Thursday, March 27, 2014

A sobering picture of the history of the Ukraine.

George Will recently wrote a sobering article on the experience of the Ukraine under Stalin.  Not only did it show the horrific terror Ukrainians experienced under Stalin but it gives a background to Putin and his experience.  He describes Putin thus:  "He is a barbarian but not a monster and hence no Stalin.  But he has been coarsened, in ways difficult for civilized people to understand by the continuities, institutional and emotional, with an almost unimaginably vicious past."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Do corporations have religious liberties?

One of the major issues before the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case is whether corporations have religous liberty protections.
In the Hobby Lobby case discussed by Scott earlier this morning, the substantive issue before the Supreme Court is the validity of an Obamacare rule requiring employers to provide health care plans for their employees that cover birth control and abortion procedures that violate the employer’s sincerely held religious-based beliefs. But there is a threshold technical issue — whether a corporation like Hobby Lobby has any religious freedom rights under the First Amendment.
I find the claim that owners of a company like Hobby Lobby can be forced to violate their religious beliefs simply because they have chosen to incorporate to be laughable (though not funny). Can you imagine the owner of a business telling his priest, minister, or orthodox rabbi that he’s not the one violating religious tenets by paying for abortions or staying open for business on the Sabbath; the corporation he controls is the culprit? The priest, minister, or orthodox rabbi would not be impressed. Neither would the Good Lord.
Jay Sekulow offers three reasons why corporations must have religious freedom. First, as the paragraph above suggests, corporations may have an independent legal existence but they are formed, staffed by, and act through individuals. As Sekulow explains:
A corporation’s expression is the expression of the people who work for it and lead it. The law recognizes this reality when it holds corporations liable for the acts of the individuals who work for it, so long as those individuals act within the scope of their employment.
When you allow an organization to speak, people speak. When you censor an organization, you censor people.
Second, when you restrict corporations First Amendment rights, you are restricting a vast amount of the speech and other forms of expression that we take for granted as being free from government mandates and control.
What’s a movie? Corporate expression. A television show? Corporate expression. What about hospital policies regarding end of life care or abortion? Corporate expression.
Third, if the Supreme Court rules against Hobby Lobby, in what sense will “private enterprise” ever again be truly “private?”
If the United States government can force the people running a corporation to use corporate resources to provide free abortion-pills to employees (especially when contraceptives are cheap and widely available on the open market), it is difficult to imagine the meaningful limits on government power in the marketplace. . . .
If government can regulate when it pleases, however it pleases, regardless of the strength of the owner’s convictions or the weakness of the government’s interests, then does anyone truly own a business any longer?
Thus, to deprive Hobby Lobby of its religious freedom based on the technicality of its corporate status arguably would do even more substantive damage than if the Court reaches the merits of the First Amendment claim. No doubt, the Obama administration would love that result.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Racial, ethnic divide and the Republicans and Democrats. Who will start to break the log jam?

This Gallup poll points out the major divide between the major political parties and the Republicans and Democrats.  Whites leaning Republican and minorities more towards Democrats.

A key question is will Republicans make a concerted effort to gain support among minorities.  If they do, that will change politics going forward. 

This is from the Gallup Poll.
Democratic Party Advantage, Whites vs. Nonwhites, 1995-2013
This polarization could ease by the time Obama's term finishes, in three years. However, given the already large racial gap in party preferences in his first five years, unless there is a dramatic shift among whites toward the Democratic Party or among nonwhites toward the GOP in the next three years, party preferences will end up more racially polarized in Obama's presidency than in his two predecessors' administrations.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Education performance in Minnesota public schools over the last 40 years? Performance flat, Spending way up.

This is a newly released study by the Cato Institute on education performance on the state level.  With few execeptions the outcomes are the same wherever you live.  Academic performance is flat to slightly declining while spending is way up.

Here's a good summary of Cato's findings:
The performance of 17-year-olds has been essentially stagnant across all subjects since the federal government began collecting trend data around 1970, despite a near tripling of the inflation-adjusted cost of putting a child through the K-12 system."
While it's a multi-faceted problem, I point to a couple of considerations beyond the schools as critical but often neglected factors.  Strong faith commitment and intact families.  When these two factors are present in minority children the achievement gap is eliminated.

Today, faith is either dismissed or ignored and there seems to be little concern over the breakdown of the family.  In fact, family breakdown is celebrated by some people.  Until these two factors are given their due, I don't see the trend lines for academic performance heading in the right direction anytime soon.

Here's how things look in Minnesota.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Wisdom from a Russia prophet about atrocity and evil.

Though he passed away several years ago, the wisdom of Alexander Solzihenitsyn is still relevant and timely.  Here are some of his past observations.

Why did Russia face such awful atrocities under the Communist revolution?
If I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”   —Interview with Joseph Pearce, 2003
And where does evil lie? 
 If only there were evil people somewhere insidi­ously committing evil deeds, and it were neces­sary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? —The Gulag Archipelago  
Some things never change.  If we fail to learn from the past, we'll repeat the consequences.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bill Maher says God is a "psychotic mass murderer".

Bill Maher expresses big problems with God in a profane diatribe.
Late night comedian Bill Maher expressed disbelief Friday that 60 percent of Americans are “stupid” enough to believe the tale of Noah’s ark is literally true and questioned why individuals worship God, who he described as a “psychotic mass murderer.”

“Isn’t life hard enough without making s*** up out of thin air to f*** with yourself?” he asked.
Maher — who is atheist and produced an anti-religion film years ago — said he believes that the tale of Noah’s ark is not only false, but also “immoral.”
“It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it and his name is God.”

Friday, March 14, 2014

The sex economy - moral relativism and free markets aren't the answer.

Here's a discussion by Anthony Bradley on an Urban Institute study on the sex industry/economy.  It's leaving in it's wake broken lives.
As much as progressives balk at the “imposition” of religious morality and the church in public and social spaces, the secular humanism’s moral relativism is not working in America and continues to leave children vulnerable to profound evil. For example, the Urban Institute recently released a report on the economy of America’s sex industry — and the numbers are astounding.
He also notes that markets aren't enough.
This study reminds us that markets alone do not produce a virtuous society. While the market is there to facilitate the meeting of demands it does not mean that all demands are equally moral. For this reason, the value of culture is a core principles at the Acton Institute:
Priority of Culture – Liberty flourishes in a society supported by a moral culture that embraces the truth about the transcendent origin and destiny of the human person. This moral culture leads to harmony and to the proper ordering of society. While the various institutions within the political, economic, and other spheres are important, the family is the primary inculcator of the moral culture in a society.
Ultimately, the sex economy will die in the US and around the world when moral virtue excels in individuals and in society at large. As longs as progressives reject the role of morals and the church in the public square the sex economy in the US is only going to get worse.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Obama's job approval numbers drop to record low.

According to a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, President Obama's approval numbers are at an all time low, 41%.
President Barack Obama is struggling to overcome widespread pessimism about the economy and deep frustration with Washington, notching the lowest job-approval ratings of his presidency in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

The results suggest Mr. Obama could weigh on fellow Democrats in midterm elections this fall, particularly in the conservative states that will play a large role in deciding whether his party retains its Senate majority.
Mr. Obama's job approval ticked down to 41% in March from 43% in January, marking a new low. Some 54% disapproved of the job he is doing, matching a previous high from December, when the botched rollout of his signature health law played prominently in the news. The latest survey also showed the lowest-ever approval in Journal/NBC polling for Mr. Obama's handling of foreign policy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Millennials are like.

The Pew Research did an extensive survey on Millennials those from ages 18 to 33.   Pew describes them as "relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked to social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry."    "Unattached", "unmoored" sound like operative adjectives from the Pew piece.
The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path into adulthood. Now ranging in age from 18 to 331, they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry— and optimistic about the future.
They are also America’s most racially diverse generation. In all of these dimensions, they are different from today’s older generations. And in many, they are also different from older adults back when they were the age Millennials are now.

Pew Research Center surveys show that half of Millennials (50%) now describe themselves as political independents and about three-in-ten (29%) say they are not affiliated with any religion. These are at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the quarter-century that the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics.

Graphic shows that among Millennials, Gen Xers, Boomers, and Silents, Millennials are more politically independent and more religiously unaffiliated.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Was football announcer fired for religious views on traditional marriage?

Craig James, former FOX sports football announcer was fired shortly after publicly stating his support for traditional marriage.  Was it a case of religious discrimination?  The state of Texas announced it was launching an investigation of James' claim it was religious discrimination.
The Texas Workforce Commission is launching an investigation into whether James suffered from religious discrimination when he was fired shortly after he said in a televised debate he supports traditional marriage.

The state agency, which which has authority over such employment matters in the Lone Star State, issued a “charge” document announcing its inquiry Thursday.

...As explained in detail in that report, when James was a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2012, he had been asked during a televised debate about his views on marriage, to which he responded that he believes marriage exclusively to be one man with one woman. That view is dictated by his Christian faith, and is a provision in the Texas Constitution.

Fox Sports fired James from his job as an on-air sports analyst days after this was brought to the network’s attention in 2013.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

More evidence that Obamacare isn't working.

Here's more evidence that Obamacare isn't working out as planned, e.g. attracting uninsured to the health care exchanges.
The new health insurance marketplaces appear to be making little headway so far in signing up Americans who lack health insurance, the Affordable Care Act’s central goal.

A pair of surveys released on Thursday suggest that just one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private health plans through the new marketplace have signed up for one — and that about half of uninsured adults has looked for information on the online exchanges or plans to look.

Taken together, the snapshots shown by the surveys provide preliminary answers to what has been one of the biggest mysteries since and separate state marketplaces opened last fall: Are they attracting their prime audience?

One of the surveys, by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., shows that, of people who had signed up for coverage through the marketplaces by last month, just one-fourth described themselves as having been without insurance for most of the past year.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

War on poverty: winning, losing, making things worse?

Here's an interesting article by John Goodman on the 50th anniversary of President Johnson's announced war on poverty.    Goodman says poverty rates haven't dropped much from when the war started.  Going from 18% of population to 15% despite spending $15 trillion since its inception and now $1 trillion annually.  He argues we're in fact made things worse because the programs have undermined the factors which make it unlikely someone will remain poverty.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

California Governor isn't too excited about legalizing marijuana.

It was interesting seeing California Governor Jerry Brown hesitating on legalizing marijuana in California. California legalized medical marijuana which has created headaches for the state.

Brown is for all things liberal so when he hesitates reality maybe hitting home.  As he says, "how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation?”