Thursday, March 25, 2010

Turning Anger Into Reform

It's not just that the Democrats won and the Republicans lost over the health insurance reform issue. What angers people is that the President and the Congressional leadership forced through a package that was highly unpopular with the electorate. In addition, it was only able to squeak through (unable to attract even a single Republican vote from anywhere in the country, notes Daniel Henninger in "Repeal the Democrats") only by bribing and threatening a significant number from their own party. So what has people angry is not only the vast expansion of government control over the details of people's lives, but, in two words, the condescension and the corruption.

There is much talk now about throwing the Democrats out of office in November, i.e., using the ballot box to remove specific people from power. So in the Wall Street Journal just today, Daniel Henninger writes "Repeal the Democrats," and Karl Rove gives us, "What the Republicans Should Do Now." Rove recommends offering reform, but he means alternative health care reform.

But in the wake of what these Euro-Social Democrats have done to a trusting public, deeper reform is needed. This is what I argue in my article today, "Turning Public Anger into Political Reform." It starts this way:

Political rage is a terrible thing to waste. And after forcing through a government takeover of the healthcare industry that most people passionately oppose, Congress seems to be a worthy target for public wrath. Of course, death threats and vandalism are not only counterproductive, they’re also uncivilized and evil. There is a more politic way, a more American way.

It was the securely rooted, career politicians—the old “liberal bulls” of Congress—who commanded this assault on the collective judgment of the American people. Consider how long the most prominent champions of Obamacare have been sitting in the House. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been in office for almost 23 years. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), 29 years. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and George Miller (D-Calif.), 35 years. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), 39 years. In a fantastically talented nation of 300 million people, why should the same 535 people govern us from the two houses of Congress decade after decade? Once you are elected to Congress, you have a greater chance of dying in office than of being voted out. The Gerrymander has produced a Leviathan.

I then reproduce something called the Congressional Reform Act of 2010, a suggestion that has been blowing around the internet for at least four months now.

1. Term limits: 12 years only, with one of the possible options below:
A. Two six-year Senate terms.
B. Six two-year House terms.
C. One six-year Senate term and three two-year House terms.

2. No tenure and no pension:
A member of Congress collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when he or she is out of office.

3. Members of Congress (past, present, and future) participate in Social Security:
All funds in the congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system; members of Congress participate with the American people.

4. Members of Congress can purchase their own retirement plans just like all other Americans.

5. Members of Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of the Consumer Price Index or 3 percent.

6. Members of Congress lose their current healthcare system and participate in the same healthcare system as the American people.

7. Members of Congress must equally abide in all laws they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present members of Congress are void effective one year after passage of the bill. The American people did not make contracts with congressmen, congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Some of it is repetitive. Number 1 would require a constitutional amendment. I think 5 should be just a flat 3% annual raise. It would give them lots of incentive to bring down inflation when it's at 10% or more. It's likely an average inflation figure over the years. And I have no idea what #8 means.

The term limits are the heart of it, however. This is what I say in the column:

First, term limits (which, by the way, would require a constitutional amendment) are undemocratic, yes, but they’re republican like our Constitution. That is, like so many provisions in the Constitution, they are a correction to our democracy designed to bring out the people’s better judgment, and to guard them against manipulation by political gamers. Gerrymandering has, to a large extent, made a farce out of popular election. This is a method of redrawing the boundaries of a congressional district in a way that maximizes the likelihood that an incumbent or his or her party will remain in power. In essence, the people get to choose the politicians only after the politicians have first chosen the people who will choose them. Do you see a problem?

Gerrymandering goes back at least as far as Eldridge Gerry for whom the practice is named. Ideally, there should be a complete redistricting from coast to coast (plus the outlying bits), undertaken by an impartial body ignorant of which party controls what areas at this point, giving attention simply to more or less equal representation between districts  as well as natural, civic, and community boundaries. But, because from a republican standpoint I would base the need for term limits on the corruption of the electoral process that comes from Gerrymandering, for that reason I would not apply these limits to Senators since, as statewide representatives, they have no control over who elects them.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wha's Like Us?

So another St Patrick's Day has come and gone. What I find so grating about it is that everyone is supposed to celebrate all things Irish, even though Robbie Burns Day goes annually without notice.

What have the Irish given us that the Scots have not given twofold besides? Green beer? We gave the world whiskey. (I can't stand the stuff, but I'm told it's very important.) Poetry? My grandfather told me about some bonnie poesy he read on a gravestone while hiking in the highlands, as he often did.

Where e're ye be,
let your wind gang free;
For the hangin' o' a fart
was the dead o' me.

Scots also gave us modern economics by the now invisible hand of Adam Smith. The spirit of economy lives on in the hearts of his people, as you can see in this anecdote.

A thoughtful Scotsman who was heading out to the pub. He turned to his wee wife before leaving and said, "Margaret - put your hat and coat on lassie." She replied, "Awe Jock, that's nice - are you taking me to the pub with you?" "Nah," Jock replied, "I'm switching the central heating off while I'm oot."
 While I would distance myself from the oft used expression, "If it's not Scottish, it's crap," there is much to be said for the thoughts expressed the widely cited research of Tom Anderson Cairns. (I would footnote it, but the Chicago Manual of Style doesn't cover tea towels.)

The average Englishman in the home he call his castle slips into his national costume, a shabby raincoat, patented by Chemist Charles Macintosh from Glasgow, Scotland.

En-route to his office he strides along the English lane, surfaced by John Macadam of Ayr, Scotland.

He drives an English car fitted with tyres invented by John Boyd Dunlop, Veterinary Surgeon of Dreghorn, Scotland.

At the office he receives the mail bearing adhesive stamps invented by John Chalmers, Bookseller and Printer of Dundee, Scotland.

During the day he uses the telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell, born in Edinburgh, Scotland. At home in the evening his daughter pedals her bicycle invented by Kirkpatrick Macmillan, Blacksmith of Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.

He watches the news on television, an invention of John Logie Baird of Helensburgh, Scotland, and hears an item about the U.S. Navy founded by John Paul Jones of Kirkbean, Scotland.

Nowhere can an Englishman turn to escape the ingenuity of the Scots.

He has by now been reminded too much of Scotland and in desperation he picks up the Bible, only to find that the first man mentioned in the good book is a Scot, King James VI, who authorized its translation.

He could take to drink but the Scots make the best in the world.

He could take a rifle and end it all, but the breech-loading rifle was invented by Captain Patrick Ferguson of Pitfours, Scotland.

If he escaped death, he could find himself on an operating table injected with penicillin, discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming of Darvel, Scotland, and given chloroform, an anesthetic discovered by Sir James Young Simpson, Obstetrician and Gynecologist of Bathgate, Scotland.

Out of the anesthetic he would find no comfort in learning that he was as safe as the Bank of England founded by William Paterson of Dumfries, Scotland.

Perhaps his only remaining hope would be to get a transfusion of guid Scottish blood which would entitle him to ask: "Wha's Like Us?"

Take that, Thomas Cahill! ... (who, in turn, responds with this).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Passing from Alien to American

It has been almost a month now since I took the oath of American citizenship. I thought I would choke up during the oath itself, but I didn't. Sometimes we're surprised by tears. That day, I was surprised by composure. Perhaps I was just so distracted by what I saw as irregularities--political partisanship, political revisionism, political indifference--that I sensed myself in a kind of Ollie North moment, hardened for battle in a way. 

You can read my account of the experience in "What I Saw at the Naturalization" (Washington Times, March 16, 2010).

After 25 years of temporary visas and a "green card," I became an American citizen last week. Passing through the portal from alien to American, I found more than just a day of administration and ceremony. I found unexpected windows onto my country's political life.

At the courthouse on the day of the ceremony, the security guards were friendly and the staff helpful, though I was disappointed that we could not bring our cameras into the building. "Everything changed after 9/11," a guard told me. He then directed me down the hall to a function room that served temporarily as a naturalization ceremony room. There was no ornamentation, no grand and imposing Homeland Security seal, no majestic bench or lectern from which the judge could speak to us on behalf of the law. The U.S. District Court Building in Brooklyn was built in 2009, but the room that was more suitable to this solemn occasion was still under construction. Later, in her address to us, the judge apologized for this deficiency. I appreciated that.

The process began with a man from the New York City Commission on Human Rights distributing and explaining voter registration forms. When he came to the section on party affiliation, he mentioned three: Democratic, Republican and Independent, and then mumbled something about there being others, as though he couldn't remember them all, even though there were two other party names right on the form. Then he took time to point out that New York is "pretty much a one-party city," so that the dominant party's primary decides whoever is eventually elected. If any of us wanted a serious role in choosing a successful candidate for office, he told us, it would be wise to register with that party. The message was clearly that unless you want to waste your vote, you should register as a Democrat, though he did not name the party.

Later in the process, he explained how the New York City human rights code is the toughest in the country at any level of government, and even in the world. I wondered if, by that standard, it was perhaps too tough, allowing for frivolous or dishonest complaints. He encouraged us to initiate a process if we "feel" we might have been a victim of discrimination. Litigiousness and legal bullying cannot start too early, I suppose. He seemed a nice man.

After two hours of about 160 people going forward row by row to hand in their green cards and passports and sign their certificates, it finally was time for the judge to enter, and we all stood to receive her. Judge Marilyn Go was joyful and welcoming. She is herself an immigrant from China and the first Asian-American woman to become a federal judge. She gave a stirring speech on America as a land of opportunity, citing her own example, rising as she did from speaking no English and, as she said, "not knowing a single lawyer," to joining the bar and even becoming a judge in 1993. The theme of American exceptionalism was well-suited to the occasion. Her story, she said, was possible "only in America," and she encouraged everyone to pursue similar dreams for themselves and their children.

Sadly, her address included some significant inaccuracies. She referred to America as a democracy, which we are not. We are a republic. One may overlook this mistake in most people, but she is a judge. She interprets and applies the law, and so she ought to know the nature of the political system in which that law functions. She told us that the law prevents government from intruding into our private affairs. That was good, but what does it mean? She added that because of our wonderful Constitution, we have the freedoms of speech and religion. She did not mention the right to bear arms or the right to petition our government for the redress of grievances.

One could be forgiven for concluding from these remarks that speech and religion are the extent of our liberties. Judge Go then misquoted the Declaration of Independence, informing us that in America, we believe that "all men are equal, and are endowed with unalienable rights." Endowed by whom? She left out "by the Creator," without whom there is no reason to believe that people are fundamentally equal. The judge should either know the words of the Declaration better than she does or stop editing our great founding document according to what she thinks are the sensibilities of her audience.

This is how we receive people into citizenship, or at least the mere 50,000 a year who come through New York City. Though we call them to swear allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands, we tell them they are becoming citizens of a democracy. We ask them on their citizenship test how many Supreme Court justices there are and then encourage them from their first American breath to litigate the slightest offense. We ask them to name the author of the Declaration of Independence but then give them the central teaching of that document in a form that neither the author nor the founding generation would recognize.

But I have no doubt that Homeland Security is doing a far better job in its other areas of responsibility, like securing our borders and keeping bombers off of airplanes.

My parents tell me that when they became Canadian citizens, in the 1960s I suppose, there was no ceremony at all. They just applied and got a certificate in the mail. Of course, they were British at a time when Canada was more closely tied to Britain than it is now. The Canadian constitution itself was still an act of British Parliament at the time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

King's Among Top Conservative Colleges

Students too often enter college knowing more about their history and form of government than when they graduate. They go into college with Christian faith and leave without it. At eighteen they are hungry for truth and wisdom, and by twenty-two they are far too sophisticated for such naive concepts.

Young America's Foundation has been publishing a list of "Top Conservative Colleges" for several years now because thoughtful and patriotic young people, along with their penny-wise parents, want to know that the college education they are about to buy will not speed out of control and a crash them into a moral and philosophical wall.

My own institution, The King's College in New York City, is on the list of fourteen. But really, if King's is not conservative, nothing is. Of course, these are not doctrinaire wing-nut factories. No one makes the list without exploring conservative principles in the context of an academically serious education. Here is what they say about King's.

The King’s College in New York City is a growing Christian college in the Empire State Building. Their 2009-2010 class added 130 new students to the mid-town Manhattan site to bring enrollment to 300.  The King’s College expects more than 200 new students in the fall for a total student body of 450 for the 2010-2011 academic year.

King’s emphasizes a core curriculum that stresses western civilization, writing, politics, philosophy, and economics. King’s graduates learn to contrast ideas based on eternal truths with trendy ideologies that come and go. They are prepared to serve in and eventually lead eight strategic institutions: government, law, business, media, the arts, civil society, education and the church.

The campus located in New York City allows for the campus art gallery to be the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the performing arts center to be Broadway, the library to be the New York Public Library, and the quad to be Central Park.  Students eat, shop, study and play in the heart of one of the world’s most influential cities. When it is time to intern, they go to places like Oppenheimer or CBS News.

The King’s College academics feature three majors: Politics, Philosophy and Economics (modeled after Oxford); Business; and Media, Culture, and the Arts.  Professors include renowned Christian and conservative authors like Anthony Bradley, Peter Kreeft, Joe Loconte, Udo Middelmann, Anne Hendershott and Marvin Olasky.  Adjunct writing professors come from the National Review, the Wall Street Journal, and World.  

All students are members of “houses,” groups of students named after greats like C.S. Lewis, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Students this past year experienced leadership first hand by building an award-winning debate team and starting a variety of student organizations.

For more information, please contact The King’s College:
The King’s College
The Office of Admissions
350 5th Avenue, Suite 1500
New York, NY  10018

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Commie Choreography

This came to mind recently, so I am reposting it just for the fun of it.

If you haven't seen The Roots of Breakdance, you must do that now both for cultural literacy's sake and for laughs. The original is Dance of the Soldiers, featuring the Red Army Dance Ensemble ("the Academic Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Soviet Army" under the direction of Alexander Alexandrov and established in 1928). The song is Run DMC's "It's Like That."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Patriotism and Sports Pride

It was a strange providence that the Lord timed my oath of citizenship to coincide with the Vancouver Winter Olympics and, at the end of that, the great hockey showdown between my new country and the old country. It stirred up some surprising sentiments.

What was also suprising was that my Yankee wife "supported" the Canadian team for the gold medal, even though she is fiercely patriotic. She caught some jesting grief for this from a friend or two. The next day, a student confronted me over where my heart lay in the contest with Canada, making it clear to me before I answered that this was the litmus test for the sincerity of my solemn affirmations at the naturalization ceremony. So the two of us gave some thought to the relationship between patriotism and internation sports competition.

Here is part of my essay that came of it:

I have suffered a few aspersions because, though I am now an American citizen, I nonetheless felt an affinity for the Canadian Olympic hockey team, and even thought it was right that they should win the gold medal. Someone went so far as to suggest that the direction of my allegiance in this contest was the test of my fidelity to the oath of citizenship I took. But patriotism, the healthy love of one’s country, has nothing to do with international sports.

...[I]f a patriot is one who loves his country and seeks what is best for her, then he may withhold his cheers for an unworthy national team, and even direct his cheers elsewhere if he thinks his country’s victory in that case would be bad for the national character. So why turn against the U.S. hockey team?

...An Olympic gold for the United States in hockey would have encouraged a belief in manifest destiny that does not bring out the best in this exceptional people to whom, on firmly held principle, I have chosen to join myself.

Read the whole provocative thing: "Patriotism is not Boosterism."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Canadian Winter Olympic Warmth

This is touching. I don't doubt a word of it. Brian Williams of NBC found that his Canadian hosts were really nice. And he's been around! The other side of it is that he writes as though this is his first experience in this English-speaking country of 35 million people immediately to the north of the United States, and America's biggest trading partner.

After tonight's broadcast and after looting our hotel mini-bars, we're going to try to brave the blizzard and fly east to home and hearth, and to do laundry well into next week. Before we leave this thoroughly polite country, the polite thing to do is leave behind a thank-you note.

Thank you, Canada: For being such good hosts. For your unfailing courtesy. For your (mostly) beautiful weather. For scheduling no more than 60 percent of your float plane departures at the exact moment when I was trying to say something on television. For not seeming to mind the occasional (or constant) good-natured mimicry of your accents. For your unique TV commercials -- for companies like Tim Hortons -- which made us laugh and cry. For securing this massive event without choking security, and without publicly displaying a single automatic weapon. For having the best garment design and logo-wear of the games -- you've made wearing your name a cool thing to do. For the sportsmanship we saw most of your athletes display. For not honking your horns. I didn't hear one car horn in 15 days -- which also means none of my fellow New Yorkers rented cars while visiting. For making us aware of how many of you have been watching NBC all these years. For having the good taste to have an anchorman named Brian Williams on your CTV network, who turns out to be such a nice guy. For the body scans at the airport which make pat-downs and cavity searches unnecessary. For designing those really cool LED Olympic rings in the harbor, which turned to gold when your athletes won one. For always saying nice things about the United States...when you know we're listening. For sharing Joannie Rochette with us. For reminding some of us we used to be a more civil society. Mostly, for welcoming the world with such ease and making lasting friends with all of us. 

Taken from "Brian Williams: Leaving Behind a Thank-you Note."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Honor to Whom Honor is Due

Noel Rabinowitz writes: Ret. Col. Robert L. Howard was buried last Wednesday. ("One of Nation's Most Highly Decorated Soldiers Laid to Rest," Fox News, Feb. 24, 2010)

Robert L. Howard was a Medal of Honor recipient, and was awarded the Purple Heart eight times. He was wounded 14 times in combat in the span of 54 months. He served five tours of duty in Vietnam.

I regret that I didn’t know who Robert L. Howard was.  More importantly,  I regret that my mind is clogged with names of people like Shawn Penn, Oprah Winfrey, Al Franken, and other stupid people.

Dr. Noel Rabinowitz is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at The King's College in New York City and is a guest writer today at Principalites and Powers. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1978-1985.

Innes adds: This is a man to celebrate. It is a telling indication of who we have become that this man is widely uncelebrated. Abbie Hoffman we know. Robert L. Howard is unsung. We ignore our heroes, and yet we still produce them. It's a great country, but we take alot for granted.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Climate Science As One Would

There is a great need for more Francis Bacon (the philosopher, not the "artist") in the news coverage of our day, many have been saying (I bet).

I provide this in my recent post, "Political Climate Science."

The global warming scam has been pressed upon us with frantic alarm by everyone from Al Gore to the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia to virtually every teacher in the public school system. Life on the planet, we were told, is in mortal danger from climate change brought on by carbon emissions. The research was in, and there was a solid “consensus” in the scientific community. The only rational and morally defensible course was to empower governments everywhere to impose severe restrictions not only on manufacturing but also on every aspect of human life. Call it our own generation’s “fierce urgency of now,” as Martin Luther King Jr. put it with far greater justification. Then we discovered that what we were assured was settled science as a basis for worldwide emergency measures was actually, as National Review’s Rich Lowry put it, just “global-warming advocacy rather than dispassionate inquiry.”

Read on to find Lord Bacon's explanation for this scandal, and my own reflection on the priests in white lab coats.