Sunday, August 19, 2012

No Tolerance For No Tolerance

Someone has said current practices of ”no tolerance” for school infractions represent a lack of leadership on the part of administrators. Rather than make the tough decisions regarding student misbehavior, administrators hide behind rules, some of them extreme.

Back in the ‘50s was an old doo-wop song, “Charlie Brown” by the Coasters. In today’s climate of no tolerance, here’s how the original “Charlie Brown” might play out:

Fe-fe, fi-fi, fo-fo-fum
I smell smoke in the auditorium

Dear Mrs. Brown. It has come to our attention that your son, Charles has been engaged in antisocial and dangerous behavior such as smoking at school. As a result we have suspended Charles until such time as he enrolls in and completes a substance abuse program regarding tobacco products. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown
He’s a clown, that Charlie Brown
He’s gonna get caught
Just you wait and see.
(Why’s everybody always pickin’ on me)

Dear Mrs. Brown. Upon completion of his substance abuse program, we have noticed your son Charles demonstrating characteristics that can only be described as those of paranoia, in that he thinks everyone is “pickin’” on him. As a result, we are continuing his suspension until such time as we have documentation from a qualified mental health care professional that Charles is undergoing treatment for these apparent symptoms. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

That’s him on his knees
I know that’s him
Yeah, from 7 come 11
Down in the boys’ gym

Dear Mrs. Brown. Having completed the tobacco substance abuse program and the mental health treatment for symptoms of paranoia, we have found Charles engaged in gambling activities in the boys’ gym. As a result, we have referred him to another substance abuse program for treatment of his gambling habit. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

Who’s always writing on the wall?

Dear Mrs. Brown. Upon your son Charles’ return to school, we found him engaged in aggressive vandalism. Only quick response prevented such vandalism from spreading beyond a 4-square-inch section of the north wall of the main stairway. But I am sorry to have to tell you that we must bill you for damage from the vandalism and for the resulting security actions. Please see our attached statement for $7,000 for repainting the interior of the school and $8,000 for costs for SWAT team response. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

Who’s always goofing in the halls
Whose always throwing spit balls
Guess who (who, me) yeah, you.

Dear Mrs. Brown. I regret to inform you that your son Charles is in the county jail on a weapons charge. While some may say so-called “spitballs” are harmless, this is in violation of our no tolerance policy regarding any projectile devices. We cannot say when or how Charles will be released as he is now under county law enforcement jurisdiction. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

Who walks in the classroom, cool and slow
Who calls the English teacher, Daddy-O

Dear Mrs. Brown. While out on bail, your son Charles recently caused great offense to one of our English teachers, Mr. Perot. We have contacted the district attorney’s office for an opinion regarding a hate crime offense and have attached a bill for $295 for Mr. Perot’s first session of counseling. Signed, Dunn Crisp, principal.

Not to condone the mischievous behavior of fictitious Charlie Brown, it is difficult to understand contemporary news reports of children being hauled from school in handcuffs, of having their homemade lunches reviewed for foods of questionable nutrition, of being accused as six-year-olds of sexual harassment, or of being suspended because they did the right thing but didn’t do things right. Again, school administrators need to stand up and make wise and proper decisions, not play the bureaucracy game.

By the way, “Charlie Brown” by the Coasters should not be confused with the recent “Charlie Brown” tune by Coldplay, which alludes to auto theft. Mr. Crisp would be really upset with that. And I’d agree with him.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Eat More Chiken

So Dan Cathy, Chick Fil A CEO, said the company upholds traditional values regarding marriage between a man and a woman. And Chick Fil A became corporation non gratis in Boston. And Chicago.

But not in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Chick Fil A Day. Cars are lined up into the street trying to get into the Chick Fil A at Martin Luther King and Razorback. The Cutest Community Organizer To Whom I Am Married along with some politico friends and I got there at 11 a.m. to avoid the rush. Ha! The place is packed.

The issue is not about discrimination against homosexuals. Chick Fil A says it does not discriminate on any basis, including sexual orientation. It's just that Cathy and his closely-held company hold the same values as most Americans.

It's a festive atmosphere at the Fayetteville store. The crowd is young – mostly 35 and below; there are kids, some teenagers, many young parents. Two Boy Scouts are in line. And a sheriff's deputy. There are some young guys with tee shirts saying they're part of a football team. A young man wears an Ave Maria University shirt. The line inside spreads throughout the building. In fact, people keep asking, "Where is the end of the line?" Me, playing the funny guy, keeps pointing and saying: "In Oklahoma!"

California, hotbed of liberalism, amended its constitution to prohibit gay "marriage." But Those Who Know Best in federal court overturned it. Twenty-eight others states put on the ballot constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. All of them passed.

One of the lines at the Fayetteville Chick Fil A is delayed. A woman is picking up a massive order to take back to her co-workers at the local veterans hospital. Two soldiers in fatigues are embarrassed as people keep giving them cuts to go ahead of them in line.

Voters in Hawaii instructed legislators to ban gay marriage; voters in Maine stopped legislation that would allow it. This week supporters of California's ban on gay marriage are asking the U. S. Supreme Court to settle the whole thing once and for all. Like so many issues, the will of the people is no longer relevant; rather, lawyers in robes rule us.

A maintenance man comes from a back room of the restaurant carrying a fan that looks like a boat propeller on steroids. What a day for a restaurant fan to give out! A Chick Fil A worker says the milkshake machine has quit. On the street behind is a truck from an expediting freight company set up to unload. Are they bringing extra supplies to Chick Fil A? But they're parked a few doors down. Could it be they didn't want to block cars belonging to Chick Fil A customers that are parked off the street and on the grass? Why would anyone come to a restaurant they know is going to be packed? In fact, there were some people who had no idea what was going on -- they just wandered in wanting a Chick Fil A meal. They looked a bit overwhelmed. We hear people saying a Channel 5 news crew is on the property. Reports indicate the what's happening here is happening all over the country.

The issue is not homosexuality per se. Most people don't care about what goes on in other people's bedrooms. But gay marriage is uncharted territory. Even ancient Greece, highly tolerant -- even encouraging of -- homosexuality, did not think to tamper with the concept of marriage.

And when Dan Cathy voiced what so many of us believe, he was mocked, his company threatened. But there is a large majority out there: tolerant, respectful, not wishing ill on their fellow human beings, but who know what is right and what is wrong. People who try to work within the system, signing petitions, securing amendments to state constitutions, people who are tired of what they hold sacred being mocked. People who are tired of being bullied while they are accused of being bullies.

People who one day just go to their local Chick Fil A and decide the most relevant political action they can take is:

Eat more chiken.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Where is the Consent of the Governed?

A key concept in our Republic is the consent of the governed. Where is the consent of the governed when political trickery overhauls our health system? When the EPA wants to tax the very air we breathe (or at least exhale)? When traffic fines are designed for raising local government revenues instead of ensuring safety? When tax cheats head the Department of the Treasury? Where is the consent of the governed when our President in effect declares himself archbishop of the United States? When airborne drones spy on our citizens? When government functionaries brag they will "crucify" our employers? When political correctness threatens the security of our Nation? When the President spoils our concept of fair play by making obscene gestures at defeated opponents? Where is the consent of the governed when we dare not disturb a rock, a puddle, or an unheard-of animal on our own property? When SWAT teams are sent against our minor offenses? When our sovereign states have become mere administrative districts of the federal government? When our Department of Justice lacks justice? When our elected officials act like royalty? When children's lemonade stands are shut down for lack of licenses? Where is the consent of the governed when prosecutors cheat, lie, and instead of the rack use plea bargaining to pressure innocent people to false confessions? When local governments raise taxes for extravagant spending saying it will only cost us "a cup of coffee per week" or "one dinner out per month?" That's our coffee. And our dinner. And they matter to us. Where is the consent of the governed when our politicians turn their elected offices into their own sexual, financial, or power-based playgrounds? When cops are quick to ticket us for speeding but refuse to obey speed laws themselves (they think we don't notice?)? When people trained as doctors, insurance underwriters, and bankers are hampered by government officials who know nothing about medicine, insurance, or finance. When kids are not getting educated but the biggest, most extravagant building in a small town is the local school? Where is the consent of the governed when we are forced to give up the guilty pleasures of our junk food? When our wives, mothers, and children are molested, groped, and traumatized at airports? When foreign intruders invade our country and the federal government attacks local efforts to stop them? When the most creative and productive among us are penalized for their success? When our economy is manipulated and ruined by people who know nothing about economics? Where is the consent of the governed? Gradually, one by one, week by week, people are becoming aware of these violations. And they are meeting in businesses and coffee shops, veterans halls and homes. They are organizing, strategizing, donating, reading and learning, running for office or helping others in doing so, turning off their televisions and turning to action. We the People are tolerant. We are patient. But as citizens of the United States, a representative Republic, we will not be governed without our consent.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Upgrade to a Creek of Consciousness

Wow -- has it been nearly three months since I've posted anything? The rush of end-of-semester things at the campus caught me up, then there was a vacation of nearly two weeks to visit our daughters in California (and I fell in love with Catalina Island). Then there was a rash of things needed in the upkeep of our two-and-a-half acres, then there was... Never mind. You've been busy, too. Of course, being away long enough allowed Google to work mischief: they revamped the software for posting this blog. I hope everything posts okay. If software engineers ran the world (Wait. They do.), we'd go out to our cars in the morning and find the steering wheel in the back seat, the brake pedal on the passenger's side door, and a sign that said Upgraded. Or we'd drive up to a traffic light and find a sign that says System upgrade: from now on the color blue means "stop," yellow means "go," and white means "caution." Which is why I'm in fear and trembling over the phasing in of Windows 7 at my campus. At any rate, here's a Creek of Consciousness: over three months, talk has turned from can Romney win? to the possibility of a Romney landslide. Ah, but the polls show Obama and Romney even. Translation: Romney landslide...Fred Barnes in the Weekly Standard ( has an amazing story entitled The Real Reagan. Barnes says Ronald Reagan intentionally disarmed opponents by playing the role of the amiable dunce they thought him to be. But Barnes quotes David Smick, chief of staff to Jack Kemp, regarding Reagan's comments on a speech by Kemp: “Reagan reveled in the wonkdom of urban policy in a way that might have even made a young Bill Clinton envious. The more I read the comments in the margins of Kemp’s speech, the more obvious it became that Reagan had a passion for policy details.”...Barbra and I visited the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California. Moving experience. However, close to his grave was a herd of goats being used to keep the grass down. What's this? How disrespectful! Goats by the grave of a President of the United States! To which Reagan would have replied something like: "Well, they sort of remind me of when I got around Congress. Anything I took to them, they just said: 'Baaah.'"...Spent last weekend in Texas to visit Barbra's dad, Harold Johnston, for Father's Day. He's 83, and if you want to know what he's like, think of Robert Duvall playing Gus in Lonesome Dove. Harold is an amazing storyteller -- I've known him for forty years and rarely have him repeat a story. This time he had us laughing about the time he accidentally shot himself in the foot with a .22 pistol. He had a hard time getting to the doctor because despite his injured foot he had to carry his friend who kept passing out at the sight of blood. That's all for now -- Google's new blog format seems painless, I guess. Except for one thing: how does one make paragraphs? Not everything is meant for Facebook and Twitter, you know. Is this like Microsoft Word 2007's inability to make documents single space unless you revert to the 2003 format? And why is the brake pedal on the passenger door?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Comes to Wildcat Creek

Usually an early riser, I was sitting on my front porch about 4 a.m today enjoying the warm Ozarks air, listening to the gurgle of Wildcat Creek just down the hill, getting ready for another busy day.

The fireflies should be returning soon, I thought. That's a big deal for Barbra and me: sitting on the front porch watching what we call our "firefly friends" do their thing in the front yard.

Just as I was thinking about our blinking friends, I thought I saw a light. Is that one of the neighbor's yard lights through the leaves, I wondered? No, there was the light again. Slowing moving through the trees. Indeed, it was the first firefuly of the year.

Spring is grand in the Ozarks: the dogwoods, the flowers, the greening trees, the smells, the stirrings of nature in all kinds of ways. It's been increasingly like that for the last few weeks.

And spring is really here now.

The fireflies have returned.

Welcome back, friends.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Off the Air...

The nightmare of broadcasters is "dead air." A gap in the program. Silence.

It literally is a nightmare. Although I've only had the dream perhaps twice in the nearly two decades since I left radio, many broadcasters tell of a recurring dream where a song being broadcast is ending or a program is running out and the broadcaster is either locked out of the studio, mucking through mud unable to get to the microphone, or is kidnapped by gangsters or some other weird thing.

For me, there were two memorable off-air instances while I was doing a radio talk show in Colorado. The first involved an interview which was going nowhere. For some reason -- I guess as sort of a human interest thing -- I had in the studio two teenage girls who were exchange students from Ireland. I don't remember much about the interview other than it was bad. Whether the girls gave lame answers, were unable to say more than a few words in response to my questions, or I exhausted every angle I could think of and had nothing more to talk about, I don't recall. About all I remember is the stench of showbiz death as I looked at the clock and saw that I still had perhaps eight minutes to fill on the Interview to Nowhere.

At this time our station had an old AM transmitter that was on its last legs. Every once in a while for no reason the old beast would just shut itself down. And we'd be off the air. Someone from the on-air staff would have to then run into the transmitter room and turn it back on. This was a big nuisance, but the old transmitter was scheduled for soon replacement.

It was during my poor interview with the Irish girls that the transmitter chose another one of its times to fail. And, as I recall, I and/or my producer could not get old thing back on the air. Minutes ticked by. The station was dead in the water. Memory is hazy on this, but I believe it took the entire rest of the time of the allotted to the Irish girls' interview to get the station back on the air. I do remember that I was grateful that the radio station decided to crash just then and give me a reprieve from an awful broadcast experience.

The next memorable off-air experience happened after we had replaced the sick old transmitter. Things were running smoothly now and no longer were we having those dreaded dead air experiences. Again, I was conducting an in-studio interview and it was with a Christian man who described how God had overcome his addiction to pornography. I don't remember the details of the interview (it might have been related to a book he had written on his experiences) but I do recall that in the course of our conversation the unthinkable happened: the transmitter failed. I was shocked. The producer ran to the transmitter room to get us back on the air. While we're waiting to continue broadcasting, my guest said to me: "That happens all the time when I go on the radio." What? This man regularly goes on radio to speak of being freed from his addiction and the stations regularly get knocked off the air? I looked at him and realized what he was saying: there was a dark spiritual element to his addiction and an apparent unseen force attempting to stop his message from going out.

The experience was beyond coincidence. If it had been just our station, I wouldn't have thought much about it. But the transmitter taking a dive occured not just in our case but had occured elsewhere when this man would go on the radio.

To what do I attribute it? Satanic forces worked against this man, I believe. He had escaped the clutches of an incredibly destructive addiction and demonic powers worked to disrupt his attempt to explain that escape.

Finally, on a lighter note, years ago there was an old broadcaster story drifting around which, for the sake of the man involved, I hope wasn't true.

The story went something like this: there was a neophyte radio announcer who was faced with a situation in which his radio station had unexpectedly gone off the air. Speaking into the microphone, the man said:

"Pardon us, ladies and gentlemen, but we are off the air."


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Invisible Toxic Air

Liberal journalists like to say their news coverage is “unbiased” and “objective.”

Nonsense. Everyone is biased. No one is objective. If you write a grocery list, your biases will cause you to put ice cream at the top of the list.

People often read news stories and know there’s something not quite right. Or as the old journalism movie Absence of Malice defined it: the story is not true, but it’s accurate. And when we read a news story about something with which we are familiar, we are often disturbed at the reporter’s ignorance of the overall topic, and/or the subtle but deliberate distortions.

I used to feel that way sometimes reading a newspaper story until I went back to the top of the story and realized it had come from the New York Times or the Associated Press. That's how I learned not to trust those guys.

A great example appeared recently on Page One of Arkansas’ statewide newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The story – about former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee going up against Rush Limbaugh in a daily radio talk show -- is not the focus of what I’m going to say; rather, I want to look at how the story is presented. Because the story relates to topics about which I have familiarity: 1) radio broadcasting, in which I worked for about a dozen years; 2) Rush Limbaugh, to whom I’ve regularly listened for most of his 23-year national career, and 3) journalism, where I spent some time in radio, television, and newspapers.

Below is part of the story in boldface type. Italics indicate what I believe the reporter is trying to say. My comments are in regular type.

WASHINGTON — The advertising exodus from Rush Limbaugh’s nationally syndicated radio show has fallen like a gift into the lap of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Starting April 9, Huckabee, who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, will begin airing a three-hour radio show in the same afternoon time slot as Limbaugh, a revered figure among many conservatives.

Limbaugh’s ability to stir things up is his stock in trade.

He has routinely called women leaders “feminazis”... Women leaders? Would those women leaders be individuals like Michelle Malkin? Sarah Palin? Limbaugh has used the "feminazi" term only to describe militant feminists. Does the reporter believe that small strident group leads half the population?

...and has angered critics for comments deemed by them to be racially biased. These days anything representing conservative dissent is considered racist (ask those of us who’ve been involved in the Tea Party), so there's little to comment on here. But notice how the reporter can inject his opinion: "critics" call Limbaugh racially biased. Reporterspeak basically has said Limbaugh demeans prominent women and is racist. True? No. Accurate? As expressed in the reporter’s world view: yes.

Also, the reporter has managed to highlight his own distaste for Limbaugh by placing these comments in the opening paragraphs of the story. In reality, the story is supposed to be about Huckabee competing on-air with Limbaugh, but the reporter apparently believes it is important for you first to know how to think about Limbaugh before getting to the actual story. This, my friend, is the invisible toxic air of liberal media bias that we breathe all the time.

Earlier this month, Limbaugh referred to Georgetown University Law School student Sandra Fluke as a “prostitute”and a “slut” after she spoke out for government-mandated free contraceptive coverage. Truth, not accuracy, would say that Ms. Fluke is also a feminist operative who may have "forum shopped" for a school like Georgetown that does not provide free contraceptives so she could perhaps call them out on it. If anything, she’s not, as others have portrayed her, the innocent “civilian” unwittingly pulled into the culture wars. Also, the Democrat-Gazette story neglects to say why Georgetown resists the government mandate: it's a Catholic school and contraception is contrary to official Catholic doctrine.

Republican House members denied a request to let Fluke testify during recent hearings on the ability of religious institutions to opt out of covering birth control. Reporterspeak: Not only has Limbaugh mistreated Ms. Fluke, but so have evil Republican House members. Oh? Ms. Fluke's appearance was before a Democratic-called meeting. It apparently was a grandstanding event in favor of an Administration policy that many Republicans oppose. Why would Republicans want to give her the platform Democrats did?

Advertisers apparently have not been mollified by Limbaugh’s subsequent apology. At least 98 of them have pulled their ads from the show. Accurate but not entirely complete. Best I can tell is perhaps six or eight national sponsors pulled out of Limbaugh's show (with one asking for, but being refused, reinstatement). Others, according to Limbaugh, are local businesses that have asked local radio stations not to run their ads during Limbaugh's program. Happens in broadcasting all the time. Indeed, large consumer-oriented corporations (car companies, airlines, electronics manufacturers) tend to avoid conservative media outlets. Even the late William F. Buckley’s staid National Review tends to have lesser-known advertisers.

Huckabee, who has a weekly television show on Fox News and began his career in the radio business, is betting that a toned-down talk radio format will lure listeners. Did Huckabee actually say that, implying he will do the job better than Limbaugh? Or was Huckabee comparing and contrasting their on-air personalities? Which brings us to:

“It’s not my style to get in the face of a guest,” he said. “I’ll engage in conversation and not have a shouting match.”

These quotes imply Huckabee believes Limbaugh tends to "get in the face of a guest" and leans toward having a "shouting match." I question the context -- while I believe Huckabee said these things about himself and/or talk radio, these quotes may have been inserted here to make the reporter's case that Limbaugh abuses guests and engages in heated arguments. Huckabee, as a conservative and a broadcaster, would presumably know this is not true. First, Limbaugh rarely has guests and, secondly, when a person with an opinion different than his calls the program, Limbaugh is the gentleman. He will debate the individual, raise questions, provide differing comments, but is not rude. Sometimes he may get agitated, but often is careful to say his agitation is at the caller's thoughts, and explains that he is not personally upset with the caller. Again, we don't know the context of Huckabee's statement, but I'm suspicious.

[The story then goes into four paragraphs about the business and logistics aspects of the new Huckabee program.]

Huckabee downplayed any competition with Limbaugh, calling him “the most successful voice in radio by leaps and bounds.” Very relevant comments about the Limbaugh-Huckabee matchup, which is supposed to be what the story is about. But it's buried deep in the text, lest we wade through the story without being told how to think about Limbaugh.

“Rush apologized,” Huckabee said. “He was right to apologize, and he was wrong to have said what he did.” Again, the apology is important information buried deep in the story, along with the next two sentences.

But Huckabee suggested that there was a double standard for judging remarks made by liberal commentators.

“I’m still waiting for Bill Maher and Chris Matthews to apologize for what they’ve said about conservative women,” he said.

[The story then at length conveys the thoughts of Rhode Island radio consultant Holland Cooke about business aspects of the Limbaugh and Huckabee shows].

The question remains whether Huckabee will be able to take advantage of the opportunity created by the Limbaugh controversy.

Cooke called Huckabee an “affable guy” who could succeed on radio nationally.

“Why must talk radio be snarling? Why can’t it be reasonable?” Cooke asked. “I think he’ll do real well.”
Now we're told "talk radio" -- read Rush Limbaugh -- is "snarling." Limbaugh does not snarl. He speaks boldly and with the brilliance of the accomplished lawyers from which he descends. And he is very effective and influential for conservative thought. That’s his crime

Again, I'm not focusing on what Limbaugh said. Elsewhere I've written that it was over the top and silly. But that’s not within the scope of what I’m writing about: media bias.

Of course, like the writer of the story we've looked at, I'm biased, too. It's part of being human. But I'm voicing opinion, not writing what is supposed to be a news story.

And ice cream would probably be at the top of my grocery list.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Politics(?) of Contraception

Recently the Washington County Observer asked that I write about all the furor surrounding the politics of contraception. Here's what I wrote:

On a scale of 0 to 10, the political relevance of recent discussions of contraception is about minus 3.

It's not an issue, but rather is a link to other issues of varied importance.

Some history: at one time access to means of contraception was illegal in the United States. Eventually such laws went away; as a result, contraception is no longer a political issue. But a major religious organization, the Roman Catholic Church, has opposed all means of contraception. Despite the reported practice of contraception by the majority of American -- and probably the developed world's -- Catholics, the church's official doctrinal position is that such behavior is wrong.

That is the church's belief. Whether or not you or I agree with it or whether or not the Catholic laity adheres to it, such belief remains a sincerely held religious conviction protected under the First Amendment.

Comes now the Obama administration to say: "Too bad about your beliefs on contraception, Church, but our secular beliefs on contraception (and about abortion) trump your beliefs. Therefore you WILL pay for the contraception and abortions of your employees, understood?" This coming from guys who oppose the traditional role of religion in a pluralistic society.

That's the most important link regarding contraception to a larger issue: the issue of conscience and religious freedom. And that is a mega-issue with far-reaching consequences. The Bible and American tradition recognize the sanctity of conscience and Barack Obama is trampling it. The President in effect has elevated himself to the office of pope. And his administration threatens all religious beliefs whether Baptist church polity, Amish separatism, Jewish dietary observance, Muslim prayer practices and on and on and on. As Mike Huckabee has said: "We are all Catholics now."

Then there is a lesser issue, the attempt to resurrect the long-abandoned relevance of the legality of contraception and to try to hang it on the presidential campaign of Rick Santorum. Here’s the logic, such as it is: the Catholic Church resists Obama's directives on contraception. Rick Santorum is a devout Catholic. Rick Santorum doesn't believe in contraception. Therefore, Rick Santorum, wants to outlaw contraception!

The horror!

Mr. Santorum, unlike his critics, understands the earlier-mentioned role of religion in a pluralistic society. Nobody with the beliefs attributed to him could have politically made it this far, including serving in the United States Senate.

Finally, there is one more attempt to link contraception to contemporary politics: part of it silly, part of it important. The silly part is the recent testimony of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee that another law student, who is married, cannot afford contraception.


Law students at a highly-rated school unable to buy condoms -- about $1.75 each at Wal-Mart – cheaper online.

But there is an important dimension of Ms. Fluke's testimony: just one more attempt to have fun while someone else pays.

Those are not the politics of contraception. Those are the politics of national financial ruin.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Good Job, EPA. Now Go Away.

I remember the bad old days.

Landing in a city enveloped in nasty, soupy smog swallowing up everything except some tall buildings and radio towers.

Crossing a bridge wondering what color the dye from a paper plant would make the river. Would it be red today? Green? Blue?

Seeing all the dead fish on a Lake Michigan beach.

The stench of the air of a couple of steel mill towns I lived in along the way.

I remember the bad old days.

But people had enough of it, attitudes changed, there was a growing consciousness about the environment. And over about a decade – the 70s basically – the air was cleaned, water pollution was reversed, a lot of the smog went away.

The Environmental Protection Agency did its job.

They won the war on pollution.

But has anybody notified them?

Like a crazed robot, they are doing their work to the extreme: construction companies are required to clean water runoff enough to make it drinkable, farmers apparently are violating EPA rules regarding storage of hay, dust is considered to be a pollutant, the few traces of lead paint dust released in old houses being remodeled must be dealt with to avoid harming children (even if there are no kids around), and there’s a movement to reduce the nation’s power generation capacity by 8 percent.

Yeah, right.

It’s hard to take seriously people who believe that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.

What is driving them?

I see at least four possibilities.

One is that there are people who have really bought the propaganda that we are destroying the earth. They tend to be younger and have no recollection of how far we have come since the bad old days.

Another is that because the war on pollution has been won, we now have nearly 18,000 EPA employees looking for something to do.

And it may get worse.

I just read one figure indicating that the EPA may grow to 30,000 people. Another said they may in the next few years have 230,000 employees.

Imagine that. Nearly a quarter million federal busybodies descending like locusts to strip bare the land of its jobs, prosperity, property rights, and entire way of life.

Another possibility is that the contemporary environmental movement is based upon quasi-religious beliefs about the earth. The earth is a living entity, some believe, and any alteration of it by man represents violation of a religious principle.

A fourth explanation is that some have said that with the fall of the Soviet Union, the environmental movement was the only place besides college campuses where Marxists could thrive (that was before the Obama administration). What better way to destroy evil capitalism than to strangle it with impossibly contradictory rules and regulations? It’s the watermelon concept: Big Environmentalists are green on the outside, red on the inside.

The fact is that the EPA needs to go away. There’s no more use for it -- it won the battle on pollution.

States can enforce pollution laws and when there are interstate environmental issues, they can be settled in federal court.

Otherwise, the EPA will eventually leave us with no more technology than the Amish.

Ah, but the EPA would say the Amish are eco-criminals, too.

Their horses have gas.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The GOP Primary: Whose on First?

I recently received an assignment from the Washington County Observer to comment on the Republican primary. Here's what I wrote:

Whose on first?

Romney? Bachmann? Perry? Cain? Gingrich? Santorum?

What’s been happening?

Just a Republican primary doing what it’s supposed to do: vetting the candidates, finding the one most desired to go up against the incumbent President.

True, it’s been a convoluted one. But that’s due to four forces using the Republican primary race to duke it out.

The first major force is the GOP establishment. Romney’s their guy: a former governor, successful in business, good family, telegenic. Had The West Wing been a conservative show, Mitt Romney would have been cast as President Josiah Bartlet. And while Establishment Republicans like to throw out a lot of conservative language, on their laptops they spell the names of guys like Romney as m-o-d-e-r-a-t-e. Pleasant, respectable, unlikely to scare the horses.

Sort of like Bob Dole with an MBA.

Establishment Republicans tend to fear the second major force: the news media, also known as the Democratic Ministry of Propaganda (DEM-OP). DEM-OP’s role in this fight has been to puff the sainted Democrats and destroy or manipulate Republican contenders or potential contenders. They nuked Sarah Palin, decimated Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich (although Gingrich hasn’t always needed their help), and pushed the Herman Cain implosion. Hard to know what happened with Cain – some say where there’s smoke there’s fire but in his case when the media saw smoke, they brought gasoline.

The third major force is the Tea Party. Not always official Tea Party members, but the conservative grassroots fed up with out-of-touch big government nonsense. While many of their hearts belong to Sarah, they initially split among Bachmann, Perry, and Cain, going to each before DEM-OP derailed those candidates. As the race seemed to narrow to just Romney and Gingrich, I believe many Tea Partiers rallied behind Gingrich because 1) they loved hearing debates with a brilliant Republican talking trash to statism and 2) the deeply-held conviction of ABR (Anybody But Romney).

When the giddiness wore off, Tea Partiers looked behind the rhetoric and realized Gingrich tends to be a statist (but only on days ending with “y”) and one never knew if he as president would be Good Newt or Bad Newt.

Thus the move of Tea Partiers and other grassroots conservatives to Rick Santorum, despite his big government tendencies and his media title of He Who Is Unelectable. At this writing, he leads the polls, more money is coming in, and he is now riding the ABR wave.

Ron Paul represents the fourth force in the primary campaign, and he has attracted some Tea Partiers. I believe Paul himself knows he won’t be nominated, but provides an alternate voice for disaffected conservatives and libertarians. Along with good organizing skills, a remarkable attribute of the Paul campaign has been its ability to attract thousands of young people into politics and to harness their energy. Is this part of the future of right-leaning American politics?

What about me? Whom do I favor?

I’m not saying. Except for this: ABO.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Creek of Consciousness

Wow! I lost 105 pounds overnight! Actually, our new digital scale somehow switched its readout from pounds to kilograms, thus my apparent weight drop. It’s some consolation, I guess, since when we switched from the old mechanical clunker scale to the new digital scale, my weight immediately went up 10 pounds. I think I liked that old lyin’ clunker better.

Ever notice that most calculators do not go up to a billion? How then can they be used for government work?

A thousand people surveyed at the British Travel Show showed fliers preferred pilots with accents reflecting the home counties (what we consider the posh British accent) or Scotland, says the UK’s Daily Telegraph. Irish brogues were nice, but not Cockney accents. Among pilot accents people would most like to fly with are Hugh Grant, Sean Connery and Captain Picard himself, Patrick Stewart.

Planned Parenthood wants schools to start teaching children about the pleasures of sex and that religions stand in the way. No, God’s wisdom stands in the way. After all, it was His idea that sexual development be delayed through childhood.

Which brings about the great theological/biological question: did Adam and Eve have navels? And did the term navel gazing come from such questions? And, no, I do not have too much time on my hands.

Watched a bit of the PBS documentary on Bill Clinton. I had forgotten about Clinton’s amazing skills as a retail politician. Liked columnist John Brummett’s recollection of flying in a small campaign plane that Clinton insisted be landed in fog in Harrison, Arkansas. “This is it,” Brummett said. “I’m gonna die.” And, he lamented, he would be in the last paragraph of Clinton’s obituary.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Congress Shall Make No Law..."

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...

So says the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

"Congress shall make no law..."

It says nothing about the state legislature. The city council. The school board.

Congress shall make no law establishing religion.

What does this mean?

When I was a kid one of the geniuses in my neighborhood proudly proclaimed that the longest word was "antidisestablishmentarianism." While the rest of us bright ones thought it was a cool word to say ("Antidisestablishmentarianism!" "Antidisestablishmentarianism!"), we had no idea what it meant.

But now I know. And some would say I am an antidisestablishmentarian.

I am not.

Establishmentarianism is the concept that there should be a national church. The national government "establishes" that church, recognizes it as the country's official religion, and supports it with taxes. Think Germany and the Lutheran Church; the United Kingdom and the Church of England.

Disestablishmentarians are those wanting to do away with a national church. They developed opponents called "antidisestablishmentarians," who advocated continuation of favored status for the church. And came up with a fun word to say.

These are the issues addressed in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Not state funding for the Growing God's Kingdom Pre-School of West Fork, Arkansas, not threatening of high schools students with jail if they say the word "Jesus" at graduation, not the need to cover the statues when the President speaks in a church.

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment says Congress should be antiestablishmentarian, meaning: the United States of America will not have a national church. Nothing more. And the antiestablishment idea is limited only to the United States Congress. At the 1787 adoption of the Constitution about half the states had established churches, including the Congregational Church in Connecticut and the Episcopal Church in Georgia. Despite adoption and ratification of the Constitution, the states remained free to have their established churches. Wisely, over time the states disestablished them, although Massachusetts did not cut loose of the Congregational Church until as late as 1833.

But what about the famous Thomas Jefferson phrase "separation of church and state?" Firstly, it is not in the Constitution; secondly it is contained in a letter Jefferson wrote to a group of Connecticut Baptists. Jefferson in the letter is praising the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, meaning Jefferson was underscoring his position as an antiestablishmentarian, a position strongly shared by Baptists. And yet, antiestablishmentarian Jefferson had no qualms about attending worship services regularly held at the then-unfinished United States Capitol building. Because the use of federal facilities had nothing to do with establishmentarianism.

Why all this treatise on establishmentarianism, disestablishmentarianism, antidisestablishmentarianism? Because these big old words are important. And lack of knowledge of the concepts behind them results in things like a quote in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette regarding the First Amendment. The quote is from the Arkansas Department of Human Services which claims the First Amendment "prohibits any state or federal law respecting an establishment of religion..."

Wrong. The First Amendment says nothing -- nothing -- about state establishment of religion.

The problem is that about sixty years ago courts began applying that concept to states. And it was more than the concept of disestablishmentarianism. It grew to the concept of separation of church and state to the point of making government activities antiseptically divorced from the slightest whiff of religion.

Pretty hard to do in the most religious of the developed countries.

Thus our current convolutions over church and state.

That's what happens when courts ignore the clear language of the Constitution. And this is only one area of judicial mischief. But that's for another day.

One more thing. To the kids in the old neighborhood where I grew up:


Some words are just cool.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Glass Half Empty? The Glass Half Full?

Here is a column I currently have in the Washington County Observer:

One can view the health of America as the glass half empty or the glass half full.

The glass half empty is that America’s role on the world stage is over.

Consider the venality of our leaders in politics, media, and business; the unbridled hedonism of consumers; the ignorance of the bread-and-circuses masses; a Republican President saying we needed to destroy capitalism to save it; the mistaking of the last presidential election for an episode of American Idol.

The can-do American spirit is declining, we think. The America that provided moral, economic, and military leadership for decades is collapsing in its own obese self-centered success.

Many in the world are becoming afraid, thinking “If America declines, what happens to us? Who protects us from the growing strength of China? Or the stifling repression of jihad?”

Mindless bureaucracies running our schools are assaulting our children for the most minor infractions in the name of “zero tolerance.” The same absurdities are strangling businesses, meeting us as we board airplanes, dictating to us what to eat or what kind of light bulbs to buy, prohibiting our home Bible studies.

To which fattened politicians only respond: “Give us more money. We need more money! Give us more, you selfish ingrates, you! It’s for the children (and our pay, pensions, lives above the law, perks, plush buildings, limousines, etc., etc.)”

The glass half empty.

But I’d rather examine the glass half full. Because we’ve been down much of this road before. And it was turned around.

In the late 1970s, the economy was bad, gas prices had tripled in six years, interest rates were usurious, Iran held our embassy workers hostage, economists scratched their heads over the contradictions of stagflation, and our president, Jimmy Carter, basically told us to expect less, dampen our hopes, and accept decline.

But the people refused. In 1980 they elected a president whose policies jump-started nearly a quarter century of sustained prosperity and general optimism.

More than his conservative ideology, his strength, his intuitive feel for leadership or his self-deprecating humor, Ronald Reagan knew how to harness a powerful force: the people of America. Away with pessimism, Reagan said, speaking of a city shining on a hill, calling forth the real nature – the optimistic nature -- of the American people.

Reagan is dead. But America – with its ideal – is not.

I call it the American DNA and I see it everywhere.

It’s in the great young people I teach on my college campus. It’s in the sterling courage and sense of duty among those I meet in our military (where did we find such people?).

It’s in the rookie political activists I come in contact with – people who recently have altered their lifestyles by running for office, working in campaigns, organizing grassroots activities, speaking in public, giving up their privacy.

It’s in the industrious, creative people who get up every morning and make things happen in spite of their leaders.

The DNA of America.

It’s the glass half full.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Onto Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Required

In his recent speech to the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama quoted the words of Jesus in Luke 12:48 that unto whom much is given, much is required.

The President emphasized the responsibility of those who are materially blessed to take care of those in need. And Mr. Obama is correct: the New Testament clearly commands those who are rich to share what they have.

Indeed, in his telling of Christians at Ephesus to not steal but to work, the Apostle Paul says the proceeds of that work will allow the individual to give to those in need. And Paul writes to his disciple, Timothy, about wealth distribution. Timothy, Paul says, is to charge the wealthy to “do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate” [in the context of money].

So the President has it right -- the Bible teaches that the rich are to give of their goods to the poor.

Except for one thing.

Mr. Obama made his statement in reference to increasing taxes. And there is no virtue in government forcefully taking wealth to help the poor.

No virtue. None.

An overriding principle of biblical giving is that it should be voluntary. Always. Voluntary giving is virtuous -- Paul wrote to the Corinthians of the incredible personal benefit it was to them because they were providing for those in need, doing it willingly, not out of a sense of obligation. Even in his calls for “equality” of goods among believers (“your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want”), an overriding thrust was that of giving freely and willingly.

Some might say the concept of willful giving is negated by the New Testament account of Ananias and Sapphira whom God struck dead because they did not pool all their possessions with others in the church. Careful reading of the story indicates they were judged not because they held money back, but because they lied about it.

Taxes may be a form of “giving,” but they are not about willingness. They are founded on force.
In the Old Testament, God outlined to the prophet Samuel the incredible burdens of taxation and obligation that a centralized monarchial system would bring to Israel. God’s view on taxation did not reflect a concept of virtue (although Jesus did say there was an obligation to pay taxes).

Using taxation for aiding the poor corrodes our individual and national character in several ways: 1) it represents a forced burden, thus a resentment, that can sometimes spill over into our attitudes regarding the poor; 2) it places a governmental layer between us and our personal obligation to people (“Why should I help that guy – there’s a government program to take care of him!”); 3) it lessens the resources we have to give to people, 4) it institutionalizes social programs in far-off state and federal capitals, putting them out of sight and out of mind 5) it creates self-serving government bureaucracies concerned more about their own perpetuation than their mission, 6) it creates too-large programs unable to address specific situations of people in need, and 7) it corrupts politicians and others seeking votes and patronage through government largess.

The argument can be made that without government programs, people would be sick, hungry, and homeless. I say just the opposite: despite decades of extensive government effort, people are still sick, hungry, and homeless. Big government poverty programs don’t work. And for the corrosive reasons I mentioned above, individuals, churches, and civic organizations are not always meeting their full potential to intervene.

There’s more to say on it, but not today.

Meanwhile, like so many attempts to present biblical precepts that eventually result in problems, President Obama at the prayer breakfast got it only partially right.

The problem is in the taxes.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Finally, Somebody Else Taking a Stand...

Recently I wrote how glad I was people involved with the internet were standing up against the federal government's ill-advised Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).

Now another entity -- the Catholic Church -- is showing some backbone.

I'm told Catholic bishops have addressed all U. S. parishes regarding the federal government's demand that Catholic hospitals and other agencies fund abortion and contraceptives in their health care policies.

The new federal policy begins in a year; Catholics have twelve months to get their consciences in order.

The bishops say no.

Good for them.

Whatever one believes about abortion or contraception is not as relevant to this issue as is the question of conscience. Beginning with the First Amendment, we as a nation have respected conscience.

Over time, we made exemptions for people like the Amish regarding school attendance and military service; indeed, in the era of the military draft we allowed for alternative service for conscientous objectors.

Conscience, we knew, was sacred. It was a major component of the essence of the individual.

Respecting it has been basic to being American.

Even in the secular realm, we have respected conscience. Advertising agency executives, for instance, could decline to work on a specific account -- for tobacco, for instance, or a specific politician -- if they could not do so in good conscience. Of course, abstain from too many accounts and an executive would be invited to work elsewhere. But at least there has been a provision for respecting that person's conscience.

In journalism, reporters writing stories could, for whatever reason (maybe they opposed how their story had been edited), ask that their bylines be omitted from the story. In other words, they would do their job, but not sign their names to it.


It is important.

But now we're told the Catholic Church must adjust its beliefs to fit the ideas of Those Who Know Best.

And they're saying no.


I'm with them on this.

For conscience' sake.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

SOPA -- Just Say No.

In 1980 Alvin Toffler in his classic book The Third Wave predicted that the coming digital age would radically alter the world as did the industrial revolution. While Toffler at the time did not know the word “internet,” he predicted with amazing accuracy how networked computers would change our lives by the year 2000.

That digital change has smashed the business models of travel agencies, movie studios, record producers, the post office, newspapers, photography (imagine, Kodak bankrupt), and telecommunications. Despite the technical progress, legal concepts of intellectual property now lag. They are in an era of big media corporations used to being protected by barriers to entry like locomotive-sized printing presses, broadcast towers reaching a third of a mile into the sky, multimillion dollar production equipment, and century old concepts of distribution systems.

But it’s all changing.


Now a 14-year-old in his bedroom can operate an electronic newspaper, a television and radio station, an editing suite for his garage band or movie production, and a retailing company. Or he can run it all out of his backpack or back pocket -- even Toffler failed to foresee tablets and smart phones (neither did Star Trek, for that matter).

But the legacy media are fighting back.

Threatened by cheap technology and the obsolescence of a distribution system going back to the sales of sheet music, record labels launched lawsuits on their customers. People just want to steal our product, they cried. Not entirely true, as Steve Jobs demonstrated with iTunes, which had seven-figure sales its very first week. Jobs knew most people are willing to pay for a product when it is marketed using contemporary technology.

Then there was the notorious Righthaven, a Las Vegas law firm that would sue individuals posting online articles from Righthaven’s client newspapers. No warning, no takedown notice, just a lawsuit for $75,000 and perhaps confiscation of your domain name. And then Righthaven would be willing to settle for a few thousand dollars. Righthaven’s founder bragged that it was a great business plan – go to court or settle, he couldn’t lose. But he did when a federal court revealed Righthaven was in a partnership with a newspaper publisher and was not entitled to file copyright suits. But perhaps Righthaven is an extreme case – it was not about copyright protection; it was about legal extortion or what Wired magazine called “copyright trolling.”

Which brings us to something more ominous than a rogue law firm or tone deaf record companies (no pun intended) suing the customers -- the proposed federal Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and companion Protect IP Act (PIPA). The basic thrust of SOPA is that internet providers like Google or YouTube will become civilly or criminally liable for posting material that violates copyright.

Copyright protection is important. And copyright holders should have the right to go after those infringing upon those copyrights. No argument there. But holding internet providers liable will destroy the basic function of the internet – free exchange of information. With the millions of pieces of information moving around the net, there is no way internet service providers can police it all for copyright infringement.

Internet service providers, like transportation companies and utilities, are common carriers. They are open to all who desire their services and they cannot be held liable for unknowingly allowing criminal activity to flourish through their services.

For example, if an escaping convict buys a bus ticket, the bus company – if it does not know the person is an escapee -- must provide transportation. It cannot be held liable for aiding in an escape. It would be ludicrous for the bus company to do criminal background checks on every passenger wanting to ride (Shhhh – don’t give the Transportation Security Administration any ideas).

If a person has a house and seeks electric or gas service, the common carrier utilities must provide it, assuming bills are paid. The utilities are not liable if a person uses the house to run a meth lab because under normal circumstances they could not know. (Although Homeland Security is seeking a change: “If you see something, say something” they whisper to the electric meter reader).

At this writing, members of Congress are backing off their support of SOPA. Constituents are complaining and when thousands of web sites went dark on January 18 it presumably got the message across. But that did not stop the U. S. Justice Department on January 20 from announcing criminal indictments against people involved in the Megaupload file sharing site and shutting down the site. Which raises the question: if the feds can already make such a move (and have people in New Zealand and other countires arrested for alleged piracy), who needs SOPA? And is all this criminal activity? As Megaupload defense attorney Ira Rothkin said: “It’s a civil case in disguise.”

There needs to be copyright protection. We have courts for that. If I post a Disney short online, Disney can come after me. But leave YouTube out of it. And, of course, there are already laws on the books regarding libel, terroristic threatening, pornography, etc. They can be applied to the internet with perhaps some minimal – minimal! – tinkering to adjust to technological realities.

Besides legacy media calling for extreme steps in copyright protection, there are also two possible back stories regarding SOPA. One is that it’s all about control. Governments hate – hate! – the freewheeling communication offered by the internet. Threats of copyright-related indictments will slow down the exchange of free information. That makes big government happy.

The other possible back story of SOPA is the opportunity for lots of litigation. With so many lawyers in Congress, litigation is a language they readily understand. Perhaps the bill shouldn’t be called SOPA, but “FEFLA:” the Full Employment for Lawyers Act. Lots of money to be made holding deep pocket internet service providers like Google liable.

A positive thing about the SOPA issue was how internet providers responded. Some shut down for a day. It was not enough to disrupt things, but it caused some inconvenience and got the message across.

Finally, businesses decided to stand up to the increasing control of the federal government. It’s about time.

Farmers, oil companies, and truckers are you paying attention?