Monday, April 20, 2015

Dr. Oz's reputation is far more credible than his critics

Dr. Öz at ServiceNation 2008
Dr. Mahmet Oz
photo credit: Wikipedia)
The latest media feeding frenzy now centers on Dr. Mehmet Oz, a well-known, well-respected cardiothoracic surgeon who made a name for himself when he was first appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show more than a decade ago.

Since then, he has hosted his own show on ABC where he has delved into just about every health issue imaginable, explored even the most private ones, and offered expert medical advice to anyone who was interested.

"There are no embarrassing questions," he would tell his audience, as he urged viewers to share as much information as possible with their own family doctors.

Dr. Oz encouraged viewers to be aware of their own feces for changes in color and consistency in order to ward off diseases such as colon cancer. Oz underwent his own colonoscopy in an effort to assuage the fears of the dreaded test that can detect and potentially prevent early colon cancer.

He has long celebrated patients who have lost weight and encouraged many more to change their diets in favor of more healthy eating habits. He advocates for sexual intercourse as a normal, healthy, activity for adults.

Some of the topics he has broached have been controversial, outside the customary medical parameters.

Oz has been an advocate for traditional medicine to work in conjunction with alternatives. He is an advocate for patients, calling himself, "their cheerleader." He is not just another doctor who touts taking a pill and calling him in the morning.

But it appears he has ruffled a few feathers in the medical community. 

Doctors are not always the driving force behind personal medical decisions that drive health care. Pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry are becoming more entrenched in these decisions. There are millions of dollars at stake by complying with these industries. And, the close ties between business and government is not lost on those in the field. The FDA and USDA for example, drives the food industry, with complete control of the food that is regulated and therefore consumed in this country.

So, it stands to reason that anyone who questions the wisdom of widespread practices would be taken to task. So, while this is not the first time, Oz, who has created in a wrinkle in the system by urging individuals to think about the treatments they are using, has recently come under fire by other doctors closely aligned with the health care industry. They are calling for Dr. Oz to be fired from his faculty position at Columbia University. He is being called a quack and charlatan.

A letter, signed by Dr. Henry I. Miller of the Hoover Institutional at Stanford University says Oz "endangers patients and is a menace to public health." Miller went on to say that he doesn't believe Dr. Oz should be on the faculty of a prestigious medical institution.

Request denied!

Doug Levy, chief communications officer for Columbia University Medical Center, responded, "As I am sure you understand and appreciate, Columbia is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members' freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion."

He later clarified that the university planned no action against Oz because the university "does not regulate faculty engagement in public discourse."

This is political, pure and simple

From what I can tell, and I don't claim to be an expert, Dr. Oz is an advocate for his patients. He wants what he says he wants, for people to be the best they can be, when it comes to their health and with regard to their health care. 

His biggest critic is Dr. Henry I. Miller, the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the Food and Drug Administration. He is an advocate of genetic engineering of food sources, opposes an FDA mandate to label GMO foods, and has been critical of Dr. Oz's skepticism over the safety of Arctic apples, those that are genetically-modified to prevent them from turning brown after being cut into.

This isn't Miller's first go-around with Dr. Oz. In 2011, he went after Dr. Oz when Dr. Oz did a show that resulted in the identification of identified high levels of arsenic in apple juice. Oz was critical of FDA approval of this known health hazard. Two years later, the FDA proposed a limit for the amount of naturally-occurring arsenic in apple juice. 

Rather than weighing into the debate of the facts presented by these two professionals, all I can speak to is what I've noticed in the years I've watched Dr. Oz's television show. 

I've learned a great deal about coping with my own medical issues. I've been inspired by Dr. Oz's common sense approach to health care. I've learned what signs to look for in determining the severity of potential illnesses. Dr. Oz has offered important advice about the benefit of eating healthy food. I have taken some of his advice and at 63-years old, have never felt better in my life. I understand the benefits of healthy food choices and recognize that you really are what you eat.

Watching Dr. Oz has demystified the medical stigma, which makes it easier to talk to my family doctor about ailments. In short, a trip to the doctor is not so intimidating. I've learned the value of second opinions, prevention and cures, and questioning things I don't understand. I have learned to listen to what my body tells me. 

I see a value in watching an informative television show, especially one that is so enlightening about issues that affect us all every single day. I have no qualms about watching Dr. Oz. and following his advice. 

It is ironic that criticism of Dr. Oz comes from a source that is so obviously has his own conflicts of interest. Dr. Miller is affiliated with the Hoover Institution, which in itself is a right-wing public policy think tank. It doesn't take a scholar to realize that questioning the long-held status quo in the medical field is going to make some waves.

One of the others who signed the letter is Dr. Gilbert Ross, who heads an independent research organization--American Council on Science and Health, (ACSH) that defends fracking, opposed New York's efforts to ban sugary beverages, and supports the use of pesticides such as atrazine and BPA (bisphenol-A), according to Al Jazeera America.

The publication also noted that according to Mother Jones Magazine, donors to ACSH are largely from energy, agriculture, cosmetics, food, soda, chemical, pharmaceutical and tobacco corporations like Monsanto, DowAgro and Syngenta. Read more about Dr. Gilbert Ross, who is a convicted felon who defrauded New York's Medicaid program of approximately $8 million for which he spent 46 months in prison.

I dismiss these critics and I stand with Dr. Oz.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Response to U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly

I haven't written updates about the Peotone Airport (South Suburban Airport) for some time. I just couldn't help but respond to an editorial in the Chicago Sun Times by U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, entitled "Still Waiting on 3rd Airport" that was touted by the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, (SSMMA).

My opposition to the state building a new international airport began in 1987 as part of a small protest outside the IDOT offices on Michigan Avenue. That led to the formation of RURAL, Residents United to Retain Agricultural Land, which I helped get off the ground officially on Aug. 2, 1988. RURAL was the predecessor of the present anti-airport group STAND (Shut This Airport Nightmare Down). 

More than 10 years ago I moved out of the area, so I was no longer confronted with the day-to-day assault of my senses in the form of the deteriorating landscape at the hand of the State of Illinois. Much of the land has been sold or taken by the state through eminent domain scattering the inhabitants of the rural community. Perfectly good homes have been razed, homesteads destroyed. I've kept in touch with some of those who remain, despite communications that continue to break my heart. Even now, with each headline, Facebook post, or random thought, I still find myself annoyed. I said in those early days that this airport will never be built. I'd like to stand behind that premise, although who could predict the lengths the state has and will continue to go to try to get this airport built despite its lack of support and lack of need.

That brings me to the editorial written by U.S. Rep. Kelly. 

She attempts to paint a dismal picture of O'Hare International Airport, which incidentally has recently reclaimed its rank of the #1 busiest airport in the world. At one point it was third. Ms. Kelly, O'Hare is doing just fine, thank you very much. She goes so far as to call domestic hub operations and cargo potential as in a "decline." Oh really!!!

She touted the increased capacity of a new airport as being roughly 100,000 flights per year at a cost of $1 billion. All that tells me is she has bought into without question, the wildly-inflated numbers the state has used since the project was first envisioned in 1985. What they have done is write, revise, write, revise until their numbers are close to acceptable. Then, even though inflated, they build from there. The foundation of the study of this project is faulty, which logically, all else built upon it merely teeters. The state has gone to great lengths to control the study process, so all of it has been bought and paid for by them. They have had ultimate control. Since the beginning, IDOT has used every trick in the book to paint a rosy picture of this project. It just never really stuck. But they are relentless. They will try anything.

Take the new jobs figures Kelly touts--pie-in-the-sky. I hate to tell her, but the jobs figures have always been overstated. Thanks to the late Suhail al Chalabi and his wife Margery, who have long manipulated the numbers. Suhail is gone now. I wonder who the state will get to produce the salable numbers now? 

When an elected official tells you "dollar for dollar, the third airport is a better deal for taxpayers," you better start asking questions. Better yet, you better start electing better officials. Kelly is the replacement for Jesse Jackson, Jr., who is currently finishing his sentence for corruption in a half-way house. He was a big promoter of this airport along with Gov. Pat Quinn, who just lost the election to new Gov. Bruce Rauner. 

Building on projections is not wise. Wouldn't it be better to build on past experience? Look at what the state has already done. Mid-America Airport in downstate Illinois is an example of an airport the state had to build to relieve St. Louis' Lambert Field. Trouble is, Mid-America has no air traffic, no airline tenants, and little hope. It does have funding--from the taxpayers. 

Kelly suggests that it would be smart for American and United Air Lines to reinvest in Illinois to ensure Illinois as a premier aviation hub. Sorry Ms. Kelly, but Illinois is already a premium aviation hub. It is called O'Hare International Airport. Furthermore, American and United Air Lines have already stated their opposition to a new airport near Peotone. Had you been at all informed about this project and its history, you would know that American and United hate the idea of another new airport. So do all the other air lines that have been on the record for decades opposing this project. 

There are far better ways to create jobs for the beleaguered south suburban region of Chicago. An airport 40 miles away is not the answer. The only thing that should be done with the South Suburban Airport is drop it and move on! This project started in 1968. It is about as innovative as transistor radios and 45 rpm records. 

As far as the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, they tout this editorial in their website. "Editorial: South Suburban Airport needed to regain aviation market."  This group has been the lead voice for three decades. At least they are consistent, but isn't that a long time to beat the same dead horse?

More content:
Illinois Airport featured on NBC "Fleecing of America"
Voice of reason

Use the 'search this site' on the sidebar of the home page for additional information

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

R.I.P. Jon Mendelson

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For much of my life, I've remembered November 22 as the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. From this day forward, that event is dwarfed by a more recent loss--the day the world lost Jon Mendelson.

I just learned of his passing. I am profoundly saddened for his family, especially his wife Judy who was in every way his soul mate. This is such a loss not only to Jon and Judy's friends, and everyone who knew him but to those who hadn't yet had the pleasure. 

Jon Mendelson was a retired biology professor at Governors State University, University Park, IL. He was a teacher who embodied the true meaning of the word--as both the noun and the verb. Everyone, with whom he came in contact, was better for it. He exuded knowledge like no one else I've ever met. He easily shared what he knew. Moreover, he not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk. 

Jon was a driving force, not just for education, but for conservation, preservation, and the very connection of man to nature, obvious in the nearly 1,000 acres of Thorn Creek Woods in Park Forest. Jon was personally acquainted with the trees, bushes, ponds, streams, native wildflowers and wildlife within the now-preserved forest. Jon and Judy followed in the footsteps of the late Jim and Mary Lou Marzuki, who were instrumental in the early protection of this unique urban sanctuary. Jon was not just knowledgeable about the gullies, ridges, and waterways created thousands of years ago; he was the expert.

I first met Jon when I was studying the environmental effects of the proposed airport development near Peotone. Though we were just acquaintances, I felt a profound connection to him and all he stood for. Jon was inspiring. He made me want to know more about the environment. He was a good man who cared about all the right things. He was humble, brilliant, and hard-working. Nature was his passion. In my view, he represented the very best of the human race. 

I specifically remember one year in the mid-90's. It was Earth Day. I had recently been awakened to global environmental issues such as destruction of habitat, oil spills, and potential nuclear calamity, to name a few. I felt a need to renew my own connection with nature, so I decided to go for one of the many walks/tours Jon conducted through Thorn Creek Woods. I was so impressed by his knowledge and mesmerized by the way he communicated with the mid-sized group on the tour, especially the children. He changed my own focus of individual destructive acts by mankind toward the larger, more serene picture of the earth and its life cycle. He pointed out rocks that have stood for centuries, since the glaciers dropped them right where they stood. He spoke of oak and hickory trees planted in the 1800's. He spoke of the flora and fauna as if they were his dear, old friends. I left that day feeling exhilarated and anxious to learn more about the world around me. 

I no longer live in the area. I haven't seen Jon in years, but I will always remember the sound of his voice, the way he laughed. I will forever be touched by the fact that I knew him, a fact that makes me proud. 

It is with great sadness that I recognize his passing. Rest in peace Jon. We are all better for having known you.
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Sunday, November 23, 2014

We need to hear from Bill Cosby

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Bill Cosby, now under scrutiny from alleged past deeds
Allegations in recent days have been leveled against Bill Cosby by a long line of women. These allegations are disturbing for so many reasons, but the biggest danger is to try to paint this picture in black and white, without the predominantly gray areas that must be examined. 

Understanding what really happened all those years ago is not going to be easy, especially when only one side--the side of the alleged victims--of the story is being told. Media can't be expected to paint a complete picture when all the facts aren't available. 

What has been written will likely result in so much regurgitation from all who have an appetite for every morsel of information about this seemingly scandalous story. The danger to the truth comes when seasoning is added to those morsels in the form of sensationalism and misinformation added by both media sources and the consuming public.

It is for that reason that I think Cosby owes it to the millions of people who have admired him for years, to at least explain his side of the story.

Like all others, I am trying to understand this story. 

I admit I rarely watched the Bill Cosby show. I doubt I ever watched a half dozen episodes. I don't recall ever watching I Spy. So, the only thing I really knew about Bill Cosby was the comedian that I saw on variety shows. I considered him to be a very funny guy, in a real world view kind of way. 

He wasn't really even on my radar, until he began talking to black youth about their behavioral issues. That impressed me. Someone had to do it. Someone had to take a stand that might affect the uptick in black on black crime in the inner cities. Someone with standing had to be heard. 

The first thing I have to say is that we must not judge what happened 30, 40, 50 years ago by the standards and attitudes which have evolved since that time, particularly in regard to feminist issues. Times have indeed changed. Woman have come a long way since those days and see things through a completely different lens. We must not use that lens to judge the past.

As a society, we need to define and discuss rape. This one word covers everything from the violent, horrific physical act that includes beating, bruising, and death or near-death experiences that happen to include sexual intercourse, to the more psychologically-harming drug-induced sex act and everything in between. I believe there are very many variants of what we now call rape. 

The way rape is viewed by law enforcement varies from state to state as well as in judicial remedies. But probably the biggest road block in the understanding of rape may be in the interpretative differences between men and women. As much as we are equal, we are also different. We need to better understand our differences.

One thing that has changed drastically, and with good reason, is the tendency to blame the victim when it comes to sex crimes, whether it be a woman or a man. The catch all seems to have been provocative clothing. While this is of course no reason to rape someone, nor should any woman dressing in sexy clothes be targeted or blamed, we need to understand why clothing may be a contributing factor to why someone rapes. Instead of casually dismissing it, its context must be understood. 

Our society is to blame for much of how this story has seemingly unfolded, at least from what is known. Why do we treat celebrities as though they are god-like? Why would a 19-year old girl accept drinks and especially drugs offered to her during a seemingly casual encounter? Is Bill Cosby a rapist or is he suffering from a sexual addiction? What was his motive? Why would anyone think it is OK to drug someone and then have sex with them without their consenting participation? 

There are so many more questions about this story, but the bottom line is, I'd like to hear from Cosby. Is he sick? Is he still sick? Does he want to live the rest of his life with this cloud of certain speculation over him? Is his attempt to counsel inner city youth his way of apologizing for his own indiscretions? What do the women he allegedly violated hope to get from telling their stories? 

Until those questions are answered, it is impossible to draw conclusions.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Society has run amok with violence

United States flag with peace sign canton
United States flag with peace sign canton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It seems that every day, headlines across the country scream about violence erupting in some small town, village, or hamlet. Without even mentioning the violence in major cities, or on foreign shores, our society must do something about the increasing abundance of violence that threatens to turn a peaceful life into chaos with ramifications beyond imagination. 

I've long been concerned about increasing violence throughout our society. It fills our televisions, movies, news, and satire. Graphic images, perfected through technology, make me cringe. I am increasingly concerned over what all this is doing to us, in the recesses of our brains. 

While I don't have any scientific evidence to back up theories about violence, it just seems logical that pounding gut-wrenching pictures and ideas into our brains will have some kind of effect, if not now, at some point in the future. 

As a more than middle-aged woman, I have seen the escalation of violent tendencies overall, complicated by a sense of immunity to it by young people. They not only accept violence, but they value it in their entertainment. 

The statistics about violence, are to me, staggering.

"The 20th century was one of the most violent periods in human history. An estimated 191 million people lost their lives directly or indirectly as a result of conflict, and well over half of them were civilians," according to the Peace Alliance, a non-profit that promotes peace. Some of the other statistics the group cites are as follows:
  •   In 2001, almost 21,000 homicides and 31,000 suicides occurred; and almost 1.8 million people were assaulted, while about 323,000 harmed themselves and were treated in hospital emergency departments. (Surveillance for Fatal and Nonfatal Injuries – 2001, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Vital Statistics System)
  •   Worldwide, an estimated 1.6 million people lost their lives to violence in 2000. About half were suicides, one-third were homicides, and one-fifth were casualties of armed conflict. [World Report on Violence and Health, World Health Organization, 2002]
  •   Homicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24 in 2001. Suicide was the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24 in 2002. [Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System – 2002, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]
  •   The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide committed by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year. Of that amount, nearly $4.1 billion are for direct medical and mental health care services, and nearly $1.8 billion are for the indirect costs of lost productivity or wages. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States, April 2003.)
  •   A 1992 study in the United States put the annual cost of treating gunshot wounds at $126 billion. Cutting and stab wounds cost an additional $51 billion. (Miller TR, Cohen MA.,. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 1997, 29:329–341.)
I believe that as we age, we are an accumulation of all that has occurred in our lifetimes. We are like a computer whose hard drive runs continuously soaking up bytes of information to be stored for later use. The bytes consist of all that we have experienced in our lives. The longer we live, the more we store. Every image, thought, or memory remains filed away. It isn't always easy to retrieve. I believe our dreams are like defragmenting that hard drive. Haven't we all had violent dreams often times based on something we've seen or heard?

Recently, I experienced a picture on Facebook where Hannibal Lechter was digging a spoon into somebody's brain. I do not want to see such an image. I'm appalled by it because cannibalizing people is real and horrible. A picture like that doesn't belong among pictures of cute cats and babies.

Another one that got to me was a promotion for the television show, "The Walking Dead." A supposed human corpse, complete with hanging skin, bloody scalp, and tattered clothing advertised the series. Will we start seeing a rash of grave robberies now as people try to find a zombie they can call their own? Why does anyone watch this stuff?

A rest in peace sign.
A rest in peace sign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Murder is the #1 attraction at the box office and in television shows and video games. How many different ways can a person be snuffed out? And how often are these dramas played out in real life? Which came first, the attempt at a perfect murder or the TV show that portrayed it? 

Violence seems to be a never ending cycle. Where is the value of human life? I used to think it was obsessive to try to ban violent video games, and I still believe more strongly in the first amendment than any form of censorship, but where is the hue and cry that says enough is enough. Can't we see that we are harming human beings, especially our youth? Doesn't all this exposure to violence simply guarantee a screwed up, Xanax-riddled society? 

Then there is the gun issue
There seems to be a real romanticism about guns. We all want to be John Wayne or Marshall Dillon or the Rifleman, where justice was settled quickly and easily. That isn't the world in which we live today. It wasn't even the world of yesterday. It was all fiction. The whole ugly story of the violence that occurred when the west was settled wasn't shown on weekly TV shows. 

We are all capable of violence. Our hair-trigger emotions in today's overly-complicated society where induced anger is so often the result, do we really want to make it easier to kill people? An increasing number of people experience mental health issues. Their emotions are less stable, so it follows that they would be more likely to act upon their anger. Yet, our societal laws equally encourage them too, to own firearms. We have seen the hideous results. There can be no greater horror than sending your child to school one day only to learn they have been gunned down by a disturbed young man turned depraved killer. The horror of Sandy Hook Elementary has changed so many people, yet not enough apparently. How many more tragic events in the workplace, on college campuses, in public restaurants, or in a private residence are we going to allow before we decide to do something? Politically, we don't even talk about it. That's inexcusable! Must the violence reach inside our own individual homes and families before we wake up and realize the gravity of this situation? 

I don't have answers. No one person does, but it seems to me we need to start to change our thinking. Instead of the bottom line being about dollars and sense, perhaps the bottom line ought to be about common sense. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Time to ask more questions about Peotone before it's too late!

In the past, CHBlog has been a source of information about the proposed Peotone Airport, a project that has been talked about for nearly a half century.

In recent times though, I've been avoiding the topic. I no longer live in Illinois, and have had little to do with the proposed airport for the past several years. However, I still maintain friendships with people there who remain deeply affected.

I admit that it surprises me that hearing about a resurgence in activity about the proposed Peotone Airport is still jarring. When I lived in Illinois, I was an active participant in the study process. My position--that an airport wasn't needed 40 miles south of the City of Chicago, didn't fit among the farm fields of eastern Will County, and is a project that has never stood on its own merit--has been well known and widely documented.

While there have been developments, they are virtually meaningless rhetoric from  a governor facing a tough re-election, if and until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) actually approves the project for construction. That hasn't happened yet!

English: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn addresses...
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One of the first of many resurrections of this project took place in 1985. I didn't personally become involved until 1987. It took that long for the private talk among legislative leaders to eke out into the public arena. I suspect Illinois leaders would have liked to keep things quiet a little longer, just so they continue getting all their ducks in a row. They like nothing better than control over the message that ultimately makes it to the public. So sorry that we learned before you were ready.

Controlling the message! That is how Illinois leaders in Springfield do things. In their zeal to control what the public perceives, elected officials rarely pay attention to public input. In the case of the Peotone Airport, they have long stifled public input whenever possible.

I am reminded of this practice by recent activity in the Chicago Tribune. An editorial was written to send the message that the next governor of Illinois is on notice. Forty-seven years is long enough to keep a project on the back burner. Whether the next governor is Pat Quinn or Bruce Rauner, it is time to put up or shut up. Either get on with building it or kill it once and for all. This message too is a repeated incantation spoken throughout the years. It is difficult though for anything to be new about this project since it has been around so long.

In response to the Chicago Tribune, my long-time friend Bob Heuer, reiterates the paper's call for a decision by the next Illinois governor. He also drives home my point about local input when he says, "The Springfield bureaucracy's heavy-handed tactics combines deep pockets, fuzzy math and an arrogant disregard for on-the-ground reality." He goes on to point out that a resolution passed by local governments and organizations to study reasonable alternatives to the airport has gone virtually unnoticed.

I concur with Heuer's call to the next Governor of Illinois to stop simply taking IDOT's word for it that thousands of jobs and economic potential lies just around the corner. IDOT should be scrutinized just like a con artist waiting for his next victim.

Heuer has given permission to print his letter. It follows:

Making an informed decision about an airport at Peotone

In “Knock-knock. It’s Peotone again,” (Aug. 26) the Tribune editorial board encourages the winner of November’s gubernatorial election to either go full throttle” on building a new airport in the eastern Will County countryside “or ground the issue once and for all.”

Our next governor can be sure of one thing: He won’t be able to make an informed decision based on analysis from the Illinois Department of Transportation. In recent decades, IDOT has spent tens of millions of dollars to engineer a consensus for the so-called “third” commercial airport in a tri-state region that isn’t fully utilizing the five we already have.

The Springfield bureaucracy’s heavy-handed tactics combines deep pockets, fuzzy math and an arrogant disregard for on-the-ground reality.

One example is a 2005 resolution adopted by a half dozen units of local government, the Will County Farm Bureau, and community group Shut This Airport Nightmare Down. Nine years ago, IDOT ignored the Peotone community's reasonable demand for an “independent study” of all viable alternatives.

IDOT never wavers from its agenda, which includes pummeling anybody obstructing Springfield's goal of seizing all of the land in the so-called airport “footprint.” Next month, IDOT will choreograph a Peotone forum which the Tribune recognizes as Gov. Quinn's attempt to “create a pre-election sense of inevitability for the airport development, as he has tried to do for the Illiana” toll road.

Our next governor owes the people of Illinois what the people of eastern Will County asked for in 2005. Is it too much to expect our governor to demand a legitimate analysis of “airport-related costs and benefits based on various scenarios, including an assumption that a Peotone airport would attract no daily commercial passenger service for many years, if ever?”

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

'All About Ann' - the beginning of the end

I love a good movie, especially if it has a good story behind it. I'm all about the story. This morning I watched "All about Ann: Governor Richards of the Lone Star State.

Those were the days!
CHBlog: Ann Richards
Texas Governor Ann Richards-Wikipedia
I remember Ann Richards very well, as her tenure in the Texas mansion, occurred during what was the dawn of my own political interest. I was in the thick of it--fighting Illinois Republicans' effort to build a new airport in Illinois--where even today, its only success has been on paper.
I admired Richards. She was spunky, unafraid, and really quick-witted, but with a caring side steeped in a love of the people she represented. It was easy to relate to her. All the cards seemed stacked against her, yet she continued to work hard, driven by what she believed in. She would not be bullied by the good ole' boys; those traditionalists we know today as the gods and guns crowd. She fought the good fight to become the first woman to be elected governor in the State of Texas. Texans were better for it too. She was a popular governor, accomplishing much of what she set out to do. She was a champion for women, minorities, and generally, all the people in her state. She established alcohol and drug abuse programs for prisoner inmates. She knew from where she spoke, as as admitted alcoholic. Such honesty and high achievements didn't sit well with the state's elite, who was used to doing it only one way; their way. They suffered through one term by the liberal governor, but were not about to deal with another. Thus began in my opinion,  America's darkest days, days for which we have yet to emerge.

Just a one-term governor, Ann Richards' tenure came to an abrupt halt in 1994 when she was defeated by George W. Bush.

I remember watching the election returns. Her defeat was a blow to me personally and to the country as a whole. Hers was one of the most important races in the country, because if she fell, others would too. And they did. 

As I watched the movie this morning, I could recall the moment I heard she was defeated. It was like a stake in the heart of everything I believed politics to be. After all, my own personal cynicism had not yet taken hold by that time.

I admit I was more interested in local politics then; I was just beginning to learn the players on the national stage. I hadn't watched the Texas governors' race closely, but I knew enough to know that defeating Ann Richards was big in 1994, and not in a good way. 

Looking back, I think that moment in time was the beginning of the end of our democracy. That one race made a difference that set in motion a destructive turn of events.

If only Richards had won re-election, Bush would not have been governor of Texas. That would likely have precluded his moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I can only dream of how great that would have been. Imagine: no Iraq war, no Supreme Court nominees, no September 11, 2001, no homeland security, no Dick Cheney, no Rumsfeld's war machine, no NSA spying,... Al Gore would likely have been allowed to serve after being elected. The problems we are now facing with climate change would have been minimized rather than exacerbated. The things connected to Bush's presidency are mind-boggling and to me, represent everything I abhor in politics.

The movie portrayed Bush's campaign against Richards as a whisper campaign, orchestrated by the brilliantly devious Karl Rove. The campaign quietly, but effectively painted a false picture and used television ads and lies and innuendos on campaign fliers about Ann Richards. They called her a lesbian because she employed people who happened to be gay or lesbian. The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposed her, even though she had her own firearms and knew how to use them. Rove was relentless. These are people who want to win at all cost and don't have the ethics not to cheat to do it. Think hanging chads, a biased Supreme Court decisions, gerrymandered congressional districts, voter registration purges, Citizens United, and the latest campaign finance free-for-all. It all started with Karl Rove and George W. Bush. It continues with no end in sight.
Whisper campaigns are nothing new; these types of campaigns have gone on for as long as the country has held elections. But today, whisper campaigns are on steroids with the advent of unlimited spending, unscrupulous media sources, and completely unethical behavior. The whispers are now deafening. Efforts to persuade voters has become commonplace, because potential voters are becoming less interested and less engaged in politics. 

People don't like politics. It is a dirty word. Admittedly so, but participation of an informed electorate is the only hope for a working democracy. With a constant assault on the Middle Class and women's rights, worker's rights, and the ever-widening chasm between the have's and have-not's, it is more important than ever that potential voters be informed.

In fact, that is the only way to once again elect decent representatives that will work for the good of all the people and not just their pals. Potential voters have to be able to see through the tactics and know enough to differentiate fact from fiction. They need to take issue with falsehoods and those who tell them. Truth needs to be defended with honor again. There need to be more candidates like Ann Richards. 

Ann Richards died seven years ago, but she left behind a legacy and an example. We should settle for no less.

In November, there is an opportunity for voters to do the right thing for today and tomorrow. We must vote for candidates that can see farther than the nose on their faces; candidates that emphasize what is good for all and that which will better our world community as a whole. Candidates stuck in the 1950's will not solve the problems of the 21st Century. We must all get informed and to whatever extent, get involved.