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Rocky Mountain Alliance of Blogs, 2.0
My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.
|Once more unto the breach, dear friends! Tonight's Alliance Radio will feature the regulars, Joshua and Ben, as well as myself and our Utah Branch Member, Jonathan.|
Join us as we retrospect 2008 and look ahead to 2009. Bad predictions almost a certainty!
|2008 has been a trying year, the sort of year that tests men's souls. But on (or close to) the darkest day of the year, we Christians get to celebrate in great Joy the birth of our Savior, He who makes all things new. |
So, even if this has been a difficult year, and even if this Christmas finds you in smaller circumstances than you are accustomed to, I pray that you remember the purpose of the season, and take great heart and comfort in the wonder that is our God become flesh to save us all and make us new. And I pray that those of you grieving (Guy, Mark, et al) take heart that your loved ones are already made new and await your joining them in the blink of an eye.
And I further pray that you (and me, as well) are allowed the time and space on this Glorious Day to consider the many blessings in your life, and how few of them are wrapped this day; that you (and I) consider those who spend this day cold and alone that we may enjoy those blessings in peace; and that you (and I) take this opportunity to laugh, to smile, and to spread His Light in the world, and resolve to make the world within our reach new again, starting today.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
|Most Important Things #4|
The Federal Judiciary has undergone a transformation during President Bush’s tenure. Even with Democratic filibusters and Republican ineptitude, the ranks of the black robes are populated by many, many more constructionists than was the case a decade ago.
That will be undone in the next four or eight years, unless Republicans get their acts together.
Republicans have been badly outflanked on the critical issues of the Bill of Rights over the last . . . oh, 40 years. It seems as if, from a public relations standpoint, the only argument Republicans have that is of any consequence is that the Court invented a “Right of Privacy” so that women can have abortions, and that’s a bad thing.
And, of course, that’s true. But there’s SOOO much more to the faulty jurisprudence of the Court over the last few decades that for our whole philosophy to be reduced to a contentious soundbite is silly. But that’s what has happened.
Begin with the First Amendment. The balance of power between the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause has been tipped so far in favor of prevention of establishment that the vast majority of Americans (somewhere around 85%) have a difficult time finding a place for their religion in the public square. It has gotten so convoluted that, as a teacher, I find myself editing my own thoughts at public performances when I feel the need to say “Merry Christmas.” Huge legal battles are waged over whether or not Christian churches have a right to enter a float or a display in a CHRISTMAS PARADE!! And yet, the atheists in Washington State now have the official blessing of the state as they are allowed to put a virulently anti-Christian message on a state display honoring the holidays. At the same time, Christian health care workers who object, on moral grounds, to abortion are forced to provide information regarding the procedure to patients, and to make the procedure available in their facilities. A pastor friend of mine, who has chosen to pursue his ministry in the military, is prevented from preaching his Faith, in fear that he might make a non-believer uncomfortable.
Is this easily distilled to a compelling argument? Probably not. But it is the sort of thing a CouRt nominee should have to answer about in his/her confirmation hearing. And, at whatever point the nominee is unable to clearly articulate their philosophy about the balance, the entire caucus should jump on the issue, and then YouTube/Twitter the verbal gymnastics.
And there’s more than religion to the First Amendment. There’s also the Free Speech thing. You know, the one that says the government can’t abridge your speech—unless you’re trying to make a speech about politics through the medium of television and that requires money. Or unless you’re trying to say something negative about Barack Obama in Missouri. Or unless you’re trying to stay in business as a conservative talk radio station. Watch this space.
And then there’s the Second Amendment. Luckily, we got a victory this past year when SCOTUS ruled that the Right to Bear Arms is an individual right. You would think that that was the end of the story but, of course, it’s not. State legislatures will, no doubt, try to chip away at that right in a gradual way—so slow that you don’t even notice. After all, they believe they have a permanent majority. They can afford to wait on this stuff—what’s twenty years against the long struggle to take guns away from Americans?
Fifth Amendment? How about Kelo? “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Consider, then, what an Obama-led Department of the Interior does with the Endangered Species Act, the nee-Kyoto Treaty, and whatever else the “Savior’s” administration decides is important. The potential land-grab from the Feds is without precedent, as the Feds get to decide who gets what space to use for what purposes. Don’t get comfortable on your new property.
And remember the Left’s favorite argument in confirmation hearings? Stare Decisis? The absolute belief that that which the Court has already decided on is sacrosanct. The Left used that as a bit of a bludgeon to get quasi-commitments out of Roberts and Alito not to revisit Roe or Gratz or a hundred other deicisions they agreed with. But, luckily for them, adherence to historical precedent is antithetical to “progressivism,” so I would definitely look for an aggressive push to ignore Stare on a wide range of issues, including the afore-mentioned D.C. gun ban. Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch had better be ready to hammer away at Obama’s nominees vis-à-vis Stare on the few small victories we’ve won over the past few years.
This argument has to be framed in the context of issues that matter to Americans. Americans still like to practice their religion, Americans like saying “under God,” Americans like their guns, even if they aren’t actual guns but just the idea of guns, Americans, Americans like their property, . . .
And Americans DO NOT like to be told by nine unelected people in black robes that their beliefs are bigoted, their lifestyles extravagent, and their land better used by the state for the “greater good.” This is an argument the Right can win. Most important, it’s an argument the Right MUST win or there will be no checks on Obama’s/Pelosi’s/Reid’s extraordinary extension of government powers.
But somebody has to teach our Senators and cnadidates how to talk about these issues in a way that the country can understand. The Court is one issue that still resonates to our gain.
|Week 4 coming at you tonight at 9 p.m. Tonight features Josh and Ben with Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier. Tune in!!|
|Most Important Things #3: Combat Persistent Poverty|
Thomas P.M. Barnett writes that "Disconnectedness Defines Danger." To review what I've written about this before, the idea is that those who are outside the community, and who have little real connection to the community, are the ones who are the most dangerous to the community.
Well, I cannot think of a greater disconnectedness from within the American community than the pockets of persistent povererty that seem to exist in every major metropolitan area in America.
If you are a young man born in the inner city, what are your opportunities for making a better life? Sports, performing, education, or crime. In truth, that is probably true for young men born in the richest suburbs--it's just that much more stark for urban youth. They don't have access to taking over dad's business or other sorts of legacy careers. So they're left with those choices.
And what are those choices, really? Sports? One in a million, with the very real possibility that one bad step is the end of the dream. Think about this: every year at Denver East H.S. there are 15 varsity basketball players; over the last 15 years, that translates into (with overlaps) probably 150 players at one of the best basketball programs in Colorado; right now, exactly one of those 150 is making a living at basketball (Chauncy Billups).
And performing? Like comedy or singing? Even a longer shot.
Education? Well, considering how devalued it is in the inner city, I wouldn't bet the farm on this option.
Are urban schools bad? Yes. Is it because we don't throw enough resources at them? No--look at the comparative per-pupil spending between Washington, D.C. or New York and, say, Douglas County, CO or suburban Kansas City. Is it because they are, frequently, cesspools of bad behavior and apathy? Yes. In this setting, does education create the sort of connectedness to society that schools are supposed to?
No. In fact, the social nature of the urban school actually contributes to the DISconnectedness from the society in general.
Which leaves two options: turn to crime, or settle for another generation of poverty.
The sort of hopelessness that this scenario breeds is exacerbated by sociological statistics: more than half of all black children, primarily in urban settings, are born to single mothers; the number one predictor of poverty is single motherhood; the number one predictor of becoming a single mother is being the child of a single mom.
In other words, statistically speaking, poverty breeds poverty; culturally speaking, poverty is synonymous with disconnectedness.
Oh, and, by the way, if you were a male between the ages of 18 and 35, with dark skin, an accent, and the intention of killing hundreds or thousands of Americans, where would you hide: suburbia, or the inner city?
And, as I've written about before, Republicans are very VERY weak at talking about this particular issue. But it is both important enough in reality, and obvious enough symbolically to demand that Republicans elevate this issue to the top of their platform. It simply isn't acceptable that modern-day America has a permanent underclass. The problem is that Republicans cannot advocate a large-scale government solution--it has never worked in the past and it is anethema to us.
Here's what, IMHO, Republicans need to start doing to address this.
Idea #1: Break up the inner city school
This is far from simply a typical Republican attack on public schools. For many suburban youths, schools are places where they learn to form social networks while gaining the skills necessary to acquire knowledge which will make them valuable to either higher-level schools or employers (in a perfect world); in other words, suburban schools are the place where suburban kids begin to learn how to create their own connectedness. It doesn't always work, but it works at, actually, a fairly high rate. Urban schools, on the other hand, are Darwinian psychological cage matches where the best hope is survival; connectedness is only one direction: gangs.
Many would say the solution is simple: vouchers. I don't believe in the immediate efficacy of vouchers. Ask teachers, especially middle school and above, who shows up at parent-teacher conferences; they will tell you it's the parents of good kids. The parents they really need to see are almost never there. And, really, good kids tend to find ways to survive and thrive--from experience, there was a very weak music program at a school once that has produced a band with a major-label record deal, several music teachers, and a couple Ph.Ds. The point is this: greatness will find its way, even through the valley of shadows.
I'm not talking about the great ones: there's a vast, VAST number of students just below the level of greatness who we have to save. And unless we can put them in an environment where there is a critical mass of interested, dedicated students--unless we can create a "tipping point" that creates a learning environment--those students will be lost.
So, let's not do vouchers. Instead, let's create partnerships with near-suburban school districts and charter schools that can take students from the inner city and provide them with a "connectedness" experience. Will that require bussing? Yes. Will it be forced? No. Will we force the students from the suburbs to go to the inner city? No.
Will it be difficult? Absolutely. Will it be more difficult than finding a way to turn around a 23 year-old who didn't get their diploma and getting them connected to the larer society. No.
Provide, from both a state and federal level, an incentive for the suburban school to take on this challenge; provide an opportunity for parents of inner-city youth to volunteer for their children to take on this challenge; provide--MOST IMPORTANTLY--resources for those suburban schools to partner with the business community and government so that these students can get connected.
We simply cannot--CANNOT--accept that there is a permanent underclass. And Republicans MUST be a part of this discussion, so that we can influence it towards market-based reforms. Otherwise, we may be seeing bussing coming back down the line.
Idea #2: Employ "Counter-Insurgency" Policing in Dead Zones
This is not, as Barnett would say, a call for a Leviathan police force to go in and clean up the Projects. This is, above all else, a call for SysAdmin approach to policing the inner city--EVERYWHERE. The model is out there, we know where it works: the "Broken Glass" theory of policing that Rudy Giuliani used to save New York City. The idea, also stolen from Malcolm Gladwell, is that you can affect massive cultural change simply by changing little things; the problem, as discovered by Gen. David Patreaus, is that you cannot learn which little things will work unless you are embedded in it.
Get the police and the National Guard into the inner city--not to shoot people, but to build shelters, rebuild American schools, run soup kitchens, be on a first name basis with the church leaders in the inner city, and learn how to solve the problems of the inner city. Oh, and, yeah, at the same time, figure out who the bad guys are and end them.
The difference between a "Dead Zone" and a "Cultural Renewal Zone" is the elimination of crime and the reintroduction of hope and opportunity. Small deal? No. Important? Yeah.
I think the bigger picture is this: Republicans have to care about this problem; Republicans have to talk about solving this problem; Republicans have to actually provide some opportunities to solve this problem.
And the thing is: Republicans do. I do. But we get suckered--EVERY TIME--into simply saying government can't do this. That's a colossal mistake, because then we leave the impression that we either don't recognize the problem or that we don't care about the problem.
Government has a role in this, and it's one that the Republicans should start taking a role in defining.