Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Another storm looming on the horizon. Only this one involves tax increases. "Taxmageddon".

People on the East Coast just went through a horrific storm.  Well, another enormous storm is looming on the horizon.  Only this one isn't an act of nature but of Congress. They are the massive tax increases due to kick in unless Congress acts.  The Heritage Foundation is calling it Taxmageddon.
A horrifying combination of expiring pro-growth tax policies from 2001 and 2003, the end of the once-temporary payroll tax cut, and just a few of Obamacare’s 18 new tax hikes, Taxmageddon will be the largest tax increase EVER to hit Americans. It’s nearly $500 billion in one year, starting January 1. That’s two months away.

The number $500 billion is rather large and abstract, so The Heritage Foundation has broken down the expected tax increases per person just for 2013:
  • Families with an average income of $70,662: tax increase of $4,138
  • Baby boomers with an average income of $95,099: tax increase of $4,223
  • Low-income workers with an average income of $24,757: tax increase of $1,207
  • Millennials with an average income of $23,917: tax increase of $1,099
  • Retirees with an average income of $42,553: tax increase of $857
Note the above taxes increases which will result - Family with $70,662 in income would see a $4,138 tax increase.  A consequence of not addressing it is the possibility of another recession.
And if that isn’t scary enough, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has forecasted another recession in the coming year. The last thing this country needs is another recession, after years of high unemployment and months of a sluggish, barely noticeable recovery.

The tax hikes will hit small businesses very hard—and not just any small businesses, but the ones that create jobs. As Heritage’s Curtis Dubay and Romina Boccia explain:
The businesses that would pay the higher tax rates proposed by President Obama earn almost all the income earned by small businesses that employ workers. According to President Obama’s own Treasury Department, these job creators earn 91 percent of the income earned by flow-through employer-businesses. These are the biggest, most successful small businesses. They employ more than half the private workforce, according to an Ernst and Young study. Raising their taxes would destroy more than 700,000 jobs.
The answer?  Made permanent the current tax code.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The deep, systemic social problems facing America will still be there after this election.

Here's an interview with Charles Murray, author of Coming Apart.  The book discusses the growing gulf between the lower and upper classes resulting from the breakdown of the family and specifically marriage.  Of course resulting from and causing this breakdown is the loss of basic moral virtues.
Ernest Hemingway said F. Scott Fitzgerald once told him, “The rich are different from you and me.” Hemingway said he responded, “Yes, they have more money.” Do you say they also have a different culture? In the old days the people who ran corporations or were in politics overwhelmingly grew up in farm homes or in homes where their fathers were factory workers or ran small stores or the rest of it. When they came to power they got more money than other people, but their culture was the same. Now the elites are different in kind. It’s not just that they have more money. They have a separate culture.
When did that change begin? In the 1960s America’s colleges started to get really efficient at finding the best talent everywhere in the country. In an elite neighborhood in 1960, about three-quarters of the couples in that neighborhood would have no college degrees, or only one. In the majority of couples, one was socialized through high school and only one was socialized through college, and probably not one of the elite colleges. Jump to 2010 and it’s different. Everyone in those elite neighborhoods is socialized through college in general, and elite colleges in particular. 
How are the two cultures different? Members of the new upper class these days get married in their late 20s or beyond, and don’t have kids until later. They read different books—in reading books at all they are apart from a great deal of the rest of the country. A lot of American popular culture is transmitted through TV, but if the elite have one at all they use it to watch DVDs of movies, or Downton Abbey, or Mad Men
Are evangelicals divided in that way? My sense is that evangelicals don’t have many of the problems I’m talking about—and I’m not saying that because I’m in front of a Patrick Henry College audience. There are, in being a devout evangelical, all sorts of things that will lead you to be engaged with people of all classes. Caring for the less fortunate is a fundamental tenet of Christian morality. People who are imbued with that are going to spend a lot of time, effort, and money, and personal attention trying to deal with the human problems around them. 
In general, though, we don’t know how the other half lives? If you grew up in the upper middle class in an affluent neighborhood, you are especially isolated from that world. You really don’t have a good idea of what it’s like to be the son or daughter of a truck driver.
Marriage is one of the key divides? Fifty years ago we were pretty much one nation across classes and the classic example of that is marriage. Divorce in the upper middle class has been going down since the 1980s, so those in the upper middle class are increasingly on their first marriage. Meanwhile, among 30- to 49-year-olds in the white working class, we’re down to 48 percent married. 
That has big implications. Single dads don’t really coach Little League teams very often. Single moms don’t have much time to go to PTA meetings. The community functions very differently, and the whole culture starts to collapse and change. We now have two cultures.
How many people see that as a problem? What’s scary to me is that a lot of upper-class members now are perfectly happy thinking of themselves as being in an upper class. A senior executive at a major New York ad agency lived in a modest house in 1960. Americans denied they were in the upper class, or in the lower class: We all wanted to be middle class. Now some people really don’t see why they should want to associate with Americans who aren’t as rich and well-educated as they are. They’re very happy being members of the upper class—that scares me.
Which comes first, the decline in church involvement or the decline in marriage? I can’t give you a simple answer. The fact of getting married often concentrates people’s attention on spiritual and religious matters—but religious belief is a big prompter for getting married. A loss of religiosity will be associated with lower marriage rates. It’s a feedback loop.
Sociologist Peter Berger’s most famous comment is that India is the most religious country in the world, Sweden the least, and America is a land of Indians ruled by Swedes. Have you flipped that? In part. When you go to the Harvard faculty the percentage of people who profess religion goes way, way down: very low religiosity at the very top. But in the upper middle class, while religiosity has declined, it hasn’t declined as much as it has in the white working class. The bottom has fallen out of religious observance in the white working class. This collapse of religiosity has profound implications for how working-class communities work: It’s a kind of growing social disorganization that goes to the heart of what in the past made America exceptionally vibrant in community life.
Why has the decline occurred? You had Darwin and evolution. Then you had Freud and the discovery of the unconscious. … It’s not that the intellectuals read Thomas Aquinas and said, “No, he’s wrong.” They basically said, “The Sunday school stories we grew up with are obviously wrong, and therefore there is nothing worthy in Christianity.”
You have provided the sociological equivalent of what theologian Francis Schaeffer talked about: living off the interest. Biblical belief leads to positive social developments, but you can’t keep living off the interest. At some point you’ve got to replenish the capital. We haven’t replenished the capital, and it also has all sorts of implications. We do not know whether a secular society can remain a virtuous society, because we’ve never had in the history of civilizations a society as secular as Western Europe is now. 
And in America? The Founders said emphatically that the Constitution they had created would not work for any but a religious and moral people. They saw religion as the foundation for morality, so the key requirement for the American experiment was self-government. I don’t mean self-government in terms of governmental institutions. I mean government of the self, by the self—and religion is the basis for that to happen. Insofar as that has declined, you have a classic case of living off the interest.
 We are sadly mistaken if we think the outcome of next week's election will solve these problems.  The question is whether the winners will see and understand the issues and move us in the direction of properly addressing them. Or at the very least not make them worse.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mind boggling: Government spends an average of $60,000 per household in poverty.

Here's a story on the amount of welfare money spent on the poor.  Turns out it averages out to over $60,000 per household in poverty.  That doesn't mean each family gets $60,000 but it's an average.   I suspect a good share of that is eaten up by government bureaucracy.
New data compiled by the Republican side of the Senate Budget Committee shows that, last year, the United States spent over $60,000 to support welfare programs per each household that is in poverty. The calculations are based on data from the Census, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Congressional Research Services.

"According to the Census’s American Community Survey, the number of households with incomes below the poverty line in 2011 was 16,807,795," the Senate Budget Committee notes. "If you divide total federal and state spending by the number of households with incomes below the poverty line, the average spending per household in poverty was $61,194 in 2011." 
 It's the biggest item in the government's budget.
A congressional report from CRS recently revealed that the United States now spends more on means-tested welfare than any other item in the federal budget—including Social Security, Medicare, or national defense. Including state contributions to the roughly 80 federal poverty programs, the total amount spent in 2011 was approximately $1 trillion. Federal spending alone on these programs was up 32 percent since 2008.
The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that almost 110 million Americans received some form of means-tested welfare in 2011. These figures exclude entitlements like Medicare and Social Security to which people contribute, and they refer exclusively to low-income direct and indirect financial support—such as food stamps, public housing, child care, energy assistance, direct cash aid, etc. For instance, 47 million Americans currently receive food stamps, and USDA has engaged in an aggressive outreach campaign to boost enrollment even further, arguing that “every dollar of SNAP benefits generates $1.84 in the economy… It’s the most direct stimulus you can get.” (Economic growth, however, is weaker this year than the two years prior, even as food stamp “stimulus” has reached an all-time high.)
 Here's a breakdown of the welfare spending:

What this says to me is government is an extremely inefficient, costly way to address the needs of the poor.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Blatant liberal bias in academia and higher education. . What's the answer?

It goes without saying but academia is overwhelmingly liberal and intolerant in the correct use of the term. (The left abuses the word by calling people intolerant merely when they disagree with views on issues like abortion and marriage.) The correct use of the term refers to an unwillingness to allow or permit other views to be heard. On the public university campus this means hiring faculty with only one point of view and allowing only particular points of view to be aired.

A case in point is the University of Iowa law school which refused to hire a highly qualified teacher simply because she was an outspoken social conservative.

Teresa Wagner claims that a less qualified person was hired instead of her because she was a conservative who had worked for social conservative organizations. 
 But Wagner said that claim [she failed a job interview] was fabricated to excuse the political motivations of the 50-member faculty, which included 46 registered Democrats. The faculty hired a much less qualified person instead, even though Wagner had already received positive reviews from students and faculty and the endorsement of a key committee while teaching part-time at the school.

What will turn around this liberal bias? One person points to the economics of higher education.
“We’re unlikely to see a case this clear-cut for a very long time,” said Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, who said he routinely hears from rejected conservative professors. “What makes Teresa Wagner’s case so extraordinary is she came up with the documentary evidence of what was really going on.”
Still, Wood doubts that the case would force much change. “It [could] make them a trifle more cautious in keeping their biases out of sight, but it doesn’t mean they won’t act on them.”
More likely to bring change, Wood said, are large-scale forces shaking up higher education. Cheaper online programs, skyrocketing tuition, fewer job opportunities, and massive student loan debt that leave more people wondering whether a traditional college education is a good investment. If enough students decide it’s overvalued, the “higher education bubble” will pop, bringing on a financial crisis for many institutions.
On thing is for sure, education is changing with online course and alternative education programs cropping up. Right now the left as a serious strangle hold on higher education. These alternatives will open the door to change without a frontal assault on the left's control of higher education.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sex and voting - new Obama campaign ad.

I guess "anything goes" is the motto for the Obama campaign staff and their use of a new political ad featuring Lena Dunham who compares losing her virginity with voting for Obama.
President Obama's campaign is out with an eyebrow-raising new ad targeting young voters in which Lena Dunham, the creator of the HBO hit series 'Girls,' compares her first voting experience to losing her virginity.

'Your first time shouldn’t be with just anybody,' Dunham, 26, says in the ad. 'You want to do it with a great guy.

Dunham goes on to explain that 'your first time' should be with 'someone who really cares about and understands women; A guy who cares whether you get health insurance and specifically whether you get birth control."

'The consequences are huge,' she continues.

Dunham wraps up the Obama ad by describing her coming-of-age experience at the voting booth.

'It was this line in the sand,' she says. 'Before, I was a girl. Now, I was a woman. I went to the polling station, I pulled back the curtain, I voted for Barack Obama.'

Does gender matter? Here are 21 reasons why it does.

During the current marriage amendment debate, the implicit and not so implicit, argument in favor of same sex "marriage" is that gender is irrelevant. Well, here's a great piece out of Australia pointing out 21 reasons why gender matters.
The piece goes into more detail but here's a distillation of the reasons gender is important. 
There is an enormous and growing body of research, encompassing the fields of biochemistry, neurobiology, physiology and psychology,which all point to a clear conclusion: that there are profound differences between men and women. These go well beyond the obvious physical appearances and reproductive differences; men and women differ at many levels, and also approach relationships differently.   As such, this document rests upon, and makes the case for, these four foundational principles:
1. Gender differences exist; they are a fundamental reality of our biology and impact our psychology. Our maleness and femaleness is a key aspect to our personhood.
2. Acknowledging, rather than ignoring (or worse denying), gender differences is the only intellectually honest response to this reality.
3. Gender differences are complementary; individuals, our collective humanity, and society as a whole, all benefit from masculine and feminine characteristics. We are better for having men with a clear understanding of their masculinity and women with a clear understanding of their femininity.
4. Gender identity confusion does exist in a small minority of individuals.  It is a painful pathology and warrants a compassionate response. However it is not the ‘normative’ experience and is not therefore a paradigm upon which to drive social policy and institutions. 
 The report goes on to say:
Gender is a basic physiological reality, which unfortunately has been politicised. This is not helpful. Men and women are equal but different, and these differences are complementary. In these 21 sections, we examine in some detail the ramifications of gender differentiation. The first fourteen points have more to do with gender in general, while the final seven points have to do more specifically with the issue of gender disorientation pathology.
The 21 reasons are summarized below:
1. Gender uniqueness and complementarity means that each gender has a unique contribution that can't be filled by the other. 
2. Acknowledging gender differences helps children learn more effectively.
3. Men and women are happier when they recognize these gender differences.
4. The masculine gender is an essential ingredient for fatherhood.
5. The feminine gender is an essential ingredient for motherhood.
6. Marriage is the best way for men and women to enjoy complementarity.
7. Gender complementarity in a life-long marriage is essential for the continuation of humanity.
8. Gender complementarity in marriage is needed for a healthy, stable society.
9. Gender complementarity in marriage between a man and woman is good for the economy. 10. Marriage between a man and woman is the foundation of a successful family and best way to protect children.
11. Gender complementarity in marriage is the best way to teach children about the value of gender.
12. Gender is important in understanding the significance of manhood.
13. Gender is important in understanding the significance of womanhood.
14. In healthy societies, gender complementarity is celebrated; societies rejecting this face harmful consequences.
15. Healthy gender development prevents individuals from developing compulsive obsessive disorders leading to sexual addiction and other pathologies.
16. Gender disorientation pathology is a symptom of family dysfunction, personality disorder, father absence, health malfunction or sexual abuse.
17. Gender disorientation pathology will lead to increased levels of drug abuse and partner violence.
18. Gender disorientation pathology will increase the risk of communicable disease and bad health.
19. Gender disorientation pathology will decrease life expectancy.
20. Gender disorientation pathology is preventable and treatable.
21. Gender disorientation pathology encourages the sexual and psychological exploitation of children. An impressive list. 
 Males and females are equal but different and those differences are important.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Taxes and Minnesota. One area we are in the top ten.

There are many things we want to be known for as a state but one we don't is high taxes.  That invariably means financial burdens are shifted onto families.

The latest tax burden report is out from the Tax Foundation.  They found Minnesota ranked 7th highest nationally in terms of state and local tax burden with 10.8% of income paid in taxes.  The highest is New York at 12.8%.  The lowest is Alaska at 7%.

We rank 7th nationally in tax burden per capita.  And 14th in per capita income.

Here are some of their key findings.
  • Since 2000, state and local burdens have increased from 9.3 percent to 9.9 percent. During the 2010 fiscal year, however, burdens remained fairly stable, only decreasing slightly from their 2009 levels.
  • In 2010, the residents of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut paid the highest state-local tax burdens in the nation. These are the only three states where resident taxpayers forego over 12 percent of income in state and local taxes.
  • Residents of Alaska, who have consistently been the least taxed state for nearly three decades, again paid the lowest percentage of income in 2010 at just 7.0 percent. The next lowest-taxed states were South Dakota, Tennessee, and Louisiana.
  • State-local tax burdens are very close to one another and slight changes in taxes or income can translate to seemingly dramatic shifts in rank. For example, the 20 mid-ranked states, ranging from Oregon (16th) to North Dakota (35th) only differ in burden by just over one percent.
  • While some studies aim to tally the total revenues collected from state and local governments, this study moves the focus from the tax collector to the taxpayer by focusing on tax burdens.
  • Wednesday, October 24, 2012

    Another example why the marriage amendment is needed in Minnesota - protect religious liberties and conscience.

    Another example demonstrating that same sex "marriage" is not a "live and let live" proposition.  In the UK, a B & B is sued for wanting to uphold marriage between a man and a woman.
    A judge has ruled that the Christian owner of a bed and breakfast broke equality laws in refusing a bed to a homosexual couple and ordered her to pay £3,600 in damages.

    Susanne Wilkinson, who owns the Swiss B&B in Cookham, Berkshire, has been ordered to pay compensation for “injury to feelings” to two men she turned away, because she rents rooms in her family-owned business only to married couples.

    Last January, homosexual couple Michael Black, 63, and John Morgan, 58, sued Mrs. Wilkinson for discrimination after she informed the two men that “it is against my convictions for two men to share a bed.” She added, “This is my private home.” Mrs. Wilkinson returned their deposit and asked them, politely, to leave.

    Responding to the ruling, Mrs. Wilkinson said, “Naturally, my husband and I are disappointed to have lost the case and to have been ordered to pay £3,600 in damages for hurt feelings. We have the option to appeal, and we will give that serious consideration.”

    “We believe a person should be free to act upon their sincere beliefs about marriage under their own roof without living in fear of the law. Equality laws have gone too far when they start to intrude into a family home,” she stated.

    “People’s beliefs about marriage are coming under increasing attack, and I am concerned about people’s freedom to speak and act upon these beliefs. I am a Christian, not just on a Sunday in church, but in every area of my life – as Jesus expects from his followers,” Mrs. Wilkinson said.

    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

    Where's the tolerance? Not on Tufts University's campus.

    Another example of how many universities are the least tolerant environs in our nation.  In this instance, Tufts University is banning a Christian organization because they require officers to subscribe to the evangelical Christian beliefs of the organization.
    Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts has banned a Christian group from campus because the group requires student leaders to adhere to "basic biblical truths of Christianity." The decision to ban the group, called the Tufts Christian Fellowship, was made by officials from the university's student government, specifically the Tufts Community Union Judiciary.

    The ban means the group "will lose the right to use the Tufts name in its title or at any activities, schedule events or reserve university space through the Office for Campus Life," according to the Tufts Daily. Additionally, Tufts Christian Fellowship will be unable to receive money from a pool that students are required to pay into and that is specifically set aside for student groups.

    "TCF is the Tufts chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, an evangelical Christian mission on college campuses across the country, and also has ties to the university Chaplaincy," the Tufts Daily reports.

    "The group had been operating in a state of suspended recognition after the Judiciary found that the group’s constitution excluded students from applying to leadership positions based on their beliefs. The clauses in question require that any TCF member who wishes to apply for a leadership role must adhere to a series of tenets called a Basis of Faith, or eight 'basic Biblical truths of Christianity.'

    "The Judiciary last month recommended that TCF move the belief-based leadership requirements from the constitution’s bylaws, which are legally binding, to its mission statement, which is not.

    The group is planning to appeal the student board's decision.
     A novel idea.  The leaders of an organization should agree with the beliefs of the organization.  It's like saying a democrat student group should allow republicans to lead it.

    Monday, October 22, 2012

    Is Minnesota turning red? Now that would be a shocker.

    With all the talk about battleground states in the race for the presidency, Minnesota is seldom to never mentioned. They most recent KSTP/Survey USA poll shows President Obama ahead by 10 points. Some doubt that margin, suggesting it's much closer.  Here's one take on the polls and in particular the Survey USA poll.
    Minnesota has crept into the news cycle recently with senior campaign surrogates stumping in the state and campaign dollars flowing to a state once thought out of reach for Republicans this cycle. I received a lot of push-back over my conclusion regarding Minnesota’s competitiveness based on Rochester, Minnesota being a top 10 ad market this week. Upon closer inspection, however, the evidence keeps piling up that the Land of 10,000 Lakes should be on everyone’s radar for an election night surprise.

    The latest is a poll released yesterday from SurveyUSA gives President Obama a 10-point lead over Mitt Romney, 50 to 40.  Romney leads by 3-points among Independents 45 to 42 with 4% are voting 3rd party and 6% are Undecided.  Shouldn’t a 10-point lead definitely mean it is not a Battleground? If you believe that, you must be new to this blog.  A 10-point lead would largely be safe at this juncture if the poll were an honest representation of Minnesota today (and remember other polls have it as close as 4). But this SurveyUSA poll is far from a fair representation of the Minnesota electorate... 
     He suggests the plus 10 margin of Democrats over Republicans in ID'ed voters in the KSTP poll is way too much when it was plus 4 for Democrats in 2008 and plus 3 in 2004.
    The point of running these scenarios is the initial read of an Obama 10-point lead based on a D +10 party affiliation is folly. With Undecideds factored in that lead drop to 8 even in this unrealistic scenario. If there is no party affiliation shift from 2008 despite the overwhelming evidence provided, Romney is only down 2.8 points with an unconsolidated base (think a visit might help?) as well as conservative estimates on Undecideds.  If, however, Republicans have burnished their brand and the enthusiasm issue is as meaningful as polling would indicate, the decades-long steady rise in Republican performance in Minnesota should deliver a victory for Romney on November 6.  Enhancing every one of these scenarios is the prospect of a decided national popular vote victory for Romney evidenced by the national tracking polls from Gallup and Rasmussen Reports. If that happens, deep purple Minnesota will turn red on election night.
     Now that would be the shocker of the evening if Obama lost Minnesota.  At the very least the 10 point margin is unrealistic.

    Three political endorsements a candidate wouldn't want.

    Normally, politicians like political endorsements.  I think that's not always the case.  It's reported that three of the most prominent dictators and/or political strongmen in the world - Vladimir Putin in Russia, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Raul Castro in Cuba - have endorsed President Obama in his race for the presidency with Mitt Romney.
    The latest [dictator] to publicly announce his support for the commander-in-chief’s reelection bid was Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who this week assured he’d vote for Obama if he were from the United States. The America-bashing strongman made the announcement on state-owned television, saying “Obama is a good guy” and that if Obama was from Caracas, he’d surely return the favor by voting for Chavez.

    Earlier in the year the government-official daughter of Cuban military dictator Raul Castro proclaimed her country’s support for Obama during a visit to the U.S. “I believe that Obama needs another opportunity and he needs greater support to move forward with his projects and with his ideas, which I believe come from the bottom of his heart,” Mariela Castro said during a cable news interview. ...

    That brings us to Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who has eliminated most elections in his country, monopolized all major media and destroyed the political party system. ... In a letter to a major newspaper, the president of a group dedicated to expanding freedom around the world points out that under Putin there has been an “across-the-board crackdown on civil society.” The piece goes on to ask: “Will Obama stand up against Putin’s abuses?” Unlikely, now that the Russian dictator has extended his endorsement.

    Friday, October 19, 2012

    Welfare spending up 32% in four years. What's this mean?

    It's reported that welfare spending is up 32% over the last 4 years.  What's this mean?  A difficult economy but greater dependency on government.

    The story points out that it's not all due to a bad economy but also expansion of eligibility. 
    Welfare spending has grown substantially over the past four years, reaching $746 billion in 2011 — or more than Social Security, basic defense spending or any other single chunk of the federal government — according to a new memo by the Congressional Research Service.

    The steady rise in welfare spending, which covers more than 80 programs primarily designed to help low-income Americans, got a big boost from the 2009 stimulus and has grown, albeit somewhat more slowly, in 2010 and 2011. One reason is that more people are qualifying in the weak economy, but the federal government also has broadened eligibility so that more people qualify for programs.

    Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, who requested the Congressional Research Service report, said it underscores a fundamental shift in welfare, moving away from a Band-Aid and toward a more permanent crutch.

    “No longer should we measure compassion by how much money the government spends but by how many people we help to rise out of poverty,” the Alabama conservative said.

    “Welfare assistance should be seen as temporary whenever possible and the goal must be to help more of our fellow citizens attain gainful employment and financial independence.”

    Overall, welfare spending as measured by obligations has grown from $563 billion in fiscal 2008 to $746 billion in fiscal 2011, or a jump of 32 percent.

    The CRS numbers tell a complex story of American taxpayers’ generosity in supporting a varied social safety net, ranging from food stamps to support for low-income AIDS patients to child-care payments to direct cash going from taxpayers to the poor.
    What's the biggest ticket item?  Medicaid.
    By far the biggest item on the list is Medicaid, the federal-state health program for the poor, which at $296 billion in federal spending made up 40 percent of all low-income assistance in 2011. That total was up $82 billion from 2008.
    Dependency not just a helping hand is the problem.  Another problem is when they become indistinguishable.

    The last radicals. Homeschoolers?

    Here's a humorous look at the radicalness of homeschooled children.  Radicalness is certainly in the eye of the beholder.  In the eyes of the education establishment, they are radical.
    There is exactly one authentically radical social movement of any real significance in the United States, and it is not Occupy, the Tea Party, or the Ron Paul faction. It is homeschoolers, who, by the simple act of instructing their children at home, pose an intellectual, moral, and political challenge to the government-monopoly schools, which are one of our most fundamental institutions and one of our most dysfunctional. Like all radical movements, homeschoolers drive the establishment bats.
     And what do homeschoolers have in common with hippies? 
    “People forget that some of the first homeschoolers were hippies,” says Bob Wiesner, a counselor at the Seton Home Study School, a Catholic educational apostolate reporting to the bishop of Arlington, Va. In one of history’s little ironies, today most of homeschooling’s bitterest enemies are to be found on the left. “We don’t have much of a problem from conservatives,” Wiesner says. “It’s the teachers’ unions, educational bureaucrats, and liberal professors. College professors by and large don’t want students who can think for themselves. They want students they can indoctrinate, but that’s hard to do with homeschoolers — homeschoolers push back.” He relishes the story of a number of graduates of his program who attended a top-tier Catholic university and enrolled together in theology classes taught by the school’s most notorious liberals. They were of course more conversant with church orthodoxy than were many of their instructors. “The professors hated them. But the kids had fun. The president of that college at that time was trying to clean up the theology department, so when the professors would complain, he would call the students in and tell them to try to be polite — with a wink and a nod.”

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Romney in a landslide? This guy thinks so.

    Here's an interesting take on the presidential race - he's predicting a landslide for Romney.  (I used to think a landslide was 10 to 20 points but he defines it as 5 to 7 points.)  This mirrors a post I wrote on Paul Rahe a while back.
    I have been predicting a Romney victory from the beginning. In December 2011, I predicted Mr. Romney would win the GOP presidential nomination and go on to win the presidency. In spring 2012, after Mr. Romney clinched the GOP nomination, I predicted a Romney landslide victory in November. For the past month, as Mr. Romney has trailed badly in every poll, especially in the all-important battleground states, I have continued to predict a Romney landslide. Today, I’m making it official:

    Mitt Romney will win the presidency, and it won’t be close.
    I’m predicting a 5- to 7-point popular-vote victory, with an outside shot at 10 points. Electorally, it won’t be that close. Mr. Romney will win many states that went to Mr. Obama in 2008 — I predict wins in Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Indiana. I predict he will win by 100 to 120 electoral votes. I’ll go out on a limb and say Mr. Romney even will win one or two Democratic “safe states” such as Michigan, Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
    Is he just blowing smoke or is this actually plausible?  I'm reminded of the Carter-Reagan race in 1980 when Carter actually led up until the final couple of weeks.  But then Reagan ended up winning by 9 points.
    We'll ultimately know in a couple of weeks.

    If marriage is now only a loving relationship, what does that open the door to - polyamorous relationships?

    One of the questions raised in the debate over the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment is what constitutes a marriage?  What defines the nature of a marriage.  Some say it's a loving, committed relationship.  Well, if that's the case why does it need to be limited to just a two people, whether same or opposite sex.

    Logically, of course, it can't be limited.  Polygamous relationships come to mind, but many people aren't familiar with polyamorous relationships which are group relationships.

    City Pages has an  article on polyamory relationships right here in the Twin Cities.  In fact, the article makes this very point.
    Despite the potential issues and setbacks the triad has experienced over the years, Carrie believes that poly has come a long way in terms of being accepted across the Twin Cities.

    "I remember once in the gay-marriage movement several years ago there was an opinion piece written in another local publication. The right-wing groups and talking heads were all saying things like, 'We can't support gay marriage because the next thing will be polyamorous marriages.' I thought that was interesting because I had never heard polyamory mentioned in the media before," she recalls. "So anyways, this publication wrote an op-ed piece where they said, 'You don't have to worry about polyamorous marriage because polyamory doesn't exist.' That really upset a lot of us because we felt like we were being marginalized."
    There you have it.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    Electronic takes off but at what cost? Or at whose expense?

    Here's a story on the introduction of electronic pulltabs.  Headlines says it's taking off.  The question is at what cost and who's expense.  Studies on video gambling says 30 to 50% of gambling comes from 1% of gamblers, e.g. addicted gamblers.  The perversity of the situation is they need even more addicted gamblers to make the numbers work to pay for the new stadium.  Sad situation.
    Minnesotans are throwing their support at the Vikings stadium-funding plan, plunking down $642,000 in just the first month of the state's grand experiment in electronic pulltabs.

    With video pulltab games up and running in 40 locations, and more on the way, e-gaming is off to a good start, Tom Barrett, executive director of the Minnesota Gambling Control Board, said at its meeting Tuesday.

    "We opened five [sites] last night, and will open another 20 this week," said Jon Weaver, president of Express Games Inc., the sole distributor of the video pulltab devices to date. "We've got another 100 on the waiting list."

    Taxes from electronic games, overseen by Minnesota's charitable gambling groups, are expected to generate $350 million in funding for the new Vikings stadium in the years ahead. But don't count on any construction cash yet.

    From the $642,000 in game sales, all but $99,000 was returned to players as wins, Barrett

    said. And that money is divided among the site hosting the games, the charity, the games distributor and state taxes.

    But even the tax money doesn't go directly to the stadium. Under the law, only state tax dollars above and beyond the $37 million paid by charities in 2011 will subsidize football.
    My prediction is there will be a push for even more gambling if numbers aren't coming in as they want.

    Who won the debate and what difference will it make?

    The debate left partisans feeling like their man won the debate.  In boxing terms, each of them got shots in but no knockouts.  Obama was clearly more energized and aggressive while Romney calmly got in his talking points in a cool, articulate manner.  Some give a slight edge to Obama overall.

    I think overall Romney was the winner because the debate didn't change the arc of the campaign which is in his direction.  I think this is because people, independents, undecideds are trying to figure out whether Romney is up to the job of being president.  Nothing happened last night to say he isn't.  He was able to go toe to toe with the president and came off better in terms of giving a forward looking vision.  Obama doesn't give a clear, hopeful vision for where he wants to take the nation over the next for years.  Romney also seemed fresher.

    The most telling commentary was this focus group of undecideds and former Obama voters convened by Frank Luntz, the pollster.  A number of past Obama voters said they were changing their votes.  If they are representative of other, past Obama voters, then Obama is in trouble.

    Obama has a poor record on the economy which everyone can see and experience on a personal level.   That's why he's trying to make Romney the issue at every turn.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    Same-sex "marriage" and Canada. The consequences are sobering.

    The consequences of same-sex "marriage" are far more significant than most people realize.  It's not simply a "live and let live" proposition of a few gay couples getting married.  Rather it's a radical restructuring the mores of society and the eventual silencing of those who would disagree.  That's the message from a Canadian Catholic Archbishop Prendergast who spoke in the Twin Cities.
    “You are summoned to a tribunal where you cannot have a defense lawyer and you cannot record the proceedings nor have a witness present. The people judging and prosecuting you have no legal qualifications. The accusation is ambiguous, having to do with ideas the state does not like. The penalties could include fines equal to several thousands of dollars, public recanting, and rehabilitation classes. You are a bishop. This is not China. This is Canada. The offense: explaining why homosexual relations are a sin.”

    So began the address of Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast to St. Thomas University Law School Monday, October 8, where he laid out the alarming consequences of same-sex “marriage” from the Canadian experience. 

    The archbishop was describing the true experiences of Calgary Bishop Fred Henry, who in 2005 was hit with a human rights complaint for proclaiming the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. The complaint was subsequently dropped by the plaintiff, who admitted that he only filed the complaint to get media attention.
     Some would argue we have free speech protections in the United State which make us different than in Canada.  Yes, but for how long.  With liberal judges reading new rights and privileges into the US Constitution (including same-sex "marriage"), what's to keep them from redefining what's no longer protected speech.
    Others, however, have not been so lucky. Alberta pastor Stephen Boissoin, for instance, was dragged through a several year process in a human rights commission, at the end of which he was found “guilty.” His crime? Writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper expressing his concern about the gay agenda in schools. Boissoin was hit with a fine and ordered never again to publicly speak about his views on homosexuality.

    Archbishop Prendergast also expressed his concern for those who, thanks to the legalization of gay “marriage,” “are deceived into destructive lifestyles, approved of and funded by Canadian governments.”

    “The Bible is being called hate literature,” he said. “Clearly, the Church is in the crosshairs. There will be growing pressure for the Church to comply or to be shut down.”
     What are some of the consequences of same-sex "marriage" according to the Archbishop?
    Enumerating the “consequences of same-sex marriages and related sexual license are already manifesting themselves,” the Archbishop noted:
    - restrictions on freedoms;
    - forced sex education;
    - sexually confused children;
    - sexual experimentation among children;
    - muzzling and debilitating the Church;
    - more births out of wedlock;
    - more in vitro fertilizations;
    - more abortions;
    - more poverty;
    - more misery;
    - more disease;
    - more addictions; and
    - higher health care costs.

    “By reassigning financial benefits to same-sex marriage, what was once an incentive to fruitful, traditional families has become an incentive to sterile, destructive social arrangements,” he said.

    Archbishop Prendergast ended his address on a positive note. “Every challenge to the Church’s teaching is an opportunity to clarify it,” he said. “Media attention is putting the Church on the front page, and we must see that as a good thing.”

    “Just the same,” he warned, “the playbook of our opponents is unrelenting attempts to change or destroy the Church.”
    The ultimate target is the church and the Bible, because of their views on marriage and sex.

    5 killed, 25 wounded. Where did this take place?

    I came across this headline:  5 killed, 25 wounded. Where did this happen?  Afghanistan?  Iraq?  Nope.  Chicago over the weekend.  Sounds like a war zone.  I guess we in the US have become desensitized to this sort of thing.

    This story brings home the human element.
    For the second time in her life, a South Side Chicago grandmother learned one of her grandsons was shot to death.

    Florine Monroe said she received the call Saturday that her 17-year-old grandson, Richard Modell, was killed. The news came months after Monroe buried another grandchild, 21-year-old Marlon Monroe, who was shot in the chest and killed April 28 in the Woodlawn neighborhood.

    "They've got to get these guns out of young people's hands," Monroe said, quietly crying.

    Police said Modell and his 18-year-old friend were on their way to meet a friend around 9:30 p.m. Saturday when someone shot them in the 6300 block of South Rhodes Avenue. Authorities said Modell may have been targeted because of a fight between rival gangs.

    "He was trying to get a scholarship for football," Monroe said.

    The 18-year-old with Modell was shot multiple times and taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in critical condition. Police said they don't believe he had any gang ties.

    What's the answer?  Since much, I presume, is gang related, gangs need to be addressed.  They are a surrogate family in many respects.  That's where family and marriage in to play.  Kids needs their fathers involved in their lives.  To give them discipline, direction, and tough love at times.  That needs to be a priority.

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    Are Americans less religious?

    A Pew Research poll released last week found 19.6% of Americans now have no religious affiliation up from around 15% in 2007.  I think this reflects the growing secularism of society.
    The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public - and a third of adults under 30 - are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

    In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).

    This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

    However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country's 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as "spiritual" but not "religious" (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.
     A couple of things I saw in the polling.  First, the number of atheists and agnostics did not grow dramatically; they are still a small share of the population in general.  

    And second, a characteristic of the "unaffiliateds" is they're decidedly more liberal than the general public.
    The religiously unaffiliated are heavily Democratic in their partisanship and liberal in their political ideology. More than six-in-ten describe themselves as Democrats or say they lean toward the Democratic Party (compared with 48% of all registered voters). And there are roughly twice as many self-described liberals (38%) as conservatives (20%) among the religiously unaffiliated. Among voters overall, this balance is reversed.
    This trend is a wake up call for the church.  Both for liberal churches which have embraced the secular values of the culture and resulted in a significant decline in their numbers.  They stand for little to nothing.  On the other hand, conservative churches which hunker down and further withdraw from cultural engagement will also decline.  Both segments are making the wrong response.

    Am I concerrned for the church?  Concerned for its declining influence in society.  And for our society.  The less our culture is shaped by Christians values means the more social, cultural and economic breakdown will occur.  The founders saw religion, e.g. Christianity and morals which flow from faith, as indispensable for society and our government.  With that diminishing influence expect more social chaos and unrest.

    I'm reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson, inscribed on the Jefferson memorial:
    God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever.
    Ultimately, the church will get its act together and respond to the challenges of secularism and even paganism.  It's done so in the past.  All one has to do is read the pages of the book of Acts in the Bible.

    Friday, October 12, 2012

    Who won the debate between Biden and Ryan?

    I watched the entire debate last night between Biden and Romney last night.  I thought one of the better analysis of the debate was by Yuval Levin at NRO.
    I think both candidates basically did what they needed to do in the vice-presidential debate, which leaves the Republican ticket in a slightly better position—since Biden’s goal was damage control with the base and Ryan’s was reinforcing a positive impression with persuadable voters.

    After the calamity they experienced in last week’s presidential debate, liberals needed to be bucked up by the Obama campaign, and I think they got that tonight. It probably came at a real cost—I have a feeling that Biden’s hyper-aggressive and at times buffoonish performance (and perhaps especially his Joker grin, which seemed to me as much a product of nervousness as of intent) hurt the ticket some with independent voters and especially with women—but it was a price the Obama campaign is probably quite willing to pay given the situation they’re now in. This debate didn’t help them win persuadable voters, and it probably won’t move the polls in their direction, but it will calm liberals down and it was absolutely essential for them to do that. The MSNBC types needed someone to be a jerk toward Paul Ryan to his face, and they got it.
     How will it affect the race?
    To assess the effect of it all on the race, I think an important question will be how many voters watched this debate, compared to the last one. For those who did, I imagine this will basically be a draw—a tie between those who found Biden’s bullying effective and those who found it off-putting. But among those who only hear about it in the coming days, I have a feeling that this will turn out to have been a bit of a problem for the Democrats. Ryan’s performance probably won’t be much noted either way (which is about what he was going for, I suspect; he has now established his place in the very upper tier of American political life without even much of a fuss), but the two lasting impressions of this debate that will be talked about will be Biden’s bizarre behavior and his false assertion about requests for security by American diplomats in Libya. As they struggle to close Romney’s narrow lead, neither will be a welcome subject of discussion for the Democrats. 
    Ultimately, the race will still come down to Obama and Romney.  The pressure is on Obama.  The pundits and everyone are saying that Obama did poorly in their first debate.  There's no where to go but up.  The problem is Obama isn't a natural debater.  He's more professorial.  Likes to lecture. 

    Romney has to come off as credible and presidential in the next debate.  People are nervous and very concerned about where our nation is headed.   They want to know whether Romney has a credible plan and is competent to take us in a different direction.  If Romney can accomplish these goals, without major mistakes, he's likely to expand his lead.

    Of course, we'll find out what happens on Tuesday night.

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    Ontario government wants to ban pro-life message in Catholic schools using "anti-bullying" laws.

    The threat to religious freedom is a very real reality in Canada.  Here's a story out of Ontario.
    In what pro-life leaders are calling a stunning and unprecedented attack on religious freedom, Ontario’s Education Minister has apparently declared that Catholic schools can no longer teach that abortion is wrong.

    Laurel Broten, who serves under Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, said Wednesday that Catholic schools are barred from teaching this core moral belief because Bill 13, the government’s controversial “anti-bullying” law, prohibits “misogyny.”

    “Taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be considered one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take,” she told the Canadian Press. “I don’t think there is a conflict between choosing Catholic education for your children and supporting a woman’s right to choose.”

    Bill 13 had already been slammed by Ontario’s bishops as an attack on religious freedom because it forces Catholic schools to allow “gay-straight alliance” clubs.

    “This is absolutely unbelievable and shocking,” said Jim Hughes, National President of Campaign Life Coalition. ”The rights of the Catholic schools are protected in Canada’s Constitution. Especially coming from somebody who’s a purported Catholic with her children in Catholic schools.”
     Note the use of "anti-bullying" laws to promote this radical social agenda.  More evidence that our concern about efforts to revise Minnesota's anti-bullying law are well founded.  Changes aren't just designed to address bullying behavior, something we all oppose, but seek to promote a social indoctrination.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    Morality and sexual liberation - which ultimately wins?

    Here's a great commentary by Eric Metaxes from BreakPoint entitled, "Microbiology and Morality - Limits to our Sexual Freedom?"

    He points out man's attempts to overcome the limits on sexual expression eventually come up short. A case in point is gonorrhea.
    In the second century, the Roman physician Galen named a common ailment whose symptoms included a burning sensation in the urinary tract and (forgive me) the release of pus. He combined the Greek word for “seed,” gonos, and “flow,” rhoia. 

    That’s how the word “gonorrhea” entered the Western lexicon. And now you know.

    For eighteen centuries, the disease was a constant reminder of the dangers of promiscuity. The 18-century British writer James Boswell, Samuel Johnson’s biographer, called it a “memorandum of vice” before dying himself from what are believed to be complications of the illness. At the turn of the 20th century, the New York City medical examiner estimated that 80 percent of the men in the city had contracted the illness at least once in their lives.

    But then came antibiotics, and we thought we could put Boswell’s memorandum in our ‘deleted’ file.  The problem is the development of a strain of gonorrhea resistant to antibodies.
    But not so fast.  A recent article in the New Yorker magazine describes a new strain of gonorrhea that is resistant to the only class of drugs that can “reliably treat” the disease.

    Since its discovery in 2009, this strain has spread to every country in Europe, and much of east Asia. While it hasn’t been discovered yet in the United States, “resistant gonorrhea is likely to arrive and spread long before physicians and the C.D.C. recognize it.” By then, of course, it will be too late: “some public-health officials predict that in five to eight years this superbug will be widespread.”

    Thus, in the magazine’s words, “Whatever freedoms were won during the sexual revolution, bacterial evolution promises soon to constrain.”

    That’s an interesting way to put it: a mixture of surprise and regret at the idea that human freedom can be limited by nature; or the idea that somehow, as Chuck Colson used to say, that just as there are physical laws of the universe, so there are universal moral laws. We ignore either at our own peril.

    It’s a lesson you think people would have learned by now. Thirty years ago, the HIV virus reminded us that microbiology is callously indifferent to changes in human ideas about freedom and morality.

    While, thankfully, new therapies mean that testing positive for HIV is no longer a death sentence—at least for those who can afford the drugs—we are still nowhere near a vaccine, much less a cure.

    We’re even farther behind the curve when it comes to this new strain of gonorrhea. According to the New Yorker, the “primary hope for stemming the expected epidemic . . . lies in persuading people to alter their behavior.”

    And by “altering their behavior,” they don’t mean “be chaste.” What they really mean is “practicing safe sex.” The Sexual Revolution may have lost the war against micro-organisms, but it’s still prevailing among public health officials.
     Unfortunately, the sexual revolution and its advocates seem immune to reason.
    These are the same people who, rightly, tell us to eat less, exercise more, quit smoking, etc. In other words, in the name of public health they won’t hesitate to ask for radical changes in behavior to combat obesity or hypertension. (Just try finding a super-size soda here in New York City!)

    But when it comes to sexual behavior, they somehow believe that asking for a measure of self-control is asking a bit too much.

    And as long as we think that way, Boswell’s memorandum will occupy a permanent place in our inbox.
     It seems as if the pain resulting from sexual revolution - emotional scars and hurts, disease and even death in some instances - don't outweigh the perceived pleasures.  At least for now or, sadly, for some people until it's too late.   And of course each new generation seems to think they need to learn the lessons for themselves, the hard way.

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    Are the wealthy paying their fair share in taxes? And then some.

    There's always talk about taxing the rich to bring down the deficit and allow for the continued expansion of state spending.  Some argue they're not paying their fair share.  Turns out they're paying significantly more than their percent of the population. 

    Steve Moore who writes for the Wall Street Journal has written a book entitled:  Who's the Fairest of Them All?:  The Truth about Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America."  He notes that European countries tax their richest 10% at lower rates than the US.

    According to Moore, these earners pay almost half (45 percent) of the country's total taxes. This conclusion flies in the face of the liberal concept that top earners in the U.S. are not paying their "fair share" in taxes. Moore explains:
    "The United States is actually more dependent on rich people to pay taxes than even many of the more socialized economies of Europe. According to the Tax Foundation, the United States gets 45 percent of its total taxes from the top 10 percent of tax filers, whereas the international average in industrialized nations is 32 percent. America’s rich carry a larger share of the tax burden than do the rich in Belgium (25 percent), Germany (31 percent), France (28 percent), and even Sweden (27 percent)."
    Why do Europeans tax the rich at lower rates than the US?  I wonder if it's because they realize the wealthy are often business owners who provide jobs.  High taxes on these business owners only serves to discourage them from growing their businesses.

    Problems in the city and taking a stand.

    Here's a very good opinion piece written by Don Samuels, a Minneapolis city councilman, on his confrontation with a man urinating in public.  He story highlights the problems one encounters in an area where family breakdown and loss of character are more pronounced than in other places.  Lack of manners not the least of them.  However, he also highlights what happens when we get involved.  How he was able to redeem the situation and hopefully turn around the lives of a couple of young men.  (Warning:  Don't necessary try doing this yourself.)

    It's worth reading.  It's titled, "Not in my city - Urinating in public? Menacing your fellow citizens? Taking what isn't yours?"

    Monday, October 8, 2012

    Big effort to eliminate achievement gap in Twin Cities. Will it be successful in the long term? I doubt it.

    In the Pioneer Press today there was front page story on efforts to eliminate the achievement gap between minority, inner city youths and the general population.  Will it be successful long term?  Based on the story, I doubt it.

    The new initiative called Strive seeks to address the serious achievement gap  between minority, inner city kids and the general population.  According to the Pioneer Press news story:
    Set to launch next month, the Strive initiative has brought together school districts, higher-education institutions, businesses and nonprofits -- getting them into the same room if not yet completely on the same page.

    Supporters say the effort tackles the key reason the gap bedevils educators: piecemeal attempts to address it don't make the smartest use of ever-scarcer dollars and ever more plentiful data....

    In the Twin Cities, the United Way has played host to an 18-month push to start the effort. Among organizations that have come on board: the teachers unions in Minneapolis and St. Paul; the mayors of both cities; education nonprofits; public and private colleges; foundations; the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce; and businesses such as 3M, Target and Cargill...

    U President Eric Kaler and Kim Nelson, president of the General Mills Foundation, have co-chaired the effort. This week, Michael Goar, most recently the second-in-command at Boston Public Schools and a former Minneapolis administrator, starts as Strive executive director.
    They're drawing their inspiration from Cincinnati "where it was born almost a decade ago. It was the answer to what supporters often call a 'spray and pray' take on lagging education achievement: Federal and private funding went to disparate initiatives instead of a better-coordinated 'cradle to career' approach."
    Today, three school districts and some 300 nonprofits, foundations and universities are part of Strive in Cincinnati. They boast gains such as improved school readiness and fourth-grade reading test scores.

    In the past couple of years, the Cincinnati model began migrating to cities from Seattle to Boston. Initiatives sprang up in Minnesota, too.
     This isn't the first initiative which seeks to close the achievement gap.  "A recent U study counted some 500 initiatives focused on closing achievement gaps in the Twin Cities."

    Will this new initiative work?

    I’m all for bringing together resources in the community to help people.  Not just government resources.  That’s a positive step, yet there’s one group that’s missing from the the equation and discussion, the most important group – parents.  Yes, parents who are supposed to be raising kids, instilling the character and skills necessary for their kids to succeed.

    I suspect they’ve been omitted from the discussion because the reason many of these kids are having trouble is they don’t have parents actively involved in their lives.  They come from broken homes.

    Yet that’s the problem – there’s no way to ultimately solve the achievement gap without parents being parents. In fact, seeking to replace parents with government programs and community initiatives will only mask over the core problem – broken homes -- and where the government is involved it deepens dependency.

    An interesting study on the achievement gap came out a few years ago by a Professor Jeynes from California.  He wrote an article "Religion, Intact Families, and the Achievement Gap" Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion in 2007.  He found that "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."

    Hear that?  Disappears.  Not reduced but disappears.  The two factors which eliminate the achievement gap are an intact family and strong religious influences in their lives.

    Frankly, if we really want to solve the problem that’s where we need to look and work – restore the family and bring spiritual renewal to the lives of people.

    Does the government and businesses have a role to play?  Certainly.  They just need to play their proper roles, not the main roles.

    Brave New World - designer babies, sex selection and destroying human life.

    A growing industry in the US is creation of sex specific babies.  Couples, individuals are coming to the US to get the baby of their choice - usually it's a boy.
    Some couples want a baby boy badly. So badly they're willing to fly halfway around the world to get one. Destination? The United States.

    Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, director of The Fertility Institutes in Los Angeles and New York City, has for several years offered a fertility procedure allowing affluent couples to choose their baby's gender. Sex selection, outlawed in many countries, is legal in the United States: Steinberg's clinics have treated "thousands" of couples from India, China, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and 142 other nations.

    Steinberg recently told the London Evening Standard that he's helped around 400 British couples conceive their choice of a boy or girl. They sometimes pay $45,000 or more for one of Steinberg's package deals that includes treatment, plane tickets, and a hotel. The doctor opened his New York clinic in 2008 to cater to British and European patients, who are perhaps less than an eight-hour flight away. Sex selection is illegal within the United Kingdom, but Steinberg boasted that "leading British politicians" fly to his New York office for that very purpose.

    Steinberg admitted his clinics have recently seen a "huge growth" of Chinese clients. Almost all of them—98 percent—ask for a boy. So do most Indian couples. Both countries ban sex selection, but it's practiced illegally because of cultural preferences for boys.

    Several U.S. clinics perform sex selection using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD): Doctors obtain the couple's sperm and eggs, mix them in a dish, and implant only a few embryos of the desired gender. Steinberg typically performs PGD by fertilizing eight or nine eggs and implanting just one embryo, discarding or freezing the others.
    In 2009 Steinberg considered allowing parents to choose their child's eye and hair color, too (see "Eugenics," March 28, 2009). He nixed the idea after a pro-life outcry.

    Friday, October 5, 2012

    Pulpit Freedom Sunday this Sunday, October 7th.

    This Sunday is when pastors are encouraged to speak out on politics and political candidates.  It's called Pulpit Freedom Sunday.
     Over 1,200 pastors from across the country have signed up to challenge IRS regulations that threaten churches with the loss of their tax-exempt status if they wade into politics by participating in Pulpit Freedom Sunday this Sunday, October 7. The event, associated with the Pulpit Initiative, is being held by the Alliance Defending Freedom. 

    Despite IRS regulations forbidding 501c3 organizations from endorsing political candidates, pastors participating in the event are encouraged to give biblical perspectives on topics relating to the election such as abortion and gay “marriage” from the pulpit, and then to mail these sermons to the IRS.
    The genesis of the problem?
    The IRS regulation in question, known as the Johnson Amendment, has become a popular tool of activist groups, who routinely threaten pastors who speak up on political issues with the loss of their tax exempt status. Recently one leftist organization, Americans United, sent 60,000 letters to churches nationwide urging them not to endorse political candidates this election season.

    President Lyndon B. Johnson was responsible for submitting the Johnson Amendment in 1954.
     Why is ADF promoting this? 
    In a statement on the website for the event, Alliance Defending Freedom explains, “The goal of Pulpit Freedom Sunday is simple: have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional – and once and for all remove the ability of the IRS to censor what a pastor says from the pulpit.”
     For more information on Pulpit Freedom Sunday, go to  

    Wednesday, October 3, 2012

    Should pastors endorse political candidates from the pulpit? Most don't.

    In a survey of Protestant pastors, 90 percent don't believe they should endorse candidates from the pulpit.
    Nearly 90 percent of pastors believe they should not endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.
    The survey, released Oct. 1, also revealed that 44 percent of pastors personally endorsed candidates, but did so outside of their church role.

    The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors found that only 10 percent believe pastors should endorse candidates from the pulpit. Eighty-seven percent believe (71 percent strongly and 16 percent somewhat) pastors should not endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit. Three percent of pastors are not sure.

    ...Slight differences emerged between pastors who consider themselves "evangelical" and those who self-identify as "mainline." Eighty-six percent of evangelical pastors believe pastors should not endorse a candidate from the pulpit, as compared to 91 percent of mainline pastors.
    What I'd have liked to see are the reasons why pastors believe they shouldn't endorse or oppose candidates from the pulpit.  Is it because they fear loss of their tax exempt status, is there a theological basis for doing so, or simply believing politics is unimportant.

    If it's the former reason, the Alliance Defending Freedom legal group is trying to change that through its "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" where hundreds of pastors around the country publicly state positions on particular candidates.  Their purpose is provoke the IRS to enforce their regulations, which they've never done regarding a pulpit endorsement or opposition to a particular candidate.
    The results of the survey come just prior to the Alliance Defending Freedom's "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" on Oct. 7. The alliance encourages pastors to challenge the IRS ban on political endorsements from the pulpit by comparing the positions of candidates from a biblical perspective. ADF has held Pulpit Freedom Sunday every year since 2008.

    "Previous research has shown that pastors believe the government has no place in determining what is and is not said from their pulpits regarding candidates," Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, said. "Yet most pastors don't believe endorsement of candidates should be made from the pulpit."

    An amendment to the IRS tax code in 1954 prohibits tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, from endorsing political candidates for public office. According to the IRS, "violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax."

    ADF believes the law violates the First Amendment. ADF wants to challenge the law in court but wants the IRS to initiate the action -- something the IRS has yet to do in the five previous years of Pulpit Freedom Sunday. 
    Personally, I believe pastors should and do have the freedom to endorse or oppose candidates.  Should they do it is a question of prudence.  I don't think a pastoral endorsement of candidate is necessarily that helpful in many instances.  I think more beneficial is for a pastor help to church attenders think biblically about the issues and what should inform a person's voting decisions. 

    Frankly, I don't think a public endorsement would sway a lot of people.  Most parishioners probably wouldn't look to their pastor for special wisdom on who they should vote for.  They won't persuade a lot of people.  Though I could see a pastor stating a position on say, President Obama, if church members put party loyalties before positions. 

    I wonder if the high negative numbers are rooted in a distorted understanding of the relationship between faith and politics.  They've compartmentalized their faith to the extent they think politics is unimportance, nonspiritual or has no relevance to faith matters.   If so that's  a poor reason.   Considering it not prudential to endorse or oppose candidates is another thing.

    I think pastors should speak out on issues more and criticize or affirm officials who take the correct positions.  It's part of the educational process.

    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Monday, October 1, 2012

    Schwarzenegger, same-sex "marriage", and moral confusion.

    Here's an article on a "60 Minutes" interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He was questioned about his views of gay "marriage."  He says we supports preserving traditional marriage but personally performed same-sex "marriages." 
    "I always said that I have nothing against people doing what they want to do. If they – if the – a couple wants to get married, they should get married. I personally always said that marriage is between a man and a woman, but I would never enforce my will on people. I always want people to make that decision. If they want to get married, let them get married," Schwarzenegger said in an interview with "60 Minutes"...

    While governor of California from 2003 to 2011, Schwarzenegger remained largely opposed to plans to change the traditional definition of marriage to include homosexual couples. In 2005, he said that he would veto Assembly Bill 19, which sought to include same-sex couples in the definition, and after Proposition 8 which preserved the above-mentioned definition was passed in 2008, he signed the Marriage Recognition and Family Protection Act (SB 54), which upheld the Proposition but recognized marriages of same-sex couples performed out-of-state prior to Nov. 5, 2008.

    ...The former governor steered away from giving a definitive answer on the issue, noting that he was not in favor of same-sex marriage, but at the same time believes gay couples still deserve the same ceremony as heterosexual couples.

    "I don't have to be for gay marriage. I'm for that she gets the kind of wedding and the kind of ceremony that I had when I got married with Maria. That she happens to love a woman, and I am – a guy that loves a woman, that is two different things. It doesn't make any difference. She should still have her ceremony," the 65 year old politician explained.
    His reasoning highlights the moral relativism rampant in society today.  He's basically speaking out of both sides of his mouth.  If he doesn't support it, he wouldn't personally promote it.  He's trying to sever his beliefs from his behavior.  However, his genuine beliefs are reflected in his actions.  He's trying to compartmentalizing his beliefs and actions. 

    It appears he realizes this contradiction when it was noted above that he refused to give a "definitive answer on the issue."