A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

May 5, 2007

A Most Unusual Caucas of Christians Marches In

From the Baltimore Sun

This most unusual Christian coalition is between Evangelicals, fundamentalists, and many African American clergyman. Though there is often a wide gap between them, this and in some instances NCLB and/or vouchers really do make “The Saints Come Marching In!”

Proponents say the bill – similar to one the Senate is expected to pass in the next few weeks – is a moral imperative. But some Christians are depicting it as a “thought crimes” bill attacking 1st Amendment freedoms of speech and religion. A coalition of evangelical, fundamentalist and black religious leaders is mounting a furious assault on the bill, airing television ads and mobilizing members to stop its progress. President Bush has said he might veto the measure.

This is a tough one to call as it has equally compelling arguements for its passage and its rejection. I’m already using my legal eye on this bill, because I can’t see this one not eventually becoming a tune for the Supremes to sing. The level of support would make a veto interesting as this is a bill does cut across party lines, and enjoys broader support than the recent, and only second veto of the Bush Administration. Is this bill worth the political exchange of coin, must be on the President’s mind.

“This legislation strikes at the heart of free speech and freedom of religious expression,” said Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition. “Statements critical of sexual orientation or gender identity can be prosecuted if those statements were part of the motivation of a person committing a crime against a homosexual or cross-dresser.”

The bill’s supporters say that such an assertion is nonsense, and that a sermon could never be considered an inducement to violence unless it explicitly advocated it.

While to a reasonable mind, it is hard to imagine that any sermon would advocate hurting a person based on sexual preference, or any other factor, one must remember that there are many voices of hate using the guise of religion to score points. This is in no way to state that anywhere near a majority or plurality of the members of this crusade are of such view, but having been raised within the Evangelical/Fundamentalist/Charasmatic culture, I have heard a few interesting things in my time. I also have little faith in the statement made by proponents that they would go after free speech. Someone stating a position such as “homosexuals are condemned to hell” could be construed in the minds of some prosecuting a case, as a an intent to give spiritual license to promote giving such people a head start to that destination. As little as I trust the capacity of people to arrive to false conclusions based upon what “they heard”, I hold an equally distrustful view of giving the state license to link criminal intent to words of one party to actions of another party. I have great faith in the creativity of lawyers to create crime and intent, particularly prosecutors, as it is in their interest to do so.

Hoyer, House majority leader, said before the vote that the bill was necessary “because brutal hate crimes motivated by race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation and identity or disability not only injure individual victims, but also terrorize entire segments of our population and tear at our nation’s social fabric.”

Again, one must look at some of the crimes being committed, and happily the number of crimes such as those brought horrifically upon Matthew Sheppard and other victims, may not qualify as “entire segments” of the population, as asserted by Rep. Hoyer.

Opponents argue that the bill is un-American, in that it effectively creates a two-tiered justice system. In defining only certain groups as legal victims of hate, many argued, the law’s supporters were leaving out other categories of people deserving of protection, such as members of the military, pregnant women and the elderly. An amendment to add these groups to the hate crimes law failed in the House shortly before the bill’s passage.

Onemust wonder why these groups are excluded. Wouldn’t rape if a man said, I’d like to have a piece of that, or the attacking of American servicemen, after calling them slurs or spitting upon them, which has happened, in the former far too frequently, and in the latter, at a shockinginly rising rate, qualify as hatred based upon another factor?

“All violent crime is tied to hate in some way,”said Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokeswoman for Focus on the Family, another conservative group opposing the measure. “The Virginia Tech shooter said in his diatribe that he hated rich kids. Well, rich kids aren’t protected in this hate crime bill. If we’re going to start choosing categories of people for additional penalties when they’re victimized, where does the list end?”

This assertion, perhaps the best summation of the case against this law, and a case will come if it is signed into Federal law.

All violent crime should be punished harshly. The aspect of retribution is an inherent part of any legal system dating back to Hamurabbi. The right of the state to mete out punishment to show its collective ire at those who would dispense harm or other felonious acts towards “any” member of society must be restated. In a perfect world, Federal assets would be applied to all victims of violent felonies.

However, that doesn’t mean this legislation is not without merit, or unreasonable. If signed, and I don’t forsee doomsday for Free Speech if it does, I do see a very long and possibly negative Judicial Review forthcoming. Those Supremes tend to take the First Amendment pretty seriously, and if you remember your history, the Founding Fathers didn’t mind to let the fur fly, at least with regards to speech.

May 4, 2007

GOP Debate: Forget “Who Won” – Who Lost? Answer Fred Thompson

Well, the snapshot GOP debate is over and rather than mull over who are the winners I’ll go out on a limb, and disagree with many blogs when I make this assertion, Fred Thompson is the Big Loser. You may argue, how could he lose, he wasn’t there. If you did that, you just gave the reason. His absence here was notable, and it will hurt him.

The adage of out of sight out of mind must be remembered. There will be some likely shifting in the polls from the debate. My feeling is that Romney will pick up a few points from his anemic 10%, but where will it come from is the important question. There are a few sources, but there is no bigger source than the non candidate Fred Thompson who is around 15% in most polls, and Former Speaker Newt Gingrich who has about 8%, but I don’t think Newt is a viable candidate and he’s smart enough to know that he can’t win. He’s far too polarizing a figure.

So, that makes Fred Thompson as the most likely source to lose support, and it will go to Mit Romney who spoke articulately and clearly on a number of positions. I also think that when the dust settles, it is not likely that Giuliani will lose any ground, and will probably pick up a few points. Senator McCain is also hard to figure. On the one hand he spoke his voice, but he also seemed edgy and a bit too agressive for the format. He constantly went over his time, and I have a feeling that the base, that isn’t too enamored with him as it is, and is looking for reasons to vote against him, which may be unfortunate, I see him staying pat, but Romney closing in, and possibly losing ground to Giuliani. He could find himself in third place after this debate, which would be a disaster for his campaign.

However, former Sen. Thompson’s non participation and non announcement reinforce a perception about a dispassionate person, who does not feel a fire to run. That doesn’t bode well, as people want a Chief Executive who wants to be there.

Survey USA Poll: Giuliani Beats Opponents in Debate

A poll of 317 viewers watching the debate were asked to rate the performance of the candidates:

Rudy Giuliani 30%
Mitt Romney 12%
John McCain 11%
Jim Gilmore 8%
Duncan Hunter 7%
Sam Brownback 4%
Mike Huckabee 4%
Tom Tancredo 4%
Ron Paul 2%
Tommy Thompson 2%

UPDATE: Drudge report is having an interactive poll, but it does allow for multiple voting, so pretty worthless.

The Debate: Who Won and Why?

You see the title; what is your answer. I will reply after I think.

Updated: Well I thought and I will now take out my teacher’s red pencil and give each a grade in no particular order.

Rep. Tom Tancredo – Looked frustrated at times. I think part of it is that his campaign is struggling for air, and the format hurt him as he tried desparately to get out his views and distinguish himself, particularly on immigration. I also think that people saw that frustration and it didn’t help. Grade D

Rep. Duncan Hunter – Was clear, concise, and strong in many of his answer. One area that may hurt him was he was the most aggressive on Iran, and to a country that is not at all happy with Iraq, showing this posturing towards another nation in the area, one that does make everyone nervous may hurt with many even among Hawks. His trade and pro-worker solutions were noteworthy. Grade B-

Mayor Rudy Giuiliani – He was strong on war on terror and framing himself in his model of Conservativism. The questions on abortion won’t help with the base, and will help him with those who are softer on pro-life/pro-choice. He stumbled on that area, but did make his case with his time as NYC Mayor. I still support him. Grade B-

Sen. John McCain – Anyone who said that he lacked vigor got the reply in spades, he was energetic, perhaps too much so, to the point of aggressiveness in tone and body language. He also really had a problem keeping to the time, and wasn’t held to the time limits strictly. He didn’t hurt himself, but I don’t think he helped himself too much. He came out fairly strongly against President Bush, with saying numerous times, “The war was mismanaged”. He seemed passionate and assertive, but perhaps too agressive. Grade C+

Gov. Mit Romney – Of all the candidates the former Bay State Governor stood out. I am not a big Romney fan, but if I had to declare an overall winner, it would be him. He was able to frame his “flip flop” on abortion, and gave a reason that was credible. He also was well versed on the issues and inviting. Grade A

Gov. Jim Gilmore – Did very well tonight too. He was able to state that he was the “consistent Conservative”. He also did well to elicit his positions. However, there are few moments that make him stand out, and he probably won’t see his coin rise. Grade B-

Gov. Tommy Thompson – Did very well on many areas, but there was one area that may hurt him, and that was the question about firing people due to their sexual practices. I also believe that there was a pause that would have allowed him to nuance his position, and his silence was pregnant. This will be picked up. I don’t know if this is a valid reason to terminate an employee in the private sector, other than religious organizations, such as a parochial school, which are exempt from such restrictions and understandably so. His Iraq solution is interesting and deserves a look. Grade B-

Sen. Sam Brownback – Made some good points tonight, and particularly in his stressing the need for the political process to have a more dominant role in the process. His stands on abortion will help only with those who don’t know him, as they are well known. He also held up his credos to the bases fondness of evangelical base. Overall he may have helped himself, but like so many in the second tier is so far behind. Grade B-

Rep. Ron Paul – Made his stand as the maverick in the field. He also came across as passionate, principled, and had a good wit. However, his views on foreign policy are going to hurt him in the end. As much as America may wish to go back to isolationism, that ship has sailed. He advocated himself well, but his views won’t hold. Hard to grade with this dynamic, but based on his performance, and not his substance B.

Gov. Mike Huckabee – He had some good moments, and probably the biggest yuck of the night with his joke concering “The Governator”. He came across as genuine but may have suffered from the format as his positions are hard to define from some of the others, and nuance of his stands may be lost in the shuffle. Grade B-

Overall big winner has to be Romney. He did very well, and being slotted first, by the draw helped him. I think the big loser was Tom Tancredo, and this is not a slight, but he seemed frustrated and this won’t give him much of a bump.

I think that the only shift will be Romney moving up, but the question is who will pay for this hike Giuliani – who probably won’t lose support, McCain or maybe the non-announced candidate, who will also miss South Carolina’s debate, Fred Thompson.

If I had to be like a reality show and only promote five I think these five will likely be in SC.

Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Rep. Hunter, and either Sen. Brownback or Gov. Huckabee.

Then again, I could be wrong.

May 3, 2007

Where You Stand Politically

So, you want to  know where you stand and how you can get that cool little icon like I have on my blog?

Well, just go to this site and take the quiz.  I would put no opinion if you are not sure about something.

Please post your results, and you get BIG TIME BONUS POINTS for reasonableness if you score Moderate, Conservative or Liberal!  I “hope” I have constructed a place where divergent views are allowed and where we gain from seeing each other’s perspective.  I also hope that sometimes someone will say, I see your point, or something like that.

So often politics are too personal, so maybe this would at least bring back agreeable discussion and dissent to the forefront.

I’m posting this on all topics to hopefully get maximum participation.

IF you wish to take the quiz it is here.

Thanks!

April 26, 2007

What is a Liberal; What is a Conservative.

This brilliant post came as a result of a discussion on Woman Honor Thyself about gay rights. I love discussions which make me think, and something that had been ticking away just came out. It was one of my replies to many of the comments of “the left says this”.

There are so many mentions of the “left” and the “right” on blogs. Since I think many would consider this a “Conservative” blog, though I’m sure many “Conservatives” would call this place a den of Marxism or radical leftism, I asked think, What exactly is the Right would be a most approproriate question.

Are you of the “right” if you are a traditional conservative in the mold of Barry Goldwater that wanted small government, few intrusions by the Federal into the state and high amounts of libertarianism thrown in?

or
Are you of the right when you want BIG government with HUGE intrusions of the Federal into daily life with low regard for libertarianism thrown in as shown by NCLB, The Patriot Act and “The War on Drugs”.

or
Are you of the left when you support such “big government” positions as shown by the three I mentioned and add The New Deal and some of The Great Society programs thrown in.

or

Are you of the right when you side with those who would say yes to expressions of religion in the public domain such as The Ten Commandments being on public displays, religious markers – including Wiccan due to a recent court ruling – being allowed to be put in government owned cemeteries for veterans at tax payer expenses (38 religions – now 39 are officially allowed)
or

Are you of the left when you feel that Wicca markers should be paid for by your tax dollars.
Are you of the Left or the Right when you contemplate the full circle that “Conservativism” has undergone when you look at the start of the GOP as a “more conservative” political organization dedicated to stopping the expansion of slavery, but shifted pretty radically left when Emancipation – was imposed on rebellious states, and then the Radical COngress of the 1860’s and 70’s were they left or right?

The terms themself are hard to monitor as being of the left/liberal or being of the right/conservative has little meaning anymore.

When I define myself as a Conservative by saying I like BIG Government with regard to The Patriot Act, NCLB, The “War on Drugs” and even other “liberal??” aspects of it such as The New Deal, Social Security, and The Great Society, I also realize that I am in favor of unions and worry about the ecology of the planet, and kind of like that the Feds stepped in and mandated civil rights in 1964 as well as intergration of public schools in 1952. Time to stop kidding myself, I don’t dislike “Big Government” so maybe I’m a lefty after all.

Maybe, what makes me self defined as a Conservative, is that I’m as HAWKISH as they come, well, except for the loonies who are to the right of me!

Such labels are impossible to uphold anymore in today’s hegemony of political stances. The question is which party puts up with diverging views better. And also, which one lines up with who you are at your core.

Rosie Leaves “The View”

I don’t talk too much about Rosie O’Donnell. I don’t care for her too much, never felt she was particularly funny, didn’t really care about her trials to adopt children, and when she and Donald Trump, not really my favorite person on the planet, the row it was reminiscent of choosing sides in the Iran – Iraq War. However, even Trump wins over O’Donnell in an easy slam dunk. The inane “Loose Change” trash she spewed with some regularity on her shows, speak rather more loudly than her obnoxious voice about her intelligence and agenda. Her views about Roman Catholics and Christianity in general were rather disturbing, and the only thing that is disconcerting is that Disney and ABC let her get away with it.

So, she and ABC/Disney have parted ways. Is anyone shocked that there was problems with the contract? Did the lovey-dovey relationship with Barbara Walters go bad?  Last week her statements about admittedly cursing at her children had to have raised a few eyebrows to Disney executives who basically market to exploiting the image if you don’t take your kids to their theme parks at least a dozen times in their lifetime you are somehow guilty of child abuse. Family value advocates need to remember that Disney didn’t get into the flap about the smears on Catholicism and Christianity sponsored by their programs next time they are planning a “family” vacation, and the information at this time shows it was really an issue over length of contract, ABC/Disney wanted three years, which wouldn’t show that Disney was overly concerned with their faux family image. For those that think Disney was more than happy to pull the plug on Ms. O’Donnell, certainly, the last straw may have been when she grabbed her crotch and said “Eat me” at a recent luncheon.

Will Rosie end up somewhere, probably, but companies may be wary about signing her onboard. She and Imus should get together. They truly deserve each other, as there are probably not two more people whose own self loathing express itself in diatribes against everyone better than those two miscreants.

April 23, 2007

Hip Hop to Clean Up Acts?

Filed under: Culture,Family,First Amendment,mainstream media,media,MSM,Politics — avoiceofreason @ 9:29 pm

Perhaps the call for hip hop to clean up their act after the Don Imus flap may have some traction.

Today, hip-hop industry leader made recommendations to the industry.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Prominent U.S. hip-hop executive Russell Simmons on Monday recommended eliminating the words “bitch,” “ho” and “nigger” from the recording industry, considering them “extreme curse words.”

The call comes less than two weeks after radio personality Don Imus’ nationally syndicated and televised radio show was canceled amid public outcry over Imus calling a women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”

Simmons, co-founder of the Def Jam label and a driving force behind hip-hop’s huge commercial success, called for voluntary restrictions on the words and setting up an industry watchdog to recommend guidelines for lyrical and visual standards.

“These three words should be considered with the same objections to obscenity as ‘extreme curse words’,” it said.

Monday’s statement changed course from another one by Simmons and Chavis dated April 13, a day after Imus’ show was canceled, in which they said offensive references in hip-hop “may be uncomfortable for some to hear, but our job is not to silence or censor that expression.”

I hope it is true, but unless the heat is kept on, little will come from this.

April 22, 2007

Democracy, French Style

I confess, I heard about this topictl on NPR, but it was by a rather Conservative commentator.

In France the elections are run in two phases, a 12 candidate free for all, and my hopes is on the guy who is showing his dog all over the place, and then a run off election.  The voting has begun, and it is with interest that I will watch these elections when the two finalists are announced.   The first phase is kind of like the first show in one of those reality shows where they knock off a whole bunch of the losers in one swoop.  After that, the two finalists duke it out.  However, it is the process as a whole that interests me.

In this current election there are 12 candidates and there are some interesting rules concerning the campaigning.

1 – All candidates must receive the exact amount – to the second – of air time in the news and in scheduled programs.

2- Negative campaign ads are considered highly irregular.

3 – No ads may run 48 hours prior to the election.  Nor may any polls be released.

There are more, but I have to admit that this doesn’t sound too bad.  I understand that there are problems with the first rule.  Minor candidates get the same air time as the major ones, which may muddy the waters.  I guess the French figure that their people are smart enough to figure out the fringe from the mainstream.

With rule two what would movements like MoveOn.org or the Swifties or the other groups that thrive on negative ads and try to muddy the water by slander rather than substantive issues based dialogue do with this rule in American politics.  Don’t get me wrong, dirty campaigns are as old as the 1828 election where Ole Mrs. Jackson was dragged through the mud as well as any modern day candidate ever could have been.  However, wouldn’t it be refreshing to just hear talk about the issues?  Yeah, I know the First Amendment.  I also know that policy constraints limit all of my “rights”.

The third would knock out the last minute surprise.  Such as the DWI in 2000, which did impact the outcomes.  Again, the idea is that let’s clear the air and let the people reflect and then vote.

I’m not sure I fully agree with it, but this is certainly food for thought.  I know it will never happen  here.  Too bad that some of the concepts couldn’t be considered.

April 19, 2007

Public Schools Embrace Islam?

In 1962 the New York State Regents passed a policy to “combat the decline of morals in public life” that called for “moral and spiritual training” as a part of the school day. The Regents introduced a generic prayer to be said by students in the public school as a part of the morning activities. The prayer recites: “

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our Country.”

This prayer drew criticism from the ACLU, and was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1963 by a 7-1 ruling. Personally, I agree with the ruling, as it was in my opinion unduly entangling the secular with the relgious world. On the other hand, here we are many years later with this “generic” prayer ditched and on the verge of being replaced with Muslim prayers.

MUSLIM PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN NEW YORK
New York City is about to open a new taxpayer funded “Arabic themed” school in Brooklyn. Khalil Gibran International Academy will be led by Debbie Almontaser a Muslim of Yemeni background. “It is a school that is going to be working quite hard in building bridges of understanding, tolerance and acceptance, valuing diversity and truly just developing students into global citizens,” says Almontaser. While some of this sounds good, this school will go a good deal further than those arguably, altruistic goals.

The New York City school’s goal is to focus on Arabic aka Islamic themes in education and eventually to teach half of the classes in the Arabic language. Isn’t it interesting that just recently Oxford University in London, England decided not to teach certain subjects like the Holocaust or the Crusades in the school’s history classes because they might offend some of the Muslim students. Yet, in America tax payers are at the very least facilitating a religion.

A valid question that many have asked if the Muslim religion could be separated from the school. In response to that question Almonstaser said,

“Being that we are a public school, we certainly are not going to be teaching religion.”

Maybe not but they will be facilitating it. I also wonder if the Islamic mandates of prayer, not voluntary mind you, will be enforced or will be disallowed. Will accomodations be made during Ramadan. All of these sound precariously close to an “undue entanglement” of the state with a “particular religion”, and all of this would be unconstitutional.

In Lemon v Kurtzman,403 U.S. 602 (1971) the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Pennsylvania’s 1968 Nonpublic Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which allowed the state Superintendent of Public Instruction to reimburse nonpublic schools (most of which were Catholic) for teachers’ salaries, textbooks and instructional materials, violated the Establishment clause of the First Amendment. The decision also upheld a decision of the First Circuit, which had struck down the Rhode Island Salary Supplement Act providing state funds to supplement salaries at nonpublic elementary schools by 15%. As in Pennsylvania, most of these funds were spent on Catholic schools. The following guidelines were established, and these are the Law of the US.

1. The government’s action must have a legitimate secular purpose;
2. The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
3. The government’s action must not result in an “excessive entanglement” with religion.

On the face this school would seem to be in patent violation of the third and possibly the third prong of “The Lemon Test”.

There are other instances of the state becoming “excessively entangled” in facilitating Islamic needs. Consider the policy of Minneapolis Community Colleges. The colleges have installed facilities to enable Muslim students to perform ritual feet washing before daily prayers at the college. Muslims are required to pray five times a day but must first wash their feet. According to President Phil Davis the school is simply extending “hospitality” to their newcomers. However, are such “hospitable” extentions afforded to Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or other practitioners of a relgious faith. This practice would seem to be in violation of all prongs of the lemon test.

The question is why are public institution policies so correctly careful to not estabish or facilitate Christianity and Judaism, but are bending over backwards for Islam. I make no secret that I am a practioner of Christianity, however, I am not thrilled with public dollars being spent facilitating and advancing any religion unless there is a clear and legitimate secular purpose being served. These two instances don’t come close to meeting that standard.

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