Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Every-Ten-Years Enumeration


Most View Census Positively, But Some Have Doubts

Age, Education, Ethnic and Partisan Gaps

January 20, 2010

As the federal government gears up for its decennial count of the country's population, most Americans think the census is very important and say they will definitely participate. But acceptance of and enthusiasm for the census are not universal. Certain segments of the population such as younger people, Hispanics and the less well educated are not as familiar with the census and are less inclined to participate. In addition, there are partisan differences in opinions about the values of the census, and in personal willingness to participate.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press was conducted Jan. 6-10 among 1,504 adults reached on cell phones and landlines. This is the first in a series of studies about the public's knowledge of and attitudes toward the 2010 U.S. Census.

The survey finds that nine-in-ten Americans describe the census as either very (60%) or somewhat (30%) important for the country, and about eight-in-ten say they will either definitely (58%) or probably (23%) participate. But 8% describe the census as unimportant for the country, and twice that number says that they either "might or might not" participate (10%) or definitely or probably will not (6%). The share saying they may not participate is particularly high among younger Americans, as well as those in lower socio-economic categories.

Kent comments:

I, for one, have serous doubts about the 2010 census:  I doubt that it will be what the Constitution authorizes.  Article I, Section 2 requires an “enumeration” (counting) of citizens to determine representation in the House of Representatives.

For the times the census has been made that I can remember, it has been (even in its “short” form) a probing attempt to learn everything that can be known about everyone.  I have never answered all the questions of the census.  I have always told how many people were in my household, and their ages.  I refuse to supply any more information than that.

I really doubt that anything asked in the upcoming census will be used in any ill manner, though I can’t quite rule that out given the current administration.  But with me, it is a matter of principle.  No government has the authority to force me to reveal many of the personal things asked about in a modern census.

Besides, it is very clear that many of the questions are intended as fodder for social planners.  I have a suggestion for a location into which social planners can go jump.  So when my form comes, I will gladly supply all the information that is Constitutionally required, and not an iota more.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Separating School and State


Psalms banned, but witchcraft OK

Supreme Court endorses 'hostility' toward Christianity

Posted: January 19, 2010
10:46 pm Eastern
© 2010 WorldNetDaily

A lower court's "hostility" towards Christianity will stand after the U.S. Supreme Court today refused to intervene in a school district's censorship of a kindergartener's choice of literature for a class reading.

Donna Busch accepted an invitation to visit her son Wesley's kindergarten classroom at Culbertson Elementary School to read a passage of Wesley's favorite book to his classmates in October 2004. Wesley's teacher had invited Busch because the boy was the featured student of "All About Me," a school event to feature a particular student and emphasize the student's personal characteristics, preferences and personality in classroom activities.

During the "All About Me" activity, a child's parent may read aloud from the student's favorite book. In this case, Wesley, a Christian, chose the Bible. His mother planned to read from Psalm 118.

But when Donna Busch prepared to read from the Bible, Wesley's teacher instructed her not to do so until Principal Thomas Cook could determine whether it would be acceptable.

According to the Rutherford Institute, the principal "informed Mrs. Busch that she could not read from the Bible in the classroom because it was against the law and that the reading would violate the 'separation of church and state.'"

Then school administrators offered Wesley's mother an opportunity to read from a book about witches, witchcraft and Halloween. She declined the invitation.  [read the whole story]

Kent comments:

Some think this problem will be solved within the framework of government somewhere.  It will not.  It stems from a very serious error made in some parts of our country as early as the first part of the 19th century.  That mistake was allowing a connection between governments and schools.

While it sounds very noble to say that every child has a ‘right to an education’ and then create a system in which governments own most schools to ‘insure’ that right, this kind of result should have been expected all along.  We were more than naive to think otherwise.

BTW, isn’t it odd how a ‘right to an education’ is so easily translated into legally mandated attendance at schooling for people of a certain age?  Does the right to free expression, for example, demand laws requiring people to speak their minds?

When governments own schools, the content of the schooling there will always tend toward the preferences of the bureaucrats who administer those schools.  While that does not by any means imply that all such bureaucrats are evil people, there are untold dangers in placing schooling in the hands of the government.  It is too personal, it is too influential, it is too easily abused to trust to any government.

The fact that the Bible cannot be read in a government school proves this point beyond any doubt.  But the solution is NOT a campaign to get the Bible back into government schools.  The solution is to get government OUT of schools.

We’re Number Eight!

2010 Index of Economic Freedom World Rankings [from the Heritage Foundation]

1 Hong Kong 89.7
2 Singapore 86.1
3 Australia 82.6
4 New Zealand 82.1
5 Ireland 81.3
6 Switzerland 81.1
7 Canada 80.4
8 United States 78.0

Above are the rankings for the most recent measure of economic freedom in the world. Notice that we are number eight. The U.S. overall freedom percentage was down a whopping 2.7% last year. If we were in Hong Kong we could chant, “We’re number one, we’re number one!” If we were Singapore, we could say, “We’re #2, we try harder!”

But we are number eight, and sinking rapidly down the ladder of economic freedom.

Remember, Hong Kong is now part of Red China – and don’t forget why China gets such a colorful designation! I know Hong Kong is treated differently than the rest of China in some regards, but think of it – if we were taken over by the current commies of China and they agreed to treat us like a giant Hong Kong, we would have significantly more economic freedom than we do now!

We are pathetic.

We are pathetic because we no longer love freedom. What we love more than freedom is the government doing things for us – or at least pretending to do things for us. I’m not talking here about somebody, somewhere in an inner city. I’m talking about most of the middle class, and much of the upper class. (Yes, Virginia, there is ‘welfare for the well-to-do.’ Remember, General Motors is now a welfare-dependent ward of the state.)

Most Americans today have forgotten what economic freedom would be like. And the more we forget that, the more economic freedom will slip away, and the further down that list we will slip.

Yes, yes, I know the refrain: “If the government doesn’t help poor people, middle class people, large companies, etc., whatever will happen when things go wrong, economically speaking?” Here is what happens when there is a perceived need and the government stays out of the picture because of economic freedom – people ‘vote’ with their money as to what is, and is not, worthy of help. From the starving orphan to the failing corporation, if you think the cause is worthy, you have the freedom to vote with your own money to solve the problem. You can buy a company’s products, you can send food to the needy, you can give a scholarship to a student – the list will never end. And if enough people agree with you, the resources will be great.

That, my friends, is economic freedom. It is a morally and socially beautiful arrangement because it respects the integrity and economic decisions of individual human beings: you remember them, the ones made in God’s image?

Unfortunately, our national society is laden with whining people who are more than willing to sacrifice your economic freedom to their grandiose ideas of utopia. We need to invite all such persons to: 1) repent and join our free society, 2) move to a country more suitable to their freedom-hating tastes – may I recommend Zimbabwe at #178 and North Korea at #179? 3) remain with us but shut their freedom-loathing mouths and start putting their own money – not mine – where their mouths used to be.

Economic freedom: got some, need much more.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

This Is God Calling . . .

I found this in a recent blog entry from an acquaintance of mine.  I’m not picking on this particular fellow, but he states the usual and customary case for his position very clearly and succinctly.  Here is what he said:

Have you had a burning bush experience?  Have you sensed God calling you to serve Him in some specific way? . . . now is a good time to explore God’s call .

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I felt God directing me to a specific task or area of service? 
  • If so, have I said yes?
  • Have I, like Moses, told God about my fears? My objections? My feelings of inadequacy?
  • What am I doing right now to answer God’s call?
  • If I’m feeling led to a new area of service, how can I verify what God wants me to do and follow it?

Here is my four step burning bush experience verification plan:

  1. Make sure God initiated it. Don’t force it.
  2. Check the Bible to make sure it’s morally right.
  3. Pray about it — for as long as it takes to be confident of His call.
  4. Get to work doing it!

If God calls you to serve Him in a specific way, do it.   Don’t let anything keep you from obeying God’s call in 2010.

If you hear God’s call, whether through a burning bush or a still small voice, say yes!

*  *  *

For many decades now I have heard this position stated and assumed to be true.  It is, in essence, this:  in addition to what God has said to us all through scripture, there are additional, individually-tailored instructions we can expect from Him from time-to-time.  These additional instructions will come via urges, inklings, and circumstances that we must carefully interpret in order to ‘here God’s call.’

I have considered it and reconsidered it in light of scripture.  In many circles it is almost considered heresy even to suggest that we question it, but I think we must.  Here are some obvious problems:

Why should we assume that a ‘burning bush experience’ is to be expected generally?  In pop theology this assumption is almost never questioned.  Notice something very important about all this.  When God ‘called’ Moses He did so through unambiguous, spoken words.  Moses did not have to wonder if it was God speaking.  The miracle of the bush that burned but was not consumed confirmed that it was God.  Moses did not have to wonder, test, or probe God’s message.  It was spoken in words that Moses understood.

The ‘God calls us today like Moses’ view is so fraught with ambiguity that it has almost nothing to do with what happened to Moses.  Note the words and phrases in the description above: sensed, felt, feeling led.  God did, very literally, ‘call’ to Moses.  But to label sensations and feelings a ‘call’ is a serious case of false advertising.

We are told to ‘pray about it’ so that we can be confident of God’s call.  This is a common caveat for this approach.  But what, exactly, can talking to God do to confirm that a feeling or sensation we might have is in fact a message from God?  And, we must ask, where in God’s word does He promise to communicate with us via sensations or feelings?

The writer urges us to ‘make sure God initiated it. Don’t force it.’  God, in His word, has never promised to initiate vague ‘calls’ to us based on feelings.  How presumptuous of us to then assume that some urge is from God and begin ‘testing’ it by means that we have devised, and in essence, imposed upon God!!!

The writer says “If I’m feeling led to a new area of service, how can I verify what God wants me to do and follow it?”  But in the end, three steps of his ‘four step burning bush experience verification plan’ do absolutely nothing to answer his question.  And, of course, God always wants us to do what is morally right.  But notice something very important here:  God has revealed to us, in human language that we can understand, exactly what is morally right and wrong.

Finally, notice what this writer does not say – and I appreciate his restraint.  He does not claim that the ‘still small voice’ of God will come in words.  This, of course, would clearly be a matter of additional revelation and that would imply all sorts of problems for any accurate view of the historic Christian faith.  (Some who advocate this view do go that far, with sometimes very weird results.  (One very interesting example of this, which I have reviewed elsewhere, is found here.)

I know the view I am questioning here is both very popular and very sincerely held by it advocates.  To some, questioning this view is almost like questioning the Christian faith.  But if you think very carefully about what scripture actually says about this matter, this popular view comes up lacking.  Don’t take it from a rank amateur like me.  Check out this thorough study of the topic:  Garry Friesen, Decision Making and The Will of God. You – and perhaps God – will be glad you did.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Who Will Decide?

By Joshunda Sanders
Published: 8:42 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010

When the State Board of Education meets this week to tackle revisions to the social studies curriculum in Texas public schools, some of the most contentious public debate is likely to center on recommendations by two men who want more emphasis on the role of Christianity in how the nation was formed.  The ideas submitted by well-known Christian conservatives David Barton and the Rev. Peter Marshall could influence how social studies is taught in Texas for the next decade. The board's final decision on the social studies curriculum is expected in March.

Barton and Marshall were among six reviewers chosen by the board to make suggestions for changing the curriculum. Their key recommendations for revision include more emphasis on documents from early America like the Mayflower Compact of 1620, written by Christian pilgrims who wanted religious freedom, or adding the Bible to sources that influenced the creation of significant documents when America was founded. If their changes are accepted, students who now receive a more generic overview of religious freedom and its importance in the country's founding would be taught that the nation's founders wanted to shape America based on biblical principles.

Those ideas resonate with many Christians, history and religion professors say, but they concern many others.  "I'm an evangelical Christian, and I think David Barton and Peter Marshall are completely out to lunch," said John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, a Christian institution. "They are not experts on social studies and history. Neither of them are trained in history. They are preachers who use the past and history as a means of promoting a political agenda in the present."

Each reviewer drafted recommendations and sent them to the Texas Education Agency. The agency then sent those drafts to writing groups composed of teachers and community members who have been revising the curriculum standards; their revised draft of the standards will be presented at the board's meeting this week.

[the above is excerpts – read the whole thing here]

Kent comments:

You might think I would be right there on the side of Barton and Marshall, but I’m not – not exactly, at least.  I understand why they are doing this.  If Texas adopts a textbook standard, it is such a large state that textbook publishers will tend to make their offerings fit the Texas requirements.  I also agree that the influence of the Christian faith is often unduly discounted in the formation of our republic.

But my objection is this:  why should any board or bureaucrat make a policy about what should be in textbooks?  I, of course, know the answer to this question:  governments own the schools and, being their schools, they must decide what books to use.

So I ask yet another question:  why do we put up with governments owning schools?  It is the epitome of socialism, that is, government-owned means of production.  Most of us say we don’t like it with other kinds of production.  So why do we tolerate it when it comes to schools?

Oh, oh, but children need schooling, don’t they?  If it is schooling that produces education, then perhaps.  But children need food, and yet few of us advocate that the government should own grocery stores and farms.  You can eat quite well from the offerings at most grocery stores, and yet they are not owned by any government.

People – including me – sometimes complain that children tend to pick up trendy, ‘politically correct’, collectivist ideas at schools.  Why should it surprise us that socialist institutions tend to promote socialist ideas?

So I do not really want to try to talk the bureaucrats of Texas into using textbooks I like in their schools.  I would rather that we work to divest governments of the schooling industry.  That would be the ultimate in educational freedom.  And then it would be much more reasonable to expect at least some schools to teach children the value of freedom, and the part that the Christian faith played in the history of our political institutions.

A Line Drawn in the Salt

[New York Times]
January 11, 2010

New York Seeks National Effort to Curb Salt in Food


First New York City required restaurants to cut out trans fat. Then it made restaurant chains post calorie counts on their menus. Now it wants to protect people from another health scourge: salt.  On Monday, the Bloomberg administration plans to unveil a broad new health initiative aimed at encouraging food manufacturers and restaurant chains across the country to curtail the amount of salt in their products.

The plan, for which the city claims support from health agencies in other cities and states, sets a goal of reducing the amount of salt in packaged and restaurant food by 25 percent over the next five years.  Public health experts say that would reduce the incidence of high blood pressure and should help prevent some of the strokes and heart attacks associated with that condition. The plan is voluntary for food companies and involves no legislation. It allows companies to cut salt gradually over five years so the change is not so noticeable to consumers.

“We all consume way too much salt, and most of the salt we consume is in the food when we buy it,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the city health commissioner, whose department is leading the effort. Eighty percent of the salt in Americans’ diets comes from packaged or restaurant food. Dr. Farley said reducing salt from those sources would save lives.

Since taking office, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who just began his third term, has gained a reputation as an advocate for healthy living, initiating prominent campaigns against smoking and harmful trans fats. To combat obesity, he has campaigned for calorie labeling on restaurant menus and warned consumers about sugary soft drinks.  The city’s salt campaign is in some ways more ambitious and less certain of success than the ones it waged against smoking and obesity.

Kent comments:

While in some ways talk about how much salt people consume might seem unimportant, in this context it is crucial.  It is crucial because it comes here in the context of governmental control of the most intimate aspects of the lives of individuals.

Do people sometimes engage in self-destructive behavior?  Few would dispute that fact.  But the point that is seldom considered in such contexts is whether or not individuals should be allowed to engage in what some would deem self-destructive behavior.

The default view lately seems to be that it is the proper role of government to make sure that nobody is able to do anything that might harm himself.  This can seem like a noble undertaking to many people – especially well-intentioned people.  It appears that we are helping people when we make sure they can’t do anything to harm themselves.  To some uncritical Christian people it can seem like we are doing the ‘work of the Lord’ when we prevent people from harming themselves.  But Christians, and others, are often not bold enough to attempt this directly.  So we enlist the government to help us with this apparently noble project.

My Dad and his generation had a label for those who engaged in this kind of project.  He called them ‘do-gooders’ – and in spite of the word ‘good’ this was no compliment!

But think of all the very tenuous assumptions that are being made when one person decides to force someone else not to ‘harm himself.’

First of all, very few of the things are quickly or certainly self-destructive.  Often with such things, it is all a matter of dosage.  We all need some salt.  Too much does appear to gradually impair the health of some, but ‘too much’ can vary wildly between individuals.  So even the claim ‘you are eating too much salt’ is very relative to the individual you are addressing.

Consider also that many of the things most of us do everyday can be, to some degree, dangerous for us.  Driving a car is dangerous, using electricity is dangerous, even walking in the sunlight can be dangerous.  Whenever we do almost anything we are taking a calculated risk.  Sometimes the odds are very much in our favor, but many things fall ‘on the margin’ so to speak.  And even the evaluation of what is ‘safe’, what is ‘on the margin’, and what is ‘dangerous’ is a very personal and subjective evaluation.  By what moral right can any one person or group of people make that evaluation for someone else?

The ‘let’s stop this poor fool from harming himself’ attitude becomes the excuse for tyranny from sometimes well-meaning people who have not thought through the matter.  Suppose your neighbor is sensitive to, and wildly over-indulging in, a diet high in trans fat.  Most people, especially Christian people, would never march over with a loaded gun, remove the neighbor’s supply of trans fat, and threaten him with more force if he seeks a new supply.  But many of those same people will support the tyrannical government of New York City as it attempts to do the same thing.

And as many have pointed out recently, this is all connected to governments paying our medical bills.  Once governments pay medical bills (or it is assumed that they should) there is a never end-excuse for governments to attempt to reduce health risks as close to zero as possible.  This, of course, requires that government have the power to dictate the most intimate details of every individual life.  And that, of course, is the very definition of tyranny.

Salt consumption regulations are far from trivial.  Because if something that subjective and personal is rightly the domain of government, then nothing is off-limits to government.  And if nothing is off-limits to the government, then the government has become god and political liberty has ceased to exist.

People will sometime decide to engage in risky behavior.  When bad consequences ensue, they must deal with them.  But if you are not free to do that, you are no longer a human being, but a cog in the machine of the state.  And if you are not willing to allow others that freedom, no matter how well-intentioned you might be, you are a tyrant.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Liar, Liar

Remember not so long ago when Joe Wilson spoke out loud at an Obama speech the words, “You lie”?  He was, of course, loudly condemned by many.  One just shouldn’t say, out loud at least, that a president is lying.  Unless, maybe, when said president builds his political career on lies.

Remember when his high-and-mightiness candidate Obama was telling us about his plans to ‘reform health care.’  He said:

"We will have a public, uh, process for forming this plan. It'll be televised on C-SPAN.... It will be transparent and accountable to the American people." --Barack Obama, November 2007

"That's what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are, because part of what we have to do is enlist the American people in this process." --Barack Obama, January 2008

"[T]hese negotiations will be on C-SPAN..." --Barack Obama, January 2008

"We're gonna do all these negotiations on C-SPAN so the American people will be able to watch these negotiations." --Barack Obama, March 2008

"All this will be done on C-SPAN in front of the public." --Barack Obama, April 2008

"I want the negotiations to be taking place on C-SPAN." --Barack Obama, May 2008

"[W]e'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who is, who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies." --Barack Obama, August 2008

"We will work on this process publicly. It'll be on C-SPAN. It will be streaming over the Net." --Barack Obama, November 2008

Note to B. Hussein Obama:  you LIED!  (But is anyone really surprised?)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Do Not Curse the King

“Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king.” (Ecclesiastes 10:20)

There is a kind of “Sunday School” level of thinking about the Bible that takes a passage like this and jumps to the conclusion that Christians should never oppose those in positions of power.  (I apologize in advance for using “Sunday School” in this way, but I think many know exactly what I mean here.)

For example, what if, after reviewing the evidence and monitoring his pronouncements and his performance, a Christian comes to the conclusion that (let’s say, just for example) our current president is a egomaniacal ideologue who is obsessed with the pursuit of power, has no regard for moral principles, and respects neither God nor man.  Is such a conclusion precluded, even in principle, by Biblical teaching?

First of all, we do not have a king, or anything even remotely related to one.  This was by design.  But does someone’s placement, by whatever means, in a position of government make him somehow off-limits to moral criticism by Christians?

In Matt. 14 we read about John the Baptizer.  John had something interesting to say to and about a fellow called Herod the Tetrarch.  His title means that he was “king of one fourth” of what had been his father’s kingdom.  John condemned Herod because Herod had divorced his wife to marry his brother’s wife.  In Luke 3:19 we learn that John reproved Herod “for all the evil things he had done” and the tense of the verb in Matt 14:4 suggests that John did this repeatedly.  Wesley summed this up quite well when he said of John, “He would not break the force of truth by using soft words, even to a king.”  In Luke 13:32 Jesus calls Herod a “fox” in a context that makes that term (which doesn’t carry this kind of meaning with us) about as negative as you can get.

We find ourselves in a very tragic situation today when Christians use superficial readings of the Bible to justify a very ‘weeniefied’ approach to those in positions of power.  While we do want to honor those to whom honor is due, the mere fact that someone is elected to some office does not necessarily make him worthy of honor.

To be worthy of honor, one must be honorable in behavior.  At this moment in our history we have a large group of elected officials at many levels of government who are not even in the neighborhood of honorable.  As Wesley suggested, we should not break the force of truth by using soft words, even to a king – or, we might add, to a president, or a member of Congress.  That would be sub-Christian.