Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Shaken not stirred

If James Bond asked a bartender for a vodka martini, "shaken not stirred" and the bartender, out of sight of Bond, stirred it instead of shaking it, what would happen? Would James Bond take one sip and angrily tell the bartender, "I said, shaken, not stirred!" Or would he be unable to tell the difference?
If you think James Bond could tell the difference, what quality do you think he had that allowed him to discern whether a drink has been shaken or stirred?
If you think James Bond could not tell the difference then why do you suppose he ordered it that way?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

No note taking or map reading in Chicago!

If you ever find yourself in Chicago, you'd better walk right, you better not stagger, you better not fight. You also better not take notes, use binoculars, cameras, video or maps. In their "Winter Holiday Public Awareness Bulletin" issued Nov. 8, 2007 the Chicago police request the public to immediately report any suspicious activity. Among the activities they specifically request the public to report are: taking notes, using binoculars, cameras and video and maps. See the bulletin here. If you need a map to find your way in Chicago you'd better be prepared to explain yourself to the police!

"Environmentalists removed wolves from Yellowstone," -- Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck, a man who has been given his own show on CNN Headline News, spouted this wonderful piece of wisdom recently:
...it's these same kind of environmentalists that took the wolves out of Yellowstone Park and said, 'Oh, it would be so much better without the wolves.' Well, they shipped them up to Canada. Now they had to put them back into the wildlife.

You know, I think I read about that in the history books. They captured all those wolves in Yellowstone, crated them up and shipped them off to Canada. If memory serves me right it took thousands of trucks to bring in the empty crates and then take the crates with the wolves in them up to Canada. I think I vaguely remember something about some ranchers in Canada complaining that there were already too many wolves in Canada and they didn't need any more. Or something like that. You can look it up, but if you did you would be one up on Glenn Beck.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What the Mad Hatter said

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone: “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol

The above exchange came to mind when I was thinking about the likely effects of the new immigration law in Arizona, slated to take effect in January. See a description of the law here.
See how the Arizona business community is reacting to the law here. Read today's New York Times editorial about it here.

Insofar as the law is enforced (laws that negatively impact business often are not) I have no doubt that it will reduce illegal immigration and cause illegal immigrants already in Arizona to leave. But will the lives of the people of Arizona be better as a result?

Since Arizona’s current unemployment rate is at a rock bottom rate of 3% (the level at which every employable person who wants work is already employed, other than people temporarily between jobs) the law is hardly likely to reduce the unemployment rate.

Since no terrorist that we know of has entered the country by crossing the US border with Mexico illegally that number is unlikely to be reduced either. As the Mad Hatter said, you cannot have less than zero.

Since people who come to this country as adults (legally and illegally) commit about one fourth as many crimes as people of the same ethnicity and social-economic level who were born here reducing the number of illegal immigrants is unlikely to have a positive effect on the crime rate either.

There are hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants currently in Arizona's labor force. If this law is vigorously enforced it will create a labor shortage that will take years of increased legal immigration to alleviate. The short term effects on Arizona's economy are going to be devastating.

If the law is not broadly enforced, if it is only selectively enforced against only certain industries and as occasional publicity stunts for political purposes, then the likely effect is an increase in corruption and a continuing decrease in respect for the law.

In six months or so it will be interesting to ask Arizonians how that law is working out for them.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bold red ties are patriotic?

In a typical example of what passes for political analysis in the mainstream media these days Robin Givhan of the Washington Post writes:

One of the most distinctive elements of Barack Obama's public style comes down to what he so often is not wearing: patriotism on his sleeve. Whether he is speaking at a campaign rally, attending a fish fry or debating his Democratic challengers, he comes across as the candidate least willing to drape himself in the usual symbols of nationalism and politics. No flag pin on the lapel. No hand on heart during the national anthem at Tom Harkin's Iowa steak fry. And he generally shuns bold red ties.

Obama refuses to dress the part of the presidential contender, with all of its safely prepackaged banality. He has never fully embraced the stereotypical uniform of Washington. Even in the glossy pages of Men's Vogue in September 2006, when he was positioned as Kennedy, Santa Claus and the Messiah all rolled into one, he was never pictured in the traditional political costumes or doing any of the glad-handing that is standard practice.

read the entire article

Bold red ties are patriotic? Is that universal or just in the United States? Do other countries have different colors or what?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mainstream Media’s Cold Cold Heart

Political reporters for the main streammedia seem to have cold, cold hearts. They interpret everything the candidates say, not as honest and sincere statements of their principles, beliefs and intentions, but as cynical campaign ploys and attacks on their rivals. The candidates must feel like Hank Williams, complaining that these reporters think "each thing I do is just some evil scheme."

For example, Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press explains John Edwards focus on corporations and lobbyists, rarely mentioning other candidates, this way:
On his current bus tour of Iowa, with the caucuses only three weeks away, Edwards rarely mentions his rivals. …
On the campaign trail, his antagonists now are the corporations and special interests themselves. The Clinton and Obama references are merely implied, hidden in a populist message he calls "America Rising." For the former trial lawyer, it's a closing argument to break away from a virtual three-way tie in Iowa and rise above the fray engulfing his main opponents.

read entire article

If a reporter on the campaign trail does not hear what he expects to hear in a campaign speech, attacks on the other candidates, hypocritical posturing and cynical pandering, then he claims those things are implied and hidden in the message. The idea that the candidate might be expressing his/her sincere beliefs and intentions apparently never occurs to the reporter.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What is the true meaning of Christmas?

When I was young my family belonged to a Methodist church here in the Illinois Quad Cities. I remember at this time of year people in the church talking about how the true religious meaning of Christmas had been lost amid all the commercialism and emphasis on selling and buying things. I also remember noticing that our minister did not jump on this particular bandwagon. Although he preached sermons about how this time of year should remind us of our religious obligations to help the less fortunate and to be loving and generous he never talked about the ‘true’ meaning of Christmas.

I asked my father, who had studied for the ministry, about this and he explained that anyone who had studied the history of the church knew that the gift-giving and revelry, the tree, the mistletoe and the Yule log, WAS the true meaning of Christmas. The celebration on December 25 was a pre-existing pagan holiday that Christianity had co-opted. My father explained that among the New England Puritans from whom he was descended the more religious you were the less you celebrated Christmas. My mother’s family was Quaker and although I was not raised as a Quaker I attended a Quaker boarding high school. I discovered there that the Quakers as a religious body did not even mention Christmas as a religious holiday, although almost all the Quaker families I knew had a Christmas tree and exchanged gifts at home. (The Quakers also did not celebrate Easter, feeling that anything worth celebrating should be celebrated every day of the year, not just on one special day.)

Well, over the last 40 years or so, apparently the debate has shifted. People who call themselves conservative are now outraged, not that the true Christian meaning of Christmas has been lost amid the commercialism and marketing, but that store employees are being told by their bosses to say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” and, at least in Australia, some store Santas are being told to say ‘Ha-ha-ha’ rather than ‘Ho-ho-ho’. Conservative talk-show hosts and bloggers are outraged that stores are more concerned about not offending their non-Christian customers than they are in preserving Christmas traditions of saying “Merry Christmas” and “Ho-ho-ho” – traditions that extend all the way back 100 years or so. See examples here and here.

I guess I liked it better when people were complaining that Christmas had become too commercial. The idea that store employees and store Santas have become the high priests of our Christmas experience and the debate is only over how well or badly the stores are fulfilling their obligations to our Christmas is just absurd.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Faith-based intelligence analysis

Apparently the neocons who wanted us to invade Iraq and are now agitating for a US military strike on Iran are not motivated by facts. The facts, such as reports by our intelligence agencies, are not used to determine what they think should be done. The facts are only used to try to convince others. Their belief in the need for military action is obviously faith-based, beyond the reach of facts or reason. This can clearly be seen by their reaction to the intelligence reports that Iran had suspended their nuclear weapons program in 2003. Their reaction, such as this op-ed in today’s New York Times, is to disbelieve the intelligence and to even impugn the motives and patriotism of the intelligence agencies.

This is in stark contrast to what they had to say about the intelligence about Iraq before we invaded that country. When the intelligence agreed with their pre-determined conclusions they claimed to have reached those conclusions as a result of the intelligence. It should be obvious now that they never were swayed by the facts and have always been faith-based.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Nice man with long stick will retrieve hat

This picture that I came across at flickr.com shows that Japan is truly a civilized country. They actually put up a sign to reassure people that if they lose their hat a nice man will come along and retrieve it for them. At least, that's what I think the sign is trying to convey.

Bush’s logic justifies Pearl Harbor

Blogger Cenk Uygur of the Huffington Post makes an excellent point:

"I view this report as a warning signal that they had the program, they halted the program. The reason why it's a warning signal is they could restart it."
-- George W. Bush

This is George Bush talking about Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons program. He explains that a National Intelligence Estimate that says they have no program is a warning that they might have one. Obviously this has to win some sort of award for circular reasoning (come on, how ridiculous is it that he says the fact they don't have one proves they might have one later….

And if he does believe this absurdity, then wasn't Japan justified in attacking us in Pearl Harbor?

They heard that we had a nuclear weapons program - and we did. And that we might be able to start it any time - which was relatively true. And that if we had nuclear weapons, we might use them against Japan one day - which obviously proved to be true. So, they launched a pre-emptive strike against the United States because we had a nuclear weapons program they feared we might use against them at a later time.

Under the Bush doctrine, isn't Pearl Harbor the perfect case for using a pre-emptive first strike? Japan was rightfully concerned about our weapons program and they rightfully struck us first.

Of course, the only problem with that theory is that there is an excellent chance we would have never used those nuclear weapons against Japan if they hadn't attacked us first. Gee, I wonder if this could be a decent argument against pre-emptive strikes.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

New assessment: Iran halted nuclear bomb program in 2003

According to this morning’s New York Times:

A new assessment by American intelligence agencies released Monday concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains frozen, contradicting a judgment two years ago that Tehran was working relentlessly toward building a nuclear bomb.

What, I have to wonder, has changed in the last two years. If the program was halted in 2003 then that should have been just as obvious to our intelligence people in 2005 as it is now in 2007. Presumably the official explanation for what has changed involves new data or analysis that was not available two years ago.

My suspicion is that what has changed is that the intelligence people saw the Bush Adminstration, after having pressured the intelligence agencies to find evidence for Weapons of Mass Destruction in pre-invasion Iraq, then turn around and place all the blame on the intelligence community for the faulty assessments when no WMDs were found. I suspect that the sure knowledge that they would get the blame again for faulty assessments of Iran’s capabilities and intentions gave them the backbone to resist pressure to ‘sex up’ the intelligence on Iran as they had on Iraq.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Foreclosure Community Meeting this Saturday

I got a nice email from Shelley Sheehy in response to my previous post about the home mortgage foreclosure crisis.

I think that being conservative means a laissez-faire attitude toward enforcement and that is precisely what had gotten many people into the foreclosure situation. When the bank regulators do not enforce fair lending laws or CRA requirements to serve LMI and underserved populations, the predatory products flourish. Not to mention the fact that many of these products were securitized by the investment side of the bank and encouraged through the formation of subprime affiliates early in the history of this debacle. Blaming the consumer is a common practice, but there should be some accountability for Wall Street before any bailout is considered. Conservatives also advocate bailing out Wall Street before the neighborhood.

I have attached the schedule for a Foreclosure Community meeting this Saturday.

Shelley Sheehy
River Cities Development Services
1400 East River Drive
Davenport, Iowa 52803


Board Member, National Community Reinvestment Coalition
To learn more about NCRC, visit our websites at:
www.communityinvestmentnetwork.org or http://www.ncrc.org/

Proposed Agenda for Foreclosure Summit

Saturday, December 8, 2007 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

The Quad Cities Reinvestment Coalition (QCRC) is sponsoring a Foreclosure Summit, Saturday December 8th beginning at 8:30 a.m. and ending at 1:30 p.m.

QCRC is convening this meeting in an effort to bring all community resources together to educate ourselves on the extent of the problem and to form a working group to address issues that have come about as a result of the this crisis.

We will meet at the Kahl Building in the 10th Floor Conference Center located at 3rd and Ripley Streets in downtown Davenport. Senator Chris Dodd, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to speak at 11:30 a.m.

Again, this meeting is not designed for those who are in the midst of a foreclosure, but to form a community support system drawing upon federal, state, and local resources in the public and private sector.

8:30-8:45 a.m. Registration and Continental Breakfast

8:45-8:50 a.m. Welcome and Orientation to the Schedule for the Day

8:50-9:05 a.m. Congressman Phil Hare (tentative)

9:05-10:35 a.m.

Identification of the Problem: Foreclosures in the Quad Cities

· Context from a National/State Perspective: Stephanie Preush-Iowa AG Task Force

· Discussion of Local Situation: Brooke Upton/Dawn Mutum-Plies

· Implications for the Local Economy: Jerry Anthony U of I- Bob McGivern-Koester/McGivern Appraisals

10:40 a.m.-11:50 p.m.

Resources Inventory

· Federal: Senators/Congressional Representatives

· State: IFA/AG/IHOEP (Illinois Resources)

· Local: Non-profits/Cities

· Financial Community Response: National/Local

Senator Dodd will speak at @ 11:30 p.m.

12:00 p.m.-1:30 p.m. Brownbag Working Lunch

Community Response: Interactive Session

· Intake/Counseling Support/Gaps in Service

· Monitoring and Updating the Community

· Communication with State and Federal Resources

Since we plan to provide lunch-attendees will need to reserve a spot by emailing rschloemer@housingcluster.org

Some questions for those over the age of 35

Have you been reading about the financial crisis caused by the home mortgage debacle? Here is what Paul Krugman has to say about it. Thinking about it has raised some questions in my mind.

Anyone over the age of 35 or so knows very well the basic rules for making safe home mortgages – ones that will likely not go into foreclosure. They were the rules in place when we were young. A sound and safe home mortgage is based on an accurate appraisal of the value of the property, does not exceed 80% of the property’s value, and is made to someone for whom the mortgage payments are no more than one third of their take-home income.

So, if you are over the age of 35, have alarm bells been going off in your head over the last 15 years or so about what has been happening with home loans? If you have investments have you been avoiding ones that involve pools of residential mortgages? Have you said no to second and third mortgages and variable rate mortgages? If not, why not? Did you think that the need for the old rules were figments of our parent’s imaginations? Or did you think that something had changed so that the old rules did not apply any more? If so, what did you think had changed?

If you considered yourself a conservative at any time during the last 15 years did being a conservative make you more or less likely to think that throwing out the rules for how to write home mortgages was a problem? What exactly have conservatives been conserving?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

What has happened to the rule of law?

Supposedly the George W. Bush administration is conservative, but what exactly are they conserving? The way the world has worked up until now, at least the parts of the world that are civilized and operate under the rule of law, people are not kidnapped by agents of foreign governments. People facing criminal charges in the United States who reside in, say, the United Kingdom can only be brought without their consent to the United States if the United Kingdom agrees to arrest and extradite them.

Until 2001 the only time this procedure was circumvented were when Nazi war criminals were kidnapped by agents of Israel.

Since 2001 the United States has claimed the right to kidnap people suspected of being terrorists. This did not unduly alarm people who did not think they were likely to be suspected of being war criminals or terrorists. But now the Bush Administration is telling the world that the United States claims the right to kidnap anyone anywhere.

As reported by the TimesOnLine (London Sunday Times):

AMERICA has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States. A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.

The admission will alarm the British business community after the case of the so-called NatWest Three, bankers who were extradited to America on fraud charges. More than a dozen other British executives, including senior managers at British Airways and BAE Systems, are under investigation by the US authorities and could face criminal charges in America.

Until now it was commonly assumed that US law permitted kidnapping only in the “extraordinary rendition” of terrorist suspects.

The American government has for the first time made it clear in a British court that the law applies to anyone, British or otherwise, suspected of a crime by Washington.


How could people called conservative claim this kind of power, a power that allows them to ignore international law? How do you feel about the world being told by the Bush Administration that this is what America stands for – that might make right? What are these conservatives conserving? What historic period are they returning us to?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Hostage drama

A New Hampshire man walked into a Hillary Clinton campaign office in his town with what he said was a bomb duct taped to his chest demanding to speak to Hillary Clinton. Link What the heck? I thought everyone is New Hampshire had already personally spoken to all the candidates multiple times.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How many reindeer pull Santa's sleigh?

I am starting to get in the Christmas spirit. I have been thinking about Santa Claus and his reindeer.

How many reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh? Is it eight, as in Clement Moore’s poem, or nine as claimed by the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”? It can’t be both. The two accounts contradict each other. At least one of them has to be wrong.

Of course, we don’t worry about such things because we know the authors of this poem and song did not intend us to take them literally. Since their purpose is to relate myth rather than historical accuracy they can both be true – they are both valued because they both serve their intended purpose in the realm of myth and fantasy.

But what if someone in the future only had access to the words of this poem and song in a printed form that did not make clear that they were fiction? What if all they had were the words of the poem and song themselves – no helpful library classification or other context? What internal clues within the text itself should clue the insightful reader how to classify these writings?

If the action was set in some fantasy place like Never-never land where people lived in tree houses or holes in the ground it would be easy to tell that it was fiction, but the action seem to be set in our world where people live in houses like ours, so that is no help. A good clue that should tell any intelligent reader that this is fiction is the supernatural feats Santa and his reindeer perform – flying and visiting every house in the world in a single night. Another clue to their fictional nature is the fact that the later account adds details to the story – an extra reindeer – without any explanation for why the first telling of the story was wrong about this. The author of the song felt free to modify the story told in the poem in a way that would render the first story false if it were viewed as history. That should alert any intelligent reader that the author of the song did not view the original story as history and did not expect her/his audience to view either the poem or song as literally true or historically accurate.

That all probably seems so obvious that you think it was hardly worth my time to type it. But you would be surprised how many people miss obvious points like this when dealing with religious documents from long ago.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Illinois considering scanning driver's licenses on boarding riverboat casino

According to an article in this morning’s Quad City Times:

Gamblers, no matter how old they are, may have to show their driver’s license and have it scanned before entering Illinois casinos under a new proposal.

The Illinois Gaming Board is considering the card-everyone idea as a way to catch people who have voluntarily agreed to be arrested if they board one of the state’s riverboat casinos

The article goes on to explain that once someone has banned themselves from the riverboat casinos it takes 5 years and a doctor's evaluation that they are no longer addicted to gambling to get their name removed from the lists.

I think this is an excellent idea. If it works out well how about extending it nationally to all forms of legal gambling? And if that works out how about extending it to sales of alcohol? Just think, once someone agrees that they are a problem drinker and promises to quit, you would get them to ban themselves from alcohol and then it would be a lot harder for them to fall off the wagon.

Everyone selling alcohol (by the bottle or by the drink) would have a driver's license scanner connected to a central database so fake driver's licenses used by underage kids would no longer work. Everyone who did not have a driver's license because they were illegal for any reason would not be able to drink. Everyone who was of age and legal and had never declared themselves a problem drinker would just have their driver's license scanned and they would be scarcely inconvienced. I think it is a great idea.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Randy Newman - A Few Words in Defense of Our Country

Check out patriot Randy Newman's "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country"

For those of you who don't get what he is talking about -- don't worry about it. He's just defending our country.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What I am thankful for

Since today is Thanksgiving Day I thought I would talk about why I am thankful to live in the United States of America. I’ve been listening to a lot of immigrants lately talking about why they came to this country and this gives me an appreciation of what is right in this country. I believe the great majority of Americans believe that our government (federal, state and local) is and should be honest, non-corrupt and serving the needs of the people. I think most Americans are shocked and motivated to do something to fix it when they find out about instances when the government has been corrupt or has subverted the rule of law. That is not the case in many countries in the world, especially the countries from which many of our immigrants come.

The collapse of the Soviet Union showed how ultimately all governments, even the ones in countries we call non-democratic, can only stay in power with the consent of the people of that country. I think as long as most Americans refuse to accept as normal and commonplace that the government will be corrupt and serving special interests rather than the people then this country will remain free and democratic.

Polls show that about 70% of Americans think that the country is heading in the wrong direction. I am thankful that most Americans recognize the same problems I see and are prepared to do something about it. Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

If a woman is b___ what is a man?

At the breakfast table this morning I was reading Leonard Pitts’ column which was commenting on the lack of reaction to a woman who asked John McCain, “How do we beat the b___,” referring, of course, to Hillary Clinton. McCain laughed and said it was an excellent question. The column asks if the reaction would have been the same if Lieberman had been the front runner and a questioner referred to him as a Hebe, or Richardson as a spic, or Obama as a coon? Leonard Pitts had no doubt that McCain would not have thought those were ‘excellent’ questions.

I agreed completely with the point the column was making but my wife did not. She did not think that calling a woman a “b___” was comparable to calling a Jew a Hebe or a Hispanic a spic. She thought an equivalent insult was calling a man a bastard. Should the column have asked whether John McCain would have thought that “How do we beat the bastard,” referring to Obama or Edwards was an ‘excellent’question? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Republican Values

According to the Yeas & Nays blog at www.examiner.com written by Jeff Dufour and Patrick Gavin:

DeLay told Yeas & Nays that Republicans in Congress are "looking for something to believe in" and "they're not getting it out of this Republican leadership. … The leadership just isn't getting it."

"They're looking for some backbone,"

Presumably demonstrating the kind of backbone he thinks Congressional Republicans need Tom Delay said of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, "I'd like to bitch-slap him."

Read the entire article.

Tom Delay is an example of the kind of politicians the so-called "Values Voters" have been supporting. What values do you think he was demonstrating in that interview?

As bad as Dafur is Somali is worse

According to an article in this morning’s New York Times as bad as Dafur is Somali is worse.

The worst humanitarian crisis in Africa may not be unfolding in Darfur, but here, along a 20-mile strip of busted-up asphalt, several top United Nations officials said.

Top United Nations officials who specialize in Somalia said the country had higher malnutrition rates, more current bloodshed and fewer aid workers than Darfur, which is often publicized as the world’s most pressing humanitarian crisis and has taken clear priority in terms of getting peacekeepers and aid money.

Read the entire article.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Congressman Hare getting noticed

Our freshman Congressman, Phil Hare of Rock Island, is getting some notice for his work to try to prevent the Peru free trade deal. There is a front page story about this in this morning's Quad City Times

“I’ve been working on trade issues for 17 years, and Rep. Hare, as a freshman, showed more leadership, more character and, frankly, more relentless insistence for what was good for his constituents ... than I’ve seen more multi-term members pull off,” said Lori Wallach, director of the Global Trade Watch Program at Public Citizen, which opposed the deal. “It was incredibly impressive.”

Read the entire article

NAFTA was promoted as the kind of trade deal that is good for both developing countries like Mexico and developed nations like the United States and Canada. Well, the verdict is in on its effects and it has been a disaster for the people of Mexico, as evidenced by their desperation to come to our country to find work. The Peru deal is similar to NAFTA and there is no reason to think its impact would be any more positive for the working people of either the Peru or the United States.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Robert Novak being ignored

Apparently Bob Novak has written a column in which he claims that the Hillary Clinton campaign told him they have information about Barak Obama that would be disastrous for his presidential aspirations if it were to become public. Apparently the Clinton campaign has denied this. Apparently Barak Obama has responded by saying that he will not be intimidated by such rumors – he will not be “Swift-boated”. I say apparently because I can find no information about any of this from a source I trust. None of the newspapers I read have anything on this, including the New York Times. Nor do any of the mainstream or liberal blogs. The only source I have for any of this are a couple of local conservative blogs, here and here, that I read because they are listed along with this blog on a local blogger’s page on the local newspaper’s website. I gather other conservative blogs around the country are also talking about this.

It is not surprising that no one without a conservative ax to grind will touch this. The whole story is based solely on the thoroughly discredited word of one man, Robert Novak. In the same way that scientists usually just ignore crackpot theories rather than bothering to refute them, apparently real journalists are simply ignoring this story. I advise you to do the same.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

You can earn college credit by reading this blog

This blog's readability rating, the level of education required to understand the blog, has been judged by an independent rating service to be college level (undergrad). I would expect that would mean that college students (undergrad) can earn college credit by reading it -- check with your professors.

Of course, some of you may be thinking that this rating means that I am not writing clearly and plainly enough, that I am going over most of my potential audience's heads and that may explain my low readership ratings and the fact that my blog has been judged to be worth only $564.54 based on the number of links to my blog from elsewhere on the web. I choose not to look at it that way.

Instead, displaying the attitude that has got me where I am today, I say that anyone who can't understand this blog needs to go back to school.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lou Dobbs thinking about running for president

An article in the Wall Street Journal by John Fund says that CNN’s Lou Dobbs is thinking about running for president.

Friends of Mr. Dobbs say he is seriously contemplating a race for the first time, although it's still unlikely. They spin a scenario under which the acerbic commentator would parachute into the race if Michael Bloomberg, the New York billionaire and favorite of East Coast elites, enters the field as an independent. With Hillary Clinton continuing to score badly in polls in the categories of honesty and integrity, and with the public's many doubts about Rudy Giuliani and other GOP contenders, Mr. Bloomberg may well see an opportunity to roil the political waters by entering the race late. If so, Mr. Dobbs then sees a niche for a "fourth-party" candidate who could paint the three other contenders as completely out of touch.

Nothing could more perfectly illustrate how people in the media think about political races and running for office. They think politics is a matter of personifying opinions. For that, after all, is all that Lou Dobbs offers – opinions. He has no experience in government or even in running a business. At least Ross Perot had experience as an executive who had accomplished something by managing people and an organization. Lou Dobbs only has experience expressing opinions. If elected president Lou Dobbs would be in the position of having to work with a Congress in which no one was of his political party or owed him anything. The idea that campaigns and elections are how we select our leaders has been lost on these people who think elections are how we express our opinions.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

David Broder's feelings of awkwardness

In his column this morning David Broder opines that the relationship between Hillary and Bill Clinton poses unique challenges to the nation should Hillary be elected. He remembers his discomfort when Hillary was given a prominent role during Bill’s presidency:

When Bill Clinton was president, the large policy enterprise that was entrusted to the first lady -- health-care reform -- crashed in ruins. The causes were complex, and some of the burden falls on other people -- Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the interest groups and, yes, the press. But as one who reported and wrote in great detail and length about that whole enterprise, I can also tell you that the awkwardness of having an unelected but uniquely influential partner of the president in charge affected every step of the process, from the gestation of the plan to its final demise.

I don’t get it. How is having the president’s spouse in charge of some initiative any different than having any other equally unelected appointee or advisor, selected by the president, in charge? Condi Rice seems strangely, at least to me, close to President Bush. She is “an unelected but uniquely influential partner of the president.” Why is not David Broder disquieted by that situation? I have to suspect that David Broder’s feelings of “awkwardness” concerning Hillary Clinton have more to do with his political differences with her and his prejudices and hang-ups than with anything else.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Universal Hovercraft

Click on this link to go the website of an Illinois company named Universal Hovercraft. As you can see by their website this is a company that makes personal hovercraft. They helpfully list the various models as either 1-2 person, 3-6 person or larger. They offer “turnkey” hovercraft and also plans, kits and parts.

This company came to my attention when I was banking on-line and perusing the charges to my and my wife’s credit cards for the past week. A charge of $420 was paid to Universal Hovercraft. I did not have a receipt for that and did not remember ordering anything from that company or my wife having told me she had ordered anything. So, I googled to find out more about the company and discovered their website. As you can see the website makes no mention of anything the company does or sells other than hovercrafts.

So I asked my wife a question I had never imagined I would ever ask, “Honey, did you buy a hovercraft this past week and not give me the receipt?”

She got somewhat alarmed. She has always had a fear that a thief would get our credit card information and suddenly charges for things we had not bought would appear on our credit card statements. The charge for the purchase of a personal hovercraft apparently struck her as the epitome of something we would not have purchased and so it seemed that all her fears were suddenly coming true.

Hours later, after she had calmed down, she remembered what she had charged to her credit card for $420. Our cleaning lady had been complaining that she had borrowed some money from one of those car title/payday loan places and, because of the high interest her balance had kept increasing faster than she could get it paid off. The balance had grown to $420. My wife went down there, whipped out her credit card, paid off the loan. She told our cleaning lady she could pay us back by cleaning our house and we would not be charging her any interest.

Well, it was a relief to know that this was a legitimate charge to our credit cards but why did it show up as a payment to Universal Hovercraft? I have given it some thought and I now have a theory. Whatever relationship there is between the car title/payday loan place and Universal Hovercraft was created, at least in part, in order to give cover to the customers and employees of the loan place who are ashamed of their association with the high-interest loan shop. Not having the name of a quicky-loan place on their credit card statements must prevent some embarrassment for some customers (although it only caused confusion for me.)

The more speculative part of my theory is that the relationship between the two businesses gives cover to the employees of the loan shop who don't want to admit their association with the car title/payday loan business. When asked what they do for a living they say they sell hovercrafts. When they are asked to come to their children's school to talk about what they do they bring catalogs of hovercrafts for the kids to oh and ahh over. That's just speculation on my part, of course.

Why you can't see the news the way others see it.

Very few Americans have the opportunity to see international news the way millions of people in the Middle East see it, on Al Jazeera. Among those few are our soldiers in Afghanistan. According to Roger Cohen in his column in today’s New York Times:

In the gym at the NATO base in Kabul, U.S. soldiers hit the treadmills every morning and gaze at TV screens broadcasting Al Jazeera’s English news channel. When Osama bin Laden makes news, as he did recently with a statement about Iraq, America’s finest work out beneath the solemn gaze of their most wanted enemy.

Back in the States about the only way you can watch it is if you are one of the 147,000 subscribers to Buckeye Cablesystem in Toledo, Ohio.

Allan Block, the chairman of Block Communications, which owns Buckeye, [says]: “It’s a good channel. Sir David Frost and David Marash are not terrorists. The attempt to blackball it is neo-McCarthyism.”

Block, like other cable providers, got protest letters from Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog. Cliff Kincaid, its editor, cites the case of Tayseer Allouni, a former Afghanistan correspondent jailed in Spain for Al Qaeda links. This is evidence, he suggests, that “cable providers shouldn’t give them access.”

How do you feel about conservatives like Cliff Kincaid threatening cable providers to prevent you from seeing Al Jazeera?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Scott Adams, Dilbert Cartoonist – “Why We Should All Become Muslims”

I just discovered that one of my favorite cartoonists, Scott Adams, author of “Dilbert”, has a blog. As you would expect his blog is full of unexpected ideas that make a lot of sense. One of his recent posting got a lot of comment – “Why We Should All Become Muslims.” He points out that people around the world of all different religions seem about equally happy. If one religion was better or truer than the others and human beings were capable of determining that then we all (or at least the smarter ones among us) would be followers of that religion. But that is not the case so it appears that we have no reason to pick one religion over another based on the merits of that religion. Therefore, he concludes, we should all become moderate Muslims so that Osama bin Laden would have less reason to want to kill us.

As you can imagine, that provoked a big response. Some commenters responded to those ideas in the same spirit in which they were proposed. Others, presumably people who were personally invested in the idea that their religion was the true one, disagreed with his arguments without being able to offer any counter arguments. Check it out.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Are driver's licenses incentives to illegal behavior?

Eight out of fifty states currently issue driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Does this fact encourage people in other countries to come here illegally?

There are an estimated more than 12 million illegal immigrants in this country and as far as I can tell they are all working or are the spouse or children of someone who is working. When you talk to them about why they came to this country and why they came to this particular state and city they invariably say that they came because they heard that they could find work here. I have never heard any of them say or indicate in any way that there was any other factor in their decision than their prospects of finding work. (If a baby is on the way they may also factor into the decision that it would probably be better for the child if she/he was born in America.)

So do the people who are arguing against driver’s license for illegal immigrants have any facts or hard evidence that issuing driver’s licenses is in fact an incentive to illegal behavior? My guess is that there are no such facts because no one decided to enter this country illegally based on any incentive other than the fact they could work here.

Notice the lack of facts in newspaper columnist Kathleen Parker’s column in this morning’s paper:

The illegal immigrant problem is huge, obviously, and there's no single solution. But there is one word that would get the ball rolling in the right direction and win a lot of voters' hearts: disincentivize. Stop making it so attractive to slip through, over and under the border.

As long as we offer jobs, medical treatment, drivers licenses and in-state tuition to those who come here illegally, why would any right-thinking, would-be immigrant take a number and wait his turn? Why not just throw in the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and free tequila while we're at it?
Certainly, no serious person thinks we can round up 12 million people and deport them. But it would be refreshing if we began to take seriously what it means to be a citizen and stop making it so attractive to be a lawbreaker.

read entire article

Why can’t we round up 12 million people and deport them? The few times I have ever heard anyone address this issue they talked about the logistical problems of moving that many people and how many buses and airplanes it would take. But that is not the main issue. Although it is the 800 lb. gorilla sitting in the living room that no one talks about the main reason we cannot send them home is that there are whole industries dependent on their labor. It would have devastating effects on our economy if they were to suddenly disappear. We cannot deport them all in exactly the same way that we cannot shut down all the coal-fired power plants and we cannot stop cutting down trees in the national forests.

So, they are here and are going to remain here. The only thing to decide is how to treat them.
When Kathleen Parker admits we cannot deport them all and then talks in the next breath about “what it means to be a citizen” she is talking about a two-tiered class system in which we exploit the labor of the non-documented while denying them the benefits citizens and legal residents enjoy. This would have all the standard advantages for us that the upper classes enjoy in any class-based society – and all the disadvantages also. Does a permanent under-class of exploited workers with fewer rights and benefits than the rest of us fit your picture of what America is about?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Are you to blame for Iraq?

If you are one of the 75% majority of the American public who thinks that the War in Iraq is not going very well then you probably also have some opinions about the reasons our military has not completely vanquished those opposing them there. You probably blame some or all of the following: inadequate planning for the occupation, too few troops, a misguided mission, bad decisions made by our leaders, social and historical factors that result in our best and brightest young people not volunteering to join the military, our history of supporting unpopular repressive undemocratic regimes, our unquestioning support of Israel or other factors involving Washington insiders and the military-industrial complex. You probably have never entertained the thought that you might be the one to blame – your doubts, your lack of complete support for the mission. The idea probably seems absurd, if for no other reason than because those making all the decisions show no indication that they pay the slightest attention to what you think.

Well, hold onto those thoughts because, if history is any guide, at some point in the not too distant future people are going to suggest that our troops could have prevailed in Iraq if they had not been stabbed in the back by people back at home. As absurd as that idea seems at the moment, unless you make a special effort to never forget how you feel right now about the war, you might find yourself being swept up by this scapegoating. Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

My Blog is worth $564.54

Based on the theoretical monetary value each link to a website supposedly represents and a count of all the existing links to my blog I have just been informed that my blog's worth calculates as $564.54. link

I guess I won't give up my day job.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Whose side is God on?

Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God, was in the Quad Cities over the weekend to speak at the Quad Cities Progressive Action for the Common Good's Spiritual Progressives Conference. There is an excellent article in the River Cities’ Reader by Jeff Ignatius about Rabbi Lerner and what he had to say. For example, this is Rabbi Lerner’s take on the Congressional Democrat’s lack of commitment for ending the war in Iraq.

Many Democrats, for example, believe in ending the war in Iraq but refuse to act on that belief. "They don't fight to end it because they think it's not realistic and it's not politically in their interest," Lerner said. "They don't want to offend those who do support the war. They're afraid they'll be labeled ‘not supporting our troops' if they vote to cut off all funds and say that they're going to end the war right now."

These "practical" Democrats have their priorities wrong, Lerner said. "The spiritual world view tells us to go for our highest values, and to let them shape our actions," he said, "not let your actions be shaped by what seems pragmatic at the moment. ... To believe in God is to believe that there is a force in the universe that makes possible the transformation of that which is to that which ought to be. To align yourself with that force is often to be aligned against being realistic."

Here is Rabbi Lerner’s advice for how to fight the war on terrorism.

"We have come to believe that the fundamental reality of the world is one in which people are out to get us and hurt us, and that the only way we can protect ourselves is to dominate others before they dominate us," he said.

Instead, the United States should lead "a global Marshall Plan" and "act toward others in a spirit of generosity and caring."

In terms of a policy recommendation, Lerner said the United States should dedicate 1 to 2 percent of its gross domestic product "to once and for all end global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, [and] inadequate health care, and to repair the global environment." Further, the U.S. should encourage other world powers to make the same commitment.

The effect would be "to dry up the cesspools of anger and hatred against the richest country in the world - us - and the resentment that people have about the way the United States has acted in the world, as a dominator," Lerner said. Extremist groups wouldn't be able to find recruits, he claimed.

Read the entire article

When you give it a little thought it seems kind of strange that the religious right has convinced so many people that their values of homophobia, xenophobia, capital punishment and opposition to sex education and family planning are God’s values, when everyone knows that God’s foremost commandment is to treat others with kindness and compassion, feeding the hungry and housing the homeless. Although the news media refers to social conservatives as “values voters,” that is a misnomer since everyone votes their values. We progressives have values that are much better aligned with the fundamental teachings of all the world’s great religions than the mean-spirited, punitive world-view of the so-called religious right. It has only been our reluctance up until now to frame our arguments in religious terms that has allowed the conservatives to perpetuate the fraud that God is on their side.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Report on Moline Democrat's Candidates Forum

My wife and I just got back from attending the Moline Democratic Central Committee’s candidates forum held at the Moline VFW hall on 7th Street. Rock Island County Board member Virgil Mayberry spoke briefly in support of Hillary Clinton. No one showed up to speak for any of the other presidential candidates. Pat O’Brien spoke for Congressman Phil Hare.

Both incumbent State Senator Mike Jacobs and his challenger Paul Rumler spoke. Mike Jacobs emphasized the bills he had passed and the money he had brought home from Springfield. Paul Rumler talked about his commitment to Education and promised that he would conduct himself in Springfield in a professional and dignified manner. (Although he did not put it that way I took that as a promise that he would not embarrass us.)

Pat Verschoore spoke briefly. He was relaxed because again he has no opposition. Both incumbent State Rep Mike Boland and his challenger Jerry Lack spoke. Both men have a long history of working for the people of north-western Illinois. I suspect it will be a hard choice for a lot of people.

Rock Island County Recorder of Deeds Pat Veronda, Rock Island County Auditor Diana Robinson and Circuit Clerk Lisa Bierman spoke next.

The last to speak were the three candidates for Rock Island County Coroner. Incumbent coroner Sharon Anderson is retiring after 20 years, so the race is wide open. The Democrats of Rock Island County will have to choose between Dr. Ronald B. Fiscella (a licensed physician and surgeon in the state of Illinois since 1977), Brian Gustafson, a Registered Nurse and the current chief deputy coroner in Sharon Anderson’s office and Joel Moore, a Registered Nurse and a deputy coroner for Rock Island County. At this point at the very beginning of the campaign Brian Gustafson appears to be the better speaker and campaigner – he had campaign literature to hand out and worked the room better than the other two.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"The dumbest thing we've ever done" -- Mike Huckabee

What would you say is the “defining issue of our time,” an action advocated by all the Washington and New York insiders that would be the “dumbest thing we’ve ever done” if we followed their advice?

Gail Collins, in her column in today’s New York Times alerted me to a right-wing delusion to which I had been paying little attention. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is leading a charge to prevent the United States from signing the “Law of the Sea Treaty.” The U.S Navy, Greenpeace, the oil and gas industry all want the United States to sign. 155 other countries have already signed including all the other industrialized nations. Among the few nations left that have not signed are our good friends, Libya, Iran and North Korea.

What threats do you worry about – terrorism, global warming, expanding war in the Middle East, our huge national debt, our declining dollar, antibiotic-resistant infections, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes? According to Mike Huckabee and his fellow wing-nuts, a greater danger than all of those is the possibility that the United States might sign the “Law of the Sea Treaty.”

I guess that must be a signal that the right-wing has given up claiming that the Democratic candidates are not sufficiently alarmed about the threat posed by terrorism. How could they make that claim when they themselves rate the terrorism threat as less of a danger than that posed by the “Law of the Sea Treaty?”

Friday, November 02, 2007

What Republicans are saying about Democrats

Have you noticed how often what someone says about you reveals far more about them than it does about you? An example of this is David Brooks’ column in today’s New York Times. If you actually saw the debate you know that it was not at all what he describes in his column. Although a few of the other candidates had already publicly announced decisions to more directly contrast themselves with front-runner Hillary Clinton they did so without attacking her patriotism, motives, marriage, voice or even her laugh. It is the Republicans who attack her and the other Democrats personally, impugning their character, motives and patriotism. A good example of how Republican criticism of Hillary reflects their own failings rather than hers is the talk about her marriage. None of the Democratic candidates talk about her marriage and certainly do not publicly wonder why she has not gotten a divorce. Of course, since all of the Democratic candidates for president are still in their first marriages that might explain why such questions do not occur to them.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Immigrants

In the recent Democratic presidential candidates debate Chris Dodd jumped all over Hillary Clinton for saying that there were good reasons for issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. “Driving is a privilege, not a right,” Chris Dodd thundered. Apparently Chris Dodd thinks that a driver’s license is a reward we hand out for good behavior, similar perhaps to a "Medal of Freedom" or a "Key to the City." Is that the purpose of a driver’s license?

Illegal immigrants have come here to work. In most places in the country, including where I live in the Quad Cities, the only way to get to most jobs, is to drive. As long as we have illegal immigrants here working they are going to be driving and if they are not allowed to get driver’s licenses they are going to be driving unlicensed. Although illegal immigrants are routinely stopped and ticketed by the police for driving without a license they just pay the fine and continue driving. What else can they do? They need to work. (If you are unaware how many immigrants the police ticket every day for driving without a license you might want to go down to your local traffic court and hang out for a few hours.) Since they have to pay a fine (starting at $75-$100 for the first offense and going up) every time they are caught driving without a license most of them would get a driver’s license if they were permitted to do so. If having liability insurance was a requirement to get a license they would get that also. It would still be cheaper than the fines they are currently paying.

Also notice that the only options on the table are continuing the present situation of forcing illegal immigrants to drive unlicensed or granting them driver’s licenses. There is no third option. We have an estimated more than 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. Whole industries are dependent on their labor and it would have serious negative effects on our economy if they were to somehow suddenly disappear. Since most of them have Social Security taxes withheld from their pay but will never collect any benefits some people think having large numbers of illegal immigrants working in the United States is vital for the continued viability of the Social Security program, especially with all the baby boomers set to retire. There is no option in the reality-based world for immediately deporting illegal immigrants the moment they come to a policeman’s or other government official’s attention. That is not any more likely to happen than, say, closing down all coal-fired power plants because of the green-house gases they emit.

So which of those two options would benefit you the most? Is punishing illegal immigrants more important than having fewer unlicensed, uninsured, unidentified drivers sharing the road with you?

Monday, October 29, 2007

John Edwards is speaking powerfully now

I just received the text of a speech John Edwards delivered today in New Hamshire in an email from the Edwards campaign. They encouraged me to pass it along to others so I don't think they will mind me posting the whole thing here. Before reading this speech I had been wavering a little in my support for John Edwards. I had not heard or read any of his speeches in a while and I guess all the attacks against his character and motives in the media was starting to have an effect on my view of him.
But reading this speech just now turned that around. After reading this speech I can whole-heartedly support John Edwards for president. Read it yourself and see if you agree with me.

Remarks by Senator John Edwards
St. Anselm's College, Manchester, New Hamphshire
October 29, 2007

Many of you know that I am the son of a mill worker -- that I rose from modest means and have been blessed in so many ways in life. Elizabeth and I have so much to be grateful for. And all of you know about some of the challenges we have faced in my family. But there came a time, a few months ago, when Elizabeth and I had to decide, in the quiet of a hospital room, after many hours of tests and
getting pretty bad news -- what we were going to do with our lives. And we made our decision. That we were not going to go quietly into the night -- that we were going to stand and fight for what we believe in. As Elizabeth and I have campaigned across America, I've come to a better understanding of what that decision really meant -- and why we made it.

Earlier this year, I spoke at Riverside Church in New York, where, forty years ago, Martin Luther King gave a historic speech. I talked about that speech then, and I want to talk about it today. Dr. King was tormented by the way he had kept silent for two years about the Vietnam War. He was told that if he spoke out he would hurt the civil rights movement and all that he had worked for -- but he could not take it any more -- instead of decrying the silence of others -- he spoke the truth about
himself. "Over the past two years" he said, "I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silence and speak from the burning of my own heart."

I am not holier than thou. I am not perfect by any means. But there are events in life that you learn from, and which remind you what this is really all about. Maybe I have been freed from the system and the fear that holds back politicians because I have learned there are much more important things in life than winning elections at the cost of selling your soul. Especially right now, when our country requires so much more of us, and needs to hear the truth from its leaders. And, although I have spent my entire life taking on the big powerful interests and winning -- which is why I have never taken a dime from Washington lobbyists or political action committees -- I too have been guilty of my own silence -- but no more. It's time to tell the truth. And the truth is the system in Washington is corrupt. It is rigged by the powerful special interests to benefit they very few at the expense of the many. And as a result, the American people have lost faith in our broken system in Washington, and believe it no longer works for ordinary Americans. They're right.

As I look across the political landscape of both parties today -- what I see are politicians too afraid to tell the truth - good people caught in a bad system that overwhelms their good intentions and requires them to chase millions of dollars in campaign contributions in order to perpetuate their careers and continue their climb to higher office. This presidential campaign is a perfect example of how our politics is awash with money. I have raised more money up to this point than any Democratic candidate raised last time in the presidential campaign -- $30 million. And, I did it without taking a dime from any Washington lobbyist or any special interest PAC.

I saw the chase for campaign money at any cost by the frontrunner in this race -- and I did not join it -- because the cost to our nation and our children is not worth the hollow victory of any candidate. Being called president while powerful interests really run things is not the same as being free to lead this nation as president of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. If protecting the current established structure in Washington is in your interest, then I am not your candidate.

I ran for president four years ago -- yes, in part out of personal ambition -- but also with a deep desire to stand for working people like my father and mother -- who no matter how hard things were for our family, always worked even harder to make things better for us. But the more Elizabeth and I campaigned this year, the more we talked to the American people, the more we met people just like my father, and hard working people like James Lowe. James is a decent and honest man who had to live for 50 years with no voice in the richest country in the world because he didn't have health care. The more people like him that I met, the more I realized something much bigger was stirring in the American people. And it has stirred in each of us for far too long.

Last month Ken Burns -- who made the great Civil War documentary -- launched his newest epic on World War II on PBS -- and what a story it tells. At the cost of great suffering, blood and enormous sacrifice, within four years after Pearl Harbor it is incredible what this nation achieved. America built the arsenal of democracy worthy of our great history. We launched the greatest invasion armada in the history of warfare against Hitler's fortress Europe, and, with our allies, we freed a continent of suffering humanity. At the same time on the other side of the globe we crossed 10,000 miles of ocean and liberated another hemisphere of humanity -- islands and nations freed from the grip of Japanese militarists. While at the same time succeeding in the greatest scientific endeavor ever undertaken -- the Manhattan project -- and topped it off with building the Pentagon, one of the largest buildings in the world in a little over a year.

It is incredible what America has accomplished. Because no matter what extraordinary challenges we have been faced with, we did exactly what America has always done in our history -- we rose to the challenge. And, now, as I travel across America and listen to people, I hear real concern about what's going on. For the first time in our nation's history, people are worried that we're going to be the first generation of Americans not to pass on a better life to our children. And it's not the fault of the American people. The American people have not changed. The American people are still the strong, courageous people they have always been. The problem is what our government has become.

And, it is up to us to do something about it. Because Washington may not see it, but we are facing a moral crisis as great as any that has ever challenged us. And, it is this test -- this moral test -- that I have come to understand is at the heart of this campaign. Just look at what has happened in Iraq. What was the response of the American people to the challenge at hand? Our men and women in uniform have been heroes. They've done everything that's been asked of them and more. But what about our government? Four years after invading Iraq, we cannot even keep the lights on in Baghdad. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, the American people were at their best. They donated their time and their money in record numbers. There was an outpouring of support. I took 700 college kids down to help -- young people who gave up their spring break. But what about our government? Three years after hurricane Katrina thousands of our fellow Americans, our brothers and sisters, are still housed in trailers waiting to go home.There's no better example of the bravery and goodness of the American people than the response to the attacks of 9/11: firefighters and first responders risking and too often giving their lives to save others, charging up the stairs while everyone else was coming down; record bloodbank donations; and the list goes on. But what about our government? Six years after 9/11, at Ground Zero there sits only a black hole that tortures our conscience and scars our hearts.

In every instance we see an American people who are good, decent, compassionate and undeterred. And, American people who are better than the government that is supposed to serve and represent them. And what has happened to the American "can do" spirit? I will tell you what has happened: all of this is the result of the bitter poisoned fruit of corruption and the bankruptcy of our political leadership. It is not an accident that the government of the United States cannot function on behalf of its people, because it is no longer our people's government -- and we the people know it. This corruption did not begin yesterday -- and it did not even begin with George Bush -- it has been building for decades -- until it now threatens literally the life of our democracy.

While the American people personally rose to the occasion with an enormous outpouring of support and donations to both the victims of Katrina and 9/11 -- we all saw our government's neglect.

And we saw greed and incompetence at work. Out of more than 700 contracts valued at $500,000 or greater, at least half were given without full competition or, according to news sources, with vague or open ended terms, and many of these contracts went to companies with deep political connections such as a subsidiary of Haliburton, Bechtel Corp., and AshBritt Inc. And in Iraq -- while our nation's brave sons and daughters put their lives on the line for our country -- we now have mercenaries under their own law while their bosses sit at home raking in millions. We have squandered millions on building Olympic size swimming pools and buildings that have never been used. We have weapons and ammunition unaccounted for that may now be being used against our own soldiers.

We literally have billions wasted or misspent -- while our troops and their families continue to sacrifice. And the politically connected lobby for more. What's their great sacrifice -- higher profits. It goes on every minute of every day. Corporate executives at United Airlines and US Airways receive millions in compensation for taking their companies into bankruptcy, while their employees are forced to take cuts in pay. Companies like Wal-Mart lobby against inspecting containers entering our nation's ports, even though expert after expert agrees that the likeliest way for a dirty bomb to enter the United States is through a container, because they believe their profits are more important than our safety. What has become of America when America's largest company lobbies against protecting America? Trade deals cost of millions of jobs. What do we get in return? Millions of dangerous Chinese toys in our children's cribs laden with lead. This is the price we are made to pay when
trade agreements are decided based on how much they pad the profits for multinational corporations instead of what is best for America's workers or the safety of America's consumers.

We have even gotten to the point where our children's safety is potentially at risk because nearly half of the apple juice consumed by our children comes from apples grown in China. And Americans are kept in the dark because the corporate lobbyists have pushed back country of origin labeling laws again and again. This is not the America I believe in. The hubris of greed knows no bounds.

Days after the homeland security bill passed, staffers from the homeland security department resigned and became homeland security consultants trying to cash in. And, where was the outrage? There was none, because that's how it works in Washington now. It is not a Republican revolving door or a Democratic revolving door -- it is just the way it's done. Someone called it a government reconnaissance mission to figure out how to get rich when you leave the government. Recently, I was dismayed to see headlines in the Wall Street Journal stating that Senate Democrats were backing down to lobbyists for hedge funds who have opposed efforts to make millionaire and billionaire hedge fund managers pay the same tax rate as every hard-working American.

Now, tax loopholes the wealthy hedge fund managers do not need or deserve are not going to be closed, all because Democrats -- our party -- wanted their campaign money. And a few weeks ago, around the sixth anniversary of 9/11, a leading presidential candidate held a fundraiser that was billed as a Homeland Security themed event in Washington, D.C. targeted to homeland security lobbyists and contractors for $1,000 a plate. These lobbyists, for the price of a ticket, would get a special "treat" -- the opportunity to participate in small, hour long breakout sessions with key Democratic lawmakers, many of whom chair important sub committees of the homeland security committee. That presidential candidate was Senator Clinton. Senator Clinton's road to the middle class takes a major detour right through the deep canyon of corporate lobbyists and the hidden bidding of K Street in Washington -- and history tells us that when that bus stops there it is the middle class that loses. When I asked Hillary Clinton to join me in not taking money from Washington lobbyists -- she refused. Not only did she say that she would continue to take their money, she defended them. Today Hillary Clinton has taken more money from Washington lobbyists than any candidate from either party -- more money than any Republican candidate. She has taken more money from the defense industry than any other candidate from either party as well. She took more money from Wall Street last quarter than Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Barack Obama combined. The long slow slide of our democracy into the corporate abyss continues unabated regardless of party, regardless of the best interests of America.

We have a duty -- a duty to end this. I believe you cannot be for change and take money from the lobbyists who prevent change. You cannot take on the entrenched interests in Washington if you choose to defend the broken system. It will not work. And I believe that, if Americans have a choice, and candidate who takes their money -- Democrat or Republican -- will lose this election. For us to continue down this path all we have to do is suspend all that we believe in. As Democrats, we continue down this path only if we believe the party of the people is no more.

As Americans, we continue down this path only if we fail to heed Lincoln's warning to us all. "At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected," he asked, "if it ever reaches us it must spring up amongst us. It can not come from abroad. If destruction be our lot -- we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we must live through all time or die by suicide."America lives because 20 generations have honored the one moral commandment that makes us Americans. To give our children a better future than we received.

I stand here today the son of Wallace and Bobbie Edwards. The father of Wade, Cate, Emma Claire and Jack -- and I know, as well as you, that we must not be the first generation that fails to live up to our moral challenge and keep the promise of America. That would be an abomination. There is a dream that is America. It is what makes us American. And I will not stand by while that dream is at risk. I am not perfect -- far from it -- but I do understand that this is not a political issue -- it is the moral test of our generation. Our nation's founders knew that this moment would come -- that at some point the power of greed and its influence over officials in our government might strain and threaten the very America they hoped would last as an ideal in the minds of all people, and as a beacon of hope for all time. That is why they made the people sovereign. And this is why it is your responsibility to redeem the promise of America for our children and their future. It will not be easy -- sacrifice will be required of us -- but it was never easy for our ancestors, and their sacrifices were far greater than any that will fall on our shoulders.

Yet, the responsibility is ours. We, you and I, are the guardians of what America is and what it will be. The choice is ours. Down one path, we trade corporate Democrats for corporate Republicans; our cronies for their cronies; one political dynasty for another dynasty; and all we are left with is a Democratic version of the Republican
corruption machine.

It is the easier path. It is the path of the status quo. But, it is a path that perpetuates a corrupt system that has not only failed to deliver the change the American people demand, but has divided America into two -- one America for the very greedy, and one America for everybody else. And it is that divided America -- the direct result of this corrupt system -- which may very well lead to the suicide Lincoln warned us of -- the poison that continues to seep into our system while none notice.Or we can choose a different path. The path that generations of Americans command us to take. And be the guardians that kept the faith.I run for president for my father who worked in a mill his entire life and never got to go to college the way I did.I run for president for all those who worked in that mill with my father.I run for president for all those who lost their jobs when that mil was shut down.I run for president for all the women who have come up to Elizabeth and me and told us the like Elizabeth they had breast cancer -- but unlike Elizabeth they did not have health care.

I run for president for twenty generations of Americans who made sure that their children had a better life than they did. As Americans we are blessed -- for our ancestors are not dead, they occupy the corridors of our conscience. And, as long we keep the faith -- they live.

And so too the America of idealism and hope that was their gift to us.I carry the promise of America in my heart, where my parents placed it. Like them, like you, I believe in people, hard work, and the sacred obligation of each generation to the next.This is our time now. It falls to us to redeem our democracy, reclaim our government and relight the promise of America for our children.Let us blaze a new path together, grounded in the values from which America was forged, still reaching toward the greatness of our ideals. We can do it. We can cast aside the bankrupt ways of Washington and replace them with the timeless values of the American people. We can liberate our government from the shackles of corporate money that bind it to corporate will, and restore the voices of our people to its halls.

This is the cause of my life. This is the cause of our time. Join me. Together, we cannot fail. We will keep faith with those who have gone before us, strong and proud in the knowledge that we too rose up to guard the promise of America in our day, and that, because we did, America's best days still lie ahead.

Senator John Edwards

I agree with John Edwards that the corruption of our political process caused by the need to raise campaign funds endlessly and the revolving door between Congress and the industries it regulates is a moral issue, not a political issue. When I listen to the other Democratic candidates I get the feeling that they think the War in Iraq and the looming bombing of Iran are political issues. John Edwards has convinced me that he shares my conviction that these are deeply and profoundly moral and ethical issues. Unlike other candidates for president he does not seem to me to be taking these stands as a result of triangulated political calculations. John and Elizabeth Edwards do not seem to me to be spending their last few months together as Elizabeth suffers from inoperable cancer on the campaign trail just to fulfill some personal political ambition of John's.

The news media has fallen into a habit of calling social conservatives "values voters" as if they were the only ones voting their values. With John Edwards running for President I don't have to settle for just voting my politics -- I also will be voting my values.

What are your values? Will you be voting for a candidate who embodies and representing them, or will you be supporting a candidate because of political calculations about who is most likely to win?