Tuesday, May 31, 2005

George W. Bush and the War in Iraq

I recently finished reading Bob Woodward’s book, Plan of Attack which is the result of Woodward’s investigations into the most recent war in Iraq. After reading his book, I can understand how some people might conclude that President Bush had a one-track-mind against Iraq and that this kept him from fully considering other options (like North Korea, Iran, etc.). It also appears to me that Bush was not always entirely honest or forthcoming in his messages to the public during the course of preparation for the war.

My conclusions, however, are 1) that Bush was no more secretive or deceptive than any other president who has national security secrets to keep and 2) that Bush was genuinely convinced about the weapons of mass destruction and did not lie about them as a pretext to war. In other words, after reading Woodward, I think there is room for genuine disagreement about the war, but I disagree with those who charge Bush with thoroughgoing lying and deception and, further, I think those who have voiced hate speach against Bush--like equating him with Adolf Hitler-- place themselves more on the side of our enemies than on the side of America.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Laura Bush and multiculturalism

Laura Bush is currently on an overseas mission to promote the cause of women’s rights in Arab countries. How culturally insensitive! Doesn’t she know that we live in a pluralist and multicultural world? We’re supposed to be sensitive to other cultures rather than trying to impose our own cultural values on them. After all, who is to say that our culture's elevation of women is right while other culture’s oppression of women is wrong? I am, of course, being very sarcastic, but such would seem to be the logic of multiculturalism and cultural relativism when taken to their logical conclusion. Contrary to what moral relativists would have us believe, there is evil in every culture… including our own. Laura Bush is to be applauded for taking a public stand against the oppression of women in some Arab countries!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

John Edwards and Barney Frank

If you read my post on lapdogs and watchdogs you know that I advocated supporting what was right, regardless of which political party you belong to. While I was away for my brother’s funeral last week there was a noteworthy example of this. The background is that Democratic Party Chairman John Edwards said something about how Republican Tom Delay should go back to Texas and go to jail (Tom Delay is under investigation for ethics violations). Democrat Barney Frank publicly criticized his own party chairman, Edwards, for treating Tom Delay as a criminal even though Delay has not been indicted for anything (yet?). Barney Frank provides an excellent example of a man who opposed his own party chairman’s wrong-doing. I don’t like Barney Frank’s politics, but I applaud his willingness to stand against something wrong, even though it was in his own party.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Muslims and the Crusades

I’ve heard that the new movie, Kingdom of Heaven is playing quite well in some Muslim countries. I would never try to defend the atrocities committed by the crusaders but I would point out that Muslims had been spreading their religion at the point of a sword for about 300 years before the crusaders got involved. This doesn’t mean we should hate Muslims, however, any more than Muslims should hate Christians for what the crusaders did in the name of Christianity. The prophet Ezekiel (whom Christians, Muslims and Jews all respect) makes clear that “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father…” (Ezekiel 18:20). In other words, it is not right to hold the descendants personally responsible for the sins of their forefathers. If only the world would agree on this one principle, a lot of bloodshed could be avoided.

Monday, May 16, 2005

A crime in kindergarten!

Last week the mother of a Pennsylvania kindergartner was prevented from committing crime in her son’s school. Was the crime a case of child molestation? Maybe a potential school shooting? Oh no, much worse. The mother had been invited to her son’s class to read from her favorite book and she had the audacity to bring…not a gun, but (gasp!) a Bible! Fortunately for all that is unholy and evil in this country, the teacher stopped the mother just in a nick of time and the principal informed the mother that what she had attempted to do was against the law!

The first amendment to the constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…” Perhaps someone can tell me how this prohibits a mother from reading a Bible in a classroom, especially in light of the fact that Bibles have been read in classrooms for the vast majority of this country’s history. Did congress make some law prohibiting or mandating Bible reading?

Of course, some will immediately recall Thomas Jefferson’s letter of 1802 in which he spoke of “a wall of separation between church and state.” What many don’t realize is that in this letter President Jefferson was reassuring the Danbury Baptist Association that the constitution protects the church from government interference. Jefferson’s wall of separation was never intended to remove the Bible from public schools, the Ten Commandments from courthouses, or religious opinions from affecting politics. We know this because President Jefferson ends his letter by saying “I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessings of the common Father and Creator of Man, and tender you and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.”

Jefferson, responding in his official capacity as president, apparently found no conflict in mentioning the “Father and Creator” in his letter and in assuring the Baptist Association of his own prayers for them (although he was probably just being polite). Jefferson didn’t even criticize the Baptist Association for attempting to influence the government with their letter. The fact is that Jefferson’s “wall of separation” has been ripped out of context in an attempt to suppress religious expression. Quite frankly, it is really scary (Orwellian) how something like the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which was designed to guarantee freedom, can be twisted so perversely that it would actually be used to deny freedom, in this case the right of a mother to read a Bible in her son’s classroom!

Finally: Please read Nathaniel's and Kevin's excellent responses to my post on the death penalty. I don't have time to even think about responding now...I just found out that my brother died last night so it will be several days before I post again.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Religion and politics

I just heard it again on talk radio...someone insisting that people have no right to bring their religious beliefs to bear on politics! Help me understand this. I believe that violence against people because of their skin color, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation is sin. I also believe that rape and other violence against women is sin. I believe that child abuse is an abominable evil. On the other hand, I believe that it is important to help those who cannot help themselves. All of this is based on my religious beliefs. How am I supposed to separate these beliefs from my politics? For example, should I vote against helping the poor just because my religion teaches me that I should help the poor? In reality, the caller to the talk show probably doesn’t really want me to deny these beliefs. He just wants to silence the views that he disagrees with! It’s like saying, “when your religious beliefs are opposed to my non-religious beliefs, you don’t’ have a right express your beliefs politically. I’m not sure if the caller was expressing honest ignorance or if was just anti-religious bigotry.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Jerry Hobbs and the death penalty

In the news last night was the story of two little girls who were beaten and stabbed (one, over 20 times) in the neck, abdomen and eyes! Jerry Hobbs, the confessed killer, is a man with a long criminal record who had once chased neighbors with a chain saw! Authorities think the death penalty may apply (y’ think?). Even in this horrific case, however, there will undoubtedly be those who oppose the death penalty as being too cruel.

The movie, John Q, staring Denzel Washington, was the story of an uninsured laborer whose little boy would die without a heart transplant. Hypothetically, given the choice between paying for a heart transplant, or supporting a convicted murderer for this rest of his life, virtually no one would support the murderer, yet we make similar choices all the time by rejecting the death penalty.

There is only so much money to go around and yet, by rejecting the death penalty, we spend millions of dollars each year to provide lifelong food, clothing, housing, and medical care for convicted murderers, when that money could be spent on education, the homeless, the mentally ill, drug rehabilitation, cancer or AIDS research, etc. Personally, I think it’s cruel to rob the innocent in order to support murderers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Evolution and creationism

On May 9, 2005, NBC News mentioned the Scopes Monkey Trial in a segment on the Creation-Evolution debate. I wouldn’t expect NBC to know that the Scopes Trial presents us with an interesting irony. The Scopes Trial occured in 1925 after the state of Tennessee passed a law making it illegal for public schools to teach any theory of human origins that conflicted with the biblical creation story. Clarence Darrow championed the cause of evolution arguing that it was bigotry to allow only one theory of origins to be taught in the schools. The evolutionists in the NBC report, however, were arguing (just as the creationists had argued in the Scopes Trial) that only one view of origins should be taught in the classroom--their view.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Freedom of religion

In yesterday’s post I mentioned the governor who would seek to force pharmacists to sell contraceptives against their religious convictions, thus violating a fundamental first amendment right of freedom of religion. I have recently heard some, however, who have cited the first amendment as if it read, “freedom to worship.” This is a serious mis-interpretation of the first amendment and a fast track to tyranny. These revisionists would reluctantly allow freedom to worship in the privacy of our own churches, mosques and synagogues, but the revisionists become very offended (intolerant) if our religious opinions actually affect our lives in ways that they disapprove--like when a few pharmacists refuse to sell contraceptives (Just to be clear, this is not about contraceptives--I personally don’t have a problem with pharmacies selling contraceptives). Since the founding of this country, the freedom of religion always meant much more than just the freedom of worship! Those who limit freedom of religion to "freedom to worship" may, in fact, be seeking to take away your right to freedom of religion by re-definition.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Freedom and fairness

A news story last week focused on some pharmacists who, because of religious convictions, refused to sell contraceptives in their pharmacies. A governor was attempting to force them to do so. On one side are those who insist they have a right to have contraceptives. On the other side are the pharmacists who insist they have a right to their religious convictions. The governor insists that the pharmacists should not impose their beliefs on others. The pharmacists insist that the governor should not impose his beliefs on pharmacists. The pharmacists are not trying to ban contraceptives, they just want to be free to not violate their religious convictions.

It may not be fair that some women have to go to another pharmacy to get their contraceptives but enforcing fairness here would result in the loss of a fundamental first amendment right to freedom of religion. The degree to which America seeks to legislate fairness is the degree to which America looses its freedom. Once upon a time in America, employers had freedom to hire whoever they wanted, colleges had freedom to admit students according to their own standards, landlords had freedom to select their own renters, and there was no political correctness movement that would limit freedom of speech. I personally think some government limitation on freedom is necessary to prevent the kind of evil discrimination that Martin Luther King fought so hard to eliminate. But beware! The balance between fairness and freedom is a delicate one. It is entirely possible to have fairness so regulated and micro-managed--as potentially with the case of the contraceptives--that we are no longer free.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Constitution and freedom

Your freedom is in jeopardy. When the constitution was first conceived the idea was that the law trumps the king or government. The constitution was to provide a solid foundation on which to hold government accountable and to limit arbitrary rule. The only way this works, however, in when the constitution is interpreted, as much as humanly possible, in light of the intentions of the original writers. If the constitution is interpreted in light of contemporary culture, judges can potentially read all kinds of rights and restrictions into the constitution that were entirely contrary to the original intention. When this happens, the constitution becomes tied to the whims and changes of the culture, being creatively “interpreted” by ingenious judges. Rather than ensuring freedom as it was designed to do, the constitution then becomes the tool with which judges can use to further their own social or ideological agendas. Whether these agendas are in the interest of the people is beside the point. The point is that when the constitution is "creatively" interpreted, the constitution ceases to be an instrument to hold goverment accountable, and government rule becomes arbitrary. Those who questions this should recall that the Soviet Union--which was once the symbol of tyrany and oppression in the world--also had a constitution.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Vaginas and feminism

A current controversy in Minnesota involves a conflict between a public school and some girls who want to wear buttons stating, “I love my vagina.” We might dismiss this as simply the need for adolescents to express themselves but that wouldn’t explain all the women who have attended, promoted, or participated in the highly publicized “Vagina Monologues.” I'm not ranting against the serious nature of some of the monologues, but against the title!At the risk of sounding sexist I’ve got to say, ladies, you are not doing the feminist movement any favors with this fixation. It’s really hard for some of us (both men and women) to take women seriously who are obsessing over their vaginas! I am reminded of the Helen Reddy song that said, “I am woman hear me roar” and the response of some wag who said, “I am man, hear me laugh.” But it’s really not a laughing matter if the obsessions of some women place the legitimate concerns of the women’s movement in a bad light. Not only that, but this vagina obsession may be somewhat hypocritical since some of these same women would probably be the first ones to sue for sexual harassment due to a hostile work environment if men started coming to work with shirts that read, “I Love my Penis.”

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Children out of control

The out-of-control five-year-old who was attacking her teacher is certainly learning her lesson. She’s learning that she can hit her teachers and no one can do a thing about it. She’s learning that she can punch and flail at authorities and her mother can make a lot of money by selling the story to the tabloids. She’s learning that the school board can be sued for simply calling the police to intervene. And because Jesse Jackson stepped in and directed her mother to a lawyer, and because her lawyer said, on national TV, that she couldn’t help wondering if this would have happened to a white student, the five-year-old will learn that regardless of how bad her behavior is, she can always play the race card. When I was five, if I had even sassed a teacher, much less hit one, someone would have been in deep trouble--but it wouldn’t be the school and it certainly wouldn’t be the police! I don’t know whether this girl needs more love from her mother, a swat on the butt or serious psychological help, but she seems to learning the wrong lessons at home. If someone (child services?) doesn’t intervene now, maybe they will in a few years when the girl comes back to school with a gun.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Right Wing Extremists

For over 200 years of American history, most Americans have been opposed to abortion- on-demand and to homosexuality, but have not been opposed to prayer in public schools, plaques of the Ten Commandments in courthouses, or nativity scenes on public property. For over 200 years most Americans have supported the death penalty and a citizen’s right to own guns for hunting and protection. Regardless of where you stand on these issues, it should be carefully noted that recently the phrase “right wing extremist” has been regularly applied to people who still believe things that most Americans had historically believed. Whether most Americans were right or wrong on these issues is beside the point. The point is that when you hear the phrase “right wing extremists” you are on the receiving end of a political propaganda ploy designed to vilify and demonize people who hold opinions that the majority of Americans had believed for over 200 years!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Chemical Warfare in Vietnam

Last Saturday ABC News did a report on the Vietnam War. The basic thrust of the report was that the people of Vietnam are still suffering from the effects of the chemical attacks made during the war and that the United States has never compensated them for those attacks. Of course, ABC didn’t criticize (North) Vietnam for waging war against their neighbor to the south in the first place. Nor did ABC criticize North Vietnam for the atrocities they committed against innocent villagers. Nor did ABC comment on the lasting financial and emotional scars left on American families whose loved ones were missing or killed in action. And of course ABC didn’t comment on the American soldiers who were tortured in North Vietnamese prison camps or permanently maimed in battle trying to defend South Vietnam from northern attacks. Some might think of ABC as the America Bashing Corporation and wonder why they hate America so much--but I’m sure it was all just an honest oversight--Wasn’t it?