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?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Some blogs I have been reading lately

In hopes of further outraging people who do not agree with me but nonetheless read this blog here are some blogs I read regularly:

The Conscience of a Liberal: The blog of Paul Krugman (New York Times columnist.) If you don’t like his newspaper columns you will like his blog even less. Paul Krugman was right when most were wrong and they will never forgive him for it.

Debunking Christianity: This is a blog written by a number of former Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christians (many of whom used to be ministers and Bible College professors) who argue against Christian belief from an ex-insiders point of view. As you would expect the comments always include the responses of true-believers defending the faith, but the comments are moderated so that the debate is always civil and respectful. Fascinating reading!

Shakespeare’s Sister: I don’t quite know how to describe this blog other than to say it is always well written and interesting and if you do not like my political views you will probably like this blog even less.

Blue Gal: A little saucy and impertinent but she always maintains her dignity and is always interesting.

God is for Suckers: A little more irreverent than I would allow myself to be, but I still enjoy reading it.

Crooks and Liars: Excellent political commentary! Again, if you do not like my political views you will probably won't like this blog either.

Our society’s greatest problem – greed and selfishness

Dear Abby’s column today asked its readers if there is one greatest problem facing society today. My wife and I discussed this over breakfast and decided that we think the basic problem, from which almost all other problems of which we are aware stem, is that there is too much greed and selfishness.

The main political problem that we face, that our elected officials are serving powerful interests groups and money rather than the majority of the public, is an outgrowth of this. Too many of our politicians are serving the interests of those who can give large campaign contributions and offer well-paying jobs after the politician leaves office instead of doing the greatest good for the greatest number, or even reflecting the majority will.

Our main economic problem, that we are running up a huge national debt (mostly owed to the Communist Chinese) that will have to be paid off by future generations, is an obvious and direct result of our greed and selfish short-sightedness. We are giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires while wasting trillions of dollars in borrowed money on an unnecessary war.

Our main environmental problem, our unwillingness to change our behavior in order to prevent global warming, also stems from this main source. It would not be tremendously difficult to conserve energy and would not cost that much more to build buildings which better utilized solar or geothermal heating, but we cannot be bothered to make even that effort.

People have always had a tendency towards greed and selfishness but in the past our religious and political leaders almost universally called on us to rise above these baser tendencies. Earlier generations were, at least for an hour a week in church, routinely reminded of what our conscience also tells us when we listen, that we have a primary duty to serve others and to society – not just ourselves. Most of today’s sermons no longer seem to emphasize that. There are even preachers today who preach a theology of greed -- the so-call Prosperity Gospel. They promise that God will reward you with material goods and earthly treasures, rather than the spiritual rewards that religion used to offer.

Political leaders in the past called on their fellow citizens to sacrifice for the common good. “Ask not what your country can do for you...” Today we have entire political and economic theories dedicated to the supposed benefits of greed. They actually claim that we can blindly pursue our individual self interest and the magic of the market will transform those actions into something that will feed the hungry and house the homeless. Look around at the growing income disparity and the number of children and families without health insurance and ask yourself how well that is working out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Bush Administration has been on course for war with Iran for years

Esquire magazine has published an article By John H. Richardson that every American needs to read:
In the years after 9/11, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann worked at the highest levels of the Bush administration as Middle East policy experts for the National Security Council. Mann conducted secret negotiations with Iran. Leverett traveled with Colin Powell and advised Condoleezza Rice. They each played crucial roles in formulating policy for the region leading up to the war in Iraq. But when they left the White House, they left with a growing sense of alarm -- not only was the Bush administration headed straight for war with Iran, it had been set on this course for years. That was what people didn't realize. It was just like Iraq, when the White House was so eager for war it couldn't wait for the UN inspectors to leave. The steps have been many and steady and all in the same direction. And now things are getting much worse. We are getting closer and closer to the tripline, they say.

Read the entire article

Although the chicken hawk neo-cons who are publicly calling for the United States to bomb Iran seem to be implying that the only consequence of that action would be the prevention of World War III everyone else who knows anything about the situation thinks that such a military attack would have very serious consequences indeed.
Bear in mind that Iran has not invaded another country for hundreds of years. No suicide bomber whose nationality has been determined has turned out to be Iranian. (Almost all of the non-Iraqis fighting us in Iraq are Sunnis, many of them Saudis.) Nuclear weapons experts all agree that Iran is years away from being able to produce a nuclear bomb and even if they had the bomb it is not at all clear that this would be more dangerous to world stability than, say, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Obama will back filibuster of telecom immunity

According to the TalkingPointsMemo website:

Obama will back a filibuster of any Senate FISA legislation containing telecom immunity, his campaign has just told Election Central. The Obama campaign has just sent over the following statement from spokesman Bill Burton:
"To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies."

Finally, it looks like at least some Democrats in Congress are going to take a stand. Congress has no business granting retroactive immunity to anyone or any company for breaking the law. I want to hear the defense the telecommunication companies offer in court for having granted the government access to private conversations of American citizens without a warrant. Of course, for the time being they are only being threatened with law suits, not criminal prosecutions. But it should be interesting to see how much support the President will have left in the business community and in the military once it becomes clear that there may be a price to be paid for having broken the law on his say-so.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sylvan Slough Natural Area

Sylvan Slough Natural Area, originally uploaded by dvdbarrett.

Today was a beautiful day for a bicycle ride on the bike trail along the Missippi River in the Quad Cities. When I got to the Moline/Rock Island border I saw that the fences that had been up around the Sylvan Slough Natural Area while it was being developed had been taken down and volunteers from River Action were hard at work preparing the park for its opening on Oct 26.

Urging Congress to pass the Energy Bill

Chris Abraham, who works for, sent me a nice email inviting me to steal the following ad and put it in my blog. It is aimed at getting Congressman Kirk, one of the more conservative members of the Illinois delegation, to support the Energy Bill now being considered by Congress. The comprehensive Energy Bill has strong standards for fuel economy and renewable energy. It is being opposed by the auto industry among others, but has strong support among environmental groups (which apparently now includes a lot of church people -- check out the list of ad sponsors at the bottom.)

Representative Kirk:

Pass a Good Energy Bill and
Get Us Into the End Zone!

This summer, members of the House and Senate each worked hard to pass energy bills. Now it’s time for Congress to finish the job and pass a comprehensive bill -- one that will bring the nation’s fleet of cars and trucks to an average of 35 mpg and 15 percent of our electricity coming from renewable energy by 2020. This is a critical step in the fight to break America of its addiction to fossil fuels and a down payment in combating global warming.

This is our chance to make our country more energy independent, create good jobs, save consumers money, protect our natural resources, and reduce the growth of global warming pollution.

This ad is sponsored by:
Protestants for the Common Good - Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago - League of Women Voters of Illinois - Faith In Place - Environment Illinois - Defenders of Wildlife - Earthjustice - Environmental Defense - National Environmental Trust - IL members of Natural Resources Defense Council - Sierra Club - Union of Concerned Scientists - Alliance for the Great Lakes - Illinois Environmental Council - Lake County Audubon Society - Chicago Audubon Society - Alaska Wilderness League - Audubon Chicago Region - Alaska Wilderness League

Friday, October 19, 2007

Republicans protest claim that President is "amused"

As reported by the Associated Press:

Congressman Pete Stark (D-Ca), who's in his 18th term representing the liberal East Bay near San Francisco, took to the floor to accuse Republicans of funding the Iraq war but not children's health.

"You don't have money to fund the war or children," Stark declared. "But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement."

The outburst from Rep. Pete Stark as the House debated a children's health bill drew immediate condemnation from Republicans who demanded he retract it.

I guess I share Pete Stark’s impression that the President is more amused than concerned by the consequences of his decisions. If that is a false impression then I think the President may want to consider changing the way he presents himself in public. His current emphasis on how at peace he is with his decisions and his smirking and smiling at seemingly inappropriate moments while speaking may be giving some Americans the wrong impression.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thom Hart leaving

Thom Hart is leaving the Quad Cities to take a job with the state of Iowa. It is a shame that he is not sticking around to see how accurate his predicitions about the benefits the proposed Triumph pork processing plant in rural East Moline would bring to the Quad Cities turn out to be. To refresh your memory he said:

In a news conference this afternoon announcing details of the proposed plant along Barstow Road, Quad-City Economic Development Group President Thom Hart recalled a decades-old effort to create access to 53rd Street from Interstate 74 in Iowa.

“The only thing we did wrong then was we underestimated,” he said of the resulting growth along the corridor.

Hart said that Triumph Foods’ new plant in St. Joseph, Mo., already is showing signs of new development related to the plant, which is not scheduled to open until after the first of the year. He said a truck wash already has “popped up” on land adjacent to the plant.

He expects additional developments, such as a strip mall and bank branch, to follow the construction in East Moline. He also expects as many as 3,000 new jobs to spin off the 1,000 that are created about a year after the plant opens.

read the entire article

I was skeptical about his vision of development arising around a pork processing in rural Rock Island County similar to the development we see in the 53rd St. corridor in Davenport. Perhaps he will return in a few years to assess the accuracy of his prediction.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

David Brooks – "We’re the good guys"

In his column in today’s New York Times David Brooks continues to insist that the conservatives and the Republicans are the good guys and the liberals and Democrats are the bad guys even while reporting on an interview he had with a Republican Congresswoman whose decision to retire was largely fueled by her (and her mother’s) disgust with the ads the national Republicans aired on her behalf during the last campaign.

“I was appalled by what I had to do,” [Deborah Pryce – Republican Ohio Congresswoman] said. In close races, the national parties send teams of professionals to take over campaigns, and the candidates who resist their efforts generally lose.

When Pryce spoke about the direct-mail letters that went out under her name, she did so with a look of disgust. She said that her friends kept coming to her to complain about the TV ads she was running against her opponent. Finally, her own mother told her she was ashamed of the ads.

The truth is, Pryce’s opponents did worse. But it was her own ads that she kept dwelling on, and as she spoke, I could see that she’d been fighting the war that the best politicians fight — the war within herself to preserve her own humanity.

read the entire article

You almost have to wonder how David Brook's head does not explode from the cognitive dissonance. Only the reassuring thought that no matter how dirty the Republican campaigns were surely the Democrats must have done worse saves his sanity.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What part of illegal don’t you understand?

I came across an interesting article by Tim Wu at

This series explores the black spots in American law: areas in which our laws are routinely and regularly broken and where the law enforcement response is … nothing. These are the areas where, for one reason or another, we've decided to tolerate lawbreaking and let a law—duly enacted and still on the books—lay fallow or near dead.

Why are there dead zones in U.S. law? The answer goes beyond the simple expense of enforcement but betrays a deeper, underlying logic. Tolerated lawbreaking is almost always a response to a political failure—the inability of our political institutions to adapt to social change or reach a rational compromise that reflects the interests of the nation and all concerned parties. That's why the American statutes are full of laws that no one wants to see fully enforced—or even enforced at all.

You know when people say “it’s not about the money, it’s the principle involved” you know that it’s really about the money? In a similar manner when someone says “I’m not against all immigrants, I just cannot stand to see our laws being flaunted” you should know that they don’t like immigrants.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Death is Iraq’s commander-in-chief

Check out Jane Stillwater’s blog. She is reporting from Iraq, giving a point of view you will not hear on CNN or ABC.

What everyone here in Baghdad is really talking about is DEATH. Death is everywhere here. It permeates the very air we breathe. It seeps into our conversations and into our dreams -- which explains why, since I have arrived in this country, I almost never sleep.
But I know what the next question I should ask after that one should be. “How can the supposedly-idealistic United Nations, the supposedly-democratic United States, the supposedly-civilized European Union or even Russia or China allow a country to exist with Death as its commander-in-chief?“ They overthrew Saddam here. They should overthrow Death too. But they won't. Instead, Death has been given permanent membership on the UN Security Council. Death is now a member of the G-8.


This is the first reporting I have read from Iraq that seems honest to me. All the main-stream media reports from Iraq seem to be trying to present the situation in Iraq as if continuing to wage war was a perfectly reasonable option that sober and serious people could reasonably choose as the best foreign policy option. It is like reading a weird merger of George Orwell’s 1984 with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The current situation in Iraq is something that only a lunatic would choose. Hundreds of people are dying every week. Our dead are being flown home in flag-draped coffins which the news media are not allowed show. Politicians are saying if we stop the war bad things could happen, as if the current situation was not so bad. Those politicians should go over to Iraq and talk to the people Jan Stillwater has been talking to.

Soul-searching in the military

An article in today’s New York Times by Elisabeth Bumiller talks about the soul-searching over the War in Iraq going on in the army:

Discussions between a New York Times reporter and dozens of young majors in five Leavenworth classrooms over two days — all unusual for their frankness in an Army that has traditionally presented a facade of solidarity to the outside world — showed a divide in opinion. Officers were split over whether Mr. Rumsfeld, the military leaders or both deserved blame for what they said were the major errors in the war: sending in a small invasion force and failing to plan properly for the occupation.
Much of the debate at Leavenworth has centered on a scathing article, “A Failure in Generalship,” written last May for Armed Forces Journal by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, an Iraq veteran and deputy commander of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment who holds a master’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago. “If the general remains silent while the statesman commits a nation to war with insufficient means, he shares culpability for the results,” Colonel Yingling wrote.

Read the entire article.

It seems strange to me that this discussion is going on in the military while no similar discussion is occurring among journalists. Journalists had a much greater obligation and duty to question the civilian leadership of the country before and during the start of the war than did the generals.

CBS news anchor Katie Couric said recently:

“Everyone in this room would agree that people in this country were misled in terms of the rationale of this war,” said Couric, adding that it is “pretty much accepted” that the war in Iraq was a mistake.

“I’ve never understood why [invading Iraq] was so high on the administration’s agenda when terrorism was going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that [Iraq] had no true connection with al Qaeda.”

Where is the soul-searching there? Why is she not asking herself why she did not speak up when it could have made a difference, as some in the military are now doing?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Making abortions illegal does not reduce the number

According to the Voice of America
A global study finds that abortion rates are about the same in countries where it is legal and where it is outlawed. As Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva, the World Health Organization study also says the number of abortions has dropped worldwide due to more use of birth control and better family planning.
Read entire article

If so-called pro-life people who want Roe vs Wade overturned and to make abortion illegal, at least in some states, are motivated by a desire to reduce the number of abortions then, according to this study, they should stop right now. Making abortions illegal does nothing to reduce the number of abortions. All it does is make the abortion riskier for the mother and to make life more difficult for everyone. If they want to reduce the number of abortions then they should abandon efforts to outlaw it and instead, make birth control and better family planning more freely available.

But, I suspect that abortion opponents already knew that. I suspect that most people who are working to make abortions illegal have little interest in the welfare of unborn babies or their mothers. Since the only thing their actions are accomplishing is creating difficulties for people working in and using the services of family planning clinics I suspect their real agenda is to punish people who don’t think like they do. In that respect their actions have been a great success in advancing their cause and the results of this study will not dissuade them in the slightest.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

In war truth is the first casualty

On the October 6 edition of Fox News' The Beltway Boys, co-host and Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes claimed:

You know, I've thought for a long time that Obama's not in quite as strong a position on the war in Iraq as he really thinks he is. Remember, when he famously came out against the war, it was back in a time when the entire world believed that Saddam Hussein in Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that he would probably be willing to use them himself at some time or pass them along to terrorists who would use them. And yet, Barack Obama was against going to the war at that point. I don't think that shows that he is very strong on national security, which he needs to be. But that argument's not going to be used against him in the Democratic primaries. It would, however, by Republicans in a general election.

A lot has been said about this already in other blogs but I want to comment on how this quote illustrates perfectly how the debate over the war in Iraq is a battle in which we have truth on one side and lies and deceit on the other. In the quote above Fred Barnes is denying that in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq anyone believed what the Iraqis and the U.N. weapons inspectors and others were telling us, what we now know to be the truth, that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. Fred Barnes is claiming that Barack Obama believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (since that is what everyone believed) and yet still opposed the war. The possibility that Barack Obama opposed the war because he did not believe what the Bush Administration was saying, that he was right when so many others were wrong, does not seem to be a thought that Fred Barnes is capable of entertaining. Think about the implications of that.

These are people whose whole world view is so completely divorced from reality that they can not, as shown by this quote, recognize the truth when it is staring them in the face.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


The song that best expresses how I feel about illegal immigrants today was written over 50 years ago by Woodie Guthrie. In 1948 an airplane carrying illegal immigrants being deported to Mexico caught fire and crashed over California's Los Gatos canyon. Apparently in the radio news accounts that Woody Guthrie heard, instead of listing the names of the victims as he expected 'the radio said they were just deportees.' So, Woody wrote a song, entitled 'Deportee.'

The lyrics express the viewpoint of someone who has worked alongside of Mexican immigrants picking crops in fields and orchards and also picking up a knowledge of Spanish names and a few Spanish phrases. The lyrics also reflect the bond that has developed between Woody and his Mexican fellow workers that results in him resenting the treatment of Mexican immigrant workers when they are abused and demeaned because of their illegal status.

My brother just sent me a link of a video of Arlo Guthrie and Emmylou Harris singing Deportee. It is the best performance of this song that I have heard, powerfully conveying the emotional impact of the song. As you listen notice the poetry of the lyrics -- how Woody captured a viewpoint of this social and political issue that he had developed over a lifetime of experience in just a few words.

Don’t talk to me about Artificial Intelligence

My wife was at a function the other night without me and ran into an acquaintance. ‘Your husband is a computer programmer isn’t he?” she asked my wife. “I’d like to talk to him. I just read something about Artificial Intelligence and would like to talk to someone about it.”

“You don’t want to talk to Dave about Artificial Intelligence,” my wife replied.

The reason no one wants to hear my views on the subject is that I don’t believe in it. Among people who are interested in and talk about Artificial Intelligence some are very happy and optimistic about the idea that computers some day may became so intelligent that they no longer need human programmers to tell them how to solve problems. Others say they are fearful and apprehensive about that possibility. It turns out neither group wants to be told that it won’t happen.

You might think that the people who claim to be very worried about something would be relieved and grateful to be reassured that it won’t happen, but when it comes to worries about a future in which computers are more intelligent than their human creators you would be wrong. I’ve given the matter some thought and decided that there are two possible explanations. The first is that people like the feeling of being worried and apprehensive, at least about an exotic and intriguing future. The other possibility is that they are not really fearful and saying that they are is just some sort of conversational gambit – a role in some sort of unscripted human drama in which all the world is a stage and everyone is a player.

I won’t tell you the reasons why I don’t think Artificial Intelligence will ever exist, at least with the kind of digital computers we have now, because, like I said, my wife tells me no one wants to hear my views on that subject.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Conservatives Are Such Jokers

Be sure to check out Paul Krugman's column in today's New York Times (no longer requires a subscription).

Mark Crispin Miller, the author of “The Bush Dyslexicon,” once made a striking observation: all of the famous Bush malapropisms — “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family,” and so on — have involved occasions when Mr. Bush was trying to sound caring and compassionate.

By contrast, Mr. Bush is articulate and even grammatical when he talks about punishing people; that’s when he’s speaking from the heart. The only animation Mr. Bush showed during the flooding of New Orleans was when he declared “zero tolerance of people breaking the law,” even those breaking into abandoned stores in search of the food and water they weren’t getting from his administration.

Read the entire article

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Acting like Democrats

According the latest Washington Post - ABC News poll 52% of the public trusts the Democrats more than the Republicans to handle the federal budget deficit, while only 29% trusts the Republicans. In a television ad that Mitt Romney is running he refers to the Republicans in Congress as "acting like Democrats" when they irresponsibly run up the deficit. Of course, this ad is aimed at the Republicans who will vote in the primaries and caucuses. I assume this ad works for him since the target of the ad is people who are in the 29% who think that acting like a Democrat is a bad thing.

I assume that if Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination then during the general election campaign he will have to start promising that in fiscal matters he will emulate the Democrats since at that point he will be addressing the 52% who think that in fiscal matters acting like a Republican is a bad thing.

Monday, October 01, 2007

In terms of acquiring nuclear weapons 'Iran is nowhere'

In an interview by Charles Hawley and David Gordon Smith of Der Spiegel posted today investigative reporter Seymour Hersh talks about how far away Iran is from having a nuclear weapon:

Spiegel Online: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was just in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Once again, he said that he is only interested in civilian nuclear power instead of atomic weapons. How much does the West really know about the nuclear program in Iran?

Seymour Hersh: A lot. And it's been underestimated how much the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) knows. If you follow what [IAEA head Mohamed] ElBaradei and the various reports have been saying, the Iranians have claimed to be enriching uranium to higher than a 4 percent purity, which is the amount you need to run a peaceful nuclear reactor. But the IAEA's best guess is that they are at 3.67 percent or something. The Iranians are not even doing what they claim to be doing. The IAEA has been saying all along that they've been making progress but basically, Iran is nowhere. Of course the US and Israel are going to say you have to look at the worst case scenario, but there isn't enough evidence to justify a bombing raid.

read the entire article

But watch how the press reports claims by those who want the United States to bomb Iran about the imminent danger posed by Iran's nuclear program without contradiction. It will be exactly like the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. No lessons have been learned. It is as though the news media is saying "We have been studying the mistakes that we made and are prepared to repeat them exactly."

Only this time the consequences for everyone in the United States will be much greater. No Iraqis outside of Iraq have committed terrorist attacks against us as a result of the invasion of their country. In fact, most ex-patriot Iraqis supported the invasion. Very few, if any, of the hundreds of thousands of Iranians in the United States will support us bombing their country.