Friday, December 31, 2010

A Review of the Year, Sort Of.

The Democrats want to bust the filibuster because the Republicans have used it so much in blocking many of their plans. Yet they used it themselves quite often thwarting the goals former President George W. Bush. This tells us two things: the Democrats, once again, are hypocrites, and that those in power like to wield that power.

The filibuster is Constitutional, folks, under Article I. If we alter it at all,then we ought to go back to when the Senator speaking had to hold the floor and stay there while filibustering. Any way you slice it, let it stand as a defense against tyranny, even if it is too often used for simple political gain or advantage. There are times when we must take the bitter with the sweet.

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has been on strike for what, now, 13 weeks? No one seems to miss it. No one really cares, outside of self serving classical music patrons, whether it is there or not. That is the final word on the subject. There is no need to support optional features or unimportant peripheral issues cannot support themselves, no matter how necessary you believe they are or what positive, ahem, note you think it may sound for the community. Having a local professional symphony is just not a big deal. The crisis, such as it is, isn't worth a quarter note.

Barack Obama and his minions forced through health care reform, and paid dearly in November. This demonstrates that the political process can work. When the people are riled enough to do something within it.

Tim Tebow's anti-abortion ad during the Super Bowl was one simple yet stunning bit of cinema, and the liberal outburst against it demonstrated their complete loathing of human life. How dare we suggest that human life is special? That's the trouble with us conservatives: we think life important.

Whatever happened to the Wikileaks, uh, scandal? Somehow it doesn't seem so awful as it was supposed to be, with what's his name behind it in legal trouble and no Third World War yet.

The Tea Party demonstrated real political clout in 2010. Are they merely an organized minority or do they represent a greater portion of American public than we are supposed to believe? Either way, as the New Year dawns, it would be a good idea for the liberals to sit back with a cup of Earl Grey and consider the risks involved in over-reaching your bounds. Perhaps a spot of cream to ease the bitterness would be in order, eh wot?

2011 approaches, and there's no reason that we shouldn't accept it with open arms. We may as well be positive, at least at the start of the new decade. Auld Lang Syne, friends. Auld Lang Syne.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Imperial President

President Barack Obama has used the current recess to appoint envoys to four nations. Although he can legitimately do that and the appointments will only last until the end of the current Congress, it still raises questions about his handling of the Presidency.

The ambassadorship to Syria had been blocked because sending one there would be seen as rewarding support for 'bad behavior'. The ambassador to Azerbaijan has been opposed by the Armenian community, while a third nomination was stalled because of alleged misrepresentations before Congress.

The President's response ignores all of this, and indeed hearkens to the imperial approach he has had over the use of his power. It is not unlike the manner in which he forced the health care reform bill upon us: he wanted, and damn the opposition, Even when it is thoroughly and emphatically against his ideals. I'm the man...you don't matter.

It would seem he has not really learned the lesson of 2010 despite his quick concessions to the GOP over the extension of the Bush tax cuts. It's a good thing the cou7ntry has the chance in 2012 to send the message more clearly and directly.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

American Conservativism: What Does the Future Hold?

The gay rights support group GOProud will be sponsoring the upcoming CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee) conference this February, just as they did last year. And just like last year, there are conservatives with problems with that. Indeed, several intend to boycott CPAC in protest.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said in an interview in Christianity Today that she is proudly evangelical, yet favors gay and abortion rights. Indeed, she makes a good point about how the evangelical, in your face approach to the issues can turn off the general public. That doesn't make them wrong, or her right, but it is fair to say that it might help sway people more if some folks were to turn down their rhetoric.

Vice President Joe Biden has said that gay marriage is inevitable, and he is probably right. What might all of these things mean for the conservative movement?

There is certainly a strong libertarian streak among American conservatives. There is certainly also a strong core of social issue conservatives within the ranks as well. How well can these groups work together in the long run? Are social conservatives perhaps afraid of giving in too much to the world to accept a few difficult concessions in order to promote a broader agenda? Are fiscal conservatives seeking to give too little in return?

In short, there is a sort of angst within the greater conservative movement in the United States, and it cannot come at a worse time. We stand at the edge of what could be the most serious and significant realignment of political and social power in our country in decades, and don't always seem to know what to do with it. We must stay true to our principles and ourselves. But what principles and to what degree are they to be compromised?

And some surely will be compromised; it is in the nature of the human condition. Yet we must be able to look ourselves in the mirror the next morning and know that we will have the best which can be gotten under whatever circumstances will allow. It may well leave a bitter taste. But until we have Heaven on Earth, is it reasonable to expect better?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Redistricting and Detroit

The numbers are in: Michigan will lose one Congressional seat. But from where will it be taken? The most likely spot would be southeast Michigan, within the Detroit metropolitan area. If the Republicans in Lansing who control the redistricting process have any backbone at all, this is where they will look.

Somewhere and somehow, two Democrats will be pitted against each other while all nine seats currently held by the GOP will be put in districts as safe as possible. The Detroit area is home to several old warhorses of the Democratic left: John Dingell, John Conyers, Dale Kildee, and Sander Levin. Will any of those be willing to step aside for a political youngster such as Gary Peters or Hansen Clarke?

It's a good question. One that will not likely be asked when the inevitable Republican gerrymandering begins. You see, the GOP is evil while the existing Democrats cannot possibly be. Why should the lions with all their pork barrel clout pass the torch when they can do so much more themselves in Congress, such as keep the perks and prestige of Congressmen? This selfishness of the old guard will not be seen as an obstacle to civil politics, although it should. Yet Dingell, Conyers, et al, are little more than self serving robber barons of government: their entire lives are politics. They are nothing without the public trough from which to fill their bellies and feed their egos.

Yet what would make the redistricting process really interesting would be if the GOP should draw districts forcing John Conyers against newly elected Hansen Clarke. They are under no compulsion to maintain minority representation during this Census cycle: the state legislature can pit two minority Congressmen against one another. How much would affect the potential for lawsuits? Or will the GOP simply avoid that hassle and look elsewhere to cut Democratic power?

Regardless of the path chosen, 2011 will be interesting politically. Just remember that it will not merely be the Republicans acting in their own interest. Democratic selfishness will be the great issue from which we shall be expected to avert our eyes.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wealth and Poverty

The comedian and talk show host Bill Maher once commented that he does not think it is the rich who create jobs. Indeed, the rich are the one who cut them: they close plants and move them out of the country. Yet this knee jerk approach begs certain questions.

It ignores the demands made by workers. Workers are every bit as capable as employers of selfishness and self centered behavior and, truth be told, money grubbing. It ignores the hypocrisy of the liberal rich: how far do you go, Mr. Maher, to insure that you get the most bang for your buck with your spending? A good guess is that you try to get the best prices you can, too.

It ignores the bold reality of the entire rich/poor dichotomy. As I was told once by one of the contractors I supply, "I ain't never been hired by a poor man".

Job creation by its nature comes from wealth. Jealousy of the wealthy is simply that: demands that they give more of themselves without a fair payback for their capital investments merely reflects that jealousy. Playing to public selfishness will not create a single job. It will only continue to add pressure to the wealthy to go elsewhere.

Wealth is not a vice, and poverty is no virtue. Until we realize as much, we will simply fail to serve society well.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

John Lennon and Christmas

During the Christmas season we hear ad infinitum all and every Christmas song imaginable. That's okay, of course. They are part of the holidays and many are well worth hearing, containing sentiments expressed well and to a good point.

Not all of them quite make that standard, however; even some of the better ones. John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War is Over) is one of those. It is a neat little tune, at times ethereal and perhaps even angelic. But the trouble with it is that it preaches to the choir just a bit too much, while more or less undermining the very sentiments it pretends to address.

War is over...if you want it. Well, of course the bulk of the Western world wants it. Indeed, most individuals in the world want it. Yet the problem with calling for the end of war is that it falls on too many deaf ears. So long as that's the case, so long as there are those who do in fact want it on some level, then we have little more than something too idealistic to be practical.

Especially when you attempt to combine Lennon's general philosophy with the apparent point of the song. One need only recall the words of another famous song of his to get that irony: Imagine there's no heaven...no religion. In short, he usually in his life appealed to sentiments contrary to Christmas. Without Heaven or Religion there would be no Christmas. Indeed, with nothing universal and eternal, the sentiments he expresses in his work are rendered meaningless. There can be no brotherhood of man worth salt without forever.

And Forever is precisely what the greatest Christmas songs call us towards. Family, friends, fellowship; these are eternal values. John Lennon ultimately only speaks in support of earthly ones. Values of the type he could not safely proclaim even or especially in the Gulag, or modern China or North Korea. Places, it must be noted, without heaven or religion. Places mired in earthly concerns.

In the end, what he preaches must be hollow. Or, and we should truly and fully hope and pray for this, the song shows he was in fact a better man than his professed creed. Because as it is, what he calls for is little more than comfort and self indulgence. Those feelings are not in the Christmas spirit.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas, Even if a Day Late

Tonight, as they say, is the night. It's Christmas Eve, and all the preparations are just about in order. I have to thank my wife and daughter for the overwhelming majority of that work; I made a trip or two to the store and that's it. Thanks, ladies! To simply sit back and enjoy is gift enough for me, and I appreciate it.

My favorite part of the whole Christmas season comes now. We'll meet at church before Midnight Mass and sing carols, and the church will be lit up right as Mass starts, with the glory of Christmas morning following. Our parish, Sweetest Heart of Mary in Detroit, MI, is a spectacular old building, built when they knew what churches should look like. I miss our old parish, St. Dominic's, a victim to declining inner city Catholic population, but this one certainly is a grand old dame.

I don't want to turn this into a rant, but I'll risk that by saying that I would eschew every trapping of the holiday, every inkling of conspicuous consumption, for people to simply sit back and reflect on Christmas itself. What does it mean? How do we properly enjoy it? What exactly would be a decent balance of celebration and reverence?

Personally, I find it in those carols as we wait for Mass. That's when the appreciation appears for me: the anticipation of the Christ Child coming for our sakes. That's when I get the shivers and goose bumps, and come near tears. That's when Christmas comes for me. I hope so for you as well.

Adeste Fidelis. May the blessing of Christmas be upon you, now and for the coming year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Readiness

Let's see...

Decorations up...check.

Food bought...check.

Beer in fridge...check.

Are you sure?

Oh yeah...Guinness and Blue and Stroh's and Sam Adams, and even Bud Light (yuck, but wanting to be a good host).

Cookies for Santa? Carrots for reindeer...check.

Rum for eggnog...see beer reference.

Present for Dad...

Present for Dad...

Cripes. I gotta run.

Merry Christmas Eve all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Using Water and Acting Responsibly

When my second son was seven (say that three times fast) he happened to notice that, as I was shaving, I kept the hot water running. “Dad,” he told me a little sheepishly, “the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles say you shouldn’t keep water running when you wash.” My response would draw the ire of many: “Son, when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pay my water bill, they can tell me how much water I can use.”

Consider that story in relation to this next one. I watched a news report about a 19 year old mother of two, apparently (though it was not said definitively, to be fair) by two different fathers, lamenting that she could not afford health care for her babies with the fast food job she held, the only job she could get. The point of the story was that this was why we need national health care.

Now, were I to have told her before she chose to have sex that she should not do that as it may lead to pregnancies she would not be economically able to handle, indeed that she ought to wait until at least the time when she was able to care completely for her own children as one of the risks of sex is pregnancy, I am certain I would have been told that her actions were none of my business. Further, I am also quite sure that the general community would support her assertion. Why? Because I have no right to make comment on her morals.

Several things come to mind as I contrast these items. I would like to point out two. First, I am told I cannot tell that young woman how to act. Yet as a direct consequence of her chosen irresponsibility, I am later being told I need to pay for the results of her free will action.

Second, when I am paying out of my own funds for every drop of water I elect to use, I am told I am irresponsible.

Think about that for a moment. Then you tell me the folly of our approach to right and wrong in America today.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Battle Begins

Now that the US Census Bureau has issued its report, the fight is surely on. As reported here a couple of days ago, with Republicans gaining in ares where they are strong and in control of most state governments, the main advantages appear to be theirs.

Still, the Democrats have some devices of their own. They will almost certainly employ the courts, as also mentioned before herein, and have a few things in their favor under current federal law. Various laws regarding minority representation in Congress will likely help them keep a few seats. No matter how you slice it, the fight will be long, shrill, and raucous.

The shame of the whole enterprise is that it shouldn't matter all that much. If everyone were to play fair, the lines would be drawn almost randomly according to a roughly equal measure of the population. That is, of course, a dream scenario. It will never happen regardless of who holds power. But the further and worst part of the effort is that it shouldn't matter because the national government shouldn't be so strong. If we were to have kept to our original Constitutional ideal, redistricting would not matter as much precisely because so much less power would be at stake. If there weren't so many spoils to divide, if longevity in the Congress didn't mean so much in terms of patronage and the ability to get more and greater goodies for your own state (hardly, in the end, a commendable position), then all of these gyrations would nearly laughable.

Yet they are not. That is perhaps the most significant commentary about the situation. We have come to accept that it's about what we can get for ourselves, whether as states or individuals. And that is truly sad.

Camelot has passed by. We no longer seek the ideal but the selfish. That's what's really wrong with America today.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We Must Legislate From A Moral Perspective

It is often said, when discussing certain social issues, that we cannot legislate morals. Do you know the right response to that question?

In a word, poppycock. There is a better word, to be sure, but decorum will not allow its use here.

We can and we must legislate morals. Further, every decision ever made by every legislature, parliament, congress, diet, knesset, or whatever else you want to call it, was an action predicated on a moral decision. Making us drive on the right side of the street is based on the moral axiom that we require order. Forcing parents to send their kids to school, let alone feed and clothe them, is a moral choice that parents are obliged to do that for their progeny. Trying to force health care down our throats is a moral decision by the government that we need it, however erroneously felt.

We can and we must legislate morals. We do it all the time. The only real questions are which ones, and under what circumstances.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Census Data Bodes Ill for the President

The Census Bureau will release its report on the recent count of the US population tomorrow, and as expected, it doesn't look good for President Barack Obama and his Democratic minions for the 2012 elections. Combine this with the results of the 2010 elections and 2012 looks positively abysmal for the left.

Many states which the President won in 2008 will lose electoral votes, the ones which really count, while states such as Texas will gain big. The Lone Star State is expected to gain four House seats, and it wouldn't be a surprise if all four went to the GOP. Then we have the fact that Republicans now control the majority of state houses, the places where districts will be redrawn based on Census data, which should certainly mean that even states with little or even no loss of Congressional representation will likely end up with districts favorable to the GOP.

As a true coup de grace, a factor not created intentionally by anyone yet wildly in alignment with the Republican planets, far more Democratic senators will be up for reelection in 2012. This should give the right a great chance of taking the Senate back.

True, it is far too early to tell for sure what will happen. We know that the left will challenge many redistricting plans in court because they hate democracy. They cannot stand that they are on the outs with the voting public so they will attempt to controvert the will of the people through the courts. Yet can that plan work?

Maybe yes, maybe no. But their gyrations will surely make for interesting politics throughout the next year and a half.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Say 'Merry Christmas'; That's What it's About

A recent poll presumes to show that more Americans, by a slight and ever narrowing margin, prefer, or are at least okay with, a Merry Christmas greeting over a more generic Happy Holidays. But why ought there be any worry over such a relatively minor distinction?

Even when we say Happy Holidays there's no reasonable way to dispute that what we mean is Merry Christmas. There would be no greetings at all without a holiday season having grown around Christmas. Indeed, it mocks the holiday spirit itself if not the very idea of a broader human kinship when we start to think that it's all right to sweep a part of the beliefs of a very large part of our populace under the rug. If tolerance and respect for all cultures is what we should strive towards, then it is more than fair to ask the rest of the folks to respect Christians and their holiday by accepting a heartfelt Merry Christmas greeting.

It would seem that a person of a non-Christian faith, or of no faith at all, if truly comfortable in their belief, would have no issue with hearing Merry Christmas if it were directed at them. True, we frequently hear the old liberal argument that such things seem to force a belief on others. Yet how deep is their faith, how truly do they hold whatever personal beliefs they claim to regard as the final answer to life's questions, if a mere two word sentence leaves them quaking in their boots? If their creed is that shallow or their will so weak, they have deeper issues than what a simple Merry Christmas should bring on.

Meanwhile, and at the risk of being labeled a Limbaugh or Hannity (which would cause no uproar here as we don't mind people knowing who we are or what we favor) by those seeking to inflame those who do not share our beliefs, why ought Christians tolerate second class citizenship? Why can't our culture be included among all those other cultures which we are supposed to (and generally do) tolerate?

So go on, and tell people Merry Christmas. If they are insulted by that, we will have learned all about them which we need to know.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Altering Certain Amendments

Much gets said about what's wrong with our government, but little gets said about concrete ways to fix it. To be sure, everyone seems appropriately concerned with the acts and laws of government being constitutional. Yet rarely does anyone actually address the document itself. There are things within it which could be changed or altered to better direct the workings of Washington.

We could start by getting rid of the Fourteenth Amendment. Say what you will about how it has protected the rights of the citizenry, it has nonetheless been used to allow the Federal Government to dip too far into what originally had been considered the realm of the States, and the citizens as well. We forget that in 'championing' the citizens' rights we have seen great abuses of their rights as well. We might just be better off to leave basic human rights to the several states.

The Sixteenth Amendment ought to be trashed as well. In letting the feds dip directly into the pocketbooks of individuals we have expanded their power far beyond the intention of the framers. It must be remembered, as the great Chief Justice John Marshall said, "The power to tax implies the power to destroy." Let the feds get money from the states and from various fees for only their necessary functions.

Let's trash the Seventeenth Amendment while we're at it. If senators were elected by state legislatures as they once were, then they could get back to their true job: representing the states as states. We are a federal system after all: it isn't as though the state governments should have no direct say in federal antics.

This is only for a start, to perhaps begin discussion. Sure, nothing will come of it as the special interests hold too much sway and federal power has become too entrenched. But you got to have a dream: if you don't have a dream, how you gonna make your dreams come true?

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Death Knell of the Obama Presidency?

Congress has passed sweeping legislation to extend the so-called Bush tax cuts to all, while also extending unemployment benefits for 13 months. On the surface, it seems like the sort of bipartisan piffle which many claim that the American public desires. The Republicans got what they wanted: the tax cuts preserved for even the wealthy. The Democrats got what they wanted: an extension of unemployment benefits. Isn't that, presumably, the very definition of compromise?

Perhaps; but it also leaves a good many questions up for debate, not the least of which is whether the whole thing is a bunch of rot or not. Yet that can and will be discussed ad infinitum: the most intriguing question left is if, perchance, President Barack Obama has sealed his fate in 2012 in pushing so hard to get this thing passed.

Liberals are angry that he allowed the extension for two years of the tax cuts for the highest earners. But it would seem that all he was doing was precisely what the left has always clamored for: he reached across the aisle and gave in where he felt he needed to while protecting the jobless. Instead, we are shown once more the hypocrisy of the left when it comes to one of their oxen being gored. They preach compromise, bipartisanship, and No Labels when it suits them. Yet it is clearly a one way street. All of those things, all of those annoying labels which they claim to hate, are in fact merely smoke and mirrors in an attempt to hide their true will from the populace.

But as before, let us set aside that issue. What is really fascinating is in how the liberals are, more or less, threatening to abandon the President as he looks towards reelection. Several left wing Democrats in Congress, notable Mike Quigley from Illinois and Peter DeFazio from Oregon, have openly asked whether the bill has effectively ended his chances of winning a second term. If the higher ups feel that way, what may the grass roots think? Will they fell abandoned by the President and sit out 2012?

It is a delightful thought. Only time will tell but, from here, the view looks quite rosy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

No Label? No Point.

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, along with a host of other political workers and aspirants, announced this past Monday the founding of a new political group, No Labels. The organization wants to form chapters in all 435 Congressional districts, with its goal being an end to political polarization, electoral reform, the federal deficit and energy independence.

Where to begin? For starters, no group can exist without a label. Labels, quite frankly, tell us who or what we are and what we support, at least within general parameters. So in this case, No Labels stands for centrism, whatever that may be. The issues listed above seem to hit the mark as to that concern. Those issues are, by the way, more liberal than conservative, although there surely is a conservative flavor mixed into deficit questions.

Add in the fact that the vast majority of the organizers are Democrats, and it is easy to see that the new group is no honest cross the aisle organization. What they are doing is trying to play on the presumed will of certain Americans who are further presumably sick and tired of partisan politics and want the bickering to end. So they hypocritically, ahem, label themselves No Label to attempt to seem out of the mainstream.

It is interesting to note that Mayor Bloomberg, having spent more of his own money than anyone else to win and keep his office, indeed having had the system changed in NYC so that he would not be term limited, should be one spouting electoral reform. That by itself hardly strikes us as nonpartisan. It seems like a man with an agenda, which is exactly what marks most certainly any political movement. The No Label thing betrays itself by its own actions.

So what we have is a center/left partisan group deigning to call itself nonpartisan in order to attract attention and, in some way, it would seem, votes. The question then becomes, why doesn't the left want to be called liberal?

Conservatives don't mind being called conservative. Indeed, they quite insist on it. They don't mind people knowing who they are and what they mean. They don't hide behind political showmanship. They like their label.

Do the No Label people like their more generally accepted label, again, liberal? Apparently not. From what, then, do they wish to hide?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Note to Detroit: Salt the Roads!

As we demand more and more of our federal government (a habit we must break before we break ourselves) we tend to lose sight of what the proper role of government is at any level. This past weekend's winter storm in Detroit offers a great lesson in what we ought to expect of our local leaders.

Why is it that certain suburbs manage to do a decent job of clearing the roads while the largest city in the region can't get a handle on the task even two days after the blizzard has gone? A ride out Warren Avenue from the Wayne State University district, through the west side into Dearborn Tuesday morning should have raised the ire of any native Detroiter. The street conditions ranged from half bad to positively treacherous. There was no evidence of salt, and the best stretches of road were where it had the most direct sunlight. Yet the instant Warren arrived in Dearborn it was quite clear.

The trip brings back memories of the bad storms a decade ago which had the movers and shakers behind the North American Auto Show murmuring about taking the gala from Detroit if the city could not provide such basic services as clearing the highways and bi-ways efficiently. It would seem that that should have been lesson enough, yet here ten years later we are still faced with poor road conditions well after the storm has passed.

While the situation in our fair city is surely difficult, it yet begs the question of who has responsibility for the relatively simple task of getting the roads plowed and salted. If our local government cannot step to the plate and do what it should do quickly and well, it is rather galling to demand more from an entity a thousand miles away who is, or should be, naturally enough, concerned with bigger things. Detroit needs to get its act together and give citizens the local services their tax dollars merit. Until we can get satisfaction from the government powers closest to us, it is inane to think we can get better from those farther away.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Right Thinking

Much fascinating discussion can be had with an attempt at affirming the critical role reason and objectivity play in our political and social discussions. It all begins at the beginning, so to speak. One such starting point held by those against objective norms is a statement something like: nothing can be true for all times and all places.

That was a fun one back during sophomore year at university, when we discussed whether such a statement itself could be true for all times and places. But beyond such nonsense which the assertion invites, it is clear that the statement cannot be true. For if it is, then there is an objective standard of right and wrong in that there is no right and wrong. And if it's not, then there must be standards of objectivity generally.

So where would we begin? Where would we seek this objectivity?

Without self-evidence, nothing can be proven; so says the British author and apologist C. S. Lewis. He is quite right. Without axiomatic statements, things true in and of themselves, things so obviously right that no one can deny them and still call themselves rational, things which are Reason Itself, we can make no progress within the realms of morals, politics, law, and treating the next door neighbor with charity. Without things which must be accepted on their own terms, which it would be social and personal suicide to deny, we cannot know what to do even in our daily lives.

It is in this realm that most questions can be answered. Abortion is wrong because human beings have human babies. Gay marriage is wrong because it is self evident that we are made to be male/female couples. Some extrapolation may be necessary as circumstances may dictate, but all morals begin with dogmatic statements.

Which means that any decent consideration of what laws we must have must start with a reflection of how much they are in line with the first principles. Do they codify these axioms or disparage them? Do they encourage society to live within them or deny their worth? Will proposed laws make us better or worse people?

It all starts from the right beginning. If we choose to start from somewhere else, we will end up who knows where. We might, by happy accident, arrive at our destination with good laws and a good society. But there's no point taking that chance when we have a handy road map, available to all who will have it, at our beck and call.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Safe Sex

A recent federal study, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, suggests very heavily that abstinence only sex education programs actually work. They decrease the likelihood of teens become sexually active before they should. This is contrary to the liberal assumption that young people must be treated like rabbits, with no penchant for self-discipline at all.

It is interesting that such studies are even necessary. Like the study a few years back by educationists which concluded that students who study more learn more (gasp!), the common sense of the matter is so obvious that it is hard to believe anyone would think about the questions in a contrary or contradictory manner.

The fact is, anybody who accepts that there are such things as common sense and reason see things more clearly than those who need studies with various data tables normalized to certain base lines. When we have folks who do not believe in rationality, we get folks who ultimately have an agenda. In the case of sex education, we get liberals whose presumptions muddy their objectivity, like the environmentalists whose views are skewed by the thought that mere earth and animals and plants are superior to people, or the evolutionists whose scientific findings are clouded by their presumptions. With sex ed, we have folks who want promiscuity. Consequently, they presume it will happen, rather than afford others the dignity that they may actually be able to control themselves.

Such an approach insults our children in particular and our society in general. At the risk of overusing the term, common sense tells us that a structured, disciplined environment will, by and large (for we do recognize that simple human freedom will lead to errant behavior) give us a structured and disciplined society. People can be taught to behave in appropriate manners. If we are willing to concede that such personal control is possible.

It is an easy point to accept if you believe in the dignity of the individual. If you do not believe in that, then nothing is possible.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Obamacare and Congressional Overkill

The GOP has vowed to repeal Obamacare. In fact, the Party is so passionate about it that many members put the issue as the main goal of the 2011 session of Congress. Yet the critics will yet wag their tongues, crying out about those who need health care not getting it, that preexisting conditions won't be covered for those seeking health insurance, and what about the kids who should (critics say) be on their parents coverage all the way up until they're 26?

These are relatively easy points to counter. By 26, outside of special circumstances, you ought to, as a rule, be of independent means anyway. Those who do in fact need health care will get it: no emergency room in the country with an ounce of charity will refuse to treat someone having a heart attack. Preexisting conditions must be seen more on a case by case basis: having cancer or high blood pressure may count, but pregnancy? That it almost always a controllable condition as it is almost always the result of elective behavior.

But the common thread within those individual circumstances which is not discussed when talking about the issue of health care or, it seems, when considering almost any other question before the nation, is the notion of laws needing to address any and all matters even remotely connected to a given debate. Why do our political leaders feel that every problem within our country must be faced en masse?

Why, for example, because there are many folks without health care, must the entire way we access health care be changed? Can't we simply address the troubles of those who don't have it by doing what we can (outside of simply saying, as Obamacare essentially does, 'you must get it', as though legislative fiat is all that is required to solve a problem) to create a system which makes it more affordable through private and individual initiative?

If we want to insure that preexisting conditions be treated properly, why not pass a single law which says that insurers must treat them? Of, more precisely, define which such conditions must be treated? Why change everything when what we really want to do is make the playing field just for all? Why not merely address the particulars with particular laws rather than mess with the whole scheme?

The only real reason to do this is to put the people under the thumb of the government. The group of Congressional leaders recently shown the door, no matter how much they may have said they only wanted to help, no matter how sincere they may have been in wanting to make decent health care available for all, ultimately called for a system which would give Washington unprecedented control over who gets what. Especially when we are talking about human lives, our lives, not DC's, we are in truth talking about something vile and tyrannical.

That is why the GOP calls Obamacare the greatest threat to our freedom. Because who controls who gets what in terms of the treatment of disease and other matters of the physical human condition, controls us. Those folks, that bureaucracy, those minions within the beltway, will eventually decide who lives and dies. If they are given total reign over health care.

In the long run, that means more than whether pregnancy is a preexisting condition or not.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Recycling: A Watse of Time and Water?

My wife and daughter are very into recycling, and that's okay. There's certainly nothing wrong with it, and they do it all themselves, so it doesn't even really affect me.

Still, our son while on leave from the Army commented on it in a way I had never considered. Watching his mother prepare tuna cans and milk jugs for recycling he remarked, as she was rinsing the items out and even putting the cans through the dishwater, "So we have to wash our trash?"

Which leads me to my point. Do we really need to recycle things for which there is no demand? Steel, aluminum, copper; these things all get paid for by people who have a real use for them. They're worth money, therefore they get recycled. Paper, plastic, even tin cans aren't worth anything and therefore do not get recycled so readily.

Unless the government encourages or demands it. Many recycling projects are underwritten by government or commanded by it through things such as curbside pickup. In short, they wouldn't exist without coersion. Things worth doing get done without any hint of force.

Think of that when you're washing your tuna cans, using extra water, or burning extra gas to take things to a recycling center. Are we really doing anything worth such effort?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Health care: an Individual Responsibility

Note: This passage is in direct response to someone who, in an earlier post, challenged me to come up with my own idea about health care.

-Charles Martin Cosgriff



As to creating my own solution to health care issues, I must respond that I am not obliged to do so for the very simple and sincere reason that I believe health care should be completely and totally privatized. Each individual must ultimately be responsible for their own health needs. I have no inherent right to any given person how to pursue that goal any more than I have a right to tell them what kind of a job they should have or where they should purchase a home.

With any kind of government health care, however, I am being told what kind of care I should get. This is a clear violation of individual rights and worthy only of, quite frankly, those who want to control others. At one time we called these people tyrants.

To be sure, we need to make it so that the poor and downtrodden have access to needed health care. But it is my experience that such is already the case: hospitals cannot turn down those with grave conditions, and there are hospitals (Receiving Hospital here in Detroit) in place precisely for those who cannot go anywhere else.

Governments should not be creating anything more than an environment which allows relevant and proper individual choices to flower. Then, and only then, will see any worthwhile solutions to the issues which concern us. Especially the greatest and most critical questions which do indeed plague the human condition.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

True Education Reform

Many folks, politicians, educators, and film makers even, are worried that education reform is far from done. They lament, according to an article this morning on AOL News, that the President's Race to the Top program is too little too late for some students, and that more needs to be done with early childhood education. In particular, a poll of teachers shows strong support for formal education before kindergarten. Children with very early aid do better academically in the long run.

Early education certainly makes a huge difference in the life of a child. But how formal does it have to be? We have known for eons that parents who take a role in their children's learning have a tremendous effect on their educational success. We don't need formal classroom teachers to help ensure good academics: we need parents who will take an active role in the lives of their young charges.

This whole issue reeks of a ploy by those who have a special interest in education to spread the wealth among their peers, and to create more jobs in the education arena. It further allows those of us who do not support them to be labeled as against education. Indeed, we can now be called against the poor, who have a higher rate of academic failure than the middle and upper classes.

Yet we are not. We are simply recognizing that support from home cannot be replaced by any amount of professional and formal learning. That those in poor home environments generally struggle in school is a question in truth beyond the means of any sanctioned educational system. No matter how you try, even when the kids are very young, they will not, as a rule, learn even the rudimentary bits of knowledge without a stable and concerned home life to support that effort. In fact, it is safe to say that the effects of the home life trump the efforts of the education establishment, and always will.

The issue ultimately is one of misplaced emphasis. If we want academic success we need to create a nation with stable homes and, yes, nurturing environments. Good education, like good citizenship, begins at home. It usually will not begin anywhere else, as that is where children spend, or at least should spend, the bulk of their time. As it is, all we really have is a special interest group acting for the special interest: educators seeking the creation of jobs for educators. They don't want to help kids as much as they want a jobs program funded from the public coffers.

We fail to realize that education has become a business, and that businesses usually only want what is good for them. More money and more government oversight of the classroom doesn't help those who actually need it; it only protects the teaching market for those who likely would succeed anyway. This type of hyperbole fails to serve those it purports to hold dear. Yet it does insure better cars for the classroom instructor.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The China Dilemma

China has forbidden anti-government activist Liu Xiaobo from leaving to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. His wife, Liu Xia, is under house arrest with no contact with the outside world and will not be allowed to go to Oslo to accept the award on his behalf. Further, a small number of nations, told by China that there would be 'consequences' if they were represented at the ceremony, have declined to attend.

Meanwhile, many believe that within the next few years China will have the world's largest economy, which translates into that if we play nice we may get a share of the pie. Playing nice will also help Beijing turn away from its past and become more like us.

And then there's that whole North Korean problem, which China seems to feel can be solved through negotiation. When Japan and the West balk, we are told, essentially, that we're the ones in error. This from a nation, to go more or less full circle, arrests those who like free speech too much while also limiting the amount and type of Internet access its citizens may have. And all with no apparent concern for how the rest of the family of nations feel. What are we supposed to make of this?

Simply that China is interested in China to the exclusion of all else. Those in power there want to keep their power. What that bodes for the rest of civilization is subject to debate. But know this: great power and wealth, held by an oligarchy, cannot in the long run help the causes of peace and justice without a lot of outside pressure. Especially when dealing with an oligarchy intent on pleasing itself.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Another Political Compromise: Should We Have Expected Better?

President Barack Obama and the soon to be ruling GOP came to a compromise on the Bush era tax cuts. They will, if enough Democrats care to back their leader, be extended for all taxpayers for two years, at which point they will surely become a hot button issue in the 2012 campaign.

The entire scenario makes for an interesting lesson in American politics. The President says that the deal, before which his own party and he himself wanted to have the tax cuts for the wealthiest die, was the price which had to be paid to prevent gridlock. The question becomes, was it really the desire to move things along which forced his hand, or an early, slick move to demonstrate that he is willing to work with the opposition, thus setting himself up as the next Great Compromiser heading into the next election cycle?

Likely as not, it's little of both. It isn't as though the GOP had no incentive to make nice, either, as an extension of emergency jobless benefits was in the mix, and no doubt the Republicans don't want to be seen as against the downtrodden. But the critical point here is in how it demonstrates the American system. We force compromise on our leaders. We then assail them for not sticking to principle.

It is rare that we find much sympathy for politicians, but they do merit a bit in this light. Sure, they promise the moon. Sure, they twist the Constitution into a meaningless scrap of paper. Yet there is a degree of, what can they do? It is hard enough to be a principled man or woman left to our own devices. When we are a member of Congress and have to hope that 534 other men and women, and the President, and the courts and the ACLU and myriad other interest groups and individual citizens, will act as principled as we would like, we are really working against very long odds.

A bit of scheming is almost to be expected, on all fronts, then. It may pay us to remember that when we vote, and recall that, in the end, it is our demands which ultimately drive the system.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Phys Ed Madness

A California court has ruled that parents can sue their local school district to force them to have physical education classes for their kids.

Of all the lamebrain ideas which our school embody, mandatory gym class is truly one of the lamest. Not that exercise and physical activity aren't important, but why they ought to be the province of the schools is beyond reason. Parents should be the ones making sure their children are active. It is certainly not the responsibility of the taxpaying public in general.

You would think too that the judicial system would have better things to do than entertain such frivolity. Yet judges are on the dole as are educators. Perhaps its the whole thing is simply professional courtesy. All who feed at the public trough much watch each other's backs.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Life as God Knows It.

Among the myriad life forms on planet Earth we now have discovered arsenic eating bacteria. Well, not exactly discovered: we have, under laboratory conditions, induced a strain of bacteria native to our world to survive and replicate using arsenic. Does the mean that the realms of science and religion, as some folks have since asserted, are now turned upside down?

No. What we have, simply put, is a group of scientists who have more or less trained a tiny organism to live differently. While that may be an important scientific innovation, it does not, as critics such as the American Humanist Association claim, portend the end of religion.

Why should it? If the Almighty has elected that some form of life should live off arsenic, then so be it. He created all things; if He wants a diversity of life forms, even strains of life which feed off of things poisonous to us, He shall have it.

Yet such easily understandable logic seems unintelligible in some corners. "The polite thing to say is that discoveries such as this don't really impeach the credibility of established religion, but in truth of course they really do," David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association (AHA), a leading secularist organization, said of this week's revelations about the microbes discovered in Lake Mono in California.

"The fact that life can spring forth in this way from nature, taken in context with what else we've learned in recent centuries about space and time, surely makes it less plausible that the human animal is the specially favored creation of all-powerful, all-knowing divinity," Niose said. He goes on to say that development of the new organism must necessarily challenge the belief systems of those religious folks who think the world has only existed for about 6,000 years.

A-hem. At the risk of deepening the rift between Catholics and our Protestant brethren, it is fascinating to see how the anti-religious always trumpet the views of Protestant Evangelicals when tolling the bells for the death of religion. For it is almost solely within the evangelical clique where we find the insistence that the Earth is only 6,000 years old. The humanistic community draws their arguments from what is merely one segment of Christianity, and a minority at that, rather than from an honest examination of the views of Christianity as a whole.

Consider that a scientist at the Vatican Observatory, Brother Guy Consolmagno, wrote that the experiment, "...sounds like a nice piece of work; we'll see where it goes from here...But any scientific discovery that broadens our knowledge of creation, deepens our understanding of the Creator."

Or, as we stated above, God shall have life however He wants it. The 6,000 year history of the Earth is a Protestant construct used as a straw man by secular humanists since it fits their bill. Such shallow thought allows them to ignore the more mainstream western religious, who more rightly see this new bit of science as easily within the realm of Creation.

Religion is not dead; science will not kill it. Nor are the subjects contradictory or without common ground: would there be such a thing as a Vatican Observatory if that were truly the case? In the end, the arsenic eating bacteria is what it is, and nothing more: the result of a scientific experiment which may or may not help explain or expand our scientific knowledge. Only time will answer that question. Meanwhile, let us not bother ourselves about the state of our religious belief with regard to science. Let us, rather, be concerned with the truths of science and how they may apply to our lives. Our orchards will bear better fruit with that mentality at the center of our thoughts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

No Living Constitution is Worth a Dime

I have heard many times, and I'm sure you have too, that our wonderful Constitution is a living document. I have to imagine you have heard the sentiment expressed by the same people from whom I've so often heard it as they waxed reverentially from their lips: liberals, or what were once known as loose constructionists.

Why would anyone want anything less than a precise, or at least as precise of one as possible, interpretation of our nation's highest law? Yet that is what most of our government's leaders since about, oh, the New Deal, have asked us to support. It is what our current leaders in their rush to force federal health care down our throats want. Indeed they probably want no bother about a Constitution at all, but as we have one they have little option but work with it. Or, more exactly, to work it into whatever hash they would like it to be.

They forget, or more likely do not or do not wish to understand, that no living document, one that ebbs and flows with the times, cannot ultimately have any real meaning. It would be too parochial, too ingrained into one time or place to be useful in other eras. It would not last beyond a generation or two.

We want, we need, the words of our governing document to have the certain meanings the founders breathed into them. We need rules and guidelines which do not easily change so that we know how to act and can comprehend what is expected of us. We need a healthy static norm which we can rely on for the sake of order and progress.

We do not need the rules of the game to change or become altered based on whimsy or political expediency. We cannot survive that way: imagine a baseball game where the rules changed as a runner was between first and second to where he had to run clockwise, only to have them reversed when he raced around first, only to have his hit determined to be an out if caught on fourteen hops. Could he reasonably be expected to continue to play baseball? Would there in fact still be a game of baseball to be usefully referenced at all?

No, of course not. And neither will there be a nation we could call the United States for very long without a proper respect for the most basic rules of existence. It's time to kill the living Constitution; freeze it on the historical date of 1787. If something about it merits changing, then follow the methods which the document already contains. Anything else is simply making a mockery of the best governing document in human history.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ticket Scapling

Kid Rock is one hacked off guy. He says so in no uncertain terms in a recent post on his website in a diatribe against scalpers, people who buy tickets for his concerts only to sell them at higher prices to others. These others, true fans of Kid Rock, are, according to him, being ripped by those, um, people of questionable sexual morality. The scalpers are hoping to get rich by their practice, Mr. Rock asserts, while he himself is doing all he can to keep ticket prices low so that his fans can afford them.

That is a laudable goal, and we are more than willing to take the rock/rap/country star at his word. Still, the entire idea of scalping doesn't strike us as particularly wrong, either. It seems reasonable that, when someone buys a seat for a concert, sporting event, movie or what have you, then that seat is that person's property for the show in question. If someone else is willing to buy it off the original owner for a price above face value, what really can we say about it?

Yes, the price requested may be beyond reason. Yes, someone who simply has to see Kid Rock live come what may may be enticed to spend too much money on a ticket for one of his shows. We're admittedly not sure exactly what to say about that, but we will say that, as a general principle, the general population (outside of friends and family trying to convince a friend or family member not to overspend for what is, after all, just a concert) isn't really responsible for that person's poor judgment in such a case.

We are even willing to consider, but only that, whether scalping practices are forms of extortion. Yet the idea on the surface seems weak, based on the concept that buying a concert ticket isn't like paying a ransom, or even akin to purchasing needed things like housing or food. It strikes us that it merely comes back to poor judgment or weak mindedness; how can we, in the end, combat that? At least, in areas such as this, where a more serious moral breach is not at question?

Kid Rock's anger at the practice is indeed understandable. We truly believe that it is borne of a true goodwill wherein he genuinely does not want to see folks ripped off. Still, protecting people from themselves, though sometimes in fact the province of the greater society, isn't automatically the obligation of the whole society in every instance of human interaction which may arise, even those which do merit a certain compassion. We can't control everything, and he admits as much in his article. It would seem that, in ranting against scalping, he has done all he can. What more can be expected?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Proposed Repeal Amendment

"Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed."

This is the text of the so-called Repeal Amendment, a proposal put forth by Utah Congressman Rob Bishop. the idea is to give back to the States what they have always, on paper, had: a certain sovereignty over issues which are legitimately their concern.

The issue is fraught with worries and unlikely to pass, given the growth in the power of the very federal establishment it seeks to reign in. Too many States and too many people who feed at the public trough don't really want Washington's power out of their lives. But it is a question which must be explored more fully if we are to remain what we claim that we are: a union of States rather than one large nation per se.

Some argue that the entire notion works against majority rule. They say that smaller sates, those with fewer people, may cause the will of the overall majority to be thwarted. Perhaps; but if we are indeed a union of states, then the rule of a complete majority of the entire population of the Union isn't truly an issue. In fact it's almost arrogant: why should, for example, California have the automatic right to force Delaware to do its bidding? Simply because California is bigger?

That isn't compassion: that's brute force, plain and simple, even if the result of the ballot box. It is time we put a check on the power of Congress and the President. one which respects the individual states as states. That's really what we're all about, and what would in truth give us the diversity which the liberals crow so long and hard is what's so great about the US. Because consolidating power in DC does not give us diverse viewpoints, but, in the end, dictatorship.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Big Meeting

The newly empowered Republicans and President Barack Obama had their first big meeting the other day, in an attempt to find common ground. The early word is that there isn't any.

Indeed, can there be? In theory, we are dealing with two sides about as diametrically opposed to one another as any two groups have been in our history. We have the President's massive build up of federal power and unprecedented increases in federal spending, not to mention his almost dictatorial approach towards health care reform, against a renewed GOP sent to Washington with no other mandate than to change all that. How can Mr. Obama appeal to his base and win re-election if he gives up too much? How can Republicans go back and ask for another chance if they don't press what advantages they have as hard and as far as they may?

The most interesting irony is that next two years may hurt both sides equally. How do you compromise with such hard lines already set? Yet the American Constitutional system pretty much forces one of two alternatives upon her people. Either both sides will give up on things they would rather not surrender, at which point their established supporters will wince (if not worse), or neither side will concede a point, causing a near shut down in federal politics. Which side, liberal or conservative, would that help the most?

There's little doubt that core supporters of both the President and the GOP want their leadership to press forward on their own goals. But if that case plays out, how will the more general voting public react?

The best guess is that stalemate will help the conservatives. If they can also successfully paint President Obama as the one stalling any progress. Why? Because conservatives tend to stick to a cause better than liberals or moderates. What better example of that do we have than the most recent election cycle? After abandoning Republicans who walked away from conservatism, they came back with a vengeance when they saw what had been wrought by the 2008 electoral debacle which put the Democrats in full power. They are the voters more likely to hold true to their values at the ballot box in 2012.

If the GOP stays true to them today. Hopefully, the Republicans have taken to heart the lesson of two years back.