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

     
 
 
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
 
That Pesky Pledge - Another Perspective
If you have not read Sam's previous post, click here.

Wendy McElroy has a running commentary at ifeminists.com that covers social issues directly related to gender. She has an opinion piece on the currently pending Pledge of Allegiance case before the US Supreme Court. Generally, I follow the arguments presented in ifeminists. On this occasion, I disagree.

Please read her post before proceeding any further.

The case is part of the ongoing struggle within society over a non-custodial parents rights in the event of divorce or estrangement, particularly in the cause of fathers' rights.

No, it is not. The case was focused on the separation of church and state. Not parental rights. Mr. Newdow brought parental rights into the matter by fathering a child out-of-wedlock and then battling in court over custody and then bringing a lawsuit on behalf of a child for which he did not have legal standing.

In my view, the original case initially was not about separation of church and state. Mr. Newdow is not asserting that any church is being recognized by the inclusion of under God in the pledge. He is arguing (I have watched him debate this point on C-Span) that recognition of God cannot be allowed. That is not separation of church and state, that is the separation of theism and state. You may call this a minor technicality, but I see it as something wholly different. Mr. Newdows argument is that the US Constitution and the Amendments bar the US government from acknowledging God. The founders (in my opinion) were not barring the acknowledgement of God. They were barring the establishment of a state religion. That is not moving to the point of barring the US government from acknowledging God as the foundation of faith.

On Dec. 4, 2002, the 9th Circuit Court found that Newdow retained certain parental rights and noted, "California state courts have recognized that noncustodial parents maintain the right to expose and educate their children to their individual religious views, even if those religious views contradict those of the custodial parent or offend her."

Given that the California courts are not always in agreement with the other jurisdictions, I do not doubt that in California Mr. Newdow has the parental right to educate his daughter (term used loosely) to his religious views. But he is not educating his daughter to his religious views. He is arguing about the acknowledgement of God in the Pledge of Allegiance. He is also going against the wishes of the custodial parent of the child. The mother is now a person of faith and does want her child to say the under God portion of the pledge. What legal standing do the courts in California take on which parent must be heard on this issue? The custodial parent wants the child to say under God and the non-custodial parent does not want the child to say under God. Which parent is legally right?

Ms. McElroys argument is that the non-custodial parent has a right that outweighs the custodial parents right. That just defies legal precedent. It is simply not a matter of non-custodial parents having certain rights in her argument. In this case, she wants the non-custodial parent to not only have veto power over the custodial parent, but the non-custodial parent should also have unrestrained rights to pursue courses of action on behalf of the child that the custodial parent is adamantly against.

Newdow also altered his challenge, undoubtedly to make his position before the court more secure. The lawsuit was no longer brought on his daughter’s behalf but on his own as a parent.

If he altered his position to that of parent, then the Supreme Court must rule first on his standing as a parent, then on the merits of the case. Mr. Newdow shifted the focus onto his standing as a father by his actions. The US Supreme Court may very well dismiss the case or not rule on it because of Mr. Newdows legal standing as a parent. BECAUSE LEGAL TECHNICALITIES ARE WHAT THE US SUPREME COURT RULES ON EVERY DAY.

Will there be any fallout because of this case and possible ruling on the matter of non-custodial parents? Possibly. The change may be a national legal precedent for decisions that the custodial parent can make and not be challenged by the non-custodial parent. Obviously, that is why child custody decisions are so important and emotionally charged.

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Oil for Bureaucracy
UPDATE: Oil for Bureaucracy

The latest discovery in the Oil for Food insanity comes from Ireland via Irish Blog. This one is pretty thorough in exploring the details of the instance. It would be the height of folly to believe that the sum total of these instances is merely coincidence and not the results of bribery by Saddam.

In other news, there has been a call by Roger L. Simon to rename the Oil for Food program in light of its scandal plagued existence that has recently been brought to light. I'm not real good with catchy titles but I like Oil for Bureaucracy personally. Seems to sum up what happened to most of the money anyway. It either went to UN folks with sticky fingers and lax morals or Saddam and his funcitonaries activities. Maybe it will stick.
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Bush Press Conference
I've been reading up on the Bush press conference since I did not get the opportunity to watch it myself. I have avoided major media sources in favor of the blogosphere reaction. I have noticed a definite divide in the reactions and it seems to be completely along policital lines. Instapundit and Calpundit are great examples. Take Instapundit's reaction, basically he says that Bush was good maybe not great and finds a bunch of other bloggers who agree with him. These bloggers include Roger Simon, Lily Malcolm, and Andrew Sullivan. On the other hand we have Calpundit's reactions here and here. Calpundit's take is basically that Bush looked horrible and dodged question after question when the media wasn't tossing softballs to him.

Not having seen the press conference I have no good sense of what actually happened. Lately I have found that Instapundit has been a bit pompous, especially in the way he talks about liberal ideas and people. He has made some snide comments that don't become him. Calpundit for his part has tended to be more informative but almost as condesending in his attitude toward conservatives. This bothers me more than a little. I have turned to the blogosphere for information more and more recently because I got sick of the Big Media spin. When I read Calpundit I know that he is a liberal. When I read Instapundit I know he is a conservative. They are upfront about these kinds of things. But I could normally count on them for information. It seems like ever since Calpundit became the Political Animal at Washington Monthly the two largest players have become more and more like the Big Media they normally help us all circumvent. Less and less facts, more and more opinion. I'm glad they are open about their biases, just like we all should be in our blogs, but I personally would like to see them get back to what made them so famous in the first place. Discussing the facts of the issues and being reasonable about their positions. Maybe this is just me being frustrated about my own lack of time to check into all the parts of the issues, but particularly Political Animal who apparently makes his living blogging now, should be able to do a lot more fact finding with all his time.
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Monday, April 12, 2004
 
Fiscal Conservatism
As I posted earlier there are several issues that I consider important for the upcoming election. One of those issues is the rising federal spending and budget deficit. I want to discuss some of the problems I have with the current budgeting system.

My first question is, What happened to all the fiscal conservatives in the Republican party? I have been thouroughly discouraged by the Bush administration spending habits. His policies harken back to Nixon era spending increases. And he has shown a penchant for pushing through special interest pandering in a shortsighted attempt to garner electoral support away from the Democratic party. Before September 11 the budget fights were between Republicans wanting tax cuts and Democrats wanting prescription drug benefits and more economic spending. What has happened since? We got tax cuts plus spending increases including a Republican charge in favor of prescription drug benefits. Unless you look this as an attempt by the president and the Republican party to take voters away from the Democratic party this makes no sense.

This article from the Heritage Foundation discusses the connection between budget deficits and economic growth. It makes the point that the single most important factor in balancing the budget is the tax revenue collected. In years of economic growth the deficit is likely to be small or non-existant. In years of economic stagnation the deficit is likely to be large. The problem with this is that, as noted in the article, budget spending has increased practically every year since 1970. After adjustment for inflation, the budget increases anywhere from 0% - 4% each year. This speaks of fiscal irresponsiblity of the highest order. The unwillingness of Congress to reign in their spending is the leading cause of deficits. Increasingly Social Security and Medicare are coming to dominate the expenditures of the federal government. I fully expect that that current system will be defuct long before I collect even the first dollar of benefits that I have paid into the system. This is a reality that must be faced, but Congress seems unwilling to do so.

In addition, you can look up the Pig Book from the Citizens Against Government Waste. This is a group that scrutinizes the federal budget to identify those projects that represent goverment pork in one form or another. "This year’s total reveals that Congress porked out at record levels. For fiscal 2004, appropriators stuck 10,656 projects in the 13 appropriations bills, an increase of 13 percent over last year’s total of 9,362. In the last two years, the total number of projects has increased 28 percent. The cost of these projects in fiscal 2004 was $22.9 billion" In the grand scheme of the federal budget $23 billion dollars is not a huge fraction, but it is a symptom of the general attitude of Congress.

The economic health of the nation is not a problem to be considered lightly. It also is not a problem that should be exploited for partisan gain. Both sides of the issue have horrible records on fiscal responsibility, but it seems to have gotten worse lately. With the tax cuts passed in the recent past, the War on Terror, and general economic malaise there has been much debate on the proper handling of the budget and yet there is not a great deal of support for fiscally responsible reform on either side of the aisle. Republicans recently defeated a measure that would require increases in spending to be matched by reductions in spending elsewhere in the budget and there is an ongoing effort to make it harder to hand out government pork that is garnering little support in either chamber. For all of us fiscal conservatives out here in the general public this is maddening. And I know that for me personally, if I feel that either candidate can be reasonably relied upon to execute the War on Terror effectively, then my vote will almost certainly be decided by the fiscal policy of the candidate.

Four years ago President Bush campaigned on fiscal conservatism. He has failed to live up to his promises. John Kerry has a legislative history of supporting increased spending on social programs and decreased spending on defense. Neither party has been reliable when it controls both the executive and legislative branches of government. Something tells me that the only way we are going to see any meaningful financial policy work is if we have a divided government where either the President vetoes increased spending proposals or Congress refuses to offer them up for signing. Maybe in that situation we will see some meaningful reform, such as "Pay as you Go Bill" that was recently defeated. But either way we are in desperate need of some real fiscal responsibility and accountability in government. Hopefully the upcoming election will reflect this. None of us want to end up in a situation like France and Germany, where entitlement programs have taken hold so firmly that even the eminant prospect of insolvency is not enough to convice the popluace of the need for reform.
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An Introduction to Andrew
Who is Andrew?

Andrew is a 30-year-old Senior Process Engineer for a large specialty chemical company and resides in Mobile, Alabama.

What are Andrew's political beliefs?

Andrew defies the traditional political spectrums that are limited to one or two defining dimensions. He typically sides with the Democratic party on policy issues but is generally displeased with the state of party politics in our country. He is most disgusted with the lack of any visionaries in the current political fray.

What are Andrew's political beliefs?

Andrew is an agnostic that has experimented with several Protestant religions. He prides himself on a strong moral code and consistent belief system. Because of this, he abhors the assumption that religion and morality are synonymous. There are many non-religious people who have strong moral codes and many religions that are lacking morality.

What can you expect to hear from Andrew in his first postings?

Andrew will open with discussion of a new book by David Goodstein entitled "Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil" and the frightening outcomes it portends. This will lead to other posts on the direction of our country with regard to the sciences and research and development.

Andrew will also be discussing the concept of public funding of elections and why participation in the voluntary contribution program on income tax forms is so low.

Andrew will also be contributing satirical posts. In the tradition of "A Modest Proposal" by Jonathan Swift, Andrew will first explore the concept of using human beings as fuel. This is quite similar to the proposal of Swift who proposed utilizing children as food. In a subsequent "proposal," Andrew will address the concept of a mandatory lottery.
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Sunday, April 11, 2004
 
The Performance of the US Marines
I have a friend of mine that was a US Marine during the first Gulf war. I wonder how proud he would be about this excerpt from The Belmont Club:

"Lost in the frenetic headlines of the last week was an unnoticed military revolution. Never in history have 1,200 men stormed a city of 230,000 in urban combat without extensively using heavy weapons before the US Marines did in Fallujah. This is nothing short of amazing because the 90% of the combat power of an infantry unit is embodied in their heavy weapons. And they were stopped only by a truce, not by enemy resistance. When the Marine casualties from the Ramadi ambush, not part of the Fallujah battle are subtracted, the Marine losses have been spectacularly low by historical standards. They are actually lower than the IDF losses in the smaller Jenin engagement (which used armored bulldozers to clear lanes) and several orders of magnitude beneath the Russian casualties in Grozny, despite the lavish use of armor, artillery and air by the Russians. US forces were never tested in extensive urban combat during Iraqi Freedom. MOUT is no longer theory. It is practice. Nor is the American success confined to Fallujah. Kut is being retaken without significant losses. "
(The Belmont Club "Good News, Bad News")

All I can say is wow!

I recommend The Belmont Club. I is a great source of military information, analysis, and forecasts. It has been fairly accurate in its predictions regarding Fallujah and the methods the US would follow to control the situation. Read it and form your own opinions

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Iraq and the Media
With all the trouble going on in Iraq over the last week I have been really displeased with the reporting by the big media. I was not a big fan of the war. I did think with Saddam gone and the stabilizing force that the Coalition would provide that the Iraqi people could wake up from their long sleep under fascism. I want afraid that the country would tear apart before they came to their senses. It didn't happen, however the Media would have you believe otherwise. It seems that for the last year or more the mainstream media has been telling us how and why we are going to fail. I haven't heard any real alternatives to the current process (other than more troops) from either the Democratic Party (to which I belong), the Republican Party (which seem to in general parrot the Bush Administrations talking points), the world communities (unless you count cutting and running) or the mainstream media. It seems that everywhere I look there is genuine glee that US Marines are dying and that Iraqi stability is suffering. It's as if they have waited so long to say "I told you so" and enjoy that the US gets its comeuppance.

Why?

It's the duty of the media to dig into the issues. It’s their reason for existing to inform the public of the current state of affairs in the world. I just don't think that means an opinion/editorial masquerading as a non-editorial page information piece. What gives? I want to know. I need to know. Give me as much raw information as you can and let me sort it out. It seems that long ago newspapers traded relaying the facts for telling a story. Look at how much noise is included in news articles in your local paper. I have been so dissatisfied with the lack of information in my local papers that I no longer even read their website for headlines. This problem seems to also manifest itself in the main newspapers worldwide. I hunt for new information, but all I find are the same cookie cutter stories with essentially the same spin and lack of facts. If you don't believe me read the next article reporting medial or science news from several different papers and you will be amazed at the disparity between the headlines and the story subject matter. I assume this is done because most Americans have little time to do more than headline scan. What other reason could there be for a whole cable news channel (CNN-Headline News) if this were not true.

I am truly disappointed, mostly because I need to rely on someone to tell me the rest of the story that the current administration won't. I do not trust the Bush Administration. I hate to say that, however the response to criticism (regardless of validity) strikes me as arrogant and childish. The lack of fiscal discipline, the seemingly odd priorities of the Administration (Ashcroft's War on Porn), and the inability to admit that they do not know everything and that sometimes stuff goes wrong does not make me like them anymore than before the election. I am not even so sure of the much touted honesty and "straight talking" that became such a campaign issue. It all seems like a mask made to resemble the good features of the John McCain campaign. I saw John McCain speak, and I felt I could trust him. Not so with George Bush and those that orbit him in the administration. I am saddened to see the Republican Party leaders towing the party line and not providing a counterbalance to the administrations excesses. I am even more saddened at the disarray evident in the Democratic Party. Where are the speeches? Where are the alternatives? Where are the ideas, desires, and beliefs that the party once held?

So... if I can't trust the media, the Bush Administration, or the Republicans, and I get no information from the Democrats where am I to get that information I need to form an opinion. I guess I have to rely on the blogosphere and those magazines that admit their biases up front, and the few journalistic enterprises that remain true to their purpose.

Thomas Jefferson believed that a democracy could only flourish if its populous was informed and educated. I wonder what he would say about things now.

UPDATE: It seems that Matthew Yglesias has noticed the same thing about the Media. And he blames the headline news cable channels too.
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