Wednesday, February 29, 2012

State government extends its grip on preschool and child care in Minnesota.

While it doesn't receive much attention, the state continues its efforts to extend it's control and regulation of all child care, preschool programs in Minnesota.

Karen Effrem and Education Liberty Watch point that

In three different and very significant ways, the Dayton administration has admitted that their ultimate aim is to have the state control the curriculum standards first for those governing all preschool and childcare programs in the state that “volunteer” to become involved in the Parent Aware Quality Rating System (the QRS), the Race to the Top preschool grant program, or the early childhood scholarship program regardless of whether these programs are public, private or religious. This seems to be the foundation for then controlling ALL preschool curriculum. (More on that in future alerts).

Minnesota’s Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant application neatly ties all three situations together. The document unabashedly states (p. 87):

“Minnesota’s Early Learning and Development Standards (called the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, or ECIPs-see C1) for children birth to five are at the foundation of [Parent] Aware. Parent Aware Program Standards require that instruction and assessment be aligned with the ECIPs and the ratings are built on the ECIPs, which function like a scaffold. For example, ELD Programs must ensure that their staff members are familiar with the ECIPs before earning 1 star, and to reach 3 or 4 stars requires both familiarity with the ECIPs and also alignment of curriculum and assessment with them.” (Emphasis added)

In other words, the Parent Aware QRS, even though “voluntary,” mandates a top-down government run curriculum in order for programs to receive the highest ratings, and therefore all of the financial and policy goodies that accompany those top ratings. Adherence to program standards of the QRS that include curriculum alignment to these standards is then the cornerstone of both the Race to the Top Application and the early childhood scholarships. The quality rating system was the top point garnering criterion on the $500 million Race to the Top application which also requires statewide preschool standards and wide participation by preschool programs, including private and religious ones, which comprise more than 80% of the childcare market in Minnesota. The scholarships were a high priority of some of the lead House education negotiators during the final closed negotiations of the shutdown at the end of the 2011 session. The Dayton Education Department recently and arrogantly reported (January 26th) to the House Education Finance Committee that, despite the lack of statutory authority to use the QRS in distribution of those scholarships, they are going to allow use of scholarship funds only at programs that earn 3 or 4 stars, i.e. that require these standards, and parents may not conscientiously object to these standards if they want a scholarship. Are we seeing a pattern here?
Why is this a problem? It further usurps and injects government in family matters and the raising of children. It sends the message to parents that the government will take over more of their responsibilies and it injects politically correctness on a number of family and social concerns.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Obamacare not popular with the American people.

According to a new poll, lots of Americans in swing states don't like Obamacare.
A newly released USA Today/Gallup poll shows that, by a margin of 13 percentage points (53 to 40 percent), swing-state voters want Obamacare to be repealed. The poll included registered voters in 12 key states: Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Michigan. By a margin of 15 points (53 to 38 percent), registered voters in those state think it was “a bad thing” that President Obama’s signature legislation was passed.

When asked how Obamacare would affect their family’s “healthcare situation” in “the long run,” swing-state voters said Obamacare would make it “worse,” rather than “better,” by a margin of more than 2 to 1 (42 percent “worse,” to 20 percent “better”). That’s not a great result for legislation that the Congressional Budget Office says would cost about $2.5 trillion (see chart) —or about $7,000 per American and nearly $30,000 for a family of four — over its real first decade (2014 to 2023) alone. That’s a lot of taxpayer money to spend to make Americans’ health care worse.

Moreover, by the overwhelming margin of 4 to 1 (76 to 19 percent), registered voters in these 12 states say that Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional. Nationwide (not just in the swing states), a clear majority of Democrats — 56 percent — agree that the individual mandate is unconstitutional.

Even the Obama White House admits that, without the individual mandate, Obamacare would be “cost prohibitive,” “would lead to double digit premiums increases,” and “would significantly increase the cost [of] health care spending nationwide.” In other words, without its unconstitutional linchpin, Obamacare would be even more of a policy disaster (even if less of an affront to the Constitution) than it already is. That’s why, without the individual mandate, Obamacare never would have been passed — and why, if the Supreme Court strikes down the mandate (as it should), it should strike down the whole thing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Obamacare is anti-marriage in a big way.

President Obama's federal health care plan is anti-marriage. It penalizes individuals who want to get married.
Diane Furchtgott-Roth, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, said that it discourages women to marry -- and discourages them from working once they are married. She said in her testimony:

Say Sally is a single mother earning $44,130, putting her and her baby at 300 percent of the poverty line. They would be eligible for the health insurance premium assistance credit. But what if she wants to marry Sam, the father of her child, who earns $43,560, and is at 400 percent of the federal poverty line? Their total earnings, at $87,690, would exceed the 400 percent poverty line for a family of three ($74,120). Married, they would no longer receive help with their health insurance premiums, despite both earning the credit when unmarried.

Furchtgott-Roth believes that the government needs to be encouraging marriage instead: "It makes healthier families and smarter children," she said during the question and answer period.

What's important to understand about these figures is that the subsidies provided by Obamacare are based on income relative to the poverty line.

An editorial by The Washington Times gives an example of what this means: The subsidies are suddenly and completely cut off once somebody reaches 400 percent of the official poverty-level income ($63,360 in 2016). The arithmetic is complicated,but what it means is that two unmarried persons earning $32,000 each ($64,000 total) would pay a maximum combined $5,684 in premiums, but if they got married,they would pay about $15,000. That is an astonishing penalty of 164 percent. It is almost impossible to imagine a policy that could be any more anti-family than that.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Judge strikes down provision of federal DOMA. Shows need for federal marriage amendment.

A California federal district court judge struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

One of his

"The imposition of subjective moral beliefs of a majority upon a minority cannot provide justification for the legislation,"

"Subjective moral beliefs?" I thought all laws were rooted in morality. Subjective? Marriage as the union of a man and a woman strikes me as anything but subjective. It's been the basis for Western Civilization for a couple of millenium.

An example of blatant judicial activism. Another reason we need a federal marriage amendment.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is there a Christian position on gambling?

Some wonder if gambling is a sin. There's not a command in the Bible saying, thou shalt not gamble, but some point to its violation of principles found in the Bible. Here's the take of Albert Mohler, prominent evangelical and scholar.

First, it's a huge and growing industry.
The nationwide explosion of legal gambling may well be the most underrated dimension of America's moral crisis. With the expansion of state lotteries, casino gambling, and new technologies, the gambling industry is poised to grow even further in the next decade.

According to some estimates, as much as one-third of the nation's money supply now moves through the gambling industry each year. Looking at a recent annual economic report, management consultant Eugene M. Christiansen determined that "Americans spent more on gambling than they did on health insurance, dentists, shoes, foreign travel, or household appliances."
He believes it's a clear violation of the biblical worldview. He sees it rooted in greed.
The Bible is clear on this issue. The entire enterprise of gambling is opposed to the moral worldview revealed in God's Word. The basic impulse behind gambling is greed-a basic sin that is the father of many other evils. Greed, covetousness, and avarice are repeatedly addressed by Scripture-always presented as a sin against God, and often accompanied by a graphic warning of the destruction which is greed's result. The burning desire for earthly riches leads to frustration and spiritual death.

As the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil." [1 Timothy 6:10] Greed was involved in Judas' decision to betray Christ, in the deceit of Ananias and Sapphira, and was the root moral issue in the Rich Young Ruler's refusal to follow Christ's command.

In the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, greed is presented as foolishness, and Jesus amplifies this teaching in His parable of the rich man [Luke 12:16-21]. Trusting in his economic prosperity, and planning to build even bigger barns to hoard his wealth, the man is called to account by God, who said to him, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you." This is not likely to be found as a popular inspirational text at the local casino.
It violates the principle of stewardship of one's possessions.
The Bible presents the stewardship of material possessions as a crucial issue of discipleship. The Christian understands that his possessions and money are not his own, but God's. We are trustees who will be judged for the quality of our stewardship. Those lottery tickets and trips to Atlantic City are going to be hard to explain when God calls stewards to account.
It undermines the work ethic.
Furthermore, gambling is a direct attack on the work ethic presented in Scripture. One of the constant threads through the Old and New Testaments is the dignity of honorable work, and the proper reward for labor and industriousness. The worker worthy of hire is rewarded. Lazy, slothful, and unproductive persons are undeserving of financial rewards, and were a scandal to the early Church. Gambling severs the dignity of work from the hope of financial gain, offering the hope of riches without labor, and reward without dignity.
It takes advantage of the poor; those Christians are called to defend.
Finally, one of the most significant sins of the gambling industry is its treatment of the poor. Rather than offering genuine hope and a way out of poverty, gambling operators prey on those who are most desperate. The Old Testament prophets proclaimed God's devastating judgment against those who "devour" the poor, and yet gambling proponents entice those at the bottom of the economic ladder to risk everything, though they end up with nothing. The concentration of lottery ticket outlets in lower-income neighborhoods is no accident.
Christians haven't thought much about it.
Why are Christians so silent on this issue? Though some denominations have adopted strongly worded resolutions opposed to gambling, the issue is virtually off the moral map of most churches. There is little evidence of any sustained theological consideration of the issue. A review of major textbooks on Christian ethics used in evangelical seminaries reveals not a single chapter on gambling. The issue does not even make the tables of contents!
It's now a growing problem.
In all likelihood, most Christians have no conception of the problem's scope. Once confined to Nevada (and later, New Jersey), casinos now operate in states ranging from heartland Missouri to deep-south Louisiana. In many states slot machines and electronic games are found in gas stations and grocery stores, and lottery tickets are sold in a myriad of outlets. The tentacles of the gambling industry reach deeply into the nation's economy-and the national psyche.
Government is now promoting it.
The most insidious dimension of the problem is the role of government in legitimizing and promoting the gambling enterprise. Though outlawed until 1964, state lotteries now represent the most popular form of legal gambling. Turning vice into an economic virtue, these states take advantage of their most gullible citizens, while touting benefits the gambling revenues supposedly make possible.
Gambling is a vice which corrupts whatever it touches - the culture, etc.
Gambling corrupts the culture, polluting everything it touches. Recent scandals in college basketball are proof positive that gambling is not a problem limited to casinos and horse tracks. Ominously, industry executives see great promise in the development of on-line gambling over the Internet, bringing gambling to every computer terminal and overcoming state regulation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Legislators and staffs study over redistricting maps.

The new legislative redistricting plans were released today. Detailed maps weren't provided so legislative staffs were working to find exactly which legislators were in which districts and what their districts look like.

On the Congressional front, it looks like they did as little altering of Congressional districts as possible. Congresswomen Bachmann and McCollum were put into the same district but that will be easily resolved by Bachmann running in the now "vacant" 6th district.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Good summary of Obama's contraception mandate fiasco.

Michael Gerson has written a good summary of Obama's foolish contraceptive mandate and how it was a major blunder.
Before Barack Obama can defeat his opponents, he must first be rescued from his friends.

Some of them are now suggesting that his contraceptive mandate on religious institutions was a skilled political stratagem. “I’ve found by observing this president closely for years,” argues Daily Beast contributor Andrew Sullivan, “that what often seem like short-term tactical blunders turn out in the long run to be strategically shrewd. And if this was a trap, the religious right walked right into it.” Religious conservatives are now identified, he says, with “opposition to contraception.” Republicans have achieved “fusion with the Vatican.” Obama is evidently playing the very deep game.

Consider the implications of this praise. It means that Obama assaulted the core beliefs of some of his fellow citizens in order to lure them into politically self-destructive behavior. The president is willing to trifle with the constitutional rights of religious people to get a rise out of them. In this scenario, Obama is a Machiavellian monster, undeserving of high office.

But I don’t think Sullivan’s indictment is accurate. These events have all the hallmarks of an epic White House screw-up. The policy resulted from an internal debate in which the vice president and the chief of staff took the other side. Liberal true-believers won out. The announcement was fumbled. The White House was shocked by the breadth and intensity of opposition...

If Obama is playing a political chess game, he has just sacrificed his queen, a rook and all his bishops. It would have to be a deep game indeed.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Efforts to significantly raise taxes and redistribute of wealth are alive and well in Obama budget plan.

I didn't give President Obama's budget proposal a close look until I saw this article on what President Obama's budget actually includes. The proposed tax increases are enormous.

These proposed tax increases are merely efforts to keep paying for the expansion of government. They target the wealthier, but it certainly won't stop there. The middle class are certainly the next on list for tax increases.

The budget blueprint contains roughly $2 trillion in new taxes and fees. When other tax cuts and credits are counted, the net impact from the proposals is still about $1.5 trillion.

Though Republicans already are mounting a vigorous campaign against the proposal, many of the tax provisions still could become law unless Congress takes action to stop them.

At the top of that list is the expiration of the tax cuts approved during the George W. Bush administration. They're scheduled to expire at the end of 2012, and the White House estimates that letting them lapse, at least for households making more than $250,000, could pump $968 billion into the federal coffers over the next decade.

Allowing those rates to expire, as Obama's budget proposes and as current law would allow absent intervention, would mean the following changes:

-- For households making more than $250,000 and individuals making more than $200,000, the top income tax rate would rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.

-- For those same households, the top rate on qualified dividends would rise from 15 percent to 39.6 percent.

-- The top rate on long-term capital gains would rise from 15 percent to 20 percent.

-- The estate tax, known disparagingly as the "death tax," would rise to 45 percent from 35 percent.

The hike in investment income tax for top earners, though, would be compounded by another surcharge included in the federal health care overhaul. That 3.8 percent surtax would bring the top dividend rate to 43.4 percent. The top capital gains rate would, likewise, be 23.8 percent.

Along the same lines, the budget plan would make sure hedge fund managers and others pay an ordinary income tax rate for what's known as "carried interest" -- or profits, in the investment world -- instead of the 15 percent rate. That's projected to bring in another $13 billion over the next decade.

Aside from those changes, the budget calls for implementing the so-called Buffett Rule. This would ensure that every household making more than $1 million pays at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.

The budget also cuts the value of itemized deductions to a 28 percent rate for households making more than $250,000. That would cover popular deductions like the mortgage interest deduction and charitable deductions -- and it's projected to raise $584 billion over 10 years.

The bulk of the changes are aimed at upper-income earners.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Barometer of religious and social decline. Declining birth rates. Means we're in big trouble.

Carle Zimmerman, Harvard sociologist, wrote back in the 1940s that the key measure of social and family well-being is birth rates. If a society is not replacing itself its in for loads of trouble. Birth rates are barometer of the health of society.

If that's the case, and I think it is, the West and other parts of the world are in big trouble. Here's an article by Philip Jenkins which discusses the decline in birth rates which he sees accompanying a loss of faith in various countries.
Although I have never claimed to be very statistically oriented, one number in particular fascinates me as a way of understanding the world, and that is: 2.1.

Specifically, that is the crucial figure when looking at a society's fertility rate, the average number of children that a typical woman will bear over the span of her lifetime. If the rate is exactly 2.1, then we can expect that, other things being equal, the population of that society will remain roughly constant, neither growing nor shrinking. The population will in other words just replace itself.

A higher figure means a growing and younger population. Below 2.1 means an aging and contracting society.
He looks at the replacement number in terms of trends in religiosity of a society though it certainly also will affect the economy, number of taxpayers which will in turn affect the viability of the welfare state.
That much is well known, and social scientists pay a great deal of attention to fertility rates when predicting trends like the number of active workers in the labor force, or the relative number of active taxpayers to dependent elderly. But increasingly, I have come to believe that this figure, 2.1, represents a critical measure of the degree and depth of religious adherence in a given society.

And if I am right about that, we can look to some quite startling religious trends in future decades. Any church wanting to imagine its future should have that 2.1 figure firmly branded on its collective consciousness.
He highlights the plunging birth rates in European countries.
What has faith got to do with fertility? To see the answer, we can usefully look at Europe, where fertility rates began to collapse from the late 1960s onwards, as part of the much discussed demographic transition. Rates reached lows unprecedented in human history: 1.39 currently in Italy, 1.41 in Germany, 1.47 in Spain, and even lower numbers in Eastern Europe (1.28 in Ukraine, 1.26 in the Czech Republic). Falling fertility has coincided so closely with massive secularization that we must at least ask whether the two phenomena are related, even if not in a neat one to one relationship.

But linkages are highly probable. Fertility is likely to fall when women move into the workplace and become independent social and political actors, who are reluctant to heed the church's strictures on their moral conduct, particularly in matters like divorce, contraception and abortion. Also, the reason why people have fewer children in the first place is often because they no longer feel subject to the demands of religion and family pushing them to reproduce as their ultimate goal in life. Society becomes atomistic and individualist rather than organic and traditional.

A society in which people regard relationships as intended chiefly for companionship and mutual satisfaction is also more open to unconventional sexual arrangements, and to innovations such as gay marriage. Finding themselves in constant disagreement with church stances on politics -- seeing the churches apparently on the wrong side in all the incessant culture wars -- people become disaffected from organized religion.

Moreover, the fact of having fewer children is itself a powerful secularizing force.

If a typical woman has six or seven children, that family is probably going to be closely tied to a complex network of religious institutions, to church and parish school, to shared rituals and celebrations like First Communion and confirmation classes. Take the children out of the picture, eliminate the need for mass socialization, and watch church attendance collapse, followed closely by vocations to the priesthood and clergy. And then watch a generation of youngsters brought up without even a nodding acquaintance with or respect for any form of organized faith. In other words, look at a pattern precisely like what has happened across Europe since the 1960s.

For the sake of argument, assume that the model I am offering here is correct, that low fertility correlates with secularization -- not that the one causes the other, but that the two proceed together in a closely intertwined way. Why does that matter outside Europe? As I have suggested elsewhere, the consequences are explosive, particularly for the Islamic world.
What's surprising is the collapse of fertility rates even in Muslim countries.
Since the 1980s, fertility rates in several Muslim countries have collapsed at rates even faster than Europe's. The change is most spectacularly marked in Iran, where a typical woman can expect to bear 1.88 children in her lifetime (down from over 6.0 in the mid-1980s). Almost as dramatic are the falls in North African countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

Coincidentally or not, the wave of social protest that we call the Arab Spring began in Tunisia, where sharply declining fertility illustrated the radical ongoing changes in gender and family structures, and individual expectations. I believe that these changes are the harbingers of a long-term secularization that within a few decades will make countries like Iran as cool to organized faith as Western Europe itself.

But before Christians cheer, they might pay serious attention to the demographics of regions they have come to consider as their greatest hopes for future growth. In terms of numbers, by far the greatest hopes for Christian growth can be found in Africa, where the demographic transition is still not even a rumor. Classic fertility rates persist in Uganda (6.69), Ethiopia (6.02) and the Congo (5.24), all centers of spectacular church growth in recent decades. Nothing short of a cosmic catastrophe can prevent Africans making up an ever larger share of the world's Christians -- over a third by 2050.

.... In demographic terms, though, it is dangerously outmoded. While Africa remains fixed in Third World fertility patterns, the great transition is already far advanced in other regions where Christians have until recently boasted their greatest achievements outside the traditional Euro-American world. This is especially true in the Pacific Rim, where fertility rates look distinctly European, or even East European. China's fertility rate is 1.8, South Korea's is 1.23, ...

Trends in Latin America are also advanced, despite common US stereotypes about explosive Latin birth rates. Among the countries that officially boast some of the world's largest Christian populations, Brazil's fertility rate stands at just 2.18, and is projected to fall very sharply in coming years. So is Mexico's, currently at 2.29. Several Latin American nations are already well below replacement rate, and their populations are aging accordingly. .....

So while I do not claim to predict the future of the world, I do know a tool that is extremely useful in attempting that task. And the tool is called: 2.1.
This ties into the recent controversy over Planned Parenthood and their contraceptives mandate. Their philosophy merely accelerates the drive towards societal decline by seeking to push birth rates even lower.

Secularists may think this secularization of society is great. They fail to realize that they've been living off the moral capital of Christianity which helped form and guide Western societies and gave impetus to the development of science, free markets, political liberties and the like. Now as that foundation is weakened through secularization, many of the blessings found in the West will decline as well.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Obama "compromise" is not a compromise: Endgame? Imposition of sexual revolution on all of society.

The Obama Administration's efforts to deflect criticism of its contraception mandate for health by proposing a "compromise" isn't working. It's not a compromise.
The administration “shifted” on nothing. It simply decreed that insurers, not employers, must provide “preventive services” (including sterilization and abortifacient drugs), a shell game that has been variously and accurately described as a “fraud” (Andrew McCarthy, in the Corner) and an “absurdity” (the Wall Street Journal). More to the point, as Yuval Levin pointed out shortly after President Obama and HHS Secretary Sebelius announced their “accommodation,” the newly tweaked regulations “would not actually change the moral circumstances at issue in any way.”

Later in the day, on the PBS News Hour, Ray Suarez confronted Secretary Sebelius with the obvious: Someone was going to pay for the contraceptives provided, and who, if not those who purchased the insurance that had to include these “preventive services?” The secretary then took the absurdity to a new level by claiming that none of this would cost anyone anything, as there was empirical evidence showing that readily available contraception lowered the overall costs to the health-care system by reducing the rate of pregnancy. All of which was, on a much graver matter, reminiscent of an old WPA poster-turned-postcard that I recently saw at the Grand Canyon, which extolled Grand Canyon National Park as “A Free Government Service.” Right.
What's the goal here? Imposition of the sexual revolution on all of society. George points this out in an article entitled: "The Libertine Police State: Live-and-let-live is not the sexual revolution's endgame."

These actions highlight highlight the cultural radicalness of the Obama Administration. They want everybody to participate in their vision of condoms, contraceptives, abortificients, and sterilization - by paying for them.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Marriage, Voter ID, and Right to Work poll well with Minnesotans.

Here's a discussion of polling done on three proposed constitutional amendments: marriage, Voter ID, and Right to Work on the Minnesota Progressive Project. It's from a February 3rd SurveyUSA, polling done for KSTP.
SurveyUSA (2/3, no trend lines):
"If an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution were on the ballot that would designate Minnesota as a "right to work" state, meaning it would be easier for workers to opt out of unions and union dues, how would you vote?"
Not vote9
Not sure12
SurveyUSA (2/3, no trend lines):
"If an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution were on the ballot that would require voters to show photo I.D.'s in order to vote on Election Day, how would you vote?"
For 70
Against 23
Not vote 4
Not sure 4
(MoE: ±4.3%)
The writer bemoans the fact that they do so well, especially Voter ID and Right to Work.
There is no silver lining in any of these numbers. Every single demographic group identified in SUSA's cross tabs says they will vote for both of these amendments. That means self described Democrats and liberals. If we are going to have any chance whatsoever to defeat these amendments we must start with getting our ideological brethren on our side.

The Marriage Protection Amendment, despite the incessant negative attacks in the mainstream media, polls well with 47% for and 39% against.

With whatever amendments are on the November ballot, it will make for a very interesting election year.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Santorum makes a race of it.

Rick Santorum's victories in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri has breathed new life into the race for the Republican presidential nomination. While he lacks the financial resources Romney has, Santorum resonates with many rank and file conservatives in the party. It will be interesting seeing how it plays out in the coming weeks. At the very least it will extend the race.

The National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama, the Gospel, and Campaign Mode

I googled President Obama's remarks at the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast after reading about the strong political undercurrent in press reports. Without looking at the date I started to read his remarks. They were personal and conciliatory. I wondered what I missed. It turns out that I was reading his 2011 remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. His remarks contained personal professions of faith, friendship with Christians on opposite side of the political spectrum, and the importance of caring for the less fortunate.

This year's remarks are similar to last year's speech except that he's ties his specific policies into his faith. Could it be because this is an election year?

He notes how his faith is what motivates him and should inform our public actions. I wonder how the ACLU feels about that? Probably not a big deal, because his policies generally align with theirs.
But in my moments of prayer, I’m reminded that faith and values play an enormous role in motivating us to solve some of our most urgent problems, in keeping us going when we suffer setbacks, and opening our minds and our hearts to the needs of others.

We can’t leave our values at the door. If we leave our values at the door, we abandon much of the moral glue that has held our nation together for centuries, and allowed us to become somewhat more perfect a union. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Abraham Heschel -- the majority of great reformers in American history did their work not just because it was sound policy, or they had done good analysis, or understood how to exercise good politics, but because their faith and their values dictated it, and called for bold action -- sometimes in the face of indifference, sometimes in the face of resistance.
He talks about his personal devotional life.
I wake up each morning and I say a brief prayer, and I spend a little time in scripture and devotion. And from time to time, friends of mine, some of who are here today, friends like Joel Hunter or T.D. Jakes, will come by the Oval Office or they’ll call on the phone or they’ll send me a email, and we’ll pray together, and they’ll pray for me and my family, and for our country.

But I don’t stop there. I’d be remiss if I stopped there; if my values were limited to personal moments of prayer or private conversations with pastors or friends. So instead, I must try -- imperfectly, but I must try -- to make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation.
Then he goes into the more political portions of his speech. He talks about financial institutions and insurance companies.
And so when I talk about our financial institutions playing by the same rules as folks on Main Street, when I talk about making sure insurance companies aren’t discriminating against those who are already sick, or making sure that unscrupulous lenders aren’t taking advantage of the most vulnerable among us, I do so because I genuinely believe it will make the economy stronger for everybody. But I also do it because I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” I know the version of that Golden Rule is found in every major religion and every set of beliefs -– from Hinduism to Islam to Judaism to the writings of Plato.
Then he goes into tax policy.
And when I talk about shared responsibility, it’s because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it’s hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills to shoulder the burden alone. And I think to myself, if I’m willing to give something up as somebody who’s been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.
Government paying for college education.
When I talk about giving every American a fair shot at opportunity, it’s because I believe that when a young person can afford a college education, or someone who’s been unemployed suddenly has a chance to retrain for a job and regain that sense of dignity and pride, and contributing to the community as well as supporting their families -- that helps us all prosper.
Then he goes into foreign policy.
And when I decide to stand up for foreign aid, or prevent atrocities in places like Uganda, or take on issues like human trafficking, it’s not just about strengthening alliances, or promoting democratic values, or projecting American leadership around the world, although it does all those things and it will make us safer and more secure. It’s also about the biblical call to care for the least of these –- for the poor; for those at the margins of our society.

To answer the responsibility we’re given in Proverbs to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” And for others, it may reflect the Jewish belief that the highest form of charity is to do our part to help others stand on their own.

Treating others as you want to be treated. Requiring much from those who have been given so much. Living by the principle that we are our brother’s keeper. Caring for the poor and those in need. These values are old. They can be found in many denominations and many faiths, among many believers and among many non-believers. And they are values that have always made this country great -- when we live up to them; when we don’t just give lip service to them; when we don’t just talk about them one day a year. And they’re the ones that have defined my own faith journey.
He talks about our various roles in society.
As a loving husband, or a supportive parent, or a good neighbor, or a helpful colleague -- in each of these roles, we help bring His kingdom to Earth. And as important as government policy may be in shaping our world, we are reminded that it’s the cumulative acts of kindness and courage and charity and love, it’s the respect we show each other and the generosity that we share with each other that in our everyday lives will somehow sustain us during these challenging times. John tells us that, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
And his need for God's guidance.
I have fallen on my knees with great regularity since that moment -- asking God for guidance not just in my personal life and my Christian walk, but in the life of this nation and in the values that hold us together and keep us strong. I know that He will guide us. He always has, and He always will. And I pray his richest blessings on each of you in the days ahead.
There's much that I can commend in his remarks about the importance of faith, humility, the importance of faith informing our public actions. Yet the implications of his remarks about specific policy issues raises questions about how he gets from point A to point B when he looks to Jesus and the Bible for his direction and inspiration.

How can he support and promote the killing of unborn children through his Administration's policies? How does that line up with care for the vulnerable and powerless among us? How can he support and promote the redefinition of marriage, an institution clearly established by God as the union of a man and a woman? (He says he still believes in traditional marriage, but his administration's policies actively seek to change it.) There's a major disconnect, contradiction between the values he articulates and espouses and what he actually does.

What's skewed his perspective? Politics? Power? Fear of man? Confusion? I don't know the answer to that but the gulf is very revealing on these two core issues.

His actions on life and marriage issues are fundamentally at odds with the faith he professes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

9th Circuit decision striking down Prop 8 fails to pass straight face test.

A three judge panel on the 9th Circuit on a 2-1 vote struck down California's Prop 8 constitutional provision protecting marriage between a man and a woman.

The court's decision fails to pass the straight face test when it said:

“Although the Constitution permits communities to enact most laws they believe to be desirable, it requires that there be at least a legitimate reason for the passage of a law that treats different classes of people differently. There was no such reason that Proposition 8 could have been enacted.”

Imagine that. The there's no legitimate reason for the state recognizing the only union which can produce children and which uniquely provides benefits to men and women universally recognized throughout human history.

How could the two judges miss this? I suppose radical ideology and the desire to impose their view on the rest of society had something to do with it.

Entering uncertain economic times

Here's an interesting commentary by Robert Samuelson on the uncertainty and changes which may dramatic impact our economic way of life. Is the economy a family issue? Absolutely.
It must now be obvious that, economically speaking, we're in another country. Things we once took for granted no longer apply; things we never imagined occur all the time. We've entered a zone of ignorance where familiar experience and ideas count for less. "Thirty years ago, if you'd said that the United States and Europe were going to be the centers of financial crises, people would have thought you were crazy," says economist Fred Bergsten. The unforeseen is now routine.

Profound changes to the global economy contributed to today's crisis and make it harder to resolve. Bergsten -- director of the influential Peterson Institute for International Economics -- cites three shifts.

First is the rise of "emerging market" countries, led by China, India and Brazil. In 1981, when the Peterson Institute was founded, these nations were laggards. "Now, they're more than half the world economy and are growing three times faster than high-income countries (the United States, Japan and European nations),” Bergsten said in an interview. “They drive the world economy."

Second, the United States has moved from the largest-creditor to the largest-debtor nation. Through the 1970s, the United States generally ran trade surpluses, and U.S. multinational investment abroad overshadowed foreign investment here. But since 1980, U.S. current account deficits exceed $8.5 trillion. (The current account is a broad measure of trade.) And foreigners have invested trillions in U.S. stocks, bonds, factories and real estate.

Finally, financial crises have mushroomed. After World War II, countries restricted the flow of money across borders. This changed in the 1970s and 1980s, when these controls were gradually dismantled. Unexpectedly, rapid inflows and outflows of foreign money caused booms and busts: first in Latin America in the 1980s; then in Asia and Russia in the late 1990s. And the American and European financial crises, though largely homegrown, have had global repercussions.

Globalization, it turns out, is a double-edged sword. It raises living standards by promoting trade and spreading modern technology around the world. But it also causes disruptions and deepens downturns. The future of the world economy hinges heavily on whether this instability is modest and tolerable or massive and intolerable. As Bergsten asks: "Are we on a path not only of crises but also of crises of increasing frequency and rising severity?"

We don't know. What we do know is that mutual dependencies have grown. For years, U.S. trade deficits promoted globalization by boosting other countries' exports. Ideally, emerging-market countries would now return the favor. Their fast economic growth would swell demand for U.S. and European exports, making it easier for these countries to pay their debts and reduce unemployment. The odds of this happening seem no better than 50-50.

What countries see as their narrow self-interest may subvert their collective interest in a stable world economy. Political power has fragmented along with economic power. The currency dispute with China is a case in point. For years, American presidents have failed to persuade China to stop undervaluing its currency and, thereby, subsidizing exports and penalizing imports. Indeed, some economists argue that China's trade surpluses -- converted into dollars and invested in U.S. bonds -- fueled America's financial crisis by driving down interest rates. Low rates then encouraged riskier mortgage loans.

By nature, Bergsten -- who will retire as Peterson's director after a successor is found -- is an optimist. Unlike the 1930s, he argues, we have institutions (the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and others) that allow enough cooperation to avoid disaster. Europe will muddle through its crisis, he argues, because its leaders recognize that the alternatives are grim. Joblessness would surge. Political and social cohesion would collapse. So the European Central Bank (Europe's Federal Reserve) will lend whatever is necessary, and Germany will pay whatever is necessary.

Maybe. Even Bergsten's optimism is tempered. "The next crisis could be a dollar crisis," he warns. Foreigners own roughly $23 trillion in U.S. stocks, bonds, real estate and factories; Americans own about $20 trillion in foreign assets. That's the reality of being the world's largest debtor. A loss of confidence could trigger a sell-off of American stocks and bonds that -- given the dollar's role as global currency -- would reverberate around the world.

Foreign faith in the United States ultimately rests on a belief in America's political stability and economic vitality. Could huge federal budget deficits shake that faith? "The European crisis has shielded us from our follies," Bergsten says. Worried investors have channeled funds from European securities into American bonds, reducing U.S. interest rates and making borrowing easier to cover $1 trillion annual deficits. There's no telling what comes next. We are, after all, in another country.

An important question is: will our government make things worse or better given the underlying uncertainty? Currently, I think they're doing a number of things which will made a difficult situation worse. Many argue that ill-advised government policies during the Great Depression prolonged that economic downturn.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Komen caves."

Here's a great commentary by Chuck Colson on the reversal of Komen's decision to refund Planned Parenthood.
No doubt you’ve been watching the unfolding drama of the Susan B. Komen for the Cure foundation’s decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood — and then its stunning reversal.

What you saw last week was a concerted, intentional effort by an ideological minority — the radical pro-abortion forces — not just to make their case in public, but to destroy the opposition. Using incendiary language, accusing Komen of endangering the lives of women, they made no pretense to pursue civil discourse.

And it’s a tragedy that Komen for the Cure caved. Because all of the all of the rational arguments were on their side.

First of all, Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms, its doctors simply provide breast cancer referrals. No wonder Komen for the Cure figured its money could be better spent on organizations that provide direct treatment.

And of course there’s the uncomfortable link between breast cancer and abortion. A 2009 study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center showed "a statistically significant 40% increased risk [of breast cancer] for women who have abortions."

Second, Komen’s stated policy was not to contribute to organizations under investigation. Well, Planned Parenthood is under Congressional investigation for potentially misusing federal funds — funds that by law may not be used for abortions. In 2010, the organization received fully 46 percent of its funding — 487 million dollars — from government grants.

Yet according to Planned Parenthood’s latest annual report, the organization and its many affiliates performed more than 329,000 abortions in 2010 — or a full 91 percent of services rendered to pregnant women.

It sure sounds to me that they’re flaunting the law.

Finally, this never was about the money. Komen’s grant was a drop in Planned Parenthood’s bucket. As Tim Stanley of the UK Telegraph pointed out, Komen for the Cure’s annual grant made up a mere .058 percent of Planned Parenthood’s budget!

So what is this all about? Look friends, Komen is the kind of respectable and mainstream partner that Planned Parenthood desperately needs to continue its charade that it is all about “women’s health.” And it and its friends will bully and shout down anybody who dares to disagree with them.

What happened to Komen is a perfect example of the despotism of the modern left. Disagree with them, they vilify you and seek to intimidate you into silence. Tragically, Komen caved.

As I’ve been saying on BreakPoint for the last three or four months, we must break the spiral of silence. That’s why it is so important to speak out, even now. Let Komen know that you appreciated what they did to de-fund Planned Parenthood — come to and we’ll link you to their website — and that you are horrified that they didn’t have the courage to stick to their convictions.

Here is the lesson for us in all of this: We must have the courage of our convictions. Remember, courage is the first of the cardinal virtues, the virtue on which all others depend. We must never cave when it comes to defending the Truth, no matter what comes our way.

Just remember, we have no choice but to stand for what is true and just and to oppose evil no matter what the cost.
If you want to contact Komen and voice your displeasure with their caving to pressure from Planned Parenthood, you can do so through this link.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Gambling revenues for electronic pulltabs and bingo-- a moving target.

Proponents of a new Vikings stadium and supporters of charitable gambling trumpet all the new revenues projected to be generated from installing electronic pull tabs and bingo games to replace the paper ones.

In the fiscal note accompanying the bill last year, the Minnesota Gambling Control Board estimated it would generate a mind boggling $2.5 billion in new gambling dollars from which the state will get a small percentage off the top to pay for the Vikings stadium and other government programs or projects. They estimate by 2014 there would be 3500 gambling sites using the electronic pull tabs and bingo games.

It seems these are moving numbers. The newest revenue projects for the state have increased from around $40 million a year to $72 million. And they say there will only be 2500 gambling sites.

The danger will these moving targets is if the expansion is passed and projected revenues don't materialize, I believe they'll come back to the legislature for more gambling -- slot machines in bars and restaurants.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Major foundation cuts off funding to Planned Parenthood.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation, a major foundation which funds efforts to fight breast cancer, has cut funding to Planned Parenthood. This comes on the heels of efforts in various states to de-fund Planned Parenthood. To date, 9 states have cut off $61 million in funding to Planned Parenthood in the past year. I think this is reflective of the growing pro-life support among the public and as a result people are less inclined to support one of the chief proponents of abortion, Planned Parenthood.