A heavy dose of truth, humor, and political activism.

Location: Phila, Pennsylvania, United States

Friday, July 27, 2007


Rhode Island is home to Oscar the cat; who seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in over twenty-five cases, has led nursing home staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means the patient has less than four hours to live.
"He doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," Dr. David Dosa said in an interview. He described the phenomenon in a poignant essay in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one," said Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University.
Oscar was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a third-floor dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The facility treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.
After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours.
Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. "This is not a cat that's friendly to people," he said.
Hmmmm, can this cat really predict death or do these old patients have something in common…perhaps, I don’t know, a deathly allergy to….cats?! Animals clearly possess senses that humans do not have but how long is it until one of the families of a recently deceased person sue this center for “killing” their loved one? Maybe the cat is carrying some sort of disease that has spread to old people. Yes I’m talking about YOU, old people.
Personally, I hate cats. The last thing I’d want around in my last moments is a feline. And what about the people who spend their last moments on Earth with Oscar? Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the four-legged, gray-and-white grim reaper are so ill they probably don't know he's there. Should they really have to spend their last moments with him? What if they are like me and hated cats? They should have the people in the home sign a waiver when they are first brought there asking if they’d like the services of the death-cat. Most families are grateful for the advance warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure. It sounds like the cat is hungry to me. Have you ever smelled a old-folks home (sorry great-grandma)? They smell about as good as cat food. Maybe dying old people are really the leading ingredient in cat food? It wouldn’t shock me. I want old folks’ spleens and liver, meow-mix, meow-mix please de-liv-er.

A U.S. judge on Thursday struck down (as unconstitutional) a local law designed to crack down on illegal immigration, dealing a blow to similar laws passed by dozens of towns and cities across the country.
U.S. District Judge James Munley said the city of Hazleton, which is located 100 miles north of Philadelphia, was barred from implementing a law that would penalize businesses that hire illegal immigrants and fine landlords who rent rooms to them.
The law also sought to establish English as the Pennsylvania town's official language.
"Federal law prohibits Hazleton from enforcing any of the provisions of its ordinances," Munley wrote in a 206-page opinion following a federal trial in which civil rights groups challenged Hazleton's law.
The city of 30,000 blames a recent rise in illegal immigration for boosting crime and overburdening social services. The law was passed in July 2006 but not applied because opponents won a court injunction.
About a third of the city's residents are immigrants from Central America and around a quarter of the immigrant population is believed to be undocumented, civil rights campaigners say.
Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union successfully argued that local authorities such as Hazleton have no right to regulate immigration, which is the sole responsibility of the federal government.
"Whatever frustrations the City of Hazleton may feel about the current state of federal immigration enforcement, the nature of the political system of the United States prohibit the city from enacting ordinances that disrupt a carefully drawn federal statutory scheme," Munley wrote. You hear that Hazleton? Don’t fuck with the Federal government. If George Bush and the clowns on Capital Hill have made nothing else clear, it’s that they’ll do what they want, when they want. That includes flooding the country with illegal immigrants who will work (under the table mostly) for less than minimum wage. That’s the only part I disagree with. There should be stronger penalties for not paying illegal immigrants minimum wage. These people come into the country and work the awful (and sometimes dangerous) jobs; the jobs that most Americans would never want to work. More power to them. I have several unemployed friends and I don’t see them lining up to clean toilets. My problem is that rich Republicans want to fill the country with illegal immigrants so they can put them to work in their companies and pay them less than minimum wage while offering them no benefits whatsoever. That isn’t fair to Americans who pay taxes because these people then do become a drain on social services. It also isn’t fair to the illegal immigrants because the jobs they are being offered here in America pay better than the jobs they could get at home but the trade off is that they are over-worked and under compensated (by American standards….American standards sounds like an oxymoron). These decision to me shows that the judges are working for Dubya, Cheney, and the rest of the sheep on the Hill. What happened to three branches of government working together? Instead we have the judicial and the legislative working FOR the executive. It’s just wrong no matter how you slice it. Encerrar?

The Food and Drug Administration will ask outside experts next week whether the diabetes drug Avandia should carry label warnings of heart attack risk. The FDA scheduled a meeting for this upcoming Monday to ask drug safety and diabetes experts to review GlaxoSmithKline's blockbuster drug after a medical journal article in May suggested heart attack risk in patients who take the drug is FORTY-THREE percent higher. There’s a forty-three percent higher chance of having a heart-attack for diabetics who take Avandia?! What are they going to do next, start making it with a sugary candy coating? That’d be good for diabetics too!
The agency posted documents Thursday on its Web site that included its latest review of the drug. The FDA is also expected to ask panelists whether any heart attack risks seen with Avandia are greater than those of rival diabetes treatments. Although it usually does, the agency is not required to follow the recommendation of the panel of experts. The company says its studies show that the drug is as safe as comparable treatments. That makes it okay?
The FDA revealed in its review however that Glaxo approached the agency last summer about adding heart-attack risk language to the product's label. The warning would have noted that increased rates of heart attack occurred in some company studies, while saying that it was not clear whether they were connected to Avandia. Nah, couldn’t be Avandia. Just ask Pat Robertson, it’s probably the Jews or homosexuals that are to blame.
The FDA rejected the proposal, arguing that any information about heart-attack risk should appear in a more prominent "black box" warning, the most serious warning a drug can carry. Why’s the black label have to mean something bad? If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s label-racists.
The FDA said panelists should weigh Avandia's potential risks against its benefits.
More than 6 million people worldwide have taken Avandia or a related drug, Avandamet, since it came on the market in 1999. Doctors use the pills to control blood sugar levels in patients with adult-onset diabetes; most of the patients reported being much happier with the lower blood sugar levels right before they clutched their hearts and keeled over dead.
In briefing documents posted online Thursday, Glaxo argued that "there is no consistent or systematic evidence" linking Avandia to increased risk of heart attack or death. However, the company recommends expanding the drug's label, which already includes a warning about heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot effectively pump blood to the body. Wow, I was sure Glaxo would have come out and said that the drug WAS consistently linked to an elevated risk of heart-attack. I guess next McDonald’s is going to say there is no link between eating their french fries and gaining weight (well there isn’t…if you only eat five of them). These guys must have hired the same scientists who told big tobacco that there was no increased risk of lung cancer for people who smoke. Bad science! That’s a very bad science!
Glaxo did say it plans to add a warning that diabetics who already take insulin should not take Avandia. The proposed warning is consistent with the FDA's review, which found insulin-taking patients who also use Avandia face a greater risk of heart failure. Being an insulin-dependant diabetic, I know one drug I won’t be taking any time soon.
Federal lawmakers and consumer groups are pressuring regulators to put further restrictions on Avandia's use. But the agency said it wants to hear from outside experts before recommending any changes. I wish they would ask to hear from me, I wouldn’t sugar coat it. A Spoon, Full of sugar, is a dead Spoon. ***UPDATE: JULY 30th, The NY Times published this article today (4 days after my story first appeared) that clearly backs up what I had said; Avandia's risks outweigh its benefits. http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/business/business-glaxosmithkline-avandia.html?ex=1186459200&en=499b2dda11ae4f32&ei=5070&emc=eta1 ***

Am I the only one that is insulted by local news and their weather reports? Let’s be honest, local news is a joke! It’s nothing but puff pieces surrounded by creamy filling. They start off with some murders for shock value (if it bleeds, it leads) and then go into all of the stupid events taking place around the region that day. “For those of you sitting inside all day, here’s what’s going on outside”. They get 23 minutes of air time for a 30 minute news segment and they waste the majority of that on weather. Yes, we all need to know if it’s going to be hot and humid or rainy all weekend so we can make or break those shore plans but isn’t the weather channel enough? To make matters worse they give you the current weather. You have to be living in a bunker with no view of the outdoors to need current weather. I have a current weather report that airs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week…it’s called a window. I’m sure you have one too; try opening it up sometime. It takes about five seconds to get the current weather that way. “Currently in Philadelphia it is 75 degrees and raining” . Phew! Thank goodness I caught that weather report. I looked out the window and saw all of these strange drops of water falling from the sky. I was sure the world was coming to and end, so I turned on the local news and the weather man told me it was just raining. Boy do I feel better now. It gets better. Sometimes the weather guy will tell you that it’s sunny and you look outside and it’s raining. Sometimes they tell you it’s currently snowing and you see people walking around outside in shorts and a t-shirt. It’s insulting. Please, stop reporting the current weather. If you really want to insult me, just tell me that currently, I’m an idiot for watching local news.

Thanks for reading today folks. I know I haven’t been posting much but I still appreciate your loyalty when I do. I’ve gotten a lot of sweet emails of support recently and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. For those of you who chose to lash out at the Spoon for sharing personal information on my site, you can go fork yourself. Check back soon, to get more wisdom, straight from the Spoon. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


The following post originally appeared in the March 9th, 2007 edition of Spoon, Full of Truth. As I mentioned at the time (and even in posts before Libby’s conviction) it didn’t matter if he were guilty or not as long as Bush had the power to pardon him.
PRISON INMATES REFUSED SKATEBOARDS, BUT GIVEN A SCOOTER This week a jury told us what we already knew was true. Scooter Libby is guilty. Maybe Dick Cheney will send him a nice gift basket in prison. Meanwhile, the Bush White House steadfastly refused to talk about a possible pardon in the CIA leak case. When the Bush White House can’t even come up with some bull-shit statement (“speaking of pardons, do you have any Grey Poupon?”) to take the attention away from the obvious pardon, you know it’s as good as done (as I have been saying since long before this conviction came down). The request for a new trial is the first move in Libby's uncertain future. He faces up to 25 years in prison when he is sentenced June 5, but his federal sentencing guidelines are much lower. I understand the Presidential pardon to an extent, but I think it should not be permitted to be used on those who work directly for the President or Vice-President. This allows Dubya and Dick to have their staff do whatever they what, whenever they want, knowing that even if they are convicted of breaking the law, Georgie-Boy can get them off. I bet he even keeps a little stack of Monopoly “get out of jail free” cards in his desk in the Oval Office. I guess finding Scooter guilty is a small moral victory for those of us disgusted with the Bush regime’s tactics, but at this point I’m holding out for more. I won’t be content until Scooter, Dick, and George are all locked up for breaking the law but sadly, that day is about as likely to come as Kevin Federline winning a Grammy.

Will the American people really pick the next U.S. President? Or will the President be picked for us? It seems to me that the trend in this country is to have the President chosen for us. I love going to the supermarket to do my food shopping. I like the option of choosing my own food. If I want steak, I can have steak. If I want chicken, I can have chicken. If I want fish, they have that too. There is a whole isle of cereals to choose from, and many, many different kinds of fruit. Variety is what makes it great. I have so many choices and I can pick the one I really want. I remember being a kid a seeing pictures of the bread lines in Russia. People standing in line for hours and hours just hoping to get whatever food was available when they finally got to the front. That's how I feel when I go to the polls. I stand in line, and when I finally get to the booth, it's slim pickings. Do I take the stale bread? Or the spoiled milk? I don't really get to choose the one I think would be the best (like having steak for dinner), I get to choose from the crap that is available. It would be like doing away with supermarkets altogether have having someone else just choose what I was able to eat. "You can have ham, or you can have potato salad, that's it." Well I don't like ham. And I don't like potato salad. But I'd rather eat one of them than starve to death. So I'd pick one. That's how I feel on election day. Why should we only have two candidates to choose from? I don't want to hear any rhetoric about the primaries. It's the same thing. You get a few bad choices, and you have to pick one. Instead of waiting for nominees to declare that they are throwing their name into the very small hat for President, I urge people to start checking out people they would like to see run for the office now and create a buzz about them. Don't wait until Christmas eve to do your shopping. I know there are people out there who would make a decent commander in chief. Men, women, gay, straight, any religion, any race, it doesn't matter. It's time we picked our next president instead of our next president picking us. In a perfect world, anyone could run for the office. This world is far from perfect but if we act now, maybe we can choose even one more option. And the more choices we have, the more likely it is that we can select one we want, and not just one we're given. I'm sick of stale bread. Let's have some English muffins.

We all remember the 9/11 attacks. A bunch of self righteous, suicidal guys from the middle east flew planes into some buildings and killed a few thousand people. It was awful. What has happened since then is far worse. Our own government has used this tragedy to control Americans through fear. Everyone gets scared. I'm scared right now. I'm scared that the majority of this country is filled with idiots. About six months before Bush was up for reelection, the terror alert was suddenly raised from yellow to orange. It was announced that it would stay that way until after the elections. Was this because Americans really should have been worried about another terror attack? Or was it because Dubya was scared he wouldn't win the election? That's all that terror alert scale is. The higher the alert, the more Bush feels his grip on the public is fading. Nothing more. Orange doesn't mean we're going to be attacked by terrorists. It means we are being attacked by our own government. Their weapon of choice? Fear. We always run the risk of being attacked, because we attack other people (both physically and financially). Freedom comes when you are given information and can make your own choices based on that information. It is not being scared into making a decision or acting a certain way. That's coercion. Our government likes to throw the word terrorist around a lot. What is a terrorist? Someone who doesn't agree with them? In almost any other part of the world George Bush is called a terrorist. I am in NO way condoning what the 9/11 attackers did, but they did it because in their minds, they were also fighting a war on terror and we were the terrorists. Much like we did when we attacked Iraq to topple Saddam and killed thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqi's in the process. Of course that never makes the evening news here. Only that we are spreading freedom. If freedom is forcing people to live in the way that someone else thinks is best, then we are spreading freedom. The same kind of freedom we have here. Big brother knows best. Don't think for yourself, you have a government to think for you. What's next from the Bush regime on the fear front? Stunning new information provided by Fox news? "It was reported today that anyone voting democrat is 73% more likely to catch anthrax in the event of a terrorist attack" or "Terrorists are three times more likely to attack us again if we don't all use as much gasoline and duct tape as possible." Ben Franklin once said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." He was right. If we give up our freedoms because we were attacked, we do not deserve to have freedom. Furthermore, if we give up our freedom because George Bush and the other playground bullies try to scare us into thinking we are better off without it, maybe we shouldn't have had it in the first place.

The Bush regime aren't the only ones who want to control us through fear. At some point selling people things they need was no longer enough. Next came selling people things they want. Then came the time of telling people what they want. Now? Scaring people into thinking they need it. "Cool people wear these clothes, if you don't wear them, you aren't cool" "You don't love a woman if you don't lavish her with diamonds, don't you love your wife?" Why not take it a step further? "Sophisticated beer experts have concluded a study that shows that men who drink Bud are 78% more likely to have a small penis than those who drink Miller. What does your beer say about you?" I bet you wouldn't see too many guys at the bar sucking down bottles of Bud. The commercials might not be real, but the stigma attached to men who drink Bud would be. Do you think a bunch of men would order a round of Bud from the sexy bartender? Think about the message it would send. "Me and my three friends over there would all like a cold Bud to help us forget about our small dicks." Message received, loud and clear. There is nothing more likely to make a person buy something than the fear that they will be any more fat, any less hip, or any more unattractive if they don't buy it. Consequently I should let you all know that you are much more likely to succumb to ignorance if you don't read this blog on a regular basis. It's 100% guaranteed (not guaranteed). Ever notice how many products are offered "for a limited time only"? That's just to scare people into thinking that if they don't rush right out and buy it, that they will miss their chance. How many times have you bought something because it's trendy and you don't want to seem uncool? How many stupid guys buy Axe body spray because they think it'll actually help them attract women? They'd be better off spending that four dollars to buy a clue. How about diet pills? They all claim to help you lose weight. Then, in the fine print, it says both, "Results not typical" and "in conjunction with proper diet and exercise." Of course it works with proper diet and exercise. Proper diet and exercise would go a long way for an overweight American without the stupid pill. Invent a pill that makes me lose weight while I'm sitting on the couch, watching TV, and eating Cheetos. That I'd buy. We are all controlled through fear. From who we vote for, to what we buy. And somewhere in a corporate board room, some bigwigs are laughing and wiping their asses with our hard earned money. Those guys are scared too. They are scared of love. They are scared of tolerance. They are scared of acceptance. Why? Because in a society where people accept, tolerate, and love each other, people cannot be scared into having their decisions made for them. In a world like that there would not be a fear of making the wrong or unpopular decision. And that is what these corporations fear the most.

On Tuesday evening I attended a paid focus group for people with Diabetes. They wanted us to share our opinions about new Diabetes products and the thought processes that led to those opinions. Basically, we were paid (quite well) to be used as market research. I figured if I have to live with Diabetes, and someone was willing to pay me to talk about it, I might as well go. Shortly after the session began, it became clear to me and the other diabetics, that regardless of what new products they come up with to treat Diabetes, we were only really interested in a cure. One of the men in the group had been living with Diabetes for 35 years; one of the women for 27. They both mentioned that their doctors had told them early on that a cure was on the horizon and would be developed within a decade or so. I was told the same thing when I was diagnosed 14 years ago. We are all still waiting. When we continued speaking about diabetic products, one of the women mentioned she had no health care coverage (along with almost 50 million other Americans) and talked about the high costs of paying for these items out of pocket. A single test strip used for blood sugar testing costs about a dollar. A diabetic is supposed to use about four of five of these daily. That would cost a person a bare minimum of $1,460 per year, and that’s just for the testing strips. A bottle of insulin can run $300 or more without insurance (and generally lasts less than a month). You can’t take insulin without syringes so add that cost on as well. These are only the bare necessities for Diabetes. While many diabetics do have health coverage, the companies who manufacture and sell these products are still paid by insurance companies. My disease is making some people very, very rich. It got me thinking, do these companies have something to do with a lack of a cure for Diabetes? I know that George Bush doesn’t make decisions for himself, mega corporations, their lobbyists, and checkbooks do his thinking for him. Why would these companies, who make billions of dollars a year (if not more) from diabetic supplies, want diabetes cured? Although it hasn’t been proven that stem-cells will cure diabetes, I’m sure it’s scared these corporations enough to throw some extra money at preventing stem-cell research. If it was suggested that stem-cells could cure runny noses, do you think Kleenex would be for or against them? It makes me sick to think that there are people out there who are more interested in keeping me (and millions of others) ill because it’s more profitable. To these companies I am not a person, I’m just a number (with a dollar sign in front of it). Being a diabetic is like being a drug addict. Our government sanctions these corporations to be legal drug dealers. Without our fix, we will die. We’re hooked. I remember the footage of a man trapped on his roof during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina with a sign that read, “Diabetic! I need insulin”. Many diabetics died on their rooftops. Even though insulin exists, they couldn’t get it. If they had been cured, they might have survived. I appreciate that medical science has come up with products (like insulin) that have kept me alive for the last 14 years, but I know that the technology to cure the disease is being held up because keeping diabetics reliant on these products is so profitable. I urge all of you to contact your Senators and Congressmen in this election year and tell them that you will only vote for a candidate who supports stem-cell research (and has the voting track record to prove it). You may not have diabetes, you may not know someone who does, but that could change. You, your spouse, parent, child, or friend could develop it tomorrow without warning. Please help me and the other diabetics of the world realize our dream of a cure.

A few months ago I was in the car with my wife and my father on the way to Willow Grove (an area in the suburbs of Philadelphia). We were passing through the town of Glenside, driving down a large hill with a light at the bottom. As I neared the light, it turned yellow and I proceeded through it, as one does with a yellow light (well everyone except my mother who would come to a screeching halt). Within a few seconds a cop pulled out behind me, threw his lights on, and pulled me over. Now I'm sure there wasn't something more pressing for this officer to be doing at the moment, like say, preventing a crime, but he thought it was necessary to pull me over so I obliged. I still had no idea why he had pulled me over when he approached the car. He asked for my license and registration, both of which I provided. "Do you know why I pulled you over?" The officer asked. Sure I knew why he pulled me over. He had a raging hard-on for exerting power. Chances are he took his copy of my ticket home that night and jerked off to it. "I have no idea officer," I calmly replied. "No idea?" he inquired. Uh, did I stutter? You asked me, I said I had no idea, was that unclear? "No idea," I reiterated. Obviously he was confused, had I used a big word by mistake? He looked at me over the top of his bad-ass police issued sunglasses. "Have you ever heard of a red light before?" Look asshole, I just handed you my license, I've been driving for 11 years and have never received a ticket before. Do you think I've heard of a red light? Have you ever heard of a fucking doughnut? "Yes I've heard of a red light before," I informed Sergeant Obvious. "Well you just ran one," he countered. Was he trying to use the Jedi mind trick on me? The force was strong with this one. I wasn't buying it. I kindly informed him that, contrary to his belief, I had not run the red light. He once again informed me that I had. This went back and forth for a few minutes at which point he returned to his car for several minutes, and then returned to mine, ticket in hand. I was informed that I was being issued a ticket for running a red light (I mean he'd been gone several minutes, obviously in his mind that was enough time for me to totally forget why I had been pulled over) and told me I was free to go. Surprised that someone with his mental capacity could ever write out a ticket, I took a minute to look it over. I had indeed been charged 30$ for running a red-light, another 25$ for the Glenside firefighters' widow's fund, another 25$ for the Glenside children's computer fund, and an additional $25 for the Glenside library fund. I was furious. Fuck Glenside, its' firefighters, its’ children and their computers their library and literacy, and most of all its’ pigs. I was not going to take this sitting down. I decided to fight the ticket. In order to request a hearing to fight the ticket, you must first pay the ticket in full. How is that fair? Doesn't that give them all the power? "Well Mr. Miller, you're right, we shouldn't have given you that ticket. But...since we already have your money, why don't you go fuck yourself?" Being too stubborn to pay the myself, someone else decided to send in a check and to request a hearing for me. My day in court finally came. I dressed nicely and showed up at the court house early, complete with my own lawyer. Shortly after arriving, I was told that the cop who had written the ticket had a family emergency and would not be able to attend the hearing that day. Another cop, told me that if I wanted, the township would drop the points that running a red light adds to your license, and just keep the fine. I didn't want points on my license. I also didn't want Glenside to have one penny of my money for issuing phony tickets. The cop on duty informed me that he knew the officer who had written the ticket and he would never issue a ticket for running a red-light if the person hadn't actually done it. Obviously Glenside teaches the Jedi mind trick in their police training video. This was insulting. Could you imagine if defendants could try this tactic in court? "I know the defendant your honor and he never would have murdered all those people if they didn't deserve it!" I was told that I could reschedule the hearing. Not knowing the full extent of the law myself, it certainly came in handy to have a lawyer (or in my case several lawyers) in the family, one of whom was with me at that moment. He kindly told the clerk that we wanted to speak to the judge then and there and have the case thrown out for lack of prosecution (because the cop who issued the ticket didn't show up). The clerk looked very offended but we were able to speak to the judge, who promptly threw the ticket out, and refunded 100% of my money. Mmmm being right sure does taste good. I guess the Glenside cops will just have to settle for the taste of doughnuts and humble pie.

Well I hope you all enjoyed my birthday stroll down memory lane. There will be some fresh content up soon. In the meantime, if anyone would like to write a guest column, feel free to contact me at spoonfulloftruth@aol.com. I’d like to wish a Happy Birthday to my uncle Bob (an avid Spoon reader) who shares my birthday with me.