Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Where do you stand on the issues of 2016? With Hillary Clinton now the first woman to be nominated by a major party to be President of the United States, and the general election presidential campaign in full swing, it’s time to get serious about who to support for what is arguably the most serious job there is. is a website designed to help you decide between Democrat Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein (your second opportunity to vote for a woman). The extensive quiz is thought provoking as it helps users hone their thoughts on what sort of party platform  they’d actually  like to see. Most questions are agree/disagree with suggestions offered for clarifying your position. It even allows you to offer a completely original — so it’s pretty cool.

I took the test and, for the record, here’s what a second Kennedy administration would look like. The test determined that I’m a centrist most often aligned with Hillary Clinton on the issues (which actually surprised me a bit).

The site, BTW, also includes a page detailing the candidate’s positions on each questions. To take the test yourself (and/or give it to others) and to see all the possible answers click here. Have fun.

What is your stance on abortion?
I’m pro choice in the sense that I believe a woman’s body is her own jurisdiction but pro life in the sense that, while I believe abortion should be legal, I think real choice involves policies that help avoid unplanned pregnancies and make giving birth and raising a child (or adoption) more of a viable option.

Toward that end, I believe the government should promote sex education (with a practical, not moral, emphasis on abstinence) and make birth control available to those who want it, including teens whose parents consent. I also believe  tax policies could be put into place that would that would make it easier for a mother to choose to either raise the baby herself (hopefully, with family support) or to put the child up for adoption.   

I also believe fact sheets and sonogram pictures of the fetus should be made available (but not forced upon) women who choose to see them so that they can make a more informed decision.  There should government-funded parenting classes and medical support for women who choose to have their babies and psychological support available for all women, regardless of their decision.

Should gay couples have the same adoption rights as straight couples?
I believe so. I also think it’s okay for private adoption agencies to handle either strictly gay or strictly straight adoptions.

Do you support legalization of same-sex marriage?
Yes. The Supreme Court has spoken. It’s time to move on.

Should the government continue to fund planned parenthood?
No. Abortion (unlike the constitutionally-required funding of a common defense) is a private decision that can be funded through private charity. Taxpayers who believe it’s wrong shouldn’t be forced to pay for it.

Should a business be able to deny service to a customer if the request conflicts with the owner’s religious beliefs?
I would make a distinction between large businesses, online business and businesses people go to in daily life (i.e. the local deli or restaurant) and small caterers, freelance photographers and such. In those precise circumstances, I don’t think private individuals should be required to go out and participate in events they disagree with — whether it a gay marriage, a Catholic ceremony or a KKK meeting. I also think that while all businesses don’t have the right to refuse individuals service, they do have the right to say no to organizations they disagree with (i.e. the KKK).

Should health insurance providers be required to offer free birth control?
No. If they think it’s as good business decision fine but it shouldn’t be required. Most people can afford it and the government should provide it to those who can’t.

Should “gender” identity be added to anti-discrimination laws?
n my opinion no. It gets too complicated. Let common sense prevails and let’s all stop looking for reasons to argue. If a transgender person uses a restroom and no one notices then who cares and what harm is done? If an issue arises, I would leave it to the property owner, local government or a court to decide.

Do you support the death penalty?

Should the government support a separation of church and state by removing references to God on money, federal buildings and national monuments?

Should terminally ill patients be allowed to end their lives via assisted suicide?
A tough moral issue which I would leave to the states.

Should businesses be required to have women on their board of directors?

Should military women be allowed to serve in combat roles?
I’m not comfortable with it since I do believe they face more dangers (particularly regarding sexual assault) but — if they can meet the same standards as the men — yes.

Should states be allowed to display the Confederate flag on government property?
Personally, I think the Confederate flag is a symbol of slavery and, out of respect for humanity (particularly African-Americans), should never be given a place of honor. However, I do see it as a states rights issue which the federal government should stay out of. I also think most southerners are coming around to the “do unto others” view on the issue. The Confederate Flag should never fly in federal property.

Should the government increase environmental regulations to prevent climate change?

I’m one of those people who remains unconvinced about global warming — and man’s impact on weather. I’ve read in National Geographic that it’s getting warmer on Mars — hinting at a solar cause. I also remember the 1970’s when the scientists were concerned about global cooling. In any event, I believe protecting the environment (clean air, clean water) is imperative and justifies reasonable regulations.

Do you support the use of hydraulic fracking to extract oil and natural gas resources?
Yes — but with strict environmental controls.

Should the U.S. expand offshore oil drilling?
Only if it can be done safely and without undo marring of the scenery.

Should the government give tax credits and subsidies to the wind-power industry?
No. If it shows promise the private sector will fund it.

the government raise the federal minimum wage?
President Obama just raised the minimum wage from $7.25 and hour to $10.10 and hour. That’s sounds right. However, he also tied it to inflation — which I think is a bad idea since it helps create a wage-price spiral. As for non-federal workers, I think the feds should leave the matter to the states since different states have different costs of living. I would, however, support an end to unpaid internships — and require that they at least pay a minimum wage.

Also, most minimum-wage jobs aren’t meant to support a family — but to provide opportunities for teens and students to enter the work place. A strong economy should never see adults providers working at a minimum wage job.  

Should the government make cuts to public spending in order to reduce the national debt?
Yes, but first there should first be a budget freeze during which time the government is audited and decisions on reasonable cuts can be made — including some military cuts. Also, the president should be given a line-item veto on budget matter. In 1998, the Supreme Court ruled a line-item veto unconstitutional but I think the issue is important enough to attempt to challenge.

Should all welfare recipients be tested for drugs?
No. It’s insulting to decent people who have done nothing wrong but fall on hard times.

Should employers be required to pay men and women the same salary for the same job?

Should physically and mentally-capable adults on welfare be required to work?
Yes. It’s healthy. Most people want the dignity of a job and workfare causes less resentment and shame than workfare.

I also believe that unemployment offices can be combined with the Small Business Administration to supply loans and assistance that encourages entrepreneurship. Would-be business owners can be matched with potential partners and employees.

Should businesses be required to provide paid leave for full-time employees during the birth of a child or a sick family member?
No. I think the government should and I think that businesses that can afford it should — both to attract good employees and because it is right. But I don’t think they should be made to. However, they should be required to, at least, hold the job for an employee for a suitable time.

Should the U.S. reduce corporate income taxes?
Yes because (according to the Tax Foundation) “the United States has the third highest general top marginal corporate income tax rate in the world at 39 percent, which is the same as Puerto Rico and is exceeded only by Chad and the United Arab Emirates.” That costs workers jobs. Personally, I’d suggest cutting it to, at most, 35% percent. However, since some corporations take advantage of tax loopholes to absurdly pay no taxes, all tax loopholes should be closed. I also kinda think that the payroll tax, which is a discouragement to hiring, should be paid entirely by workers who benefit from it.

And, as long as we;re talking about taxes, I’d revolutionize them. I think the money should be easy follow. For example, corporate taxes should go directly to government regulatory agencies.  I also think state governments should be directly taxed to pay for the federal government, the military and FEMA.

As for individual taxes, I would favor a graduate flat tax (no loopholes) that would tax income over $5 million at about 50%, income over a million at about 40%, income over $500,000 at about 35%, income over $250,000 at about 30% and income below $50,000 about 10%.
I would give each person a $25,000 bucket ($50,000 for married couples) to be used for such things as mandatory government-approved health insurance and retirement planning expenses (including Social Security), as well as optional uses such as mortgages, rent, college education, job-training programs, entrepreneurship even gym memberships (to promote health). The money could also be used to pay a stay-at-home spouse who may be raising a child or caring for a sick relative. Freeing a spouse to stay at home (even part-time), would empower workers by reducing the number of people seeking employment — thereby increasing their bargaining power with companies.

The overflow revenue from the rich would go to fill the buckets of the poorer Americans in the form of tax credits. This would further empower working Americans by investing directly in them and their passion and know-how.

I also, BTW, believe in providing additional tax credits to parents to allow them to send their kids to the public or (approved) private school of their choice.

I’d also suggest imposing a temporary sales/VAT tax dedicated to paying down the national debt — one that would go away when the debt is paid off.

Do you believe labor unions help or hurt the economy?
Overall they help but I believe neither unions nor corporations should be allowed to donate to political campaigns (another Supreme Court ruling that should be revisited). On the other hand, if you work for a company that has a union, I don’t think you should be able to opt out since you benefit from whatever the union negotiates. I’d also support laws making it easier for ununionized workers to vote (via secret ballot) on whether to bring in or reject a union.

Should the government require businesses to pay salaried employees, making up to $46k/year, time-and-a-half for overtime hours?
That’s the current law and I’d leave it that way.  Choose your battles wisely.

Should the government increase the tax rates on the sale of stocks, bonds and real estate?
Perhaps for some (perhaps reduced for some), as part of an overall tax-reform package.

Should the government increase the tax rate on profits earned from the sale of stocks, bonds and real estate?

Should the Federal Reserve Bank be audited by Congress?
No. The Government Accountability Office already audits the Fed and getting Congress involved would probably just politicize things.

Should U.S. citizens be allowed to save or invest their money in offshore bank accounts?

Should the government subsidize farmers?
Yes. There is no more important industry in the U.S. than agriculture. We produce more food than any country on Earth. If it’s not broke don’t fix it.

Do you support the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

Would you favor an increased sales tax in order to reduce property taxes?
I’d leave it to local communities — though I do support making reverse mortgages as easy and safe as possible for senior citizens.

Should pension plans for federal, state and local government workers be transitioned into privately-managed accounts?

Should the government subsidize farmers?
Yes. The U.S. is the number-one food supplier of the world and there is nothing more important to a nation than the ability to feed itself. High-tech industries are nice but food is more important.  If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Should U.S. citizens be allowed to save or invest their money in offshore bank accounts?

Should the U.S. government bailout Puerto Rico?

Should an in-state sales tax apply to online purchases of in-state buyers from out-of-state sellers?

Should the government classify the Bitcoin as legal currency?

Should there be more restrictions on the current process of purchasing a gun?

Are you in favor of decriminalizing drug use?
Not for hard drugs — but I’d make marijuana legal.

Do you support affirmative-action programs?
Yes, for financial or physical hardship but not based on race or ethnic background.

Should the U.S. increase and patrol of Muslim communities?
Yes but it should also work with those within the Muslim community to combat terrorism promote understanding.

Should victims of gun violence be allowed to sue firearms dealers and manufacturers?
No, not unless the gun is somehow faulty.

On a side note, I would promote a program encouraging people to turn in old guns for high-tech guns that can only be fired by approved users.

Should the Senate hold hearings and a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee?

Should corporations and union (Super PACs) b allowed to donate to political campaigns?

Should people on the “no-fly list” be banned from purchasing guns and ammunition?

Should there be term limits set for members of Congress?

Should Apple unlock the iPhones of suspected terrorists for the FBI?

Should internet service providers be allowed to speed up access to popular websites (that pay higher rates) at the expense of slowing down access to less popular websites (that pay lower rates)?
Yes — but payments should immediately transparent to the public and internet providers should be required to pay into a completely objective search engine — one not based on use and not payment or politics.

On a side note, internet providers should not be allowed to track your side (and sell it to others) without specifically asking for permission each and every time. (Perhaps the market would eventually demand that internet users be paid for allowing that info to providers — it works for Nielsen.)

Should the NSA (National Security Agency) be allowed to collect basic metadata of citizen’s phone calls such as numbers, timestamps, and call durations?
Yes, as long as they are only looking for general information not monitoring at specific Americans (for which they would need a warrant.)

Do you support the Patriot Act?
Yes, but it should be narrowed in scope.

Should the redrawing of Congressional districts be controlled by an independent, non-partisan commission?
Yes, and the districts should be as close to square as possible. The move would result in fairer elections in which moderates are better represented.

Should the government raise the retirement age for Social Security?
No. Social Security can be saved by eliminating the cap for wealthy Americans.

Should the government be allowed to seize private property, with reasonable compensation, for public or civic use?
Yes, BUT ONLY if fairly-compensated (say double regular market value) and ONLY for projects deemed to be in the public interest.

Should the U.S. government grant immunity to Edward Snowden?
Yes, bring him home (get him out of Russia), require that he reveal no more secrets publicly and find out what he knows and what he’s revealed to the Russians.

Do you support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)?

Yes. It shouldn’t be completely dismantled but it should be overhauled. “Repeal and replace” is a prescription for an unnecessary fight. “Amend and improve” is better slogan. Mandatory coverage should include catastrophic, emergency, chronic care and annual checkups– along with dental eye and mental healthcare. Birth control coverage — which the government should provide for those in need anyway — should not be mandatory. Private competition across state lines should be encouraged — as should negotiation with domestic and foreign drug  providers to lower costs. Health coverage should be mandatory and be fully deductible from taxes.

Do you support the legalization of Marijuana?

Should the federal government increase funding of health care for low income individuals (Medicaid)?

Should a photo ID be required to vote?

Should the presidential debates include candidates with less than 15% of support in national polls?

Do you support increasing taxes for the rich in order to reduce interest rates for student loans?
No.  College tuition costs for adults and parents saving for their children should be completely tax deductible — as should all certified job-training programs.

On a side note, I think the current system of requiring a college degree for almost any adult job is wrong. I believe (as a civil rights issue) it should be considered a violation of the law to deny a person a job for lack of a degree — unless it can be shown that such a degree is necessary (or, at least, helpful) in performing the duties of the job. 

Do you support Common Core national standards?
I support national education standards — in terms of goals about what students should know when — but Common Core strikes me as seriously flawed.

Should the U.S. accept refugees from Syria?
Yes — but very cautiously. The problem is terrorists getting into the country through such a program is very real. I actually support this idea (reported by MSNBC): Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris said he has identified two privately owned Greek islands that could be used to house migrants and refugees who have been fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa…He first shared his idea to help the refuges with his Twitter followers on Sept. 1, when he tweeted: “Greece or Italy sell me an island, I’ll call its independence and host the migrants and provide jobs for them building their new country.”
IMHO, The U.S. and U.N. should seriously explore the possibility. Leasing the islands could  help Greece and/or Italy with their severe  economic problems.

Should the government decrease military spending?
No — audit and spend more wisely.

Should foreign terrorism suspects be given constitutional rights?
Yes, unless captured on the battlefield, in which case Geneva Convention rules would apply.

Should the military be allowed to use enhanced interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, to gain information from suspected terrorists?
No — except in a declared “very extreme circumstance” (i.e. a ticking nuclear bomb).

Should every 18-year-old citizen be required to provide at least one year of military service?
No. But they should be given and opportunity to serve their country (including in a non-military capacity) to develop skills and earn future educational and housing/mortgage benefits. Also, certain young people (determined by a judge), should be given the opportunity to do public service time instead of jail time.

Should the U.S. formally declare war on ISIS?

Should the U.S. remain in the United Nations?

Should the U.S. continue to support Israel?

Should the U.S. send ground troops into Syria to fight ISIS?
No.  Send troops to Iraq and let the Russians deal with them in Syria.

Should the military fly drones over foreign countries to gain intelligence and kill suspected terrorists?
No. While it’s okay to fly drones for intelligence purposes over any country (preferably with the permission of the country), drones should only be lethally used over battlefields.

Should the U.S. close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?

Should the US increase or decrease foreign aid spending?

Do you support President Obama’s move to lift the trade and travel embargo on Cuba?
Yes — but keep the pressure on human rights.

Should the U.S. conduct military strikes against North Korea in order to destroy their long-range missile and nuclear weapons capabilities?
No. Unless it is extremely clear that they are about to strike, pressure China to deal with them.

Should the U.S. overthrow President Assad of Syria?

Should the U.S. continue NSA surveillance of its allies?
No. Some basic intelligence is fine — but aggressive on allies spying does more harm than good.

Should the U.S. prevent Russia from conducting airstrikes in Syria?
No. We should work with Russia to take out ISIS and to reduce the violence against Syrian rebels.

Should the U.S. defend other NATO countries that maintain low military defense budgets relative to their GDP?

Should police officers be required to wear body cameras?

Should convicted felons have the right to vote?
After they’ve served their time, yes.

Should prisons ban the use of solitary confinement for juveniles?

From the outside, it’s hard to say there should be a total ban. I would only hope that prison officials would exercise compassion and wisdom. Abuse, of course, should be investigated.

Should Muslim immigrants be banned from entering the country until the government improves its ability to screen out potential terrorists?
No, but we should be  extremely cautious with immigrants from “high risk” countries.

Should illegal immigrants have access to government-subsidized healthcare?
Yes. No one should be denied healthcare for lack of an ability to pay.

Should illegal immigrants be offered in-state tuition rates at public colleges within their residing state?

Should children of illegal immigrants be granted legal citizenship?
Yes, if there were born here.

Should the U.S. increase border security?

Should immigrants be required to learn English?

Should local law enforcement be allowed to detain illegal immigrants for minor crimes and transfer them to federal immigration authorities?

Should working illegal immigrants be given temporary amnesty?
Yes, create a simple path to citizenship for immigrants with no criminal record.

Should the US increase or decrease the amount of temporary work visas given to high-skilled immigrant workers?
Decrease, companies are currently taking advantage of this program to decrease wages.

Should the federal government require children to be vaccinated for preventable diseases? 


Should producers be required to label genetically engineered foods (GMOs)?

Should the government fund space travel?

Do you support the use of nuclear energy?
Yes — but with strict safety and disposal standards.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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