Ear to the Sidewalk: Issue 1

Jennifer Biddison
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Posted: Feb 24, 2006 12:05 AM

In my role as Townhall.com’s Coalitions Manager, my job is to track the goings-on of 115 right-leaning organizations. I hear and read about all kinds of interesting things on a daily basis and want to start sharing these with you. Now, you can be the one “in the know” at your dinner table or cocktail parties. And I bet you won’t give me credit either, will you?

1. John McCain attempts to squelch your freedoms – again

In the typical reactionary style perfected by Congress, John McCain is trying to fix the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal by taking away more rights from average Americans.  The Lobbying Transparency and Accountability Act of 2005 (S. 2128 / H.R. 4575) includes a provision (Section 105) that would significantly reduce the ability of grassroots organizations to express themselves. How ironic that nonprofit organizations and everyday people are being targeted in this legislation, when the ones at the heart of the Abramoff affair were congressional staffers and corporate lobbyists. I mean, why stop at the corrupt guy when you can punish all the rest of us, right? 

The good news is that the Right is organizing and fighting back. The Institute for Liberty has just created LobbySense, a quickly growing coalition of conservative and libertarian groups who don’t want to be bogged down by regulations and paperwork in order to exercise their right to free speech. The coalition already includes several Townhall.com partners, including the Center for Individual FreedomFrontiers of Freedom, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Evergreen Freedom Foundation, Family Research Council, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Liberty Coalition, Concerned Women for America, American TFP, and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. To sign your organization up, you can contact LobbySense. Townhall will also have a petition for you to sign in the next few days, but in the meantime you can blast fax President Bush and the Senate Republicans, thanks to the Center for Individual Freedom.

2. National Taxpayers Union releases its annual congressional scorecard

One of the most important scorecards to conservative lawmakers is NTU’s annual Rating of Congress, which was released Thursday. If you’re discouraged about fiscal discipline in the U.S. Congress, NTU’s findings won’t make you feel any better. Only 44 Senators and Representatives received an “A” grade in order to receive the “Taxpayers’ Friend Award.” On the other hand, 227 of the federal lawmakers received an “F” and thus the dubious distinction of “Big Spender.”  Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) received the best grades in their respective chambers, and two Illinoisans—Sen. Richard Durbin (D) and Rep. Lane Evans (D)—received the worst.

Rather than basing these grades only on key votes on a handful of bills, NTU grades legislators on every roll call vote that affects fiscal policy. Thus, the score represents a lawmaker’s commitment on a whole to reducing or controlling federal spending, taxes, debt, and regulation. NTU President John Berthoud put it bluntly: “Deeds count for more than words in taming the growth of big government.”

3. Harvard’s beleaguered president steps down

Harvard University President Lawrence Summers was always a bit of a black sheep on his campus of raging liberals. From defending the presence of ROTC on his campus, to alienating African-American professor/activist Cornel West, to suggesting that the lack of women in the math and sciences might be due to "issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude” rather than to sexism alone, Summers has bravely endured the wrath of “open-minded” liberal faculty members who weren’t happy with his points of view.

Townhall columnist Ben Shapiro, currently a student at Harvard Law School, is our “man on the ground” for this story. Ben points out that a majority of the students and graduate school professors support Summers, and Kellie Bowen at Campus Magazine notes that “Summers has brought Harvard into the new century by instating policies that allow students who have the talent, but not the funds, to attend Harvard at greatly reduced rates.” Still, the biggest victim here is not Summers in particular, but tolerance for intellectual diversity as a whole.

4. Dobson supports bill that would give benefits to same-sex couples

Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson is under fire for his support of a controversial Colorado bill that would give benefits to non-married people within the same household. Dobson denies allegations that he’s gone squishy on the gay marriage issue, arguing that this bill is an alternative to a civil unions bill that is likely to pass otherwise.

Dr. Dobson appeared on the Feb. 16 broadcast of “The O’Reilly Factor” to defend his integrity, which he said “means more to me than my life”:

There is, here in Colorado, a bill to create civil unions for homosexuals. We think that's a very bad idea. And, yet, the Democrats in the state legislature have the majority in both houses. And this could very easily pass. We're very much opposed to it.

In contrast, there's another bill that our conservative legislators have asked us to support—and we agree with it—which is not based on sexual behavior. It's based on human need. So, if you have two sisters who are 80 or 82 years of age, they can get benefits. They can authorize medical care for one another.

Jim Pfaff, state policy analyst for Focus, explains further in a recent AgapePress article: "We are against any form of special recognition for homosexuals at any level of government. We do not believe that it is a class that is required to be treated specially.”

5. Kofi Annan tells the U.S. to close Gitmo

The United Nations released a report on Feb. 16 calling the Guantanamo Bay detention center a torture camp and insisting that the U.S. close the facility. Patriotic Americans are enraged by the UN’s accusations, especially in light of who the messenger was.

"I am not surprised that UN officials are calling on the United States to set terrorists free and let them run wild throughout the global community," said Freedom Alliance President Tom Kilgannon. “The UN has been AWOL in the war on terror since it began.” 

Kilgannon adds:

The United Nations should clean up its own act…. They can begin with the UN Human Rights Commission which rolls out the red carpet for genocidal dictators. They can clean out the bureaucrats who accepted bribes from Saddam Hussein and corrupted the Oil-for-Food program. They can bring to justice blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers who violate innocent children in third world countries. They can ensure that state sponsors of terrorism are not rewarded with seats on the UN Security Council as was the recent case of Syria…. The U.S. message to the United Nations ought to be: Physician, heal thyself.

So is the Gitmo situation even as bad as the UN makes it out to be? Probably not. A panel of experts will tackle the "What You Read vs. What You See" debate next Wednesday at the Heritage Foundation (9:30 am for those of you who want to tune in online).

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Stay tuned for my next column, when I scrutinize a group of evangelicals who have decided it’s cool to be environmental activists. Til then, I’m keeping my ear to the sidewalk for you guys.