Saturday, July 30, 2005

Bush Loses Frist

Well, it's been a warm week here in Rochester, NY. I saw a dog chasing a cat - both of them were walking!

And it's been warm in Washington, too. Bill Frist, the senate majority leader, has made a smart about-face and hopped on the stem cell research bandwagon. GWB has said he'll veto any bill that authorizes federal funding of new stem cell lines...this is going to be interesting!

As a semi-trained economist, I know that the potential value of patentable stem cell research products could be billions upon billions of dollars. Consequently, every other country with the technical expertise to work on embryonic stem cells is doing it as quickly as possible in order to capture their share of the cash and prestige. GWB's religion-based position is futile in terms of having any impact on the long term outcomes, except that it will make it harder for the U.S. to be a leader in the technology. Although George may know something about oil, but he seems to have forgotten a lot of what he learned (?) in his Harvard MBA courses.

Dr. Frist, still busy wiping egg off his face from the Terri Schaivo debacle, correctly figured out that being wrong on two major health-related issues would doom his presidential hopes for 2008. Now all we need is quick action in both houses to get federal money moving in the right direction...but "quick" is reserved only for critical legislation like sheltering gun manufacturers from secondary liability lawsuits. The people come in second again....

Afterthought... The U.S. is now waging a "struggle against extremism" rather than a "war on terror". If you can't win a war the best thing to do is rename it. The "war on terror" will be much harder to forget than the "war on drugs" and the "war on poverty", so the best strategy is to rename it. Hindsight... how much better off would we be if GWB had been forced to take Tony Blair's advice on Iraq instead of vice versa?

So, another nice warm day in Rochester. Let's take advantage of the today that God has made, have some fun, do some good, and see how Tiger and Vijay duke it out at Warwick Hills!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Bush Roves!

"Roving" might be defined as wandering about aimlessly, which is what Bush is doing about his Plame "outing" problem. When the problem arose, he said he didn't believe anyone in his organization had any contacts with reporters regarding Valerie Plame, then he vows to fire anyone who outed her, then when the facts show two prominent advisers did out her he doesn't explain why they didn't tell him way back when, then he says he will let them go if they committed a crime. Seems like he is "Roving" on this hot potato. Bush loves to talk about being a man of his word "I say what I mean, and I mean what I say." Right....

So now we will have only one woman and one minority on the Supreme Court. Bush's nominee is all but certain of confirmation, and he seems like a straight-up guy at first glance. I have a feeling he knows what the American people regard as "rights", so I predict he will not roll over and help reverse Roe vs Wade and other long-entrenched decisions on civil rights. America does not need millions of people converging on Washington to protest a hard right turn coming from the Supreme Court...we've got enough problems already.

Speaking of problems, the price of oil and global warming together constitute a great danger to America. Our economy and our ecology depend on government leading the charge to cleaner and cheaper energy, and the solution is not simply to drill for more oil within our own boundaries...not that that's a bad idea, but it simply isn't the solution. Let's put the pedal to the metal on nuclear power, and also look to innovative solutions such as using ocean tides to generate electricity. If we had a lot more cheap electricity we could migrate to electric motors for local transportation, and that would really make a difference. Come on, GWB, do a prime time address on energy that is honest and forward-looking! There must be somebody that can put the right words in your mouth, George.

Finally, we are again confronting the spectre of terrorism in another major western city - London. Yes, we need to protect ourselves with common sense precautions, but even with them the occasional terrorist group will find a way to harm us. The only sensible answer to terrorism is communication - combatting the misinformation from terrorist leaders who brainwash young people into suicidal missions. Stupid remarks like "Bring'em on" are not the answer, GWB. The right answer is affirming Muslims' humanity and the peaceable tenets of their religion, being as inclusive as possible in order to give young Muslims an opportunity to voice their concerns, and supporting popular movements against powerful dictatorships that keep the common Muslim people down. Those who say that anti-terrorism is a police function are right - this conflict is not a war, it is a spate of violence by religiously-motivated criminals. Calling it a "war" glorifies the perpetrators and draws more adherents to their side. Get it, GWB?

So, today we've been "Roving" all over the place. GWB will not ever fire him, and he may or may not leave the administration on his own. Whatever, Carl Rove will show up in plenty of pre-election commercials and be a major factor in the next election. The man who will do anything to win may well find out that there really are lines that can't be crossed.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Liberals -vs- Conservatives: What a Laugh!

It's the new sporting event - Liberals versus Conservatives in a fight to the death. Turn on the radio or TV at any time day or night and watch the combatants wage war! "Liberals are traitors bent on turning the US into a cesspool of illegal immigrants, God-haters, cowards, enviro-terrorists, and queers of all stripes!" "Conservatives are traitors bent on pursuing illegal wars, trashing the environment, trampling the first amendment, establishing religious courts, and selling our economy to the lowest common denominator!" And so it goes...Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage versus Bill Moyers and whoever. Black versus White...and who is who depends on who is talking. Why are Americans so stupid as to get hooked on this crap in such great numbers?

Only a few minutes of concentration is needed to generate a list of great contributions made by both liberals and conservatives in America. For starters, liberals initiated the break from England in 1776 - the conservative Tories wanted to keep King Charles, remember? Then the conservatives grabbed the West, built the railroads, fueled the industrial revolution, and captured all the money, too. But liberals struck back with the New Deal, the end of sanctioned segregation, and women's lib. Not to be outdone, the conservatives won the Cold War to make amends for their being on Hitler's side prior to WWII, and they got free trade while reversing the power of unions gone amuck (read "United Airlines" and "General Motors"). So there has been an historic ebb and flow of good outcomes from both persuasions, and both sides have had their share of idiots.

Just because I heard Rush laugh away public libraries one day - "Mr. Smedley, do you know a single person who uses a public library?", and authoritatively pronounce global warming to be a myth (call him up, National Academy of Scientists!), doesn't mean that Rush is wrong on immigration, for example. Even a multipli-wed prescription drug addict gets something right on occasion., so give him a little credit.

And the liberals like Mr. Moyers are all worked up about the Supreme Court, forgetting that the court is as subject to American public opinion as it is to the Constitution. A new conservative jurist can help strike down Roe vs Wade, for example, but better stand back! A shitstorm is on the way, and it may take a lot with it. The law of unintended consequences at work, thank the Lord. So stop your handwringing, you limp-wristed wimpy liberals. How about trusting the American people a little bit?

So, enough of the labels. I'm tired of them. Even the evangelicals and the tree-huggers are finding some common ground, and if they can do it, we can. Let's make a pact: hear a media personality or politician use the words"conservative" or "liberal" in a pejorative sense, we turn the channel to an old movie or "greatest hits of the 60's and 70's". Those beat Tom Delay and Ted Kennedy any old day.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Let's Pray for Bush

As a Christian, I always have hope that everyone will sense the Spirit and act in accordance with it - and "everyone" includes those of every religion and both "friends" and "enemies". Well, now is the time for George W. Bush to sense that Spirit and nominate another Sandra O'Connor to the Supreme Court. It's a time to work for unity in the country and cooperation in the Congress, not a time to start another salvo of broadsides between fanatics on both sides. We need a pragmatic, non-ideologue jurist who can interpret a 200+ year old constitution in light of realities in 2005, and who understands freedom and responsibility. So, GWB, may God be with you as you decide on dear Sandra's successor.

Also, as a Christian I applaud Spain's vote to legalize gay marriage. There is a hierarchy of sins, I suppose, and a hierarchy of virtues. Jesus always seemed to come out on the side of love and caring, and I have a lot of personal experience that tells me gays have just that! A memorable paraphrase from Thomas Cahill's " wonderful "Desire of the Everlasting Hills" is that "no one ever went to hell simply because he woke up in the wrong bed". Maybe homosexuality isn't the most appropriate lifestyle, but it's the only thing that works for some people. So God will mark them down, perhaps, as God marks down all of us, but God will see into their hearts as God sees into ours, and a lot of us sinners of all stripes will meet God some day. That's how I read the Word, anyway, and I read it a lot. (If you want to agonize about the quandaries regarding religion, try E.L. Doctorow's "City of God". It will make you think, and maybe cry,as it did to me on a recent trip when I listened to the audio book.)

As an afterthought, CNN today reported that a number of civilians perished in Afganistan when a bomber hit their village with precision munitions. Sorry about the civilians - yes! But as an ex-military officer I understand that when civilians voluntarily mix with combatants they assume the risk of attack. In war there is no sanctuary anymore, since the rules have changed. Once upon a time combatants made a real effort to isolate themselves from civilians, but in an era of irregular warfare the irregulars mix with sympathetic civilians in order to avoid attack and to generate headlines if civilians are killed. Sorry, but those civilians will have to pay the price for their loyalty if they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. War is not Christian, and it is sad, but it's also avoidable by those who attack in the first place... no sympathy for the Afgan and Iraqi insurgents here! Go talk to people and cast your vote, mister Islamic radical! Then those ugly Americans will come home where they belong, and you will have had your chance to influence the locals in a peaceful way.

It's the fourth of July, the glorious day of Independence! Remembering the struggle for cultural, economic, and religious freedom... a struggle that needs to go on for America to remain great! Let the fireworks burst out with wild booming and let the celebrations commence!