Follow by Email

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why ACORN Matters

We have a huge problem right now in our democracy. You see, there are people voting here who are citizens of other countries. Yes, I know it comes as quite a shock, but non-citizens vote in almost every U.S. election. In places like California, Texas, and New Mexico, they make a significant portion of the voting populace. Why is this a problem? If you have to ask, you're an idiot.

United States elections ought to represent the citizenry of the United States. Otherwise, how can we guarantee that our politicians have the best interests of this country in mind? Non-citizens, legally here or not, have not assimilated into the political body. They represent the ideas and prejudices of other nations and cultures. Often, they feel more loyalty toward their home country than this one. Logic would therefore dictate that their voting decisions would reflect such loyalties.

I propose a change in the Constitution to address this problem. Simply, to register to vote, a citizen would have to present a valid birth certificate or naturalization document. At the time of voting, a valid photo I.D.with a current address would be required. Many, if not most, foreign nations do this already. Even Iraq, whose fledgling democracy is under constant criticism, still requires proof of citizenship from its voters. In this area we are lagging behind the rest of the democratic world.

I find it rather odd that there are foes of such a measure. The only possible reason for opposition, in my mind, is the intent to commit voter fraud. When ACORN registers nonexistent or illegal voters, the attempt to halt such activity is labeled "vote suppression." Huh? Did I miss something here? I suppose one could call it that, provided it was made clear that the votes being suppressed were all illegal.

If this democracy is to survive, we must make sure it is actually representing those it was intended to serve: the citizens of the United States of America.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Separation Anxiety

As you may or may not know, I'm not the world's biggest Barack Obama fan. I also don't believe in voting for someone based on color, either for or against. A very large part of me, however, wishes that Obama had been a conservative. We haven't had someone with Obama's raw leadership potential in the conservative movement for quite some time, perhaps even since Reagan. Mitt Romney was as close as we've come, and we failed to nominate him. Seeing McCain fumble through the debates, I realize now more than ever the gravity of the mistake we made.

Obama is a socialist. Socialism is just communism minus a totalitarian government. Marxism, on a larger scale, is the goal of Barack Obama. The problem is that Karl Marx never intended his philosophy to be applied at a national level. Why? It won't work. The closest application of true Marxism yet seen were the hippie communes of the Sixties. Those were at least functional, until the hippies in question grew tired of the experiment. Communism/socialism applied at the national level produces huge budget deficits and kills any latent economic ability in the people forced to live under it. Even China recognizes this, as it is now far less communistic than merely totalitarian. I'd liken China more to a very large corporation than a communist state.

Given all of this, I still swell with a certain sense of national pride at the fact that we are about to elect our first African-American president. It symbolizes so much in the way of racial progress. I'm glad to have lived long enough to see this day, whether or not Obama wins the presidency. It means that we are finally at the point where the content of a man's ideas and character count for more than his pigmentation. No one in the Republican party has brought up Obama's race; to do so would be anathema. Praise God for this day! It seems as though the dream of Dr. King has finally been realized.

We need, as conservatives, to be able to separate the joy and pride we feel for the non-issue that Obama's race has been in the minds of American voters from the fear and trepidation we feel about his political beliefs. We can be happy about the one and angry about the other. It is, in fact, this ability that makes us truly non-racists. We needn't vote for Obama to prove racial neutrality. We need only cast our vote based on the ideas and policies of the candidates. This is color blindness. And you know what? I think America is finally there.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Change of Opinion

Yes, it's been a while. I've been posting regularly at townhall.com, but not as much over here. (Sorry.)

I've switched back to wanting McCain to win. I guess it'll be the lesser of two evils again this year (sigh). Why isn't there ever anyone I can get excited about running in the general election? I wanted a Reagan, and all I got was a crappy Dole!

Still, even a Dole is better than a Lenin. That's what it boils down to. McCain will gently nudge us toward sociaism; Obama will shove us head-first into communism. I'd prefer a capitalist (a venture capitalist, to be precise), but if I have to decide between a socialist and a communist, I'll pick the socialist.

What ever happened to the notion of rugged individualism? Aren't Americans supposed to be this tough race of independent, get-the-government-out-of-my-life pioneers who resent being treated like babies in need of a nursemaid? What happened? Obama promises cradle-to-the-grave health care, free this and free that, and suddenly we're all a bunch of wimps and wusses who can't bear the thought of taking responsibility for our own wants and needs.

If we don't snap out of this socialist malaise, and quickly, the chant of "Yes we can!" will have become the death knell of our once-great nation. (By the way, who gave Barack Obama the rights to Bob the Builder's slogan?) I had once thought that we could stand a precipitous slide into communism, that it would awaken the pioneer in us. I don't believe that anymore. I don't know what, besides losing our nation and our freedoms, will make us see reality for what it is, but I hope it happens soon.

I greatly fear for our nation. I pray I'm overstating my case, that I'm as wrong as some would tell me.

I don't think I am, though.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Obama's Non-Bounce

One would think that with all of the free media Barack Obama has been getting lately, his poll numbers would be up. Let's see... Nope. In fact, he's now behind John McCain in both of the major polls (Gallup and Zogby). Was it his vice presidential pick? Was it some gaffe he made verbally? Was it his wife's speech, or the continued political presence of Hillary?

I propose that it was Barack Obama himself.

The more we see of him, the more we know of his positions and beliefs, the more we dislike him. As the campaign rolls onward, we will inevitably become privy to his real motivations, core beliefs, and foundational principles. I predict that the more this happens, the less popular he will become.

America doesn't like Socialism. We can't stand it, as it runs contrary to one of our key personality traits, rugged individualism. Can you envision Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett complaining to the government over not having free medical coverage? Neither can I. Our heroes are not the wimps of the labor movement, but the self-made, real men of yesteryear. Obama fails the man test. Bush, for all of his shortcomings, is someone I can see on the frontier, surviving off the land. I can see Bush on a wagon train, charting out new territory. He's not one to whine about not having the government pay for this or that; he'd get it done himself, or live without. John McCain has this essential characteristic as well. I can see McCain using a hunting rifle to obtain food. Obama? I doubt he would know which end of the gun to rest against his shoulder.

We don't want a wuss for president. We don't want someone who worries about the price of arugula. Hell, we don't want even want someone who eats arugula on a regular enough basis to know what it is. We want a real man for president.

That's what it comes down to. However much I may disagree with McCain on certain issues, he's a man. I know he can and will stand firm on what's important. I can't say the same for Barack Obama. Neither can you; be honest. So now that we're getting to know him, we like him less and less. We see him for what he really is: a conniving little worm. We don't generally elect invertibrates to the presidency.

Sorry, Barry. I think the ride is over now.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Obama's Gas Theory



As I'm sure you've all heard by now, Barack Obama is claiming that by just keeping our tires properly inflated and getting an occasional tune-up, we can save as much gas as we'd get by drilling. I suppose the assumption is that millions of Americans are unwittingly driving around with tar for oil and flat tires.

This plays into Obama's concept of what most Americans are like. His wife is only recently proud of her country, after all, and I'm sure Barack sees it the same way.
I submit this cartoon as an illustration of what Obama thinks of us.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Why I Can't Vote for Obama

Those of you who follow my Townhall.com blog (theuseofreason.blogtownhall.com) will know that I have officially endorsed Barack Obama for president. It's not that I think he'll do a good job. Oh no, he'll mess us over like never before! However, I think America needs to be reminded just how bad untethered Liberalism truly is.

It's kind of like the classic Christian dilemma. We want Jesus to return, but for that to happen, we know a lot of bad things will have to happen first. We're not anxiously waiting for the appearance of the Antichrist, but for the glory to follow. That's kind of how I feel about Obama.

Just as I'm not advocating that we all sin as much as possible to hurry the Second Coming, neither can I conscientiously cast a ballot for Barack Obama. We need him to win, so we will return to our roots as a nation. That said, I won't vote for him.

Weird, huh?

I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way. A number of my Conservative friends have voiced similar opinions. I hope he wins, but I'm also afraid of what he'll do to us. It's a similar feeling to going in for a colonoscopy. You know you need to do it, but you also know it won't be a pleasant afternoon.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Why McCain's Veep Is So Important

John McCain has yet to announce a vice presidential pick. Granted, the Republican convention hasn't occurred yet, but we're all getting a bit paranoid over here on the grand Right Wing of the Republican Party.

Most of us are secretly hoping for a Mitt Romney nomination. We need someone smart and articulate in the White House. It's been, well, a long time. I'm not saying Bush is dumb, but he certainly isn't articulate. If your president can't effectively communicate the reasons for, say, going to war, you can't expect the nation to cooperate out of blind trust and patriotism. Sadly, those days are gone.

The main reason we need a strong veep is that John McCain is just so freakin' old. The man is set to be the oldest president ever elected. The odds of this vice president having to take the reins at some point are as high as they may ever be. Listening to a speech by John McCain already reminds me too much of visiting an old relative at the retirement home. He has that same tone and cadence, as if he's retelling tales of the Great Depression and how back then you could go to the movies for a nickel. We need some young blood in the mix, someone the press can identify with. When you're old in the news media, they retire your behind. That, or put you in the White House Press Corps so nobody will actually have to see your face. If they really feel sorry for you, they give you the Andy Rooney treatment, allowing you on once a week to babble incoherently as a sort of comic relief.

More than anything, MCain needs to reassure conservatives that he will represent us. Granted, we didn't nominate him; RINOs and disenfranchised Democrats did. Still, if he wants us out on voting day, he's going to have to give us a reason. His own personal stances on many of the issues of the day (Iraq notwithstanding) just don't cut it.

Are there any McCainiacs left out there?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Prosperity Doesn't Happen in a Vacuum

It is an interesting paradox that those immigrants who come here for economic opportunity (as opposed to wanting to become Americans) may well be the downfall of the very prosperity they came to enjoy. I have been thinking long and hard lately about why America is so very prosperous. What is the root cause? We started out living in log cabins, after all. How did we get from there to McMansions?

I have come to the conclusion that our wealth is a by-product of our culture. Yes, we have a culture, and it's more than just Mom and apple pie. There are certain psychological traits that make an American truly American. In this posting, I will list a few...

1. Rugged Individualism

Americans have always believed that a man (or woman, for that matter) ought to be responsible for himself. When a young man wondered how he'd get along with few skills and no social capital, he was told, "Go west, young man. Go west!" Nowadays, we would tell him, "Go to the corner of East Fourteenth and Melbourne, and stand in the welfare line. They'll take care of you." It is this diminution of the independent, working-man's spirit that threatens our economic future. As America becomes less American, the prosperity we have enjoyed will vanish.

Many immigrants, though not all, come to work, yes, but also to receive the freebies that our government gives out as if they were Halloween candy. There are free clinics, funded by the American taxpayer, that routinely treat illegal immigrants. Many illegals make the trip just to have a baby in an American emergency room (which has to treat them). This baby is born a citizen, and its parents have just been granted de facto resident status. They may now sign up for MediCal, welfare, and a whole host of other entitlements. Many rural communities have set up migrant worker "camps", apartments specifically for illegal immigrants. California actually has a Migrant Education program set up for the children of illegal aliens, many of whom ditch America each year during the winter, when there is little agricultural work available. These migrant workers are not here to become Americans. They are here to take American money to Mexico.

Perhaps most telling, almost all Hispanic citizens register to vote as Democrats. Largely Catholic, they ignore Democrat positions on abortion, gay "marriage", and a whole host of other issues because the Democrats promise to keep the freebies coming. This desire to be taken care of, as opposed to supporting oneself, is the antithesis of what it means to be American.

2. Puritan Morality

We are very proud of our Puritans. We dress like them each Thanksgiving. Their old communities and townships are still tourist hot spots. While the elitists poke fun at them, most Americans admire their staunch moralism. That Puritan moral character is what keeps American churches busy while Europe's cathedrals are empty, unless you count tourists with cameras. We are a Christian, moral nation. To deny that is to deny both statistics and common sense.

To their credit, Hispanics are largely Catholic, and thus believe in a fairly strict moral code. Unfortunately, many are Católicos a mi manera, or "Catholic in my own way". They do not practice the moral precepts of Catholicism, nor do they vote for leaders who would see them encouraged by the legal system. They show up at church only when absolutely necessary, to prepare for the First Communion and so on. Maybe they'll even show up for Christmas and Easter. Their lives and voting habits, however, betray the superficiality of their faith.

Most Asian immigrants are Hindu or Buddhist. Their religions do not have the same moral code as Christianity. Sexual licentiousness isn't forbidden, and is actually encouraged in some cases. In Japanese culture, adultery is seen as acceptable so long as one's other duties to the family have been fulfilled. Should such views become commonplace here, the results would be disastrous. Combining the lack of sexual morality and rugged individualism is a toxic mixture, one which already exists even in America; we call it the ghetto.

Should the culture at large lose both traits, that is what the entire nation will become.

3. Nationalism

I have heard it said that one should be patriotic but not a nationalist. For some reason, nationalism, the putting of one's own country ahead of other nations, is seen as a negative. Leftists like to point out that it was Germany's nationalism that fueled Hitler's rise to power. That is true, but they forget one very important factor: We are not Germany.

Any man who claims to be a patriot but not a nationalist is neither; he is a liar.

Unfortunately, too many immigrants enter the country with the wrong sort of nationalism. They still carry a torch for their nations of origin. We saw evidence of this during the infamous May Day riots. Hispanic marchers in Los Angeles, protesting for the right to reside in America, were waving the Mexican flag. For this fact alone, none of them should ever be granted citizenship. You cannot be both Mexican and American; you must choose one. If you do not choose America, you are not worthy lo live here.

There are many other cultural traits that define America: faith in the future, Yankee ingenuity, pride in the military, self-betterment, religiosity in general, respect for the Constitution as sacred writ... the list goes on and on. Too many of our immigrants are not becoming American. They are not adopting the ways and values that have made us what we are. When the tide finally turns, and the culture loses its core, the economy will surely follow. Economies are created by people, and people act according to their culture. If we adopt the culture of the Third World, the mentality of a less-productive nation, how can we expect to avoid the economic consequences of that decision?

I fear for our future. Let's stop accepting new immigrants until those already here have had time to become American. Then, let's accept only those who will adopt our ways, instead of trying to change them into theirs.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Independence Day at the Hispanic Food and Music Festival

I love Hispanic culture. I love Hispanic food even more. However, there has to be a limit on how much we're going to bend to the annihilation of our culture. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, someone at city hall allowed the scheduling of the Hispanic Food and Music Festival on the Fourth of July.

I had to go. First, I had to see if anyone would show up (we were practically the only people there). Secondly, my wife was bored, so we had to go somewhere because, as all married men know, it is the solemn duty of every husband to keep his wife entertained every moment of her life. Therefore, we packed up the kids and headed to Headwaters Park, square in the center of downtown Fort Wayne.

We arrived at about eleven o'clock, one hour after the event opened. At first, there was only one other group there. In contrast, there were at least ten vendors. The Democrats and Republicans had voter sign-up booths. If it weren't for the blaring Santana music, you could hear a pin drop.

We dutifully bought some overpriced tacos of questionable quality (I really miss the authentic Mexican food so bountiful in California) and sat down to eat. Finding seating was, of course, no problem. I couldn't share in the repast because of my current dietary restrictions, so I wandered over to the Obama table to pester people. I asked some rather impertinent questions whose answers I'd like to share with you.

Question One: Do you have a way to check people's citizenship before you let them register?

Answer: No. We're not allowed to ask people about it.

Question Two: Don't you think that's a recipe for voter fraud?

Answer: Well, most non-citizens we talk to tell us and politely refuse to register.

Question Three: If they don't tell you, is their citizenship checked anywhere in the registration process, like in some computer database?

Answer: No, I don't think so. But they do have to show I.D. when they vote.

Question Four: Doesn't that just verify residence, not citizenship?

Answer: Well yes, but I don't think it is such a big deal. I mean, we're in Indiana after all.

Question Five: I come from California. There are a lot of illegals and other immigrants. Do you think it makes a difference there?

Answer: Oh, well, yeah... In California, sure.

That was a surprisingly candid conversation. Voter fraud is easy to perpetrate. The registration process is the primary culprit. If we want truly American elections, unaffected by the votes of foreign nationals, we need to pass a law requiring that everyone provide either a birth certificate or naturalization papers at the time of registration. Voter I.D. laws are a step in the right direction, but are insufficient.

The only reason to oppose such measures is the intent to facilitate voter fraud. Wait a minute... Don't Democrats always oppose things like that? Does that mean that they want voter fraud to happen? No! It couldn't be!

Yeah right.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

If I Ever Ran for Congress

I was thinking of everything I wish our representatives in Congress would get done, and I came up with a list of things I think anyone could have as an agenda that would make for a winning campaign.

1. The pay of Congress is linked to the average pay for a forty hour work week. The Congressional Budget Office already keeps track of things like this, so it won't take any extra money to find out the average salary for a normal, forty hour week. By linking how much Congress gets paid to how much the American worker is paid, we make Congress more accountable.

2. The borders need a wall, not a fence. If we can build thousands of miles of twenty foot sound barriers along our freeways, we can afford and build a border wall. Contract it out to private businesses, who will place bids for the wall, as designed by the Army Corps of Engineers. It shouldn't take more than a year.

3. I propose a Fair Trade Bill. On a quarterly basis, we determine what the tariffs are on our products in the countries we trade with. We then impose the exact same tariffs on them. If they eliminate their tariffs, so do we. If they raise them, we do too. This would create a level playing field in the realm of international commerce. Currently, we have few if any tariffs, and everyone else taxes our goods to the point that they're unaffordable. All income from these taxes should go to paying down the national debt. Considering the tariffs coming from Japan and China alone, we might well pay the whole thing off before they engage in free trade with us! Hopefully, however, the end result of the policy will be to lower barriers to our goods overseas, restoring jobs and productivity to the U.S. economy.

4. Filibusters should be banned. They are a tool for the imposition of the will of the minority and an obstacle to democracy. Every presidential appointment should go directly to the Senate floor. I don't read in the Constitution that the Senate has the right to withhold its advice and consent. After thirty days, the lack of a floor vote in the Senate should be considered a de facto confirmation, much like an unsigned bill does for the president.

5. The Congress needs to pass a law specifically eliminating Supreme Court interference in its laws. This is already in the Constitution, but it needs to be specifically addressed by Congress itself. Congress has the authority to determine the limits of the Supreme Court's jurisdiction.

6. Any military action by the United States, from now on, should only occur with a formal declaration of war. Then, the Alien and Sedition Act applies, and we will have a far greater amount of unity. Sedition, willingly giving aid and comfort to the enemy, should be punishable by a long prison sentence.

7. I am in favor of replacing the income tax with a national sales tax. Yes, this would require an amendment to the Constitution, but it is absolutely necessary. A national sales tax would exempt purchases of food and medicine, medical care, education, and rental housing. While liberals would whine, it would actually be a very progressive taxation system. With food, medicine, and rent exempted, the poor would have few if any taxes to pay. The rich, whose consumption includes a far greater percentage of luxury goods, would pay a greater percentage of their income. Because the current loopholes would be closed, the rich would actually have to pay the taxes instead of worming their way out. (I've always thought that those who think we don't pay enough taxes should be required to fill out the 1040-EZ every year.)

8. We need an energy policy that includes Alaskan and offshore drilling, with the contingency that all of that oil be sold only within the United States. There should be a tax break for solar panels (in a sales tax scenario, no tax) installed at your home or business. All barriers to the building of refineries should be removed; only the EPA should have the right to bring up charges/lawsuits against companies proposing to build refineries and oil drilling operations. Awards should be given (much like the X-Prize) to individuals/teams that find workable new ways of producing and/or saving energy. A policy that balances conventional and alternative technologies is best.

9. The U.S. Border Patrol should become a branch of the military as opposed to a mere law enforcement agency. It should have the right to return fire even when that fire originates from across the border. Drug cartels should not get away with attacks on American forces.

With this agenda, I think we'd be well on our way to fixing the country. If I ever ran for office, this would be my platform.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Obama: An Economic Illiterate

Obama recently gave a speech outlining his plans to stimulate our economy. He planned to raise taxes on oil companies, eliminate the Bush tax cuts, and have the government take over the health care industry. At the same time, he is against controls on immigration and for Kyoto-style limits on industry.

How on earth will this stimulate the economy?

Obama has finally revealed himself for the idiot he truly is. His so-called stimulus plan will, in fact, kill the economy. I think the man was asleep during Economics 101. Raising taxes on oil companies will raise the price of gasoline. The companies will have to do that to maintain their profit margin. Who pays that tax, in the end? You and I do, which means that we will be able to spend even less on other things.

At the same time, he wants to roll back the Bush tax cuts. This means the largest tax increase in history, a stick-it-to-the-rich move that will affect wealthy individuals and, of course, corporations. How will corporations respond? Leaving. There goes your tax base. As corporations leave, so do jobs. Unemployment rises. More people file for welfare. They become government dependents. Wait... Do I see a pattern in all of this?

The health care industry comprises a huge portion of our economy. It is productive, profitable, and efficient, if expensive. Much of the expense comes from government interference which limits the number of licensed medical schools, keeping the price of a doctor visit artificially high. Obama proposes to socialize health care, having the government take over a now-profitable segment of the economy. I'm sure he's planning on making it just as successful as other government businesses, like the post office. There are idiots out there, even in the tax-paying middle class, who see this as a freebie. I'm sure Obama does, as well. Where does the government get its revenue? Taxes. Who pays them? We do. Is the government likely to be more efficient than private industry? History says no. So we'll have to pay even more for health care, through taxes. I tell you, this man is a genius.

Ah, but maybe we can force wages up. After all, if the average working man is earning more money, high taxes won't be as important, will they? I know, let's allow people to flood the labor market from other countries. After all, the more workers there are per available job, the more they get paid, right? Right? Um, why do I hear crickets chirping?

Last but not least, let's put onerous environmental regulations on the few industries we have left. What the heck; we've killed the rest of the economy by now, anyway. If they can't afford to retrofit their factories, shut them down. Or, make them buy carbon credits from factories in other countries that produce nothing, but might pollute if not paid off. That sounds a lot like extortion to me. If an Italian does it, it's a crime. If Al Gore does it, he gates a Nobel Prize. Obama wants to paralyze the economy, not stimulate it.

The real danger is if Obama gets elected with a strong Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. Then, this type of lunacy might actually become public policy. The path to Hell... well, you get it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Southern Indiana vs. New Orleans: A Difference in Attitude

I spent last Saturday helping flood victims in southern Indiana. I got a call from a church leader, and gathered at 5 a.m. to carpool down to Franklin for the effort. What I saw both depressed and impressed me. The resiliency of the people affected is truly amazing.

I spent most of the day doing cleanup; that is, I helped clear out destroyed possesions and other assorted debris from people's homes. There were a few tears, but for the most part, people were looking forward. One family, with two children and a baby on the way, had lost everything. We gutted the house, removing sheet rock, the ceilings, anything that had touched water, which was basically the whole house down to the studs.

During the effort, the homeowners told us their story. They were renting to own from the previous owner. They had just put in $12,000 in materials and countless hours of work to make the home livable, as it had been a definite fixer-upper when they had purchased it. The man of the house had been working eighty-plus hours a week to earn enough money to renovate the house, but it was their first home, and they were proud of it. He had been about to landscape the yard when the flood hit.

I never heard any complaints about the government. Nobody blamed the president. Gratitude was constantly expressed for taking the time to help. Family came over to help recover what few possessions were left over and to begin the process of taking the home apart in order to rebuild. Brothers, sisters, and parents were all there. There were teary eyes all around, but there was also laughter and levity. By late afternoon, nearly the entire house had been gutted. A few truckloads of salvageable items had been carted off to a storage facility. Plans were being made for reconstruction.

The same scenario was playing itself out all over. Families were tearing down walls and making huge piles of ruined possessions on the street in front of their homes. All of the furniture had been ruined. There was almost nothing left undamaged; the flood had been so quick that people had to leave everything behind. Worse yet, those few who had purchased flood insurance soon found that it covered only structural damage, not the contents of the home.

Yet there was no complaining to be heard. Nobody expected Uncle Sam to ride in on his white horse and save the day. Because of this, and the self-reliance I witnessed all around me, I expect that Edinburg and Franklin will be reconstructed long before New Orleans. People will have done the job themselves.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"The Use of Reason 2": on Townhall

Just for your info, I have another Use of Reason blog I began on Townhall.com. The posts are all unique-- no repeats. It just gives me a more specific forum to address political issues. This will still be my main site, but I'm hoping that the Townhall blog will attract readers.

To see what's been posted there, click here: The Use of Reason 2

I also link to The Diary of Osama bin Laden, a very funny little blog.

Enjoy!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Whatever Happened to "Small Government Republicans"?

Ah, the sweet, sweet Clinton years. I yearn for them even now. Don't get me wrong-- I despised Clinton himself. However, Republicanism hit its zenith in that era. Newt Gingrich was himself back then. None of this global warming nonsense he's spouting now, he was all about minimizing the size and scope of the federal behemoth. The Dittohead Caucus (remember those guys?) started fulfilling its historic Contract with America, a list of promises designed to trim the fat from Uncle Sam's waistline. Once in office, they actually did most of it, an amazing thing if you stop to think about it. Most politicians get into office, then whine about how it was just too hard to enact any of their promises.

Over the next decade, however, the gains, which came to include even the Senate, began to wane. Republicans were uncomfortable wielding the reins of power. When Democrats complained, they actually let this impede legislation. What a bunch of nincompoops! When have Democrats ever allowed Republican complaints count for anything? Then came the issue of the filibuster. It seems to me that it should only take a majority of the Senate to pass something. That's what the Constitution says about it, anyway. The filibuster is just a way for the minority to stymie any attempt at meaningful change. If the change is seen as too drastic (translated: significant), the filibuster is used as a roadblock. The Republicans should have taken that weapon away years ago. They seldom use it themselves. Yet they allowed the Democrats to impede everything from nominations to important bills.

As a result of getting nothing in return for having voted Republican, the nation voted Democrat, and in 2006, the walls came crashing down. Did the Republican party learn anything from this? No, they elected John McCain, the same boob who brokered the deal keeping filibusters on the table, as their presidential nominee, the same John McCain who represents everything the Republicans in the Senate did to lose big in 2006. The Republicans in office (as opposed to those of us in the real world) began to talk about having an image problem, about improperly marketing themselves. Frankly, I agree with them on this one. The problem is that they marketed themselves as Republicans, when, by their actions, we can clearly see that they're really asses in elephants' clothing.

Being a Republican needs to stand for something. It needs to stand for faith in the ability and judgment of the common man. It needs to stand for a culture in which the value of innocent life is appreciated. It needs to stand for a patriotism that isn't afraid to call itself nationalism. (A man who calls himself a patriot but not a nationalist is neither; he is a liar.)

Being a Republican needs to stand for a disdain for government handouts of all kinds, and a yearning for fiscal discipline. Being a Republican needs to stand for not being afraid of censoring what needs to be censored, Hollywood and the pervert crowd be damned! Being a Republican should stand for secure borders (meaning an actual wall, not just a "fence") and tough, rigid immigration enforcement. If your visa is expired, you're gone. Period.

If Republicanism really pushed this agenda, really made a wholehearted attempt to enact it, it would be alive and healthy today. It's current state of malaise is a testament to the fact that it has ignored its mandate. When we elect Republicans, we expect them to be tough and miserly. What we got was a bunch of spendthrift wusses. Damn straight we were disappointed!

Hopefully, if enough of the old guard lose their posts, we'll be able to replace them with fresh new soldiers, loyal to their mission. Some fresh blood is sorely needed to reinvigorate the party. The tired old men have simply lost the will to fight. Since they couldn't beat them, they became them.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Soros "Bubble"

According to George Soros, the price of oil is in bubble mode; that is, much like the over-inflation of home values a few years ago, the price of a barrel of oil is in for a correction soon. We can only hope so! This news puts me in the nefarious position of agreeing with George Soros on an issue, something I've always tried to avoid. Oh well, a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Oil prices cannot stay this high because the price affects demand. In Fort Wayne, Indiana, where I live, scooters and mopeds are selling like hot cakes. SUVs can be seen strewn about the side of the road everywhere with "For Sale" signs on them. People are downsizing their automobiles, which is bound to reduce demand. Therefore, supply will increase, and prices will fall.

This does not negate the need for drilling and exploitation of our own internal resources. Every barrel of oil we buy from the Middle East represents a few dollars making it into the hands of those who want us dead. We want there to be a definitive choice for our enemies: food or bombs.

The Saudi sheiks pay the terrorists to keep them off their backs. This is a well known fact. Certainly none of this is done above board; they pay Islamic "advocacy groups", who in turn pay other groups, who, somewhere down the line, donate money to the bad guys. The same is true of most governments in the Middle East. Most of these people don't wish us any personal harm; we're their best customers, after all. They do it because, if they don't, they will be attacked themselves. Still, the net result is the same. The only way to stop the shell game is to stop buying from other countries.

We have plenty of oil, oil shale, and other resources. I love the algae-ethanol idea. Anything that can and will reduce the price of gasoline is a good idea in my book. We need a multi-tiered approach. The environmentals want a green-only approach. The corporate puppets want an oil-exclusive method. Both approaches must be used simultaneously if we are to fix the problem. We need government funding of the algae-ethanol technology, and drilling in Alaska, off the coasts, and inside the mainland United States, with the provision that none of the oil is exported. We need to double our refining capacity within the next ten years. Oil is the basis of the modern economy, like it or not. We need it to be cheap and plentiful if we are to prosper.

If we began to take the steps toward true and lasting energy independence, the oil bubble would burst. Will we? I can only hope. Unfortunately, I have some real doubts about the chiropractic health of our politicians.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Finding Center

I've come to realize that I can't just meander through life. Granted, I'm thirty-four, married, and have four kids, so it's been a tad late coming, but I'm here. One tends to lose focus sometimes in life, at least I do. I think we all do. How else can you explain the whining and unhappiness of an immensely blessed people?

As a Christian, I have no call to be less than jubilant, ever. If my faith is true, nothing in this temporal world should be able to get me down. Jesus lives, and he saved me. He won't ever abandon me; only I can abandon Him. How is it that in a Christian nation, as eighty-plus percent of us claim we are, there can be as much animosity and dissatisfaction as we see and hear? I've come to realize that by embracing faith as the basis of my mindframe, I will always be happy. Am I there yet? Not quite, but each step improves me, and through me, the world around me.

Think about it... Why are prisons such terrible places? Aside from the bars, you are given food, ample opportunity for recreation, reading materials, clothing, a place to sleep, free cable television, and many other luxuries others around the world are denied. Is it, then, the place or the mindframe of those inside that makes it so awful? Imagine the same physical facility filled with peaceful and spiritual people and you'd have a monastery. The difference is astounding yet simple: change the heart and you change everything.

I've heard it said that the world seeks to improve the individual by changing his surroundings, but Christ changes the individual, who then improves his own surroundings. I want to be like that. The world I live in, that we all live in, is what we make of it, a reflection of who we are collectively and individually. Do I want my inner neighborhood to be a ghetto or a safe haven? As goes the inner, so too the outer.

This is the fundamental difference between Conservatism and Liberalism. Liberal methods will never solve social ills, no matter how well intentioned, because they treat the symptoms of the disease and not the disease itself. Conservatives realize that the only lasting solution to our problems comes by healing the inner man. If we can heal hearts and families, the rest will take care of itself.

I need, we all need, to remember that despite whatever evils exist in the world, on the whole it is a wonderful place. Let us not give up hope. Hope, after all, is the basis of faith, and with faith, and the effort required to realize that faith, we can accomplish anything.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hard Time for Republicans

What happened? The Reagan years were the zenith of cultural Conservatism. Fiscal Conservatism roared in during the 1990's. Republicans had the House and Senate, and then, in 2001, the presidency. What did we do with them? Nothing.

George W. Bush attempted to pacify the moot and powerless Democrats by giving them just enough power to become obstacles, a mistake Democrats did not imitate when they seized power in 2006. During the years of Republican control of the major centers of power in America, the only noteworthy achievements were two judges and a tax cut. These were years in which the entire Conservative agenda could have been legislated and enacted, and yet almost none of it was. One begins to wonder: why vote Republican at all?

I honor and cherish the history of the party. It is the party of Lincoln, after all. It freed the slaves, enacted laws after the civil war that made blacks politically powerful, pushed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts through Congress, and has placed African Americans in the highest positions of political power that anyone ever has in this country. For goodness sake, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Frederick Douglass were both proud Republicans! Communism was defeated by Republicans. For many years, the banner of social and fiscal Conservatism has been that of the Republican party. Somehow, somewhere, that has all changed.

I hear some crying that the Republican "brand" is dying. If so, it is because the product that brand represents is no longer the product consumers expect. If I buy a pair of Nikes and get the quality of Kmart Traxx, I'm not going to be happy. If I vote Republican and get free-for-all spending, global warming nonsense, amnesty for those who have invaded our country, and political correctness toward those who want us dead or converted to Islam, damn right I'm going to be upset about it!

Where is the right wing? Where have all the men gone? We are a nation led by invertebrates, too addicted to their own power to risk it for the good of the nation. Tough choices must be made. Men are capable of ignoring the shrill cries of their detractors when they know they are doing the right thing. If I must credit George W. Bush in one area, this is it. On the war on terror, at least, he's a shining exemplar of staunch manhood.

Nobody will elect Republican liberals when they can get name-brand Democrat ones. So what happens? Republicans stay home. Democrats are elected. The nation slides further and faster into the pit.

Do Conservatives need a new party? Do we need to abandon ship? Or can we, must we, retake the help, and deliver ourselves from the clammy-palmed pilots who now control our fates? I argue the latter. It's time for us to sweep out any and all who have been less than real Conservatives, and replace them with people who will do what's needed. The Republican party needs a clean house, not a makeover.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Why Are Gas Prices So High?

The pain at the pump is affecting the entire economy. Goods, after all, must be transported, and this adds to the cost of everything. With fuel prices around four dollars a gallon, the public is left wondering: "How did all of this happen so fast?"

There are several explanations, most of which point the finger of blame at government ineptitude and short-sightedness. Global demand is at an all-time high, with China, in its new-found prosperity, consuming huge amounts of petroleum. Anyone with any economics education whatsoever can see that this large increase in demand will affect prices. Oil is now above 130 dollars a barrel. Only a year ago, we were panicking that it might someday hit one hundred dollars. Without an increase in supply to meet the increasing demand, costs will only go up.

That explanation would be sufficient if the oil supply were naturally limited to the sources currently being developed, but it isn't. Combining Anwar, the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, and the Dakotas, we have more petroleum potential than the Saudis. We have simply (and stupidly) refused to use it. Environmentals (as opposed to true environmentalists) have fiercely opposed the development of our oil resources. Their solution: drive a Prius. For those of us not in the economic league to purchase such a vehicle, that solution falls far short of the mark. Moreover, if the demand keeps outpacing the supply at this rate, not even a Prius will make gas seem affordable.

Worse still, our refining capacity has not increased for over thirty years. Every time an oil company begins to talk expansion, the local environmentals put up enough of a fuss to foil the effort. Our government has been more responsive to the wishes of the petroleum-Luddites than they've been to the ninety-nine percent of us want affordable fuel. These same morons oppose nuclear energy, a technology which would lessen our dependence on oil. Anything that represents progress and productivity is, to them, anathema.

The government could have ignored the protests of the flea-ridden-hippie crowd and done what's best for America. They did not. Their spineless pandering to those opposed to our continued prosperity is the root cause of the gas crisis. Now the same people who caused the problem argue that it's too late to do anything. If we begin development, it won't produce anything for perhaps ten years. I disagree. If the foreigners who hoard their oil know we're about to flood the market, they may reduce prices to discourage us from doing so.

Next time you go to the pump, thank your local senator for the high prices. There would be plenty of gas if they'd thought ahead.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

No (Involuntary) Poverty Exists in America

I realize that I am bound to upset quite a few people with this article. Many of you are thinking, "But, hey! I'm poor! There are homeless all over the place! The ghettos are full to the brim! How dare you suggest that we have no poverty here!"

Those of you who feel that way have likely never lived among people in the Third World. Our poor, those who live in our ghettos and slums, live at the level of the wealthy and prosperous of other nations. I realized this on the drive home from the Oakland Airport after living in Ecuador for two years. The ghetto over which we passed on the freeway seemed so nice in comparison to even the nicer areas I'd lived in that I was utterly amazed. It seemed so clean, so rich, that I felt like I was in another world. I was. America is an amazing place.

Our welfare recipients all have television sets, radios, DVD players, and microwave ovens. Many have cars and computers. Almost all of them have cellular phones. In most of the rest of the world, these items are luxuries of the rich. Our poor live in finished homes with running water and electricity. Not so in many parts of South America, Africa, and Asia. The ownership of an automobile, regardless of its age, is a major status symbol in Ecuador. Here, we think you're dirt poor if you own a car with a carburetor.

The real poor think we are rich because we discard out-of-fashion clothing. It still covers you, right? Are you crazy? The real poor have to struggle to feed their children each day, many times having meals which consist of only a bowl of unadorned rice. The real poor live in bamboo shacks with dirt floors, glassless windows, and a hot plate. I've known families with less even than that, still too proud to ask for charity.

Our closest equivalent to that type of poverty are the homeless, yet we provide even for them. They have access to shelters, soup kitchens, and donated clothing. Were they willing to live in accordance with the norms of society, they could have welfare and job training, an apartment, and make their way up the ladder of economic success with help from the public funds. The long-term poor in our country (as opposed to those temporarily down on their luck) choose to be such. They prefer their vices and lack of rules to the benefits we provide for those who choose to live responsibly. That is to say, they choose to be poor. The lifestyle they have adopted is not compatible with anything else.

I am sick and tired of hearing about the "War on Poverty". All who have desired to win that war here have won it. We cannot, nor should we, force prosperity on those unwilling to live in a prosperous manner. For this reason, as Jesus said, the poor will always be with us. Unless we are willing to abrogate their freedom, this is simply a reality.

Let's rejoice in the wonders of our nation and society! We have access to a degree of wealth and economic equality unparalleled in human history. To deny that is to deny reality. All who are willing to do what prosperous people do become prosperous. That fact shouldn't make you angry; it should inspire you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Indiana's Gay Marriage Worries

The day after the California Supreme Court usurped the law of the land, Hoosiers began panicking over whether such might occur here as well. Would the California decision create a legal precedent? If it went to the U.S. Supreme Court, would it stand? The people of Indiana are about as socially conservative as any you're likely to find in America. The worrying has begun.

I predict that not only will the decision be rendered null and void in November (by means of a California constitutional amendment), but that it will also be quickly overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court before then. Waiting to opine on this issue could create a great many problems. For example, would marriages that take place in the interim between the court decision and its being overturned be recognized in California? Would such marriages have to be honored in states that do not allow same-sex unions? The only way to avoid such a mess is for the higher courts to order a stay on the decision, and allow time for the case to be argued before the highest court in the land.

Those of us not living in California will still be affected by the decision, just as we were by Roe v. Wade. After all, Roe v. Wade technically only overturned one state's abortion laws. However, the decision created a legal precedent that had to be followed by all states. The lower courts must follow stare decisis, literally "the precedent stands". This means that the decisions of a higher court create a precedent that must be followed by all of the lower ones. Every similar case is therefore bound to be decided the same way. If the U.S. Supreme Court decides that "equal protection under the law" does indeed guarantee same-sex marriage rights, the entire country will be bound to legalize them under Article IV of the Constitution, which mandates that all legal acts in other states be given "full faith and credit" by the rest. In other words, if two women are married in California, Indiana is legally bound to recognize the validity of that union. If this isn't overturned, we're all in a lot of trouble.

We stand on the brink of a massive social upheaval. The entire basis for civilized society, the nuclear family, may soon be given a definition so broad as to prove meaningless. Any married person ought to be outraged, and demonstrate that outrage as vocally as possible. Write to your congressman. Write to your senators. Write to your local newspapers. Harass all involved until they understand full well that we will not permit the basic unit of society, the family, to be denigrated in this way. It is time for the Silent Majority to become the Shouting Majority!

We cannot stand idly by, complaining only amongst ourselves while the culture we know and love is pulled out from beneath us. Certainly those who have caused this dilemma have not made the "progress" they have by being quiet about their opinions.

Here are a few ways to contact those who need to hear our voices...

To write the Supreme Court, send a letter to the following address:

Public Information Officer
Supreme Court of the United States
Washington, DC 20543

Other people to contact:

Your Senator

Your Representative in Congress

The President's Office

Only by actually doing something can we preserve a sane society. As Edmund Burke once said, all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing!

Friday, May 16, 2008

California and Gay Marriage

I must have fled the great state of California just in the nick of time. How many times do the voters of California have to make it clear that they don't consider two same-gendered people doing unnatural things to each other a marriage?

This was already decided as early as 1975 and as recently as 2000. A marriage is a governmental recognition of the fundamental, natural basis for the propagation of the species-- a family. Gay relationships exist in direct contradiction of the natural order. Californians en masse recognize this fact, and have always expressed such in the voting booth. Now, four "sophisticated" individuals have turned the law, both man's and nature's, on its head. It's important, by the way, to know the etymology of the word sophisticated. It's root is the word sophistry, which means to alter the true meaning of something by means of over-complicating the issue. So, yes, the voters of California have an unsophisticated mentality when it comes to gay marriage, and that's a good thing. They have the common sense to see that just because you can shove a square peg into a round hole doesn't mean that's where it's supposed to go.

I joke around with people in Indiana that I come from the land of fruits and nuts, and also there's some agriculture. California has always fought the first salvo in every cultural battle, and this is no exception. As California goes, sooner of later the whole country will follow.

Having ranted enough to calm myself down, now let me address the issue logically on two levels: legally and biologically. The judges in question argued that the "equal protection under the law" clause mandates gay marriage. The reality is that no disparity ever existed. Gays and lesbians have always had the right to get married, so long as they chose to do so with someone of the opposite biological gender. That is the same exact right granted to straight people. Whether or not they choose to exercise this right, or to follow their own path, is their choice. Two straight men may not marry, even though it may make fiscal sense for them to do so (as in the recent film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry). There is equality under the law already. In fact, the phrase "equal protection under the law," taken literally, means that the laws on the books are interpreted the same way no matter to whom they are applied. The recent California Supreme Court decision actually contradicts this notion.

Biologically speaking, all sexually-reproducing creatures are geared for sex between males and females. This isn't just an argument about human behaviors and preferences. It is a matter of whether our culture honors the designs of nature enough to live by them. By officially recognizing the sexual union of two same-gendered individuals, we have parted with the natural order. We recognize marriage because it is an eternal, human truth; men and women must unite to keep the species alive. For our government and culture to continue to exist over time, such must occur. Thus, we honor and protect the union which nature has designed, in her wisdom, for that purpose. It behooves us to do so. The benefit of official recognizance is, in fact, a lure to couples to add the stability of legal responsibility to the family unit. It benefits society at large to have children raised in stable, long-term families. It is simply a good societal investment to encourage them. Moreover, the marriage between individuals of opposite genders has been a given throughout recorded history. Government did not create marriage, nor can it alter it. Marriage between a man and a woman has been the basis of our society since it began.

There is no decent, rational argument in favor of gay marriage that will stand up to the light of reason. The best its proponents can come up with is: "Well... Why not?"

That's scant cause to overturn the basis of our entire civilization.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Vocal Minority Syndrome

If you haven't heard about it already, the Washington Post just printed an article about how Obama workers in Indiana were subjected to a surprising deal of racial animus, with people saying things like: "I'd never vote for a black person."

Now, for the sake of argument, let's assume they were not just making this up for publicity or to frame the debate around whether we're racist if we don't vote for Obama. Let's give them the benefit of the (admittedly valid) doubt. Does the heckling of a few racists condemn the state of Indiana?

If you've listened to local talk radio stations, the tone of the response is quite clear. We're all disappointed. Listening to the Pat White Show the day the article was published, I got the distinct impression that the vast majority of the residents of Allen County are non-racists. Are there a few racists here? Of course. They're everywhere, although in rapidly diminishing pockets. The fact that society (and yes, even Indiana society) despises their existence proves that we are not racists as a group.

One question, however, has not been addressed. What about those African Americans who are voting for Obama because he is black? I'm not saying that such is the case for all black people who favor Barack Obama; that would be a racist assumption to make. Still, I've heard quite a few African Americans who identify with Obama based on race, and this saddens me. This, also, is racism. To vividly illustrate this fact, let's flip the coin for a moment. If I were to say that I'm voting for McCain because he's the white candidate, would there be any question in any one's mind that I was a racist? If I were to say that I'm voting against Hillary because she's a woman, would that not make me a sexist? Yet, to vote for either Obama or Hillary because of race or gender is not condemned as bigotry, at least not by the mainstream media.

Racism is certainly extant in Indiana, just as it still clings desperately to life everywhere else. Those who carry that bigotry, while they may be loud, are few. The "Silent Majority" of us, all of those who didn't say anything racist, are not counted because we are quiet. To label the entire state because of a few idiots is a classic case of over-generalizing. Ironically, it's the same logical fallacy which lies at the root of racism.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Iraq War: Necessary or Not?

War is an evil. Let's get that out of the way so everybody is clear where I stand on the issue of human violence towards humans. It is evil. If we all loved one another, seeing ourselves in the context of divine creations, children of the same Father, the world would be a much better place.

I am sad to report, however, that not everyone sees things that way. There have been, are, and always will be those who see human life as just one more pawn to be played in the grand scheme of conquest and greed. Hitler was one of those, as were Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, Fidel, and many others. Saddam Hussein was also one of them.

I have just read the book Saddam's Secrets by Georges Sada, the head of the Iraqi air force for many years under Saddam Hussein. He reports, from a vantage point at the top of Saddam's military, that chemical and biological weaponry was indeed a part of Iraq's armaments, even after the recent invasion. During the first Gulf War, Saddam ordered his military to drop them on Israel, but changed his mind at the last minute. He would often use them against his own people. He would brag to his cohorts about his ability to mislead and hide things from the U.N. inspectors, that is, when out-and-out bribery proved ineffective (which was rarely).

As American troops began the march to Baghdad, Saddam had three passenger airliners emptied out to be used as cargo planes. He loaded them with his weapons of mass destruction, and flew them to Syria, who agreed to store them (for a fee) until things blew over. At the same time, Saddam sent truckloads of chemical and biological weapons over the Syrian border under the pretext of offering emergency aid, as Syria had just suffered a natural disaster. Georges Sada received this information from the pilot of one of the passenger jets used for that purpose.

Saddam had also paid Chinese scientists millions of dollars to develop a nuclear bomb for him. This way, he could claim with a straight face that Iraq had no nuclear weapons program. It didn't; it was paying someone else for that. We can only thank God they never delivered.

Another source, Saddam's mistress, reveals that she witnessed meetings between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda at least twice, during which Saddam gave large sums of money to the organization. The idea that there was no link between Saddam and Al Qaeda is ludicrous. Saddam spread his money freely among rogues of all sorts in the Arab world. Doing so pacified them toward his regime, and caused problems for his enemies (namely us).

Did we have to go to war? No. We've never had to, not even after Pearl Harbor. Submission is always an option. We could have simply ignored the dangers, and allowed the Muslim extremists to wreak havoc on us as they wished. George W. Bush could have talked to Saddam, just as Obama wants to dialogue with our enemies today. In our culture, this is a sign of intelligence and reason. In Arab culture, this is a sign of weakness and vulnerability. Look what years and years of trying to pacify terrorists and tyrants has gotten Israel-- missiles from Gaza. What a brilliant move that was!

War is evil, but a temporary peace at the later expense of our children and families is far worse. Sometimes, leaders are called to choose the lesser evil. I believe that is just what our president has done. Let the simple and the naive ridicule and revile him; in the end, he ought to be judged by the fact that since September 11, 2001, we have yet to be attacked. You may question the methods, but not the results. He is responsible for the security of those he governs. I believe that he is supremely loyal to that responsibility. Unlike those whose quest seems to be the development of a positive image, both to the American public and to the rest of the world, President Bush will endure the hate-speech of liberals if the end result is our safety. You may take him to task on immigration, the budget, No Child Left Behind, and many other issues, but at least he has his priorities straight. National security is the one, essential function of government.

At the end of the day, if you aren't safe in your own country, what else matters?

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Coming Recession

An economic recession is coming, and soon. It is not because George W. Bush is doing a bad job. It's not because of Iraq. It's not because of the housing bubble or gas prices. The reason is far more mundane; it's simply time for a recession.

Anyone who has studied economics will tell you that recessions are a natural part of a market economy. They happen with regularity, and in fact they are predictable (if you pay attention to economics over the decades). Every decade has its recession. The recession is preceded by a slowdown in growth (just as we are experiencing right now) and a downturn in the stock market. Unemployment rises, and government revenues decrease. Companies streamline themselves to remain competitive. The weaker corporations and businesses die out, leaving the remaining economy stronger and more vital. The resulting economy is healthier, and thus begins to climb its way back out of the recession.

This is a process the economy goes through on a regular basis, a natural and necessary cleansing of the capitalist system. It is not pleasant, by any means. People suffer. Yet we are fortunate to live in a country compassionate enough to have developed a safety net. In the rest of the world, which always suffers worse than we do during these times, many are not so fortunate. A friend of Dinesh D'Souza once stated that he wanted to live in America because he always wanted to live in a nation where the poor were fat. In India, and much of the rest of our planet, the poor starve.

The government can either help the process go by quickly (by staying out of the way), or it can hinder the recovery by interfering and over-regulating the economy. Certain enterprises must fail. Those which are under-performing and badly planned need to make way for a bright new crop of entrepreneurs. This is how an economy remains vibrant, fresh, and job-producing. Those industrialized nations that interfere in this process always go through far worse times than we do during a recession, and they seem to last twice as long. Socialism keeps businesses on life support that should be euthanized. This is not good for the health of an economy.

We will go through a recession, though we are still a good distance away from it right now. A recession, after all, is not a decline in growth, but an actual shrinkage of the economy. That hasn't happened yet. It will still take a while for the slow-down to turn into a real recession; this is a process, not an event.

To lessen the impact, there are some very simple steps we can take. First, we need to open up drilling in the Dakotas, Anwar, and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Geologists report that when you combine the petroleum these regions contain, we have more than the Middle East. It infuriates me to hear our politicians whining that gas prices are high, then refusing to let us do anything to solve the problem. This leads to the second step-- refineries. We haven't built a new refinery in the United States in twenty years, yet the population here has exploded. Demand is higher, yet the supply, even with cheap oil, is limited. If we can't process the oil, the end-product will remain expensive despite the price of the ingredients.

Of course we should explore alternative fuels, but to do so exclusively at the expense of the economy is just plain stupid. If you want cheap electricity, give people a tax credit for ten thousand dollars toward the purchase of solar panels. The sun is a free resource, and people will gladly take advantage of it with such an incentive. No government money need be spent.

Another easy fix for the economy would be to tax imports from the countries we do business with the exact same amount as they tax our goods. Japan, for example, makes more money in tariffs from the sale of a GM vehicle there than GM does. With a fair-trade policy (as described above), we could not only decrease taxes on our own people, but also level the playing field for American corporations, both here and overseas. Many nations depend on us as a market for their goods. They would gladly get rid of their tariffs in order to remain competitive in our consumer market. The end result of such a policy would be either a booming export business for American products, a renewed home market for our own goods, or a mixture of both. Why we haven't already taken this step is mystifying to me.

Still, whatever we do, recessions will occur, not just here, but in the world economy as a whole. We'll continue to blame our politicians for this, but the mere fact that it is occurring everywhere at once ought to be sufficient evidence to any sane and rational person to the contrary. Alas, there are very few of those around anymore, or at least reporters studiously avoid putting them in front of a camera or microphone. Nevertheless, from the economic signs already in evidence, it's time to hunker down; it looks like we're in for some stormy weather.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Kids Today...

It is my view that human nature does not change over time. Cultures shift and evolve. Morality ebbs and flows as people transition from total repression of instincts (and its inherent woes) to total expression of them (and the resultant social chaos). People change as they experience more and hopefully learn from that experience. Human nature, however, is a constant.

In this light, I can see the children I teach as actors in the current drama of a deteriorating society. Some of them are the defenders of morality. We love to have these students in class. They are the responsible, polite few who rarely, if ever, cause problems and give their best work every day. Others are the natural followers, who will go whichever way the most dominant personality nearby goes, for good or evil. Then we have the amoralists, those who believe in the concept of right and wrong only so far as it may negatively affect them at any given moment. These are the few who will attempt to steal from the prize box one moment, then stridently moralize you on the right to property when you confiscate their chewing gum.

These three groups each comprise about one-third of every class. Thus is their nature, and I believe it has always been so. The difference we see is not in the children themselves. It is cultural. Does our culture embrace and promote absolute, universal moral standards, or ever-shifting, individualized moral "preferences"? Do we drill into the kids individual responsibility and the civic duties of the individual, or do we promote and accept excuses based on a clannish, group mentality which exempts the individual from responsibility for his own circumstances? Or, perhaps more insidiously, do we do both simultaneously? I suggest it is this path we have chosen, and it is the most damaging of all. It costs us the trust and faith of our children.

We cannot, on the one hand, excuse the vices of groups of individuals based on poverty or racism, and on the other hand, promote the idea that each child is empowered to forge his own destiny. By admitting the prior attitude, we invalidate the latter. Students can see and recognize this. They are far less gullible than we imagine. They will therefore, having no consistent guidelines, seek the path of least resistance, going with their natures despite whatever we may try to teach them to the contrary. Sadly, this often results in tragedy. What we want is very often the worst thing for us.

I don't blame the children for the rise in behavior problems. We have brought it upon ourselves. Until we can present them with a consistent moral framework worthy of their respect, they will see us as arbitrary and hypocritical. We will have to fight the good fight each day to maintain respectful behavior (as we all do), not enjoy it inherently, as was the case many years ago. This is sad to say, but the truth is not always pleasant.

I hope that soon we will be mature enough, as a society, to connect the symptoms plaguing us to their true and proper causes. Only then will we have any chance at finding the cure.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Obama vs. Clinton: Ground Zero

Fort Wayne, Indiana has become ground zero for the Democratic nomination fight. I've already been called by an Obama representative, or at least my wife has (I answered for her; she's registered as an independent). The news is abuzz with rallies for Hillary at the park, or Obama at a local school, or Bill the Thrill at the convention center. Even the kids are excited about it.

I teach a bunch of fourth graders who are well aware of the candidates. They seem about as well informed as most of the adults. To them (and, I'm guessing, their parents) the question is: Do we want to elect the first woman or the first black man as president? Those students who mention policy say they don't want either to win because they'll raise taxes.

That statement shows the true color of Fort Wayne better than any. This is a heavily Republican town in a very Republican state. Sure, there are pockets of Democrats, mostly centered around downtown and the local college, but the vast majority here is conservative. Clinton, as I've written previously, couldn't even get one "Honk for Hillary" at the most crowded stoplight in town. Sure, the convention center is jammed when Bill comes to speak, but that's only because every liberal in the surrounding counties (including parts of Ohio) comes to see him. The rest of us just sigh and go on with our lives.

Frankly, most Hoosiers have lost interest, and I expect that voter turnout among Republicans will be quite low on May 6. I'm already hearing radio ads chiding Republicans to come to vote for local candidates even if they don't care to vote for our presidential nominee. Myself, I'm still going to vote for Romney, just like I voted for Alan Keyes three times in the past, without any hope of winning. I always vote for whomever I think is the best candidate, regardless of his chances of winning.

I think, in fact, it will be surprising just how many of us have that same mentality here. Indiana is used to having little or no say in the nomination process, but people still vote their conscience more often than not. Romney is fairly popular here, his faith notwithstanding. Mormons, after all, may be misunderstood as a group, but most people I know respect them as fellow-Christians. Had a certain "dirty trick" not occurred early on in the nomination process, a trick which kept Huckabee in the race so long that he even had to make fun of himself on Saturday Night Live over it, I'm quite certain Romney would have been the nominee. Oh well... Water under the bridge, as they say.

Still, the level of excitement over the role Indiana is finally getting to play is quite palpable, if limited to one side of the aisle. Operation Chaos (Rush Limbaugh's little gambit) is in full swing here, with Democrat operatives desperately trying to thwart any Republican sway in their nomination. Meanwhile, thanks to their invalidation of the Democrat vote in Florida, all of the liberals there who wanted their votes to count went for McCain, turning the tide in his favor.
(I wonder if that was a calculated move on the DNC's part.) Turnabout is fair play, unless it's Republicans turning the tables on Democrats.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Why Wright Needs Obama to Lose

In order for hucksters such as Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, and Jeremiah Wright to maintain their power and privilege, Barack Obama must not win the presidency. Now don't get me wrong; I'm not an Obama supporter. Still, facts are facts.

The aforementioned hate-mongers make a living getting people to buy into the phony idea that nothing has really changed in America. They portray America as a fundamentally racist institution, built on the backs of slaves. They see America only for the evils that some of her citizens have committed, and not for her kindness. They make money and stay on the news because (sadly) far too many people believe that a black man (or woman) has no real chance for success here.

This they preach despite the fact that none of them is personally impoverished, despite Oprah, despite Cosby, despite Clarence Thomas, despite Condoleeza Rice... indeed, despite the many thousands of other famous and successful African Americans respected by members of all ethnic groups. They will tell you that all of this is meaningless because we haven't yet elected a black man to the highest office in the land.

Now comes Barack Obama, ready to break this notion apart. What happens? His old pastor, Jeremiah Wright, rises to the surface like so much dross. Does he lie low? Nope. He makes a four day tour, appearing in front of a national audience. Does he attempt to sound more moderate? Of course not. In fact, he offers up even more juicy sound-bites to be played over and over on the airwaves. He accuses Obama of simply being a politician, of saying what he feels must be said to pacify the media.

What about Al Sharpton? He threatens a riot if the Democratic nomination doesn't go to Barack. Sure, this may seem like support, or at least Sharpton's version of it. In fact, however, Al Sharpton is slyly killing any chances Obama might have of winning the general election. Let's face it-- Al Sharpton knows precisely how most Americans feel about him. If he is able to get people to associate Barack Obama's candidacy with Sharpton-esque tactics and demagoguery, Obama will be through. We Americans staunchly refuse to be threatened into voting for anybody.

In my view, Barack Obama is being sabotaged. If he wins, what excuse can be used for the ills of the ghetto? It can't be racism. For the victim mentality to be preserved, Barack must go down.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Let the Great Excel

In modern education, we spend ninety percent of our time and energy on those who aren't quite up to the mark. Granted, we have far too many such students. Still, those at the top of the class are often ignored, used as peer helpers, or simply given "busy work". This is not because teachers do not care about them; trust me, we appreciate them with every fiber of our being. It's simply that in these days of accountability and standardized exams, we aren't given the sort of academic freedom that would allow us to cater to these students as we'd like to do.

I'm one of the lucky few who has been able to teach a class full of gifted students. I'll never forget it; it was a teacher's dream. My seventh graders were introduced to Poe on day one, as we began reading The Murders in the Rue Morgue. I was able to see them grow from shock and fear at the unexpected complexity of the material (they'd never been challenged in this way before) to appreciation for the nuances and depth of the text. We shifted from Poe to Aristotle, reading from several of his tomes and exploring the basis of Western thought, the ideas we all take for granted but which, at that time, were fresh and new to the world. During the 2004 election cycle, we held debates after examining what makes a rational argument. Students were encouraged to call students out for using ad hominem attacks, straw man arguments, or engaging in other fallacies.

We began the year with one student testing at a college reading level, and ended with over ten. The growth was phenomenal. Every student completed a research paper complete with footnotes and a bibliography done in MLA style. I was able to do all of this while also teaching the same grammar and social studies standards that every other seventh grader was receiving. Why? All of my students were above average. Grouping them into an environment in which all were expected to excel encouraged them. Even those who were previously shy flowered not only academically but also socially, as who in this class could make fun of them for being smart?

This is what happens when we allow our best to shine. I'm sad to report that the experiment only lasted two years. Still, the students who were part of it describe it as something they will never forget.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Vigilante or Vigilant Citizen?

At what point does an American citizen no longer have the right to enforce the law? I recall being informed as a youth that if I witnessed a crime being committed, I had the right to intervene and make a citizen's arrest. I actually participated in one once as I saw a bicycle thief riding off on a friend's bike; we all jumped out of his mother's car, grabbed the kid, made sure it was the right bike (as opposed to one that just looked the same), and took it back. This happened because a day or so after the theft, someone witnessed a kid riding the bike around town. Did we enforce or break the law? My friend's mother called the police and held onto the thief until they came. I assume she was doing the right thing.

Later on in life, while training for a job as a security officer, I was advised that as long as I witnessed the crime in person and stated out loud the crime I was arresting for, I could make a citizen's arrest (at least as long as I was physically able to detain the suspect). In fact, the trainer stated that he'd arrested several people, putting a couple into the hospital who had resisted arrest, and he'd been fine legally. He said he'd had to go to court, but that he'd been acquitted because he was legally in the right.

Now, a security guard puts himself in the role of vigilante to a certain degree. He patrols areas where crimes are likely to happen. (If they weren't, it wouldn't be worth hiring a guard.) When a crime occurs, his job is to either prevent it or to respond in such a manner as to preserve life and property. We were informed that we had no special authority to do these things; we were acting under the same authority as any other private citizen.

Hence my question: If a person were to patrol crime-ridden areas, and attempt to arrest those committing crimes that he had personally witnessed (making sure to state so clearly while making the arrest), would it be legal? I can see no reason against it. Maybe that's what we need in our urban areas-- a dose of vigilante justice. If the locals took the law into their own hands, operating within the limits of their authority as private citizens, they could easily clean up the streets. When I lived in Ecuador, just such a scenario occurred. A neighborhood thug, known around town for dealing drugs and murder, finally pushed the community too far one night when he broke into a house and raped some one's daughter.

The neighborhood was outraged. They got together, entered the man's house, and tried to take him. He fought, and they fought back quite fiercely; he was beaten unconscious. They were about to set fire to his house, with him still inside, when cooler heads prevailed. He was arrested, and, as far as I know, never returned to that area again.

Why don't we do that here? We're too afraid that we, those who just want to live in safety and peace, will be punished more than those who threaten us and our families. Is that fear based in reality? I don't know. From my perspective, punishing those who defend their community from criminals is just plain wrong. A community has the right to defend itself. Isn't that what the Second Amendment is all about?

If you have some knowledge on this subject, please leave a comment. I'd really appreciate it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Fight Over Appearances: Hillary vs. Barack

Is there really any difference between the things Hillary Clinton wants to accomplish and the things Barack Obama hopes to do? Let's compare their various campaign promises and see...

Both promise to create a federally-funded health care system similar to those of Canada and the United Kingdom.

Both promise to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Both would increase entitlement spending (i.e. welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.).

Both would appoint federal judges who would take a very loose view of the Constitution, interpreting in any way that might promote social upheaval.

Both are essentially socialists, whose goal is for the government to encroach on the business sector as much as possible with the ostensible goal of "helping the little guy" (who always seems to get screwed over by this help somehow).

Both want to diminish the role of Christianity in the public sector, viewing with disdain those who still hold sacred the Bible-based traditions that forged our society and our nation.

Both have demonstrably lied (or "misspoken", as Hillary would put it) to the public several times during their campaigns.

Both have been cozy with known terrorists and terrorist-linked groups and individuals.

Both promise that they will raise our taxes, as if the current economic malaise wasn't hitting us hard enough as it is.

My question is: What's the difference? Sure, one would be the first black president, and one would be the first female president. So? Let's face it, after the inauguration ceremony, it won't matter whether the president has mammaries or a high melanin count. The only thing that will matter is what he or she plans to do with the power granted by the American voter.

I've just listed out for you the plans and promises of the candidates, which are identical. The campaign battle isn't about who'd govern best. It's about who can project the best image. Obama, who has The Audacity of Hope, wants to out-image Hillary, wife of the "man from Hope" (Arkansas). As Rush Limbaugh says, with Democrats it's always a matter of symbolism over substance. That makes sense; let's face it, if it were just up to the substance, nobody would vote for either of them!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Eenie, Meenie, Mynie, Moe... Who will McCain Pick?

While most of the media have concentrated on the ongoing battle between Barack and Hillary, the conservatives of the country are more interested in just whom McCain will choose as his running mate. While I doubt John McCain will pay any attention to my suggestions, I'll make them anyway; it couldn't hurt.

The choice of a vice presidential candidate must be made with two particulars in mind: ability and politics. First, could this person run the country well in the event such becomes necessary? Let's face it-- John McCain is no spring chicken, and any vice president might well be called upon to take up the mantle of actually running the country. This makes the choice of a running mate not only aesthetically important, but also important in terms of the fate of the nation. I see only two Republicans who would be up to the job: Condoleeza Rice and Mitt Romney.

Both are geniuses. Both have a lot of experience making executive-level decisions. Both are respectable people, moralists, and have a degree of common sense. Just as importantly, both have the ability to communicate effectively, a trait not seen from the White House in the last eight years but which is of vital importance when it comes to motivating the people to get behind an administration.

Politically speaking, each of the two has something to offer McCain in the general election. Romney would more than likely get out the conservative vote, having been the choice of most conservatives in the Republican primary. Many of us still resent McCain for the dirty tricks he used to break Romney's momentum, and although Romney has been quite forgiving about that, we still harbor resentment over the issue. Moreover, making Romney the vice president would put him in line to be the logical nominee after McCain, which would be a good thing, at least from the conservative perspective. We would vote the ticket just to set our guy up for later.

Rice, despite what the tin-foil-hat wearing crowd will tell you, is one of the most favorably viewed figures in politics today. A good many Republicans were very disappointed that she didn't throw her hat into the ring this election. Personally, I believe that the presidency was hers for the taking; she just didn't want it yet. A vice presidential nomination, on the other hand, changes that perspective. She wouldn't be the focus of the same degree of scrutiny as would a presidential nominee-- the insults would be directed toward McCain. She has no thirst for power, but she wants to contribute. A vice presidency would be the perfect forum for such a contribution. Her nomination would also split at least two of the Democrats' key constituencies, bringing over a lot more of the much sought "undecided" vote. The only difficulty would be convincing her to take the offer.

Perhaps never in the history of the United States has the choice for vice president been so important. Let's hope McCain makes a good one.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hillary in the Midwest: Maybe a Snowball's Chance...

Passing one of the main thoroughfares in Fort Wayne, Indiana today, I noticed a newspaper photographer with a large camera pointed across the street. Naturally, my eyes followed her vista, and a small crowd (seven, to be exact) of Hillary Clinton supporters were standing on the street corner holding two large signs: "Honk for Hillary." I soon came to a stop at the intersection, and though I could hear one of the Hillary volunteers shouting her desire for some participation from the surrounding cars, there was none whatsoever. Now, I'm not exaggerating in the least. Not one car honked its horn. Considering the length of time I was sitting at that light, approximately two minutes, that is amazing. I've been at teacher pay raise demonstrations that got a lot more support than that, and that was on a quieter street in a much smaller town.

Obama, on the other hand, has a lot more support in Fort Wayne. The local colleges are full of Priuses with his sticker plastered all over them (right alongside the little fish-with-legs emblems and the "abort them all, let Darwin sort them out" bumper stickers). Heck, driving through the ghetto today, I'd say one in three lawns had a "vote Obama" sign on it. If Fort Wayne is at all representative of the rest of Indiana, Barack is a lock.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Standing in the Shadow of Racism

According to Dinesh D'Souza, America is not a racist nation. He should know, coming from a culture whose caste system stratified society based in large part on lines of color, even down to the "Untouchables". It is true that racism exists in small pockets, yet the reaction of mainstream society to its presence is not one of welcome but of disgust. White America, especially, is burdened by an undue sense of guilt over race. We fear being under sensitive, lest we offend. We fear being oversensitive, betraying the obvious fact that we do recognize what the people around us look like. Nearly all white people in America consider the races equal, and frankly, we're tired of beating a dead horse over the issue. Still, the issue of race casts a cloud over encounters with our differently-pigmented fellow Americans.

In other words, we fear being seen as racists. We know we aren't, but that doesn't seem to matter in the public arena. It's happened to many of us, at one time or another, and because we see racism as such a low thing, the sting of it is quite sharp. I remember being called a racist because I criticised a rap song that was playing on the radio. Now, I grew up in the era of rap. I had (and listened to death) the early albums of Run DMC, LL Cool J, and the Fat Boys. In my neighborhood, we all used to break out sheets of cardboard or scraps of linoleum and practice break dancing. I know my rap music- what I like, and what I don't. So when my coworker insinuated that I was a racist for criticizing a certain rapper, I took great offense. The end result of this was a decrease in the quality and quantity of conversation between Tyrone and me, largely because I was now afraid that anything I said would be scrutinized as potentially racist.

I think, somewhere in the back of many white people's minds, is just such a nagging concern: "I hope I don't say the wrong thing."

What a relief it would be to trust that we were not guilty by descent, that because some of our forefathers behaved despicably, we were not doomed to suffer eternal scorn for their sins! Racism will not be dead until the concern over racism has perished. With openly hostile bigots such as Jeremiah Wright and Al Sharpton running around, how is that supposed to happen? When will Dr. King's dream come true? When can I be judged not by the color of my skin, but by the content of my character? Then, once and truly, we will all be free at last.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Not a Runoff?

We need runoffs in the election process. Think of all of the confusion and hysteria that would be eliminated. There would be no more spoilers (e.g. Nader and Perot). We'd have more people actually speaking their minds, knowing that they no longer have to seek the blandness of the middle road to have a real chance.

Romney would have probably secured the Republican ticket had there been a runoff. He was certainly the main choice of the conservative wing of the Republican party. Only the splitting of the conservative vote cost him the nomination. Hillary would likely have garnered a more secure position, winning the Democratic nomination, if she didn't have to split the pie, so to speak, with John Edwards and the like. We might actually have had a real choice this election, a real dichotomy of opinion rather than a communist (Obama) versus a liberal (McCain), the only difference being the speed of retreat from a war we are winning.

Third parties would benefit from a runoff. You'd never have to worry that your vote for a third party candidate was helping elect someone else. Therefore, more people would take third parties seriously, vastly changing the political landscape and assuring that neither Republicans nor Democrats could take anybody's vote for granted.

Had there been a runoff in place during the 1990's, Bill Clinton would never have been president. Let's face it, the man never garnered anywhere near a majority of the vote. A runoff would have either narrowed the field to a clear choice between Bush and Clinton, with the fiscally-conservative Perot voters going for Bush, or Clinton and Perot, with the Bush voters pushing Perot over the top. Bill Clinton would never have stained the presidency, or Monica's dress for that matter.

Sure it would be a bit costly, but it would be nowhere near as costly as having another tax-gouging spendthrift in office, eager to convert as many Americans as possible into government dependants for the sake of the addict vote. Let's give Americans a clear choice in every election; let's have a runoff!

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Education "Crisis"

Why is it that we insist on treating education like the manifestation of some disease? We talk about "curing" it, or "fixing" it, as if there is something inherently wrong with the entire endeavor. This seems to be the kind of politically motivated tripe that bubbles up from the sewers of Washington D.C. every election cycle. Everybody wants to do something, but nobody will really admit the true nature of the problems, such as they are.

First, there is no crisis. Children in 2008 are, on average, doing much more advanced work, especially in science and mathematics, than their parents were at the same age. At my mother's high school, only one student ever made it to trigonometry class, and he had to go to the local college to take it. By the time I was in high school, it was the standard class for juniors to take. Now, at least in California, sophomores are supposed to be taking it. Such progress does not a crisis make.

Language arts is a bird of a different feather, of course. To be brutally honest, the only difference between performance in the 1960's and today has been the tidal wave of immigration. According to census data, the entire growth of the school-age population during the 1990's was due to immigrants or the children of immigrants. These students take, on average, between two and four years just to assimilate enough to be registered in the same classes as their native peers. Once in these classes, they still require (in general) a slower pace of teaching to absorb the material. I don't blame the kids, by the way. They didn't decide to come here on their own. Moreover, having spent a couple of years in a foreign country, I know just how difficult it can be to become proficient (in speaking, reading, and writing) in a new language. The fact remains, nevertheless, that the presence of a large number of students who are new to English is having an impact on the school system. Considering the magnitude of the problem, I'd say schools are doing a miraculous job of coping, though to state that they've dealt with it successfully would be an overstatement.

Yet, with all of these issues on our plate, we compare our scores with Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, and other nations with hardly any immigration (at least compared to ours), and declare ourselves failures. Did I mention that even the math and science tests that we use for comparisons are written in English? The effect of all of this is that a sizable fraction of our children are measured not by what they know, but by how well they can decipher math and science questions in a foreign language.

In addition, we consider every student's score, regardless of handicap or disability, when we tabulate our data. Other countries don't. Japan considers only the scores of its academically-tracked students; the rest, those whose abilities make them more suited for non-academic careers, don't count against them. In fact, most other nations do similarly. We, in our egalitarian zeal, lump in even those students who, in middle school, can barely fill in a bubble (with help) in between having their diapers changed. Sadly, I can only wish I were using hyperbole. Non-English-speakers, even those who arrived in the country less than one year ago, count in our language arts data. Still, our politicians tell us we have failing schools.

Think about your own children. When they bring home math homework, how does it compare to what you were doing at their age? How does the reading material they bring home measure up? Dick and Jane is no longer used; even kindergartners are being exposed to higher-level reading than that (though I still recommend it for preschoolers). If you are a native to this country, your children are likely doing a lot more advanced work than you were at their age. Does this constitute a crisis? Think of that next time you see a news report on our "failing schools." The political and media template is a lie.