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obama-at-law-schoolToday President Obama delivered his much anticipated first-day-of-school speech to America’s public school children. If you believe the mainstream media (depending on your network of choice), everyone who lauded the speech is a wacko socialist while those who opposed it are crazy glue-sniffers. But what about those who don’t place themselves on the far right or left? From a limited government, independent standpoint, was the speech good or bad for America’s children?

In order to answer this question, let’s look at the major talking points from both left and right.

Left:
1. We won the election, so shut it you crazy conservative right-wing psychopaths. This is pretty much the left’s current battle cry. They feel that the President has a voter-bestowed mandate to do most anything he wants. There is some truth to this. The voters did elect the Democratic Party pretty much across the board. However, as has been seen during the Congressional recess, there is still a vocal-if-not-large portion of the public that doesn’t care for this argument.
2. The speech was so benign, uplifting, and conservative, it sounded like a Republican speech anyway. True to an extent, but, as shall be demonstrated, the President wove some subtle statist mumbo jumbo into his “don’t give up, stay in school” message.
3. The right will oppose anything Obama does, no matter what it is. I have to say that this is probably true. He has become the anti-right, even if some of his anti-rightness is purely imaginary.

Right:
1. Obama is indoctrinating the children. He’s trying to turn my kid into a socialist. OK people, I read and watched the speech. There were a few little things, but for the most part the speech was apolitical. Most of the kids weren’t paying attention anyway. In fact, if you ask them tomorrow morning what the message of the speech was, most likely they would reply, “Study hard, stay in school.” That is, those who remembered that they watched a speech at all would say that. I doubt any of them were convicted to mark “D” on their first ballot in 2-10 years purely on the merits of this talk.
2. Obama is trying to teach my kid values I don’t agree with. Really? Like what? Work hard, do your best, finish school? Those are pretty darn good suggestions regardless of where they come from. Again, the speech was not controversial in this respect. There was nothing about abortion, gun control, or homosexuality, although the President did encourage students to stand up for kids who are different and are being bullied. I don’t think a million newly minted school age liberal socialists spilled out of America’s schools today at 3 pm. The speech was just not that value laden.
3. I just don’t like the guy and he shouldn’t be talking to my kids. Fair enough. Many school districts didn’t show the speech, and many more parents kept their kids home today. When it came right down to it, parents who felt strongly that their children should not hear what the President had to say found a way to keep them from hearing it. Was it a big loss? Probably not.

Sadly, the above points are about as deeply as most liberals and conservatives are looking at the issue. From my standpoint, though, there are a few other things to consider, some pro-speech and some con. For instance:

1. Why are we so afraid that our children hear a speech from THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES? Haven’t we taught our kids to think critically about an argument before they accept it wholesale? Don’t we have any confidence at all that we have bestowed our cherished values in them? We send them off to public school every day to be molded by state employed teachers and other kids, yet we are afraid for them to hear the President, the holder of an office we should teach them to respect?
2. On the other hand, the federal government is not supposed to interfere in public school curriculum. That realm is reserved for the States. The White House provided a much edited study guide to go along with the Obama speech. This should not have been done. Speech OK. Assignments related to the speech, not OK.
3. Get a load of the ego on this guy. One of the things that amazed me about the speech was how Barack Obama turned the first day of school into Obama Appreciation Day. I mean, shouldn’t the first day of school be about students, teachers, and the excitement of a new school year? Instead the day was completely disrupted all for the sake of a 15 minute story about how young Barry became a success against all odds. I hope the kids loved him because he sure loves himself.
4. Perhaps most disturbingly, the theme of the speech, while hiding behind a mask of determination and perseverance, was really about dependence and malleability. Consider the following quote:
“So today, I want to ask you, what’s your contribution going to be? What problems are you going to solve? What discoveries will you make? What will a president who comes here in twenty or fifty or one hundred years say about what all of you did for this country? Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn.”
Do our kids need the government in order to learn, make discoveries, solve problems, or make a contribution? It seems to me that these great things most often occur when government influence is absent. We all know that actions speak louder than words. What will our kids think when their President tells them:
“You can’t drop out of school and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.”
“We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don’t do that – if you quit on school – you’re not just quitting on yourself, you’re quitting on your country.”
“Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future. That’s what young people like you are doing every day, all across America.”

and then they see the same President’s government taking the fruit of their talent and hard work and handing it to dropouts and quitters? That doesn’t sound like writing your own destiny. That sounds like signing your own indenture.

So will President Obama’s speech make that much of a difference? Probably not. Like most speeches, it will likely be thrown into the dustbin of history. Was it good or bad for the kids? Probably neither. Most of the kids won’t remember it anyway. On the other hand, I was a public school student in October 1991 when George H.W. Bush delivered his (much maligned by the left) public school speech, and I still remember that. Yes indeed. I explicitly remember thinking, “Man…that dude is old.”

Read the speech here.

Watch the speech here.

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Dear Mr. President,

I just watched your “I Pledge…” video. I am now 100% unable to take you seriously. Next time you want to indoctrinate me, get somebody besides the host of Punk’d to deliver your message. Now if you need me, I’ll be off flushing twice after each pee.

Sincerely,
Garret

On upholding morality

ArrowsHello, dear readers. Sorry for the long hiatus, but it has been a very busy summer here in my Sleepy household. Time has been so short and things have been changing so quickly in our republic that it seems to write in depth about any one event would be to do injustice to all of the others. Instead I have been watching events unfold, as I am sure you have, and intend to speak to some of the larger issues in the near future.

Today I had a brief online conversation with a young aspiring politician whose acquaintance I have made. Our topic was the legitimacy of the laws prohibiting the use of marijuana. Early in the conversation he made the following statement:

Fortunately we still have a government that (somewhat) believes in the rule of law, protecting its citizens, and upholding morality–which is, after all, the purpose of government.

I was passingly disturbed by his claim that “upholding morality…is…the purpose of government”, not to mention the absurd claim that “our government believes in the rule of law”, but I let it pass at the time, as the debate was headed in a different direction. However, I feel that this sentiment is shared by many who have not spent a lot of time carefully thinking about the shape of American morality and the government’s role in promoting it.

Let’s go back in time for a moment. It is indeed true that our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. It is also true that many (but not all) of our founding fathers were practicing Christians or Deists, although in some cases I am playing it a bit fast and loose with the term “practicing”. For the sake of brevity I will not go into details, but do a little research on the personal lives of Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin and you will get the gist. The point is that the United States was founded by men who believed, though didn’t always practice, the Christian concepts of morality. In this sense the United States has been, from its birth, a Christian nation.

As time passed, Americans tried several times to unsuccessfully legislate “Christian morality” from the seat of government. The most obvious example was the 18th amendment to the Constitution (repealed by Amendment 21) which outlawed intoxicating liquors. Other issues held dear and vehemently defended by early Americans on moral grounds such as slavery and exclusive male suffrage were overturned as well. In our own time the prohibition of recreational drugs (though not tobacco, which is responsible for over 400,000 deaths per year) has been hailed as a victory of national morality.

There is a clear line where issues of morality and government should meet. Laws prohibiting murder, assault, rape, and theft come to mind. These laws are clearly in line with Christian moral principles and they also prohibit one citizen from forcibly abusing the rights of another. As such, these laws are legitimate methods for the government to legislate morality. On the other hand, there are areas where the government should steer clear of enforcing morality through law. This is where I think things may get a little sticky for my friend, the young politician.

If we believe that the purpose of the government is to uphold morality, then it becomes clear that we must establish a solid and workable definition of the term “morality”. For many this is easy; they automatically jump to their Christian faith for this definition. They believe that the purpose of the government is to uphold, under established law and threat of force, the Christian values on which their faith is based. This would be perfectly agreeable if all Americans were Christians, or if all Americans were extremely easy going, or if the United States was a dictatorship, but none of these is the case. We are a land of many races, creeds, religions, and philosophies. Many have similar moral codes; some have very different moral beliefs or none at all. Fortunately for each of us, we are all still at liberty to believe what our families have believed for generations, or to head in a completely different direction. As thoroughly diverse Americans sharing and subject to the same laws we can not all possibly be forced to hold the same government mandated Judeo-Christian moral standard. We have declared ourselves to be the land of the free, not the land of the same, and, shockingly, not the land of the good.

By way of example, let’s look briefly at the issue of drug abuse. I hesitate to broach this subject because so many people I know will immediately jump to the wrong conclusions. Based on my Christian worldview, I do not believe that using recreational drugs is morally right. I believe that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and should therefore be treated with the utmost respect. I know from the experiences of family members and close friends how devastating drug abuse can be. However, I also am able to see that the way drug law has been implemented in the United States has been an absolute disaster. Billions of dollars have been wasted in the futile attempt to stamp out drug trafficking and distribution. Billions more have been spent feeding and clothing incarcerated non-violent drug abusers in America’s prisons. Still the situation is as bad if not worse today than the day Ronald Reagan declared the “war on drugs”. The facts are clear, his war has failed. On the other hand, hundreds of private treatment centers exist across this country that are making a difference in the lives of those affected by drug addiction. These centers often do not receive any public funds, yet somehow they are phenomenally successful. How on earth do they turn drug abusers around without tossing them in jail? The answer, of course, is morality.

That’s where my young friend, the politician, gets it so wrong. He still sees government as the enforcer of morality, the warrior of goodness, the savior of souls at gunpoint. He does not yet realize a key fact: government = force. You can not force morality on people. Christian morality is shared and taught through one on one communication of kindness, compassion, and love. That is why faith based drug rehabilitation programs are so successful. They teach abusers to respect themselves as servants of God. Private secular programs like AA and NA are also overwhelmingly successful because of personal transmission of clear moral principles. While they do not focus on Christ, they still impart to their members the importance of respect for the body, mind, and soul. Our morality is personal, not political. It should never be forced, by governments or individuals, on anyone who is not freely willing. The function of government is not to uphold morality through force of law. The function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens and give them the freedom to choose their own road. I happen to believe that those who freely choose a moral path will have a better life. I also believe that the more Americans turn to God to establish a moral heading, the stronger our nation will become. But Christian morality should be forced on no one; each should have a choice.

So don’t make the same mistake that my friend did. The next time you find yourself thinking “There should be a law against…” what you think is someone else’s moral shortcoming, remember that the government has not been established to enforce your moral standard. Each of us is free to choose; not even God forces us to follow Him.

HamEarlier this week I wrote a silly little story poking fun at the federal government’s taxpayer funded website Recovery.gov. The point I was attempting to make was that anything the government tries to do, the private free-market can accomplish more quickly, at higher quality, and at far less cost to society. I didn’t really go into what information can actually be found at Recovery.gov, but now I think I will. Yes indeed, the following real report is just a little, er, taste of President Obama’s idea of “accountability and transparency”. By the way, do you like ham?

Take a good hard look at this contract report from Recovery.gov. Pay special attention to the parts I have highlighted in red.

Contracts – Recipient Summary
CLOUGHERTY PACKING, LLC
Clarification of Codes

Award Overview
Agency Name- Department of Agriculture, Project Location- LOS ANGELES
Contract Number- AG3J14120297196, Project Location – State CA

Funding Amount- $1,191,200, Project Location – Zip Code 90058-1800
Completion Date- 2009-06-30, Congressional District- CA-34

Recipient Information (Award)
Recipient Name- CLOUGHERTY PACKING, LLC, Recipient Address- 3049 E VERNON AVE
Recipient City- LOS ANGELES, Recipient State- CALIFORNIA
Recipient Zip Code- 90058-1800, Congressional District- CALIFORNIA-34

Description of Work/Service performed-
2 POUND FROZEN HAM SLICED

That’s right, this is a real report from Recovery.gov. An extremely large amount of money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, $1,191,200 to be exact, was used by our government to purchase two pounds of sliced frozen ham.

I don’t even know what to say. I wonder how long it will be before this report mysteriously disappears?

Kudos to American Thinker.

Dangerous Things

I think YouTube is one of the best tools to come along in years. I routinely search for videos on how to perform certain tasks that I am not quite sure about and usually someone on YouTube comes through for me. Of course you have to critically evaluate each video, but you can almost always find something that can help you.

I was looking for a review of a certain firearm some time ago, and I came across a prolific YouTube producer called Nutnfancy. He takes his YouTubing very seriously, calling his excellent series of videos “The Nutnfancy Project” or “TNP” for short. If you are into knives, guns, backpacking, mountaineering, survival, or just general outdoorsmanship, you should definitely check him out. Anyway, occasionally Nutnfancy gets political and philosophical. He released the following video called “Dangerous Things” a couple of days ago, and I thought it was especially excellent and worth re-posting here. It outlines the following philosophy:

dangerous things + proper skill set + personal responsibility = safe society

The first couple of minutes is Nutnfancy driving his car around, so you can skip to about 2:30 if you want. By the way, if you are a whiny nanny-state kind of person, don’t even bother watching.

A ¬ A

scifiA long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there spun a blue planet populated by a species called Zorgs. A particularly lucky group of Zorgs, eventually around 300 million of them, got together to form a nation they named Freeland. The Freelanders enjoyed a relatively peaceful and prosperous 233 years, interrupted only occasionally by wars, famines, and natural disasters. The prosperity of Freeland, as every Zorg kindergartner knew, was directly attributable to the Freelandish free enterprise economy. Zorgs of every stripe, regardless of their place of birth, were allowed to come and go and buy and sell as they saw fit. This system led the Freelandish way of life to be the envy of the entire Zorg planet.

As time went on, many Freelanders forgot what had made their nation grow and prosper. They stopped trading freely amongst themselves and began to depend more and more on the Freeland government officials to give them food, clothing, and huts to live in. Some Zorgs even forgot how to think for themselves and depended on the Freeland government and media to do their thinking for them. Each group of Freelanders attempted to convince their government officials that their small disadvantaged sub-race of Zorg was superior to all others and deserved special treatment. As a result of this downturn in personal initiative and intellect, the economy of Freeland, after many prosperous if over-leveraged years, began to slide into disarray. Many Freelanders found themselves out of work and even more dependent on the government to sustain them. The Freeland economic crash was so severe that it sent the entire economy of the Zorg planet into a tailspin.

Many Freelanders who remembered the old way of doing things hoped that the other Zorgs would come to their senses and stop their ridiculous dependence on the government. Unfortunately this was not to be. The Freelanders elected a group of government officials who immediately began to steal money from them and recklessly attempt to use it to “revive the economy”. The new government promised that it would tell the Zorgs how the money was being spent, so it used a great deal of the stolen money to launch the website www.recovery.gov, where any Zorg could look at how their stolen money was being wasted.eagle-nebula Unfortunately, the website didn’t show very much other than flashy nonsense and outdated information. A group of enterprising Zorgs called the Onvia Corporation launched a similar website, www.recovery.org, to track what the government was doing without using any stolen money and employing only ancient Freelandish free enterprise principles. Not surprisingly, the free-market website was vastly superior in the informativeness, timeliness, and usefulness of the data it provided to the Zorgs who used it. In fact, the recovery.org site revealed just how inefficient and ridiculous the Freeland government actually was. Zorgs who loved freedom cheered and celebrated. Private free market ingenuity had once again demonstrated its superiority over government bureaucracy. Unfortunately the Freelanders who had grown dependent on the government were too busy feeling sad and powerful to notice.

And so the economies of Freeland and the Zorg planet continued to decline into chaos, proving once and for all that the Zorgs were actually too lazy and stupid to make a go of it.

The End

[By the by, if you don’t care for science fiction, please make the following substitutions:

Zorg = human
Freeland = United States of America

These minor changes make the story 100% non-fictitious.]