Saturday, July 30, 2011

Profiling

Two latinos, Francisco Arguelles Jr. and his brother, were minding their own business one fine day last month, fishing in the Detroit river. Then the US Border Patrol showed up, and, according to the pair, singled them out as they were the only latinos fishing in the area. Their identities and citizenship were challenged. Though they weren't arrested and the border guards eventually left, they were shaken up.

That's understandable enough. Most people are at least a little intimidated by authority, especially with a government agent who has the type of power which border guards do. But the incident is being used by the latino community to focus on what they believe is racial profiling. The brothers think they were harassed simply because of their appearance.

To be sure, if all they were doing is fishing and they were indeed singled out because of their race, then we have a serious breach of their rights at hand. No one ought to be randomly detained in any way, shape, or form, if all they are doing is something so innocent as fishing with a couple dozen other people in a public area. Further, if latinos are being systematically singled out for 'random' questioning despite not posing an apparent threat to themselves or those around them, then we truly do have an issue with our government and how it handles our safety and security.

But on the issue of profiling in itself, we seem to have a bit of paranoia going in two directions. On the one hand, with incidents such as the one we are discussing here or with the DWB, Driving While Black, accusations, we cannot see any rational grounds for the defense of profiling. Yet when a serial killer is being sought, no one seems to mind that single, loner white males in their twenties, thirties, and forties living in the area of the violence are singled out.

Indeed, profiling in the manner which directs us towards true felons is apparently well employed by the police forces in our country. Further, television shows and movies are made all the time where a 'profiler' is readily used to hunt a criminal. On the surface, under such circumstances, the practice doesn't seem all that wrong. If it is a tool which truly aids the police in apprehending serious criminals then, if used in conjunction with other generally accepted police procedures, it doesn't appear any real violation of a person's rights.

Therein likely exists the difference. If all there is to a 'random' police stop or questioning by a border guard is skin color or gender or whatever other qualifier can be added here, then someone's rights have been violated. But if applied in sequence with several other legitimate policing factors, then we have no quarrel. It may be a fine line we draw. Yet it may be the only line we have.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Simply Bad Law

When someone is beaten up or killed, the attacker is usually charged with a crime appropriate to the situation. A killing may be murder one, or perhaps simply manslaughter, depending upon the circumstances surrounding the act. There are various gradations of many other crimes as well. All of that is fine, so far as it goes. It gives the judicial system the leeway necessary to ensure that criminal acts are justly prosecuted. Any decent approach to criminal justice requires that all things relevant to someone's ill conceived or stupid action be considered. Yet more than anything else, the main reason we have the laws we do is to protect human lives, because each human life is immeasurably valuable.

Yet we have now added to the mix the specter of hate crimes. If the crime someone has committed was driven by bigotry, by a hatred of minorities or, as seems more generally the case, homosexuals, (although depending on the area where the incident takes place there can be many other inclusions within the hate crime arena), then an additional charge is often leveled at the accused. They will be charged, essentially and additionally, with hating the attacked.

The first glaring error within such a line of thought is that the motivation for a crime is seen as the same as a crime. But while we recognize that impure and spiteful thoughts of any kind are morally offensive, merely thinking such and such a way can never truly be considered a crime. We would all merit jailing if that were the case, for we all from time to time think things we shouldn't. It is simply Orwellian to make thoughts criminal.

Yet that is perhaps not the worst aspect of hate crimes or, as they are sometimes more benignly called, bias oriented crimes. The most galling aspect of them is in how they, however inadvertently this may be, treat those killed or beaten or robbed without hateful motivation as essentially less human than a homosexual or minority or whomever attacked because of their skin color or sexual preference.

This is nothing less than an insult to the victims of crime who do not happen to fall into one of the hate crimes categories. They are no less human than those people who have the added glory of hate crime given them.

Murder is murder. Period. A irreplaceable human life has been taken. The reason hardly matters, for we have grounds enough to condemn to at least life imprisonment the murderer on that fact alone. To add anything more to that merely because the victim may be of a certain ilk beyond his control is nothing less than making those people more important, well, merely because of incidental circumstance. It truly insults the attacked who had no such special (and it cannot be stressed enough, incidental) extension of themselves while actually patronizing the supposed victim of whatever hate crime is at issue. We act as though a crime against them is worse merely because of who they are.

That isn't justice. That's an immorality upon itself. We must cease to see motive as criminal. Only then shall we truly see a crime as a crime, and only then will all be equal in the eyes of the law.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Polls: Still Meaningless

Just a few days ago, we argued in this column that pools mean little, especially so early in an election cycle (as we are well ahead of the 2012 Presidential election). With two recently released polls, one showing that President Barack Obama would lose to the kind of favorite son (he was born and raised here in Michigan) Mitt Romney while another right on its heels said the President would win, it seems appropriate to examine them in a bit greater detail.

The first poll had Romney winning 46 to 41 percent, with a margin of error of 4%. What this translates into is that he could win bigger, say, 50 to 37 percent, if the whole margin for error goes his way, or lose 45 to 42 percent if the error factor goes towards the President.

The second poll, which plays into Mr. Obama's favor, had him winning 47% of the vote to Governor Romney's 42. Yet the with the same 4% margin of error, that could mean a win of 51-38 for the President, or a win of 46-43 for Romney. Of course, neither projection really factors in how the remaining percentages would go. Yet that only exacerbates the problem. Winning margins could go wildly off course either way depending on how the rest of the voters, those not committing to either projected candidate in the polls in question, cast a ballot.

An interesting aside is that the polls agree that marginal candidates, such as Thaddeus McCotter and Herman Cain, are unknown by around 48% of the voting public.

So what have we here? Two polls which effectively tell us nothing about who would actually win the Presidency (if left up to Michigan) in 2012, with the caveat of something which common sense would have told us immediately if we would take a second to listen: nobody knows Livonia Congressman McCotter or businessman Cain.

Yet both poll results were big news locally. It had to be a slow day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to Help the Teachers

It is the issue which won't go away; indeed, we have here spoken of it several times ourselves. We are talking about, again, the way in which we measure teacher performance. In light of the cheating scandal which racked the Atlanta, Georgia schools, we now have a voluntary survey conducted by the Detroit Free Press which has concluded that 30%, or just about 1 in 3, Michigan teachers have felt pressure to cheat. A few have even admitted altering grades.

No one condones cheating. Yet that does not mean that we ought not have a certain sympathy for those of us caught in difficult, if not dire, situations. Especially when the rational argument can be made that they are being judged under circumstances over which they have little, if any, control. Educators have little control over who ends up in their classrooms. They have even less say, if any at all, in the home and personal lives of their students.

Claiming that a good teacher can teach anybody is nothing more than a flippancy. It simply ignores reality. Not everyone can learn nor is everyone willing to learn, and such obstacles are not easily overcome. Pressuring teachers, who have their particular lives and pressures to worry over, is bound to invite bending rules among the less stout of heart. Yet with our insistence on finding or developing some sort of almost scientific manner upon which to grade our instructors, methods which basically ignore the obviously non-scientific factors listed about, there seems no leeway except to call teachers on the carpet over matters they cannot affect.

There seems two ways ultimately to approach the problem. One is to back off the teachers who work in the tougher areas which will, no offense intended but said only to reflect reality, produce a talent pool of lower ability. The other, and this will seem ironic, reduce the amount of public support for education. Yes, we mean cut funding. Even further, perhaps, than it has been. Those who can learn will learn with less cash being spent on them. Those who can't or won't learn won't be helped either way.

But the trouble with each approach lies in that fact that conservatives, rightly enough, so far as it goes, want an idea about return on investment. They want to measure, as quantifiably as they can, whether the money spent is well spent, ignoring that there are areas where the ROI simply isn't going to be good no matter what. Liberals, being liberal, simply want to throw more money at the schools. They forget that continuing to do what doesn't work will not make it work, and the amount of money spent means nothing in that light.

Neither of these ideas will come to life. And the only ones who will be hurt in the meantime are the ones caught in the middle of the game.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Field Narrows

Former Congressman Peter Hoekstra steps into the rung a scant few days ago, announcing his intention to challenge Democrat Debbie Stabenow in next November's Senate election here in Michigan, and already the Republican field is narrowing. Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch has announced that he is ending his candidacy for the GOP spot on the ticket, saying that he will throw his support, however much that may be, behind Hoekstra. Others already having announced an intention to run or said to beconsidering it are Kent County Probate Judge Randy Hekman and northern Michigan businessman Peter Konetchy, Gary Glenn of the Campaign for Michigan Families, and charter school executive Clark Durant.

Of the bunch, there's no real doubt that Hoekstra has the greatest name recognition. At this admittedly early juncture, that may be the linchpin. It is easy to dismiss outstate candidates of little stature such as Hekman and Konetchy. Hekman, being a judge, might garner local support in the Grand Rapids area, and it may be that Konetchy is of the Rick Snyder school of outsider governing and wants to run Congress like a business. Good luck with that; still, his website looks as though it would read well to tea partiers, and he may play a bit of a spoiler role if the conservative vote shows up en masse at the primary. Being from the same part of the state as Hoekstra, Hekman may take a few votes from the former Congressman there.

While Clark Durant may have name recognition among long time Republicans in Michigan, it seems unlikely that that would translate into the amount of support needed to win a statewide race, even only an internal one. Gary Glenn's effort, should it come to be, has all the appearances of mere symbolism. That isn't to take away from the social issues agenda of his group. But it is to say, sadly, that social issues don't appear to be on the agenda of the major parties as of today.

What is most likely happening now is that the Republican Party is slowly lining up being Hoekstra. That's a good thing, politically, anyway: Stabenow will certainly run a strong campaign and the earlier the GOP sets up its candidate the more time it can take go after the junior Senator. A primary battle likely would only help her while tearing down Republican hopes for a Senate gain in November 2012. The question then becomes: can Hoekstra, an outstater himself, win, and will it be worth it to conservatives if he does?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Life on Other Worlds

The SETI (search for extraterrestrial life) folks have decided that they're going about the search for alien life in the wrong way. They've been listening to distant star systems for steady radio signals which would theoretically would indicate intelligence. Yet a newer view is that intelligent life would sent out short, powerful bursts of radio energy based on the idea that other smart fellows would be sending out those rather than the steady, lower powered energies we've been looking for. It's really quite interesting. The sad thing is that it will almost certainly lead to nothing.

We will go on the record as saying that we don't believe that there is other intelligent life, indeed that there is not any life at all, elsewhere in the galaxy. That is not etched in stone, for if the universe is huge and expanding as we're told then other life is admittedly not out of the question. Still, that old saw, that with the sprawling and expanding nature of the universe there must be intelligent life besides our own, isn't really that impressive of an argument. Space and time do not necessaily mean that other life forms can or must have developed.

For starters, our immediate experience is that nothing else is there. We've found no hard and fast evidence of life in the local planets and solar systems; it would be more logical to assume that the more worlds without life, the less likely that there are in fact others with it. Further, why is it so outlandish to think that maybe, just maybe, we were touched by the Divine for a very singular purpose? Perhaps, only perhaps, we will allow, the rest of creation is there simply for our marvel, to appreciate the immensity of the Supreme Being? There is certainly no law of physics which states there must be life elsewhere.

Yet if there is, it isn't as though such a discovery would alter what should be our proper view of things. If there are intelligent aliens, they would have been created by the same God. They would face the same issues which we do: seeing to their needs, their daily bread, and considering their responsibilities to their fellow creatures and to whomever else they may find. In short, SETI is interesting as an academic device. But would any discoveries it may make be, shall we say (we do so love puns), Earth shattering?

Of course not. So keep looking, if that's you life's work, and we would readily concede the error if proved wrong. But don't make it too much of a mission. There's an awful lot here on our world which could be as rewarding. Indeed, if you want to get to know others, there's plenty of them around for your entertainment.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Science and Human Nature

One of the great debates between the Christian and the scientist is the degree to which we are animal or spiritual. Many scientists wish us to be wholly scientific in our approach to humanity and understanding of ourselves. It is really a rather shallow outlook on human nature or, even, the necessary consequences of a purely scientific view of who we are.

Science has apparently discovered the part of our brain which helps us to recognize justice. It asserts, at least in some quarters, that goodness is innate within us physically. Yet it ignores the very real point that whether good occurs in us naturally is an entirely different question from the judgment of 'what is good?' or the expectation that people will do good.

How do we know what is good except to be able to judge it in our individual and societal actions? Or are our scientifically minded friends suggesting that we just 'do things' and they happen to be good? Either way, any judgment about good, any assertion that 'this is good' cannot come wholly or entirely from within ourselves; there are too many of us with too many of our own nuanced ideas of good and bad.

Or are you saying that everyone from childhood, without guidance of any kind (parental, societal, or spiritual) will necessarily elect to do good? No Lord of the Flies scenarios possible? It begs the question of why people (and it should be obvious that all people do bad things sometimes regardless of physical construction) do bad things. Why does the thief steal, if he knows in his heart and head that it's wrong? Further, what's free will, if we are born with, say, no choice but to do good?

It should surprise no one that we are hard wired to recognize justice; we are, at the end of the day, physical as well as spiritual creatures. It should not be shocking news that a just and all knowing God in the very act of creation would make our physical selves able to recognize spiritual, eternal, and absolute truths, truths outside our own will, thus enabling us to see (so to speak) justice. That science has discovered as much enhances rather than detracts from our knowledge of God. It strengthens, not weakens, our relationship with Him. It makes our spiritual side and our physical side properly complimentary. It raises us from the mere animal into a higher plane of existence.

Science does not tell us who we are in our entirety. It only sets us on that road. How far we trail along that path is ultimately up to us. And the questions we discover along that way will not be empirical.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Polls Serve Little Purpose

Recent polling show that Michigan voters think slightly more favorably of Governor Rick Snyder than the did a couple of months ago. It also shows that electors are slightly less disposed towards the job which Debbie Stabenow is doing as one of our senators. In each case, the numbers were down/up by around two to four percent.

These are hardly useful numbers, as they appear to be well within the range of acceptable fault. Indeed, it could be said that they are entirely meaningless. When opinions have shifted that little, if at all, then how excited are we supposed to get?

Yet even that doesn't really get to the crux of the matter. Why should we care at all what pools say, especially as they generally don't reflect anything particularly worthwhile, or when elections are so far away? In the case of the Governor, outside of the highly unlikely chance that recall efforts will succeed, he won't face voters before 2014. The junior Senator at least is up for election next year, but still, her numbers in July 2011 are surely irrelevant.

The electorate cannot reasonably be expected to become gaga over these figures at this point. They probably don't mean squat among the bulk of them anyway; Democrats will certainly vote for her no matter what, while Republicans vote against her despite circumstances. That only leaves the amorphous middle. Yet even they, within reason, won't actually make up their minds until much closer to November 2012.

We are left to believe that the pools are really only for the pollsters, the political wonks and talking heads who need fodder during slow times in the cycle, and their brethren who live and die on minute and trivial changes in the political atmospheric pressure. We will leave you with the question, then, what's the point?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Atheism Kills

The Independent, a British journal and website, has posted an article about research by one Frank Dikötter which has concluded that the genocide of Chinese peasants during Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward of 1958-1962 was the worst atrocity of the last century. 45 million people were systematically killed in an attempt to bring the Chinese economy into the then 20th Century. Mr. Dikötter compared the mass murders to the gulag of Stalin and the Russian communists (as well as their other various purges and genocides) and the Holocaust driven by the Nazis. He even alludes to the Leap as on a scale of World War II, where around 55 million were killed.

Toss in things such as the Cambodian genocide of more recent times and even the 37 million killed during World War I and what have we? An awful lot of deaths at the hands of bloody revolutionaries, power mad tyrants, and even some through downright human stupidity. Yet other than the terrible human cost inflicted by the perpetrators of these heinous actions, what do each and every one of horrible events have in common?

The answer is as easy as it is obvious. Not one was committed by the hand or at the order of a religious sect, movement, or leader. They were all set in motion by wholly secular, atheistic forces. And we have not even delved into the many other yet lesser noted horrific initiatives which occurred during the same era.

Whenever someone tells you how bad religion is for the people, just remind them of the 1900's. Those years alone well display the fallacy of believing in a purely secular and atheistic worldview. God saves. Secularism kills; godless atheism kills as much as the atheist claims that religion does. It's really as simple as that.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Rural Michigan is More American

What wonders a month in the country can do for a body! Well, maybe not a month, but towards the end of a two week sojourn in rural northern Michigan, one cannot help but notice certain differences between rural and urban areas.

Even though celebrations of our nation's birth are larger and noisier here in Detroit than in small town America and small town Michigan, there is something quaint about Fourth of July parades and such in outstate areas. We mean quaint in a very good way: with the local veterans marching during the Cedarville, Michigan Fourth of July parade, well, you could hear the cheers for them well before you actually saw the veterans themselves, young and old, come into view. Without much doubt, the main reason for that is that everyone knows everyone, at least by sight if not in person, in small towns. That kind of empathy simply isn't available in places like Detroit. That's no fault of Detroit's, of course. It's too big to offer that sort of familiarity. There is an understandable yet regrettable insulation between local (to Detroit) armed services members and the rest of the city. We simply cannot know everyone here as is it possible to in rural Michigan.

The local news reporting seems more homespun as well. When reporting on recent activities in Afghanistan, a local news anchor (on a TV station out of Traverse City) remarked about 'engaging the enemy'. It is a phrase which we don't think we've ever heard from such cosmopolitan areas as Detroit, and definitely not from the national news. Yet the Afghan insurgents are our enemy. Why can't we find it in ourselves to pass such remarks in Detroit or nationwide?

Presumably, it is to maintain a certain objectivity, and we understand that. But what is objectivity if not to state the plain truth? The insurgents are our enemy. May as well say so. Surely it doesn't hurt any decent sense of being objective to pass such an obviously true remark.

Again, it would seem that we are dealing with another rural/urban issue. But we cannot help but wonder if perhaps something sort of vaguely sinister is going on. National news reporters, and even more local yet big city newscasters such as we still have in Detroit, cannot find it in themselves to make such admittedly judgmental statements which by their nature must, however slightly, favor the actions of the United States. Maybe they excuse it on the grounds of not wishing to incite the enemy; yet the enemy certainly does not appear to need greater incitement.

Maybe it's all PC. Or maybe they simply cannot bring themselves to be more open and honest about what they actually think about the United States and her role in the world. To call Taliban insurgents or Iraqi terrorist enemies sounds too much like putting halos around the US troops and enshrining US policy. Perhaps, deep in their hearts, they really do not want to appear too close to Washington on military issues. They love their mental vision of America, just not the United States itself in what she is actually doing in the world.

That is where we are left to believe that rural America knows and understands her nation better than big city or national types do. Hessel and Cedarville Michigan know themselves better than, know America better than, Carmen Harlan or the NBC Nightly News does. They are, the rural and outstate residents of ours and other states, more aware, more immediately conscious, of the struggles of the United States than big important news reporters think they are. Their own vaunted objectivity gets in the way of their self assured objective reporting.

That is the American media in a nutshell. It is one tough nut to crack.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Overplanning?

The Detroit Public Schools are in the middle of completing several building projects, as the result of a bond proposal which the city's voters had approved. There seems to be trouble at the mill, though. It was promised that within the resulting jobs, two-thirds would go to Detroiters. Yet only 46% in fact have. The DPS has exceeded the goals with contractors, as 71% of them are within the city boundaries.

There are all kinds of explanations for the discrepancy among individual hires. The contractors perhaps could not find the type or amount of labor for the jobs in question. Perhaps enough Detroit residents simply did not apply for or know how to get the work. It may well be that the contractors did not more actively seek workers from the city, didn't actually care to search for them, or just plain ignored the provisions of their contracts and the bond issue. Arguably even union seniority requirements, if unions were involved (and it does not seem plausible that they were not) got in the way. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: tying large construction deals, indeed tying any given contractor's jobs to specific numbers of hires really isn't the best way to do business.

It would be safe to assume that what has happened here was little more than a veiled affirmative action plan. And like most any such plot it hasn't worked out very well. Mandating the percentages of a given workforce, and this applies to all regardless of race, gender, or whatever other group may be the target, is a bit of a fool's errand. The important thing with construction is that it is done well, and not who actually did it.

It really shouldn't matter to the DPS exactly how the projects go or who actually works on them. Writing what are essentially political provisions into such contracts merely invites jealousy while placing a hardship upon the employer. Unless a systematic bias against certain folks exists and can be proven, no private firm should ever be told who to hire.

To have a cause is one thing, even if it's a bad one. But making your cause someone else's is hardly fair. Good work and not socio-societal expectations ought to drive the process of who works on public projects.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

We have written several times about how unimpressed we are with the recycling fad which increasingly permeates our society. Today, we're going to write a bit more just the same.

Many of our conservative friends have latched onto the R-Train. "Conservative means conserve, right?" one asked me the other day. Another, holding out his plastic water bottle in demonstration, remarked that he "...didn't want to see this end up in a landfill." We fought the urge to ask, why not? We were at a party to cheer up a sick friend, and good taste recommended not pursuing what can become a highly charged topic in such a setting.

But now we will ask, why not? At our current rate we will have, in about 300 years, a total landfill area only about the size of Yellowstone Park. We see no landfills producing zombies or adversely affecting the water tables or local agriculture or industry or home life. Why not keep burying the trash?

A large part of conservatism certainly involves conserving various things and ideals. But that cannot mean that there isn't a necessary prioritizing of what we do. Fighting abortion, big government (which is, let's face it, greatly responsible for forcing recycling around our necks, which I think in itself makes the policy suspect), and the myriad factors of liberalism which threaten to tear our social fabric apart. To wit, the critical part of what we conserve must be our well being as a people along traditional lines. What we do with our garbage, while important, pales beside that.

So we here at the Wayne County Conservative's Office say, screw carbon footprints. There are more important things to worry about than whether we incinerate our debris or put it in a hole in the ground. Unless and until you can prove beyond reasonable doubt that those things are substantially harmful to the human condition, society can live with them. That's conservative environmental policy in a nutshell.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Troy Library Millage

The city of Troy, Michigan, is facing a difficult issue in its August 5th vote. There is a proposal to increase property taxes in order to maintain the city's library system, and it's causing a lot of stress. Not the least of the trouble was caused by the appearance of signs which read about a book burning lined up for the vote day.

No doubt the signs are facetious, and likely planted either by extremist library patrons (extremist library patrons? Conan the Librarian?) or souls who take delight in inflaming passions in areas where the passions are easily aroused. All sides involved publicly have denounced the signage. They both believe that it is horrible to burn books at all.

Yet the truth is that some ideas are not worthy of serious discussion; some books ought not be printed, let alone read, and certainly there are books which simply do not merit even the vague sort of public sponsorship which public libraries by the very nature of their existence must support. There are books and articles which are little more than sophomoric, others which are genuinely vile and depraved, others still of a shallow nature which are nothing more than a waste of space and paper. From a moral standpoint based solely on a given book's content, there are indeed books which call for public censure.

First Amendment rights simply do not apply; no one has the inherent right to publish or read stupidity, effrontery, or insulting literature, in the same way as no one has the right to yell fire in a crowded theater. The only real argument against burning books is that the good guys need to know what the bad guys are up to in order to counter them. The only worthwhile argument against censorship is that it only works when the good guys control it, for the bad guys will surely censor the good books if they could.

The most interesting fact here is that the argument over burning books actually begs the question of whether there should be public libraries at all. In this day and age of Internet and widespread and varied cable TV, it is within reason (like it or not) to question the need for publicly owned and loaned books and newspapers and treatises. Yet that honest political question will now become overshadowed by the work of someone not interested in truth but, rather, in incensing the voting public. That may well be their aim, to shame the voters into supporting Troy libraries merely because those voters do not want to be painted as book burners, even by analogy.

That cannot actually serve the taxpayers. But when the left wants something, decency be damned. And that in itself is another of those vile ideals which ought to be burned from public discussion. Hyperbole serves its purpose, and homeowners must foot the bill.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Bright Idea?

Congress in its wisdom passed legislation in 2007 which will eliminate standard light bulbs by 2014. Supporters say it will save energy and money for consumers. Opponents say it is an infringement on personla freedom.

We'll side with the latter. The Michigan legislature is grappling with the question of allowing Michigan residents to be exempt from the law, providing citizens use older style bulbs made in the state. Even that can be seen as little more than feel good, as it appeals to the segment of the voting public who believe that the government, especially at the federal level, has become a monster set only on trampling personal rights.

It has, of course, and that's why even if it is merely feel good lawmaking on the part of Lansing it is nonetheless set on a higher plane. The defense of legitimate individual rights is always on the better moral ground than anything the leftist environmental assault on liberty can offer. It doesn't matter whether the newer style bulbs save energy or not: there is no great sin in using the older type for lighting, while such micromanaging of the individual's life as Washington is attempting to do here is at the least merely annoying, while at the worst, a genuine threat to personal freedom.

Hyperbole? Perhaps. But it is in precisely the kind of incrementalism displayed with the bulb ban that We, the People, lose our freedom. The slow erosion of respect for individual liberty is embodied quite well in laws such as these. Under the guise of the general welfare Washington tramples personal rights. The left wing tends not to notice that as it tells us what to do in the privacy of our homes.

The Founders of our nation did nor fight and die for the sake of the Federal establishment telling us how to illuminate our dwellings. Whether the attempt by Lansing to circumvent that particular law is successful or not will not, in the long, matter. But the fact that the Michigan legislature along with many other state lawmaking bodies are taking on this question and others (think about the lawsuits against Obamacare) hopefully signals that the petty tyranny of Washington is on the decline. The best use of local government may just be in telling the larger government where to get off.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why Do It, Mr. McCotter?

Livonia Republican Thaddeus McCotter is apparently quite serious about becoming our next President. A week ago he launched his campaign, intended to make sure conservative principles are at the least discussed during the coming race to be the GOP nominee in 2012.

That is perhaps the only worthwhile reason for the Congressman to run. Yet even with that, it remains worth questioning whether a fight with a windmill is really noble. It's more than the fact that no one other than James Garfield has ever made the leap to the Oval Office from the House of Representatives. It is rather a question of, perhaps he may be better off serving right wing principles by staying put and concentrating on their application instead of trying to add to a discussion which shal certainly occur anyway.

McCotter has great philosophic credentials. Indeed, his stands on such issues as opposing Wall Street buyouts in the name of the little guy do set him apart from most conservative standard bearers. But we do wonder whether a bit of ego is getting in the way with his Presidential run. We understand that anyone who wants to hold the nation's highest office must have a certain ego about them. But this campaign has the markings of little more than that. It is disappointing that a good conservative would let ego play him.

On an entirely unrelated note, we see that the US women have beaten Brazil in the Women's World Cup, which is being played out in Germany. It was supposedly a great game, the best of the tournament. And the US won...in a shootout. The best game of the event was won by nothing more than dumb luck: attackers outguessing a goalie. That's hardly the way a 'good' game ought to end, and speaks volumes about soccer. We wonder if the game so popular in so much of the world can ever be taken seriously when supposed great matches end on mere chance.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Atheism is a Religion

In the Detroit Free Press last Sunday, July 3rd, columnist Mitch Albom wrote about the inappropriateness of American atheists planning various protests on July 4th as attempt to gain respect for their creed. Needless to say, his words created a backlash. There were six letters to the editor in today's Free Press from atheists protesting his column.

So be it. Their basic complaint is they are tired of being treated as second class citizens. One letter writer went so far as to assert that their cause is right up there with the crusade for civil rights.

Hyperbole is such fun, and as with most such causes the atheists are very good at it. It does little to address the real issue at hand, though. They lament that Christianity in particular is being forced upon them in today's United States; references to God on our money and in our formal creeds make them feel put upon. Yet this ignores a rather simple and legitimate question: is your faith in your creed (for faith is all that it ultimately is) so weak in truth and fact that the mere mention of a Supreme Being shakes it?

Still, even that is small potatoes compared to the cry of one of the letter penners. One blithely states that atheists 'believe that the quality of each person's life is dependent on how he or she treats all of mankind.' Such off the cuff statements ignore many important questions. What do you mean by quality? How do your measure whatever is meant by that? What type of treatment do you mean exactly when asking how we should treat mankind? And of course the most important question is: On what grounds do you assert that you are right? Your own beliefs, your own feelings, your own wish that something is true? If that isn't the very essence of religious thought, asserting that something is true on its own merit, then what exactly is it?

In fact, it is much worse than the belief in a God, any God, indeed, at this point in the discussion, on which ethics may rest. It's about an individual claiming an absolute value to be true on his own say so, and nothing more.

So when the atheist asks, 'Okay, Mr. Christian, which God is God? Which creed is the creed?' the best retort becomes, “Well, then, Mr. Atheist, which individual among you do we believe represents real atheism?' For among atheists there must be as much disagreement as they fault religion for having. The fact of their own humanity must indicate as much. For whatever failings may be found within religions, and we must concede they exist (as our human flaws do indeed prevent us from applying good religious principles as well as they ought to be), when the individual becomes the final arbiter of right and wrong, of determining 'how well we treat mankind', whatever that means, then the individual becomes God. What kind of a world can we have with more than six billion little self assured Gods mucking about in it?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

GOP in Michigan

Michigan will be one of thirteen states which will have, in the coming months, ads attacking President Barack Obama's handling of the economy. The plan has set off the expected saber rattling, as Republicans look to hurt Mr. Obama where he did well in 2008 while Democrats seek to argue that the Republicans aren't playing fair on the issue.

That being said, it is important that the Republican National Committee has selected Michigan as one of the battleground states. The President won handily three years ago, but the state has experienced a Republican resurgence since, taking the entire legislative branch as well as the governorship. Neither the White House nor the Democratic leadership should expect a particularly easy time here in 2012.

The President needs the rust belt states if he is to earn a second term. Michigan and the rest of the old industrial states are where the core, old line Democrats have traditionally been strong. They can attempt to blame GOP policies from several years back if they insist, but the question becomes: will the voting public buy it?

In the light of 2010 bi-elections, the answer seems to be no. You simply cannot continue to blame people who have been gone for years for troubles of your own making. Mr. Obama has allowed spending to soar, and without helping the economy one whit. If the Democrats and the President refuse to lean a lesson, they shall soon realize that the voters do take their lessons well, and will cast their ballots accordingly.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Call to Love

We are often told that we are expected to love others unconditionally. It is a good and charitable approach to our relationships with God and man. But what does it really mean? How are we expected to use such a doctrine in our daily lives?

For starters, it surely means that we are to love everyone without reservation. We are called to love everyone as though they were ourselves, to paraphrase a great moral teacher. It is a difficult ideal; loving our enemies is not easy, and sometimes loving our friends and family is a challenge as well. Still, we are expected to overcome this obstacle, and find a way to open our hearts to all.

But there is a great misunderstanding to unconditional love, an error in its application which is at least arguably worse than failing to love everyone around us. Many people believe that unconditional love means loving others up to and including their faults. We are, according to this, meant to love others including their faults, and indeed often embracing them.

This cannot be a good and true interpretation of the standard. It cannot be a useful approach towards dealing with others. We can accept that we must love racists and sexists and criminals; but to love their faults? This is insanity on its face. Do we not want to see people become better people? Do we not want to see our children grow into mature adults? Then we should be instructing and cajoling and beseeching those around us, as they should towards us, to do better than they do, and to be better than they are.

When our children become drug addicts or alcoholics, we do what we can to change them. When our neighbors rob and injure others, we enforce laws to stop them. We can and should still love them, but that does not mean we are obliged to tolerate them.

It is more correct to say that unconditional love calls us to love those around us despite their faults. Because real love does not embrace error. It understands it as a part of us which ought to be altered, and wants to see us move away from the lesser aspects of our being and into better men, women, and children. If it does not want that, it is not love. It is something which facilitates bad behavior; it is a cancer of character.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Let Maroun Build the Bridge

Everyone appears to agree that we need a new bridge linking Detroit to Windsor. Yet nobody seems to agree on the best plan. Part of the problem is that both plans, one by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Maroun and the other by the State of Michigan, have their good points. And their bad.

Under the Maroun plan, much of the cost would be privately covered. In this day and age of vast overspending by governments on all levels, this must be seen as a positive. Yet there are those who don't believe that an international structure such as this one necessarily is, ought to be furnished by private sources. Quite frankly, that's rubbish. A bridge need not come under national domain of any type, if it can be done privately and willingly.

The main advantage to the government plan, or the NITC (New International Trade Crossing) is that it would be farther downriver, and would not have trucks emptying onto surface roads in Windsor. Yet isn't that what's happening now? Is it all that bad?

To be sure, Maroun would be wise to heed whatever legitimate advice any of the governments, US and Canadian federal and the provincial and state governments of Ontario and Michigan, may offer. There's no big reason which we can see why Maroun should not be open to building a bridge father away other than whatever costs he's already, and perhaps ill advisedly, spend in creating the approaches next to the Ambassador Bridge.

In the end, as Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley, who is spearheading the drive for the NITC, asserts, the government plan will win out. He's probably right. Government power has become too great for any individual, even a vastly wealthy one such as Matty Maroun, to prevail once it decides that its presumed 'public' interest is the greater, more moral point. That's a shame on two fronts: as yet another example of unnecessary government intrusion, of outright government arrogance, on what ought to be a private matter, and as the taxpayers will be forced to cover a bill another person is willing to cover for them.

Maroun ought to be allowed to build the new bridge. But he won't be. And the real losers will be the people who actually will foot the bill.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hansen Clarke and Immigration

Local Congressman Hansen Clarke, a Democrat representing a large part of the City of Detroit, has said that he is proud to be the son of an illegal immigrant. His father came over from what is now Bangladesh during the 1930s.

Being proud of something illegal is not something to be taken lightly, especially when the person saying it is in charge of making the laws in the first place. How can we believe that Representative Clarke can really make good law when he openly flaunts the validity of the law?

This is not to say that, perhaps, our immigration laws could not be updated or refined. Nor is it meant to keep those who want to come into the United States and be productive citizens from entering our nation. But there is simply nothing wrong with asking that they come in the front door. Sneaking in to a country, any country, must be seen as a suspect action on its own face. If one really believes they qualify to enter, then a knock at the front door seems the most reasonable approach.

Mr. Clarke's actions are apparently in response to recent federal actions by immigration officials aimed at Latinos in the Detroit area who may be here illegally. It is said that the action involves racial profiling of Latinos, and is being investigated by the Department of Homeland Security. Still, the fact remains that a member of Congress, in this case one who may not have the moral right to participate in that body (because it is fair to ask whether the children of illegals have the right to citizenship) is on record as essentially in favor of violating the law he's supposed to represent. Again, can we expect good law out of a mentality which is ready to disregard law when it suits him?

We have no problem with relatively open immigration; indeed it says a lot that so many people want to come into the United States until yet. Our immigration laws may well need retooling. But it isn't wrong to insist that prospective citizens come in legitimately. Nor is wrong to deport those actually here illegally. We are not racists, nor any other kinds of -ists, to demand as much.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom isn't Free

Independence Day. July 4, 2011. Officially, we have enjoyed 235 years of freedom.

Well, freedom for the most of us. There are those who are not quite so free: the ones who have elected to surrender part of their lives so that the rest of us may be free. They surrender a part of themselves so that the United States does not surrender.

It is far too easy to write about the sacrifices made by the soldiers and sailors who give of their lives, who have given their lives, for the sake of ours. Words are simple, talk is cheap; actions, however, speak loudly, and echo through history in a way text pounded into a computer never can, and never will.

It is particularly important on this holiday to remember the armed forces of our Allies as well, the Canadians and Britons; the French, Spanish, and Dutch (for would we be a nation today without their aid in the 1770s and 1780s?) and countless others, who give and have also given of their lives and efforts for the same basic reasons our men and women in uniform do. Our Constitutions may differ, our political systems vary; but the commitment to freedom is quite the same.

Yes, there are and will be differences, as there are differences among ourselves. But if the long range goals are the same, if all eyes are on the same prize, then all roads will lead to the same reward. It is our armed forces who pave that road, and they are the reason we live free on this 235th anniversary of our birth.

God Bless America, God Bless our friends, and God Bless those all who do His work.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Recalling Snyder: Doomed From the Start

The attempt to recall Governor Rick Snyder is looking more and more like the failure everyone knew from the start it would be. They need too many signatures in too short of a time, and are hampered by an ending date of their own making. They don't have money, they lack professional leadership, and they are naive to the point of being merely comedic. They must collect enough signatures to ensure that they will have enough to overcome the challenges which shall surely occur in the ever so tiny chance they come within even a whiff of success.

Mr. Snyder need not worry about that. The effort cannot succeed; truth be told, it was doomed from the start. Say what you will, and we say this with a certain pity for those involved (for it tough to wholly dislike persons who mistakenly feel they have a legitimate cause), the entire process and type of people involved demonstrate that the whole concept has been the work of simplistic rabble-rousers and shallow knee jerks.

Consider one of those circulating a petition. One such circulator was a twenty something parent of two who attends a community college, and who even voted for Snyder by their own admission. The person seemed to have a vague belief that 'voting is important' and that Snyder is 'indifferent' to education. Knowing (we presume) that Snyder was a Republican who was likely to cut education from the start, why did this person cast a ballot for him to begin with, or change their mind so (relatively) quickly? The obvious answer is that they really didn't think things through before last November, despite the feeling that 'voting is important'.

Even some of the big boys who have to come to support the recall effort have little more than the odor of self interest wafting from their corner. The Michigan Education association has come out in favor of the recall, interestingly after the legislature had passed new rules making it easier to fire teachers. It becomes fair to ask whether theirs is a principled (a pun, sort of) stand or merely what has to be done to please the dues payers. But at least the naive person can be excused their naivete. The teachers' union are mere shills.

It is fascinating that the group has employed a famous phrase from a great conservative on their website. The banner proudly displays the wonderful quote of the English Whig Edmund Burke: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil ...
is for good men to do nothing. It is akin to Hillary Clinton's 'It takes a village' scheme: yes, it in certain ways takes a village. But a village based on traditional mores, not on liberal claptrap aimed only at selling a political package. In the immediate case, we doubt the esteemed Mr. Burke would agree with the recall, thus extending a laughable irony to the situation, as well as supporting the argument that organizers themselves haven't thought things through.

At the end of the day, the Recall Snyder effort is actually rather cute. We simply hope that when the cuteness wears off, the folks involved may mature a bit. Short of that, the whole thing is merely sad.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 2, 1776

Today is our actual Independence Day, though few realize it. The Second Continental Congress actually passed the resolution for independence on July 2,1776; the resolution is attached to the end of the Declaration of Independence.

When John Adams wrote of the 'fireworks, pomp and parade' which he foresaw as future celebrations of our independence, he presumed they would occur on future July 2nds. Yet the Declaration of Thomas Jefferson took hold, and precedence deemed that July 4th should forever be the anniversary of American Independence.

There is today's history lesson for you, on this most, if forgotten, historical day.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Canada Day

Today is Canada Day. It celebrates the anniversary of Canada being granted dominionship (we hope that is a word) within the British Empire on July 1, 1867. Called Dominion Day until 1982 when Canada earned full independence, it is essentially Canada's Independence Day.

It is one of those subtle ironies of history that such great friends as Canadians and Americans celebrate their anniversaries so closely together. Particularly in border cities such as here in Detroit, where we are able to enjoy the relatively free interchange of people, ideas, and goods with our northern allies, we ought to be somewhat awestruck by the kinship between our nations. There are few nations who truly have the sort of bond which we have, and we in Michigan are able to partake of that friendship every day in almost every way.

Though technically a newer nation than the United States, Canada is in many ways older and more distinct, more nuanced than we are. It gives Canada a depth which the US lacks in certain areas, as it allows her a better connection to the Old World (such a quaint yet endearing term nowadays!) than ourselves while living fully in the New.

Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, true sister cities bound by proximity and shared interests, keenly aware and appreciative of one another even though in separate countries, share many events during these days. There are of course the massive fireworks, while each city supports various other events: the Windsor Summer Days in Ontario and Detroit River Days. It is something of a shame that they are no longer called the International Freedom Festival, as they were until 2007. It seems to break the unity of the celebrations. Still, their common history marks the anniversaries of each nation's independence similarly and faithfully. The parties remind us of our bond.

We should count ourselves fortunate indeed to have such tremendous associates, such stouthearted and true friends so nearby. It gives us a perspective the rest of the United States may not have, and shows us profoundly what true friendship must mean.

Happy Canada Day, Canada!