Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

July 28, 2009



Vancouver Sun -
According to City Farmer, 44 per cent of Vancouver's population is involved in some form of urban agriculture. . . . Today, there are more than 1,700 new plots in more than 40 community, or resident-shared, gardens. There are also 20 farmers' markets. Unlike gardens grown for and by private gardeners, gardens grown for commercial purposes have historically met resistance by urban authorities and planners. Considered relics of a rural past, they were either prohibited or severely restricted.


The Hill -
In a significant change, the Obama administration will now allow lobbyists to meet and have telephonic discussions with government officials regarding economic recovery projects. The lifting of the ban comes after K Street has cried foul for months and has challenged the White House on its restrictions. In March, President Obama announced that government officials would not be allowed to consider the views of lobbyists regarding specific stimulus projects unless the requests are put in writing. The materials also had to be posted on an agency's website within three business days of receipt. Lobbyists have said that the policy was one more example of the administration's disdain for their industry. Now, the just-revised rules will allow government personnel to accept meetings and calls from federally registered lobbyists on the implementation of stimulus projects.


We've started posting the latest polls again and it does't look all that good for the Democrats. As things now stand, they may lose two governorships and one Senate seat with another up in the air.

Green Party Watch - In the German city of Stuttgart, the Greens recently won the largest vote total. In a city with more than 500,000 people, that's a considerable feat for The Greens.

Nation - Since 1940, Republicans have controlled the White House for thirty-six years; Democrats for thirty-three. Yet Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that almost two-thirds of new jobs were created during Democratic administrations.


Monte Ladner MD, NY Times
- I quit practicing medicine in 2003 at the age of 43. Burned out. Like most doctors I went into medicine with a lot of idealism. The first half of my medical career was in the Army (they paid for my medical education). The second half was in private practice.

In the Army system, a single payer system, I was free to focus my attention on patient care, as were my colleagues. Conversations between doctors revolved around the latest medical research on how to best care for our patients. I never thought about how much money a particular treatment option for a patient would earn for me - I was paid a salary and it was the same no matter what treatment options I chose. I never had to deal with getting an insurance company to pay me for my medical services after I had already given them. I never had to argue with an insurance company after they denied my treatment plan for a patient as "medically unnecessary."

In private practice I was horrified to see how money was the driving force behind everything doctors did. Doctors talked with each other about opening their own specialty clinics to capture fees that had previously gone to hospitals. Over the years the discussions at medical conferences began to devote less time to the science behind new innovations and more time to teaching doctors how to make money with the new innovations.

Worst of all, I saw patients routinely suffer from unnecessary, expensive, and often harmful treatment interventions that were clearly chosen because they earned the most money for the doctor and the hospital. . .

It used to be government and universities with an interest in advancing medical knowledge. Today most medical research is financed and directed by pharmaceutical companies and their main objective is getting research data that can be used to market their products - whether the products are really useful or not. . .

There is no place for "free market ideas" in medicine - at least not if you want your doctor to actually take care of you.


Washington Examiner -
Shirts advocating the legalization of gay marriage sparked vandalism and violent threats this week at two American Apparel clothing stores in the Washington area. When manager Kassandra Powell arrived at the American Apparel in Silver Spring on Monday morning, she found one of the windows shattered -- in front of a "Legalize Gay" T-shirt on display. . . On Tuesday morning, there were threats of more trouble, this time at the chain's Georgetown location. American Apparel's M Street store received a call from an angry man demanding that the "Legalize Gay" shirt be removed from the window or the window would be broken. Despite the threats, both stores continued displaying the shirts. . . . The threats intensified Wednesday with a call to the manager on duty at the Silver Spring store. "He asked why the shirt was still on the mannequin and told me that I should be very careful for what I did because 'bad things could happen to me,' " the manager wrote in an e-mail to the company's fashion media director. . .


Reason - "Legal Age 21 has not worked." Of course, any 20-year-old could, and probably would, tell you that. But the quote in question was written by Dr. Morris Chafet, a psychiatrist who served on the presidential committee that pushed to have the legal drinking age raised to 21. That push paid off on July 17, 1984, when President Ronald Reagan signed the new drinking age into law. Since that time, however, Chafet has apparently had a change of heart. The Los Angeles Times reports that in an editorial that has yet to be published, Chafet describes his effort to raise the drinking age as the "single most regrettable decision" of his career. "To be sure, drunk driving fatalities are lower now than they were in 1982," Chafet notes. "But they are lower in all age groups. And they have declined just as much in Canada, where the age is 18 or 19, as they have in the United States.". .

Today's taser story comes from Mobile Alabama, where the cop toy was used on a deaf and mentally disabled man who refused to leave a store's restroom. . . And just to make sure this sort of cruelty can continue, Taser has come up with a stun gun that can be fired three times without reloading. Fourteen thousand police agencies across the country can hardly wait.

Seattle Weekly - Ever sit and chat in a parked car? That may warrant a 911 call for suspicious activity. So says a post on neighborhood blog Phinneywood, where a resident recounts witnessing a drug transaction in front of his house. He called the police, who he says told him: "Do call 911 immediately if you see a car with people sitting in it apparently going no where. They are waiting to make a drug connection.". . .

Unsilent Generation - Angola prison in Louisiana boasts that some 90 percent of its population will die there. The prison has managed to equip itself with a hospice, and trained inmates to attend to a convict's last days. Burl Cain, the warden, is backed up by a phalanx of Christian fundamentalist preachers who freely roam the 18,000 acre former slave plantation recruiting inmates to be preachers. The clergy instruct prisoners their only way out is through redemption made possible by the acceptance of Jesus Christ. When an elderly inmate, knowing his end was near, sought to be win release so as to die in the so-called "free world," the parole board refused. The procedure is to go to your death in the Christian way - from cell to hospice to a prison cemetery where your grave will be dug by the inmates who will mark your burial with gospel hymns. The travesty at Angola is held up as a model for the nation and Cain celebrated by the media as a new corrections messiah.


Progressive Historians
features a video of Robert Oppenheimer, the person most responsible for the success of the atomic bomb after Albert Einstein. The date is 1965. "We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.'"

Yesterday we ran the above as an example from a gallery of confusing warning signs. Reader Davers offers an explanation: "It means stop rolling over and letting Republicans stomp all over you

Another reader says of Twitter journalism: " Andy Warhol said everyone gets their 15 minutes of fame. It seems that in the age of twitter, it has become 140 characters of fame."

Headline of the week (from Digg): John Barry, inventor of WD-40, dies. Rust in Peace


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was talking to my younger daughter a couple of days ago about exactly this, how some obscene percentage of Angola inmates die there. She works for an organization that has exonerated over two hundred wrongly convicted persons. She told me one of their exonerees entered Angola as a sixteen-year-old just after Angola eliminated their last literacy program, but they still had all these Jesus saves programs. Now, after wrongly spending decades in Angola, the man still can't read.

July 28, 2009 6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another"

Now by staying out of trouble and paying your taxes you can become an accessory before the fact in some of the more hideous crimes in human history. Crime is merely the reflection of the larger society.

July 28, 2009 8:40 PM  
Anonymous Gregg Jocoy said...


Thanks for the link to Green Party Watch. Your readers who want to go directly to the story you mentioned can click here. The piece was written by Walter Pituc, who is also running for office himself in Urbana, IL

August 16, 2009 1:30 PM  

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