Religion and speech co-exist
What some consider the most blasphemous piece of art of modern times – that crucifix immersed in a jar of the artist’s urine – went back on display last week at the Edward Tyler Gallery in Manhattan. Mobs of howling Christians did not storm the museum. Also last week, Iranian President Ahmadinejad made it clear in his vile United Nations speech that his goal is the destruction of Israel. Hordes of offended Jews did not take to the streets to call for his beheading.
How remarkable. Free speech and the free exercise of religion can co-exist. They are not mutually exclusive. There is no such thing as a right to not be offended. Unless, of course, the religion in question is Islam, especially as practiced by its most murderous fanatics. Those who count on our cowardly political class to confront that extremism are bound to be disappointed.
Debates might actually matter
Here’s a pop quiz for you – who is going around the country today saying something like this?
“Well, gosh, I guess I’m a fair hand at arguing. But my opponent is a brilliant debater. I’ve really got my work cut out for me.”
If you said President Obama, give yourself a point. Of course, if you said Republican contender Mitt Romney, you also would have been correct. For the first of the three presidential debates Wednesday night, both candidates are playing the “downplaying of expectations” game to perfection. The goal is to be the one seen as doing “better than expected” in the debate.
Presidential debates, it is generally agreed, have only really mattered – by perhaps changing the outcome of a race – once or twice in our history. This might be one of those years.
Which moderate shall we choose?
The U.S. Senate contest between Hoosier Republican Richard Murdock and Democrat Joe Donnelly has become one of the hottest in the nation. It could even be the race that decides whether Democrats keep control of the Senate or Republicans take over. And that could decide how free the next president will be to pursue his agenda.
Everybody knows how high the stakes are, which is why the candidates, the parties and advocacy groups are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into TV ads for the next several weeks. Before this is over, we’re all going to be thoroughly sick of seeing Mourdock and Donnelly both. We’ll be familiar with them, but not especially knowledgeable. TV spots do not explore nuances, and they tend to be short on facts.
What is emerging in the ads are two partisan politicians trying to appear nonpartisan.
Don't outsource Hoosier Lottery
Indiana’s lottery commission has come up with a dubious plan. Its members voted 3-0 this week to hire a private company to take over its marketing and other services in hopes that the move will boost the lottery’s profits. Private companies already handle 88 percent of lottery operations, and this outsourcing proposal will boost that number to 95 percent.
There is nothing wrong in general with outsourcing or privatizing a government service. But the rule of thumb should be that if a service is valuable, it should be “hired out” if that would result in the same or better service provided more efficiently or less expensively or both. Such a standard could result in, say, the leasing of the toll road.
Outsourcing the lottery is on a whole different level simply because the lottery is not valuable service.
Figuring out the Supreme Court
The presidential race has gotten most of the political attention lately, but something happened Monday that will likely have more long-term effect on Americans than who the next chief executive will be – the new Supreme Court term started. In watching the presidential race, we have to decide whether we want more government or less government. To gauge the court, we try to determine whether it’s headed toward a stricter interpretation of the Constitution or a looser one.
And that got harder to tell last term. Until then, it had seemed the court had four conservatives, who put their trust in original intent, four liberals, who see the Constitution as a living document, and one maverick named Anthony Kennedy who could go either way. Now there exists the possibility that Chief Justice John Roberts is another maverick.