Saturday, September 29, 2012

Coffee and the Tea Party

Today, Saturday, September 29th is National Coffee Day. In addition to being a big consumer of coffee, I took a special interest in researching it several years ago as I was working on my master's thesis where I analyzed a few years' worth of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to see if there was any association between caffeine consumption and depression. My study, thankfully, showed that there was no association between the two, although there were some limitations with the data.

One particular interesting note about the history of coffee that I came across during my research is how it became so popular in America. The Huffington Post (yes, the Huffington Post!)  has a good quick summary up today (emphasis mine):
Through trade with the Europeans, coffee became a popular import by the mid-17th century in Europe. Upon its arrival in America, it didn't experience much success until the Boston Tea Party, when colonists who were rebelling against tea taxes developed a fondness for coffee. Drinking nearly 400 million cups of coffee per day, Americans now consume the most coffee in the world.
230+ years ago, the colonists developed a penchant for coffee as a statement against the high, unrepresentative taxes on tea. It was a political statement, and today, it is the free market in action with a whole industry related to coffee-- local coffee shops and diners, big chains like Starbucks, tumblers to transport coffee, Keurigs, etc. It is an ever expanding market. There is though that unbreakable link to the Tea Party of 1773. Now, instead of drinking coffee as a statement of rebellion against high taxes, it's the fuel for mornings of block walking and making phone calls for candidates, afternoons of calling Congressmen and Senators to keep them accountable, and late night of blogging and planning rallies and events.

So, today, raise your mug to King George, whose taxes contributed to America's coffee addiction.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Liberals Want to Put Tomatoes in Your Fruit Salad!

Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the United Nations. During part of his speech, he spoke about the "red line" which must be drawn to prevent Iran from developing and potentially using nuclear weapons. In doing so, he literally drew a red line on simple graphic of a bomb:

He spoke about how he was thankful that the United States had drawn red line previously when Iran wanted to block of the Strait of Hormuz, which would have prevented the transport of a good portion of oil from the Middle East.This "red line"caused Iran to back off.  He called for an additional red line to be drawn, as he depicted during his speech,  when it comes to Iran's enrichment of uranium for nukes. As expected, the Left (including writers from The Atlantic and Buzzfeed) mocked the simplicity and straightforwardness of his pictorial example, indicating they he was unserious, and his illustration was childish. However, he made his point, and he did so clearly.

The Left does not like simplicity and brevity. We saw this in their reaction to Governor Palin's "death panel" statement a few years ago. She used a short phrase to make a profound statement about government involvement and rationing in health care , and she was proven right with Obamacare's inclusion of the Independent Payment Advisory Board for Medicare. President Reagan's foreign policy could be simply summarized by two succinct phrases--"peace through strength" and "we win; they lose", yet he was also mocked. However, Governor Palin and President Reagan had the Founders on their side. Thomas Jefferson once said, "[t]he most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do". Brevity speaks more clearly than verbosity  It's no wonder that the Constitution--the blueprint for our government--is a mere 7,000 words while the Obamacare law was more than 2,000 pages!

There is a saying that I like that states, "knowledge is knowing that tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad". I'd like to take that saying a step further by saying that intellectualism is writing an 5,000 word essay of why tomatoes should be put in a fruit salad. Intellectualism is different than having knowledge or wisdom. It's also different than intelligence. Rick Santorum was mocked recently by the Left for saying," [w]e will never have the elite smart people on our side, because they believe they should have the power to tell you what to do." He is right. The "smart" people--the intellectuals--think that they know better than us, and therefore, dictate to us through academia, the media, government, etc.They want to mandate us to not only put tomatoes in our fruit salad, but also to enjoy eating it.  Thomas Sowell wrote a whole book on this topic a few years ago--Intellectuals and Society--which in my opinion, is one of the most instructive and interesting books written in recent years. In that book, Sowell writes, "at the core of the notion of an intellectual is the dealer in ideas, as such–not the personal application of ideas".Sure you can discuss the concept of a fruit salad with tomatoes, but actually doing it makes no sense. Inapplicable knowledge is useless, but applied knowledge is necessary. President Obama, who has presided over credit downgrades from multiple agencies, is seen as an intellectual, but Governor Palin, whose policies has led  Alaska  receiving three separate credit upgrades since 2008, is seen as an intellectual lightweight. Governor Palin is intelligent, but she is not an intellectual. This is a good thing.  To use an example I used once before in comparing President Obama and Governor Palin:
If you’ll excuse the personal anecdote, let me digress for a moment. My dad is a farmer turned city bus driver who has great mechanical skills. A good friend of mine received his degree in mechanical engineering and was one class away from having a second major in physics. My friend was fascinated by my dad’s ability to fix cars and farm machinery. My friend could complete all the calculus and understood the physics behind the mechanics of a car’s engine, but he could not change his oil much less fix a car. The intellectuals and pontificators of the world would likely gush over my friend’s engineering background while they would likely poo poo my dad’s high school education and career choices. However, my dad could fix a car while my friend couldn’t. I don’t say this to bash my friend, but to make a distinction between intellectualism and intelligence put into practice.
The Left would rather have Prime Minister Netanyahu wax at length about pussyfooting diplomacy and meaningless sanctions rather than use a clear and simple illustration. They would have preferred that Governor Palin praise the National Institute of Comparative Effectiveness (NICE) and their role in British healthcare than to make a succinct warning about rationing. The simplicity and rationality of their actual arguments though allow them to connect with the everyday person because their arguments are applicable, and they respect the intelligence of their audiences. Their fruit salads don't have any tomatoes in them.

Crossposted here and here.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


The minister at the church I'm apart of asked me to write a short article that would appear in our weekly bulletin today. His sermon today was about standing firm. Here is the article that I wrote: 
 I remember sitting on my couch last October nervously watching the St. Louis Cardinals play the Texas Rangers in Game 6 of the World Series. If the Rangers won Game 6, they were World Series champs. If the Cardinals won, the series would extend to a seventh and deciding game. In the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals were down to their last strike when third baseman David Freese hit a two run triple to the tie the game and send it to extra innings. The Rangers went ahead again in the tenth inning. In the bottom of the tenth, again the Cardinals were down to their last strike when outfielder Lance Berkman hit an RBI single to tie the game. The Cardinals went on to win the game on a walk off homer by David Freese in the 11th inning and later won Game 7 to win their eleventh World Series championship.  
 Those players who were in the batter’s box with a two strike count, the tens of thousands of fans in the stands, and the millions watching at home didn’t know that the Cardinals would be able to pull off the victory. Despite that uncertainty of the outcome, the players showed excellence under pressure and ended up winning the game.  
 In our spiritual lives, sometimes we may feel the pressure of being faithful in the face of trial. Will we fail faced with what we see as insurmountable temptation or unbearable trials? In 1 Corinthians 15:58, Paul writes “[t]herefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”. What is the “therefore” Paul refers to? In the previous verse of that chapter, Paul writes , “ [b]ut thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. Why can we stand firm and remain unmoved? Because the victory has already been won. No matter how insurmountable the trial or difficult the temptation, the ultimate victory has already been won. Paul instructs us to stand firm and let nothing move us. The things we face that try to move us are very real and challenging, but we can stand firm knowing that we can thank God for already providing the victory.
Here's a clip of the baseball heroics I referenced:


 Of course, the victory through Christ is far greater than any athletic victory, electoral win, or personal achievement of any kind. It is an eternal victory that has already been won. This is something I try to remind myself constantly, but due to my imperfections and misplaced perspective often do not take to heart in the way I should. However, the verses I referenced can be a great encouragement that God is greater than any temptation or trial.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What Governor Quinn Could Learn from Governor Palin

There is good reason that the acronym of Illinois's nickname is LOL. True--it does stand for Land of Lincoln, but it is also indicative the fact that our state is the laughingstock of the country. We've been approaching a fiscal cliff for quite sometime. Our budgets are bloated, and our state continually borrows money. Our pension systems are massively underfunded, and our credit rating is being downgraded on a seemingly monthly basis.

Our pension problems are our latest fiscal fire. There are five state pension systems--one for legislators, one for judges, one for teachers outside of Chicago, one for state employees, and one for state university employees. Right now, these pension systems are underfunded by $83 billion  (although new rules in such estimates put that number at $206 billion) and have the potential to go bankrupt by 2018The 67% state income tax increase and 46% corporate tax increase passed in  a lame duck session in early 2011 has done little if anything to help better fund education or help improve the pension situation.There are two ideas that have been pushed by Governor Quinn--pension reform and a federal bailout.   Pension reform was not achieved during the most recent regular session, nor a special session this past summer. The pension reform plan that Governor Quinn proposes includes increasing individual contributions, reducing cost of living adjustments, increasing the retirement age, and requiring that state pensions only be provided to state workers (i.e. make school districts responsible for providing teacher pensions). If implemented, these partial reforms would perhaps help, but in some respects, these changes would be considered merely nibbling at the margins. These ideas are not relentless reform.

In addition to his pension reform plans, Governor Quinn is toying with another idea to help stabilize the state's fiscal situation--a federal bailout. In his FY2012 budget speech, Governor Quinn stated (emphasis added):
 Consider the state’s unfunded pension liability as a mortgage on future public employees’pension payments. Illinois has a long history of high unfunded liability—a big, decades-long mortgage problem, a big risk. After fiscal year 2010, following losses from a deep recession, the unfunded liability sat at over 60 percent. While the pension reform of 2010 improved the situation by decreasing future liabilities—and certainly the economic recovery improved net assets for the pension funds significant longterm improvements will come only from additional pension reforms,refinancing the liability and seeking a federal guarantee of the debt, or increasing the annual required state contributions. Until one or more of these options is achieved, pension funding issues will persist.
So much for that Illinois state motto of "state sovereignty, national union"! When you become dependent on outside sources to hold up your debt and subsidize your failure you begin to lose your sovereignty. The same could be said about America as a whole with roughly a third of our debt held by foreign nations. The Illinois Policy Institute (a conservative think tank akin to a Heritage Foundation or Cato Institute) has pushed two key ideas to tackle the state pension problems. One is to change the pension funds from a defined benefit to a defined contribution system, which means that taxpayers no longer shoulder the liability of pensions and how they are invested. The other is to reject a federal bailout, as it would create "winner and loser" states throughout the country and runs counter to the constitutional concept of federalism. In short, the answer to Illinois' problems could simply be: "listen to Governor Palin".

This past week, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina joined with the Illinois Policy Institute to push for blocking federal bailouts of state and municipal pensions, and Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois had also made the same call in May 2011.  Federal bailouts for states have been discussed in recent years because of the woeful straits that states like Illinois and California have found themselves in. In December of 2010, Governor Palin wrote a piece against the bailout of states by the federal government:
American taxpayers should not be expected to bail out wasteful state governments. Fiscally liberal states spent years running away from the hard decisions that could have put their finances on a more solid footing. Now they expect taxpayers from other states to bail them out, which will allow them to postpone the tough decisions they should have made ages ago and continue spending like there’s no tomorrow. Most Americans would say these states have made their bed and now they’ve got to lie in it. They accepted federal dollars and did not voice opposition to the unfunded federal mandates, and they even re-elected politicians who foisted debt-ridden programs on them that could never be sustained. 
My home state made the switch from defined benefits to a defined contribution system, and as governor, I introduced a number of measures to build on that successful transition, while also addressing the issue of the remaining funding shortfall by prioritizing budgets to wrap our financial arms around this too-long ignored debt problem. When my state ran a surplus because we incentivized businesses, I didn’t spend it on fun and glamorous pet projects for lawmakers – though that would have made me quite popular with the earmark crowd. In fact, I vetoed more excessive spending than any governor in our state’s history, and I used the state’s surplus to bring our financial house in order by paying down our unfunded pension plans that some other governors wanted to ignore. This fiscal prudence didn’t make me popular with the state legislature. In addition to vetoing hundreds of millions of dollars in wasteful spending, I put billions of dollars into savings accounts for future rainy days, much like most American families do in responsibly planning for the future. I also enacted a hiring freeze and brought the education budget under control through a commitment to forward-funding. I returned much of the surplus back to the people (it was their money to start with!) through tax relief and energy rebates. I had proven as the mayor of the fastest growing city in the state that tax cuts incentivize business growth, and though the state legislature overrode some of my veto cuts and thwarted an additional tax relief request of mine, the public was supportive of efforts to rein in its government. 
It’s one thing to veto spending and reduce the size of government when your state is broke. I did it when my state was flush with revenue from a surplus – though I had to fight politicians who wanted to spend like there was no tomorrow. It’s not easy to tell people no and make them act fiscally responsible and cut spending when the money is rolling in and your state is only 50 years shy of being a territory and everyone is yelling at you to spend while the money is there to build. My point is, if I could fight this fight in Alaska at a time of surplus, then other governors can and should be able to do the same at a time when their states are facing bankruptcy and postponing this fight is no longer an option.
The reforms that Governor Palin implemented helped lead to a 34.6% decrease in total liabilities during her tenure. In fact, Alaska is third best in the nation in the percentage of its pension system that is funded. Additionally, due in part to pension reform and other fiscal measures implemented by Governor Palin,  Alaska's credit rating has twice been upgraded by Standard and Poor's and once by Moody's since 2008. In addition to the bias of the media and the ill intentions of the GOP establishment, Governor Palin's stellar record is not as well known as it should be because she prevented problems from reaching a tipping point by nipping them in the bud. She didn't have to put out the proverbial fiscal fire because she removed the kindling before the fire could start. That doesn't mean, though, that governors on both sides of the aisle can't learn from her by implementing the reforms that helped make Alaska one of the most fiscally sound states in the country.

 Cross posted here and here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Of First Importance

Today marks the 225th anniversary of signing of America's Constitution. On September 17th, 1787, delegates to the convention met for the final time to sign the document they had spent four months crafting. The Constitution is quite possibly the most remarkable secular text ever written despite being a mere 7,200 words-- or perhaps because it is a mere 7,200 words. This blueprint simply and succinctly lays out a system of government providing three branches of government--an executive branch, a bicameral legislature, and a judicial branch. This provided a solid, but not overreaching, federal government that the Articles of Confederation failed to do. Additionally, the Constitution extends powers to the states, provides the process of both amending and ratifying the document, and denotes the Constitution's legal status. All of these functions are outlined in just seven relatively short articles. There's beauty in succinctness and simplicity, yet too often ugliness in obfuscation and complexity.

It is interesting what the Founders chose to mention first in this document and its various sections, as often, what is mentioned first is what writers or speakers deem most important. The preamble to the Constitution begins with three simple words "We the people". It wasn't "we the delegates" or "we the states". It was "we the people". The individuals at the constitutional convention were delegates from their respective states, but they decided to begin the document as we the people. They did not give special credence to themselves as delegates, although they could have.The Founders were all well versed and intelligent. They did not necessarily even say we the states, although those delegates were representing the states. James Madison, often called the Father of the Constitution,  thought that the document was of "the people" because it was ratified by the state legislatures which represented the people. This is what separated a constitution from a league of states or a treaty of states.. A constitution of "we the people" is what made the states truly united as opposed to a loose confederation of states.

Additionally, the Founders chose to begin the Constitution by outlining the legislature, not the executive branch. James Madison often referred to the legislature as the "first branch". The legislature is responsible for making laws. However, through abdications over the years, executive branch agencies and bureaucracies have been given powers by the legislature, except they are usually called regulations when implemented by those outside the legislative branch. In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed out an executive order from President Nixon and was ratified by Congressional hearings. While its role is to implement laws passed by Congress, the specific regulations themselves--from light bulbs to power plants-- are dictated by the EPA. More recently, with the passage of Obamacare in 2010, Congress again abdicated much of the control of Medicare spending to the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) --"death panel". As Independent Women's Foundation policy analyst Hadley Heath notes:
Each year, the CMS director will submit to IPAB the per-capita growth rate in Medicare and the target per-capita growth rate. Undoubtedly, as health care costs continue on their upward spiral (fueled by government regulations), the growth rate will be higher than the target rate. The mission of IPAB will be to make the two rates match, by drafting a proposal for changes to the Medicare program. This proposal will become law unless Congress, by supermajority in both houses, votes to stop the proposal and comes up with its own plan to match IPAB’s savings. 
Through the passage of Obamacare Congress essentially ceded their ability to provide necessary changes to Medicare to an agency director and an unelected panel appointed by the President. Despite these abdications of power, the Constitution provide a blueprint for what part of government was of first importance--Congress-the body given the power to make laws.

When it comes to the executive branch, the Founders saw one role of the executive to be most important--that of commander-in-chief. The second article of the Constitution describes the executive branch. The first section of this article focuses on the election,qualifications, and oath of office for the president. However, the second article, which lays out the role of the president, begins by laying out the president's position as commander-in-chief. This is something that is unfortunately, for the most part,  lost on our current president, as Andrew McCarthy noted at National Review over the weekend:
Defense against foreign enemies is the primary job of the president of the United States. The rationale for the office’s creation is national defense — not green venture capitalism, not rationing medical care, not improving the self-image of the “Muslim world,” not leaving no child behind, not blowing out the Treasury’s credit line. Yet, though we are entering the late innings, foreign policy and national defense have not been factors in the 2012 campaign.
President Obama has not fulfilled his primary job--commander-in-chief-- as is easily seen by the fact that he has attended less than half of his national security briefings. On the heels of the report of President Obama's lack of attendance at national security briefings came the attacks on US embassies in Egypt and Libya and other areas throughout the Middle East. Attacks that resulted in the death of four Americans including an ambassador and two Marines. Mind you, this consulate that was attacked was in an unstable, Muslim country where there wasn't sufficient security, and the attack occurred on the first September 11th following the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Both parties are guilty of rejecting the ideas of "first importance" espoused by the Founders. Clinging to power, leaders have felt that their role should be "we the government"--that  they know better than us (we the people) how to run our lives and spend our money. At the same time, Congress has too frequently abdicated their role as a legislative body to a power thirsty executive branch. Presidents have acted as if meddling domestically in individuals lives is of first importance than the securing the nation, not in the sense of nation building or military overinvolvement, but of vigilance and deterrence. There is no reason to despair, however, the Founders knew quite well the imperfections of men.

 Of second importance in the Constitution's preamble was to "form a more perfect union"; a perfect or complete union was not possible, but getting closer to completion was indeed possible. They knew that perfection was impossible of a government of men, but they did not succumb to pessimism. Although he was not part of the constitutional convention, Thomas Jefferson once noted (emphasis added):
We owe every other sacrifice to ourselves, to our federal brethren, and to the world at large to pursue with temper and perseverance the great experiment which shall prove that man is capable of living in [a] society governing itself by laws self-imposed, and securing to its members the enjoyment of life, liberty, property, and peace; and further, to show that even when the government of its choice shall manifest a tendency to degeneracy, we are not at once to despair, but that the will and the watchfulness of its sounder parts will reform its aberrations, recall it to original and legitimate principles, and restrain it within the rightful limits of self-government.
We have the opportunity--both through our voice and our vote-- to help reform the aberrations of our government and recall it to those original and sound principles--those first principles of self-government. It started with "we the people", and that is how it should continue.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Will 2012 Be a Banner Year for Women Running for the Senate?

What would it mean if a rancher, a former CEO of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), a director of a synthetic fuels plant, and a Japanese immigrant turned Georgetown educated lawyer were all in the same room together? In January it may simply mean that the Senate is session.  Those four individuals of diverse backgrounds are just a portion of the 18 women  running for 33 Senate seats in this year's election. Deb Fischer, the Republican candidate for Senate in Nebraska, is a rancher running to fill the seat of retiring Senator Ben Nelson. Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate for Senate in Connecticut, is running to fill the seat of retiring Senator Joe Lieberman and once was the CEO of the WWE (formerly WWF). Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic candidate for Senate in North Dakota, is the director of the Dakota Gasification synfuels plant. Mazie Hirono, Democratic candidate for Senate in Hawaii, emigrated to America from Japan with her mother and brother and later went on to put herself through college at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and law school at Georgetown University.

The 18 women running for Senate are a bipartisan group--twelve Democrats and six Republicans. In three races--Hawaii, California, and New York-- women are running from both parties.In Hawaii, not only is Mazie Hirono running, but former Republican governor Linda Lingle is vying for the seat as well. In California, Elizabeth Emken, former vice president of government relations for Autism Speaks (an autism advocacy group), is challenging incumbent Dianne Feinstein, who was elected first female senator of California in a special election in 1992. In New York, Wendy Long, who worked in the senate for two GOP Senators during the Reagan years before getting her law degree and practicing, is challenging incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand ,who is running for her first full six year term after first being appointed to the seat, vacated by Hillary Clinton, in 2009 before winning a special election in 2010.

In addition to Senators Feinstein and Gillibrand, four other women are running for re-election to the Senate--Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Debbie Stabnow of Michigan, and Maria Cantwell of Washington. According to Real Clear Politics's current analysis, Feinstein, Gillibrand, Klobuchar, and Cantwell look poised to win their races handily while Senators McCaskill's and Stabnow's races are designated "leans Democratic" indicating that the race is more favorable to them.

The aforementioned Mazie Hirono is currently a Congresswoman from Hawaii, and two other current Congresswomen are running for seats in the Senate. Tammy Baldwin, Democrat from Wisconsin, is running for the seat held by the retiring Herb Kohl. She was elected the first female Congresswoman from Wisconsin in 1998 and would be the first female Senator from Wisconsin if she is elected. Nevada Congresswoman Shelley Berkley is running for Senate in Nevada. She was the first woman to serve her district in Congress and, if elected, would be the first woman to serve in the Senate from Nevada.

In a very high profile race, Elizabeth Warren is challenging Scott Brown for Massachusetts Senate. Warren has twice been named to Time's 100 Most Influential People list and has spent two decades as a law professor at Harvard. In Maine, Democrat Cynthia Dill is running for the seat held by retiring Republican Olympia Snowe. Dill is a civil rights lawyer who has served in Maine's state legislature for six years. Heather Wilson is the Republican Senate nominee in New Mexico. Wilson, a former Congresswoman, was part of only the third Air Force class to include women and was the only female veteran in Congress during her six terms in the House.

2012 is proving to be a banner year for women running for the Senate as this year's race shows a marked increase in general election Senatorial candidates over the record high of 14 candidates in 2010.There were also 18 other women  from  13 states who ran in the Senatorial primaries but did not win their party's nomination. While there still is a long way to go for the gender gap in American politics to shrink and eventually disappear, this group of diverse and experienced women provide a lot of optimism for female voices in the US Senate.

Crossposted from The New Agenda

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

President Obama Funds a Government with an "Epidemic" of Sexual Harassment

As the Democratic National Convention got under way today, the Democrats trotted out in their vagina and "Pillomena"birth control costumes to denounce the so-called Republican war on women. Meanwhile the national debt passed $16 trillion today, with $5.4 trillion of that coming during President Obama's three and a  half years in office.

Nevermind all of that social and domestic economic policy stuff though, the Obama administration has foreign policy issues to attend to. As the New York Times reports:
 Nearly 16 months after first pledging to help Egypt’s failing economy, the Obama administration is nearing an agreement with the country’s new government to relieve $1 billion of its debt as part of an American and international assistance package intended to bolster its transition to democracy, administration officials said. 
 In addition to the debt assistance, the administration has thrown its support behind a $4.8 billion loan being negotiated between Egypt and the International Monetary Fund. Last week, it dispatched the first of two delegations to work out details of the proposed debt assistance, as well as $375 million in financing and loan guarantees for American financiers who invest in Egypt and a $60 million investment fund for Egyptian businesses.
Rather than focusing on reducing America's burgeoning debt, President Obama is extending debt assistance to a country who already owes us more $3 billion, as the Times article later states. But what's a billion dollars when one's administration has added $5.4 trillion already, right? President Obama had already bypassed Congress to give Egypt $1.5 billion in March when the then unelected Muslim Brotherhood already held power. Additionally, as noted above the Obama administration has been instrumental in facilitating an large IMF loan to Egypt.

Furthermore, despite the supposed war on women in America, President Obama is extending loan support to a country that recently elected a Muslim Brotherhood candidate to the presidency in June. This president, Mohammed Morsi, promised to select a female VP, but did not, only choosing women for aide and advisory roles. More appalling though, the election of the Muslim Brotherhood three months ago has lead to what the BBC calls an "epidemic" of sexual harassment (emphasis added):
 Campaigners in Egypt say the problem of sexual harassment is reaching epidemic proportions, with a rise in such incidents over the past three months. For many Egyptian women, sexual harassment - which sometimes turns into violent mob-style attacks - is a daily fact of life, reports the BBC's Bethany Bell in Cairo. 
 The day I met Marwa, she was wearing a long headscarf pinned like a wimple under her chin, and a loose flowing dress with long sleeves over baggy trousers.  
 But dressing conservatively is no longer a protection, according to Dina Farid of the campaign group Egypt's Girls are a Red Line.  
 She says even women who wear the full-face veil - the niqab - are being targeted.  
 "It does not make a difference at all. Most of Egyptian ladies are veiled [with a headscarf] and most of them have experienced sexual harassment.
President Obama adds to our debt to help ease the debt of a country that has a massive and real, sustained war on women. Meanwhile, this week, the Democratic National Convention will have women like Sandra Fluke, a 30 year free birth control proponent, speak on a faux war on women and pay homage to former Senator Ted Kennedy who was notorious for leaving a female companion, Mary Jo Kopechne, to drown after a drunk driving crash and for sexual harassing waitresses. Such blatant and out-of-touch hypocrisy.

However, none of this is any surprise to Governor Palin--often the target of the Democrats' misogyny herself. In February of 2011, she warned of the threats to women's rights (as well as religious rights) should the Muslim Brotherhood take control:


 While the Obama administration claims that such funding and diplomatic support to Egypt is aimed to assist the formation a new democracy, they do nothing of the sort when they aid an ideological group based on harassment of women and religious persecution. Crossposted here and here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Re-visiting Benjamin Franklin's Discussion of a Chair

On the last day of Republican National Convention, actor Clint Eastwood gave part of his speech in conversation with an empty chair, which represented the empty leadership of President Obama. In his "dialogue" Mr. Eastwood noted that we, as Americans, own this country, and politicians work for us:


 Nonetheless, following that speech President Obama tweeted the following from his campaign Twitter account:

Yes, the seat may currently be occupied by Barack Obama, but it belongs to the people of America. One of the great things about our constitutional Republic is that we are afforded the opportunity every four years to vote on who occupies that seat--it's not a throne. Our leaders are accountable to us.

Nearly two hundred and twenty-five years ago, in the city of Philadelphia, another octagenerian--Benjamin Franklin-- had his own discussion about a president's chair. Even at the age of 81, Franklin was one of the Pennsylvania delegates at the Constitutional convention. George Washington presided over this convention and sat at in a chair at the front of the hall. The chair had the a gold painted piece on the back fashioned in the shape of a sun (seen below):

Franklin had some remarks about this chair that George Washington sat in for the duration of the convention:
As the representatives signed the Constitution, Franklin watched. The president's chair was at the front of the hall, and a sun was painted on the back of the chair. Franklin told some of the members near him that it was always difficult for painters to show the difference between the rising sun and the setting sun. He said that during the convention he had often looked at the painted sun and wondered "...whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun."
It was a rising sun--rising on the greatest nation on earth following the crafting of the best political document ever to be written. This document starts with "We the people"; the power of the government that this document outlined was with the people. During the convention, the Founders thought there were seats that deserved to be discussed prior to that of the presidency--the legislative branch. The first article of the Constitution is devoted to the elections, requirements, and functions of a bicameral congress. (Don't let Joe Biden's 2008 vice presidential debate performance confuse you--the executive branch is discussed in the second article of the Constitution, not the first).This means that with our current Congressional system there are 535 seats (435 House and 100 Senate seats)--representing the individual states-- that our Founders thought were of first priority to mention. Unfortunately, the promise of that rising sun has been eclipsed over the last two centuries by unconstitutional power grabs from presidents and misguided abdication by the legislative branch itself. Nevertheless, the power to write laws, develop budgets, and other tasks lie constitutionally with this branch. Their role is extremely important.

In this year's election there are 435 House seats, 33 Senate seats, and 1 president's seat up for a vote. While executive power within in the United States and a representation of leadership worldwide lie with the president, we cannot forget not only that this seat belongs to the people of America, and that there are 468 other seats up for a vote this year that are of extreme importance. Our constitution states that all bills for raising revenue must begin in the House of Representatives. Because of a lack of leadership, our Senate has not passed a budget in three years, despite the work of the House to present them with a budget. This lack of leadership and dire need for fiscal responsibility is just one of the many reasons I wrote a few months ago about the importance of the Senate races in this year's election. Regardless of who is elected to the presidency in November, a conservative, reform minded  House and Senate is necessary to help ensure that proverbial sun is neither eclipsed, nor sets. All of this is not to diminish the important role of the presidency, but to put it in constitutional perspective.

Whether it is the seat of the presidency or of Congress or any other seat at any level of government, those who occupy those seats  must remember to whom that seat ultimately belongs--the people who elected them.  Is the sun that Franklin spoke of continuing to rise on America? Is it morning in a America? Or is it a time where the clouds of a presidential fiats, Congressional abdications, and arrogant leadership darken the promise of the Founding Fathers? Thankfully, the answer lies with us--with our vote--with our desire to truly make this a nation of  "We the People".

Crossposted here and here.