McConnell should stop finger-pointing and find budget solutions
Sen. Mitch McConnell is right that unnecessary spending should be cut. As a member of the most inefficient department of the government, the U.S. Congress, he had a chance to actually make some immediate cuts.
With 24,000 congressional staff members and an annual payroll of over a billion dollars the automatic spending cuts from the sequester should have eliminated a lot of wasteful government spending by Congress.
Real leaders would have made sure that the cuts started in their department. Unfortunately, McConnell and all the other members of Congress decided to exempt themselves from the sequester cuts so all 24,000 congressional staff members will be cashing in over a billion dollars worth of paychecks this year.
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Congress did impose the sequester cuts on the Federal Aviation Agency. As soon as they realized that the cuts in air-traffic controller hours meant that members of Congress would face delays flying home, they reversed the cuts.
Any other cost-cutting proposals will eliminate jobs in some congressional districts so all the other senators will be sure not to cut anything that eliminates jobs in their districts.
It is time for McConnell to stop talking in generalities and start talking specifics. What are the cuts he proposes to reduce government spending by two to three percent and balance the budget?
If he doesn't have any cuts, then the only way to balance the budget is to raise taxes.
McConnell part of problem
We have yet another commentary from Sen. Mitch McConnell touting himself as the watchdog for reining in government spending. Instead of creating his one-sided arguments, it's time for him to admit that he is a big part of the government that he characterizes as spinning out of control.
He alludes to the need to prevent Medicare or Social Security from going bankrupt, but what has he done or proposed?
Clearly, Ronald Reagan understood that Social Security is a separately funded program unrelated to problems in the rest of the budget, and he clearly stated that: "Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit."
But this all happened before McConnell first took office, so I guess he's entitled to a different opinion. In any case, we don't need any more excuse makers blaming everyone but themselves. We need better solution makers and those that encourage and allow others to provide solutions.
Vincent C. Smith
Wrong about sex offenders
I fully agree that a common-sense approach to sex offenders in churches is necessary, as suggested by Jim Clark in his June 17 commentary.
However, common sense means examining the whole picture. Hundreds of law enforcement studies over the last decade have conclusively found that sex offender recidivism is very low — with most showing a single-digit rate.
Clark cites a study offering a 52-percent recidivism claim. That subject pool was composed of individuals in civil commitment — a very small minority of offenders already deemed a higher risk than most others.
Similarly, the Canadian study cited from the 1990s that focused on offenders dating back to the 1970s is not relevant to those classified as sex offenders today. As the definition of sex offender expanded, the recidivism rates have dropped.
Utilizing statistics from outdated studies without acknowledging the changes in what and who constitute a sex offender does not protect children or churchgoers. It perpetuates the myths that drive feel-good laws, which don't protect anyone.
Banning sex offenders from churches ignores the fact that reestablishing community ties is critical to successful reintegration into society. It imposes collateral sanctions on the offender's family, including children, who are innocent and have committed no crime.
It also will not target the majority of those who would abuse children, since according to the U.S. Department of Justice, 95 percent of children are sexually abused by a family member or acquaintance — not a stranger or a registered sex offender.
For more studies and research, please visit our website at www.usafair.org/studies.
Executive director of USA Families Advocating an Intelligent Registry Inc.
Church outreach needed
Should sex offenders be welcome in church? What if it's not about church attendance, but whether a church is in ministry with struggling people?
This is the issue in the gospels. Jesus and his disciples were in ministry with lepers, blind people, possessed people, prostitutes, Samaritans and others.
Today, many people's lives are out of control around money, sex, power, drugs, some obsession or challenge. Liberation from such powers requires outreach ministries; a lay-led team of people pays the price to understand and serve a target population.
Examples include a range of recovery and support groups, or teaching literacy or financial management or ethnic language congregations for peoples from other lands.
Realistically, there are limits to the range of populations that one local church can serve. For instance, Lexington residents now speak over 50 languages in their homes; no church ministers in more than six languages.
Likewise, the range of human struggles that call for expertise-based ministry is much wider than any one church can perform effectively.
So, should a specific church be in ministry with sex offenders? If it lacks sufficient will, expertise and human resources, maybe not. But if the church is, as in apostolic times, a constellation of congregations in the city, some church should — unless pedophilia is the unforgivable sin.
If no church does, then there are grounds for questioning our faithfulness to the gospel. Maybe it is time for church leaders pray and plan, together, to serve all of the city's people.
Recently there has been much talk, by President Barack Obama and others, on finding the right balance between civil liberties and national security.
Or, in other words, compromising constitutional rights so that we can feel safe. Of particular relevance to this perspective is the Fourth Amendment of the Bill Rights, which upholds the right against unreasonable searches and seizures.
This, along with the other rights, should be considered absolute and inviolable, and not subject to abridgement or compromise. As Benjamin Franklin stated, those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.
So it is disconcerting that whistleblowers, who are exposing the Big Data Orwellian overreach of our government are being met with a smear campaign by the media and threats of legal action by this very same government.
But the real threat to national security comes not from the terrorists, but from the erosion of civil liberties.
Harvey H. Embry
Show some outrage
I cannot for the life of me understand why there is not more outrage about the recently disclosed government surveillance of our phone, web, and email communications. They have built a huge facility in the Utah desert with the capability to save more than 100 years of data.
After seeing what the IRS did with the Tea Party groups and personally being audited on the basis of my FairTax affiliation, I question if any data that the government collects is safe against misuse.
We have seen that some people with classified data access choose to do unauthorized things with that data. How long before someone else accesses another's First Amendment protected email and the police show up at their door for a reason fully unrelated to preventing terrorism? We are supposed to be free to speak our minds and protected against unreasonable search and seizure in this country.
Our collective desire for security has seriously eroded our freedom. Our founding fathers must be turning over in their graves by now.
Thanks for spying
The Chicken Littles have been given another excuse to yell. I am very thankful for the National Security Agency and its monitoring of phone and Internet usage. My privacy has not been compromised. My freedom has not been limited. No one has listened to my phone conversations. The NSA has not read a single email of mine. I do not communicate with terrorists.
My message to the Chicken Littles: Get real. Be thankful for your freedom and rights to life and liberty.