Pages

Friday, April 24, 2015

Holy Abundance, by Michael Belk



My friend, John Britt sent me something I want to share with you, that is different from my usual political posts. I hope you will find this beneficial.


Recently, a friend gave us a copy of a book titled, "Journeys with the Messiah." Michael Belk, a successful fashion photographer, felt God's call to write and photograph this book, paraphrased around the parables of Jesus.

He went to Italy and found a town that he felt looked like the Judean area in which Jesus lived.  He then sought out a model that resembled his idea of what Jesus might have looked like.  Next, he assembled a cast of biblical and modern day characters who might represent those New Testament parable participants. 

So, the visuals show a "robed Jesus" in an ancient city surrounded by modern day people plus those who might represent the people of Jesus' day. I have attached a photo and one of the parable stories so you can grasp the stark contrast.  Here is the narrative with scripture reference from Matthew 6:19-21 that ends with "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."



Holy Abundance - God's Provision Gone Awry

The World Health Organization reports that two-thirds of the world's population is underfed or starving. Every day, 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes. That is one child every five seconds or about nine children in the time it will take you to read this message.

Hearing statistics like this, I immediately think of far-away places like India and Africa.  And then, I learn that in the United States, one out of every eight children go to bed hungry every night. 

There is a story about a man who stands on a hill overlooking a refugee camp.  Seeing the starvation and death, he turns his face skyward and screams, "God, how could you let this happen?"  God responds with, "How could you?"

We have the means to fix this.  The world's poorest could have their health and nutritional needs met for less than 25% of what Americans spend on clothing each year.

The issue is not a lack of abundance. It is simply a lack of distribution.  How many children will die today while I sit on my savings account? It is a painful question to ponder.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Slices of life in America, 2015: The Good; The Bad, and The Ugly


The Good: Jordan Speith, 21 year-old Masters golf tournament champion - In this day of giant egos among athletes, entertainers and politicians, we hardly ever expect to see someone behave with dignity and humility when they have a big success.

But following his magnificent win at the Masters on April 12, where he shot a 2-under-par 70 in the final round to finish with an 18-under 270, four shots ahead of three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson and 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.

This was his fourth win worldwide in four months, placing him No. 2 in the world. But no self-congratulatory, boastful behavior comes from this young man. “It's the most incredible week of my life," he said. "This is as great as it gets in our sport. … This isn't an honor that's carried lightly.”

He is as even when things don’t go so well. A bad tee shot on the 16th hole in Sunday’s final round elicited a disgusted "dang it!"

"He's just a classy guy," Phil Mickelson said of him on Saturday. "He just represents the game very well and at a very young age, and he's just got a lot of game. So if he were to come out on top, it would be wonderful for the tournament, wonderful for the game."

The Bad: Silly enforcement of a San Antonio ordinance - It’s another case of government run amok, sometimes seeing the good things people do as bad, and following sometimes-silly rules that interfere with religious freedom and the good works people do.

San Antonio lawyer and author Joan Cheever owns The Chow Train, a licensed non-profit food truck that she uses to provide hot, healthy meals to the homeless each week. She has been doing this since 2005, feeding between 25 and 75 homeless people each time. But four of San Antonio’s Finest took exception to this voluntary effort to help those less fortunate, and issued Ms. Cheever a $2,000 ticket.

When she told one of the officers she was merely following the tenets of her religion, he responded, “Ma’am, if you want to pray, go to church.” The officer apparently is not familiar with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly allows one to freely practice their religion whether in church or not, something that is of a higher authority than city ordinances.

Charitable works have been under attack for decades by a growing attitude among big government advocates that holds, despite dramatic evidence to the contrary, that government can do it better. And now in San Antonio government directly halts a private sector effort to help people in need, people that the city government is not feeding once a week, as does Ms. Cheever.

She will appear in court on June 23 to defend herself, and plans to argue that this expression of her religious convictions is protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Let us hope the court will see the value of her works, and allow her to follow her charitable impulses to help the less fortunate unimpeded.

The Ugly: Two examples - “Ugly” is a term with a variety of meanings, and applications: very unattractive, disagreeable, unpleasant, objectionable, morally revolting, threatening or dangerous, mean, and is applied to things that are really dumb and defy common sense.

With that in mind, two ugly items:

* A New York Police Department officer who drove his replica of the General Lee car from “The Dukes of Hazard” TV show to work has been told by his superiors not to drive it to work anymore. Why? Because the General Lee has a Confederate flag painted on its top, and some might consider that offensive. According to a local TV news report, a police spokesman said, “due to the fact that its presence at the NYPD facility may be considered offensive and/or inappropriate, the registered owner is being instructed that the car should not be parked on NYPD property.” Maybe the officer should be forced to sell the car as a provision of continued employment, so he can’t offend anyone, even when he’s off duty. No one must be offended. Ever.

* A Virginia college girl and two friends were set upon in her car in a store parking lot after making a purchase by seven plainclothes officers of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control agency. The girls did not realize the un-uniformed people were law enforcement agents, and got scared when the agents aggressively approached their car. They tried to escape, prompting one officer to pull a gun and another to try to break out a window with a flashlight. In the effort to escape, the driver brushed two of the officers. She was later charged with three felonies and spent the night in jail. What had these girls done? The officers “thought” they “might” have bought beer and “might” have been under age. They had bought bottled water, not beer. Eventually, the charges against the girl were dropped. Who thinks hiding in store parking lots waiting to catch under-age customers buying beer is efficient use of ABC resources and taxpayer money?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

State Board acts to allow the light of day into public schools


An email last week from the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and a story in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph the following morning noted that the West Virginia Board of Education voted to open up state teaching standards so that students would be able to consider both sides of a contemporary debate.

Say, what? The state Board of Education had to have a special vote to allow more than one side of a critical issue to be studied in West Virginia’s public schools? Well, yes, more or less, since the Next Generation Science Standards that the BOE was considering for adoption were worded such that global warming is settled science, and therefore not a proper topic for debate.

During the deliberations on the standards last December, the Charleston Gazette reported that BOE member Wade Linger requested several changes be made to the standards prior to their being offered for public comment, like this one: “There was a question in there that said: ‘Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century,” Mr. Linger was quoted as saying. “... If you have that as a standard, then that presupposes that global temperatures have risen over the past century, and, of course, there’s debate about that.” He suggested adding the words “and fall” after “rise” to the sixth-grade science standard, and that change some others were adopted.

Then the Gazette reported on January 14 that following a period of public comment the BOE yielded to criticism from “teachers, professors and others,” and withdrew the changes, and again opened a period of public comment.

One wonders exactly what “teachers, professors and others” fear from opening debate on this topic, or any topic?

CFACT reports that Executive Director Craig Rucker, and climate news and information service editor Marc Morano, along with students from West Virginia University and Marshall University who belong to CFACT Collegian chapters at the schools, all testified before the Board.

On April 8 the Board voted to open up teaching standards to permit students to consider both sides in the climate debate by a 6-2 vote. CFACT reported that, “Supporters of the changes, including board members Wade Linger and Tom Campbell, argued that ‘science is never settled’ and that debate will lead students into a deeper understanding of the issue.”

Let’s congratulate the state BOE for finally getting it right, and award special kudos to Mr. Linger and Mr. Campbell for their leadership in blowing away the dark clouds of censorship, and opening the way for contrary ideas to be voiced and discussed. And let’s also acknowledge the efforts of CFACT and WVU and MU students for taking a stand for openness in public education.

Some issues are considered beyond debate, like that the Earth orbits the Sun and the Moon orbits the Earth, that day follows night and night follows day, and that the Earth is not flat. But that does not mean that there can’t be any discussion or that some can’t reject those ideas if they so choose.

In the early 1600s it was “settled science” that the Earth was the center of the universe, a view held by virtually all scientists of the time and by the Catholic Church, supported by Biblical references. Then came Galileo, a scientist who professed heliocentrism – a sun-centered system in which Earth and other heavenly bodies all orbited the Sun – a theory he had developed through observations.

His heretical ideas, like those of today’s climate realists who disagree that man’s activities are contributing to any meaningful degree in the Earth’s temperature, were out of step with the current dogma, but were correct that Earth was not the center of the universe. For daring to express contrary ideas, Galileo faced the Inquisition, and in 1616 was ordered “... to abandon completely... the opinion that the sun stands still at the center of the world and the earth moves, and henceforth not to hold, teach, or defend it in any way whatever, either orally or in writing.”

Galileo was correct that Earth was not the center of the universe, and his theory displaced the previously held “settled science” of geocentrism. Only later would Galileo’s heliocentric idea be found to also not be completely accurate. Settled science once again fell to objective investigation.

One gets the idea that climate alarmists’ positions are so weak that they have to prevent contrary views from being aired for their ideas to win the day.

However, limiting discussion of controversial topics is precisely the wrong thing to do. Why would any reasonable and objective person object to discussing opposing views of important issues such as global warming/climate change, abortion, gun control, vaccinations, the “right” and “wrong” kinds of foods and drinks to consume? As BOE members Linger and Campbell pointed out, such openness will lead only to a deeper understanding of the issues.

There is certainly nothing wrong with the concept of standards of learning, but school boards at every level must be careful to assure that by adopting a set of standards they are not actually imposing ideological perspectives on young, impressionable minds.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Notice: You are breaking one or more federal laws and/or regulations


Most of us probably think of ourselves as law-abiding, up-standing American citizens. We pay our taxes on time. We keep our drivers licenses and inspections up to date. We don’t shoplift, or take illegal drugs. We don’t murder, rob, rape or assault others. That’s the way law-abiding citizens think and act.

And yet, I am willing to bet some money that every one of us has breeched or is on the wrong side of some federal decree.

I say that with a high degree of confidence because there are so many of these edicts from on high that nobody – not you, not law enforcement, not even the judges at whose mercy we will find ourselves if charged for breaking one – knows them all.

You see, here in the Land of the Free there are between 3,600 and 4,500 federal statutes that impose criminal sanctions, according to Michael Cottone, writing in the Tennessee Law Review.

As bad as that is, the ridiculously high number of federal laws pales in comparison to the number of regulations created by administrative agencies that carry criminal penalties, maybe as many as 300,000 of them.

With that knowledge, the old maxim “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is now a mere absurdity.

Of course, if we actually were to follow the dictates of the U.S. Constitution – a quaint idea, these days – at least some of those 300,000 regulations aren’t valid, since the only authorized law-making entity at the federal level is the Congress, and the Constitution does not authorize the Congress to abdicate that duty, and pass it along to the excessive number of unelected bureaucrats in the too-many Executive Branch agencies, departments, administrations, commissions and offices.

The Constitution sets forth the following: Article I, Section I: “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” That’s about as plain as it can be. Notice it does not say, “except where Congress decides to cede that authority to the Executive Branch.”

Some laws are downright stupid, or sometimes are applied stupidly:
* A child saved a woodpecker from her family’s cat and was fined $535 under the migratory bird law.
* A 66-year-old retiree went to prison because he didn't have proper paperwork for orchids.

Some are irrational; others are conveniently broad and through twisted reasoning are used to punish American individuals and businesses. Consider the case of Gibson Guitars: On August 24, 2011, agents of the federal government executed four search warrants on Gibson manufacturing plants in Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, where they seized pallets of wood, electronic files and finished guitars. Other than making excellent musical instruments, what had Gibson done?

Public servants in the Department of Justice determined that using wood from India that was not finished by workers in India is illegal, not by U.S. law, but because of the way the DOJ interpreted Indian law. The feds argued that Gibson violated the Lacey Act of 1900, which outlaws the use of plants and wildlife that have been taken or traded in violation of foreign law.

Apparently, Gibson is supposed to have known that Indian companies broke Indian law and sold wood illegally, thereby making Gibson subject to prosecution in the U.S. Seriously.

CEO Henry Juszkiewicz said Gibson competitors also use this same wood, and wondered why his company had been singled out. Fair question. Regardless, Gibson paid $300,000 to avoid criminal charges, was forced to make a "community service payment" of $50,000 to the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to promote conservation and development of tree species used in making musical instruments, as well as withdraw claims to $262,000 worth of exotic woods seized by federal authorities.

It is unfair and oppressive to hold taxpaying citizens to the impossible standard of knowing and obeying every one of the hundreds of thousands of laws and regulations that might affect them, but in addition to that, perpetuating circumstances that allow prosecutors to haul people into court and potentially fine or imprison them on the flimsy basis that they should actually know all these decrees is outrageous, although Mussolini, Pol Pot, and Stalin would approve.

"The criminal code today is so vast and complex that judges and lawyers have a lot of trouble discerning what's legal and what's illegal," John Malcom, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told the House Judiciary Committee. "What hope do ordinary citizens have?" The government should be required to identify every federal crime, he said, and make that list easily accessible and free to the public.

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers president Steven Benjamin testified that when the average citizen cannot figure out what is illegal, "that is unfairness in its most basic form. We have become addicted to the use of criminal law as a blunt instrument to control social and economic behavior."

George Terwilliger, former deputy attorney general in George W. Bush’s administration, thinks Congress should pass one overriding law that requires proof of intent for any federal crime.

Contact your representative and senators and tell them to implement the Malcom and Terwilliger recommendations.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Liberal legislation continues to disrupt our healthcare system


By the time you read this the physician reimbursement crisis may have been averted, yet again. But if not, doctors who still treat Medicare and Medicaid patients will see a reduction of 21.2 percent for Medicare patients and as much as 42.8 percent for Medicaid patients for services rendered on or before March 31, unless Congress enacts another “doc fix” before April 1

If the “doc fix” hasn’t yet been approved and isn’t approved today, both Medicare and Medicaid patients may have a far more difficult time getting medical care. And if it is fixed this time, what will happen when this fix expires?

This is yet another of the blessings of Obamacare, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enacted in 2010, and through tortured legal reasoning was ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Obamacare is not the first government action to reduce reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid patients, but because Obamacare put millions more people in the Medicaid system in order to increase the number of Americans who could then be counted as “insured,” it gets credit for the current crisis. And to keep down vocal physician opposition to adding millions more to an already broken system, Congressional Democrats who created Obamacare included a two-year increase in reimbursement rates that are now set to expire April 1, and that means the lower reimbursement rates will be back, if the “doc fix” isn’t passed.

Doctors generally get paid less for Medicaid and Medicare patients than their cost basis in treating them, and situations like this one magnify that problem. Consequently, some doctors limit the number of Medicaid and Medicare patients they see, and some do not treat them at all. Don’t be surprised if this situation causes more doctors to join those ranks every year until reimbursements for services to these patients are stabilized at a higher level so that doctors don’t lose money treating them.

On one hand we should support efforts to reign in absurdly high levels of government spending, which in 2014 was approximately 17 percent higher than revenue, meaning that for every dollar of tax revenue there’s 17 cents of deficit spending that the government has to borrow. But on the other hand, shortchanging physicians who treat America’s elderly and low-income or welfare-supported citizens is a foolish way to do that.

This is especially unfair to Medicare patients, who are not welfare recipients, and who, of all those who receive government benefits, are truly entitled to them. They receive essentially their own money, and that of their employers, both of whom had money taken from them by the government to fund Social Security, and later Medicare. These benefits are not the same as Medicaid, food stamps, child support and other welfare money.

The Social Security Act was passed in 1935 and is a promise government made to American workers and their employers that the money government took from them would be put in a trust fund and invested, and returned to them in their later years.

Predictably, the government then used that money for other purposes, not for the benefit of the people the Social Security Trust Fund exists to serve. The Trust Fund is now bankrupt, for all practicable purposes, being in the red approximately $300 billion.

And that raises the question: How is it possible that the Social Security Trust Fund, which was built by the monetary contributions of its recipients and their employers, can run out of money, but the “fund” that pays from $700 billion to $1 trillion annually for welfare in all its numerous forms, never runs out of money?

The “doc fix” that will help doctors who treat Medicare and Medicaid patients will also add to the deficit, and that obviously is bad. We need to spend less money, but we also need to not limit medical care to those who need it. The solution lies in repairing the Medicaid system, which provides care to millions, and many are perfectly capable of funding some or all of their own care. Welfare must be reserved for those who are truly needy and have no other solution.

And now, from centuries ago, here is a statement addressing the situation in which our once great nation now finds itself:

"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague." - Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Choking off suffocating activities like “Operation Choke Point”



The federal government’s efforts to restrict the freedoms Americans have enjoyed for more than 200 years have gotten so preposterous recently that the most of these efforts leave people incredulously saying, “Seriously?”

To wit: The Environmental Protection Agency recently went after people who burn wood to heat their homes. Trying to destroy the coal and oil industries isn’t enough, now the EPA thinks wood – an inexpensive, renewable energy source – which is the mainstay of rural homes and of some of the nation’s poorest residents, is harmful, and the agency has banned the sale of 80 percent of wood-burning stoves.

And now the nation’s most out-of-control agency has charcoal grills in its crosshairs, and has funded a project at the University of California with $15,000 of taxpayer money to study the emissions from grease drippings when people indulge in that dangerous activity, outdoor cooking.

First it was toilets, because they used too much water; then inexpensive, safe incandescent light bulbs, which have been replaced with CFLs that contain mercury and emit ultraviolet radiation; and now wood stoves and potentially outdoor grilling. There are too many people on the payroll at the EPA with too much time on their hands.

These efforts are necessary, we are told, to keep the world from grinding to a halt because of … well, some horrible disaster related to climate change, or global warming, or whatever the alarmists are now calling their imagined cataclysm.

Each time some new target becomes public we ask, “Can it get any worse?” Unfortunately, the answer always is, “Yes.”

The EPA is not the only arm of the government harming the good citizens they exist to serve. The Department of Justice has jumped blindly onto that bandwagon with a program even more intolerable than the EPA’s misadventures called Operation Choke Point, which looks way too much like something you would find in other less-free countries, or perhaps used by mob bosses in Chicago.

Operation Choke Point is a method of preventing perfectly legal businesses from being able to operate satisfactorily, not by pointing to a law these businesses have broken or a shady practice they have indulged in, or by going through legislative channels to have what they do declared illegal, as our concept of the rule of law demands, but by underhandedly strong-arming financial institutions with whom these business have accounts, and “convincing” them to not do business with these merchants any longer.

Businesses such as ammunition sales, escort services, on-line gambling, so-called “racist materials,” third party payment processors, payday lenders, and online lenders, have been targeted simply because someone in the DOJ or higher up in the administration doesn’t like them. Some are perhaps undesirable, but all are legal.

What happens is that the DOJ and bank regulators pressure banks and other third-party payment processors to cease providing or deny banking services to industries the government alleges pose a “reputation risk” to the bank or service provider.

Last May, Todd Zywicki wrote in The Washington Post the “initiative has been shrouded in secrecy, but now it is starting to come to light  … and since then it has been difficult to discover details about it … Without an ability to process payments, the businesses – especially online vendors — cannot survive.”

The irony is that while the DOJ and bank regulators are choking off financial services to perfectly legal industries, they are also encouraging banks to provide banking services to illegal marijuana sales.

When you have people in high offices that are more interested in serving some ideological god than they are in serving the American people, and when that ideological god demands the improper use of government force against legal activities, something must be done to stop it.

And last week, the U.S. Senate started down that road. The Senate Budget Committee approved an amendment to end Operation Choke Point, and according to The Daily Signal, Committee member Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, will offer an amendment this week to the Senate’s budget proposal to defund the DOJ program.

Sen. Crapo last year commented that Operation Choke Point “has morphed into an attempt to shut down entire industries of law-abiding and legitimate merchants.” And he sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing “strong concerns” about the program. Unsurprisingly, the Justice Department, declared that it has “no interest in pursuing or discouraging lawful conduct.”

And the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will question FDIC officials about the agency’s involvement in Operation Choke Point, and hopes to find out who was involved, how high up it goes, and whether anyone has been held accountable.

The answer to that last item will likely be “No.” It is virtually unheard of for federal employees to pay a price for their malfeasance. It is also likely we will not learn the any names associated with this outrageous offense.

Cutting funding for the EPA, the DOJ, and any/every other agency that over-reaches is an appropriate mechanism to redress the wrongs they commit against the American people. The government spends far too much money, and cutting spending where it is being used wrongly or unconstitutionally ought to be celebrated by every freedom loving American.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Democrats have never done what 47 Republican senators did to Obama



  
Dissatisfied with President Barack Obama’s approach to Iran’s continued march toward acquiring nuclear weapons, 47 Republican Senators signed an open letter that was sent to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Arkansas freshman Sen. Tom Cotton authored the letter, which was signed by all but seven Senate Republicans.

This action has been termed “unprecedented,” and has brought forth the wrath of Democrats in Congress and the administration. Vice President Joe Biden, for example, declared that "In 36 years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which senators wrote directly to advise another country … that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them.”

Secretary of State John Kerry expressed similar sentiments: “This letter ignores more than two centuries of precedent in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy,” and went a step further by saying that in his 29 years in the Senate he had “never heard of or even heard of being proposed anything comparable to this.”

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, “Republicans are undermining our commander-in-chief while empowering the ayatollahs. We should always have robust debate about foreign policy, but it's unprecedented for one political party to directly intervene in an international negotiation with the sole goal of embarrassing the president of the United States.”

Other criticisms charged Republicans with trying to undercut the president by inviting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress without first consulting the White House, and then by sending this letter to subvert an agreement that would avoid war, as MSNBC’s Mika Brzenzinski charged on the Morning Joe program. And the pièce de résistance: the New York Daily News cover calling the Republican letter signers “traitors.”

Some law professors, pundits and news media charge that the Republican senators have committed treason by violating the Logan Act of 1799, which states: "Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

And now for the rest of the story.

Predictably, there is far more heat than warranted here, Treason? No. Traitors? No. Gross amounts of hyperbole? Absolutely! Deliberate deception! Of course.

The Logan Act is not a factor here because, first, many legal authorities believe the Act is constitutional, as it infringes on the free speech guaranteed citizens by the U.S. Constitution, but also because the senators represent one of two houses of a co-equal branch of government, and therefore acted with the authority of their position, which also allows them to take a part in agreements with other nations.

Most important, however, is that despite the breathless overstatements by critics of the letter-writers, this action is not at all unprecedented, and in fact some of the loudest critics have themselves indulged in similar acts.

Take Secretary of State John Kerry, for instance. In 1971 during negotiations by President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger trying to reach an end to the Vietnam War, then-Sen. Kerry, D-Mass., as leader of the anti-war group Vietnam Veterans Against the War, travelled to Paris to meet face-to-face with the North Vietnamese delegation, which was at the time an enemy combatant nation.

In 2007 then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal., met fact-to-face with Bashar al-Assad while President George W. Bush was in negotiations with the Syrian leader.

Another Speaker, Jim Wright, D-Tex., talked face-to-face with Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega in 1987.

Senator James Abourezk, D-S.D., secretly met with Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat in 1973.

In 2006 Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., Chris Dodd, D-Conn., Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Arlen Spector R-Pa., (who soon after became a Democrat) traveled to Damascus when the policy of the Bush administration was to isolate the Bashar al-Assad regime.

The Left has a problem remembering these inconvenient facts, which are probably contained in emails at the State Department or the IRS.

Furthermore, the letter was an open letter, not a private communication and presented facts about our constitutional system the Iranians likely did not know, not a negotiation.

The letter explained that any agreement between President Obama and the Iranian leaders binds only President Obama; future presidents will not be bound by it. Only treaties ratified by the Senate bind the U.S. That is a significant point.

Further, the negotiations may well involve the president unilaterally undoing sanctions against Iran passed by the Congress. That is a no-no; he does not have authority to do that.

It is certainly fair to criticize the fact that the message was presented in a letter addressed to Iranian leaders, instead of, say, being run as an op-ed in one or more national newspapers. However, that is about the worst aspect of this molehill called Mount Treason.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Democrats want to “help” people even when they don’t need help

Last July, Jeffrey Dorfman discussed the battle that began near the end of 2013 over maintaining extended unemployment benefits for up to 99 weeks. In Forbes Magazine the University of Georgia economics professor explained that during the debate the preceding December and January Congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama insisted that if the benefits were not extended, it would hurt workers who would lose benefits, but the nation’s economy would also suffer.

Adding a little background, he wrote: “After the 2007-2009 recession, Congress repeatedly authorized emergency extended benefits so that the unemployed could collect benefits for as long as 99 weeks [nearly two years]. When the extended benefits finally were allowed to expire in December 2013 they had lasted 20 months longer than following any previous recession. Yet, Democrats wanted to continue them even longer.”

But, he said, six months after the decision not to extend the benefits again, neither the unemployed nor the economy suffered as predicted, and in fact “the results have been quite positive.”

“Economic research seems to be clear that providing such extended unemployment benefits went beyond helping people transition to a new job,” wrote professor Dorfman, “instead allowing them to extend their job search. Instead of taking a job offer that might be suitable, unemployed people who still had some income thanks to Congress’ generosity looked for a great job. Thus, extending unemployment benefits led to higher unemployment and a slower recovery.”

Unemployment benefits are funded by an insurance premium paid by employers to provide benefits for a set period of time, which helps folks cope until they find a new job. In most states employees are covered for up to 26 weeks. During and immediately after a recession when unemployment rates are high, the federal government generally steps in and provides an extended period of benefits. However, in such cases, benefits paid after the period covered by unemployment insurance are paid for out of tax revenue, which is essentially welfare.

A recent study supports the professor’s assertion, this one by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which indicates that the labor market improvement President Obama so frequently uses to show his policies are working, occurred even though Congress did not follow the president’s wishes and extend the benefits again to 99 weeks. Rather than widespread doom and gloom, when extended benefits were not approved, job creation increased by about 1.8 million. NBER also noted that in 2013 the states with generous unemployment benefits created fewer jobs than the national average, but that job creation in those states increased in 2014 to above the national average when they cut back on benefits.

In examining this situation the Las Vegas Review-Journal opined: “Was long-term unemployment assistance necessary for some people? Yes. But, without question, millions of Americans at the margin — those who rejected offers to work for a little more than jobless benefits were worth, or those who supplemented jobless aid with under-the-table work in the gray economy — saw no point in re-entering the taxpaying workforce when they could be paid for so long to not work. And that simply wasn’t working for our economy.”

There is substantial support in these data for the idea that liberal/Democrat policies that are intended to help people beyond their actual need for help is good neither for the people they intend to help, nor for the best interests of the country at large.

The reality that government policies have failed shows up in the low level of people in the workforce who actually have jobs. The civilian labor force participation rate reflects the proportion of non-institutional civilians 16 to 64 years of age who are working or looking for work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the participation rate hovered between 62.9 percent and 62.7 percent in the eleven months from April 2014 through February 2015, and has been 62.9 percent or lower in 13 of the 17 months since October 2013.

It has been 37 years since the participation rate was below 63 percent, back in March of 1978. In February, the number of work-eligible civilians not working or looking for work totaled nearly 93 million people.

BLS reported that the non-institutional population reached 249,899,000 in February, and only 157,002,000 of those were working or looking for work. The rest had become discouraged and stopped looking for a job.

So while job creation has been in positive territory lately, and the unemployment rate has dropped to near 5 percent, the economy has not produced enough jobs to get those 93 million people back to work, and when those numbers get figured in to the employment picture, the unemployment rate doubles.

The job market still has not returned to pre-recession levels nearly six years after the recession ended in 2009.

A vibrant economy depends upon people working and earning money they can spend on needs and wants. Business, not government, creates jobs. But government restricts job creation through over-regulation and high taxation.

Our elected leaders and bureaucrats seem immune from learning that less restrictive market conditions contribute to creating jobs.


This immunity affects those of the liberal persuasion to a disproportionate degree.