Saturday, April 19, 2014

No More Keystone Excuses

After 5½ years of studying (dithering) over the pros and cons of the Keystone XL pipeline, the State Department has issued its 5th and possibly its final report on the environmental impact of the Keystone pipeline. The report says that the environmental impact of the pipeline will be very small.

Environmentalists argue that the pipeline will release unacceptable amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and will cause more global warming. They also complain that the pipeline will contribute to the earth’s warming because it will increase the use of fossil fuels, worldwide. That last complaint is warrantless, because the oil will be extracted from the Canadian oil sands even if the pipeline is not constructed—the oil will be shipped to China or some other overseas consumer.

Presently, Canadian oil from the oil sands fields is being shipped to United States oil refineries on the Gulf coast via trucks or trains. The State Department calculates that if the large quantity of oil from Canada is shipped totally by those routes, there will be 27.5% more greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere than if the pipeline is actually constructed.

Railroad companies are now doing a lot more business transporting Canadian oil than they were in 2009. That year, rails transported 9,500 car loads of oil. In 2012, rails transported 234,000 car loads; and the likely figure for 2013 is 400,000 car loads. That oil is reaching the gulf coast refineries by this less efficient and more polluting way.

State Department says the pipeline would create 42,100 new jobs—jobs the United States could well use.

It seems evident that President Obama is not paying attention to the environmental impact studies or the job creation potential of the pipeline. His main concern seems to be that huge moneyed interests in San Francisco, namely billionaire Tom Steyer, have threatened to cut off contributions to the Democrat Party if President Obama approves the pipeline. Does this sound like the payoff of a hireling politician to you?

If any of my readers are interested in reading the original data on the environmental impact of the pipeline, I would suggest that you read the report of the State Department, called the Environmental Impact Statement  (If this link does not work, copy it into your browser and activate it.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

What Ever Happened to the America We Once Knew?

America has changed drastically, and these changes are showing unmistakably in the polling reports that show the people do not approve of Congress and the President. No matter how rosy President Obama tries to make the country’s condition appear in his State of the Union speech, the fact is that we, the people, are not satisfied with the results.

It is of great interest that the President’s approval rating is at 81% in the Washington, D.C. area. And…that’s where the unemployment rate is the lowest. It is lowest there because the jobs the government is creating are mostly government jobs.

Why do most people in America disapprove of our government? Well…one reason is that we see the government attacking such organizations as the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic charity that now runs 30 homes for the needy across the nation. The sisters are being targeted because of their refusal to knuckle under to the government’s demand that they give up on their religious beliefs that the use of contraceptives is immoral. It is apparently okay these days for the government to dictate the religious beliefs of our people.

We disapprove of the government because of the attack on quality public education, such as the Justice Department’s suit against the State of Louisiana for running a school voucher program so that students can get out of a poorly performing public school system and into a better performing charter or religious school. The Justice Department says that the voucher system will violate civil rights law by worsening racial imbalances in the public schools. Never mind that the scholarship students are predominantly black. Of course, it is common knowledge that the government program is being run by the teachers’ union, the NEA, which sees vouchers as threatening to public teachers jobs in the public schools.

We disapprove because we don’t like to see the government defining our medical coverage out of existence.

We disapprove of the government because we see the IRS changing from an agency to collect taxes to an organization concentrating on enforcing the 1st Amendment. They do this be snooping out possible political statements by conservative organizations. Never mind that they do not do such things to left-leaning progressive organizations.

We don’t like our government because we see the government stepping on traditional moral values as exemplified in the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional because it offends homosexuals—who make up about 5% of our people.

We don’t like the government because we see it pumping money into the economy which goes indirectly into the pockets of the rich, making a temporary stop in the rising values of the stock market. The market, I believe, is overpriced because the Federal Reserve, by keeping bond prices very low, makes investment in bonds unprofitable. This effect directs private investment into equity stocks.

Oh, how I wish we could have a government we approve of once, again!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Colorado Is Going to Pot!

The country has been watching carefully to see how Colorado’s new law legalizing marijuana for “recreational” purposes is going to play out. The new law went into effect several months ago; and now its effects are becoming evident.

A friend of mine in Denver sent me an account: One Denver newspaper has recently printed 20 pages of marijuana dealer advertisements about the wonders of marijuana use! The paper is even printing an advice column entitled, “Ask a stoner.”

One friend of ours in Denver is a counselor in the Jefferson County school system. He is noting children, even as young as primary grade school students, who are coming to school after eating food contaminated with cannabis, the active ingredient of marijuana. Emergency rooms are seeing young children under the effects of marijuana.

Banks are reluctant to accept accounts from marijuana businesses, so these businesses operate with large amounts of cash on hand. Doing business in cash helps them avoid paying taxes on their income. Muggers who see easy and quick gains from street crime are targeting customers walking around the city with lots of cash in their pockets.

Money laundering is becoming a more common practice among marijuana dealers. (The definition of “money laundering,” for those who don’t know what this means is the practice of thieves, embezzlers, and other criminals designed to make illegal money gains look legal. This is done by sending money to banks and investment interests under assumed names or investing in phony businesses that do not report income to the IRS. Money launderers are prone to do business in cash rather than by checks that can be traced by the IRS.)

The rest of the country should look carefully at the marijuana business in Colorado. Do we really want this kind of thing going on around the nation?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Global Peace? Are We In America Seeking It?

Henry Kissinger once said, "The attainment of peace is not as easy as the desire for it. Those ages, which in retrospect seem most peaceful, were least in search of peace. Those whose quest for it seems unending appear least able to achieve tranquility. Whenever peace—conceived as the avoidance of war—has been the primary objective . . . the international system has been at the mercy of [its] most ruthless member."

Crimea has been ceded to Russia without a shot being fired.  Syria is a killing field. The result of this U.S. inaction is a disaster. At a minimum, 130,000 Syrian civilians have been killed and nine million driven from their homes by forces loyal to the tyrant. At least 11,000 Syrians have been tortured to death. Hundreds of thousands are besieged, their supplies of food and medicine cut off, as bombs and shells rain down. The Iranian mullahs aren’t giving up their nuclear weapons capability, and other regimes in the middle East are preparing to acquire their own. Al Qaeda is making gains and is probably stronger than ever. China and Russia throw their weight around while our allies shudder and squabble. Meanwhile, the U.S. missile defense plans were scaled back, Allies in Eastern Europe and Georgia were undercut, NATO enlargement was tabled, and a new strategic arms reduction treaty required significant cuts by the U.S. but not by Russia. All this, because of the President’s policy of “leading from behind”—stupid? I’d say so!

America’s foreign policy is in a shambles. Confusion abounds and the President is its author. If you do not think so, I would refer you to “America’s Global Retreat” by Niall Ferguson in the Wall Street Journal of 2/21/14.

Part of the reason for the ineffective foreign policy is that the American people are still suffering from the slowest and most unbelievable “recovery” from recession in American history. Americans believe, and with good reason, that the economic recession is still going on. There is another reason so few Americans believe that the recession has ended: The standard of living for most people has eroded. Median household income declined by 1.6% in 2008 and 2.6% in 2009. But after the official end of the recession, it continued to fall—by 2.3% in 2010 and 2.5% in 2011—before stabilizing in 2012. Analysis of more recent data by Sentier Research indicates that median household income grew only marginally in 2013. The bottom line: As of the end of 2013, median household income was 4.7% lower than in June 2009, the official end of the recession; 6.2% lower than in December 2007, the official beginning of the recession; and 7.5% lower than in January 2000. Median household income today is barely higher than it was a quarter-century ago, in 1989.

If the people do not believe we are strong at home, they will be reluctant to support a policy of strength abroad, reducing the ability of the U.S. to serve as the guarantor of global security.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that America needs a President and an executive branch that will quit regulating businesses out of business, observe the rule of law concerning the Constitution, quit pandering to his environmental political supporters, and lead the American people into their former position of leader of the free world. People are dying because of American presidential weakness.

A nation of free men needs at times like this leaders who step forward to “sound forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat.”

(References from which this blog post was gleaned are “Obama Calls Retreat” Weekly Standard 3/3/14 and “The Economic Roots of American Retreat” by Wm. Galston in the Wall Street Journal 3/18/14.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Appeasement—History Repeats Itself

The following quote by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn from his 1970 Nobel lecture indicates that history is, indeed, repeating itself in foreign affairs.

Before reading the quote, it is necessary to review the results of the Munich Conference of March 1938. At that conference, France, the U.K., and Italy ceded the western part of Czechoslovakia to Germany before the outbreak of World War II without a shot being fired. It was done, supposedly because there were many ethnic Germans in that part of Czechoslovakia—German speakers. Czechoslovakia was not invited to the conference. In October 1938, in violation of the Conference’s agreements, German armies occupied Czechoslovakia. World War II was underway!

Today, we are watching as Russia plans a take-over of the Crimea, with the free world looking on. Russia's claim to the Crimea is that there are many ethnic Russians living there that speak Russian. The belief of liberal politicians led by President Obama is that Russia is so good-hearted that they will do nothing like the Germans of 1938. We’ll see.

I invite you to look at this prescient quote and make up your own mind: “The spirit of Munich has by no means retreated into the past; it was not merely a brief episode. I even venture to say that the spirit of Munich prevails in the 20th century. The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles. The spirit of Munich is a sickness of the will of successful people, it is the daily condition of those who have given themselves up to the thirst after prosperity at any price, to material well-being as the chief goal of earthly existence. Such people—and there are many in today's world—elect passivity and retreat, just so as their accustomed life might drag on a bit longer, just so as not to step over the threshold of hardship today—and tomorrow, you'll see, it will all be all right. (But it will never be all right! The price of cowardice will only be evil; we shall reap courage and victory only when we dare to make sacrifices.)”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Answer to the Poverty Problem

The answer to poverty heard so frequently from liberals and other Democrats is that poverty must be solved by more government give-away programs, usually in the form of more unemployment insurance, Medicaid, food stamps, earned income tax credit, etc., etc. Anyone who opposes this idea is considered heartless and downright cruel. The War On Poverty has, indeed brought a lot of material goods such as TVs, microwave ovens, and automobiles into the homes of the poor; but it has not given them dignity and a feeling of pride in having produced a living for themselves. Liberals with these solutions to poverty are not seeing the long view—they are only looking at the short-term answers. Dependency  on government may solve a financial problem in the short term, but it doesn’t give people an opportunity to work through and create a meaningful life for themselves.

The following is a true story.

In the early 1990’s, Nancy and I were living in Detroit. We attended a church in the warehouse district populated by the poor of the city—homeless, alcoholics, drug addicted, general vagabonds. In those days, Michigan had had a series of Democrat governors; and the poverty problem in Detroit was being answered by a government program called General Assistance. The program had awarded money to thousands of healthy, young adults without requiring anything of them.

One particular man came to our church and continually requested prayer so he might get a job. We prayed for him week after week. Finally, I suggested to Nancy, “Let’s quit praying for him and go get him a job.” We went to the county employment office with him to help him through the government red tape and get him a job. He found a job and was about to take it until he realized General Assistance would pay him more.

Finally, a Republican was elected to the state house. The General Assistance program was discontinued over a period of four months, during which time, the income of the money recipients was gradually tapered. Many healthy young men were turned off welfare payments and had to look for work.

One month after the money had quit, the man in the church came to us on a Sunday morning with a smile on his lips. He wanted to show Nancy and me something—his first pay check! He had found a job and was proud of himself. Dignity had been returned to him; and he was no longer dependent on government hand-outs.

Any government program that does not encourage the making of one’s own living, and discourages an economy that supplies those jobs is damaging. More money for handouts is NOT the answer. Government give-away money in the form of health care, food, unemployment payments only increases and prolongs dependency and robs poor people of their dignity and a sense that they can take care of themselves.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Does Same-Sex Marriage Damage Culture?

Or, does it damage anyone else’s marriage? I’ve often heard that intelligent, liberal people do not think government should intervene to maintain any of the old norms of marriage—just let people marry as they see fit. If same-sex couples want to live together in a marriage relationship, what difference does that make to me?

But…government does claim to have an interest in defining (or un-defining) marriage.  Advocates for same-sex marriage use the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the equal protection amendment) to justify a marriage redefinition. So, why, we must ask, does and should government take such an interest in defining the marriage relationship. There are several reasons. On the face of it, there seems to be some rationale for redefining the marriage relationship because of the 14th Amendment; but we need to take a closer look at this social move.

Could it be that government is interested in who loves whom or to whom one person is attracted. That seems unlikely. After all, people can live together and cooperate in any way they wish in America. And…nobody goes around snooping into bedrooms to see what kind of sex is being practiced. I do not believe that government is interested in advocating any kind of romantic norm. The government’s job should be to assure everyone that under the 14th Amendment that all MARRIED people have equal protection under the law.

The question under consideration is first of all, what is marriage? If the thing the courts are protecting is not marriage, at all, then it should not be calling it marriage and imposing some arbitrary privilege or obligation on that entity. I will argue that same-sex hook-ups are not marriages at all, regardless of the fact that the members of the dyads might love one another.

I must digress for a moment and talk about a closely related idea; below, I will get back to the central idea of this essay. For now, let us discuss the outcomes of single parent families. At one point in America, virtually every child was given the gift of a married mother and father. Today40 percent of all Americans, including 50 percent of Hispanics, and 70 percent of African Americans are born to single moms—and the consequences for those children are quite serious. Single parenting is dangerous to kids and it is damaging to society.  

President Obama has stated: “We know the statistics: that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of school, and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.” As the marriage culture collapses, child poverty rises. Crime rises. Social mobility decreases. And welfare spending—which bankrupts so many states and the federal government—takes off. These are the reasons that governments should be interested in the state of marriage in America.

When a baby is born, the mother almost always remains nearby; but in present-day America, fathers are not nearly so much of a permanent fixture—they disappear from the scene. This leaves little boys bereft of a role model to show them how to constructively express their aggressive instincts while avoiding doing actual damage to others. Thus…boys grow up and perpetrate violence in society.

What government should be doing, it seems to me, is protecting our society from the malignant effects of the incomplete homes caused by single parenting situations.

So now…let’s look at what marriage is. Marriage has several characteristics: monogamy/exclusivity, permanency, male/female complementarity, and biological reproductivity. The last quality is obvious to all and needs no further discussion. Same sex couples cannot reproduce children.

Monogamy/exclusivity has been a front page quality of marriage since the beginning of mankind. Married people do not like to have their spouse philandering around with outside sex contacts. But studies in the Netherlands have shown that “committed” homosexual couples have an average of eight sexual partners (outside of the relationship) per year. This is much more outside sex activity than is seen in heterosexual marriage relationships.

Likewise, same-sex marriages do not exhibit permanency of relationship. A high percentage of married couples remain married for up to 20 years or longer; many, for the rest of their lifetime. On the other hand, the above-mentioned study in the Netherlands showed that the average duration of a homosexual relationship to be 1½ years.

Complementarity in marriage between a man and a woman is obvious. However, in same-sex marriages, constructive fathers are often absent. Two mothers cannot show little boys how to grow up as constructive adult men.

There are social costs of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. This is like adjudicating fist fights in the street and calling them “discussions,” then justifying them by calling them “freedom of speech,” thus, protecting persons’ rights to fist fights under the 1st Amendment—freedom of speech. Of course, they are not speech, at all—they are something entirely different. Likewise, same-sex marriage is not marriage, either. I don’t know exactly what to call same-sex marriage, but that entity does not manifest the essential characteristics of marriage outlined above. Same-sex marriage is not marriage, and government has no business calling it such.

Same-sex “marriages” cannot be considered to be normal marriages—no matter what our politically correct government says. True marriage has certain qualities outlined above; and anything less cannot be considered to be a true marriage. Calling something a marriage that is not a true marriage damages real marriages; and they fail to protect and nurture children.

Anyone wanting to learn more about the farce government is perpetrating on the American people with its defense of supposed “same-sex marriage” should read the book, What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense by Ryan T. Anderson.