"For the most part, the Republican Party is the only outlet where conservatives have a voice, so we have to use it. But it functions like a rusty knife we use only because we can't cut our steaks with a spoon."- Matthew Rathel

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Unconstitutional Constitution: Proposition 8 and the California Supreme Court

In the wake of the Nov. 4 vote to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the state of California, many churches and organizations have felt the wrath of the homosexual community as it has sought to fight the will of the California voters. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and USA Today have all posted daily articles about the outrage of the homosexual community, which far exceeds the coverage they gave to the proposition before it was passed with a 52% approval by the citizens of California.

But what strikes me as most peculiar is today’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle that declares, with a bit of biased glee, that the State Supreme Court will hear the case on whether the changes made by Proposition 8 are constitutional.

In California, homosexual couples enjoy the rights of a Civil Union and have much of the same access to healthcare and civil rights that heterosexual couples enjoy, but the people of California have spoken on more than one occasion and have told the government they prefer to keep the cultural implications of the word “marriage” in tact. In exit polling from the Nov. 4 election, the results show that African Americans and Hispanics voted against gay marriage by a margin far greater than that of the white citizens.

And yet, the homosexual community has targeted predominately white churches in its bid to use annoyance and force to supplant the will of the majority. The tactics these groups have employed resemble those used by the Ku Klux Klan after the end of slavery, complete with vandalism, intimidation, and in some cases violence.

But what I find the most disturbing is the argument that the judges of California’s Supreme Court have decided to hear. The case brought against the proposition calls it unconstitutional, which makes little sense to those of us who aren't lawyers. If Proposition 8 amended the Constitution of California, then the definition of marriage described in the bill has become the constitutional rule of law on the matter.

I understand that there may be complications due to what can be perceived as conflicting clauses in the state law, but it seems evident that the vote of the people of California should change the precedence of other clauses in the constitution. The people of California have spoken with their votes, and they have told the government what they want. If the judges in the California Supreme Court overturn the constitution by declaring it unconstitutional, then perhaps they should balance the California budget by cutting the jobs of all the other branches of government and do away with the costly voting process all-together.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Politics of Faith: Fighting for Belief

Although religion and politics operate in different spheres, there are times when individuals attempt to detract from one’s political influence by attacking his or her religious affiliations, and I would like to briefly address increasingly judgmental attacks by fringe groups who openly scorn religious beliefs of conservatives in hope of discrediting their authority on other matters. While the conservative movement encompasses members from nearly every belief system on the planet including agnostics and atheists, a growing number of pseudo-intellectuals are bombarding the public with negative depictions of those who believe in supreme beings. The common argument that faith or belief in a god is not logical or intellectual pervades many cultural spheres in the United States, proving most pervasive in our universities and in our classrooms. While I will seek to avoid tangling with atheists and agnostics in the following argument, I would like to prove the simple point that the belief in a higher being is as credible as or more credible than disbelief. For those of you who will find this to be common sense, I apologize beforehand.

Picture, if you will, a woman on a street corner with a box at her feet. Imagine that she has picked three random strangers from a crowd and has asked each of them to guess what she has in the box. The box provides no indication of its contents, so Man One simply guesses that there is nothing in the box. Man Two thinks for a moment then replies that he has no way of knowing the box’s contents. Man Three is about to answer “cheese” when a parrot lands on his shoulder and says “Raaw, a rock, raaw.” Rationalizing that it makes little difference, the man guesses that the woman has a rock. Now faulty reason would suggest that Man Two is correct since he vocalized a truthful statement: he really has no way of knowing what is in the box. However, when the woman opens the box, there is a 0% chance that it will contain his answer. All things being equal, Man Three’s guess is equal to or greater than Man One’s since “a rock” and “nothing” are two out of billions of possibilities.

Next, imagine that the woman asks the following question: “We all know that the universe contains matter, but where did it come from?” Man One replies, “it has always been there.” Man Two thinks for a moment and then says, “Based on all scientific data available, no one can answer that question.” Man Three begins to answer when an albatross drops a religious text into his arms. He then pauses for 5 minutes to read the opening passages, and when he has finished he replies, “It was created by a higher being.” Again, faulty logic would suggest that Man Two has supplied the best answer, but if the woman were to attain definitive proof of the universe’s origins, he would have a 0% chance of being correct. All things being equal, Man Three has an equal or greater chance of being correct when compared to Man One.

If I were defter at philosophical premises, I would attempt to prove that Man Three, using circumstantial evidence given to him by the parrot and the albatross, has the highest probability of giving the correct answer. After all, the answer “nothing” provides an example of a complete guess in the first scenario whereas Man Three’s answer is supplemented by the slim chance that the parrot knows what is in the box. Likewise, there can never, by virtue of its own premise, be proof that matter has always existed; but Man Three’s guess that a deity created the universe is backed by the circumstantial evidence of the religious text. In any case, these points are moot, as all I have intended to do is prove that belief is at least equal to disbelief.

Given that men have been studying theological questions for thousands of years, I would be surprised if my argument is the first of its kind, yet I must say that I do have grand illusions of having created “Rathel’s Box.” But whatever religion one adheres to, he or she should not be persuaded that his or her belief system is intellectually or logically indefensible. Many arguments used against Deism contain far more holes than arguments for the existence of a supreme being.

Personally, I like to think that faith is an emotion much the same as love in that it translates poorly into language, but I find that reason arises from faith even though it is unnecessary. Those who criticize Theists tend to characterize faith as the lack of reason when, for many of us, it is the only solid basis of rational thought.

P.S. If anyone sees a hole in my argument, I would love to hear it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Media attacks Palin over "Bush Doctrine"

Much has been made of Sarah Palin’s interview with Charles Gibson on ABC and how it reflects her ability to hold the position of Vice President, but the media appears to be stretching itself thin in hopes of finding a gaffe in what most partisans would call an uneventful exchange. At the center of the faux controversy is Palin’s insistence that Gibson clarify his inquiry into the “Bush Doctrine,” and liberal columnists and commentators are attempting to start a field day with a main event that stinks of petty partisan competition.

In Jay Bookman’s September 12th article printed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Bookman asserts that Palin’s interview with Gibson makes “Dan Quayle Look Good,” and goes on to say “The Bush Doctrine was the justification the president cited that led us into the war in Iraq, and that some cite now as justification for attacking Iran.” as if there were one distinct definition of the term “Bush Doctrine.” But should Palin be expected to know what Gibson was discussing when he introduced the term?

As the final year of Bush’s term winds away, the American people are faced with two conflicting notions of the President’s policy: the one they supported after 9-11 and reaffirmed in the 2004 election and the one they have been coached to disdain by a power-hungry Democratic Party that won the elections of 2006. Gibson’s assumption that Palin would be able to answer an open-ended question about the “Bush Doctrine” shows how many in the media have come to believe that their version of the “Bush Doctrine” on foreign policy is the only way a rational American can regard the waning Presidency and its effect on the world.

Bush himself never called his reasoning for invading Iraq his “doctrine,” and in the course of a presidency that changed the US’s policies on taxation, education, foreign policy, and emergency response programs; one has a clear reason to believe that his doctrine, his legacy, and his impact on history have yet to be viewed from the correct historical frame of reference. While we should not ignore his shortcomings and clear mistakes, we likewise can not expect Governor Palin to regard them as his “doctrine.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Portrait of the Journalist as a Man

The Journalist is a man or woman who fights to tell the American people the stories they need to hear. He or she is the modern medicine man, the 21st Century Homer, blind yet vivid in description, bellowing truth from the depths of a soul that is inherently deeper than those of the public. He or she has morals, ethics, and an understanding of the world that has been sharpened by the whetstone of higher education and has blossomed into something extraordinary and beyond even his or her own power of description. In every word that flows from his or her fingertips lie the answers to society’s problems, the story that must be told, and the omniscient cynicism that arises in the few but must be imparted to the masses. Objectivity isn’t a skill that is learned, it is a birthright, a brain function available only to the gifted, the chosen, the Journalist.

Either that, or the journalist is a mere mortal with ordinary limitations. He or she may approach each story with a predetermined tone, direction, even (heaven forbid) conclusion. When his or her fingers are on the keyboard, his or her mind might be flipping back and forth between college lessons on objectivity and his or her own impression of the person or event he or she wishes to put onto paper. And it would even be possible that the college courses might lose a few battles. Of course this journalist doesn’t exist; the other description is much, much more realistic. But if this were the case, he or she may betray his or her feelings by putting undue weight on negative aspects of topics he or she disagrees with or undue praise for issues he or she supports. In this fictitious scenario, the controlling editors of the major news networks might even cover a trip to Iraq by Obama more than one by McCain at a ratio of 200-1. But that wouldn’t happen; this journalist, these journalists, could not exist.

If I had to choose between which scenario were more apparent in the recent coverage of Governor Sarah Palin, I don’t think anyone could blame me for casting the myth of the Journalist aside. Suddenly, against years of journalistic tradition, the question of whether a mother can adequately hold public office has become a valid campaign issue. Sally Quinn, a journalist (notice the lower-case “j”) writing for the Washington Post blog, published an article on September 3rd suggesting that a Southern Baptist woman should not be President if she believes that the Bible discourages females from becoming priests and pastors, and Quinn asserts that one can link the spiritual and political beliefs of a candidate so long as they are conservative. She faults Palin for not thinking of her pregnant, unwed daughter before accepting the bid for McCain’s VP. She pushes back the rights and values that feminists have been fighting for since the dawn of the 20th century, and she is not alone.

The questions came from every major network, and the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post all published pointed articles about Bristol Palin and her teenage pregnancy. Even those journalists who attempted to stay clear of the family’s personal issues published articles like those seen in The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Kansas City Star that questioned the “vetting process” of the McCain campaign to avoid the talking about the pregnancy by talking about how much McCain knew about it before hand (which forced them to dedicate a large portion of these articles to background information on Bristol Palin.)

If the media would like to discredit claims of bias, perhaps they should do their own investigation into the percentage of favorable stories they give Republicans and Democrats. In an election where the majority of the voting public views both candidate favorably, how can networks like NBC justify running favorable stories of Obama at a 6/1 ratio and not do the same for McCain? If the Journalists would like to discredit reports from organizations such as the Media Research Counsel, I would like to see their own numbers. Until then, I find questions of their journalistic integrity to be just as pressing as questions of Palin’s parenting skills.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sisterhood of Multi-Culturalism

After watching “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” I have come to a few conclusions about how political correctness has taken a firm grasp of the movie industry and the area of aesthetics as a whole. While I only saw the movie because my girlfriend deserved to see something that caters to her, I think that it is the perfect example of how politically-minded value systems control the entire movie industry. When once feminist and multi-cultural criticism once focused on stylistic and structural concepts of artistic works, they now appear as a large monster that dictates the way plotlines take shape.

In the new Sisterhood movie, I quickly noticed one key issue that the structure of the movie takes for granted: not a single one of the 4 girls who wear the magic pants dates a white male from the United States. The girl of Grecian descent dates a boy from Greece and an African American male. The gothic girl dates an Asian boy. The Hispanic girl dates a white boy from the United Kingdom. The blonde girl dates no one, but she forms a strong bond with a female mentor of Middle Eastern descent. While the movie never brings attention to the race or ethnicity of the boyfriends, I find it impossible to believe that these plot devices happen by accident. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the movie goes out of its way to include as many cultures as is possible. The only problem in doing so is that the integrity of the story becomes compromised by the creator’s attempt to push a theme of multiculturalism. In a country where Caucasians make up nearly 70% of the population, one has to move beyond statistical probability to believe that 0 of 4 19-year-old girls would date a white American male.

Across the country one can walk into the English department of any University and hear a professor claim that a certain novel falls short of reaching his or her aesthetic ideals based on its plot structure. African Americans will claim that a novel with an all-white cast fails to address real problems with race relations. Feminists will claim that a novel about an old man and the sea depicts a misogynistic mindset due to its lack of female characters. Yet others will push the idea that the Western novel is provincial because of its very existence. But the truth is that a story doesn’t have to be multicultural to be good.

Now I would like to give an example of how absurd these arguments are. Across the United States, there will be millions of instances tomorrow where a white man walks through a room full of white people then leaves. It is unfair and aesthetically improper that anyone suggest that this event should not take place in a novel because no other races and cultures are involved. When one follows the political agenda of multi-cultural critics, he or she has no choice but to write a story about a part-black, part-Native American woman in a man’s body who walks through the halls of the United Nations, and the sad truth is that we can’t learn anything about the human experience by focusing on populations rather than individuals.

Monday, July 21, 2008

McCain Campaign Expects Equal Treatment, Gets What it Deserves

In the New York Time’s response to why they printed and Op-Ed piece by Obama but rejected the one submitted by McCain one can clearly see how the conservative agenda fails to meet the Time’s idea of news. The Times claims that Obama’s piece was news because he was clearly stating a plan to pull troops out of Iraq whereas McCain’s piece did not meet the standards because he holds to the position that troop reductions must be based on the situation on the ground. The conservative line on the war in Iraq maintains that troops must stay in the region until the proper moment for reduction presents itself. But to the liberal journalist, that fails to meet the definition of a position.

If you have ever wondered why the cries of liberal bias from conservatives never make their way to the general public though major media outlets, you have never sat down to a beer with a journalism student. If you find yourself in such a position, ask him or her to tell you why claims of bias are unfounded, but make sure you clear your schedule for three hours. This student will lambaste you with 3 years of indoctrination, the delicately memorized words of the ultralibs who control the Peabody Awards, and then you will be faced with the horrible prospect of giving your own unpracticed dissertation or letting him or her believe he or she has won. Conservatives face a theoretical mountain when speaking to liberal elites not only because our belief system resists ideology but also because our opposition has had hundreds of years to make its guiding principles the only acceptable terms for discourse. In essence, a conservative can’t win an argument on the media because the majority of those in the industry reject the very structure of our arguments.

Without getting too technical, I will try to explain the core of the argument. Conservatism, while often presented as “clinging to the past,” is actually more accurately described as a doctrine that rejects the jump towards physical action in response conceptual problems. In other words, the conservative line suggests that reaction to stimuli tends to be more destructive than non-action. It is a doctrine of phenomenology that pushes the main argument against the “grass is always greener” mentality in life and politics. Of course this quick-fix definition doesn’t do justice to the movement as a whole, but it does apply to the Iraq situation. McCain’s opposition to attempts to end the war based on factors unrelated to the war itself presents a simple conservative argument. In this case, the situation on the ground becomes the metaphorical constitution and the pressure to leave the region constitutes the liberal position that quick action can bring an end to negative aspects of the conflict. But this doesn’t strike our liberal friends as reasonable.

In the end conservatives must admit that we have been outplayed by the liberals in terms of education and journalism (which are empirically intertwined.) In nearly every journalism school across the country one will find that the ethical values in journalism conflict with the ethical values of the conservative movement. Obama can argue all he wishes that the war needs to end and quickly, and the Times will print every piece. Any conservative rebuttal will slam against the brick wall of liberal (or “progressive”, depending on how honest the outlet is willing to be with itself) ideology. To the Times “news” is only “news” if it is new in both a temporal and an ideological sense. If conservative are to make a place in journalism for ourselves, we must attack our opponents at every pass and push to use our limited media influence to make sure that our stances are heard. McCain should have learned in February that the NYT was not his friend, but now he has been bitten twice and I am still not sure whether or not he is shy.

Fox News is number one in cable news for a reason: for 50 years people were forced to accept the concept that liberalism and pessimism ARE news. Since its conception Fox has given the other side of news that CNN has ignored, and it has proven refreshing to conservatives and liberals alike. The truth is that objective journalism would probably reside in the exact political center between Fox and CNN, but to liberals in the media this idea would seem preposterous. To the average journalist Fox isn’t news because: it ignores the liberal guidelines they spent 3 years studying; it often sides against ideas of social justice; it presents inaction as a viable response to stimuli, and it gives interpretations that don’t adhere to the principle rule that all interpretations are valid except for those who don’t agree that all are valid. To the liberal elite at the NYT, the entire McCain campaign isn’t news and never will be.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Al Gore: Senator, Vice President, Magician.

an article in today’s Boston Globe , Al Gore outlined his plan to change energy sources and wean the US off of fossil fuels. While the reporter goes out of his way to describe the speech at “non-partisan,” I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Gore’s interest transcends party lines. The truth is that Gore and others on the left have a major stock in alternative fuels and possible government control over energy sources. In fact, Gore literally holds stock in bio-fuels. But what strikes me as most noticeable about the Globe article is the vague explanation of how the transition will take place:

“‘The survival of the United States of America as we know it is at risk,’ Gore declared. " ‘....The answer is to end our reliance on carbon-based fuels.’"
“Instead, Gore called for vastly expanding the use of wind and solar power and other renewable sources to generate 100 percent of US electricity needs. ‘This goal is achievable,’ he said.”

Here we see how Gore plans to end our reliance on fossil fuels, but Gore gives us only the end result and not the method of getting there. If he were to have said that the government would buy large tracts of land in Southern Illinois then lease them to companies who would be willing to supply and maintain electric wind mills, I would say he were on to something. But the truth is that leftists like Gore are not worried so much about supplying energy as they are about hurting the companies that currently supply energy. Time after time environmentalists have shown that their concern ends at degrading the evil oil companies and that what happens once they are gone pales in comparison to the actual removal.

No matter what he claims or what the media makes him out to be, Al Gore is not a miracle man. The process of switching Americans over from oil to alternative fuels will be long and it will be costly. But Gore and other leftist millionaires seem to neglect the cost in hope of achieving their dream society where big business doesn’t control energy supplies. McCain and Bush both seem to understand that the economy can not afford to bear the burden of the transition and must be given compensation in the form of cheap oil until a viable alternative arises. By drilling American oil reserves on the continental shelves and at ANWR, we can effectively reduce the amount of oil imported from the Middle East and lower fuel costs until the transition is complete. Even if we were to have an all electric society in 10 years, it will be much longer than that before Americans can afford to buy cars that don’t run on oil. In the mean time, Gore’s plan would have us driving cars on Obama’s idea of hope.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Terrorists, Habaes Corpus, and You

Much has been made in recent months over the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay Cuba and the right of foreign combatants to be held without due process of law. With the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision (Kennedy siding with the majority) that the camps deprive suspected terrorists of the right to a fair trial, one has to ask himself or herself exactly how far Americans must go to accommodate those who illegally wage war against our armies and our citizens. To the conservative, the answer is simple and clear: we are not obligated to provide non-citizens with the same criminal trials afforded to our own people.

While the Geneva Convention covered extensively the need for protecting prisoners of war and enemy combatants (yes, there is a difference) the Supreme Court decision leaves one to believe that the sovereignty of the U.S. often finds itself trumped by the importance of world opinion. In other words, many of the left and the left side of the court tend to err on the side of appearance even when our own safety is at risk. Under article 4 of the Geneva Convention, foreign combatants are not given POW status because they fight for an unrecognized government. The Geneva standards present us with one ultimate goal: to make sure that countries at war conduct themselves in a humane manner. However, how one country chooses to handle those who do not fall into the jurisdiction of the Geneva Code falls largely to the acting party.

In the United States, we are often called to set an example for the rest of the world, however unfair that might seem. To the politicians on the left, this means that we should sometimes forgo the rights of a sovereign nation and adhere to world opinion. To the conservative, this unfair obligation pales in comparison to the threat of terrorism. I will not go so far as to assert that liberals don’t have our best interest at hand, as that kind of demonizing turns discourse away from the true issues; rather, I will state that the focus on the left often shifts away from the American towards the American Brand. In the case of the Gitmo detainees, the Court has sided with the American Brand.

In the case of 200+ prisoners in Cuba, the Court has been fairly open with its criticism of the Bush plan but has not offered a viable alternative. My conservative partners and I contend that giving civil trials to terrorists and enemy combatants affords illegal soldiers more civil rights than American soldiers would receive under our current system. I can only imagine a situation where captured Al Qaeda terrorists are released because an American soldier in a war zone forgets to administer Miranda Rights. Now I agree that holding a prisoner for 6 years without any sort of trial doesn’t exhibit the picture of due process, but I think that a variation of the Gitmo camps mingled with an expedient military tribunal meets the ethical standards set forth by the Geneva Code.

In truth, I feel that the need for a new system of detaining combatants appears eminent. What I do fear, however, is that in the search for this new system the opinions of our European and African brothers and sisters will play a larger role than intellectual reason.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Conservatives, the Second Amendment, and John McCain

As the Supreme Court has recently ruled by a decision of 5-4, the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides each individual the right to bear arms. In the case of the D.C. gun ban, the court ruled that hindering an individual’s right to own a weapon in any district of the U.S. infringes upon the fundamental right of American gun owner-ship. But the decision was only 5-4, which shows how the liberal and conservative judges view this particular case and how a liberal interpretation of a clear clause seeks to deprive Americans of their basic rights as provided by the most important document in United States politics.

The Amendment itself reads as follows:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The conservative reader sees these words grouped together and believes that the message to be clear. The argument can be set into relatively basic terms= Since A, B. A being the necessity of the militia, B being the right to keep and bear arms. A liberal would see these words and try to negate the plausibility of A in order to dispute B. But the document itself provides clear evidence of the right to B, and orders that it be taken at face value. While militias are no longer found in America, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the right to bear arms no longer holds true. The basic framework of the clause states “Since A,” not “If A;” and that leaves no room for the court to negate the value of B by arguing against A.

In a time when the next president will likely choose 2-3 Supreme Court justices, it becomes paramount that Americans understand the division on this issue. With just a 1 vote switch in the court, the interpretation of the Second Amendment could morph into something our Founding Fathers never intended, and a major right could be taken from the people of this country. While conservatives lack the support of either major candidate in this year’s presidential election, we must understand the peril our cause might face under a liberal-controlled court. If ever there were a time to stand up and fight for a mediocre representation of our value system, it presents itself in the candidacy of John McCain.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Conservative Line on the First Amendment.

Around election time, when politics plays a large role in the lives of Americans, we often lose concentration on the major issues as the media and political parties focus on the personas of the candidates. Although each of us will cast our ballots for an individual, the contest should be seen as a competition between conflicting ideologies and not a popularity contest decided by whose face looks best on the side of a billboard. In keeping with the true tradition of our system of government, I feel compelled to list this blogger’s main concerns for the 2008 election in a series of brief descriptions of what it means to be a conservative and how a conservative’s views differ from the platforms of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

As a conservative, I believe that our constitution should be regarded as a document that says what it means and says it clearly. Strict Constructionalism should always been the intent of the conservative, even if that means he must forfeit some of his moral objections to a law. The Republican Party has often been a proponent of strict constructionalism, but it does break from that tradition on key issues where the constitution doesn’t support the will of the people. For the most part, we conservatives should agree that the constitution provides the only true interpretation of a law, and any attempt to dilute that interpretation, by either party, exemplifies irresponsible partisanship. Today we will look at the platforms regarding the religious clauses of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights. Upon doing so, we can easily see where both sides go wrong, and we can find the real conservative stance on each subject.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads as follows:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Here our constitution clearly states the rule of law in our country on five issues that dictate the daily lives of Americans, and by reading the simple words used, we know what the interpretation should be on each item. Despite 20th Century rulings on the subject, the Federal government has no right to makes laws regarding the establishment or free exercise of religions. Now many people often equate conservatism to Christianity, which shows a clear failure in logic. One can be a conservative if he or she wishes the government to refrain from limiting the free expression of religious citizens, and the constitution clearly provides the framework for a society that supports religion and rejects any attempt to limit it’s expression. The modern notion that the free religious expression of groups in our society oppresses members of other groups shows little regard for the First Amendment. The words are ever-inclusive, and each American should look at this clause as the means to one essential American freedom.

Where does each party fail to recognize this amendment? The Republican assertion that we are a “Christian Nation” directly conflicts with our own constitution. We are a predominately Protestant nation, but any attempt to make a law supporting the dominate religion is an attempt to create unlawful legislation. However, the rights of the majority to freely express its views are supreme, and Republicans are on the right side of the issue when they attack Democratic attempts to keep the Silent Majority silent. On the other hand, the Democratic Party has for years promoted the Jeffersonian ideal of the separation of church and state, but it has taken these words to be more important that the law itself. A separation of church and state doesn’t imply an unconstitutional interpretation of the First Amendment, but it does lead to attempts to remove the church from the state. In other words, the Democratic suggestion that anything to do with religion must be removed from our government does limit the free expression of the citizens who elect officials and take direct action within our government. The conservative stance on the issue of religion is simple: let each American openly exercise his or her religious beliefs, and in doing so limit any governmental control of that expression to cases where a clear promotion of one religion over another impedes on the written law.

Given the platforms of both parties, the conservative has no choice to reject both interpretations. While many Christian conservatives would like to think of our country as a Christian nation, they must check their dispositions at the doors of the courthouse. In a free society, each of us has the right to choose a religion and to express our unwavering support for that choice. A conservative should never frown on any religious group that stands on the street corner and professes its faith; likewise, we should take every opportunity to do so ourselves. In God We Trust; In the U.S. We Allow.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Obama: Changing the Way Policy is Made

The political banter of the 2008 election has been more partisan that any I have heard in my short tenure on this earth, and I think that as the country uses the next 3 months to decide who will lead our country, we will find that the tone will only sharpen, and the views expressed will continue to narrow. But in the process appearing to be a centrist, Mr. Obama has finally chartered new territory the way that the New York Times has given him credit with all along: he has found a way to push national security issues as social issues.

Today’s edition of the Washington Times outlines Obama’s current push to gain the political high ground on security by promoting service (which is a term the Post uses loosely.) But without missing a step, Obama quickly frames his policy by contrasting it to that of George W. Bush by describing the 2001 response to the terrorist attacks:

"Instead of a call to service, we were asked to shop," he said. "Instead of a call for shared sacrifice, we saw tax cuts go to the wealthiest Americans in a time of war for the very first time in our history."

Of Course Mr. Obama’s rhetoric continues along the lines that his focus groups have told him will win votes: he doesn’t take the time to discuss the actual call to service. He simply uses the whole topic to segway into his ongoing promotion of class warfare. Obama’s assertion that the most important direct consequences of the World Trade Center bombings were a tax cut and an economic stimulus package shows a blatant disregard for the graveness of the situation Americans faced at that crucial point in our history, and I can’t help but feel that his weakness on national security leads him to try to connect unrelated events in hopes of drowning out the criticisms of his inexperience on security matters.

Again, I call this approach new because I have never seen such an open and untactful attempt to dilute a policy statement with slander of a standing second-term president. Obama isn’t running against Bush as far as I know, and instead of fighting McCain on issues where Obama is strong; the Illinois senator seems intent on running against Bush security policy with his social policy.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Marriage of Semantics

As many of you know, the legislative supreme court of California has recently ruled the state's laws on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional and has set off yet another firestorm which will likely burn as hard and as fast as those that threatened houses near the Nappa Valley earlier this year. I think every one of us has an opinion on the issue, and because of the very nature of the contraversy, I don't think it is possible for any one of us to carry on an intelligent discussion without allowing emotion to get in the way of reason. That being said, I will now bombard you with my point of view which will undoubtedly make me feel better but will not have the slightest bit of effect on any of my readers.

The simple truth is that marriage should never have become a legal issue in the first place. In a perfect, and thus wholly unrealistic, world a man's vow to his wife and vise versa and trans versa (work that one out on your own) should be a private matter between the couple and the people and dieties in front of whom the vow is made. But property is a funny thing, and when it dances the tango with finances, it makes a mess of everything. A couple who lives together for many years and shares financial responsibility will, through sheer convience, come to collectively own property, and when that happens, the vows they make are recognized as having a monetary value. Now I am going to try my best to avoid a discussion of how the legal system works into the process because that is an entirely different issue, but the point I am trying to make is that by denying homosexual couples the right to a legal union, we devalue their collectively owned property and thus encroach upon their rights as citizens and property owners in a capitalist system. But do they deserve more than a legal union?

My answer here is no. I don't believe that Jefferson offered each of us life, liberty, and the right to have the government legally change the definition of a word. The word "marriage" has for thousands of years meant something along the lines of Merriam Webster's definition: "the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex in a relationship ..." Of course, one can argue that these definitions need to change with the times, but that is not an honest statement of the facts. Just because two people of the same sex want to be treated just like two married people doesn't make them married. In the society in which this debate is being held, the population has gradually taken the attitude of "well, if the people will it, then we can change the definition of marriage." However, I don't believe that words work that way. A pear is not a peach, and even if we petition all the dictionaries of the world to have the definition changed, the two fruits will not taste the same.

Likewise, what the homosexual community and its supporters on this matter fail to understand is that they are dealing with more than a word, they are dealing with thousands of years in which that word has been a symbol for something tangible: a man and a woman living together under a bond consecrated by their belief system and held sacred by the government that was built around the moral codes of its founders' religions. We can seperate the church from the state all we want to, but we cannot remove a moral from a word any more than we can petition the dictionary on behalf of a pear.

The truth is that there is a compromise to be made on the issue and those both sides will have to give up something they will not want to concede. For those who support same-sex marriage, they must settle for same-sex unions. For those who oppose both, they must give up the union to preserve the definition of marriage. For anyone who resides in the middle, he or she must work to encourage both sides to do their part to cool the flames.

Obama: Education at a Price

I recently came by Barack Obama's web page and was reading over his education section, and I came across a few promises that he is making to these young voters who have remained clearly in his camp throughout the election. Principally among these promises is his intent to make public college free. Obama even goes as far as to imply that college educations are a birthright of every American citizen.

Birthright? Education is not a birthright. We have public schools in this country because parents can not be trusted to take care of their children's well being. But where did it become the obligation of the state to provide anyone with a higher education for adults who are able to practice their own free will? It is one thing to talk about policy, and how it would be in line with US policy to continue funding education for America's youth. But what I reject is the idea that every American deserves to go to college, and that it is the duty of the taxpayer to fund the education of others. What about the serviceman who joins the Navy and fights for his country with no aspirations of going to college? Should he be forced to pay taxes to flip the bill for his college-bound counterpart? Likewise, is it the responsibility of the state to fund the actions of graduate students into their late 20's and early 30's? No. The larger issue at play here is the government stepping into higher education and removing the personal responsibility associated with it. If you listen just right, his promise sounds more like:

"If you elect me, I will take the money that we give other people and give it to you. That's right. How dare they make you pay for your education as if it were some commodity that you will cash in for the rest of your lives to make more money than those who don't go to college? Unalienable is your right to take a piece of others' hard-earned money and use it to study whatever you wish, regardless of how you intend to use that degree. You may have done nothing in your lifetime to deserve it, but it is yours."

Obama may claim that he is above the old style of politics, but promising free continued education to every American is classic vote purchasing, especially when it is offering hundreds of billions of dollars a year to his second-biggest demographic.

Censorship: The Debate for the Ages

While I believe that this conservative groups should pick better battles to fight, I think that cries of censorship often more focused on making sure that children are reading the books the accuser finds appropriate. I recently read an article lamenting the fact that a school district removed The Joys of Sex from its middle-school library, but its amazing how often such action is taken and given no coverage by those who claim to be looking out for the freedom of speech. The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm was taken out of many school libraries because of negative portrayals of women. Gone With the Wind, (while deserving a ban due to poor quality of literature) was banned in many schools because of its use of the word "nigger." However, I only hear criticism of book banning when it is directed at right-wing groups.

The truth is that many people who complain of censorship are doing so because they would like to be the all-powerful selector of children's literature. The fantastic power one gains from the ability to choose what children can read and what opinions will shape their young minds often proves too much for your average liberal or conservative (and a lot less often for the conservative than one might think). But most school libraries are limited in space, and the book in question should not be included if other, more important materials are left in the bargain bin at Goodwill. The truth is that nothing should be censored from children old enough to critically examine the content presented, but in the case where such censorship is necessary, the conservative groups deserve just as much say as the liberal.

My image of public school libraries is limited to my elementry school in central Georgia, but as
I look back and think of the books on the shelves, I can understand the conservative complaints of left-wing bias in book selection. Of course, I would like to state clearly that the majority of books geared towards children are neutral, or attempt to find a neutral political center, there are still too many geared towards providing children with liberal values at a young age. Books such as King & King, which caused an outcry back in 2005 as it presents homosexuality to kindergarten-aged children and And Tango Makes Three, are becoming more and more prevalent in public elementry schools as Christian-based books become less and less visible on the shelves. Of course the recent popularity of the Narnia movies have kept Lewis from falling by the wayside, but while secular and anti-Christian writings make their way to the shelves of high schools across the country, the Christian rebuttals are being confined more and more to the Classic sections.

Underlying problems here? The most visible to a recent college graduate such as myself (I don't know how much longer I can continue to add the "recent") is that those who are vying for the low-paying teaching positions across our country tend to be ideological liberals. I will never forget the last party I went to after graduating and before leaving home to pursue a carreer: I was sitting in a stranger's living room sipping on a Miller Lite as I heard in passing one of my friends mention to two random girls that I am a conservative. No sooner had I taken my eyes off of the TV came the high-pitched squeals of outrage and the onslaught of what would turn into a 5 minute condemnation of conservative thought in relation to education and literature. I let them finish, smiled, then retorted using real language instead of the memorized jargon from Judith Butler-worshiping textbooks. I laid out my argument for a fair system of book selection for libraries which takes into account grade levels and intent of the works as well as neutrality and the often anti-neutral search for secular neutrality. Just as I was finishing my argument, a third Mercer School of Education student approached the other two and notified them that the bong had arrived and that they needed to go out to the car if they wanted a hit. I was stopped mid-sentence.

Now three girls at a party don't make a great sample for a plausible poll, but I don't think that these girls are outside the standard deviation for your median education major. Many early childhood education majors are in it for the joy and the satisfaction of working with children, but there is an alarming number of teachers in the system who actively seek the position of influence in order to indoctrinate children with a liberal mindset. They will call it "open-mindedness", "freedom of expression", "or acceptance of other lifestyles," but what it amounts to is forcing their ideologies on children too young to fight for themselves. And, so far as I can see, it is a campaign that starts in the school library.

Conservative Slams Journalists Over Sensationalism

Today I will be short, but I would like to quickly discuss how sensationalism has become the norm in a world where the internet provides the majority of Americans with their news coverage, and in doing so I would like to consider the use of the word "slam" in hard news articles. We all know that the definition of "news" is ever-changing and that it is currently evolving into a more affluent medium across which information can flow around the world and is slowed only by the typist's fingers. But in the transition I believe that the discipline risks losing its professionalism, and there are many cases to be made for how little verbs like "slam" indicate a shift from factual reporting to emotional dialogue.

In the news coverage from the past week a Google News search retrieves over 6,000 articles where the title or lead uses the word "slams" to describe one person talking about another. When did this become normal practice? And how does the journalist defend this against an argument pointing out that it is a cheap way to draw attention to an article? Despite recent use, the word itself doesn't mean what it is being used to say— to slam is to commit a violent physical action. Although slang words often make their way into our language, this is a case where one is being thrust into the political arena because it appeals to the same side of the American psyche that continues to persuade mildly-intelligent people to watch professional wrestling. In the current news environment a choice must be made as to which direction our outlets will take: either we protect the respected language that has been refined over the years in an attempt to report facts without imposing the influence of rouge words on the event, or we hand the profession over to the non-writer by using his language despite the fact that it changes the meaning of the story.

It may seem as if I am cherry picking here, but the truth is that little words make a big difference. When you read through news articles from various newspapers, try to find those words that were not there when you were younger, and in doing so I think you will find that they are clues to the opinion of the journalist— sometimes the will of the journalist to impose his views on his story is so strong that he must hint and jab in his wording because he or she just can't accept the fact that news is supposed to be impartial. That is the battle every writer must face but the newspaper reporter seems to lose it more often than most others.

The Bell Ain't Tolling for the Republican Party

The public moves back and forth between liberal and conservative values in much the same way a tide beats upon a shoreline. Although those on the far left and many of us on the far right would like to take situational trends and push them out through perpetuity, the truth is that the American people never know what they want and will always listen to the side who complains the most. To the average working and non-working American (though only the former tends to blow in the political winds) the grass is always greener in the picture of America that the non-dominate party paints across newspapers and over cable television. In the information age where all voices can be heard and are often jammed into the ears of the listener, the same tidal ebbs that took 30 years to change in the 20th century now work at a much faster pace.

Does anyone remember the mid-term elections of 2002 when every media outlet from CNN to Fox News and between exclaimed "will the Democratic Party ever gain their strength back after such a blow" and "are Democrats out of touch with the American People?"? Six years ago the Republicans controlled the House, the Senate, and the presidency and commanded a strong majority of the votes of the American people. Today the Republican Party finds itself in voter deficit and the media is asking the same questions of the conservatives as it did of the party that would ultimately regain control of the legislature in 4 short years. But what annoys me is the short-sightedness of those in the media who haven't caught onto the novel nature of the current power struggle between the Republican and Democratic party: the war is being fought with blitzkrieg motility, and projections of political strength beyond a 4-year span ultimately prove futile.

Examine the words of David Brooks in today's edition of the New York Times:
"The trends are pretty clear: rising economic sectors tend to favor Democrats while declining economic sectors are more likely to favor Republicans." Here Mr. Brooks (no pun intended) wishes to frame the current and future elections into a race between the two parties to capture demographics of American society, and what's worse is the he implies that the capture of these groups constitutes an enduring victory such as one might have achieved by capturing a capital city during the Civil War. The truth is that the "rising economic sectors" he speaks of were overwhelming in their support for President Bush in 2004. To say with any level of authority that current alliances will hold up in the future or even in the next 100 days is to show that political science classes have been and currently are operating with out-dated material.



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