Thursday, June 19, 2008


Of course! I was just dozing off for an afternoon nap, while listening to an interview of a John McCain strategist on NPR, and I bolted upright on the couch with the following realization: the gasoline price crisis in this country is a manufactured strategy of the Bush administration and it's big industry supporters.

Think about it - what kinds of news stories are we hearing these days in terms of government solutions to the gasoline crisis? Here are two that are prominent in the news, and as really well-produced TV and other media advertisements: 1) we need to build more nuclear-powered electricity generating plants; 2) we need to drill for oil off the coasts of the United States, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

Major political battles were fought and won in this country decades ago to stop or severely limit off-shore oil drilling and building new nuclear energy plants. But the oil and nuclear industries have been trying to find the right handle on this one; the handle that will push the American public in the direction of new drilling and new nukes. Well, there's nothing like a gasoline crisis - prices climbing towards $5 per gallon (remember when $4 per gallon scared us?) to get the public in the mood for something to ease the pain.

Lily Tomlin once said "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." Call me cynical, but the most logical reason I can think of for the suddenly high price of gasoline is a strategy by government and industry to gin up a big scare and a lot of economic pain as a way of softening us up for what they really want. And that goal is even bigger profits.

Now I can go back to sleep.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


I've posted before about my concerns with the Medical-Industrial Complex (search for "medical" using the search window at the top left). Sadly, I have to report another victim of the M-IC; the pharmacies at New Seasons Market.

New Seasons Market is a Portland, Oregon company that presently has 10 markets in the Portland area. This is no ordinary supermarket chain; New Seasons Market is a community-based company that has taken community, sustainability, and supporting local agriculture beyond any other market company I'm familiar with. We received a letter the other day from New Seasons Market announcing the closure of the three in-store pharmacies they have operated for the past four years. The reason - New Seasons Market cannot compete with the big discount chains that offer hundreds of generic drugs for $3 or $4 per monthly supply. New Seasons is not a large enough buyer to match these prices. This is a shame, and a loss for the New Seasons Market communities.

I recently brought my Lipitor prescription to the New Seasons Market pharmacy after using the health insurance company prescription service for some time. The reason for my switch is not important, but I felt strongly that I would rather support a local company than a huge mail order prescription mill. I knew that the insurance company rules, established to favor their preferred prescription service, would result in my paying more at New Seasons Market. Using the insurance -sponsored Express-Scrips service, I could get a 3-month supply of my drug for $40. The insurance company rules do not allow another pharmacy to sell me more than a 30-day supply, for a $20 co-pay. Why is this legal?

Interestingly, within a week of having my prescription filled at New Seasons Market, I received a letter from Express-Scrips telling me that I could save $80 per year by switching my prescription to them instead of New Seasons (that's right, they know what pharmacy I used). This brazen marketing ploy made me decide to spend the $80 a year more as my principled stand against the Medical-Industrial Complex (boy, that's really going to hurt them!!).

Well, the big boys won after all - they've put my local pharmacy put of business, and I'll go back to Express-Scrips with my virtual tail between my legs. But I think I'll look for a charity to which I can donate that saved $80 a year to help people who can't afford their medications.

Wouldn't it be great to live in a society that supported local businesses?


Like Chief Engineer Scottie on Star Trek, Scott McClellan followed the orders of his Captain without question. Unlike Scottie, Worf, Bones and others, however, Scottie McC did not question his captain's orders when he thought they violated the rule of law. In Star Trek, the outcome was always good, nobody got hurt, and the Starship Enterprise went on it's merry way to go where no-one had gone before. In real life, unfortunately, the Bush starship went on to wreck havoc and destruction throughout the world, with a great toll in lives, families, economies and honor.

I haven't read Scott McClellans new, much ballyhood book What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. I will not read this sordid little tale of guilt and hurt feelings (oh poor, poor Scott - he was (gasp) lied to). In my book of life, Scott McClellan deserves no pity, no sympathetic ear, and certainly no compensation for his after-the-fact confessions. Any good script writer would have had Scott, at some point, stand up to his Captain and say: "Sir, I respectfully disagree with your orders because I think they are a violation of everything this country holds dear and true - not to mention a whole bunch of laws, Sir." But no, Scott played the good yes-man. He trotted out to the press secretary podium and spewed the lies, maligned those who dared to question the motives and modes of the President, stood his ground against truth and reality.

The only way Scott McClellan can even begin to make amends to the rest of us is to donate all proceeds from his book and speaking engagements to worthy causes - like health care and education assistance for returning vets of the Iraq Debacle and their families, aide for displaced Iraqis, and similar causes. Only then will we begin to accept any form of apology from Scott.

So Scott, beam yourself out of the limelight, and do something worthy - for once.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


As if this way-too-long election season hasn't been long enough, the Hillary Clinton campaign now plans to take their nomination fight to the Democratic Party convention in Denver, if necessary. Against a background of Hillary supporters chanting: "count those votes" "Denver. Denver." "We'll vote for McCain!" the Hillary folks are unhappy with the decision of their party that gives Florida and Michigan delegates one-half vote each.

The claims of citizen's votes not being counted, democracy subverted, and Floridians being cheated are too reminiscent of the general election of 2000. In that election, if you need to be reminded, Al Gore had more popular votes than George W. Bush, and the Gore campaign cried foul concerning the apparent problems with the Florida voting and ballot counting. Both sides brought in the attorneys, the strategists, the big political guns - in the end, the Republicans fended off a recount, and got a favorable nod from the Supreme Court of the United States. To his credit, Al Gore decided to concede, apparently deciding that the good of the country was the most important factor.

Nobody can say how this down-and-dirty wrestling match between Democrats will affect the general election in November. Will the Democrats shoot themselves in more than the foot? Will disgruntled Hillaryites vote for John McCain, thus ensuring his victory? Will there be a mass exodus from the Democratic Party to some other party?

But the question is begged: should Hillary Clinton be more like Al Gore and gracefully concede the nomination to Barak Obama? Does it come down to a question of personal ambition vs. the good of the country? This is certainly a tough decision for any candidate, particularly one who has started as the presumed victor and ended up having to fight as if her political life depends on winning. It's a tough choice for a tough politician, but one that needs to be carefully and thoughtfully considered.