Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Seven Question Exercise

I came upon two pieces of input, within the same hour, recently. They seem unrelated. But I went ahead and related them, as an exercise. And I’ve been thinking about this exercise since. Maybe it can be instructive.
image from here

The second thing I came upon was this short little self-help piece: “To Get to the Bottom of Any Problem, Simply Ask ‘Why?’"  It suggests asking why, and then why that, and then why that, and so on seven times. And when you reach the bottom, it should be something for which you can let go of the negative emotion.

As I read it, I was upset/angry about a post about “concentration camps” on the border. I had given Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez not much more than an eyeroll over that stupid comment—or her follow-up defense and doubling down. She is not worth my time. But the comment was from a young relative, and it was aimed at the enemy—me and anyone who doesn’t agree to let any and all comers into our country. Here’s the beginning statement (following a personal intro I’ve left off for privacy):

The US is holding children in concentration camps. This could all be changed with a policy change by Trump. He is the one that started all this. This is so immoral and wrong and just pure evil. Call your reps. Vote democrat. Join protests. These innocent children should not be rotting away in squalor. This will cause permanent trauma to them.
In short, she has bought into AOC’s terminology. She—and a number of others in the thread—think that if you even point out the misuse of the term and its implication that we are evil Nazis, then we’re just arguing semantics rather than addressing the problem.

So much on Facebook I simply scroll past. Engaging in politics on a social media site is not what I typically do. But son Political Sphere had responded, which he rarely does either, and he sounded reasonable. So I responded too. I pointed out that separation of families while waiting for hearings is a continuation of Obama’s policies. (I didn’t say this, but Glenn Beck was trying to raise awareness of it way back then, because it was worse in some ways then.) I also said the people were free to leave, or not come when they knew they would be detained at the border and risk separation.

She responded to that—illogically. They can’t leave, she says, because they’re separated from their children. Wrong. All they have to do is get an official, say, “I’ve changed my mind; I don’t want asylum after all. I want to return home.” They might even be given transportation home. It might take a matter of days to retrieve a child from foster care, or from sponsoring relatives. But to imply that the US is purposely splitting up families and trying to keep them apart forever is a despicable lie.
I used the word “despicable.”

And then I found that piece about the seven why questions. So I did the exercise. It helped, until the next day when the attack started through Facebook Messenger, more privately. And on totally unrelated but very liberal topics. I have not answered there yet; I’ve been having vacation days with a granddaughter this week. But Political Sphere is handling that in logical, lawyerly fashion, and may prevent permanent extended family ruptures thereby.

Anyway, in case it helps, here is the exercise, which got harder toward the end. I may not have nailed down the right answers, if there are right answers.

Why am I upset/angry about her post about concentration camps on the border?
1.       Because it’s a gross distortion of reality and an attack on people like me personally as inhumane.
Why am I upset/angry about a gross distortion of reality and personal attack on people like me as inhumane?
2.       Because the distortion and name-calling do nothing to solve the problem, but do cause more division among people.
Why am I upset/angry that the distortion and name-calling do nothing to solve the problem, but do cause more division among people.
3.       Because I actually do have humane feelings for the people suffering at the border and would like to see the situation improve, but the division among people is in the way of any solution.
Why am I upset/angry that the situation doesn’t improve and division is in the way of any solution?
4.       Because those are two wrongs being caused by the accusers who are blaming people like me, whereas people like me could make things right if it weren’t for the interference on top of the accusations.
Why am I upset/angry about the wrongful accusations from people who are actually preventing things from being made right?
5.       Because, under these circumstances, I don’t know how to fix either the situation or defend against the accusations.
Why am I upset/angry that I don’t know how to fix either the situation or defend against the accusations?
6.       Because that makes me feel both frustrated and hurt, and powerless to do actual good.
Why am I upset/angry that I am both frustrated and hurt while feeling powerless to do actual good?
7.       Because I’m not well adapted to a fallen world. But I need to learn better how to be resilient against it, since there’s so much of our world in that fallen state.

Later today, I responded to more replies in the thread directed at me, following stories about how bad things are at the border. I repeated, again, that we need better facilities for this huge influx that we did not cause or invite, but that Nancy Pelosi’s Congress has turned down funding for that specific purpose. It appears the Democrats prefer to have the issue than to actually deal with it.

I added a couple of links. One was this piece about the high number of children not genetically matched to those claiming to be their parents. Unnamed female relative says she’d rather risk them being sent to “fake” sponsors than to have to sleep without a bed in those “concentration camps” that are a “crime against humanity.” I let her know that risking sending children into child sex trafficking looks to me more despicable than risking their temporary discomfort until we can get them better facilities.

Border patrol agents in West Texas doing DNA testing on immigrant with children.
Image from CBP West Texas, found here

Another is a piece from November 2018, from a woman living in Honduras, commenting on the caravans, how they’re being recruited, and what the people are actually leaving, which means they likely do not qualify for asylum: “I’m a US Citizen Living in Honduras. Here’s What I Think About the Caravan.” 

Caravan from Honduras, November 2018
AP Photo by Oscar Rivera, found here

A third piece I shared I’ll repeat here, because I’m not sure how to link to a particular Quora answer. This was answered by Joe Flynn on June 17, 2019. The original question was, “If ALL people are endowed with inalienable rights as we claim, how is it constitutionally legal to treat those seeking happiness and refuge in the US as criminals?”

Here’s the major portion of his answer:

A man is living in a house down the street from you. He’s found that he has a rat infestation in his home and that there is also toxic mold growing in his walls. He feels he can no longer live in those conditions but knows of a place, just a bit more than a block away, where there’s a house that is well kept, clean, and with four bedrooms and only one kid, has plenty of room available.
That night, the man visits that house, breaks a rear bedroom window, and enters the house. He now makes the statement that his house in unlivable and that if he returns to his house, he is subject to getting sick because of the rats and mold.
He claims that since he’s now actually in “your” house, he has the right to remain until there is a court hearing to determine whether he will be permitted to stay or leave. Unfortunately, the courts are backlogged and that hearing won’t be for another 18 months.
And, under the basis of your question, since he has gained access to your house (legally or illegally), he now has the right to stay there.
In the meantime, while half your neighbors think you have the right to throw the guy out, the other half believe that the man has a valid right to remain in your home because of he’s a “human being” deserving of a better life. Of course, they aren’t willing to give you any funding to help feed or clothe him but they ARE willing to vote in the homeowners association to require that all homeowners who have a nice, clean, mold and rat free homes be mandated an extra association fee to pay for him to remain in your home.
And, of course, the Homeowners Association has pass a requirement that says that homeowners are not permitted to cooperate with the local police in the event of a break-in IF that break-in is simply an effort to find a better place to live.
You OK with that guy living in your house?
Bottom line ….. your and my freedoms start and end with other people. We have an absolute right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness AS LONG AS IT DOESN’T CREATE AN IMPOSITION or interfere with OTHER people’s same rights. Those impositions are determined, in the law, by Congress, signed by the President, and interpreted as legal by the Supreme Court.
The emotionally motivated enemy of truth and justice is claiming we Americans are immoral for having boundaries such as are protected by every nation in the world. The border is a moral issue. But not the way they’re framing it.

I don’t have a high tolerance for being called a Nazi war criminal by someone gladly willing to risk sending children into sex trafficking, and maybe especially when I have known and cared about that accuser since she was born. I’m still upset/angry. I may have to ask yet another seven questions. And stay away from social media for a while.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Electoral College by Design

The National Popular Vote movement—a work-around-that-pesky-Constitution way of eliminating the Electoral College—has been progressing apace behind the scenes[i]. It has a particular purpose: give power to Democrats.

In part this means giving power to a few large urban centers, ignoring all the rest. The debate goes back to the Great Compromise between population and state power that led to our bicameral legislature in the Constitution, and to the Electoral College.[ii]

US 2016 presidential vote by county
image from here

There were 57 counties in which Clinton won heavily (70%) in 2016.[iii] But there were 30 states out of 50, that Trump won. Trump didn’t win all those remaining counties beyond the 57 (counties aren’t a way votes are counted in a presidential election anyway), but when you exclude those high density urban Democrat strongholds and leave the other 3084 counties in play, Trump won that count by 7.5 million.

We don’t, of course, exclude urban areas. But when you give so much power to those urban areas (occupying only 24.4% of the geography), you severely discount the opinions/votes of people living outside those areas in the remaining 75.6% of the country.

So, should there be a popular vote? Is that fair?

Another question is, is it even possible?

Think back on the 2000 election, when the final decision came down to a few counties in Florida—counties that were already leaning toward Gore and there was no reason to believe they were under-counted, but they were heavy enough in his direction that there might be people there willing to scrape up some more.

So counties suspected of fraud against Gore weren’t recounted; only securely Gore-winning counties were recounted, which included precincts reporting zero votes for Bush, a statistical unlikelihood.

There was evidence that the very existence of a “hanging chad” was cause for concern. The most likely cause was someone taking a stack of that type of ballot and poking a sharp object, such as a straightened paperclip, through a particular hole, pushing through the whole stack. Any votes already for that candidate choice would be left untouched, and would legally count; any votes for an opponent would show up as a possible double vote and be considered invalid. That sharp object through the stack may be the only way to get a chad to only partially let go, leaving a hanging chad or a "pregnant chad" (indented but not punched out). Yet, there we had examiners trying to divine the intent of the voters when they were faced with a hanging chad or pregnant chad—which pretty much never went in favor of the Republican candidate. Hmm.

Meanwhile, there were questionable results in various polling places around the country. But at that point it was decided the possible errors were not enough to change the outcome of the state’s winner, and therefore not changing those states’ electoral votes. So those questionable places were not recounted.

If the popular vote had mattered—something that would also entirely change campaign strategies—a question of voter fraud anywhere would affect the outcome everywhere. In 2012 the difference was about 10 votes per polling place nationwide. I was a poll watcher in a place that was off by 20 that day. I turned in my report, of course. But it wasn’t urgently pursued, because the outcome in the state overall wasn’t in question.

There’s a particular problem with the National Popular Vote movement. It is being adopted only by those states Hillary Clinton won solidly. In other words, it’s an attempt by Democrats to enforce their votes only.

Electoral College vote 2016 (including faithless electors)
image from Wikipedia

Don’t believe me? Try this thought experiment. Suppose the NPV movement were to obtain its 270 electoral vote total before the next election—meaning it would kick in for the 2020 election. Then suppose it’s a close election in which Donald Trump wins the popular vote by a small margin, but not the traditional Electoral College vote. Those NPV states are supposedly required by their own law to cast their electors for the popular vote winner. What do they do? If you’re guessing they’re suddenly up in arms about possible voter fraud and refuse to accept the count—or any number of recounts they can force to happen—that’s probable.

Do you see any scenario in which they say, “We really meant it when we said ‘one person one vote,’ and Trump is clearly the winner, because he won the popular vote, so of course our electors all go to him”? I don’t either.

What if Trump were to win the popular vote and the traditionally counted Electoral College vote? Does California give its electors to Trump, or back out of the compact and suddenly insist on the old system in which they at least can say their electors didn’t vote for him? There’s no mechanism in the compact to address electors who refuse to vote according to the NPV compact.

In other words, the only scenario in which they intend to go with the popular vote is when their Democrat candidate gets the popular vote. It isn’t about “fairness.” It’s a rigged game.

Let’s be clear. Rule by the National Popular Vote intentionally and forever disenfranchises voters everywhere except Democrats, who are concentrated in a relative few urban centers.

There are arguments about the legality of the NPV. I’ve heard many opinions, including pro-Constitutionalists, who believe, while it’s a dirty trick, it’s probably legal. But, if it is challenged, it will be for violating Article I, Section 10, which requires that interstate compacts receive congressional consent, which Trent England[iv], legal policy analyst and Director of Save Our States, believes will be its legal downfall. In addition, it could be challenged for ignoring the Electoral College clause, which he says “implies there is some limit on the power of state legislatures to ignore the will of their state’s people.”[v]

That is an important point: will the voters in California actually sit silent if voters in Texas and Oklahoma, for example, determine the winner contrary to California’s voters? This is not the same as feeling disenfranchised because other states’ electors voted differently; this is actually being disenfranchised because enough individual voters in other states change the votes of electors in California contrary to the voters in California.

NPV supporters are only willing to risk it, because they believe it will always fall only in their favor.

This is another case where, if you don’t see the wisdom of the founders, it’s more likely that you’re under-educated than that you’re smarter than they were.

[i] The Harvard Review article “The Danger of the National Popular Vote Compact,” from March 13, 2019, is a good explanation.     
[ii] I discussed it in some details in “Population, Urban Thinking, and the Vote” and “Great Compromises.”
[iii] See the Breitbart article “Donald Trump Won 7.5 Million Popular Vote Landslide in Heartland” and also the Snopes Fact Check article “Did Trump Win 3,084 of 3,141 Counties in 2016, While Clinton Won Only 57?” which doesn’t dispute the Breitbart article, but only some of the math people extracted from it. I used a graphic that used the somewhat distorted county count here. The fact check article does not address the other claims in the graphic, and I have not independently verified them. Those not related to the original error are probably accurate.
[iv] Trent England, director of Save Our States, “The Danger of the Attacks on the Electoral College,” Imprimis, June 2019, Volume 48, Number 6. 
[v] William Josephson, in the New York Law Review article “17 Reason Why the National Popular Vote Initiative Is Likely to Fail,” offers his reasons, both legal and practical, that NPV will fair.    

Monday, June 17, 2019

Freedom of Speech Is Priceless

There’s been bias in media for a very long time. I think it was probably 1989, maybe earlier, when Rush Limbaugh gave new life to AM radio by using it as a platform for conservative talk. He did that because there wasn’t another platform for those opinions. There was mainstream news, which by comparison today may have appeared nonpartisan, but even then it wasn’t.

Eventually Fox News got started, with a bias toward conservatism—from its commentators. But the news is still pretty centrist. It’s just that anyone who wanted a Democrat or progressive slant could get that on ABC, NBC, CBS, and then CNN, then MSNBC, and in the New York Times and just about any other newspaper.

There are some of us who get tired of being fed news that we know is slanted, so that we have to search elsewhere to get the real story. While it would be preferable to get the actual truth straight up, since journalists are human that might be too much to ask; if so, then next best is knowing up front the bias of the presenter, to allow the listener to cautiously sift out the bias.

The internet has been good at opening up conversations—also for opening up contentious arguing. But that’s a risk you take when you have free speech.

Those who’ve had control of the message for all these many decades are up in arms now about the lack of control over the message that gets out to the masses. Because—obviously, from the last presidential election—that has consequences.

So there have been covert efforts to quash non-sanctioned messages. And now we’re also seeing overt efforts.

Among the covert efforts, from within the Obama administration, was the weaponization of the IRS against conservative groups.  The court case for True the Vote is about to be settled, about eight years in. The IRS did indeed target them illegally. Founder Catherine Engelbrecht said this about it: here. [Correction added 6-20-2019: there's an additional video I intended to link to, from June 6, 2019, here.]

True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht
screenshot from here
Meanwhile, the overt efforts are heating up. It sort of heated up some months back with shock jock/conspiracy theorist (and non-conservative) Alex Jones being banned. There were people who spoke up—not because they agree with anything he says, but because the reasons for banning speech were just wrong. If you’re not calling on people to act violently, or doing some other of a very short list of illegal speech (making threats, libel, slander), then what is the reason? And if the reason is arbitrary, who is safe?

Lately Steven Crowder has been attacked. YouTube demonetized him. That means his videos, which he places on a platform that allows for them to bring in money through advertising can no longer do so. The purpose is to prevent him from having the resources to speak. If he were actually inciting violence or doing some other illegal speech (see short list above), that would be understandable for YouTube to do. But, after investigation, they find that he has not violated their platform rules.

Steven Crowder, of Louder with Crowder
image from here

YouTube is a private company; they can set up their own rules, but they admit he has not violated them. Nor has he violated any laws. But they decide—because they don’t like his message, or maybe his tone—that they are demonetizing him anyway.

There’s a bit more to the story. The progressive/socialist “news” outlet Vox complained about Crowder—for using terms to describe one of their commentators that the commentator uses to describe himself. Vox put pressure on YouTube.

Ben Shapiro and friends talked about this last week. One aspect is that the leaders of the Big Tech platforms support Democrats and their progressive/socialist agenda, so they’re willing to give in to pressure toward their natural leanings. But there’s also this, which is even more insidious:

The mainstream media that are proclaiming day in and day out that Donald Trump is an existential threat to the press—people like Jim Acosta who are doing books about how Donald Trump is calling them an enemy of the people, and therefore he’s trying to shut down freedom of the press. These people are all in. I mean, all in, in trying to get Big Tech to censor people. Vox is a supposed journalistic outfit. It is a pseudo-journalistic trash heap. Their editor-in-chief put out a letter explicitly saying, “We know that Steven Crowder didn’t violate any of your rules. That’s why we are telling you, as an editorial newspaper, we are telling you that you should change your rules.
In recent Senate hearings Google president Sundar Pichal responds to questions concerning employee behavior during the 2016 election. Senator Jim Jordan questions him regarding a four-page memo, written the day after the November 2016 election by Eliana Murillo, Google’s head of Multicultural Marketing, concerning her work with the Latino vote. The memo talks about Get Out the Vote efforts, which aren’t a problem, but then the memo indicates they were only targeted in key states for a specific outcome—which means for political purposes. Sundar’s response is that they have found no evidence—but the evidence is the memo before them that he’s being asked about.

Again, Google is a private company and can set its own rules. However, right now those rules apply to it as an open platform; if it is not essentially randomly open, but is favoring or disfavoring based on content, then it cannot continue to be treated as an open platform.

That’s the case with YouTube as well. Is it an open platform or a content curator?

Facebook has been facing these questions for a while. Facebook jail is a real thing. People I have known have been put in it. That means their specific content is removed and no longer seen, or it may mean they cannot post anything for a certain amount of time, usually a day or a week. The punishment happens without notice, and often without explanation. There’s supposed to be an appeals process so a person can learn why they were barred from posting, but it doesn’t seem to be because of any identifiable—and thus avoidable—reasons.

Recently it was leaked that Facebook has a “hate agent”status they apply to users based various bits of data from on and off the platform. It’s a guilt by association formula. If you appear in photos with someone they deem hateful, without knowing context for your being there, that can get you labeled. So can comments about immigration, particular tattoos, being neutral about someone Facebook thinks you should disapprove of, or saying something in private that is later made public that Facebook deems unacceptable.

The attempt is to draw a circle of association around actual haters or violent groups to claim a person should not be heard. This is an extension of what the Obama administration did when it created a terrorist watch list that included things like being in a Tea Party, or being patriotic. I think I checked 28 boxes on their list, as a conservative Christian grandmother with nothing more that a couple of traffic tickets on my lifetime record. It’s how you get crazies saying that Ben Shapiro (Orthodox Jew, conservative) is a white supremacist leader of the Alt-Right. (The actual Alt-Right criticized Shapiro more times than any other media person last year.) It’s how you get them saying Candace Owens is all about white privilege (she’s black).

In other words, you can’t trust their algorithm, because you can’t trust people who believe that only their ideas should be allowed.

One of the things Facebook has been doing lately is to alter your feed. They notice if you’re getting “too much” content from one point of view, and then they send you similar content from a different point of view. They’re trying to keep people from being radicalized, they say. That is a little creepy, but it would be mostly innocuous—except that it’s aimed only at correcting people who see conservative content. The thing is, conservatives see opposing viewpoints all over the place. 
Meanwhile, there are those on the Democrat/progressive/socialist side who seem to be unaware that it’s possible for thinking, functional people to differ from them.

It turns out that Pinterest, our personal online bulletin board, where we go for crafts and food and other interests, has joined other Big Tech monitors of speech. They recently fired a whistleblower, Eric Cochran, for coming forward about their censorship of conservative voices. Specifically, they labeled Lila Rose and her pro-life organization, Live Action, to be porn, so they could ban it. There isn’t anything in it that could be construed as porn; they lie. They also removed Zero Hedge and PJ Media. Bible verses—a common use for Pinterest—are also considered too “sensitive” to be allowed.

I think Ben Shapiro is right; the opposition to freedom, prosperity, and civilization are trying to control the message, to keep anything they disagree with from getting out to the people. And the intensity at this time is tied to the upcoming 2020 presidential election.

We saw it with Obama, with the IRS attacks that affected the 2012 election and beyond. Only now, most of a decade later, when that administration is no longer in office, does a resolution come.

Suggested solutions include regulating the Big Tech companies. But we know that greater regulation on big businesses—which are regulated according to how those big companies want, and pay their lobbyists to get—support only the big companies and cause barriers to entry for startups.

Another suggestion is to break up the big companies, the way the phone companies were broken up some decades ago.

An alternative is to start—and support with subscriptions—alternative platforms. Glenn Beck’s The Blaze and Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire, both with subscription fees, have been attempting that. But to reach beyond their current subscribers, they depend on YouTube and Facebook to allow their content to be seen.

Jordan Peterson announces Thinkspot.com
image from here
Another announcement last week was from Jordan Peterson, who has been working to develop an alternative subscription free-speech platform called Thinkspot.com, which will not limit speech beyond legal limits. It will be an anti-censorship version of Patreon. No censoring content based on using a “wrong” word or having a “wrong” opinion. This is meant to be useful both for content providers and for responses, to encourage dialogue. There will be rules, such as a minimum comment length, to encourage deeper thinking. As Peterson puts is, “If minimum comment length is 50 words, you’re gonna have to put a little thought into it. Even if you’re being a troll, you’ll be a quasi-witty troll.”

My preferred solution is whatever best allows truth to flourish. I don’t have a lot of money to spare, but if the subscription is worth it, I’m willing to pay a bit to make it happen. Because our freedom of speech is priceless.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Good Fathers Create Civilization

Imagine the civilized world. At the Spherical Model, we use this description for Civilization:

Families typically remain intact, and children are raised in loving homes, with caring parents who guide their education and training, dedicating somewhere between 18 and 25 years for that child to reach adulthood, and who then remain interested in their children’s success for the rest of their lives.
Civilized people live peaceably among their neighbors, helping rather than taking advantage of one another, abiding by laws enacted to protect property and safety—with honesty and honor. Civilized people live in peace with other civilized people; countries and cultures coexist in appreciation, without fear.
There is a thriving free-enterprise economy. Poverty is meaningless; even though there will always be a lowest earning 10% defined as poor, in a civilized society these lowest earners have comfortable shelter and adequate food and clothing—and there’s the possibility of rising, or at least for future generations to rise.
Creativity abounds; enlightening arts and literature exceed expectations. Architecture and infrastructure improve; innovation and invention are the rule.
People feel free to choose their work, their home, their family practices, their friendships and associations. And they generally self-restrain before they infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. Where there are questions about those limits, laws are in place to help clarify boundaries of civilized behavior. When someone willingly infringes on the rights or safety of another, the law functions to protect that victim as well as society from further uncivilized behavior from the offender.
There are two rather large ingredients necessary for thriving civilization:

·         A religious people.
·         Strong families.
We can summarize “religious people” simply, for now, as people who honor God our Creator, as well as life, family, property ownership, and truth. That’s a shorthand for the Ten Commandments.

Family is mentioned in there. In the Ten Commandments, that would include honoring parents and not committing adultery.

Our unit of Civilization, December 2016
photo by Portrait Innovations
We focus additionally on strong families, because they are so crucial for passing along all the values necessary for civilization.

Family is the basic unit of civilization. That means that, even when the surrounding society is tyrannical and savage, the family can be a tiny island of civilization. And when there are additional civilized families joined together, there’s a community-sized civilization.

Here’s what families do:

Families have the responsibility to safeguard women and children for the greatest benefit of both current and future generations. Families provide food, shelter, clothing, education, spiritual guidance, and training in how to live a civilized life in a civilized society. Elderly are honored for their wisdom. Youth are honored for their potential. Women are honored for giving and nurturing life, among their other abilities. Men are honored for providing and protecting, among their other abilities. Families are the main economic force, as well as the very means whereby civilization can perpetuate. Civilized societies therefore protect The Family as sacred.
We’ve talked about the formula for success in America—that is, for rising above poverty and into the middle class:

1.      Don’t have sex before age 20.
2.      Don’t have sex until after marriage.
3.      Stay married.
4.      Obtain at least a high school diploma.
It’s pretty minimal. But it’s what you do, if you want the odds to be in your favor.

What would you get if you do more than minimum? What kind of civilization would we get if we had a society full of families with married father and mother taking seriously their parenting roles?

image from here

In honor of Father’s Day, let’s just look at how fathers would contribute to even better outcomes. There’s a piece I read last year, near Father’s Day, offering 10 Reasons Civilization Will Not Survive without Fathers.” I’d like to take those things (combining some, so not an exact ten), and look at the positive contributions that result from good fathers.[i]

·         Children who come into families with loving fathers know they were wanted, planned on, and welcomed. It affects their identity in positive ways today’s society should know better than to take for granted.

·         Fathers fill a need. Without a father in that role, there’s a father-shaped hole in the child’s life that good mothering can’t fill. It’s not just about love; it’s about the security and protection that a good father represents, allowing a child to feel secure enough to explore the world and grow to potential.
·         Fathers work to generate the wealth necessary to provide for a wife and children—far beyond the typical earnings of non-fathers, and also far beyond what non-resident fathers provide even when required by law. These good fathers create a sense of worth in the child that some other resource—such as welfare or even charity—could provide.
·         These good fathers modify their behavior; they become more civilized personally. They control their anger, their language, their aggression around the woman and children they love—thus modeling civilization for that next generation.
·         Good fathers have a particular effect on their daughters. Daughters need the respect and love of a father to know to value themselves with the men in their lives. This helps daughters grow socially, with self-respect, better able to accomplish their personal goals and better able to resist men who would not be good partners in marriage.
·         Good fathers have a particular effect on their sons. Boys in particular need the example of male role models in order to grow into civilized, socialized men.[ii]
My dad would have turned 101 this week.
Photo from his WWII service.
·         Good fathers channel the use of power toward defense and protection, rather than toward aggression. He protects the family both physically and morally. This eliminates male predatory behavior toward women and children. And it eliminates aggressive force among larger societies—nations—for any reason but defense.
If all men were living civilized lives within families, many of the world’s ills would disappear: war, famine, poverty, tyranny, bullying, abuse. We would still have illness, accident, and natural disasters. But we’d also have the strong help to face those things.

Having a world full of good fathers is one of those simple but not easy solutions. But each one of these fathers creates an entire civilized unit—a family. It’s worth spending a day honoring the heroes who do this essential work, and encouraging those who want to be more like those heroic dads.

[i] In addition to the citations documented in this piece, I've done a collection of writings on fatherhood, all with additional research citations, here. I've also done a collection on motherhood, here, and a Defense of Marriage collection, here. Another good source is United Families International, A Guide to Family Issues: The Marriage Advantage, here
[ii] “Anthropologists tell us that the primary problem in every human community throughout time and place is always the same: the unattached, undisciplined male. His male nature—with its raw physical strength and energies, appetite for food drink and sex and even violence—needs to be domesticated and even socialized.” Glen Stanton, 71-73, 76. [This footnote was included in “10 Reasons Civilization Will Not Survive without Fathers.”]

Monday, June 10, 2019

Handle Fire with Caution

Government is a tool similar to fire. It’s very useful when kept within careful limits. But if left to grow, it can do great harm.

Through most of history, in most parts of the world, government has leaped beyond a fire circle out into the forest, harming the very people who needed just a little of that power.

To some of us, the idea that the fire should be kept within safe boundaries makes natural sense. But there’s a substantial portion of the public who essentially say, “We need more fire. Go ahead and let it burn free. Sure, that’s been bad everywhere it’s been tried, but somehow we'll make it burn just right.”

We need to know the specific bounds to put upon government—and why. And then how.

Think of it as if you’ve just bought a new outdoor grill, one of those high temperature ones that can cook a steak perfectly seared outside without overcooking the inside. In other words, fire is involved. That means some danger. Really high heat. The possibility of getting burned. Fuel is involved.
When used correctly, you get delicious results, and the grill is a blessing to your life. When used casually or carelessly, it can cause burns. Maybe severe burns. Harm to people and environment. 

There’s a comic in the paper making fun of a guy, Crankshaft, who always has mishaps when he brings out the grill for the first time each summer. Some years all the neighbors require warnings. Some years the fire department is on call. Pretty much every year the grill explodes and shoots up into the sky. It’s a comic, so no lives our house are lost in the annual mishap. But you get the idea. What is supposed to be a useful management of fire turns out to be a danger.

Crankshaft comic from September 11, 2018
Often Crankshaft is found pouring lighter fluid on the grill. Too much. He doesn’t follow basic instructions or safety protocol.

If we’re looking at government as the grill—the way of using the fire for good—it would be a good idea to know enough to use it safely. We probably ought to carefully read the instruction book, and be experienced enough to understand basic safety rules such as using oven mitts and long-handled utensils to keep ourselves from getting burned.

We have an instruction book for our country. It’s the US Constitution. It’s short—about the length of a typical grill instruction manual. I keep a pocket version in my wallet.

But what did the Founding Fathers of America do before that was written—when there was “some assembly required” to come up with the right size government that would safely use the fiery power for good? They read a lot of the same things—as though they had all read the Boy Scout handbook on fire safety, plus related wilderness survival guides, and any other sources of wisdom.

The Founding Fathers were a diverse group, with a fairly wide range of educational sources, from somewhat random home tutoring and self-teaching, to a formal Harvard education. Yet, besides reading widely, they covered many of the same materials. You’d be hard pressed to find a founder who hadn’t read:

·         The Bible
·         Classic sources—in their original languages
o   Polybius
o   Cicero
o   Plutarch
o   Aristotle
·         Contemporary philosophers and historians
o   John Locke
o   Thomas Hobbes
o   Adam Smith (The Wealth of Nations, published 1776)
o   Montequieu
o   Blackstone
o   Gibbons (Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, volume I published 1776)
·         History
o   Greek and Roman
o   Anglo-Saxon
o   European
o   English
Books were still something of a luxury in the 18th Century, and yet these men managed to find them in the frontier land of the American colonies—and find the best among many books. They shared them with one another. George Wythe suggested reading for Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson advised and shared books with James Madison. Benjamin Franklin had a study group of friends who studied a wide range of information. While they didn’t all know each other, living in various colonies in times when travel was a bigger challenge than today. But their reading choices were surprisingly uniform. As if a divine teacher had laid out a curriculum for them.

We can be grateful that these men understood both the dangers of too much government power (i.e., coercion, force = tyranny) and just the right amount. Harnessing just the right amount of government power was risky—but it has led to the best outcomes in human history.

In our day, at minimum we should be reading our founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, and the US Constitution. In addition, reading The Federalist Papers will give a fair amount of background to the thinking that went into the writing of the Constitution. These were newspaper editorials written mainly by Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton. They didn’t always agree, but they shared the idea that federalism, or distributed power, would work. Then, to see opposing views (those who were very concerned about too much government), you can try The Anti-Federalist Papers, also newspaper editorials attempting to express the dangers they thought the federalists were not fully addressing.

A more contemporary book that addresses the issues the founders faced is Skousen’s The 5000-Year Leap. And I’ve previously listed other suggestions

There are resources on government that I think are plain wrong, and harmful; these are about accumulating power over the masses—the opposite of what our Founding Fathers were looking for. They might be worth reading to understand the opposition, however. These include Machiavelli and, closer to our day but surprisingly relevant, Marx and Engels.

Enough time has passed that, along with a good understanding of history, we can see that the work of our founders is not simply theoretical. We can compare.

Just a decade or two ago, Venezuela was the most prosperous, modern country in South America.

screenshot from Stuart Varney report on Venezuela August 2018
Today it looks like a war zone. But without a war. The result is the burn of too much government.
If you want to see the result of too much government even here in our country, take a look at Detroit. I wrote about that here. Last night a friend shared with us a video from early in Steven Crowder’s career, a short documentary on Detroit. And, in the spirit of supporting free speech, after he’s been censored online, I believe unfairly, I’ll end today’s piece with that cautionary tale.