Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Vaclav Havel, R.I.P.

Your overburdened Peasant apologizes to you,
my loyal and understanding readers, for sharing
this obituary of a great freedom-fighter with you,
2 1/2 months after his passing; Vaclav Havel,
the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first
president of the Czech Republic (which was
established after the amicable breakup of the
former nation of Czechoslovakia), and a tireless
champion for freedom and human rights in his
once communist-dominated homeland, died
after a long period of poor and deteriorating
health at his country home in Hradecek, the
Czech Republic on December 18, 2011.
He was 75.

Havel was the ninth and last president of
Czechoslovakia (1989-92), overseeing the
transition from communist rule to democracy.
After Czechoslovakia split into the Czech
Republic and the Slovak Republic (also
known as Slovakia), Havel became the first
president of the former. He was the founder
of the VIZE 97 Foundation, an organization
which operates in the realms of social care,
education, medicine and culture while also
on occasion lending support to endeavors
in the field of human rights. In addition,
Havel was one of the signatories of the
Charter 77 manifesto, a founding signatory
of the Prague Declaration on European
Conscience and Communism, and a council
member of the Victims of Communism
Memorial Foundation.

For his work, Havel received many recogni-
tions which have included the United States
Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Ghandi
Peace Prize, The Order of Canada, and the
Ambassador of Conscience Award. Havel
is known not just for his work on behalf
of freedom and human rights but for his
sacrifices for these virtues; he was impri-
soned many times, once for 3 3/4 years
for his opposition to the communist regime
in Czechoslovakia, and along with his
wife and fellow activist was constantly
under surveillance and subjected to harras-
sment, including being forbidden to leave
the country for a time.

Vaclav Havel gained the respect and admi-
ration of many political and human rights
activists on both the left and the right, as
well as many fellow heads of state in many
countries. Havel worked for the day when
there would no longer be any need for
freedom fighters, be they military or
intellectual, soapbox screamers or states-
men, to challenge oppressive governments
in the world; may we, as the world's people,
come forward to put our shoulders to the
wheel that Vaclav Havel had helped to push
to bring us to that joyful territory.

Rest in peace, valiant friend of freedom.


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Corruption on the Cheap (or, Discount on Crooked Politicians)

Just when you thought that the cost of most items
ansd services have spiraled out of control in an
ever-rising vortex in this difficult economy,
neither fret nor fear, for one can still discover
some things to be had for bargain prices! One does
not have to go into hock in order to purchase a
politician to gain political favor, at least with a
certain local politician in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Johnny L. Thomas,
a member of the county board since 2008, was
arrested and charged in an undercover sting
operation with accepting a bribe in exchange for
promoting a company on a county contract.
The price for Thomas' services? The low
low price of just $500! No, friends, that is
not a typo; no zeroes were accidentally omitted.
That was the actual sum of cash offered Thomas,
which he eagerly and cheerfully accepted.

On February 2 prosecutors filed the charges
against Thomas, who is still in his first term
as a county board member and was also running
for the office of Milwaukee City Comptroller
at the time of his arrest. Thomas was, in addition
to being charged with accepting a bribe, also
charged with misconduct in public office. Thomas
has since ended his campaign for the city's
comptroller post, a wise decision under the
circumstances. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
reported that Thomas also agreed to accept an
additional $500 in campaign contributions to
advance the contract. The charges against Thomas
also state that the day after taking the bribe he
added an item to his committee agenda to extend
the contract of the firm that he thought was
offering the money.

Now, what your bemused Peasant wants to know
is how, exactly, will Thomas' crime be regarded;
that is, will it be considered a case of petty larceny,
or will it be thought of as a case of Johnny Thomas
being America's cheapest politician on the take? While
it is sad to hear of a public official selling his integrity
for money, it is both sad and humorous (in a dark way)
to hear of one selling out for a knockdown price.
Does it make the corrupt office holder all the more
so when he tries to get a princely sum in exchange
for un-princely activity, while it makes him less
slimy when he makes his illicit actions available
for a discount? Personally, your beloved Peasant
holds that whenever a public official, be he elected
or appointed, sells favors that are not his to sell
then that official has tarnished both his office and
his reputation, as well as having eroded public
trust in not only himself but the governmental
body that he is a part of --- whatever his going rate
for going on the take.

We shall, in due course, see what fate the court has
in store for Mr. Thomas.  May the court show both
copious wisdom and paltry mercy in deciding on
its sentence for this cut-rate crooked pol.


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Friday, February 17, 2012

The Union of Church and State?

The Left has always decried whatever they perceive to be
the coming together of the government and any religion or
religious body. Those on the left side of the political spec-
trum have yelled "Separate church and state!" whenever
religious sorts have engaged in opposing abortion on
demand, or supporting tuition vouchers for students
in church-operated schools, or else engaging in other
issues on the side opposed by the lefties. They
fear a takeover of government by a faith or a church
which would impose its ways on all citizens of our
country, having us order all that we do by their tenets.
But very recently, President Obama took an action which
--- if left standing --- would impose the government's
tenets upon the Catholic Church in the United States.
And the left-wingers seem to have no qualms about it
whatsoever; indeed, this uniting of church and state
is something that they can get behind.

On January 20, the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed a rule mandating
almost all private health insurance plans offer
coverage for all FDA-approved prescription contra-
ceptive devices, drugs, along with surgical sterilization.
The aforementioned health plans would have to cover
these items without co-pays. Non-profit religious
employers that currently do not provide such coverage,
and are not exempt under this rule's very narrow defi-
nition of religious employer, would have to obey this rule
and provide this coverage starting January 2014, religious
tenets be damned. How narrow is the definition of religious
employer? A vast number of religious hospitals, universities,
and service organizations are left out of the federal gov-
ernment's definition. 

The Catholic Church, with its myriad such organizations, will
be particularly hard hit by this edict if it is left to stand. The
church's bishops, joined by many Catholic entities such as
the Catholic Health Association, Catholic Relief Services,
Catholic Charities USA, and the Association of Catholic
Colleges and Universities, are protesting the mandate with
vigor; they are seeking a broader exemption which would
include more such organizations and ministries. Many
protestant denominations have rallied to the side of the
Catholic Church, as they also see the same threat to curb
their own faith-based beliefs and practices encroaching
upon them and desire to head this mandate off without

Now, your aware Peasant knows that many Catholics
do not follow all, or even most, of the Catholic Church's
teachings, including contraception-related matters. Many
Catholic women have used birth-control pills, going back to
the late 1950s, in increasing numbers over the years. But
many of these same Catholics vigorously oppose the Obama
Administration's overreach into the Catholic Church's
freedom to practice its faith and set its doctrines as it sees
fit. The reason that while they themselves may not
agree with and consequentially ignore Catholic teaching
and pronouncements on some matters, they do so of their
own volition. No one, including the state, is forcing them
to do so. But by the same token, they claim that Uncle
Sam has no right to interfere in their Church's internal
governance, making it do certain things that are diamet-
rically opposed to its doctrines, its philosophy, its
teachings to its flock. Many Catholics who voted for
Obama in 2008 are now seriously rethinking supporting
him again in this year's election as a result of this
audacious rule. Obama for Pope? Nope!

In addition to calling for a broader exemption from this rule
for religious institutions, the Catholic bishops are urging
fellow Catholics and concerned non-Catholics to support
The Respect for Rights of Conscience Act (H.R. 1179,
S. 1467), contacting their representatives and senators
to ask them to vote for passage of this measure which
will ensure that those who participate in the health care
system "retain the right to provide ... health coverage
that is consistent with their religious beliefs and moral
convictions." Your faithful (no pun intended here!)
Peasant, also a Catholic, supports this bill whole-
heartedly. Any of you, my dear readers, who would
like to speak up for this legislation protecting the
freedom of religious entities to practice their faith
as they see fit can do the following:

*Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121
or call the local offices of your members of the House
and Senate to urge them to pass The Respect for Rights
of Conscience Act.

*Write to Congress to state your support for the act and
to urge its passage. E-mailing is good but "snail-mailing"
is better, as it would be more likely to be read and
responded to.

*Visit your elected representatives either at their Capitol
Hill offices or at their local offices to ask their help with
passing this vital legislation.

The administration and the HHS have to realize this fact:
although the Catholic flock is very independent in their
actions regarding to Catholic doctrine, they do not want
governmental interference in their church's business.
Even many liberal Catholics are saying "Now just a
minute here ..." They know what the consequences are.
They may not always like what their church instructs
them to do, but they like government ordering their church
on what to do even less. And the left-wingers have to
realize that regarding the separation of church and state 
they cannot have it both ways.


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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Campaign 2012: We Review Rick Santorum

My friends, we are now at the end of the parade of
presidential hopefuls from the Republican Party. We
shall review candidate Rick Santorum and his candi-
dacy. As he has suddenly, and some would say
unexpectedly, taken flight in the recent rounds of
caucuses and primaries --- Santorum won a trifecta
this week by winning the Missouri primary and the
Colorado and Minnesota caucuses --- the former
senator from Pennsylvania has emerged from the
back of the now-reduced pack to become the
apparent front-runner, displacing former Massa-
chusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who was favored
to win in Minnesota and especially Colorado;
Romney won the latter handily in his 2008 campaign.
Let's see what Santorum has to offer.


Born on May 10, 1958, Rick Santorum is the son of
Italian immigrant Aldo Santorum and Catherine San-
torum (nee' Dughi), an American nurse of Italian and
Irish descent. Santorum was born in Winchester,
Virginia, but grew up in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Santorum was the second of three children in a devout
Catholic family.

Santorum earned a B.A. with honors in Political Science
at Pennsylvania State University in 1980, an M.B.A.
from the University of Pittsburgh in 1981, and a J.D.
with honors from the Dickinson Law School in 1986.
He then practiced law for four years with the Pittsburgh
law firm of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart before leaving the
firm upon election to the U.S. House from Pennsyl-
vania's 18th Congressional District in 1990.

Santorum first became active in politics as a volunteer
for the late U.S. Senator John Heinz (R) from his state.
He was also an administrative assistant to Republican
State Senator Doyle Corman, later the director of the
Pennsylvania State Senate's local government com-
mittee (1981-84), then was director of its transportation
committee. When Santorum won election to the U.S.
House, he won in a district which was heavily Democratic
and had a 7-term incumbent.

While there, in 1993 Santorum was one of 17 House
Republicans who sided with many democrats in that
chamber to support legislation prohibiting employers
from permanently replacing striking workers. He was
also a member of the Gang of Seven that exposed
members of Congress involved in the House banking
scandal. Santorum was next elected to the U.S. Senate
in 1994, the year that saw the Republicans win both
houses of Congress for the first time in over 40 years,
defeating incumbent democrat Senator Harris Wofford.
From 2001 to 2007 he was the Senate's third-ranking
Republican. In 1996 Santorum served as Chairman of
the Republican Party task Force on Welfare Reform,
and was a co-author of and floor manager for the
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.
That year he also endorsed liberal Republican Sen.
Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania's senior senator at that
time, in Specter's short-lived presidential campaign
although he differed sharply with Specter on social
policy. This was evidently to repay Specter for his
providing Santorum with key political staff for
Santorum's successful Senate campaign.

Santorum supports the War on Terror and the Bush
Doctrine regarding foreign policy, which states that
the U.S. has the right to secure itself against countries
that harbor or give aid to terrorist groups, which was
implemented to justify the 2001 invasion of Afghan-
istan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2006 Santorum
announced that weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)
had been found in Iraq, his statement based in part
on declassified information from the U.S. Army
Intelligence and Security Command report. However,
some Defense Department officials, CIA intelligence
analysts, and the White House later stated that the
materials discovered were not part of the WMDs
threat that the Iraq War was supposed to quash.
Your faithful Peasant says that Rick Santorum spoke
out on the basis of information which he, and apparently
others had thought, to be accurate, therefore he should
not be pilloried for having advanced a faleshood for
the purpose of pursuing a foreign policy or defense
objective as some are wont to do.

Santorum has proven to be a solid social conservative
on issues such as abortion, but has been sketchy on
fiscal issues. Although he voted for the Bush tax cuts
while in the Senate, along with voting to restrain some
entitlements and favors a balanced budget amendment
to the Constitution, he also backed pricey federal
education and transportation programs, using earmarks
in some of his efforts to fund such legislation.
Although more Congressional Republicans have come
out in opposition to earmarks for funding various projects
and programs in their respective districts and states,
while in the Senate rick Santorum voted for earmarks
to be used to fund transportation projects in his own
state. Santorum had defended his actions saying that
he was ensuring that there would be plentiful jobs for
his fellow Pennsylvanians. An earmark is a legislative
provision that directs approved funds to be spent on
specific projects, or else directs specific exemptions
from taxes or mandated fees. A legislator generally
seeks earmarks that direct a specified sum of money
to either an organization or a project in the legislator's
home district or state. Earmarks are often linked by
many to "pork barrel" legislation, and although the two
are not necessarily the same some "pork", or wasteful
use of money, has been made possible with earmarks.

Santorum also stated as recently as June 2011 that he
would always "fight very strongly against libertarian
influence within the Republican Party and the conser-
vative movement." Santorum has long been critical of
what he terms "the libertarianish right", stating in an
interview with NPR in 2005, that "they have this idea
that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever
they want to do. Government should keep our taxes
down and keep our regulation low and that we shouldn't
get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in
cultural issues ... people should do whatever they want.
Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the
world, and I think most conservatives understand that
individuals can't go it alone ..."

Although very cool toward gay rights, Santorum has
been active in supporting efforts to combat global AIDS.
He has worked to provide assistance to orphans and
endangered children in third world countries and to offer 
debt relief those third world nations. His work earned 
praise from Bono, rock musician with the renown Irish
rock group U2 and noted humanitarian, who stated that
"he has been a defender of the most vulnerable."

On the environment, Santorum does not go along with the
notion that climate change is mostly, if not entirely, the
result of humanity's activities; he calls such claims "junk
science". He has blasted the theory as a ploy to have
more government control over our country. On energy,
Santorum backs a policy of "drill(ing) everywhere" for oil
and that there is "enough oil, coal and natural gas to last
for centuries".


Rick Santorum is a very consistent social conservative,
most notably in his uncompromising defense of the
unborn on the issue of abortion. He has also been said
to possess an almost pugnacious style of politics and
government. In former Senator Rick
Santorum's own words, he avers: "I just don't take the
pledge. I take the bullets ... I stand out in front and I lead
to make sure the voices of those who do not have a voice
are out in front and being included in the national debate."
this is a most refreshing contrast to so many politicians
who will say only what they perceive their audiences
to agree with, even saying contradicting things to differ-
ent groups of people. He is also a proven advocate
for increased employment, as has been mentioned earlier
in this article, even if one does not agree with the use of
earmarks. Furthermore, Santorum is solid on defense
and foreign policy matters, supporting what needs to be
done to protect our country and her interests. His forth-
rightness on these issues would be a welcome change 
from the leadership and policies of Mr. Hope and Change
who currently resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.


Again, Santorum has been not as consistent on fiscal
issues as he has been on social and national defense
and foreign policy issues, as he has supported some
expensive programs while in the Senate, some of which
were championed by such big government advocates
as the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA).
Santorum's hostility to libertarian ideas regarding privacy
matters and his reasoning for his opposition to same, 
combined with his quirkiness on domestic spending
matters leave some conservative activists to believe
that he is not a small-government conservative. The
foemer senator from the Keystone State seems to find 
that a larger government would fulfill his desires on some
issues which he places a great premium upon. And his
idea for ending funding for contraceptives would bring
protests from those opponents of abortion on demand
who believe that the availability of contraceptives is
essential to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies
ending in abortions. Santorum must realize that there is
more than one point of view on preventing unplanned 
pregnancies and abortions in the pro-life camp. And on
things fiscal, he should also realize that we need someone
who will be consistent in implementing fiscal restraint in
our federal budget, and will have the discipline along with 
the sense of urgency required for this.


Rick Santorum may leave a few things to be desired,
but he is certainly not any worse than the remaining
contestants in the Republican field at this point in the
campaign, as far as his conservative bona fides are 
concerned. At least he has no history of fecklessly flip-
flopping on issues, nor has he any extramarital activities
and dubious divorces, nor does Santorum display
any sign of naivete on defense and foreign policy. He
may be the most conservative candidate still standing
at present. And after the sellout of conservative prin-
ciples, especially on fiscal matters by the previous
(GOP!) administartion, and the abandonment of fiscal
probity by the current one, we need a reliable antidote.
If only Santorum were more consistent on the fiscal
side and less hostile to libertarians and libertarianism
on some other matters ...


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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Have A Peek at This Blog by A Fellow Freedom Advocate!

My friends, your beloved Peasant is going to do 
something here today that I have never done
before: I am recommenduing a blog by a fellow 
fereedom advocate whose blog I have visited 
and found most educational, inspiring, a great
fit for the times which we live in. I also have met
and enjoyed a most scintillating conversation
with him on some of the issues we as a nation 
face.I want to introduce you to Dr. Tim Nerenz,
libertarian activist and author of A Moment
of Clarity.

Dr. Nerenz is based here in the Badger State, 
and is a frequent guest on conservative talk show
host Vicki McKenna's Milwaukee radio show on
WISN-AM 1130 (broadcast weekdays from  
10AM - 12PM). I had the good fortune to meet
the doctor at a recent rally in Wauwatosa
for our courageous Gov. Scott Walker, who is 
faqcing a recall effort by the public union cry-
babies and their fellow lefties. He gives very
well-detailed analysis on the political
news of the day from a freedom perspective.
Lest any of you think perhaps I am planning on 
ending my own blog, nothing could be further
from the truth! It is just that I am simply
giving you, my wonderful, loyal, and fantastic
readers an opportunity to expand your intel-
lectual diet of periodic political and economic 
commentary from the perspective that we share.
There's plenty of room in the blogosphere
for more political bloggers;
one cannot have too many bloggers with a 
conservative and/or libertarian point of view
these days!

So, to conclude, here is the link to Dr. Tim
Nerenz' blog, A Moment of Clarity:

Tell Dr. Nerenz that The Peasant sent you! Enjoy!


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