Sunday, April 27, 2008

China is NOT our friend

By Edward Smallwood

[Edited 4-28-08 at 12:09 AM.] I found an excellent diary post at The Daily Kos about one of the points below. I have added in the information, and included a link in the sources.[-Ed]

Sorry this post is so late. This was going to be a simpler post, but once I started looking for information, it kept getting bigger. Sources are posted at the end of the essay.

Sometimes I have to work at coming up with a good topic for a blog entry, and sometimes one just comes out and smacks me in the head. This is one of the latter ones. For those of you who have known me for some time, this essay will sound familiar. I have been saying this for some time, to the point where I sound like a broken record at times. (I hope most of you understand what a record is, and why I might sound like a broken one.)

There has been a problematic misconception that our politicians have had since President Nixon’s February 1972 trip to China: That China can be, or is, our friend. This idea is false in every respect. China is openly hostile to us politically, economically, fiscally, militarily, and in virtually every other way.

Let’s go over these and other points about China’s attitude toward the United States.

Military: China has been getting ready for a war with the United States for quite some time. The un-provoked war we started with Iraq convinced them that they need to accelerate their plans for this war. They have stated publicly in their own newspapers for a long time that they thought conflict was inevitable, largely over resources. Think about it: Their population is rapidly moving toward our lifestyle, which uses a lot of resources. In fact, they are already using more resources than we are in many critical areas. They have been spying on our military for as long as I can remember, and the recent Pentagon Spying case shows that they are still doing so.

For years Chinese hackers have been attempting to penetrate Pentagon computer networks, with some success. This is not the act of a friendly nation.

We must get ready for a possible conflict with China, but more importantly, we should do what we can to avoid this. Avoidance does not mean placating China. The best way to avoid conflict involves using fewer resources, which is good for us in any case. Using less oil and coal is the best thing we can do for ourselves and the global environment, while possibly preventing war. The same goes for recycling. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Fiscal Policy: Over the last eight years, our country has foolishly been going into debt at a rate never before seen. Much of this has been to finance an unnecessary war. One of the biggest problems with this has been that China has been buying as much of this debt as they could, to the amount of $3965.27 per U.S. Taxpayer. This puts them in at least partial control of our economy. As long as the interests of the United States and China are the same, or at least parallel, this is not a problem. The instant our interests are at loggerheads we have a problem. China could call the debt due, or more likely, unload our debt on the market, making it worthless. If this should happen, it would make it difficult for our country to borrow money to do necessary things, such as fund our military. It would also make it difficult to borrow money on a personal level to do important things, such as buy groceries or cars. We need to stop borrowing money to fund a war that we do not need and to start paying back as much as we can, and we need to stop giving rich people a free ride and start taxing them their fair share.

Politically: China does not allow dissent within their own borders, and now, they are going after people who do not like the Chinese government outside their borders. When Jack Cafferty on CNN said something the Chinese government didn’t like, they unleashed hackers to bring down CNN’s website. I would hardly be surprised if they tried a Denial of Service attack on my website because of my views.

In addition, when the news came out that some pet and human foods that came from China had been tainted with Melamine, our FDA was required to investigate. In front of Congress, these investigators said that the government of China was “fully cooperating.” Under questioning, it was uncovered that “fully cooperating” meant that the factory that these ingredients came from was shut down before FDA investigators could arrive, that those investigators were not given access to anyone who worked there, and that they were not allowed to actually, you know, investigate anything. Why would these same investigators claim that China was “fully cooperating?” Could it be political pressure from China? Could it be anything else?

It is well known that both Yahoo and Google have helped the Chinese Government suppress dissent within their borders. Considering their relationship, is it possible that the Chinese Government may indeed pressure these companies to suppress any statement that they may not like, regardless of where it is made?

Economically: When Chinese made toys for young children sold under Mattel’s brand were found to contain unsafe levels of lead, who do you think Mattel had to apologize to; their customers who bought the toys and exposed their children to lead, or the Chinese government? If you chose the Chinese government, you would be correct.

This is ignoring the common act of dumping Chinese made products in the U.S., products made for less than it cost to make them. This is always done in order to destroy another country’s ability to make the same product, regardless of which country is guilty of doing this. In China’s defense, many other countries have done this to us in the past, including South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, all countries that are said to be friendly to the United States. However, the fact that the government of China is involved in this dumping makes this a more serious issue.

We must start putting tariffs on goods that are being dumped in our country. We must also start testing goods coming into our country to make sure they are meeting our safety standards. Are you aware that only one person at the Consumer Product Safety Commission is responsible for testing all of the toys in the country for lead? We need to increase the number of people checking for product and food safety immediately.

Environment: Last year, China surpassed the United States for amount of greenhouse-gasses released. Their air pollution is actually affecting air quality in the United States due to the fact that they do not have the air quality standards or enforcement that we do in our country, and air doesn’t stay put. In fact, they are opening a new coal-fired electrical power plant every six days currently.

We need to start pressuring China to enforce their own environmental laws, while reducing the amount of pollutants we ourselves are putting into the environment.

So, the Chinese are taking our jobs, selling us dangerous products at below cost, planning on going to war with us, poisoning our food, polluting everyone’s air, and then telling us to shut the heck up over all of it. Is any of this the act of a friend? What would you think of someone who lived next to you and treated you this way? Would you think of them as your friend?

I personally consider the Government of China to be the biggest threat not just to the United States, but to the safety and freedom of everyone on the planet. We desperately need to start disinvesting in China, regardless of the profit potential. Profit cannot be exchanged for safety or freedom. We also must disengage politically from them until they start changing their behavior. They must start to clean up their environment. They must start to allow freedom. Our current involvement is not helping the Chinese citizens as much as it is harming us, and this needs to change. Now.


War preparations:

“Is China preparing for war with U.S.?” by ZACHARY HUBBARD, The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, PA), August 24, 2007,

China readies for future U.S. fight” By CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam
Tuesday, March 25, 2003,

China Prepares U.S. War Scenarios”, By John Leicester, Associated Press Writer
Sunday, Oct. 22, 2000,

China Rapidly Modernizes for War With U.S.”, by Alexandr Nemets,
Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2004,

Military Spying:

Chinese Hacking of the Pentagon:

“Chinese hackers: No site is safe”, By John Vause, CNN,

China owns U.S. Debt:

“Our view on national fiscal security: Look who owns U.S. debt now”, Editorial of USAToday,

“Did you know you owed $3,935 to the Chinese Government?!”, by yaddab, The Daily Kos, Sat Apr 26, 2008 at 06:34:59 PM PDT,

China squelching international dissent:

“Chinese hackers disable for three hours”, by Liam Tung,

23 April 2008,,130061744,339288382,00.htm

“Mattel Apologizes to China Over Recalls”, By ALEX VEIGA AP Business Writer
LOS ANGELES Sep 21, 2007 (AP),

China tainted food investigation:


China admits tainted food link”, By Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY,

Search Engines helping Chinese Government suppress dissent:

“Lawmakers Berate Yahoo Execs”, Grant Gross, IDG News Service, Tuesday, November 06, 2007 1:00 PM PST,,139347-page,1/article.html

“Google to censor China Web searches”, By Elinor Mills, Staff Writer, CNET, January 24, 2006 7:25 PM PST,

“Google’s shifting moral ground”, By Dan Farber, January 25th, 2006,

“Google's China Filtering Draws Fire”, By Jay Lyman, TechNewsWorld, 12/01/04,

Chinese greenhouse gases and air pollution:

China says coal use surging despite environmental worries”, The Associated Press, July 25, 2007,

“Coal power-Still going strong”, Nov 15th 2007, From The Economist print edition,

“A WARMING WORLD--China about to pass U.S. as world's top generator of greenhouse gases”, Robert Collier, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer, Monday, March 5, 2007,

China dumping products:

“Anti-dumping Duties Imposed on Hand Trucks Imported from China”, Posted on November 15, 2004,

“Dumping Cases on China Imports Rise Since WTO Accession”, By Bruce Odessey, Washington File Staff Writer, March 2005,

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Special Earth Day Post

By Ed Smallwood

I promised after MLK Day that I would attempt to be more topical; that I would attempt to remember special days more often. This Special Earth Day edition is my first attempt to do so. Look for my Special Free Comic Book Day Edition next month (the joke is: I’m not joking.) Rest assured that this Tuesday (the actual Earth Day) I will return to my usual purely political rantings.

All humor aside, Earth Day used to be really important when I was younger. It was supposed to bring attention to environmental issues, hopefully so we could do something about it before it was too late. Somehow in the last decade or so, it has become almost irrelevant. We have allowed it to disappear and today I am wondering: “Why?”

It certainly isn’t because we don’t need it. I’m sure many holidays have disappeared because they outlived their usefulness. Earth Day can hardly be considered to be one of those.

It can’t be because nobody is concerned about the environment. I have a hard time turning on a newscast without something being mentioned about Global Warming or Carbon Emissions, even if something much more important is happening, like The Pope marrying Britney Spears and Robert Downey Jr. while paparazzi have a shootout over the rights to crash into their limo before they disappear permanently from a Dutch colony.

Is it because we have Republicans in the White House? I doubt that would be the cause. Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970, under the Nixon administration.

So what could the cause be? Is it because we’re so concerned about the environment all the time that having a special day to raise awareness is unnecessary? I would like to think so, but I doubt it.

Actually, I believe that we have never had as urgent a need for Earth Day as we do now. If we use it to it’s fullest, we should be going to Earth Day celebrations and using that time to network, to start to apply more pressure on our legislators to take the environment much more seriously than we have in the past several years.

Under the current administration, environmental regulations have been loosened, at a time when they are becoming more important. California has petitioned the EPA for a variance that would allow the state to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars the way they do other smog producing emissions. First the EPA stated that they had no authority to do so, and after California sued them in the Supreme Court, and the Court told the EPA that they do indeed have that authority, the EPA has decided to ignore California’s request on the assumption that they actually don’t have to pay attention to the most populous state in the Union.

The President first stated that he didn’t believe that global warming was happening. He later changed his stance to the idea that it was a natural event that we didn’t have to worry about. He has recently changed his mind again to agree that it is human caused, but his solution to the problem hasn’t changed much: Let polluters trade Carbon Credits. This would allow some polluters to put out much more carbon dioxide than they do now, under the assumption that others would put out less. This is a non-solution.

My gut feeling at this point is that we have a much bigger problem with global warming than we realize; that it is much further along than we have been told by a media that doesn’t understand the problem. The main evidence, and problem, that I can point to is that the permafrost is melting. This may not sound important, but it is huge. The permafrost is the land area starting around the Arctic Circle and going north of there. This is land that has been frozen solid essentially since the last ice age, more than 10,000 years ago. Think about that for a bit. Many of the things that live in that part of the world that have died over tens of thousands of years were left in a frozen state. It is a giant ice-box, storing tens of thousands of years of leftovers. Now, it’s on a defrost cycle. Think of what happens to the food in your freezer when you have a week-long power outage.

Now think of all of the grasses, rats, mammoths, and other now-dead things rotting and releasing huge amounts of carbon dioxide and methane gas into the atmosphere. Over 10,000 years worth. That could easily amount to much more greenhouse gas than our entire civilization has ever released.

Considering how long carbon dioxide stays in the air (about 30 years on average,) my feeling is that we would have needed to go carbon neutral 20 or more years ago to prevent our current situation.

Now that I’ve scared the bajeezus out of you, we can still fix this. We have time. The temperature is not going up too quickly yet, however we do need to get on top of this problem as quickly as possible. I keep hearing people saying that we need a World War II type mobilization to fix this problem, and I think they have something there. It is possible, and things like this have been done in the past.

So let’s use Earth Day this year to start this mobilization. Go over to the Earth Policy Institute and purchase at least one copy, preferably several more, of the book Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Lester R. Brown. This book has the best roadmap of what needs to be done in my opinion. After reading it, you will want to lend it out. Trust me on this—virtually everyone I know that bought a copy of the last edition of the book bought at least one other for someone else. Next, Contact your Representative in Congress to let them know you are paying attention, and remember their reaction this November. You can also buy them a copy of Plan B 3.0 (the more you buy, the better the price gets.) And don’t forget to vote this November.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Current Affairs

By Edward Smallwood

And now for something completely different.

Senator John McCain has been running for President mostly on the legacy of President G.W. Bush, saying that he agrees with Mr. Bush in virtually every respect. Mr. McCain has said that he wants to continue that legacy. He has also said that he is pro-military, and backs our boys overseas. Let’s just take a quick look at how things are going overseas and domestically:


This week’s unemployment figures show that there are 372,000 people who lost their jobs last week (new claims). That’s 17,000 more than the previous week. Roughly three million people are receiving unemployment benefits in the country. That’s out of a population of roughly 300 million. You can only claim unemployment benefits for 6 weeks, then you are no longer counted as unemployed, regardless of your job status.

At a time when roughly 3 million people are expected to lose their homes through foreclosure, that’s 372,000 more people who can’t make their mortgage payments.

Keep in mind that some economists are estimating that in the entire housing market we can expect to see up to Seven Trillion Dollars worth of write-downs. That’s more than twice the entire U.S. Federal Government’s income from taxes this year.

One Economist is estimating that we will not be out of the recession until 2010 at the earliest. Wow, what a legacy.

Our Military:

The RAND Corporation released a study today saying that about 300,000 veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or severe depression.

Not to add to that depression, but recently, several Senators suggested expanding the GI Bill. This is the one that allowed our fathers and grandfathers to go to school after fighting wars in order to better themselves. It also helped keep our military staffed by promising an education in return for military service. Estimates have come out that this program returned $7 in taxes for every dollar it cost the taxpayers. 700% return is a pretty good return on the investment. Both the Pentagon and Mr. McCain have come out against it. They’re afraid that people might leave the military if they can get an education. So, let’s retain, not recruit. Good one, Mr. Pro-Military. This’ll keep ‘em coming for your 100 year long war.

The War on Terror:

The Government Accounting Office released a report today about how the War on Terror is going. Aparently, AlQaeda has completely regenerated it’s capability to attack the United States from their safe havens in the border area shared between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
So, when do you think AlQaeda will attack, maybe October Mr. McCain? Or is that just hopeful thinking for the Republicans?

I’m sure somebody out there would argue that he’ll be better than any Democrat. Hogwash. Absolute Hogwash. I will state for the record that G.W. has been the worst President we have ever had. Period. Nobody has run up the Federal deficit like he has. Nobody has left our country open to attacks like he has. Nobody has broken our military like he has. Nobody has mismanaged the economy like he has. Nobody has broken laws the way he has. Period. Not even Nixon. There is truly no room for debate on this issue. If McCain is going to model himself after G.W. then virtually anyone, regardless of party affiliation or displayed ability, could do better. There is no way I could ever vote for this man, or anyone that would even try to excuse him for any of the things he has done.

And that's the honest truth.


Unemployment Figures:

Housing Value Write-Downs:

Sole Survivor Denied Benefits (Thanks Jim!):

GAO Report on Terrorism:

McCain opposes GI Bill:

RAND Corporation study on PTSD in Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (news article):

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Most Misunderstood Passage of the Bible

By Edward Smallwood

I intended when I started blogging to stay off of the subject of Religion, and to stay on the topic of Politics. The big problem with that plan was that many of my political opinions are rooted in my religious beliefs. Although my religious interpretations have been in flux to a limited extent, the net results have been largely the same. In order to understand many of my political positions you will have to understand at least some of my religious beliefs. Here are just a few.

For a long time I’ve been rather critical of one passage of the Bible. It is almost certainly the most popular single verse, emblazoned on T-Shirts and displayed by sign-waving enthusiasts in sports stadiums throughout the world. I’m certain many people reading this know it in its entirety: John 3:16. For clarity I’ll quote the New American Standard Bible:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

I much preferred the passages from Matthew 25:31-46, also popularly known as “the parable of the sheep and the goats” and “the parable of the judgements.” As you can see, it’s 15 verses long. That’s pretty long for an essay, but I’m going to put it in anyway. Here it is:

31 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.

32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;

33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

34 "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;

36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'

37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?

38 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?

39 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'

40 "The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'

41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;

42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;

43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'

44 "Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'

45 "Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'

46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

To me, this was the more important passage. It still is important to me. This is the only place in the entire Bible where Jesus himself says how someone can get into Heaven. Feed the hungry, house the poor, visit those in prison, take care of the sick. In short, do good works.

One of the reasons I disliked John 3:16 was that it seems to imply that all you have to do to make it into heaven is to believe that Jesus is your savior. I’ve heard others say this outright. Many, many people believe this. However, let’s look at it again:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

What does it promise if you believe that Jesus is your savior? Eternal life. Many people interpret that as meaning you will go to Heaven when you die. Does it? I started thinking about it carefully, and I realized that it may, in fact, promise eternal life, but it doesn’t make any promises whatsoever about the quality of that eternal life, or where it will be spent. There is nothing in John 3:16 that promises that you will spend eternity in Heaven simply because you believe that Jesus is your savior.

Don’t believe me? Look it over again. Take your time. It’s pretty short. See there? Not one word about where that eternal life will be spent. Nothing about how much you will enjoy that eternal life. In short, John 3:16 is little more than the headline of an article, while Matthew 25:31-46 is the opening paragraph. You can find the rest of the article in the Gospels of the Bible.

I still find blasphemous the theory that getting into Heaven involves nothing more than belief in Jesus as our savior. Those who try to sell this religious theory are clearly guilty of religious malpractice. Why would I make such a claim? Because allowing people to believe that belief in Jesus as our savior is enough allows them to do evil with a clear conscience. If you are saved by simple belief, then it doesn’t matter what you do to others, you are saved regardless. See someone in pain, in need of help? Ignore them, it’s okay since you’re saved. See someone without a home, without a meal? Who cares? You can let them find their own food and shelter since you’re already saved. John 3:16 says you are these people claim. Except we already know it doesn’t. Matthew 25:31-46 makes it clear that belief is not enough, and what’s more, Jesus himself says it.

Really, the theory that John 3:16 allows you to go to Heaven based on belief helps those who wish to do wrong, or wish to convince others to do wrong. It is the pet theory of the lazy and wicked. It’s the kind of theory that Satan would come up with to convince large numbers of people to indulge themselves and end up in Hell. And that is why I have decided to write this blog entry. Generally, I feel that forcing ones religious opinions upon others is impolite at best. However, I also feel that it is necessary to give people the best, most accurate information in order to make the right decisions.

For most of my life I have watched carefully the actions of our politicians. We heard in President G.W. Bush’s first campaign how he was a devout Christian, and read the Bible regularly. We are hearing this now about John McCain. We have been hearing this about Republican candidates for all kinds of elected positions as long as I can remember. But I really have a hard time reconciling the actions of the Republicans with the teachings of Christ in Matthew 25:31-46. I can’t reconcile Ronald Reagan’s ignoring the AIDS epidemic or ignoring the homeless with Christ’s teaching to take care of the sick and shelter the homeless. I can’t reconcile G.W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans with Christ’s direction to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, or help those in need. I cannot believe that when Christ said to visit those in prison, he meant that you should go in there and torture them, as the current administration has at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. And the reality is that I know of no Republicans who follow Christ’s teachings in Matthew. The platforms of the Republican Party seem to be more toward enriching the rich than in helping the poor. They do seem to mention Christianity a lot, but they really don’t seem to believe in Matthew 25:31-46. The only way I can reconcile their claims to Christianity and their actions is if I apply the theory that actions are unnecessary and Belief alone is enough to be saved. If I do that, then their actions make sense.

But this means that the Republican Party cannot be “God’s Own Party,” as I have heard it called. You cannot be with God if you ignore His teachings. That is clearly what the Republican Party has been doing for all of my life. I clearly cannot side with them and still be a good Christian.

I would guess that there are those who will claim that God was punishing these people. That those with AIDS were cursed for sinful behavior. That New Orleans was hit by Katrina for their sins. I could go on. I personally believe that God was testing us. How would we, as Christians, respond to those in need? In all of the cases I mentioned, and in many more than I could possibly chronicle, the Republican in power failed the test miserably. In fact, they often did the exact opposite of what Christ called upon us to do.

Republicans are very good at talking the talk, but are absolutely miserable at walking the walk. For these, and many other reasons, I cannot in good conscience vote for any representative of the Republican Party. I urge everyone who reads this to follow my lead on this issue, and to let them know why.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

McCain’s stance on Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday highlights why he is not a leader

By Ed Smallwood

I promised earlier in the week to start publishing more regularly, and also to be more topical. I also mentioned that I would mention Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in passing in this post. This post is not directly about MLK or his birthday, but rather about what his birthday brought up in our Presidential race.

I was looking at a blog, I don’t remember which one unfortunately, about MLK’s Birthday, and how John McCain may not want it brought up. He fought against making it a national holiday as an Arizona Senator in the late ‘80’s, and praised the then governor of Arizona in the ‘90’s when he stopped Arizona from recognizing it anymore. Today, all 50 states recognize his birthday, but that was not the case 15 years ago. I was young at the time, but I do remember thinking that was a no-brainer. Martin Luther King Jr. had a huge impact on civil rights, and not celebrating his birthday seemed silly.

But that really isn’t the point of this essay. The thing that caught my eye was the comments made by readers of the blog. Several pointed out that John McCain was “just doing his job,” representing his constituents by voting against the holiday, that the people of Arizona didn’t want Dr. King recognized. Others argued that Mr. McCain voted against the bill because it only recognized Dr. King, and not other civil rights leaders of different races, such as Caesar Chavez.

Both of these arguments highlight just why I don’t want John McCain to win the White House.

There are times when someone who is supposed to be leading must lead. Those who argue that Mr. McCain was just doing what his constituents wanted him to do are saying he was with the pack, in the middle of the curve. In essence, his own supporters who are using this argument are saying he only deserves a “C” grade. Leaders sometimes have to make the hard choices, and I want my leader to make the right decision in those cases. Sometimes this means doing something unpopular, simply because it is the right thing to do. Sometimes it means hauling the rest of us, kicking and screaming, forward rather than letting us stay in the comfortable but backward place we want to be. I don’t want someone leading this country that allows the wrong thing to be done simply because someone, or even most people, wants them to. We’ve gone on much too long this way, and it’s way past time to wake up and do what is right. We absolutely need a leader, someone who is ahead of the pack, not stuck in the middle.

When I was a kid, we celebrated the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln separately--two different holidays. We did this because these two men were so worthy of the honor of having their birthdays celebrated that we didn’t want to combine them. Each was unique and ahead of his time. Both led the nation in difficult times and kept us together. Both left their stamp on the office of the Presidency undiminished. Sometime when I was young, someone suggested we reduce the number of holidays by combining both of their birthdays into one holiday called “Presidents Day.” We could get more work done and get more time in schools by celebrating all of the Presidents at once, instead of one at a time. The result is really that we diluted the import of their holidays. Technically, we are celebrating all of the Presidents simultaneously. Yep, Richard Nixon and James Buchanan are now as important as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

This is what those who suggested we needed one day to celebrate civil rights leaders wanted to do. Even in the civil rights movements there were some people who stood out from the rest. Some of them should get special recognition. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of those people. Caesar Chavez is another. Don’t these two men deserve special recognition on their own? Do we have to put them into the same company of people who made a contribution, but not at the same transcendent level as these two did?

In short, isn’t making a special holiday for all civil rights leaders just diluting the impact of all of them? Isn’t the argument in favor of celebrating them all at once just an excuse not to celebrate them at all and avoid doing the right thing?

I do not want another President that I will constantly feel embarrassed over. I do not want another President I will feel that I have to apologize for. I do not want another person in the office of the President that will get, at best, a “C” grade on the job by following what’s popular rather than doing what’s right.

What I do want in a President is someone who will lead the country. I want someone who will get an “A” in the job. I want someone who will look at a tough decision and say “I don’t care what’s popular; we need to do what is right!” And then I want that person to do it. I want someone with honesty and integrity. I certainly do not want a mediocrity in the role of “leader.” Again.

That is why I will not vote for John McCain. He is clearly, at best, a mediocrity. He follows when he should lead. He allows himself to be beaten down, as the White House has done so many times in the last few years. He talks loudly about what should be done, and then doesn’t do it.

We can’t allow this to happen again.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Three Republican Parties

By Ed Smallwood

A quick note before I get into my regular political ranting. I'm fairly new to blogging. In fact, I've really only been at it a few months, so I'm at the beginning of the learning curve. One of the parts I've been having trouble with is being topical. Another thing I've been having trouble with is posting regularly. I hope to fix the regular posting problem with this article. I intend to update my blog at least twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am also going to pay closer attention to Holidays such as MLK Day, which just passed without a mention by me. I really don't tend to pay attention to important days like this (including my own birthday, embarrassingly), but I am going to make an effort to pay more attention to these events from this day forward. MLK day will be mentioned in passing only in my next post, which should be done on this coming Thursday. I do intend to have a more in-depth article about Mr. King at some time in the future, and what his relevance is in this day, but it will take work that I haven't done yet. Stay tuned!

And now for something completely different. The actual post you were expecting.

While I may disagree with the Republican party on just about everything from how the economy is running, to where the country is going, to how we should get there, I must admire the way they have taken wildly diverse groups of people and made them think they have something in common. Three of these groups are officially important to the party, the Religious Conservatives, the Big-Business Conservatives, and the Fiscal Conservatives.

Think about it: What do Religious Conservatives, Big-Business Conservatives, and Fiscal Conservatives really have in common? No, honest. Think about it. I did, and came up with nothing. Let me expound on this for a while here.

Big business conservatives are really only concerned with giving big business an edge in the world. In the past this meant reducing government oversight so they could get away with more, and reducing corporate and personal taxes on the rich. It also meant keeping workers down by making Unions irrelevant, increasing the pool of possible employees by forcing people to work instead of getting an education (eliminating educational funds) and through increased immigration (legal or illegal), and anything else to keep wages down. If they could prevent consumers from having a choice, or getting time in a court of law when things don’t work as they’re supposed to, so much the better. In the past seven years of the Bush administration it has also meant funneling huge amounts of tax dollars to large corporations that contributed to Mr. Bush’s campaign or Republican Party coffers through no-bid contracts. Because of this, Big Business Conservatives enjoy having a big but weak government. Other than that, Big-Business Conservatives really don’t have a lot of concerns.

Fiscal Conservatives really want our government to be responsible with the way it runs our economy and how it spends our tax dollars (as few as possible, please.) They love it when we have a balanced budget and a low deficit. Low taxes and low inflation are good things for them. A smaller government also appeals to them, which is where it is possible to make them think they have something in common with the Big Business Conservatives. Often Fiscal Conservatives mistake the Big Business Conservative’s wish for less government oversight as being the same as a small government, but this is not the case.

Religious Conservatives have a shopping list of concerns, most of which come under the heading of “Family Values.” While many of these are unspoken, because they vary from person to person, or particular flavor of Christianity, some are brought up consistently. These include Abortion (or the hopeful banning of), Gay Marriage (or the again, hopeful banning of), making some form of Christianity the Official Religion of the United States, forcing people to pray in some official capacity, elimination of indecency (public or private), and a few other things. They really have no concerns over the government budget at all. The only other concern they have about the government is that it is able to control the private lives of individuals, and make it at least appear that everyone is living a moral lifestyle.

Now, here’s the thing I don’t understand: Out of the three groups outlined above, one has gotten little more than lip-service in my lifetime from the Republican Party, and yet they get the complete and unswerving loyalty of all three groups.

The Fiscal Conservatives were, note the past-tense there, were in control of the Republican Party until the Presidency of George H. W. Bush. When he lost his re-election bid, they were swept under the rug. Really. This Republican Party and their representatives in the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives haven’t done anything fiscally responsible since W. took the White House. Cutting taxes while spending tons of cash in a war? Running the deficit to levels higher than all other administrations combined? That’s certainly not fiscally responsible.

And how about the way the party has treated the Religious Conservatives since they started courting them back in the early 70’s? The Republican Candidates sure seem good at mentioning the things Religious Conservatives are concerned about during an election, like Gays and abortion, but I can’t remember a single bill in either house of Congress even being presented for a vote on either subject in my entire life. Nope. Not one. No ban on Abortion. No ban on Gay marriage. No Family Values. No prayer in schools. Heck, the only thing those lawmakers have done is go after underage page-boys. These guys in Washington wouldn’t know Jesus from Caligula. Yet the Religious Conservatives still refer to the Republican Party as “God’s Own Party.” I really have to wonder about a group of people who seem to like being treated so poorly for so long.

The biggest danger to the Republican Party is that these groups may just wake up and realize that they really don’t have anything in common with the GOP. All it would take is one charismatic preacher to decide to run for office as an independent on these issues, and the party would cleave in two. If a charismatic person with fiscally responsible street credentials ran as an independent as well the damage to the party would take years to fix, assuming it didn’t simply doom the party to the history books.

But that might not be a bad thing.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

How to save gas, be patriotic, and save money!

By Ed Smallwood

For years I have been sending out one version or another of this essay to my friends. Each time there is a major increase in gas prices, I redo it and recalculate the costs. The first time I went to all of this trouble, gas was approaching $2.35 a gallon. Now, as we have all heard, we can expect gas to hit $4 a gallon this summer. This essay is all about how you can save real money, and why you should. I sent this out to about 50 people yesterday, hoping some of them will forward it to a few people. I would love it if people would send links to this site so their friends can find out how to save themselves hundreds of dollars per year, and help our country at the same time.

It’s been way too long since my last post on this subject, especially since I have more information to pass on to you. Keep in mind that since I last sent this email out, the EPA has changed the way they calculate the fuel economy on vehicles. I’ve updated all information to reflect this change, and included current model vehicles only.

In this essay, I’m going to give you tips that will help you save money, help you to improve the environment, save money, act patriotic, save money, help improve the economy, and save money. In addition, I may appeal to your greed by helping you to save money. The best thing about all of this is that I don’t have anything to sell you. My opinion is that it’s difficult to save money when you’re buying something, so instead of asking you to shell out money, I’m going to ask you to stop.

Here’s the deal: Gasoline prices have been increasing steadily for the last couple of years. I’m sure that came as a complete shock to you. It doesn’t seem that long ago that gas cost just a bit more than a buck a gallon, and now we’re hearing that it’s approaching or at $4.00 per gallon. That’s a price point many of us didn’t expect to see until much further in the future.
Now, with a small car using a ten-gallon gas tank, you’re going to be paying $40 to fill up that tank. Larger vehicles may take $150 or even more, and that’s at current prices!

Here are the best tips for keeping that gas you just paid for in your gas tank (where it belongs):
  1. Keep your car in good shape. This means getting an oil and filter change (both oil and air filters), a tune up, and keeping your tires properly inflated. This can improve your mileage by up to 19% according to the EPA’s fuel economy website ( Fixing a significant engine problem like a faulty oxygen sensor can save up to 40%.
  2. Don’t go out and buy your lunch, pack it instead, just like dad used to do. This could save you quite a bit. Let’s go over it.
Let’s say you work 5 miles from the fast food place where you like to eat every day, and you own a Toyota Prius Hybrid. According to the EPA, you’re getting around 48MPG for that trip. The total cost for gas each day is a whopping $0.33. Let’s say that your favorite value meal costs $5. Each day, you’re paying $5.33 for lunch (both food and fuel). That’s $26.67 per week, about $106.67 per month, or $1333.33 per year. Now, if you buy “Budget Gourmet” TV dinners for $1 at the supermarket each time you go, and get a soda from the machine for around $0.75 each day, you’re paying $8.75 per week, about $35 per month, or $437.50 yearly. The weekly savings is $17.92, monthly is $71.67, and yearly is $895.83. I don’t know about you, but I’m sure I could figure out what to do with an additional $895 per year.

Keep in mind, those are the figures for the most fuel efficient gasoline/electric hybrid car you can buy today. You’re more likely to have something like a Honda Accord which gets around 22MPG. Your yearly savings by eating in jump up to $994.32 with this car.

Wow, dad had a great idea, didn’t he? We get to figure out what to do with our own money, instead of giving it to the heads of ExxonMobil and McDonalds. What a thought!

Now, when you have extra money to spend, most people will either spend it, or invest it. Either way, you’re helping the economy.

Okay, keeping the car in good shape and eating at my desk are good for my wallet. Are there other good reasons to do these things?

Glad you asked! Let’s cover the Patriotic part of saving gasoline! According to all available information (Newspapers, TV, Radio, CIA) out of the 19 hijackers involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks, 15 were Saudi. Osama bin Laden himself is Saudi, and most of his beef with the United States is over our military bases in Saudi Arabia. What does that have to do with saving gas? Well, according to the CIA Factbook, petroleum (what Gasoline is made from) accounts for 90% of Saudi Arabia’s export earnings. This money doesn’t just sit in one place; it trickles down throughout the economy. Now, we’ve heard time and again that the Saudi Government doesn’t support terrorism, but that isn’t quite true. Forbes magazine reports that in 2000 the Saudi royal family sent out an edict forcing all banks in Saudi Arabia open an account called Account 98. Anyone in the country could deposit money in these accounts, and funds from these accounts were disbursed to the families of terrorist suicide bombers killing Israelis. Members of the Royal Family asked the populace to deposit funds into these accounts on several occasions. Although this money didn’t go directly to the bombers themselves, knowing that their families would be taken care of after they were gone probably made the decision to blow themselves up and kill innocent people easier. So the money they are getting from petroleum is going into the hands of terrorists’ families. Since most of the hijackers were Saudi, and the planners of the attacks were Saudi (including Osama), does it take much of a stretch of imagination to believe that at least some of the funds used were from Saudis? How about the funds being used to plan the attacks in London, Spain, and against our troops in Iraq?

Although Account 98 was closed due to international pressure, other private accounts have been opened for the same purpose since then. In short, Saudi Arabia is the source for much of Al Qaeda's funding.

If you’re thinking of buying gasoline from guaranteed non-middle-eastern sources, I hate to tell you this, but according to the Energy Information Administration gasoline is mixed from all refineries in the pipelines that are used to transship it, so you can’t determine the source of the oil that made the gasoline in your gas tank. Also, as you buy more gasoline, you are pushing up the cost of oil everywhere, increasing Saudi profits.

So, how about the environment? Virtually every car emits gases that contribute to global warming. If your car is using petroleum-based fuels it is also emitting gases that cause smog. I know that there are some that would claim that we aren’t to blame for global warming, or that it is a short term problem, but quite frankly, is this something that you are willing to bet the farm on? The government and the United Nations both claim that this is a problem. Do you want to disagree with them on this? Reducing our reliance on fossil fuels means that we will reduce smog, reduce global warming, reduce the cost of gas and heating oil, and still have some left over for later use. This sounds like a win-win-win-win to me!

So folks, I’m just asking you to keep your car in good shape, and to look at how you eat lunch each day. And for that, you get to save up a bunch of money, be patriotic, and help rescue the environment. Is that so bad?

Sources of Gasoline:
EIA Primer on Gasoline Sources and Markets:
Cost of running a car for lunch:
Multiply distance to lunch place by 2, then multiply the result by the mileage of the vehicle, then multiply the result by the current cost of gasoline. Add the cost of lunch to the result (I assumed $5.) Multiply the result by 7 for the weekly cost, and so on for monthly and yearly costs (I subtracted out 2 weeks for vacation from the yearly result.)
Country of origin for September 11 Hijackers:
Saudi Arabia’s Economy:
Account 98:
Forbes Magazine, 10/18/04 Cover Article, “Terror Inc.”, by Robert Lenzner and Nathan Vardi: