Friday, July 29, 2011

One Hundred

Today is the 100th post on this blog, begun March 4th. So I thought this would be a good time to review the meaning of the name and the purpose of the blog. 
A model is a way of organizing otherwise complex information. The Spherical Model is an alternative to the left wing/right wing model, to better organize political ideas, as well as economic and social ideas and their interrelationships. A detailed description of the Spherical Model is on the website by that name—about 50 or so pages worth of information divided into the three categories (political, economic, and social). I link to this info pretty regularly in the blog—and the purpose of the blog is to apply the Spherical Model ideas to what’s happening in our country and our world. 

While I believe the Spherical Model is a valuable improvement over the right/left paradigm, I am not unrealistic enough to assume the world will stop using that entrenched model and suddenly start using mine. But I hope that this will be a tool to bring greater understanding to anyone who learns about it. And I hope readers will also benefit from the commentary, which comes from a worldview that seeks freedom, free enterprise, and civilization. 

Here’s the introduction from the website: 

Political Sphere
The model came about in early 2004. I was looking for a way to describe the political spectrum to my homeschooled children. For reasons that show up in the article called “The Political World Is Round,” the model became three-dimensional. And from there many things fit into place. When I applied the spherical model to social/moral/civilization ideas, it fit there remarkably well. So I overlaid it on economic ideas, and it made sense there as well. In fact, it makes more sense when you see the political, economic, and social layers together. The eventual result is this website, to share the model. 

Economic Sphere
The sphere, like a globe, has poles and hemispheres. So I use terms like north, south, east, and west directionally on the sphere—without these terms having any relationship to geographic locations on earth. It is essentially arbitrary how I use these directions. There’s a good vs. bad relationship between what I call north and south. But east and west are essentially neutral with decisions depending on specific situations. 

Social Sphere

North on the sphere means freedom. South on the sphere means tyranny. The western hemisphere represents individual/local interest. The eastern hemisphere represents larger interests, such as state, national, or global interests. Ideas fall somewhere on the sphere based on how they fit within these dichotomies: freedom vs. tyranny as well as localized interests vs. larger community interests. 

If this model is true, then civilization (and general happiness of people) will thrive when the form of government stays firmly in the freedom zone, and the economy of this civilization will generally flourish and be resilient when recovering from disasters. But political freedom and free market do not guarantee thriving civilization, which depends on people’s social behavior. However, when people behave less civilized, it is highly likely that loss of freedom and deterioration of free market will follow. So we could say civilized behavior is the key to maintaining freedom and prosperity. 

I hope you'll take the time to read the Spherical Model concepts on the website.

Those of us with “conservative” philosophy have often recently been called “right-wing extremists,” as though compromising between freedom and tyranny brings about a better result than aiming for freedom. The Spherical Model shows how it isn’t possible to be too far north, away from tyranny; they are polar opposites. The framing of the argument is often confined only to the southern hemisphere, with the debate between state control and chaos (control by the strongest and pushiest). People who want to “conserve”—or regain—freedom reject that either/or choice. If we identify the God-given principles of freedom and live by them, we can come closest to political freedom for all. 

I believe that was the brilliant aim of the writers of the US Constitution. I also believe it is possible to understand their aims by reading what they wrote at the time, and how they lived their lives. As a group, our founders were a surprisingly moral and thoughtful group. 

Similar to the political uncompromising avoidance of tyranny, we get general prosperity when we allow the people who earn wealth to decide how to spend it, rather than ceding that choice to some distant central planner. And we get civilization rather than tyranny when we live the principles of civilization, which are known through God’s word and perpetuated through healthy families. 

When you look at the three overlaid spheres—political, economic, and social—you can see why it isn’t really possible to be a political/economic “conservative” but social “liberal.” We need better words (or better definitions) than conservative and liberal. But, when you understand the interrelationships by looking at the location on the sphere for various ideas, you can see how to judge whether an idea will get us to the outcome we desire. 

I appreciate readers who have joined me to look at these ideas during the first 100 posts. I hope you’ll continue reading and sharing your ideas with me as well.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Standing Firm

In March of 2010, the day after Obamacare was rammed through the legislature with a series of questionable but certainly unethical technical tactics, many of us felt righteous indignation and wanted to figure out—what can we do? Out of that a group called Not On This Watch was born. It is a facebook group; you can go to Not On This Watch on facebook and “like” it to get frequent updates. The administrators are an energetic and intelligent crew.   

Yesterday, one of the administrators, Shawn Rogers, posted his analysis regarding the debt ceiling debate. And it got me thinking: 
  1. It is an attempt by the old guard Republicans to break the back of the 2010 freshmen class by getting them to go along.
  2. An attempt by Obama to do the same thing as 1.
  3. The usual class warfare, socialistic, Marxist rhetoric from Obama.
  4. Cloward-Piven attempts to gin up a crisis and use it to further their ideology.
  5. An attempt to make this issue the distraction of the day. Distraction from what, you may ask:
    1. The continued healthcare debate.
    2. Fast and furious controversy (a weapons scandal related to selling arms to Mexican drug lords—one article here).
    3. The war in Libya.
    4. The price of gas.
    5. Obama’s horrible polls and satisfaction [rating].
    6. Inflation that is creeping in.
    7. Continued wicked-bad employment numbers.    This has successfully knocked all of the above out of the media.
  6. An attempt to knock the legs out from under Michelle Bachmann and her near-front-runner status.
  7. An attempt by Obama to preserve his chances for [re-]election.
  8. An attempt by Boehner to find a way to raise taxes but provide the conservatives “plausible deniability”—the proposed commission will take the fall for raising taxes and allow all of the other incumbent Republicans (H/T to Mark Levin) to claim they kept their promises.
It’s foul-smelling, deceptive, manipulative politics at its worst. And it’s almost making me physically ill from disgust…. 
I don’t buy into the hype that it is the crisis they are making it out to be. There are ways this can go beyond the 2nd and not be a collapse of the economy. However, if it is going to collapse, as I believe it inevitably will at some point, I say let it be on my watch while I still have the energy and fight within me to help rebuild it for my kids. The plans I’m seeing are so full of smoke and mirrors that it’s just another kick down the road at the cost of at least $2 Trillion more that our kids are going to be shackled with. We’ve had one commission already, and its recommendations have been ignored because they were too controversial. If they succeed in neutering the freshmen class that were sent there to reign in the agenda, we’ve lost all of our 2010 gains.
While I frequently talk about ideas that are in the political realm, I am not attracted to politics, to the strategy of manipulating the beliefs of the masses to gain personal power. Sharing and persuading with ideas is what I see myself doing. So it has been a difficult week facing this debt ceiling “crisis,” and I share a number of Shawn’s concerns. 

But the part of his commentary that got my attention was the part about hyping the crisis, maybe Cloward/Piven style. I am reminded of 2008, when it appeared there was going to be a financial collapse if government didn’t step in and “do something!” Remember when George W. Bush said, “I have abandoned free-market principles to save the free market system”?  

There were a few days there when I was a little shaky about what should be done—not because I didn’t know what the free-market solutions would be, but because there were so many trusted conservatives who were being persuaded. Should we bail out these failing companies? If we don’t, won’t it be disastrous? During that week even Glenn Beck had a few days when he admitted that he was persuaded the bailouts were necessary. I thought, “Really? If Glenn Beck thinks that, maybe he has sources of information I don’t have.” But within days, he was back on track, realizing the principles still held true. 

Following those original bailouts—which I believe were a mistake—the companies in question mostly repaid the bailouts. These were banks and financial institutions. The ones who would have been solvent anyway had to press the government to take the money back quickly, because government was refusing. The ones that were going to fail anyway either collapsed or were bought out by more successful companies—all of which would have happened smoother and without the expense to taxpayers, if the bailouts hadn’t happened. 

So I’m looking at the current “crisis.” There is always tumult on the other side—because they must convince people that they are powerless, so they will yield control over their own lives to government power-mongers. But when we really get into trouble is when the conservative side fails to stand up to that continual onslaught. “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything,” as the saying goes. So our conservative elected officials absolutely must know what they stand for. 

What they must stand for is the Constitution and the limits it spells out. If they can stand strong now—despite threats that the entire world economy will break down unless we take on infinite debt without responsibility—they might find a way back to the safety of the Constitution. 

Seriously, do you believe that taking on additional debt will bring greater prosperity? That would be like getting to this near bankruptcy spending problem in your real life and saying, “If we don’t take on a bigger mortgage, we will go bankrupt.” The real answer is, if you stop overspending and tackle your debts as aggressively as you can manage, you’ll free yourself of the threat. That model fits the US economy exactly the same way it fits yours. 

On Obama’s side there is nothing but more debt as far as the imagination can reach. On the conservative side there is fear that they will be blamed for catastrophe. But fear of blame is no reason to do anything other than the right thing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baseline Budgeting Magic

It’s hard to concentrate on anything but the debt ceiling debate right now. So, here’s another aspect or two.

Baseline budgeting, according to Wikipedia:

An estimate of spending, revenue, the deficit or surplus, and the public debt expected during a fiscal year under current laws and current policy. The baseline is a benchmark for measuring the budgetary effects of proposed changes in revenues and spending. It assumes that receipts and mandatory spending will continue or expire in the future as required by law and that the future funding for discretionary programs will equal the most recently enacted appropriation, adjusted for inflation. Under the Budget Enforcement Act (BEA), which will expire at the end of fiscal year 2006, the baseline is defined as the projection of current-year levels of new budget authority, outlays, revenues, and the surplus or deficit into the budget year and outyears based on laws enacted through the applicable date. 

Dry, I know. On Rush’s radio show this morning, he used an analogy to make this easier to visualize. I am paraphrasing here. Suppose your family has decided you can afford the payments for a new $40,000 car [this is not my family, just saying; we prefer the $5-$10,000 range]. So that is your plan, and you go out car shopping. But what you find is a $70,000 car that you love—that happens to be marked down to just $60,000. You can get it for less than expected, so that’s a $10,000 savings! You got for it. 

But it isn’t a savings of $10,000; it is an increase of $20,000 over what you had intended to spend and could afford. So now you’re in debt an additional $20,000, and you’re still just driving one (albeit marginally nicer) new car.  

So compare this to the budget debate. Because of the weird way government looks at their budget, they could freeze this year’s spending to exactly last year’s spending (something I think would have been at least the decent thing to do, since they haven’t written and voted on a budget since Obama took office), and we all know that would be an increase of zero, but no cut. Because we live in the real world. But in government-world, this is considered a $9 Trillion cut. Even though there are no cuts. [Pausing here to let you re-read that last sentence and let it sink in.] There is just a lower expectation back to the $40,000 new car, instead of spending on the unbudgeted but more appealing $70,000 car (that is a steal for $60,000—a $10,000 savings).  

It is difficult to communicate, to work with, to live with, people whose grasp on reality is tentative at best. The reality is, we ran out of money about $14.3 Trillion ago (that’s the current national debt, now hitting the ceiling). If you’re a family that is in debt nearly 1/4 the money you have been able to earn (gross) in your lifetime, it might not be a good time to buy a luxury car. It might be a better time to learn to function below your income, so that the mounting debt doesn’t bankrupt you. 

This could take prioritizing what you spend on. At home, this would be (besides covering your debt payments) shelter, food, and clothing—Walmart brands, not Armani. Then, if you can cover transportation and education (if needed), they might be next in priority—just beyond being able to survive. You don’t get to entertainment, vacations, new furniture, etc. at all until you get your debt completely under control. 

So, if Congress were to prioritize, maybe this order might work:

  • Pay debt payments to prevent default (prevent bankruptcy).
  • Pay essential government purposes as outlined in the Constitution (mainly protection of life, liberty, and property from international and local threats), so military and interstate police forces, and judiciary.
  • Keep essential obligations that have already been promised to those who have no alternative way to make up for government default (SS, Medicaid for current recipients in need).
  • Then, if it is possible to pay for anything else, open up each item for debate. (My plan here is to refuse anything in this debate that isn’t Constitutionally allowed.)
In the meantime, encourage our elected officials to call the president’s bluff (and he told us it was a bluff when he told Congress not to call his bluff—oops!) and then outline the spending he will be allowed to control. Because that is Congress’s job, to handle the purse strings; and it is the president’s job to use the available money to carry out his Constitutional duties—something he seems a little fuzzy on.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Williams and Sowell

Last night I spent some time (virtually) with two of my favorite economists: Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell. This always makes for a good evening. I listened to Walter Williams speaking to a group of college students on the proper role of government; it’s hard to get better than that. The lecture is from Intercollegiate Studies Institute, linked in their newsletter. I believe you’ll be able to access the whole speech (plus 20 minutes of Q&A) here. (You can sign up for the ISI newsletter, free, at

I wrote down a few quotes: 

For moral people, we cannot allow legality alone to be our guide. 

Economic planning is nothing more than the forcible superseding of somebody else’s plan by the powerful elite. 

[This one is paraphrased only, and refers to what elected officials should be asking]: The relevant question is not “Is it a good idea?” The relevant question is, “Is it permissible by the Constitution?” 

Ah, good times! 

Also last night I read Thomas Sowell’s latest Townhall piece, “Debt-Ceiling Chicken,” which has given me something to think about. 

I am against government spending on anything not listed in the Constitution as powers granted to the federal government. The only caveat to that is that we have, unfortunately, made many promises, by way of elected officials who don’t carefully and respectfully read the Constitution. And these promises have affected people’s lives. When you have taken a sizable chunk out of someone’s paycheck for their entire lives, while simultaneously promising them a certain amount (tied to inflation) to cover their basic living income in their retirement years, you can’t after-the-fact suddenly say, “Since we have to cut back, you’re going to have to do without.” It was immoral to take their money (and continue to take our money) in the first place; but it is even more immoral to suddenly refuse to give them what they’ve been promised—at a time when they have no way to make up the difference. 

Some Medicare and Medicaid expenses also fit into these categories. That doesn’t mean these programs can’t be reformed; they must be reformed. But they must be reformed in a way that doesn’t starve or otherwise deprive the elderly and infirm. (The long-term solution will include encouraging thrift and savings, as well as taking care of one another through families and philanthropy. Depriving the most vulnerable is not part of any conservative’s long-term plan.) 

So, I continue to be very much against unconstitutional spending, and running up the national debt. And in that vein I have been against yielding on the debt ceiling. 

But Sowell points out that the debt ceiling, while a good idea in theory, as many things seem to be, has not done what it was meant to do in reality. Namely, it has never limited spending nor forced accountability for spending. In fact, he believes it is harmful; it allows the party in power to spend recklessly on anything they want to “give” to their voting constituents, and then, periodically when the ceiling is approached, bring in the nonparticipating party and share the duty and responsibility of cutting back. In other words, they give themselves credit for “giving” goodies to buy votes while simultaneously blaming their opponents as the bad guys who want to “take” those goodies away from those same voters. It’s a scam—at our expense. 

The scam has the additional affect of upsetting worldwide markets, simply because of the insecurity of the argument times surrounding the debt ceiling dates. 

So, here’s what I’m rethinking: The Republicans (and any Democrats with either integrity or an understanding of economics) must stand firm and use this moment to cut back on spending. We have to know that it is possible to both stand firm and stop the profligacy. And much of the predicted harm that comes from the debt ceiling has already happened.

So, stand firm this time. Then, sometime in the future, maybe we need to rethink the arbitrary debt ceiling. Not because limiting debt is a bad idea—we need to actually get rid of it over time. But because the debt ceiling simply doesn’t do what it is meant to do, and does instead quite a lot of harm.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tyranny or Anarchy--Is That Really the Question?

What happened in Norway this past week is savage. Again, I do not mean savage as in culture untouched by the modern world, the myth of the noble savage. I mean the opposite of civilization, the opposite of respect and love for fellow human beings, the opposite of living together in peaceful harmony. 

Savagery is identified with lack of valuing human life, human freedom, God-given rights, fairness and justice, creativity, family, religious freedom—and everything else required for civilization.

Almost immediately the debate about the deranged murderer in Norway was whether he was motivated by right-wing extremism or not. The question is so irrelevant as to be laughable under less tragic circumstances. When a savage act is perpetrated, and the question is whether it was right or left wing, that question is actually this (using Spherical Model terminology): if we assume the upper half of the social sphere doesn’t exist, so there can be no civilization but only degrees of savagery, then we ask whether the political orientation is toward statist tyranny (sometimes thought of as leftist) or anarchical tyranny (sometimes thought of as rightist). OK, but why would you assume, a priori, that civilization cannot exist? 

This particular madman appears to be engaging in anarchical tyranny. He had a “manifesto” of rantings similar to the Unabomber, some of it word-for-word. And there are rumors he had Nazi ties—which is perhaps a different stripe of leftist than communism (the former is nationalist but insists on filling the world with control by that nation; the other is international, intent on filling the world with control by nations subordinate to the leading communist nation(s), but both wielding statist tyranny over the people). But the behavior, when not instigated by a government, is anarchical, whatever the ultimate goals. 

Those who engage in anarchical attacks while “sane” (although it is difficult to imagine anyone in his right mind engaging in tyranny) are following the Lenin/Stalin approach: create chaos so that people will be desperate for order, at which point these power seekers offer to step in as tyrants to restore order. This is also the Saul Alinsky model, a method followed by Bill Ayers (a friend of Obama), and taught by our current commander-in-chief during his ACORN days [see my March 12 post]. The goal for these power-mongers is not actually peace, in the civilized sense; it is tyranny of state. For those being oppressed by a state, it is unlikely to feel better than being oppressed by anarchist tyrants. 

So, whether this particular madman had an ultimate goal of creating enough chaos so that people would turn to him (or his cohorts?) for relief might remain unclear. My guess is that he was too unorganized to even fully follow through that line of thinking, pretty much like the Unabomber. The only thing that is relevant is that we all, without disagreement, recognize his act as savage, and have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who would commit such atrocities—for any purpose.  

I think we can agree the Norwegian people, as any non-savage people, absolutely do not deserve to have these evils done among them. Norway has for long centuries (pretty much post-Viking) been considered peaceful and civilized. The atrocity seems even more shocking because the Norwegians have felt safe—inoffensive and therefore safe from reasonable attack. Their nation is part of a less civilized world, so safety isn’t guaranteed anywhere.  

Their societal trend, unfortunately, is not in the civilized direction: they are less religious (and less respectful of religious beliefs), less family-oriented, less likely to value children and life. And they are more likely to turn to government to care for them, rather than their own ingenuity, free-enterprise, and creativity. On the Spherical Model, I would place Norway in the southeast quadrant, the statist tyranny zone. But because of their residual civilization, I would not put them down below the southern 45th parallel, qualifying as savagery; I would put them well below the equator but above savagery—as is much of Europe. From this position, a change in attitude, a change in leadership, an insistence by the people on their freedoms, combined with a commitment to living civilizing principles—these things can still yield results that could lift them up to, maybe even above, the equatorial dividing line. 

For their sake, I hope this was only a single deranged madman. I hope he is not symptomatic of a growing savagery. And I hope the terror he has instilled in these peaceful people will have a chance to dissipate rather than grow. And I hope that this tragedy will have the unanticipated effect of reminding them to turn to God, and to the protecting principles of civilization.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ascendance of American Conservatism

Several years ago I came across a book that reinforced and guided my studies. I actually started keeping a record of my reading following this book, back in 2008. Over a hundred books later, I continue to be uplifted by the positive attitude of this book. It is Upstream: The Ascendance of American Conservatism, by Alfred S. Regnery, son of Henry Regnery, one of the founders of Regnery Press, publisher of a long list of very fine conservative books, as well as The American Spectator. 

I thought it might be useful today to offer a few views from the book. First is a list of books as recommended reading. (I’ve read or am working my way through those I have found, but also many others this list has led me to. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom was paradigm shifting—a good place to start.): 

 The Road to Serfdom—Frederick Hayek, 1944
Human Action—Ludwig von Misses, 1949
Wealth of Nations—Adam Smith
The Conservative Mind—Russell Kirk, 1953
            A Program for Conservatives—Kirk
            Academic Freedom—Kirk
            The American Cause—Kirk
Ideas Have Consequences—Richard Weaver, 1948
The Quest for Community—Robert Nisbet, 1953, Oxford Press
God and Man at Yale—William F. Buckley
The Political Principles of Robert A. Taft—Russell Kirk & James McClellan
Economics in One Lesson—Henry Hazlett
McCarthy and His Enemies—William F. Buckley & L. Brent Bozell
The Conscience of a Conservative—Barry Goldwater (L. Brent Bozell)
The Heavenly City—Edward Banfield, 1970 (against urban planning)
Government by Judiciary: The Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendement, Raoul Berger (senior fellow Harvard Law School), 1977.
The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition, M. Stanton Evans, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1994) 

Below are quotes from the book on a variety of conservative ideas. I hope these snippets will encourage you to read the whole book. 

On Universal Truth
“The denial of universals carries with it the denial of everything transcending experience. The denial of everything transcending experience means inevitably . . . the denial of truth.”—Richard M.  Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences (Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press, 1948), p. 3-4, quoted in Upstream, p. 48. 

On the Interrelationships of Politics, Economics, and Civilization [The Spherical Model]
“Nisbet was a devastating critic of the politicization of everyday life, of the way family, friendship, and community have been suborned by the state. He anticipated, by nearly half a century, much of the current talk about family, neighborhood bonds, and reducing the size of government. And many of the answers he gave, starting with his 1953 book The Quest for Community, are more sophisticated and certainly more culturally learned than the ones we’re stumbling upon today.”—David Brooks, “Robert Nisbet’s Quest,” AEI Online (January 1, 2000). 

On American Exceptionalism
“[Senator Robert] Taft was a strong American exceptionalist—he was convinced that the United States was based on certain noble ideas that placed this nation well above any other. Of these, individual liberty was the most important; he proclaimed early and often that the “principal purpose of the foreign policy of the United States is to maintain the liberty of our people.” The three fundamental requirements to maintain such liberty, he believed, were an economic system based on free enterprise, a political system based on democracy and national independence and sovereignty. All three, he feared, might be destroyed in a war, or even by extensive preparations for war.”—Regnery, Upstream, citing John Moser, “Principles Without Program: Robert A. Taft and American Foreign Policy,” Ohio History 108 (1000_, 177-197. Reprinted in the Ashbrook Center’s Dialogues, at 

On Reason to Have Hope for Conservative Ideas
“We are not born with ideas,” [Frank] Chodorov wrote, “we learn them. If socialism has come to America because it was implanted in the minds of past generations, there is no reason for assuming that the contrary idea cannot be taught to a new generation.”—quoted in Regnery, Upstream, p. 71, citing Lee Edward, Educating for Liberty: The First Half-Century of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (Washington: Regnery, 2003) p. 4. 

On Liberal Tactical History We’re Still Facing
“As the popular antiwar movement became more vocal it degenerated into contempt for every sort of authority. Leftist activists began shouting obscenities at anybody who disagreed with them, drowning out school administrators, representatives of the Johnson administration, military speakers, and conservatives. They provoked conflicts with the authorities to gain the ready attention of a fawning media. At Columbia University in the spring of 1968, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) took over administration buildings for several days not so much to air their stated grievances, but to undermine “the system,” and the Columbia administration caved in, setting a pattern for others. Later that summer the SDS, led by the radical Weathermen [Ayers, colleague of Obama, was one of these terrorists], marched in Chicago in the “Days of Rage,” but this time they were met by the police and beaten back. But even before Chicago, the New Left had begun to come apart. Black nationalists, Indian nationalists, Hispanic activists, feminists, and homosexual liberationists competed for victim status, joining the chorus of oppressed minorities. Their competition and their zeal for grabbing headlines left them with little to unify them. Once they added division over tactics to divisions over ideology, they lost all coherence as a movement.”—Regnery, Upstream, pp. 130-131. 

On Deterioration of the Black Family Resulting from Social Programs
“[Daniel Patrick] Moynihan emerged from the shadows during 1965 as a research in LBJ’s Labor Department when he wrote a report on black family stability, pointing out that illegitimacy in the black family was escalating (it was then at 25 percent) and that the deterioration of the family in the black community would undermine urban tranquility. Shortly after leaving the Labor Department Moynihan wrote an article for Commentary in which he claimed that the “conceptual difficulties” of the War on Poverty “were a result of the work of intellectuals” who had gathered in Washington in the Kennedy administration and wished to radicalize American society. The poverty programs that these intellectuals had designed had deliberately left out traditional assistance for the poor in lieu of community action programs. As a result, the poor became yet more disgruntled, which led to urban violence.”—Regnery, Upstream, p. 149-150, citing Herbert Stein, Presidential Economics: The Making of Economic Policy from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984), p. 139. 

On Obligations In Hand with Freedom
According to Milwaukee author John Gurda, if there is a single lesson in everything the Bradley Foundation does, it is that “Freedom is a difficult discipline, imposing on its adherents an obligation to nurture, in belief and in practice, the principles that give a free society its particular vibrancy.”—Regnery, p. 199, quoting John Miller, Strategic Investment in Ideas: How Two Foundations Re-shaped America (Washington, D.C.: Philanthorpy Roundtable, 2003), pp. 35-58. 

On Freedom of Religion
Conservatives all but stumbled over examples of officially sanctioned exercises of faith that defied the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment. M. Stanton Evans, in his incisive 1994 book The Theme Is Freedom, asks how it is possible to reconcile the Supreme Court’s reading of the First Amendment with the historical record. Evans states, “The First Amendment depicted by Black and other liberal jurists is a fabrication. The Court’s alleged history is a complete misrepresentation of the record—a prime example of picking and choosing elements from the past to suit the ideological fashions of the present.” –Regnery, p. 229, M. Stanton Evans, The Theme Is Freedom: Religion, Politics, and the American Tradition (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 1994) p. 275. 

On Judicial Activism
Warren’s legacy would be most evident in the expansion of what he termed “social justice.” But perhaps an even greater legacy was his opening the floodgates of judicial activism and the lack of “judicial restraint.” He elicited a conservative war cry heard thirty-five years after Warren’s retirement, one that begat a new activism and a new area of conservative intellectual endeavor. Warren’s notion of a “living Constitution,” his idea that judges “must draw [the Constitution’s] meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,” (Eugene Methvin, “Up from Activism: A New Court?” American Spectator (May 2006)) would allow, as Eugene Methvin put it, “every judge with an itch for political power to set himself up as a high priest free to impose his vision of ‘evolving standards of decency’ on the rest of America.” –Regnery, p. 234, Methvin, Up from Activism”

“As conservatives watched what many Republican-appointed judges were doing, it became apparent that naming loyal Republican lawyers to the courts without understanding their philosophical principles was not only fruitless but dangerous. Many had no idea what the framers had in mind, and no understanding of the structure of the Constitution or how to interpret it They relied solely on precedents set by the liberal judges who preceded them. Law schools still taught constitutional law, but students did not read the Constitution, they read Supreme Court cases about the Constitution. Originalism was a word without meaning to most lawyers, law professors, and judges, as was the concept of original intent. As for the Federalist Papers, they were mentioned occasionally, but rarely cited.” –Regnery p. 239 

“The Constitution was virtually never taught in the law schools; the required course in constitutional law was based on what the Supreme Court said about the founding document. Natural law found no place in the law schools and was rarely even mentioned. Although the left was not wholly united in its legal philosophy, liberals generally believed that the Constitution was obsolete and needed revision, that it should be construed to provide a more liberal, socially permissive, and egalitarian world, and that federalism had outlived its usefulness. Some advocated writing new rights into the Constitution, such as the right to welfare, sexual freedom, and free medical care. The Constitution was, in short, an impediment to the liberals’ ambitions for social reform—recall that Russell Kirk had called the Constitution the most successful conservative device in history—and the left was determined to emasculate it one way or another.” Regnery, p. 251 

Unexpected Result of Roe Decision
Following the Roe decision, roughly 1.6 million abortions were being performed per year across the country, and by 2004 approximately 40 million pregnancies had been terminated. The numbers were appalling; the right-to-life movement refers to the period as the new holocaust. But what many people did not realize was just who it was that was being aborted. (Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: Harper-Perennial, 1999), p. 964) The American Spectator concluded, in a piece published in June 2004 by demographer Larry Eastland, that the women having abortions were more likely to be liberals than conservatives (by 30 percent), and more likely to be Democrats than Republicans. The implication, the Spectator concluded, could be devastating. “Liberals have been remarkably blind to the fact that every day the abortions they advocate dramatically decrease their power to do so. Imagine the number of followers that their abortion policies eliminate who, over the next several decades, would have emerged as the new liberal thinkers, voters, adherents, fundraisers, and workers for their cause.”—Regnery p. 238, Larry L. Eastland, “The Empty Cradle Will Rock,” American Spectator (June 2004).

Thursday, July 21, 2011

We Need Some Mr. Smiths in Washington

Rumors started this morning about how things are going on the budget debates. (Please note that when you can only get info by leaked rumor, that does not indicate the most transparent administration in history.) I don’t know what is really happening in Washington. What I fear is that those who are in Washington have a skewed view of what America thinks. And America would think even clearer if liberal Washington newsspeakers were not their main sources of information. 

Let’s just reiterate a few facts: $14.3 Trillion is a ghastly amount. (If you want some perspective on how big, read my July 11th post here.) It doesn’t need to be higher. A spending cap means (self-evidently) you can’t spend above this amount. It’s like a credit limit on a credit card. If you hit the limit, your purchase is denied. That might be really inconvenient if you’re using it to pay tuition on the day it’s due, or possibly to pay the doctor who just delivered your baby. But it didn’t likely get to the limit with that one urgent purchase; it got there by mounting discretionary purchases: that handbag that went with the shoes, the lunch that impressed your friends, that little weekend trip to the coast, a last-minute anniversary gift to prevent the discovery that you had temporarily forgotten, etc.  

What is the solution to the credit card company’s refusal to increase your limit? Spend less. This will require prioritizing. You will pay for food (budget food now, not gourmet), shelter, and essentials such as transportation and current debt payments. But no vacations, no extras. No new clothes, since you already can get by from day to day. Entertainment might have to be a walk in the park or re-watching a video you already own. You know how it’s done; we all do. If we still have some income, we know this isn’t pleasant, but it’s doable, and probably temporary. After we get our budget more aligned with our income, we can save up for a few special purchases. Life will go on. 

Translate that to the current national situation. Is there still income? Yes, all the tax revenue being generated by current tax laws. Is it still possible to pay for the essentials of the role of government; i.e., protection, judiciary, and not much else? Sure. We might even find that, if we’ve been inefficient in any of these areas, we could even save here. But there is indeed, even in these hard times, enough to cover the basic expenses. 

What we don’t have is enough to hire ever more government bureaucrats, non-fireable, at higher pay than productive private sector workers, just so government can give away more money to non-producers, in the form of entitlements. We could easily go through our recent expenses and line out a few items: PBS, for example; money for art; grants to any scientific exploration not directly related to military protection of the nation—anything non enumerated in the Constitution. That’s a long list of shoe-and-handbag purchases that can be curtailed. It’s a matter of priorities, and simply following the Constitution is a very good guide to what expenses to keep and what to spend. 

And, since Medicaid and Social Security are clearly not in the Constitution, but are promises we are obligated to keep to people who no longer have the opportunity to find alternatives, we must as a priority keep those current promises while reforming the system so that there will be alternatives for those who move into the need at a later decade. No one—not a single conservative that I am aware of—thinks that reneging on promises to the current elderly and indigent should be a part of the current debate. 

But President Obama, while insisting none of his favorite extra-constitutional giveaways could possibly be reduced at all, suddenly threatens the loss of medical care to fixed-income elderly, as well as already earned salary payments for working military. What he’s saying is, we will prioritize in a way that is most hurtful—and we will blame those most likely to have protected these very expenses—because we want to manipulate them into giving in to our spending. 

I am praying for those we have elected to stand firm. More than once this week I have thought of the Jimmy Stewart movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. While he is standing strong, the lying machine is at work against him, lying about his character, lying about their motives. And he is in an information dead zone, unable to see what is happening among the people, without a way to get information to them or feedback from them, while he endures his lonely filibuster (back when they actually had to filibuster instead of just threatening to). I’m afraid our entrusted leaders will cave, because they are in that ugly dead zone, where they can only hear beltway media talk, and they don’t know we’re out here supporting them when they stand firm. 

There are more media outlets now. It is hard for me to imagine that Obama can get away with what Clinton did in the 1990s. Everyone can know, just by doing a little bit of web searching, that no one but Obama would ever be responsible for starving the elderly. YouTube and Twitter and facebook and other alternative information sources would explode with refutations. We need our leaders to trust that this is not Tiananmen Square, with entrenched dictators squelching the release of all information. We will tell the truth. But they must do their job, no matter how hard it seems. 

In Mr. Smith’s world, the decency of his enemy was what led to the final resolution. I do not count on that with Obama or any of his followers. But there might be someone who, however misguided now, might change sides if he sees truth and justice on one side and manipulation and lying on the side he had thought was the decent side when he started out. We might get a convert, if there are any decent Democrats out there. And if not, then let the worst happen, let the truth get out, and then let the people choose a better administration so we can get to the task of putting America back together after this disaster of a president.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Makes IQ So Racist?

I read Walter Williams’ piece yesterday on education being worse than we think. Some of the comments afterward were disturbing to me. I know—never take those seriously. But I thought maybe info here would be a good antidote nevertheless. 

Williams’ commentary points out that there is indeed a white/black gap in educational success. It’s safer for him to say such things than for many, since he is black. He and his friend Thomas Sowell are two of the most brilliant economists I frequently refer to, because they not only understand so much, they can explain information simply enough for all of us to use. So my personal belief is that it isn’t skin color, or evolution, that causes significant IQ deficiency for a particular race. So, if the gap actually exists (and data makes that fairly certain), then I propose there must be some cause other than race itself. 

Heredity does have something to do with IQ, but not as much as you might think. Without appropriate inputs, a brain doesn’t build the complex connections necessary to qualify as high IQ. Advantageous inputs start very early. 

One contributor is attention from the mother. A mother who breastfeeds for at least six months (a year is better) provides some crucial inputs. She looks at her baby’s face, and the baby looks at her, focusing on her facial features—one of the first fascinations of a baby. And she provides the baby this input first on one side and then the other. This is essential. When we feed a baby with a bottle, we tend to hold the baby in the arm most comfortable to us (often based on whether we’re right or left handed). And we feed the whole bottle to the baby on that side—giving him or her only one view. The brain doesn’t develop both sides as well without the long hours of staring into each other’s eyes from both perspectives. 

Babies allowed to crawl on the floor at will, rather than being upright in a walker with wheels, develop cross-patterning that organizes the brain in a way that is essential for reaching full potential. In fact, it has been shown that when older children are identified with reading difficulties such as dyslexia, if they spend time every day getting down on the floor and doing a combat crawl, they can make a year or two of reading advancement over a summer without spending any time reading. 

The brain is changed by appropriate inputs, using frequency, intensity, and duration. So, it isn’t surprising that children who receive a lot of attention from their own mothers, particularly in the development years up until school age, are likely to have an IQ up to 30 points higher than a child who receives less attention, as in a non-nurturing daycare, or set for hours in front of a television. Children who get played with and read to tend to be smarter. Parents who do these behaviors tend to be better educated and value both their child and the child’s development.  

So intellectually successful parents tend to produce more intellectually successful children. In itself, this isn’t racial. But it can appear to be so. Black families are much more likely to be broken, fatherless homes, with single mothers working long hours away from their children, and without money to provide care that would substitute for stay-at-home mother care. 

When we add the superior results for Asian children, we might continue to think something racial is going on. Asian children often succeed educationally even when they come from poor immigrant families. But is that caused by evolutionary racial differences? Not necessarily; there are cultural differences in play.  

There are differences between rice cultures and wheat cultures. Rice is an intense crop in which continual meticulous care yields larger crops—weeding, measuring the exact right amount of irrigation water. That is not so much true with wheat—even though I would never say farming of any kind is not a lot of work. But with wheat, there is a long wait between sowing time and harvest time. There may be a continual need for irrigation, but daily weeding probably doesn’t change the crop yield too much; the wheat and occasional weed can grow up together and be separated after harvest. The climate of a rice culture might allow planting year round. Wheat tends to grow in climates with a harsher winter, so there is down time. 

These differences affect culture in specific ways. Rice culture people tend to work hard with the certain belief that it will pay off; and they tend to have greater perseverance than non-rice cultures. They expect hard work from their children as well, and their children actually do put in more hours on their schooling. (Anecdotal note: my daughter-in-law is from a rural farming community; much of this semi-tropical area has been dedicated to rice growing, including where our subdivision is located. She tells me that in her school, she noticed that some of the smartest kids were from rice-farming families--whatever their race.) 

So, if we’re looking at why blacks tend to get a seriously inferior education, or, put another way, are much less likely to succeed educationally, what do we know is likely to help?

  • Intact families, especially with lots of time with a dedicated mother particularly from birth to age 5.
  • Educational stimulation in the home, with plenty of appropriate brain development time.
  • Appropriate brain stimulation, including frequency, intensity, and duration when there has been a lack during development.
  • A family culture that values education, hard work, and perseverance.
Giving up on an entire race is not acceptable. What will not work? More money spent per student when the above list is not met. Since what we’ve been doing doesn’t work, we have to come up with an alternative—something that doesn’t tempt teachers to illegally change test results. Everything on the list is doable within a family, without government money. Here’s something we could try: teach (and support with culture) the importance—to themselves and their posterity—of waiting until marriage to have sex, waiting beyond teenage years to get married, choosing someone to marry who shares your values and goals and then staying married to that person, and getting all you can out of a high school education and any other education you can succeed at. This is the formula for avoiding poverty in America, and it’s a good start at preventing poverty and providing high IQ for your children. 

If you want to know more about the brain research I mentioned here, I suggest (National Association for Child Development—particularly their 7-hour audio guide for parents); The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge; Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, by Daniel Amen; and Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Community Service Is Better Than Community Organizing

Brandon Darby with Cathering Engelbrecht
Last night I went to hear a Q&A session with Brandon Darby, a reformed liberal activist. His conversion is fairly recent (since Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, which was 2005), so I wanted to hear his story. Being a man of action, right after the NO devastation, he went there to start giving aid—not money aid, but physical help. He and friends put out a thousand flyers saying, “if you’re in need of help or want to help, call” his phone number. And then they would go and help people muck out their places. In the two years he did this project, he had more than 22,000 volunteers go through his organization. 

[I personally know dozens of people who did similar mucking out. Our church sent work crews with tools and chainsaws for weeks—then working on closer devastation that resulted from Rita two weeks later. It was amazing, really, to see how much people wanted to help—an attitude that was repeated in 2008 following Ike. My personal belief is that when God wants people to show love to one another in the Gulf Coast, he sends a hurricane. I’m hoping we can do it without that message for a few more years.] 
people from my church helping doing hurricane relief in 2005

Brandon Darby started getting calls from various organizations offering to join with him to help. Mostly he was inviting all comers. But then frustrations started to turn up. Volunteers would come for a few days, maybe up to a week, taking time off from paid work to do this volunteer work, and the organizations that came to set up under him would insist these volunteers needed training first—on how to be racially and culturally sensitive. Really? Someone gives up a week’s pay and time to physically labor for complete strangers, and you think they need a three-day lecture before they’re allowed to help? So Brandon spoke up against that. The response was that they didn’t like the idea of a white patriarchal male telling them how things should be done. 

Up until this point he had bought in to the narrative that liberals care for people and conservatives are selfish and just look out for themselves. But that wasn’t what he was seeing. He met many people who functioned outside of the organizations who claimed to be in it for the poor—people who were simply non-political. They didn’t want to talk to Brandon about his beliefs, but they were willing to work with him if he could show them where help was needed. 

On the other hand, the so-called helping organizations had a specific agenda, of “community organizing,” in the Saul Alinsky/Obama sense. Their purpose was to gather more people into their organizations and indoctrinate them with their political beliefs—and helping people was not the end in itself, but the means to that other end. I think the term he used for these groups within groups connected to other groups was “the non-profit industrial complex.” 

His personal story is made for a movie or adventure novel. Because of his close ties to radicals over the years, even as he was changing, these friends came to him with the assumption that he was with them, sometimes with dangerous and diabolical plans. Eventually he ended up helping the FBI thwart terrorist attacks, including one intended for the GOP convention in 2008. He has gotten no end of grief for working with the FBI. Finally Andrew Breitbart came to him and said, “Why don’t you tell your story? Why don’t you defend yourself?” And he told him, “I do. They won’t print it.” So, by doing an end run around mainstream media, Breitbart helped him get his own story out. 

Darby admits that it was hard going to the FBI in the beginning, because he had bought the narrative that they were the evil villain US version of the KGB. But he got some good guidance from a friend who said, “Don’t tell me any more; you’ve got to contact the FBI.” And he knew he had to, or many innocent people would be killed. He added, “If you had any idea how many times you’re saved from being blown up, you’d feel a lot better about the FBI.” And he said he knows them now, not as a big brother government agency, but as many men and women trying every day to do a difficult and dangerous job. 

The stated goal of the radicals, he said, was to do anything within their power to thwart the Constitutional rights of opposing views from being expressed. Brandon Darby himself loves his country and loves the Constitution—totally turned around from where he had once been. 

The next question becomes, what can we do? He recommends serving. Go directly to the people who are being manipulated and “organized” by the enemy, and work with them, physically giving them a hand, and giving them face-to-face contact with you—so you become human to them. Then they can no longer believe the lies against you, because you have become real to them. 

I’m not sure exactly how we will fit this in our daily lives. I know my church is very good at rendering service and makes that a priority, which does build the trusting relationships he is suggesting. So it works. But doing it in the neighborhoods he says need it might take the protection of some organization, rather than just an individual showing up on the street. I’m hoping we will learn more. As a call to action, he suggests:

  • Talk to people in need.
  • Find out who helps them (as opposed to self-appointed black community leaders claiming to be who to go through).
  • Dig deeper.
I don’t fully understand all that means, for individuals whose lives are full with work and family. But I do indeed trust that people-to-people is the way to help, and not political leaders garnering government payola. Our political freedom, our economic freedom, and our civilization depend on our willingness to help one another freely.

The session with Brandon Darby was streamed live, and will soon be available for online viewing at King Street Patriots, under King Street Live.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Harry Potter Comes to an End

One of the things about doing a blog on the interrelationships of things political, economic, and social is that almost anything I’m interested in fits somehow. So today I’m going to talk about Harry Potter. 

Our family got interested in the books when there were only three. (The third book, Prisoner of Azkaban, continues to be my favorite. The clues fit together for me in the middle of the night one night, and I woke up saying—Lupin is a werewolf! And I felt like a great detective.) So it has been a long wait both for the end of the book series and the end of the movie series. We went as a family on Saturday (in the morning, no wait, no crowds, very pleasant experience). Being in the magical world for a while has always been worth doing. 

I’ve talked before about the purpose of fantasy fiction—to give us the opportunity to understand something about our world, by allowing us to step back and see similarities when looking at a different world. The Harry Potter series has never been about promoting witchcraft or the occult; it has been about identifying good vs. evil, and seeing very clearly what it means to choose good. That was very evident in this film version of the last half of the last book. 

Even in this dark moment in magical world history, the characters retained a sense of humor, as well as a sense of who they are as people. I cried when Fred died, because I sensed the loss that his family felt, surrounding him. We knew they loved him, because we’d seen that family for the past decade or so.  

I cried again when Snape died. Of course I knew the story; Dumbledore’s trust of him over so many books, even when there was ample evidence that he was evil, told us there was more we needed to know. That is something worth knowing in our world. Sometimes (usually) when a person seems to be evil, it is because they are choosing to do evil things—because they are evil. But sometimes, as with Snape, they are doing apparently evil things for a righteous purpose. There was challenge enough for the character Snape to do what he did. But the real challenge in the series was for everyone else not to hate him, but to be open to the possibility of goodness within him. 

One of my favorite characters was Neville Longbottom. In the first book he seemed mostly just an awkward background character. In book three it looked possible that he might be to Harry what Peter Pettigrew had been to Harry’s father, James. But over time we learned more and more of Neville’s inner power. In the first book, despite his general ineffectuality, Dumbledore honored him for having stood up to his friends when he thought they were doing wrong. In book 4 we learn of his ability in herbology, which helps Harry at a crucial moment. It was also in that book that we learn of his ability to dance—one of the most touching moments of that movie. In book 5 we learn about what had been done to his parents, and the resolve he carries with him as a result. What a joy in this last movie to see him save humanity at a crucial moment by killing Voldemort’s snake—at the very moment it was about to strike Hermione and Ron. Next to Harry, Neville’s contribution was perhaps most heroic. (And if you’ll recall, the original prophecy could have been either Harry or Neville—so apparently they were both destined for heroics all along.) 

Sometimes in movies when evil is portrayed, it is so over-the-top that we can’t relate to it or see it in our own world. Voldemort was that evil—even physically altered to no longer be quite human. He murders casually, or with relish, whatever suits. So it might be easy to dismiss his evil as irrelevant to us. But I think it isn’t.

Last week Glenn Beck had a photo essay of his trip to Poland, to a concentration camp there. It was a powerful reminder that such evil did indeed exist—savagery among what had been an apparently civilized people. Last year when I read the Bonhoeffer biography (by Eric Metaxas—definitely worth reading), I had some of those same reminders. In fact, there were details in that book about the savagery that went on that I had never been aware of before. I had been aware of overwhelming evil in those times and places. But I hadn’t been able to imagine the extent of it or many of the details. 

Most of the time, the evil we face will be less imaginative. It will be selfishness and inconsiderateness, and lack of bravery in standing up against something we know is wrong. It will be disappointing human weakness, often at the interpersonal level, within families, or, even more likely, at work situations where some people try to wield little tyrannies over others. 

Learning how to stand up against evil, even when it’s much smaller in our world, is something we can learn by spending a bit of entertainment time in Harry Potter’s world. I’m glad so many of us have had that cultural experience together.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Irreconcilible Differences

There’s this old saying, as worded by Thumper in Bambi, “If you don’t have somethin’ nice to say, don’t say nothin’ at all,” which is maybe why I say less about our current president than I am thinking. Occasionally, though, some things will spill out. 

There was YET ANOTHER speech/press conference this morning. I am rolling my eyes as I write this. Can the man ever stop blathering at us and actually do some work? Or even play more golf (I’m all for him playing golf, as he has done, more than any other president in history, because I think he does less harm to the country out on the links than anywhere near the White House).  

There was a piece by Walter Williams in April 2010 where he said that there are irreconcilable differences between liberals and conservatives in our country, and we should just admit it and accept divorce as the inevitable best option. I trust Williams was making a point about the differences, and the need to get back to the Constitution, and was not really advocating dividing up the country into pieces. But I do understand the sentiment. 

Obama and I have irreconcilable differences. Idealogically, I can’t imagine how I would ever have accepted him as my president. (Actually, I was not unwise enough to vote for someone so harmful to the country I love and so hateful toward its basic Constitutional law—that was imposed on me by large numbers of people who were just plain wrong to vote for him.) I accepted only based on my acceptance of the Constitution; I accepted the result of a legal vote, with the understanding that peaceful change for the better can happen at the next election. So, in a sense I consented—but I did not consent to the certain abuses that are currently ongoing in that relationship. 

As happens in relationships sometimes, when you know it’s over, when you know there is no way to patch things up, that you begin to ignore the big differences and start to be annoyed at petty little things. Let me just say, I feel that way about Obama's voice.

There’s a chapter in the book Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell, where he describes moments where couples in counseling reveal certain things that predict whether the couple will be able to work things out. The nonverbal cues of contempt and disdain tell the future. And it is, without a doubt, contempt and disdain—toward me, toward people who think like me, regular Americans who sustain the Constitution (which he took an oath to uphold but doesn’t), toward hardworking family people who try to take care of themselves and their own—he speaks to us as though to maggots that shouldn’t be allowed to inhabit his world. 

How do I know this? His tone of voice, his mannerisms, his speech patterns—and suspicion on my part. Without the suspicion, I might not notice. Others don’t. Others continue to claim he is a brilliant orator. To me, he is simply inarticulate. I understand what he says better when I read a transcript rather than hear him, because when I hear him, the disdain toward me is so distracting that I cannot listen without anger. But when I read what he says (with the ums and uhs edited out, because, unlike other great orators, these are plentiful in his unscripted speech), I can see spin and twisted lies among what he is saying. I do not see a stupid man; I see a manipulative one. 

This morning he said, regarding raising the debt ceiling, “The America people expect more than that. They expect that we try to solve our problem. We have a chance to stabilize America’s finances for a decade, for 15 years or 20 years, if we are willing to seize the moment.” 

If you did not know this man, you would think he might be Ronald Reagan urging a recalcitrant Democrat House and Senate to do the right thing and stop spending away our futures. But that isn’t even close to what he meant. He means the Republican House should raise taxes, guaranteeing less revenue, while raising the debt ceiling even more astronomically than thus far, so that he is free to buy votes any way he chooses. 

He also said, “What the American people are paying attention to is who seems to be trying to get something done.” Really? I think he “hopes,” because, as he said earlier, “I always have hope; don’t you remember my campaign?”—he hopes the American people are not paying attention, because now that we have a Republican House, they have passed a budget, which the Senate has failed to vote on. In fact, in something like 800 days into office, Obama and cronies have not done the basic task required of them to pass a budget—at all. Obama offered one up a few months ago that not even a single Democrat Senator voted for; it was voted down 97-0. In other words, even his own party saw that it was garbage, not to be taken seriously. 

And how is he responding to the debt ceiling debate? By threatening to renege on obligations to current Social Security and Medicare recipients, and then blaming Republicans for causing that catastrophe to happen. Think this through: if we don’t raise the debt ceiling, we do no automatically default on our loans, any more than not qualifying for a new credit card in our private lives means we will default on credit card debt we already owe. It just means we are limited in taking on additional debt, and we must prioritize what we spend our money on. We might have to make a budget, if we haven't already done so, and then stick to it. 

So, if we are going to fail to pay those current obligations, he must mean we have gone through every single line item of payment in the government’s expenditures and can’t find anything to cut first. Not paying unwed mothers more every time they have a new fatherless baby. Not paying for research into methane produced by cows. Not paying for Nancy Pelosi to fly a private jet to and from California and elsewhere. No, none of that can be cut, according to Obama, so the logical step, in his mind, is to threaten seniors. A few months back he threatened to not pay salaries due to soldiers serving in the military. Because nothing else can be cut? Surely not. But because he “always has hope” that the media will spin things his way and blame those of us he truly hates and sees as his enemy. 

Yes, I am his enemy; he has made that clear. Not because I am the enemy of the office of President of these United States—but because HE is an enemy to that office, and to this Republic he is breaking his oath to uphold and defend. 

So, yes, I want a divorce. ASAP. If impeachment cannot be done (and I can clearly see that that’s not on the horizon), then the election of 2012 will have to do. In the mean time, can I just please be spared from hearing his disdainful, sneering voice aimed at me?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Citizenship in the Nation

I’ve been preparing to help some local Boy Scouts with their Citizenship in the Nation merit badge. I’ve done this a couple of times in the past, and it’s always fun—at least for me.

Looking at our Constitution and our role as citizens is something we ought to do from time to time, even when we’re no longer early teenage scouts. You can get the list of requirements, and even much of the merit badge booklet information online—not a bad exercise. 

Here are a few of the requirements you might want to take on:

  • Explain what Citizenship in the Nation means and what it takes to be a good citizen of this country. Discuss the rights, duties, and obligations of a responsible and active American citizen.
  • Discuss each of the following documents with your counselor (that’s me). Tell your counselor how you feel life in the United States might be different without each one.
    • Declaration of Independence
    • Preamble to the Constitution
    • The Constitution
    • Bill of Right
    • Amendments to the Constitution
  • List the six functions of government as noted in the Preamble to the Constitution. Discuss with your counselor how these functions affect your family and local community.
  • Name the three branches of our federal government and explain to your counselor their functions. Explain how citizens are involved in each branch. For each branch of government, explain the importance of the system of checks and balances.
There are some additional to dos: see a historic site, identify and write to your elected officials, read and report on a famous speech that affected your country, and more. 

My assignment was mainly to help the scouts gain the knowledge they need. So we were going to take on those listed documents. It’s a good idea to memorize the preamble to the Constitution. I’ve been helping kids do that for a while. With younger kids I’ve used sign language and music to help in the memorization. (In case you’re willing to try this, be aware that the way the brain works, if you use something to help you memorize, like signs, movements, or a song, your brain will most easily access the info using that method, so you might need to hum to yourself or go through at least a smaller version of the movements. Still, not a bad idea.) 

I often use curriculum provided by the National Center for Constitutional Studies: One thing they do is provide the video A More Perfect Union, an award-winning depiction of the Constitutional Convention, filmed by Brigham Young University media studios back in 1989. It has recently been prepared in DVD form, segmented for study, with accompanying study guide. I got the teacher’s curriculum, which has additional helps, for age groups K-2, 3-4, and 5-12, and I’ve used all the age groups at some point. [If I’m not mistaken, NCCS was founded many years ago by W. Cleon Skousen, author of The 5000-Year Leap and The Real Benjamin Franklin, among a much longer list.] 

I’ve also gotten pocket copies of the Constitution (Declaration of Independence and all the Amendments are also included) from NCCS. The Heritage Foundation is another source for pocket Constitutions, for yourself and to share. If you get a bigger supply, say 50, then your costs go way down, to maybe $.50 or so per copy plus shipping. I actually do carry the Constitution around with me in my hold-everything-I-could-possibly-need handbag. And it has been useful on occasion. 

With the Scouts, session one is going to include memorizing the Preamble, and going over some of the sections of the Constitution, so they understand the great compromise between equal state representation (the Senate) and representation by population (the House). 

When you’re gauging whether something fits into the proper role of government, the Preamble is a good source. Here is what it tells us, divided up into the list: 

We the People of the United States,

  • in Order to form a more perfect Union,
  • establish Justice,
  • insure domestic Tranquility,
  • provide for the common defence,
  • promote the general Welfare [i.e., what benefits all the states and all the people at once, not some at the expense of others]
  • and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

So the purposes are, in essence, to join together (more perfectly than with the Articles of Confederation), and do things that provide safety and protection at our borders and within, including a justice system for enforcement, and do things generally beneficial to all (such as weights and measures, coining and standardizing money, and a few other limited general assignments), and to make our liberty permanent. Considering how