Friday, February 28, 2014

Being Anti-Slavery, Part II

I started Part I of this post yesterday talking about the need to defend religious freedom. And then discussed the Arizona bill to protect business owners from being forced to engage in services against their religious beliefs, which Governor Brewer had just vetoed. Not surprisingly, the Houston Chronicle headlined that story as, “Arizona governor vetoes anti-gay bill,” even though there was no mention of homosexuality, “same-sex marriage,” or anything related in the bill—only a strengthening of existing religious protections to include private business owners in private transactions.

And then, the top front page story was headlined, “Texas gay marriage ban struck down.” So much to cover, so little time. Texas never “banned” “gay marriage.” To ban something, it must first exist and then be discontinued. Texas law has always defined marriage as a contract between a man and a woman. With encroaching threats to that long-standing (forever) definition, the Texas legislature passed DOMA legislation in 2003, which was immediately made irrelevant by the badly worded Lawrence v. Texas ruling. So in 2005 (the next available opportunity), Texas passed, by an overwhelming three-quarters of voters, a state constitutional amendment reiterating the long-standing definition. That is what is being struck down—and in doing so, a single judge is telling the state of Texas it has no right to determine its own legal definitions. That is a serious infringement of state sovereignty.
I could do another whole post on that, but the judge is not changing what happens for now, pending this and similar cases being ruled on by the US Supreme Court. So, for now I’ll set that aside and get back to the attack on religious freedom we were already in the middle of.
Let’s do this as something of a game: “Who Decides?” We’ll look at various scenarios related to business exchanges, and you take each case and say who decides—the service provider or the service requester.
1)      There’s a lawyer, asked to represent an embezzler, who admits he did it but wants to get off. The lawyer doesn’t want to take the case, because, while everyone deserves good representation, an embezzler doesn’t deserve to avoid punishment, and it seems immoral to the lawyer to work toward that end. Should the lawyer be allowed to make that choice, or should he be forced to represent the embezzler simply because the request was made?
If you say the lawyer can choose, you’re in agreement with the law. In theory, a lawyer who knows his client is guilty can’t represent him as innocent; he would have to encourage the accused to plead guilty. If the accused client claims innocence, the lawyer can choose whether to take the case based on many personal decisions—unless he’s assigned by the courts to represent the client, because everyone is entitled to legal counsel. But even then, he can only represent the client as innocent if the client claims to be innocent (theoretically).
2)      What if the lawyer is asked to represent an environmentalist group that is working to keep a large area of farmland from being irrigated? What if the lawyer feels strongly (not religiously, but personal belief) that the environmentalists are wrong? Is he nevertheless required to represent their cause simply because they came into his law firm and made the request? Conversely, suppose a pro-environmentalist lawyer is asked to represent a clear-cutting logging company?
If you say the lawyer can choose, you’re in agreement with the law, again. A lawyer/client relationship is considered intimate enough that either party can choose not to work together.
3)      The Attorney General is required to represent the state (nation) and its laws, so if the law of the land defines marriage as a contract between one man and one woman, a definition used in thousands of places in US laws and regulations, is the AG required to defend a law, even if he personally finds it objectionable?
If you said yes, you would be in agreement with the law. If you said no, you would be in agreement with our current law-defying AG, who also encourages state AGs to personally nullify any law they disagree with, in violation of their oaths of office. The difference between the AG and a private practice lawyer is that oath of office. The lawyer is a free citizen, who can enter into an agreement with a client or not. The AG takes on the specific job of representing a specific client—the federal government—and is breaking the contract already entered into when he refuses to keep his oath. He could, if there is a personal distaste, assign an individual working under him to do the job, rather than doing it himself where he doesn’t have the heart or mind to make a good defense. But he is required to give the country the best defense of the law possible.
1)      An artist paints landscapes and historical pieces, and often religious works. He also makes a living taking on commissioned works, including family portraits. Suppose someone requests that he paint the family portrait with the subjects all nude (it’s unclear whether the subjects would actually be nude during a sitting session)? If he finds this objectionable, whether for religious reasons or just distaste, is he required to take on the commission?

2)      Suppose an artist is ethnically black and feels strongly against diluting the race by intermarriage, and a client is a black man and Asian woman couple getting married? He feels angry, and sees only ugliness in the couple. So, since his motivation is racist, should he be forced to take on the commission regardless of his strongly held (but non-religious) beliefs?

3)      Suppose an artist is ethnically white but feels strong antipathy toward people of other races, and a client is a black man and woman and their two children. He sees only ugliness in the client family. So, since his motivation is racist, should he be forced to take on the commission regardless of his strongly held (but non-religious) beliefs?

4)      Suppose an artist is religious, and believes in the sanctity of the natural family—married mother and father raising their children. Suppose a married client comes in to commission a portrait of himself and his mistress? The artist feels a strong sense of indignation against the glorifying of an adulterous relationship, and sees only ugliness in the client couple. Since the artist is engaging in commerce, is he required to take on the commission, even when the client is asking him to go against his strongly held religious beliefs?

5)      Suppose an artist is religious, and believes in the sanctity of the natural family. And suppose a client couple, two men (or two women), come in and ask for a painting of them in the act of kissing. The artist is uncomfortable with the request, sees only ugliness in the commission being requested. So, since his motivation is religious, but could be labeled homophobic, is he required to take the commission and create the artwork regardless of his strongly held beliefs?
If you said no, you’re in agreement with the law. Either side can decide whether to contract the commission. An artist spends a good amount of skill, time, and part of himself into a work of art. If, for any reason, he feels he can’t do the work in a way that would either please the client or make him feel proud to have the piece of art represented in his body of work, he can turn it down. Life is just too short for an artist to spend time on something he doesn’t have the heart to create. It would be very unlikely that anyone would sue an artist for refusing to take on a commission. Much more likely would be after-the-fact contract difficulties, based on whether the artist completed the work to the client’s satisfaction. Because of the time and money involved, almost everyone agrees the artist can’t be forced to create a work of art he doesn’t want to create and never contracted to create.

1)      A professional photographer makes a living doing portraits, family groups, weddings, and other special events. Suppose a client requests semi-nude portraits, intended as a gift to a spouse. If the photographer finds this distasteful, whether for religious reasons or just discomfort, is she required to take on the commission?

2)      As with the artist, a black artist with strong anti-miscegenation beliefs is asked to photograph a black/Asian couple’s wedding. Since the motivation is racist, and the request is clearly for a legally sanctioned wedding, is the photographer required to take on the client?

3)      What about a photographer who simply hates people of other races? Is the photographer required to go against her strongly held racist beliefs and take on a portrait session with an ethnically different family?

4)      Is the photographer with strong religious convictions required to take as a client an adulterer and his mistress?

5)      Is the photographer with strong religious convictions required to take as a client a “same-sex marriage” celebration?
Is the photographer different from the artist? Why? Maybe because of the time involved. But photography also requires skill, equipment, time, and an artist’s sense. There’s a story I heard this week about a skilled photographer who was asked at one point to photograph President George W. Bush, and he refused because he so strongly disagreed with the president that he said he couldn’t do him justice, and they’d be better off getting a different photographer. His honesty most likely led to a better portrait outcome than that skilled photographer would have been able to create.
Is there a point at which you can say, “No, that photographer has gone too far; they’re beliefs are wrong, so they should be required to act against their beliefs”? If so, at what point, and how do you—or some entity—decide where that point is?

1)      Suppose a restaurateur has an irrational sense of hatred toward redheaded women—because of a past unrequited love. Suppose this restaurateur sees every redheaded woman as the embodiment of evil, and he refuses to serve such a person. Is he required to serve redheaded women against his strongly held (albeit irrational) beliefs?

2)      Suppose a restaurateur has a room often rented out for special events, including wedding receptions. Photos are taken identifying the special location that is his restaurant. Food served represents the reputation of the restaurant. Is the restaurateur required to rent the room for a “same-sex marriage” celebration, even if such a celebration goes against his strongly held religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman?
The concept of public access comes up here. Generally speaking, a restaurant open to the public is required to serve whoever walks in—unless the person’s behavior, dress, or something else is in violation of the stated requirements of the place (“no shoes, no shirt, no service” for example, or “men required to wear tie and jacket”). Usually public access includes requirements for wheelchair access. Discrimination on the basis of hair color would be very bad for business, whether or not it’s illegal to act on such an irrational belief. It might be best if other employees simply distract their crazy boss when redheads come in—no government intervention needed. Otherwise, word gets out, and the business closes from lack of patrons.
Use of a special room is an additional service, subject to scheduling and other decisions at the discretion of the restaurateur. It would be hard to say the restaurateur must provide this special service any more than requiring him to provide something off the menu, or purposely burnt. He might choose to oblige, or he might decide it wouldn’t be worth the risk to his reputation, or simply not worth the bother.
If this freedom should be removed when the motivation of the restaurateur is considered “anti-gay,” how is that different from other beliefs? Who decides what the motivation of the restaurateur is, and when it crosses a line that disallows him the freedom to serve or not serve?
Some confusion has arisen based on whether a business is “public.” A public business is a government owned entity, such as a public utility company or transportation company (subway line, bus line). A business that serves the public is still a private business; it depends on ownership, not on who is served. A public business pretty well must serve all the public, because the people own it. A private business is owned by private citizens, even in the form of a corporation. It provides goods or services in exchange for money, in free and open trade.
But some states have identified a difference based on location: a baker with a storefront must do what anyone walking in requests. While a baker working out of her home is not held to that requirement, because her cottage business is not “public.” What if there’s a little storefront at the house? Do you lose the right to decide what services you provide when you put out a sign?

1)      Suppose a landlord owns a building renting out medical office space. Is this landlord required to rent space for an abortion clinic, even if the building owner has strongly held religious objections to abortion?

2)      Suppose a woman runs a boarding house, where she provides one or two meals a day, and roomers share bathroom facilities. Can she insist that boarders be either male or female and refuse whichever she’d rather not have?

3)      Suppose a man advertises for a man to share the rent in his two-bedroom apartment. A respondent to the ad is a homosexual male. Is the man required to accept this respondent, even if he’s uncomfortable living with someone who might view him sexually?

4)      In the above scenario, is a person required to rent to someone who has different moral standards—uses drugs or alcohol that the renter disapproves of, or is promiscuous (even if agreed to keep it outside the apartment)?

5)      Is a landlord or apartment complex manager allowed to discriminate against homosexual renters? How about discriminating based on other moral objections?
Laws related to property renting differ, mostly related to intimacy. A person has a lot of control over sharing their own living space. There are rental anti-discrimination laws on the books. But, depending on location and stated purpose of the place, some restrictions may be allowed. For example, renters can discriminate against families with children, if they’re set up to accommodate older couples and/or singles. Many renters discriminate against pet owners. 

So, here’s the simple answer: requiring someone to perform a service against their strongly held beliefs is slavery. If we’re against slavery, we’re against such coercion.
Does that mean we should even do away with anti-racial discrimination laws? I’m not ready to completely go there, because I didn’t live in a place where people actually oppressed based on race, while the idea was supported by the community. The real answer is changing people’s hearts.
But pretending that the coercion to celebrate whatever the homosexual agenda says we must is a particular threat to our freedom. They aren’t logically comparing themselves to former slaves and subjects of racial discrimination. They are insisting on the power to enslave free citizens to do their will. Homosexual activists (a small subset of homosexuals and their allies) are the pro-slavery lobby of our day.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Being Anti-Slavery among Willing Enslavers

Just for background, in 1995 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put out The Family: A Proclamation to the World (sometimes shortened to The Family Proclamation). It seemed straightforward, the same things we’d heard all our lives, beliefs practically everyone we ran into still held. Many of us wondered, why the proclamation? But within a year practically every line in it was challenged, in public discussion, in courts, in international organizations and UN non-governmental organizational treaty proposals. Now, two decades into the onslaught on family, we can see it was a prophetic document.
Recently the (less formal) proclamation I keep hearing from these Church leaders is that all believers need to stand up for religious liberty. (This speech at BYU-Idaho is one example.) Even if we don’t feel the attacks directly yet, my expectation based on experience with such prophetic proclamations leads me to believe this is an increasing real threat. We've dealt with it in part recently, as we watch the Supreme Court cases with Hobby Lobby and others.
So it is with that background that I am looking at the current issue. Specifically, what happened yesterday was Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s veto of a law spelling out the right of business owners to refuse to provide services that go against their religious beliefs. I haven’t read the law itself. What I understand is that Arizona already had a religious rights restoration law, patterned quite literally after the same federal law for that purpose signed by Pres. Clinton in the 1990s, shortly prior, and has been in place without fuss since then. The addition was to clarify that private business owners had the protection even when there was no government entity involved in the case (suits brought by private citizens against private business owners).
The reason was based on a growing list of cases, mostly related to small business owners being asked to perform services related to same-sex “weddings,” including in states where laws do not recognize such “marriages” as lawful, which would be the case for Arizona. The list includes bakers, photographers, wedding planners, florists, and others you might turn to for services at a wedding. Another was a t-shirt printer who wouldn’t print t-shirts for a gay pride festival. In none of the cases were the plaintiffs refused all services; in each case, the small business owner suggested the limits of services they would provide, and offered alternative sources, including less expensive alternatives. Nevertheless, the “offended” plaintiffs, rather than going to someone willing to take their money and provide the services they requested, took the small business owners to court—to force them to provide the service against their will.
It is my assumption that the majority of these cases (and possibly every one) is a purposeful act to use courts to force the homosexual agenda on the portions of society that haven’t succumbed to their pressure already, with religious people in the crosshairs. Courts have been helping by going along with that agenda, rather than abiding by the law.
In what universe would we expect to see an American forced to do work he finds religiously objectionable? In the slave-owning antebellum South, maybe. But it has been a century and a half since we fought the Civil War to do away with that ugly injustice.
Yet we have judges now who say, “I don’t like your religious belief, so I say you have to do as I say, or your alterative is a fine that will have the effect of closing down your business.” The judge decides that the baker’s life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness (the way he chooses to make a livelihood and provide himself with property) are the judge’s to allow or disallow at whim. That is slavery.
As for yesterday’s ruling, I think Jan Brewer was wrong. She is generally conservative, but this was a political decision. It wasn’t based on the merits of the law; it was, as she claimed, because people were concerned about vagueness in the law (issues not brought up during the discussion in the legislature), and because this wasn’t a focus of her current agenda. Hmm. So, if the legislature varies from her agenda, she vetoes their work? Not usually. What followed the passage of the legislation was a hue and cry from some well-funded homosexual agenda promoters, and they threatened Arizona with a boycott, which frightened Arizona tourist industry businesses, including principally a threat from the NFL about taking away the Superbowl. And the governor caved to pressure from the bullies. She has my sympathy, but not my admiration. 
My non-expert legal opinion is that the law would have been useful, but would not have gone far enough. I believe a business owner has the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. Every business exchange is an agreement between seller and buyer. It has to be coercion free.
I am not saying it’s a good idea to refuse service for stupid reasons—like racism, which is what comes to mind. I think, along with the overwhelming majority of civilized people, that racism is a stupid way of thinking—but I think business owners have the same right everyone has to be stupid. And you as a consumer have the choice to go to a service provider of your choice. You are free to avoid going to someone who declares himself to be a stupid bigot. The free market makes it naturally hard—without any government interference—for a known bigot to discriminate against customers without civilized people knowing about it and going elsewhere, affecting his profitability.
The Civil Rights movement—people changing people’s minds--makes sense to me. The Civil Rights legislation, not so much. Again, I didn’t grow up in a place that ever had Jim Crow laws. They were despicable. But the forgotten problem was that those laws often forced businesses to segregate. Change came when people stepped up and said, “That’s not right,” crossed lines and tested them. Change didn’t come from government suddenly getting noble and spreading noble ideas to the people.
The repeal of those laws could have said, “Government is getting out of your business; you can get back to free exchange with anyone you choose,” and let the movement of opinion lead naturally to free-choice interracial business. Instead, government stepped in and enforced desegregation, and probably lengthening continued resentment and prejudice.
Government can’t change people’s beliefs, or change their hearts from evil to good; government can only force. So if we don’t limit government, we simply get a change of target.
Some of the commentary yesterday, from the other side, said (paraphrased), “We can’t allow people to hide behind so-called religious beliefs to get away with offensive discrimination against gays.” [Good discussion from both sides here.] Really? So, some government entity, maybe a court, should have the power to examine a person’s religious beliefs, to determine whether they’re heartfelt, and also to determine whether those beliefs should be accepted, heartfelt or not, if someone else feels offended by them? And said government should have the power to coerce a free citizen business owner to offer a service or create a product he doesn’t want to create—for religious or any other reason?
People (including judges) who knee-jerk react based on their unwillingness to appear insensitive to the current loudest crying “victim” of being offended, ought to learn how to think through an issue. Saying, “I don’t like your reason for not baking a certain cake, so I’m not buying from you anymore” is a huge chasm away from “I don’t like your reason for not baking a certain cake, so I’m using the force of government to coerce you to do what I say or else lose your ability to do business at all.”
Who is most harmed? The people who got their feelings hurt because they were pointed to some other bakery that would willingly provide the service they wanted; or the business owner who has his business shut down if he doesn’t use his skills in a celebration that goes against his beliefs? Isn’t it obvious that the business owner is the one being harmed?
There are so many related hypotheticals we can use to examine the question of slavery. I thought we’d get to such a list in a single post, but that will have to be a starting place for part II.
In the meantime, you might want to check out some additional commentary: blogger Matt Walsh spent two days this week dealing with this idea. (I’m regularly following his blog now. He’s insightful and logical, and as in this case writes what I was planning to cover before I get to it.) The two pieces are:

And it was while listening to the Hugh Hewitt show that I heard Governor Brewer’s announcement, followed by discussion. If you have access to his archive, I particularly liked the second half of the third hour on Wednesday, February 26.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Freedom Is a Universal Desire

It is my belief, here at the Spherical Model, that freedom from repression is interrelated with prosperity and civilization. It’s easy to see why people want civilization and prosperity. And since tyranny limits civilization and prosperity, while the freedom of small government limited to protecting God-given rights leads to flourishing, it is logical that anyone with understanding will also want freedom. People will yearn for it. They will recognize the unfairness, the corruption—the evil—of tyranny. They will want to move “northward” the way a swimmer moves up to the surface for air.
We can see evidence of this universal desire for freedom. This past week one example is Ukraine.
We haven’t been getting very much news out of Ukraine, but there have been protests in the streets for some months. If I have gathered accurately, the Ukrainian people have wanted to remain European, connected to the European Union, with increased capitalism, while their president, Yanukovich, has been leaning toward Putin’s Russia. There are ethnic differences. Within the country’s boundaries is a significant minority that are Russian rather than Ukrainian, and wouldn’t mind reconnecting with Russia.
But you have the Ukrainian people who lived under the repressive Soviet Union until just over two decades ago, who gained their freedom, who want to grow and live in freedom—these people have absolutely no incentive to submit to yet more tyranny.
Things reached a turning point this past few days. Police snipers, presumably on orders from the president, shot as many as 100 protesters in the streets. (Government reports claim the number of deaths is a mere 77; however, 577 were injured, and 369 hospitalized.) Then the president was deposed. I’m not sure exactly how the deposing too place. There is some discussion that Yulia Tymoshenko, prime minister recently released from prison, may be willing to step up. President Yanokovich has disappeared from his luxurious estate. Word this morning was that he hasn’t yet attempted to leave the country, so he may be in hiding somewhere. His home had been off limits to fellow countrymen for years. He used it for state dinners, one would suppose. But it was astoundingly opulent in a nation where average families get by on $500 a month.
We had neighbors some years ago who took their family on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to visit their relatives in Ukraine. They loved the people, who were so giving. But they were a little shocked at conditions. This was a relatively middle-class Ukrainian family, who were able to send their daughter to America to study abroad for her senior year. But in preparation for our friends’ visit, they upgraded their home by getting a new wooden toilet seat for the outhouse. It wouldn’t be surprising for people who have patiently waited as slow growth brings them prosperity to be very angry to learn of their president’s lifestyle.
Photos showed the estate this weekend, with people invading and looking around—in shock, because apparently his exorbitant lifestyle was kept hidden from the people. Yet, at least in the photos I saw, people looked around like tourists—no windows broken, no looting, no one even entering the house. There were however attempts to recover paperwork, some of which had been partially burned, and some which protestors were beginning to sort out.
Among some of the most effective word that got out was a YouTube video, uploaded 2-10-2014, called “I Am Ukrainian.” A young woman named Yulia makes an impassioned plea, in English, with video and photos backing up her words, asking for help getting the word out. I attempted to transcribe her words (sorry for any errors), which verify the basic belief that people everywhere yearn for freedom.
I am the Ukrainian, the native of Kiev. And now I am now in Maidan [??], in the central part of the city, to know why thousands of people all over my country are on the streets. There is only one reason: we want to be free from a dictatorship. We want to be free from the politicians, who work only for themselves, who are ready to shoot, to beat, to injure people just for saving their money [or “saying their minds” ??], just for saving their houses, just for saving their power. I want these people who are here, who have duty, who are brave—I want them to lead a normal life. We are civilized people, but our government are barbarians.
It’s not the Soviet Union. We want our courts not to be corrupted. We want to be free.
I know that maybe tomorrow we’ll have no phone, no internet connection, and we will be alone here. And maybe policemen will murder us one after another. Then it will be dark here. That’s why I ask you now to help us. We have this freedom held inside our hearts. We have this freedom in our minds. And now I ask you to build this freedom in our country. You can help us only by telling this story to your friends, only by sharing this video. Please, share it. Speak to your friends; speak to your family; speak to your government and show that you support us.
[written on screen]: Please contact your representatives and demand they support the Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom and democracy.    
Before it’s too late.
This video was made in early February 2014.
Hopefully, thanks to you and the strong people of Ukraine, things will get better.

Please take time to view the entire two-minute video:

Meanwhile riots and reprisals continue to worsen in Venezuela as well. Our friend who was living there has returned to her native Uganda, so I’m relieved for her. The people there have for some time been seem clamoring for goods, promised to them by their failing socialist government (I know, “failing socialist government” is redundant). The question there is whether the people know to ask for freedom in order to get prosperity and civilization, or whether they have been successfully turned into government dependents who are now simply throwing tantrums that they are not getting what they were led to expect. You can’t simply demand “better” socialist government and expect that will lead to better prosperity and thriving civilization. You have to start by living civilized lives (religious people, strong families), where honesty, self-reliance, hard work, and caring for others become natural. Then you get better prosperity—and you realize tyrannical government is in the way of the flourishing that’s building up pressure to happen.
But what is happening now could bring to everyone’s awareness the innate need for freedom—for life and liberty. The government oppression of its people—usurping control over their words, their acts, and their very lives—may wake the people up to the disastrous choice it is to exchange material “security” for the freedom to work and prosper. I don’t know what the people will do there, but I hope they will seek freedom as if their lives depend on it, because they do.
Those of us who have some freedom (as long as we can keep hold of it), know to value it, and we want it for all peoples. We offer our support and prayers to any people reaching northward toward freedom, prosperity, and civilization.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Primarily Speaking, Part III

We’re going through the long ballot for the Texas Primary, where we vote for judges, in addition to the more typical elected positions. In Part I, we got through the statewide races. In Part II, we covered the statewide judicial races and a few local races. I expect we’ll finish today, with district (Harris County) judicial races and whatever we’ve else is left (county party leadership). Today covers a few of the more interesting races I’ve been wanting to think through. We’ll go in order, however, rather than just most interesting first.
Gaahhh!!! This additional avalanche showed up
in the mail while I was writing Part III

District Judge 246th Family Court:
This is an open bench (no incumbent) with two candidates, Angelina Gooden and Charley Prine. I heard both of them briefly. Gooden has 24+ years of experience in family law, appointed by the court to represent children. Prine has been an associate judge in the county, for Judge Sheri Dean. His work as a grassroots Republican go back to working for Phil Gramm, and campaigning for Reagan. Both candidates get 50% support from CCHC. Prine gets the nod from TCR, HRBC, DA, and PC. Considering his judicial experience, I’m going with Charley Prine.

District Judge 247th Family Court:
This is also an open bench, and one of the most difficult to decide—because there are good choices. We’ve been hearing from the candidates for this position since last spring, and they’ve been coming faithfully, so that we feel like they’re part of us. I’m not going to endorse, because I want to be open to change my mind up until the last, but I’ll give you some info about each. Melanie Flowers and MLWalker are both African American women—not what you’re told you find at Tea Party meetings. (If I recall correctly, Angelina Gooden fits that demographic as well, as does Governor candidate Lisa Fritsch.) Walker has been functioning as associate judge in this court for some time. Flowers has a certification in family law (the only candidate with this credential, but it isn’t a requirement to do the job).  John Schmude is the third candidate (there used to be a fourth, who dropped out). When he came to our Tea Party to introduce himself, he gave one of the best 10-minute speeches on Constitutional philosophy that I had heard. It was impassioned and memorable. If I were going just by my first impressions based on those 10-minute talks, he would have earned my vote. But there is more. Walker is currently doing the job, for example. And she gets support from my DA friends, as well as one of our regular Tea Party members who has a family law practice. She also has continued to come to our meetings, to become one of us. Only Melanie Flowers has done that more. I see her everywhere—she hands out flowers to remind voters of her name, and I’ve gotten a bouquet-ful.  

I got a heads up to ask the question about long-term conservative principles. Only Schmude voted against Obama in 2008. He has always been conservative. I asked Walker about her vote at a Tea Party meeting, and she answered with considerable grace. Up until that point in her life, she wasn’t political, didn’t pay attention to politics. She voted for Obama, caught up in the hype about it being a historic moment. But shortly into 2009 she realized what a mistake that was, started paying attention, became a Republican and hasn’t looked back. Someone asked Melanie Flowers that question at a forum elsewhere. She admitted she voted for Obama in 2009 (not 2012), because it was historic. She was at that time a GOP precinct chair, which strikes me as unacceptable. Disqualifying? Maybe. But I didn’t get to talk with her about it, and I don’t know of anything else I disagree with her on. Of all the candidates, I think I’d feel most comfortable going to lunch for fun with her, and I think she’d probably do well as a judge. But in this close race, not realizing what a disaster Obama would be is a significant problem. 

Schmude gets 89% support from CCHC, my guess is because conservative philosophy is his native language. He also gets support from PC. Walker gets support from DA, TCR, and HRBC. I hope this is enough info to help you make a decision. Fortunately, it looks like you can’t really make a terrible choice.

District Judge 263rd Criminal Court:
The candidates are Jim Wallace and Robert Summerlin. Wallace has been the sitting judge on this court since 1994. DA as well as TCR support him. But Summerlin gets 100% support from CCHC, plus HRBC and PC. Hmm. I don’t know if the challenge is just because he’s been there so long. It’s odd to challenge a sitting judge. It does appear the challenger has conservative bonafides. He has experience as both a felony prosecutor and defense attorney. I’m not sure which way I’ll go, but the CCHC recommendation has me leaning toward Robert Summerlin.

District Judge 269th Civil Court:
Dan Hinde is the sitting judge on this bench. He was appointed by Governor Perry in 2008 and was a number 1 target of democrats in 2010, but stayed put. He has reduced his docket backlog by 27%. His opponent is John Wittenmyer. All my resources except TCR are behind Hinde (including 100% from CCHC), which means he’s perceived as doing well as the sitting judge. Dan Hinde suggests you remember, “Be kind, vote Hinde, for 269.”

District Judge 311th Family Court:
This is an interesting if confusing race. As an outsider, I’m uncertain if I have all the facts. Denise Pratt is the sitting judge. She has four challengers from her own party. That suggests there’s a problem in that court. The Houston Chronicle agrees the court has problems. In December, hundreds of cases were dismissed without a ruling. Pratt explains that the lawyers had been detaining and then failing to follow up and reschedule—some for years. She insists that she considers the child individually in each and every case. When she spoke at our Tea Party meeting, she seemed sensible, although I wondered about the defensiveness about not being pressured to rule, because we’re all aware of how inefficiency is a huge failure for justice. She was impressive enough that she won our straw poll by a single vote (a snapshot opinion of those attending that day, including candidates and their helpers if they choose to vote). I saw later one of her supporters citing that victory as if it were an endorsement from us. Not true. And we do not, as a group, endorse any candidates. She did not win the next straw poll. Denise Pratt got 65% from CCHC, which is not an endorsement, but a response to specific questions, which relate to conservative principles, not to orderly running of the court. I can see how that could happen in the absence of additional information. 

I had heard about this court previously, but I didn’t immediately make the connection, since there are so many courts, and we’ve met so many candidates, in pretty random order. But what we hear from people dealing with this court is that it’s a huge problem. They say the judge comes in late, leaves early, and simply fails to make rulings. Some have speculated either unadmitted health issues or mental issues, although I don’t see evidence of that from Judge Pratt in person. But there’s enough rumbling that I think it’s fair to say she isn’t doing a good job of managing her court. The challengers have gone as far as to say, “I don’t even care which one of us you vote for; we just have to get someone who will do the job.” Wow!  

So the challengers are Donna Detamore, Alicia Franklin, Philip Placzek, and Anthony Magdaleno. I tend to lean toward whomever I’ve heard from lately. Donna Detamore is supported by PC. Alicia Franklin is supported by DA (which might sway me) and TCR. Anthony Magdaleno is also supported by PC. In straw polls I’ve voted once for Detamore and once for Magdaleno. And there’s a good chance I’d support Franklin as well. Without additional info or support for Placzek, I guess I’ll eliminate him. But otherwise I think the choice is anyone but Pratt.

Judge County Criminal Court 10:
There are four candidates for this open bench. Dan Spjut brings experience from 27 years at the Houston Police Department with 14 years as an attorney. (He doesn’t seem old enough, so I’m not sure if the attorney years are included in the other.) Mary Heafner has been a private detective, and worked for the FBI, and in real estate, plus 30 years as a defense attorney. (I’m often amazed at the impossibly long careers of judicial candidates, and wonder if I’ve gotten numbers wrong. Similarly, I fail to understand billable hours.) Tonya Rolland McLaughlin has been a Harris County prosecutor and defense attorney. She points out that she has been through hundreds of trials, while her opponents combined have tried less than 10 cases. The other candidate, Ken Wenzel, I have not met. Spjut gets support from TCR and HRBC. But McLaughlin gets 60% (less than an endorsement) from CCHC, plus DA and PC. I think I’ll go with Tonya Rolland McLaughlin. She suggests you remember, “Tonya for the 10th.”

Justice First Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3:
The candidates for this bench are Dan Linebaugh, Chad Bridges, and Russell Lloyd. Lloyd has been an assistant DA and has 31 years of civil practice before becoming a civil district judge. He was first vetted by Phil Gram for appointment by Governor George Bush (not approved by the then-liberal legislature, however). David Linebaugh is appeals board certified, and was name a Texas Superlawyer every year since 2008. He has spent 15 years on the jury charge committee, training judges on how to give jury charges. He did litigation for 18 years. Chad Bridges spent 11 years as a prosecutor, and has experience in both small and large counties, covering a large variety of cases.  CCHC gave 90% support to Lloyd, and NRBC, DA, and PC also support him. Linebaugh got support from TCR. I think I’ll go with Russell Lloyd.

Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 2:
A justice of the peace does not have to have a law degree, but it helps. This bench just came open after 30 or so years, so this opening is a great opportunity. The candidates are Lena Engelage, Layssa Korduba, Nasir Malik, Dean Combs, and Louis Guthrie. The first three have come to our Tea Party to introduce themselves. Both Engelage and Korduba have returned and made themselves at home. Korduba also showed up at the King Street Patriots judicial candidate forum.  She has ten years of practice, and 5 years as a judge—in the City of Tomball since 2008, the first woman judge there. She seems to understand the way this court is run, and has ideas for improved efficiency. Nasir Malik is running as an outsider, claiming the other candidates are party insiders. He’s a businessman. I’m unconvinced about his claims of conservatism. I liked Louis Guthrie when he ran for Sheriff last time around, but I don’t think he has any judicial experience, and he hasn’t campaigned anywhere I’ve seen him. Lena Engelage teaches criminal justice at a high school. She has 5 years’ experience with the FBI and 18 years’ experience as an attorney (and doesn’t look old enough). Her background is diverse, which helps with the variety that comes up before a justice of the peace. All of my sources go with Laryssa Korduba (CCHC gives 90% support), and I will too.

Justice of the Peace Precinct 5, Place 2:
The two candidates are Jeff Williams and Erik Hassan. Williams is the incumbent. He has 28 years’ experience as a practicing attorney, plus three years as a judge. His opponent doesn’t have a law degree. Again, a law degree isn’t required, but it helps. He handles a staff of 40, with 9,000 new cases a month. It’s not a good place for on-the-job learning. All of my resources support Jeff Williams, and so do I.

Harris County Republican Party Chair:
Jared Woodfill is the six-term (12-year) incumbent for this unpaid position. He is being challenged by Paul Simpson. His challenger complains that he’s a corrupt trial attorney, but I’ve hunted and there’s surprisingly little evidence of corruption, so I’m unconvinced. Simpson, by the way, is also an attorney, just not a trial lawyer. Simpson is claiming that things have gone downhill with Woodfill there. Actually, that’s debatable as well. Precinct chairs need to be filled. Both candidates agree on that; I’ve seen Woodfill acting on it; maybe there should be more action, though. Simpson says he will do something about it; but I didn’t catch exactly what he would do. There’s a third person on the ballot, but if she can’t even make herself known to people like me, she doesn’t know how to spread the conservative message for the party in this key county, so I’m not even giving her a mention. 

Simpson claims to be both a longtime Republican grassroots activist, and a party outsider. I’ve also heard that Simpson is part of a group working to move out the most conservative elements of the party. Seriously, I don’t know what to believe. But at our Tea Party, while Simpson was impressive enough, when he said the reason we have Obama is because “Mitt Romney wasn’t the best candidate to talk about conservatism,” he lost me. He was listening to the enemies of Romney and believing them, instead of vetting the candidate himself. Truly I understand how difficult that is—for someone like me. But I found it pretty easy to find the truth about Romney and always wondered why so many ON OUR SIDE failed to see, and failed to support the best candidate in my lifetime as a result. We simply can’t have someone that obtuse running the party for the county. I don’t actually know Woodfill’s personal opinions about Romney, but when it counted all I saw coming from him was appropriate support. 

Woodfill got 78% support from CCHC. Other sources went for Simpson. I’m open to hear more, but for now I’m staying with Jared Woodfill.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Primarily Speaking, Part II

It’s a long ballot this primary season. Yesterday we only got through the statewide races. We still need to cover judicial and local/county races. And I’m ignoring for now the races with no challenger in the primary. (Technically that includes my uncontested race for precinct chair; I’m told that at the close of voting day, that makes me official. Yay me!)

By way of review, among other sources, I’ve been looking at endorsements from several sources. CCHC is the Conservative Coalition of Harris County, and is a self-funded grassroots group, including several people I know personally; they try hard to get to know the candidates and share what they find. They do a silent ballot, and offer the percentage of the vote; 70% or more means endorsement. TFR stands for Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, which gives scrutiny to taxes and other fiscal issues. TCR stands for Texas Conservative Review, and HRBC stands for Houston Realty Business Coalition. These both claim conservative credentials. I vary in how much I agree with them, but they give me additional data. I also have personal resources: DA stands for a couple of friends in the DA’s office who share their inside opinions on judicial races with friends who ask. PC is a neighboring precinct chair with quite a lot of experience, so I add her endorsements to the data. 

Texas is set up with a two-part Supreme Court, consisting of the Supreme Court, which handles mainly civil cases, and the Criminal Court of Appeals, which is the “supreme court” for criminal cases. 
going through the avalanche of info

In Harris County (which includes the Greater Houston Area), the courts are divided into district courts, with numbers based on whatever number came up when the division was made. Different courts typically have a specific assignment, like criminal courts, or family courts. 

Usually when there’s a primary challenger, it’s because there’s an open seat: a judge has retired or been appointed to another court. Candidates don’t necessarily know who their challengers are prior to signing up to run. So sometimes we find a number of really good people in one race. We’ll eventually get to a couple of those.

Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court:
I am struggling to make a decision here. Nathan Hecht is the incumbent, recently appointed by Governor Perry. He has been a justice on the court since 1988. Among my sources, DA, TFR, and HRBC support Hecht. His opponent is Robert Talton, whom I became aware of during his tenure as a Texas representative. He was a brave standard-bearer of conservative causes. He left the Texas House to run for US House, a race he didn’t win. Because I recognized his name, my first reaction was to lean toward him. He also gets 60% support from CCHC, as well as support from TCR and PC. However, there ought to be a good reason to take out an incumbent. Last time around, David Medina had come to our Tea Party and talked about his position on the Supreme Court. He had been appointed by the governor as well. I liked him. I thought he was the better candidate, from what I could find. But he lost—because he’d been appointed rather than elected to the position. While I don’t think appointments just need to be rubber stamped, I think judges need to be taken on their actual merits. I can’t find a significant reason for removing Hecht, who has served well as an elected Supreme Court Justice for so long. So I am inclined, right now, to vote for Nathan Hecht.

Supreme Court Justice, Place 6:
The two choices are Joe Pool and Jeff Brown. CCHC gives Brown 100% support. He also gets support from all of my other sources. No one gives anything positive about Pool. I can’t add any additional knowledge to this race. So I’m voting for Jeff Brown.

Supreme Court Justice, Place 8:
Phil Johnson gets 100% support from CCHC, plus support from TFR, HRBC, DA, and BC. Only TCR supports Sharon McCally. I am inclined to go with Phil Johnson.

Court of Criminal Appeals 3:
Bert Richardson gets 85% support from CCHC, plus DA, TCR, and HRBC support. PC supports Barbara Walther. I haven’t met either one, but I think I’ll go with Bert Richardson.

Court of Criminal Appeals 4:
This is an open seat with three people running: Richard Dean Davis, Kevin Patrick Yeary, and Jani Jo Wood. All of my sources support Yeary, with CCHC giving him 100% support. Incidentally, the Houston Chronicle thinks Yeary is a nice guy but prefers Wood. I don’t know what criteria they use, but I seldom agree with them, so an endorsement might be a point against. I think I’ll vote for Kevin Yeary.

Court of Criminal Appeals 9:
David Newell and W. C. “Bud” Kirkendall are running for this position. I met David Newell at a judicial candidate forum recently and found him quite impressive. I haven’t met his opponent. David Newell gets 90% support from CCHC, plus support from DA, HRBC, and TCR. PC goes for Kirkendall. I think I’ll go with my personal opinion and go for David Newell.

That finishes the statewide races. Now we’ll go to more local/regional.

State Senate District 7:
This position opened up when Dan Patrick decided to run for Lieutenant Governor. Paul Bettencourt and James Wilson are running for the position. Paul Bettencourt, former Harris County Tax Assessor, was nicknamed the Tax Man, and was known for going out of his way to inform people on how to get their property assessments lowered. Locally, we’ve liked him a long time, and he has name recognition. James Wilson used to work with the legendary Phil Gramm. He seems like a nice guy. But he doesn’t have the fire to overcome Bettencourt’s name. I hope he’ll do some other good work in the future. But I’m voting for Paul Bettencourt—who also got 100% support from CCHC, plus HRBC, PC, and TCR.

State Representative District 150:
I’m not in this district, and wouldn’t comment, except that I want to give a good word for Representative Debbie Riddle, who has been a treasure. It’s hard to overstate how hard-working she has been, and responsive to the very issues important to us grassroots conservatives. Her opponent, Tony Noun, was scheduled to speak at a recent Tea Party meeting and didn’t show. I can’t figure out why he’s running.

State Representative District 132:
I’m not in this district either, but it’s close to mine. I have a lot of friends in this district. It’s an open seat, because of the retirement of Bill Callegari. Of the four candidates, I think I like Michael Franks best, a lawyer, very logical and well spoken. However, I think the leading candidates are Justin Perryman and Mike Schofield. People feel strongly positive about both; Schofield is new to the district, but has been active nearby for a long time. Perryman has a resume that looks like a character on NCIS—varied and talented, with some military, some business, some out-of-country experience. There may be some family challenges going on there, however. All I can say is, good luck deciding.

County Treasurer:
The incumbent is Orlando Sanchez. He has been quietly effective as a conservative in liberal-run Houston for many years. I know very little about his opponent, Arnold Hinojosa. Sanchez gets the support of all my sources (100% CCHC), and my support as well.

District Clerk:
Chris Daniel came from among us in the grassroots. I think he was a law student his first time as a state delegate, the same time I was. I think he’s done a good job as District Clerk. I like his opponent, Court Koenning, who offers suggestions for technological improvements. However, most of those improvements are already underway, within the constraints of the actual budget, but making what looks to me like real progress. So I’m going to stay with Chris Daniel. All of my sources agree (82% from CCHC), except PC, who likes both and won’t endorse.

OK, we’ve gotten through the statewide judicial races and most of the local non-judicial races. But the interesting races, the ones, I’ve wanted to write about in order to think through them fully, are still to come. There are some additional county judicial races as well, but I need one more post to cover the 247th Family Court, the 311th Family Court, and the Justice of the Peace Precinct 4 Place 2 race. And after all those, I’ll render my decision about the County Republican Chair. I don’t usually post on Saturdays (or Fridays either, this year), but it’s a long ballot, and now is the time, if it’s going to be useful to people getting ready to vote. So stay tuned for Part III.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Primarily Speaking, Part I

trying to organize the avalanche of election info
Texas is early, as states go, holding the state primary election March 4th. (Early voting started Tuesday, February 18th.) Because this is a conservative state, most of the decisions about who will be our elected officials will take place in this primary election. Yet in a typical primary election only 10% of registered voters turn out.

To put a positive spin on that, if you’re a well-informed voter, you get a bigger voice by voting in the primary.
The challenge is in being a well-informed voter. I work pretty hard at it. I know it’s hard to know all the candidates for all the offices, and discern who’s telling the truth vs. who’s saying what needs to be said to get elected. We don’t even all have the same definition of conservative, although an understanding of the US Constitution and the philosophy behind it is a good starting point.
What I’m doing here is presenting my thought process so far. Mostly I’ve decided who I’m voting for, but in some cases I hesitate to call that an endorsement; I call it my best answer at this point on the upcoming exam. I plan to vote on voting day, rather than early, so I reserve the right to change my mind. But I’m hoping that sharing what I know will help local people add data to their decisions, and the process of it will help voters in other places make good choices.
I’ve used a number of resources. A good starting place is a sample ballot. I get mine at the county site  You can choose either party there, but I’m only dealing with the GOP ballot, where I’ve done research. (Good luck finding a Constitutional conservative on the democrat ballot anyway—kind of a useless exercise. You may find an occasional worthwhile libertarian candidate, but they choose candidates by convention, rather than primary vote.)
For every candidate, you can do an online search for their candidacy website, to learn how they’re presenting themselves. Much of my research has consisted of meeting and hearing from candidates in person at various forums: my local Tea Party meetings, King Street Patriots debates and forums. And also comparing endorsement lists from various groups (all claiming to be conservative) that have vetted the candidates, and also some individuals whose opinions I value who have shared their views with friends. Among these is a local group called Conservative Coalition of Harris County (CCHC PAC). These are grassroots individuals, several of them longtime friends of mine. They spend their own time vetting the candidates, with a combination of questionnaire, in-person interviews, and online research. They do a secret ballot, and if a candidate receives 70% or more of the panel vote, they endorse. They are not funded by any outside sources, so candidates cannot influence with donations; I guess that is possible with other organizations.
Other organizations whose endorsements I look at (as data, not necessarily as a direction to follow) are Texas Conservative Review, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, and Houston Realty Business Coalition. I’m sure I’ve received others in my email inbox, but I have to limit the avalanche of info somewhere as I set myself down to make decisions.
For judge races, I always take into account recommendations from some friends in the county DA’s office, and I listen to some of the lawyers who attend our Tea Party regularly. Also, a neighboring precinct judge shares her recommendations with me.
So, here we go, mainly from the top down.
US Senate:
Besides incumbent John Cornyn, there are seven other GOP candidates (plus some libertarians you won’t see on this ballot). People in other states might not understand our discontent with the powerful and apparently conservative senior senator from Texas. But there is some friction in Washington between his get-along-with-the-enemy approach and Ted Cruz’s take-the-right-position-and-let-things-fall-where-they-may approach. Cruz is more of a Constitutional, principled conservative than Cornyn. That doesn’t mean Cornyn is always wrong, or that Cruz’s approach will always accomplish the best ends. But we need more bravery and principle from our leaders, and it has appeared to us that Cornyn has worked behind the scenes to undermine Cruz’s efforts. I don’t know what is true. I expect Cornyn will win the primary, without a runoff. But in this primary I am willing to send a message to Cornyn that he ought to pay more attention to us Texans. So then the decision in the primary is, which alternative?  

Reid Reasor came to our last Tea Party meeting. I liked him. Linda Vega came last month. There are things I liked about her, but I wasn’t persuaded she was US Senate material yet. I’ve met Steve Stockman and Dwayne Stovall. People have mentioned good things about Chris Mapp. So, I’m still undecided, but I do think I’m going to do a protest vote in this primary, and then support the republican candidate.

I’m for Greg Abbott. Another candidate I’ve met is Lisa Fritsch, who was running against Abbott with an outsider vs. insider campaign. I didn’t buy it. But I liked her. I wish she were running for something else where I could support her. I’m glad to be able to vote for Greg Abbott. All of my sources are unanimous in supporting him. Sometime after the primary I’ll compare and contrast him with the democrat challenger, Wendy Davis, which should be an amusing exercise.

Lieutenant Governor:
I wrote about this race a few weeks ago. I’m for Dan Patrick, as are my sources, unanimously. But this race shows the deep bench of conservative leaders in Texas. As the campaign continues, I see more attacks, particularly from Jerry Patterson toward Dan Patrick—old and implied with lack of fact, and it’s harming Patterson in my view more than Patrick. The race is really between Patrick and Dewhurst, so Patterson’s attacks are going to make it awkward either way for Patterson.

Attorney General:
I’ve been truly undecided on this race. We met Barry Smitherman some months ago at the tea Party, but he was likable but unremarkable in a state full of conservatives. Ken Paxton came to our meeting last week, and we had a great little conversation about Constitutional principles, and about some inside politics. Paxton ran, last term, against the “moderate” Texas House Speaker Strauss—because someone had to, and he couldn’t find someone else willing. He was punished by having his district split—he won anyway and recruited a number of new conservative representatives around him. He also got removed from all committee leadership, and was the only representative placed on two committees led by democrats. In addition, any amendments he put forth on the floor were ruled not germane, even when they clearly were. But rather than complain, he says that’s what we face politically, and the solution is to get more conservatives elected. He seems to understand the attorney general position well, and while I think Greg Abbott’s shoes will be difficult to fill, I’m ready to give Paxton my vote. CCHC supported him with 60% of their vote (not enough for an endorsement; Smitherman got the other 40%). TFR also supported them. Smitherman is supported by TCR, HRBC, and my precinct chair friend (I’ll refer to her as PC).

This is like a state treasurer position—it’s accounting. It’s an open seat, with retirement of Susan Combs, who has been quite good. There are a few things Debra Medina says that I agree with; she’s more libertarian than traditional conservative, however, and there always seems to come a point where we diverge. Glenn Hegar was a state senator, whose office we visited last term. I like him, and he seems quite capable. He gets the support of CCHC (85%), TFR, and PC. Harvey Hilderbran got TCR’s endorsement.

Land Commissioner:
I’m still wavering on this race. George P. Bush is the son of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, grandson of George H. W. Bush, nephew of George W. Bush. It’s hard to say how much the name either hurts or helps. In his own right, he seems fairly capable. I know less about his opponent David Watts. CCHC gives 55% support to Watts. TCR, HRBC, and PC all support Bush. I am leaning toward Bush for now.

Commissioner of Agriculture:
We met Eric Opiela some time back at our Tea Party. I liked him, but I disagreed with him on the use of the Rainy Day fund for water infrastructure. He supported his argument well, and a number of people agreed with him, including Dan Patrick. I know less about the other candidates. But I’m taking a longer look at Sid Miller, who got 90% support from CCHC, as well as TFR and PC. Tommy Merritt got the endorsement of TCR. Because of the influence of friends, chances are I will go with Sid Miller.

Railroad Commissioner:
This position has a traditional name but actually has nothing to do with railroads, and everything to do with energy resources, such as oil and gas. We’ve had Wayne Christian and Ryan Sitton at our Tea Party. I’m leaning toward Wayne Christian. He also got 80% support from CCHC. But all the others got some support. TCR supports Malachi Boyuls. HRBC supports Ryann Sitton. And PC supports Becky Berger.

So far we’ve only gotten through statewide races, and even those not including judges. So this is going to take another post. So tomorrow we’ll work through the local and judicial races.



Monday, February 17, 2014

They Don't Make Them Like They Used To

It’s President’s Day, the combined celebration of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22). Back when I was in grade school, we didn’t get either day off; we spent them in school, learning about those men on their birthday. Even without a day off in their honor, I grew to love and honor them.
So today will be a quote day, just rereading some of their passed on wisdom. (I put in citations when I had them.) 

George Washington
George Washington portrait by
Gilbert Stuart, at Williamstown
"The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American People."—George Washington, after taking oath of office, April 30, 1789 

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness—these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens."—George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796 

“And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”—George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796 

"To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace."—George Washington, First State of the Union Address, January 8, 1790 

“The habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective Constitutional spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the Powers of one department to encroach upon another.”—George Washington, Farewell Address, September 19, 1796 

“Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”—James D. Richardson, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the President, 1789–1897, U.S. Congress, 1899, vol. 1, p. 220 

"It is in our own experience that the most sincere neutrality is not a sufficient guard against the depredation of nations at war. To secure respect to a neutral flag requires a naval force, organized and ready to vindicate it from insult or aggression. This may even prevent the necessity of going to war, by discouraging belligerent powers from committing such violations of the rights of the neutral party as may, first or last, leave no other option."—George Washington, Eighth Annual Address to Congress, December 7, 1796 

George Washington Praying at Valley Forge
painting by Arnold Friberg
"I have often expressed my sentiments that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience."—George Washington, Letter to the United Baptist Churches in Virginia, May 10, 1789 

"The Constitution recommended by the federal convention [of 1787]...approache[s] nearer to perfection than any government hitherto instituted among men."—George Washington—to Sir Edward Newenham, George Washington Himself, by John C. Fitzpatrick 

"We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age and in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast that a man's religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest offices that are known in the United States."—George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793 

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led,
like sheep to the slaughter.”—George Washington

So many favorite quotes come from Washington’s Farewell Address, you might like to read it in full, here.

Abraham Lincoln, 1863 daguerreotype
Abraham Lincoln

(Responding to a question about which side God was on during the Civil War) “I am not at all concerned about that, for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord’s side.”—Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s Stories and Speeches, ed. J. B. McClure, Chicago: Rhodes and McClure Publishing Co., 1896, pp. 185–86. 

“No oppressed, people will fight, and endure, as our fathers did, without the promise of something better, than a mere change of masters.”—Abraham Lincoln, Fragment on the Constitution and the Union, c. January 1861 

“The people of these United States are the rightful masters of both Congresses and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution.”—Abraham Lincoln, speech at Cincinnati, Ohio, September 17, 1859, in The Papers and Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 5, Constitutional Edition, ed. Arthur Brooks Lapsley 

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.—Abraham Lincoln is attributed with this quote, but it may be that his actual words were these: “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”—Abraham Lincoln, speech “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions” 

“What is conservatism? Is it not preference for the old and tried, over the
  new and untried?”—Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Russell Kirk, The Essence of Conservatism

"I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day."—Abraham Lincoln, according to journalist Noah Brooks 

“This, and this only (will satisfy the South): cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right…. Holding, as they do, that slavery is morally right, and socially elevating, they cannot cease to demand a full national recognition of it, as a legal right, and a social blessing…. Let us be diverted by none of these sophistical contrivances….such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong….”—Abraham Lincoln, Speech at New Haven, Connecticut, March 6, 1860 

“If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong,”  Lincoln statement on March 26, 1864, to former Senator Archibald Dixon, Governor Thomas E. Bramlette, and Albert G. Hodges, editor of the Frankfort, KY, Commonwealth, later put in writing per Hodges’ request. See more here 

In honor of the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, I wrote about that speech, and included it in full, here.

Part of being conservative is caretaking what we have. I hope we will, with care, preserve the words and ideas of these two great men.