Redefining and redeploying the Ohio EPA

Let me begin with a disclaimer.  I do not know the inner workings of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (abbreviated here as Ohio EPA, or just OEPA).

My knowledge of the Ohio EPA is mostly based on my eyes, my ears, and my ability to read.

Likewise, the proposal that follow are a response to what my eyes, ears, and reading ability tell me.

My ears heard something back in 2002 that made my eyes look a little more probingly at my surroundings.  While campaigning for state rep door-to-door, I spoke with a member of a family that owned and operated a construction and demolition debris dump.  He said that he understood that the OEPA needed to set some ground rules, inspect the dump from time to time, perhaps conduct a quick audit of reports that get sent to the OEPA, and even impose a dumping fee.  What he didn’t understand was why the OEPA didn’t investigate illegal dumping, where construction and demolition companies would try to avoid the fee collected at his dump by shedding their waste in some wooded or vacant area in an out-of-the-way place.

So I opened my eyes a little wider to take in my surroundings as I went from place to place.  Sure enough, in some-out-of the-way places, one can sometimes spot some rubbish that ought to be in a dump.

The construction and demolition dump is trying to provide a service.  That service is to have a place where such debris can be deposited where it poses less of a health and safety risk to the public.  To be sure, inspections may very well identify organic leachate or metal and inorganic leachate to exceed established parameters, but the dump is still a better repository for the debris than some other plot of ground is.

Sure, if you’re a neighbor of a megafarm and you believe the megafarm is contaminating runoff into surface streams because of improper handling of manure, you can report it to the EPA, and they’ll investigate.  They’ll investigate any number of companies.

But how do they investigate entities that are anonymous?  The landowner of the out-of-the-way plot of ground where debris was strewn may be just as perplexed and angered over the conditions he discovers as anybody else is.  The landowner may have no connections whatsoever to any construction or demolition companies, but he’s the one that will have to clean up that lot.

And, even if the land ownership is connected to a construction or demolition company, how long will the stuff sit there and leach hazardous materials into the ground before it is discovered?

Sure, a sheriff can gather evidence and a prosecutor can press charges, but does a sheriff even know what to look for in the first place?  And how can a sheriff assess the threat that an improperly discarded hazardous material might impose?  With cash-strapped counties cutting back on payroll, including sheriff deputies, what priorities will such investigations have?  If the OEPA is to protect Ohio’s environment, shouldn’t we widen the scope of their purview?

I’ve seen companies go out of business because they could not afford to meet all the requirements of the OEPA.  It could be said that the OEPA creates more brownfields than it cleans up.  I had an employer decide to get out of the gasoline station business because it just became too expensive.  You’ve probably seen some abandoned ones from time to time.  I wonder if those tanks are still in the ground.  The OEPA doesn’t want them there, but if no one can ante up the cash to take care of it, it’s possible they’re still there.

A family I knew from elementary school used to have greenhouses where they raised hydroponic tomatoes.  Now when I drive by, I see overgrown vegetation literally dismantling the greenhouses, as it pushes out panes of glass.  I asked my mom what happened to the greenhouses, because she knows the family, too.  The Ohio EPA wanted them to retrofit their greenhouses and the cost estimates turned out to be much more than they could manage.

For companies that only do demolition, the dumping fees may be the biggest expense they have to pay for, meaning that even labor costs can be cheaper than dumping fees.  Do you see the incentive for cheating?

On a smaller scale, what about littering?  It happens anonymously, too.  There’s supposed to be a $500 fine for it.  Yet, if I’m driving along U.S. Route 6 or State Route 2 between Huron and Toledo, I pass by state owned marshlands that have trash strewn amongst the reeds.  Funny how the state buys up all these lands for conservation, and then can’t keep them from getting contaminated, isn’t it?

It seems to me that dispatching inspectors from time to time to inspect and investigate out of OEPA headquarters or district offices is not the most effective way of dealing with these issues.  Also, having policy wonks at the OEPA headquarters is duplicative.  The federal EPA already has many policy wonks.  The OEPA also has lots of people performing management functions at headquarters in Columbus, as you can tell by the contact list for divisions and offices.  Can some of those be merged?

If you want to make contact with someone about a concern, you either have to describe it so that it’s easily categorized by a switchboard operator, and you wait to have your call transferred, or you can go to the OEPA keyword index at it’s website to see if your concern is handled by a division at headquarters, a district office, or a local health department.  I wonder, if your concern overlaps the the functions of more than one division, does that mean you have your call transferred to another division after you’ve already explained your concern to one division?  A lot of those phone numbers have a 614 area code on them.  Too bad you have to call someone in a distant ivory tower.

Regarding inspection and compliance, is it mostly comprised of stuff like identifying where limits of contaminants have been exceeded, which operating procedures aren’t being followed, which paperwork wasn’t submitted correctly, and what components of emergency plans are missing?  And if the inspection reveals some defects, what then?  Do they merely say “These items were in error.  Redouble your efforts to correct them.  We’ll be back for another inspection to see if they’ve been corrected,” and then take off back to their office in Columbus or to one of the 5 district offices?

I’ve heard that if I undertake a project that disturbs more than a half-acre of ground, that I have to get an EPA permit to do it.  I’ve seen vegetable gardens that are bigger than that, where the ground was initially tilled with a plow.  I can see how the soil could be carried by surface runoff into a stream under such conditions.  Does that mean the gardener must get an EPA permit?

Different soil types, the location of aquifers, the vegetation characteristics as surface runoff reaches streams . . . these are all site specific.  There are blanket regulations.  When inspections reveal items that need to be corrected, do they just hand the list over to the company they inspected, and then you’re on your own?

I was trying to navigate through the OEPA website to see where, if I were a small business owner, I could solicit some help in customizing my prevention efforts by having someone come out to the site, evaluating the soil types on various parts of the property, showing me which way the surface runoff drains, mapping the aquifer underground, and then guiding me on what to line any underground repositories with, what vegetation to plant where, if some of the terrain should be bulldozed to redirect surface runoff, but when I click on the tab for compliance issues, it seems to be mostly for helping small businesses navigate through all the paperwork, permitting, and inspections.    It’s as if navigating the red tape is 90% of compliance, and the other 10% is whether actual pollution is present or not.  I found a compliance page that turned out to be how legal penalties are applied.  It looked like there might be a link to information about how to get someone on site to offer recommendations on how to apply best practices to my specific plot of ground, but it turned out to be a list of phone numbers, and the webpage doesn’t exactly say they render that kind of assistance.  They just have broad headings, and I’m not sure about what falls under each heading.  Oh, it’s not one list of phone numbers.  I see two lists of phone numbers.  Are these redundancies? Which one do I call?  Is it a wild goose chase?

Sure, big corporations contract with developers, designers, and maybe even civil engineers who routinely know how to assess and adapt to a specific piece of ground.  They are likely to comply.  But what about the actions of others who anonymously cheat that the OEPA doesn’t collect a permit fee from?  How safe do you, as a member of the public, feel about only inspecting the entities that act the most responsibly?

Speaking of how safe you might feel, did you know that the Clean Ohio fund (funded with bonds, which equals state debt) doesn’t prioritize brownfield cleanup projects according to the magnitude of the hazard they pose to the public?  Nope.  The brownfield cleanup priorities are set by the developers.  The prime location properties they want to redevelop are the ones that get cleaned up.  Feel safe?

With all this in mind, I’d like to see the Ohio EPA decentralized.  We don’t need them in an office in Columbus shuffling all those papers or manipulating terabytes of data.  We don’t need to have seminars and workshops about how to navigate the OEPA red tape.  We need people in the field.  We need agents who see the same stuff I see.  We need agents that investigate the irresponsible entities that cheat on environmental regulations who don’t pay inspection and permit fees to the OEPA.

I’d like to see a small contingent of OEPA agents in every county, just like county agricultural extension agents.

Whether you are a farmer, a gardener, a landscaper who adds shrubs and flower beds to your customers’ lawns, or just a 4-H club member, you can contact the county ag extension office about all that stuff.  It’s a one-stop shop.  You don’t have to call a switchboard in Columbus and describe your problem to an operator who has to decide how she will route your call so that it ends up at the right person’s desk.  You just walk in to the county ag extension office, or call on the phone, and they’ll handle it, whatever challenge your green thumb might have run into.  If they have to consult with someone in order to respond to your concern, they’ll do that themselves.  You won’t have to do all that leg work and hang on the line while they transfer your call from one person to another to another.

So, if you were to walk into an OEPA office in your county to voice a concern, rather than them say, “Oh, the local health department handles that one.  You’ll have to talk to them.”  No.  I’d like the OEPA agent pick up the phone and call a designated contact at the local health department just in case there’s a very simple answer to the citizen’s query that can be stated in just a few sentences to save the citizen from doing that legwork.  If it turns out to be a more complex matter than that, the health department contact can say so, and THEN the OEPA makes the referral to the local health department.

Whatever the concern a citizen may have, whether it’s learning the permit process so that someone can start their own company, or whether it’s a matter of solid waste, or whether it’s a matter of drinking water quality, or whether you just want to know how to dispose of old paint and turpentine cans, I’d like to see an OEPA agent tackle the matter right then and there and provide the answers needed without having to reroute a citizen’s call.

The OEPA, more than just being an inspection bureaucracy, could actually be helpful to private individuals who can’t afford to hire a civil engineer to give them guidance about what would work for their specific property.  Instead, for a fee to cover the cost, an appointment could be made for an OEPA agent to come to the actual site, let the individual describe what they intend to use the property for, and then get some pointers from the OEPA agent about how to prevent pollution at that site.  It’s possible that some of the outlined tasks could be handled by the individual, while other tasks may require the individual to contract someone else more qualified and capable to handle it.  The OEPA agent could point those things out.  Then, based on the description of how the individual intends to use the land, the OEPA agent can give the individual a head’s up on what exactly the OEPA will be including on their inspection checklist.

The OEPA agents in the field could tackle more investigative type work to catch the irresponsible entities as well as inspect the responsible ones.  They could see who they might catch on a surveillance camera.  They might spot something that raises an eyebrow about a location that might indicate contamination, and then get a water sample, soil sample, etc.

With a few agents living and working in each county, they could see problems as they arise.  Someone dumped illegally onto a private undeveloped property?  When they spot it, maybe even during their morning commute, they’ll add that investigation to the office “to do” list. They will see and be able to act upon so much more when they live in the field than when they are merely dispatched from an office several counties away.

Give the OEPA authority to issue some of those $500 littering fines.  If they spot a stretch of property that appears to be littered frequently, they could set up cameras to catch the culprits in the act and then tip off sheriffs, prosecutors, etc., or set up a mechanism in-house to tackle the littering violations.

Please, no more wonks who think there should be another form to fill out and another unfunded mandate to pass along to business.  If someone can eliminate a few forms and spare us some of the more inconsequential mandates, then that would be useful.

Less managers and cubicle-dwelling bureaucrats, more front-line responders and enforcers.

The bottom line is that I’d like to see an OEPA that is more useful and more accessible to the public than they’ve been heretofore.  By redeploying OEPA agents, there’ll be a dimension of environmental protection added that has previously been missing.

Schoolkids an afterthought to Strickland’s education agenda

There’s what a person says, and then there’s what a person does.

Gov. Ted Strickland has talked a good game about education in Ohio serving students better, but the measurements don’t substantiate the rhetoric.

Before the spring of 2008, the Strickland administration had laid out a game plan to improve the dropout rate of Ohio’s high schools.  Some high schools needed more attention because they were “dropout factories.”  In my own blog article on the topic mentioned that Strickland’s game plan was too geared toward the older students when interventions needed to take place much earlier in a student’s life.  I wrote:

The attempt to intervene with these actions is taking place at the boundaries between 8th and 9th and 10th grades.  Naturally, I pointed out that the challenges could be addressed in much earlier years in a child’s education.  There is a desire by the Governor’s administration to address these challenges in earlier years, but so far, they are working to at least get the ball rolling, and this is their starting point.

So, with the older years being the starting point, this is the 4th year of the Strickland Administration, so those 10th graders who received interventions at the get-go should be graduating in greater numbers.  Not so.  For the third year in a row, the graduation rate has fallen.

But Ohio, under the Strickland Administration should pat itself on the back, because, on the latest “report card,” more school districts moved into the “effective” or higher ratings.  I was reading a Youngstown Vindicator article about the most recent report card, when I saw this quote from State Superintendent Deborah S. Delisle:

“It is important to recognize the significant academic gains made by students, even if they have not yet met the proficiency target.  By demonstrating progress over time, educators can show these students that their efforts are paying off and identify ways to continue making progress in the classroom. More importantly, parents can be kept informed of their children’s progress throughout the year.”

Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Umm . . . excuse me for asking, but if more school districts are becoming effective than ever before, where are those dropouts coming from?  Could they be coming from the same “dropout factories” that the Strickland Administration was going to put the most focus on?

I guess that strategy to work on the older grades and the dropout factories isn’t panning out.

Why is that?  If you read through that dropout post I’d written more than two years ago, doesn’t the Strickland plan sound good on paper?

Maybe the outlined approach is OK, but maybe helping the schoolkids isn’t the ultimate goal of proposing these plans.

When reading Right Ohio, which I frequently do, I saw this eyebrow-raising blog post with video showing State Superintendent Deborah S. Delisle (yeah, that same person patting school districts on the back, including the districts who hadn’t met the proficiency target) walking out of a hearing regarding Ohio’s “Race to the Top” application for more federal funding.  This meeting in Washington DC was so important that even Ted Strickland, himself, was in attendance.  Oh . . . well . . . she just walked out of it.  Maybe it wasn’t so important after all.  Gosh, she seems so motivated to help our schoolkids, doesn’t she?  I bet she was leaving early so that she could get to an appointment in Youngstown to tutor an at-risk sophomore.  Or not.

A clue about what’s really afoot comes to us from the Ohio Inspector General’s report on the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) that spotlighted Director Richard Murray as manipulating the system to benefit union cronies more than schoolkids or communities.  The Plain Dealer has this August 5th article on the topic.  The Columbus Dispatch has this August 14th article in which Richard Murray says that his agenda is totally permissible within the workings of the OSFC, and the Dispatch adds this article from today, the 27th, wherein the OSFC adopts a rule urged by the Inspector General’s office, but Murray says it will be business as usual because he feels that he’s never abused his power in the first place.

Whether or not you agree with Murray’s defense that he has not abused his power, is there any indication at all that Murray deems the ultimate beneficiaries of the work of the OSFC are the schoolchildren or the communities?  No.  Murray says that he will not resign his position unless Gov. Ted Strickland asks him to step aside, but Gov. Strickland is standing by Richard Murray.

Do we have any reason to assume that the workings of the OSFC are any aberration from the way that Ted Strickland runs the rest of the education agenda?  That Strickland stands by Murray, that Delisle walks out of an important meeting, that the dropout rate worsens for the 3rd year in a row, these are all indicators that the motives are personal, or about cronyism, or about patronage, or about expansion of the bureaucracy, or about increasing the size and cost of government, or about the centralization of power over the education system.  Richard Murray is not an aberration.  Richard Murray is a window through which we can see Strickland’s education regime for what it really is.

Strickland may be keeping up appearances by attending the meeting in Washington and saying what he’s expected to say regarding better outcomes for Ohio students, but these are just posturing and lip service.  The actions of those who occupy chief education positions should carry more weight in assessing Strickland’s education regime than Strickland’s words and appearances do.

If you value Ohio’s schoolchildren, you ought not vote for Strickland in this year’s elections because you cannot trust him to support the right people to handle all the various components of Ohio’s education bureaucracy.

Guest blog: NY State may be awash in red ink, but a state taxing the indigenous Seneca Nation is unconstitutional

Editor’s note: This blog article was written by James Williamson, one of my younger brothers, who is an Ohio native and, for now, an Alaska resident (his employer, a company owned by Alaskan Natives, soon plans to transfer him to another office in another state).  James married a woman from among the indigenous Otavalo people of Ecuador, so his learning curve pertaining to indigenous American peoples is fairly steep.  James has written three prior guest blog pieces for Buckeye RINO that dealt with recent schisms between states and the federal government.  In the last two guest blog pieces, Imminent Rebellion: The Tar Pit, and Imminent Rebellion: the new Fort Sumter, the federal government and several states, most notably Arizona, do not see eye to eye on the immigration issue.  His initial guest blog piece Imminent Rebellion: States vs the Federal Government spotlighted the rising tide of states reasserting their 10th Amendment rights, such as Texas, with its governor, Rick Perry, openly talking about secession.  The state of New York has not seceded, but they are acting like a nation unto themselves when they ignore treaties between the USA and indigenous tribes, such as the Seneca Nation (counted among the league of Iroquois Nations), with their latest tax grab scheme.  NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, representing a city with a voracious appetite for tax revenues collected beyond the city limits, stated he’d grab a cowboy hat and a shotgun to forcibly seize money from the Senecas on behalf of a fiscally irresponsible New York State.

Don’t Mess with the Natives!

Recently I read an article that caught me by surprise.  The mayor of our nations largest city is calling for the governor of New York to grab “a cowboy hat and a shotgun” and beat the natives into submission.  You can read the text here:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/19/seneca-nation-wants-bloomberg-cowboy-hat-shotgun-comment/

And the follow-up article here:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/08/21/american-indian-tribe-miffed-bloomberg-remark-sues-block-ny-cigarette-tax/

Of course the natives are not happy…

At first this may seem a trivial dispute, but what caught my attention was that the taxes were being levied upon the Iroquois Nations not by treaty, but by a state legislature.  Why is it that all dealings with American Indians in the early days of our country were by treaty and had to be signed by the president and ratified by the senate, but the governor of New York and the mayor of New York City are able to levy a tax on the Nations of the Iroquois through state legislation?

Let’s start with the U.S. Constitution, specifically Article 1 Section 2, which reads, “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”  This of course was later modified by the 14th Amendment.  You will note a striking similarity between the previous sentence and the following sentence from the 14th Amendment.  “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.’

This may appear to be trivial but I assure you it is not.  Why were the Indians (Native American tribes) not taxed?  Could it be that they were considered sovereign nations?  If they were not considered sovereign then why was it necessary to sign treaties with them and have them ratified by congress in the same manner as any other sovereign nation?   The answer of course is that they were recognized as sovereign then.  Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution states that “Congress shall have the power to regulate Commerce with foreign nations and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes”.  Sorry Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Paterson, you are not allowed by the constitution to regulate commerce with the Indian tribes.  Congress is.

Interestingly enough American Indians in their entirety were not considered citizens until 1924 with the passage of the Native American Citizenship Act.  (Everyone else got it in 1868 with the 14th Amendment.)  Even so, the first state to guarantee the right to vote was Utah in 1957.  Yes, that’s right it took longer for them than women or blacks.   But I digress…

Returning to the question of sovereignty and citizenship the 14th Amendment of the Constitution states:  “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”  Hmm… If the American Indian nations are sovereign then are they subject to the jurisdiction of the US and therefore citizens?  If the child of an ambassador is born in the US, the child may not be considered a citizen because an ambassador is not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.  They are subject to the jurisdiction of the country of their parents because they are on U.S. soil for diplomatic purposes and, as such, granted immunity (at least in theory) from U.S. laws.   So what conclusions can we draw?  Well, it would appear to me that an American Indian is only a citizen and bound by the laws of the United States if he so chooses.  Otherwise he is a citizen of, and subject to the laws of, the tribe or nation to which he belongs and not subject to the federal government of the United States or to any of the states.

Interestingly enough, the Iroquois nations are the only tribes that issue their own passports.  Yes, the very nations that are balking at this unconstitutional taxation of the Indians.  Why would they issue their own passports and refuse to travel on U.S. passports if they wanted to be counted as U.S. citizens and be subject to its laws?  See the link below for the story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/17/sports/17lacrosse.html

Now it’s understandable the Mr. Paterson and Mr. Bloomberg would want to tax the Iroquois nations.  Their governments are bleeding red ink and they want revenue wherever they can get it.  Since they have already been squeezing the life out of everyone else, the relatively tax-free Iroquois Nations probably look like a popsicle in the middle of the fires of hell…

I would have to question the wisdom in this policy.  Is it wise to antagonize a group of people who don’t consider themselves part of your culture, race, or nation when you have already removed them from their ancestral lands, decimated their population, destroyed their culture, and deprived them of liberty?   You have taken their coat and cloak already and now you want the sandals, staff, and undergarments as well?  Why not beat up a kid for his shoes and then take his lunch money too?  Why not chase a bear into its den to take the food right out of its mouth?  What Mr. Bloomberg fails to understand is that, in the mind of the Seneca Nation, he is the bully that has been stealing their lunch for a very, very long time.  He better pray that the kid getting his lunch money taken neither finds bigger, meaner friends, nor suddenly experiences a growth spurt and gains some more muscle mass…

Next time Mr. Bloomberg pick on someone your own size.  Try riding through downtown New York City with your cowboy hat and shotgun and get the mafia bosses to comply with the law and let’s see how you fare…

School bullying: A former sub’s observations in Lorain’s public schools circa 2004-2007

During the past week, a news story caught my attention.  Perhaps you’ve seen the news story, too.  If not, here’s a Plain Dealer article written by Peter Krouse of a Croatian immigrant’s family who is suing the school district in Mentor over the constant bullying of their daughter, a high school student.  She committed suicide last year.  Allegedly her ethnicity, such as the foreign accent she spoke with, was among the things the other students gave her grief over.

The school district in Mentor says that they will mount a vigorous defense in court.

Read the rest of this entry »

An open letter to the political leaders of the newly emerging Afghanistan: Try religious tolerance to defeat the Taliban

To Hamid Karzai and all the other political leaders in the newly emerging modern Afghanistan:

You are in the process of setting up your government.  You are in the process of winning the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people to win their allegiance to the government you are setting up.  You are in the process of framing your constitution and laws by which the Afghan nation will be governed.

I wish to offer a suggestion that at least a small measure of religious tolerance be incorporated into the legal framework of the new Afghan nation that you are working to establish.  I wish to explain how it could benefit your government.

The United States of America, while not perfectly exercising religious tolerance, has pioneered incorporating religious freedom into a nation’s constitution.  Since the founding of our nation, other nations have seen wisdom in some of the provisions of our Constitution, and have used some of them in writing their own body of laws.

I am not aware of any nation, however, that has granted to their people the same or greater magnitude of religious freedom that our Constitution affords us, the people of the United States.  Even many of the nations of the supposedly “more enlightened” Europe still, nominally, have state religions.  As a result, no non-Muslim nation is more accommodating to the Muslim faith than the United States of America.

Sure, a national debate in the U.S. has arisen surrounding plans to erect a mosque in New York City near Ground Zero, where terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center by flying airplanes into them.  Public opinion polls show that the decision to build a mosque there is an unpopular one.  Certainly much public pressure will be exerted in an effort to dissuade from proceeding with those plans.  President Obama has said that he has made no pronouncements on whether or not there is wisdom in the decision to build a mosque there.  But, at the end of the day, there is the Constitution of the United States, and if anything were to stave off the abandonment of the plans to build a mosque there, it is the Constitution that will do so.  President Obama has affirmed this.

Meanwhile, there are other non-Muslim nations, such as Australia, which has no Bill of Rights, that have experienced violent strife between non-Muslims and Muslims.  The Australian government seems to have little effect in eliminating the occurrence of such vigilante mob riots.  Also, there are non-Muslim nations, such as many in Europe, that seek to regulate how Muslims within their borders dress themselves, and even regulate against the erection of minarets on mosque properties.  Despite the public opinion polls showing the unpopularity of the plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero, I am of the firm opinion that no non-Muslim nation is a greater friend to the Muslim faith than the United States of America.  Muslims within our borders thus derive benefits from a Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion.

I do not expect the new Afghan nation to mirror the United States in this regard.  I know that the people of Afghanistan are not prepared nor predisposed to allow such a degree of religious freedom.  But I would like to suggest some “baby steps” that can be written into Afghan law that would be of benefit to the new Afghan government.

The more a government wishes to enforce adherence to the tenets of religion, the more it will resemble the Taliban.  In a world where global communication takes place ever more frequently, populations are more exposed to philosophies outside that religion, and the temptations that accompany such exposure.  It can’t be helped.  A government can’t stop communications from beyond the borders from reaching its citizens to the extent that it once was, when travel occurred at a much slower pace, and communications from outsiders much less frequent.  To ensure adherence to religious tenets, such as Sharia law, governments must resort to more and more oppressive measures if they wish to counteract the influence of outside philosophies.

Behold the nations that do, in fact, desire to counteract outside influences.  The measures they take become increasingly more invasive into the daily lives of private citizens.  In the West, we might call it Big Brother.  The origins of that term “Big Brother” are contained within writings that are not permitted by Islam, but I don’t know what corresponding term is that’s used among Muslims to convey the same meaning.  Perhaps it suffices to say that governments wishing to counteract such influences will seek to spy on every citizen’s life to guard against any departure from the tenets of Islam, such as banning Blackberry devices until the means of decoding the encryption is disclosed to the government.

Another more oppressive way to counteract outside influences is through fear, with harshly severe penalties meted out against citizens and their families for increasingly smaller infractions of Islamic tenets.  Fear is the means adopted by the Taliban to counteract outside influences.

The grip of government over citizens must grow ever more tightly over time in order to maintain compliance.  Citizens are chafed by such measures, and voluntary allegiance to such a government may be compromised.  Will dealing with citizens much more harshly counteract the waning voluntary allegiance of citizens?  I suggest that there are more underpinnings of the Muslim exodus to the West, particularly to America, than just economic opportunities or the desire to spread the Muslim faith among infidel nations.  I suggest that many Muslims that have migrated to America do so, in part, because they do not choose to live in fear.

If you want to win allegiance away from the Taliban, you must not only provide greater economic opportunities, you must also grant citizens a relief from fear.  To do so, the new Afghan government must relax the grip upon the citizens to regulate every aspect of life.  They must trust the conscience of the citizens.  The government must trust that citizens will make decisions compliant with Islam of their own volition.  On the occasions where citizens deviate from the tenets of Islam, the penalty must not be so severe that citizens feel a lesser allegiance to the government.  If the government is to mete out much milder penalties, then the ultimate aim and desire of the government must not be to strictly enforce adherence to the tenets of Islam.

Instead, peace that mitigates against the rivalries that always exist among diverse populations should be paramount.

That peace, through the laws that you design and through the order that you exercise in your administration, yields a more stable government and a more stable society.  As volatility decreases, outside investments in Afghanistan will increase.  As investment increases, economic opportunities and prosperity will increase.  As prosperity increases, loyalty to the government will increase.  This has been the experience of the United States.

Allegiance to the Taliban will dissipate, and the new Afghan government will have no tendency to evolve into a regime that resembles the one under Taliban rule.

When the foreign troops withdraw, more than military and policing measures must be put in place to prevent the overthrow of your new government by the Taliban.  A population that will not tolerate nor cooperate with the Taliban is also essential to such resistance against the Taliban.

Relaxing the grip on the citizenry can only coincide with a small measure of tolerance toward deviation from Islam.  If you do not permit any deviation, then your government must become like the harsh regime under the Taliban, or the harassing and increasingly invasive regime governing neighboring Iran.  Those are the choices.  Make your decision about what kind of a government you want to be.

I spoke of “baby steps” incorporated into the legal framework of the newly emerging Afghanistan, and now that I’ve explained some of the reasons why and some of the benefits that will accrue, let me suggest what those “baby steps” might be.

There must be freedom of conscience.  This means freedom to believe the philosophy that one wishes to believe.  Acting on those beliefs, or practicing the tenets of those beliefs, however, would be subject to law.  In essence, one would not be penalized for beliefs, only for actions proscribed by law.  Therefore, an infidel, such as a Christian, would be permitted Afghan citizenship, with all that is entailed by citizenship, such as the right to vote and the ability to apply for and receive a passport, without being punished for merely believing what the infidel believes.   In the past, Afghan citizens discovered to be Christians might face execution.  For those who are discovered, by whatever means, to be infidels, such as Christians, no legal penalty would apply so long as their actions were within the parameters allowed by law.

Beyond beliefs, infidels ought to have a right to act upon those beliefs in a small measure.  Such actions permitted under the law, and the prohibitions subject to penalty under the law, might be as follows:

Infidels may assemble and worship together under the following circumstances:  They must not worship outdoors or in any place that is designed to make their worship conspicuous to passers-by.  The infidels cannot purchase property on which to build an edifice for worship, as such an edifice would be construed as advertising a religion other than Islam.  The infidels cannot assemble for worship in public buildings or businesses.  The infidels must assemble in tents and private homes unadorned by any images incompatible with Islam.  The infidels must not advertise.  The infidels must not solicit more followers, such as carrying out missionary, evangelizing, or any other ministries designed for recruitment.  The infidels shall not operate schools.  Any instruction must only be given clandestinely in private homes or during the course of the worship assemblies.

Infidels shall not speak ill of Islam, even in private conversation, even when assembled privately for worship, nor by writing or drawing.

Infidels may possess books of scripture so long as they are only viewed or used in private homes or at worship assemblies.  They must be stored in an enclosed space that conceals them from view to visitors to the home (in a closed box or trunk or wrapped in an opaque material would be okay, but not on a bookshelf, nor resting, uncovered, upon the floor).  They must be concealed when carrying them outdoors, such as to another private home or to a worship assembly.  The book cover can only label its title in words.  It cannot be adorned with religious symbols.  No sales of such scriptures can be transacted entirely within Afghanistan.  They must be purchased from beyond the nation’s borders, whether purchased in person and conveyed back to Afghanistan concealed in the buyer’s luggage, or purchased by orders placed inconspicuously by mail, phone, internet, or some other third party, to be shipped to the buyer by mail or other parcel courier.  If shipped to Afghanistan, the book should be wrapped to conceal the book completely, and the packaging can only display the name and address of the buyer, and the return address, with no name, of the distributor or seller, along with any postage stamps, bar codes, or other markings that couriers need for routing the packages to their destinations.  If foreign sellers balk at complying with such shipping requirements, do they want to do business with Afghan citizens, or not?  If they do, they’ll meet the requirements.

Only when assembled, or alone in private, so as not to have the intent of being heard by passers-by, may infidels utter prayers or speeches that are not in keeping with the Muslim faith.

In any week, the holy day used for religious observances by the infidels shall be the same as the holy day used by Muslims.  Saturday or Sunday assembly for worship, such as is customary in non-Muslim nations, will, instead, take place on Friday.

Apparel worn by infidels must be apparel that is also acceptable for Muslims to wear.  The same applies to hairstyles, makeup, jewelry, purses, wallets, and body markings.

There must also be some kind of legal penalty against Muslims who harass infidels on the basis of religion when the infidels are compliant with all Afghan laws, with the penalties meted out on a sliding scale commensurate with however egregious the harassment was proven to be.

With these minimal “baby steps,” Afghan exiles who left the Muslim faith might consider being repatriated, further strengthening the population’s resolve not to tolerate nor cooperate with the Taliban.  Those who are repatriated might also benefit the nation by bringing back whatever skills or wealth they may have acquired abroad.  Foreigners may feel less endangered by guarantees of these minimal religious protections, whether conducting business or performing volunteer service.

I believe when Afghan citizens sense the difference between the new Afghan government and the old Taliban regime, they’ll prefer rule under the new government over rule under the Taliban.  I believe the citizens will favor more freedom over more fear.

Perhaps Afghans will be able to tolerate more than these “baby steps,” and maybe religious freedom can be expanded a little bit more.  Yes, there is a risk of more exposure to Western ways, and all the perceived negatives entailed with it, but Western ways will be increasingly exposed, anyway, by virtue of the shrinking global village we all live in.  Helping Muslims to withstand the temptations of Western ways little bit by little bit by peacefully living with infidels in their midst is more useful than not building up the strength of one’s convictions, and becoming easy prey to temptations when the Western world, inevitably, bursts upon them with full force.  When that day comes, isolation from infidels will not have prepared them.

The American experience with religious freedom has been a good one.  Even “baby steps” in that direction will reap some benefits.  If you step in that direction, don’t fear the future.  It will be better than the past.

One more Iott town hall meeting scheduled

Rich Iott, U.S. representative candidate for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District had already announced a schedule of town hall meetings (shown here), including one tonight (8/19) in Sandusky at 6:30 pm at the Erie County Senior Center, 620 E. Water Street.

Added to the schedule on August 30, at 7 pm, in Holland, OH, is a town hall meeting to be held in the Holland Branch Library, 1032 South McCord Road.

Kipton, Port Clinton, and Oak Harbor are the other communities Iott will be visiting between tonight and September 2nd.

Ohio’s 9th Congressional District includes nearly all of Lucas County, all of Ottawa County, all of Erie County, and southern Lorain County.

Press release: Iott Signs No Pork Pledge

Editor’s note:  This press release was issued on 8/17/2010.  Ohio’s 9th Congressional District stretches from Lucas County through Ottawa County, Erie County, and into southern Lorain County.

Iott Signs No Pork Pledge

Rich Iott, candidate for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District, has signed the No Pork Pledge sponsored by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

CAGW, which advocates the elimination of waste and inefficiency in government through nonpartisan public education programs and lobbying activities, in July named incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur their ‘Porker of the Month’ for “gaming the House Democrats’ prohibition on awarding earmarks to for-profit companies and wasting taxpayers’ money.”

Upon notice of the award, Iott said:

“Politicians like Marcy Kaptur, who’ve been in Washington so long that they actually think this sort of wasteful spending is a good thing, have brought our county to the edge of bankruptcy with a debt approaching $14 trillion.  Now is the time to acknowledge that earmarks need to stop and that her so-called ‘legislative priorities’ are not the priorities of the taxpayers she’s supposed to represent.

“Ohio’s 9th Congressional District needs a businessman who understands that “eviscerating earmark reform and wasting taxpayers’ money” (as the CAGW called it) is not the way to create economic growth in the district, the state or the nation. 

“When I’m elected, I promise to end ‘pay-to-play’ corruption, and bring some real-world, common sense business experience to Capitol Hill.”

In following through on that promise, Iott signed the No Pork Pledge which reads:

I, Rich Iott, pledge to the constituents of the 9th Congressional district of the state of Ohio and to the American people that I will not request any pork-barrel earmark, which is defined as meeting one of the following criteria: 

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress
  • Not specifically authorized
  • Not competitively awarded
  • Not requested by the President
  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding
  • Not the subject of congressional hearing
  • Serves only a local or special interest

“When career politicians each try to get their own piece of the pie, it is the taxpayers who are left with an empty plate – and the bill.  While I don’t need to sign a pledge to remember that my obligation is not to spend taxpayer money on pork, I’m happy to put my commitment in writing so the voters can hold me accountable,” Rich Iott said.

The Constitution, at times, to some people, is an inconvenient thing, but worth preserving

Can we stop with the assaults on the Constitution already?

What impacts us the most noticeably is the erosion of the Bill of Rights because it spells out the rights of American citizens.

Freedom of the press.  Freedom of speech.  Freedom of religion.  Freedom of peaceable assembly.  Freedom to bear arms.  Freedom to remain silent when suspected of a crime.  Freedom to have a jury of your peers decide the outcome of a case when you are tried on criminal charges.  Freedom to not be compelled to testify against yourself in court.  Freedom to have an attorney represent you when you are detained as a suspect.  Freedom to not have your privacy, your domicile, invaded and personal property confiscated during the course of a criminal investigation unless you are presented with a warrant issued by a judge.  Freedom for citizens to retain powers not expressly reserved unto the federal or state governments.

And there are other freedoms beyond these.

Yet they are all under assault.

It’s inconvenient for the Department of Homeland Security to obtain warrants to gain access to private conversations that take place by phone or email.

It’s inconvenient that attendees of a town hall meeting voice disagreement with an elected official.

It’s inconvenient to have a secret agenda that gets sniffed out by the press.

It’s inconvenient that police aren’t the only ones that can bear arms.

It’s inconvenient that a religion might suggest that you commit sin.

It’s inconvenient that you can’t coerce your family members to remain members of the religious denomination they grew up with.

It’s inconvenient that police aren’t able to coerce an admission of guilt from a suspect.

It’s inconvenient that a suspect might request an attorney before agreeing to respond to the questions of the police.

It’s inconvenient to Mirandize suspects.

It’s inconvenient that a prosecutors can’t have a case decided by a judge biased in their favor, and, instead, have it decided by a unanimous verdict from a jury.

It’s inconvenient for a Tea Party gathering to take place just outside a venue where elected officials are trying to drum up support for the policies they want to implement.

And there are other inconveniences, depending on who you are and what coercion you want to exert.

And now the latest fad is to attack the 14th Amendment.  The 14th Amendment is a very useful amendment.  Among the ramifications of the 14th Amendment is that states cannot infringe upon rights granted by the Constitution to citizens.  It’s not contained in the Bill of Rights, but it applies the Bill of Rights to the laws of  every state in the Union.  Most importantly, citizenship could not be withheld from those born on American soil simply because a special interest group, or a state, wanted them excluded.  Large segments of our population would not have been truly free without the 14th Amendment.

The current controversy surrounds “anchor babies,” which are children born on U.S. soil to parents that do not have a legal right to reside here, and the birth of the child allows those illegal immigrants to get a foot in the door.

I think there are other ways to handle illegal immigrants so that they are legally required to leave the United States even after having a baby born here, even a baby who is a U.S. citizen.  A baby who is entitled to be a U.S. citizen.  A baby that has a guarantee of U.S. citizenship.  I may tackle such a proposal in an upcoming blog piece.

But if you are going to repeal an amendment or portion thereof, shouldn’t you choose one that took a measure of freedom away from citizens, such as the 16th Amendment that established an income tax?

I don’t want citizenship withheld from babies born on our soil.  I think it’s dangerous for the integrity of our Constitution to even entertain such a notion.

I don’t want any of our Constitutional rights and freedoms to be curtailed because there are those who find it inconvenient.

Don’t you dare touch the 14th Amendment!  Stop endangering our Constitution!

Our Constitution and the rights it grants are the envy of  billions of individuals who live beyond our borders.  Why in the world do we want to attack it?  Why would we want to nullify portions of it that granted more freedoms to citizens?  It amounts to insanity.  It amounts to stupidity.  It amounts to betrayal.  It amounts to sabotage.  It amounts to Big Brother.  It amounts to oppression.  It amounts to tyranny.  It amounts to the destruction of our republic.

I love our Constitution.  I hold it dear.  Stop messing with it.

Ohio’s most liberal Representative to Congress is Betty Sutton

Need some good reasons to vote for Tom Ganley for Congress?  There are boatloads of them.  Some of the most obvious reasons, for voters who are paying attention, would be the contrasts between Tom Ganley and the Democrat incumbent representing Ohio’s 13th Congressional district, Betty Sutton.

If you are unfamiliar with Tom Ganley, the Republican nominee, I would urge you to visit his campaign website for an introduction to him.

If you’re a 13th district voter, you should already know U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton.

Did you know that, in the 111th Session of Congress, she has voted the Democrat Party line, as defined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 99% of the time?  This ties her with 9 others for 15th place on the list of those voting the Democrat Party line.  Only 14 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are ahead of her on that list, and one of those 14 is Nancy Pelosi.  Another one of those 14 ahead of her is Pelosi’s Number 2, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, but his voting record only supersedes hers by one-tenth of one percent.  ONE-TENTH OF ONE PERCENT SEPARATES HER FROM THE NUMBER 2 DEMOCRAT IN THE U.S. HOUSE!  Keep in mind that there are 433 (two vacant seats, otherwise 435) House members, and that 255 of them are Democrats.  15th place is rarefied air, indeed.

If you’re curious about how loyal other Democrat members of Ohio’s delegation are to Nancy Pelosi, the Washington Post presents this webpage.  56 Democrats are ahead of Tim Ryan, with a voting record that’s 98.4% in line with Nancy Pelosi.  Mary Jo Kilroy and Charlie Wilson clock in with 98.1%.  Marcia Fudge is pegged at 97.7%.

By contrast, no Ohio Republicans show as much loyalty to the Republican Party line as these 5 Ohio Democrats do to the Democrat Party line.  Overall, Democrats in the U.S. House are more monolithic in their loyalty to the Democrat Party line than Republicans are to theirs.  Are Congressional Republicans the monolithic obstructionist “Party of No?”  With only 180 Republican members of the U.S. House, to begin with, Republicans have very little power to block the majority party.  When legislation that Pelosi wants is “obstructed” from passage, defectors from her own party made that “0bstruction” possible.  The record shows, however, that defection is more rare among Democrats than among Republicans.  I can only interpret that to mean that Republicans are more bipartisan.

Oh, you wanted to know the rest of the Pelosi-loyalty numbers for Ohio’s Congressional Democrats:  Marcy Kaptur, 96.2%; Steve Driehaus, 94.7%; John Boccieri, 93.8%; Zack Space, 93.2%; Dennis Kucinich, 91.6%.  OK, Kucinich is far more liberal than this Pelosi-loyalty percentage would indicate, but I still maintain that he’s not as liberal as Betty Sutton.

In my book, Nancy Pelosi is uber-liberal, firmly entrenched in the left-wing of the left-wing of the Democrat Party, as is her constituency back in her San Francisco & vicinity home district, California’s 8th Congressional district.  Here’s a map of Pelosi’s home district, just so you can get an idea of who her constituents are.  Therefore, in my book, the more one votes the Democrat Party line, which line is defined by uber-liberal Nancy Pelosi, the more liberal one is likely to be, with few exceptions.  By that standard, Betty Sutton is Ohio’s most liberal Representative to the U.S. House, and our state has some fairly liberal Congress members.

I know some of you will say “Dennis Kucinich doesn’t vote as often with Nancy Pelosi because he’s even further to the left than Pelosi is.”  I disagree.  There may be a very small handful of issues where Kucinich is further left than Pelosi, but I can think of a number of occasions, particularly during Presidential Democrat Primary debates, when Kucinich has made statements that are much more mainstream, some of which even I, DJW, had to agree with.  I truly believe that both Pelosi and Sutton are more liberal than Kucinich.

Now, I want you to look at this map of Ohio’s 13th Congressional district, covering the northern half of Lorain County, a wide stripe of southern Cuyahoga County, a wide stripe of northern Medina County, and the western half of Summit County.  Now I ask you, which community in that district is as liberal as Betty Sutton?  I don’t think Lorain or Elyria are.  I should know.  I’ve campaigned in those communities, myself.  Oberlin is the most liberal community in Lorain County, and it’s in Marcy Kaptur’s district, not Sutton’s.  Does the constituency of Betty Sutton’s home district resemble the constituency of Nancy Pelosi’s home district?  I don’t think so.  I think there’s a terrible mismatch between the pulse of the 13th district and the ideology of Betty Sutton, and I think it’s high time that the voters knew that Sutton is out of touch with them.

(By the way, how frequently is she hosting live, in-person town hall meetings?)

In 2006, when U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown left the 13th District seat open in order to vie for his Senate seat, there were crowded fields in both the Democrat and Republican primaries to succeed him.  In the nomination contests, no candidates reached a majority (over 50%) of each respective party’s votes.  Carpetbagger Betty Sutton was nominated with 31.29% of the Democrat vote.  Two keys to her nomination victory were Sherrod Brown’s endorsement and Emily’s List’s backing.  Emily’s List, by the way, is a PAC that endorses female candidates who embrace uber-liberal feminist political positions (as opposed to mainstream feminist political positions), with the most important tenet to embrace being support for abortion-on-demand.  To Emily’s List, Sarah Palin is the most disgusting piece of crap on the planet.

Lorain Mayor (at the time) Craig Foltin was nominated with 37.46% of the Republican vote.  I was an unabashed supporter of Foltin, and gave some help to his campaign as a volunteer.

Betty Sutton won the seat in the November 2006 elections when anti-Republican sentiment had reached its high-water mark in Ohio in the wake of some widely publicized scandals that tarnished some of Ohio’s Republican politicians.  It was a difficult political environment for Foltin to campaign in that year.

There was a former U.S. President who had a campaign mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid!”  Oh yeah, that was Bill Clinton.  Way back then, I guess Sutton wasn’t paying attention.  Should we forgive her for it?

Besides knowing the district and its needs very well, Foltin understood a number of things about economics, unlike Betty Sutton, who has to be told how to vote on economic issues because she can’t figure out such things by herself.

In 2008, I endorsed Dave Potter for Congress over Sutton, and much of my decision was based on their relative understandings of economics.  Potter knew economic principles quite well, while Sutton has to rely on others for guidance on economic decisions, and those those guiding Sutton seem to be more rooted in mythology than reality.

At the time of Sutton’s campaign against Potter, this is what she touted as her economic record:

  1. Rep. Sutton supports the suspension of purchases of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) temporarily. Filling the SPR takes 70,000 barrels of oil off the market each day, even though the reserve is 97 percent full with enough to meet our national security needs. At a time of record prices, suspending these government purchases, as we have done in the past, could reduce gas prices by 5 to 24 cents a gallon — a critical first step for America’s families, businesses, and the economy.
  2. Rep. Sutton has joined with other Freshman House members to urge the President to temporarily suspend purchases of oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). This would allow more oil to remain on the market and could drive down the price of gas for consumers by as much as $.25 a gallon.
  3. Rep. Sutton is also a cosponsor of H.R. 5473 to temporarily suspend shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
  4. Rep. Sutton is a cosponsor of H.R. 2372 – WEAN Off of Oil Act (DeLauro) – Imposes a 50% tax on crude oil profits over $50 per barrel by major oil companies and directs proceeds to the Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve.
  5. House passed bill to deal with price-gouging/fixing at the wholesale and retail level: Rep. Sutton cosponsored and the House passed H.R. 1252 – Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act (Rep. Stupak) – Protects consumers from price-gouging of gasoline and other fuels by setting criminal penalties and permitting states to bring lawsuits against wholesalers or retailers.
  6. House passed bill to address price fixing at the OPEC level: Rep. Sutton voted for and the House passed H.R. 2264 – No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act (NOPEC) – Authorizes the Justice Department to take legal action against OPEC state-controlled entities that participate in conspiracies to limit the supply, or fix the price, of oil.
  7. Market Manipulation: Rep. Sutton is a cosponsor of the Prevent Unfair Manipulation of Prices Act, H.R. 594 (The PUMP Act). This bill would amend the Commodity Exchange Act to extend its jurisdiction to certain: (1) “included energy transactions” traded on an electronic trading facility; and (2) certain energy commodities involved in over-the-counter transactions. This would address market manipulation on the commodity level and empowers the Commodities Futures Trading Commission to impose civil and criminal penalties for price manipulation and other violations of such Act.
  8. Oil savings from the Energy Independence and Security Act: The bill increases fuel efficiency standards to 35 miles per gallon in 2020. The fuel economy and renewable fuel standards combined will save the U.S. 2.3 million barrels of oil a day in 2020, which is about what we import from the Persian Gulf today. This act is important as we reduce our dependence on oil. The fuel economy provisions alone will create 149,300 jobs, and save consumers $22 billion at the pump every year starting in 2020 ($700 – $1000), even after paying for the fuel-saving technology needed to meet the standards.
  9. The Energy Independence and Security Act also invests in clean renewable energy. (Since the bill did not repeal all of the subsidies paid to big oil, Rep. Sutton joined with other Freshman House Members and signed two letters urging Congressional leadership to continue to pursue an increase in a renewable electricity standard (RES) and to pass renewable energy and efficiency tax incentives paid for by ending subsidies to big oil companies. Sutton also voted for H.R H.R. 5351, the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Act, which passed the House. This bill contains provisions to end unnecessary subsidies to big oil companies and instead provide tax incentives to invest in clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  10. Long-term Reinvestment in Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing. Rep. Sutton wrote a letter, co-signed by several other members of Congress, to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development urging funding for the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program. This program was authorized by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and provides low interest loans to automobile manufacturers and component suppliers. The loans would cover up to 30% of the cost of retooling a manufacturing facility in the United States to produce advanced technology vehicles or their key components, e.g., engines and transmissions.

My own take on the above bullet points is as follows:

Sutton’s measures vis-a-vis the Strategic Petroleum Reserve=a drop in the bucket, so that wipes out the first 3 bullet points. In hindsight, those measures did not bring about the savings they projected.  Other marketplace factors, such as supply and demand, brought the gasoline prices down from record highs.

The fourth bullet point just means that when oil prices were already high, she wanted to add more taxes to make the prices higher.

5th bullet point, redundant. We already have state laws that protect us from retail price gouging.

6th bullet point, silly, because our Justice Department can’t really take on OPEC countries, and going after the companies only induces a shell game.

7th bullet point, half measure. The whole futures market is in need of overhaul. Tweaking is insufficient.  Even as of August 2010, we still don’t have the kind of marketplace reforms that our economy needs.

8th bullet point, 2020 is a long way off, so, nice maneuver to look like you’re doing something when, in the short run, the status quo is maintained.  Further, is it the government’s responsibility to dictate to the automobile manufacturers what the consumers want?  Or are consumers capable of buying what they want and skipping over what they don’t want?  Do car companies want to respond to what consumers want, in the interest of selling cars?  Or would they rather thumb their nose at consumers, and have cars rust on the sales lots?

9th bullet point, Sutton signed two letters.

10th bullet point, Sutton wrote a letter.

As the 2008 campaign season was winding down to a close, the matter of government bailouts came before Congress.  There were two votes held on a bill to bail out Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion, because the first try didn’t succeed.  Sutton voted no the first time, but she didn’t seem to know why it was a good thing to vote no.  The bill was no better the second time around.  But in between the first vote and the second vote, Sutton set up a conference call between Presidential candidate Barack Obama and freshman Democrats who voted no.  Hitching her wagon to the Obama juggernaut, I believe, is what interested Sutton in changing her vote.  No matter if you embrace Keynesian economics or, like me, reject the government’s economic manipulations prescribed by Keynesian economics, the gist of the bill did not change, therefore, votes should not have changed.  But some people, like Sutton, switched their votes, which means they don’t have an inner compass that guides them on economic issues.  Peer pressure, lobbying, twisting arms, fear tactics–those are the reasons people would change their vote.

When Sutton held a press conference to explain the vote switch, it was heavily scripted, and spoken like an automaton.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer had a clip of it that you can see here.  Those aren’t genuinely her words that are being spoken.  It was an act of ventriloquism, and she was the dummy.  But even if you took her words at face value and gave her the benefit of the doubt that those words did originate from her, the message still makes no sense.

Since then, she hasn’t met a bailout she didn’t like, including the bailout for state education budgets across the nation that was voted on two days ago.

Her support of cap-and-trade clearly shows she has no interest in defending your pocketbooks from being emptied.  If enacted, the public will see sharply increased electric bills, especially in Ohio.

Tax cuts are expiring, and the tax codes will change the way you calculate deductions–for the worse.

We should definitely mention “Cash-for-Clunkers.”  Sutton was all about “Cash-for-Clunkers.”  For about a month or so, consumers were given a window of opportunity to trade in their old cars for new ones and reap the benefit of a government subsidy to do so.  Are subsidies free money?  When the government offers a rebate on a purchase, do they just wave a magic wand, and a fairy godmother makes it all happen?  No.  The government must either confiscate more of the public’s money, or print more of their own money. Did “Cash-for-Clunkers” prime the pump?  What do you think?  What’s the economy like, right now?  Today?  This very minute that you are reading this?  If you don’t measure the value of “Cash-for-Clunkers” in dollars squandered by the government in a failed attempt to stimulate the economy, but measure the value in terms of reduced carbon emissions, what do you think?  Did it work?  Are polar bears partying on the ice floes because carbon emissions were actually reduced?  I don’t think even one little ice cube in the Arctic Ocean was saved from melting because of “Cash-for-Clunkers.”

The government can subsidize, it can bail out, it can rebate, it can stimulate this aspect of the economy, and that aspect of the economy, and we needn’t worry about where the money comes from, for the majority caucus is firm on its commitment to be budget neutral–no increase in budget deficits, no increase in the national debt.  Inefficiencies can be weeded out, and that will pay for all these proposals.  That’s especially true in the case of Obamacare.  But I’m here to tell you that it’s all a mythSutton has worked to propagate just such a myth. Obamacare will have REAL costs, and you’ll feel them acutely when you file your taxes next year.

With no economic moorings, Sutton has just gone with the flow, been driven by the wind, and tossed by the waves.  Spend.  Spend.  Spend.  Spend. $$$$$$$$$$$$$

She’s all excited because she gets to make a difference!  She’s delivering on providing all the social supports she always wanted to!  She’s subsidizing the common folk.  She’s giving health care to those who couldn’t afford it.  Oh, business is being adversely affected?  Don’t worry, we’ll bail them out.  She’s putting lots of money into renewable energy because the industry can’t be profitable and certainly can’t yield the output our economy needs, but what price can you put on being loved by the environmental special interest groups?  Isn’t being loved more important than the dollars squandered on ventures that won’t yield returns?  Enrollment might be dropping at the public schools in your area, but, don’t worry, teaching staffs won’t be cut!  Congress to the rescue!  She has such compassion for those who are out of work, so she’ll vote to extend unemployment benefits again and again and again.  By the way, the federal government might be hiring, so, why not apply?  She plans to keep voting for government expansion, so if you don’t get hired by the government today, try again another day.

Doesn’t Betty Sutton know that she’s feeling giddy because she’s on a shopping spree to end all shopping sprees with money that comes for free?  It’s not free money, but she’s not ready to learn where all the money comes from right now.  She’s not done dispensing her government charity for worthy causes.  When every constituent group has been cared for, that’s when she’ll have a chance to be schooled on where the money comes from.

Let’s boil it down to this:  Sutton clearly believes in a centrally planned economy.

Soviet bloc governments used to centrally plan economies.  Look what happened to them.  Their propaganda stated that it was for the public good.  North Korea still has a centrally planned economy.  North Korea’s propaganda states that it’s for the public good.  How are they faring?

Sutton also says it’s for the public good.

Sutton is so liberal, she’s a Soviet.

How are we doing?

Press release: Town hall meetings with Congressional candidate Rich Iott

Editor’s note:  Rich Iott is the Republican nominee for Ohio’s 9th Congressional seat, which is currently held by Marcy Kaptur.  The district encompasses most of Lucas County (a chunk of SW Lucas County is excluded), all of Ottawa County, all of Erie County, and nearly half of Lorain County (the south and west, except NW, areas of Lorain County, are included).  This press release was issued on 8/12/2010.

Iott Schedules District Town Hall Meetings

Rich Iott, candidate for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District, announced his District Town Hall schedule today.”Last year during the August recess, our representative, Marcy Kaptur, was surprisingly absent at a time when many voters in the 9th Congressional District had questions about the over-reaching health care bill,” Iott said. “This year, as voters want answers about the troubled economy and why career politicians are jeopardizing the futures of our children and our grandchildren with out-of-control spending and record debt, she is again conspicuous in her absence.”

“I want to actually represent the people in the 9th District – and I’m not afraid to meet with them to hear their concerns, answer their questions and be accountable to them,” he said.

Schedule:

August 19, 2010 – Erie County Town Hall
6:30 p.m.
Erie County Senior Center
620 E. Water St.
Sandusky, Ohio

August 26, 2010 – Lorain County Town Hall
7 p.m.
Kipton-Camden Recycle Center
417 State St (SR 51)
Kipton, Ohio

September 1, 2010 – Ottawa County Town Hall #1
7 p.m.
Ida Rupp Public Library
310 Madison Street
Port Clinton, Ohio

September 2, 2010 – Western Ottawa County & Eastern Lucas County
6:30 p.m.
147 West Main Street
Oak Harbor, Ohio

A town hall meeting for western Lucas County will be announced shortly.

Press release: Rich Iott on federal bailouts of the states, “Over-spending has got to stop.”

Editor’s note:  This press release was issued on 8/10/2010.  Ohio’s 9th Congressional district encompasses most of Lucas County (the part of the county that’s not included is in the southwest), all of  Ottawa County, all of Erie County, and nearly half of the land area of Lorain County (the south and southwest are included).  Rich Iott is the Republican nominee challenging the incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur (who cast a yes vote on this latest bailout bill, HB 1586) for the 9th Congressional seat.  The final version of HB 1586 passed by both the U. S. House and the U. S. Senate can be read on these three pages: page 1; page 2; page 3.

Rich Iott, candidate for Ohio’s 9th Congressional District, issued the following statement following passage of HR 1586 – the Education, Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act:

“Today the House passed a second so-called stimulus, this time to bail out schools and states.

“What the career politicians in Washington fail to understand is that the over-spending has got to stop.  There are good examples across the country, and right next door in our neighboring state of Indiana, where responsible governments have cut spending and encouraged job growth, resulting in budget surpluses of hundreds of millions of dollars.

“In May, Toledo voters rejected an income tax for their school system.  Their message was clear – that with an 11.6% unemployment rate, they have no more money for failing schools.  By Congress passing this bill in Washington today, the tone-deaf politicians have decided to spend tax dollars from all Americans to bail out the schools that local taxpayers refuse to give additional funds to.  Even the liberal Washington Post criticized this measure as “more of an election-year favor for teachers unions than an optimal use of public resources.”

“Career politicians in Washington are again substituting their personal preferences for the will of the people they are supposed to represent.  They are, again, ignoring what the voters are telling them.

“The first so-called stimulus failed to do what Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her supporters said it would.  Unemployment rose – and so did the debt.  You need to look no further than the fact that, 18 months after the first stimulus became law, they’re still talking about the need to create jobs.

“And while that’s bad enough, they’re planning to pay for this current spending by cutting the Food Stamp program – but not until 2014.  So where is the money going to come from to cover the $26.1 billion cost? It’s going to come from increased taxation on businesses, ‘future’ savings in various programs and more borrowing against the future earnings of our children and our grandchildren.

“And when the time comes to cut the Food Stamp program in order to get the anticipated ‘savings,’ no one really believes that Congress will do so.  In fact, most people will wonder how many times between now and then Congress will actually spend those same projected savings on favors for other special interests.”Congress needs to take a serious look at its profligate spending and get its own fiscal house in order, which would serve as a good example to state and local governments to do the same.”

Press release from the RPCC: It’s Time for a Transition Government

Editor’s note:  This press release was issued on 8/10/2010 by the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County.  Last year, the voters of Cuyahoga County voted to change the structure of county government.  In most other Ohio counties, the county auditor and one county commissioner are the only non-judicial county election races on the ballot this year.  Cuyahoga County is electing a County Executive and members of a County Council.  There is hope that the new government structure in Cuyahoga County will be an aid to battling the corruption of those occupying county offices.  Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo are the most infamous of the county officials spotlighted by corruption investigations, yet they’re still in office, still pulling strings, still thumbing their noses at the public, and, apparently, intending to continue doing so right up until the new County Council and County Executive are sworn into office next January.  That amounts to several more months of potential mischief afforded to Dimora and Russo.  The RPCC is thus issuing the invitation (or is it issuing a challenge?) to their Democrat Party counterparts to join in leveraging whatever influence they can muster to obtain the immediate resignations of Dimora and Russo.

Its Time For A Transition Government

Voters from every Cuyahoga community, incensed with corruption and disgusted by the continued reporting of back room bargaining, bribes and patronage laden offices, overwhelmingly passed Issue 6 last year, and in doing so laid the groundwork for true government reform in Cuyahoga County. It is now time for the leaders from all political parties to demonstrate a commitment to work together in this process of transition to a new government, and there can be no better steps than by coming together to call on those who have abused the public trust to immediately resign their office and for the formation of a transition government.

Said RPCC Chairman Rob Frost “I am asking that Ed Fitzgerald, the endorsed Democratic candidate for County Executive, along with his Primary opponent Terri Hamilton Brown, to join me and Democratic Party Chair Stuart Garson along with County Treasurer Jim Rokakis and Matt Dolan, the Republican endorsed candidate for County Executive, in calling for the immediate resignations of Frank Russo and Jimmy Dimora.”

Under Ohio law, there is no provision to recall county officials and were Dimora or Russo to resign, the Central Committee of the political party which nominated them, the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, would have the power to name their replacements.  Frost further called upon Chairman Garson to commit that he will lead the Democratic Party, when and if Dimora or Russo resign, in appointing someone not running for the new County Executive or Council positions.  “This can be an opportunity for the community to come together and rise above partisan politics to form a transition government with qualified, experienced individuals as interim office-holders.”

This county has already witnessed the upside of replacement appointments, with the stellar service of interim Sheriff Frank Bova and the continuing distinguished service of Sheriff Bob Reid.  Unfortunately, we have also seen the downside of political replacements, with County Recorder Lillian Greene apparently feeling entitled to the office to which she was appointed and was subsequently retained.  “It is crucial that we get this transition right – we cannot afford any more missed chances or lost time,” stated Frost, “It is only by joining together to notify Russo and Dimora that it is time to go, and then finding qualified, neutral replacements to serve until January, that we can begin to wipe the slate clean of the stain of corruption.”

Guest blog: Imminent Rebellion: The New Fort Sumter

Editor’s note:  This is a continuation of a strand of guest blog articles about the growing schism between the states and the federal government written by guest blogger James Williamson, an Ohio native and current Alaska resident.  Here’s a link to the first of his articles, “Imminent Rebellion: States vs the Federal Government.”  His prior post, “Imminent Rebellion:  The Tar Pit,” left loose ends that are wrapped up in what is written below. As you may recall, Fort Sumter, South Carolina, is where our nation’s Civil War began, back in the 1860’s.  Will the the friction between states and the federal government reach a breaking point?  Will there be a new Fort Sumter?  The focal issue of this post is illegal immigration.

Imminent Rebellion: The New Fort Sumter

At the end of “Imminent Rebellion: The Tar Pit,” we reviewed the sticky situation which immigrants and employers find themselves trapped in.  This is largely because of the inadequacy of current immigration laws and the shortcomings of enforcement  (i.e. weakness of I-9 requirements).  As time goes on and more and more employers become dependent upon immigrants to maintain their workforce they find themselves in a very precarious position.  They can crackdown and lose a large part of their labor force or they can ignore the problem and stay profitable.  The latest stage of the awkward predicament of unauthorized labor is a very sneaky one.  Employers faced with the huge liability of hiring unauthorized workers are less and less willing to hire anyone they suspect does not have work authorization for fear of immigration raids, and perhaps even more damaging, bad publicity.

I work in the construction industry, and the drywall contractors were the first to figure out that there was a way around the lawDon’t pay W-2 wages. Pay 1099 wages. There is (as far as I know) no requirement to verify work authorization for a subcontractor or consultant.  These are considered independent business entities and are responsible for their own verification of work authorization and the payment of taxes. Simply put, hire them as self-employed contract workers and let them worry about employment eligibility and payroll taxes.  So the drywall industry started paying by the sheet of drywall hung and/or finished.  Officially, on their accounting, they will show dozens or hundreds of subcontractors generally consisting of a single worker. Sometimes, though, subcontractors with multiple workers will surface where the owner doesn’t have work authorization either.  Since the drywall industry began this new and improved technique it has since spread to many other trades and is being practiced by larger and larger companies who are more and more desperate in an ever more competitive market.

The irony of this situation is that this new arrangement actually is a revenue killer for the government.  When it was easy to get a W-2 wage, most aliens didn’t file tax returns for fear of being caught (although some of the more brazen ones would anyway and file many more dependents than they really had).  Now those same aliens are not filing on their 1099’s for the same reason.  Since there isn’t any withholding on a 1099, the government gets less revenue that they are not likely to ever recover.
Think of the pre-Civil War south, when plantation owners practiced slavery.  There are some parallels that are striking.  We now have a division among the states (and cities) on the question of immigration much like we did on the question of slavery.  States and cities that profit from the current situation favor leniency and in some cases amnesty.  Note the reaction of Los Angeles to the recently enacted Arizona law, for example.  States and cities that do not profit from large populations of unauthorized alien workers are generally on the other side of the argument calling for stricter laws and the “abolition”, if you will, of such employment practices and securing the border.  The reasons for ending illegal immigration and slavery are quite different but the end result is the same:  Tension exists between the states and the federal government that is fueled by economic pressures.  For the deep south, the slaves kept the cotton machine going, and consequently kept the southern political influence alive until the resolution of the Civil War.  For states like California, New York, and Texas, immigrants dominate the service, construction, and agriculture industries.

John C. Calhoun, in his final address to the U.S. Senate in 1860, argued that it was not slavery but the imbalance of power that caused the tension between the states.  It was the north imposing its will upon the south by reason of it’s population growth.  Growth increased the representation in congress and economic influence over the country.   He argued that to preserve the union, the balance of power would need to be restored or the south would be forced to separate to protect its interests from what was perceived as a hostile north.  This, of course, was on the eve of the Civil War, and with the election of Abraham Lincoln, who was viewed by the south to be a threat to the status quo, the south began to take their exit.  Now we have the opposite situation with the federal government favoring the status quo by doing nothing, but again the end result is the same:  There are many unhappy states that view the federal government as a problem, not a solution.

Congressman and senators are reluctant to take any real action.  After all, if you are a congressman or senator with a large population of illegal immigrants in your district, what greater boon can you have than a large portion of your constituency that can’t vote?  More power + less accountability = a politician’s dream.  Business owners who rely on illegal immigrant labor are reluctant to push for legislative change because they don’t want to see large portions of their workforce disappear.  Since business is still the largest source of cash for the political machine there is double the reason for politicians to do nothing.  This appears to be a nice arrangement: Talk about change but don’t actually deliver the change, while campaign money keeps flowing, and then repeat, with more talk about reform, do nothing, etc.  There is only one problem with the model though:  State politicians don’t get any of the benefit from this arrangement since they don’t regulate immigration but they have to deal with the problems it creates.  Hence Arizona Senate Bill 1070, its aftermath, and the new political Fort Sumter…

My take on the Christian Science Monitor op/ed by Michael Spencer on “The Coming Evangelical Collapse”

This is my second consecutive blog post on the topic of religious tolerance, and it’s a topic I’ve touched on before, in this post at great length, and tangentially in this post, this post, this post, and this post.  Those four latter posts were chiefly about Rev. Wright, and how silly I thought it was to tie Obama to Rev. Wright.  I still think it was silliness.  In thirty years time, probably much less, the story of the interaction between religion and politics will be dominated by much weightier matters, and Rev. Wright won’t even be a blip on the radar screen.  In fact, we’ll probably yearn for the day when Rev. Wright was the top story, as a recollection of the good old days.

There’s a reason I’m harping on this topic.  I sense grave trouble ahead for the First Amendment’s freedom of religion.  If the religious tolerance doesn’t improve, at some future date, we could be living in a very different America where the government is very hostile toward religion.  If it reaches that point, then, in my mind, America will cease to be America.

But before I elaborate further, I want to draw your attention to an editorial that I saw two or three days ago in the Christian Science Monitor, but apparently it was written much earlier at a blog titled Internet Monk.  Written by a Christian named Michael Spencer, it was titled “The Coming Evangelical Collapse.”  Seeing the editorial this week I thought was very timely, considering some other headlines this week in relation to Federal courts.  The editorial is displayed across three pages on the CSM website, and I recommend clicking the link and reading at least to the top of the second page.

I’m sure you’ve seen the evangelical Christian mega-churches, emblematic of the charismatic movement that feature dancing and clapping to Christian rock music played on drums, electronic keyboards, and electric guitars, with sermons derived just as much from poetry and song lyrics as they are from the scriptures.  Maybe you even attend such a church.  The modern charismatic movement within Christianity was an adaptation mostly designed to bring younger generations in contact with the churches.  It was thought that without such adaptations, the Christian congregations would dwindle away to nearly nothing as church members aged and passed away with none of the rising generation taking their places in the pews.

The charismatic style of worship is not what I prefer, myself.  I prefer the more traditional services, with hymns accompanied by a piano or organ, and sermons that delve into scripture.  But I’m not writing this blog piece to find fault with the evangelical movement in a wish that worship returns to a more traditional format.  Quite the opposite.  I’m concerned that the evangelical charismatic movement might be decimated.

Spencer’s op/ed discusses some of the vulnerabilities of the charismatic format of worship, particularly the vulnerabilities of parishioners who are not so informed about the doctrines recorded in the Bible.

The strength of the charismatic movement is fellowship, a sense of belonging, of knowing that your fellow parishioners deeply love and care about you, and another strength is the simple sermons that communicate the message “God loves you.”  Indeed, God does love us–it’s the most important message a Christian church ought to convey–and fellowship was one of the purposes in forming churches in the first place.

Michael Spencer points out that enduring discipleship requires deeper doctrinal roots, and that can be more challenging to foster in the charismatic format of worship.  Touting conservative political values can ring hollow without deeper understandings of doctrine.  The perceived bond between evangelical Christianity and political conservatism means that evangelical Christianity will have the same ire directed at it as is directed at conservatism.  When that ire bears down with full force upon the parishioners of the evangelical ministries, significant numbers of them will not be sufficiently prepared to withstand it.  Jesus Christ told a parable of a sower and seed.  The seeds that could get no depth of root, though they sprouted quickly, were eventually scorched by the mid-day sun.

So, in my mind, religious tolerance practiced by all Americans would allow these ministries to continue to flourish, and I hope such is the case.  So I have been harping on the principle of religious tolerance.  All faiths, including non-Christian faiths, stand to benefit.

There you have it.  I’ve explained myself.  I’ve explained my motive.

But I believe Michael Spencer is not mistaken.  I see the writing on the wall.  On our current trajectory, I believe, as he does, that:

“Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.”

Michael Spencer goes on to predict what the fallout will look like, what elements of Christianity are likely to survive the onslaught, and what principles to follow that will likely bring about Christian revitalization.  I differ somewhat on what the fallout will look like, but I don’t wish to dwell on it too much.

Instead, I have something to say concerning the agents of hostility against Christianity.  Spencer does not identify who these agents of intolerance will be, nor does he identify the path by which the government becomes hostile to Christianity.

A prominent headline in the mainstream media this week has been the ruling by a Federal district court that California’s Proposition 8 identifying marriage as a union between a man and a woman is unconstitutional.  I’ve been keeping a wary eye on this. Our Constitution begins with “We the People,” yet a vote of the people has been overturned by this ruling.  Each state determines its own marriage laws, but the federal judiciary is now co-opting the states’ prerogatives.  I don’t agree that such a case should ever have been heard in a federal court, in the first place.  There already are murmurings that some states may eventually rebel against the federal government, but, as we see, on virtually every front and virtually every issue, the federal government seems intent on widening the rift.

I don’t take solace in the fact that this ruling is being appealed.  I’ll explain why.

The other big headline in the mainstream media this week is that Elena Kagan, though unqualified, has been confirmed as the newest Supreme Court justice.  This is emblematic of a larger trend.  Part of the agenda of the Obama Administration in filling federal court vacancies is to stack the deck in favor of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual) community.  The Kagan appointment fits this agenda, and her Senate confirmation shows just how easy it will be for the Obama Administration to continue this agenda in filling federal court vacancies at every level.

But that’s not all.  I’ve looked around at several states that elect judges.  Often times in such states, like Ohio, the party affiliation of the judicial candidates is not listed on the ballot, yet we know that there is a Democrat slate of candidates and a Republican slate of candidates.  This year, there appears to be yet another slate of candidates.  There is a slate of LGBT-endorsed candidates.  In a number of races, the LGBT has tapped a candidate from the Democrat or Republican slate to also appear on their slate.  But in those cases where that is not the case, the LGBT is fielding their own candidate.

Among those three-way races, or more-way races, where the LGBT has fielded their own candidate, I’ve witnessed some crafty campaign advertising, wherein the campaign message is couched in Tea Party Movement terms.  In such cases the LGBT advertisement highlights the campaign contributors of the partisan slate candidates, and cites it as evidence that the partisan candidates are agenda-driven, prone to legislating from the bench to serve the interests of campaign contributors.  Thus, the LGBT candidate is positioned as the candidate who will uphold the Constitution, not an activist who will pursue the agendas driven by campaign contributors.  Clearly, this mimics Tea Party Movement communications.

If you want an example of such a campaign to research on your own, I invite you to look into the campaign of a candidate for Supreme Court justice in the state of Washington named Charlie Wiggins who is competing against Bryan Chushcoff and Richard B. Sanders in a top-two primary election slated for August 17.  The top two candidates will proceed to a run-off in the November general election.

It’s set in motion already.  The first dominoes have fallen in these two headlines of this week.  The LGBT community will fashion the government to their liking through the courts, at federal and state levels, bypassing legislatures, and clearly bypassing votes of the people.

This is the path by which the government becomes hostile toward Christianity.

Religion has been made the scapegoat in prior losses the LGBT suffered in vote after vote of the people.  As I have pointed out, there are secular arguments that even an atheist can make against same-sex marriage, so scapegoating religion is disingenuous, but it serves the purpose of the LGBT community, so they continue to do so.

But Christianity can withstand hostile governments.  If the opposition that evangelical Christianity were to face were merely hostile governments, then I would not be in agreement with Michael Spencer’s editorial.

I predict, however, that after the LGBT community has toppled the last domino in their quest for the government to embrace their agenda, the LGBT community will still not be done with the work they want to do.  They will turn their attention on any church that considers homosexuality a sin, and they will harass such churches.

Thus the LGBT community will be the foremost agents of the persecution that evangelical Christianity will face, and I don’t share Spencer’s view that the Roman Catholic church will add significantly to its numbers during the onslaught in light of who, in my opinion, will be the agents of Christian oppression, but I do share his view that a great many Christian parishioners won’t withstand such opposition.

When that fever pitch is reached, we shall see the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of religion discarded.  Violent civil strife may even ensue.

Religious tolerance practiced by all Americans would prevent such events from unfolding.  It is apparent to me, however, that the LGBT community will only tolerate the denominations that align themselves with the standards of political correctness set forth by the LGBT community.

If you are reading this, you may be thinking to yourself that you are reading the absurd paranoid ramblings of a raving lunatic.  I invite you to read this again in thirty years time to match it against what has actually transpired by then.

WSJ op/ed on religion: Ground Zero mosque

Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote this opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal titled “Liberal Piety and the Memory of 9/11,” which clarifies some of the reasoning behind opposition to the planned construction of a mosque a very short distance from Ground Zero.  I recommend clicking the link and reading it.

It certainly is no accident that Ground Zero for the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, targeted landmarks of New York City.  Because it’s America’s biggest city? In my mind: I suppose so.  Because it’s America’s financial capital?  In my opinion: I suppose so.  Because it’s America’s media center?  My best guess is: I suppose so.  Because it’s the largest community of Americans who identify themselves as Jewish?  My mind is totally clear on this one: Most definitely.

Dorothy Rabinowitz is not paranoid.  She has good reason to believe that Jews are prime targets of terrorists who identify themselves as Muslims.

And while Americans mourn the tragic loss of lives at that fateful spot of New York City, there are a number of people scattered around this globe that would dance and make merry on that spot of ground.  Many of those would-be revelers would identify themselves as Muslim.

Is the building of a mosque that close to Ground Zero an attempt to revel in the damage caused by evil deeds?  It might be.  Or it might not.  It’s like a Rorschach test, with no conclusively right or wrong answer–different people see it from different perspectives.

The next to last paragraph of the editorial reads thus:

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser—devout Muslim, physician, former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy—says there is every reason to investigate the center’s funding under the circumstances. Of the mosque so near the site of the 9/11 attacks, he notes “It will certainly be seen as a victory for political Islam.”

It seems quite reasonable that it would be viewed by a number of people as a victory for political Islam.  But not every one would jump to that conclusion.

My opinion?  I’ve already spoken out, here at Buckeye RINO, against religious intolerance from the political right.  Of course, that admonition can well be extended to others along the political spectrum.  Religious freedom extends to Muslims.  Religious tolerance should extend that far, also.

I can’t help that there are a number of people who will view it as a victory for political Islam.  People will make of it what they make of it.  The First Amendment to our Constitution has to be the prevailing principle.

Besides religious freedom, I also believe in property rights.  If Muslims acquire a property, they have the property rights and the religious rights to build a mosque there.

On the other hand, yes, if I were Jewish resident of New York City, I’d likely feel those exact same feelings that Dorothy Rabinowitz expressed.  In fact, I sympathize with those feelings, already, even though I’m not a New Yorker (disclaimer: for one summer, I did live in upstate New York, but I don’t think that makes me a New Yorker, even in small measure), even though I’m not Jewish, and even though I can’t empathize because I’ve never walked in her shoes and borne the brunt of anti-Semitic persecution.  I am an American, though, and a human being, and on those common grounds, I feel anguish to this very day for what happened on 9/11, just as surely as I cried tears of great sadness on the day it all happened.

Religious tolerance, though, sometimes means we have to live with a great deal of anguish as we allow other religions to exercise their Constitutional liberties.  So a mosque can be built there.  But there will be many who feel an anguish that cannot be alleviated.  It’s just the way it is.

It has to be a two-way street.  Public figures have publicly asked the public to refrain from retaliating against and persecuting Muslims. Again, I expect religious tolerance to extend to Muslims.  But I also expect Muslims in America to tolerate other religions.  I expect Muslims in America to neither persecute nor molest persons not of their faith.  As has been pointed out, there have been a few Muslim individuals that haven’t measured up to that expectation, and they must face American justice to be held accountable for their deeds.

If a Muslim chooses to reside in the United States of America, then it should coincide with the choice to respect our Constitution, and our laws, including the freedom of non-Muslims to choose their own religion.  This necessarily means that Muslims must forfeit any design to impose any incarnation of political Islam in America.  There is freedom to believe what you believe so long as it stays within the religious realm.  Furthermore, in America, there can be no coercion exerted to make others adhere to a religious persuasion, and a Muslim who chooses to reside here must agree to abide by that principle.  Political Islam cannot coexist with the Constitution and its Bill of Rights.  Any Islamic insurrection that may arise in an effort to wrest power from the people of the United States of America must be crushed or America would cease to be America.  If a Muslim insists on living in a nation that conforms to sharia law, then that Muslim must necessarily take up residence somewhere else.

I have worked alongside Muslims in companies where I have been employed, and I enjoyed their friendship.  They were friendly, devout, honest, trustworthy, humble, hard-working, conscientious, respectful, well-behaved, ethical individuals.  I wouldn’t mind if there were many, many more of them here that shared those same characteristics.  I hope the American experience is as rewarding for them as it is for me.