Thursday, December 4, 2008

Why I signed a petition about Obama's Birth Certificate

The issue of whether a candidate for the Presidency is a "Natural Born Citizen" has come up in the past. One instance I remember is in the 60's when George Romney was running in the primaries for President. It was alleged that he was born in Mexico and therefore wasn't a natural born citizen. In the election of 2008 not only Obama's natural born status was questioned, but McCain's as well. McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. In 1790 Congress passed a law which defined the son or daughter of an American born overseas as a natural born citizen. The Wikipedia in the entry which can be found by Googling "natural born citizen" states

The 1790 Congress, many of whose members had been members of the Constitutional Convention, provided in the Naturalization Act of 1790 that "And the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens."

But in 1795, according to the Wikipedia

the Congress passed the Naturalization Act of 1795 which removed the words "natural born" from this statement to state that such children born to citizens beyond the seas are citizens of the U.S., but are not legally to be considered "natural born citizens" of the U.S.

I had always been under the impression that the son or daughter of an American citizen was considered a citizen even though born overseas, and I was vaguely aware of the 1790 law which defined "natural born" to include the sons and daughters of Americans born outside the U. S.
But I signed the petition in the hopes that the Supreme Court would hear the case and rule and clear this issue up once and for all. So far as I'm concerned Obama won the election fair and square. He will be our next president. But please, Supreme Court, clear this issue up.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Saving the auto industry

The airwaves and the print media are brimming with prescriptions for saving the US auto industry, warnings about what will happen if it is allowed to collapse, and finger pointing at auto executives, unions and governments.

Much of the rhetoric assumes that if the government fails to bail out the automobile industry, it will collapse, leaving millions of people jobless and millions of retirees without their pensions.

Clearly the auto industry is in serious straits, and some serious measures will be needed to save it. However, a government bailout, or loan as the auto executives insist on calling it, is precisely the wrong solution. A bailout will give the auto companies breathing space – which they can use to wait for the programs they already have in place to bear fruit, and for economic conditions to improve. But the auto companies have serious problems that need to be dealt with now: worker and retiree pay and benefits, union contracts that give overseas manufacturers a huge advantage, management’s tendency to concentrate on big cars and SUV’s because they have higher profit margins (or did until recently). These problems can only be solved by the auto companies, possibly under new management. A Chapter 11 reorganization would allow the auto companies to continue operating while they sort out their problems.

Does government have a role in the automotive turnaround? Certainly. Government can help by freezing the unfunded mandates they have imposed on the auto industry: fuel consumption, emissions, crashworthiness. Not that anyone is opposed to cleaner, safer, more economical cars, but how much better off would we be if the government offered a prize to the first auto company to meet a goal instead of fining those who don’t meet it?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Observations November 5, 2008

Now that the fears of conservatives have been realized in the election of Barack Obama to the Presidency and the increased Democrat majority in the House and the Senate, it’s time to assess what went wrong.

Usually there is not one single issue that leads to the demise of a party, and this case is no exception.

In 1994 Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America fired the imagination of voters and led to Republican majorities in the House and the Senate. With the election of George W. Bush in 2000 Republicans controlled the legislative and executive branches.

But all Republicans are not conservatives. Some Republicans played the same games the Democrat majority had played for years: earmarks, big budgets, appointing cronies to positions under their control.

The Bush Administration began with great hopes: The “No Child Left Behind” act; the promise of saving Social Security by establishing personal investment accounts with a portion of the Social Security tax money; the Bush tax cuts. The events of 9/11/2001 gave Bush an opportunity for greatness that he seized. But the attack on Iraq was a far messier affair. Faulty intelligence and a utopian idea that democracy could be established in the Middle East, combined with underestimates of the needed resources led to a long and bloody war. It’s true that we are winning, but are we fighting for the right reasons? Perhaps because of the Iraq war the Bush Administration lost sight of Social Security reform, and failed to push it when they had a majority in both houses.

In November 2006 the voters, fed up with the war in Iraq, and perhaps with the Bush Administration’s failure to enact initiatives like Social Security reform, installed Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress. Since that time there has been a leadership vacuum in the Republican Party. Conservatives have battled with the liberal Republican establishment—the so-called “Country Club Republicans”. Some Republican actions like the House members who refused to vacate the House last August following an adjournment that occurred before Congress had dealt with the energy issue, attracted favorable attention, but it was too little, too late. Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions and his books, “Real Change” and “Drill here, drill now, pay less”, have attracted a strong following, but not yet enough to turn any tides.

Conservatives need to unite around a program the voters can support. The outlines of such a program might be:

1. Make the Bush tax cuts permanent
2. Reform Social Security, ideally by establishing personal accounts, but any program that protects taxpayers and recipients without bankrupting the government should be fair game
3. Work toward a foreign policy that observes the ideals of America’s founders as embodied in the Constitution and the pronouncements of men like John Adams. While I don’t agree on every point, Ron Paul has valuable insights into what America’s foreign policy should look like
4. Develop a comprehensive energy program that encourages exploration and drilling for petroleum in the near term, clean coal, nuclear and other sources such as wind, solar and bio, and aims for energy independence
5. Reconsider our association with the Republican Party. This doesn’t mean we should desert the Republicans for a third party (although that’s a possibility), but that we should work for the election of conservatives, whether they be Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, or whatever.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bill Press at journalistic crime scene -- again

Bill Press is at it again, with his recent column “McCain using 1980’s dirty tricks plan”. Specifically he takes issue with the McCain campaign’s bringing up Mr. Obama’s connections with Bill Ayers. Mr. Press writes

And finally, in an instant replay of the Willie Horton ad, they accused Obama of being an accomplice to former Weatherman Bill Ayers in planning to blow up the Pentagon.

I have not heard any accusations that Obama was an accomplice of Ayers, and I would be rather surprised if I did. As Press himself points out, Obama was only eight years old when Ayers bombed the Pentagon and the Capitol Building.

The Ayers connection, especially, is an absurd stretch. Yes, Ayers and fellow Weathermen plotted to bomb public buildings as part of their opposition to the war in Vietnam.

Not only did they plot to blow up public buildings, they actually did blow them up.

But that was in 1969 — when Barack Obama was only 8 years old. Twenty-six years later, when Obama met Ayers, the former radical was a tenured professor of education at the University of Chicago and a counselor to the mayor of Chicago on school reform.

But in 2001 Ayers publicly regretted that he hadn’t bombed more buildings. Obama has no excuse for not knowing he was befriending a terrorist.

They served on two charitable boards together, Ayers hosted a coffee for Obama's first run for public office, and they live in the same neighborhood. Obama hasn't seen or talked to Ayers since 2005. Yet pit bull Sarah Palin accuses Obama of “palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”

The point is that anyone who aspires to public office ought to choose his associates very carefully – as Mr. Press would preach to any Republican who befriended, say, an ex-grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why I plan to vote straight Democrat

I don't usually repost something I got from someone else, but this is priceless:

This is why I am voting a straight Democratic ticket:
I'm voting Democrat because I'm way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves. I'm voting Democrat because I love the fact that I can now marry whatever I want. I've decided to marry my horse. I'm voting Democrat because I believe oil companies' profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn't.I'm voting Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.I'm voting Democrat because freedom of speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it. I'm voting Democrat because when we pull out of Iraq I trust that the bad guys will stop what they're doing because they now think we're good people. I'm voting Democrat because I believe that people who can't tell us if it will rain on Friday CAN tell us that the polar ice caps will melt away in ten years if I don't start driving a Prius. I'm v oting Democrat because I'm not concerned about the slaughter of millions of babies so long as we keep all death row inmates alive. I'm voting Democrat because I believe that business should not be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as THEY see fit. I'm voting Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would NEVER get their agendas past the voters. I'm voting Democrat because my head is so firmly planted up my @#% it's unlikely that I'll ever have another point of view. 'A Liberal is a person who will give away everything they don't own.'- William F. Carling -

Sunday, October 5, 2008


That's how many people pronounce "nuclear". Observe: there is no u between the c and the l. It's new - clear, people. People in government seem especially prone to this error. I was glad to hear that John McCain pronounces nuclear correctly. However, Sarah Palin says "nucular". I don't know what Obama and Biden say. Let's hope that if Mr. McCain wins he convinces his VP to say nuclear correctly. It would be nice not to have to hear a pronunciation that grates for four years.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain and the “Keating Five”

I have been wondering how long it would take for the “Keating Five” scandal of the late 1980’s to become part of the Presidential campaign rhetoric. In his Column September 27 in The Oakland Press ( Bill Press takes McCain to task for his role in the Keating Five scandal. Because this column doesn’t appear on Press’ web site as of today, and you need a subscription to access the Oakland Press online, I’m reproducing most of the column here:

Take this to the bank, if you can still find one open for business: Two months from now, we will look back and assert that the week of Sept. 15 was the week John McCain lost the presidential election of 2008.
Why? Because that’s when Wall Street collapsed, causing real economic pain to tens of millions of Americans and exposing the failure of those conservative, unfettered free-market economic policies John McCain has championed his entire career.
This isn’t the first time McCain has been caught at a financial crime scene. Remember his first appearance on national radar? When the dust cleared from the 1980s failure of 747 savings and loans, there stood so-called reformer John McCain, right in the middle of it all: One of five senators investigated for pressuring the Federal Home Loan Bank Board to drop its investigation of crooked Lincoln Savings and Loan owner Charles Keating.

This is not the first time Bill Press has been caught at a journalistic crime scene. To lump McCain with DiConcini, Riegle and Cranston is just plain inaccurate. According to the Wikipedia entry for the Keating Five scandal,

After a lengthy investigation, the Senate Ethics Committee determined in 1991 that Alan Cranston, Dennis DeConcini, and Donald Riegle had substantially and improperly interfered with the FHLBB in its investigation of Lincoln Savings. Senators John Glenn and John McCain were cleared of having acted improperly but were criticized for having exercised "poor judgment".

The Wikipedia entry goes on to report on a meeting on April 9 1987 between Senators Cranston, DeConcini, Glenn, McCain, and Riegle and three members of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board San Francisco Branch:

The regulators then revealed that Lincoln was under criminal investigation on a variety of serious charges, at which point McCain severed all relations with Keating.
It seems likely, if not perfectly clear, that McCain was simply trying to get the investigation of Keating, a constituent and admittedly a friend, off dead center.

At one point in the meeting McCain said "To be blunt, you should charge them or get off their backs."

Press continues

Suddenly, in response to this week’s disastrous economic news, and in one of the most daring flipflops of American politics, McCain is trying to reinvent himself as the champion of government regulation, promising to push for new regulations on financial institutions.

This is not quite accurate. It appears that the reason the negotiations in Congress on the $700 billion bailout failed was that McCain sided with the House Republicans who were pushing for a lower level of government intervention – loans instead of government takeovers, and possibly repeal of the “Mark to Market” rule and the Sarbanes-Oxley act.

But it’s too late for McCain to change his spots.

Suppose McCain is changing his spots. If he is changing based on the lessons of hard experience, let’s congratulate him for learning from experience.
McCain was implicated in the Keating scandal and interviewers and Barack Obama ought to question him about his involvement and what he learned from it. If his answers are satisfactory he shouldn’t be defeated for his peripheral involvement in a scandal 20 years ago.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Telegraphing your moves

According to an article in the Sept 11, 2008 Oakland Press (Pontiac, MI) Joe Biden has engaged Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm to serve as a stand-in for Sarah Palin in preparation for the vice presidential debate. Whatever her record as Michigan governor (mixed at best), Granholm is a good choice for debate coach. But read what Biden says

Biden predicted that Palin would try to make their debate personal and said he wouldn’t respond in kind if she attacked him.
“She’s going to try to make it as personal as she can. She’s going to take a lot of straight lefts and jabs at me, she’s going to try to get me to respond, she’s going to try to get me to respond in a personal way,” Biden said at a fundraiser Tuesday night in Chicago. “That’s not my style. I’m not going to do it.”

Let's hope that Biden comes to the debate with all the lines he needs to deflect personal attacks, and Palin sticks to the issues.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Bible and the law

In his column of June 26 Bill Press took James Dobson to task for his criticisms of Barack Obama’s theology. He wrote

James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, recently blasted Obama for his now famous “Call to Renewal” speech of 2006, in which he pointed out that there’s an inherent difficulty in attempts by evangelicals to establish the Bible as the road map for public policy. “Would we go with James Dobson’s interpretation (of the Bible),” Obama asked his audience, “or Al Sharpton’s?” For Dobson, even raising that question is pure heresy. “I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology,” Dobson told his national radio audience. He even accused Obama of having a “fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.” But unlike previous Democratic candidates, Obama didn’t back down. He questioned what Dobson meant by the “traditional understanding” of the Bible. “Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy?” Obama asked. “Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount?”

When it comes to public policy the government’s chief concern is maintaining order and protecting the helpless. Issues like the commandment against eating shellfish are not a government concern. But the government must have some principles to back up law enforcement. For example, polygamy was outlawed in the 19th century. How was that decision justified if not on Biblical grounds? To take another example, Muslim Sharia law prescribes penalties that would be considered cruel and unusual punishment by the 8th amendment to our Constitution. The New Testament provides the basis for excluding cruel and unusual punishment: the worth and dignity of each individual. The example from Deuteronomy 21:18-21 makes it clear that the New Testament as well as the old has something to say about the administration of justice. Jews don’t stone their children for being rebellious, but presumably must say, “we just don’t do that anymore” in justification. Christians can point to any number of passages in the New Testament to justify a firm but loving approach to raising children. He continues

Again, Obama tackled head-on what Dobson, Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell have been saying for years: that we are a Christian nation; that public policy must be based on the Bible; and that every word of the Bible must be taken literally.

Of course the founders of our country were not literalists. They were products of the enlightenment and had a more sophisticated understanding of the Bible than Dobson and Falwell. Nevertheless, they believed that the Bible should serve as a guide to the writing of laws and the administration of justice. John Adams said,

"We have no government armed with the power capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and true religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.'"

“Religion” in the thinking of the founding fathers meant, specifically, Christianity. He continues

In our pluralistic society, it’s not that simple. Because not all Americans are Christians, or even believers, you can’t find common ground for legislation based on the Bible.

No, it’s not that simple. But laws must have a basis and must be enforced, even on people who don’t agree with the basis. The alternative is anarchy and chaos. A good many immigrants come here because they know that the rule of law is respected here. Denying the religious basis for law just undermines it. Finally he writes

Even though most Americans are Christians, we are not a Christian nation: never have been, never will be. Therefore, in making the laws that govern our nation, we don’t turn to the Old Testament, the New Testament, or the Koran. We turn to the only sacred text that all Americans worship: the U.S. Constitution.

Please let’s not call the Constitution a “sacred text that all Americans worship”. It is the best founding document for a republic ever written, and ought to be deeply respected by every American, but not considered sacred or worshiped. Sacredness and worship are reserved for God, who gave us many of the principles written in our Constitution.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The cost of putting your name on something

Last night my wife and I went to a concert with a number of people from our church at an outdoor amphitheatre once known as Pine Knob. We were eager to hear Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith. Although we normally sit on the lawn when attending concerts at this facility we were fortunate to have received free tickets in the pavilion, along with VIP parking and even a buffet supper, through the generosity of a local supermarket chain. But the concert – most of it anyway – wasn’t to be. After the opening act Steven Curtis Chapman sang his first song, after which the power in the theatre went out. The lighting around the park outside the theatre was still operating. After a few minutes without sound and light the power came back on and Chapman sang a verse of his next song, then the power cut out again. This went on until around 9:00 when Linda and I decided to leave. It was hot and Linda was beginning to wilt. And we worried about being able to find our way out in the dark. As if to underline our concern, as we walked through the parking lot, all the power in the facility went down. Not even an emergency light shined in the parking lot. This morning we called the church office and found that the power failures continued until 10:00 when the performers gave up and everyone went home.

Why am I writing this? Because several years ago DTE Energy, the electric company in the Detroit area, paid probably several million dollars to name the theatre “The DTE Energy Music Theatre.” Talk about getting egg on your face. Perhaps DTE should invest in a backup generator for the DTE Energy Music Theatre.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bill Press on energy: More liberal misconceptions

Bill Press’ column (
For 6/19/08, titled “MCCAIN SELLS OUT TO BIG OIL” repeats a number of liberal misconceptions that need to be corrected.

He says

Just look at the difference between Barack Obama and John McCain on energy. Obama proposes a windfall profits tax on big oil companies to help develop wind and solar energy, research new alternative energy technologies, and wean ourselves from fossil fuels. McCain proposes drilling for oil off the coast, one of the oldest and worst ideas in the Big Oil pipeline.

Since when is the government a source of innovation? Government labs don’t have to show a profit, so they don’t have to develop practical, market-oriented technology. Government grants go to universities and research labs that also don’t have to show a profit. True, useful products and technologies come from university research, but they would come much faster if the universities would partner with profit-making corporations. Generally the government doesn’t require this. Jimmy Carter proposed a massive “Synfuels” effort during his administration. Whatever happened to that?

He continues

Offshore drilling will destroy our most beautiful stretches of coastline, and wreck our valuable tourism and fishing industries. And it will continue our dependency on fossil

This is based on the drilling technology of the 60’s. It’s true that some spills occurred during drilling then, but drilling and production techniques have improved since then. During Hurricane Katrina no oil was spilled from platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Compared to spills from tankers, the spills from drilling are miniscule.

He writes
Even if the moratorium were lifted tomorrow, it would take at least 10 years to develop the offshore rigs and onshore tanks, pipelines and roadways necessary to begin production.

This is like saying, “Why should I start college? It’ll take 4 years to get a degree.” If we had continued to explore for petroleum deposits, we wouldn’t be in the fix we’re in now. If we start now to explore, the potential for new production will calm speculation in oil futures, which will apply downward pressure to oil prices. And in ten years we won't be experiencing the shortage we are dealing with now.

Continuing, he writes
By that time, with a new energy policy, we could be well on our way to a new, alternative-energy future.

No one is saying we shouldn’t develop alternative energy sources. But this will require considerable time, and current estimates indicate that known alternative energy sources are not capable of supplying the energy we currently use. So time will be needed to develop new energy sources and implement conservation measures. In the meantime we need petroleum.

Finally he writes

Offshore drilling won’t bring any relief for consumers, either. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates there are 18 billion barrels of oil in the moratorium areas. At present rates of consumption, those fields would be exhausted in less than 2 1 /2 years. According to the Campaign for America’s Future Online, lowering the price of crude by $1 per barrel saves roughly 2.5 cents per gallon. Which means that getting rid of the ban on coastal drilling would lower the price at the pump by less than 6 cents — by 2025.

Mr. Press fails to mention the huge petroleum reserves locked in the oil shale deposits in Colorado and other western states. Extraction technology for getting at that oil in an environmentally safe way is not yet available, but progress is being made.

The alternative energy sources Mr. Press mentions should be developed. But at present they are expensive compared to petroleum and not capable of supplanting the role of petroleum. For the present we need to continue to explore for and develop petroleum, while continuing to develop alternative energy sources.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Of what use are those bubbles?

What good is foam? I’m not talking about foam rubber or Styrofoam – they have their uses. But in the form of cleaning products that foam or the head on beer, the value is questionable.

Years ago a New York brewer advertised “The ten minute head”. Another brewer advertised, “Don’t pour it down the side of the glass.” What does a head on a glass of beer accomplish? It prevents the beer drinker from getting at the beer – unless he wants to coat his face with foam.

Cleaning product manufacturers like to show how their product foams. Presumably the foam shows that the cleaner is doing its job. But what the commercial doesn’t tell you is that you’re going to have to rinse and rinse and rinse to get the foam to go down the drain. When I clean the bathroom I don’t use water with the cleaner – just wipe it off with a paper towel. This cuts down significantly on the work of removing the foam. And I avoid cleaning products whose manufacturers tout their foaminess.
And foam from detergents can be a big contributor to pollution of streams and rivers. Better to do without those suds.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Reforming McCain

The following is the text of a message I sent to John McCain's campaign web site this evening:

As a conservative Republican, I am not happy about some of your positions on issues. I will vote for you, but if you want me to contribute to your campaign, please promise to work for the repeal of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" act. This law restricts free speech and should never have been passed.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Cleaning up Congress

In 2006 the voters gave the Democrats control of the House and the Senate, in part because the Republicans controlling Congress had not lived up to their promises of sound budgeting. However, under the Democrats deficit spending and earmarks continue.

The problem as I see it is that it's too easy to attach earmarks to bills passing through Congress. True, there are major projects approved by Congress that should never be approved. But earmarks represent a constant drain on financial resources that, if controlled, could yield substantial savings. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not proposing to completely eliminate earmarks. Some earmarks are worthwhile and ought to be passed. But the practice of simply attaching them to unrelated bills passing through Congress guarantees that they will not get the scrutiny they ought to.

The solution as I see it is twofold:

  1. Require that each bill approved by Congress must address a single subject
  2. Give the President a line item veto
The first provision would prevent bills from getting cluttered with unrelated special interest legislation. It would reduce the size of each bill and facilitate lawmakers concentrating on the main subject of the bill.

The second provision would help enforce the first by enabling the President to strike out provisions in a bill that do not address the subject of the bill.

Needless to say, this change could result in a vast increase in the number of bills Congress has to consider in each session. However, each bill would be smaller and address one subject, making evaluation easier. Some legislation would never come up for a vote, because of the logistics of steering it through Congress. That's not bad. A bill that really needs to be passed will be passed. The ones that don't come up for a vote are probably not worth passing anyway.

Friday, May 2, 2008

I want out (of Medicare)

This morning I woke up with a swelling in my left cheek. It didn’t hurt, but it had happened once before and Linda and I decided I needed to see a doctor. We’re new in town, having recently moved to Austin, TX from Rochester, MI. So we first called a doctor Linda had just started seeing. We got an appointment, but while I was filling out the forms they saw I had listed Medicare as my primary insurer. They stopped the process right there. “We don’t take Medicare,” they said. We called another doctor they recommended, with the same result. In all we called 6 doctors, and in every case either they were booked or they didn’t take Medicare. Finally we went to an outpatient facility associated with a hospital.

This is what Americans can look forward to if Hillary Clinton’s or Barack Obama’s health care plans is implemented. Because of the bureaucratic delays, below market reimbursement rates and excessive regulation, many doctors in private practice won’t want to deal with the government system. But in my case it’s not a matter of looking forward. My care crisis is here. If I am going to have health insurance I don’t want to be treated like a skid row bum or a third world peasant. I would far rather pay an exorbitant premium that gets me prompt service, especially when I have a serious concern. It’s time to go back to work, get into a health plan and tell Medicare to go suck eggs.

You may say, “The government can correct this problem by passing a law requiring all doctors to take Medicare patients.” Then we would have the situation that exists in Canada. Doctors, overloaded with mandated patients who don’t pay market rates, would choose to retire earlier, and for similar reasons fewer young people would choose to enter the medical profession. The result for patients would be long waits for treatment. Better to let the market determine the cost and availability of care. That way people won’t die while waiting for treatment.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Who are we to believe?

30 or so years ago university nutritionists and health food advocates were at one another’s throats. At that time I went to a seminar in which a university nutritionist and a health food advocate were accusing one another of jeopardizing people’s health. During the question period I said, “You are debating these issues, and to you it may seem like an academic debate. But what’s at stake is my health. What am I supposed to do while I wait for you to agree?” They were speechless. That controversy is still playing itself out today, although government and the nutrition establishment have made some concessions to organic foods. But the controversy is far from resolved. Dr. Mirkin ( recently quoted some research that claims taking some vitamin supplements can actually shorten your life ( Drs. Roizen and Oz, in their website, recommend specific amounts of various vitamins, including the ones Dr. Mirkin recommends against taking in supplement form. While Drs. Roizen and Oz recommend getting as much as possible of your daily vitamin and mineral intake from food, they recommend making up any deficits with supplements. I have considerable respect for both Dr. Mirkin and Drs. Roizen and Oz, but they disagree and what’s at stake is my health.

Someone needs to evaluate the conflicting claims in layman’s terms and help laymen develop a sensible strategy for eating and supplementation.

For my part I intend to continue taking vitamin pills, while trying to get as much as possible of my nutritional needs from food. The experts change their minds too frequently for me to follow every recommendation.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Who's dictating to whom? Michigan and Florida delegates

It strikes me as ridiculous that the political parties are trying to dictate to the states when they can hold their presidential primaries. By refusing to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates, the Democrat Party is disenfranchising the voters of Michigan and Florida. Both states ought to sue the Democrat party for disenfranchising their voters. The alternative of redoing the primary elections is significantly expensive. Perhaps Florida and Michigan should hold new primaries and sue the Democrat party for the costs involved. Similar reasoning applies to the Republican party, although it only cut each state's delegation by half.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On limited government

As a conservative with libertarian tendencies – at least at the Federal level, I believe in limited government. Some of my liberal friends would say I believe in hogtied government. Why? The short answer is that the less power the government has, the greater the freedom individuals have.

While it has been said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, there are some changes in laws that would help put a damper on expansion of government. Since taxation is one of the ways the government limits freedom, let’s start with the tax code. The US tax code encompasses thousands of pages of text, and the IRS publishes thousands more pages “explaining” the tax code. Companies and individuals collectively spend millions of hours computing their taxes. I propose a constitutional amendment along the following lines:

The entire tax code of the United States shall require no more than (say) 100 pages of 8.5 X 11 paper, printed in 11 point type with 1 inch margins all around. It shall be comprehensible by a 6th grader of average intelligence. The burden of proof shall rest with the government. It shall be possible to prepare one’s tax return using only the tax code. The burden of proof shall rest with the government.

A second amendment would do much to reduce the volume of laws passed by Congress:

The entire US code shall require no more than (say) 1000 pages of 8.5 X 11 paper, printed in 11 point type with 1 inch margins all around. It shall be comprehensible by a 6th grader of average intelligence. The burden of proof shall rest with the government.

What happens when the entire quota is filled up? In order to pass a new law, Congress would have to repeal enough old laws to make space for the new law. In addition to keeping the body of law reasonably compact and concise, this would help eliminate obsolete and archaic laws, as well as slow down Congress’ deliberation. To paraphrase Mark Twain, I feel safer on days when Congress passes fewer laws.

Two additional changes that would reduce waste and favoritism would be
1. A Constitutional amendment requiring each bill to address a single subject. This would virtually eliminate earmarks and help limit the size of bills.
2. A line item veto. This would enable the President to eliminate provisions in a bill that don’t address the bill’s single subject.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Are we serious about saving energy?

Saving energy (and reducing pollution as well) are very much in the news these days. We are advised to buy cars that are fuel-efficient, and even to consider hybrid cars. But most of the advice misses a significant source of fuel consumption – and pollution: idling. Even if you don’t idle your car excessively, what do you do when you go through a drive-through? If you’re like most people you idle the engine while waiting. But an idling engine can use close to a gallon per hour. Drive by a bank or a fast food restaurant. There will usually be several cars waiting, all with engines idling. The main street of the town I live in has 3 banks, two fast food restaurants, a car wash, two drugstores with drive through prescription pickup and a Starbucks with a drive through. If there are 5 cars waiting at each drive through, 45 gallons per hour are being burned just waiting. If we were really serious about saving fuel, we’d ban drive throughs. Alternatively we could restrict them to hybrid vehicles, which would both save fuel and encourage people to buy hybrids. Since that isn’t likely to happen, just remember that if you’re going to idle the engine more than 10 seconds, you save fuel by turning the engine off.