POLITICS: Let's Get Philosophical (Part 2)

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Jess Jones

Jess Jones

Welcome back to the second part of a discussion that has been a bit philosophical and has taken somewhat of a religious turn. I’ve appreciated the comments and arguments presented in response to my previous article. It’s interesting to see the differences of opinions and the valid reasoning behind them.

After discussing the case of Richard Reid, a convicted terrorist who attempted to destroy a passenger jet en route from Paris to Miami, there have been several interesting opinions expressed that I would like to address and include some of their points in this article to see if we can build on this discussion together. Although this will be a cursory conversation that may not be the most in-depth discussion known to man, we’ll do our best.

Rights in and of themselves are only as resolute as the faith we put in them. Everyone conforms to some sort of social contract and, in doing so, agrees to the rules of that contract. We believe that man deserves specific rights out of respect for him being human. The amount of rights that we give to any human being depends greatly on how we view society and man’s need for liberty.

This would explain why Americans may think that other parts of the world are more controlling or more anarchic, yet many of the people that live in these foreign countries feel as if their lives are satisfactory, to say the least. Children in one society may feel completely comfortable living subject to the tempers and discipline of their parents while American children may feel that they aren’t (or shouldn’t be) required to follow their parental guidance. It’s all a matter of what rights we believe man should be afforded.

As you have heard countless times before, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights that we as Americans feel are endowed to all men. I agree. These rights constitute a sort of code that allows us to cooperate, legislate and co-exist. These rights become the rules of the game we call life (no pun on the Milton Bradley product intended). We detail more of our inherent rights in the First Amendment. In order to live peacefully, men are granted (that’s the key word) the right to express themselves and practice their religion. This is quite acceptable in my eyes. Man should be able to express his opinion and beliefs so long as it isn’t harmful to others.

There may be an argument that these rights of freedom to practice one’s religion and speak freely are inalienable and above revocation. I contend that such a scenario would create a loophole through which a person may act lawlessly without fear of consequence. Thoughts and opinions should and will forever remain free from control and legislation. It is the realm of actions that we are responsible for. Actions bring consequences. It’s simple Newtonian physics: An action brings a reaction. These rights can be taken away if so ordered by court of law. Due process is the key to removing any one of these rights.

Several of the comments from the last article quoted scriptures and examples of when it was necessary to take away rights of others. Primarily, such instances were few and occurred during times of war. However, the rights of the people were taken away when there was a need for greater unification or protection from harm in times of trouble. The people that failed to cooperate were stripped of many liberties afforded to them; not because they were treated lawlessly, but because they failed to comply with the laws under which they were living.

Moreover, if a person is expecting protection under a certain form of government, he or she should become subject to the system as a whole.  In Richard Reid’s case, he wishes to exercise his right to practice religion, but up until recently he was deemed too dangerous to practice religion and communicate with the outside world. Of course, this opinion is to be determined legally in a court of law, but there is a value judgment that we make in his case. In my opinion, by acting out of hostility towards the U.S., he waived the right to certain privileges that perhaps he could have enjoyed had he been more civil.

In the end of all things, the design of the United States government is to “establish a more perfect union, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to us and our posterity.” To allow for the greater part of the American people to exist peacefully and enjoy life liberty and the ability to pursue their noble endeavors, the government must assist in removing and/or regulating any sort of threat or barrier that impedes the life and liberty of the nation as a whole. This perhaps applies to not only the Richard Reid case, but to a much broader myriad of issues.

Ultimately, there is a definitely a need to think about these issues. Like I said at the outset, this is purely philosophical and should be treated as such.  They can be dry, but such conversations are necessary at times. Thanks to everyone who posted and I hope that you find this installment interesting enough and worthy of continual discussion.

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. He thinks way too much.

POLITICS: Gary Herbert, Man of Mystery

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Randal Serr

Randal Serr

With the swearing in of Jon Huntsman, Jr., as U.S. Ambassador to China, the governorship of Utah is changing with Gary Herbert of Family City USA (Orem, Utah, for those of you not familiar with the token) is taking over.

Even though both Huntsman and Herbert promised a smooth transition with the change, there are sure to be some notable changes in the office that leads the state. One of the issues brought up almost instantaneously with the announcement was that of climate change. Ambassador Huntsman has been a strong leader on the issue by both talking frankly about it and backing up his words with actions, specifically by signing the Western Climate Initiative with California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. The initiative is a commitment among the member states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. When Herbert was asked if he would rule out the possibility of pulling out of the initiative, he surely upset many with his response: “Not right now, I don’t. Anything’s a possibility.” There’s a lot more to explore under the surface of this response.

One of Herbert’s many recent interviews was particularly revealing. In a question-and-answer session with KUED’s Doug Fabrizio, Herbert was asked if he believes the science presented on global warming. Herbert danced around the question saying, “The debate is not over.” I could see some level-headedness in that response. When I heard that answer, I thought maybe the critics were being a little hard on Herbert. My tranquility did not last long though: Herbert subsequently stated  it “doesn’t matter to me whether the science is settled.” That answer was much more revealing.

He then went on to say that rising energy costs are his biggest concern, referring to the cap-and-trade system which has recently been proposed. “We should let the marketplace find solutions,” he continued. Following Herbert’s line of reasoning of letting the market work, the cap-and-trade system should be a good solution. Basic economics shows that cap-and-trade offers businesses a better alternative to high costs for using society’s scarce resources. In other words, businesses that want to keep polluting can buy the right to do so from another business at a cheaper cost than they would have been able to under, say, a pollution tax. Polluters have incentive not to pollute, those that are passionate about conserving our precious resources can spend more to buy those rights, and money can be used for improved technology. Businesses and society alike benefit from such a market-based plan.

When Herbert was pushed further about his position, he said he has considered public polls showing many think global warming is not caused by humans; this came shortly after saying he wanted to go by reason when analyzing the issue. At this point, I was just confused. When talking about reason and global warming, shouldn’t we talk about scientific conclusions? Take, for example, the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which bases its analysis on peer-reviewed and published scientific literature and consists of 620 experts from 40 countries. They have all cited an unmistakable trend over the past 100 years. The IPCC stated that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and that warming is “very likely due to” an increase in “greenhouse gas concentrations.” The footnote in the report clarifies that “very likely” means over 90% due to human activity.

A CNN poll of over 3,000 scientists (not a public opinion poll) taken at the end of 2008 asked if mean global temperatures have risen compared to pre-1800s levels, and whether human activity has been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures. 90% of scientists agreed that mean global temperatures have risen and 82% agreed that human activity has been a significant factor. 97% percent of responding climatologists agreed that global warming has been significantly caused by human activity. If this science is not considered conclusive in Herbert’s mind, I’m not sure how much more conclusion he wants.

To be fair, Herbert has been clear that he wants to be a good steward of the earth and he does think we should all want clean water, land and air. I can only hope he follows his own advice and uses reason to achieve these worthy goals.

Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus. He liked Governor Huntsman and is sad to see him go.

COLUMN: Obama's Afghanistan Mistake

Written by Randal Serr on . Posted in Politics

Randal Serr

Randal Serr

When I talk with people about foreign policy issues, some of their most common concerns deal with blood and treasure.

After maintaining the conversation for awhile, I typically notice that what they are referring to are U.S. troop casualties (we just learned that July 2009 was the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the war began nearly eight years ago) and the money we spend in the effort (we have now spent over $233 billion.) These are both very important realities to consider and should definitely be in the equation when evaluating foreign policy. But something I feel is often overlooked by many, conservatives and liberals alike, is the number of civilians that are killed as a result of war.

The election of Barack Obama has many liberals excited about the progress that accompanies “The One’s” presidency. I myself approve of Obama’s decisions thus far overall. But ever since the campaign season, I have been disappointed when people brush over the issues they know deep down they cannot justify; They often refuse to follow the president’s call for critique. This is probably because they a) are so enamored with him that they do not feel that he is worthy of criticism, or b) feel they must defend him against conservatives of the Sean Hannity/Glenn Beck variety, who make outlandish arguments that amount to all emotion and no logic.

One such example, for which I personally cannot find any justification, is civilian casualties in Afghanistan. To all my liberal friends, consider some of these facts before jumping on the “Support the War in Afghanistan” bandwagon. On September 8th, 2008 (when Bush and Cheney still reigned supreme), we received reports that civilian deaths tripled in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2007, directly due to U.S. and NATO air strikes. Despite criticism from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Obama Administration decided to continue air strikes (or “drone attacks”) in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, despite knowledge of these reports.

These drone attacks are supposed to target the enemy and drive the Taliban into Pakistan, but end up killing hundreds of innocent civilians in the process. 1,103 civilians have already been killed in the first six months of 2009. Civilian deaths in the region have risen 24% in the first quarter of this year alone. Some estimates put the grand total of civilian deaths in the region at more than 7,500. No reasoning seems to justify the killing of innocent men, women and children: Not the preservation of our freedoms (vague and illogical), nor the cost-benefit analysis (cold-hearted and inhumane.)

I think Obama is making much-needed progress in the world, but let’s be honest about some of the harsh realities as well; Only then can we push for the change we truly desire. We are seeing few signs of decreasing drone attacks and plenty of indication toward a long-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Seeing as a long-term presence looks virtually inevitable at this point, I hope the drone attacks are not destined for the same fate.

Randal Serr is a brand-spankin’-new liberal political columnist for Rhombus; This is his first column. He should probably find a better picture for his editor.

COLUMN: Let's Get Philosophical

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Jess Jones

Jess Jones

Every once in a while, I have this strange craving to be philosophical and talk about really complicated issues. So readers beware, this installment may not be to your liking (unless you get a thrill from discussing civil rights for detainees.)

On July 6th, Justice Department lawyers told courts that detainee Richard Reid will be given “new placement” from under his Special Administrative Measures (SAM). For those who don’t speak prison lingo, SAMs are security directives that are issued when there is “substantial risk that a prisoner’s communications, correspondence or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury” to others.

Recently, Reid’s SAMs were allowed to expired, giving him greater ability to communicate more freely with the outside world. Reid was originally arrested in 2001 for attempting to blow up an airliner traveling from Paris to Miami. He has since been held at the Administrative Maximum (ADX) Penitentiary in Florence, Colo. While imprisoned there, Reid’s SAMs were in place to restrict him from communicating with others and potentially helping coordinate further strikes against the United States. His SAMs were tightened in 2006 when three detainees not subjected to the security directives received communication via mail from terrorist networks involved in several major attacks throughout Europe.

However, Reid filed a lawsuit against the federal government, stating the SAMs violated his First Amendment rights to participate in “group prayers” prescribed by his religion. Keep in mind that these group prayers were with other convicted al-Qaida A-listers.  The case was originally dismissed but, after conducting a self-imposed 58-day hunger strike, Reid’s SAMs were removed under the Obama administration. Although no one has ever escaped from ADX, Reid is the first one to sue his way out.

Should foreign detainees, like Reid, be able to advocate the protection of rights granted by the United States? Are they protected under the constitution? Again, this a huge philosophy question and it really depends on what you feel should happen, so it is really up to you and your thoughts on the issue.

The Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal” and that they are “endowed with certain unalienable rights.” “Governments are established among men” to secure these rights. Yet to whom does the security of these rights extend: to everyone or to Americans only? The Constitution, created under these principles of securing liberties, provides for the freedom of religion and speech. But are all men, be they American citizens or not, entitled to sue the U.S. government for a protection of these rights?

In my opinion, protection by any system of government comes as a benefit of compliance to the essential ground rules set forth by that government. The government’s power to protect those rights is granted by the consent of the governed, which includes those that prescribe themselves to be governed by that establishment. Granted, the voice of the people may feel that these rights extend to others who don’t live directly under the rule of our government, but do they apply to those who are openly opposing the U.S. and potentially intend to harm American citizens?

If a potentially dangerous detainee, such as Reid, has openly expressed his opposition towards the U.S. and is affiliating with other individuals guilty of terrorist attacks, why should the U.S. government concede to grant him any rights that might assist him in the attacking of other people?

The directives restraining Reid were released after his 58-day hunger strike, but I still feel that a man’s self-deprivation of nourishment should not be cause for the government to give into his demands. What should any responsible parent do when their child throws a tantrum? Definitely not give in. If he wants to die of malnourishment, it wouldn’t be the government’s fault. After all, it is his choice.

It’s hard for me to see the logic in allowing a person, man or woman, to expect protection under a government which he or she intends to attack. It seems absurd for anyone to pick and choose the portions of the American political system they wish to follow. Reid may be advocating his right to free speech and religion, but you can almost assuredly bet he disagrees with the majority of other rights proffered us by the Constitution.  America was not made for picky people.

This is a very difficult issue to grasp completely and it’s harder still to justify any argument. I’m extremely interested in hearing the views and opinions of others regarding the matter. My hope is to publish a follow up article in response to the arguments and comments to this article. Please don’t hesitate to leave yours thoughts in the space below.

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. If you couldn’t tell, he’s an aspiring constitutional lawyer.

COLUMN: "I Had A Dream"

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Isn’t it interesting that, despite the countless ways the White House has interject to interject itself into our lives, President Obama still has time to stoke the fires of racial discrimination. Upon being questioned by reporters about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. (who has been a long-time friend of the President), Obama commented that James Crowley, the arresting Cambridge, Mass., police sergeant, had “acted stupidly.” He further explained the situation by stating that “there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.” Isn’t it interesting how a president who claims to have broken the racial barriers of our nation is still emphasizing the use of racist practices such as profiling?

Since last November, we’ve been hearing about how the president has fulfilled Dr. King’s dream of having an African-American in the White House. Racial intolerance, especially against African-Americans, is all but history. There are occasional mishaps that occur that require local authorities to intervene and make corrections, but there should never be a word spoken by the president emphasizing the “long history” of racial profiling that officers have worked so hard to eliminate.

I know that Gates perhaps wasn’t the most harmful-looking of characters. I mean, how dangerous can a middle-aged man that uses a cane be, right? After all, he is a Harvard professor and he was in his own house. Yet there was no room for him to belligerently accuse Crowley, who has been deemed a stellar officer with an impeccable history of service along with a career of teaching classes against “racial profiling.” Crowley, summoned to Gates’ residence by a concerned neighbor, asked Mr. Gates to step onto the porch to speak with him. Gates refused and asked if it was because he was “a black man in America.” Gates proceeded to slander Crowley, calling him a racist and saying, “I’ll speak with your mama outside,” a sentiment hardly becoming of a Harvard professor.  Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct and hauled off to jail.

If you ask me, Gates deserved his treatment. If he’s going to try and reignite the “glory days” of racial protests by yelling at a police officer, he deserves to cool his jets of in the county clink for a day or two. The officer was summoned by the neighbor under the pretense that two black men were allegedly forcing their way into Gates’ house. Crowley, whose record has already been established, was clearly not there to intimidate nor threaten Professor Gates. Gates clearly needed to take a chill pill in this scenario and perhaps the county lock-up was just the place for him.

I don’t really care if your white, black, blue, yellow, green or purple: if you mouth off to a cop, you’d better be prepared to either back yourself up with some great evidence or be ready to spend some time in a jail cell. That sort of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated, especially coming from a person trying to use race as their get-out-of-jail-free card. To ignore that would only promote the continued use of the Race Card as a legitimate means of acquittal.

What has been even more controversial is that President Obama has stepped into the picture. His involvement has rekindled the flames of the race debate that has long existed in the liberal powder keg of Massachusetts. It is not his place to take sides on an issue like this. It’s micro-managing in the worst form. So now, instead of facing opposition from city or state authorities, the Cambridge police department is facing pressure from the White House of all places.

In my opinion, the comment made by Obama that Cambridge Police “acted stupidly” was, in fact, just as stupid. It was an ill-conceived attempt to garnish the support of minorities to rally behind his resolve to face the “evils” of society. He had stated that he was unaware of all the facts regarding the arrest, but the fact that he criticized Cambridge P.D. so harshly and so publicly has left him wide open for criticism from many different sources. If you ask me, he deserves the heat. When we’re faced with national issues of rising health care costs and economic depression, how can he possibly think to stoop down and pass judgment on one local issue, despite his personal ignorance to all the facts? Do we really need to fall back into the hole of racial discrimination to bolster up the declining approval ratings for the greenhorn president? If so, talk about digging through America’s couch cushions to find a few loose coins of controversy to fund his presidency.

When asked about his comments in the following days, Obama was surprised about the amount of controversy that his comments have sparked. Asked if he stood by his comments that the Cambridge police had acted stupidly, he did not give a clear cut answer but alluded to other issues facing the nation (deservedly so since he’s been eaten up by his last “stupid” statement).

It really isn’t the time for our Commander-in-Chief to be making little pit stops in the local affairs of our cities to pass his own judgment on affairs that involve personal friends. Most recently, after taking several days of intense criticism for his statements, the President phoned Crowley and went back on his original criticisms of the officer and expressed an interest in having both Gates and Crowley to the White House to share a beer over the subject. Now that’s diplomacy! Settling things over a pint (funny how it all returns to alcohol). It’s almost laughable how the President has retreated the moment people disapproved of his statements, even though he didn’t expressly apologize for his words about the Cambridge police department.

Some may deem this article as overly critical and opinionated, but since it is an “opinion” column, I’ll deal with the accusation of being overly critical. Underneath this whole mess lies an underlying problem: Our president, despite his claims of being fair and equal, still seems to be stoking the flames of racism by emphasizing his own ethnicity and commenting on misunderstandings such as the Gates/Crowley incident. If only Dr. King could see us now.

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus.

COLUMN: The Boy Wonder's Waterloo?

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

My fellow Americans: It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Times that try men’s souls; therefore, ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country, because I have a dream!

I’m not sure what magic words President Obama could use to turn the nation (and Congress) to side with him, but perhaps a few of these catchy sound bites might help.

The truth is that we’re currently standing in the ticket line waiting for one of the biggest title fights yet to grace the American political arena. In one corner you have the bipartisan conservative coalition, composed of hundreds of lawmakers, businesses and concerned citizens. In the other corner stands Barack “the Boy Wonder” Obama, the White House with all its P.R. might and many supportive liberals. Obama has been gearing up his push for a health care solution by promoting his agenda via his Web site, television and Internet broadcasts and his famous town hall meetings.

As polls show that a plurality of Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of health care reform, Mr. President will be hard pressed to salvage his presidency if concessions aren’t made soon. The Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate have provided him with the unique possibility to ramrod legislation down America’s windpipe.  Yet when one of your key points of reform is being halted by Republicans and Democrats alike, it’s worth considering that perhaps Obama isn’t up to snuff to get this job done. Is this Barack’s political demise?

The President (obviously) doesn’t think so. He told CBS as much in a recent interview: “There have been so many times, during my political career … where people have said, ‘Boy, this is make or break for Obama,’” he said. “When the stock market went down everybody was saying, ‘This is a disaster.’ And what I found is that as long as we are making good decisions, thinking always what’s … best for the American people, that, eventually, as long as we’re persistent and we’re listening to the American people, that things get done.”

This would reassure me except for one little caveat: He doesn’t really have a political career. If you honestly think about it,  Barack Obama was virtual unknown three years ago. He didn’t even make it through one term as Senator before he began his push for the Presidency. There is hardly any record of his efforts outside the national limelight to address the issues that he is facing today. In my honest opinion, it’s hard to see what exactly qualifies this man to be the centerpiece of the face lift of American domestic policy as we know it. Sure, he mounted one of the most successful campaigns for the presidency in American history but, now that he’s in and working, what has he accomplished of real merit?

Obama may be able to flood the Internet, television and radio with messages about how his plans for health care reform will be a blessing to the U.S. but, when all is said and done, I think you’ll find that the American people have recently “woken up,” politically speaking, and are recognizing the fact that the president may not be correct. Is this the Waterloo of Barack’s presidency? You decide.

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. He is also vice chair of the BYU College Republicans, much to his editor’s chagrin.

COLUMN: 40 Years (And One Day)

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Politics

On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong and his colleagues set foot on the lunar surface for the first time in the history of mankind. That was 40 years and one day ago today.

Why do we here at Rhombus commemorate this auspicious moment in human history 40 years and one day later? For two reasons: a) we’re contrarians and all the media hoopla about the anniversary yesterday wasn’t really our scene, and b) I am, admittedly, a procrastinator of the highest order. Regardless, who is to say that celebrating such a great achievement 40 years and one day later is any less than doing so 24 hours earlier? We here at Rhombus (and our loyal and beloved readers) will commemorate the moon landing whenever we feel like it — and we feel like it today.

That moment was not great simply for what it was, but for what it symbolized: the full extent of human skill and ingenuity, the power of a great nation committed to a goal, the results of daring and innovative leadership. When President John F. Kennedy challenged Americans to literally reach for the stars, no one believed such things were possible. Seven years later, thanks to fearless leadership and national resolve, Armstrong and Co. were planting the stars and stripes on the moon. So for those who — even today — say that we cannot do difficult things, I’ll raise you one better.

Not only can we do difficult things, we have before and we will again. We can and we must. Health care reform, renewable energy solutions, reduction of carbon emissions, nuclear arms control, prevention of Third World genocide, battling religious extremism in every corner of the globe — the list could go on and on. These things cannot be optional; they must be a reality. Now is not the time for apathy or negativism; now is the time to dream big, if only because there is no acceptable alternative. There is no one else to lead these efforts, to build the coalitions necessary for success. Certainly we cannot accomplish these things by ourselves, but it is unlikely that they will be done without our leadership. Despite the shenanigans of Messrs. Bush and Cheney over the past decade, America still has international clout to burn. As has been true before, so it is again: we remain the world’s last great hope.

Yet the question lingers: How will we respond to the call of history? When our children’s children read of their grandparents’ generation, what will they learn? That they did what was necessary — or that they shirked the opportunity to sacrifice for the greatest good? The result depends on our action. This is not to say that the path will be easy or the burden light. It most certainly will not. However, as President Kennedy declared so many years ago, we must choose to do these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Should we choose to heed a wise man’s advice and answer the call of history, we will look back 40 years and one day from today and commemorate our finest hour, our national commitment to a set of heretofore “impossible” goals.

Your great-grandchildren will thank you.

Steve Pierce is co-founder and editor of Rhombus. He admits to having a personal weakness for presidents with liberal politics, flowing rhetoric and prominent three-letter initials.

COLUMN: Oh, The Sweet Song Of Party Discord

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

It’s a great day for conservatives! I’ll tell you why. Now this is something you won’t see every day, but on Thursday, July 16, 2009, 22 freshman Democratic members of the House of Representatives signed a letter opposing their leadership’s proposal to raise taxes to finance the health care makeover.  They actually agreed that this tax would hurt the small businesses of America. Keep in mind that the majority of this column will be coming from the pens of Democrats.

“Small Businesses are the backbone of the American economy,” they exclaimed (which is true). “Especially in a recession, we need to make sure not to kill the goose that will lay the golden eggs of our recovery.” Despite the report given by the Ways and Means Committee, which states that the proposed surcharge tax will only impact 4.1 percent of small businesses, these 22 gentlemen (and women) were a bit skeptical of the numbers they saw. What? A report was generated that isn’t entirely accurate? Well, what else is new? Either way, these 22 Dems wouldn’t stand for it.

Many have argued that the new tax wouldn’t affect the little business owners but only affect the super-rich.  According to their letter:

“75 percent [of small businesses] are S-Corporations where the business income is passed through to the businesses owner’s individual tax return, increasing the chances that it will be impacted by the proposed surcharge.” [italics mine]

But the fun doesn’t stop there. These 22 brave souls continued to mention how the surcharge tax will hurt future investing as well. They said:

“This proposed surcharge will also have a direct negative impact on manufacturers, another industry essential for our recovery. As manufacturers are capital intensive businesses, their taxable income is often higher (nearly 70 percent of manufacturers that pay at the individual rate have an average taxable income of $570,000). Manufacturing machinery can cost over $1 million and many owners have to save for years to expand and buy new equipment. Yet those profits saved each year would be hit by this proposed surcharge, which could lead to reduced investment.”

Keep in mind that these are Democrats writing all of this. Despite the fact that the money that these manufacturers are saving up amounts to an average of $570,000 per individual, the “22” aren’t willing to take from the life savings of many of the potential investors in America. Talk about taking a moral stand.

The truth is that there are some unsung heroes on Capitol Hill that are, despite party affiliations, taking a conservative stand for the small businesses of America. Every so often, it’s nice to have a reminder that party lines aren’t completely rigid and that our civic leaders are capable and willing to stick up for what they feel is right.

In closing, the “22” comrades proposed that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House “seek creative ways to reduce the overall need for revenue generation, and to propose a more equitable way of distributing the burden of any remaining needs to ensure that health care reform is a success for small business, our economy, and the millions of uninsured who stand to benefit.” Hearing statements like these (especially by liberal Democrats) is enough to bring a man to his feet in applause. Bravo!

Although the choir is small, who knew Democrats could sing such sweet music?

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus and occasional lover of House Democrats.

COLUMN: "Alex, I'll Take Socialism For $400, Please…"

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Jess Jones

Jess Jones

Have you ever watched one of those VH1 specials that highlights a child actor who grew up into a dismal failure that has a preferred customer card at the local Malibu rehab? (I’m sure you have, there’s been quite a few.) I’m talking about the programs where you watch and ask yourself, “What the heck happened?” Lately, I feel like CNN and The Post have began running the same sort of programming, only we’re highlighting our beloved Commander-in-Chief and the brainiacs on Capitol Hill.

Doesn’t it make you proud to see that the biggest success of the G8 summit was the priceless moment in which our dear president stood gazing at the hind quarters of a Brazilian intern while other world leaders looked on in amusement? Sure, Obama has been soaring from Kremlin to the Coliseum, but the best thing he could discuss was the reduction of nuclear weapons? Sure, the middle east is still in shambles and the world is facing mass depression, but let’s all step back a decade or two and pretend we’re Gorbachev and Reagan.  My guess is that President Obama was catching up on reruns of 24 and felt he needed to give Jack Bauer a helping hand by trying to reduce the amount of nukes available to those bad guy terrorists.

If that isn’t enough, there seems to be a disconnect between Capitol Hill and the rest of the nation. According to a recent Gallup poll:

  • 47 percent of Republicans consider themselves to be more conservative, while only nine percent feel they are more liberal.
  • 37 percent of independents consider themselves to be more conservative, while only 19 percent feel they are more liberal.

And this is the kicker:

  • 34 percent of Democrats say they have become more conservative over the last few years, while only 23 percent have shifted to a more liberal viewpoint.

So there is a general exodus towards the Right. Hmmm. Sounds to me like we had better be listening up to the masses then? But no-can-do, we’ve got to rescue the economy. Apparently, the answer is spend more money, tax the so-called “rich” and basically blow it on ivory policies anyway. According to The New York Times, House Democrats are going to be knocking on the doors of the wealthiest Americans, asking for a extra tax burden amounting to the whopping sum of $550 billion.

Now, for those of you keeping score at home, let’s take a look at the board: so far, the House has tried to push through a health care bill that was aimed at requiring small business owners to provide health care compensation for both their part- and full-time employees.  Democrats were dancing and singing that the new plan would cost $52 billion over 10 years, but in 2007 alone we spent $2.6 trillion dollars for the same type of health care. How can we cover the price tag for socialized health care if the program will only kick back $52 billion per year? I imagine Newt Gingrich almost fainted when he heard the U.S. was going to make a genius investment like that.

So what are we going to do? How about a new tax! That always works, right?  Like daddy always said, “You don’t spend what you don’t have, unless it’s someone else’s money!” If you’d like to see people receive health care, provide larger tax breaks for the “Ma and Pop’ businesses of America that are already struggling to get by . We need to create incentive for these small businesses to grow and expand, not penalize them for the good jobs that they’re doing; and should this new tax pass, you may see money circulate to the public for a while, but you’ll most likely see an overall rise in unemployment and a continued barrage of small businesses closing their doors. It seems as if we’re all stuck in a bad episode of Saturday Night Live’s version of “Celebrity Jeopardy” and we’re losing more and more with each bad decision. Who knew socialism would be so pricey?

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. He always roots for Sean Connery when watching “Celebrity Jeopardy.”

COLUMN: The Further Sins Of Glenn Beck

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Politics

Steve Pierce

Steve Pierce

Rhombus recently took some heat for some rather vitriolic comments I made regarding Glenn Beck in my review of his appearance at this year’s Stadium of Fire event at BYU. I criticized his dress, his demeanor and his very being. I called him “douchey” and a “borderline psycho.” I said that I wanted to punch him in the face.

Upon reflection, I felt that I probably came off a little strong and a lot of the criticism was undeserved. After all, Glenn didn’t do that poorly and was actually quite affable as an emcee for the evening. And that moment near the end of the show where they retired a ginormous American flag by burning it… That one pulled at my heartstrings and made me proud to be a citizen of this great country. After speaking with multiple readers and hearing their more fair-minded assessments of Beck and the show, I decided that I had probably put a toe over the line in my criticism. I felt quite contrite, even penitent.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

Today’s issue of the Daily Universe has brought back all that fire — and then some. DU metro editor (and friend of Rhombus) McKay Coppins has a brilliant front page piece about — prepare yourselves — how the Freedom Foundation, the event’s sponsor, (and their knowing conspirator, Mr. Beck) faked the flag retirement! It was all a rouse, a fake, a fabrication! And how do they respond? They laugh it off!

Acting on tips from volunteers and employees at the event, The Daily Universe contacted Provo City Fire Marshall Lynn Schofield and asked if the flag had really been burned in the stadium, as the audience of 50,000 had been led to believe.

He said he had not allowed the flag to be burned because the noxious fumes produced by the fire could have been a hazard to those present.

When soldiers carefully placed the flag in a large cauldron-shaped container, attendees saw flames arise, creating the illusion that the flag was burning.

It was a somber moment for many, aided by an emotional speech by Glenn Beck, who acted as emcee for the event. He told those in attendance how lucky they were to witness a rare flag retirement.

“If our American flag could speak, oh the stories she would tell,” Beck said, fighting to hold back tears. “She is what we make of her and nothing more.”

In reality, the flag was sitting safely inside the container. Volunteers who were present at the rehearsals the night before said Beck was likely aware that the flag was not actually being retired.

I knew Glenn Beck didn’t have a genuine or sincere bone in his body. Just as on his television show, his appearance at the Stadium of Fire was merely an opportunity for him to generate a response. While he usually attempts to provoke outrage on the airwaves, he hoped to provide SOF attendees with a mirage of a patriotic experience. He even choked up as he talked about the flag, supposedly being destroyed before our eyes, that was actually lying safely in the bottom of the cauldron at mid-field. What a guy.

Sure, the fire marshall told the Freedom Foundation that they couldn’t burn the flag because of safety concerns. That’s understandable. But the fact that Beck chose to play along like there was something actually happening to the point that he was literally crying over our non-burning flag is shameful. It’s just all so disingenuous. They could still have created a memorable experience by allowing military personnel to perform the retirement ceremony without the (fake) flag-burning aspect — but they didn’t. Instead, they laughed in the face of the paying customers who felt duped. They turned a potentially wonderful, patriotic experience into a facade. They cheapened the experience for all involved.

I won’t lie: I don’t have a lot of respect for Glenn Beck because I don’t feel like he has much respect for anybody else. He showed his true colors again last Saturday night. I feel justified in my disrespect.

Steve Pierce is co-founder and editor of Rhombus. He feels better about calling Glenn Beck “douchey” in light of recent events.