Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 31, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Bill of Rights Monument


  • Local comedian Chris Bliss joins HORIZON for a discussion about the initiative he’s leading to build Bill of Rights monuments around the country.
Guests:
  • Barry Wong - Arizona Corporation Commission
  • Chris Bliss - Local comedian and advocate for Billo of Rights monument
  • Dr. Curtis Page - Author of


View Transcript
José Cárdenas:
Tonight on Horizon, a change in the Arizona Corporation Commission -- as a former state legislator is sworn in. A man who juggles comedy with a political crusade, the talents of Chris Bliss. And a health and safety travel guide for tourists to Mexico.

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

José Cárdenas:
Good evening and thanks for joining us tonight on Horizon, I'm José Cárdenas filling in for Michael Grant. Barry Wong was sworn in today as the new Arizona Corporation Commissioner. The former state legislator fills the vacancy left by Marc Spitzer who was named to the federal energy regulatory commission. Barry Wong joins me now.

José Cárdenas:
Congratulations, Barry.

Barry Wong:
Thank you, José. Thanks for inviting me.

José Cárdenas:
Barry, let's go into a little more on your background. You were a state legislator. You've been involved in many issues. Tell us what you've been doing.

Barry Wong:
Yes, I served from the state House of Representatives from 1993 to 2000. Served four terms there. Worked on a myriad of issues from telecommunications to education appropriations, some international tourism, technology.

José Cárdenas:
How did you come to be appointed to fill Marc Spitzer's spot?

Barry Wong:
It just happened in the last few weeks, actually last couple months. I had talked to senator -- I say senator because we serve the same district in the North Central Phoenix while we were in the legislature but Commissioner Spitzer in our conversations last year informed me that President Bush was going to nominate him. And then when I heard that a couple of months ago, I read that in the paper and I thought, I've always thought about that position as a potential position that might be interesting to serve in. And I thought, you know, this is going to be a brief period but my combination of skills, experience and political skills and community service I think would be very helpful to the state and to the citizens of the state for this brief period of time.

José Cárdenas:
Now, while the replacement for Commissioner Spitzer had to be Republican because he was a Republican, this is actually a decision, an appointment of the Governor. Do you think your characterization or the view that most people have of you as a moderate Republican was a factor in her decision to select you?

Barry Wong:
I think the important part for the Governor is that she had to select a Republican to replace a Republican that she could work with, that she felt comfortable with.

José Cárdenas:
And you are not going to be running for reappointment to the commission, the Republican Party has already chosen their candidate, Gary Pearce.

Barry Wong:
That is correct. I will not be seeking the election to this position but I'll just be serving the remainder of the term until January of 2007.

José Cárdenas:
Now, let's talk a little bit about what you'll be doing beginning with -- just give us an overview of the commission itself. I think most people look at it and they think of rate hikes and that's about it. Tell us what it does.

Barry Wong:
Well, José it is called the Arizona Corporation Commission. And probably most people that do not have any working relationship with this commission would naturally think it's just regulates corporations in general, just by its name. But this is a fascinating organization. It's probably one of the most influential state agencies of all of them. It has touched people's lives from individuals to companies to non-profits. And I think that this is a position that is not to be taken lightly but it's a very important position.

José Cárdenas:
When you talk about touching people's lives I guess one thing people would not be aware of is the commission itself had a role in connection with the Baptist Foundation the debacle that recently ended in criminal indictments.

Barry Wong:
Yes, the Corporation Commission has several divisions including the securities division which addressed the issue of the Baptist Foundation. Their job is to make sure that state security laws are enforced. And they have power to investigate potential violations out there, and the Baptist case was just one of them. I think that public -- and worked with community groups to educate the public that they need to be cognizant of investments out there. Baptist is one example. They preyed on people that were within a Baptist organization called -- they call them affinity groups. And I think there is another group out there that is preying on people affiliated with the LDS church. And I'd like to get the word out that just because somebody is within your organization, does not necessarily mean that that is a legal security, that they have to put their radar up and ask questions.

José Cárdenas:
Now let's talk about the energy issues you'll be dealing with in the upcoming months. One of them is the whole issue of renewable sources of energy; one of your fellow commissioners has said that most important time perhaps in the history of the commission is going to be taken in the next few months. What can you tell us about that?

Barry Wong:
Yes. I believe you're referring to the renewable standards, renewable energy. And I know that that's a major issue important to not just the consumers, to environmental supporters but also obviously to the energy utility companies that have to comply with this. And I take no position on it at this time because I don't have the necessary information so I cannot make a judgment and cannot prejudge this issue. But I am committed to meet with our commission staff, to review and study the file and all the information that's pertinent and relevant to it so I can make an educated decision.

José Cárdenas:
As I understand what we're talking about is changing the percentage of - the required percentage of reliance on alternative energy sources, solar, wind, et cetera, from what is now 1.1\% in 2007 all the way up to 15\% by the year, what, 2025?

Barry Wong:
That's correct. My understanding is that the proposal is that the -- it would increase the mix, the percentage the utility -- electric utilities must produce electricity from other than natural gas or coal-fired, for example. It would have to be a mix of different sources of energy, specifically renewables. And that's the issue that I need to study up on and get all the necessary information before I can make an appropriate decision.

José Cárdenas:
You've got a rather steep learning curve facing you. What are you doing to get prepared to deal with these and the other major issues including the E.P.S. rate hike?

Barry Wong:
Yes. You're right. You mentioned the rate hike. That's just another one of the utilities division of the Corporation Commission. The electric utilities and other natural gas, some telecommunication, they have to work with us. And their requests for rate hikes. And I think that that's again having appropriate hearings and getting the necessary facts from the utilities about their cost structure and how much they need to get in terms of rates to recovery; that's part of the rate hike is recovery of costs.

José Cárdenas:
Barry Wong, new Commissioner of the Corporation Commission. Thank you for joining us.

Barry Wong:
José, thank you.

José Cárdenas:
A local man is trying to get monuments to the Bill of Rights built in all 50 state capitals. Recently Michael Grant spoke with Chris Bliss about all those efforts. But, first look what he's doing for a living that is helping his cause.

Chris Bliss:
My juggling is all over the internet. It's like the most downloaded video on myspace and google-- give it up for your headliner, Mr. Chris Bliss.

Beatles:
Boy, you're going to carry that weight, carry that weight a long time

Chris Bliss:
Yeah. I love the guys on the border with the pickup truck with the confederate flags trying to keep the Mexicans out. Got a problem with the Confederate flag -- they lost. You lose the war, you lose the flag. I played "Stratego." That's the rules. Having said that I will admit that it never bothered me in L.A. during the World Cup. You'd see Mexican Americans waving Mexican flags. But they used to kick our ass in soccer. I'll make you a deal, when the rednecks beat the Mexicans at soccer they can fly that flag. But you got to win something. Bigger than a NASCAR race. And my point about NASCAR is that when rednecks only compete with other rednecks, that -- that doesn't count. And for those of you who are either rednecks or NASCAR fancy just want to make it clear that I am only using rednecks and NASCAR as metaphors for a certain kind of ignorance that is widespread throughout the land. So if you're a NASCAR fan, feel good. 75 million NASCAR fans in America, now one of the fastest-growing sports. Yeah. You know what this means. The south is rising; the rest of the country is slowly sinking to its level. Like the statue of liberty overtop of the Bill of Rights. He would marry her all over again. Because the country's kind of gotten like a bad marriage lately. I was kind of thinking, how can we find some common ground for Americans so that we can just stop this -- just this poisoned well of political activity these days? I thought, well, the Bill of Rights. That's a great place to start with common ground. It really is our marriage vows as a nation. It's something I think both conservatives and liberals can agree on is individual liberty and the right of individual citizens and the supremacy of the individuals over the state. That's the idea that America was founded on that's unique among all nations everywhere. But we had a wonderful thing happening in Arizona which it turns out there's not a single monument to the Bill of Rights anywhere in the United States. We had a great thing happen in Arizona. We had -- and I believe she's here tonight -- we had possibly the most -- we joined hands to get this into the legislature. We had probably the most liberal member of the Arizona House of Representatives and one of the most conservative senators in the senate here, Kirsten Simmons and Karen Johnson came together on this. It's probably the only thing they agree on. They don't agree on anything politically but they agreed it would be a good thing for Americans to become more aware of the Bill of Rights and they co-sponsored this. It went through the House of Representatives 57-0. Every single American -- representative signed on to it. And, then if I were to tell you the honest truth, it's because some people didn't like the liberal Democrat because this is not a liberal Democratic state if you hadn't noticed. They didn't want her getting credit for it. And I'm going to give her credit for it right now because the first person who said I'll take this to the legislature and I'll sponsor it, not for state money. We're using private donations only. We're not using any taxpayer money for this. This is to place approval to place a monument to the Bill of Rights on the state capital grounds particularly since it would be the first in the nation and this really is a bill of rights state. People like their individual rights in the state of Arizona. So it should be a no-brainer and it was Kirsten Sinema from the House of Representatives. I think Kirsten is here and I think she deserves some applause. They want to take some of the credit away from her and I'll never let them take the credit away from her, Kirsten. Karen Johnson was the senator --

Michael Grant:
Here now to talk about his Bill of Rights monument effort is local comedian and famed juggler, Chris Bliss. A lot better than those guys I saw last night on that - America's Got Talent thing. I really did not watch it.

Chris Bliss:
You can't get enough of that Simon Cowell, can you?

Michael Grant:
Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Bliss:
It's a pleasure to be here.

Michael Grant:
Let me get this straight. Your prime backers in the Arizona legislature which we just talked to Senate President and House Speaker, Kirsten Cinema and Karen Johnson. I don't know that they've ever teamed before on a bill.

Chris Bliss:
I doubt if they have but they like each other and they respect each other. And the thing is that I actually got some criticism from both sides on the -- how can you work with that person? How can you work with this person? The thing I told everybody was, look. One thing Kirsten Sinema and Karen Johnson have in common, they don't hide their point of view. They're very outspoken about who they are and what they believe and they take it to the voters. You have no complaint. They represent their districts. They get elected and they're very out front with exactly what their points of view are and that's exactly what the system works. If you can win an election.
Michael Grant: What leads a nice guy like you, a nice, funny guy like you to, let's build 50 Bill of Rights monuments around the country?

Chris Bliss: Part of it is probably because I grew up in Washington, D.C., in the city that was my hometown, third generation Washingtonian. And I grew up around all those symbols. And the whole dream of America.

Michael Grant:
They left an impact on you.

Chris Bliss:
They really do. When you grow up in that city you're surrounded by it and it sort of gets into your blood and you get the beauty of the dream of America. And it's really a remarkable dream of individual freedom and maximum liberty and the citizens having primacy over the government and all that. You just sort of get that. The other thing is that like I think a majority of Americans right now, I'm worried about my country. I'm worried about how poisoned the political process has gotten. I'm worried about people more interested in acquiring power and winning arguments than in actually solving the problems that we all have in common. And I was looking for common ground that we could all agree on across the political spectrum. And the interesting to thing to me about the Bill of Rights that it isn't spoken of very often is that it's a document that was created by people who had easily as big of an ideological difficult as - divide as exists in the country today. But they sat down and respected one another's integrity and the value of one another's intellect and they had they had the decency to listen to one another and they hammered out this compromise. And over the course of 200-plus years it's served the people very well. So I think that is a pretty good example of how you serve the people well.

Michael Grant:
How are you going about the process? You're trying to raise funds for this nationwide, are you not?

Chris Bliss:
It's a very complex process. First you have to get approval in the various legislatures. In most states you're required to get legislative approval for any placement on public land. There's different processes in every state. I also had to go out and find the artists to create monuments that would be worthy of the Bill of Rights and we managed to find a couple of sculptors in Austin, Texas, with 12 years of study with English master stone masons. This kind of -- these people just don't exist anymore. There aren't people that have this kind of grounding anymore. Because I really wanted to create a work of art that was worthy of this seminal document of America -- of our entire system.

Michael Grant:
Why not just do the Cecil B. Demill's thing with the Ten Commandments?

Chris Bliss:
I didn't want it to be a plaque and people walk by, oh, there's the Bill of Rights and the letters are two inches high and you walk by and there's no meaning to. I wanted it to be something that engaged and inspired and brought people. I mean, it's not a symbol. It's 492 words. They have meaning. They have impact. And it is, again, one of the most concise founding document, I think, that says what the country is about. And the first of its kind in history. It's a fault line between the divine right of kings and the inalienable right of the individual. It's the first human rights document in history. When you say people can't be forced to testify against themselves you're outlawing torture. That's a major step. All of these things were revolutionary at the time. They're still revolutionary in the world. I think it's not just America's gift to themselves but America's gift to the world. I wanted it to be something where people at this monument could actually absorb the words and principles and beauty of these concepts. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to do major installations. Works of arts to celebrate works of genius. That's what I would say.

Michael Grant:
I would think for a comic the first amendment would be favored. But I've been told that's not necessarily your favorite amendment. You like all ten of them.

Chris Bliss:
For me it's a package deal. That's the beauty of the Bill. You can't play favorites. To me it's the great top ten list. And I think it is the whole package in the way it all plays out together. And actually, you know, if you want to compare it to the Ten Commandments, I was telling people, you know, let's not argue about taking down anything. That's divisive. Let's put up the Bill of Rights and let people comparison shop. I used to do material on this. Hey, the bill of rights. Look at the deal, you guys. Tells you to speak freely. Carry a weapon. You're presumed innocent and told to pursue happiness. I can't find a religion that gives me that.

Michael Grant:
Chris Bliss, a lot of fun. Some funny stuff and some serious stuff and I wish you luck in the effort.

Chris Bliss:
We're going to be the first in Arizona to do this. I'm very proud my adopted state will have that honor.

José Cárdenas:
Two books written by Tempe doctors encourage tourism to Mexico by offering a directory to doctors and hospitals in that country. "Mexico Health and Safety Travel Guide" and "Yucatan Travelers Safety Guide" are designed to ease travelers' worries when traveling into that country. Joining me now is one of the authors of the book, Dr. Curtis Page.

José Cárdenas:
Doctor Page, welcome to "Horizon."

Dr. Curtis Page:
Thank you for having me.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk about how these books came to be.

Dr. Curtis Page:
The idea germinated in my father's mind. He's one of the co-authors, Doctor Robert Page. Germinated about 15 to 20 years. He actually trained in Guadalajara, University of Guadalajara and he had a lot of contacts with excellent doctors in Mexico. He knew the quality of care was tremendous. He often saw patients that were afraid to go to Mexico because they were afraid of their healthcare. He saw parents who were worried about taking their kids because, well what if there was an accident. He knew there were excellent facilities and excellent doctors. He said, what do we have to do to lower the level of fear? What can we do as physicians in Arizona to encourage travel, to encourage an older, retired person to maybe retire in Mexico where they can have a great life and just taking away this barrier by providing information was the original goal.

José Cárdenas:
And as I understand it this truly is a family affair because you have a brother involved also. Tell us about his role in putting this together.

Dr. Curtis Page:
He's a business major. He went to Georgetown School of Foreign Services, same place Bill Clinton went. His interest is international politics. He works for the government of Argentina. He's fluent in Spanish. He's a great PR person so he put a lot of it together. He would go down to the cities that we were interested in where a lot of --where there was a lot of tourism in that area. He would interview town folks, ex-pats who were living there and hospital administrators. And he put the list of what he thought were the best doctors and hospitals based on local recommendation. After he scouted it all out in the interviews, the doctors would actually fly down and do all the interviews personally and tour the hospitals personally.

José Cárdenas:
So every single doctor who is listed in this book has been interviewed by you and your father?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Correct.

José Cárdenas:
And they're all fluent English speakers?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Well, we rate them from 1 to 5 - 5 being perfectly fluent to being not at all. And a few of the outlying cities or smaller little pueblos maybe they'll have a doctor that has a 2 . He's the best available and can communicate. Most of the doctors we rate are either 3, 4 or 5.

José Cárdenas:
What's the geographical scope of the book?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Well, first of all we triaged it. We broke it up into 7 distinct regions based on the ability or the availability of a top level hospital in each region. We would triage people. If they were in an outlying region and got sick or injured, fine, but now you need to be shuttled into this hospital system where you can get excellent care. That's one way we broke it up geographically. The other one was we broke it up into tourist destinations and ex-pat destinations. Where retirees want to go to retire and where do all the tourists want to go? We're talking tourism Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and stuff like that. If they were ex-pats then maybe they'd want to go to colonial towns that are rich in heritage.

José Cárdenas:
Attraction for American ex-pats.

Dr. Curtis Page:
Exactly. So it serves both populations.

José Cárdenas:
Now, are there locations in the state of Sonora which is where a lot of Arizonans go, Rocky Point, Ermocillo?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Sure, we have Rocky Point, Ermocillo. We have Nogales, Mexi-Cali. So, we have those as some of the major places.

José Cárdenas:
Overall how would you rate the quality of medical care in Mexico?

Dr. Curtis Page:
I always tell everybody it's feast or famine. You're going to get some of the most amazing hospitals in the world that have the most advanced technologies with doctors that have been trained in some of the best institutions in Europe and the United States. And then you have a small shack or a small clinic where the EKG is 30-years old, where the doctor has no more training than four years of medical school, where you rely on the doctor's experience. So it's really -- it sort of parallels the population. There's a huge, very wealthy segment of the population that comprises two or three percent of Mexico. These are the people that are funding the private hospitals that have excellent care. There's a small middle class where there's some pretty good secondary hospitals and then there's a large, impoverished class where there are social security hospitals and hospitals that I personally wouldn't recommend for anybody.

José Cárdenas:
I take it the point of the book is that you can get good quality medical care in Mexico at prices significantly lower than in the United States?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Exactly.

José Cárdenas:
And this has led to -- I understand you have yet another business that you're developing, medical tourism. We've got about 45 seconds.

Dr. Curtis Page:
Sure. We're actually -- this is in response to people that were writing in. We have a full-service website at medigo.com. It has information about our books and information about doctors. People writing in left and right. Where can I go get gastric bypass surgery, where can I get knee replacement, where can I go get fertility care? So we started sending them out to all these different places where there were excellent facilities and you can get for instance a gastric bypass surgery for $36,000, here in Tempe for $12,000- - two hours away by a doctor that trained at the University of Arizona.

José Cárdenas:
One last thing before we end. The book is available for how much and where?

Dr. Curtis Page:
This book, here, this edition is $19.95. Our next edition which comes out in 2006, in October will be $24.95.

José Cárdenas:
Dr. Page thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

Dr. Curtis Page:
Thank you.

Announcer:
Errors on prescription drugs in the United States are outlined in a recent report by the Institute of Medicine. How frequent do medication errors occur and what are the recommendations for preventing them? We talk about that and other concerns over prescription medication safety. Tuesday at 7:00 on "Horizon."

José Cárdenas:
And on Wednesday, athletes from more than a dozen nations will compete in the annual Jewish Olympics here in the Valley. Thursday, a look back at the former University of Arizona President, Pete Likins. Friday don't forget to join us for the journalists' roundtable. That's it for tonight. Michael Grant will be back tomorrow. Thanks for joining us.

Announcer:
If you have comments about "Horizon," please contact us at the addresses listed on your screen. Your name and comments may be used on a future edition of "Horizon." "Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Health and safety travel guide for touri


  • Two books written by Tempe doctors encourage tourism to Mexico by offering a directory to doctors and hospitals in that country. "Mexico Health and Safety Travel Guide” and “Yucatan Travelers Safety Guide" are designed to ease travelers’ worries when traveling into that country.
Guests:
  • Barry Wong - Arizona Corporation Commission
  • Chris Bliss - Local comedian and advocate for Billo of Rights monument
  • Dr. Curtis Page - Author of


View Transcript
José Cárdenas:
Tonight on Horizon, a change in the Arizona Corporation Commission -- as a former state legislator is sworn in. A man who juggles comedy with a political crusade, the talents of Chris Bliss. And a health and safety travel guide for tourists to Mexico.

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

José Cárdenas:
Good evening and thanks for joining us tonight on Horizon, I'm José Cárdenas filling in for Michael Grant. Barry Wong was sworn in today as the new Arizona Corporation Commissioner. The former state legislator fills the vacancy left by Marc Spitzer who was named to the federal energy regulatory commission. Barry Wong joins me now.

José Cárdenas:
Congratulations, Barry.

Barry Wong:
Thank you, José. Thanks for inviting me.

José Cárdenas:
Barry, let's go into a little more on your background. You were a state legislator. You've been involved in many issues. Tell us what you've been doing.

Barry Wong:
Yes, I served from the state House of Representatives from 1993 to 2000. Served four terms there. Worked on a myriad of issues from telecommunications to education appropriations, some international tourism, technology.

José Cárdenas:
How did you come to be appointed to fill Marc Spitzer's spot?

Barry Wong:
It just happened in the last few weeks, actually last couple months. I had talked to senator -- I say senator because we serve the same district in the North Central Phoenix while we were in the legislature but Commissioner Spitzer in our conversations last year informed me that President Bush was going to nominate him. And then when I heard that a couple of months ago, I read that in the paper and I thought, I've always thought about that position as a potential position that might be interesting to serve in. And I thought, you know, this is going to be a brief period but my combination of skills, experience and political skills and community service I think would be very helpful to the state and to the citizens of the state for this brief period of time.

José Cárdenas:
Now, while the replacement for Commissioner Spitzer had to be Republican because he was a Republican, this is actually a decision, an appointment of the Governor. Do you think your characterization or the view that most people have of you as a moderate Republican was a factor in her decision to select you?

Barry Wong:
I think the important part for the Governor is that she had to select a Republican to replace a Republican that she could work with, that she felt comfortable with.

José Cárdenas:
And you are not going to be running for reappointment to the commission, the Republican Party has already chosen their candidate, Gary Pearce.

Barry Wong:
That is correct. I will not be seeking the election to this position but I'll just be serving the remainder of the term until January of 2007.

José Cárdenas:
Now, let's talk a little bit about what you'll be doing beginning with -- just give us an overview of the commission itself. I think most people look at it and they think of rate hikes and that's about it. Tell us what it does.

Barry Wong:
Well, José it is called the Arizona Corporation Commission. And probably most people that do not have any working relationship with this commission would naturally think it's just regulates corporations in general, just by its name. But this is a fascinating organization. It's probably one of the most influential state agencies of all of them. It has touched people's lives from individuals to companies to non-profits. And I think that this is a position that is not to be taken lightly but it's a very important position.

José Cárdenas:
When you talk about touching people's lives I guess one thing people would not be aware of is the commission itself had a role in connection with the Baptist Foundation the debacle that recently ended in criminal indictments.

Barry Wong:
Yes, the Corporation Commission has several divisions including the securities division which addressed the issue of the Baptist Foundation. Their job is to make sure that state security laws are enforced. And they have power to investigate potential violations out there, and the Baptist case was just one of them. I think that public -- and worked with community groups to educate the public that they need to be cognizant of investments out there. Baptist is one example. They preyed on people that were within a Baptist organization called -- they call them affinity groups. And I think there is another group out there that is preying on people affiliated with the LDS church. And I'd like to get the word out that just because somebody is within your organization, does not necessarily mean that that is a legal security, that they have to put their radar up and ask questions.

José Cárdenas:
Now let's talk about the energy issues you'll be dealing with in the upcoming months. One of them is the whole issue of renewable sources of energy; one of your fellow commissioners has said that most important time perhaps in the history of the commission is going to be taken in the next few months. What can you tell us about that?

Barry Wong:
Yes. I believe you're referring to the renewable standards, renewable energy. And I know that that's a major issue important to not just the consumers, to environmental supporters but also obviously to the energy utility companies that have to comply with this. And I take no position on it at this time because I don't have the necessary information so I cannot make a judgment and cannot prejudge this issue. But I am committed to meet with our commission staff, to review and study the file and all the information that's pertinent and relevant to it so I can make an educated decision.

José Cárdenas:
As I understand what we're talking about is changing the percentage of - the required percentage of reliance on alternative energy sources, solar, wind, et cetera, from what is now 1.1\% in 2007 all the way up to 15\% by the year, what, 2025?

Barry Wong:
That's correct. My understanding is that the proposal is that the -- it would increase the mix, the percentage the utility -- electric utilities must produce electricity from other than natural gas or coal-fired, for example. It would have to be a mix of different sources of energy, specifically renewables. And that's the issue that I need to study up on and get all the necessary information before I can make an appropriate decision.

José Cárdenas:
You've got a rather steep learning curve facing you. What are you doing to get prepared to deal with these and the other major issues including the E.P.S. rate hike?

Barry Wong:
Yes. You're right. You mentioned the rate hike. That's just another one of the utilities division of the Corporation Commission. The electric utilities and other natural gas, some telecommunication, they have to work with us. And their requests for rate hikes. And I think that that's again having appropriate hearings and getting the necessary facts from the utilities about their cost structure and how much they need to get in terms of rates to recovery; that's part of the rate hike is recovery of costs.

José Cárdenas:
Barry Wong, new Commissioner of the Corporation Commission. Thank you for joining us.

Barry Wong:
José, thank you.

José Cárdenas:
A local man is trying to get monuments to the Bill of Rights built in all 50 state capitals. Recently Michael Grant spoke with Chris Bliss about all those efforts. But, first look what he's doing for a living that is helping his cause.

Chris Bliss:
My juggling is all over the internet. It's like the most downloaded video on myspace and google-- give it up for your headliner, Mr. Chris Bliss.

Beatles:
Boy, you're going to carry that weight, carry that weight a long time

Chris Bliss:
Yeah. I love the guys on the border with the pickup truck with the confederate flags trying to keep the Mexicans out. Got a problem with the Confederate flag -- they lost. You lose the war, you lose the flag. I played "Stratego." That's the rules. Having said that I will admit that it never bothered me in L.A. during the World Cup. You'd see Mexican Americans waving Mexican flags. But they used to kick our ass in soccer. I'll make you a deal, when the rednecks beat the Mexicans at soccer they can fly that flag. But you got to win something. Bigger than a NASCAR race. And my point about NASCAR is that when rednecks only compete with other rednecks, that -- that doesn't count. And for those of you who are either rednecks or NASCAR fancy just want to make it clear that I am only using rednecks and NASCAR as metaphors for a certain kind of ignorance that is widespread throughout the land. So if you're a NASCAR fan, feel good. 75 million NASCAR fans in America, now one of the fastest-growing sports. Yeah. You know what this means. The south is rising; the rest of the country is slowly sinking to its level. Like the statue of liberty overtop of the Bill of Rights. He would marry her all over again. Because the country's kind of gotten like a bad marriage lately. I was kind of thinking, how can we find some common ground for Americans so that we can just stop this -- just this poisoned well of political activity these days? I thought, well, the Bill of Rights. That's a great place to start with common ground. It really is our marriage vows as a nation. It's something I think both conservatives and liberals can agree on is individual liberty and the right of individual citizens and the supremacy of the individuals over the state. That's the idea that America was founded on that's unique among all nations everywhere. But we had a wonderful thing happening in Arizona which it turns out there's not a single monument to the Bill of Rights anywhere in the United States. We had a great thing happen in Arizona. We had -- and I believe she's here tonight -- we had possibly the most -- we joined hands to get this into the legislature. We had probably the most liberal member of the Arizona House of Representatives and one of the most conservative senators in the senate here, Kirsten Simmons and Karen Johnson came together on this. It's probably the only thing they agree on. They don't agree on anything politically but they agreed it would be a good thing for Americans to become more aware of the Bill of Rights and they co-sponsored this. It went through the House of Representatives 57-0. Every single American -- representative signed on to it. And, then if I were to tell you the honest truth, it's because some people didn't like the liberal Democrat because this is not a liberal Democratic state if you hadn't noticed. They didn't want her getting credit for it. And I'm going to give her credit for it right now because the first person who said I'll take this to the legislature and I'll sponsor it, not for state money. We're using private donations only. We're not using any taxpayer money for this. This is to place approval to place a monument to the Bill of Rights on the state capital grounds particularly since it would be the first in the nation and this really is a bill of rights state. People like their individual rights in the state of Arizona. So it should be a no-brainer and it was Kirsten Sinema from the House of Representatives. I think Kirsten is here and I think she deserves some applause. They want to take some of the credit away from her and I'll never let them take the credit away from her, Kirsten. Karen Johnson was the senator --

Michael Grant:
Here now to talk about his Bill of Rights monument effort is local comedian and famed juggler, Chris Bliss. A lot better than those guys I saw last night on that - America's Got Talent thing. I really did not watch it.

Chris Bliss:
You can't get enough of that Simon Cowell, can you?

Michael Grant:
Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Bliss:
It's a pleasure to be here.

Michael Grant:
Let me get this straight. Your prime backers in the Arizona legislature which we just talked to Senate President and House Speaker, Kirsten Cinema and Karen Johnson. I don't know that they've ever teamed before on a bill.

Chris Bliss:
I doubt if they have but they like each other and they respect each other. And the thing is that I actually got some criticism from both sides on the -- how can you work with that person? How can you work with this person? The thing I told everybody was, look. One thing Kirsten Sinema and Karen Johnson have in common, they don't hide their point of view. They're very outspoken about who they are and what they believe and they take it to the voters. You have no complaint. They represent their districts. They get elected and they're very out front with exactly what their points of view are and that's exactly what the system works. If you can win an election.
Michael Grant: What leads a nice guy like you, a nice, funny guy like you to, let's build 50 Bill of Rights monuments around the country?

Chris Bliss: Part of it is probably because I grew up in Washington, D.C., in the city that was my hometown, third generation Washingtonian. And I grew up around all those symbols. And the whole dream of America.

Michael Grant:
They left an impact on you.

Chris Bliss:
They really do. When you grow up in that city you're surrounded by it and it sort of gets into your blood and you get the beauty of the dream of America. And it's really a remarkable dream of individual freedom and maximum liberty and the citizens having primacy over the government and all that. You just sort of get that. The other thing is that like I think a majority of Americans right now, I'm worried about my country. I'm worried about how poisoned the political process has gotten. I'm worried about people more interested in acquiring power and winning arguments than in actually solving the problems that we all have in common. And I was looking for common ground that we could all agree on across the political spectrum. And the interesting to thing to me about the Bill of Rights that it isn't spoken of very often is that it's a document that was created by people who had easily as big of an ideological difficult as - divide as exists in the country today. But they sat down and respected one another's integrity and the value of one another's intellect and they had they had the decency to listen to one another and they hammered out this compromise. And over the course of 200-plus years it's served the people very well. So I think that is a pretty good example of how you serve the people well.

Michael Grant:
How are you going about the process? You're trying to raise funds for this nationwide, are you not?

Chris Bliss:
It's a very complex process. First you have to get approval in the various legislatures. In most states you're required to get legislative approval for any placement on public land. There's different processes in every state. I also had to go out and find the artists to create monuments that would be worthy of the Bill of Rights and we managed to find a couple of sculptors in Austin, Texas, with 12 years of study with English master stone masons. This kind of -- these people just don't exist anymore. There aren't people that have this kind of grounding anymore. Because I really wanted to create a work of art that was worthy of this seminal document of America -- of our entire system.

Michael Grant:
Why not just do the Cecil B. Demill's thing with the Ten Commandments?

Chris Bliss:
I didn't want it to be a plaque and people walk by, oh, there's the Bill of Rights and the letters are two inches high and you walk by and there's no meaning to. I wanted it to be something that engaged and inspired and brought people. I mean, it's not a symbol. It's 492 words. They have meaning. They have impact. And it is, again, one of the most concise founding document, I think, that says what the country is about. And the first of its kind in history. It's a fault line between the divine right of kings and the inalienable right of the individual. It's the first human rights document in history. When you say people can't be forced to testify against themselves you're outlawing torture. That's a major step. All of these things were revolutionary at the time. They're still revolutionary in the world. I think it's not just America's gift to themselves but America's gift to the world. I wanted it to be something where people at this monument could actually absorb the words and principles and beauty of these concepts. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to do major installations. Works of arts to celebrate works of genius. That's what I would say.

Michael Grant:
I would think for a comic the first amendment would be favored. But I've been told that's not necessarily your favorite amendment. You like all ten of them.

Chris Bliss:
For me it's a package deal. That's the beauty of the Bill. You can't play favorites. To me it's the great top ten list. And I think it is the whole package in the way it all plays out together. And actually, you know, if you want to compare it to the Ten Commandments, I was telling people, you know, let's not argue about taking down anything. That's divisive. Let's put up the Bill of Rights and let people comparison shop. I used to do material on this. Hey, the bill of rights. Look at the deal, you guys. Tells you to speak freely. Carry a weapon. You're presumed innocent and told to pursue happiness. I can't find a religion that gives me that.

Michael Grant:
Chris Bliss, a lot of fun. Some funny stuff and some serious stuff and I wish you luck in the effort.

Chris Bliss:
We're going to be the first in Arizona to do this. I'm very proud my adopted state will have that honor.

José Cárdenas:
Two books written by Tempe doctors encourage tourism to Mexico by offering a directory to doctors and hospitals in that country. "Mexico Health and Safety Travel Guide" and "Yucatan Travelers Safety Guide" are designed to ease travelers' worries when traveling into that country. Joining me now is one of the authors of the book, Dr. Curtis Page.

José Cárdenas:
Doctor Page, welcome to "Horizon."

Dr. Curtis Page:
Thank you for having me.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk about how these books came to be.

Dr. Curtis Page:
The idea germinated in my father's mind. He's one of the co-authors, Doctor Robert Page. Germinated about 15 to 20 years. He actually trained in Guadalajara, University of Guadalajara and he had a lot of contacts with excellent doctors in Mexico. He knew the quality of care was tremendous. He often saw patients that were afraid to go to Mexico because they were afraid of their healthcare. He saw parents who were worried about taking their kids because, well what if there was an accident. He knew there were excellent facilities and excellent doctors. He said, what do we have to do to lower the level of fear? What can we do as physicians in Arizona to encourage travel, to encourage an older, retired person to maybe retire in Mexico where they can have a great life and just taking away this barrier by providing information was the original goal.

José Cárdenas:
And as I understand it this truly is a family affair because you have a brother involved also. Tell us about his role in putting this together.

Dr. Curtis Page:
He's a business major. He went to Georgetown School of Foreign Services, same place Bill Clinton went. His interest is international politics. He works for the government of Argentina. He's fluent in Spanish. He's a great PR person so he put a lot of it together. He would go down to the cities that we were interested in where a lot of --where there was a lot of tourism in that area. He would interview town folks, ex-pats who were living there and hospital administrators. And he put the list of what he thought were the best doctors and hospitals based on local recommendation. After he scouted it all out in the interviews, the doctors would actually fly down and do all the interviews personally and tour the hospitals personally.

José Cárdenas:
So every single doctor who is listed in this book has been interviewed by you and your father?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Correct.

José Cárdenas:
And they're all fluent English speakers?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Well, we rate them from 1 to 5 - 5 being perfectly fluent to being not at all. And a few of the outlying cities or smaller little pueblos maybe they'll have a doctor that has a 2 . He's the best available and can communicate. Most of the doctors we rate are either 3, 4 or 5.

José Cárdenas:
What's the geographical scope of the book?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Well, first of all we triaged it. We broke it up into 7 distinct regions based on the ability or the availability of a top level hospital in each region. We would triage people. If they were in an outlying region and got sick or injured, fine, but now you need to be shuttled into this hospital system where you can get excellent care. That's one way we broke it up geographically. The other one was we broke it up into tourist destinations and ex-pat destinations. Where retirees want to go to retire and where do all the tourists want to go? We're talking tourism Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and stuff like that. If they were ex-pats then maybe they'd want to go to colonial towns that are rich in heritage.

José Cárdenas:
Attraction for American ex-pats.

Dr. Curtis Page:
Exactly. So it serves both populations.

José Cárdenas:
Now, are there locations in the state of Sonora which is where a lot of Arizonans go, Rocky Point, Ermocillo?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Sure, we have Rocky Point, Ermocillo. We have Nogales, Mexi-Cali. So, we have those as some of the major places.

José Cárdenas:
Overall how would you rate the quality of medical care in Mexico?

Dr. Curtis Page:
I always tell everybody it's feast or famine. You're going to get some of the most amazing hospitals in the world that have the most advanced technologies with doctors that have been trained in some of the best institutions in Europe and the United States. And then you have a small shack or a small clinic where the EKG is 30-years old, where the doctor has no more training than four years of medical school, where you rely on the doctor's experience. So it's really -- it sort of parallels the population. There's a huge, very wealthy segment of the population that comprises two or three percent of Mexico. These are the people that are funding the private hospitals that have excellent care. There's a small middle class where there's some pretty good secondary hospitals and then there's a large, impoverished class where there are social security hospitals and hospitals that I personally wouldn't recommend for anybody.

José Cárdenas:
I take it the point of the book is that you can get good quality medical care in Mexico at prices significantly lower than in the United States?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Exactly.

José Cárdenas:
And this has led to -- I understand you have yet another business that you're developing, medical tourism. We've got about 45 seconds.

Dr. Curtis Page:
Sure. We're actually -- this is in response to people that were writing in. We have a full-service website at medigo.com. It has information about our books and information about doctors. People writing in left and right. Where can I go get gastric bypass surgery, where can I get knee replacement, where can I go get fertility care? So we started sending them out to all these different places where there were excellent facilities and you can get for instance a gastric bypass surgery for $36,000, here in Tempe for $12,000- - two hours away by a doctor that trained at the University of Arizona.

José Cárdenas:
One last thing before we end. The book is available for how much and where?

Dr. Curtis Page:
This book, here, this edition is $19.95. Our next edition which comes out in 2006, in October will be $24.95.

José Cárdenas:
Dr. Page thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

Dr. Curtis Page:
Thank you.

Announcer:
Errors on prescription drugs in the United States are outlined in a recent report by the Institute of Medicine. How frequent do medication errors occur and what are the recommendations for preventing them? We talk about that and other concerns over prescription medication safety. Tuesday at 7:00 on "Horizon."

José Cárdenas:
And on Wednesday, athletes from more than a dozen nations will compete in the annual Jewish Olympics here in the Valley. Thursday, a look back at the former University of Arizona President, Pete Likins. Friday don't forget to join us for the journalists' roundtable. That's it for tonight. Michael Grant will be back tomorrow. Thanks for joining us.

Announcer:
If you have comments about "Horizon," please contact us at the addresses listed on your screen. Your name and comments may be used on a future edition of "Horizon." "Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

New Arizona Corporation Commissioner


  • Barry Wong was sworn in today as the new Arizona Corporation Commissioner. The former state legislator fills the vacancy left by Marc Spitzer who was named to the federal energy regulatory commission.
Guests:
  • Barry Wong - Arizona Corporation Commission
  • Chris Bliss - Local comedian and advocate for Billo of Rights monument
  • Dr. Curtis Page - Author of


View Transcript
José Cárdenas:
Tonight on Horizon, a change in the Arizona Corporation Commission -- as a former state legislator is sworn in. A man who juggles comedy with a political crusade, the talents of Chris Bliss. And a health and safety travel guide for tourists to Mexico.

Announcer:
"Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

José Cárdenas:
Good evening and thanks for joining us tonight on Horizon, I'm José Cárdenas filling in for Michael Grant. Barry Wong was sworn in today as the new Arizona Corporation Commissioner. The former state legislator fills the vacancy left by Marc Spitzer who was named to the federal energy regulatory commission. Barry Wong joins me now.

José Cárdenas:
Congratulations, Barry.

Barry Wong:
Thank you, José. Thanks for inviting me.

José Cárdenas:
Barry, let's go into a little more on your background. You were a state legislator. You've been involved in many issues. Tell us what you've been doing.

Barry Wong:
Yes, I served from the state House of Representatives from 1993 to 2000. Served four terms there. Worked on a myriad of issues from telecommunications to education appropriations, some international tourism, technology.

José Cárdenas:
How did you come to be appointed to fill Marc Spitzer's spot?

Barry Wong:
It just happened in the last few weeks, actually last couple months. I had talked to senator -- I say senator because we serve the same district in the North Central Phoenix while we were in the legislature but Commissioner Spitzer in our conversations last year informed me that President Bush was going to nominate him. And then when I heard that a couple of months ago, I read that in the paper and I thought, I've always thought about that position as a potential position that might be interesting to serve in. And I thought, you know, this is going to be a brief period but my combination of skills, experience and political skills and community service I think would be very helpful to the state and to the citizens of the state for this brief period of time.

José Cárdenas:
Now, while the replacement for Commissioner Spitzer had to be Republican because he was a Republican, this is actually a decision, an appointment of the Governor. Do you think your characterization or the view that most people have of you as a moderate Republican was a factor in her decision to select you?

Barry Wong:
I think the important part for the Governor is that she had to select a Republican to replace a Republican that she could work with, that she felt comfortable with.

José Cárdenas:
And you are not going to be running for reappointment to the commission, the Republican Party has already chosen their candidate, Gary Pearce.

Barry Wong:
That is correct. I will not be seeking the election to this position but I'll just be serving the remainder of the term until January of 2007.

José Cárdenas:
Now, let's talk a little bit about what you'll be doing beginning with -- just give us an overview of the commission itself. I think most people look at it and they think of rate hikes and that's about it. Tell us what it does.

Barry Wong:
Well, José it is called the Arizona Corporation Commission. And probably most people that do not have any working relationship with this commission would naturally think it's just regulates corporations in general, just by its name. But this is a fascinating organization. It's probably one of the most influential state agencies of all of them. It has touched people's lives from individuals to companies to non-profits. And I think that this is a position that is not to be taken lightly but it's a very important position.

José Cárdenas:
When you talk about touching people's lives I guess one thing people would not be aware of is the commission itself had a role in connection with the Baptist Foundation the debacle that recently ended in criminal indictments.

Barry Wong:
Yes, the Corporation Commission has several divisions including the securities division which addressed the issue of the Baptist Foundation. Their job is to make sure that state security laws are enforced. And they have power to investigate potential violations out there, and the Baptist case was just one of them. I think that public -- and worked with community groups to educate the public that they need to be cognizant of investments out there. Baptist is one example. They preyed on people that were within a Baptist organization called -- they call them affinity groups. And I think there is another group out there that is preying on people affiliated with the LDS church. And I'd like to get the word out that just because somebody is within your organization, does not necessarily mean that that is a legal security, that they have to put their radar up and ask questions.

José Cárdenas:
Now let's talk about the energy issues you'll be dealing with in the upcoming months. One of them is the whole issue of renewable sources of energy; one of your fellow commissioners has said that most important time perhaps in the history of the commission is going to be taken in the next few months. What can you tell us about that?

Barry Wong:
Yes. I believe you're referring to the renewable standards, renewable energy. And I know that that's a major issue important to not just the consumers, to environmental supporters but also obviously to the energy utility companies that have to comply with this. And I take no position on it at this time because I don't have the necessary information so I cannot make a judgment and cannot prejudge this issue. But I am committed to meet with our commission staff, to review and study the file and all the information that's pertinent and relevant to it so I can make an educated decision.

José Cárdenas:
As I understand what we're talking about is changing the percentage of - the required percentage of reliance on alternative energy sources, solar, wind, et cetera, from what is now 1.1\% in 2007 all the way up to 15\% by the year, what, 2025?

Barry Wong:
That's correct. My understanding is that the proposal is that the -- it would increase the mix, the percentage the utility -- electric utilities must produce electricity from other than natural gas or coal-fired, for example. It would have to be a mix of different sources of energy, specifically renewables. And that's the issue that I need to study up on and get all the necessary information before I can make an appropriate decision.

José Cárdenas:
You've got a rather steep learning curve facing you. What are you doing to get prepared to deal with these and the other major issues including the E.P.S. rate hike?

Barry Wong:
Yes. You're right. You mentioned the rate hike. That's just another one of the utilities division of the Corporation Commission. The electric utilities and other natural gas, some telecommunication, they have to work with us. And their requests for rate hikes. And I think that that's again having appropriate hearings and getting the necessary facts from the utilities about their cost structure and how much they need to get in terms of rates to recovery; that's part of the rate hike is recovery of costs.

José Cárdenas:
Barry Wong, new Commissioner of the Corporation Commission. Thank you for joining us.

Barry Wong:
José, thank you.

José Cárdenas:
A local man is trying to get monuments to the Bill of Rights built in all 50 state capitals. Recently Michael Grant spoke with Chris Bliss about all those efforts. But, first look what he's doing for a living that is helping his cause.

Chris Bliss:
My juggling is all over the internet. It's like the most downloaded video on myspace and google-- give it up for your headliner, Mr. Chris Bliss.

Beatles:
Boy, you're going to carry that weight, carry that weight a long time

Chris Bliss:
Yeah. I love the guys on the border with the pickup truck with the confederate flags trying to keep the Mexicans out. Got a problem with the Confederate flag -- they lost. You lose the war, you lose the flag. I played "Stratego." That's the rules. Having said that I will admit that it never bothered me in L.A. during the World Cup. You'd see Mexican Americans waving Mexican flags. But they used to kick our ass in soccer. I'll make you a deal, when the rednecks beat the Mexicans at soccer they can fly that flag. But you got to win something. Bigger than a NASCAR race. And my point about NASCAR is that when rednecks only compete with other rednecks, that -- that doesn't count. And for those of you who are either rednecks or NASCAR fancy just want to make it clear that I am only using rednecks and NASCAR as metaphors for a certain kind of ignorance that is widespread throughout the land. So if you're a NASCAR fan, feel good. 75 million NASCAR fans in America, now one of the fastest-growing sports. Yeah. You know what this means. The south is rising; the rest of the country is slowly sinking to its level. Like the statue of liberty overtop of the Bill of Rights. He would marry her all over again. Because the country's kind of gotten like a bad marriage lately. I was kind of thinking, how can we find some common ground for Americans so that we can just stop this -- just this poisoned well of political activity these days? I thought, well, the Bill of Rights. That's a great place to start with common ground. It really is our marriage vows as a nation. It's something I think both conservatives and liberals can agree on is individual liberty and the right of individual citizens and the supremacy of the individuals over the state. That's the idea that America was founded on that's unique among all nations everywhere. But we had a wonderful thing happening in Arizona which it turns out there's not a single monument to the Bill of Rights anywhere in the United States. We had a great thing happen in Arizona. We had -- and I believe she's here tonight -- we had possibly the most -- we joined hands to get this into the legislature. We had probably the most liberal member of the Arizona House of Representatives and one of the most conservative senators in the senate here, Kirsten Simmons and Karen Johnson came together on this. It's probably the only thing they agree on. They don't agree on anything politically but they agreed it would be a good thing for Americans to become more aware of the Bill of Rights and they co-sponsored this. It went through the House of Representatives 57-0. Every single American -- representative signed on to it. And, then if I were to tell you the honest truth, it's because some people didn't like the liberal Democrat because this is not a liberal Democratic state if you hadn't noticed. They didn't want her getting credit for it. And I'm going to give her credit for it right now because the first person who said I'll take this to the legislature and I'll sponsor it, not for state money. We're using private donations only. We're not using any taxpayer money for this. This is to place approval to place a monument to the Bill of Rights on the state capital grounds particularly since it would be the first in the nation and this really is a bill of rights state. People like their individual rights in the state of Arizona. So it should be a no-brainer and it was Kirsten Sinema from the House of Representatives. I think Kirsten is here and I think she deserves some applause. They want to take some of the credit away from her and I'll never let them take the credit away from her, Kirsten. Karen Johnson was the senator --

Michael Grant:
Here now to talk about his Bill of Rights monument effort is local comedian and famed juggler, Chris Bliss. A lot better than those guys I saw last night on that - America's Got Talent thing. I really did not watch it.

Chris Bliss:
You can't get enough of that Simon Cowell, can you?

Michael Grant:
Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Bliss:
It's a pleasure to be here.

Michael Grant:
Let me get this straight. Your prime backers in the Arizona legislature which we just talked to Senate President and House Speaker, Kirsten Cinema and Karen Johnson. I don't know that they've ever teamed before on a bill.

Chris Bliss:
I doubt if they have but they like each other and they respect each other. And the thing is that I actually got some criticism from both sides on the -- how can you work with that person? How can you work with this person? The thing I told everybody was, look. One thing Kirsten Sinema and Karen Johnson have in common, they don't hide their point of view. They're very outspoken about who they are and what they believe and they take it to the voters. You have no complaint. They represent their districts. They get elected and they're very out front with exactly what their points of view are and that's exactly what the system works. If you can win an election.
Michael Grant: What leads a nice guy like you, a nice, funny guy like you to, let's build 50 Bill of Rights monuments around the country?

Chris Bliss: Part of it is probably because I grew up in Washington, D.C., in the city that was my hometown, third generation Washingtonian. And I grew up around all those symbols. And the whole dream of America.

Michael Grant:
They left an impact on you.

Chris Bliss:
They really do. When you grow up in that city you're surrounded by it and it sort of gets into your blood and you get the beauty of the dream of America. And it's really a remarkable dream of individual freedom and maximum liberty and the citizens having primacy over the government and all that. You just sort of get that. The other thing is that like I think a majority of Americans right now, I'm worried about my country. I'm worried about how poisoned the political process has gotten. I'm worried about people more interested in acquiring power and winning arguments than in actually solving the problems that we all have in common. And I was looking for common ground that we could all agree on across the political spectrum. And the interesting to thing to me about the Bill of Rights that it isn't spoken of very often is that it's a document that was created by people who had easily as big of an ideological difficult as - divide as exists in the country today. But they sat down and respected one another's integrity and the value of one another's intellect and they had they had the decency to listen to one another and they hammered out this compromise. And over the course of 200-plus years it's served the people very well. So I think that is a pretty good example of how you serve the people well.

Michael Grant:
How are you going about the process? You're trying to raise funds for this nationwide, are you not?

Chris Bliss:
It's a very complex process. First you have to get approval in the various legislatures. In most states you're required to get legislative approval for any placement on public land. There's different processes in every state. I also had to go out and find the artists to create monuments that would be worthy of the Bill of Rights and we managed to find a couple of sculptors in Austin, Texas, with 12 years of study with English master stone masons. This kind of -- these people just don't exist anymore. There aren't people that have this kind of grounding anymore. Because I really wanted to create a work of art that was worthy of this seminal document of America -- of our entire system.

Michael Grant:
Why not just do the Cecil B. Demill's thing with the Ten Commandments?

Chris Bliss:
I didn't want it to be a plaque and people walk by, oh, there's the Bill of Rights and the letters are two inches high and you walk by and there's no meaning to. I wanted it to be something that engaged and inspired and brought people. I mean, it's not a symbol. It's 492 words. They have meaning. They have impact. And it is, again, one of the most concise founding document, I think, that says what the country is about. And the first of its kind in history. It's a fault line between the divine right of kings and the inalienable right of the individual. It's the first human rights document in history. When you say people can't be forced to testify against themselves you're outlawing torture. That's a major step. All of these things were revolutionary at the time. They're still revolutionary in the world. I think it's not just America's gift to themselves but America's gift to the world. I wanted it to be something where people at this monument could actually absorb the words and principles and beauty of these concepts. That's what we're trying to do. We're trying to do major installations. Works of arts to celebrate works of genius. That's what I would say.

Michael Grant:
I would think for a comic the first amendment would be favored. But I've been told that's not necessarily your favorite amendment. You like all ten of them.

Chris Bliss:
For me it's a package deal. That's the beauty of the Bill. You can't play favorites. To me it's the great top ten list. And I think it is the whole package in the way it all plays out together. And actually, you know, if you want to compare it to the Ten Commandments, I was telling people, you know, let's not argue about taking down anything. That's divisive. Let's put up the Bill of Rights and let people comparison shop. I used to do material on this. Hey, the bill of rights. Look at the deal, you guys. Tells you to speak freely. Carry a weapon. You're presumed innocent and told to pursue happiness. I can't find a religion that gives me that.

Michael Grant:
Chris Bliss, a lot of fun. Some funny stuff and some serious stuff and I wish you luck in the effort.

Chris Bliss:
We're going to be the first in Arizona to do this. I'm very proud my adopted state will have that honor.

José Cárdenas:
Two books written by Tempe doctors encourage tourism to Mexico by offering a directory to doctors and hospitals in that country. "Mexico Health and Safety Travel Guide" and "Yucatan Travelers Safety Guide" are designed to ease travelers' worries when traveling into that country. Joining me now is one of the authors of the book, Dr. Curtis Page.

José Cárdenas:
Doctor Page, welcome to "Horizon."

Dr. Curtis Page:
Thank you for having me.

José Cárdenas:
Let's talk about how these books came to be.

Dr. Curtis Page:
The idea germinated in my father's mind. He's one of the co-authors, Doctor Robert Page. Germinated about 15 to 20 years. He actually trained in Guadalajara, University of Guadalajara and he had a lot of contacts with excellent doctors in Mexico. He knew the quality of care was tremendous. He often saw patients that were afraid to go to Mexico because they were afraid of their healthcare. He saw parents who were worried about taking their kids because, well what if there was an accident. He knew there were excellent facilities and excellent doctors. He said, what do we have to do to lower the level of fear? What can we do as physicians in Arizona to encourage travel, to encourage an older, retired person to maybe retire in Mexico where they can have a great life and just taking away this barrier by providing information was the original goal.

José Cárdenas:
And as I understand it this truly is a family affair because you have a brother involved also. Tell us about his role in putting this together.

Dr. Curtis Page:
He's a business major. He went to Georgetown School of Foreign Services, same place Bill Clinton went. His interest is international politics. He works for the government of Argentina. He's fluent in Spanish. He's a great PR person so he put a lot of it together. He would go down to the cities that we were interested in where a lot of --where there was a lot of tourism in that area. He would interview town folks, ex-pats who were living there and hospital administrators. And he put the list of what he thought were the best doctors and hospitals based on local recommendation. After he scouted it all out in the interviews, the doctors would actually fly down and do all the interviews personally and tour the hospitals personally.

José Cárdenas:
So every single doctor who is listed in this book has been interviewed by you and your father?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Correct.

José Cárdenas:
And they're all fluent English speakers?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Well, we rate them from 1 to 5 - 5 being perfectly fluent to being not at all. And a few of the outlying cities or smaller little pueblos maybe they'll have a doctor that has a 2 . He's the best available and can communicate. Most of the doctors we rate are either 3, 4 or 5.

José Cárdenas:
What's the geographical scope of the book?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Well, first of all we triaged it. We broke it up into 7 distinct regions based on the ability or the availability of a top level hospital in each region. We would triage people. If they were in an outlying region and got sick or injured, fine, but now you need to be shuttled into this hospital system where you can get excellent care. That's one way we broke it up geographically. The other one was we broke it up into tourist destinations and ex-pat destinations. Where retirees want to go to retire and where do all the tourists want to go? We're talking tourism Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and stuff like that. If they were ex-pats then maybe they'd want to go to colonial towns that are rich in heritage.

José Cárdenas:
Attraction for American ex-pats.

Dr. Curtis Page:
Exactly. So it serves both populations.

José Cárdenas:
Now, are there locations in the state of Sonora which is where a lot of Arizonans go, Rocky Point, Ermocillo?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Sure, we have Rocky Point, Ermocillo. We have Nogales, Mexi-Cali. So, we have those as some of the major places.

José Cárdenas:
Overall how would you rate the quality of medical care in Mexico?

Dr. Curtis Page:
I always tell everybody it's feast or famine. You're going to get some of the most amazing hospitals in the world that have the most advanced technologies with doctors that have been trained in some of the best institutions in Europe and the United States. And then you have a small shack or a small clinic where the EKG is 30-years old, where the doctor has no more training than four years of medical school, where you rely on the doctor's experience. So it's really -- it sort of parallels the population. There's a huge, very wealthy segment of the population that comprises two or three percent of Mexico. These are the people that are funding the private hospitals that have excellent care. There's a small middle class where there's some pretty good secondary hospitals and then there's a large, impoverished class where there are social security hospitals and hospitals that I personally wouldn't recommend for anybody.

José Cárdenas:
I take it the point of the book is that you can get good quality medical care in Mexico at prices significantly lower than in the United States?

Dr. Curtis Page:
Exactly.

José Cárdenas:
And this has led to -- I understand you have yet another business that you're developing, medical tourism. We've got about 45 seconds.

Dr. Curtis Page:
Sure. We're actually -- this is in response to people that were writing in. We have a full-service website at medigo.com. It has information about our books and information about doctors. People writing in left and right. Where can I go get gastric bypass surgery, where can I get knee replacement, where can I go get fertility care? So we started sending them out to all these different places where there were excellent facilities and you can get for instance a gastric bypass surgery for $36,000, here in Tempe for $12,000- - two hours away by a doctor that trained at the University of Arizona.

José Cárdenas:
One last thing before we end. The book is available for how much and where?

Dr. Curtis Page:
This book, here, this edition is $19.95. Our next edition which comes out in 2006, in October will be $24.95.

José Cárdenas:
Dr. Page thank you for joining us on "Horizon."

Dr. Curtis Page:
Thank you.

Announcer:
Errors on prescription drugs in the United States are outlined in a recent report by the Institute of Medicine. How frequent do medication errors occur and what are the recommendations for preventing them? We talk about that and other concerns over prescription medication safety. Tuesday at 7:00 on "Horizon."

José Cárdenas:
And on Wednesday, athletes from more than a dozen nations will compete in the annual Jewish Olympics here in the Valley. Thursday, a look back at the former University of Arizona President, Pete Likins. Friday don't forget to join us for the journalists' roundtable. That's it for tonight. Michael Grant will be back tomorrow. Thanks for joining us.

Announcer:
If you have comments about "Horizon," please contact us at the addresses listed on your screen. Your name and comments may be used on a future edition of "Horizon." "Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

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