Saturday, July 03, 2010

Democrat tributes to Byrd were to a man of no principles -- i.e. a good Leftist

Jonah Goldberg

It is a good rule of thumb not to speak ill of the dead. But what to do when a man is celebrated beyond the limits of decorum or common sense? Must we stay silent as others celebrate the beauty and splendor of the emperor's invisible clothes?

You probably know why I ask the question. Robert Byrd, the longest-serving member of the Senate in American history, died Monday. It was truly a remarkable career. But what's more remarkable is how he has been lionized by the champions of liberalism.

On Thursday, Byrd's colleagues took the unusual step of honoring him with a special service on the Senate floor, where he would lay in repose -- with some irony -- on the Lincoln Catafalque, the bier used to hold the slain body of the president who freed the slaves. The irony stems from the fact that for much of Byrd's life, his allegiances were with Lincoln's opponents in that effort. More on that in a moment.

Not long ago, the assembled forces of liberalism were convinced that the Senate was "broken," that the anachronistic filibuster impeded progress. The Senate itself, with its arcane rules and procedures, had become undemocratic and was in need of vital reform, according to all of the usual voices. John Podesta, president of the Center for American Progress and a sort of archbishop of liberalism these days, drew on his deep command of political theory and social science to explain that the American political system "sucks," in significant part due to the unwieldiness of the Senate.

Well, who better represented those alleged structural problems than Byrd? Nearly every obituary celebrates his "mastery" of the rules. This is from the first paragraph of the Washington Post's obituary: Byrd "used his masterful knowledge of the institution to shape the federal budget, protect the procedural rules of the Senate and, above all else, tend to the interests of his state."

Yes, what about his tending to his state's interests? For several years there's been a lot of bipartisan indignation over the perfidy of pork and "earmarks."

Who, pray tell, better represented that practice than Byrd? The man emptied Washington of money and resources with an alacrity and determination not seen since the evacuation of Dunkirk. There are too many of these Byrd droppings in West Virginia to count, but we do know there are at least 30 buildings and other structures in that state named for him. So much for Democrats getting the message that Americans are sick of self-aggrandizing politicians.

And so much for the idea that Washington has become calcified by a permanent political class. Better to celebrate the fact that he cast his 18,000th vote in 2007.

And then, of course, there is the issue of race. The common interpretation is that Byrd's is a story of redemption. A one-time Exalted Cyclops of the KKK, Byrd recruited some 150 members to the chapter he led -- that's led, not "joined," by the way. (If you doubt his commitment to the cause, try to recruit 150 people to do anything, never mind have them pay a hefty fee up front.)

Byrd filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act. As Bruce Bartlett notes in his book "Wrong on Race," Byrd knew he would fail, but he stood on bedrock principle that integration was evil. His individual filibuster, the second longest in American history, fills 86 pages of fine print in the Congressional Record. "Only a true believer," writes Bartlett, "would ever undertake such a futile effort."

Unlike some segregationists, Byrd's arguments rested less on the principle of states' rights than on his conviction that black people were simply biologically inferior.

Sure, he lied for years about his repudiation of the Klan. Sure, he was still referring to "white niggers" as recently as 2001. But everyone agrees his change of heart is sincere. And for all I know it was.

What's odd is what passes for proof of his sincerity. Yes, he voted to make Martin Luther King Day a holiday. But to listen to some eulogizers, the real proof came in the fact that he supported ever more lavish government programs -- and opposed the Iraq war. Am I alone in taking offense at the idea that supporting big government and opposing the Iraq war somehow count as proof of racial enlightenment?

Robert Byrd was a complicated man, but the explanation for the outsized celebration of his career strikes me as far more simple. He was a powerful man who abandoned his bigoted principles in order to keep power. And his party loved him for it.


Homosexual marriage a step closer in Britain

Homosexual couples could be allowed to “marry” in traditional religious ceremonies for the first time, a government minister has said. Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister, said the Coalition was considering allowing same-sex couples to include key religious elements in civil partnership ceremonies. In a parliamentary answer, she disclosed that homosexual couples could be permitted to use “religious readings, music and symbols”.

This would make civil partnerships practically indistinguishable from traditional weddings as Parliament recently removed the bar on same-sex unions in churches and other places of worship through an amendment to Labour’s Equality Act.

The proposals will delight equality campaigners who believe civil partnership is a “second-class” status, but they prompted fierce opposition from mainstream Christian leaders who believe marriage can only take place between a man and a woman.

Church of England sources warned that the Government could not make such dramatic changes merely by issuing regulations or guidance, as the current Civil Partnership Act prohibits the use of religious services during the registrations. A spokesman made it clear that senior figures in the established faith would resist any moves effectively to legalise homosexual marriage.

The Rt Rev Michael Langrish, the Bishop of Exeter, added in a personal statement: “As some of us warned at the time, the amendment to the Equality Bill has opened an area of unhelpful doubt and confusion. The Church of England will not be allowing use of any of its buildings for civil partnership registrations.”

Lord Tebbit, a former Tory party chairman who spoke out against same-sex unions in churches in the Lords, said: “I wouldn’t want anything done to add to the pretence that a civil partnership is a marriage. That’s the key thing, and anything which changes the law would have to come back to the Lords.”

In 2005, same-sex couples in Britain were allowed for the first time to take part in ceremonies that made them “civil partners”. This gave them similar legal rights to married spouses, but the law required the events to take place in register offices or approved venues such as hotels and stately homes. The ceremony has had to be secular, with no hymns or Bible readings, in order to preserve the definition of religious marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

When the Equality Bill was being debated earlier this year, an amendment was added by Lord Alli that permitted civil partnership ceremonies to take place in places of worship if the relevant religious group permitted it.

Quakers, Unitarians and the Liberal Judaism movement will ask to be allowed to host the ceremonies but the Church of England will resist it, despite the wishes of some liberal clerics, as will the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. Registrars provided by local councils would still have to conduct civil partnership ceremonies.

No changes to the content of the ceremonies were proposed in the Lords, and in a parliamentary written answer last month, it was made clear that they must remain “entirely secular in nature” and cannot contain “any religious language”.

However, in a Parliamentary written answer provided on Wednesday to Chris Bryant, the ex-Labour minister and former Anglican priest who posed in his underpants on a dating website called Gaydar, it emerged that the Coalition is considering moving further towards legalising full homosexual marriage as it draws up the regulations on how civil partnerships can be held in places of worship.

Mrs Featherstone, a Liberal Democrat, wrote: “An amendment made in the House of Lords to the Equality Act 2010 removed the express prohibition on civil partnership registrations taking place on religious premises. “In response to this amendment, the Government committed to talking to those with a key interest in the issue of civil partnerships on what the next stage should be for civil partnerships.

“This will include consideration of whether civil partnerships should be allowed to include religious readings, music and symbols. “This commitment was made through the document, Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality, published on 16 June 2010.”

She added that this would create a disparity with heterosexual couples who marry in town halls, as “there are currently no plans to allow religious readings, music and symbols during the registration of civil marriages”.

Mr Bryant said he believes the Government will eventually have to allow full homosexual marriage rather than creating the unusual situation under which same-sex couples can have religious language in their civil partnerships, but heterosexuals cannot in civil marriage.

A Church of England spokesman said: “The Church of England is not proposing to open its churches for civil partnership registrations. Any comment we might wish to make on the principles of these apparent proposals would be made through the formal consultation process.”

During the election campaign, the Conservatives were the only main party to suggest that they would consider allowing full homosexual marriage, a move that although contentious would be easier to legislate for than altering existing laws on civil partnership and civil marriage. Their Contract for Equalities stated: “We will consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.”

Peter Tatchell, the veteran gay rights activist who will today join London’s Gay Pride parade with a banner declaring: “Dave and Sam Cameron can marry, gays can’t. End the ban on gay marriage”, said: “Instead of tinkering with the second-class system of civil partnerships, the Government should bring forward legislation to legalise same-sex marriage.” He said the move to allow religious language in civil partnerships was a “small step forward” but added: “It still comes well short of marriage equality.”


Hollywood eminento slams the 'Old' and 'Bigoted' Views of Those Who Oppose Same Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court of California upheld Proposition 8 a little over a year ago but a new lawsuit was heard recently

The reinstatement of Proposition 8 in California, a bill which prohibits same-sex couples from legally marrying, continues to cut through the heart of Hollywood – and Mark Ruffalo is the latest celebrity to express his passion amid the ongoing fight for gay marriage rights.

“There’s a debate going on about gay marriage and whether children can be raised in an ‘unconventional’ family and go on to be sexually healthy, viable, productive people – that’s all used as an argument against gay marriage,” Ruffalo recently told Pop Tarts. “It’s so ridiculous to me.”

Nonetheless, Ruffalo remains confident that the push to continue preventing same sex couples from tying-the-knot, at least in California, is on its last legs – thus prompting those in opposition to use scare tactics as a last resort.

“It’s the last dying, kicking, screaming, caged animal response to a world that is changing, a world that’s leaving a lot of those old, bigoted, un-accepting views behind. It’s over,” he continued. “Those against it are very tricky and they’re using really dark ways to promote their ideas. But 75 percent of Americans want an appeal on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ They want gays to openly serve in the military. Ten years ago that was probably 30 percent. That number is more reflective of who we are as a nation today than anything else.”

Ruffalo was most likely referencing an ABC News-Washington Post poll that was conducted in February of this year, in which 75 percent of responses stated that homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the military openly, as opposed to 62 percent in January 2001 and 44 percent in May of 1993.

Ruffalo stars in the new film “The Kids Are Alright”, which is centered on a long-term, married lesbian couple (played by Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) who have two teenaged children born by artificial insemination. However, the fabric of their seemingly fruitful and flawless family life starts to fall apart when the kids decide to seek out their sperm donor ‘father’ (Ruffalo) who turns out to be an earth-loving, college drop-out and bachelor who owns a flourishing local/organic restaurant.

“The more people get to experience ‘these people’ (gay and lesbian couples) who are not so much unlike themselves, the more accepting they become,” he said. “You can’t know somebody like that then want to take away something (like marriage) that is so precious to them.”

And in Ruffalo’s opinion, perceiving a homosexual person as being any different than somebody who is straight stems only from what we’re told by others.

“We live down the street from a gay couple with a young son, my son goes and plays there and has lunch there. My son is 8 years old, and not once has he come and asked why his friend has two poppas,” he added. “His family is no different to my family – they eat at the same time, send their kid to school, discipline him and love him the same way. It’s only the teaching that we give to the child that makes them see those distinctions.”


Something to Light a Firecracker About

Not so long ago, most Americans regarded the Fourth of July as "Independence Day," and called it that -- celebrating liberty and freedom, prizing independence above all. For the graduates of high school and college, Independence Day marks the breaking away from parents, of moving toward responsibility.

For many of us, it's a celebration mixed with more than a little concern. Where will this new independence take the young? What kind of adults will they become? Have we "done good" by them?

Have they been politically corrected and merely educated in soundbites and cliches by the megabyte so that they, as Sam Cooke famously sang, "don't know much about history." But not to worry. We've always known they're intelligent, and they may be smarter than we think. At least some of them.

The federal government wants more and more to tell us, by law and by bureaucratic regulation, what's good for us -- what to eat, what to spend our own money on, to whether and where to smoke a cigarette or eat a burger. When a senator asked Elena Kagan, the president's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, whether she believed Congress had the power "to tell people what to eat every day," she was stumped for an answer. The personal has become the political. The Founding Fathers are spinning.

But for an encouraging number of the young, maybe not. In a survey of 3,000 high school students by the Bill of Rights Institute, an Arlington, Va., based organization to educate young people in the ideas and ideals of the Founding Fathers, the top five heroes of the young are Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., George Washington and Thomas Paine. (Neither Elvis nor Michael Jackson made the cut.) The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were the documents that inspired them most, and "perseverance" and "courage" were cited as the two civic values most essential to American citizenship.

These students understand what's expected of them and hold the important stuff as really important, even if they (like the rest of us) sometimes honor it in the breach. This essay exercise is one of the largest in the country, with more than 50,000 participants, 70 percent from public schools. Teacher and student winners earn awards up to $5,000 and trips to the nation's capital. Best of all the kids, many of whom had never had a class in "civics," demonstrate an unusual appreciation not only of the meaning of citizenship, but an understanding of the burdens of citizenship.

A 12th-grade prize essayist writes of the importance of personal accountability in preserving liberty. "Although the Founding Fathers created constitutional checks and balances to prevent loss of liberty through abuse of power," writes T.J. Cahill of Lansing, Mich., "they foresaw that precautions are useless if each American is not individually responsible. To preserve liberty, we must each embrace our founders' legacy of responsibility."

The politicians could learn from a 10th-grader who identifies courage, strength and wisdom as the three qualities essential to great leadership. "Courage, because many times you will stand alone. Strength, because while you move against the crowd people will try to knock you down. Wisdom, which varies for every situation, to know when to pick a fight and when to hold your tongue."

The students were required to show a specific American value reflected in a founding document, embodied in a figure of American history and finally in the essayist's life. This requirement reverses the glib cliche that "the personal is the political," the basis for the destructive notion that everyone is entitled to preferences based on sex or group identity, and instead emphasizes how the political requires personal duty, the revolutionary idea that animated the Founding Fathers.

"If citizens desire to maintain small government," writes Haley Shopp of Mansfield, Texas, "they must take responsibility to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them in a way that is completely independent from government. Recognizing a widespread need among my classmates, I have established and run a math-tutoring center at my school. In this way, I hope to take part in a system that is uniquely American: to take personal responsibility to fix a problem, instead of relying on government for the answers."

Writes David Rinder of Morganville, N.J.: "Independence and the ability to control one's own destiny are ideals held dear by Americans."

Now that's something to light a firecracker about on this Fourth of July. We're entitled to have a good one.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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