Friday, December 23, 2005

Bush Divulges Secret Info

I missed President Bush's address last Saturday. I've heard a lot about it so I went back and checked the text (click here for text).

About his authorization of questionable wire tapping, President Bush says,

Yesterday, the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have.

And the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies and endangers our country.

Are we really to believe that terrorists don't assume every attempt is being made to intercept their communications? I would be astounded if we weren't. As it is, I'm astounded that the President decided to do this in a way that circumvents the law.

If a someone, especially a news organization, has classified information about illegal or possibly illegal actions by government officials, what should they do? I think they have a responsibility to require the government to prove to their satisfaction that no laws were broken. If this is not done, they have a responsibility to go public. If they believed the actions were legal and that the government was correct that public disclosure would damage national security, they should sit on it. They could still go public with the info if it becomes public some other way or they come to believe the actions were, in fact, not legal.

He also said,

And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.

Duh! Even a half-witted terrorist could guess that their communications would be monitored, but did they know that monitored communications had actually foiled attacks? It seems to me that the most sensitive information about this monitoring was revealed by the President himself.

I've heard several news commentators say that the President has ordered 30 possibly illegal wire taps. I reviewed his Saturday address and I disagree with the number 30.

President Bush said,
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.
Later he said,
The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland.
Still later,
I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the Sept. 11 attacks and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from Al Qaeda and related groups.
I think he meant that he reauthorized the program every 45 days which over almost 4 years is about 30 times. The only reason I make this point is that some commentators seem to believe this was a very limited program of only 30 wiretaps. I don't believe that is what the President said. We do not know how many wiretaps were authorized. This could have been wide spread listening.

I don't doubt that the President had the best of intentions when he authorized this program, but good intentions don't trump the law. While the President feels strongly that it his duty to defend and protect the American people, it is our responsibility as citizens to elect and retain representatives that adhere to the law.

We correctly praise our armed forces for their sacrifices in defense of our liberty. We worry that dissension at home will send the wrong message to our troops. But our armed forces are not just defending their fellow citizens, they are also defending our constitution. What does it say to men and women who risk their lives every day in defense of this country, that we as citizens are so fearful for our lives that we are willing to ignore the constitution and laws to prevent another attack?

If fear allows our laws to be broken and our constitution to be ignored, we dishonor those who have sacrificed in their defense.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Defeatists Help Bush

President Bush's poll numbers are up a bit. Some pundits think it is because of his media blitz and his admission of mistakes in Iraq. Of course, he still isn't leveling with us.

He continues to link Iraq with terrorists and the war on terror. Actually, he is correct when he says that Iraq will become a haven for terrorists if we leave too soon. He doesn't mention that he created the situation by invading Iraq and botching the victory. The war on terror and the war in Iraq are only linked by this administration's failed policies.

And how stupid is the President to keep insisting that we need to fight the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here? In Iraq we are fighting terrorists and insurgents. Not all the people going after US forces are terrorists whose only desire is to kill Americans. Some of them are insurgents who just want us to leave Iraq.

Does President Bush think the terrorists can't walk and chew gum? In Iraq we've given the terrorist a first rate recruiting and money generating operation. Besides, who says that the terrorists that we are fighting in Iraq are the only terrorists that would try to attack us at home? I would wager there are more than enough capable terrorists who are not in Iraq that can bring the fight to us. If you watch any news analysis shows you know that the experts think that it is only a matter of time before the terrorists again attack us in the US. What will President Bush say then? My guess is he'll blame the "defeatists".

By the way, I would wager that Representative Murtha is one of those "defeatists", but Murtha can claim a lot of the credit for getting Congress to question the conduct of the war and for President Bush to admit some mistakes and start talking about his plan. The very actions which seem to have brought up his poll numbers.

Unfortunately, too many people are easily confused and don't realize President Bush is still not leveling with us.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Iraq Ideas From Democrats

It is a frequent Republican compaint that Democrats have no ideas and just attack the President for political gain. Senator Carl Levin was on Meet The Press yesterday and made a strong case for the need to change course in Iraq. If you missed the show, you can view the netcast here. The entire show is very good, but Levin's explanation of what needs to happen next in Iraq starts at about 30:30. His questions about the recently disclosed spying on Americans starts at about 24:00. Secretary Rice's interview starts the program.

Senator Levin makes the case that a "stay the course" policy no longer works. He argues that the administration must pressure the Iraqi's to amend the constitution to bring the Sunni's into the political process. He is basically saying that "we will stand down as the Iraqi's stand up" is not a solution. It may describe a face saving way to get our troops out, but as the President correctly says, the idea is not just to get the troops out, it is to leave a stable and democratic Iraq.

To those who think the Democrats have no new ideas. Start listening!

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Merry Holidays, Bah Humbug

Even though the issue is over-blown and over-discussed, I have to weigh in on the Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Holiday tree debate.

It is undeniable that the United States is historically a Christian dominated country. Christianity is the religion of the majority of US citizens. This has given Christians a level of privilege that has allowed them to legalize some of their traditions. Heterosexual marriage is one, the Christmas federal holiday is another. I suspect most Christians do not see their religion as privileged, so any action that seems to question these legalized beliefs is seen as an attack on Christianity. Christians should be cautious about invoking religion or the Bible when defending the ban on homosexual marriages or perceived acts against Christmas. They bring into question the constitutionality of these laws.

It is obviously silly to call a Christmas tree a holiday tree, but it is equally silly to be offended by the term. What is Christian about a Christmas tree except the name? A Christmas tree is a symbol of Christmas, but so is Santa Claus. Fireworks are the symbol of the Fourth of July so should be call local governments that ban fireworks unpatriotic?

Just like the heterosexual/homosexual marriage controversy, Christians are confusing the religious and the secular. For most people, Christmas trees and Santa Claus are secular traditions that are observed on the same day as Christians celebrate the birth of Christ.

Should Christians be offended when a store clerk wishes them "Happy Holidays"? Of course not. What is the proper etiquette? It is obviously appropriate for a Christian to greet a fellow Christian with "Merry Christmas". It is also seems appropriate for a Christian to greet a stranger with "Merry Christmas". They are expressing their beliefs and including the stranger in the joy of their holiday. How should a stranger greet a person they know to be Jewish? "Merry Chistmas" would be appropriate for the same reasons it would an appropriate salutation from a Christian to a stranger. "Happy Hanukkah" may be more appropriate since you are acknowledging this person's religion, although some people might feel uncomfortable invoking the blessings of a religion they are not a member of.

When a store clerk offers a holiday greeting are they expressing their beliefs or the store's? A store probably does not want its employees expressing their personal religious beliefs. If some Christians are sensitive to "Happy Holidays", how would they react in a store where the clerks are all wishing customers "Happy Hanukkah"? Since a public corporation has no religion, if the clerk is representing the store and does not know the religious beliefs of the customer, "Happy Holidays" seems appropriate. The clerk is acknowledging that this is a special time of the year in the midst of a secular transaction.

For Christians who are truly offended by "Happy Holidays" and "Holiday tree" I suggest that you treat Christmas as a strictly religious holiday. Do not put up a Christmas tree (or a holiday tree). Do not buy presents. Do not confuse your children with the myth of Santa Claus and lobby your elected representatives to remove Christmas from the list of federal holidays. Return Christmas to a purely religious holiday. But don't be suprised when the holiday greeting you get is "Bah, Humbug".

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Crude, Oily, Executives

So now we find out that big oil executives are no better than tobacco executives. According to documents leaked to the Washington Post, oil executives lied to Senators last week when they said their companies did not speak to the Vice-President’s energy task force. These guys give new meaning to the term “crude oil.” When you say Conoco, put the emphasis on CON. Shell game? BP - Big Prevaricaters. EXXON, Exhonest.

I guess the oil executives thought they were safe since the Vice-President’s Office has refused to tell who was interviewed by the energy task force. Why the secrecy? Could it be that the Vice-President doesn’t want to show how much input oil executives had on administration policy? Maybe they were embarrassed by having sent a bill to Congress that gave huge tax benefits to oil companies at a time they are making huge profits. Maybe they realize that while they can see the big picture, we can't. And even if we might be able to understand, it is just too much aggravation to try.

And now the Republican refusal to ask oil executives to be sworn in before testifying to the Senate committee sounds more sinister. Did someone know these guys might need to lie?

I am more outraged by these shenanigans after reading yesterday about the internal investigation at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that showed that its former chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, broke federal law in his attempts to politicize PBS. This Republican, Bush appointee believed PBS, the Public Broadcasting System, (and the show "Now" in particular) was too liberal, even though polls show that Americans rate the public network as the most fair in its coverage. I don't think that it is just Republicans who are arrogant enough to believe only they can see the truth. But now that they are in power, they certainly believe that any action taken to serve these truths is justified.

By the way, even before Tomlinson tried to gut "Now", that program and its host, Bill Moyers, were my examples of how a news/commentary show should be run. Even when Moyers interviewed people he admitted on air he didn't agree with, he did so with respect and civility. He didn't try to shout them down, humiliate them or embarass them. He even asked questions, believe it or not, that were intended to help him understand the issue from the other person's point of view. Given today's TV climate, it was very refreshing.

I believe this administration is using a new twist on the old philosophical debate, “If a tree fell in the forest and no one heard it, did it actually make a sound?” Their new version is, “If you tell a lie and no one can prove it, is it really a lie?”

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

NY Paramedics Are Heroes

60 Minutes this evening had a segment on 13 New York paramedics who, on their own with no official support, went to Pakistan to help earthquake victims. These brave men and women were helping hundreds of people. Even weeks after the quake, these paramedics were the only help some of these people had received. Working with inadequate supplies, but lots of Yankee ingenuity and American can do attitude, they were making a difference in the lives of people who had never even seen an American before this. They are truly heroes.

They made the point that the people of the remote valley they were in would have a positive image of Americans for years to come. This reminded me of an article I read a few months ago (I can’t recall the actual source or author) that suggested that we finance a fleet of hospital ships. These ships would be state of the art and could bring world-class medical help to places without such facilities. While they would provide help around the world on an on-going basis, these ships could also be quickly moved in an emergency to areas of greatest need.

While part of the reason to do this is to improve the image of the U.S. around the world, if we can do this and provide medical help to people who might not otherwise receive it, we all win. While Karen Hughes is trying to figure out how to boost our image in the Muslim world, our troops (and 13 brave paramedics from New York) in responding to the tsunami and the earthquake have made us a lot of friends.

The Navy has the hospital ship Mercy which can be deployed in an emergency but it took 30 days to sail from San Diego where it is based to the Indian Ocean region for tsunami relief. A fleet of hospital ships and other ships outfitted to respond quickly to natural disasters deployed around the world would prove that we are truly a super power. A nation that not only has a big economy and a big military, but also a big heart.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Shingles for Robertson

Once again Pat Robertson has channeled God to let us know that the people of Dover, Pennsylvania should be prepared for God’s wrath after they voted pro-intelligent design advocates off the school board.

According to Pat Robertson, "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city."

Reverend Robertson, What The Hell Were You Thinking?

No one in Dover voted for the pro-intelligent design candidates? One would expect that if there were a disaster in the area, voters who voted for the pro-intelligent design candidates would be affected as well as the sinners. What about people who voted a split ticket? How would that work? If you voted for even one anti-intelligent design candidate are you doomed? Since this was an election, maybe God works on the simple majority rule. You are OK if you voted for more pro-intelligent design candidates than anti-intelligent design.

I might have some respect for televangelists if they weren’t millionaires who make a living retailing salvation.

Rev. Robertson believes so strongly in the power of prayer I thought about suggesting we all pray for some painful affliction to strike him. Something like facial shingles every time he makes an outlandish statement. Then I realized it had already happened. He already suffers from chronic stupidity and unremitting foot in the mouth disease.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Make A Deal

The courts have overturned the conviction of Andrea Yates because a prosecution witness was shown to have lied under oath.

This gives the Texas legal system another chance to show that it understands that mental illness is a medical problem. From what we've learned from the media, can anyone really believe that Andrea Yates truly wanted to harm her children? She suffers from a mental illness that led her to methodically drown her children; a horrendous act that will haunt her forever.

What is the purpose of putting Andrea Yates in prison? To make sure she doesn't do this again? No. To remove a threat to society? No. To show others that killing their children will not be tolerated? No. To avenge the deaths of five children? I guess. The courts can insist that she receive treatment and counseling to insure that she is not a threat to herself or others, but putting her in jail serves no purpose. No punishment can be worse than the agony she faces every day as she relives her actions.

I believe at one time the outrage of the prosecutors led them to consider seeking the death penalty. They changed their minds. Was that because even they realized that an execution would probably be closer to euthanasia than punishment?

The law may need to be blind to everything except the facts, but there must be a way for compassion and understanding to temper cold logic and insure true justice. Texas prosecutors need to offer a deal that gives Andrea Yates help and not jail time.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Let's Make Abortion Rare

Abortion is a devisive issue in American politics, but we are beginning to hear some reasoned discussions that might bring us together, at least all except the extremes on both sides.

First, let us agree that we would all prefer that abortions be rare. If you can't agree with that statement, save your time and move on because you won't agree with anything else I've written. If you think there should be absolutely no abortions you are unrealistic. No matter what laws you pass or who sits on the Supreme Court, abortions will continue. They may not be legal, but they will occur. If you think abortions should be unrestricted you are also unrealistic. That isn't the law now and I can't believe it ever will be. There will always be restrictions on abortion.

So let's try to modify our agreement to say that abortions should, in some cases, be legal, but should be rare. The catch is in the "in some cases." For the moment let's set aside in which cases abortion should be legal. Since we haven't been able to agree on the "in some cases" up to this point, I don't believe we are going to solve that one easily.

So let's tackle how we make abortion rare. I don't believe I can lay out (or you would be willing to read) detailed proposals for doing this, but some options might be:
  • Better, required sex education in schools. Basic science and facts. Including contraception and abstinence.
  • Required ethical discussions. These could be conducted by religious institutions and/or in schools.
  • Make family planning available to everyone and free.
  • Make adoption easier and give financial incentives.
  • Make the morning after pill readily available.
I'm sure there are many people with more insight and experience in these matters than me who can make additional suggestions. Don't tell me that making abortions rare is unrealistic. We won't know until we've really tried. We've been fighting the abortion battles for more than 30 years and neither side is happy, let's work hard to decrease abortions over the next 30 years.

If both sides could set aside their opinions on abortions and concentrate on ways to make it rare, maybe we could reach a point where the legal issues are just not as important as they are now. Pro-life advocates could take solace in how many abortions they've prevented. The number of abortions wouldn't be zero, but then it never will be. Pro-choice advocates could protect a woman's right to choose. There will continue to be restrictions and attempts to add more restrictions, but if abortions are rare these fights will not have to be so political. We may be able to make reasoned decisions rather than take hard political stances which seldom leave room for compromise.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

How Do You Spell Hypocrisy?

Conservative politicians killed the nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court before she even had a chance to defend herself before the Senate. What about all the outrage from Republicans that every judge should have an up or down vote? How do you spell hypocrisy?

So if Democrats decide to filibuster Bush's new nominee, Samuel Alito, will Republicans show their moral mutability, decry the attempt to prevent an up or down vote on Alito and invoke the nucleur option? You can bet on it. The moral compass of politicians is moved by expediency.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

The Earth Has A Disease.

The Earth has a disease. Environmental problems are symptoms and people are the infectious agent. It is irresponsible to discuss environmental problems without discussing the affects of overpopulation.

Individuals are the problem. There are too many of us. Even though our personal impact may be small, multiplied by billions we cause global problems. One SUV does not significantly damage the environment. Sixty-eight million SUVs on American roads is a problem that is the result of 68 million individual decisions.

As individuals we must continue to take responsibility for the environmental damage we cause directly and demand the same from the organizations that serve us, but we must also confront the more basic problem, overpopulation. Given our current lifestyles, there are more people than the planet can support. No matter how little damage we do as individuals, if there are enough of us, we will destroy the planet. We can reduce the Earth's human population and let it heal itself or we can let nature take its course. Nature will solve this problem, I hope there are some people around to enjoy whatever is left.

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Who Should Pay For Katrina?

Ron Harris, in Monday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reported on the fight in Congress over how to pay for rebuilding the gulf coast after Katrina. The Republican leadership is trying get the funds by cutting some current programs, mainly in areas that affect the poorest of our people. $10 billion from Medicaid and Medicare. 8.5 billion in increased fees to lenders who make student loans. An amount that will undoubtedly be passed on to the students. All the while refusing to discuss rolling back tax cuts to the richest Americans or revisiting the pork ridden highway bill. Medicare is not allowed to negotiate with drug companies to reduce the price of drugs (a huge benefit for the pharmaceutical industry), but we can make it harder for students to get the money to go to school.

I guess the new version of that old saying is "The rich get richer and the poor foot the bill."

I hope all those people who voted for Republicans because they believed them to be the party with morals will take note. It doesn't seem that the Republicans are the party who care for the least of us.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Debt To Chinese A Threat?

This morning on Meet The Press, Tom Friedman of the New York Times, said we should not ask how much are we going to spend to rebuild after Katrina and Rita; we should ask "How much are we going to borrow from China?"

He pointed out that what we now owe the Chinese is approaching a TRILLION dollars and asks what kind of influence that amount of money will give the Chinese in our affairs.

Has our debt to the Chinese become a national security threat?

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Iraq Shoudn't Pay For Katrina

Some of the Sunday talk shows mentioned the Associated Press/Ipsos poll that asked:

If you had to choose, which of the following would you say would be the best way for the government to pay for the problems caused by Hurricane Katrina: increase the federal budget deficit, raise taxes, cut spending for the war in Iraq, or cut spending for domestic programs such as education and health care?
The response was (9/16-18/2005):
Cut Iraq Spending 54%
Raise Taxes 17%
Increase Deficit 15%
Cut Domestic Spending 6%
Other, Unsure 8%
We should not have gone into Iraq, but we now have moral obligations to the people of Iraq, just like we have moral obligations to the people devastated by Katrina and Rita. We cannot take money needed to pay our obligations in Iraq to pay our obligations to our fellow citizens.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Does This Sound Familiar?

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

H. L. Mencken

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Withdrawal By 12/2006 Is Good Idea

I think the Bush administration took us into Iraq under false pretenses, but I also believe that we created a mess that we have to clean up before we leave. Having said that, I think Senator Feingold's suggestion of a withdrawal date of December 2006 is a great idea. This date should be coupled with some benchmarks that must be met for this date is honored.

  • Insurgency violence must decrease significantly.
  • The Iraqi army and police must be ready to take over security.
  • Infrastructure projects must be completed or on a timeline to be completed. Clean water and electricity must be available at all hours.
  • Iraqi citizens must enact a constitution that creates a democracy where the rights of women, ethnic and religious minorities are protected.
  • A stable, elected government must be in place.
  • The oil industry is producing revenue to help support the country.

All of these tasks should be able to be accomplished in the next 15 months if there were no insurgency. The prospect of our departure would give the insurgents an incentive to backoff. If the Bush administration is correct and the insurgents will just wait until we leave, that would be OK as long as the violence decreases significantly in the mean time and we achieve our other goals. If the insurgents want to keep fighting, we are no worse than we are today. We would need to make it clear that we don't intend to leave until these tasks are complete.

These benchmarks should be coupled with checkpoints and dates so that everyone knows if progress is being made or not. If progress is not being made, the spector of a delayed withdrawal will motivate extra effort. As progress is made towards these goals, we would decrease the troop levels as has already been suggested.

This allows us to give a date which is the incentive to meet the goals. It also provides benchmarks we can use to prevent the Bush administration from cutting and running as next year's US elections draw near.

If the checkpoints and benchmarks are met, we can leave with a clear conscience knowing the next steps will be up to the Iraqis themselves.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


"Power exercised in secret, especially under the cloak of national security, is doubly dangerous."
William Proxmire

Win Millions, Identify Intelligent Designer

I propose we offer a prize to the first person who can prove the identity of the intelligent designer. Read the details of my proposal on my blog TUD, The Theory of Unintelligent Design.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

NRA Stalls Iraqi Constitution

EverybodyHasOne, in an exclusive report, has learned that the creation of a new Iraqi constitution was actually stalled by the NRA. It seems the NRA wanted the following clause added to the constitution:
No laws may be created that infringe upon the right of any Iraqi citizen (except women) to own and bear arms (defined here as any device containing explosive materials, such as hand guns, assault weapons, machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, mortars, etc.).

When Iraqi representatives balked at including this clause and when no compromise could be reached (i.e. the NRA didn't get it's way), the NRA halted the entire constitution drafting process which required a time extension.

One Iraqi delegate pointed out that such a broad definition of arms prevented the outlawing of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). NRA spokesman, Wayne LaPierre reportedly responded, "IEDs don't kill people. People kill people."

There was an attempt to keep the process moving with a promise to consider the clause as an amendment. Wayne LaPierre, again speaking for the NRA reportedly said, "Bearing arms is a god given right and deserves to be in the constitution, not in some stinking amendment! Been there, done that. "

Political insiders say that the Bush administration is in a quandary. It wants an Iraqi constitution soon, but it can't afford to offend the NRA. An unnamed source claims that Karl Rove has pictures of all of the Iraqi constitutional convention members in lurid, homosexual encounters and promises to make them public if any member continues to oppose the amendment.

Ask candidates for office if they take money from the NRA and if they do, don't vote for them.

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Ideal U.S. Population?

Should we wait until all the US is this crowded?
The United States Census Bureau estimates the current population of the United Status to be about 290 million. While the number of people in the US may stabilize at some point in the future, there are economic pressures to have an ever growing population. Depending on the assumptions made, the US Census Bureau estimates that the US population in 2100 will range from 571 million with a moderate growth rate to 1.1 billion with a high growth rate.

Imagine this country with four times the number of people it has now. As you drive to work or walk through the mall, imagine three other people standing or sitting next to each person you see. Image cross country interstate highways with eight lanes in each direction. Imagine having to make reservations at national tourist attractions years in advance.

Would the United States with a population of somewhere between 571 million and 1.1 billion be the same country we love today? How would the quality of life be affected by such a large number of people? What would be the impact on the environment with so many people needing food, water and other resources?

Most of us consider an expanding population to be part of the natural order, but common sense tells us that at some point the population of the US will stabilize. Whether that will happen before or after we’ve done irreparable damage to the environment is up to us.

What is the ideal population for the United States? 1 Billion? 500 million? 300 million? 200 million? We can just wait and see what happens, but wouldn't it make sense to start a national discussion and build a consensus on an ideal population for the US? We could then talk about how we reach and stabilize at that level.

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Citizens Must Speak English

The American Dream is more than economic opportunity. As a country we strive to value people for what they contribute to our society, not by their ethnicity, race or religion. This is not a trait that seems to come easily. We are working to counter the natural tendency of people to associate with people like themselves and view with suspicion people who are different. If we allow groups to be isolated by language, not only do we have another marker to divide us; we lose an important tool that allows us to counter the inevitable social, cultural and religious frictions.

All naturalized citizens and guest workers should be required to read, write and speak English. This is not a barrier to keep people out. Without English, new immigrants cannot fully participate in or contribute to the American Dream.

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Citizens Must Speak English

Monday, August 08, 2005

Limbaugh - The Entertainer

Rush Limbaugh as the Entertainer
I think Rush Limbaugh is correct when he characterizes himself as an entertainer. Like Jay Leno he uses satire, out of context quotes, hyperbole and mischaracterization to make fun of politicians and captivate his audience. Unfortunately, Limbaugh poisons public discourse by claiming his one sided show represents truth, fact and excellence in broadcasting. And, sadly, his uncritical listeners believe him.

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

"This Week" Is Worth Watching

On ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos this morning there was a segment with family members of two of the Ohio Marines killed last week. It was very moving and interesting.

While I have watched and like Meet the Press with Tim Russert for years, I really like the format of This Week. Their guests are great and Stephanopoulos is an excellent interviewer. I'm also always impressed with their panel discussion in the last segment of the show. George Will is a regular. Fareed Zakaria is often on. Of course, both are first rate. This morning had Cokie Roberts and Sam Donaldson who are both great. If you can only watch one Sunday morning show, This Week is a great choice. On weekday evenings, you can't go wrong with the NewsHour.

By the way, both This Week and PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer end with lists (and on the NewsHour pictures) of men and women killed in Iraq. It is done tastefully and I don't take it as antiwar. I always read the names and it is the custom in our house that anyone who is watching stops all activity and watches the names. No matter what you think about the war, we never want to forget the sacrifices the men and women in our armed forces are making.

NRA - Not In My Backyard!

Ask candidates for office if they take money from the NRA and if they do, don't vote for them.
I wrote a post a few weeks ago congratulating the Columbus, Ohio, City Council for passing regulations banning assault rifles. Because of these new regulations, the NRA cancelled plans to have their 2007 convention in Columbus. I guess they were planning on bringing their assault rifles.

How depressing. The NRA has decided to come to St. Louis instead. I live in St. Louis. The NRA is correct; they won't have to worry about the elected representatives of Missouri passing any inconvenient laws. As a matter of fact, Missouri legislaters passed a concealed carry law last year even though the people in a referendum voted the idea down.

I guess I'll have to get myself a bullet-proof vest. Oh heck, that won't work. The NRA stopped the banning of cop killer bullets. I guess they can bring their assault rifles and bullet-proof vest piercing bullets. What the hell do people in the NRA do that requires assault rifles and cop killer bullets? I'll bet this is one super civil convention. You don't dare say anything that might piss someone off cause everybody's packin' heat. One cross word could start WW III in the hotel lobby.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Straight From The Cow's Mouth

There has been some controversy over a previously published post here at EverybodyHasOne, Some people have commented that something about the post "Cow Farts Threaten National Security" doesn't smell right.

In order to set the record straight, EverybodyHasOne has, at great expense, travelled to rural Illinois to get the story direct from the horses mouth, so to speak.

EverybodyHasOne went to the dairy farm of Mr. McInthedell. When asked if it was true that cows produce prodigious amounts of gas, McInthedell replied, "As a member of management I don't think it is in the farm's best interest to make statements that might bring stress to the barn. It hurts milk production." He refused to answer anymore questions, but did make this comment as he walked away, "Off the record, there is a reason we bottle milk here and not perfume".

Readers may be wondering why EverybodyHasOne printed McInthedell's comment since it was off the record. Until the courts rule whether or not bloggers are real journalists, be careful what you say.

EverybodyHasOne then went directly to a cow for her comments. The cow, who said her name was Bessie (a source who wished to remain anonymous said her real name is Bossie), was only too eager to talk.

"Most cows would like you to believe that only the bulls 'honk the horn', as we like to call it. But that is a dairy barn over there and they don't milk bulls. You walk in there and tell me cows don't toot. They do--and a lot."

She went on, "I could name names, but she's a favorite of old farmer cold hands. If I say anything bad about her I'll be the first cow milked all winter."

So there you have it, the unbiased truth straight from the cow's mouth.

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Straight From The Cow's Mouth

Thursday, August 04, 2005

TUD Has Moved

Due to the large number of people reading The Theory of Unintelligent Design posts (TUD), they have moved to their own blog TUD - The Theory Of Unintelligent Design.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

TUD - Theory of Unintelligent Design

President Bush recently endorsed the teaching of intelligent design along with the theory of evolution (see post WTHWYT - Unintelligent Endorsement). Enough is enough. I've been reading this nonsense about intelligent design for too long. Christians can believe this if they want and teach it in Sunday School, but it should stay out of public education.

Proponents of intelligent design claim that life is so complex that it couldn't have just occured accidentally and therefore proves the existence of an intelligent designer. I'd like to start the Theory of Unintelligent Design, hereafter known as TUD. I prefer to pronounce TUD like dud, but there is small group that prefers something closer to duuuude. We'll take a poll later. TUD will be a list of examples of things in the universe that don't seem to be designed intelligently.

For example, why shouldn't you be able to see farts? If you could see them, you could run before you have to smell them and you'd know who to blame.

Why are there 50 million breeds of cats? Wasn't it an immense waste of time to design so many? One would have been more than enough. The intelligent designer could have spent more time on humans and found a way to decrease the number of idiots. No matter which side of the debate you are on, ID or TUD, you've got to agree there are way too many people on the lower end of the IQ scale.

What about the appendix? Why would you put in the appendix and have it do nothing? Whoa, I just realized maybe it's there to give surgeons some extra income when they remove it. OK, scratch the appendix from the list.

Well, you get the idea. I'm sure some of advocates of TUD can come up with more ideas. Leave me some comments, but please don't call me any names. That would be so unChristian.

Due to unprecedented demand, this discussion has been moved to its own blog TUD - The Theory Of Unintelligent Design.

WTHWYT - Unintelligent Endorsement

According to a Knight Ridder Newspapers article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this morning, President Bush has endorsed the teaching of intelligent design along with evolution. According to the article, the President said schools should teach both theories on the creation and complexity of life.

OK, I can understand that he feels he has to pay back the Christian right with judges, but this is even worse. Judge Roberts may be on the bench for 30 years, but how long will the effects of dumbing down America last?

I realize that the proponents of intelligent design can't understand the difference between the scientific theory of evolution and their theory. It's probably because their scientific education was sub-standard.

We all know that intelligent design is just creationism repackaged to disassociate the concept from Christianity and make it more generally acceptable. But I seriously doubt that any of the proponents would ever truly consider the thought that the intelligent designer might be Buddha or Waheguru or Satan or Papa Smurf.

President Bush is welcome to believe anything he wants, but why would the man who created "No Child Left Behind" to enhance the education of our children do something so unintelligent as to endorse the teaching of intelligent design? What The Hell Were You Thinking? I hope we find he was just misquoted.

Photo by Eric Draper

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Sen. Santorum Stands Firm

On ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Senator Santorum was asked about his comment that linked a sick culture in Boston with the priest sex abuse scandals (Sen. Santorum, Should We Also Blame Boston For 9/11 Attacks?). In an overly loud and aggresive voice he stood behind his comments. This sounded very much like a George Bush "I never admit mistakes" defense. He did say, with about as much conviction as any politician can muster, that he will not run for the presidency in 2008. Actually I'm sorry. Republicans had their fun with Howard Dean and I was looking forward to opportunities to return the favor.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

NRA Is Too Powerful

Ask candidates for office if they take money from the NRA and if they do, don't vote for them.
Senator Frist has decided to table work on the defense appropriations bill and instead work on an unprecedented bill to limit liabilty for gun manufacturers and dealers. A limitation no other industry has.

Limiting liablity for manufacturers is a terrible idea. Limiting liability for dealers is even worse. While many dealers are honest business people, some find that selling guns to people who shouldn't have them is a profitable business. The gun dealer that sold the rifle used in the DC sniper attacks lost a civil suit by victims. This type of lawsuit would now be prevented. This dealer managed to lose 200 weapons. Weapons he purchased and now has no records of. He should go to jail for this, but he should also be liable for civil suits.

It is no secret that many gun manufactures have financial incentives for not watching their dealers too closely. Limitations on liability provides even less incentive for manufacturers to watch the dealers.

Here are four articles that give you more details:
A Half-Cocked Gun Bill
Sen. Frist Supports Gun Liability Reform Legislation
Senate takes up bill to protect gun industry
The Biggest Lie Yet: Hoping to Ram Bill Through Senate, NRA Supporters Use Phony Scare Tactics, Says Brady Campaign

I have no problem with hunters and sportsmen having rifles, shotguns and pistols. The problem is that zealots, like the NRA, are afraid of any law that seems to limit what they see as the rights of gun owners. The NRA takes the position that any limits on guns will lead to the eventual outlawing of all firearms. So as manufactures make bigger and more lethal firearms to satisfy consumer demand, the NRA fights every attempt to bring sanity to the situation. This is unfortunate since an organization with as much influence as the NRA could see that reasonable laws are passed. Laws that rationally limit some of the hazards associated with firearms while protecting the rights of people who want to hunt and shoot targets.

The NRA has so much clout because it invests a lot of money in political candidates. The only way we can turn gun issues into rational discussions is to temper the power of the NRA. We all need to ask candidates for office if they take money from the NRA and if they do, don't vote for them.

Ask candidates for office if they take money from the NRA and if they do, don't vote for them.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Seal The US/Canadian Border!

Canada just passed a law that legalizes same sex marriages throughout Canada. We can expect heterosexual marriages in Canada to start disintegrating any time now. The dissolution of marriages will leave children without a nurturing home which will lead the youth of Canada to become rebellious and lawless. This turmoil is bound to spread across the border. Raging gangs of juveniles will be charging to the US. Some to wreak havoc and some to seek a real family to join.

The Canadian moral depravity will spread like a virus and ruin the bedrock of US culture, heterosexual marriages. I for one am threatened and fearful. I’m depressed that my marriage of 24 years will be coming to an end. Please, seal the border before this plague comes to us! Save my marriage!

Friday, July 22, 2005

WTHWYT - Your Brain On Whipped Cream

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from The Associated Press:

"HARTFORD, Conn. - A prominent writer and lecturer on eating disorders who collapsed in a supermarket after allegedly inhaling propellant from whipped cream cans applied for a special form of probation Thursday.

According to the arrest warrant affidavit, West Hartford police were called to a grocery May 29 and found Berzins lying on the floor and bleeding from her head. Berzins told police she did not know what happened. Investigators concluded that Berzins inhaled from three cans of whipped cream containing nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas, the affidavit said.

Berzins was charged with possession of a restricted substance, criminal mischief and creating a public disturbance." (full story here) (picture source)

I've got a few questions:

  1. Ms. Berzins, What The Hell Were You Thinking?

  2. Why didn't you just buy the cans and take them home? Is there some special ambiance in the super market? Has whipped cream been outlawed in your house?

  3. Since when did whipped cream become a restricted substance?

  4. Are super markets going to have to start selling whipped cream from behind a counter with cans that have warning labels and child-proof lids?

  5. Why wasn't she charged with theft?

  6. How did the police figure out what happened? Was there a pile of whipped cream next to her on the floor?

  7. Did she have a cherry up her nose?

  8. Is this the real reason people shoot whipped cream directly into the mouths? For the buzz?

  9. Will whipped cream now be sold in head shops?

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I'll Trade You Roberts For Rove

I’ll trade you an associate justice for a presidential advisor.

I suggest the Democrats keep their focus on an issue they can win, unseat Karl Rove, and concede Judge Roberts’ confirmation. We suspect that President Bush rushed his decision on a new Supreme Court justice to take the media heat off of Rove. This will probably work if the Democrats take the bait. But let’s face it, all indications are that Judge Roberts is a highly qualified jurist. He doesn’t seem so far to the right that the country will accept his ideology as a reason to keep him off the court. Also, the Republicans have the votes to confirm him unless the Democrats try to filibuster him. If the Democrats filibuster, the Republicans would use the nuclear option and the country would not blame them. In a losing battle, the heats off of Rove and he stays in the White House. The Pubs win 2-0.

Let the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee give Judge Roberts a thorough review. Ask tough questions about his judicial philosophy. Anyone who stops to think about it realizes that an "activist judge" is one that makes decisions you don’t like. Show how Judge Roberts is or would be an activist judge. That won’t stop his confirmation, but a tough and fair confirmation process might build a case for Bush nominating a moderate next time. If a majority of Democrats vote to confirm Judge Roberts, they will neuter the "Democrats will oppose any Bush nominee" argument. A fair and reasonable confirmation process will strengthen their hand if they need to fight the next nominee.

If the confirmation process does turn up a good reason for Judge Roberts to not be confirmed, then the Democrats will have performed their constitutional duty.

Anna Quindlen has an excellent column in the current Newsweek. She points out that Supreme Court justices often evolve after they join the court. According to Quindlen:

"Rights don't contract in a democracy, they expand. The liberal actions of the Supreme Court of the'60s—the right to an attorney and the exclusion of illegally obtained evidence among them—are taken for granted today. And history is filled with justices who started as titular conservatives only to end as liberals."

There must be examples of jurists who became more conservative after they were appointed to the Supreme Court, but recent history suggests they move the other way. On today's closely divided court, seven of the nine justices were nominated by a Republican president. If Judge Roberts is as intelligent and responsible as he is reported to be, the intellectual challenges of confronting the toughest legal issues may moderate his views. I truly believe our constitution is a "progressive" document. Our constitution and history put the winds of law, history and society at the backs of progressives. We won’t win every battle, but over time, law and society move in our direction.

Let the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee review Judge Roberts and other Democrats keep the media spotlight and heat on Rove. Republicans have been quick to scream that the attacks on Rove are all political. They are political, but not entirely. At this point, the facts indicate that Rove was irresponsible when he mentioned "Wilson’s wife". That is reason enough to go after him.

But are the political attacks on Rove fair? Absolutely. Karl Rove is a master of political machinations. Remember how he got into this trouble. He used his position in the White House to try to discredit a man who was pointing out that President Bush was "fixing" the intelligence on Iraq. A fact reinforced by the "Downing Street Memos". In his zeal to punish a political opponent he put the welfare of CIA operatives and the United States at risk. It may have been an innocent mistake, but it shows Karl Rove cares more about George Bush than he does about the country. He needs to go.

So my suggestion is, be fair with Judge Roberts and give Karl rove the boot.
Dems 1, Pubs 1.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Kudos to Columbus, Ohio, City Council

The NRA has announced that it is canceling plans to hold its 2007 national convention in Columbus, Ohio. They did this because the Columbus City Council recently passed legislation banning assault weapons (click here to view their reasoning). The federal ban on assault weapons expired in September, 2004, and they felt their city was safer with the ban in place. While the loss of the convention will have a significant economic impact on the city (estimated to be more than 20 million dollars), the city council explained that they put the welfare of their citizens ahead of economic interests.

Kudos to the Columbus City Council. The NRA has significant political power and doesn’t hesitate to use it to intimidate anyone who disagrees with their often extreme views. You can support private gun ownership without forcefully and unreasonably advocating for private ownership of assault rifles whose only purpose is to kill people.

Concerned citizens should ask every candidate for public office if they take money from the NRA and then not vote for any candidate that does.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Spin and Dry

I watched Ken Mehlman (RNC Chairman) on Meet the Press yesterday. Republicans keep trying to say that the Rove leak is no big deal, but it is clear that the White House and the Republicans are terrified. Democrats can smell the blood in the water. The Brain is going down. He has to. There are already too many facts and public statements that make it clear he has to go, even if he isn't indicted. (Although I’ve got to admit, it is fun watching Republicans try to find creative ways to save him.)

In an attempt to keep from digging a deeper hole, the White House will say nothing. Better to send out people like Mehlman to obfuscate and spin. And can he ever spin! When Russert tried to get him to answer a tough question, he resorted to the usual repertoire of defenses. Blame the Democrats. Answer a different question. Distort the truth. Give the party line; Karl Rove is a good man who is being unfairly defamed by the Democrats for political gain before the facts are in and the special prosecutor has determined if a crime was actually committed. That's not just a run on sentence, that is the breathless way Mehlman answered most questions. The facts that are already in the record show that Rove was using classified information that hurt national security to extract revenge on a political foe. He had no business even acknowledging that "Wilson’s wife" worked at the CIA. Spin it any way you like. Those are the facts.

The Republicans see Rove as a master political strategist who is key to recent Republican successes. The Democrats see him the same way and, therefore, are working hard to bring him down. Politics has become a blood sport and Rove is a surgeon. I could have said butcher, but give the man credit. He knows how to make his man look good and the opposition look bad. But he also doesn't mind playing dirty. What goes around comes around, Karl. The spin won't work so you are about be hung out to dry. It's time for you to leave the government and make a bundle as a consultant.

Back to Mehlman. Would I buy a used car from him? Not a chance. But a washing machine? You bet.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Sen. Santorum, Should We Also Blame Boston For 9/11 Attacks?

Statements made by Senator Santorum, Republican from Pennsylvania, back in 2002 are just now coming to light. In reference to the priest sex scandals that were making news at the time, Senator Santorum said,

''When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political, and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm."


Using your logic, Senator Santorum, I suppose it is no surprise that the 9/11 planes took off from Logan Airport in Boston. It is also no surprise that two of the planes crashed into New York city, another place a little too blue for red blooded Americans. And, I'm sure you would agree, it is not a surprise that the one airliner that was prevented from hitting its target was forced to crash in Pennsylvania. I'm sure it has something to do with the patriotic conservatives that live in your home state.

Senator Santorum, is your goal to be president of the United States of America or president of the Conservative States of America?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Does Anyone Know Turd Blossom's Real Name?

Karl Rove, aka Turd Blossom
So Karl, your defense is that legally you didn't out a CIA agent because you never used her name. I think "Wilson's wife" is close enough. If I said "Turd Blossom is an ass!", do you think anyone would know who I'm talking about?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Pet I Never Wished I Had

OK, my poetry didn't bring the masses to my blog. So I'm going to try pets. Many sites have nauseating pictures of their pets. Give me a break folks. There are billions of dogs and cats in the world and one pretty much looks like the other. Nobody cares about your pet except you! Since I'm obviously not a pet person, I had to borrow a cat. The guy who owns this cat says it isn't dead. I suspect he is just trying to throw PETA off his trail.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Tell Me If You Like My Poetry

I started this blog with the hope of generating some reasoned discussions. I've come to realize that most blogs are egocentric whining which no one, except your friends, will respond to. I guess I don't even have friends.

I tried some humorous, or so I thought, posts, but that didn't work. So I've decided to copy some of the tactics used by other bloggers to generate responses (note the plea for sympathy at the end of the last paragraph). Over the next few blogs I'm going to try several different approaches to see which one gets me the most responses.

Today, poetry. The truth is I don't understand poetry. Most of the time it is so obscure I just wish the poet had used simple sentences to say what they meant. Ogden Nash is my kind of poet.

Here goes.
When I started this blog
it was my intention
to enlighten the world
and get some attention.

Instead I'm ignored
like some teenager quibbling
or even worse
like some old fart driveling.
OK, what do you think? Be honest. I can take it.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Cow Farts Threaten National Security

Although the US Defense Department has listed global warming as one of the most serious threats facing this country (see article), the Bush administration has not yet accepted scientist's warnings and created plans and programs to reduce greenhous gases. Without adequate funding, research into solutions is limited. I have a suggestion that can drastically reduce methane emissions (a greenhouse gas) immediately.

D. Adam, in the article How Much Brown Cow, notes that an average cow in a barn produce 542 liters of methane a day, and 600 liters when out in a field. That means the approximately 200 million cattle in the US produce enough methane to fill 600 Hindenberg airships a day!

One suggestion proposed to reduce methane produced by cattle was to require all US citizens to become vegetarians. This would cut the demand for beef and significantly reduce the number of cattle in the US. This idea was scrapped when it was pointed out that this approach probably wouldn't reduce the amount of methane produced, just change the source.

While scientists, with inadequate funding, are working on ways to reduce cow ass emissions (see Global warming: why we can't afford to be sheepish about cow farts. ), we already have a proven solution. BEANO! As they say, "Take beano before and there'll be no gas". All we have to do is have the Department of Agriculture require that beano be added to all cattle feed!

This approach will appeal to the Bush administration since it will pump money into private enterprise instead of giving it to pointy headed scientists who think they know everything. It also allows the President to do something about global warming without having to admit that the scientists were correct. He can say he just doesn't like the smell.

Next week, Can Feeding Cattle Thorazine Prevent Mad Cow Disease?

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Cow Farts Threaten National Security

Seventy Virgins

Middle East terrorists are convinced that when they die they will be met in heaven by seventy virgins. Sounds pretty silly to most of us. Do evangelical Christians who believe in the rapture, the belief that true believers will all be delivered to heaven at some point in the future and the rest of us will be left to rot in hell, realize this sounds just as silly?

What if they are both right and the seventy virgins are all evangelical Christians?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Media Has A Liberal Bias?

The media doesn't have a liberal bias. It only looks that way to people who are leaning about ninety degrees to the right. This is the same group that really believes Fox is "Fair and Balanced" and Rush Limbaugh represents "Excellence In Broadcasting".

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Devil Is The Hero Of The Old Testament

The devil is the hero of the Old Testament. Without him we'd still be walking around naked wondering what apples taste like.

Thanks Jim.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Quagmire or Quandary?

President Bush couldn’t say what needed to be said in his speech last night. He should have said something like this.

It is time for me to admit some mistakes and ask for your help. I was wrong to invade Iraq. I let myself get carried away and then made the decision to invade Iraq sound more necessary then it actually was. I did not intend to lie, but I did manipulate the truth to make my policies more politically palatable. I apologize to everyone that was called unpatriotic when they questioned my actions and policies. Sometimes the most patriotic act is to dissent. Questioning your loyalty was a cheap political move, but with your help I would like to put that in the past.

Secretary Powell’s Pottery Barn was analogy was correct. We have intervened in Iraq and it is now our responsibility, not the world’s, to see our actions to a successful conclusion. While I may have exaggerated some of the issues used to justify the war, I truly believe that Iraq, the Middle East and the world will be a better place when Iraq is a peaceful country well on the road to democracy.

As the President of the United States, I take responsibility for invading Iraq, but now we all have a moral responsibility to see it through to the end. So I ask all my fellow citizens to give me your support and prayers over the next difficult months and years. To our friends around the world, I also ask for your help. We need the help, ideas and resources of all countries that want to see a free and democratic Iraq. We need partners to succeed.

Finally to the brave mean and women of the armed forces and the families that wait for them, I asked you make sacrifices that I probably shouldn’t have. Every death and injury truly grieves me. But I also truly believe that if we hold to our ideals and purpose, the end will be worth all the sacrifices. You have given more than you’ve been asked, but now I have to ask for more. We need you to continue the excellent work you have been doing until we can turn Iraq back to the Iraqis. I can’t tell you how long that will take, but I will promise you that no one will fight harder for you and your families than me.

President Bush couldn't and wouldn't say this for political (domestic and international) and philosophical reasons, but I would liked to have heard it.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Fix Social Security By Decreasing Payroll Taxes

I've read several proposals for fixing social security. Most people understand that "fixing" means keeping social security solvent. Private accounts do nothing to keep social security solvent. They actually make the problem worse.

I suggest that we first require that the money the federal government "borrows" from the social security fund be treated like the rest of the national debt. It must be treated just as if it were borrowed from an individual or a foreign government. It would be subject to the debt ceiling so Congress would have to vote to increase the national debt to use it. This would make our current fiscal shenanigans more obviously unacceptable.

If we quit using the social security surpluses to fund current government operations, we could invest all that extra money in the stock market. We would have one big private account.

Better yet, why not face up to the reality that politicians have no self-control. Don't let there be a surplus in social security for them to spend. I suggest we increase the amount of wages subject to social security to $200,000. Then we decrease the social security tax rate to just bring in a little more than what we need to pay current benefits. Each year the Social Security Administration would recalculate the rate for the next year. While more affluent workers might pay more, lower paid workers would pay significantly less. With this additional money in the economy we might grow our way out of the problem.

Social Security Primer

Social Security has been a great program and needs to be continued. For many people who have no other income, it means a basic level of economic security that they can't outlive. For the more affluent it provides additional retirement income and a guaranteed income they also cannot outlive.

There is a great deal of confusion about the future of social security. The concept is simple, but the implementation has been perverted over the years. Just to make the issue more confusing, President Bush insists on linking private accounts with saving social security. This is not true, but many people haven't figured this out yet.

Here is how I understand social security works. It was designed as a pay as you go program. The payroll taxes that people pay do not go into a special account just for them. The money from their paycheck is used immediately to pay the retirement benefits for someone who has already retired. What they get for the money withheld from their wages is a promise that someone else will pay their retirement benefits when they finally retire. Actually, social security is more like an insurance program that pays you when and if you live long enough.

Of course, the problem is as time goes on more people are retiring than are joining the work force and paying social security taxes. When the amount of money needed to pay retirees each month is greater than the social security taxes collected that month, we have a problem. That scenario is estimated to occur about 2018.

Theoretically we won't have a problem until a much later date (maybe 2040?). That is because the amount of social security taxes workers and employers currently pay exceeds the amount needed to pay current retirees. This extra money is supposed to be saved and used when retirement benefits exceed the amount being collected from workers and employers.

Unfortunately the money is not really being saved in the social security fund. It is being "loaned" to the federal government and used to pay its current bills. The social security fund has the IOUs for this money, but when it comes time to start collecting it the money will already have been spent.. The government will have to repay the IOUs with other taxes (like income taxes). That means workers at this time will be paying benefits to retirees with their social security taxes and their income taxes. The amount of money needed to pay future retirees the amounts they've been promised is significant and will be a burden on workers in the future.

The two basic solutions are to raise taxes or cut benefits.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Margin of Mischief

Everyone understands the margin of error in a poll. Well the 2000 presidential election (and some claim the 2004 election) was won within the margin of mischief – that number of votes that result from voter registration mistakes, election errors, confusing ballots, election manipulation and fraud.

In school we learned how democracy is supposed to work. The person with the most votes wins, even if the margin of victory is only one vote. This naïve view of elections was destroyed by the presidential election of 2000.

It is vital that scientists, election officials, politicians and citizens work diligently to ensure that elections are fair, well run and accurate. When a government cannot accurately and fairly produce a tally of votes, democracy dies.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Punch Card Voting - Part 3

This is the third of three posts describing a proposal for using punch card ballot systems in US presidential elections. It will make more sense if you start with the post "Punch Card Voting Can Be Good" from June 3, 2005.

The ballot checking machines are separate from the punch card stations intentionally. This reduces the cost, because current punch card stations can continue to be used. This also provides another layer of security. All voting locations I’ve used have multiple punch card stations. Which one you get is usually randomly chosen. After you punch your ballot, you would pick one of several checking stations to review your ballot. This reduces the chances that the punch card station and the checking machine could be manipulated to record your vote incorrectly.

The checking machines would use a secure, electronic key to program how ballots are displayed and checked. It could also record votes and could be used to verify the results generated by the punch cards. The checking units could also be connected to the Internet. This would allow the ballot checking rules to be verified against the rules at a central location. Eventually votes could also be counted this way and the punch card would be used to verify the electronic count. The secure, electronic key and punch cards would also be backup if the internet connection goes down.

Poll workers will have test cards that they can use to verify that the checking machines are properly displaying the holes in a punched card.

This proposal still requires election officials to register voters, setup and monitor elections. It still requires voters to go to assigned voting locations and it still requires dedicated volunteers to work at polling locations to help voters and monitor the process. It does not seem unreasonable that a voter be required to go to a voting location on election day to cast their ballot.

People who know that they will not be able to go to their local polling location on election day may request that they be allowed to vote for president some reasonable number of days before election days at defined locations. These early voting locations would use the same procedures and equipment that will be used on election day.

A variation using scanned ballots could be implemented for people who are physically unable to go to an early voting location.

If you’ve made it this far, you are obviously interested in how to improve our election process. You probably have some unanswered questions. Some of you may see holes in my proposal and others will have improvements. This is certainly not the only way to have an accurate count and it may not be the best, but I hope that it convinces you that a solution is possible. The federal government needs to provide financial resources and standards so that a uniform method of voting can be implemented across the country. Local and state election officials will still run and monitor elections, but a common system will help restore confidence in the election process. We are now aware that our vote can be threatened by fraud, miscounting or mismanagement on the other side of the country.

Obviously this proposal does not address voter authentication. How do we insure that a voter is authorized to vote in any particular election and that the voter votes only once? I’m sure we can develop a solution. A national voter identification card might solve that problem, but we need a lot of discussion to make sure voter privacy is protected. Let’s hear from people with ideas on how to solve this problem. With a national voter identification card we could allow a voter to vote for presidential candidates at any polling place. I know that many voters expect that internet voting is the solution, but until we solve the voter authentication problem and other security issues, we need election monitors at polling places and physical ballots to insure an accurate and verifiable count.

Even if we implement a system that accurately counts every vote, we still have the Electoral College that makes some votes count more than others. I live in a state that has been a battle ground state. We get a lot more attention than states that are clearly red or blue. Even better, I know my vote is crucial. I think it is unfortunate that states that are clearly red or blue don't get the same attention. They are also welcome to their share of the political ads. More importantly, it is wrong that Republicans in a clearly blue state or Democrats in a clearly red state know that their presidential vote is inconsequential.

Equitable, accurate and fair elections are crucial to a democracy. It is time we make them happen.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Punch Card Voting - Part 2

This is a continuation from the prior post "Punch Card Voting Can Be Good".

After a voter has reviewed their punch card ballot at the checking station and their ballot is correct, the voter can press a button that will print a voting receipt that contains:
  • The current date and time.
  • A code that identifies this polling location.
  • A code that identifies the kind of ballot.
  • The unique ballot identifying number that was prepunched in the card. This code is not associated with the voter at the polling place.
  • An encrypted string of letters and numbers that records how they voted. Encrypted means the characters are meaningless without a special "key" that a computer can use to determine exactly how the ballot was punched. This is similar to the technology employed when you use a secure web site. The vote is encrypted using a technique that will result in different codes for ballots with the same combination of punches. Even if you and your neighbor cast votes for the same candidates, your codes would be different.
  • Other security codes like you see on your lottery tickets. These would be used to verify the authenticity of the receipt if the voter challenges how his or her ballot was counted.

Voters should check that the number on their ballot matches the number on their voting receipt, drop their ballot in the ballot box, take their voting receipt with them and file it in a safe location.

As the punch cards are processed and the votes are counted, the ballot identifier and votes cast are recorded in a database.

After the ballots have been counted, the voter can use the Internet to access an election board site and key in the characters that identify their physical ballot (plus part of the encrypted code to prevent people from viewing other voter's ballots). They will then see a screen that shows how that ballot was counted. Some voters may forget exactly how they voted. Some voters may, after the fact, even want to deny to themselves how they voted. In order to refresh their memory and convince themseleves that their vote was counted correctly, they can enter the second string of characters (their encrypted selections), their polling location code and ballot type, and see exactly how they voted that day. This check would not read their ballot from the database, it would use just the data on their "receipt". This must match the data stored in the database. If it doesn't, a fraud alert can be sent to the election board.

If there are voting irregularities, election officials can ask voters to check their ballot on-line and report discrepancies. They can also randomly select voters to voluntarily show them their voting receipt to verify it against the recorded values and the physical ballot. With this system the voters themselves become watchdogs. Fraud is easily identified and there is an audit trail to help determine what happened. Once it is known that ballots can be easily checked by voters and election officials, ballot fraud will diminish.

The unique identifier and database insures that a single ballot cannot be counted more than once. It can also be used on recounts to determine which ballots were counted differently on the recount by comparing the current selections on the ballot with those recorded on the first count. These misread ballots can then can be inspected manually to determine the problem.

I'll complete the description of this system in the next post.

Punch Card Voting Can Be Good

Most election boards are working feverishly to get rid of the punch card voting systems, but when you read about the new systems that are supposed to replace them, punch cards don't sound so bad. That is, if punch cards are part of a larger system.

Yes, I'm talking about the system that brought us hanging chad and pregnant dimples. By itself, the punch card is inadequate, but when properly punched it is easy and accurately counted. What it lacks is an easy way for voters to check that their card has been properly punched before they drop their card in the ballot box. It also lacks an easy method for voters and election officials to check ballots after the election.

The heart of this proposal (which is intended for presidential elections, but may be used for local elections)is an additional device that voters would use to check their ballots. After a voter punches their card, they put it into a reader that removes any hanging chad and then displays who the voter voted for. It will also warn them if they didn’t vote for any particular candidate (undervote) or if they voted for more than one candidate (an overvote that invalidates the entire ballot).

If they’ve unintentionally undervoted, they can put their card back in the voting machine and complete their ballot. If they intentionally didn’t vote for that candidate, they can just ignore the warning.

If they’ve overvoted or realized they voted for the wrong candidate, they can void this ballot and ask for a new one.

This solves the problem of voters knowing how their ballot will be counted before they leave the polling place. Once they confirm that their ballot is correct, they press a button to record their vote electronically and place the punch card ballot in the ballot box.

This additional machine would also print a "receipt" that a voter could later use to confirm how their ballot was actually counted. More on this later.