Sunday, October 31, 2010

Who Should We Watch on Election Day? - Vote Here

Everybody's nervous about voter fraud in the upcoming election.  Who do you think is more likely to be the culprit if voter fraud happens?  I thought I'd put up a survey poll and find out what you think.

Just schooch over to the poll box to the right at the top and vote for who you think we most need to look out for.  You can vote for more than one if you think there is a second party to watch out for.  I realize some of those listed aren't political parties, but hey, they call themselves parties.

If you think of any parties we should add, let me know and I'll update the poll if I can.


Mention Israel and These Guys Come Crawling Out of the Woodwork

Have you noticed how all you have to do is mention Israel in any kind of favorable light and the "I'm not anti-Semitic, but I hate Israel" folks come crawling out of the woodwork.  My last encounter called Israel "imperialistic" and suggested that Israel had picked a fight with its neighbors for the express purpose of having and excuse to seize more land from the poor mistreated Palestinians.

These guys remind us that unreasonable racial hatred is alive and well in the world. 

I'll be honest with you, I'm sympathetic with the Israelis for taking some land.  Take the Golan Heights, for instance.  If you live in the valley and your enemy takes the heights above you and starts lobbing artillery at you, does it not make sense for you to take those heights in order to protect yourself and stop the artillery from cutting you to ribbons.  Every Israeli expansion has come at the end of an unprovoked attack by its neighbors.

"Wait a minute!" the closet anti-Semites protest. "How can you say it was unprovoked?"

"Oh, I forgot, they are Jews after all and how provoking is that?"

Look, the area that is now Palestine was part of Jordan before Israel took it.  There wasn't a Palestinian homeland. The whole thing's a mess. Whatever else happens, until everyone else lays down arms too, Israel will hang on to its precarious hold on its territories and will do so by aggressively defending its territory. They are too small to "absorb" the kind of abuse a large nation like the U.S. can absorb. Look what happened when they gave up the Golan Heights. Hamas set up missile launchers up there and started lobbing them at schools and markets. How do you EVER learn to trust people like that? Everything the Israelis give up, they get punished for by the people that they gave something up to by treaty.

The Israelis can't afford to take the approach Obama has chosen as a response to terrorism and "absorb the attacks" and hope the terrorists get tired of blowing up things one day? Ain't going to happen.

For one thing, the Israelis know their enemy. Unlike our ideology-driven leadership here in the U.S., Israel can ill-afford to delude themselves that their enemies are "not really that bad after all".  The Israelis know that the moment they lower their guard, their enemies will drive them into the sea.

As long as the Arab world is an oligarchy of strong men whose policies impoverish their people, these men will continue to blame Israel and the United States for the misery they themselves have created and their poor and distressed people will swallow the bull and strap bombs to their bellies to lash out at people who aren't poor and miserable because someone has convinced them that if someone is rich and you are poor its because they took that wealth from you.


And the spoiled unhappy children of our nation who loathe their own land and carry irrational guilt because they live in the most peaceful, secure society on planet Earth, give aid and comfort to our nation's enemies for no better reason than that someone forgot to teach them the Golden Rule. They choose sides against their own because it's cool and because it upsets the little old ladies in church that used to point their bony fingers at them and tell them they were naughty.

Our country's heritage is deeply Judeo-Christian. What better way do these guys have to get back at your ancestors for the sin of giving you wealth and comfort without introducing you to He who is the source of our pleasant lives.

It amazes me that one can look at the governments of the world and draw the cock-eyed conclusions they do. Which of those countries produce the highest levels of wealth and happiness for their people? Is it the democracies with free markets or is it the governments where power is centralized in the hands of an elite. Which populace winds up being exploited?

The richest people in communist or totalitarian countries are the leaders. The poorest are the workers. The richest people in democracies are people who work. Our leaders draw a salary commensurate with their work if they were in business. Is this not better than semi-feudal tribal government that abuses its people, sends them out with bombs to blow up people shopping for their supper.

I believe that if the Muslim world would stop trying to kill the Israelis, the sane people over there would soon create an economically healthy middle east. Arabs themselves are business people by nature without all the hatred of their religion lathered on. The Israelis are business people. The western democracies are business people.

It's not all about religion (before all the closet anti-Semites and militant atheists out there start blaming it on religion). Power hungry would-be kings always blame it on religion while manipulating religion to serve their own power. Remember the 'divine right of kings' - a doctrine not found in scripture. The thugs and bullies of the Earth are always trying to use religion, patriotism or prejudice to accumulate power for themselves.

Why can't we seem to understand that human gods are dangerous. The best we can do is stick to the one God and take care of our own little corners of the world and do a little good where we can. The government that governs best is that which governs the least. People can either be trusted to care for themselves or they can't.

No human is smart enouigh to control anything as vast as an economy, a culture or a religion. When they try they just cock it up. Rule by strong man is always a mistake - whether the strong man is a Democrat, Republican, Socialist, Communist or Mullah.

God sends us the occasional strong leader when we need it.  In our country's history, we've been blessed at our darkest hours with leaders who laid down the mantle of power when they were done.  Washington, Lincoln, Reagan (The Revolution, The Civil War and the Cold War) all walked away when their work was finished.  Lincoln would have had he not been martyred. Even FDR and Wilson who were powerful, albeit dangerous, leaders during the great world wars, did served their nation well. Notice one thing, though.  When the wars were done, however, both men died before they could do any more damage (League of Nations, burgeoning socialism). Wilson had a stroke.  FDR died just before the end. Had this not happened, I fear we would be farther down the road to socialism than we are already and based on the history of those two men, I fear we'd have been far less supportive of Israel, given the subtle anti-Semitism that has always been an undercurrent of the progressive movement.
As Forest Gump would say, "That's all I've got to say about that."

I suspect the only response I'll get from my friend who wrote me, rapping my knuckles for my "stupid support of Israel"  will be long on "Oh, yeah?" and short on substance. For the record, I actually pointed out the Anti-Semitic tone of my friend's post. And it is anti-Semitic or at least Anti-Israeli, which is, of course, a Semitic country.

I'm not anti-Muslim before any of you go there. I am anti-totalitarian. I am violently opposed to any group of people who believe they have the right to meddle in the day to day lives of ordinary people. I believe in freedom. You should work as you please, worship as you please, live as you please. The only legitimate function of government is to help us do what we cannot do ourselves (defense against powerful enemies, building roads and highways, protecting our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - that sort of thing. If we can do it ourselves, we shouldn't be giving a responsibility to the government simply because it's more convenient.

Why? Because there are always human parasites hanging about ready to latch onto any means to power that is possible. It is an evil thing that religion seeks to root out. Remember the Golden Rule. If everybody did, it would be a merrier world indeed.

I hope as we go to the polls this week that we send to Washington, the state house, the county courts and city governments across our land, people who understand the full implications of the Golden Rule for politicians.

I'm just telling you what I think.

Tom King - Tyler, TX

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Supreme Court to Rule on Tax Credit Scholarships and the Establishment Clause

Just after the November election, the US Supreme Court is set to hear an Arizona case challenging an Arizona law that opponents say violates the Constitution's Establishment Clause. The law allows individuals and corporations to receive a tax credit for donations to nonprofits that provide scholarships to public school students to pay for private school tuition. The tax credit applies equally to organizations that provide tuition to non-religious and those that exclusively fund religious private school tuition.

The argument is that the Arizona law is an establishment of religion by the government because some of the nonprofit scholarship programs only award scholarships to religious schools.

I hope the Supreme Court continues to view the separation of church and state in the same light that the framers of the constitution intended – not as a prohibition against religion, but as a safeguard of religion. The law allows scholarship organizations to donate to any private school they want to, religious or not. This seems to me to cover the spirit and letter of the “Establishment” Clause, so long as the government does not specify a specific religious denomination or limit scholarships to specific faiths. Limiting scholarship agencies to non-religious schools, a practice with which the plaintiffs in this case don't seem to have a problem, would, for all practical purpose be an establishment of non-religious institutions in the same way that limiting government tax credits only to a specific religion would be a violation of the establishment clause.

After all, what is a religion except a system of beliefs. Atheism or systematic avoidance of religion is in fact a system of belief. It presupposes that a certain set of facts or ideas are of value and that others are not or, at least, should be avoided.

So long as the Arizona law does not specify what type of private school the tuition may apply to, I see no “establishment of religion” in a law that seeks to provide public school students access to alternative educational opportunities. Under this law, any group could specify what schools they wish to fund. Muslims could fund Muslim schools. Buddhists could provide scholarships to Buddhist schools. Atheists could fund scholarships to schools which teach categorically that there is no God. The level of funding is immaterial. If Christian schools receive the lion's share of these tax-credits, it is because there are more citizens who wish to fund those tax-credits up front – probably because there are more Christians in Arizona than any of the other groups.

So what? The Establishment Clause is about freedom to choose, not about making sure every group receives the same dollar amount. It's not about “fair” in the sense you meant it when you were 8 years old. It's about free.

You see, freedom is truly fair in the sense that fully mature grownups understand it. Freedom of choice means that if you have a good argument, you may win the debate. You may attract more followers. It means that the majority of us may celebrate Christmas and not spend much energy or cash on Ramadan or Hanukah celebrations. That's okay and fair. The Establishment Clause merely guarantees that if you wish to celebrate Ramadan, Hanuka, Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice, your right to do so is protected by the government – but not funded by it.

In this case, a tax-credit program for a specific purpose – promoting high quality education beyond the level of public schools – allows scholarship agencies to provide scholarships to any private school whatsover. It is not appropriate that the government should limit which types of schools may receive those scholarships and which may not. THAT would be an “Establishment” indeed.

I just hope the Supreme Court sees it that way.

Tom King – Tyler, TX

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Does the Constitution Separate Church and State?

Christine O'Donnel got a lot of flack the other day for saying, in a debate with Democrat Chris Coons that "there is no separation of church and state".  The audience ridiculed her, pointing to the Establishment Clause for proof.

So what does the Establishment Clause actually say?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."
Sounds straightforward doesn't it and, I believe, an open-minded person would have little trouble understanding what the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were getting at.  For quite some time an organized group of Christians has been referring to the principle outlined in this section of the first amendment as the principle of "separation of church and state".  This group refers to a Thomas Jefferson letter to a group of pastors which describes the Establishment Clause as a wall separating church and state.

These days, however, it's not the usual Christian groups calling for recognition of separation of church and state, but progressive socialists who use this same phrase to support recent efforts by the government under the guise of enforcing separation of church and state to establish "freedom FROM religion" in the public square, rather than "freedom OF religion". 

Okay I get why conservatives are saying the Establishment Clause doesn't call for separation of church and state.  However, as a member of a Christian church whose free exercise has been repeatedly trampled upon by government in the past 150 years, it makes me nervous to hear you say there is no "separation".  When political lobbyists from Christian churches in the past talked about separation of church and state with reference to the Establishment Clause, we meant that the government should be separate and not controlled by any religious denomination or vice versa.  In that respect there is and should be a wall of separation. But the wall we refer to, only prevents interference by government with religion or religion with government.  It does not mean we cannot vote by our religious principles if we are elected officials.  It does not mean we cannot pray in public places or acknowledge religion's role at the very bones of our country.  It doesn't mean taking "God" out of things.  It only means we will not have priests and clerics running our government nor our government running our churches.

Once again the wisdom of our fathers is aimed squarely at those who lust for power and would imperil our liberties by seizing more of it than they are very wisely limited to by the constitution.

I just as vehemently object when progressives apply apply the establishment clause in a way that forbids any kind of religious practice in the public square.  This essentially establishes a kind of formal atheism, in effect, as our state religion.  It violates the establishment clause as surely as it would if the president started taking orders from Joel Osteen or Pat Robertson (or Mullah Omar for that matter). 

It is as wrong for the President to issue mandatory sermon topics to pastors as it would be for bishops to dictate US foreign policy.  I belong to a church whose members have been imprisoned for laboring six days a week because "laws" declared it was the wrong six days (remember the Blue Laws).  When a sheriff can drag a simple American farmer out of his field and jail him for months because powerful church leaders forced passage of a religious law, there is something not right. Clearly this was a violation of the establishment clause. These laws were resisted and after more than 70 years on the books these laws were repealed.  Still, every few years for decades since, some well-meaning someone trots out a proposed bill to formalize in law, what they believe is the correct day of worship. Such laws would enlist  government aid in enforcement of a tenant of religious belief that has no basis in natural law.

Personally, I think if Blue Laws ever do come back, they are more likely to come from the left than the right, but then not everyone agrees.  If conservatives are the party of liberty, then let's just make it clear what we mean when we make statements like the one O'Donnell made.  She badly needed to explain.  Such blanket statements as "There is no separation of church and state," make me nervous. The speakers sound like folks determined to re-establish the old theocracies that we fought so hard to free ourselves from.  I know that 99% of conservatives are not out to codify religious belief in the law of the land. Most of us have learned our lesson about what ills that can cause.

Glenn Beck is always telling us to look at history.  Well, when you do, you'll discover that 'social gospel' progressives were the ones that rammed through some of the more draconian of the Blue laws at the turn of the last century.  For the "good of the workers", people actually went to jail for plowing fields on Sunday, even though they had been in church the day before.  The folks who coined the phrase "separation of church and state" were the ones who ended such laws.  They are devout Christians and most are very conservative.

Let me be clear. I don't think conservatives are the greatest threat to establish a state religion.  I think conservatives do need to make it excruciatingly clear what they mean when they say there is no "separation" of church and state. Let's try not to sound like we're fixing to bring back the Inquisition and witch trials.  Unfortunately, some of our less thoughtful brethren aren't so careful with how they present their views on church and state issues.

Even church leaders like the Pope have called for codifying church doctrine in law.  A papal letter a few years back called for good Catholics to force passage of laws to protect Sunday as the day of worship in their own countries.  I read the pastoral letter when it came out. That would be problematic in the U.S. because of the Establishment Clause. 

There's where the wall should be built. We need that wall to tell church leaders where lie the limits of their authority.  We need that wall to also tell the government where they have no right to diddle with the free exercise of our religion.

The test of our belief in the establishment clause will come when a Christian judge posts a copy of the ten commandments on his wall and next door a Muslim judge posts a passage from the Koran on his and the Buddhist next door to him sets a little golden Buddah on his desk.  Will we protect each man's "free exercise" of his religion and trust him to make rulings according to the law alone and not to his personal belief?   I would hope so.

As a judge, I'm sure I would find it difficult to rule in favor of someone who is right under the law and yet wrong by all that's holy.  Judges do it every day, though - because of the wall that separates faith from mere human law. That wall protects those on both sides of it.  One day, this world will end and no such wall will be needed.  Till then, thank God for the Establishment Clause.

Just one man's opinion,

Tom King - Tyler, TX

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Should Conservatives Try and Take Over the Republican Party?

Simple answer:  NO!

I think trying to take over the Republican party is a mistake. I think what we need to do is take control of our own representatives. If we hold our congressman's and senators' feet to the fire, we better control what's done to us by Congress.  We need a second party to use as a whip to steer our legislators.

If my representative is a conservative, then I vote for him, whatever party he belongs to. This tells BOTH parties what I want. If the Republicans want our vote, they need to prove they'll do what we ask them to. As Tea Party members, we put the screws to the people we vote for with the threat of the vote.

It's a waste of time and, I believe, may be a mistake altogether to try to take over the Democrat or Republican party - at least for a typical American voter who's running his business and trying raise a family.  Who has time for party politics?  It's much better to whack 'em on the nose every couple of years with a rolled up ballot and then get back to work and let them figure out why their noses are swollen.

Parties care about keeping the party in power and the Republicans have shown as much lack of courage as the Democrats in that respect. Frequently they have shown even greater cowardice than Democrats in standing for principle, preferring instead to take nice media-safe positions, compromising principle in order to hold onto their elective offices.

As a mainstream American, I vote for the person. If a Democrat will do ya' better, send a message to the Republicans by voting for the one who believes most like you do.  Once the representative or senator (or whatever sort of representative he or she is) gets moved into his new office, then, you hold his or her feet to the fire. That's the beauty of the two party system.  If they don't do what you want 'em to, you vote 'em out.  If we all do that, you can bet the parties will get the message. 

It's up to us as voters to be decisive about what we want.  As few as a dozen phone calls and letters have been known to change a politician's vote.  Write 'em.  Call 'em.  Raise hell in their local offices. Threaten to give money to their opponent. As much as they might take lobbyist money, it doesn't take many letters from real voters to get them to back away from their lobby favoritism if they know that real voters are watching with disapproval.

I once was asked by a senator if I had organized some sort of letter-writing campaign about an issue when he got bombarded by letters and calls from voters about an issue in his committee. The thing that got his attention was that each letter was individual and NOT a form letter.  A dozen handwritten or composed letters and phone calls trumped hundreds of contacts obviously spit out of a fax machine or e-mail spammer by a professional lobbyist.  I told him I'd simply told friends about the bill they were considering.  He was impressed with the response and the bill passed from his committee to the state house floor and was one of the few local community issues acted on and passed by the house that year.  Support was bipartisan and individual.

Don't waste your time signing on to fax blitzes.  Know who your representatives are and write, e-mail or call their local offices when you care about something they are doing. 

Politicians' ears are particularly sensitive to the sound of the villagers gathering at the gates with pitchforks and torches and tar and feathers. 

Just one man's opinion,

Tom King - Tyler, Texas