Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Edina Presbyterian Church joins group which disagrees with PCUSA's position on homosexual behavior.

Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, with its 5,000 members, is joining and leading a group called the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians.
Presbyterians not happy with the denomination's move last year to allow for openly gay and lesbian clergy to serve in the church have formed a new religious body, led by an Edina pastor.

The Rev. John Crosby, pastor of the 5,000-member Christ Presbyterian Church in Edina, will serve as president of the small breakaway movement to be called the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, according to the Presbyterian News Service.

"This is an uncertain time," said Crosby, the news service reported. "We are not angry, we are determined ... we are not 'after' or 'against' them -- we all need time, space and grace. ... We want to flesh out the options and then let God lead so we have the sense that we're all working together."

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) officially began allowing the ordination of openly gay and lesbian candidates on July 10.

In May, a majority of the denomination's 173 local presbyteries voted to remove language from its constitution stating clergy must be "living in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness."

The Twin Cities presbytery cast the deciding vote. There are at least 75,000 Presbyterians in Minnesota.

More than 2,000 Presbyterians gathered in Orlando last week "to provide support for congregations discontent with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and to officially launch the new church body," according to the Christian Post. "Attendees are weighing whether to join the ECO or remain a faithful witness in the PC(USA)."

The Presbyterian Church, based in Louisville, Ky., is among several mainline Protestant groups, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ, that have liberalized their policies toward gay clergy in recent years.
They join a long list of large mainline, denominational churches leaving the Episcopal, Lutheran (ELCA), and Presbyterian (PCUPSA)denominational groups after they began ordaining individuals engaged in homosexual behavior. These denominations, jettisoning two millennium of tradition and teaching, will continue to hemorrhage in numbers and relevancy.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Strib wants to throw religious freedoms/ rights of conscience out the window regarding health care and contraception.

The Star Tribune editors think the Obama Administration's decision to require all health plans pay for contraceptives is great even if it means trampling on religious freedoms and rights of conscience.
The Obama administration has reached a sensible but controversial decision on health insurance coverage for contraceptives. In general, an employer's religious beliefs should not dictate the type of drugs or medical procedures covered by their employees' health insurance plans.
Hmm, I presume this also means they shouldn't be able to say no to abortion funding and coverage?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced that it will stand firm on requiring many religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and charities to provide coverage for prescription birth control to their covered employees. Under federal health reform, birth control is now part of the preventive services provided at no charge by insurers.

The decision puts the administration at loggerheads with the powerful U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The bishops, noting their institution's long stance against prescription birth control, sought a broader religious exemption from this policy.

Houses of worship are not required to provide birth control in their health coverages, nor should they be. But the Obama administration rebuffed the bishops by declining to exempt religiously affiliated organizations whose primary mission isn't worship.

Critics, such as New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, blasted the decision as an attack on religious freedom. Yet another constitutional challenge to the federal health reform law is likely -- the last thing this embattled law needs.

The Obama administration nevertheless made the right decision. Birth control access is critical for women and children's health, ensuring that kids are born to parents ready for this responsibility. Lost in all the heated rhetoric over this milestone public health measure are several important points.

Critical children's health? I think a very strong case can be made that bombarding kid's with condom promotion has done everything but promote the health of children. The condom mindset and along sexual license has ushered in an epidemic of sexually transmitted disease, abortion, and out of wedlock births.

This policy does not require anyone to use birth control. In addition, courts have already rejected claims by Catholic organizations that requiring contraceptive coverage in employee health plans violates their religious freedom.
Issue isn't forcing people to use birth control but forcing people to subsidize it.
...Religious freedom is one of this nation's most cherished values. The Obama administration's birth control ruling carefully balanced respect for this tradition with concern for equity and public health.
There is no balancing of religious freedom. No, you will pay for this is the order of the day.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Want to eliminate the education achievement gap? The answer is simple: faith and family.

I sat in on early childhood education hearing. Their ultimate goal is getting kids ready for school and reducing achievement gap. The answer ultimately doesn't reside in new or more government programs. (In fact, they often times make matters worse.)

a study pointing to family and faith as the answer.

Here's the result of Professor Jeynes' study:

One of the most notable findings that emerges from this study is that using the NELS dataset, when African American and Latino children who are religious and come from intact families are compared with white students, the achievement gap disappears.
Note he says, "the achievement gap disappears." Isn't reduced. It disappears. That gets to the heart of the matter.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Who really cares for the less fortunate. Big government liberals or generous small government conservatives?

There's a lot made over the release of Mitt Romney's tax returns. It shows not only his taxable income but also his charitable giving. It's interesting seeing what the various presidential candidates and incumbents have done with their money.
So what were the headlines? He raked in about $42 million in 2010 and 2011. His effective tax rate was just below 14 percent, lower than that for many American taxpayers. He paid $6.2 million to the taxman and donated a staggering $7 million to charity, including $4.1 million to the Mormon church.

OK, so Mormons are supposed to tithe 10 percent of their income. But it's to Romney's immense credit that he promised to do this in his youth and followed through with that - to the tune of scores of millions (maybe hundreds of millions) of dollars throughout his life.

In fact, in those two years, he paid 16 percent of his income to charity, compared to, er, 2.6 percent by Newt Gingrich.

And what about President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the run-up to their 2008 campaign?

USA Today broke it down here. In 2007, the Obamas gave more than $240,000 to charity, about 5.7 percent of their income. The Bidens gave an average of $369 to charity a year for the decade before he moved to the Naval Observatory - about 0.3 percent of their income. Back in 1997, then veep Al Gore and his then wife Tipper gave $353.

Since becoming veep, Biden hasn't become much more generous. In 2010, he gave $5,350, about 1.4 percent of income. That same year, Romney gave some $3 million. The national average is about three percent.
What's interesting is how much they give to charity. Romney's gifts to charity in 2010 and 2011 were 13.73% and 14.11% respectively.

President Obama made $1.2 million from 2000 to 2004. He gave $10,772 to charity during that time period. Less than 1%. In 2005 and 2006, he earned $2.6 million over the two years. His charitable gifts were $137,622 or less than 5%.

Gingrich gave 2.6% over 2010 and 2011.

Biden gave 1.4% in 2010.

I realize the liberal litmus test for caring for others is how much one is willing to spend other people's money on the less fortunate and poor. But wouldn't a better indicator be what one does with one's own money?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Minnesota Court of Appeals reverses District Court decision upholding state marriage law.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed a Hennepin County District Court judge's decision throwing out a lawsuit changing Minnesota's marriage law.

The need for the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment isn't a theoritical issue. Here's a
news story on the decision.

Monday, January 23, 2012

On the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade: "The Unbearable Wrongness of Roe"

Here's a great commentary on the "unbearable wrongness of Roe", the US Supreme Court's decision "creating" a constitutional right to abortion and striking down laws across the country protecting the unborn child. It's written by St. Thomas law professor, Michael Stokes Paulsen. He writes:
It is almost too much to contemplate: the prospect that we are living in the midst of, and accepting (to various degrees) one of the greatest human holocausts in history. And so we don’t contemplate it. Instead, we look for ways to deny this grim reality, minimize it, or explain away our complacency—or complicity.

It is important, however, to view reality with eyes wide open, focus clear, and gaze not averted. On this thirty-ninth anniversary of Roe and Doe, I would like simply to set forth what Roe and Doe held, in as clear-headed and straightforwardly descriptive legal terms as possible, and to lay out its human and moral consequences. My brief tour of Roe’s unbearable wrongness begins with Roe’s radicalism—its extreme holding creating a plenary right to obtain or commit abortion—proceeds with Roe’s legal untenability, and concludes with Roe’s immorality and the moral problem of our seeming passivity and quiescence in response to the greatest legal and moral wrongs of our age.

Start with Roe’s radicalism, a radicalism that we may no longer grasp because it has become so familiar. Roe created a constitutional right to obtain or commit an abortion of a human life—that is, to terminate the life of a human embryo or fetus. It is important to be clear-sighted about this: abortion kills a living human embryo or fetus. What distinguishes “abortion” from (say)miscarriage is the specific intention to kill a living fetus. What was alive before has been deliberately killed. Abortion takes a life. Further, the life taken is human life. There is really no doubt about that as a matter of biology.

The embryo or fetus belongs to the species homo sapiens. It is a separate, living human being that is killed by abortion.

To be sure, that human being is killed at an early stage in its life cycle, and for a substantial part of that time could not live without direct biological connection to his or her mother (the person in whom Roe vests the right to terminate that human life).

But that does not make the human embryo any less alive, any less human, or any less a separate life from the mother. It just makes the unborn baby more vulnerable and dependent.

The right created by the Supreme Court in Roe is a constitutional right of some human beings to kill other human beings. I do not mean for my description to be provocative, but simply direct—blunt about facts. One need not presume that the human fetus has a right not to be killed in order to recognize that, as a descriptive matter, Roe creates a right for one class of human beings to kill other human beings.

Roe, coupled with Doe, creates a plenary right to kill the embryo or fetus for essentially any reason, at any time throughout all nine months of pregnancy. Distilled to its essence, Roe created a “trimester” framework for abortion. In roughly the first three months of pregnancy, the right of abortion is avowedly plenary: abortion may be had for any reason. In the second three months, government may regulate abortion to protect the life or health of the mother, but again the right to have an abortion remains plenary. In the final three months—after the point of “viability,” when the human fetus could live on his or her own outside the mother’s womb—Roe says that abortion can be restricted or prohibited . . . except where abortion is necessary to protect the “life or health” of the pregnant woman.

This is a big exception. And here is where Doe steps in. On its face, Roe might appear, to the unwary or uninitiated, “moderate”—its trimester-balancing framework a measured, reasonable-sounding, proportionate act of judicial legislation concerning abortion. It is Doe that does a lot of the work, through an indirect and ultimately disingenuous definition of the “health” reasons that always may justify a woman’s decision to have an abortion and trump any interest of society in protecting fetal human life, even when the child could survive outside the mother’s womb. Doe holds that relevant “health” considerations justifying late-term abortions include “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.” (Doe’s
understanding of “the patient” did not include the fetus; Roe held elsewhere
that the human fetus has no legal rights that any person is bound to respect.)

Roe then cross-referenced Doe’s stylized definition of health and incorporated it into the main holding. The result is that an abortion may be had, under Roe and Doe, for essentially any reason, throughout all nine months of pregnancy, up to the point of birth.
And then he describes it as an immoral legal decision.
Finally, there is Roe’s immorality—the abortion holocaust it unleashed—and the problem of our response to it. Roe is a radical decision and a legally indefensible one. But what really makes Roe unbearably wrong is its consequences. The result of Roe and Doe has been the legally authorized killing of nearly sixty million Americans since 1973. Roe v. Wade authorized unrestricted private violence against human life on an almost unimaginable scale, and did so, falsely, in the name of the Constitution.

It is hard to escape this conclusion, but not impossible—and many certainly try. I will not here belabor the question of whether the intentional killing of innocent, dependent, vulnerable human children is a grave moral wrong. My concluding point concerns the lengths to which we will go to deny the reality of this holocaust, because it is almost unbearable to contemplate and still go on living life as if nothing is terribly wrong. The cognitive dissonance is simply too great. And so we have become, in effect, a nation of holocaust deniers.

Here is the problem, undressed: If human embryonic life is morally worthy of protection, we have permitted sixty million murders under our watch. Faced with this prospect, many of us—maybe even most—flee from the facts. We deny that the living human embryo is “truly” or “fully” human life, adopt a view that whether the embryo or fetus is human “depends,” or can be judged in degrees, on a sliding scale over the course of pregnancy; or we proclaim uncertainty about the facts of human biology; or we proclaim moral agnosticism about the propriety of “imposing our views on others”; or we throw up our hands and give up because moral opposition to an entrenched, pervasive social practice is not worth the effort, discomfort, and social costs. The one position not on the table—the one possibility too hard to look at—is that abortion is a grave moral wrong on a par with the greatest human moral atrocities of all time and that we passively, almost willingly, accept it as such.

All of this should tell us a few more sobering things. It should tell us that, much as we would like to believe that human beings have become more morally conscious, more sensitive to injustice and intolerant of clear evil, it remains the case that we often either fail to recognize it in our midst, or refuse to respond to it decisively, out of self-interest or cowardice. It should tell us that, much as we would like to think that we surely would have stood bravely against slavery, even if embedded in a nineteenth-century society that tolerated and accepted it as a legal right, we might have acquiesced or been tepid in our condemnation. It should tell us that, much as we would like to think we would never have put up with what transpired in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and the 1940s, the evidence of our lives in twenty-first century America is that we might have put up with quite a lot.

And it should tell us finally, that, as much as we may claim to admire our governmental and constitutional system, the decisions of the Supreme Court in the abortion cases expose the Court—at least on this matter of life, death, and law—as a lawless, rogue institution capable of the most monstrous of injustices in the name of law. The Court has, with its abortion decisions, surely forfeited its legal and moral legitimacy as an institution. It has forfeited its claimed authority to speak for the Constitution. It has forfeited its entitlement to have its decisions respected, and followed, by the other branches of government, by the states, and by the people. Yet the docility of the American people with respect to Roe and abortion rivals the pliancy of the most cowardly, servile peoples toward ruinous, brutal, anti-democratic regimes throughout world history.

The Supreme Court is empowered by the Constitution to faithfully interpret the Constitution. But it is not alone in that power, and when it exceeds it and violates it, it is the responsibility of other actors in our system to check the abuse. As James Madison wrote in The Federalist No. 49, “the several departments being perfectly co-ordinate by the terms of their common commission, neither of them, it is evident, can pretend to an exclusive or superior right of settling the boundaries between their respective powers.” Moreover, it is “the people themselves” who are “the grantors of the commission” and who “can alone declare its true meaning and enforce its observance.”

The Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade should not be accepted as law, in any sense. It should be resisted by legislatures and it should be refused enforcement by executive officials because it is not the law. It should be resisted by all citizens, with all the resources at their disposal, and perhaps even with resources not (yet) at their disposal. Anything less is holocaust denial.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Creating a false dicotomy. Appropriate evangelical political involvement.

Religious conservatives involvement in the public arena and in particular political elections causes great angst for some evangelicals. Certainly politics can be a messy business, yet it's no less important for Christians to be involved in the political arena as in business, education or media for example.

Here's a column by David Neff of Christianity Today voicing concern about the meeting of evangelical leaders discussing who they should endorse for president. He said their gathering was dangerous. (That word was included in the title of his article.) Dangerous? Really.

He recommends the James Davison Hunter approach which emphasizes education and persuasion not direct political involvement. I don't think it's a case of one or the other. It's both. Ultimately, changing hearts and minds is key but that doesn't, nor should it, preclude direct political involvement. Going to an extreme in either direction is counter productive.

Personally, I don't think the endorsement of evangelical leaders for a particular candidate is determinative nor necessarily persuasive. Most evangelicals will size up the candidates themselves and vote accordingly, especially when several of the candidates generally hold the same policy positions on core issues.

Is it dangerous? No. What's dangerous is urging evangelicals to withdraw from the public/political square or saying that the ultimate solutions to the problems facing us are political. Both are wrongheaded.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Attack on religious liberties continues. NJ court decision case in point.

I recently had a blog post on a letter signed by religious leaders voicing concerns about the impact legally redefining marriage would have on religious liberties.

here's a case in point. A New Jersey judge has ruled that a Methodist retreat house does not have control over who uses their premises. In this instance a same sex couple couple which wanted to rent the facility for a same sex union ceremony can't be denied use of the facility.

These sorts of incidences will only grow and hopefully wake up the religious community to the very real threat to religious liberties posed by efforts to legally redefining marriage. As I've said many times, same sex "marriage" advocates don't operate with a "live and let live" mindset when it comes to forcing others to endorse and affirm their unions.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Addicted to gambling - states not just people.

Here's an article on efforts by Maryland to get into the gambling rush. What this article points out is the addictive nature of predatory gambling and gambling revenues for state governments.
Maryland has struggled to get slots casinos off the ground since they were legalized in a 2008 referendum, while other states in the region have established slots and moved on to legalize casino table games such as poker and blackjack.

The District and New Jersey have upped the ante to fill government coffers by attempting to legalize online gambling, especially after the Justice Department last month gave its approval.

Maryland officials are largely focused on expanding slots and adding table games, but acknowledge that online gambling in nearby states could put them even further behind.

"We're a day late and a dollar short," said state Sen. Richard F. Colburn, Dorchester Republican, who is co-sponsoring a bill to legalize table games. "Even if we get table games, we're still going to be behind the eight ball. Maryland will probably never catch up."

Maryland lawmakers passed legislation in 2007 that paved the way for slots, after years of wrangling between the Democrat-controlled General Assembly and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican and one of the state's most vocal proponents of the machines.
The promised revenues don't materialize.
As it turns out, the rollout has gone slowly. Two casinos have opened, in Cecil and Worcester counties. The Maryland Live casino in Anne Arundel County is scheduled to open in June.

The state has not awarded contracts for its two other planned casinos, in Allegany County and in Baltimore, largely because of a lack of interest from qualified bidders. Still, officials hope to award contracts later this year.

The slow start and other delays have caused revenue to fall short of initial projections.

The two operational casinos brought in $103 million in fiscal 2011, compared with 2007 projections of $157 million during that period, and generated $80 million in the first six months of fiscal 2012, short of the $1 billion that the state initially predicted.
Gambling revenues are down in lots of states.
Maryland is not alone. As competition increases, states across the country are trying to stop declining casino revenue.

Revenue is reportedly down 30 percent since 2006 in Atlantic City, N.J., and Nevada's biggest casinos reported a combined $4 billion loss in 2011.

Delaware, which opened slots at the first of three racetracks in 1995 and added table games in 2009, has switched from expansion plans to considering ways to keep "racinos" from folding. One option on the table is reduced licensing fees. Slots revenue there has declined every year since 2007, when Harrah's opened a casino in Chester, Pa..
They see it as easy money. What they don't see is the destructive, corrosive effects of predatory gambling on individuals and the culture. The social costs are well documented and they far outweigh any benefits. Predatory gambling which is primarily the electronic forms of gambling is the most addictive form of gambling.

It's built on a predatory business model rooted in addiction and indebtednessDuring economically difficult times, more predatory gambling is the last thing we need.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Christian and other religious leaders speak out on marriage and religious liberty.

Christians leaders from across denominational and religious lines signed an open letter to the American people on the impact of redefining marriage on religious freedoms.

They noted that marriage and religious liberty are goods which stand or fall together.

I think leaders and people in the church are increasingly understanding the impact of redefining marriage on society and in particular on the church.

Here's the text of their letter. Here's a
Q & A explaining the letter and answering questions raised by it.
The promotion and protection of marriage—the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife—is a matter of the common good and serves the wellbeing of the couple, of children, of civil society and all people. The meaning and value of marriage precedes and transcends any particular society, government, or religious community. It is a universal good and the foundational institution of all societies. It is bound up with the nature of the human person as male and female, and with the essential task of bearing and nurturing children.

As religious leaders across a wide variety of faith communities, we join together to affirm that marriage in its true definition must be protected for its own sake and for the good of society. We also recognize the grave consequences of altering this definition. One of these consequences—the interference with the religious freedom of those who continue to affirm the true definition of “marriage”—warrants special attention within our faith communities and throughout society as a whole. For this reason, we come together with one voice in this letter.

Some posit that the principal threat to religious freedom posed by same-sex “marriage” is the possibility of government’s forcing religious ministers to preside over such “weddings,” on pain of civil or criminal liability. While we cannot rule out this possibility entirely, we believe that the First Amendment creates a very high bar to such attempts.

Instead, we believe the most urgent peril is this: forcing or pressuring both individuals and religious organizations—throughout their operations, well beyond religious ceremonies—to treat same-sex sexual conduct as the moral equivalent of marital sexual conduct. There is no doubt that the many people and groups whose moral and religious convictions forbid same-sex sexual conduct will resist the compulsion of the law, and church-state conflicts will result.

These conflicts bear serious consequences. They will arise in a broad range of legal contexts, because altering the civil definition of “marriage” does not change one law, but hundreds, even thousands, at once. By a single stroke, every law where rights depend on marital status—such as employment discrimination, employment benefits, adoption, education, healthcare, elder care, housing, property, and taxation—will change so that same-sex sexual relationships must be treated as if they were marriage. That requirement, in turn, will apply to religious people and groups in the ordinary course of their many private or public occupations and ministries—including running schools, hospitals, nursing homes and other housing facilities, providing adoption and counseling services, and many others.

So, for example, religious adoption services that place children exclusively with married couples would be required by law to place children with persons of the same sex who are civilly “married.” Religious marriage counselors would be denied their professional accreditation for refusing to provide counseling in support of same-sex “married” relationships. Religious employers who provide special health benefits to married employees would be required by law to extend those benefits to same-sex “spouses.” Religious employers would also face lawsuits for taking any adverse employment action—no matter how modest—against an employee for the public act of obtaining a civil “marriage” with a member of the same sex. This is not idle speculation, as these sorts of situations have already come to pass.

Even where religious people and groups succeed in avoiding civil liability in cases like these, they would face other government sanctions—the targeted withdrawal of government co-operation, grants, or other benefits.

For example, in New Jersey, the state cancelled the tax-exempt status of a Methodist-run boardwalk pavilion used for religious services because the religious organization would not host a same-sex “wedding” there. San Francisco dropped its $3.5 million in social service contracts with the Salvation Army because it refused to recognize same-sex “domestic partnerships” in its employee benefits policies. Similarly, Portland, Maine, required Catholic Charities to extend spousal employee benefits to same-sex “domestic partners” as a condition of receiving city housing and community development funds.

In short, the refusal of these religious organizations to treat a same-sex sexual relationship as if it were a marriage marked them and their members as bigots, subjecting them to the full arsenal of government punishments and pressures reserved for racists. These punishments will only grow more frequent and more severe if civil “marriage” is redefined in additional jurisdictions. For then, government will compel special recognition of relationships that we the undersigned religious leaders and the communities of faith that we represent cannot, in conscience, affirm. Because law and government not only coerce and incentivize but also teach, these sanctions would lend greater moral legitimacy to private efforts to punish those who defend marriage.

Therefore, we encourage all people of good will to protect marriage as the union between one man and one woman, and to consider carefully the far-reaching consequences for the religious freedom of all Americans if marriage is redefined. We especially urge those entrusted with the public good to support laws that uphold the time-honored definition of marriage, and so avoid threatening the religious freedom of countless institutions and citizens in this country. Marriage and religious freedom are both deeply woven into the fabric of this nation.

May we all work together to strengthen and preserve the unique meaning of marriage and the precious gift of religious freedom.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Economic Freedom on Decline in US

The Heritage Foundation released its most recent ranking of nations on their level of economic freedom. The US has dropped to 10th worldwide. The top five countries are Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland.
The United States’ economic freedom score of 76.3 drops it to 10th place in the 2012 Index. Its score is 1.5 points lower than last year, reflecting deteriorating scores for government spending, freedom from corruption, and investment freedom. The U.S. is ranked 2nd out of three countries in the North America region, and its overall score remains well above the world and regional averages.

The U.S. economy faces enormous challenges. Although the foundations of economic freedom remain strong, recent government interventions have eroded limits on government, and public spending by all levels of government now exceeds one-third of total domestic output. The regulatory burden on business continues to increase rapidly, and heightened uncertainty further increases regulations’ negative impact. Fading confidence in the government’s determination to promote or even sustain open markets has discouraged entrepreneurship and dynamic investment within the private sector.
Recent declines are due to President Obama's spending and regulatory policies.
The U.S. economy, the world’s largest, has not recovered fully from the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession. Under Democratic President Barack Obama, the federal system of government, designed to reserve significant powers to the state and local levels, has been strained by the national government’s rapid expansion. Spending at the national level rose to over 25 percent of GDP in 2010, and gross public debt surpassed 100 percent of GDP in 2011. A 2010 health care bill that greatly expanded the central government’s reach has been under challenge in the courts, and the Dodd–Frank financial overhaul bill has roiled credit markets. Although the election of a Republican Party majority in the House of Representatives in late 2010 slowed spending growth, divided government has left U.S. economic policy in flux.
While done in the name of fairness, redistributionist policies ultimately shrink the size of the economic pie and makes society overall worse off. Of course, mismanagement isn't limited to the Obama Administration; it's only accelerated process. Financial and monetary mismanagement hammer the middle class first and foremost. Poverty and mistreatment of the environment are a couple of the conseqeunces of the loss of economic freedom and growth.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pro-family tax policy proposed by Santorum.

Rick Santorum has proposed a pro-family tax policy which raises personal deductions and eliminate marriage penalties.

Santorum’s tax proposals would triple the personal deduction for each child and “eliminate marriage tax penalties throughout the federal tax code.” He would retain deductions for charitable giving, home mortgage interest, health care, and retirement - all undertakings that support faith and family formation.

Significantly, he would eliminate all corporate taxes on U.S. manufacturers, from its present 35 percent to zero. The candidate’s native Pennsylvania has lost 127,000 manufacturing jobs 2005-10, and median income has fallen faster than the national average. High-wage manufacturing jobs made it possible to support a family without a college degree. A 2003 study funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation found higher education and the desire for more economic security delayed the age of marriage and family formation later than ever.

The candidate’s promotion of marriage and family led the American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethoukis to write that Santorum is “using tax policy as pro-family, pro-natalism social policy.”

Dr. Allan C. Carlson, president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society told LifeSiteNews.com that Santorum’s economic proposals “are potentially pro-natalist, and that’s a good thing. We could use more babies born in this country.” The U.S. birthrate fell below replacement level in 2008, hitting its lowest level in a century in 2010.

Santorum believes marriage and childbirth are pivotal to a healthy society. “It’s important to value the institution of marriage,” Santorum said in a recent stump speech. “Because the institution of marriage is where men and women bond together for the purposes of having and raising children, and giving children their birthright, which is a mom and a dad…that has an intrinsic value that is better than every other relationship.”

Nearly 41 percent of America’s children are born out of wedlock in 2010. American taxpayers spent $300 billion on welfare programs for single-parent families, 75 percent of all welfare expenditures for families with children.

Surveys prove children raised within traditional marriages become more economically productive citizens and suffer fewer of the pathologies of crime and poverty associated with children in single-parent or cohabiting parent homes. But economic anxiety has caused many couples to postpone childbirth.

The marriage penalty embedded in the tax code may discourage marriage by taxing married couples at higher rates than single people. Santorum’s plan would equalize the tax burden by doubling the size of tax brackets for married families and eliminating other penalties for those who tie the knot...

Many believe healing America’s crumbling hearths requires bold measures. In July, Charles A. Donovan, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, called for “a Marshall Plan to rebuild shattered American homes.” Congresswoman Michele Bachmann made “family formation” the center of her tax plan before exiting the race. Others emphasize that the proposal is a political winner. Robert Stein, a former deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury, writes, “Such an approach would also be very popular with a vital political constituency - middle-class parents.”

Dr. Carlson, who has promoted a pro-family tax policy for decades, said family formation has been at the heart of the income tax code since the Revenue Act of 1948, which “generously increased personal exemptions for children, eliminated the marriage penalty that existed in the tax code, and made having a family and children a tax shelter.” He suggested the Parents Tax Relief Act of 2007 as model legislation, but believed it would have a chilly reception in some quarters of Capitol Hill.

“The Democrats, under the influence of the feminist bloc, don’t want to give any recognition to stay at home parenting, because they fear - rightly so - that women may like it,” Dr. Carlson said.
His proposal does raise concerns among some conservatives that it will remove individuals from the tax rolls which means they'll have less incentive to be concerned about taxes.

William McBridge, an economist with the Tax Foundation, observed that Santorum’s plan “might spur growth, or it might just spur child making.” However, it would “push more taxpayers off the tax rolls such that likely a majority of tax filers would pay no tax. That last one’s a serious concern in a democracy controlled by majority rule.”

I think it’s a good idea,” Dr. Carlson replied. “I’m for a progressive tax system that has generous tax exemptions tied to it. It does mean that more people raising children will be allowed to keep more of their money.”
I think it's appropriate for the tax code to recognize the family as the foundational social and economic unit of society and therefore is worthy of special recognition. Frankly, if we don't have more children, our economy will suffer and there will be more pressure to raise taxes on the fewer taxpayers in society.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ugh. Moral relativism at work. The danger of teaching kids to not make right judgments.

Here's an excerpt from a powerful commentary by Chuck Colson on moral relativism in education. He quotes from an Education Journal article.
Dr. Stephen Anderson teaches philosophy at A.B. Lucas Secondary School in Ontario, Canada. His students had just finished a unit on metaphysics and were about to start one on ethics.

To jump start the discussion and to “form a baseline from which they could begin to ask questions about the legitimacy of moral judgments of all kinds,” Anderson shared with them a gruesome photo of Bibi Aisha, a teenage wife of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan. When Bibi tried to get away from her abusive husband, her family caught her, cut off her nose and ears, and left her to die in the mountains. Only Bibi didn’t die. Somehow she crawled to her grandfather’s house, and was saved in an American hospital.

Writing in Education Journal magazine, Anderson relates how he was sure that his students, “seeing the suffering of this poor girl of their own age, [they] would have a clear ethical reaction,” one they could talk about “more difficult cases.”

But their response shocked Anderson. “[He] expected strong aversion [to it], … but that’s not what I got. Instead, they became confused . . . afraid to make any moral judgment at all. They were unwilling to criticize,” as he said, “any situation originating in a different culture. They said, ‘Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.’”

Anderson calls their confusion and refusal to judge such child mutilation a moment of startling clarity, and indeed it is. He wonders if it stems not from too little education, but from too much multiculturalism and so-called “values education,” which is really just an excuse for moral relativism.

Anderson writes, “While we may hope some [students] are capable of bridging the gap between principled morality and this ethically vacuous relativism, it is evident that a good many are not. For them, the overriding message is ‘never judge, never criticize, never take a position.’” Anderson wonders whether in our current educational system, we’re not producing ethical paralytics? Well, if the horrifying example of the students’ reaction in this case is any indication, Anderson already knows the answer.
We are and will be reaping the whirlwind of moral relativism and multiculturalism in our educational institutions.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tebow and the 3:16 phenomena

The talk of the sports world is quarterback Tim Tebow and his most recent football victory. This time over the perennial powerhouse Pittsburgh Steelers.

His strong expressions of faith have got everybody's attention.

He has had CBS sport's commentators "tebowing" and now his passing for 316 with an average of 31.6 yards a catch have drawn attention to the famous Bible verse John 3:16.

• The fact that Tebow had 316 yards passing and averaged 31.6 yards per pass in the game didn't escape notice on Sunday night. Tebow wore "John 3:16" on his eye black in the 2009 BCS Championship game and has since become identified with the famous Bible message. The coincidental stats caused millions of fans to perform Google searches on the Bible passage in the past 24 hours. Here's one more unbelievable stat: John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports that the final quarter-hour television rating for the Broncos-Steelers game was, you guessed it, 31.6.

(John 3:16 reads: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.")

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is New York City embracing a culture of death?

The New York City Department of Health has released numbers showing that 40% of all births end in abortion. That sounds like a culture which is rejecting life and embracing radical individualism and even death, even if it's not consciously understood.

It's pointed out that in the Bronx, it's upwards of 50%. In the African America community, 60% of pregnancies end in abortion. And for teenagers, it's 63%. And nationally, 23% of births end in abortion, nearly a quarter of all pregnancies.

With the highest abortion rate in the nation, nearly double the 23% national average, New York continues to be a place that babies in the womb cannot love.

New York City Department of Health released data that shows that 83,750 abortions were performed in New York City in 2010, which translated to 40% of all pregnancies, down from 41% in 2009.

The Bronx saw a staggering 48% of pregnancies end in abortion. The city lost 38,574 African-Americans babies to abortion, a dumbfounding 60% of the city’s African-American pregnancies.

The abortion rate among NY teens as a whole was 63%, 12,139 abortions to 7,207 live births. That means that for every 1,000 babies born among New York City teens, 1,684 were aborted.
A ray of light is many New Yorkers realize they have a problem and are open to addressing it.
According to a citywide poll conducted last year by McLaughlin & Associates and released by The Chiaroscuro Foundation, two-thirds of New Yorkers (64%) think that too many babies are aborted in New York City every year. More than half of city residents (51%) would support a 24-hour waiting period before the abortion procedure. About 63% of city residents would support a parental consent initiative for girls under 18 years of age to abort her baby.
Societies can't survive if they embrace the abortion mindset for very long.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Liberal talk show host Ed Schultz impressed by Santorum

Here's a couple of interesting videos by liberal, talk show host Ed Schultz. He followed Santorum around Iowa and was impressed. Didn't agree with his views but was impressed by him as a candidate.

segment is done before the caucuses and this segment was done in response to liberal critics of his comments.
All right, so last night I'm on the coverage (of Iowa caucuses) on MSNBC and all of a sudden I start getting all of these tweets from liberals who think that I am eating Santorum's salad or I'm a turncoat and emails are coming in, Ed, wha, wha, wha, wha -- shut up!

Look, I went to Iowa as an objective reporter to bring the story to you on what's happening on the ground. And I came back and I said, you know what, this Samtorum guy (yes -- "Samtorum"), he's going to win. Why is he going to win? Because he's absolutely an ace at retail politics. And yes, whether you like it or not, he's as good as President Obama with a crowd. I know, I saw it, OK?

I, on the air, on "The Ed Show," I talked about why he's good. Because he looks right at people and gives them a direct answer and then gets into detail. He doesn't get off into the weeds with bullet points and he doesn't dismiss people, OK? There is a certain genuine quality about this guy. Has nothing to do with how radical his positions are on gay marriage or the family or, you know, the bridge to nowhere or whatever! But I want to tell you, it kind of pissed me off!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Could/would new federal anti-terrorism law be used to detain prolifers by characterizing them as "terrorists"?

Pro-life, public interest lawyer John Whitehead believes a new federal law that permits the detention without trial of individuals and, some think American citizens, suspected of terrorist ties could be applied to prolife activists.

In a LifesitesNews
“This law can apply to pro-lifers, yes,” said John W. Whitehead, a constitutional attorney and founder of The Rutherford Institute. Whitehead told LifeSiteNews.com the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (NDAA) “would allow the military to show up at your door if you’re a ‘potential terrorist,’ and put you in military detention where seeing a lawyer is difficult.”

The NDAA, which President Barack Obama signed on December 31, allows the president to hold enemy combatants in military detention facilities without trial until the end of hostilities, if the person “substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” The law allows the president to determine which groups may be considered terrorists without judicial or congressional oversight, although Secretary of Defense is required to “regularly brief” Congress about “covered persons.”

Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI, said the Obama administration specifically asked senators for the power to permanently detain American citizens without trial and to “remove the language which says that U.S. citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section.”

Although Section 1022 states, “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States,” many contend the law allows detention as an option for Americans captured abroad. Glenn Greenwald of Salon summarized, “For foreign nationals accused of being members of Al Qaeda, military detention is mandatory; for U.S. citizens, it is optional.”

Dana Cody, president and executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, said pro-life activists “already are classified as domestic terrorists on some FBI lists.” She said that on one occasion the manager of a Kansas City, Kansas, abortion clinic slammed her client, Mary Ann Sause, to the ground and told the peaceful pro-life demonstrator he was photographing her license plate so he could report her to the FBI.

Cody, who told LifeSiteNews.com her organization is currently studying the NDAA, added that the law states “enemy territory is anywhere.” The Senate rejected an amendment from Dianne Feinstein limiting permanent detention to those captured “abroad.”

“If it’s within the discretion of the government under the National Defense Authorization Act, of course it will be used by the government to intimidate and silence pro-life people, especially those who are in the public forum,” Cody said.

....Whitehead said one of his clients, street preacher Michael Marcavage, has become the target of an FBI terrorist investigation. Whitehead wrote a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller asking why Marcavage is being investigated for preaching the Gospel. The FBI has not responded.

Under this administration, the Department of Homeland Security has listed pro-life organizations as potential domestic terrorists and held joint training sessions with the FBI to monitor pro-life websites.

An April 2009 DHS report entitled “Rightwing [sic.] Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” identified as likely terrorists “groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration,” or who would be “antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived stance on a range of issues.” Such groups, the report concluded, “are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States.” The DHS later pulled the report.

However, last August DHS and FBI agents attended a terrorism training seminar hosted by Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation, and the Feminist Majority Foundation that equated free speech and distributing literature with violence. An 84-page resource guide listed three pages of potential extremist websites including Priests for Life, National Right to Life, the American Life League, Concerned Women for America, Human Life International, the American Center for Law and Justice, and the Christian Broadcasting Network.

In 1994-6, the Clinton administration’s Justice Department subpoenaed longtime pro-life activists in hopes of uncovering a terrorist conspiracy to kill abortionists. The Violence Against Abortion Providers Conspiracy (VAAPCON) program compiled a vast database of information on anti-abortion groups and individuals, including the National Right to Life Committee, the late John Cardinal O’Connor of New York, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Concerned Women for America, the Christian Coalition, Feminists for Life, and the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, which condemned the secret database.

Whitehead warns the NDAA is “a threat to anybody causing trouble – that means exercising your rights.”
One never knows all the consequences of new laws until they're in place.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What will the coming presidential campaign look like?

Here's an interesting analysis of the upcoming presidential campaign between President Obama and the Republican nominee by Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard.
We are a little over 10 months from Election Day, and the Christmas hope of many conservatives is that voters next November will deliver a decisive rebuke to President Barack Obama. Obviously, a lot can happen in 10 months. Nevertheless, many of the fundamentals of the race are already in place. And the news is not good for the president.

Horse race polls are of limited value this far from Election Day. The 10 to 15 percent of the electorate in the middle—the slice of voters who swing elections—aren’t paying much attention. Sometimes these voters do not make a decision until the very last minute, as was the case in the 1980 campaign between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.

Still, the polls offer some guidance. The RealClearPolitics.com average of them shows Obama earning just 43 percent when matched against an unnamed Republican, and only 46 percent when matched against Mitt Romney. This is bad for the president because public opinion about an incumbent is pretty firm and difficult—though not impossible—to move, absent shifts in the broader political context.

And what to make of that context? Each presidential election is fought over a series of shifting national concerns, and the issues of the 2012 cycle are the least favorable for an incumbent president since 1992, and maybe even since 1980. And we know what happened to the incumbents in those elections.

Three issues in particular dominate the discussion, and none of them favors Obama. The most important is the economy, which has been struggling through a decade of weak growth. Consider that between 1951 and 2000, the American economy grew by an average of 37 percent every decade. Between 2001 and 2010, the pace of growth was less than half that, at just 15 percent.

This has generated an enormous “output gap”—the difference between what the economy would ideally produce and what it has actually done. Over the last decade, the size of this gap is a yawning $2.5 trillion. The average American has felt the effects in stubbornly high unemployment and stagnant real incomes, and the effort of the Federal Reserve to generate growth by cutting interest rates to the bone means that people who save their pennies earn virtually no interest for their scrimping.

Barack Obama certainly doesn’t deserve all the blame, but he will pay a high political price for three reasons. First, he overpromised to an absurd degree when he entered office. He claimed that the stimulus bill would reignite the American growth machine and keep unemployment under 8 percent. Neither happened, so Obama will pay for his unjustified optimism.

Second, he failed to form a bipartisan coalition to tackle the economic problem. The many comparisons made between Barack Obama and Franklin Roosevelt in the heady days of winter 2009 always seemed to overlook the fact that FDR’s New Deal, at least in its early stages, was bipartisan, framed as a national response to a national emergency. Obama’s approach was to breezily tell congressional Republicans, “I won.” Because the stimulus manifestly failed to deliver the growth that the president promised, Obama and congressional Democrats must bear the weight of that failure all by themselves.

Third, Obama turned his attention away from the economy far too quickly. This points to another difference between Obama and Roosevelt. FDR essentially threw everything at the Depression, including the kitchen sink; the legislating of 1933 and 1934 was relentlessly focused on the economy, and voters had no choice but to conclude that Roosevelt was, at the very least, doing everything he could think of. Not so with Obama. Having passed their stimulus, this president and his allies in Congress turned their attention to grander social welfare ambitions, something FDR did not begin to do until 1935, when the economy had already started growing at a robust rate.

Thus, the only real question is how big a price Obama will pay. The December survey of economists by the Wall Street Journal found that, on average, they expect 2012 annual GDP to come in at 2.3 percent, far below the postwar average, unemployment to be stuck at or above 8.5 percent for the whole year, and home prices to be flat. No incumbent president since FDR has been reelected when the economy still has so much slack.

Obama’s record on the economy is so dismal that, all by itself, it should be sufficient for an able Republican to defeat him. Yet this president faces other daunting challenges. The next big one is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. It contributed mightily to the GOP wave of 2010, and if the Republicans play their cards right, it will defeat Obama next year.
At this point, given our economic and financial problems things look tough for President Obama. Yet lots can happen between now and November. The economy could improve significantly. Paul runs as a third party candidate. Or the Republican candidate makes major mistakes. Even in 1980, when Reagan beat Carter, things didn't shake out until the final weeks of the campaign. It's a big election.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Is it just about the economy? Will the "leave me alone" mindset suffice?

Columnist Star Parker goes after Ron Paul and more broadly those she perceives as wanting to avoid the values questions and exclusively focus on the economy. She said she's hearing this refrain more frequently on college campuses among students.
When I first started lecturing early in the 1990’s, leading heroes of Republican youth were Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley, Jr.

Individual freedom, respect for constitutional limitations on government, and traditional values was the message. There was a sense of purpose. America as a “shining city on a hill,” quoted so often by Reagan, taken from the Puritan pilgrim John Winthrop, captured the picture.

Now, increasing numbers of my campus hosts ask that I not talk about “values.” Leave out the stuff about marriage, family, and abortion, please, and just talk about the economy.

The materialism and moral relativism that created our left wing culture is now infecting our youth on the right. Young Republicans may be pushing back on government, but too often now their motivation is like their left wing contemporaries. A sense of entitlement and an interest in claiming rights with little interest in corresponding personal responsibilities.

David Yepsen, who directs the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, recently described Ron Paul's success as a "resurgence of the libertarian and isolationist wings of the Republican Party," resulting from "hard times and unpopular wars."
As for the values question, it can't be avoided even in the economic debates. It's always there, under the surface. In conservative circles, this avoidance is associated with libertarianism which is rooted, often times, in a radical individualism, e.g. I'm accountable to no one or standard beyond myself and what I want to do.

While I agree with libertarians on many of their limited government, free market prescriptions, I believe "radical individualism" which guides some folks is ultimately a dead end and destructive to the individual and society as a whole. We live in moral universe which we didn't create nor do we have the power to recreate it.