Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Return to Sanity

In this strange political season, I’m a big supporter for a return to sanity. (And today, thousands are gathering in Washington, DC, for Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.)

This is perhaps best known as the season of the angry voter. The rise of the Tea Party movement is marked by many who are angry at the system, and often angry at both political parties. Some are angry about illegal immigration. Some are angry at the big bail-outs. Some are angry at the incredible amount spend on the stimulus. Some are angry about the new federal health care bill. Some are angry at Obama. Many would vote “all of the above.”

In 2008, the Democrats rose to power by sweeping the White House and majorities in the House and Senate. In large part, their victories can be linked to anger, too. Anger at the big spending of the Republican Bush administration in the middle added to traditional Democrat supporters who were angry at the war-waging policies of the Bush administration, loss of liberties and other conservative policies. In many instances, the Bush Administration wrapped its policies in the flag, so if one were a true patriot, one would not oppose their policies.

Well, in all of this, I fear this great democracy is losing its tradition of democracy. What happened to debating the issues of the day, without demonizing your opponent?

In the early days of the tea party, we heard about angry people coming to meetings with their representatives and shouting down others. Then there were the unrelentless rants of right-wing media mega-mouths, such as Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck. Later, Sarah Palin, a once-interesting and different politician now turned party-line mouthpiece and Fox News employee, was added to the chorus. The conservative media chorus takes its cues from the policies that have traction with the angry -- immigration, unemployment, high taxes, big spending, big government – and blend these with a not-so-subtle appeal to outright racism, namely, President Obama and the brown-skinned immigrants, to name a few.

Injected with typical conservative policy are misrepresentations, conspiracy theories, and outright lies:
  • “Death panels” in the health reform bill
  • Pres. Obama was not born in the US \
  • Pres. Obama is a Muslim and not a Christian
  • The democrats want to round up guns and gun owners
  • Obama has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture. I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people. I’m saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.” (Glen Beck on Fox News)
  • The director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, "has proposed forcing abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population." (again, Glen Beck)
  • A claim by Glen Beck that he could not debunk theories that concentration camps are being built by the Obama White House as part of a conspiracy to establish totalitarian rule in America According to Beck, "If you have any fear that we might be heading toward a totalitarian state, look out. There is something happening in our country and it ain't good."

What this is resulting in is a number of candidates who are intolerant of compromise or negotiations with those with opposing ideas. There are now a series of litmus tests – including cutting taxes, strong measures against illegal immigrants, abortion, denying the occurrence of global warming – that candidates must pass. A Republican who might believe that some environmental-friendly policies may benefit businesses is labeled a RINO (Republican in name only).

This is very much like the ideological purity that occurs in fascism or a fundamentalist religious sect. Many of those shouting call Pres. Obama a fascist, but I find their methods to be more typical of fascist states where the people are fed an unending litany of intolerance, lies, and hate. All with no opportunity to think for oneself.

But despite my fatalistic assessment, I still have hope. I hope for a return to sanity!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Be Not Complacent

The struggle for justice cannot coexist with complacency. We cannot fall asleep; we must remain alert.

Just a little sidebar on my political thinking: This thought did not come from a political speech I heard, but from my pastor’s sermon. In most of this blog, I tend to focus on the libertarian side of my brand of “new libertarian socialism” but from time to time I focus on my view of social responsibility. As a “libertarian socialist” I do not believe in the government forcing upon all a socialist agenda. Rather the concern for neighbor and preferential concern for the poor and oppressed must come out of our free will decision to share the great wealth we enjoy in this great nation with the poor and oppressed.

In the sermon this morning, my pastor challenged us not to be complacent by unjust situations or insufficient care for those in need. He was preaching social justice, just as Jesus did in stories such as the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar. It wasn’t that the rich man was inherently a bad person, but just one who became complacent.

In this regard, we have to be careful when politicians or media mouthpieces proclaim a return to our Christian values, such as the assembly in Washington, DC a few weeks ago organized by Glenn Beck. This is part of a dangerous trend for conservatives to claim they speak for God. (I have no love for the politically motivated who want to tell us what religion to follow or, as Glenn Beck did, what type of church to belong to!

That’s why I’ve uploaded “Glen Beck to Jesus: Drop Dead” by James Martin. It clearly explains how a politically motivated media mouthpiece can claim the mantle of Christianity while cherry-picking the actual teachings of Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Controversary of the Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan

The BBC posted a news story (Obama under fire for Ground Zero mosque defense) on Facebook today on the controversy over the Islamic center proposed in lower Manhattan. It got my attention as I was finishing up my lunch break.

First, it's not a mosque that is proposed, but a community center.

But, what got me were the mounting number of comments, many against Obama's position, with a good number that were anti-Islam, some trying to paint the whole religion with the blood of those killed by 19 terrorists and their supporters. To me, there is a clear boundary between the terror attacks on our nation and Islam.

As an unapologetic supporter of Constitutional rights, including our wonderful freedom of religion, I just had to leave a comment:

"Why do so many Americans want to just give up our freedoms like religion? Do they want to give victory to the terrorists? Are they not proud to be freedom loving citizens of the US? I'm for freedom of religion and I don't care if it's an unpopular view! On this issue Obama is right."

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Immigration and the New Law in Arizona (Part 1)

The recent passage of a controversial immigration law in Arizona has put the vague memories of the health care debate far into the recesses of the national political buzz. And as many of our national debates, it seems both sides are so focused on different issues that it is completely impossible for our nation to address this issue in a simple common sense and effective way.

Let me present what I think are the legitimate arguments on each side, and then present what how I think the scientific theory of porosity should be applied to developing a rational and reasonable policy.

Before I start, I must say I’m married to a legal immigrant, born in Peru but now a naturalized American citizen (with a US passport to prove it!). My in-laws who live in the US are all here legally (e.g., my mother-in-law has her green card to prove it). What I have found that it’s much easier for us as Americans to travel to Peru to visit the relatives than it is for some of them (particularly children and teens) to get tourist visas to visit us here.

The Border in Arizona
Simply put, the border in Arizona is quite porous and illegal crossings occur daily. But more troublesome is the drug trafficking and associated crimes including murders of citizens and law enforcement officers alike. My reading of the situation is that this combination of illegal crossings intertwined with criminal activities has many saying “enough is enough.” Furthermore, the criminal activity has many in fear of illegal immigrants as how can one tell which ones are the armed drug runners or other dangerous criminals.

All sides agree that it is the Federal government’s sole responsibility to regulate immigration and border crossings. But, many have noted that for decades now, the Federal government has not done enough to control the border in Arizona. In some places (such as San Ysidro, CA Tiajuana, Mexico), there are walls, border patrols and designated entry points where documents are checked. But in other places, particularly remote areas, there is little in the way to prevent entry into the US.

The proponents of the new law say that it is needed because the Federal government did not do its job regarding controlling the border.

What Does a Person Suspected of Being Illegally in the US Look Like?
The gist of the opposition to the new law deals with how it might be enforced. In particular, how does a law enforcement officer come to have reason that someone may be illegally here?

So let’s be frank. While the law prohibits “profiling” and the law’s supporters say there will be no profiling, I still ask myself, how does an officer come to suspect someone in the US illegally? If it’s not by skin color, or accent or language, what is it? Sure, some people might look suspicious, like they’re trying to hide something or fleeing when they see the police approaching.

But, if someone is not doing anything criminal or suspicious, how can one suspect someone is illegally here and not a legal immigrant or a native-born American with the same “look” as an immigrant? Many wonder will this turn into situations where people are stopped for DWH (driving while Hispanic) or DWL (Driving while Latino)? It’s happened to other racial and ethnic groups. It could happen; the politicians and other supporters are not the same people as the cops who have to enforce the law on a daily basis.

“Show Me Your Papers!”
For those suspected, law enforcement will ask “Show me your papers!” Now for a legal foreign visitor, they’re probably carrying their passport. In fact, when in a foreign country, I usually carry my passport, so this is reasonable. For those with a work visa, they can produce a “green card.” If there is strong enforcement of the law, it would seem to be advisable that those with “green cards” carry them at all times, just in case they are stopped or with someone who is stopped. In this case, the burden of always carrying a “green card” is not much more that always carrying a driver’s license, which is something most of us do.

But here’s the problem for libertarians: what about American citizens who “look foreign” (to be frank, who look Hispanic or Latino). Some may be naturalized citizens, others born here, and others may be American citizens for generations. But they may still look like people who may be in the US illegally. Will this subject American citizens to have to prove they are Americans?

What if this applied to other Americans in Arizona? Would they like having to carry a passport of birth certificate to “prove” they are Americans?

What happened to the America where a citizen never had to “prove” they belong here? It’s bad enough we have to do this when we get a new job. (Why should law-abiding, American citizens be subjected to this scrutiny just because of a minority who apply for work illegally?)

Now the politicians and supporters will tell us this won’t be the case or this isn’t a problem. But, let’s be real. It will happen from time to time. And this is a slippery slope from asking a few Hispanic Americans citizens in Arizona to prove they belong here toward having a national identity card or similar way for big government to check on us, even if we’ve done nothing wrong. To me, asking even a few American citizens in Arizona to “show us your papers” is something that reeks of Nazi Germany and other repressive regimes.

The New Libertarian Socialist View of Immigration
Let me digress to present the origins of my beliefs as a “new libertarian socialist.”

The true Libertarian (not the view of conservatives in Libertarian clothes) position on immigration is the free migration of all peoples, regardless of international boundaries. Clearly, none of the conservatives in Arizona espouse this view!

The Christian Socialist view sees the immigrant as the stranger whom we should welcome, much as Christ said that we welcome him when we welcome the least among us who is a stranger in our land. This view is also not embraced by supporters of the new law. What is lost in the rhetoric is that even those here illegally are human beings, and like all humans they are created in the image of God.

Clearly, these viewpoints do not appear to align with ringing support of the law. And they clearly in opposition to the demonization of people who are illegally in the US, rhetoric we hear from many with a conservative viewpoint on immigration. But even those who are here illegally are still human beings, as the something else you might read on some blogs and websites.

But how do we get from the status of chaos to a state where immigrants are here legally? The current national debate will never get us to a conclusion as both sides have to feed “red meat” sound bites to their political bases. The politicians are forced into the more extreme positions, so we can’t look to Washington to solve this problem.

Nevertheless, as a practically-oriented engineer, I think the real workable solution lies clearly in between the political extremes.

A Better Approach: Start with What We Agree On
I think most people agree we have a mess in the border states. Immigration is out of control. This is the Federal government’s job and it’s not been done.

I think there is a majority who would like to see the current mess transformed into a situation where those in the US who are not citizens are here legally. This would be accompanied by reasonable controls to allow a number of legal immigrants to fill jobs where there is a need. And, this would also provide the protection of the law for those non-citizens who are here legally. These legal immigrants would pay taxes and need not fear law enforcement officers as they would have the documentation to prove their legal status.

I think many would agree this would be a more organized state of affairs.

What is the Solution? What are the Alternatives?
To be continued in Part 2.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Spill, Baby, Spill!

We've heard the chant "Drill, Baby, Drill!" Well, off the coast of LousianaSpill, Baby, Spill!

But, when you drill, sometimes you get a spill. That's just the way it is. As an engineer, I know we live in an imperfect world. Spills happen. Engineers may design drill rigs to avoid spills, but don’t fool yourself, nothing made by human hands is perfect. So, if the policy is "drill, baby, drill," at some point that will lead to "spill, baby, spill!"

The best thing we can do, as engineers, is design in contingencies. We know that the fuel tanks that at your local gas stations leak from time to time. Most don't leak. But leaks happen. So we now have double wall tanks. If the first wall breaches, there is a second wall to catch the leak.

We do that with fuel lines two: a pipe within a pipe. If the first pipe leaks, the second one catches it.

We need to find out more of why this spill happened and if the contingency provisions failed. This is a big one, with so much pressure, it can't just be capped. And it is very deep, too. It may take months to drill a relief shaft so the first one can be capped. When the pressure isn't too bad, one can put a valve (in the open position) on the end of a leaking pipe while the pipe is still under pressure. Once the valve is firmly in place, it can be closed slowly until eventually the leak is sealed. But, if the pressure is too great, or you can’t get to the pipe, you have to try something else.

In the mean time, the damage is occurring. There will be harm to wildlife and to the wetlands along the coast. And economic impacts, particularly to the fishing and tourist industries. The fishing and shrimping boats are all at their docks. If it takes months to stop the leak and clean-up the spill, they will be out of work for months.

This one spill doesn’t mean that we should take a knee-jerk policy adjustment and end all off-shore drilling. But it does mean we should have our eyes open on the risks that come with any energy policy that includes off-shore drilling.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Men Gather Legally with Guns - But What's the Point?

Groups of mostly men gathered on Monday, April 19th (anniversary of the "shot heard 'round the world in 1775 in Concord, Massachusetts). In separate rallies in Washington, DC and Virginia, they expressed concern about their 2nd Amendment rights. In Virginia, they carried their guns openly (as is allowed under state law).

So what's the point? It's legal to own guns. There is no proposed legislation to change this. (If there is some proposed legislation I don't know about, please tell me about it.) If these guys are just law-abiding gun owners, I don't know what the issue is.

I don't get it. Maybe they have been listening to too much talk radio or to others who just don't like the present administration and who seem to exaggerate reality. Maybe these folks, who clearly don't trust the party in power, are just hyper-paranoid that hiding behind some bush is a bill or executive order to take away their guns. And if there were such legislation being proposed, well, sure, they should be concerned. But if there is no proposed legislation, then this all sounds a bit paranoid to me.

Now I'm all for defending all our rights under the Constitution. And it's important to be vigilant, as you never know how they may be eroded by new laws or other government actions. But, still, we don't have to go to the point of creating the specter of a threat where none exists. There's a line between vigilance and paranoia. And unless I see more evidence of a threat on the matter of gun ownership, this concern seems to be trending a bit over the line towards paranoia.

Now I should point out I don't come from a gun-owning family. We lived in the city and there were no hunters in the family. Still, when war came, the men in the family took up arms to defend our land. But when peace came, they put them down and went back to their lives. So, I don't have a first-hand understanding of gun ownership. Still, as a libertarian, if there's a right to own guns (provided one doesn't use it for crimes such as robbery, murder, drug running, etc.), well, that's one's choice whether to own a gun or not.

But in conclusion, my question is: if there is no real and present threat to change the laws as they are today, why can't they just enjoy the rights they have?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tea Party Express on Boston Common

Boston is the home of the original tea party from which the current conservative political movement gets its name. And just yesterday, while riding my bike to work on a nice, yet cool April morning, I rode right past their 3 luxury liner buses as the crowd was forming and the band was starting to play God Bless America.

No one seemed to notice or care when I took some photos of the crowd and their buses. Sarah Palin had not arrived and I guess there was no need for excessive security and no one was there to say who could attend and who couldn't. But I couldn't stay. I, like most working Americans, had to get to work, responsibilities to attend to, and didn't have time to hang around and see what was going on. Many public meetings or other political events are scheduled with us working folk in mind and occur in the evening.

From the looks of it, many attending seemed to be retired, maybe some unemployed, and maybe some who took off time from work to attend. (I hope no one was cheating by attending while "on the clock" at their job.) They were hoping for more to attend, but maybe it was poor scheduling on their part.

Now, we've heard all sorts of things about this Tea Party movement and those who belong, from the media, from pundits on the right and on the left. Frankly, I'm tired of the over politicization of everything these days, particularly the exaggerated claims on both sides. So, I'm just going to tell you what I say and my straight up reaction to it.

To me, these didn't look like cooks or disorderly bullies, at least by the behavior I could observe in passing by. Rather, they looked like folks who could be your parent's neighbors or might live around the corner from you. More or less, they seemed in the middle age to retired age bracket, and if clothing is any guide, they seemed to be firmly in the middle class (from lower middle to middle middle and a few upper middle). They seemed very orderly.

On the side of their buses were 2 major points and 5 bullets, each bullet ending in an explanation point! Here are their slogans and my reaction:

Major Points:

-- Restore Liberty
Hmmmm, what liberty has been lost? We all still have freedom of speech and the rally demonstrated freedom of assembly. No one in government is telling them how to practice religion. Is it that they may be required by law to have health insurance? We have that here in Massachusetts, enacted under the administration of Republican Governor Mit Romney. Even Sarah Palin asked the crowd "don't you love your freedom?" Maybe they need to specify the lost liberties.

--Honor the Constitution
Well, I like the Constitution and think it's about the best one in the world. I like the idea of honoring it. So, maybe they should specify who is dishonoring the Constitution.

The 5 Bullets:

  • End the bailouts!
    I think they have ended, as the economy is showing early signs of recovery. Personally, without some of the bailouts and/or stimulus, I really think the economy would have been in the can for years. I'd bet John McCain or even G. W. Bush would have paid for some bailouts.

  • Reduce the size and intrusiveness of government!
    Reducing the size is a nice idea, but from Ronald Regan to the 2 Bushes, will someone show me where they reduced the government? Pres. Regan wanted to eliminate the Dept. of Education, but kept it and created the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. G. W. Bush was not content with have the taxpayers finance only one nation, but since the Iraq invasion, we the taxpayers are now funding 2 nations. Often projects in Iraq got 100% federal funding while a similar project in the US would get 0% to maybe 50%. My challenge to my readers: show me a President, Governor or Mayor that really reduced the size of government!
    Regarding intrusiveness, everyone has their own version of this. I don't like an intrusive government that snoops on my phone calls or e-mail, cares what I borrow from the library, makes me - an American from birth - have to prove I belong here to work in a job, monitors what political movements I'm in, tells my employer they should monitor whether I use a particular substance, or micro-manages what goes on in a woman's womb. For others, they don't like being told they can't fill a wetland on their property, or that there are restrictions on where they can carry their gun, or that they should buy health insurance, etc. In other words, intrusiveness varies from person to person.

  • Stop raising our taxes!
  • Stop the out-of-control spending!
    These 2 go together. During the administrations of G. H. W. Bush and Clinton, spending was more in control and we were paying down the deficit. Then came 9/11 and 2 wars and lots of spending to pay for it. But rather than ask the citizens to take up the burden of these wars that are supposed to protect us (as was done during World War II), instead taxes were cut and the deficit rose. Then, with the near depression, the spending spree went into overdrive. Frankly, the figures are mind-boggling. But, I think any President would have done something to stave off a major depression. We didn't get instant relief, but this was nothing like the Great Depression.
    The question they don't ask is "where do we go from here?" The horses are out of the barn; the money spent. It will take decades to erase the deficit now. The government needs revenue from some combination of sources, and "revenue" means taxes. The best they can hope for with any President is to stop further spending and hold the line on taxes.

  • No Government-run healthcare!
    They really should have an asterisk on this. Today's New York Times reported that most supporters of the Tea Party movement believe "Social Security and Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers." Now, Medicare is a Government-run healthcare system. Oh, and the Veterans Administration with its system of hospitals also seems like a Government-run healthcare system. (I don't think any Tea Party movement folks want to end the VA and its care for wounded veterans.) What I think they mean to say is that, other than Medicare and Medicaid and the VA, they don't want the Government to run a healthcare system like Canada or Europe. But I guess you can't fit such a long explanation on the side of their bus.


Call them what you want, but I think they're conservatives who want to speak out about what's on their mind. I'm a big advocate of free's a big part of the Bill of Rights our Constitution. Personally, I'd rather have conservative voices rally and speak out that have the "silent majority" as Pres. Nixon used to portray conservative voters. Conservatives don't need politicians saying what they stand for, when they can speak for themselves. I can't say I agree with everything they say, but I'm 100% behind their right to speak their minds!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Scandal in the Catholic Church Heats Up

A month ago, I blogged about the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. At the time, I thought it was a story was passing from popular conscience. But then it got "legs" big time. More allegations in more places and cases where it seems the Vatican took no or little action.

In the wake of the media activity, the Vatican took the stories as "attacks" instead of efforts to learn the truth. To many of us who are Catholics, it seemed that the Vatican was missing the simple point of the matter: protect children and remove the pedophiles.

All in all, it seems that the Church is missing the clarity it seems to have for issues like abortion. So let me state it clearly: sexual abuse of children is a mortal sin, a grieveous offence against God. That's how I interpret the Catholic education I had as a child.

I, and many, are at a loss to understand why the Church seemed to downplay these offences, using words like "failings" instead of "mortal sin" or "serious sin." How could they not get these 4 aspects of abuse:
  • Violation of a priest's celibacy
  • Violation of the Church's teaching that sexual relations should be limited to married couples
  • Violation of the trust that the laity place in the priesthood
  • Violation of the bodies of innocent children. The Church often refers to the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. This abuse violated that temple and therefore offended God. And the victims have been seriously scarred for life
The formulation for the Sacrament of Penance would also tell any Catholic how the Church should have proceeded in the knowledge of such serious sins committed by its priests:
  1. Confess the sin; acknowledge the truth. Jesus said "I came into the world to testify to the truth." (John 18:37) So, let the Church testify to the truth: priests committed mortal sins in the abuse of children.
  2. Where serious sin was also a crime (e.g., robbery, murder, etc.), I learned that the sinner should also surrender to civil authorities and accept their civil sentence as part of the penance for their sin. So, clearly, the Church should have encouraged the offenders to turn themselves into the police.
  3. The Act of Contrition includes the words "avoid the near occasion of sin." For pedophiles, this is unsupervised access to children. Thus, it is so hard to hear how offenders were transferred by Church officials to new assignments and still had access to children.
  4. Finally, the sinner must resolve to reform his life. Any non-repentant offender should have been stripped of ministerial duties immediately. Even repentant offenders had so violated the trust of their ministerial office that they should have been banned from active ministry.
Finally, it also seems that many Church officials wanted to keep these mortal sins quiet, as publicity might damage the reputation of the Church. But, we all know that strategy backfired. If the Church had acknowledged the sins from the start, it could have used this as a "teaching moment." Even priests can commit serious sins, but as part of the Penance process, abusers of children must be removed from ministry and face the civil charges associated with their crimes.

If the Church "testified to the truth" as Jesus spoke, there might still be a scandal, but people would acknowledge that the Church acted properly in handling the scandal.

And why should the Church and groups like the Catholic League be so defensive? Being a Christian sometimes means being misunderstood and getting bad press. Believers should be glad the days of feeding Christians to the lions is long gone! In comparison, a little heat in the press should seem like nothing.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Will Marijuana Use Become Legal In California?

On Wednesday, March 24th, the Secretary of State in California certified that there were enough signatures to put this question on the ballot in November. Just in time to distract us from the never ending post-mortem of the health care debate, this should be an interesting issue to watch, particularly when a 2009 Field poll indicated the “yes” vote at 56%.

California, with its unique “legislation by ballot measure” approach to governing, is always entertaining for political observers like me. What will be interesting is watching which groups line up on either side of this issue. Not surprisingly, all candidates for Governor plus police associations have come out against it. And I would expect social conservatives, particularly conservative Christians, to be against it, as typically they like government to enforce their view of moral behavior on all, even in private.

Also, in the “to be expected” category, many in the industry supplying California’s legal medical marijuana are for it. But the argument for the ballot measure has a new twist: proponents claim a $1.4 billion benefit to the state in terms of tax revenues and savings related to police enforcement and court cases. That's a lot of revenue in tough times. So, legalize pot and ease the state out of the recession is their theme of proponents.

True Libertarians would come out for this idea, as it legalizes a private matter that adults could partake in and it’s not worth wasting the government’s time and money on keeping it illegal. The measure would allow those over 21 to use it in private, but not in public places of where minors are present.

Perhaps more surprising are that a number of police officers, frustrated by the wasted effort on nonviolent drug offenders, who support the measure as a way to focus on more significant criminal activities. But joining the "nays" are some of the current growers who fear legalization will flood the market with cheap pot (as anyone can grow it legally in a plot not exceeding 25 feet), thereby putting them out of business.

Most of all, I’m interested in seeing how conservatives and Republicans line up on this issue. This is a wedge issue that separates the true Libertarians from the social conservatives. So, I wonder where the tea party folks will be?

So, I’m looking forward to this on, if nothing more than seeing who lines up on which side of this issue. (And it’s not health care, for a change!)


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health Care Hangover

A major Health Bill passes, but few are satisfied. Worse, we see a breakdown in civil discourse, replaced with angry outbursts inside and outside of Congress.

How did we get here? Back a year or two, and the nation was behind some form of health care reform. Be it the ever rising cost of health care, the high cost of insurance if you don’t get it at work, or people dropped from insurance, or others who can’t get it due to “pre-existing conditions.” One bad illness can drive an uninsured family to bankruptcy. Does this make sense in the richest nation on earth?

But now we have a bill that promises many changes: keeping your children on your insurance until 26, preventing rejecting coverage for “pre-existing conditions,” and subsidies for some who can’t afford insurance, among others. Yet, there are so many vocal opponents.

How We Got Here: Three reasons:
  1. Politics
  2. Politics
  3. Politics
Both parties chose to blow this out of proportion. Republicans and many ad-hoc groups (some of which are labeled “tea party” folks) see this as the wedge issue that can unseat many Senators and Representatives. And they hit the issue hard, early and often. They went heavy negative. They got media attention by being loud and to the point. And they gained a lot of support.

On the other side, the Democrats made this a “must pass” bill. Much as I believe G. W. Bush felt he almost had to invade Iraq to finish what his father started, Obama was painted into the corner of getting the bill past somehow, some way, at whatever cost.

With stakes so high and politics ruling the day over the interest of the people, there was zero hope of reasonable bipartisan reform.

Our National Loss: Civility? Have we lost the ability to have a national debate on major issues in a civilized manner? The thing that was great about this wonderful land we live in was our freedom of speech and our ability to have different points of view heard. Back when I was in high school, we had a great 10th grade social studies class where the teacher encouraged the airing of all sides of the issues. We had conservatives, liberals and moderates. And we had some very impassioned, yet civilized, debates on the issues of the day.

Right now, I fear that America may be lost. As a Libertarian and American, I believe we need to have respect for everyone’s Freedom of Speech. I wanted to hear the arguments for and against the bill and the various provisions.

But, what I heard was a lot of bullying: shouting down speakers in town hall meetings, including the epithets used against some representatives. When I wanted to hear the rational reasons why the bill may ill-conceived, I heard too much hyperbole or exaggerated claims (government takeover of health care, “baby killer” and “death panels”), and this strange concept that Obama is a fascist trying to obtain totalitarian power over the nation. Only occasionally, in the mists of the sonic bombardment of the opponents, could I once and a while find some rational substance why provisions of the bill are ill-advised.

Sorting Out Some Perspective: If we can leave the shouting behind, here is my perspective on the bill:
  • Some of the desired reforms that will provide one way that more people can obtain health insurance. It’s not the only road to reform, but it is a road that does have the Federal and state governments have a heavier hand in the making it so. (So, as opponents claim, there is an expansion of government’s role in this bill).
  • I’m glad that something’s being done about “pre-existing” conditions as I have one. I can’t get life insurance anymore (luckily, I bought it when I was young). But the most ridiculous thing about it is my pre-existing condition is a little dot of skin cancer (about the size of the eraser on your pencil) that was removed in a couple of minutes in the doctor’s office. It was truly itsy bitsy, but because it was the BIG “C”, I can’t get insurance. So, I’m inclined to use anything, including the expansion of the Federal government to banish this “existing condition” provision!
  • It remains to be seen how it will be paid for. Right now I don’t believe a single politician on either side about how the costs will work out. But where there are subsidies, the revenue has to come from somewhere.
  • I don’t yet see a threat to the typical employer-based health plans like I have. Maybe some union jobs still have “Cadillac” plans (that will be eventually taxed), but not my cheap employer! We pay a lot and have high co-pays, but at least I have insurance! The funny thing was listening to one conservative opposing reform as it might do away with their great employer-based health care plans, as he had really low co-pays and it was about as perfect as it could be. But only 1 1/2 years ago conservative Republican candidate John McCain campaigned on health care reform that would get rid of the employer-based system and we’d all have to compete on the free marketplace to find a plan. Short are some people’s memories!
  • Notice that the insurance companies are silent. They know there’s more regulation, but there’s more customers coming. I’ve already seen TV ads encouraging people to apply for new plans that will be available under this new bill. The insurance companies will make out on this. First, they get more revenue from customers. But there is little to stop them from frequent increases in premiums, so there is more revenue. So, even if regulation cost them some additional overhead costs (to figure out all this red tape) or some limits on plan costs, they can make it up by increased revenues.

So, Is It Good or Bad? A pure Libertarian would say it’s inherently bad as it uses government to create reform, thereby expanding the role of government. And it forces people to buy insurance in a nation that should leave everyone alone. (Then again, a pure Libertarian would take us back to the 4 original Federal Departments (Defense, State, Treasury and Justice) and jettison Education, Commerce, Labor, Transportation, Environmental Protection, etc.

But I’m not a pure Libertarian. I believe government is a tool. It’s not the solution to all problems, but it can be a good solution to some. For example, who would really propose selling off the nation’s roadway system to private interests because government at any level (federal, state, county, or local) shouldn’t be in the transportation business?

So, what to do about health care? Republicans gave us the health care savings account. They assume we have a crystal ball and know our health care needs for the upcoming year. They like tort reform – always some ridiculous settlements that get any reasonable person to say “enough!” But how much will that really save? They like expanding the sales of insurance across state lines.

But that still doesn’t get to the fact there is not real capitalism (many buyers, many sellers) when it comes to health insurance, as there are too few sellers and any one individual is in a weak negotiating position. It’s not like going to the farmer’s market and bartering for price of 10 pounds of potatoes.

In the absence of true capitalism, often our nation has turned to the power of government regulation to try to level the playing field. This goes back to regulating the railroads when they had the collective monopoly on the nation’s transportation. Then, starting in the 1930s (and again in the '50s and '60s with the interstate system) the government stepped in with the “public option” of the day: federal funding of highways. But I ask you, who among the Republicans, conservatives, or tea party folks want to repeal the “public option” in transportation? Public roads represented a big expansion of government into a sector (transportation) that previously was highly privatized. But were public roads the death of freedom in America? Quite the contrary, as the car commercials portray driving on public roads as “freedom.”

So, I have to say I am not philosophically opposed to the hand of government in health care. I don’t believe it is the “wonder drug” that will make things perfect. But, we still needed to do something. I’m not too happy with the bill that passed, that’s why I’m feeling this health care hangover!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sex Scandals Continue in the Catholic Church

This week in the news was the discovery of yet more cases of pedophilia perpetrated by Catholic priests, in both Ireland and Germany. This follows years of discovery of similar crimes committed in the United States (many in the Boston area where I live) and elsewhere.

While the media is focused on the new evidence, particularly about a case of a pedophile priest reassigned in a diocese overseen by the current pope, I have some comments and perspectives on this issues that I don't see in the media.

So, first, I must say that I was brought up by my Irish Catholic mother, so I’m quite familiar with this church. I remain a Christian in faith (as I can separate the teachings of Jesus from these grievous sinners), remain a “cultural Catholic,” but have a tenuous relationship with the Catholic Church (for obvious reasons).

Here in the US, we've been through the devastating news of how such trusted men could use their position of unquestioned authority to take advantage of the most vulnerable. We've been angry with the cover-ups, the reassignment of abusers, the failure of church officials really to "get it" that these are serious sins and serious crimes!

Yet, years later I still have my unanswered questions, which deal with some truths that the institution known as the Catholic Church seems unable to say. And a disturbing suspicion about what is fundamentally at the root of this widespread abuse.

  1. I have yet to hear church officials name these crimes as “mortal sins” or grievous offences against God, which is the definition of moral sin that I learned as a child. A mortal sin also requires the full knowledge of the sinner and the deliberate consent of the sinner. Well, I think an ordained priest learned all about sin in the seminary, so they can't hide behind a claim of not knowing or not consenting. But instead of saying "mortal sin," I’ve heard these crimes called things like a “falling” or maybe a “problem.” But why did no one speak truth and call these the “mortal sins” they clearly are!
  2. I don’t know how church officials missed one of the fundamentals of forgiveness: avoiding the “near occasion of sin.” This is right out of the Act of Contrition! We learned that forgiveness is possible for even the most heinous of sins. But, and this is crucial, one must avoid the “near occasion of sin.” For a pedophile, that means no work with children!
  3. If church officials could see “mortal sins” when presented to them, they would have proscribed the path to forgiveness for the offenders: a) confess their sins; b) turn themselves into the police and serve their sentence under civil law; and c) be forever banned from ministry and particularly work with children.
  4. Finally, the sociological issue: In any organization, there can be a few “bad apples.” Thus, if pedophilia was confined to a few priests in a few locations, the “bad apple” analogy might apply. But it isn't; it's happening in some many places by enough priests that I believe it is clearly a subculture.

    While many priests were faithful to their vow of celibacy, those in this subculture seemed to integrate this dark side of pedophilia with their otherwise public face of piousness.

    But how did this subculture develop? The offending priests were in many countries, they were geographically distant so that they likely never met each other, and many of the offences happened in a pre-internet age where there was not the ease of communication among members of a small sub-culture that exists today. How does a subculture sprout in so many places at the same time period (1960s through 1990s)?

    This is what I find most disturbing. If it occurred around the world, wouldn’t officials – bishops, cardinals, even the pope – know or suspect something?

    The questions that follow could shake the foundation of the institutional Catholic Church:

    a) How long did this subculture exist? Is it a dark, unspoken “tradition” that goes back centuries? Or is it just isolated individuals?

    b) How do abusive priests come to turn to pedophilia? Did each one come up with the idea himself? Or did they find out about this from others? From some undisclosed network? Some priests who can't live up to celibacy may have relations with a woman or a gay man. By why children? Is it that they are more easily intimidated?

    c) It’s easy to think that officials – bishops, cardinals, popes – knew about it and ignored it (or just swept it under the rug) because they were in denial. Maybe they doubted the few brave enough to report what happened. May the truly believed priests could never do this. Or maybe they truly believed it was just a "few bad apples," because so few spoke out. Or, could it be they were only told a "whitewashed" story that didn't describe the incidents as sexual abuse? A heavy dose of denial, cover-up, and whitewashing could explain the reaction of officials (i.e., reassigning priests to a new parish).

    d) But if it had been so wide-spread geographically, did they ignore it because it was just a “thing” that some priest did, tantamount to other habits like smoking or drinking?

    e) Or worse, did officials ignore or deny it because it was commonplace and even some of their ranks also participated?

I shutter to answer these questions, but I just can't convince myself that this is just a "few bad apples" here and there and, well, everywhere.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Attacks on Freedom from the Right

As a Libertarian, I have learned there is more to fear from conservatives attacking our basic freedoms enshrined in the US Constitution than from liberals. Conservatives are more likely to talk up small government and personal freedom (and “sound” libertarian), and then advocate government enforcement of their which often includes the expansion of government power, be it by snooping into our libraries and phone calls (with the Patriot Act) or even into a woman’s womb (with their anti-choice agenda).

Libertarians have to call out the conservatives on two recent proclamations:

  1. Glen Beck claiming he knows better than you what religion or congregation you should belong to; and
  2. Lynne Cheney’s attack on the patriotism of lawyers defending detainees as provided for in the law of this land.

Glen Beck’s Attack on Freedom of Religion.
This one has me steaming! Recently Glen Beck ask his audience to leave their congregation if the words “social justice” or “economic justice” are used. He said: “I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.”

While I support his freedom to say anything he likes, I don’t want anyone – in government or in the media (like Mr. Beck) – telling me ANYTHING about how I should practice my religion!!

No one has the right to tell me which religion to believe in or which house of worship or congregation to attend! The First Amendment to the US Constitution may only talk about Congress not making any law to prohibit the free exercise of religion; I take it as my personal right that I am the one and only person who decides what I believe in and where I choose to go to practice this religion. No one who believes America is the land of Freedom should be letting someone like Mr. Beck tell them how to practice religion!

Lynne Cheney’s Attack on Defense Lawyers
The implication of these attacks by Keep America Safe was to question the patriotism of lawyers that would defend detainees who were accused of being terrorists. There was another issue that lawyers who defended detainees should be “outed” if they want a government position.

Here’s thing: Amendment 6 of the US Constitution guarantees the right of a defendant to have counsel at trial. Even in a military trial (as were the cases in question), there is also the right for counsel. Within the legal profession, there is a tradition that no lawyer is looked down upon for defending an unpopular defendant.

And there are plenty of unpopular defendants accused of despicable crimes. There are mass murderers, serial rapists, organized crime, kingpins, pedophiles, and other despicable criminals. But when they go on trial, they all have a right under the laws of this land to defense counsel. From the time of John Adams providing defense counsel to British soldiers accused of murder in the Boston Massacre, the tradition is not to look down upon those who defend unpopular defendants.

And we need this right to prevent government tyranny. Without a trial system where the government has to prove its case, it would be all to easy to trump up a case against anyone it didn't like or considered an "enemy." If they do that to detainees or alleged terrorists today, they could do that to you and me tomorrow!

Even in this post-9/11 world, we have to preserve our freedoms and the American way. Conservatives seem to need an "enemy" to validate their policies. Libertarians make no such distinctions. Today's terrorist could be tomorrow's patriot. Today's enemy can be tomorrow's friend. Therefore, equality under the law for all.

So, why do some conservatives think detainees are so more evil or threatening than mass murderers, serial rapists, pedophiles, or even the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre (all of whom are allowed defense counsel)? Terrorists are not the only ones out there who want to deprive us of life and liberty. There's plenty of criminals with the same aim!

Yet it seems part of some conservative agenda to fully demonize detainees and terrorists to the point that they should have absolutely no rights and do not deserve legal counsel. Then pile it on by promoting guilt by association: anyone who would assist these terrorists is therefore not patriotic.

My point here is to quote the conservative mantra of the ‘60s and ‘70s” Law and Order. If the laws of the land guarantee legal counsel for detainees in military trials, then they should have counsel and any lawyer providing that service is acting within the law and should not be disparaged. If some conservatives don’t like the law, well, then work to change the law! But we must obey the laws as they are! And don’t attach those who are providing a necessary role as prescribed by law.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

School Spying on High School Students

Recent allegations of spying on high school students while at home are at the root of a controversy in the Lower Merion School District outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The situation was unveiled when school officials used webcam evidence to accuse high school student Blake Robbins of using illicit drugs in his home. As it turned out the “illicit drugs” turned out to be Mike and Ike candies. But the disturbing thing was the ability of school district employees to remotely activate the web cam and take pictures of the student in his home.

To me, this is a gross intrusion of government into places and matters that are not their concern. Yes, the school district can monitor what students do while in school. But they do not have the right to monitor students, without their knowledge, in the privacy of their own home!

At home, it is the parents’ right and responsibility to monitor what their children are up to. In fact, 24/7/365 from birth until they reach legal adulthood, the parents have the primary responsibility for raising their children.

We’ve seen schools overstep the boundaries of law in the case of the strip searching of Savana Redding. In that case, the school officials committed what I would call sexual abuse of a minor by subjecting the girl to such a visual intrustion of the most private parts of her body. (See my previous post.)

All in all, we need to be vigilant for cases where school officials and others in government overstep the bounds of their authority and invade the privacy and constitutional rights of students.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sarah Attends a Tea Party

Well, Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska, current employee of Fox News, was the keynote speaker at the "Tea Party" Convention. For me, this is not surprising, as many attribute Fox with starting the "astroturf" tea party movement.

But there was Sarah working up the crowd, with her sweet nothings ("It's what makes America great" or "Don't you just love freedom!" Hey, Sarah, we all love freedom, but that doesn't mean we agree with you!) and throwing the kitchen sink of issues at Pres. Obama. All with typical great vagueness.

She jumped on the ever-popular Scott Brown band wagon (as reported by the Christian Science Monitor): “Scott Brown in many ways represents what this beautiful movement is all about,” Palin said. “It’s about a guy with a truck and a passion to serve our country, who looked around and saw that things weren’t quite right in Washington … and decided he was going to do his part to our government back on the side of the people.” Wow, that's all we want in the people we elected is some passion and a pickup truck! Yikes, there's a lot of passionate guys with pickup trucks that I wouldn't want writing the laws of the land!!

By the end of the speech, many started a chant: "Run, Sarah, run!" So my question is, will she resign from Fox before running, or will she run as an employee of Fox News?

Tea Party: What I Object To
There may be many issues and concerns of the so called "tea party movement" that may align with libertarian views, but there are two aspects of the movement that bother me.

Means vs. Message
This movement started out by disrupting "town hall" meetings being held by elected officials. While I fully support their right to speak their minds, I really object to this bullying tactic of not letting others be heard.

I don't want bullies and control freaks elected to office to shove their agenda down the throats of all, without any consideration for the rights and opinions of others. If the movement demonstrates that its leaders of tolerant of the free speech rights of all, then I may drop this objection.

Connection of Fox News
This movement is often labeled as "astroturf" and not "grass roots" due to the not-so-subtle connection between Fox News and the early "tea party" rallies. I fully support the freedom of the press, but that doesn't mean they can orchestrate events and try to dress them up as part of a spontaneous grass roots movement. The fact that Sarah Palin is an employee of Fox News or that Scott Brown's daughter Ayly was featured in season 5 of Fox's American Idol doesn't do anything to dispute those who would see a conspiracy here.

Saving Grace
Fortunately, not all "tea party" movement people agree with either the convention or having Sarah Palin speak, based on my scanning of the blogosphere. And some Republican Party officials are not warm to the idea of embracing these "tea party" people, and nor are the "tea party" people all warm about either party. So, maybe chaos will ensue for a bit.

The best result would be to add the views of the "tea party" folks to the national debate of the issues.

Mr. Brown, New Senator in Town

The political world woke from its post-holiday slumber to find an unexpected upset of monumental proportions. Just 6 months earlier, Ted Kennedy, the liberal lion of the senate, the last of the trio of Kennedy brothers, was put to his final rest. In the most liberal state, the only one not to vote for Nixon in 1972 ("don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts" became a popular slogan), a liberal democrat looses to a little known Republican. How did that happen? The nation gasped!

If You Were From Massachusetts, It Wouldn't Be a Surprise!
Massachusetts may look like a liberal state from west of the Appalachians or south of DC, but like most "blue" states, the folks who live here span the political spectrum. And there is a good bit of New England libertarian spirit even in the most liberal. We see our selves as independents, first.
And, despite the view from those on the right who don't live here, we enjoy political balance. We frequently would often pull the lever for a Republican governor (we had 4 in a row before the current Gov. Patrick) while re-electing the "ultraliberal" Ted Kennedy.

Many vote for practical or pragmatic reasons. Ted was a big man in the Senate and could ensure the interests of our fair state were addressed. And, while Ted had seniority, any new senator from Massachusetts would be the most junior in entire senate with little power for years to come. But, have you noticed that our Scott Brown has become quite the "rock star" in Washington, DC. Looks like he'll have more influence and sway that a rank-and-file liberal like Martha Coakley would ever had.

Folks in Massachusetts also find that a Republican governor with a mostly Democratic legislature ensure that one party couldn't run free and either tax the people to death, or cut out every popular programs. Here is this, one of the original 13 colonies, is the quaint concept of using the two-party system to create balance in government. Hmmm, isn't that the way democracy is supposed to work: freedom of speech and consideration of a spectrum of perspectives? I get the feeling (especially from some conservatives) that many are in politics so they can impose their ideas and ways on everyone. But here in Massachusetts, we seem to like some balance.

All in all, electing a moderately conservative Republican to replace the liberal lion of the senate may be shocking to pundits who don't live here, but is not great surprise to me!

What Else Did He Bring?
Fundamentally, Scott Brown connected with people. His opponent, Martha Coakley, didn't. And Coakley and the Democrats assumed the election was over after the primary. Scott Brown ran as an "everyman" with a pickup truck. (What man can resist liking a manly and personable guy with a pickup?) Self-made businessman. Hard working. Everything the average middle class person can admire.

And he tapped into concerns over taxes and the huge federal deficit (after the wars and the stimulus). He also connected with many who have concerns over health care and whether reform (as in the current House and Senate bills) will help or harm them. Many, especially those like me with "pre-existing conditions," fear loosing our good employer-based health care due to reform. In these areas, he sounded good to the so-called "tea party" voters.

For American Idol fans, there was his daughter, Ayla, who made it into the top 16 in Season 5. Her voice was featured in robo-calls trying to get my son to vote for her dad. (That didn't work!)

And for the ladies, there were those photos in the "all-in-all" in Cosmo. Ooo la la!

So, here's a friendly, handsome, manly, personable guy with a pick-up truck, and American Idol contestant daughter, and speaking to what's on people's minds. I may not agree with all his positions, but I have to admit that's a winning combination!

And if health care reform and the whole Obama agenda fails in Congress, well, don't blame me, I may be from Massachusetts, but I didn't vote for Scott Brown!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Help the Recovery in Haiti

Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, was hit by an devistating earthquake. Concrete and masonry homes and buildings cracked, crumbled and pancaked. Untold numbers died or were injured. Confusion, chaos, all in a land, that even on a peaceful day without a natural disaster, has the appearance of chaos and confusion.

Here in the land of some of the poorest of the poor, is more hardship, more homelessness, more hunger. Perhaps, with this disaster, the eyes of the world will be more open to the chronic poverty in this small Caribbean nation. Maybe other nations and non-governmental groups will look for ways to work with the people of Haiti to increase employment opportunities.

An Engineer's Comment
What is saddest, for me, is that many of these homes and other buildings did not have to collapse. There are designs, using the same materials, that would result in stronger structures that are more resistant to collapse in an earthquake.

Unfortunately, with such a poor population, people do not have the money to buy better concrete and the proper reinforcing bars. In such a poor nation, the ability of government to ensure that buildings are built properly, as we do in the US, just is very limited. And, where government has some influence, often corruption gets in the way.

I only hope that in the reconstruction effort, the rebuilt structures will be designed to better withstand future earthquakes.

An Appeal
I urge all my readers to do what they can to help. If you believe in prayer, keep the people of Haiti in your prayers. If you have a little to share, help out one of the non-profit orginizations that will be helping out, such as the Red Cross, Oxfam America, or your favorite agency. And pass the word. It would be great if people of all the world joined in helping the poorest of our brothers and sisters in their time of need. Thank you!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sarah Palin Joins Fox News

The suspense is over! Looks like Gov. Palin won't be running for President in 2012. Well, not unless she gets out of a mulit-year deal as a new political commentator for Fox News.

Sarah Palin was perhaps the most interesting person to emerge during the 2008 presidential campaign. Hand-picked by John McCain for his vice presidential running mate, the small-town mayor elected governor of Alaska mixed a can-do frontier spirit with a down-home oratory style. Unfortunately, it was soon evident that she lacked an understanding of national and international politics.

In their press release on their web site, Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming for Fox News is quoted: "Governor Palin has captivated everyone on both sides of the political spectrum and we are excited to add her dynamic voice to the FOX News lineup."
It seemed strange why she resigned from governor before her term was up. Most governors will hang on and put in their time during the final "lame duck" months of their term. Was she planning a run for President in 2012? What was she up to?
Now we know!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

What to Do About Air Travel?

The close call in the thwarted bombing attempt of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 over Detroit woke us from our slumber of complacency about the safety of air travel in this age of terrorist attacks on civilians.

Once again, the terrorists have succeeded in creating fear and apprehension with the American public.

And once again, a terrorist had a plan that was one step ahead of the imagination of the bureaucrats of Homeland Security, who often impress me as lacking in a solid understanding of the laws of physics. Their methods have always mixed "planning for the last attack attempt" with putting adherence to politically-correct procedures ahead of proven effective methods.

What Went Wrong?
  1. The perpetrator was known as a potential threat, but was not on the “no fly” list.
  2. Instead of hiding the materials in his shoe or carry-on, it was hidden in his clothes.

As with 9/11 and the "shoe bomber," the terrorist was one step about security procedures. And the lack of communication among agencies is as still a problem today as it was on 9/11.

What To Do?
First, look at what works.

  • Once in the air, only one method has thwarted the attempts of terrorists: the intervention of passengers and/or crew. The score is 3-3 and in all 3 "thwarts" passengers and/or crew stepped up.
  • Israli security experts agree: screening technology alone doesn't work; interviewing and even profiling must complement screening techniques.

Second, what could be implemented? Here's a couple of easy ones.

  • The success of in-flight intervention is a call for marshals on at least selected flights if not all of them.
  • Any person of concern, even if not on the "no fly" list, should only be allowed on flights with marshals.

The issues of screening and profiling comes up against issues of personal liberty. The whole approach of screening everyone inherently reeks of "guilty unto proven innocent" which runs counter to the basis of constitutional rights and the basic principles of libertarianism.

Still, the terrorists have many Americans afraid enough to say "screen me" and I'll feel safe. The sad thing is not only is the evident of the erosion of our constitutional rights, but in reality even full body scans won't make us safe.

It doesn't take much imagination to see that the terrorists will come up with some way to fool even full body scans. In the prisons they have strip searches, but it does not reveal contraband hid in body cavities. It takes not much imagination that on a suicide mission, the body could be the bomb.

So, what to do?

Here are my thoughts on a broad spectrum approach:

  1. Business travel needs to migrate more to private aircrafts. Likewise, vacation travel should migrate more to charter flights. It's much harder for a terrorist to "blend in" on these types of flights, often where everyone knows who belongs and who doesn't.
  2. Internationally, make less enemies. The Bush Administration raised the ire of most of the world's governments and citizens. A more reasonable approach will reduce the number of people who hate the US. It won't completely solve the problem, but let's not help add to the ranks of the terrorists by our arrogant foreign policy.
  3. For the fewer commercial flights (after implementing #1 above), integrate a program that mixes screening technology, with knowledge-based interviewing of passengers, some random-based interviewing, all based on an improved sharing of information.
  4. Within Homeland Security, there needs to be more technically savvy staff (engineers and scientists) who can try to be a step ahead of the terrorists.