Thursday, March 31, 2005

Bloggers Unite for Darfur Action

For the US government to take immediate action on Darfur, the American people will have to demand it. For regular updates on the situation and for ways you can help, visit this great blog: Coalition for Darfur.

Universal Education

A Rand Corp. study released earlier this week claims that making preschool available to every 4-year-old in California would generate $2 - $4 dollards in benefits for every dollar spent by reducing special education needs, juvenile arrests and the number of children held back a grade. The study also claims that high-quality preschool program would create a more qualified, internationally competitive workforce and foster economic growth.

As Rand points out that:
Preschool education is an increasingly common experience for the nation's young children, with 66 percent of U.S. 4-year-olds and 43 percent of 3-year-olds enrolled in some type of program during 2001.

But there are wide variations in enrollment rates based on factors such as a child's race, family income and parents' education. Enrollment is lowest for Hispanic children. While just 36 percent of 4- and 5-year-olds in California whose mothers have not completed high school are enrolled in early education programs, 65 percent of children whose mothers have a college degree attend preschool.

Education is the key to economic opportunity. The writers at the Yellow Line strongly endorse universal preschool and increased investment to support these programs at both the state and federal levels.

Gambling is a Poor Way to Raise Revenue

First, a disclosure. Writers at The Yellow Line have been known to spend time in casinos. We see nothing morally wrong with the occasional vacation to gamble in Vegas or Atlantic City. What we do think is wrong is the explosion of casinos and slot machine parlors all over the country.

Today’s New York Times reports:

Gambling revenues, once a mere trickle, have become a critical stream of income in a number of states, in some cases surpassing traditional sources like the corporate income tax and helping states lower personal income or property taxes.

This is all well and good as long as a state is getting the vast majority of its gambling revenue from visitors, instead of taking it straight out of the pockets of their own residents. But what happens if those visitors are given gambling options in their own state?

Some 70 percent of gambling losses in Delaware's three "racinos," racetracks with video slot machines, come from visitors from Pennsylvania and Maryland. But Pennsylvania legalized slot machines last year and the Maryland Legislature is debating a bill to legalize gambling there.

What benefit is it to Delaware if most people losing money in their racinos are from Delaware? Suddenly this great source of out-of-state income is now just a different form of taxation. All the state is doing is taking money out of the pockets of its own citizens while exposing them to all the negative social consequence of legalized gambling, as covered in detail by The National Council Against Legalized Gambling. These include higher crime, divorce, bankruptcy, even suicide.

Legalized gambling is by far the most exploitative way for a state to raise revenue. And as more and more states legalize casinos and/or slots, the social costs will certainly outweigh the revenue generated. States should break their addiction to legalized gambling and find better ways to raise revenue.

Crime in America

When the President presented his Fiscal Year 2006 budget proposal to Congress this past February, he stressed that crime, including violent crime, is at a 30-year low. Yet, clearly, as this story from the Associated Press points out crime in America is out of control.

US Must Act on Darfur, With or Without UN

In the event that the UN fails to act or fails to act quickly on the genocide in Darfur, should the United States send in our own peacekeeping force? If President Bush and our Congress found cause to invade Iraq, they should have no problem sending (at the very least) a peacekeeping force into Sudan. The facts:

There is a humanitarian crisis underway of proportions far worse than the crimes of Saddam Hussein. The events in Darfur are being compared with Rwanda (see this site ). More than 300,000 have died, most violently, many as they tried to flee. This fact alone should be enough to warrant International and US intervention. But there are even more reasons to go into Sudan.

Sudan is a State Sponsor of Terror according to the US State Department. The African Embassy bombings were planned and executed from Sudan. And Sudan even harbored Osama Bin Laden in the ‘90’s and still has ties to Al Qaeda.

There is evidence that Sudan has chemical weapons. The evidence was strong enough to prompt President Clinton to order a missile strike on a suspected nerve gas factory in 1998.

This information comes from The Council on Foreign Relations. The Council’s Center for Terrorism also has this to say:

International investigators suspect [Sudan] has become a financial hub for the terror network since September 11; al-Qaeda operatives have reportedly spirited large amounts of gold into Sudan.

Sudan has also harbored members of the Baghdad-based Abu Nidal Organization, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, and others. These terrorists do not carry out attacks within Sudan but plan and support terrorism elsewhere. Hamas and Hezbollah have reportedly maintained training camps in Sudan. The National Islamic Front, the strict Islamist party that governs much of Sudan, does not consider any of these groups terrorist organizations.

If we as a nation are truly committed to spreading freedom and combating Islamic terrorism, our elected officials should not hesitate to do whatever it takes to end the Darfur genocide, either by partnering with the UN to form a peacekeeping force or taking action on our own. But we must act now.

Call or e-mail your congressional representatives and let them know that ending the genocide in Darfur should be an immediate priority. (Contact your representative here. Your senator here.)

Share this information with whomever you can. The people of the US must make our government know we want action now.

UN Needs to Act on Darfur Now

There is a genocide underway in Sudan (see this site ). And it appears to be worse than even originally thought. The AP is reporting:

More than 300,000 people have died as a result of the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, British lawmakers said in a report, a figure more than four times greater than an official UN estimate.

“Conflict” isn’t the word. This is genocide. Arab militias, with the help of what passes as the Sudanese government, are systematically killing, maiming and raping black nationals throughout the Darfur region. Their stated goal is to make Sudan racially pure, an all-Arab nation with no blacks.

And what is the world doing? The UN, after first ignoring the problem, then reluctantly acknowledging the problem, has now decided the situation is severe enough for sanctions as reported here.

In addition, the UN also wants to bring war criminals to trial in the International Criminal Court. But, as reported here, they’re having difficulty getting everyone to agree to even vote.

For the second time in a week the UN Security Council postponed a vote on a French proposal to try [in the ICC] suspected war criminals who are accused of orchestrating the Darfur genocide in The Hague.

This is obviously a French stunt to force the US to give some legitimacy to the ICC (which we oppose). This is absolutely not the right moment for political stunts, but it seems the US might be willing to give in as reported by the AP. Apparently,

The United States would allow the International Criminal Court it fiercely opposes to try perpetrators of atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region if it can ensure Americans would not be prosecuted by the court.

Sanctions? Criminal courts? This is genocide. And it’s happening right now. The UN needs to stop delaying, stop playing political games and send in a peacekeeping force now.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

True Democrats or Just Real Donkeys?

The Yellow Line usually doesn’t quote other blogs, but we couldn’t let this post from the ever-nutty Daily Kos go without comment. For those of you who don’t know, The Daily Kos is the most influential left-wing blog.

Overwhelmingly, liberal bloggers identify themselves directly as Democrats…But among bloggers on the right, it always seems that great pains are taken to make it clear that they are "independents" or "libertarians" - these are people who usually endorse much of the GOP agenda and reliably vote for Republicans.

What does it mean? …are Democrats simply prouder of the Democratic party and what it stands for - for all the handwringing of "where do we stand" could it be that the donkey triumphs over the pachyderm? I think so.

O.k., I don’t know what it means. It certainly doesn’t mean the Democrats stand for anything other than they’re not the Republicans. But here’s the line that got me:

Yes, there are many who see the [Democrats] as the lesser of two evils, and in their hearts would prefer Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader, but overwhelmingly I've found bloggers on the left have no problem saying "yep, I'm a Democrat.”

Here’s a GREAT suggestion. If you prefer Kucinich or Nader, for the love of God, stop calling yourself a Democrat. Daily Kos has just demonstrated why the heck the Democrats can’t win an election. The Republicans have left a big gaping hole in the center of the political spectrum and instead of filling it, the Democrats are getting pulled further and further left by these ninnies.

Reader Rebuttal: Iraq Was Wrong Choice

Reader DD writes:

The author [of We’re Right to Be in Iraq] writes "In the case of Iraq they have lied to the International community, their own citizens, and broken international laws since well before the first gulf war. Whether the answer is WMD, Human Rights Violations, extreme embezzlement (Oil for Food), or simple deceit (Ministry of Information) the only response is to correct the wrong regardless of the price."

Trying to correct a wrong at any price is not reasonable. Are we really protecting children by using force? Do our actions actually set a good example for the children of the world? As a country we are very bad about selling what good we do for the world. Maybe if we spent more time promoting our good we would not have to use force so often.

I am not saying that we should never have been in the region but at this time it was wrong. It is that our leaders had a very bad plan and reasons to attack. I feel very sorry for the troops that are over there and wish them a safe return. I pray that this war will produce good results. At this time the costs have been to high.

Powell on Iraq

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken out on the “how and whys” of the Iraq war. According to this AP story, Powell agrees that we did the right thing going into Iraq, but criticizes the lead up to the war.

Differing Beliefs No Excuse for Censorship

Most of you have probably heard that several IMAX theaters in a dozen US cities are refusing to show any movies that endorse the theory of evolution. Well, today, the head of the Association for the Advancement of Science has publically ridiculed these theaters’ decision.

The suppression of scientifically accurate information as a response to those with differing perspectives is inappropriate and threatens both the integrity of science and the broader public education to which we all are committed.

We couldn’t agree more. It is absolutely ridiculous that theaters would censor movies dealing with evolution. If we as a people refuse to show curiosity and if we refuse to so much as listen to other viewpoints, then what future does this nation have? We were founded on intellectual vitality, on a commitment to ideas and on a belief that all ideas should be welcomed and heard.

Just because certain people don’t agree with a theory doesn’t mean that theory should be silenced.

The theater owners in question should be ashamed.

The How and Why of Iraq are Important

While it’s true that the how and why we went to Iraq are ultimately less important than whether or not being there is the right answer, we can’t lose sight of the means even as we support the ends. We should expect our government to be honest with us and the Bush Administration was not nearly candid enough in the lead up to war. Iraq had no connection to 9/11 and yet the administration fed that misconception. The probability that Iraq had nuclear weapons was nearly nonexistent, and yet we heard “mushroom cloud” rhetoric.

And we have to consider what precedent our “how and whys” have set. The precedent can’t be that we invade every country with evil dictators and oppressed people or we’ll be at war with half of Africa, North Korea and much of the Mid East. The precedent can’t be that we invade every country with links to Islamic terrorism or we need to gear up to fight Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, etc. And the precedent can’t be that we invade every country with WMD and hatred for the US or, again, North Korea and Iran should be next.

So what should the precedent be? Perhaps there isn’t one. Perhaps this was a one-time opportunity to establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East while also ridding Iraq and the world of a true monster. It was a bold move to use such radical means to transform the Mid East (whose stability is critical to our national security). In the end, it wasn’t so much that Iraq was an imminent threat as that the entire region posed (and still poses) an imminent threat and the best way to address it was to dive right into the heart of the Middle East.

So while we at The Yellow Line support what our country is doing in Iraq and think the ultimate outcome will be decidedly positive, we believe that the nation needs to take a close look at how this administration led us to war. One of the reasons our country is so divided is because the means by which the Bush Administration “sold” the war seemed disingenuous to many, many citizens. In fact, those questionable means lost Bush the trust of millions of Americans, many of whom now distrust everything the administration does and achieves. That’s incredibly unhealthy for the union.

We can’t let that happen the next time we are faced with war. And, if history teaches us anything, there will be a next time.

Reader: We're Right to Be in Iraq

A reader writes:

"The War in Iraq - Support our Troops, but question how we got there"

For me I think the question is not how or necessarily why we got started, but is it the right answer? How and why are questions that need to be answered by people who, when they see injustice, they consider it someone else's problem. For example, I am not that child's father and do not need to instruct him that what he is doing is wrong. I see someone breaking into a house and do not need to act to correct it because it is not my house. For the past 20 years we have allowed terrorists to pick at us because they perpetrated acts in other people's homes, other countries. We felt as a nation the expense of correcting the child was too high. Is what we are doing in Iraq the right thing?

I think doing the right thing and correcting injustice, protecting the children of the world and teaching them how to coexist is our duty as the most privileged nation in the world. In the case of Iraq they have lied to the International community, their own citizens, and broken international laws since well before the first gulf war. Whether the answer is WMD, Human Rights Violations, extreme embezzlement (Oil for Food), or simple deceit (Ministry of Information) the only response is to correct the wrong regardless of the price.

I have had a chance to travel and see not the worst the world has to offer, but I have seen some poor situations. I hope that when I see someone doing something wrong I have the conviction to act to correct it. I think as a nation we have finally taken that step. I am proud that we have. We are building schools and creating stability in a region where there was no hope for anything before we acted.

I would also add that while terrorists have picked at the US for the past 20 years on foreign soil, they recently brought it into our house. It is the saddest thing that it took that escalation to compel us to act and do what has always been the right answer. We ask our police, fire, and teachers to correct the wrongs of children of all ages on our soil everyday, why shouldn't our elected officials do the same? As the world continues to get smaller and the human race grows its homes closer and closer together we will need to continue to help protect our neighbor's interests even if they can not chase the crook themselves.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Death Penalty and the Bible

As reported in the New York Times, Colorado’s highest court overturned the death sentence for a man because the jury’s consultation of the Bible was ruled to be improper.

The Bible, the court said, constituted an improper outside influence and a reliance on what the court called a "higher authority."

The Court said in its 3-2 ruling:

The judicial system works very hard to emphasize the rarified, solemn and sequestered nature of jury deliberations. Jurors must deliberate in that atmosphere without the aid or distraction of extraneous texts.

This is a ridiculous ruling. But I don’t know what bothers me more. The fact that Colorado jurors, when making life-and-death decisions, are no longer allowed to consult the text from which they draw their own beliefs or that, upon consulting the Bible, this jury actually found reason to rule FOR the death penalty.

The Bible obviously has a lot of references to the death penalty (particularly in the Old Testament), but I think better instructions come from Jesus Himself.

Luke 6:27, 37 -- Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.... Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Here is a great site covering the death penalty and what the Bible teaches us about mercy and the sanctity of life.

There’s nothing wrong with locking up a violent criminal for life. But the death penalty should be abolished.

Texas Shoot Out

Yee-haw, here we go. The AP is reporting that the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary race is heating up in Texas as current Governor Rick Perry and assumed-challenger Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson are dueling it out over that critical Texas issue: Hillary Clinton.

Last week, Perry's campaign circulated a video that showed the conservative senator speaking kindly of Clinton, and now a 1993 letter has emerged in which Perry called Clinton's health care reform efforts "commendable."

Good God! Complimenting Hillary! Isn’t that a hanging offense in Texas?

As for the Democrats, they are assuring the state that they will have a candidate soon. Right after the two remaining Texas Democrats decide which of them is going to run.

But both parties better get a move on or they’re going to lose ground to the already up-and-running gubernatorial campaign of Kinky Friedman.

The Friedman campaign is short on policy details, but we whole-heartedly support this stance:

Our icons are being demeaned. Cowboys are no longer heroes for our children, but subject to derision. We are being laughed at instead of respected in the rest of the country. What has happened to our glorious heritage? This is the great state of Texas! We are not wusses, we are Texans. "We will beat back the wussification of Texas if we have to do it one wuss at a time." - Kinky Friedman

This election is going to be a fun. The Yellow Line promises complete coverage from the frontlines.

Ward Churchill in His Own Words

Visit this site for a report on a recent speech given by Ward Churchill. There's audio clips and everything. (thanks to conservative blog little green footballs for the tip.)

Yep, he's still a class A nutball. I'm sure Colorado University is thrilled to have their name attached to his rants.

Sure, But What About Their Mental Health?

Yahoo News story headline: Raw Food Vegans Thin But Healthy Study Finds.

Raw food vegetarians believe in eating only plant-derived foods that have not been cooked, processed, or otherwise altered from their natural state.

Wow. That’s not a diet. That’s corporal punishment. In the words of Homer Simpson: what, no ham? No bacon? No pork chops?

No word yet on the healthiness of the all-Slim Jim and Dr. Pepper diet.

The Real Reason for Iraq?

Just released: the report from the commission studying the CIA’s failure to properly assess Iraq’s weapon capabilities. The NYT headlines Report Assails CIA for Failure on Iraq Weapons.

Of course, with the promising events in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere, it appears the best reason for going into Iraq was to establish a region-altering democracy. Was this transformative democracy motivation the real reason we went to Iraq?

This essay thinks so. And the Bush Administration was certainly disingenuous in the way they led us into the war (Just examples: The President’s false claims about yellow cake uranium, National Security Advisor Rice’s hyperbolic “mushroom cloud” rhetoric and VP Cheney’s regular insinuations that Iraq played a roll in 9/11). It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that WMD were always just a secondary motivation.

After all, weapons were never found, but Bush could very well be right that freedom in Iraq will be the catalyst for a Middle Eastern democracy movement.

This 2003 Weekly Standard article makes a convincing claim that disarming Iraq of WMD truly was Bush’s primary motivation. But given how effortlessly the Bushies abandoned the weapons argument and adopted the “freedom is on the march” rhetoric, we should all wonder if whether this administration didn’t really trust us with the truth of their motivations.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Gay Marriage & Buying Favorable Coverage

CNN reported that the Government Accountability Office will investigate whether the Bush administration violated any laws when it paid conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher $21,500 through the Department of Health and Human Services to help create materials promoting the agency’s $300 million initiative to encourage marriage. (Note: GAO is also investigating a Department of Education contract with syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams who was hired to promote the No Child Left Behind law).

Gallagher, who wrote numerous pieces on the issue of gay marriage during the last election, including this one published last May (a list of Gallagher’s columns can be found here) contends that:

Same-sex marriage is not the future. The set of ideas that lead a culture, a religion, a court to endorse same-sex marriage are simply not sustainable over the long haul.

First, The Yellow Line strongly believes it is irresponsible journalism for Ms. Gallagher and Mr. Williams to have not disclosed to their readers that they had received federal contracts.

Secondly, The Yellow Line does not believe there is anything immoral about being gay. Yet, we do not support same sex marriage. What we do support are Civil Unions that confer all the legal advantages of marriage. Only the church can bestow the bonds of matrimony on a couple. However, a Civil Union can, and should, be bestowed by the government.

Election Reform

The Yellow Line welcomed the formation of a bipartisan commission to examine problems with the U.S. election system. The Washington Post reported last week that former president Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Bakers III will lead the bipartisan commission to examine problems with the U.S. election system. The Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University will organize the work.

Certainly President Carter and Secretary Baker can bring much needed credibility to the reform movement and the Yellow Line welcomes their involvement.

Here are a few recommendations for the commission to consider:
1) Rotating Regional Primaries for the Presidency;
2) Requiring media outlets to donate airtime for political advertisements;
3) Limits on expenditures in elections tied to the population of the contested seat (let’s make elections about who has ideas and who can communicate them, rather than about who can raise the most money);
4) The end of gerrymandering, ensuring competitive Congressional races;
5) Congressional representation for the District of Columbia; and
6) Restoration of voting rights for all felons who have been discharged from correctional supervision;

Radical Pharmacists and Their Bad Science

According to The Pharmacists for Life International (, which supports a pharmacist's right to deny birth-control pills:

PFLI's mission is to make pharmacy once again a life-saving profession, a mooring from which it has drifted.

Sounds great. But exactly how is denying birth control pills making pharmacy a life-saving profession? Well, the PFLI believes that “the pill” is an abortifacient, meaning that it actually causes an abortion, which they explain here in a convoluted argument claiming scientific conspiracy to redefine conception.

And yet, according to this bit of information from the Mayo Clinic (not really known for propagating bad science):

The birth control pill impedes pregnancy by preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation). If eggs aren’t released, sperm can’t fertilize them and pregnancy can’t occur. The pill also thickens your cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus and reach any eggs that may have been released.

No egg. No fertilization. No pregnancy. No abortion. The PFLI is not just trying to force their fringe morality on the rest of us, they are perverting science to back themselves up.

Why on earth would the right of a pharmacist to deny a prescription trump the right of a patient to receive their pills? And why are state governments kowtowing to groups like the PFLI when the vast majority of Americans support the use of birth control pills?

Just because a belief is based on religious faith doesn’t mean it makes good policy. We simply can’t let groups like the PFLI trick our government into removing our rights to advance a far-out-of-the-mainstream “morality.”

Pharmacists Shouldn't Withhold Prescriptions

On the fringes of social conservatism is a growing number of pharmacists refusing to fill birth control pills, as reported by the Washington Post.

There are pharmacists who will only give birth control pills to a woman if she's married. There are pharmacists who mistakenly believe contraception is a form of abortion and refuse to prescribe it to anyone. There are even cases of pharmacists holding prescriptions hostage, where they won't even transfer it to another pharmacy when time is of the essence.

The entire point behind the rule of law is to balance opposing societal interests and create a uniformed system that provides the most good for the most people. It is simply unacceptable for a pharmacist to feel that he or she has the authority to impose their moral beliefs in lieu of the established law. Birth control is legal. No one should have the right to deny its distribution.

But state governments are actually passing laws to protect pharmacists from losing their jobs or being sued for refusing to fill or transfer prescriptions. That’s wrong. What state governments should be doing is passing laws prohibiting pharmacists from subverting the rights of patients.

The War in Iraq - Support our Troops, but question how we got there

The Yellow Line has avoided this issue a little too long. Both contributors are in agreement that we are there and that we should stay there. We need to support our troops to the fullest extent possible, with manpower and equipment. We should see this through to the end – an end that will, hopefully, see a stable and democratic Iraq.

The real question that needs to be addressed is how we got there. Today’s Chicago Tribune has a good article detailing the destruction of anthrax in Iraq years prior to the war. This information, as the Tribune concludes,
demonstrates anew that the war was launched on the basis not of hard fact, but of speculation and untruths, especially about Iraqi motives and actions.

Again, now that we are there, we must stay and support our troops. But, we are also justified in questioning the leadership that led us into this war.

Our Civil Service Deserves the Benefits

This weekend, The Washington Post ran a story covering the possibility of a complete overhaul of labor rules for federal government employees.

New personnel regulations at the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense will dramatically change the way 860,000 workers there are paid, promoted, demoted and disciplined. The plan is to spread the changes throughout all the land of federal government. No more automatic raises. No more simple pass-fail evaluations. No more Job for Life.

This article is rather biased in a pro-union direction and makes it sound as if the sky itself is about to fall. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If the unions are smart, they’ll realize that holding on to the antiquated federal government labor system is the wrong fight. The system is overburdened with complications and is poor at motivating its workforce as this 2002 Brookings Institute study points out.

What the unions should do is aggressively remind Congress, the President and the American people that civil service is just that, a service. These employees have agreed to work unglamorous jobs that will never make them rich as a service to the country. Our thanks to them, our obligation to them, is to provide better benefits and better hours than they’d find at comparable jobs in the private sector.

Yes, the current system of rewarding longevity over performance has to go. Hiring needs to be simplified. And managers should have more leeway to terminate problem employees. But our federal employees deserve every one of their benefits.

Government workers, like all Americans, will have to live without the rock-solid job security of decades past. But the Bush Administration needs to realize that the federal government cannot and should not work exactly like the private sector because, well, it ISN’T the private sector. If the feds want to continue to find people to fill unglamorous jobs at unglamorous wages, they better keep the benefits strong and reward those willing to be servants to their country’s civil needs.

The unions would do well to fight for their benefits, not the structure.

A Modest Social Security Proposal

Everyone knows that the problem with Social Security is the impending retirement of Baby Boomers. But here’s something that’s not getting covered: this crisis is their fault.

Think about it: the idea of Social Security is that each successive generation pays for the retirement benefits of their parent’s generation. Should work fine—except the Boomers didn’t have enough children! Yeah, so the generation that gave us the culture wars, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush has also stuck us with a big ole’ social security problem.

Know what I say? Any Boomer who was too busy singing folk songs and not inhaling to have children can forfeit their social security benefits. Let them live off all the diaper money and college tuition they never had to spend.

Isn’t that American politics today? Instead of solving a problem we find a scapegoat? Well, who better than the ever-blamable Boomers?

Note: Before any angry letters start to fly, The Yellow Line would like to point out that this is a satire. We all know the real culprit in the Social Security mess is the Greatest Generation. Did they have to have that many children? Jeez.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

We Should All Have a Living Will

Reader Jon Keen writes:

You mentioned in the Schiavo case, that "no state would let her die, even if she wanted to (it's called suicide)." It seems to me that any one of us can refuse medical help and the state is required to respect our wishes, in many cases suicide is not the term it is freedom of choice.  I can envision a lot of scenarios, none of them pleasant, where my Medical Living will would kick in.  I think I probably consider this a more pressing matter, a living will, because of the job that I am in [note: Jon is serving in the Air Force], but it can happen to any one of us in any circumstance.  We spend huge amounts of money as a society each year on medical patients in declining health, a fair amount no longer capable of making the decisions themselves.  I have heard that it is our largest health expenditure.  Why not educate ourselves and make the decision before we are incapable, a simple living will, a short process would have solved all questions on her wishes in this situation.  I would urge you to mention this to your readers before they are left without the capacity to choose. Hopefully none of us will be in that situation, but you should take the hour or so to make your requests known.

The Yellow Line Responds:
I agree that we should all have a living will. I don't think we are obligated by morality or religion to "live" in a persistent vegetative state (or have any heroic acts of medicine performed) if that's not our wish. But some people wouldn't choose death under any circumstance.

Since we can't know Schiavo's wishes and since I don't think we can measure the worthiness of another person's life, I would prefer to err on the side of life. The courts have to err on the side of the law--because Shiavo's husband legally has the right to speak for her. I would support changing the law for cases when there is no living will. A spouse’s choice should not completely negate the wishes of parents (or children) willing to care for their incapacitated relative.

UPDATE: Here's a good article on making a living will. And Here's another one.

Senseless Security in DC

The Washington Post has a good article on the extensive security measures found throughout Washington, DC.

While the article quotes many people who gripe about the barricades, armed guards and security checkpoints, the Post does not question whether many of these methods are even needed. Homeland Security is not known for being well-thought-out. (This International Herald article specifically sites a $200,000 bomb-detonating robot given to North Dakota.) In DC, security measures are often just as unreasonable.

Take the Smithsonian Museums which require visitors to walk through metal detectors and have their bags searched. Security lines can take over 30 minutes to get through, according to the Post. And for what? Are terrorists really going to go inside the National Botanical Gardens and shoot the place up? If they wanted to destroy any of the museums, wouldn’t they use explosives, which metal detectors wouldn’t uncover anyway? Not to mention that the security lines create a large concentration of people—the exact kind of easy target a suicide bomber would look for.

Security is obviously important in Washington, DC. But the excessive number of metal detectors at the Smithsonian and elsewhere are hurting visitors’ ability to enjoy Washington, DC while providing no real protection.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Final Word on Schiavo

I wanted to leave this issue and write no more of it. But it’s transfixed the nation and troubled me for a week now and I feel a need to say a final word. After much thought, this is my belief: There are all kinds of brain damage from mild to severe. How brain damaged must a person be before we say "o.k., it's reasonable to let this person die." I don't know if we can draw that line. And if we can't draw that line, the only line left is the one between life and death (and I think we should live in a society that sides with life).

If she were conscious and on a feeding tube, no state would let her die, even if she wanted to (it's called suicide). So, assuming we all still agree that suicide for the non-terminally ill is wrong, the question becomes, is there a point when a person's life is worthless? Clearly her being alive brings comfort and peace to her family, so her life must still have worth. Her husband should have let her live. It is so cruel to her family to let her die.

But Terri Schiavo’s husband, under the current law, has the right to remove her feeding tube. The judiciary was right to uphold the law as is. Anyone who says this was judicial activism is wrong. It would have been judicial activism to reinsert the tube. Those that disagree with the law should change the law, not blame the judges. And clearly, better laws on this kind of tragedy are needed.

May Terri Schiavo find peace now.

Reader Says: Churchill a Blowhard

My previous post mischaracterized reader Rob's position on Ward Churchill. He clarifies:

I said straight out that my comments weren't about Churchill. Dude's a blowhard, no doubt. All I was merely saying was let's not even talk about Churchill in the same breathe as academic freedom. Should CU fire him? My answer is, CU should do whatever they want and not be subjected to the will of others outside the faculty senate or whoever else makes that decision. I will say, though, that if I were in charge, I'd determine whether he's still contributing to the advancement of thought and learning on campus. I don't know...I doubt many people do. My guess is that he's not because he's too busy being a blowhard. So I'd fire him. So no, I'm completely against tenure being a carte blanche to do whatever and say whatever. Academic freedom can exist without tenure, I assure you. Assuming this is true, what purpose does it serve? Every professor should be judged by his or her peers on how much they contribute to the mission of the college or university. Those who continue to do so stay...those too busy being blowhards can go.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Why I Left the Democratic Party

Joe told you why he left the Republicans, now let me explain why I left the Democrats. The Democrats stand against the Republicans. But what do they stand for? Unfortunately, this void of ideas is being filled with a particularly disturbing group of far-left liberals.

This new “base” holds a worldview that divides all people between the oppressors and the unfortunates. The unfortunates are always believed to be victims, righteous people whose sorrowful condition can be blamed almost exclusively on some form of systemized oppression. And America (particularly capitalist white America) is said to be the world’s greatest oppressor.

In this worldview, if you are not a victim then you are an oppressor. If you are not a native to a group, you are a threat. Ideas are only valid if they are not dominant. Religion is only noble if it’s not Christianity (or Judaism if the discussion is Israel).

The world is rife with oppression and America has been known to cause needless harm, but the far left’s absolutism is a ridiculous ideology that I can’t come close to buying into. And while the vast number of Democrats don’t buy into it either, their party is being taken over by those that do. And these ideologues are being welcomed because of their energy and willingness to do the grassroots work. When Howard Dean became the head of the DNC, I left the party.

But I can’t possibly go over to the Republicans, who’ve been taken over by their own brand of ideologues. So I’m staying right here and trying to hold onto the middle.

Red Lake, Minnesota

Ceci Connolly of the Washington Post may have said it best here

The reaction to Bush's silence was particularly bitter given his high-profile, late-night intervention on behalf of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman caught in a legal battle over whether her feeding tube should be reinserted.

At a time when the President cuts short a vacation to fly across country (at tax payer expense) to sign a hastily crafted law designed to save the life of one woman, there has been shockingly little attention paid to the tragedy that occurred in Red Lake.

While I do not really believe that the President should stand up and offer his condolences for every unfortunate act of violence that occurs across America each day, this horrible story has not gotten the attention that it deserves from the media or the President. In the hours after the tragedy at Columbine occurred, President Clinton spoke to the nation about what happened. In the days following 9 individuals being killed at a school in Minnesota, what have we heard from the White House?

I don’t want to make this about gun rights…. while I personally do not believe that the constitution establishes a right to own a gun (establishing a state militia is different than individual gun ownership)…. this case is about a troubled youth who saw no future for himself. A separate Washington Post article describes the life that Jeff Weise was facing. Perhaps the most telling quote about what happened in Minnesota comes from the principal of the reservation school:

Sister Sharon Sheridan, 73, principal at St. Mary's Mission School on the reservation, said this of the shootings: "You can't condone what happened here, but you sure can understand it."

There is little more depressing than this sentiment.

A second voice of moderation

Alan has asked me to join him in his quest to create a blog where those like him and I, who walk down the middle of the road, can come to express our views on politics, sports, and life. I thought I’d begin my formal contributions to The Yellow Line with a little about myself….

I consider myself an "Illinois Republican" (no, not of the Alan Keyes model). I have worked in the offices of two Republican governors and spent the 2000 campaign season working on efforts that supported the Bush campaign. Until recently, I was one of about 210 registered Republicans living in my ward in Washington, D.C. Now, I am one of 550 registered Independents.

The reason I left the Republican Party is simple – hypocrisy. I cannot support a party that speaks of America as "a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom" but yet works to circumvent the Geneva Convention. I cannot support a party that claims detest judicial activism, but then passes a law that all but requires the courts to intervene in an otherwise decided matter (Terry Schiavo). I cannot support a party that preaches fiscal restraint, but continually fails to adopt a balanced budget. Nor can I support a party that preaches states rights only when the state's decision agrees with the party position.

The reason I cannot join the Democratic Party is equally as simple – I’m not sure what they stand for today. Are they for the war in Iraq or against it? Are they for reform of Social Security or is the system "not broken"? What is their vision?

What America needs, and what I hope The Yellow Line will bring, is a new outlook. An outlook that seeks to find the middle ground. A place where we can all agree (Ok, at least most of us).

The Yellow Line Gains Momentum

I'd like to be the first to welcome a new voice to The Yellow Line. My good friend Joe Weedon has agreed to partner with me in my crusade to forge a center-voice in American politics and will begin submitting posts soon. While I began life as a Democrat and Joe began as a Republican, we have often noted a surprising similarity in our viewpoints. Joe's thoughts and ideas will be a welcome addition to The Yellow Line.

Churchill: Academic or Fool?

Rob writes:

whoooaaaa whoaaaaaaa and whoa there big fella...

First, I want to start out by saying, this isn't about Churchill...this is about academic freedom and the point of higher education.

No one has the right to teach at a large, public have to get hired...which isn't easy at a large, public institution

Let's remember that this isn't grade school...these aren't children absorbing whatever comes out of an authority figure's mouth. These are adults (albeit young, silly, irresponsible adults) to whom these institutions are suppose to teach critical thinking. There's a reason why they're called professors and not teachers.

In a university setting...what's the difference between a professor that says "racial purity is essential to the nation" versus one who says "is racial purity essential to the nation?" I would argue that its not much of a difference at all but I have a feeling you would allow for the latter question but not the first.

The Yellow Line’s Response:

Is there ever a limit to what an academic can say and still be considered an academic? My problem with Churchill is that he's absolutely NOT teaching critical thinking. He's teaching a radical ideology grounded on hyperbole and pseudo intellectualism.

Certainly the man has a right to speak his mind, but how can you classify his disjointed thoughts as academic? I don’t really think he’s “dangerous” in the sense that he’s warping the minds of his students. I just think he’s an idiot that has no business masquerading as a professor.

This isn’t about academic freedom. It’s about academic integrity. And Ward Churchill’s ideas have no integrity.

I am very wary of condemning any professor on the basis of his or her beliefs. But why can’t a professor be removed if they’ve continually exhibited a complete lack of concern for the standards of academia? Churchill isn’t a social scientist who gathered evidence and came to the shocking and painful fact-based realization that America is the root cause of all the world’s problems. Churchill is a crackpot who, for whatever reason, vehemently hates America and contorts facts and analysis to justify his hatred.

This is not the appropriate man on whom to attach a crusade in favor of academic freedom. It’s an intellectual trap to think that by defending Churchill you’re defending anything more than shoddy academia.

If you want a real case of academic persecution, look no further than Larry Summers, the President of Harvard.

Churchill Keeps Job, Is Still a Nutcase

Well, the University of Colorado has decided to keep Ward Churchill on its teaching staff as reported here.

Their preliminary report found that while "crude and strained," Churchill's comparison of Sept. 11 victims to a top Nazi is protected by the First Amendment as are any calls he made for violence against the United States.

First let me say I’m a big supporter of free speech. Clamping down on disturbing speech doesn’t shut down the ideas behind that speech. So, let the idiots spout—if nothing else, they’re easier to identify that way.

But does the fact that Churchill has a right to speak mean he has a right to teach at a large, public institution?

For any of you who think Churchill’s ideas aren’t all that crazy, or that the 9/11 screed was not indicative of this man’s ideas, read this interview from a year ago with the radical animal-rights/environmental magazine Satya.

Amongst many gems, Churchill says:

One of the things I’ve suggested is that it may be that more 9/11s are necessary.

How about this:

I want the state gone: transform the situation to U.S. out of North America. U.S. off the planet. Out of existence altogether.

He goes on to suggest the U.S. be broken up into 500 different indigenous nations.

Churchill says he’s never fashioned himself as a revolutionary (although the photo on the Satya site would indicate otherwise). But what he says borders on advocating revolution. Now, advocating revolution isn’t protected by the First Amendment. Fortunately for Churchill, he’s not actually calling for an uprising, so he’s still free to speak his infuriating thoughts. But I guarantee there are those out there who would think an arrest for treason would not be a bad idea—and they’d have the beginnings of a case.

Does this guy deserve a tenured position at a public university? At any university? I think not. There is a place in this country for all ideas, but that doesn’t mean all ideas are considered valid enough to be taught to our students. Academic freedom is vital but that doesn’t mean every academic is guaranteed a tenured professorship and a $95,000 salary (the amount Churchill is paid for his “contributions” to CU). No university would hire a neo-nazzi “academic” who taught his students that racial purity was essential to the nation. So why should CU suffer an academic who openly hopes for another 9/11 and thinks the U.S. should be removed from the planet?

Churchill is now under investigation by CU for, among other things, plagiarism, lying about his ethnic heritage and, my favorite, fabricating historical facts in his research. This guy’s entire reality is fabricated. I understand that it’s easier to scale Mt. Everest without gear than fire a tenured professor. But, really, Ward Churchill is not adding anything to the intellectual vitality of the CU campus. Colorado University should cut him loose and never look back.

Which City Has the Best Team?

Jack McCallum at Sports Illustrated recently wrote this article about great NBA franchises. Spurs were, of course, #1. But what caught my eye was this comment:

They [The Spurs] are integrated into the lifeblood of the community more than any other franchise in the NBA, probably as much as any team in any sport.

Wow. As a former and future resident of San Antonio, I can certainly see that. It’s a one-team town and they (we) LOVE the Spurs. Closest I’ve seen is the Cowboys in Dallas or the Yankees in New York, among native New Yorkers. But I imagine the Packers in Green Bay are pretty integrated.

As for DC, the Redskins are loved, but not all that universally. The Nationals are a novelty. The Wizards are, well, the Wizards (despite recent success, I don’t think anyone can really love a team named after a guy in a purple dress and dunce hat). And most people here have probably forgotten The Capitals even exist. Have probably forgotten that the, uh, what was it called? The N something L. No Hockey League. Does that exist anymore?

Watch me get more e-mails about this than any other post.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Jumping into the VAT

O.k., no one liked it when the Phantom Menace started with a discussion of taxes. But this article is very interesting. Apparently, there has been some discussion amongst the Bushies about creating a Valued Added Tax like they have in Europe. Here’s the idea:

Graetz's idea, in its simplest form, is to exempt all households with less than $100,000 a year from paying income taxes. Income over $100,000 would be taxed at 25 percent.

To replace the revenue lost by the large exemption and lower tax rate, Graetz would institute a value-added tax on most goods and services at a rate of 10 percent to 14 percent.

Take, for instance, an SUV with a sticker price of $30,000 and a value-added rate of 10 percent.

Ford might buy its steel and other materials for $8,000 plus $800 in sales tax. Then, for the finished SUV, a dealer might pay $25,000 plus $2,500 in tax. Ford would take an $800 credit for tax already paid and send $1,700 to the government.

A buyer then pays $30,000 for the SUV and $3,000 in taxes. The dealer collects the $3,000, takes a credit for the $2,500 worth of taxes already paid, and sends $500 to tax authorities.

The government takes in a total of $3,000 in tax -- the same amount, by the way, it would under a 10 percent retail sales tax. One big difference is that every step of the manufacturing process has been documented.

O.k., I like the no income tax for anyone making under $100,000. It gives people more control over their own money and makes luxury purchases less desirable for people who can’t afford them (but blow their money on anyway). But it also makes necessary goods that much more expensive. Still, I’d think the impetus to save would outweigh the negative impact of expensive toothpaste.

What worries me (scares me, really) is that a VAT is an incredibly easy tax to raise. As every city in the country has learned, you can almost always vote through a 1/8th or 1/4th percent sales tax increase—you know, to pay for those important things like new baseball stadiums.

Because people don’t see the chunk coming out of their paycheck, they don’t put up as big of a fight. A 10% VAT could easily balloon to pay for all kinds of special interest subsidies and other poorly considered government plans. Sure, it could be used to pay for healthcare, but does anyone think it wouldn’t also be used for a big ole’ barrel of stinking pork?

Think about it, if all the government has to do is click up the VAT by a 1/16th or so, what impetus do legislators and bureaucrats have to budget wisely and contain spending? It’s a very interesting idea this VAT, but boy would it need a lot of safeguards.

Good Comments on Schiavo, The City

Joe W writes:

Can't believe you're letting the Schiavo issue die (poor choice of words) this easily.  I, as one of 200 registered republicans in my Washington DC precinct, can't believe the hypocrisy of the republicans on this issue.  Individual liberty, personal choice, LIMITED government…. except when we talk about issues relating to life and death.  Abortion, death penalty, Terry Schiavo.  As a society, we should, as the President says, err on the side of life (which is why I find the whole conservative position on the death penalty so amusing). However, this case is an amazing power grab by the right of the political spectrum aimed to fully cement a new "base" for the republican party (and, the fact that I now consider this the base of the party is why I will probably officially change my registration to an independent).

Second, there are areas of the city where you can have a back yard (as small as it is) and where children are welcomed by strangers.  Although, I'll admit that carrying Mel to your place the other night, we did get a few stares.

Note: Joe lives in Capitol Hill, the exception to the rule in DC urban neighborhoods.

What is the Middle?

Reader Rob “Nofrowns” Jackson writes:

Is there a middle ground for every issue? I assume not. Can one be middle ground on capital punishment, for instance?

Rob is right. There isn’t always a middle ground. And, even if there is, I won’t always take it. The driving force behind this blog is a commitment to ideas over ideology. I refuse to be polarized. Take foreign policy: the far left thinks America is always a force of destruction and misery while the far right thinks America is always a instrument of good, a beacon of light. If you come into a foreign policy discussion with either of those intractable views, you’re useless to the debate. But right now, those people are running the debate.

This has to change. Just because Dick Cheney comes up with an idea, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Just because Michael Moore posits a theory, doesn’t make the idea invalid. Now, I personally wouldn’t use either of those men as the driving force behind my ideas (or eating habits for that matter)—but I won’t demonize them either (although I have no problem making fun of them for their, um, portliness).

As I said to another friend yesterday, my hope is that everyone who reads this, regardless of political affiliation, will find something to think about. Of course, it’s possible that everyone will just find something that irritates them. That’s the deal. I don’t follow any political doctrine. Some days I’ll sound liberal. Other days, conservative.

And on that death penalty question. I'm against it. Someday I’ll explain why. It has a lot to do with my religious convictions.

Why Parents Really Leave the City

Well, no sooner does The Yellow Line write about the challenges of having a child in the city than does the New York Times publish this article. Yep, The Yellow Line is already driving the national debate.

The article is about how few children live in the modern urban centers of big cities. Among this story’s brilliant observations:

Officials say that the very things that attract people who revitalize a city dense vertical housing, fashionable restaurants and shops and mass transit that makes a car unnecessary - are driving out children by making the neighborhoods too expensive for young families.

And also:

After interviewing 300 parents who had left the city, researchers at Portland State found that high housing costs and a desire for space were the top reasons.

It took an interview of 300 people to uncover that wisdom? The article makes it sound like price and space are the only reasons parents leave the city—and that city officials are doing all they can to lure them back. Well, maybe city officials want the kids, but the big unspoken truth--not even mentioned by The Times--is that a lot of people don’t want kids in their urban areas.

As an urban parent, I can testify that a lot of my “neighbors” get very irritable at the sight of a baby. I think they see it as ruining their gritty urban ambiance. You know, those cool urban features like Starbucks. And The Gap.

Or maybe it’s just that my stroller clashes with their Prada shoes.

These big urban areas really need to take a good look inside and realize a lot of their affluent, childless residents simply do not want children running around their neighborhoods. As a parent, why go through the price and space hassles if, at the end of the day, you’re just not all that welcome?

This is the Last I'll Say About Schiavo

While I was watching CNN News Night last night, there were live shots from outside the facility in which Terri Schiavo is being cared for (or, more correctly, being watched over).

There was someone out there with a sign that said: “Jeb Bush is like Terri: Brain Dead.” Now there’s a mature and wise commentary on this horrible tragedy. What heartless realm does someone like that come from? The complete politicization of this poor woman’s life (and death) just fills me with sorrow. I won’t be posting about it again.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Fatherhood in the City

Not quite the stuff of an HBO sitcom, but I think I just amused a number of people. Jen’s at the hospital tonight, so I’m the grown-up on call. It’s raining. Aidan is in a foul mood. And the dog had to be walked. After briefly considering the consequences of not walking Bruce, I opted to throw on the Baby Bjorn and hit the streets.

So there I was in the rain, a 25-pound toddler strapped to my chest and kicking me in the crotch as my big ole mutt pulled me along like I was on broken skis. People were stopping their cars to stare. No, really, the cashier actually came out of the 7-11 to ask if I needed help. It was that bad. And people wonder why couples move out of the city once they have a family. What I wouldn’t give for a backyard.

Cheney in '08?!?

Conservatives are mobilizing to get Cheney to run for President in ’08. See this Washington Times Op-Ed.

Right now a bunch of my more liberal readers are salivating at the thought. Cheney!?! He who hasn’t had an approval rating over 50% since Kobe Bryant had a good name? Yep. But he’s not as beatable as some might think. A Cheney candidacy would almost certainly cause the lefties to hyperventilate and way overplay Cheney’s shortcomings, thus making Cheney look to be on the side of intelligence and reason. Believe it or not, “Cheney is Satan” is not a convincing argument against the man.

Of course, if the Dems nominate Hillary Clinton, we could see the same inanity from the right. A Clinton v. Cheney battle? Where’s Ross Perot when you need him.

Everyone Has an Opinion, But is there an Answer?

A glance at today’s major papers and blogs reveals an endless array of opinions about Terri Schiavo. The worst of them, as always, come from the fringes—some believing it would be an act of unforgivable evil to let her die, others claiming that anyone who wants Schiavo to live is a crazy religious zealot (or, in the extremist lingo of the loony left: is an American Taliban).

Personally, I have problems with letting Ms. Schiavo die—particularly when there are family members willing to care for her. Even though physicians claim (and my own MD wife backs this up) that death by starvation is a rather peaceful way to go for someone in a “persistent vegetative state,” I can’t help but wonder whether or not this is true. But I am also willing to admit that it might be a greater torment to leave this poor soul trapped in a nearly lifeless mind and body. None of us can rightly know the truth of it.

What I do know is that the intervention by Congress was a disturbing overreach of power. Even if the legislation regarding Schiavo was enacted out of pure conviction and with no political motive, this bill still has no place under our Constitution. Congress does not exist to pass legislation focused on a single individual. Do you really want a federal government so powerful that they can pass legislation specifically aimed at you and your family?

Instead of passing laws, instead of picking sides, what we should be doing is sitting down with our own families and discussing what we want done if we ever end up in Schiavo’s condition. The only true good that can come of this is for all of us to think about this issue personally and make the hardest choices now.

So It Begins

Welcome to The Yellow Line blog. If you’re reading this first post, you almost certainly already know me. So I’ll skip the introduction and get right on with the question everyone is asking: why “The Yellow Line?” Well, The Yellow Line refers to the stripe that runs down the middle of the road, just as I hope this blog will find a middle-ground between all the partisan and ideological bluster littering the so-called blogosphere. There’s a lot of us out here who have strong convictions AND moderate views. There’s no need to be a “winger” to have firm beliefs.

So, yes, I’m going to write a lot about politics (this should not surprise any of you). But you’ll almost certainly see posts about pro sports, literature, movies and the joys of fatherhood (I’ll keep the diaper-changing stories to a minimum, I promise). That’s the beauty of a blog, I can write what I want and you can ignore what you choose.

So bookmark this site and stop in whenever you can for what I hope will be some interesting, thoughtful or at least amusing posts. And feel free to e-mail me your comments and tell others about The Yellow Line. My greatest hope would be for The Yellow Line to become a site where liberals and conservatives feel welcome, baseball and football are loved, light beer and stouts are consumed and the moderates of the world reign supreme.