What's All This Then?

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Thursday, July 31, 2003

The headline the other day spoke of a protest at the Israeli security fence about 10 miles west of Jenin.

It said that there were 200 protesters trying to cut through or push down the fence - 140 Palestinians and 60 foreign supporters!!

I see nothing wrong with people from other countries lending support to the Palestinian cause. But the story begs the obvious question.

Where were the "foreign supporters" on Israeli buses and in Israeli nightclubs and in Israeli schools while suicide bombers were slaughtering innocent civilians?

Where were the "foreign supporters" marching in the streets in Arab lands through all of the years of economic boycott of Israel and during the attempts by Arab nations to destroy Israel by war and other miscellaneous acts of violence? All before there was any occupation or control over the west bank or Gaza

There were and are of course, millions of supporters of Israel around the globe.

But somehow I doubt that you could find any among the 60 foreigners protesting the security fence, who would march and put themselves in harms way protesting against the slaughter or suppression of Jews.

It’s just a thought, but one that sort of puts the current story in perspective.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003


I had other topics in mind for today’s comments, but then Mr. Bush called a press conference - his first since last March.

I’ll give him his due. He’s better than he used to be.

He’s memorized names of foreign places and foreign leaders. He doesn’t mangle pronunciation as much.

It was wide ranging but not the free wheeling type of press conference of past presidents, with reporters holding up their hands and trying to get recognized.

There was a list of names. He called on them one by one - sometimes giving advance notice of the next two or three who would be permitted to ask questions.

He seemed confident and cocky. At times disdainful. At times belligerent.

He was much more articulate than in past press conferences.

I did get the impression that he knew the questions in advance, but perhaps he had just been well prepped on what to expect.

On important questions of substance, he had no answers of substance, just "you wait and see" kind of answers.

We’ll find those weapons of mass destruction. Yes sir. You just wait and see. Saddam was a big threat to the world and to us and we just had to act. Yes sir.

More than once he gave his stock answer on why we invaded Iraq when that wasn’t the question.

Yeah -my tax cuts haven’t worked any miracles yet but they were the right thing to do to help turn this economy around. It’ll happen. Wait a few months. Or a year or two. You just wait and see.

Yeah, North Korea is a big threat but we’re working on trying to change their attitude. That’s the answer. You just wait and see. (Author’s translation: They don’t have oil and they have a million man army and nuclear weapons).

Same about Iran. They need to be persuaded not to develop nuclear weapons.

He wouldn’t answer a question about whether or not Condoleezza Rice should take the blame for the lies that were in his State of the Union address. His answer was that she was a damned fine woman and we were lucky to have her. She of course has been changing the story of how the intelligence misinformation got into his speech from week to week.. And as for the misstatements, he said that HE takes responsibility for everything HE says. Now doesn’t that just fill you with a warm glow of confidence in our leader??

I’m not sure why he called the press conference. I didn’t catch the opening remarks. Maybe to prove that he’s better on his feet than he once was. I’m not a fan of the man and I didn’t vote for him and probably wouldn’t vote for him the next time around, but I have to concede that he has gotten better at this press conference thing. That may be because of the way it’s structured with who will ask questions decided in advance - and possibly the questions known in advance.

But he’s no Bill Clinton.

Some people would say thank goodness for that, but I’m pretty sure that Bill, despite his professed religious beliefs, would never have said "we are all sinners" during a national press conference.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

I mourn the loss of Bob Hope along with millions of his fans and admirers.

Bob’s death isn’t exactly the "end of an era" as many have said. A number of his contemporaries are still around. Younger, but contemporaries nonetheless.

But there may be no one left alive from that era with as much stature as Hope had accrued and his passing at least marks the beginning of its end, and soon we can truly say an era has ended.

I suppose people attach different meanings to any event that seems to mark the end of an era. To me, it says that I am no longer living in any kind of contemporaneous harmony with the current era.

As long as institutions and icons persisted and remained alive from the era of my youth, or from early adulthood, I could feel strongly connected to the time I was living in. As they faded and died, one by one, I felt less and less connected. And now, with the demise of Hope - pun fully intended - I feel almost totally disconnected.

Fifty years from now, one or more singers or actors or sports figures will die and be mourned by millions. Their passing will be hailed as the end of an era. These are people who are alive today and very likely have already achieved icon status and I haven’t the foggiest idea who they are or what they do.

I am keenly aware of the important things that are going on in the world and in our nation, or at least the things that I consider to be important, but when it comes to popular sports or entertainment icons , I’m stuck in the era of Crosby and Hope, Sinatra and Fitzgerald, Nellie Fox and Arnold Palmer, Sid Caeser and Danny Thomas.

Having said all that, I surely don’t want to inject a sour note into my personal on-line goodbye to Mr. Hope but I have to express my bewilderment at some of the accolades being heaped upon the late entertainer. He was, without a doubt, great in film comedies. He was great in radio skits. He was a wonderful ad libber. The military loved him whenever he came to entertain in far away places. In fact, he is probably more beloved for that than for anything else in his career.

But as I’ve said before, he was NOT a funny stand up comedian. I can’t recall any time when his so called contemporary one liners made me laugh and it astonishes me to this day to hear recordings of these so called funny lines, each punctuated by roars of laughter - from an audience or from a laugh machine???

One after another, people who knew Hope personally and who worked with him, came on television programs yesterday to praise his talents and to emphasize his brilliance as a stand up comedian.

I have to assume that they were being honest, just as I am trying to be in making these comments.

I guess different things make different people laugh.

It’s a topic for another blog entry, some other time. But not today.

Today I join with the millions who are saying....Thanks For The Memory Bob.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Another weekend political talkathon on the boob tube!!

Democratic presidential wannabes and other critics of George Bush and his policies, continued to take pot shots at both the decision to attack Iraq and everything that has occurred there since.

On the other side of the coin, the administration continued to trot out spokespeople to defend the decision making process and the ongoing management of the occupation.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which side is taking the more convoluted road to where they’re trying to go, but it seems to me that both sides are talking about the wrong things.

The supporters are trying to convince us of the patently ridiculous notion that we were in imminent danger of a possible attack by the evil forces of Saddam Hussein.

Admittedly, Hussein is/was an evil son-of-a-bitch, but I find it next to impossible to accept the notion that our defense and intelligence agencies truly believed that such a danger existed.

The detractors are trying to make a big deal out of incorrect intelligence information that Bush used in his state of the union address.

Nothing will be gained by all of this maneuvering and posturing. Conclusions maybe reached by some that we went to war against Iraq for none of the reasons stated pre-war and the administration will continued to deny that such is the case.

Personally, I’m getting bored with all of the wrangling.

I think the bigger issue is whether we, as the one great power, should accept the fact that we need to assume the role that we say we don’t really want - that of the world’s policeman. Whether we should look at craziness in other nations that goes on and on unabated, and say "enough already" and just go in and fix it. Preferably with the help of other democratic, industrialized nations, but if not, alone.

That may be the big debate of America’s future and somehow I don’t think I’ll ever find that boring.

Friday, July 25, 2003

I heard some nut from Little Rock on the radio this morning who is promoting the idea of an "anti-Clinton" library, to be located a block or so away from the Clinton Presidential library. This certifiable Clinton hater, who calls his project a LIE-brary, says that it will expose all the lies that will be housed in the Clinton library.

I also heard the result on the House bill allowing purchase of prescription drugs from abroad. It passed by a healthy margin, despite the lobbying efforts of the pharmaceutical industry. Now we have to see what happens in the Senate where it may face some stiff resistance.

I tie the two items together because the underlying (no pun intended) theme is lies.

The anti-Clinton nut is obsessed with the idea that Clinton lied at various times. And of course the pharmaceutical industry, through its ad campaign against the drug bill, promoted the lie that their concern was about bad drugs that might be shipped in from abroad, and not fear of reduced profits.

Let’s face it folks, we live with lies in our society, all the time. Every day.

Presidents lie. Company CEO’s lie. Lawyers lie. Politicians lie. At one time or another, practically everybody lies.

We’ve become so used to certain kinds of lies that we either don’t recognize or label them as such.

If you don’t think so, consider this.

Your super market has a bunch of items on sale this week. Buy one, get one FREE!! No, you’re not getting anything FREE. It’s a sale. The price (probably exorbitant in the first place), has been cut in half for a day or two. FREE is a lie.

Your local siding company is advertising a deal. Order siding for your house and installation labor is FREE. Right. Along with two preferred shares in Brooklyn Bridge Inc. It’s a lie. You’re paying a price. It may be a cost of doing business sales price, but no part of it is "free."

Cash back when you but a new car. I’ve written about this one before. A quoted price and then a so called DISCOUNTED price that has a name!! CASH BACK. It’s a lie folks. You're not getting any of your hard earned cash "back" from the dealer or from anyone else. It’s just a name for one of the current car sales gimmicks that replaces old car sales gimmicks. Or maybe it just adds to them. I haven’t bought a car for a couple of years. Does the salesman still pretend to go to the manager to get approval for a lower price??

The Internet is one of the greatest purveyor of lies. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been congratulated on being the 100,000th visitor to a site I’ve NEVER visited and invited to click on something to collect my "prize." (In all fairness, I have to say that not ALL such announcement are lies. I actually know of someone who collected a substantial sum of money by being a certain numbered visitor to a web site).

Most of these lies don’t hurt us, but we need to be sure that we don’t get so used to little fibs and euphemistic distortions and hyperbole that we fail to recognize the big lie that can hurt us.

It could be that we are currently living through a period of history generated by a series of big lies.

That awaits the judgment of historians. For sure we won’t find any answers in some paranoid nut’s version of history housed in an anti-Presidential library!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Every once in a while I get an e-mail from a distant relative that is supposed to remind me - and I guess everyone else who gets the same e-mail - how old we are. These are humorous pieces about how different the lives of today’s kids are from those of us old folk. They can be found on the Internet , such as Beloit College’s MINDSET LIST

Take a look. It’s kind of humorous - and a little sad too if you’re my age.

For example, you’ll read that kids entering college this year have never owned a record player, have never seen a black and white TV, can’t fathom not having a remote control, have always skated on in-line skates, and have always known Michael Jackson as being white and Rob Reiner and Ron Howard as balding, older film directors. There has always been MTV. Oprah has always been an international super star and Jay Leno has always been the host of the Tonight Show - and on and on..

Anyway, it got me thinking how indeed things have changed over the years and particularly how things have changed in the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry.

In the year that today’s college freshmen were arriving on this earth, if you needed to be hospitalized for any reason, or if you needed to go to a medical facility for a test, it would be at whatever hospital your doctor recommended and most likely where he or she had hospital privileges. And most of the time , you would follow your doctor’s recommendation without question.

Today, that wouldn’t necessarily be the case because we are bombarded night and day with print, radio and television ads touting different facilities for their expertise in performing tests or caring for patients or conducting clinical trials.

"Don’t believe what Hospital "X" says about THEIR text for XYZ disease. OUR test has been the GOLD STANDARD for detecting XYZ for the past seventeen years."

"Only one hospital in the (name the area) is rated (name the rating) by (name the organization)."

And after exposure to enough of this, we start to wonder which facility we should use. Should we listen just to our doctor or to the advertising?

We’re even exposed to advertising by doctors - mostly in print, but some doctors with a product to sell advertise unabashedly on radio and television. One that comes to mind as I write this is some guy selling a product he calls "Focus Factor" - some kind of brain food.

It used to be that the most advertising that doctors could do was to put their names in the phone book. To get new patients, they had to rely on referrals from other doctors or from a medical society or recommendations from their current patients, and I always wondered how they got those in the first place. Paid advertising was unethical. It just didn’t happen.

Pharmaceutical marketing has undergone big changes as well.

It used to be that ethical drugs could only be marketed to those professionals who could write prescriptions for them.

That aspect of marketing hasn’t changed that much, just reduced in intensity. In the "old" days, doctors were persuaded to prescribe various medications through advertising in medical journals and by an army of sales people whose job it was to do whatever was necessary to do the persuading. Efforts to present compelling scientific evidence for selecting one drug over another, took a back seat to lavish entertaining and in some cases, outright offers of bribery.

Today, as we all know, much of the money that the pharmaceutical industry used to spend marketing to doctors, is now spent marketing to US, to the public!! We can’t buy the drugs ourselves without a doctor’s prescription, but the pharmaceutical companies have discovered that they can market to adults the same way that toy or cereal manufacturers market to children. Convince us how wonderful some particular drug is and persuade us to bug our parents, I mean our doctors, to prescribe it for us.

I would imagine that there aren’t too many Doctors who enjoy having their patients ask if they could get a prescription for the "purple pill" or other prescription products that have been drummed into their brains through television, radio and print advertising.

But times do indeed change.

I can envision the practice of medicine as the class of 2023 enters college.

"Hi there. I’m Dr. Dowhatyoulike and I prescribe all the popular pills at popular prices. Come in and see if the green, purple and yellow pills are right for you. And for the first 50 new patients this week, a special bonus of one hundred of the very finest silver and blue slow release capsules that you’ve heard so much about - absolutely free. But hurry because this offer is limited."

And members of that freshman class won’t understand what it is about that ad that disturbs their parents and grandparents.

Lord help us.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

I am old enough to be able to say this.

I have longed for peace in the middle east ever since the 1948 United Nations vote for a two state solution to what was left of Palestine after the creation of Trans-Jordan.

I would say "prayed" for peace, but being an atheistically inclined agnostic, I can’t call my fervent wishes prayers.

I have had my hopes raised by every movement, however tentative, towards a peaceful solution, only to see those movements collapse again and again.

On April 30, 2003, I expressed doubts on this weblog about the success of the so called road map for middle east peace. My point was that in order for there to be any chance of peace, the 22 Arab nations that have been in conflict with Israel for 53 years, had to accept the idea of a sovereign Jewish state in their midst.

I still think that is the case, but that problem aside, since I made those comments, there seemed to have been some small steps that looked like they were going in the right direction. The terrorist groups announced a temporary cease fire. Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas had some meetings. Other officials from the Israeli and Palestinian sides had met and discussed issues. Some illegal settlements were forcibly dismantled. Some Palestinian prisoners were released. More releases were being discussed. Israeli troops withdrew from some areas. Life in the Gaza strip seemed to be improving. Palestinian law enforcement was being established in certain areas.

But then Mahmoud Abbas, maybe acting in the capacity of his alter ego of Abu Mazen, made it clear that Yasser Arafat was not the only Palestinian Arab possessing the unique ability to destroy every opportunity for Palestinian statehood presented to him .

He announced with a great flourish that the idea of disarming the suicide bombers, the rocket launchers, the AK 47 attackers of school buses and the various and sundry collections of murderous thugs whose idea of peace is the elimination of Israel, is a non starter. Under no circumstances, he announced, would these freedom fighters, these resisters of enemy occupation, be disarmed by the Palestinian authority.

Now maybe he has to say these kinds of things because he has no real authority, no real support among the Palestinian Arabs, and he has to say whatever he thinks is necessary in order to hold on to whatever tenuous authority he does have.

But having said that he will make no effort to dismantle these bands of terrorists, you can be reasonably sure that in this particular regard, he will keep his word.

What can we then expect for the road map?

The terrorists groups have made their objectives clear and there can be no expectation that they will honor any agreement reached between Sharon and Abbas. If Abbas continues to insist that he will do nothing about disarming Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Al Aqsa Brigade, Hizballah and all the other splinter militants, the road will lead nowhere, map or no map.

What kind of a Palestinian nation can evolve with six or seven or eight independent armies, beholden to no central governmental authority and carrying out terrorist attacks at will against a neighboring country?

The terrorists have to surrender their arms and relinquish any claims to authority over the negotiation process. If they don’t do it voluntarily or through persuasion, then it must be done militarily.

It has been suggested by pundits much wiser and more knowledgeable than I, that a civil war is the only answer to the Palestinian’s internal problem. I hate to think of it, but the way things look, they may be right.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

That’s what has been said for years about the United States and England. But that’s not the subject of today’s comments. I was born in England but I’ve lived in the United States most of my life and consider myself an American who happened to be born abroad. Yet there are things uniquely American that puzzle me and have puzzled me for years.

One of them is the topic of my comments today. It’s a topic that seems to be almost taboo in the area of public discussion and it is the phenomenon of what I guess you would call the "black American accent." It may have a more scientific name among academics and in institutions of higher learning but I think the generic name is one that just about everyone understands.

What has puzzled me for years is the apparent acceptance of this uniquely American phenomenon, the lack of raised eyebrows at the sound of people using the same accent In Detroit as in Miami - in New York as in Los Angeles, in Atlanta as in Seattle. People native to these cities, born, raised and schooled in cities thousands of miles apart , speaking with the same accent. Not any kind of generic American accent - that would be understandable and wouldn’t be any kind of phenomenon - but an accent peculiar only to Americans of a certain skin color.

Fifty years ago, the sight of a black face on the streets of English towns was a rare event. Today, that’s no longer the case. England has a sizable black population. But if you talk to a black English person - unless he or she is a first generation arrival from some other country, you would detect no accent other than a regional U.K. accent. Maybe cockney for a born and bred Londoner. A broad northern accent from a Yorkshireman. And so on. But no "black English" accents.

One likely explanation for the absence of any "racial" accent in the United Kingdom , would be that not many black English people live in isolation from the rest of the population and to a certain extent that would be true. But there are areas of highly dense black populations in major English cities just as there are in American cities. And there are schools in major English cities that have majority black student bodies. But for the most part, you cannot tell an Englishman’s color from the way he talks.

England of course doesn’t share our history of slavery and discrimination, but there are still divisions between black and white citizens that need to be overcome. Accent, however, is not one of them!!

But in the United States, with generation after generation of black skinned Americans being born and raised here, the "black accent" persists in a large portion of the African American population and shows no sign of abating. (The accent is not to be confused with "Ebonics" which is an entirely different subject).

I don’t know why this isn’t an issue that is openly talked about when matters of race are under discussion, particularly when issues that divide us along racial lines are being argued or examined..

I can’t imagine any great a barrier between the coming together of the races in this country than the total unquestioned acceptance of this incredible fact that millions of Americans of one race, from coast to coast and border to border, whose native language is English, speak with an accent different from other Americans. Not a regional, but a racial difference. No matter what part of the country they live in. No matter where they go to school. No matter where they work. No matter who they associate with.

If anyone can show me any other country in the world where this phenomenon exists or can explain why it seems to be accepted here as part of the natural order of things, maybe I’ll cease being so puzzled.

Until then, I’ll stay puzzled - and worried, because I think that the nonchalant acceptance of the "black accent" by both Black and Caucasian Americans is acceptance of a difference between us that speaks not of variety, which is healthy, but of isolation, which decidedly is not.

Friday, July 18, 2003

On 4/8/2003 I said that the "reasons" offered for the daily up and down movements of the stock market were flim flam. Since then, the market has continued to go up and down and those nutty explanations are still being offered for why ‘the market’ went up a hundred points on Monday and down a hundred points on Tuesday. It’s still flim flam. If you don’t think so and you own stock, ask yourself if you did something to affect the market on a day when the word is that "investors" were disappointed or encouraged by something.

On 4/26/2003 I said that one of the problems with airlines is that they offered too many flights with too few passengers flying them. Since then, the announcements of flight cut backs at major airlines have been flying thick and fast. Duh!!!

On 4/30/2003 I expressed doubt that the Israeli/Palestinian road map would succeed. Some efforts are being made , but so were they after Camp David, after Oslo and after every other effort that raised hope in the hearts of the sane people of the area. But as the song goes… maybe this time???

On 5/15/2003 I expressed doubts about the wisdom of the kind of tax cut proposed by the administration and the bill that finally passed. Boy was I wrong. It has begun to kick in. I have a working wife and her last paycheck increased by thirteen or fourteen bucks. With that kind of loose change available for discretionary spending, I don’t see how the economy can fail to go skyrocketing in the weeks and months ahead. So why are people still being laid off in droves and why is there talk of lowering the fed funds rate to ZERO?? Don’t these people understand what Bush has done to.. oops.. for them??

On 5/20/2003 I wrote about search engines and how Google would announce that there were 24.900,000 "hits" in .23 seconds in response to an inquiry and seconds later 6,500,000 hits in .49 seconds in response to another inquiry. I wondered about it taking less time for a much larger number - or if you like - more time for a smaller number. It’s still the same. The numbers and times cited jump all over the place. The same inquiry posed seconds apart, produce totally different numbers. I said that I’d uncovered a vast Internet conspiracy. Now I’m sure of it. Google is planning to take over the world. But first, they will drive us all mad. Six billion of us. In .46 seconds!!

On 5/27/03 I made some comments about television. Take a look. You’ll see a short list of the kind of stuff that's been keeping the Newton Minnow legend alive. Today I’ll just add..... For Love or Money, Who Wants to Marry My Dad, Last Comic Standing, The Amazing Race, Stupid Behavior, 30 Seconds to Fame and Big Brother. What can I say? They must all be in cahoots with Google.

On 6/13/2003 I wrote about radio traffic reporters rattling off their reports at speeds beyond comprehension. Since then, they seem to have gotten faster. Could they be in cahoots with Google too???

Thursday, July 17, 2003

I suppose partisanship is one of the essential building blocks of democracy.. Without strongly held partisan beliefs, there wouldn’t be much passion in political dialogue and without passionate political dialogue there wouldn’t be the rough and tumble, the give and take, the bitter conflicts of ideas that are the life blood of democratic societies.

But as with any good thing, too much of it can end up being a bad thing.

It’s not that much different from the admonitions we got from our parents and grandparents when we were too young to know better. We learned about the limitations of good stuff. One bar of chocolate was great. Three or four pounds wolfed down could land us in the emergency room having our stomachs pumped.

But some of us never grew up. Some kids never learned, or they learned wrongly as they grew up. And now they’re the rabid partisans among us that do damage daily to the political discourse of this democratic society.

You find them in and out of government. In congress, you find people like Tom DeLay of Texas and Maxine Waters of California looking at the same problem like The Blind Men and the Elephant of John Godfrey Saxe’s poem. They’re not quite as rabid in the senate but Trent Lott of Mississippi and Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts could qualify in an election of partisan odd couples.

Perhaps the most striking examples of partisanship run amok is what can be heard daily over the radio airways, almost all of it from the right. There’s talk of an effort to combat the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity with a liberal radio network, but there’s about as much chance of that happening as the proverbial snowball staying whole in Hades. Despite the whining of the right wing radio rabble rousers about "liberal control of the media," there’s virtually no market for so called liberal radio, as I’ve written here in the past.

And there is also no logic to blind partisanship.

Here’s a prime example.

The news out of Iraq the other day was that another American serviceman had been killed, some front line military personnel publicly criticized their superiors, including secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, and a surface to air missile was fired at and narrowly missed a transport plane landing at Baghdad airport.
That was the news. Uncolored. Reported as it happened.

But one conservative radio talk show host - a staunch supporter of George Bush, who will not concede one critical thought about his foreign and domestic policies and who happened to be sitting in for a vacationing Rush Limbaugh, attacked those reports as a liberal SPIN on the news!!! It was that, he said, because there was NO reporting of MAJOR, TRUTHFUL, GOOD news out of Iraq, such as the water supply being better than it was pre-invasion, and hospitals opening up all over the place and democracy taking firm hold and lots of other really good stuff happening in Iraq.

He didn’t provide any examples of reporters filing such stories from Iraq and network news programs or newspapers refusing to give them air time or space. He just alleged that the news we are getting out of and about Iraq is filtered and shaped and colored by liberal thought. You’re not going to get "the truth" from Brokaw or Rather or Jennings. You just can’t believe the news if it in any way can be construed as implying criticism of George Bush or any member of his team or any aspect of administration policies.

I don’t know whether you’d call that political partisanship gone amok or something else, but it sure isn’t contributing anything to reasoned political discourse.

The national election season is fast approaching. If it gets this bad from the left as well as from the right, we are, as Bette Davis once said, in for a bumpy ride.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

If you’ve had your radio on recently, you’ve probably heard ads exhorting you to call your congressperson about the potential evils of medications imported from abroad.

There is a bill pending in congress that would allow prescriptions for FDA approved drugs to be filled in Canada or England or anywhere else where they are available.

The purpose of course is to provide U.S. residents, particularly senior citizens, with the opportunity to buy their prescription medications for much less than they have to pay here.

But The Partnership for Safe Medicines - that’s the organization running the ads - doesn’t see it that way. They see unsafe drugs pouring into the country. They see the floodgates being opened for dangerous, counterfeit drugs coming to our shores and launching attacks on the health of our nation. And they invite us to visit their web site for more information. SafeMedicines.org

I’m always curious about organizations that are looking out for my well being, so I accepted the invitation and went to their site to find out what they had to say and who they were.

Actually I didn’t need to look because I knew what I would find. I would have bet my last dollar on it. And I would have given odds.

But just for the record, I did look. What they had to say is pretty much summarized above. Stop this evil before it kills us all. O.K. I exaggerate. But you get the picture.

As to the partnership members, quite an array of organizations. Some business. Some medical or quasi medical. But no mainstream medical organizations. Not the AMA or the AOA or the College of Physicians or any of the major specialty associations

And of course, modestly placed at the bottom of the list of member organizations, that indefatigable watchdog of America’s health, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. That’s the organization of pharmaceutical manufacturers from A to Z - well not quite, their web site lists members from Abbot Laboratories to Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.

These are the people who brought us the one dollar pill, the two dollar pill, the three dollar pill and all the other pills that keep us alive as long as we have enough left over to keep from starving to death after we’ve paid for the pills.

These are the creative people who change the packaging for a medication that buys them an extension of their otherwise expired patent. Hey, it’s all on behalf of our good health folks.

These are the people who fight tooth and nail to delay the availability of generic versions of their drugs - at MUCH cheaper prices.

These are the people who won’t tell us that the public service type of radio advertising that we’ve been hearing is the message of their companies, the manufacturing giants who don’t want to see any chipping away of their disgusting profit margins. (Hey, when was the last time you heard of a major pharmaceutical company filing for bankruptcy protection)??

These are the people who spend millions to persuade doctors to prescribe their drugs - and of course they have to recoup those millions from somewhere, and that somewhere is us.

Other countries exercise some measure of control over the cost of drugs, so a pill that retails for a buck in the United States might cost 50 cents in Canada or elsewhere. The same pill. Manufactured by the same company. Maybe in the same plant. A buck in one place. Half as much somewhere else. And the pharmaceutical companies don’t want us to buy them somewhere else, because who knows, they might be fakes and bad for our health.

They’re being the nation’s health watchdogs. That’s what they want us to think.

Well you know what they say about watchdogs. You’ve seen the signs.

Beware of the dog!!!

Friday, July 11, 2003

Here I go again, making less than complimentary comments about an American icon.

Well, close to an icon. Not the stature of Bob Hope about whom I wrote something slightly uncomplimentary on June 9, 2003. But if you live in the United States, the odds are better than even money that you at least know who Paul Harvey is.

Heck, just call up the name on Google and you’ll get more than a million hits. When I did it, I got 1,200,000!! Not all of them referred to Harvey the broadcaster of course. There are other Paul Harveys worthy of mention by Internet search engines. And since I didn’t go beyond the first page of hits, I have no idea what kind of obscure references might have popped up having absolutely nothing to do with THE Paul Harvey, and heaven only knows what might have been found at hit number one million two hundred thousand. We’ll never know of course. We take Google’s word that there were that many hits and there’s no way we can prove them wrong.

Still, I think it’s pretty clear that Paul Harvey is a very well known individual

But what is not clear to a lot of people is just what it is that he does. I think I can help clear up the confusion.

Decades ago I worked in close proximity to Paul Harvey. I wouldn’t exactly classify us as colleagues. He was already a big wheel in broadcasting and I held a lowly position at the same television station where he had his office.

Nonetheless, we were friendly, if not friends. We would exchange pleasant banter. If I happened to be in a studio where he was working or rehearsing, he would ask my opinion on how he should present himself on television. (For a short time he did a televised newscast). He would say, "what do you think Jeff? Should I walk around and sit on the desk like this or should I stay seated?’" Or something like that. And I would give him my opinion.

We weren’t exactly on the same page politically and on one occasion, after reading one of his syndicated newspaper columns titled "No Apology for June Grads" - or SOMETHING like that - come on folks, it was a long time ago - I went off into a corner, found a typewriter and wrote a response called "An Apology for Paul Harvey." His column was about the wonderful world that the June grad was inheriting and there was nothing for those who had gone before to apologize about. Mine took the opposite view. I invited Paul to insert my response as a guest column. He declined.

I liked Paul. He was a pleasant and very bright guy. And an incredibly hard worker. He was a one man show. He would come into the station at an hour when most people were still waking up, rip reams of paper off the news machines (pre-computer days), retire to his office, pick out the news items he wanted for his morning show and re-write them in typical Harvey style. And then more around the noon hour.

Pages one, two and three. For what it’s worth. Hello Americans. Stand by for NEWS!!! Good Day!!! It’s FRIDAY!!!

Lots of style. Lots of Harvey substance. (His lead stories didn’t necessarily match anyone else’s).

I’m not sure how he works today, but the output sounds the same, and of course he has that little "Rest of the Story" feature.

So why would there be any confusion about what he does you might ask? He’s just a radio news broadcaster right?

Wrong. At least in my opinion.

I think of Paul Harvey as a commercial spokesman par excellence and his "News and Comment" as the vehicle through which he is able to work at being a commercial spokesman.

Millions of people, most I suspect in small towns and in country areas, would disagree. To them, he is the trusted voice of truthful news and commentary and his commercials are part of the trusted information he dispenses daily.

But think about it for a minute.

Harvey is a one man act. He is not part of the ABC news team. You will not see or hear him covering special events - political conventions, wars and so on.

There are no reporters attached to his newscasts. No voices from where news is being made around the world. It’s his voice and his voice alone.

There are no commercial "breaks" in his newscasts. There are commercials. They are all superbly voiced, you might even say acted, by him. And they are seamless. The transition from a news story or a comment to a commercial can occur unnoticed if you’re not paying close attention.

Except when someone is filling in for him. Then the commercials do not blend in seamlessly because the fill in newsman breaks for a Paul Harvey pre-recorded commercial!!!

Can you imagine that scenario with any other national newscaster on the air today? Fill ins for vacationing Jennings or Brokaw or Rather breaking for a pre-recorded commercial word from one of them?? Of course not. The thought is ludicrous.

But Harvey does it and has been doing it for years and praises are heaped upon him as a legend of broadcasting. News broadcasting!!!

I remember the brouhaha in 1998 when the late David Brinkley, AFTER he had retired from hosting "This Week With David Brinkley" and from all other kinds of broadcast news activities, voiced educational type commercials for Archer, Daniels, Midland that appeared on This Week and other news shows. Fellow newsmen expressed shock and outrage that he would do such a thing. Walter Cronkite said "it casts some doubt on our impartiality and integrity." Andy Rooney said "it leaves the rest of us open to suspicion that we might be bought too." Daniel Schorr was "dismayed and shocked."

Now think about why similar comments were not made by news journalists in the past and are not made today about Paul Harvey.

And don’t get me wrong. I like the guy. He’s a hell of a commercial spokesman!!!

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

American politicians from the left and from the right are vying against each other in an eggshell walking contest over the question of whether or not the pre-war intelligence about Iraq was true, false, exaggerated, misinterpreted, spun, distorted, misconstrued or non-existent.

Even though all presidents, prime ministers and other kinds of nation leaders lie when it suits them or when they think it is in their nation’s interest to withhold or mask the truth, no one wants to come out bald faced and call President Bush a liar.

I’m not sure if Tony Blair is getting off that easy. Those British M P’s are a rowdy lot and the kind of creative insults hurled at the prime minister by back benchers are often the high point of question time in the House of Commons.

If you’re ever in London at the time of a hot parliamentary debate and can manage to stand in line and get into the visitor’s gallery at the House, I recommend it highly as entertainment as good as anything you’ll find in a West End theater. And you don’t even have to buy a ticket.

But I digress. I am no politician so I’m not involved in the eggshell walking contest. Neither am I privy to any confidential information about the inner workings of the White House or 10 Downing Street.

Nonetheless, without the benefit of secret meetings with a latter day "deep throat," I think I have the answer to the mystery surrounding intelligence about Iraq . It isn’t and wasn’t relevant. It played no significant role in the decision to invade Iraq other than for decorative purposes.

I can’t prove it of course but it seems pretty clear to me as a distant observer of the workings of the Bush administration, that the decision to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein, was made by Bush and his advisors, probably at the persistent urgings of his advisors, and that the decision was written in stone long before the drumbeats of "weapons of mass destruction" began… long before resolution 1441.

In that scenario, there is nothing that Saddam could have done to avoid war short of going into exile, and even that would probably not have stopped the invasion.

Toppling Saddam Hussein and his regime was probably a good thing, even though it’s not looking too good at this moment. But if we’re patient and we’re able to learn from the problems the British encountered during their 40 year domination of Iraq, perhaps, years down the line, there will be an outcome that will justify the cost and sacrifice of this new and troublesome doctrine of preemption.

In the meantime, we would all do better devoting our energies to something productive rather than trying to discover the real "why" of why we invaded Iraq. Because the powers that be wanted to and could. Case closed. Quad erat demonstrandum.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I don’t write a blog every day, mainly because I have other things to do, but also because there is so much to write about, so much to respond to, that it’s hard to pick out just one topic of the many that present themselves. The result of course is that I pick none and the day goes by un-blogged.

But not today.

An item in the newspaper caught my eye. Someone I’ve only vaguely heard of in the past, got fired from MSNBC. He had some kind of week end call in show for the cable network and asked one caller if he was a "Sodomite," meaning homosexual. When the caller answered yes, this nitwit said, "you should only get aids and die you pig. How’s that? Why don’t you see if you can sue me you pig."

This numskull’s name is Michael Savage and he’s described as a popular radio show host. He’s also described as brash and tough talking and one of radio’s " hottest jocks!!! (Emphasis mine)

Apart from being a syndicated radio talk show host, he also heads something called the Paul Revere Society that advocates closing U.S. borders, deporting illegal immigrants, mandating health tests for immigrants and eliminating entitlement programs. I took a quick look at his web site and there’s much more along the same lines, including calling for the elimination of affirmative action and references to "the death of the white male" which pretty much classifies who and what this sicko is .

I guess I have to plead naiveté in not knowing that much about Mr. Savage because, according to his web site counter, I was visitor 2,840,546. That’s two million, eight hundred and forty thousand, five hundred and forty six visitors folks. Curiosity hounds or acolytes?

The point of referencing this story as a "what’s all this then" blog entry is simply to call attention - even if it’s just to remind myself - to what the title that I’ve given to this piece says. Radio is as powerful a medium as exists anywhere and what attracts audiences more than anything else is hate. Hatred of blacks. Hatred of whites. Hatred of homosexuals. Hatred of Jews. Hatred of Muslims. Hatred of "liberals."

There are enough people who share in these hatreds to make any radio talk show host who uses any one of them as a continuing theme, a "hot jock." And there are enough radio station owners whose concern for the bottom line trumps any and all other considerations, to carry their programs. One wonders why MSNBC put Savage on their cable network in the first place, though to their credit, they didn’t hesitate to fire him after only four months on the air.

But what does all this tell us about ourselves?

It tells me that deep down, gut wrenching, sick, irrational hatred, whether it be of someone’s color or religion or politics, is pervasive throughout this nation.

There’s no other way these "hot jocks" could be so successful.

And that is one sad commentary about the state of the nation.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

I’m disappointed.

Dubya curls his lip, gets a glint in his eye, leans forward and snarls "bring ‘em on."

Visions of a new reality show with ratings off the charts dance before the eyes. George Walker Bush versus Saddam Hussein al-Majd al-Tikriti, mano a mano. High noon in down town Baghdad. One shot each for all the marbles. Winner is king of the world.

So what do we get as the follow up to "bring ‘em on?" An offer of 25 millions smackers of U.S. taxpayer’s money to anyone who can tell us where Saddam is or prove that he’s already joined his ancestors.

Not for a duel in the sun. No mano a mano. Just 25 million bucks so we can either get rid of him or announce his demise.

And this on top of the 25 million bucks already offered for Osama Bin Laden. Same deal. Dead or alive. A "two for." 50 million bucks. Our tax money.

What would you call that? How about putting OUR money where HIS mouth was?

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Looking back over three years of Bushisms, you come to believe that there’s no end to the number of times that our wise, clear headed, articulate and diplomatic president could top himself.

Still, one wonders what he’ll come up with to top the latest edition to the collection. He’s not happy that despite his May 1, 2003 pronouncement of the end of major hostilities in Iraq, our military personnel continue to be attacked and killed.

His response to this continuation of the hostilities that were supposed to be over? We’re not afraid of whoever is doing the attacking and the killing. We’re going to find them and root them out and deal with them. Or to put it another way, as indeed he did.


Bring ‘em on?????

Winston must be turning in his grave.

What’s next do you suppose?

This town ain’t big enough for the two of us?

Maybe he’s saving that one for the election.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

I suppose it was to be expected that there would be expressions of shock and awe following the supreme court’s decision to decriminalize sodomy. Our invasion of Iraq may not have lived up to those emotional expressions, but the surprising six to three vote evoked them and then some from the "those who would tell the rest of us how to live according to their moral standards" crowd.

The expression that I think I’ve heard the most is "slippery slope." The decision in the Texas case has put us all on a slippery slope leading to all kinds of horrendous futures.

The moralists would have you believe that the door has now been opened to decriminalize such things as prostitution (not a bad idea), homosexual marriage, bigamy, incest, legalized rape and heaven knows what else.

Some think the justices are re-writing the constitution. Some accuse them of invading the prerogatives of the legislative branch of government. The warnings are all over the airways and in the pages of our print media. Look out above. For sure the sky is gonna fall.

I have my own views on homosexuality. It’s pretty much live and let live, though I don’t find television programs that have homosexuality either as a central theme or as a running joke, funny or instructive, and I have no time for "in your face" expressions of homosexuality. I feel the same way about S&M, bestiality and a whole flock of other life style preferences.

But I have no problem with the Supreme Court decision.

The way I read it, stripped of all the legalese, six justices decided it was ridiculous to maintain laws seeped in 19th or 18th or 17th century ideas of morality and criminality. What heterosexuals or homosexuals do in the privacy of their bedrooms should be nobody’s business but the people involved. If that concept can lead to all the kinds of horrors that the aforementioned TWWTTROUHTLATTMS crowd (yes I’ve initialized the description), then we’re all in super big trouble. We’re stupid. We’re irrational. We can’t make a good decision without being compelled to follow it with a series of bad decisions.

What utter nonsense.

Read my blog of 5/29/03. It’s the same principle.