Bitter Pill

My conservative “friends” on FB crack me the shit up. They really do. They are all freaking out over Obamacare.

I don’t like it either but not for the same reasons they do. I don’t like it because it is a giant gift-wrapped package to the insurance industry and keeps the for-profit health care model alive.

What I think would be better is to slash and burn the entire insurance industry. Go to single payer. No more “in plan” or “out of plan” doctors. This is how France does it. Oh and in France, the doctor reimbursement is paid for by the government at a MUCH lower wage than in the USA. That is a good thing. Doctors should earn more than most jobs as it is life saving and important, but not insane amounts. In France doctors can choose to go “on their own” but then risk losing business as the vast majority of French go to doctors who are in the system. It costs €26 to see a doctor in France without any health insurance. With insurance it is €6,50 a visit. A kidney transplant costs €25 to the patient who is covered. I only knew of a handful of doctors who were not “conventionée” (on the government plan) and they were all homeopaths. They would charge something like €50 a visit. They had to compete. Now in the USA you could get doctors to accept this (new ones) if you said something like “we will pay for your education if you agree to stay in the system for 10 years” …

The other thing about single payer and lower doctor salaries is that you get people who care about people becoming doctors. I have had such GOOD doctors in France compared to my HMO experiences in the USA. The USA where people sometimes become doctors for the money, not primarily because they want to help people …

And the other thing about single payer is that governments like France, Sweden, Japan etc. can and do force drug companies to keep prices low since THEY are the purchaser of all those drugs.

Now many states have mandatory car insurance. If you have a mortgage you must get home-owners insurance. If you pay taxes you get police and fire department coverage. All of these are ways to spread the risk out over the whole population or more of the population to keep costs down. Why should health insurance be any different ? Why is punishing companies who do not provide this benefit to their employees (thereby forcing the state to pick up the tab if they end up in the hospital like so many Walmart employees) by taxing them for that privilege a bad thing. Why is ending lifetime caps a bad thing ? Why is allowing kids to stay on parents insurance until 26 (given spiralling student loan costs now entirely realistic for most kids) a bad thing. Why is ending the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage to people who are already sick (and thus need help the most) a bad thing ? Societies are formed so that people can live civilized lives in peace – healthcare is part of that just like living crime free and without worry of fire consuming the city. It is a public service, and should not be the method for someone to become über wealthy ! Health care should be a right, not a profiteers wet-dream …

I don’t like Obama, I must admit. He is far too conservative, wishy washy and war mongering for my tastes. The health care bill is only a baby step and allows insurance companies to grow more powerful rather than less. But … it is better than what y’all had before.

Eh, it will probably get gutted before it goes into effect anyhow. Americans are so ignorant now  – it is stunning to see the change in the USA since I moved away 11 years ago. Each time I go back the disease grows, the population is more rancorous and incapable of debate than ever before, the values of money over people are more and more obvious and are rotting out the insides of the country. All these idiots who believe in a “free market” and corporations “self-regulating” are living in a dream world akin to those who believed that communism would come naturally and capitalism would “fade away” … that is a better dream than raw capitalism but an unrealistic dream nonetheless.

Oh and don’t get me started on the health gap. Just like there is an income gap, there is a health gap. People seem to be either utterly health concious or totally let themselves go into piggy-dom … but that is another post awaiting.

Obama the Antichrist ?

So I had a really fucked up conversation with my Dad’s side of the family the other day.  I will apologize in advance for the free-form rambling of this post … maybe later I’ll tidy it up a bit into more biting cynicism but for now this will have to do as I am tired … Read post and take this poll after …

My mom and my dad could not be further apart in their political views these days, and it’s a good thing they got divorced. She is a firm supporter of Obama, though realistic that he’s still just a politician, she hopes he’ll be better than the Bush crowd that simply made more money for a small top portion of business associates tied to oil and military. She doesn’t foam at the mouth when she talks about McCain and Palin – she points out reasonable things like his political views, her batty lack of experience and corrupt past history in Alaska as well as her virulently anti-abortion views when talking about why she’d never want him/her elected. 

The fact that he’s been a Bush supporter on most of the issues that caused the economic situation today (and on the Iraq war) and that Bush managed in the process of his two terms to destroy the entire US economy and potentially the economy of most of the first world countries in his continued allowance of further unbridled capitalism, completely void of meaningful regulations. Now, yes, some of these policies were started by Democrats … but certainly he only furthered their initiatives, further deregulated industries that should never have been deregulated etc.. I can’t even understand why the people in the US are not protesting on the streets in massive numbers considering what this man did to their country. By far the worst president in the history of the country. So, even if Obama is still part of the same ‘political machine’ most people who support him are realistic – we just hope he’s a kinder, gentler fuck up the ass than Bush and will try to change more things for the better of the middle class, knowing that the good of the whole country is really in the best interest of all political parties if they want the US to remain a constitutional democracy (even though he’s a millionaire).

On the other hand, to speak to my step Mother and my Dad and listen to the evil hating shit that comes out of their mouths – I am speechless. They sound like they living in a science fiction movie and speak like they are brown shirt Nazi’s in WWII, dumbly repeating the puppeted words of their masters verbatim without stopping for a moment to consider how absolutely repugnant and unrealistic the words coming out of their mouths are. The amazing propaganda machine that is the right-wing has managed to whip up such hatred of Obama – I’ve never witnessed such knee-jerk reactions that are not based in reality during a political campaign. My stepmother actually said to me that she thinks Obama will be the ‘anti-Christ’ if he’s elected and she and my Dad think it is meaningful sign that people like Louis Farrakhan call Obama ‘a Messaih’ (another stupid caricature from the opposite end of the spectrum). They both agreed with each other on this point. Right wing Christian freaks have been shouting in their ears and they believe them.

What is it about otherwise seemingly intelligent people that allows them to believe – seriously believe – such blatently obvious utter tripe ? Stepmom also thinks Palin is amazing (well this is understandable as she is strongly anti-abortion herself). She says Biden talks out of both sides of his mouth, but then she finds Palin credible despite seeing how she’s run Alaska and the scandals there about how she abused her power (how does that fit in with an ‘aw shucks’ hockey mom image) ? I just fail to understand how people become so bamboozled by propaganda that they cannot realistically watch a person speak on TV and judge them for themselves, not through the ridiculous viewpoints of people on the extreme edge of either side. Just watching Palin squirm and wriggle, unable to put together meaningful sentences when interviewed by newscasters is enough to make my skin crawl – like hearing fingernails on a chalk-board. But then Bush is the same level of idiot and many people loved him. Maybe they don’t like to vote people in with higher IQs than they themselves can comprehend would exist ?

When I pointed out to my Dad that there is truly little difference between Republicans and Democrats, and that really it’s the rich vs. the poor, he agreed. We talked about the banking scandals and how there were as many involved Republicans as Democrats who profited all these years from the de-regulation policies and how Bush controlled the country for 8 years, so how could he tell me this was Jimmy Carter’s fault or the fault of the poor.

Oh yeah, this was another nugget – the right wing now is saying that the loan programs started by Carter to help poor families get homes in the fucking 1970s caused the current bank failures !! That this Carter policy was responsible for the Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac crashes 30 years later after years of de-regulation and changes in that industry since it was first incepted (which by the way started under the evil motherfucker Ronald Reagan)!

Fuck me – like we didn’t have quite a few Republican politicians come through in that time to correct any supposed mistakes Carter made? No, of course not. But of course the original Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac loans are now mostly repaid from the era of Carter – the defaulted loans are the ones given out in the de-regulated world economy that Carter’s team certainly did not foresee, where banks bet on the mortgages with each other on the open stock market!.

All he could say in response was that McCain was a ‘rebel’ and a ‘maverick’ (I love that the real Maverick family are suing to get McCain to stop using their family name in vain!). Well he does live in McCain’s home state, so is even more full of the garbage from that end of things than most of the country. Still how can the country’s Republicans, who had power for 8 years, cling to the notion that NONE OF WHAT HAS HAPPENED IS THEIR FAULT when it stares them in the face ? Are they so much part of the ‘blame anyone but me generation’ that they can’t see the forest for the trees – can’t see how greedy politicians in a 2 party system are going to fuck the poor no matter what ? That it’s all a big game – Republicans rape the country for 8 years, the Democrats come in and make love a bit while screwing around behind your back, then you get raped by Republicans again for 8 more years – that this is the cycle we’ve been in since WWII and the takeover by the military industrial complex and corporate interests ? That the sixties and all the political assassinations assured this cycle would continue (with more Republicans than Democrats of course) via threat of death if you do not tow the party line? That the US has basically LOST it’s middle class and is now exporting it to countries like India thanks to corporate interests – that there is NO SUCH THING as a ‘US Corporation’ – none of them have national pride or national interests as a concern?

But he still went back to his comfortable right-wing rhetoric in the end that explains all the pain away, never blames rich corporate heads who control the press or the politicans, and instead points the finger at Mexican immigrants, ‘evil doer’ terrorists (like Obama!!) and anything else ‘out there’ and untangible to keep them frightened and not looking too deeply to find the real truth. The propaganda masterminds are great at using fear of ‘other’ to control the population – Hitler used it and the right-wing Republican party uses it. It’s like the part of my Dad that is logical and intelligent and ‘should know better’ is just lost to this fear-based rumour mongering. And as he goes ( a college educated engineer with a Master’s degree ), so goes much of the nation.

Two outcomes to the election I can foresee.

1. Election will be stolen by the Republicans just as it was 4 years ago even though Obama leads in polls

2. Obama will win and will be assassinated by some freak all pumped up on this deadly racist, anti-Islamic pro-‘American’ rhetoric put out by the right wing which has people like my step Mother believing this man is an un-American muslim terrorist (oh yeah, and he’s black!)

I hope that no matter what happens, there will be riots on the streets of the states in protest – violent ones that force people to realize that despite the bullshit that comes out of my step-Mother’s mouth – you are NOT MORE FREE IN THE USA than anywhere else on the planet. But I won’t hold my breath. Likely it will be followed by another ‘terrorist attack’ to ensure the fear stays strong and propaganda keeps hold of the hearts and minds of the US citizens.

Your freedoms are GONE folks – wake up! You are so much LESS FREE than most of Europe but your propaganda news machines make you think you have so much to be ‘thankful’ for … you, many of you, even believe that 99.9% of the free world must be wrong and that socialized medicine will be evil! Socialized medicine will never come to the USA for three reasons.

1. Insurance companies won’t let it – they stand to lose out big time

2. Doctors won’t accept reasonable salaries and the loss of their fake demi god status

3. People are fucking stupid in the USA and even though they travel to other countries, or hear people who live in and experience the health benefits n other nations talk about how good it is – they prefer to believe the scare tactic horror stories coming from items 1 and 2 – the ones who will lose lots of money in a socialized medical system

Unfortunately the only way I can see the US improving at all is via total US economic collapse (unfortunately that will take out much of Europe and is unlikely now that we have Sarko and other Euro-corporate boys running over there to try to tell the idiot how to stop the bleeding) and a complete tossing out of all the Washington insiders, and a popular revolt electing real humans to the Congress and white house. I can’t ever see that happening though – the media is corporate, the corporations are too powerful, richer than many small countries in fact …

So that is why I will never ever move back there – and why I hate politicians such as Sarkozy and anyone else with policies who try to change Europe to be more like the States — ie, to allow corporations more power here – the socialist nations of Europe need to resist the raw capitalism of the States – so far the people here are far more politically astute than the citizens in the US and so I can just hope that continues, but then again – the French elected Sarkozy last time … now proven as just another one of Bush’s butt wipers and corporate ass-kisser.

Bitter Tendons

Not sure what to write about today but I feel like writing. I am sitting here with a sore throat and a stuffy nose, knowing I have a 72km trail race next weekend, unsure if I will be healthy enough to do it. Besides the obvious nose snot issues, since about 2 weeks after the CCC I’ve had a persistent tendon problem on the top of one ankle, which I tried to ignore away.

I noticed it after doing some mountaineering/climbing in the weeks after the big race, and iced it each time it seemed to act up. Basically it feels like something gets ‘stuck’ in the place where my ankle joins the top of my foot and sometimes it really hurts to step on it … but the pain is not normally there when I run … only after, and usually in walking (esp down stairs). Sometimes so bad that I collapse over that leg if I stand on it and get surprised by the pain. But sometimes if I just stop a second, turn my foot in circles, I can then walk normally. I’ve iced it each time this happens, but it keeps coming back. Even after short runs like the hour trail run I did last week, or even a short 40 minute run with the dogs, full of stops to play with them along the way. So I am basically not sure if I will last 72km, because when I closed the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges a few weeks ago and did a run of 30km with 2000m of uphill (with a heavy backpack, carrying a 100L garbage bag to collect the course markers) as my kind of ‘reminder’ long run to my body, I started to feel the ankle while running the last downhill. I am not sure it will last 72km and imagine I may end up dropping out of the Templiers.

It’s not fun to approach a race not feeling up to it. I had a similar issue in the Turin Marathon a few years ago but it was only the flu, and since it was my first road marathon, I decided to run the race with the flu. I finished in something like 4:20 which was not bad considering my health.

I think the other issue stopping it from healing is that I’ve had crap sleep most nights in September, since being told I’ll be laid off at the end of January. Between worrying about my future over and over in my brain the first week and then just random cat noises, dogs barking, animals jumping onto the bed at night etc., I feel like I have not managed much quality sleep. My husband is gone this week, so the bed is bigger and that is great – plenty of room for cats and dogs climbing up to get warm because now it is colder in the house – I seem to have managed a couple of nights of good sleep — but on the other hand, now am sick. It’s like my body saying ‘at last we can relax and let the stress affect us!’ — which is not exactly what I’d prefer.

Basically I plan to try to sleep a lot this week, and hope for the best this weekend. If nothing else it’ll be an interesting outing with my French running club to a part of the country I’ve never visited before. We are staying in shared housing in a vacation center (no hotels in that area, it’s in a very ‘small town’ part of France) so I need to get good sleep this week as likely on Saturday night I’ll be rooming with snorers or basically will not get as much rest as I’d like the night before the race. It’s been 2 months since the CCC and normally if I had not had this issue with my ankle I would have probably liked to do a double marathon weekend again as my longest training but instead feel I’ve under trained due to the injury and now wonder if I can even manage to finish it without my ankle giving in totally. I am pretty sure it’s some type of tendinitis, because it seems to be the tendon that connects the top of my foot to my ankle, and seems to hurt most after I do things that flex my toes upwards or put me on tip toes repeatedly (including climbing). Guess I’ll just have to see how it goes.

Trail des Aiguilles Rouges

So what is it about Chamonix races ? Everything has to be extreme and difficult – well, that’s how we like it here!

This weekend I volunteered to help out at the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges. This is a 54.4km trail race (mountain race, actually), which has 3674m of positive height gain and 3624m of descent with an official time limit of 13 hours (winners were expected to complete the course in around 7 hours).

The winner this year overall was Dawa Sherpa of Nepal (now living in Switzerland), who did not disappoint the organizers after finishing in 6′ 47″. He also was 2nd place in this year’s North Face Ultra Trail, held only one month earlier. Obviously he had a very good recovery. The 2nd place finisher was well known French runner Vincent Delebarre in 7′ 18″ (the two men finished in reverse order the prior year with Delebarre winning and Sherpa coming in 2nd).

Women trail runners were not quite as well represented in the race, with no very big name women enrolling and the top woman finishing a bit slower by percentage of the winner’s time than one generally finds women finishing in trail races these days. The winner of the woman’s category in 9:35 was Sylvie Negro (prior year’s winner of the female category), and she was 58th overall. Last year, only 39 women enrolled, and this year the number increased to 73 so that is a very good increase at least in overall participation. But a somewhat disappointing turnout of top women athletes compared to the men’s representation, in my opinion.

The majority of the field indeed was made up of French runners – probably owing to two factors. First the race is only marketed in French on their website, and secondly the race is only 2 years old. This year enrollment was down compared to last year, although in the end more people started this year’s race (less than 400 started last year due to very bad weather and snow on the course). A small handful of Swiss, Italians, Brits and Americans (most of the Brits and Americans being locals anyhow) made up the rest of the field.

This year, 573 runners started in Les Houches at 5am (the course is limited to 600 runners due to passing through the nature reserve so this was a good turn out at the start line). At the end of the day, 458 runners finished the course, with the last one coming in at nearly 8pm – a good 2 hours after the official course cut off time. Only 384 runners finished within the original cut off time of 13 hours.

In miles and feet that is 33.8 miles and 12,054 feet of height gain. So it’s a bit longer than a marathon but a lot tougher in terms of climbing – not to mention that this is done on rough mountain trails. It counts for 2 points towards earning the 3 points required to enter yourself in the North Face Ultra Trail Tour du Mont Blanc trail race (166km 9400m uphill), or it alone will gain you an entry into the North Face Ultra Trail CCC race (Courmayeur Champex Chamonix), which is a 98km race with 5600m uphill. Both races are held the same weekend at the end of August each year starting in Courmayeur and Chamonix. Both races now require pre-qualification due to their popularity.

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Bitter Discourse

My step Grandmother died last week. She was part of the east-coast liberal intelligentsia ultra rich crowd (husband, deceased, was a university professor and Nobel Prize winner). Her dying words were ‘Obama, Obama’. I hope she was seeing a vision of the future election winner.

I think after the debates last week, it’s pretty obvious that McCain is not going to change a thing. Or we can say that if he dies and Sarah Palin gets into power he’ll change things but only for the worse. That woman is a scarey bitch, playing games with her bullshit hockey mommy facade over a disgustingly cruel inner character who blames victims and represses individual freedoms. I also hate anyone who supports arial gunning of wolves, and who thinks hunting is something that one could practice as a ‘sport’.  We can hope (bitterly though ’cause I never trust a politician no matter how cool they try to make themselves sound) that in this case Obama would change something.

My take on politicians is that they are all quite selfish and ego-driven beings – no one would dare run for president given what it takes to get there these days, were they not. But in general it seems that the way Democrats try to stay in power is by gathering up a large pack of commoners around them,a along with a few key wealthy do-gooders in order to get themselves into power, and then once there they of course must also work with the ultra rich and to benefit them (or they lose continued support and funding in congress), and they of course take every advantage to make themselves and their buddies rich but they mitigate this by throwing some bones to the middle class pack every once in awhile and thus generally keep the lives of more people in the US happier, and their larger power base satisfied. Whilst Republicans simply keep the giant pack at bay for years using lies and fear mongering tactics to manipulate the middle class and lower classes, growing richer and more powerful only in their tight inner circle of super rich supporters and destroying the rest of the country or whatever else stands in their way (until it gets so bad that once more they are tossed into the street by voters, or if it gets bad enough one could always hope for a real revolution again).

I don’t think any national level politician is free from greed or is truly there for the ‘common good’, but I think liberal democrats at least feel guilty about fucking people over and do a few good things here and there, which is why I prefer them to Republicans. Ideally I’d prefer socialism but whatever. I can’t imagine Americans going for that as they are so utterly brainwashed by a poor education system and Fox news (Faux News) propaganda that the very word sends them into purple-faced spittle-filled rants.

Anyhoo … I don’t donate money to politicians in general but today I donated money to Obama. I hope he makes it …