Thursday, March 24, 2011


Dave Dureson had it all. He had a super bowl ring and a world's championship. He had been an All-Pro defensive back for the world champion Chicago Bears and he had made a lot of money. When he killed himself he left a note begging his family to donate his brain to the NFL's Brain Bank. From reports and interviews with family and friends, Dureson was worried he was experiencing the early onset of Alzheimers or some other memory loss disease and couldn't imagine what the future might hold for him. While we don’t know the autopsy results on his brain, it is time to admit football needs to be banned for anyone under the age of 21.

The University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research issued a report claiming NFL players are 19 times more likely to develop Alzheimers or other brain encephalopathies. Additional research is showing a history of concussions can make it harder to recover from each subsequent incident and the cumulative effect can change the nature of a human brain. Most disturbing, is the belief, among some researchers, brain "bumps" not rising to the level of a concussive event, can also eventually result in brain deterioration. Symptoms are showing up in younger and younger players. A freshman football player at Penn University committed suicide and upon autopsy, it was discovered he had the same traumatic encephalopathy as older NFL players' brains. His parents said he had had a concussion while playing high school football, but no other injuries to his head.

It is time to admit no one under 21 should be playing football and perhaps hockey. There is no way a minor, or a minor's parents, can give informed consent about the dangers these sports represent to the future health of the child. It is also clear, you cannot make equipment, which would mitigate some of the danger. Recently, Senator Udall of New Mexico, introduced legislation mandating helmet manufacturers update their standards and technology and produce helmets which better protect football players from head injuries. Under a voluntary program, the industry had not changed its standards since 1973. Senator Udall’s idea will not change the danger because the whole purpose of better equipment is so players can hit each other even harder. Former San Francisco Forty Niner Ronnie Lott is quoted as saying, "...if they took away half my padding, they would take away half my power." The better and sturdier the equipment, the harder the hits.

I coached high school football at a fairly high level. We were undefeated and the #1 team in California one year. Simple blocking and tackling drills resulted in plenty of head contact. We practiced or played six days a week. Many of these young men had played Pop Warner or Pee Wee football prior to entering high school. They had been banging their heads for years and as of today, the research suggests even simple head trauma adds up. If you knew playing football might lead to early onset of Alzheimers or other memory diseases, would you let your child play? The frightening thing is we don’t know enough, so how do you give informed consent? How do you evaluate the dangers to your child? What do you do if you are wrong?

In the last couple of weeks, the NFL owners approved a rule change moving the kickoff to the 35-yard line. It will insure more kickoffs into the end zone resulting in fewer kickoff returns. Kickoff returns produce some of the most violent collisions in the game. (Kickoff returns are also one of the most exciting plays in the game especially if returned for a touchdown) This is an attempt by the owners to reduce opportunities for concussions and other injuries. Last year the NFL handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for illegal hits to the head. All 32 teams will now use the same regulations to evaluate concussions and a player may not return to action without a doctor signing off on his health. All of this is closing the door after the horse is already gone. The proof of how the NFL owners really feel about the issue of player's health is seen in a proposal they have made to add two more games to the regular season. (a total of 18). They have also refused a demand by the players association for lifetime health insurance benefits for NFL players. Hockey faces some of the same questions and NHL owners have refused to adopt European rules which prohibit fighting and blows to the head out of fear Americans will stop going to the games if the threat of violence is not present.

It is no accident football players are referred to as warriors and gladiators. It is no accident a society as violent as America loves football. It is no accident the length of the average pro football career is 3 years and it's no accident fans have been screaming about how the game is being ruined by punishing players for illegal hits to the head. However, football as currently played, has to be banned for anyone under 21.

It is impossible to produce a helmet, which will truly protect the brain. It is impossible to play football without consistently butting heads with an opponent or with teammates in practice. How many times has the brain experienced trauma in a young man who started playing football when he was 9 or 10 years old? No one knows how many bumps a brain can take before damage is done. Dave Dureson was so scared of what the future entailed, and aware of what his past actions had involved, he killed himself rather then go through the ordeal of losing his mind, health or both. What parent could ever let their child face such a Hobson's Choice some day in the future?

My son played football for 2 years in high school. Knowing what I know now, I would not have let him participate despite his protestations. I can only hope the damage was minimal. The nightmare is not knowing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

THOUGHTS WHILE SHAVING (With all due respect to Herb Caen)...

-The Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives for almost 3 months. In that time, they have secured tax breaks for the richest of the rich, attempted to radically restrict a woman's right to choose, cut funding for food safety inspectors and Wall Street watch dogs, but so far they have not proposed one idea about how to create more jobs. Since they came into power campaigning against Obama and the Dems for their failure to cut the unemployment rate, how does the public let them get away with it?

-A while ago, I wrote the Progressive Insurance Company is going to ask customers to let it spy on them. Now I look at the latest issue of Newsweek and there it is. They call it "snapshot". Isn't that cute? Will you sign up?

-Charlie Sheen, Julian Assange, John Galiano, Mel Gibson...what is up with all the anti-semitic remarks by celebrities? I don't understand prejudice against Jews. I know its ancient roots, but how were any of these men harmed by the existence of the Jewish race?

-Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wanted public employee unions to contribute more to their health care premium, restructure their pension system and modify tenure. The unions said no. He then introduces legislation to wipe out all collective bargaining rights and the unions agree to his initial demands. Now, that is how you negotiate. Unfortunately, it turns out her really wants to bust the unions which will come back to haunt him, but can you imagine how the health care debate would have progressed if Obama's opening gambit had been to propose eliminating all health insurance companies and going to a single payer health care system?

-Speaking of negotiating...with all the turmoil in the Middle East, Israel is getting concerned about its ability to defend itself. It is going to ask the United States for up to $20 billion in military hardware. At the same time they ignore President Obama's calls to freeze construction in illegal settlements and East Jerusalem and his call to restart the peace process with the Palestinians. I know Obama isn't much of a negotiator but isn't he holding all the cards at the moment?

-Regressives in the House voted to gut funding for National Public Radio based on a tape of an NPR fundraiser allegedly saying the tea party is racist and xenophobic. I thought truth was always the ultimate defense in such cases. Oh, and why does the corporate media ignore the tape was selectively edited, as was a similar tape used to attack ACORN, from two hours to 11 minutes and is a complete set-up job intended to create false impressions? Is NPR that big of a threat to them?

-I just read an article on Howard Stern in Rolling Stone. Is it me, or did he stop popping up in conversations the moment he went to satellite radio? Have you heard a baba booey caller on any talk show in a long time? He's making a lot of money, but his cultural impact seems to be diminishing.

-The people running Lehman Brothers hid $50 billion in debt from regulators and investors. It was fraud on a level Bernie Madof could only dream of, and yet Madoff is in prison for the rest of his life but the SEC has announced no charges will be filed against anyone at Lehmans. They destroyed the company, wiped out life savings, cost the taxpayers billions and not one of them will go to jail. As Yakof Smirnoff used to say, "...what a country."

-Finally, an apology to James Howell of Cloverdale who frequently comments on this blog. He had written to me enlisting my help in bringing attention to the scandal of how PFC Bradley Manning is being treated. I did not do so soon enough and I'm sorry. This is the worst type of unconstitutional abuse of power by the government. Manning is accused of blowing the whistle on the State Department and leaking documents to Wikileaks. He has not been convicted. Yet, right now he is kept in solitary confinement and has been for the last 10 months. (Amnesty International says it is torture and a war crime to keep someone in solitary for more than 90 days.) He is stripped naked every night and has to sleep that way because the military says he could harm himself. (They offer no proof) His prison psychiatrist says he should be treated like any other prisoner and put in the general population. He is being tortured by our government. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley lost his job for committing truth when asked about Manning. Crowley said his treatment is "...ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid."

Despite running for office on the promise to end torture by the government, President Obama says Manning treatment is "...appropriate." I'm sorry James. You were right. This is a disgrace. Manning is being singled out and tortured because he had the audacity to bring some sunlight into the dark corners of how our government conducts diplomacy. There are petitions circulating calling for justice and an end to torture for Bradley Manning. I hope anyone who reads this will tell others about it and sign one of the petitions. I hope you will also lobby your member of Congress to end this disgrace. We are supposed to be a nation of laws, with the Constitution being our ultimate protection. We are not supposed to be a nation composed of a bunch of judicial vigilantes.


The first attack was by the French. Cruise missiles then followed from American warships in the Mediterranean soon to be followed by jets from Qatar and the Emirates all aimed at stopping Muammar Gaddafi's attacks on his own people. It should not be lost on anyone the attacks come on the ninth anniversary of the beginning of the war with Iraq. This time, however, is much different. The United Nations voted to establish a no-fly zone over Libya and approved any means necessary to protect civilian life. President Obama supported the resolution and was immediately criticized by critics for dawdling while Libya burned. These same critics gave no thought when they approved invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, but they have the testicular fortitude to attack the President for deliberating too long before coming to the aid of the Libyan people.

The President inherited two disastrous wars and has expanded one while winding the other down. Obama has not been a profile in courage on the Afghan war, escalating the US presence at a time when the Afghan government is rife with corruption, the Taliban is protected by Pakistan and he has no definition of what victory would look like. The Libyan crisis, along with the crises in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain are all his and he appears to want to actually deliberate before he acts. It's a trait his predecessor was incapable of grasping.

Obama's critics say he should have acted more than a week ago. If he had, he would have had to order American military strikes on missile defense systems ringing Tripoli and other cities...attacks on ground forces including tanks, APC's and ground troops, and Libyan civilians would have died along with some American military personnel. He would have opened America to more criticism in the Middle East and the Arab world, accusing America of being the enemy of Islam. Gaddafi would have used the situation to portray himself as another victim of the West's attempt to destroy Islamic countries. Instead, by waiting, Obama moves against Libya with UN support. He also moves with the support of the Arab League, which he did not have one week ago. It was only the last week, as Gaddafi's violence against his own people escalated, the Arab League and the UN were moved to condemn him. It is not an accident both China and Russia abstained rather than veto the resolution. Gaddafi's actions frightened or worried them enough to sit this one out. A week ago, their vetoes would have been automatic. Now, Obama is calling on Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to lead any establishment of a no-fly zone and their jets are expected to patrol along with French and British fighters. All of this is possible, including asking the Arab league to foot the bill, because of the UN resolution and because Obama waited.

Obama still faces some serious complications. He justifies his actions against Libya by claiming the purpose is to protect the right of citizens to peacefully protest and bring about democracy and regime change. In Bahrain and Yemen, two countries that are allies of ours, protesters site those same goals and yet the US does nothing when the governments of both countries use violence to quell protests and the US doesn’t protest the use of Saudi troops to put down protests against the government of Bahrain. The word hypocrisy will be flying fast and furious through the region.

When the Serbs were trying to ethically cleanse the citizens of Kosovo, to prevent them from declaring independence, I was opposed to the use of NATO forces to stop the slaughter. It wasn’t our fight. Then I was sent to report on the conflict and went to Macedonia and Kosovo and saw for myself the untold carnage which had been loosed on the people of Kosovo. I watched women and children and families torn apart and die right in front of me. I changed my mind. I welcomed the intervention of NATO to stop the killing. Soon after they intervened, the Serbian leader capitulated and stopped the attacks. I was wrong. These innocent people needed someone to protect them from a butcher. Gaddafi is also a butcher and his people need protection. He possesses weapons and an air force, which are game changing if not opposed by equal or greater force.

I am not Obama's biggest fan, but it is clear, waiting to get the UN and the Arab League on board...waiting to let events on the ground drive the debate...waiting to give Gaddafi enough rope to hang himself has paid off. If President Bush, or more importantly members of Congress, had waited for the inspectors to do their job and waited to give permission go to war, thousands of Americans would still be alive and hundreds of thousands wouldn’t be wounded, billions of dollars saved and we wouldn’t still be fighting two unnecessary wars. People like David Gergen, John McCain, John Kerry and others who were so wrong about Afghanistan and Iraq are wrong again now. We don’t know the end game yet, but in this case waiting is exactly what we should expect from the commander in chief and letting others take the lead is good politics. Nine years ago, it would have been good politics as well.


A coalmine explosion in West Virginia kills 20-30 miners. A drilling platform explodes in the Gulf of Mexico killing nine and befowling the environment. A nuclear plant explodes, melts down and an entire region may be off limits for the next 200 years. All of our choices about energy carry risks, including exacerbating global warming, but nuclear power is a choice where one mistake will result in devastation for generations to come. Some things are too big to endorse.

The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station is illustrating all the problems associated with nuclear power. It also shines a light on the reality many of these problems have not been adequately solved; and yet President Obama and even some environmental groups, are supporting the expansion of nuclear power plants in this country. At the top of the list is the question about the physical plant itself. Japanese officials admit the plant was designed to survive a quake ranging in size from 7.0-7.5 on the Richter scale. They site scientific findings which claim that range is the highest quake possible from the fault line near the plant. We now know, more recent scientific data was not factored in to any upgrades in the plant structure. (Data, which show a much larger quake, was possible.) We also now know they did not take into account the affect a large tsunami would have on the physical integrity of the plant. This from the nation who gave us the word to begin with. As radiation reaches the West Coast, a 200 mile evacuation zone is being created and the crisis enters its second week. Defenders of nuclear power ask you to pay no attention to the nuclear plant behind that curtain. They say "trust us", it couldn't happen here.

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear reactor sits almost on top of the San Andreas fault and the San Onofre reactor is within five miles of a major fault line. Spokespersons say San Onofre is built to withstand a 7.0 quake and Diablo Canyon up to a 7.5. This is not welcome news. You and I know the San Andreas Fault could easily produce an 8-9 sized quake as could the fault near San Onofre. As of this writing, no one from either plant has spoken about how the reactors are, or if they are, protected from a tsunami. A 9.0 quake off the Pacific Coast, an area scientists say is ripe for a big quake, could produce a huge tsunami reaction. What would happen to these plants then?

The physical integrity of the nuclear reactor is not the only concern. One of the biggest worries in Japan are the pools containing spent fuel rods and their ability to keep these rods cool and submerged. The Fukushima plant is ringed with such pools and plant workers have been unable to keep water in the pools from escaping and exposing the rods. The resulting radiation leaks and potential for fire and explosion are a clear and present danger. Why are these pools, containing hundreds of spent rods, ringing the nuclear plant? The answer is because there is no way to safely dispose of nuclear waste. Every nuclear plant in the world has similar pools. The dirty little secret of the nuclear power industry is this waste is a huge danger and no one knows what to do about it. There was an attempt to bury waste in the Nevada desert in deep salt caves. When they tested how secure the caves were, it was discovered they leaked and over time the radioactive waste would get into the underground aquifer and contaminate it throughout the state. There are even those now who propose shooting the waste into space to get rid of it. The defenders of nuclear power never talk about the waste and they know there is no place to put so it sits in pools and needs to be constantly cooled and covered in 30 ft of water to protect radioactivity from escaping.

P.G. & E. run Diablo Canyon. This is the same company, which claimed its natural gas pipelines were safe. It is the same company which has failed to produce safety records and test records of its thousands of miles of pipelines and its the same company which claimed it used seamless pipes under populated areas. We now know the pipe in San Bruno was not seamless and a faulty weld could have been the cause of the recent disaster which killed 8 people. Do you trust P.G. & E. when they claim Diablo Canyon is safe?

A coalmine disaster or oil platform explosions are both terrible events, which have huge costs in human lives and environmental damage. However, they don’t come close to the calamity, which would be caused by a nuclear accident. Until the problem of the structural integrity of nuclear plants is solved...until a solution is found for what to do with the spent fuel rods currently stored at these plants, the last thing we should do is build more of them and place time bombs all over this nation any one of which could do more harm to this nation than a dozen terrorist attacks similar in nature to the attacks of September 11th.

We control our own fate on this one. Don't we?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

NEVER FEAR! New posts comming soon!!!

We have heard from "Our Lion" and he says he has been a bit preoccupied with personal issues and just hasn't been focused much writing. However he asked for info on nuclear plants and is doing research as we speak and expects to have a new post ready any time now, so keep checking back. Thank you much for your support. 
                                         Yours Truly ED the IT guy! :)