Friday, August 30, 2013

A Small Reprieve

August 14th I wrote about a challenge in our (very large) county, trying to prevent a Common Core-type infiltration through daycares. The week after that post, I attended the Harris County Department of Education meeting, and spoke, among several others, who addressed the HCDE board on this issue.

There’s a good summary of the meeting, if you’re interested, at Big Jolly Politics. I am the one referred to in the article this way: “I missed the name of one of the citizens, I apologize for that.” I’m apparently easy to miss, with a name that’s hard to hear. Nevertheless, I felt good about my short speech, and got approval from those near me after I sat down.
Earlier in the day was a workshop in which proponents of the program, called Early to Rise, were able to present more details about their program, and answer direct questions from the trustees. But there was no community input at the workshop. Big Jolly also summarized the workshop.
There’s good news. This past Monday, August 26, was the deadline for deciding what would appear on the November ballot. County Judge Ed Emmett decided not to accept the proposition for the ballot. HCDE didn’t have to make the decision, at least at this time, after all. Whew! Thank you, Judge Emmett.
It was not an easy position for Judge Emmett. He expected to be sued either way. He didn’t get an answer from the Attorney General on the legitimacy of an additional tax to be filtered through a more-or-less government entity to private entities. County Judge Vince Ryan had been in favor of putting the measure on the ballot and dealing with lawsuits from objectors. Emmett didn’t like that answer and hired a private attorney, whose advice he followed. I believe keeping it off the ballot was a better decision than putting it on possibly illegally, leaving the public at the mercy of someone willing to fight through the legal system after tax money is already spent. The proponents can always (and certainly will) look at alternative ways to seek what they want.
But it was never right to take tax money intended for improving school districts and give it, without oversight, to a private entity, for the purpose of training daycare providers (who have access to training in community colleges and many other places), entering homes and directing parents, and doing something indefinite about healthcare for very young children. Particularly disturbing—and the point over which the proposition was turned down—was making this an additional tax through HCDE. To review, HCDE gets 2/3 cent per $100 property value, and by law can never assess more than 1 cent. This new tax, a full additional 1 cent assessment, over and above everything HCDE already gets, would be a 150% increase, with all of the increase going only to a private entity for this one project. One would think that a public school entity such as HCDE would need more for actual public school child education than for something that isn’t even under the purview of public schools.
I wanted to share a couple of things from the meeting, mainly related to Rep. Debbie Riddle. She gave an analogy about the proposal, so we could see it in a new light. First she reminded us of how the money would be spent, which was not on actually doing childcare improvement: $400,000 on grant writing, $500,000 on evaluation services, $800,000 on best practices research, $12.6 Million for professional development and outdoor resources (I don’t know what that means, but that’s about half the annual amount), $750,000 for PR, $250,000 for tech support.
Now here’s her comparison (from my notes, so not an exact quote): “Suppose you come to me and say, ‘If you pay me $100, I’ll go out and find someone to mow your yard. And I’ll even consider letting you mow your own lawn, and I’ll pay you $25 to do it.’ That’s what this deal looks like.”
If there was a need for early childhood intervention (assuming, which I don’t, that HCDE should have its public school fingers in that arena), then why would HCDE need some outside entity to do it, rather than do their duty and find the solution themselves? This Early to Rise program was brought to them, placed on their agenda, and then attempted to be placed on the ballot, all prior to HCDE researching whether early childhood intervention needed any additional attention, let alone this huge influx of additional tax.
The trustees responded to the citizen testimony (particularly mine) by attempting to make it clear things were not settled, which seemed puzzling, because why would we have been encouraging them to turn down the proposal if we’d thought it was too late for public input? The chairman pointed out that she only learned of a proposed contract the Saturday morning previous to the meeting. The contract, which specified that if the voters approved the ballot proposition, all the money would be turned over to HCSRC, for ten years or more, indeed was made public that Saturday. But there have been discussions of the issue at least since June, so that was disingenuous. Also on the agenda was a private meeting with the lawyer the trustees hired specifically to deal with finding a way to work with the HCSRC, the nonprofit intending to manage the Early to Rise program. [The contract with the legal team was in evidence on page 453 of the full public agenda, dated August 2, 2013, well ahead of the Saturday of the public announcement of the proposal from HCSRC. It begins that the law firm in the contract “will represent Harris County Department of Education…in connection with the negotiation of an Early Childhood Services Agreement between the Department and the Harris County School Readiness Corporation.”]
So it is my suspicion that if there hadn’t been so much outcry against the program, the HCDE trustees might have moved ahead as though the taxpayers opinion mattered not at all. And we are relieved that Judge Emmett took it out of their hands, just in case.

I wanted to share this photo of Rep. Riddle, from the hallway outside the meeting. She was teaching this 9-year-old boy how to give a firm handshake. She also spent time telling us stories, and giving encouragement. I think she does that everywhere she goes. Rep. Riddle is the one who put forth the bill to get rid of the two remaining redundant county boards of education. It didn’t get out of committee this legislative session, but we can try again in a year and a half.
In the meantime, the moral or the story is: constant vigilance.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Money and Ideology

A couple of weeks ago I was driving home from a conference and had the radio on the Houston public radio station. I know… but I’d had it on earlier for Prairie Home Companion and hadn’t thought to change it. Plus, there aren’t many better options on a Saturday evening. The show was called Living on Earth; I hadn’t heard of it before. My expectation, naturally, was that there would be a liberal perspective, and probably “green” thinking—pro-government intervention to limit use of fossil fuel energy technologies. No surprises there, but there was a segment that got me arguing back to the radio, even though I knew not to take it seriously.
Logo from here
There were a couple of things that were interesting in this segment, called “Secret Cash for Climate Denial.” One is that the interviewer, Steve Curwood, whom I would assume would have an agenda or he wouldn’t do this job, asked questions that helped us see the truth and kept his tone unbiased. The other is that the interviewee, Suzanne Goldenberg, was honest in ways liberals are only when they assume everyone listening agrees with them.
It was a bit like a Dilbert cartoon, where everyone actually says what they think. Her complaint was that there are nonprofit organizations that send money to organizations seeking to argue against “climate change” legislation—“climate denial” is the phrase used, as a comparison to holocaust denial.
Goldenberg admitted that what these organizations do is lawful. She also admitted that there is a corollary on the left—the Tides Foundation.
So, she knows it’s legal, and she approves of whatever the Tides Foundation does. But the reason it’s wrong for the conservative organizations is because she disagrees with them. Yes, she was that clear about it. A little background, and then I’ll quote her.
Her complaint is that organizations called Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund give exclusively to conservative causes. (They are apparently closely aligned and can be considered essentially a single entity; their mission statements, here and here, are nearly identical.)
According to the story, the amount has been $400 Million over the past decade, with a quarter of that, $100 Million, going, as she puts it, “to about 100 different organizations that have worked to undermine the science behind climate change, or have worked to block action on climate change.” Personally, I wouldn’t use the term “undermine the science,” but simply presenting the opposing scientific view, because, despite her belief, proof that humans are causing catastrophic climate change is anything but settled. So I would see this use of money as a positive. If I had oodles of cash to hand out to chosen nonprofit projects, I might look into these.
To clarify, looking at the decade as a whole looks bigger, so let’s simplify to annual numbers: total annual intake by these two or more groups: $40 Million; total going toward discussion over climate science: $10 Million. I know to most of us $10 Million is a lot of money. But it could probably support only about a dozen or so employees plus capital expenses such as office space, technology, and some travel.
For comparison, I went to the one liberal organization she mentioned, which gives almost exclusively to liberal causes, the Tides Foundation. A simple Google search took me to a summary from a couple of years ago. The Tides Foundation intake in 2009 was $115,887,921. There’s also an additional Tides group called the Tides Center, which took in $60,111,511 that year. Putting the two together, Tides takes in about $176 Million, about 4 ½ times Donor funds.
This source shows a hint of disapproval toward the liberal agenda, but the information seems to be accurate. They say the Tides Center specializes in helping new organizations, so that, under their umbrella, new organizations can put off getting their own tax-exempt status right away, and also receive help with running a business, applying for grants, and running PR campaigns. In addition, the Tides Center serves as a firewall protecting the Tides Foundation from lawsuits from people harmed by Foundation-funded projects.
The Tides Center’s board chairman is Wade Rathke, who is also a member of the Tides Foundation board, as well as a leader in SEIU and what was ACORN. A year or so ago, Glenn Beck went into detail about these organizations and the incestuous connections with myriad socialist organizations, and close ties to George Soros. I’ll let his research suffice. But Tides undeniably promotes a surprisingly large number of leftist agenda projects. From 1996-2010, the Center (in addition to whatever the even larger Foundation did) supported 677 separate projects (200 just in 2010), with a total of $522.4 Million—for an average of $34.8 Million per year (counting 1996 and 2010 inclusively, making 15 years). Am I making it clear that just the Tides organizations dwarf in size the Donor funds?
A particular favorite Tides project type is radical environmentalism, but I don’t have a specific amount going for that, so we can’t do a direct comparison. Other favorite causes are anti-war, anti-free trade, anti-firearms ownership, anti-death penalty, pro-government-funded abortion on demand, and LBGT promotion. It would be difficult to come up with a project I did not strongly oppose, based on what I know to be true, and what I believe is right. I don't believe they promote anything that leads to political freedom, economic prosperity, and thriving civilization (maybe the occasional classical music program, perhaps).
So that puts me in an opposite but parallel position to Suzanne Goldenberg. Here is the exchange where she discloses her actual complaint:
CURWOOD: Conservatives aren’t the only ones that use anonymous donor mechanisms; liberals do as well. What's, what's the problem here?
GOLDENBERG: To me that the main difference is the causes they’re supporting. When you're talking about science—when you're talking about the facts of climate science—the two sides aren't equivalent. And I don't think that it's legitimate to say putting out information about science is one thing and putting out information that is factually wrong is just as valid. Because they clearly aren’t. I think as a society we’d be concerned if organizations were taking secret money to go out and say, hey, smoke as many cigarettes as you like, it won't hurt you; hey, be afraid when you use a public washroom, you can get HIV aids from toilet seats. I think it's a very different thing when you're talking about putting out information that is factually incorrect, and you're doing that in a secretive fashion.
I am amused when she says she disagrees that “putting out information about science is one thing and putting out information that is factually wrong is just as valid,” because I agree with her. I do think it’s wrong to take in secretive money with the specific purpose of putting out information that is factually incorrect. It’s just that she believes things to be facts that are not, and I am skeptical of what she calls “consensus,” which is anathema to scientific discovery.
If I were like Suzanne Goldenberg, I would say that we should keep the laws for conservative organizations, because I agree with them, but I think we should refer to the liberal ones as nefarious secret cash being laundered into harmful causes, and should therefore be outlawed. That’s what I would say if I didn’t believe in free speech and I trusted the government to scrutinize the beliefs of any organization so it could ban what it disagreed with.
But, then, free speech is one of those “outrĂ©” concepts of us “extremists” who believe in that old Constitution. Not something the liberals take seriously. There are a lot of things liberals claim are true, and they believe they can make it true by saying it loudly, over and over and over, and attacking any source of opposing views. What we need is better awareness, better questioning. And more truth telling is also good. What we definitely don’t need is a government stepping in to police our beliefs and ban dissent.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Regulatory Tyranny

There’s a book on my to-read list called Individual Rights and Government Wrongs that puts forth the idea that all government regulation should be done away. I’m not new to this concept; son Political Sphere has been honing this argument on me for a while, so I don’t have the automatic response that the very idea is crazy. I’m willing to hear this debate.
The book’s author, Brian Phillips, is local and spoke at our last Tea Party meeting. He points out that, regardless of regulations, it is never in the interest of businesses to sell inferior or dangerous products. And there are plenty of private information sources where we can learn about the safety and quality of products. Think about it; when we want to buy a major appliance, we probably look at Consumer Reports. When we want to buy a used car, we might also use Kelly Blue Book. When we want to hire a contractor, we’ll probably consult the Better Business Bureau or Angie’s List. If reliable information is the commodity consumers demand, private enterprise can provide that commodity. Government simply is not the most reliable source of consumer information.
 Phillips said that most people bring up the Food and Drug Administration and say surely we need that. Again, if we used information sources and made informed decisions, we might be better off than waiting for government imprimatur. The FDA, as a regulatory agency, produces no food, develops no new medicines; it only prevents or allows actions of free citizens.
Phillips included a real example about the FDA, the Abigail Burroughs story. Abigail had a rare form of cancer as a young woman. Her doctor knew of a drug that could help, but it was not yet approved by the FDA. She sought permission from the FDA to use experimentally. They refused. She died eight months later, at the age of 21, in 2001. In 2004 the FDA approved the drug that might have saved her life, too late for her. If Abigail had been allowed to depend on her own doctor that she trusted, and the research she had done before making an informed decision to risk using the experimental drug, she might not have lost her life in her youth. The FDA was not protecting her; it was preventing her from acting on her own behalf.
Phillips said, “According to the FDA, Abigail did not have the right to act, except by permission. That’s the principle underlying all government regulation.”  I think that is the key point. When government acts as the decision maker and permission giver, government has usurped our freedom to act according to our own minds.
He says some people argue that government can regulate, because the majority has voted them that power, so it’s the will of the people. But the US is not a democracy. In a democracy, the majority can do anything it pleases. He gives the example of democratic Athens, where the majority voted to put Socrates to death for his ideas. The US is a representative republic; the Constitution spells out safeguards of our rights, purposely limiting government. It protects us from the tyranny of the majority.
Another way our current regulatory bureaucracy is anti-Constitutional is that, as I mentioned in my last post, law must be knowable by those who are subject to it. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse, so if an entrepreneur/business owner is required to hire someone (or possibly an entire department) whose entire job is to study compliance to bureaucratic regulation, because knowing the law without the intense study (and possibly even with it) is impossible, then do we actually have free enterprise? We have business by permission—and are always at risk of missing a detail for which we can be fined or prosecuted. “Whatever the ruler says” is tyranny.
So, if we agree we’re in a bad place in this regulatory nightmare, what do we do? I don’t know the eventual answer. I am at the information sharing point. Phillips said something I found hopeful: “The real revolution occurred in the fifteen years before a shot was fired—in the hearts and minds of the people.” And I remember my US history enough to know that’s true. People like Samuel Adams were speaking out, loudly, the decade before the Revolutionary War, spreading the message of freedom, helping people understand the principles at stake. I remember one amusing story about Samuel Adams’s very large dog, a Newfoundland I think; the dog had a thing against the bright red coats worn by the British military being quartered in the city to rule over the people. The dog and was known to take the occasional piece off a red tailcoat to carry in his teeth. Samuel Adams was the kind to give the dog a congratulatory pat on the head while insincerely apologizing or apparently failing to notice. Adams was a bit ahead of his time, outspoken—and right. We need some Sam Adamses in our time. Phillips said, “Those of us who want to return America to its purpose need to be sure of the value of our cause.”
Phillips rightly pointed out, “Our founding fathers also lived in gloomy times.” They went from a ragtag army to take on the world’s greatest military power—and they won.” They had to, because they were fighting for our God-given rights. He reminded us that they lost lives, and fortunes, but never lost their sacred honor.
It might seem easier to just give in and try to get along, but we may have already done that too long. We may need to stand up and speak up, more and more. We already have a brilliant Constitution; we just need to abide by it. Changing minds and hearts could be the most peaceful path to return to freedom.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Doing Business

I’m back. Thanks to my son Political Sphere for contributing with a three-part discussion (Part I, Part II, Part III) on the connection between the law and morality, proving you can’t have one without the other.
During our recent travel, when Mr. Spherical Model and I arrived at our destination, a close relative picked us up at the airport to drive us to Mr. Spherical Model’s mother’s home. We had an interesting conversation in the car (that, in hindsight, I wish I’d recorded so I’d have better details for you). Our driver—I’ll call him Bill—is an entrepreneur, working these past several years on a product related to banking and bank cards.  He started this conversation with, “I’ll never do business in America again.” He’s pursuing alternatives: India, France, Great Britain, Japan, Korea….
He started in America. But this administration’s roadblocks are daunting. They just spent two years working with various US banks, with the banks going through the process of figuring out how to use this product while complying with myriad, endless regulations. Some of these come from the Dodd-Frank legislation, which has expanded in size day-by-day with additional rules—about 15 million words worth. (I found an interesting infographic here.) So, it took banks and their legal and compliance staffs two years to study the product. And as they were nearing a positive decision, suddenly the rules changed yet again. And rather than just trust that all would be well, the banks said they’d have to start the process over based on the new rules. In the meantime, overseas banks are very interested and a lot less limited by spools and spools of government red tape.
This reminds me of something I learned in a college government class concerning the rule of law. One of the basic requirements of law is that it is knowable to those who are subject to it. What we have now is tyranny by bureaucracy, with almost no way to comply completely to arbitrary, everchanging hidden details.
Bill had another example of government interference doing the opposite of helping. Someone he knows in the finance world has a business in which he provides an alternative to high-interest payday loans, using reloadable no-carried-balance credit-type cards. He screens those who use it and makes a specific contract with them. The customers temporarily draw a certain amount of unsecured credit on the card, with the promise to pay back that amount by a set short-term date. If the amount is paid according to the contract, there is no interest charge. If the amount hits the deadline, there is a prompt reminder sent to the customer, who is given till the end of the next business day to get the money paid without any penalty or interest charged. If the payment isn’t made, the relatively high interest rate of 18% kicks in, which is not higher than many payday loans, and only applies if the debt isn’t paid as contracted. And unlike payday loans, there’s no 20% (or whatever) transaction fee. So, for someone who needs short-term credit until known income arrives, this is a much better deal. If the customer defaults, he can no longer reload the card, and the business could write off the loss, so it was minimal risk and a much appreciated service that brought return business and connections for other services the business offered.
But the government didn’t like the idea that a “credit card” could charge 18% interest. So they made a rule that shut down the product altogether. So now, if someone has need of short-term credit, they are subject to the high transaction fee as well as the just-as-high-or-higher interest rate of a payday loan (with the risk of doubling the interest rate if you’re late). So, thanks again for government interference that does exactly the opposite of protecting the consumer.
Is government regulation ever helpful? It’s a question worth considering. The idea that government cares enough to protect us from ourselves is downright frightening, considering their pattern of unintended consequences. I have more to say on government regulation, but I think I’ll save it for a whole separate post.
So, back to the conversation with Bill. He went on about the Federal Reserve. Bill was surprised to learn that I actually knew the Federal Reserve Bank was neither a federal organization nor a bank. Bill said 99% of Americans are clueless. They look at the name and assume it's some sort of federal agency, and maybe a supreme top-of-the-hierarchy bank that holds the country's money. Actually it's a consortium of individuals who set themselves up to control the nation’s money supply, and works in conjunction with similar consortia worldwide. Sort of a sophisticated collaboration of mob bosses. 
Have I mentioned that 1913 was a very bad year? Happy Centennial of the worst year in America’s history! Federal income tax started that year. The Constitution was amended to allow for direct election of senators, eliminating representation for state government interests. President Woodrow Wilson was in the process of implementing “progressive” ideology that would undermine constitutional principles. And the Federal Reserve started that year as well. The story is told in a book called The Creature from Jekyll Island, by G. Edward Griffin. It sounds like an old horror B-movie, but it's actually a different kind of nightmare-inducer. Jekyll Island, along the coast of Georgia, is where the founders of the Federal Reserve met and set in motion their plans.
I’ve been aware of the book for a while, and it’s been on my to-read list. But Bill had a copy he let us borrow during the visit. The book is hefty, but it’s set up so you can do a digest version. Every chapter has a chapter heading of what’s coming, and ends with a one-page summary. If you’ve only got a short time, you can get the gist of what happened by reading headings and summaries, which you can probably do in about an hour.
I’m afraid I have to warn that this book will make your heart heavy. Things are not as our Constitution's founders put in place for our eternal benefit. But if you value truth and knowledge, you probably ought to buck up and digest what you can of this information.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Legislating Morality Part III

The Flaw in the "Right to Privacy"

In Part I, I exposed the fatal contradiction in Windsor. In Part II, I followed the “right of privacy” from its creation through its expansions to Lawrence. Today, I will conclude by exposing the logical end of this line of reasoning.

Of course, if the “liberty protected by the constitution” allows homosexual persons to choose to engage in sexual conduct that the state has prohibited, then where can that possibly end? Would that not mean that prostitutes and johns are protected in their rights to enter a relationship with each other where “sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct” and an exchange of money? It may be argued that this relationship is prevented by the phrase “within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals,” but why is prostitution not “within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals?” Does this mean that homosexual conduct would not protected if states had commonly prohibited not just the actions, but the relationship of homosexual persons, just as states commonly do for prostitution?

I watched the August 10, 2013 episode of The Wonderful World of Stu on The Blaze TV. During the episode an interesting analogy was made during a discussion with the guest, who was outspoken in favor of legalizing prostitution. Stu Berguire pointed out that, according to the Supreme Court, prostitution is the only sexual conduct that is somehow not protected by the Constitution. Of course sex inside marriage is constitutional; after all, the purpose of state recognition of marriage is to promote the ideal situation for raising children. As we discussed in part II, the court expanded to say the constitution protected unmarried sexual relations, without providing a method to distinguish between a long-ongoing relationship or a one-night-stand, recognizing no criteria but the sexual component of the relationship. Then the court ruled that the first amendment allows for sex without any but a monetary relationship, as long as it is recorded and distributed as porn. Thus, all types of consensual sexual conduct are protected except prostitution.

If homosexual conduct is involved in a relation in which men are free to engage without being criminally punished, then how is prostitution not also protected? Indeed, if homosexual conduct is protected by the constitution, how, really, can legislatures be allowed to prohibit any conduct?  Kennedy opines, in Lawrence, “The issue is whether the majority may use the power of the State to enforce these views on the whole society through the operation of the criminal law. Our obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate our own moral code.”

As I discussed in part I, it is undisputable that the majority may indeed use the power of the state to enforce ethical and moral principles through criminal law. What is any law except the moral requirements of the majority? If society is prohibited from enforcing ethical and moral convictions on those subject to society, then how can society prohibit, for example, an untrained, unlicensed individual from providing legal advice and acting as counsel for another? How can society require that people pass a driver’s test before receiving a license to drive? How can society prohibit the use and distribution of “controlled substances”?

The way law works, I may not agree with a decision to prohibit the distribution or sale of contraceptive devices, but that doesn’t mean I have a “right,” protected by the constitution, to contraceptives. Instead my options are either to lobby the legislature to change the law, or move from the state that is prohibiting my use of contraceptives, if I still desire to use them. To say that all people have a “right” to contraceptives can only mean that all people have a “right” to whatever they want, including wanting to engage in prostitution, and polygamy, and homosexuality, and bestiality, and pedophilia, and incest, etc. etc. etc.

And that is why the entire line of reasoning behind the Windsor and Lawrence decisions is erroneous.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Legislating Morality Part II

The Brief History of the "Right to Privacy"

Part I discussed the fatal contradiction within the Windsor decision, allowing the federal government to define marriage different than state definitions in other instances, but not for DOMA. Today, I wanted to discuss the line of cases leading to Windsor to provide a backdrop for part III, where I will explain how the reasoning behind this line of cases is problematic. In Windsor, the majority opinion states that section 3 of DOMA served no other purpose than to “demean the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, see Lawrence, 539 U.S. 558.” As Scalia correctly points out in dissent in both Windsor and Lawrence, the constitution nowhere provides protection for homosexual conduct. In reality, the constitution protects no sexual conduct at all.
In Lawrence, Justice Kennedy explained the path that led to the decision that homosexual conduct is protected by the Constitution, despite clear precedent in decisions such as Bowers v. Hardwick that sodomy is not protected conduct. As Kennedy observes, the line of erroneous reasoning began with Griswold v. Connecticut.
In Griswold, the court chose to invalidate a state law prohibiting the use of contraceptive drugs and devices. The court defined a new “right to privacy” as the interest protected in their decision, specifically emphasizing the marital relation and the protected space of the marital bedroom. It should be noted that this new “right to privacy” is in no way connected with the long accepted “right to privacy” granted by the fourth amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures.  Instead, the new “right to privacy” is based off “substantive due process rights,” or rights by the fact that the protected thing is deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.
But the court soon expanded this newfound “right” to include certain decisions regarding sexual conduct beyond the marital relationship. In Eisenstadt v. Baird, the court determined a law prohibiting the distribution of contraceptives to unmarried persons was unconstitutional, because it denied unmarried people “equal protection” of sexual conduct. The Eisenstadt court exclaimed, “If the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”
Further expanding on this new “right to privacy,” the court then decided the infamous Roe v. Wade. In Roe, the court struck down a Texas law prohibiting abortions, recognizing a woman has a right “to make certain fundamental decisions affecting her destiny.” Apparently, such fundamental decisions extend beyond choosing to engage in conduct which may result in a child and/or choosing to use contraceptive measures to prevent fertilization. Roe instead provided women the option to choose not to live with the consequences of their actions. (A right by the way which somehow men are not equally entitled to, but that is a discussion for another day).
Following Roe, the court again expanded the new “right to privacy” to include decisions made by persons legally unable to make decisions. In Carey v. Population Services Int’l, a plurality decision struck down a New York law prohibiting the sale or distribution of contraceptive devices to persons under 16 years of age. Subsequently, persons who could not even purchase spray paint, for fear the person might misuse it, are protected from “governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting [that] person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”
This line of reasoning led Kennedy to determine that the “right of privacy” to engage in sexual conduct extended beyond the marital relationship to include even homosexual conduct, which had been prohibited by state laws for “hundreds” of years, though rarely prosecuted due to a lack of evidence.  Kennedy summed up the sentiments to say that
Adults may choose to enter upon [a relationship that, whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals] in the confines of their homes and their own private lives and still retain their dignity as free persons. When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring. The liberty protected by the Constitution allows homosexual persons the right to make this choice.
So far, we’ve seen that there is a fatal flaw in the Windsor ruling. And we’ve followed some of the linkage from case to case as the Court somehow discovered additional “rights” to sexual behavior protection in the Constitution. But we have not yet reached the end of connecting the dots. I am again at my word limit, so I will continue this for one more day to show the logical conclusion to this line of reasoning.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Legislating Morality Part I

This is Political Sphere. Mrs.Spherical Model is out of town and has asked that I guest post for her. I have been working on this series in my spare time, as was mentioned in a recent post. I have split up the series into three parts. Today exposes a fatal flaw in United States v. Windsor. Part II will discuss the history of decisions which led to Windsor. And Part III will discuss flaws with Windsor's precursor, Lawrence v. Texas.

United States v. Windsor and the Congressional Power to Define Terms

“In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretations of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.” 1 U.S.C. § 7.

The case of United States v. Windsor was an interesting attack on the right of Congress to define terms and to legislate morality. I have often heard the argument that a person should not legislate morals on others. But “morality” is simply a doctrine or system of moral conduct, and “moral” is defined as of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior. So, if a system of laws punishes or encourages different types of behavior, then that system of laws is legislated morality, whether it is legislating thou shalt not murder or requiring that all fast food restaurants post calorie counts on their menus. Because the United States is a representative democracy, that set of legislated morality, then, is meant to represent society’s moral ideals as codified by our elected representatives. Therefore, it is beyond argument that a society must legislate morality, or it falls into anarchy.

This brings us to the erroneous logic in Windsor. According to the opinion in Windsor, the history leading to the passage of DOMA was that, while no state in the union accepted such a definition at the time DOMA was passed, Hawaii was considering allowing people of the same gender to be married under state law. To protect states that did not accept this definition as morally acceptable, the Republican Congress passed DOMA which was then signed by Democratic President Clinton. DOMA allowed for states to determine the definition of marriage within their borders, and allowing the state to limit acceptance of marriages performed in other jurisdictions to those between one male and one female, the commonly accepted definition for “hundreds,” if not thousands, of years. Further, because it was the universally recognized definition, instead of addressing the definition in every act ever passed by the United States Congress separately, DOMA included a blanket definition limiting the definition of “married couple” to that of the traditionally, universally accepted definition, and defining spouse as a member of a married couple of the opposite sex.

The majority in Windsor recognizes the United States Congress has the power to define terms as used in statutes, citing that the court had accepted this in regards to marriage just this term in Hillman v. Maretta. Indeed, it is well-established that a statutory definition supersedes the common meaning of the term when applied to the law. For example, if Congress passed a statute defining “fish” as a young goat, then, for the purposes of the law, any time the term “fish” came up it would in fact be referring to a young goat and not apply to a creature with gills that swims in the water, as the dictionary defines the term. How then did the court determine that it was unconstitutional for the Congress to do something that settled law allows Congress to do?

The answer to that question comes from the majority’s reliance on previous erroneous opinions, specifically Lawrence v. Texas, as well as an incorrect statement that while “Marriage laws vary in some respects from State to State... these rules are in every event consistent within each State.” I say this is an incorrect statement, because the statement directly contradicts what the majority opinion previously noted. In addition to the citation of Hillman v. Maretta, the court observes that other statutes (8 U.S.C. § 1186a(b)(1) and 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(d)(2)) define marriages and spouses regardless of the State’s view on the marriage for the purpose of federal laws.

While this contradiction undercuts any validity of the majority opinion, more dangerous reasoning comes from the statement “The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, see Lawrence, 539 U.S. 558.” Of course Lawrence v. Texas is the landmark case which ruled that anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional, overturning Bowers v. Hardwick. Because this blog is already way over a decent word count for a blog, I will leave the discussion of Lawrence for later.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Common Core for Babies

When I write about local issues, it is with the hope that it will help not only local friends, but people wherever they’re reading. So today’s post is about a proposition that is likely to be on the Harris County ballot this off-year November election. But it is also about how the enemy is going about separating parents from the teaching of their children.
This is Texas, where Governor Perry refused federal money for implementing Common Core, the curriculum (no—not a “curriculum,” but simply basic standards, they claim—that just happen to dictate what will be taught in each classroom, on each specific day, in a specified manner; why would you call that curriculum?) that happened to promote a worldview that is in conflict with capitalism, US Constitutional freedom, God-given natural rights, freedom of religion, and probably anything else in conflict with the worldview of most parents.
This is Texas, where the state legislature, led by my State Senator Dan Patrick and others, succeeded in getting rid of CSCOPE, which was a Texas-created (supposedly) version of Common Core, that again wasn’t really “curriculum,” because it was all online, but it also promoted the Common Core worldview indoctrination.
The enemy, however, is relentless.  Now we’re looking at what you could probably call Common Core for Babies. A renamed ACORN group, Collaborative for Children (with ties to George Soros and a long line of Obama minions), has created a corporation in Harris County for the purpose of placing Common Core materials in daycare centers. This organization is Harris County School Readiness Corporation, with a program called Choice Partners. [My notes were insufficient on the status and connection of all the entities. I reserve the right to edit if I learn more later.]
The way they’re going about it is to get tax money, funneled through the Harris County Department of Education, and then offer it to daycares, aiming first at low-income areas that are most likely to be vulnerable to offers of free stuff. The exchange would go something like this:
Listen, we’ll pay your employees for you. You’ll no longer need to worry about meeting payroll, so you’ll be able to concentrate on taking care of children, which is your real passion. We’ll also help pay for equipment and supplies. Did we mention, we’ll even go into the homes of the children and offer guidance to those families? No, this won’t cost you anything. Really. All we ask is that you use our program, teach the things we provide in the way we require. Think about it. It’s for the Children.
It’s always for the children. Right.
I first learned about this issue in June. Colleen Vera wrote about it in her blog, Texas Trash Talk.  Her piece is full of information and connections. But at that time the “to do” part was simply to call legislators during the special session to see if they could find a way to act on it. So I saved the information but didn’t pass it along.
Two months later the threat grows. Here’s the update. Harris County Department of Education (HCDE) has up to now discussed the many known flaws of the program but nevertheless voted 6-1 in favor—so far only to gather more information and decide later.
Meanwhile Collaborative for Children (the ACORN remake) has been gathering signatures to request placing a proposition on the ballot to fund the program. The wording will be called something like a “penny tax.” The phrase “equalization tax” might also appear, because that is what the funding of HCDE is called. Currently this equalization tax is a 2/3 penny tax per $100 of property value, which translates to about $14 million a year. [HCDE educates no one; the independent school districts do that. There are only two counties in the state still with school boards, and money that goes to them is money that could otherwise go directly to the school districts. Dallas County at least uses their county department of education money for transportation, which seems reasonable. But Harris County uses it for various interfering, moneymaking programs. It should not exist. Rep. Debbie Riddle put forth a bill to eliminate the two CDEs during the last legislative session, but it didn’t get out of committee. We’ll have to deal with the corruption of HCDE another day.] An additional penny more than doubles the current amount. Some estimates project that this “insignificant” additional penny tax will take something like $45 million out of the economy [Houston Chronicle says $25 million, so I may have heard wrong while taking notes], pretty much for the sole purpose of indoctrinating our very young children in ways we have boldly rejected—twice.
Kay Smith, HCDE trustee
at Cypress Tea Party meeting
Kay Smith, the lone HCDE vote against, spoke at our local Tea Party meeting this past Saturday, which is how this issue got my attention again. (She also provided info to Colleen Vera for her article in June.) She needs help if there’s any hope of stopping this Common Core infiltration. The next HCDE vote will take place next Tuesday, August 20, 1:00 PM (address is 6300 Irvington Blvd., Houston, TX, 77022—it’s in the Reagan Building, where HCDE is housed, with the meeting taking place in their board room on the fourth floor, in case you are local and available to attend).
August 20th, the day of the vote to place the proposition on the county ballot, is also the deadline for collecting signatures for the petition. True the Vote has offered help in verifying signatures, as they did for Wisconsin’s recall back in 2012. But it’s not possible to verify on the very day the signatures are turned in, before the vote in the 1:00 meeting. I don’t know whether attending the meeting to speak against the proposition will help, but it can’t hurt.
County Judge Ed Emmett was apprised of the problem (all counties in Texas are led by an elected judge, so Judge Emmett is actually an elected official over a constituency that is maybe only smaller than New York City and Los Angeles). Just one of the legal questions is about putting a proposition on the ballot to direct school money to a private entity. He went to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to rule on whether the proposition can be placed on the ballot. AG Abbott would not rule; he said it would need to be ruled on by the county attorney. I think he’s legally correct on that. Unfortunately, the Harris County Attorney is Vince Ryan, a Democrat; he has already said he would allow placement on the ballot with a rather flippant, “Let them sue us later.”
I asked Kay Smith whether anyone was considering such a lawsuit, as a backup, in case we can’t persuade the HCDE board to vote against. She said it would be a very expensive ordeal. The opposition has big money behind it, leading back even to George Soros money. So it would be nice if there were some willing patriot out there willing to take it on, but she doesn’t know of anyone.
When I talked this over with my son Political Sphere, who is beginning to think like a lawyer, he said the lawsuit would be expensive to take all the way to the end. But what you really need is just a suit to be filed, so that you can ask for an injunction to prevent the proposition from appearing on the ballot until the questions of legality are answered. Even if it were to delay only a few months, that would avoid this year’s low-voter-turnout off-year election, and would give more time to get the word out. Getting the word out on CSCOPE brought its removal pretty quickly. And since lawsuits tend to go on for at least a year, maybe two, we might even avoid another election cycle. And maybe with the serious legal questions being brought to light, HCDE would then vote to change their minds and remove it from the ballot.
Still, as Kay Smith said, it would take a willing patriot out there, with at least some money resources, to take it on.
Why should we be so concerned about an issue that only affects some low-income daycares? Because that is not the end; that is only the foot in the door. The plan is to expand the daycare program statewide. And of course that’s not all. If they’ve been consistently teaching children up to age 4, why not add in pre-K kids? And if you include pre-K kids, why not kindergarteners? And after that, since kids are now used to this “standard” up to age 6 or so, why not extend that through elementary schools? And once you’ve had kids accustomed to the same thing for all their school lives, why not expand to middle schools and then high schools?
Oh, and by the way, since “standardization” is “for the children,” it wouldn’t be “fair” for any children to be left out. So they would push to have all Texas students meet the “standards,” even though that might mean forcing homeschools and private schools to use it. And if compliance is too difficult, then maybe we’d just need to eliminate homeschools, and maybe private schools too. For the children!
Does this seem farfetched? Remember that this administration’s DOJ went out of its way to overturn asylum for the Romeike family, from Germany, for no better reason than they wanted it on record that they supported Germany’s policy of preventing homeschooling and standardizing all the education in the country—because this administration believes parents do not have a natural right to make decisions about the education and upbringing of their children.
They want control. And, as Lenin said, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” Of course they want control over the ideas being taught to children, to perpetuate their control over additional generations. Tyrannists always want that.
What can we do?
·         Attend Tuesday’s HCDE meeting and make your opinion known.
·         If it gets on the ballot (a 99% probability, according to Kay Smith), then get the word out to everyone you know, so they know this tiny off-year election is extremely important.
·         If you have connections to resources, file a lawsuit regarding the illegalities of placing this particular proposition on the ballot.
·         If it ends up on the ballot, vote against it, and take your friends to vote with you.
·         If you’re in another place, expect this to be coming to you, and do all you can to fight it. The names change from place to place, so be aware and vigilant. Even if your locale has rejected Common Core in any form, this daycare version is a new backdoor approach to watch for.

Monday, August 12, 2013

More Conservative Thinking

Today is the second post linking to some favorite articles available at The Imaginative Conservative, an online place with some deeply philosophical discussions about conservatism. Friday’s post represented some of the writings of Russell Kirk, who influenced the creators of this site. Today I’m highlighting a few pieces I’ve had fun reading lately. (Yes, I already know that I define “fun” and “light summer reading” in my own unusual way.) I hope you will enjoy them too. 

What Is This Think Called Justice? by Bruce Frohnen.    Much of this piece skewers John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, written 40 years ago or more, including his “life is like cake” analogy. (I was not aware of this before reading the article, so no prerequisites required.)  I highlighted a number of quotable parts of this, so that it started looking more highlighted than not. In essence, law is the morality of the people codified; if you can’t legislate even basic morality, you can’t have law. Here are just a couple of favorite paragraphs:
Philosophy—the love of wisdom—for well over a century has meant the “rational” study of basic questions about how we know things.  Not that those questions are unimportant, but they have been reduced to the “analytic” study of the definitions of particular words.  So the “philosophy” of law has become little more than the “unpacking” of the meanings of particular words (like “law”) related to, well, law. 
The problem with jurisprudence comes from its very origins, and so seems insoluble.  Those origins lay in the desire among lawyers to lay claim to a “science” all their own.  That is, legal academics have wanted to claim that law, like any other social institution, is “worthy” of being studied as a thing in itself, like politics or economics.  And in a sense these lawyers are right, for the law is like politics and economics in that the attempt to study it in isolation results in a fundamentally skewed understanding of law (or politics, or economics).  For all of these aspects of public life are rooted in and aim at the human good.  And, as in politics and economics, the modern, “rational” trend is to ignore this existential fact, leaving the nature of that good and its importance in determining the proper shape and limits of law undefined and unexamined, but still present as largely unexamined assumptions. 

Aristotle and Plato
image found here
The Road to Same-Sex Marriage Was Paved by Rousseau, by Robert R. Reilly.   I read this in late July, when I was writing about the Supreme Court, with just a little about the Windsor ruling (July 15, 17, and 19).  I have written in the past about Ultimate Good, ( also here) and the philosophy of that world view. And I’ve written pretty extensively about the need to protect and reaffirm marriage and family. (See my Defense of Marriage collection.)  But I was pleased with how well this piece connects the dots between the basic underlying philosophy needed to protect marriage. It’s not so much a discussion of same-sex “marriage” as it is a lesson in philosophy of the diametrically opposed sides. I like how this compares and contrasts. (It’s the kind of essay students would do well to read and examine the structure before writing their assigned compare/contrast essay.) I’ve struggled to pull out quotes from this one, because it is a good, cohesive whole. Nevertheless, here’s a sampling:
Aristotle taught that the essence or nature of a thing is what makes it what it is, and why it is not something else. This is not a tautology. As an acorn develops into an oak tree, there is no point along its trajectory of growth that it will turn into a giraffe or something other than an oak. That is because it has the nature of an oak tree. By natural law, in terms of living things, we mean the principle of development which makes it what it is and, given the proper conditions, what it will become when it fulfills itself or reaches its end. For Aristotle, “Nature ever seeks an end.” This end state is its telos, its purpose or the reason for which it is. In non-human creation this design is manifested through either instinct or physical law. Every living thing has a telos toward which it purposefully moves. In plants or animals, this involves no self-conscious volition. In man, it does.

     Anything that operates contrary to this principle in a thing is unnatural to it. By unnatural, we mean something that works against what a thing would become were it to operate according to its principle of development. For instance, an acorn will grow into an oak unless its roots are poisoned by highly acidic water. One would say that the acidic water is unnatural to the oak or against its “goodness.”
Contra Aristotle, Rousseau asserted that man by nature was not a social, political animal endowed with reason. Unlike Aristotle, Rousseau does not begin with the family, but with an isolated individual in the state of nature, where the pure “sentiment of his own existence” was such that “one suffices to oneself, like God.” Nature becomes a secular substitute for the Garden of Eden. Yet this self-satisfied god was asocial, amoral and pre-rational. His couplings with women were random and formed no lasting attachment. The family was not natural to him. 

The Question of Purpose, by Stratford Caldecott.   This one, again, requires a shift of brain to philosophical thinking. Much of it is about the state of education. He concludes with this uncomfortable summary:
Our modern curriculum is fragmented or shattered into a thousand glittering shards. The secret of their unity lies in the Logos that is the principle of unity both for the world and for the human person – for the breaking of the curriculum reflects the brokenness of the person who is the very subject of education itself. 

Homesick in the Cosmos, by C. R. Wiley.  Cosmos, he reminds us, means order. The post-modern creation story takes God (a designer) out of the picture and insists that everything is random:
We are told that if we just look at things dispassionately we will see that the universe is not designed.  Instead we will see that we, along with everything else, are the flotsam and jetsam of a tremendous explosion.  The order we perceive, if that is the right word for it, is just a loss of momentum and a balancing of forces following that explosion.
He makes the point that this atheistic belief in random chaos is a religious belief, and it’s harder to believe than any other culture’s creation story, since it belies the order we see around us. Making the universe from whole cloth, as if making a machine, without feelings or morals, is a harmful, dehumanizing belief.
Explaining the title, he says this:
Once upon a time people lived in households.  They built them, husbanded the resources sheltered in them, and dwelled in them.  (The word “husband” means “house-bound.”)  Today we are houseless—oh, we have places where we sleep and recreate when we have the time—but we no longer live in houses. This is one reason we no longer feel at home is the cosmos—our homes no longer function as households.  The reverse is also the case, one reason we no longer think of our homes the way people once did is because we no longer think of the cosmos as a household.  The notion that the cosmos could be a household seems absurd to modern people.  This, I am convinced, is one reason why our lives seem absurd.    

All of these pieces take some brain exercise. But it is with exercise that we build strength. Worth reading.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Conservative Thinking

When I find things to read that stick with me, things I want to have access to later to reread or get quotes, I often save a copy in my personal files. Lately a number of those “keepers” happened to come from a source that I’m only just becoming familiar with. The site is I referred to one of their pieces in Wednesday’s blog.
So I started looking more at this source, TIC for short. Several of the first contributors listed are affiliated with Hillsdale College, which does some heroic work in sharing the concepts and philosophies that led to our Constitution. But other names are from various other places, though more college professors than other walks of life. I can’t say I agree with everything I’ve read from their site, but I think there’s definitely enough good there to pay attention. Sometimes the topics refer back and forth between the writings of various philosophers, and I don’t qualify as fully well-read with all those names. But sometimes these are clues to what I should go read. There have been a couple of mentions that the writers are all Christian, so I think that may be part of their worldview as well. At one point I thought they might be libertarian and secularist; but the more I read, the more I find that to be simply an error on my part.
Russell Kirk
photo from Wikipedia
TIC became on online newsletter in 2010, started by Winston Elliott III, who became president of the Free Enterprise Institute in 1992. He was greatly influenced by the conservative writings of Russell Kirk. The site states the mission this way:

Dr. [Russell] Kirk’s work informs the mission of The Imaginative Conservative, which is to be a forum for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, M.E. Bradford, Christopher Dawson and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism.
The headings of categories on their site include books (reviews of books), conservatism, Russell Kirk, politics, culture, American Republic, liberal learning (in the sense of freedom and open-mindedness, or classical liberal thought, not the redefined word used the past century), economics, and bookstore. There categories fit relatively well with mine: political sphere, economic sphere, and culture/civilization sphere. Some things cross over enough (like education, for example) that they fit partially under all, which you would expect when the three spheres interrelate and spatially overlie each other.
A number of pieces written by Russell Kirk are included on the site.
The Essence of Conservatism, by Russell Kirk.   Just last post I was searching for ways to define and thereby differentiate conservatism and libertarianism. This definition of conservatism is a good addition to the conversation:
A conservative is not, by definition, a selfish or a stupid person; instead, he is a person who believes there is something in our life worth saving. Conservatism, indeed, is a word with an old and honorable meaning—but a meaning almost forgotten by Americans until recent years. Abraham Lincoln wished to be known as a conservative. “What is conservatism?” he said. “Is it not preference for the old and tried, over the new and untried?” It is that; and it is also a body of ethical and social beliefs. The word “liberalism,” however, has been in favor among us for two or three decades. Even nowadays, though there are a good many conservatives in both national and state politics, in neither major party do many leading politicians describe themselves as “conservatives.” Paradoxically, the people of the United States became the chief conservative nation of the world at the very time when they had ceased to call themselves conservatives at home.
Ten Conservative Principles, by Russell Kirk   This one also adds body to the definition. If you're wondering whether you align with conservatism, his ten principles might help with your introspection.
There are some other TIC pieces, by other writers, I’d like to recommend for your summer reading pleasure. But, to give myself room to comment, I think I’ll save those until the next post.