Feb 29 2012

Repeating an atrocity with “preventive” care

If you read this when it was first posted, check out the three UPDATES made to it since.  Just scroll on down.

As Mrs. Miner wrote in Hey, What About MY Choice?, there is enormous pressure from the medical establishment to do invasive “prenatal testing” (including amniocentesis) under the guise of “preventive care,”  as if killing a disabled child before it’s born is treatment of a medical condition, instead of simply murder of the helpless.

Mark Leach writes in the Washington Examiner about Repeating an atrocity with “preventive care”

President Obama signed “Rosa’s Law,” sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and named for one of her constituents, a little girl with Down syndrome, in 2010.

The law eliminates the phrase “mental retardation” from federal laws and regulations, replacing it with “intellectual disability.” Another law sponsored by Mikulski threatens to eliminate girls like Rosa and my daughter, Juliet, from future generations.

Rick Santorum recently attacked President Obama for the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring no-cost prenatal testing. This mandate is part of Mikulski’s amendment to Obamacare requiring preventive care services for women.

Genetic conditions like my Juliet’s Down syndrome and Santorum’s daughter Bella’s Trisomy 18 can be prenatally diagnosed, but not treated prenatally. The HHS mandate begs the question: How does prenatal testing for genetic conditions that cannot be treated prenatally qualify as “preventive” care?

Obama’s campaign spokeswoman responded to Santorum’s concerns by saying prenatal testing is for the health of the mother and baby and to bring about safer deliveries.

Not so in the case of prenatal testing for genetic conditions. Instead, most women terminate following a positive test result — a decidedly unhealthy and unsafe delivery for the baby.

Indeed, this is the effect of prenatal testing for genetic conditions. Last summer, a report from Denmark predicted the country would be “Down syndrome-free” by 2030, due to its prenatal testing program.

Isn’t that nice.  Europe seems to have learned little of moral worth from its experience with German eugenics programs in the Nazi era.

In Switzerland, 87 percent of all Down syndrome pregnancies are terminated. In France, 96 percent of fetuses with Down syndrome are aborted following a prenatal diagnosis.

This effect is not limited to other countries. California has had a prenatal testing program for Down syndrome since the 1980s. Researchers found that 47 percent fewer children with Down syndrome were born than would have naturally occurred.

They flatly admitted that California’s prenatal testing program’s purpose is to reduce the number of children born with Down syndrome through earlier abortions.

As if we didn’t know that already.  It’s made pretty explicit by the “medical providers” who pressure women to have amniocentesis.  ”Could you live with a Down’s child?” they say.  This is exactly what Mrs. Miner experienced in the glorious people’s republic of California.

Did Mikulski intend for her preventive care services amendment to eliminate children like Rosa, Juliet, Bella and others with genetic conditions from future generations?

Well, yes.  The believers in using abortion to filter out the unfit defend it on a variety of grounds, from financial burden on society to pretended concern about the “poor quality of life” the soon-to-be murdered unborn child would have without the beneficently performed therapeutic dismemberment.

We are left to wonder because, unlike Santorum, Mikulski has not spoken out on this issue. Other voices have so far been silent, too.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton recently stormed out of a hearing on the HHS mandate for birth control. Norton is a co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus and a mother to a young lady with Down syndrome.

Perhaps she’ll express the same indignation about Obamacare’s policy to prevent children like her daughter from being born in future generations? Likewise, the CDSC lists more than 50 members, including Norton’s co-chairs and fellow parents, Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.

Perhaps, they, too, and many others, regardless of political party, will wonder why a regulation expresses the view that unborn children with genetic conditions should be prevented from being born.

Last century, people who thought themselves upstanding citizens stood by silently while a segment of their society was targeted for elimination based solely on their fundamental nature.

Civilized nations said “never again.” Yet, here we are at the turn of this century dealing with the next challenge to whether we believe our creed that we are all created equal.

Voices are needed to call for the rescinding of the HHS’ mandate for no-cost prenatal testing for genetic conditions as “preventive” care, before we repeat a historic atrocity.

It was always the intent of the Margaret Sangers of the world, and their ideological kin such as Planned Parenthood, to eliminate the unfit from society, hopefully by keeping them from being born in the first place, even if that involved killing them in the womb….  or out of it, for that matter.

UPDATE:

The day has brought an embarrassment of riches from the point of view of pro-life bloggers, but an embarrassment of moral poverty on the part of some “medical ethicists,” who seem to have stood on its ear the meaning of the word “ethics.”  This just in:

Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say

Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.

The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.

The journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said the article’s authors had received death threats since publishing the article. He said those who made abusive and threatening posts about the study were “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society”.

The article, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?”, was written by two of Prof Savulescu’s former associates, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.

They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. They explained: “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’.

“We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”

As such they argued it was “not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense”.

The authors therefore concluded that “what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled”.

They also argued that parents should be able to have the baby killed if it turned out to be disabled without their knowing before birth, for example citing that “only the 64 per cent of Down’s syndrome cases” in Europe are diagnosed by prenatal testing.

Once such children were born there was “no choice for the parents but to keep the child”, they wrote.

“To bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”

However, they did not argue that some baby killings were more justifiable than others – their fundamental point was that, morally, there was no difference to abortion as already practised.

They preferred to use the phrase “after-birth abortion” rather than “infanticide” to “emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus”.

You have to give these infanticide enablers this: they’re very logical in proceeding from the starting point of abortion-on-demand. It was bound to come to this. And it has.

UPDATE #2:

I would blame this on Britain’s apparent desire to self-destruct, but we have our own apologist for the appalling, right here in the good ‘ole US of A, in the form of Peter Singer.  Of course, he’s really Australian, so maybe he doesn’t count as an American.  He came from the Commonwealth, after all, which may soon be commonly Islamic.  Maybe there’s something in the water that people drink in Australia.

UPDATE #3:

At this link, an Australian “ethicist” argues on a radio show in Iowa that

 after-birth abortions should be permitted if parents decide that they want to prevent their child from having a difficult or painful life. One of the reasons many people abort fetuses, she notes, is due to diseases or other deformities. But, some of these disorders are not detected while the child is in the womb. In cases such as this, Minerva and Giubilini argue in their paper, termination of the newborn should be allowed. This sentiment should also apply then to healthy newborns, she says, because some people abort perfectly health fetuses for a variety of personal reasons as well.

Again, this is the logical conclusion of permitting and encouraging abortion-on-demand for any reason at all, or none.  So on the one hand, these “ethicists” are just being reasonable.

Reasonably monstrous, of course….  along with the rest of the pro-abort crowd.


Feb 03 2012

Hey, What About MY Choice? Part 3

In the beginning post of this series, I told the story of how California doctors and medical providers just couldn’t get it through their heads that even though I was a 35 yr old soon-to-be-mom, I did NOT want amniocentesis, because of the risk of miscarriage and the fact that it could not reveal any information I would actually be able to use.  But the medical types were really determined.  In the second post of this series, I told of how a doctor threatened to withhold care from me, and a necessary examination, if I didn’t submit to his attempt to coerce me into “genetic counseling,”  at a minimum, with the obvious agenda of getting me to agree to amniocentesis.

How DARE the doctors make me defend my refusal to have a test that could have resulted in my child’s death!  Imagine the news if “just” one percent of school buses on a given day crashed.  Out of ten thousand school buses, that means that one hundred buses crashed.  Now, imagine the public’s reaction if every child on those hundred buses died.  It’s incomprehensible to imagine such a thing.  When a SINGLE bus crashes and ANY children are killed, the tragedy makes national news.  Yet the medical establishment displays a remarkably cavalier attitude toward the fact that given the prevalence of amniocentesis, undoubtedly many healthy, “wanted” children die every year or are born prematurely.

I have since come to understand another disturbing fact surrounding the aggressive push for prenatal testing: many parents demand these tests.  We live in an age where, as Mark Steyn has stated, parents often put off childbearing until later in life and then have “one designer baby.”  And only one.  As fertility invariably decreases with age, some turn to fertility drugs and/or in vitro fertilization, which can result in multiple fetuses.  No worries, though.  Through a process known as “selective reduction,” the mother can have the “extra” babies killed, leaving her with only one child.  And boy, that kid better be perfect.  If the child fails to meet the consumers’ (aka parents’) expectations, the doctor might well find himself slapped with a “wrongful birth” lawsuit.  The heart-breaking fact is that around 90% of children identified with Down syndrome are aborted.  (It’s worth noting, however, that amniocentesis is not completely accurate, which means that a number of “healthy” children are mistakenly thought to have a genetic defect and are then aborted.)  Given the fact that prenatal life is valued so little, I suppose it’s no wonder I was sometimes treated as a socially irresponsible freak for refusing genetic testing.

My next several visits to the obstetrician were uneventful, except that he kept looking at my chart and saying, “Oh, yeah.  You refused amnio.”  Was my choice really that unusual?  Perhaps so.   During that time, I ran into several women, mostly strangers, pregnant women who would say, “I had to have amniocentesis.”  One even said to me (both of us standing there, pregnant, in Burlington Coat Factory’s baby section), “I’m scheduled for amniocentesis tomorrow.  I really don’t want to do it, but I have to.”  How many women are made to feel that they have no choice?

About nine weeks shy of my due date, I began having painful contractions.  It didn’t appear to be labor, but with my doctor’s recommendation, I decided to take a break from my job as a special education teacher at a local junior high.  A short time later, I went into full-blown preterm labor.  My baby wasn’t handling my contractions very well, so the doctor said they were probably going to have to deliver her early.  Thankfully, labor was stopped by a combination of three different medications.  I was confined mostly to bed for the remainder of my pregnancy and continued taking medication.  Given this precarious situation, I couldn’t help but wonder if an earlier decision to have amniocentesis might have resulted in an extremely premature baby – or even a stillbirth.  I’ll never know, but I shudder when I consider the possibilities.

Finally, the day I had been longing for arrived, and I gave birth to a beautiful full-term baby girl.  Shortly before being discharged, a clerical worker from the hospital came to my room and asked me to sign a form.  By signing, I would be acknowledging that I had received certain types of care in the hospital, as well as during my pregnancy.  I noticed three number codes and asked that each be explained.  When she reached the third code, she said that its numbers stood for amniocentesis.   “I didn’t have amniocentesis,” I sighed.  She looked surprised and then asked, “Are you sure?”

Sometimes you’ve just got to laugh.


Dec 16 2011

Christian universities not Christian enough to be allowed full freedom of religion by the US government?

It seems that the National Labor Relations Board is now in the business of judging whether Christian colleges and universities are sufficiently serious about their Christian commitment to warrant the full protections of religious liberty from the First Amendment’s free exercise clause.  The matter in question is whether the NLRB can force Christian institutions of higher learning to accept unionization similar to that which afflicts state and secular private schools, and enforce other “non-discrimination” aspects of federal labor law (e.g, can Christian institutions be forced to hire or retain employees who are clearly living at variance with Christian moral expectations?).

According to Patrick J. Reilly, in Are Catholic Colleges Catholic Enough? – WSJ.com, the case hinges

on the Supreme Court’s ruling in NLRB v. The Catholic Bishop of Chicago, et al. (1979), which found that the NLRB had violated the First Amendment’s free exercise clause by requiring Catholic schools to comply with federal labor laws, thereby possibly interfering with religious decision-making. But that ruling didn’t stop the NLRB from claiming authority over most Catholic colleges and universities by arguing that Catholic Bishop protects only “church-controlled” institutions that are “substantially religious,” a phrase taken from Chief Justice Warren Burger’s majority opinion in the case. Many of the nation’s 224 Catholic colleges and universities are legally independent of the Catholic bishops or the religious orders that founded them.

So the NLRB has put itself in the position of judging schools’ religious character, and it has concluded over the years that many Catholic institutions are inconsistent in their application of Catholic principles to teaching, course requirements, campus life and faculty hiring. It’s a serious overreach by the government, though many Catholics would agree that colleges and universities often demonstrate inconsistent religious observation.

Of course, it isn’t only Catholic colleges and universities that “often demonstrate inconsistent religious observation.”  Many protestant and evangelical institutions are fighting similar battles….  or maybe not fighting them enough.

The erosion of religious identity in Catholic higher education over the past 50 years has been marked by theological dissent, hostility toward the bishops, and increasingly liberal campus-life arrangements such as co-ed dorms and lax visitation rules. These issues fueled the 2009 confrontation at Notre Dame, for example, when pro-life Catholics objected to the school honoring President Barack Obama.

The temptation to please the world is always there in Christian higher education.   Many initiatives undertaken by ostensibly Christian universities seem to be very similar to those that get excited attention at secular schools, but there are things that Christian higher ed talks about less and less (abortion-on-demand, for example) while it holds countless workshops on hot topics like human sex trafficking (as if there was something controversial about it, as if there was someone, somewhere, who thought it was a good thing).

Catholic educators are now awaiting the result of Manhattan College’s appeal to the NLRB regulators in Washington. Their appeal relies heavily on an argument put forward in 1986 by future Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Writing for half the members of an evenly divided D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Breyer argued that the NLRB had contravened the Catholic Bishop ruling by establishing a “substantial religious character” test to determine whether a college meets sectarian standards.

The D.C. Circuit has formally embraced Justice Breyer’s reasoning twice over the past decade, instructing the NLRB to stop interfering with any college or university that “holds itself out to students, faculty and community as providing a religious educational environment.” In ruling against St. Xavier University and Manhattan College, NLRB regional staff seem to have ignored that instruction.

Protestant and evangelical Christian colleges and universities, take note: the candidate of hope and change you helped elect, possibly as part of your diversity initiatives, has his sights set on making you follow the same federal employment rules as any other school.  You may be forced to hire people who do not “model the Christian life” for students…  unless, of course, your notion of the Christian life has recently undergone radical revision.


Oct 09 2011

Tom McClintock telling it like it is

RealClearPolitics

Note: Congressman Tom McClintock delivered the following speech to the Council for National Policy: 

I want to welcome this groundbreaking scientific expedition to the savage lands of the Left Coast. You are here in California to answer an important theoretical question and now you have your answer.

Yes, this is what Barack Obama’s second term would look like.

Study it. Fear it. And then go home and make sure that it never happens to the rest of the country.

Of course, in spite of all of its problems, California is still one of the best places in the country to build a successful small business. All you have to do is start with a successful large business.

Laugh if you will, but as you whistle past this cemetery, do heed the medieval epitaph: “Remember man as you walk by, as you are now so once was I; as I am now so you will be.”

Mark that well, because if we lose this struggle for the future of our country, you too someday will live in a California – only without the nice climate.

Bad policies. Bad process. Bad politics. Those are the three acts in a Greek tragedy that tell the tale of how, in the span of a single generation, the most prosperous and golden state in the nation became an economic basket case.

When my parents came to California in the 1960’s looking for a better future, they found it here. The state government consumed about half of what it does today after adjusting for both inflation and population. HALF. We had the finest highway system in the world and the finest public school system in the country. California offered a FREE university education to every Californian who wanted one. We produced water and electricity so cheaply that some communities didn’t bother to meter the stuff. Our unemployment rate consistently ran well below the national rate and our diversified economy was nearly recession-proof.

One thing – and one thing only – changed in those years: public policy. The political Left gradually gained dominance over California’s government and has imposed a disastrous agenda of radical and retrograde policies that have destroyed the quality of life that Californians once took for granted.

The Census bureau has reported for the better part of the decade that California is undergoing the biggest population exodus in its history, with many fleeing to such garden spots as Nevada, Arizona and Texas. Think about that. California is blessed with the most equitable climate in the entire Western Hemisphere; it has the most bountiful resources anywhere in the continental United States; it is poised on the Pacific Rim in a position to dominate world trade for the next century, and yet people are finding a better place to live and work and raise their families in the middle of the Nevada Nuclear Test Range.

I submit to you that no conceivable act of God could wreak such devastation. Only acts of government can do that. And they have.

We conservatives espouse principles of individual liberty, free markets, constitutionally limited government, fiscal responsibility, the protection of natural rights – not out of some slavish devotion to ideology, but because all human experience has shown these principles to be the most certain means to achieve a prosperous and happy society. If you want to see the opposite of that – come to California.

James Madison said the trickiest question the Constitutional convention confronted was how to oblige a government to control itself. History records not a single example of a nation that spent, borrowed and taxed its way to prosperity; but it offers us many, many examples of nations that spent and borrowed and taxed their way to economic ruin and bankruptcy. And history is screaming this warning at us: that nations that bankrupt themselves aren’t around very long, because before you can provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty – you have to be able to pay for it.

California may not have invented deficit spending but we certainly refined it into a science. Before the crash of 2008, when California was taking in more money than ever in its history, it was already running a nine billion dollar deficit, under a Republican governor elected on the pledge to “cut up the credit cards.”

Federal spending increased 26 percent in the last three years literally consuming and squandering the wealth of the nation at the worst possible time. Yet consider this: from July of 2005 to July of 2008, California increased its spending by 31 percent, under a Republican governor elected on the pledge to “stop the crazy deficit spending”. You can see how well that’s worked for us.

If stimulus spending, massive deficits and burgeoning government bureaucracies were the path to economic prosperity, California should be leading the nation from the top rather than from the bottom. After we lost the nation’s triple-A credit rating this summer specifically because of chronic deficit spending, it should surprise no one that California suffers the lowest bond rating in the nation for precisely the same reason.

 


Our regulatory burdens are also years ahead of the rest of the nation – we’ve had our own version of Cap and Trade on the books for five years now, and even though the bulk of these restrictions yet to take effect, investors make decisions every day anticipating their impact.

 

This has already proven utterly devastating to energy generation, cargo and passenger transportation, cement production, construction, wine making, agriculture and manufacturing. When he signed this legislation, Gov. Schwarzenegger promised that this would produce a cornucopia of new green jobs.

How’s that working out? Up until the autumn of 2006, California’s unemployment rate tracked fairly steadily with the national unemployment numbers. But beginning in that quarter, California’s unemployment rate moved steadily beyond the national numbers. Today it stands at 12.1 percent – three full points above the national rate. You can’t blame the national economy for that – you have to find something specific to California that occurred in the autumn of 2006 to explain this divergence. I submit that the only significant event in that period was the signing of AB 32.

And I should note that although we’ve devastated California’s once recession-proof economy with these ridiculous regulations, the Earth stubbornly continues to warm and cool as it has for billions of years.

I mentioned water and electricity so cheap that some communities didn’t meter the stuff. There’s a reason for that: California had embarked on an aggressive program of hydroelectric and nuclear power construction that promised an era of clean, cheap and abundant electricity. But beginning with the first “small is beautiful” administration of Jerry Brown, these programs were abandoned in favor of “green energy.” We now have the most stringent renewable energy requirements in the nation.

Which helps explain why California is the home to such stunning green energy success stories as Solyndra. We have among the highest electricity prices in the continental United States. We have the lowest per-capita electricity consumption in the nation as well. And every day, our government spends part of our sky-high electricity bills to lecture us to conserve more.

We completed our last major dam in 1979. Last year, environmentalists diverted 200 billion gallons of water from central valley agriculture for the enjoyment and amusement of the Delta Smelt – a three-inch long minnow that has become the environmental left’s pet cause. This single action destroyed thousands of jobs and laid waste to a half million acres of the most fertile farmland in America. It is no coincidence that four of the ten metropolitan areas suffering the highest unemployment rate in the country are all in California’s Central Valley.

Meanwhile, up north on the Klamath River, California has found a new partnership with the Obama administration as they proceed to tear down four perfectly good hydroelectric dams capable of producing 155 megawatts of the cleanest and cheapest electricity on the planet — enough to power 155,000 homes. This is due, we are told, to the decline of the salmon population. The Iron Gate Fish Hatchery on the Klamath produces 5 million salmon smolts each year – 17,000 of which return as fully-grown adults to spawn – but they don’t include them in the population count. To add insult to insanity, when the Iron Gate Dam is destroyed, we will lose the Iron Gate Fish Hatchery.

We have the most aggressive mass transit program in the country – although we have not added significant capacity to our highway system in a generation. Californians consistently pay among the highest taxes per gallon of gasoline in the country and yet make among the lowest per capita expenditures on our roads. And what a surprise: we also have among the highest congestion rates in the country.

We have the largest population of illegal aliens in the country, consuming somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion in direct state expenditures. A few years ago, the Los Angeles County Sheriff reported that fully 25 percent of the jail inmates were illegal aliens. For years, California has provided in-state tuition for illegal aliens at the expense of California taxpayers – and with the signing of the California Dream Act four days ago, they will also have access to taxpayer-financed grants. Meanwhile, CSU has increased tuition 22 percent in just two years.

I’ve noticed a few of you on your cell phones no doubt checking to be sure that your return reservations are confirmed.

But I need to remind you that the Obama administration is pursuing exactly the same policies nationally – and so far with the same results. When you step off the plane back in your home state, just remember that all your plane trip will buy you is a couple of years if we lose the fight in 2012.

The second act of this morality tale is how bad process accommodated and amplified bad policy.

The Left loves to throw the term “dysfunctional” at our governing institutions. In the last week, the Democratic governor of North Carolina seriously opined that we ought to postpone congressional elections so that congressmen would “do the right thing.” Peter Orzag this week wrote of wanting to shift even more decision-making from our elected representatives to elitist boards appointed by our betters.

We have reached this point not because of a failure of our republican institutions, but because of a failure to respect those institutions.

 


Again, California is a pioneer, but the rest of the country is fast catching up. In the 1960’s, California’s legislature was respected throughout the country as the model for others to follow. It was professional, it respected process, and it worked. It did a few things, but it did them exceedingly well. It left local schools, local governments and local revenues in local hands. But beginning in the 1970’s this began to break down.

 

The humility that kept Sacramento from sticking its nose into the business of local governments gave way to the hubris that the state knew better what was important to local communities than those communities themselves. The appalling breakdown of federalist principles at the national level now geometrically compounds this problem.

But at the core of this breakdown was the abandonment of our basic republican structure of government – and it began right here.

Our parliamentary institutions have evolved over centuries to distill diverse viewpoints to a common direction within constitutional boundaries. When this process is applied, it works extremely well.

For a quarter of a century, I watched as these brilliant checks and balances that had produced reasonably punctual and reasonably balanced budgets for over a century, and nurtured the most prosperous economy in the nation, were gradually abandoned in the name of liberal efficiency.

Slowly, inexorably, decision-making that had been done broadly and independently by the two houses of the legislature — involving the active participation of every elected representative — was usurped by an extra-constitutional abomination called the “Big Five.”

See if any of this sounds familiar: The “Big Five” is essentially a super-committee that meets behind closed doors outside the scrutiny of the public, sidelining the legislature, short-circuiting the independent judgment of the two houses, and then in the eleventh hour drops its decision into the laps of the legislature for a take-it–or-leave it vote that cannot even be amended.

I know I don’t have to connect the dots for anybody here. Ladies and gentlemen, it does not work. California’s plague of chronically late and chronically unbalanced budgets coincides quite clearly with the disintegration of the legislative process and the replacement of parliamentary institutions with handpicked super-committees.

Which brings me to the third act of this Greek Tragedy – bad politics.

Last November, while the rest of the country was celebrating historic Republican gains (including a shift of 63 U.S. House Seats, six U.S. Senate Seats, 680 state legislative seats, 19 state legislatures and six governors), the statewide Republican ticket in California – despite massively outspending the Democrats in the best Republican year since 1938 – lost every statewide race and even lost ground in the state legislature.

Republicans nationally now hold more state legislative seats than in any year since 1928. In California, they hold fewer than at any time since 1978!

That is not because the voting population of California has lost its collective mind and it is not because the state is divinely ordained to be run by morons.

It happened because Dick Armey is right: “When we act like us we win, and when we act like them we lose.”

Republicans lost the 2006 and 2008 elections not because voters abandoned Republican principles, but because they looked at the Republicans and concluded that the Republicans had abandoned Republican principles.

During the Bush years, Republicans had increased federal spending at twice the rate of Bill Clinton; they left our borders wide open; they approved the biggest increase in entitlement spending since the Great Society and that turned record budget surpluses into record deficits to launch this brave new era of stimulus spending.

I last visited with the CNP in Washington in May of 2009. What a depressing meeting that was! Obama enjoyed 66 percent public approval. The week before, a conference of self-appointed Republican leaders had concluded that “we had to put the Reagan era behind us” and we had to be “mindful and respectful that the other side has something and that we have nothing and you can’t beat something with nothing.” (I won’t mention names, but his initials were Jeb Bush.)

Thank God House Republicans didn’t take that approach.

In the aftermath of that debacle, House Republican leaders resolved to restore traditional Republican principles as the policy and political focus of the party and they achieved something no one at the time thought possible: they united House Republicans as a determined voice of opposition to the Left and they rallied the American people.

Republicans rediscovered why we were Republicans, and Republican leaders rediscovered Reagan’s advice to paint our positions in bold colors and not hide them in pale pastels.

The result was one of the most dramatic watershed elections in American history.

California Republicans did exactly the opposite, and ended up replaying the disaster of 2008 while the rest of the country was enjoying one of the greatest Republican landslides ever recorded.

In California, the Democrats attacked Republicans for imposing the biggest state tax increase in American history. The Democrats attacked Republicans for obstructing pension reform to protect the prison guards union. These attacks had the unfortunate element of being true.

Meanwhile, the Republican ticket attacked Arizona’s immigration law. Republicans attacked the Proposition that would have stopped AB 32 – California’s version of Cap and Trade.

The sad truth is that we were more like the Democrats than the Democrats.

A few days after the election, a Republican leader whose mission in life has been to redefine the Republican Party in the image of Arnold Schwarzenegger said he just couldn’t explain the results.

I can. We didn’t need to redefine our principles. We needed to return to them. House Republicans did. California Republicans did not. Any questions?

Great parties are built upon great principles and they are judged by their devotion to those principles. Since its inception, the central principle of the Republican Party can be summed up in a single word, Freedom.

The closer we have hewn to that principle, the better we have done. The farther we have strayed from that principle, the worse we have done.

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln warned the nation that two incompatible and irreconcilable philosophies, freedom and slavery, competed for our future and reminded us that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” “I do not believe the house will fall,” he said, “but I do believe that it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

Today two incompatible and irreconcilable philosophies — freedom and socialism — compete for our nation’s future and the stage is set for one of the greatest debates in the history of the American Republic.

We are winning that debate. But we have to stand firm.

What has happened to California and now is threatening our country is the inevitable consequence of bad policy, bad process and bad politics – and the good news is, that’s all within our power as a people to change.

I believe that if Californians rediscover these self-evident truths, Jerry Brown will be to California what Barack Obama has been to the rest of the country – a giant wake-up call. And if Americans rally behind these truths, together, we will write the next great chapter of the American Republic: that just when it looked like America would fade into history as just another failed socialist state, this generation of Americans rediscovered, revived and restored those uniquely American principles of individual liberty and constitutionally limited government, rallied under a bold banner held high by the traditional party of freedom, and from that moment America began her next great era of expansion, prosperity and influence. 

Tom McClintock is the U.S. Representative for California’s 4th congressional district.


Oct 07 2011

Down with Evil Corporations

Category: economy,humor,media,societyharmonicminer @ 10:22 am


Sep 10 2011

Just ignore Yahoo “News”

Category: election 2012,media,politics,societyharmonicminer @ 12:55 pm

Yahoo “NEWS” lies again, with what is surely one of the most misleading headlines they’ve ever used, in Rick Perry Sex Tape Video Scandal: A Five-Second Exposure

You knew it was bound to happen. You knew that someone so emphatically moralistic had to have a skeleton or two in the closet. But is it true that another family-values demagogue made a sex tape and because of a little digging by Politico’s Ben Smith, said sex tape will see the light of day? And is it true that the video involves none other than Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry?

Well, it isn’t as bad as all that. In fact, by today’s standards it might not even be rated as much of a scandal. But, still, schoolchildren were involved…

To explain: Back in 1986, when then state representative Perry was trying to educate Texas teens about the horrors of drugs, his office disseminated a video to the high schools in his district. At the end of the video there was a thirty-second gap. Then there was five seconds of a scene from the movie “1984.” A sex scene.

According to the Associated Press, one account from an assistant coach at Baird High School recalled that it was very difficult trying to instruct a bunch of snickering and laughing teenagers after the video was turned off.

A technician at House Technical Services took full responsibility for the scene be added, mistakenly placed on the video while copies were being made. Perry, of whom it was said had no knowledge of the sex scene prior to the video’s distribution, asked that all 26 of the videos be returned to his office. He admitted to being shocked that the scene was included.

What can you say about a “news” organization (yes this is only “commentary”, but most people who don’t actually read the story won’t know the difference) that runs a story where the body of the story specifically contradicts the implication of the headline?  That is, there is not and never was a “Rick Perry Sex Tape,”  whatever scandal there was had nothing to do with anything Rick Perry did, except to try to ameliorate its effects, and the “five second skin” exposure was not Rick Perry’s or anyone associated with Rick Perry, or anyone who even knew Rick Perry.

But the Yahoo people know that many people get their news from headlines, and don’t read the story.  So there are now people walking around the USA who think there is a “sex tape video scandal” involving Rick Perry.

Thanks, Yahoo.  You’re behaving true to form.  Again.


Sep 06 2011

An Open Letter to a College Freshman (but it really works for any university or college student, at any kind of school)

Category: church,higher education,religion,societyharmonicminer @ 10:56 am

In Timothy Dalrymple’s An Open Letter to a College Freshman, he gives advice that is good for Christian students entering secular colleges and universities. Surprisingly, however, much of this advice is likely to apply to incoming students at Christian colleges and universities, too, where it isn’t always so clear who is and who is not teaching from a Christian world-view, nor who really believes and practices the faith that presumably underlies the institution’s mission.

 

At last your time has come.  Leaving behind the old world and the deep ruts you carved in the corner of that world that belonged to you, you’re off to explore undiscovered countries, to join a new and ever-replenishing society of fascinating people and learned scholars and impassioned artists and driven achievers, off to a place where the world is new and so are you.  Whether or not your college years will be “the best years of your life,” they will almost certainly be among the most transformative.

The question is whether that transformation will be for the better.  Unmoored from the people and places that once defined you, you’ll feel a fluidity in your identity that’s both thrilling and frightening.  You may feel as though you can be anyone and become anything.  I pray that you will become who you are — the individual you most truly and deeply are, the one God dreamt of when he made you — and not the person that you or your parents or your friends think you should be.  In service to that end, I thought I would offer seven pieces of advice.  Though it feels churlish to say so, I offer this advice on the basis of some personal experience — more than many and less than some, with four undergraduate years at Stanford, three at Princeton Seminary and seven at Harvard for my Ph.D.  I did a fair amount of teaching, came to know many professors well, and spent time too at universities overseas.  So, on the basis of those experiences, here are my thoughts:

1.  Seek wisdom, not merely intelligence. My father shared this advice with me before my departure for Stanford, and he was precisely right.  On a university campus, intelligence is common.  Wisdom is rare.  Intelligence is cheap, because it’s inherited freely; wisdom is of inestimable value because it’s gained through suffering and sacrifice and years of hard study and experience.  Every night at Stanford I watched the most intelligent people doing the most foolish of deeds, chasing after the most worthless of goals, and believing the most baseless of things.  Their intelligence did nothing to make them more loving or joyful or genuine.  In fact, in many cases it led them astray, as they came to worship their own intellectual powers along with the admiration and accolades and material consolations they could win.  They became immune to criticism, self-indulgent, and chasers of intellectual fashions.  When you love the reputation of intelligence, then you will do and believe those things that will sustain that reputation.  Intelligence does not make you more likely to do what is right or believe what is true.  This is why it’s important to…

2.  Seek mentors, not merely teachers. Intelligent people are dazzling and engaging — and a dime a dozen.  The fascination wears off.  Colleges and universities are replete with intelligent fools, because academia worships the intelligent.  You should know better.  Seek out people of wisdom.  The wise are harder to find because they are fewer and they do not advertise their wisdom (they may not recognize it as such).  Intelligence, like physical strength, is a morally neutral capacity that can be bent in any direction, and it’s most often bent in the direction of personal advancement.  Wisdom’s native movement is toward the true, the good and the beautiful.  So darken the doors of many professors, and return most often to those professors — whether or not they’re the most renowned or powerful — who have true wisdom to impart.  But bear in mind that those who teach you the most, your true mentors, may not be professors at all.  They may be staff, coaches, campus ministers, and especially your friends.  Invest in these relationships.  These are the people who will guide you through the many — and there will be many — difficult and consequential decisions you’ll face in these years.  For pragmatic, social and spiritual reasons, invest deeply in a handful of relationships that you will intentionally pursue for the rest of your life.  It’s better to come away from college with five true friends and mentors than with fifty playmates you’ll barely recognize at the tenth reunion.  In this way you will…

3.  Seek the truth, not merely prevailing opinion. All too often, universities, especially elite research institutions, reward intelligence more than wisdom and the fashionable argument over the solid one.  The reasons are simple — and important to understand.  Publication is the route to academic prestige.  Hiring and tenure decisions at research universities are overwhelmingly influenced by publications.  Yet publishers are not looking for what’s true; they’re looking for what sells.  If you want to publish in the most respected journals and presses, if you want to become a shining academic celebrity, then the question is not whether your contention is true — the truth is old, boring and probably oppressive — but whether your contention is new, provocative, and flattering to the vanities and affirming of the politics of the academic establishment.  The problem is, most true things have already been explained and defended well; but in order to make your name as a scholar, you have to publish and push the envelope, which means you have to explain and defend new theses.  So there’s an intrinsic bias within the academic system toward the novel and the sensational, toward that which challenges tradition.  While young scholars do have to marshal the evidence and argumentation, the truth is that the arguments that tear down the outmoded and ‘oppressive’ — the arguments that lead to the politically correct conclusions — are held to a far lesser standard.  Older, more established scholars scarcely have to advance an argument at all; they coast on the reputations they established in their youth and they’re rarely challenged as long as they fight on the side of the preferred causes.

Appreciate your professors and learn what you can from them, but do not venerate them and do not view them as the tribunes of the truth.  Sadly, the better I came to know my professors, the less their opinions swayed me.  For some I still have the utmost respect.  Yet it became clear that some were constructing elaborate defenses for the things they had long ago determined to believe and do.  More than a few had left their faith in their youth, and had devoted their scholarly careers to justifying that decision.  Many were world-renowned for their intelligence and learning; many were wonderful human beings; some were wise.  Yet academics, no less than other human beings, are swayed by their desires, their fears, their biases, and especially the latest trends sweeping through the halls of academe.  The best professors are no smarter than the best doctors, the best lawyers, the best business executives, and so on.  Many have led sheltered lives with limited forms of social interaction, and they can be, at times, astonishingly insecure and socially under-developed.  So as any true academic should tell you: listen to your professors’ views, take them seriously, but never take their word for gospel.  They, like the rest of us, are limited, biased, sometimes immature, often selfish, fallible creatures.

4.  Seek answers, not merely questions. You may hear the opposite in the freshman orientation process.  ”It’s not the answers but the questions that matter,” they might say, “not the verities but the inquiries, not the destination but the journey.”  Yes and no.  The faculty certainly want you to question the views with which you were raised, especially when they do not agree with those views.  When I was teaching, it was commonly said amongst my colleagues that the purpose of our instruction is to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar.  Our aim, in other words, is to cause young people to see how dubious and arbitrary are the moral, political and religious beliefs with which they were raised, and how sensible and compelling the beliefs of others could be.  Of course, this was not applied evenly.  If you were a liberal pluralist, then you had no oppressive, exclusivist, intolerant and irrational beliefs from which you had to be disabused.  And if you were a conservative Muslim, then the religious studies faculty would stumble all over themselves to defend your perspective.  If you are a conservative (white) Christian, however, then your parents are a part of the problem, and, for your sake and the sake of the world around you, you have to be liberated from the bonds of prejudice and ignorance.  Thus we had professors who promised the students at the outset of a year-long course that any Christians in the lecture hall would lose their faith by the end of the year, or who scoffed that “God is dead beneath my feet,” or who verbally high-fived their fellow faculty when they provoked evangelicals into crises of faith.  This is important to remember: if you are a conservative Christian of one stripe or another, many professors will view your loss of faith as a good thing for you, and an accomplishment for them.

And there is value, to be sure, in critically examining the beliefs with which you were raised.  Your faith may never truly be your own otherwise.  However, you should resist the advice simply to “rest with the questions” and “grow comfortable with ambiguity.”  Grow comfortable with complexity, yes, and with a proper humility over the things we can know and the things we cannot.  But compelling, reasonable answers are out there.  When I began what became a decade-long study of atheism, my faith was cast into question.  I believed that I had been initiated into mysteries that other Christians had not, that I had come across criticisms of the Christian faith that few if any Christians had heard or addressed.  After all, no one at my home church had read Hume or Voltaire, Nietzsche or Russell.  Yet this, of course, was rubbish.  The more I investigated the matter, the more I discovered that, of course, countless thousands of exceptionally intelligent Christians have read Feuerbach and Freud and Russell and Rorty — and not only read them, but developed very satisfying responses to their critiques of Christianity.  The problem arises when you pit a university course criticizing Christian beliefs against an immature, unlearned, Sunday School faith.  Just as you educate yourself (if and when you do) on the criticisms of your beliefs, you should educate yourself on how your faith community has responded to those criticisms.  Men and women of profound Christian faith and extraordinary intelligence and wisdom have been responding to criticisms of Christian belief for as long as the Christian church has been in existence.  Today there is no field — from biology and physics to philosophy and biblical studies — where there are not committed believers who stand amongst the most accomplished in their fields and stand ready to explain how they see their faith in light of their expertise.

This deserves stress for students at Christian universities, as well, who are often being taught be faculty whose own experiences at secular institutions have damaged their faith.  There ARE excellent answers to the most penetrating criticisms of Christian faith, and it’s unfortunate that many Christian university faculty members do not know them.  So if you, as student at a Christian college or university, have the impression that some faculty are trying harder to move you out of your Sunday School ways of thinking than they are trying to point you to deep Christian thinkers who don’t need to take an intellectual backseat to anybody, you should do your own research into the subject.  Don’t assume that your professor (who may well have been taught a post-modern perspective on truth in a grad program somewhere) is the fount of all wisdom, just because his vocabulary may be larger than yours, or because he can quote obscure (to you) authors who challenge orthodox Christianity.  Be assured: there are plenty of brilliant people, widely and deeply read, careful and honest thinkers, who have answers to the toughest questions anyone can throw at them about the faith.  Seek those writers out.

5.  Seek betterment, not merely achievement. On the one hand, it’s never quite true that you can “reinvent yourself”; you do, after all, bring yourself with you wherever you go, along with your habits and predispositions, your wounds and weaknesses.  But the transition to college offers extraordinary opportunities to improve your character and enrich your personality.  Commit, for your first year, to try something new every week.  Go to a Taiko concert, write a piece for the school newspaper, watch an obscure foreign film, sign up for that sailing (or golf or Swahili or classical guitar) class, attend that public lecture (public lectures are among the most powerful and the most underutilized resources you can tap at college), go bungee jumping or apply for overseas study in Europe or a research trip to the Amazon.  Countless students can attest that the most important things they did in college took place outside the classroom.  If you’re faithful with your classes, you’ll receive your education and training.  But if you’re faithful with the other opportunities college affords you, your horizons, your sensibilities, your sense of yourself and your world will expand exponentially.

The important corollary here is that you should not do those things that diminish you or enslave you to addictions.  No decision is isolated.  The decisions you make in these years will form patterns and momentum for the decisions you’ll make for decades to come.  If you throw yourself into drinking or drugs or even the addictive pursuit of love and sex, you may awaken four years later and find that you’ve squandered your opportunities and wasted your potential.  Envision the person you want to be, the person you believe you are called to be, and start being that person.  And start now.  One of the biggest mistakes college students make is thinking that their college years are a pause from “real life” or a waiting room set apart from “the real world.”  Your older friends or siblings do you no favors when they act as though you do not inhabit the real world.  Yes, you inhabit a particular sphere with its own rules and protections, but you are called to be who you are today, to begin today the habits you want to keep tomorrow — for who you are in the next four years will have an immense impact on who you are for the next four decades.

6.  Seek fellowship, not merely friends. I’ll keep this short.  The best and most important part of my Stanford experience, by far, was the Christian fellowship to which I belonged.  It’s a great joy to be surrounded by people your age, people like yourself, who love God and seek to live their lives according to his Word.  The most significant training I’ve ever received for ministry or for Christian living came through that fellowship world.  The friendships I’ve maintained in the thirteen years since graduation are virtually all from that fellowship.  We played and worked, prayed and worshipped, served and ministered shoulder to shoulder — on campus, in the inner cities, around the country and around the world.  The fellowships also introduced me to remarkable Christian women.  One beautiful relationship ended with pain and regret.  Another led to a beautiful marriage.

7.  Finally, seek first the kingdom and righteousness of God. Plunge deeply into the life of the mind, and savor the beauty and the rhythms and richness of the scholarly life.  Immerse yourself in friendship and fellowship and commit to learn from one another.  Enjoy the sports contests and the public lectures and study abroad.  Explore all the idiosyncrasies of your school and community, the traditions and hidden treasures.  And learn how to love and be loved by a significant other.  You will change majors and change jobs and change careers many times before your professional life is through.  That’s fine.  And you will go through your romantic ups and downs.  That’s fine too.

Just make sure you major in the majors and minor in the minors.  Remember your first love, remember who is the Way and the Truth and the Life, seek him, and the rest will work itself out.  ”Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps 37:4).  ”In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6).  Whether your college years bring you hardship and misfortune or flourishing and joy, or more likely both, seek God through it all.  Probably the most important thing I learned in my college years came when I broke my neck in a gymnastics accident, and I learned in truth that nothing could separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38).  God’s gracious communion is the one thing needful.  No matter what else might be taken from you, if you have that, then you have enough and more than enough.  The goods of the world will come and go.  Yet the peace and the joy of your fellowship with God through faith in Jesus Christ will endure forever.

Live for that fellowship, live in it, and live out of it.  In the end, the rest are details.

Sincerely,

Your Friend

 


Sep 05 2011

Europe is indeed crazy

Category: Europe,humor,Obama,societyharmonicminer @ 10:43 am

I know, you probably saw this news bit already, but since Nearly 40 percent of Europeans suffer mental illness, and it’s now official, I feel constrained to point out that many of us have thought Europeans were crazy for many years.

Europeans are plagued by mental and neurological illnesses, with almost 165 million people or 38 percent of the population suffering each year from a brain disorder such as depression, anxiety, insomnia or dementia, according to a large new study.

With only about a third of cases receiving the therapy or medication needed, mental illnesses cause a huge economic and social burden — measured in the hundreds of billions of euros — as sufferers become too unwell to work and personal relationships break down.

“Mental disorders have become Europe’s largest health challenge of the 21st century,” the study’s authors said.

At the same time, some big drug companies are backing away from investment in research on how the brain works and affects behavior, putting the onus on governments and health charities to stump up funding for neuroscience.

“The immense treatment gap … for mental disorders has to be closed,” said Hans Ulrich Wittchen, director of the institute of clinical psychology and psychotherapy at Germany’s Dresden University and the lead investigator on the European study.

“Those few receiving treatment do so with considerable delays of an average of several years and rarely with the appropriate, state-of-the-art therapies.”

Wittchen led a three-year study covering 30 European countries — the 27 European Union member states plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway — and a population of 514 million people.

Let’s not kid around. When you’d rather be on the dole than taking care of yourself, you’re nuts.  When you think the world owes you a living, you’ve definitely gone bonkers.  When you think the solution to keeping your government benefits is to import foreign workers who are hostile to your very way of life and basic beliefs, you’re crazy.  When you think it’s natural to  live like a dependent teenager up to the age of 40 or so, you’re positively certifiable.

Of course, the American elite, whether political, social or academic, seems to think that Europeans do almost everything better, and frequently compare the USA to Europe in a way they think is unfavorable to the USA.

I’m pretty sure, though, that only 19% of America is crazy.

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 19% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president.

Proving, I think, that only half as many Americans are as crazy as Europeans.


Sep 03 2011

“Studies show”… not much

Category: church,media,religion,societyharmonicminer @ 12:25 pm

I have attended too many workshops where hand-wringing fear mongers tell us, based on research by the Barna Group (their book is UnChristian) and some others, that young people aren’t staying in the faith they were taught as children, that young people don’t care much about the moral status of people living “the gay lifestyle,” that other social issues like abortion aren’t such a big deal to today’s youth, that what young people of today really care about is taking care of the poor and downtrodden, and that they are less concerned about future salvation than the coming of the earthly kingdom of heaven when the lion will lay down with the metaphorical lamb, we won’t teach war no more, and everyone will be equally rich (or poor).  Oh, they don’t always say it in quite that way….  but the clear message is this:  stop emphasizing the “social issues” (read, traditional morality) or you’ll lose the young people to the secular ethos of the day.  This line of thinking is especially popular with the “emerging church” or “emergent church” or “emerging conversation” people, those folks who don’t think words really mean all that much, but want us to be sure and use the right words to describe them.

Assuming the best of intentions on the part of these people, the net message seems to be that if we don’t follow their prescription (stop emphasizing traditional morality as a linchpin of Christian teaching) we’ll lose them to people who don’t believe in traditional morality anyway.

The data on which this is based is largely “social science survey” data….  which phrase should be enough to make anyone suspicious of too-sweeping conclusions.  We all know how this works:  the way you ask the questions, the people of whom you ask them, and the way you decide to draw lines in your demographic group in order to categorize people, are all pretty subjective.  I’m not saying that social science of this sort is impossible.  I’m saying that it’s really hard to do, and requires replication both by people using similar methods and ALSO by people using different methods aimed at digging out the same information, before it’s all that reliable.

Rodney Stark and Byron Johnson tell us in Religion and the Bad News Bearers that the reports of the demise of youthful interest in the faith of their fathers may be exaggerated.

The national news media yawned over the Baylor Survey’s findings that the number of American atheists has remained steady at 4% since 1944, and that church membership has reached an all-time high. But when a study by the Barna Research Group claimed that young people under 30 are deserting the church in droves, it made headlines and newscasts across the nation—even though it was a false alarm.

Surveys always find that younger people are less likely to attend church, yet this has never resulted in the decline of the churches. It merely reflects the fact that, having left home, many single young adults choose to sleep in on Sunday mornings.

Once they marry, though, and especially once they have children, their attendance rates recover. Unfortunately, because the press tends not to publicize this correction, many church leaders continue unnecessarily fretting about regaining the lost young people.

In similar fashion, major media hailed another Barna report that young evangelicals are increasingly embracing liberal politics. But only religious periodicals carried the news that national surveys offer no support for this claim, and that younger evangelicals actually remain as conservative as their parents.

Given this track record, it was no surprise this month to see the prominent headlines announcing another finding from Barna that American women are rapidly falling away from religion. The basis for this was a comparison between a poll they conducted in 1991 and one they conducted in January of this year.

The reporters who ran with this story ought to have wondered why this change wasn’t picked up sooner if it was going on for 20 years. Many national surveys have been conducted during this period—in fact the Barna Group has been doing them all along. Did the organization check to see if its new results were consistent with its own previous data or with the many other national surveys widely available? There is no sign that it did. If it had, it would have found that its findings about women are as unfounded as previous claims about young people deserting the church and young evangelicals becoming liberals.

Barna reported in 2010 that about 40% of both men and women read the Bible during a typical week, as female weekly Bible-reading had fallen from 50% in 1991. By contrast, the 2007 Baylor national religion survey found that 29% of men and 40% of women read the Bible about weekly. The statistic for women is consistent with Barna’s reported findings, but the findings for men differ greatly.

The Baylor findings were in full agreement with the results of a 2000 Gallup Poll finding that 29% of men and 43% of women were weekly Bible-readers. This, in turn, was consistent with a 1988 study by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC), which found that 25% of men and 39% of women were weekly readers. If the Barna claim about a major decline in women’s Bible-reading is true, it must have happened in the past three years. This is quite unlikely, given the remarkable stability of the statistics over the past several decades.

As for the supposed decline in female church attendance, the best data come from the NORC, which has conducted annual surveys since 1972. Across 38 years, there have been only small variations in church attendance, and Barna’s reported 11 percentage-point decline in women’s church attendance (to 44% from 55%) simply didn’t happen. Nor has the gender gap narrowed. In 1991, according to NORC data, 38% of women and 28% of men said they attended weekly. In 2002, 36% of women and 24% of men attended weekly. In 2008, 36% of women and 25% of men attended weekly, and in 2010 it was 34% of women and 25% of men.

Finally, the Baylor data show that in 2007, 38% of women, compared with 26% of men, described themselves as “very religious.” So the gender gap—which holds for every religion in every nation around the globe—remains alive and well in America, just as it has for decades. As for media-hyped studies about religion, one should always beware of bad news bearers.

In a follow up post, I’ll have some more comments about this.


Aug 24 2011

Two stories on the disaster that is the California public employee pension morass

If you’re a lefty, you might be inclined to dismiss this first story, since it’s posted at BIGOVERNMENT.COM, and so biased to the right (although lefties continue to trust the New York Times and the LA Times… funny, that). But the second story, below, is based on a Standford University study…. and we all know what a hotbed of ultra-rightwing radicalism is found at Stanford.  I hate that the state has done this, because I have some family members who are counting on the state system to work properly.  That is, however, what comes of trusting Democrats to run a budget, let alone make financial projections into the next decade.

» California Admits to Almost $1 Trillion in Unfunded Pension Obligations

 

The three largest California public retiree plans (CalPERS, CalSTRS, and UCRS) that administer pensions of approximately 2.6 million State and Local public current and retired employees have been under tremendous scrutiny since last year’s release of the Stanford University Institute for Public Policy report: “Going For Broke”. The study concluded that California retirement plans liability was under-funded by over $500 billion.

The report blamed most of the shortfall on the pension plan’s expectation of future annual investment returns of 7.75%; versus a realistic expectation of a 4.14% annual return. The cabal of California politicians, bureaucrats, and crony consultants that justified granting lucrative benefits to employees while failing to contribute enough to support the true pension costs; solemnly dismissed the Stanford report as unsophisticated reflections by academics. But now that a swarm of local governments want to abandon the floundering retirement trusts; the State plans are only willing to credit a 3.8% expected return. If the California State pension plans adopted the same 3.8% rate they are only willing to credit when participants want to leave; their published $288 billion in pension shortfall would metastasize into an $884 billion California State insolvency.

It doesn’t take a Stanford MBA to realize producing consistently high investment returns since 2007 has been a difficult in the extreme. The California State pension plans that currently control $432 billion in assets, suffered a $109.7 billion in losses during the 2008 to 2009 recession. Pension plans normally require employers and their employees to mutually increase contributions to make up pension shortfalls. But public pension plans are notorious for not requiring employees to make significant contribution. California police, prison guards, firemen, and lifeguards can retire at age 50, but have never been required to contribute to fund pensions. With headlines that California plans are in big trouble; many government agencies applied to withdrawal from the State plans. But as calculated below; compounding investments at 7.75% grows to more than three times the amount of compounding investments at a 3.8% rate of return.

When I was elected as Orange County, California Treasurer in 2006, I was flabbergasted to discover that the County’s $8 billion of retirement investments was covertly leveraged up by $22 billion of derivatives. I quickly learned that many unions see pension benefits as contracted rights; and pension investing as a no risk crap-shoot for extraordinary returns.

 

If the pension investment returns sky-rocket, the unions will bargain for increased benefits. If the pension investment returns crash; the public employees are protected by rock-solid contract law that prevents any reduction in benefits. In 2007, I was fortunate to gain the support of enough OC Pension Trustees to reduce speculative derivative use by 90%. At the time, Trustees for the California public pension plans solemnly dismissed Orange County as unsophisticated. Shortly thereafter the stock market crashed and the State Pension Trustees stopped making comments.

Once famous as the Golden State for leading the nation in high tech growth industries that provided excellent wages; California is now tarnished for having the second highest unemployment and worst state credit rating in the nation. Forbes recently quoted a top venture capitalist that compared the California business climate to France: “I try not to hire here, and I certainly would not launch a company here. But the wine is good.” Tripling of the burden for under-funded pension liability to almost $1 trillion will probably ruin the taste of California wine for most taxpayers.

 

California state pension funds going broke, Stanford study finds

 

California state pension funds going broke, Stanford study finds

New calculations by Stanford graduate students show that California’s three main public employee pension funds are in more dire financial trouble than previously believed.

L.A. Cicero
Howard Bornstein and Lisha Wang 

 

Students Howard Bornstein and Lisha Wang spoke with reporters after a news conference where they and the other members of their research group announced their findings about the state retirement system.

BY GWYNETH DICKEY

California public employee pension systems are worse off than anyone previously projected, according to a new report generated by five graduate students in Stanford’s graduate Public Policy Program. The result could be greater pressure on the state budget and a shortage of pension funds in the future.

“This is a really dire situation,” graduate student Howard Bornstein said today at a press conference at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), which is publishing the students’ findings. “If we don’t do something now, we’re going to have major issues in just a few years.”

Bornstein and his fellow graduate students examined public records of past performance of three pension funds – the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the University of California Retirement System (UCRS), which together administer pensions for approximately 2.6 million Californians.

The students ran computer simulations to predict the unfunded liabilities of the pension funds over the next 16 years.

Major investment needed

“The simulation shows that the state would need to invest more than $200 billion, and possibly as much as $350 billion, today to return the fund to a minimum responsible level of funding,” said Bornstein, who noted that the figure is approximately four times the current state budget.

“It’s an enormous number,” said Joe Nation, a public policy lecturer at SIEPR and the adviser for the research team. He said it’s important to look at the shortfall relative to state resources. Pension funds fluctuate with market performance, but state employees are guaranteed a fixed pension regardless. If the market performs poorly, the state is obligated to step in and provide the missing pension funds. That takes money away from other public projects, such as education and healthcare, Nation said.

“The students did an amazing job providing a better sense of unfunded liability for those three pension funds, and I hope observers out there will begin to understand that this is a financial train wreck that is not very far down the tracks,” Nation said.

In the report, Bornstein and his fellow graduate students suggest policies to fix the shortfall and prevent a similar one in the future.

They propose that the managers of the pension funds project more realistic rates of return, which would indicate higher liabilities in the future.

“The whole approach that the state currently uses is inherently flawed. They look at averages as opposed to a fan of outcomes,” said Bornstein. “If you instead look at the range of outcomes in the future, you’d see there’s over a 60 percent chance of a deficit greater than $250 billion for CalPERS alone. This is something that really scares us.”

The students suggest that the minimum level of caution should be for the pension systems to aim for an 80 percent probability of having at least 80 percent of the funds necessary to cover the pensions. They also advocate investing more conservatively, taking fewer risks.

“Funds in other parts of the country are in similar situations, and they are beginning to invest in riskier assets,” Nation said. “That’s exactly the wrong thing to do. If the market doesn’t perform well, the taxpayer ends up paying.”

Suggested fixes

The students suggest either reducing pension benefits or moving to a hybrid system in which retirees receive a smaller fixed pension combined with a 401(k)-style plan. This would relieve some of the burden on the state and give employees more responsibility for their retirement. Two-thirds of Californians would support such a plan, according to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

“The biggest challenge with this is making sure elected officials understand the severity of the problem,” Nation said. “It’s a political hot potato and most politicians shy away from the issue because you offend a lot of the constituencies by acknowledging the problem exists.”

But, he said, citizens and institutions are increasingly aware of the situation and are speaking out.

“The University of California is engaged in this debate because they finally understand that as pension fund benefits grow, there will be fewer dollars for higher education,” Nation said.

The report was prepared for the Office of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as part of the Graduate Practicum in Public Policy, a two-quarter sequence required for master’s degree students in the Public Policy and International Policy Studies programs.

In addition to the masters’  program in Public Policy, Bornstein will earn his Masters in Business Administration degree this June.

SIEPR conducts research on important economic policy issues facing the United States and other countries. SIEPR’s goal is to inform policymakers and to influence their decisions with long-term policy solutions.

What’s funny is the heading above, “major investment needed.”  The left wants to make a major investment, alright.  An Obama-style investment, called enormous tax hikes to fund impossible promises made to public employee unions.

Something will have to give.  Higher taxes to fund impossible-to-fulfill promises will just postpone the disaster, and not by very long.  A complete, structural, top-to-bottom readjustment is needed, and people have to lose the idea that they can work for 30 years and retire at the age of 55 and still get paid till they die at 95.


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