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Archive for February, 2006

Whats wrong with the term "conservative"?

Posted by Chance on February 24, 2006

I have grown up my entirely life under the conservative label, and while I agree with conservatives on many, many things, I dislike the label itself, and the ideology that can often go along with it. Conservative, by definition, means resistant to change. If you examine Republicans and conservative thought, it typically holds to traditional American values. In the realm of morality, conservatives typically want to preserve standards of decency and fight against the rising tide of Hollywood values. In the realm of economics, conservatives believe in a capitalistic system reflecting the Protestant work ethic and decry the rise of the welfare state. Also, conservatives have trust in more government power when it comes to the balance of civil liberties vs. national security. Conservatives don’t believe so much in a change of values in America, but more of a resistance to the change of values that seems to be going on in the nation.

The past year or so I have read much libertarian literature, and while libertarians are a type of hybrid between Democrats and Republicans, I feel in some sense that libertarians are conservatives who have a strong desire for change, and they are more politically passionate. While I don’t agree with everything in the libertarian party, I do share their dissatisfaction with many aspects of U.S. government and their desire for fundamental changes in U.S. policy.

There are a few examples of this. In public education, conservatives want to have public schools continue to teach traditional American values, and this is great, but I think they are going through the wrong avenue, which is the current public school system of today. Libertarians want school choice. They don’t want to keep the public school system and values of the past, they want to overhaul the system through eliminating government monopolies on the minds of young kids. Even many libertarian-minded Christians realize the folly of using a one-size-fits-all public school policy to teach any values to our kids. They realize that the answer is not to simply make the system teach different values, but to change the system entirely, so that parents can send their kids to the school of their choice.

Another example is economic matters. Conservatives focus on lower tax rates, but I don’t feel that they want to change the way business is done. Libertarians want to change things in the business world on every level from local to federal. They see how an over-regulated economy can actually decrease opportunity for the poor and rich alike.

Libertarians take the same sense of compassion for the poor and a desire for social change that many Democrats share, but it is in a different direction. Libertarians are warriors for the individual, for opportunity. Their sense of morality is not always agreeable with everyone, but they are for freedom.

Libertarians and Democrats are both passionate groups. However, the Democrats see the problems of the world and say “more government”. The Libertarians see the problems of the world and say “more freedom.”

How many times do you hear conservatives and liberals talk about freedom? We always hear about how some politician wants to pass a law to regulate that or this or how some constituency needs special protection. But when is the last time you heard a politician talk about an individuals freedom, when it was not referring to the so-called “right” to an abortion. Who talks about defending the constitution any more?

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Bogus Rights by Walter Williams

Posted by Chance on February 9, 2006

Link to article Here.

Excerpts:

“The only way Congress can give one American something is to first, through the use of intimidation, threats and coercion, take it from another American. So-called rights to medical care, food and decent housing impose an obligation on some other American who, through the tax code, must be denied his right to his earnings. In other words, when Congress gives one American a right to something he didn’t earn, it takes away the right of another American to something he did earn.”

“Philosopher John Locke’s vision of natural law guided the founders of our nation. Our Declaration of Independence expresses that vision, declaring, “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Government is necessary, but the only rights we can delegate to government are the ones we possess. For example, we all have a natural right to defend ourselves against predators. Since we possess that right, we can delegate authority to government to defend us. By contrast, we don’t have a natural right to take the property of one person to give to another; therefore, we cannot legitimately delegate such authority to government.”

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U2 Sweeps the Grammys!!!

Posted by Chance on February 9, 2006

Article from @U2

NEW @U2 U2 SWEEPS THE GRAMMYS
February 08, 2006
posted by: m2

U2 swept all five awards for which it was nominated at tonight’s Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb won for Album of the Year and Best Rock Album; “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” won Song of the Year and Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal; and “City of Blinding Lights” was named Best Rock Song.

Steve Lillywhite also picked up the Grammy for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, for his work on How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and Jason Mraz’s album, Mr. A-Z.

For those on the West Coast, U2’s performance of “Vertigo” and “One” with Mary J. Blige comes about 30-35 minutes into the show. The Best Rock Album award is about one hour into the show, and Song of the Year is about 2.5 hours into the show. Album of the Year is at the 3:15 mark, and is followed by Edge’s performance in the all-star tribute to the music and sounds of New Orleans.

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The Innocence Mission: Zoo Station’s highlighted Band of the Week (or day, month, depending on when I post)

Posted by Chance on February 9, 2006

The Innocence Mission is not a terribly popular band. Probably their most popular song is “Bright as Yellow” which appeared on the Empire Records Soundtrack, a somewhat popular alternative music soundtrack from the 90s for a movie that is not so popular.

I am far from a music journalist, so it is hard to describe them exactly. They are often considered a folk band. The lead singer is Karen Paris, who has an absolutely astonishing and powerful voice, probably my favorite female vocalist. The guitar is acoustic and very well played, and drives some of the songs. They remind me of 80s U2, in which the non-electric guitar drives many of the songs while having fewer, and more suttle guitar solos. I would say that they may be the best band who is not led by a guy named Bono. I would recommend checking them out. They are also Christians (specifically, Catholic, I believe).

Band Website

Links to sound clips and songs Here

Links to a couple of full songs Here

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Back to Wal-Mart

Posted by Chance on February 9, 2006

I want to talk more about Wal-Mart. Personally, I am not crazy about visiting Wal-Mart, because it is always so busy. I hate grocery shopping there especially, because it is even harder to move around the maze of people with a shopping cart, so I go somewhere else even if it means spending a little more.

Now, the reason Wal-Mart is so busy means they must be doing something right, they give the customers what they want, and, really, what that is, is low prices. The service is terrible (no offense Josh, but its a lack of people, not the people themselves, as you probably know), and the quality is not always the best. I do not go to Wal-Mart to buy cookware or my wife’s wedding ring, but for groceries and electronic media, Wal-Mart’s product quality is sufficient for me personally.

The primary criticisms against Wal-Mart are 1)the way they treat their employees, 2)they do not recognize union employees, and 3) they put other stores out of business, specifically, smaller mom and pop stores.

Now, let me address these arguments, which are all reasonable arguments. Let me start off with #2, and this will focus on the philosophical. I believe in a free economy, which I believe most people do, to some extent. Now, I adopt the libertarian position on unions that anyone has the right to form a union, but, at the same time, a company has the right to recognize or not recognize a union. I also believe no one should be forced to join a union in order to hold a job. Now, the whole union issue is something that extends beyond Wal-Mart.

Now, #1 and #3 will be somewhat of a philosophical/utilitarian argument.

I believe two certain things.

1) I personally believe, at least in this instance, that it is very difficult, maybe impossible, to argue the morality of numbers. That is, how do we decide what a just price is? How do we decide when a business is too big? I do not believe that we have the ability to assert what a just price or wage is.

People can make calculations based upon what a standard of living is, I suppose. For instance, one may be able to calculate the average cost of living for an area, and argue that a living wage must be 105% of this. There are ways to do it, but when you control numbers based on this, it will affect other things as well. For example, if Wal-Mart is forced to raise wages for their workers, they will also raise their prices as well, adjusting the cost of living amount from which the wages were calculated in the first place.

The value of anything is what someone is willing to pay for it, and I think it is best if it remains that way.

2) Everything is a trade-off when it comes to business. For instance, Wal-Mart can raise their wages, but it will also raise the prices of their goods. The previous blog post on Wal-Mart linked to articles stating how much money the poor can save by consuming goods. Now, we have a dilemma. Do we want to A) raise wages for the people working there (who are mostly young people, retired people, family provides at the lower end of the economic ladder), thereby improving their quality of life, or do want to B) lower prices of goods that those same people buy. Either way, there is a trade-off. How do we decide where this balance is? I would argue that the free market should decide upon these things. How can we determine which option is morally better? I don’t think we honestly can, or that we should. Either way, its a tradeoff. Now, there is a third option, C) which is, lower the prices of the CEO’s and higher up managers. This is possible, and this is what most on the left end of the spectrum would argue. However, these high-paid executives are paid money to figure out how to make Wal-Mart more successful, and in order for Wal-Mart to be successful, they have to provide what the customer wants. We already decided that Wal-Mart makes its money by essentially being cheap. Those CEO’s are working around the clock to basically determine how they can save money, thereby saving the customer’s money and/or improving their profit. Now, the profit margin is often looked upon as a bad, selfish thing by many. However, high level people are not the only ones making money. The great thing about capitalism is that anyone can buy stock in the company. The average Joe or Jane can put in a little bit of money in Wal-Mart in hopes of making some.

Concerning the issue of Wal-Mart putting smaller stores out of business, again, we are faced with tradeoffs. Which is better: A) allowing smaller stores to survive, making it better for middle-class people, or B) providing jobs for a larger number of lower class people, and providing cheaper products to these same lower class, or even middle class people. Again, we have to make a choice on the superior option, and again, I believe the free market should sort it out.

The reason Wal-Mart beats out the smaller stores is because it provides something the people want. Which is more unfair, A) the customers choose which store they want to go to and choose Wal-Mart because they like to save money, or B) the small stores use politics and legislation to prevent Wal-Mart from showing up, not allowing the customer to make the choice in the first place.

I know this sounds heartless, I do not want any mom and pop stores to go under, but I don’t want to force poor people to pay more for their products either. They need Wal-Mart the most. If Mom and Pop stores cannot compete on the basis of price, then they need to find some other way to compete.

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Tone of my articles

Posted by Chance on February 9, 2006

One thing in my articles that I need to watch is the tone of my pieces. I have a tendency when I write articles in order to prove somebody wrong, and I want to stray away from this. What I mean is that, I want to write persuasive articles, but I have to watch my motivation. I don’t want to focus too much on trying to convince anyone of anything, but focus more on, “this is how I feel, and here is why”, as opposed to “I think you are wrong, and here is why.” Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with the latter if presented correctly, for example, if I am referring to a person’s view and pointing out my own disagreements. I just want to avoid saying liberals are wrong for thinking this or that.

While I have my blogger window open, I’ll sum up some thoughts on the past few posts.

I talked about views on collective morality and individual morality, particularly, as seen from a libertarian point of view. I am pretty settled in my agreement with libertarians on their view of collective morality, although I would disagree with the LP (Libertarian Party) on the abolition of welfare altogether. However, I can say that I do support an abolition of wage or price controls, period.

Concerning individual morality, I do not want to say I agree with the Libertarians, it is just, I do not know where the dividing line should be. I feel uncomfortable saying “everyone should be able to do what they want to do, as long as they do not directly hurt anyone else.” I feel that this view tends to lower how “bad” victimless actions are (drug use, prostitution) in relation to crimes against victims (murder, theft). I just wish I had a good logical answer in separating the sins that should be outlawed vs. the ones that shouldn’t. I think a government that legislates too much of people’s lives could be problematic.

Concerning Wal-Mart…maybe I should start a new post.

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Wal-Mart: Food for Thought.

Posted by Chance on February 8, 2006

John Stossel talks about the morality of Wal-Mart in this article. Stossel states “Wal-Mart’s critics act as if economic competition were a “zero-sum game” — if one person gets richer, someone else must be getting poorer. If Wal-Mart’s owners profit, we lose. But the reality is exactly what our ordinary language tells us: We make money. We produce wealth. Wal-Mart created wealth…By keeping prices low, Wal-Mart effectively gives everyone who shops there a raise, its own employees included.”

Another article by Sebastian Mallaby states that “Wal-Mart’s critics allege that the retailer is bad for poor Americans. This claim is backward…he [Jason Furman of New York University] points out that Wal-Mart’s discounting on food alone boosts the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. The savings are possibly five times that much if you count all of Wal-Mart’s products.”

The article also points at that “These gains are especially important to poor and moderate-income families. The average Wal-Mart customer earns $35,000 a year, compared with $50,000 at Target and $74,000 at Costco. Moreover, Wal-Mart’s “every day low prices” make the biggest difference to the poor, since they spend a higher proportion of income on food and other basics. As a force for poverty relief, Wal-Mart’s $200 billion-plus assistance to consumers may rival many federal programs.”

Another quote: “But let’s say we accept Dube’s calculation that retail workers take home $4.7 billion less per year because Wal-Mart has busted unions and generally been ruthless. That loss to workers would still be dwarfed by the $50 billion-plus that Wal-Mart consumers save on food, never mind the much larger sums that they save altogether.”

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What is the proper role of government? Collective Morality

Posted by Chance on February 7, 2006

The big question in my life right now is the proper role of government? In order to answer this question I have to ask myself two things.

1) What does God ask us to do? That is, what are his commands for us to do and not to do?
2) What role should government have in enforcing or restricting these actions.

For the most part, it is easy to understand what the Bible requires of us. Do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery. These are crimes of commission. God also requires us to commit certain actions. Feed the hungry, spread the good news. Treat your neighbor as yourself is pretty all-encompassing.

Now, we Christians, know what Biblical morality demands of us. The question is, to what extent should this be enforced by government?

Now, first of all, everyone but anarchists believe that the government should protect citizens from harm from other citizens, and from foreign threats. Just about everyone believes there should be a police force and a military (although reasonable debate is going on about the extent of the military). Ayn Rand, the epitome of pure libertarian thought, believes, as paraphrased from Atlas Shrugged, that the only legitimate areas of government are the police, military, and courts.

But the major questions concerning government is represented in the political parties. What role should the government play in individual morality? The conservatives would say a lot. Conservatives are more likely to pass laws against tattoos, strip clubs, and homosexuality. Liberals will argue that the government should take a role in a more “collective” type morality. They focus on things like feeding the poor, making sure people have enough to eat, etc…

So, again, the Bible says to feed the poor, and to have high standards of personal morality (do not lust, do not get drunk, etc…) but what role should the government play in such behaviors.

This is the question I ask myself now. My main struggle is with individual morality, but first, let’s talk about collective morality. Personally, I do not believe the government should serve as a redistributor of income. I believe a basic level of welfare is reasonable, especially for those who cannot help themselves, and for children. I am not even necessarily arguing for a flat tax (even though I think maybe that is the most moral option concerning taxes), but I do not think we say “okay, the rich do not need that much money anyway, so lets expect them to shoulder the burdens of society.” Now, do not get me wrong, I believe God expects more from those who are blessed more, but again, I think there are problems when we place the burden of responsibility on the government to take from the rich to give to the poor.

I believe voluntary charity is preferable to government redistribution for a few reasons. Government redistribution takes the responsibility for one’s well being from oneself to other people, which I do not think is a biblical thing. While the rich are called upon to give to the poor, the poor are never told to depend on the rich. I think capitalism along with voluntary charity allows a balance of the Biblical command to work for what we eat along with the Biblical command to feed the poor and hungry. When charity is given, it is better for the recipient as well as the giver. The giver gives from a sense of compassion, or wanting to help, or through the call of the Holy Spirit. That person makes a sacrifice. The recipient is thankful for the gift that is willingly given, and realizes that it was given through God’s providence and/or the kindness of another person. That kindness can really touch that person’s heart. On the other hand, government redistribution does little for the giver. They do not choose to give, they can become resentful towards those who take their income (even though there are many welfare people who are trying, the person being taxed will undoubtedly think of the strung-out mom on crack who keeps having kids to get more money). The recipient sees the giving as an entitlement, as something they deserve. Furthermore, that money becomes something they depend upon. A regular disbursement of cash can be a de-motivator. It tells the people they cannot make it on their own, that they need the government to support them.

Proverbs 6:5-8 talks about the ant who must provide for harvest. Now, as a caveat, I do not believe the poor are all “sluggards”, but this verse emphasizes that it is up to a person to provide for themselves what they need. God expects the ants to work for their food, why not a person?

2 Thessalonians 3:9-12 says that a person should work for what they eat. The whole idea is that someone should not “get something for nothing.”

Now, again, I am not bashing the poor, I know there are people who need help. The idea I am attacking is that of dependence, or entitlement. I believe it is essential, it is God’s command, that we help the poor and hungry. It is one of the main functions of the church. Jesus spent most of his ministry ministering to people’s physical needs. He called upon the rich to do the same. However, I believe when government becomes the primary means, or even a major means, to do this, then you have a conflict with scriptures like those above, in which responsibility shifts from the individual, the family unit, and the church, to that of government. Now, one could take the argument I made and apply it to the abolition of welfare altogether, but I think perhaps temporary welfare for those in need is reasonable, and can exist without contradicting scripture. I do support welfare for those who cannot truly help themselves, and of course for orphaned children.

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Why Johnny Can’t Compete with Sanjay

Posted by Chance on February 4, 2006

Link to article at Acton Institute

Why Johnny Can’t Compete with Sanjay

by Michael Miller, Director of Programs

Almost invariably, when we hear talk of economic growth in China and India, the question of education arises. There is considerable worry about the state of American education in comparison with the Chinese and Indians. And well there should be.

A recent Business Week article discussed how math and technology are driving business. Without these skills, U.S. workers won’t be able to compete in a “new economy” driven by rapid innovation. India has a growing middle class of more than 400 million people, and every day we hear about more American service and technology jobs outsourced to Indian firms whose workers possess superior math and science abilities.

Chinese, Indian, and most European students are far more advanced than their American counterparts, especially in math and science. John Stossel’s “Stupid in America” report shows that U.S. public schools are failing to teach. He writes:

At age 10, American students take an international test and score well above the international average. But by age 15, when students from 40 countries are tested, the Americans place 25th.

American schools don’t teach as well as schools in other countries because they are government monopolies, and monopolies don’t have much incentive to compete. In Belgium, by contrast, the money is attached to the kids — it’s a kind of voucher system. Government funds education — at many different kinds of schools — but if a school can’t attract students, it goes out of business.

And it’s not only high school students. According to a study released last month by the Washington-based American Institute for Research, more than 75 percent of students at 2-year colleges and more than 50 percent of students at 4-year colleges do not score at the proficient level of “quantitative” literacy. This means, according to AIR, that “college students lack the skills to perform complex tasks, such as comparing credit card offers with different interest rates or summarizing the arguments of newspaper editorials.”

Of course, the ubiquitous solution from the left is more state spending on education. But more money from the state is not the answer; government involvement is part of the problem. Increasing money per student has not resulted in increased ability.

The root of the problem is the “progressive” view of education in general and a monopoly system that removes incentives for excellence. Until we stop using schools as political indoctrination centers that are more concerned about values clarification and self-esteem than they are about math, science, and logic, India and China will continue to outperform us. One or two generations down the line and the United States will find itself in real trouble.

Instead of promoting self-esteem, schools should be teaching math, science and, while we’re at it, re-introduce Latin to help develop a disciplined mind. There is no excuse for American students not taking algebra before 9th grade.

The underlying problem with the educational system is the rejection of the existence of truth, but few if any bring this into the debate. Many professors and teachers reject the existence of absolute truth and this has profound implications on education. True education cannot exist in a relativist milieu. If truth does not exist, then everything is reduced to the subjective perception of individual. One could object by stating that this only applies to “values” and not to “facts” and science, yet this objection does not hold on many levels. One of them is that mathematical and scientific thinking is inseparable from logic. And logic is a sub-discipline of philosophy, the “love of wisdom” and the pursuit of truth. When truth is made relative, it affects every discipline. For a great small treatise on education read C.S. Lewis: The Abolition of Man, especially its first chapter, “Men without Chests.”

To be able to compete with China and India, we need to improve our educational system and this requires a rigorous math and science curriculum. What’s more, it requires a commitment to truth and a radical overhaul of the public educational establishment, not more government spending. Whether this is possible in today’s political and cultural climate is doubtful. What is revealing is the numbers of parents who are choosing private or home-schooling alternatives.

If we want to help the poorest who do not have the resources to home-school, then we need to give them school choice. Enable people to use their tax dollars and put them toward private education or different public schools. This will result in more opportunity and equality for the poor. But now this is difficult and often not permitted by law.

The problem is that if school choice were allowed and schools had to compete to stay in existence many public schools would close down and the National Education Association would lose its control over the minds of public school students. School choice alone is not a panacea — without a recognition of truth there can be no real reform — but it is a beginning.

Michael Miller is director of programs at the Acton Institute.

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The Purity of Sports

Posted by Chance on February 4, 2006

Since tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday, I thought I would make a few remarks about the topic of Sports, particularly that in America (since I don’t pay attention to sports anywhere else).

What triggers this article is a letter I read in the local newspaper a few months ago. It was a Christian minister who talked about the “corrupt” nature of sports in this day and place. He didn’t list why he thought sports in America today were corrupt, other than this particular letter focused on gender roles. He asserted that “masculinity” and “femininity” as we know them are really lies, and sports is just another way for men to dominate women (I assume indirectly since men and women usually do not compete with each other directly).

First of all, his thoughts on gender roles bothered me, because it seemed to be from the modern day liberal train of thought that men and women are actually the same, and any differences we notice are actually just a result of society’s expectations. Men and women have exactly the same interests and aptitudes. If you even infer that a male firefighters may be able to do a better job than a female firefighter, well, you are in trouble. Now, the average person’s gender roles are not perfect. While I believe the man is the head of the household, he can easily abuse that authority. And while the woman may be the more nurturing of the two, that doesn’t give the man an excuse to be an unfeeling disciplinarian.

Also, his post bothered me simply because he said sports were “corrupt”. Now, he is entitled to his opinion, and he didn’t go to much into his reasoning, other than the previously mentioned relation to gender roles. However, out of the American institutions, Hollywood, the music scene, and sports, I would argue that sports by far is the least corrupt.

Why do I believe this? Now, sports is not imperfect. Many sports figures are bad role models and are always in trouble with the law. Also, sports games typically objectify women through the skimpy cheerleader outfits (I would argue that cheerleading itself is not objectifying, just what it has become). However, these are not central themes or essential elements of sports in America.

I can watch a sports game without being indoctrinated by the values of Hollywood or the music scene (there are the commercials, but again, these exist for any form of TV entertainment). I can watch the Super Bowl without being indoctrinated about how its okay to have casual sex with different people every day, how all religions are basically the same (not a common theme, but it exists), or any other values that common in the modern media. Watching sports can be value-free, which doesn’t sound like a good thing, but who wants to get their values from TV most of the time?

Participating in sports, however, has its own value sets. Sports is all about hard work, teamwork, being the best you can be, going all out, loyalty. For the most part, sports is one arena of life where only skill matters. To politicize things even further, there is no affirmative action program for athletes (although there may be some for coaches of schools), the Lombardi trophy isn’t given to the team that needs it the most. Now, there are more “socialist” type elements in the salary caps and of course, the draft order for the professional sports, but I understand the reasoning behind this, because it is no fun for the spectators to see the same team dominating every week.

But maybe it is the above things that irk liberals so much. Now, I do not want to turn this into a liberal bashing session, but it seems like there is a hatred of American sports in certain elite liberal circles (I’m not talking about all Democrats, just more of the rich New York-type liberals), and I don’t quite understand why. Perhaps because it reflects many traditional American values that far-left liberals seem to hate. Also, pro athletes get paid insane amounts of money, but so do successful musicians and movie stars. Of course, liberals can use music and movies to get their message across, whereas I said earlier that sports is almost value free, especially when it comes to the liberal philosophy. Maybe they do not like a popular medium of entertainment that they cannot mold to their liking. Like I said earlier, sports has no agenda, and maybe this is irritating. To a liberal, everything has an agenda. The place you shop (Is it Wal-Mart or not?), the food you eat (is it organic, was it bought through fair trade?), the car you drive (does it guzzle oil and support terrorists?), nothing is safe haven from being politicized. (For a “tolerant” party, there sure is a lot of rules). This is mostly just stream of consciousness, and I doubt many liberals feel this way. However, many liberals feel that everything has to get some type of message across.
A letter to my college newspaper was written after a major football victory, and they
wondered how we can watch a football game on TV while a war is going on and millions are starving in this-or-that country. Many responded with another point about the purity of sports: Sports unites people regardless of political beliefs, religion, skin color, or social status. You think this would be important to liberals, but they see arts and culture as important and legitimate forms of entertainment, while sports are for the simpler man.

Anyway, the sports industry is far from perfect, but it beats the other forms of entertainment out there.

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