Nuclear Diplomacy

Internationally speaking, these are tense times. Quoting from a recent AP story:
"The nuclear crisis erupted in October 2002 when U.S. officials accused North Korea of running a secret uranium-enrichment program in violation of international treaties. Washington and its allies cut off free fuel oil shipments for the impoverished country under a 1994 deal with the United States. North Korea retaliated by quitting the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in early 2003 and restarting its plutonium-based nuclear weapons program, which had been frozen under the 1994 agreement."

I think that now more than ever the US needs to be strong - in armaments and in wisdom. The past several years have given us a glimpse of how treacherous the international waters can be. Many of us really thought that the threat of nuclear war had passed with the collapse of communism in Germany and Russia. It is startling to read about North Korea, Iran and other countries that seem to be developing nuclear weapons programs.

Today North Korea publicly stated that they have nuclear weapons and need them "as protection against an increasingly hostile United States". Is this about the war on terror ... don't recall many reports of terrorists in North Korea ... or is this an escalation of a 'police action' that supposedly ended over 50 years ago. Your guess is as good as mine. My hope, my prayer, is that our leaders will exercise much wisdom when they tread these international waters ... that we will operate from a position of strength ... both military and diplomatic strength.

An Abortion Opinion

Ann Coulter's recent column entitled 'Where's that religious fanatic we elected?" addressed President Bush's assertion that a "culture of life cannot be sustained solely by changing laws. We need, most of all, to change hearts." In her article Ms. Coulter expresses frustration over conservative politicians inability to change the law with regard to abortion. She says: "Actually, what we need least of all is to "change hearts." ... All the hearts that can be changed have been changed."

It is a startling and sobering thought ... probably truer than I want to admit. Most people have an opinion on abortion and there probably aren't enough words, or pictures, that will change their opinion. So what should we do? In her article Ms. Coulter also states that: "In a Los Angeles Times poll a few years ago, 57 percent of respondents said they believed abortion was "murder." Seventy-two percent of women and 58 percent of men said they thought abortion should be illegal after the first trimester."

Possibly the answer to the abortion question is one of moderation ... maybe working towards the middle would initiate a dialog ... possibly there could be a consensus around the second trimester. The question is how do we get to that place of consensus. It is obvious that our politicians do not have the ability to get to that place. I think we need to somehow bypass the politicians and possibly the courts. Ann Coulter thinks that we should vote. She concludes her column by saying: "We've been changing hearts for 32 years -- I think we're ready for the big match now. I think Americans would support massive restrictions on abortion. ... Let Americans vote."


PS: For those of you doubting the viability of a second trimester baby:

Rumaisa Rahman was born weighing 8.6 ounces (244 grams) at the Loyola University Medical Center outside Chicago in September. She was delivered by Caeserean section along with her twin sister, Hiba, who was only slightly bigger. Doctors say she has made very good progress, and is expected to lead a normal life. Rumaisa, who was just 9.5 inches (24cm) long at birth, now weighs 5lbs 8oz (2.49kg) and has almost doubled in length. Hiba, who weighed 1lb 4oz at birth, went home from hospital in early January. -- BBC News, February 9, 2005

Social InSecurity

I recently got a very thoughtful message from John Mauldin ( entitled "Social Security's Flawed Assumption". Here is an excerpt:

"And now let me speak a heresy. We need to recognize that Social Security is not a retirement program, like a pension or 401k plan. It is a welfare program. It transfers money from one group to another group."

John's statement that Social Security is not a retirement program is somewhat of a new thought for me. I have always thought of Social Security as a long-term savings program that I have contributed to for 38+ years. My belief was that funds would be available for regular withdrawal when I reached the age of 65. So, John's assertation is a bit startling for me. In one sense I agree with him because the funds are coming from current contributors and not funds previously contributed. But I disagree with John because ... at it's core ... Social Security is a program that a person contributes to and withdraws from - that looks a lot more like a savings or 401k program than a welfare program.

While I understand that, at it's onset, Social Security might have looked a little like welfare, I think that it is not helpful to describe it in this manner today. I am convinced that all of Social Security disbursements I receive in my lifetime will not surpass the amounts I contributed to the program. If it is welfare then those on the dole are not the recipients of Social Security payments but those in government who, like parasites, live off of it.

The News Industry

I think that the press has become more of a 'News Industry' than anything ... most of the network news shows look a lot more like Letterman than Cronkite ... I think their sponsors push them to entertain us rather than inform us - it is all about the ratings you know. Pundits on the right and the left side of the aisle seem to occasionally bemoan the other side a being 'biased'. I find that perhaps they protest too much. They are all in the same game and the tit-for-tat complaining about the other side is just part of the game.

Now the print media wants us to believe that they are not at all the same as their on-screen counterparts ... like they don't have to sell papers (and advertising) anymore . I find that these folks are no different than the talking heads on TV. The paper I subscribe to has 41 columnists on it's payroll ... pretty obvious that entertainment is a large part of their business.

Bottom line - it is all about entertaining us ... that is what these guys ... Leno, O'Reilly, Rather and the rest ... get paid for ... and they often do it well. Sad thing is that we think that listening to 'the news' is somehow more 'intellectual' than watching the daily soaps.