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April 19, 2002: My (rather opinionated) two cents

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This week has been a good week for cheering in the car. In other words, on the way home from work the past few days there have been reports on the news programs that made me rather happy. So to fulfill my yearly quota of discussing volatile political and/or moral issues in this journal, I thought I'd share them with you.

The first cause for minor car-contained celebration was the notice that the federal judge has repealed Ashcroft's block of the Death with Dignity act passed by Oregon. In fact, I got a bit of wicked glee out of the fact that the judge even gave Ashcroft a virtual slap on the hand for sticking his nose into the middle of it in the first place.

I realize that physician-assisted suicide is a topic that is about as volatile as abortion or the death penalty to some people. I realize that not everyone is comfortable with it. But the simple fact of the matter is that this is merely an extension of a DNR order (which some doctors ignore anyway). A person who is chronically ill should be allowed to choose how much suffering they wish to endure, and those physicians who are comfortable with taking part in this sort of thing should be allowed to assist if it comes to that. No one thinks that this gives people carte blanche to just commit suicide, of course. But the main thing is that it gives people a choice to end their lives with dignity.

The other cause for cheering was the announcement that the Shrub's plan to drill for oil in Alaska was soundly defeated. I was happy to hear this for several reasons. The first is simply because I don't like the Shrub's energy policy, nor do I have much respect for all his big business Texan oil-drilling buddies. The second is that even the folks who were pushing for drilling couldn't contest the reports that clearly showed that there was no way they could get much of anything in the area anyway, and that it was going to be one colossal waste of time and money, with the only end result being the negative impact on the Alaskan wilderness. I'll admit that I am still insanely curious as to the real reason all of the Shrub's little money-grubbing buddies wanted their hands on the land, but I'd be satisfied with never knowing merely because they've been thwarted at their own game.

The whole energy policy thing confuses me on a general basis, frankly. I know I may have a simplistic view on the topic, but it seems to me that the best way to handle the energy crisis - and our reliance on foreign oil - is to find alternative sources of energy. I realize that we may never make a transition to completely renewable energy sources. I realize that this country may always have a need for fossil fuels. But with the right incentives for energy companies and consumers, this country could do one heck of a lot toward improving the waste. As anyone with an ounce of brains has realized, the general public is not very bright, and easily manipulated. If you don't believe me, wake up and start paying attention to how the media spins the news on a daily basis to coax their watchers and readers to think just the way they want them to think. So my point is that the right marketing spin would provide just the incentive necessary to convince Americans that recycling and conserving are patriotic things to do, and should be actively encouraged and pursued.

There are other sources of energy out there, but the folks in Washington, as a whole, seem strangely reluctant to pursue them. Perhaps it's because initially this sort of thing tends to be a bit more expensive, and a lot of people have a very hard time looking past the short-term costs to the long-term benefits. Perhaps it's because the average politician thinks that their constituents wouldn?t actually support such a policy. My cynical side, however, insists that the real reason is simply that the more environmentally friendly industries don't have pockets as deep as the oil lobby.

I know that their desire to drill in the Alaskan wilderness hasn't been stopped by this defeat, and that soon enough there will be another attempt - one that will most likely be much more devious and less straight forward. But as long as we have men like the Shrub in charge, who cozy up to big business without considering the environmental ramifications, the rest of us have to take whatever victory we can.

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