean the fake change in the wrong direction that the Democrats offer, but I mean a powerful change in the direction of ending these wars.  Because, every Democratic strategist looking at 2012 will have one fact in front of them in complete clarity. The Democrats can not win without anti-war votes.  If you want to end the wars, put the professional Democratic politicians into a position where the only way they can win elections is by opposing these wars.  That leaves them only two choices.  Ending the wars, or finding a new career path in bad economic times.

Even that probably won't end the wars in 2012, as most likely we'll have to go through another loop where the Democrats lie to pretend to oppose the wars, get elected, instead expand the wars again, and again we have to kick them out.  But, as long as we stand firm in saying that we will not elect Democrats who do not oppose these wars, well, even the stubbornest donkey will sooner or later get the message if you keep kicking it.

Now is the time to kick the donkey. The donkey ain't moving.  When the donkey does want to move, it seems to want to go the wrong direction.  But, any country boy knows how to deal with that donkey and get it to head in the direction you want it to go.  A few good kicks will get it moving in the right direction.  In fact, once you teach the donkey that you will kick it, you don't have to any more.  Just raise your voice in that special manner that tells the donkey another kick is coming, and it will start to move on its own.

Now is the time to kick the donkey.  It won't immediately end the wars.  But, to end the wars we need a Democratic party that's been trained to know that it can only win with anti-war votes.  Now is the time to kick the donkey to lead to a future where someday we won't have to.

Surely, if any anti-war voters hadn't noticed that the wars got bigger and bigger after they voted for the supposedly anti-war Democrats, they can't help but notice Obama's FBI kicking in the doors of peaceful antiwar activists.  If nothing else, the obvious message to any anti-war voter is that if they vote Democrat they are voting to have their own homes raided by the FBI if they dare to tell others that they oppose these wars. 

Even beyond any political grand strategy, the most obvious statement for anyone who opposes these wars is that a vote for the Democrats is a vote to have your own front door kicked in by Obama's FBI.  Surely at some point an anti-war voter has to get the message that voting Democrat does not lead to good outcomes for themselves.

I watched in amazement in 2008 as the antiwar voters of America combined to all vote for a candidate only that pretended to be antiwar while at the same time promising bigger defense budgets, a bigger military, keeping troops in Iraq and expanding the 'right war' in Afghanistan.  But surely, now, after two years of this pro-war reality, and now with Obama's FBI kicking in the doors of anti-war activists, the response of the anti-war voters of America has to be clear.


We've got a month.  Lets all combine to deliver a response to this that the Democrats will hear loud and clear and which will send them reeling.  Spread the word as loudly and as far as you can before people start to vote in the next few weeks. 

If you oppose these wars, DO NOT VOTE DEMOCRAT.

And don't do it quietly. Now is not the time to sneak around and try to secretly deliver a kick to the seat of the Democrats without them noticing. Now is the time to stand right in front of the Democrats and make sure they know that you are tired of being lied to, and that you are tired of being raided, and that this swift hard kick that is coming is our response to the lies and especially to these raids.  When its time to kick the donkey, it doesn't do any good if the donkey doesn't know who's kicking it.  The anti-war movement needs to be loud and vocal for the next month in its response to these raids by refusing to support the Democrats in this election.

Donkeys aren't real good at reading their email.   But, this is a response that any donkey can understand.