Monthly Archives: June 2009

Group using ‘truth’ in its name should make sure what it proclaims is truthful

OK, I can understand why religious people would be angry with a president who said:

“I consider the government of the U.S. as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline or exercises. … I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies that the general government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises, the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the Constitution has deposited it. … (E)very one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the president of the U.S. and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.”

Or this:

“The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.”

Wow, that’s strong stuff! In a posting today on the Web site of the Carol Stream-based group Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern said President Obama is more committed to the radical homosexual agenda than he is to biblical morality.

“For the first time in America’s history, we have a president who has no understanding of the biblical worldview and who has even less understanding of the truths of the Bible. This is evident when he says that support for homosexual ‘marriage’ (unions) can be found in the Sermon on the Mount or that certain passages in Romans are just obscure passages. Whereas George Washington expelled from his military those who practiced sodomy, President Obama honors sodomites by proclaiming an entire month as Gay Pride Month, but he won’t acknowledge one day for our National Day of Prayer.”

That last sentence is quite provocative. It would be even more powerful if it were true.

Obama did not make either of the two quotes I referenced above. The first was made by Thomas Jefferson in refusing to proclaim a National Day of Prayer, and the second was made by John Adams. While it’s true that Obama said the United States is not a Christian nation (he’s right — it’s not), he signed a proclamation for the National Day of Prayer in early May.

What he didn’t do was hold a public event in conjunction with the National Day of Prayer like former President George W. Bush did during his time in the White House. In fact, aside from signing a proclamation for the National Day of Prayer, Obama asked a federal court in Wisconsin to dismiss a case challenging the government’s involvement with the National Day of Prayer.

It doesn’t sound like Obama is as hostile to Christianity as his opponents have claimed. Kern made her comments last week in Chicago during a AFTAH press conference.

What’s peculiar is that her inaccurate statement about Obama’s refusal to proclaim a National Day of Prayer would be repeated by a group using the word “truth” in its name. Apparently those who believe you can have an inerrant word of God that’s riddled with mistakes are the same people who proclaim “truth” while dispensing falsehoods.

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Lawmakers should put themselves on the line when threatening spending cuts

A Downers Grove resident left two voice mail messages on my phone system yesterday regarding my column this week about the ongoing budget fiasco we have in Springfield, and he sounded like he didn’t agree with my take on the matter.

In my column, I highlighted a recent debate between Ralph Martire, executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, and Brian Wesbury, chief economist for the Wheaton-based First Trust Advisors. They discussed their preferred approaches to closing the multi-billion dollar budget deficit.

Wesbury said the usual practice in Springfield has been to approve additional spending on new programs without coming up with viable funding sources. Martire argued that the problem isn’t with over-spending, it’s with under-taxing.

I wrote that Martire is off-base about Illinois residents not paying enough in taxes. Legislators created this mess by creating new prorgrams without having a way to pay for them.

If a spending plan is not approved by June 30, state agencies may have to start cutting services to balance the budget. Lawmakers must identify the most crucial spending priorities and start cutting other items, I wrote in my column.

The reader’s first message he left was that I should identify the $7 billion in cuts in the budget that I’d like to see made. He said I join other pontificators in calling for cuts while not stipulating where they can be made, concluding, “It’s a waste of my time” before hanging up.

My new friend’s second message was on a proposal by U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-10th District, of Highland Park to pass tougher penalties of up to 25 years in prison for people who smoke a potent form of marijuana. The Downers Grove reader wanted to know if I could provide a cost-benefit analysis of such an idea.

To address this reader’s concerns, let me comment on the second issue first. The drug laws in this country are absurd, and I believe drug use should be legalized. While people who commit crimes while under the influence of drugs should be prosecuted, criminalizing drug usage has been disastrous.

Other than that, my friend’s point about Kirk is slightly off-target. Kirk is a federal legislator, not a state lawmaker. So any proposal he made regarding issuing tougher penalties for marijuana users wouldn’t impact the state budget, which was the topic of my column.

People accused of breaking federal laws would be tried by federal prosecutors in federal courts and sent to federal prisons if convicted. This would entail spending money in the federal budget, not the state budget.

As to his first issue, in my column I called on lawmakers to identify the social services we needed the most. Once they priorized what we absolutely needed and what’s less important, they’ll know where they can begin cutting.

But the Downers Grove reader raises a valid criticism of the approach I took in my column. Just as I challenged lawmakers to articulate what services are most needed, he challenged me to identify what services are least needed.

His point to me was that it’s easy for people like me to sit back and criticize others while not offering solutions ourselves, and he’s right. So I have a few ideas of things I’d cut from the budget, and here they are:

Let’s stop paying the salaries of all statewide public officials and cease funding their benefits and perks. This includes Gov. Pat Quinn, members of the Illinois Hosue of Representatives and Senate as well as all constitutional officers.

They can still serve as public officials, we just won’t pay them for it any longer. If they need to spend money on something, it will have to come out of their pockets.

In addition, we can stop paying the pension benefits of all retired public officials. Many of them helped get us into this mess, so the revenue faucet will be turned off. You’re on your own, folks.

Cutting off spending in this area should make a big dent in the budget, so let’s start there. If public officials balk at the prospect of not getting paid, let me ask them this: How does it feel to have your source of funding eliminated?

No one makes this proposal when talking about what may get cut from the budget. They always threaten to slash services for poor people, single mothers and school children.

This amounts to extortion, and people who advocate it should be ashamed of themselves. They always look to other people to victimize when they talk about how budget cuts will hurt, but they never put themselves in the line of fire.

That’s because voters will become more animated to save the funding for poor people, single mothers and school children than they will for public officials. These compassionate souls will then put pressure on lawmakers to pass tax increases because these cuts would hurt the most vulnerable.

If the cuts started with the public officials themselves, I doubt many people would raise an eyebrow. This shows how cynical and deranged this whole process is and why we shouldn’t fall for it.

That’s my idea. Is legislators can’t break the stalemate over the budget, let’s break out the scissors and start with their salaries. Snip-snip-snip!

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We need a telethon to find a cure for the disease afflicting Chicago Cubs fans

Isn’t “madness” defined as doing the same thing over and over while each time expecting a different result? Someone should tell this to Cubs fans.

Each baseball season I’m astounded by the sight of untold numbers of people who fall into a predictable line to shower their love — and money — all over the hapless Chicago Cubs. No matter what the Cubs did the year before, Wrigley Field draws the faithful by the thousands game after game after game.

What sort of squad would the Cubs organization have to field to finally repel its legions of fans? Do these people have a discernible threshold of pain? Certainly, proffering a team whose history doesn’t even rise to the level of mediocrity hasn’t doused their devotion.

Those of us who are White Sox fans, by contrast, employ a carrot-and-stick approach. When the team does well, we’re happy to fill the stands. But when the team does poorly, many seats remain empty.

Garbage in, garbage out. If the Sox organization wants to roll around in dough, fine. Put something on the field that’s worth cheering. Otherwise, forget it.

A former co-worker berated Sox fans in 2003 for our fickleness about attending home games. True sports fans come to the games whatever is happening on the field, he said.

That year he saw his beloved Cubs come within a few outs of making it to the World Series — but then came the Bartman Ball and the collapse of the dream. Two seasons later, I took great delight in watching the Sox parade through downtown Chicago with their World Series trophy. Ah, it’s wonderful being proved right.

But Cubs fans still don’t get it. Among professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey teams in the United States, no squad has a longer streak of not winning a championship than do the Cubs. So that makes the Cubs not merely the laughing stock of Major League Baseball, they’re the worst team in the history of American sports. Now that’s an accomplishment!

So the rabid commitment that fans have for the Cubs is very bewildering. You’d think these people would catch on after a few decades that the Cubs are in a league of their own when it comes to utter futility, but not winning the World Series for the past century simply hasn’t daunted these individuals.

Perhaps that’s the problem — Cubs fans don’t realize that winning the league title is the objective of every professional sports teams. If this is the case, it would explain why they continue to throw money hand over fist at a team that has made its fans look like bigger losers than the players are. What other reason could there be?

My only other working theory is that Cubs fans know they should root for a team that has even a slim chance of winning a championship sometime while they’re alive, but sadly they’re caught in a vicious cycle.

They’re stunned that they somehow were trapped into rooting for the worst team in sports history, but they can’t stop. If they do, they’ll have to confront why they’ve wasted so much time and energy supporting such a squad.

To stave off being overwhelmed by such horror, Cubs fans live in denial. They decide that if they devote themselves even more to the team, this will push the Cubs over the edge of a league championship next year. But once the Cubs falter at the end of every season (as they have for 100 years), fans confront either admitting they’ve been wrong all these years or denying that the Cubs are a complete waste of space.

This denial pushes fans to increase their devotion, once again believing this is the key to the success that continues to elude the Cubs. So anything sporting Cubbie blue becomes the object of desire for these wretched souls. And when the new season opens, look out.

It’s sad, really, to see these people delude themselves year after year. If only there were some kind of intervention available. It pains me to consider that these poor sports fans will end up bitter, angry individuals when they eventually face their mortality sometime in their lives and realize they’ve been had by their favorite team.

Being a Cubs fans is to suffer from some sort of disease, and it’s rampant. To commemorate tonight’s opening of the annual Crosstown Classic between the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs, my company allowed us to come to work dressed in sports apparel promoting our favorite team. And judging by what I’ve seen, most sports fans in my newsroom are in for a life of misery.

OK, it’s not like rooting for the White Sox has been all that much better. But when I go to my eternal rest, I’ll bask in the glow of knowing that my favorite baseball team — at least once — won the World Series in my lifetime. How any Cubs fans are there who will never be able to make a similar claim?

I don’t hate Cubs fans; I pity them. But aside from speaking truth to power, what else can I do?

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Birkett criticizes Quinn’s scare tactics while mimicking governor’s claims

Is one official in DuPage County starting to blur the line between the duties of his position and his goal to seek another elective office?

DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett issued a press release this morning criticizing Gov. Pat Quinn for trying to peddle his budget proposals by threatening draconian service cuts if the Illinois General Assembly doesn’t raise income taxes. Given that Birkett has announced he’d like to run for governor, it’s odd that he’d allow an official release like this to come from his office rather than his campaign.

“DuPage County State’s Attorney Joe Birkett sharply criticized Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn today for his recent threats to cut state services unless his unnecessary tax increase proposal is approved. Birkett made the comments after the Department of Children and Family Services threatened to cut funding for Child Advocacy Centers across Illinois. Such centers were pioneered in DuPage County and are a national model on treating young victims of sexual abuse,” according to the press release.

“The citizens of Illinois as well as newspapers from across the state have noted that Governor Quinn has not made a serious attempt to cut wasteful spending in state government,” Birkett is quoted as saying in the release. “He’s leaving in the pork and trying to blackmail providers of vital programs to support his unnecessary and burdensome tax increase. It’s the same scare tactics former Governor Rod Blagojevich employed. The first mission of government is to protect society and the most important members of society are innocent children.”

The DuPage County Children’s Center falls under Birkett’s authority. So there is a connection between his concern for how government agencies are funded and his duties as state’s attorney.

“The DuPage County Children’s Center investigates and processes all cases of child sexual and severe physical abuse in the county and works with children who witness violent crimes. The center receives government funding for its basic operations including staff and building maintenance,” according to Birkett’s press release. “However, there is little money for programs to support child victims and their affected family members. In addition, the center has no funding for community awareness or abuse prevention. Birkett urged Quinn to go back to the drawing board and make the tough cuts that a governor needs to make instead of asking taxpayers to fund his wasteful budget.”

But it’s statements like the following one in the press release that lead me to question how appropriate it is for Birkett to issue this a public official rather than as a candidate:

“Do your job, Governor Quinn, and stop using young child abuse victims as a shameless prop in your budget games,” Birkett says in the press release. “Be a leader, not a fear-monger.”

Birkett’s criticism surprises me for another reason as well. In the past few years when the County Board has threatened service cuts if it didn’t increase revenues, Birkett echoed Quinn’s prediction that many people would be hurt if such cuts were made. Even with today’s press release, doesn’t it seem like Birkett is making the same claim that Quinn has that program cuts will hurt people?

In fact, Birkett endorsed higher taxes in 2007 to avoid staff cuts on the county level. The General Assembly saved the County Board from having to increase its portion of the sales tax by hiking the state’s sales tax and giving part of the revenue to the county for public-safety measures.

Birkett can make any statement he wants about how poorly things are running in the governor’s office. But to avoid the appearance of impropriety, he should leave the politicking for his campaign workers rather than his office staff members.

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Rabbit-ear folks not bound to be heard tweeting

So the big day to make sure your television can receive the digital signal that stations through which stations are broadcasting has come and gone.

Yesterday (June 12), the all-digital age began in the television industry. TV stations are now broadcasting entirely in digital as opposed to analog signals.

I read a story this morning about people who waited in line for up to three hours to obtain coupons for converter boxes. It’s astounding that so many people waited so long to see that their TV systems made the switch.

This has been ongoing issue for more than a year. President Obama even requested the Federal Communications Commission to delay the conversion from February to June.

But yet people again proved the adage, “If there were no such thing as the last minute, nothing would ever get done.”

I was thinking of trying to track down some people who waited until the last moment to get a converter box for a story, and perhaps I could put the word out on Twitter to get them to respond. But then I realized this was absurd.

Cable television has been around in some form or another since the 1970s, and the people who need converter boxes are those who don’t have cable TV — they’e still using rabbit ears to get reception. So what expectation could I have that people who are so behind the curve with cable TV would have a presence on Twitter?

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DuPage County residents demand ‘Members only’ policy for housing

I was disappointed to read that a program under review by the DuPage County Board that would have provided more affordable housing for people who work in the county has been put on the back burner.

The program would have made more than 20 acres of land owned by the county available to developers to construct affordable homes for the county’s workforce, particulary municipal employees. The county would retain ownership of the land, so homebuyers would be paying only for the houses. A lease agreement would require the owners to maintain the property.

This seemed like a reasonable plan to me, but county residents weren’t happy about it. Last week they let County Board members know the proposal didn’t sit well with them.

A story in the Daily Herald reported that the plan will be tabled indefinitely today during a special meeting and then sent to the County Board’s Intergovernmental Committee. It sounds like it’s going to languish there for who knows how long.

Some residents last week complained that the county was being secretive about this proposal, which is kind of strange. I heard and wrote about the program a few months ago, so it’s not as though it hasn’t been publicized.

Perhaps some residents believe it’s perfectly fine to have certain people oversee the functions that govern their town, but having these individuals living in DuPage County is out of the question. Opponents of this plan seem to view DuPage County as their exclusive country club with a strict “Members only” policy.

For some reason, an image of Thurston Howell III just popped into my head.

(Thurston Howell III): “Lovey, do you know what I just heard? The County Board wants us to live next door to the servants!”

(Lovey): “Why, Thurston, I don’t know what to say. How could the servants ever fit in to this neighborhood? They don’t even own polo ponies.”

(Thurston): “I don’t know what the County Board members were thinking. This is simply Outrageous!”

(Lovey): “Yes, Thurston, it’s Outrageous.”

(Thurston): “In fact, it’s Beyond Outrageous!”

(Lovey): “Very good, Thurston, it’s Beyond Outrageous.”

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Blog item merging Christianity with American freedom raises questions

A notice on a political Web blog about a forum being held tonight caught my attention.

The headline, “The Democrat Capture of American Christianity,” is quite telling. It appears on today’s list of items featured on Illinois Review, the “crossroads of the conservative community.”

What strikes me most is that I didn’t realize there was an American Christianity. And the headline infers that this form of Christianity is foreign to Democrats. So whatever the Religious Left practices is not only un-Christian, it’s un-American, … I guess.

The item on Illinois Review promotes an event being held at 6 p.m. tonight at the new office for Americans for Truth About Homosexuality in the Kingsland Ministry Center building, 25W560 Geneva Road, Suite 8-D, Carol Stream. The event will feature Linda Harvey, founder of Mission: America, who will speak about, “How the Democratic Party and the Religious Left are Constructing a New False Faith for America.”

Anyone interested in attending must reserve a seat by calling Angela at (847) 722-5330 or AFTAH at (630) 717-7631. People also may R.S.V.P. by e-mailing americansfortruth@comcast.net. Donations will be accepted at the door.

The way this event is being promoted here strikes me as a little odd. If the bedrock foundation of this nation is individual liberty, the concept of American Christianity would imply an individualistic approach to this religious faith.

But this seems to be something that Illinois Review, Americans for Truth about Homosexuality and Mission: America oppose. They believe there is one true faith for Americans to accept, and it’s not what people on the left are promoting.

Individual liberty includes religious freedom, and no patriotic American would dare hinder this cherished right. But once again religious freedom gives all Americans the ability to practice their religious faith according to the dictates of their own conscience.

This means that true Americanism does not mandate any particular faith, so “American Christianity” would appear to be an oxymoron. So the suggestion that lefties are corrupting the true American faith is illogical because their is no true American faith. The only thing universal about a true American faith is that it is whatever you choose it to be.

This does not mean there is no truth in the Christian faith. These organizations may believe that leftist policies pose a challenge to the way they want to practice their faith, and this is a legitimate concern.

But when it comes to homosexuality, I’m not sure members of these groups have cornered the market on the ultimate Christianity truth; perhaps no one has. What’s evident is that we Americans have the freedom to live out our faith as we see fit, not something imposed upon us by someone else.

I’d like to attend this event to see what Harvey has to say. If I do, I’ll follow up with an additional blog post.

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