Sunday, December 30, 2007

AFB Housecleaning

You'll see some changes to the blog if you're paying attention. First, the blogroll is now properly called a "blogroll." So, these are just some good blogs, listed alphabetically, no longer noted as "recommended" lest I somehow open myself up to some sort of liability. More changes will be happening with that, I think I have more to add. I might also do away with the labels section. I can't say that I know if that's useful for searching for anyone other than the contributors to the blog... so speak up if you've got an opinion on that.

Second, hopefully I'll be unveiling some new content through a, let's say, side project.

Lastly, and if you hadn't known by now, my new title is going to be "King (or Monarch of Some Title) of Side Projects." In addition to the project just mentioned above, there's yet another one. BTW, I always hated when I'd hear that musicians would be working on side projects. Why not stick to your main group, I'd wonder. So here I am, diverting my time and energy even more. What can I say? I'm a man of many interests, even if not a whole lot of time. Curious? Well, check out the blogroll!

Friday, December 28, 2007

It's Called a Veto

Among the many stories of yesterday's big news day, there was this story, that President Bush signed a massive $555 billion spending bill.

Most interesting part of the report?

"I am disappointed in the way the Congress compiled this legislation, including abandoning the goal I set early this year to reduce the number and cost of earmarks by half," the president said in a statement. "Instead, the Congress dropped into the bill nearly 9,800 earmarks that total more than $10 billion. These projects are not funded through a merit-based process and provide a vehicle for wasteful government spending."

"There is still more to be done to rein in government spending," Bush said. "In February I will submit my budget proposal for fiscal year 2009, which will once again restrain spending, keep taxes low, and continue us on a path towards a balanced budget. I look forward to working with the Congress in the coming year to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely."

A Bush spokesman, Scott Stanzel, had told reporters en route to Texas earlier that the president remained concerned about "Congress' addiction to earmarks."

Of course, that's Washington, George. We're mired in an obscene state of imbalance.

By contrast, this is George Washington:

I give my signature to many Bills with which my Judgment is at variance.... From the Nature of the Constitution, I must approve all parts of a Bill, or reject it in total. To do the latter can only be Justified upon the clear and obvious grounds of propriety; and I never had such confidence in my own faculty of judging as to be over tenacious of the opinions I may have imbibed in doubtful cases.
Reference: The Writings of George Washington, Fitzpatrick, ed., vol. 33 (96)

Are the grounds of propriety unclear? Bush knows - or he should - what the appropriate limits of federal involvement are. What would happen if he vetoed, and vetoed, and vetoed... would the Congress eventually override him? Send him more reasonable legislation? I think the latter is more likely than the former, but either option is preferable to out-of-control growth in the most distant levels of government.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Best "Best of 2007"

It never fails that we get to this time of year and people everywhere, including, yes, yours truly, start getting pensive. While it is natural to get reflective as the calendar draws to a close, I'm always disappointed by the utterly stupid "best of" lists and "news" pieces that come out at the end of the year. Remember when Britney shaved her head?? Wasn't that weird?? Ugh, it's stuff like that which leaves me thinking longingly about moving to Montana and becoming a recluse.

Except of course, when there's a really good "best of", like you can read here by the incomparable Michelle Malkin.

Funny, isn't it, how Iraq was going to be THE story this election season. The Dhimmicrats pinned their hopes on it. Now... not looking like there's any news to report, is there? All of which stands as a stinging indictment of the American Left and their ideological brethren in the MSM (did we need any more evidence?). The calculus is pretty simple for these traitors. Bad things happen to America = news. Good things happen to America = keep that quiet.

Something's Wrong With This Picture

Not a lot of time, but I simply had to - had to, I tell you - put up something brief about this top story on Yahoo this morning.

Here's the really insane part:

None of the GOP candidates has reason to feel secure, according to an ongoing national survey conducted for The Associated Press and Yahoo! News.

That includes Mike Huckabee, who has roared to a tie with longtime front-runner Rudy Giuliani. Half of all voters — including four in 10 Republicans — know too little about Huckabee to even say whether they have a favorable impression of him, let alone whether he is conservative, liberal or moderate.(emphasis mine)

So fully 40% of GOP voters no nothing about this guy, and the same poll puts him on top at 22%?? The remaining are Rudy 21%; McCain 14%; Romney 13%; Thompson 11%. Anybody check to make sure they're not polling "Republicans" Lincoln Chafee, "Snarlin'" Arlen Specter and Jim Jeffords?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas 2008

May God bless you and your loved ones this special season as we celebrate the birth of our savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

From Luke, Chapter 2:

The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

AFB Featured on Illinois Blog Alliance

My new colleague and all-around good guy Eric Odom has linked up the American Federalist Blog to the Illinois Blog Alliance. When we post here, it posts there; so while you can continue to tune in here for the red meat you've grown accustomed to, check out the Illinois Blog Alliance for some of its other (much better, I might suggest) bloggers.

Many thanks, Eric, and everyone check out the IBA for those featured blogs!

Okie Campaigns

My growing interest in all things Oklahoma coincides nicely with this blog I "found" called Okie Campaigns. Check it out, and especially this great post on tracking Santa and the fascinating history behind it.

Tancredo Withdraws from Race

Tom Tancredo dropped out of the race on Thursday - some old news that I'm finally getting around to posting something on. You can read the story here.

Interesting that he's throwing his support behind Romney. I think Romney needs guys like Tancredo. As a matter of fact, I think a Romney-Tancredo ticket would be pretty formidable. I think it'd be safe to say that such an administration would have the border and immigration as one of its top priorities, as it should be for any administration.

We've discussed before here and over at Webster's, immigration is probably the issue facing this country. It has enormous domestic implications; it has national security implications; and it on some level it addresses our long-term survival from a cultural standpoint.

That it has been a major issue thus far is thanks to the efforts of Tancredo, largely. The country owes him a debt of gratitude.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Stock Market Analogy

I got to thinking about term limits and recall provisions yesterday. The local city council was discussing an initiative to make provisions for recalling sitting city councilmen.

The analogy I came up with is the stock market; now this is a little stretch, so I'll ask you to bear with me. When you or I buy a stock, we're "voting" with our wallets, essentially. We think that giving our dollars to Exxon, or Altria, or whomever, is a better use of our dollars than what we could do with it. Investors expect an appreciation on their investment, and this can take the form of increased share value, a cash dividend, or both.

When you buy a stock - recall the voting interpretation - you keep it as long as it continues to do what you want it to: return value and justify your decision. If the stock loses value (or you lose faith in the company's management), you're free to dump it at any time, assuming of course that we're talking about widely-traded public companies for which there's almost always a market, even if a stock is declining. Only when the corporation is near-collapse does the market dry up, and if you're stuck, you're stuck.

Well, I got to thinking about recall provisions. This is your ability to "sell" your position. If your elected official isn't returning value - justifying your decision - you should be able to exit that position, so to speak. In this way, market accountability would reward good governors and punish bad ones. Naturally, to provide protection from simple partisan sniping, there would have to be a threshold for beginning a recall and making it valid. Nevertheless, I think the idea is a good one.

And here's where I may ruffle some feathers. I think term limits are a bad idea. We've discussed this at length in the past, but fundamentally, the right of the people to choose their governors is being infringed by instituting limits. Recall the stock market analogy. Suppose I have had my position in Exxon for about 5 years (this is roughly the case). Now imagine that I am compelled by statute to sell my position. The stock is doing great and I love it. Why should I be compelled to sell?

I think term limits are well-intentioned, but in the final analysis, inappropriate for liberty loving people in the long-term.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Subprime Solution

I should say "less than ideal" to be perfectly clear.

The Federal Reserve announced a "sweeping response" to the mortgage meltdown today; read the whole story here.

So, in summary, the Fed is acting to protect consumers from lenders who want to make them mortgages. Here's the key "reforms":

The proposal would restrict lenders from penalizing risky borrowers who pay loans off early, require lenders to make sure these borrowers set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance and bar lenders from making loans without proof of a borrower's income. It also would prohibit lenders from engaging in a pattern or practice of lending without considering a borrower's ability to repay a home loan from sources other than the home's value.

While we're at it, shouldn’t government, at some level, protect people from credit card offers? How about protection from signing up for the wrong insurance coverage? Or, a true scourge of our times, icy roads? Clearly, walking or driving this time of year is dangerous; are we to bear that risk all by ourselves?

I’ve bemoaned this problem before. But until we start to be self-governing once again, this is only going to get worse.

The State Says No

Is there any end to the interference in people’s lives? This rather innocent sounding story is another piece of evidence (we’re probably up to Prosecution Exhibit # 741,389 by this point) that the increasing growth of external government in Western Europe is bordering on the insane. And Democrats want us to be more like the Europeans?

Candidly, I think Friday is a stupid name. But I think the court interfering in people's lives to this degree is even stupider.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Oklahoma Video

Here's a video detailing more on the Paul Jacob indictment in Oklahoma.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What's Going on With Those Sooners?

I've been hearing a lot of things going on in Oklahoma these days. It sounds more and more like Oklahoma is the front line in some of the more pitched political battles going on across America.

I heard that there was a petition going around to end race-based preferences; you can learn more by clicking here.

Then, Paul Jacob, long-time political activist and defender of citizen's rights, was indicted for supporting a Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Hopefully our brother Terry will keep us in the loop as he hears about these things going on in his home state.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Simple Things

I absolutely love stories like this. While this probably belongs on my personal page, I figured more people would see it here, so I'm asking forgiveness instead of permission, LOL.

Anyone who's spent time around babies will tell you that "they know." I'm fascinated that the researchers crafted the test as they did, and while not surprised, I'm delighted that the results seem to reinforce personal experience.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book Review: Samuel Adams

I just finished the delightful Samuel Adams: Father of the American Revolution, by Mark Puls.

The book follows chronologically the life and political career of Samuel Adams. While he saved little, if any, of his letters and writings, we're able to see the man by the piecing together of letters from John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, and his Massachusetts friends and allies such as James Otis and Joseph Warren.

We're left with the image of a man so devoted to his countrymen and their cause that he suffered financial hardships, personal insults, and the wrath of the most powerful empire on earth, all without seeking glory or a simple thank-you. Some favorite parts of the book:

Adams, using the pen-name of Valerius Poplicola ("friend of the people") wrote: "Is it not high time for the people of this country explicitly to declare whether they will be freemen or slaves? It is an important question, which ought to be decided. It concerns us more than anything in this life."

A British Colonel, Fenton, sought out Adams with a discreet message: he would be richly rewarded and receive public advancement if he would cooperate. Fenton gave Adams this frank advice: he should not provoke his majesty any further. Adams replied: "Sir, I trust I have long since made my peace with the king of kings. No personal consideration shall induce me to abandon the righteous cause of my country. Tell Governor Gage it is the advice of Samuel Adams to him no longer to insult the feelings of an exasperated people."

Oh! And this great story:

For several years, James Otis had been under the care of family in Andover, Massachusetts. He would often turn to his sister and say that "I hope when God Almighty in his providence shall take me out of time into eternity, it will be by a flash of lightning!" On May 23, 1783, a fierce thunderstorm characteristic of the early summer season in New England descended to darken the skies. Otis struggled to the door to behold the clashing elements and the exploding thunder, reminiscent of the cannon fire of the revolution. Between loud thunderclaps, a bolt of lightning, which Mercy thought appeared like a darting serpent, struck Otis in the chest. Electricity shot through his body, and he fell to the floor, dying instantly.

Overall, a well-done take on the "Father of the American Revolution." Arguably one of the most important of our founding fathers.

Imprimis - November 2007

As long as they keep sending me quality materials, I'm going to keep blogging on them.

"A Return to the Constitution" by Hillsdale President Larry Arnn is the title of the November edition of Imprimis. Read the whole thing here.

Mr. Arnn: while there is "no major national force, at least no political force, united to support constitutional government..." we're on our way to trying to bring that back in style. With a little time, a lot of hard work, and the blessings of Providence, we think the future looks pretty bright.

Those Hidden Costs

I had lunch with a gentleman I consider a friend last Friday. He's a libertarian, and a really sharp guy, and I always enjoy our discussions. Never heated, always challenging, he's fun to talk with about a wide range of topics. He routinely comes back to a topic that is near and dear to his heart: the hidden (and high) costs of regulation. Truly, there are numerous examples that would illustrate just how absurd this can be (witness that the government regulates how much water is in every flush of your toilet - assuming you're not living in an old house as I am).

Yet, I saw this article today, and read it mostly out of a desire to read something that would reinforce my thoughts on the disparity between our culture and that of China. And wouldn't you know it? I found something in common.

"The Qingping market is dirty," said a Guangzhou-born taxi driver, surnamed Mo. "It's dirty because it's old, and the government is unwilling to put up enough money to fix it."

Ah, yes, the ever-loving "government." Of course, as anyone who reads here knows, I am referring to the external variety. Like it or not, until we find a means of reintroducing the self-government gene to people, and since men aren't angels, we're going to require some external government.

And while my libertarian friend might cringe, this got me to thinking about the high costs of no regulations. Remember the SARS epidemic in 2002? The same article notes that 8,000 people worldwide were infected, and 800 died. Maybe SARS wasn't that deadly (sounds like the winner of the "worst slogan in the world" contest). But how about the next virus that springs up because of the filthy conditions in some of these markets?

All of which leads me back to familiar ground. Until someone can show me otherwise, balanced government remains the only means I have been able to discover that has the ability to revive self-government and ensure a rebirth of this Republic.

Friday, December 07, 2007

That Which Is Not Seen

Bush announced the other day a plan to "fix" (I use that word in the most unflattering of ways, such as: "there was no beating the house in Vegas because the games were fixed") the mortgage crisis in the United States.

A key part of the plan involves freezing interest rates on mortgages that were "teaser" rates to induce people to borrow (also called by their proper name, "adjustable rate mortgages").

(deep breath)

There's a lot being written about this. A rather favorable analysis can be read here, and a rather unfavorable one can be read here.

I can't help but wonder if there's a bigger issue, however. No surprise to anyone who reads this blog, but I immediately focused on the destructive way this plan affects self-government. If people aren't responsible for taking on enormous debt loads, what's to stop them from making other bad choices? If investment banks aren't responsible for trading in securities without accounting for the inherent risks in those securities, what's to stop them from making other bad investment decisions? And more importantly, is there any crisis that the government shouldn't bail people out of?

I have always remarked that one of the great things about the US economy is that we take our punishment. Unlike the Europeans or even the Japanese - who were mired in a decade-long recession - when we over-reach, we get beaten up and knocked down quickly. And hard. But we get back up. And we're stronger for it. But maybe not anymore. Maybe we're going the way of the Japanese or the Europeans. Time will tell, but I think this bail-out is a disaster on many levels, particularly those which are not readily seen.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Webster's On a Roll

Please go to Webster's blog and check out this post.

In fact, the most recent 2-3 posts are all very good. Looks like our friend Terry has been chomping at the bit to get these up.

I also noticed that one of his featured posts is my interview with Dr. Kevin Gutzman; thanks for the link-up, Terry.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Founding Brilliance

I love it when I get a hold of a quote like this that speaks to us so clearly as if to answer our problems. Courtesy of the Patriot Post:

"An elective despotism was not the government we fought for; but one in which the powers of government should be so divided and balanced among the several bodies of magistracy as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 58, 1788)

(Emphasis mine)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

On Virtue

I've been sitting on this quote for some time, as I tend to do, with the intention of posting something on the topic. Let's hear from Mr. Madison, courtesy of the Patriot Post:

"Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks-no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea, if there be sufficient virtue and intelligence in the community, it will be exercised in the selection of these men. So that we do not depend on their virtue, or put confidence in our rulers, but in the people who are to choose them."

-- James Madison (speech at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 20 June 1788)

I find it natural that the Founding Generation was as concerned with virtue as they were; yet, sad that we seem to have departed so starkly from their example. Can you imagine a leading politician of our time exhorting the people on virtue? How soon would he or she be chastised? Or denounced as a "hypocrite" (one of the Left's favorite smears) because of something he or she had done in their life?

Another Founder famous for his opinion on the necessity of virtue is the second cousin of our second President. Says Samuel (from the FQD at the Patriot Post):

A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.

Reference: The Writings of Samuel Adams, Cushing, ed., vol. 4 (124)

Note that he mentions "external or internal" threats. It is no secret to any of the regular readers here that I see the two biggest threats facing us to be the march of Liberalism and Islam; I wonder if we were as virtuous a society as the founding generation how we'd be handling these threats. Cowering in fear? Appeasing? Bowing before the commissars of political correctness?

Here's my take on that indispensable quality, virtue. We've discussed in prior posts what self-government is. I generally distill it to the dual virtues of self-restraint and self-sufficiency. Read the Founders and you'll realize that our form of government is created for a self-governing people. And that it's wholly inappropriate for a dependent people. Any wonder we're facing the problems governmental that we are?

But virtue isn't lost, and in fact, it may be making a comeback. Imagine my delight at this story from the Tribune about purity dances. Where families are strong and God is a part of the family, virtue seems to survive. Notwithstanding the usual sniping of the Left, such as this:

In this new counterculture, trouble-prone pop stars such as Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan are outcasts. In their place, 1 in 6 teens are signing virginity pledges, though 88 percent of them break that vow before they marry, according to a federally funded national longitudinal study of adolescent health.
(emphasis mine)

Well, why bother, goes the logic of the Left, if they're just going to fail? Here's why: maybe aiming for purity doesn't guarantee success, but maybe young girls will enter marriage with fewer partners.

"Girls are going into marriage with 12 sexual relationships. That brings so much baggage and regret that it breaks down the marriage," said Janet Hellige, a volunteer who organizes the biannual Father-Daughter Purity Ball sponsored by The Christian Center in Peoria. "Girls have a wonderful gift to give, and we don't want them to give all of themselves away. What we want them to do is present themselves as a rose to their husband with no blemishes."

Virtue is indeed indispensable for healthy families and a free Republic. But don't count on your children hearing that from anybody other than you, their parent (or Aunt, Uncle, or other relative). It's incumbent upon us to ensure that our children have a moral, as well as an intellectual foundation before they go out into the world. I would submit that a child with no moral foundation is at a greater risk than a child who cannot read, yet you'll never see a "program" designed to correct the former deficiency.