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Richard Larsen: Religious Freedom, Whither Goest Thou?

July 18th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The ramifications of the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage two weeks ago extend far beyond the institution of marriage itself. With the ruling, people of faith are perhaps intentionally set in the crosshairs of an intolerant, fascistic secular movement on the left that proscribes adherence to religion-based tenets which are thought to be antithetical to their secular, politically correct, orthodoxy.

Government treatment of religious institutions will inevitably change as a result of the ruling. During oral arguments before the court in April, Solicitor General Donald Verrelli, arguing the administration’s case for same-sex marriage, responded to an inquiry from Justice Samuel Alito, verifying the religious institution conundrum. Verrilli responded, “I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is going to be an issue.”

That issue is rearing its ugly head with increasing frequency. A Christian cake-baker in Oregon, citing their faith as justification, declined baking a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. As a result, the state Bureau of Labor slapped the proprietors, Aaron and Melissa Klein, with a $135,000 penalty for declining the request. The nuptials claimed they had been “mentally raped” by the Klein’s refusal to bake their cake. The state has also issued a gag order, disallowing the cake shop proprietors from talking about the case. It was not enough for the state of Oregon to deny free exercise of the Klein’s religion, but with the gag order, stripped them of their freedom of speech as well.

And this is only the tip of the iceberg. It’s happening all over the country. Some church ministers are now reluctant even to express explicit support for traditional marriage or denounce homosexuality from the pulpit, for fear of recrimination from the Rainbow Mafia and excoriation from the mainstream media. As fundamental as the traditional definition of marriage is to society, and to biblical dogma, this is tantamount to restricting discourses on the Decalogue from the rostrum.

It seems there’s a segment of the population that is so intent on making sure the whole world is tolerant toward their favored group, that they’re willing to be intolerant themselves toward those of disparate convictions. In other words, they themselves are bigoted toward those to whom they allege bigotry. And fearful that the Christian world may “force their will” upon them, the Rainbow fascists have no compunction about forcing their ideology on the rest of society. Like William F. Buckley said years ago, “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”

If tolerance is a virtue, it is one that should be demanded of both sides of an issue, not just the politically incorrect one. And if bigotry, (intolerance of those who hold different opinions), is to be abhorred by society, it must be equally abhorred by the politically correct crowd.

And even though the state of Oregon denies it, there is this pesky “guaranteed” right of free exercise of religion. Unlike the assumed “right” to marry whoever or whatever one desires to, free exercise of religion is actually written into the Constitution with the First Amendment. But it’s no wonder so many people, even government officials in Oregon, are so ignorant of the Bill of Rights. A recent poll indicates that only 19% of the American populace knows that the Constitution guarantees free exercise of religion.

So now with the strident, politically correct movement afoot across the fruited plain, and the fascistic, bullying enforcement of the Rainbow totalitarians, assumed (not even implicit) rights trump guaranteed (explicit) rights embedded in our nation’s founding documents! And yet to think these elected officials place their left hands on the Bible, raising the right arm to the square, and solemnly swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The hypocrisy and duplicity is so conspicuous that only in the face of such a constitutionally illiterate population could they assume to have any credibility whatsoever.

The Liberty Institute published a report last year, before all of these latest assaults on religious liberty, titled “Undeniable: The Survey of Hostility to Religion,” which documented over 1,200 recent cases of hostility toward people and institutions of faith. These battles are not being waged by the right, but by the left, that faction of the political spectrum that avers such tolerance and “open-mindedness.” That segment that is so fearful of the guaranteed right of freedom to exercise one’s religion, that they force their own secular religion of political correctness upon those whom they denounce excoriatingly.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in the Court’s ruling stated, “Those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.” Chief Justice John Roberts, in the minority statement, acknowledged the imminent dilution of religious rights resulting from the Court’s ruling. He wrote, “The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to ‘advocate’ and ‘teach’ their views of marriage. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to ‘exercise‘ religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.”

In an age where presumed rights trump assured constitutional rights, we can only assume the bullying from the left will accelerate as their own bigotry continues to eviscerate religious freedom. Perhaps Christian churches should adopt some of the tenets of Islam, like the death penalty for sodomy, for the secular left displays much greater tolerance toward Islam than Christianity.

When presumed “rights” take supremacy over explicit, constitutionally assured rights, we are no longer a nation governed by the rule of law. We have morphed to a fascistic, bullying system ruled by the capricious expectations of the prevailing politically correct crowd, bolstered by judicial fiat, and enforced by a seemingly omnipotent government. The secular left has won another round, but the assault against our constitutionally assured liberties is far from over!

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Posted in Family Matters, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General, Presidential Politics | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: The Nation has Officially Lost Its Collective Mind

July 18th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

With the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage last week, the fundamental building block of society is no longer affirmed by the rule of law. Rather, by judicial fiat, the legal doors have been thrown open for legitimization of literally any possible kind of relationship as viable and recognizable by the state.

Dr. Patrick Fagan, a sociologist and psychologist has said, “The family is the fundamental building block of society and predates the state and even the societies it builds… At the heart of the family is the mother and father who bring their children into existence.” This is a self-evident truth, regardless of who said it, and anthropologists, biologists, sociologists, politicians, and religious leaders have reiterated that very sentiment. The family is the building block of society and civilization, and the cornerstone to that foundation, or the genesis of it, is a mother and a father.

As evidence that the nation has collectively lost its mind, the highest court in the land has affirmed that “Adam and Steve” are as viable in creating the social building blocks of society as Adam and Eve were. But such convolution is unavoidable in a society where words no longer have literal meaning, but only interpretive based on contemporary perceptions of “rights” and state sanctioned privileges.

As logically bizarre as it is, the tenets of the 14th Amendment were used as justification. The Amendment was adopted following the Civil War to ensure that all citizens, regardless of color, were assured “equal protection of the laws.” The tenet was crucial to resolving issues related to race, and logically tenable. After all, no one has the ability to choose their race, their skin color, or other congenital features determined genetically. Nor can they arbitrarily choose their sex, which is why it’s also logically tenable for application of the Amendment in cases related to sexual discrimination.

But now, for the first time, “equal protection of the laws” is applied based on behavior and choice. For even if there are predilections, or a predisposition, to behave in a certain way, it is still ultimately a matter of choice whether each person acts on those inclinations. And with this caveat, application of the equal protection clause can now legally, albeit illogically, applied to anything that is behaviorally based, or has an element of choice to it. Since the “right” to “marry” no longer has any legitimacy as an anthropological, biological, or social convention, as etymologically it has held for eons, everything and anything is game.

All “marriage” restrictions can now be revisited, reinterpreted, and re-adjudicated from the bench. Marriage will continue to be redefined since it is no longer based on natural law. There is no viable logical limitation that can be applied to prevent further morphing of the term. It will of necessity evolve to include everyone who loves anyone, or anything. The man who wanted to marry his horse a few years ago, can no longer be logically proscribed, and the trio from Montana who said this week they want to be married, are all viable. And all other barriers and restrictions will necessarily fall as well since the logic and the fundamental raison d’être behind marriage is now discarded in the dustbin of history.

The political leap from equal treatment of individuals under the law, to equal treatment of behavior and relationships under the law, is one of quantum proportions that defies logic.

And since equal protection now can be applied to behavior and choice, what’s to prevent the next fad group averring their presumed “constitutional rights,” from requiring egalitarian application of the rule to income, aptitude tests, performance reviews, school exams, or any other “right” that some hair brained group claims they’re entitled to “equality under the law?” Pandora’s legal box of horrors has now been thrown open!

No wonder the most logical and constitutionally sound justice on the court, Justice Antonin Scalia, ripped the majority opinion as mercilessly as he did. He called it a “judicial Putsch” that poses a “threat to American democracy.” He added that a “system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.” He said the Court’s “naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power bulldozed the right of the People to self-government.”

In a freaky, unconventional way, America has advanced in its claim to being the “land of the free.” We are now free from logic, common sense, and the literal rule of law. Welcome to the new Wild West where laws can mean what they don’t literally say; the rights of the people as asserted by initiative and referendum, are voided by five politicians in robes, posing as “judges” of the Constitution; and natural law, laws of biology and sociology, as well as language etymology, are all trash-canned to allow 1.5-2.5% of the population to have their lifestyle validated and affirmed.

In light of current judicial trends, no wonder Jefferson referred to the judicial branch as “the despotic branch.” Abraham Lincoln aptly described our current state, “If the policy of the Government upon vital questions…is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers.” Interestingly, he may have also provided the solution. “The people — the people — are the rightful masters of both congresses, and courts — not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert it.”

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: FIFA Indicted But Not the Clintons?

June 6th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

It was not much of a surprise to some to see the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) bring corruption charges against the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) this week. After all, the granting of World Cup hosting rights to Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022), appeared highly suspect, along with several other apparent “pay to play” coincidences. Considering the nature of the charges against FIFA, it seems only logical to wonder if, or when, such charges will be levied against Bill and Hillary Clinton, and the Clinton Foundation.

The DOJ indictment alleges that FIFA officials “abused their positions of trust to acquire millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks,” according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The graft is alleged to have influenced World Cup host nation selection, marketing rights for sports marketing companies, and broadcast rights for television coverage of FIFA events.

Prima facie, it doesn’t appear that FIFA did anything more legally dubious than did the Clinton Foundation. According to Hillary Clinton last year, the First Family of the 1990’s left the White House “dead broke,” in 2001. They made up for their White House poverty years from 2001-2006, when, according to Mrs. Clinton’s Senate disclosures, the couple made $87.3 million, from book deals to speaking fees. As long as none of those paydays bought influence, that’s just fine, unless of course one’s ideology requires disdain and class-envy of those who are financially successful, for the Clintons are clearly “one per centers.”

The Clinton’s financial waters become much more murky when their Foundation is brought into the picture. The Clinton Foundation is classified under IRS Code 501(c)(3) as a “non-profit” foundation, comprising several separate “initiatives,” or areas of focus, including health, economic opportunity, and climate issues. In just over 13 years, the Foundation has raised nearly $2 billion from U.S. corporations, especially Wall Street firms, political donors, and foreign governments.

The nebulous financial arrangement and political nature of the Foundation was of sufficient concern to the Obama administration that Mrs. Clinton was required to sign a disclosure agreement with the White House before her nomination as Secretary of State in 2009. According to the Washington Post, Obama required her “to disclose all contributions to the Clinton Foundation, and that there be a process to vet donations that were coming in. They violated that agreement almost immediately. They took multi-million dollar donations from foreign businesses that had interests before the State Department. Those were never disclosed.”

According to Bloomberg earlier this month, there was a lot of non-disclosure going on at the Foundation. “There are in fact 1,100 undisclosed donors to the Clinton Foundation, [Clinton Foundation board member Frank] Giustra says, most of them non-U.S. residents. ‘All of the money flowed through to the Clinton Foundation—every penny—and went to the [charitable] initiatives we identified,’ he says.”

But even that raises significant issues, since according to the Foundation’s own tax filings, only 10% of their donations ultimately make it to “charitable grants” for their professed causes. That’s a whole lot of donations that go for expenses (34%), salaries and benefits (33%), travel (10%), office supplies (6%), and rent (5%). And don’t forget the 2% that goes to IT (information technology), for that’s where all of Hillary’s emails were stored, in two separate email accounts, until they were erased.

That’s likely where much of the hard evidence alleged in Peter Schweitzer’s book, “Clinton Cash,” would have been found. Absent the hard evidence, most of the public evidence is circumstantial. Charges that official State Department policy toward countries like Libya, Saudi Arabia, and India, were altered or softened after contributions by those countries to the Foundation certainly raise serious questions of paying for influence, not unlike those leveled against FIFA officials this week.

The most serious, however, is well documented. As explained by the New York Times, a Canadian businessman was purchasing up to 1/5 of the U.S. uranium assets, while making millions of dollars in contributions to the Clinton Foundation. The Canadian firm, Uranium One, was then sold to Russia’s atomic energy agency, Rosatom, which was celebrated in Russia’s Pravda with the headline, “Russian Nuclear Energy Conquers the World.” An acquisition of this size and nature had to be approved by the U.S. State Department, which was easily done with Mrs. Clinton at the helm.

To make this even more salacious, a Kremlin-linked bank that was promoting the stock of Uranium One, paid Bill Clinton $500,000 for a speaking engagement. But the contribution went not to the former president, but to the Clinton Foundation, as many of the speaking fees are funneled for non-taxable reporting purposes.

The Clinton Foundation meets all of the criteria for a money-laundering entity: placement, layering, and integration, while enjoying the benefit of tax-exemption. They collect millions in donations (placement). Then through layering (or structuring) distance is created between the donation and the source, to obscure the audit trail. And finally the integration stage, which in the Foundation’s case, is the returning of favors and influence to donors.

Operationally, the Clinton Foundation functions as a shell corporation for the Clintons, and the pass-through conduit for buying influence and tax avoidance. Thanks to the IT staff at the Foundation, and Hillary’s obfuscation, we may never fully grasp the breadth and reach of the corruption. No wonder only 38% of us believe Hillary is honest.

If FIFA bribery and corruption is worth investigating, certainly the similar practices of the Clinton Foundation are as well. After all, the implications are much greater.

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Controlling the Language of Dissent and Stifling Dissent

May 23rd, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Ever since the junior senator from Illinois announced his candidacy for the presidency eight years ago, those who have criticized his politics and his ideology have been pummeled with a charge of “racism.” It’s been the perfunctory, knee-jerk response – devoid of intellectual integrity or factual relevance – to avoid the substantive issues, while attempting to simultaneously stifle dissent and silence critics. And it’s clear from early indications with regard to the 2016 presidential race, that the same modus operandi will be employed against those critical of Hillary Clinton. Only this time it will be gender based – the charge of sexism.

During the Obama tenure, the charge of “racist” has been unavoidable to any who were critical of the president. Whether it was criticism of Obamacare, lack of transparency, fiscal profligacy, inscrutable foreign policy, class-envy fomentation, and anti-capitalist policies, it didn’t matter. Regardless of the logic, data, facts, or strength of argument, if you opposed the administration policies and initiatives, you were a racist. At least according to the sycophants, who were either oblivious to logic, data, or facts, and had an empty logical quiver from which to fire back with anything except blanks.

And what’s pathetic, from a free speech, open discourse, and cogent political discourse perspective, is that it worked. The millions of Americans who flocked to Tea Party rallies, Glenn Beck confabs, and other conservative functions, were successfully labeled “racists” because of their opposition to the liberal, destructive policies of the administration. It didn’t matter what color, race, creed, or socio-economic status they hailed from, they were all racists.

For some reason, the fact that the policies propounded and foisted on the nation the past six years are not race-based seems lost on the vapid purveyors of the “racist” tactic. Big government, massive debt, onerous regulations, expansive government control, and the concomitant loss of personal liberty are naturally opposed not because they might be advanced by someone of a certain color, ethnic background, or native language. They’re opposed because they’re antithetical to the founding principles of our republic! It matters not who is foisting the destructive policies and ideology on the nation; it matters that they’re distinctly anti-American. Conservative Ben Carson’s current lead in the crowded GOP primary race underscores that fact.

What’s brilliant about the tactic, is that you don’t have to worry about any facts, data, or common sense to employ it. Just by hurling the accusation several things have been accomplished with one fell swoop. 1) The argument has been misdirected, so it’s no longer about the policies or the substance of the disagreement, it’s now whether the dissenter is truly racist or not. 2) It neutralizes and diminishes the objections of the dissenter, for now the greater issue is whether he is in fact racist, or not. And 3) it successfully stifles dissent, since no one, probably even real racists, likes to be called one, so why go out on a limb and face the probability of such an accusation?

And now it appears that Hillary Clinton supporters will use the same tactic. Just last month a pro-Hillary group, self-dubbed the HRC Super Volunteers, warned journalists that they were going to be watching vigilantly how the media reports on Hillary’s campaign. Group member and co-founder, John West, was thoughtful enough to serve as an early warning system on the words that cannot, I repeat, cannot be used to describe the probable Democrat candidate for president. According to West, “polarizing,” “calculating,” “disingenuous,” “insincere,” “ambitious,” “inevitable,” “entitled,” “over-confident,” “secretive,” “will do anything to win,” “represents the past,” and “out of touch,” are all apparently sexist code-words that the media are to not use when describing the candidate.

According to West, “Already we have seen the coded language of sexism and innuendo used by major news outlets and we are not happy,” followed by a list of examples from major news sources and their egregious use of such sexist vernacular. As a student of language and etymology, I have to admit I was unaware those words and phrases were definitionally sexist.

But alas, I shouldn’t let myself fall into their misdirection and accusatory trap. It’s not that those words are sexist, it’s just that they’re so accurately descriptive of the presumptive Democrat nominee that using the terms will earn the consternation of Hillary devotees, hence justifying accusations of sexism. By couching those terms in a sexist context, they can as easily avert factual criticism of Hillary as they did in protecting Obama. Just like the accusations of “racism;” it has nothing to do with what is true or what is factual, it has everything to do with ensuring electoral success and neutralizing the opposition by attempting to shape and control the language.

Those of us who are bitter clingers to our freedom, our liberties, and the principles the nation was founded on, shouldn’t allow ourselves to be rebuffed or silenced by the non-thinking Alynski devotees who utilize these nefarious and polarizing tactics. And remember, if that’s their primary tool to fight back with, you know that logically you’ve already won, because their only defense is casting aspersions ad hominem.
There are two things even more disturbing than a group attempting to regulate political speech. One, that the liberal-biased media may well comply, and play their game; and two, that for a large segment of our unenlightened and uninformed electorate, their “sexist” tactic will work.

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Posted in Pocatello Issues, Politics in General | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Baltimore’s Failures Spawned by Liberal Policies

May 23rd, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Culpability for the events in Baltimore over the past couple of weeks has perhaps inappropriately been directed exclusively at the police department. In all likelihood, the charges against the police involved in the tragic death of Freddie Gray are only symptomatic of the greater underlying problems of the once booming city. The greater tragedy is the destructive policies of over fifty years of liberal governance, which created the environment of disparity, poverty, and victimhood.

The city has been hemorrhaging jobs at an alarming rate for decades. And the most hard-hit have been the city’s black youth. Over 37% of 20-25 year-old black males are unemployed, versus 10% for white males of the same age. Black household median income is nearly half what it is for white households, at $33,610 and $60,550, respectively.

City policies have shrunk the population of the city by heavily penalizing the productive and earning households. Steve Hanke and Stephen Walters of Johns Hopkins University wrote in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, “Officials raised property taxes 21 times between 1950 and 1985, channeling the proceeds to favored voting blocs and causing many homeowners and entrepreneurs — disproportionately Republicans — to flee. It was brilliant politics, as Democrats now enjoy an eight-to-one voter registration advantage.”

The result is a declining population, declining business enterprise, declining jobs, and severe blighting of the infrastructure. The city now has an estimated 16,000 vacant buildings and over 14,000 vacant lots. In the area of Sandtown-Winchester and Harlem Park, where Freddie Gray lived, more than 25% of the buildings are now vacant.

More than 40,000 residents have fled from the high tax, low job-opportunity confines of Baltimore, to the more favorable economic climate of Virginia. According to the Washington Times, they took a whopping $2.17 billion with them. No wonder Gallup found last year that 47% of the residents of the state said they would leave if they could. Interestingly, the only two states that registered higher in their 2014 poll were the states of Illinois and Connecticut, two more bastions of liberal tax and anti-enterprise policy.

Hanke and Walters explain that in order to counterbalance the high taxes that have driven so many jobs out of town, the city has been attempting to lure “developers with subsidies, and the developers, in turn, contribute to politicians to stay in their good graces. This makes for fertile ground for the city’s corruption.” The city’s ruling elite for decades has been pumping literally billions of dollars into development projects that were to mysteriously “trickle down” to the impoverished sections of town.

One example is the highly anticipated Inner Harbor project. As Todd Krainin wrote in Reason magazine, “Instead of revitalizing the city’s fortunes, the rise of the waterfront has paralleled the decline of basic functions. Violent crime remains high, public schools underperform, and the cityscape is blighted by the presence of tens of thousands of vacant buildings.”

Yet the visionary liberals ruling the city are pinning their hopes on yet another big-ticket project. They’ve committed $400 million in public subsidies to Harbor Point, the latest boondoggle of the city fathers.

Meanwhile, city residents have been losing their homes at an alarming rate. Especially hard hit are those most involved in the looting and rioting after Freddie’s death. Baltimore County Public Schools reveals that they’ve seen a 28% increase in homeless student enrollment over the past three years. According to Labor Department Data, 61% of Baltimore’s children live in poverty.

President Obama was surprisingly accurate in his assessment of the underlying issues which fostered the failures in Baltimore. He suggested that “the police alone can’t solve the problems of communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community.”

But then his liberalism kicked in. “I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities,” he said. “And so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses.”

The ideology which has governed Baltimore, Detroit, Illinois, California, and the nation for the past several years, has always been to create a new policy or social program, or additional taxes and spending (aka “investments”) to address our socio-economic ailments. It’s not “school reform,” “job training,” or “investments in infrastructure” that elevate and strengthen communities, it’s a thriving economy. And nothing douses entrepreneurism and economic growth like the massive taxing and regulatory burdens the leftist ideology is so totally invested in.

Perhaps none have addressed the issue as frankly as former Congressman Allen West has. He said last week, “Yes, the dirty little secret that no one wants to admit is that Baltimore, and so many other urban areas and inner city communities in America, are a reflection of the abject failure of liberal progressive socialist policies as advanced by the Democrat party. The truth is that it is a culture of dependency … that has created what we’re seeing play out in Baltimore.”

The policies that have shrunk Baltimore’s economy, stymied the job market, and blighted the cityscape are liberal policies. The policies that have created a lack of trust with law enforcement are liberal policies. It is highly improbable that city officials would ever fess up to their ownership. It’s much more convenient to cast blame wherever they can make it stick, in an obvious obfuscatory misdirection to avoid culpability. Exactly like the president did blaming congress for his own failures in broaching those issues on a national level.

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Richard Larsen: Is America Still the “Land of the Free”?

April 27th, 2015 by Halli

by Richard Larsen

Is America really the “land of the free?” We may have been initially founded and constructed as such, but each year the land of the free becomes increasingly the land of the regulated, oppressed, disparaged, and dependent.

Gallup regularly conducts global polls to assess citizen’s perception of their levels of freedom around the world. In 2006, 91% of US residents were satisfied with their “level of freedom,” which was among the highest in the world. Last year’s iteration of the survey indicated only 79% of Americans are satisfied with their level of freedom. Such a precipitous drop in a few short years dropped the US to 36th place among the 120 nations sampled. Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Paraguay, and Rwanda are among the 35 nations more satisfied with their levels of freedom.

This seems to be confirmed by Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, which has seen the U.S. slip to number 12 this year. Countries with greater economic freedom, based on ten criteria, from personal property rights to personal financial freedom, include Chile, Estonia, and Mauritius, none of which could be considered bastions of liberty, as the U.S. historically has been.

America was founded differently than any other nation in human history, which is what we refer to as American exceptionalism. Our founding documents guaranteed rights of free exercise of religion, free speech, free association, freedom from government oppression and illegal searches and seizures, among others. These rights and freedoms, our founding documents asserted, were “inalienable rights” derived from God, not granted by government. That “all men are created equal,” and that among those precious rights were “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property).”

Every year those liberties are assaulted afresh by an ever-expanding governmental reach into our personal lives. Even those fundamental rights that are codified, by constitutional amendment as our Bill of Rights, are under assault. Freedoms of religious expression, speech, assembly, arms, illegal search and seizure, and due process are eroded with every congressional, legislative, and council bill, act, and statute, and are increasingly rarely upheld through judicial review.

In short, it seems that the machinations of government, politicians, and the courts, are arrayed broadly against the interests of individual liberty, personal accountability, and private freedoms. Our nation can only loosely be identified as a republic, where the enumerated powers of government are narrow and defined, with all non-enumerated powers residing in the states and the citizens, as the Tenth Amendment declares. The nation has morphed, and can be categorically and definitionally identified as a statist system, concentrating “extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty.”

This devolution of the republic and our individual liberties has only accelerated over the past several years, since the despicable attacks of 9/11. It was deemed necessary to relinquish some individual liberty for the defense of the realm, as the Patriot Act and other anti-terrorism measures sliced away at individual liberties for security purposes. In spite of the sunset provisions
incorporated into that measure, they were extended in 2011, and have been expanded by NSA surveillance, more expansive monitoring of financial transactions, and even more circumvention of the 4th Amendment with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012. Sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA essentially classify the entire country as a battlefield, allowing extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, and enhanced interrogation against U.S. citizens here on American soil.

The omnipotence of government today certainly contrasts sharply with what our founding fathers envisioned for this “land of the free.” As Thomas Jefferson said, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.” Or, in the context of abrogation of 4th Amendment rights, any government that is powerful enough to do everything we allow it, certainly is powerful enough to get away with everything it does.

Which also brings to mind Ben Franklin’s astute observation, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Clearly, the more ground we cede collectively as a citizenry to security, the less freedom and liberty there is. And that applies not just to issues of national security, but also to domestic fiscal policies as well.

Patrick Henry famously mirrored that sentiment, when he said, “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” I’m sure the good governor would be aghast at the sacrifice of liberty for thralldom to government that has ensued these past several years.

Every election from here on out is a referendum on the future of our republic. Will we choose to elect those who embrace our founding principles based on liberty and freedom, or will we continue to cede our liberty for “security” provided by a statist government which is increasingly less attune to the concerns and interests of the individual citizen?

For those of us who are lovers of liberty, there has never been a more critical time to reassert our founding principles and the constitutional limitations of governmental power than today. If we want to have anything even remotely resembling the American republic surviving for future generations, it’s time to quit being a doormat to the politically correct progressive and statist agenda, and to proactively engage in the political process. Most of the statist “accomplishments” can be unwoven, but we need the electoral majorities to do it. Passivity and acquiescence are no longer options for those who would concur with Patrick Henry, “…give me liberty, or give me death!”

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Posted in Constitutional Issues, Family Matters, Guest Posts, Pocatello Issues, Politics in General, Presidential Politics, Taxes | No Comments »

Richard Larsen: Traditional Nuclear Family Is Crucial to Our Society

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

Our contemporary immersion into political correctness and assumed “rights” regarding the basic building block of society has cumulatively, over the past few decades, steadily eroded not only our sociological strength, but our economic viability as a country. The fundamental significance of the family unit, and the hard data evidencing the undeniable importance of the intact nuclear family, have been ignored, and the longer we pander to bad public policy based in political correctness, the more rapidly our society will degenerate.

A few years ago, drawing heavily from government data and peer reviewed sociological and economic research, Robert I. Lerman and William Bradford Wilcox published an extensive research piece in The Economist confirming the fundamental role the intact nuclear family has on society. Lerman is a Professor of Economics at American University and a Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC., and Wilcox is a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.

Their executive summary states, “All the latest evidence confirms that the institution of marriage is a key to productive adulthood, the cornerstone of a stable family, and the basic unit of a healthy community. Its effects go well beyond the married couple. It shapes our whole society, from workforce participation to economic inequality to the effectiveness of education. Children raised by married parents have better odds of succeeding in school, excelling at work, and building a stable relationship of their own.”

Drawing from Department of Labor data, they showed how American families experienced an average 80% increase in their real income from 1950-1979. Family income inequality was relatively low, and more than 89% of prime working age men were employed. All of those trends have reversed, and are accelerating to the downside, with the composition and structure of the family playing the most crucial role in this reversal.

In 1980, married parents headed 78% of households with children. By 2012, that had dropped nearly 20%. The researchers, again relying on hard primary data, showed why that was significant. “Married families enjoy greater economies of scale and receive more economic support from kin, and married men work harder and earn more money than their peers, all factors that give them an economic advantage over cohabiting and single-parent families.”

The economic impact on individual family units, as well as society as a whole, cannot be overstated. Even adjusting for race, education, and other factors, if the share of married parents remained at 78% through 2012, “the rise in the overall median income of parents would have been about 22%, substantially more than the actual growth of 14%.” And if the post-1979 immigrants, coming mostly from low-income countries, are adjusted for, the “growth in median family income would have been 44% higher than 1980 levels.” They therefore conclude that the decline in the share of “married-parent families with children largely explains the stagnancy in median family incomes since the late 1970s.”

Traditional nuclear family units, including a mother, father, and children, have been proven to be more viable in almost every facet of sociological construct. As the researchers explain, “Family structure appears to matter for children’s well-being because, on average, children growing up without both parents are exposed to: More instability in housing and primary caretakers, which is stressful for children; Less parental affection and involvement; Less consistent discipline and oversight; and Fewer economic resources.”

Sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, in summarizing their research on family structure, put it this way: “If we were asked to design a system for making sure that children’s basic needs were met, we would come up with something quite similar to the two-parent ideal. Such a design, in theory, would not only ensure that children had access to the time and money of two adults; it also would provide a system of checks and balances that promoted quality parenting.”

Lerman and Wilcox summarize, “The research to date leads us to hypothesize that children from intact, married families headed by biological or adoptive parents are more likely to enjoy stability, engaged parenting, and economic resources and to gain the education, life experiences, and motivation needed to flourish in the contemporary economy—and to avoid the detours that can put their adult futures at risk.”

Many of the forces negatively affecting the family are cultural and can be attributed to the gradual, yet accelerated, erosion of social mores. But many of the destructive contributors are driven by governmental policy, statute, and legal code, like the IRS “marriage penalty,” and welfare programs that facilitate the absolution of parental responsibilities. And some are couched in principles espoused by political correctness that defy empirical data, the most egregious of the latter represented by the redefinition of marriage, the cornerstone to the family unit, which only further dilutes and weakens the building block of society.

The viability of the American family is crucial for the survival of the republic, not only sociologically, but financially. We all cumulatively either contribute to, or detract from, the soundness of the familial units comprising our society. We must not only do our part in our familial microcosms, but electorally, to elect and support those who favor governmental policy that strengthens the family unit, and who don’t buckle to political correctness in redefining our societal building blocks.

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Richard Larsen: Easter – a Celebration of Hope and Rebirth

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

For Christians worldwide, Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. While the eschatological doctrines associated with Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection are a matter of faith, the attestation of primary accounts makes Jesus’ emergence from the tomb a matter of historical record. And many of the contemporary symbols associated with Easter date back centuries, and represent elements of this most holy of events from the life of one Jesus of Nazareth.

To a historian, primary sources are the bedrock to validate or invalidate events or individuals averred to be historical. Princeton University History Department defines a primary source as, “a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event.”

Primary sources regarding the life of Jesus of Nazareth are plentiful. The eyewitness accounts of four contemporaries are recorded in the synoptic Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament. There are many secular primary sources that attest to the fact that Jesus lived at the time, including Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius, and the Jewish historian Josephus.

As a quantitative matter of fact, there are more primary sources confirming the reality of Jesus of Nazareth than there are of the Roman leader Julius Caesar. Yet to my knowledge, no serious historian of the antiquities questions whether Julius Caesar really lived. Validating this concept, Rylands professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, F. F. Bruce wrote, “The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar.” World historian Will Durant indicates that, to the best of his knowledge, “no Jew or Gentile from the first-century ever denied the existence of Jesus.”

imagesOne of the most prolific classicists of our era, Michael Grant, has said, “In recent years, no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus’ or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.” In another of his works he states, “There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more.”
The public death of Christ, by crucifixion, is also broadly accepted as historical fact. Michael Grant said of that event, as well as the account of his baptism, that those “two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent.” Jesus’ public crucifixion is likewise referenced by secular historians of the age, Josephus and Tacitus.

Primary accounts of Jesus’ resurrection however, are exclusively non-secular. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and subsequent resurrection, were canonized. Yet they were written, and widely promulgated, during the time when most of their contemporaries could have dismissed their accounts if they were perceived to have been fabricated or in error. F.F. Bruce confirms this perception, “Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective.”

Most of the original apostles died ignominious and horrible deaths as a direct result of their avowed faith in Jesus as Messiah. They died as martyrs for their convictions and testimony regarding the risen Christ. It is wholly unfathomable that someone would die a martyr’s death for a story thought to be no more than a fable. The fact that eleven of them, twelve including Paul of Tarsus, would do so only attests to the veracity of their witness statements. They forever sealed their testimonies with their blood.

Our contemporary iconography associated with Easter is colorful, literally, starting with the Easter bunny. Rabbits are widely known to be prolific procreators, and in some ancient cultures symbolized new life and fertility. The first Easter bunny arrived in America in the 1700s, courtesy of German immigrants, who perpetuated their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase, or “Oschter Haws.” German youth would make nests where the hare could lay its colored eggs, which later simply became decorated baskets for the multicolored eggs.

The egg itself represents new life. For Christians, Christ emerging from the tomb is symbolic of newborn life exiting an eggshell. Coloring and decorating eggs, according to some sources, dates back to the 13th century, undoubtedly with some pagan influence.

The timing of the Christian world’s Easter celebration is somewhat enigmatic to many, since it is observed anywhere from March 22nd, to April 25th. This is because early Christians felt that since the resurrection of their Lord occurred after the Passover, they always wanted Easter to follow that Jewish feast, which is based on solar and lunar cycles. The short explanation, roughly speaking, is that Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon.

Whether celebrated for its theological implications, or its secular treats, Easter represents new life and resurrection, as the Northern hemisphere springs to life following the dreary, darker, and shorter days of winter. The symbolism likewise can represent as much or as little as one desires, but traditionally links back to rebirth and new life. How we respond to the symbolism and the day itself is wholly up to each of us.

Former Cardinal Basil Hume said of Easter, “The great gift of Easter is hope.” And in a world of so much ugliness, evil, and negativity, we all need all the hope we can get.

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Richard Larsen: Destructive Effects of Multiculturalism

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

America has a rich history as a melting pot of cultures, ethnicity, and religion. Those who have come here over the past couple hundred years have sought a better life through the freedoms and liberties assured by our Constitution and the free enterprise system that fosters their “pursuit of happiness.” They’ve brought their culture, customs, and language with them, but they became Americans: learned English, learned our customs and conventions, and became encultured into the American way.

America is great in large part because of the diversity of our people, and the richness of our cultural elements brought here. But multiculturalism has become much more than that, and is now more destructive than ameliorative, to American culture.

Multicultural wordleIf the goal of multiculturalism was followed, which was to primarily facilitate the understanding and respect of other cultures, it would contribute, even add “seasoning” to our melting pot by encouraging our young people to compare and contrast, and then eclectically assimilate the best of all cultures. Instead, it has become an assailant to diminish Western values and advance ideologies distinctly anti-American. It has evolved, or devolved, to an illogical extreme that in academic and educational circles, attempts to vitiate the strengths and advances of Western civilization and promotes other cultures as preferable cultural paragons, regardless of their shortcomings.

Thomas Sowell, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University has said, “What ‘multiculturalism’ boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture – and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture.”

MulticulturalismRoger Kimball of the New Criterion has written, “Wherever the imperatives of multiculturalism have touched the curriculum, they have left broad swaths of anti-Western attitudinizing competing for attention with quite astonishing historical blindness.” Multiculturalism has led to the historical revisionism that paints Christopher Columbus as a nefarious European who initiated the transformation of a supposed paradisiacal Western hemisphere into the evil, corrupt America of today.

It is multiculturalism that precludes Shakespeare from being studied by many university literature and English majors, because he was a “sexist and racist white man.” It is also the underlying principle engaged in revising history, including the historical roots of our contemporary observance of Thanksgiving and acknowledgement of the Christian principles prevalent at the time of our founding. Multiculturalism, in it’s extreme, is at the root of the removal of any references to Christ in the public square and public schools, even at the time we celebrate His birthday, for one characteristic of the movement is distinctly anti-Christian.

As convoluted as it may seem, Al Gore was perhaps correct when in the 2000 Presidential campaign he defined E Pluribus Unum as out of one, many, instead of the other way around. Multiculturalism in its extreme form seeks to divide rather than unify as Jefferson and Franklin intended, as emblazoned on the official Seal of the U.S.

A poll by the Pew Research Center a few years ago indicated that only 55% of Hispanics, living either legally or illegally in this country, consider themselves Americans. Another poll of Muslims in Los Angeles County indicated that only 10% of them consider themselves to be Americans. It seems the hyphenation of Americans is another social and cultural divider, rather than a unifier. A hyphenated American is just another symptom of political correctness.

Multiculturalism in its extreme weakens community bonds and reduces the motivation for new immigrants to participate in the common culture, the shared history and the common language of America: English.

The American concepts of freedom of expression, religion, human rights, liberty and democracy are distinctively Western values. As historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. has said, “These are European ideas, not Asian, nor African, nor Middle-Eastern ideas, except by adoption. There is surely no reason for Western civilization to have guilt trips laid on it by champions of cultures based on despotism, superstition, tribalism, and fanaticism.”

The pejorative aspects of multiculturalism have contributed alarmingly to a Balkanization of America, where differences are the focus instead of common values and ideals. Where culture and ethnicity divide us, rather than adding seasoning to our melting pot to enrich the entire culture.

President Theodore Roosevelt put the concepts of multiculturalism in perhaps the best context, although it was of course not known as such in 1907. He declared, “In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

As long as multiculturalism is an end in and of itself, or worse, as a means to continue to diminish western values and our history, and divide and weaken our country, we will continue to decline as a culture, losing those distinctively American traits that once made the nation unique. As it diminishes our value system, erodes our cultural strengths, and rewrites our history, the very meaning of what it means to be an American is perhaps forever changed.

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Richard Larsen: Be Informed and Watch Government “Like a Hawk”!

April 19th, 2015 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

It’s inevitable that citizens would often feel frustrated with their elected officials. After all, it’s impossible to please all the people all of the time, and if they are, they likely aren’t doing their job. But there is one thing that likely is felt universally by constituents, of all ideological persuasions; our elected officials work for us, represent us and our interests, and they should never forget their role of serving in our behalf.

Every once in a while something in our popular culture will capture such universally felt sentiments. Such was the case several years ago with a movie titled Protocol, starring Goldie Hawn (mother to actress Kate Hudson).

In the film, Hawn plays the role of a loveable, yet somewhat ditzy waitress in D.C., who happens to save the life of a visiting Emir from the Middle East. For her heroism, the State Department rewards her with a job serving in the Protocol Division, and then initiates a scheme to marry her off to the Emir whose life she’d saved, in exchange for a new military base to be constructed in the Emir’s country.

When the plan unravels and comes to light, Sunny (Hawn’s character) is hauled before a congressional committee to answer to her involvement in the scheme that has been affectionately dubbed “Sunnygate.” Her response is classic, and reminds us all of some of our responsibilities as American citizens.

As the committee chairman begins the hearing, he declares his intent to find out who was responsible. Sunny responds, “I’m responsible!” She then explained why. “You want to know something? Before I worked for the government, I’d never read the Constitution. I didn’t even begin to know how things worked. I didn’t read the newspaper, except to look up my horoscope. And I never read the Declaration of Independence. But I knew they had, the ones we’re talking about, the experts, they read it. They just forgot what it was about. That it’s about ‘We, the People.’ And that’s ME. I’m ‘We, the People.’ And you’re ‘We, the People.’ And we’re all ‘We, the People,’ all of us.”

“So when they sell me that ten cent diamond ring or down the river or to some guy who wears a lot of medals, then that means they’re selling ALL of us, all of ‘We the People.’ And when YOU guys spend another pile of money and when you give away or sell all those guns and tanks, and every time you invite another foreign big shot to the White House and hug and kiss him and give him presents, it has a direct effect on ‘We the People’s’ lives.”

“So if we don’t, I mean if I don’t know what you’re up to, and if I don’t holler and scream when I think you’re doing it wrong, and if I just mind my own business and don’t vote or care, then I just get what I deserve. So now that I’m a private citizen again, you’re going to have to watch out for me. ‘Cause I’m going to be watching all of you. Like a hawk.”

There are some notable principles embedded in that inspiring response. First, was the concept of personal responsibility. How often do we see people, whether in public life or in their personal lives, not take responsibility for their actions, or their refusal to stand up against those who ultimately are culpable? It’s becoming as uncommon as common sense. Someone, or something, else is always to blame for poor decisions, bad plans, and/or ill-spoken words. And regrettably it seems most obvious in the realms of government, where all too few feel they’re accountable to the electorate for their actions.

Next Sunny reminded us that, as citizens, it’s our responsibility to be knowledgeable and proactive citizens. If we let our elected officials get away with things that are unconstitutional or illegal, we’re at least partly to blame. After all, collectively, we are the ones who put them in their position of responsibility, and they are, or at least should be, accountable to us.

That’s one of the beauties of the American governance model, is we hire them to protect us and our interests, and our rights as citizens. If we’re not proactive, they can increasingly feel like they’re accountable to no one, least of all us. When they start feeling entitled to their perks of office, and taking us, their employers, for granted, they’ve outlived their usefulness and it’s time to retire them.

Such a level of pro-activity will only be efficacious if we’re knowledgeable of our founding documents to know the proper role of governance, and if we keep ourselves apprised of what our government attempts to do for, and to, us. Too many of us are illiterate when it comes to our founding documents, and don’t bother to keep informed of what those in government are doing. I think this is what Winston Churchill was referring to when he said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

I think FDR would have approved of Sunny’s response to the congressional panel, for FDR himself said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

It’s unusual to garner anything substantive from movies, and so something like Goldie Hawn’s eloquent speech before a congressional committee stands out rather starkly. Although she’s a fictional character, Sunny represents what should be the best in all of us, as citizens, as we educate ourselves, keep informed, and watch our elected officials “like a hawk!”

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