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August 31, 2007

Religious Offense: A Comparison

What happens when art that offends people of a particular religion is displayed? Let's do a comparative look. First, the Christians, in an article headlined, "Christians Mull Offensive Art Works".

The inclusion of two provocative entries in Australia's most prestigious religious art competition has again highlighted the issue of distasteful art and Christians' reaction to it.

Critics ranging from Prime Minister John Howard to church leaders have questioned the appropriateness of the two exhibits -- one depicting the Virgin Mary wearing an Islamic burqa, and another, a holographic image of al-Qaeda terror chief Osama bin Laden morphing into an image of Jesus Christ.

The works, submitted for a 55-year-old annual award called the Blake prize, are on display at a taxpayer-funded gallery in Sydney. Howard has called them "gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians."

"Regrettably, attempts to insult Jesus and Mary have become common in recent years, even predictable," said the country's most senior Catholic leader, Cardinal George Pell of Sydney.

"Too often it seems that the only quality which makes something 'art' is the adolescent desire to shock," he said. "If this is the best the Blake prize can do, it has probably outlived its usefulness."

The chairman of the Blake prize, the Rev. Rod Pattenden, said in a statement it seemed that "a real nerve" had been hit.

"I have received several angry phone calls from people claiming religious allegiance who have expressed themselves with clear hatred and violence towards other religious groups," said Pattenden, a minister in the Uniting Church, a liberal Protestant denomination.

Mulling, questioning, and even some angry phone calls over this sort of art.

Let's look at the history of another religion.

The drawings show the head of a turbaned man attached to the body of a dog, in front of various settings including a football goal.

The publication, in the newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, came after several galleries had refused to display the drawings, apparently for fear of violent retaliation from offended Muslims.

Early last year, violent demonstrations erupted throughout the Muslim world after the publication in Denmark of 12 cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed which were also deemed blasphemous.

"Alongside the picture, we published a comment piece saying that it was serious that there is self-censorship among exhibition [galleries]," said the Nerikes Allehanda editor-in-chief, Ulf Johansson.

Last weekend, a small gathering of protestors gathered outside the newspaper's offices to demonstrate against the cartoon's publication.

That was followed this Monday by Iran summoning Sweden's chief diplomat in Teheran to express its own outrage. Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has blamed "Zionists" for the images but said he would not hold the Swedish people responsible.

Pakistan's foreign ministry said that Sweden's charge d'affaires had promised his government "shared the views of the Muslim community and termed the publication as unfortunate".

In Stockholm, the Swedish foreign ministry said it now considered the matter closed.

But last year's violent protests over the Danish cartoons has showed that initially little noticed drawings can eventually prompt widespread anger.

Yes, well, more than just "widespread anger"; over 100 people died. This particular situation has become an international incident, and it's working, since some places are afraid to display them.

Both situations -- the Christian one and the Muslim one -- are equal in that they offend some people of a particular religion and, in my view, also equal in that they should not be banned. I don't think public money should be financing them (and I have no evidence that they are), but banning insults is, to me, a slippery-slope freedom-of-speech issue.

But there is self-censorship happening in the case of art insulting Islam, not because of any sense of tact or taste (unfortunately), but because of the fear of what its adherents might do. For many, it's not OK to insult Islam because they might kill us if we do. Far too many folks who stand up for freedom of speech or for the arts are more than willing to throw out those principles before the angry mob show up. The "religion of peace" does not have a very good record at handling insults peaceably, with mulling and phone calls.

Obligatory disclaimer: Yes, I'm fully aware that a majority of Muslims don't take up arms over cartoons. But the point is, so many do, and so many Christians or Jews don't, that to the observer of these events, Islam does seem more violent than others.

Is Islam in need of a reformation?

Posted by Doug at 01:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Remains of The Second Jewish Temple Found?

Might be.

Remains of the Jewish second temple may have been found during work to lay pipes at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem, Israeli television reported Thursday.

Israeli television broadcast footage of a mechanical digger at the site which Israeli archaeologists visited on Thursday.

Gaby Barkai, an archaeologist from Bar Ilan University, urged the Israeli government to stop the pipework after the discovery of what he said is "a massive seven metre-long wall."

Posted by Doug at 12:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 30, 2007

Green Evangelicals No One's Political Patsy: My Op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Those of you who have read my material over the last year know that our public relations firm, Rooftop MediaWorks, has been handling communications for the national Evangelical Climate Initiative. And during the last six months, I have been serving as Campaign Director for the ECI.

In that role, I wrote an op-ed on how mainstream media and Democratic pundits have been wrongly assuming that green evangelicals have become liberal Democrats.

The op-ed is appearing on August 31 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (ECI is headquartered in the Atlanta area).

The piece reads in part:

The clearest way to explain the majority of American evangelicals, including the new — often young — evangelicals is that they are increasingly embracing a total life ethic.

This new ethic still calls for protection of the unborn and of the unwanted through policies against abortion and euthanasia. But it also strives to protect the climate, and to help the poor and disadvantaged in the U.S. and in the vulnerable places of the world, such as Africa. The total life ethic seeks to protect the incubator and divinely designed cradle of human life, the family; but it also calls for human rights, freedom and the rewards of hard work. New evangelicals are reaching into new areas, but they don't stop preaching and demonstrating that fullness of life comes only through lives surrendered to and transformed by Jesus Christ.

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It Should Have Come as No Surprise

As first noted here, talked about here, and with evidence here, the election results from 2006 were incredibly misread by Democrats. On the whole, conservatism won, with those Democrats coming in to power being far more right-leaning than those who were applauding the election results cared to see or admit.

But the chickens came home to roost, and the netroots are shocked -- SHOCKED -- at the outcome.

A leading liberal blogger has declared political war against centrist Democrats – the latest move in an intensifying show of dissatisfaction with the Democratic Congress by the once-friendly blogosphere.

Matt Stoller, who blogs at the well-trafficked, has compiled a list of 38 House “Blue Dog” Democrats who have voted with Republicans on key legislation, and called on the activist community to put pressure on them – and perhaps challenge them in primaries – if they fail to shape up.

“Some of these members may need to face a primary challenge, and it's useful for potential primary challengers to know that there is criticism of these members,” wrote Stoller, who refers to the 38 Democrats as “Bush Dogs.” is getting in on the act as well, targeting those who have become better informed and thus are no longer towing the liberal line.
Rep. Brian Baird’s (D-Wash.) recent conversion on the Iraq war is beginning to affect more than the national dialogue. On Wednesday, liberal group announced an ad campaign against the congressman in his own district.

Baird recently returned from a trip to Iraq and reversed his position on a withdrawal timetable, citing military progress in the four-year-old war.

The far left's influence over the Democratic party is pushing that party further and further away from the mainstream. I wish Stoller and MoveOn all the success in the world in getting more fringe candidates. It'll push the government to the right when they lose.

Posted by Doug at 11:54 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2007

Private vs Public Disaster Relief: Which Works Faster?

Same conservative drumbeat, different song, but the beat goes on.

Two years after the devastating floods that followed Hurricane Katrina, the rebuilding of New Orleans, and much of the Gulf Coast, has largely taken two paths: communities that have rebuilt themselves using private funds, insurance money and sheer will — and publicly funded efforts that have moved much more slowly.

Federal, state and local governments have struggled to speed up the release of funds and restore infrastructure. None of the 115 "critical priority projects" identified by city officials has been completed: For example, New Orleans' police superintendent still works out of a trailer, as do most of the city's firefighters. And analysts at the city's crime lab don't have a laboratory to match DNA samples.

Private funds also generally indicate that more personal effort is going into the project than those who, waiting on big government money, are also waiting on big government action. The more big government is relied upon, the slower things go, and the more people tend to avoid aiding in the cause because, hey, the government will help them. In that sense, government aid can be society's own worst enemy, in the long term.

Posted by Doug at 02:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Conscience and the Pro-Choice Christian

Russ over at Pro-Life Pro-Logic had a post last month that covered the same topics as those in my response to Anne Rice. While mostly dealing with Christianity vs. the pro-choice viewpoint, he makes a very interesting and thought-provoking connection to the subject of charity to the poor.

The Left has, in my view, a totally one-sided view of poverty. They have abandoned one part of humanity – the unborn (the unseen), for the economically poor (the seen). Mary Meehan, in an article in “The Progressive” in 1980 stated it clearly: “the abortion issue, more than most, illustrates the occasional tendency of the Left to become so enthusiastic over what is called a "reform" that it forgets to think the issue through. It is ironic that so many on the Left have done on abortion what the conservatives and Cold War liberals did on Vietnam: They marched off in the wrong direction, to fight the wrong war, against the wrong people.”

That Christians would follow them off this cliff, given what should be a different view of God's creation, makes no sense to me.

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August 28, 2007

More on the Possible Aguilera Pro-Life Position

The Lurking Canary has discovered some inconsistencies in the Aguilera versus Amnesty's pro-abortion stance.

Posted by Jim at 02:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Big Decline in Poverty Rate: Good for Compassionate Conservatism; Bad for Edwards Campaign

Let's see how the liberals explain away this Bush success story.

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August 27, 2007

A Forced Moral Equivalence

Clayton Cramer watched CNN's "God's Warriors". While he was encouraged to see some programs, like "Teen Mania", covered, Christiane Amanpour appeared to him to be trying to draw moral equivalences where there weren't any.

As much as CNN may feel the need to draw bogus moral equivalences, they failed. What is wrong with Islam isn't a few kooks on the edges, but a large and dangerous faction of Islam.

Teen Mania runs a school in Texas where they train their people. They have all sorts of very strict rules: no smoking; no alcohol; no R-rated movies; and skirts have to be a certain length.

Amanpour had the nerve to suggest that this was like the Taliban. Yes, except the Taliban executed homosexuals, "loose women," prohibited girls from receiving an education; banned clapping at sporting events; made apostasy from Islam a capital crime; blew up the symbols of other religions. Yes, that's quite similar to a dress code. How did I miss the comparison?

Trying to keep kids on the straight and narrow used to be lauded. Now it's compared to extremist terrorism by our "mainstream" media.

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Covering the Genocide...Or Not

If we pull out of Iraq soon, and if there is a massacre there on the scale of the millions in the Killing Fields of Cambodia, will the news media tell us about it? If you look at the history of the media, probably not, since they didn't say much about those very Killing Fields. The Media Research Center highlights a 1982 study done by George Washington University professor William Adams, in which he documented how much coverage, between 1975 and 1978, the media gave this holocaust. The short answer:

Television coverage averaged "less than thirty seconds per month per network."

The study also compares the coverage to that of the Jonestown suicides, and debunks the excuse TV gave at the time that there were no pictures and without that there isn't a story. It also slams the print media for their lethargy.

Oh, that liberal media.

Posted by Doug at 03:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Pro-life Activism from Unexpected Quarters: Artists Slam Amnesty’s Abortion Shift

The last place I’d expect to look for pro-life activism is among musicians outside of the Christian music world. But this article discusses the disgust of two singers, Christina Aguilera and Avril Lavigne over Amnesty International’s decision to support women’s access to abortion. Both singers have made statements against abortion, but are among contributors to an Amnesty CD released to raise money for survivors of the atrocities in Darfur.

Aguilera, 26, is a devout American Catholic. She is reportedly expecting her first child and has taken part in a television show in which she interviewed a teenager who had kept her baby rather than have an abortion.

Lavigne, 22, is a French-Canadian from a tight-knit Christian family. Her song Keep Holding On is the backing track to a pro-life video on YouTube that declares “abortion is murder”.

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August 24, 2007

Christians & Political Parties: A Response to Anne Rice, Part 2

This is the 2nd and final part of my analysis of an open letter from Anne Rice. Part 1 can be found here.


Anne Rice spends most of her letter covering this issue, and she starts with an assertion that, to me, shows a lack of consideration of the history of the issue.

I want to add here that I am Pro-Life. I believe in the sanctity of the life of the unborn. Deeply respecting those who disagree with me, I feel that if we are to find a solution to the horror of abortion, it will be through the Democratic Party.

Ms. Rice does touch on these historical issues lightly later on, and I'll hit them more in-depth then, but even looking at how the abortion issue generally falls between the parties today, I don't see this as making sense. What I hear from Democrats are things like John Kerry with this sentiment:
I completely respect their views. I am a Catholic. And I grew up learning how to respect those views. But I disagree with them, as do many. I can't legislate or transfer to another American citizen my article of faith. What is an article of faith for me is not something that I can legislate on somebody who doesn't share that article of faith. I believe that choice is a woman's choice. It's between a woman, God and her doctor. That's why I support that. I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade.

If one's commitment to Christianity should be "absolute", as Ms. Rice has said, there is a big problem with this statement, that is generally the line religious Democrats use when talking about abortion, and that is the canard about legislating one's religious faith, or sometimes call ramming one's religion down your throat. Civil rights are very much a moral issue, but does Sen. Kerry have the same problem with legislating that? No, he's very willing to impose his view on KKK members, and rightly so. It's right, it's moral and it's the law. Legislators all throughout our country's history, and more so in our early history, based many of their decisions partly or mostly on their religious faith. This excuse is disingenuous.

Regarding Hillary Clinton, NARAL gave her a 100% score on her 2006 voting record (PDF), and she's a big supporter of Roe v Wade. See here for other details. You won't curb abortions by voting the way she does. Like her husband, she'll talk the talk, but watch the way she votes.

When voting, as Ms. Rice says, "Conscience requires the Christian to vote as a Christian". If there is a substantial difference between Ms. Rice's vote and Sen. Kerry's or Clinton's vote, I'd like to know what she thinks it might be. Both votes affect more than just the voter, and one's Christianity shouldn't be compartmentalized between private and public life.

In one sense, votes by representatives will, to different extents, reflect the people represented rather than the representatives views. At the same time, by that very title, the representative represents their constituents views and values, and his or her own views are part of that; he or she was voted in partially or mostly because of their views. It's certainly not always a perfect fit between the politician and the constituents, but Sen. Kerry's statement takes his religious beliefs totally and completely out of the equation. If Democratic politicians, in general, can't bring themselves to vote against abortion, how in the world they be better in stopping the horror of it?

I have heard many anti-abortion statements made by people who are not Democrats, but many of these statements do not strike me as constructive or convincing. I feel we can stop the horror of abortion. But I do not feel it can be done by rolling back Roe vs. Wade, or packing the Supreme Court with judges committed to doing this. As a student of history, I do not think that Americans will give up the legal right to abortion. Should Roe vs Wade be rolled back, Americans will pass other laws to support abortion, or they will find ways to have abortions using new legal and medical terms.
I agree that repealing bad legislation or overturning court decisions will not bring an end to abortion in and of themselves, but without them, how can we make real headway? For too many people, what's legal is what's right, or at least what's neutral. Our government's laws should reflect our country's shared morality. Do we or do we not value life in our culture?

The idea that Americans will just pass laws to support abortion is akin to saying that kids will just use drugs anyway, so let's give them clean needles, or that they're going to have sex anyway, might as well give them condoms and a clean room. None of those remedies will even stem the tide, so neither is a "solution to the horror". People are going to steal from each other and hurt each other and kill each other anyway; they do all the time. Should we throw our hands up and legalize those actions? And thus, keeping abortion legal isn't going to somehow reduce the number of abortions.

And while we're on the subject, one might ask if I'm also against passing laws against anything I find morally wrong. One might say that I'm inconsistent in my views if I favor the continued legalization of alcohol or tobacco. Fair question. I would also ask the religious left if they are in favor, morally, of state-sponsored gambling, since it's typically politicians on their side of the aisle pushing for state lotteries and the like. Just as fair. Let me answer that by saying that I believe there are some moral issues that should be decided on an individual basis, but there are other issues that should have the weight of our representative government behind them. Whether one drinks wine with dinner is, I think we can agree, an individual choice. Whether one is allowed to be born or not is the first right of them all, without which none of the others matter, and should have the force of government behind it.

And referring back to Sen. Kerry's statement on abortion, I wonder if Ms. Rice finds his comment "constructive or convincing". How constructive to the pro-life cause is that sort of declaration?

And much as I am horrified by abortion, I am not sure -- as a student of history -- that Americans should give up the right to abortion.

Try saying it this way: "As much as I am horrified by sucking a living being out with a hose and killing it, I am not sure -- as a student of history -- that Americans should give up the right to sucking out living beings with hoses and killing them." Depending on your opinion of the living-ness of the fetus, this is one reading of that statement, and it sounds almost comical, if not utterly incredible. How horrible can you really believe something is if you think we should retain some "right" to it?

And if you don't think the fetus is a human being, then how could it be described as a "horror"? It's no different than cutting off a fingernail. This is a major inconsistency I see with people who say they're pro-life, but think abortion should remain a right. If the fetus is alive, why are you for allowing it to be killed without cause, and if it's not alive, why use the label "pro-life"?

I am also not convinced that all of those advocating anti-abortion positions in the public sphere are necessarily practical or sincere. I have not heard convincing arguments put forth by anti-abortion politicians as to how Americans could be forced to give birth to children that Americans do not want to bear. And more to the point, I have not heard convincing arguments from these anti-abortion politicians as to how we can prevent the horror of abortion right now, given the social situations we have.

I have to refer to Sen. Kerry's statement and Sen. Clinton's voting record again. Are they "practical or sincere" with regard to ending abortion? I honestly don't think so.

Ms. Rice is either deliberately framing the issue here to benefit her argument, or is naively parroting Democrat & Planned Parenthood talking points. The point at which the determination of whether or not to have a child is made is at the time of conception, but she doesn't mention this issue of responsibility. She might be talking about it regarding the "social situations we have", but she doesn't elaborate.

If that is what she's talking about, that our overly sexualized culture has to be addressed, then I would agree with that. But again, who is in the better position to work at retreating from that? Was it liberal or conservative values that brought us this rise in teen sexualization? Was it liberal or conservative values that brought us "free" "love" in the 60s? Was it liberal or conservative values that gave us a welfare system that allows absentee fathers to assuage their guilt? Again, the Republican party has not been completely true to conservative principles, but Democrats are certainly not anywhere near them, and many times deriding them.

And here's a nice irony: "I have not heard convincing arguments from these anti-abortion politicians", so her solution to the horror of abortion is to vote for pro-abortion politicians? Completely upside-down.

Do I myself have a solution to the abortion problem? The answer is no. What I have are hopes and dreams and prayers --- that better education will help men and women make responsible reproductive choices, and that abortion will become a morally abhorrent option from which informed Americans will turn away.

I heartily agree that education is one of the keys to this; winning the hearts and minds. But that alone, like overturning bad court rulings, is not enough, yet essentially that's the only solution she talks about, and frankly overturning Roe v Wade by itself would curb more abortions than education itself. (Don't believe me? Say what you want about Prohibition, while it was in force as law there was less alcohol consumption. Generally, people respected the law. Legislation works.) Suggesting this remedy alone, I would argue, is what is not convincing.

Who would fund that education? Can we count on Democrats, who lobby for government money on behalf of Planned Parenthood, be the ones to entrust with this? Hen house, meet fox. Again, the unintended irony (and it is unintended, as far as I can tell) is just all over this letter, and especially with the next paragraph.

There is a great deal more to this question, as to how abortion became legal, as to why that happened, as to why there is so little talk of the men who father fetuses that are aborted, and as to the human rights of all individuals involved. I am not qualified as a student of history to fully discuss these issues in detail. I remain conscientiously curious and conscientiously concerned.

As much as Ms. Rice appeals to history, you'd think she would consider these questions rather important. Who got us into this mess is a serious question that would need to be answered as part of an informed decision as to which party is best to lead us out of it. For the edification of those interested, let's hit all her points.

How abortion became legal, and why it happened: Let me ask which side of the argument the two political parties were on at the time Roe v Wade was decided, and have been since then. The answer is obvious. The only dissenters in that decision were conservatives, and at least one conservative justice voted for it not understanding the gravity of that decision

In his concurring opinion, [Justice Warren E. Burger] explained, "I do not read the court's holdings today as having the sweeping consequences attributed to them by the dissenting justices; the dissenting views discount the reality that the vast majority of physicians observe the standards of their profession, and act only on the basis of carefully deliberated medical judgments relating to life and health. Plainly, the court today rejects any claim that the Constitution requires abortions on demand."
Apparently, physicians make 1,300,000 carefully deliberated medical judgements a year. So much for that thought. Conservatives, in general, opposed the decision. All the liberal justices voted for the decision.

Why there is so little talk of the men who father fetuses that are aborted: Ask John Kerry, who, in his list of people who the woman should consult about the decision, leaves out the father. This is the standard Planned Parenthood response, supported by the Democrats.

The human rights of all individuals involved: Indeed those of us who are pro-life are very concerned about the human rights of all individuals involved, including the one dead after the abortion. If you consider abortion a horror, I would hope you would be, too. It's not just a question that should be hand-waved away.


And so we wrap up.

But I am called to vote in this, our democracy, and I am called, as an American and a Christian, to put thought and commitment into that vote.

Again, I believe the Democratic Party is the party that is most likely to help Americans make a transition away from the abortion crisis that we face today. Its values and its programs --- on a whole variety of issues --- most clearly reflect my values. Hillary Clinton is the candidate whom I most admire.

The Democrats brought us here, and somehow Anne Rice thinks they're the ones to deliver us from it, too. She thinks a voter should consider their commitment to Christ in their vote, but backs a party that, in general, won't. She values charitable giving, won't support a party who's members give more, and yet supports a party that uses force to collect and inefficiently distribute "charity" money. She believes abortion is a "horror", but supports its continued legalization, and believes that a party that brought us that horror and has huge conflicts of interest regarding solving it will, in fact, solve it.
I repeat: I am a Christian; I am a Democrat. I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

I'd respectfully suggest that Ms. Rice, and any Christian considering voting for a Democrat and for whom these issues matter, reconsider.

Posted by Doug at 09:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 23, 2007

Christians & Political Parties: A Response to Anne Rice, Part 1

This is one of my longer posts, possibly the longest I've done on the blog. What happened was, I was reading an open letter from a Christian planning on voting a particular way, and as I read further and further into it, one objection after another kept coming to my mind, and one problem after another regarding the writer's reasons kept getting in the way. Finally, I realized I'd have to just set aside some of my typical day-to-day blogging of the link-and-quick-comment type, and go in-depth into the problems I see with the author, and Christians in general, who vote Democratic for specifically Christian reasons, and especially regarding the social issues brought up in the letter. Pull up a cup of coffee and sit back.

Anne Rice is a Catholic author. I'll admit to not being too well-read, but as a Protestant my knowledge of Catholic authors is even more limited. Therefore, I'm not sure how much Ms. Rice's views are mainstream Catholic, although whether or not they are really isn't the crux of this post. I do want to discuss the views she espouses, and espouses quite well as an author. That she is a Catholic and I am a Protestant has really no bearing on my criticism of her recent public letter dated August 10. I know Protestants who would agree with her on these issues, so this is not a denominational thing. She professes Christianity, as do I, and we have very similar goals, as far as I can tell, on the topics she discusses, and yet we're voting differently. Ms. Rice wrote a lengthy letter to her readers on her main web site (no permalink so don't know how long it'll stay on the front page) about why she is endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. They reasons she lists for that endorsement, to me, run completely counter to her list of important issues and goals. If she is truly concerned about those goals, I don't follow her endorsement, nor the endorsement of other of my friends and acquaintances of any Democrat in the current group. I want to address the inconsistencies I see in this post.

Ms. Rice starts out with her Christian and Catholic creds, which I respect and am willing to accept. She talks about how, while the separation of church and state is a good idea, the voter does not have that prohibition, and in fact must consider their vote based on their religion.

Conscience requires the Christian to vote as a Christian. Commitment to Christ is by its very nature absolute.

I agree wholeheartedly. But, she also correctly notes, we have only 2 political parties in this country. (She believes, as do I, that a vote for neither Democrat or Republican, whether it's a non-vote or a vote for a 3rd party, is essentially a vote for one of the two major ones, no matter how you slice it.) In short:
To summarize, I believe in voting, I believe in voting for one of the two major parties, and I believe my vote must reflect my Christian beliefs.

Bearing all this in mind, I want to say quietly that as of this date, I am a Democrat, and that I support Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

And that last clause is where the disagreement begins.

Charitable Giving

The first paragraph of explanation deals with giving.

Though I deeply respect those who disagree with me, I believe, for a variety of reasons, that the Democratic Party best reflects the values I hold based on the Gospels. Those values are most intensely expressed for me in the Gospel of Matthew, but they are expressed in all the gospels. Those values involve feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, and above all, loving ones neighbors and loving ones enemies. A great deal more could be said on this subject, but I feel that this is enough.

First of all, neither the religious right nor the religious left have a lock on charitable giving. At the same time, as was noted on this post regarding a study by Arthur Brooks, conservatives outgive liberals by quite a significant amount. How does this relate to how the political parties differ in their view of the government's role in this? Ms. Rice, I believe, falls into a trap by simplistically equating the advocacy of government charity with Jesus' admonition to the individual to be charitable. Democrats say the government should give more, so by her reckoning thy are more in line with her Christian view. However, it has always made me wonder how when Jesus tells me, personally, to be charitable, that somehow this means that I should also use the government to force my neighbor, under penalty of jail, to be "charitable". I put "charitable" in quotes because when there's force involved, there's no real act of charity. How Democrat Christians get from point A to point Z on this boggles my mind. Another statistic from Brooks' study brings this point home; People who believe the government does not have a basic responsibility to take care of the people who can't take care of themselves are 27 percent more likely to give to charity.

On top of this, the bureaucratic inefficiency filter that we're all forced to funnel our "charitable" taxes through siphons money away from the needy, as does the massive fraud that goes on in a big government program that has little accountability.

Conservatives believe that forcibly taking money isn't charity, and that it is not government's role to rob from Peter to pay Paul, and that the way the government handles this creates dependency and causes further problems, like giving fathers a disincentive to stick around. Because of this, conservatives give more of their own money to local charities where the administrative costs are much lower. The Republican party, the current home of most conservative political ideas in this country, purports to support these goals, and while they don't always follow those principles, they have done better at this than Democrats. An expanded role of government in the area of giving to the poor is not the best way for that to happen, and as a Christian I believe it's not moral to force others to give when they don't want to. Again, Jesus asks me to give; He didn't ask me to force others to.

Ms. Rice, in ticking off a laundry list of values, seems to be falling for the framing of the issue that Democrats have put forth; welfare = caring. There are other ways to care, which can have much better results.

Part 2 tomorrow.

Posted by Doug at 01:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 22, 2007

Inspiring Speeches: Washington, Bush, Colson and Cuomo

I love soaring, poetic speeches, and I particularly appreciate beautifully written short speeches that inspire. I blogged on inspiring short speeches in November 2004

I’m thinking today of great speeches I’ve witnessed in person.

The Enduring Revolution

First, a speech by Charles Colson on September 2, 1993 after he was awarded the $1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, which he donated to the ministry of Prison Fellowship. Now defunct Moody magazine described (Nov. 8, 1993) the setting:

“Prison Fellowship chairman Charles Colson faced a situation that mirrors what the church as a whole faces. People of several faiths, many of whom were attending the Parliament of the World's Religions, gathered at Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago to hear an address on religious liberty. What do evangelicals have to say in a pluralistic setting? How do we talk about the cultural role of religion with those who worship other gods? As the winner of the 1993 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, Mr. Colson had earned the right to stand on the platform. The speech, titled The Enduring Revolution, is what he said when he got there."

An excerpt:

We stand at a pivotal moment in history, when nations around the world are looking westward. In the past five years, the balance of world power shifted dramatically. Suddenly, remarkably, almost inexplicably, one of history's most sustained assaults on freedom collapsed before our eyes.

The world was changed, not through the militant dialectic of communism, but through the power of unarmed truth. It found revolution in the highest hopes of common men. Love of liberty steeled under the weight of tyranny; the path of the future was charted in prison cells.

This revolution's symbolic moment was May Day 1990. Protesters followed the tanks, missiles, and troops rumbling across Red Square. One, a bearded Orthodox monk, darted under the reviewing stand where Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders stood. He thrust a huge crucifix into the air, shouting above the crowd, "Mikhail Sergeyevich! Christ is risen!"

Gorbachev turned and walked off the platform.

Across a continent the signal went. In defiant hope a spell was broken. The lies of decades were exposed. Fear and terror fled. And millions awoke as from a long nightmare.

Their waking dream is a world revolution. Almost overnight the western model of economic, political, and social liberty has captured the imagination of reformers and given hope to the oppressed. We saw it at Tiananmen Square, where a replica of the Statue of Liberty, an icon of western freedom, became a symbol of Chinese hope. We saw it in Czechoslovakia when a worker stood before a desolate factory and read to a crowd, with tears in his eyes, the American Declaration of Independence.

This is one of history's defining moments. The faults of the West are evident -- but equally evident are the extraordinary gifts it has to offer the world. The gift of markets that increase living standards and choices. The gift of political institutions where power flows from the consent of the governed, not the barrel of a gun. The gift of social beliefs that encourage tolerance and individual autonomy.

Free markets. Free governments. Free minds.

Read the full speech, especially the masterful description of the Four Horsemen of the Modern Apocalypse.

A personal note: Jonathan Aitken related in his biography Charles Colson: A Life Redeemed, how I—as Colson’s executive assistant—employed some harmless yet somewhat Colsonian means to fill the Rockefeller Chapel for Chuck’s speech.

The Second Inaugural

The second speech on today’s list is George W. Bush’s 2nd Inaugural Address. My wife and I were on the Capitol lawn, close enough to be part of the event and see the participants, but honestly not close enough to see facial expressions, except on the big screen.

It was, I believe, every bit as masterful and soaring as Kennedy’s famous inaugural. Once people are done hating Bush, his second inaugural will be listed as one of the greatest presidential inaugurals in American history:


We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

Notice how Bush tapped Lincoln’s second inaugural for some language.

(Other than the fact that I heard both of these speeches in person, what do these two speeches have in common? This answer to this question is at the end of the post.)

Now for some speeches I didn't see in person:


There’s been a lot of talk about the strength of John Edwards' Two Americas speech (regardless of what you think of encouraging class warfare) But notice how he tapped what many see as one of the finest political speeches of our era, Mario Cuomo’s Two Cities speech at the 1984 Democratic convention.


Ten days ago, President Reagan admitted that although some people in this country seemed to be doing well nowadays, others were unhappy, even worried, about themselves, their families, and their futures. The President said that he didn't understand that fear. He said, "Why, this country is a shining city on a hill." And the President is right. In many ways we are a shining city on a hill. But the hard truth is that not everyone is sharing in this city's splendor and glory. A shining city is perhaps all the President sees from the portico of the White House and the veranda of his ranch, where everyone seems to be doing well. But there's another city; there's another part to the shining the city; the part where some people can't pay their mortgages, and most young people can't afford one; where students can't afford the education they need, and middle-class parents watch the dreams they hold for their children evaporate. In this part of the city there are more poor than ever, more families in trouble, more and more people who need help but can't find it. Even worse: There are elderly people who tremble in the basements of the houses there. And there are people who sleep in the city streets, in the gutter, where the glitter doesn't show. There are ghettos where thousands of young people, without a job or an education, give their lives away to drug dealers every day. There is despair, Mr. President, in the faces that you don't see, in the places that you don't visit in your shining city.

In fact, Mr. President, this is a nation -- Mr. President you ought to know that this nation is more a "Tale of Two Cities" than it is just a "Shining City on a Hill."

The Most Important Forgotten Words of George Washington

The first George W. saved a young nation with the power of his words and his presence prior to the signing of the peace treaty of 1783. Restless American troops, unhappy with Congress, were scheming a military coup. Washington heard the rumors and surprised a room full of gathered officers, striding to the front of the room and speaking to them. The speech was evidently unremarkable, but what happened next was not:

Following his address Washington studied the faces of his audience. He could see that they were still confused, uncertain, not quite appreciating or comprehending what he had tried to impart in his speech. With a sigh, he removed from his pocket a letter and announced it was from a member of Congress, and that he now wished to read it to them. He produced the letter, gazed upon it, manipulated it without speaking. What was wrong, some of the men wondered. Why did he delay? Washington now reached into a pocket and brought out a pair of new reading glasses. Only those nearest to him knew he lately required them, and he had never worn them in public. Then he spoke: "Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country." This simple act and statement by their venerated commander, coupled with remembrances of battles and privations shared together with him, and their sense of shame at their present approach to the threshold of treason, was more effective than the most eloquent oratory. As he read the letter to their unlistening ears, many were in tears from the recollections and emotions which flooded their memories. As Maj. Samuel Shaw, who was present, put it in his journal, " There was something so natural, so unaffected in this appeal as rendered it superior to the most studied oratory. It forced its way to the heart, and you might see sensibility moisten every eye."

Finishing, Washington carefully and deliberately folded the letter, took off his glasses, and exited briskly from the hall. Immediately, Knox and others faithful to Washington offered resolutions affirming their appreciation for their commander in chief, and pledging their patriotism and loyalty to the Congress, deploring and regretting those threats and actions which had been uttered and suggested. What support Gates and his group may have enjoyed at the outset of the meeting now completely disintegrated, and the Newburgh conspiracy collapsed.

American Rhetoric has its ranking of the Top 100 American speeches

Answer to the earlier question about Colson’s Templeton Address and Bush’s Second Inaugural: Both speeches were drafted by speechwriter Michael Gerson, who began his career as a writer for Colson immediately following his graduation from Wheaton College, and went on to write for the president. Any question about who wrote much of the tremendous, spiritually rich prose for Bush will be put to rest if you read The Enduring Revolution.

Posted by Jim at 11:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Early Michigan Primary Should Help Romney

I would think the Romney camp would celebrate the news that Michigan is trying to move its primary to January. With a good chance of winning in Iowa and New Hampshire, favorite-son Romney could sweep the first three with an early Michigan primary.

Posted by Jim at 04:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Use the Vick Dogfighting Case to Prompt the End of the Blood Sport in America

I can't think of much of anything more disgusting than organized dogfighting, except for humans being forced to kill or be killed as gladiators (or in modern day, as child soldiers).

I'm not a big animal rights guy, but senseless cruelty to animals is despicable and often a precursor to further violence.

So it's hard to feel a lot of compassion for multimillionaire Michael Vick who has squandered his career and reputation for a cruel blood sport. Even as an Atlantan, I've never been much of a Vick fan anyway. He has never demonstrated either class or character, even before the dogfighting debacle.

However, I've seen a lot of coverage that singles Vick out as a rare perpetrator of a weird and vicious crime. Unfortunately, as this article explains, dogfighting is widespread and as deeply rooted historically as it is troubling and nauseating.

The best outcome of this case would be a fresh focus on dogfighting and real enforcement of the laws against it. I'm not much on prison time for something like this, by the way. I'd like to see a more creative sanction for Vick, perhaps scooping dog poop at the pound for a year or two.

Posted by Jim at 08:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 20, 2007

A Review of Arctic Tale

Here's a review of the new film Arctic Tale by Rusty Pritchard, who I work with on creation care issues. He makes it clear in his review that this kid-friendly film is not an environmentalist screed, and that:

this is a documentary without the usual constant droning about the "work of evolution" (as though such inspiring ecologies could arise by accident). At the start of the film is a comment about the way these creatures are "designed" for their habitat, but the film doesn't make a big deal about that either.

If you have kids whose appreciation for Creation has not been diluted yet, you'll probably want the DVD when it comes out. But see it in the theater to fully appreciate the grandeur of the icy handiwork of God.

Posted by Jim at 02:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Artificial Life

And not the robotic kind.

Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they're getting closer.

Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of "wet artificial life."

"It's going to be a big deal and everybody's going to know about it," said Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy, one of those in the race. "We're talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways—in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict."

What's interesting to me is how they plan to solve some problems.
One of the leaders in the field, Jack Szostak at Harvard Medical School, predicts that within the next six months, scientists will report evidence that the first step—creating a cell membrane—is "not a big problem." Scientists are using fatty acids in that effort.

Szostak is also optimistic about the next step—getting nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, to form a working genetic system.

His idea is that once the container is made, if scientists add nucleotides in the right proportions, then Darwinian evolution could simply take over.

"We aren't smart enough to design things, we just let evolution do the hard work and then we figure out what happened," Szostak said.

This will be an interesting test of the evolution theory, but we're years away from that.

Posted by Doug at 12:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2007

A Republican Woman for Vice President 2008

The two Democratic frontrunners for President and the four Republican frontrunners all have traits or histories that would have made them untenable in elections past: A former first lady, a Kenyan-American novice, a thrice married mayor, a Mormon, a septuagenarian, and a playboy actor. If Huckabee continues to ascend--a candidate for The Biggest Loser. Interesting times.

On the Republican side, there is one thing we know the candidate will be: a white male. From the standpoint of governing, the Republican running mate needs to be the best qualified public servant available. Of course, politics comes before governing—you have to get elected to have a chance to govern. So it is possible if not likely that the Republicans will need to balance their ticket to compete against a Dem ticket that is likely to be Hillary, or perhaps even Hillary and Obama.

Regional balance is one thing, and as I’ve said before, I’d love to see Rudy or Mitt select Mike Huckabee as VP. I like Huckabee very much, and the northeasterns need a southerner.

But do the Republicans need a woman, a black, or a black woman to balance Hillbama? If there was a clear selection among Republican women, “yes” would be an easy answer.

The first name on many tongues is Condoleezza Rice; first for president, which she apparently is not interested in; and now for VP, in which she probably is less interested

So where do the Republicans turn? Here are three possibilities:

Elizabeth Dole

Kay Bailey Hutchinson. Also here.

Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska. And here.

What women would you recommend as a Republican vice presidential candidate?

Posted by Jim at 10:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Huckabee's Moment?

Mike Huckabee's second place finish in the Iowa straw poll has given him a boost in both the polls and the media. But can Huckabee build on this momentum to move himself into the GOP's top tier? National Review's Jim Geraghty thinks there is a chance he could:

Suppose you’re an undecided Republican voter, with mixed feelings about the big-name Republican presidential candidates. You respect John McCain, but he doesn’t look like a viable option — which is just as well since he bugged you with his crusade for speech-limiting campaign finance reform, and lost you with the immigration deal with Ted Kennedy.

Mitt Romney’s wowed you in the debates, but you can’t forget that while you agree with all his positions, he had strikingly different ones not too long ago. And you would prefer a nominee who has won more than just one political race in his life.

You love Rudy Giuliani’s crime-fighting record and 9/11 leadership, but the thought of a non-pro-life Republican nominee gives you pause, and the messy home life troubles you a bit.

You were very excited about Fred Thompson, and nearly fainted with anticipation when you saw his smackdown of Michael Moore. But lately you feel like you’re playing a character in Waiting for Godot, and you’re wondering if he got lost somewhere on the way to the announcement.

Those still shopping for a candidate could do a lot worse than former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who with the second-place finish in Ames is not merely now a “top tier” candidate, as Newt Gingrich recently declared, but arguably belongs in the middle of that first tier.

Huckabee has several things going for him. He's a successful former governor (Arkansas). He's striking the right tone in his responses to quetions on foreign policy. He has solid conservative issues that will give him appeal beyond the Republican base. He's also got a great sense of humor that has served him well in the debates.

His biggest negative has been that up until now he's been in the second tier among GOP candidates. But with the increased media attention after his strong showing in Iowa more voters may begin paying attention to him. That could dramatically change the face of a race that was already starting to narrow down to two or three candidates.

Posted by Tom at 05:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Democrats Failing on the Religion Front; Candidates Trying God Talk

White House hopeful Joe Biden said that Democrats lost the last two presidential elections in part because they let themselves be portrayed as anti-God, FoxNews reports.

"Democrats have been too afraid to talk about faith, Biden said at a Rotary Club luncheon. But what voters really want to know is whether a president believes in something bigger than themselves and whether he or she respects the faith of others," he said.

This was discussed on Hardball by Chris Matthews and Time magazine's Michael Duffy.

MATTHEWS: Joe Biden, who tends to be very honest, whatever you think of him as the next president, although I think he‘s a fine guy, he very clearly said the other day, yesterday, that the people like Al Gore and John Kerry, the last two Democratic candidate for president, said—created an image that they were somehow—we‘re looking at it right now—that if they were—as he put it, when they‘re sitting next to the pew, that maybe he really doesn‘t respect your view.

In other words, they are not really religious people. They don‘t share your evangelical views and your deeply religious views. They are too secular.

DUFFY: Yes. Well, I think, for the last 25 years, Democrats have done everything they can to alienate religious voters, faith-minded voters. And the...


MATTHEWS: Not a smart move politically.

DUFFY: Oh, no. And it seemed to be part of the program. They did it to woo a secular left that they thought didn‘t want to have anything to do with that.

MATTHEWS: Was turned off by the religious people, yeah.

DUFFY: Starting with Jimmy Carter and...


MATTHEWS: I hear it.


MATTHEWS: I have heard it years of...

DUFFY: Right. Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... people making fun of Jimmy—or Jerry Falwell and people like that. But you knew it was a broader brush than that.

DUFFY: Of course.

MATTHEWS: They were really making fun of the people in the churches, in the tents, in the mega-churches.

DUFFY: Right. It was a really stupid thing to do. And they have begun to realize that.

An important distinction is between political efforts to be seen as responsive to God's leading and respectful to people of genuine faith, and actually having those attributes. In this year's presidential debates and discussions, you can tell the candidates who have actively sought a relationship with God and those who have had a conversion--not on the way to Damascus, but on the way to Des Moines (as one candidate quipped).

Among those I've heard, Huckabee, Brownback, Romney and Obama (and maybe Edwards) are the only candidates who seem comfortable discussing spiritual matters. Great awkwardness from most other frontrunners: Clinton, Guiliani, Thompson, McCain.

Posted by Jim at 01:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 15, 2007

Al-Qaida Is in Iraq

Christopher Hitchens is no fan of religious folks, and enjoys the infighting he sees among religions. However, there is one argument at least that he finds even lower than those.

Arcane as these disputes may seem, and much as I relish seeing the faithful fight among themselves, the believers are models of lucidity when compared to the hair-splitting secularists who cannot accept that al-Qaida in Mesopotamia is a branch of al-Qaida itself.

Hitchens takes apart the arguments that are used by folks to try to convince themselves that Iraq isn't really a front in the war on terror. A short but meaty read. He closes by putting it all in context.
We can not only deny the clones of Bin Ladenism a military victory in Iraq, we can also discredit them in the process and in the eyes (and with the help) of a Muslim people who have seen them up close. We can do this, moreover, in a keystone state of the Arab world that guards a chokepoint—the Gulf—in the global economy. As with the case of Afghanistan—where several provinces are currently on a knife-edge between an elected government that at least tries for schools and vaccinations, and the forces of uttermost darkness that seek to negate such things—the struggle will take all our nerve and all our intelligence. But who can argue that it is not the same battle in both cases, and who dares to say that it is not worth fighting?

Isn't that sort of idea, and indeed reality, worth fighting for?

Posted by Doug at 02:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 14, 2007

Eyes Wide Open at Venezuela

In Mark Weisbrot's article, "Eyes Wide Shut: The International Media Looks at Venezuela" at the Huffington Post yesterday, Mr. Weisbrot just glosses over the importance of some of the actions of Hugo Chavez in the recent RCTV controversy. According to Mark, it's no big deal, really.

Most consumers of the international media will be surprised to find that the controversy over Venezuela's oldest TV station, RCTV, is still raging. We were repeatedly informed that President Hugo Chávez "shut down" the station on May 27th. But in fact the station was never "shut down" - since there is no censorship in Venezuela. Rather, the Venezuelan government decided not to renew the broadcast license that granted RCTV a monopoly over a section of the publicly-owned frequencies.

This is a big distinction, although the U.S. and international press blurred it considerably. Jose Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, noted last month that the "Venezuelan government is empowered to do what it did (non-renewal of the license)" and cited Brazilian President Lula Da Silva's statement that not renewing RCTV's broadcast license was as democratic an act as granting it. Insulza added that "democracy is very much in force in Venezuela."

See, it's legal for Chavez to do it, so nothing to see here, move along. All you thousands of Venezuelans who protested the closure, er, non-renewing action, you just don't know what's really going on in your own country.

The fact that it's legal doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. The fact that the Venezuelan government has survived lo these many decades with RCTV often being a thorn in the side shows just how out of the ordinary this action was. And to blame whatever perceived misunderstanding there might be on the international press blurs the fact that Venezuelans themselves were outraged at this. Some polls put the number of those against this as high as 70%. Who's eyes are "wide shut", exactly?

Agreed, RCTV has behaved rather poorly in the past, as Mark notes.

RCTV's owner, Marcel Granier, is an opposition leader who seeks to de-legitimize the Venezuelan government. He has had some success in this effort, most importantly in April 2002 when his station faked film footage to make it look like pro-Chávez gunmen were shooting down demonstrators on the streets of Caracas. This and other manipulations by the Venezuelan media helped provoke a military coup against the elected government. This is one of several reasons that the government of Venezuela declined to renew RCTV's broadcast license.

Wrong, even from a "free speech" point of view. That still doesn't mean that what Chavez did is right. Chavez took action against a media outlet for political reasons, and that brings the stakes up even higher regarding the politicizing of the media. A more appropriate action would be to bring Granier up on charges, not attempt to turn off the station.

And Mr. Weisbrot is completely failing to place the RCTV controversy in the context of further restrictions on free speech made by Chavez. Foreigners are not allowed to speak ill of him and his policies while in-country. Weisbrot says:

Granier is betting that the international media and other U.S.-dominated institutions will also frame his current battle as a "free speech" issue, rather than a legal dispute over whether his station is a national channel and hence subject to the same regulations as other Venezuelan cable stations. This is a good bet.

But regardless of the other reasons the Venezuelan government would use to attempt a shutdown, there is a free speech issue at stake. Perhaps not with the RCTV situation taken individually, because there's a lot more going on than just free speech, but it is an element of that and many other actions that the Congressinally-uninhibited Chavez has been taking recently. All of it must be looked at, but Mr. Weisbrot doesn't look that far.
So Venezuelans know that there is no "free speech" problem in their country. While there are problems with the rule of law, including street crime - as throughout most of the region - Venezuelans have not suffered a loss of civil liberties under the Chávez government, as we have for example in the United States since 2001. That is one reason why Hugo Chávez was re-elected in December by the largest margin of the 12 most recent Latin American presidential elections, despite facing an opposition-dominated media. Democracy is indeed "very much in force in Venezuela."

Does any of this sound like the Liberal descriptions of the Soviet Union back in the 60s? "They have it better than we do." "There's is a more fair government." Back then, eyes were wide shut, too.

Posted by Doug at 01:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Michael Gerson is Not Only a Great Writer But a Man of Character

I former Bush chief speech writer Michael Gerson welll. He was on my staff (I was the chairman's chief of staff at Prison Fellowship when we hired Gerson out of Wheaton to write for Chuck Colson), and his exquisite writing skill is surpassed only by his intellect, strength of moral character, and devotion to God.

I don't believe any of Matthew Scully's complaints about Gerson; perhaps he wanted the Washington Post job Gerson got.

Reading this I remember how Colson would explain that when you work in the White House you're very careful to move along the hallways with your back to the wall--so your apparent friends and political allies don't stab you in the back.

Mike has figured out that the back stabbing can continue after you leave the White House.

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August 13, 2007

Are Hispanics the New Republicans?

Democrats hold an edge with Hispanics in national elections, but Latinos' growing tendency to register as independents and split their vote between parties is buoying Republican prospects for 2008, according to Fox News.

This is a nightmare for Democrats, but it is likely that Hispanics will move toward conservatism as they grow older, own property, and raise children. So if the Republicans don’t alienate the entire demographic group with careless rhetoric in the immigration debate, they will benefit. Don’t forget that the strongest foe of illegal immigration is a legal immigrant, so those trying to control the influx of illegals won’t lose Hispanic immigrants if they aren’t abusive and vindictive.

I'm finishing The Right Nation, by two Brits, John Micklethwait and Adrian Woodridge (2004). This related paragraph:

"[Republican optimists say] that Latinos are worthy strivers--hard working, God-fearing, family-oriented and upwardly mobile. They have the highest male workforce participation rate of any measured group--and one of the lowest incidences of trade union membership and welfare dependency (only 17 percent of immigrant Latinos in poverty collect welfare and 65 percent of poor blacks). Latinos are arguably the most family-oriented ethnic group in American society. They also have a marked propensity to start their own businesses and buy their own homes--both incubators of Republicanism."

Could be a good trend for Republicans...

Or Republicans could be dead right on all aspects of the illegal immigrant debate, and perhaps even win on many fronts--and end up giving the Democrats a New Deal type lock on an entire segment of the population, and being out of power for the next couple of generations.

Something to think about.

Posted by Jim at 08:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Can Guiliani Find Middle Ground in Abortion Debate?

The Brody File has CBN video of Rudy Guiliani at an Iowa diner waxing on his NYC program to increase adoptions, and postulating that advancing adoption is fertile middle ground for abortion opponents and abortion proponents. As a father of two adopted children, I’m a fan of adoption, and I think it should be advanced, promoted and make a priority for people of all political stripes. Can a president advance adoption, beyond the bully pulpit? On the other hand, can a president stop abortions, beyond Supreme Court appointments?

I’m not sure there is middle ground in the abortion debate. Do enough Republicans think there is to give Guiliani a foothold here?

Posted by Jim at 09:44 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 11, 2007

Actions Are Better Than Offsets

In the category Walk the Talk, or Actions are Bettter than Offsets, or Politicians Make Bad Crusaders, or as Snopes titles it: Glass Houses (h/t: Dad Payton). Also here.

Al Gore's Nashville House.jpg

House #1 A 20 room mansion ( not including 8 bathrooms ) heated by
natural gas. Add on a pool ( and a pool house) and a separate guest
house, all heated by gas. In one month this residence consumes more
energy than the average American household does in a year. The
average bill for electricity and natural gas runs over $2400. In
natural gas alone, this property consumes more than 20 times the
national average for an American home. This house is not situated
in a Northern or Midwester n 'snow belt' area. It's in the South.

Bush Crawford Home.bmp

House #2 Designed by an architecture professor at a
leading national university. This house incorporates every
'green' feature current home construction can provide. The house is
4,000 square feet ( 4 bedrooms ) and is nestled on a high prairie in the American southwest. A central closet in the house holds geothermal heat-pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground. The water (usually 67 degrees F. ) heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. The system uses no fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas and it consumes one-quarter electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Surrounding flowers and shrubs native to the area enable the property to blend into the surrounding rural landscape.

Now the interesting payoff:

House #1 (20 room energy guzzling mansion) is outside of Nashville, Tennessee is the abode of that renowned environmentalist (and filmmaker) Al Gore. House #2 (model eco-friendly house) is on a ranch near Crawford, Texas. Also known as "the Texas White House," it is the private residence of the President of the United States, George W. Bush.

The lesson: clean up your act before becoming a international spokesman for a cause to avoid the appearance of hyprocisy. Also: simplify, then buy offsets (and don't talk about it).

Posted by Jim at 09:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 09, 2007

Washington Post Understates Evangelical Movement on Climate

An article titled "Warming Draws Evangelicals Into Environmental Fold" by Juliet Eilperin in the Aug. 8 Washington Post is a welcome look at Rev. Joel Hunter and his role in the growing consensus among evangelicals that Christian faithfulness must include responsible stewardship and protection of God's creation. But Eilperin's effort to tell a compelling story and to outline evangelical creation care quickly, leaves the impression that Rev. Hunter is walking this road alone, and that he's followig only British religious leaders.

In fact, Hunter became involved in climate policy as a signatory of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, a group of now 106 senior evangelical leaders who as a result of their commitment to Jesus Christ are calling for sound climate policy that will express a concern for the health and well being of our families today and for many generations. Here is the ECI statement that has captured this sentiment and was signed by 106 leaders.

(The public relations firm I head, Rooftop MediaWorks, is a partner with the Evangelical Climate Initiative and has handled the group's communications campaign.)

I regret that the article did not mention that the signatories of the ECI included perhaps the best known evangelical pastor in America, Rick Warren (Saddleback), as well as megachurch pastor Bill Hybels (Willowcreek), the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Leith Anderson, the presidents of many Christian colleges and evangelical relief and development organizations, and several denominational leaders (here is a complete list of ECI Signatories).

Because the article is anecdotal, I've already seen blog responses that call this an indication of thin evangelical support for Christian action on climate and creation care. That impression is wrong. A national Ellison Research poll of evangelicals to be released next month (the top line results of which were part of a testimony by Jim Ball, president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, before the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee in June), showed that 70% of the evangelical population believes global warming will pose a serious threat to future generations, and 64% believe action should be taken immediately to curb global warming.

The Washington Post's coverage of evangelical movement on environmental issues may reveal its sympathy for the cause. But the Juliet Eilperin article actually understated the extent and momentum of evangelical action on climate and creation care. Today, evangelical leaders and the community are embracing biblically based creation care without abandoning their worldview and speaking on environmental issues with a unique evangelical voice.

Posted by Jim at 12:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Helpful News: Sunni Fighters Seeking Alliances with U.S. Troops

Another news report--in the Washington Post-- with good news from Iraq, where Sunni fighters are recognizing the self interest in cooperating with U.S. troops and working toward influence in the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government.

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A Tale of Two Texts

Glenn McCoy says it all with one picture from August 2nd.

Posted by Doug at 08:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 08, 2007

A Summertime Iraq Bombshell from Brookings

I spent the last two weeks vacationing in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York and on the Ohio shore of Lake Erie, doing all I could to keep my body in the sand, my face in a book, and my mind away from the worries of the workaday world.

So I'm just catching up with some of the news, and amazed by the source and content of the New York Times op-ed piece "A War We Just Might Win" on July 30 by Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack of Brookings Institution.

(Much of my professional history was working with Prison Fellowship chairman Chuck Colson, who was accused by other Watergate defendants of conspiring or considering the bombing of Brookings Instition as a solution to its criticism of Nixon--or something like that. Colson is famous for quips that get him in trouble. I'm sure the Brookings comments was one of these. Today, I'm sure he's pleased by the report from Brookings).

The O'Hanlon and Pollack report is wonderful news, and it has great credibility because it comes from a think tank that leans left and from writers who have been critical of the war effort.

It would be fabulous for America and the world if they are right, and if the positive military news in Iraq continues. It is inconvenient for politicians and presidential candidates who have based their campaigns on bad war news and the call for withdrawal.

For me, the potential that the good news in Iraq could be enduring is far more important then the political embarassment for the (mostly) Democrats who are relying on failure in the Middle East.

Almost worth returning from vacation to see this good report. Almost.

Posted by Jim at 08:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Live By the Polls, Die By the Polls

Many on the Left try to disparage any action Bush has taken by citing his poll numbers, especially regarding the war in Iraq. If the public doesn't like it, it shouldn't be done, or so goes the argument. Well, as I've said here many times before, I hate polls, but if you want to live by them, are you willing to die by them? Whatever you said about Bush when his poll numbers were dropping, is the opposite true now that they're rising?

We're seeing some slight hints of positive news for the Bush administration. For one thing, Bush's job approval rating has stopped its downward trajectory. Bush hit bottom with his administration low point of 29% in early July (based on our USA Today/Gallup poll readings). Now - in the data just about to be released from our weekend poll - Bush's approval rating has recovered slightly to 34%. That's not a big jump, but it is the second consecutive poll in which the president's numbers have been higher rather than lower.

Is the war a better idea now because the "surge" numbers are going up? (Emphasis mine, for a point to be made later.)
Also, we are seeing a slight uptick in the percentage of Americans who say the "surge" in Iraq is working. That may not be a total surprise given the general tone of news out of Iraq recently, including the positive light on the situation put forth by Michael E. O'Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack in their widely-discussed New York Times op-ed piece "A War We Just Might Win" on July 30. But it represents a change.

Indeed, the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll itself found a slight increase in the percent of Americans saying that the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action in Iraq, and were so uncertain about it that they redid the survey. And found the same results.

While public opinion can be important with regards to a war, the very transient nature of it shows that it's not a good idea to lean too heavily on it regarding public policy.

The role of the media should not be discounted, either. Most of the media folks are down on the war, and the stories they cover and how they cover them mirrors much of that. And, as emphasized above, those reports and opinion pieces shape the way people think about the war and other topics, so when the media ignore all the good stories coming out of Iraq and then trumpet poll results as bolstering their view, it is very disingenuous. They know full well how their actions game the numbers. A single opinion piece by liberals who finally decided to see for themselves what was going on was a big factor, Gallup says, in bringing the numbers up. This says to me that if the public knew all the good things happening in Iraq -- if they got the fair and balanced full story -- the poll numbers would be quite different.

I say again, I hate polls. My opinion on whether we should have gone to war in Iraq is not based on the feel-good (or feel-bad) story of the week, or how well the war is going today. But for enough folks, it does matter, and thus polls are the worst kind of "news" story. However, I am more than happy to hold those who do hold polls in high regard to their own standards.

Posted by Doug at 01:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

China's Economic Threat

This is another reason why the US government shouldn't be spending borrowed money to finance extra-constitutional spending.

The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.

Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning - for the first time - that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress.

Shifts in Chinese policy are often announced through key think tanks and academies.

Described as China's "nuclear option" in the state media, such action could trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is already breaking down through historic support levels.

It would also cause a spike in US bond yields, hammering the US housing market and perhaps tipping the economy into recession. It is estimated that China holds over $900bn in a mix of US bonds.

When the federal government is asked to do things the Constitution doesn't tell it to do, and when more and more money flows through it, and with that more and more power, it's hard to stop spending. And with that comes borrowing. And with that comes slavery. The same thing could happen even if spending were kept in the context of the Constitution, but once you escape its limits, there is then no limit.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. - Proverbs 22:7 (NIV)

Posted by Doug at 12:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 07, 2007

Media Hall of Shame

What do Dan Rather, Eason Jordan, Gavyn Davies, Howell Raines and now Thomas Beauchamp all have in common? They're all in John Wixted's Liberal Media Hall of Shame for ruining their own careers because of lies told to promote a liberal agenda. Wixted notes that this appears to be very one-sided.

Career-ending journalistic insanity -- mostly attributable to the war in Iraq -- appears to be almost exclusively a phenomenon of the left. If you know of some prominent counterexamples, though, please set me straight.

This is why diversity of opinion within journalism is required, rather than the incredibly left-leaning crowd we currently have. As fair and balanced as they might believe they are, whenever we have scandal like this, it always seems to be coming from one side.

Wixted does try, though, to scrounge up at least one example from the right.

By way of comparison, who are the conservative reporters who are torpedoing their own careers by fabricating stories about Clinton or Reid or Pelosi? I can't really think of any. The only conservative reporter who comes to mind is an extremely minor one by the name of Jeff Gannon whose "offense" was to ask a softball question of Bush during a press conference. If liberal reporters were similarly slimed for asking questions of an opposite nature (i.e., questions designed to make Bush look bad), we would not have a White House Press corps.

But somehow the Left in this country can't see past their own partisanship, and instead whine about Fox News and the Washington Times.

Pot, meet kettle. Kettle, this is pot.

Update: Link fixed.

Posted by Doug at 01:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam!

When too many spam comments come in too fast, our blogging software shuts down all comments to try to keep from being overloaded in processing it. It then has to be manually turn back on, once one of us checks. This usually only happens once every 6-8 months typically.

This past week has been utterly untypical for spam. I've had to reset the block flag 4 times since last Friday. So please, if you've tried to comment and you were told you couldn't, it's nothing personal.

I just now turn comments back on again. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Posted by Doug at 09:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More on Olympian Pressure on China

More, in the Washington Post, on efforts to pressure China as the Beijing Olympics create a world stage.

Posted by Jim at 07:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 06, 2007

Calling for an Evangelical Voice at the Beijing Olympics

The Beijing Olympics may provide a prime target for protest for evangelical Christians, according to the International Herald Tribune. Three issues should be high on the Christian grievance agenda when athletes gather in a revitalized and polished Beijing in 2008.

--China must end its state sponsored persecution of Christian and grant total religious liberty if it is to be respected member of the international community.

--China should use its oil-buying leverage to pressure Sudan to end its sponsoring of bloodshed in Darfur.

--China must restrict its emission of CO2, which is contributing to global warming. China is now the leader CO2 polluter (the U.S. is 2nd).

Posted by Jim at 10:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 03, 2007

Could a Same-Sex Divorce Result In Same-Sex Marriage?

Two women "married" in Massachusetts (and yes, I'll continue to put that in quotes) are seeking a "divorce", 3 years later, in Rhode Island, where they live. However, Rhode Island does not officially recognize the union. So the question is, if they are granted a "divorce", does this imply that Rhode Island considers their union a marriage and thus is a back-door to "same-sex marriage"?

Rhode Island politicians are divided.

PROVIDENCE — A state court can grant two Providence women a divorce without answering the highly charged question of whether a same-sex marriage performed in Massachusetts should be recognized in Rhode Island, Governor Carcieri and Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch agreed in legal briefs filed with the state Supreme Court yesterday.

But Carcieri and Lynch differed sharply over what the outcome of the case should be if the high court does take up the larger issue.

Carcieri, a Republican and a Catholic who has opposed bills to legalize same-sex marriage, argued that Family Court should not recognize the marriage between Margaret R. Chambers and Cassandra B. Ormiston.

“Marriage as a legal union of one man and one woman is clearly the bedrock of Rhode Island family law,” Carcieri’s brief said, citing gender-specific terms such as “husband and wife” in state law. “Because of the pervasiveness of this position throughout its family law statutes, Rhode Island has a strong public policy against recognition of any other marriage than that between one man and one woman.”

Lynch, a Democrat and a Catholic who has a sister who married a woman in Massachusetts, argued that Family Court should recognize the Chambers/Ormiston marriage under principles of comity, in which states recognize the laws and judicial decisions of other states.

“The crucial issue is whether there is a public policy in this state that is so strong it will require Rhode Island to except same-sex marriages from the traditional respect and recognition it has shown to laws of its sister states,” Lynch’s brief said. “Rhode Island’s case law and legislative enactments do not support such a finding.”

Predictably, the Republican insists that the people, via their representatives, should decide, while the Democrat believes that the osmosis that comes with free travel between states should be enough to change the laws. And actually, Lynch foresees a Family Court system that treats same-sex couples the same as married couples. While that by itself doesn't institute "same-sex marriage" in and of itself, once the precedent is set and the legal system is conditioned, it becomes much harder to keep it out. Lynch is innocently shortsighted at best, or an underhanded activist at worst.

And frankly, I believe that same-sex marriage supporters were banking on this all along. To simply get a friendly state to pass the law is all they would need, and then claim "comity" to make it a de facto law in the other 49 states. Never mind the people and their constitutions.

Posted by Doug at 02:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Salvation Army at the Minneapolis Bridge Disaster

One Salvation Army officer (minister) was in their car just before getting on the Minneapolis bridge when it collapsed, while an IT employee was on the bridge when it happened. Both were able to help those who were stranded. You can go to the web site for The Salvation Army's Minnesota and North Dakota Division to see more pictures and news, and contribute to the effort.

Posted by Doug at 01:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2007

Comments Return

Unknown to me, the blog software clamped down on all comments as of Tuesday in an attempt to stem the massive flow of spam we'd gotten earlier in the week. Unfortunately, anyone who tried to legitimately comment was also thrown out with the bathwater.

But that situation has been rectified. Commenting may resume.

Update: Blast. I opened the floodgates, and on cue the flood came in again shutting down comments. It's back on. For now.

Posted by Doug at 03:31 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 01, 2007

Money Talks

During this presidential election cycle, political reporters everywhere have been devoting a lot of time analyzing the quarterly fundraising figures of each party's presidential candidates. The theory is that the candidate who has the most money is likely to hold an edge in the upcoming elections. While it's been widely reported that Democratic presidential candidates our doing a better job of fundraising than their Republican counterparts, there is another aspect of fundraising that is being overlooked.

If you had to venture a guess, which national party has raised more money: Democrats or Republicans? If you guessed the Republican National Committee, you would be correct. (Hat tip: Rich Galen)

National parties are required to report their fundraising figures on a monthly basis while presidential candidates report quarterly. According to the Federal Election Commission, Republicans raised just about $6.6 million in the month of June while Democrats raised just under $4.2 million in the same period. So Republicans had a good month in June.

But when you look at the total raised so far in this election cycle, the results are even more dramatic: Republicans have raised almost $45 million so far while Democrats have only raised about $28 million. Republicans have more cash on hand: close to $16 million as opposed to just under $5 million for Democrats. So clearly, the RNC has a substantial financial advantage over the DNC.

How do you explain this discrepancy? The Democrats' edge in presidential fundraising seems to be driven by two factors. First, after being out of the White House for almost eight years, Democrats are very motivated to win the Presidential election. Second, the Democratic nominee is likely to be one of three candidates: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards. Most of the money seems to be flowing to these three so it's a safe bet one of them will win the nomination.

On the flip side, the Republicans are motivated to recapture the Congress. Democratic inepititude in passing meaningful legislation has helped fueled the Republican cause. The presidential nomination picture is more unsettled that the Democratic picture and that's having a negative effect on fundraising. Rudy Giuliani remains the frontrunner despite plenty of reasons that Republicans have for not supporting him. Mitt Romney has the social conservative credentials but can't seem to make much headway. John McCain's campaign has imploded as he's gone from frontrunner to also-ran. Meanwhile, many Republicans wait for Fred Thompson to officially get in the race.

Democrats have an advantage in presidential fundraising that may or may not last depending on how the nomination process progresses. But they'll have to work overtime to level the playing field at the national party level. If they can't then they may win the White House but lose the Congress.

Posted by Tom at 06:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Roeaux Effect

James Taranto has given a name to the idea that the country is getting more and more anti-abortion partially due to abortion being legal. Calling it "The Roe Effect", it postulates that since those who favor legal abortion are more likely to get one, and assuming children generally follow the political leanings of their parents, more abortion foes are being born than abortion advocates, and thus over time support for legal abortion will dwindle. (See the Wikipedia entry for links to other articles on this.)

After the Roe decision, it would take at least 18 years for the effect to start being seen, when the post-Roe kids were of voting age. However, there's another trend occurring that may have an effect on American politics without the waiting period.

Blame Canada!

It may seem like a quiet country where not much happens besides ice hockey, curling and beer drinking. But our neighbor to the north is proving to be quite the draw for thousands of disgruntled Americans.

The number of U.S. citizens who moved to Canada last year hit a 30-year high, with a 20 percent increase over the previous year and almost double the number who moved in 2000.

In 2006, 10,942 Americans went to Canada, compared with 9,262 in 2005 and 5,828 in 2000, according to a survey by the Association for Canadian Studies.

According to this survey, the increase is mostly politically-related.
The current increase is fueled largely by social and political reasons, says [Jack] Jedwab [ACS's executive director].

"Those who are coming have the highest level of education - these aren't people who can't get a job in the states," he explains. "They're coming because many of them don't like the politics, the Iraq War and the security situation in the U.S. By comparison, Canada is a tension-free place. People feel safer."

If most of these folks are generally Democrat voters, depending on the places and districts they moved from, over time this could also help swing American politics more to the right. 10,000 may not be enough to swing a presidential election, but a Senator here and a Congressman there would matter after a while.

So I'm going to coin a term here for what happens when liberals move to Canada and take their politics with them: The Roeaux Effect (pronounced "the roe effect").

Aside from its effects on American politics, the article notes the reasons of a couple of the 10,000 emigrants, and they are indeed political and social.

One person is Tom Kertes. One of his thoughts on the move gives a peek into the liberal mind and its thoughts about soaking off the money of others.

Kertes, who moved with his partner, is happy in his new home. "Canada is a really nice country. My mother is thinking about it. My stepfather has diabetes and has health issues. So, he'd be taken care of for free if he moved up here."

Sure, his stepfather could go up and get it for free -- really free -- because he hasn't paid in to the system for his whole life. He'd essentially be living off the "forced charity" (oxymoron) of others. And, of course, it all depends on how long he wants to wait for treatment.

And here's another testimonial:

Jo Davenport, who wrote "The Canadian Way," moved from Atlanta to Nova Scotia in December 2001. She also cites political reasons for her move, saying that she disagreed with the Bush administration's decisions after 9/11.

"Things are totally different here because they care about their people here," she says, explaining that she's only been back home once or twice.

By December 2001, Iraq wasn't even on the Congressional funding docket, so Ms. Davenport couldn't even abide going after those who harbored bin Laden. Definitely a reliable Democrat vote gone north.

Her comment that "they care about people here" insinuates that they simply don't here. Well, there are some folks who might think differently about that. Earlier in the article it adds just a bit of perspective.

Of course, those numbers are still outweighed by the number of Canadians going the other way. Yet, that imbalance is shrinking. Last year, 23,913 Canadians moved to the United States, a significant decrease from 29,930 in 2005.

So over twice as many people come here as go there every year. First of all, you'll note that none of them were interviewed for the article. Secondly, if people here simply didn't care, I daresay the numbers would be quite different. One wonders how many of them come here to escape the waiting lists in the Canadian health care system.

And it would be interesting to find out the political and social leanings of those folks. It could be that the Roeaux Effect is not just about the 10,000 going north, but also the 20,000 coming south. Again, no mention of that in the article.

So now I'm going to put out the call to whoever has the resources to do a study on the effect of immigration & emigration from & to Canada has on American politics. If you just read the ABC News report, you'd think quite a lot, based on the interviews. But then again, this is the MSM. There might be nothing to it.

Posted by Doug at 03:17 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack