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.