Friday, September 28, 2012

Disabilities treaty and loss of freedoms and US Sovereignty

I doubt most people are aware of an international treaty on disabilities, called the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, that's being pushed in the US Senate.  I wasn't until I read this story.
A group of 36 Republican senators have banded together to rebuff any efforts to pass the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) before the end of the upcoming post-election, lame duck session of Congress. This effectively throws the decision to the 113th Congress, which takes office in January, since treaty ratification requires two-thirds approval (67 votes) in the Senate.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., attempted to pass the treaty by unanimous consent before Congress left for recess last week, but the effort failed when Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, swooped in to object to the surprise move. 
 Why the concern?
But opponents argue the treaty would strip parents of the right to decide what’s in the best interest of their children, including the choice to educate them at home. Home School Legal Defense Association founder Michael Farris told me the treaty gives homeschoolers serious reason to be concerned: “We’re giving away the sovereignty of the family, as well as giving away the sovereignty of America.” 

Among its other issues, the CRPD doesn’t define “disability,” which it says is an “evolving concept.” It also includes the phrase “sexual and reproductive health,” language that some claim includes the right to an abortion. The Vatican has already refused to sign the treaty on the grounds that it may be used to promote abortion.
So for now it looks like the treaty is stopped, because it lacks the 67 votes necessary for passage.  Senators are wise not to pass an amendment simply because it sounds good.  Rather they need to realize who will be interpreting it's provisions and the impact of the those interpretations.  If the UN or similar international organizations are involved, "buyer beware."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Trust in the media is at an all-time low among Republicans and Independents but not Democrats

Trust in the media is at a record low according to a Gallup poll.

Gallup says:
Americans' distrust in the media hit a new high this year, with 60% saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. Distrust is up from the past few years, when Americans were already more negative about the media than they had been in years prior to 2004.
Trend since 1997: In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media -- such as newspapers, TV, and radio -- when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?

The record distrust in the media, based on a survey conducted Sept. 6-9, 2012, also means that negativity toward the media is at an all-time high for a presidential election year. This reflects the continuation of a pattern in which negativity increases every election year compared with the year prior. The current gap between negative and positive views -- 20 percentage points -- is by far the highest Gallup has recorded since it began regularly asking the question in the 1990s. Trust in the media was much higher, and more positive than negative, in the years prior to 2004 -- as high as 72% when Gallup asked this question three times in the 1970s.

This year's decline in media trust is driven by independents and Republicans. The 31% and 26%, respectively, who express a great deal or fair amount of trust are record lows and are down significantly from last year. Republicans' level of trust this year is similar to what they expressed in the fall of 2008, implying that they are especially critical of election coverage.
Trust is lowest among Republicans and then Independents.  Not surprising Democrats are most trusting of the media.  The numbers are 26, 31, and 58 respectively.
Independents are sharply more negative compared with 2008, suggesting the group that is most closely divided between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is quite dissatisfied with its ability to get fair and accurate news coverage of this election.

More broadly, Republicans continue to express the least trust in the media, while Democrats express the most. Independents' trust fell below the majority level in 2004 and has continued to steadily decline.

Trend: Trust in Mass Media, by Party

I found Gallup's summary of implications very interesting. 

Americans are clearly down on the news media this election year, with a record-high six in 10 expressing little or no trust in the mass media's ability to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly. This likely reflects the continuation of the trend seen in recent years, combined with the increased negativity toward the media that election years tend to bring. This is particularly consequential at a time when Americans need to rely on the media to learn about the platforms and perspectives of the two candidates vying to lead the country for the next four years.

The lower level of interest in news about national politics during this election year may also reflect the level of interest in the presidential election specifically. This survey was conducted immediately after the conclusion of both political conventions and thus may indicate the level of attention paid to those events in particular. Since this survey was conducted, Democrats' enthusiasm about voting has swelled nationally and in swing states.

On a broad level, Americans' high level of distrust in the media poses a challenge to democracy and to creating a fully engaged citizenry. Media sources must clearly do more to earn the trust of Americans, the majority of whom see the media as biased one way or the other. At the same time, there is an opportunity for others outside the "mass media" to serve as information sources that Americans do trust.
This tells me that there is a strong liberal media bias that is driving the political process and it "poses a challenge to democracy and to creating a fully engaged citizenry."   

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

One of the least diverse places in America and an area you won't see liberals pushing for it - university faculties.

Our universities our known for being overwhelmingly liberal in their orientation. In some respects they are one of the least diverse places.  A sad commentary given their trade in ideas. That's an article which points this out.
Unless you believe that ever-expanding government programs and centrally planned economies are the solution to all of life's contingencies and social problems you will not likely get a faculty position in the humanities, social sciences, or education at an American college or university. A prevailing myth in America is that our colleges and universities are bastions of diversity. This is laughable. To believe the diversity myth one must ignore the fact that American higher education seems to care less about students being introduced to diverse ideas and perspectives. When American colleges talk "diversity" they only seem to mean it along the axis of race, gender, and class. The notion that a robust learning community requires students be exposed to multiple perspectives has no value in the modern academy. What matters today on most campuses is intellectual homogeneity—also known as tribal "group think."
 Two surveys, studies point this out. 
In the August issue the journal Inside Higher Ed, a large survey of psychologists reported the following:
“Just over 37 percent of those surveyed said that, given equally qualified candidates for a job, they would support the hiring of a liberal candidate over a conservative candidate. Smaller percentages agreed that a ‘conservative perspective’ would negatively influence their odds of supporting a paper for inclusion in a journal or a proposal for a grant.”
In another major study, research by Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers demonstrates that social psychologists, for example, openly admit they would bypass conservatives in the hiring process. When the authors surveyed a large number of social and personality psychologists they discovered several not-so-surprising facts:
“First, although only 6 percent described themselves as conservative ‘overall,’ there was more diversity of political opinion on economic issues and foreign policy. Second, respondents significantly underestimated the proportion of conservatives among their colleagues. Third, conservatives fear negative consequences of revealing their political beliefs to their colleagues. Finally, conservatives are right to do so: In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists said that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues. The more liberal respondents were, the more they said they would discriminate.”
What's the moral of the story? It seems that there is proven discrimination against conservatives in America's colleges and universities and this will not likely change anytime soon without radical intervention. Will colleges and universities be as proactive in securing intellectual diversity as they have been for racial and gender diversity? Do we need affirmative action hiring programs for non-liberals and progressives because conservatives are not given access to faculty opportunities? If so, that's something that even President Obama might truly call “forward.” 
 This is certainly one form of diversity liberals won't get behind.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How a Anglican priest went from modern liberalism to biblical liberalism. And what is biblical liberalism?

Here's an interesting interview with an Episcopal priest who lost his faith in seminary but then came back to it. 
The Rev. John Liebler, an Episcopal priest, lost his faith in an ironic place: seminary. Studying for the priesthood in the late 1970s, Liebler was inundated with a theological liberalism that left him believing that Christianity, and all religion, was just a mirror we hold up to our own wishes rather than a window through which we see true spiritual realities. After a few years pastoring, he finally realized his spiritual emptiness.
What was it like losing his faith.
Liebler: It was exceedingly painful. Most people who go through a time of doubt or loss of faith struggle with a sense of emptiness and meaninglessness. For a pastor, who must preach every week and speak about God with parishioners, there is an additional sense of dishonesty.
How did he come back to God?
Liebler: I had initially come to faith in an Anglican sacramental tradition, enlivened by the charismatic renewal. So we had both the beauty and history of the liturgy along with a powerful sense of the Holy Spirit working among us. I gradually lost my faith through the liberal-progressive vision of Christianity taught in college and seminary.

After struggling on my own for a time, I confided in my then Bishop, Rev. John Howe of Orlando. He encouraged me to read books such as Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict and the writings of other Christian evangelical scholars. As I read, I was overwhelmed with the convincing proofs they set forth for things like the Bible's reliability, the deity of Jesus Christ, his miracles, and his resurrection from the dead. I had heard none of this in seminary. It was the assurance I needed that Christianity really was about truth and not the wishful thinking of human beings.

Yet it was more than reading. As an experiment, I began to preach and pray "as if" it were true, as Bishop Howe suggested. I witnessed incredible changes in my life and in the lives of others that resulted from this holy experiment. My faith returned slowly, like the blooming of a flower. I really credit God's use of the evangelical Gospel vision of Bishop John Howe with leading me back to faith.
He has an interesting perspective on liberalism, what's known as classical liberalism, a good thing, rather than by modern liberalism and why is it important.
Liebler: ...I want Christians to discover true classical liberalism and the reform movements it birthed in Christendom. Or, to put it differently, I want Christians to reclaim the truths in the Bible that many conservatives seem to ignore, because they seem too "liberal"- truths such as God's commands for us to love our neighbors, care for the poor, and pray for our enemies.

Classical liberalism is essentially the idea that individual human beings have intrinsic value, and that scholarly study, guided by the Holy Spirit, and unencumbered by church traditions, is a holy enterprise. This understanding emerged in Western thought in the Renaissance, and it gave rise to the Protestant Reformation. Two centuries later, in the Enlightenment, these same concepts would give birth to modern science. They would give rise to the understandings enshrined in our Declaration of Independence that all people are created equal and ought to enjoy religious and political freedom. Classical liberalism held that these rights are "inalienable," given by "the Creator." This strand of liberalism was the force that led to the founding of the American Republic.

But in contrast to the American Revolution that rooted political liberalism in the truths of the Scriptures, the French Revolution rejected God and the church and resulted in a much bloodier, ruthless, atheistic, and ultimately unsuccessful revolution.
 What's biblical liberalism?
Liebler: Liberalism, like any philosophy, was initially a complex of ideas that had theological, political, and social applications. In other words, those Christians who believed in freedom and equality began to see such injustices as slavery as violations not only of liberal principles, but also of the Scriptures themselves. This led men like William Wilberforce in England, a devout follower of Jesus Christ, to spend his lifetime fighting against slavery, a battle that was eventually won. It led pastors like John Wesley, working with poor dock workers in Savannah, Georgia, to discourage alcohol and to develop "Sunday School," which taught literacy using the Bible as the principal textbook.

Social reform movements for women's suffrage and the civil rights movement as well as the pro-life movement are all based in liberalism –the idea that every human being has intrinsic rights – but this form of liberalism is tied closely to the Bible and finds the source of those rights in God. These liberal reform movements did enormous good. Most Americans do not know that in the early 20th Century, most British evangelicals were considered liberals!

It's when you divorce liberalism from its roots in Scripture that you begin to see movements that advance abortion and same-sex marriage as "rights." If you take liberalism without the Bible, these movements are the logical results. But if you believe that the freedom of human beings is not absolute, but is limited by the guidance of the Holy Scriptures, then these movements are outside the bounds of Christian understanding.

That is why I believe there is a desperate need for traditional Christians to reclaim liberalism as one of the reform movements within genuine, Biblical Christianity.
 What's the impact of biblical liberalism?
Liebler:  Take the movement to stop human trafficking in the sex trade and forced labor industries. This movement has been largely led by Christian organizations such as International Justice Mission and the Salvation Army along with many smaller but equally devoted ministries. They are seeing thousands of men and women freed from modern-day slavery and given real opportunity for the future. There is still much to be done. And only recently have secular liberals awakened to this issue.
How does biblical liberalism differ from the liberalism taught in liberal seminaries?
Liebler: As I mentioned, liberalism is a movement that was born in the Renaissance, and really arose in force during the Enlightenment. You had thinkers such as John Locke who wrote about human rights being rooted in the existence of a Creator.

But there were others who divorced those rights form any supernatural source. This was a time in which people in Europe were disgusted by a long history of religious wars between Protestants and Catholics. Many wanted to divorce human rights from any religious doctrine. They taught instead, albeit a bit irrationally, that the rights of freedom and equality were intrinsic to humans and not the gift of any Creator. Some of the roots of today's liberalism come from this atheistic and anti-Christian vision. It is this branch of liberalism-without-God that gave birth to liberal theology.

Whereas classical liberalism believed in opposing oppressive or illegitimate authority (such as the American colonists opposing the tyrannical rule of King George III), anti-Christian liberalism believes in the right to reject all authority. That means the Scriptures themselves began to be rejected as a form of authority.

This kind of thinking emerged out of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as the universities digested the writings of Freud, Darwin, and Marx. It first influenced theological scholarship through higher criticism, which in turn infiltrated the seminaries. Theologians who followed this strand of thinking felt free, in a sense, to create their own theology apart from the Scriptures. That is what I encountered in seminary. In a sense, we were taught that it is okay to take the parts of the Scriptures we like, and leave the rest. The Scriptures are not the authority; we are.

This is the opposite of biblical liberalism which finds its very source and power in the fact that a Benevolent Authority who himself designed us with free will is the foundation of all real freedom and liberty, cares for the poor and oppressed, and calls us to be agents of liberation. He conveys these principles to us chiefly through the Scriptures.
How does one know the difference between good versus bad liberalism?
Liebler: The first principal is to commit yourself not only to Jesus Christ as your personal savior but also to Him as your Lord and Master. As one submitted to Christ, allow no political or philosophical viewpoint to define your identity or to claim your loyalty. Second, let the Scriptures in their entirety speak judgment upon your life. If that judgment seems to be correcting ideas from the right or the left, so be it. Let Christ be your master, not a political philosophy.

Finally, take those biblically inspired injunctions and work to enact them in the world. If Christians today would follow this prescription rather than being hijacked by one political party or another, I believe we would see a new movement of God's power and wisdom applied to the social problems we face in our nation. The result would be increased hope, healing, and freedom to countless people far deeper and wider than any government program can offer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why is Obama doing so well in the polls? Because of our education system?

Here's an interesting post by David Gelernter, conservative author and professor of computer science at Yale.

He is trying to understand why President Obama is doing so well in the polls, despite being a poor president and facing such a bad economy.

He says the seeds were, are being sown in our education system which is redefining what America is all about.  As a result Obama's collectivist, more leftist values are resonating with more people in the US.

He thinks Romney still wins but conservatives need to realize the battle that's going on for our culture.
There is a mystery about this election.  The slanted national press and Romney’s weaknesses are well understood, but a large gap separates these explanations from the fact that needs explaining: this election will be close.  How is that possible when Obama has shown himself to be the worst president in modern history?  And when Romney (on the other hand) is unexciting but safe, serious, solid—just the right sort of man to shelter all sorts of tempest-tost Americans in a storm?

...The press is slanted, but everyone knows that.  What really matters is that American culture is slanted.

...Romney will win this election.  But the wacko-left Culture Machine won’t fall silent; the schools and colleges won’t suddenly become patriotic, serious, politically neutral.  The entertainment industry won’t discover open-mindedness regarding Judeo-Christianity and the Bible.  Nor will mainstream churches and liberal synagogues suddenly catch on to the moral and spiritual greatness of America. Unless conservatives start taking education and culture seriously, an election day will arrive in which the outcome is never in doubt, because at least 51 percent of the electorate has been trained which way to vote.  At which point the GOP might as well close shop and take the rest of the century off.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Is Romney a closet conservative?

Here's an interesting, humorous take on Romney's comments on welfare dependency and who they vote for by John Hinderaker at Powerline.
Many conservatives have long suspected that Mitt Romney is not really one of us. I have never agreed with this assessment; instead, I think Romney is a solid conservative who doesn’t come across as a fire-breather because of his lifetime as a buttoned-down businessman. Now, Romney can thank Mother Jones for outing him for what he really is: a true conservative.

In a one-minute video clip now being touted by those hostile to Romney as a blow to his campaign, Romney points out that many Americans–he uses the shorthand number 47%, which overstates the case–have little incentive to vote for him because they don’t pay (significant) taxes and they get money from the government. So it turns out that Romney has the same opinion of Obama’s supporters that Obama does, as demonstrated by his campaign’s infamous Julia cartoons: Obama, too, thinks his supporters are a bunch of helpless dependents.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The mess we're in and have we reached the point of no return?

Here's a sobering article on our financial crisis or as some would say, looming financial crisis.

It's coauthored by several leading economists and former government officials.

Where are we now? 
Did you know that annual spending by the federal government now exceeds the 2007 level by about $1 trillion? With a slow economy, revenues are little changed. The result is an unprecedented string of federal budget deficits, $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010, $1.3 trillion in 2011, and another $1.2 trillion on the way this year. The four-year increase in borrowing amounts to $55,000 per U.S. household.

The amount of debt is one thing. The burden of interest payments is another. The Treasury now has a preponderance of its debt issued in very short-term durations, to take advantage of low short-term interest rates. It must frequently refinance this debt which, when added to the current deficit, means Treasury must raise $4 trillion this year alone. So the debt burden will explode when interest rates go up...
 The government, the Fed is acting irresponsible, spending or creating money we don't have.
Did you know that the Federal Reserve is now giving money to banks, effectively circumventing the appropriations process? To pay for quantitative easing—the purchase of government debt, mortgage-backed securities, etc.—the Fed credits banks with electronic deposits that are reserve balances at the Federal Reserve. These reserve balances have exploded to $1.5 trillion from $8 billion in September 2008.

The Fed now pays 0.25% interest on reserves it holds. So the Fed is paying the banks almost $4 billion a year. If interest rates rise to 2%, and the Federal Reserve raises the rate it pays on reserves correspondingly, the payment rises to $30 billion a year. Would Congress appropriate that kind of money to give—not lend—to banks?

The Fed's policy of keeping interest rates so low for so long means that the real rate (after accounting for inflation) is negative, thereby cutting significantly the real income of those who have saved for retirement over their lifetime.
 And government expands and grows bigger by day.
The issue is not merely how much we spend, but how wisely, how effectively. Did you know that the federal government had 46 separate job-training programs? Yet a 47th for green jobs was added, and the success rate was so poor that the Department of Labor inspector general said it should be shut down. We need to get much better results from current programs, serving a more carefully targeted set of people with more effective programs that increase their opportunities.
Did you know that funding for federal regulatory agencies and their employment levels are at all-time highs? In 2010, the number of Federal Register pages devoted to proposed new rules broke its previous all-time record for the second consecutive year. It's up by 25% compared to 2008. These regulations alone will impose large costs and create heightened uncertainty for business and especially small business.
 It's getting worse than Greece.
President Obama's budget will raise the federal debt-to-GDP ratio to 80.4% in two years, about double its level at the end of 2008, and a larger percentage point increase than Greece from the end of 2008 to the beginning of this year.

Under the president's budget, for example, the debt expands rapidly to $18.8 trillion from $10.8 trillion in 10 years. The interest costs alone will reach $743 billion a year, more than we are currently spending on Social Security, Medicare or national defense, even under the benign assumption of no inflationary increase or adverse bond-market reaction. For every one percentage point increase in interest rates above this projection, interest costs rise by more than $100 billion, more than current spending on veterans' health and the National Institutes of Health combined.

Worse, the unfunded long-run liabilities of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid add tens of trillions of dollars to the debt, mostly due to rising real benefits per beneficiary. Before long, all the government will be able to do is finance the debt and pay pension and medical benefits. This spending will crowd out all other necessary government functions.

What does this spending and debt mean in the long run if it is not controlled? One result will be ever-higher income and payroll taxes on all taxpayers that will reach over 80% at the top and 70% for many middle-income working couples.
What's at stake? The ability of the government to defend our nation in the future.
Suppose you were offered the job of Treasury secretary a few months from now. Would you accept? You would confront problems that are so daunting even Alexander Hamilton would have trouble preserving the full faith and credit of the United States. Our first Treasury secretary famously argued that one of a nation's greatest assets is its ability to issue debt, especially in a crisis. We needed to honor our Revolutionary War debt, he said, because the debt "foreign and domestic, was the price of liberty."

History has reconfirmed Hamilton's wisdom. As historian John Steele Gordon has written, our nation's ability to issue debt helped preserve the Union in the 1860s and defeat totalitarian governments in the 1940s. Today, government officials are issuing debt to finance pet projects and payoffs to interest groups, not some vital, let alone existential, national purpose.
The problems are close to being unmanageable now. If we stay on the current path, they will wind up being completely unmanageable, culminating in an unwelcome explosion and crisis.
 That's the answer?
The fixes are blindingly obvious. Economic theory, empirical studies and historical experience teach that the solutions are the lowest possible tax rates on the broadest base, sufficient to fund the necessary functions of government on balance over the business cycle; sound monetary policy; trade liberalization; spending control and entitlement reform; and regulatory, litigation and education reform. The need is clear. Why wait for disaster? The future is now.
The kicker is spending control and entitlement reform.  The problem is politicians don't want to say no.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Mega church pastor Rick Warren and prayer at Obama's inauguration urges Christians to vote their values on sanctity of life, marriage, and sex.

Rick Warren, an evangelical, megachurch pastor and the person President Obama had give the prayer at his inauguration, told his congregration to vote their biblical values in the upcoming election.  They shouldn't be apologetic for doing so nor should they vote for someone just because they like them.
"You don't need to apologize for voting for a Christian worldview which stands up for the sanctity of life, the sanctity of sex and the sanctity of marriage. You don't need to apologize for that because everybody votes what they believe," Warren told thousands of Saddleback Church attendees at the launch of a new sermon series.

The Southern California pastor said those three issues (life, sex, marriage) are non-negotiables for Christians. While they may disagree on the economy or health care, what believers must be firm on is protecting the unborn, viewing sex as holy, and protecting traditional marriage.

"If you call yourself a Christian, you need to line up with what God says is the original intent of all three of these things," he preached.

Warren, a registered independent, made it clear that he has and never will endorse a candidate for president. At the same time, he called on Christians to make decisions based on the truth – God's Word.

Why? Because it's the "only source that will never lie to you," he said.

Both political parties released vastly different platforms. The GOP platform supports the sanctity of human life and traditional marriage and includes stronger anti-pornography language. Democrats, meanwhile, support "a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion," and, for the first time ever, same-sex marriage in their platform.

In his message Sunday, Warren told Saddleback members to study the platforms of the parties.

"'Well, I like that guy' – that's a stupid reason to vote for somebody," Warren stated. "You need to know their worldview. Read their platforms. And then vote your worldview."
 He pointed out four anti-Christian worldviews are in play and had interesting insight into socialism - it's the result of making the government god - the government is everything and has all the answers.
He warned that there are four anti-Christian worldviews: materialism, hedonism, individualism and collectivism/socialism.

"People who don't know God make government god," Warren said of socialism. "The highest thing they can think of to make the world a better place is not the church, it's not God, it's government."

"What I've discovered is this: politics is the religion of people who don't know God," he said to applause. "They treat it as everything. Again, there's nothing wrong with politics; it's just not the savior."

The longtime pastor tried to instill courage in the congregation, knowing that some of their stances on issues are not popular with the public.

The sanctity of life, sex and marriage are "three aspects of the Christian worldview that are hated by this world," he noted.
 I think he touches on the biggest problem facing Christians -- timidity or fear, lack of courage.
"Most Christians clam up and shut up because they're afraid to even stand up."

But he reminded them that they should build their lives on Word of God and not on the opinions of others and that they should fear God's disapproval more than people's disapproval.

"If ever there was a message that you need in today's culture, God would say this to you about your faith – don't be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent," the Saddleback pastor said.

"Everybody else is telling you their worldview. Why should Christians cower in cowardice?"

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Yes, Obama wants to redefine marriage. Repealing DOMA is the first step.

President Obama's Justice Department is pushing for the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act in the courts.  DOMA defines marriage as one man and one woman for purposes of federal law and protects the right of states not to recognize same-sex "marriage" in other states.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed two petitions Tuesday as part of their challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, asking the Supreme Court to review cases that could ultimately lead to the court overturning the law that defines marriage as between and man and a woman.

The specific part of the law that attorneys for the Justice Department want the court to focus on is Section 3, which they say violate the rights of legally married same-sex couples, arguing that it treats them differently than married heterosexual couples.

...Additionally, the Justice Department also wants the court to review a case involving six same-sex married couples and a widower from various states that were denied federal benefits. In all, the U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review four cases that could eventually lead to part or all of DOMA being ruled unconstitutional given that federal courts in several states have issued such opinions.
Another important implication of November's election.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Entitlements explode. How soon til we run into reality.

There was an interesting column by Nick Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute on explosion of government entitlement programs.   
What is monumentally new about the American state today is the vast empire of entitlement payments that it protects, manages and finances. Within living memory, the federal government has become an entitlements machine. As a day-to-day operation, it devotes more attention and resources to the public transfer of money, goods and services to individual citizens than to any other objective, spending more than for all other ends combined.

The growth of entitlement payments over the past half-century has been breathtaking. In 1960, U.S. government transfers to individuals totaled about $24 billion in current dollars, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. By 2010 that total was almost 100 times as large. Even after adjusting for inflation and population growth, entitlement transfers to individuals have grown 727% over the past half-century, rising at an average rate of about 4% a year.

In 2010 alone, government at all levels oversaw a transfer of over $2.2 trillion in money, goods and services. The burden of these entitlements came to slightly more than $7,200 for every person in America. Scaled against a notional family of four, the average entitlements burden for that year alone approached $29,000. 
That's a massive amount of wealth transfer.
A half-century of unfettered expansion of entitlement outlays has completely inverted the priorities, structure and functions of federal administration as these were understood by all previous generations. Until 1960 the accepted task of the federal government, in keeping with its constitutional charge, was governing. The overwhelming share of federal expenditures was allocated to some limited public services and infrastructure investments and to defending the republic against enemies foreign and domestic.

In 1960, entitlement payments accounted for well under a third of the federal government's total outlays—about the same fraction as in 1940, when the Great Depression was still shaping American life. But over subsequent decades, entitlements as a percentage of total federal spending soared. By 2010 they accounted for just about two-thirds of all federal spending, with all other responsibilities of the federal government making up barely one-third. In a very real sense, entitlements have turned American governance upside-down.
This expansion of government raises questions about where we're going as a nation.
The proud self-reliance that struck Alexis de Tocqueville in his visit to the U.S. in the early 1830s extended to personal finances. The American "individualism" about which he wrote did not exclude social cooperation—the young nation was a hotbed of civic associations and voluntary organizations. But in an environment bursting with opportunity, American men and women viewed themselves as accountable for their own situation through their own achievements—a novel outlook at that time, markedly different from the prevailing attitudes of the Old World (or at least the Continent).

The corollaries of this American ethos were, on the one hand, an affinity for personal enterprise and industry and, on the other, a horror of dependency and contempt for anything that smacked of a mendicant mentality. Although many Americans in earlier times were poor, even people in fairly desperate circumstances were known to refuse help or handouts as an affront to their dignity and independence. People who subsisted on public resources were known as "paupers," and provision for them was a local undertaking. Neither beneficiaries nor recipients held the condition of pauperism in high regard.
 American's resistance to more government is being overcome.
Overcoming America's historic cultural resistance to government entitlements has been a long and formidable endeavor. But as we know today, this resistance did not ultimately prove an insurmountable obstacle to establishing mass public entitlements and normalizing the entitlement lifestyle. The U.S. is now on the verge of a symbolic threshold: the point at which more than half of all American households receive and accept transfer benefits from the government. From cradle to grave, a treasure chest of government-supplied benefits is there for the taking for every American citizen—and exercising one's legal rights to these many blandishments is now part of the American way of life.
 The ever present question is eventually who will pay for it.
As Americans opt to reward themselves ever more lavishly with entitlement benefits, the question of how to pay for these government transfers inescapably comes to the fore. Citizens have become ever more broad-minded about the propriety of tapping new sources of finance for supporting their appetite for more entitlements. The taker mentality has thus ineluctably gravitated toward taking from a pool of citizens who can offer no resistance to such schemes: the unborn descendants of today's entitlement-seeking population.

Among policy makers in Washington today, it is very close to received wisdom that America's national hunger for entitlement benefits has placed the country on a financially untenable trajectory, with the federal budget generating ultimately unbearable expenditures and levels of public debt. The bipartisan 2010 Bowles/Simpson Commission put this view plainly: "Our nation is on an unsustainable fiscal path."
When will that does happen it's hard to say.  Whenever it does happen it will be very painful for many people; if for no other reason than many people will believe they're entitled to it and nobody has right to take it away from them.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Back to reality - weak economy and unmotivated supporters.

Moments after President Obama spoke at his convention, reality was taking hold.  The latest jobless and economic report brought bad news.

One headline read: "Grim jobs market confronts Obama, Fed".  The economy is weak and a big problem for an incumbent president.
Jobs growth slowed sharply in August, setting the stage for the Federal Reserve to pump additional money into the sluggish economy next week and dealing a blow to President Barack Obama as he seeks re-election.

Nonfarm payrolls increased only 96,000 last month, the Labor Department said on Friday.

While the unemployment rate dropped to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July, that was because so many Americans gave up the hunt for work. The survey of households from which the jobless rate is derived actually showed a drop in employment.

In addition, President Obama's supporters are not energized.  Time columnist Joe Klein wasn't impressed.
The President gave a fine speech Thursday night. His vision of the country is much closer to the place where I live–and I daresay where most Americans live–than Mitt Romney’s. It is an America that includes truck drivers and teachers and auto workers as well as Romney’s beloved entrepreneurs. Obama laid out the case against Romney’s constricted vision in a very effective way: “If you have a cold, they say take two tax cuts and roll back some regulations and see us in the morning.” He was, of course, defter, funnier, more profound than Romney. He told basic truths like “global warming is not a hoax.” He made no absurd promises. He recognized the difficulty of our situation. He acknowledged mistakes. But he did not close the deal. The speech disappointed me, and I’m not quite sure why.
But I still wonder: what is he going to do with his second term? What are the next things we need to do as a nation? Why did he limit his defense of the Affordable Care Act to a sentence or two about a girl with a pre-existing condition in Phoenix? Why didn’t he say more about the revival in manufacturing that seems just to be beginning? Why didn’t he get more specific, and dreamy, about the whiz-bang new energy products that are being developed by basic research government agencies like ARPA-E? He talked about goals–why did none of them seem big? Why can’t I remember any of them? Why didn’t he talk about the world’s largest solar farm, underway in Nevada? Why didn’t he envision an America–happening right now, by the way–where people can put solar tiles on their roofs, take care of their own electrical needs and sell the surplus to their local utilities? Or something else. Whatever. Something to hang onto and aim for....
But I’m continually disappointed by Obama’s inability to make the domestic policy decisions he’s made come alive to the American people, to show us what sort of country we’re going to be living in when we emerge from this mess, to show how–necessarily–we are going to be different when we come out the other side.
When the economy is bad and your supporters aren't energized that's not a good sign.

I agree with Obama...

One comment which President Obama made last night was very accurate.  He said:
"But when all is said and done, when you pick up that ballot to vote, you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation. Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs, the economy; taxes and deficits; energy, education; war and peace, decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades to come.

And on every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties.

It will be a choice between two different paths for America.

A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future."
Yes, the President and Romney have fundamentally different views of how the world works.  The president definitely has a collectivist orientation as we can see from his actions the last four years.  That government can and should solve the economic and social problems confronting us.  It can do this through social and economic engineering.  Having bureaucrats run the show.  The goal is equal outcomes.  That means redistributing wealth among other things.

The other vision says, yes government is a vital institution, beneficial institution when it functions within it's proper jurisdiction.  It's to provide the environment for every person to develop and utilize his or her God-given abilities and talents.  It's not to guarantee equal results.  It's to protect the vulnerable and less fortunate.  But not to take over the roles and responsibilities of parents and families.  It's to protect the God-given institution of marriage and the sanctity of human life.  It's to empower civil institutions and organizations not consume and control them.  The free market system is a blessing not a curse.  Government's role is that of a referee, ensuring the rules are followed, and fairly enforced.  The laws of the land favor neither the wealthy nor the poor.  All stand equal before the law.

The realization of President Obama's vision is less freedom not more.  Less prosperity not more.  Why?  Because they're based on faulty understanding of the nature of man and his actions as a economic, political, and moral being.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

God brought back into the Democrat Platform.

What a fiasco.  References to God and Israel were dropped from the Democrat platform in Charlotte.  The controversy generated caused party leaders to reverse course and amend references to God and Israel back into the platform.  But as you can see from this C-SPAN tape, the two-thirds requirement for new amendment was clearly not met yet the presiding officer ruled that it was anyway.

It was said this was an oversight, yet the Democrat Platform was decided last month.  It was an oversight only in that it caused a controversy and an excuse was looked for.

The original exclusion of any mention of God (and then only in reference to "God-given talents.") and the floor opposition to restoring reference to God speaks volumes about the philosophical, theological, moral perspective of leaders and activists in the Democrat Party.  God is an afterthought and even then not a very welcomed one at that.  It highlights a heightened, aggressive secularism.

Democrats full embrace of abortion and gay "marriage" at national convention.

The Democrat Party's platform is now four square on the side of a radical, leftist social vision for America.  They want gay "marriage" for all of us.  (When you redefine marriage legally that affects the entire society.)  And they want us to embrace abortion by having us all pay for it.
The 2012 Democratic party will officially adopt an extreme position on the issue of abortion on Tuesday. According to a copy of the party platform, which was released online just before midnight on Monday, "The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay."

That last part--"regardless of ability to pay"--is an endorsement of taxpayer-funded abortions, a policy that President Obama has personally endorsed. Obama wants Medicaid to pay directly for elective abortions, and Obamacare will allow beneficiaries to use federal subsidies to purchase health care plans that cover elective abortions. According to a 2009 Quinnipiac poll, 72 percent of voters oppose public funding of abortion and 23 percent support it. In other words, public funding of abortion--a policy President Obama actively supports--is as unpopular as banning abortion in the case of rape, a policy on which the media have focused their attention over the past two weeks despite the fact that neither presidential candidate supports it.

The 2012 Democratic party also endorses an unrestricted right to abortion-on-demand. According to the platform, on the issue of abortion "there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way." In 2003, Obama was asked if he was pro-choice on abortion "in all situations including the late-term thing." Obama replied: "I'm pro-choice."

In 1992, then-Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton tried to soften the party's image on abortion by expressing his desire to make abortion "safe, legal, and rare." Although the Democratic party platforms in 2000 and 2004 stated the party's goal is to make abortion "rare," the 2012 platform makes no such claim. "In 2000, the Democratic platform said the party's goal was 'to make abortion less necessary and more rare,'" Jeff Jacoby wrote in the Boston Globe last week. "The 2004 platform declared, 'Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare.' But even calling for abortion to be 'rare' is now too much for the Democrats' platform committee, which deleted the word in 2008." The word "rare" did not make a comeback in 2012.
What's interesting on the abortion front is the country is moving in a decidedly pro-life direction while the Democrat Party is aggressively moving in the other direction.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

"The government's the only thing we all belong to" -- Democratic National Convention's vision for the future.

Here's a very revealing ad for the Democrat National Convention which says, in part, "The government's the only thing we all belong to."  So we belong to the government. The ad mentions clubs and churches but only to contrast them to the importance of government.  Talk about a worldview defining statement.  Statism, socialism is the order of the day.  The implications are then quite clear regarding government policy regarding welfare and a wide range of other government programs.

The Democratic Party is embracing statism, socialism at just the time it's entering a crisis point in Europe.  It doesn't work and can't be afforded.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bad News for President Obama - Majority of likely voters say nation is worse off than four years ago and only 40% believe he deserves re-election.

The Hill, a nonpartisan, political news source, did a poll on what Americans think about the economy and whether President Obama deserves to be re-elected.  The news was not good for the Obama campaign.

They found that a majority of voters believe we're worse off than we were four years ago and just 40% of voters believe President Obama deserves re-election.
A majority of voters believe the country is worse off today than it was four years ago and that President Obama does not deserve reelection, according to a new poll for The Hill.

Fifty-two percent of likely voters say the nation is in “worse condition” now than in September 2008, while 54 percent say Obama does not deserve reelection based solely on his job performance.

Only 31 percent of voters believe the nation is in “better condition,” while 15 percent say it is “about the same,” the poll found. Just 40 percent of voters said Obama deserves reelection.

The results highlight the depth of voter dissatisfaction confronting Obama as he makes his case for a second term at this week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

They also strongly suggest Democrats need to convince voters the election should be a choice between Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, rather than a referendum on the president.
Obama’s biggest problem remains voter unhappiness with his handling of the economy.
I've felt that the race is ultimately Romney's to lose.  Can Romney lose?  Certainly.  A lot can happen between now and November 6th.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Michael Moore says get ready to start saying President Romney.

It sounds like the left is starting to get nervous about the election.  Leftist film producer Michael Moore is suggesting people get ready to start saying President Romney.

Here's an interesting interview with Moore.  It gives insight into the mindset of many on the left.  In the link, you can hear the broader interview with Moore.

Moore is very nervous about the election.  One, the money on the right from the "billionaries" will swamp Obama.  And second, the left is demoralized.  They will certainly vote for Obama but won't work hard to get him re-elected.
Filmmaker Michael Moore joined HuffPost Live Thursday and predicted that the influence of money in politics would lift Mitt Romney to victory over President Barack Obama in November.

"Mitt Romney is going to raise more money than Barack Obama. That should guarantee his victory," Moore told host Josh Zepps. "I think people should start to practice the words 'President Romney.' To assume that the other side are just a bunch of ignoramuses who are supported by people who believe that Adam and Eve rode on dinosaurs 6,000 years ago is to completely misjudge the opposition."

Moore said he believes that if the election were conducted "American Idol"-style, and Americans were able to vote from their couches, Obama "would win hands down."

"That's not what's gonna happen," he told Zepps. "This election's going to be decided on who gets out the most people that day. Who's up at four in the morning, making sure that dozens, hundreds, thousands of people in their communities are getting out to vote. And the Republican machine that is set up and the money behind it to guarantee [what] is really the only important thing -- turnout on that day -- that's what looks pretty scary here."
 Certainly, it takes money to run a campaign but just as important is morale.  He realizes Obama is in trouble on both of these grounds.  This strikes me as 2008 in reverse.