Thursday, October 30, 2014

Character Trumps Tribe, Part III

We’ve spent a couple of posts so far talking about “tribes.” I’m using this term to mean group, or identity, such as race or ethnicity. But it can be other things, whatever is part of an identity grouping. In part I we covered Houston Mayor Annise Parker and her LGBT tribal loyalty overriding principles important to the larger population. In part II we talked about the tribalism in the black community, standing in the way of freedom, prosperity, and civilization.
Another “tribe” that’s being put forward to get “firsts” is women, which we’ll cover in today’s part III, along with some conclusions.
Wendy Davis, running for Texas Governor, is an example of the “tribe” of women. She claims there is a war on women, and voting for her puts you on the right side of the war. But that’s tribal. What is she saying that would lead to freedom, prosperity, and civilization for men in Texas? Or for women? Because the same principles apply if you want to go north on the sphere.
Other than our age and gender, I find nothing in Wendy Davis that puts us in any similar group. We agree on almost nothing, and I would never want a person with her lack of character and capability to represent or lead me. I certainly would not give her my vote just because of her gender. Especially when a man of great character and capability, Greg Abbott, is our blessed alternative.
Hillary Clinton will not be the first female to run for president; but she is pressing the “tribalism first” goal of getting the vote because she is nominally a woman. Her lack of character and capability are almost legendary. The only thing she thinks will work for her is tribalism—“Vote for me to prove you don't hate women.”
What does this "feminist tribe" stand for? Sex without consequence. “Right” to kill unborn babies at any point (and leading to even after birth in some cases). Disdain for motherhood, and especially for stay-at-home motherhood. Pushing to ignore physiological differences between men and women. Claiming that there’s still a pay difference between men and women (outlawed decades ago, when you’re comparing apples to apples situations). Pretending to be men, while pretending men are evil and inconsequential. There's nothing in there that even shows an understanding of women, let alone a love and appreciation for divine womanhood.
The feminist tribe pushes for power to be men, to replace men. It’s illogical. It’s ugly. It’s hate-filled. And because it’s so anti-family, it can only lead to tyranny, poverty, and savagery.
That is not to say women can’t be good in government, leadership, or just about any profession they choose. But it has to be based on the character and capability of individual women—nothing to do with the feminist tribe.
You can't assume goodness based on tribal association. So the next question is, how do you tell when a person is likely to promote their tribe over the common good?
In Harris County right now there is an interesting race for District Attorney. Both party’s candidates are women. The incumbent, Devon Anderson, was appointed a little over a year ago, upon the death from cancer of the very capable Mike Anderson, who had not been in that job long enough. He was her husband. She is a former prosecutor and was serving effectively as a judge. And she has been effective thus far, just a little over a year into the job.
But her opponent, Kim Ogg, also a woman, is fairly impressive. She is tough on crime, has some good data to show how things have been (up to 2012, when Mike Anderson was elected, so no data on how things are currently being done). One of the issues is about prosecution of minor drug offenses. I don’t agree with Ogg, but she did support her stance fairly well, and got some support at our Tea Party, where we have some libertarian leanings.
I got the chance to ask her this question: “We seem to agree with being tough on crime and fiscally responsible. Those aren’t things we usually go to the Democratic party for. So what attracts you to the Democrats?”
I give her credit for coming to a Tea Party in the first place; more Democrats should. And she was forthright and honest in the Texas way. I appreciate that. But her answer essentially was that she couldn’t get elected in a Republican primary. She thinks of herself as an old-time conservative democrat, like her father. She voted Republican in the 1990s, and has now gone back with the democrats. Yes, she did vote for Obama, but only once.
But here’s the telling detail: she voted for McCain in 2008; she liked him a lot. And then she voted for Obama in 2012. So, after four years of evidence against Obama, she thought he was a better option than Romney. (If you missed the contrast, start here.) She has revealed a severe lack of judgment. And she added to that by admitting without being asked that she supports Wendy Davis for Governor. In other words, even though we agree on a couple of principles, she identifies with a party that I simply don’t relate to. She's not about conserving the Constitution; she may not even know what the word means.
So maybe the most important detail is party—which is another tribe.
This may not have always been so, but today I find it very difficult to find a Democrat with character—the values that lead to freedom, prosperity and civilization. They tend to want power over others. Often power for their tribe (their group, their identity, their coalition of groups) trumps the good of all. Democrats, in Spherical Model terms, live in the southern hemisphere, with no awareness that there’s a better alternative.
So, regardless of tribe, let’s start with the agreement that the Democrat party right now is wrong for America, and their principles are wrong anywhere else in the world that might want freedom, prosperity, and civilization.
That doesn’t necessarily mean being part of the Republican tribe is the answer. Same is true for libertarians, or any party. You might get a little further by looking at someone’s religious affiliation. But even then, if it’s a tribal affiliation rather than connecting on principles, it’s misplaced loyalty.
So, in a party where you find a number of like-minded people, keeping the Constitution in mind, find candidates with character and capability. And once you find those things, look at agreement with the principles that lead to freedom, prosperity, and civilization. You can find a good list of questions to ask here.
Connect with others to influence and support one another with love. But be loyal only to God and to your soul. Any other tribe is an incidental connection, unworthy of unquestioned loyalty.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Character Trumps Tribe, Part II

In "Character Trumps Tribe, Part I" we started talking about the difference between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to goodness. This is a bigger discussion than race, but we have some examples in racism to describe the problem. So today’s Part II is about that particular type of tribe.

In Obama’s first term, a Boston area professor caused a kerfuffle at his doorstep when police arrived to follow up on a tip from a neighbor of what looked like a break-in. The police did nothing but come to the door and ask questions, and learn that the professor indeed lived at the residence and was not an intruder. But the professor decided the police had no right to follow up at his house, because he was a black man, and that meant the complaint came because of his race. When this hit the news, it should have been a non-story. But the president inserted himself, saying the police acted foolishly—without even checking to find out the police had done nothing amiss. The president has a knee-jerk racism reaction. He’s for tribe over character.

This showed up again with the Trayvon Martin case. The president decided, before all the facts were known, that a black teen had been killed because of his race, when he was just innocently walking through the neighborhood. And he announced that, if he had a son, he’d likely look like Trayvon Martin. He failed to wait for evidence that the “innocent” teen had beaten up the (Hispanic) man (with a non-Hispanic name) who shot him in self-defense. It was a tragedy. But it would have been avoided if the “innocent black teen” had not attacked the man to whom he looked like a hood-wearing black teen unknown in the neighborhood.

Then, recently there was the situation in Ferguson, MO. It was immediately purported to be a white cop shooting an unarmed young black man, Michael Brown, for no reason beyond race. Stories were even told that Brown was fleeing and was shot in the back. Based on this invention, race riots were instigated. The president apologized to the UN that racist tensions such as in Ferguson happen in the US, comparable to human rights violations like beheadings elsewhere in the world.

Except that the “black man murdered by cop” story differed from the story of the injured police officer and some other witnesses. Almost right away there was evidence the “victim” had just robbed a convenience store. Immediate evidence showed the victim was not shot while fleeing. And the eventual autopsy report matched the police officer’s original story, that the first shot came inside the car, with the man trying to attack the officer and get his gun, and that he seemed to be rushing the officer when the final shots were fired. Witnesses corroborating the officer’s story are afraid to allow their identities to be revealed, because their disagreement with the racism story makes them enemy targets of those pushing that story.

The victim was a very large, very strong nearly 300 pounds of muscle, judgment impaired by drugs, who had just committed a crime, refused to follow directions to get out of the middle of the street, and instead attacked a police officer in his car. He was shot because of his race? Really?
In each of these instances, the appropriate response from a civilized person (not to mention a person in a powerful position such as president) should be to stand back, wait for the facts, and say and do whatever is needed to further truth and justice. Instead, in each instance we got people putting forward their tribe—as though belonging to the tribe equates to rightness, regardless of behavior, regardless of facts.

This isn’t a singular problem with our president; it’s a problem with the overall “tribe.” Think back to the O. J. Simpson trial. It was constantly in the news, so simply waiting to observe the outcome was hardly allowed as an option. But, really, it was a murder trial little different from other trials—except that it involved a famous person. And the famous person—wildly successful in sports, media, and even movies, so not what you'd call oppressed—happened to be black. So there was a tribal defense of him—as though his actual guilt or innocence didn’t matter; what mattered was his color. Because there was perceived unfairness toward that “tribe” somewhere historically, he should be acquitted—for the sake of the tribe.

The tribe called that justice. But civilization does not.

There’s a conversation going on lately about “white privilege.” [I'm curious about the movie Dear White People, which I won't see, because I choose not to see R-rated movies. But some reviews say it is an intelligent, nuanced view, instead of just an attack on all of us as racists.] I don’t feel privileged. But I do have the advantage that, when people see me, they don’t grab their purses and fear I might be a criminal. But some of that has more to do with how I place myself in society—a law-abiding, modestly dressed, educated, middle-aged woman. Women in like categories—differing only in race—get treated pretty much the way I do.

What do we do when we meet blacks at Tea Party meetings, or Republican rallies? We welcome them. Their very being there separates them out from the 90% of their tribe who value tribal identity above character. Just by showing up and joining with those who think like we do, they have declared their preference for freedom, prosperity, and civilization. That puts them in the American greater society, even though it probably causes them ostracism from their race tribe. Their statement is a show of character. And to those of us who value character, we’re glad to welcome them.

So let’s consider behavior and choices. Think back to times when western settlers faced various native tribes. If you found yourself surrounded by natives dressed in the clothing and symbols of Apaches, you’d feel more fearful than you would in a group of peaceful Pueblos. The difference is not because you know the individuals involved; it’s from experience with those particular tribes.

In some urban centers, where the black “tribe” is a large segment of the population, you get a lot of crime, a lot of poverty. But it may relate more to the 70% of children being born without fathers in the home than with outside oppression. When families fail, in large numbers, you get savagery.

But if people escape the trappings of the tribe, dress as though they respect themselves, and follow the formula for success in America, they’re a lot less likely to strike fear in their neighbors as they walk down the street.

What is the formula? Again, it is:

Don’t have sex before age 20.
Don’t have sex until after marriage.
Stay married.
Obtain at least a high school diploma.

In Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart, he claims that part of the problem is that the successful fail to share this secret. There’s probably more to getting into the elite neighborhood Murray talks about, but this formula works so well that it practically guarantees getting out of poverty and into the middle class. And it builds social capital for the next generation. This formula works for any tribe—any group.

Character—living according to principles of ultimate good—brings about civilization. Squabbles between and among tribes can do no more than change the flavor of tyrannical power.

That is the main point of this discussion. But there’s another “tribe” in the ongoing intertribal war worth covering—the gender war. So we’ll take Part III to look at the so-called “war on women” and what that really means.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Character Trumps Tribe, Part I

The attack on freedom of religion by Houston Mayor Annise Parker brought to mind a point about identity politics. Or, to frame it from a better position, character trumps tribe.

Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Monument.
His dream was that we would judge each other by the content of our character,
rather than the color of our skin.

I mentioned last week that, when Annise Parker was running for mayor, she downplayed her connection to the LGBT community. She ran as a sensible businessperson with skills the city needed. And she just happened to be a lesbian, but that didn’t affect her skills. That, however, was a lie to get elected. She did not have adequate skills to overcome her tribal connection.
She has reigned as the first openly homosexual mayor of a major American city. Ah, the glory! And she has used the power of her position, time and again, to press the agenda of her tribe, rather than the overall needs of all the citizens. She may even believe that putting forward her tribal agenda is best for all. But it isn’t. She’s blinded by that overriding agenda.
She can’t see that pressing her agenda at the risk of giving sexual predators legal, unquestioned access to women’s bathrooms is not good for the community as a whole. She can’t even hear the huge outcry from the community who see that obvious danger. And she’s so sure she’s right that she arbitrarily throws out the 55,000 signatures of the people who want to put the question on the ballot. When she’s called on that illegality and must defend her actions in a lawsuit, she uses that opportunity to intimidate churches for speaking on this moral issue.
So, now that we have had a first openly homosexual mayor of a major US city, what do we know? The agenda of the tribe trumps the character of the candidate. Will that always be true? Perhaps not, but she has given us reason to beware. If her actual goal was to move members of her tribe into acceptance among the broader community, she set back that work a generation or more.
We have a similar situation with our first black president. [Style note: I do not know which changing term is best to use for the race previously referred to as black. Referring to it as African-American is inaccurate, since not all Africans are of the black race, nor are all blacks from Africa, nor are all people of that race Americans. So, for simplicity, I use the term black, meaning no disrespect or offense.]
He ran as post-racial. Many people succumbed to that. It’s a positive thing to show what so many of us already felt—race doesn’t matter; character and capability matter. Unfortunately, he was voted in because of his race, regardless of lack of character and capability. And, six years in I think it’s safe to say that his is the most racist administration we have had since Woodrow Wilson (who separated blacks serving in the military and encouraged eugenics that have led to a higher percentage of blacks being aborted than any other race—possibly more being aborted than being born).
Almost immediately after his election, he appointed a racist Attorney General, Eric Holder, who refused to prosecute Black Panthers for voter intimidation, because they were black. And it was his policy that anything racist that blacks do is fair, and only non-blacks will be prosecuted for racist (or perceived racist) offenses. See J. Christian Adams’s book Injustice.
The president has tried to construe disagreement with him and his policies as racism—just as Mayor Parker has tried to construe disagreement with her as being homophobic. He uses his tribalism as a power tool against numerous other segments of the people: Constitution respecters, religious people, people who assert their second amendment rights, people who respect the military….
Now that we have had a first black president, what do we know? The agenda of the tribe trumps the character of the candidate. With blacks, this may set things back even further than you might think. We have the additional data that more than 9 out of 10 blacks voted for this man—because of his race. In other words, we have clear evidence that an overwhelming majority of the black “tribe” identify with the tribal connection more than with the American connection. This is where stereotypes come from—a probable truth. Most of the blacks we meet failed to vote in favor of American freedom and constitution, because they had a chance to vote for someone of their color. Most blacks, we can conclude safely from the overwhelming data, are racist. Tribal.
This means racism is a bigger issue than before the Obama elections. I’m expanding this discussion to “tribalism,” because race isn’t the only group with an agenda. Tribalism isn’t a good thing.
Think back to high school. Your school had a cross-town rival. Were all the people in your school better than all the people in the rival school? No. Was your school better than theirs because you had a better football team? Or even because you had more graduates go on to college? There might be some useful measures, but chances are you rooted for your school team out of loyalty. You went there; you belonged. And that’s all that matters.
But in grown-up world, loyalty by happenstance isn’t a good enough reason for supporting a person or policy.
There’s more to cover here, to fully understand our divisions, and possibly to find some way out. So we’ll continue this in part II.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Century of Civilization Training

We take a break today from commenting on painful decay and problems in the news, and instead look at some positive signs of civilization.
Mr. Spherical Model recently volunteered as a district commissioner for one of the 27 districts in the Sam Houston Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. So that put us on the invitation list for the gala in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Council—which began a few years after the original founding of BSA in 1910. It is the largest Boy Scout council in America (maybe in the world). And a lot of good has been going on during this century.
I’m usually a compulsive note taker when I hear speeches, but I hadn’t prepared with a large notebook in my bag. Nor was it convenient to pull out writing materials in the relative dark at our dinner table. So I missed a lot I wish I could share and have to depend mostly on memory.
There were three recent Eagle Scouts who spoke, all impressive young men. They talked about service and family, mainly. The keynote speaker was the current national president of BSA, Dr. Robert Gates. Yes, you’ve heard that name before. He was an Air Force officer early in his career, recruited by the CIA during the Johnson administration. He served in government for 26 years, including the National Security Council, and as head of the CIA during George W. Bush’s administration. After that he served as president of Texas A&M University (there was a “whoop” that arose from the audience every time that school was mentioned; I guess it’s a Texas thang). And now, in his “retirement,” he has taken on the biggest organization in the world for building civilized men.
Robert Gates, President of BSA
photo from Wikipedia
Despite his serious demeanor, he was a fun speaker. He had a couple of funny anecdotes about Washington, DC. One quip was, “The road of humility is not well traveled there; you can take that road and never meet another soul.” And he told a couple of stories about LBJ’s legendary self-regard, in which he needed reminding that he was not God. In one, during a prayer breakfast, LBJ interrupted the person giving the prayer (a name I recognized but can’t recall now) saying he should speak up, because he couldn’t hear. And the quick answer was, “That’s because I wasn’t talking to you.”
Gates talked about a particular campout with his son, what was supposed to be a primitive camp. But the atmosphere was interrupted somewhat by the several security vans that surrounded him, because they were tasked with protecting him as a high ranking CIA official.
He said that his many busy years of government service did interfere with his getting more involved in Scouting in those days. But the real reason was that no one asked him. I thought that was an important point. This is true for much of the volunteer work that gets done in society; people step up and do the work when someone asks them to, letting them know their service is needed and will be appreciated. What a bonus if the service is done in an organization with such a record of success!
The Sam Houston Area Council now has about 58,000 scouts, plus about 20,000 adult volunteers. Many of these (most) come from church congregations that sponsor troops. In our church most of the volunteers are asked to serve. Expressing interest usually leads to being asked, but it’s expected that, if you’re asked and you can serve, you will. Training follows. The latest position for Mr. Spherical Model, as commissioner, though, was not through the church, but through district leadership. It’s an honor, but also a challenge. Something years as a scout master and scout committee chair for the local troop has prepared him for.
This crazy troop are all grown now, most are married
and graduated from college, and four serve in the US Military.
There are plenty of ways to serve, as an adult. I’ve done a number of them. I spent three years as a den leader. I’ve been a merit badge counselor—something practically everyone could do to help. I’ve also been the mom who helps monitor advancement for boy scouts, through cub scouting, and on through Eagle. Our family produced one Life Scout (second highest level), and one Eagle Scout, by the age 18 deadline.
Then there’s the service as needed, like when a scout is doing his Eagle project and is recruiting help. And sometimes there are bigger opportunities. November 15, for example, is a community-wide Day of Service the Boy Scouts are sponsoring. Don’t wait to be asked.
There are various places I’ve listed the qualities individuals need to develop for civilization to thrive. The Boy Scout Law is one of those, worth repeating:
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
A Scout, or any person, who develops those characteristics becomes a civilized human being. We need more of those. The best way to grow a boy into such a man is to have a dad and mom who show the way. Scouting can be a tool those parents can use to help them.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Houston's Intolerance Problem Is the Mayor

Houston; we have a problem. It’s the mayor, Annise Parker. She’s notable for being the first openly homosexual mayor of a major US city. The thing is, she ran, a known democrat for the nonpartisan position, as a sensible businessperson ready to rein in overspending and implement common-sense policies. She claimed to be able to clean up a number of money mismanagement areas left over from Mayor Bill White—also a democrat who had run as a businessman who cared about money management rather than liberal ideology, but who then went on to mess up the budget and follow liberal ideas like being a sanctuary city for illegal aliens.
Mayor Annise Parker, center
photo found here
So Annise Parker did not run as either a liberal or as a homosexual. In fact, I was not even aware she was a lesbian until the week before the election. And when that information came out, in the context of the rest of the campaign, it didn’t seem relevant. Houstonians didn’t elect a lesbian mayor; they elected the candidate who convinced them she would be most effective for the city.
I live a mile outside the Houston city limits, so I don’t vote in city elections (nor do I have to suffer additional city taxes). While the city leadership affects all of the Greater Houston Area, it’s less relevant when we don’t actually live in the city. There was a Republican opponent (and others), but I don’t remember who. In Houston, as in pretty nearly any urban area, getting the least liberal democrat is about the best you can hope for. So I looked on, hoping she wouldn’t be too bad.
Then, the moment she got elected, the big news was that Houston had shocked the world by not being bigoted against a lesbian in their mayoral election. Hmm. And she has been much better at pushing the LGBT agenda than getting Houston’s fiscal house in order. Practically every time she’s in the news, it has something to do with her lesbianism, rather than her caretaking of the city.
The big one this past several months has been policy purportedly for “fairness” toward transgenders. In June, she pressed a bill through the city council (so, not entirely her fault, but wouldn’t have happened without her pressure) what is referred to as the “bathroom bill.” The city created transgenders as a protected class, and one cannot do anything to “discriminate” against a protected class. In this case, transgenders get to choose which public restroom to use on any given day, depending on which gender they feel like that day. No matter how they may dress, one cannot question whether they’re inappropriately in the wrong restroom.
There’s an ick factor involved in having a six-foot-three obvious male, either dressed as a male or a female, in a women’s restroom. But it’s not so much with transgenders that the public has a problem. It’s sexual predators. No one is allowed to ask, or suspect. So if an obvious male appears in your women’s restroom, you must accept his presence or be subject to prosecution for going against the city ordinance that is intended to prevent transgenders from feeling uncomfortable (regardless of any discomfort they might make you feel). So that tells predators, “You can go into women’s restrooms and prey upon unprotected females, and no one can question your being there.”
The problem was brought before the city council and the mayor. They dismissed it as just more bigotry against LGBTs. That scenario, they claim, might never even happen.
But for some reason the public doesn’t trust them on that. Imagine you’re a dad with a 9-year-old daughter who needs to use the restroom. You let her go in, and you stand outside the door. Then, following her in is a burly, obvious male. What do you do? Follow the guy in and stand guard for your daughter? One thing you don’t do is think, “Oh, the mayor says I shouldn’t worry, so I’m sure my daughter is safe enough. I'd much rather risk my daughter's safety than risk hurting the feelings of a possibly transgender person.” The mayor is expecting the public to go against human nature. But, then, she’s not a father, and neither she nor her “spouse” can ever be.
There was a huge public outcry against the policy. Some 55,000 signatures were collected from the public in a referendum demanding repeal; only 17,269 signatures were required. The Houston City Secretary and staff counted the signatures, and when they got to 19,177, they validated the count without going on, since the threshold had already been surpassed.
But then the mayor decided to look into the validity of the signatures. Among the certified count were enough disqualified signatures (didn’t contain adequate information, or didn’t qualify as city residents) to drop the count to around 15,000. Without counting the additional 30,000+ signatures, the mayor threw out the initiative as invalid. In other words, she acted like a dictator and unlawfully overruled the people with her own dictates. Just like any other petty dictator.
A coalition was formed to sue the mayor over the issue, referred to as Woodfill v. Parker. (Lawyer Jared Woodfill was until recently the Harris County Republican Chair. He's on the legal team for the suit.)
This week the news got out that, in the city’s defense against the lawsuit (using taxpayer dollars), she has subpoenaed certain information from five area pastors. These pastors are NOT part of the lawsuit. They are, however, outspoken opponents of the mayor’s “bathroom bill,” (among 400 or so who took a stand against it) and sometimes against the mayor’s more general LGBT activism.
To be clear, in defense of a lawsuit, one can gather information from many places, including from witnesses that are not part of the lawsuit itself. Her seeking information from these particular pastors is not in itself illegal. But the overly broad request is a bit shocking: "All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO [what the Mayor calls the ordinance], the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker's homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you (the Pastors) or in your possession."
What she wants to know specifically is, did the pastors, or their surrogates under their approval, request that their congregation members sign the petition? She wants to claim that this would disqualify the churches for getting involved in politics.
But that, in itself, is a misunderstanding of political participation. Churches generally (not technically prohibited by the Constitution, but by recent readings of it by SCOTUS) aren’t allowed to choose parties or candidates to support. But issues—particularly issues related to religious beliefs—are always fair game. Always! Putting abortion, or “same-sex marriage,” or various family laws, or prostitution or public nudity, or location of bars, etc., on the ballot does not place those issues out-of-bounds for churches to talk about. That would be an absurd approach to religious freedom.
But absurd is the typical approach of Mayor Annise Parker and others who think they have the only acceptable beliefs—the intolerant.
There are a couple of other absurdities here: the sermons were already offered publicly. And sermons are not necessarily written. This is similar to subpoenas made by the IRS to True the Vote and King Street Patriots—requiring they detail, in writing, every person who spoke and every word spoken at meetings—where people get together to speak their minds—not typically written out, and not expected, in most cases, to be recorded. So, is it because Parker and her people don’t have going-to-church experience? Or is it less about gathering information and more about squelching future speech? As with the IRS, it looks like the latter is intended.
Already she has backed off the original subpoena—because of pressure, and bad press. She claims she wouldn’t have worded it the way her lawyers did. (The broader elements of the subpoena have been changed to more specifics, but the subpoenas are still in process.)
She’s still defending her behavior:
·        Forcing the “bathroom bill” on the people of Houston (and anyone who works there or visits and might need a public restroom).
·        Illegally throwing out the validated signatures expressing of will of the people.
·        Defending her position, using taxpayer dollars, against the people’s will, by attacking pastors in their churches.
So, while she isn’t, at this point, “monitoring” churches to make sure they don’t say anything she doesn’t like, we can probably assume she’s bigoted enough against religious people (or anyone who disagrees with her) to quash religious speech is she could. Ironically, she does it in the name of tolerance.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Executive Is No Angel

There are a couple of quotes I’d like to contrast. This first is from James Madison, in The Federalist Papers, #51:
What is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither internal nor external controls on the government would be needed.
The second quote is from that contemporary political mind, Gwyneth Paltrow, who held a fundraiser at her Santa Monica, CA, home last week. Besides gushing, “You’re so handsome that I can’t speak properly,” she advised all who would hear:
It would be wonderful if we were able to give this man all of the power that he needs to pass the things that he needs to pass.
James Madison, image from here;                      Gwyneth Paltrow, photo from here
If great minds think alike, then one of these divergent thinkers might not be a great mind.
Here’s what we know. Human nature means that no person—not even another George Washington—should be imbued with absolute power. If a person is neither God nor one of His angels, that person’s power should be limited. So, while it might be possible to pile up the complaints against our current president’s character (even though Miss Paltrow apparently can’t), the only necessary reason for being suspect and limiting his power is: he is not God, and he is no angel.
Our founders brilliantly identified three aspects of power—and wisely separated them: law making, law judging, and law executing.
There’s a new course offered online, for free as usual, from Hillsdale College, called The Presidency and the Constitution, with Dr. Larry Arnn giving the introductory lecture. In lecture 1, around 17 minutes in, he gives this background on separation of powers:
In the Declaration of Independence, there is separation of powers. It occurs in two ways. In the first way, in the middle of the document, a largely ignored but incredibly important part of the document, they gave the reasons why they’re doing it. The bad stuff the king has done. There are 17 of them, and several of them are violations of separation of powers: made judges dependent on his will alone, suspended legislatures and interfered with their operation. And so here you have an executive, and he’s actually getting control—and in English history sometimes the king did have control—of all of the processes of government, making him a law unto himself. And so, that’s condemned in the Declaration of Independence. That is grounds for revolution, if that happens.
But then the second way is, if anything, more sublime. And that is, the branches of government are named in the Declaration of Independence in relation to God. God appears four times. Once he’s the creator. That’s like a constitution maker, like a founder, if you see that in political terms. And it would be right, I think, to see it in political terms, because here we have a sublime political document. The first time He shows up, He’s the maker of the laws of nature and of nature’s God. He’s the legislator.
Then later, toward the end of the document, He’s named as the supreme judge of the world—the judicial branch. And as divine providence, the executive branch. And the lesson from that is plain. The way God is addressed is the way He is viewed.
And then these complaints against the king, about his violation of separation of powers, that it is in the hands of God alone that you would place all the powers of government. And any man, like King George III, who tried to arrogate those powers to himself—that would be an evil. Not to be trusted.
Absolute power is not a new threat. It wasn’t even new in the days of King George III. Tyrants seeking absolute power have been the norm. But not right. Absolute power in a human being—or even a small number of humans—is an evil to be avoided. On the Spherical Model, it is southern hemisphere statist tyranny.
I came across another source this week, also from Hillsdale, about separation of powers. September’s Imprimis article is “The History and Danger of Administrative Law," by Philip Hamburger, of Columbia Law School. He defines administrative power as a modern version of placing multiple powers in the hands of the executive—in other words, just another form of tyranny.
He says, in introduction,
Administrative law is commonly defended as a new sort of power, a product of the 19th and 20th centuries that developed to deal with the problems of modern society in all its complexity. From this perspective, the Framers of the Constitution could not have anticipated it and the Constitution could not have barred it. What I will suggest, in contrast, is that administrative power is actually very old. It revives what used to be called prerogative or absolute power, and it is thus something that the Constitution centrally prohibited.
He compares what our current form of executive-appointed administrative rule with the long-familiar prerogative power of kings. He uncovers three types of prerogative power—all of them precluded by our Constitution: extra-legal, supra-legal, and consolidated power. He explains:
Whereas ordinarily kings bound their subjects through statutes passed by Parliament, when exercising prerogative power they bound subjects through proclamations or decrees—or what we today call rules or regulations. Whereas ordinarily kings would repeal old statutes by obtaining new statutes, when exercising prerogative power they issued dispensations and suspensions—or what we today call waivers. Whereas ordinarily kings enforced the law through the courts of law, when exercising prerogative power they enforced their commands through their prerogative courts—courts such as the King’s Council, the Star Chamber, and the High Commission—or what we today call administrative courts. Ordinarily, English judges resolved legal disputes in accordance with their independent judgment regarding the law. But when kings exercised prerogative power, they expected deference from judges, both to their own decrees and to the holdings and interpretations of their extra-legal prerogative courts.
When we see our president—and not just the president, but the legislature, by not doing their duty, but turning it over to some regulatory agency—writing thousands of regulations, such that no human could possibly identify them and abide by them, that is the same old tyranny we’ve seen before. When he decides, using waivers, whom he will choose to exempt from laws and regulations, again that is the same old tyranny rule. When he has regulatory agencies judge whether a person is in defiance of a regulation and can then fine and/or imprison that “wrongdoer,” that is not what our founders would call divided powers. That is the executive branch (president, potentate, dictator, king…) making the laws, judging the laws, and executing the enforcement of them.
What we have is the very mess we declared independence from back in 1776. So what do we do now?
Hamburger offers this simple-but-not-easy starting point:
The Constitution carefully barred this threat, but constitutional doctrine has since legitimized this dangerous sort of power. It therefore is necessary to go back to basics. Among other things, we should no longer settle for some vague notion of “rule of law, understood as something that allows the delegation of legislative and judicial powers to administrative agencies. We should demand rule through law and rule under law. Even more fundamentally, we need to reclaim the vocabulary of law: Rather than speak of administrative law, we should speak of administrative power—indeed, of absolute power or more concretely of extra-legal, supra-legal, and consolidated power. Then we at least can begin to recognize the danger.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Supreme Disservice

Monday, October 6, 2014, goes down in history as a great sin of omission—a moment when something could have been done for the sake of civilization, and it wasn’t done.
This is part of the problem of getting ourselves into the position of trusting nine unelected lifetime appointees to determine what is law. That’s not how the writers of our Constitution set things up; that’s the result of corruption. But, since they have that power, failure to use it for good can be a significant failure.
The Supreme Court is more or less free to take up any case that works its way up to the SCOTUS level of appeal, or to not take up a case for any reason. In general, when they take up a case, it can be with the purpose of defining a point of dispute in the US Constitution.
In a piece at Breitbart, Senator Ted Cruz describes what was happening:
The Supreme Court is, de facto, applying an extremely broad interpretation to the 14th Amendment without saying a word—an action that is likely to have far-reaching consequences. [It is] beyond dispute that when the 14th Amendment was adopted 146 years ago, as a necessary post-Civil War era reform, it was not imagined to also mandate same-sex marriage, but that is what the Supreme Court is implying today.
The Court is making the preposterous assumption that the People of the United States somehow silently redefined marriage in 1868 when they ratified the 14th Amendment…. Nothing in the text, logic, structure, or original understanding of the 14th Amendment or any other constitutional provision authorizes judges to redefine marriage for the nation. It is for the elected representatives of the People to make the laws of marriage, acting on the basis of their own constitutional authority, and protecting it, if necessary, from usurpation by the courts.
The 14th Amendment is longer than I want to quote entirely here. Its purpose was to make sure freed slaves, nor any other citizen, did not have their citizenship rights abridged. The salient part reads:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
There is nothing in there saying, “no state shall define marriage in a way that meets with disapproval in some circles in 2014.” A marriage is a contract. In contracts, terms are defined. The US DOMA law, recently struck down, was simply the federal government defining the term for use in federal contracts; it was struck down, because, according to Justice Kennedy, states should retain the right to define that term for themselves.
Many states have gone out of their way to define the term marriage as a contract between one man and one woman, including placing the definition in their state constitutions (Texas did this in 2005 with an overwhelming majority of about 78%). There is nothing in the definition that prevents any citizens or group of citizens from taking part in such a contract. Any homosexual person who chooses (and some do) can marry a person of the opposite sex and enjoy all the benefits of that contract, including bearing and raising offspring.
The current rulings at issue claim that the very definition of marriage discriminates and therefore cannot be allowed. Circuit court judges have wiped out the sovereignty of a dozen states, not based on law, not based on SCOTUS precedent, but simply based on their misconstruing the 14th Amendment.
These are political (politically correct?) decisions, not law-based decisions. We need an authority to put a stop to them.
If SCOTUS had chosen to add these cases to this year’s case list, it would have left the cases in dispute, and marriage licenses would not be issued to people who did not qualify for them. With the failure to take on the cases, it means, until further notice, the most recent rulings stand—forcing the states in question to start issuing licenses to same-sex couples—or any other couple (or other multiple) that hasn’t heretofore been granted a marriage license because of not meeting the definition of the term in the contract. If states are not allowed to define the term of this contract, all comers, married already or not, close relatives or not, same or opposite sex or more than one of any such combination, must be allowed—because the circuit courts have ruled that states are not allowed to define the term since it might be construed to be discrimination.
It’s a chaotic mess.
Meanwhile, other cases are pending in other circuit courts—which indications seem to show will be logically ruled based on law, rather than on judicial whim. Then there will be a hodgepodge of licensing requirements, depending on which judge said what to which state.
Eventually the Supreme Court will have to take up the issue. Then there will eventually (assuming sanity on the final ruling) be a nullification of licenses granted from this point until the ruling shows such licenses to be invalid.
One of the best discussions I heard was on Hugh Hewitt’sWednesday show, third hour, with John Eastman, President of National Organization for Marriage, and one of Hewitt’s go-to law specialists. You can only get to the archive with subscription, so I’m providing a chunk of the transcript below. Their discussion doesn’t provide a solution, but I still found it enlightening. (HH is radio host Hugh Hewitt, and JE is John Eastman.)
HH: John, how do you read everything that has happened in the marriage cases in the last 24 hours?
JE: Yeah, we’ll extend it to 72 hours, to Monday morning, which I think we must. It’s just utter chaos. And I am deeply disappointed in the institution of the Supreme Court, for the chaos that is now following in the wake of their non-decision of Monday morning. What they had pending before them was seven different circuit decisions, in cases coming out of five different states, three different circuit court of appeals, with both sides of the cases urging the Supreme Court to take the issue and settle once and for all whether the Constitution mandates that the states redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships. The Court denied cert in all of those, and that left the lower court decisions in place. And in many of those states—Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin—marriage licenses began issuing immediately. But the Court hasn’t settled this, so there’s still pending litigation in the 8th Circuit, and the 5th Circuit down in Texas and Louisiana, and the 11th Circuit, and most imminently in the 6th Circuit cases out of Ohio and Kentucky and Tennessee and Michigan.
We expect the 6th Circuit is going to uphold those state’s laws, and I think the Court will have to take this up at that point, because there will be a very important circuit split on a fundamentally important Constitutional issue. And the chaos that has happened in the meantime will have continued for no reason.
HH: What do you make of Justice Kennedy enjoining Idaho from issuing licenses, but subsequently today apparently clearing the way for Nevada to do so?
JE: So, what happened yesterday was the 9th Circuit issued its decision, and it had pending before it cases in Idaho and Nevada. It also had a case out of Hawaii, and we haven’t heard what they’re going to do with that one yet. But it consolidated the Idaho and Nevada cases into a single order. And then Judge Reinhart issued the mandate immediately, rather than pursuing the normal procedure, which is to allow the parties an opportunity to petition for rehearing on bond or to ask the Supreme Court to review the case. And so Idaho’s governor filed an emergency application for a stay about 3:00 in the morning, because marriage licenses were ordered to start issuing at 10 AM this morning. And Justice Kennedy granted that stay. The caption on the case was the consolidated caption, which had Idaho and Nevada, and so the stay applied to both cases. But then Justice Kennedy, a few hours ago, clarified that, no, it was only in Idaho, because it was only Idaho that asked for a stay. The Nevada governor has apparently decided to throw in the towel. Now, about 30 minutes ago one of the other parties in that Nevada case filed an emergency application for stay with Justice Kennedy, and I don’t think we have word on that one yet.
HH: Now, your interpretation, John Eastman, of why the Court did what it did? I have my own. People understand me to believe that they are waiting for the split to develop, and that they did not want to grant cert prematurely to having a split. Others have a more sinister view, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg view, that it’s better not to have a replay of Roe and just allow this to be nullified. The voters’ wishes nullified by circuit judges instead of Supreme Court Justices. What do you think?
JE:  I tend to side on the cynical view. And there are several versions of the cynical view, but that’s, I think, the most prominent of them. The problem with waiting for the circuit split theory is, if all of the lower courts had upheld the state constitutional provisions at issue, then you would wait for a circuit split. If no court is going to strike down a state constitutional provision, there’s no reason that the Supreme Court needs to weigh in. But when you’re talking about the lower courts striking down very significant provisions of the state constitutions recently adopted by overwhelming majorities of the citizens of those states, you don’t normally wait for a circuit split. That is such a threat to the state sovereignty by itself that it warrants Supreme Court review. But the Court on Monday decided not to bother, and to let the dust settle as it may.
HH: Best case scenario, in your view?
JE: Best case scenario is a 6th Circuit with a very strong opinion from Judge Sutton reminds the Court of a couple of things: that this is a state issue—Justice Kennedy told us that in the DOMA case just two years ago—and the federal courts have no business being involved in it. And that circuit split, then, is ground for the Supreme Court to take it up and affirm the 6th Circuit’s well-reasoned opinion. That’s the best case scenario….
HH: John, as I was going to break, I cannot tell you how cynical I am about the courts now. And I tell my students, it’s a game. It’s just a political game, because no one can reason the way these courts did on marriage. No one can say North Carolina didn’t know what they were doing, or that the law changed, that the 14th amendment embraced…. It’s just a joke. It’s about politics. The Supreme Court could rescue us from that. And the only way to do that, though, is, they some people to come over the hill with some opinions. And they’re just not there. So I do understand reticence of Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas to do this without anyone on their side.
JE: It’s a good theory, but here’s why I disagree with you. There are very strong, well-reasoned opinions in dissent in the 10th Circuit cases by Paul Kelly, judge out of New Mexico, and in a 4th Circuit case out of Virginia by Paul Neimeyer. They’re thorough. They’re well reasoned. They take account of existing Supreme Court precedent. They deal head on with Justice Kennedy’s opinion for the Court in Windsor, the DOMA case, and point out why, on Justice Kennedy’s own terms in that decision, it doesn’t invalidate state laws. And they’re thorough. So if that’s what they’re waiting for, they already had it, albeit in dissent.
HH: But in dissent.
JE: That’s right. But they could have held onto these cases. They know that the 6th Circuit decision is coming soon. They’ve been following news accounts that everybody expects the 6th Circuit to uphold the Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan marriage laws, which are identical to the other ones….
In the meantime, you’ve got this utter chaos. You know, what are you going to do? Are you going to unravel…? You’ve got judges now in Utah taking these decisions, and now saying that Utah’s statues on polygamy are invalid. Because if this is just a fundamental right to marry whomever you want under whatever circumstances, which is the way these cases have been portrayed, why should I have….
HH: That’s why they have to deal with it eventually, which is why you might want to…. I remember that Churchill kept urging Eisenhower to invade Europe in ’42 and in ’43, and Ike just kept saying, “Wait. Wait. Not ready yet.” So am I persuading you to be less cynical?
JE: No. I’m still cynical. Because they took the Proposition 8 case from California without a circuit split. So they obviously thought it was important there.
I wouldn’t want a premature wrong ruling, which would essentially kill marriage, as has happened in Scandinavia. I want the right ruling, and I don’t know, politically, what must happen to get that. I prefer to read the Constitution, understand it, follow it. That’s what SCOTUS is supposed to do. I pray things work out well in the end. But in the meantime, the propaganda war that is taking away our freedoms, our state sovereignty, and the family as the basic unit of civilization is getting a lot of loud media, while the good guys are intolerantly called intolerant.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ebola in Texas

That’s a headline I never anticipated writing when I began this blog.

I trust there are still enough people with a desire for self-reservation, that this won’t become widespread here. [Although the tiny conspiracy-theory side of me glanced at the idea that spreading ebola in Texas was a pretty efficient way to take down the strongest economy in the nation, by someone who’s resentful of it.] What I’d like to look at is the proper role of government, in this context.
Saturday, October 4, Houston Chronicle front page story
Conservatives aren’t, as maligned, against all government. We are for limited government with enumerated purposes. (Read my posts Role of Government and Proper Role of Government--Again.)
So, what does the Constitution say about Ebola? Nothing specifically. But generally, we can assume that a widespread death threat to Americans is something we have this federal government for: common defence (defense for the whole United States), general Welfare (pertaining to the well-being of all Americans at the same time), and securing the Blessings of Liberty, which are defined in the Declaration of Independence as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” (the third of which is a more general way of saying “property” without limiting that to real estate property, and expands it also to what has not yet been acquired but is being worked for).
Key here is life.
We retain, as individuals, the right to protect our own lives. Our states also retain the right and responsibility to protect people within the state. The federal government has the responsibility to protect from dangers between and among states (example: a murderer who flees from one state to another), and to protect from dangers threatening to come across our borders.
Ebola is such a threat. Until a month ago, there had never been anyone sick with this hemorrhagic fever virus inside our borders. We have the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is meant, quite rightly, to offer common defense. It has a mission to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability. Part of this is the Communicable Disease Center (CDC), which has been around since 1946, when it was part of an effort to overcome malaria. (It was renamed in 1970 as the Center for Disease Control, still CDC for short.)
In our day, ebola has been a rare but important target of the CDC. It did research, and without a cure so far, has informed infected parts of the world on prevention and containment. In short, African villages with outbreaks have been quarantined until the disease ran its course. Sometimes with everyone in the village dying—but at least not spreading beyond.
For unknown reasons (unknown to me), the outbreak that began February 2014 was not contained as previous outbreaks. The places where it has broken out face some major challenges without First World help. They may not have running water, hospital isolation units, hazmat gear, or other basics of containment. It could be argued that we are not responsible for stepping in and controlling the disease in other countries. But if we don’t, the other option is to quarantine those places from the rest of the world—as a matter of life and death.
The outbreak has grown in Africa. And this summer, among those health workers trying to contain it were two Americans. They were given an experimental vaccine (untried on humans, and very limited prototype quantity, since used on others without success). Both were returned to the US, in contained air travel and placed into contained hospital quarters. So we were assured there was no chance of it getting out. I am glad they recovered; they were worth trying to save, since their efforts had been to bravely fight the outbreak in the first place. Nevertheless, they became the first cases of ebola ever on US soil. (News today was that the man is back in the hospital, but they think the new infection is unrelated.)
Still, the current head of the CDC, Thomas Frieden, assured that an outbreak in the US was extremely unlikely. Just days before the first loose cannon case arrived. A Liberian man, Thomas Eric Duncan, who knew he had been exposed to ebola, suddenly quit his job as a UPS driver and flew to Texas, it is now assumed to give himself the best chance of receiving successful treatment. He lied in Liberia to get his travel visa; Liberia says, if he survives, he is subject to prosecution, which will make him a refugee who cannot return to his home country. But that does nothing to discourage others from following his path.
He went to the hospital when he began showing symptoms. He mentioned that he had recently arrived from Liberia. It was in the nurse’s notes, but for some reason those weren’t easily visible to the doctor who looked at his information on the computer system. It appears he did not admit to exposure to ebola during that hospital visit. He was sent home with an antibiotic. Two days later, after having spread bodily fluids around the apartment he was staying in, and on the sidewalk, and in the ambulance, and in the hospital—he began to be treated for ebola. He continues at this writing in critical condition. We are told the disease kills from 50%-90% of victims. Today it was announced he was being given yet another experimental anti-viral drug, no results yet.
We can assume, somewhat safely, that the hospital has taken adequate precautions to protect personnel and patients. However, there’s the rest of the circle of his influence. Supposedly he couldn’t spread the disease until he started showing symptoms. But we know that was at least two days before his ultimate hospitalization. In that time, he was in his apartment, his girlsfriend’s family’s apartment, came into contact with her and anyone else who may have lived or visited there.
Eventually the apartment and whoever had been there were moved out and quarantined (where they must remain for up to three weeks, assuming symptoms do not appear). A hazmat team cleaned out the Dallas apartment. Done.
Not quite. The list of people who may have come in contact with Duncan is now at 50—that we know of, with 10 considered at high risk of contracting the disease because of close contact. Again, that we know of.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Breitbart News reported, went into the apartment the day before the hazmat team cleaned it out, several times, transported some of the quarantined people a 45-minute drive, and then went home to his family. We don’t know that he touched any of the infected matter inside the apartment, but he was in the apartment where such matter existed, and he was in contact with people who had been in contact with such matter. Jenkins is not under quarantine for the next three weeks. Nor are the members of his family—including at least one school child.
Meanwhile, news announcements of additional cases of ebola in the US show up--at five as of this writing.
I remember, with some chagrin, the last day of son Political Sphere’s second grade year. A next-door neighbor had chicken pox, so we had an expectation that, probably within a couple of weeks, he would get chicken pox too. But he wanted to attend the festivities on the last day of school. So I checked him carefully before sending him off on the bus. He had no symptoms: no fever, no headache, and most importantly no little red dots.
When he came home, he was itching. And the spots were there. And he had just exposed the entire second-grade class. Oops! We were self-quarantined for much of the summer. There were the weeks Political Sphere was sick, joined by son Economic Sphere a couple of weeks later—even worse. And three-month-old Social Sphere also got them, but fortunately only a mild case, at an age when she was too little to scratch them. She got off easy.
The next-door neighbors all got it; that’s where we’d gotten it from. So the kids got to play together once they felt well enough. I don’t know what happened with the rest of the second grade. My intentions had been good. I thought I had been diligent enough. Most importantly, no death threat was involved. Later in our public school experience, notice was given of a child undergoing cancer treatment, who was dangerously susceptible to chicken pox, but this was not the case when our kids contracted it. There is also now a vaccine. But, back then we just did the best we could to protect ourselves.
I don’t know whether the CDC has done enough to protect us. Today they're saying a "major outbreak" in the US is highly unlikely; but after their last prediction, it's hard to trust their assurances.
The federal government has a number of specific tasks it has refused to do. First, no one should be allowed into the country coming from an outbreak country—unless they have gone through a three-week quarantine to guarantee their safety. This should preferably take place before getting on a plane. Next best, and possibly in addition, would be undergoing quarantine upon arrival, before being allowed to move about the country.
This isn’t an extreme or unusual measure. When relatives moved to Singapore, some decades ago, their dog underwent a month-long quarantine before being allowed to rejoin the family. Missionaries going to various places around the world must get a list of vaccines first. Mr. Spherical Model had to update certain vaccinations before being able to travel to Angola a year ago.
Ebola has no vaccine yet. Prevention and containment are essential. Prevention and containment are included in the proper role of government. But our president will not prevent flights in from infected places—because that would be rude?
If someone comes to your door and says, “Help me! I think I have ebola,” and then throws up on your porch, do you invite them in, expose your family, and then call 911? No. You close the door, and then make the phonecall. And arrange for decontamination of your porch. No one would think you were rude for closing the door. Rudeness, when the life of your family is at stake, is the least of your concerns.
So what is going on here? Some speculation is that it has to do with the president’s open border agenda. He can’t close the border to possible ebola victims without admitting harmful elements can come in through our open borders. And he has an agenda for opening the borders and offering amnesty—and eventual citizenship, preferably tied to voting for his party.
Is it possible that his “open border” policy can take precedence over the life of Americans? Only if the person(s) with that agenda believe he can “think” reality into something he wants it to be, regardless of evidence. Picture a child, plugging his ears, saying, “la la la I can’t hear you.”
But the president isn’t doing nothing. He is deploying our military. He is sending around 4000 trained killers to… To what? I’m uncertain. One could picture them being placed around infected villages and shooting anyone who tries to break quarantine. But I don’t think that is the purpose to which they are being put.
One could, with a stretch, picture them building temporary hospital containment facilities. Why trained military would be used for this purpose, I don’t know. But they have some experience putting up and taking down temporary courtroom facilities at Guantanamo, for example. There are among them those trained to build bridges over which heavy trucks or tanks can travel. (The military may also have skills in blowing up such bridges to prevent enemies from transporting their materiel.)
I don’t know what it is these thousands of our soldiers are being tasked to do. There are many scenarios in which the president might place our military in harm’s way for a security purpose. Securing an ebola outbreak can be construed as a worthwhile mission. But it doesn’t appear, without explanation, to be an appropriate use of our military. And it does appear to be an unnecessary risk to their lives—and to the lives of anyone they may come in contact with during and after.
I cannot read the mind of our president, or his administration. But it is very difficult to trust someone who prioritizes keep our borders open—even if it means letting in a possible pandemic—so we don’t look rude.
I hope there are enough real workers—scientists, health workers, security personnel—state and local in the absence of federal—who will overcome the president’s blindness and return us to some health safety.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Several days ago a friend of mine, gone back to school for a PhD, was working on a paper related to educational theory. She had to choose a subject from back a ways in time, so she chose John Dewey. I mentioned that I wasn’t a fan of Dewey, so she asked why (there had to be a critical part of the paper anyway). So I looked through what I had and came across a piece I wrote, in 2006, for a homeschooling newsletter. Bits and pieces of it have shown up in my other writings. [You can go to my Education Collection from July 2013.]
Anyway, I thought I’d adapt that 2006 piece for a post here. It’s a good reminder never to give power over what you value most—like the education of your children—to some “expert” or bureaucrat who doesn’t know your child the way you do.
John Dewey could be, whether we know it or not, the biggest reason many of us homeschool.
Let’s go back to the beginning of public education, an experiment that began with a crusade by Horace Mann. Mann believed in shifting the responsibility of educating children from parents (who had done it pretty successfully in America since the days the Pilgrims landed, and many generations and cultures prior) to the state. His “progressive” concepts allowed no room for God. Mann said, “What the church has been for medieval man, the public school must become for democratic and rational man. God will be replaced by the concept of the public good…. The common schools… shall create a more far-seeing intelligence and a pure morality than has ever existed among communities of men” ( Klicka, The Right Choice—Home Schooling, p. 32).
During the industrial revolution, public schools were built up in cities, where there were many immigrants and people working in factories, and there seemed to be a need for the public to provide education where families apparently couldn’t. So, within a generation or two, Horace Mann’s ideas were flooding the nation.
Then along comes John Dewey. (Yes, he is the one who created the Dewey decimal system.) He took Horace Mann’s ideas, and made them worse. I’m about to quote a chunk of material from our history book God’s Hand in the Building of America, Volume 1, by Glenn & Julianne Kimber, starting at p. 269. They quote from an article by Cleon Skousen, whom you might know as the author of The 5000-Year Leap and The Naked Communist. (I’ll reference as they do.)
In 1916, John Dewey published his book Democracy and Education, in which he advocated an entirely new, revolutionary approach to child training. The American schools have never been the same since.
John Dewey called his brainchild “progressive education” but even liberal educators such as Robert M. Hutchins called his whole conception regressive education.
Dewey received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins where G. Stanley Hall, a disciple of the German socialist philosopher, Wilhelm Wundt, indoctrinated him with the vision of a welfare state with the schools serving as the change agent to bring it about in our generation.
Democracy in Education turned out to be a planned pattern of anarchy in education. Something called “self-realization” became the goal instead of “learning.” Nothing but the most casual reference was made to English grammar, ancient history, US history, geography, the classics of Western civilization, or even the basic sciences. School was to be just fun, with each student doing his own thing in a climate of permissive, unstructured confusion.
Contemporary educators of national stature treated Dewey with respectful demeanor but expressed professional horror when they saw what Dewey was promoting as “progressive education.” Robert M. Hutchins declared: “His book is a noble, generous effort to solve…social problems through the education system. Unfortunately, the methods he proposed could not solve these problems; they would merely destroy the education system” (Great Western Books, vol. 1, p. 15).
In practice, Dewey practically threw traditional “book learning” out the window. Dr. Hutchins wrote: “The disappearance of great books from education and from the reading of adults constitutes a calamity. In this view, education in the West has been steadily deteriorating; the rising generation has been deprived of its birthright; the mess of pottage it has received in exchange has not been nutritious; adults have come to lead lives comparatively rich in material comforts and very poor in moral, intellectual, and spiritual tone” (Ibid., preface; pp. xii, xiii).
Dewey looked upon the schools as a wonderful opportunity to indoctrinate the American youth in the virtues of a glorious age where private property, the free market, open competition and profits would all be eliminated. He visited the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and, instead of recognizing the wasteland of revolutionary desolation and the widespread destruction of human values, he blissfully described it all as “a popular culture impregnated with esthetic quality” (John Dewey, Impressions of Soviet Russia, [New York; 1932], p. 44).
Long before, in 1904, he had joined the faculty of the Teachers College at Columbia University. He had then teamed up with James Earl Russell, the dean of the Teachers College, who was also a student of Wilhelm Wundt, and together they had worked for a quarter of a century diligently building this branch of Columbia University into the largest institution in the world for the training of teachers. By 1953, about one-third of all the presidents and deans of teacher training schools in America were graduates of Columbia’s Teachers College.
Today we are reaping the tragic results of the pedagogical misery that America inherited from Dewey’s misadventure in experimental education. (W. Clean Skousen, editorial, The Freemen Digest, May 1984). 

Back to my voice again. I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird a few years ago, where the young girl, Scout, describes her disappointment with school. Her description of the first day of first grade (no kindergarten back then) was hilarious. Her teacher discovered that she not only knew the alphabet, she could read all the readers and The Mobile Register, which she had learned naturally just by sitting with her father and reading together in the evenings. The teacher said,
“You tell him I’ll take over from here and try to undo the damage—”
“Your father does not know how to teach. You can have a seat now.”
I mumbled that I was sorry and retired meditating upon my crime. I never deliberately learned to read, but somehow I had been wallowing illicitly in the daily papers (p. 22 of my copy).
Apparently John Dewey was to blame. She goes on:
The remainder of my schooldays were no more auspicious than the first. Indeed, they were an endless Project that slowly evolved into a Unit, in which miles of construction paper and wax crayon were expended by the State of Alabama in its well-meaning but fruitless efforts to teach me Group Dynamics. What Jem [her brother] called the Dewey Decimal System was school-wide by the end of my first year, so I had no chance to compare it with other teaching techniques. I could only look around me: Atticus [her father] and my uncle, who went to school at home, knew everything—at least, what one didn’t know the other did. Furthermore, I couldn’t help noticing that my father had served for years in the state legislature, elected each time without opposition, innocent of the adjustments my teacher thought essential to the development of Good Citizenship. Jem educated on a half-Decimal half-Duncecap basis, seemed to function effectively alone or in a group, but Jem was a poor example: no tutorial system devised by man could have stopped him from getting at books. As for me, I knew nothing except what I gathered from Time magazine and reading everything I could lay hands on at home, but as I inched sluggishly along the treadmill of the Maycomb County school system, I could not help receiving the impression that I was being cheated out of something. Out of what I knew not, yet I did not believe that twelve years of unrelieved boredom was exactly what the state had in mind for me (p. 37).
The book review that led to my writing this piece was of the book John Dewey & the Decline of American Education: How the Patron Saint of Schools Has Corrupted Teaching and Learning, by Henry T. Edmondson III. Here’s a quote from that review:
Eschewing our existing institutions and what he called the “idolatry of the US Constitution,” Dewey promoted a futuristic, socialistic idea of “the Great Community,” whose “seer” for him was the polymorphous, promiscuous, egalitarian egotist-aesthete Walt Whitman, who sang both of himself [“Song of Myself” is one of Whitman’s famous works] and of future “democratic vistas” (National Review, April 24, 2006, p. 56-58).
This is later in the review:
Dewey’s promotion of what he called “social experimentation leading to great social change” was a working out of Whitman’s social, psychological, and sexual radicalism and egalitarianism…. Dewey slandered a wide range of more conservative or traditionalist education-policy thinkers and critics as “fundamentalists” obsessed with a fruitless, retrograde “quest for certainty” (the title of his 1929 book). In this regard he is the father…of our contemporary “post-modern”deconstructionists, with their attacks on “foundationalism” and “logo-centrism.”
The review mentions a truth-speaking Columbia Teachers College professor named Isaac L. Kandel, who saw through Dewey decades ago in his book The Cult of Uncertainty (1943): “A Jewish immigrant writing in a dark time, Kandel knew that Dewey’s influential denial of history, traditional learning, and moral common sense in teacher training and the schools was a new form of barbarism. We are living with its consequences.” 

The point of all this quoting is this: In six thousand years of human history, children have been brought up and taught by their parents. Turning that responsibility over to the state is a social experiment—an undeniably failing experiment—begun only a little over a century ago. While we homeschoolers may look radical to the people around us who don’t know anything different from the government institutional factory-like schools they grew up with, we are the ones following the traditional pattern.

We don’t need to reproduce schools at home; we’re better off reproducing the homes of our founding fathers. We don’t need to teach “group dynamics” (what some people call socialization); we’re better off teaching our children acceptable family behavior. We don’t need our children taught by professionals; we’re better off having them taught by the parents who have a stake in helping them achieve all they can.