Thursday, August 25, 2016

The “Condition of America” Question



Are you sick of hearing about how America is going to the dogs in lots of ways? Well…so am I. But…the fact that it actually is doing just that must still be faced and dealt with in a constructive way.

An article in the Weekly Standard of 8-15-16 by Matthew Continetti under the title I have given above http://tws.io/2anbX0E accurately points out the problems and suggests some workable, but secular, solutions. Death rates among middle-aged non-Hispanic White Americans between 1999 and 2013 have been increasing. The increase in death in this population has been positively correlated with suicide, liver disease and cirrhosis, drug and alcohol poisoning, and other related effects of drug and alcohol abuse. These correlations are all caused by behavioral practices in our population. The disturbing increases in the death rate have mostly been among those men who have had no college education. It has also been noted that real family income of people in the bottom half of the income distribution has not increased since the late 1960’s, further adding to the general discouragement in this population.

It seems to me, as well as to Mr. Continetti, that the distress being experienced in this poor population of White males is largely due to deterioration in the four character-building institutions of our society, i.e., the family, vocations, community, and faith.

FAMILY: More than 25% of our population lives alone. Men and women marry later in life and have fewer children. The percentage of children living at home with two married parents in their first marriage has fallen from 73% in 1960 to 46% in 2014. The explosion of single parenthood has coincided with the growth of means-tested welfare spending such as food stamps, housing assistance, cash payments, the earned income tax credit, disability insurance, and Medicaid.

VOCATION: For more than 60 years, the share of White American men between the ages of 25 to 54, or “prime-age men,” in the labor force has declined from 96% in 1968 to 79% in 2015. This fall has been most pronounced among men without college degrees. The fall in workforce participation rates has been even more marked among African-American men.

The White House has ignored the obvious positive correlation between this fall in workforce participation and the diminution of the work requirement for welfare, as well as the relation between policies the government supports—increases in the minimum wage, unionization, and low-skilled immigration.

COMMUNITY: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that deaths from heroin overdoses increased 286% between 2002 and 2013, with a nearly 40% increase between 2012 and 2013.

The percentage of adults who volunteer for various community services dropped four points over the last decade.

Our citizens trust one another less and less. The Boston Globe reports “The greater the diversity in a community, the fewer people vote and the less they volunteer, the less they give to charity and work in community projects. In the most diverse communities, neighbors trust one another about half as much as they do in the most homogenous settings.”  

FAITH: The number of Americans with no religious affiliation is increasing rapidly.

WHAT IS THE SOLUTION TO THESE PROBLEMS? Continetti points out that one approach is more New Deal programs, but without overreach by the government. That is a pipe dream and nothing less than a myth. A recent book by Jay Cost, “A Republic No More: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption,” strongly implies that there is no governmental program which does not predispose to corruption. Politicians will always figure out some way to get around the interests of the people to line their own pockets with cash and insure their personal increase in political power.

The answers to the “Condition of America” is nothing other than the infusion of Christian principles and true Christian religion into our society. Without faith, America will continue on its same path. Christians need to have more influence in government and social affairs. Our government is doing everything possible to squelch Christian principles; and our two candidates for presidential office do not epitomize any Christian character. They are both godless power seekers. Our job at the present is unfortunately to pick out the one who is the least unrighteous and vote for him/her. If we elect to vote for neither, we will be effectively voting for the one most unrighteous.

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

How Important is Death?

Death for the Christian is the portal through which the Christian will pass into eternal fellowship with God—we are assured that a life of following Christ and obeying his will, results forever in a life of joy and fulfillment in heaven. But…is it true for everyone or even for many? Not according to the Scriptures. To the eternal discouragement of non-believers, only a few will ever attain that happy outcome.

This question stated in the title of this paper seems strange to many; but, is it a strange question to ask? Just how seriously and realistically does the average man on the street actually consider the prospect of his own death and the death of others around him? I would posit that most people largely disregard the ultimate dangers and blessings of physical death. To hear the ordinary funeral sermon, one would think that everyone on earth is assured of a blissful, eternal life in a wonderful heaven where nothing offends or ever goes wrong. I think that most people today underrate the possibility of entry into hell instead of heaven after they die.

How many times have you heard from the funeral pulpit, these words: “He has now gone to a better place.”? Or, “His was a life well-lived.” These words are mostly lies at the usual funeral. They are spoken to comfort the bereaved relatives and friends. But are they the truth? Those who speak those words should be ashamed of themselves. The Bible clearly says in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Yes, “…only a FEW.” We should all think long and hard about that principle of biblical living and physical death.

Nevertheless, multitudes continue to look at their death thinking that since they have been pretty good people in life, God, who is loving and just would never ever send them to hell. I will admit that they are partly right about that: God is not sending them to Hell; they are going there by their own free will. Yet, they continue to fool themselves into a false sense of security about their own deaths.

The fact, according to Jesus is that he is the way, the truth, and the life. The apostle Peter said “…there is no other name given among men by which we should be saved.” The way of salvation is no secret. So, should we wonder how the Bible should make such an absurd statement as that quoted above in the third paragraph from Matthew seventh chapter? Well, to answer that question, just ask yourself some of the following questions about our fellow citizens. How many times have we heard them talking about Jesus in public? How many hours in a typical week do they read his word, the Bible? How often do they go to church? What kind of language do they habitually use? How often do you think they pray; do they pray before meals? Where are their priorities in life? Do their life goals magnify the person and work of Christ?

I would suggest that it seems that most people don’t give a hoot about the Christ—at least, there is no evidence of it in life. So, why should we think that suddenly, after physical death, God is going to honor them by awarding them with adoption into his very family?

The Bible issues a clear call to everyone. The way to eternal life is repentance of sins and faith in the Christ. This obviously means the way to heaven is a public demonstration of a life changed from its natural way of living, which is a sinful life. A life that evidences true belief in Jesus should be the object of our life on planet Earth. Those who would try to excuse their godless behavior by the trite statement, “Just like everyone else, I sin every day in thought, word, and deed.” needs to rethink that lame excuse for bad behavior. Instead, they should be saying in all honesty, I magnify my Savior every day in “thought, word, and deed.” This life is a moral testing ground—its main object is the determination of which way we want to go, i.e., to heaven or to hell. The Bible and the entire Christian life tells us that the object of living is to inform us and encourage us about how to please God by our behavior and how to attain adoption of children into God’s family.

Nobody should become discouraged about these ideas. Today is the day of salvation. It is possible for all of us living on Earth now to come to Christ in a life-saving way. Let’s rethink our self-designed idea that we are all going to heaven when we die. There is a way we can all have a realistic opportunity for true salvation. That way is Christ!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Evolving American Politics


American politics have changed—that’s no news. The angry lamentations of Donald Trump’s outbursts without remedial measures is interesting, but not productive of constructive changes to come from a Trump presidency. He makes strong points about how terrible the present state of “progressive” ideas have been; he makes good observations of how the Obama administration and a possible Hillary administration would be, seeing that her election would be a continuation of the ruinous policies of her predecessor. But…there are no forthcoming ideas of what should be done to reconstruct the American republic economically and socially. He makes remarks off the cuff, designed to throw red meat to erstwhile conservatives; but I can see no real substance to his appeal to conservatives and those who would improve our society.

 Both Democrats and Republicans have a strong feeling that our country is in decline—but the decline is different from the viewpoint of the two parties. For the Democrats, society is declining from its former height in the 1960’s when cultural liberalization seemed to coexist with a highly regulated economy. For Republicans, they see our nation’s decline beginning from its high point in the 1980’s when economic liberalization was accompanied by a resurgence of national pride and an emphasis on family values.

Trump’s message of recovery has been characterized by vague, nostalgic tropes promising an end to globalization, illegal immigration and other modern trends. But he fails to flesh out how his nostalgic ideas would give lasting hope to the American decline. His blandishments against “politically correct” speech appeals to the emotions of American superficial thinkers; but seldom do his ideas seem to have long-lasting benefits to those who would look at political consequences.

 On the other hand, the desires of the progressive left are exhausted and wistful. We have not seen all the wonderful results of change and hope promised by candidate Obama. Our economy is still limping along without any improvement in household income over the last 8 years, and our foreign policies have not produced peace anywhere in the world. America’s prestige has been lost. The post-World War II consensus of trust in the basic goodness of large labor and business institutions, accompanied by admiration for family integrity decayed after the post-war years. Political consensus fractured gradually; and polarization of warring camps took its place. Now, the social and political beliefs of Americans have polarized to such an extent that Democrats and Republicans can barely speak to one another.

The above changes have increased the diversity within our nation. And this has produced economic gain for some and loss of wealth for many—a split between the rich and the poor. Some have felt liberated from old bonds on personal liberty—others see nothing but moral decay. Racism is reportedly rampant according to the media and political elites in Washington. Violence and homegrown terrorism seem to be on the upswing. Anyone with a beef against someone else seems willing to take up a gun and start shooting.  

Liberals/progressives of the Hillary Clinton type think that more of the same kind of administration is what is needed. Thoughtful conservatives should think carefully about this. Now may be the time true conservatism might make a comeback—but…changes must be made in the conservative agenda. There must be a new right for a new America.
 
There is no way to undo the past for America. We must make the most of our recent experience. Our world is a world of individualism and fracture of old and familiar social modes. We must use the changes to forge a new union, a new way of relating to one another. The Republicans of today look at the world through a nostalgia of the old days. Democrats cling complacently to the anachronism of social democracy as their vision of the future. Neither will work.
To my mind, conservatives seem better positioned to work the changes that are needful in America. They need to bring to public policy the dispersed, incremental, bottom-up approach to progress that has pervaded every other part of American life while reviving community and civil society to combat dislocation and isolation. More government regulations will never help obtain this goal. We need local problem-solvers to mix resources, advice, experience, and moral leadership in a continuing process of bottom-up experimentation. The government must get out of the way and let this process develop.
The government should abandon the model of centralized, technocratic industrial economy in favor of today’s decentralized, consumer-driven, postindustrial economy and use public resources to encourage constructive experimentation with public services rather than to impose tired dogmas from above. Those “tired dogmas” include the philosophy of Hillary Clinton, which would regulate our society to death.
Social conservatives should concentrate on the development of vibrant sub-cultures that offer alternatives to the demoralizing chaos of the permissive society. Older models of traditional morality and social construction will not be accepted by today’s diverse population; but they must be demonstrated for the benefit of those who can see their way out of rampant individualism and selfish ways of living for the moment.
Some of this blog post was taken from a book by Yuval Levin, “The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism.”
 
 

 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Progressivism in the United States





In the late 19th Century in America, thoughtful political leaders sought to quell the excesses of rampant capitalism, which was producing unbounded inequality of wealth in our nation. Under the leadership of such Presidents as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, a philosophy of governance called Progressivism was developed that advanced the idea that a small group of intellectuals should run the affairs of state. Undesirable elements and ignorant people should be removed from the voter rolls—Blacks in the South were particularly targeted for exclusion.

 

Sociologist Robert Nisbet defined five "crucial premises" in the Idea of Progress as being: value of the past; nobility of Western civilization; worth of economic/technological growth; scientific/scholarly knowledge obtained through reason over faith; the intrinsic importance and worth of life on Earth.

 

As time passed, Progressivism morphed into a system that placed elite people planners into government—people who knew more about how the American state should run than ignorant every-day voters. Their elitism reminds one of the difference between Alexander Hamilton and George Washington’s idea of a strong central government, run by aristocrats and the ideas of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in the early 19th Century who sought to validate the power of the general electorate of the country.

 

The philosophy of Progressivism has become more or less the philosophy of left wing politics and governance. It has still retained the ideas of elitism—the idea that the government knows more about what is right to do than the people. This idea is getting old to many in our country; and it has caused the rise of populist movements, such as that roused by the Bernie Sanders and the Donald Trump campaigns. The people of America want their government back from the people planners.

 

One interesting feature of modern Progressivism is that it plays very strongly to the desires of minority groups, claiming that it is the voice of the poor and the down-trodden. Progressive’s seem to need to stir up controversy by pitting one group against another. For instance, the Black Lives Matter movement is obviously a tool of the elite members in the administration and the liberal elite in the media. It pits Blacks against conservatives who appreciate the presence and action of the police.

 

The Progressive movement is certainly no friend of religious liberty or the poor in this country. Evidence the court case mounted against the Little Sisters of the Poor, mandating them to provide contraceptives to their employees against their religious principles. (Thankfully, that controversy seems to have been recently solved in favor of the Sisters by action of the Supreme Court.). This was an example of persecution of a group whose only motive was to help the poor and disenfranchised.

 

Progressives have taken up the sword against home schooling and religious private education, also. Atheist, Richard Dawkins and others have called home-schooling the equivalent of child abuse. Progressives, in concert with the left wing National Education Association have solidly opposed home-schooling. This is an example of the Progressive push against the will of parents who are trying to get better education for their children.

 

I long for the return of democratic principles to our republic. I am sick and tired of the authoritarian, agency-run, government with which we have to deal these days. I hope we, Americans, will get together in November and vote some real representatives of the people into office.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Yes, Black Lives Matter--That's Why They Need Police

The April issue of Imprimis featured an article by Heather MacDonald entitled. “The Danger of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement.” The following blog post is mostly excerpted from this thought-provoking article.

The Black Lives Matter movement holds that racist police officers are the greatest threat facing young Black men today. And it must be remembered that police have sometimes been complicit in racist violence. But, the Black Lives Matter movement blames the police for a huge chunk of Black homicides. However, there is no government agency more dedicated to the idea that Black lives matter than the police. As police officers back off proactive policing in the face of relentless Black Lives Matter venom directed at them on the street and in the media, violent crime rises.

As anti-cop rhetoric continues in America, police officers have become more in danger of being killed or wounded on the streets. The number of police officers killed in shootings more than doubled during the first three months of 2016. Officers are at greater risk from Blacks than unarmed Blacks are from the police. Over the last decade an officer’s chance of getting killed by a Black has been18.5% higher than the chance of an unarmed Black getting killed by a cop.  

Every year, approximately 6,000 Blacks are murdered. This is a number greater than White and Hispanic homicide victims combined, even though Blacks are only 13 % of the national population. In Los Angeles, Blacks between the ages of 20 and 34 die at a rate 20-30 times the national mean. Black males between the ages of 14 and 17 commit homicide at ten times the rate of white and Hispanic male teens combined. Blacks of all ages commit homicide at eight times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined and at eleven times the rate of Whites alone.  

This disparity of Black killers over White and Hispanic murderers is a function of the Black crime rate: In America’s 75 largest counties in 2009, for example Blacks constituted 62% of all robbery defendants, 57% of all murder defendants, 45% of all assault defendants—but only 15% of the population. Blacks make up 23% of the New York City’s population, but they commit 75% of all shootings, 70% of all robberies, and 66% of all violent crime according to victims and witnesses. Whites are 33% of the city’s population, but they commit fewer than 2% of all shooting, 4% of all robberies, and 5% of all violent crime. The group that predominantly commits homicidal acts against Blacks is other Blacks, not the police.

For most of the last 20 years, crime rates in the U.S. have been decreasing. This has been attributed to more effective policing and data management by modern police departments around the country. But, now, the crime rate is on an upward spike—the first in two decades. Murders rose 17% in the nation’s 50 largest cities in 2015, and it was in cities with large Black populations where violence increased the most. Baltimore’s per capita homicide rate last year was the highest in its history. Milwaukee had its deadliest year in a decade, with a 72% increase in homicides. Homicides in Cleveland increased 90% over the previous year. Murders rose 83% in Nashville, 54% in Washington, D.C., and 61% in Minneapolis. In Chicago, the police have decreased their questioning episodes of pedestrians by 80%. Nevertheless, shootings were up by 90%.

Since last October, James Comey, the FBI director has been saying that this increase in violent crime is due to the recent campaign against cops. Yesterday, on the evening news, I heard President Obama disclaim any responsibility of the Black Lives Matter movement for this increase in crime. This is just another reason that I have learned to disbelieve almost everything I hear from President Obama, his spokesman, Josh Earnest, and the Secretary of State, John Kerry. This administration lies.   

 

 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Tyranny by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States, (SCOTUS) is about to hear a case brought by the administration against the Little Sisters of the Poor. The case involved is an attempt by the President and his administration to force the Little Sisters to violate their moral and religious convictions to buy contraceptives for their employees.

It is a sad state of affairs when a government will require a beneficent organization like the Little Sisters to go against their moral convictions. I am no Catholic, but I can recognized tyranny when I see it. I do not think SCOTUS should be a party to such wickedness in government.  

Saturday, April 9, 2016

“How to Vote”—Reprise


     My latest blog post http://manringen.blogspot.com (control+click)

It seems that my last blog post set off a firestorm of responses—some of which came from Trump supporters who objected to the perceived lying of Ted Cruz. For that reason, I have looked up the lies that both candidates have issued. They are documented in the URL’s listed below. It seems to me, from looking at these two web sites that neither candidate is immune to lying or to making mistakes in political statements. I invite you to look at these sites and make up your own minds. Politics seems like a dirty business, to me!



The responses I received taught me one thing. I made a mistake saying that Trump supporters are “ignorant and uneducated.” That was a rude mistake; and I apologize for it. I have found that among my critics there are those who are educated and thoughtful people.

So…I set out to see what polls say about who the Trump supporters are and what do they think. The following is what I found: In an article in the Atlantic, 1 March 2016, there was a compilation of polls describing the demographics of Trump supporters. It found that---

1)    Trump supporters are characterized by a lack of college degrees. This lack of higher education has fueled falling real wages over the past 25 years among those who support Donald Trump. According to the Hamilton Project, real wages have fallen 20% for non-college educated men over the past 25 years!

2)    A feeling of voicelessness has bothered and motivated many in the Trump camp. They usually responded positively to a polling question that said, “People like me don’t have any say about what the government does.” This feeling of powerlessness was a much better predictor of Trump support than age, race, college attainment, income, attitudes towards Muslims, illegal immigrants, or Hispanic identity.

3)    Trump supporters characteristically feel threatened by immigration of foreigners into the United States.

4)    Trump supporters strongly favor raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

5)    Trump supporters feel despondent about their place in America. This has led to a theme of Trump’s rhetoric: America is losing; Donald Trump is a winner; and if Trump becomes president, America will become a winner, too. This Great Man Theory of political change, however, strikes others as potentially dangerous...

6)    Trump supporters want to wage an interior war against outsiders. There is a strong feeling among his supporters that terrorists are about to destroy America. Trump supporters strongly believe in identifying threatening outsiders and granting individuals special powers to pursue aggressive policies to destroy them. The strongest indication of Trump support in South Carolina was not income, education, or age. It was the fear of personal injury from terrorism. (This fear is manifest across wide sections of the American polity; and I must admit that I, also, share in this fear. But…the Trump followers seem quite willing to accept an authoritarian in office as a tradeoff for better security.) He has said that he would kill the families of ISIS members to stop their advance. He has promised to shut down mosques, keep a database of Muslims, and round up the children of illegal immigrants. He promises to protect his white in-group from non-white outsiders. It seems hard to reconcile traditional American values with these threats.

7)    According to the New York Times, Nate Cohn, using data from Civis Analytics, Trump support is strongest in areas of the southeast most marked by racial resentment. Of course, this does not say that racial animus is a driver of Trump support; but there is the suggestion that might be the case.

8)    It is also interesting that Trump supporters attend church less frequently than do the Cruz supporters.

I am still very upset at the quality of candidates our American people have chosen to represent us as our President. Can’t we find a righteous man to run for this high office?!!