Friday, December 26, 2008

Are our current financial problems more like the Panic of 1873 or the Great Depression of the 19 1930s?

Here's another interesting article on our current economic difficulties. This historian, Scott Reynolds Nelson says a better analogy for our current economic difficulties are the Panic of 1873 rather than the Great Depression of the 1930s. If either serves as a model for what we can expect, tough times are ahead of us and they won't end soon. My chief concern is the government will do the wrong thing and only prolong the crisis and make it worse.

He writes in conclusion:

If there are lessons from 1873, they are different from those of 1929. Most important, when banks fall on Wall Street, they stop all the traffic on Main Street — for a very long time. The protracted reconstruction of banks in the United States and Europe created widespread unemployment. Unions (previously illegal in much of the world) flourished but were then destroyed by corporate institutions that learned to operate on the edge of the law. In Europe, politicians found their scapegoats in Jews, on the fringes of the economy. (Americans, on the other hand, mostly blamed themselves; many began to embrace what would later be called fundamentalist religion.)

The post-panic winners, even after the bailout, might be those firms — financial and otherwise — that have substantial cash reserves. A widespread consolidation of industries may be on the horizon, along with a nationalistic response of high tariff barriers, a decline in international trade, and scapegoating of immigrant competitors for scarce jobs. The failure in July of the World Trade Organization talks begun in Doha seven years ago suggests a new wave of protectionism may be on the way.

In the end, the Panic of 1873 demonstrated that the center of gravity for the world's credit had shifted west — from Central Europe toward the United States. The current panic suggests a further shift — from the United States to China and India. Beyond that I would not hazard a guess. I still have microfilm to read.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Another great depression?

That's the title of a column by conservative economist Thomas Sowell.

He notes that a lot of people are looking at President-elect Obama as the next FDR who will bring us out of our current deep economic recession. Yet he warns that FDR's policies which were fundamentally extensions of Hoovers, which only made matters worse.

Then as now people blame the free market system for the financial problems were facing and therefore call for significant government intervention.

The prevailing view in many quarters is that the stock market crash of 1929 was a failure of the free market that led to massive unemployment in the 1930s— and that it was intervention of Roosevelt's New Deal policies that rescued the economy.

It is such a good story that it seems a pity to spoil it with facts. Yet there is something to be said for not repeating the catastrophes of the past.

When employment began to rise after the 1929 crash, that's when government stepped in to try and prevent the loss of jobs by increasing tariffs to protect US jobs. This only made things much, much worse. Sowell cites two economist who tracked unemployment during that time.

The Vedder and Gallaway statistics allow us to follow unemployment month by month. They put the unemployment rate at 5 percent in November 1929, a month after the stock market crash. It hit 9 percent in December— but then began a generally downward trend, subsiding to 6.3 percent in June 1930.

That was when the Smoot-Hawley tariffs were passed, against the advice of economists across the country, who warned of dire consequences.

Five months after the Smoot-Hawley tariffs, the unemployment rate hit double digits for the first time in the 1930s.

This was more than a year after the stock market crash. Moreover, the unemployment rate rose to even higher levels under both Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt, both of whom intervened in the economy on an unprecedented scale.

Before the Great Depression, it was not considered to be the business of the federal government to try to get the economy out of a depression. But the Smoot-Hawley tariff— designed to save American jobs by restricting imports— was one of Hoover's interventions, followed by even bigger interventions by FDR.

Today, Obama is already talking about the government trying to create 2.5 million new jobs. It has to be asked is it better for government to create jobs or for the private sector? I think definitely the latter. And will Obama give in to protectionist calls? That remains to be seen.

It will also be interesting whether Obama continues the interventionist policies of George Bush who helped nationalize part of our financial system. If he does, he'll not only have his Hoover foil but also an example to build on.

As Sowell concludes:

Barack Obama already has his Herbert Hoover to blame for any and all disasters that his policies create: George W. Bush.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How can we eliminate the achievement gap between white and minority students? Easy. Encourage religious faith and marriage.

I recently came across a study released about a year and a half ago about how to eliminate the achievement gap between minority and white students. This is a big deal because the problem is worse in the Twin Cities than most urban areas. And because Minnesota state policymakers usually prescribe the wrong medicine for the problem -- more money, higher taxes. That entirely misses the boat, because the problem isn't lack of money. It's lack of religious faith and marriage, intact families.

The 2007 study was conducted by Dr. William H. Jeynes, a professor at California State University at Long Beach and a scholar with the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. The study of 20,706 12th-grade high school student was reported on by the Council for American Private Education which said:
In connection with what he described as one of the study’s most notable findings, Jeynes looked at what happens to the achievement gap for religiously committed students from intact families. He found what he called an “amazing” result: “The achievement gap disappears.” Put another way, “[W]hen the data are adjusted for SES and gender, black and Hispanic adolescents who are religious and from intact families do just as well academically as white students.”

Turning to the policy implications of the study, Jeynes suggested that “showing that factors as simple as religious commitment, religious schools, and family structure can reduce or eliminate the gap may inspire educators and social scientists to encourage policies that are supportive of faith and the family so that the gap can be narrowed significantly.” He argued that including private schools in school choice initiatives “conceivably could improve the overall quality of the U.S. education system,” and he suggested that public schools “can benefit by imitating some of the strengths of the religious school model.”

Jeynes concluded that “religious education is a vibrant part of the education system in the United States” and called for further study on “why students from religious schools outperform students in public schools.”

This report is especially salient for the times in which we live. The answer to better education performance by minority students isn't more money as the public school education bureaucracy and many politicians will argue. Instead it's focusing on strengthening intact families which means encouraging marriage and religious faith and private religious schools. The latter cost less and especially benefit minority students.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Minnesota homosexual marriage advocates want whole enchilada now. Is it inevitable? I don't think so.

Homosexual marriage advocates are giving up their incremental strategy of civil unions as a stepping stone to redefining marriage to include homosexual partners. According to a Star Tribune news story, " Big push for same-sex marriage coming in '09", OutFront Minnesota and Senator John Marty plan to introduce and hold hearings on a homosexual marriage legalization bill.

To date, lots of homosexual groups, figured they should push for a recognition of homosexual marriage by the incremental approach. That's what they did via special legal protections under discrimination laws and domestic partner benefits proposals. The logical next step would be civil unions. Well, the new head of OutFront Minnesota told a reporter that civil unions are unacceptable. They're a separate but unequal counterpart to marriage and they don't want it. They want traditional marriage to be eliminated and replaced with a fundamentally different definition recognizing homosexual couples. They think it will take them not too many years to achieve.

Frankly, I welcome more public discussion and debate on the issue. The more there is the better off we are on the marriage side. Why? Because homosexual marriage is build on a lie that somehow homosexual unions can constitute and fulfill the purposes of marriage as established by God and rooted in nature. In other words, the truth is not on their side.

It's like the legislature seeking to define a cat as a dog by passing a law saying it's so. We may want to believe it's so and even act on that belief but it doesn't change the reality of the way things actually are.

I think homosexual marriage advocates say time is on their side. It's inevitable we'll have homosexual marriage in our nation, they say. In the long run, time isn't on their side. In the short run, they may have some successes but in the long run it won't work out. An analogy is the failed experiment of the Soviet Union. They thought they could create the workers paradise through socialist, government ownership economic system. It looked like they might succeed with the growing power of the Soviet empire. But alas, it collapsed after 70 years, because the system was based on lie. The system was rotten at its core.

The same will be true with homosexual marriage whether in Canada, Europe or other parts of the world. Marriage is foundational to the health of society and the well-being of people, particularly children. Homosexual partners can't replace a mom and a dad. The notion is built upon a lie; it will fail. The question is when.

Even in the short term, I don't believe homosexual marriage is inevitable in Minnesota or our nation. The reality of homosexual marriage as revealed in other states will only become more evident as time progresses. The problems children experience. The fragility of the homosexual relationships and health implications will only gain broader societal awareness.

And I think this will only become more apparent to young people. In today's culture, it's cool to be for homosexual marriage. But when one looks a little closer at the true nature and purpose of marriage, the picture changes.

I think that's what has happened with the abortion issue. Young people are becoming pro-life. They see the pictures and hear the horror stories of post-abortion effects. They see it isn't the answer to personal difficulties or circumstances.

The same will happen with homosexual marriage. When they capture a vision of benefits of marriage, the nature of the man and woman relationship, and the impact of homosexual marriage in undermining the marriage vision, they'll go the other direction.

Again, there's power in the truth which none of us can change whether we'd like to or not. That goes for marriage as much as anything else. If we're smart as individuals and a society, we'll find out what the truth is and line our lives up with it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Positive signs in the African American Community and what President-elect Obama should do to encourage it.

It was recently reported that the number of black children raised in two parent families increased significantly in the last year. This is important, because the presence of two parents in the lives of young children plays a vital role in the welfare of children and reducing black inequality.

The new figures from the Census bureau say that in 2007 the percent of black children living with two parents is now at 39.5% compared to 35% in 2004. In the white community it's at 77%.

According to a news report:
Demographers said such a trend might be partly attributable to the growing proportion of immigrants in the nation’s black population. It may have been driven, too, by the values of an emerging black middle class, a trend that could be jeopardized by the current economic meltdown.

The Census Bureau attributed an indeterminate amount of the increase to revised definitions adopted in 2007, which identify as parents any man and woman living together, whether or not they are married or the child’s biological parents.

According to the bureau’s estimates, the number of black children living with two parents was 59 percent in 1970, falling to 42 percent in 1980, 38 percent in 1990 and 35 percent in 2004. In 2007, the latest year for which data is available, it was 40 percent.

For non-Hispanic whites, the figure in 2007 was 77 percent, down from 90 percent in 1970.

While expressing skepticism about an increase so large in such a short time in the number of black children living with two parents, a number of experts said the shift was potentially significant.

“It’s a positive change,” said Prof. Robert J. Sampson, the chairman of Harvard's sociology department. “It’s been hidden.”
As Kay Hymowitz from City Journal points out there be no elimination of black inequity until the family issue is addressed. In a recent commentary she looks at the genesis of the black communities economic and social problems. They stem from the breakdown of the black family.

She notes that

In 1965, a young assistant secretary of labor named Daniel Patrick Moynihan stumbled upon data that showed a rise in the number of black single mothers. As Moynihan wrote in a now-famous report for the Johnson administration, he was especially troubled by the growth in illegitimacy, as it was universally called then, coincided with a decline in black male unemployment. Strangely, black men were joining the labor force more, but they were marrying — and fathering — less.

There were other puzzling facts. In 1950, at the height of the Jim Crow era and despite the shattering legacy of slavery, the great majority of black children — an estimated 85 percent — were born to their two married parents. Just 15 years later, there seemed to be no obvious reason that that would change. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, legal barriers to equality were falling. The black middle class had grown substantially, and the first five years of the 1960s had produced 7 million new jobs. Yet 24 percent of black mothers were then bypassing marriage. Moynihan wrote later that he, like everyone else in the policy business, had assumed that "economic conditions determine social conditions." Now, it seemed, "what everyone knew was evidently not so."

President Lyndon Johnson was deeply shaken by Moynihan's findings. Neither man was driven by sentimentality or religious conviction, but both believed that fatherlessness undermined the "basic socializing unit." Intent on sounding a public alarm, Johnson declared during a commencement address at Howard University: "When the family collapses, it is the children that are usually damaged. When it happens on a massive scale, the community itself is crippled."

Yet then as now there's a lot of political resistance to addressing truthfully the problems in the black community (and for that matter white community where family breakdown is a growing problem.)

Unfortunately, those warnings were as prescient as they were reviled. Civil rights leaders, worried about reviving racist myths about black promiscuity, objected to what they viewed as blaming the victim. Feminists were inclined to look on the "strong black women" raising their children without men as a symbol of female autonomy. By the fall of 1965, when a White House conference on the black family was scheduled, the Moynihan report and the subject had disappeared.

But the silent treatment was the wrong medicine. Since 1965, through economic recessions and booms, the black family has unraveled in ways that have little parallel in human cultures. By 1980, black fatherlessness had doubled; 56 percent of black births were to single mothers. In inner-city neighborhoods, the number was closer to 66 percent. By the 1990s, even as the overall fertility of American women, including African-Americans, was falling, the majority of black women who did bear children were unmarried. Today, 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. In some neighborhoods, two-parent families have vanished. In parts of Newark and Philadelphia, for example, it is common to find children who are not only growing up without their fathers but don't know anyone who is living with his or her biological father.

She then makes the critical point that racial progress or racial inequality are directly tied to addressing this problem.

And what has this meant for racial progress? Fifty years after Jim Crow, black U.S. households have the lowest median income of any racial or ethnic group. Close to a third of black children are poor, and their chances of moving out of poverty are considerably lower than those of their white peers. The fractured black family is not the sole explanation for these gaps, but it is central. While half of all black children born to single mothers are poor, that is the case for only 12 percent of those born to married parents. At least three simulation studies "marrying off" single mothers to either the fathers of their children or to potential husbands of similar demographic characteristics concluded that child poverty would be dramatically lower had marriage rates remained what they were in 1970.

Black married couples make a median household income of $62,000, which is more than 80 percent of what white households earn and represents a gain of 13 percentage points since the 1960s. Yet overall, black household median income is only 62 percent that of white households, a mere six-point increase over the same period.

Merely walking down the aisle can't explain these differences. Rather, the institution of marriage appears to promote ideals of stability, order and fidelity that benefit children and adults alike. Those who pin their hopes for black progress on education tend to forget this. Numerous studies, when controlled for income and race, show that, on average, children growing up with single mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and go to college. And Moynihan's discovery of a negligible relationship between "economic conditions and social conditions" suggests that even increases in black male employment are not a certain cure.

That last quote from Moynihan is critical. Today policymakers are infatuated with addressing problems by throwing money at them. They say we can get rid of social inequality, poverty, family problems by simply creating more social programs or increasing social spending. Unfortunately, the money spent isn't spent wisely. It's done to replace the family rather than empower it.

Yet maybe Obama's greatest opportunity and challenge is addressing the breakdown of the family which is so endemic in the black community. He'll have to buck the black political and cultural establishment which too often plays of the victim status to retain power and the liberal white establishment which is wed to the welfare system and views marriage promotion as moralizing. As Hymowitz notes:

Through the power of his own example, Obama presents a chance to revive what Lyndon Johnson called "the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights." Obama's memoir, "Dreams From My Father," conveys the economic, emotional and existential toll of growing up fatherless, and he has spoken movingly of his determination to ensure for his own children a different life. Yet tackling this issue won't be easy. When Obama gave a Father's Day speech lamenting "fathers ... missing from too many lives and too many homes," Jesse Jackson was so incensed that he said he wanted to castrate Obama. Still, painful as the subject is, the alternative is far worse: racial inequality as far as the eye can see.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Love makes a marriage. Or does it?

That's one of the favor lines of homosexual marriage advocates. We love our partners, and therefore, we should be allowed to marriage.

That statement may have a superficial appeal, but it's fundamentally flawed understanding of what marriage is all about.

If love was the defining and exclusive consideration of why two people should be allowed to marry there is no reason for preventing a parent and a child to marry. Or two siblings. Or any other range of loving relationships.

Yet we understand these relationships do not constitute a marriage. The same goes for best friends, athletic teammates, coworkers, and neighbors. The list could go on and on. Love can be expressed in these relationships but that doesn't make them a marriage. While love is certainly vitally important to a marriage, it's about much more than that.

Marriage is built on the unique complementary contributions of a man and a woman. They bring unique attributes to a marriage relationship -- things which go beyond love. Not only for their particular relationship but also for the unique fruit of their relationship -- children. A man and a woman are essential for procreation but they also bring their uniqueness together in the raising of their children.

One example, is the importance of a father in the life of a boy. The absence of fathers in the lives of their sons has been enormously destructive for them and society. Males from fatherless households are much more likely to join gangs, do poorly in school and act out in a host of other ways.

A homosexual relationship in a lesbian context precludes a father figure. While a homosexual male relationship precludes a mother.

Yes, love is an essential ingredient in a successful marriage, but a marriage is about much more than just love. Another essential, foundational ingredients are a man and a woman.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What's Obama's ultimate agenda? Radical social change via government.

There's been a lot of speculation on the type of president Barack Obama will be. Will he be the cautious centralist or a radical social reformer?

In column, entitled "Obama's Plan to Transform America", Charles Krauthammer probably gets it right as much as anybody.

Krauthammer notes that

Barack Obama has garnered praise from center to right -- and has highly irritated the left -- with the centrism of his major appointments. Because Obama's own beliefs remain largely opaque, his appointments have led to the conclusion that he intends to govern from the center.

Obama the centrist? I'm not so sure.

Take the foreign policy team: Hillary Clinton, James Jones, and Bush holdover Robert Gates. As centrist as you can get. But the choice was far less ideological than practical. Obama has no intention of being a foreign policy president. Unlike, say, Nixon or Reagan, he does not have aspirations abroad. He simply wants quiet on his eastern and western fronts so that he can proceed with what he really cares about -- his domestic agenda.

Similarly his senior economic team, the brilliant trio of Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and Paul Volcker: centrist, experienced and mainstream. But their principal task is to stabilize the financial system, a highly pragmatic task in which Obama has no particular ideological stake.

Why the centralist teams on foreign policy and economic policy? Because those areas he doesn't have great expertise and lacks passionate interest and are areas he needs stability if he's to accomplish what he wants domestically.

According to Krauthammer.

A functioning financial system is a necessary condition for a successful Obama presidency. As in foreign policy, Obama wants experts and veterans to manage and pacify universes in which he has little experience and less personal commitment. Their job is to keep credit flowing and the world at bay so that Obama can address his real ambition: to effect a domestic transformation as grand and ambitious as Franklin Roosevelt's.

As Obama revealingly said just last week, "this painful crisis also provides us with an opportunity to transform our economy to improve the lives of ordinary people." Transformation is his mission. Crisis provides the opportunity. The election provides him the power.

And he plans to use the economic crisis and public fears as a justification for his actions:

The deepening recession creates the opportunity for federal intervention and government experimentation on a scale unseen since the New Deal. A Republican administration has already done the ideological groundwork with its unprecedented intervention, culminating in the forced partial nationalization of nine of the largest banks, the kind of stuff that happens in Peronist Argentina with a gun on the table.

Obama was quite serious when he said he was going to change the world. And now he has a national crisis, a personal mandate, a pliant Congress, a desperate public -- and, at his disposal, the greatest pot of money in galactic history. (I include here the extrasolar planets.)

It begins with a near $1 trillion stimulus package. This is where Obama will show himself ideologically. It is his one great opportunity to plant the seeds for everything he cares about: a new green economy, universal health care, a labor resurgence, government as benevolent private-sector "partner." It is the community organizer's ultimate dream.

Rather than not having any money to do things, Obama plans on ramping up spending for public works and other programs.

Ironically, when the economy tanked in mid-September, it was assumed that both presidential candidates could simply forget about their domestic agendas because with $700 billion drained by financial system rescues, not a penny would be left to spend on anything else.

On the contrary. With the country clamoring for action and with all psychological barriers to government intervention obliterated (by the conservative party, no less), the stage is set for a young, ambitious, supremely confident president -- who sees himself as a world-historical figure before even having been sworn in -- to begin a restructuring of the American economy and the forging of a new relationship between government and people.

Don't be fooled by Bob Gates staying on. Obama didn't get elected to manage Afghanistan. He intends to transform America. And he has the money, the mandate and the moxie to go for it.

Krauthammer's analysis makes a lot of sense given what we know about Obama's background, ideological views, recent comments, and actions.

If he does dramatically expand government debt that will likely only deepen the debt and economic crisis facing our nation. What's different about 2000s crisis versus the Great Depression is today we are already much more deeply in debt and expanding bailouts and government spending will only worsen. If the federal government throws restraint to the wind, the debt level will become enormous. Somebody will eventually have to pay for it and no doubt it will be the American people in the form of much higher taxes and inflation, which is really a tax and especially hammers the poor and those on fixed incomes.

Obama's end game maybe closing the gap between the rich and the poor and socializing medicine, but that will result in making everybody poorer. Of course isn't that what socialism is all about?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The War on Christmas

Some insist that singing a Christmas carol in a public school is a state endorsement of religion. Would the same people insist that reading Mien Kampf in social studies is a state endorsement of National Socialism (Nazis) as well? So tell me, what's the difference?

This New American article by John Eidsmoe begins this way:

The War on Christmas

"Because "public life" now entails virtually every part of our lives, erasing references to God entirely from public life means virtually eliminating them from America.

Imagine, if you will, a gala birthday party given in your honor. The guests will sing, dance, give presents, eat, drink, and have the merriest of times. The hitch: your name will not be mentioned, the gifts will not be for you, the celebrants won't be thinking about you, and everyone would sort of prefer that you not come."

Read the entire article here.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Coleman-Franken campaign continues on with challenged ballots and rejected absentee ballots at issue.

The campaign between Norm Coleman and Al Franken didn't end on Election Day. In fact, they've spent upwards of $4 million since then seeking to insure their interests aren't ignored in the recount process.

The major media groups say Coleman has a 192 vote lead while Franken camp claims he holds a 4 vote lead if all the election judge decisions on challenged ballots are upheld.

Remaining issues evolve around what to do with the 133 supposedly missing ballots in Minneapolis, how to handle challenges and what to do about improperly rejected absentee ballots.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie went out of his way to be involved in the missing ballots issue. He dispatched one of his assistants to help look for the ballots. Ritchie then said if they weren't found they would likely go with the count on Election Day, which begs the question, why count them if the reason for the recount is to insure that votes were properly counted. Initially, Minneapolis' campaign official, who is a democrat, thought the number discrepancy was due to absentee ballots improperly run through the voting machines. Franken campaign objected and then they changed their tune.

Regarding the handling of challenges, it's up in the air whether a majority of the canvassing board will rule on rejected ballots by majority or unanimous votes.

And finally, there's the question of improperly rejected absentee ballots. There are four criteria in state law for which absentee ballots can be rejected. Apparently, there were a number of absentee ballots rejected for some other reason. The Canvassing Board initially ruled it didn't have the authority to include them in the recount, but will revisit the issue this Friday.

The Franken campaign has been most concerned about the absentee ballots being rejected improperly. It will be interesting to hear their position if they are ahead by a few votes after all the challenged ballots are considered. Will they still demand that they be included? I would doubt it.

It seems to me that improperly rejected absentee ballots should be reconsidered. Or if they weren't properly rejected why wouldn't they be included? That seems to clearly be a case of disenfranchisement. (Some argue that Franken would benefit by more absentees being considered while others say it would benefit Coleman more because historically Republicans are more likely to vote by absentee ballot than Democrats.)

Hopefully, this will all end sooner rather than later and the final result will not be in doubt.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Is homosexual marriage coming to Minnesota? If Senator John Marty gets his way, it will.

In a commentary posted on Senator John Marty from Roseville calls for legalizing homosexual marriage in Minnesota.

In an article entitled, "It's time to move forward with gay-marriage legislation", Senator Marty says:

Last session, along with several of my colleagues, I introduced legislation to legalize same-sex marriages in Minnesota. Now we are asking for a hearing on the legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee during the 2009 legislative session.

Minnesota's law prohibits gays and lesbians from marrying the person they love. Our legislation would repeal that prohibition and extend equal marriage rights to all people regardless of sexual orientation.

This effort is made with no illusion about the difficulty of passing the legislation. In the November election, several states passed voter initiatives banning same-sex marriages. California's initiative actually took away the existing right for gay couples to marry.

His comments contain the usual homosexual marriage canards about homosexuals not having "equal marriage rights." Homosexuals can already marry it just must be to a person of the opposite sex; they're seeking to redefine the institution.

And then he emphasizes the emotional side, having homosexual couples "briefly tell their story. Have them talk about their love, the challenges they face as parents, the problems they encounter because they are not allowed to marry. Opponents would have equal time to voice their concerns. "

Yet then he turns around and seems to be suggesting the exact opposite: "the Judiciary Committee could break past the heated rhetoric on the issue with a candid discussion, conducted in a civil tone. Discussions help to inform and educate people. With all of the divisiveness over gay marriage, a civil discussion might bring people closer together."

I've thought the tone of past committee hearings was rather civil given the strong emotion surrounding the issue.

He says that opponents are just worried that homosexual marriage "will hurt their own marriages, I'd like to ask them to tell us how. I'd really like to know whether they feel my marriage — Connie and I just celebrated our 28th anniversary — would hurt their marriage too."

I personally have never been concerned about nor have I argued that homosexual marriage would affect my marriage. What it does do is redefine the institution of marriage, as it has existed from time immemorial, out of existence. It would no longer exist. One effect is it would now mean that children, legally speaking, would no longer be understand to need both a mother and a father. One or the other would be superfluous in a homosexual marriage. This situation has already been devastating to society and would only worsen by sanctioning same sex marriage.

Senator Marty goes on to say that as a Christian his faith leads him to promote homosexual marriage.
If opponents say they believe gay marriage is sinful or morally wrong, I'd like to tell them why I, as a Christian, believe we should not just allow, but actually encourage gay couples to marry. It is because of my faith, not in spite of it, that I think we should promote marriage and work to strengthen families of gay couples as well as heterosexual couples.
To say the Christian faith supports same sex marriage is ludicrous.

The Scriptures are unambiguous about homosexual behavior being morally wrong and sinful and the nature of marriage being between a man and a woman. The testimony of Christians and the Christian church throughout history only affirms this view of homosexual behavior and marriage. The view by a few that homosexual marriage is not inconsistent with Christian teaching is simply heretical.

Next Senator Marty tries the usual secular argument that pro-traditional marriage supporters are simply trying to impose their religious views on the rest of society.
I would like to ask my colleagues who oppose this legislation why they consider it acceptable for Minnesota's government to endorse their religious beliefs about gay marriage and enforce them over the religious beliefs that thousands of other Minnesotans have. Every member of the Senate took an oath of office to support the Constitution of the United States, and each of us understands that government should treat all people in a fair, non-discriminatory manner.
There's a degree of hypocrisy in Senator Marty's comments. He has just argued his view of Christianity promotes same sex marriage and via his bill he wants to impose his position on society.

The fact is traditional marriage isn't being artificially imposed on society. It was reaffirmed through the passage of the 1996 state DOMA bill through both bodies of the legislature and signed into law by then Governor Arne Carlson.

Marty seeks to provide reassurance that churches won't be required to perform same sex marriages. Their religious liberties will be protected. And he draws the fallacious analogy of same sex marriage to inter-racial marriage.
Opponents worry that their churches would be required to perform gay marriages. But we can reassure them that the freedom of religion that would allow gay marriages is the same freedom of religion that allows them to perform marriages only for couples they choose to marry. We could point to the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down laws prohibiting interracial marriage – a decision that was strongly opposed by many Christians at the time — and remind them that the churches objecting to those marriages have never been forced to solemnize them.
First, homosexual marriage advocates often argue that opposing homosexual marriage is tantamount to opposing inter-racial marriage. If they truly believe that then it's very reasonable to assume that if homosexual marriage is the law of the land then churches which oppose homosexual marriage will be stripped of their nonprofit tax status and be subject to anti-discrimination laws. In the 1980s, Bob Jones University which at that time didn't allow interracial dating was stripped of their tax status. (They recently apologized for their policy.) These actions would certainly be infringements on religious liberties.

It would mean the indoctrination of all public school children into the notion that marriage no longer a man and a woman and to think otherwise is wrong and bigoted. It would undermine parental rights and religious liberties as we already see happening in other state's which sanction homosexual marriage or, I should say, were forced by their courts to sanction it.

Second, homosexual marriage and inter-racial marriage bans are analogous only in that they are both anti-marriage -- homosexual marriage by negating the presence of a man or woman in the relationship and interracial marriage bans by seeking to keep particular men and women from marrying because of their skin color. This is of course the exact opposite of what pro-homosexual marriage advocates would like you to believe or understand about inter-racial marriage bans which were truly anti-marriage.

Senator Marty says, "A Senate hearing that confronts these issues with a civil discussion will not end all opposition to gay marriage, but it will help break down the misunderstandings that exist."

I'm all for a civil discussion to give all the facts out on the table. I more this issue is debated and discussed the better.

He concludes by saying,
I'm confident that most Minnesotans, even those uncomfortable talking about homosexuality, will recognize the fundamental fairness of allowing every adult to choose his or her own marriage partner.
Here Senator Marty, I'm sure unintentionally, points out where this effort to redefine marriage will eventually lead. To allow "every adult to choose his or her own marriage partner." Why limit it to unrelated folks? Why not family members? Siblings? Father and daughter? Mother and son? And of course, why one person? Weren't polygamous relationships sanctioned in cultures throughout history and even in some societies today. If all these folks love each other, why shouldn't they be allowed to marry one another?

This shows the chaos of the position advocated by homosexual marriage advocates like Senator Marty.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Historical revision and intellectual disingenuousness permeate "Newsweek" cover story on homosexual marriage.

Advocates for homosexual marriage in the liberal intelligentsia realize a major roadblock to achieving their goal is that pesky book the Bible and the influence it holds on millions of Christians and Jews and even Muslims.

Generally, I think they're dismissive of these uneducated, unenlightened folks who take serious a book written a couple of thousand years ago by often uneducated people bound to "superstitious" beliefs about miracles and supernatural happenings.

Be that as it may, they figure they better address the claims of this book because of its influence. They see the influence churches, including black churches, played in the battle in California over Prop 8. "All the religious rhetoric, it seems, has been on the side of the gay-marriage opponents, who use Scripture as the foundation for their objections." They realize their better address the Bible on this issue.

When they do, they attempt to debunk and deconstruct the clear meaning the the texts by trying to read into the text their own biases.

Such is the case with the Newsweek cover story,
"Our Mutual Joy: Opponents of gay marriage often cite Scripture. But what the Bible teaches about love argues for the other side" written by a Lisa Miller.

The first paragraph of the article cynically looks at a couple of biblical ideas and stories and distorts their meaning.
Let's try for a minute to take the religious conservatives at their word and define marriage as the Bible does. Shall we look to Abraham, the great patriarch, who slept with his servant when he discovered his beloved wife Sarah was infertile? Or to Jacob, who fathered children with four different women (two sisters and their servants)? Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon and the kings of Judah and Israel-all these fathers and heroes were polygamists. The New Testament model of marriage is hardly better. Jesus himself was single and preached an indifference to earthly attachments-especially family. The apostle Paul (also single) regarded marriage as an act of last resort for those unable to contain their animal lust. "It is better to marry than to burn with passion," says the apostle, in one of the most lukewarm endorsements of a treasured institution ever uttered. Would any contemporary heterosexual married couple-who likely woke up on their wedding day harboring some optimistic and newfangled ideas about gender equality and romantic love-turn to the Bible as a how-to script? Of course not, yet the religious opponents of gay marriage would have it be so.
Miller suggests both the Old and Testaments take a low view of marriage. This is ridiculous. To suggest the model or ideal for marriage in the Old Testament is polygamy is ridiculous. Genesis 1 points out that the ideal is one man and one woman. The effects of the fall can be seen in the distortion of all areas of life including family and marital life. The fact that people engaged in less than the ideal does not mean that has become the ideal.

In the New Testament, Jesus reaffirms the ideal of marriage is a one man, one woman relationship and says the reason God allowed unilateral divorce in the Old Testament was their stubborn, hard hearts. Matthew 19

Similarly, Miller says Paul had a similar low view of marriage. That marriage was a last resort for those who can't control their lusts.

Paul's comment that it was better for a person not to marry was due to the crisis and difficulties facing the people he was communicating with. In fact, Paul analogies marriage between a man and a woman to Christ and the church. Marriage is a beautiful, powerful institution ordained by God.

Miller then seeks to address the view that the Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman by saying it doesn't and no right thinking person would want their marriage to look like a biblical marriage.
First, while the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage-theirs or anyone else's -to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes.
First, Jesus clearly does define marriage as a lifelong relationship between one man, one woman. And her second assertion merely distorts what the Bible actually says about marriage. There are a lot of bad things mentioned in the Bible, e.g. murder, rape, betrayal and so forth but that doesn't mean the Bible affirms them; it's merely describing what sinful people do.

She then asserts the relativist thinking that the Bible is a "living document" with no fixed meaning that needs to be reinterpreted in light of today's changing circumstances.
Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married-and a number of excellent reasons why they should.
Of course, if the Bible doesn't have a clear definition of marriage and the models of marriage it provides are what no sensible person would want, why does the Bible even need to be considered in the debate? She then argues the other side by saying the Bible is "powerful" and "speaks truth to us" 2,000 years later. See how she's simply throwing arguments at the Bible which are contradictory and mutually exclusive?

She says the Bible never addresses woman to woman sex. Wrong. See Romans 1:26.

She says Paul really wasn't talking about homosexuality. She references "progressive scholars" to support her argument.
Paul was tough on homosexuality, though recently progressive scholars have argued that his condemnation of men who "were inflamed with lust for one another" (which he calls "a perversion") is really a critique of the worst kind of wickedness: self-delusion, violence, promiscuity and debauchery. In his book "The Arrogance of Nations," the scholar Neil Elliott argues that Paul is referring in this famous passage to the depravity of the Roman emperors, the craven habits of Nero and Caligula, a reference his audience would have grasped instantly. "Paul is not talking about what we call homosexuality at all," Elliott says. "He's talking about a certain group of people who have done everything in this list. We're not dealing with anything like gay love or gay marriage. We're talking about really, really violent people who meet their end and are judged by God."
Unfortunately for her, such arguments have no basis in fact, merely speculative efforts to dismiss Paul's meaning as found in the text and clearly understood by Christians consistently since the text was written.

She makes the false assertion that
Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition (and, to talk turkey for a minute, a personal discomfort with gay sex that transcends theological argument).

And we need "A mature view of scriptural authority requires us, as we have in the past, to move beyond literalism. The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it's impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours."
Again let's move beyond "literalism" she says.
And she uses the usual liberal "literalism" smokescreen to say we need to change the meaning of the text. How do you move beyond historical events that occurred? Are they simply not be taken literally and thereby can be dismissed as not statements of fact?

She includes a smattering of liberal, e.g. progressive religious figures who support her pro-homosexual marriage views and concludes by saying that if we really loved as Jesus taught us to we'd support homosexual marriage.

Of course, Jesus said he didn't come to abolish the law but fulfill it. Matthew 5:17 (A law which clearly forbids homosexual behavior.) And the New Testament definition of love, in part says, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. I Corinthians 13

In a biblical understanding of love, those who do not rejoice at wrongdoing such as homosexual behavior are acting in the spirit of biblical love while those who do rejoice in homosexual behavior are not.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Give a friend the "gift" of death -- Planned Parenthood gift certificates for abortion

Planned Parenthood chapters in Illinois and Indiana are piggybacking off of the Christmas season, which represents life and the coming of Christ, to promote death. They're promoting their abortion business and other activities through the sale of gift certificates.

According to a Chicago Tribune article:
What do you get the person who has everything—except adequate health insurance? If you live in Indiana, consider this offering from the state's Planned Parenthood affiliate: gift certificates in $25 increments.

The vouchers, available online and at 35 clinics statewide, can be used for health services or contraceptives. And yes, they can be used to pay for abortions.

Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, characterizes the response to the gift certificates as "pretty robust, and generally very favorable."

She estimates that "about a dozen" certificates have sold since they became available Nov. 25. Planned Parenthood of Illinois plans to sell similar gift certificates starting Monday.
This is another example of Planned Parenthood having no shame.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A billion here, a billion there starts to add up.

The state of Minnesota is facing a $5.2 billion budget deficit over the next two and a half years. The previous whopper of a state budget deficit was $4.2 billion in 2003. I've heard a legislator say that in the following two year budget cycle they're looking at another $4.6 billion budget deficit. In other words, there are major structural spending problems facing our state.

The Star Tribune noted Tom Hanson, Finance Commissioner's comment that spending has been growing very rapidly while at the same time tax revenues are dropping.

Tom Hanson, commissioner of state management and budget, said revenues will be $579 million below forecast for the biennium beginning in July, while spending already authorized is expected to grow by 6.1 percent. He said the revenue decline is expected to be greater than during the budget woes of 2003.

The state's economist said things could get worse, making this the worse recession since World War II. I wonder if he should have said the 1930s.

State economist Tom Stinson painted a dire picture of the recession driving the deficit, predicting it would be "similar to that of the worst recession since World War II," referring to a downturn in the 1980s. He described "massive losses of wealth," and an economic terrain that is "just plain ugly."

"This could be the worst economy in 25 years," he said. "It could be the worst since World War II."

Stinson warned against expecting a quick recovery, noting that more people are closer to retirement now than during the downturn of the 1980s, and therefore would likely save new earnings rather than spend it, slowing any recovery.

Stinson stressed that the forecast was not a worst-case projection. "Things could be worse, they could be noticeably worse between now and the end of the biennium," he said.

As with any crisis it may also be an opportunity both personally and corporately. Going through cancer earlier this year forced me to look at what's of first importance in life and death. (You realize life is short however long one lives on this earth.) So too with a financial crisis, we'll need to reexamine personal priorities and make financial cutbacks. At the same time, as a society we'll need to re-examine how we do business. Should government take over responsibility for more and more areas of life or will we realize that we need to start caring for one another in our families, neighborhoods, churches, and communities and not just look to the government.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Unable to walk the talk on abortion.

I came across a commentary by Chuck Colson on a recent Washington Post Magazine story about a pro-abortion medical student, Lesley Wojick.

The Post article chronicles her experiences as a medical student and the interplay of her pro-abortion views and her actual experiences assisting doctors perform abortions.

The article reveals her post-modern thinking on truth (We really can't know it.) and the reality of actually seeing an abortion and her belief she couldn't go through with being an abortionist.

Her mindset -- what's true for you maybe not be true for someone else -- is classic moral relativism; morality is like having a preference for vanilla or chocolate ice cream. And we can't really know what's true is postmodernism.

At the lunchtime discussion, Lesley was surrounded by people opposed to abortion. A pediatrician from Johns Hopkins was discussing her practice of refusing to prescribe birth control pills to adolescents because she is morally opposed to it.

Hearing the doctor made Lesley wince. She herself had spent many hours teaching teens about contraceptives. She had won an Albert Schweitzer fellowship to develop a health education program at Mountain Manor, a residential treatment facility for teens in Baltimore, that addressed sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, abortion and adoption. She'd shown the girls at Mountain Manor how to use a condom and urged them to carry condoms with them.

She couldn't imagine refusing to prescribe birth control pills to girls who were sexually active. "Just keep your mouth shut," Lesley said she told herself. "Don't say anything." She knew she wasn't going to change minds.

But later, before she left, she did ask the doctor one question: "How do you advise patients without appearing judgmental?"

The answer -- that appearing judgmental wasn't the doctor's concern, only doing what she felt was right for patients -- made Lesley realize that "there are people who wholeheartedly believe they are doing their patients good" by not mentioning abortion or prescribing birth control pills. She found that problematic. "You can't assume what is right for you is right for the patient," she decided.

This led her to ask herself another question: When is it appropriate to interject our judgment, and when isn't it? Nobody really knows, she concluded. Not Medical Students for Choice, not the Catholic students, not the medical school. But they were important questions to explore, she told Litty later. Litty agreed.

If we can't know the truth, then how can we say the holocaust was wrong and evil? Or was Stalin's murder of millions wrong if done for the greater "good" of the state? This is why postmodernism and moral relativism are so dangerous to a society and culture.

Another abortion patient she encountered highlights the person who will cavalierly destroy unborn life within her if that life is viewed as an obstacle to getting what she wants in life.

A third patient, a 23-year-old college student wearing red high heels, had become pregnant because the patch she used as birth control kept falling off. She didn't realize she was pregnant at first. Now she needed a second-term abortion. Lesley was struck by how resolute the young woman was. She was earning a degree, and said she couldn't care for a child if she wanted to achieve her goal. She was scheduled for the procedure for the following morning.

Lesley decides she doesn't want to be an abortionist, because she didn't want to be "[v]acuuming out a uterus and counting the parts of the fetus," but she's still glad she did it.

As for obstetrics, the once-perfect mix of medical, surgical and preventive care for women, Lesley hadn't loved very much about it. Even as she'd shadowed the abortion doctor, Lesley knew in her heart that this would not be the right place for her to make a difference. It was a big disappointment, she said. "I really thought I'd love it."

The things she cared about -- taking care of women, seeing them through the process -- hadn't happened. It was the nurse practitioner who cared for the patient. Vacuuming out a uterus and counting the parts of the fetus did not seem like a desirable way to spend her work days. It took a unique person to do that on a daily basis, she said.

Lesley still believed passionately in abortion rights and was proud of what she'd accomplished at Maryland with her activism. She didn't want to let people down. Even so, she had to follow her heart. Somebody else -- maybe Laura Merkel, the new chapter president of Medical Students for Choice -- would become an abortion provider. But it wouldn't be her.

One can see her shutting off her conscience but not completely. Though she's still "proud" of her pro-abortion activism, she doesn't want to perform them.

I think as more and more people understand the reality of abortion the tide will begin to turn in society as a whole. In a sense that's what happened, to a small degree, with Lesley; she can't see her walking the talk and become an abortionist. She did, in some respects, take a step back in her embrace of abortion.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Is Obama a secret centrist?

That's the subtitle of Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes recent article. He speculates on what sort of president will Barack Obama be.

He notes that:

So the scoreboard looks like this: Three of the four cabinet posts that matter most are going to those with views acceptable to the center-right of the Democratic party. That's Geithner, Clinton, and Gates. The fourth, attorney general, will provoke a confirmation fight if Obama chooses his buddy Eric Holder, famous as President Clinton's deputy attorney general for facilitating the pardon of Marc Rich.

Three out of four isn't bad. Conservatives aren't jumping for joy. But imagine how the left wing of the Democratic party-the dominant wing, after all-feels. Let down would be an understatement.

Organized labor must be crazed over the selection of Summers. As a believer in the indispensability of global trade, Summers is bound to advise Obama to reject labor's call for limitations on trade, especially during a world financial breakdown. In fact, I suspect he's already urged Obama to go along with "card check," labor's latest scheme for unionizing workers, but not the protectionist agenda. Tinkering with trade would unsettle financial markets.

And how about the environmental lobby, which totally embraced Obama? Jones will be hard for environmentalists to stomach. And the foreign policy left? The left views Jones, Clinton, and Gates as enemies.

The losers in the Obama administration, as of now, are Joe Biden and Susan Rice, favorites of the left. Biden's role in foreign policy is likely to be minimal with Clinton at the State Department. She'll squash him if he sticks his head up. Rice, an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration and an Obama campaign adviser, may wind up as United Nations ambassador, a highly visible but inconsequential post. She'll have little influence.

The Washington cliché about appointments is that personnel is policy. It's an exaggeration but essentially true. If Obama wants to pursue economic and national security policies that would thrill, William Ayers, and the Democratic left, he has a funny way of showing it. The only reasonable conclusion is he's spurning the left.

I suspect where his left leaning tendencies will come out will be on domestic, social issues. Daschle at HHS will push for government-run universal health care. Obama will appoint very liberal judges. And he'll appeal to homosexuals by pushing for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. And on abortion, he'll push for FOCA which would codify abortion on demand.

As Barnes notes:

Obama has dozens of lesser posts to fill, and no doubt he'll use some of those jobs to assuage the left. Labor can probably have whomever it wants as secretary of labor. For all Obama's talk about education reform, chances are he'll bow to the teachers' lobby in choosing an education secretary. If former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle becomes health and human services secretary, that will please the single-payer crowd and the champions of more government-managed health care.

Political realities have a way of straight jacketing politicians, including presidents. Especially today when our economy is in a state of crisis, and internationally, storm clouds are building around the world.

Monday, December 1, 2008

High percent of students cheating and stealing. Should we be surprised?

A study of 29,760 students finds that within the last year 30% of high school students stole from a store and 64% cheated on a test.

While we realize some kids will always steal or cheat, we instinctively know these numbers are a problem. A healthy society is based on trust and when a significantly portion of the society can't be trusted to not cheat or steal then trust is broken down and it costs a significant amount of resources to counter thievery and cheating.

Yet upon further reflection should we be surprised? Our public education system has no moral or ethical foundation for declaring what's right and wrong. Our exclusion of God and the Bible from our education system has made them moral free zones which meant it was only a matter of time before our moral and ethical deficits would begin showing up. (In the 1980s the US Supreme Court banned the posting of Ten Commandments in public schools because they were afraid students would read them and be influenced by them! Seriously, that's what the justices said.)

A secular system which excluded mention of God is not morally neutral but really an anti-religious system. The fact is most people derive their morality from religion. Will Durant, the historian, noted this in his review of the French Revolution where for a while they tried to exorcise religion from society. They soon saw the chaos and backed off. The same will happen in our society, hopefully sooner than later.

An interesting parallel is the problem which exists with sexual immorality. Rather than seeing sexual behaviors as right or wrong, we're told whatever the student desires is acceptable. If you want to be sexually active, fine, just make sure you use a condom. The problem is the underlying behavior hasn't changed; it's still morally right or wrong. And the consequences aren't eliminated either. STDs, abortions, emotional danger continue unabated despite the push for contraceptives.

I hope that eventually reality sinks in regarding right and wrong sexual activity. Unfortunately, unlike stealing and cheating, there are powerful interest groups with a vested interest in promoting and encouraging immoral sexual behavior.