Politics Archive

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Response to an E-Mail Supposedly Summarizing Dr. Charles Krauthammer's Views on Obama

ObamaWell, I got another e-mail that I couldn't help but respond to, and that I figured was worth publishing my response on this blog. I don't mean to makethis blog too political (there are a lot of other things I like much more than politics), but recycling e-mails is an easy way to come up with blog entries.

Anyway, like normal for these things, I've formatted the entry to put the original e-mail in blockquotes, followed by my responses (edited just a bit from the e-mail version). My responses are not meant to be a complete point by point refutation of the e-mail, but only cover the most outrageous statements.

Krauthammer's Views on President Barack Obama

Dr. Krauthammer is on Fox News. He is an M.D. and he is paralyzed from the neck down. Be forewarned on what is happening. A friend went to hear Charles Krauthammer. He listened with 25 others in closed room. What he says here, is NOT 2nd-hand, but 1st.

Last Monday was a profound evening, hearing Dr. Charles Krauthammer speak to the Center for the American Experiment. He is brilliant intellectual, seasoned and articulate. He is forthright and careful in his analysis, and never resorts to emotions or personal insults. He is NOT a fear monger nor an extremist in his comments and views. He is a fiscal conservative, and has a Pulitzer Prize for writing. He is a frequent contributor to Fox News and writes weekly for the Washington Post. The entire room was held spellbound during his talk. I have shared this with many of you and several have asked me to summarize his comments, as we are living in uncharted waters economically and internationally.

According to Krauthammer himself, this is not an accurate representation of his talk. Remember not to trust anything in an e-mail until you've seen independent confirmation somewhere else.
http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/krauthammer.asp

The authorship says nothing about the validity of the claims. However, realize that it means that these are just the thoughts of somebody with an e-mail account, not those of somebody with the credentials of Krauthammer.

1. Mr. Obama is a very intellectual, charming individual. He is not to be underestimated. He is a cool customer who doesn't show his emotions. It's very hard to know what's behind the mask. Taking down the Clinton dynasty from a political neophyte was an amazing accomplishment. The Clintons still do not understand what hit them. Obama was in the perfect place at the perfect time.

Nothing to refute, since it's just claiming that Obama is a good politician.

2. Obama has political skills comparable to Reagan and Clinton. He has a way of making you think he's on your side, agreeing with your position, while doing the opposite. Pay no attention to what he SAYS; rather, watch what he DOES!

Nothing to refute here, either. It's simply saying that, as with all politicians, pay attention to their actions, not their campaign promises.

3. Obama has a ruthless quest for power. He did not come to Washington to make something out of himself, but rather to change everything, including dismantling capitalism. He can’t be straightforward on his ambitions, as the public would not go along. He has a heavy hand, and wants to level the playing field with income redistribution and punishment to the achievers of society. He would like to model the USA to Great Britain or Canada .

Seems a bit hyperbolic, don't you think? A bit inconsistent, too, claiming Obama wants to dismantle capitalism, while at the same time claiming Obama wants to model the US after the UK and Canada, both of which are capitalist.

As far as leveling the playing field, yes Democrats do favor a bit more redistribution than Republicans. I tend to agree with some redistribution which I've already explained previously. I have to admit to benefiting from that redistribution myself, since I took advantage of government scholarships to help pay for my college (actually, I know very few people who went to college without some sort of financial aid from the government).

4. His three main goals are to control ENERGY, PUBLIC EDUCATION, AND NATIONAL HEALTH CARE by the Federal government. He doesn't care about the auto or financial services industries, but got them as an early bonus. The cap and trade will add costs to everything and stifle growth. Paying for FREE college education is his goal. Most scary is his healthcare program, because if you make it FREE and add 46,000,000 people to a Medicare-type single-payer system, the costs will go through the roof.. The only way to control costs is with massive RATIONING of services, like in Canada . God forbid.

As I've said many times, economics isn't my strong point. I'm sure a carbon cap and trade system will raise prices somewhat, but how else do we pay for the development of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Even if Krauthammer or the author of this e-mail have a different proposal than a cap and trade system, the money for that development has to come from somewhere, which ultimately means from us, either in higher taxes or higher prices on goods.

Is a free college education really that bad of a thing? Does the author think higher education should be reserved only for those that can afford it?

As far as health care, I'm getting a bit sick of hearing people only refer to Canada or the UK when complaining about universal health care (and stretching the truth when referring to those two countries, as well). Why doesn't anyone ever talk of the Netherlands, France, or Spain? On this blog, I've already referred previously to a good article comparing health care in the U.S. to the rest of the industrialized world. Here it is again.
http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2009/05/are_patients_in_universal_heal.php

Here's another link, this one from the World Health Organization. In 2000, it ranked the U.S. health care system 37th in the world.
http://www.who.int/whr/2000/media_centre/press_release/en/index.html

As far as the rationing comment, the only way to control costs of any health care system with finite resources is through some sort of rationing, which is currently being done in the U.S. primarily by the private insurance companies. In the real world, where we don't have unlimited money to spend, some amount of rationing has to be done, no matter how much we may dislike it.

I've written a bit more on the health care issue here.

5. He has surrounded himself with mostly far-left academic types. No one around him has ever even run a candy store. But they are going to try and run the auto, financial, banking and other industries. This obviously can’t work in the long run. Obama is not a socialist; rather he's a far-left secular progressive bent on nothing short of revolution. He ran as a moderate, but will govern from the hard left. Again, watch what he does, not what he says.

This author really thinks Obama has surrounded himself with the far left? The main complaint I've seen on more liberal sites is that Obama is too far right. He's made a point to include many moderates and even Republicans in his appointments.
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1208/16734.html

I think the words that this author used perjoratively are interesting. For example, 'far left academic types'. Is he implying that educated and liberal are the same thing? Does he have a problem specifically with educated people? The other interesting term was 'secular progressive'. What's wrong with secular politicians? We have a secular government. Most activities we perform are secular. Does this author want a theocracy?

And what's with the hyperbole with 'revolution'?

6. Obama doesn’t really see himself as President of the United States , but more as a ruler over the world. He sees himself above it all, trying to orchestrate and coordinate various countries and their agendas. He sees moral equivalency in all cultures. His apology tour in Germany and England was a prime example of how he sees America , as an imperialist nation that has been arrogant, rather than a great noble nation that has at times made errors. This is the first President ever who has chastised our allies and appeased our enemies!

This isn't even consistent. Obama supposedly sees himself as ruler of the world, yet travels the world apologizing for our mistakes? And why do people consider it unpatriotic to own up to mistakes?

7. He is now handing out goodies. He hopes that the bill (and pain) will not come due until after he is re-elected in 2012. He would like to blame all problems on Bush from the past, and hopefully his successor in the future. He has a huge ego, and Mr. Krauthammer believes he is a narcissist.

Not enough of substance here to refute.

8. Republicans are in the wilderness for a while, but will emerge strong. We're pining for another Reagan, but there will never be another like him. Krauthammer believes Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Bobby Jindahl (except for his terrible speech in February) are the future of the party. Newt Gingrich is brilliant, but has baggage. Sarah Palin is sincere and intelligent, but needs to really be seriously boning up on facts and info if she is to be a serious candidate in the future. We need to return to the party of lower taxes, smaller government, personal responsibility, strong national defense, and state’s rights.

Not really much to comment on here, since it's a statement of subjective preferences. The only thing is that I would prefer to see 'fiscal responsibility' rather than 'lower taxes.' When the government has to increase spending, the only responsible thing to do is pay for it. And I'll skip commenting on the quality of those particular people (except 'death panel', 'global warming isn't real' Palin - I still can't believe she was a candidate for VP).

9. The current level of spending is irresponsible and outrageous. We are spending trillions that we don’t have. This could lead to hyper-inflation, depression or worse. No country has ever spent themselves into prosperity. The media is giving Obama, Reid and Pelosi a pass because they love their agenda. But eventually the bill will come due and people will realize the huge bail outs didn’t work, nor will the stimulus package.

These were trillion-dollar payoffs to Obama’s allies, unions and the Congress to placate the left, so he can get support for #4 above.

I know this e-mail is about Obama, but how can Republicans claim the high ground on fiscal responsibility? With Reagan and Bush senior, the national deficit increased. We had a brief respite and a budget surplus under Clinton. Then, after 6 years of Republican controlled House, Senate, and executive, we had huge deficits. Yes, we were fighting a war under Bush Jr., but how can you justify lowering taxes when you know there's going to be increased spending?
http://crooksandliars.com/jon-perr/obamas-summit-and-myth-republican-fiscal

As far as the recession, the current consensus among economists is that it seems to be getting better. I realize people will argue over the cause until the cows come home, but I think a fair case can be made for the government's intervention actually helping. At any rate, if the consensus is correct, it certainly puts to rest the claims that the current policies are only going to make matters worse.
http://blogs.reuters.com/macroscope/2009/08/10/us-recessions-ending-now-what/

10. The election was over in mid-September when Lehman brothers failed, fear and panic swept in, we had an unpopular President, and the war was grinding on indefinitely without a clear outcome. The people are in pain, and the mantra of change caused people to act emotionally. Any Dem would have won this election; it was surprising it was as close as it was.

I agree that the war and the economic crisis pretty much did guarantee that the Democrats would win the presidential election. But this author's surpised it was so close? Obama had the largest percentage of the popular vote in decades - the largest by the non-incumbent party since FDR.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_presidential_elections_by_popular_vote_margin

11. In 2012, if the unemployment rate is over 10%, Republicans will be swept back into power. If it's under 8%, the Dems continue to roll. If it's between 8-10%, it will be a dogfight. It will all be about the economy. I hope this gets you really thinking about what's happening in Washington and Congress. There is a left-wing revolution going on, according to Krauthammer, and he encourages us to keep the faith and join the loyal resistance. The work will be hard, but we're right on most issues and can reclaim our country, before it's far too late.

Well, we'll just have to wait and see what happens in 3 years.


Anyway, I apologize for the recent glut of politcal entries, but I have to confess that I have a few more in the works right now. I probably wouldn't write so many, though, if politics wasn't so full of people claiming things that weren't true. Hopefully I can get this all out of my system and get back to writing about less controversial topics, like evolution and religion.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Universal Health Care

CaduceusUniversal health care has been a hot topic for debate for a while now, but has just recently begun making big headlines with the new proposed health care plan by the Obama administration. I've never really had a huge respect for the knowledge of our country's population (e.g. 1 in 4 Americans think the Sun goes around the Earth), but some of the statements I see coming from the right wing on this are just mind numbingly ignorant - or extremly dishonest.

I've briefly mentioned universal healthcare in a previous entry. Here's what I had to say back then:

If May was referring to something other than the stimulus packages, the policy I've personally heard referred to as socialism the most often is universal health care. I don't understand why everyone is so against it. Compared to industrialized nations with universal health care, the U.S. spends about twice the amount on health care (from either a per capita or GDP basis), but our quality of care isn't any better and we have less access to physicians (http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2009/05/are_patients_in_universal_heal.php)

Now, if you follow the link from the above quote, you'll find data comparing the health care systems of various prosperous democracies (mostly Australia, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, The UK, and The USA, with a bit of data for other countries). Note that the U.S. is the only one of those countries without universal health care. What the data show is that, in addition to what was already stated above about the U.S. spending far more per capita (around double) than the other countries in the comparison, that in most measures of quality of health care, the U.S. does worse than almost all the other countries, with the exceptions being Canada and the UK for certain issues.

Now, I was getting pretty used to conservatives simply pointing to Canada and the UK as examples of why universal healthcare was a bad idea. And I'd point out that there are other types of universal health care plans out there, and that we don't need to emulate the worst examples. But it seems that recently, even just pointing to the two worst plans wasn't enough, and now I'm starting to hear just out and out falsehoods about healthcare in the UK and Canada, and falsehoods about the president's new plan.

There's a decent article in the Guardian about some of the claims coming out about the UK's health care system. As I said already, given how poor the UK system is compared to other universal health care systems, you'd think conservatives would just stick to cherry picking data, and wonder why they would resort to lying about the UK's system.

Probably the most famous example of misrepresenting Obama's plan is the whole 'death panel' fiasco. Palin made headlines on that, and now other conservative leaders, such as Gingrich, have even backed up her statements. And it's not as if I chose two radical fringe elements to be easy targets - one was the vice presidential candidate, and the other was the Speaker of the House. (At least other Republicans, like Senator Murkowski and Senator Isakson have tried to set the record straight.) You've got to wonder about what these people are thinking. Are they really that ignorant? Are they lying because they'll do anything to keep from having socialized medicine in any form? Is it simply to appease their base? Whatever the reason, it boggles the mind that they can state such blatant untruths, and still have a sizeable portion of Americans support them.


When it comes to universal health care, I do support it, but in a rather guarded way. Looking at that link I provided earlier about health care in other countries, it's clear that universal health care can be either a boon or a bane, depending on how it's implemented. It's neither a guaranteed utopia, nor a guaranteed descent into becoming a new USSR. Considering our government's track record with big programs (they've done good with things like NASA and the FDA, but not so good with things like the TSA), this is something that needs to be watched closely.


Universal health care also makes sense considering the system that we already have in place. I've already written my thoughts on this in a comment on The New Minority blog, which I'll paraphrase here.

One issue is that we already do have a de facto national health care system. Publicly funded hospitals cannot turn away anyone for a life threatening emergency. And honestly, I like that. I don't want to show up at a hospital bleeding out, and have to wait on some clerk to clear my insurance before the surgeons fix me up. And I don't want paramedics to be the ones making decisions on whether or not I get treated when the ambulance shows up.

Accepting that means that insured and non-insured alike get treated, and some of the treatments are too expensive to ever be paid off by the people that received them (even if you garnished 100% of their wages for the rest of their lives, as I've heard some people suggest). So, the bills for those treatments get footed by the rest of us, through raised insurance premiums and higher taxes.

Now, consider that some of those emergencies, like heart attacks or strokes, could be avoided through preventative treatment, which in many cases are cheaper to implement than the emergency care. So, if you accept that hospitals are going to provide emergency treatment to everybody, the question becomes, is it cheaper to provide everybody with ongoing healthcare to avoid those emergencies, or to just stick to the status quo? I think a strong case can be made for the former.


Looking rationally at the data that's already out there, we know that our health care system here in the U.S. isn't the best one out there. What I would really like to see on this issue is for both sides to work together, rather than have one side continually muddying the water with falsehoods, and the other side being distracted with simply setting the record straight. Just imagine what could happen if that same amount of effort was put into coming up with the best possible health care plan.

Numerous typos were corrected after this entry was originally posted. Additionaly, the sentence, "And it's not as if I chose two radical fringe elements to be easy targets - one was the vice presidential candidate, and the other was the Speaker of the House," was not in the original entry.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Response to E-mail Forward of Tea Party Speech

Last week, I got an e-mail forward of a transcript of a Tea Party speech. The person forwarding it to me asked for comments, so I spent some time writing a response. A slightly modified version of that response is presented below. Everything from the original e-mail is indented in blockquotes, and my comments are interspersed throughout. His speach was too long to respond to every single point, but I did respond to quite a bit of it. I tried to clean up the formatting and weird characters from the e-mail forward, and apologize if I made any mistakes.

THIS MAN HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD

Dr. Donald May's Tea Party Speech in Lubbock , TX

AT THE TEA PARTY, a black man, Dr. Donald May delivered this message from the courthouse steps in Lubbock. He electrified the audience like I haven't seen in a long time. His delivery was masterful. I am sorry you could not see him in action. Anyway, I thought you might enjoy his words. The news media were there, but not one word of this man’s appearance ever appeared on TV or in print, even though he completely dominated the scene.

No comment, other than wondering why whoever wrote the e-mail thought the man's skin color was relevant to the story. It's about like reporting the color shoes he was wearing.

This is A Time For Courage April 15, 2009 - 11:49 pm

--------------------------------------------------------

"Ladies and gentlemen, This is a time for courage.

"We are gathered here today on the Plains of West Texas in common purpose. We are here to remind our government that this is our country, We the People are still in charge, and our government is still our servant and not our master.

I agree - there's a reason they're called public servants. It's also why I don't like hearing presidents referred to as the leader of the free world. The president is merely the head of one branch of government.

"Our Nation’s founding document is The Declaration of Independence. It tells us that our rights come from God and not from a small group of elite men and women.

No - the Declaration of Independence was a declaration of war against the British, and carries no weight in current U.S. law. The Constitution is the founding document of our current government, and the Constitution makes no mention at all of any god. Additionally, the actual wording in the Declaration is "...that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..." Many of the founding fathers, including the Declaration's author, Jefferson, were either deists or Unitarians. Their views on religion were decidedly different from what's considered orthodox (for example, believing that Jesus was merely an inspirational teacher, and neither a miracle worker nor the son of God). So, they may have believed that rights came from a creator, but their idea of the creator wasn't the same as what most Christians think. (http://www.earlyamericanhistory.net/founding_fathers.htm)

"Our Constitution starts with the words “We the People." Our Constitution was written for ordinary Americans like you and me. Our Constitution protects us from our government and from the politicians.

I like the Constitution. It's a good document, and has served our country well. But you can't rewrite history. It was written for white males. It was only later amendments that made it fully applicable to all races and to women. Other than that, yes, the Constitution does help protect us from the government.

"Our President has complained that our Constitution gives ordinary people too much protection. He has ridiculed us for the high value we place on our Bibles, our guns, our personal property, and our liberty. He tells us we do not deserve to keep the money we have earned. We are told freedom has not worked. Personal responsibility, free enterprise, and Liberty have not been effective. Our government will now make more of our decisions for us. Other than our military, I can think of not one government agency I have ever found to be helpful.

I know I don't follow current events and politics as much as I should, but I haven't heard of Obama ridiculing those things. After a little Google searching, all the complaints I've found of Obama ridiculing the Bible are directed at his 'Call to Renewal' Keynote Address from 2006 (http://www.citizenlink.org/pdfs/06-24-08-obama-call-to-renewal.pdf), and only a small portion of it, at that. After reading the speech, and the section where he discusses Bible verses, it doesn't seem like ridicule at all - merely pointing out the problems of trying to use the Bible as the basis for laws in a pluralistic society. After all, Obama is Christian and takes the Bible pretty seriously himself.

The one area where I do agree with May (although I don't know if Obama has used ridicule here), is that Obama does support gun control. He does seem to be further left on that issue than most. However, he's not so extreme that he's going to veto the recently passed bill on credit card reform because of the added provision to allow loaded hand guns in national parks.

I find it surprising that May doesn't like any government agencies besides the military. Personally, I kind of like the Interstate Highway System. I also think NASA does some pretty good things, not to mention the FDA and EPA. The National Park system is pretty nice. On the local level, I'm glad we have police and fire departments. Really, there are a lot of government agencies that I think do a fine job. It's only the ones that screw up that make the headlines. And, like I mentioned the other day, I think a lot of why the government looks bad compared to private business is because the government has to be open about their spending. When big corporations waste money, they don't report it.

And regarding the military, now that I've lived in a town where a significant proportion of the population is affiliated with a military base, and I've heard the stories of what goes on, I'd hardly call the military an ideal organization. There's plenty of waste, politics, cover up, and all the other negatives you'd expect from a large bureaucracy.

"And speaking of our military, how about those Navy Seals blowing the heads off those three terrorist pirates? Don’t you just wish our entire government would function with such efficiency, professionalism, and courage? We watch in disbelief as our beloved United States is weakened economically, militarily, and morally by a radical President and his eager accomplices... What has taken generations to build is systematically destroyed and replaced with the same Socialist evil that brought poverty, destruction, and despair to untold hundreds of millions.

Regarding his comment on the Navy Seals - they're a small, elite group. It would be very difficult to run the entire government as efficiently as special forces. That's why Lockheed has the Skunk Works, Boeing has the Phantom Works, and why small companies in general can do things that big companies can't.

Obama may be left of George Bush, but I'd hardly call him a radical.

"The problems we face today have occurred because we have not defended our Nation from Socialism. For too long we have allowed the wrong people to make the worst possible decisions. The Bible warns us of class hatred. The radical leadership of our government daily fans the evil flames of class envy. Our European and Canadian friends beg us to not make the same Socialist mistakes they did. The President of the European Union warned our President that his Socialist economic plans are taking the world down the “road to Hell.”

I guess May is referring to the stimulus package here, since that's what Topolanek was referring to in his "road to Hell" statement (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/world/europe/26czech.html?_r=1). However, Topolanek was hardly speaking for all of Europe - no more so than thinking that Obama or Bush speak/spoke for all U.S. citizens. At the time Topolanek made the statement, the UK was pushing for increased government spending, while Germany and France opposed further increases. Many European leaders were not happy with him for making that particular statement.

I'll admit - economics is not my strong point, but looking back at the Great Depression, it seems like some amount of government spending does help to pull a country out of a recession/depression. Hoover tried to keep a balanced budget, and didn't do much to help the country out of the Depression. FDR had his New Deal, which seemed to ease economic problems a bit, but still didn't pull us out of the Depression. Then we entered WWII, and had a huge increase in government spending (and from a long term point of view, there's not much more useless spending than military equipment that doesn't build your nation's infrastructure and that's going to be sent to the scrap yard as soon as the war is over), and finally got out of the Depression. How much of that was psychological vs. government spending, I'm not sure, but the government spending certainly didn't seem to hurt.

If May was referring to something other than the stimulus packages, the policy I've personally heard referred to as socialism the most often is universal health care. I don't understand why everyone is so against it. Compared to industrialized nations with universal health care, the U.S. spends about twice the amount on health care (from either a per capita or GDP basis), but our quality of care isn't any better and we have less access to physicians (http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/2009/05/are_patients_in_universal_heal.php). Either socialism isn't all that bad, or pundits are throwing around the term where it doesn't apply.

"The path to power for Socialists includes taking God and guns from the citizens. Without spiritual and physical protection, people cannot defend themselves and their liberty. They soon become slaves. We are angered that our President apologizes for the exceptionalism and heroism of the United States of America . We are deeply troubled he told others the United States is not a Christian nation. We are angered that we have been called cowards and racists because we oppose Socialism. Socialism is not racial. Socialism is an equal opportunity destroyer. We are angered that a recent Department of Homeland Security report has singled out our military men and women who are returning home as being radical threats. The report also characterizes you and me as right-wing extremists and radicals because we favor smaller government and lower taxes.

Again, I'm not convinced Obama is a socialist, but ignoring that, how does socialism have anything to do with religion or guns? It's an economic policy. (Citing the U.S.S.R. would be about like citing pre-Civil War U.S. society to say that capitalism leads to slavery.)

If May is upset that someone doesn't consider the U.S. a Christian nation, he would have been furious at our second president, John Adams, and the entire U.S. Senate from 1797. The Treaty of Tripoli, read aloud to the Senate (it was only a couple pages) and approved unanimously, contained the following statement, "As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian Religion..." (http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/buckner_tripoli.html). The Senate made a point to record the vote, and Adams issued the statement, "Now be it known, That I John Adams, President of the United States of America, having seen and considered the said Treaty do, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, accept, ratify, and confirm the same, and every clause and article thereof. And to the End that the said Treaty may be observed and performed with good Faith on the part of the United States, I have ordered the premises to be made public; And I do hereby enjoin and require all persons bearing office civil or military within the United States, and all other citizens or inhabitants thereof, faithfully to observe and fulfill the said Treaty and every clause and article thereof." [emphasis mine]

"You and I are average citizens who believe just like most of our fellow Americans. We want our government to leave us alone and to keep its hands off our money, our religion, or guns, our private property, and our lives. We demand that our government stop spending money it does not have.

I mostly agree with that (I do recognize that the government's going to get some amount of my money as taxes to support public services). In regard to the deficit spending part, at least, it would be nice to have a return to the Clinton era - the last time the federal government had a balanced budget. On the other hand, I don't know enough about economics to know if Keynes was right about how to get out of a depression.

"Stop confiscating our money and private property.

"Stop printing money.

"Stop subsidizing Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the other failed financial institutions and companies.

"Mr. President, stop appointing tax cheats to positions of power and influence.

"Mr. President, secure our borders.

"Mr. President, do not divert money from our missile defense, F-22 Raptors, and other vital military equipment. This gives encouragement, aid, and comfort to our enemies. Protecting us is your number one job.

Nothing really to disagree with here (except again - I don't know enough about economics to comment on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or the bailouts). I do find it a bit ironic that someone who wants small government and limited spending wants a big military, though May did already say that the military was the only government agency he liked.

"Mr. President, do not give voting rights to millions of illegal aliens and felons. You have no more right to create new voters for your benefit than you do to use our money to buy the 2010 and 2012 Elections.

Nothing to disagree with here, either, but it seems like a straw man. I've never heard of Obama pushing for giving voting rights to illegal immigrants or felons - easier paths to legalization for immigrants, possibly, but not voting rights for non-citizens.

"We gather peacefully here today because there is a growing concern for what our government is doing to us and to our future. We fear for the very survival of our Republic. Yet there is much to make us hopeful and to fill our hearts with optimism and courage. This is still our country! The Constitution of the Unites States belongs to We the People. Our Constitution still protects us from our government.

Nothing to disagree with here, either, except possibly the extreme rhetoric ("We fear for the very survival of our Republic." Really?)

"Call every possible elected official, including our President, Vice President, and the Speaker of the House. Demand that they stop stealing our money and giving it to ACORN and their other political supporters in order to buy votes. Call Senators Cornyn and Hutchison, and (your) Representative. Thank them. Urge them to do much more. Remind them now is a time for action and not for campaigning.

I've never understood conservative's big problem with ACORN. It's an organization that mainly just tries to get people to register to vote. Sure, their organization was taken advantage of by a few unscrupulous employees who wanted to get paid without actually going door to door, but as a whole, they don't seem to be some malicious organization trying to engage in any widespread deception or illegal activity (http://www.factcheck.org/elections-2008/the_whoppers_of_2008_--_the_sequel.html). Is there something about ACORN that I don't know about?

"Volunteer to work on our 2010 Census. Confront ACORN. Keep our Census honest. We must not allow our President to take control of our Census for his political advantage.

Again, this seems like a straw man. ACORN isn't trying to cheat the census (as far as I know), and I've never heard of Obama trying to do anything to cheat on the census.

"We must replace as much of our far left Congress as possible in 2010. Get involved... Do not let ACORN control our 2010 Election.

Far left? The House just recently passed the credit card reform bill with an added provision allowing people to carry loaded guns in National Parks. That seems pretty moderate to me. The Green Party is left. Communist Party USA is far left. Freedom Socialist Party / Radical Women is far left. The Party for Socialism and Liberation is far left. Socialist Action is far left. Most Democrats - not so much. (http://www.politics1.com/parties.htm)

"Talk with someone every day who does not understand our nation’s history and our great heritage. Tell them why the United States is a good and prosperous nation. It still remains that brightly lit city on the hill... It still is the best hope for all mankind.

"Brightly lit city on the hill?" Check out the following page:
http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html

Ignore all the religious interpretation, and just scroll down to the figures at the bottom (you have to click on the links to see each figure). As far as murders/100,000 people, under-five mortality/1000 births, life expectancy, 15-19 year old gonorrhea infections/100,000 people, 15-19 year old syphilis infections/100,000 people, 15-19 year old abortions/1000 people, and 15-17 year old births & pregnancies/1000 people, the U.S. is worse off than almost every other prosperous democracy. Portugal is worse off than us in under-five mortality; Portugal, Italy, and Denmark are worse than us in life expectancy; and we're middle of the road in 15-24 year old suicides/100,000 people; but in all other measures in the study the U.S. was the worst. We may still be seen as the land of opportunity, but we definitely have some major problems.

"Talk with all of the young people you can find. They are our future. Many do not understand what they have and that their future is being destroyed.

I agree that education is very important. I'm always shocked by the ignorance of our citizens.

"Encourage your elected State officials to pass legislation that will protect us from our Federal government. Governor Rick Perry and others are doing that right now for Texas . Thank them and pray for them.

I do think the federal government has too much power right now (consider how the EPA wouldn't allow California to set their own emissions standards that were stricter than federal standards - http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/19/washington/20epa-web.html), but I don't think it's as big of a problem as some people make it out to be. We live in different times than when the nation was founded, and a strong federal government seems more advantageous now than it would have to an agrarian society. That said, I do think the executive branch in particular has too much power, and I'd like to see the legislative and judicial branches get some of their power back.

"This is a time for strong peaceful action. Let us pray that We the People can quickly return our government to its Constitutional responsibilities. Our President and Congress were elected to be our servants and not our masters...

Again, I agree. I think the executvie branch in particular has too much power. The ACLU has a list of the 10 most egregious abuses of power since 9/11, and I would love to see reforms to where things like that can't happen again (http://www.aclu.org/safefree/general/26684res20060906.html). The executive branch should not be able to claim 'executive privilege' or 'national security' to avoid following the laws of the land.

"May God help our President and Congress to quickly realize the error of their ways and stop their reckless and unwarranted spending, cut our taxes, and reduce the size of our Federal bureaucracy. If they do not, may God grant us the courage and determination to vote them out of power next year.

Even if I did think the current government needed to be voted out - who's the alternative? We just got through 6 years of a Republican dominated federal government (both executive and legislative), followed by 2 years of a Republican executive. I didn't see fiscal responsibility during those years. We went from a budget surplus under Clinton to deficit spending under Bush. Perhaps May is a Libertarian, but I don't think there's much chance for a Libertarian dominated government anytime soon.

"May God richly bless and protect each of you, and our Constitution, as together we pursue Liberty !" Delivered at the Lubbock , Texas , TEA Party

by Dr. Donald May

Tax Day, 15 April 2009

Anyway, those are my comments. In general, other than the platitudes, I don't agree with most of what May said. I've admitted that economics is not my strong suit, but considering how erroneous May was in the areas I do know about, I'm not sure how much to trust him in other areas. I do agree with him, however, that the executive branch has too much power, and that not enough people see government as public servants.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Civic Duty

With all this talk of civic duty going on right now, I can't help thinking of a certain line over and over (not safe for kids, and probably NSFW)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Texas Science Standards Review Panel

TEA LogoOh boy, it looks like we're in for an ugly mess down here in Texas. For a bit of background - the current chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, Don McLeroy, is a creationist, who has openly advocated the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools (transcript & recording). Last year, Chris Comer, the director of science curriculum for the Texas Education Agency, was forced to resign after forwarding an e-mail announcment of a lecture by Barbara Forrest critical of Intelligent Design. This past May, McLeroy pulled some shenanigans with a last minute cut and paste job of the English standards - having the BoE approve the new standards before anyone had sufficient time to review them, all after a three year process by teachers and experts to develop the new standards. At the end of that post, I wrote, "And don't forget that the science standards are the next in line to be reviewed. If the board can be so underhanded on a topic as uncontroversial as English, I fear just what stunts they're going to pull when it comes to subjects like biology and geology."

Now, the Board of Education has just named the six people who will be on the Texas Science Standards Review Panel:

  • David Hillis, professor of integrative biology and director of the Center of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at the University of Texas at Austin;
  • Ronald K. Wetherington, professor of anthropology at Southern Methodist University and director of the Center for Teaching Excellence;
  • Gerald Skoog, professor and dean emeritus of the College of Education at Texas Tech and co-director of the Center for Integration of Science Education and Research;
  • Stephen Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture from Washington state;
  • Ralph Seelke, an ID proponent and biology professor at the University of Wiconsin, Superior;
  • Charles Garner, an ID proponent and chemistry professor from Baylor.

The first three of those members are the type of people you'd expect on a science standards review panel. But the last three are certainly worrying, especially given the past actions of the BoE. For anyone unfamiliar with the Discovery Institute, it is nominally* a conservative think tank, whose main purpose seems to be promotion of Intelligent Design and attempts to discredit evolution. Meyer, Seelke, and Garner, have all signed the Discovery Institute's "Dissent from Darwinism" statement. For an idea of how relevant that list actually is, consider Project Steve. Meyer and Seelke are even co-athors of the book,
Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism. For a good review of the Discovery Institute and this book, take a look at the review on ars technica. The conclusion, although a little less than polite, sums up the book pretty nicely:

But the book doesn't only promote stupidity, it demands it. In every way except its use of the actual term, this is a creationist book, but its authors are expecting that legislators and the courts will be too stupid to notice that, or to remember that the Supreme Court has declared teaching creationism an unconstitutional imposition of religion. As laws similar to Louisiana's resurface in other states next year, we can only hope that legislators choose not to live down to the low expectations of EE's authors.

I'd hope I wouldn't have to mention that evolution is in fact true, and that it's well supported by evidence and the scientific community, but unfortunately, with the state of things right now, I think I do have to say that. For a discussion of some of that evidence, take a look at a previous blog entry of mine, A (Somewhat) Brief Introduction to Evolution.

While the current mantra of ID proponents seems to be to teach the strengths and weaknesses of evolution, you have to question their motives when they say that. On the face of it, it doesn't sound too bad. Science is not a dogmatic acceptance of the teachings of your mentors - it's all about questioning the world around you and looking for evidence. Questioning the weaknesses of a theory is where you find the interesting discoveries. However, creationists tend to single out evolution with this approach. Currently, our understanding of gravity is a whole lot worse than our understanding of evolution, but you don't hear an outcry for schools to teach Intelligent Falling, or to point out the strengths and weaknesses of that theory. You also have to question just what will be taught, considering what creationists suppose are weaknesses of evolutionary theory. When you still have people asking 'what use is half an eye?', you can just imagine what they'd want the science curriculum to be. I'm not saying the review panel is that ignorant, but consider that it will be up to individual teachers to present these weaknesses.

Anyway, if you live in Texas, or if you just promote reality based education, there are several resources for this issue:


*I use the word nominally here, because it's more of a propaganda institute than anything else.

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