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One of the more incredible proposals by Senator John McCain has been the suggestion that the Federal tax on gasoline be withdrawn for the 2008 summer months.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.

General Motors of Iraq

April 24, 2008

With the nomination of General Patraeas to become the commander of US Middle East forces, effectively Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush Administration is following the General Motors unsucessful model of quickly promoting leaders far too quickly and much before anyone could assess their stewardship of their present assignment.  If someone is promoted fast enough they can escape the occurance of anything out of line on their watch. 

It seems clear that General Patraeas has brought Iraq conditions into a state of control, albeit, a controlled state of mild chaos.  Killings continue and “bad guys” do bad things on a fairly regular basis but in a controlled sort of way.  The Iraqi official Government is highly under the influence of Iran and is in constant danger from Sunnis left out of the good deals and Muqtada al Sadr’s supporters who demand even more spoils.  This may be George W Bush’s view of how democracy takes hold and flourishes.

The unanswered question in the Patraeas promotion is what will he do in the new assignment.  There is no question that Afghanistan has been ignored by Bush and company, and has deteriorated over the past four years.  But that is a policy issue, not a failure of the military.  Americans would probably support a greater effort in Afghanistan but not if the Iraq fiasco continues at the current cost and troop levels.  (Frankly, Americans would probably not consider any initiative of George W Bush as credible at this point.)  Patraeas must be given the latitude to switch troops (and $$$) from Iraq to Afghanistan in order to stabalize the situation.  Hopefully the next Administration will present a sane and feasible Afghanistan policy.  (either get out completely and let Afghanistan go as it will, or divide the country into smaller sections and bring some of section under stable rule).

Springtime

April 23, 2008

It is that time of the year when flowers begin to bloom and trees bud their new leaves.  All the new life makes us think of renewal and a fresh start.  But alas the big date of January 20, 2009 is still a long way off.  Even worse is that in addition to all the flowers and the new leaves, there is the mess that the Bush Administration has made.  We are literally up to our noses in trash this inept Presidency has created and left behind.

The Middle East spirals continually downward, energy prices are skyrocketing and the US lacks any type of an energy conservation policy, the economy is stalled and threatening to go in reverse while the Government stands by with not a clue about the role of math and science, and the confidence of Americans in their President sinks below 20% approval.  But this President is not finished.  He is scolding Congress on trade bills and now “No Child Left Behind” requirements.

George W Bush feels compelled to enter the “No Child Left Behind” discussion because Congress has refused to present new legislation.  Congress feels there must be funding to accompany a Government mandated initiative like “No Child Left Behind” if it was to be successful (and there is no money to be had).  To be clear, the goal of improving education amongst our children should be a national priority.  The issue is that goal can not be achieved by testing the students to the extreme.

Today the Bush Administration will introduce a mandate on how schools will count graduation rates.  Believe it or not, they feel this is an important criteria.  If you think about it, the real issue is, given any reasonable method, how much each school system has increased its graduation rate, not the absolute number.  But thinking about subjects is not a long suit of the Bush years.

No Talking

April 22, 2008

Former President Jimmy Carter has brought home in 3D color just how far out of reality that George W Bush and Condi Rice are when they utter Dick Cheney’s (AIPAC supplied) script, “we don’t negotiate with terrorists”.  Carter’s visit to Syria and meetings with Syrian and Hamas leaders demonstrated the huge hole in the Bush approach.  How can you reach and agreement with someone you do not talk to?

The situation seems so obvious that you are left with only two conclusions:

1. The Bush/Cheney/Rice trio are just about the dumbest threesome that any Government could put forward.  (There is a lot going for this conclusion based on cumulative evidence on everything from Katrina to Guantanamo to Iraq to the sinking dollar to doubling the national debt.)

2. The current status of Hamas shooting rockets into Israel is actual what the Israelis want and the US policy is simply to aid this Israeli choice.  (For sure the Israelis would prefer no rockets being fired but they more prefer the status quo in negotiations with the Palestinians so that they can build more settlements in occupied lands.)

When Jimmy Carter goes off on his own and meets with Hamas and Syria, and finds out that there could be movement and potentially agreements reached if a good faith effort were undertaken, you get to see how two faced the American position is.  For sure, if the US was interested in peace in the Middel East, including Iraq, they would be double teaming this Carter initiative.  The US lack of action speaks volumes about our Governments real intentions.

What can we do about it?

1. Vote for someone (President and in the fall members of Congress) who will seriously pursue peace in the Middle East.

2. Start your own campaign to reduce your dependence on foreign oil.

3. Vote for the Presidential candidate that will undertake a real national effort to wean the country from fossil fuels.