Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Hard-Right Conservative?

I recently read an article in which my state representative was described as an "extreme right-wing conservative." Now she is a staunch conservative, but even she breaks rank on some very important issues. I think it is disingenuous how the media throws these labels around, especially in election season, without taking issues other than abortion, taxes, and gay marriage into account.

I suspect that many of you out there suppose me to be a hard-right conservative. I disagree. In fact, I would describe myself as a "moderate conservative" (80% conservative with one-fifth cup moderation--20 percent). I can name some issues right now on which I don't agree 100% with the conservative base.

1) The Death Penalty. I tend to be moderate, middle-of-the road on the death penalty. Although this seems to be a difficult position, it really is not. I think the death penalty should remain on the books as law, but it should not be used frequently. I don't think every murder should be under consideration for the death penalty (I see a difference between a Charles Mansion serial killer--who should die, and the husband who in a rage strikes at his wife, causing her to fall down the stairs and die--this is very brutal, and in cases like these, life in prison would be sufficient). The extenuating circumstances of each case and whether the homicide was premeditated--1st or 2nd degree murder--makes all the difference, and the same penalty cannot be ascribed to every case despite the variances in the crimes. The death penalty should only be reserved for the most horrendous, evil cases. And this extends to terrorists, both those who carry out attacks and those who are planning attacks but have yet to carry them out. Islamic extremism is a scourge upon society, and it is a national security risk to even let an Islamic terrorist remain alive in prison (this is the only circumstance in which I find it justifiable in every case to kill the purported terrorist).

2. Sex Education. Sadly, I must part ways with the religious right on this issue. While I feel that abstinence should be at the forefront of all youth education on this subject, I feel that it is detrimental to leave out the teaching of "safe sex" (birth control methods and condoms). It is a fact that even with "abstinence-only" teaching, most teenagers succumb to their natural instincts and have sex before marriage--around 70 percent of teens. And those that take abstinence pledges are more likely to have oral or anal sex instead of intercourse. Because of this, I think teens must be given all the facts on this issue. Abstinence can be at the core of teaching, but birth control methods need to be mentioned (just in case that urge is too strong, or that girl in the miniskirt is just too tempting). I am very much against abortion, and many abortions could be prevented if people used sound methods of birth control (that's why I don't understand the religious right's opposition to comprehensive sex education--it would prevent abortions). The U.S. has one of the highest murder (i.e. abortion) rates in the world. The Netherlands has one of the lowest rates--the Dutch also use birth control more than Americans. The ABC method currently being promoted in AIDS-ravaged African nations (Abstinence, Be faithful, Condoms only if A and B fail) should also apply to our nation's education standards.

3. Guns--I am a strong supporter of the right to bear arms, but at the same time, I would probably vote for the assault weapons ban and the addition of safety locks on guns. At the same time, I am strongly against the litigation brought against gun stores and gun companies for crimes committed with certain types of guns. I also am a strong believer in concealed carry, as I think it makes society as a whole much more safer and reduces crime--it gives citizens the right to defend themselves while scaring criminals from committing crimes. I would hope that I could get at least a grade of "B" from the NRA, and hopefully they would still endorse me. What do you think?

4. Gambling. Another issue where I disagree with the religious right. Gambling does cause debt and breaks up families, but this is a matter of individual responsibility, and we can not ban something just because of the bad choices of some individuals. Gambling brings in a lot of taxable revenue, money for schools, and jobs and economic growth into local economies. The good outweighs the bad, I think, and the freedom to gamble should supersede the possible negative consequences of someone's personal decisions (should we ban all alcohol and return to prohibition just because some drunken men beat their wives and drunk drivers kill innocent people)?

5. Gay/lesbian recognition. I don't entirely disagree with the religion right on this issue (I agree with the religious right on abortion and gay marriage). While I disagree with their lifestyle, I think that gays and lesbians should have the rights to access their partner's medical records, have joint insurance benefits, and be able to speak on the other's behalf in medical and legal proceedings. Of course, this must be limited somewhat, because I oppose gay marriage as detrimental to the bedrock institutions of our society, but giving these options to gays in the form of "domestic partnerships" or some other designation outside of marriage would be appropriate. Even Dr. James Dobson of "Focus on the Family" has recently come out in favor of this moderate, reasonable stance--for gay unions/domestic partnerships, against gay marriage.

6. Evolution--Let me just say that I'm Catholic, and I believe in evolution somewhat and that the Christian belief in God can go hand-in-hand with evolution. I think evolutionists have done a poor job by trying to leave God out of the equation (I don't think the earth's 6 billion years old--more like 10 or 15 thousand years old). The theory of evolution should be taught in classrooms in a very objective way. Holes in the current evolution theory should be taught and discussed, and alternative theories (such as intelligent design) should be mentioned but NOT taught. This isn't about teaching the Bible in the classroom, it's about examining scientific evidence, critiquing it, and looking at alternative evidence. Science isn't perfect and we should be prepared to examine all the evidence and not try to ignore obvious problems in current evolutionary theory and the opposition to it. Having said that, attempts by school boards and politicians to downplay evolution or ban it entirely are also ridiculous. The classroom is an open forum. And I believe that evolution and the Christian belief in creation can co-exist (In fact, I personally think they're both compatible).

I could probably continue with some other issues (such as my support for prescription drug re-importation, expansion of generic drugs, and government-run, full health plans and insurance for low-income Americans only) but this sufficiently shows where I digress with my party. I am firmly for lower taxes, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, for tort reform, free-markets, increased privatization, strong foreign policy (unilateral if need be), and anti-affirmative action. Overall, I am more conservative than moderate, but moderate enough not to be just a hardcore conservative. Hence, I'm a "moderate conservative."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

All eyes on New Orleans

New Orleans voters are off to the polls in a their first election since Katrina. This historic event (with residents pouring in by bus from all over the U.S.) will determine whether "New Orleans is a chocolate city--God wants us to stay black" Nagin will lose his job to one of a variety of more competent and resourceful candidates.

French say "Adieu" to globalized economy--and their future

This is old news, but I felt the need to comment on it. The French have again rejected practical, rational measures intended to spur economic growth. The outpour of anger and protests by youth over reforms such as making it easier for employers to fire youth in the first two years of their employment is astounding. This is what I say--Grow up and quit complaining! The French are have remained trapped in time, in their imaginary, utopian bubble of socialism and welfare-state economics, while the rest of the world has become more integrated with supra-national economies and globalized markets. The French have the longest paid vacations--8 weeks--and if you are under 30, it is impossible for an employer to fire you during your first two years on the job. And people wonder why France has recorded zero economic growth, a stagnant GDP, and unemployment over 10 percent. These same youth who complain about the lack of jobs don't seem to understand that employers are extremely relunctant to hire workers when the government regulates their ability to fire unsuitable workers. Chirac gave it to these whiny brats and while some other European nations are at least inching forward, France has gone several yards back in economic competitiveness and modernity.

These European nations are facing large aging populations nearing retirement age and fewer workers. Their welfare states are at the point of collapse, but they are hesitant to take bold reform. Germany's population is also refusing to recognize the remedy for their economic ailments. Both Germany and France still have failed to privatize their massive, government-controlled steel and lumber industries, and even private corporations such as Airbus (rival to American Boeing) are heavily subsidized by European nations such as France. The effort to move towards free trade and end tariffs will not work as long as some nations, especially those in Western Europe, refuse to make much needed reforms in their outdated workplace and labor laws and stop giving preference and funding to their home-based companies.

Now, free trade and reduction of tariffs ARE the answer and much needed, but these methods only work with nations that are willing to work with us (while western Europe still has a long way to go, their leaders recognize their problems and they are starting to reform--however extremely slow that may be). Yet China continues to undervalue its currency to give its industries a massive trade advantage over our counterparts, and allows its companies to counterfeit and produce goods stolen from the concepts and designs of American companies (clearly contrary to WTO laws). China joined the WTO, but has consistently defied its laws and refuses to play by the rules. The punishment should be a series of tariffs designed to hurt the sale of Chinese goods here in the states. We can only play fair when others are also willing to play fair.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The War on our borders and assimilation

With the immigration debate heating up (or, as I would call it, the illegal immigration debate) I think most people know where I stand. On this issue, I am very adamant and on the opposite side of the president, the Chamber of Commerce, big business, immigrant groups, and the Catholic Church (talk about a coalition!). I am not against a guest worker program, but I think that's it's premature to even consider one until we secure our borders, increase border patrol, and effectively stop all illegals from coming in. Then, the congress can take up a separate bill on a guest worker program and easing VISA requirements, not only for Mexicans for for Eastern Europeans and Asians, who really want to come here, but are blocked by our outdated and antiquated immigration system that is too slow and bureaucratic.
However, the unceasing flow of illegals is putting a strain on our resources--education, healthcare, etc. We are getting many of the people we don't want--such as the flood of criminals and gang members escaping Mexico's lax enforcement, instead of the Mexican immigrants who want to contribute to our success and raise families in the U.S. They are applying legally and prevented from coming by outdated, bureaucratic entry requirements.
We must also be careful to make sure all immigrants assimilate. Europe has clearly had a rough time assimilating its immigrants, as the riots by poor Muslims in France last year clearly demonstrated. Immigrants are relegated to ghettos away from the rest of society and nothing is done to make them learn the native language, history, and understand the laws.
We in the United States, having always looked with scorn on Europe's left-wing experiment with "multi-culturalism," instead, we have embraced the "melting pot" concept where all immigrants adapt into American culture, while still retaining some pride and knowledge of their roots, but at the same time recognizing they are Americans first. This quote from one of the protesters at a recent immigration rally troubled me:

I've always been proud to say that I'm Hispanic," said Rafael "Ralph" Tabares, 17, a Marshall High School student and an organizer of his school's walkout. "But on Saturday, I thought: Whoa. We can do something. And we can do it right." from LA times

This kid should see himself as American first, not Hispanic. These hispanics are coming in faster than we can integrate them into American society, and that spells trouble. The states are not helping matters by printing ballots in Spanish and giving customer service instructions in two languages. Any nation that tries to establish a dual-language system faces integration problems and civil unrest (think Canada--english and french, China, India, etc).

I can think of a very simple yet troubling example when I was working as a phonathon caller on campus calling alumni. I called an older woman in San Jose, California, asking for contributions to the university. I was working on Halloween night and I asked her if she had many trick-or-treaters at her door.
"Actually, we have'nt had one," the woman said, in a slow, almost surprised voice. "But this neighborhood has a lot of Vietnames immigrants, and I don't think most of them know what Halloween really is. I don't think anyone has ever told them. It's kind of sad, really, if you think about it. Not one trick-or-treater."

I was astonished. Now you may say 'who really cares, it's just Halloween. But Halloween is a distinctly American tradition. Until recently, it wasn't even celebrated in Europe. If immigrants are not learning about simple American customs such as trick-or-treating and American holidays, how can we expect them to learn our laws and values? The failure of some immigrants to celebrate Halloween symbolizes the larger failure of fully integrating into our democracy. It could mean the beginning of the end of America's melting pot society and our downfall as superpower of the world. Our laws, religions, customs, and holidays shape our ideas on democracy, freedom, represenation, free speech, and the power of the individual. If this message is not being transmitted to immigrants through simple practices such as Halloween, how can we expect to keep the fabric of our nation from tearing apart across racial and ethnic lines?

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Democratic Culture of Corruption?

Democrats planning to use the Jack Abramoff scandal to tie all Republicans to a "culture of corruption" as a strategy for victory in this year's elections may have to re-think that plan. Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana is the subject of an ethics complaint filed against him by the group Citizens for Responsiblity and Ethics. The charges, some which date back a few years, include bribery and conspiracy that have already tarnished several of his aides and former staffers. The new complaint also includes misuse of federal resources appropriated as disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Democrats up in arms about the federal response to the hurricane now must look to see if one of their own misused funds that were supposed to go to the victims.

Detroit Congressman John Conyers, top Democrat in the Judiciary Committee, apparently made his staffers baby-sit his children, work on campaigns, and do personal chores for him, according to revelations from several former staffers. Conyers, under investigation, refuses to say anything until he has consulted his lawyer.

And the third case, Rep. Alan Mollohan, ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee (yes, the Ethics committee, of all things) has been very unethical by slipping earmarks in legislation to benefit corporations and individuals who contributed to his fortune as a multi-millionaire. Even as he faces investigation by federal prosecutors, even more alarming is the $250 million he funneled to non-profit groups he helped set up. The people who received jobs from him than gave him thousands back in political donations, and then it seems he returned the favor with earmarks, in a seemingly roundabout patronage system that he created himself. Democrats are sticking by him for now, but the question is how long can the Dems let allegations of corruption linger around their guy on the ethics committee, who oversees and investigates others for similar acts? The New York Times is already warning the the Dems that if they don't force Mollohan to resign, they risk losing their edge over the Republicans and could face defeat in November.

All of these cases, still developing, weaken the Democrats claim to be a force against corruption. And apparently, unlike the Republicans, winning elections doesn't seem to matter as much as inter-party loyalty. The old line "Do as I say, not as I do" summarizes the current Democratic house and senate leadership very well.