Thursday, July 27, 2017

Worse than We Imagined, Part II

Sometimes it’s prudent to fact-check the fact checkers.

This Snopes headline came to my attention:

Reading, Writing, and RuPaul
Reports of revised curriculum standards for Washington state led to false rumors claiming that schools there will be teaching "transgenderism" to Kindergarteners.
That relates to what I wrote in my last post, “Worse than We Imagined.” So I began to read, wondering if I had missed something and would need to write a retraction.

But Snopes is…not fully accurate.

They claim that the Daily Caller article on Washington State Board of Education changes to standards to include teaching transgenderism to kindergarteners is “mostly false.”

Image from here

The original Daily Caller article actually begins with this: 

By fall 2017 Washington state public schools will begin teaching gender expression to kindergarteners under newly-approved health education learning standards that designate sexual health a “core idea” of public K-12 education.
Here is what Snopes says is actually true:

Washington State has released updated curriculum guidelines in 2016 that include directives regarding gender and gender expression.
So, Snopes agrees with the Daily Caller so far.

What they don’t seem to like is the conclusion drawn by the Daily Caller opinion piece, that teaching “gender expression” to kindergarteners can easily be construed to mean teaching “transgenderism” to kindergarteners. Snopes says the guidelines don’t actually use the word “transgender” except in the glossary section.

But why would they include transgenderism in the glossary (on page 53 of the .pdf file) of their standards if they did not assume it would come up? The word itself may or may not be used in kindergarten. The state standards writers seem less concerned about the teaching of the word transgenderism than they are about the teaching of the various ways gender can be expressed— which, of course, to them, must include transgenderism, else why change the standards?

The Daily Caller article included the link to the .pdf file (which I also linked in Monday's post and above), and Snopes shows page 29, which is at issue—below.

Snopes uses this to show how overblown the Daily Caller claims are. But I look at the chart and see that the Daily Caller point of view is totally justified.

One point the Snopes piece makes is that the standards are not curriculum; curriculum and lesson plans decisions are made at the local school board level. But, to fact-check Snopes, that’s not entirely accurate.

It has been a long time since I worked as a curriculum writer. I worked in California, writing hi-low textbooks; that is, high interest level (middle school to high school) but low reading level (around second grade). I didn’t write for kindergarten, or even for elementary school. But I think some practices translate across grades.

I wrote mostly government and civics related books and workbooks. But one big project was a biology text (which I did not complete at that job). A publisher looks at who is most likely to buy. The biggest markets then, and probably still, were California and Texas. As a writer I referred to the California and Texas standards; they were different in significant ways. For a biology text, human reproduction had to be handled very differently for the two markets. A publisher might decide to aim for a California market or a Texas market, or might do separate versions, with different chapters for materials for which the standards were disparate.

It was unlikely that a publisher would do a special version of a text just to fit Washington State standards, or Utah standards, or Mississippi standards. The other states would look at what was available and choose from among the variety of available materials—which had been aimed mainly at the California or Texas markets. On the topic of transgenderism, Washington State would probably choose materials aimed at the California market.

Smaller niche marketers, often coming from interest groups, might provide supplemental materials on certain subject matters, and try to sell those to individual states or school districts. (We’ll talk about one of these below.)

In Texas the SBOE does not write curriculum; it reads it and deems it acceptable or not. Then local school districts can adopt what they choose. Local school board members, who are unpaid for their school board work and probably make a living elsewhere, are unlikely to read every text. They might have committees set up to do that. The committees might include community members and parents—or, more likely, they include only teachers and administrators. (I have known parents who volunteered for this work in Texas, because Texans are proactive that way.)

Parents who disapprove typically get involved after they see the chosen materials and then must work to get something inappropriate removed from their schools by going through a long and challenging process.

So, when the Daily Caller says that the standards changes, which clearly include talking about “gender expression” to kindergarteners, might be a way of teaching the LGBTQ agenda on transgenderism, that isn’t alarmism. It isn’t making things up. That is likely to happen across the state—unless parents become aware and speak loudly their disapproval.

The Daily Caller article was originally written in June 2016, shortly after the standards changes were announced and approved. The hope is to get enough attention so that parents can prevent implementation of things they do not want their children to be taught, so those materials will not be forced on them by fall 2017, which is now upon us.

By the way, who might be one of the special interest groups offering materials they hope the schools will teach? Planned Parenthood might be one. In my last post I mentioned obscene materials they were trying to force on teens.

Two days ago I came across a story about Planned Parenthood’s new guidelines for talking to
Image from here
preschoolers about sex. These include, "Boy, girl, man, and woman are words that describe gender identity, and some people with the gender identities “boy” or “man” have vulvas, and some with the gender identity “girl” or “woman” have penises/testicles. Your genitals don’t make you a boy or a girl.”

This differs from their previous guidelines (which also include vocabulary not normally used by preschoolers): "I’m a woman—a girl who is all grown up—so I have a vulva instead of a penis. And you’re a boy, so you have a penis instead of a vulva."

Body parts don’t tell you anything anymore, they say. Because of new science? Of course not. Because they’re pushing an agenda. And they’re aiming it at our children. We can also assume they’re using taxpayer dollars to produce the indoctrination.

Will this new Planned Parenthood preschool material make its way into elementary schools in Washington State? I have no idea. But they meet the new state standards.

So, until the Washington State standards are changed back to something closer to sane reality, assume the standards changes likely means that confusing, biology-denying lies, along with immoral values, are going to be foisted upon your children—unless you stand up and refuse to let that happen to your children.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Worse than We Imagined

I have a good imagination. But imagining the ugly, savage, creepy, disgusting—I don’t spend a lot of time doing that.

So I didn’t imagine that things would get so bad so soon.

Washington SBOE seal
image found here
Let me share the easier bad news first. This is from schools in Washington State, where we lived when my kids started school. The Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has put out a new set of Health and Physical Education Standards. They begin their 126-page document with this reassurance:

The 2016 Health and Physical Education K-12 Learning Standards were developed collaboratively with teachers, administrators, subject matter experts, state and national association, and stakeholders in health and physical education. Teams of Washington state health and physical education teachers started working on drafts in September 2014 with the aim to develop the most comprehensive, relevant, medically-accurate, and inclusive set of health and physical education learning standards for our state.
That is to reassure you parents, who were NOT consulted and were excluded from the process, don’t worry; experts are in charge.

Here’s what the experts are planning for Washington children:

·         Beginning in Kindergarten, students will be taught about the many ways to express gender.  Gender expression education will include information about the manifestations of traits that are typically associated with one gender. Crossdressing is one form of gender expression.
·         Third graders will be introduced to the concept of gender identity.  These children will be taught that they can choose their own gender.
·         Fourth graders will be expected to “define sexual orientation,” which refers to whether a person identifies as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual; they’ll also be taught about HIV prevention.  Children in fourth grade will be told that they can choose their sexual orientation.
·         Fourth and fifth graders will learn about the relativity of gender roles and why such roles are social constructs that are not inherent to who we are as male or female human beings.
·         Seventh graders will be expected to “distinguish between biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.”
·         High school students will critically “evaluate how culture, media, society, and other people influence our perceptions of gender roles, sexuality, relationships, and sexual orientation.”
In case you, as a parent, are confused about terms, they provide a glossary. [The definitions below were reported by The Daily Caller, but the link to the glossary was no longer available.]

Gender: “A social construct based on emotional, behavioral, and cultural characteristics attached to a person’s assigned biological sex.”
Gender expression: “The way someone outwardly expresses their gender.”
Gender identity: “Someone’s inner sense of their gender.”
So, kindergarteners will be told they don’t know what “boys” and “girls” are, that it’s up in the air, and they ought to go ahead and try out being something they are not, or invent something that is neither boy nor girl and be that.

And fourth graders, who are still in the stage where the opposite sex has cooties, are being told that they might be homosexual if they do not feel attracted to the opposite sex.

Parents are, of course, outraged. Back when we had children in Washington schools, I met personally with the health teacher to go over the curriculum and verify that it met my standards, and that she shared my values. I could have opted out if I had not felt comfortable.

Parents worry that is no longer the case; the LGBTQ agenda is being incorporated fully into the entire health education curriculum. So it’s not a matter of sending a child to the library during the teaching of a particular lesson. It will be multiple days, in multiple ways, over multiple years from K-12.

School board member John Torre claimed parents will be able to opt out, “including the sexual orientation and gender identity lessons.” But Torre also told the Washington Times, the proposed curriculum changes (put out in March, approved in May) have nothing to do with the previous week’s vote to allow boys who identity as girls to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. That’s just an unrelated coincidence.

Andrea Lafferty, president of Traditional Values Coalition, one of several opponent groups, said, “They are not being forthright with the information. They are not telling people the truth.  They are bullying parents. They are intimidating and they are threatening.”

Meanwhile Torre admits that he cannot provide either the science behind the curriculum changes, or examples of lessons; those things have not been written yet.

I might remind you that schools originally took on the role of informing children about sex for the purported purpose of preventing out-of-wedlock births. And I’ll repeat one of the Spherical Model maxims:

Whenever government attempts something beyond the proper role of government (protection of life, liberty, and property), it causes unintended consequences—usually exactly opposite to the stated goals of the interference.

There’s another, related piece of news that goes beyond what I could imagine. It’s about Planned Parenthood, that bastion of savagery that exists because of taxpayer dollars. I am going to have to quote from an article, because I could not make this up, and I fail to be able to put it in my own words:

Pro-life advocacy group Live Action released a second investigative video on July 15 showing what Planned Parenthood “counselors” teach minors in the name of “sex-ed”: sexual bondage and sadomasochism, and steering them to sex stores to “get educated.” In the latest video, a Colorado counselor told the Live Action investigator (posing as a minor) that “sexual exploration is normal”—and went so far as to suggest defecating and urinating on men as an option. Really. Only conservative media found the film worth reporting….
According to the counselor, “sexual exploration” is “normal” and “can be really fun.” For ideas to imitate, she referenced 50 Shades of Grey as well as porn. She even offered some creative techniques of her own: “There are so many different fetishes out there,” she stressed. “Like, some guys like for women to urinate on them” or “pooping.”…
During a “Hannity” interview on July 15, [Live Action President Lila] Rose, elaborated on Planned Parenthood: “Their interest is not protecting these girls. Their interest is abortion and in pushing a sexual ideology—a sexology—that's very destructive and dangerous on our teenagers.”
Obamacare provided this particular Planned Parenthood with additional funding for educating teens. That means in schools. Rose encouraged parents to contact their principles and school superintendents to find out what their school’s relationship was with Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood Houston
image from here

That is a good first step wherever you are in the country. We think our schools are somewhat safe from such indoctrination here in Texas, because we are vigilant. And yet the huge Houston Planned Parenthood office is guilty of selling baby parts (another abomination I couldn’t have imagined until proof was placed before us), but they were temporarily successful in getting the reporters prosecuted, rather than the actual perpetrators. The reporters were eventually exonerated, but no real justice has been done yet.

I’ll say one more time, homeschooling is a lifestyle choice worth looking into. If there is any way you can do it, your family will benefit—both educationally and socially. If you are in an area where schools are already imposing this savage, anti-family doctrine, you must find a way out now.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Some More Political Philosophy

I was listening, last night, to the latest Uncommon Knowledge interview, with Sir Roger Scruton of Great Britain. He specializes in political philosophy, which is what we do here at the Spherical Model.
Sir Roger Scruton
photo from Uncommon Knowledge

Host Peter Robinson describes his way of thinking like this:

I take it that you decided that you intended to work in the tradition of Aristotle, philosophy as it bears on ordinary political life. Is that correct?
And Sir Roger Scruton answers,

Well, yes. I've always thought that philosophy has ordinary life as its subject matter. That's what it's about. But it's also a reflection on ordinary life and its meaning.
Philosophy in those terms, instead of, “I wonder if I can prove whether this tree really exists,” seems more likely to be fruitful.

He particularly got my attention when he was talking about former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:

Sir Roger Scruton: She came into our lives as a representative of our country at a time when the country looked particularly enfeebled by the trade unions, by the whole labor party attempt to rope society into a communal prison run by the state. All that was wonderful. We felt, we don't actually have to go along with all that crap. We can do our own thing. And we can revert to our natural condition as rebellious, eccentric Englishmen. But she felt that she had to embellish it with a complete doctrine, which she borrowed from the Institute of Economic Affairs, and about the need for market solutions to every social problem. Now, I'm all in favor of market solutions where they apply, but not every social problem does have a market solution. There is a need for the maintenance of traditions in education and in culture and in the law, which are not traditions of free enterprise.
They continue this conversation:

Peter Robinson: Again, [Scruton’s book] How to Be a Conservative. "Pressed for arguments," I'm quoting you, "Mrs. Thatcher leaned too readily on market economics, and ignored the deeper roots of conservatism in the theory and practice of civil society ... " You've just said this, but I want to tee it up again. " ... family, civil association, the Christian religion and the common law were all integrated into her ideal of freedom of the law. The pity was that she had no philosophy with which to articulate that idea." She felt it. She knew it. But she had not thought it through in a way that permitted her to articulate it. Here's Mrs. Thatcher.
Now, if I may go a step backward, and I am doing something very dangerous, because my knowledge of this history is tenuous. Yours will be deep. Winston Churchill had the capacity to articulate this deeper conservatism. Throughout the war he's talking about love of native land. He uses the phrase ... He actually uses the phrase, which would today have the man thrown in jail. He uses the phrase, "Christian civilization." Yet, in the 1945 election, in the face of the socialists, because he lacked a vocabulary to talk about free markets, he was naked before Attlee and this socialist impulse.
So what I'm getting at is, it almost seems to me as though there's a kind of ideological teeter totter. Conservatives in Britain either get to talk about free markets, or they get to talk Churchill, McMillan, Eden to the extent that he talked about anything. Heath later on. Or they get to try to talk about cultural conservatism. Somehow, the two don't seem to go together. Is there some reason for that, or is it mere happenstance?
Sir Roger Scruton: That's a very insightful observation. I think since Edmund Burke, we've had this tension between the adoption of the free market as the instrument of economic organization, the primary way in which a society should create and exchange goods, and the sense that some things should be withheld from the market, and that those things are just as important but much more difficult to defend.
Of course, Burke was talking about those things which should be withheld from the market: love, family and so on. All societies have recognized from the beginning of history that a market in sexual relations is the end of all social coherence. It's always very hard to say why. That's just one example. All the things that matter to us, as soon as we recognize how much must they matter, we want to withdraw them from the whole business of exchange and proliferation and, as it were, have them to ourselves. It's that aspect of humanity which is so difficult to articulate. But as you rightly say, Churchill did articulate it. And does it so much easier when it's under threat.
Hmm. So, we have free-market conservatism, and we have social conservatism. And we should mention that this is within the frame of thought that the people are choosing how they will be governed—which is what we call classical liberalism, but since the term liberal has been hijacked to mean its opposite, we mean freedom of limited government, as guaranteed in the US Constitution.

So there’s a political sphere, an economic sphere, and a social sphere. To be conservative, then, is to reach for political freedom, economic prosperity, and social civilization. The opposites, whatever words they use today—liberal, socialist, progressive—reach for political control over people, or tyranny: economic control over people, or poverty; and social decadence, or savagery.

The Spherical Model is a way of saying that these three spheres of conservatism interrelate. To be an economic conservative only is to be incomplete. To be a social conservative only is to be incomplete. To expect freedom without a free economy and a self-governing people is an impossibility.

Later in the conversation, they were talking about cultural issues, particularly concerning sex, marriage, and family:

Sir Roger Scruton: We all of us fall away from the standards that are required in this area. That is undoubtedly the case, because this is the biggest area of temptation. But it is also the biggest area in which examples are needed, and in which a culture of resistance is needed. That culture of resistance was absolutely vital to the protection of the working class family, and especially of children who need a father at home and have lost that protection.
It is undeniable that it's liberal propaganda which has made it almost impossible to say those things. It's not possible to say the things that are needed in this area, unless you're Charles Murray and don't care what's said about you anyway.
Peter Robinson: Or Sir Roger Scruton.
Sir Roger Scruton: Yeah.
Peter Robinson: That makes two of you.
Sir Roger Scruton: Yeah. Exactly. The point is, it's an area in which the truth has been made unsayable by the liberal censorship.
When pressed, he said that liberal censorship is a main reason Donald Trump was elected:

Sir Roger Scruton: People have been living under a regime of liberal censorship, which makes it very hard to say things without being accused of faults like racism, xenophobia. You yourself mentioned this, which nobody wants to be accused of, but which are very easy to—  These are accusations, which are very easy to make, because there's no criteria on the basis of which to make them, other than the feelings involved.
We do, as individuals, have non-mainstream-media outlets. Like this blog. I can say here what Charles Murray and Sir Roger Scruton say, but I am only safe from the accusations while I am obscure. Even so, the accusations sometimes come. I will nevertheless keep speaking truth as clearly as I can, because I love truth.

I just want to add one more of his comments—this one about immigration issues, particularly illegal immigration. He has a way of making the issue clear:

Sir Roger Scruton: You have a house, which you share with your wife and children, assuming you have them. You do recognize the right to keep out of that house people whom you've not invited in. Don't you?
Peter Robinson: I do.
Sir Roger Scruton: Having invited people in who start smashing things up, you recognize a right to exclude them?
Peter Robinson: I do.
Sir Roger Scruton: Yeah. Just multiply that by a few hundred thousand, and you'll recognize that people taken as a whole have that right. That is another part of democracy, that we live in a place. We have the right to exclude from that place those whom we think are not going to fit into it or to whom we don't want to extend a welcome. If we didn't have that right, we wouldn't feel secure in occupying the place that we claim as ours.

Political philosophy has the means to explore the ideas, and find the truths—aside from the push and pull of political waves. While we still have to function in a political world, at least we can have the depth of understanding that explains what it is we conservatives want to conserve.

Monday, July 17, 2017

War Counsel

I’m going to let Prager University do most of the teaching today. I watch their videos frequently—various ones on different days. But recently I happened upon a number of these, near enough together that I caught some connections. We could maybe call them the war collection.

Here’s a basic principle about the wars our nation participates in: We should be cautious and careful beforehand, and know for certain going to war is something we must do, to protect our sovereignty and civilization, or that of one of our allies asking for rescue. Once we’ve made the decision, the debate is over; we must never go back on that decision, because that wastes lives and destroys our honor.

We’ve had too much experience in the past several decades of going in with mostly agreement, and then giving in to ill-timed anti-war sentiment.

I could place blame at this point. Every time we have severe disapproval of our military actions while our soldiers are yet in the field, that is what Democrats do, and the mainstream media—but I repeat myself. They do it so thoroughly that Republicans, even those who were there to remember the truth, start giving in and saying, “Yeah, but…” There have been a number of unwise military actions taken by Democrats as well, but Republicans don’t try to thwart the military while they’re underway. I don’t know why this should be partisan, but history shows that it has been.

What we need is a reminder of what has really happened, especially where history has been rewritten. We can learn from truth, but we never seem to learn from the rewrites.

We’ll go through these war videos in chronological order, starting with the Korean War. Then comes the Vietnam War. And then the War in Iraq, which also covers, of necessity, the Gulf War.

The Korean War isn’t technically over; we have been at stalemate for half a century. But the separation of north from south that we finally came to saved—and helped thrive—the people in half of Korea. Enough time has passed that we just need this reminder.

Why Did America Fight the Korean War?              

A similar north/south separation could have prevented millions of deaths—after the Vietnam War. What happened instead was that the US, after winning the war, broke its word and abandoned the South Vietnamese. Millions were killed, caused to flee, or sent to reeducation camps to enforce communism on them. And here in America the generation of veterans who were shamed is unconscionable. Their misery is on the heads of every Vietnam War protester. Prager U has two short videos on this War.

The Truth about the Vietnam War           

Why Did America Fight the Vietnam War?           

The very idea that “Bush lied and people died” is absurd, if you have any clear memory of what actually happened after 9/11/2001. There was no lie. There was no need to lie, since there was worldwide agreement. So, delete what the media has been saying for the past decade, and recall what really went into the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Why America Invaded Iraq          

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What a Minimum Wage Should Be

Yesterday, economist Walter Williams wrote about the minimum wage. As usual, he explains things very clearly.
Walter Williams
photo from here

This is how he describes the current situation for a cashier-job worker:

The average wage for a cashier is around $10 an hour, about $21,000 a year. That's no great shakes, but it's an honest job for full- or part-time workers and retirees wanting to earn some extra cash. In anticipation of a $15-an-hour wage becoming federal law, many firms are beginning the automation process to economize on their labor usage.
He didn’t mention, but he could have, that two $21,000/year jobs put a household well out of poverty.
What those who favor a $15/hour minimum wage picture is a single parent trying to rent a place for herself and a couple of kids in an urban area. That’s not going to happen at $15 an hour either.
One recent study reported this data point for San Francisco and a couple of other cities:

Average rent on a two-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $4,650, $1,000+ more than the number two city (New York) and $2,000 more than the rest of the biggest cities in the country.
If we do the math, then it takes $55,800 a year just for rent. Forget about food, clothing, entertainment, medical care (insurance for which, alone, is beyond what a $15/hour worker could pay, thanks to Obamacare). So, we still have to feel pretty sorry for any $15/hour worker.

The thing is, most minimum-wage workers are not mothers trying to manage an entire household on their income. In those few cases, we do have a safety net of social services to help out—and we can suppose that minimum wage is temporary, because with experience and hard work come raises, promotions, and better opportunities.

Williams points out the obvious:

Why would anybody work for $21,000 a year if he had a higher-paying alternative? Obviously, the $21,000-a-year job is his best known opportunity.
He does this in the context of what is really compassionate. Because raising the minimum wage has consequences. He names three likely outcomes for business owners forced to raise pay to a level above what the worker is worth to the business.

·         The business raises the pay without getting more output from the workers, so profit margins drop to below survival rates, and the business closes—including all the $15/hour workers.
·         The business invests capital in technology that can do the work of minimum-wage workers, such as self-serve kiosks in many fast food chains; the business might get enough return on the investment to stay in business, but those $15/hour jobs are permanently lost.
·         The business can raise its prices to compensate for the higher labor costs, which puts them in a losing position once shoppers compare prices to a business that kept prices low with technology; eventually the business closes, and all jobs are lost.
photo from here

Williams looked at San Francisco, which has been implementing its “compassionate” $15/hour policy for a while now. He quotes a study:

A recent study by Michael Luca of Harvard Business School and Dara Lee Luca of Mathematica Policy Research calculated that for every $1 hike in the minimum hourly wage, there is a 14 percent increase in the likelihood that a restaurant rated 3 1/2 stars on Yelp will go out of business.
This was looking at actual restaurants in the Bay Area that had closed between this past September and January. Even some of the better restaurants have fallen prey. A restaurant needs a 3-5% profit to keep going. The minimum wage hike dropped one example restaurant from 8.5% in 2012 to 1.5% in 2015.

So, is outlawing all jobs that bring in less than $15 of worth to a business actually compassionate to entry-level workers?

Let’s repeat this Spherical Model point:

Whenever government attempts something beyond the proper role of government (protection of life, liberty, and property), it causes unintended consequences—usually exactly opposite to the stated goals of the interference.
The minimum wage issue is maybe a quintessential example. But, then, there are so many examples around these days.

I’ve written about the minimum wage a number of other times. So, let’s make this a “best of” on the minimum wage:

·         Beware Government with Good Intentions, May 11, 2011 
·         Outlawing Entry Level Jobs, July 27, 2015 
·         Unfair Egalitarianism, July 9, 2015 
·         Predictions, January 5, 2015 

As I’ve said before, employment is an agreement between two people: employer and worker. If the arrangement is agreeable to both, what business does government have inserting itself between them?

An unpaid internship, for example, is an agreement that looks economically disastrous for the worker—but if that worker gets some experience out of it that she values, both business and worker are benefitting. And government ought to just get out of the way.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Texas Special Session

Here in Texas, the legislature meets mid-January to early June every other year, so we finished up last month. But the Governor can call the legislature back any time for a limited time. Usually this happens shortly after the end of the regular session, when the governor wanted something to happen that didn’t happen during the session. That’s the case now.

Governor Abbott has scheduled the special session to begin July 18th, and he has listed twenty items for the legislature to deal with. That’s a lot of items. Among them are some bigger priorities. (The full list can be found here.) 

There’s a main reason that these things didn’t get handled in the special session: Speaker of the House Joe Strauss is not on the same side as Governor Abbott. He’s the same party. But the way the speaker is chosen now is slanted toward the liberal side, at least when the Republicans are in power.
The speaker comes from the majority party, but the Democrats in the House will support whichever candidate is most aligned with them. So the speaker gets 100% of the Democrat vote. Then the speaker just needs a relatively small percentage of Republicans.

He can totally ignore the strong conservative masses that have elected Republicans to every statewide office, and a robust majority in the House; he can curry favor with the more “moderate,” i.e., less conservative, House members, offer them their choice of committees and chairmanships, and he locks up the vote. And he’ll get some of the conservative votes too, because anyone who opposes him gets relegated to committees where they can do the least good for their constituents.

So, until we figure out a way to have Republicans do the electing of the House Speaker (as in the US House, where a caucus of each party chooses a speaker, and the one chosen by the majority party wins—so the minority party doesn’t do the choosing), we’re stuck with this roadblock to important legislation.

This past Saturday at the local Tea Party meeting, we heard from State Senator Paul Bettencourt and State Representative Mike Schofield, to talk about the upcoming special session.
Senator Paul Bettencourt

Sen. Bettencourt says there are three possibilities for how the session will go:

1)      The legislature will pass the sunset legislation and go home.
2)      The legislature will pass sunset plus a few items, but leave the big ones undone.
3)      The legislature will handle pretty much the whole list.
The sunset bill is to keep some state agencies from shutting down; it’s assumed to be necessary.

Option 1 would start a House meltdown. There are risks to failing to do what they’re supposed to do. If they do the bare minimum and vote to go home, that will lead to a roll call vote. That puts everyone on record as going against the Governor or not. It won’t go well for them at re-election time if they claim to be conservative but flout the governor’s agenda. Option 2 would be minimal, but still might lead to yet another special session.

There are three main issues among those twenty items:

·         Property tax relief.
·         School choice.
·         Privacy protection.

Property Tax Relief

The bills are not always written the same as for the regular session; sometimes we’ll get something that considers what failed in the regular session, but sometimes we’ll get something better.

Senator Bettencourt has been working for property tax reform. During the session he was asking for a cap of 3% plus inflation; during the special session the cap is lowered to 1% plus inflation. And in the special session he’ll only need 16 or 30 senators to pass it, (50% plus 1) instead of 20 (2/3 of the Senate).

There’s a swath of the state from Dallas-Ft. Worth to San Antonio (not including Austin, this time) with ridiculous property tax hikes. The current cap has been a percentage of home value plus inflation plus economic growth. Since the term “economic growth” is unmeasurable and totally meaningless, caps have been meaningless.

Chip and Joanna Gaines, of HGTV's Fixer Upper
image from here
Senator Bettencourt gave an example of why a real cap is needed. You know the HGTV show Fixer-Upper, with Chip and Joanna Gaines, of Waco, Texas? They take the worst house in the best neighborhood, and they turn it into the buyers’ dream home, right? Well, bureaucrats who assess property values have been following the show and purposely reassessing the value of the fixed-up homes. Homes have had as high as 1000% increases in their property taxes.

People are being punished for using their resources to make their homes nicer to live in; they’re being taxed for creativity and hard work. Those obscene property tax increases can put the cost of living in a house beyond the budget of those buyers—who were making a positive contribution to their neighborhood. That’s not the Texas way.

School Choice

Neither Senator Bettencourt and Representative Schofield were optimistic about school choice—even though they both favor the Educational Savings Account idea. Rep. Schofield says, “There’s too much fear of competition.” That’s fear among teachers unions—which have much more interest in wages for their union members that in education for children. 

We don’t know yet how the bills will read exactly, but the likelihood is that the ESA bill will be aimed at special needs students. While I’d prefer more market forces in every aspect of education, it’s tough to argue against meeting the needs of special needs students at lower cost per student. [Among several PragerU videos on school choice, is "Why Special Needs Students Want School Choice."]

The way it is working in Arizona, the family of the student is given a sum that is something like 90% of the cost of educating that student. It can be used only for education purposes (sort of like how a health savings account is used only for healthcare purposes), but the parents get to decide what is best for their child.

This is different from a voucher, which is a ticket, essentially, that can be spent as a whole at one alternative education place, such as a private school. The ESA can be used in part for a chosen form of therapy, in part for a tutor, in part for a block of a school week at a public or private school, or in part for homeschool curriculum—or any combination.

As they start looking for options, the market responds. And the market always eventually responds with better quality and lower prices.

If the family gets their student’s needs met without spending all the money in a given year, that money stays in the account for use in a later year, when maybe a more expensive program might be needed. If the money doesn’t get spent by high school graduation, the student can use it toward higher education. 

The program is optional, so no students would be forced into it. Any family can choose to stay in public school.

So ESAs are a win-win for special ed students and their families, and for school districts, which have trouble meeting the needs of these students anyway. And that 10% that the family doesn’t get stays in the school budget.

But the public school monolith sees it as the camel’s nose under the tent. If that camel is competition, then it is just barely the nose, but wouldn’t it be great if we had that whole camel in the education tent?

They absolutely don’t want competition. They want a public school monopoly, subsidized by people so frustrated that they pay out of pocket to meet their children’s needs elsewhere.

Opponents are misnaming the ESA option, lumping it in with vouchers, a term that causes a knee-jerk reaction in educators who get their information mainly from their unions.

Anyone who really knows about ESAs would likely vote for this bill, but fear of the overbearing unions will probably block it this time, leaving the special ed students with their critical needs unmet.


The third big issue, privacy, is what we sometimes refer to as the bathroom bill, and which the media mischaracterizes as transphobic.

As Rep. Schofield said, “We didn’t make an issue of it; Anise Parker did.” Transgendered people have been quietly using whatever restroom made them comfortable, from the invention of public restrooms up until 2015, when Houston’s mayor decided to make it an issue by forcing it on the city—including not just public city buildings, but private business properties. She tried to thwart the will of the people by throwing out their petitions, and she really stepped over the line when she tried to subpoena every speech or communication given by churches, so she could search through them for things she might find objectionable.
image found here

Once the courts slapped her down—several times—the people got their say, and this very urban, majority-liberal city, which had twice elected a lesbian mayor, soundly voted against her proposal.

Then Obama got on the bandwagon and decided, by fiat, to force a private space rule on the whole country. To be clear, he said high schools (and of course other facilities with locker rooms, bathrooms, or dressing rooms) must, because of his insistence only, allow any anatomical male who wants to say he is a female (for any purpose—can’t be questioned for actual intent; and note that a male claiming to be transgendered to female is still likely to be sexually attracted to females) to shower naked in front of and with female high school students. No regard for the discomfort this would cause high school girls or their parents would be considered. End of subject. Anyone who objects would be labeled a bigoted, transphobic troglodyte who should be publicly shamed, fired, and never allowed to work or function in society again.

Compromises, such as private showers or bathrooms for transgendered students, were dismissed as insensitive to the transgendered—meanwhile, overruled as not worth considering are the sensitivities of the 99.7% majority.

Obama’s overreaching executive order has been repealed, but many school districts and businesses around the country have kept the rule change to appear “tolerant.” That is why Texas is taking the step of protecting citizens by returning to separate gender private spaces as a rule of law.

I think the bill will pass, because this is Texas, and we don’t like fools telling us we have no right to privacy in our private places. If Strauss fails to bring it for a vote again, it will mean coming back for another special session.

During this special session, expect the media to do its thing against anything good for freedom, prosperity, and civilization. But, if the people send their support to their representatives in Austin, we might get the work done that should have already gotten done.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Quote File Sampling

The Spherical Model quote file keeps growing. The Fourth of July got me thinking, even more than usual, about how the political, economic, and social spheres all interrelate. So, with that in mind, here’s another sampling from the quote file:

"Declaration of Independence"
painting by John Trumbull

You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration [of Independence], and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in that day's transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.—John Adams, July 3, 1776

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."
—Benjamin Franklin, July 4, 1776

Happiness, whether in despotism or democracy, whether in slavery or liberty, can never be found without virtue.—John Adams

All the principles of science are of divine origin. Man cannot make or invent or contrive principles. He can only discover them, and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author.—Thomas Paine

Without God, there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life.—Dwight D. Eisenhower

No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.—Samuel Adams

This is still God’s world. The forces of evil, working through some mortals, have made a mess of a good part of it. But it is still God’s world. In due time, when each of us has had a chance to prove ourselves—including whether or not we are going to stand up for freedom—God will interject himself, and the final and eternal victory shall be for free agency.
And then shall those complacent people on the sidelines, and those who took the wrong but temporarily popular course, lament their decisions.
To the patriots I say this: Take that long eternal look.
Stand up for freedom, no matter what the cost. Stand up and be counted. It can help to save your soul—and maybe your country.—Ezra Taft Benson

Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ will rise up and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”—Martin Luther King, Jr. (quoting 19th Century abolitionist Theodore Parker)

"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him." — G.K. Chesterton

No enactment of man can be considered law, unless it conforms to the law of God.—William Blackstone

The only way we can keep our freedom is to work at it. Not some of us. All of us. Not some of the time, but all of the time. So if you value your citizenship and you want to keep it for yourself and your children and their children, give it your faith, your belief, and give it your active support in civic affairs.—Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 405; from an address given at the Rotary Club, SLC, UT, June 8, 1976

Monday, July 3, 2017

Declaration Authority

Can we just say this: The Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate tomorrow, is brilliant and beautiful—and was the first to do what it set out to do: separate from a royal sovereign to become a self-governed sovereign nation.

These past few months I’ve been doing some studying about the Declaration of Independence. Not entirely purposeful, but because things have come my way that started to connect.

Dr. Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, has a lot to do with this. He has created a new free online course, Introduction to the Constitution, about the philosophies behind our founding. He also does a weekly hour with Hugh Hewitt, called the Hillsdale Dialogues. Lately these have covered the founding documents: The Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation, and The Constitution.

The Hillsdale Dialogues are archived in a couple of places: among Hillsdale’s online courses, and in Hugh Hewitt’s archived shows (subscription required).

The Declaration covered four weeks, the fourth of which was not Larry Arnn, but Matthew Spalding, head of Hillsdale’s Kirby Center in Washington, DC. [May 6, 2017, around 24 minutes]. He points out an interesting thing about the mentions of God in the Declaration:

They begin by appealing to the “Supreme Judge of the World.” This paragraph includes two more references to God: “Supreme Judge of the World” at the beginning of the paragraph, and He’s “Divine Providence” at the end. Right? This document has references to God as the three forms of government. You recall, He’s “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”; He’s the lawmaker. He’s the “Creator”—endows us with rights; He’s the executive. And now He’s the “Supreme Judge.” So He’s all three branches of the government—and He’s “Divine Providence.”

screen shot from Lecture 2

In lecture 2 of the Introduction to the Constitution course, Larry Arnn also refers to these references to God identifying the three branches of government. And then he points out that the king:

has interfered with the legislature and the judges. He’s suspended the legislature. He has removed judges. He has interfered with the trial by jury. The king is trying to be all three branches. But the person who can be trusted to be all three branches is actually named in the document. Only God….
He [Jefferson] might need an authority like that, if he’s declaring a rebellion, because the source of the law up till that moment had been the king and parliament. And they’re saying, “No more.” So king and parliament have not passed a law that says you can cut off from us whenever you want to. If they had, they could have used their authority. But they were saying, “No.” So they needed some higher authority: Laws of Nature.
The revolutionaries weren’t lawless anarchists. The Declaration of Independence isn’t a rebellion against laws; it is a rebellion against lawlessness, and a movement toward laws.

In his book The Founder’s Key, Larry Arnn  chapter 3, "Divorce The Declaration and the Constitution Estranged?" Dr. Arnn notes that others have claimed that the declaration is a rebellion against laws—and that’s opposite to the Constitution. But Dr. Arnn says they aren’t actually opposites, except in purpose:

Notice it says that this is a right of “the People,” the group entitled in nature to a certain standing. This group may indeed throw off the government if it pleases. What then is it to do? Jefferson continues that the next step is to “institute new Government.” The institution of new government is parallel in grammar, in meaning, and in priority to the right to throw off government. If it is natural for a people to rebel against a bad government, it is also natural for a people to establish a new one that is good.
As important as The Declaration is in the history of the world, the actual severing of ties was put before the Continental Congress on June 7, 1776, nearly a month earlier.

Neither Thomas Jefferson nor John Adams were the ones to bring the question of independence into the open—beyond tavern conversations. Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, was the one to do that. He made the proposal on June 7, 1776. But there weren’t the votes to accomplish passing the proposal at that point. So John Adams got to work persuading people toward that.

Lee’s proposal to dissolve allegiance with Great Britain was, for him and all those participating, high treason. The men who acted on the proposal risked execution. But that list of grievances was mounting—and there was a war already underway in which the British crown was firing upon its citizens, rather than protecting them.

Being such a serious proposal, the delegates were given three weeks to consult with and get directions from home, and, according to David J. Shestokas in Creating the Declaration of Independence, time for “a committee to draft a declaration to be issued in the event the independence resolution were adopted.

Among Adams’ efforts was recruiting Thomas Jefferson to do the writing. It was partly that he wanted a more junior legislator to do it, so he could keep doing other things. And partly he wanted someone from the southern colonies to make the proposal—so that it wasn’t seen as a Massachusetts problem, where most of the fighting was taking place. And it was partly because Jefferson really was the best man to do the writing.

Jefferson had written an essay two years earlier called “A Summary View of the Rights of British North America.” Lee used ideas from that. He was a better speaker; Jefferson was a better writer.

The Declaration was without precedent. Some of the concepts had come up before. Jefferson considered them all, one after another, as he went about writing The Declaration. There were patterns he found among the historical documents. The others did include lists of grievances. And Jefferson would use that. As Shestokas describes it,

It was clear that for the world audience to understand, Jefferson would need to list the king’s crimes and how by those crimes the king no longer had the right to rule.
Matthew Spalding, in the Hillsdale Dialogue, talks about the structure of the Declaration, in a lawyer’s terms:

You’re a lawyer so you’ll appreciate this. Think of it as the common law doctrine. There’s a preamble. There’s a statement of principle. Indictment. And now they’re driving towards a conclusion. Every stage of this, “we’ve been humble in our terms. We’ve been answered only by repeated injury.” There was an olive branch petition right before this. And the king has put out a royal proclamation of rebellion, treating them like traitors, wanting to bring them to justice. The break has been made. This is their conclusion.
So The Declaration builds a case for legitimacy among the world’s nations. As Hugh Hewitt puts it, “a recipe for how to go about establishing legitimacy in revolution.” That long list of grievances has a particular purpose.

Larry Arnn, in The Founder’s Key, says this about the “long middle section, which is generally ignored today”:

It was not ignored at the time, however, because this section contains the charges against the king and Parliament that give specific justification for the act of revolution. This part puts the responsibility directly on the British government. It builds a case against that government, specifically, in one of the monumental controversies in all history. At stake is the loyalty of a whole people to the king. And at stake is the vast land upon which they live, at that time still unknown in extent, but the prize possession of one of the greatest empires in the entire human story....
The charges against the king name the specific practical ground upon which all this is to be taken from him.
Jefferson brings this point forward when, after the list, he says,

“A Prince, whose Character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.”
The ruler has been a tyrant. A free people must act to end the oppression. America is the particular example of the general principle.

The vote on Lee’s proposal actually took place on July 2nd, and some predicted that would be the celebrated day of independence. But the signing actually took place on July 4th, so that’s what now gets our attention.

And it deserves our attention, 241 years later. Any freedom that exists in the world today owes its thanks to those daring enough to sign The Declaration. That’s worth celebrating.

As a bonus, here are some musical friends of mine singing "The Star-Spangled Banner":