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Where Dogs Fear to Tread

What Colon Cancer and Rush Limbaugh Have in Common


Thursday, March 8, 2012
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SINCERE AND HEARTFELT FLUKE: It was Dr. Fred Kass on the line, and he was apologizing in advance for the “really weird idea” he was about to pitch. A gifted oncologist, Kass has helped infuse cutting-edge science with a culture of rare kindness into the corporate DNA of the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara. During my own hour of need, Kass proved unfailingly generous. Since then, when I call to ask for a scientific-sounding way to endow zombies with the stubborn cellular immortality that defines cancerous growth — for the screenplay I should be working on — he’s been more than accommodating. In other words, Dr. Kass has a blank check to get as weird as he wants. March, it turns out, is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and Kass wanted a little help highlighting this fact. Although colon cancer kills more people in California than lung cancer, it has yet to become the hot, new trendy cure-of-the-month club crusade that gets people walking 10 kilometers in the rain. Even though colon cancer killed famed NFL icon and godlike Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi — at the ridiculously young age of 57 — colon cancer hasn’t been branded with the equivalent of the pink ribbon now synonymous with breast cancer. Maybe famed cancer survivor Lance Armstrong — of yellow bracelet fame — could race about on a titanium road bike conspicuously devoid of a saddle — just a seat post — to drive home the point.

Angry Poodle

In most of its manifestations, colon cancer is about as easy to treat as an ingrown toenail. But that’s only if you catch it relatively early on. But many people, it turns out, always seem to have something better to do than get a colonoscopy, an admittedly uncomfortable procedure that we learned from the space aliens who perfected it on their unwilling abductees. When colon cancer gets a head start, Kass said, it’s really hard to control. Initially, Kass figured health insurance was the hang-up; people without insurance didn’t get screened, didn’t get treated, and didn’t get well. Turns out, it’s not that simple. In fact, of the 415 people diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer in Santa Barbara between 2005 and 2009, 350 of them had insurance that would have paid for the procedure. For all-too-predictable reasons, they just weren’t in the mood to have their recta Roto-Rooterized. What happened to those 415, Kass did not say, but the odds were not in their favor. The survival rate for those diagnosed late is about 12 percent; for those diagnosed early, it’s closer to 90 percent. Even I can do that math. The New England Journal of Medicine just released a study that found the colon cancer death rate for people who’d been colonoscopized — and had some polyps snipped in the process — was one-half lower than that of the general population. The moral of the story, I suppose, is that if we are to embrace a diet of highly processed flours, pseudo meat products stewed in a savory blend of mouth-watering preservatives, and all the beer our bladders can hold, then those who make it past 50 must resign ourselves to the occasional rectal probe. Proving yet again that everybody’s an editor, Kass illustrated how I might seamlessly inject such a public service announcement into the intricate woof and weave of a column. “If you’re writing about a real jerk,” he suggested, “you could say, ‘Speaking of assholes …’”

Normally, I like to think I’m not so obvious. But with the prolonged self-immolation of right-wing radio shock jock Rush Limbaugh this past week, I’m not sure I can resist. In their bizarre and desperate struggle to appeal to some hypothetical ultra-right-wing base, the Republicans running for president seem intent on exhuming the festering corpse of birth-control pioneer Margaret Sanger and burning her anew as a witch. I guess they have no choice. With frontrunner Mitt Romney smugly personifying the most parasitic variant of global capitalism — he didn’t make things; he made deals, and he got rich by slashing jobs rather than creating them — the GOP has a huge problem. Ron Paul wants to set the clock back to the good old days of the gold standard, while Newt Gingrich vows to take us back to yesteryears when gas sold for $2.50 a gallon. But no one can match the radical nostalgia of Rick Santorum, the blue-collar Roman Catholic Republican who contends that sex for any reason other than procreation is immoral. Limbaugh, relishing the role as brass-knuckled enforcer, famously attacked Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke for arguing that large Catholic institutional employers — like colleges and hospitals — need to provide their workers with insurance plans that includes basic contraception. Fluke would have made that argument in front of an all-male Senate committee — investigating the Obama administration’s alleged “war against religion” — but she was barred by the Republican leadership from doing so. Fluke instead made her case at a faux hearing organized by the Democrats. For this, Limbaugh branded her a slut and a prostitute. For three days, he went on the attack, portraying Fluke as an insatiable sex maniac who insisted that her depravity be subsidized by the federal government in the form of free contraception. That taxpayer money was not, in fact, involved was just one of many details Limbaugh overlooked as he demanded that Fluke and her ilk compensate taxpayers by providing home-porn videos. Only a few days later, when Limbaugh’s sponsors began to jump ship, did Rush think to apologize. As of last writing, maybe 30 sponsors had pulled their ads. I’m happy to report that Citrix Systems, the parent company of the Goleta-based Citrix Online, was one of them. I’d be happier if I could report that area businesses that buy their ads directly from KTMS — which broadcasts Limbaugh in Santa Barbara — had done the same. Such, however, is not the case.

In the meantime, don’t forget to schedule your colonoscopy. Tell them Dr. Kass sent you.

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Independent Discussion Guidelines

I will concur with Nick that this iodiocy from the social conservatives reflects badly on fiscal conservatives as well. It's just too bad that Ron Paul doesn't capture the hearts and minds of most conservatives. he should.

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 8, 2012 at 1:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Someone please tell me how a left leaning city such as ours cannot support great radio shows such as Thom Hartmann and Stephanie Miller , yet the drug addled gas bag Limbaugh can dominate the airwaves ?

geeber (anonymous profile)
March 8, 2012 at 6:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The number is up to 50 now. 77 of 86 ads aired today were PSAs.

Limbaugh confused contraception with Viagra - it is not taken "on demand". Viagra IS supplied by health insurance companies. He also missed the bulk of Fluke's testimony, which was about the medical benefits of birth control pills, not about contraception.

As for fiscal conservatives, charts over the last several decades indicate that conservative administrations have been anything but fiscally conservative. The last admin was one of the worst (besides the Reagan admin that turned the US from a creditor nation into a debtor nation). The CBO estimates that the repeal of the Bush tax cuts will all but wipe out the deficit.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
March 8, 2012 at 6:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Get your facts straight Tabatha. If you eliminated the Bush tax cuts for EVERYONE (not just the top 2%), the annual amount saved would be $271B. The annual budget deficit is $1.3T. That would knock of 21% of the deficit per year.

Botany (anonymous profile)
March 8, 2012 at 8:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

To answer Geeber's questions, the Limbaugh producers pay, quite handsomely to have their show aired in this and other radio "markets". The show is paid for by the advertisers, the local station broadcasting the show gets an alloted amount of minutes per hour for station ID ect. In essence, the Limbaugh show is essentially an infomercial. So for example recently when there was five minutes of dead air during the RL show, there was nothing local station managers could do because that time has been paid for. Limbaugh's producers could pay for 48 minutes of completely dead air if they wanted to.
I wish Stephanie Miller's show was aired locally, but even better if we had some local shows.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 9, 2012 at 11:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

tabatha has it right.

The CBO's 2011 budget outlook indicates that with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the national debt is projected to stay pretty flat.

Under a second scenario where the tax cuts are extended (again), the picture painted by the CBO is much worse with increasing annual deficits and rising total debt.

For details on the CBO's "Extended Baseline" and "Alternative Fiscal" scenarios, see here:

http://cbo.gov/publication/41486

Be sure to click on the links to read the details and see the figures.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
March 10, 2012 at 12:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And now some personal opinion ...

A friend's dad recently died of colon cancer at the age of 50. Dr. Kass is right, get checked if you have the health insurance to pay for it. If you don't, see if you can come up with the $1.5K or so to pay for it (costs more if they do a biopsy) or check this out:

http://www.sansumclinic.org/santa-bar...

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
March 10, 2012 at 12:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

A little more opinion ...

Rush Limbaugh is a giant polyp in the colon of America.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
March 10, 2012 at 12:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nick! Nicky! Nickers! Love you bud, but guess what? Prescription Birth Control is not health care. It does not treat or prevent a disease or malady. In fact it interrupts a normal function of the body.

If you want to have sex, fine. If you want to have sex using birth control great. But don't make me pay for it. Buy it yourself. A woman can get a month of birth control for $15.00.

Rush's statements were idiotic, stupid, etc.
Making me pay for your (or you wife/girlfriends') birth control is idiotic and stupid too. What's next? Her Retin-A? Maxi-Pads, etc.

willy88 (anonymous profile)
March 10, 2012 at 2:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Two problems with the talking points you insist on repeating, Mr. willy88:

1. a prescription drug is not part of "health care?"
Only within the narrow boundaries you cynically offer as "prevent[ing] a disease or malady."

Here's a 21st century definition of 'health care' from American Heritage Medical Dictionary:
"The prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by the medical and allied health professions."

And these folks would also take issue with your statement, as they define contraception as part of women's health care: American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Public Health Association.

Apart from the numerous other health reasons women take birth control pills unrelated to pregnancy, the chief function of birth control pills is frequently of primary concern in women's health: as a preventative measure for women who face health risks should they become pregnant.

Finally, pregnancy itself is a health challenge to healthy women, and often a risk for others: older women, women without access to good health care, and the health-compromised, as a few obvious examples.

- - - - - - - - -

2. The only way you could say "But don't make me pay for it" is if you aren't paying attention to the issue(s) under discussion. the proposal within Obama-care is to require EMPLOYERS to provide access to contraceptive care. This covers new private plans -- including individual, small group, large group -- and employer plans which are self-insured.

Take a look at this synopsis of the recent changes, and you'll find:

"The National Business Group on Health recommends that employers include coverage of contraceptives in their plans, finding that the short-term costs may be modest and will likely be offset rapidly by long-term saving in preventing costs associated with pregnancy."

http://healthreform.kff.org/notes-on-...

binky (anonymous profile)
March 10, 2012 at 3:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Get us out of Afghanistan and Iraq and pay for the freaking birth control pills already. Sheesh

ramoncramon (anonymous profile)
March 13, 2012 at 7:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

But if they pull us out of those two countries they'll just invade more middle-eastern countries. As George Carlin said, the U.S. is good at killing brown people. Think about it, it's true.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
March 13, 2012 at 6:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Newsflash bc-The Vietnamese, Japanese, and Koreans are yellow...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 14, 2012 at 8:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Who're ya callin' yeller Italian?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
March 15, 2012 at 6:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

yeah but italian when you shoot them, the red and yellow makes a dirty orangey brown so billc is correct...

lawdy (anonymous profile)
March 15, 2012 at 6:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

To my Adriatic Ally: The days of shooting at people in the Far East have passed, now it's people in the Middle East. (As Karzai gets angrier at the U.S. with each passing day)

I think something's brewing in the Sudan; I'll keep you posted.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
March 17, 2012 at 2:22 a.m. (Suggest removal)

By the way, why can the editors use obscenity but not the bloggers? Double standard?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
March 20, 2012 at 3:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well bc, since we've been neglecting our infliction of death in the Far East it's about time we invade someone else...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2012 at 5:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well bc, since we've been neglecting our infliction of death in the Far East it's about time we invade someone else...

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2012 at 5:22 p.m.

Fivedolphins at your service, ready for another underwater military assault!

fivedolphins (anonymous profile)
March 21, 2012 at 9:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"If you want to have sex, fine. If you want to have sex using birth control great. But don't make me pay for it. Buy it yourself. A woman can get a month of birth control for $15.00."

Does anybody know the number comparison, for paying for birth control, versus supporting a child in the welfare system for 18 years? (I know, you don't want to pay for that either, but I say, take the cheaper of two "evils". . . .)

equus_posteriori (anonymous profile)
March 23, 2012 at 7:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Anyone on the right or left who rants and screams has a right to speak. I choose not to listen to their bad logic and half truths. It is my choice.

Any cancer is bad, but colon cancer strikes more fear because it deals with a function we never really like to talk about in polite society. Comparing Rush to colon cancer though is a insult to colon cancer.

Rush is more like my dog dragging his butt across the carpet when he has worms. You just can't get it clean enough without treatment.

passagerider (anonymous profile)
March 29, 2012 at 2:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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