My heroes have always been mathematicians (and rock stars)

By Kim Brennan | July 23, 2008

brennanPeople who make me think ...

Take Albert Einstein.
I've read that “he voraciously devoured what stood between him and originality – namely mediocrity.” When chastised by a university professor, Albert Einstein remarked: “Unthinking respect (adoration) for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” I like that one too.

Don't get me wrong: I don't have a problem with 'Authority' (the person), or even 'authority' (the thing) – no. What rankles me are the minions, the zombies who never ask a question; and don't want anyone else to ask questions either ... 'stick to what works', status quo. They spew the party line (or company line) like a protective shield and never consider that their doctor, boss, institution or trusted leader could be wrong, have an agenda, or are simply mired in the muck of 'that's how it's always been'. I imagine it's easier to be a zombie sometimes. You don't have to do anything, just go along – there's always someone else to blame when mistakes happen or things don't go right.

Take the 'Health' system: Drug companies and doctors who are creating more and more addicts everyday – more and more deaths due to overdose (that are not called overdose). These deaths are classified as 'accidental poisoning' – that way they don't show up on the same abuse/death statistics as heroin, meth, etc. Yet since 2005 more people have died from prescription pills than all other drugs combined. Go figure.

Then there's the 'Department of Corrections'. What exactly are they correcting? From what I've gathered, they have an 80 percent recidivism rate. That means 80 percent of everyone who goes into the system, ends up back in the system – at a huge cost to tax payers. I had an opportunity to witness some of the facilities/programs firsthand. At the county level, inmates are flat-out drugged: glassy-eyed, doughy in complexion, confused looking, numb. It's sick and one of the saddest things I've seen. Without the chance to 'detox' from all their various street drugs, Inmates are given a diagnoses and required to 'take their meds' – 'everyone needs their meds', I hate the phrase 'meds'. At a League of Cities and Towns Convention a few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet the Cabinet Head of this particular system. My question to her was “how many women who are arrested and taken to jail are under the influence of Crystal Meth?” Her response: “alcohol and drugs are a factor in many crimes.” I pushed on ... I wanted to know, “Is there a huge increase in crimes committed by women due to the Meth epidemic and what percentage of women who are incarcerated are under the influence of Meth when arrested?” She cited, again that “drugs and alcohol are a factor in many crimes” (company line). She refused to answer the question. I asked then, “don't you test them? (blood, urine, whatever) – so at least you know what you're dealing with medically?” She said “no” they don't do that. It is against the rights of the inmate. (?) Really? Broken system.

Now lets look at Energy – I'm talking about the stuff that powers our homes, etc. I got a call the other day from someone at the Alliance for Coal – or some such organization – calling to get my support for Coal. Interesting. “Why are you calling me?” I asked. “We are calling elected officials to ask if we can put their name on a list of people who support the use of coal-powered electricity.” How weird. “No, please don't add my name to the list.” Fast forward to last Monday’s council meeting where a representative from APS gave a presentation on 'Energy Choices: Resources for Arizona's Future'. (The representative said that APS had nothing to do with that phone call ... hmm). The presentation was to educate us on our choices, consider the costs involved, and to collect community input. The catch for most people is cost. True that per square foot APS can get a lot more kilowatts from Nuclear, Coal powered, or Natural Gas – than solar – but at what cost? Nuclear is good, clean energy – but the waste is radioactive. Natural Gas is expensive – costs are expected to rise. Coal is abundant but must be mined (dirty), tranported (dirty) and burned (dirty). Nobody wants any of these types of plants near their homes so you've also got permitting and transmission costs to consider.

Since they asked, I say, 'APS, give us leadership'. We'll pay more if we can also save more. Give us a dollar for dollar credit for power that we put back onto the grid. Help make efficiency more affordable. Tell your lobbyists to push government to really up the tax credits for solar and other emerging technologies instead of paying them to pimp coal. Ask these industries to invest in research and product development – Make it happen, show us how. We can insist on long-term solutions and a combination of answers that make sense for us – namely solar, wind, hydro mixed with the tried and true technologies. Yes, we understand that coal is a 'cheap and abundant national resource'. We have also heard that 'now coal is cleaner'. But let's be honest, burning coal is about as good for us in the long run as smoking cigarettes is good for weight-loss. I know that some don't care – as long as the lights go on when they flip the switch, they really don't care. Look down at the brown cloud of Phoenix, knowing it'll be growing and growing for the next several generations. I'm sure it's time to ask our energy producers to lead the way. Speak up, ask questions, insist on leadership.

Please feel free to contact me at or if you'd like, contact Angela Creedon from APS and let her know what you think – If nothing else, Arizona has sun and land in abundance, the footprint of solar power is light – I hope our state leads the way, and when we are asked what we want, I hope the people of Arizona speak up.