"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 23, 1800

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mike McIntyre Finally Faces a Challenge -- Ilario Pantano

Many of us have known this to be the case for months now, but even the Wilmington Star-News has had to admit that this could be the first year since Ulysses Grant was President that the Republicans could win the 7th North Carolina Congressional District seat. An article in yesterday's Star-News not only mentioned Ilario Pantano by name, something that paper has been loathe to do, but quoted numerous sources, including Mike McIntyre himself, confirming that this will be the toughest race yet for the seven term Democrat.

From the Star-News...

In recent weeks, as Pantano's campaign has gained momentum and raised money, others outside of Southeastern North Carolina are questioning whether an upset is possible in the district McIntyre has easily held since 1996, when he defeated longtime New Hanover County Commissioner Bill Caster. Most political observers believe that the final numbers on Election Day will be much tighter than the Lumberton Democrat has seen in the past.
In a phone interview from Washington Thursday, McIntyre acknowledged that 2010 is his “most intense race” for re-election.
The signs that others are viewing the district as competitive seem to be multiplying.

The article sites several signs that Ilario Pantano's campaign is  gaining the support, both locally and nationally, that he will need to unseat a long serving and still popular representative. Pantano has raised enough money to catch the eye of the national Republican party and the National Republican Campaign Committee has begun running ads on his behalf. McIntyre has agreed to debate Pantano several times, the first time he's ever faced a challenger in that way during a campaign, and has begun running attack ads distorting the Fair Tax, a total overhaul of federal taxation that Pantano supports. 

For a very honest, but highly amusing, look at the race, follow this link to the Robeson County Republican Party's list of the "Top Ten Reasons You Know Your Democratic Campaign Is In Trouble"

Ilario Pantano impressed me from the first time I met him and had a chance to talk with him privately outside a Brunswick County GOP meeting back at the beginning of this year. He is intense and passionate, but still came off to me as a real down to earth guy. I've had the chance to speak with him and to hear him speak publicly in a variety of situations and have been impressed that he doesn't have a "stump speech" or a collection of "talking points" that he constantly goes back to. He speaks from the head and the heart, he answers any question I've seen put to him without evasion. He seems to have really thought about the intellectual and spiritual sources of his principles, and that makes him comfortable speaking to any subject. That alone is rare in any politician, and has won him my wholehearted support.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Church of Body Modification?

A zero-tolerance policy has run up against freedom of religion in a high school in Clayton, North Carolina. It seems a 14-year-old girl was suspended for refusing to take out a nose stud. The school forbids jewelery of the eyebrows, lips and nose, but the girl and her mother are members of the Church of Body Modification and find spiritual peace through piercings.

From the Raleigh News & Observer...

Ariana Iacono, 14, was suspended from Clayton High for one day Wednesday when she refused to remove the small peridot stud in her nose. Ariana returned to school with the jewelry Thursday, then was suspended for three additional days.

Ariana and her mother, Nikki Iacono, take part in the Church of Body Modification, a small group with members across the nation. The church embraces spiritual growth through practices such as piercing.

The knee-jerk reaction to this may be to laugh at a "church" dedicated to body piercings. But if a hole in her nostril makes Ariana feel "whole," who am I to argue? The Church of Body Modification has a website, complete with a link to an application to be a minister. In this day and age, what better sign of legitimacy can one have? Religion is in the eye of the beholder, and has to be in a free society.

The real problem here isn't a strange church, it's the lack of common sense in school zero-tolerance policies. For whatever reason, and I'm sure it comes down to lawyers, we've taken all logic out of the hands of teachers and administrators and replaced it with hard and fast rules that lead to problems like this. A principal or teacher should be able to decide what is disruptive to the school. There is a difference between a small jewel stud in one nostril and a collection of metal hoops all over a kid's face. We should allow, and expect, educators to make those judgment calls, just as they should be able to treat aspirin and heroin differently and punish possession of a hand gun differently from possession of a nail file.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mission Accomplished

We can now officially declare victory in Iraq. Not only are there privately owned television stations, and not only are those stations offering something more than religious or political programming, but they have stumbled upon what may be the best "reality show" premise in the world. Punked, Iraqi style.

The show “Put Him in [Camp] Bucca” has drawn numerous protests but has stayed on air throughout the fasting month, broadcasting its “stings” on well-known Iraqi personalities.

All of them were ensnared by being invited to the headquarters of the private television station Al Baghdadia to be interviewed, but en route to the station a fake bomb would be planted in their car while they were being searched by Iraqi soldiers, who were in on the deception.

The unwitting celebrities are then secretly filmed, Candid-Camera-style, as they reacted with shock, disbelief and anger as fake checkpoint guards shout abuse at them: “Why do you want to blow us up?” “You are a terrorist.” “How much did they pay you to do it? You will be executed.”

Yep, we've won.