Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Muslim Brotherhood Gains in Egypt

The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group has made extensive gains in recent Egyptian elections, picking up 76 parliamentary seats and establishing itself as a formidable opposition group to Hosni Mubarrak’s National Democratic Party. (Al Bawaba: Egyptian authorities continue Muslim Brotherhood crackdown). Reacting to the sudden surge in the Islamic group's popularity, Egypt has begun a systematic roundup of as many as 900 members of the Brotherhood.

The sudden popularity of the fundamentalist group that wants to govern Egypt under strict Muslim law is not as troubling as it would first appear. Egypt has long been one of the most moderate nations in the Middle East and was the first Muslim country to establish a peace treaty with Israel and formally establish diplomatic relations with their embattled neighbor. In contrast, Saudi Arabia, for example, still refers to Israel as "the Zionist entity", refusing even to state the country's name.

According to Muslim Brotherhood's deputy director Mohamed Habib, the Brotherhood does not recognize Israel, however they are willing to allow Egypt to continue to honor all treaties. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood has adopted a more moderate view of non-Muslim's, stating earlier this year that "Islam dignifies Christians and Jews and we hope they treat us the same way. The ignorance of people is what is causing a grudge among them and not their religion." That's a refreshing change of pace in a region where religious intolerance is a way of life.

Another major tenet of the Brotherhood is support for the development of democracy throughout the Middle East, something which could actually align the group with the Bush Administration. On that topic, 'Abd al-Mun'im Abu-l-Futuh told the International Crisis Group, "The absence of democracy is one of the main reasons for the crisis here, in Egypt and the Middle East. The Muslim Brothers believe that the Western governments are one of the main reasons for the lack of democracy in the region because they are supporting dictatorships in the Arab and Islamic region in general, despite the fact that it has been proved that the absence of democracy and freedom is the reason for terrorism and violence."

The Muslim Brotherhood, first established in 1928 in Egypt, has always promoted non-violent change, something that distinguishes them from their more radical cousins. By shedding their earlier religious intolerance and by promoting democracy in the Middle East, they may well become a welcome ally in the overall struggle with Islamic fundamentalism. These developments in Egypt bear watching, however at this point there is cause for cautious optimism.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bush Targets Illegal Immigration

In a speech to the nation yesterday, President Bush attempted to appeal to both sides of his conservative base while clarifying his position on illegal immigration. The speech in Arizona at an Air Force base about an hour north of the Mexican Border was primarily aimed at curbing illegal immigration from Mexico, which the President said accounts for some 80% of the illegals entering the US. (Washington Post: Bush Pushes Guest-Worker Program).

While the President opened with tough rhetoric, stating that America's laws on illegal immigration will be enforced, he gradually wound down towards a very moderate viewpoint by endorsing a guest worker program. On the one hand, he threatened to veto any bill that includes amnesty, yet he still advocates a guest worker program that would allow as many as 11 million illegal immigrants to remain in the US for as many as 6-years. In that period, they could apply for legal status, something that would be made far easier since the President wants to increase the number of work visas available to foreign applicants.

One of the dangers in attempting to appeal to both sides in a debate is that you end up alienating both sides. Moderates within the party are very supportive of an amnesty program, claiming it's virtually impossible to catch all of the illegals that are here already. They will most certainly be turned off by his threat to veto. It is also not likely that moderates or liberals will support the increased spending along the Mexican border and the significant increase in border patrol personnel supported by the President.

On the other hand, conservatives want no part of the guest worker program since that is tantamount to amnesty. There are 11 million foreign criminals now residing in the US and the guest worker program actually rewards them for violating US immigration laws. That is simply not going to pass muster with the President's conservative base.

What seems to be missing in all this talk on immigration is any focus on US companies that are violating US law by hiring these illegals in the first place. Were it not for the prospect of jobs here, there would be no incentive for people to cross the border illegally. Yet there does not appear to be any attempt to crack down on companies that hire them.

Of equal concern is the President's desire to increase the number of work visas available to foreign applicants. We are already over saturated with foreign workers to the detriment of the American work force, especially in high end technology jobs. Of every ten resumes that cross my desk, only two of them are from American citizens. The remainder of the applicants are typically from India, and virtually all of them require H1b sponsorship. Our current immigration policies are squeezing the American worker considerably. What we desperately need is a reduction in the number of Visas available, not an increase. We also need a crack down on companies and individuals that hire illegal immigrants.

Fortunately, the tide in the Supreme Court may shift with regards to the status of illegal immigrants once Samuel Alito is confirmed for the high court. Alito takes a very rigid stance against any rights afforded to illegal immigrants, according to briefs he filed while working for the Reagan Administration. (Washington Post: '86 Alito Memo Argues Against Foreigners' Rights). In Alito's view, people that enter the US illegally are not entitled to any constitutional rights afforded to American citizens.

Alito's view will be a welcome change to a court that has been extremely liberal in dealing with immigration issues. Perhaps with the court's shift to the right, the government will no longer be hamstrung in devising new methods for securing our borders. Perhaps we will no longer be an enticing target for illegal immigrants because of our liberal public service policies regarding medical care and welfare for those that are not here legally. Perhaps we will rescind the most absurd law currently on our books that automatically grants a child US citizenship if born here even though the child's mother is here illegally.

In any event, the President's speech will be met with skepticism across all factions. It was not tough enough for some, and it was certainly too tough for others. The proposals made by the President will have a difficult time indeed in both the House and the Senate. In the meantime, illegals continue to stream across our open borders.


Monday, November 28, 2005

US Shuns Kyoto 2

Montreal is center stage for yet another world conference on developing legislation to combat global warming. The conference is being billed as the successor to the Kyoto Pact, a global warming treaty that was not signed by the US. (Washington Post: World Leaders to Discuss Strategies for Climate Control). Faced with the same fundamental flaws as the original Kyoto treaty, the US has already indicated it has no interest in pursuing the pact up for discussion in Montreal.

The biggest problem with Kyoto - and the reason it was not signed by the US - was an exemption in that treaty for developing nations, and specifically for China. That exemption would spell economic disaster for the US, giving American manufacturing firms an even greater incentive to relocate to the third world. US industry is already suffering from widespread foreign outsourcing of technology and manufacturing all in the quest for lower wages. To remove the burden of emissions controls as well, which is effectively what Kyoto did, would be the final nail in the coffin for US manufacturing firms.

Despite the misinformation being distributed by environmentalists, the US is taking aggressive steps towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush Administration has already spent $20 Billion on climate control initiatives and has cut emissions nationwide by 0.8% between 2000 and 2003. Note that this is in the wake of numerous other emissions control initiatives that started in the early 1980s and had already significantly reduced greenhouse emissions in the US.

The one disturbing trend is that many states are now starting to impose their own Kyoto-like restrictions on a local level. That spells disaster for workers in those states who will see manufacturing migrate out of their region in search of lower cost alternatives either nationally or abroad. When you look at the average wage in China coupled with the lack of emissions controls standards, that becomes a very attractive option for any company being forced to compete with a handicap here at home.

What is not being addressed by any of the treaties is the simple fact that controlling greenhouse emissions is only delaying the inevitable, and not by much more than a century at best. This planet has been warming since the end of the last ice age, and it will continue to do so with or without greenhouse emissions. We have had numerous cycles in the history of this planet where the earth transitions from ice age to tropical and back to ice age. We happen to live in that period where the earth is still on the upward slope of the global temperature curve.

Perhaps a more realistic approach for world governments is to not focus on preventing what cannot be prevented - i.e. global warming - but rather to start developing plans to cope with the eventual climate change we will face. It is simple fact that we will continue to warm. Ice caps will continue to melt, and the more they melt, the faster the planet will warm. Coastal regions will flood. What was once arctic tundra may well become tropical. What is now tropical may become desert. Where there is land today may be ocean tomorrow. This has happened at least five times in the history of this planet and it will happen again.

What the extreme environmentalists do not want to acknowledge is that greenhouse gases are lower - yes, lower - now than they were at the end of the last ice age. Much of the human impact on this planet is localized. We have very little capacity to have a global effect on the planet. A single volcanic eruption emits more greenhouse gases than any industrialized nation could ever hope to produce. The forest fires that plague the west every year have the same impact. We do not see the smog from LA here on the east coast, but we do see the smoke from forest fires in Alberta, Canada when they rage out of control. It is only man's hubris that leads us to believe that we can have such a widespread impact on the climate.

So stop wasting our time and money trying to prevent the inevitable. Start planning for how we will deal with the effects of global warming as the warming trend continues. We also need to plan for the opposite, since current scientific theory shows that the net result of global warming is an ice age, and that the transition is extremely swift. Climate change will happen. We cannot prevent it any more than we can cause it. The solution is to deal with the after-effects because that is all we can control.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Public Not Buying Dem's War Criticism

Independent polls are showing that the criticisms against the War in Iraq being leveled by Democrats are not being publicly accepted. In fact, 70% of Americans believe the criticism is hurting troop morale. That same number - 70% - also believe that the Democrats are only criticising the war, not because they believe what they're saying, but only to gain partisan political advantage. (Washington Post: Sympathetic Vibrations). Only 16% believe that troops should be withdrawn immediately, with a plurality (49%) stating that troops should only come home when Iraq can take care of itself.

These polls will certainly have a ripple effect through the 2006 mid-terms. Democrats were hoping that the increased anti-war rhetoric would improve their chances of gaining seats in both the House and Senate, however these polls suggest that the public at large is seeing through the political double speak.

What is not reflected in the polls is not the impact of criticism on troop morale, it is the impact of criticism on the enemy's morale. Every criticism levelled against the war is another weapon in the hands of Zarqawi. Every senator that accuses the President of lying about going to war is a senator that boosts the cause of Iraq's terrorist insurgency. Every person that screams for a time-table for withdrawal is directly responsible for delaying that very withdrawal they seem to desire.

There was plenty of time for debate before going to war in Iraq. That was the time for open criticisms of the effort. It was a time to argue about the merits of going to war, the reasons for it, the quality of intelligence, the plan to rebuild Iraq, and the criteria under which US troops would be withdrawn. That is the reason it takes both Congress and the President to go to war. Once Congress approved the use of force, however, and once the President committed troops to war in Iraq, that time for debate ended. There is only one proper response for Americans once our troops are in combat and that is to provide 100% support for the war effort. Anything less is a tool in the hands of the enemy.

We have yet, it would seem, to learn the lessons taught by Vietnam. The two biggest lessons we failed to learn are mistakes now being made with Iraq. First, the press has absolutely no business being given uncensored access to the war. An unchecked press played a major role in public opinion towards the war in Vietnam, and it is having the same impact today in Iraq. Rather, the WWII method of dealing with the press is the proper approach. Induct the reporters into the military and closely monitor and censor what is being reported about the war. The goal of the war is to win, not to provide Pulitzer Prizes for embedded reporters.

Second, the greatest enemy our military faces, and the only enemy capable of defeating the US in war is the American public. The NVA did not defeat the US in Vietnam. Neither did the Viet Cong. Rather, it was the American public that turned that war into a debacle. A nation cannot win a war when the public openly withdraws support for that war. Apparently, our esteemed senators and congressmen haven't learned that lesson. Rather than standing firm behind our troops and our war effort, these spineless politicians are trying to ride the ebb and flow of public opinion with an eye towards re-election.

The time for debate ended when the first cruise missile struck Baghdad. The only acceptable response for Americans now is to support our efforts in Iraq. The enemy needs to see an America united in the cause to defeat the insurgency, defeat the terrorists, and stabilize the Iraqi government. Anything less provides aid and comfort to the enemy. Save the Monday morning quarterbacking for after the war is won. To do it now jeopardizes our troops, boosts the morale of the enemy, and prolongs the effort in the field.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

On Vacation Until November 27th

The Grape is taking another week's vacation. This time I'm off to Italy for a week, visiting Rome, the Vatican, Sorrento, Pompeii, and Capri. I return very late on November 26th, so look for my next post on Sunday the 27th. Try not to let the country spin out of control while I'm away!

Chaotic House Rejects Withdrawal

In a highly political move to counter a House resolution proposed by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), House leadership forced a vote last night on the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The intention was to force each member into a yay or nay vote on the record regarding troop withdrawal. As expected, withdrawing troops was defeated 403-3. (Washington Post: House Rejects Iraq Pullout After GOP Forces a Vote).

The arguments in the House grew extremely heated at one point, and Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN) even had to be restrained when he charged across the aisle after a junior House member. He took exception to a statement made by Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH), "a few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do." Bubp is an Ohio legislator and is also a Marine Corps reserve officer. Democrats took exception to Schmidt's statements, claiming that she had just called the decorated Vietnam veteran Murtha a coward.

The vote last night brings about mixed emotions. The 403-3 result is what will be seen by our enemies. In that sense, it was a very strong signal to send, because they will see a house united behind our troops in Iraq. They will not see or understand the politics behind the resolution. They will not understand that, given the wording, no other outcome was possible. Sending this strong a signal to the enemy will bolster our efforts in Iraq. There's certainly value in sending that message.

On the other hand, it's disturbing that the resolution was entirely political in nature. House leadership was attempting to scuttle a resolution that would likely have produced a much more divisive result. There was wording in Murtha's resolution that would have gained unanimous support from the left, and would also have drawn heavily from the center.

One section of the resolution stated, "the American people have not been shown clear, measurable progress" toward stability in Iraq. That is a true statement. Whether that is a poor PR job on behalf of the military, slanted coverage by the media, or actual fact, really is not known by the average American. What is known, however, is that the majority of Americans believe that little or no progress is being made. The Murtha resolution accurately reflects that.

Another section called for the withdrawal of US troops "at the earliest practicable date." While Murtha's recent comments indicate that he would like that withdrawal to start now, that is certainly not in the resolution. Very few congressmen could reject Murtha's proposal based solely on those two aspects of the resolution. Hence last night's political sideshow.

For the record, I would prefer to see Murtha's resolution withdrawn. While his resolution would certainly spark debate in the House over the war in Iraq, the result would also send too mixed a signal to the enemy. Giving the terrorists any reason to believe that Congress is divided and that the American people are divided is too much of a morale boost to the enemy. Regardless of individual views on the war, it is essential that we appear united in the eyes of the enemy. Therefore, while I'm disgusted with the political maneuverings that took place last night in the House, I am grateful for the 403-3 vote that our enemies will see. Perhaps some good will come out of that chaotic session after all.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Vatican: Intelligent Design is Not Science

Reverend George Coyne, the Jesuit head of the Vatican Observatory, today stated that Intelligent Design is not science and should not be discussed in science class. According to the Vatican's chief astronomer, "Intelligent design isn't science even though it pretends to be. If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science." ( Vatican official refutes intelligent design).

This is not the first time Father Coyne entered the debate. In June, Father Coyne explained the compatibility between the Bible and evolution. "If they respect the results of modern science, and indeed the best of modern biblical research, religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator God or a designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly," he said.

This is consistent with Catholic teachings regarding evolution. In the Catholic view, the universe was created by God, however the Church does not object to the notion of evolution as the means by which life developed. Unlike many of the fundamentalist religions that split from the Church, Catholics do not hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible. Thus, the two creation stories in Genesis are intended to drive home the point that everything that exists does so by the Will of God, however we do not believe that Genesis gives us the blueprint by which the Will happened.

Unfortunately, the great debate on Intelligent Design will continue in the US regardless of the Vatican's position on the topic. Recently, TV Evangelist Pat Robertson chastised one state for refusing to teach Intelligent Design. His comments, however, bordered on the absurd and do not bear repeating here. Court cases will continue, and it is highly unlikely that the issue will be resolved anytime soon. That the Church would issue such a strong statement in support of Evolution is most encouraging, however. If only Father Coyne could get more air time than Pat Robertson.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

White Phosphorous Used in Battle

The US military has confirmed reports that it used artillery rounds containing white phosphorous in the battle against insurgents in Fallujah. (Washington Post: U.S. Used Phosphorous Munitions In Fallujah). Italian TV is reporting that the rounds were used against civilian targets; a claim that is vehemently denied by the US.

What is troubling here is not the use of white phosphorous nor the targets against which these rounds were used. No, what is troubling here is that our military is being forced to openly discuss what weapons we are using on the battlefield and why we use those weapons. At what point will this country wake up and realize that we are at war? This is a war, not just with Iraq, but with extremists operating world-wide with the primary goal of overthrowing American society and culture. We are at war. While at war, we do not publicly discuss what weapons are being deployed on the battlefield.

Any information provided in the media regarding what weapons we are using is additional information in the hands of the enemy. In this regard, the public does not have any "right to know", and quite frankly, the public is not qualified to hear the answer. For the record, it is my view that any weapon in our arsenal is appropriate for use by the military with the approval of the Commander in Chief. There is no justification for leaving our military or our leaders hamstrung over the use of weapons that are at our disposal.

We did not defeat Germany and Japan in the second world war by pulling punches. We did not win that war by avoiding civilian deaths. Rather, we won that war by completely leveling major cities controlled by the enemy. By today's standards, much of what we did in the second world war would be considered outrageous. By today's standards, we could not have won that war since our leaders would have been prevented from deploying the most successful tactics that we used. We cannot allow that to happen here. We are in this war for the long haul and we cannot be restricted in how we fight this war. That is a recipe for defeat.

There is only one "rule of war" that I want to see out military follow: WIN. Now that the rule's clear let's step aside and allow the finest military in the world to go out and do it's job. Win.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Senate Interferes With War Effort

Reacting to polls indicating waning support for war in an election year, the Senate passed a resolution that would require an unclassified status report on the war every 90-days. Senate minority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called the resolution "a vote of no-confidence", something the terrorists will be delighted to hear. (Washington Post: Senate Presses for Concrete Steps Toward Drawdown of Troops in Iraq).

There are two aspects of this measure that are most disturbing. The first is that it calls for unclassified reports. Clearly and constitutionally, the Senate has oversight authority and does have the right to request detailed progress reports when the nation is at war. Stipulating that those reports be unclassified, however, not only limits the scope of the information that will be at the Senate's disposal, but it also politicises the progress reports by making them public and open for political bashing during the 2006 campaign.

That is most likely the reason for the unclassified nature. Since unclassified war reports will serve no oversight purpose, one may only conclude that they are intended to provide Senators on both sides of the aisle with campaign fodder. Even conservative Republican Senators are seeking ways to distance themselves from the war for political gain. (Washington Post: Tide Turning in GOP Senators' War View).

The other problem I have with the resolution is that it calls for a timetable for withdrawal, and even has the audacity to stipulate 2006 as the period for full Iraqi sovereignty. Any type of publicly acknowledged timetable for withdrawal is a weapon in the hands of the insurgents. There is only one public position that is acceptable and that position is that we will remain in Iraq until the insurgency is crushed. Anything else sets the Iraqi government up for failure.

Other aspects of the measure reflect a hodge-podge of public flash points that appear also to be tossed in more for political purposes than anything else. There's the obligatory McCain provisions that detail how detainees are to be treated, despite international treaties already ratified by the Senate that cover that topic. There's the incursion into Executive Branch authority over unlawful combatants that would allow them appeals into US courts following any military tribunals. Under both US law and international treaty, the judicial branch has no authority over unlawful combatants.

This measure looks to be in for a tough time when the House and Senate meet in committee to hammer out the final version of the bill that will find its way to the President's desk. It may be that the more outrageous portions of the measure are stripped before the President gets the bill, however from a political perspective the campaign fodder has already been prepared. Following a 98-0 vote in the Senate, the path has been cleared for any Senator facing reelection to take whatever stance on Iraq the polls in his district suggest is the most popular. Sadly, this bill had nothing to do with Senate oversight into the war in Iraq. It had everything to do with election year politics, and the politicians were most certainly served in the US Senate.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Immigration Warning in French Rioting

French President Jacques Chirac cited a number of reasons for the rioting that has plagued France in recent weeks, however he and most European leaders still appear blind to the primary causes of the frustration embroiling that nation. Taking a page out of Jimmy Carter's book, Chirac referred to a "deep malaise" that had taken hold in the nation. (Washington Post: Chirac Says Riots Rooted in 'Deep Malaise').

The source of the problem actually lies hidden in the demographics of the rioters. For the most part, they are children of immigrants to France - legal or otherwise - that are disenchanted with French society and have little or no desire to become French. This issue, which has bubbled to the surface in France, is a festering boil on all of Europe and sits just below the surface here in the US as well.

The new wave of immigration that swept through Europe and the US in the latter part of the 20th century, and which continues even today, is dramatically different from the immigration patterns of a century ago. There is always a driving factor behind immigration, but for the most part you can boil it down to two primary reasons. The immigrants are either fleeing war or they are fleeing poverty. In either case, the immigrants are not necessarily entering their new country legally, and that in and of itself generates a lifetime of problems both for the immigrant and for the country in which they now reside.

A century ago, however, immigrants sought to become a part of their new country. Immigrants to the US took pride in the fact that they were coming to America. They raised their children to be American, and many of those children went off to defend this nation in the first and second world wars, often against their former homelands. That is not the case today. The current wave of immigrants seeks, not to become American, but rather to remain a part of the society and culture they have just abandoned. There is no desire to adopt either American customs or language.

The problems plaguing France today will be the same problems plaguing the US tomorrow if we don't take steps now to deal with the immigration problem. First and foremost, we must curb illegal immigration and take action to deport those in this country illegally. Secondly, we must establish residency requirements that do not allow immigrants to remain in this country unless they are actively striving to become US citizens. It is not in our best interests to allow people to live indefinitely in the US if they have no intention of becoming Americans. And finally, we must establish English as the national language once and for all, and mandate English proficiency as a requirement for citizenship.

We cannot remain blind to the problems boiling over in France, nor can we ignore the roots of those problems. The violence they are seeing is capable of occurring in every developed nation in Europe and it is also capable of happening here. The causes are similar, the source of anger is similar, and the solution is a crackdown on immigration policy.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Sony, First4Internet Named in Lawsuit

Sony's ill-conceived anti-piracy software that effectively acts as spyware continues to cause nothing but problems for the music company. Both Sony and the makers of the software, First4Internet, were named in yet another class action suit filed on behalf of angry consumers. (Washington Post: Sony Faces Another Class-Action Suit).

At issue is software loaded on music CDs produced and marketed by Sony BMG. As part of their anti-piracy campaign, Sony loads a rootkit on the unsuspecting user's PC that prevents the CD from being copied. The problem is that the rootkit embeds itself in key operating system components and is hidden from anti-virus and anti-spyware software. This allows hackers to exploit the rootkit by tagging parasitic code in the same fashion. Any attempt to remove the Sony rootkit has the potential to render the user's CD/ROM drive useless.

While Sony has agreed to temporarily stop including the software on music CDs, it will likely take a court order or legislation to prevent them from resuming this unscrupulous practice once the lawsuits are settled. First4Internet also has no intentions of stopping production, and they are as guilty of spreading this virus as is Sony.

The best way to hit Sony, however, is in the pocketbook. Consumers need to be aware of what Sony is doing. They need to be aware that Sony is illegally placing code on a user's PC without that user's knowledge. Armed with that information, the consumer must refuse to purchase Sony products. Only when Sony - and other music companies watching on the sidelines to see how this plays out - gets the message that consumers will not tolerate this type of blatant abuse will they stop pushing this type of code on the public.

Yes, this is an outright call to boycott Sony products. I have absolutely no use for the scum that write and distribute adware, spyware, and viruses. (Yes, I lump them all in that same category). Now Sony has moved to the top of that list. They need to be taught a harsh financial lesson.


Chavez Spoiling For A Fight

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is still spoiling for a fight with just about anyone that will take the bait. His latest target is Mexico, accusing President Vicente Fox of being a US lap dog. (Pravda: Mexico Threatens to Severe (sic) Diplomatic Ties with Venezuela). In an inflammatory statement from Caracas, Chavez said, "How sad that the president of a people like the Mexicans lets himself become the puppy dog of the empire."

In an not-so-veiled threat aimed at Mexico, Chavez warned Fox, "not to mess with him". Chavez, upset with Mexico’s support for the US sponsored FTAA is increasingly isolating himself from his neighbors, preferring to align Venezuela with Cuba and Iran. What his game is, however, is anybody’s guess. Facing potential civil war, Chavez appears to be lashing out at the US and any western ally, possibly in an attempt to redirect focus outside of his own domestic problems.

While Chavez is a major exporter of South American oil, what he seems not to understand is that he needs western buyers far more than other nations need him. As Ecuador gradually rebuilds their struggling oil production facilities, Venezuela becomes increasingly irrelevant. The US still purchases a small amount of oil from Venezuela, but it would not take much for Canada and Mexico to offset that.

What one must really question is Chavez’s stability as a leader. He’s appearing increasingly irrational with every public appearance and seems intent on picking a fight with anyone. I’m not sure at this point that he really cares who takes the bait as long as someone does. Unfortunately for him, we’re not interested and neither is Mexico. With luck, he will fade into irrelevance before he does any more damage to South American relations.


Roberts Suggests Senate Do Its Job

The chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), suggested yesterday that the intelligence leading up to the War in Iraq would give future congressional war hearings pause to consider the validity of intelligence being presented. (Washington Post: Roberts: Iraq Will Affect Future War Votes).

Speaking on Fox News Sunday, the Senator stated, "I think a lot of us would really stop and think a moment before we would ever vote for war or to go and take military action." Let me stop and think a moment. Does that imply that congress did not stop and think before overwhelmingly approving military action in Iraq? I seem to remember Senator Byrd waving a copy of the US Constitution and warning that he would not approve another Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Are we really to believe that both the House and Senate Intelligence committee's did not scrutinize the evidence placed before them? I'm not buying it.

We have three co-equal branches of government. The power to go to war does not rest in any one branch. It requires the consent of congress - both the House and Senate - as well as action by the President. Both Congress and the President are responsible for reviewing pre-war intelligence before making the decision to go to war. It seems to me that Senator Roberts is attempting to sidestep his responsibilities and let the Senate off the hook.

It gets better, though. Roberts went on to say, "We don't accept this intelligence at face value anymore. We get into preemptive oversight and do digging in regards to our hard targets." Wasn't that lesson learned in the Spanish American War? Remember the Maine, the ship used to justify going to war in the first place but was actually sunk by a boiler explosion? Wasn't that lesson learned in Vietnam? I'm sure Senator Byrd learned it since he used the phrase "Gulf of Tonkin" more often than a talk radio host invokes 9/11.

Personally, I find Senator Roberts' statements outrageous. The intelligence placed before the President was also placed before both houses of Congress. They had ample opportunity to review and question the intelligence and the sources of that intelligence. They did not. There was much debate on the floor of both houses over whether force was necessary. There was much debate over whether or not another UN resolution was prudent. There was much debate over whether inspections or additional sanctions should be given more time. At no point, however, was the quality or validity of the intelligence called into question.

Congress cannot skirt their responsibilities in this regard, and their responsibilities are quite clear. Only congress, not the President, has the authority to send this nation to war. Senator Roberts' suggestions that Congress did so without scrutinizing the evidence submitted to them are outrageous. With his next election coming up in 2008, one wonders if Roberts is simply trying to distance himself from the decision to go to war - something he supported when the vote came up in the Senate. He wouldn't be the first politician to spin tales to save his own skin.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Bush Criticizes Revisionists

President Bush lashed out at revisionists that are attempting to rewrite the reasons for going to war with Iraq. In a Veterans Day speech, the President said, "It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began. These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will." (Washington Post: Bush Spars With Critics Of the War).

Indeed, it seems that the majority of the country has forgotten the reasons for this war. For the record, we did not go to war with Iraq because of any assertion by the US government that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Rather, we went to war with Iraq because Hussein's government refused to comply with 17 separate UN resolutions that required him to 1) prove he did not possess weapons of mass destruction, and 2) account for all biological, chemical, and nuclear materials that his government previously documented as being in their possession. Hussein failed to comply with either of those UN requirements, and under the authority of UN resolution 1441 we dealt his government the promised "serious consequences." Any attempt to spin our reasons for war in another direction is pure political bull.

Even without UN resolution 1441, war was justified and actually required. The unilateral cease fire declared by the United States that put the first Gulf War on hold required Iraq to meet certain conditions. Those conditions were not met by Iraq and we endured 12 years of stalling tactics before we finally held Hussein accountable.

Iraq was required to provide unfettered access to UN weapons inspectors. Iraq did not. Rather, they played a twelve year shell game with the inspectors, stalling and thwarting efforts to inspect many facilities including so-called presidential palaces. Satellite photos show a significant amount of cargo movement around those contested facilities before inspectors were allowed into the sites.

Iraq was required to destroy all chemical and biological weapons in their possession and to account for every bit of material. In fact, the overwhelming amount of chemicals they declared following the Gulf War was never accounted for. Their claims of having destroyed those chemicals rang false when inspections of their alleged dump revealed only traces of the compounds.

Throughout the twelve years following the Gulf War, Iraq repeatedly violated the no-fly zones established in the north to protect the Kurds and in the south to protect the Shiites. They repeatedly fired on coalition aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones. That provocation alone was sufficient to end the cease-fire, yet we showed remarkable restraint for over a decade.

Iraq also orchestrated an attempted assassination on former President Bush while he was in Kuwait. That alone was an act of war and should have drawn a far heavier response than the three days of precision bombing ordered by President Clinton.

But now the revisionists would have you think that we were unjustified in going to war with Iraq for the second time. They would have you forget that we did so under the full authority of UN resolution 1441. They would have you forget that congress overwhelmingly approved the use of force against Iraq. They would have you forget the twelve years Iraq spent thumbing their collective noses at the UN and at 17 separate resolutions.

Don't be the revisionism. War with Iraq was twelve years overdue. The justifications were there, the justifications were made, and both the UN and the US congress authorized the use of force. The facts are clear. Don't let the left play political sleight of hand to convince you otherwise.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Proposed UN Disaster Fund a Mistake

Representatives of the British run "Save the Children" fund warn that a proposed UN disaster relief fund, CERF - the Central Emergency Relief Fund, could hamper efforts by non-government organizations (NGOs) to provide assistance, and would ultimately hinder relief in stricken areas. (Guardian Unlimited: Aid agency warns against planned UN disaster fund). They also raise the concern that money from a UN run fund would only be diverted to UN agencies, leaving a shortfall for the many other relief agencies that are instrumental in time of disaster.

Said Toby Porter, emergencies director of Save the Children, "At the moment the proposal is that it's only going to make grants to UN agencies. They simply cannot move quickly enough. They are too unwieldy. Global assistance is being delivered more and more by NGOs. One would not want to make up a system where the only people to benefit from UN funding are UN agencies."

For me, there are two other major concerns not cited by Porter. First and foremost, I do not want to give a UN sanctioned agency access to that much standing money. The UN's track record for handling aid is somewhat less than pristine. The amount of money CERF is looking to have pledged is simply a corruption scandal waiting to happen. That CERF would also use that money to distribute between other UN backed agencies is similarly troubling for all the same reasons. Simply put, I do not trust either the UN or any other single organization to manage that money. I happen to like the fact that it is currently being divided by many different organizations all competing for charity dollars. That competition breeds efficiency and lessens the risk of global corruption.

Secondly, I'm concerned that the bulk of the money would be allocated to regions that are "UN pet regions" at the expense of other equally deserving parts of the globe. A prime example is the UN's response to the disasters in Guatemala followed by the disaster in Pakistan. Guatemala was left by the wayside when it came to UN sanctioned donations. It was left to NGOs like World Vision to continue relief efforts in Guatemala. Of course, Africa and Asia are primary focus regions for Kofi Annan. I'm not sure he even knows Central America exists.

CERF supporters argue that there needs to be a single control point for relief funds; that they could better distribute relief money if it is all controlled by one agency and doled out from there. Perhaps, but a relief agency of that size would be a bureaucratic nightmare. When was the last time you saw any large bureaucracy do anything quickly?

They also complain that the last minute scramble for donations whenever there is a disaster slows aid response. According to CERF, there would be a standing fund that could be tapped whenever a disaster strikes. The truth is, however, that disasters are the best fund raisers these agencies have. Whenever a disaster strikes, private money pours into relief agencies and is immediately accessible. Centralizing this under CERF without taking advantage of the human outpouring of compassion in time of disaster simply does not make sense.

One proponent of CERF said, "We can have a debate about access once the fund it established." So let me get this straight. I can give you my money now, and once you have it then you'll figure out how relief agencies can get access to it? Sorry, pal, but that's not the way I do business. Yet, that's typical of the way the UN operates.

CERF is simply a bad concept based on higher administrative costs and increased bureaucracy. It is no way to provide relief in times of disaster. As the old saying goes, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."


Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans' Day Thank You

It was at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month that the armistice was signed to end the "war to end all wars." For several decades starting in 1919, November 11th was celebrated throughout the United States as "Armistice Day". As we all know, the Great War was not the last war, and our men and women continued the struggle for America's freedom throughout the Second World War, through the Korean Conflict and on into Vietnam, the Gulf War, and now into the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, on November 11th 1971, President Nixon officially renamed this day to Veterans' Day in honor of all the men and women that have served this great nation in countless wars.

The number of veterans that served in the First and Second World Wars have dwindled, and with them so too have the celebrations marking this day. Cities and towns that once held lavish parades in their honor now pass November 11th as it were any other day. Schools in many states remain open today and businesses see it not as a day to remember our veterans but as a day to kick off the Christmas shopping season. It seems that we as a nation have forgotten the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.

Of all the secular holidays we celebrate in the US, this day is by far the most important. Were it not for our veterans, no other American holiday would be possible. They alone have answered this nation's call whenever our freedom and way of life was threatened. They alone responded when our allies were in need. They alone have stood guard while the rest of us slept peacefully at night.

Today above all other days is a time to thank our veterans for all they have done. Do you enjoy your freedom of speech? Thank a veteran. Have you openly opposed the war in Iraq? Thank a veteran that you have the right to do so. Have you ever written a letter to the editor criticising you local, state, or federal government? Thank a veteran for the safety of that action. It is their endless vigilance that grants us the freedoms we too often take for granted.

So join me today in saying "Thank You" to our veterans, for they are the foundation upon which this nation was built, and they are the foundation upon which our future generations will stand.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Iran Deal Delays Inevitable

The US and EU have presented a compromise deal to Iran whereby that nation would be allowed to produce nuclear energy for peaceful domestic purposes. Iran would be denied the ability to enhance uranium, however, and would be required to ship uranium to Russia for enhancement. Russia, in turn, would ship the finished product to Iran for use in their nuclear reactors. (Guardian Unlimited Iran offered nuclear power deal).

Germany remains skeptical about Iran’s motives, however. German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed the concern, "There is a lack of transparency. That is clear. We still have some suspicions that there are developments being pursued [by Iran] that go against this principle."

He went on to add, "Whoever denies the right of Israel to exist is really jeopardizing a peaceful resolution. Iran has a right that the international community accept its sovereign rights, its national pride and honor. But what is more important is that the international community has a right to get objective guarantees that Iran's nuclear program will be exclusively used for peaceful purposes.”

That Germany is concerned about Iran’s duplicity should be enough to raise warning flags around the world. Even if Iran accepts the proffered deal, which is no slam-dunk, the world will forever need to scrutinize Iran’s use of nuclear energy. This deal demands a permanent inspection presence in Iran and constant vigilance regarding the acquisition, handling, and disposal of nuclear fuels. Iran simply cannot be trusted to behave properly in this regard. They will require non-stop monitoring.

Of equal concern is the use of Russia as Iran’s source of enriched uranium. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has become more of a mercenary state desperate for money. The willingness of Russia to sell nuclear technology to anyone with coin in their pocket is problematic at best. As much as I distrust Iran to use any nuclear technology solely for peaceful purposes, I am equally distrustful of Russia’s intent to keep nuclear weapons technology out of Iran’s hands. Russia will be in need of as much scrutiny as Iran.

Assuming this deal is brokered, it is essential that every drop of enriched uranium that crosses Iran’s border be accounted for. The problem is that, while Iran would not be doing the initial conversion of uranium into hexafluoride, nor would they be doing the subsequent conversion of hexafluoride into enriched uranium, that does not preclude them from further enriching the distributed product into weapons grade material.

There is an old Russian proverb oft quoted by President Reagan. “Trust, but verify.” When it comes to Iran, it is better not to trust at all. The deal being offered only delays the inevitable.


House Freezes Arctic Drilling

In order to secure passage of a $54 billion budget-cutting bill already approved by the Senate, GOP leaders in the House agreed to scrap a measure that would allow drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Washington Post: GOP to Strike Arctic Drilling From House Bill). Moderates in the House also received assurances that the drilling would not be reinstated when House and Senate negotiators meet to define the bill that will make its way to the President's desk.

With at least a 30-year supply of oil sitting under the frozen tundra, this move makes absolutely no sense. Oil demand throughout the world - not just in the US - is increasing dramatically. Not taking advantage of a ready supply under our own soil is pure stupidity.

ANWR is an undeveloped wasteland. I've been there. The scenery is quite beautiful, but it is a wasteland. At issue with environmentalists is the presence of the Porcupine Caribou herd during the Arctic summer. The caribou make their way from northern Canada across the foothills of the Brooks Range and out onto the coastal plain in northern Alaska every year. Environmentalists worry that drilling in the Arctic will disrupt that yearly migration.

We the people purchased Alaska from Russia, not a herd of caribou. Until we succeed in developing an alternate fuel source, we need the oil that sits beneath the arctic. The caribou will adapt or they will change their migratory habits. As long as we gain access to the resources in our own country, I really don't care which. My love of wildlife ends when wildlife suddenly has more status than people, and right now the caribou are in the way.

If we don't plan on doing anything with Alaska, then do us a favor and sell it back to Russia. At least then we'll be able to purchase that expanded supply of oil rather than see it go to waste; untapped while our energy costs soar. In the meantime, I have some great recipes for caribou steaks if anyone wants them.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Kansas Stuck in Time Warp

Kansas took a major leap backwards yesterday, redefining science to include non-natural explanations for observed phenomena. (Washington Post: Kansas Education Board First to Back 'Intelligent Design'). At the heart of this issue is a move to place the revitalized "Intelligent Design" pseudo-religious view of life's origins on an even keel in science class with evolution and natural selection.

What is most curious is that Intelligent Design has been championed by Christian conservatives. Several centuries ago, the Roman Catholic Church prohibited this teaching - a more modern form of Deism - and declared it a heresy. Most forms of Intelligent Design view God - if they mention God at all - as a clockmaker; One Who set the world in motion but now remains a disinterested third party. That was the teachings of the Deists that got them in trouble with the Church.

Curiously, the name "Intelligent Design" goes as far back as the Catholic philosophers St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. Yet, the more secular version being championed today has never passed muster with the Church. Unlike evolution, which does have Church support, Intelligent Design is a religious quagmire for the devout. Yet, the Kansas Board of Education once again has set foot down a misguided path, this time trampling on both science and religion.

Those putting forth Intelligent Design as a substitute for evolution are simply trying to promote a veiled version of Creationism, spun in such a way as to pass constitutional muster. In so doing, however, they have managed to omit the most important factor in Creationism - a Divine Creator. It is most curious to hear the proponents of Intelligent Design consciously avoid any mention of the words "Divine" or "God" in describing their viewpoint - another nail in the Intelligent Design coffin for Christians.

For the devout Christian, God has a welcome place in evolution. As in the Catholic view, all that is exists because of and through the Will of God. That evolution is the method by which God chose to order the universe, and by which He continues to shape it to His will does not detract at all from the divine nature of creation. Intelligent Design, on the other hand, makes no such provision. To pass constitutional muster, that viewpoint is more easily adopted by the non-believer that simply needs to accept an "intelligent force" that set the universe in motion and then walked away from it. Yes, it passes constitutional muster. No, it is not science, and no, it does not pass muster for Christians.

The bottom line is that Deism and Intelligent Design were heresy in the 18th century and they remain heresy today.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rip van ElBaradei Awakens From Slumber

IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei wants to see North Korea’s nuclear program referred to the UN Security Council. While he is not necessarily proposing sanctions against the rogue nation, he is certainly pushing for UNSC oversight into North Korea’s efforts. (The Korea Times: El Baradei Wants UNSC to Address NK Nukes).

Perhaps the most interesting statement issued by ElBaradei to date is his complaint that, “We reported North Korea to the Security Council in 1992, and as I said, nothing has happened”. What a surprise.

ElBaradei is also looking to expand the discussion well beyond North Korea’s nuclear goals, and would like to include economic aid and the overall security of North Korea in that discussion. That does make some sense since the north is one of the poorest nations on the planet and has severe economic needs. Abandoning their nuclear program must be a prerequisite to any talks on economic aid, however, since that is the only leverage other nations have to keep North Korea in line.

Security concerns on the part of North Korea stem more from paranoia than any military reality. The West has absolutely no interest in North Korea other than insuring they are not a threat to the South or to Japan. It’s not the West that needs to give assurances, it’s North Korea. Bottom line is, if they could behave themselves they would have no fear of invasion from the West. As it is, they continue to threaten both South Korea and Japan, and as such, they incur the ire of the West. The ball is in North Korea’s court. If they don’t want to be threatened, they need to stop testing missiles that over fly Japan.


Zimbabwe May Expel US Ambassador

The government of Zimbabwe may expel US ambassador Christopher Dell for making public statements critical of that government. (Washington Post: Zimbabwe Threatens To Expel U.S. Envoy). Dell accurately portrayed the Zimbabwean government as being corrupt and accused President Mugabe of “gross mismanagement.”

The US State Department has not received any official word or complaint from Zimbabwe, however a spokesman did defend Dell’s comments by saying, “his comments very fairly and accurately reflect the policy of the United States.”

The economic situation in Zimbabwe is growing desperate, however Mugabe’s mismanagement of economic affairs since coming to power in 1980 continue to worsen the plight of most citizens. A racist policy of land grabs against white land owners has completely disrupted economic development and displaced over a million people.

The US and the UN offered aid to Zimbabwe, however both efforts were rebuked by Mugabe. While the people of Zimbabwe are desperate for assistance, the government of Zimbabwe is not interested in accepting any assistance from the UN or the US. The expulsion of Dell will do nothing to help the plight of the average Zimbabwean.

Harsh though it may seem, the best course of action may well be to withdraw Dell and allow Zimbabwe to flounder on its own. Given time, Mugabe’s government will collapse under its own weight; something that would be of significant benefit to everyone in that region. Perhaps whatever government that replaces Mugabe’s reign of corruption will be open to outside assistance. Until then, it’s best to leave Zimbabwe to flounder on its own. There’s not much that is salvageable in his government.


Monday, November 07, 2005

High Court to Consider Tribunals

The US Supreme Court has agreed to rule on the constitutionality of military tribunals for terror suspects being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The test case will be that of Osama bin Laden's former driver Salim Ahmed Hamdan. (Arab News: US Supreme Court to Rule on Gitmo Trials).

In an interesting and complicating twist, US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has already ruled on this case as an appellate court justice. He did not participate in yesterday's proceedings since it would involve sitting in judgement of his own rulings. Unfortunately, his ruling may well be necessary for the constitutionality of the military tribunals to be upheld.

It is somewhat surprising that the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case since the use of military tribunals was already reviewed and upheld by the court. In 1942, eight German saboteurs were captured, tried, and executed by a military tribunal. The Supreme Court was unanimous in its agreement as to the constitutionality of the tribunal and the authority of the President to so order a military tribunal.

In fact, military tribunals in the US go back at least as far as the Mexican-American war, and were also used in the Civil War. (That's the War of Northern Aggression, for you southerners that may be reading along!) FDR used tribunals successfully in World War II, and the Supreme Court unanimously approved their use in ex parte Quirin.

One would hope that the US Supreme Court does not overturn their own precedent and thereby weaken the powers of the President in times of war. Military tribunals are most certainly necessary in cases such as these where the accused are committing acts of war against the US. The 1942 ruling is clear:

Lawful combatants are subject to capture and detention as prisoners of war by opposing military forces. Unlawful combatants are likewise subject to capture and detention, but in addition they are subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals for acts which render their belligerency unlawful. The spy who secretly and without uniform passes the military lines of a belligerent in time of war, seeking to gather military information and communicate it to the enemy, or an enemy combatant who without uniform comes secretly through the lines for the purpose of waging war by destruction of life or property, are familiar examples of belligerents who are generally deemed not to be entitled to the status of prisoners of war, but to be offenders against the law of war subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals.

Our guests at Gitmo certainly fall in that category. Under the internationally accepted laws of war, the prisoners being held off shore are clearly and legally defined as "unlawful combatants" and by definition are subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals. All we need now is for the US Supreme Court to uphold that law.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

Iran On the Ropes?

Iran has formally asked France, Germany, and the UK to officially reopen negotiations regarding the enrichment of uranium by the terrorist sponsoring nation. (Washington Post: Iran Asks Europeans To Reopen Discussions).

It has been a difficult month for Iran. Besides facing surprising unity between the EU powers and the US, the IAEA issued a report critical of Iran's nuclear intentions. Their cause was made even more difficult by inflammatory and outrageous statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which he called for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Those anti-Semitic statements by Ahmadinejad were just what was needed to tip the balance of world opinion against them. Outrage was pretty much universal and Iran quickly found themselves backpedalling from their hard-line stance. Any advantage they may have had in the nuclear negotiations was squandered in that one speech.

So now Iran wishes to return to the bargaining table, but now they do so from a position of weakness. Having called for the complete annihilation of Israel, it's not likely either the US or the EU is going to afford them the opportunity to enhance any aspect of their nuclear program. Furthermore, Iran is increasingly being implicated in having strong ties to al Qaeda, even admitting to holding top al Qaeda operatives. For the first time since 1980, Iran may truly fear a US invasion. That, if anything, is what is driving Iran back to the bargaining table.

Now that the EU and the US have the advantage, it is essential not to let them off the ropes. Iran is a terrorist state. The goal of "wiping Israel off the map" is a very real one. Their desire to obtain nuclear weapons, while certainly not proven, makes perfect sense given their past history. This is an opportunity we must not squander. Public support is very fickle. It would be a huge mistake to not take this opportunity to strike the knockout punch.


No Agreement on FTAA

The Summit of the Americas talks in Argentina ended yesterday with no agreement having been reached on the free trade agreement being pushed by the US and Mexico. Despite 27 countries wanting to set a date for the next round of talks, even that was scuttled by Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The lead dissenter, of course, is Venezuela's communist leader Hugo Chavez. (Boston Globe: Summit of Americas ends in deadlock).

The five naysayers refuse to consider new talks until the US changes certain trade and economic policies that would make the agreement even more attractive to Latin America. It must be understood, however, that while the FTAA would benefit major manufacturing firms by opening up large underpaid markets, there is absolutely no benefit to US workers in this agreement. That the FTAA appears at least mortally wounded, if not dead, is actually a good thing for most Americans.

The average wage for factory workers in Mexico is $6 per day. In Peru, that figure drops to $3.00 per day. What incentive do manufacturing firms have to keep jobs here in the US where they are forced to pay over $5.00 per hour in minimum wage, plus benefits? The only thing that offers any measure of protection for Americans are those trade and economic policies that Argentina and Brazil want to see reformed in their favor.

With high end technology jobs heading to India and China, and with low end factory jobs heading to undeveloped countries in Southeast Asia, it simply does not make sense for the US to open more doors to this sort of job migration to South America. Having one of the highest standards of living in the world, a global economy is not in our best interests. Without significantly lowering our standard of living, we cannot compete with the minuscule wages, non-existent environmental standards, and extremely lax labor laws in the third world. Of course, that's precisely why manufacturing firms want to see FTAA approved. It cuts their expenses significantly at the cost of higher unemployment here in at home.

Free trade agreements do not benefit the US, nor do they benefit the average worker. Be thankful this agreement got absolutely no place this time around. What we truly need are incentives to keep jobs here at home. We need severe tax and tariff penalties assessed on companies that off shore aspects of their operations. We need heavy tariffs on American goods manufactured in Southeast Asia and Central America. We need a reason for American companies to keep their technology and manufacturing right here at home. When it comes to the economy, globalization is the wrong path for the US to take. That is, of course, unless you're willing to lower your standard of living. I am not.


Friday, November 04, 2005

NASA Short $6 Billion

The goal of putting man back on the moon is facing a budget shortfall of $6 billion over the next 5-years as NASA scrambles to get the dwindling shuttle fleet flying, finish the International Space Station, and develop the spacecraft that will ultimately make the lunar voyage. (Houston Chronicle: House panel says NASA $6 billion short of moon shot).

The real problem is not one of financing, it is one of misguided priorities. The shuttle program is on life support, but there is no valid reason to resuscitate it. The program is scheduled for retirement already and it simply does not make financial sense to continue pumping hard fought budget dollars into a program without a future. Pull the plug on it now and allocate the shuttle program funds towards the moon mission.

The International Space Station is a more challenging dilemma. The concept of a space station is a sound one, however the ISS in low-earth orbit doesn't truly fit the bill. The original space station designs were constantly scaled back due to budget cuts and what we have left is a mere shadow of the original goal. The benefits of the ISS as it exists today are questionable. Given a challenging budget and an aggressive lunar colony goal before us, I would question the viability of maintaining the ISS.

NASA needs to readdress its priorities. It also needs to set a narrow focus that does not spread funding in so many diverse directions. If the goal is to establish a lunar colony - and I believe that goal is a national security requirement as I've posted previously - then that should be the focus of NASA's priorities and NASA's budget. It makes no sense to keep spreading the budget so thin, putting all projects at risk.