Monday, January 31, 2011

Conyers, Dingell to Run Again

Representative John Conyers announced today that he intends to seek a twenty fifth term in Congress in the 2012 election. This was not an unexpected move, as it fits hand in glove with the fact that John Dingell, the only member of Congress around longer than Conyers, is going for re-election as well.

These liberal lions should surely win wherever they're put, but as likely as not what they are doing is, basically, staking claims to two of the seats which will almost certainly be kept by the Democrats even after redistricting. Seeing as the GOP will control the redrawing of Congressional districts, it is expected that two Democrats will be pitted against each other somewhere, somehow.

It is doubtful that the Republicans would even try to oust one or the other of either Conyers or Dingell, or shuffle them into the same district. The outcry against such a tactic would be too shrill. Nor should Conyers expect to be challenged by the newly elected Hansen Clarke, who holds the state's other minority seat. With those three seats presumably safe, it is most likely that an outstate Democrat will effectively go on the chopping block, or at least have to run against a Republican in what will surely be an area carved out to the GOP's benefit.

The outcome will be interesting but not surprising. Michigan will probably gain one Republican seat when all is said and done. It is another worry that the Democrats must face in the next elections. They should not have hacked off so many folks with their political over-reaching pf the last two years. They are paying the price.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Steady as She Goes, Conservative Republicans

Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) has, like so many Republican House members recently, suggested a basketful of cuts in order to trim the $14 trillion deficit which faces the US these days in light of the excesses of the Obama Administration. Indeed, seeing as we face a $1.5 trillion deficit in the current budget year alone, no sane member of Congress should not be looking at budget cuts somewhere. Yet what has attracted attention to her is the suggestion that benefits to veterans might be pared as well as to any other budget area.

The reaction has been typically, um, protective, to say the least. Richard Eubank, head of Veterans of Foreign Wars, has replied basically that he thinks she no longer wants to care for wounded veterans. It is a knee jerk reaction. No one, and the Congresswoman's office has said so, has called for cutting the benefits of veterans who are in dire need, especially those who have been severely disabled or otherwise injured while serving their country.

But it is asinine to argue that there are areas of the federal budget which are to be treated as sacred cows. They are all, seen by themselves through the eyes of those who have an interest in them, sacred cows. Are there truly no areas of Veterans Affairs which could not stand a bit of paring? Are there in fact no aspects of government, particularly on a national level, which could not spend taxpayer money more wisely?

That support for our veterans should be a high priority in Washington is not being questioned. Yet there is a point where it is fair to ask about the responsibilities of their caregivers towards us. Yes, many veterans - too many - have had to voluntarily risk their lives for the well being of the rest of us, and they have done so valiantly and without regard to personal well being. Too many have fought, been wounded, and died for us. It is a reflection of an imperfect world; that their actions are heroic is beyond argument. Seeing to the necessities of these warriors who need long term care is an obligation for which we would not be human if we did not honor. But that is not to say that their representatives spend all their money in the best manner either.

If we are to tame this beast we must do it as comprehensively as possible. That must mean no sacred cows. Responsibility is not borne of idol worship.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

2012 doesn't look good for the President

It is far too early to write off President Barack Obama's chances of reelection in 2012. Still, in light of the November 2010 elections, the early call has to be that his chances are not particularly good.

For starters, conservative voters tend to be more true to their candidates than their liberal counterparts. Some political wags are also saying that Obama supporters are 'exhausted': he simply hasn't done enough good to merit continued support. Factor into this that the Tea party and the GOP clearly still have the momentum and 2012 cannot appear very bright for the Chief Executive.

The recent surge in popularity not withstanding, the fact is that the nation's view of Obama's economic policies is still under 50% positive. Taken along with the unprecedented growth of the national debt, this too bodes ill for the President.

The GOP will almost surely gain seats in the House in 2012, and should take the Senate. This may lead to a sort of backwards coattail effect will only help the GOP Presidential nominee. Then, too, we need to remember that in an election where the Democrats absolutely romped back in 2008, the President only won 53% of the vote. That his showing in his initial election was so comparatively poor (one wonders what might have happened with a stronger Republican than John McCain heading the ticket) must mean that his personal support was in truth somewhat shallow even then. Mr. Obama simply didn't rock and roll when so many lesser Democrats did. How can things go better for him facing a continued onslaught from 2010?

In short, the President's reelection bid looks bleak. All the better for the country.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Government and Right and Wrong

Over at the Daily Beast, they're ranting about libertarian conservative Rand Paul's seeming tilt to the traditionally conservative side on social issues. He has introduced, along with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), a bill which defines life as beginning at conception. It is their plan to sidestep the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling of 1973.

The fear seems to be that the newly elected Republicans are more intent on addressing social issues than what the Tea Party as a whole appears to be. But why not address them? What we stand for as a nation is important, and there's no reason conservatives should take the flak they do over standing up for the moral points they believe in. Liberals social issues activists certainly aren't subject to the general disdain which is heaped on the GOP.

The fact of the matter is that things such as health care, education, and aid to the poor and unemployed, even questions of the exact nature of the state in our lives, are just as much social questions, are themselves as fully moral issues, as abortion and gay rights. Why should conservatives be expected to check their morals at the door when what is important to them is at stake? No one asks the pro-death crowd (those in favor of abortion) to leave their creed private.

Governments can, do, and indeed must address the critical social issues which face humanity day in and day out. It is time that people learned to accept that the sum of good government is in truth government which does only what it should, even, or, perhaps, especially, where important moral rights and wrongs are at stake.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Border Troubles

We live next to a neighbor who cannot be seen as anything less than the greatest friend and ally that a nation such as the United States can have. Canada as a nation and Canadians as a people have been very good to us for the better part of our joint history. We trade more between the two of us than with anyone else. Yet how do we treat our friends in return?

By making them wait unduly long in coming over to say hello, and maybe spend a few bucks while here.

This is an issue which is generally not seen or understood by most of the US. But there is a very real question of courtesy and common sense at stake, both with regard to individuals and businesses. It simply makes sense that we expedite travel between our countries. It is time that we seriously considered a complete opening of the longest border in the world.

Why shouldn't US and Canadian citizens pass freely between each other? We are surely as close as any given European Union country, and likely as not more friendly than a good number of them. Such an idea would free up resources on both sides for better use (we surely have more grief coming from our southern border) while allowing an easier flow of goods, both personal and commercial. An initiative such as this would surely aid free trade, particularly between major crossings such as we have here in Detroit. More than that, it would serve as a powerful sign that we trust each other in the manner which close friends ought.

The terrorism question will certainly come in up in any discussion about this problem. Yet how many suspected terrorists have been caught moving between or border? Or do we, and we should admit this only shamefully if it is true, believe that we don't really trust that Canada's other points of entry are not secure enough for the both of us? All that we really accomplish in thickening the border looking for sneaky evildoers is cause unwarranted trouble for ourselves and our neighbours.

That's hardly a welcome signal. If we are to be at all true to our deepest principles, then we need to show our Canadian brethren that we understand friendship and invite it. At some point, we simply must quit worrying about cloak and dagger threats and live up to our highest callings. Anything less than that and we are but quivering beneath the sheets.

Open the International Border. Let's begin living up to our principles rather than down to the despotism of the world's lowest thugs.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The State of the Union in 2011

President Barack Obama offered his third State of the Union address to the nation last night. It was not particularly remarkable. Indeed, it was rather bland, as though it had no real direction.

He tried throughout the speech to sound positive and upbeat, yet it seemed forced. That the President is a man with a certain charisma is without doubt. But that does not seem to translate well into a man who can inspire, which is what he seemed to be attempting last night.

No doubt that many of his supporters will point out that his proposals received high marks immediately after the talk; A CBS News poll had what the President proposed at an astounding 92 percent approval while seeing support for his economics jump to 81 percent. But those numbers cannot be counted for much as they will surely wane as the Tucson shootings fall further back into our history. We need only remember George W. Bush high marks immediately after 9/11: the nation tends to rally behind whoever is the leader right after a sudden and inexplicable event.

Mr. Obama wasn't all that smooth in his delivery. He stumbled a few times late in the speech and truly offered few specifics. A time or two an attempt at humor to lighten things up fell flat, although to his credit the remark leading into comments on health care was properly snarky: "Now, I've heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law." The President deserves praise for his comments in accepting John Boehner as the new House Speaker, too. They were well said and well played. Much of the speech was a laundry list, but that was to be expected. There were few surprises there.

In the end, what the President asked for was bipartisanship. What else could he do, given the circumstances? He was trying to tell the country that he would work with whom we have sent him. How far that will play out remains to be seen, of course, and even on this night of coming together, newly elected Republicans need to stay emboldened and focused on what they were sent to Washington to do. This is a President willing to force his views on your constituents even when they clearly did not want them; don't be too quick to accept the olive branch merely for appearances. The glow will fade, and you have real work to do.

It wasn't a terrible speech, yet it was not a very good one either. The President played the right keys under the circumstances. But can he find the right ones as the shirt sleeves are rolled up and he's not the center of attention?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Airport Patdowns

Former Minnesota Governor and wrestling icon Jesse Ventura, known in wrestling circles as 'The Body", is tired of being groped in airports. So he has filed a lawsuit to end the pat downs he regularly gets when passing through, as a result of the titanium hip he has had since 2008.

Good luck, Governor. The terrorists have won, as witnessed by the invasions of privacy at airports such as what you deal with, and also by the waits innocent US citizens are forced to endure at auto crossings from Canada. Especially now, in light of the bombing at Moscow's largest airport. Such incidents will more likely only further embolden the searchers.

But it is good that someone is taking a stand. We're a decade past 9/11 now, and time shows that those terrorists were actually very lucky to have accomplished what they did. If we are the land of the free and home of the brave, then we need to reassess exactly how we do business. Otherwise, well, the bad guys have won.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Pragmatic Governor?

In yesterday's Detroit News, political columnist Nolan Finley described new governor Rick Snyder as pragmatic because of his experience in business. But is that in itself a good thing? Pragmatism simply as pragmatism can lead to many errors. Indeed, it is the root cause of the moral relativism which threatens our world. It would be better to have a leader based in and guided by solid principles.

That the Governor leans conservative isn't really much comfort. Even Finley conceded that that would likely mean conservative disappointment on some fronts. We'll see what happens, but if Mr. Finley's words were mean to be a comfort, they fell short. If Mr. Snyder fails to address the concerns of the GOP's right wing base, whatever actions he takes will likely fall short of success as well.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Playing Politics with the State of the Union address

It has been noted recently that lawmakers, mostly Democrats, want to have a kumbaya moment at this week's State of the Union address. Rather than sit apart by political party as usually occurs, they want Republicans to partner with Democrats in a show of overall unity in the wake of the shootings in Arizona.

Why does this effort sound so very hollow? The Democrats have shown, time and again, that they are not interested in any real harmony, but, rather, want what they want and will pull every level they can to get it. Faking a let's-all-just-get-along attitude demeans rather than elevates practical politics. For there are differences among the people, and the differences matter. No amount of pretending changes the fact that certain lawmakers are really right, and others really wrong, in what they support. Is it truly good politics to dampen that truth?

It would seem that what the left is doing is playing the game, pure and simple. You can bet that if the GOP refuses en masse to engage in the plan, they will be accused of partisanship. Even if they do work within it, rest assured that at some point it will be whispered that they really only did it to look good. Yet isn't the very idea partisan, seeing as the Democrats are more interested in it than the Republicans? In light of how badly they were beaten in November (the only reason they kept the Senate was that not enough of them were up for election) it is easy to see that all they are really doing is attempting to get some of the glow of the election to fall upon them too. It's all simply partisanship on a more slick level.

The Democrats do not want to sit with Nancy Pelosi and be tainted by her failed leadership. In the end the best idea is that Republicans should sit where they want (together, ideally) and further display the unity needed to, we'll say it, combat Obamacare and Obamanomics. The President's speech this week ought to clearly define who means what. Even if only symbolically.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Modern Holocaust

Today marks the 38th Anniversary of what should be the most infamous date in our history: January 22, 1973. That is the day abortion became legal in the United states, by judicial fiat. It is the day that the US Constitution became little more than a liberal plaything to be construed as they wish.

Yet that is a relatively unimportant point in the grand scheme of things. We became a nation that tolerated legal murder solely for the sake of a form of birth control. Solely for the sake of personal will, no matter how you slice it. And please refrain from that tired argument that it helps the poor, unless you really only believe that the poor are rabbits who cannot control themselves. Because if that's the case, they need more aid than a single manufactured 'right' would ever grant them.

Abortion is not a mere religious issue. It can be argued quite convincingly and in simple philosophic terms that abortion is a moral affront, without making any overtures towards religious thought, an in exactly the same way that racism and sexism can be seen as moral wrongs.

Abortion cannot be allowed on the basis of that truly stupid and insensitive argument that, "I'm personally opposed, but I can't force my views on others". Really? But you seem to think that you can force views on the arts and education and race and sexism issues without regard to that sense. Why are more minor questions than human life to be treated so absolutely when the larger questions are so summarily dismissed?

We should note that many on the left through unions and such support abortion. Have the individuals involved ever asked themselves whether they might be placing their own good over saving human lives? Have they ever thought that maybe they are putting their mere economic well being ahead of protecting those most in need of our defense?

The Democratic Party in particular reaps great benefits from framing the question that way. Have the people who vote for that party ever thought, even for a moment, that if a political party does not want to protect a human life from its very conception that maybe we can't really trust it on other issues? If the Democrats won't help defend a person right from the start of life, how can we really believe that they have the best interests of ourselves at hand on other issues such as health care? Especially when a part of their version of health care involves disposing of, uh, shall we say, inconveniences such as babies? On the grounds of the abortion issue alone, no thoughtful man or woman ought to feel free to vote Democratic.

Yet they do. As such, if the demise of America is at hand, it began on January 22nd, 1973. Every time you pull the lever for an abortion supporting candidate, you drive another nail in its coffin.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Go, go, GOP

The Republicans in the House of Representatives have proposed over $2.5 trillion dollars in spending cuts over the next decade. Amtrak, the Legal Services Corporation, and of the tyranny which is the health care bill, would be gone. The Federal workforce would but cut by 15% through attrition, and the National Endowment for the Arts would be gone.

Let's hope they mean it. The GOP must set itself apart from the liberal Democrats and actually do what they say they will. Much of it may not get done this term, what with the bad guys in control of the Senate and current President more than willing to obstruct the will of the people.

The fact is that the federal government has way overstepped its bounds in the last century and requires sharp and severe cuts. Washington has absolutely no place in the arts, and no one rides the train anymore. Further, we must never forget that worthwhile endeavors get private support enough to carry themselves. True art will find its way with the people who care about it.

The time is now. Sharpen that meat cleaver and bar no holds. It is what we need in order to have a full economic recovery.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fighting the Good Fight

The United States House of Representatives has voted to repeal the 2010 Health Care plan. The GOP promises to fight hard in the Senate to follow up in agreement with the House. This is despite the fact that Nevada's Harry Reid has vowed to not it come to a vote in that body. Even so, should it pass the upper chamber, there is the virtual certainty that President Obama will veto it.

Just the same, the Republicans are well advised to press the issue as far as they can. If the are truly intent on showing that the are the party which speaks for mainstream America, if they really want to show the general populace that they are different from the democrats in thought, word, and action, then then the GOP must fight this battle to the end. Anything less would have to be considered a failure.

With the high number of Democratic Senators up for reelection in 2012 compared to only few GOP seats, and especially with the recent announcement that North Dakota's Kent Conrad will retire after this term, the Republicans can set themselves up to be the major party for decades. If they show backbone and grit and make sure the voters know they are not the Democrats. That begins with fighting Reid and company all the way to the mat and making the Democrats the fall guys on this issue. If they can back up their words with action, they'll do well. If not, nothing particularly dramatic will happen in November 2012.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Trusting in Reality

The moral relativist claims that we can know nothing on our own. My question for him, beyond, 'Then how can you know that?', is, 'Why don't you want to trust your senses?'

Why not trust them? Sure, they can be fooled, but can the tomfoolery not be discovered by clear thought, a presentation of the valid evidence, or exposure of the true villain, among other remedies? By and large, hot is hot, hard is hard, and mathematical progression continues uninterrupted by what we might wish. Why won't you believe your eyes, ears, nose, and touch, your own rational thoughts indeed, as need be?

The only reason I can think of is that any valid thought might interfere with what you might want, and we can't have objectivity ruin a night on the town, can we, brother? For you see, a proven truth in one area necessarily suggests there are provable truths elsewhere, including perhaps those which may affect how you want to behave. That simply destroys any moral chance of, well, doing an awful lot of immoral things.

Such a shame that human beings have to consider the weight of their actions to be fully human.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Animal experimentation

I see this morning (all right, I'm probably behind the curve on this story, but bear with me) that South Korean scientists have added gene material from another creature to a beagle puppy, causing it to glow red in ultraviolet light. The dog is named Ruppy, which is short for Ruby Puppy. Cute.

Cute in and of itself only, I should add. There is great debate in the scientific community about the value of such experiments, and well there should be. Ruppy is part of a series of experiments designed to make dogs more like humans genetically in order to use them in researching human diseases. I am not sure what to make of this. I have no qualms about using animals to seek cures for human ills. Yet I have to question the point of a glowing dog, even in that context.

Perhaps it was inadvertent; the articles I read either did not say whether the team of researchers intended that effect, or I missed the reason. Maybe it was simply to see what kind of genetic alterations could be effected, as a step on the ladder towards more useful experiments. I can live with that second point; but if it was the first reason, I am not so sure I would agree.

As a moral rule, doing something just to do something, doing 'science' just to see what can be done, is not particularly defensible. That's not to say that such actions are wrong, only that they may be little more than a waste of time. Especially in areas where public money may be being spent, I would go so far as to say they may be in fact wasteful of the taxpayer's cash.

Not to mention the effects on the animals. Again, I don't mind animal experimentation for the legitimate pursuit of ending diseases. But I don't see where we have the right to experiment on them merely to play with their DNA. If there is no, or within reason expected to be no, help to be developed against the bad things in the human condition, I cannot see where it is right to mess with any given animal.

Perhaps I am speaking out of turn, as I am admittedly shooting from the lip. That said, we must remember that we are not God, even when it comes to our treatment of the lower creatures with whom we share this planet. We have no right, in this area as well as almost all others, to tinker merely to tinker.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Science and Religion, Again

Note: The following is a response to a discussion thread from an earlier post. I apologize for anything which may be unclear, and will happily explain anything which any reader would like explained.

- Charles Martin Cosgriff

Things do not require physical reality to be real. It's a simple as that. Many concepts we use in everyday life - justice, morality, responsibility, even such debatable concepts as libertarian ideals - none of these have a physical reality. Yet by our reason we know many of them to be true. It is intellectually shallow (intellect: another thing without physical reality) to believe that all real things must have a physical side.

When we die our physical selves die, but not our essence as human beings. That admittedly nonphysical part of us, by rational argument, goes on.

The Church does not claim that miracles happen to Her adherents only. I have no idea how you came to believe that.

So the universe could have always existed, but God couldn't. That's little more than selective reasoning. If one could be eternal, why couldn't the other, once we dismiss the error that only the physical is real? Aquinas puts it this way: if the universe (or matter or whatever you wish to call it) has existed for all time, it would be because God desired it to be co-eternal with Him.

I have already conceded that individual Church members, even Popes, may commit sin. Few of us, if any, are perfect in action. But that does not mean that a declaration of truth cannot reflect a truth for all times, places, and people. Murder is always wrong, no matter where you are or who's doing what.

You are confusing scientific reason with philosophical reason. Science of course relies on empiricism. Reason in the second sense relies on logic: does what we're saying make sense? Would an objective reviewer agree that a given line of though makes sense and is thus really reflective of truth? To deny the voracity of that is intellectually dishonest. It is an all too convenient way to dismiss things we may not like as unreal, simply because we do not like them.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Detroit Politics: the Same Old Same Old, Even Older

The Detroit Common Council has snubbed Mayor Dave Bing. Or, rather, he has snubbed them. Well, somebody has snubbed somebody, anyway.

The city purchased the old MGM Grand Casino for $6.3 million dollars last summer, and the plan was that the building would be re-purposed into a multiple use facility housing police, fire, and EMS personnel while also having a state of the art crime lab under the Michigan State Police. The Council's problem with that is that the bond request to pay for the changes are $37 million over the cost of the work.

Yet the action comes on the heels of Mayor Bing filing a lawsuit to limit the Council's on air time over the two public access channels the City controls. The Council wants to be on air more than the two days per week the Mayor favors, up to two-thirds of the broadcast schedule. The Mayor says that extra $37 million was earmarked for future building, all of which would have to be approved by the Council.

Quite frankly, the whole thing sounds petulant. If that is the case, then it can only demonstrate to rest of Michigan that Detroit is still not particularly willing to act in its own best interests. So long as this type of infighting remains a part of how the city does business it will never rebound. The next time the city starts to point fingers at the presumed animosity the rest of the state has for it, it would do well to remember that when you point at another, three fingers point back at you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Beatifying Pope John Paul the Great

The Vatican has announced the beatification of Pope John Paul the Great will be on May 1st of this year. It is a fitting tribute to the late Pontiff to enact recognition of his works on May Day, the communist holiday, in light of the manner in which his life and actions served to rebuke communism, and indeed hasten its demise. But more importantly, the realization and acceptance by the Church of the holiness of this wonderful man, in such relatively short order, demonstrates that Rome can and will act quickly when circumstances call for it.

Yet this is something that does not sit well in certain mindsets. The National Catholic Reporter, a liberal catholic magazine of questionable repute, doesn't seem to like it. "This is madness," writes Michael Sean Winters, a columnist for the NCR. "After years of being frustrated at the slow pace with which the Vatican embraces change, in this one instance where haste could spell disaster, they appear to be rushing."

We are not impressed by the outrage of a periodical which routinely countermands true Catholic doctrine to its own biased ends. Nor are the laments of those interested only in denying the power and sanctity of the Church, such as the American media, to be taken seriously. Especially as this less than humble institution preys on the hardship of those with whom they disagree. its concerns ought to fall on deaf ears.

The most disconcerting aspect of beatifying John Paul the Great surely lie within the priest sex abuse scandal which has vexed the Church of late. Still, there is one thing here which admittedly matters only to true Catholics yet is in fact the salient point in the arguments over his beatification: is the Church blessed with the intuition, after thorough study of an event or a person's life, to see the holiness which enveloped that person or event, or is it not? If it is, then putting John Paul II on the fast track to sainthood must be taken at face value: the Church acted quickly because it was the right thing to do, and its actions will not turn out to be in error. If it is not, then anything Rome pretends to ask for, such as aid to the poor or even recognition of whatever legitimate claims the purported sex abuse victims may have, must fall flat as well. For if the Church as a religious institution does not have Divine guidance lighting her way, then nothing She or her followers may assert matters.

That John Paul the Great brought great things into the world is beyond doubt. We here in the Detroit area still feel the warmth and love he brought here during the papal visit back in 1987. There would be no statue in Hamtramck without a love for such an obviously gentle man. The whole earth still reverberates positively with the results of what he did, from his heroism in the face of communism to his personal battle with disease. This is something which is beyond the collective sneer of the media, even and perhaps especially the ugly grimace of such as the National Catholic Reporter. They will not accept that what is being expressed by John Paul's beatification is not of this world. They do not know really the truly sacred, but only worldly sanctimony.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The DSO is still out

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is still on strike, and the rancor between the two sides has not ebbed. Indeed it appears to have increased recently, with each side basically pointing the finger at one another. And all this despite former Governor Jennifer Granholm and US Senator Carl Levin having put themselves into the mix suggesting compromise.

You know that a situation is heated when governors and senators chime in with their two cents. It must be important that we keep a symphony orchestra around: the Government says so!

Yet through it all no one seems to miss the DSO. That in itself should be evidence enough that Detroit doesn't care. It should also be a fair warning to the musicians and their bosses that the longer they aren't around, the less they'll matter, except, perhaps, to a smattering of small businesses. It was interesting to side the musicians cloak themselves in concern with the plebes while they appeal to almost exclusively the upper crust.

Further, in light of recent events out west, to hear musicians clamor about vitriol sounds particularly hollow. There are folks in the world with real troubles while they rant about the value of a local band. That says about all we, the general public, need to know about the situation.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Freedom of Expression

The First Amendment, we are so regularly told, protects our freedom of speech. This is of course generally a good thing, and without doubt one of the reasons behind the strength of our Republic. Still, can it really mean the right to say anything we want to anyone, at any time or manner we choose? Especially in the light of the recent attacks in Tucson, it does seem a good time to explore the content and intent of our speech.

It strikes me that decorum and consideration of our surroundings ought to play some role in our talk, and that such ideas deserve their day. Does anyone really want to insult friends, or even adversaries, when the situation simply does not require the full expression of our thoughts? Perhaps we become nothing more than busybodies when we comment on things which may not be any of our business.

Yet even in political discourse I believe that a line may be crossed. Portraying Barack Obama as Hitler is as unfair as portraying George W. Bush as Hitler, and ultimately nothing more than inflammatory. It cannot help forward political debate; consequently, is it truly wise to use such divisive imagery even if within one's rights to do so?

Yet it happens all the time on both sides of the aisle. It has indeed happened across the political spectrum since the dawn of our nation. Even the current President has used inflammatory speech, when he said during the 2008 campaign that you bring in a gun when your opponent has a knife during in a fight. Still, that we have survived it so far cannot truly justify certain forms of talk, innuendo, and outright insult.

Just something that we need to consider as debate rages on in the political and personal arenas of our lives. Even without any causal connection between shrill rhetoric and insane action, we must ask ourselves whether we should express ourselves that way, or if, perhaps, we are better than that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Political Rhetoric

Why is it that Sarah Palin is the highlight of the debate about overblown political rhetoric? The now famous 'crosshairs' map which actually was employing surveyor's symbols?

Please. That is such a simplistic view as to be almost laughable. Yet more than that, where's the moral outrage of the left when George W. Bush is lampooned as Hitler? They sure were able to summon anger when their darling, Barack Hussein Obama, was portrayed as the German dictator.

What we in fact are dealing with is the selective rage of the liberal mentality. If the right employs what may be seen as extreme symbols, they're hate mongers. But the left, well, they're just telling it like it is.

Well, let's tell it in fact like it is: sticks and stones, folks. Rhetoric is merely that: talk. Portraits and placards mocking political leaders are nothing more than that: words or pictures on paper. What hurts our politics are not what is said but what is done, and what was done in Arizona is the result of a deluded individual. To attempt to fix blame on anyone other than the shooter denies what is perhaps the greatest responsibility of the individual: personal responsibility.

Blame the shooter, not the rest of the world. This is not to say that we may need to play a little nicer on the public stage (we could stand to do that, yes) but only that mere talk is cheap. So cheap, we might say, that there's no need to put too much emphasis on it as the cause of all our woes. The best thing we can do right now is to take the proverbial pill, a deep breath, and respond rationally to an extreme yet isolated event. That is how we would display our true colors.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Atheism caused Arizona Shootings

Now that a few extra hours have past, the expected analysis of Jared Loughner and what he was and what he wanted to accomplish is shifting into high gear. Many on the left have brazenly accused the right of being the root cause of the attack. Some have pointed a finger at the Second Amendment, which is supported by no less than Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords herself. Others blame the general vitriol which all too often passes for political debate these days. Yet few point out that the shooter was an atheist and apparent communist.

The only reason why this isn't more widely debated in the media is that it goes against their stereotypes. Atheism, indeed a fully secular America, is what most of them want, and a break from religion is supposed to break us from such hostile acts as Loughner has allegedly committed. Religion is what inspires violence, in their worldview.

That's poppycock, of course. Without an eternal something, without at least something which asserts that certain behaviors are really right and others really wrong, not in the judgment of a secular (and therefore passing) society but in and of themselves, we should only expect more (and more violent) attacks. For if there's nothing to hold people in check with God in the equation, how can we keep a law abiding body politic when the only thing at stake is the transient opinion of the society itself?

Loughner was a product of secularism, not religion. But the left doesn't want to hear that. It upsets their more properly formed worldly conscience.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Arizona Shootings

In a tragic event surely known to most of the world by now, an American member of Congress was shot, and she is in critical condition in an Arizona hospital as we speak. A federal judge, a member of the Congresswoman's staff, a nine year old child, and three senior citizens were killed yesterday in the parking lot of a shopping mall. A suspect is in custody, having been bravely apprehended by a couple of locals who happened to be part of the crowd.

That this is a sad day for America goes almost without saying despite having been said, properly enough, to be sure, by many in the last 24 hours. But the one thing which we must remember about this tragedy is this: it is the result of a deranged personality, not someone of a particular political stripe. Strained political rhetoric did not lead to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords or the murder of federal Judge John Roll and the other victims.

Rhetoric is simply that: words. Words do not kill. If they did, how many of us would now have murder on our hands? This isn't to say that we may say anything anywhere under whatever circumstances; despite the right of free speech, we do have an obligation to keep it civil and rational. Still, to attempt in any way to put this gruesome crime in league with even harsh political argument simply defies reason. Many of us say things which we do not, in any absolute sense, mean. We are simply trying to draw attention to that which is worth defense, and it comes from all areas: liberal or conservative.

The best which we can do now is exactly what most commentators are in fact doing: praying for the victims and their families, particularly of the dead, and offering what small condolences we may in light of the situation. But in the end we must recognize that this is simply the act of a deranged individual and not a condemnation of any particular creed. If we make this about politics, about the simple even if sometimes exaggerated expression of what we may hold dear, then the dead have died for nothing, and Congresswoman Giffords fights for her life to no point.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A This and That Saturday

Military experts believe that China now has a stealth fighter jet which is better than the top US fighters. We need to keep things like this in mind when we discuss cutting our military budget. The United States are likely the only nation with the resources to stand up to Beijing if the need should ever arise. If you don't believe that that will ever be an issue, just look at how the Chinese treat their own people. Why should they care about the rest of the world?

The GOP read the Constitution in front of the Congress the other day. It may be little more than symbolism, but it's a great symbol. Hopefully it will have the desired effect and help the Republicans remember why they were elected. If not, then it would be a hollow gesture indeed.

Parent 1 and Parent 2 on passports? That just goes to show that our government has no understanding of family but an awful lot of PC in its veins. The move is an insult to any and all moms and dads out there. You're simply an interchangeable number after all.

Andrew Cuomo was allowed to receive communion at Mass despite being pro-death and while living with a woman outside of marriage. The Church has got to start standing up against this sort of effrontery, from both its laity and clergy. If you don't stand for something, you soon will not mean anything.

Ah well. Bye for now!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Who's Against It?

There are many things which no one seems to oppose. We're all for peace, correct? Education? The environment? Observing the Golden Rule, perhaps, if such references are not too religious? Yet so often these claims ring hollow. They must, you see: for peace and education are just words. By themselves, they really mean nothing.

It is critically important that we bring up and discuss the important questions which must follow these words if our actions are to mean anything; indeed, if the words themselves are at some point to be of value, of good use. WE must ask: peace under what circumstances? Peace for whom? Because of course peace in the sense of a lack of war was very useful for Hitler and Stalin yet was a rather poor mantra for Austria or the Communist Bloc.

Simply put, the next time someone asks you if you are for peace, or education, or the environment, ask them relevant questions before you answer. Ask them peace under what conditions? Education to what purpose and in what manner? The environment for whom and how? Before these issues are addressed we have nothing but a shallow and insipid pool of vacuous semi-thought. Yet afterwards, we may actually accomplish things.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Black Republicans and the CBC

The Congressional Black Caucus is supposed to be where black members of Congress gather to discuss issues of importance to blacks. That that in itself implies a certain racist bent is something generally not allowed open to question. But assuming that it is not, why is it that no one who is not liberal is not welcome within it?

When Republican Congressman Gary Franks of Connecticut joined the group while in the House during the 1990s, he was accused of being a spy for the Republicans. He was criticized as well because hew did not support affirmative action and did support the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. This leads to two questions: if the group is truly a caucus of black congressional representatives, why was he alienated, and what exactly does the CBC favor?

Now that we have two black Republican congressmen in office, how may they be treated by the CBC? One, Allen West of Florida, is so clearly conservative that he almost certainly will not be welcome. The other, Tim Scott of South Carolina, may be more amenable to the group. Yet as he is still a member of the GOP and from a conservative area, it is fair to wonder whether he might have any sway among the CBC.

What becomes crystal clear is that the CBC purports to speak to black concerns when it in actuality speaks only to liberal ideology. It pretends to speak for blacks as a whole while it ignores whatever segment of the black population which does not happen to agree with its own foregone conclusions. It presupposes that you cannot be black and have a mind of your own.

It's just another lesson from the 2010 elections. You cannot speak for the minorities if you aren't liberal. You may drawn you own conclusions from that little factoid.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Repealing Obamacare, Part I

The newly in place House Republican leadership has scheduled a vote to repeal Obamacare for January 12th. That the effort almost certainly will not be successful is not important. What matters is the GOP make it a point to show the American public that they are different from their Democratic adversaries and fully intend to honor their campaign promises.

For far too long in the United States we have heard the jokes about Demopublicans and Republicrats. If either party is to become a majority party for well into the future, one of them must step up and show that they are really different. One of them must show that they really do care about doing what's right while also having an ear to the will of the American people when and where they should. We need a group of politicians truly dedicated to the Constitution and willing to work within its parameters, rather than stretch the credibility of the document until it becomes meaningless (health care reform justified under the Commerce Clause? Please).

What we have here is an opportunity of historic proportions for the GOP. The party must either do what it can to merit the trust it has been given, or become merely another manifestation of the mire which is political center. Hopefully, this vote will not be shallow symbolism but a first step in reclaiming government for the people, by the people, and of the people. More so than when Ronald Reagan said it thirty years ago, the time is now, America. Or more to the point, the time is now, Republicans. You fail to use your advantage if you do not push it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's Official: the NFL is a Joke

The National Football League, the home of the inane search for parity among its teams, has reached a new low. With their win over the St. Louis Rams last night, the Seattle Seahawks have made the playoffs. With a losing record of 7-9, that is.

And while this travesty of justice, ahem, played out, the New York Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sat back incredulously. Their ten wins against six losses were not enough to make the postseason. Further, there were three AFC teams with better records who will not play next weekend.

We've known all along that the National Football League lacks integrity. It has more than its share of stupid rules. Grounding the ball to kill the clock with no penalty? That dumb catch rule? Quarterbacks simply throwing the ball away when in trouble, thereby punishing good defense? These and other ideas, seen objectively, are laughable. Now we have the greatest joke to date. Even the Seahawks must think, in their hearts, that it's just plain dumb that they should be where they are.

Meanwhile, in what should be an even more embarrassing situation for the game, Seattle coach Pete Carroll gets accolades while his USC Trojans sit out NCAA penalties for misbehavior under his watch. The only lesson that can teach is: break the rules, go to the NFL, where character doesn't matter.

Let's hope the Seahawks run the board and win the Super Bowl. If a major sporting enterprise believes in playing jokes on their fans, they may as well go all out and complete it. What's one more laugh on the way to the bank, with pocketfulls of money from gullible fans? You get what you pay for, and you just paid for mediocrity, courtesy of the National Football League.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Civil War Drags On

The Civil War, it seems, lives on. More than any other event in our country's history, it has apparently taken on a life of its own. Many events are planned in, well, it doesn't seem right to say commemoration of the clash between the states, as it nearly rent our nation asunder. Yet the War has become something recalled with a fondness which, quite frankly, borders on the bizarre.

It is understandable that conflicts such as the Revolutionary War and World War II are remembered for their courageous stands against tyranny, even to the point of a certain fondness for the bravery of our forefathers. Still, those conflicts arose from circumstances not really of our own doing. We did not, in any direct sense at least, cause British tyranny or the rise of Nazism.

We did, however, fail to satisfactorily address the root cause of the Civil War, slavery, from the very beginning of our Republic. And try as you may, take slavery off the table and we would not have had a Civil War. That there were myriad factors involved which influenced what decision making there was about the issue, sometimes and regrettably made necessary by circumstance, cannot assuage our national guilt about allowing the peculiar institution to continue for so long. The War was over slavery. Period. It is, bluntly and unequivocally, foolish to assert otherwise.

So much so that when you have a gala in Charleston, South Carolina to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of that State's secession this past December 20th, complete with period costumes, intended to affectionately recall the 'courage' of the then leaders of Palmetto State, one must question the inspiration of the participants. They assert that it was all about State's Rights (an admirable and somewhat forgotten creed in itself) yet it ignores what was the essential 'right' at hand at the time: the 'right' to hold people in bondage.

"We recognize and stated in all the media interviews that slavery was an issue in the war," Mark Simpson, commander of South Carolina's division of Sons of Confederate Veterans said. "But this would be like taking a book that has 10 or 15 chapters and tearing all the chapters out except one. While slavery was an issue, it was by no means what brought about the war."

Such arguments must try the patience of any credible historian. That there even exists such a group as the Sons of Confederate Veterans insults the valor of those who fought them. If there are any heroes from the American Civil War who merit remembrance, they are from the Union. They are the Joshua Chamberlains and not the Robert E. Lees. One was fighting slavery while the other defended it, no matter how much pathos you wish to draw into the picture.

It is high time we Americans stop the incessant, almost pleasant clamor about the heroism of the bad guys in the Civil War and call it what it was: a horrible time in our nation's past, made necessary only by the human avarice of Southern leaders. The North was right: the South was wrong. Remembering the Confederacy in any other light begs the ultimate and final questions of right and wrong which history if it is to mean anything useful at all must answer.

So long as we have apologists for the Confederate States of America we will not be fully reunited. Insofar as we have a much more intrusive Federal Government today we have the South to thank, for many of the things which, in the long run, caused power to be concentrated in Washington deliciously and ironically sprung from the conflict.

So long as people insist that there is heroism in defending evil (however inadvertently) we cannot have a virtuous nation. The only thing to be thankful for is that today's allies of the CSA are less lethal in their defense of error than their great-great-grandfathers. It is small comfort for the believers in true liberty.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Michigan Senators Oppose Michigan

Today, New Year's Day 2011, marks a turning point of historic proportions. The State of Michigan and many other states in the coming days will usher in newly elected Republican office holders. What this will mean in terms of politics, in terms of the coming Presidential races for the 2012 election season, is not completely certain, but will undoubtedly be significant. Yet through it all, Michigan will have no real representation in the United States Senate. Indeed, what we shall have is, more or less, the State fighting itself.

The reason is that we have two Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin, who will not be seeking the best interests of Michigan while in Washington. They are liberal Democrats supposedly representing what is currently an overwhelmingly Republican state. Republicans hold majorities in both State Houses, indeed an overwhelming one in the State Senate, as well as the Governor's chair. Stabenow and Levin cannot truly be seen to represent Michigan as they are diametrically opposed to the obvious will of Michigan residents as expressed in the November 2010 elections.

This is why we need to return to the days when state legislatures selected the representatives to the upper house of our national legislature. This is why we need to repeal the 17th Amendment and at least let the states select senators as they see fit, to best represent the entire state rather than a certain, and in this case liberal, constituency. For clearly Stabenow and Levin do not speak for the majority of Michigan residents.

The Senate was originally supposed to represent the states as states. We must remember that the states are political entities in their own right, and as such merit a certain independent representation at a national level. These days, a run for the Senate is no more than a popularity contest without regard for what may be in the best interest of the entire state. Indeed, without concern for the will of the whole state.

In the end, we get what we pay for. For Michigan citizens, at least until 2013, that means we have no one accurately speaking for us in DC. Remember that, Michigan voters, should health care reform not be repealed. Your Senators do not speak for you.