Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Evangelicals face a difficult but clear choice on Nov. 8th

Of all of us are struggling with the difficult task of selecting from four candidates for President of the United States, with the two leading candidates having shown themselves to be highly flawed. But perhaps evangelical Christians have the most difficult task.

Since NBC “Today” co-host Billy Bush released the 11 year-old recording of vulgar “locker-room” banter between himself and Donald Trump, and since the recent accusations of Trump making inappropriate sexual advances to several women years ago, Christian’s face the question of how to react to the moral infractions that have been shown, and alleged.

Andy Crouch, the executive editor of Christianity Today magazine, expressed the general displeasure of evangelical leaders to these things, writing, “Indeed, there is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the ‘earthly nature’ … that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: ‘sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry’ (3:5). This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump’s life to date. Idolatry, greed, and sexual immorality are intertwined in individual lives and whole societies.”

Those who have been around for more than a few years remember a similar situation involving President Bill Clinton and then-First Lady, and now presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton from the mid-1990s. In both cases religious folks had plenty to object to on moral grounds.

Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives, not for his immoral conduct, but for lying about it under oath to a federal grand jury. Despite this, Clinton was able to finish his second term as President.

While nearly everyone agrees that such conduct is wrong, not everyone agrees on how important these kinds of things are in terms of whether they should disqualify someone from becoming or remaining President of the United States. It obviously was not considered important enough to remove Bill Clinton from office.

But that was then and this is now, and today Christians and Christian activities are being criticized as never before. A faction of the public wants to ban public Christmas scenes, and to malign religious institutions in general.

Donald Trump’s political enemies think evangelicals must focus on the she-said/he-said of the recent allegations of inappropriate sexual advances on women, and believe that if these allegations are true he should be disqualified from the presidency.

However, many or most evangelical Republican leaders are sticking with Trump, saying that despite his lewd comments there is no other real option for them. They generally say they will not abandon Trump, as quite a few Republicans in Congress have already done.

“It’s not like this is new,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “That’s why I aggressively supported another candidate in the primary, Ted Cruz, who I share values with. But we only have a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump now.” And Franklin Graham conceded that while Trump’s comments on the recording are troubling, they are not sufficient to abandon him, and that the “godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton likewise cannot be defended.”

Evangelicals face criticism for not walking away from Trump and his immoral behavior, but they realize that one of the two flawed candidates will win the election, and they must support the one that has the best plan for the country and the most favorable view of the place of religion in their lives. Trump may fail the first test, but he passes with flying colors on the second one.

American Values President Gary Bauer believes that if Hillary Clinton becomes president, religious schools will be forced to do things that are against their religious principles; she will appoint liberal justices to the Supreme Court; religious displays in the public square will face bans; and Clinton has expressed hostility for Second Amendment rights. Donald Trump takes the appropriate view of these things.

“A Christian who cannot see the difference between a candidate who has sinned and yet promises good policies, and a candidate who has sinned and promises bad policies,” he wrote, “has been failed along the way — either by our educational system, our political leaders or our faith leaders.”

“And, he wrote, “voters should do everything they can to make sure Crooked Hillary never steps foot in the Oval Office!”

Basically, most evangelical leaders seem to offer this rationale: We are not voting to fill a vacancy among the Seven Archangels; we are voting for the President of the United States. They realize that Trump’s views on the Supreme Court, the flawed tax system, the dangerously high National Debt and deficit spending; the severely weakened military; our weakened relations with foreign nations; the stagnant economy and lack of good jobs; the immigration problems; and liberal attacks on guaranteed rights are the most important considerations in who to vote for in this election.

Christian leaders are displeased with Trump’s actions, but recognize that as imperfect as he may be as a human being, he is a vastly better choice for President of the United States for them than Hillary Clinton, who will win the election if more people abandon Trump for morality reasons.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What's really important in this election

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Almost everyone agrees that this is the most unusual election in his or her lifetime. We have two major party candidates with the highest disapproval ratings that anyone can remember. And each candidate’s supporters ignore the negatives and continue to support the candidate.

Democrat Hillary Clinton comes from decades in the political sphere as the wife of a governor, the wife of a president, a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. Republican Donald Trump comes from decades in the private sector as a businessman and entertainment show producer, having first entered political life for the 2015 Republican primary.

Both have a long list of negatives their political enemies hope will disqualify them in the eyes of voters. However, there are important differences between them.

It wasn’t Donald Trump who for personal convenience as Secretary of State flaunted the rules and established procedures, taking the unprecedented step of evading the official secure government email system in favor of a private email server for government business, including classified information, then had the server scrubbed, destroying thousands of messages that were not only government property, but evidence, and then couldn’t provide a credible excuse for any of that.

It wasn’t Donald Trump whose possible-criminal situation caused untold irregularities in the operation of the State Department, the FBI and the Justice Department, including a “chance” meeting on an airport tarmac between the Secretary of State’s husband and the Attorney General of the United States, putting dozens of public servants in the position to destroy their credibility and trustworthiness to save Secretary of State’s backside.

It wasn’t Donald Trump whose vast experience in government in the U.S. Senate and the State Department resulted in neglecting dozens of requests for increased security prior to the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya resulting in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other brave Americans, and then tried blame a clear terrorist attack on an obscure Internet video, resulting in jailing the video’s producer.

And it wasn’t Donald Trump whose frequent profanity-laced tirades insulted and denigrated Secret Service agents and White House staffers.

But that was a long time ago, and since all of that was a long time ago, it probably isn’t relevant that it also wasn’t Donald Trump who worked for the Congressional committee investigating the Watergate cover-up many years ago, and was fired for lying.

But it was Donald Trump who took some money from his father, invested it in business and created hotels, casinos, golf courses and television shows. Some of his creations didn’t work out, as is not uncommon in the world of business. Luminaries such as Henry Ford, Walt Disney, F.W. Woolworth, Albert Einstein, and Bill Gates also sometimes failed. The best major league hitters fail to get a hit six or seven out of ten times.

It was Donald Trump who claimed business losses of nearly a billion dollars on tax returns many years ago, cancelling an equal amount of income over several years, using provisions in the tax code to reduce taxable income, just as most every American that pays taxes does, through deductions for such things as dependents, mortgage interest and charitable giving.

For taking legal tax deductions Trump has attracted mountains of criticism from his betters, who somehow twist this into meaning he doesn’t care about the country, or the military and dozens of other things. But the hundreds or thousands of people that work in his businesses do pay taxes, and that is significant.

And, yes, it was Donald Trump who managed to anger his primary opponents and many Americans with his petulant personal attacks of those who opposed and challenged him. His far-from-perfect manner leaves much to be desired, and his locker room vulgarity, spoken in private 11 years ago, really got people fired up. But if some rapper had used those same words as lyrics, it’d be #1 on Billboard.

Apparently, it’s a more serious offense to say things that offend someone than to put national interests at risk, to lose $6 billion of State Department funds and generally fail to competently run the agency you’ve been entrusted to run, and make millions giving $250,000 secret-content speeches to Wall Street banks that you publicly criticize. By virtue of merely having been elected a U.S. Senator and appointed as a cabinet secretary, you are thus qualified to be president, even if the best you did in those positions was inconsequential or harmful.

Strangely, people are more offended by Trump’s words than Hillary Clinton’s vicious attacks on her hubby’s numerous sexual victims and conquests, her position on coal mining and the Supreme Court, and her comments supporting open borders, spoken in a private $250,000 speech.

What Trump said that hurt someone’s feelings or shocked their sensibilities is worse to many than that Clinton put personal convenience ahead of national security and failed to protect State Department personnel who were in harms way.

Voters must put their hurt feelings aside, adjust their perspective and focus on the serious issues confronting the next president. They must understand that Clinton’s hubris already put national security at risk, and she will continue Obama’s dangerous, destructive, and unconstitutional policies.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Obama’s new attempt to kill fossil fuels hits legal resistance

After the U.S. Supreme Court stayed implementation of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) on February 9, pending judicial review, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia has begun hearings to resolve the issue. The CPP is the next step by the Obama administration to impose dire restrictions on burning fossil fuels to save the world from supposed climate change from carbon emissions.

The EPA explains the regulation: “On August 3, 2015, President Obama and EPA announced the Clean Power Plan – a historic and important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants that takes real action on climate change. Shaped by years of unprecedented outreach and public engagement, the final Clean Power Plan is fair, flexible and designed to strengthen the fast-growing trend toward cleaner and lower-polluting American energy. With strong but achievable standards for power plants, and customized goals for states to cut the carbon pollution that is driving climate change, the Clean Power Plan provides national consistency, accountability and a level playing field while reflecting each state’s energy mix. It also shows the world that the United States is committed to leading global efforts to address climate change.”

Twenty-seven states and a group of private companies and trade associations have challenged the CPP, however. The regulation seeks to cut carbon dioxide emissions in the energy industry by over 30 percent and nationalize the country’s electric power grid, according to The Daily Signal. The regulation, which runs to 1,500 pages, gives the federal government authority over how states use their natural resources.

There are significant problems with the CPP. It is another example of what is effectively the executive branch making law, a function plainly reserved for the legislative branch by the U.S. Constitution. However, Congress has frequently abdicated this responsibility, and effectively and unconstitutionally transferred it to the executive branch. The CPP also breaches the 10th Amendment protections of the states against improper encroachment by the federal government, and it was this aspect of the CPP that prompted the Supreme Court to call a timeout, according to The Daily Signal.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is challenging the rule on 10th Amendment grounds in State of West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, said after the court session that the way EPA set its goals is key to the case. The Daily Signal notes that “the Clean Power Plan seeks to reverse what may be natural climate fluctuation at the cost of creating power blackouts, higher energy costs, job losses in the energy sector, and price spikes throughout the nation’s economy, including for necessities such as food and water.”

The Heritage Foundation predicts the following effects of the CPP:
·      An average annual employment shortfall of nearly 300,000 jobs;
·      A peak employment shortfall of more than 1 million jobs;
·      A loss of more than $2.5 trillion (inflation-adjusted) in aggregate GDP; and
·      A total income loss of more than $7,000 (inflation-adjusted) per person.

And for what great and noble end would the EPA impose this misery on the nation?

Heritage cites climatologists Paul Knappenberger and Patrick Michaels, who used the “Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Induced Climate Change” developed with support from the EPA, and estimate that the climate regulations will reduce warming by a meager –0.018 degree Celsius (C) by 2100.

Oral arguments began last Wednesday, and Scientific American magazine reports that both sides in the case thought the EPA arguments had the edge in the nearly seven-hour court session that involved 10 of the Circuit’s 11 judges, rather than just the normal three-judge panel. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland recused himself from the proceedings.

“The most contentious questions focused on a big issue: how the regulation set state-specific carbon levels for power plants,” the magazine noted. “Rather than looking at what individual coal plants could do to limit greenhouse gas emissions, EPA assumed the industry as a whole could accelerate a trend away from coal and toward cleaner natural gas and renewable power.”

The EPA’s arguments predictably did not sit well with the CPP’s challengers. Lawyers representing the 27 states and the private companies allied with them “argued that EPA overstepped its authority under the Clean Air Act, moving into Congress’ turf and violating a separation of powers.”

George W. Bush appointee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, said that while curbing greenhouse gas emissions is a “laudable” goal, “global warming isn’t a blank check” for the administration. “I understand the frustration with Congress,” he said, but the rule is “fundamentally transforming an industry.” The executive branch does not have that authority.

The outcome is definitely uncertain, with judges expressing both support and opposition to the CPP. A decision from the D.C. Circuit might not come until early next year, and the Supreme Court’s final action might be delayed until 2018.

The administration’s manic, emotional and weak theory about carbon emissions threatening life as we know it brought forth this question from authors Stephen Moore and Kathleen Hartnett White in their excellent new book, Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy: “How can carbon be a weapon of mass destruction and the basis of all known life” at the same time, they asked?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Elections are too important to allow voting system insecurities

With the presidential election just weeks away, some Americans still are concerned about the security of the election process. But don’t worry; America’s always-reliable news media assure us that those concerns are unfounded.

To wit:
~ “No, voter fraud actually isn’t a persistent problem,” says The Washington Post online.
~ “Study Finds No Evidence of Widespread Voter Fraud,” states NBC News.
~ “Republicans’ ‘voter fraud’ false flag: Voter ID laws offer imaginary solutions to imaginary problems,” blares a headline.

A great deal of contrary evidence exists, however, some new, some not so new. In 2012 the ACORN voter registration scandal involved Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck turning up on registration forms in Nevada. And, one of the most ridiculous examples of voting irregularity occurred in Washington, DC, in the shadow of the Justice Department where an undercover reporter recorded himself giving his name as Eric Holder, who at the time was the U.S. Attorney General, and being offered a ballot without showing an ID or being questioned about his identity.

The Pew Center on the States found nearly 2 million dead Americans still on the books as active voters; that 2.7 million people were registered in more than one state; and 12 million voter records had incorrect addresses or other discrepancies. All of these are potential fraud opportunities.

The Daily Signal reported on a 2014 Old Dominion University study looking into noncitizen voting and found that “6.4 percent of all noncitizens voted in the 2008 election and 2.2 percent voted in the 2010 midterm elections,” and suggested that this likely helped Democrat Al Franken defeat Republican Norm Coleman by 312 votes for a U.S. Senate seat from Minnesota in 2008.

The group Minnesota Majority investigated claims of voter fraud, comparing criminal records with voter rolls and found 1,099 felons who had voted illegally in that election. National Review reported: “Prosecutors were ultimately able to convict only those who were dumb enough to admit they had knowingly broken the law, and that added up to 177 fraudulent voters. Nine out of ten suspect felon voters contacted by a Minneapolis TV station said they had voted for Franken.” Since Franken’s margin of “victory” was 312, subtracting the 177 admitted fraudulent ballots could not overturn the result.

New York City’s Department of Investigation sent out 63 under-cover investigators posing either as dead people or people who no longer lived in the city. Of those, 61 were cleared to vote. Confronted with this evidence, the City Council decided not to demand accountability from the Board of Elections, but to prosecute the investigators for impersonating voters, according to National Review columnist John Fund.

Just this month CBS4 in Denver reported on an investigation that found numerous examples of dead people voting and other irregularities. It said a Colorado Congressional race was decided by just 121 votes, and an Ohio tax measure was decided by just two votes.

There simply is no question that fraud exists in elections at all levels, and as previously shown, it is significant enough to affect election outcomes.

Despite these and other “irregularities,” certain factions continue to oppose efforts to clean up the problems in all levels of the election system. And state efforts to impose voter ID requirements, one of the best ways to validate potential voters at the polling place, is perhaps the idea that draws the most vociferous opposition.

Opponents of voter ID and other sensible requirements often fall back on the argument that voting is a right for all citizens of legal age, and therefore it ought to be easy to vote, and they claim that requiring a photo ID to vote places a hardship on some citizens.

This argument is defeated by reality: The Washington Examiner listed 24 routine things requiring photo IDs, such as to: buy alcohol and cigarettes, apply for Medicaid/Social Security, purchase a gun, get married, apply for a job or unemployment, drive/buy/rent a car, adopt a pet, visit a casino, hold a rally or protest, buy an "M" rated video game, buy a cell phone, or apply for food stamps and welfare.

But, if failing to require provisions to make the system more secure makes voting easier, that ought to set off warnings, because while it may be easier for legal voters to vote, it also makes it easier for ineligible persons to vote.
One might think that since voting is a critical right, all Americans would want that right protected from infringement by non-legal voters.

Certainly, the U.S. Supreme Court subscribes to this idea, The Court commented on the need for secure elections in United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299 at 329 (1941): “Free and honest elections are the very foundation of our republican form of government. Hence any attempt to defile the sanctity of the ballot cannot be viewed with equanimity,” wrote Justice William O. Douglas.

Rhetorical question: Why would any good and honest American oppose efforts to assure that only legal voters are registered to vote and able to cast a ballot in any and every election?

The obvious answer is that an unsecure election process enables cheating for nefarious political reasons.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

After eight years, Obama’s Energy Secretary visits West Virginia

Those who lived in or near the southern West Virginia and/or southwest Virginia coalfields during the peak of the coal business in the 50s and 60s know that state and local economies thrived because of the tens of thousands of people employed by mining companies and the dozens of companies that supported the industry.

Bluefield, WV’s Norfolk and Western Railway yard was always filled with coal cars, many of them full of the world’s most widely used fossil fuel, that were bound for Norfolk, VA’s port, or ready to be unloaded into trucks for delivery. The rest were empty, heading back into the coalfields to be refilled and brought back for distribution.

They remember the bustling downtown that was the financial, shopping and recreational center of the region’s coalfields, and Bluefield’s population of well over 20,000 residents during the time of peak coal. These are valued memories of the good times.

Today’s population is half that size, and the rail yard is often empty. To those who have seen first-hand the decline of the industry and its effects on local communities, the industry’s decline is a very real and painful thing.

The decline began with natural technological advances, as mechanization gradually began putting hundreds of miners out of work. Over time other forces developed, affecting the industry, including the very recent rise of cheap natural gas. Through all of that, there was always a market for coal.

But the federal government’s assault on coal through excessive environmental regulation, spurred by the hotly debated idea that burning coal pours too much carbon dioxide – a gas essential for life on Earth – into the atmosphere, is the greatest problem. President Barack Obama put this attack into high gear. However, today our air is cleaner than it’s been for 100 years, mostly through evolving technological improvements.

Cloistered away in their comfortable offices in Washington, DC, our public servants frequently have no idea what life is like for those toiling away to pay the taxes that fund their salaries. Perhaps if they got out of Washington more, they would understand the problems they create for the people they serve.

This may be the case with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who at the invitation of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., finally visited the state after many invitations over the eight painful years of the Obama administration. But while in the state last week, Moniz suggested there is no war on coal, arguing to the contrary that the Obama administration is working to keep coal as an important part of a low-carbon energy future. He also said that cheap natural gas prices are primarily responsible for coal’s downturn.

The absurd idea that there is no “War on Coal” today would be hilarious, if the reality wasn’t so tragic, and the suggestion that the very recent drop in natural gas prices is the principal reason for coal’s decline is simply false.

This general situation was foretold by Barack Obama back in the 2008 campaign: “So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can — it’s just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted,” Obama declared.

Assuming that Moniz has the capacity to recognize the misery the administration for which he works has caused for this region, or really cares about the people affected by its policies, visiting West Virginia much earlier in the administration’s tenure might have made some difference.

Hillary Clinton is on that same path. While campaigning in Ohio earlier this year, she said, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Trying to make that sound better, she said she favored funding to retrain those put out of work, but she didn’t say what kind of jobs and how many of them are currently waiting for trained workers.

Not long thereafter, while campaigning in West Virginia, she was asked about that comment by a tearful out-of-work coal miner, to which she responded that what she meant was that coal job losses will continue, according to the Daily Caller. See the difference?

Obama’s energy policy is like putting a square peg in a round hole. If you want to put a square peg in a round hole, take some time and think it through: You should gradually and gently reshape the square peg so it will comfortably and appropriately fit into the round hole. Obama’s method is to place the peg on top of the hole and beat it with a hammer until enough of the corners are destroyed so that the peg will go into the hole. And even then, it is a poor fit.

Just as horse-drawn wagons and carriages gave way to motorized vehicles when they came to be, coal’s role as a primary fuel would have changed as better methods evolved. Such a process would have been not only more humane and less destructive, but infinitely smarter than what has transpired.

Through the centuries humans solved life’s problems and improved their lives through applied intelligence. Somehow, they managed to do this without Barack Obama and the EPA.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The wildly outrageous costs of pharmaceutical drug production

Drug companies – “Big Pharma,” as they are called – are targets in America. Especially with Mylan’s recent EpiPen pricing issue and earlier when Turing’s odious CEO Martin Shkreli raised the price of Daraprim by more than 55 times, from $13.50 per pill to $750 per, and his smug reaction to criticism over that questionable move. There are bad guys in all areas of life, of course, and pharmaceutical companies are no exception. Perhaps these two examples are evidence of bad players at work.

Without getting into the minutiae of either of these situations – and certainly not defending either Mylan or Turing – here is some badly needed and eye-opening information about the business of producing pharmaceuticals.

Making drugs is a business, and like other manufacturers drug producers find something people need or want and produce it. Life-saving drugs, or drugs that improve our health are valuable and needed. Drug companies spend billions of dollars over many years to develop useful, needed pharmaceutical products, improve them so that they will meet or surpass the FDA’s strict standards, and once approved market them.

In June of this year, the American Action Forum released research addressing the process of producing new drugs. The process “is extraordinarily expensive and time consuming,” the article stated. “A Tufts University study found that the average cost to bring just one drug to the market is about $2.6 billion. It takes an average of 15 years from the time a drug developer first begins testing a new formula until it is approved by the FDA. Only 1 in 1,000 drug formulas will ever enter pre-clinical testing, and of those, roughly 8 percent will ultimately receive FDA approval.”

Let’s say PharmX creates 100,000 drug formulas, but only one in a thousand, or 100 of them, gets to pre-clinical testing and only eight will receive FDA approval. PharmX will have invested on average $2.6 billion in each one of the eight. The company has to sell enough of each of those eight drugs to pay for its development, and to have enough left over to finance new research and development, and some profit.

Like other inventors, drug companies patent their products, or receive an exclusivity period. A patent is issued for 20 years from the date of filing, and drug makers usually file early in the development stage to prevent other companies from moving in on their idea. If it takes an average of 15 years to get a drug through approval and to market, the pharmaceutical company has on average only five years to sell enough of the drug to recoup the $2.6 billion in development, approval and marketing costs. At the end of the patent period and/or the exclusivity period, another drug maker might make a generic form of the drug, and sell it for a lot less.

So, when you do the math for a drug with development costs of $2.6 billion, you find that if PharmX charges a dollar a dose, it will have to sell 2.6 billion doses in five years just to break even. If PharmX charges $100 a dose, it will have to sell 26 million doses in five years, just to break even. John LaMattina, senior partner at PureTech venture capital, noted that drug development “is a high-risk, expensive, and long-term endeavor.” Classic understatement.

Another aspect of this issue is when drugs made by US companies cost more at home than they do in other countries, such as Canada. It doesn’t seem right that Canadians can buy American drugs cheaper than Americans can. But what is the drug company supposed to do when the Canadian government, or another government, wants to buy millions of dollars of its product at lower than market price when it is trying to recoup billions in costs? There are likely other drugs made by other companies that treat the same disease that these governments could buy instead, so should the drug company pass up that opportunity, leave the millions of dollars on the table, and perhaps suffer financially as a result, while a competitor sells millions of dollars of its product to these countries at a below-market price?

Another obstacle to manufacturers’ ability to recoup the cost of bringing a new drug to market is that regulations imposed by other countries, perhaps to protect one of their own companies, makes the potential market for sales smaller.

And, despite the rigorous development and testing process required to gain the FDA’s approval that the drug is safe for public use, the required warnings about potential side effects and such that go on product sheets, and the fact that drugs are prescribed by patient’s doctors, drug manufacturers still get sued by patients.

Doing business in the U.S. is a real challenge, with often burdensome and unreasonable regulations and other hurdles that must be negotiated that make producing needed and wanted products and services difficult and expensive.

The more expensive drug production is, the greater the need for high prices. While we would all like lower prices for drugs and healthcare in general, we also want to continue to have companies developing new and better drugs and medical devices.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Federal welfare programs give freely and demand little

Americans, it is said, are the most generous people in the world. We give to our friends and neighbors and fellow countrymen when they need help, of course, but we also help those who live thousands of miles away in other countries.

We are quick to provide a “hand up” to Americans in need, to help them over rough spots and get them back on their feet so that they can then take care of themselves. There are those who for various reasons are unable to help themselves, and we don’t mind continuing to provide assistance for them.

The hand up is sometimes called a “safety net,” a device to save those truly in need from falling into despair. But for many the safety net has turned into a hammock, no longer a device to help out in an emergency or time of trouble, but an easy way of life for those who would rather let others provide for them than provide for themselves.

This is sometimes a matter of availing themselves of a good opportunity, while at other times it is a matter of culture: Far too many Americans have been taught through actual experience that it is not so difficult to live off the government and charitable interests.

A friend taught a class in the 80s in a junior high school whose student body had a not-so-good reputation for academic achievement. He told the story about his first six-week grading period, using a grading system that was designed to reward honest effort as much as a grasp of the subject matter to get a passing grade. Of the 37 students in his class, half failed; only a few earned decent grades.

When he asked them how they were going to survive after they grew up and were on their own, if they were unable to get a passing grade in a class designed to guarantee passing if you just made an honest effort, one of the students said: “Well, Mr. Smith, I’m going to do like my parents: be on welfare.” That career choice surprised him, and so did the agreement of many of the other students.

This situation, mirrored in towns and cities across the nation, is the result not of the “hand up” efforts of caring Americans, but of hammock-like government welfare programs, which give much but demand little.

President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty in the January 1964 State of the Union address. “This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America,” Johnson stated.

His actual stated goal was not to prop up living standards artificially through an ever-expanding welfare state, but instead to strike “at the causes, not just the consequences of poverty.” Ultimately, he wanted “not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.” A noble goal, as so many government initiatives are, at least at first.

Twenty years ago, another president pledged to “end welfare as we know it.” On August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton filled a campaign promise by signing welfare reform, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, into law.

This time there were new wrinkles: after two years of receiving benefits, welfare recipients would be required to work, and incentives were removed that encouraged having children out of wedlock and breaking up families to get benefits. There was also a five-year lifetime limit on total time of receiving benefits without working.

How have these programs worked out? reported in 2012, “Total federal and state welfare spending has increased more than 16-fold since 1964. Even since the 1996 welfare reform replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, spending has increased by 76 percent and by more than 20 percent since 2008.”

President Obama, the Washington Examiner reports, “took the Great Recession as an opportunity to get as many households as possible into the food stamp program, an important part of his stimulus package. One result was that the number of able-bodied adults with no children who receive food assistance doubled.”

Because the value of food stamps and welfare payments are looked at as income, the overall poverty rate has not changed much since the War on Poverty began. However, both the number of Americans on welfare and total welfare spending have soared.

The goal should be to reduce both poverty and welfare spending. Two states, Kansas and Maine, have implemented a requirement for able-bodied childless adults to work for food-stamp benefits, and the results are impressive.

In Maine, 80 percent of those affected by the requirement left the food stamp program, and in Kansas, the total of those affected dropped 75 percent very quickly, and 60 percent had work within a year, according to the Examiner.

When it was easy to stay home and collect food benefits, many were happy to do so. But when required to work, these recipients quickly got out of the hammock and went to work, abandoning government support.

People are often content to do as little as possible, but will do what they must.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Signs of a culture that is collapsing: higher education in disarray

Higher education today is a mess. Many institutions are involved in an arms race, strongly competing to attract students with scholarship and student loan money they bring with them. Institutions are building facilities that are much more fancy, thus more appealing, than ever before. New dorms, sports and fitness centers, student centers, dining facilities; the list goes on.

And the “everybody needs to go to college” craze has put thousands on campuses that don’t need a traditional college degree.

Those of us who went to college many years before this arms race began endured sparsely appointed dorms and other comparatively plain-Jane facilities, but managed to come out with a solid education. That austere environment is not good enough anymore.

A 2014 survey by the University of California Los Angeles showed that there are five times more liberal professors than conservative professors on college faculties these days. The worst aspect of this is that many of them have taken on the role of proselytizers, forsaking their duty to guide learning and maturation in their subject area in favor of indoctrinating students into the poisonous world of leftist politics, which they now refer to as “progressivism,” since “liberalism” is no longer credible.

The liberalization of the college campus has led to a disintegration of the traditional college atmosphere at many institutions, where students once were exposed to and challenged by a broad range of ideas. That healthy environment has become an intellectually stultifying atmosphere where students are afraid of their own shadows, and ideas differing from their narrow range of acceptable ideas send kids running to hide under the bed in their hotel-like dorm room.

“Trigger warnings” are expected or required to protect those who desire only peace and harmony in their environment from “unsuitable” content, and “safe zones,” where students may seek refuge from the rigors of life, are routine. Student demands played a part in these developments

The recent focus on transgenderism, and the bending-over-backward efforts to accommodate it, has produced a policy at West Virginia University, where anyone failing to use the personal pronoun preferred by each and every person who claims to be transgender is breaking a federal law on sexual discrimination, and will be treated as a lawbreaker by the university, despite that transgenderism has absolutely no grounding in science whatsoever.

Two questions arise: (1) How does someone know which of WVU’s 29,000 students claims to be transgender, and (2) in the event they actually are able to discern this, how are they supposed to know which of the 30 different pronouns approved by WVU applies to which person?

“According to one study of the 2010 census,” notes, “the population of transgender people amounts to one in every 2,400 Americans, or 0.03 percent of the adult population.” Another question: How few people are too few to propel the politically correct into action, spawning another uproar over some thought or action that has virtually no affect?

Back in the 60s and 70s a long and often-troubled struggle to desegregate schools and put black and white students in the same learning environment reached its peak. Forty years later, some want to reverse that. Everything old is new again.

Columnist and professor Walter Williams writes, “Hampshire College will offer some of its students what the school euphemistically calls ‘identity-based housing.’ That’s segregated housing for students who — because of their race, culture, gender or sexual orientation — have ‘historically experienced oppression.’” This idea extends to racially segregated classes where students will feel better when surrounded by those just like them.

In his column titled “College Campus Lunacy,” Williams supports that title by listing some course titles that if completed successfully confer college credit on students: “Philosophy and Star Trek,” “Demystifying the Hipster,” “Recreational Tree Climbing,” and “Kayne vs. Everybody.” Such courses, he said, are the work of faculty, to whom college presidents and trustees have apparently surrendered the running of those institutions.

Now, however, an institution of higher education has decided that it’s time to call a halt to political correctness. University of Chicago Dean of Students John Ellison warned incoming students in a letter that there is no tolerance for the kind of student demands that have emerged recently. “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

“Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship,” Ellison wrote. Noting the importance of civility among and between parties, he stated, “We expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times, this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”

A college education should help prepare young people to cope with life, not to fear it. Political correctness is an infection threatening the nation. Getting rid of it on campuses is a big step toward producing young Americans that are educated, grown up, and prepared to experience life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The American immigration system, a la President Barack Obama

A common refrain about immigration is that the U.S. “is a nation of immigrants.” People coming to the colonies built what would become the United States of America, and since then millions have immigrated here.

“Most immigrant groups that had formerly come to America by choice seemed distinct, but in fact had many similarities,” as explains. “Most had come from Northern and Western Europe. Most had some experience with representative democracy. With the exception of the Irish, most were Protestant. Many were literate, and some possessed a fair degree of wealth.”

Most, but not all immigrants intended to become American citizens. Some, however, returned to their native land after earning money to send home. Not all were good people; some were criminals, mentally ill, anarchists, and alcoholics.

Furthermore, many Americans were not thrilled about immigration, and tells us, “In 1917, Congress required the passing of a literacy test to gain admission. Finally, in 1924, the door was shut to millions by placing an absolute cap on new immigrants based on ethnicity. That cap was based on the United States population of 1890 and was therefore designed to favor the previous immigrant groups.”

Throughout the decades and the problems and controversy that accompanied immigration, diversity came to the US, which had become a nation of primarily peaceful, self-reliant, hard-working people, qualities they generally passed on to the next generation.

However, the concept that America is a nation of immigrants is less and less valid. Today, the USA is a nation not so much of immigrants, but principally a nation of the descendants of people who were immigrants generations ago; a nation of Americans.

Our government has the duty to admit immigrants who want to become good American citizens, as demonstrated in the previously discussed examples of acts affecting immigration. No sensible person would allow people they cannot be virtually certain are good and honorable people into their homes; our government must be every bit as cautious.

But instead we find that the current immigration system is wholly dysfunctional, and the responsibility goes squarely on the shoulders of President Barack Obama and his administration. The idea held by many on the Left – that we are morally obligated to admit any and all who seek entry, legally or otherwise – is not just dumb, it is dangerous. And that concept has no basis in history or in the Constitution.

Nevertheless, that foolish idea has strong support, and it set the stage for what happened in a hearing of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee this past April, when Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, addressed comments to those testifying, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Sarah Soldana.

Chaffetz listed some startling facts:
** In a three-year period Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has released more than 86,000 criminal aliens into the American public. These are people who were here illegally, got caught committing a crime, were convicted of that crime, and instead of deporting them, they were released back out into the United States of America. All told they had more than 231,000 crimes of which they were convicted.
** In 2015, 196 of these people were convicted of homicide, and ICE released them back into the public, rather than deporting them.
** One hundred and twenty-four of those who were released between 2010 and 2015 went on to commit homicide.
** In 2013 ICE released 36,007 criminal aliens who were unlawfully in the United States. As of September 2014, 5,700 of those individuals went on to commit additional crimes.
** In March of 2015, the director of ICE testified before this committee that during fiscal year 2014 ICE released another 30,558 individuals with a combined 79,059 criminal convictions, instead of deporting them. Of those 30,558 criminal aliens 1,895 were charged with another crime following their release, including sex offenses, assault, burglary, robbery, and driving under the influence.

“And ICE told us that in 2015 the agency released 19,723 criminal aliens with a combined 64,197 convictions,” Chaffetz said, “including: 934 sex offenses, 804 robberies, 216 kidnappings, and 196 homicide-related convictions. And that’s on your watch.” They were here illegally, committed crimes, were caught, tried and convicted, and then turned loose to prey on the American people again.

He then displayed an aerial photo of Notre Dame football stadium filled with game watchers, and said, “You released more people that were convicted of crimes and should have been deported than you can fit into that stadium. You’d still have people waiting outside in line. Those are the criminals that you released instead of deporting.”

Government’s job is to seal the borders from illegal entry, to thoroughly vet people before letting the acceptable ones in, and to prosecute and punish criminals. Put them in jail, or at the very least deport them and keep them out.

Do these colossal government failures rise to the level of criminal offenses? Should they? Or, is such dangerous and irresponsible behavior “merely” gross malfeasance? Is there no penalty for such wrongdoing, whether criminal or not?

Not in the administration of Barack Obama, where apparently the treacherous operation of this immigration system is a matter of celebration by his supporters.