Tuesday, December 30, 2008

On Bailouts

I wrote a post over at the Institute for Balanced Government entitled On Balance and Bailouts that I wanted to share here; while this used to be the main place for such topics, I'm going to post on balanced government mostly in that space.

I've been posting at Red County on local government issues (we have this Governor... where to begin?) and started posting on a personal site to communicate with local voters on my run for Township Trustee. An exciting time, for sure, but if anyone has seen something I've lost called "free time" I would appreciate you a) tackling it and pinning it to the ground and b) calling me as soon as possible to let me know you've found it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas

I take great delight in wishing others a Merry Christmas. It is an exercise of two of my most cherished Constitutional rights. The right to free speech and the right to worship as I please.

It is also a demonstration of why offensive speech is not the same as speech that causes someone harm. There is no right to go through life unoffended. Indeed it would be impossible for me or anyone to know exactly which things would be emotionally sensitive territory to a given individual. I think civilized people can be expected to recognize that wishing someone Merry Christmas is an act of celebratory sharing and behave accordingly.

So, in this season of vandalized nativity scenes, lawsuit threats over religious displays on government property, and the attempted revival of the "Fairness" doctrine, I am truly grateful to be able to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

What a time to be alive. We have before us the opportunity to engage in the animating contest for freedom, to show that we love liberty greater than wealth and that we will fight for it.

To have lived in such a time as this, I am thankful. May I use the gifts that have been bestowed upon me by my creator in his service first, last and always and may you, dear reader, do the same.

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

When Journalists Attack

The people of this country (present company excluded, of course, Dear Reader) find innumerable issues that cry out for federal legislation, and yet we're still subjected to journalists and their half-baked ideas? I for one would propose legislation that requires journalists - the "professional" ones, you know - to take a simple quiz to qualify for certain subject matter.

Comes now the formidable economic giant, Bob Herbert. Never heard of him? He's a writer for the NYT. Began his career as a reporter. Got a degree in journalism. Worked his whole life in the reporting business. No word on his bio about his econ coursework. I'd link to his bio... except the enterprising among you can find it, and I'm not inclined to grant that paper an inbound link. Anyway, here's his, um, analysis of the causes of the financial mess we're in:

These were the reckless clowns who led us into the foolish multitrillion-dollar debacle in Iraq and who crafted tax policies that enormously benefited millionaires and billionaires while at the same time ran up staggering amounts of government debt. This is the crowd that contributed mightily to the greatest disparities in wealth in the U.S. since the gilded age.

This was the crowd that cut the cords of corporate and financial regulations and in myriad other ways gleefully hacked away at the best interests of the United States.

And I suppose that this is the standard operating procedure of the Left: repeat something often enough that people will think it is true. But it's not.

As has been detailed elsewhere, one of the causes of this so-called crisis goes back to 1977 with the passing of the Community Reinvestment Act. While I am certain that the CRA had good intentions and may have even done actual good, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Banks and lenders had to make loans that otherwise didn't meet their credit standards; I spent time in the financial sector and can attest to this firsthand. When you make loans to unqualified people because of a non-credit incentive (or: stick), you're going to make bad loans. One ought not be surprised that defaults happen.

One also ought to wonder about journalists writing on topics with which they are unfamiliar; or worse, that they are incapable of understanding. Indeed, if John McCain is a "conservative, small government, anti-regulation, free-market zealot" does that make someone who shares the ideas of Mr. Bob Herbert a liberal, big-government, pro-regulation, socialist zealot?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Where have we been?

My apologies to regular readers of this blog. I am afraid that Mr. Tams, Mr. Morris and myself have been occupied with off-line life and our own individual blogs. (Mine is here. Mr. Tams hasn't had the time add a link to it on this page as yet.)

I have recently attended the movie I.O.U.S.A. and encourage others to go to the Peter Peterson Foundation site and check out the state of the union's finances.

Other than that, I am heading into a busy time and will probably post more on my own blog than here. Mr. Tams, Mr. Schrag and Mr. Webster will do as they will. I'll thank you for stopping by IrateTirelessMinority if you have the opportunity and Thank you for being a reader here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Personal Responsibility

I was reading a discussion on Gates of Vienna. It came to a point where the question was asked about where we should draw the line between government interference and personal privacy.

It occurred to me that this is not the first time I have heard this question asked and I suspect that it won't be the last. The discussion had to do with censorship. The question was along these lines: If someone is creating ""art" that encourages despicable behavior, is it the government's place to censor that art?

It seems to me that one of the crucial points for this experiment we call the United States of America is a dependence on the populace to exercise a high degree of personal responsibility. Each citizen is expected to respect the fact that their freedom ends where the exercise of it harms their neighbor. The law is unable to enforce personal responsibility in all areas, therefore, it is the sphere of the individual to do so in all areas not addressed specifically by the law.

I believe it is the place of each and every citizen to engage in individual censorship of such "art" by being openly critical of the subject matter and refusing to view it. It is even, in my opinion, the duty of the individual artist to censor him/herself. (Unfashionable as that view may be today.) If you know that someone looking at your art may be strengthened in their wish to do harm to another, keep it to yourself.

If we are unwilling to exercise personal responsibility, there is no rule of law that can protect us from ourselves.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Founding Wisdom: Jefferson

This post is originally taken from the Institute for Balanced Government and reposted here in its entirety.

In a letter to Justice William Johnson dated June 12, 1823, Thomas Jefferson wrote (source: Jefferson, Writings; Library of America, p. 1476):

"I believe the States can best govern our home concerns, and the General Government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore, to see maintained that wholesome distribution of powers established by the constitution for the limitation of both; and never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold as at the market."

It is difficult to both dispute the vision of Jefferson and argue that what we have today with respect to the administration of the people's business is either proper or effective. Indeed, as Jefferson foresaw, the poorest administration of government is the one whereby the domestic matters which belong to the people are spirited away to a distant sphere of responsibility. This breeds distrust, apathy and contempt among the people for their own government.

As the Founders themselves told us time and again, it is this concept of the division of powers among the spheres - balanced government - which accounts for much of the genius of our system. Certainly, the separation of power among the branches of government is important, yet this mechanism wasn't entirely new among governments in the 18th century. And of course the specific mechanisms created (especially balancing the representation scheme between the House and the Senate) also display the mark of genius, or at least thoughtful study and consideration.

Despite the often bitter partisanship between Jefferson and Hamilton and the then-Republicans and the Federalists in general, we can see from this example that there were concepts that were universally accepted and weren't subject to partisan disagreement. The concept of Balanced Government is just such an idea.

Monday, March 31, 2008


My friend and colleague Eric runs this excellent site, which I've had in the blogroll for a while now. If you haven't checked it out yet, go to this link, a short promotional piece that Eric was kind enough to put up, and be sure to hop around all over the site. It's quite good, and for busy people it's nice to have many writers all in one place.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Victim Culture

I could write from now until the end of time on the idiocy that the American left and their minions in the media are responsible for, not the least of which is this mentality that people are not capable, resourceful and sentient beings, but helpless, stupid victims deserving of our sympathy; or, at least, our money.

Comes now this story from the AP, headlined "Katrina victims may have to repay money." (emphasis mine)

Those poor souls who died in the storm were victims. The survivors, don't forget, are also victims. I've got to excerpt a pretty big part of the article, but hang in there.

NEW ORLEANS - Imagine that your home was reduced to mold and wood framing by Hurricane Katrina. Desperate for money to rebuild, you engage in a frustrating bureaucratic process, and after months of living in a government-provided trailer tainted with formaldehyde you finally win a federal grant.

Then a collector calls with the staggering news that you have to pay back thousands of dollars.

Thousands of Katrina victims may be in that situation.

A private contractor under investigation for the compensation it received to run the Road Home grant program for Katrina victims says that in the rush to deliver aid to homeowners in need some people got too much. Now it wants to hire a separate company to collect millions in grant overpayments.

The contractor, ICF International of Fairfax, Va., revealed the extent of the overpayments when it issued a March 11 request for bids from companies willing to handle "approximately 1,000 to 5,000 cases that will necessitate collection effort."

The bid invitation said: "The average amount to be collected is estimated to be approximately $35,000, but in some cases may be as high as $100,000 to $150,000."

The biggest grant amount allowed by the Road Home program is $150,000, so ICF believes it paid some recipients the maximum when they should not have received a penny. If ICF's highest estimate of 5,000 collection cases — overpaid by an average of $35,000 — proves to be true, that means applicants will have to pay back a total of $175 million.

One-third of qualified applicants for Road Home help had yet to receive any rebuilding check as of this past week. The program, which has come to symbolize the lurching Katrina recovery effort, is financed by $11 billion in federal funds.

ICF spokeswoman Gentry Brann said in an e-mail Friday that the overpayments are the inevitable result of the Road Home grant being recalculated to account for insurance money and government aid given to Katrina victims.

Got that? Skip the melodrama in the beginning and read the fourth paragraph again: this is money that people received that didn't belong to them and that they weren't entitled to. If the bank transfers $1 million into your account wrongfully and you spend it, guess what? You still have to find a way to pay it back.

And then it gets worse, if you didn't think that was a possibility. Some folks got the maximum - $150,000 - who weren't entitled to a penny. In all, $175 million, quite possibly, that needs to be repaid. Funded how, again? Oh, yeah, $11 billion in federal funds.

Let's pause for a minute and reflect on that. $11 billion to rebuild New Orleans (and parts of the Gulf Coast), and we're coming up on, what, three years this summer? The Chicago fire of 1871 burned down nearly the entire city between October 8-10, 1871. By 1873, the city had rebuilt, surprisingly with no federal disaster aid. Fortunes were made (and lost) in those two years, but that's how free markets work. Steel beam construction was a slightly important innovation out of the rebuilding effort, and Chicago grew up stronger and better than it had been before the fire.

I've said it before regarding Katrina: there was indeed a failure of government in getting people out and responding to the storm. But the failure wasn't that of the federal government. It wasn't really even the failure of the state. No, it was the failure of the self, and the absence of self-government; and the continued dismal state of the region is further indictment that a dependent people are as sad a condition as exists.

How has this country lost the can-do spirit of men like Andrew Higgins? And New Orleans, of all places: shouldn't you look to his example?

SamSphere Chicago

This weekend my employer hosted a blogger conference in Chicago, which was by all accounts a big success (still going on right now). I am grateful that I got a chance to discuss my project with the attendees.

And I got to meet some cool people. Here's the links to their blogs:

MaineWebReport - Lance, it was good to meet you. I, too, have found people on the internet who are wrong; together let us set them right.

mtpolitics - Craig, God willing, one day I'll be moving out to your part of the country; the further away from Detroit the better.

Louisiana Conservative - Jeff, it was good talking with you (twice) and my apologies for the nanny-statism of Illinois that had you outdoors both times; while I'm sure it is nicer in LA, what we had Saturday isn't that bad for weather this time of year.

American Princess Blog - EMZ, see my comment above to Craig. A colleague of mine calls Mexico "the Michigan of the south" and while Illinois is no conservative paradise, you'll think you're in heaven if you decide to make the move.

IL GOP Network - my second chance to meet Mark Johnson, who has piqued my curiosity about blog talk radio and youtube channels (I'll be off to surf that later).

The Voice for Liberty in Wichita - nice meeting you, Bob, and talking philosophy, I always enjoy those discussions and appreciate you humoring me while I gabbed.

Oklahoma Political News Service - (and NLB) Chris, it was good to meet you and get your take on what's going on in Misery, er, Missouri. I've got to get you hooked up with my blog mate TM, who's an Okie.

I am both certain and worried that I'm forgetting a few people, but I haven't had coffee yet and the old brain is working slowly this morning. My apologies to those attendees I am blanking on right now, and thank you to all of them for attending. Thanks to my colleagues and friends who were there as well.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What's up with the AFB?

Given my lack of activity on the American Federalist Blog this month, I figure a little explanation is necessary.

I've started getting involved in the Republican Liberty Caucus, and the Illinois chapter. Follow that link and you'll see my first post on their wordpress-hosted website. I'll probably post there on Illinois and the GOP as those ideas come to me. The folks that write in this space have talked about the RLC before, and we're not 100% in agreement with them; which is OK, I think, because I sure as all-get-up am not in agreement with the GOP itself. I do think that the RLC might be a good organization for balanced government types like myself. Their people at least would have a better than average understanding of the Constitution and our founding. Where we diverge on policy issues, well, I'll make it my mission to help them see the beauty of balanced government and that where we disagree, I'm right and they're wrong. (I joke...)

I've also been working on my own not-for-profit. Behold, The Institute for Balanced Government. I'm not anywhere near where I want to be with it, but it is time consuming and I'm content to have small incremental changes and successes, because it is, to my way of thinking, a marathon and not a sprint; and I trust y'all won't judge me too harshly if I disclaim that it's still in beta stage. I will probably take some of the best posts on balanced government from this blog and dress them up for the Institute's blog. A consequence of this is that I'll probably be doing more posting on the topic there than here.

All of which leads me to my last point: I'm tired, people! And, unfortunately, less sleep makes for less reading and fresh ideas to post on. Bear with me if the posting comes less frequently (and check out those other links because I might be posting elsewhere), and thanks for being some of the greatest Liberty-loving readers an American Federalist could ask for!


Shameless self-promotion follows:

Judgepedia has been my work and enjoyment for the past couple of months, and the site is up and live. If you know what wikipedia is, then you'll understand that it's just like wikipedia, except concerning everything about judges and the judiciary. And it's awesome, despite its "beta" look and level of completion thus far.

We had our first press release today, and we'll probably get a lot of traffic on it (there happens to be a pretty crucial Supreme Court race in Wisconsin). The site is important for a couple of reasons, but the main one is to cast light on an area of government that isn't well understood by the average voter (and many, many judges are elected).

Know something about a judge in your state? We're on the lookout for contributors, so sign up and have at it. And feel free to contact me with questions on how to edit a page if you're interested (short answer: like blogging, once you spend a couple of days playing around, it will be like second nature).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

New National Motto

"Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from ourselves."

I've written a little here on the topic of economics. Pity that it comes up as often as it does in this context: in 2008 in the United States of America, we've reached a point where people can't be responsible for their own irresponsibility, and it is the duty of "the government" to protect them from themselves and businesses alike. Today's hobgoblin isn't the mortgage "crisis", but the pay-day lenders.

Here's a typical story:

Janet Hudson, 40, ran into pay day loans when she and her fiance broke up, leaving her with a young son and a $1,000 monthly mortgage payment. Short on cash, she took out three small pay day loans online totaling $900 but fell behind with her payments. Soon her monthly interest and fees totaled $800.

"It almost equaled my mortgage and I wasn't even touching the principal of the loans," said Hudson, who works as an administrative assistant.

After falling behind on her mortgage, Hudson asked Rochester, New York-based nonprofit Empire Justice Center for help. A lawyer at Empire, Rebecca Case-Grammatico, advised her to stop paying off the pay day loans because the loans were unsecured debt.

"For months after that the pay day lenders left me voice mails threatening to have me thrown in jail, take everything I owned and destroy my credit rating," Hudson said. After several months, the pay day lenders offered to reach a settlement.

But Hudson was already so far behind on her mortgage that she had to sell her home April 2007 to avoid foreclosure.

"Thanks to the (New York state) ban on pay day loans we've been spared large scale problems, but Internet loans have still cost people their homes," Case-Grammatico said.

Emphasis most definitely mine. Here's the thing: don't take out the loan if you can't pay it back. She "ran into" the loans? Sounds like an accident, doesn't it? I know people are struggling; I'm not without a heart and it's unfortunate. But when we stop expecting adults to act like adults, we're doing people an enormous, and painfully unnecessary disservice.

Side note: you think that the lawyer working for the agency in question, she with the dual/hyphenated last name, might be a leftist?

What's my solution to these crises? It's called self-government, about the only government that should be involved in the regulation of mortgage lending and pay-day loans.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pope Baptizes Muslim

The Easter Vigil - a beautiful service that I have been to at my Parish on more than one occasion - was newsworthy this evening with the news that the Pope baptized a "controversial" Muslim convert. Read the whole thing here.

Controversial, of course, because of his criticism of Islam. And now, as if he wasn't a marked man to begin with, he'll have the death threats coming from all directions. For this is the command of their prophet, that conversion is punishable by death. (H/T: Jihad Watch)

Now, if we could only get people to drop the PC references to what we're up against, we might make some progress.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Easter

In case I get carried away with my schedule tomorrow and don't get a chance to say it Sunday, happy Easter to all of our friends.

I'm a big believer, on another note, that there's a time and place for everything, and there are tides in the affairs of men, to borrow a phrase. I've been away from the blog for quite some time now, and hope to get a chance to blog about a couple of things this weekend. Some of it will be your garden-variety postings, of which I've been brewing a couple of ideas. I also have a couple of plugs to make, so we'll hopefully get to those too.

I've enjoyed my time away, and God willing will have some more activity starting this weekend.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

California Ruling

I have been looking at the filed brief of the California Court case that "outlaws" homeschooling. See it here. It's very interesting.
One of the first things that stands out, to me, is this statement:

"However, California courts have held that under provisions in the
Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children."

I wasn't aware that California's educational code was capable of defining the limits of the rights of individuals outlined in The U.S. Constitution. But then the U.S. Constitution doesn't specifically address parental rights, nor does it include provision for the public instruction of children. Perhaps, having recognized from Mr. Blackwell's writings the uniqueness at that point in history of having one's children actually counted as one's own rather than the property of the king or government, they could not conceive of a time when a free citizenry would willingly part with that right. Perhaps they considered it so basic as to not require specific inclusion among our "unalienable rights". (No, I will not address in this post the fact that wives and servants were also considered property under those laws as that has been addressed by our current system of laws already.) Perhaps, our founders thought, as do I, that since children used to be considered the property of the state or ruler, but were no longer considered so under the English common law at the time of the Revolutionary War, they should therefore fall under the category of personal property. Property of the parents, not the state.

Or, perhaps this statement is referring to California's state constitution.( A constitution, which, as far as I could see, contained no prohibition against homeschooling.)

The first section of California's Constitution states:

"SECTION 1. All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy."

It could be argued that homeschooling is a way of protecting and caring for one's property and therefore the right to homeschool should be protected under the U.S. Constitution's 14th amendment. (I grant you, however that I am not a lawyer, and this brings up sticky questions like "How can my child be a citizen as well as property?". I don't know the answer to that question, but I think we need to be about the business of finding out or amending our Constitution to assure us of our parental rights, soon. )

The ruling quotes Turner v. People of the State of California (1954) 347 U.S. 972 [98 L.Ed. 1112, 74 S.Ct. 785]., upon which much of this ruling is based, with this:

” Turner also held that the subject former statutes were neither arbitrary nor
unreasonable when they required that teachers in private full-time day schools only be “persons capable of teaching” and did not have to hold a valid teaching credential for the grade being taught, but did require that a home tutor hold such a credential. The court observed that whereas it is unreasonably difficult and expensive for a state to supervise parents who instruct children in their homes, supervising teachers in organized private schools is less difficult and expensive. (Turner, supra, 121 Cal.App.2d Supp. at p. 867.)"

Does this mean that the reasoning behind forcing a homeschooling parent in California to hold teaching credentials stems wholly from the argument that it is less convenient and more expensive for the state if they don't? It further states that a teacher in a public school does not have to have teaching credentials, but must only be a person capable of teaching. (Once again I am forced to recognize that the path to destruction often begins with convenience.)
This seems to be saying that the state of California is insisting that homeschooled children must have access to better(i.e. certified) teachers than public school children. It seems that in the state of California I must be better educated to teach my own child at no cost to the state than to teach someone else's children for a salary. But wait! There's more to this exercise in absurdity. The case goes on to say:

"The court stated California’s
legislative scheme makes no such exemption to attendance in a public school. (Turner,
supra, 121 Cal.App.2d Supp. at p. 868-869; accord Shinn, supra, 195 Cal.App.2d, at
p. 694, where the court stated that “[h]ome education, regardless of its worth, is not the legal equivalent of attendance in school in the absence of instruction by qualified private tutors.”)"

So, if a parent is not a "qualified private tutor", they are not capable of administering the legal equivalent (please note, it says legal equivalent, not educational equivalent or even qualitative equivalent.) of attendance in a public school system whose teachers are not required to hold teaching credentials? . Does this make sense to anyone else? Legal equivalent. Is this what our society has come to? The quality of a child's education is dependent upon the convenience of the state "regardless of it's worth"? I find this very odd, especially in view of the fact California's state Constitution has been amended (Article 1 section 7)in regard to busing school children to different districts(I think)to say:

"In amending this subdivision, the Legislature and people of the State of California find and declare that this amendment is necessary to serve compelling public interests, including those of making the most effective use of the limited financial resources now and prospectively available to support public education, maximizing the educational opportunities and protecting the health and safety of all public school pupils, enhancing the ability of parents to participate in the educational process, preserving harmony and tranquility in this State and its public schools, preventing the waste of scarce fuel resources, and protecting the environment."

Wouldn't homeschooling serve the "compelling public interest" in these ways far more effectively than public schools?

There is more, but let me add one last note. In the article posted at the San Francisco Chronicle's web-site, there is a comment that just about sums up this case for me. It is an appalling comment from Leslie Heimov, executive director of the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles who represented two of the children in this case. (I'm guessing the children had representation because they were minors and so it was assigned to them to guard their "best" interests, but am unsure of the particulars of California law.)
"Heimov said her organization's chief concern was not the quality of the children's education, but their "being in a place daily where they would be observed by people who had a duty to ensure their ongoing safety."

It doesn't sound like the quality of a child's education in California is the state's main concern either. It sounds very much like the state's main concern is having the right to treat the children of their citizens as the property of the state.
In my mind, the people who have the greatest interest in ensuring the ongoing safety of their children are their parents.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tying Up Loose Ends

That which is begun deserves to be finished, I suppose, and so I give you this post. I blogged about The Right to Ignore the State before, and had every intention of making a multiple part series out of it. Enough other things compete for my time such that I'm condensing that all into this rather abbreviated post. Of course, I referenced the link in the post below (here 'tis, again) so you can read the whole thing in its entirety for your own benefit.

Spencer discusses the subordination of government authority; that governmental power comes from the people who grant it such power, and that the power of government is beholden to the power of the people. This is true of large things, and it is also true of small things. While rational persons would balk at the majority imposing slavery, tyranny or murder against the minority (because of the law of equal freedom), the same law applies to small matters (even "mundane" things such as taxation). The will of the majority cannot supersede morality; and no trespass against the rights of the minority is permissible. Spencer notes that there is no meaningful difference between the dictator who says “You shall do as I will, not as you will” and the rule of the few who say “You shall do as we will, not as you will.”

On taxation, Spencer quotes Blackstone: “no subject of England can be constrained to pay any aids or taxes even for the defense of the realm or the support of the government, but such as are imposed by his own consent, or that of his representative in Parliament.” If this is true, and we assert it is, then says Spencer:

In affirming that a man may not be taxed unless he has directly or indirectly given his consent, it affirms that he may refuse to be so taxed; and to refuse to be taxed, is to cut all connection with the state. Perhaps it will be said that this consent is not a specific, but a general one, and that the citizen is understood to have assented to every thing his representative may do [MT: I would agree with Spencer that this is a questionable argument], when he voted for him. But suppose he did not vote for him; and on the contrary did all in his power to get elected some one holding opposite views — what then? The reply will probably be that, by taking part in such an election, he tacitly agreed to abide by the decision of the majority. And how if he did not vote at all? Why then he cannot justly complain of any tax, seeing that he made no protest against its imposition. So, curiously enough, it seems that he gave his consent in whatever way he acted — whether he said yes, whether he said no, or whether he remained neuter! A rather awkward doctrine this. Here stands an unfortunate citizen who is asked if he will pay money for a certain proffered advantage; and whether he employs the only means of expressing his refusal or does not employ it, we are told that he practically agrees; if only the number of others who agree is greater than the number of those who dissent. And thus we are introduced to the novel principle that A's consent to a thing is not determined by what A says, but by what B may happen to say!

He then points out a curious inconsistency. Namely, we are quite accustomed to ignoring the state, but only in some respects:

For what is the meaning of Dissent? The time was when a man's faith and his mode of worship were as much determinable by law as his secular acts; and, according to provisions extant in our statute-book, are so still. Thanks to the growth of a Protestant spirit, however, we have ignored the state in this matter — wholly in theory, and partly in practice. But how have we done so? By assuming an attitude which, if consistently maintained, implies a right to ignore the state entirely. Observe the positions of the two parties. "This is your creed," says the legislator; "you must believe and openly profess what is here set down for you." "I shall not do any thing of the kind," answers the non-conformist, "I will go to prison rather." "Your religious ordinances," pursues the legislator, "shall be such as we have prescribed. You shall attend the churches we have endowed, and adopt the ceremonies used in them." "Nothing shall induce me to do so," is the reply; "I altogether deny your power to dictate to me in such matters, and mean to resist to the uttermost." "Lastly," adds the legislator, "we shall require you to pay such sums of money toward the support of these religious institutions, as we may see fit to ask." "Not a farthing will you have from me," exclaims our sturdy Independent: "even did I believe in the doctrines of your church (which I do not), I should still rebel against your interference; and if you take my property, it shall be by force and under protest."

Ah, the institutions we are forced to support! Were I to list them, this would be a much longer post!

Indeed, for some reason, we stand firm for our liberty on the basis of our right to worship God; yet, we cave into secular demands on our liberty when we know full well that the appropriation of our property will serve immoral ends. Says he:

No legislative injunction will make him adopt what he considers an erroneous belief; and, bearing in mind his duty toward his fellow-men, he refuses to help through the medium of his purse in disseminating this erroneous belief. The position is perfectly intelligible. But it is one which either commits its adherents to civil nonconformity also, or leaves them in a dilemma. For why do they refuse to be instrumental in spreading error? Because error is adverse to human happiness. And on what ground is any piece of secular legislation disapproved? For the same reason — because thought adverse to human happiness. How then can it be shown that the state ought to be resisted in the one case and not in the other? Will any one deliberately assert that if a government demands money from us to aid in teaching what we think will produce evil, we ought to refuse it; but that if the money is for the purpose of doing what we think will produce evil, we ought not to refuse it? Yet such is the hopeful proposition which those have to maintain who recognize the right to ignore the state in religious matters, but deny it in civil matters.

Spencer closes with a somewhat hopeful vision of a changing society: one where self-governing persons reject the need for external government. I share this vision, that one day, by applying the principles of balanced government, we will have a citizenry that is well-versed in the art of self-government, and properly hold external government to the areas it is intended to be assigned to. Balanced government begets self-government and, indeed, morality – defined by the virtues of self-sufficiency and self-restraint that are necessary components of self-goverrnment.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My Appeal to Social Conservatives

I've been holding off on posting on this for a couple of days as I've wanted the idea to solidify itself in my mind. I'm sufficiently pleased that it has, and it's time, I think, to get after it.

This post is a critique and an appeal to people who consider themselves social conservatives. My critique will center on the role of government in the eyes of social conservatives, and my appeal will be to reject this view and embrace a balanced government perspective.

Disclaimer: while I would describe myself as "socially conservative" I would not call myself a "social conservative" because the former describes one's views on morality and the latter is a description of one's political philosophy. The socially conservative person holds traditional ideas about family, religion, marriage, life and society. These are all admirable and desirable values, necessary to a healthy and strong society. The self-described social conservative holds those ideas; yet also views the role of "government" as one of advancing those ideas.

The problem with this idea is that morality's basis - and really its ability to continue as a strong and invulnerable cornerstone of society - comes from the smallest spheres of government. A moral and socially conservative society is a reflection of a moral and socially conservative people. To create such a society (and I think we'd all acknowledge that we're less so today than we were 20, 40, or 60 years ago) requires self-government. Creating distant, external forces intended to encourage social conservatism is a lot like creating distant, external forces intended to encourage any form of positive social change (think reducing poverty, encouraging education). It's ineffective and inconsistent with the design of our republic.

In short, while distant external government shouldn't be supportive of immorality or policies that are destructive to society, beyond the extent that it serves to protect the inalienable rights of citizens (such as life), it should be silent on most issues; they are the domain of the smallest spheres of government. The debate has been framed entirely incorrectly. Social conservatives, tired of external government imposing liberal ideas upon them, have elected to act using the same liberal tactic, to impose their views.

So here's my pitch to social conservatives: reject social (and "compassionate") conservatism and consider balanced government. Social conservatism should be a goal, not a tactic. There's no other political philosophy I am aware of that can potentially foster the re-birth of self-government like balanced government, gradually and inevitably. And really, that's the best guarantor of a socially conservative society: self-governing people, self-governing families, and self-governing communities.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Right to Ignore the State

My colleague Matt pointed this essay out to me. This brilliant piece of the same name as this post, written by Herbert Spencer in 1884, is a thought-provoking essay on self-government. While I recommend it be read in its entirety, I’m going to break up a discussion on this work into several small parts, and you'll see my comments inserted throughout the essay.

Section 1 – The Right to Voluntary Outlawry

As a corollary to the proposition that all institutions must be subordinated to the law of equal freedom, we cannot choose but admit the right of the citizen to adopt a condition of voluntary outlawry. If every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man, then he is free to drop connection with the state — to relinquish its protection, and to refuse paying toward its support. It is self-evident that in so behaving he in no way trenches upon the liberty of others; for his position is a passive one; and whilst passive he cannot become an aggressor.”

MT: Here Spencer lays out his basis for the essay: that people have the right to “drop out” of society. If we accept the laws of Nature and Nature’s God, we must acknowledge that government, as an institution created by man to protect his natural rights, is subordinated to man’s individual rights: if a conflict existed between a person’s natural rights and government power, the individual’s natural rights must be superior. Therefore, supposing a conflict exists, each individual has the right to self-govern and adopt “voluntary outlawry” – meaning living outside the law, according to the dictates of conscience.

It is equally self-evident that he cannot be compelled to continue one of a political corporation, without a breach of the moral law, seeing that citizenship involves payment of taxes; and the taking away of a man's property against his will, is an infringement of his rights. Government being simply an agent employed in common by a number of individuals to secure to them certain advantages, the very nature of the connection implies that it is for each to say whether he will employ such an agent or not. If any one of them determines to ignore this mutual-safety confederation, nothing can be said except that he loses all claim to its good offices, and exposes himself to the danger of maltreatment — a thing he is quite at liberty to do if he likes. He cannot be coerced into political combination without a breach of the law of equal freedom; he can withdraw from it without committing any such breach; and he has therefore a right so to withdraw.

MT: Spencer continues and highlights a critical point. If we have a right to our life, which cannot be taken from us justly but only may be forfeited by our actions, then we also have a right to our work, which is the product of our life (our efforts, talents, and time). While nearly every sensible person will admit that slavery is immoral and unjust, fewer understand the rationale behind such a truth: we own our work because we own our lives. Furthermore, if we own our work and cannot be forced to labor for another against our will (although we may again forfeit such rights through our own negative actions; here I am speaking of incarceration), we also own and have a right to the fruits of our labor. Our labor and what we produce is ours because we own our lives; our property is ours by extension. It is therefore immoral to take from another person the fruits of their labor, whether by robbery or by compulsion through taxation. One cannot argue the power to tax without acknowledging the right to withdraw, in other words. If such a right did not exist, free men are not free at all, but merely subjects under a different monarch.

Section 2 The Immorality of the State

No human laws are of any validity if contrary to the law of nature; and such of them as are valid derive all their force and all their authority mediately or immediately from this original." Thus writes Blackstone, to whom let all honour be given for having so far outseen the ideas of his time; and, indeed, we may say of our time. A good antidote, this, for those political superstitions which so widely prevail. A good check upon that sentiment of power-worship which still misleads us by magnifying the prerogatives of constitutional governments as it once did those of monarchs. Let men learn that a legislature is not "our God upon earth," though, by the authority they ascribe to it, and the things they expect from it, they would seem to think it is. Let them learn rather that it is an institution serving a purely temporary purpose, whose power, when not stolen, is at the best borrowed.

MT: Spencer calls out that mode of thinking that even existed in his time. Namely, that external government has unlimited powers, though he uses the term “constitutional governments.” Such a mentality – if it is fair to suggest that there is any mental activity related to such a sentiment – is evident today when little consideration is given to the balance between the spheres of government. Little is, I suggest, because upon reflection one would determine that the deficient sphere is the self, and while there are few that can recognize this, there are fewer who are mature enough to admit and accept this and there are even fewer who can change that in themselves. Thus, the thing ignored and not acknowledged continues to provide a dissonance-free existence. He also astutely describes that state of depravation where a person thinks that the state is like God – full of authority and able to do anything they happen to need. A sadder existence is difficult to comprehend.

Nay, indeed, have we not seen that government is essentially immoral? Is it not the offspring of evil, bearing about it all the marks of its parentage? Does it not exist because crime exists? Is it not strong, or as we say, despotic, when crime is great? Is there not more liberty, that is, less government, as crime diminishes? And must not government cease when crime ceases, for very lack of objects on which to perform its function? Not only does magisterial power exist because of evil; but it exists by evil. Violence is employed to maintain it; and all violence involves criminality. Soldiers, policemen, and gaolers; swords, batons, and fetters, are instruments for inflicting pain; and all infliction of pain is in the abstract wrong. The state employs evil weapons to subjugate evil, and is alike contaminated by the objects with which it deals, and the means by which it works. Morality cannot recognize it; for morality, being simply a statement of the perfect law can give no countenance to any thing growing out of, and living by, breaches of that law. Wherefore, legislative authority can never be ethical - must always be conventional merely.

MT: While Spencer is right in theory, the prospect of a self-governing utopia, wherein one is free to police their own life, unmolested by the infringement of any other person, seems so far from reality as to be ridiculous. Governments are instituted among men to protect their rights, and while there are gravely immoral aspects to external government, I hope that it could be, eventually and on the whole, less immoral. Indeed, though external government will always be a necessity given the fallen state of man, I don’t assume that government must always operate in the condition that it is currently in. A government that operates on the consent of the governed to protect their rights (civil, religious and so forth) against encroachment seems at worst a morally-neutral agent.

Hence, there is a certain inconsistency in the attempt to determine the right position, structure, and conduct of a government by appeal to the first principles of rectitude. For, as just pointed out, the acts of an institution which is in both nature and origin imperfect, cannot be made to square with the perfect law. All that we can do is to ascertain, firstly, in what attitude a legislature must stand to the community to avoid being by its mere existence an embodied wrong; — secondly, in what manner it must be constituted so as to exhibit the least incongruity with the moral law; — and thirdly, to what sphere its actions must be limited to prevent it from multiplying those breaches of equity it is set up to prevent.

The first condition to be conformed to before a legislature can be established without violating the law of equal freedom, is the acknowledgment of the right now under discussion — the right to ignore the state.

MT: Where balanced government as a political philosophy has the potential to exhibit superiority over other ideologies lies in the ability to foster and revive the instinct of self-government. Spencer rightly notes that a legislature (I might add at any level) must be confined or limited to spheres of influence so as not to violate the liberties of the people it is constituted to protect. Whereas we’ve become so fantastically imbalanced, any progress to return balance to the spheres of government closest to the self would be a vast improvement; yet, eternal vigilance must be exercised in constantly pushing authority and responsibility to the most personal spheres of government.

More to follow. I hope the readership enjoys this as much as I did (and do).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bush: Keep Abstinence in AIDS Program

That was the headline of this AP article today. Which made me think of my own headline: "Federalists: Keep Feds Out of Domestic Matters."

Of course, that's not entirely the whole story. See, President Bush is on a trip to Africa and he was speaking about his global AIDS program. The global AIDS program that has spent $18 billion so far and that the President is pushing for renewal to the tune of $30 billion over five years.

The quote that says it all?

"We don't want people guessing on the continent of Africa whether the generosity of the American people will continue," Bush said in Tanzania, the second stop of his African trip.

If only it were the generosity of "the American people" we were talking about, Mr. President. The generosity of the American people is unequalled in the world, and it never fails that when the people of America get the call that someone needs help, the American people step up, no strings attached.

Unfortunately, it's the generosity of the American Congress, such as it is, that we're discussing now. Remarkable that this point is utterly lost on the American Left (including their public relations firm, the mainstream media). No, the point of focus in this news item was that...

Some Democrats want to eliminate a provision in the bill that requires one-third of all prevention spending go to abstinence-until-marriage programs. Critics say that while they don't oppose abstinence programs, the inflexible requirement hampers the effort.

The real problem, you see, in the minds of Leftists, is not that we're nearly bankrupt from entitlement spending and that on top of that we're somehow giving away $6 billion a year in medical aid. It's that we have some pesky moral condition attached to it.

I should be so fortunate as to have the fruits of my labor taken from me and used for programs that are morally consistent with my worldview. No mention if first it can be afforded (after all, it feels good, don't question it) or second, if it is consistent with the role of the general government.

When... it hits the fan, and hit the fan it will, the result is going to be ugly. We're a debtor in denial right now; we'll have to face the music sometime and the longer we wait the worse it is going to be.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Head of GAO Resigns

Not probably the most newsworthy item out there, but I remember this guy, David Walker, our Comptroller General. I blogged on him a while back on my personal page about his "60 Minutes" interview. Now comes the news that he's leaving his position early, to pursue what sounds like his passion: informing Americans in a way he couldn't as a government employee about the looming fiscal disaster.

Here's a video with more on the topic, a Glenn Beck interview with David Walker.

The most amazing figures? Each and every household in America would owe the government $400,000 to pay for our looming entitlement disaster. Socialist Security and Medicare obligations are left out of our stated deficit figures; if these were included (following normal corporate accounting standards) our deficit would be a whopping 69% higher than reported.

Friday, February 15, 2008

It's Like Deja Vu All Over Again

It appears, faithful reader, that indeed there must, simply must, be something in the water that the European youths drink. Wouldn't you know it, the youths are rioting again.

Where is this happening, you ask? It is happening...

"...in a predominantly immigrant area of the Danish capital, police said Friday."

C'mon, you know your media speech decoding. No, they're not Polish immigrants. No, those aren't Irish immigrant youth. What, you're asking, could have the youths rioting? Here's a gem from the Chief Inspector Henrik Olesen in Copenhagen:

"We don't know why they're rioting. I think it's because they're bored. Some people say it's because of the cartoons but that's not my opinion," Olesen said.

Well, boredom does spawn riots, it is a common affair in most western cultures. However, it appears that several Danish papers reprinted those wonderful Mahomet cartoons. It's almost tiring at this point, constantly pointing out the absurd behavior of a bunch of people indistinguishable in most every respect from 7th century dirt farmers.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Attention College Bloggers

My friend Eric Odom passed this along to me, and here's the link for you to check it out.

I'm simultaneously pleased and a little jealous that college-age kids have the opportunity to get a scholarship for doing something as fun and rewarding as blogging about politics.

Hopefully things like this will help to encourage the next generation of political leaders.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Conservative Manifesto

A man is talking to a friend about politics. Both men are fairly conservative. The first man is bemoaning the awful state of the government: runaway entitlements, ethical lapses, wrong-headed policies, and a sense that the governors have contempt for the governed. His friend, the second man, nods in agreement at the indictments the first man rattles off. The discussion turns to an upcoming election. The second man asks his friend "Who did you vote for in the previous election?"

"No one" says the first man, "I don't vote."

We've probably all had some variation of this story happen to us. And anyone who has will readily admit that such an admission elicits a fairly consistent response: we admonish others that voting is critical and both a right and responsibility, and without exercising that right and executing that responsibility, one forfeits his right to complain about our governors and our government. Fulfilling the duties of responsible citizenship is the burden one must bear to have the right to criticize the outcome. This concept goes back to the story of the little red hen which we remember from childhood. Everyone wants to share in the fruits of the labor, yet no one wants to share in the labor.

Across the blogosphere, I hear the same ideas repeated, if only slightly differently. These themes are: the GOP is broken; the Republican party has lost its way; we need a third party; where are our leaders; and what can we do now? While the blogosphere provides a critical service - that is, to say, news and commentary that would otherwise be unavailable via traditional media channels, and a means for like-minded people to connect with each other - it is far too easy to sit, comfortably, at our desks and "write fiery prose" as Mr. Hargis once said, when real change requires real action.

I've tried to share in this space some of the things I've actually done - other than sit at a desk and type. Perhaps other bloggers prefer to maintain some degree of anonymity, and therefore they don't catalogue for their readers the extensive volunteer activities they engage in politically. Perhaps. But I think it is more likely that bloggers like their comfort zone; getting out and working for a candidate involves trudging through eight inches of snow in January (and even falling down a set of icy stairs, as I did two weeks ago), and those things, are, well, just downright work; and in my case, actually very painful.

So I write this today for all of the inactive impassioned out there. You've got great ideas, and I think that's half of the recipe. The other half is you need a kick in the a.. um, pants. No one likes to hear it, but here's my advice, and I guess you could call this my Conservative Manifesto:

Push away from your desk and get up from the computer. Call your county or township GOP organization. Attend every monthly meeting; they're generally once a month and if I can do it given my commitments, anyone can. Volunteer to do things that need to get done: yes, these will likely be quite crappy and may include making phone calls to sell ad space, or volunteering to cover a precinct (and maybe in some cases, two) that aren't being worked. Get to know local candidates, and when you meet a good one, volunteer to stuff envelopes, bags of literature, and walk around (even in eight inches of snow, even if it's 20 degrees) distributing information on their behalf. In short, do what you've been doing online - building relationships and influencing others - with actual, live, person-to-person interactions.

When elections come, figuratively speaking, put your money where your mouth is. Organize like-minded people to walk precincts and make phone calls on behalf of conservative candidates in non-local contests. Hold meet-up groups where people can come together in support of those candidates. In short, take a look at what Ron Paul's people have done, get up off of your backside, and work.

And when elections roll around? You don't have to vote for John McCain; I've already said that I won't. But this won't keep me home. I'll be there voting for the conservatives in other races because they need my - and your - support. I'll be telling this to every single conservative I know who is disillusioned by a McCain candidacy: you still need to get out and vote for Senate, House, and State-wide races. Not liking the guy at the top of the ticket is no excuse for not supporting good people in their races.

In short: if you don't like the status quo, you have to change it. Not third person "you." I actually mean you. Assume that no one else will have the nerve, energy, or right ideas. Then, go do it.

When we've done everything we can do and the party doesn't conform to our vision, values and ideals, then we can declare it broken. Then we can assess what our options are. Then we can talk about creating a third party - Lord knows that's been a topic near and dear to my heart for a long, long time. Any of my co-contributors will vouch for that.

And if we get to that point, and conservatives need to find a new home, we'll have an army of conservative leaders who will have been working for change - not just writing about it - and will be ready to take that bold step into unchartered territory.

I'll close with a story that was shared with me recently. My friend Trevor Morgan shared this, that he had read in the WSJ. It seems that there was some new battery technology that was developed. Not by some scientists working for 3M, but by a guy in his garage. Said fellow was trying to build a better hot-rod, ostensibly to win races and impress girls. On more than one occasion, said fellow burned off the hair on his face working with an arc welder in his garage, but he eventually did it. The point of this story is that real change requires entrepreneurs. Not a scientist sitting in a lab who is concerned about a performance review or his 401(k), but someone who is willing to risk (repeated) visits to the emergency room for burn injuries in pursuit of a goal.

You may get sick walking a precinct in January. You may fall down a set of icy stairs on your back; if you're lucky and careful, probably not. Our Founders were willing to risk it all - everything - in pursuit of their values. If we're not willing to risk anything other than a couple of hours of free time, and only then sit at our computers and write that fiery prose, we're going to get more of the same. Be that entrepreneur who burns off his facial hair, though, and let's see if we can't get control of our party back.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Ron Paul at CPAC

I'm still not with Paul on Iraq, but for most of this video, he sounds like any one of the conservatives who post and visit this page. At about 5:30 in to the video he lays into McCain. The clip is 8:34 all in and worth watching.

He's also strongly pro-life, and smart to boot: he closes with a comment that few people realize, namely, Congress can, by legislative act, restrict the scope of cases that the federal courts may hear.

While this post isn't an endorsement of Paul's campaign, it is an attempt to get people to consider him as a conservative alternative.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Romney Suspends Campaign; Buchanan Column; Some Thoughts on Ron Paul

So Romney's speech at CPAC was a doozy, we were listening live at the office this afternoon as he announced. It was actually a pretty good speech, the suspension of the campaign notwithstanding. If you haven't heard the audio, it's worth a listen, as the audience had no idea it was coming and there was a chorus of surprised "no"'s coming from the crowd.

Caught Laura Ingraham (on tape delay) after the speech and she and Mark Steyn knew what was coming. Steyn made some remark about going out for drinks after the speech in a knowing manner, which you'd never catch on to if you hadn't just heard Mitt suspend his campaign. Interesting. Look, I liked him better than the other "top-tier" guys in the race, and it's over. It was fun to support him while it lasted and he's 60. Maybe in four years he'll refine his conservatism and not face the challenges he's faced in this primary. Maybe he'll drop the constant chorus of "I love legal immigration." Who knows?

This column by Pat Buchanan is outstanding. Too bad Pat's not running, although he might be a good write-in candidate. This might be worth a discussion among our fellow bloggers: should there be a coordinated write-in effort?

Lastly, I've got to come clean on some things re: Ron Paul. I've been hard on him in prior posts, and he's not the worst option out there; in fact, he merits some consideration if he went third party against McCain and Clinton. While I'm not with him on an immediate and total withdrawal from Iraq, he's an outstanding option when one considers a McCain (or Huckabee) candidacy. He's disavowed questionable statements made by supporters, another concern I had about him. I think a Paul Presidency would be extraordinary for a couple of reasons: first, the awe-inspiring number of vetos he'd issue, and second, he'd dismantle some federal departments, no question about it. I'm not ready to support him (plus, we've already voted in Illinois) but he looks much better than either of the two so-called GOP front-runners.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Super Tuesday Wrap-Up

Strictly big picture - you can go get the individual results anywhere...

McCain is certainly in the driver's seat, which is unfortunate. Still, he's a bit of a way off from having it locked up, and Mitt's going to fight on to the Convention.

I'm amused by the argument that goes like this: "if you don't vote for the nominee in November, you're giving the election to Hillary" (or the Democrats). Never mind the fact that choosing a liberal like McCain in the primaries accomplishes the same thing when it means that conservatives won't vote for him. Where's the moral responsibility, then, for McCain supporters who have "given the election to the Democrats?"

And while I'm not surprised that Illinois went for McCain, there were a few states (OK being the most surprising) that I thought were more conservative than to vote for an open-borders, anti-free speech, global warming alarmist and purveyor of class warfare like John "Clean Government" McCain.

The only question that remains come November is: will conservatives have a third party choice or will most of us just write-in a candidate?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Rally for Romney

The Mrs. and I attended a rally for Mitt Romney today at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. There were a lot of people there, and I'm a terrible judge of crowds, so I won't even guess. Here's the inside of the Arts Center at COD:

Mitt gave a great speech, hammering his opposition and invoking the principles of conservatism. We were able to attend the media session immediately after the speech, and here's the pictures from that event (thanks to my wonderful wife for taking so many pictures - and pointing me out in this one!).

Here's a picture of me with Dan Rutherford (R-Pontiac), Romney's Campaign Chairman for Illinois:

And lastly, a good picture of Romney himself. He handled the media very well in this private session; I was quite impressed.

I got to see some old friends, and some new ones, including Anne from Backyard Conservative. A couple days to go until Super Tuesday - I encourage everyone to get out and vote, and vote conservative!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Patriot Post Ratings

Friday's edition of the Patriot Post profiled Mitt Romney, and the profile is worth a look. Mark Alexander rates Romney ahead of McCain in the Patriot's conservative rankings - which is really all that matters. Not some poll showing that McCain could beat a Democrat. Not McCain's hollow victories in early primary states by riding the wave of liberal Republicans and independent voters. Not the series of RINO endorsements that have rolled up for John "Clean Government" McCain.

Here's the Senator on "clean government":

No, the question is simple in the primary election: who's more conservative?

Excellent Blog Award

This blog was rated "excellent" by our conservative friends at the Maritime Sentry. We sincerely appreciate their recognizing us. I'm going to follow the same format they used in this, my post.

"The rules: By accepting this Excellent Blog Award, you have to award it to 10 more people whose blogs you find Excellent Award worthy. You can give it to as many people as you want but please award at least 10. Thank you out there for having such great blogs and being such great friends! You deserve this! Feel free to award people who have already been awarded."

While part of me sheepishly admits that this sounds mildly like an e-mail forward, which I delete with extreme prejudice, I think it's a wonderful idea for blogs, which thrive through increased readership and recognition.

This is a great opportunity for each of us in this space to recognize some of our favorite blogs; I encourage my co-conspirators - excuse me! contributors - to do the same. Here is a list of the blogs I present this Excellent Blog Award to (in no particular order):

1. View From The Right
2. The Maritime Sentry
3. Reflecting Light
4. Webster's Blogspot (which in many respects has eclipsed this blog)
5. Vanishing American
6. Illinois Review
7. Conservablogs
8. Backyard Conservative
9. Katie's Dad
10. The Light Bulb

Ack! Just ten?? I could go on, and would, except I trust that my co-contributors will share their own lists and cover those excellent blogs that I ran out of room to mention. Please visit these folks and if you're on the list, consider making your own.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

GOP Debate Analysis

I read the transcript of the debate yesterday and my impression was that McCain came across as dishonest, particularly in his mincing of the English language with respect to Romney's position on the surge. I can see why Bill Clinton says that McCain has much in common with Hillary, for who can forget the insane word games of the Clintons?

The best analysis I have seen of the debate was this by Hugh Hewitt. McCain comes across - I watched some clips on YouTube (and by far the best clips show McCain's obvious contempt for Romney and Paul) - as angry and un-Presidential. Far from being a viable candidate against either Obama or Clinton, he'll be vulnerable to attacks and that the MSM hasn't dished these up yet in his fight against Romney should be a large, flashing, neon "tell."

The Right Answer?

I Saw Mr. McCain a few weeks back, campaigning somewhere (Florida, I believe) on CNN. The thing that made me sit up a bit was this:

A woman in the audience raised her hand and said she was a teacher. Her children were starting college/in college and she wasn't able to afford to pay for her children's college, or do any of the other things she wanted with her life, unless she was paid more. She threatened that she could get a better paying job in the blink of an eye, but, ever the martyr, she just took some classes to make her a better and more valuable teacher and feels it would be a shame if she couldn't use them. She wants to keep sacrificing her time to teach but feels she simply can't afford to do so. Her question was along the lines of: "what are you going to do about getting a living wage for teachers?"

I was suddenly struck by how many times we have heard this argument and how annoying it is. I wondered what McCain's answer would be. Once again I was disappointed by the teachers are so valuable, we don't pay them enough and I hope you'll decide to keep teaching, MSM, PC babble. How many times have we heard what martyrs teachers are for our children? It's nonsense. How would that question sound coming from a store clerk, or a factory worker, or a nanny? They are making sacrifices too and in many cases they don't have the degree or training to just move to a better paying job. Aren't those jobs affecting the greater good too? Why are teachers deserving of special sainthood treatment? Are our children really such monsters that it requires a saint to teach them? I don't think so.

What was the answer I was looking for from a "conservative" candidate for president? How about this:
Ma'am, I thank you for spending part of your life as a teacher. If you need to leave the teaching profession to make a wage that will provide you with the things you feel you need in this life, go with my blessings. I thank you for your time and sacrifices, but that's a decision you need to make on your own. While I'm sure that your school will miss you, I am equally sure that there are many fine young people graduating from college this year who would be perfectly happy with the level of compensation you are receiving and who will also be fine teachers. I wouldn't want to deprive you of the choice to move on with your life and career goals by promising something that I, as president, would have very little control over.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Perhaps it is only human nature, but hammer away at us enough times with the same data and our eyes sort of gloss over.

This is particularly unfortunate given the infection which ails this country - I speak of Liberalism. Through its control of the media, we are bombarded by images and stories of the worst kind until we barely register outrage any more.

Which is why I'm glad I read this post by Mr. Darby at Reflecting Light.

Let's not be the soon-to-be victim who feels secure having obtained a restraining order. Let's not drop our guard or begin to think that perhaps the enemy has ceased his aggressive ambitions.

Florida Primary Analysis

I'm not one for long titles, so I had to cut it down to what you see above. But the appropriate title of this post should be "Inadvertently Insightful Florida Primary Analysis." See this link to the AP story.

Here's the best part:

In Florida, McCain won across a broad swath of voters: older people, veterans, Hispanics, moderates, liberal Republicans and, of course, independents, according to exit polls. And while Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee shared the lead among born-again Christian voters, McCain only trailed slightly.

Aren't "moderates, liberal Republicans and, of course, independents" the same things? Notice any group that McCain didn't carry the day with? Oh yeah, those folks: conservatives.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Go Right!

Courtesy of Reuters:

A road sign points the way to nearby towns Clinton and Prosperity in Newberry, South Carolina, January 25, 2008. US Democratic presidential candidates Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) have been criss-crossing South Carolina ahead of the state's Democratic primary election. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES) US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN 2008 (USA)

The Incomparable Mark Steyn

In the most recent issue of Imprimis (brought to you by the folks at Hillsdale College), Mark Steyn unravels the idea that somehow Canada should be the model for the United States, particularly from an economic point of view. Admittedly, this appears to be an idea that has traction only among a small slice of Americans, but given that this group tends to include academics, politicians and those organizations that control what news you see on television and read in the newspaper, it's probably a good idea to debunk such nonsense wherever one finds it.

Steyn on entitlements:

And if you have government health care, you not only annex a huge chunk of the economy, you also destroy a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of the junkie and the pusher, and you make it very difficult ever to change back.

And fantastically:
Quebec has a civil service that employs the same number of people as California's, even though California has a population nearly five times the size.

Steyn then explores one of my major concerns, corporate welfare:
Among the farmers piling up the dollar bills under the mattress are Ted Turner, Sam Donaldson, the oil company Chevron, and that dirt-poor, hardscrabble sharecropper David Rockefeller. But what you may not know is that also among the number is Edgar Bronfman, Sr., who isn't just any old billionaire, he's the patriarch of Montreal's wealthiest family, owner of Seagram's Whiskey, which subsequently bought Universal Pictures. So the U.S. taxpayer, in his boundless generosity, is subsidizing the small family farms of Canadian billionaires.

Steyn closes, not surprisingly, with some demographic statistics that make the future in Canada look bleaker than Edmonton in January. It's not long and Steyn is terrific, so enjoy the whole thing.

Short Animation on Liberty

I'm out of the office sick today so I might get a chance to catch up on a number of things I've been putting off.

A colleague sent me this link to a short animation on Liberty. It's interesting. While I agree with nearly the entire content of the video, I'm left with the same thoughts I usually have when encountering advocates for Liberty. That is, there's a fine line between Liberty and License, and generally people who advocate for Liberty do so without any conditions; which is really to say that they are advocating for license, or anarchy.

The moment you place conditions on how much Liberty people may have, you're really discussing the necessity of external government. Most discussions of Liberty are based in the abstract or theoretical, and once you deign to engage in such a conversation with respect to the practical, actual, and operative nature of man, you must naturally appear a tyrant. While this may tire us, we owe it to our Liberty-loving "faithful opposition", as Mr. Morris once coined the term, to keep reminding them of the truths of human nature.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

McCain vs. Madison

I take exception with some libertarian ideas; since that's not the point of this post I won't bother rehashing them now. If you know how to search through labels, you'll likely find them in the archives.

But there is the occasional gem from organizations like Cato. You can read one such gem by the same title as this blog post here.

In the article, John Samples hits a couple of them out of the park.

Matt Welch's new book McCain: The Myth of a Maverick lays out the senator's philosophy. McCain once said "each and every one of us has a duty to serve a cause greater than our own self-interest." That cause will be the good of the collective, often defined as the nation or the national community.

That sounds fine and rather patriotic until your realize McCain's statement puts the nation before the individual, duties before rights (which are not mentioned), and denigrates the concerns of individuals to mere self-interest. None of these ideas have much to do with James Madison or conservatism.

Samples then calls McCain out for what he really is: a Progressive.

In contrast, Progressives see speech as a means to a collective good -- improved public debate -- attained by government restrictions on individual liberty. In this view, free speech and free spending are mere self-interest or selfishness, vices to be overcome by benevolent censors.

For McCain, such self-interest should be sacrificed to the higher cause of "clean government." Hence, McCain's infamous statement on Don Imus's radio show: "I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government."

Ah, yes, almost forgot about his disdain for the First Amendment. President John "Clean Government" McCain; it has a rather awful sound to it, doesn't it?

I've recently come to the point where I realized I might vote third party, or write in a candidate if I'm unhappy with who gets the GOP nomination. I've expressed it numerous times in conversations, yet never quite as well as this:

The election of a Progressive like Clinton or Obama would deprive conservatives of power. The election of a Progressive like McCain would deprive conservatives of both the government and the means to resist Progressivism. Which is the lesser evil?

I would add this: there is a means to oppose Progressivism/Liberalism/Leftism which we have discussed numerous times here. With the blessings of Providence, we may yet enact a renewal under such a banner and return strict constitutional government to prominence.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fred Thompson and Balanced Government

In case you missed it, an interesting exchange on Fred Thompson's removal of himself from the presidential race occured over at VFR under Mr. Auster's entry Thompson. Our friend Mike Hargis (who used to comment here frequently but has been noticably absent for some time now -- where are you Mike?) rarely missed an opportunity to remind us when discussing presidential candidates, that it seemed to him that someone who wanted the job of President, the most powerful job in the world, wasn't likely to be seeking the job for purely noble reasons. It was an argument that I don't think any of us ever really raised any serious disagreement with, but that didn't keep ol' Hargis from stating it fairly often.

Well, under the aforementioned post LA replies to two separate commenters, James P. and Kilroy M., both of which state their preference for a President who is not acting out of passion or desire to lead the country, but a President who would act from genuine conservative views, as James P. expresses it. LA discusses why this is not possible under our current electoral process and what changes to that process would be necessary to elect a President of the United States who was not actively seeking the Presidency, or, passionately competing to lead the country. The relevant exchanges are entered below:

James P. writes:

Powerline wrote:

"My own first-hand encounter with Thompson generated no sense that he had any intangible quality that would add value to his generic conservative views."

Maybe, but I would be very happy with a President who acted from genuine conservative views, even if they were "generic" and he was "checking the boxes" rather than acting from particular passion. That would be a hell of a lot better than what we're going to get, which is a Democrat or a Republican with genuine passion to lead the country in a more liberal direction, and who will act with "inner intention" to achieve that goal. Indeed, that's even better than what we have now, which is a President who talks conservative (thus giving conservatism a bad name and contributing to the unpopularity of Fred and other genuine conservatives) and governs liberal.

LA replies:

I agree. And maybe if we didn't have candidates actively run for the presidency, maybe if the Electors met in each state and chose the man they thought was best, instead of their choice being determined by the popular vote, Thompson could be president. But we do have campaigns, and the Electors' choice is determined by the popular vote, and a candidate does have to present himself to the American public as someone who wants and is ready to lead the country.

Kilroy M. writes:

You write that Thomson did not appear to "want to lead the country" and that "checking off the correct conservative positions is not leadership." However, it was Thomson's principled position minus the public displays of desire for power that attracted me to him in the first place.

LA replies:

But that was my own point. We could imagine an America in which the electors are not elected already pledged to vote for a certain candidate, which is the system we have (remember that when you vote for president in the general election, you are not voting for John Smith, you are voting for a slate of electors who are pledged to vote for John Smith), but, as was the case when George Washington was elected (before the evolution of the political party system, under which each party runs a slate of electors who are pledged to vote for the nominee of that party), the people or the legislature of each state choose electors according to the laws of that state, and the electors vote for whom they please. Under such a system, there would not be presidential candidates "running" for election, trying to get the masses to vote for them, because, instead of 100 million people casting a vote, there would be (say) 535 electors casting votes. The electors, who would be the leaders and politically knowledgeable people of each state, would be familiar with the leading political figures of the country, and would choose the person they considered best qualified to be president. Under such a system, public displays of desire for the presidential office would not be needed or appropriate.

Or, if it's impracticable to dispense with political parties, we could dispense with party primaries, and go back to the smoke filled room. Each state would choose delegates to the nominating convention who would be free to vote as they choose. Again, under such a system, candidates would not "run" for the nomination, but the delegates, politically knowledgeable people, would choose as nominee the person they thought was best.

While I think it's absolutely impracticable under our current "one man one vote" democratic climate in America (can you imagine trying to convince Americans that they are better served to play only an indirect role in the choice of electors for President?), it is nonetheless interesting, and I would say the far better method to selecting a President than what we have now. However, whenever the idea of Balanced Constitutional Government is discussed here and elsewhere, at least part of that discussion must consider the ways in which we may return to a government more resembling that of a Federal Representative Republic, and less resembling that of a democracy. It may be putting the cart before the horse, so to speak, to discuss ways in which to improve upon our current electoral system, but here again it's an important consideration for anyone who believes a return to balanced government is needed. And you can certainly count me among that group.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Toyota of Naperville

I wouldn't normally do this as it doesn't seem to be a fit with this blog. But Mom started it with these comments to my prior post, so I figured I'd just let 'er fly, as the man says. Here were the comments worth expanding upon:

The idea of building things to last isn't just a comment on warranties though. I am wondering what kind of affect it would have on our economy if we were no longer willing to accept poor quality goods.

Would that create a demand for skilled workers? Would it shift our point of view back to thinking in the longer term personally as well as politically? What kind of an impact would that have on our trading partners?

I'm a big believer in quality, always have been. So given this, and that an opening was provided - and importantly, that the story is worth telling - here goes a little history and my story.

In 2002 my wife and I bought a Toyota 4 Runner from a nearby dealer in DuPage County (not Naperville). Subsequently in 2006 (because my then-employer provided wheels), I bought a Toyota Camry from the Naperville dealership. The experience was so good that when my mother-in-law needed a car, we went with her to Toyota of Naperville to help her buy her Corolla.

All of this is necessary background to what happened yesterday. We've been in the midst of a terrible cold snap - I think it made it up to 8 degrees today, and it was 1 degree yesterday when my wife and I went out for a date to see a movie. After that, we stopped at Target before we were heading home. Only we got a flat tire. I mean completely flat.

I got the car jacked up, the lugnuts off the wheel and then... nothing. I think the wheel was frozen on, although I can't be sure. What I can be sure of is that it wasn't coming off. It's not bragging, they say, if you can do it, so let me say this and leave it at that: I'm quite strong, and I wailed on that tire for probably the better part of a half hour. It wasn't budging.

The problem, then, was time. It was 6:30 when I gave up and we had to call for assistance. The first couple of calls were unsuccessful. We got lucky - and here we were thinking about how unlucky we were - when Pat answered at Toyota.

Without identifying himself, he mentioned that while the dealership was closed, he'd get someone to pick us up and get the car towed to the dealership, where once in side, hopefully it'd be easy to get the wheel off. When our ride came, it was Pat himself, who mentioned that he was just walking past a phone in the empty service department when we called.

What Pat didn't mention but we later discovered when he gave us his card, was that he was the General Sales Manager of the dealership.

1) After the dealership was closed for a half hour on a Saturday night, the General Sales Manager picked up a ringing phone in the service department.
2) He personally picks up a couple of people who had trouble with a car not purchased through their dealership.
3) He arranges for a loaner car - at no cost - until we can get our car towed to the dealership and fixed on Monday.

All of which bought him a late night at the office; we probably said good night to Pat at 7:30.

So here's the deal. I'd love to hear stories like this if anyone else has them. In today's world, we moan and crab about how bad service is and believe me, it can be bad. But there's still professionals like Pat O'Brien at Toyota of Naperville who go above and beyond and create fans for life.

If you're in the market for a car in the Chicago area, the dealership is worth the trip. Actually, the dealership is like any other; it's the people that are pretty special.