(Copyright 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)

Portside (the left side in nautical parlance) is a
news, discussion and debate service of the Committees
of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. It
says it aims to provide varied material of interest to people
on the Left. Heretofore , we were  under the impression that Portside  is the Internet's voice of the Left.  But it turns out to be the Internet's voice of the fundamentalist Far-Left, which, like all fundamentalist organizations, adheres to an orthodoxy and consequently refuses to post dissident or differing opinions from within the Left---such as HATE YOUR GOVERNMENT BUT LOVE YOUR COUNTRY, available to be read in SECTION ONE of COLUMN SEVENTY.  Fundamentalists, like fascists, will not tolerate any disagreements or variations from the fundamentalist orthodoxy.

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Subject: Mollie Ivins on the EPA
Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2002 22:59:47 -0000
From: "cambria137"

Forth Worth Star-Telegram

March 24, 2002

Something dangerous in the air

By Mollie Ivins

AUSTIN - Boy, we are marching backward on the environment at a truly impressive pace. Between the Senate and the Bush administration, we are advancing to the rear, double-time. The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, fuel efficiency standards, toxic waste - this is literally sickening stuff.

This month, the Senate voted 62-38 to postpone, yet again, increasing the fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. According to the Sierra Club, the average fuel economy of cars sold in 2000 was 24 miles per gallon, the lowest since 1979. The failed fuel efficiency proposal could have saved the country up to 1 million barrels of oil a day by 2016 - as much as the United States currently imports from Iraq and Kuwait.

You will doubtlessly be less than amazed to learn that the auto industry spent heavily to defeat any improvement in fuel efficiency. According to Public Campaign - a campaign finance reform group - on average, the 62 senators who voted with the industry received $18,000 from auto companies. The 38 senators who wanted stronger standards got a measly $5,900 each. Since 1989, the auto companies have given $9.9 million to federal candidates and parties. I know, it's not new, but it does matter.

The EPA under Christine Todd Whitman is just not enforcing the law. She has put into effect new regulations that put off air controls for at least two more years. According to EPA's own figures, 80,000 major polluters - each with the capacity to put 10 tons of toxic gas and particles into the air each year - are doing little or nothing to reduce their emissions. This is not about tree-huggers and spotted owls; air pollution kills people.

Bush's choice to head EPA's clean air program is Jeffrey Holmstead, formerly a lawyer for the Chemical Manufacturers Association, among others. According to EarthJustice, Holmstead was also an adjunct scholar at Citizens for the Environment (what a name), an offspring of Citizens for a Sound Economy, which is funded by the usual right-wing suspects - the Scaife family, and Koch, Olin and Bradley foundations. According to the `Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,' CFE "labeled most environmental problems " including acid rain, natural resource depletion and shrinking landfill space - as myths." He also represented agribusiness in a case challenging the law to assess the health effects of pesticide exposure on children and to limit unreasonable health risks. Aren't you happy he's in charge of clean air?

Michael Dombeck, former chief of the U.S. Forest Service, points out that forests are not only critical to the atmosphere but are also the key source of clean water. The undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources and environment, with responsibility for 156 national forests, is Mark Rey, who worked for 20 years for big timber trade associations. He vociferously opposes the National Forest Roadless Conservation policy, which would protect one-third of our forests from logging, mining and other destructive activities.

And here's a lovely item: Rey has defended clear-cutting as "compatible with rain forest ecology." He probably thinks a roadless area is one in need of roads.

Administrations come and administrations go, and little of what they do is permanent. Policies can be reversed, wars come to an end and new undersecretaries bloom in Washington. But if you screw up the air, the land and the water, you can't undo it. Bush is now planning some major restructuring in the executive branch. Maybe he should consider putting the EPA under Tom Ridge at Homeland Security. That would make the country safer than leaving the environment to the Environmental "Protection Agency."

Molly Ivins writes for Creators Syndicate. 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045

" 2001 dfw and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.  ##

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Subject: Health Care System Must Be Fixed
Date: Sat, 30 Mar 2002 17:23:05 -0500

Contra Costa Times

March 28, 2002

The nation must fix its seriously ailing health care sysytem


HAVE YOU noticed that the health-care system is not working? In fact, it's falling apart. And the most curious thing about that is how few of the people for whom the system still works -- and they're the ones who make the decisions -- are aware of it.

It's like the old story about frogs and hot water. If you drop a frog into boiling water, it will leap to get out, but if you drop a frog in cool water and then gradually heat it up, the beast doesn't notice. Or so they say.

Another factor is the now-constant cognitive dissonance we have in this country as a result of the ever-widening gap between most people and the people who run things.

If you have health insurance, the system is a pain in the behind but it works. If you don't have health insurance, you are flat out of luck. And in case you hadn't noticed, more and more employers are deciding not to offer health insurance, or using "temporary" workers or out-sourcing various tasks so they won't have to cover the workers.

If you don't have health insurance, the system is an insane nightmare.

A new book by Dr. Rudolph Mueller, "As Sick As It Gets: The Shocking Reality of America's' Healthcare" lays out the problems as well as any I've read. But the book is just one more grain of sand in the beaches of evidence we already have that the system is breaking up.

At South by Southwest, the Austin music festival, a panel on health care for musicians -- who are largely uninsured -- produced this nugget: Did you know there are more than 1,000 concerts given every week by musicians for other musicians to raise enough money for an operation or medical treatment of some kind?

It's a beautiful tradition, but it doesn't work. All the generosity of all the musicians in the country -- and so many of them are endlessly generous with their time and talent -- doesn't begin to cover the cost of medical treatment for even a few. As they say in bridge circles, let's review the play. Ten years ago, we knew the system was a mess and Bill Clinton got elected in large part by promising to do something about it. Hillary Clinton got the assignment and conventional wisdom in the political world is that she blew it.

She did make political mistakes in her approach, but the far more important reason the attempt at reform failed is that the insurance industry spent $10 million to defeat the bill. Remember Harry and Louise?

Since then, the politicians have been afraid to try reform. The smartest of them, including Bill Clinton and Sen. Ted Kennedy, have been trying to move the ball incrementally -- tinkering with Medicare and Medicaid, starting a program to insure poor children. But the system is falling apart faster than they can move to fix it. A Patients' Bill of Rights is not the answer. It won't provide health insurance for a single additional individual.

The most maddening thing about the sheer stupidity of America's health care system is that the far better alternative is perfectly clear. Every other industrialized nation manages to do this better than we do.

The answer is universal health insurance, a single-payer system. Every time we start to get serious about reform, the right wing starts screaming, "Socialized medicine, socialized medicine." And then we're all supposed to run, screaming with horror. But if you want to see horror in action, try the emergency room of any large public hospital in this country. And for a truly hilarious experience, try to get emergency medical help on Christmas Eve. Look, this should not be a for-profit system. We need to phase out all for-profit or investor-owned provider and insurance organizations.

Mueller suggests a one-time fair buyout of all such organizations. The good news is that doctors are no longer impeding serious Reform -- in fact, doctors are having such a hard time under the current system, they've been radicalized on the subject and can now be counted on to help with reform.

Conservatives reflexively start moaning about the cost of a "big, new government program." Actually, what's costly is the system we have now. Americans already spend 58 percent more than the weighted average of similar nations for health care.

"It is a system wasteful beyond belief and manipulated by a lobby focused on providing the highest profits for the their self-interest and investors, and mammoth cash flows to companies that should not exist or not be involved in health care. The system is also paying for an extremely large number of sick people who would not be sick under any decent universal health care system," writes Mueller.

Sitting around deploring the current system will not fix it -- there are citizen action groups all over the country working on this problem. It is easy to find them and get involved. You don't have to be on the Internet; the phone book works fine.

We can't wait for the political system to get round to doing something about this: We need to help ourselves now.

Molly Ivins is a syndicated columnist based in Austin, Texas.  ##



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