The Tao of Politics

One of my main concerns is: how can I make a difference? There are thousands of political blogs out there. It’s easy to get lost in that ocean. So I may blog about politics on occasion, or I may blog about health issues, depending on where my interests lead me, and where I feel I can contribute something of significance.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricanes and Global Warming

Scientists say that the destructiveness of hurricanes may be increasing due to global warming. That's not all, though. There was some discussion on MSNBCs Connected yesterday about the impact of the environment on hurricane flooding, etc. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post linked some of the effects of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans with some of the environmental actions that have been taken by the government, such as altering the course of the Mississippi River which resulted in the loss of wetlands, which resulted in flooding, etc. Then there is global warming which has caused a rise in sea level, which would increase storm surges.

I think there is a connection between environmental policy and the environment. If my state got hit by a lot of hurricanes (I'm thinking Florida and Louisiana, here, but there are others) I would vote for a presidential candidate who was strong on environmental issues. I would not vote for the likes of George W. Bush.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bear Facts on Iraq

I don't often quote Jesse Helms, but he used to tell an interesting story: A man had ahold of a bear, and his friend came along and said, "Hey, do you need some help holding that bear?" The man replied, "No, I need some help turning him loose."

Maybe we need some help turning loose of Iraq?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Wesley Clark in 2008?

Deborah White at discusses Wesley Clark’s appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press and his viability as a potential Presidential candidate for 2008. I have thought for some time that Clark was the best candidate so far for 2008. He’s from the South and has seemingly impeccable credentials. Unless someone Swiftboats him, he would have appeal in some of the red states, which is an absolutely essential condition for a Democrat to be elected. My only reservation is that he hasn’t seemed, to me, to be all that comfortable as a campaigner. Unfortunately, politicians are elected President these days, not really good, smart, or handsome men. But of course, that's why they have the campaign, and that's why they have the election.

Stay tuned. If Wesley Clark runs, this could be interesting.

What's Fair?

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 77, paragraph 2 says: "It is the Way (or Tao) of Heaven to diminish superabundance, and to supplement deficiency. It is not so with the way of man. He takes away from those who have not enough and adds to his own superabundance."

It is even worse when you have your elected government making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Pro War, Anti War

So, what is going on in Crawford, Texas? Dueling protestors? People jeering at each other? Bitterness, animosity, general unfriendliness? So much for President Bush being a uniter, not a divider.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Still Desperately Seeking Answers

Since I haven't gotten any answers, I thought I would ask this again: how does spending more than $200 billion in Iraq make us safer at home? If we had spent $200 billion at home we might be safer. Spending $200 billion in Iraq is just a diversion. I think it makes us less safe and less secure.

I think Afghanistan made us safer, not Iraq. You hear all the talk about how this war has destabilized the Middle East, driven up oil prices, cost 1860+ lives, and for what?

Part of the problem with 9/11 was focusing too much attention overseas and not enough on the homeland. I think that is part of the problem today as well.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Summer Dreams

Not much is going well for the President these days. His job approval numbers have fallen. Americans are questioning his honesty. Cindy Sheehan is spoiling his vacation. The Iraqi constitutional process is not going smoothly. Violence has escalated worldwide. Oil prices are at all-time highs. Support for the war is declining. Some in the President’s own party are calling for troop withdrawals. It’s almost enough to make the President yearn for the days when the Karl Rove controversy was his main problem.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


President Bush says that pulling the troops out of Iraq would embolden the terrorists (news story). But it seems to me that the terrorists are already pretty bold.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bush is No Sage

The Tao Te Ching (chapter 49) says: The sage has no invariable mind of his own; he makes the mind of the people his mind.

This is exactly the opposite of what George W. Bush does. He decides what he wants the people to believe, then sets out trying to brainwash them into believing it. This approach works well in politics, which is what the President is good, but it doesn’t work well in governing.

Connected’s Disconnect

I’d like to express one more opinion about MSNBC. I like the show Connected, but I do not like it when two or three or four people are all screaming at each other at the same time. That’s when I usually fast forward to the next segment, or just stop watching altogether.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Desperately Seeking Answers

How does spending more than $200 billion in Iraq make us safer at home? If we had spent $200 billion at home we might be safer. Spending $200 billion in Iraq is just a diversion. I think it makes us less safe and secure.

I think Afghanistan made us safer, not Iraq. You hear all the talk about how this war has destabilized the Middle East, driven up oil prices, lost 1866 lives, and for what?

Part of the problem with 9/11 was focusing too much attention overseas and not enough on the homeland. I think that is part of the problem today as well.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Thumbs Down, MSNBC

I don’t know why anyone ever invites Ken Mehlman to be a guest on their TV talk shows. All he ever seems to do is respond to questions using talking points and spin. And he seems so pleased with his responses; and maybe he should be pleased. It is not easy to weave talking points and spin into a coherent answer, but he is a master at doing just that, although I thought Norah O’Donnell did a pretty good job of trying to pin him down last week (August 18) when she hosted Hardball. But then the MSNBC website had the gall to publish excerpts of the “interview.” When I read them I realized that, in the excerpts at least, Norah asked him five questions about Iraq. Mehlman responded with four separate assertions that Iraq “is the central front in the war on terror.” To the other question he responded by invoking the memory of 9/11. Twice he asserted that we are fighting them there so that we don’t have “to face them at home” or that we are “safer at home” because we are fighting them there. Boy, that’s staying on message, and reminded me of President Bush’s repeated assertion during one of the debates last year that it was “hard work.”

I really despise talking points and spin. It’s as if you can make something true by saying it repeatedly. Well, it doesn’t make it true except maybe in the minds of certain imbeciles in some red states. (Let me stress that MSNBC is not the only network which serves up spin and talking points like this.)

I watch TV talk shows for information, not for spin and talking points. I lose a lot of my respect for MSNBC when they have politicians like Ken Mehlman on, and MSNBC loses me as a viewer, at least to a degree.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Frist's Intelligent Political Design?

Bill Frist's suggestion that "intelligent design" should be taught in the public schools might help get him out of the hot water he found himself in recently with some right wing groups over his support of stem cell research, though it is difficult for me to understand how he, as a doctor and scientist, reconciles his education and training with this newest position of his.

It’s there, but it’s not there?

One thing that really irritates me is when a food label in the grocery store lists hydrogenated oil as one of its ingredients, but a different part of the label lists 0g trans fats. I think it defeats the whole purpose of labeling trans fats to state that the quantity is zero when, in fact, it is greater than zero. It just means that those of us who do not wish to eat those insidious little fats must continue to remain vigilant and read the fine print.

While I’m on the subject of fats, did anyone read the article about how french fries might contribute to cancer? Check it out.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Stilling War

This may not mean anything to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or Secretary Rumsfeld, but The Tao Te Ching says, (chapter 31): “Calm and repose are what he (the superior man) prizes; victory to him by force of arms is undesirable. To consider this desirable would be to delight in the slaughter of men; and he who delights in the slaughter of men cannot get his will in the kingdom.”

It’s something to think about as we continue our war in Iraq.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bad News, Good News

Let’s see: three car bomb attacks kill 43 in Iraq; computer worm attacking windows; gasoline prices near three dollars a gallon; inflation’s up; stock market down; woman sets herself on fire in Israel; planes crash in Greece and Venezuela; 250 small bombs explode across Bangladesh. Is there any good news out there?

Well, Iraq now has legal authority to hang people. (I guess that’s good news/bad news, right?) Israeli settlers who agreed to leave Gaza receive between $150,000 and $400,000. (Is that coming from US taxpayers?) Crocodile blood has been found to kill HIV, so scientists in Australia are working on developing drugs based on that knowledge. Overweight men are more likely to have prostate cancer that thin men. (Good news for thin men, bad news for overweight men). Eating fruits and vegetables may prevent arthritis.

I’m not sure that the good news outweighs the bad news, but it’s better than nothing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Kvetching for Gaza

I’m not following the situation in Gaza all that closely, but I have heard some discussion about it recently, on Connected with Ron Reagan yesterday, and on NPR just now while driving home. There are these guys (it may be the same guy, I’m not sure) who keep saying that handing over Gaza to the Palestinians is a victory for the terrorists; that it will fuel terrorism worldwide; etc, etc. I just want to say that, while some of that may be true, all the moaning, wailing, and kvetching about it now is not helping the situation, and seems to me to be adding fuel to the fire. The handover is going to happen. There’s nothing you can do about it now, so just shut up about it already.

Listen to the Experts

What’s the big deal with the delay in the drafting of the Iraqi constitution? If they take more time maybe they’ll get it right. Wouldn’t that be a good thing? I think the US should get out of the way and let Iraq do their job of drafting the constitution. We can help, but we shouldn’t push. Some experts think we’re being too pushy. Let’s listen to the experts.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Social Insecurity

I guess we’re still talking about Social Security. George W. Bush is still talking about personal accounts, and the Democrats say we should address solvency issues and forget about personal accounts.

I know people on Social Security. It is a really good deal. Some people get like $1200 per month, guaranteed for life. That is good. You would need something like $300,000 in a personal account to get that kind of return, and it might not be guaranteed. And how many people are going to amass that kind of money in a personal account? You'd have to save $10,000 a year for 30 years to get that kind of nest egg. Who is going to do that?

I’m with the Democrats on this: solve the issues of solvency and leave Social Security alone. The more the President talks, the more it becomes Social Insecurity.

About Time

Hooray. A program in Atlanta (see article) is aimed at helping black men improve their health. According to the article, black men “have the lowest life expectancy of any group in the country.” That is 69.2 years, and that is a shame. We should have more programs like the one in Atlanta, and they need to be around for a long time, because they have a big job to do changing the inequities that exist in the health of blacks in this country.

Friday, August 12, 2005

A Little Pessimistic Today

Is anyone feeling good about the future? Does anyone feel optimistic about what is happening with Iran? Does anyone still feel good about Iraq? How about the price of oil, not to mention the price of gasoline, and growing world competition for oil?

President Clinton may have had sex in the Oval Office, but at least he was in the Oval Office. President Bush is on extended vacation now while the world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket. There were global crises during the Clinton administration, but he always seemed to respond to them, and I had the feeling that someone was in charge.

I long for a strong leader again like FDR, JFK, LBJ. When they were President they rolled up their sleeves and got to work. They inspired confidence. I’m sorry but the current President, like his father before him, does not.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cut the Fat

There are two items in the news this morning that are of particular interest to me. First, Dr. Dean Ornish is publishing a study that suggests that a low-fat diet can help fight prostate cancer. (See article) We all want to do that, don’t we? I have thought for a long time that diet (low fat, low cholesterol) can contribute to good prostate health. It is encouraging to see Dr. Ornish come out with this study. He is a doctor whom I greatly respect.

The other article of interest says that the city of New York wants to eliminate trans fats from its restaurants. (See article) Trans fats are insidious little things. They raise bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower good cholesterol (HDL). I think they have a negative effect on prostate health. And what about cholesterol, fat and breast cancer? Didn’t I read something about that? Anyway, trans fats definitely have a negative impact on heart health. New Yorkers are already living longer (see article) and good choices in their diets, such as eliminating trans fats, should help them live even longer.

For those of you who may want to see how your state stacks up against the healthiest states, go here. Those of you who live in a Southern Red State (as I do) might really be surprised (or not.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

John Roberts: Fair and Balanced?

It is difficult to know at this point exactly where John Roberts might place himself on the political spectrum. But as long as the right wing continues to embrace and promote him, I will continue to consider him to be one of theirs.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Hillary Clinton's Options

I have heard a great deal of discussion recently about Hillary Clinton’s political future. Some of the discussion has revolved around the question of should she pledge to serve out her full term if re-elected to the Senate in 2006?

I remember when John Edwards ran for President in 2004. He left his Senate seat virtually unoccupied for a long time while he went around the country campaigning. That did not sit well with a lot of people back home, even some of his staunch supporters. Some people resented that he wasn’t doing the job he was elected to do. Some people felt that, since he wasn’t running for re-election, he should have stepped down, let the Democratic Governor appoint a replacement (maybe Erskine Bowles) and just spend all his time campaigning.

Maybe New York, like Massachusetts, is different from North Carolina. Massachusetts didn’t seem to resent John Kerry’s taking time away from his job to run for President in 2004, but Kerry had a long, distinguished career to look back on and to look forward to if he lost. I think Hillary, like Edwards, might just be seen as an opportunist in her home state if she tries to juggle her Senate duties with a run for the White House.

These days campaigning for President can be a full-time job. I wouldn’t be greatly surprised to see Hillary forego a second term in the Senate and instead spend two years campaigning for President. Of course she would run the risk of creating Hillary-fatigue: tiring herself with such a long campaign, and making the country tired of her in the process. But it would also give her more time to connect with voters in states like Florida. (Let’s face it, NY is already in Hillary’s column for 2008, regardless.) And I think she would gain a lot of respect if she was honest with the people of NY and the nation, admitted that she wants to be President, and spent all her energy pursuing that goal.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Cynic's Corner

Is the Iraqi political process tied closely to the American political process? The United States is pressuring Iraq to stick to its timetable for finishing its constitution and holding elections. If all goes as planned, there may be major changes in Iraq (troop withdrawals, etc.) just in time for the 2006 mid-term elections in this country. Is this a coincidence? I doubt it. There may not be an exit strategy, but I daresay there is a political strategy for Iraq, because politics is what the Bush White House excels at.

If this view is correct, will the strategy work? Will the President increase his poll numbers? Will Americans alter their assessment of the situation in Iraq? Will the Republicans hold onto power in the mid-term elections?

Several things are clear. We will still be at war this time next year. Unhappily, the killings probably will not stop. Worldwide terrorism probably will not stop. A hastily-written, possibly flawed Iraqi constitution may lead to civil war. What’s to feel good about?

I have a feeling that whatever happens in Iraq over the next year will be too little too late: too little to make a difference in the public’s fatigue with war, and too late to help the Republicans consolidate their power in Congress.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A Day to Remember or Forget?

As everyone is remembering Hiroshima today, there are some things I would like to forget:

All that radioactivity released into the atmosphere for so many years.
All the needless cancer and sickness.
All the soldiers in our military who were naivly exposed to atomic blasts.
Fallout shelters, air raid sirens, Civil Defense radio tests, "duck and cover."
ICBMs, NORAD, the Strategic Air Command (SAC).
Atom Bomb, Hydrogen Bomb, Neutron Bomb, Briefcase Bomb.
Three-mile Island. Chernobyl. (I actually changed my honeymoon plans in 1986 because of this incident.)
Watching films like Radium City and Hiroshima, Mon Amour.
Nikita Khrushchev. The Cuban Missile Crisis.
Six decades of the world living under the nuclear cloud.

Of course movies like Dr. Strangelove helped, but not enough. And then there were depressing films like On the Beach. It is not fair that our generation was the first to live in such anxiety and insecurity.

At least our parents remember the world without nuclear weapons. Baby Boomers aren't so lucky. We have never known a world free from the terror of possible nuclear holocaust. We've done a pretty good job of living our lives in spite of that threat, but it has always been there and always will be. We are children of the Nuclear Age. Where were the adults when all this was happening? They were busy creating this world for us. Thanks.

They say that children shouldn't play with fire? Sometimes I think adults shouldn't either.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Ron Reagan For President

I would like to suggest that Ron Reagan of MSNBC's Connected would make an excellent Democratic candidate for President in 2008. He is intelligent, articulate, and more than holds his own in any discussion of the issues. He looks good on TV, has a likeable manner, and comes from a family with some political experience. I realize I am not the first person to mention Mr. Reagan for this position, but I wanted to go on record as saying that the Democrats need him or someone like him in 2008.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Good News With The Bad

Ernest Hemingway once said that every true story ends in death. The crash of Air France Flight 358 in Toronto is a story that miraculously ended in life. Not a single fatality was recorded.

I, for one, have grown increasingly pessimistic in recent months over all the dying reported in the news. Yesterday I enjoyed basking in the good feelings engendered by the story of Flight 358. But it’s like when an unrelenting heat wave is broken by a day of cooler weather. You know it’s only a matter of time until the heat returns.

Then today I read about the fourteen Marines killed in Iraq. Back to reality.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Third Bird

The major American political parties can be compared to two very different birds: there is the Chicken Little crowd, which goes around predicting disaster and exhorting everyone to do something about it; and there is the Ostrich crowd, which sticks its head in the sand, and refuses to worry about some very important issues like the deficit and the environment, to name just a couple. There has got to be something in between. If we don’t find that middle ground we may end up like another famous bird: the Dodo.