Friday, February 22, 2019

SOGI Laws Discriminate Against Religious People

The acronym SOGI stands for sexual orientation and gender identity. There’s a movement—going on now for over a decade—making its way through international NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and into societies.

Yogyakarta Principles logo
Back in 2006, November, there was a four-day conference in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The purpose was to draft a set of statements connecting human rights concepts with new ideas concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. A few months later their 29 statements were revealed at a UN Human Rights Council in Geneva: The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

If it seems like these ideas have rather suddenly appeared practically everywhere you look, that’s been intentional. They put their fingers into education, religion, health, housing, business—practically everywhere. If your ideas have changed since 2007—or, more likely, you’re noticing changes in the views of people around you, maybe especially millennials and younger—that has been the purposeful manipulation of language and society from these Yogyakarta Principles, which have, as Daniel Moody put it in a 2017 piece,

throbbed away in the background, shaping the terms of legal debate more by association and insinuation than by formal adoption, with the ideas therein gradually becoming the loudest voice in the conversation.
In short, the change in views isn’t organic; it’s been inculcated. It’s not about research or enlightenment; it’s about indoctrination. And it isn’t about changing hearts to lead to greater equity, but binding laws coercing behavior regardless of sovereignty; it’s about power.

Without the infiltration of these ideas into our society, would the US Supreme Court have ruled to redefine marriage in 2015 in Obergefell? Probably not. The questions brought up at that time—about the harm to religious people who would still hold to the millennia-old definition of marriage—were acknowledged by Justice Kennedy, but were ignored with no more than a shrug of the shoulders.

Since then, people are literally persecuted—bullied, publicly shamed, prosecuted, put out of business—for holding to the fact that marriage is about the permanent commitment of a man and a woman for the sake of possible offspring.

As Ryan Anderson, author of Truth Overruled, says, “SOGI laws imperil religious liberty, privacy, economic freedom, and child welfare, creating more problems than they aim to resolve. They are a solution in search of a problem.”

Texas Legislature Online home page
We’re not immune, even here in the free state of Texas. During this legislative session we’re facing a number of SOGI bills, attempting to codify discrimination against religious people, but disguised as “anti-discrimination” bills. If you’re in Texas, these are bills to oppose; outside of Texas, watch for these ideas to show up in your laws:

·         SB 153 (and companion bill HB 978) requires gender-neutral language in marriage licensing.

·         SB 151 (and companion bill HB 244, as well as similar bill HB 254) is a general SOGI bill; it prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. It includes a $100 per day fine for any violation.
·         HB 850 prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, without regard to what the employer does and what image that employer wants to present to the public, and it includes Christian-owned or other religiously led businesses.
·         HB 188 prohibits housing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. That means that religious colleges and universities can be forced to allow biological males to sleep next to women in dormitories. Same for religious homeless shelters for abused women.
·         HB 517 (and duplicate HB 1190) prohibits counseling related to sexual orientation or gender identity of a child—unless it is to encourage homosexuality or transitioning as the treatment for gender dysphoria. In other words, it allows only the SOGI-preferred type of counseling and criminalizes anything else—even when the patient wants other counsel. Even providing overwhelming science and research that refutes the pro-LGBT views would be illegal to provide.
·         SB 154 (and companion HB 1835) forces doctors to change vital records, against conscience, concerning name and sex changes.
·         SJR 9 (and companion HJR 64) attempts to repeal the Texas Code definition of marriage as one man and one woman—ignoring the will of the people of Texas to align with the five Supreme Court justices who extra-constitutionally imposed a new definition on us.

It’s still early in the legislative session, but so far these SOGI bills are not progressing. Senate bills have been assigned to committees (to State Affairs), but only a few House bills have been assigned to their various committees.

Meanwhile, there are some bills intended to prevent damage to religion freedom. If you believe in the God-given First Amendment right of freedom of religion, these are bills to support:

·         HB 1035, the “Free to Believe Act,” is intended to protect freedom of conscience from government discrimination. This would protect from most of the bills we’re against, because all those try to wield government power against religious believers.

·         SB 85 is intended to protect counselors who refuse to provide services against their beliefs.
·         HB 2109 grants the right of recusal from performing marriage ceremonies that go against the official’s religious beliefs.

Only the Senate bill has been assigned to committee. Committee assignment is done mostly in order filed, so higher numbers will take longer. That means we don’t know how they’ll do once they get debated.

At any point, it’s worth contacting your state representative and state senator, to let them know your views on these issues, and to encourage them to sign on as co-authors or co-sponsors to bills you support. Once the bills are in committee, then contacting committee members is worth doing. You can follow all of these bills on the Texas Legislature Online site. I’ve linked the bills to that site. You can also go there directly:

If having the freedom to believe what you believe is important to you, and you don’t want that taken from you because of some international NGO agenda, then this is a time to stand up and use your voice.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Can Atheists Be Good People?

Can atheists be good people?

The short answer is yes. Of course.

There’s also a longer answer.

Ten Commandments Monument
at the Texas State Capitol
Civilization requires a critical mass of people honoring—or valuing—God, life, family, property, and truth. (An astute reader will see this as the condensed version of the Ten Commandments.)

If you’re an atheist, maybe that first one bothers you. But the reason it’s necessary is that God defines Good—and valuing life, family, property, and truth are Good. Without God as the definer of ultimate Good, then everyone is subject to their own personal definition of good, based on nothing but some combination of their reason and gut feeling. And they’re all different, and ever changing. So why should anyone see what you value as more important than what they value?

As Jordan Peterson explains it, you’re way too complex to know what you believe, but what you act on is what you value most. Indeed, what you act on—what you value most—that is how you’re intrapersonally defining god (or God). This is from a Q&A after a lecture[i]:

Everything you act out is predicated on your implicit axioms. The system of implicit axioms that you hold as primary is your religious belief system. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an atheist or not. That’s just surface noise….
It doesn’t necessarily have to do with your voluntarily articulated statements about whether or not you believe in something like a transcendent deity. So, what you act out is much more what you are than what you say about yourself. And what the hell do you know about what you believe, anyways? You’re complicated.
What you act on, then, affects civilization.

If you, as an atheist, indeed value life—as in the “Thou shalt not take innocent life” kind of value—then you are contributing to civilization.

If you also value family—by loving your family and being committed to them, rather than randomly having sex with whomever, or by abandoning, neglecting, or harming your family members—then you’re further contributing to civilization.

Property might not be as obvious. But property is the result of our labor, so it’s a physical representative of our life and its contributions. So you not only require others to respect what you own; you must respect the result of the labor of others—their property. You don’t steal or expect something for nothing. You don’t destroy other people’s property. You don’t cheat someone in an exchange or contract. If you’re honoring property ownership, then you’re contributing to civilization. Next to the failure to value family, the most damage caused to society is probably by people who don’t value the right to property.

If you value truth, you tell the truth. You’re honest in your dealings. You’re honest in your relationships. You seek to understand what is important, valuable, meaningful, and beautiful about life. If that’s true of you, then you are definitely contributing to civilization.

If you’re not acting out valuing life, family, property, and truth, then you’re contributing to the decay of civilization, creating its opposite, which is savagery.

On the other hand, if you’re a religious person who claims to honor God but does not live a life that honors life, family, property, and truth, then you’re decaying civilization and pulling society toward savagery.

It’s about what you do with your life more than what you say you believe.

So, yes, a person who claims to not believe in God can be a good person, contributing positively to civilization.

But there’s another question: why does an atheist live a good life?

A person who believes in God and is striving to please a loving Heavenly Father will have motivation to be the kind of person who values life, family, property, and truth—both for a better life here and now and hope of a heavenly eternity. A person who is an atheist has no obvious motivation, because he sees an effort to please God as meaningless.

Most of the religion/atheism debates I’ve seen or read are with what I would call “moral” atheists; they’re mostly doing the things that contribute to civilization. They claim they do this because it’s rational.[ii]

But, when atheists claim it is only rational to live a good life, they are able to make the comparison—between good and evil, between civilization and savagery—because they have seen enough of the good around them.

I believe if they were not surrounded by people trying to live good and honorable and ethical lives, the likelihood that such a choice would be rational is infinitesimally small.

If they were surrounded by liars, thieves, whoremongers, and power mongers, they would most likely find rationale to strive to be the fittest survivor in those circumstances. (We’ll save the discussion of harm done by amoral atheists for a different discussion.)

A few months ago, I wrote, in a piece called "Good Is Real,"

If you live in a society where masters have their slaves serve them, and that is all you’ve known, it is logically reasonable to see that as the right way, and perfectly moral—which most of the societies on earth have done. That reasoning doesn’t make it morally true. But true religion—which tells us humans are created by God and have a divine nature—tells us that enslaving a human being is morally wrong.
A person whose view is toward ultimate good recognizes that there is something beyond the surroundings, something more elevated, transcendent. Something worth striving for, regardless of the savage environment.

Andrew Klavan, screenshot from February 21, 2018 podcast

There’s an Andrew Klavan podcast in which he talks about this, from a year ago, right after Billy Graham died. [Listen to 17:00 to 31:00 for this segment.] Klavan talks about the conversion of Louis Zamperini—the change of heart. He also talks about his own conversion.[iii] He says,

When the anger and the rage fell from Louis Zamperini’s heart, when the tendency to depression fell from my heart, I was experiencing something real that nobody can do. They can give you a pill that stops you feeling your depression, but they cannot give you a pill that improves your life and suddenly gives you an understanding of who you are, why you were made, and where you come from.
And he adds,

The evidence of what God does in people’s life is evidence. It lasts over time. Just like my love for my wife; it lasts over time. And it can be experienced.
I’m a believer. And I try to live in integrity with that belief. We’ll see how I do over a lifetime.
I’m not concerned about atheists who are seeking the good. I’ll let a loving God sort that out in the final judgment, when all truth is known and a person can make a clear choice. I tend to think those who are seeking the good, living honorable lives that positively contribute to civilization, will want to choose ultimate good for their eternity.

But I also think life can be happier here and now, and over time—and especially through hard times—when we recognize God’s love and intentionally seek ultimate good out of love for that goodness that we religious people call God. My experience trying to do that decade after decade is evidence to me; it’s meaningful.

Compare that to what the atheist offers. Again, the debate about God’s existence or not we can save for another day. The outcome of that always is, it takes a lot less leap into the unknown to believe in God than to believe we have an ordered, predictable nature with complex life that just showed up randomly. But beyond that, there’s the despair that comes from a life without meaning.

In that podcast by Andrew Klavan, he comes back around to where he began the segment, where he noted that things are relatively good; poverty is down, horrible plagues are abated, hunger is much less a problem than overeating. And yet people are miserable. Why? He asserts that it’s a lack of hope, of meaning. And these well-meaning atheists are not helping:

These guys, without meaning to, without being bad guys, are contributing to this crisis in America. When you tell people that they’re just a bunch of chemicals, and they can solve their problems by opiates, they’re going to die of opiate overdoses. When you tell them that there’s no purpose to their life, that nobody made them, that nobody loves them, their sense of right and wrong comes—it’s just a kind of random, relative idea, you take away from them every single thing they have of value. Everything they have of value. Their house is not valuable. Their love is not valuable. Nothing is valuable if they themselves are not there; if you tell them they have no free will, they have no soul, they have no spirit. These guys, with all the best wishes in the world, thinking that they’re saving us, are really starting a crisis.
Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist, offers an awareness of good and evil—a religious viewpoint—as a necessity in treating trauma, such as PTSD:

If you have PTSD, it’s because you’ve been touched by malevolence in one way or another. You need to reorganize your thinking along lines that are fundamentally religious. You need to start seeing the world as a battleground between good and evil—which is what it is, in the most real sense.
That’s what we experience in today’s world. We see it in clear battle terms, clearer every day. Meaningless mind efforts, or reason, aren’t the right tools. Meaningful, purposeful choosing good over evil—that offers the world healing.

Moral atheists are welcome among us. Keep choosing the good, and we’ll just draw the circle big enough to count you in. But don’t expect us to stop praying that you’ll also be able to experience an even more abundant life.

[i] I’m unable to locate which lecture this is from. I transcribed it from a YouTube video.
[ii] Some of these include Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris, published September 2018; Jordan Peterson and Susan Blackmore; Dinesh D’Souza and Peter Singer “God: Yes or No” debate at Biola University, 2008; Christopher Hitchens vs. Dinesh D’Souza , “Is Religion the Problem,” 2010; Talking with Pagans: The Great God Debates from the Hugh Hewitt Show, by Hugh Hewitt, 2013.
[iii] Klavan's memoir about his conversion is The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ.    

Thursday, February 14, 2019

What I Love about Economics

I’m not an expert in economics, but the subject comes up here at the Spherical Model pretty regularly, since the Economic Sphere is one of the three overlaying spheres. I did take basic econ in college, and I read a fair amount. That seems to have done me more good that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s degree in the field. One thing I know is that economics is inextricably connected to politics and culture.

As economist Ludwig von Mises said,

One of the indispensable prerequisites of a master of economics is a perfect knowledge of history, the history of ideas and of civilization, and of social, economic, and political history. To know one field well, one must also know other fields.—Ludwig von Mises, in Shawn Ritenour, ed. The Mises Reader, p. 22 , quoted from John Chamberlain, “My Years with Ludwig von Mises,” The Freeman 27, no. 2 (February 1977): 126–27.
Looks like we even agree on the three spheres: political, economic, and social.

I’ve been a follower of Mises economics, usually called Austrian economics, for a while. [ is a good source.] I’m also a follower of the Chicago school, of Milton Friedman—and eventually bringing around Thomas Sowell. To an expert there’s probably a lot of difference, but to me they’re both about free-market economic principles. I think Mises is possibly more theoretical—the philosophy behind the policy—while Friedman is more about implementation: based on these free-market principles, what policy will work best in this situation?
The Mises Reader cover

Anyway, I’ve just started reading The Mises Reader, a collection of Mises’s shorter and more accessible works, as well as excerpts from his major works, edited by Shawn Ritenour. Even the introduction has been rich with quotes. I thought I’d share a few, to offer a taste of how Mises thought—making us wish there were more thinkers like him today. The first several are quotes about him, by Ritenour. Then there are some of Mises’s own words.

This may not seem like much of a Valentine’s Day post, but, being who I am, a truth seeker, I love words like these. Enjoy.

The work of Ludwig von Mises is an important guide for thoughtful citizens because he strongly, yet matter-of-factly sets forth economics as the pursuit of truth. Not the truth of the passing fancy, nor the so-called “small t-truth” that is always in danger of being refuted by the latest bit of empirical data; but economic truth that will stand for all ages.—Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, Introduction, p. 15.

This is what happens when intellectuals, teachers, and college professors see themselves as destroyers instead of cultivators. If we want to preserve our noble cultural inheritance, we cannot think that it will happen automatically. It is always easier to destroy than to maintain and build up. If civilization is not to descend into barbarism, we must teach each generation the importance of truth, liberty, and private property. It is not called culture for nothing. We must cultivate civilization.—Shawn Ritenour, ed. The Mises Reader,  p. 12-13, Introduction

Today people are increasingly urged to support this or that political program advertised as solving a vexing social problem with no understanding of economics and hence no frame of reference from which to evaluate different policies. All that is mustered in justification for interventionism are feelings that make people want to “do something.” The economics of Mises is the crucial antidote for the current interventionist ideology supporting the progressive march to economic fascism. Citizens acquainted with Mises quickly understand that any sort of middle-of-the-road economic policy does indeed lead to socialism.—Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, Introduction, p. 21.

An economy that has taken advantage of an extensive division of labor is very complex and yet, decentralized. Such an economy features a multitude of different markets in which the participants must coordinate their activities if we want to avoid recessions and depressions. The biggest problem for this decentralized economy to work is that all of the various producers have to know what to produce, how much to produce, and how to produce it. This can only be done if some method of calculation exists. No other economist of his day stressed this point more than Mises. Indeed in the 1920s Mises demonstrated that the lack of economic calculation is the Achilles heel of socialism.—Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, p. 18.

Mises recognizes that what makes such comparisons even harder is that we all value goods subjectively, according to our personal preferences. We cannot, therefore, measure value because there are no objective units of value measurement. Again it was Mises who demonstrated that voluntary exchange in a monetary economy opens the door to a solution. In a monetary economy, every good is exchanged against money, so every price is expressed in terms of the monetary unit—in our case dollars and cents. Even though value is subjective, in a free market, people manifest their values by voluntarily deciding what they will pay for particular products and services. These objective prices, therefore, are reflections of subjective values. Entrepreneurs are able to use these objective prices to calculate expected profit and loss and act accordingly. In a free market, Mises shows, entrepreneurs are able to plan for the future and consumers will receive what they most want.
Socialism, on the other hand, is doomed because there is no way for the central planner to efficiently allocate factors of production because there is no way to calculate profit and loss. In a completely socialistic economy all of the means of production are owned by the state. There is, therefore, no actual exchange of goods, and hence no actual prices that reflect the actual subjective values of human beings. Producers, then, have no way to calculate whether their actions are productive or wasteful from the point of view of society. What is called a planned economy is, instead, as Mises so eloquently put it, “groping about in the dark.”—Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, pp. 18-19.
Ludwig von Mises
image from Wikipedia
A man who chooses between drinking a glass of milk and a glass of a solution of potassium cyanide does not choose between two beverages; he chooses between life and death. A society that chooses between capitalism and socialism does not choose between two social systems; it chooses between social cooperation and the disintegration of society. Socialism is not an alternative to capitalism; it is an alternative to any system under which men can live as human beings. To stress this point is the task of economics as it is the task of biology and chemistry to teach that potassium cyanide is not a nutriment but a deadly poison.—Ludwig von Mises, in Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, p. 20, quoted from Mises, Human Action, p. 676.

One may try to justify [social security] by declaring that the wage earners lack the insight and the moral strength to provide spontaneously for their own future. But then it is not easy to silence the voices of those who ask whether it is not paradoxical to entrust the nation’s welfare to the decisions of voters whom the law itself considers incapable of managing their own affairs.—Ludwig von Mises, in Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, p. 21, quoted from Mises, Human Action, p. 613.

I was sometimes accused of representing my viewpoint in a manner too abrupt and intransigent. It was also claimed that I could have accomplished more had I displayed a greater willingness to compromise.... When I look back at my work… my only regret is my willingness to compromise, and not my intransigence.—Ludwig von Mises, in Shawn Ritenour, ed., The Mises Reader, pp. 22-23, quoted from Mises, Memoirs, p. 60.

Monday, February 11, 2019

America Will Never Be Socialist

Short quiz. Who said this?

This is the time to re-ignite the American imagination. This is the time to search for the tallest summit, and set our sights on the brightest star. This is the time to rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory that link us together as citizens, as neighbors, as patriots.
This is our future—our fate—and our choice to make. I am asking you to choose greatness.
How about this?

We must keep America first in our hearts. We must keep freedom alive in our souls. And we must always keep faith in America's destiny—that one Nation, under God, must be the hope and the promise and the light and the glory among all the nations of the world!
Soaring rhetoric, but it’s pretty good. Ronald Reagan, maybe? JFK? George H. W. Bush?

Nope. That was Donald Trump last Tuesday at the State of the Union. I’ve waited a few days, to see how the words settled. There were actually quite a lot of words that I liked in the speech. Unlike a Facebook friend (who is due again for me to snooze his posts for 30 days) who heard only racism and hatred; I didn’t hear those words. At all. You’d think maybe those being offended are seeking and finding something that isn’t even there.

President Trump at State of the Union
image from Wikipedia
There was a section of the State of the Union Address I particularly appreciated. After mentioning Venezuela, the president said:

Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence—not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.
A certain half of the audience failed to stand or even applaud. Hmm.

The unusual thing is that it needed to be said at all. We have a significant portion of the population—and elected officials among them—who think it would be a good idea to “fundamentally transform,” as Obama used to say, the United States of America from a free country to a totalitarian regime.

They don’t call it that; they used to bristle at those of us who called it socialism. Now they proudly call it socialism. But socialism is tyranny. And everywhere it’s been tried, it has been about controlling people’s actions, along with their words and thoughts. That’s total control. Beyond economic meddling or social engineering. It’s totalitarian.

When socialist failures are pointed out, these people say, “But that’s not what we mean. We wouldn’t do it like them; we won’t fail. Because we’re just better people, and we know so much more now.”

Now being ten minutes past Venezuela, not just decades past Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.

How do we know these current “democratic” socialists wouldn’t be any different from their socialist predecessors? Because of what they already do and say.

They believe in killing the innocent—the unborn. And beyond that, Democrats this past week showed they were not even willing to protect the already born, if a mother suddenly decided she didn’t want the child. So—they believe in killing based on their own selfish purposes. That isn’t really different from the past socialists, who killed millions of Jews and others they deemed genetically or mentally inferior (such homosexuals, the disabled, or anyone who protected any of those categories), or who disagreed with them (such as Bonhoeffer or Hubener), or who simply didn’t matter to them (such as the thousands who starved to death in the Soviet Union during WWII).

These new socialists have already shown they will target those who disagree—as they did to Tea Party and patriot groups during the Obama administration. They target bakers and florists and photographers, and nuns and doctors and therapists who don’t go along with their sexually irresponsible agenda.

They work tirelessly to disarm citizens, so that coercion of no-longer-free people will be simplified.

They typically lie about what they want to do, because the people wouldn’t stand for their actual purposes. For example, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” and it will cost less. None of that was true; all of it was a step toward greater coercive control.

Sometimes we do get the truth, though. For example, the Green New Deal proposed this past week by media darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who didn’t get the memo about not revealing their nasty plots. She didn’t invent the idea of a Green New Deal; it has been around for several years. Her forte is getting stuff out in today’s media environment. This is all proposal, and not yet legislation. But it’s informative.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announcing Green New Deal
screenshot from CNN

In the name of saving the world from climate change—which she says will bring on the end of the world within twelve years if we don’t take drastic action—she insists that we in the US, but not the rest of the world, should have our government do the following over the next decade:

·         Get rid of all cars currently on the roads, except electric ones (so, about 99% of all cars, all trucks, all heavy equipment).
·         Get rid of all energy sources except wind, solar, and coal plants. So, no oil, no natural gas, no nuclear—all of which are cleaner than coal. These entire segments of the market would be shut down. But somehow magically we would have plenty of electricity.
·         All buildings would be either razed and rebuilt or stripped and retrofitted to meet some undefined level of energy efficiency. It’s unclear whether the government (i.e., taxpayers) would pay for every home, apartment complex, store, warehouse, office building, church, hospital, school, or cabin—all regardless of architectural value—to be built anew. Details, details. I am wondering, though, how that massive amount of building could go on without trucks or heavy machinery. And how can new wealth be created if this huge undertaking is just to retrofit what we now use.
·         Shut down air travel—the entire industry. But not to worry: there will be high-speed rail everywhere, except of course from the terminal to wherever in a city you may want to go, because…no cars, except for the 1% still allowed. Sorry, Hawaii. And Alaska. Maybe you can still do shipping—except, not fueled by internal combustion engines, or nuclear (as submarines are). Just electrical. Good luck plugging them in in the middle of the ocean.
·         Shut down, or sharply curtail, the cattle industry, because those animals produce gases, you know, in their flatulence. Also, get rid of large production farms in favor of small family farms, which of course won’t need trucks or tractors or anything gas powered.
·         And, since we’re on the subject of saving the planet from climate change, we’ll throw in a totally unrelated living family wage for everyone—even for those unable or unwilling to work. Because, what with shutting down most of the oil and gas and nuclear energy, automobile, air travel, and farming and ranching  sectors of the economy, and having torn down all buildings so that all other production is disrupted—this is a great time to assume we’ll have many many trillions of extra tax revenue dollars to just pay people who don’t want to work.
Seriously, where will the money come from for government to do all these things? Or any of them, really?

Some of the proposals have been walked back—awkwardly, as if walking backward in Gucci heels through the mud. Ocasio-Cortez decided to take down the FAQs she and her staff put up, and blame the confusion on some fake site that had added “recycling urine” onto the list. But no one was talking about that; they were talking about the real things she had put up, like paying people who don’t want to work.

How would we pay for it? By incurring debt at rates heretofore never seen. Or maybe she means grow it on trees, or start using fairy dust. Because real economists would tell you, you can’t take down multiple major industries and infrastructure, and expect the economy to just charge right along.
So, what we have is evidence that the new socialists do not know more than previous socialists.
And the new socialists are not more moral than the previous socialists.

socialists   image from here
But the new socialists are indeed every bit as into acquiring power and using “government coercion, domination, and control” tactics to beat down anyone who might want to stand up to them.

We’ve seen these “new” socialists before. They’re tyrants, just like all their predecessors.

But we are born free. I pray that we have the resolve to stand up to the tyrants so that America will never be a socialist tyranny—with all the misery, slavery, death, poverty, and decay into savagery that inevitably come with that type of government.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Informing and Persuading

Back in early January I wrote a how-to piece for citizen lobbying. This was what I’d been thinking about, because I’d done a presentation on the topic at our first-of-the-year local Cypress Texas Tea Party meeting.

Every two years, during the legislative session, we get together and visit the local offices of our state representatives and senators.
Rep. Tom Oliverson (left), me (right),
and most of the rest of our team today

Today was our first visit of this session. We had a good turnout--enough that we had trouble squeezing into the office. We visited Representative Tom Oliverson, or Texas House District 130. Fortunately, he happened to be back in town from Austin, and available to meet with us in person. Usually we meet with a district director or other staff.

Rep. Oliverson mentioned that the definition of lobbying is informing and persuading—which I thought was a good description of what we try to do as citizen (unpaid) lobbyists.

He’s one of the good guys, so it’s more about informing than persuading. And he’s so good that on most issues he was already aware. So it was just about giving him further information to back up our positions.

I’ve been busy since that January presentation building our bill list—the list of actual bills we’re either supporting or opposing, so we can keep track of them. There are about 40 on the list so far. And last night, after I printed the list to hand out today, I found several that had been recommended to me that I’d missed, and one that was just filed yesterday and hadn’t known about until late at night.

The general categories aren’t really different from last session, but the specifics change. At our state convention, we came up with five legislative priorities, so we covered all of those, plus additional issues, many of which are mentioned in the party platform.

If you’re in Texas, you might be interested in the bill numbers; you can look them up to follow them at the Texas Legislature Online website. Anyway, here are several we’re looking at. Note: SB = senate bill; HB = house bill; R = resolution; JR = joint resolution; CR = continuing resolution; companion = the same bill filed in both house and senate at the same time:

·         Hardening the electric grid: SB 76, HB 400 (companion bills)
·         Lobbying reform: HB 498, SB 490 (similar companion bills)—no lobbying by former legislators; HB 281—no public (taxpayer) money spent for lobbying
·         Constitutional carry: HB 357—open carry by person not otherwise prohibited
·         No unfunded mandates: HJR 30, SJR 10 (companion bills)
·         Property tax reform SB2, HB 2 (companion bills)
·         “Free to Believe Act” protecting freedom of conscience from government discrimination: HB 1035
·         Public prayers and religious displays: HCR 17; HB 307; SB 227
·         Conscience protection: SB 85 (and more to come)
·         SOGI laws we’re AGAINST (sexual orientation and gender issues): HB 244, SB 151, HB 254; HB 850; HB 188; HB 517, HB 1190; SB 154
·         Schools distributing contraceptives--AGAINST: HB 513
·         Dual-credit expansion (more junior college/school district courses offered jointly): SB 251
·         UIL participation for private/homeschoolers: no bill yet
·         Data on college costs and outcomes: HB 277
·         Amend constitution to define life at conception: SJR 3
·         Defund all abortion providers: SB 389
·         Abolish abortion: HB 1500
·         Verification of citizenship for voting: HB 378, SB 482 (companion bills)
·         Closed primary: HB 377
There are several more issues we’re interested in that either don’t have bills yet, or I haven’t become aware of them yet. It’s a work in progress, and I often feel a bit like a student behind in her studies. But with the help of others, I think we’re doing some good informing and persuading. And that feels a lot more empowering than feeling frustration or outrage but taking no positive action. Those of us who seriously take on the responsibility of citizenship are doing what we can.

I don’t show myself here very often, but the Tea Party posts videos of our speakers now, and that included me. I’m not happy in front of a camera, but I think I’m not embarrassed by the presentation and discussion, which is about how to be a citizen lobbyist, from January 5th.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Teachers' Unions Harm Education

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a book I’ve been reading: Standing Up to Goliath, by Rebecca Friedrichs. She was the mother/teacher at the center of the Friedrichs v. California Teachers’ Association case that went before the Supreme Court in 2016, which was about to be ruled on when Justice Scalia died suddenly, leaving a 4-4 ruling, which reverted to the appellate decision favoring the union.

It took an extra couple of years, but the Janus case, ruled on last June, finally won against the labor unions. Workers who are not members of the union no longer have to pay fees for bargaining rights, because unions engage in politics even at the bargaining table.

This will apply also to teachers’ unions, which reduces their revenue and thus their power. It’s a start. Teachers’ unions need to have their power reduced. Curtailed. Abolished—even better.

Today I’ll go through some of the points in the book, and then we’ll cover the good news of the Janus case.

Unions Are about Power, Not Education

The book’s main question was, “Why were teachers being forced to support policies against their own consciences?” (p. 13).

Contrary to popular belief/propaganda, teachers’ unions are not about improving the educational experience or conditions for teachers, students, or parents; they are about gaining and wielding power for the union.

For Rebecca Friedrichs, that was a lesson that took years to learn thoroughly, from both inside and outside unions. It started when she was doing student teaching with a master teacher. Their classroom was great, and she learned so much there. But the classroom next door had a monster teacher, whom she refers to as the “witch,” continually yelling, screaming, belittling, and bullying students. “She would grad them, yank them into their places in line, and scream right into their little faces” (p. 12).

These were first grade classrooms. Friedrichs wondered why something wasn’t done to rescue these children:

As the Master and I were grading papers one day, I found the nerve to ask her how a mandated reporter like me could file a complaint about a teacher. The Master slowly turned to me, removed her glasses and locked into my eyes preparing, it seemed, to tell me a hard truth about life. “Today’s the day,” she said, “you learn about teachers’ unions” (p. 13).
The “witch” had tenure, so the union protected her, not the kids. Unions enforce a seniority-based LIFO policy (last in, first out), so that when layoffs are needed, newer teachers, no matter how good, are let go, while older teachers, no matter how bad, are kept.

Friedrichs tells the story of a California teacher, Bhavini Bhakta, who had been “Teacher of the Year” in 2012. Despite her effectiveness as a teacher, she had been laid off four times because of union-imposed rules (p. 17).

Another story was of a teacher with extra qualifications, teaching AP Statistics, Algebra II, and Pre-Calculus. No other teacher in the school had his accreditations. But he was laid off after his second year—despite heroic efforts by his principal to keep him—leaving the school unable to meet the needs of the students (p. 18).

Meanwhile bad teachers were moved around. It’s called “the dance of the lemons” (p. 25). One egregious example was inflicted on principal Eileen Blagden in a Southern California elementary school.

A teacher in the district had been on leave after a 2008 arrest for indecent exposure and lewd and lascivious behavior, and a subsequent charge of trespassing for which he pled guilty. Though he was found not guilty of the sex-related charges, a restraining order forbade him from going within one hundred yards of public parks, beaches, schools, and bathrooms in the city of Long Beach.
In 2009, Eileen’s employer, a school district located in a neighboring city of Long Beach, allowed the man back into the classroom but transferred him to Eileen’s school as a kindergarten teacher. Eileen was not permitted to know the man’s history, but could tell from the start that he was emotionally unstable, and he was even falling asleep during class (p. 26).
Other teachers were worried. In 2010 the man talked to colleagues about suicide and a desire to kill other teachers. Eileen asked the district to remove him. Instead, they sent a union representative who did nothing. And the district warned her against reporting to the police, which she was required to do as a mandated reporter of threats to children.

She nevertheless reported him to the Sheriff’s Office, along with the threat from her administrator about reporting.

Three days later, she was placed on five months administrative leave for not following a district administrator’s directive. There was an eventual trial concerning the retaliation for whistle-blowing, settled before trial—which included a confidentiality agreement. Fortunately, Blagden had told her story beforehand. Still, she was demoted, reprimanded, and eventually resigned.

Union Positions

Here are some of the union positions that probably differ from what you would want from anyone related to educating our children:

·         They’re against school choice—even, or especially, when it means protecting students from failing schools, bad teachers, or bullies. They do not believe parents are capable of making decisions in the best interests of their children.

·         They work diligently against charters, vouchers, education savings accounts, or anything beyond the status quo, which they control.
·         They’re in favor of diagnosing and drugging wiggly children who have a hard time sitting still in a desk all day—with less recess and play time than past generations.
·         Unions donations go to between 87% to 100% Democrat parties and candidates, and 100% to liberal outside groups (pp. 76-77).
·         They insist on sex education that is pro-promiscuity, pro-homosexual, pro-transgender, pro-experimentation, but anti-abstinence, anti-family, and anti-parental involvement—and anti-parental approval or ability to opt out of what’s being taught. Further, they withhold critical knowledge that would protect students from sexually transmitted diseases (p. 93). Lessons can be so disturbing that teachers protect themselves by paying for substitutes, but are unable to protect their students from the vile material.
·         They promote the LGBT agenda, and bully anyone—including any student—with a different opinion (p. 94).
·         They do not tolerate free speech of any sort that doesn’t coincide with their views. They use four psychological manipulations against anyone who steps out of line: fear, intimidation, isolation, and ignorance (p. 82).
·         They are anti-science, deleting the need for science education to be based on empirical evidence derived from valid scientific experimentation and verified by using the steps of the scientific process (p. 102).
·         They are unequivocally pro-abortion. They do not explain what this has to do with educating our children, but they work to make abortion available to children without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
·         They control the politics surrounding school board elections, by controlling teachers, so school boards end up being more pro-union than pro-student education.
·         The PTA stands with the unions; any parental or teacher input on policy is ignored, but if PTAs support education by filling classrooms during a walkout, they are punished by the unions (chapter 11).
·         Unions do not protect teachers from severe, dangerous discipline problems, particularly when the perpetrators are black, because of “racial equity discipline policies” (chapter 12).
·         They focus on race, indoctrinating students with “white privilege” guilt, and are against informing parents of this political indoctrination in the classroom.

If there’s something bad about public schools, there’s probably a union policy making sure it stays that way.

Take Away the Money, Take Away the Power

Could teachers opt out of paying the unions? Only partially. Until this year, they would still be forced to pay “Fair Share Fees,” which were automatically deducted from their paychecks, purportedly to cover the benefits they get from collective bargaining, along with the union teachers. The difference ranges from 0% to 30%. In those early days of the author’s career, the difference was about $50 a year out of around $1000 annually (p. 14).

Teachers were bullied into paying the full amount. One woman who was the lone holdout refusing to join the union in her school, was working on papers late in the evening when four men showed up and pressured her to sign on. The first time she was able to get them to leave by saying she would think about it. Then they cornered her alone a second time, and she believed they would not leave, or allow her to leave, and might do her physical harm, so she gave in and signed. It looks like a protection racket—organized crime. I believe that’s what it is.

About 50% of dues go to the state union. About 30% go to the national union, the NEA. Only 20% will stay with the local union. As bad as state and national unions are, which get 80% of the money, many teachers are happy with their local unions, which get only $1 out of every $5 paid in (p. 173).

If there’s one thing that would vastly improve public education, it would be the abolishment of state and federal unions. Possibly local unions too, but at least they are in touch with actual teachers and their issues. Leaving union dues in teacher paychecks would be an automatic $1000 raise for most teachers.

Mark Janus, center, who sued his public sector union, outside the Supreme Court
June 27, 2018, with Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois, right.
Photo credit: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press. Found here

While the Friedrichs v. CTA case favored the union, after the death of Justice Scalia, there is a possible better future on the horizon. The Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees case, decided in June 2018, went against the unions 5-4. Justice Alito, writing for the majority, said, “We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”

This case affects teachers’ unions as well as other public sector unions. They can no longer collect fees from nonmembers, which reduces their money—and thus their power—considerably. It also means they have less leverage to practically enforce membership. Predictions are that they could lose as much as a third of membership

It may be that it’s even better than that. There is nothing in the ruling to say this is only from now going forward; unions may have to repay those fees they took by force from nonmembers, going back years, which could bankrupt them. We can only hope so.

If we are ever to find solutions to our public schooling, it will be in a free market, which brings innovation, and better outcomes for less money.