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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Supreme Politics

The retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter and the appointment by Barak Obama of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as Souter’s replacement again brings to the forefront one of the most powerful roles that a U.S.president plays. One of the main reasons that I was a strong supporter of John McCain (after Super Tuesday) was for this very scenario.

I believe that there is no greater role for the President of the United States than those of Commander In Chief and the appointer of Federal Judges. The most enduring mark a U.S. President leaves on the nation is with the federal judiciary. Economic policies can be undone; defense policy can be reversed; education policy can be readdressed, and so on. However, federal judicial appointments are for life. Thus, it can literally take decades to reverse bad judicial rulings at the federal level.

In a speech to Planned Parenthood last year, Obama said, “We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom; the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges.”

Hence, it should surprise no one that Obama appointed the “empathetic” Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. What is surprising is the argument by many that conservatives will have a hard time opposing this nominee because she is the first Hispanic appointee to the Supreme Court.

Liberals (and some conservatives) all over the place are touting Sotomayor as “filibuster-proof” because of her gender, her race, and her “compelling life story.” Therefore, her appointment is seen as another savvy, brilliant move by “the Anointed One.” No such praise or political points were heaped upon George Bush in 2001 when he appointed Miguel Estrada to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

For over two years Democrats shamelessly filibustered Estrada. Tired of the drawn out fight, in September of 2003, he withdrew his name for consideration for the seat.

Estrada’s “compelling life story” (which certainly rivals Sotomayor’s) and his “well qualified” rating from the American Bar Association not withstanding, because the D.C. Circuit is widely seen as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court, Democrats were not about to let President Bush appoint a conservative Hispanic to such a position.

The battle over Estrada went on for 28 months. There were few, if any, cries of racism towards the Democrats—no political pressure for them to relent because Estrada was Hispanic. In fact, an internal memo to Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin reveals that a handful of liberal organizations desired to keep Estrada off the court because his Latino heritage made him “especially dangerous” and “the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment.”

President Bush also appointed Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney General. He was the first Hispanic appointed to one of the “big four” cabinet jobs. Bush appointed Colin Powell as Secretary of State—the first black man to occupy the position. He later appointed Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State—the first black woman to occupy the position.

It seems that there were a lot of “firsts” when it came to President Bush and minorities. In 2004, USA Today noted, “With little fanfare and not much credit, President Bush has appointed a more diverse set of top advisers than any president in history.”

“Not much credit” is putting it mildly. As often as liberals are lauded for their progressive views toward minorities, conservatives are vilified. It is one of the greatest myths perpetuated today: liberals are for minorities and conservatives are not.

Whether it comes to Clarence Thomas, Miguel Estrada, Alberto Gonzalez, et al, liberals have no qualms about going hard after conservative minorities, and they are not made to pay for it politically in the media. The same luxury is not afforded conservatives who go after liberal minorities.

To firmly oppose Sotomayor, what conservatives must do is keep the debate framed around the issues and her liberal judicial philosophy. No matter how often the attempt is made to frame the debate around race, gender, and her “compelling story,” conservatives must treat Sotomayor as any other liberal with the wrong ideas about the judiciary. After all, it would be discrimination to do otherwise.

Copyright 2009, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"All the Gold in California"

“All the gold in California,” Larry Gatlin and his brothers sang, “is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in somebody else’s name.” Who would have thought that Mr. Gatlin was a prophet? Just about everything inCalifornia these days is in “somebody else’s name.”

Facing an economic catastrophe of unprecedented proportions, on May 19, by an average of 65%, California’s voters wisely rejected a slate of propositions that would have raised taxes. These tax increases were the liberals’ answer to a $21 billion budget deficit that the state faces in the next fiscal year beginning July 1.

Make no mistake about it, California, just like the federal government, is firmly in the control of liberals. In a column a few weeks ago, I referenced a 2002 article by Harold Meyerson from the liberal magazine American Prospect. Given the current turn of events in the “Golden State,” that reference deserves another look. If you recall, Meyerson hailed California, since it was firmly in control of the Democrats, as a “laboratory” for Democratic policies. In California, Meyerson said, “the next New Deal is in tryouts.”

As I said a few weeks ago, which is now even more obvious, the “New Deal” was no deal at all. Even the New York Times recently lamented the “severely dysfunctional politics” under which Californians suffer. I wonder if the California voters are ready for a little “change.”

California, of course, is not alone in its dire deficit dilemma. As the Times points out, “cumulative state deficits over the next two years are estimated at $350 billion to $370 billion.” However, California alone has an economy that is one of the world’s largest. This has many people asking that all too familiar question these days: Is California too big to fail?

California, along with the other states, has already received billions from Obama’s federal “stimulus” program. If California gets bailed out further, what is to stop the other states from again coming to the federal government with their hands out? Of course, this should more aptly be called a taxpayer bailout, because that is exactly who will pay for it (again!).

It’s not as if Californians aren’t taxed enough. According to the Tax Foundation, in 2008 California ranked 6th highest in the U.S. in state-local tax burdens. They’ve been in the top ten (as high as second) for each of the last fourteen years. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the top ten for state-local tax burdens last year: 
10.) Rhode Island 9.) Wisconsin 8.) Vermont 7.) Ohio 6.) California 5.) Hawaii 4.) Maryland 
3.) Connecticut  2.) New York 1.) New Jersey.

Notice how “blue” these states are. (All went for Obama last election.) There is a saying across politics which declares that, “California is where the future happens first.” It will be intriguing to see if the financial woes occurring in California will play out next in these other rather liberal states.

The ten lowest last year for state-local tax burdens: 41.) Arizona 42.) Louisiana 43.) Texas 44.) Tennessee 45.) South Dakota 46.) New Hampshire 47.) Florida 48.) Wyoming 49.) Nevada 50.) Alaska. Notice the “redness” of these states. Seven out of ten of these went for McCain in the last election.

Also, according to World Net Daily and the Bureau of Labor Stats, “unemployment in March was 20 percent higher in so-called “blue states” won by Democratic candidate Barack Obama in last fall’s presidential election than in “red states” won by Republican candidate John McCain.”

As I also pointed out in my column a few weeks ago, the states have been called “laboratories of democracy.” If one wants to see how things will work at the federal level, take a look at the states. As our economic struggles continue, it will be worthwhile to keep an eye on the states to see who gets their financial house in order first. I’m betting on “red.”

Copyright 2009, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Friday, May 22, 2009

Michael Vick vs. Dante Stallworth (or Dog Killer vs. Man Killer)

The difference in the treatment of Michael Vick and Donté Stallworth by the media, teammates, the NFL, and the general public reveals a great deal about our culture. The picture painted is not a pretty one.

If you’ve never heard of Donté Stallworth, don’t be surprised. Unless you’re a fan of the Cleveland Browns, or unless you closely follow the NFL, you probably have no idea who he is.

On March 14 of this year in Miami Florida, Stallworth, a 28-year-old wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns, struck and killed 59-year-old Mario Reyes. According to his blood test, Stallworth's blood-alcohol level after the crash was .126, which was well above Florida's legal limit of .08.

This event received significant coverage by the sports media but scant coverage otherwise. On May 19 of this year I did a Google search of “Dante Stallworth kills pedestrian” and got about 69,700 links (“Dante Stallworth kills man” yielded about half this result.). I then Googled “Michael Vick dog fighting” and I got about 688,000 links—nearly 10 times more than the Stallworth search. Granted, such an activity is not a very scientific comparison; after all, Vick’s story has been around much longer, but it is not a far cry to conclude that the coverage of Vick’s incident far surpasses any reporting of Stallworth’s incident.

Even when there were only suspicions about Vick’s involvement in dog fighting, he was quickly ostracized and many people distanced themselves from him. About a week after Vick was officially charged, on July 23 of 2007, citing the league’s conduct policy, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell ordered Vick not to report to training camp until the NFL reviewed the dog fighting charges. Protesters, especially those representing the radical animal rights group PETA, gathered at the Falcons’ training facilities and outside the NFL’s offices in New York. Falcons’ owner Author Blank called Vick’s behavior “horrific.”

Four days after he struck and killed a man, Stallworth reported to the Browns’ voluntary off-season workouts. His attorney, Chris Lyons, said, “Donté reported to the Browns on Wednesday morning and he's been welcomed back by everyone—his teammates, the management, the coaching staff, and they've all been extremely supportive.”

After Stallworth was charged with DUI manslaughter, according to ESPN, “NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league will review the case under its conduct and substance abuse policies.” Aiello stated, “As the state attorney has said, this was a tragic accident that raises serious issues and we join all those who have expressed their sympathies to the Reyes family.” No condemnation, no protests outside Browns facilities, and no mention of suspension from the NFL.

When searching for articles on Stallworth’s story, you will often see the event described as a “tragedy,” an “accident,” or a “mistake.”  It is also easy to find sympathetic quotes from teammates. Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Mary Kay Cabot did a story in early April detailing the support from teammates that Stallworth was receiving. Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said, “people should know that Donté is a great person who made a terrible mistake, not a terrible person.”

What Michael Vick did was a “mistake.” He deserved to be punished by both the criminal justice system and the NFL. However, what Donté Stallworth did was “horrific.”
He took the life of another human being and now faces four to fifteen years in prison if he is convicted.

As Vick approaches the end of his sentence, there is much discussion about his return to the NFL. Vick was suspended for the 2007 season and missed the 2008 season while in jail. It will be interesting to continue to follow and contrast these two stories. If he is guilty, how will Stallworth’s jail time compare to Vick’s? What will be the reaction of the NFL, the media, and the public to these ongoing sagas?

One thing is already clear: what a sad indictment on our culture that a man who mistreats (or even kills) animals has been so viciously condemned, while another man who may be guilty of manslaughter hardly draws the public’s attention. Perhaps the greatest tragedy here is the twisted set of morals that allows for such behavior.

Copyright 2009, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let's be clear about Evolution

Nationally syndicated columnists, local columnists, and letter writers have had their say recently in the Times in the never-ending debate over evolution. Never one to shy away from this issue, I would like to add to the current discussion.

I’m taking a bit of a different approach with this column. I would like to point out some misleading arguments that are often used by both sides in this debate.

Perhaps the most glaring, and dangerous, mistake made by many is trying to reconcile the Bible with Darwinian evolution. Decades of compromise within the church when it comes to the Word of God is what has gotten Christians where we are in this matter. If one accepts the Bible as the infallible and undoubted Word of God, there is no sound, logical way to accept Darwinian evolution as fact.

In other words, if one believes that God used millions and billions of years of life and death to create man, he or she is in direct conflict with what the Bible teaches. An atheist who completely denies God and the Bible and holds molecules to man evolution up as absolute truth has a more logically defensible position than the Christian who wants to mix evolution with Scripture.

Let me give just one example of how Scripture is incompatible with Darwinian evolution. Consider Romans chapter 5: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men…Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness (Jesus’ atoning death) was justification that brings life to all men.” 

Here we have Paul, the author of Romans, making reference to a literal Adam and a literal “Fall” through which sin and death entered the world and from which Christ came to save us. Darwinian evolution teaches that millions of years of death and struggle led to more and more variations in the plant and animal kingdom, and ultimately produced human beings, et al. This directly contradicts the Bible, which teaches that everything was created “good,” with no death, and death then entering the world through the sin of Adam (and Eve). The gospel message of Jesus is rooted in this. Anything that teaches otherwise is a lie.

One writer recently pointed out that the Bible “is not a science book.” This sounds like another common mistake: believing that evolution is only about science and that creation is only about religion. This is nonsense.

The writer is correct, of course, that the Bible does not reveal many specifics when it comes to “operational science.” However, the Bible is a history book, accurately dealing with real people and events. In fact, the Bible does as much (if not more) to contribute to “historical science” than most biology books. As the renowned archaeologist William F. Albright put it, “the picture in Genesis is historical, and there is no reason to doubt the general accuracy of the biographical details.”

Another tired argument that evolutionists should avoid is that bacterial resistance to antibiotics proves evolution. The genetic information for these resistances was already present in some of the bacteria. These bacteria then reproduce more resistant bacteria. This is an example of “natural selection,” which gives us variation in all types of creatures (dogs, horses, etc.), but is not an example of one kind of creature changing to another. In other words, “natural selection” is not Darwinian evolution.

There are also several faulty arguments that Creationists should avoid when it comes to this debate. One such argument is that, if humans evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys? Darwinian evolution doesn’t teach this. It teaches that humans and monkeys have a common ancestor—the ever elusive “missing link.”

Another popular myth is that Darwin had a deathbed conversion. Sadly, given the weight of the evidence (click here to read more), Darwin renouncing his theory and accepting Christ seems an unlikely occurrence. One thing that is likely (more like certain) is that, just as Darwin does now, one day we will all know the truth.

Copyright 2009, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Liberal Hypocrisy is Nearly ‘Torture’

It is refreshing to see that so many liberals have discovered their moral compass. In their lust to claim the moral high ground over conservatives, along with their lust to discredit the previous administration and all of its conservative policies (and to prosecute as many of them as possible), liberals have decided that the “torture” of three al Qaeda figures in 2002 and 2003 is the issue with which to pursue their desired ends.

Liberals are throwing the word “torture” around much like they do the words “homophobe” and “racist.” “Homophobe” and “racist” are popular liberal “snarl” words—words that, when used, are intended to induce a negative response, appealing to a person’s emotions rather than their reasoning. The word “torture” is well on its way to becoming liberals’ newest and most favorite “snarl” word.

In other words, say the word “torture” enough when discussing the “evil” Bush administration, and perhaps Americans will be more supportive of liberal efforts to jail as many Bush officials as possible.

Near the heart-of-the-matter in this debate is the interrogation procedure with which we have all become too familiar: waterboarding. According to many different sources, waterboarding was used on only three al Qaeda figures: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubayda and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

Also, as many have recently pointed out, these “enhanced interrogations,” as they were officially known, produced “high value information,” as Obama's director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, acknowledges. Former CIA Director George Tenet in 2007 said, “I know that this program [of “enhanced interrogations”] has saved lives. I know we've disrupted plots. I know this program alone is worth more than [what] the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.”

Michael Hayden, another former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said recently that, “the use of these techniques against these terrorists made us safer. It really did work.”

Furthermore, it seems that Congress was kept well abreast of the program. In the words of Representative Peter Hoekstra, “We believed it was something that had to be done in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to keep our nation safe. After many long and contentious debates, Congress repeatedly approved and funded this program on a bipartisan basis in both Republican and Democratic Congresses.”

Of course, the mere fact that something worked and was approved by Congress doesn’t make it right and just. There are significant legal and moral issues in play when it comes to enhanced interrogation (or “torture”). Reasonable, sincere, and moral people have come down on both sides of this difficult issue.

Now I can respect an honest and consistent ethic (though I believe it is quite wrong) that lovingly honors human dignity (at every phase of life), and concludes that torture (whatever that is) is “intrinsically evil.” The Catholic Church takes such a position.

However, what I can’t respect, in fact what I loathe, is the reeking hypocrisy of those who condemn the “torture” of three known terrorists, (who had long before 9/11 declared war on the U.S., and who are still alive and breathing on the U.S. taxpayers’ dime), while supporting a procedure which has resulted in the slaughter of millions of human beings still in their mothers’ wombs.

For example, consider the recent “moral” clamoring on the issue of torture from three well known and widely read liberal columnists. Paul Krugman wrote, “the only way we can regain our moral compass…for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how [the “torture’] happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible… because it’s about reclaiming America’s soul.”

Cynthia Tucker added, “If we’re the ‘shining city upon a hill,’ ‘the last, best hope of earth,’ aren’t we required to inhabit a higher moral plane than homicidal theo-fascists?” Eugene Robinson concluded that, “On the moral question, the [current] administration has been straightforward and righteous. One of President Obama's first acts was to declare that the United States will no longer practice waterboarding or other abusive interrogation methods, saying that such depredations are inimical to our nation's values and traditions.”

Now these columnists paint a clear picture of the bizarre liberal morality (notice how each invokes the term) which condemns “torture” but is deeply supportive of abortion “rights.” What kind of “morality” must one possess that allows for such duplicity? Whatever absurd set of principles tolerates such foolishness, I want no part of it. Paraphrasing the words of Christ, Why do they look at the speck of sawdust in their brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in their own eye? You hypocrites first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Copyright 2009, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World