Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Conservative Politician’s Guide to Origins – Take One

As part of the leftists attempts to destroy Marco Rubio before he becomes a viable candidate for higher office, he is being smacked around with questions about origins.

This has been a trend over the last several years. Agents of the common culture such as talk show hosts and reporters have taken to asking conservatives if they believe in evolution. Like so many things, conservatives try to answer a complex question truthfully and quickly.

The truthful part is not the mistake, neither is the quickly part. Answering the question is a mistake.

The purpose of the question is to give the conservative’s opponents – which include reporters and talk show hosts – ammunition to portray you as backward.

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Christianity Illegitimate for Public Policy?

In conversations with gay marriage supporters, my views are compared to those who supported laws forbidding marriage between races. As late as 1967, it was illegal in many states for a mixed race couple to marry. Our common culture today would look at this and conclude that those people were racists. I believe the comparison is an attempt to equate my views with bigotry.

Standard operating procedure for the left.

Being a Christian, I am not at liberty to redefine what God says is a sin. Scripture is not just an instruction manual. Sin – and our awareness of it in our lives – is how we know we are in need of a savior. In my mind we are talking about eternal souls, not temporal needs.

I also think our nation’s laws and customs ought to reflect God’s laws and customs. So far, we have been very successful. Judeo-Christian values have served our nation well as a foundation for ordering our society. We do not always get it right, but America has a conscience. By the time Loving v Virginia rolled around, there were only 15 states left with anti-miscegenation laws. Getting it right was already underway.

The left wants to de-legitimize how we come to our conclusions, claiming that faith has no place in public policy. This is an effort that has been going on for decades, and it is ridiculous. The entire American enterprise is based on the idea that rights are from the Creator. Immutable rights depend upon belief in an immutable source. Toss out the transcendent, unchanging foundation and your rights are dependent on the whim of men. Societies where Jews and Christians need not apply have a horrifying track record on human rights.

Society is well-served when the faithful search the scriptures, pray and use their faith as a foundation for public policy decisions. Hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens – all these are in response to commands by Christ to care for the sick, homeless and hungry. Abolition was championed by the faithful in America, as was the civil rights movement. Looking to God for guidance on big issues has worked out well most of the time.

I’m sorry that the Church has been wrong in the past, and I anticipate we will be wrong in the future, but I do not think this is one of those times. I cannot in good conscience support something I believe would be harmful. Christian teaching on homosexuality is perfectly clear. That some of my fellow citizens do not recognize the authority of scripture doesn’t mean I am at liberty to ignore what it means to me.

The left would find a great deal more personal peace if they could find it in their hearts to set aside their own bigotry and recognize that their Christian neighbors are doing their best to be faithful to the very thing from which freedom springs. We don’t always get it right, but the world is far better off for the effort.

If They will Buy it, Let Them Break It

The GOP is in a death spiral and they are taking conservative ideas along for the ride. The much-maligned Hoover was a progressive, and while his progressive policies are at the root of the Great Depression, and FDR’s progressive policies are at the root of the duration of the Great Depression, Hoover is stuck with the blame along with the GOP.

In my lifetime, only Carter got blame for the economy sucking, and Only Reagan got credit for the good times after taxes were lowered.

If Newt Gingrich had not been the speaker of the house, Bill Clinton would not have even tried to balance the budget. However, Clinton is given credit for the 90s boom, and has no blame for the slowdown he brought upon the country when he raised taxes.

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Fair Trade – End No Fault Divorce in Exchange for Gay Marriage

My marriage is my responsibility.  My wife and I will be held responsible by God for the successes and failures of our union.  A gay couple being married or not married will have zero effect on my marriage.

However, social changes have an impact on marriage as an institution.  Once upon a time, dissolving a marriage required convincing a judge that the contract had been breached – an affair, an abandonment, abuse.  People stuck it out when it got rough.  This meant children were raised more often by both parents.  Imperfect though it may be, the health, welfare and happiness of children is better served by two parent families.

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Gay Marriage? Don’t Really Care.

I am a Christian, but I really do not care what consenting adults do. I do not think homosexual relationships are all that healthy, but I’m not all that impressed with heterosexual relationships.

Honestly, if a gay couple can experience the love and companionship I have been blessed with in my marriage, I say all power to them. If people want to form extended relationships like those Heinlein imagined in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, I really do not care. If asked I might advise against it but I have my hands full doing a good job with my own relationship.

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Will Prop A Make St. Louis’ Police Union More Cautious About Who They Support?

The dust has settled after the election, and among the many votes I cast that were on the losing side was one against Proposition A.  This proposition, among other things, would put the city of St. Louis in control of the police department.  I voted against Prop A because every cop I know was against it.  Chief among their concerns was putting their pension fund into the hands of city politicians.

Fair enough.  I am not all that impressed with how city politicians conduct their affairs.  Don’t misread my meaning.  I love my city.  I think Mayor Slay does an exceptional job with the hand he is dealt, and my alderman Fred Wessels is a sensible, dedicated public servant.  Not so sure about the rest of the team, though I will acknowledge that any time I have had business to do with city hall, everyone has been friendly, responsive and professional.

It occurred to me the other day that there isn’t a Democrat in office that has not enjoyed the full-throated endorsement and support of the unions in this town, including the police union.  There may be some jockeying among the minor players among the pols in Gateway City, but our election for city government is always the Democrat primary, never the general election.  By the time all the people vote, the winner is known.

That means for decades the police union has been supporting candidates – Democrats – to run our fair city.  Over those decades has there been a mayor, alderman or dog catcher that has won their office without the tacit approval of the police union?  We all get to enjoy the leadership, wisdom and common sense governance of our city’s elected officials.  All of these are in part filtered through the leadership of the police.

All of us in the city have been living under the leadership of men and women supported by the police.  We all have our lives and livelihoods in their care.  These men and women whom we must entrust with our school system, our property values and such – these men and women are deemed unfit to manage the police pension.

Perhaps they are not.  Perhaps the police pensions will be looted and hollowed out by sticky-fingered aldermen who pledge it as collateral for the latest public/private partnership boondoggle.  I really would hate to see that happen.  Cops have an important job that can be suddenly dangerous.  They deserve to have their life savings be secure.

Still, there is a definitive sense that they helped make the bed we live in, and now they ought to lie in it with the rest of St. Louis’ citizens.  Perhaps with their pensions now on the block they will be more careful about who they support.

Teaching Kids that Money = Labor

I have many grandchildren, so many in fact that in moments of confusion I refer to them by number, especially the string of boys all of whom have a name starting with the hard “c” sound.  Number six and I were enjoying “Just Grandpa And Me” dinner at Panera bread and the subject of money came up.

“Do you know how your daddy makes money?” I asked Six.

He paused, sensing a trick question. “He works” was his response.

“That’s right – your daddy works very hard.  As you grow up you work, and people pay you for the work you do”  I replied.  “Anytime we buy something, we trade our work for their work.”

Six was toiling to tear the crusty bread bowl, now emptied of its creamy soup, into manageable chunks.  I continued.  “How much was our dinner?”

Earlier, Six had been looking over the receipt. “About twenty dollars.”

“OK.  So, when you and I placed our order, the nice lady behind the counter wanted us to trade twenty dollars worth of labor for our dinner.  Does that make sense?”

He looked perplexed.

“If Grampa paid you twenty dollars to mow my lawn, and it took you two hours, how much labor would dinner cost you?”

“Labor?” he asked quizzically.

“Yes, labor is work.  When you mow the grass, you are performing work, or labor.”

He thought for a moment.  Six hates to be wrong.  He would rather not answer than not get the question right.  “Remember, you ‘labored’ for two hours and Grandpa paid you twenty bucks.  If you bought dinner, how much labor would it cost you?”

“Two hours?”

“That’s right!  About the time it takes to watch a movie.”

Six smiled, and went back to consuming his bread bowl.  He looked back up to me and I continued the lecture.

“So, how would you prove to the lady that you had really done twenty dollars worth of work and that she should give you twenty dollars worth of her work?”

“She gave us dinner, she didn’t work for us.” he objected.

“Actually, farmers, truckers, bakers and servers all worked to make us dinner.  We are always trading labor for labor.  Without labor wheat isn’t planted, flour isn’t ground, bread isn’t baked and dinner isn’t served.  Does that make sense?”  Six nodded, though not with confidence.

Moving along, I pulled out a twenty dollar bill.  “How long did you have to mow my grass to earn this?” I asked.

“Two hours.”

“So, if I give you this twenty dollar bill, its a way of proving that you performed twenty dollars worth of work, right?”

“Yeah”

“So, when the lady asks us to trade dinner with 20 dollars worth of labor, we use this to show her we have done 20 dollars worth of work.  Understand?”

Six nodded assent.  Then he shifted in his seat and said. “But you paid for it with your credit card.”

I smiled, “That’s another discussion, buddy.”

Retaking the High Ground

Ronald Reagan referred to Congress, the news media and special interest groups as an “Iron Triangle” that hampered his efforts to get the federal budget under control. In the decades since, I think we are learning that Reagan’s iron triangle is a symptom, not a cause.

The rot in the national consciousness that blinds our fellow citizens to the enormous danger decades of reckless big government spending is a result of a different triad. Those of us who believe in fiscal responsibility are pinned down by forces that control the high ground of the media, the academy and the bureaucracy. We are only able to eek out territory by inches while our opponents can advance miles at a time.

The media is a regular boogeyman among conservatives, but we often only talk about bias in the news. What we fail to understand is that the media includes everything from newspapers, network and cable news to movies, sitcoms and cartoons our children voraciously consume.

Within the walls of the academy, a liberal worldview is default. We as parents see our tax dollars used to send our children to seven hours a day, nine months a year, kindergarten through senior in high-school to live in a culture carefully crafted to reflect all the features of a liberal utopia. We then go deeply into debt to send our young men and women to four to eight years of intense exposure to liberalism actively hostile to a conservative way of thinking.

Politicians come, politicians go, but bureaucracy is eternal. Long gone are the legislators who gave the alphabet soup of agencies at the Federal level the power to enforce regulations as if they are law. Vast swaths of property rights have been placed under the purview of well-paid bureaucrats with budgets, time on their hands and a default view of government knows best. Minds comfortable with big-government policy are drawn to big-government jobs. Taxpayer funded unions for government workers make it extremely difficult to muster the political resolve to abate the power and reach of these agencies. What agency head would ever set a goal to reduce the number of agents by 10%? Who of these would ever try to voluntarily cut their enforcement budget by 10%?

This is the battle. So long as we have an academy redefining freedom, a media mocking freedom and a bureaucracy that exists to take freedom, political success will only take us so far. With our blogs, rallies and remarkable successes considering the forces arrayed against us, I fear we are only playing small-ball.

Our opponents have been playing chess while we have been playing checkers. We will always be on the defensive so long as our strategy fails to address getting conservatives to teach, conservatives to write scripts and produce entertainment and conservatives to chip away at the influence of the bureaucracy.

This is the battle before us. We must prepare for a multi-generational battle to take our portion of the opponent’s high ground.

Many Good Men Doing Nothing

Edmund Burke said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  John Philpot Curran, whose life overlaps Burke said “Evil prospers when good men do nothing.”

Before the election, I told my wife that there were a lot of good men doing nothing.  I ran into them all the time.  Good men who took care of their families, were good husbands.  Hardworking guys who had the respect of their peers.  All these men are men I would surely like as friends, but over the decades have remained aloof from what evil was creeping into our culture.

“Bratz” is a line of dolls that came out years ago.  Back then my wife and I came across a Bratz-themed halloween costume that featured fishnet stockings and a bustier, sized for a girl about 7 to 10 years old.  I said to her that if something like this did not bring out the pitchforks and torches among parents of little girls, society is lost.

Bratz is still in production.

This is but one example of a culture eroding.  A tiny minority of us howl, but we are drowned out by the minority who have the high ground of the academy and the media.  A majority of men and women who otherwise conduct their lives quietly and decently are carefully oblivious to grave issues affecting our society.  For most of my life, the rule was “do not discuss religion and politics”, a rule that allowed the nation to be run by people for whom politics is religion.

Such good men have a vague sense that things are off, but they hunker down and carry on.  Perhaps they adopt a cynical view that “both sides” are at fault, sparing themselves the hard work of paying attention and discerning.

Work hard, play hard, leave the social and political conflicts for other people.

I would like to think that these good men are natural allies of liberty – but nothing yet has aroused their interest beyond the day to day grind.

I’m not sure it is apathy, but it sure seems to be complacency.  The doom of America has been predicted over and over again.  We have a long record of slugging our way back, but liberty has been slowly circling the drain for decades, and I sense many of us are weary of what seems like a lonely, thankless struggle.

I have plenty of hope.  I think it has always been a relatively small but highly motivated few that have been the champions of freedom.   Human history is full of lost causes won, fortunes of war turned.  Gideon’s handpicked force, the battle of Thermopylae. American took on the world’s superpower in our war for independence.  From that shot heard round the world to the 101st at Bastogne, to the battle for civil rights  it is not a safe bet to wager against surrounded, outgunned and outnumbered Americans.

Still, it would be nice to have a few more.

School Choice in the City

The city of St. Louis is a great place to live as an adult.  The housing stock is sturdy and generally well maintained.  Prices are reasonable.  We have an infrastructure for a million with 400,000 residents.  We have a vibrant civic life, lots of churches and while corruption is never a laughing matter, the drama we see in our city government is laughably inept compared to Chicago.

The problem with St. Louis is the schools.

There are good schools in St. Louis, both public and private.  However, the private schools are dying because residents who can are leaving the city for the suburbs, where parents only have to pay for a good education once.

Think about that.  A young couple moves to St. Louis and buy a home.  After a few years they have their first, then second child.  When their firstborn is ready to go to kindergarten, they have to either send that child to the school down the street.

If a family determines that the school down the street is not to their liking – what are their options?  Pay for twelve years of parochial school to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars for each child or move.

Does it make sense for communities to force parents to uproot their families from friends and neighbors and move because the neighborhood school is their only choice?  Put another way, if you want to choose a different school you have to choose a different community.

That seems pretty stupid when you say it out loud.

Childhood schoolhouse of photographer Mike Bay

School choice is a plan where parents decide where educational dollars are spent, not educational bureaucrats and school board members.  Voucher programs  – like the one cancelled by President Obama in Washington DC – are very popular among poor residents because it allows kids to escape dysfunctional schools.

I do believe that dysfunctional schools are the result of educational bureaucrats tolerating dysfunction.  That’s another blog post – probably several – but when those who benefit from the current system start seeing their revenue go to schools who take education more seriously, they will be forced to abandon dumb ideas and policies and embrace smart ones – or end up shut down.

Public education has to fundamentally change.  The failures of St. Louis’ public schools are the number one reason our city is not the thriving metropolis it could be.  Doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result is bonkers.  School choice will suck for the current generation of educators – at least some of them – but it would help us revive the city and heck – maybe some kids will get a good education.