Monday, December 26, 2005


"Winning" the War on Terror

Following the crimes of September 11, 2001, in which buildings were destroyed or damaged and nearly 3000 persons murdered, our President decreed that America was at war with the terrorists. Ever since then, he and his administration have talked about the war on terror and that we must be firm and resolute if we are to win this war.

Something very obvious needs to be said. It is so obvious that I hesitated to write it for a long time. The terrorists are criminals. The "war" on terror is a "war" on crime. Making war on terrorists is like making war on bank robbers. Such a war can not be won. There will always be new criminals, new bank robbers, and new terrorists.

Instead of "waging war on terror" the President should have said "international police action to hunt down, capture, and prosecute the criminal terrorists." The President has promised to protect us from future acts of terror. This is like promising the Bank of America that the government will protect it from future bank robberies. There is no certain way to prevent a crime from occurring. No matter who is President, this country can never be safe from any possible terrorist attack. Just as banks use architecture, armed guards, and certain procedures to make bank robbery as difficult as possible, governments can do similar things to make terrorist attacks difficult to carry out. But neither banks nor the rest of us can ever be perfectly secure and safe from criminal attacks. Military action and ignoring the Bill of Rights won't make us any safer.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


Anger, Disappointment, and Shame

I am angry, disappointed, and ashamed.

I am angry that our President and his administration support the torture of enemy prisoners of war. I am angry that he and his administration support and justify listening in on telephone conversations between American citizens.

I am angry and disappointed that there are not more members of our national legislature who are appalled at what the administration not only admits having done but promises to continue. The administration promises to continue snooping on our phone conversations, reading our e-mail, and other electronic surveillance. Moreover, the administration says that the Geneva Convention and U.S. law do not apply to the prisoners we have in custody because they are terrorists, not mere enemy combatants, and it is legal, necessary, and right to torture them.

I am angry, disappointed, and ashamed that the American people have chosen to be governed by the present administration and have chosen to support the administration by giving it supportive majorities in both houses of Congress. The American voters are responsible for the shameful behavior of our government. I am ashamed for my country.

Friday, December 23, 2005


A Little Hypocrisy, if you Please

Judge Samuel Alito appears likely to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, replacing Justice O’Connor. Those of us who care more about the rights of living women than of the unborn fetuses are concerned that he will be the swing vote to overturn the decision Roe v. Wade. Abortion will no longer be a right protected by the federal constitution.

What next? I suggest that we look at laws that prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages. Oklahoma used to have such a law. A friend told me of his experience in finding a bar in Oklahoma City. Of course, bars were illegal. My friend asked a man who certainly would know about illegal goings-on in the city: a policeman. The policeman directed him to the nearest illegal bar. My friend offered to treat the policeman to a drink. The policeman politely declined.

Another friend told me of the advertisements. During the Christmas shopping season, the newspapers in Oklahoma would publish suggested prices for popular brands of whisky. It was a service to the public so that one would not be overcharged by one’s bootlegger.

Everyone was happy with the arrangement. The church people were happy that evil drink was illegal. The bootleggers were happy that there wouldn’t be fights over the prices of their wares. The drinking public was happy. It was a fine arrangement.

In a world without Roe, abortions would certainly be legal, available, and safe in California and New York. In other parts of the country, illegal abortionists would flourish in secret. A family planning clinic would not advertise abortion services, but would give directions to a safe abortion bootlegger. Just as in the country before 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, abortions would still take place, but in secret.

Nearly everyone would be happy. The fundies would be happy that abortion was illegal. Abortion providers would not be exposed by working in visible family planning clinics, but rather in private houses.

Perhaps I present too rosy a picture. How about poor women in need of abortion services? Would they be able to pay the abortionist’s fee? The abortionist, in turn, would have to make anonymous contributions to the police benevolent association to avoid being raided. The police might become greedy. Abortionists might turn to organized crime for protection from the police and the fundies.

What is to be done? I am thankful that I am not a woman. Justice Alito is not going to deprive me of my reproductive rights.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


Shall we leave Iraq?

We Americans have an important decision to make. Shall we continue our efforts in Iraq aimed at creating a stable government there that we like? Shall we proceed to begin to disengage ourselves by starting a gradual withdrawal of our troops? Shall we withdraw our troops at a rapid rate so that by some time next year the last American soldier will be leaving the country?

I have nothing to add to this debate except my own opinion. My opinion is that in the long run it doesn’t matter what we decide to do. What’s going to happen with Iraq will happen, sooner or later.

Consider the example of Viet Nam. In the 1950’s we prevented an election in that land that would have unified the country under the leadership of the regime in Hanoi. We hated that regime. It called itself “communist” and had the support of communist regimes in Russia and China. We stopped the election and supported a regime in Saigon that was “anti-communist.” We fought a war. We lost and had to leave. The country then became united under the leadership of the regime in Hanoi. We were able to delay that unification and the triumph of Hanoi for nearly a decade, but in the end, it happened anyway. Nothing we did could have prevented it.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in Iraq. There are several possibilities. First, a regime will be established more or less along the model of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This regime will be dominated by the Shia majority in Iraq. Second, Iraq will split into two or three separate states. The Kurds will have their own state, at last. The Shia will have their own state, or they may decide to join Iran. The Sunni minority will have to choose between joining the Kurdish state or forming their own. A third possibility is that the three ethnic groups in Iraq, the Kurds, the Sunni, and the Shia, will agree to keep Iraq united as one country. They will choose a new strong man to run things. Hopefully, he will be less brutal than Saddam Hussein.

The United States doesn’t like either of these first two possible futures for Iraq. We can accept the third possibility and deal with a united Iraq that has a government strong enough to keep order and maintain the flow of petroleum from the ground to the tankers that will dock at Basra. Unfortunately, there is no way for the U.S. to bring about the desired outcome. What will happen is going to happen, whatever we do or wish. We might as well leave now, before more American lives are lost.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Dover and Creationism

The citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania have been perturbed by a conflict in the public school regarding Creationism. The school board decided to have Creationism mentioned in the biology class as an alternate belief system to Darwin’s theory of the origin of species. Some parents sued the school board, arguing that Creationism is not a science but a religious belief and should not be taught in a biology class. Nobody objects to Creationism being taught in a course on comparative religion. The parents who sued won their case. Then there was an election in which eight members of the school board were voted out of office.

All of this conflict and confusion in a small community in Pennsylvania would be of no interest to the rest of us except for a remark by a prominent Protestant cleric. After the election in which the proponents of Creation “Science” were voted off the board, the cleric declared that the people of Dover had better look out. Look what the Lord did to the people of New Orleans to punish them for their sinful ways.

My first and second and third thoughts were, gee, what a fool that cleric is! I wonder why he has such a large following. Then I mused about our President, who is said to believe that God wants him to be President. Therefore, he doesn’t have to listen to anyone for advice; God will let him know what to do. Is that also a foolish belief?

It came to me in a flash that the cleric and the President are right. God does want George W. Bush to be our President. God is angry with us and punishing us for our sins.

A Rant about Abortion Rights and Marijuana

There’s no use arguing with my friend H about this question. He doesn’t look at it as a matter of balancing the right of the woman to terminate a pregnancy against the right of society to protect the unborn child in her womb. H looks at abortion as a variety of murder. Aborting at any stage after the fertilization of the egg amounts to ending a potential human life. He opposes abortion on spiritual and religious grounds.

I have little patience with the religious belief that life begins at the moment of conception. That is the present teaching of the Catholic Church, but it has not always been the teaching. At one time it was believed that life begins at the moment of quickening, when the woman can feel the fetus moving within her womb. At that moment it is apparent that the fetus is not like one of her permanent organs, such as the liver. The liver has no muscle to move itself; the fetus moves independently of any signal her brain and nervous system might generate. It is definitely on its way to becoming an independent human being. Of course, life doesn’t begin at the moment of quickening, either. In my world, life is a continuous process and began on this planet more than three billion years ago. Human life began when the first member of our species came into existence through a series of mutations. I don’t know how long ago that happened, but it was more than two hundred thousand years ago.

I have never believed that abortion is murder. Whether or not abortion is a proper act, whether or not many abortions are performed for convenience rather than for reasons of saving the life or health of the woman, I do not believe it to be murder. I do not believe that medical doctors who perform safe abortions should be punished in any way. The only laws regarding the practice should pertain to safe, medically approved procedures and should forbid inexperienced or incompetent persons to perform abortions.

I have no patience with legal scholars who assert that the federal constitution does not grant a woman the right to an abortion, that the decision Roe versus Wade was done improperly, yada yada yada. The federal constitution stipulates a number of specific rights that the people have and that government must not tamper with. It also stipulates that there are unspecified rights that are reserved to the States or to the people. Rather than assert that the constitution does not specifically grant a woman the right to an abortion, legal scholars ought instead to argue that the constitution does not give congress or the States the power to forbid abortions.

I am not a member of the Libertarian Party, but many of my beliefs and opinions are libertarian. For example, I have never found any language in the federal constitution that gives congress the power to forbid the growing and the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Yet our wonderful Supreme Court has recently asserted that congress does indeed have that power and that it overrides the power of State governments to permit the use of medical marijuana. Some of our learned Associate Justices have stated that marijuana has no medical use. Since they are specialists in constitutional law and not in medicine, I wonder what basis they have for such a belief. I have little patience with them, either.

However, what do I know? I am not a specialist in either constitutional law or medicine. I am just an opinionated old fogey. Take my opinions with a little salt.

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