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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