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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

SHOOTING FROM THE LIP: PAT ROBERTSON EDITION

I'm not quite sure what all the fuss is about over Pat Robertson's comments that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez should be assassinated. At first, I thought maybe the media was covering the story because it was an interesting off-the-cuff remark that was made in an inappropriate forum: a Christian-based television program.

Then, CNN came out with the graphics: they blared "ROBERTSON VS CHAVEZ," as if one TV personality's comments would ignite an international crisis. The critics lined up against Robertson one by one, and eventually he was pressured into apologizing for exercising his freedom of speech. That's unfortunate, mostly because this whole ordeal -- which I'm certain will have the media buzzing for several more days -- was nothing to be concerned about.

First of all, Pat Robertson was expressing a view that is held by many in "Red-State America," and those folks comprise much of his audience. There are a lot of people in the United States who do think, "If this Chavez guy is so insistant that the US is trying to assassinate him, maybe we should just get it over with." Unsurprisingly, the major media sources located on the coasts were just flabbergasted at Robertson's remark, much as I'm sure they'd be shocked to meet an ordinary, unrefined American from middle America.

I guarantee that there is a significant portion of the American population that is simply remaining silent on this, because it would be politically incorrect to advocate the assassination of world leader. Right?

But why was there such an outcry against what Robertson said? I don't understand the media furor. Honestly, who cares? Had CNN and other media sources not blown this out of proportion, approximately 1/300th of the American population would have known about it by virtue of watching the show in which the comments were made -- the 700 Club.

That's it. One million people. His own viewers.

And while Pat Robertson may still wield a bit of star power, he doesn't decide US foreign policy for us. Rest assured, my Commie friends, Hugo Chavez will not be assassinated because Pat Robertson thinks he should be.

This is a non-issue. No one should give a damn, but the coverage of this story has been massive. Media sources had a difficult time covering this objectively, and Robertson came out demonized one way or the other. What I find fascinating is the comparison between the overabundant coverage of Robertson's one extemporaneous remark and the lack of coverage over some of what Cindy Sheehan has been quoted as saying.

Yes, Cindy. She's been quoted as saying that the United States "is not worth dying for" and the American government is a "morally repugnant system."

"America has been killing people on this continent since it was started," according to Sheehan, and "the killing has gone on unabated for over 200 years."

She's called our own President a "
filth-spewer and warmonger." (Is it any wonder that he won't meet with her.)

She's called Bush the "biggest terrorist in the world," and said that the administration was part of a 9/11 plot: "
9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through." She said that in April, apparently before the death of her son stirred emotions powerful enough to protest at Crawford or anywhere else, even though he'd been dead nearly nine months.

But the media remains cheeringly respectful of her, not bringing up her political activism or the fact that she's allied with the far left. Cindy Sheehan is held up as a shining beacon of what America is all about -- exercising her freedom of speech and promoting the values of speaking out against things she finds disturbing.

Strange. It seems to me that Pat Robertson was doing the exact same thing. But he's "crazy," a "right-wing nut" who shouldn't say the things he does and should feel bad about his personal views. Cindy Sheehan's sort of free speech is vigorously promoted, while Pat Robertson is pressured into issuing an apology for speaking his mind. What a damn shame -- all this fuss over essentially nothing.

In issuing his apology today, Robertson quoted the German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a way of trying to justify what he said: "
[That if a madman were] driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can't, as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver."

Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis in 1944 for being involved in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He's remembered as a hero and an upstanding moral example for Christians and non-Christians alike. Bonhoeffer, a truly brave and admirable man for standing up to Nazism, was hanged for actively trying to kill a world leader. Students of history abhor the manner in which he was killed and regret the death of a great man, unafraid to speak his mind.

But 61 years later, Pat Robertson has been crucified for exercising that very same freedom of speech that so many pretend to appreciate.

Monday, August 22, 2005

TURNING THE PERSONAL POLITICAL

Cindy Sheehan started her feeble protesting career as a simple curiousity, one woman out to change the world against hopeless odds. She made demands of the most powerful man in the free world, but instead of falling on deaf ears, Sheehan's initial curiousity blossomed into a full fledged anti-war movement that seems to have real media power. While she started as one "grieving mother," she's now a shooting star enjoying 15 minutes of fame, complete with a publicist, a gang of protesting followers, and a media entourage.

It's hard to criticize Sheehan because the very reason she claims for being so upset is her own grief over the death of her son in Iraq. And you can't really take that away from her. We can't know how she's actually feeling, whether or not her anger and sadness are as powerful as she claims, or if her goal is a personal one or one with a higher political purpose. I wouldn't presume to take that away from her without justification, but certain facts seem to justify that Ms. Sheehan is an opportunist with a powerful political agenda and an opportune time to pursue those ends.

I rarely read Ann Coulter's columns since they are often times too conservative -- so much so that she takes to attacking the Republican party when it isn't rabidly conservative enough for her tastes, as has been her custom lately with the nomination of John Roberts. But Coulter's column last Friday was dead-on with her take on Cindy Sheehan and the protests at Crawford, Texas. And maybe it was Ann Coulter's own column that prompted me to organize my own thoughts on Sheehan. Some excellent points are made within the column:

"Call me old-fashioned, but a grief-stricken war mother shouldn't have her own full-time PR flack. After your third profile on "Entertainment Tonight," you're no longer a grieving mom; you're a C-list celebrity trolling for a book deal or a reality show."

I think that's a pretty damn good point. If this were truly a personal matter for Sheehan, as she claims, she wouldn't be thrusting herself on every TV camera that comes into view. She'd request to be left alone to grieve, quietly requesting that meeting with President Bush where she'll -- well, what would she do if she were to meet with him? Her own quotes made public recently signal to me that she wouldn't be all that willing to allow the President to express his condolences.

Sheehan told a CBS reporter what she thinks of Bush:

"
I don't believe his phony excuses for the war. I want him to tell me why my son died."

And what would you have him say, Ms. Sheehan?

"If he gave the real answer, people in this country would be outraged — if he told people it was to make his buddies rich, that it was about oil."

Ah! Now she's starting to show her true colors. She's understandably upset that her son was killed, but she's simply spouting more of the same "war for oil" crap that's been plaguing the administration since it went into Iraq. Does she really think that Bush would "come clean," so to speak, with her? Is she so ignorant to believe that a meeting with the President would make him see her point of view, which amounts to the same liberal tripe that fools like Michael Moore have been spouting for years?

First of all, there are -- believe it or not -- people who actually believe that the war in Iraq is a positive thing. George Bush is one of them. While faulty intelligence got us in, it was this idea of "liberation" that kept us going, and we're too deep into the war to just give up and walk away now simply because Cindy Sheehan's son was killed.

Secondly, if this was a war for oil, wouldn't you think there'd be a little more flowing out of Iraq? Well, not the sort of people we're talking about. They actually think that George Bush is horrible enough to want to see the oil flows dry up enough that his "buddies" will be raking in even more money. Never mind that he isn't an oil man himself, anymore, and wouldn't profit from it. Never mind that today's oil crisis has nothing to do with any Americans trying to pad some Saudi bank accounts, and everything to do with China demanding more oil.

So Cindy Sheehan is just another in a big group of anti-war protesters, upset for a legitimate reason but fooled into thinking the war is about nothing but oil. And unfortunately, too many in the media have become enamoured with her presence in Crawford and are fully ready to hand over the reins of international policy making to an upset, "morally righteous," 48-year-old woman. But Ann Coulter addresses that option:

"Fortunately, the Constitution vests authority to make foreign policy with the president of the United States, not with this week's sad story. If one dead son means no one can win an argument with you, how about two dead sons? What if the person arguing with you is a mother who also lost a son in Iraq and she's pro-war? Do we decide the winner with a coin toss? Or do we see if there's a woman out there who lost two children in Iraq and see what she thinks about the war? Now liberals demand that we listen to the same old arguments all over again, not because Sheehan has any new insights, but because she has the ability to repel dissent by citing her grief."

Maybe that's harsh, but it's accurate. Sheehan really has no more authority to dictate what we should do in Iraq than anyone. Nor should we turn the other way at her protests just because she seems to be able to repel to dissent. That's like not criticizing deviant behavior when it comes from a minority, just because that would be the politically incorrect thing to do. That's like looking the other way when some upper-class yuppie runs a red light, because we'd be fools to argue with someone who has that kind of clout.

Sheehan deserves criticism, because she's had a chance to meet with the President before. She had no criticisms of him then; no harsh words or chastising because of the oil factor. Now she says she was in shock and unable to be vociferous. Bull.

Tom Bell, editor and publisher of the Salina Journal, wrote a great editorial on this subject last Friday. Sheehan is alone when she claims that Bush isn't compassionate in personal meetings or that he doesn't care about her loss. Bell writes about the grieving families who have had personal meetings with the President after losing loved ones in the war:

"
These family members, often angry with the president, were moved by his sincerity, his apologies and his comfort. He hugged family members, sometimes crying with them. In one meeting with more than 30 families he promised to stay until he talked to every last one of them. And he did."

Cindy Sheehan is a liar and has changed her story. If Bush were really as cold and insincere as she claims he was over a year ago when she first met him, she would not have waited until his Crawford vacation in 2005 to make a statement about it. She reveals herself as an opportunist in this matter.

Speaking of opportunists, take a look at the protesters and organizations that have surrounded her. Tom Bell takes them on, too:

"
Sheehan's story has become a magnet for anti-war demonstrators and liberal advocacy groups like MoveOn.org, which have joined the efforts, taking every opportunity to embarrass the president. Turning this grieving mother into a political tool is despicable, and cheapens the sacrifice made by every American soldier killed in combat."

Don't grieve for the grieving mother, because while she's upset over the loss of her son, she's eating this up as a political opportunity. So are the liberal groups that have surrounded her. It's a pathetic situation, certainly nothing worthy of the name Casey Sheehan and the cause that he died for.

Friday, August 19, 2005

THE TOP 25 MOST INFLUENTIAL HISPANICS IN AMERICA

I've suspected for quite some time that the Republican party is (wisely) aiming at Hispanic voters to build a new base of support. Simple politics and election projections would go a long way in explaining President Bush's reluctance to deal with illegal immigration or securing the Mexican border in any substantive way. If Republicans get a majority of Hispanic support -- and trends are headed in that direction -- the GOP can gain a pretty secure lock on the electoral landscape. Any political alliance between the evangelical Christian right and Hispanics would prove to be an unstoppable voting block, which is one reason why many black activists opposed to conservative victories have been urging a reconciliation of sorts to take place between the black and Hispanic communities.

What used to be the ultra-important issue area for Hispanics -- economics -- is falling to the wayside because of the increasing importance of social issues: abortion, gun control, war and patriotism, and just plain overall moral and social values. On those issues, Republicans resonate with Hispanics much more loudly than Democrats or liberals do. Religion is important to Hispanics. Life and children and family are important. Presenting a strong and unified front is important. Democrats seem weak on most of these areas, and Hispanics are opting to stick with Republicans on the more intangible issues in the social realm.

And eventually, that will amount to be a lot of voters. Several states now have Hispanic majorities, including Texas. Hispanics are now the most populous minority group in the United States, having passed the relatively stable number of blacks several years ago. Because of the increased support that they are seeing from Hispanic voters, even some Republicans are changing their stances on economic issues to be more amicable to Latinos, whether purposefully or not. Kansas' own Senator Sam Brownback is notoriously conservative on social issues, but takes a more liberal approach to some economic matters, especially charity. Lately, he's advocated massive aid packages for the ravaged continent of Africa as well as put forward a bill in the Senate that would issue an apology to American Indians for their treatment at the hands of the US government. Those are certainly two stances that Republicans haven't been seen next to, but they are in line with a softer and more religious approach to the issues.

So with a few Republicans looking to become more progressive and Hispanics voting for the GOP in increasing numbers, how reasonable is it that the party of Lincoln, Reagan, and Bush will soon be garnering a majority of Latino votes? I'd refer you to Time Magazine's 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America. The top five are major players in the political arena, and the top four are Republican loyalists.

President Bush has made some cautious and politically brilliant moves, quietly consolidating a growing Hispanic base for the GOP, despite the insistence of many in his own party that he secure the borders and do something to stem the growing illegal immigration problem. Even while most legal immigrants and Hispanic citizens in the United States believe that illegal immigration should be curbed, Bush is very wary of making any sudden moves that could offend an entire ethnic group. However, the President would find that Hispanic opinions are much more fluid and diverse than those of some other minority groups. Moves to stop illegal immigrants would likely meet some opposition within the Hispanic community, but would more likely see no resistence or even support.

A few trends will occur within the next few election cycles that will be telling of the impact of Bush's moves:

- Hispanic voters will continue to drift to the GOP, spurred on mostly by social issues but encouraged by the Republicans' willingness to bend on certain economic issues.

- Evangelical Christians will continue to play a major role in Republican party politics, demanding that certain views be advocated for them to get out and support GOP candidates. Evangelical Protestants and Hispanic Catholics will find much common ground concerning social issues.

- Black voters and unions will become increasingly irrelevant to any electoral plan.

- The South and Midwest will wield the most political clout in the nation, with California becoming a big but essentially useless piece of any electoral puzzle. New England will continue to lose ground in terms of political effectiveness and influence. The few important swing regions will be the Pacific Northwest, select areas of the Midwest, and the Rocky Mountain states.

Democrats have a lot of reason to worry. Republicans have already planted the seeds of a GOP that includes a prominent place for Hispanic voters. And unlike Democrats, Republicans are not taking their own minority support for granted. They're fully willing and able to appoint, support, and elect Hispanic officials.

These demographic and electoral shifts over time signal the coming of a more economically progressive but ultimately populist-oriented Republican party and a Hispanic community that will play an increasingly important role in politics in the United States.

HOW MUCH WILL YOU PAY FOR GAS?

Just keep in mind that the more you pay, the more comfortable some people will be. I know we've got to drive - in our society it's just about unavoidable - but the ones controlling the flow of oil sort of make me sick.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

WORKING HARD AND HARDLY WORKING

That's what it feels like -- working hard and hardly working, mostly because I'm inside sitting at a computer all day. I know we're actually getting a lot accomplished, but I've put in seven hours today and will likely put in another four or five, all without leaving the house.

Right now, there just isn't any reason for me to leave. I have no meetings to go to or no one that I really know to go see outside of the house, so I've stayed camped out here for the most part. I've always been more of an indoor person than an outdoor person; at least I thought I was. Now I'm not so sure. Although I spent a good deal of my time in Kanopolis inside working on the computer, when I needed a break, I got outside and walked around, or took a drive, or went to visit with somebody. I appreciated a lot that I had in Kansas, but I suppose not enough - a car and an open road are pretty liberating. That's not really a possibility here, so any breaks I take include quick naps or watching TV. The BTK sentencing has been on today.

By Friday, I'll be itching to get out, so I'm planning on taking a trip into DC, just to wander around, if nothing else. Samantha Finke is still there at Sen. Harry Reid's office, so I may give her a call to see if I could get a look around. She'll only be working in DC for the next couple of weeks, so I'd better take advantage of her offer while I've got the chance.

Several people have called me in the last few days just to see how things are going. It's always good to get surprise phone calls, especially now. Lots of e-mails have been coming in, too, some of them from people that I haven't heard from in months.

One benefit of not leaving the house is that I have more time to write on the blog. I think that's appreciated, since I had several people tell me that I needed to update more often. Maybe this is a good thing, huh?

EFFORTS TO OUST CONNIE MORRIS

I don't like Connie Morris. Despite her story of overcoming personal tragedy to succeed in life, I just don't think she's good for Kansas. She is the sort of figure that is dividing the state as well as the entire country. It's not necessarily her beliefs that I take issue with; in fact, she's free to feel however she wants about how to best educate Kansas students. But it's her unwillingness to compromise and her intolerance for other views that make her a really undesirable public figure.

The debate between evolution and intelligent design has Kansas making headlines across the nation, and really, intelligent design could be a legitimate option if it were to be presented right. It wouldn't take up much time in a classroom; very little, in fact. All intelligent design needs in as much as an explanation is this: biological evolution is too complex to have occurred randomly, and instead was guided by an intelligent force.

That's it. No discussion of God or religion or Adam and Eve. None. Matters of religion do not belong in a public school classroom any more than evolution or quantum mechanics need to be taught in church. But Connie Morris doesn't really advocate intelligent design. She wants to bring Christianity to the classroom.

There are so many logistical problems with bringing any sort of religious teaching into a public school that they can't all be listed here. If Christianity were to be taught as the chief alternative to evolution in public schools, there would be a significant outcry from adherents of the other religious alternatives that would be left out. While "the earth was created in six days" may be Connie Morris' idea of intelligent design, that might not be so for any number of other religions.

Hindus, Buddhists, and any number of other minor religions do not follow the Biblical account of creation. Why should they be subjected to a matter of faith that isn't theirs? And though many claim that all students are subjected to evolution against their wills (and against their faiths), evolution is not just about creation; it's about biological growth and diversity, cells, atomic structure, geology, astronomy -- it encompasses so many rock-solid scientific avenues. Even if one doesn't believe in evolution, per se, almost everyone accepts that there are cells in biological organisms and that all elements have an atomic structure.

Intelligent design can explain evolution through evolution itself. People like Connie Morris are overlooking that and using intelligent design as an excuse to further her own agenda, and that's not right. It has caused significant division both on the Kansas State Board of Education and in the state as a whole.

But it's not her beliefs that are getting her in trouble. It's how she's treated everyone else in the state of Kansas, most notably her fellow board members.

Those who disagree with her have been subject to her rage, even during board meetings. Her behavior is forcing the entire board to evaluate how members should be treating each other. In a newsletter to her constituents, she wasn't shy about naming and berating those who don't feel the same way she does.

That's getting to be a problem that is all to common in politics, regardless of political affiliation. Liberals and conservatives go at each others' throats and won't take the time to reasonably discuss things. They get too bullheaded about their views, think the other side is stupid for feeling differently, refuse to compromise, and who ends up getting hurt? Us, because nothing gets accomplished.

But back to Connie Morris: her latest crusade that has riled Kansas taxpayers was her nearly $4,000 trip to Florida to go to a conference on magnet schools. Now, not only does her district not have any magnet schools (and Kansas only has three), but she seemed to have spent a lot more money than she should have had to. Although she admitted no wrongdoing (and blamed the liberal media, which in this case is just a copout), she did pay the state nearly $3,000 back for the trip, leading me to believe that it was a guilty conscience eating away at her.

Her uncompromising views, as one Republican representative from Colby said, are tearing us apart, and her grating, abrasive demeanor and financial problems have put her right in the middle of a public firestorm that is seeking to oust her from the BOE.

Morris' number may be up when the next election rolls around, but her detractors have to be very careful in what they say and do; there's a fine line between legitimate arguments against her and a full-blown witch hunt. Connie Morris can be defeated in the next election on straight facts alone -- she has not represented her people well and has caused much turmoil in Kansas state politics.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I NEED MEXICAN FOOD

When I'm sick, about the only thing that sounds good to me in Mexican food -- authentic, no less. There's none to be found around here.

I've been pretty worthless most of the day, though I've still been able to work. I've just been taking it easy most of the afternoon and evening. Food poisoning is not fun. Ugh!

FOOD POISONING!

I've been up most of the night getting rid of everything I ate yesterday. I think it was the peanut butter that did it -- it was "organic," whatever that means. It tasted fine, but my stomach didn't like it.

When I went to bed, it felt like I had really bad heartburn, which usually doesn't stop me from going to sleep. But I had a heck of a time even dozing off, and finally about 3:00am, I decided something wasn't right. I got up, went to the bathroom, and threw up all that peanut butter. I know -- nice visual, huh?

I was sick most of the morning, too. I managed through work alright, and we had a 10:30 meeting in Alexandria which I went to. I'm a lot better now, but I'm going to lay down here pretty soon. My stomach still hurts and my head is pounding.

Odd -- I've never gotten into something before that upset my stomach so bad. As it turns out, it's supposed to be what's healthiest for you that ended up making me sick! My body likes junk food too much to switch over to any of that health food crap.

Friday, August 12, 2005

A SAD GOODBYE TO HOME...

It was raining as I left home this morning, and maybe that’s fitting. It was sad for me – one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I got a last look at what has been my home for almost 23 years. It was pitch black as we drove out of Kanopolis, but I could see everything as clear as if the sun was shining.

There goes my house, fading into the distance. There goes main street, the restaurant, the elevator, the beautiful Smoky Hills. And there go the best friends and warmest memories of my life, which have always been just a stone’s throw away.

Even in Manhattan, home wasn’t far. If I was nostalgic for some peace and quiet, some relaxation or time away from school, some breathtaking scenery or some good food, it was only a couple of hours away. Half-a-tank of gas, a hundred miles. And now it’s half-a-country away.

I don’t know if many people realize or appreciate how much I love my home. I’ve never been away from Kansas for more than a couple weeks at a time. My college years seemed like I never really left home. In many ways, Manhattan was just an extension of that home that I love so much.

And now I’m writing this on a plane 35,000 feet high above somewhere between Houston and Washington, DC, heading off to a new job, a new house, and new experiences. And I’m pretty scared of that kind of change.

The job doesn’t intimidate me. It’s the same thing that I’ve been doing for the past few months, just full-time now. And it’s really not the city, either. I’ve traveled to 24 states and nine countries, but it’s the separation that really scares me. I’ll miss those little things that happen at home. I’ll miss family, I’ll miss friends, and when I step off this plane in an hour, I’ll be alone – at least for a while.

I was fortunate enough to have been able to spend the last few days at home with some of the people who mean the most to me. It’s their friendship and encouragement that I’ll miss the most.

The company that I’m with has an ultimate business plan, and it involves investors and stock options and more money than I could even have fathomed a few months ago. But all the money in the world is worthless if you can’t have what’s most important in life: faith, family, and friends. All three were such powerful influences around Kanopolis that the lines between the three were often blurred.

I guess I have an ultimate business plan, too, and that’s to return to the people and the place that I love. It’s not that I don’t want to be in Washington right now – I do, and I realize that it’s essential to the job and my own growth within the company. Fortunately, my job is completely internet-based – I’ve done it from home or from Manhattan since April. All I need is a high speed internet connection and my trusty laptop.

That means that one of these days, I can go back. Maybe some people don’t understand that – I’m not sure I would have understood it five or 10 years ago, but Kansas, both the land and the people, have a way of growing on you. Ultimately, it’s where I belong, too. Taking a position in DC is just a temporary means to a more permanent end, and that makes me feel good – good about the job that I’ve accepted and good about my future.

Things have certainly changed, and I’m convinced they’ll change for the better. I’m excited about Infoition’s prospects for the future and what that could mean for me. I’m excited about being in DC and working so closely with Congress, the White House, and even our private sector clients.

And as there is a lot of work to be done here, it might be too early to think about this, but I’m excited about one day going back home.


LAST UPDATE -- JUNE 9th!?

I've had several people jump on me in the last few days about my blog not being updated for...good grief, two months! Summer is supposed to be a relatively relaxed time, but not so for me. I got busy with a lot of things, so I guess there is some catching up to do. Never fear, faithful readers: Shooting from the Lip is back!

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