Knowing In Part 

 A collection 

of differing political viewpoints

 that revolve around the

 geographic and political

center of America.

 

Benton Rogers

Samuel Morton

Sidney Collins

Andrew Jones

     
 
 
Thursday, April 01, 2004
 
Kerry on Foreign Policy
Yep. Nuff said.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2004
 
2nd Amendment Rights
For those of you out there who are interested in the ongoing debate about the 2nd Amendment you must go read this piece over at the Volokh Conspiracy. Follow the link to down load Randy Barnett's article on 2nd Amendment interpretations. It is a great read. He also makes an excellent point about the hypocrisy of most 2nd Amendment opponents.

"Even the professional historians among the opponents of the individual-rights interpretation who insist, like the authors, on a crabbed originalist interpretation for the right to bear arms - a right of which they disapprove - would never think to apply this method to limit other constitutional rights they like."

I know that I've heard many people in favor of eliminating the right to bear arms discuss the original intent or meaning of the 2nd Amendment and how that interpretation limits the right to bear arms either to the state as a whole, or to the individual who participate in the militia. None of the people I've heard make this argument have ever similarly limited the first amendment to include only those people who operated a printing press. Such arguments would be dismissed as ridiculous by the same people who make analogous arguments against the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2004
 
Oil for Food Roundup
I have been reading a lot today about the Oil for Food scandal, being affectionately labeled Kofigate by William Safire at the NYTimes. His articles about the scandal in the March 17 edition and today's edition here are great primers for what is shaping up to be a huge tell all scandal about the real inner workings of international relations and how many people are willing to sell their support to just about any cause including a brutal dictator who murders thousands of his own citizens.

So far we have accusations of bribery and kickbacks by UN officials overseeing the Oil for Food program, French banking interests who handled all the money, and Russian companies and friends of Putin who were awarded contracts. These accusations and the resulting inquiry into them have lead to stonewalling by the U.N. administration, the French, and the Russians. Why? Well, Kofi's son was employed by the firm that got the Iraq contract and as head of the U.N. it is ultimately his responsibility to be sure that his ship is running right. The French bank BNP Paribas handled all the money that changed hands. The Russians had their hands in the cookie jar along with the others, so they aren't going to help.

So how are we going to find out what went on? The soon to be established Iraqi government should have plenty of reasons to check into this. It would be nice to know which governments you can trust and who was helping support the guy killing off your friends. The US press should have a field day with this. We've seen how good the press can be at digging up what others want to keep hidden and someone surely can make a reputation off of getting this story out. And then there are the bloggers. I believe in the power of the blogosphere to give this story legs and run with it. Roger Simon has started us down the right path with posts like this one that references this story from the NY Post.

Another point of interest is that the people who will be pushing the hardest to determine what has been going on in the Oil for Food scandal are the Iraqi Kurds who have been denied benefits from the program for far too long. Check out the links and see what the Kurds have been asking about.

I personally hope to see this taken all the way through to the end. I think this will be a great opportunity to point out that letting other nations dictate US foreign policy either directly or indirectly (U.N.) is a mistake. Other nations must be considered but we cannot let the reluctance of other nations impede our own actions. Just as France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and all other countries will look out for their own people first we must do the same.

So lets keep the pressure up on the media and the government to dig into the Oil for Food program and see what we can find. One way or the other I think it will be an excellent lesson on just how fallible supposedly impartial and benevolent organizations such as the U.N. can be and how corrupt the upper echelons of international politics have become.

UPDATE:
Just found this article from late 2000. Remember this is pre 9-11 and pre-Bush. It essentially accuses the US and Britain of using veto power of Oil for Food contracts to hold up humanitarian aid into the country. Now that the scandal has started to break this look a lot more like we and the Brits were axing the most eggregious of the bribery/kickback contracts which France, Russia, and others were letting slide because they were sharing in the profits. Maybe we did, maybe we didn't, but this should be looked into. And since the Kofi Annan and the UN have already tried to spread the blame around to everybody on the Security Council this looks like a good way to show we were trying to do something about the before the war. That's just my hunch, but it sure seems to fit the facts.

NEW UPDATE:
Instapundit links to a Canadian article that points out another possible scandal that has been ignored for quite some time. It seems like now that someone has started digging around the UN that more and more of these kinds of stories are going to emerge. In a place that is almost nothing but bureaucracy and self important diplomats you would expect plenty of scandals to have been unearthed by this point in the UN history. But I haven't seen them. Maybe we are soon going to see a lot more of these stories.
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Green Power & Student Government Elections
As today is the first day of the University of Tennessee Student Government Elections I have placed my vote. The voting is electronic/web based and to my knowledge not associated with the potential fraud that plagues electronic voting machines. You get one login - one vote. However I am sure that 28000 students is much easier to manage that several million adult voters.

However for the first time in my memory there was a referendum on the ballot. It seems that a group of students, most likely S.P.E.A.K (the local environmental issues group), is suggesting a student fee for the purpose of utilizing greener power. Most interesting is that the fee is divided into purchasing green power from the local/state utility, facilities improvements, and onsite green power production. I think that this attempt is well thought out and I hope that it passes.

Lets analyze this proposal a little more by looking at the numbers:

Total Fee: $8 * 3 semesters * 28,000 students = $627,000

Green Power Purchase(50%) = $336,000
Facilities Projects(25%) = $168,000
On-site Power Production(25%) = $168,000

The students will be able to purchase 12,600,000 kilowatt-hours. This is obviously slightly off as the UT power cost is different than the residential rate due to the power consumption levels being very different. 12.6 million kilowatt-hours is roughly the same amount of power consumed by 840 homes (assuming that 150 kilowatt-hours is roughly 12% of the monthly power usage of a typical home.) The University purchases roughly 234.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity from KUB. This number is about 47% of total energy used by the university with the remainder being generated on site (we have a coal power plant). Therefore the students would be able to purchase roughly 5.4% of the yearly electricity required by the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. One thing is obvious that UT uses a massive amount of power.

Well regardless of how you feel about fees, and I as an engineer pay a $200/semester fee just for being an engineering student, I think its a good idea. My main caveat is that the students insist, no demand, that the money be openly accounted for and all the transactions be transparent. This is in light of the recent money shenanigans by the former UT President and the fact that I have virtually no clue where my $600/year Engineering Fee is being spent.

Perhaps in the future I will write about the actual pollution produced by the power generation mentioned above. Perhaps.
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The United Methodist Church & Civil Unions
In an earlier post, I supported civil unions for homosexual couples. As a governmental policy, civil unions should be available to any consenting adult couple. Equal treatment under the law is the precedent.

However, marriage is a social construct and is not the domain of the government. You may not follow the argument that marriage and civil unions are separate. I am willing to allow for the sake of argument that marriage is on a continuum with civil union. I would see common-law marriage, civil union, and marriage as the order but will leave it to you.

The United Methodist Church pops up on the media radar now and again over the issue of treatment of homosexuals. The confirmation of an openly homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church and the sexual abuse scandal of the Catholic Church have allowed the UMC to slide off the front page momentarily.

Gay marriage is part of the larger issue referred to as "treatment of homosexuals" in the UMC. The issue includes the role of homosexual individuals in the clergy, the role of homosexuals in the church, ceremonies for homosexual unions, etc... This post is about civil unions, but I need to explain the other issues for context.

The UMC has developed two documents that must be understood. Every fourth year, the UMC holds a general conference (annual meetings are held on regional levels). At the general conference, the Book of Discipline and the Book of Resolutions is updated. The Book of Resolutions is just what its title implies. Resolutions on any issue whatsoever are voted on and included in this document. The Book of Discipline is a more emotionally charged document. It is the law of the UMC. The Discipline lays out in tight detail what is allowed and what is intended by each statement. Ambiguity is not in the Book of Discipline.

The problem comes from the seemingly conflicted position. The UMC has a clear mission to be open to all people of faith. I heard it best stated that "God has wide arms and high expectations." All are welcome. No one is to be excluded and that includes homosexuals. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The Book of Discipline reaffirms the inclusion of homosexuals in the 3 of 4 statements in the Book of Discipline. Homosexual members can hold any position in the local church (layleader, Sunday School teacher, etc...) and can work for church agencies. The only restriction is that the UMC will not ordain self-avowed openly practicing homosexuals. Notice the wording. If you are homosexual but willing to forgo sexual intimacy, the UMC will ordain a homosexual individual.

The statement at the core of the argument is that "the UMC believes that a homosexual lifestyle is not in keeping with Christian teachings." The UMC is relying on scripture as a foundation for the position. There are some that think the wording should be "sin". There are others that think the supporting scripture has been misinterpreted. I believe it is a compromise that will stand for a long while until the hearts and minds of the swing voters are shifted. Until that time, this is the strategic pivot point.

If the UMC does not believe that a homosexual lifestyle is not in keeping with Christian teachings, then it necessarily cannot have ceremonies that affirm a homosexual lifestyle. The Book of Discipline explicitly forbids ceremonies for homosexuals in its churches or conducted by its clergy. Period, dot, the end.

You can see why there is a battle for the hearts and minds of the members of the UMC. The UMC explicitly affirms that homosexuals are children of God, should not be shunned, and should be allowed to serve in any way possible in the local church. At the same time, the UMC explicitly forbids ceremonies affirming the homosexual lifestyle. At first, it would seem to be a double-bind. I have heard a constant line of remarks that accuse the UMC of straddling the fence. Actually, the UMC is following the scriptures in this matter. From a secular view, it may seem conflicted, but from a position of faith the position is as it should be. As I have posted previously, the issue of a gay gene is not relevant. The UMC accepts that some individuals feel compelled into a homosexual lifestyle. However, homosexual lifestyles are forbidden by scripture. I do believe this to be true and agree with the UMC's present stance on the issue.

I have struggled with the issue of civil unions. I am at the point where I believe that the government should allow homosexual civil unions. I could argue the benefits or the consequences with equal mendacity. But, I find that equal treatment under the law to be a winning point for now. I think this stance is in keeping with the UMC because of our social principles. I think the harder point to convey to those not intimately familiar with the UMC is that the government should treat all persons fairly but we will not ordain homosexuals or hold ceremonies to affirm the homosexual lifestyle and all of that is supported in the scriptures.

I would earnestly like to hear your comments and concerns on this matter. I would ask that you take a quiet moment to read this essay by a homosexual man who has pondered the matter in earnest.

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Monday, March 29, 2004
 
Less Freedom
After reading my post below, you should go to Erin Oconner's site and read about the current insanity of PC and crushing of dissent. The money quote is "The moral of the story seems to be that it is less embarrassing to maintain that black body paint is always already racist than it is to admit to a big collective mistake." Apparently, the young man was to perform later in a sketch with a painted-on tuxedo but seeing his legs painted black caused the exodus of African-American students.

It is very similar to the more famous misunderstanding in DC.
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What Freedom?
Having been at a major university for the last five years, I have watched several episodes of campus upheaval. I have yet to see evidence of a campus administrator who actually understood Freedom of Speech. Now, it appears that Southwest Missouri State University has jumped into the fray as a Crusher of Dissent. Instapundit uses that term and I believe it fits. Eugene Volokh has been following the latest incident and you should read the posts.

I served as the Graduate Student Senate representative in a meeting to discuss the University of Tennessee's response to this incident. I did not hear "freedom of speech" once in the entire meeting from any participant, especially the Provost of UT. Why? Because the victim card had been played and citing some legal bugaboo hidden in an ancient document would not be allowed. No one in the conference wanted to hear that, however distasteful we may have felt someone's else behavior may have been, the speech of others is not the University of Tennessee's to control. It was almost a month later when the president of UT (who was later fired over another matter) was being interviewed before a football game and was cornered on the issue. He issued several caveats before reluctantly acknowledging that the individuals involved had a First Amendment right and that UT could not officially take action against them.

Darn old First Amendment. Maybe, we should get someone to repeal the First Amendment so that college and university administrators could rule without obstacles.
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Sunday, March 28, 2004
 
We Must Act Civilly In A Civil Society
"We live in a society!" - George Castanza

If you did not watch "Seinfield" and are not familiar with the character George Castanza, then the bright light in your eyes is called the sun and welcome back. I hope your stay under the rock for 12 years or so was good for your soul.

George yelled the statement when other characters on the show violated what he felt was a rule of society. Not a law, nothing codified, but the social norms that defined our character as a group of humans. Do you stop to help someone stranded in a vehicle on the side of the highway? No, if you are on the way to the emergency room. Yes, in all other circumstances. At least, that is the rule I grew up with being the son of a mechanic. Our parents raised eight children to adulthood. We drove a fleet of used vehicles that constantly ended up on the side of the road. If our sisters (5 of 8) were to be helped by strangers, then we had to pay into society by helping others. We live in a society.

The social contract is ever-evolving, broken and renewed daily, and has some wiggle-room and some strict mandates. If you are able-bodied, then you give up your seat to an elderly person. Don't believe me, then read the social contract. It is written into everyone's eyes as they view your acknowledgement of the older person and the seat availability.

It is the social contract that makes a more plausible argument for granting civil unions to homosexual couples. If the government recognizes any voluntary dual person relationships, then it must recognize all. I will not argue legal precedents or state factual information at all. I believe it is simply right to treat all persons equal in the US and it is written in our social contract. Some would argue that equal treatment is written into the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or the other foundational documents of the US. I think it is absurd to believe that the founders thought about the legal standing of homosexual relationships. I find it further out on the scale of insanity to believe that they about the illegality of homosexual relationships. I restate that we in the US hold dear the principle of equal treatment under the law. Give homosexuals legal unions.

Do it when the voters vote on it. Why not a federal statute? I am not hiding behind the voters. I am not hoping that as long as the public opinion skews to the opposing side that a voter initiative will always fail. I am saying that the legal rights are not worth having. What I hear from the gay voices is that they want to be treated fairly in society. That takes a majority of society acting favorably on a day-to-day basis. We must live in a society that treats gay relationships in an even manner. Forcing the issue legally will not gain what the gay advocates want.

Why use the term legal union? Because a marriage is another matter. It was never the government's role to define marriage. The term "marriage" has been stripped of many perks by continual legal wrangling in the US. If he does not take out the garbage, should the judge grant her a divorce? Whatever may have once been the case, in today's court, taking out the garbage is not legal grounds for a divorce. That is because the rules for taking out the garbage are written in the social contract, not the marriage license. If he wants to restore the spark in their relationship, then he might seek out a marriage counselor, not a lawyer. Happiness is a not a legal ruling, it is an emotion. The government should only be ruling on legal unions, not marriages. Where the governement is infringing in marriages, it should be expelled.

We live in a society. If the society wants to respect homosexual unions, then resistance by the government is futile. If society will not respect homosexual unions, then the government would fight a loosing battle to implement the policy.

I will post later on the United Methodist Church and the on-going homosexual union issue. Be careful about predicting what I might say.
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