Thursday, January 31, 2013

Boy Scouts, gays and God

With the elimination of the ban on homosexual conduct by scout leaders and scouts the author of a piece on the Boy Scouts wonders, seemingly not disapprovingly, when they'll left their ban on atheists.
Can't imagine it's too far a leap to do that given the Scouts willingness to compromise their principles.

But then there are the conservative values that aren't nearly so universal, many of which are rooted in the historical twining of the Boy Scouts and religion. As the Boy Scout oath puts it right up front:

"On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country..."

Atheists and agnostics need not apply.

American conservatism has always had the libertarian "leave me alone and I'll do the same to you" strain and the "God has told me what's right so I need to carry that to the world" strain. The religion-linked conservatism has had the loudest megaphone in American culture for a while. But I'd suggest that the Boy Scouts' latest announcement is evidence that the libertarian strain, at least as supported by some of the organization's largest donors and supporters, is now in the ascendency.

The local options being discussed wouldn't require any scouting troop to take any particular position on homosexuality. What that means is that there will be troops that are known to be open and those not, so parents will have the ability to choose what they want for their boys. (I can imagine diversity creating some real issues at the Jamborees, however.)

But what about parents and kids whose attitude toward religion is not doctrinaire? I sent an email to the Boy Scouts' national spokesman, Deron Smith. Will there be a "local option" offered for atheists or agnostics?

From his answer, it appears that religious conservatism still holds the line there.

"It is the position of the Boy Scouts of America that the ideals and principles of 'Duty to God' and 'reverence' set forth in the Scout Oath and Law are central to teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes."

It's certainly the right of the Boy Scouts to take that position, and maybe history has made it impossible to extract religious faith from the Boy Scout mission.

Of course, the organization was just as unequivocal not so long ago about sexual orientation. So maybe the non-religious still do have a prayer of becoming Boy Scouts one day.
Once the compromise of principles begins, it's hard to stop.  The demise of another character building organization.

UPDATE:  I incorrectly stated that the Boy Scouts had changed their policy on prohibiting persons engaged in homosexual conduct from being Scout leaders.  They're expected to make a decision this week, e.g. February 4th - 8th.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Minnesotans United Hires More Than Half-Dozen Lobbyists To Redefine Marriage And Family

They can't hide it any longer, Minnesotans United was dishonest about their desire to "continue the conversation" on marriage.  Instead, they are spending vast sums of money on high-powered lobbyists to pass legislation to force gay "marriage" on all Minnesotans.

Politics In Minnesota just reported that Minnesotans United For All Families "has registered more than a half dozen lobbyists as they prepare for a push to legalize gay marriage this legislative session.
The anti-amendment campaign turned issue-advocacy group took a big step toward transitioning into a full lobbying group last week, registering several lobbyists from Twin Cities firm Messerli & Kramer to headline the effort. That includes Nancy Haas, Eric Hyland and Thomas Poul."
"Two members of LGBT advocacy group Project 515 are also part of the lobbying team:
Jill Sletten, who has lobbied with Project 515 since 2008, and the group’s executive
director, Ann Kaner-Roth."

Now is the time for pro-family, pro-marriage Minnesotans to make their voices heard and let their legislators know this is wrong for Minnesota.

Share this message with your friends and family.

CLICK HERE to find out who represents you at the Capitol - and contact them today.

Gay Marriage Court Battle Put On Hold - Time to Contact Your Legislator

The Benson v. Chapin case to legalize gay "marriage" in Minnesota has been put on hold to see if the legislature will overstep it's mandate and redefine marriage and family.  

"We're putting the ball in the Legislature's court ...," said Peter Nickitas, who represents same-sex couples who sued the county over its failure to issue them marriage licenses. 

CLICK HERE to read the entire article in the Pioneer Press. 

According to the article, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL Minneapolis who is leading the effort to redefine marriage and family said the case "takes away a pretext for the Legislature not acting". 

Dibble's comments should also take away any pretext for pro-marriage, pro-family supporters for not contacting their legislator and telling them that you don't want marriage and family redefined.

Please, contact your legislator today and tell them, DON'T REDEFINE MARRIAGE AND FAMILY.

CLICK HERE to contact your legislator.

Friendship of Chick-fil-A owner and gay activist

Here's an interesting article on Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy by Shane Windmeyer, gay activist and past opponent of Chick-fil-A.  He realizes while they don't agree on a number of issues, he recognizes Cathy as a sincere man of conviction who cares about people.
I spent New Year's Eve at the red-blooded, all-American epicenter of college football: at the Chick-fil-A Bowl, next to Dan Cathy, as his personal guest. It was among the most unexpected moments of my life.

Yes, after months of personal phone calls, text messages and in-person meetings, I am coming out in a new way, as a friend of Chick-fil-A's president and COO, Dan Cathy, and I am nervous about it. I have come to know him and Chick-fil-A in ways that I would not have thought possible when I first started hearing from LGBT students about their concerns over the chicken chain's giving practices.

For many this news of friendship might be shocking. After all, I am an out, 40-year-old gay man and a lifelong activist for equality. I am also the founder and executive director of Campus Pride, the leading national organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and ally college students. Just seven months ago our organization advanced a national campaign against Chick-fil-A for the millions of dollars it donated to anti-LGBT organizations and divisive political groups that work each day to harm hardworking LGBT young people, adults and our families. I have spent quite some time being angry at and deeply distrustful of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A. If he had his way, my husband of 18 years and I would never be legally married...

On Aug. 10, 2012, in the heat of the controversy, I got a surprise call from Dan Cathy. He had gotten my cell phone number from a mutual business contact serving campus groups. I took the call with great caution. He was going to tear me apart, right? Give me a piece of his mind? Turn his lawyers on me?

The first call lasted over an hour, and the private conversation led to more calls the next week and the week after. Dan Cathy knew how to text, and he would reach out to me as new questions came to his mind. This was not going to be a typical turn of events.

His questions and a series of deeper conversations ultimately led to a number of in-person meetings with Dan and representatives from Chick-fil-A. He had never before had such dialogue with any member of the LGBT community. It was awkward at times but always genuine and kind.

It is not often that people with deeply held and completely opposing viewpoints actually risk sitting down and listening to one another. We see this failure to listen and learn in our government, in our communities and in our own families. Dan Cathy and I would, together, try to do better than each of us had experienced before.

Never once did Dan or anyone from Chick-fil-A ask for Campus Pride to stop protesting Chick-fil-A. On the contrary, Dan listened intently to our concerns and the real-life accounts from youth about the negative impact that Chick-fil-A was having on campus climate and safety at colleges across the country. He was concerned about an incident last fall where a fraternity was tabling next to the Chick-fil-A restaurant on campus. Whenever an out gay student on campus would walk past the table, the fraternity would chant, "We love Chick-fil-A," and then shout anti-gay slurs at the student. Dan sought first to understand, not to be understood. He confessed that he had been naïve to the issues at hand and the unintended impact of his company's actions.
It's easy to demonize your opponents.  Cathy and Windmeyer were able to get beyond that.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ravi's Message at the Under God Indivisible Leadership Conference

Top Five Reasons For A Man To Grow Up And Get Married.

Great article by Steve Crowder

"Sadly, marriage has become a punchline in today’s society. From referring to the wife as “the old ball and chain” to nearly every poorly written sitcom that we watch, the message we’re sending to today’s generation is clear… Marriage = no fun."  (Emphasis mine.)

Crowder's comment reminds me of the same foolishness we hear about family and marriage in the uptight '50's.  The perception is drawn from TV programs, which weren't reality.  Yet the perception remains.  It's ironic that this allegedly uptight 50's generation produced the baby boom.  Think about it.

"I know plenty of people my age that will never get married because they genuinely believe the false cultural meme that marriage has sadly become. There’s only one problem. It’s completely untrue.

Even more of a problem, those who know it to be untrue often do nothing to correct the lie."

 CLICK HERE to read the entire article.

Are all "orientations" OK?

This World magazine column highlights the moral confusion and bankruptcy of modern society's understanding of human sexuality.
I almost started this column by saying The Guardian is a mainstream British daily newspaper and not the U.K.’s version of the National Enquirer. But that would insult the National Enquirer, which, whatever you want to say about supermarket tabloids, was the first to expose presidential candidate John Edwards’ dalliances when respectable papers held their noses.

On Jan. 2 the respectable Guardian published an article, “Paedophilia: bringing dark desires to light.” The title choice is more prophetic than intended, calling to mind Isaiah’s “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). Below are excerpts, a case study in journalistic slouching toward Gomorrah.
“There is little agreement about paedophilia, even among those considered experts on the subject.”

Right off the bat we are introduced to the notion of different opinions, which is Strategy No. 1. The Dark Side (Ephesians 2:2; 5:11; 6:12) need merely suggest that something evil is really only “controversial.” When the discussion begins at that level, the bad guys have already won ground: Pedophilia is now put forth as a subject on which reasonable people disagree.

Note a maneuver in 1 Kings 20, when the Israelites soundly defeat Syrian King Ben-hadad: His servants tell him, “The kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings. Let us put sackcloth around our waists and ropes on our heads and go out to the king of Israel.” They do that, asking King Ahab for mercy, and Ahab says of Ben-hadad, “He is my brother.”  

The Syrian servants who “were watching for a sign” then say, “Yes, your brother Ben-hadad.” The purveyors of darkness are looking for a sign from us too, for mercy unmoored to truth corrodes to leniency. Relinquish the word “wrong,” accept the softer “reasonable difference of opinion,” and the camel’s nose is well under the tent. 

Strategy No. 2: “A paedophile is someone who has a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children. Savile [Jimmy Savile, high-profile English pedophile] appears to have been primarily an ephebophile, defined as someone who has a similar preferential attraction to adolescents.”

Ephebophile is a brand new word for me; I suspect it will become nauseatingly familiar. But the point to notice is that now we have distinctions being proffered, a sophisticated taxonomy. Distinctions are strategy No. 2 for normalizing evil. The making of them automatically confers a certain legitimacy without even having to argue for it. After all, you cannot have varieties of something that doesn’t exist. So, circularly, if there are varieties of sexual orientation, they are real, and if real, they are not to be condemned. 

Strategy No. 3: “Sarah Goode, a senior lecturer at the University of Winchester and author of two major 2009 and 2011 sociological studies on paedophilia in society, says the best current estimate … is that ‘one in five of all men are, to some degree, capable of being sexually aroused by children. … There is a growing conviction, notably in Canada, that paedophilia should probably be classified as a distinct sexual orientation, like heterosexuality or homosexuality. Two eminent researchers testified to that effect to a Canadian parliamentary commission last year, and the Harvard Mental Health Letter of July 2010 stated baldly that paedophilia ‘is a sexual orientation.’”

“Harvard.” “U of Winchester.” “Major sociological studies.” The canny takeaway message here: These people are smarter than you. Strategy No. 3 is the domain of the professional.

“And few agree about what causes it. Is paedophilia innate or acquired?” 

Professionals will pretend to argue about Nature versus Nurture for another year or so, as they did in the early days of the gay movement. Then someone will say, “You say potato and I say potahto, let’s call the whole thing off,” and no one will care anymore. Polymorphous promiscuity will prevail. The jig will be up.

“Some academics do not dispute the view of Tom O’Carroll, a former chairman of PIE [Paedophile Information Exchange] … that society’s outrage at paedophilic relationships is essentially emotional, irrational, and not justified by science. ‘It is the quality of the relationship that matters,’ O’Carroll insists.”

The thing to notice here is that while you weren’t looking the word “relationships” snuck in without debate. Another place gained. The language of alternative lifestyle slowly replaces today’s more common terminology of “abuse” and “victim.”
Sexual orientation is a recent creation in terms of human history.  The way it's bandied about today, all sexual orientations are created equal.  This column shows what moral relativism is leading -- acceptance of pedophilia.  Children are sacrificed on the altar of adult desires. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

The cost of educating a student in the Minneapolis public schools. It isn't cheap. $23,000 per student.

It isn't cheap educating a student in the Minneapolis public schools.  The organization Better Ed says,
According to Minneapolis Public Schools, the district’s total budget for the 2012-2013 school year will be $742,700,845. That amount will be spent to educate 32,263 students. Some quick, back-of-the-napkin math reveals the district is spending an average of $23,020 per student!

Now, is every dollar neatly assigned to every student? Of course not. Nonetheless the calculation is useful for putting the district’s performance in perspective. Between 2007 and 2011 (2012 numbers pending), less than half of Minneapolis' high school seniors graduated on time. Less than half!

If you were a parent who could spend $23,000 on your children’s education, would you send them to a district where less than half of the kids are graduating on time? Or might you look around for alternatives?

For $23,000 you can get your child into one of the top private schools in the Twin Cities, as the chart above indicates. Indeed, tuition at The Blake School this year runs $23,525 for grades 9-12. If you were to choose a less expensive school, you might even be able to bank some money for college.

Now, it isn't a straight-up, apples-to-apples comparison looking at Minneapolis’ average spending compared to tuition at a private school. But it does give you an idea of the kind of education $23,000 can purchase elsewhere in the Metro.

Furthermore, the chart above tells us that there isn't a spending problem, but rather a system problem in Minneapolis. With $742 million at their disposal, shouldn't our education leaders in Minneapolis be achieving better outcomes for our kids?

Friday, January 25, 2013

"Act of wanton destruction", "Demilitarizing the Military" -- Women in Combat.

Political correction and ideology again triumph in bringing women into active combat.  Here are a couple of great pieces on the topic.  
With word that outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has lifted the ban on women in combat — “on the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” no less — one has to wonder how President Obama has brought the military to heel. As with Obamacare, the details remain to be worked out.
It seems to me an act of wanton destruction — David French calls it “Demilitarizing the military” — of a piece with Obama’s touch elsewhere. I commend to your attention Ryan Smith’s Wall Street Journal column “The reality that awaits women in combat.” Smith himself is a combat veteran with poignant memories of his service in Iraq. Available via Google News, the column may be inaccessible behind the Journal’s paywall. Smith writes:
America has been creeping closer and closer to allowing women in combat, so Wednesday’s news that the decision has now been made is not a surprise. It appears that female soldiers will be allowed on the battlefield but not in the infantry. Yet it is a distinction without much difference: Infantry units serve side-by-side in combat with artillery, engineers, drivers, medics and others who will likely now include women. The Pentagon would do well to consider realities of life in combat as it pushes to mix men and women on the battlefield.

Many articles have been written regarding the relative strength of women and the possible effects on morale of introducing women into all-male units. Less attention has been paid to another aspect: the absolutely dreadful conditions under which grunts live during war.

Most people seem to believe that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have merely involved driving out of a forward operating base, patrolling the streets, maybe getting in a quick firefight, and then returning to the forward operating base and its separate shower facilities and chow hall. The reality of modern infantry combat, at least the portion I saw, bore little resemblance to this sanitized view.

I served in the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a Marine infantry squad leader. We rode into war crammed in the back of amphibious assault vehicles. They are designed to hold roughly 15 Marines snugly; due to maintenance issues, by the end of the invasion we had as many as 25 men stuffed into the back. Marines were forced to sit, in full gear, on each other’s laps and in contorted positions for hours on end. That was the least of our problems.

The invasion was a blitzkrieg. The goal was to move as fast to Baghdad as possible. The column would not stop for a lance corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, or even a company commander to go to the restroom. Sometimes we spent over 48 hours on the move without exiting the vehicles. We were forced to urinate in empty water bottles inches from our comrades.

Many Marines developed dysentery from the complete lack of sanitary conditions. When an uncontrollable urge hit a Marine, he would be forced to stand, as best he could, hold an MRE bag up to his rear, and defecate inches from his seated comrade’s face.

During the invasion, we wore chemical protective suits because of the fear of chemical or biological weapon attack. These are equivalent to a ski jumpsuit and hold in the heat. We also had to wear black rubber boots over our desert boots. On the occasions the column did stop, we would quickly peel off our rubber boots, desert boots and socks to let our feet air out.

Due to the heat and sweat, layers of our skin would peel off our feet. However, we rarely had time to remove our suits or perform even the most basic hygiene. We quickly developed sores on our bodies.
When we did reach Baghdad, we were in shambles. We had not showered in well over a month and our chemical protective suits were covered in a mixture of filth and dried blood. We were told to strip and place our suits in pits to be burned immediately. My unit stood there in a walled-in compound in Baghdad, naked, sores dotted all over our bodies, feet peeling, watching our suits burn. Later, they lined us up naked and washed us off with pressure washers.

Yes, a woman is as capable as a man of pulling a trigger. But the goal of our nation’s military is to fight and win wars. Before taking the drastic step of allowing women to serve in combat units, has the government considered whether introducing women into the above-described situation would have made my unit more or less combat effective?

Societal norms are a reality, and their maintenance is important to most members of a society. It is humiliating enough to relieve yourself in front of your male comrades; one can only imagine the humiliation of being forced to relieve yourself in front of the opposite sex.

Despite the professionalism of Marines, it would be distracting and potentially traumatizing to be forced to be naked in front of the opposite sex, particularly when your body has been ravaged by lack of hygiene. In the reverse, it would be painful to witness a member of the opposite sex in such an uncomfortable and awkward position. Combat effectiveness is based in large part on unit cohesion. The relationships among members of a unit can be irreparably harmed by forcing them to violate societal norms.
 And in a related note, unwanted pregnancies are on the rise in the military.
The findings come amid news that the Pentagon will lift the ban on women in front-line combat jobs starting in 2016.

"It does definitely have implications for troop readiness, ability to deploy (and) troops in combat missions if they are potentially at high risk for unintended pregnancy and pregnant women can't be deployed," said Dr. Vinita Goyal, who has studied unintended pregnancy in female veterans at Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
Men and women are different and to simply ignore those differences in the military undermines the mission of the military.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Will the tax man cometh for more in Minnesota?

Governor Dayton wants to raise taxes, not just to close a budget deficit, but to increase spending.  He wants to increase sales taxes, income taxes and business to business taxes.
High-wage earners would pay $1 billion more in income taxes, all Minnesotans would pay sales tax on pricier clothing and homeowners would see $500 yearly rebates under Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal, released Tuesday...
Business leaders objected to higher taxes on wealthier Minnesotans and on the services that businesses sell each other but some praised the increased funding for education and transit. And Republican lawmakers upbraided the governor for his heavy reliance on new taxes in a budget that cuts only $225 million in spending from a $38 billion budget.

Dayton, who campaigned in 2010 calling for the state to "tax the rich," would create a new tax rate of 9.85 percent, to be paid on taxable income above $250,000 for joint filers and above $150,000 for single filers. That would net about $1 billion from 53,000 returns and give the state one of the top five top rates in the country.

For the first time, Minnesotans would pay sales tax on clothing -- items above $100 -- and on services like haircuts, auto repairs and legal fees.

"This is a budget for a better Wisconsin," said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, implying that Minnesotans would run to Republican-led Wisconsin if the budget were passed as proposed. Dayton's campaign and governing mantra has stressed the creation of "a better Minnesota."

Dayton's plan would dramatically alter the state's revenue streams. Over time, the state's system has tilted toward the property tax, which supplies 40 percent of the state's revenue. Income taxes provide 33 percent and 27 percent come from sales taxes. The overhaul would ensure that each of the three sources provided roughly a third of state revenue.
A key question in all of this is what is the role of government.  Should government take more resources to distribute them other people?  It's easy to raise taxes on the wealthy but those are the folks who run businesses and their  success financially is often a byproduct of their success in the market place.  To hit them for higher taxes will discourage some from remaining in Minneosta or expanding their businesses if they're a business owner.  These things will ultimately be a drag on the economy and job creation and a discouragement to work.  I saw numbers that on the economies of state with no income tax.  Over the last decade, jobs grew in these state by just under 5% while in states with income taxes jobs  declined by over 2%.

The golfer Phil Mickelson recently questioned whether he could continue living in California where the combination of state and federal taxes will take an estimated 60% of his income every year.  Is that a disincentive to work and be productive?  Certainly.

Again, the push for more taxes is a sign people are thinking only of the short term and what they can get versus the long term and how these tax policies effect the economic environment.  We're a society which increasingly has a very short term horizon.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Would Martin Luther King be disinvited from President Obama's inauguration?

This being the birthday of Martin Luther King, Star Parker asks whether Martin Luther King would be asked to give the benediction at President Obama's inauguration.  The reason it's a relevant question is the person originally asked to give the benediction, was Pastor Louie Giglio, well known for his work fighting human trafficking.  He was forced to withdraw after it was learned that he, "horror of horrors", preached a sermon 25 years ago saying that homosexual behavior was a sin.

Parker raises the specter of MLK being forced to withdraw as well because in 1963 he said a law was just or unjust depending on whether it squared with God's law.
In King’s famous letter written in 1963, while locked in a jail in Birmingham, Ala., beginning with the salutation “My fellow clergyman,” he asks the question, “How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust?” The answer given by King was this: “A just law is a manmade code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.”

Would a law such as the one forcing the evangelical Christian owners of Hobby Lobby to pay for contraception and abortion inducing pills of employees, and exposing them to fines of $1.3 million per day for noncompliance -- qualify as “just” under Dr. King’s definition?

Would the Rev. Dr. King be ejected from the stage of this president’s inaugural if he called this law, produced by this administration, unjust?

We are entering unprecedented times when the moral foundations of our nation are being turned on their head.  Right is now wrong and wrong is now right; words spoken by one of the Old Testament prophets in the context of the ancient nation of Israel.  There's nothing new under the sun.

Is liberalism/progressivism rising are about to crash?

Here's an interesting interview with Charles Kesler, author of  I Am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism.  He believes Obama's re-election doesn't signify the triumph of liberalism or progressivism because the financial crisis staring us in the face could well cause it to come crashing down.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You wrote a whole book about “Barack Obama and the crisis of liberalism” before the 2012 election, which he won fairly easily. Is your analysis still relevant?                                        CHARLES KESLER: Highly relevant, alas. I began writing about Obama in 2007, when his speeches struck me as more interesting and ambitious than the usual Democratic pablum. His two books — one a strikingly postmodern memoir, the other a more conventional campaign book that displayed his highly unconventional view of how to transform our politics — confirmed my judgment that conservatives (and at the time, the Clintons) were dangerously underestimating him. By the time I began I Am the Change in 2011, he had run the table, winning on the stimulus, Obamacare, and Dodd-Frank the kind of liberal legislative breakthroughs that bring to mind the New Deal or the Great Society.
LOPEZ: Isn’t the crisis over? Liberalism has won.
KESLER: As I wrote in the book, Obama was poised to be either liberalism’s savior or its gravedigger. His own view was that Ronald Reagan had been a transformative figure in American politics and that no Democrat since had had the gumption, the vision, and the discipline to challenge Reaganism. But Obama thought it challengeable, and his 2008 campaign was all about restoring liberals’ Hope that sweeping political Change was still possible, despite the Reagan Revolution. He had to restore liberals’ faith in liberalism, and then translate that faith into works, which he did in his first term. By unleashing a new New Deal, as it were, he showed his followers that Reagan had merely interrupted, not overturned, the country’s destiny to move ever leftward.

LOPEZ: So what was at stake in 2012 wasn’t just the fate of one liberal administration but of liberalism itself?

KESLER: Yes, to the extent that a repudiation of Obama and his agenda would have led to a very deep crisis of confidence on the left. To paraphrase Woody Allen, liberalism is like a shark. It has to move forward constantly or it dies. Think, for example, of the liberals’ so-called living Constitution, which has to be continually adjusted (by them) to keep up with the times. The alternative to the living Constitution is, by implication, a dead one. As a form of progressivism, liberalism has to conceive of itself as being on the right side of history, which means the winning side. Anything that shakes that confidence — a long series of defeats and policy reversals, e.g., if Obama had lost, Obamacare had gone on to be repealed and replaced, and the Bush tax cuts made permanent — shakes liberals’ belief in their own inevitability, which is key to their own sense of their right to rule.

LOPEZ: But they didn’t lose in 2012. It’s conservatism that now seems to be an endangered species.

KESLER: Exactly, and Obama’s ambition to be liberalism’s reviver and savior appears to have been realized. But the emphasis is on “appears.” Obama thinks he has saved liberalism because he’s put it on the winning side again, and in a big way. He takes pride in showing that the era of big government is not over, that in fact the future belongs to much higher taxes and to much more activist government. I think he’s profoundly wrong about that. Before suggesting why, may I say something briefly about how differently conservatives think, or ought to think, about the relation between principles and politics?
For us, to put it simply, principles are rooted in what our fathers called the laws of nature and of nature’s God. These are timeless, that is, they call to us in every age. Some ages live up to the minimal demands of moral decency and the maximum demands of political excellence better than others; no age lives up to them perfectly. That’s why conservatives are inherently moderate in their demands and expectations of politics, recognizing that neither political defeat nor victory affects the inherent authority and goodness of first principles. Our losses in 2012 are therefore not cause for despair. Like everything in politics they are temporary. We shouldn’t run around like liberals, afraid that the times are against us and that we need to exchange old principles for new ones that allegedly fit the times better. Our calling is, so far as possible, to keep the times in tune with our principles, not to adjust our principles to match the times. As Churchill put it, it isn’t possible to guarantee success in politics or war; it’s possible only to deserve it. By contrast, progressives believe in happy endings, in the inevitability of progress. They cannot separate might from right, success from legitimacy, and so don’t have the consolation of believing in principles in the conservative sense. They insist that the good guys must always or at least eventually win, a standard which elides easily into the deeply immoral belief that, in the end, whoever wins must be right.

LOPEZ: What you call the crisis of liberalism isn’t over, then?

KESLER: I think it’s just beginning. Obama thinks it’s over, of course. With his usual modesty, he regards his reelection as the sign that liberalism has returned to its natural role as modern America’s public philosophy or established religion. Reaganism was a blip, an anomaly. But the Democrats’ very successes are intensifying liberalism’s contradictions, both fiscal and philosophical.

LOPEZ: This is the grave-digging part?

KESLER: Yes! The fiscal danger is now obvious: We can’t afford all the promises the welfare state has already made, much less the ones it will add in coming years. It’s almost impossible for liberals to limit spending because every promise becomes a program, and every program stands for a new right to health care, child care, and so forth. You can’t put a price on human rights! The result is that the federal government, driven by what is candidly called “uncontrollable” spending, is bankrupt or soon will be. Liberalism can’t go on very much longer without unleashing its socialist id and imposing, among other things, a comprehensive and oppressive new regime of middle-class taxation. Faced with that illiberal future, many liberals may balk.
And philosophically, American liberals are coming to the end of their rope. Though President Obama likes to be called a Progressive, he doesn’t believe in progress in the way, say, Woodrow Wilson did as something scientifically and rationally certain, benign, and steerable. For Obama, strains of multiculturalism, postmodernism, and relativism have crept in. Progress, both as to both means and ends, is in this view more a matter of will than of reason. It’s not a question anymore of following or finding history’s meaning but of creating it. In its purest and most academic form, this revelation has pulled the philosophical rug out from under liberalism, exposing it as neither true nor just, because neither Truth nor Justice exists (ask any postmodernist). Obama doesn’t go that far; he wants to believe in social justice, I think. For instance, he sometimes quotes Martin Luther King’s line that the arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice. Yet Obama asserts at the same time that democracy depends on the rejection of every form of “absolute truth.” If you reject absolute truth absolutely, you are not only incoherent but in danger of becoming the worst kind of dogmatist.

LOPEZ: Your book is as much about liberalism as it is about Obama. It has meaty chapters on Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson, for example. Why the double focus?

KESLER: Because Obama personifies modern liberalism and its crisis. He compares himself frequently to FDR and Lincoln, and occasionally to LBJ, and he calls himself “progressive.” All that’s well known, but no one had thought it through. That’s what I try to do in I Am the Change, put between two covers, for the first time, the story of modern American liberalism, its evolution and devolution.
Conservatives have spent generations pondering the relation of modern liberalism to the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, abolitionism, the Enlightenment, medieval nominalism — all things worth thinking about, by the way — but we had largely ignored the obvious point that in America the liberal movement traces itself back through a series of prophet-leaders (LBJ, JFK, FDR, etc.) to Wilsonian-style Progressivism. (TR was also important, and Jean Yarbrough’s new book on him is splendid. Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism tells the story brilliantly, but from a different angle.) That’s the liberalism we suffer from. The “living constitution,” the cult of the charismatic leader who mesmerizes the masses with a “vision” of the future, entitlement rights and programs, the State that replaces God by offering complete material and spiritual fulfillment in this life, the disillusionment that follows that hubris — all these familiar tropes of our contemporary politics emerge from the century of liberalism that in a way culminates in Barack Obama.
Is Kesler's right?  Will people reject progressivism as the financial crisis comes ashore?  Depends on the character of the American people.  Will they desire security, or supposed security, more than freedom and liberty?  That's the question.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dayton Administration wants to revise history for Minnesota public school kids.

The Dayton Administration's Department of Education is seeking to water down, even dumb down, social studies standards all Minnesota public schools are required to implement.

According community college history professor Chuck Chalberg:
Nearly a decade ago, the Minnesota Department of Education thoroughly revised the social-studies standards for K-12 public schools. Largely a response to the much-reviled Profiles of Learning, these new standards sought to beef up content and drastically reduce the busywork that was so prominent under the Profiles -- and so frustrating to both teachers and students.

Today, the department is about the business of somewhat revising the social-studies standards. "Tweaking" might be the right word. At least, that's the hope of those doing the tweaking, since significant alterations would require the approval of the Legislature. So tweaking it is.

Since I'm an American historian, I'll confine my comments to what might happen to the study of American history in Minnesota's high school classrooms once the existing standards have been properly tweaked. "Might happen" is the operative phrase. The entire matter is before an administrative law judge, who must decide whether the department's tweaks rise to the level of revision that demands legislative sanction.
  What were some of the changes?
It's worth noting that the 2004 standards were approved by the Legislature. In addition, those standards were the result of a consensus effort on the part of liberals and conservatives. One of its goals suggested that students should learn of the sacrifices that previous generations of Americans made to "win and keep liberty."

Is such a goal necessarily conservative or liberal? It shouldn't be either. The 2004 standards deemed "patriotism" a core civic value. Is this something that only liberals -- or only conservatives -- would believe? Hardly.

The proposed new standards also include a lengthy list of "civic values." Curiously, patriotism is not one of them. There are references to "civic life in the 21st century," but few specific references to American citizenship, much less to its history and obligations. Are such tweakings (revisions?) designed to take the standards in a liberal or a conservative direction?

Matters of specific historical content are even more telling and troubling. The drafters of the 2004 standards placed great emphasis on the Declaration of Independence, and its "inalienable rights and self-evident truths." The new standards simply list the Declaration as one of a number of things to analyze in studying the American Revolution. Its centrality to our revolution is minimized, and its impact on "subsequent revolutions in Europe, the Caribbean, and Latin America" is heightened.

Differences between the 2004 standards and its updated version are also apparent when it comes to the Civil War. In 2004, the causes, conduct and consequences of that war are central. In the tweaked standards, the Civil War is treated almost as an interlude lost in the midst of the larger 19th-century story of American expansion and the conquest of "indigenous and Mexican territory."

The post-Civil War story offers a few curious contrasts as well. The 2004 standards are thorough, straightforward and balanced in their treatment of such crucial phenomena as urbanization, industrialization, immigration and racial segregation. The new standards stress the "rise of big business" and the implementation of "institutional racism."

Gone from the late 19th-century story is the role of "key inventions" in improving American life. In its place is an emphasis on the "intensified boom and bust cycles in an unregulated capitalist economy."

The 2004 standards asked students to assess the causes of the Great Depression, as well as "demonstrate knowledge of how the New Deal transformed American federalism." The tweaked standards presume that "economic growth and political apathy" led to the Great Depression, which in turn "spurred new forms of government intervention."

The origins and importance of the Cold War are highlighted in the 2004 standards. Not so in the tweaked document. Gone are such key events as the imposition of the Iron Curtain, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Instead, students will be comparing and contrasting market and command economies and their "associated political ideologies" by way of how both "contributed to the development of the Cold War." Gone are specific decisions by key actors; instead the stress is on vague historical forces.

The same can be said about the end of the Cold War. In the 2004 standards, it was thought important that students should know the political and economic policies of the United States that "contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union." There is even a reference to President Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech. In the new standards, there is no reference to a Soviet Union, collapsed or otherwise, and therefore no suggestion that American policies may have contributed to its demise.
Worse than that is the new treatment of current American conflicts in the Middle East or, more accurately, the absence thereof. The 2004 standards specifically mention 9/11, both Iraq wars and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. All of this has been entirely tweaked out of the new standards. It's as though the end of history really did arrive with the end of the Cold War. Apparently, Minnesota students living in a post-Cold War world need only to be able to "evaluate the United States's global economic connections and interdependence with other countries."
 What's lost is an understanding of our nation's history and the principles upon which our nation was founded.  An ignorant citizenry is not good for our republic or state.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The real agenda behind some anti-bullying efforts.

All people are opposing to bullying.  Sadly, some are using this concern to push a different agenda.  Here's a great column by Katherine Kersten in the Sunday Star Tribune on the agenda behind some ostensibly anti-bullying efforts.
Who -- in the sensitive, civilized Minnesota of 2013 -- could possibly be in favor of bullying? If you were short or fat in sixth grade, you may have cringed from bullies yourself. If your kids have endured bullying, you've suffered through it with them. No child should have to put up with bullying. So how could a decent person oppose a campaign at our State Capitol to prevent it?

But what if the antibullying campaign now unfolding there has little to do with protecting the traditional targets of bullies: kids who are pudgy, shy or "vertically challenged"? What if it's driven instead by a political/cultural agenda that's not so much about stopping bad behavior as it is about using the machinery of state education to compel children to adopt politically correct attitudes on "the nature of human sexuality," "gender identity" and alternative family structures?

What if a new antibullying law would require private religious schools -- along with public schools -- to enforce this agenda, so families who don't want to subject their kids to indoctrination in state-approved views of sexuality have no educational refuge?

In the 2013 legislative session, you'll hear lots of warm, fuzzy language from lawmakers and public officials about protecting "all kids" from bullying. You'll read about hearings designed to break every legislator's heart with tearful stories about bullying.

But every Minnesotan with a child in public or private school should understand that there's more going on here than meets the eye. Antibullying legislation is coming early in the session; its final shape is unknown. But the legislative goalposts were set in August 2012 by Gov. Mark Dayton's Task Force on the Prevention of School Bullying, whose report announced recommendations on the shape a new law should take.

The task force called for throwing out Minnesota's current, "local control" antibullying law -- which requires every school board to adopt a written policy "prohibiting intimidation and bullying of any student" -- and replacing it with a sweeping new statewide antibullying regime administered from St. Paul.

That regime would include an expansive new definition of bullying; a comprehensive, mandatory antibullying policy for all public and private schools; "multi-cultural/anti-bias" education for all pre-K-12 students and annual training in antibullying strategies for all teachers, school staff and volunteers; the promotion of "values, attitudes and behaviors" that "understand the nature of human sexuality," and a new "school climate center" at the Minnesota Department of Education.

Why this new law? The task force appears to presuppose that bullying is a pervasive and growing problem. In fact, however, incidents of bullying and intimidation have dropped markedly in recent years, according to surveys by the Department of Justice.

And while the task force gives the impression that LGBT students are a primary focus of bullying, evidence suggests that the vast majority of bullying is directed at other students. The DOJ surveys indicate that the percentage of 12- to 18-year-old students who reported being targets of hate-related words based on their sexual orientation fell from 1.0 percent in 2007 to 0.6 percent in 2009.

The campaign for antibullying legislation is driven not by a dramatic escalation in bullying but by a crusade to use the power of the state to shape your 10-year-old's attitudes and beliefs about sexuality and family structure. The drive is being led by OutFront Minnesota -- the state's most prominent LGBT group, whose legal director was a member of the governor's task force and whose executive director also directs the "Safe Schools for All Coalition."

The governor's task force gives the green light to activist groups like OutFront to move into public and private schools. It calls for "actively enlisting ... community-based advocacy groups" to "chang[e] peer and community norms" and develop bullying-intervention strategies.

Not surprisingly, the task force's proposed new antibullying regime would not treat all children equally, despite lip service to this goal. Instead, it focuses on students in "protected classes," including sexual orientation and "gender identity or expression."

Under the task force's vague and overbroad definitions of bullying and harassment, students could be punished for "direct or indirect interactions" that other students --especially those in protected groups -- claim to find "humiliating" or "offensive," that have a "detrimental effect" on their "social or emotional health," or even that promote a "perceived imbalance of power."

By this standard, a student who voices reservations about same-sex marriage could be accused of bullying LGBT students.
Here's an example of elementary school kids being targeted with this agenda.
We get a sense of what may be on the horizon from "Welcoming Schools" -- a K-5 "antibullying" program developed by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and transgender advocacy group. The program was scheduled to be piloted at Hale Community School in Minneapolis in 2008.

"Welcoming Schools" had little to do with bullying, and much to do with ensuring that kids as young as age 5 submit to the group's orthodoxy on sexuality and family structure.
The curriculum advised teachers not to call students "boys and girls," on grounds this can create "internal dissonance" in some children. It called for students to read books like "Sissy Duckling," and to be evaluated on "whether or not [they] feel comfortable making choices outside gender expectations." Kids in grades three to five "acted out" being members of nontraditional families, including same-sex-headed families.

In lesson after lesson, teachers were instructed to urge their students -- ages 5 to 11 -- to reject traditional views on sexuality and family structure as hurtful "stereotypes," and to use group exercises and classic indoctrination techniques to pressure them to adopt the curriculum designers' attitudes and beliefs.

At Hale, parent concerns prompted removal of some of the curriculum's most controversial aspects.

The governor's task force recommendations could entail serious consequences for dissenting students. The report includes language suggesting that students who express views that others consider offensive could be referred for "counseling" or "mental health needs.

The activists gathering at the State Capitol march under the banner of tolerance. Yet many seek to use state power to impose their own beliefs on others -- including parents who exercise their rights of conscience by choosing private schools that teach Christian, Jewish or Muslim beliefs on sexuality.

Yesterday's champions of tolerance, it seems, are becoming the bullies of today.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Out of control government welfare spending. No wonder we have deficit problems.

Friday, January 11, 2013

World population is slowing and then expected to decline.

There's been some hysteria the past several decades that over population was going to destroy planet. Eat up valuable natural resources. Turns out that's not the case. In fact, economic development reduces the birth rate and could result in other problems from a declining population. 
The world’s seemingly relentless march toward overpopulation achieved a notable milestone in 2012: Somewhere on the planet, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the 7 billionth living person came into existence....
A somewhat more arcane milestone, meanwhile, generated no media coverage at all: It took humankind 13 years to add its 7 billionth. That’s longer than the 12 years it took to add the 6 billionth—the first time in human history that interval had grown. (The 2 billionth, 3 billionth, 4 billionth, and 5 billionth took 123, 33, 14, and 13 years, respectively.) In other words, the rate of global population growth has slowed. And it’s expected to keep slowing. Indeed, according to experts’ best estimates, the total population of Earth will stop growing within the lifespan of people alive today.

And then it will fall.

This is a counterintuitive notion in the United States, where we’ve heard often and loudly that world population growth is a perilous and perhaps unavoidable threat to our future as a species. But population decline is a very familiar concept in the rest of the developed world, where fertility has long since fallen far below the 2.1 live births per woman required to maintain population equilibrium. In Germany, the birthrate has sunk to just 1.36, worse even than its low-fertility neighbors Spain (1.48) and Italy (1.4). The way things are going, Western Europe as a whole will most likely shrink from 460 million to just 350 million by the end of the century. That’s not so bad compared with Russia and China, each of whose populations could fall by half. As you may not be surprised to learn, the Germans have coined a polysyllabic word for this quandary: Schrumpf-Gesellschaft, or “shrinking society.”
American media have largely ignored the issue of population decline for the simple reason that it hasn’t happened here yet. Unlike Europe, the United States has long been the beneficiary of robust immigration. This has helped us not only by directly bolstering the number of people calling the United States home but also by propping up the birthrate, since immigrant women tend to produce far more children than the native-born do.
 Developing countries are now experiencing declining birth rates.
Moreover, the poor, highly fertile countries that once churned out immigrants by the boatload are now experiencing birthrate declines of their own. From 1960 to 2009, Mexico’s fertility rate tumbled from 7.3 live births per woman to 2.4, India’s dropped from six to 2.5, and Brazil’s fell from 6.15 to 1.9. Even in sub-Saharan Africa, where the average birthrate remains a relatively blistering 4.66, fertility is projected to fall below replacement level by the 2070s. This change in developing countries will affect not only the U.S. population, of course, but eventually the world’s.
 What's the reason?
“For hundreds of thousands of years,” explains Warren Sanderson, a professor of economics at Stony Brook University, “in order for humanity to survive things like epidemics and wars and famine, birthrates had to be very high.” Eventually, thanks to technology, death rates started to fall in Europe and in North America, and the population size soared. In time, though, birthrates fell as well, and the population leveled out. The same pattern has repeated in countries around the world. Demographic transition, Sanderson says, “is a shift between two very different long-run states: from high death rates and high birthrates to low death rates and low birthrates.” Not only is the pattern well-documented, it’s well under way: Already, more than half the world’s population is reproducing at below the replacement rate.
 Now the opposite specter of disaster from too few births is being raised.
If the Germany of today is the rest of the world tomorrow, then the future is going to look a lot different than we thought. Instead of skyrocketing toward uncountable Malthusian multitudes, researchers at Austria’s International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis foresee the global population maxing out at 9 billion some time around 2070. On the bright side, the long-dreaded resource shortage may turn out not to be a problem at all. On the not-so-bright side, the demographic shift toward more retirees and fewer workers could throw the rest of the world into the kind of interminable economic stagnation that Japan is experiencing right now.
 And in the long term—on the order of centuries—we could be looking at the literal extinction of humanity.

That might sound like an outrageous claim, but it comes down to simple math. According to a 2008 IIASA report, if the world stabilizes at a total fertility rate of 1.5—where Europe is today—then by 2200 the global population will fall to half of what it is today. By 2300, it’ll barely scratch 1 billion. (The authors of the report tell me that in the years since the initial publication, some details have changed—Europe’s population is falling faster than was previously anticipated, while Africa’s birthrate is declining more slowly—but the overall outlook is the same.) Extend the trend line, and within a few dozen generations you’re talking about a global population small enough to fit in a nursing home.
It’s far from certain that any of this will come to pass. IIASA’s numbers are based on probabilistic projections, meaning that demographers try to identify the key factors affecting population growth and then try to assess the likelihood that each will occur. The several layers of guesswork magnify potential errors. “We simply don’t know for sure what will be the population size at a certain time in the future,” demographer Wolfgang Lutz told IIASA conference-goers earlier this year. “There are huge uncertainties involved.” Still, it’s worth discussing, because focusing too single-mindedly on the problem of overpopulation could have disastrous consequences—see China’s one-child policy.
Some countries are now paying people to have kids.
One of the most contentious issues is the question of whether birthrates in developed countries will remain low. The United Nation’s most recent forecast, released in 2010, assumes that low-fertility countries will eventually revert to a birthrate of around 2.0. In that scenario, the world population tops out at about 10 billion and stays there. But there’s no reason to believe that that birthrates will behave in that way—no one has every observed an inherent human tendency to have a nice, arithmetically stable 2.1 children per couple. On the contrary, people either tend to have an enormous number of kids (as they did throughout most of human history and still do in the most impoverished, war-torn parts of Africa) or far too few. We know how to dampen excessive population growth—just educate girls. The other problem has proved much more intractable: No one’s figured out how to boost fertility in countries where it has imploded. Singapore has been encouraging parenthood for nearly 30 years, with cash incentives of up to $18,000 per child. Its birthrate? A gasping-for-air 1.2. When Sweden started offering parents generous support, the birthrate soared but then fell back again, and after years of fluctuating, it now stands at 1.9—very high for Europe but still below replacement level.
And people don't want to have children because of cost and I would say a "self" focus.
The reason for the implacability of demographic transition can be expressed in one word: education. One of the first things that countries do when they start to develop is educate their young people, including girls. That dramatically improves the size and quality of the workforce. But it also introduces an opportunity cost for having babies. “Women with more schooling tend to have fewer children,” says William Butz, a senior research scholar at IIASA.
 In developed countries, childrearing has become a lifestyle option tailored to each couple’s preferences. Maximizing fertility is rarely a priority. My wife and I are a case in point. I’m 46, she’s 39, and we have two toddlers. We waited about as long to have kids as we feasibly could because we were invested in building our careers and, frankly, enjoying all the experiences that those careers let us have. If wanted to pop out another ankle-biter right now, our ageing bodies might just allow us to do so. But we have no intention of trying. As much as we adore our little guys, they’re a lot of work and frighteningly expensive. Most of our friends have just one or two kids, too, and like us they regard the prospect of having three or four kids the way most people look at ultramarathoning or transoceanic sailing—admirable pursuits, but only for the very committed.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Battle over marriage is over definition not equality.

Professor Robert George and his coauthors of "The Meaning of Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense" discussed their book at the Heritage Foundation.  You can view a video of the presentation here.

What is marriage?
The reason a lot of conservatives find it difficult to talk about the issue of gay marriage, said Girgis, a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University and J.D. candidate at Yale Law School, is that "they've accepted the main framing culture has given us – it's about expanding the pool of people able to marry. That's not what this debate is about. ... It's about what marriage is."

There are two separate views of marriage described in the book. The revisionist view, they argue, sees marriage as based upon an emotional union tied to romance. The authors favor what they call the "conjugal view" of marriage, which they define as: "a comprehensive union: a union of will (by consent) and body (by sexual union); inherently ordered to procreation and thus the broad sharing of family life; and calling for permanent and exclusive commitment, whatever the spouses' preferences."

Laws should define marriage according to the conjugal view, they argue, because of the many public goods that benefit society when such a view is upheld and promoted. Law shapes beliefs, beliefs shape behavior, and human well-being and interests are affected by beliefs and behavior, they contend.
Consequences of redefining marriage?
Redefining marriage, the authors claim, will bring harm to the many public goods provided by marriage. Among these public goods described in the book, the authors discussed the well-being of children, limited government and religious liberty in the seminar.

A wealth of social science studies support the view that marriage structure matters to the well-being of children, contended Anderson, the William E. Simon fellow in religion and a free society at The Heritage Foundation, and kids do best when raised by a biological mother and father.

Paraphrasing sociologist David Popenoe, Anderson said, "We should get rid of the idea that mommies can be good daddies and daddies can be good mommies.
Why it's important?
The conjugal definition of marriage is also necessary for limited government, Anderson argued, because when marriage fails the welfare state necessarily increases to aid the broken lives that result. Citing a study by Brookings Institution, a left-of-center think tank, Anderson noted that between 1970 and 1996, $229 billion in federal welfare expenditures is attributable to the breakdown of marriage. Plus, a 2008 study showed that divorce and unwed parenting cost taxpayers $112 billion per year in state and federal social safety net programs.

Echoing that theme, George, McCormick professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, said that conservative ideals – "limited government, economic growth, rule of law, and the preservation of democratic self-government" – cannot be maintained "while letting the institution of the family erode and collapse."

"Everything depends on marriage," George said, "because it is the fundamental unit of society, the original and best department of health, education and welfare, supplying what every other institution in society needs, depends on, for its own flourishing, but which none of those institutions can supply for themselves."

Monday, January 7, 2013

Rent a womb and exploit a woman.

An issue which has arisen in the Minnesota legislature in the past is the issue of gestational surrogacy, e.g. individual(s) contract with a woman to become impregnated with a fertilized egg and then turns the child over to these persons after the birth.  Because this usually happens with the exchange of money, I view the practice as, in effect, baby selling.

A major "market" for this practice is in developing countries, because the big money paid to these women is very appealing.

One observer describes it as "biological colonialism".  I've also heard it described by a former surrogate carrier as "reproductive prostitution".
It was once said that the sun never set on the British Empire. The Brits colonized vast areas of the earth, civilizing exotic places  with the likes of afternoon tea and cricket. Oh, and happily using up natural resources along the way.

Those days are gone, but we’ve entered a new era of colonialism: renting the wombs of women in exotic places to fulfill a desire to have a child, under any circumstances. And now the natural resources are the wombs of destitute women.

Wesley J. Smith in National Review Online calls this “biological colonialism“, and cites a story from The Independent. This renting of wombs seems centered in India, where regulations are minimal, and the law allows not only married couples to rent a womb, but gays and lesbians as well. Smith notes this story:
Stephen Hill and his partner Johnathon Busher first held their twin girls in their arms less than 12 hours after their birth in a Delhi hospital last April.The gay couple, from the West Midlands, had been together for 18 years when they decided they wanted a family.
In 2011, they travelled to India and agreed a contract with a clinic in Delhi where Mr Hill’s sperm was used to fertilise an egg from a donor they had selected, and the resulting embryo was implanted in a surrogate mother. When the twins were born there was an “awkward moment” before the surrogate mother agreed to hand them over, as her husband had been telling medical staff the infants were his own. “She was reminded that it was a deal and she was fine. She was a little bit too attached and she needed to be reminded,” Mr Busher said. “We produced the contract and we were able to take them out of the hospital. We were so happy our feet didn’t touch the ground.”
It is hard to know where to begin with the horror of this “transaction”. The mother was a “bit too attached”? “We produced the contract”? Then there is the underlying notion that someone who wants a baby should simply have one – “I want it, I deserve it, I’m going to buy one” – as if it’s the latest tech toy or car.

200 years ago we were buying and selling people and calling it slavery. Now we’re calling it parenthood.

Friday, January 4, 2013

University of Minnesota and lack of public fiscal accountability.

Here's an interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal on the lack of fiscal accountability at the University of Minnesota.
When Eric Kaler became president of the University of Minnesota last year, he pledged to curb soaring tuition by cutting administrative overhead. But he hit a snag: No one could tell him exactly what it cost to manage the school.
Like many public colleges, the University of Minnesota went on a spending spree over the past decade, paid for by a steady stream of state money and rising tuition. Officials didn't keep close tabs on their payroll as it swelled beyond 19,000 employees, nearly one for every 3½ students. "The more questions I asked, the less happy I was," Dr. Kaler said.

Many of the newly hired, it turns out, were doing little teaching. A Wall Street Journal analysis of University of Minnesota salary and employment records from 2001 through last spring shows that the system added more than 1,000 administrators over that period. Their ranks grew 37%, more than twice as fast as the teaching corps and nearly twice as fast as the student body.

Across U.S. higher education, nonclassroom costs have ballooned, administrative payrolls being a prime example. The number of employees hired by colleges and universities to manage or administer people, programs and regulations increased 50% faster than the number of instructors between 2001 and 2011, the U.S. Department of Education says. It's part of the reason that tuition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has risen even faster than health-care costs.

...Administrative employees make up an increasing share of the university's higher-paid people. The school employs 353 people earning more than $200,000 a year. That is up 57% from the inflation-adjusted pay equivalent in 2001. Among this $200,000-plus group, 81 today have administrative titles, versus 39 in 2001.

Administrators making over $300,000 in inflation-adjusted terms rose to 17 from seven.

...For decades, public universities were somewhat insulated from financial rigor by steadily increasing state funding. That has slowed or stopped in many states in tight budgetary times. Minnesota's government last year contributed $570 million to university operations, which was about the same as in the 2003-04 school year despite inflation and roughly 10% increased enrollment.

Higher education now faces pressures similar to those that reshaped other segments, Minnesota's Dr. Kaler says. "You look at American industry in general—the car industry got comfortable until the Japanese showed up, the airline industry was comfortable until it got deregulated," he says. "Now it's higher ed's turn."
A couple of observations.  There's no question public universities have a lot of waste and many useless programs.  And public universities really aren't subject to market forces. When attempts are made to reduce state subsidies, there are always cries of damaging higher education and forcing students to pay higher tuition instead of simply reducing expenditures.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Will 2013 be the year the culture wars heat up?

Here's an interesting blog by Jonathan Last from the Weekly Standard on 2013 and the continuation or heightening of the ongoing culture wars.  While lots of folks wish they would go away, they won't.  They won't because the issues go to the heart of who we are as a society and a people.  Abortion and marriage, the two hottest issues, deal with core issues of life and death and the most intimate of relationships, e.g. mothers, fathers and children.  While some argue these are only private issues they are anything but exclusively, private, personal issues.

As Last points out:
That said, I suspect we may be in for some very big, very consequential political conflicts in 2013. And my guess is that they're likely to center on the culture wars that everyone has spent the last four years pretending were over.

In the next year we're going to have two enormously important court fights. The first involves the series of lawsuits that have been filed against the Obama administration’s HHS mandate forcing religious institutions to provide insurance covering contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilizations. Those suits are winding their way through the courts right now. Some will likely be dismissed by lower courts. Others have legitimate shots at making it before the Supreme Court. My guess is that eventually, one of them will. When that happens, it will be like the Obamacare decision all over again, and it will crystallize for the public what the administration’s real-world attitude towards religious freedom is. And win or lose, I suspect the outcome will galvanize both churchgoers and the technocratic secularists who are bent on frog-marching religion out of the public square.

(A brief aside: I think it would have been highly instructive if some religious institution—let's say Notre Dame, just for giggles—decided that, instead of filing suit against the HHS mandate, they would simply refuse to comply. That sort of civil disobedience would have unmasked the Obama administration in very short order.)

The other big conflict to watch for in 2013 is gay marriage. The Supreme Court will decide two cases involving the issue (USA v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry). And like the HHS mandate, the gay marriage decisions point the way toward all sorts of cultural conflict. But the one that intrigues me most is that, again, like the HHS mandate, the endgame of gay marriage will be questions of religious freedom. Despite what some reporters claim, the academic wing of the gay marriage operation is already discussing how religious institutions will eventually have to be compelled to recognize same-sex marriages. And once more, like the HHS mandate, irrespective of the outcome of the Supreme Court cases, both sides are likely to be mobilized and energized.

I'm sure 2013 will give us plenty of other fireworks—both of the unknown and "known unknown" variety. But I won't be surprised if twelve months from now we look back on it as the year the culture wars reignited.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"It's the culture, stupid."

Here's a commentary by Eric Metaxas on the importance of the culture in addressing so many of the hot button political issues like gay "marriage", "medical" marijuana and the like.

Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign zeroed in on the economy with the phrase, "It's the economy, stupid."  Well, that emphasis could easily be transferred to the culture when talking about so many of the pressing political, social issues of our day.
One of my favorite quotes by Chuck Colson is one he might have spoken again after the November elections: “The kingdom of heaven will not arrive on Air Force One.”

In other words, if we want to change our culture for the better, we should not put all our eggs into a political basket. It's a lesson we Christians must remember as we begin another year.

Over the last thirty years or so, social conservatives have invested much time and effort in the world of politics. And that's a good thing. But the recent Election Day losses on the issues of same-sex “marriage,” and the legalization of marijuana are reminders of the limits of politics. As far as I’m concerned, these losses came about because we’ve not been paying enough attention to influencing our culture.

One man who knew the importance of this was Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper, who said, “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'”

And that includes the domains that most influence modern Americans: The arenas of television, films, newspapers, novels, the theater—even the world of advertising. We've neglected bringing God into these parts of His creation, and have pretty much left them to the secularists. So we should not be surprised that most new films and TV shows tend to come from a pretty uniformly liberal, secular humanist point of view.

And these arenas deeply affect the ways Americans think. For example, how much influence do you imagine the Ellen DeGeneres show has on voters' views on same-sex “marriage”? Well, I can tell you, a lot. Why? Because it’s brought a very clever, very entertaining and likeable person who just happens to be gay, into the mainstream of American culture.

But instead of cursing the darkness of Hollywood and New York—which we do too often —we should light a candle. We who embrace a biblical worldview need to get serious about creating art and culture or supporting those who do.
Metaxas' comments above don't tell me we should jettison the political arena for an exclusive focus on the culture.  Rather what's needed is balance and focus on the cultural arena as well.