Sunday, July 31, 2011

Default is a lie!

The soundbytes have been flying across the airwaves like missiles over Baghdad in 1991.

A succinct sampling of the news over the past several weeks would read something like this:

“We have bipartisan support.”

“We’re working on a deal to get this done.”

“No deal!”

“You’re not willing to compromise.”

“We have been in talks with the President to reach a deal.”

“No deal!”

“Why would you hold America hostage?!”

“You said the same things five years ago!”

“No deal!”

But, there is one soundbyte, one phrase, that inexplicably is being uttered and rehashed by the left, the right, and even some libertarians.

“We will default if the debt ceiling isn’t raised.”

Out of all components of the latest political circus on display inside the Beltway, that last non-stop, three-ring performance over the debt ceiling has been equally as nauseating as the doomsday rhetoric flowing out of the White House.

Ballyhooed by the party’s ringleader in chief, House Speaker John Boehner, congressional Republicans (and even a number of their talking heads) have also been prattling-on as though they believe the “default” hype.

But, there is one cold, hard truth being deliberately ignored.

Default is a lie.

As so many others have pointed-out already, given the fact the federal government is projected to bring-in $2.2 trillion for Fiscal Year 2011, payments on existing debt will run about $200 billion, Social Security is expected to exceed $700 billion, and the combination of Medicare and Medicaid will run almost $800 billion there will be enough in tax receipts to cover the $1.7 trillion in entitlements.

That leaves roughly half-a-trillion dollars to do the remaining federal business.

What does this mean?

The second-most-obvious answer is someone in the White House is going to (finally) have to understand how to prioritize spending.

Every other entity and operation in America has to learn to live within their means in similar situations… Although, they must do so since they don’t enjoy access to their own monetary printing presses while the federal government is immune from its own counterfeiting laws…

…But, as usual, I digress…

And then there is that pesky most-obvious answer I almost distracted myself from addressing.

The federal government has the money it needs to make all its mandatory expenditures. All the rhetoric, all the hype, and all the hysteria are predicated on lies.

Is default possible? Certainly.

But here is the ultimate truth in the discussion of such an event: should a debt ceiling agreement not be reached, the only way American debt payments, social security checks, and other domestic benefits won’t get paid-out would have to be as a result of a deliberate choice by the President.

So, no matter what chatter gets shot across the airwaves or splashed onto the front pages of all the periodicals about either the Tea Party “hijacking the process” or whatever other narrative gets manufactured, any withholding of payments which the government is legally (not to mention constitutionally) obligated to pay still boils down to a conscious decision within the White House.

And if the President makes that choice, all the “Impeach Obama” rallying cries which have rang predictably hollow so far just might unexpectedly get some teeth to them.

Related side notes

The single most nauseating talking point raised by Republicans so far has been the notion that forcing this administration to begin choosing where to drop the axe on federal spending means leaving all the discretion up to the Democrat-held White House.

The leading minstrel on this argument has been – surprise, surprise – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

This is the same Mitch McConnell who practically broke into tears over mentions of reducing discretionary spending a year ago.

The Bluegrass State’s senior Senator continues to let his priorities shine like a beacon of patheticness.

Once again the tenuousness of Social Security has worked its way to the forefront political discussions. Every Libertarian across America ought to be beating this drum relentlessly in light of the opportunity presented.

For the first time last year, the Social Security Administration found itself having to dip into the so-called lockboxes and…

…Figure out what to do with stacks of worthless IOU’s.

And that has come to pass because of decades of borrowing against the Social Security Fund that was supposed to be funded by all the FICA taxes collected since the Roosevelt era.

Things were running smoothly until we finally reached that point – which had been predicted for years – when the amount owed in Social Security obligations exceed the amount of FICA taxes being collected to ensure the checks continue to go out in the mail.

There should be trillions of dollars in reserve to permit the seamless continuance of payments in transition from entitlement surplus to entitlement deficit without any hiccups. However, both parties kept dipping their digits into that cookie jar for years: now all we’re left with is the most extravagant Ponzi scheme ever fathomed – with 30-something sessions of Congress making Bernie Madoff look like a pocket change pilferer.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Losing my religion, saving my faith

“Awakening” and “enlightenment” – they are terms which describe intersecting periods in American history.

In our nation we find ourselves in need of them again now more than ever. We stand at the cusp of either turning an amazing corner if we can wake-up as a society or becoming bonded into servitude of the whims of other nations which have been able to maintain greater clarity in seeing the consequences of nations’ choices: theirs and ours.

To save our country, we need a second “Age of Enlightenment.” With history as our road map, it then should become obvious we first need to enter a second “Age of Awakening.”

The original Age of Awakening was a stretch of the middle of the 18th century when a new ministry nearly exclusively the domain of Colonial America began to arise. It empowered the Enlightenment which had emerged in Great Britain in the late 17th century – which began slowly inspiring America’s greatest minds over the course of the century that followed.

We have gotten away from the ministry of that time, unfortunately. In truth, we have strayed terribly from it. The operative inquiry becomes, “How do we get back to it?”

One hope that I hold lies in my own personal awakening in my faith this year – and I pray it can take hold across our society.

In my previous note, I belabored the point that the Laws of God and the laws of man were never meant to be one and the same. I firmly believe the failure to acknowledge this truth is one of the key blunders of the American Right. When you vest that much broad-sweeping power into the bureaucracy of the state you allow much too dangerously great of an opportunity for those who hate Christianity to engage in destructive mischief upon stepping into that power.

But, this spring the truth to be found on the other side of that coin finally got through.

I was born into the Catholic Church. I attended Shrine of the Little Flower Catholic School for grades 1 through 8. I was raised Catholic.

Recently, though, I found myself struggling to return to faithful attendance of Mass on the Sabbath. I have been very delinquent in recent years with keeping my end of the bargain on the Third Commandment – so I understood my obligation to seek the sacrament of Reconciliation in order to be able to receive Communion again.

Even after forcing myself to not be lazy to that end for a few weekends, I still experienced significant angst over this matter.

Nevertheless, I have consistently longed to return to that path in life since I allowed myself to lapse in attending Mass.

Then it finally hit me. I don’t disagree with the Church on its Catechism. I disagree with its dogma that in order to be one with the Church you must rigidly meet points A, B, and C through X, Y, and Z.

With such an unwavering system of rules to be able to stay in the Church, in a mirror image of what the Evangelical Right Wing in America has been pursuing for decades the Vatican has been for centuries attempting to pigeonhole the laws of man into and amongst the Laws of God.

If structuring government so as to make the laws of man reflect the Laws of God is destined to be a failed concept in our society, then it stands to reason the pursuit of the other direction ultimately cannot succeed for any church.

My apprehension also stems from the massive bureaucratic framework the Church has built over the last 1700 to 1800 years.

Now, all the major denominations of Christianity have engaged in this practice. The Catholic Church, though, stands out as the leading example. (Quixotic as it may appear, I still believe in the Catholic Church’s Apostolic origins as well as the holy authority of the Pope)

This is where my libertarianism has bled into my religious province. My question now becomes, “Is it necessary for the ministry of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be so heavily contingent on the existence of a massive, complex administrative hierarchy?

Much the same way I believe society will function just fine with minimal government and reliance on our ability to engage in self-governance, so too I believe the future of Christianity would be just as promising with significant scaling-back of church organizational apparatus.

Just consider the fact that as our government has gotten ever larger and more centralized so has the omnipresence of politics grown to nauseating proportions.

As our churches become more reliant on central authorities which operate with ever-expanding dogmatic networks, it is inevitable that the risk of politics creeping into these machineries will become more prevalent.

And when politics come into play, would not the need assuredly arise for a set of rules, or laws, to keep the political side of things in check? Would not some form of framework of laws be needed to keep the internal politics from overtaking the church affairs?

Ultimately, does that not also mean you then end-up with the laws of man taking precedent over ministering to parishioners the Laws of God?

Much like with the United States government, the bureaucratic nature of organized religion has become unsustainable.

What history has taught us

As we came to learn in America, during the Age of Enlightenment which preceded the Revolution, our relationships with God and Christ were always meant to be a personal one. The opposite of this outlook is known as collective salvation.

Collective salvation was what the churches in Europe had begun implementing as a means of maintaining control of the masses: if an orderly adherence to the official sermons was not maintained, no single person could hope to be saved in the absence of blessings for the whole of society.

However, here in the American colonies during the 18th and 19th centuries, ministers and preachers began sermonizing a more individual approach toward belief in God and Christ.

Thanks to a man named George Whitefield, who began a barnstorming tour across the colonies in the mid-1700s preaching his new – and (dare I say) revolutionary – outlook on finding God, the people in the New World would slowly but surely come to understand that when we as individuals are good and more virtuous then the parishes and congregations (and ultimately the communities) are stronger and greater.

What Whitefield would end-up not only teaching but inspiring in our American ancestors during that period in history was when we are more enabled as individuals to better ourselves and fortify the spiritual health of our families, our society as a whole gradually becomes a healthier and more vibrant place.

Naturally, humanity at that time 260 years ago had a long way to go in terms of realizing civilized living and overcoming many of the superstitions which still dominated the culture. But, during that period people in the New World were more focused on self-betterment than at any time before and since – paving the way for a societal rise to world greatness that the world had scarcely seen before.

And all the while, the collective gains were being made because the spirit of the individual had been unleashed – an individual who understood the vital importance of loyalty to country yet at the same time was free to seek salvation one-on-one with God and Christ.

So, what does this mean?

One of the most important components of the spread of Whitefield’s message and the rise it gave to the American Enlightenment was the fact the individual churches retained a great deal more autonomy across the Colonies than their counterparts back in Europe and Western Asia.

Of course, much of that was due to the existence of such an enormous geographical separation from the various councils and authorities for each Christian sect as well as the lack of modern transmittal of ideas as we know it today. Still, the overall conditions of the time – not just in terms of the absence of technology but the evolving sense of the American identity – led to an amazing awakening not just of Christianity but for Christian values.

Arguably the key messages being spread across the colonies during this particular junction in history was the importance of virtue among the people: that without Americans being a virtuous people the prospects for not only achieving independence but also for lasting as a sovereign nation would be rather dim.

But, it was the more independent nature of the congregations (particularly in the more remote, frontier reaches of the original colonies), outside of the reach of church bureaucracies, that helped cultivate the sense of American Individualism: the person who sought the optimum cross-section of self-sufficiency and Christian virtuousness.

Perhaps most importantly, the conditions of living in and maintaining a community in the more untamed, frontier portions of 18th century America also led people of differing faiths to work and worship together as a result of the necessity of unity just to survive, let alone prosper – bolstering the nation’s identity as a land of religious freedom.

Where should this lead us?

It has become a growing rallying cry – among those of us who wish to see the ship of America sail true again – “Where is our George Washington among us?” that person whom we need to step forward (no doubt reluctantly as the Father of Our Nation did) and inspire us as a nation to modestly and graciously seek the path toward Restoration: that individual who can do so having earned their place as “First in the hearts of America.”

What many of us (myself included) have forgotten from our history lessons is that even George Washington needed to be preceded by others in the greater scheme of things who would set the stage for him to become our nation’s most beloved leader.

Before Washington took his place in the annals of American history there needed to be the likes of Thomas Paine, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.

Before them, there was George Whitefield.

Before we can find our modern-day Washington, we must find our modern-day Paine, Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin.

Before we can find them, we must find our modern-day Whitefield.

In the end…

If nothing else, my aim with this essay is to point-out that we are doing ourselves a disfavor by clinging tightly to our identities as Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, and so on.

Do we not all believe in the Immaculate Conception, birth, life, ministry, crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

And that leads me back to that juncture I reached this spring: that tightly-held notion of being a Catholic was nothing more than a label – and we have become entirely too preoccupied anymore as a society with finding a comfortable label for ourselves.

As a result, in the modern quest for labels we allowed ourselves to forget our identity as Christians.

Christ called upon His apostles James and John to become “fishers of men.” His call to us through the ages hasn’t changed: to be disciples of Him. He has never called upon us to fit neatly into an arbitrary category.

For Christianity to survive another 2,000 years, we must learn to focus on discovering Christian Unity. Ultimately, these labels of church identity serve as much to divide us as any other factor working against Christianity today. With so much stacked against us anymore when it comes to living by the Gospel, what sense does it make to actively pursue and erect additional barriers to unity as Christians?

Even if we are unable to arrive at the kind of ecumenical Christian faith I pray can be achieved, a united Christian faith will become a movement for good the likes of which the world has not previously witnessed.

I believe in Christ and I believe the Bible is the Holy Word of God.

I make those proclamations in the complete absence of shame or embarrassment. Of course, there will be those who try to peg a different set of labels on me – such as Jesus freak, bible thumper, and other, similarly derisive (if not blasphemous) markers.

Just know this: they only label me – they cannot define me.

My faith in God and Christ will accomplish that.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An Evangelical case for Libertarianism

Important note: if material of an overtly religious nature and that actively examines Judeo-Christian theology and its role in guiding us ideologically is not of interest to you, this is a good point to stop reading and go about other leisure pursuits. I am a firm believer in the notions that America is a Christian nation, to remain in keeping with Christian doctrine means defending and preserving the rights of others to hold differing religious and spiritual beliefs, and that America is great because America is good. If any of these principles do not hold well with you, you will simply be laughed-at for keying-in on the various professions of faith contained in this essay as opposed to the connections between Christianity and libertarianism I assert exist.

It has been argued on many occasions through the generations that to preserve our country’s Christian heritage and identity we must use the force of government power to remove those components of society which exist in opposition to Christian moral values. Some arguments have not contained such an overtly worded premise while others have been uttered with even stronger language toward those ends.

I disagree with this concept entirely and have come to better understand why we need to steer clear of such legislative or constitutional endeavors in recent years.

In exploring what the true meaning of liberty is in America, what has dawned on me through this period of reflection has become a crucial facet to my conclusions: the importance of God’s second-greatest gift to us.

Obviously, our Lord’s greatest gift to his people on Earth has been His only Son, Jesus Christ: His birth, life, teachings, death, and resurrection. His second-greatest gift is the one which has made us uniquely human among all His creations: our free will.

And, it is our free will that serves as the focal point of this discussion. It leads us to one of our most important spiritual questions we must answer as Christians.

What is it about faith in Christ that leads us to salvation?

My answer is that in addition to accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we must also prove that faith through the opportunity to rise above sin.

Which individual is more likely to be a true follower of Christ? Is it the person who lived a life of virtue only as a result of an overreaching central authority, due to their options in life having been legislated away to protect them from temptation?

Or, is it the person who – given the opportunity to hear the Word of God and know Jesus’ teachings – opened their heart to the Son of God of their own volition and sought the rocky, gravel road as their path toward following Him; the person who has every opportunity to give-in to temptation but willfully rejects the false promises which accompany it in pursuit of Christ’s Favor at their eventual time of judgment?

At this point, we need to remember two more undeniable and vitally important truths: first, that our God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, is ultimately a forgiving God; also, that belief in – and acceptance of – Christ as our Lord and Savior is the most important Way into God’s kingdom.

As one who seeks greater understanding of Evangelical Christianity, I enter into this pursuit with an unwavering belief in the loving forgiveness of God.

A vital truth Evangelical Republicans disregard

There is one component of a free people such as Americans which the right wing among love to celebrate when it comes to history – our rebelliousness.

Peculiarly though, such high regard for America’s rebellious nature fizzles in silently rapid fashion when it comes to modern society. And so, many conservatives press forward on social issues in politics, legislation, and governance while deliberately ignoring one key reality.

Rebellion is mankind’s natural social state.

We see this throughout American history and we are witnessing it today.

Look at the ongoing fight against the implementation of the so-called Affordable Health Care Act (whose nickname lately has morphed into “Obamneycare”). Through the peaceful exercise of our First Amendment rights, Americans have been engaged in a rebellion of rhetoric against a socialist legislative maneuver that was enacted despite the fact it was clear the majority of voters in the country did not want it.

We also see it in youth whose parents attempt to take the authoritarian approach further than necessary.

That second example best illustrates my point as it relates to this discussion. With rebellion being humanity’s natural social state, to some degree it is because the Evangelical element among Conservative Republicans have sought so fervently to thrust the Gospel of Jesus Christ into our laws that there has been such a rise in atheism as well as a wider disinterest in Christian values and principles among those who identify themselves as Christians.

It is the inevitable pushback against what amounts to right-wing big government: the thrust to deny us through the law our right to exercise our free will.

It happens with each Republican congressional majority and Republican-controlled White House. And, there is bound to be another round of it when the grand pendulum of voter sentiment finishes swinging back to the GOP’s way.

The conservative contradiction

Of late, much has been made about messages entailing so-called collective salvation. This idea is based on the notion that the individual cannot be saved if the community is not first saved.

This is a concept being gradually promoted by the Establishment Left to further distance us from the truth that salvation is on an individual basis. However, the Left’s approach to this is being made via economic-centered legislation and executive decree.

Conservative commentators have taken some note of this rhetoric and have been rightfully critical of it.

But, there is one problem.

The American Right’s social agenda is operating under the same premises as the Left’s economic agenda: that we cannot be trusted to make decisions and choices for the best interests of society – or rather we cannot be trusted to make the correct decisions and choices.

Among the Republican Party’s Evangelical base, there is a mindset that our laws must be written so as to “protect family values.” This perception of the role of government in our society’s system of values ignores one vital truth:

The laws of God and the laws of man were never meant to be one and the same.

In order to achieve the ends that Evangelical Conservatives insist are what are best for us, it would require Congress to author laws either so broadly written and wide-ranging they bestow to federal authorities frightening leeway to interpret which of our actions would be too immoral under the law or produce a behemoth of legislation that must tackle and specify so many possible personal activities that no one could possibly know whether or not what they’re doing is illegal – that is until one of those statutes was selectively applied to them after the fact.

All in all, what conservatives fail to recognize is that working to use man’s law to steer us all toward following God’s law is merely right-wing collective salvation.

And, if our society is to become one engineered for collective salvation then what need is there for us to seek God’s forgiveness on our own – to seek salvation through the Word of God?

Much like left wing economic safety nets and entitlements kill the motivation to be self-sufficient in our day-to-day lives, right wing morality safety nets will have the unintended consequence of killing the motivation to seek salvation on our own. Why worry about what the Word of God tells us when we have a ready-made authority here on Earth to take care of our moral spiritual needs?

The best path to Christ is the one which is freely chosen – a Free Will Evangelical path.

Where liberty and morality collide: resolving libertarianism and the sacrament of matrimony

While the temptation is compelling (pardon the ironic pun) when writing this essay to devote time to analyze each and every plank regarding individual liberties in the Libertarian platform, for the sake of some measure of concision it makes the most sense to focus on the single most controversial issue which has leapt to the forefront recently.

One of the key arguments against libertarianism in America involves the issue of marriage. The purest of libertarian platforms is that government has no place in overseeing, regulating, or having any kind of hand in the institution of marriage: this is because it is of the most personal nature between two individuals and its origins in society trace directly back to the churches (or other religious places of congregation).

As a result, it can be argued that the requirement to obtain a state-issued marriage license is unconstitutional on the grounds of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Since the “wall of separation between Church and State” as described by Thomas Jefferson meant the true original intent of the First Amendment’s verbiage was to protect the Church and its functions from encroachment by government, the continued practice by the states today to mandate acquisition of a license in order for two individuals to be “legally” married rightfully is beyond their reasonable, constitutional authority.

This leads us to the simple truth that what government defines as a “marriage” in all actuality is a civil union as it entails the signing of a legally binding contract between the two spouses. What makes such a union a Marriage is the understanding they have willingly come together as one life and one unified soul in the presence of God.

Returning to the question of morality, many who oppose the notion of the right of nuptials being opened to couples of the same gender insist this development will put our society on a path toward polygamy and other such marital arrangements.

There lies in this assertion a glaring problem of argumentation, not of spirituality. Any logical argument must follow the pattern that if “A” is connected to “B” and “B” is connected to “C,” then it is true that “A” must lead eventually to “C.”

But, those who insist that same-sex civil unions will lead to polygamy are missing the vital “B” component in their arguments. They’re making the case that “A” (gay marriage) will take us toward “C” (polygamy or worse) – but they’re omitting the all-important “B” connector in their reasoning: what happens after the initial allowance of same-sex unions that precipitates polygamous arrangements?

Still, some libertarian ideological purists would insist if three people willingly agree to an interconnecting marital arrangement that should be their right as well as their private business – and theirs alone.

To set the minds of my fellow Evangelical Christians at ease, I would contend psychological findings through the years have proven such relationship dynamics are doomed to fail in the vast majority of instances when and where they are pursued and will not see proliferation as a result of that alone – even if a legal or constitutional argument for polygamy could be successfully made.

And in all practicality, if we assume multi-spousal marriages remain prohibited, can anyone explain how a situation where a husband and wife simply invite a non-marital third partner into their relationship becomes less immoral or less potentially damaging to the sacrament of matrimony than if they were to engage in a three-way civil union?


Above and beyond the points raised above, right-wing Evangelicals have been deliberately ignoring the most important libertarian point which relates to their system of values and beliefs: that it is your right not only to disagree with the choices made by others but also to express it!

Even more importantly, you enjoy the right and freedom to raise your children to embrace the values and beliefs you (and I) hold so dearly and encourage them to advocate those values to others. That right and authority as parents must never be abridged under any circumstances if we are to remain a truly free society.

You have the right (especially if you are an ordained clergy) to assume the duty and responsibility to preach before those who will lend you their ear what steps necessitate the path toward personal salvation through Christ. We are all free to engage in either the ordained ministry or personal ministry (should entry into the seminary be beyond your means) for the sake of saving others’ souls.

But, they (we) must be allowed to choose to have their (our) souls saved.

By insisting that government assume any semblance of that role in society, are you not advocating that the State serve as a surrogate parent or minister? Is that a role we could ever reasonably or reliably trust any level of government to assume without the potential for grave unintended consequences?

Do you believe humanity is so corruptible and we are all so unable to grasp the need for redemption that we must be insulated from ourselves and our free will through the force of government?

One of our greatest Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, spoke of the preservation of individual economic freedom when he issued this well-known warning: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is powerful enough to take away everything you have.”

This same, undeniable principle also applies to our nation’s moral fabric. Does it not stand to reason that a government which enjoys the power to mandate we all live by a particular system of values is powerful enough to shift gears on us, turn that set of values on its ear, and thrust upon us a moral approach which operates in contradiction to Christianity?

As I’ve written before about this topic, those who would be in a position to set, influence, and shape social values policy – and have been holding many key offices and positions in the Executive Branch – fit that very mold.

Take a long, honest look at those who presently sit atop our institutions of power and ask yourself, “Are they people I trust with my salvation?”

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Answer this: is it 1984 yet?

Someone answer this for me: how do you not see the parallels in today's political theater with the more startling component's of George Orwell's "1984"?

Among several storyline components in the book, Oceania's government flip-flops between its announcements of being at war with Eurasia and then Eastasia in a matter of a couple months, but no one seems to take notice.

Contrast with with how today's Republicans and Democrats do the same:

For example, deficit spending. Republicans and conservative pundits were relentless in their apologist defenses of Bush spending policies from 2001 through 2008. In the meantime, Democrat leadership railed against the rising expenditures relentlessly -- among which was then-Senator Barack Obama.

Today, you cannot criticize the Democrats' massive run-up of spending over the last three years without being accused -- by them, their supporters, and many of the media's unabashed left -- of having racist motives in many instances. Still, Republicans are frothing at the mouth over the national debt eclipsing $14.3 trillion but will dismiss and demean anyone who tries to make them answer for the $4.9 trillion expansion of national debt during the Bush years.

On war, challenging the so-called Bush doctrine on the Middle East was automatically deemed unpatriotic by conservatives. Democrats were nearly united in their steadfast opposition to the Bush warfare state. Now, we witness mainly complicity for expanded war engagements by President Obama among Democrats while Republicans are now the outspoken critics of his aggressive use of American military might.

Simultaneously, most Republicans oppose any proposals for troop reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan and are quick to label such action "Cut and Run." All the while, modern liberals have been silently burning and shredding their "Dissent Is Patriotic" T-shirts since January 20, 2009.

Finally, I find it uproariously hilarious that for years before the turn of the century, Democrats and liberal commentators have decried the activities of the Federal Reserve Bank while Republicans and their conservative apologists were insisting its continued unabated operation was vital to maintaining a healthy and stable American economy.

Now, the left is half peculiarly silent on the Fed while the other half has warmed-up to cheerleading for it. In recent years, more and more conservatives are jumping aboard the bandwagon for reining-in the Fed's financial powers.

I know I have maybe a very small handful of Democrat/liberal followers. So, to those of you who identify yourselves as Republicans and staunch conservatives, explain to me without silly, predictable ad hominem attacks, why you don't agree with my assessment of 1984 parallels.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wall of Separation or lines in the sand?

(Don’s note: As dated as the opening discussion points may be, the need to write this essay never ebbed in the same manner it’s timeliness did with each passing day since the linked article was published by Lima News Opinion Page Editor Ron Lederman. As I kept the main arguments tucked-away in the back of my mind, it dawned on me this piece would be the best possible segue composition for the one which will follow. While my authorship of the blog below may be long overdue, its central points have been of vital importance to our Republic for 220 years and will continue to be so for many generations to come. Also, while it may be tempting at some point to write this off as a strangely tardy defense of the former candidate mentioned as well, her mention serves merely as necessary background for why I felt it was so necessary to at some point tackle the central theme.)

I stopped getting excited over candidates for elected office based on their party affiliation several years ago.

While I have supplanted that outlook with a small-government, third-party bias, my spurning of the failed two-party political system has led me to (finally/belatedly) assess what all candidates and pundits say with a more critical – and especially skeptical – outlook.

Sometimes, even a less confidence-inspiring (or so many talking heads would have us believe) individual can arrive at the truth – and in plain enough terms to draw equal amounts of public scorn and adulation.

Such was the case with Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell in Delaware last year. During the October 19 debate with Chris Coons (the eventual winner of that State’s Senate seat) at Widener University’s law school she asked her opponent point blank, “Where in the Constitution is the ‘separation of church and state?’”

According to the Associated Press, O’Donnell’s retorts to Coons – during a discussion centering on whether or not public schools ought to include Creationism in their curricula – drew a derisive response from an audience which consisted principally of law students and professors. Critics would insist her remarks in the overall exchange during that segment of their debate demonstrated O’Donnell lacks a comprehension of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and what its original meaning and intent have always been.

Locally, Lima News Opinion Page Editor Ron Lederman would expand further on that observation (see, in particular, his post in the bottom of the comments section) by insisting that because she presented her perspective on this highly contentious topic while debating a lawyer and in front of a crowd comprised mainly of law students she is “an idiot.”

There are a couple of points that actually show favorably toward O’Donnell on this situation. The fact she would hold to the obvious on the First Amendment that the phrase “separation of church and state” is stated nowhere in it, and do so in the company present at that time, demonstrated a degree of courage of conviction so nauseatingly lacking among politicians today. It is easy to argue one’s convictions and principles while in the presence of a like-minded crowd. It is a far more daunting undertaking to do so when surrounded by people who are inclined to disagree with you vehemently.

Now had O’Donnell been surprised her stance on the Establishment Clause would be harshly-received, one would have a sound case that she lacks solid reasoning skills.

Otherwise, to say the least, Lederman’s criticism of O’Donnell on this specific point is nonsensical.

What is a legitimate criticism of her is how she defended her qualifications to be the next senator from Delaware instead of Coons, since she had not held any previous legislative seat or could boast of any other governmental experience. This was a gaff everyone who spent time tearing-her-down completely missed.

Bear in mind: she championed herself as embodying all that the Tea Party represented based on the notion she was not a Washington Insider trying merely to advance her political aspirations.

O’Donnell eventually pointed to her years of experience working for or establishing several right-wing think tanks and other non-profits (Concerned Women for America, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth [founder], and Catholic Advocacy Network [founder]), authorship of multiple articles for conservative and Christian publications, as well as her two years working in the communications office of the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C.

In short O’Donnell, who promoted herself on the campaign trail as the non-Washington insider, heralded her qualifications to serve in the Senate based on her years spent as a Washington insider.

All in all, her perceived or real shortcomings aside, O’Donnell is right regarding the so-called intent of “separation of church and state” in the First Amendment. It’s not even a matter of semantics, as Lederman insists in his own observation.

What those with a Progressive outlook on the dynamics of religion and government have been pushing onto America over the last 64 years hinges on language used in the opinions of the Supreme Court justices in the Everson vs. Board of Education case.

Opinions written both by the majority and dissenting opinions in that case made reference to the “wall of separation between Church and State.”

What the Supreme Court did in 1947 – and what militant anti-religionists have continued to do to advance their agenda throughout the decades since – was thoroughly torture the words of Thomas Jefferson and completely disregard American and Western history.

On New Year’s Day, 1802, in the first year of his first term as President, Jefferson penned a letter in reply to one he received from leaders of the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut.

The Baptists represented a small minority among Christians in the young nation, particularly in the Nutmeg State – which at the time had the Congregational Church as its established state religion. At one time or another during the United States’ founding years, most states had (although their respective legislation had been adopted during their years as British colonies) state churches. Jefferson himself had signed into law while governor of his home state the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom in 1786, disestablishing the Church of England as the state church.

In their letter to Jefferson, the Danbury Baptists expressed their concerns that the state laws which declared a statewide church would result in their unalienable right to worship as they believed being reduced to privileges allotted by the legislature.

Within his response, Jefferson wrote the following passage which constituted the bulk of the second paragraph (of three) of the brief letter: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

The other historical point which cannot be understated is the fact when the Bill of Rights was being drafted, fresh in the minds of much of America were the lessons learned from the histories of most of the nations of Europe, where religious tyranny at the hands of the monarchs and their nobility had raged for centuries.

Many of those who had set sail for the New World over the course of roughly 200 years preceding the ratification of the Bill of Rights had done so to escape oppression or outright persecution for their religious beliefs. The most famous among these were the Puritans who are more commonly known as the Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620.

While irony abounds in the fact the colonies would one-by-one establish state churches, it remains indisputable that America’s chief attraction throughout the years has been its promise of religious freedom.

The denial of religious freedom was most prevalent in Great Britain following the reigns of King Henry VIII and his daughter Queen Elizabeth I, where Catholic churches had been seized and re-established as Anglican churches – better known then as the Church of England. As time wore on, even other Protestant faiths came under assault as the perspective there evolved that failure to pay proper reverence to the King’s church was akin to disloyalty to the crown if not treason.

Understanding the people’s comprehension at that time of (what was then recent) European history of sectarian religious intolerance fills-in the crucial context of what the Founders truly meant in the opening clause of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Inspired heavily by their revulsion toward the actions of the English monarchy against competing faiths, the Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause to protect the Church from the State, not the State from the Church.

Their true original intent was to prevent what was done to the churches in Great Britain from happening here in the United States.

This is the vital truth so woefully forgotten by today’s general public and extensively disregarded by Progressives for over a century.

Both the misinterpretation of Jefferson’s words and the blatant brush-aside of historical facts by Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black and his colleagues have fueled the misconceptions that hang like a specter over one of the best-written defenses of civil liberties in our history.

Remember, the First Amendment is very specific in its language that “Congress shall make no law” when it comes to matters of religion or faith. The meaning presented in that clause was written to be much narrower than what is being applied in modern times.

Based on that precise wording, we understand this line item in the Bill of Rights was meant to ensure the federal government never passed laws or adopted policies which would or could deny any citizen the right to practice his or her religious beliefs – either through an explicit prohibition or slightly more subtly through the establishment of a State Church.

(On a related side note, part of the motivation for the First Amendment was to prevent the infamous Salem Witch Hunts from ever taking place again.)

The contemporary re-interpretation of the Establishment Clause has served as justification for the broad-sweeping prohibition of anything which could serve as even the remotest symbol of religious acknowledgment in any arena of the public sector.

Let’s examine this as it relates to the most common application of the Establishment Clause: local public entities.

If “Congress shall make no law” is the core language at the heart of the “wall of separation,” logically this means when a city hall puts a Nativity scene on display there is no constitutional prohibition against it – this is not Congress making a law favoring one religion or cracking-down on another.

When a crowd at a get-together on school grounds such as a graduation or sporting event wishes to engage in an invocation, this is not Congress making a law.

When a county courthouse has the Ten Commandments on display, this is not Congress making a law.

When a memorial for fallen soldiers or victims of a tragedy is erected on public land that bears the shape of a Cross, this is not Congress making a law.

What staunch religion opponents and those who have handled much of their litigation for them (i.e. the American Civil Liberties Union) have been doing since Everson vs. Board of Education is taking the examples mentioned above out of the realm of political concerns (where they rightfully belong) and falsely turned them into legal concerns.

Whenever an exhibit of any kind that holds any religious meaning is displayed on municipal or county property, it is a matter for the local residents of that jurisdiction who oppose it to settle through either a redress of grievance with the local elected body or the political process by getting individuals who agree with them on such an item elected to the respective council or commission.

Conversely, if a state or local government chooses to enact prohibitions on activities such as those, that rightfully should be their domain. Then, it is up to us as residents of that state, county, municipality, or township to petition for a redress of such a law, fight to elect those who would seek a repeal, or cast the ultimate vote by moving as we are free to do.

Unfortunately, the zeal with which a multitude of special interest organizations have attacked freedom of religion in America has outpaced the determination of those who would strive to defend it. Instead of pursuing legislation – which could be publicly debated and scrutinized – for their ends, they have achieved them through the use of our courts – bolstered by an ill-conceived legal opinion published by a Supreme Court packed with Progressive President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s appointees.

Jefferson in his incomparable wisdom said it best, “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

As the decades have worn-on, we have seen this truth trampled-upon with startling vigor.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An incident at Faurot Park during the City of Lima's 4th of July festival

To: J. Howard Elstro, Director of Public Works, City of Lima
CC: Mayor David Berger
From: Don Kissick, Allen County Libertarian Party Chair

Re: the behavior of an individual affiliated with the July 4th Festival

Mr. Elstro:

As promised, this is the letter detailing the nature of the confrontation we discussed regarding the individual who identified himself only as a member of the committee which plans the annual 4th of July festival in Faurot Park.

Since I do not have his name I only have his description to offer: he was an elderly gentleman who is an apparent amputee (right leg) and was riding one of the green carts used throughout the park that day.

For the record, I wish to be clear my primary complaint is not about the prohibition against distribution of literature during the festival. In brief, I do reserve disagreements but they shall be addressed later.

The gentleman in question who approached my fellow Allen County Libertarian Party members and I (this was approximately 6 p.m.) did so in the most unprofessional manner possible.

As he rolled-up in the cart, he began repeatedly bellowing, “Give me that box,” and, “Hand over that box!”

In light of the fact he never once identified himself or under what authority he operated to be able demand forfeiture of anyone’s personal property, I politely refused.

At that point, his behavior went from threatening and combative to outright belligerent. All the while he insisted we were not allowed to distribute copies of the Declaration of Independence, he never once explained why or under what authority it was prohibited. He then attempted to interrogate me as to whether or not we had gotten “a permit from the committee” to pass out copies of the Declaration of Independence but refused to explain to what committee he was referring or how a permit was necessary to distribute anything on public property.

Throughout the exchange, I was resolute on the grounds that distribution of copies of the Declaration of Independence is a perfectly legal, First Amendment-protected activity and we were well within our rights to do so.

Eventually I was able to bring to his attention – after multiple attempts due to the belligerent manner in which he kept yelling over my responses to his questions – that there were no notices of any kind posted anywhere in or around the park informing the public of such prohibitions during the festival: to which he accused me of lying.

Next, he once more demanded that I surrender my property to him and this time included I had to “get out of the park” – again, without ever even hinting to what authority he retained to eject anyone from public property – and if I did not comply he would involve officers of the Lima Police Department.

When I reiterated we had every right to be on public property and distribute copies of the Declaration of Independence under the protection of the First Amendment he then employed his radio to contact others working the festival and asked them to direct law enforcement to our location, saying, “He thinks he’s got rights but he ain’t got no rights!”

After finishing his call to have the police step in, he continued with his belligerence and even commented, “If you want to be taken down you keep going! And, don’t think just because I got one leg I can’t do it!”

It was right after that he then violently ripped out of my left hand the copy of the Declaration of Independence I was holding in it (the box containing the other copies was in my right hand).

Within a few short minutes, three officers arrived on the scene led by Sgt. Holman (sp?). He very calmly and with far greater professionalism than the gentleman who suggested he was on the (yet unidentified at that time) committee explained that even though Faurot Park is public property since it was reserved via permit by a private entity they retained the prerogative to determine what activity was and was not permissible during the festival.

One of my fellow members and I let the sergeant know if that gentleman simply had informed us of all that there would have been no need for law enforcement to intervene and that we would have gladly kept to the sidewalk with our copies of the Declaration of Independence.

Instead, this committee member (who would not identify himself) engaged in the most unprofessional and atrocious (at times bordering on violent) behavior toward us. To demand forfeiture of my personal property constituted an attempted petty larceny, to engage in his threatening and menacing behavior constituted a public nuisance, and to grab any items out of my hand could very easily be interpreted as assault.

Clearly understanding he was not just in the wrong but way out of bounds, he changed his behavior as soon as he noticed law enforcement was approaching the scene.

At this point of the letter, having described the incident with this member of Star Spangled Spectacular, Inc.’s committee, I would wish to have some important technical points explained.

Now, per our conversation in the Lima Municipal Building this afternoon, you mentioned the City of Lima is “a partner” with Star Spangled Spectacular, Inc. If your description is accurate, then the 4th of July festival cannot be classified as a private event as it is conducted under a partnership by SSSI with the city government on public property.

Therefore, there is a complete lack of legal and constitutional standing when it comes to prohibiting the distribution of literature of any kind – political, religious, or otherwise – during such an event. The handing-out of copies of the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July in Faurot Park remains a First Amendment-protected activity.

Furthermore, with the festival operating as a public-private partnership, those who (be they SSSI committee members or volunteers recruited by them) staff the festival under such an arrangement would become by default representatives of the City of Lima.

Given these circumstances, I would want to know if the city would be comfortable with the fact those who assume representation of it (even if temporarily) are treating members of the public in such a manner while on City of Lima property, operating with a City of Lima-issued permit, conducting the event in partnership with the City of Lima, and using the City of Lima’s name in the event.

This has the potential to reflect very unfavorably on the city.

It is our hope and expectation this matter can be resolved to the satisfaction of the Allen County Libertarian Party as well as the satisfaction of the taxpayers of this great community.

Thank you for your time and professionalism in considering this situation.

Together in Liberty,

Don Kissick
Allen County Libertarian Party Chair

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Can our Free Will be amended?

As I do so well and on such a consistent basis, I wish to state the obvious.

The leadership for both major parties have no idea what the ultimate function of the Constitution of the United States of America has always been intended to serve.

I bring this up yet again in light of reactions to the recent legislative action in New York. The idea has been reintroduced into the national conversation about pursuing a constitutional amendment to define and limit marriage as only taking place between one man and one woman.

This is being urged by high-profile members of the Establishment Right.

Throughout my lifetime (and for several decades preceding the start of it), there have been those who believe the Constitution is missing essential duties that the federal government should undertake on our behalf and thus needs to be amended to contain the additional language outlining those obligations as well as have key limits to governmental power eliminated.

This is being urged by high-profile members (and particularly those behind the scenes) of the Establishment Left.

The two points illustrated above share a key unifying component: they demonstrate how the top decision makers of both major parties either have no clue or are deliberately spurning the role our Constitution was meant to play in the governance of America.

To those who advocate for a constitutional amendment on marriage, I pose this question: was the Constitution ever intended to serve as a vehicle to limit the choices and control the behaviors of individuals?

While it is well-known it was written and designed to limit the power and constrain the actions of the federal government, is there also room for it to be used as a means to place similar limits and constraints on any of our nation’s citizens?

The answer to that can only be a resounding, “No!”

To those who yearn for a country where well-meaning authorities are enabled by law to act for us whether we wish it or not, I tell you that you share with your so-called opponents on the right one striking similarity: the deliberate disregard for our human free will.

If you all should get your way – those of you who insist that people cannot… must not… determine our own choices for ourselves, that we cannot… must not… be free to do for ourselves and brave the consequences for our decisions, choices, and actions – then at such time America will cease to be America.

Friday, July 1, 2011

What does Independence Day mean?

The Fourth of July, more appropriately known as Independence Day, has endured the same kind of secular humanist transformation over the years and decades as the rest of our holidays.

So many of us in society have taken to "celebrating" it in ways that have little or nothing to do with its original significance or meaning.

While we all love the open-grill, summer cuisine as well as the many (professional and amateur) fireworks displays, too few of us fully appreciate why we adorn ourselves and our homes with so much red, white, and blue decor on the fourth day past the calendar midpoint.

The day marks the single most important turning point not only for America but also in world history.

On July 4, 1776, the most audacious revolt against an unjust ruling class was put in writing – after more than a year of open warfare had already been waged. Most of the signatures which appear on it were affixed on that date, with the final signings done by August 2.

In all, 56 men would "mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." And it is to these words we should pay extra attention. Most of these duly appointed delegates to the Continental Congress would lose their fortunes and their lives as a result of drawing the particular scorn of King George III for their role in approving this document.

Knowing full well they would be targeted by British authorities for their roles in boldly setting the American Revolution in stone, those individuals who shaped, voted for, and signed the Declaration of Independence had grasped and embraced one vital, unifying truth.

America's Revolutionaries understood there are certain principles and ideals so important, so indispensable, they are worth dying for.

What ideals and principles do you hold so dearly?