A Libertarian Frank Underwood by Elijah O’Kelly

If you’re involved or even interested in politics and haven’t heard about House of Cards, then it’s likely that neither you nor your friends own a TV, a tablet, or a smart phone.

The series, one of Netflix’s new in-house production, portrays the ruthless, power hungry politician Frank Underwood. In addition to its critical acclaim, it has become a staple in the conversations of political activists everywhere. Watching as a libertarian, his nearly every action is reprehensible. Underwood acts solely to increase his own power, never shying away from doing immoral things, and he consistently pushes legislation that increases the scope of government. He is a libertarian nightmare. And yet we can’t help but be entranced by him.

But what if Frank Underwood was a libertarian? At first thought, the idea is a complete paradox. His blatant acts of aggression and his vision of power as an end rather than a means are contradictory to the underlying principles of libertarianism. Yet if Underwood viewed power as a means to accomplish libertarian policies rather than an end to satisfy personal desires, it wouldn’t be so easy to despise him. A plethora of valid critiques can be launched at him, but it is indisputable that he has a talent for getting things done.

Imagine if instead of education and entitlement reform, Underwood had pulled strings, twisted arms, and manipulated politicians in order to pass something like a repeal of the Federal Reserve Act or a decriminalization of drugs. It might be hard for libertarians to be smug. The bottom line is that Underwood’s talent for increasing his own power could be very effective if modified and applied by a real life counterpart trying to create libertarian change.

A mental exercise like this doesn’t typically mean much in reality, but the truth is that it offers insight into the current direction of the liberty movement. There are two main methodologies that people subscribe to for creating libertarian change. One seeks to rely mainly on educational efforts, sometimes even abstaining from voting or any political activity, to create gradual change towards a freer society. The other emphasizes political activism to sway elections and build alliances with different groups in order to pass libertarian legislation. Both are vital for a movement and some libertarians effectively use a combination of both approaches. But if we picture the effect a libertarian Frank Underwood could have on the direction of the country, the superior approach becomes obvious.

As unfortunate as it is, government bureaucrats and their cronies won’t change their behavior because they get handed copies of Human Action. Politicians won’t begin following the Constitution because they got mailed a pocket-sized version of it. The government will continue to pass legislation violating everything libertarians stand for until someone has enough power to stop it. Gaining and keeping this power may very likely entail manipulative schemes to thwart more statist peers. It may be contrary to what every libertarian, myself included, wishes the situation could be, but a failure to “play the game” means a failure to make change.

Envisioning a figure like a libertarian Frank Underwood makes it clear what the impact of a master politician who pursues libertarian legislation could be. This isn’t to suggest that all libertarians must attempt to emulate Underwood or that those in politics should try to mold themselves into replicas of him. But questions about purity—doctrinal or otherwise—rarely touch on how the sausage gets made. At some point, some libertarians are going to have to get their hands dirty.

There are, of course, limits to this. Underwood the character commits acts of inhumanity that no amount of legislative achievement could justify and that no honest libertarian would participate in. There are also worries about the corruptive nature of power and if a libertarian could actually avoid succumbing to its temptations. After all, how much of one’s soul must be sold off to achieve such heights of power? In a reality that television writers don’t have to face, a libertarian Underwood might be impossible. Yet, for those who dare to fight the beasts in their own lair, taking a cue from Underwood and outfoxing politicians could lead to enormous gains for libertarian causes. And so the question becomes: What ends justify what means? Or, where on the continuum has the libertarian politician gone too far?

The extent to which a libertarian Frank Underwood deserves our support has no simple answer, but it’s a question we have to ask ourselves as we begin to aspire to political offices. In any case, we cannot dispute that a willingness to “play the game” is absolutely vital if the Liberty Movement has any hope of moving out of the Internet’s basement and into the statute books.

ABOUT ELIJAH O’KELLEY

Elijah O’Kelley is currently interning with Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) where he works to spread the ideas of liberty on college campuses.

After CPAC: What conservatives are still missing

One of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s statements at CPAC 2014 has my complete agreement: “you have to convey the message of what you are for, not just what you are against.”

One of the lessons I learned early on in my military career that I have carried since is “anyone can tell what the issue is or state what the problem is, but a leader tells you what the solutions are.”

For conservatives it is time we turn principles into policies – not get all tied up in details that confuse, but focus on simple points that reflect the concerns of the American people.

A great example is the issue of education. Right now the progressive socialists of the Democrat party are lining up on the side of the teachers’ unions. We recently reported on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attack against the Success Academy Charter School in Harlem. Why aren’t we hearing more conservatives talk about school choice, vouchers, charter schools – in other words, better educational opportunities for America’s children, especially minority children?

No conservative should be lining up behind the insidious common core education initiative, basically an expansion of big government into the realm of education, which should be a local issue. Where are the conservative voices talking about a 21st century education policy vision that is consistent with our principles?

How do we present a roadmap that makes education relevant and develops productive members of our society, rather than test-taking drones? How do we examine the means by which we promote critical thinking skills and skill development by educational partnering with the private sector?

When I think of how conservatives can connect across every community and demographic in America on this subject… here is a clear example of policy inclusiveness, not outreach. We just need to take the message out there. I can’t imagine any mother who would reject a plan to better educate her children and prepare them to achieve greatness and success through maximizing their opportunities.

What I saw missing from CPAC was an understanding that Americans hunger for a particular image. Americans thought Obama possessed it — an image of concerned and caring leadership. It is an image that exemplifies the best of America and reflects the triumph of the indomitable American individual spirit.

It does not spring from numbers and detailed calculations. It is conveyed by someone Americans believe they can invite into their homes who cares for them and their future. The image should not be of someone who offers handouts, but if there is no compelling alternative, voters willingly lower their standards and fall for the giver of gifts.

My mom taught me that “self-esteem comes from doing estimable things.” and sitting home in Section 8 housing waiting for a “gubmint” check ain’t promoting self-esteem. Conservatives need someone who honestly relfects what America is and what she can be as we restore this Republic. Someone who can explain in simple terms a vision of growth, opportunity, and prosperity — not shared — but policies and conditions that create the pursuit of happiness — not the false promise of guaranteed happiness.

The other key aspect of leadership, woefully ignored at CPAC, is the importance of the Commander-in-Chief, a warrior-statesman who not only makes sure the American people know he or she cares — but convincingly demonstrates they will be protected.

Such a leader must be strong enough to sit down at a table with autocrats, theocrats, despots, dictators and garner their respect, if not fear. Consider when Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate and told Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

That simple statement inspired a drive for liberty and freedom behind the wall which eventually resulted in its collapse. Today we are faced with a threat from Vladimir Putin who seeks to rebuild that wall.

America is looking for a leader who won’t call Putin for a 60- or 90-minute dissertation, but places a five-minute call to state the case and the consequences, and then hangs up — because the actions will speak for themselves.

We need leadership that looks square in the eyes of the mad mullahs and ayatollahs and lets them know Islamic totalitarianism and terrorism is a non-starter — and will be crushed. America is looking for a leader who lets the Chinese know our allies in Japan and the Philippines will not see their sovereign territories subsumed by aggressive actions.

We need a leader who tells Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah and Hamas that Israel is our ally and no solutions are viable as long as terrorists abide under their umbrella of protection.

The world knows President Obama is a liar and his progressive socialist agenda is failing. America needs to know what conservatives – constitutionalists — will do to restore the exceptionalism of America, and the dream that says regardless of where you were born or where you come from, your greatness can be achieved here in this place: the land of the free, because we are the home of the brave.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com.

Russia’s aggression prompts other nations to change names

Vladimir Putin’s recent intervention in Ukraine on the pretext of defending the ethnic Russian population has forced other former Soviet republics to look for ingenious ways to protect their own sovereignty from similar moves.

On Monday, the Parliament of Kazakhstan, with a 25% ethnic Russian population and a 4,660 mile-long border shared with Russia, voted to rename the country ‘New Illinois,’ hoping to attract more American support for their territorial integrity. Kazakhstan’s President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is expected to sign the emergency bill into law by Wednesday, setting in motion a complex process for the Central Asian nation of almost 18 million people.

Kazakstan name changeA spokesman for the government in the capital city of Astana said that ‘New Illinois’ was chosen because US President Barack Obama was a state and then US Senator for the state of Illinois, and such a name change was more likely to get his attention and engender a strong enough reaction to the threat of foreign invasion.

“We noticed a hesitancy on the part of President Obama to act when Russia moved on Ukraine,” said Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov. “And we asked ourselves, what if Obama’s reluctance was due to the fact that ‘Ukraine’ sounded too foreign to the president who is almost exclusively interested in American domestic policy? So we thought we might get more interest from him if we had a familiar sounding American name. This was the easiest way.”

Fearing that the name change alone may not be enough, the Kazakh parliament has begun debate on a second bill to rename the Kazakh ethnicity to ‘African Americans,’ within the hope that Americans will be more sympathetic to their plight if they are identified with a more familiar ethnic minority.

“We are confident President Obama will not tolerate the oppression of any African Americans, even those in Central Asia,” said Akhmetov. “And with any luck we may even get some foreign – or in this case, domestic, aid.”

Even though the process of replacing all the country’s signs, currency, postage, and identification cards is likely to be difficult and expensive, other former Soviet republics, which emerged from the collapse of the old Soviet Union in 1991, are considering similar moves.

Kazakstan name changeToday, the parliament of Latvia is debating a bill to rename their small Baltic nation of two million inhabitants to ‘East Chicago,’ as concern increases that Russian president Vladimir Putin may invade them to “protect” the half a million ethnic Russians who had settled there in the Soviet era.

Meanwhile, Lithuania has staked out the name ‘New Hawaii’ and Estonia is expected to take the name ‘New Delaware’ after the home state of US Vice President Joe Biden.

The future states of East Chicago, New Hawaii, and New Delaware are also considering changing their ethnic identities to ‘African Americans,’ although some local political leaders have proposed a change to ‘Mexican-Americans,’ which they believe may also help them gain support among moderate Republicans in the US.

A Word of Encouragement Can Go A Long Way by Lawrence W. Reed

The Empire State as a whole (with wide swaths outside the Big Apple being notable exceptions) is a bastion of big, activist and ambitious government. The state is ranked dead last among the 50 for economic freedom as measured by the Mercatus Center. New York City is now run by a mayor who thinks that competition and choice between government schools is a bad thing, so he’s declaring war on the city’s better-performing charter schools. No question about it, New York needs a lot of work.

New York is a tough nut to crack, but some really good nutcrackers are hard at work there. And they have FEE connections too!

In mid-February at the request of Professor Clair Smith, I delivered two lectures on the campus of St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. Clair secured his B.A. in Economics at Grove City College in Pennsylvania (as did I). He later earned his Ph.D. in Economics, as well as a Master’s and a juris doctor degree, from George Mason University in Virginia. Prior to his move to Rochester, he taught at Pennsylvania State University and Bowling Green State University. As an undergraduate student, Clair attended his first FEE seminar in 1997 and was inspired to accept a summer internship with us shortly thereafter. Now at St. John Fisher, he is inspiring young minds with his own lectures on liberty and free markets and through lectures from a stream of visitors he brings to campus.

“I think I always had an intuitive appreciation for markets,” says Clair, “but the powerful speakers at the FEE seminars provided a systematic way of thinking about the market process. They offered forceful examples of the maladies that can result from misguided efforts to ‘fix’ market outcomes.”

We encouraged Clair at an early, formative moment in his life and it’s now paying handsome dividends.

A few days after Rochester, I spoke in Albany to more than 150 students at the New York State convention of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL). They all knew what a challenge New York is but that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm for taking it on. No matter whom I talked to at the convention that day, the attitude I witnessed was the same: “We’re not giving up, not by a long shot. In the battle for liberty, we’ve just begun to fight!” Those bright, articulate young people went back to their campuses around the state armed with material from FEE and with a passion to change the world—and that includes New York. I expect to find more of the same excitement when I speak at the Texas State Convention of YAL in April.

Of course, there are numberless good people and organizations all over New York just like Clair Smith and Young Americans for Liberty. Someday, New York will turn the corner. Minds will change and policy with it. The state will move in the only direction it possibly can—up the scale of economic freedom from its current rank in the cellar. When that happens, it will be because of the contributions of all who worked for the right ideas in a tough place.

At FEE, we specialize in encouragement. When our speakers visit schools and campuses, they do more than just impart wisdom and pass out literature. We cheer, hearten and embolden all friends of liberty. We let them know we support them and want to help them succeed. We praise them for their dedication. We assure them they are not alone and in return, we’re encouraged too! Not a day goes by that we’re not engaged—in multiple ways and places—in the simple but profoundly important act of encouragement.

How can anyone not like such job as this!

Thanks for all that you do for liberty and for FEE.

Sincerely,

Lawrence W. Reed
President, FEE

Third World Objectivism: A Young Indian Reflects on the Meaning of Rand on the anniversary of her death by Shanu Athiparambath

Ayn Rand died on this day [March 6th], 32 years ago. Today, young Indians are snapping up her books at a surprising rate.

It’s an apparent contradiction. Howard Roark, The Fountainhead’s main character, is a man with strong principles. But he’s also arrogant. Here in India, humility is considered the fundamental moral virtue. He might have been put away for a very long time had he lived here. In any event, he could not have reached many people through rational arguments, due to what Rand described as “the mystic muck of India.”

But, for many young Indian men and women, Howard Roark epitomizes individualism and strength of character. And much to the chagrin of their boyfriends, many women want their men to be more like Howard Roark. A college mate once told me, “Women do not know that it is not possible for a man to be Howard Roark. He can only pretend to be Howard Roark. Hell, he can’t even pretend to be Howard Roark.”

It’s strange. For nearly four decades after Indian independence, every aspect of the Indian economy was “planned” and “regulated” by the socialistic state. The economy has liberalized somewhat in the past two decades, but still remains one of the most controlled in the world.

Virtually every literate Indian has heard of Karl Marx. And so, the typical Indian’s beliefs are much closer to that of Karl Marx’s.

Outside the market niche she has found, Ayn Rand is virtually unheard of. But that appears to be changing. Ayn Rand outsells Karl Marx sixteenfold in India today, which suggests rapid growth. This is in all likelihood an underestimation: I first noticed her works in a rickety street stall in a small town. The copies were pirated.

No one seems to know why Ayn Rand is becoming so popular in India. India has a huge population, but even today, English-language fiction is read by a minority elite. It is true that Ayn Rand wrote popular fiction. Karl Marx’s prose is dense. But that still does not explain why Rand outsells even many well-known Indian writers and best-selling western writers in Indian markets. Even in the United States, where various strands of thought have found their own niche, Rand’s views are considered way outside the mainstream. It is a minor miracle that she could build a whole movement in a western capitalistic democracy. But why is she becoming increasingly popular in societies that bear no resemblance whatsoever to whatever ideal society she had in her mind?

I can only hypothesize. But part of the reason must be that the intelligent young men and women in traditional, conservative societies know that the dystopian world her fiction depicts is not too unlike the world in which they live. Indians have experienced the extremities of government tyranny firsthand. Libertarians often cite the government as the source of evil, but not all evils flow from the State to the masses. The inept, corrupt governments of the third world can be a reflection of the popular soul. In India, at least, the State can institutionalize the little people’s vices.

In The Fountainhead, Peter Keating’s mother dictates his life with the sweetest of smiles on her face, “Petey, I never think anything. It’s up to you. It’s always been up to you.” The villain in The Fountainhead is Ellsworth Toohey, a manipulative intellectual, and not a government bureaucrat or a politician. One character says Gail Wynand represents everything that’s wrong with the world, but Wynand is a newspaper publisher. People subscribed to The New York Banner because they preferred vulgarity over truth and beauty, and not because the politicians or bureaucrats forced them to.

Ayn Rand was one of those writers who saw politics for what it is—inside and out, macro to micro, down to the level of the individual.

It is probably futile to curse mediocrity, but in the third world, ineptitude and politicking reach epic proportions—and is present in nearly every aspect of our lives. As in Ayn Rand’s fiction, this is not always official, congressional politics. It is true that many rebellious Indian teens find Ayn Rand’s individualistic worldview appealing. But, I believe they also feel that the world around them reminds them of the poolroom that Gail Wynand once worked in. That is, the young men and women in India see nothing but dishonesty and corruption around them.

Even in the best hospitals in the largest Indian cities, the doctors diagnose patients without really speaking to them. When you lie on a hospital bed, you know you have written a blank check to doctors who have life-and-death power over you. On November 9, 1965, the lights of the New York City and the entire eastern seaboard went out, an admirer wrote to Ayn Rand, “There is a John Galt.” But in India today, even in the largest cities, the lights can go out at any moment.

So, appearances aside, it is hardly surprising then that Ayn Rand appeals to young men and women in collectivist societies. She told them the truth about the world in which they live.

ABOUT SHANU ATHIPARAMBATH

Shanu Athiparambath is a writer and editor living in New Delhi.

Putin’s Folly

Photos of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, often show him shirtless, riding a horse, shooting, catching large fish, and close to wild animals. It is the kind of public relations intended to emphasize his manliness and strength.

Putin has made it clear over the years that he wants to restore the size and influence of the former Soviet Union, but the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, in part from the four decades of isolation of the Cold War and in part because Communism doesn’t work no matter how large or small a nation may be.

Just ask the Venezuelans who want to overthrow their government or the Ukrainians who forced out their president, Viktor Yanukovych, after he tried to thwart a greater engagement with the European Union.

Putting Russian troops into the Republic of Crimea while claiming that they are there to protect the human rights of Ukrainians in the eastern sector will prove to be a major blunder. Call it Putin’s folly.

History is often shaped by the errors made by various leaders. The former head of the Soviet Union’s NKVD is long accustomed to using coercion and Communism depends on it to maintain its power. The move into Ukraine reflects the preference to threaten this and other former satellite nations, but we are now in different times. Putin is about to learn that.

President Obama’s lack of a coherent foreign policy and his desire to have better relations with Russia has been widely criticized, but so far as the Ukraine is concerned, he has acted wisely.

At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Monday, the U.S. ambassador, Samantha Power, spelled out Putin’s errors of judgment for everyone to hear, accusing Russia of an act of aggression.

“Russia has every right to wish events had turned out differently,” she said of the events in Ukraine, but “It doesn’t have the right to express that using military force.” President Obama backed that up, warning of potential diplomatic and economic “isolation.”

In blunt terms, Powers said “So many of the assertions made this afternoon by the Russian Federation are without basis in reality.”

Powers enumerated the events, noting that Russian military forces had taken over Ukrainian border posts, taken over the ferry terminal in Kerch, and that its ships were moving in and around Sevastapol. In addition, Russia was blocking telephone services in some areas. “It is a fact that Russia has surrounded or taken over practically all Ukrainian military facilities in Crimea” in addition to having had its jets enter Ukrainian airspace.”

Powers, speaking for the U.S., said that “There is a way out. And that is through direct and immediate dialogue by Russia with the government of Ukraine, the immediate pull-back of Russia’s military forces, the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and the urgent deployment of observers and human rights monitors, not through more threats and more distortions.”

Putin’s show of strength will backfire because neither the U.S., nor the European Union, or any other nation wants to see a revived Soviet Union in the form of an over-aggressive Russian Federation.

President Obama announced an aid package to bolster the Ukrainian government, including $1 billion in loan guarantees to offset any loss of energy subsidies from Russia. The U.S. is also planning to provide technical support for Ukraine’s financial institutions, training for election observers and assistance in anti-corruption efforts. One of the reasons Ukrainians drove out Yanukovych was the corruption he represented and his preference for Russian influence in the Ukraine.

Coming off the global attention generated by the Winter Olympics, Putin may have calculated that he had to back Yanukovych and, after he fled Kiev and the Ukraine, concluded that only a show of military power would restore respect for the Russian Federation. He was wrong. Nations get respect for not invading their neighbors and for participating in the global economy.

In many ways, in today’s world there are options to pressure Russia with regard to its need to sell its natural gas and oil assets, and conduct trade with other nations. Putin has underestimated these options.

At some point he will withdraw his military—whose uniforms do not show any identification of origin—and will declare that Russia will respect the outcome of the Ukrainian elections in May. He has no choice. The Cold War is over, but it never really ended as far as Putin is concerned.

While President Obama has received a torrent of criticism for his foreign affairs policies, much of it well earned, his restraint is the best way to address the Russian invasion and the U.S.  mobilization of resistance to it is the wisest course of action.

Nobody wants World War III and that includes Vladimir Putin.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

The Age of the American Withdrawal from Europe

There has been much speculation over recent years about what ‘American withdrawal’ from the world would mean.  From North Africa to the Far East there have been warning signs.  But perhaps only now is it becoming clear what a withdrawal of US power in the world will really result in.  And how unsurprising it is that this would be noticed in Europe first.

Because in the last couple of days, as the US has begun to send extra aircraft in to NATO allied states to reassure them of continued American help, the question of US withdrawal from Europe is once again in people’s sight.

In March last year the last US tanks left Europe.  In the period since the start of Obama’s Presidency 10,000 personnel, comprising two entire tank divisions, came out of Europe.  This year was the first for 69 years in which there were no American tanks in Europe.

‘Good’ say some of those who are opposed to the projection of American power in the world.  But there are consequences to such actions and a hubris that comes with believing a protector is an enemy or confusing a force of liberation with one of domination.  Yet Europe’s reaction to American troops had always been mixed.  And now that that force has been scaled down significantly we are being reminded that there are few actions that do not have a reaction.

Vladimir Putin did not violate Ukrainian sovereignty because of the removal of American tanks but he did do so because he could – rightly – foresee few if any challengers to his ambition.  Perhaps there will remain no challenge to it.  But if there is to be a challenge, indeed if there is to be any restraint on Putin’s ambition the only country able to issue such restraint would be the US.

We have heard many watchwords over the Obama Presidency.  We have had the ‘reset’ with Russia.  And of course we have had the ‘pivot’ to Asia.  All noble policies, no doubt, but also policies which have been revealed to be misguided even where well meant.  A pivot to Eastern Europe is what is now needed.  And if anybody there is left wondering what the effects would be of greater American presence, they should be persuaded to think again first of what wholesale US withdrawal from their corner of the world would most likely precipitate.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Command from Grafenwoehr, Germany. his file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Use of this image done not in any way infer endorsement of this column.

FL Common Core: A Schneider Debriefing on Weingarten

On Sunday, March 2, 2014, I participated in a much-publicized Common Core (CCSS) panel with four other individuals as part of the Network for Public Education (NPE) first annual conference in Austin, Texas. (A 40-minute video of the CCSS panel can be found here; a five-minute video excerpt of my seven-minute opener can be found here.)

[youtube]http://youtu.be/4abuqu3tmeQ[/youtube]

One of the panel members was American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. Weingarten was the only panel member in favor of CCSS. The rest of us, including moderator Anthony Cody, were against CCSS.

In this post, I would like to reflect upon my involvement on the CCSS panel, especially in connection with Weingarten. Much of what I have written is not available on video because the events and/or reflections occurred outside of the CCSS panel itself. Some of what I have written involves responding to Weingarten’s words here since there was neither time nor opportunity to do so during the panel session.

My Position on Weingarten

First, a clear word on where I stand in regard to Weingarten. I think she chooses to be involved with the likes of Bill Gates and Eli Broad because she likes them. I believe that the money they bring is a reason, but a lesser reason, for her sustained relationship with them. These two men bring with them power, and connections, and influence. Weingarten likes to be “at the table,”– their table. And their table is one that promotes the privatization of public education.

I believe that Weingarten’s continued involvement with Gates and Broad and their extensive network of moneyed, powerful cronies is destroying the union. The destruction shows itself in every pro-privatizing decision that Weingarten makes– and such decisions appear to be countless. It seems that every time I dig deeper in researching a Weingarten decision, privatization is the winner.

I believe that Weingarten is at least partly motivated to continue her Gates/Broad relationships because she always has an eye to the “where next” of her own career. She became a teacher temporarily in order to become a teachers union president; she was willing to jump into Hillary Clinton’s open senate seat in 2008 after having just been elected AFT president, and she continues to seek the next avenue in her career rise. The result is that Weingarten is willing to sacrifice the health and security of the union for her own career aspirations.

It is always my hope that Weingarten will forsake her allegiance to her corporate reform connections and focus on the well being of the union. However, with each new decision she makes, what I must face is the reality that Weingarten must be pushed into a political corner in order to eke out a couple of drops of concession that are for teachers (and, by extension, for the union) and against her beloved corporate reform connections. This reluctance showed itself in the CCSS panel regarding discontinuing Gates money for the AFT Innovation Fund (more to come on this) and it show itself in Weingarten’s dealings with New Jersey in the week prior to the NPE conference. (See this link for Weingarten’s letter to NJ Governor Chris Christie accompanied by my “deeper dig.”)

I have heard the excuse that being AFT president is a “difficult” job, insinuating that Weingarten should be excused for her reckless and repeated union-damaging decisions. I do not excuse her. She sought the job of teachers union president; based upon AFT’s 2012 990, she makes almost eight times my salary (W-2 and/or 1099 MISC have her compensation at $454,416), and she was elected to serve public school teachers.

If elected to serve us, then let her be accountable to us.

Schneider Has a Weingarten Vendetta (??)

I have actually had the term vendetta used to describe my interactions with Weingarten. First of all, a vendetta involves seeking revenge for a single wrong, perceived or actual. I am not seeking revenge. What I am doing is exposing Weingarten’s continued pro-privatizing dealings as I learn of them in the course of my research.

Yes, I am angry at Weingarten’s wrecking of my union and my profession. However, I am not cruel in my dealings with her.

Pointed, yes; cruel, no.

It’s called accountability. Perhaps she will begin to think about how her corporate-reform-friendly bent will come back to haunt her in my posts and elsewhere. (The education blogger network has become a force in its own right, and the press should provide a healthy pressure on those whose decisions impact the masses.)

Allow me to present some behind-the-scenes dealings to underscore my balanced motivations in interacting with Randi Weingarten.

When  I agreed to participate on NPE’s CCSS panel, there was no mention of Weingarten as a panelist. So, I did not agree in an effort to have a “showdown” with Randi Weingarten. Anthony Cody invited me to participate because of my extensive writing on CCSS.

On December 30, 2013, I received an email from Cody telling me that Weingarten had accepted an invitation to appear as part of the NPE CCSS panel and that she did not yet know I also invited.

I phoned Cody to be sure that my appearance would be no surprise to Weingarten. I wanted her to experience no daytime-television-sensationalized shock at my being there. Cody assured me he had no such intention and that Weingarten would know that I was a panelist long before the event.

People with vendettas do not guard their opponents against shock.

On February 4, 2014, Cody asked my thoughts on the format for the CCSS panel. I asked him if Weingarten would be the only pro-CCSS panelist. He said yes; so, I proposed that she begin a structured seven-minute presentation time and be allowed three additional minutes at the end.

People with vendettas do not offer generous concessions.

One of my fellow bloggers told me that she assumed Weingarten demanded the extra time. Weingarten did not. I suggested we incorporate it since she was alone in her position; the remaining panel members agreed.

But there is another piece to this story. There was some email discussion over a conversational format for the panel. I did not believe this would work well with five people, and I noted as much. “Conversational hijacking” was too much of a possibility, and some panelists might be completely omitted from the discussion. However, my principal concern was for my own self control. I phoned Cody and told him as much: In an open format, I was much more likely to rip into Weingarten, and I did not want this panel to degenerate into the dregs of an ugly encounter. I asked Cody to “save me from myself” (my exact words). He assured me that he felt more comfortable with the structure originally proposed and to which Weingarten had initially agreed. (She later wanted the more open format.)

People with vendettas do not ask others to help them maintain control against potentially unruly, “vendetta-related” upset.

Prior to the NPE conference, I had not met Weingarten. I wanted to do so in a low-key manner. So, after serving a chauffeur on Saturday night (the first conference night and the night before the CCSS panel), I introduced myself to Weingarten, who was at the Mariott at a reception for NM Governor Howie Morales. The reception was ending– it was 10 p.m.– and I walked up to her, said my name, explained that I wanted to introduce myself before tomorrow, then excused myself and left. No fanfare. No showing off in front of a group of friends. Just a moment of ice breaking in an effort to make tomorrow’s introduction a smoother moment.

People with vendettas do not “break the ice” via low-key introductions.

So, yes, my intention was to confront Weingarten’ pro-CCSS position but to do so in a professional and controlled manner.

(An aside: Before I published my open exchange with Weingarten in November 2013, I not only informed her that I was writing an open letter to her; I sent the letter to her and gave her a full week to respond if she chose to prior to my posting the letter. Then I sent the finished post to her prior to publishing, including her response, and told her the exact time and locations of the posting. And let us not forget my December 2013 defense of AFT against the Center for Union Facts. No vendetta.)

Schneider Was Too Controlled (??)

Allow me to address the pendulum as it swings to the other side, namely, that I was too controlled. Some audience members expected me to rip into Weingarten. First of all, my intention was to destroy her logic for supporting CCSS– not her. I believe that this was accomplished not only by me but also by the other three anti-CCSS panel members.

There were some addiitonal Weingarten statements on which I would have liked to comment in real time. Nevertheless, time did not allow for all panelists to say all that they wanted during the panel. We had a schedule to keep.

That Sunday afternoon, I was able to elaborate on my position regarding the influence of philanthropy dependence  (the money as well as the power and connections) as such concerns Weingarten and others receiving philanthropic “assistance” to a packed room as part of the philanthropy panel discussion. Plus, I am writing my candid “debriefing” as part of this post.

Should Randi Weingarten and I ever engage in a one-to-one discussion of AFT involvements with those known to actively promote the corporate reform agenda, my discussion will be much more direct– never cruel– and likely without much raising of my voice– but like the skilled and precise slicing of a surgeon’s scalpel.

The Weingarten-BAT Incident

In this post, I wish to respond to Weingarten’s words during the CCSS panel. First, allow me to sidestep to her auditorium entrance.

Her privatizer-friendly positions make Weingarten a polarizing figure. And she is very much the politician, seeking to be regarded as a member of whatever group whose opinions she is trying to sway.

(In planning for the NPE conference, fellow blogger Jon Pelto created a group for conference panelists. A number of bloggers were on this list and were trying to arrange a bloggers meeting. At one point Weingarten entered the conversation and asked, “So am I a blogger? Or just a participant?” I wanted a clear boundary. I responded, “Randi, you are a participant.”)

On the morning of the NPE CCSS panel, Weingarten wore a BAT (Bad Ass Teachers) t-shirt.

Apparently Weingarten passed the BAT table and asked for a t-shirt. A BAT took her photo and created a meme. The entire event disturbed blogger Kris Nielsen, who responded on March 3 with this post. The next day, March 4, blogger Denisha Jones answered Nielsen. I particularly like what Jones notes here:

…Taking a picture of Randi Weingarten in a BAT t-shirt did not make BAT’s suddenly reverse their stance on CCSS. And let’s be clear, Randi Weingarten put on the BATs t-shirt. BAT’s did not put on a Randi Weingarten t-shirt and allow themselves to be photographed. [Emphasis added.]

The BATs did not endorse Weingarten. One simply gave her a t-shirt.

I am careful about my associations. My education reform writings have made me popular with a variety of groups, some of which I would not otherwise choose to ally. Anyone may choose to reblog my work. However, I am careful where I choose to become actively involved, be it webpage, or magazine, or blog, or speaking engagement.

And I never don a logo in order to mimic belonging.

Weingarten’s Opener (And My Written Commentary)

In her opening remarks, Weingarten equates “national standards” with CCSS.  She admits that she “believes in national standards.” However, the push for CCSS is that they are not “national”– they are “state-led.”

If the public were fine with “national” CCSS, there would be no push to “rebrand” in an effort to trick the public into believing the standards are unique to individual states.

In my opener, I state that “national standards” does not equal CCSS, and that “national standards” must be voluntary.

In her opener, Weingarten also acknowledges that AFT “was approached” to “review” CCSS.

Not “write.” Not “develop.” Only “review.”

Not to mention the passive voice, “was approached.” Top-down.

She adds, “There was a bunch of give and take, and they changed the standards in a lot of different ways.”

Note the top-down “they.” “They” have the power. “They” have the final word. And in the end, “they” decided to make CCSS rigid.

Weingarten admits that she believes CCSS is “inappropriate for K thru 2″ and that she knows this “because people have used them how inappropriate they are.”

No mention of the need to pilot before implementing. No mention of the damage to student, teachers and schools for forcing implementation of untested CCSS.

How about grades 3 thru 12?

Weingarten jumps to the “real problem is the testing, which comes from No Child Left Behind (NCLB).”

The real problem is that all of Race to the Top (RTTT) attempts to be a “standardized NCLB”– rigid standards so that curriculum and test makers can pattern their wares after the CCSS template. Testing is the offshoot of the CCSS hub.

Weingarten states that the “problem” is that “testing has conflated with everything else that happens in school.” She does not admit her contribution to the destruction brought about by testing dependence, not the least of which is her taking money from Gates for VAM and not declaring VAM problematic until the month following the expiration of the Gates grant. Neither does Weingarten acknowledge her contribution in tying Newark teachers into VAM (see Newark link above).

Weingarten maintains that it is the testing emphasis that makes “people feel like they have no voice whatsoever.”

It is not the testing alone. It is the entire spectrum of reforms intentionally and strategically pushed down the collective school and community throats by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the National Governors Association (NGA).

Weingarten focused her argument on “finding a way to break through on the fixation on testing and the fixation on test scores.”

The way to destroy the CCSS tests is to destroy CCSS. In my opener, I offered the advice for teachers to form committees and to start shuffling CCSS around. Doing so sabotages CCSS as a template for testing.

The through answer is to obliterate CCSS. No CCSS, no CCSS tests.

AFT and Gates Money

During Weingarten’s second time speaking (recorded at end of video), Weingarten attempted to defend AFT’s accepting Gates money by noting that it was one percent of the total AFT budget. (According to the AFT 2012 990, AFT spent $190 million from July 2011 to June 2012. About.com has AFT’s annual budget at “over $170 million.”) She offered the audience the concession that at the July convention,she would ask members to vote on a five-cent dues increase in order to continue the AFT Innovation Fund. She asked the audience if that would be okay. The audience applauded.

Weingarten implied that “so little” Gates money does not matter. However, it apparently does since not accepting “the next round” for the AFT Innovation Fund means a dues increase. The current Gates grant for the Innovation Fund and CCSS ($4.4 million) expires in May 2015.

Note: There was no mention of returning any Gates money. There was also no agreement to not accept Gates money in the future– just not for the Innovation Fund.

The Gates money matters to those who take it. However, the connection to Gates and the power that such connection brings matters to those benefiting from his circle of power more than does his money.

A five-cent annual annual dues increase for all 1.5 million AFT members yields $75,000 in additional revenue.

A two-dollar annual dues increase for all 1.5 million AFT members would yield an additional $3 million in AFT revenue.

I would like to challenge Weingarten to offer AFT members the total amount that AFT dues must rise in order for her to say no to all corporate-reform-associated philanthropic money given to AFT.

I would also like to challenge her to stop making contributions out of AFT money to those who openly advocate the corporate reform, corporation-benefiting, test-driven, teaching-profession-undermining agenda.

In Closing

At the close of the NPE CCSS panel, Weingarten spoke last. She reiterated that she likes CCSS and added that her reason was “personal” and connected to her time “as a teacher.”

Two points:

First, as the president of a national teachers union, the “bottom line” for continued support of CCSS cannot be “personal.” Weingarten is the leader of 1.5 million union members. Support for any program must put union membership ahead of personal preference.

Second, Weingarten concluded her time “as a teacher” in 1997. Thus, she has been away from the classroom for seventeen years. In a conversation over dinner, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis observed to me, “I have been away from the classroom for only three years, and I am out of touch with what is happening there now.”

I returned to the public school classroom in 2007 after teaching at the university level. My 2007 return is worlds away from what I know as a classroom teacher in 2014.

For me, CCSS is indeed “personal,” for it is very much associated with my daily classroom experience. But may I always offer a more detailed, factual, research-based reasoning for railing against corporate reform and its ardent supporters than to simply note, “It’s personal.”

RELATED COLUMN: Conspiracy Fact: Obama Budget to Cement Common Core

Putin alleges TEA Partiers in Ukraine, wins over US media

Vladimir Putin, tired of being labeled as a “bully” by media left and right, held a press conference in the Kremlin earlier today, offering a completely new angle to his case for the seizure of the Crimean Peninsula and the possible invasion of Ukraine: the presence of a Tea Party element at the Maidan in Kiev.

“The Ukrainian nationalists have historically been a grave threat to peace in Eastern Europe, indeed, the whole planet and possibly the solar system,” the Russian President said through an interpreter. “They were likened to Nazis by the previous Soviet government, which was universally esteemed by American media as true, unbiased, and factual,” Vladimir Putin paused to wipe away sentimental tear. “Remember Pravda’s motto? ‘We report, you agree.’ I make little funny there,” the Russian President smiled as chuckles rippled through the room.

“However,” Putin proceeded gravely, “according to new information from reliable sources, this so called ‘independence’ movement in Ukraine has been taken over not only by Jews and Neo-Nazis, but TEA Party members as well.”

“Here is picture of hundreds of activists waving Gadsden flags and other totalitarian symbols of oppression in Maidan Square,” said the Russian President to an audible gasp of horror from the Western journalists. “Believe it or not, they are shouting for lower taxes and limited government.”

As one reporter for NPR began mumbling, “I knew it, I knew it,” an ABC correspondent fainted in her chair. The presser was briefly paused to allow medical personnel to carry a trembling New York Times journalist from the room.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid immediately seized on the news: “We must no longer punish our Russian brothers who have joined us in this most noble cause,” he whispered passionately from the Senate floor. “I hope my Republican colleagues will join me in granting Russia with most favored nation status and access to any military technology we might not have already passed on to them.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was nodding in agreement behind Reid, took the microphone next. “World peace is threatened by dangerous radicals. They may be supported by the likes of Senator Ted Cruz, but certainly not by the reasonable, true conservatives in the Republican Party. We stand with Putin,” McConnell finished and turned away to be warmly embraced by Senator Reid.

President Obama immediately countered Putin’s press conference with a statement of his own.

“This new information changes everything,” Obama said from the Oval Office. “In the past, I had threatened to release another picture of me posing decisively with a telephone if Putin continued to escalate the situation, but I have directed the photographer to wait indefinitely. Instead, by my direction, we are sending a carrier task force to the Black Sea to assist the Russian military in their mission, and in addition, three divisions of crack IRS auditors.”

In an interview on MSNBC, Hillary Clinton hotly denied comparing Putin to Hitler.

“I never made any such comparison, directly or indirectly,” said the former Secretary of State. “It should be abundantly clear to anybody who was paying close attention that I was talking about Rush Limbaugh.”

Meanwhile, the New York Times, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, NPR, and Martha Stewart Living have all issued lengthy retractions and apologies for referring to Vladimir Putin as a bully.

Speaking of the media’s latest view of President Putin, Chris Mathews of MSNBC admitted, “It’s weird, I just can’t stop looking at his shirtless pictures.”

Why Conservative Blacks aren’t Black Conservatives

Only rebranded right can reach historically traditionalist community. Within the Republican Party, there is what I call this mystery of the black conservative. Let me explain.

Over the years, I have had a running conversation with leading conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, Ollie North, Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour and others. They would argue that there was this growing trend of “conservatism” within the black community. I told them all categorically that this was bunk.

Blacks have always been conservative or, more accurately, traditionalists. This DNA was embedded in us from the depths of our African ancestry. The basis of this African culture was strict adherence to tradition. These traditions recognized the man as the head of the household, that was his birthright; but in exchange for that birthright, he was responsible for the upkeep of that family — the wife, children and, when needed, the extended family.

Children were not given choices, they were given direction. The daughters would sit at their mother’s feet and learn of their ways; the sons would stand with the tribal elders to hear their wisdom in all things.

Children were not told they could decide their own sexuality, their sexuality was determined at birth. Children were not allowed to disrespect their parents with no consequence. Those that violated the established values and mores were swiftly punished and, when necessary, removed from the community. There was no 20 years of litigation and appeals.

In other words, the traditions demanded and expected strict adherence to certain norms of behavior because the elders knew that without rules of conduct the family would disintegrate and their nation would soon follow.

So, when Africans were exported to the U.S. as slaves, whites were amazed at the devotion Africans had to family, God and discipline despite their newfound circumstance as slaves. What whites failed to understand then, as well as now, is that these traditions are still part of our DNA; some in the black community have allowed this DNA to become dormant, but it is still there.

Part of the reason for this dormancy is psychological. I have attempted to educate white and black conservatives on this issue, but to no avail.

When you go into the black community and use the word “conservative,” what blacks hear is Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms. Thurmond and Helms (both deceased) were U.S. Senators — Thurmond from South Carolina and Helms from North Carolina. At the height of their power they both represented the worst of America and the Republican Party. They both were the embodiment of America’s racist past. (In fairness, in his later years Thurmond was travelling a path toward redemption illustrated by some of the legislation he sponsored, like increased funding for black universities.)

So, when Republicans, and black conservatives specifically, go into the black community and start talking about conservatism, blacks hear racism. So, the conversation goes like this: My name is Raynard, and I want to talk with you about why I am a black conservative. What is heard is: My name is Raynard, and I want to talk with you about why I am a black racist and a sellout to my community.

When you talk about specific issues that are important to conservatives — abortion, welfare, homosexual entitlements, etc. — blacks are overwhelmingly supportive. But as soon as you put the label “conservative” on it, the dynamic changes.

Meanings are in people, not in words.

America and, specifically, the black community have allowed liberalism and political correctness to run amok. Babies are being born outside of marriage, homosexuality is publicly celebrated while Christianity is mocked, and the adult children of the elderly are sending their parents to nursing homes. We must breathe new life into our dormant traditional culture.

I am one who makes a living based on my understanding of the use of words and language. Before white and black conservatives address the black community on any issues, they first must define their terms of engagement. George W. Bush was called conservative, but spent money like a drunken sailor; Republican leaders of Congress call themselves fiscally conservative, but constantly support deficit spending.

So, one needs to define what the word “conservative” means and why it is relevant to a person’s everyday life. Why black conservatives have not done this is truly a mystery.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is courtesy of FlapJackEnt. The photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. The author or licensor does not in any way suggests that they endorse this column or use of the work. This column originally appeared in The Washington Times.

Even a child could understand climate change

The National Science Foundation did a survey a few weeks ago, and found that about 25% of Americans believe the Sun goes around the Earth.

They didn’t reveal that all 25% are journalism majors. (Just joking!) It is not possible to underestimate the ignorance conveyed to the American population by our commedia. At least, I thought so until a few days ago. Then I learned something about the scientific knowledge of one of our highest government officials, John Kerry, Secretary of State, the official tasked with making a decision about the Keystone XL pipeline. There’s a whole new level of stupid out there.

All environmental impact studies, over five years, have concluded that the pipeline – and, more importantly, the extraction of oil from the Alberta “tar sands” – will have no serious impact on climate change or “global warming.” Even the Denver Post, a bastion of warming alarmism, endorses construction of the pipeline.

So I was mildly surprised when Secretary Kerry, speaking in Jakarta on February 16th, declared that “…climate change is the most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Just mildly; it has hardly escaped detection that Kerry is an idiot on this subject. More important, Kerry is a politician, and a Democratic billionaire, Tom Steyer, is offering $100 million to fund politicians who oppose Keystone XL.

Even John Kerry, former richest man in the US Senate (thanks to some wise marriages), has to notice $100,000,000. And, Kerry cares about warming, right?

Now, what does the commedia tell us about catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW)? It’s due to the carbon dioxide (CO2) that we evil humans are pouring into our atmosphere like an open sewer, right? Do the words “carbon dioxide” or “carbon pollution” sound like “ozone” to you? Me neither.

However, here is part of the text of Secretary Kerry’s remarks, from the State Department  website:

“This is simple. Kids at the earliest age can understand this. Try and picture a very thin layer of gases – a quarter-inch, half an inch, somewhere in that vicinity – that’s how thick it is. It’s in our atmosphere. It’s way up there at the edge of the atmosphere. And for millions of years – literally millions of years – we know that layer has acted like a thermal blanket for the planet – trapping the sun’s heat and warming the surface of the Earth to the ideal, life-sustaining temperature. Average temperature of the Earth has been about 57 degrees Fahrenheit, which keeps life going. Life itself on Earth exists because of the so-called greenhouse effect.

But in modern times, as human beings have emitted gases into the air that come from all the things we do, that blanket has grown thicker and it traps more and more heat beneath it, raising the temperature of the planet. It’s called the greenhouse effect because it works exactly like a greenhouse in which you grow a lot of the fruit that you eat here.”

No, I haven’t edited it, and there’s lots more of the same. Analysis? surely, the obvious is sufficient: Kerry doesn’t know the difference between CO2, that he has told us a thousand times is the great evil, and ozone, the beneficent stratospheric gas that shields us from harmful ultraviolet, which causes sunburn and cataracts,
even in attenuated intensity.

In five years, in spite of Obama, we have become energy independent. Europe, in pursuit of renewable energy, is so dependent on Russian oil and natural gas they dare not resist the partition of Ukraine. The lights and heat would go off tomorrow. I wonder what Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is thinking? The Chinese would love to buy Alberta oil. I wonder what they’re thinking?

I wonder what Canadian Prime Minister Harper is thinking?

“Separation of powers” useless to stop crimes against the Constitution

When the U.S. Constitution was adopted and the signatories agreed that the powers of the federal government would be divided among the executive, legislative and judicial branches, it was assumed that those running our government were honorable patriots who would faithfully abide by Constitutional law. But that was then when political parties were not around to pervert our leaders and turn government into a struggle for power, wealth and control over the people of the United States.

Back in 1787, few if any thought that elected officials would ever have the audacity to challenge the concept of separation of powers, and so no method of enforcement was ever set in place to compel the three branches to behave, live in peace, and honor their pledge to share power and faithfully support all of the Constitution…not just the parts they liked and that favored their selfish objectives.

Today, the form of Socialism being implemented by the Obama White House holds no respect for the concept of separation of powers. For our president, it doesn’t exist, perhaps because there are no provisions for its enforcement.

The Supreme Court must remain silent regarding executive abuse until someone or some group with “standing” files a suit against the president in response to a particular grievance. But who has standing to sue the president? No one seems to know; not even some in Congress who are reported to believe it has no standing to sue the president for overreaching his executive power.

In a 1999 Hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Rules, it was stipulated that “Congress may seek to nullify, repeal, revoke, terminate or de-fund an executive order, but each such action requires the eventual concurrence of the president (most likely the same president that issued the order in the first place).” No wonder Congress, itself, doesn’t want to challenge executive orders.

Even if someone were bold enough to claim to be personally aggrieved by a presidential act or executive order, unfortunately, it might take years to establish standing in the courts, especially when the case would have to reach the Supreme Court for a final irrevocable ruling. This would give the Obama White House an extraordinary amount of time for its abuse of power to “fundamentally change” or weaken the freedoms we enjoy today.

Separation of powers has no muscle and no teeth, and Barack Obama knows it. We live in a time when Constitutional amendments are necessary simply to save and uphold Constitutional law…I mean its very existence. But to introduce and pass a new amendment that can enforce separation of powers is doomed to failure by the fact that the major political parties–as they exist and operate completely at odds with one another–will never vote in concert to serve the best interests of the American people by passing such an amendment.

Our Constitution is at an impasse, powerless to provide a means to deliver control of the nation back to the people. Americans are in grave need of an act of God to produce a leader who can show us how Constitutional law can be empowered to deliver us from the Socialist dictatorship that is quickly descending upon us like a cold, dark night. Who will stand against the fall of night? Pray that there is such a person somewhere out there with the courage to confront dictatorship and preserve our Republic.

Baroness Margaret Thatcher on the Moral Foundation of Democracy

Margaret Thatcher was born in 1925 and went on to earn a degree in chemistry from Somerville College, Oxford, as well as a master of arts degree from the University of Oxford. For some years she worked as a research chemist and then as a barrister, specializing in tax law. Elected to the House of Commons in 1953, she later held several ministerial appointments. She was elected leader of the Conservative Party and thus leader of the Opposition in 1975.

She became Britain’s first female prime minister in 1979 and served her nation in this historic role until her resignation in 1990. In 1992, she was elevated to the House of Lords to become Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. The first volume of her memoirs, The Downing Street Years, was published in 1993 by HarperCollins.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/bb1sgMoYb70[/youtube]

EDITORS NOTE: The following transcript is from the concluding lecture given on November 1994  by Lady Thatcher delivered at the Hillsdale Center for Constructive Alternatives seminar, “God and Man: Perspectives on Christianity in the 20th Century” before an audience of 2,500 students, faculty, and guests. In an edited version of that lecture, she examines how the Judeo-Christian tradition has provided the moral foundations of America and other nations in the West and contrasts their experience with that of the former Soviet Union.

The Moral Foundations of the American Founding

History has taught us that freedom cannot long survive unless it is based on moral foundations. The American founding bears ample witness to this fact. America has become the most powerful nation in history, yet she uses her power not for territorial expansion but to perpetuate freedom and justice throughout the world.

For over two centuries, Americans have held fast to their belief in freedom for all men—a belief that springs from their spiritual heritage. John Adams, second president of the United States, wrote in 1789, “Our Constitution was designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” That was an astonishing thing to say, but it was true.

What kind of people built America and thus prompted Adams to make such a statement? Sadly, too many people, especially young people, have a hard time answering that question. They know little of their own history (This is also true in Great Britain.) But America’s is a very distinguished history, nonetheless, and it has important lessons to teach us regarding the necessity of moral foundations.

John Winthrop, who led the Great Migration to America in the early 17th century and who helped found the Massachusetts Bay Colony, declared, “We shall be as a City upon a Hill.” On the voyage to the New World, he told the members of his company that they must rise to their responsibilities and learn to live as God intended men should live: in charity, love, and cooperation with one another. Most of the early founders affirmed the colonists were infused with the same spirit, and they tried to live in accord with a Biblical ethic. They felt they weren’t able to do so in Great Britain or elsewhere in Europe. Some of them were Protestant, and some were Catholic; it didn’t matter. What mattered was that they did not feel they had the liberty to worship freely and, therefore, to live freely, at home. With enormous courage, the first American colonists set out on a perilous journey to an unknown land—without government subsidies and not in order to amass fortunes but to fulfill their faith.

Christianity is based on the belief in a single God as evolved from Judaism. Most important of all, the faith of America’s founders affirmed the sanctity of each individual. Every human life—man or woman, child or adult, commoner or aristocrat, rich or poor—was equal in the eyes of the Lord. It also affirmed the responsibility of each individual.

This was not a faith that allowed people to do whatever they wished, regardless of the consequences. The Ten Commandments, the injunction of Moses (“Look after your neighbor as yourself”), the Sermon on the Mount, and the Golden Rule made Americans feel precious—and also accountable—for the way in which they used their God-given talents. Thus they shared a deep sense of obligation to one another. And, as the years passed, they not only formed strong communities but devised laws that would protect individual freedom—laws that would eventually be enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Freedom with Responsibility

Great Britain, which shares much of her history in common with America, has also derived strength from its moral foundations, especially since the 18th century when freedom gradually began to spread throughout her socie!y Many people were greatly influenced by the sermons of John Wesley (1703-1791), who took the Biblical ethic to the people in a way which the institutional church itself had not done previously.

But we in the West must also recognize our debt to other cultures. In the pre-Christian era, for example, the ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle had much to contribute to our understanding of such concepts as truth, goodness, and virtue. They knew full well that responsibility was the price of freedom. Yet it is doubtful whether truth, goodness, and virtue founded on reason alone would have endured in the same way as they did in the West, where they were based upon a Biblical ethic.

Sir Edward Gibbon (1737-1794), author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, wrote tellingly of the collapse of Athens, which was the birthplace of democracy. He judged that, in the end, more than they wanted freedom, the Athenians wanted security. Yet they lost everything—security, comfort, and freedom. This was because they wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them. The freedom they were seeking was freedom from responsibility. It is no wonder, then, that they ceased to be free. In the modern world, we should recall the Athenians’ dire fate whenever we confront demands for increased state paternalism.

To cite a more recent lesson in the importance of moral foundations, we should listen to Czech President Vaclav Havel, who suffered grievously for speaking up for freedom when his nation was still under the thumb of communism. He has observed, “In everyone there is some longing for humanity’s rightful dignity, for moral integrity, and for a sense that transcends the world of existence.” His words suggest that in spite of all the dread terrors of communism, it could not crush the religious fervor of the peoples of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

So long as freedom, that is, freedom with responsibility, is grounded in morality and religion, it will last far longer than the kind that is grounded only in abstract, philosophical notions. Of course, many foes of morality and religion have attempted to argue that new scientific discoveries make belief in God obsolete, but what they actually demonstrate is the remarkable and unique nature of man and the universe. It is hard not to believe that these gifts were given by a divine Creator, who alone can unlock the secrets of existence.

Societies Without Moral Foundations

The most important problems we have to tackle today are problems, ultimately, having to do with the moral foundations of society There are people who eagerly accept their own freedom but do not respect the freedom of others—they, like the Athenians, want freedom from responsibility. But if they accept freedom for themselves, they must respect the freedom of others. If they expect to go about their business unhindered and to be protected from violence, they must not hinder the business of or do violence to others.

They would do well to look at what has happened in societies without moral foundations. Accepting no laws but the laws of force, these societies have been ruled by totalitarian ideologies like Nazism, fascism, and communism, which do not spring from the general populace, but are imposed on it by intellectual elites.

It was two members of such an elite, Marx and Lenin, who conceived of “dialectical materialism,” the basic doctrine of communism. It robs people of all freedom—from freedom of worship to freedom of ownership. Marx and Lenin desired to substitute their will not only for all individual will but for God’s will. They wanted to plan everything; in short, they wanted to become gods. Theirs was a breathtakingly arrogant creed, and it denied above all else the sanctity of human life.

The 19th century French economist and philosopher Frederic Bastiat once warned against this creed. He questioned those who, “though they are made of the same human clay as the rest of us, think they can take away all our freedoms and exercise them on our behalf.” He would have been appalled but not surprised that the communists of the 20th century took away the freedom of millions of individuals, starting with the freedom to worship. The communists viewed religion as “the opiate of the people.” They seized Bibles as well as all other private property at gun point and murdered at least 10 million souls in the process.

Thus 20th century Russia entered into the greatest experiment in government and atheism the world had ever seen, just as America several centuries earlier had entered into the world’s greatest experiment in freedom and faith.

Communism denied all that the Judeo-Christian tradition taught about individual worth, human dignity, and moral responsibility. It was not surprising that it collapsed after a relatively brief existence. It could not survive more than a few generations because it denied human nature, which is fundamentally moral and spiritual. (It is true that no one predicted the collapse would come so quickly and so easily. In retrospect, we know that this was due in large measure to the firmness of President Ronald Reagan who said, in effect, to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, “Do not try to beat us militarily, and do not think that you can extend your creed to the rest of the world by force.”)

The West began to fight the mora! battle against communism in earnest in the 1980s, and it was our resolve—combined with the spiritual strength of the people suffering under the system who finally said, “Enough!”—that helped restore freedom in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union—the freedom to worship, speak, associate, vote, establish political parties, start businesses, own property, and much more. If communism had been a creed with moral foundations, it might have survived, but it was not, and it simply could not sustain itself in a world that had such shining examples of freedom, namely, America and Great Britain.

The Moral Foundations of Capitalism

It is important to understand that the moral foundations of a society do not extend only to its political system; they must extend to its economic system as well. America’s commitment to capitalism is unquestionably the best example of this principle. Capitalism is not, contrary to what those on the Left have tried to argue, an amoral system based on selfishness, greed, and exploitation. It is a moral system based on a Biblical ethic. There is no other comparable system that has raised the standard of living of millions of people, created vast new wealth and resources, or inspired so many beneficial innovations and technologies.

The wonderful thing about capitalism is that it does not discriminate against the poor, as has been so often charged; indeed, it is the only economic system that raises the poor out of poverty. Capitalism also allows nations that are not rich in natural resources to prosper. If resources were the key to wealth, the richest country in the world would be Russia, because it has abundant supplies of everything from oil, gas, platinum, gold, silver, aluminum, and copper to timber, water, wildlife, and fertile soil.

Why isn’t Russia the wealthiest country in the world? Why aren’t other resource-rich countries in the Third World at the top of the list? It is because their governments deny citizens the liberty to use their God-given talents. Man’s greatest resource is himself, but he must be free to use that resource.

In his recent encyclical, Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul I1 addressed this issue. He wrote that the collapse of communism is not merely to be considered as a “technical problem.” It is a consequence of the violation of human rights. He specifically referred to such human rights as the right to private initiative, to own property, and to act in the marketplace. Remember the “Parable of the Talents” in the New Testament? Christ exhorts us to be the best we can be by developing our skills and abilities, by succeeding in all our tasks and endeavors. What better description can there be of capitalism? In creating new products, new services, and new jobs, we create a vibrant community of work. And that community of work serves as the basis of peace and good will among all men.

The Pope also acknowledged that capitalism encourages important virtues, like diligence, industriousness, prudence, reliability, fidelity, conscientiousness, and a tendency to save in order to invest in the future. It is not material goods but all of these great virtues, exhibited by individuals working together, that constitute what we call the “marketplace.”

The Moral Foundations of the Law

Freedom, whether it is the freedom of the marketplace or any other kind, must exist within the framework of law. 0thenvise it means only freedom for the strong to oppress the weak. Whenever I visit the former Soviet Union, I stress this point with students, scholars, politicians, and businessmen—in short, with everyone I meet. Over and over again, I repeat: Freedom must be informed by the principle of justice in order to make it work between people. A system of laws based on solid moral foundations must regulate the entire life of a nation.

But this is an extremely difficult point to get across to people with little or no experience with laws except those based on force. The concept of justice is entirely foreign to communism. So, too, is the concept of equality. For over seventy years, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had no system of common law. There were only the arbitrary and often contradictory dictates of the Communist Party. There was no independent judiciary There was no such thing as truth in the communist system.

And what is freedom without truth? I have been a scientist, a lawyer, and a politician, and from my own experience I can testify that it is nothing. The third century Roman jurist Julius Paulus said, “What is right is not derived from the rule, but the rule arises from our knowledge of what is right.” In other words, the law is founded on what we believe to be true and just. It has moral foundations. Once again, it is important to note that the free societies of America and Great Britain derive such foundations from a Biblical ethic.

The Moral Foundations of Democracy

Democracy is never mentioned in the Bible. When people are gathered together, whether as families, communities or nations, their purpose is not to ascertain the will of the majority, but the will of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, I am an enthusiast of democracy because it is about more than the will of the majority. If it were only about the will of the majority, it would be the right of the majority to oppress the minority. The American Declaration of Independence and Constitution make it clear that this is not the case. There are certain rights which are human rights and which no government can displace. And when it comes to how you Americans exercise your rights under democracy, your hearts seem to be touched by something greater than yourselves. Your role in democracy does not end when you cast your vote in an election. It applies daily; the standards and values that are the moral foundations of society are also the foundations of your lives.

Democracy is essential to preserving freedom. As Lord Acton reminded us, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If no individual can be trusted with power indefinitely, it is even more true that no government can be. It has to be checked, and the best way of doing so is through the will of the majority, bearing in mind that this will can never be a substitute for individual human rights.

I am often asked whether I think there will be a single international democracy, known as a “new world order.” Though many of us may yearn for one, I do not believe it will ever arrive. We are misleading ourselves about human nature when we say, “Surely we’re too civilized, too reasonable, ever to go to war again,” or, “We can rely on our governments to get together and reconcile our differences.” Tyrants are not moved by idealism. They are moved by naked ambition. Idealism did not stop Hitler; it did not stop Stalin. Our best hope as sovereign nations is to maintain strong defenses. Indeed, that has been one of the most important moral as well as geopolitical lessons of the 20th century. Dictators are encouraged by weakness; they are stopped by strength. By strength, of course, I do not merely mean military might but the resolve to use that might against evil.

The West did show sufficient resolve against Iraq during the Persian Gulf War. But we failed bitterly in Bosnia. In this case, instead of showing resolve, we preferred “diplomacy” and “consensus.” As a result, a quarter of a million people were massacred. This was a horror that I, for one, never expected to see again in my lifetime. But it happened. Who knows what tragedies the future holds if we do not learn from the repeated lessons of histoy? The price of freedom is still, and always will be, eternal vigilance.

Free societies demand more care and devotion than any others. They are, moreover, the only societies with moral foundations, and those foundations are evident in their political, economic, legal, cultural, and, most importantly, spiritual life.

We who are living in the West today are fortunate. Freedom has been bequeathed to us. We have not had to carve it out of nothing; we have not had to pay for it with our lives. Others before us have done so. But it would be a grave mistake to think that freedom requires nothing of us. Each of us has to earn freedom anew in order to possess it. We do so not just for our own sake, but for the sake of our children, so that they may build a better future that will sustain over the wider world the responsibilities and blessings of freedom.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of a portrait of Baroness Margaret Thatcher is courtesy of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation.

Vladimir Putin’s Amazing Superpowers

Did you know that the boy whom Putin once kissed learned to fly? Or that Putin can browse the Internet with an abacus? Or that on his birthday critics drop dead from thinking bad thoughts about Putin?Each year spent in the Kremlin makes the Motherland’s President stronger, endowing him with more superpowers unbeknownst to man. For years, Party-approved rumors about Putin’s supernatural abilities have been spreading over the internet in the Mother tongue. To translate them into the language of soulless capitalist oppressors is an idea whose time has come!
AS SEEN IN PAJAMAS MEDIA


This Sunday the Motherland celebrated Vladimir Putin’s 55th birthday. On this day good triumphed over evil, 564 terminally ill patients reached full recovery, and 10,000 people in loony bins got back their mental abilities and marched in the streets of Moscow wearing Putin T-shirts, chanting “Happy Birthday!” and carrying signs saying “Putin is our everything!”

THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT THE RUSSIAN PRESIDENT

A spoon that Putin ate from can heal cataracts and glaucoma.

A fork that Putin ate from can slay a vampire with one stab.

A chair that Putin sat on gets promoted to the rank of Major General.

When Putin was little, he broke a cup. The spilled water turned into oceans and the splinters became continents.

Putin’s dog saved the world at least four times.

A combination of Putin’s fingerprints reveals the State Seal of the Russian Federation.

Putin can scratch his own heel without bending over.

Shirts worn by Putin are sent to a secret military facility and converted to the strongest layer of armor for the Russian tanks.

Socks worn by Putin are routinely dropped on Chechen rebels.

Putin’s used tissues become the property of the Department of Cartography and their content is classified.

In the movies, Putin’s part is usually played by his twin brother Chuck Norris.

Putin can power up a microphone with his stare and shut down the Windows Media Player with his voice.

Putin can find out your home address just by looking at your comment on any website.

Putin can browse the Internet with a pocket calculator.

When Putin’s name is typed, the first letter capitalizes itself.

By squinting his eye Putin can read and write multimedia DVDs.

Putin’s stare has downed 15 American satellites spying over the Kremlin.

Putin’s stare penetrates a ten foot lead wall and brings a kettle to a boil within 10 seconds from three miles away. For public safety he must wear special contact lenses at all times.

Chechen rebels blow themselves up when they hear Putin’s true name.

Saying Putin’s name repeatedly contributes to the common good in the universe.

Putin inhales carbon dioxide and exhales oxygen, ensuring the continuation of life on the planet.

Putin doesn’t poop.

Inside Putin’s nostrils grow miniature flowers pollinated by miniature bees.

Putin’s love for humankind heats up the planet by 2.35 degrees annually – a phenomenon also known as the Global Warming.

Putin appeared in Thomas Edison’s dream and revealed how to live in harmony with the Universe. But all Edison could remember in the morning was how to make the light bulb.

When Putin drives a vehicle, its engine gains 1,000 horsepower.

Putin doesn’t need a mattress; he levitates in his sleep at an average citizen’s eye level.

Once a month the full moon howls at Putin.

Putin helps the Russian economy by filling the Earth with oil from his personal reserves.

Everything Putin touches turns into a national project.

Putin knows every Russian citizen’s name, address, and phone number. If you say a dirty word, Putin will call you in the evening to reprimand.

When Putin is sad, the national suicide statistics go up.

When Putin smiles, a child is born in Russia. If the smile is wider than usual, expect twins.

If a sunbeam shines beautifully through the clouds, Putin is nearby.

If you shake hands with Putin you will be taken to heaven alive.

If you hate Putin you may die early through your own fault.

NOTE: If you pass this message to at least 10 different comrades in the next 15 minutes, you will receive an unexpected government subsidy and your enemies will have their gas and water cut off for good.However, if you ignore this message, bad luck will fall upon you. Just ask Ukraine. So what are you waiting for?

 
FROM THE PEOPLE’S CUBE ARCHIVES:
 
Putin Pokemon Card:
Putin_Pokemon_Card.jpg 

Russia. March 4, 2012. Presidential Election. PUTINATOR 3

Putin’s Glasses Desperately Needing a Caption!

Caption Contest: Putin-Obama Pick-up Line

Putin’08: Cooler than Obama, More Experienced than Hillary

Calling the Global Warming Charlatans “Nazis”

On February 20th, the noted meteorologist, Dr. Roy W. Spencer, fed up with being called a “denier” of global warming, posted a commentary on his blog titled “Time to push back against the global warming Nazis.”

“When politicians and scientists started calling people like me ‘deniers’, they crossed the line. They are still doing it,” said Dr. Spencer. “They indirectly equate (1) the skeptics’ view that global warming is not necessarily all man made nor a serious problem with (2) the denial that the Nazi’s extermination of millions of Jews ever happened.” The Holocaust happened, but global warming’s latest natural cycle ended about 17 years ago and, as a lot of people have noticed, it has been getting cold since then.

“Like the Nazis,” said Dr. Spencer, “they advocate the supreme authority of the state (fascism), which in turn supports their scientific research to support their cause…” In the case of global warming, this huge hoax was put forth by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The UN would like to be the world’s global government, but that’s not going to happen. In the meantime, the IPCC provided scientists that cooperated with lots of money for their alleged research, all of which “proved” that carbon dioxide was dramatically heating the Earth. Others like Al Gore made millions selling “carbon credits”. Along the way, both Gore and the IPCC received a Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Spencer received a Ph.D. in meteorology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981. He was a Senior Scientists for Climate Studies at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center where he and a colleague, Dr. John Christie, received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for their global temperature monitoring work with satellites. He became a Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2001 and continues to advise NASA as a U.S. Science Team Leader. As he points out on his blog, his research has been supported by U.S. government agencies, so the usual claim by Greens that he is a paid stooge of Big Oil just doesn’t work in his case.

Dr. Spencer’s decision to call a Nazi a Nazi ignited a lot of discussion among the global warming hustlers and those whom they have been calling “deniers” for many years. I always found it particularly offensive, but I suspect those I called charlatans and hustlers felt the same way. The difference, however, is the connotation applied to the term, “denier.” Even today anti-Semites of various descriptions deny that six million Jews died in the death camps of Nazi Germany during World War Two along with millions Christians and Eastern Slavic Europeans

What makes this particularly offensive and horrid is the fact that those in the Nazi leadership under Adolf Hitler were all environmentalists, deeply committed to conservation and similar expressions that put the Earth above the value of human life.

This is all revealed in a book by R. Mark Musser, “Nazi Oaks”, now in its third printing. Musser was introduced to environmentalism at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, from which he graduated in 1989. In 1994 he received Master of Divinity and spent seven years as a missionary to Belarus and in the Ukraine.

Musser’s book is absolutely astonishing as he documents how “Green” the Nazis were from their earliest years until their defeat. It was Heinrich Himmler, the Reich Leader from 1929 to 1945, who was responsible for the “Final Solution”, the mass killing of Europe’s Jews. He led the Nazi party’s SS.

As Musser notes, “The Nazis were trying to eliminate both global capitalism and international communism in order to recover a reverence for nature lost in the modern cosmopolitan world.” The Nazis also held Judeo-Christian values in contempt.

“That this evolutionary Nazi nature religion was clothed in secular biology and colored by environmental policies and practices, is a historical truth that has been ignored and underreported for too long a time in all the discussions about the Holocaust,” writes Musser.

I am inclined to believe that it is no accident that the global warming charlatans began to use the term “deniers” to describe skeptics.

By 2011, a Gallup poll that surveyed people in 111 countries revealed that most of the human race did not see global warming as a serious threat. Still, worldwide 42% told Gallup that they thought global warming was either ‘somewhat serious’ or ‘very serious.’ That was down from 63% in polls taken in 2007 and 2008 in the U.S.

More than just a spat between scientists, in April 2012, the Congressional Research Service estimated that, since 2008, the federal government had spent nearly $70 billion on ‘climate change activities.’ That kind of money could build or repair a lot of bridges and roads. It could fund elements of our military. It could be spent on something other than a climate over which neither the government nor anyone in the world has any influence.

Bursting onto the national stage, Dr. Spencer’s decision to call the global warming scientists Nazis for their efforts to intimidate or smear the reputations of those whose research disputes their claims, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. a Wall Street Journal columnist, wrote on March 1 that “Surely some kind of ending is upon us. Last week climate protesters demanded the silencing of Charles Krauthammer for a Washington Post column that notices uncertainties in the global warming hypothesis.”

“In coming weeks,” wrote Jenkins, “a libel trial gets under way brought by Penn State’s Michael Mann, author of the famed “hockey stick” graph (Editor’s note: an IPCC graph Mann created that asserted a sudden, major increase in heat has been widely debunked) against the National Review, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writer Rand Simberg and roving commentator Mark Steyn for making wisecracks about his climate work.”

Revelations of several thousand emails between IPCC scientists, one of whom was Mann, were christened “climategate” and demonstrated the efforts in which they engaged to suppress the publication of any papers that questioned global warming in scientific journals. As the climate turned cooler, they became increasingly alarmed.

What we are likely witnessing are the long death throes of the global warming hoax. Calling those scientists and others like myself “deniers” and other names simply reveals the desperation of those who are seeing a great source of money slip away under the spotlight of scientific truth, nor will they be able to impose their lies on the rest of us.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

EDITORS NOTE: The featured photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-P049456 / CC-BY-SA