Archive for April 2008

How Religion Gets in the Way

April 30, 2008

Tuesday’s New York Times carried an article quoting Cardinal Edward M Regan that Rudy Giuliani had “broken” an understanding that the Rudy and the Cardinal had.  What could that possibly have been?  The answer turns out that because Giuliani is on record as supporting a woman’s right to choice, Egan had said Giuliani could not receive communion any more (or supposedly face greater penalties).  I wonder whether Egan has heard of the separation of church and State?

Cardinal Egan’s actions must be viewed as an invasion of the public sector in behalf of a “for profit” religion.  Some estimates inidicate that at least 1/2 of America’s Catholic population support a woman’s right to choose.  The estimate is much higher for the use of contraceptives which the Church also opposes.  And lest we not forget, Giuliani is on this 3rd marriage and that seems to not raise the ire of the Church like denying a woman her rights.

At a time when the Catholic Church is trying to recover from the disgrace of child abuse, Cardinal Egan’s comments seem so out of place.  Time is long over due for priests to marry, priests to be woman, and while it is perfectly ok for the Church to recommend against abortion, they should be accepting of those who responsible decide otherwise.

Gas Tax Holiday

April 30, 2008

One of the more incredible proposals by Senator John McCain has been the suggestion that the Federal tax on gasoline be withdrawn for the 2008 summer months.  It is now becoming more normal to hear “incredible” proposals by McCain as the Presidential race heats up.  The fundamental question is whether this is how he thinks and will mark his Presidency (if elected), or does it simply represent a shameless tactic to capture poor and lower middle class vote?

1.  If President Bush were to propose or simply order the curtailing of the Federal gas tax this summer there would be justified shouts of tampering with the election.

2.  The price of gasoline in the US is less than half that of gas in Europe (it used to be 1/4th until the dollar began its dive in value).  If anything, US citizens should be paying much more for gasoline so that we could naturally curtain our importation of foreign oil and demand of our government a sensible energy policy.

3. The Bush’s Administration has so badly mismanaged the federal budget that during his term the national debt has doubled to $ 9 trillion and his (mercifully) last budget proposal contains a deficit of about $ 600 billion (about the cost so far of the Iraq War) on a total spend of $ 3 trillion.  This is no time for tax cuts of any kind.  Americans must learn what a foolish government has done and what the indifference of voters has earned them.

The Republican Party is wholly to blame for the domestic economy mess and the underlying bankruptcy of our  nation.  Both can be fixed with hard work, sacrifices, and unfortunately, higher, not lower taxes.  A candidate who does not point out the failed policies that got us to this point is doing a disservice to all citizens.  A candidate who acts as if Rome is not burning and chooses to focus attention elsewhere will be a danger to the country if elected President.  This really is a time for straight talk.

Right, Center, Left

April 29, 2008

The Democratic presidential nominee selection process is clear but there appears to be two problems.  (1) Most Democrats want to know who the nominee is now, and (2) it is not clear who would be the nominee should the selection process actually get to the convention in late August.  People simply do not like uncertainty and the pundits have said all that could be said about this subject and need new red meat.

Here is an idea that might be an interesting way to settle this matter.  Let all three candidates run in the fall election.  John McCain would represent the right wingers as he should.  Hillary Clinton would represent the middle (bridging both moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats) as she will if she is elected.  And, Barack Obama would represent the more progressive and change oriented elements of both parties.  In this manner the Candidates could speak to their own constituents with assured favorable response and try to appeal to other voters on the basis of fear, gender, or hope.

We would be almost certainly assured a minority elected President since there appeal is roughly 1/3rd each.  The lack of a majority would force the run off to the House of Representatives and that would keep the pundits busy for quite some time.  I wonder whether the House is ready to step up to such a task?

You may think this is a silly proposal but from my perspective each of the candidates presents some real concerns.  The final decision is likely to be the choice of the least worst candidate.  While it is true that all three candidates would be more equip for the role of President than George w Bush, each carries some heavy baggage.  For me, any choice must not be a Bush III person which generally means:

  •  
    • fiscal and monetary responsibiltiy
    • a new and saner Middle East foreign policy
    • a sincere effort to balance the budget
    • closure of Guantanamo, full repsect of the Geneva Conventions, and an end to domestic spying without court orders.
    • an embrace of science
    • a respect for the rights of all people

From my perspective John McCain will fail this test and both Obama and Clinton will pass.  The House could then choose between these two and I would be willing to accept their choice.

Gas Tax Holiday

April 28, 2008

One of the more incredible proposals by Senator John McCain has been the suggestion that the Federal tax on gasoline be withdrawn for the 2008 summer months.  It is now becoming more normal to hear “incredible” proposals by McCain as the Presidential race heats up.  The fundamental question is whether this is how he thinks and will mark his Presidency (if elected), or does it simply represent a shameless tactic to capture poor and lower middle class vote?

1.  If President Bush were to propose or simply order the curtailing of the Federal gas tax this summer there would be justified shouts of tampering with the election.

2.  The price of gasoline in the US is less than half that of gas in Europe (it used to be 1/4th until the dollar began its dive in value).  If anything, US citizens should be paying much more for gasoline so that we could naturally curtain our importation of foreign oil and demand of our government a sensible energy policy.

3. The Bush’s Administration has so badly mismanaged the federal budget that during his term the national debt has doubled to $ 9 trillion and his (mercifully) last budget proposal contains a deficit of about $ 600 billion (about the cost so far of the Iraq War) on a total spend of $ 3 trillion.  This is no time for tax cuts of any kind.  Americans must learn what a foolish government has done and what the indifference of voters has earned them.

The Republican Party is wholly to blame for the domestic economy mess and the underlying bankruptcy of our  nation.  Both can be fixed with hard work, sacrifices, and unfortunately, higher, not lower taxes.  A candidate who does not point out the failed policies that got us to this point is doing a disservice to all citizens.  A candidate who acts as if Rome is not burning and chooses to focus attention elsewhere will be a danger to the country if elected President.  This really is a time for straight talk.

Straight Talk

April 27, 2008

In Trudi Rubin’s column in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer (Worldview: A disturbing lack of Mideast realism ), there is a wonderfully clear description of delusion.  In her article, Trudi points out that John McCain has cited (what the Bushies before had done) the future vision for Iraq.  This is apparently also the answer to the question “how long must our troops remain?”

McCain cites 4 criteria for a success in Iraq… (1) generally peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic state, (2) doesn’t threaten its neighbors, (3) helps defeat terrorists, and (4) is a strong ally against an aggressive and radical Iran.  The is vintage George W Bush who does not know a Sunni from a Shiite.  As Rubin asks, how long do you expect our troops to stay there if these are reasonable expectations?

The question is not now, nor has it ever been, are these goals desirable or would we welcome them if they occured.  Rather, these goals are simply unachievable in any reasonable time frame, if ever, in the Middle East with the Middle East history.  (If you left out the criteria that Iraq must be “democratic” and we could reinstalled a despot, and there would be a chance to achieve everything else.)

McCain’s statements are important to note.  He has frequently accused Iran of helping “al Qaeda in Iraq” only to be reminded each time that Iran is Shiite and does not help a Sunni organization “al Qaeda”.  McCain’s words are well received by the Israel lobby and by the world of neoconservatives (who launched this foolish war through Cheney, Rumsfeld, Pearl, Wolfowitz, Libby, and Feith).  Can we afford to have a Bush III?  I think not. 

The Maze

April 26, 2008

Yesterday Israel turned down Hamas’ offer of a 6 month cease fire and promptly undertook a military incursion into Gaza.  It seems as if Israel is caught in a maze and doesn’t know how to get out.  The reasoning given by Israel was that Hamas was only interested in rearming themselves and not in pursuing peace negotiations.  Other reports said that Israel did not want to legitimize Hamas and wanted instead to focus on Fattah.  (Unfortunately, it is not Fattah that is firing rockets into Israel from Gaza.)

There is something strange about the Israeli rhetoric.  It is possible that the asymmetrical nature of Hamas and Hezbollah is so frustrating that a coherent policy is not a reasonable expectation for the Israeli Government.  It is also possible that the divided political nature of the Israeli nation is a contributor too.  The “high” ground is for Israel to return to the pre-67 boarders and allow some number of Palestinians to return.  The insistence of many in Israel to demand that Israel be a Jewish State will bring them as much dysfunctionality as any other State that insists on a single State religion (like several Islamic nations). (England also has a State religion but has wide religious tolorance and the legal system is secular.)

The Bush Administration played its usual “hand off”, “what me worry” role towards the Israeli decision.

Elitist

April 25, 2008

What are people thinking?  Our country is mired in Iraq with not a clue how to get out.  The US dollar is now at $1.60 to 1 euro (in 2000 it was $ 0.85 to 1 euro).  Gasoline is heading towards $ 4.00 per gallon (versus in 2000 of $ 1.25).  We have 40 million Americans without healthcare, and we have a President who can’t find the front door.  What do they mean when they label Obama an “elitist”?

It almost sounds like what you hear in a school year when the kids make up a name and then call one of the others that name.  It is senseless. 

It is ok of course to question what Obama said and ask whether it was correct.  It went something like… “People are so bitter (lack of jobs and growth) that they turn to their guns and religion for support”…  Immediately we hear “the people of Pennsylvania are resilient and are ready to overcome adversity…they are great Americans”, and we hear “people I know enjoy guns for hunting and recreation”…  The interesting observation is that all those statements could be true without denying the truth of the other statements.  This is the mark of a politician… say something and imply it to be universally true but have the actual support of at least one place where it is true. 

Our media, if it were engaged in news and fair analysis, could have put this puppy to bed within one day.  The “elitist” in this case are actually the TV pundits, radio talk show clowns, and the slanted op-ed contributors who know the difference but choose to prop up their opinions with baseless statements like this.