Saturday, August 9, 2008

* Another note to Senator Obama – Your changing of positions is becoming vexatious! In last week’s blog I spent considerable energy pointing out the disingenuous claims made by proponents of off-shore drilling. No sooner had I posted the blog than I read that you are considering backing limited off-shore drilling saying, “if that's what it takes to enact a comprehensive policy to foster fuel-efficient autos and develop alternate energy sources.” I understand that politics and legislation are reliant on compromise. However, if in fact the drilling off our coasts will result in virtually no reduction in the price of gasoline AND presents a threat to coastal communities, you are being compromised, not compromising. U.S. oil companies already have rights to a great deal of potential on-shore oil fields. They have not used their vast profits to explore these areas or to develop alternative energy capabilities. By lining the pockets of many of our elected officials oil companies are allowed to ignore the interests of this country and its citizens. Intelligent energy legislation has been lacking in this country for over 3 decades. Will waiting 6 more months make much of a difference? In January of 2009 you may be in the White House and supported by an increasing majority of Democrats in congress. That would be the time to draft an intelligent energy policy. What is to be gained by pushing for legislation now that in order to get by Republican obstructionism and past the oil companies’ man in the White House would be the quality of sludge? A short-term political solution in place of a substantive long-term energy policy is not “hope that we can believe in.”

* No Mr. Fix-it ~ me or John McCain – I do not have an affinity to repair things around the house or to use power tools to make a dining room table. I therefore do not subscribe to Popular Mechanics. Perhaps I should. John Aravosis at noted a recent article from this publication. It appears that Barack Obama’s comment about drivers who have properly inflated tires will save considerable energy had merit – contrary to John McCain and Republican spokespeople mocking the idea. “Underinflated tires on cars in fact waste a good amount of energy. How much? Exactly the amount the energy industry thinks we could get from increased offshore drilling.” The Popular Mechanics article can be read at this link.

Full disclosure and red-faced: After reading the Popular Mechanics article I went out and checked my tire pressure. Ugh! My tires were 25 to 35 % below recommended pressure levels. I then inserted 50 cents into the machine that dispenses air for tires, inflated my tires to 31 psi and drove away experiencing the pride of an environmentalist, the wisdom of a seasoned shopper and swearing on a stack of gas station credit card receipts to check my tires more often than I use my power drill. I also noted that the expression “free as air” is no longer operative in the 21st Century.

*Speaking of energy interests owning congress – The organization True Majority is providing a valuable tool. When you enter your zip code you will learn how much money your Representatives and Senators have received from Big Oil since 2000. You can then send a note to your representatives suggesting that they concentrate on your interests. The more we know about our elected representatives the more responsible they will be to our interests. By forwarding the True Majority web site to friends, family and neighbors you will contribute to shedding more light on the activities of elected officials who too often operate in the shadow of our nation’s capitol. Details of the recent spike in Big Oil donations to John McCain are available at Public Campaign Action Fund.

* Our health needs should not be treated like a marketing campaign for breakfast cereal – A year ago I commented about drug companies trolling for information about the brands of medication physicians were prescribing. The objective was to target physicians with perks and incentives to prescribe specific drugs. This program has little to do with efficacy and everything to do with profits. In a similar vein we learn in an article this week in the Washington Post that health and life insurance companies “have access to a powerful new tool for evaluating whether to cover individual consumers: a health "credit report" drawn from databases containing prescription drug records on more than 200 million Americans.” Although this “market analysis” fits nicely with the Republican concept of healthcare it does not serve the interests of most of us. And this is where the debate concerning health coverage for Americans will take place. One approach is profit driven and well-funded in its influence. The other approach begins with a premise that healthcare should be an equal opportunity benefit for all citizens.

There are a number of self-interested forces in the U.S. that want us to believe that the current system of healthcare is not only working but that it is the best in the world. A recent study by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund concluded: “The United States fails on most measures of health care quality, with Americans waiting longer to see doctors and more likely to die of preventable or treatable illnesses than people in other industrialized countries.” Among the industrialized countries the U.S. ranks 18th in health care quality. As the cost of medical care and insurance in the U.S. explodes the quality of care is receding and an increasing number of fellow citizens are excluded from the health care system. Conclusion: The system is not working!

* Two developments this week brought back memories of the lead up to the Iraq invasion. The first was the FBI claiming they found the man responsible for killing six people with anthrax just after 9/11. Recall that soon after the anthrax attacks the Bush administration, with the help of ABC News, attributed these attacks to al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. There has never been evidence to these claims and in fact the FBI spent the past six years pursuing American suspects. The FBI says the case is now closed but many unanswered questions exist that are addressed by Glenn Greenwald at He has written several articles that offer background, research and provocative insight. I thought of the dilemma faced by Robert Redford in Three Days of the Condor – who do you trust?

Equal concern about government veracity was raised by Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Suskind in his new book “The Way of the World – A Story of Truth and Hope in An Age of Extremism.” Two of the most damning assertions by Suskind: CIA forged Iraq intelligence documents “was designed to portray a false link between Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda as a justification for the Iraq war” and “the Bush administration had information from a top Iraqi intelligence official “that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – intelligence they received in plenty of time to stop an invasion.” Investigative reporting, guilt and loose lips will soon reveal a presidency that was out of control and unfettered by checks and balances. I expect that the deviousness that led to the Viet Nam war will look like a white lie when the operation of the Bush administration is ultimately laid bare. And the question that will be repeatedly asked about this 8-year period in American history will be, “Who do you trust?” The answer will likely be, “No One.”

* Maybe some politics are changing – Steve Cohen is a white, Jewish Democratic congressman representing the 9th District in Tennessee – a district with a 60% African America constituency. He is the first white congressman from Memphis in more than three decades. He just faced a primary challenge from a black corporate lawyer, Nikki Tinker, whose desperate strategy was to link Cohen to the Ku Klux Klan. Cohen won the primary with 79% of the vote. I have bemoaned the fact that too often Americans seem to base their electoral decisions on everything but the meaningful issues that directly affect the quality of their life. Maybe some politics are changing.

* “Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.”
Lyndon B. Johnson (1908 – 1973) 36th U.S. President (1963 – 1969)


Sue Katz said...

What would Saturday morning be without you, Stephen? As someone who has lived with govenment-supplied medical care (loosely known as "socialized medicine" in those countries), I can agree that the situation in the States is not only inefficient and unproductive, it is simply perplexing. Once again the country's economic system puts short-term profits (albiet ginormous ones) ahead of long-term national health. Thanks for keeping an eye on the country for us.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sue Katz, whose blog I subscribe to, thanks to SVN, that Saturday mornings with Stephen are a lot like Sunday mornings with the Times. Per Sue's comment about medicine in England, Democratic funder George Soros (nee Schwartz) was impressed with the UK's healthcare after he broke a leg in England. You may wish to read a lengthy but fascinating profile on him at Regards from Ruth & Scott