Author Archives: Lauri Bohanan

A Parent Letter on Common Core

Common Core SucksThere has been much controversy surrounding the newly rolled out Common Core standards (also called the “State Standards Initiative”) in public education. It is lauded by some as more advanced than previous standards and criticized by others as too formulaic, and nearly 1/4 of the states are exploring the possibility of opting out of the implementation.

This initiative might just be the biggest waste of taxpayer money the government has ever been engaged in. States have spent billions of dollars over the years determining what standards and tests work best for their students, only to now have to spend billions more to replace those systems with a government-mandated, nationwide curriculum.

One concerned parent (@suzibasterd) drafted this letter to her local Tennessee newspaper, expressing her thoughts on Common Core. She shared the letter (which has yet to be published) on Facebook.

If you have not done so already, take a peek at the standards. The English Language Arts Standards claim this:

The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (“the Standards”) are the culmination of an extended, broad-based effort to fulfill the charge issued by the states to create the next generation of K–12 standards in order to help ensure that all students are college and career ready in literacy no later than the end of high school.

But even this statement implies that the federal government sees itself as answer to all challenges facing individual states. Even worse, it implies that only Father Government knows what is best for our children.

Obama’s “BRAIN” Initiative

human brain_lightbulb Just this week, President Obama announced a major scientific initiative that would lead us into the next great frontier: The “BRAIN” Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). This initiative, the details of which are scarce and not yet fleshed out according to Francis S. Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health, has a price tag of $100m. It’s being sold not just as an advancement in the fields of science and medicine, but one that will, you guessed it, stimulate the economy and create jobs.

One can only guess the true motivation behind the BRAIN initiative; in fact, heads of two leading neurological research organizations have called into question the goals and intentions underlying the President’s proposal.

Dr. Susan Fitzpatrick of the James S. McDonnell Foundation, a leading funding source for neuroscientific research, characterized her reaction to the announcement as one of “befuddlement,” largely because she’s “not quite sure what the initiative is.” Likewise, Dr. David Hovda of the Brain Injury Research Center at UCLA said, “This sounds more like a PR splash,” promising more than it will be able to deliver, than anything of real substance.

Perhaps the President has been somewhat inspired by the recent brain research coming out of The University of New Mexico, the findings of which were recently published by Dr. Kent Kiehl in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Some might see a loose connection between the UNM study and the fictional science in the major motion picture Minority Report.

While Dr. Kiehl’s findings don’t actually argue that we can accurately predict an individual’s predisposition to commit a specific crime (in a specific time and place, as the movie’s “pre-crime unit” suggests), his team of scientists has discovered a particular activity in the brain (impulsivity) that is directly correlated with recidivism rates. The findings indicate that criminals with low levels of impulsivity control are four times more likely to repeat offend and end up back in jail in as little as four months.

Dr. Kiehl suggests that this brain science could be used as part of a review or parole process when determining whether or not a convicted criminal is ready to re-enter society. There are clear ethical implications to this science, but it is possible that this administration is seeing some ways to connect the dots between some of its other, more nefarious initiatives (i.e., the drones program) and neuroscience.

Again, because the details of the proposal have not yet been released – and the current leaders in the neuroscience research fields haven’t been consulted on this initiative at all – one can only speculate on the objectives of the research. Left with no details on the proposal, and understanding that Congress will have to approve the funding before we can learn the details of the plan, skeptics of the President are likely to see this as yet another among many steps he’s taken to move us closer to the dystopian worlds of popular film and literature, where maybe the next “great” frontier will include Thought Police.

 

Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em

FBI Finger ClawLately, my 7-year old boy has been a bit obsessed with paper – folding it into jets, airplanes, and ninja stars, mostly – so obsessed that we had to create a “hangar” at home to house all the flying objects. He’s been begging for a book on the art of origami, and partly because of his commitment to the craft, I’ll be taking him to the bookstore to get one right away.

The other reason I’m now determined to buy him the book is because of something that happened in the car after school yesterday. My son showed me a “finger claw” that he had just folded and put onto his own finger. My 11-year old daughter said, “You know those have been banned from school, right?” I rolled my eyes, fully expecting her to explain that it had been banned because of its resemblance to a weapon, but what she explained was far more offensive.

Apparently, my son isn’t the only child fixated on origami. In fact, this paper folding is what a vast majority of the male elementary school students choose to do once they’ve completed their classwork. Seems harmless enough, right? Well, because a select few of these students choose to fold paper instead of doing their classwork, the practice of paper folding has now been universally banned.

This is the same troubling logic that is pervasive in government today. Super Big Gulps make people fat, so they should be forbidden. Guns kill people, so they should be made illegal. Cigarettes cause cancer, so they should be banished from sight in retail establishments. And origami distracts students from their worksheet learning, so it should be outlawed in elementary schools.

Here’s just one of the many ways banning origami in an academic environment fails the logic test. Origami is an art form that relies heavily on mathematical and geometrical concepts. Much like playing with Legos and wooden blocks challenge the left side of the brain, the practice of origami is a natural exercise in math and logic. Educators, particularly in a world that prizes degrees and careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, should be encouraging activities such as these. Instead, my fifth grader says, the only paper activity allowed once classwork has been completed is coloring. Talk about dumbing down our children.

It seems to me that the government-employed classroom leaders are once again trying to ensure that our students remain part of the flock instead of fostering leadership, ingenuity, innovation in them. So, in an act of rebellion, and in fulfillment of my responsibility to nurture in my children a love for learning, I’m going to march my son straight to the bookstore and buy him that book on origami…and maybe even a ream of paper.

The Gun-Totin’ Mama Grizzly: Sarah Palin Rallies the Troops at CPAC

Palin CPACOn the final day of the 40th annual CPAC 2013, conservative darling, Sarah Palin (former Governor of Alaska) took the stage in the main ballroom. The conference-goers had begun making their way into the ballroom at the tail end of the session that preceded hers, quickly leaving standing room only. That Palin was introduced by a representative of the NRA definitely set the stage for the references to guns and Constitutionality that would litter her speech.

In her brief introduction, Vanessa Younes of the National Rifle Association advised the audience to “always shake things up.” This nod to the renegade Sarah Palin continued, describing her as “a pioneer, a patriot” with “undeniable charm and confidence.” The crowd took to its feet to welcome the featured speaker, but instead of Palin, the keynoter, Ted Cruz (R-TX), took the stage first. With his famous ear-to-ear grin, Cruz said to the confused crowd, “As all of you know, I’m not nearly cool enough to be Sarah Palin,” but said he came out on stage to thank her publicly for her ongoing support of Tea Party candidates and noted that she “drives the mainstream media bat crap crazy.”

Cruz welcomed Sarah Palin onto the stage, where she wasted no time launching into attacks on Obama and the mainstream media. To the liberal media attending CPAC to report on the “annual conservative-in-crisis story,” and whom she asked to identify themselves with a show of hands, she said, “Be proud, you’re loud, and we’re used to it.”

In usual fashion, she hit Obama pretty hard and got a great deal of laughs and applause. On the recent election, she acknowledged that yes, we did just lose a big one: “We came in second…out of two.” What we really wanted, she said, was to see Obama “bubble wrap the Nobel…and the golf clubs…and the hi-tops,” but, addressing Obama directly, she said, now it’s time to “step away from the teleprompter and do your job!”

Some of her other great Obama-busting lines:
“We don’t have leadership coming out of Washington. We have reality television.”
“Obama is a good politician, which is like saying Bernie Madoff was a good salesman.”
“More background checks? Dandy idea, Mr. President! Shoulda started with yours!”

The consistent message of her talk to the conservative audience was that we’re not here to rebrand the party; we’re here to restore America. “Never before have our challenges been so big and our leaders so small.” She encouraged people to identify folks they know and “encourage her…or him…to run for office!” noting that “the last thing we need is Washington, DC vetting our candidates.”

Now a hallmark of Palin speeches, she became rather antagonistic when speaking of the current President’s disdain for the Constitution. She cited “Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution” saying, “No budget for four years is government refusing to declare what it intends to do with the people’s money. Barack Obama promised the most transparent administration…Barack Obama, you lie!”

Over the years since Palin has been in the national spotlight, she’s consistently held the affection of the GOP, in large part for the relate-ability of her personality. She talks about her personal life in way that middle-America can connect with. When she turned to discussion of the Second Amendment today, for example, she referenced the gifts she and hubby Todd bought each other for Christmas. She described a gun rack he bought her to attach to the couple’s four wheeler and the gun she bought him to put on it, saying, “Yep, I got the rack, he got the rifle.” For probably the tenth time during her speech, the crowd erupted in laughter and applause.

In perhaps the funniest moment of her 25-minute long speech, however, Palin reached down beneath the podium and returned with a Super Big Gulp filled with “pop,” from which she took a rather large swig …and again, the crowd went wild.

Whether you are a Sarah Palin fan or not, there is no denying that she gets the conservative crowd riled up, especially when she starts in on Big Government’s infringement on Americans’ rights. She connects with most subsets of the conservative movement to some degree: gun owners, hockey moms, Christians, small business owners, women (shouting “Amen, sista!” while talking about Margaret Thatcher), and even college Republicans (whom she said should be “thinking like Sam Adams and not drinking Sam Adams”). Her speeches are always guaranteed to entertain, and considering the lack of energy in many of the other speeches at this year’s CPAC, Sara Palin’s Big Gulp moment was a welcome change of pace.

Out of the Mouths of (Political) Babes

Parenting is hard. Good parenting, even harder. But there are moments during the decades we commit to our children that we see real return on that investment. This past week, while discussing the election and events in Benghazi with my 10 year old daughter, I have experienced countless numbers of those moments. She is finally getting it.

If you’ve read any of my work before, you already know that I take seriously my responsibility to raise thinking, active, contributing citizens of this world. I have no trouble towing my kids around to political functions or rallies with me. My daughter, in particular, has worked on several campaigns already in her short 10 years. By the time she was 6, she had traveled to three states for political purposes and attended half a dozen FairTax rallies (even making up a fun chant to say while waving her sign: “We don’t want the income tax! We want the FairTax!”).

She’s informed on the issues. She begs to watch the debates. She wants to go with me to vote…no, she wants to vote! So this year, feeling the most engaged she has been yet and still frustrated that she hadn’t found a way to turn that passion into power, she took it upon herself to begin talking with her peers about politics. And then she wielded the power of the pen and wrote about it.

The most rewarding part about reading this for me as a mother was that she did it entirely on her own initiative. When she finished the first draft, she wanted to revise (an additional reward for this mother, who is also an English teacher). Then she asked me if I would help her find a place to publish it. I suggested the school newspaper, but she said her target audience was parents, so I decided to take advantage of this forum and share it with you.

I’m sure you could find all kinds of flaws in this mini-essay (she is only in the 5th grade), but the message should be one that resonates with all of us. Our children are interested in more than just sports, video games and fashion. They do care about their future, they are willing to work hard, and they are fully capable of articulating their thoughts in conversations with their peers. All we need to do is consistently teach messages of individual liberty and responsibility, and in doing so, we are taking critical steps to help ensure the future of this great nation.

Karen Harrington: More than Just the Anti-DWS Candidate

By now we’ve all heard the popular #FireDebbie meme, and conservatives and Libertarians alike long for the day when Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) no longer sits before us as a spokesperson for the Obama administration…but what do you know about the woman who just might make that happen?

Karen Harrington, businesswoman with a 30-year record of private industry success, is overcoming the DNC machine with her own innovative messaging and is now within striking distance of the Democratic darling. She is getting tremendous support nationwide (including through social media), is raking in the campaign cash, and is very likely to unseat Wasserman Schultz in this year’s election.

The most recent polling data, taken in early October, shows Harrington trailing by just 4.5% (MOE is 5%). This upward trend is happening throughout the GOP, with Connie Mack IV (also running to unseat Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in FL), Romney-Ryan, and even Todd Akin (R-MO) beginning to see a shift in the tides. Harrington is faring well among Independents, as well (35%), which will work to her advantage since the combination of Republicans and Independents in the district outnumbers Democrats. The most promising piece of data to be extracted from this poll is that 16.1% of voters are still undecided.

Harrington’s first foray into politics was to run against Wasserman Shultz in 2010, but she was defeated by a double digit margin. A few short months ago, with Wasserman Schultz owning a seemingly insurmountable lead, it appeared she might be headed for a similar upset this year. But after a tremendous amount of hard work – and some major public missteps by her opponent – the campaign has begun to see the fruits of its labor.

Much like Mitt Romney, Karen, who identifies as a “conservative by nature,” cites her business acumen as her primary qualification for Congress. She believes that her years in the private sector have made her “fiscally responsible,” one who understands that “you have to rely on yourself to be successful.” Her ideology is as far removed from the “You didn’t build that” mantra as one could imagine.

She says there are three primary issues on which she clearly delineates herself from her opponent:

“1) [Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz] definitely supports bigger government. She supported the failed stimulus plan and has stood by that position. She has tried to convince us that it has saved us from falling off that cliff, which we’re all barely hanging on to.

2) [Wasserman Schultz] believes government-run healthcare will help all Americans have good healthcare. I’m opposed to that for all kinds of reasons: it takes away our choice, our access to good healthcare, and it is not affordable. As a business owner, it adds an enormous tax burden onto all of us. Ultimately, I believe [the Democrats’] goal is to destroy private insurance as a whole and force everyone into a single-payer system.

3) [Wasserman Schultz] believes we should punish success and raise taxes on higher income levels; I want to keep taxes at a flat level for all Americans and get this economy going. She believes jobs will be created through more government interference, and I believe it’s in the hands of the private sector.”

Beyond these issues, Harrington supports the standard GOP platform. She also supports school choice (a state-run vouchers program) in Florida, arguing that “if the public school system continues to fail our children, parents have a right to make another choice.” She advocates for a major overhaul of the 60,000-page tax code. Though she seems to favor the Flat Tax conceptually, she believes that real reform is a must for our economy, so she doesn’t rule out other options, even the FairTax. She explains, “Here we are in October and we still don’t know what our taxes will look like in January, and they expect us to grow our economy, to invest, to expand? There’s so much uncertainty. Nothing should be off the table.”

On the significance of being the “anti-candidate,” Karen acknowledges a great deal of the support she’s experienced comes from citizens who have been willing to speak with her primarily because of whom she’s running against.

“It was absolutely pivotal when we started over seventeen months ago,” she explained, “to build this campaign and make it a national race. Twitter and Facebook were tremendously important in engaging voters, even outside of the district.” While this certainly might have been what caught the attention of Americans to begin with, Candidate Karen Harrington has come into her own. She is a confident, personable, nonsensical woman who articulates her vision for America clearly.

She has been endorsed many sitting Congressmen and women, including former Presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, and by several key players late in the game, including former Governor Jeb Bush and popular Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

She doubled Wasserman Schultz’s fundraising in the last FEC reporting period ($712K to $369K) and is hoping this trend will continue in the final weeks; the goal is to pull in those last undecided voters, as well as motivate existing Republican supporters to come out and help her unseat Wasserman Schultz.

Harrington summarized her thoughts on why she’s running for office this way: “I’m just very excited for my country. I think it’s been a long four years for all of us as Americans, so much uncertainty, and it would be an honor to serve the will of the people of my district.”

There are many ways supporters can help make this happen: Follow her on Twitter @Karen4Congress or using the hashtag #FireDebbie; check out the Obama-Wasserman Schultz debt clock at firedebbie.com; and Like her Facebook page. Learn more about her at karenforcongress.com, and of course, political messaging costs money, so she invites donations of any size to help her bring home the win in South Florida’s 23rd Congressional disctrict.

Parenting Toward Capitalism

In a century already plagued by stories of “crony capitalism” like Halliburton and Solyndra, the concept of capitalism is really getting a bad rap. I decided long ago that the liberal indoctrination of my children through mainstream media would not happen. So, when I see an opportunity to parent them away from destructive messages and toward the highest ideals, I don’t go about it lightly. So that my children will have a proper understanding of capitalism – its merits and its challenges – I work to integrate that concept into my parenting whenever possible.

My thinking has been guided by just a few short lines of Alan Greenspan’s “The Assault on Integrity” (part of Ayn Rand’s Capitalism: The Unknown Self). Success in business, Greenspan said, “[r]equires years of consistently excellent performance.” Further, he argued that

“Capitalism is based on self-interest and self-esteem; it holds integrity and trustworthiness as cardinal virtues and makes them payoff in the marketplace, thus demanding that men survive by means of virtues, not of vices.”

If you like the idea of parenting toward capitalism, here are a few ways to put that theory into practice:

Pay for grades – Pay as much as you possibly can for As (significantly less for Bs). The real world rewards hard work and success with money, so teach them that early. I pay $10 per A and $5 per B. The financial incentive is there to earn the higher grade, and they do.

Charge fees for breaking rules – Tax behaviors you want to curb, right? Left a light on? That’ll cost a quarter to cover the increased electricity bill (got that one from my grandfather).

Give them a budget – When the kids outgrow their clothes, which happens often, it’s time to go shopping. Tell them up front that the excursion isn’t a free-for-all. Recently, for example, my son needed shoes. He wanted a pair of Sketchers ($45), but I had given him a budget of $30. If he wanted something in particular, something outside that budget, I told him, he would need to supplement the cost with his own money. So he waited until we found them on sale at a department store, instead. This might sound harsh – believe me, I get a ton of criticism from my friends about this one – but I figure, if it’s important enough to the kids, they will willingly invest in the purchase; if it’s not, then why would I invest funds above and beyond what I want to spend on the purchase?

Pay interest – When you “borrow” from your child’s cash stash to buy ice cream, pay back the full amount quickly…with interest. They took a risk lending that money (albeit a small one), and with risk comes reward.

Encourage entrepreneurial interests – Does your child want to be a car-washer? Pet-sitter? Lawnboy? My daughter wanted to sell cupcakes door-to-door when she was 8 years old, so we turned her hobby into a business. We gave it a name (Sweetie’s Cupcakery); created a logo; developed a price, order and delivery schedule; and designed a basic budget. As a result of that endeavor, she made almost $200 profit, which she used as spending money on our mother-daughter trip to New York City. Today, she sells duct tape flower pens to kids on her school bus.

Help Them Set Goals –  At the root of most failure is the failure to plan. Financial success involves budgeting. Last year, my daughter decided she wanted a Morkie (designer dog). I told her she needed to save $1,000 in order get the puppy. That sounds like a lot of money, but most Morkies cost around $500. Add vet bills and food and toys, and you can see the need for additional funds. She now has about 1/4 of the money saved, and she has resisted the temptation many times to spend that money on something else. Not only will she be invested in this purchase and be more likely to care for it, but in the time it will take her to save the money, I will be able to gauge her responsibility. This exercise has taught her the value of delayed gratification and of setting a goal and working consistently toward it.

Let Them Fail – This is a hard one. But it’s essential in life, so do it. Just give them a safe place to fall. When my kids experience failure, I wrap my arms around them, tell them I love them and ask them one simple question, “Why do we fall down?” to which they respond, “so we can get back up.” (Yep, I taught them that.)

I doubt they know the term “capitalism” at all, but they are beginning to see the concept at work in their lives. As a result, they have a tremendous amount of respect for money. They don’t leave it in their pockets (to ruin my dryer) or lose it on the playground at school. They keep it in their piggy banks and count it often. When we go somewhere from which they might want to purchase something, they don’t assume I’ll buy it for them – and I’m a fairly generous mom – they bring their own money with them ready to participate fully in the capitalistic society.

Of course, there are other ways a mother could show her children capitalism at work…and many do. They spend hours at malls and restaurants mass consuming. But I’m not seeking to teach my children materialism or overindulgence of any kind. My goals are simple. I want them to recognize that they are the source of their own success, personally and financially. That, while they should be grateful for any love and support they get along the way, they should rely on no one else to achieve that success but themselves. That hard work is the single biggest factor in success, and they should be armed and ready to roll up their sleeves and build that.

You Didn’t Build That: A Parenting Experiment

This past week, while vacationing in the Great Smoky Mountains, I discovered a unique opportunity to teach my two children something when they least expected it. It all began on the third day of our trip, when rain forced us to spend the morning inside our beautiful cabin.

My son (6) had spent two hours making exactly 26 beautifully-designed weapons with his K’nex toys. There were elaborate crossbows with multi-pronged arrows, daggers, and an assortment of Chinese star type gadgets. He called me back to show off his arsenal, and I responded with a now-famous Obama line. “You didn’t build that,” I said. “Somebody else made that happen.” Even though I was smiling, he was NOT amused. He rolled his eyes and quickly pushed me out of the room.

I chuckled at myself, but as I went on to plan our day of indoor activities, I devised a plan to conduct a little experiment. Inspired by the Olympics, which we had been watching in between our adventures into nature, my daughter (10) recommended we have our own cabin version of the Olympics. So we made gold, silver, and bronze medals out of art paper. We decided we would compete for these medals by playing a series of games. Each game would yield a point for the winner. The first to three points would win Gold.

We played Monopoly first. My son, being a natural risk-taker, quickly bought up property and put houses on nearly everything he owned. My daughter was not far behind him. When they got low on money and began mortgaging their properties, I made a sign that said “Underwater Mortgages” and put it on the board next to their mortgaged title deeds. Soon after, I made another sign that said “This house has been seized under Eminent Domain” and began taking the houses away.

I didn’t discriminate; in an effort to avoid too much scrutiny, I “seized” my own property, too. I was not the banker, so they questioned my authority to do this. They fussed, pouted, whined, and shouted, “What are you doing, Mommy?!” When I refused to explain in an acceptable way, my daughter threatened to quit. She continued to play, but shed many tears after losing. My son went on to win the game, incidentally bankrupting both my daughter and me with exorbitantly high rent on the same piece of property.

Next, we played UNO. We’ve played this game no less than 200 times, and everyone knows the rules well. However, every time my daughter or I played a Draw Two card to my son, I made him draw four. Girls only had to draw two. He kept saying, “That is not fair!” and finally had enough and said, “You’re giving her a break just because she’s a girl.” Bingo. Nevertheless, with this gender advantage, my daughter quickly won the game.

We played a slew of games during our Cabin Olympics: Yahtzee, Pictionary, BananaGrams, and Clue. We even counted a swim race at the pool as one of our “events.” With each game came some slant that was meant to trigger in them the idea that something they earned was being taken from them without their consent. I loved that each little wrong I did to them made them mad. I did notice, however, that over time, they began to expect something to dampen their success, and their outrage diminished somewhat over the duration of the experiment. They became a bit numb to it all. If I were going to drive the message home, I would have to step up my game.

The next day, we tallied up the points, and it was time to award medals. We erected a makeshift podium out of couch cushions (mountain cabins have a lot of pull-out couches, so it turns out there are plenty of cushions). My daughter had earned Gold; I had earned Silver; and my son had earned Bronze. However, as Commissioner of the Games, I decided we would all get Gold medals. Here was the justification I shared with my daughter, who was the rightful and single owner of the Gold medal: “Your brother never wins anything, and if he doesn’t get Gold, there will surely be a fight. Plus, I don’t look good in silver.” I tried to keep it very simple.

I just knew my daughter would have a fit. But she had earned that gold medal fair and square. And how could I let him get the same medal as me anyway, when I earned more points than he did? Was I crazy? Why was I playing games so wrong all of the sudden?

My son had no objection to the change in rules, and neither did I. After all, Gold was a step up for both of us. The penalty affected only the minority (the single winner of the games), and her voice wasn’t strong enough to influence the rest of us that the new rule was unfair. She was depending on me, her representative, to do what was right for her, to stand back while she reaped the reward of her hard work, that which she had earned honestly.

Instead, I had done something extremely self-serving, something intended to appease the majority. I had abused my position of authority. I could see I was at risk of losing her trust, and the trust my children have in me is sacred, so I knew the experiment had to end there. I came clean with all that I had done to wrong them, and we had some very interesting conversations about the real definition of “fair.”

By the end of the week-long trip, having unknowingly experienced Obama policy in action – and having watched literally two dozen anti-Obama campaign ads during the Olympics primetime events – they were fairly schooled in the ideas of Capitalism and Socialism, Individualism and Collectivism. When I asked them what they thought about all my new rules in the games, I expected variations of “They were horrible!” But what I didn’t expect was for my six year old to say, “Mommy, when did you start acting like Obama?” I couldn’t help but smile at the connection he had made.

I think my kids’ future social studies teachers will be impressed with their understanding of the concepts of individual achievement and the role government plays in either supporting or hindering that success. Admittedly, I had a lot of fun conducting this little experiment, but it turned out to effectively illustrate a great lesson in American ideals. Mission accomplished.

New Grievances for a New American Revolution

Two hundred and thirty-six years ago, 56 brave men representing the thirteen united States of America declared that separation from the British crown was necessary as a result of numerous abuses of power and infringements upon personal liberty. These men were not only willing to jeopardize their good names, but their “Lives, [their] Fortunes, and [their] Sacred Honor.”

Once again, Americans face a despot, a leader who is unwilling to accept limitations on power that have been set forth, one who is unwilling to embrace the very foundations of the American Capitalistic economy. The word “despot” carries a very strong negative connotation, but it is applicable to the Obama presidency for a number of reasons. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a despot as “any ruler who governs absolutely or tyrannically; an oppressor.”

Remember that Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of Barack Obama’s Presidential transition committee told Tom Brokaw in a 2008 Meet the Press interview that “Obama [would be] prepared to take power and begin to rule Day 1.”  The plan all along has been to “rule” this country, not lead or govern, which are leadership styles more commonly associated with a free country.

For the past three years, we have experienced a series of shock and awe moments, as this administration has exercised absolute power in a way that is creating “repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of absolute Tyranny over these States” (Declaration of Independence). Once again, “let Facts be submitted to a candid world” in an effort to make the case:

  • He has permitted the abuse of eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages. Read
  • He has forced individuals to pay tax penalties for refusing to buy health insurance. Read
  • He has abused executive order and executive privileges, especially in the efforts to cover up misdeeds of his administration. Read
  • He is working actively to allow student loan debt to be forgiven, effectively showing economic favoritism of one group of citizens over another. Read
  • He has shown preference to business and misused government funds to support and rescue failing companies run by large campaign donors. Read
  • He has failed to follow the separation of powers between the branches of government.  Read
  • He has abused taxpayer dollars to take extravagant family vacations while others have to sacrifice because they are out of work. Read
  • He has failed to meet with his JOBS Council in more than half a year, even though unemployment numbers are at a record high during his presidency. Read
  • He has shown blatant disregard for the law of the land.
  • He has engaged in excessive “stimulus” spending. Read and Read

Further, he should be removed from office this November for the following offenses:

  • For neglecting to adequately equip and protect the U.S. Armed Forces and border agents. Watch
  • For building dangerous friendships with dictators and leaders of our nation’s enemies (Read) and destroying alliances that our nation has had for centuries. Watch
  • For associating with known domestic terrorists. Read and Read and Read

Courageous American citizens must once again declare our intentions to be free from despotism; we must demand that the power of the federal government be diminished and returned to the states; and we must vote in November in such a way as to move toward this end. If we do not, we are facing a grim future, the possibility of states seceding from the union, and a New American Revolution that will forever alter the landscape of this great nation.

An Effort of Mass Distraction

Imagine for a moment what the 2012 Mock Presidential Election in your child’s elementary school will look like. What slogans will they create to campaign for (or against) Romney or Obama based on the messages they are hearing from the mainstream media? Will they talk about the dangers of socialism, theocracy? Probably not. Chances are most of them won’t even know who is running until they enter the pretend ballot box to cast their votes. Suddenly, the entire concept of a mock election doesn’t seem very educational at all.

If we want to truly empower our children, we are going to have to elevate the level of discourse beyond the sensationalized talking points of the nightly news. We’re going to have to educate them on the fundamental differences between the parties and candidates. We’re going to have to warn them against the ideologies that threaten prosperity in our great country. And we are going to have to teach them how to wield the power of the ballot box to protect the freedoms granted to them in the very Constitution they are learning about in school. Instead, we are talking about dogs, birthday parties and lawn boys.

And who is dictating the direction of the conversation? The mainstream media is, of course. Operating as an extension of the government-run educational system, the liberal media is but another pawn in the dumbing-down-of-our-nation’s-youth movement. Long have conservatives hammered the liberal media for dumbing down the masses, and most of us have taken to talk-radio to cure this ill. However, efforts of the media to dilute the real election messages are now obstructing the education of the very population that will be most impacted by the next President’s policies: our children.

It amounts to a well-orchestrated effort of mass distraction.

The problem is about more than just sensationalism or, as Ted Koppel said in an interview with Matt Lauer on Today recently, a result of the social media phenomenon. Koppel – a 30-year veteran of the media – didn’t want to shoulder any responsibility for the type of political conversations that are taking place today. Instead, he placed blame on Twitter, dismissing its value in the arena of public discourse by saying, “If it can be reduced to 140 characters, it has legs with the American people, and they run with it.” Even his tone toward the Twitterverse was one of repugnance, like it was only for the Simpletons of the world. Yet for those of us who predominantly follow news sources, pundits, political commentators who are considered leaders in their industry, this statement reeks of ignorance. Talk about out of touch.

Besides, can’t every issue, including the ones that really matter, be discussed in any social setting? If we teach our youth that the real issues like jobs, the economy, healthcare, and education cannot be discussed via social media with any real merit, then we are ultimately teaching them they can’t talk about things that matter in any social environment. As a result, they are reduced to talking about Lindsey Lohan’s latest public meltdown or Brangelina’s engagement. But our children have more valuable ideas and thoughts to contribute, and we must remember that they won’t always be children.

It would be great to live in a world where children could spend time in their own social environments – in the lunchroom, on the playground, on sleepovers, or maybe (GASP!) on a first date – talking about things that really matter. We want our young people to be able to carry on dignified conversations that reflect critical and independent thought, ideas that have been shaped by real education (that is, knowledge acquisition).

It’s true that media is headed in the wrong direction, but social media is far from the sole culprit. The problem we have is a government-induced, main-stream-media-supported effort to dumb down the population and to distract us, so we will lose focus on the fact that our country is falling apart under Obama’s reign. Union-loving teachers, left-wing reporters and liberal politicians (who, let’s face it, get more time on TV to push their agenda) manipulate messages in order to prey on the emotions of our children, rarely tempering these messages or images with logic or data that might provide balance.

As a result, children grow up unable to identify logical fallacies when they see them (trust me, I teach this concept in freshman composition classes), so they become adults who have been hard-wired as unable to think and reason for themselves. They can’t solve their own problems, so they become dependent on government to solve the problems for them. These moochers end up voting for Democrats exclusively, because that’s the party that will keep their entitlement checks coming. Do you see the payoff?

One can’t help but think of Ray Bradbury’s novel, Fahrenheit 451, which speaks of a future America where books are entirely forbidden and any worthwhile conversation or thought is replaced by talking “walls” in a person’s home. These walls are essentially movie theater-sized screens that surround a room, broadcasting nonstop coverage of a soap opera-esque reality TV show. The highest level of engagement one can hope for is being awarded a line of scripted dialogue in the show, which is spoken from the home, directly to the walls. There is no interaction or exchange of ideas.

If we don’t change the course of education, media, and communication in our homes, we are at risk of living out this Bradburian dystopic nightmare. As parents, we must fight vigilantly against the effort to dumb down our children, or we will fall victim to the VLWC that Mitt Romney recently spoke of. We must identify sources that don’t filter real issues or dilute them with Hollywood or sports gossip and make those informative sources daily reading for the whole family. Then, we should do what effective educators do, lead our children to reflect on the issues and discuss them – maybe over dinner or on a walk through the park (yes, a social environment). Through this exercise, we can teach them how to discuss their views freely while still being cognizant of the fact that others might disagree.

The civic education of our children isn’t the responsibility of the government – and they wouldn’t do the job correctly anyway – the duty lies with us, our children’s parents. As we head into election – and mock election season – we need to remember that even though the “votes” of our children don’t technically count yet, their informed opinions do, and that’s the first lesson we need to teach them.

Getting Political with Kids

As my kids and I pulled into the local community center parking lot this morning, ready to cast a vote in the GOP primary, the past 10 years of voting sort of flashed before my eyes. I had visions of all the times my children have accompanied me to the ballot box, all the campaign events they’d already been to in their short years of life, and I was overcome with pride.

When my daughter was two, she rode alongside me to South Carolina and Florida, campaigning for the Bush-Cheney re-election. She had adopted cute little catch phrases along the way, which she recited daily, charming everyone from the Publix cashier to her preschool teachers: “Laura Bush is a cwassy wady!”; “John Kerry is a flip-flopper” (which made her giggle every time she said it); and “Vote for George ‘n Cheney!” Campaigning in Jacksonville on that warm November day in 2008, I feel sure that my daughter helped President George W. Bush bring it home in Florida.

Over the years, we’ve traveled to surrounding states to attend FairTax rallies, and worked on other campaigns – some not so successful – but what my kids are learning along the way is that it takes active citizenship to make a difference. They see other people sitting around complaining about their status in life, but I’m proud to say that my children know that action is the only solution to a problem.

This morning, I talked them through the entire voting experience yet again, explaining why we show our ID and voter’s registration card, why it’s necessary to still complete the form, why the “ballot” looks like a credit card, how to cast an electronic vote and so forth. At one point, my oldest looked up at me in that tween way and said, “Moooom, we know.” And I was rewarded.

We voted and were out of there, peach-covered “I’m a Georgia Voter” sticker on each of us, in less than 15 minutes. Much to their chagrin, I made them stop outside the precinct and pose for a picture next to the “Vote Here” sign. When I looked through the lens, though, I felt my eyes well up with tears. My kids were actually excited to be there with me. Like me, they see voting as an honor, not an obligation (though one day I’ll teach them that it is a little of both).

I know it will only be a few more years – just two more presidential elections – until my daughter will be voting for the very first time. Regardless of which way she ends up voting, I feel sure I have instilled in her the importance of active citizenship. I hope she takes me to the polls with her.

A Libertarian’s Battle Cry on Super Tuesday

If you are a Libertarian, a Constitutional Republican, or a freedom-lover of any sort, your battle cry on Super Tuesday should be “Anyone but Santo.” The Santo Surge is a threat to personal liberty and to those who believe fervently in the separation of church and state. Not only has Rick Santorum (a notorious earmarker) defended his big government spending habits, these days, he can frequently be found preaching his generations-old positions on gender and sexuality. Such positions should offend any modern-day advocate of less government intrusion in our personal lives.

True, morality is important, and many of us like the idea of our nation’s leader being a religious or spiritual person. But we who prefer self-reliance don’t want government making personal decisions for us. We believe politicians have no place in our bedrooms, in our children’s lunchboxes, or in our doctors’ offices. So long as our decisions aren’t jeopardizing another person’s life, liberty or personal property, the decisions should be left to us, the individuals, and the consequences of those decisions between us and our God.

Santorum has, in recent weeks, proven that his presidency would be his platform. Instead of being called to lead us, he seems to think he’s been called to “save” us – and I don’t mean “save” in the sense of rescuing our economy from the Socialist clutches of Obama. I mean that he seems to want to ensure that we all make “right” decisions in our personal lives so that we can all go to heaven. On paper, this is not so different from Obama, who also wants us to make the “right” decisions, and when we don’t make the decisions he agrees with, he wants to make them for us.

Santorum’s sanctimonious speeches are divisive, when what conservatives need most is to be united. He seems to be on a personal mission to reverse the decades of progress that women and homosexuals have enjoyed, to return women to the kitchens and gays to the closets. How can this sort of leadership possibly be good for our country? How does it even remotely address the real issues we are facing: outrageous jobless numbers, high gas prices, illegal immigration, a crippling deficit, and the possibility of a nuclear Iran?

The Santorum message is a distraction to the mission, which is to get Obama out of the Oval Office as swiftly and decisively as possible. Americans must see a clear rejection of Socialist and Marxist principles. Because of his presence in the race, we are talking about contraception (good grief, wasn’t this decided in the 1950s?) instead of energy independence and meaningful tax reform.

On Super Tuesday, even if one candidate enjoys a massive lead in your state, vote for anyone but Santorum. Make him fight for delegates, and don’t buy the “social conservative” message he’s selling. Voters won’t be mobilized by a discussion on birth control, so don’t fall into the trap the MSM is trying to set. They want Santo to surge, for him to be the focus, because the Democrats know he is NO REAL THREAT to President Obama in a general election.

So stand up against Santorum’s theocratic ideology, because trading one extreme for the other is never a good thing for freedom.

Why Government Will Never Change

Every election cycle – let’s face it, every day – voters criticize the government for its inability to function. We decry that electing someone new doesn’t mean anything when it comes to improvement. We hope that new politicians will mean new ideas and new policies that will help our country move in a positive direction, but alas, what we really get is SSDD (same stuff, different day).

Clearly, the voters want change; one need only look to the Obama campaign slogan of 2008 for evidence. But the kind of change the politicians continue to bring us isn’t at all what the voters have in mind. This is why Congressional approval ratings are so atrocious (ended 2011 with a record low 11% approval) and why this President hovers at 50% approval (coincidentally, 49.5% of people in this country are not paying taxes…hmmm). What we want is for the changes to make us a better country, to offer our citizens greater opportunities to grow wealth, to tax us fairly and less, to leave us to make decisions for ourselves, to protect our freedoms – not squash them – and to generally get out of our way.

When politicians are criticized for their inability to move this country forward in a positive direction, they complain that they are being blocked by their opposition, that it’s increasingly difficult to get bipartisan agreement on anything. But why is that? Don’t both political parties have the nation’s best interest at heart?

I know it’s an unpopular idea to consider, but do politicians really have a motivation for moving us forward? After all, if our nation’s people don’t have legitimate educational, health care, financial, retirement, and employment problems, they don’t need the government. If we don’t need the government to resolve these day-to-day challenges for us, then there isn’t as much at stake in the elections. Without a need for change, what would drive voters to the polls to vote in new candidates? It might sound outrageous to posit this, but we must consider that our politicians actually create problems instead of solve them just to ensure a future for themselves.

Our founding fathers would surely roll over in their graves if they considered this twisted idea, because they believed Americans should be self-reliant. They designed the framework of our country around the principles of limited government precisely because they didn’t want the masses to become dependent on government. They were wise enough to realize such dependence would lead to an over-powerful political body that would infringe on individual liberty. Each day, each election, we are moving farther and farther away from what our founding fathers envisioned for this country. We even have leaders who are so arrogant to claim that maybe the founding fathers didn’t have it right and maybe we need to “change with the times.”

But it is essential that we remember not all change is good change, and we need to question the motives behind our political figures’ inability to get this country moving forward. Beyond just questioning these motives, we need to demand that they start answering to the inefficiencies and total lack of meaningful action during their time in office.

Term limits are a great place to start. If politicians know there is a finite amount of time they can serve in public office, then maybe they will actually SERVE us instead of their own interests. Maybe a limit to their time in office will prompt only those who are genuinely interested in working toward positive change, progress, growth, and freedom to apply for the job. It sure would put an end to the distraction of campaigning while in office (and on the taxpayer’s dollar).

A resurgence of “citizen legislators” would bring the focus back to getting work done and making a positive difference while in office, and it would ensure that those who are making laws that impact the real world have actually worked in it.

Government should be limited, as should the power and influence of politicians. Our political leaders need a reality check and a real job. It’s high time we re-ignite this conversation on a national level. I wonder what the likelihood is that a career politician will get on board. Yep, that’s why the government will never change.

Father Government: Federalizing Childcare

Even though she was evicted from her position as Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) is still trying to tell us how to run our own houses. Her latest frightful commitment to the American people is that if the Democrats are re-elected in 2012 “we will do to childcare what we did to healthcare.” As if that’s a good thing.

The list of all that could go wrong in a country that provides free childcare is lengthy, but modeling such a program after Obamacare would be even more disastrous. Imagine a world where all parents are mandated to go back to work after having children, where it would be criminal to stay at home and raise your child yourself. Sounds a little like a piece of dystopian literature, doesn’t it?

This is not a new idea for Democrats. In fact, it’s one that began a very long time ago with free government education. K-12 morphed into government-funded pre-K programs, and now has evolved into the government wanting unfettered access to the minds of our children from birth. The Democrats, especially, want to indoctrinate our children to believe that Government is the true parent of all people in this country.

The concept of free “public” (read: government-funded) education for all originates in the famed Marxist document, the Manifesto of the Communist Party. This should raise the first flag. The Manifesto further decries one of its basic tenets as, “Abolition of the family!” Isn’t that precisely what the Democrats are working towards with the latest anti-family idea? On merit, yes, it is a better idea to have an educated population than an uneducated one. As an educator by trade, I cannot dispute that intellectual fact. I challenge the notion, however, that the government should be in charge of it. Competition drives excellence, and government control of anything quells competition.

Practically, free childcare for all does seem to fill a need that exists for all parents. This is where it is likely to gain public support. It’s not easy to make the decision to spend $1,000 a month from a $2,000 paycheck (after federal taxes, of course) for someone to keep our children all day while we work. For many, the financial equation just doesn’t make sense. As a result, many choose to forgo their career for a while and stay home with their children, and they make financial sacrifices until their children are school-aged. Others choose to stay home and raise their young children because they actually want to.

I know it may surprise some on the left, but there are people who have children because they actually planned a two-parent family and want to nourish that family by doing the hard work themselves. They want to work hard to provide for their spouse and children. They want to choose the best pediatricians to treat their babies when they’re sick. They want to save money and build a nest-egg that can be passed on to their children and grandchildren. They want to build a family business, despite the fact that it will require 80-hour work weeks. They want their children involved in the business, so they can teach them sound fiscal principles.

They want the government to get out of their way, so they can do these things that will make their lives meaningful. These family-centric Americans are perfectly willing to accept the personal responsibility for their decisions, even the failure that sometimes comes with autonomy.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the percent of the population that wants Father Government to be their provider. Can’t feed your children? Never fear, Father Government will come to the rescue. Lost your job and tired of looking for a new one? Don’t bother, because you can still have a car, a TV, a cell phone, even a home thanks to Father Government.

Personal responsibility seems to be the antithesis of how government operates. Even big corporations (i.e., General Motors and Solyndra) can now rely on the government to keep them from failing. Failure is ok, people. It builds character. Teach your children this. Teach them that once they reach voting age the only person they should expect to rely on when it comes to feeding, clothing and providing shelter for them is THEM. We need to stop asking what else our country can do for us, and begin recognizing all that we are perfectly capable of doing for ourselves.

A Well-Orchestrated Take-Down

One can’t help but notice all the suspicious coincidences surrounding the Herman Cain “story” (all accusations included) that has been sucking the oxygen out of the GOP media-cycle for weeks. Least among the curious coincidences in the stories is that all of these accusers come out of a 3-year period where Cain served as President of the National Restaurant Association. No other complaints come from any other organization in his decades-long career. That’s too strange to understand. The distraction is undoubtedly deliberate, but who stands to gain the most from it?

Are the accusers receiving money or other incentives for going public with these accusations now? And what’s up with all of the Cain accusers being evicted? Just yesterday, Sharon Bialek, the first accuser to come out of the shadows and speak publicly about her accusations, was served eviction papers.

Ginger White, who has had numerous evictions or threats of eviction over the years, also decides to go public now with an alleged 13-year long affair with Cain, even though she didn’t seem compelled to speak out when he ran for the Senate a few years ago to represent the state in which she lives. Desperation really brings out the worst in people, but this seems to be more than a woman trying to get a book deal or her 15-minutes of fame. It’s all too smoothly-scripted, and the media is eagerly getting into character.

This begs the question: Who is orchestrating this take-down?

The MSM is terrified of Herman Cain. While he has some significant shortcomings on his political resume, he is a dynamic leader with proven business success, and he has a fierce intensity of support among white and black Americans. This is clearly a threat to the re-election of Obama, since having two black candidates on the 2012 ballot would level the playing field for those who insist on voting exclusively along racial lines.

However, the fact that this story broke during the primary season instead of remaining buried until the GOP nominee had been decided leads me to believe that it might have been initiated by an opponent on the right. The best strategy for a sitting Democratic President would clearly have been to drop the sexual impropriety allegations as an October surprise, but that isn’t at all what has happened. Either someone is wagging the dog – maybe to distract those on the right from all the outrage brewing in response to Obama’s absurd abuse of power (he’s signed like 9,000 executive orders this year) – or the news was strategically leaked in an effort to benefit someone hoping to win the GOP nomination. Would a candidate on the right sabotage the campaign of one of his conservative brethren? Sadly, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.

Whoever it is that has their hands on the marionette strings should be given some credit, because clearly the plan is working. Herman Cain, the most refreshing capitalist to join Presidential politics in generations, is witnessing total disintegration of his campaign. Because of the path this scandal has taken, he’s pretty well tarnished to the point that he can’t even be considered a viable option for the veep position. It’s unfortunate, and we can only hope that the truth will eventually be revealed, but for now, it looks like Herman Cain is about to exit stage right.