Monday, October 30, 2006

Feeling over thinking

A week ago, actor Michael J Fox appeared in television ads supporting Claire McCaskill's campaign for Senator from Missouri. There has been a great deal of controversy over the ads, in which Fox makes a number of factually untrue claims, including a charge that Senator Talent, McCaskill's opponent, wants to make stem-cell research illegal. The truth is that stem cell research is legal and is already happening in Missouri and across the country. The major difference between McCaskill and Talent is that McCaskill wants to provide federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, and Talent thinks that it should be privately funded.

Most scientists (other than those lobbying for tax dollars to support embryonic stem cell research) agree that adult stem cells and umbilical stem cells are much more promising candidates to achieve effective treatments for Parkinson's Disease and spinal cord injuries. Embryonic stem cells are just one of many varieties of stem cells being researched, and are the least promising in terms of the prospects for actually curing diseases. While other kinds of stem cells are already in use for the treatment of at least 80 different conditions, embryonic stem cells have not even been approved for a single human clinical trial, mainly due to the high risk of rejection and the side affect of causing monster tumors observed in animal trials. However, the majority of Democrats in Congress voted earlier this year to fund embryonic stem cell research, but voted against funding the more promising research involving stem cells which do not require the death of the donor. It seems that they only want research if it requires that unborn babies be killed in the process. And thus the real agenda is revealed: federal funding of embryonic stem cell research is a desperate attempt to demonstrate that there is a benefit to society in the killing of unborn babies.

I said from the beginning that the Fox ad plays to people's emotions, rather to rational thought. Rush Limbaugh was broadly criticized when he suggested that Fox stopped taking his Parkinson's medicine to film the ads, but Fox wrote in his book that he intentionally stopped his medication when testifying before Congress. It is clear that he is using his symptoms to invoke an emotional reaction of sympathy. It comes across as a shameless act of manipulation, and you have to wonder if he thinks that people are really stupid enough to fall for it.

You might think that Fox's condition makes him uniquely qualified to speak on efforts to cure Parkinson's Disease. Surely he is more knowledgeable about the issues in the Missouri election than the average guy. The central issue revolves around a ballot proposition which provides funding for embryonic stem cell research in Missouri. Its supporters point out that the proposition forbids human cloning. While it does forbid reproductive cloning, it explicitly protects the practice of human cloning for research: the process of farming cloned human embryos expressly for the purpose of using the embryos for research. When Fox was asked about this on ABC's "This Week" he said something rather remarkable:
"I don't think that's true. ... I have to qualify it by saying I'm not qualified to speak on the page-to-page content of the initiative. Although, I am quite sure that I'll agree with it in spirit, I don't know. On full disclosure, I haven't read it, and that's why I didn't put myself up for it distinctly."
So Michael J Fox admits that he made an ad supporting a candidate because of her position on an initiative which he has not even bothered to read! If there is any question that this ad campaign is pure emotional manipulation, rather than an appeal to rational thought, this puts it to rest.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Speaker Pelosi

The election is 12 days away, and Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Treat, is already picking out the curtains for her new Speaker of the House Office Suite. But what will America look like if Nancy Pelosi has her way? Does it really matter if the Democrats take over Congress? The Republicans have plenty of faults. I have taken issue with them repeatedly for not controlling spending. And they could have done a lot better at communicating the rationale behind the War on Terror and the importance of winning in Iraq. But for all of their shortcomings, they are light-years better than the Democrats.

Here are some things to think about:
  • Do you want to see more good judges like Roberts and Alito confirmed? Elect Democrats and they will block confirmation of anything but liberal activist judges.
  • Do you think you pay enough in taxes, or do you feel the need to pay even more? Nancy Pelosi and many other Democrats have said that a top priority is reversing President Bush’s cuts to every tax bracket.
  • Do you really think that Democrats will do better on controlling spending? All historical evidence suggests the opposite.
  • Do you want homosexual marriage legalized? Vote Democrat! That is one of Pelosi’s biggest issues, being a San Francisco liberal.
  • Do you want human cloning legalized and funded by your tax dollars? What about harvesting human embryos for research? Democrats have politicized this issue, but they only support research if it involves killing babies. They voted against supporting much more productive research involving adult stem cells.
  • Do you support amnesty for illegal immigrants? Bills to take important steps to secure our borders have been held up because Democrats and a handful of “moderate” Republicans demand giving amnesty to people in the country illegally.
  • Do you think that appeasement and negotiation is the best way to deal with rogue dictators, terrorists, and nations which support terrorists? President Clinton gave North Korea a nuclear reactor in return for assurances to use it only to generate energy. Guess where the weapons-grade uranium in bomb they tested came from?
  • Do you think that President Clinton’s approach to terror was more effective than President Bush’s? Clinton’s response to attacks on the World Trade Center, the USS Cole, the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the Marine barracks in Saudi Arabia was to give a speech, bite his lower lip, and vow to bring the people responsible to justice. The extent of his action was to blow up an aspirin factory in Afghanistan. Bush has dismantled Al Qaida’s command structure and crippled their ability to operate. The final measure of his success is seen in the fact that in the five years since 9/11 Al Qaida has not been able to carry out another attack on American soil.
  • Do you think that someone should be able to take underage girls to another state for an abortion without her parent’s knowledge? Pelosi has said that she supports repeal of a law requiring parental notification to take a minor child across state lines for an abortion.
  • Do you want to hamstring our efforts to stop terror attacks? Pelosi bragged about killing the Patriot Act, which gives critical tools to our Homeland Security Department.
  • Do you want to confer Constitutional rights on terrorists? Democrats want to give known terrorists public trials with the same high standard of proof required of criminal trials. This will result in known terrorists being turned free to continue their murder.
  • Do you think that Democrats have a better plan for how to win in Iraq? What is it? They criticize President Bush, call our troops terrorists, and say that we can’t win, but they don’t have an alternative plan to offer, other than Jack Murtha’s cut and run, surrender to the terrorists.
  • Do you think that we should intercept the communications of terrorists when they call people in the United States? Democrats want to make it prohibitively difficult.
  • Do you want our military to surrender Iraq to the terrorists? Although there is a lot of debate among Democrats about what to call this, very few Democrats are committed to winning in Iraq, supporting the new government until it becomes self-sustaining. Those like Lieberman who do understand the importance of finishing the job are punished by the left wing of the party as an example to other Democrats.
  • Do you think that President Bush should be impeached over policy differences in the War on Terror? Representative John Conyers , the ranking Democrat in the House Judiciary Committee, has already circulated a document intended as the basis of impeachment hearings.

Do you think that there is no difference between the Republicans and Democrats? Think again.

Do you think that Democrats have earned the right to govern? How?

Do you think that issue by issue, Democrats are better than Republicans?

If you don’t want to go where the Democrats want to take us, go vote and take a friend!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

That's it!

I've heard enough! There is no place in Congress for a sleaze like Mark Foley. As Republicans, we will not tolerate someone like Foley exchanging explicit emails with underage pages. We are not like the Democrats who allowed Gerry Studds to not only remain in Congress but to be committee chairman for 13 more years AFTER it was discovered that he was having sex with a 17-year-old page. We have higher standards than that. We will not allow Foley to make a mockery of Congress by remaining in office. I call on Mark Foley to resign immediately!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Call me Jack

There is just no way that the Republicans are going to win this election, so we might as well just give up now. What is the point in even going to the polls to vote? Let's just write this one off and hand the country over to the Democrats. In fact, Republicans in Congress might as well just resign now. I call for a full and immediate redeployment of Republican politicians back into the private sector. Why stop with Congress? President Bush should just go ahead and resign too. While we are at it, let's just suspend all future elections, and have Bill Clinton appoint whoever he wants to run the country. We got into this election for the wrong reasons, and we were mislead into thinking that it would be easy to win. This is an election that we simply can not win. In fact, we have already lost it, so why should we keep dragging out the pain? I say we should cut and run, surrender, wave the white flag, give up. Why maintain the illusion that there is still hope? I volunteer to help Hillary pick out her new curtains for the Oval Office.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Don Factor

  • Lucent stock increased 613% from 1997 to 2000 and then dropped 99% from 2000 to 2002
  • Lockheed stock dropped 71% from 1997 to 2000 andthen grew 412% from 2000 to 2002

There is clearly a turning point for both companies at January of 2000. What happened at that point in time?

In January of 2000, Don moved from Lucent to Lockheed.

The impact shook Wall Street.

Lucent's astronomical growth turned into a nosedive.

Lockheed's floundering was reversed and the stock took off like an F-16.

This suggests a new investment approach:

Invest in the company where Don works.

  • If you invested $1000 in Lucent when Don worked there, and then moved the money to Lockheed when Don moved, in six years, your $1000 investment would have grown to $26,230.
  • If you invested $1000 in Lockheed when Don worked at Lucent and then moved the money to Lucent when Don moved to Lockheed, your $1000 investment would have shrunk to $3.62 by the end of 2002.

Don’s total impact on the market accounts for $233 billion in market movement.

Conclusion: Don is underpaid.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Two approaches

There are two approaches to dealing with murderous dictator thugs. One is to use diplomacy, negotiation, appeasement, and concessions to encourage them to do the right thing. For decades we have used this approach with North Korea. President Clinton gave them the nuclear reactor they are using to create the uranium to make nuclear bombs, in the hopes that they would use it for peaceful purposes. While diplomacy is the right approach to dealing with responsible nations, the fruits of years of diplomacy, compromises, and negotiation were seen yesterday when North Korea tested a nuclear weapon, the latest act in their effort to extort more money from us with their nuclear blackmail.

The other approach is to confront evil dictators head-on and prevent them from reaching a point where they can threaten the world with nuclear weapons. Here is something to ponder: has Saddam Hussein tested a nuclear weapon? Do you think that he will test a nuclear weapon next year? What about next decade? Will Iraq EVER threaten to nuke Israel if we don’t send them another twenty billion dollars in foreign aid? Did we avoid this threat by appeasing Saddam? No! We reached this point by strong military action. In 1981, Israel bombed the heck out of Saddam’s Osirak reactor, preventing them from using it to enrich uranium to make a nuclear bomb. Estimates are that Iraq could have produced one or more bombs by 1988 if that reactor had remained in operation. Then in 1991 we again set their nuclear program back a decade or more with our bombing campaign in the Gulf War. Finally, in 2003 we ousted Saddam, captured him, and put him in jail. We know that he had weapons of mass destruction under his control in the past. He used them no less than a dozen times, and he repeatedly tried to obtain a nuclear capability. We know that today he does not have weapons of mass destruction under his control, and he will never hold the world hostage with nuclear blackmail. It seems that this approach is much more effective. Maybe it is time to reconsider how we deal with Kim Jong-il.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Amish Funeral Protests

Yesterday morning I gathered with about five hundred people at Hulen Street Baptist Church. We sang praises to the Lord, prayed, and heard God's Word proclaimed. All across the nation, others were doing the same thing. Tens of millions of believers united their hearts in the unity which can only come from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Lives were transformed, broken relationships were healed, hearts were cleansed. The course of people's lives were reversed, turning from a downward spiral away from God to a full, purposeful life in God's will. Countless people accepted Jesus free gift of eternal life and began to experience the abundant life that God intended for them.

In Nickel Mines Pennsylvania, about 20 members of a fringe "church" from Topeka Kansas threatened to picket at the funeral of the five Amish girls killed in the school shooting last week. The protestors, from a church which was asked to leave the Southern Baptist Convention many years ago because of their un-Christlike rhetoric and methods, never actually showed up to picket.

But if you based your opinion of Christians on this weekend's media coverage, what picture would you get: people living out a renewed life in relationship with their creator and redeemer, or angry people invading the privacy of people suffering from a horrible tragedy?

The reality of the Christian life as experienced by me and by tens of millions of other believers is not deemed newsworthy. After all, it happens every day in every city and town. Every channel on your 200-channel cable box could not contain all of the stories of what an extraordinary God is doing in normal people's lives. But all you get from the media is coverage of a few nutcases who use this kind of tragedy to get attention for themselves through their outrageously inappropriate actions.

The media’s job is to report the unusual events, the exceptions, the fringe occurrences, not the common things which happen all the time. That is our job. On Sunday mornings we gather together in the church building, but on Monday morning, the Church of Jesus Christ hits the road. We carry the light of Jesus into our homes, communities, schools, workplaces, hospitals, grocery stores, and wherever else we go. A darkened and lost world needs to see that light in us, in our actions and our words, because they are surely not going to get it from watching TV.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

What do you say?

Imagine for a moment that you are standing in front of a stadium packed with twenty thousand people, and they are not happy with you. They all have one thing in common: each one lost a spouse, sibling, child, or parent when terrorists blew up the Liberty Tower in LA, the tallest skyscraper on the west coast.

You were responsible for gathering intelligence from 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after he was captured in March of 2003 in Pakistan. This Al Qaeda leader, already responsible for the deaths of three thousand Americans, had vital knowledge about no fewer than nine terror plots in various stages of planning, and had information which could lead to the arrest of dozens of terrorists around the world.

But Khalid was not willing to share that information freely. He held out against standard interrogation methods such as sleep deprivation and prolonged exposure to cold.

There was one more technique available to you: waterboarding. In this interrogation method, the subject is strapped to a board and positioned with his feet slightly above his head. A cloth is wrapped tightly around his face, and water is poured over his head, creating the sensation of asphyxiation. While this may cause great distress, it is harmless when conducted properly. CIA members routinely practice this technique on each other, and most people give in to the demands of the interrogator is less than a minute.

You, however, decided that it would not be morally acceptable to use this interrogation technique with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. After all, in America we take the high road, and waterboarding the man who conceived the idea of 9/11 would make us morally equivalent to Khmer Rouge, Hitler, Idi Amin, or Saddam, evil dictators who tortured, mutilated, and killed people in their quest to torture, mutilate, and kill more people.

As a result, the information which could have prevented the attack on the Liberty Tower remained locked inside of the head of one of the most evil men alive.

You are about to address the family members of those who were killed. What will you say to them? How will you justify your decision? How will you make the case that it was better for their loved ones to be murdered than to subject Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to two minutes of agony? How will you convince these people that it was morally superior to assure the comfort of a terrorist than to protect the lives of innocent Americans? Come on! What are you going to say?

Fortunately, this scenario is only in our imagination. In the real world, a defiant Khalid held out against many other interrogation techniques, until as a last resort they proceeded to waterboarding. Two minutes into the procedure, a broken Mohammed begged for relief. His extensive confession led to the thwarting of a number of terror plots (including the imminent operation to blow up Liberty Tower) and the capture of dozens of terrorists in many different countries. Mohammed’s case was not unusual in how quickly it worked. It was unusual for how long Mohammed was able to withstand it. Most terrorists break down in half that time. It is not known exactly how often waterboarding is employed, but it has been made known that it has worked every time it has been tried. Information obtained in this way has led to the capture of numerous terrorists and the prevention of many deadly plots, saving an untold number of lives.

The claim that waterboarding is unethical does not hold up to closer scrutiny. To illustrate this, let us contrast waterboarding to the most common approach which involved prolonged sleep deprivation combined with exposure to cold. This can take days or weeks to break the captive down to the point of giving up the desired information, often resulting in long-term physical or psychological trauma. And even then it is much more likely that the subject, given that much time to consider his options, will provide false or misleading information. Waterboarding, on the other hand, lasts for a few fleeting minutes, and carries the least risk of long-term harm. Not only is it more effective, it is also the most humane.

A form of mercy is extended to the murderous terrorist which he would not extend to his innocent victims: the anguish is stopped the moment he expressed a desire for it to be so. While the terrorist seeks to commit horrendous acts of mass murder, leaving as many mangled corpses behind as possible, waterboarding permits the terrorist to live to see another day, unscathed by his momentary ordeal. But it provides us the intelligence we urgently need to save innocent lives.

Our government is not only justified in using this technique with people such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, they are morally obligated to use it.