Friday, March 31, 2006

"Stay Loudly or Leave Loudly"

It is not easy to remain a Republican these days. I've said as much on this blog and on other blogs. It is hard to see a party that has such a glorious history has become so shameful. A party that believed in equality, has decided to go after gays and lesbians. A party that believed in limited and effective government, is anti-government in some quarters and big government in others (look at the support for constitutional amendments for gay marriage and other things). A party that believed in fiscal responsibility has run up deficits as far as the eye can see. There is no joy in being part of the Grand Old Party.

Last Sunday at church a friend of mine wondered why people would stay in the Catholic Church with its very repressive policies. Another woman responded harkening a Catholic writer Joan Chisitter who remains in the church even though she isn't in favor of some of its views on women or gays. Chisitter has said that you either "stay loudly or leave loudly."

As I thought about it, I began to think this is a good policy of me. Maybe at some point I will say enough is enough and walk away from the GOP. But for now I remain. Either way, I will do it LOUDLY. I want to be the maverick, the burr in the side of the current far right leadership. I want to be a voice of dissent within the party.

To do something loudly means that we can't be silent. We have to speak up, either way. I continue to use this blog as a megaphone and I will also support others who are speaking loudly.

In fact, I want to let you know of two organizations that are speaking loudly. Please visit their websites and if you are a Republican or an Independent that votes Republican a lot, please consider supporting them, because they need your help.

Republicans for Environmental Protection
Log Cabin Republicans

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Update on John McCain's Tango with the Far Right

It looks like I'm not the only blogger opining about John McCain's efforts to woo the far right base of the GOP. Mathew Pruitt over at Centerfield thinks E.J. Dionne's column in the Washington Post was a bit unfair to the Arizona Senator since he doesn't allow McCain to explain some of his actions and also because Dionne forgets that to move in to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. you have to get the party's nomination.

Joe Gandleman from The Moderate Voice gives an indepth opinion on McCain "tightrope act," especially his making nice with Jerry Fawell. We find out that McCain has expressed support in a constituional "marriage protection" amendment, a big turnaround from 2004. He shares this exerpt from ABC News:

Falwell and McCain first made peace in a face-to-face meeting a few months ago. In a sign of their improved relationship, McCain has agreed to be the graduation speaker at Falwell's Liberty University on May 13.

When McCain accepted an invitation to be Liberty University's graduation speaker, he spoke with Falwell by phone about the marriage issue.

According to Falwell, McCain is not pushing for a federal marriage amendment at this time. But McCain "reconfirmed" to Falwell that he would support a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman if a federal court were to strike down state constitutional bans on gay marriage.

McCain's outreach to conservatives on marriage is politically important because of the way he sharply denounced a federal constitutional ban on gay marriage when it was considered in 2004. McCain called it "antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans" because it "usurps from the states a fundamental authority they have always possessed and imposes a federal remedy for a problem that most states do not believe confronts them."

Gandleman notes that McCain's tightrope act might end up dooming his campaign, because he will lose the respect of Independents and Democrats who liked his "maverick status:"

McCain's problem is this: unlike many GOPers, first he has to prove to many Republicans that he is a "real" Republican. He has to downplay his "maverick" image with GOPers by making peace with them, praising them, assuring them, suggesting that deep down inside he is either one of them or close to being one of them. But in doing so he has to file down the edges of his strong image as a straight-talking, independent-minded Republican who may be hated by some people within the GOP who Democrats and independents also dislike. He has to become like any, 'ol Republican to get nominated.

The problem: if he does that and then gets the nomination he will have so altered his image that he won't have the same appeal (or in sheer numbers supporters or activists) as he did in 2000.

There is no doubt that McCain's wants to be president. And there is also no doubt that he is making nice with what Andrew Sullivan calls the "Christianists" because he was burned by them back in 2000. In some ways, he's doing what George Bush did back then, after seeing his father going down to defeat in 1992. Bush the Younger believes his father lost re-election to Bill Clinton because he didn't shore up the far right and since that time the President has decided to become the far right's handmaiden. But as I said before, when you are in for a penny with the far right, you are in for a pound. The Jerry Fawells and Grover Norquists of the world are not going to satisfied with a few bones, they have an agenda and they want to get it accomplished.

I think McCain is missing an opportunity to build a new working majority in the way that Ronald Reagan did. Reagan won by getting disgruntled Democrats to his side. McCain could create a new GOP majority based on Democrats who are dismayed by the leftward drift of their party, as well as independents. He could create a new centrist majority that could work at getting some of our nation's problems solved.

But instead he is trying to make nice with a faction of the party that isn't nice. I don't know about you, but I think this might doom McCain's "wow factor." He might have worked so hard to keep his right flank in check, that he will realize that McCain's base (not the GOP base) will have eroded.

As they say, this is developing...

You can read my earlier post here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

John McCain's Tango with the Right Wing

John McCain is going to run again for President in 2008.

How do we know? Because of all the interesting moves he has made: making nice with the Bushies, supporting a gay marriage ban in Arizona, and as Andrew Sullivan reports he is making nice with Jerry Fawell, a man he denounced back in 2000.

One could say that he is waking up and smelling the coffee. He knows the far right hold power in the GOP and he is doing what he can to shore up the base.

But at what costs to the Independents and Democrats that tended to like him?

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne opines that with McCain trying to make nice with the base, might threaten his chances at the presidency. He notes:

The prevailing view among McCain's lieutenants -- it's also the conventional political view -- is that since the main obstacle to his nomination in 2008 comes from the right and from Bush partisans, McCain's main task is to appease the right and make nice with Bush on issues (such as Iraq) where McCain actually agrees with the president. Liberal attacks can be ignored, since most liberals will eventually vote against McCain anyway. There will be plenty of time after he's nominated for McCain to don his maverick apparel again for the benefit of moderates and independents.

All terribly logical, but it's a more dangerous strategy than it seems. McCain's central appeal, even to people who disagree with him, has always been his willingness to do the nonpolitical thing -- for example, to defend Kerry that day in 2004 simply because he thought the attacks on Kerry were wrong.

If McCain spends the next two years obviously positioning himself to win Republican primary votes, he will start to look like just another politician. Once lost, a maverick's image is hard to earn back.

Moreover, McCain is winning a hearing from previously reluctant Republicans as the one person who might save the party if Bush's popularity continues to sink. But if McCain gets too close to Bush in the next two years, he will no longer have his independence as a selling point. And if Bush should make a comeback, a lot of Republicans flirting with McCain now out of necessity will happily abandon him for someone more to their liking.

McCain is making going down a dangerous path. Once you're in for a penny with the far right of the GOP, you are in for a dollar. He might appease the right for the primaries, but in the end he might lose people like me and countless other people. Scratch that, I think he has already lost me.

I hope McCain will pull back from the brink and be the man he was back in 2000. I doubt it, but one can hope.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Will Moussaoui Get to See His Virgins?

I don't get the Moussaoui trial. Actually, to put it more bluntly, I don't get the government's case in trying to put the so-called "20th hijacker" to death.

The whole story goes, if Mr. Moussaoui had told the truth, then the government would have stoppped the plot and 3,000 people wouldn't have died.

That makes no sense to me. The government couldn't do its job because of some crazy Frenchman?

It seems to me that the 9/11 commission showed the government failed to do its job. This doesn't make Moussaoui or the other hijackers or even bin Laden are innocent, they are not. But it's not the government's job to rely only on the testimony of one lunatic; they are supposed to do their job and put all the pieces together.

In light of yesterday's testimony by Moussaoui that pretty much signed his death warrant, the Los Angeles Times urges in today's editorial that the French Muslim shouldn't be excuted for more than simple humanitarian reasons:

Would-be suicide jihadists want to die in their struggle against us in the deluded belief that God will reward their murderous cowardice. Once they are in our custody, they lose the power to achieve that goal. Capital punishment gives them the martyrdom they crave, making them symbols of sacrifice to would-be followers rather than powerless, humiliated prisoners passing the decades alone and increasingly forgotten in a cell.

More important, if Moussaoui is indeed an important cog in a broad conspiracy, then he certainly has information that could potentially be useful both in further Sept. 11 investigations and in our fight against Al Qaeda, whether now or in 10 years. We may or may not get this information from him if he lives, although life in prison is a very long time. But we will certainly not get it from him if he dies.

All good points that I agree with. Moussaoui gave his jaw-dropping testimony yesterday because he wants be killed by US government and become known as a martyr. Why should we give that? Why should we play into the hands of bin Laden and his ilk by using Moussaoui's death as recruitment tool? It's better to let him spend the rest his life in a cell, where he is out of sight and also out of mind.

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick brings up another point that has bothered me about this case. The belief that Moussaoui's death would bring "closure" to those who were affected by 9/11. Closure has become the pop culture belief that some event will basically end all the saddness.

Let me share a short story. It was 13 years ago this week, my grandmother died. She died unexpectantly of a stroke while my mother watached. My mother was devasted. Nevermind that my grandmother was 90; my mother saw her mother die in front of her. What I saw from that experience is that grief doesn't just go for a while and end. Instead it continues for a long time. My mother has learned to live with her saddness, but there was no closure or getting over this. How the hell could you "get over" losing a parent? If that's hard, then is it even possible to offer "closure" to someone saw a loved one leave for work on that September day five years ago and never came back?

The government is offering victims a cheap thrill instead of helping them cope with their loss. These people won't "get over" the loss of their loved ones, and even Moussaoui's death won't make things better for them either. There will still be hurt and anger and saddness and to think killing some nut is going to magically make people better is just plain wrong.

I'm all for justice and for punishing Moussaoui. I just don't think we should be giving into a madman's desire for martyrdom or trying to give vicitim's family a band aid to ease their pain.

California Dreamin': Health Care

One of my gripes with both parties is that they don't have any really bold ideas suited to the 21st century. Most of their ideas are retreads from the past. Take Health Care. Most liberals are still pining for some kind of Canadian-style single payer health care system while most conservatives seem to think the market can solve all problems. As someone has noted there is a ton of energy on both sides to stymie the other, and meanwhile the amount of people without health insurance increases.

There is some need for bold thinking in this area and it will require both government and the market to increase the number of those insured in our country. Clive Crook writes in the April,2006 issue of the Atlantic that the answer might be health savings accounts with government subsidies for the poor. David Lesher presents serveral bold ideas in an op-ed from the San Francisco Chronicle including health care. His idea? Treat health insurance like auto insurance:

Employer-based health coverage is an anachronism in a new economy where the average job tenure is shrinking and companies compete globally.

The most promising and politically feasible route to universal coverage is to make an adequate level of health insurance mandatory, accessible and affordable for all individuals.

That means government, employers and individuals each share responsibility for extending insurance to the 7 million Californians left out today.

I think this makes sense. Instead of trying to put the private health care sector out of business, lets have government and the private sector work together towards universal health care. It makes no sense that you can't drive a car off a lot without insurance and yet we can walk around without health insurance. Governor Mitt Romney is trying to do just that in Massachusetts; making health care mandatory while offering subsidies for the poor.

As someone who has been without health care many times in my life, I know that we need to solve this problem. In the volitile economy of the 21st century, an employer-based system makes no sense. Liberals, to their credit, know this and Conservatives can't hide behind the fact that we have a one of the best health care systems in the world when a large minority aren't able to access it. However, Liberals have to acknowledge that you can't realisitically get rid of the private sector in health care (at least a third of the Canadian Health system is private), but we can steer the market to be more compassionate while being competative.

We need leaders who are willing to put down ideology for pragmatism and solve this issue. But we also need a public that demands change.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I Didn't Leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party Left Me.

Over the last few months, I've been noticing a fair number of people leaving the GOP who are not the so-called "RINOs" or liberal Republicans like myself, but tend to be liberatarian/conservative.

Take one of my friends who is a conservative in the Ronald Reagan mold, whom I will call Mike. Mike was busy involved with me in Log Cabin and was active in the party. Late last year, he started to voice his weariness on the current state of the party. He was angry about their support here in Minnesota for a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage, as well as their betrayal of fiscal conservatism. Earlier this year, he had enough and left the party. He didn't become a Democrat, but he is now a conservative without a home.

I am reminded of this after reading John Coles' post about is leaving the GOP after two decades. He writes:

The right wing of the Republican party has sold the libertarian/centrist wing of the party a bill of goods, and the modern ‘conservatives’ are clearly nothing more than statists who, rather than redistributing wealth like their brethern on the left, instead have decided that the state must have excessive rights in order to ‘protect’ us all from whatever the imagined fear du jour might be. Meanwhile, no one is left protecting us from the religionists and the the state itself.

In the new Republican era, only fetuses , tax shelters, and ‘traditional’ marriage deserve protection. According to the actions of the current Republican party, the rest of us need to be wiretapped, monitored, have our homes inspected for whatever reason without warrants, and are incapable of making decisions on our own. My 20 year affair with the Republican party is coming to an end. I am not voting for any Republican in 2006 at any level, and I will be hard pressed to vote for this party in 2008- unless, of course, Cindy Sheehan is the Democratic candidate. These ‘conservatives’ need abut 10-15 years in the wilderness.

The GOP, when it's not bowing down at the feet of Pat Robertson, should be paying attention to the loss of the Goldwater/Reagan conservatives. These were the guys, NOT the religious right that brought the party to prominence. These were the ones who really believed in limited government and a strong national defense and they very well might stay home in November or vote for the Democratic candidate.

Speaking as one who considers himself the lovechild of Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater, I have a lot of disgust at the some of the current leadership of the GOP, especially its baiting of gays. My view remains: I call myself an Independent Republican (hence the name NeoMugwump) and I will work for those who uphold true conservative values and I won't support those who don't. That doesn't mean I'm gonna vote Democrat, but it DOES mean, anyone who supports limiting my rights as a gay man won't be getting my vote come November.

Ronald Reagan said when asked why he left the Democratic Party, that it was not that he left the party, but that the party left him. Four decades later, there are a lot of conservatives that can say the same thing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Quote from a Republican Dissident

My mum wrote me a letter the other day and she said, "Son," - she's 86 years old - she said, "Son, please don't become a Democrat". And I told my mum, I called her and I said, "Mum, you know what? I want my party back. I don't want to become a Democrat. I want my party back." The Republican Party that I knew, that I grew up in, a moderate party, a party that believed in fiscal discipline, a party that believed in small government, a party that had genuine conservative values. This is not a conservative leadership. This is a radical leadership. I called them neo-Jacobins. They are radical. They're not conservative. They've stolen my party and I would like my party back.

That's Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff Larry Wilkerson talking about the state of the GOP.

I want my party back too, Mr. Wilkerson.

Ganked from Andrew Sullivan.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Incredible, Shrinking Moderate Republican

E. J. Dionne has a great column today in the Washington Post about the impending retirement of Sherwood Boehlert from Congress (one of the last great liberal Republicans from New York in the tradition of Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits)as well the demise of the liberal wing of the GOP. Dionne does a good job of answering why there needs to be a moderate/liberal/progressive wing of the GOP:

Why does the decline and fall of liberal Republicanism matter? After all, rationalizing the political system into a more conservative GOP and a more-or-less liberal Democratic Party makes the alternatives clearer to voters, who are offered, in Goldwater's famous phrase, "a choice, not an echo."

But it turns out that a Republican Party dominated by conservatives is no more coherent than the party that left room for progressives. The huge budget deficit is conservatism's Waterloo, testimony to its political failure. The conservatives love to cut taxes but can't square their lust for tax reduction with plausible spending cuts. Oh, yes, a group of House conservatives has a paper plan involving deep program cuts, but other conservatives know that these cuts will not pass, and shouldn't.

Paradoxically, because the liberal Republicans didn't pretend to hate government, they were better at fiscal responsibility. They were willing to match their desired spending levels with the taxes to pay for them. It didn't make for exciting, to-the-barricades politics. It merely produced good government.

Right on. It's funny that the same ones who talk about how Washington takes the people's money and waste it, are the same ones who have run up the deficit and in the words of John McCain, spend the people's money like "drunken sailors." A party with more moderates would have kept the party more faithful to its fiscal conservative heritage. I believe moderates have been the ones that keep the institutional memory of the party, reminding it of its roots, from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan. As the ranks of moderates decreases, the memory is lost.

But I think moderates are also needed in the social arena. You are already seeing how the current GOP has basically pushed the anti-gay marriage issue. The party that helped free the slaves, is now being known as the party that is bigoted to gay people. Maybe more moderates in the party would have blunted the hate filled campaign that the GOP is so eager to get into.

It isn't easy being a dying breed. But what keeps me going is something that amidst all the supposed triumph of the hard right, there are cracks forming and dissidents standing up. Maybe it won't happen right away, but maybe in time there will be enough voices to steer the party back the truly "right path" and away from the cliff.

Even a pessimist like me has to have hope...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Three Ain't Always a Magic Number

Alan Stewart Carl has a great retort to Justin Gardner's case for polygamy based on a column by Katherine Kersten, a conservative columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She trots out the tired old argument that any approval of gay marriage would lead to polygamy.

Now, I know some gay men who are in polyarmous relationship and it works well. But I agree with Alan: most of these polygamous marriages are exploitative of women. Gay marriage is basically the same old, same old, just with two people of the same sex. In theory it might seem nice and wonderful, but in reality , for the most part, is not as nice.

Also, this doesn't help those of us are gay and want to be married at some point. The far right can use this to tell us that we are a threat and lead America down a path to Sodom. Middle America is trying to deal with gay marriage; it would be difficult if not impossible to get Americans to deal with guy who wants to marry three women.

I think, those who care about gay marriage needs to stay away from this polygamy trap.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Ports Deal: Somewhere Osama is Laughing

Congress must be congratulating itself now. They were able to kill the port deal by Dubai Ports World. Good for them. That will teach those nasty Arabs not to mess with the US. Now we can have a "US Entity" take over and of course the ports of cities like New Orleans will safe from terrorists. I mean no terrorist will go through an American owned and managed port.

I don't care if the majority of Americans were deadset against this. I don't care that most of Congress was against it. This whole fight was never about security- it was about politics. Both parties want to look tough on terrorism and this was a slam dunk of an issue. We could cash in on fear of another 9/11 and throw in some xenophobia and get the American public to fear people with funny sounding names.

Sometimes I think that our country is incredibly short-sighted and fearful anything that is "foreign." September 11 didn't open us up to the world, it made us even more suspicious of anyone that doesn't seem "American," whatever that means.

Let me remind you of a few things concerning some recent terrorist events. The 19 hijackers on 9/11 flew jets made by an American company (Boeing) and owned by US airlines (United and American). The "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, was a British citizen. The persons behind the London subway attacks last July were British Muslims as well.

I say this to say that the terrorists don't need a company from the UAE to do their dirty work. In some cases, they only need to look to homegrown terrorists.

(Hmmm...maybe we should start rounding up Arabs who live here, just in case. It worked SO WELL on the Japanese Americans.)

And by the way, an American-owned company doesn't assure us that our ports our safe. As the New York Times reports in

Friday's editorial:

Overall security is dismal at many ports. Low-paid rent-a-cops often guard the gates and perimeter fences. Thousands of truck drivers gain access to some ports simply by flashing driver's licenses. At one major port, journalists found gaps in the fences, unattended gates, an understaffed police force and inoperative alarms and surveillance cameras.

Think Congress is gonna deal with this? Probably not, since they were able to deal with those horrible Arabs.

The whole point of terrorism is to strike fear into the hearts of a population. I have to think somewhere tonight, Osama is laughing. His plan is working like a charm.

Other views on the ports deal...

David Ignatius

Mathew Pruitt points his finger at Congress and tenders in his resignation as a Republican. Some choice quotes:

On the Democrats:

Only more political pandering from a party that has no message of its own and whose only agenda is to oppose the President… Forget the talk of a global community from Bill Clinton in the 90's, Kerry's ranting about Bush's hate words and the need to create allies in the world community, as well as the liberal lip service to diversity, multiculturalism, and tolerance. If the President does it, it must be wrong.

For the GOP, it's adios:

I have stayed Republican, voted for Republican candidates, and supported this President because of defense, fiscal responsibility, and free trade. I am not sure the party of Ronald Reagan is any better than the other side on the former two and you just lost me on the latter. The Republican Party has all but surrendered its principles and moderates have received zilch in return for their continued support. As a leader in Congress with a majority, you have absolutely failed to produce on the domestic issues that kept liberal Republicans in the President's corner, and now this. My loyalty to the party is no longer deserved. I quit.

So the GOP leadership has lost another needed voice. Hastert, Frist and Mr. President, you're doing a heckuava job.

Daniel Drezner, who blames the President for a lack of leadership. (I agree.) Dead man walking, indeed.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Third Party Dreaming

Blogger Bredan Nyhan has become pretty snarky since his days at Spinsanity, but he does makes some sense at times. He blasts the idea of a centrist third party challenging the two party duopoly in the United States.

The creation of a centrist third party has a been a dream for those us in the middle. There was a lot of hope when Jesse Ventura "shocked the world" when he won the governorship of Minnesota in 1998. But the Reform Party never got very far, and infact the Minnesota Reform Part left and became the Independence Party in 2000. There was also a lot of hope when Ross Perot created the Reform Party and I think it had a decent shot of becoming a viable third party. However, Perot's control of the party apparatus and frequent infighting weakened the party and allowed John Buchannan to take over the party in 2000. Perot took his toys (and his money) and went home and by 2004, the Reform Party was history.

The problem with third parties is not just the current election laws, but because they seem to lack a coherant ideology. Simply saying you are in the middle isn't enough.

Ryan over at Centerfield believes that instead of hoping for a Centrist Third Party, centrists should show up in force in the major party primaries. I think this is a more viable option that can bypass the extremists who control the Republican and Democratic Parties. In 1994, moderate Republican Arne Carlson lost the gubernatorial endorsement of the state GOP to Alan Quist a far right candidate. He fought on to the primary and won and subsequently won a second term.

I think the future lies in bringing two "big two" closer to the center than in the pipe dream of a third party.

Monday, March 06, 2006

More on Crunchy Cons

Alan Stewart Carl has a great post about "crunchy conservatives" something I talked about back in January.

Brokeback: More than a Love Story...

I'm not going to complain that the movie "Crash" won the Oscar for Best Picture over "Brokeback Mountain." I can't since I haven't seen "Crash." However, I have seen "Brokeback" and feel I need to speak up at some who thought that this was just a gay version of "Titanic."

"Brokeback" wasn't simply a love story, though that was part of it. But it was also a movie about men who couldn't be out, men who lived in an era where they had to keep their sexuality under wraps. The story of Jake and Ennis is a story of a lot of men I know: men who loved another men, but had to keep that love a secret. These men married, and had children, but lived lives of quiet desparation. Sometimes they had secret affairs, sometimes the kept all their feelings inside. And let's not talk about how the wives are affected.

You see, I know a lot of gay men ranging in age from the late 30s to mid 60s, who lived double lives. They've all come out and are living happier lives, thank God, but they had to go through a lot of hell, denying who they were and denying any chance at love.

I tend to think part of the problem was the fact that many people within and without the gay community tried to universalize the story of "Brokeback." The problem with making this just a common love story with two guys instead of a guy and girl is that it allows the public to ignore the issues going on.

Jack and Ennis couldn't be together, not because they were of the wrong social class ala Pretty in Pink, but because as Ennis says, if they showed affection at the wrong place and wrong time, there would be hell to pay. The reason they couldn't live a life together is because of bigotry, people.

Listen, I have a boyfriend that very well might be a partner someday soon. Say he gets sick and winds up in the hospital. In most places in the United States, I might not be able to see him, since I'm not considered family. THAT is the reality that gays and lesbians deal with. The far right is trying to pass constitutional amendments left and right to deny gays marriage rights and they are now starting to focus on adoptions to gays. It is still not easy for gay couples today.

So please spare me the talk about how "Brokeback" was just another retread of an old story. It's not. It's about the lives of many of the men I know and it's part of what gay couples still have to deal with.

Other Commentary on "Brokeback Mountain"

Alan Stewart Carl at Maverick Views.

Kenneth Turan's take in the Los Angeles Times.

Reason's Jesse Walker looks at the Ang Lee film.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Real Threat: Grapefruits

"Anuclear bomb can be built with a relatively small amount of nuclear material. A trained nuclear engineer with an amount of highly enriched uranium or plutonium about the size of a grapefruit or an orange, together with commerical available material, could fashion a nuclear device that would fit in a van like the one Ramzi Yousef parked in the garage of the World Trade Center in 1993. Such a bomb would level lower Manhattan."

-from the 9/11 Commission Report.

A few nights ago, I was talking with my friend and fellow moderate Republican, Jim. He offered this scenario:

A fishing trawler makes its way to the US coast. On board are members of a terrorist cell as well as a shielded suitcase carrying a crude nuclear device with weapons-grade plutonium about the size of a grapefruit. The trawler avoids major ports and goes to a small port in a small city. There waiting is a car which transports the members of the cell and the suitcase to a safehouse in a large city. The next day, the device is detonated, killing hundereds of thounsands and leaving a major city destroyed.

My friend was proving a point: you don't need an Arab-owned shipping company to deliver a nuclear bomb; all you need is some determined people.

What is our government doing to prevent this? Where is Congress?

Oh, I forgot they are busy trying to prevent the government of UAE to manage some ports.