Thursday, February 26, 2015

Voter Integrity Vigilance

You’d think everyone would be for free and fair elections. But there’s actually a lot of opposition, with the thinly veiled purpose of making voter fraud easier to do and harder to prosecute.

The Texas Legislature is in session, and, as they say, when the legislature is in session, we’re most in danger of losing our freedoms. So I was very interested in the Ballot Security Committee’s report last Saturday the quarterly meeting for precinct chairs and other officials of the county GOP. This committee is intended to help us move toward free and fair elections.
Alan Vera, doing poll watcher
training I attended in 2011
The committee chair is Alan Vera, who spent four years as True the Vote’s national director of curriculum and Training. True the Vote is the nationwide organization that trains poll workers and poll watchers, as well as examines voter rolls and pushes for prosecution of voter fraud. They started here in Houston. In fact, the building they used to use is where we met Saturday. (You might be familiar with them from news about the IRS attacks on founder Catherine Engelbrecht, who also founded King Street Patriots.)
Vera wrote the curriculum and led training for Texas, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Arizona, and what he calls “hopeless California.” He was my trainer as a poll worker. Just about anywhere in the US, you can volunteer with True the Vote. If you’re at all concerned about the 2016 election being stolen, getting trained now and having a year or more of training is the best protection. Vera told us, “I’ve seen the worst in American elections. And I’ve seen the best when ordinary citizens rose up to take charge of the integrity of their own elections.”
Now, on the Ballot Security Committee, he’s keeping an eye on the Texas Legislature. The bill that really got my attention is a proposal to offer online voter registration. There’s a bill in the House (HB 312, plus similar bills: HB 76, HB 444, and HB 953) with a companion bill in the Senate (SB 385). Normally you’d think of this as Democrat mischief, but HB 312 is authored by a Republican, a local one we have to keep an eye on. But we’ve had productive visits with her staffer in past legislative sessions, and maybe a little citizen lobbying will persuade her to withdraw her bill—that would leave only four others on this issue to worry about, that we know of.
Vera made a good point about this “gateway to automated voter registration fraud”:
The sad truth is that online transactions are nowhere near being reliably secure yet. J.P. Morgan Chase and Blue Cross/Blue Shield have single year online security budgets many times larger than the COMBINED budgets of the Texas Secretary of State, and the voter registrar of every single county in Texas. But Chase and Blue Cross have their systems hacked every week.
I want to add some perspective to that. Back when the Sony hack was news a few months back, that supposedly came from North Korea, I wondered how that could be. They can’t even feed their people; how could they pull off hacking that technologically sophisticated? So I asked my son Economic Sphere, who has spent the last year paying attention to North Korea from close range. He said yes, they definitely have the skills to do that kind of hack. They spend their time hacking South Korean businesses constantly. Every typical company in South Korea has better online security than even the best corporate online security in America. So, yes, it could happen.
If they can do it, other hackers can do it. And that, I’m certain, is the plan. Sure, it would be convenient to handle yet another detail online. But registration is only a matter of filling out a card with your identifying information—and signing your name to swear that you have answered truthfully—followed by enough office time to allow “trust but verify.” It would be nice to get a driver’s license online and avoid the dreaded hours of waiting for bureaucracy to do its thing too. But, again, how do you verify ID? And what about losing that sensitive information to hacking?
As Vera put it,
I’ll start to consider that online data exchanges are foolproof when the SAT test allows people to take the test online with only a driver license number as proof of identity.
And all you smart lawyers in Austin, I’ll consider online voter registration when Texas allows you to take the bar exam online.
There are other attacks to voter integrity in the Texas legislature. There’s one to have same-day voter registration during early voting. There’s one that wants us to go to great lengths to get felons registered and voting. There’s one trying to add to the forms of ID acceptable when voting (an attempt to dilute last term’s Voter ID bill).
So, we need to be constantly vigilant. In Texas or any other state, you can sign up with True the Vote. Their free newsletters give frequent updates on bill movement in all the states.
The Ballot Security report also included some proactive legislation. They’re pushing for changes to tighten voter assistance, which should never include touching the machine or suggesting a party or candidate; to punish voter ambush by organized groups; to tighten residency requirements for voter registration; and to overhaul the process for collecting ballots from nursing homes and state homes. They’re also attempting to convert several violations into felonies.
As Joe Stalin said, and his followers as a directive, “It doesn’t matter who votes; it matters who counts the votes.” Socialists aren’t big on free and fair elections.
If you want your vote to be accurately counted, and not cancelled out by fraud, now is the time to raise your awareness, keep track of legislation, and volunteer to be a trained poll worker or poll watcher.

Monday, February 23, 2015

This Is Not Tolerance

This past week I came upon yet another story of a private business being attacked by the “gay mafia.” And this time it was kind of personal. (This case was also mentioned last year here.)
Arlene's Flowers, in Richland, WA
photo from Alliance Defending Freedom
The business being attacked this time is Arlene’s Flowers, in Richland, Washington. The name and photo of the shop look familiar to me. We spent most of a decade living in that corner of Washington. Daughter Social Sphere was born in the hospital in Richland. We didn’t have a lot of events that called for flowers back then, but chances are if Mr. Spherical Model brought me flowers when our daughter was born, they came from Arlene’s Flowers.
Owner of Arlene’s is 70-year-old Barronelle Stutzman, who has been making a living as a florist for 40 years. She has served everyone, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. But she’s a Christian, and in 2013 when a longtime customer asked her to do the flowers for his same-sex wedding, she declined. It was the event, not the client, that she declined, because, to her, marriage is sacred and something that can’t be mutated to mean same-sex.
Stutzman must have been rude enough to really anger the client, right? No. “I put my hand on his and said, ‘I’m sorry Rob, I can’t do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ…. We talked a little bit, we talked about his mom [walking him down the aisle]…we hugged and he left.”
But the result of her friendly, gentle refusal was to suffer a discrimination lawsuit. More than one. First, the Washington State attorney general filed suit, requiring a $2,000 fine in addition to an order that the service be rendered. Then the couple filed another suit through the ACLU. Last week a Washington State judge ruled against Stutzman. The result is worse than just putting her out of business.
She said, “They want my home, they want my business, they want my personal finances as an example for other people to be quiet.”
An ACLU lawyer said, “Religious freedom is a fundamental part of America. But religious beliefs do not give any of us a right to ignore the law or to harm others because of who they are. When gay people go to a business, they should be treated like anyone else and not be discriminated against.”
So, religious freedom is OK and tolerated—unless it isn’t. Because…law.
So, a moment of history about marriage law in Washington. In 1997, following a threat to the definition after Hawaii had challenges to marriage there, the legislature wrote legislation defending the long-standing definition requiring one man and one woman. It passed  63 to 35 in the House and 27 to 19 in the Senate, but Governor Gary Locke vetoed it. He said it was divisive and unnecessary, since the law was already clear on the definition. And he added, "Our overarching principle should be to promote civility, mutual respect and unity. This legislation fails to meet this test." Please remember that. Veto override vote failed 26-20, when seven Democrats who had voted in favor of the law changed their votes to support the governor.
In 1998 the legislature attempted similar legislation, a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The governor vetoed this one as well, saying, "Our laws right now prohibit same-gender marriages, and I oppose this legislation because it is trying to make illegal something that is already illegal." The veto was quickly and soundly overridden. Yes, the definition of marriage was settled, but the people wanted it protected.
Over the following decade same-sex “marriage” advocates could not get traction, because public opinion in the state continued to support the existing definition of marriage. So they pushed instead for domestic partnership status, through initiative in 2007, withdrawn for lack of signatures to get it on the November ballot. But in the meantime they did establish domestic partnerships through the legislature in April 2007.
Then in 2012 the legislature voted to enact same-sex “marriage” on close votes. After a delay to let the people decide by referendum, the voters approved the law 54%-46% (I believe that’s the first state to choose same-sex “marriage,” rather than have courts or legislators force it on them against their will). It went into effect in December 2012.
Three months later Robert Ingersoll walked into Arlene’s Flowers and ruined Barronelle Stutzman’s life. It was a no win for her.
I think a businessperson should be allowed to refuse service to anyone for any reason. But that’s an argument for another day.
She didn’t refuse service to anyone; she refused to perform a particular service for a particular event. She did no damage to the customer; he could go elsewhere. He knew she hadn’t ever discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation. But, instead of going and finding a willing florist, he decided she should have her business taken, her livelihood and savings siphoned off in fines and court costs, and threaten everything she had, which at her age she could never recover from. Because she said she wouldn’t do a particular kind of event—that had been against the law for the entire history of the state until three months earlier and was only made law by a close margin.
Somehow that takes precedent over anyone’s personal religious beliefs, even though religious protection is guaranteed in the First Amendment because it is God-given and inalienable.
Alliance Defending Freedom has stepped in, to help her appeal. But even an eventual win will leave her years older, herd business closed, her savings gone.
What Stutzman did was tolerant. What Ingersoll did was beyond intolerant; it smacks of mafia.
Eventually, if the Supreme Court reads the Constitution and grows a spine, we can hope cases like this will be reversed. That will be good news for all people who engage in commerce while living religious lives. But the businesses already attacked will probably never recover.
Because of the threat of these anti-discrimination lawsuits, a religious person doing business today risks losing everything as soon as a protected-class customer walks through their door.
There’s no safety for religious businesspeople, but there are some rather painful alternatives:
1.      Incorporate, rather than have a sole proprietorship, to limit the assets that can be accessed in a lawsuit. The business, then, is sued for discrimination. You’ll need to have the business go bankrupt right away, but at least your personal assets can’t be seized.

2.      Limit your business in a way that will prevent the dilemma. This would look something like “we never do wedding arrangements,” which is pretty limiting but avoids the attack. This would be true for cake decorators and photographers as well. But, it might be hard to keep the business going if you have to turn away work for the 99.99% of customers who might your skills for a regular wedding.

3.      Take the job, and then purposely do a very poor job. Your reputation may be at risk. You may have to return any money you were paid. You may even be out the cost of resources and time. But you can’t be sued for refusing service to a protected-class person, and you haven’t used your skills and abilities in honor of something that offends your religious heart.
The thing that has bothered me so much about these cases is the expectation that a person must do work that some judge says they must. If you must do work that you haven’t contracted to do, that is coercion.

Another word for it is slavery. But there’s a difference between this and the slavery we saw in the South prior to the Emancipation Proclamation. Back then, the slaves could be forced to work. But they could not be forced to create beauty. Mostly slaves wouldn’t be trained to do artistic work. They could be asked to work in a garden, but they wouldn’t be expected to design the garden. They might be an excellent cook, but they wouldn’t be expected to be a haute cuisine chef.
But today’s “gay mafia,” along with the judges that are their tools, are trying to enslave people who should have the expectation of freedom (they are their own bosses in their own artistic businesses) to do things that not even “legally owned” slaves could have been forced to do.
When you’re taking the life, livelihood, home and savings of a 70-year-old woman who has always served you sweetly and cheerfully, you really need to re-think who is the intolerant one.
I’ve written enough for a day. I thought I’d have a portion to devote to the singe same-sex “marriage” that happened in Texas last Thursday. So, just to re-cap, the federal judge who required it had no power of mandamus; he had no authority to require a state judge to do what he asked. The state judge who allowed the license to be granted did so unlawfully. The Jewish rabbi who “married” the two lesbian women was not abiding by any Jewish religion that I’ve ever encountered (but I’m sure I’m not familiar with ever version of Jewish belief). The case is not in any way precedent setting, and the state attorney general has already made clear to all the state’s judges that such licenses cannot be granted in Texas at this time, while cases are pending in the 5th Circuit and there is a stay. The attorney general has the right to challenge the legality of the “marriage,” since the granting of the license did not abide by Texas law. So, except that two people started calling themselves “married,” nothing has changed in Texas.
I’ve written recently on the same-sex “marriage” issue here and here. I wrote about religious freedom here. The two topics are closely tied.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Libertarian Internet

There’s a principle we keep getting reminded of lately: if the government wants to implement something beyond the proper role of government, not only will government fail to achieve the stated goals; it will likely do exactly opposite of the stated goal.

Today’s example is “Net Neutrality,” with the purpose of assuring a free and fair internet.

by A. F. Branco, November 17, 2014
The background for this relates to a rural Midwest area where only one internet provider, Comcast, was available. And they were slowing the speed at which downloads could occur for video streaming site Netflix.
If free enterprise were allowed to solve the problems, this would be solved in some combination of alternatives entering the marketplace, or costs going up for a service that takes up so much bandwidth, probably passed along to consumers. Then, if consumers weren’t satisfied, competition would lead to more alternatives, greater innovation, and lower prices. Especially in internet technology that has been the rule. In fact, that’s how the market handled this singular case.
But government sees an area where it has very little control, and therefore by definition would like more power, and offers “help” as a way to get it. Government will step in and make things more “fair”—so that the Comcast/Netflix difficulty never happens again. It will solve this tiny, localized, already-dealt-with problem by imposing restrictions, rules, and controls—maybe even a government kill switch for the entire internet—so we can feel assured, with government bureaucrats at the helm of the world’s communications network. Who thinks that sounds like a good solution? Raise your hands.
A few large companies, mainly related to cable communications, are in favor. So that they can block out competition and control the market. It’s not about better service for you.
While looking for the best way to explain why you should call your representative and express your extreme disapproval for the creation of a new “department of the internet,” I came across Stu Burguire’s entertaining and thorough version. Stu is an associate of Glenn Beck, and has his own TV show on on Saturdays. Blaze blogger Wilson summarized Stu’s points:
  • Net neutrality will not help your internet experience.
  • The government will not make the internet better.
  • Companies won’t be ruining your internet experience anyway.
  • The arguments in favor of net neutrality ignore the advancements in technology that would solve the supposed problems being addressed by net neutrality.
  • There is no compelling reason for the government to get involved.
  • The internet is absolutely not a human right.
  • The truth about the Comcast/Netflix battle that is used as the evidence to support net neutrality, proves the exact opposite of what net neutrality supporters argue.
  • But, other than that, net neutrality is awesome!
Except, don’t take that last one seriously; there very well could be even more non-awesome things about it.
Rather than my explaining further, I’ll send you to watch Stu’s 7 ½-minute video (unable to embed, but you can watch it here), and afterward I’ll add a few comments from the Spherical Model perspective.
OK, assuming you enjoyed that...
My favorite point is that this government, which couldn’t get one single website up and running is asking you to trust the elite government experts with control of the entire “interweb.” Do they have a sense of irony, or what?
The internet is a rather large microcosm for examining the world of the libertarian. This is what the country would be like with libertarian government. New technology. Stuff getting lower cost and more widely available all the time. Freedom to do business or say pretty much whatever you want. Freedom to connect with whoever you want, assuming willingness of the receiver. Things keep getting better, faster, and cheaper. Yay!
Of course there’s some bad along with the good. Pornography. Lies. Theft. Fraud. All things that are already illegal in the non-virtual world for good reason. Yet there they are. And sometimes we’re bombarded with them—images we don’t want to have to unsee. Not to mention pop-up ads interrupting our experience.
In other words, in the libertarian world there are some bad things sharing the same neighborhood with the good. And the libertarian doesn’t bring in officials; the libertarian pulls out his own shotgun, or shrugs it off with a live-and-let-live approach.
I’m not quite a libertarian. But then, the internet isn’t quite a lawless anarchy either.
Anything that is already illegal is also illegal on the internet, so you report it to the police (or whichever appropriate authority for your issue). Prosecutions happen all the time, but the prosecution of such crimes is somewhat below 100% successful response. (Also true for petty theft or home invasion.) But technology has already been developed in response to the market—people who don’t want the filth bombardment can use filters to keep certain sites or types of images from being allowed onto their devices. Same for pop-up ads—just adjust your settings. As for those emails from some guy in Nigeria needing money, or your good friends on a trip to Europe and suddenly in need of funds (even though you know they’re in town, plus they’re not close enough friends for you to be their emergency contact)—you block those as junk mail, and delete without opening any that get through.
If you’re defrauded in a purchase (and you’ve done due diligence by being careful who you’re dealing with and how they handle your personal and financial information), then you have some recourse through your credit card company, as well as the police.
We need constant vigilance. But we do a better job when it’s personal to us than a distant uninvolved bureaucrat would do.
The libertarian-like internet world can be understood on the Spherical Model. The freedom and level of interest are personal, where appropriate. And the free enterprise shows how prosperous such a world can be without some controlling authority limiting the market. The good is what you get in the northern hemisphere of the model (and arguably the western local control quadrant—although appropriate level is necessary for anywhere in the northern hemisphere). But the bad is what you get in the southern hemisphere, southwest quadrant.
Almost all of the bad has to do with civilization issues. Pornography is savage. Fraud is savage. Theft is savage. Anything else is a result of people choosing to do ugly harmful things, for money or just for fun.
I’m in favor of allowing everyone to limit the savagery in their lives. And better law enforcement would be appreciated. Live-and-let-live won’t do when drug deals are taking place in the schoolyard down the street (been there, seen that) or when the worst filth is aimed toward family members in my home.
In an optimistic civilized world, those wanting to protect themselves from pornography would so greatly eclipse the willing consumers that the market would cause that plague to disappear. Until that happens, though, we do need personal, constant vigilance—combined with better technology as more of us show the demand for protecting ourselves in our online world.
Of course we need government for legal protections—as we do now. What we absolutely do not need is another bureaucracy tasked with deciding who gets what service, at what cost, limiting innovation and progress. We don’t need some bureaucracy deciding what can and cannot be said—for example, on this website. Is it fair that I only express my own opinion instead of the opposing viewpoint? What if the government decides I’m not fair? Or decides I’m so wrong that such ideas should not be expressed?
The internet isn’t broken. Government’s offer to “fix” it is a thinly veiled grab for control over a thus-far free world.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Words from Presidents Past

I had a middle-of-the-night brainstorm over the weekend, remembering that this Monday (today) would be Presidents’ Day—celebrated in a big way at our house with Mr. Spherical Model painting the guest bathroom. Anyway, the brainstorm was, I could just go through my rather huge quote file and share some wisdom from our presidents with February birthdays: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
I gathered the quotes. And then I thought I should check and make sure I wasn’t doing too much repetition from my tours of Washington, D.C., last fall. And I just casually checked to see what I’d done in the past for Presidents’ Day. Turns out I've had this brainstorm before. So I have several options: be repetitious, or just decide that doing quotes from Washington and Lincoln is a new tradition for Presidents’ Day. I think I’ll go with that option. What I’ll do is include a few that were not included last year. (And who knows how the tradition will continue next year. They said a lot of wise things.)
We give thanks to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln for their wisdom, which still directs us toward freedom, prosperity, and civilization. And may I add a prayer that our next president embodies this timeless wisdom.

George Washington

in the museum at Mt. Vernon
It is impossible to govern a nation without God and the Bible. 

Your love of liberty, your respect for the laws, your habits of industry,
and your practice of moral and religious obligations,
are the strongest claims to national and individual happiness.

A good moral character is the first essential in a man….
It is therefore highly important that you should endeavor not only to be learned but virtuous.
Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.

Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln Memorial
We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts,
not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the menwho would pervert the Constitution.
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man’s initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.—attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but possibly came from Rev. William John Henry Boetcker (1873-1962), in a pamphlet called “The Ten Cannots.”
Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision.
If they decide to turn their back on the fire and then burn their behinds,
then they will just have to sit on their blisters.
Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Confusion among the Courts

It has been an interesting week in Alabama. A federal district judge had decided that the state of Alabama was not allowed to keep the definition of marriage it has always had—that it must change from the family forming purpose of permanently joining a man and a woman to a recognition of any two people currently in a sexual relationship. Of course the judge, Callie Grenade, didn’t word it that way. She referred to the unfairness of “banning” homosexuals from marriage, even though Alabama law (nor in any state) prevents homosexuals from marrying the opposite-sex person of their choice. And certainly over the centuries many have.
The judge had recognized that there would be appeals, and also that there was a strong possibility some questions would be settled by the US Supreme Court this term, within the next few months. So she had allowed for a stay of implementing what she declared to be the new law.
But SCOTUS saw fit to take up this issue, quickly, and rule 7-2 that the stay was not allowed, and Alabama must go ahead and start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (More about the reasoning, and the strong dissent in a moment.)
But Alabama Supreme Court Justice, Roy Moore (the same one who stood up against SCOTUS by refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom some years back) instructed Alabama officials not to issue the licenses.[*] He said,
Effective immediately, no probate judge of the state of Alabama nor any agent or employee of any Alabama probate judge shall issue or recognize a marriage license that is inconsistent with Article 1, Section 36.03, of the Alabama Constitution or § 30-1-19, Ala. Code 1975.
There are still cases pending. There is reason to assume a state does have the ability to define terms in a standard contract such as marriage. For officials in the state, the question is, do we obey the state supreme court or the federal circuit judge? Hmm. The people of Alabama elected Justice Roy Moore, but they did not elect an appointed federal circuit court judge, nor did they elect any of the SCOTUS justices. Also, federal courts under these circumstances are supposed to be applying current law in a particular case; they are not intended to set precedent.
But officials are torn; some counties are offering the marriage licenses to same-sex couples, while some counties are not. Confusion is the key word for the day.
But if there is a good chance the licenses would be declared null and void just a few months down the road, wouldn’t there be less confusion by waiting? SCOTUS is causing the confusion.
In Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent (joined by Justice Scalia), he refers to patterns of the court in the past, leading to the expectation that there would be a stay in implementing the change, as Alabama requested. He listed several cases where SCOTUS had granted such a stay:
When courts declare state laws unconstitutional and enjoin state officials from enforcing them, our ordinary practice is to suspend those injunctions from taking effect pending appellate review. See, e.g., Herbert v. Kitchen, 571 U. S. ___ (2014); see also San Diegans for Mt. Soledad Nat. War Memorial v. Paulson, 548 U. S. 1301 (2006) (KENNEDY, J., in chambers) (staying an injunction requiring a city to remove its religious memorial).
Recently the Court had chosen not to stay, but those cases were following the Court’s refusal to take up the cases, last fall. At that point, while a stay still would have been useful and respectful to the states, there wasn’t an expectation of a permanent resolution in the near future. Now, after the circuit courts had disagreement, and the Court decided to take on the cases, there is an expectation of resolution in the near future, and the stay would therefore be expected and normal. Yet the Court went against pattern, and against respect for the State of Alabama, and refused the request for a stay.
Thomas adds,
Today’s decision represents yet another example of this Court’s increasingly cavalier attitude toward the States…. I would have shown the people of Alabama the respect they deserve and preserved the status quo while the Court resolves this important constitutional question.
What is a state to do when the Court inserts itself disrespectfully in an unresolved issue? Particularly when the issue to be resolved is whether a state has the right to do what states have always done? One could assume that the state might do just as Alabama did: ignore the federal edict and assert its state sovereignty.
There’s a bill in the Texas legislature right now with a similar purpose. It’s Texas HB 623, “relating to the funding, issuing, and litigation of certain marriage licenses (preventing officials to grant same-sex marriage licenses against Texas constitution and law).[†]
Texas, as many other states, strengthened existing defense of marriage laws by placing the definition of marriage in the state constitution—which meant that it could not be overturned by federal courts or legislation without directly challenging the sovereignty of the state. Most of the 37 states (I think that's the latest count) where same-sex “marriage” licenses are granted, have had it imposed on them even after the citizens of the states have voted to protect the traditional definition of marriage.
If the federal government derives “its just Power from the Consent of the Governed,” as we’re reminded in our Declaration of Independence, and neither the people nor the people’s representatives have changed the laws, what do the states, or the people, do when a law change is nevertheless imposed on them? Stand up. Stay strong. Refuse to give in. Ignore.
Some smaller states might fear to stand up. That’s why it’s important for a state the size and strength of Texas to stand up. To dare the federal government to invade the state and force submission. What are the odds that the US Military would invade Texas and enforce unjust laws?
We’ve had a Civil War before, and the resistors lost. But the pro-slavery South was out of alignment with the Constitution, which is based on natural God-given rights to life and liberty. If the resistors are standing up for state’s rights, religious freedom, and millennia-old beliefs about the value of family to civilization, will the military engage in a civil war over that?
We won’t know if we don’t stand up and give it a try.
No, I don’t want any kind of violent reaction. But what I trust is that, when you’re in the right, when you’re in alignment with the Constitution, and with God’s law, the good people of America will not violently react to that. They will say, “Oh, the people of Texas really mean it. Maybe we should think long and hard about the principles involved here.” And when thoughtful people think through the principles that lead to freedom, prosperity, and civilization, they choose those outcomes over the alternatives of tyranny, poverty, and savagery.

[*] A story about this news contains both Justice Thomas’s dissent and Judge Moore’s declaration: “Confusionin Alabama as State Judge Fights Supreme Court After It Allows Same-Sex Marriage,” February 9, 2015,
[†] A story on this bill can be found at "Texas Rep Introduces Bill to Defend Traditional Marriage and StateSovereignty,” January 11, 2015,

Monday, February 9, 2015

Meeting a Freedom Fighter

This past Saturday we had a special speaker at our local tea party meeting. It was Rev. Rafael Cruz, father of Senator Ted Cruz. It’s the second time I’ve heard him in person, but this time was a smaller group, with more time. He’s a confident speaker, able to go on for an hour or two without notes. And he does probably a hundred or so such speeches a year.
Rev. Rafael Cruz
photo from Cypress Texas Tea Party
Rev. Cruz loves freedom. He was born in Cuba, but he makes sure you know he’s not a Cuban-American; he’s an American born in Cuba. As I recall his story, he escaped from Cuba during the early Castro regime, with $100 sewn into his clothes, and nothing else. But America is the land of the free, and he was able to prosper here, and set up circumstances for his son to get even more education and success.
He tells his son (I’ve heard Ted Cruz repeat this) that he had America to flee to; if we lose our freedoms here, where would we have to go?
He’s a strong defender of the Constitution, and structured his talk on the part of the Declaration of Independence about protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—pointing out that the order of those three things is the priority. Life has to come first—and he points out the most vulnerable are at the beginning and ending of life. Liberty is necessary, or else you’re a slave. There’s no guarantee of happiness, only a guarantee of the freedom to work for it, to pursue it in the way we choose.
As a pastor, it’s not surprising that he recognizes we live in a unique place—founded on the word of God, founded by religious people, seeking to live the word of God.
He’s a huge supporter of his son, which is understandable. He started with an anecdote following Senator Cruz’s election. Chris Wallace had asked him something like, “Are you going to Washington to join the club?” And Cruz answered, “No. I’m going to kick down the door, tear down the curtains, and auction off the silverware.”
He told some interesting background about his son’s growing up that I hadn’t heard. As Ted was entering high school, he was introduced to a leader of the American Enterprise Institute who got him reading classics. From there, Ted, in a group of five, formed what was called the Constitution Club. They memorized the Constitution. They toured the state, doing Rotary Club lunches and other forums. They would write the Constitution on several blackboards while people were eating. Then they would give speeches on free market economics.
A young Ted Cruz gave some 80 such speeches during his high school years. That had to be excellent preparation for later speaking before the US Supreme Court on behalf of the state of Texas while he was solicitor general.
I can’t think of a better high school preparation for someone serving this country. By raise of hand, how many of our elected officials have ever memorized the Constitution? Even the Preamble (we had our homeschoolers memorize it). Can they explain free market economics at least as well as Ted Cruz could in high school? That ought to be a requirement—if we could quantify it somehow as a standard.
During the Q&A I got to ask about the senator’s possible presidential ambitions. Just the night before I’d read something about the formation of a SuperPAC, which is often viewed as an exploratory preparation for running. Rev. Cruz said that the SuperPAC was formed in order to help a number of people in last November’s election, so that was its purpose and timing. However, he did acknowledge that many people have asked Senator Cruz about his willingness to run, and he says the Senator is spending some time seriously considering, and praying and discussing with family, whether he should run. And we can expect a decision one way or another in the next 30-60 days.
I got this button at the Texas GOP Convention last June,
just in case I need it someday
Over the weekend possible candidate Governor Rick Perry impolitely pointed out that we’ve tried a first-term senator without executive experience, and that hasn’t worked out so well. Ouch! Personally, I normally prefer governors, who have executive experience. I’m interested in learning more about Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Gov. Scott Walker of Michigan. There may be others. Gov. Perry isn’t my favorite, but he’s light years ahead of what we’ve been experiencing. Gov. Jeb Bush has disqualified himself by supporting Common Core and amnesty; that makes him a “progressive,” which would appeal to Democrats, except for the Bush name. So he’s pretty much unsupportable for either party. That’s of course why the media claims he leads the polls.
I’ve liked a lot of Gov. Christie’s better moments, but I’m concerned that at heart he’s not fully conservative, but so far I haven’t written him off; I’m just not rooting for him. I have similar feelings about Senator Marco Rubio—who lacks the executive experience as well, and has some explaining to do about his immigration reform ideas (which have sounded like amnesty), but I’m willing to give him a listen, since he’s been good on many other issues. Senator Rand Paul has a lot to recommend him, especially on economics. But, while he’s not his father, his foreign policy is too isolationist for a world this dangerous, so I’m concerned but haven’t written him off.
But Ted Cruz—he lives and breathes the principles of the Constitution. The Constitution leads to freedom, prosperity, and civilization—every time it’s tried. We need someone willing to try it. We can’t afford any “compromise” that just sinks us slowly into tyranny. We need restoration of the brilliant American experiment in limited government.
While I’m satisfied with Senator Cruz as my Senator, I also recognize he has a backbone and ability to articulate truth in ways we are much in need of. As for previous experience, he has served in significant positions and done them well. No floating along voting “present” and agitating community organizations. Perry’s implied comparison of Cruz and Obama is pretty ridiculous. They are polar opposites.
I’m in favor of as strong a contrast as we can get with Clinton (or the Clinton-like alternative, if such a thing should materialize), who misspent her youth immersing herself with Marx and Alinsky.
But, speculation about presidential candidates is more of a sport than a solution. Rev. Cruz pointed out that what really matters is what happens when we leave that room. Do we share our ideas with others? Do we become precinct chairs (yes—as a matter of fact, our little tea party group has worked toward that goal pretty successfully the past couple of years; I am one)? Do we run for city council and school board? We need conservative Constitutionalists at every position from the bottom to the top. And every one of us needs to speak louder and let our representatives know what we expect of them as our employees.
So much to do! It’s a blessing we have a clear voice like Rev. Cruz inspiring and encouraging us.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Higher Higher Education Costs

In the State of the Union address last month, one of the little candy toss-outs was free tuition at community colleges. We’ll tackle that in a minute. But in the follow-up interviews the president did with YouTube stars (go ahead and debate the appropriateness of that among yourselves), he was trying to explain how valuable politicians are. He said this:
Well, basically, politics is just -- how do we organize ourselves as a society? How do we make decisions about how we're going to live together? So, young people care about how college is paid for. Well, the truth of the matter is, the reason we even have colleges is that at some point there were politicians who said, ‘You know what? We should start colleges.’
Dating back to Abraham Lincoln, who started something called the land-grant colleges. He understood that government should invest in people being able to get an education and the tools to succeed. You guys are going to be the ones who are using these colleges and universities, and if they are not getting enough funding from government, and your tuition goes up, and you've got more debt, you're the ones affected. So you'd better have a voice and know what's going on about who's making decisions about that.
Politicians thought up colleges? As far back as Abraham Lincoln? What an invention!
Except that, I thought I remembered from an Iberian Culture class (back at the private university I attended) that the first university was created in Spain, in Salamanca. I didn’t remember a date, so I did a quick Wikipedia search. Salamanca dates to 1218, founded by the Catholic Church. It was among dozens of medieval universities in Europe (and not the first, although nearly so). Cambridge, in England, predates it by nine years.
Old Library, University of Salamanca
founded 1218, photo from Wikipedia
Other parts of the world lay claim to even earlier universities: Plato’s Academy, Athens, 387 BC; Najing University, China, 258 BC; Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt, 988 AD. Although the European ones might be the first degree-granting ones.
Meanwhile, I came across an article in my alumni magazine about some of those early universities and what they taught—the liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. This is from “The Crossroads of Learning,” by John R. Rosenberg, dean of BYU College of Humanities, in BYU Magazine Winter 2015:
What we call the Renaissance, what we celebrate as the beginning of modernity, was actually a rerun, a 15th- and 16th-century sequel of a remarkable unfolding during the 12th and 13th centuries. In the luminescence of what we incorrectly call “the dark ages” sprouted one of mankind’s great creations, one that has endured 800 years and, gospel-like, has spread to every nation: the university.
Pretty much without exception, these universities were not government inventions, but church or otherwise private creations. And the concept of higher education greatly precedes the creation of the United States. We could even say that it was the higher education level of the founding fathers that made it possible for our Constitution to be created.
Abraham Lincoln, himself, studied law. The system was different then, but he still went through some sort of private higher education in order to enter his profession, well prior to becoming president and working out the Morrill Act in 1862 to create the land-grant system—which is what president Obama referred to. That was where states received (at the benevolence of the federal government) grants of federal land within their boundaries that were to be used for the building of colleges.
Colleges didn’t suddenly come onto the scene at that point. Colleges were all private before that. Colleges remained mainly private. A substantial portion—including all but one of the Ivy League schools—have always been private. States have used land grants to create colleges. More often state governments have acquired existing private colleges, turning them into state institutions.
Are there any federal government schools? You could give that designation to the military schools: West Point, Navy, Air Force. They have had special missions, and were funded by Congress. But all other government higher education is at the state and local level.
So that’s the history—somewhat different from Obama’s claim that higher education exists because of some politicians sitting around, going, “You know what? We should start colleges.”
The next thing to look at is whether higher education (with the possible exception of military academies) is within the proper role of government. What is that list again? Oh yeah, it’s in the Preamble of the Constitution:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union,
·         establish justice,
·         insure domestic tranquility,
·         provide for the common defense,
·         promote the general welfare [i.e., good for all citizens at once]
·         and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Does it say “give free higher education to all citizens"? No, it does not. Can you screw that idea into one of those provided? Nope. It’s good for the general welfare if we have an educated populace, but education is a product you can purchase, individually, according to your own desires and needs, and according to your preferences. Getting government involved in making that a blanket bestowal stretches the list beyond the point of elasticity.
And what do we know—conceptually, even before the data proves it—about government getting involved in something beyond its role? It will cost more. It will be poorer quality. It will essentially do exactly the opposite of the stated goal.
There’s a quote by P. J. O’Rourke, on free health care: “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free.” Ouch! We can restate that for college education: “If you think higher education is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”
Let me give you some perspective. I was raised in a family where I was told people like us (comfortable lower middle class) don’t go to college; that’s for rich people. But I was around a lot of smart kids who told me otherwise. There were things such as scholarships. For a while I had the mistaken idea that a scholarship was only for the top single person in a school, and I was among a lot of smart kids in a very large school. (The top 10% of the highly rated school would have been about 65 kids.) But they encouraged me anyway. And it turns out that most hard-working bright students can get some sort of scholarship. I was one of those. I also worked summer jobs, and sometimes two summer jobs plus a Christmas break job. One of my jobs was as a waitress in a luncheon restaurant in a department store—paid about $1.10 an hour plus tips, which were customarily about 10% then. Yet it was enough. I got through college without debt, and without family help beyond the occasional phone bill and a few things from the pantry.
It’s still possible to get a scholarship, but it helps if you’re somehow “underprivileged” in ways that supposedly I was not. It is much more likely that you can get student loans. Government stepped in and made that possible. Mr. Spherical Model (and therefore, me, by marriage) had student loans—at the low-cost government rate of 9% thanks to Pres. Carter making that rate seem low—of under $20 by the end of graduate school, which took a decade to pay off.
Skip ahead a few decades, and tuition rates have skyrocketed—consistently outpacing the rate of inflation, and, more obviously, the rate of household income. Why? Many reasons, interrelated, probably. But be certain that it has coincided with government’s attempt to make college more affordable for more students.
Making college affordable for more means greater demand. When demand is greater, prices go up. That is a basic economic reality. Although sometimes quality goes down to spread the service to greater numbers. Sometimes costs go up and service goes down (like with government health care).
I don’t know if this “free community college” plan will result in more community college students. But if it does, the cost of educating them will go up, and probably the quality of community college will go down. Count on it.
I also don’t know what an edict from the emperor-in-his-own-mind means. Community colleges, when not private, are paid for by local taxes—usually not even state taxes, but at the city and county level. So what the president has just done has offered to place (pending Congressional legislation, if lawful) an enormous burden on communities that are already stretched to meet the education needs of their communities at relatively low tuition rates compared to larger four-year universities. Somehow the already deficit federal budget will “grant” tax money filtered through federal treasuries to local community colleges to help them make up the difference between low tuition and zero tuition—coming from the same people and businesses already being taxed.
It hasn’t worked with any other government project beyond the proper role of government. It won’t work in higher education. Take a look at “free universal high school” where inner cities are lucky to have only a third fail to graduate. (Suburbs graduate at rates about 20% higher; rates across the rural-urban spectrum are related to family strength.) The same problems that lead a huge portion of the public to choose poverty over free high school education will lead to an additional portion failing out of free community college. And the cost for the rest of us will be far more than without government intervention.
But if the president is trying to “buy” voters from among lesser educated non-thinkers who haven’t learned this reality yet, he’s gone to the right source.

Monday, February 2, 2015

No More Right Wing

I came across a discussion a week or so ago between Andrew Klavan and Bill Whittle of PJ Media, talking about how fascism isn’t right-wing. It’s socialism. [Video below.] I’ve been saying that for a while. It’s a good discussion, but I continue to think my three-dimensional Spherical Model is a more useful way to view ideas. I re-introduced the basic concept the last post of 2014.
So watch their 5-minute discussion, and think—if we’d all been taught the Spherical Model all along, there never would have been any confusion. And we’d be free from the comparison between Constitution admirers and Nazis. We’d also be free from the requirement to compromise between one level of tyranny and another. We could leave right and left-wing tyrannies to themselves and insist instead on freedom, prosperity, and civilization. We could go north on the sphere and stay there.