This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shoppers Vote No-Confidence

The AP and the Washington Post report stores are hoping for a post-holiday bump. Good luck with that.

Every shopper who spends less this year is a no confidence vote in the Adminsration's handling of the economy and a potential vote against the current regime and a vote for someone more economicly liberal, either a Democrat or a Republican populist (a.k.a. Mike Huckabee).

The supply side argument has had its day (yet again) and has been found wanting. The latest Christmas sales figures have bourne that out. It is not that shoppers didn't want to spend more. They just felt that they couldn't. You can only borrow so much from China. There is only one way out of the sea of red ink we are now in, and that is to tax the income strata which received the tax cut most responsible for our current deficit. They are also currently making a killing by investing in Chinese factories (which have a higher rate of return than Federal bonds). It is time to tax some of these windfalls, through a tarrif and/or the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on the highest brackets.

Nothing less will restore the willingness and ability of shoppers to spend during a future holiday.

Bush Signs Budget

The AP and Washington Post report that President Bush has signed the FY2008 Budget.

(White House spokesman) Stanzel said that although he signed the bill, Bush continues to be "disappointed with Congress' addiction to earmarks. And soon the president will outline his fiscal year 2009 budget proposal," the spokesman added, which will hold the line on spending, keep taxes low and continue us on the path to a balanced budget."

You would think that after seven years, Bush would understand how Washington works. Earmarks in spending bills occur because the Congress seeks to exert some control over how money is actually spent, rather than ceding all of this to the President. This is the alternative to 436 individual bills for each congressional district, which is the alternative.

Perhaps a compromise is regional government and regional taxation, where a regional caucus passes its appropriations legislation, a regional vice president implements it and a regional business income tax funds it, with a different rate for each region tailored to its economy. This would certainly put these projects in perspective and strengthen the link between special projects and tax rates that currently is lost in the shuffle.

Sounds far fetched. It is. However, Bush passing any kind of budget next year is even more far fetched. If he believes that there is any chance that he is going to get his own way on fiscal issues, he is sadly mistaken and badly advised. As lame ducks go, he is lamer than most. Any attempt to single-handedly put his stamp on the budget process will only highlight this fact.

If he wishes to do anything, including and most especially make a portion of his income tax cuts permanent, he must compromise with congressional Democrats. If his staff thinks otherwise, perhaps he needs new staff. Of course, if they knew how to add using negative numbers, we would not be in the fiscal mess we are currently in.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Killing an Embryo?

It recently occurred to me that there is yet another reason why the Christian Right is wrong on stem cell research. It frankly amazes me that this argument has not come out before.

The opponents of stem cell research allege that an embryo must be destroyed for embryonic stem cell research to occur. This is not exactly true. The part of the blastocyst that is dispensed with in harvesting stem cells is not the embryo at all, but that portion that will eventually become part of the placenta. What will eventually become the embryo are the stem cells. If only two or three of the stem cells were harvested and the blastocyst were attached implanted in a uterus, a normal child could eventually develop. The harvested cells do not take from the whole, which means that in and of themselves they have no individuality. After gastrulation, every cell is necessary. Prior to gastrulation, every stem cell is expendable. By any non-politicial definition of what a soul is, from ontological to metaphysical, blastocysts do not have them and post-gastrulation embyos do (since from that point on they are individual and their development directive).

Recent developments show promise in circumventing this argument, which is a welcome development. That does not save the right wing from their error on this issue.

The importance of research on embyonic stem cells is not what we can do with the stem cells themselves. Rather, it is their eventual use in theraputic cloning - the insertion of DNA into an egg to create a blastocyst with harvestable stem cells which can be tricked into growing a new organ or spinal cord. Of course, the cells that are created will be the same "age" as the host when the cells were extracted. The only way they could be used to do something really radical, like reverse the aging process, would be to harvest and preserve the cells of a 20 year old and freeze them for use 70 years later in making stem cells and organs to replace the ones that have worn out. So long as you don't use all the cells with 20 year old telemeres you could keep repeating the process forever, as long as enough of the "20 year old" cells are kept in stasis to keep growing cloned parts. Of course, with recent developments, we may be able to do that without theraputic cloning. Theraputic cloning research is still necessary because it provides another option.