*”Let the Sun Shine” in -Congratulations to the citizens of Cherry Hill, N.J. The mayor and town council were against limiting the amount of money that professionals with no-bid contracts with the township could contribute to them. At least until a grassroots citizens group Pay-to-Play Committee had collected enough signatures on a petition to put such an ordinance on the ballot in the fall. It would limit contractors’ political contributions to $300 per year for local candidates and $500 per year to county political parties. The Mayor and town council have suddenly agreed to vote for this ordinance.
*Transgenic animals – The FDA may soon come out with regulations concerning genetically modified organisms. Some positive research includes a pig that produces omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient normally found in fish that is good for the heart and goats whose milk might ward off infections in children who drink it. I may be old-fashioned but nature has demonstrated the ability of its species to evolve in an intelligent manner. I certainly do not trust that this technology would only be used to benefit humanity. Reference nuclear science.
*Political Science – definitions
1. the study of government, especially organizations and institutions
2. the Bush administration’s politicization of any science that does not fit the world of the religious right and the special interests of big business, e.g. stem cell research, sex education, the environment, drug approvals... Not limiting itself to science the same politicization is seen in education, public broadcasting, Dept. of Justice, Dept. of Interior…
*Common Cause has an initiative to influence congress to enact public financing of elections. Their website enables you to sign a petition that will be sent to your representatives. It is:
www.commoncause.org. Click on Money in Politics and then Stop the Money Chase.
*Gun control - The Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Brady Campaign will hold a national day of protest to focus the nation's attention on the problem of illegal gun trafficking on Tuesday, August 28. This type of citizen activism is necessary to offset the wealthy and powerful influence of the National Rifle Association. It is unfortunate that the NRA, under the guise of protecting the rights of gun owners, opposes almost any attempt to regulate firearms including legislation that would impede the sale of illegal guns. One wonders if their primary mandate is to represent the interests of gun manufacturers?
*(Lack of) Gun Control - A July 31st U.S. Government Accounting Office report says the U.S. military in Iraq "cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces in 2004 and 2005.” The unaccounted for firearms represents about 30% of the total of firearms issued to the Iraqis. Are we inadvertently arming enemy forces? Is it possible for the situation in Iraq to be more convoluted?
*There have been articles and statements by some Republicans that the Attorney General of the U.S cannot be impeached. Perhaps this seemingly grey area can be enlightened by referencing the Constitution of the U.S. of America. Article II, Sec. 4 of the Constitution:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
*Russia now claims that the North Pole belongs to them (including the Pole’s vast oil and natural gas reserves). On December 24th forget the milk and cookies and put out a bowl of borscht. Not to worry. Remember when President Bush said he looked into Putin’s eyes and saw his soul? Ho Ho Ho.
*Health Alert – The Center for Disease Control alerts summer travelers to avoid Washington D.C. A virus affecting memory is rampant. Most Justice Dept. officials can’t remember what they had for lunch. VP Cheney can’t remember if he sent Gonzales to Ashcroft’s hospital room to get him to sign off on a questionable wire tapping program. Former Defense Sec. Rumsfeld can’t remember when or who informed him of the cover up of how Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan. Alaskan Sen. Stevens can’t remember who paid for his house to be renovated. The entire administration can’t remember its commitment to re-build New Orleans. I can’t remember a worse group in my lifetime than today’s incompetent and dishonest national leaders. Nixon was a lark in the park.
*Insanity – definition; doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Admiral Michael G. Mullen the nominee to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff testified in a Senate Armed Services hearing that there is no purely military solution to Iraq. He added, “Unless the Iraqi government takes advantage of the "breathing space" that U.S. forces are providing, no amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference." I seem to remember that the Iraqi parliament has taken off for the month of August and we just learned that a large Sunni bloc has withdrawn from the government. This U.S. occupation is out of breath.
*Summer reading, cold thinking - I am currently reading “Consent to Kill” a work of fiction by Vince Flynn. The character Petrov says that he hates the Saudis. When asked why he replies, “The Saudis think that God is on their side, and people who think that God is on their side are capable of the most inhumane acts”.
*Questionable voting apparatus – California Sec. of State Debra Bowen authorized the Univ. of California to test the security of various models of electronic voting machines used by the state. Computer hackers were able to break the physical and software security of every model and change the results or take control of the systems’ electronic functions. This study verifies the need to have a paper trail for every vote cast electronically.
Update – Bowen placed rigorous security conditions on voting equipment used in dozens of counties and limited the use of two of the most widely used machines (Diebold and Sequoia) statewide. Machines that have been decertified must meet stringent new standards to earn re-certification.
*Questionable voting oversight – The NY Times reports that five secretaries of state (who oversee elections) were on Bush's last reelection campaign. Five states have had voting officials go immediately into lobbyist positions for the voting machine industry. Three of the numerous reasons why the percentage of Americans voting in elections is lower than in the majority of democracies around the world: 1.Lack of confidence in the officials overseeing elections; 2. Lack of confidence in the voting machinery; 3. Lack of confidence in politicians running for office.
*Compassionate Conservatism – definition
A political philosophy espoused for political rhetoric; never took root; extinct; an oxymoron.
*Quote of the week - In an e-mail interview with David Brody, political blogger for Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, Barack Obama elaborated on an earlier statement that “faith has been "hijacked" by the religious right”: "When you have pastors and television pundits who appear to explicitly coordinate with one political party; when you're implying that your fellow Americans are traitors, terrorist sympathizers or akin to the devil himself; then I think you're attempting to hijack the faith of those who follow you for your own personal or political ends."
*”You can lead people to facts as you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them think”. Written in an article by Clarence Page, columnist for the Chicago Tribune.
*Give me a (tax) break! - NY Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer has come out against Democratic proposals that would increase corporate taxes. He cited the potential for Wall Street businesses to leave his state or even the country if the proposals become law. The Senator did not reference the tax breaks legislated over the past six years nor the concept of paying one’s fair share. What does seem fair if corporations leave the country is to tax their products as they re-enter or are sold in the U.S. Is Schumer concerned about his constituents or his political contributors? Are the corporations that the Senator is concerned about the same ones outsourcing jobs and manufacturing to India, China and the rest of the world or the ones undermining our country by employing illegal immigrant workers?
*Political calisthenics - When Rudy Giuliani stops to catch his breath after shrieking about terrorism threats he moves on to his erroneous claim of Democrats raising taxes by 20 to 30%. He of the political party whose policies increased the number of terrorists in the world, weakened our country’s ability to deal with terrorist attacks and natural disasters, went through our country’s budget surplus like Mr. Giuliani goes through marriages and handed us budget deficits that will burden our children’s children.
*Alaskan freeze - Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, the day after the FBI raided his home in a criminal investigation and while members of his staff were testifying before a federal grand jury, has threatened to put a hold on bipartisan ethics legislation. Is it any wonder that Americans do not respect the institutions that allow such ludicrous procedures. One senator can put a “hold” on legislation. The Senate and House Ethics Committees have been dysfunctional. Recent polls show congressional approval at 14%. Half the approval rating of President Bush!
*Remember when a candy bar cost a dime? – In 2002 we were told that the Iraq war would be conducted on the “cheap” and that Iraq would quickly fund itself. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office now estimates that under the rosiest of conditions, an immediate and substantial reduction in U.S. troops, the cost of the war will approach $1,000,000,000,000 (yes, 1 trillion). This is double what has already been spent. Oh, and what happened to the prediction that they would welcome us with flowers and candy?
*Antique auto show - One of the congressmen most opposed to higher automobile fuel standards is Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, the Democrat who has represented Detroit and the auto industry in Congress since 1955. I would suggest that his unabashed allegiance to the auto industry may not be serving the best interests of the industry or the American people. It was just announced that for the first time in history Detroit automakers' share of the U.S. market in July dropped below 50 percent. Maybe it is time for a model change.
*Taking a piece from peace - The Millennium Challenge is a 3-year old foreign aid program that actually works. A board certifies countries that are likely to use assistance wisely - nations committed to democratic and free-market reform and fighting corruption - and works with them as partners on projects to combat poverty and encourage economic growth. Considered the most successful program since the Peace Corps for building America’s image in the world, congress has decided to slash its budget of $3 billion by two-thirds. Since 2002 anti-Americanism (as measured by Pew Global Attitudes Project) around the world has grown at an alarming rate. It is too bad that our ability to be world leaders has correspondingly diminished.
*Love those yard sales - The GAO reports that the Pentagon accidentally sold to the public around 14,000 parts that could be used on F-14 fighter jets. This should not be a concern since no other nation uses these fighters. Oops, except Iran.
*The magic of macho attire – When Tony Blair visited the U.S. in 2001 President Bush presented him with a bomber jacket. We know how Mr. Blair fully supported the Iraq war (to the chagrin of the majority of British citizens). When his successor Gordon Brown visited last week he also received a presidential bomber jacket, fur-trimmed. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Brown supports U.S. foreign policy.
*If I cover my eyes you can’t see me – It is in the Congressional Record and public knowledge that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA from 1985 to 2006. However, a court has ruled that Ms. Plame cannot include it in her memoir since it is classified information and not acknowledged by the CIA.
*If I cover my eyes I can’t see anything – Sec. of Defense Bob Gates acknowledges that the U.S. underestimated Iraq’s sectarian divisions. A simple mistake? The Sunnis and Shiites have despised and fought each other for only the last 1500 years.
*Good news for Darfur – In part a result of the relentless pressure exerted by Amnesty International the UN Security Council announced that it will deploy 26,000 peacekeepers and police to form a full hybrid UN-African Union mission by the end of 2007. “This unprecedented number of UN boots on the ground will protect Darfuris at risk of attack, disease and starvation, and will aim to stabilize the region.”
*Coed turns heads - Australian Phyllis Turner was awarded her master's degree in medical science last week from the University of Adelaide. She is a 94-year-old great-great-grandmother who left school at the age of 12 to help her mother raise siblings. After raising her own seven children and two stepchildren, she completed her school education at nights. At 70 she enrolled at the University of Adelaide and then at the Australian National University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in anthropology. She decided to pursue her masters degree when her husband died five years ago.
*John Wayne look-a-like contest – Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo recently recommended that the U.S. should threaten to bomb Mecca in order to deter future attacks on the homeland. A spokesman for the State Department told CNN that Tancredo’s remarks were “reprehensible” and “absolutely crazy”. One can only wonder if these remarks were based on the U.S.’ successes following our attack of Iraq or a complete lack of understanding of the geopolitical forces at play in the 21st century. The High and The Mighty meets the Green Berets meets The Alamo.
*Possible good news for a healthier America - Congress has passed the biggest expansion of health care in 40 years guaranteeing health care to millions of children. George W. “just go to an emergency room” Bush has threatened to veto the legislation. There were enough votes for this bill to override a veto. It will be interesting to see what the doctor in the White House prescribes.
*Legislation (grin) – The House passed an energy bill that strips $16 billion in tax incentives to Big Oil and puts it toward renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
*Legislation (frown) – The Senate caved in to Bush when 41 Democrats joined Republicans in passing a domestic spying program giving the administration and Justice Department even more powers. The next day the House did the same. It appears that the fear of terror so politically well-used by Bush and company to expand executive powers worked again. Since I do not trust those using these powers I do not see this as a positive development. Fortunately, the program must be renewed after 6 months.
*The tragic collapse of a major bridge last week was a needed wakeup call to our nation and a reminder that we must take seriously the warnings we have heard for more than a decade that America’s infrastructure is in serious need of repair. A leading Republican presidential contender, Rudy Giuliani, stepped forward with an approach to address the crisis. He claimed that the best way to raise money to repair the nation’s bridges was to cut taxes. Perhaps this approach appeals to a subset of Republican primary voters. I would suggest that what our country needs is leaders with vision and adult approaches to our country’s ills, not sound bites. We certainly do not need a bridge to nowhere. We have that.
*My friend Dante – Last month I was privileged to speak at a party honoring a dear friend celebrating a milestone birthday. I noted that he is a student of the bible and that too often such people use this study to tell others how to live their lives. This individual uses his studies to enhance his own understanding, to be a better person, to be a quality human being. It is quite easy to speak the words. The mark of a man is to be the words.