Thursday, October 4, 2007


*Civics Class 101 – A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. When John McCain was asked, “What do you think”, he responded, “I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.” This from a U.S. Senator and presidential candidate!

Article IV of the U. S. Constitution:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
The First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

The founders of our country did not establish a Christian or any other religious nation. The founders established a secular nation. They were aware that many of the Europeans who first settled America were fleeing religious persecution, Christians fleeing Christians. The founders specifically required the separation of church and state to avoid such miscarriages in “the name of God”. And yes, I take offense to anyone who would undermine the bedrock of our freedoms.

*The Christian Right has announced it is considering forming a political party that would launch a presidential candidate. Perhaps they have come to the conclusion that in the foreseeable future they will not own another president as they did George W. Bush - lock, stock and bible.

*Don’t touch that dial – Free speech is “free speech” whether it is a Fourth of July parade, the Skinheads marching, the Ku Klux Klan prancing or Rush Limbaugh frothing. Under our system of democracy an individual or group has the freedom to express their point of view even if a minority or majority of citizens deem the message offensive or mindless. Many are now calling for Limbaugh to be removed from his very successful radio program. His recent remark that Iraq war vets who feel we should get out of Iraq were phony soldiers was offensive and mindless. Our Constitution and democratic tradition provide Mr. Limbaugh the right and freedom to speak his mind. We have the freedom to not listen.

*Words of wisdom - When you open your mouth your mind is on parade.

*A transmission with no “reverse” - For the first time I heard a reasonable explanation of why Bush and Cheney did not have an exit strategy for Iraq. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) explains that they did not intend to leave. I guess this also explains the permanent huge military bases we have built in Iraq as well as the largest and most expensive embassy the U. S. has ever built. The State Department refused comment when I asked if the embassy included an Exxon/Mobil wing.

*Legislative Masturbation - Congress has extended funding for a core abstinence-education program established by the Bush administration. As I previously noted, the program is a demonstrable failure. "Their actions defy logic and common sense," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth. First, Congress funds what Mr. Wagoner called unproven abstinence programs. Then it commissions a study that shows they don't work, but lawmakers ignore those results and continue to fund the programs.” I was optimistic that the new Democratic congress, at a minimum, would not continue ineffective, counter-productive and wasteful programs established by a Republican-led legislature that was unfettered during Bush’s first six years. My disappointment is palpable.

*How do you want your burger? – Hold the E-Coli. Topps Meat Co. has recalled 22 million pounds or the equivalent of over 80,000,000 frozen hamburgers. The USDA said that 25 illnesses are under investigation in 8 states. I would suggest that the time to investigate is before product is shipped. U.S. regulatory agencies in recent years have been hampered by under-funding and a federal government philosophy of under-investigating. It will probably take 25 deaths before congressmen trip over each other calling for greater inspection of America’s food supply. Perhaps Joe Lieberman will introduce a resolution in the Senate condemning the E-Coli bacteria as a threat to the American people. This threat we know is real.

*Last minute holiday shopping - On September 30th, with only 86 days left until Christmas, Wal-Mart began cutting prices in its toy department. One game in particular caught my eye and I decided to rush over to my nearest neighborhood temple of shopping. With the price reduced from $18.96 to $10.00 I knew that “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” would not stay on the shelves for long. I was sure that the 535 senators and representatives in Congress would not pass up the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities, especially if the price is right. I ignored the sale on imported toothpaste.

*Can’t wait for the Olympics - A Philadelphia Inquirer editorial discussed the lack of management and the mismanagement of China’s environment. The devastating health implications for the world’s most populous country is daunting. It points out how government leadership is vital to a people’s well-being. The environmental degradation cited in the editorial leads a reasonable person to question the wisdom of consuming any edible product originating in China. If you plan on attending the Olympics in China next year it would be prudent to pack a large quantity of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Never mind. A large quantity of U.S. produced peanut butter was recently recalled for botulism infection. Go with jelly sandwiches.

*Speaking of environmental hazards - The number of environmental cases brought by the EPA between 2002 and 2006 is down 70% from that of the mid-nineties. This must be a good sign for our environment. No. The agency now employs only 85% of the minimum number of investigators required by law. Compounding the problem is the laissez faire approach the Bush administration has employed as a watch-dog of the environment and industry. This deficiency in oversight exacerbates the problem because polluters are emboldened to ignore anti-pollution laws. Can you say “perfect storm”?

A pro-environment Bush official – It has taken almost seven years to hear those words but DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff went on the record. He was defending the building of a wall along the Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants. He said, "Illegal migrants really degrade the environment. I've seen pictures of human waste, garbage, discarded bottles and other human artifact in pristine areas. And believe me, that is the worst thing you can do to the environment." Mr. Chertoff did not comment on “lesser” things you can do to the environment such as greenhouse gasses, chemical waste being dumped into rivers and lakes, strip mining or not inspecting cargo from foreign countries that potentially contain nuclear, chemical or biological hazards.
~In a related story, the mayors of 4 Texas cities bordering Mexico object to the government’s building of the wall and have refused permits and access necessary to begin construction. This should make for some very interesting court cases.

*Don’t Be a Litter “Bug” – While Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff is busy fighting trash I wonder if he saw the AP article about vulnerable germ research labs. “Federal terror-fighting agencies can't identify all the American research laboratories that could become targets of attackers, congressional investigators have found”. At least 409 facilities work with 72 of the world’s deadliest organisms and poisons “The Government Accountability Office asked a dozen agencies whether they kept track of all the labs handling dangerous germs and toxins, or knew the number. All responded negatively.” And please remember to pick up your human artifact when visiting a pristine area.

*Friends in high places policy - Last week I noted the higher cost of Blackwater contractors in Iraq performing the security job a soldier used to do. Some specifics: “A single Blackwater security contractor costs the government $1,222 per day to guard U.S. civilian personnel, or $445,000 per year. That's six times the cost than a U.S. Army soldier performing the same function.” Since 2003 Blackwater no-bid contracts have totaled $1,000,000,000 (billion). The CEO of Blackwater is Erik Prince. He has strong ties to the White House and his family is very influential in the Republican Party. His company employs many prominent Republicans including Joseph Schmitz. He was appointed by Bush in 2002 to "oversee and police the Pentagon's military contracts as the Defense Department's Inspector General." Can you say “cozy”?

*Society Page ~ Rudy and Bo hanging out - Rudy Giuliani did not attend the presidential debate addressing the concerns of Black America (he had also skipped the Latino Americans debate). His alibi was a scheduling issue. His “issue” was a fundraiser with Bo Derek at the Santa Barbara Biltmore. A West Coast party with the beautiful star of the movie “10”! Who could blame him? Well, any citizen looking for a presidential candidate that is serious about understanding their needs and problems.

*Flash Observations:
~ In the 2008 elections for the Senate, Democrats will be defending 12 seats while Republicans will have to defend 22. This could prove to be the Catch 22 that will minimize the GOP influence in Congress.
~In another Mea Culpa Post Factum Newt Gingerich says that the Republicans ran a cheap and nasty campaign against John Kerry in 2004. Ya think?
~The U.S. debt is approaching $10,000,000,000,000 (TRILLION). The amount equates to $30,000 for every citizen in this country. Allowing congress to continually raise the debt ceiling is akin to hiring Mel Gibson to be the bartender at a Bar Mitzvah.
~Australia has been steadfast in its support of the U.S. military action in Iraq. It has announced that it will not participate in any military action against Iran. It is alleged that Bush is contacting allies to gain support for his Iran policies. I believe that the disrespect that Bush has garnered internationally will leave him isolated on his Iran quest.

*Children of God - I have listened to all of the reasons that President Bush spewed in justifying his veto of health insurance for 10 million uninsured children. As usual, his narrow and myopic reasoning did not account for the future cost and misery that poor health for these youngsters and soon-to-be-adults will bring. He and his brethren stand upon their respective pulpits sermonizing about the sanctity of unborn babes. Once they navigate the womb, screw them.

*Republican strategy ~ subtle and practical – Thomas B. Edsall at the Huffington Post offered an interesting explanation as to why the Republican Party is doing everything it can to lose the presidential election in 2008.
“Perhaps Republican kingpins consider the best possible long-term strategy letting Democrats take over responsibility for the extraordinary mess Bush will leave behind. The next president will have to deal with Iraq, Iran with the bomb, biological and chemical threats, $8.98 trillion in national debt, global warming, rising gas prices, a Mideast on fire, overstretched troops, a legion of returning wounded soldiers, a country unprepared for its aging population, North Korea's supply of nuclear technology to Syria, a steadily eroding dollar, a surging China, and an exponential increase in the number of those who wish America ill.”
Bush believes that history will see him as another Winston Churchill. His successor best have the ability to part the Red Sea and turn water into wine.

*Friends of Mr. Clean – Mitt Romney recently said, "our numbers have shown that we are able to raise the money." While Hillary Clinton has been rightfully criticized for accepting money from fugitive Norman Hsu one hears little about Romney’s sugar daddies. Meet Alan Fabian, one of Mitt’s largest fundraisers. He is currently under indictment on 23 charges including fraud, money laundering, perjury, and obstruction of justice. Meet Robert Lichfield. Founder of Worldwide Association of Specialty Schools, Lichfield is named in a federal lawsuit charging that students of the "behavior modification" schools … were subjected to "physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse." The suit had 140 defendants at last count. Lichfield has been asked to resign his spot on the Romney finance team. Imagine the turpitude of the person Romney would appoint as Secretary of the Treasury. Also of interest is that 25% of the money raised by the Romney campaign has come from Mitt Romney. I guess there is something to be said for a self-starter.

*"Be not intimidated... nor suffer yourselves to be wheedled out of your liberties by any pretense of politeness, delicacy, or decency. These, as they are often used, are but three different namesfor hypocrisy, chicanery and cowardice."
John Adams (1735 – 1826), Founding Father, 2nd US President


Ruth Deming said...

Very meaty column, Stephen. But what can we do about the immense problems in the world except be informed, involved and vote. Hard NOT to be intimidated as John Adams exhorted us.

Scott Sherman said...

Loved your comment about Bush vetoing the SCHIP program about looking after the rights of the unborn child & then screwing the child once he's born about healthcare.