Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Surrogates on the Net

My post from last week included examples of surrogates (Nora Ephron; Jon Krakauer) but did not include a working definition of the term. I’ll expand on that.

A common definition of “surrogate” relates to a substitute; a person who takes the place of another. In our anti-Republican culture, the definition becomes slightly more specific. It involves primarily those who ply the written word, and they use subterfuge.

There are two forms of surrogate activity: concealment and redirection.

Redirection is where this blog places its focus. You are watching a movie (“Julie and Julia”) and find that you are being taught about the obnoxious behavior of Republicans. You read a book (“Where Men Win Glory”), and find that you are being lectured on the incompetence of Republicans.

This is where the work of surrogates goes under-reported, and this is where I hang out.

When the action of the surrogates is more flagrant, there is often genuine outrage. The Left Coast Rebel has posted examples of people who work the Internet and printed media as “Sockpuppets” and “Trolls.” Much of it has an anti-Republican focus, and people seem to generally agree that, in the battle of ideas, this behavior is inappropriate.

What is worth watching is whether there is an organized effort behind the surrogate activity. Is it being directed from a central source, or is it just a collection of random acts? Is a JournoList being used, or is it just happenstance?

If there is central coordination involved, we’ve got a story that goes beyond the idea of our culture exhibiting a particular political twist. We’ve got something that looks strikingly like “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Surrogates

My profile doesn’t mention it, but I am married to a Democrat. My sister-in-law refers to us as “a house divided,” a reference that is a bit ominous, given that the “House Divided” speech by Abraham Lincoln describes how a government cannot endure if it is divided by the issue of slavery.

I use this reference as an introduction to the racial politics that come to the forefront when we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

The MLK holiday has become America’s “Anti-Republican Holiday.” Our culture uses this holiday to reinforce the theme that Republicans are racists.

It is unsettling on a couple of different levels. First is the ease with which our culture co-opts the message of Dr. King and recasts it into a political one. Martha Coakley’s attendance at an MLK breakfast in Massachusetts (a day before Scott Brown was elected to the Senate) is an example of this phenomenon. She contends that “If Dr. King were here today, he’d be standing with us.”

The idea that Dr. King would be standing against Republicans is not supported by historical fact, but despite the best efforts of Frances Rice, this is the message that endures in our culture.

Second is the idea of using a federal holiday as a vehicle to disparage a group of people. On Martin Luther King Day, Republicans can take refuge in the words of Abraham Lincoln, but the use of the holiday to disparage their character remains unsettling. Imagine how a “Pearl Harbor Day” would come across as an anti-Japanese or anti-Asian day. What about a “9/11 Remembrance Day”? Could it be turned into an “anti-Muslim Day”? Perhaps you have to be a member of the aggrieved group to fully understand.

Regardless of any group affiliation, Americans need to be aware of how political opportunists work with emotions. We need to understand the workings of the surrogates.

Unfortunately, that isn’t happening. I’m not even sure Martha Coakley understands what she is doing. She behaves in a way that shows her actions are “right and natural.” To her, it is inconceivable that Dr. King could have been a registered Republican and pro-life. She knows his intent. He stands with her!

This blog documents cultural phenomena. In our culture, we have anti-Republican surrogates and they are our cultural leaders.

Jon Krakauer, an acclaimed author, is a surrogate.

Mike Keefe, a gifted cartoonist, is a surrogate.

Nora Ephron, a talented writer and director, is a surrogate.

Mike Littwin, a delightful pundit, is a surrogate.

Each of these people works as an individual, but as anti-Republican surrogates, they deliver a uniform message.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Game Change

In case you missed it, the President of the United States has dark skin tone.

I think the vast majority of Americans find this to be appealing. America is a melting pot of ethnicity. Our President exemplifies who we are, and we take pride in that.

Today is Martin Luther King Day, and it focuses our attention on Dr. King’s life and his work. It is also an opportunity for the Denver Post to use page two of the newspaper to teach us how to think about news events that are highlighted on its front page.

Mike Littwin has penned a column titled “Race debate not so black and white.” It is a classic example of how the Denver Post promotes our anti-Republican culture.

Mr. Littwin describes “confusion” about racism in the context of the recent book “Game Change” by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. He points to statements made by Senator Harry Reid and former President Bill Clinton (as reported in the book by anonymous sources) that show these individuals are concerned about the skin tone of political figures. Senator Reid acknowledged his remarks and offered apologies. President Clinton has (so far) kept silent.

Here’s the text of Mr. Littwin's column in its entirety for your review:
First, the good news as we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday: No one can say we're not talking about race these days.

The confusion — and maybe, strangely, it's a sign of progress that we're confused — comes in figuring out what it is we're actually talking about. What is racist as opposed to race-baiting as opposed to just saying something stupid about race? And do the differences matter?

In other words, what, if anything, do Harry Reid's "Negro dialect" quotes from the book "Game Change" have in common with the predictable rant from Rush Limbaugh on Haiti and Barack Obama?

Limbaugh is a serial race-baiter who, even as tens of thousands of Haitians lay dead, thinks the story is that the nation's first black president must be trying to burnish his street cred by showing compassion for black earthquake victims.

People have wasted a lot of time arguing about whether Limbaugh is, in fact, a racist. But the lines have shifted. The old stereotypes — the DPS fried chicken MLK lunch notwithstanding — have mostly gone the way of Amos and Andy. Limbaugh wants to offend. He wants to be insensitive. That's his shtick.

But you can't miss that Limbaugh also offers up a world in terms of black and white. It's how he came to believe that white sportswriters favored quarterback Donovan McNabb because he was black. It's how, time after time, he frames Obama.

He's not Pat Robertson, who deals in another kind of outrage, in which he can somehow believe a deadly earthquake was divine punishment for an 18th-century deal Haitian slaves supposedly made with the devil. Robertson is from the Sodom and Gomorrah school of blame, whether it's earthquake victims or Katrina victims or 9/11 victims.

Limbaugh doesn't want to blame the victims. He wants to blame Obama. And in that cause, he has taken the lead role in what looks like a strategy to subvert the whole concept of racism. It's the same role Tom Tancredo and Newt Gingrich would play in calling Sonia Sotomayor a racist for her wise Latina remark, even if she was clearly discussing the benefits of judicial diversity.

It's how Glenn Beck would call Obama a racist and say he hates white culture. The comment was so over the top that, as far as I know, Beck hasn't repeated it. But it's how you play old-style populist resentment with a twist — in which the Harvard-educated black guy must look down on hardworking Americans in the same way that the other elites, like your Hollywood types, do.

This seems to me to be less about race than about the fact that a black person just happens to be president. Does anyone think that Hillary Clinton would have been treated any more or less gingerly?

But there's racism and there's racism, which brings us back to Reid. I might be tougher on him if it weren't for, yes, my late grandmother.

It's not that Grandma was a walking gaffe-maker. Unlike Reid, she could routinely string together two sentences without saying three things for which she'd have to apologize.

But she was of a certain generation. And it was not unusual for some of her generation to call the black housekeeper "the girl," even if the, uh, girl was 60 years old.

My grandmother, who was strongly for civil rights, would have wondered what the fuss was about Reid's light-skinned comments. It's true, she would have said. She wouldn't have winced when Joe Biden called Obama clean and articulate, either.

And although I can't remember the last time anyone used the words "Negro" and "dialect" in that order, Reid had a point to make about Obama coming from a post-civil-rights background. He just didn't quite make it in a way that has been acceptable speech in the last, say, 40 years.

But whatever year Reid transported himself back to, he didn't venture into Trent Lott territory — not unless I missed the part where Reid had said the country would have been in better shape if we had elected Strom Thurmond, running as a segregationist, as president in 1948.

In any case, Reid's quotes weren't the most disturbing from the book "Game Change." Far more troubling, if true, was the allegation that Bill Clinton told Ted Kennedy that Obama would have been serving them coffee a few years ago. The "quote" wasn't in quotes and it came thirdhand, so make of it what you will. But even a few years ago, the authors would never have risked using it at all.

In the Obama era, everything is different. Obama wasn't elected because of his race, and I doubt he's falling in the polls because of his race. But the continuing noise surrounding the issue of race was inevitable.

Obama is scheduled today to be in Massachusetts — where he polls very well — trying to save Martha Coakley's bid for Kennedy's seat. If she loses — she called Curt Schilling a Yankees fan! — Democrats everywhere will be in full panic mode.

By going there, Obama ensures the vote will be seen as a referendum on him and health care. As Martin Luther King might have put it, he'll be judged on the quality of his policies, not the color of his skin.
Again, to give context to the column, it is what appears on page two of the Sunday Denver Post (yesterday), and is meant to give relevance to the Martin Luther King holiday which is today (1/18/10). It uses text from a recently-released book to draw our attention and provide controversy. It then teaches us how we should feel about these events.

Can you tell which group is wearing the black hats? Here are some quotes from the column that might provide clues:

“Limbaugh is a serial race-baiter…”
“[Pat] Robertson is from the Sodom and Gomorrah school of blame…”
“It’s the same role Tom Tancredo and Newt Gingrich would play in calling Sonia Sotomayor a racist…”
“It’s how Glenn Beck would call Obama a racist…”

We have a column written the day before the Martin Luther King holiday, and it is used to emphasize the theme that Republicans are racists.

And what about what was (allegedly) said by Senator Reid and President Clinton? Their remarks are characterized as comments from concerned individuals who (perhaps) chose inappropriate examples when they added emphasis to their remarks. In the case of Senator Reid, Mr. Littwin invokes the judgment of his grandmother, saying “My grandmother, who was strongly for civil rights, would have wondered what the fuss was about…”

The Denver Post tells us what is considered news on page one. Page two tells us how we are to interpret the news.

In Colorado, “The News” is anti-Republican.

UPDATE 2/8/2011:
This is the other side of the coin.  Where our culture is quick to label Republicans as racists, it is reluctant to issue that label for non-Republicans.

Return to Top

Return to Bottom

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In-Depth Analysis

Here’s a hypothetical situation for your consideration:

You are a graduate student and you have just presented your final thesis to the Doctoral Review Panel. They are tasked with reviewing your work and accepting or rejecting your thesis. You will (or will not) receive a Ph.D. based on their evaluation.

You look forward to the critique of your scholarship, but what comes back is instead a critique of you as an individual; your background, religion, and the people with whom you associate. The committee finds your beliefs and associations to be inappropriate, and denies you the Ph.D.

Would you consider that to be a fair review?

In the case of W. Cleon Skousen, his scholarship is reviewed by Alexander Zaitchik at salon.com. The review is referenced in my previous post, and includes these quotes:
The book is “…a heavily illustrated and factually challenged attempt to explain American history through an unspoken lens of Mormon theology.”
The book is “…an early entry in the ongoing attempt by the religious right to rewrite history.”
The book is “…a textbook full of aggressively selective quotations intended for conservative religious schools…”
The author is “…not a historian so much as a player in the history of the American far right; less a scholar of the republic than a threat to it.”
and finally…
"No conservative organization with any mainstream credibility wanted anything to do with him.”
Note that nothing is mentioned about the scholarship of the book. Are the quotations accurate? Do the citations support the arguments? Do other references show that Mr. Skousen took his quotations out of context?

We don’t know.

What we do know is that Mr. Zaitchik believes Mr. Skousen is properly characterized as a “right-wing crank” and that people who don’t accept that analysis run the risk of being characterized in the same fashion.

Why is that? Here’s a statement by Mr. Zaitchik that might reveal the answer: “Fundamentalists want to define the United States as a Christian nation rather than a secular republic, and recast the Founding Fathers as devout Christians guided by the Bible rather than deists inspired by French and English philosophers.”

It appears that Mr. Zaitchik believes the influence of the Bible on our Founding Fathers receives too much emphasis in Mr. Skousen’s work. That orientation is enough to discredit and disqualify Mr. Skousen’s scholarship.

If you’d like to see the intensity of feeling that supports Mr. Zaitchik’s point of view, look at the comments that flow from the article. He is not alone in his beliefs.

This is what passes for “In-Depth Analysis” in our anti-Republican culture. It relies on characterization over fact; emotion over substance.

Let me offer a technique for performing your own in-depth analysis. First, keep your antennae up, and see if you note a double-standard in criticism associated with a point of view. When you sense there might be a political context to the situation, do the following:

Look for “The Themes.”
Look for “The Hatred.”
Watch for “Substance.”

In the case of Mr. Zaitchik’s review, there is a theme of Republican bigotry, a very strong animosity (if not outright hatred), and very little substance.

With a little work, we can figure out whether what we see is “In-Depth Analysis” or just an everyday anti-Republican “Hit Piece.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Founding Principles


The late W. Cleon Skousen celebrates, of all things, the Constitution of the United States of America. He believed it was an extraordinary work, and wrote a book (available in paperback) to that effect: “The Five Thousand Year Leap: A Miracle that Changed the World.”

The book was written over a quarter-century ago (copyrighted in 1981), but has gained notoriety over the last few years as a result of Glenn Beck recommending it. Mr. Skousen died in 2006, but the visibility brought through Mr. Beck’s promotion now finds the book being disparaged, with Mr. Skousen characterized as a “right-wing crank.”

The reason for the attack? Mr. Skousen had the temerity to list 28 principles contained in our Constitution that form the basis for the “American Exceptionalism” described by Alexis de Tocqueville. He illustrates how our Constitution strikes the “sweet spot” between tyranny and anarchy in human governance. He lays out the thinking of the Founding Fathers in such a way that it gives people the inclination to say, “I believe in the principles of our Founding Fathers!” He also provides references to the writings of John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Cicero, Plato and Aristotle to back up his point of view.

His work gives a practical basis to an argument that has been too abstract over the last decade. When Republicans are accused of being Racists, they counter with facts related to which political party seceded from the Union and started the Civil War. Now, when confronted with the theme of “Republicans shredding the Constitution,” they can refer to the writings of the Founding Fathers and describe their support for those principles.

We’ve had that traditional political promise: “I can get you more than the other guy!” There is now a more Republican position that can be supported and celebrated: “I promise to defend the principles of our Founding Fathers!”

To make it easier to become acquainted with the content of the Skousen book, I’m listing each of his 28 principles as hotlinks to HTML pages. These pages will have remarks on the principles and allow for comments. Please feel free to contribute to the discussion!

From the Table of Contents, here are Skousen’s 28 principles:
1. The Genius of Natural Law.
2. A Virtuous and Moral People.
3. Virtuous and Moral Leaders.
4. The Role of Religion.
5. The Role of the Creator.
6. All Men are Created Equal.
7. Equal Rights, Not Equal Things.
8. Man’s Unalienable Rights.
9. The Role of Revealed Law.
10. Sovereignty of the People.
11. Who Can Alter the Government?
12. Advantages of a Republic.
13. Protection Against Human Frailty.
14. Property Rights Essential to Liberty.
15. Free-market Economics.
16. The Separation of Powers.
17. Checks and Balances.
18. Importance of a Written Constitution.
19. Limiting and Defining the Powers of Government.
20. Majority Rule, Minority Rights.
21. Strong Local Self-government.
22. Government by Law, Not by Men.
23. Importance of an Educated Electorate.
24. Peace Through Strength.
25. Avoid Entangling Alliances.
26. Protecting the Role of the Family.
27. Avoiding the Burden of Debt.
28. The Founders’ Sense of Manifest Destiny.

I hope this post is thought-provoking. It summarizes Mr. Skousen’s work, but the book itself is filled with references and citations that bring the thoughts and feelings of our Founders to life. If you happen to want to know how George Washington felt about some aspect of the Constitution, you can see what he actually wrote. If you question the reference, you can check out the citation for yourself. That’s a welcome contribution to Constitutional scholarship!

And here’s a final note…

If you want to compare our Constitution with similar efforts in the area, here’s a link to the work on the constitution of the European Union. Compare the fundamental principles of this document with those in our Constitution. I’m hoping you will agree there was something exceptional in what our Founders accomplished over two hundred years ago.

1. The Only Reliable Basis for Sound Government and Just Human Relations is Natural Law.

This principle is controversial because it has an element of religious belief. The idea of “unalienable rights” is what creates the ruckus. Are human beings vested with rights that attach to them when they are born, or when other human beings grant them rights?

The Founding Fathers made it clear: Our rights come to us as human beings as a consequence of natural law. They are “unalienable.”

Return to Founding Principles...

2. A Free People Cannot Survive Under a Republican Constitution Unless They Remain Virtuous and Morally Strong.

This principle is closely related to Benjamin Franklin’s response to the question on the new government in America (a monarchy or a republic). His response: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Our founders knew that corruption makes good governance impossible.

Return to Founding Principles...

3. The Most Promising Method of Securing a Virtuous and Morally Stable People is to Elect Virtuous Leaders.

We have current concerns about “moral jeopardy” in our political leadership. Requiring constituents to fund programs that are against their moral principles is one problem. There is also the “moral hazard” of forcing the public to absolve those involved in risky activities of responsibility. Forcing people to abandon their principles for political causes is an issue as important now as it was over 200 years ago.

Return to Founding Principles...

4. Without Religion the Government of a Free People Cannot be Maintained.

The founding fathers wanted to ensure equality for all religions in America, Christian and non-Christian. Religious freedom was important to them, as they had a close understanding of the problems that can result with state-mandated religion and theocracies. They did not shirk from the issue.

Return to Founding Principles...

5. All Things Were Created by God, Therefore upon Him All Mankind are Equally Dependent, and to Him They are Equally Responsible.

This explains the origin of the motto, “In God We Trust.” The Founding Fathers wanted it clearly understood that religion was a major influence in their lives.

Return to Founding Principles...

6. All Men are Created Equal.

This principle is about people being treated in equal ways. The language of the principle doesn’t seem to make that distinction, but it does serve as a bridge between natural law and the Constitution. Natural law makes everyone equal in the eyes of their God. The Constitution guarantees that people will have equality before the law and equality of rights.

Return to Founding Principles...

7. The Proper Role of Government is to Protect Equal Rights, not Provide Equal Things.

This states the role of the federal government in our Republic: It should not meddle in the local affairs of the people.

Return to Founding Principles...

8. Men are Endowed by Their Creator with Certain Unalienable Rights.

Here are some of the unalienable or natural rights that our Founders had in mind:
The right of self government.
The right to bear arms for self defense.
The right to own, develop, and dispose of property.
The right to make personal choices.
The right of free conscience.
The right to choose a profession.
The right to choose a mate.
The right to beget one’s kind.
The right to assemble.
The right to petition.
The right to free speech.
The right to a free press.
The right to enjoy the fruits of one’s labors.
The right to improve one’s position through barter and sale.
The right to contrive and invent.
The right to explore the natural resources of the earth.
The right to privacy.
The right to provide personal security.
The right to provide nature’s necessities – air, food, water, clothing, and shelter.
The right to a fair trial.
The right of free association.
The right to make a contract.

Return to Founding Principles...

9. To Protect Man’s Rights, God has Revealed Certain Principles of Divine Law.

This principle draws on the Christian faith for background. The idea is that certain laws are divine by nature, and arrive in the form of something like “The Ten Commandments.” Here are the examples listed by Skousen of the public and private duties required by Divine Law:
The duty to honor the supremacy of the Creator and his laws.
The duty to not take the life of another except in self-defense.
The duty not to steal or destroy the property of another.
The duty to be honest in all transactions with others.
The duty of children to honor and obey their parents and elders.
The duty of parents and elders to protect, teach, feed, clothe, and provide shelter for children.
The duty to support law and order and keep the peace.
The duty not to contrive through a covetous heart to despoil another.
The duty to provide insofar as possible for the needs of the helpless – the sick, the crippled, the injured, the poverty-stricken.
The duty to honorably perform contracts and covenants both with God and man.
The duty to be temperate.
The duty to become economically self-sufficient.
The duty not to trespass on the property or privacy of another.
The duty to maintain the integrity of the family structure.
The duty to perpetuate the race.
The duty not to promote or participate in the vices which destroy personal and community life.
The duty to perform civic responsibilities – vote, assist public officials, serve in official capacities when called upon, stay informed on public issues, volunteer where needed.
The duty NOT to aid or abet those involved in criminal or anti-social activities.
The duty to support personal and public standards of common decency.
The duty to follow rules of moral rectitude.

Return to Founding Principles...

10. The God-given Right to Govern is Vested in the Sovereign Authority of the Whole People.

This is a renunciation of “the divine right of kings.” The Founders wanted to make it clear that political rulers in America are to be servants of the people.

Return to Founding Principles...

11. The Majority of the People may Alter or Abolish a Government Which has Become Tyrannical.

The Founders believed in majority rule.

Return to Founding Principles...

12. The United States of America Shall be a Republic.

This principle acknowledges the occasional lack of precision in describing American government. The Founders used the Constitution to create a Republic, but people are inclined to refer to it as a Democracy. It is important to maintain the distinction, as a Democracy can morph into democratic socialism and become something quite different from what the Founders intended.

Return to Founding Principles...

13. A Constitution Should be Structured to Permanently Protect the People from the Human Frailties of their Rulers.

This shows the confidence the Founders had in the people, and the distrust of power that could be wielded by political leaders. The Constitution was meant to protect the people from the abuse of power by political leaders.

It also speaks to the timelessness of the Constitution. Since human nature doesn’t change, the Constitution doesn’t need to change.

Return to Founding Principles...

14. Life and Liberty are Secure Only so Long as the Right to Property is Secure.

This was a critical issue to the Founding Fathers. They had seen property taken without consent through taxation. They also didn’t like the idea of property being seized from one class of citizens for the service of the rest. The idea of redistribution of wealth was seen as unconstitutional up until the 1930s, when the Supreme Court began to interpret the meaning of the “general welfare” clause in a new way.

Return to Founding Principles...

15. The Highest Level of Prosperity Occurs when there is a Free-market Economy and a Minimum of Government Regulations.

Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” was published in 1776. It fit the thinking of the Founders.

They embraced capitalism. Free markets were good precisely because they allowed people the freedom to try, to buy, to sell, and to fail. Government should not intervene in the economic affairs of private business and the buying public.

UPDATE 1/25/2010:
David Brooks has an opinion piece in the New York Times that seems to embrace the point.  Here are three key paragraphs:
In fact, this country was built by anti-populists. It was built by people like Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln who rejected the idea that the national economy is fundamentally divided along class lines. They rejected the zero-sum mentality that is at the heart of populism, the belief that economics is a struggle over finite spoils. Instead, they believed in a united national economy — one interlocking system of labor, trade and investment.

Hamilton championed capital markets and Lincoln championed banks, not because they loved traders and bankers. They did it because they knew a vibrant capitalist economy would maximize opportunity for poor boys like themselves. They were willing to tolerate the excesses of traders because they understood that no institution is more likely to channel opportunity to new groups and new people than vigorous financial markets.

In their view, government’s role was not to side with one faction or to wage class war. It was to rouse the energy and industry of people at all levels. It was to enhance competition and make it fair — to make sure that no group, high or low, is able to erect barriers that would deprive Americans of an open field and a fair chance. Theirs was a philosophy that celebrated development, mobility and work, wherever those things might be generated.
Return to Founding Principles...

16. The Government Should be Separated into Three Branches – Legislative, Executive, and Judicial.

This might be the signature accomplishment of the Founding Fathers. John Adams pushed for a Separation-of-Powers Doctrine, but he was practically alone in advocating this position in 1776. The concept did gain support over time, and was eventually adopted into the Constitution in 1787.

Return to Founding Principles...

17. A System of Checks and Balances Should be Adopted to Prevent the Abuse of Power.

The Founding Fathers had the following provisions set up to create the necessary checks and balances:
1. The House of Representatives serves as a check on the Senate since no statute can become law without the approval of the House.
2. At the same time the Senate (representing the legislatures of the states before the 17th Amendment) serves as a check on the House of Representatives since no statute can become law without its approval.
3. A President can restrain both the House and the Senate by using his veto to send back any bill not meeting with his approval.
4. The Congress has, on the other hand, a check on the President by being able to pass a bill over the President’s veto with a two-thirds majority of each house.
5. The legislature also has a further check on the President through its power of discrimination in appropriating funds for the operation of the executive branch.
6. The President must have the approval of the Senate in filling important offices of the executive branch.
7. The President must also have the approval of the Senate before any treaties with foreign nations can go into effect.
8. The Congress has the authority to conduct investigations of the executive branch to determine whether or not funds are being properly expended and the laws enforced.
9. The President has a certain amount of political influence on the legislature by letting it be known that he will not support the reelection of those who oppose his program.
10. The executive branch also has a further check on the Congress by using its discretionary powers in establishing military bases, building dams, improving navigable rivers, and building interstate highways so as to favor those areas from which the President feels he is getting support by their representatives.
11. The judiciary has a check on the legislature through its authority to review all laws and determine their constitutionality.
12. The Congress, on the other hand, has a restraining power over the judiciary by having the constitutional authority to restrict the extent of its jurisdiction.
13. The Congress also has the power to impeach any of the judges who are guilty of treason, high crimes, or misdemeanors.
14. The President also has a check on the judiciary by having the power to nominate new judges subject to the approval of the Senate.
15. The Congress has further restraining power over the judiciary by having the control of appropriations for the operation of the federal court system.
16. The Congress is able to initiate amendments to the Constitution which, if approved by three-fourths of the states, could seriously affect the operation of both the executive and judicial branches.
17. The Congress, by joint resolution, can terminate certain powers granted to the President (such as war powers) without his consent.
18. The people have a check on their Congressmen every two years; on the President every four years; and on their Senators every six years.
Return to Founding Principles...

18. The Unalienable Rights of the People are Most Likely to be Preserved if the Principles of Government are Set Forth in a Written Constitution.

This is a break from ancient systems of law where governance was by tradition and a few statutes. The elegance of our Constitution is not just that it is written, but that it is written in so few pages.

Return to Founding Principles...

19. Only Limited and Carefully Defined Powers Should be Delegated to Government, All Others Being Retained in the People.

This principle requires a reading of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments:

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Our Founders believed in limited government and power to the people. Enough said.

Return to Founding Principles...

20. Efficiency and Dispatch Require Government to Operate According to the Will of the Majority, but Constitutional Provisions Must be Made to Protect the Rights of the Minority.

Here I will quote Mr. Skousen directly (page 232):
We have already treated the problems faced by minorities. It is important for us to remember that every ethnic group in the United States was once a minority. We are literally a nation of minorities. However, it is the newcomers who feel they are not yet first-class citizens.

It is the responsibility of the minorities themselves to learn the language, seek needed education, become self-sustaining, and make themselves recognized as a genuine asset to the community. Meanwhile, those who are already well established can help. The United States has built a reputation of being more generous and helpful to newcomers than any other nation. It is a reputation worth preserving. Once upon a time, we were all minorities.

His words define the inclusiveness that attracts people to America.

Return to Founding Principles...

21. Strong Local Self-government is the Keystone to Preserving Human Freedom.

This principle seems to be a recurring theme for our Founders.  They were truly the first to believe, "All politics is local."

To the greatest possible extent, problems should be solved on the local level.

Return to Founding Principles...

22. A Free People Should be Governed by Law and Not by the Whims of Men.

The idea of fixed laws was important to the Founders. Furthermore, the laws had to be based on legal principles that could be understood and warmly supported. It makes one wonder what kind of reception our Founding Fathers would give the 1,000-page bills being worked by our present-day Congress.

Return to Founding Principles...

23. A Free Society Cannot Survive as a Republic Without a Broad Program of General Education.

The Founders supported public education. That included instruction on the Constitution and even the Bible. My personal opinion is that in Middle School or High School there should always be a required course on The Constitution of The United States of America. There should also be an elective course in High School on “Religions of the World.” It is unfortunate that many of the leaders in our public school system associate these subjects with political indoctrination rather than education.

Return to Founding Principles...

24. A Free People Will Not Survive Unless They Stay Strong.

The Founders were peace-loving, not pacifists. They had first-hand experience with the meaning of the Latin phrase “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” (If you wish for peace, prepare for war.)

Return to Founding Principles...

25. Peace, Commerce and Honest Friendship with All Nations – Entangling Alliances with None.

The Founders had a doctrine of “separatism.” This implies interaction with foreign nations while staying out of international disputes. The doctrine has particular relevance today as Americans try to sort out the nuances of our “promoting international dialogue” foreign policy. The Founding Fathers specified their actions with clear intent, and pointed out the benefits of doing so.

Return to Founding Principles...

26. The Core Unit Which Determines the Strength of Any Society is the Family; Therefore, the Government Should Foster and Protect Its Integrity.

This principle showcases the structure the Founding Fathers saw in the family unit. They saw equality between men and women as well as equality between mothers and fathers. They laid out responsibilities of parents to children as well as the responsibilities of children to their parents. The emphasis on the family may seem quaint in today’s culture, but it is interesting to see it written down and stated with no apologies by the Founders.

Return to Founding Principles...

27. The Burden of Debt is as Destructive to Freedom as Subjugation by Conquest.

Keep in mind that this was written over twenty-five years ago, and written about thoughts and philosophies from over two hundred years ago. Personal debt and national debt levels are once again in the news.

Maybe our Founders were on to something?

Return to Founding Principles...

28. The United States has a Manifest Destiny to be an Example and a Blessing to the Entire Human Race.

This is the concluding principle and one that might lend itself more to a high school graduation speech. Even so, it shows the Founding Fathers felt they had something special in hand, and wanted to celebrate it.

You will have to excuse their heartfelt exuberance.

Return to Founding Principles...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Going Rogue

Can you guess the source of this quote?

I stuck my head out of the window of my black Jetta and shifted into fifth after cresting Thompson Pass. It was winter 2005. The girls were finally asleep, and I needed another gulp of ten-below-zero air to keep from joining them. I fumbled with the CD changer, loaded the kids’ Toby Keith, and cranked up ‘How Do You Like Me Now?!’

It was the middle of the night, and I had just emptied my last sugar-free Red Bull.
Here’s a hint: It leads off Chapter Three in Sarah Palin’s 400-page book, “Going Rogue.”

Some might describe this writing style as “Gonzo,” but I think most would agree it is "different." Sarah Palin takes us into new territory. She has published an original work about Sex and Politics.

The “Sex” part needs a bit of explanation. Her book is NOT about the Metrosexual / Maureen Dowd & Rachel Maddow / Fish & Bicycles idea of sex. Rather, it covers the Sexuality / Children / Responsibility paradigm that is well understood by many Americans.

In the first half of the book, we learn that Sarah was born in Sandpoint, Idaho in 1964 to Chuck and Sally Heath. She has an older brother and sister (Chuck Jr. and Heather), as well as a younger sister (Molly). Her parents moved to Skagway, Alaska shortly after she was born. Her father was a schoolteacher, taking jobs during the summer tending bar and working on the Alaska Railroad.

In 1969, the family took up residence in a duplex fifteen miles outside of Anchorage. Growing up, Sarah played sports and worked various odd jobs. She and her siblings took pride in paying their own way.

Sarah met Todd Palin during her senior year in high school. They both graduated in 1982 from Wasilla High School. Todd continued to work in the commercial fishing industry. Sarah went on to college, working to pay her way, and graduated in five years from the University of Idaho (where her grandmother had studied).

On August 29, 1988 at the age of 24, she eloped with Todd. They were married by a civil magistrate in Palmer, Alaska. Eight months later, on April 20, 1989, her first son was born: Track CJ Palin. Track’s name came from the name of her mother’s father (Clement James “CJ” Sheehan), and the fact that Track was born in the spring and it was track season!

Their second child was to be named Tad, a combination of Todd and Track. The baby would have been born a year after the birth of Track, but Sarah had a miscarriage.

On October 18, 1990, Bristol was born, named after Bristol Bay in Alaska where Todd had his commercial fishing operation. Willow Bianca Faye Palin, their second daughter, was born on July 5, 1994.

Sarah suffered a second miscarriage after the birth of Willow, but then on March 19, 2001 the couple’s youngest daughter was born: Piper Indi Grace Palin. Piper was named after the type of airplane flown by Todd (a private pilot) and for Independence and God’s Grace.

In 2008, at the age of 43, Sarah Palin gave birth to her fifth child, Trig Paxson Van Palin. Trig was born with Down syndrome (an extra copy of chromosome 21).

The book devotes much of its text to children and family matters. If you are looking for a book strictly about politics, this isn’t it. You read about Sarah nursing Willow while cutting an ad at the KMBQ radio station. You read about the everyday people with whom she had contact. You gradually come to understand that this is a mother’s story. It’s about Sarah’s life and the events that have shaped it, told from a mother’s perspective.

But enough about kids and family. The politics of the story is what intrigues us.

The first two hundred pages of the book cover Sarah Palin’s introduction to politics. She confronts Alaska’s politicians who ask “What’s in it for me and the political party I represent?” She counters with the question, “What’s best for the land and the people that elected us?” In Alaska, the idea of an elected official working for the people catches on. After a failed bid to become Lieutenant Governor in 2002, Sarah Palin is elected Governor of the state of Alaska in 2006.

The second half of the book is the story of Governor Palin coping with our anti-Republican culture. In August of 2008 she receives a call on her cell phone from Senator John McCain. He is interested in having her be his running mate. The details of the vetting process and the “palace intrigue” make for interesting reading. The adaptation that is necessary for her to meet the expectations of political handlers and the national press is also a fun read. In the space of just over two months, Governor Palin becomes a significant presence on our political landscape. It’s hard to comprehend that so much changed in such a short period of time.

What exactly changed? We now have a strong political figure in our midst that carries a message of “Country First.” Sarah Palin cherishes the principles of our founding fathers and puts the question before us, “Are these principles worth keeping?”

It will be an interesting battle. Here in Colorado, we have people similar to those who work in the commercial fishing operations of Alaska. In Colorado, they are our ranchers and farmers. John Fielder, a noted landscape photographer, just published a book titled “Ranches of Colorado”. Within the book are Mr. Fielder’s photographs as well as stories of ranches and their caretakers. (The stories were written by James B. Meadow, who tragically died from injuries suffered in a biking accident in 2009.)

One of the ranches studied is the Beatty Canyon Ranch in southeastern Colorado. The story of the individuals working the ranch makes you think of the people who work the waters off Alaska. They are not the type of folks who worry about how they relate to the latest fad. They are concerned with how they relate to the land and the people that work it.

These people want to protect their lifestyle. They stay quietly “under the radar” until they find their land and/or lifestyle threatened. When that happens, you might want to get out of the way. These people are passionate and intense. (Read Fouad Ajami from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies if you’d like a taste of the sentiment that can be aroused.)

There is an awakening of sorts going on in our country right now. Sarah Palin has shown that her politics appeal to this type of sentiment. The question is whether the emotions she captured in Alaska will extend into our “Lower 48.”

I’m betting on the Arctic Fox.

UPDATE 1/08/2010:
Linked by LeftCoastRebel!  There must be something about the word "Sex" in a title.  Thanks, Tim.

UPDATE 1/16/2010:
Linked by Texas for Sarah Palin.  It's always nice to have Josh Painter on your side.