Friday, August 31, 2007

Republicans debate immigration reform

From an article about the Republican governor of Texas’ trip to Mexico by DUDLEY ALTHAUS of the Houston Chronicle

Leading a large delegation of Texas executives trying to drum up business in Mexico, Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday criticized the U.S. Congress for failing to pass an immigration bill that would legalize millions of workers.

"I don't think this is that difficult an issue if Congress would have the maturity to sit down and really discuss it and cut out all the mean rhetoric," Perry said during a break in the third day of meetings with Mexican officials and business executives.


Perry's statements seemed to put him at odds with many in the Republican Party's base who regarded the immigration overhaul bill that collapsed in the Senate in June as nothing more than an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

By mean rhetoric Perry probably is referring to statements like this by Republican Tom Tancredo.

We are destroying the concept of citizenship itself. America, and indeed Western civilization, are in a crisis.

Or this by Mitt Romney

"McCain-Kennedy isn't the answer," Romney said in a well-received speech to conservatives in Washington this month, describing it as an amnesty plan that would reward people for breaking the law and cost taxpayers millions to provide them benefits.

You may notice that the neither Perry nor Romney is discussing this as a moral issue or an attempt to be fair to anyone. The difference between them is that Perry sees immigration reform as necessary for business while Romney opposes it as giving something away. They both seem kind of mean to me.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Followup on Senator Craig

Yesterday I speculated that Senator Craig was influenced to waive his right to counsel and plead guilty by some new method of coercion adopted by the police and prosecutors. (Perhaps I was, in the interests of sarcasm, giving too much weight to his protestations of innocence.)

According to an article in the New York Times, Senator Craig is now blaming the Idaho Statesman newspaper

Today he implored his constituents and the larger public to consider his state of mind in the days and months leading up to June 11, the day of his arrest.

“For eight months leading up to June 11, my family and I have been relentlessly and viciously harassed by The Idaho Statesman,” he said. “If you’ve seen today’s paper, you know why. Let me be clear. I am not gay and never have been.”

"Enemies of Reason"

The Enemies of Reason is a two-part television documentary, written and presented by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins that was recently shown on the BBC in the UK. Click these links to view the video.

Part 1: Slaves to Superstition
Part 2: The Irrational Health Service

Many people seem to think that astrology, "fortune telling" and such things are harmless diversions. Science and reason have won the battle. In all important matters society looks to and is guided by experts with empirical knowledge gained through the scientific process. This victory of science and reason over superstition and the occult is permanent and is in no way threatened by some people's fascination with ancient superstitions. That is not how Richard Dawkins sees it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why would an innocent person plead guity?

According to the Washington Post

Sen. Larry E. Craig pleaded guilty earlier this month to misdemeanor disorderly-conduct charges stemming from his June arrest by an undercover police officer in a men's restroom at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, a court spokeswoman and the senator's office said yesterday.

Craig issued a statement confirming his arrest and guilty plea, which were reported in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. But the Idaho Republican maintained that he had not engaged in any "inappropriate conduct" and that the airport police misunderstood his behavior.

"At the time of this incident, I complained to the police that they were misconstruing my actions. I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct," Craig said. "I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have pled guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."

If a 62 year old United States Senator can be intimidated by the police into waiving his right to counsel and falsely confessing what chance do the rest of us have?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Biologists Helping Bookstores Blog

I want to recommend a blog I have been reading. This blog has a very narrow focus and, at least so far, does not deviate from its mission. It is solely devoted to talking about scientists reshelving books devoted to Intelligent Design from the science section to the religion section of bookstores they visit.

Mother Teresa’s Secrets Emptiness

In her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance lecture, Mother Teresa

suggested that the upcoming Christmas holiday should remind the world "that radiating joy is real" because Christ is everywhere — "Christ in our hearts, Christ in the poor we meet, Christ in the smile we give and in the smile that we receive."

Yet less than three months earlier, in a letter to a spiritual confidant, the Rev. Michael van der Peet, that is only now being made public, she wrote with weary familiarity of a different Christ, an absent one. "Jesus has a very special love for you," she assured Van der Peet. "[But] as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, — Listen and do not hear — the tongue moves [in prayer] but does not speak ... I want you to pray for me — that I let Him have [a] free hand."

read the entire news article

People I know who were raised Catholic seem to react to these revelations that Mother Teresa did not feel the comfort of the presence of God by admiring her even more than they did before. It seems to make the nobility and power of her sacrifice even greater for them to know that she did not feel any compensating comfort of the presence of God. She was doing all those good works without any reward, even a spiritual one.

I have a different take on it. Publicly she was preaching a “Christ in our hearts” that she herself did not feel. She was making promises that if people would devote themselves to God they would be rewarded – promises that had proven false for her. Doesn’t that make her some kind of spiritual scam artist?

Rush Limbaugh knows why we want to stop genoicide in Dafur

Rush Limbaugh knows why white Democrats would want to help stop genocide in Dafur. As reported by Media Matters:

Summary: On his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that Democrats "want to get us out of Iraq, but they can't wait to get us into Darfur." He continued: "There are two reasons. What color is the skin of the people in Darfur? It's black. And who do the Democrats really need to keep voting for them? If they lose a significant percentage of this voting bloc, they're in trouble." A caller responded, "The black population," to which Limbaugh said, "Right."

A great deal could be said about such opinions, including the fact that very few Democratic (and, of course, even fewer Republican) elected officials have proposed the United States do anything about Dafur. But what I find most interesting is what this reveals about Mr. Limbaugh. Mr. Limbaugh thinks any white American who proposes helping black people in Africa must have a selfish reason for doing so. In other words he does not believe that white Americans really have altruistic motives for wanting to prevent genocide, at least genocide involving black people in Africa, and thinks any white American who claims to have such motives is a liar and a hypocrite. It is interesting that he apparently does feel that black Americans have some intrinsic interest in helping black Africans.

Think about that for a moment. Rush Limbaugh feels that black Americans have a stake in what happens to black Africans, but white Americans do not. In Limbaugh’s view white Americans have more in common with white Europeans than they do to black Americans and black Americans have more interests in common with black Africans than they do with other American citizens of different skin colors. Isn’t that a profoundly un-American point of view?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The IAM union to hold discussion with 5 presidential candidates

I just received a nice email asking me to mention the following on my blog:
Five presidential candidates confirmed they will take part in
discussions of key domestic issues before more than 600 representatives of the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) on
August 27 and 28 at the Disney Yacht and Beach Club in Orlando, FL.

The schedule for the IAM Conversation with the Candidates is as

Mon. Aug. 27, 3:30 pm New York Sen. Hillary Clinton
Mon. Aug. 27, 7:30 pm California Rep. Duncan Hunter and former
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
Tue. Aug. 28, 7:30 pm Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards
and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich

The candidate conversations will be moderated by Erin Moriarty of CBS

The event will be streamed, live, from the web site.
Streaming provided by

It was touching that someone assumes that if they can get me to mention something on my blog it will have a positive effect.

The crack down on illegal immigrants is having an effect

Working men and women in this country have been sold a bill of goods again by demagogue politicians. They were told that their wages were stagnant because illegal immigrants were allowing employers to keep wages low. If we crack down on illegal immigrants then employers will be forced to raise wages, we were promised. Farmers who had been using illegal immigrants to pick their crops are among the first to have to change what they have been doing as a result of the crackdown on illegal immigrant labor. Are they raising the rates they pay enough to attract legal American labor? Not according to this story in the Christian Science Monitor.

As states increasingly crack down on hiring undocumented workers, western farmers are looking at inmates to harvest their fields. Colorado started sending female inmates to harvest onions, corn, and melons this summer. Iowa is considering a similar program. In Arizona, inmates have been working for private agriculture businesses for almost 20 years. But with legislation signed this summer that would fine employers for knowingly hiring undocumented workers, more farmers are turning to the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) for help.

"We are contacted almost daily by different companies needing labor," says Bruce Farely, manager of the business development unit of Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI). ACI is a state labor program that holds contracts with government and private companies. "Maybe it was labor that was undocumented before, and they don't want to take the risk anymore because of possible consequences, so they are looking to inmate labor as a possible alternative."

read the entire article

Doesn’t this remind you of what we have heard about China, using convict labor in order to keep costs low? It appears that instead of China becoming like us, we are becoming more like them. In farming states like Iowa and Illinois are we going to have police and the courts under pressure to convict and imprison more people in order to get the crops harvested?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cousin to Bill Gates and President Bush

A line of descent for Bill Gates, founder and chairman of Microsoft Corp., from the immigrant Henry Whitney (1620-1673) who came from England to Long Island, NY in 1635, has recently turned up on the internet. I have combined this with information posted a few years ago showing President Bush's line of descent from Henry Whitney and also, in my modest way, my line of descent.

Henry Whitney
m. Sarah Salmon
Henry Whitney
m. Sarah Salmon
Henry Whitney
m. Sarah
John Whitney
John Whitney
John Whitney
m. Joseph Keeler
m. Joseph
Joseph Whitney
m. Hannah Hoyt
Silas Keeler
m. Abigail Elmer
Elijah Keeler
m Sarah
David Whitney
m. Elizabeth
Lydia Keeler
m. Jeremiah
Rebecca Keeler
m. Lemuel Bangs
m. Ruth
Polly Keeler
m. George Brush
Elijah Bangs
m. Esther
Aaron Whitney
m. Sarah
Emeline Brush
m. Harvey
Mary Bangs
m. Joseph Beaky
Bennet Whitney
m. Susan
m. Thomas
Martha Beaky
m. David Walker
Henry Whitney
James Maxwell
m. Belle Oakley
George Walker
m. Lucretia
Edith Whitney
M Jay Whitson
James Maxwell
m. Adele
Dorothy Walker
m. Prescott
Bertha Whitson
m. Hugh Barrett
Mary Maxwell
m. William Gates
George H.W.
m. Barbara
David Barrett
“Bill” Gates
George W. Bush

I only vouch for my own line of descent. The descent shown above for Presidents Bush has been on the internet for a few years with no challenges that I am aware of. The descent shown for Bill Gates has just appeared and some experts have expressed reservations about one of the marriages. If correct it would make Bill Gates and President George W. Bush 8th cousins and I would be 9th cousin once removed to both of them.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The sergeants speak

Six sergeants and one infantryman with the 82nd Airborne, near the end of their deployment in Iraq, have written an opinion piece published this morning in the New York Times

VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

Read the entire piece.

Reading this will inoculate you against any rosy assessments of how its going in Iraq from generals and White House staffers. Our soldiers are being wounded and killed by roadside bombs set by the Iraqi police and army that are supposed to be our partners. [Read the last paragraph of the article online for the details.] Young American men and women are being sacrificed for nothing other than a bunch of old men in Washington’s opinion that admitting defeat would be worse. Worse for whom?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bill O'Reilly reveals his own lie, without admitting it.

As reported on Media Matters

On The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly read a letter criticizing him for "erroneously report[ing] that a poll found most Americans would not vote for a presidential candidate endorsed by a gay rights organization." But while O'Reilly noted that the poll was taken "in a few states," not nationally as he had earlier suggested, he did not acknowledge that his original assertion that the result applied to a "majority" of respondents was false.

…. While O'Reilly noted that the poll was taken "in a few states," not nationally as he had earlier suggested, he did not acknowledge that his original assertion that the result applied to a "majority" of respondents was false. Rather, he simply cited the Quinnipiac poll results from Florida -- which found that 28 percent of respondents would be "less likely" to support a candidate endorsed by a gay rights group, while 60 percent said it "would make no difference," and 10 percent said it would make them "more likely" to support such a candidate -- and added, "That's what I was referring to."

This has to make you wonder whether Bill O’Reilly really does not realize that those poll results undercut rather than support his assertion that “most Americans would not vote for a presidential candidate endorsed by a gay rights organization.” I have to suspect that Bill O’Reilly really knows that, but he thinks that if he asserts a lie with enough bravado you will be more influenced by his show of confidence than by the facts.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Who originally championed religious freedom in America?

One of the blogs I read had a post recently that quoted parts of an email Barak Obama wrote to a Christian Broadcasting Network correspondent:
[From an email by Barak Obama]
For my friends on the right, I think it would be helpful to remember the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy but also our religious practice. Folks tend to forget that during our founding, it wasn’t the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of the First Amendment…. It was the forbearers of Evangelicals who were the most adamant about not mingling government with religion, because they didn’t want state-sponsored religion hindering their ability to practice their faith as they understood it.

Whatever we once were, we’re no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of non-believers. We should acknowledge this and realize that when we’re formulating policies from the state house to the Senate floor to the White House, we’ve got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community.
Someone wrote a comment:
[explicative deleted].. go retake your basic American history; it was not the “forbearers [sic] of evangelicals” but Deists like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson who were so adamant!
With people so ignorant of their history these days it is unfortunate that the quoted excerpt left out the part in the original email where Barak made it clear who the “forbearers of Evangelicals” he referred to were:
...It was the persecuted minorities, it was Baptists like John Leland...
A quick search in google turns up the following information. The first recorded use of the phrase “separation of church and state” involved the Baptists.
The phrase "separation of church and state" is derived from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a group identifying themselves as the Danbury Baptists. In that letter, referencing the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, Jefferson writes: "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State
Who were these Danbuy Baptists to whom Jefferson was writing? Wikipedia explains:
The Danbury Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut sent a letter, dated October 7, 1801, to the newly elected President Thomas Jefferson, expressing concern over the lack in their state constitution of explicit protection of religious liberty, and against government establishment of religion.
In their letter to the President, the Danbury Baptists affirmed that "Our Sentiments are uniformly on the side of Religious Liberty — That Religion is at all times and places a matter between God and individuals — That no man ought to suffer in name, person, or effects on account of his religious Opinions - That the legitimate Power of civil government extends no further than to punish the man who works ill to his neighbor..."
As a religious minority in Connecticut, the Danbury Baptists were concerned that a religious majority might "reproach their chief Magistrate... because he will not, dare not assume the prerogatives of Jehovah and make Laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ," thus establishing a state religion at the cost of the liberties of religious minorities.

Of course, these Baptists in Connecticut who were so concerned about protection of religious liberty were a persecuted minority. Now, especially in places where their religious point of view is a political majority, are Baptists still concerned about religious freedom? Not so much.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Congress no longer works for the people

Public opinion polls show that an overwhelming majority of the American public, around 70%, want our troops brought home from Iraq. Yet, when any bill comes up for a vote in Congress that would require that a date be set for bringing the troops home almost every single Republican and about a third of the Democrats vote against it – even though everyone concedes that pro-war politicians running in 2008 are likely to be defeated. What is going on here? Our ability to vote the bums out at the next election is what is supposed to insure that Congress heeds the will of the people. But that no longer seems to work.

I have a theory about what is going on here. What do Congress people do after they leave office? Most of the time these days they stay in Washington and get lucrative jobs lobbying or working for one of the industries they regulated while they were in Congress. I suspect that as long as they do the bidding of the corporate-military power structure they are guaranteed a cushy and well-paid job once they leave Congress. They no longer listen to us. We have been outbid.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Homeland Security is going to be the workplace police

According to the New York Times the Department of Homeland Security, in addition to their duties protecting us from terrorists, are going to start policing the workplace.
In a new effort to crack down on illegal immigrants, federal authorities are expected to announce tough rules this week that would require employers to fire workers who use false Social Security numbers.

Officials said the rules would be backed up by stepped-up raids on workplaces across the country that employ illegal immigrants.

The scuttlebutt I hear is that most “good” jobs (lasting longer than a few months and paying more than minimum wage) already require valid social security numbers. This means that many illegal immigrants are using the social security numbers of someone else. It appears that in most cases these are purchased rather than stolen identities and the buyers are careful not use the name for anything other than obtaining work – the buyer knows that if he/she runs up debts or committed crimes using the purchased identity the seller would blow the whistle on them.

Knowing this you can tell if they are really serious about cracking down on illegal immigrants in the workplace by whether or not they do anything to track down Social Security numbers being used by more than one person. If all they do is make announcements that employers (who are already not hiring anyone without a valid SSN) must fire all workers without valid numbers and stage a few well publicized raids then it is all for show.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Unforeseen by whom?

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates appears to be more honest than many others in the Bush Administration. According to the Los Angeles Times news article headlined “'Depth of mistrust' in Iraq unforeseen:”
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates acknowledged Thursday that the Bush administration underestimated the difficulty of getting a political truce in Iraq, where Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government has been crippled by a walkout by Sunni Arab ministers.

Gates said he was optimistic about military progress in several Iraqi regions, particularly Al Anbar, a western province that was once a haven for insurgents.

But he said he was discouraged by the Shiite-dominated government's inability to reach a compromise to pass legislation aimed at reconciling the country's ethnic and sectarian groups. Reaching such political agreements, a central goal of the troop buildup strategy, may still be a long way off, he said.

"I just think in some ways we probably all underestimated the depth of the mistrust and how difficult it would be for these guys to come together," Gates said.

I can only assume that when he says “we probably all underestimated the depth of the mistrust” he is referring to the Bush Administration or the neocons, because there certainly were a lot of people who were predicting exactly this inability of the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to work together to form a stable democracy before the United States invaded, overthrew the government, disbanded the army, and occupied the country. If you are having trouble remembering those predictions perhaps you do remember the neocons’ response to them. They were saying these objections to an invasion of Iraq must come from people who thought that the Arabs did not 'deserve' democracy or were not 'ready' for democracy.

Of course, the accurate predictions of the chaos we are now seeing were not based on ideology or prejudice, as were the rosy predictions of the neocons. The accurate predictions, as is usually the case, were based on knowledge of the region and its history. As is clear from everything the American neocons said they were ignorant of this history. And we all know what happens to those ignorant of history.

Like an Alaskan mink

Most Americans are rating Congress as doing very poorly these days on the things like solving the country’s problems, keeping us safe and making sure the Executive Branch is spending our money wisely and effectively. However, Congress is providing some moments of welcome comedy. As reported on the blog:

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) cited his and his wife's health problems as reasons for his bizarre outburst on the House floor two weeks ago, where he threatened to bite Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) like an Alaskan mink "that kill their own.

Young lost his temper when Garrett tried to yank money Young wanted for native Alaskan students. He told the Republican Study Committee today that he regrets his aggressive response: “I come to you as a weakened man whose weaknesses are greater than my strengths at times,” he said

A video of Don Young's outburst can be seen here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Most of the dangers we face have nothing to do with terrorism

How did you react to hearing that the bridge collapse in Minneapolis yesterday did not appear to be an act of terrorism? I suspect that most people reacted the way I did – relieved to know that we were probably not being deliberately attacked. Well, that is NOT the way right-wing columnist Michelle Malkin reacted.
DHS issued a statement that the collapse “does not appear to be an act of terrorism.” Isn’t it too early to say anything meaningful about what it “appears” to be? Couldn’t they maybe, I dunno, say nothing until they actually know something?

Doesn’t it sound like she hoped it would turn out to be terrorism, or at least thought it would be good if the whole nation were worried that it was an act of terrorism for a while longer.

You might want to remember what this reaction reveals about her and her priorities when reading or listening to her in the future.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Number one in google

Among the tools that bloggers have are ones telling us the links that people followed to get to our blogs, including the phrases they typed into search engines if they got to our blogs by selecting our site from among the sites listed by a search engine in response to a search. That is how I know that about 5 times in the last couple of days someone has visited my blog after typing ‘Why must I dial 1 if I speak english’ and clicking ‘Search’ in Google.
Click here to see what Google returns for ‘Why must I dial 1 if I speak english’
I do not know if they considered what I wrote a satisfactory answer to their question, but I would like to think they did. After all Google seems to think this blog is the best match on the web to that question.

"Personal Responsibility" - Last refuge of scoundrels?

I just heard on the news this morning about a company that there are a lot of complaints about. The company is telephoning people with bad credit and offering them a credit card. They ask for bank account information before disclosing that there is a fee of $150. People are complaining that even if they refuse the card upon hearing about the fee the company deducts money from their bank account anyway. When a reporter asked a company spokesperson about this the reply was, "These people willingly gave out their bank account information. They need to take personal responsibility for their actions."

Asking your victims to take "personal responsibility" for their decision to trust you after you have abused that trust strikes me as unbelievably arrogant. Is "personal responsibility" becoming the new last refuge of scoundrels?

No more anonymous comments

I have noticed that people seem to be more likely be insulting and rude when posting comments anonymously than they are when they have signed their names. Also when a number of people are posting comments anonymously it can become difficult to follow the flow of the conversation. As a result I have disabled anonymous comments on this blog. To post a comment you will either need a blogger or gmail account. It is easy and free to create an account if you do not already have one. You could even create an account just for posting comments.