PUTTING THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE

Here is a story that relates to my last post.

We the pupils: More states teaching founding US documents

NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. (AP) — Should U.S. high school students know at least as much about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Federalist papers as immigrants passing a citizenship test?

In a growing number of school systems, having such a basic knowledge is now a graduation requirement. But states are taking different approaches to combating what’s seen as a widespread lack of knowledge about how government works. (continued here)

If you are gullible enough, this sounds like great news.  It is not. What is happening is that our state legislators would have us believe that they can test quality into a failing product. Doesn’t work that way.  For example, do you want a car that was correctly designed and built on a properly designed assembly line, or do you want a car that passed some sort of test after 400 others were rejected for defects?

What else is wrong with this stupid idea?

  • People raised in this country should be able to set the standard for what a new citizen is supposed to know about citizenship. It is absurd to look for new citizens to set the standard for the rest of us.
  • If we use the American citizenship test to set the standard for basic knowledge of U.S. Government, then whoever writes that test determines what our children will learn.  Isn’t that kind of like having a fox guard the henhouse?

Anyway, if anyone is interested, here is a sample test: 100 Civics Questions and Answers with MP3 Audio (English version). Of course, even though a new citizen is supposed to speak English……

 

NEW MILESTONES IN OPPOSITION RESEARCH

As a nation we are at least halfway to being totally deranged. What this post is about is two examples of our insanity.

The first example is a column by Bill Gertz of The Washington Times, Warfare goes digital in the 21st century. The primary subject of the column is information warfare. What is Gertz’s complaint?

American adversaries have found asymmetric ways to attack and are waging sophisticated information warfare operations — both technical cyber-attacks and soft power influence and disinformation campaigns designed to achieve strategic objectives.

The U.S. government remains completely ignorant of the threat and lacks ways to deal with this new form of warfare. The Cold War-era U.S. Information Agency (USIA), the last semi-autonomous agency used for promoting America was disbanded in 1999. Its functions were folded into the State Department and the result has been diplomacy-impaired information programs. (from here)

That sounds innocuous, but what is odd is that Gertz’s column also included this observation by Matthew Armstrong, a former official involved in government radio broadcasting and associate fellow in King’s College Center for Strategic Communications.

Mr. Armstrong said he was told by a Russian information official that state-run RT broadcasts would have no audience in the United States “if the American media was doing their jobs.”

The failure of America’s news media in this sphere stems of the Balkanization of news outlets. Coverage by mainstream press outlets today is biased by three central liberal narratives of gender identity, racial issues and climate change, while the conservative media outlets are heavily weighted toward opinion and lack a needed hard news focus. (from here)

The news media is not doing its job? The news media is too biased to do its job? What happened to journalistic objectivity?

The second example is about a civil war.

The recent revelation about Susan Rice seems to be causing the war to swing Trump’s way.  That is what this report, Tucker vs Dem who called him Trump ‘smokescreen salesman’, considers. Here we see much of the news media has definite conclusions about the Susan Rice story: Steyn: Media annoyed someone has outfaked their fake news.

So what are we to make of all this? How are these news items related? Gertz’s column points out that the news media is failing to do its job in a very fundamental way. Instead of getting the true story out, the news media is leaving a vacuum that  foreign propagandists have filled. What is the news media doing? Lately the talking heads have argued over two distinctly horrific possibilities.

  • Did the Donald Trump betray America by colluding with a foreign power to steal a win in our last presidential election?
  • Did the Obama administration abuse America’s national intelligence systems by conducting “opposition research” on the Trump campaign and transition team?

Stories like this have not filled the airwaves for decades, but such has been more common in recent years, and the seriousness of the charges keep getting worse. Yet there is almost never any resolution. Apparently, the primary concern of our leaders is spending our money, not honest government.

What does Gertz propose in his column? Is it a fix for America’s news media? No.

The Trump administration urgently needs to recreate a new USIA for the digital age, something I call “Information America.”

This new institution can be established as a government entity similar to the USIA, or a nongovernmental organization funded by philanthropists. A third option would be set up Information America as hybrid government/private-sector organization.

Its mission should be to use truth and facts to counter lies and disinformation. Information America also must begin anew to promote fundamental American ideals and values. (from here)

Good idea? Maybe, but what about the America’s news media? Isn’t there some way we can get the press do its job instead of warring with words, effectively acting as rabid advocates for our two national political parties? I think so. We need to get our government out of the education business. We need to reduce the scope of the Federal Government’s responsibilities so that it is primarily focused national defense.

What is happening is Washington DC looks more and more like war because it is. Listen to different news media sources, and pretty soon it will become apparent the Democrats want Trump gone yesterday. Is he guilty of something?

Listen to different news media sources, and pretty soon it will become apparent that somebody was spying on Trump’s campaign and transition officials. Was that legal?

Unless we the people of America are properly educated, few of us will be able to appropriately review the facts and answer such questions. Instead we will be propagandized.  Unless we the people of America are properly educated, we will not understand how our government is supposed to work, and we will not fulfill our role as good citizens. Instead of electing officials who serve us, we will elect officials who will eventually demand that we serve them.

What the increasing acrimony in Washington DC indicates is that the crisis is coming to a head. When the crisis does come to a head, it is going to be ugly. Because the prize is huge, people will fight over it and not just with words.

If we want our children to be properly educated, we have to get our government out the business and take responsibility ourselves. If we want to understand how our government is supposed to work, we have to ignore news media propagandists and look up what the founders of our country had to say about it. We have to throw out the bums who just think their job is to spend as much of our money as they can.

FOCUS ON WINNING THE WAR

Obamacare is one of those disasters half of us would just like to go away. The other half either has selfish financial interests or Utopian pipe dreams tied up in such Socialist legislation. Think I am being unfair to the other half? From the beginning we knew Obamacare would not work. Obamacare is economically unsound. So from the beginning we knew what the Democrats wanted was a single payer, government-run healthcare monopoly. Don’t we know how, if Hillary Clinton had been elected, Obamacare would have been fixed? Don’t we already know Obamacare needs to be fixed?

So now we have this stinking albatross around our neck. What is the best way to get rid of it? There is no quick and simple answer.  Budget reconciliation does not clearly provide it.

The reconciliation process, created by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (Pub. L. 93–344, 88 Stat. 297, 2 U.S.C. §§ 601–688), establishes the mechanism by which Congress can move controversial legislation without it being subject to a filibuster in the Senate. But to use the authority, Congress must take certain prescribed steps and avoid potential pitfalls. (continued here)

Pitfalls! So it is that Congress cannot include matters extraneous to budget reconciliation in a budget reconciliation bill.

Specifically, section 313(b)(1) of the Congressional Budget Act defines “extraneous” matters as those that:

  • do not produce a change in outlays or revenues;

  • produce changes in outlays or revenue which are merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision;

  • are outside the jurisdiction of the committee that submitted the title or provision for inclusion in the reconciliation measure;

  • increase outlays or decrease revenue if the provision’s title, as a whole, fails to achieve the Senate reporting committee’s reconciliation instructions;

  • increase net outlays or decrease revenue during a fiscal year after the years covered by the reconciliation bill unless the provision’s title, as a whole, remains budget neutral; or

  • contain recommendations regarding the OASDI (social security) trust funds.

(from here)

Thus, when Congress tried to repeal Obamacare in 2015 they ran into problems in the Senate.

In October 2015, the House passed H.R. 3762: Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom, which repealed significant portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including:

  • the Automatic Enrollment Requirement,
  • the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF, also referred to as the “Obamacare slush fund”),
  • both the Individual and Employer Mandates,
  • the Medical Device Tax, and
  • the health insurance “Cadillac Tax,”.

The bill also prohibited federal funds for Planned Parenthood, its affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, and clinics for one year. Instead, the bill designated an additional $235 million for the Community Health Center Fund.

When the bill reached the Senate in January 2016, the Senate parliamentarian reviewed the House-passed bill to see if provisions of the bill met the extraneous matter requirements of the Byrd Rule.  She determined that repeal of the individual mandate and employer mandate, were extraneous policies, and not primarily budgetary in nature.  As a result, they were dropped from the bill and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered an amended version of the reconciliation bill that retained the policy of the individual and employer mandates, but eliminated the penalty for non-compliance.

Final passage from the conference committee occurred January 6, 2016 and was vetoed by President Obama two days later. (from here)

So even if the House passes the bill before it, the Senate may weaken it.  Unfortunately, we have little reason to believe the Senate dislikes big government.

So let consider a solution for this problem. Let’s begin by properly defining the problem. How did Obamacare happen? Democrats, politicians who do not respect the Constitution or our nation’s traditions, got control of the presidency, the House, a 60-vote majority in the Senate, and a practical majority on the Supreme Court. Therefore, to repeal Obamcare, we need control of the presidency, the House, a 60-vote majority in the Senate, and a practical majority on the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, we are not quite there. So, the solution is getting there, getting enough Conservative politicians to pass Conservative legislation.

Why do the American people elect politicians who do not respect the Constitution or our nation’s traditions? That is both a problem of the heart and the heart of the problem. To the extent we can do something about it, it is an education problem. Before the Democrats created budget-busting boondoggles like Social Security, Medicare, and now Obamacare, they took over the education of our nation’s children. So it is we have public funding of schools starting in kindergarten and ending with the completion of doctoral programs. Inevitably, people educated in socialist institutions by people who make their living off socialist institutions have difficulty seeing what is wrong with Socialism.  Inevitably, when the absence of instruction suggests such things don’t matter, children raised in secularized institutions have a difficult time relating to God and God-given rights. Therefore, if we don’t want everything run by our government, we must privatize our education system.

Are you familiar with school choice? Even if you are, you may find it useful to visit What is School Choice?  This is an article provided by Focus on the Family, which some would call a right-wing Christian organization. Here is how that article begins.

School choice is a nationwide movement that empowers parents by enabling them to make the best possible choice for their children’s education. In short, it puts power in the hands of parents to decide which type of education best fits the needs of their particular child – whether that is a public, private or religious institution, or educating their child at home.

School choice also protects parents’ constitutional rights to direct their children’s upbringing in accordance with the values, principles and religious convictions they hold dear. (continued here)

Think about it. Has the notion of the People running the own lives — educating their own children as they see fit — become as scary to our government as it was to the British Crown in 1776?

So what do we do with President Donald Trump’s and Speaker Paul Ryan’s bill, the American Health Care Act? I suggest we help Trump and Ryan pass the bill.  It is not perfect, but we need to keep our allies strong.  Trump and Ryan need the win, and half a loaf is better than none. At this point, half a loaf is all we can expect.

Why must we keep Trump and Ryan strong? Although we must fight our school choice battles predominantly at the state level, we must keep strong advocates for school choice in charge of the Federal Government. Otherwise, Democrats will win the fight to federalize the education of our nation’s children with programs like Common Core. See the following.

Is Common Core is a commie plot? Who knows?  The point is that the Constitution does not authorize a Federally run educational bureaucracy. Even if the Constitution did authorize Federal spending on education, do we actually need massive numbers of bureaucrats to educate our children? What possible good could they do?

WHAT IS THE POINT OF LIMITED AND SECULAR GOVERNMENT?

Christ among the doctors by Cima da Conegliano, 1504. (from here)
Christ among the doctors (Luke 2:41-50) by Cima da Conegliano, 1504. (from here)

I’ve never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith — it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe. — Robert A. Heinlein, in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) (from here)

Should we be able to select the one true religion? I think so, but I don’t think it is just a matter of faith. I do, however, think making the choice requires reasoning we find difficult.

  • We must admit we need God, not an idol of our own making, but our Creator. That requires humility.
  • We must believe our reasoning is sufficient to know God and that God wants us to know Him. We need that belief to give us hope.
  • We must have the courage live by our choice. That’s why faith is required. To exercise the courage to live by the choice our reasoning dictates, we must have faith in God.
  • Most of all we must believe God loves us, and we can love Him.

Still, we make such a large variety of religious choices that that quote above from Heinlein seems to prove something, but what? I expect it shows how much we need God. Without our Creator’s help, we do not make good choices. We do not make good choices about much of anything.

That’s what makes America so remarkable. Ours has for the most part been a happy, productive, and prosperous land because for the most part Americans have made good choices, far from perfect, but generally good.

Why good choices? Consider that the Bible contains wisdom revealed by our Creator. Until we choose to read the Bible and strive to understand it, we cannot know how much our Maker loves us.

Americans once cherished the Bible. They actually read it.

Why did Americans care about the Bible. America is a product of the Protestant Reformation, the lessons from bloody wars in Europe, and the English Enlightenment.  Our notions about classical liberalism and freedom of religion in particular come from those experiences.

  • The Protestant Reformation cracked the intercessory control of the Roman Catholic Church between man and God.  Prior to the Reformation, most of Europe accepted the Catholic clergy’s claim to speak for God. Subsequent to the Reformation, many Protestants believed they need no intercessor except Jesus.
  • The Protestant Reformation resulted in the multiplication of Christian sects and violent disputes over articles of faith. Therefore, in addition to the usual excesses that set off European wars, men fought and persecuted each other over their religious differences
  • The Protestant Reformation also resulted in the opportunity for people to study the Bible in their own languages. In fact, we can attribute both the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment in particular to the invention of the printing press. When people studied the Bible, the Word of God, for themselves, they could not find a command from Christ Jesus to spread the Gospel by force. Instead, many agreed that Jesus commanded His disciples to forgo violence and love their enemies.

Who settled America? Some came to America for riches and glory, but more came just for the hope they could live as they chose. Pilgrims, Puritans, Catholics, Quakers and others came so they could practice their religious beliefs in peace. Others came to just avoid debtors prisons.  Still, those who came were generally Christians, just different kinds of Christians. In the vast land of America, these different kinds Christians separated themselves into different communities, focused on their local governments, and experimented in new ways of governing.

Eventually, the American colonists tired of the rule of a faraway tyrannical king. Eventually, the American colonists decided that self-defense and the regulation of commerce required a federal government, but what kind of government? What would be the proper goals of an American government? To answer those questions, the American colonials considered the fruit of their experiments and turned to a political ideology we now call Classical Liberalism.

Classical liberalism is a political ideology that values the freedom of individuals — including the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and markets — as well as limited government. (continued here)

Why a limited government that values individual freedom? Because they had diverse societies, the American colonials did not share exactly the same beliefs or  worldview. That is, they had limited set of shared values. Therefore, particularly with respect to the Federal Government, the colonials thought it best to limited the scope of government powers. Even then, because they feared Federal powers would be abused, the colonials insisted upon a Bill of Rights.

Consider the first words of the First Amendment.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Because we are are Christian nation, we have some shared values, but we also have huge differences. What is Christianity? Some people — not all — say Christianity is what the Bible says it is.  However, the Bible is a large work. So even Christians who uphold the Bible as the inerrant Word of God emphasize different parts. Therefore, we have a problem we don’t know how to solve. Who has the wisdom to decide  for everyone else what God would have us do?  Hence, the First Amendment says religion is a matter the Federal Government should leave to the states and the people.

Because of the First Amendment, we now have something that prior to the rise of the United States as a world power was almost unheard of, a secular state. Unlike the rest of the world, Americans did not want the government to establish a religion or to interfere in the free exercise of religion (see Establishment of Religion and Free Exercise of Religion at heritage.org).

Unfortunately, the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution no longer works quite the way the framers of the Constitution intended. That’s because:

  • We no longer have a limited government. When the government has so much power, power mad politicians and the religious sects they represent find it tempting to impose their own beliefs.  Currently, various manifestations of Human Secularism have combined to pose the greatest threat to religious freedom. Thus, the budget for health, education, and welfare programs has exploded, and Christians, even though the Bible says no such thing, are suppose to support health, education, and welfare programs because its what Jesus would do.
  • The 14th Amendment requires the application of the Bill of Rights to state governments. As originally envisioned, all the Bill of Rights did was keep the Federal Government from sticking its nose where it did not belong. The 14th Amendment, however, allows the Federal Government to impose “religious freedom” upon the states. That added complexity has made it possible for Human Secularists to twist the law. So now many insist we equate the free exercise of religion with freedom of worship. That is, to keep the freedom from religion people happy, we are supposed keep our religion to ourselves and let the state indoctrinate our children in various “isms” including Human Secularism. Then we are supposed to loudly proclaim we still live in the land of the free.

There is an old bit of wisdom any good doctor knows.

Do no harm. — (contracted form of the Hippocratic oath, from here)

When we try to engineer our society to “fix” it, we are effectively trying to heal other people (if our motives are good). The problem is that the operation of a society is quite complex, and we are not qualified to play God. Hence, we must respect the right of our fellow citizens to make decisions that more appropriately belong to them. That’s why for any people who want to remain free limited government is not optional.

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