I am struggling with the upcoming inauguration in Washington, D.C., and I know there are others going through similar misgivings. I wonder how many. And of those who do have misgivings, I wonder how many actually feel, like I do, that this inauguration is illegitimate, a sham, and an affront to American democracy. It comes as the dramatic finale to a flawed election, the results of which I cannot accept. A bad case of sour grapes or just a stubborn diehard? Iâ€™m not sure exactly where I fit, but I donâ€™t feel all that sour, just disappointed and wanting to make damn sure that not another election goes by in this country that feels as corrupted as the last two. In that case, I guess I am just a diehard American who believes in democracy.
There is a part of me that was surprised by the result of the 2004 elections and another part of me that was not. The massive turnouts during the Democratic primaries pointed, at least in my mind, to the fact that those who voted for Gore in 2000 were being joined by an even larger majority to ensure that George W. and his cohorts would not, once again, seize power and lead us down a steep, more dangerous slope for another four years.
Waking up on Nov. 3 I wondered if my miscalculations were just a sign that I was just another idealistic liberal out of touch with the mainstream. Reluctantly, I have tried to accept that based on what appears to most as the certifiable vote count that over 50 percent of the American people wanted to â€œstay the courseâ€? with George W. and his administration. I am not convinced of this, though, just as many who are more in the know than I are not. Regardless of the numbers, however, I am not sure that those who voted to have this administration back in knew for whom or what they were voting.
I had hoped that there were more thinking, reasonable people in the U.S. who would be able to discern between fact and fiction; who would be willing to support some of the hard decisions that need to be acted upon for the U.S. to join the rest of the world in providing the security and conservation and allocation of resources necessary to elevate the standard of education and living of all people â€” the most intelligent road to eliminating the need for terrorism and war. But John Kerryâ€™s message of taking responsibility in the world was far too complicated and drowned out by the endless Republican-dominated mediaâ€™s benign â€œstand by meâ€? message of an evangelical would-be president. I say â€œwould-beâ€? because I donâ€™t think George W. is the 43rd president. The 43rd president is Al Gore. Daniel Shore of NPR had called the election of 2000 a coup dâ€™Ã©tat. I subscribe to this way of thinking, and thus donâ€™t see George W. as president. Nor is he the rightful president of 2004.
In 2000 it was clear that Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost in the Electoral College based on the fraudulent election results of Florida. In 2004, it â€œlookedâ€? like George W. took the popular vote. There are some problems with this fact, though, namely that the owner of the company who makes many of the new voting machines is a major contributor to the Republican party and a supporter of George W.
How can an election be legitimate when this man and his company are unwilling to create a verifiable means of determining whether his machines are counting accurately or being tampered with?
A reputable source tells me that, based on estimates of the number crunchers on which he relies, John Kerry won the popular vote by 4 to 5 million. Greg Palast, the reporter who revealed the corruption in Florida in 2000, agrees with this figure.
Add to this issue the results of Ohio, which were so blatantly tainted that mainstream media could not cope with the plain truth of it all. Beyond the sheer inaccuracy of the voting machines themselves, how can the results in this contested state be considered legitimate when Ohioâ€™s Secretary of State was the head of George W. reelection campaign, scrambled access to machines, and refused to allow but a small sample of the votes to be recounted?
For a portion of the American electorate swayed by the man with a boyish, confused-looking grin and plain and misspoken words, it did not matter that George W. had made false assertions about 9/11 and the war in Iraq, or pledged economic prosperity to all when only the wealthy would benefit, or promised that â€œno child [would be] left behind.â€?
The fact is George W. wasnâ€™t going to complicate our lives with thinking. He didnâ€™t want us to think too much. He didnâ€™t want us to take responsibility in the world, like the other guy kept telling us we had to do. And besides, he claimed to have a frequent word with and a direct line to â€œthe man upstairs â€¦ .â€? No thinking, no need for responsibility, and a man well connected â€” in Heaven and on Earth; an irresistible combination.
This I must accept about the country in which I live. I know that several of my neighbors voted for George W., and I really like them. So, I really want to learn to listen better and communicate more â€” to understand and be more understood. Our founding fathers believed that education and information were the essential ingredients to growing America into a powerful, compassionate democracy. It is especially true in a time when it seems that America is polarized and split right down the middle.
So, this is a problem that resolves itself over time in the face of truth â€” so long as truth has the opportunity to be expressed and be heard. I must confess, however, that I am concerned as to whether or not our freedoms and freedom of the press and information as we have enjoyed them thus far in this country are for much longer.
After our election, when major leaders in the Republican Party were screaming foul play in the Ukraine, all I could think of was the line in Hamlet â€” â€œMethinks thou protesteth too much!â€? And weeks later, when presented with the evidence of election fraud here in the U.S., these same men joined by their cohorts in Congress turned a blind eye, certifying a vote that many do not trust.
And so, on Thursday, Jan. 20, in a sterilized bubble free of protesters, George W. and powers who created this abomination to democracy will stand in the most hallowed center of America, swearing before God and country that they have a mandate to do unto America what they deem fit in accordance with their self-serving purposes. And there are many who will goose-step to their tune.
But many will not. Many do not accept the legitimacy of this man called president. In our hearts and minds, John Kerry is the 44th president. Maybe it is simpler for someone like George W. who believes he has a mandate and claims to have never made a mistake to be at the helm of a country divided. For it certainly would not be in the character of John Kerry to claim a mandate where there is none. He would tread lightly. Would this be a sign of weakness to others in the world? Or would a gentler, more thoughtful America invoke a gentler response â€” even from our would-be enemies?
On Jan. 20, in my heart and mind, I reaffirm my belief in America. I turn my back on an event that claims to be an inauguration. We shall not be witnessing the swearing-in of a president, but a man who wishes he were and an administration steered by hubris and their own warped sense of Manifest Destiny.
Such illegitimate events mean a lot to America. We must remember them. We must make sure that never again do we as Americans stand against one another, not trusting. And as our democracy and how it moves forward to meet the challenges of the world rests on the legitimacy of our electoral process, never again must we be timid or lax in ensuring that each and every vote counts and is counted.
Robert Sachs is an author, educator, and counselor who lives in San Luis Obispo. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The seduction of American medicine
Exercise, nutrition, and weight management remain the most effective ways to control the chronic health conditions that plague Americans
Every day Americans are subjected to a barrage of advertising by the pharmaceutical industry. These drug pitches usually feature beautiful people enjoying themselves in the great outdoors. Health, happiness, and lots of great sex can be yours thanks to the innovation and research of Big Pharma. These ads are extremely effective, and Big Pharma is spending huge sums to get them to you. Why? Because you must â€œtalk to your doctorâ€? and ask for that newest, latest, most advertised drug, and very often you will get it â€”needed or not. â€œThere is no doubt in my mind that direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads mislead consumers far more than they inform them, and they pressure doctors to prescribe new, expensive, and often marginally helpful drugs, even when a more conservative option (including no drug) might be better and safer â€¦ that is why DTC ads are prohibited in every other developed country (except New Zealand),â€? says Marcia Angell, M.D., former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine. She rips the self-congratulatory marketing campaign built around Big Pharma in â€œThe Truth About the Drug Companies, How They Deceive Us and What To Do About It.â€?
Pharmaceutical ads are often designed to convince us that the latest â€œmedical breakthroughsâ€? are all that is needed to keep us healthy. They need us to believe that Big Pharma saves lives. As a friend dying from metastatic colon cancer told me recently, â€œTheyâ€™re coming out with new treatments every month.â€? I resisted the temptation to tell him that the death rate from all cancers has not improved; in fact, it has gotten slightly worse over the last 50 years. Big Pharmaâ€™s problem is that real innovation is just not profitable enough. But the perception of innovation is extremely important, because it sells, and selling drugs makes a lot of money. In fact, the sicker America gets, the more money drug companies stand to rake in!
|As a friend dying from metastatic colon cancer told me recently, â€˜Theyâ€™re coming out with new treatments every month.â€™ I resisted the temptation to tell him that the death rate from all cancers has not improved; in fact, it has gotten slightly worse over the last 50 years.|
â€œMillions of us are popping prescription pills for innocuous ills, when simple lifestyle changes of diet and exercise are more effective and a lot cheaper,â€? according to Forbes magazine in the Nov. 29, 2004 cover story. â€œThe results are devastating: billions of dollars in ever-higher drug costs; millions of people enduring sometimes highly toxic side effects; and close to 2 million cases each year of drug complications that result in 180,000 deaths or life-threatening illnesses in the elderly.â€? Serious and even deadly side effects have become the cost of doing business. Many of the seniors of a drugged America have become â€œcollateral damage.â€?
The price we have paid for prescription drugs cannot be counted in dollars, or even lives. We have been sold a new deadly deceptive philosophy. Americans have been led to believe that synthetic, patented, potentially fatal chemicals are necessary for health. Dr. John Abramson, Harvard Medical School professor and author of â€œOverdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine,â€? writes, â€œWe have this exaggerated belief in biomedicine, in the same way that primitive society believed in folk cures.â€? Abramsonâ€™s theme has a tsunami-like destructive potential for Big Pharma: â€œOur drugs do not cure our diseases.â€? Synthetic drugs may allow the body to temporarily recover or provide transient relief, but health is not optimized, nor disease reversed.
Exercise, nutrition, and weight management remain the most effective ways to control the chronic health conditions that plague Americans. Everybody has heard of the scandal-ridden anti-inflammatory medication Vioxx, but few have heard of the role diet plays in inflammation and joint pain. For example, it is well documented that arthritis was once rare to nonexistent in rural populations of Asia and Africa. As recently as 1957, no case of rheumatoid arthritis could be found in Africa. There was a time when people in Africa followed native diets based on grains and vegetables but have since been abandoned in favor of inflammation-causing foods such as meat, dairy products, and highly processed carbohydrates. And although unknown in Africa before 1960, African-Americans lead in the incidence of lupus in the U.S.
In a classic experiment with a group of 13 Tarahumara Indians â€” a native people known to have virtually no coronary heart disease â€” an â€œaffluentâ€? high-fat, high-cholesterol, inflammation-creating diet was substituted for five weeks for the traditional near-vegetarian diet. Cholesterol levels increased by 31 percent. If they had continued to eat this way they would soon have had heart disease, like their genetic relatives, the Pima Indians, living in Arizona on the Western diet.
On March 14, 2002, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study showing that increased exercise capacity was one of the strongest predictors of a decreased risk of death. They studied 6,213 men referred for a treadmill stress test and found that their exercise capacity was a stronger predictor of death than other established risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and changes in EKGs during exercise. Exercise is better than any drug.
These are not just a few isolated examples. The evidence is overwhelming in the use of simple remedies for chronic disease.
Physician researchers such as Barnard, Ornish, Fleming, and McDougall treat their patients with successful, health-restoring programs that are innovative and low-cost. More doctors and their patients would participate in similar reforms if the financial incentives were in place. A template for just such a change already exists. Financial incentives that promote health can be found in the life insurance industry, where something as simple as stopping smoking saves money spent on premiums and lives. Itâ€™s a radical concept â€” giving a motive to get off the drugs and on the track. Itâ€™s the prescription for what ails Americans.
Stephen Mulder is past president of SLO County Medical Society for 2003 and former chief of medical staff at Twin Cities Community Hospital for 2001. He has practiced medicine in Templeton since 1985 and worked in health and nutritional education for the last 10 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.