Saturday, January 17, 2009


On Wednesday of this week, three men robbed the bank where my wife works. They were caught within minutes of leaving the bank. One customer was injured but not seriously, so overall little harm was done. I am glad about that, though a bit scared about my wife being involved in a situation like that. It's the third time in five years that she's been robbed at that bank.

The crooks were not particularly brilliant. They did not seem to realize that the bank was less than a quarter-mile from the headquarters of the Bellaire Police Department, they set a lookout but had no plan on what to do if/when police arrived, and they did not even plan ahead on how they were going to carry the cash they stole. Real brainiacs, these guys. It appears that once they got the idea to rob a bank (I guess on the theory that banks have a lot of money and therefore it would be a big score), they went ahead without messing around with a lot of thinking.

Stupidity is not limited to crime, however. A lot of the Obama policies, as described so far, are real big on emotion and not very planned in detail. Pretty much in every case, when asked about an issue or his plan to address a crisis, Obama's answer is a variation of 'trust me I'm the right guy'. OK, so we've heard that before with politicians, but at least in the past we knew their track record, their resume, and so there were indicators to tell us what we should expect. Barack Obama is a young man who dresses and speaks well and he uses a lot of what I call 'Oprah words' - words which sound good but are so vague they could mean just about anything.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Better Man Than His Detractors

On May 15, 2006, the site owner of issued an order to the other five writers on the blog, as follows: From now on, every blogger at will either agree with me completely on the immigration issue, or not blog at"

Within hours of that totalitarian action, he barred all of the writers from posting at the site, an action he then called “temporary”, but thirty-two months later the ban remains in effect.

Readers at the site were vocal, and some of them prescient. From the first, one reader observed You’ve just lost the center-right, congratulations (comment 63), while another simply noted this news is very disappointing. Now there is no reason for me to come back and I will go visit other sites that agree with you in principle, but are much more respectful in there [sic] tone (comment 7), while others were less polite, like the fellow (comment 526) who noted “that’s the whole point. We CAN’T engage. Poli took that away. Intellectual cowardice at its finest.”

Examining the meltdown, blogger The Anchoress warned that there would be a price for such inability to allow free and open discussion of the major issues, political as well as social. The short verdict, she warned, was that the public would reject conservatives as reactionary and small-minded.

In the polipundit debacle, a single issue caused the site owner to basically go nuts and kick out a team of writers who had built up his site from a modest readership to one of the leaders in the blogosphere for conservative debate and discussion. But it reflects a deeper and far more serious problem in Conservatism, the inability to tolerate a wide range of opinions, the bitter denunciation of even allies and champions for the smallest variance. This is most apparent in the shameful disrespect of President George W. Bush by conservatives.

Three issues reflect the collapse of conservative sanity with regard to the President; the nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court, the Immigration crisis, and the Dubai Port decision. The behavior by leading conservatives in these three cases illustrates the sad decision to abandon traditional conservative stands, and to burn their bridges to the public’s appreciation of their ideals.

With regard to the Miers nomination, conservatives soon after the announcement began to express a sense of “betrayal” about Miers, and in a blatant reversal of their stated moral position that every nominee had a right to an up or down vote, demanded that Miers be removed from consideration before even her first day before a committee to consider her nomination. The hypocrisy was blatant and deliberate, and seriously damaged the moral foundation for the far Right, demoting them from principled activists to self-serving mandarins.

This does not mean that Miers was a good choice. But the opposition to Miers was expressed in exactly the wrong way, a way which played completely into the hands of the Left, as the Right could then be cast with some justification as dishonest and unconcerned with the public interest. Certainly the move showed a disloyalty to President Bush, not so much in disapproving of Miers as the manner and tone in which it was cast. When I wrote about this issue in 2005, I found a range of reactions, from those who thought I was writing “screeds” and was “unworthy of respect”, to those who said I was “exactly right”, those who 'especially liked’my response, including the Anchoress, who wrote that “DJ Drummond makes some excellent points and probably is quite right”.

Miers may or may not have turned out to be a good justice, we frankly will never know now because she was never given a hearing much less a chance to show her mind. It was a poor series of events for conservatives, because even though we ended up with Alito (followed by Roberts), conservatives remember not the good judgment of President Bush, but the bitter opposition they had against Miers, and they have never yet apologized for using unethical tactics to get what her removed from consideration. ‘The ends justify the means’ has always been a chilling maxim from the evil side of humanity, and conservatives should be ashamed for having their values sullied by such behavior. Michelle Malkin should be ashamed that she could only refer to the White House Counsel as a “crony”, and Jonah Goldberg that he could only see Miers in terms of “battiness”. George Will had no business claiming that President Bush “has forfeited his right to be trusted as a custodian of the Constitution.” Such venomous dishonesty does not belong under the byline of a conservative writer, and until recent years we would never have seen it.

The next key issue was Immigration. Absolutely no one in the GOP argues that illegals coming into the United States do not represent a grave threat, but the hysteria from the hardline Right has damaged the credibility of the Republican leaders. One thing that annoys me the most with regard to this issue, is the constant lying on the hardline Right against President Bush, ignoring all of his work on border security like increasing funding for border security by 159% since taking office, working with foreign nations to improve their own border security along US borders, more than doubling the number of agents along the border as well as UAVs and improving interior enforcement. Bush led the initiative to increase the number and scope of ICE teams from 15 in 2005 to 75 teams in 2007.

The plain fact is, Bush’s detractors simply ignored the facts because they wanted to attack the President. Tom Tancredo was one such rebel, refusing to cooperate with the President or grant even courteous consideration to White House proposals to deal with the problem. Tancredo was sadly representative of a bitter contingent willing to blow apart any chance of a real solution, simply because they did not get their way. President Bush, to his credit, was willing to re-examine and modify his plans in response to real-world conditions, something the foam-mouthed Right never once considered.

It should be obvious on its face that dealing with twenty-some-odd million people who should not be in the country is a difficult task, not least when you have to fight political opposition, including a bunch of narcissists in your own party, to get anything done. This is a problem that has vexed Presidents and Governors and all manner of political solution for more than a generation. No, that does not mean that it’s acceptable to ignore the problem, or that every solution should be accepted without debate or criticism, but the puerile and vicious attacks on President Bush, from conservatives especially, is unconscionable. In the first place it sabotaged any kind of progress towards a solution, allowing liberals and egotists to pretend they did not have to do anything, while honest efforts to address the problem were mocked and shot down by people who could not offer a realistic alternative.

I especially disliked the people who thought it was a good idea to eviscerate the ones trying to find a workable solution, and who presented themselves as equals to the leaders they attacked, even though such men never actually run for the office they claim they could do so easily, and are unwilling to concede that the people duly elected might have a moral right to claim authority to actually do their job. Back in 2006, I went off on Jed Babbin for that kind of attitude. I still like what I wrote then, so for all you folks who believe you have the right to trash President Bush for not being your personal meat puppet, it’s real simple:

Elections matter, you dope. And nobody elected you diddly, much less President of the United States. He’s the captain of our Ship of State, and if you want to cut him off at the knees, you don’t get to claim he has to earn your allegiance. That’s what the elections did, you hypocrite. Dubs said the same things then as he is saying now, and since he got the win in 2000 and again in 2004, that makes him the boss.
Him, not you. 62 million plus voted for George W. Bush in 2004, and you don’t get to ignore that election now when it’s inconvenient for you, anymore than John Kerry and Al Gore get to pretend they are really the President.

Right about now any of the Rabid Wing will start off saying how I am trying to silence dissent. Not at all. If you don’t like a policy, say so, and by all means tell your Congressman and Senators what you want them to do on any given vote. But disagreeing with a position on a given issue, or several issues, does not give you license to lie about what Bush has really said or done or stands for, and it doesn’t give you leave to attack the twice-elected leader of our party and our country. The man has more than earned your respect and support, and only the most venal and petty sort of person does not see that. And the sort of person who would ride the rise of the Republicans into majority, largely on the work of George W. Bush, but then threaten to sink the ship if they don’t get to set the course and seize command from the rightful captain, well folks that’s nothing but a dirty, low-down mutineer

On now to the Dubai Ports deal. In early 2006, DP World, a company based out of the United Arab Emirates, agreed in principle to take over management of six U.S. ports then managed by a British firm which was leaving the business. It should be noted at the start, that there were only two companies interested in the deal – Dubai World out of the UAE, and the People’s Republic of China. For some reason, the hardline Right decided that there was a third option, a way to either force the British company to keep the ports or that some fictional all-American firm would come into existence just to prevent – what? It seems that the hardright was never clear about what exactly was at risk. Dick Meyer at CBS noted that the UAE would never own the ports or have anything at all to do with their security (security at ports is addressed by US Homeland Security), and in any case the UAE’s standing as a US ally is excellent. As Meyer wrote in his article, the people attacking Bush for the deal were nothing but purveyors of “demagoguery and cheap shots”. Reuters put it bluntly: “Maritime security experts sided with the president
I tried to put the matter in perspective myself, even before I realized that the hype against the deal was paranoid delusion and Bush-hate.

In the end, the deluded jackals of HardRight won, and the deal was destroyed, at the small cost of breaking legal and diplomatic precedent, insulting a valuable ally, and demonstrating once again the refusal of the hardline elements of conservatism to act like adults.

My point is simple – President Bush has made mistakes, but he has been unfairly attacked by people who should, by all rights, have supported him, if only to gain the most of their own goals and ideals.

The greatest President of the 20th century was Ronald W. Reagan, the man who represents the heart of Conservative Idealism for most self-identified Conservatives. Many conservatives have been disparaging of President George W. Bush, despite a comparable record on major points:

Ronald Reagan was governor of California, where he earned a record for getting the job done by working with all parties, including Democrats. George W. Bush was governor of Texas, where he earned a record for getting the job done by working with all parties, including Democrats.

Ronald Reagan as governor experienced economic crises and had first-hand experience with the causes and effects of illegal immigration. George W. Bush as governor experienced economic crises and had first-hand experience with the causes and effects of illegal immigration.

Ronald Reagan’s judicial appointments in general were excellent, with the exception of Supreme Court nominee Sandra Day O’Connor. Conservatives forgave him for that one bad choice. George W. Bush’s judicial appointments in general were excellent, with the possible exception of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Conservatives never forgave him for that choice.

Ronald Reagan tried to address the problem of illegal immigration, proposing a program that critics said amounted to Amnesty. Conservatives in general forgave him for that program. George W. Bush tried to address the problem of illegal immigration, proposing a program that critics said amounted to Amnesty. Conservatives in general never forgave him for that program.

Ronald Reagan faced down an enemy that liberals said could not be beaten, in Communism. Years later critics began to grudgingly admit that Reagan played a role in winning the Cold War. George W. Bush faced down an enemy that liberals said could not be beaten, in Global Terrorism. Years later critics still refuse to acknowledge Bush’s success in protecting America.

Of course there are also differences between Ronald W. Reagan and George W. Bush. When terrorists blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut, Reagan withdrew from Lebanon, condemning that nation to another generation of civil war and terrorist violence. When Al Qaeda mounted counter-offensives using car bombs and incursions from Iran and Syria, George W. Bush refused to abandon Iraq, saving that nation from another generation of tyranny and terrorist violence. And President George W. Bush tried to propose solutions to the Social Security and Medicare crises while there was still room to act proactively. One cannot help but wonder what he might have accomplished if the conservatives in power at that time had acted in America’s interest instead of their own myopic political greed. During the 1980s, Republicans were in the minority of power but accomplished a lot because they rallied behind President Reagan. It can fairly be said that this is the source of our present consternation – conservatives expected the President to get behind their pet projects and bills, instead of showing the loyalty due to Bush.

So what did President Bush do, that he deserves any credit? Here’s a short list:

• Banned partial-birth abortion
• Reinstated parental-consent clause in the Medical Privacy Act
• Upheld ban on abortions at military hospitals
• Proposed, worked for, and signed into law two income-tax cuts
• Worked to eliminate the Death Tax
• Worked to privatize Social Security
• Eliminated OSHA’s ‘ergonomic’ rules for home businesses
• Reduced H1B visas from 195,000 a year to 66,000
• Killed attempts to revive Kyoto Global Warming Treaty
• Revised Forestry Management Act to allow cleanup to prevent fires, removed need for Environmental Impact Statement before removing dangerous brush and fallen tress from fire-risk areas
• Removed Saddam Hussein from Iraq
• Eliminated Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan
• Eliminated Al Qaeda operational existence outside North African continent
• Disarmed Libya of its WMDs
• Improved US military review ability, emphasis on asymmetrical warfare
• Best friend to Israel since 1948
• Prohibited putting US forces under UN command
• Brought back EP-3 plane and crew from China without conflict
• Ended participation in International Criminal Court
• Faced down the UN, saying “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country."
• Worked to reform Medicare
• Worked to address border security, created largest budget and roster for enforcement, internal fugitive capture, and employer penalty system in history
• Constructed ABM silos in Alaska, Montana, and Maine
• Operation Tarmac
• Denied ABA role in vetting federal judge/justice nominations

It’s quite fashionable these days to deride and attack President Bush. In a few days, he will be former President Bush, so few if any people consider the man except as a target. But it is my contention that Bush has done a fine job, deserving not only of credit and praise, but also that the present condition of Republicans and Conservatives is directly attributable to the shabby treatment heaped on the President. For the ideals of Conservatism to become attractive to American voters again, we simply owe better loyalty and support to our leaders, especially when they are conservatives or at least Republicans.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Joy of Barium

Visiting a hospital for tests is always something of a transformational experience for me. As you can probably tell from Saturday’s entry, I was feeling just a mite sorry for myself. Foolish, that. Fortunately, visiting a place where people face – and overcome – genuine challenges and threats, helps me to put my own life into better perspective.

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, to use the full name once in a while, is a fantastic place, where thousands of the most dedicated and motivated medical professionals in the world fight a never-ending battle against cancer in all of its forms. Front to back, this place is incredible, operating at a level of care and compassion I have seen at no other place. It’s not just the doctors, you see, but the nurses, physician’s assistants, even the volunteers and phlebotomists are very, very good at what they do. While there are some patients that MDA must turn away, every patient accepted at MDA can count on a conviction that their doctors and staff will refuse to surrender, that every effort will be made not only to beat the cancer, but to provide a comfortable life for the patient. Hey, I know I sound like a commercial, but you have to see this place to believe it. And to understand why so many cancer patients desperately hope to be admitted there for treatment.

And why I am always a bit depressed when I go there. You see, I have been very, very lucky. My cancer is formally known as Pseudomyxoma Peritonei, an abdominal cancer where the cysts form as free-floating cells in the abdominal fluid, going unnnoticed for years in almost every case until they reach a certain size, around 2 millimeters in diameter. At that point, two things start to happen. They start to seriously block the flow of fluid into and out from the abdominal cavity, increasing pressure on internal organs and eventually choking them off, and at some point they metastasize, and attack all the internal organs they can reach. Up to that point there are usually no warning signs, so that the overwhelming majority of PMP patients are discovered only at Stage IV. There is no known cure for PMP, and Stage IV PMP has a survival rate ranging from 10 to 25 percent, depending on a variety of factors. Me, I got really lucky, because I passed a kidney stone.

In October of 2006, I passed a kidney stone, and it hurt like nothing I had ever experienced. My doctor told me to get a CT scan to be sure there was not another one waiting to have a go, and that was when my doctor discovered I had ruptured my appendix, and ordered emergency surgery. That surgery produced its own surgery, as the surgeon taking my appendix out found a mass of mucus-like material in my abdominal cavity, removed every bit he could find, and sent off the stuff for tests. From there, the tests came back malignant and more tests were done, and after a few referrals and more tests PMP was confirmed. So, odd as it sounds, passing a kidney stone and rupturing my appendix saved my life in a way, because it caught the cancer at a very early stage. You just never know how things are going to work out.

Short version from there, they cannot cure it but they can control it. So long as the little cells stay really small, I’m good. So no more surgeries, at least not for now, not even chemo. The downside of that, though, is that I didn’t do a single thing to deserve that good fortune. So every time I go to MDA to get more tests done, I see people who have not been so lucky. I was chatting with a guy yesterday who was fighting lymphoma, and he joked that the cool thing about the chemo he was having, was that he only had to shave every 3 or 4 days. That way of putting things to the good is not uncommon there. Because of the radiation and drugs and so on, the floors I go to do not have any children under 12, who are treated in a different place (just as well – I do not think I could stand seeing a child go through some of the things the adults have to endure, and I know that some of the kids do have to take that), so I see folks from their late teens and up, in various stages and types of cancer. Having an abdominal cancer, I tend to see the colon and rectal cancer patients, we’re a special kind of grotesque club. Sometimes we discuss what we do when the ‘plumbing’ shuts down, or which doctor we’re going to. Seems like the men here outnumber the women about 60-40 in abdominal cancers, for whatever that means.

Things are getting to be a steady routine now with the tests. After the tests, my wife wanted to know what I wanted to eat, and was surprised that I was not hungry; she’s forgotten what the tests are like. All that barium, you see. The barium shake is one thing, but the IV makes you feel glowy in a weird way, and all I will say about the rectal contrast is that you won’t want to be active below the chest for a while, OK? I was reading a bedtime story to my daughter last night, and I joked that I could read it with the lights off. Meh, if that’s the worst I get I should be fine. I thought about not blogging about the tests, but it stays on my mind while everything tastes funny, which usually lasts a couple days.

As you’ve probably figured out by now, my thoughts are less than well-organized today. I feel fine about the tests, guilty about not having as tough a time as so many other people fighting cancer, I appreciate the spirit and outlook of the fighters, and I am still immature enough to get bothered by all the needles, chemicals, Ivs, and other accoutrements of going to the hospital, even just to check up on how things are going. I’d like to say there was a point to this, but I cannot really think of one except it’s what’s on my mind, and maybe your Monday was not so bad when you think about it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


One thing I have to admit I feel is a weakness with being an American Fundamentalist Protestant Christian, is that so many other religions have fascinating concepts we are not, dogmatically speaking, supposed to consider, much less embrace. One of those which both repels and speaks to me is Purgatory.

Here’s the thing; as a fundy in more or less good standing, I believe the Scripture when addressing all of the important things, not the least of which is the final resolution of our immortal souls. And the dogma of most protestant churches runs along the lines that immediately upon our deaths, we find ourselves in that place where we belong, according either to God’s mercy or our works. And as the Apostle Paul advised that all men have sinned and fallen short, that basically says that if you don’t ‘join the team’ so to speak, you’re headed for the wrong side of eternity. But a closer reading of Scripture makes that conclusion a bit shaky. I’m not going to turn this into a deep theological discussion, not least because I am far from qualified to present any absolute claims, but I do believe that we may depend on God’s mercy more than we should fear technicalities. Jesus said himself, that many will be in heaven (and locked out of it) who were not at all expected to be there.

One problem that a lot of people have with the ‘instant decision’ theory of moral judgment, is that almost no one seems to fit the extreme definitions of good or evil. We’ve all done things we know were wrong, and we have all done things we believe are good. Therefore, a heaven for the perfectly good and a hell for the truly evil leaves a lot of us without feeling like we are where we belong. That’s where the idea of purgatory comes in, if I understand it correctly. The way it works in theory, is that everyone but the truly good and truly evil goes through a process where we are purged of evil and wickedness and where we are made pure and acceptable to God. That makes a kind of sense, especially the idea that life itself is a process where we become who we are meant to be, that purgatory would merely finish the process. The problem with that, of course, is that the concept of purgatory is clearly extra-biblical, and also that if we are able to become acceptable to God after we die, then it invalidates the decision made in life to accept or reject God. Sure, we’d all like a ‘reset’ button to undo the blunders and mistakes, but intuitively I sense that part of our judgment, for good or ill, is that we have to live with our actions and their consequences.