Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Who Is the Establishment?

I’ve been puzzled by the constant insistence that an expensive barrage of Romney attack ads are decimating his opponents. They complain it’s unfair and harms the process. I’ve had to look for those attack ads; they’re nonexistent here in Texas so far. (For various reasons, the Texas primary is still up in the air. We only know it won’t be on the originally scheduled April 3rd, and may be all the way into June. So no need to campaign here right now.)

What we do get is a constant barrage of anti-Romney ads. This past couple of weeks, during every commercial break on just about every talk radio station, enough times to practically memorize it, we have heard this ad from Time to Choose, a pro-Gingrich PAC [proviso: I did not do an exact transcript, so this is what I remember, based on the wording at the Time toChoose website]:
The Republican Party is at a Crossroads. There’s a battle going on between the establishment minority, and the conservative majority. Between the GOP establishment that wants to protect its own power at all costs, and the conservative majority that wants power returned to the people.
The establishment minority wants us to hold our noses and vote for the Massachusetts moderate. They tell us he is the best man to beat President Obama. They tell us he is the best we can do.
We’ve been down this road before. They gave us Gerald Ford. We got [crashing noise]. They gave us Bob Dole. We got [crashing noise].  They gave us John McCain. We got Barak Obama.
Now they’re trying to give us a Massachusetts moderate. Don’t let them. Not this time….
So the question at hand is, who is the GOP establishment? And how do they control so many voters in so many states?
It seems to me that if someone served in Congress for two decades, including a stint as Speaker of the House, and then stayed in the DC area to push for various causes, one might consider that person part of “the establishment.” Quite often, Gingrich teardowns of opponents are only true if you substitute his name in, in place of the opponent.
I googled the anti-Gingrich ads, since we haven’t seen them here. There’s a collection here. Only those listing Romney as approving the message are from the Romney campaign. Any others are by a Romney PAC, which can by law have no contact with the campaign. There may be some technical details that aren’t true, but I can’t find any. In fact they seem scrupulously true, and where it is opinion, those opinions are expressed with clear rationale. Hardly something to follow up with untrue attack ads, as Gingrich has done.
What about anti-Santorum ads? There are some of these credited to Romney that are actually done by Ron Paul people. But Restore the Future, a pro-Romney PAC, did this one:

Again, it’s scrupulously true. It may be that each and every point can be answered with reason by Santorum, but except for some painful minutes during the last debate (answering mainly Ron Paul), Santorum hasn’t spent the time explaining.

Is this so unfair that Santorum’s response should be to do robocalls recruiting Michigan Democrats to mess up the GOP primary vote? I think not. And apparently even that underhanded tactic didn’t work.

That question, then, comes up again: Who is this GOP establishment? The RNC has been all about fundraising, but every time they call, it’s absolutely all about defeating Barak Obama, not about pushing a candidate. And if they were pushing a candidate, what is the likelihood that they would choose a governor from a very blue state who never cozied up to them in DC? For that matter, how would a Massachusetts former governor become part of the establishment, or even acceptable to such an entity?
Becoming acceptable consisted of spending millions of his own money on a first campaign, going up against a much-disliked but chosen “establishment” candidate, and then stepped out of that race gracefully, and instead of going back home to enjoy his wealth with his family, he continued to campaign—for others. Rick Perry was a beneficiary of that. So were countless other candidates for governor, senate, congress, and also for John McCain for president. Because, as Romney articulated then and now, the important thing is to keep the liberals like Obama from taking away our freedoms and making America worse.
He worked tirelessly and selflessly, not even certain it would ever be worth running for president again. But his selflessness did indeed ingratiate him to many who got elected. So, among current Congress and Senate, yes, there are far more endorsements for Romney than for Gingrich and Santorum, who were their colleagues in those august bodies. Because he’s been an inside-the-beltway pal for so long? No. Because he worked so hard to put forward conservative ideas and promote conservative candidates wherever he could.
What I see happening is that the negative press (72% negative on main stream media, nearly 60% negative on Fox, plus some vitriol from Mark Levin and a fair amount of negative from Rush Limbaugh) tends to convince people that Romney is not a reliable conservative. Then, when it’s nearer time for a state to vote, they start seeing Romney in person, and hearing more of his own words. And, despite what pundits say, he is believable and engaging, and able to connect with people. Plus there’s the fact that everything he says, and everything he reveals about his record, shows a consistent conservative.
So it isn’t some far-off “establishment” that is making Romney’s nomination look likely; it is many people, across many demographics, looking for the best alternative to Obama. We may have found him and just don’t all know it yet.

Monday, February 27, 2012

He's In the Army Now

My new car window sticker.
This post is somewhat personal today. My middle son, Economic Sphere, was sworn in to the Army and flew off to basic training. His sweet little wife came downtown with Mr. Spherical Model and me to the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) to see the ceremony and say goodbye until after basic training.
We’re proud of our son, and the Army seems very pleased to have recruited him. He has a college degree and has been married a few years, so he’s more mature and knowledgeable than many. He also had some ROTC experience in college. So he’s likely to be used as a leader.
When he first told us he was considering the Army, I thought it was his backup plan if he didn’t get a job out of college. But, while he would have taken a very good offer, to please us, the economy was not healthy enough to offer that alternative. And this is what he really wanted to do all along. But after the stress of college, he had to get back in shape. He started losing weight before moving in with us last summer, and then, once he made his decision certain, he got more serious about working out and dieting. He lost a total of 60 pounds, putting him under the requirement (which I think is maybe a little too lean for someone as tall as he is). And he passed all the physical requirements with flying colors.
That's him, tall one in the middle of the far right row.
A recruiter had originally told him that there might be a specialty in finance that could become a career. But that turned out not to be the case; finances are generally outsourced to the private sector nowadays. But Economic Sphere was still very positive about wanting to take whatever was available. After the entrance aptitude test, his high scores opened doors that weren’t open for everyone. His area of specialty following basic training will be intelligence, in crypto-linguistics. An additional test showed that he would qualify to learn a level three language (the most difficult), but what language he actually learns will depend on the military’s need. He will also get a top secret clearance, which can open opportunity doors in the future as well.
His assignment after basic will be at the defense language institute in California. He was born in California, but left before he was two. We have some good memories from there. I have to say, though, if you’re going to live in California, doing it with housing provided and no kids in school yet is a good way to enjoy the climate. Mr. Spherical Model and I will have to visit.
Each of the recruits did solemnly swear:
…that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulation and the uniform code of military justice, so help me God.
I’ve been worried, as a mother, about a son going in to the military when we have a commander-in-chief that I do not trust to be wise. But I am hopeful that a year from now that will no longer be the case. Still, when I heard that he was swearing to obey the orders of the president, I had a twinge of worry. Economic Sphere reminded me afterward not to worry, because he cannot be expected to violate the uniform code of military justice. And I know he will know that code, because he tends to remember everything he learns. He also told me that officers do not swear obedience to the president, only to the Constitution and the code, so that no president can use the military to usurp power over the nation’s citizens.
I am also comforted, as a mother, that his skills will be valuable in a way that is likely to keep him out of harm’s way. He would have been willing to go into infantry, and he had asked me at one point if I’d be mad at him if he did that. I said no, I wouldn’t be mad; I’d just be frantic with worry for a very long time. His recruiter, whom we met yesterday, had gone infantry. And he’d had only 12 days’ notice for his mother to get used to the idea. I have had many months to get used to the Army idea, and a full month knowing what his area of specialty would be. My burden has been light, which I appreciate.
In Economic Sphere’s ceremony, there were a dozen recruits, from the various armed services, shipping out today. There was another ceremony with as many more immediately afterward. These are all brave volunteers, willing to serve our country during difficult times. We have good reason to be proud of these young men and women, and thankful for their service. I plan to keep them in my prayers, especially my son.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Formula for Success

There is a formula for avoiding poverty in America:

1.      Don’t have sex before age 20.
2.      Don’t have sex until after marriage.
3.      Stay married
4.      Obtain at least a high school diploma.
I first wrote down this formula back in 2001, in the notes I took at a lecture by Richard Wilkins, who was then a co-founder of the World Congress of Families, and is now head of the Doha International Institute for Family Studies and Development. I’ve come across the list a number of times since, and included it in a post last April 4th. The formula, along with lots of backup data, have risen in public awareness lately due to the latest book by Charles Murray: ComingApart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. (The book was mentioned by Newt Gingrich in Wednesday's presidential debate in Arizona.)
Murray tends to write about data in a way that stirs up a hornets nest. This was true with The Bell Curve in the 1990s, and to some extent with Real Education a few years ago. While I don’t always agree with his analysis, his wealth of data is always enlightening.
This book looks at class differences in whites in America to avoid differences related to race; it’s not a racist treatment, but rather a way to look at differences aside from race. Looking only at whites, then, is a statistical control. What he finds is that there are some rather surprising differences between the newer wealthy and the stuck lower classes. There are many aspects of the growing divide that may be worth talking about another day (when I have finished reading the book), including a separation that makes the leader class more and more out of touch with the lesser classes. But today what interests me is the social formula so many of the wealthier are using. This summary comes in the article “Charles Murray’s Book of Virtues,” by Heather Wilhelm, February 2nd:
In the new upper class, which amounts to about 20 percent of the country, out-of-wedlock births are rare: around 6-8 percent. For the more dysfunctional working class, which accounts for around 30 percent of the country, the number is mind-boggling: 42-48 percent. The numbers also turn a few stereotypes on their heads: In the lower working class, for instance, the rate of church attendance has dropped at nearly double the rate as that of the supposedly secularized elite.
America's working class, Coming Apart argues, has increasingly forsaken traditional values like marriage, religion, industriousness, and honesty—and, as a result, it is rotting from within. Happiness levels are down; participation in the labor force is down; television watching (an average of 35 hours a week) is up.
In short, those who have discovered the value of living the laws of civilization (as we outline at, keeping the Ten Commandments and valuing and protecting family as the basic unit of society) find themselves not only living a happier and more satisfying civilized life, but they enjoy economic prosperity and greater opportunity to participate in political leadership.
By several measures the Spherical Model family is in that top 20%. And we do indeed live the laws that lead naturally to prosperity rather than poverty. But unlike the subject of much of the book, we don’t feel distant from the less prosperous; we are very willing to share the formula, rather than isolate ourselves.
So, with something of a proselytizing spirit, let me share some comparison data: Only 10% of children in two-parent families live in poverty. But 50% of children living with a single mother live in poverty.[*] This is not intended to make struggling single mothers feel worse about their situation. Their burden is tough enough. But we need to recognize that accepting single parenthood as an equally valuable situation as a two-parent home is not only inaccurate but harmful. We must not encourage more problems for more people by subsidizing them.
Churches and local charities are a much better way of helping than the awkwardly broad brush of government. Locally, someone with social skills can work with the person in need to encourage living the civilization formula: no more sex outside of marriage; find ways to improve skills to become more self-sufficient; supplement the parent with community help (scouting, youth sports coaches, and other family serving auxiliaries), so that the deficits inherent in the single parent’s situation are mitigated, and the next generation is aimed toward more economically rewarding civilization, rather than being trapped in perpetual poverty patterns.
Poverty doesn’t have to be permanent. But the way out is much more likely to come by living the formula the successful use, rather than following the pattern that has so consistently led to poverty. Success won’t necessarily come instantaneously, but it can come within a single additional generation.

[*] Craig H. Hart, Ph.D., “Combating the Myth that Parents Don’t Matter,” address delivered at the World Congress of Families II, Geneva, Switerzerland, available online at

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Studying the Constitution

Back in the 1770s-80s, the founders were an unusually well-educated group of men, considering they were farmers and shopkeepers in the world’s frontier. They had a list of readings in common, which led to their concepts of natural rights granted to men and women by God. And it is this understanding that led to the writing of our brilliant founding documents: The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

I’ve often felt driven to educate myself somewhat along the lines of the founders. A couple of years ago I went to an all-day seminar provided by the National Center for Constitutional Studies ( I’ve also used their curriculum to teach homeschool students from elementary through high school. Another good source is Hillsdale College. Last fall, in honor of Constitution Day in September, they provided a free six-week course of lectures by Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale, introducing the Constitution. It’s a good review, still available, and free of cost.
Right now Hillsdale College is offering even more. They have developed their core course on the Constitution for online study—also for free. Constitution 101 will be ten weeks of lectures, readings, discussion, quizzes, and all you’d expect from a college class. It is part of Hillsdale’s mission to educate, and they take seriously educating as far and wide as possible, particularly these constitutional essentials of our culture. (Their magazine Imprimus is another example of their spreading knowledge mission, also free.)  The course started Monday, but you can sign up and catch up at any time. The only thing you miss by starting late would be the active Q&A.
Here is the lineup of lecture titles, and the various lecturers:
  1. The American Mind
    Larry P. Arnn
    Monday, February 20
  2. The Declaration of Independence
    Thomas G. West
    Monday, February 27
  3. The Problem of Majority Tyranny
    David Bobb
    Monday, March 5
  4. Separation of Powers: Preventing Tyranny
    Kevin Portteus
    Monday, March 12
  5. Separation of Powers: Ensuring Good Government
    Will Morrisey
    Monday, March 19
  6. Religion, Morality, and Property
    David Bobb
    Monday, March 26
  7. Crisis of Constitutional Government
    Will Morrisey
    Monday, April 2
  8. Abraham Lincoln and the Constitution
    Kevin Portteus
    Monday, April 9
  9. The Progressive Rejection of the Founding
    Ronald J. Pestritto
    Monday, April 16
  10. The Recovery of the Constitution
    Larry P. Arnn
    Monday, April 23
I’ve already enjoyed the first lecture and started on the readings, the most pertinent segments of some essential founding readings. Here’s this week’s list:
  1. “Letter to Henry Lee”—Thomas Jefferson
  2. “On the Commonwealth”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
  3. “Nicomachean Ethics”—Aristotle
  4. “The Politics”—Aristotle
  5. “Discourses Concerning Government”—Algernon Sidney
  6. “Second Treatise of Government”—John Locke
  7. “Fragment on the Constitution and the Union”—Abraham Lincoln
  8. “The Inspiration of the Declaration”—Calvin Coolidge
All of the readings are made available online, but they are all taken from the book Hillsdale’s text The US Constitution: A Reader, which you can order:
Just to be clear, I have no connection to Hillsdale, other than someone who subscribes to things they offer. I just appreciate a good deal on some essential learning, so I want to share. I hope you’ll join me in this study of our beloved Constitution.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Delving into Data: Part II

On Friday we looked at some of the data about how states have historically voted since 1960. Today we’re going to dig a little deeper to see if this data can tell us anything about this year. For your review, I'm including the (almost too small to read) charts again.

First let’s take a look at Tier 1 Republican states: Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, Nebraska, Idaho, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Of these, all but Arizona have voted for the Republican presidential candidate every election except 1964. Arizona voted GOP that year, but Democrat in 1996 only. So what was going on in 1964? That was Barry Goldwater against LBJ. Goldwater only took six states. Arizona was his home state; the others were Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, and South Carolina. The first four of those states were also outliers in the 1968 election, voting for the third party segregationist candidate. In other words, it was not likely Goldwater’s conservatism that appealed, but his racism. The Tier 1 Republican states probably didn’t vote in favor of LBJ’s liberal policies so much as they voted against Goldwater’s unsavory policies; none of the Tier 1 states ever had slaves or particular race issues.
George Romney, Mitt’s father, ran (among others, including Nixon) against Goldwater in 1968. People today like to characterize that as the moderate candidate vs. the conservative. While there were a number of conservative positions put forward by Goldwater that have since become basic doctrine, back in the 1960s, the matchup was more likely to be seen as sane vs. insane. Think, for comparison, of Ron Paul’s anti-Israel foreign policy—with vitriol.
All of the Tier 1 states voted against Obama in 2008, so it’s likely we can count on that position again. Of Tier 2 Republican states, Virginia and Indiana are the outliers. They voted Democrat in 1964 (the same year the Tier 1 states voted Democrat) and again in 2008. The “historic” opportunity to vote for the first black president, especially with the alternative being a weak conservative, probably caught them; now that the results of that mistake are clear, they are not at all likely to go Democrat again this time.
There were 22 states that voted against Obama in 2008; it is practically guaranteed that all 22 will vote against him again. So the question is, really, which of the ones suckered in to that “historic” thing now know better?
Colorado has gone Democrat only in 1964 (the outlier Goldwater year), 1992 (Clinton’s first, but not his second race, when 3rd party Perot was a factor against the GOP), and 2008. Since the Obama error is considerably worse than the Clinton error, logic would say they will go against Obama in 2012. No guarantee, but that is a possible 9 electoral votes.
Then we’re down to Florida and North Carolina. Florida went Democrat in 1964 (Goldwater again), 1976 (against Reagan, but they are adjacent to Carter’s Georgia), 1996 (Clinton’s 2nd term, another 3rd party Perot interference), and 2008. Floridians voted for Bush narrowly both times. So they’re questionable. As my son Political Sphere points out, Florida has people who couldn’t read a ballot, and then tried to overturn an election by looking at “pregnant chads.” Having our future depend on them makes us feel vulnerable. But the state, with 29 electoral votes, is definitely worth fighting for. They have been voting regularly for GOP governors for quite a while, so that is a positive.
North Carolina went Democrat only in 1960, 1964, and 1976. Up until 2008, they went GOP seven straight times. Let’s hope it was just the “historic” problem, and they will self-correct, for another 15 electoral votes.
In the top 4 tiers, the only real question is Florida. If we assume the scenario that the GOP gets all of the top 4 tiers, as we showed in the last post, that’s 212 electoral votes.
In lower tiers, the GOP will also get Georgia, Missouri, Louisiana, Arkansas, and West Virginia—all of whom voted against Obama in 2008 when we didn’t know how bad he would be. That is another 45 electoral votes, putting the GOP candidate at 257. Another 13 electoral votes means a win.
Of the remaining states, let’s look at those who voted GOP recently before 2008:
·         Ohio                            GOP in 2000 and 2004             18 electoral votes
·         Nevada                        GOP in 2000 and 2004               6 electoral votes
·         New Hampshire            GOP in 2000                             4 electoral votes
·         Iowa                            GOP in 2004                              6 electoral votes
·         New Mexico                 GOP in 2004                              5 electoral votes

Ohio alone could do the job, or any other three. Plus there is the possibility that any historically blue state might notice the abysmal result of the Obama vote. Almost any loss could mean defeat for Obama.
This assessment is based mainly on history. There is no guarantee that demographics have stayed the same. For example, Texas voted Democrat four of five times from 1960-1976, but has voted GOP in every presidential election since. Some migration has happened with people leaving high unemployment places to places with more opportunity. The better opportunity places tend to be conservative, places that resist big government interference.
National polls show two conflicting things: low and sinking approval ratings for Obama (despite the mainstream media as his propagandists), and slight leads for Obama against specific GOP opponents. But the polls don’t say who was polled. A fair poll would be numbers that relate to registered GOP and Democrat voters, and should be likely voters. Polls tend to be canvass more Democrats than Republicans, and not necessarily those who vote. So polls tend to be skewed against Republicans. Also, the national polls do not show where the voters are. If there is a preponderance in urban areas and blue states, the poll is skewed against Republicans in a way that is particularly inaccurate in relation to the electoral college.
The point is that, ten months out from voting day without a chosen Republican candidate, there is quite a lot of reason for us to hope for change, so we can get our country back.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Delving into Data

My son Political Sphere looks at data in his spare time, for fun. Also, he is fascinated by political strategy. So he has put those together recently, looking at the past presidential elections since 1960, just to see what can be understood.  

There have been thirteen presidential elections in these 5 decades. No state has voted the same in all of them.[i] But there are states that go 1:12, 2:11, 3:10, 4:9, 5:8, and 6:7 in both directions.  Here are the charts followed by some observations:

Tier 1
In the extremes are those that voted the same all but one time. On the Republican side, Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, Nebraska, Idaho, Alaska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming all went Republican twelve out of thirteen times: Arizona in 1996 (Clinton) and the others all in 1964 (Johnson). In today’s delegates, that is 45 electoral delegates. 

There is only one state that went Democrat twelve of thirteen times: Minnesota (1972, Nixon). In addition, Washington, D.C., has gone Democrat ever since it gained voting rights (all twelve since 1964). That is a total of 13 electoral delegates. 

Tier 2
Five states went 11 times GOP and 2 times Democrat: Virginia, Indiana, South Carolina, Kansas, and Montana, for another 42 electoral delegates. 

Three states went 11 times Democrat and 2 times GOP: Rhode Island, Hawaii, and Massachusetts, for another 19 electoral delegates. 

Tier 3
Another three states went GOP 10 times and non-GOP 3 times (some third party votes are scattered in): Alabama, Colorado, and Mississippi, for another 24 electoral delegates. 

Two states went Democrat 10 times and GOP 3 times: Maryland and New York, for another 39 electoral delegates. 

Tier 4
Five states have gone GOP 9 times and non-GOP 4 times: Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky, which a combined additional 101 delegates. 

Pennsylvania is the only state to go Democrat 9 times and GOP 4 times, for 20 more delegates.

Let’s pause here to do a tally. If the Republicans were to win all states in these first four tiers (something not necessarily likely, but that has occurred 6 of the last 13 presidential elections), the electoral count would be 212 delegates. If the Democrats won all four tiers (something that has happened 8 out of the past 13 times), they would have 91 delegates. There are 538 total electoral votes. There are only 235 in the remaining two GOP tiers (137 delegates) and two Democrat tiers (98 delegates) combined.  

If the Democrats were to get all six of its tiers (the states voting Democrat more than half the time), they would have only 189 electoral delegates. The next tier (weak-leaning Republican states) would add 62 more for 251, still less than half, so not a winning number. These eight tiers have only gone all Democrat once: 1992 (Clinton, when Perot split votes for Bush).  

In short, it is easier for Republicans to win than for Democrats, because more states lean Republican. And within an even larger majority of states, Republican (or conservative) people dominate at local levels. Democrats dominate almost exclusively in the northeast coast and west coast (plus inexplicably odd Minnesota). 

We might learn a little more predictive information by looking at what happened in particular elections. We’ll save that for the next post.

[i] Washington, D.C., has voted Democrat in every presidential election since it was granted delegates in 1964, which is the past twelve elections.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Verify the Recall

If you’re among those of us who want to take action to protect our country, this is a call to action.

I’m assuming you’re aware that there is a recall election going on in Wisconsin, to recall Governor Scott Walker. He stood up to the labor unions, and they don’t like that. This is in addition to an attempt last summer to change the outcome of elections that left unions out of favor in the state senate. The outcome of that onslaught was a net loss of two for Republicans, but leaving them in the majority. So there is an additional attack on four state senators: Wanggaard, Galloway, Fitzgerald, and Moulton.
Are you aware of the Cloward-Piven strategy to overwhelm the system? That is happening in Wisconsin. If the unions who are pushing for recalls can dump literally millions of signatures onto the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, they can make it impossible for the GAB to verify the signatures—which opens the way for fraudulently forcing the recalls.
In step the volunteers from King Street Patriots, whose project True the Vote has attempted to prevent fraud in elections across the country. (I was trained by them as a poll watcher, which I have done several times now.) They have an additional project called Verify the Recall. Mark Antill and a small team of other volunteers in Houston, TX, have developed database capabilities to verify the signatures quickly and accurately.
The verification has already taken place for the four state senators. Verify the Recall does not work for any candidate, nor even contact them. The purpose is simply to allow for the possibility of verifying that the system is just. Nor can they expect the Wisconsin GAB to simply accept the information from an outside party. But those candidates who want to can use the Verify the Recall results to question specific records to challenge whether there are adequate signatures (when/if the results show there may be too few eligible signatures).
The recall verification is going on this week for Governor Walker’s signatures.
Here is where you come in. The actual entering of data requires many many volunteers. So far more than 16,000 unique volunteers from around the country have stepped up. If you want to join this volunteer force, go to What you do is sign up. They will shortly send you a login ID. Then you can go to the site and login to volunteer to enter data. You can do just a page or two, or as many as you have time for. (Mark Antill says, "One hundred minutes for one hundred records; that's all we ask.)
You will see a scanned page of signatures, and you will enter the data, as you discern it, into the form. At least two other people will enter that same record (each name is a record), so there can be comparisons to identify the most accurate information. Then the data is compared to voter rolls and other state data to verify that the person signing is an actual person, and actually lives in the jurisdiction, and that there are no duplicates.
Do not put this off. They are trying to get Governor Walker’s recall petitions entered by this weekend, so that the miraculous software can do its thing in time for the governor's deadline at the end of February.
I’m assuming that Verify the Recall will continue to be useful as unions and others use recall petitions elsewhere in the country, so stay tuned. You can sign up for updates by email or Facebook.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I wrote on the president’s mandate that Catholic entities pay for birth-control and abortifacients both last Friday and the week before that. But as I wrote on Friday, the president came out with his “compromise”:  instead of having the Catholic Church pay for these services that go against its conscience, he would simply have them pay for the insurance plan without those services, and then the insurance companies involved would go ahead and provide the services for free.

On Saturday, economist Greg Mankiew posted a very clear summary of the “compromise.” It’s brief, so I’m including the whole thing.
Semantics at the Highest Level
Consider these two policies:
A.     An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance that covers birth control.
B.     An employer is required to provide its employees health insurance. The health insurance company is required to cover birth control.
I can understand someone endorsing both A and B, and I can understand someone rejecting both A and B. But I cannot understand someone rejecting A and embracing B, because they are effectively the same policy. Ultimately, all insurance costs are passed on to the purchaser, so I cannot see how policy B is different in any way from policy A, other than using slightly different words to describe it.
Yet it seems that the White House yesterday switched from A to B, and that change is being viewed by some as a significant accommodation to those who objected to policy A. The whole thing leaves me scratching my head.
In other words, it is not a compromise; it is simply word play.
A couple of days earlier Mankiw had linked to a Wall Street Journal piece written by John H. Cochrane, “The Real Trouble withthe Birth-Control Mandate,” with some additional basic insurance information it is helpful to understand. Cochrane says,
Insurance is supposed to mean a contract, by which a company pays for large, unanticipated expenses in return for a premium: expenses like your house burning down, your car getting stolen or a big medical bill.
Insurance is a bad idea for small, regular and predictable expenses. There are good reasons that your car insurance company doesn’t add $100 per year to your premium and then cover oil changes, and that your health insurance doesn’t charge $50 more per year and cover toothpaste. You’d have to fill out mountains of paperwork, the oil-change and toothpaste markets would become much less competitive, and you’d end up spending more.
He goes on to point out that the government’s interference with individual decisions about purchasing birth-control and related things is bound to raise the cost of those things, making it even more difficult for poor people to choose to pay for them—except that the government will “make it free.” But since they aren’t actually free, government is in fact causing society as a whole to pay more.
There’s a larger point than the religious exemption. Cochrane ends his piece with this:
The critics fell for a trap. By focusing on an exemption for church-related institutions, critics effectively admit that it is right for the rest of us to be subjected to this sort of mandate. They accept the horribly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and they resign themselves to chipping away at its edges. No, we should throw it out, and fix the terrible distortions in the health-insurance and health-care markets.
Sure, churches should be exempt. We should all be exempt.
With Obamacare, we have a series of unprecedented and progressively onerous mandates:
·         Never before has the federal government required individuals to enter the marketplace and make a purchase simply because they breathe American air.
·         Never before has the federal government required individuals to enter the marketplace and make a purchase that violates their conscience, which they would never purchase of their own free will.
·         Never before has business (nor a person, since slavery was outlawed) been required to provide products/services for which it will receive no remuneration.
All, in my opinion, are considerably more tyrannical than the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence that led the founders to break free from Britain. All are clearly unconstitutional. If we cannot get the president impeached for these (and other) violations of our law, then we must, absolutely must, remove him from office through this year’s election.

Friday, February 10, 2012

First Amendment Freedom of Religion vs. Obamacare

The question is not whether people should be allowed to use contraceptives and other sterilization methods; in this debate there is no attempt to curtail what is currently legal. The question is whether paying for such products/services or not is a private decision or a public one. 

Is a person allowed to say, “I personally believe it is wrong to artificially limit fertility, and it goes against my conscience to pay for such things,” or can a person with those beliefs be forced to spend money for those products/services? Obama and his Health and Human Services enforcers have decided it is their decision. What is their rationale for taking that decision away from private citizens and groups? 

There seem to be two main points:

·         Churches employ people who are not all of their religion; they shouldn’t impose their religious views on their employees.
·         Churches should expect to do what the government mandates, since they are receiving government benefits. 

Joan Vennochi puts these together in one paragraph in a Boston Globe piece: 

But not all employees of Catholic institutions are Catholics. Why should their employers impose their religious beliefs on them and deny coverage for birth control and other medical care? As long as those Catholic institutions are getting taxpayer money, they should follow secular rules. That’s the Obama administration’s argument, and it makes sense.  

Maybe it makes sense to her, but not to me. If I hire someone to clean my house who happens to be a smoker, and I have a religious proscription against smoking, for example, am I required to accommodate smoking in my home? If that were true, I would never hire a smoker. I do not allow smoking in my home for many reasons that have nothing to do with government interests. I would very much resent having government interfere with that decision in any way. And if government insisted I allow smoking in my home by any employee, I simply would hire no one. (In fact, I do my own housekeeping, thank you. Smoke free. And cheap.) 

As for taking government money, that’s interesting. Obamacare is imposed on us, so if that is the “benefit” referred to, then forcing someone to take a “benefit” and then forcing them to do something even more repugnant because they had accepted the first “benefit” is pretty twisted. This is a no-win situation for anyone with a different opinion from the President. 

But I think the reference is to joint ventures between government and churches. These were efforts put forth by Pres. Bush, and probably before that. Have government support those entities already doing charity; it’s an effective and efficient use of government benevolence. [I know, benevolence is not actually a proper role of government; I am simply describing the situation.] So government reaches out, offers support for good the religious entity was already doing, and then claims the right to control the organizations beliefs? That looks like manipulative entrapment. 

I went to a very large church-owned university that does not take any government money. The reasoning is that it does not want to give government any leverage in controlling what is taught and how. Still, government has tried to argue that taking student tuition money that the student gets from a government grant or loan is taking government money. While that would be a stretch, it shows how much vigilance is required to prevent government usurpation of our private lives. 

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Dem., Connecticut) suggests not only that compromise on religious issues vs. government-invented “rights” to free contraception are a good thing, but that the president already did enough compromising: 

With this well-crafted balance, the religious liberty of our churches and other houses of worship is respected. They are exempted from the rule, as they should be. There is no mandate that individuals use contraception or that anyone dispense contraception, and there are no changes to existing conscience protections. At the same time, the nearly 800,000 employees and dependents of employees at Catholic hospitals can still benefit from access to these services if they desire them, a good compromise that maintains access while respecting religious liberties.  

Sen. Barbara Boxer (Dem., California) also supports the president’s supposed careful compromise: 

The truth is, the president's decision respects the diverse religious views of the American people, who deserve the right to follow their own conscience and choose whether to obtain contraceptives, regardless of where they work. And that is what this policy guarantees—with one carefully drawn exception. This decision respects the deeply-held views of religious institutions. If their mission is primarily religious and the majority of their employees and clients share that faith, religious institutions do not have to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees.  

Actually, the truth is it isn’t up to the president to decide how and whether American citizens are allowed to live their religions. That is a Constitutionally guaranteed God-given right, no matter what he says, or how much tyranny he imposes. She’s also wrong about how the government has gone about determining what is a primarily religious mission. She doesn’t understand that, while hospital care to her might seem secular, to the church that set up and supports the hospital, that is an act of goodness that is religious at its core. The same can be said for schools, where certainly many secular things are taught, but the purpose is to have those things taught in an environment that encourages the church’s beliefs.

I think she may also be wrong about the “majority” of employees phrase. I think it is likely that most (a majority, over 50%) of teachers at Notre Dame are Catholic. The argument elsewhere has been that if they hire any employees not of their faith, they must provide a form of coverage that allows that employee whatever the federal government prescribes. 

As I listen to news today, I hear the president has added a little extra twist. He claims that churches aren’t actually being forced to pay for something against their beliefs; they’re only required to pay for medical coverage as the federal government mandates, and it is actually the insurance companies that are providing the services. Our president doesn’t think that should affect anyone’s conscience. This is evidence of how very different he thinks from the average American—and certainly different from the average religious American. 

If you’re reading this, chances are we’re in agreement the president is wrong on this issue, and we are pulling for the Catholic Church and others to resist. 

I want to take just a minute to cover a tangent. Rick Santorum (and others) have tried to claim that Mitt Romney’s position is no different from Obama’s. That is patently untrue. Here is a brief explanation of the controversy by Ryan Larsen ( on Facebook, February 8):

Romney spoke with his veto pen—he vetoed the legislation which would require hospitals to provide “morning after” pills. But the legislature overrode the veto. 

The only role Romney had in the matter was enforcing the law, which he was bound to do by his oath of office. 

The confusion results because Romney tried to craft an exemption for Catholic hospitals but ultimately realized that the exemption was not legally sound. There was one clear obstacle to Romney’s preferred exemption: the legislature has authority to supersede any contradictory statues or provisions rather than to work in harmony with the older statue. Thus, if Romney were to challenge the intended effect of the law, he would have had to argue disingenuously in court that the older provision and the new provision could be reconciled when that was likely not true. It is perhaps not surprising that Romney felt bound by the new law and it was in this context that Romney told the Department of Public Health they had to enforce the intent of the law even though he disagreed with it.

Clearly Romney’s effort to provide exemption for the Catholic Church is in direct contrast to Obama’s insistence on imposing his will. He has actually faced the problems of working as an executive with a liberal legislature, and will have been working on ways of avoiding those problems in any future opportunities. Santorum may claim he would always stand strong, but he has not had the executive experience so we can see what he would have done. Concerning Santorum’s integrity, does he know this and lie about it? Or does he not know it and yet makes the accusation based on faulty information? Either way, that lessens my respect for him. 

This gives me one more reason to pause about Catholics, however. This controversy happened in 2005. Catholics have tended to be strongly Democrat, so it was their own political choices that directly led to the imposition of the law against their religious freedom at the state level. It was 2010 when Obamacare was pressed through. They knew what the Democrat view was, how it would play out—yet they supported Obama and Obamacare, and trusted that this time things would be different. May I suggest it is time for Catholics in general to seriously rethink their long-held political positions?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why Civilizations Die: Part III

This series on David P. Goldman’s book How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam Is Dying Too) starts with Part I on population decline, and Part II on the connection between secularization and population decline. Today we’ll cover what works for a lasting civilization.

Goldman proposes that religion is important in “culture,” because “culture” is about dealing with our own mortality.
Why have so many branches of the human family lost the will to live? They have lost the cultural resources that enabled them to cope with their own mortality. From awareness that we will die arises culture—the capacity to order our behavior consciously rather than by instinct. Culture is the stuff we weave out of the perception of immortality, the bridge between generations. Every echo of our earthly footsteps will die out unless those who follow us inherit more than our genes. To speak of a “search for meaning” is pointless unless that “meaning” endures beyond our lifetime. With sad frequency, ethnic groups will die rather than abandon their culture. And their culture is failing many peoples in the modern world (p. 20).
Religion, Goldman says, isn’t just an aspect of sociology; it is the primary factor; he uses the word theopolitics. But there is a difference between pagan religion and the covenant God of Jews and Christians. In pagan religions, faith in their god(s) is tentative, depending on success. As Goldman puts it,
Pagans worship their own image in the person of gods who are like them, only better. Pagan faith is everywhere and always fragile, according to Spengler’s [his online columnist name] Universal Law #15: When we worship ourselves, eventually we become the god that failed. The function of pagan gods is not to redeem us from death, but to bring us success. Pagan gods do not love men and women…. Absent success, pagan societies lose their faith; the religion of the ancient world is a carnival-parade of new gods introduced by winners to replace the failed gods of the losers, as defeated tribes were absorbed into their conquerors (p. 122).
He adds, in Spengler’s Universal Law #19: “Pagan faith, however powerful, turns into Stygian nihilism when disappointed.” In the modern world, pagan gods may not be the same as in ancient religions; they might be the tribe, the culture [Kultur was the word used in Nazi Germany], or self. All are fallible, and therefore will eventually fail.
But the Judeo-Christian God makes a covenant with man. “The American founding notion of ‘inalienable rights’ stems from the Hebrew concept of covenant: a grant of rights implies a Grantor, and an irreversible grant implies a God who limits his own sovereignty in covenant with mankind” (p. 80). This difference means that God isn’t available depending on specific seasonal outcomes, but is there throughout life and into eternities. And there is hope for peace and happiness beyond this life if we obey God’s laws in this life.
Goldman spends a fair amount of time explaining why he sees the Muslim God as more “pagan” than “covenant.” He says the idea that Allah would limit his powers for the sake of a human is repugnant to Muslims. They do not have a relationship with their creator; they rather simply try to appease and hope for good fortune. But their behavior doesn’t affect what happens; all is Allah’s will. I do not understand Islam enough to know whether this assessment is true. But the evidence of cultural failure when moving from traditional (agrarian) societies to modern (urban) societies is evident in the Muslim world as it is in Europe and Japan.
But America hasn’t failed. Its fertility rate holds steady at replacement. Israel is another exception. What makes the difference? Faith.
It is not that Americans in general are having children, but that Americans of faith are having children, and there are more Americans of faith than citizens of any other industrial country. According to a 2002 survey by the Pew Research Institute, 59 percent of Americans said that religion was important to them, against 11 percent in France, 21 percent in Germany, 27 percent in Italy, 33 percent in Great Britain, and 36 percent in Poland. In both Europe and America, people who practice a religion have far more children than those who do not. It’s just that there are far more Americans than Europeans practicing a faith (pp. 191-192).
Here’s some of the data comparing religion among childless vs. large families:
·         33% of childless families say they are not religious; only 12.5% of families with 4+ children are not religious.
·         41% of childless families say grace before meals; 62% of families with 4+ children say grace.
·         45% of childless families “strongly agree” that there is a “God who watches over me”; 80% of adults with four children “strongly agree.”
·         50% of families that never take part in religious activities have no children, but only a third of families with 3+ children do not. (p. 194).
There are differences among different religions in America, even among different Christian religions. If we separate them into “mainline” and “fundamentalist” Christians, we see some patterns. Fundamentalists who attend services weekly have a fertility rate of 2.7 (27% higher than the national average). But mainline Christians, such as Episcopalians and Presbyterians, average 1.3 children—the same as failing European societies.
American Jews show similar differences. “Nine-tenths of American Jews belong to the liberal denominations (Reform and Conservative) or to none at all. A generation ago, the Orthodox Jews seemed like a vanishing remnant of old country life. An observer looking at the configuration of American religion circa 1970 well might have forecast the end of faith in America, for the churches and synagogues that embodied faith at that moment in time were in decline. But the fervor of the evangelical Protestants, Pentecostals, and others [Mormons] has filled the vacuum left by the mainline denominations, and Jewish Orthodoxy is growing rapidly in part by attracting adherents from liberal denominations, but mostly through its own fecundity. Although traditionally observant Jews remain a small minority in terms of overall numbers, a third of synagogue-going Jews below the age of thirty attend Orthodox services (p. 196).
In other words, growing by attrition includes some conversion, but it is fueled by large families. Similar growth is happening in Israel. Among secular Jews, fertility has increased in a generation to 2.6, the highest in the industrial world. Ultra- Orthodox Jews have a fertility rate of 8.5, bringing the national fertility rate to 2.9. Meanwhile, “Arabs births in Israel remain steady at around 39,000, while Jewish births rose from 80,000 in 1994 to 120,000” in 2009. In another 60 years (two generations), Israel’s population will be larger than Poland. Poland’s median age will be 57 (as many older as younger), while Israel’s will be 32 (p. 201). And in the wake of this fertility by more orthodox segments of society, the shift of the culture as a whole is toward orthodoxy. The desire to live, and to have the culture live on, is strong. It bodes well for that little nation.
But, back to America. If Europe was made up of Christian nations originally, why have they failed to remain Christian, and then also failed to continue the will to have their individual cultures live on? And why, facing the same modern world, has America remained Christian at its core? Goldman says,
America is different because it was founded to be different. America remains a Christian nation because it overcame the centrifugal forces of ethnic rivalry through a radical and unprecedented device: the creation of a new country founded on a proposition—rather than commonality of language, race, or history. At the moment of Europe’s most catastrophic failure, people of faith chose to risk everything to found the country that became the United States of America.
The proposition that America was founded on is that our Creator has granted us unalienable rights, among them: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property, and our own choice of ways of seeking it). And the Bill of Rights spells out what was understood at the founding, that God granted us freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to protect ourselves, freedom from oppressive government. We do not delegate to government powers beyond what is necessary to secure our rights.
The principles are eternal. They are based on promises from an unchanging, unfailing Creator. Unlike civilizations that base their meaning on love of something ethnic or otherwise ephemeral, the proposition will not fail. Only people fail in their understanding, and in their desire to value—to love—the covenant with God.
Goldman points out that we cannot export what we have in America, because it requires Americans—people who love the covenant with God. What we can do, and have done, is “evangelize,” or tell the world about the freedom concepts. Then, as has always happened, people select themselves out of the world to join the American covenant by immigrating, or to develop their own covenant based on God-given rights, as Israel has done.
This leads to a fair amount of foreign policy discussion. Goldman is persuasive and logical, but I don’t understand enough yet to know whether I can fully agree with his “therefore, we must” conclusions. Still, there is enough here to keep a person thinking a long time. And especially there is a lot that is hopeful about the long-time survival of the America that we love.