Sunday, December 30, 2007

Does Life Begin at Implantation?

If human eggs are destroyed, no one seems to be concerned. Possibly because very few human eggs result in a child. Of the up to 2 million oocytes (immature eggs) that each human female is born with, only about 400 will mature and be ovulated. For each monthly cycle, about 20 cells begin the process to become a mature egg, but only one or two will complete the process. By the way, this maturation process for each egg begins about 100 days before ovulation.

If human sperm are destroyed, no one gets concerned. Even more sperm are produced than eggs, so the chances of any sperm resulting in a child are minuscule.

Once a sperm and an egg are joined, commonly called conception, many people call the merged cells a human. While estimates vary, the chances of a fertilized egg resulting in a live child are only about 33%. Natural events end the process for most fertilized eggs before they are implanted. One can conjecture that many women who are "late" really are pregnant, but the process is halted naturally very early.

Once implantation occurs (the egg is implanted in the uterus about the 6th day after fertilization), the embryo at this point has about a 66% chance of surviving to birth.

The process of human development is very complicated. There are many problems that can interrupt the process before the birth of a live child.

We have an on-going ethical debate about when life begins. Why is it that an egg or a sperm is not seen as human life, but a fertilized egg is? None of the three can result in a child by themselves. At the minimum, the fertilized egg must be implanted in the uterus. This would argue that cells in a petri dish are not human. Yes, those cells could be implanted and result in a child, but an egg could be fertilized with a sperm in a petri dish and then implanted. If the embryo in a petri dish is human life, then the egg and sperm in their petri dishes are also human life. Of course, that is absurd.

Since invitro fertilization and some birth control methods routinely kill fertilized eggs, a belief that human life starts at fertilization not only is not supported by natural events, it would cause many people to be labeled murders.

When life begins is an ethical question, not a scientific one. But science shows us that for those who believe human life starts very early in the process, implantation is a more logical starting point than fertilization.

Cartoon used with permission.

For more information on the latest science on human reprodcution, see the article The Good Egg, printed in Discovery magazine, May, 2004.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Goober for President

A YouTuber suggested the perfect nickname for Governor Huckabee, Goober.

I'm not sure why I'm writing so many posts to prove the Governor deserves that nickname. Well, sure, he is an easy target and it is a lot of fun, but why do I keep pointing out how unqualified he is?

If Huckabee is the Republic nominee for president, the Democrats won't have to spend a dime to campaign against him. Except maybe they should buy him airtime to talk to directly to the American people about his views on the important issues facing the U.S. Heck, Democrats could even give him a little help and tell him what the important issues are. (Hint: it is not Pakistani's crossing the border illegally.) I think about 30 minutes of Huckabee's Homilies would be enough to convince the vast majority of voters that Huckabee should go back to preaching in Arkansas.

Democrats could save the money they would have used in the presidential campaign to maintain a permanent majority in Congress. "Permanent majority." I never really liked that phrase until now.

Maybe I should consider laying off of Goober and concentrate instead on McCain, the only qualified candidate the Republics have.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

God to Huckabee: Shut up!

When asked why his campaign has suddenly taken off, Governor Huckabee basically said it was God's work.

I know people of faith don't have a lot of need for reason and logic, and I don't like to question or make fun of someone's faith, but Governor Huckabee brought this into the public domain, so let's think about his statement.

His god is obviously a god of action. That is, his god is active in the world. His god changes things in ways that would otherwise not have occurred. For example, Huckabee would not be leading in Republic polls were it not for his god, God, either manipulating the results of the polls or getting into peoples heads and making them support him.

I believe that people of faith do not normally claim to know why God does what he does, so unless Huckabee is having conversations with God that already fall under the cover of executive privilege, even he doesn't know why God has chosen to move him up in the polls.

For all we or Huckabee know, maybe God isn't rewarding Huckabee, but rather punishing Romney. As soon as Mitt mends his ways, he'll go up and Huckabee will go down in the polls.

If Huckabee does go on to win the presidency, won't he have one hell of a political debt to pay? This makes other campaign contributors look like pikers. Would Huckabee have to turn the U.S. into a theocracy to pay off the debt? Then again, if an active God wanted the U.S. to be a theocracy, why didn't he just make it that way to begin with? The first ten articles of the constitution could have been the ten commandments.

If Huckabee doesn't win the presidency, what is he going to say? Probably something like, "We aren't capable of understanding God's plan. I'm sure he has some other tasks for me." Or maybe, “I sinned by presuming to divine God's actions.“ What he won't say is something like, “I was just making that crap up to win favor with the evangelicals”.

If Romney wins, Huckabee will probably just think Mitt made a pact with the devil. If Clinton wins, Huckabee will have to question his faith in God and the power of prayer.

If God is really manipulating the election so that Huckabee or one of the other candidates will be the next president, why are we all bothering to help our candidate or even vote? If God is picking the next president, then he can also vanquish all the terrorists, end the war in Iraq, feed the poor, hook President Bush up with Scarecrow and put a man on Mars. What does he need us for? (Duh... The Wizard of Oz... Scarecrow has a brain.)

So, if you believe Huckabee is corrrect and that God is making him go up in the polls, then quit watching the debates. Don't worry about voting. What you think about politics or who would make the best president doesn't really matter. God will cast the final vote. Relax and read a Good Book.

If you think Huckabee has been listening to too much of his own preaching, then support and vote for a candidate that believes they and we are responsible for our own actions, successes and failures.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hot Stock Tip

Mr. Pickle, one of the few people sad to see President Bush leave office.Here is a hot stock tip for you - buy book publishers. President Bush and Vice-President Cheney are so secretive and they've presided over an administration with so many scandals and failures, come February, 2009, there will be dozens of books published.

White House insiders will be running to get their story out first and distance themselves from the worst president and vice-president in the history of the United States.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Gov. Huckabee, Does God Answer Your Prayers?

I heard an evangelical minister on NPR yesterday say that some ministers who wanted to support Mitt Romney were having a problem. They had previously demonized Mormons from the pulpit and now were having trouble finding ways to retract those statements and recommend Mitt Romney for president. I can see they have a problem, but then again their plight is a admission of on-going ethical problems. Sounds a lot like situational ethics to me.

In Charles Krauthammer's column, "Huckabee exploits religion in fighting Mitt Romney", Mr. Krauthammer takes Governor Huckabee to task for playing the Mormon religion card for political gain while refusing to label Mormonism a cult. Krauthammer also points out that Huckabee claims that religion isn't the most important issue when choosing a president and then labels himself a "Christian Leader" in political ads. Finally, Krauthammer laments that Mitt Romney has to defend his religious beliefs.

I disagree. The evangelicals, conservatives and Republics have worked hard to thrust religion into politics. Now they have to live with the results of that invasion. When people like Governor Huckabee call themselves a "Christian Leader" and when he says he believes his recent political success to be the work of God, he opens himself to every question the voting public has about his religious beliefs. When candidates publicly exploit their religion for political gain then that religion must be open to examination just like any other institution or organization where the candidate has previously worked or served. It a candidate publicly exploits their religious beliefs for political gain, then those beliefs should be subject to the same level of examination as any other part of the candidate's public or political life. If your religion and faith is a private matter, keep it private.

I suggest another YouTube debate for the the Republic presidential candidates dedicated to religious issues where the faithful and skeptics can ask each candidate tough religious questions.

When Is Treason Warranted?

In previous posts I've complained about Governor Huckabee's weird belief that the Second Amendment not only guarantees a citizen's right to keep weapons to use against the government if it doesn't do what it is supposed to do, he acts like it is a citizen's DUTY to keep weapons to use against the government.

I would like Governor Huckabee to give us some reasonable scenarios where the use of violent armed actions against the government might be justified, but he doesn't seem to be reading my blog. Does Governor Huckabee understand that the definition of treason includes "the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance..." (Merriam-Webster)?

I've tried to ask Second Amendment supporters to give me some examples of government actions that might justify an armed revolt. Ignoring those people who think I am an uneducated idiot, the responses are usually incidents from two hundred years ago or they cite Randy Weaver's stand-off at Ruby Ridge. I think some of them would include Waco, but I doubt that many would claim Oklahoma City. In short, they have no good historical examples and they have not suggested any likely future scenarios where violence against the government would be warranted.

It is interesting that Oklahoma City is not seen as a good example of justifiable violence against the government. I believe that it was government actions at Waco that motivated Timothy McVeigh to bomb the Federal Building. Don't people who believe that they need guns for self-defense against the government realize they are using the same basic reasoning that Timothy McVeigh used to justify his violence?

Actually, I see a situation looming that many people might use to justify violent action against the government. That is the up-coming review of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court.

I predict there will be violence if the Court should rule that the Second Amendment is a collective right (the right to bear arms is only as it relates to Militia) rather than an individual right. I also predict you will never see a constitutional amendment to repeal the Second Amendment. The threats of violence would be so intense politicians would decide to leave it to the courts to slowly rein in our obsession with guns and violence.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Star Wars Are Conservative

Assault rifleI was watching C-SPAN a few weeks ago. A conservative Hollywood screen writer was giving a talk about how conservatives could and should use Hollywood to get their message out. He, of course, lamented that so few movies with a conservative point of view are being made.

I don't know about you, but last time I checked, Republics and conservatives had a lock on the pro-gun crowd. Wouldn't that make every movie where guns are used to solve a problem a conservative movie?

The next time a conservative whines about Hollywood, just look'em in the eye and say,

"Star Wars".

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Should we wait until all the US is this crowded?
Over Populated - Are We There Yet?

The quotes below come from Urban and Slum Trends in the 21st Century by Eduardo Lopez Moreno and Rasna Warah (UN Chronicle Online Edition, The State of the World's Cities Report 2006/7). Emphasis added.

Sometimes it takes just one human being to tip the scales and change the course of history. In 2007, that human being will either move to or be born in a city, and demographers watching urban trends will mark it as the moment when the world entered a new urban millennium in which the majority of its people will live in cities. It will also see the number of slum dwellers cross the one-billion mark, when one in every three city residents will live in inadequate housing, with no or few basic services.

There are now about 6 billion people on earth and 1 billion of those people live in urban slums. Also from the report,

This report unfolds a new urban reality, showing how poor living conditions impact slum dwellers: they die younger, experience more hunger, have less or no education, have fewer chances for employment in the formal sector and suffer more from ill-health.

And finally,

The growth of slums in the last 15 years has been unprecedented. In 1990, there were nearly 715 million slum dwellers in the world. By 2000, the slum population had increased to 912 million and to approximately 998 million today. UN-HABITAT estimates that if current trends continue, it will reach 1.4 billion by 2020.

Over Populated - Are We There Yet?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Huckabee - Prepare For Armed Revolt

My previous post hit some of the low points of Governor Huckabee's speech to the NRA, but the more I thought about it, I decided it was important to focus on one part of his speech that clearly shows he is not qualified to be President of the United States.

He said "The Second Amendment is about preserving freedom." and then he said of the Second Amendment:

“It is the last goal line. The last bastion of defense against even our own government should it go completely awry and turn into tyranny. And I know that sounds a little radical in this day and time, and some people don't understand it, but if they really would think through it they would realize that an unarmed citizenry is a citizenry that has no capacity against even its own government should its government forget what it is supposed to do.”

Yes, Governor, that does sound a little radical.

What he is saying is that citizens should arm themselves just in case they need to take up arms against their own government! He wants to be President of the United States, the head of the Executive Branch which is charged with enforcing our laws, and he is telling people they should be prepared to take up arms, violently break the law, if the government does things they don't agree with.

At what point should we take up arms against the government? First Governor Huckabee suggests it is when our government goes "completely awry and turn[s] into tyranny." Later he expands on this benchmark and suggests armed revolt when the "government forget[s] what it is supposed to do."

Does he understand the Constitution? Does he understand the concept of checks and balances? Does he not believe that, as a country, we can continue to follow the constitution and protect the rights of its citizens? Does he have no faith that people elected to office will honor their oaths to the Constitution? Doesn't he have confidence that citizens will use their votes to correct problems before we reach the need to start shooting at each other?

Does he understand that what he is proposing would be civil war and the end of the United States?

He is not advocating sedition, but he is saying you should prepare for it. He believes our government is clearly capable of going "awry" or forgetting "what it is supposed to do". Crimes so heinous that armed revolt would be justified.

By the way, he makes the point in another part of the speech that you can't count on getting a weapon when you need it, which means you should get a weapon before you need it. I think this explains why he is not in favor of a ban on assault weapons. You are not going to take on the government with shotguns and deer rifles.

It sounds like Governor Huckabee thinks it is quite possible that the United States government will "go completely awry and turn into tyranny" which means he is not ready for prime time. I find his logic frightening. It makes me wonder if his interpretation of "Militia" in the Second Amendment is closer to the militia currently terrorizing Iraq - lawless citizen armies that fight a government they don't believe responds to their desires.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Huckabee Panders to the NRA

Ask candidates for office if they take money from the NRA and if they do, don't vote for them. I caught part of Rudy Giuliani's speech to the NRA and all of Governor Mike Huckabee's speech. Before Republican's complain about how Democrats pander to, they should watch these speeches (click here and then on Archived Materials/Browse Archive). The way these guys torture logic may not be covered by the Geneva Convention, but it should fall under the rules of common sense.

Huckabee described the time he chided a reporter who stated she didn't understand why a hunter needed an automatic weapon. The reporter clearly didn't understand the difference between an automatic and semi-automatic weapon (which she should have) and asked Huckabee to explain. Huckabee drew a laugh from the audience when he admitted he wanted to respond by questioning the reporter's intelligence. Huckabee and the reporter obviously shared a bond of ignorance (pun intended).

Huckabee then went on to try to explain why the Second Amendment is just as important as the First Amendment. I suppose that might be true if we choose candidates using bullets instead of ballots. Or if we made laws based on the size of your gun rather than the strength of your ideas. Actually, maybe Huckabee and his friends at the NRA would consider trading ballots for bullets, read on.

Note to Huckabee: Guns may be required to defend a democracy from external physical threats, but it is speech, debate and ideas that build democracies, keep them strong and growing and protect them from insidious internal threats.

Governor Huckabee spent a great deal of time explaining that it was important to protect hunting and a way of life many Americans value. I agree. But like too many NRA members, he couldn't stop there. He also argued that the Second Amendment was about more than just hunting. Smart move, since the amendment starts with "A well regulated Militia". He then spoke about the importance of guns for self defense and finally about guns as the final defense against a rogue United States government. Here is a man who wants to be President of the United States telling people to arm themselves so they can overthrow the government if it isn't doing what they want. Unbelievable! Would citizens taking up arms against the government still qualify as "A well regulated Militia"?

To his credit, he never raised the possibility that we would all need to get out our guns and man the barricades against Islamic Fascists!

Huckabee was fired up. I wasn't sure if he was energized by the smell of gun powder or the smell of power. He admitted he had a permit in Arkansas to carry a concealed weapon. A fact he wanted critics of his politics to know about and he wasn't talking about critics in the Republican party. Listening, I had to wonder if, as President, he would give the State of the Union address while packin' heat.

Just to make sure everyone in the room understood he was also a cowboy, he included a wistful thought about the United Nations breaking off and floating down the East River. That, of course, energized the crowd. That wimpy lot over at the UN talk too much for these NRA gun slingers. For that matter they probably also think too much.

If Governor Huckabee gets the nomination there is enough material in his speech for the Democrats to make at least half a dozen good campaign commercials.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Straw Men Deserve A Medal

How do you know when the President and Republicans have no clue how to extricate us from Iraq?

When their best option is a preemptive attack on

Someone should start a body count of the straw men who have been sacrificed in defense of this administration. They certainly deserve a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Were Senator Clinton's Answers Delayed?

Was it just me, or was there a delay between the end of a Chris Wallace question from the viewer's perspective and the start of Senator Clinton's response (Fox Views Sunday, 09/23/2007)? It looked like it might have been a small satellite transmission delay. It was not as long as a delay as we see on interviews from Iraq, but it was long enough to make it look, at times, like Senator Clinton was pausing before each answer. A couple of times I thought it made her look like she was being tentative with an answer.

I didn't notice the delay when Senator Clinton was being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC News' 'This Week' even though I believe Senator Clinton was interviewed from the same location. It is quite possible the ABC interview was prerecorded and they had the delay edited out.

For all their proclamations of Fair and Balanced, I don't trust FOX.

Hillary Out-foxed FOX!

Senator Hillary Clinton was a guest on FOX Views Sunday this morning. Chris Wallace served up a knuckle-ball question to lead off the interview and sprinkled in a couple of screwballs and curves, but Senator Clinton didn't take a swing at any of the junk pitches thrown at her. In a hostile stadium and without the home field advantage, she hit a home run and took home a victory.

For those of you who don't like sports analogies, she refused to be goaded into confirming stereotypes and kept her message clear and focused. She consistently made the point that she was more interested in solutions than partisan distractions. She handled all the questions, serious and right-wing red meat, with ease. She looked prepared, intelligent, serious, reasonable and presidential. Even worse, for the Republicans, she looked like a winner.

By the way, as always, Chris Wallace told her at the end of the interview that she was always welcome on FOX Views Sunday. I doubt that she will be invited back for another one on one interview with Chris Wallace. She out-foxed FOX!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Time For Change! Time For Action!

I'm tired of hearing that the Democrats only want defeat in Iraq or that the Democrats have no plan. It has become clear that the President is the one who has given up. He doesn't want the failure to come on his watch so his plan is to stall and turn the mess over to someone else. There is hope for Iraq, but the new ideas are not going to come from this administration.

Senator Joe Biden has been talking about his Plan For Iraq for over a year. He has, with Senator Brownback and Senator Boxer, sponsored a bill to implement this plan. Please read his letter below and sign the petition. The vote on this measure is coming up next Tuesday and we need to put pressure on members of the House and Senate to get behind this approach.

The following is a letter from Senator Joe Biden sent to supporters.

As it becomes clear that President Bush plans to pass the Iraq war off to our next President, the debate over our policy there has reached a fevered pitch in Washington, DC and around the country.

Surge, Don't Surge, Timetables, Funding, Militias, Iran, Al Quaeda -- with all the lingo and spin being thrown around by everyone, it's easy to lose track of the most important factor that will determine what happens in Iraq.

That's the need for a political settlement in Iraq among Iraqis. Every Democrat and most Republicans agree there is no purely military way to stabilize Iraq -- there has to be a political settlement. That begs the question: what is that political settlement?

When you boil it all down, there are really only two choices in Iraq:

1. Continue to support, as President Bush has done, the idea that a strong central government will emerge in Iraq that will pull the country together, or

2. Realize that there is too much hatred and distrust for the various groups to reach consensus on the big issues, and begin to establish a federal system -- where each region of Iraq is given a great deal of control over its laws and government.
President Bush, and many Democrats continue to cling to choice #1, hoping against hope that if we just keep enough troops in Iraq long enough, or threaten to leave one more time, we can build or force unity where none exists.

Five years into this war, what's left for us to say to the Iraqi government? "We really, really, REALLY mean it this time."

It's time to abandon this strategy. It's not working.

I have called for a loose, federal system with strong regional governments for more than a year now, as Iraq's constitution provides. It would give Iraq's people local control over their daily lives -- the police, education, jobs, government services, etc. And people from both sides of the political aisle are joining me to try to make this a reality.

Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and I introduced the Biden-Brownback-Boxer amendment, which calls for working with the Iraqis to transition the country into a federal system, as their Constitution allows and securing the support of the United Nations and Iraq's neighbors for this plan.

Majority Leader Harry Reid has called on Dems to unite in support for the measure and Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Chuck Shumer (D-NY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-AR) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) have joined us as co-sponsors. In an important display of bipartisanship, Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) are also supporting the amendment.


There are 3 things you can do today to help us reach the only viable political solution in Iraq and begin to bring our troops home without leaving a bloodbath behind.

1. Click here to sign our petition in support of the Biden-Brownback-Boxer amendment. We will send your signatures to other members of the House and Senate to convince them to support the amendment.

2. Call the presidential candidates in the Senate, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Chris Dodd to urge them to vote against the failed Bush administration's policy of propping up a central government by supporting our Biden-Brownback-Boxer amendment.

Hillary Clinton: (202) 224-4451
Barack Obama: (202) 224-2854
Chris Dodd: (202) 224-2823

3. Call the other presidential candidates, Bill Richardson and John Edwards, and tell them to support a federal system in Iraq by supporting the Senators behind the Biden-Brownback-Boxer amendment.

Bill Richardson: (505) 828-2455
John Edwards: (919) 636-3131

As I said earlier, the choice is pretty stark: you either think the central government in Iraq can get the job done or you don't. It's time for our nation's leaders, especially the ones campaigning to be President, to take a stand.

I know where I stand.

Join me to convince others that this is the best way to end the war and avoid a total catastrophe when we leave. Your action today will help shape this debate. Please act and forward this message to others who care about what's going on in Iraq.

Thank you,

Joe Biden

09/25/2007 Update. It looks like the vote won't happen today which means there is still time to call and ask the candidates and your Senators to support the resolution.

09/26/2007 Update. The bill passed the Senate today 75-23. Maybe we can change the course in Iraq before January, 2009. Thank you, Joe Biden!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Note to Senate: Stand Up For The Troops!

Back in December, 2004, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously said,

"As you know, you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want."

As has been demonstrated, this administration inherited a damn good military. What shape will the military be in when President Bush leaves office in January, 2009?

It is time to pass the Webb-Hagel Dwell Time Amendment.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Ban Assault Weapons, Not Gay Marriages

Ask candidates for office if they take money from the NRA and if they do, don't vote for them.Several years ago I heard an NRA spokesman downplaying the idea that allowing the sale of assault weapons in the United States could be a problem. As I recall, he claimed that an assault weapon had not been used to kill anyone in the U.S., or something close to that. I thought at the time that it sounded like an absurd claim.

This week we have a report from the Associated Press that assault weapons are now becoming the weapon of choice for gangs in Miami (Assault-Weapon Attacks on Rise in Miami Area, Where Police Officer Was Slain, by Matt Sedensky).
The spray of bullets that killed a police officer and hurt three others
this week came from something increasingly common on this city's streets: a
high-powered assault weapon, fast becoming the gun of choice for gang members
and violent criminals.
Will the United States become like Iraq, where you have to have an assault weapon in your house to feel safe? How long before builders are advertising houses with bullet proof glass and walls so people don't have to worry about stray high powered bullets?

We consider ourselves a civilized country. But does a civilized country allow weapons designed for war to be sold legally for as little as $200?

There is something very wrong in this country. We have people who will only vote for politicians who support a ban on gay marriage, but don't seem to be the least upset that we allow our country to be filled with guns meant only for war!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Return On Success - Stay On Failure

The Conventional Wisdom Watch in this week's Newsweek (September 24, 2007) nailed the new Bush policy:

Return On Success - Stay On Failure

Actually, this doesn't sound like a new policy. It is just a better explanation of their policies from day one and explains why President Bush has been saying for several years that getting out of Iraq would be a task for the next president. The man knows his limitations.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

President Bush The Actor

Fred Thompson has entered the presidential race. He joins another famous actor, Ronald Reagan, in his pursuit of the presidency. Maybe he will make a good president, but we have an actor in the White House now and it is not working out very well.

The first excerpt in Slate (read excerpts here) from Robert Draper's new book, Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush, makes it even more clear what motivates President Bush's policy in Iraq. To pursue anything but clear success in Iraq would be to dishonor the men and women who have fought there. Especially those who were wounded or died there.

Here is an excerpt from the book,

He viewed it as the commander in chief's obligation to visit with those who had suffered loss as a result of his decisions. "Sometimes it's not pleasant, and I understand that," Bush said as he leaned back from his vanquished bowl of ice cream. "And they have every right to be unpleasant. Sometimes there are disagreements. ... Yeah, it's hard. And to see the wounded, the head injuries. But that's part of the presidency, to immerse yourself in their emotions. Because they look at the president and they—most of them—say, 'My son or daughter did what they wanted to do.' The interesting thing is, the healer gets healed. I appreciate it."

And later,

For the first and only time in that seventy-minute monologue-dominated conversation, Bush fell silent for several seconds. "Yeah, well," he finally said. "When you're responsible for putting a kid in harm's way, you better understand that if that kid thinks you're making a decision based on polls—or something other than what you think is right, or wrong, based upon principles—then you're letting that kid down. And you're creating conditions for doubt. And you can't give a kid a gun and have him doubt whether or not the president thinks it's right, and have him doubt whether or not he's gonna be supportive in all ways. And you can't learn that until you're the guy sitting behind the desk."
To admit doubt or misgivings would be telling these men and women that their sacrifices were for nothing. He could never look a wounded warrior in the eye again. He could never face the tears of a grieving parent, spouse or child.

No, George Bush will not let polls change his direction. He won't logically reflect on what might be best for the country at this point. He can't he even consider what might be best for the troops who haven't yet been wounder or killed. His plan is to stay loyal to the troops who have made sacrifices and insist that the cause is worth their effort as long as he is president. Someone else will have dishonor their sacrifices. He has to play the part of a President loyal to his troops. A script he wrote himself.

Stay and Play

With the revelations from the new book Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush by Robert Draper (read excerpts at Slate) we have learned that President Bush's Iraq slogan has morphed again.

He has gone from "Stay the Course" to "Stay and Pray" and now to "Stay and Play".

Senator Biden's Plan For Iraq

I heard a Republican strategist on TV whining that Democrats complain about President Bush, but she hadn't heard any of the Democratic candidates put forth their own plan to deal with Iraq. That's probably because she never listens to anything except Fox Views. Or maybe she said she hadn't heard any Democratic plan to WIN in Iraq. Which would be even more absurd because it is clear that President Bush's plan is to pass Iraq off to the next president.

Below is a copy of an email sent by Senator Biden to supporters. In it is a link to the Plan For Iraq that he and Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, proposed in May of 2006.

Republicans may disagree with Senator Biden and Mr. Gelb, but they should stop saying no one besides President Bush has a plan. (By the way, I heard a pundit say that a version of the Biden plan is being quietly talked about in the White House as plan CWDWDN, the fall back if the President is forced to do something.)

Text of Senator Biden's September, 4, 2007, email:

Yesterday we learned that President Bush went to Iraq to survey the situation on the ground first hand. This is good news. The President needs to see what the rest of us have seen and know. While his plan for a surge in Iraq has had limited and temporary military success, it has not brought about the kind of political reconciliation the President and his Cabinet had hoped for.

It is my sincere hope that the President went to Iraq, not with an outcome in mind, but with his eyes open looking to learn the facts on the ground. And the facts are: there is no chance that Iraq can be governed by a strong central government no matter how many troops we have there.

We'll be hearing a lot about the "surge" over the next several weeks, but we all must remember its original purpose: to buy time for the central government in Iraq to get its act together and win the trust of all Iraqis.

That will not happen.

Absent an occupation which we cannot sustain or the return of a dictator which we cannot support, Iraq cannot be governed from the center at this point in its history.

There is no trust within the government, no trust of the government by the people, no capacity by the government to deliver security and services, and no prospect it will build that trust and capacity any time soon.

I've been making that case for over a year. And so have more and more experts, in and out of government.

Back in November, CIA director Michael Hayden made this very point in a private meeting with the Iraq Study Group. He said "the inability of the [central] government to govern is irreversible." There is no "milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around," he said. "We have spent a lot of energy and treasure creating a government... that cannot function."

Two weeks ago, our entire intelligence community came to the same conclusion. The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq found that "Iraqi political leaders remain unable to govern effectively" and predicted that "the Iraqi government will become more precarious over the next six to twelve months."

As everyone knows, I have offered a plan ( that contains the possibility, not the guarantee, of promoting stability in Iraq as we leave. It's based on the reality that Iraq cannot be governed from the center.

Instead, we have to give its warring factions breathing room in their own regions, with control over the fabric of their daily lives - police, education, jobs, marriage, and religion.

A limited central government would be in charge of truly common concerns, including protecting Iraq's borders and distributing oil revenues.

The good news is: the federal system at the heart of my plan is already in Iraq's constitution and in its laws.

We should refocus our efforts on making federalism work for all Iraqis. It is past time to make Iraq's the world's problem, not just our own.

Thank you,

Joe Biden

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Should we wait until all the US is this crowded?
Over Populated - Are We There Yet?

I watched NOVA on PBS last night, "Dimming The Sun". They described some of the scientific research that proves that airborne particles (and the cloud formations that they facilitate) significantly reduce the amount of sunlight that strikes the surface of the earth. This reduction in sunlight has a measurable cooling effect on the earth.

While this reduction in sun light and the cooling effect might seem to be a beneficial counter to global warming, it also causes problems. Scientists believe it may have contributed to some of the devastating droughts in Africa and, of course, air pollution is a serious health concern.

The most sobering observations were that global dimming has masked the effects of global warming and that as we continue to make progress decreasing air pollution, we will greatly increase the rate of global warming. The current models that attempt to project the rate of global warming do not take into account the full effects of global dimming. We may have much less time to bring global warming under control. Many decades less time. There is a point at which the effects of global warming begin to cascade and there will be nothing we can do to reverse it. Let me say it again, there is a point where reversing global warming will be completely out of our control. That time may be closer than we think.

It has taken decades to convince people that global warming is real. How long would it take to convince people we should stop trying to prevent air pollution until global warming is under control?

I'm sure there are people who will argue that global dimming is just as unreal as global warming, but they've been arguing against global warming for years and so far no good, hard evidence has appeared to suggest they are correct. Global warming is a big problem that will take massive and, probably, painful solutions.

One of the solutions to global warming should be population reduction. Reducing the world's population by itself will not reverse global warming fast enough, but it should be a another tool.

Doesn't common sense tell us that more people on the planet will only make our environmental problems worse? At some point there will be more people on earth than the planet can support. When that time comes we can reduce population several ways: nature can make drastic reductions (disease, famine, loss of habitat), governments can force family planning or we can make voluntary reductions. Since the first two have already occurred in some places, shouldn't we be proactive and start voluntary reductions?

By the way, if we don't bring global warming under control soon, population reduction will occur.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Should we wait until all the US is this crowded?
Over Populated - Are We There Yet?

In the July, 2007, issue of Popular Science is an article entitled Skyscraper Farm about a plan to build skyscrapers to house highly automated hydroponic farms. A farm might be 30 stories tall and feed 50,000 people. Microbiologist Dickson Despommier of Columbia University suggests skyscraper farms as a solution to several problems.

Al Gore has suggested that we grow more trees in response to global warming. Since 40.5 percent of the earth is being used for agriculture, we could move agriculture to skyscrapers and use the land formerly planted in crops for trees.

With the world's population projected to grow from 6 billion to 9 billion, we will need to find additional land to grow food, land we need planted in trees to counter global warming. Skyscraper farms allow a lot of food to be grown on a small foot print of land.

In addition, these hydroponic farms could use and recycle waste water and sewage (after pretreatment) to not only grow the plants, but also to produce clean water by capturing the moisture that evaporates from the leaves. Clean water is another resource that is becoming more scarce. Presumably, skyscraper factories would use less water because water loss due to evaporation would be minimized.

This all sounds fine, except this solution (and problems it tries to solve) are in response to another problem. Over-population. Shouldn't we be talking about ways to minimize population growth and, maybe, over the long term, decreasing the worlds population to a level that is enviornmentlly and economically sustainable without such drastic solutions?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Presidential Primary Reform

Once again states are jockeying to move their presidential primaries to the front of the line. You can't blame them. An early primary means money and political clout, but at the rate we are going we may end up with the first presidential primary occurring more than a year before the actual election.

It is time for common sense to intervene. I recommend the American Plan from FairVote. It seems to be the best of several I've heard about. They make the point that determining the nominee early hurts both parties

  • A short campaign does not fully vet nominees or issues.
  • Writing a check has become more important than casting a vote. Since 1980, 13 of the 14 presidential nominees--in both parties--were those who raised the most money by December 31 of the previous year.
  • There are 4 months of dead air until the national convention.
Their solution is to spread the process out over about 20 weeks and front load the process with smaller states to make it easier and cheaper for candidates to participate.

The American Plan:The Graduated Random Presidential Primary System, or The American Plan (sometimes known as the California Plan), is designed to begin with contests in small-population states, where candidates do not need tens of millions of dollars in order to compete. A wide field of presidential hopefuls will be competitive in the early going. A "minor candidate's" surprise successes in the early rounds, based more on the merit of the message than on massive amounts of money, will tend to attract money from larger numbers of small contributors for the campaign to spend in later rounds of primaries.

Thus there should be more longevity of candidacy, and more credible challengers to the "front-runners." However, as the campaign proceeds, the aggregate value of contested states becomes successively larger, requiring the expenditure of larger amounts of money in order to campaign effectively. A gradual weeding-out process occurs, as less-successful candidates drop out of the race.

The goal is for the process to produce a clear winner in the end, but only after all voices have had a chance to be heard.

While there are several proposals for reform, this one has a lot to recommend. Let us hope that the political parties and states come to their senses and decide on a national plan.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Dinar Stops Here

President Bush will no doubt write a book when he leaves office. I have a suggestion for the title,

The Dinar Stops Here

Over-Populated. Are We There Yet?

Should we wait until all the US is this crowded?On the U.S. Census Bureau web site there is a paper written in 2000 that attempts to project the population of the United States through the year 2100. As you can imagine, this is a difficult task, but they do it in a well described, scientific manner. They have to make a large number of estimates about birth rates, mortality rates and migration rates. They ended up with three series of projections based on these estimates using a low, medium (middle) and high rate of population growth (see paper here).

The lowest projection has the population of the U.S. rising to about 313 million by 2050 and then falling to about 282 million by 2100. The middle series projects the population of the United States to continue to grow and reach about 571 million by 2100. The highest series (which I believe is based on a high immigration rate) has the population reaching about 1.18 BILLION by 2100.

Who knows what the actual population of the United States will be in 2100, but what these projections do show is that given the right (or wrong) circumstances, the population of the United States could increase dramatically over the coming decades.

What do you think would be the affects of a population roughly four times the current population of about 302 million people? Would a U.S. population of 1.18 billion be better than a population of 282 million people?

While few of us will see the year 2100, our actions will help determine the future population of the United States. Shouldn't we review the facts and determine what we believe would be the ideal population of the United States and then work to achieve that goal?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Does Newt Have Lazy Eyes?

I watched former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich on Fox News Sunday this morning. Is it just me or does he have a serious problem making eye contact? I noticed this the last time I saw him on Fox News Sunday. He looks like he is making eye contact with Chris Wallace occasionally, but most of the time he is starting off to the right or his eyes are just wandering.

In fairness, a television interviewer is often looking down at notes preparing for the next question, so the interviewee has to look at a person who is not looking at them, but the audience doesn't see this.

Newt needs to work on this. The impression he gives is a politician who has problem looking people straight in the eye.

Fox Views

Having watched Fox News Sunday again today, I suggest the program's name be changed to Fox Views Sunday.

Actually, I like Fox Views for the network name also and have a suggestion for a new slogan. Clearly "Fair and Balanced" is just part of a ruse. How about (with apologies to Admiral Farragut)

"Damn the facts! Full speed to the right!".

Monday, July 23, 2007

Joe Biden Can Do it

As you think about which candidate is best qualified to be our next president, ask yourself this question.

If you could choose one of the candidates to walk into the Oval Office tomorrow and start getting us out of Iraq in a way that protects our interests and our troops, who would you choose?

In my opinion, there is no question. Joe Biden.

CNN Democratic Debate

The CNN Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate tonight was another chance for Democrats to get pumped about the 2008 election. This strong field keeps looking better. Senator Clinton gave another strong, polished, controlled performance that confirms her front runner status, but for solid, straight-forward, no nonsense, reasoned ideas, you can't beat Senator Joe Biden. It amazes me that he is still a second tier candidate.

I'm not sure what it will take for him to receive the attention he deserves. My hope is that he can hang on until he gets his break.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Democrats, Compromise and Move Forward

OK, the Democrats with their all night session have paid their political dues to the far left. They've tried to force a rapid withdrawal from Iraq on the far left's terms. Now it is time to cut the political crap and work with Republicans to move us forward.

On the talk shows today it was suggested that the Democrats were more interested in making Republicans pay than trying to figure out ways, with Republican help, to start getting us out of Iraq. I don't want to hear that some Democrats are afraid any compromise will give Republicans political cover. Americans are dieing in Iraq for a failed policy and as far as I'm concerned nobody has political cover until we have a plan and we don't have a hundred bodies coming home every month. Republicans lost power because they put partisan politics ahead of the national interest. You would have thought the Democrats would understand they will be held to the same standard.

We should have some goals we can agree on.

  • The national interest of the United States should guide all solutions.
  • We need to change course so American casualties are significantly reduced, ASARP.
  • We should try to move as many troops as possible either out of Iraq or to the sidelines in a reasonable time frame.
  • We should maximize our ability to take out al Quida.
  • We should do what we reasonably can to help Iraq move politically to a situation that minimizes the violence when we leave.
If sixty or more Senators can agree on the Baker/Hamilton plan, I believe that is Senator Salazar's plan, let's have a vote. If we can't get that to pass, try the Warner/Lugar proposal. It is clear that President Bush will not change course until he has no options. With Republican support, Democrats can keep passing bills. Each time President Bush refuses to listen to bi-partisan suggestions it will make it easier to pass a tougher bill until the Senate has the backbone to pass a bill the President cannot ignore.

I heard an estimate this morning that as many as 250,000 Iraqis might be killed in the turmoil after we leave. We should do what we can to minimize that number. Maybe it is time to STRONGLY suggest our own political solution. For example, we could suggest that Iraq be divided, as Senator Joe Biden and others have suggested. We would draw the lines, since the Iraqis could never do it, and then give people whatever protection we can for three months to relocate before we withdraw. That idea may be ridiculous, but is it any worse than the current plan which seems to be surge until next April when either we have an Iraq that can take care of itself or our military breaks? As far as I can tell the track we are on now ends at the edge of a cliff next April and no one has a plan to stop the train or switch to another track.

It is now time for the Democrats to lead. No more partisan politics. The discussions should no longer include references to Democrats or Republicans. Senators and Representative need to work together as patriots to develop a plan that replaces the current failing policies in Iraq.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Force Them All To Leave

When the comprehensive immigration proposal was debated, the question was always asked, what are you going to do with the 12-20 million illegals who are here already? To most people, the thought of rounding up and deporting that many people was nonsense. Most are productive members of society. Many have been here for over a decade.

I heard the end of an NPR interview the other day that confirmed what many of us suspected, but I had not heard articulated.

The plan is to seal the borders, ratchet up enforcement of existing laws and, over time, force the 12-20 million people to go home. Some will be caught and deported. The rest will be harassed and prevented from working. Eventually, everyone here illegally will be forced out. The speaker, I didn't catch who it was, admitted that this may take 10, 20 or 30 years.

Maybe this was being said and I didn't hear it. Maybe they were using codes I just didn't understand.

I don't support allowing a lot of new immigrants, especially unskilled labor, for reasons I've previously stated. But at what point does strict enforcement of the law just become mean-spirited vindictiveness?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Selfish, Selfish, Selfish, ...

I saw part of a show about the Duggar family the other day. While the show tried to portray the parents as loving, sharing, family people, the word that best seems to describe them is selfish.

Each of those kids deserve better than being just one of a litter. They deserve to be raised by parents, not siblings.

Each additional child devalues the others. They are being told that you kids weren't enough to fill our lives, we need to try again.

Selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish, selfish.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Claim the Fame, Pass the Blame

President Harry Truman is famous for the motto on his desk that said

"The Buck Stops Here."

Compare him to politicians today who seem to prefer the motto,

"Claim the Fame, Pass the Blame."

A sign with a arrow pointing left and right with the words, The Buck Stops Over There, Way Over There

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Chertoff! Call Boehner, Immediately!

Exclamation Point!
Someone needs to set up a conference call between Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff and Representative John Boehner immediately. Secretary Chertoff said yesterday that the country faces a heightened chance of a terrorist attack this summer.

Representative John Boehner has been telling us for several years that we are fighting al-Qaida in Iraq so that we don't have to fight them here. How can we be threatened here if we are keeping al-Qaida busy fighting us in Iraq?

I'd feel better if someone would get these two together and straighten this out

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Global Resource Bubble

Picture of Earth from NASAEveryone has heard of an economic bubble. One of the causes, as described in Wikipedia is,

The cause of bubbles is often disputed although some experts believe that the cause of bubbles can be explained by the "greater fool's theory." The greater fool's theory explains the behavior of a perennially optimistic market participant (the fool) who buys an overvalued asset in anticipation of selling it to another rapacious speculator (the greater fool) at a much higher price. The bubbles continue as long as the fool can find another (greater) fool to pay up for the overvalued asset. The bubbles will end only when the greater fool becomes the greatest fool who pays the top price for the overvalued asset and can no longer find another buyer to pay for it at a higher price.

There is another kind of bubble, a "psychological bubble" or "reality bubble" where people isolate themselves from other people or situations that they do not want to deal with. This is not a neurosis. We all do it. We construct our own reality that explains who we are, why we are here and our position in the world around us. It is a method of coping.

Sometimes the reality bubbles are physical, such as countries. Sometimes they are emotional, like religion. Reality bubbles can be burst, just like economic bubbles, but this is rare because it is human nature to bend reality to fit our preconceptions.

These two bubbles, the economic and the reality bubbles are at the heart of another bubble, the global resource bubble. We humans like the way the world is developing and we don't want it to stop. The fact that the kind of growth we have experienced up to this point is not sustainable is not a reality we can face or accept. That is why so many people for so long have denied that we are running out of oil or global warming is a reality. That is why people fail to see that the world is already over-populated. If we are satisfied with our standard of living, we want to maintain it. If we are not satisfied, we want to raise it. In both cases, that means ever increasing economic growth, ever increasing population and ever increasing destruction of the environment.

Unfortunately, just like the Dot.COM bubble or the housing bubble, the global resource bubble will eventually burst. Theoretically the human race could manage the situation and evolve our economies to provide an acceptable standard of living for everyone using resources in a sustainable manner, but that is not going to happen.

We are guilty of the "greater fools theory" on a global scale. In this case it is not an overvalued asset we are buying, but an undervalued asset, the very world we live in, and the fools are people not yet born.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Paris 23, Scooter 0

It's worse than bull shit, it's Republican elephant shit.OK, I didn't get it quite right
(Paris 45, Scooter 0).

Paris got out of jail early when her sentence was cut by 22 days for good behavior and on July 2, Scooter got his cut by two and a half years for keeping his mouth shut.

And if he just keeps it shut for another year and a half, he'll have his full pardon. When that happens, does he get his $250,000 fine back?

Monday, July 02, 2007


If you can't do the time,

don't do the crime.

Unless you've got friends in the White House.

Or should I say co-conspirators in the White House?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Immigration Compromise

We are told that immigration reform is dead for this term. I'm not sure it had a chance. In the current environment a compromise bill means both sides get an equal number of provisions they like. Often they are provisions that one side loves and the other side detests. Politicians vote for the bill if their joy outweighs their disgust.

A path to citizenship, amnesty, was just too big an obstacle to overcome. For many people, the offsetting compromise, a promise to strengthen the borders and enforcement, was not enough to mitigate the disgust of seeing law breakers profit from their misdeeds.

Maybe we can make progress if we don't try to create a bill that tries to do everything at once. Pull out pieces that move us forward and a majority of legislators can agree on. A compromise means people on both sides can accept it.

We have millions of people in the U.S. who realistically cannot be sent back to their home countries and do need some sort of legal status. What if we give those who qualify legal status (permanent resident status?), but do not promise them a path to citizenship? They can stay here as long as they don't break any laws.

Along with this we pass a law that makes it a felony to be in this country illegally. Anyone convicted would be biometrically identified, deported and would lose future rights to enter the country legally. Further convictions would bring ever longer jail time, then deportation.

This would give the 12-20 million undocumented people in this country a way to legally remain in the U.S. with some strong penalties. Without citizenship it would be harder to bring relatives to this country. These people can't vote. Other penalties could be imposed, if required, like a fine or a requirement to learn English.

It would also remove some of the incentive to cross the border illegally because if you are caught, you have no hope of ever becoming a legal resident of the United States and face possible incarceration. And it will be harder to find a job because the workers who qualified for legal status will have a green card to show employers.

If this compromise is still too much like amnesty, give them a six year temporary status (the number of years would be chosen to try to keep the issue out of a presidential race). In six years Congress would have to decide what to do next. Maybe the solution will be clearer or at least less emotional at that point. If not, Congress can do what it is best at and kick the can down the road again.

I'm sure people who know more about immigration can devise even better compromises, but for an issue that has caused so much political turmoil there is no need to give up. This compromise failed, but that doesn't mean we can't create a better one.

Would God Be Your Vice-President?

All the presidential candidates seem happy to talk about their religion and faith. While I think such matters are personal and private, they feel it is politically advantageous to make their religious beliefs public.

If a candidate's life and actions are as dependant on their religious beliefs as most profess and many seem happy (and some eager) to tell us about, shouldn't we be asking them tough questions? If a candidate's daily life and decisions are guided and affected by their religious beliefs, aren't these principles and beliefs just as important as their stands on health care or Iraq? If a candidate, for example, says they don't believe in evolution, we need to find out why. If their belief is based on religion, what other strange beliefs might they have? Do they believe in the Rapture?

Personally, I would rather have a president who deep down believes "God helps those who help themselves." more than they believe in the power of prayer. I want a president who believes the fate of the country is in our hands and not a god whose actions are often beyond our understanding.

I would have no problem with a candidate who says something like - "I have strong religious beliefs that have helped shape who I am. Those beliefs can be seen in the decisions I've made and the actions I've taken in my life. My religion and faith continue to be a source of comfort and strength in my daily life, but they are personal and not open to public discussion. While I will always be a person of faith, as president of a secular country I will make presidential decisions based on reason, logic and the interests of all the citizens of the United States."

For those candidates not willing to make such a statement, I have a few questions.

How much would your faith and religious beliefs influence your decisions as President?

As President, which would be more the more important guide when making decisions, the Bible or the Constitution?

Do you believe that non-Christians are as moral as Christians?

Is your God the only true God?

Does your God treat non-believers the same as believers?

Would you treat non-believers the same as believers?

Is your God active in the world? That is, does your God, on a daily or regular basis, change the course of events?

Does your God change the world in response to prayer?

If so, does your God change the world in positive response to prayers from people of other faiths or religions?

How often do you pray?

What do you pray for?

Have you ever asked God for guidance with a problem?

When confronted with a large problem, have you ever "turned it over to" God?

Has God ever given you guidance?

Have your prayers ever been answered?

Has God ever spoken to you directly?

If so, how do you know it was God that spoke?

Have you ever prayed for God to change or influence events?

What is a miracle?

Can you describe a recent miracle you believe God made happen?

This list may sound like a lot of gotcha questions, but so many candidates are treating religion like just another focus group issue. If they really believe religion is another tool to attract voters, then we need the details.

Are We Addicted To Cheap Labor?

The President thinks we are addicted to cheap oil. Does anyone think we are addicted to cheap labor?

I keep hearing that we need lots of cheap labor to keep our economy growing. There are two proposals. Bring in short term guest workers - labor mercenaries - psuedo-slaves. They do work that no one living in the U.S. will do for wages that only the truly desperate will accept.

Or we can bring in people and families who will the supply cheap labor with the hope of a future in the U.S. They will eventually become citizens and presumably move up the economic pyramid. Unfortunately the current economic pyramid grows from the bottom down leaving a need for more and more cheap labor at the bottom.

Will our economy always require new people to work for wages below the poverty level to sustain a higher standard of living for the rest of us?

Where does this end?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Paris 45, Scooter 0

Paris Hilton will spend more time in jail than Scooter Libby.

Libby lied to protect the Vice-President, now the Vice-President and President feel honor bound to make sure he doesn't go to jail.

There is one question I haven't heard asked or answered. Conservatives are almost in tears over the fate of Libby. They at least act appalled that Libby might go to jail when the real law breaker was Richard Armitage, which of course isn't true. The other people were consciously trying to out Valerie Plame Wilson while Armitage innocently revealed the fact.

But here is my question, while Libby was purposefully leaking Valerie Wilson as a CIA operative, did he know that Armitage had already unintentionally revealed that information? If not, then Libby would have thought that he was committing an illegal act and committed the act anyway. He is no choir boy.

Libby should go to jail for the crimes he committed, perjury and obstruction of justice. It's a shame that he and others who risked lives and the national defense for political revenge aren't going to jail for those crimes.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Wrestling in Iraq

I saw former Senator Bob Kerrey on TV the other night. He believes neither the Democrats or the Republicans have it right on Iraq when, in general, Republicans believe in the status quo and Democrats want to pull all the troops ASAP or ASARP.

He suggested that we should immediately pull the troops from Baghdad, get out of the middle of a civil war and move the troops to the borders to stop outsiders from entering the country. We should then ask the Iraqis what we can do to help them. We would then do what we reasonably could to honor their requests, but the guiding principle would be to do what is in our best interests. And one of our primary interests is to stay in the region and get al Qaeda.

This is not a particularly new idea. I can't understand why there isn't wider support.

When we leave Baghdad, there may be a blood bath, but the sad truth is either the factions must be separated (the Biden plan), they must compromise and share power, or one side has to be beaten into submission. We can't tell them how to solve their problems, only they can do that.

I think many people, including many Iraqis, see our role as like a referee in a boxing match. While the fighters are trying to beat each other to a pulp, we stay neutral and make sure no one gets hurt too badly. But this is not a boxing match. There are no rules and there is no bell after the 10th round to stop the fight. As long as we are there, in the middle of the ring, with all our resources and power, the best political strategy for them is to use us as a shield or a target.

But this isn't a boxing match. It is closer to professional wrestling and there is no referee and no rules. There are many wrestlers who come and go and join the fight when it fits their needs. And yes, al Qaeda is in the ring also, taking shots at everyone. Their goal is to make sure there is no winner. While all we really want to do is fight al Qaeda, we are just another fighter in the middle of a melee.

We need to get out of the center of the ring, let everyone else fight on if they want and then whack al Qaeda every chance we get.

Go Joe!

I've been watching the presidential candidates as they position themselves to win the nomination. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both are strong candidates. I was impressed by Bill Richardson early on, but lately I've been a little disappointed. While I would have never thought of Chris Dodd as presidential material, he has shown himself to be a strong candidate with well stated positions.

At this early stage of the campaign, any one of these people would make a good candidate.

At this point, I don't believe John Edwards has what it takes. I'm not sure what is missing, but I don't see him as a winner against a Republican candidate.

My favorite candidate is Joe Biden. I've watched him on the news shows many times and I'm always impressed. He's a passionate man who doesn't seem to be afraid to say what he thinks. Occasionally that gets him into trouble, but I would rather have a candidate who takes a position and vigorously defends it than a candidate who chooses words carefully so as not to offend any group. You are never sure what they really believe.

It is still very early, but if you haven't been watching Joe Biden, start. This guy is definitely presidential material.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Is Immigration Anti-Capitalism?

Why is it that our capitalist country believes so strongly in free markets until the product is cheap labor? If the need for more corn to produce ethanol drives the price of milk up, we expect that more farmers will plant corn as a response and prices will drop. But when the problem is a shortage of labor, the response is to bring in cheap, foreign labor. Why don't we let market pressures solve the problem?

I heard a California farmer complain that he couldn't find farm labors willing to harvest his crops. He said he didn't think he could find people willing to do the back breaking work at even $20 an hour. So what's the answer? He wants foreign laborers to come in and do the work (and I bet they'll be paid a LOT less than $20 an hour).

Why isn't the answer "Let the markets work it out"? It seems to me that there are people who will do that hard work if they are compensated well enough. $30 and hour? $40 an hour? Benefits? You can get workers if you pay enough. Of course, the higher labor costs may mean that the produce will be so expensive that consumers will not buy it, but then the farmer has another choice. Grow something that is not so labor intensive. Or go into some other business.

We don't have a problem with people with valuable skills being paid high salaries, so why should we penalize people without specialized education or unique talents from being paid whatever the market requires? I person who has the ability and motivation to do hard work that others won't do should be paid appropriately. We sympathize with the professional athlete who demands a high salary partly because their professional careers are short and subject to an abrupt end if they are injured. How is that any different from anyone who does hard physical labor?

When I was young, a neighbor had a small roofing business. I occasionally did odd jobs for him during the summer and I know the roofers who worked for him were happy to have a good paying job. Now we hear that only cheap foreign labor will do these jobs and many other construction jobs. Baloney! Give a person good pay and benefits and people will be lining up for the jobs.

Our problem is that we want prosperity and low prices and don't mind getting these on the backs of low paid workers.

Robert Reich, who for several years during the Clinton administration was Secretary of Labor, was on NPR this morning. I usually find him to have reasoned and well stated opinions. This morning he took issue with at least part of the proposed immigration bill. He did not like the idea of letting more educated immigrants into the country. If I remember correctly, he had two main arguments. As an example, he pointed out that the salaries of U.S. information technology works have been stagnant the past few years (partly due to globalization), so bringing in skilled people from overseas will just suppress wages even more. He then tackled the complaint that even today there aren't enough information technology workers in the U.S. to fill the jobs that are available. His argument, if we bring in new workers from overseas, that will remove the incentive for U.S. companies to recruit and train new U.S. workers. I'm not going to defend or attack his position, but don't these same basic arguments support the case that we shouldn't bring in low cost foreign labor to undercut low skill U.S. workers?

What really puzzled me about Reich's comments is that I believe he is in favor of bringing in low cost foreign labor.

I still believe that if we are going to bring in foreign labor, employers should be forced to pay them more than what they would pay a U.S. citizen. Twenty-five percent sounds good. If you have a job that pays minimum wage to a U.S. worker, a non-citizen would be paid minimum wage plus 25%. If you are hiring an information worker, you can pay a U.S. citizen $100,000 or a foreign worker $125,000. Market pressure would reward U.S. workers and help insure that there are truly no U.S. workers who are qualified and willing to do the work.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Which Lives Are Sacred?

During the GOP debate the other night, Governor Huckabee, Senator Brownback and Governor Romney were fighting hard to prove they deserved the pro-life vote.

While Governor Romney says "a civilized society has to respect the sanctity of human life", it does seem to me that the candidates make distinctions about which lives are truly sacred.

While some candidates get apoplectic insisting that destroying a cluster of cells in a petri dish is murder, no one seems to be as equally outraged over the atrocities in Darfur. None of them seemed concerned that in Afghanistan, a country under our protection, the infant mortality rate is 165 per 1000 births, one of the highest in the world.

In a 2003 paper from the World Health Organization it was noted that over 10 million children under the age of 5 die each year. Most lived within the worlds 42 lowest income countries. According to this paper, "Malnutrition is associated with 54% of all child deaths." and "Two-thirds of child deaths could be prevented by interventions which are not only already available but which are also feasible to implement in low-income countries."

Where is the moral outrage from the GOP candidates? These staggering numbers do not even include the millions of children under the age of five who are "stunted" due to malnutrition (about 180 million in 2005 according to another study). I still believe too many "pro-life" people are really only "pro-birth".

One of the phrases we often hear from Republicans when defending Bush's war in Iraq is something like, "we are fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here." Since devastation and loss of innocent life are by-products of any war, aren't they basically saying we we would rather lose Iraqi innocent lives rather than American innocent lives? We are rightfully distraught over losing 100 U.S. soldiers and marines a month in Iraq and Afghanistan defending our interests, but we seem to be much less concerned that too often Iraq loses that many innocent civilians in a day. If we are really fighting terrorists in Iraq who want to destroy us, wouldn't it be more moral to fight them over here? Why should innocent Iraqi's die fighting our war rather than us?

The brutal truth is that not all human life is precious and our actions show that none of us believe that all human life is precious. The lives of the people we love are precious to us, but there is a sliding scale for the rest of humanity. Even at that, not all life we might consider precious is worth living. Many of us have been in situations where death is not the worst alternative.

As a civilization we need to become more concerned about the quality of each person's life and not just about whether a person is alive.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pro-Life Synthetic Rage

I don't believe it is helpful to question other people's beliefs or motives, but after watching both Republican debates, I have to wonder if some of the pro-life stances are not just synthetic rage.

I think it is reasonable to question a candidate's reasoning and judgement. For example, any candidate who doesn't believe in evolution doesn't have the scientific background, judgement or common sense to be president.

Do the candidates who so intensely state life begins at conception really believe that? They must believe that conception occurs with the union of sperm and ovum and not with implantation otherwise they wouldn't consider cells in a petri dish to be a human "child" (now there is a way to ratchet up the the rhetoric).

With a definition that life begins with the union of sperm and ovum, aren't many treatments for infertility, which routinely create embryos that are later discarded, forms of murder?

Aren't many forms of female contraception, which prevent implantation in the uterus of a fertilized egg, also murder?

None of the Republican candidates turned their synthetic rage toward couples using in vitro fertilisation or toward women on the pill. I guess political moral outrage has its limits.

Rabid pro-life positions fire up many in the Republican base, but I would expect a serious candidate for the presidency to have a better understanding of this difficult issue. Give Rudy Giuliani credit. He has had to face the issue with logic and reason instead of hyperbole. Maybe he can articulate a position that will add substance to the debate rather than just fire.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Main Stream Media vs Fox

This morning I watched Meet the Press on MSNBC, This Week on ABC and Fox News Sunday. All three had segments on Imus.

I offer these segments as examples of why the "main stream media" is main stream and Fox is a pretender.

Meet the Press and This Week had discussions with differences of opinion that added insight and thought into the debate that is much larger than the comment by Don Imus. Chis Wallace on Fox tried to play "gotcha" journalism with Reverend Al Sharpton and then Bill Kristol gushed over how the incident skewered liberals.

I'm afraid that Don Imus and Fox prove if you pander to people's prejudices you'll always have an audience.

Needed: Middle East Strategic Plan

Retired General Anthony Zinni was on Meet the Press this morning. He said something that while not new, made me think about the future of the Iraq War.

He disagreed with the current approach and he also disagreed with proposals by the Democrats for time tables for withdrawal. What he pointed out was that neither incorporated a strategic plan for the Middle East. The way he presented this made a lot of sense.

I think his idea is close to the call for a Regional Security Summit, but not just as some part of a withdrawal. He is suggesting that we look beyond how we extricate ourselves from Iraq to what is our plan for the Middle East?

One of the reasons given for going into Iraq was that a democratic Iraq would awaken a desire for democracy in the region. While rather simplistic and naive, it was at least the start of a strategy. What is our strategy now?

No matter what they call it, Republicans cling to the "stay the course" policy. Democrats, in response to public pressure and the stupendous incompetency and lack of planning by the administration, have adopted an equally short sighted approach, withdraw. Neither talks a lot about what happens next. How does your plan for Iraq fit into the larger goal to stabilize the Middle East and counter terrorism?

This is a complicated problem and we need better answers from both parties.

Six Years and Out

Retired General Anthony Zinni was one of Tim Russert's guests on Meet the Press this morning. He said several interesting things.

He suggested that U.S. Presidents should be limited to one six year term. Once elected they should become "elder statesman". I think the idea is, they would remove themselves from partisan political debates. General Zinni was dismayed that more people knew the name of the White House Political officer (Karl Rove) than knew the name of the National Security Advisor (Stephen Hadley).

This was a theme echoed by Torie Clarke on This Week on ABC which generated a small discussion about the amount of partisan politics being pursued inside the White House.

The President lives in a world of politics so a political advisor will aways be needed to help garner political support for the President's policies, but is having a PARTISAN political advisor intimately involved in every decision in the best interests of the entire country? Why should the number one partisan political advisor have an office in the White House? And this certainly applies whether the President is a Republican or a Democrat.

One of the reasons this came up was the missing emails that might document Karl Rove's involvement in the recent firing of several U.S. Prosecutors. From this investigation we found out that at least some White House officials were given email accounts on the Republican National Committee's email server. The idea was that the government should not be paying for partisan communications. Of course, it also allowed this communication, where one end was in the White House, from being subject to retention and disclosure laws that apply to White House emails. I'm with Torie Clarke (if I correctly understood her position), if you work in the White House, any communications that take place there fall under the rules of the White House.

A President is elected and then spends 8 years trying to get re-elected. When he (or maybe someday, she) isn't working on their own re-election they are trying to elect or re-elect members of their party. I don't see how that can be good for the country.

I don't know how a President decides when to pursue policies that are best for the country and when to pursue policies that are best for his political party, but it has to make his decision making process more difficult. I think that would make an interesting question for our Presidential candidates. I doubt you would get an honest answer out of any of them, so the best answer will be the one with the least BS.

Six years seems like a long time for a single term, but people tend to re-elect a President. Six years doesn't sound too bad when you realize that Richard Nixon and George W. Bush, as bad as they were and are, were reelected.

How about a six year term with a referendum at the three year mark? There would be no opponent, just a vote as to whether the President will get three more years or would face a full election the during the fourth year.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Thompson For President

This past week Fred Thompson, the former Republican U.S. Senator from Tennessee, has been testing the political waters for a run for the Presidency. Fred Thompson is also an accomplished film and TV actor who currently plays prosecutor Arthur Branch on TV's Law & Order.

Several commentators believe he would be a serious contender if he chooses to run.

Makes sense to me. Republicans like leaders who can make fiction sound like the truth.

U.S. Dept Of Agriculture - WTHWYT

Cow saying 'Sad but true'The U.S. Department of Agriculture has just lost a court case where it was trying to make the food supply LESS safe.

Creekstone Farms Premium Beef wanted to test all the beef it processes for mad cow disease. Mad cow disease is incurable. If you've donated blood through the Red Cross in the past few years you know that they ask several questions about how much time you've spent in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has had a serious problem with mad cow disease which can take as long as 20 to 30 years to appear and then destroys your brain. The Red Cross is very concerned about accepting blood from people who might have the disease and not know it.

Creekstone Farms wants to test all its beef. I'm sure they would use this in their marketing to distinguish themselves from competitors. The Agricultural Department currently tests only about 1 percent of all beef slaughtered. Other meat packers were afraid that if Creekstone Farms were allowed to test all its beef, market demands might force them to test all of theirs. An expensive procedure. So the Agriculture Department threatened to take Creekstone Farms to court if they insisted on testing all the beef they processed. A court recently ruled that the Department of Agriculture could not prevent Creekstone Farms from the additional testing.

So I would like to ask the U.S. Department Of Agriculture, who threatened a business with prosecution because the business wanted to make the food supply safer,

What The Hell Were You Thinking?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Support The Troops. Don't Hide Behind Them.

Several soldiers currently in Iraq were interviewed on television the other day. They were asked what they thought about the war debate back in the US and was it hurting their morale. One soldier said yes it hurt morale. He said something like "How can people say they support the troops and not support their mission?"

I have a great deal of respect for the men and women fighting in Iraq and Aghanistan, but it is unfair to put them on television and ask them questions like that. These are well trained and disciplined soldiers and Marines. Some of the best people who have ever worn the uniform. They are trained to take on a mission and complete it. To ask them in the middle of the mission if it is the correct mission is not fair. For them to question their mission in the middle of a war zone would be to admit defeat. I imagine it would be like deserting their fellow soldiers and they are not going to do it. Anyone who would claim that we should continue this war because the soldiers believe in their mission is a scoundrel.

The civilian leadership (and voters) got us into this war and it is up to the civilian leadership (and voters) to get us out. It is completely unfair to expect the military to decide when to quit a war that will not have a clean ending. One soldier said something like it was OK if the people back home didn't believe in their mission, they would fight on. Lives of men like that should not be wasted so politicians can maintain their electability.

The Forever Stamp Hoax

The Post Office has recently announced that they are considering a new first class stamp with no value on the face. No matter when you buy it or what you pay for it, it can always be used in the future to mail a first class letter. They claim this forever stamp will save money. Not only does the Post Office not have to print new stamps when there is a rate increase, the one cent stamps that people must buy to use up the first class stamps with the old rate cost more to produce than their face value. A one cent stamp costs more than one cent to produce and distribute which means the Post Office loses money every time it raises the price of a first class stamp.

I'm not sure the forever stamp is a good idea, even though there are some countries who have been using it for years. The Post Office says it will be good for consumers, but I'm not so sure.

The Post Office says that this will save people money, but this new policy may actually cost some consumers even more money to mail their letters. When the Post Office announces a rate increase, some people will stock up on the forever stamp. Some people will buy a six month or one year supply of stamps. This means that the extra income that would currently be generated starting the day the new rate goes into affect will now be delayed by months as the forever stamps purchased at the old rate are used up. The Post Office will have to plan and implement rate increases much earlier than they are really needed so that most of the stamps purchased under the old rate will have been used up by the time the Post Office really needs the extra revenue. That means people who don't stock up on stamps before the rate increase will be paying for a more expensive stamp before current postal policies would have required.

There is an even simpler solution to this problem than the forever stamp. Allow first class stamps to used for some period of time after the new rate goes into affect. For example, let's say the price of a first class stamp is being changed from 37 cents to 39 cents on January 1. The Post Office could allow the 37 or 39 cent stamp to be used on first class envelopes until the end of February. This would allow people to use up the old stamps without the inconvenience or expense of one or two cent stamps and the Post Office would know that their revenue increase would be in full affect in only two months.

Sounds too simple, doesn't it? That is because you are not being told the true reason for the forever stamp. With the forever stamp the Post Office doesn't have to create, print and distribute new stamps for each rate increase. A process that takes time. With the forever stamp the Post Office can announce a rate increase a couple of days before it is to take effect.

This will also make it easier to have fractional cent stamps, 45.5 cents for example. A book of 10 would cost $4.55, two stamps would cost 91 cents and a single stamp would cost 46 cents.

It will also make it easier to adopt periodic rate increases (for example, a first class stamp whose price goes up one cent every 3 months for the next two years) or for rate increases every year based on the rate of inflation. These kind of increases will not get the same kind of news coverage so rate increases will become a non-issue.

Maybe we should talk about this forever stamp a little more before it is implemented.