Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Corporate Greed Is Alive and Well in America.

Some people, particularly CEOs, but not necessarily limited to them, seem to have paid no attention to what happened to the American economy during the past few years. Recently, the shareholders of the Chesapeake Energy Corp. protested the $100 million plus compensation package that Chairman and Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon received during the past year. This occurred at a time when the shareholders lost significant value as the price of the stock decline during the year.

There was a national uproar when AIG attempted to pay out $160 million in bonuses. This total is only slightly more than 50% higher than what one man, the chief executive of Chesapeake energy, was going to receive. An article in the Huffington post recently stated that, "First, the Congress and administration needs to establish some definition of "excessive." Let us say that it is total compensation in excess of 30-fold (or 25-fold, or 65-fold, or some other number) the average worker in that firm, or some higher multiple of the lowest quintile, or some other number. Something. This would be the major argument, but something can be agreed."

I disagree. Each company should establish corporate pay. Congress has no business regulating salaries of people in the private sector. However, due diligence is required of the boards of directors so that the CEO salary is appropriate to his/her performance during the past year as well as the increase or decrease in the value of the shareholders equity. However, when a CEO receives 2000% more than the average worker for the corporation it is obscene. While it is often argued that private companies have the right to pay whatever they want; this should not apply when the so-called private company is actually a public company with shareholders.

It is a bad time for corporations to be validating Gordon Gecko's infamous statement, "Greed is good."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dick Cheney to Star in a New Zombie Movie

Newton Dimworthy, chief publicist for Wildly Weird Movies, recently confirmed that Dick Cheney would be starring in a new zombie movie to be released by November 2009. The tentative title for the new movie is The Beast That Would Never Die and Couldn't Be Killed. Mr. Dimworthy said that Dick Cheney was a natural for the role given his experience during the Bush presidency and his continued defense of its blunders. Wildly Weird Movies was responsible for the box office smash hits Winning the Iraq War in 100 Days and Human Rights Advocacy at Guantánamo.

Mr. Cheney was unavailable for comment about the new movie at this time. However, his press secretary, Insidious Disinformation, stated that the former vice president would be holding a press conference in the near future at which time he would talk about the new movie and eat all Democrats in sight. The former vice president has been making the rounds of the talk shows, mainly on Fox news, The Republican Broadcasting Network, citing the successes of the Bush administration and pointing out how President Obama is leading the nation to into greater peril each day. The former vice president was particularly incensed about President Obama's willingness to talk to the leaders of European nations, who Mr. Cheney had characterized as a bunch of pansies in the past.

With his newfound popularity, the former vice president may be able to stop traveling around in an armored Brinks car, and use a regular automobile. Who knows, he may even be able to purchase one from Detroit if any of the automakers are still functioning

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dr. Drew and Dr. Phil: Celebrity Mental Health Demeans the Profession

Stigma regarding mental health, and receiving appropriate treatment for mental illness, is still so strong that anything that promotes or encourages people to seek help is laudable. However, what Dr. Drew and Dr. Phil are up to is more about their celebrity status and self-aggrandizement than anything else. When Dr. Phil visits Britney Spears and holds a press conference afterwards it is not about Britney's mental health status but rather Dr. Phil's celebrity status. For Dr. Phil to say anything about his interaction with Britney at all was a violation of her right to privacy.

Dr. Drew Pinsky is a board certified by the American Academy of Internal Medicine and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Dr. Pinsky does not have credentialing as a psychiatrist or psychologist. But since the publication of his test for narcissism, and subsequent book, he has been speaking on public media on everything from narcissism among celebrities and the public at large, to substance abuse, sexual issues, and anything anyone else cares to ask about general mental health issues.

Dr. Pinsky is also a busy man as shown by the fact that he is Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Keck School of Medicine at the University Of Southern California Medical Director for the Department of Chemical Dependency Services at in Pasadena California, staff member at Huntington Memorial Hospital and a private practitioner. In addition, Dr. Pinsky, or "Dr. Drew" as he is called, has a show business career in which he is the co-host of the nationally syndicated radio talk show, love line which he has hosted since 1984. On television, he produces and hosts the VH1Show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and the MTV show Sex ….With Mom and Dad In 2009 a spin-off of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew premiered named Sober House. It's hard to say all these things, let alone contemplating doing all of them.

Doctors doing celebrity reality shows is a far different from Dr. Mehmet Oz coming on the Oprah Winfrey show and presenting medical information and advice in a professional manner. Dr. Oz's professional credentials are of the highest caliber. Dr. Oz is vice-chair and professor of surgery at Columbia University. He directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital.

Dr. Pinsky on the other hand, goes in front of the media and, according to CBS news, stated about Britney Spears, "This young lady — she is dying in front of our eyes. She needs physician care regularly for a sustained period of time. If I were to treat her, I'd put her in 4-6 weeks of an intensive program in a psychiatric hospital and a year of a residential program very much like what Lindsay Lohan did." While Dr. Pinsky may have been concerned about Britney Spears, he was creating valuable airtime for his celebrity status.

Dr. Pinsky gained notoriety when he said in an interview in Playboy, "Take a guy like Tom Cruise. Why would somebody be drawn into a cultish kind of environment like Scientology? To me, that's a function of a very deep emptiness and suggests serious neglect in childhood — maybe some abuse, but mostly neglect." For Dr. Pinsky to speculate on Tom Cruise's mental status and psychological functioning without interviewing him was unprofessional. Further, to do so in Playboy magazine, amid all the pictures of naked ladies, is evidence of less than optimal judgment and a need for celebrity status. In the end, Dr. Pinsky apologized to Tom Cruise's lawyer, but not to Tom Cruise.

Dr. Pinsky writes extensively about how we are in the age of narcissism. Isn't it possible that his behavior and that of Dr. Phil's is a symptom of that narcissism?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Universal Health Care Is Not about Economics

Universal health care coverage will eventually come to this country. The question is not if, but when. Discussions about free-market systems and costs of health care notwithstanding, societies evolve, and universal healthcare coverage is part of that evolution. In a recent op-ed column in the New York Times, titled, " The Misguided Quest for Universal Coverage," Ramesh Ponnuru stated, "AMERICA’S dysfunctional health care financing system needs to be reformed. But the goal should not be universal coverage. Reform should simply aim to make health insurance more affordable and portable."

Ponnuru goes on to crunch some numbers and provide other rationale to support his contention that the goal of reform of the health-care system should not be universal health care coverage. But the issue goes beyond bean counting and free-market system belief systems. Ultimately, society has to answer the question of whether it is more important for some people to have access to plastic surgery to boost their egos, while other people are denied access to health care that would keep significantly enrich the quality of their lives, or, more importantly, keep them alive.

Universal healthcare coverage will become one more entitlement that will make conservatives to grind their teeth. And well they should. Basically, in our current society, entitlements are apportioned based primarily on wealth or power, or both. And, as the last eight years shows, the Republican Party is predisposed to assuring that the wealthy get wealthier while middle-class incomes can remain stagnant.

Ponnuru makes one important concession when he says, "This is another way of saying that universal coverage cannot be achieved using free-market methods — a point that many liberals correctly make." The free-market system, or capitalism, is the best way to produce most services and goods. However, it is not an all-encompassing way to manage a society where different people have different needs and some will always be unable to meet the challenges of life. The word is unable, not unwilling. The woman who cuts my hairhas chronic lung problems that go untreated because she does not have medical coverage.At the same time,I watched too many faces, including Nancy Pelosi,,where the skin has pulled tight after numerous plastic surgeries and the effect is to give them a frozen smile. We've got to get our priorities right.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Obama Speaking in Code to Taliban (and Republicans)

During view on MSNBC's hardball, Frank Gaffney, the director of the conservative think tank the Center for Security Policy, accused President Barack Obama of speaking in code, and telling the Middle East that America will submit to them. When challenged to explain this Gaffney said, "when he (Obama) uses the term of respect in the context of a waste bow to the king of Saudi Arabia, for example, and talks about respectful language which is code for those who adhere to Shari'a that we will submit to Shari'a."

In further conversation Gaffney went on to point how important it is for us to be able to understand this code. The question is whether anybody but Gaffney understands this code. Perhaps when you're the president of a right wing Center for Security Policy organization you get secret code books. If so, Gaffney has a moral and legal obligation to share this with the president and the national Security Council. Oh, excuse me. I guess Gaffney assumes that President Obama doesn't need a code book because he knows the gestures of submission.

The Republican right (doesn't that include all Republicans?) was obviously going to jump all over, if you'll pardon the metaphor, everything resident Obama did and said during his recent trip to Europe, and now to the Middle East. The Republicans, as former Vice President Cheney would assure you, are experts on Middle Eastern policy. After all, look what they accomplished in eight years with Iran and Iraq. I ran is still moving towards building nuclear weapons and Iraq after nearly being leveled by internal strife, has a fragile our government that may or may not make it to democracy. Let's not forget about Afghanistan, where Republican policies made it possible for the Taliban to be in a position to threaten

Sunday, April 5, 2009

War on Drugs: War on Blacks

In a recent article addressing the issue of whether we should legalize drugs, Leonard Pitts Jr., a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist, said, "The War on Drugs came into being under President Nixon, whose chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, once quoted the president as saying, 'You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this all while not appearing to.' Small wonder blacks account for 13 percent of the nation's regular drug users, but more than 70 percent of all those jailed for drug use." (Emphasis mine)

For those among us with a metal predisposition to believe that there is a link between black usage of drugs and incarceration for selling them, Leonard Pitts went on to say
"In 1914, when the first federal drug law was enacted, the government estimated 1.3 percent of us were addicted to illegal drugs. In 1970, when the War on Drugs began, the government estimated 1.3 percent of us were addicted to illegal drugs. Thirty-nine million arrests later, he says, the government says 1.3 percent of us are addicted to illegal drugs." (Italics mine)

The failure to address the demand side of drugs from the United States has nearly led to the destabilization of the Mexican government and society. We are all too familiar with headlines about kidnappings in Mexico, but now those kidnappings have spread to the border states of Arizona, New Mexico, California, and Texas. The war on drugs is not only been a failure, it has become counterproductive. It is time for a national rethinking of the way we address the issue of drug abuse.

The prisons of America have become a dumping ground for American citizens with drug abuse problems. That many of these people sell drugs, and therefore are given longer prison sentences is just a simple statement about how poor people pay for their drug habits. America, and it particularly the black population, is paying heavily for the failed strategies of the so-called War on Drugs. The very notion of legalizing marijuana raises the blood pressure of millions of Americans. Parents cringe at the thought of their children being able to legally purchased marijuana. So their children purchase of illegally anyway.

Racism takes many insidious forms. There are the convenient racist notions that blacks are: lazy; more inclined to crime; have lower intelligence; more corrupt than Caucasians; and a host of other demeaning generalizations used to ignore the fact that a significant proportion of the blacks living in America are living in a separate Third World country state of perpetual poverty. The fact that we have an African-American president does not make any of this different.