Author Archives: Richard Larsen

About Richard Larsen

AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at [email protected]

Senate Democrats Increase Threat to the Nation

News reporting and the compilation of historical narratives are different than opinion pieces – or at least they should be. They should include all relevant facts and data, and include as many valid and qualified primary sources as possible. Regrettably, that is becoming increasingly rare.

In the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, media promulgated a story of a compliant young man who was shot execution style based on partial, and apparently disreputable, sources. The full story, including reputable eyewitness accounts and supporting evidence, was intentionally withheld perhaps because it didn’t comport with the desired narrative, but it made sensational news.

The fraternity gang-rape story emanating from the University of Virginia, was published by Rolling Stone based on the victim’s account only. The “reporter” made no attempt to contact other primary sources to establish the viability or veracity of the claim. As that story continues to unravel, the egregious faux pas of the reporter, as well as the publication, have been clearly evidenced. But it created a sensational story, even if it was largely fictitious.

635537254221604057-AP-CIA-Torture-ReportNow this week we have the outgoing chairman, Senator Diane Feinstein, of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, releasing a partisan 500-page report on enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT) conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency. The report is a summary of a more detailed 6,000-page document that was not released. As with the aforementioned situations, this report intentionally excluded key primary sources, full contextual relevancy, and insubstantial data.

The report was constructed with an obvious bias, cherry-picking references, and both overtly and by inference, made accusations against the CIA that were clearly fallacious. Drafters of the report, Democrat staffers to the committee, allege that the CIA was not honest to the oversight committees or the Bush administration about EIT’s; claim no actionable intelligence was derived thereby; claim there was no internal dissent over the use of EITs; claim EIT’s were more brutal than the oversight committees and administration were led to believe; and that the CIA misrepresented the physical effects of the interrogations.

165cee2a9926f330670f6a706700bf8a_c0-275-4986-3181_s561x327Current CIA Director John Brennan, former CIA directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden, along with deputy directors John McLaughlin, Albert Calland and Stephen Kappes have all written or testified at varied times debunking the charges leveled by the report. Director Hayden went so far this week as to say that the evidence invalidating the reports assertions is found in the very documents the Democrat staffers poured through to cherry-pick their evidence.

I know of no one who has the stomach for, or condones, torture or the methods identified as EITs. But conversely, no one should condone our own government, or a small segment of it, wasting $40 million to pour through a million pages of documentation, to produce a clearly biased and prejudicial report that is as potentially damaging as this is to our security relationships around the globe. Especially since the allegations occurred over seven years ago, and have been since discontinued! What can possibly be gained by such a report?

President George W. Bush ended most of the aspects of the CIA’s EIT program before he left office. This effectively ended the interrogative procedures included in the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program, which President Bush authorized after the September 11 attacks.

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said, “We have U.S. personnel, both intelligence officials and military special operators, in harm’s way. Why would we release [this report] now? What did we have to gain? All of this has been debated. All of this has been settled. … Clearly the administration knew it was going to cause trouble as they sent out warnings all across the world.”

cia_torture_report_0Before the report was released, Obama administration officials placed military and law-enforcement personnel on high alert that it might spawn terrorist attacks around the globe and across the country. Since the program has long since ended, it’s unconscionable that Senate Democrats and the White House would intentionally subject the nation to potential terrorist attacks for what can only be considered political purposes.

It’s become political sport to some to denigrate America. And since there was no practical purpose behind the release of the flawed report, we can only surmise that it was done for political purposes to curry the favor of those who play the “revile America” game. There was clearly an agenda behind the release, but it had nothing to do with “protecting and defending” the nation and the Constitution, which oath these public officials have all taken.

There’s also an unsurprisingly duplicitous component to this as well. This administration denounces the EITs previously engaged in, yet has used drone strikes more extensively than ever, to kill terrorists and civilians. Which is more “humane,” to try to extract actionable intelligence from a terrorist, or to just expunge them and their friends and family?

We expect the mainstream media to misrepresent the truth, tarnish reputations fallaciously, and put people at risk, as they do so often. But we expect more of our government, and those who serve in it.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

Choosing to Be Grateful

Much of the space dedicated to this site is spent in analyzing, opining, and criticizing elements of the body politic and problems with the world and our nation. In spite of all that we find that needs fixing around us, one of the worst things we could do is to be ingrates, impervious to the bounties for which we owe gratitude.

imageIt’s sometimes difficult to think in those terms. We are often overwhelmed at the daunting challenges and vicissitudes of life that we face on a daily basis. Problems with health, the loss of a loved one, financial woes, the loss of a job, problems with a marriage or with children, often consume us emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Yet somehow we find ways to deal with our personal crucibles, to surmount our challenges, and crest our Everests.

The human spirit, if not doused with hopelessness, can be indomitable. We find ways to deal with, overcome, and survive our ordeals. We find solutions to our woes and answers to life’s tough questions. Often such resolution comes from insights, counsel, and wisdom from a loved one. Other times they come from unseen founts of wisdom and loving arms of solace after earnest and heartfelt pleadings to our Maker.

But as arduous and challenging as life can be, for all of us in one way or another, there is always much to be grateful for. Come Thanksgiving Day, we may have naught for a family dinner, but kind, generous friends or members of the community will bid you join their community feast.

We may be of bad health, but hopefully some things are still working fine. We may be struggling financially, but we’re still together as a family. We may have a child struggling with his or her own inner demons, yet as long as there is love, there is hope. To everything there is a silver lining. It may be obscured by our preoccupation with our trials, but it’s there. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find it.

imagesI’m convinced that many of the social and cultural problems we face today are the result of a loss of a collective sense of gratitude. Rather than being grateful for what we have and the blessings that we enjoy, although sparse they may sometimes seem to us, we focus on what we don’t have, or what we think we deserve or we’re entitled to. This lack of gratitude is often concomitant with narcissism and egoism, and reveals a deep character flaw — dearth of humility.

Perhaps, in rather simplistic fashion, we have the proverbial conundrum of whether the glass is half full, or half empty. In our individual lives, it all depends on how we choose to look at things, and whether we choose to focus on the deficiencies in our lives or on the bounties that we enjoy. And that’s all a matter of attitude.

This attitude was reflected by our 16th President Abraham Lincoln, who, in spite of being embroiled in a devastating civil war in1863, as well as facing his own personal crucibles, had the perspicacity and wisdom to make the following declaration. “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

thanksgiving“No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

May we all choose an attitude of gratitude, looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, and the silver lining to the dark and ominous clouds in our lives. May we express our gratitude to one another, manifest by acts of courtesy and respect. And most importantly, may we express daily our immense dependence upon, and gratitude to God. Not just during this Thanksgiving season, but everyday of our lives.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

It’s Official: Obama Declares America No Longer a Republic

“Congress will not act, so I will,” warned President Obama over the past few weeks as he projected the possibility of acting unilaterally on the issue of illegal immigration. And act, he did.

In an announcement Thursday evening, the President granted amnesty to millions of those who have entered the country illegally. Those granted amnesty, are those who have been in the country for at least five years, have children who are citizens or legal residents, who pass a criminal background check, and are willing to pay taxes and register with the government. The impact could include as many as 6 million people.

rickmckeeThe elements of his plan have merit, but to be legal, the proposal must be enacted legislatively, which he could have done easily when his party controlled both chambers of congress during his first term. What he proposes to do is to rewrite U.S. immigration law without the Constitutional or statutory authority to do so.

His actions stand in stark contrast to what he has been saying over the past six years. On March 28, 2011 in a Univision appearance, he declared, “For me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates, would not conform to my appropriate role as president.”

On July 25, 2011, he stated, “I know some people want me to bypass congress and change the laws on my own. But that’s not the way our system works.”

On November 25, 2013, he declared, “If in fact I could solve all these problems without passing laws in congress, then I would do so. But we’re also a nation of laws.”

mexicoOn March 6, 2014, he clarified, “I cannot ignore those laws anymore than I can ignore any of the other laws on the books. What I said in the past remains true. Until congress passes a new law, then I am constrained in terms of what I am able to do.”

On February 14, 2013, he said, “The problem is that, I’m the president of the United States. I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute the laws that are passed.”

Then, in reference to his 2012 Executive Order where elements of the stalled Senate Dream Act were implemented, he said, “What we have tried to do is administratively reduce the burdens and hardships on families being separated. And what we’ve done is, obviously, pass the deferred action which made sure that the DREAMers, young people who were brought here and think of themselves as Americans, are American except for their papers, that they’re not deported.

“Having said all that, we’ve kind of stretched our administrative flexibility as much as we can. And that’s why making sure we get comprehensive immigration reform done is so important.”

border_crisisAnd on January 30, 2013, he told Univision, “Well, I think it is important to remind everybody that, as I said I think previously, and I’m not a king. I am the head of the executive branch of government. I’m required to follow the law.”

In fact, there are at least 25 times the president has expressed those convictions, and are captured on video. His comments focus on three key areas: 1) we are a nation of laws; 2) as president, he hasn’t the authority to make law, for that’s the role of the legislative branch; and 3) he is not a king or an emperor, i.e. a despot. Clearly, from his speech on Thursday, those convictions have changed. He either feels he is above the law, can now make law, subordinating congress to irrelevancy, or he feels he is now king or emperor.

The Executive Order (EO) does not grant the president the authority to do what he said he’d do this week. There are three things the EO can be used for: operational management of the executive branch, operational management of the federal agencies or officials, and implementing statutory or constitutional presidential responsibilities. Executive Orders cannot be used to either create new law, or to annul or reverse existing law. After all, his primary function, according to the Constitution and his oath of office, is to “faithfully execute the office” in enforcement and execution of the laws legally passed by the legislative branch.

Many have cited executive order precedence of prior presidents. Those situations were far different. President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986, which granted limited amnesty to some qualified illegal immigrants. He subsequently issued an executive order that included minor children of those specifically covered under the Act.

KingObamaIn 1990, President George Herbert Walker Bush issued an Executive Order related to that Act that broadened the scope to include spouses and children of those granted amnesty under the Simpson-Mazzoli Act. The EO was a logical inclusion not specifically delineated in the Act. Both Reagan’s and Bush’s Executive Orders were supported by the legislative intent of Simpson-Mazzoli, were legal declarations of how Simpson-Mazzoli would be implemented, and were supported by Congress.

What the President did this week establishes a dangerous precedent and arguably creates a constitutional crisis over the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches and the rule of law. As disturbing as it is to have a president so willfully and intentionally exceed his constitutional authority, is the fact that his party leadership is entirely supportive of his illegal actions.

In a few years there will be a Republican president who may, using his “pen and his phone,” rescind the Affordable Care Act, or outlaw abortions altogether, or initiate tax cuts just by Executive Order. Those who have no problem with what the President did this week will have no legal leg to stand on in their denunciation of such future executive actions.

Regardless of which party he hails from, and regardless of the viability of his proposal, President Obama this week declared that we are no longer a nation of laws, and that he is our emperor.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Obamacare Is Based on Fraud, Says Architect of the ACA

imagesWhat the architect of Obamacare said recently was not surprising to those of us who have been critical of the massive legislation from the start. It was clear to anyone who actually studied the legislation, with even a modicum of logic, the smoke and mirrors that were used to mask the true intent and operation of the Act. What is surprising is how obviously truthful he was, and how the mainstream media are ignoring his remarks.

Jonathan Gruber, MIT economics professor, and principle architect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was astonishingly candid in his remarks about President Obama’s signature legislation in not one, but as of this writing, three different recordings.

The first video that surfaced was with a panel of academics talking about the ACA in October, 2013. He said, “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure that the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay. So it was written to do that. In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law that said healthy people are going to pay in — if you made it explicit that healthy people pay in, sick people get money, it would not have passed. Okay. Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically call it the stupidity of the American voter, or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical in getting the thing to pass, and, you know, it’s the second best argument. And I wish Mark was right, we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not. So there are things I’d wish I could change, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

B2bANrICIAAy2bwAfter this video surfaced, Gruber appeared on MSNBC where he made a feeble attempt at an apology. Regarding his inflammatory statement, he said, “I was speaking off the cuff and I regret having made them.” Notice carefully what he didn’t say in his “apology.” He didn’t disavow the statement, say he was wrong, or even truly apologize for his ill-chosen words. He simply “regretted” having made the statement.

Just after Gruber appeared on MSNBC, a second clip surfaced from a lecture he delivered at Washington University in St. Louis a year ago. In this one, he was talking about the taxation components of the ACA. He explained, “For people with expensive health insurance plans, they will no longer get a 40% tax break. What if we instead just levy a 40% tax on the insurance companies that sell these terrible expensive Cadillac plans. Well, that’s pretty much the same thing but why does it matter? You’ll see. They proposed it and that passed. Because Americans are too stupid to understand the difference.” The audience laughed as he finished.

Gruber-on-the-lies-told-to-pass-Obamacare1Finally a third recording emerged, proving that his “off the cuff” remarks were an accurate portrayal of not just the ACA, but that his characterization of the American people was prototypical of those who put the law together. In a presentation from November 1, 2012, Gruber states, “We just take the insurance companies. They pass on higher prices that offset the taxes that we get, that ends up being the same thing. It’s a very clever, you know, base exploitation of the lack of understanding of the American voter.”

These comments from the architect of Obamacare are revelatory in so many ways. The first is that the healthcare bill was intentionally written in a “tortured” way so that the Congressional Budget Office wouldn’t score the legislation as a “tax.” As Gruber said, if it had been scored that way by the CBO, the bill would not have passed. In other words, the drafters of the legislation intentionally and willfully deceived both the CBO and the American people in order to get it passed. It’s too bad that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts saw through the deception in order to rule the ACA “constitutional” because it was a tax.

lead_largeEqually troubling is Gruber’s admission that they had to avoid transparency in order to get it to get through congress, and to pass muster with the American people. As Gruber referred to it, the lack of transparency is a “huge political advantage.” What does that say of a political ideology, and a party, that employs such nefarious means to deceive and obfuscate in order to achieve their political ends?

Not to be lost in all this is the common thread throughout Gruber’s comments referencing the stupidity of the American people. Like Howard Dean said this week on MSNBC, “The problem is not that he said it, but that he thinks it. The core problem is that this law was put together by a bunch of elitists who don’t really fundamentally understand the American people. That’s what the problem is.”

Obamacare Approval

Obamacare Approval

And it’s obviously not just Gruber’s sentiments, but all those who sold the ACA to us. The disingenuousness, deception, and misrepresentation was by design. The only way the American people could be gullible enough to think it was good for the country is if the drafters used their “huge political advantage” of opacity and mendacity by obfuscating the truth. Based on most recent polls, there is still a large minority who still can be defined by Gruber’s characterization of us, as nearly 40% still think Obamacare is a good law.

It wasn’t just a large percentage of Americans who were “stupid” enough to swallow the party line on the ACA. The mainstream media swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. And they’re apparently still choking on it, as they have ignored these exposing comments from the law’s architect.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

Obama’s Policies Rebuffed by Midterm Elections

Tuesday’s election results nationally represent an unmistakable shift to the right. Voters across the country took the president at his word, that his policies were on the ballot last week, and resoundingly rejected them. GOP victories in the Senate, the House, and governorships, served as a denunciation of the policies that have made this the most moribund post-recession economic recovery in history, thwarted by onerous regulation and a steady stream of anti-private sector policies of the administration.

us-midterm-election-results-2014 Exit polls from Tuesday’s midterm election indicated great dissatisfaction with the direction the country is headed. Nearly two-thirds of the 7,563 respondents indicated the country is “Seriously off on the wrong track.” 79% indicated they were worried about the direction of the economy for the coming year, and 70% responded that the economy is either “poor” or “not so good.”

Only a small percentage indicated faith in the federal government. 78% of respondents indicated “only some of the time,” or “never,” when asked, “How much of the time do you think you can trust the government in Washington to do what is right?”

Coming into the election, the Democrats controlled the Senate by a 53 to 45 margin, and 2 Independents who caucused with the majority party. Republicans gained seven seats, including Arkansas, Colorado, and North Carolina where Democrat incumbents were defeated, and four seats where Democrat senators retired, including Iowa, West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana. The Alaska race is still undeclared, with the Republican leading, and Louisiana is facing a runoff that will likely result in another gain for the GOP.

2014 Elections Congressional Map

2014 Elections Congressional Map

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said, ” The message from voters is clear: They want us to work together.” Apparently Reid has been too detached from public sentiment. The citizens have expected that long before the eve of him losing control of the Senate.

In the House, Republicans held 233 of the 435 seats coming into the election, while Democrats occupied 199. At the end of the day, the GOP had lost two seats, but gained 15, for a net gain of 13 seats. This is the largest majority the GOP has held in the House since 1930. As of this writing, eleven House seats are still undeclared, so the margin could increase even more.

Governor races followed the same trend as the congressional contests. Republicans now hold 31 of the statehouses, and Democrats, 17. Two governor races are still undecided. The most surprising gains occurred in deep blue states, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland. The good news for defeated Governor Pat Quinn, is that he’s one of few recent Illinois governors to leave office not wearing handcuffs.

2014 Gubernatorial Elections

2014 Gubernatorial Elections

The question now is what the Republicans will do with their newfound power. At the federal level, there are limitations to what Congress can accomplish, even controlling both chambers. They don’t have a veto proof majority to override presidential vetoes. And at the state levels, many of the newly elected GOP governors face legislatures controlled by the opposing party, either in one or both chambers. All around, there will be limitations to what can be accomplished.

The greatest source of congressional inaction and gridlock will be displaced when Harry Reid is no longer the Majority Leader with the new Senate. There are currently nearly 300 bills collecting dust on Reid’s desk that have been passed by the House that he has refused to place on the calendar or assign to committee. Many of those bills are uncontroversial, and over 30 of them were sponsored in the House by Democrat members who are as frustrated at Reid’s obstinacy as are Republican members. Several address key areas of concern to veterans.

We may actually get a budget passed as well. The last time that happened was before Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House. The government has been funded by continuing resolutions, temporary stopgap measures, and massive omnibus bills for the past eight years.

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Senator Mitch McConnell, currently the Minority Leader of the Senate, is presumed to take Reid’s place as Majority Leader. In a post-election press conference this week, McConnell pledged to move forward with the pile of bills Reid left on his desk. He indicated other areas of immediate attention would be the proposed Keystone Pipeline, a full energy bill, comprehensive tax reform including reduction of the corporate tax, and taking up trade agreements to increase American exports.

Regarding Obamacare, he said, “If I had the ability, obviously, I would get rid of it.” But he acknowledged that repeal would not survive a veto from the President, so he vowed to address the oppressive Act “in a variety of different ways.”

By far the biggest beneficiary of the election results are the American people, collectively, as a host of issues of great concern will now be acted upon that will benefit the nation. Gridlock on some issues is still likely, but at least the legislative logjam will now be removed.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Reject Obama’s Policies At All Levels of Government

“I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake, my policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them,” said President Barrack Obama two weeks ago. There can be no doubt that the agenda of the past six years is a factor in the mid-term elections in two weeks, but for the president to so inextricably conjoin his policies with the election increases the significance and possible outcomes.

obamas-policy-bracketReactions to the president’s statement have been predictably mixed in political circles. The comment drew consternation from some Democratic Senate candidates who have been attempting to distance themselves from the president and his policies, even though they’ve historically been supportive. Some have reveled in the declaration believing that linking the president’s policies, and his now dismal approval rating, to the midterms increases the odds of Republicans extending their majority in the House and regaining control of the Senate.

Last Monday the president doubled down on his remarks in an interview with Al Sharpton on MSNBC. Speaking of those congressional and senatorial candidates attempting to distance themselves from his policies, the president said, “These are all folks who vote with me. They have supported my agenda in Congress. I tell them, I said, ‘You know what, you do what you need to win.’”

There are two significant revelations embedded in that counsel. The first is that those of the president’s party are supportive of his agenda, regardless of what they may say. That verity is bourn out by near 100% support of the president by his party member’s votes in congress. The second revelatory counsel is for them to do whatever they need to do to win. Obviously that includes deceit to appear to voters as not amenable with the president’s agenda.

Obama spendsThis should be immensely disturbing to voters, that their Machiavellian tactics would so blatantly based on dishonesty. Disavowing the president’s policies, while having actively supported and voted for them, is counting on voter ignorance for success, and is clearly deceitful. In other words, they have to lie to hope for success at the ballot box. This comes as no surprise to many of us, but for it to be so explicitly disclosed by the national figurehead of the party speaks volumes not only of him, but the Party he leads.

A senior Senate Democratic aid said this week, “The ineptitude of the White House political operation has sunk from annoying to embarrassing,” in reference to the president’s statements, and a series of other faux pas which are seen as damaging to Democrat’s election hopes. Another has called the president’s political team the “JV squad,” in clear reference to a January statement by the president when he referred to ISIS as a “JV” terrorist group. Even David Axelrod, Obama’s former senior adviser, said Obama made a big “mistake” tying his policies to the midterm election.

image001This increases in relevancy due to public perception of the president and his policies. Overall, his job approval numbers are between 39-42%, and his approval numbers on the economy are in the same range. They’re more dismal on his foreign policy, which range mostly from 31-35%. And of those polled on whether the country is headed the right direction, only 23-27% feel that it is.

According to YouGov Obama’s base is the only demographic segment that still supports him and his policies, even though that is somewhat waning. Nearly all of his 39% approval rating is coming from Democrats. Republicans and independents combined register less than 1% approval for the president. Which is not surprising in light of Gallup’s conclusion a couple years ago, “Conservative Democrats, Liberal Republicans Hard to Find.”

The dismal approval of the administration carries over to distrust of the entire government. According to a CNN poll just last month, only 13% of Americans agree that the government “can be trusted to do what is right always or most of the time.”

Clearly the president was right, that his agenda is on the ballot in November. His policies are the Democrat Party policies, and only they support them. This is undoubtedly what Bill O’Reilly was thinking when he said this week, “If a whopping 64% of Americans think the country is out of control under the Obama administration, why would anyone vote for a Democrat?” That is a superb question!

carson-on-undermining-usaThere is no discernable difference between the national party policies and those either implemented or supported at the state and local levels. Their core value, based on what they do, not necessarily what they say, is based in government solutions and control, at the expense individual liberty. This is manifested in all facets of governance from economic and foreign policy, to education and security, with but few exceptions.

If one is supportive of the direction the nation is headed now, it would be understandable to vote accordingly. But for all who are not pleased with the nation’s direction, Bill O’Reilly’s question is apropos, “Why would anyone vote for a Democrat?” Since we know where such policies lead, we might tenably add, “At any level.”

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Same-Sex “Marriage,” An Illogical Counterfeit

“Destroy the family and you destroy a nation,” has been an oft-repeated aphorism of unverified origin, that rings true from a common sense perspective. The family unit, after all, is the building block of all cultures and societies. And just as the law of unintended consequences manifests itself often glaringly when dealing with issues of a political nature, so likewise the unintended consequences of redefining marriage will likewise prove to be pejorative.

family-the-foundation-of-the-society-1-638The proliferation of “same-sex marriage” is based, both judicially and from a political correctness standpoint, on two major fallacious premises. The first is that marrying whoever or whatever one wants to is somehow a “right,” and the second is that marriage can be whatever we choose it to be.

Marriage to whomever or whatever one chooses to be is not a codified “right.” Even if it could somehow be so extrapolated, nowhere is it based on whom one professes love for. To the contrary, it is, based in natural law, lex naturalis, which is the system of law that is determined by nature, and is thus universal. Embedded also in nature’s law is the use of reason to analyze social and personal human nature to deduce binding rules of behavior from it. As fundamentally significant as marriage is to our culture, our society, and our civilization, the institution cannot be simply redefined based on fad or political correctness without negative consequences.

images-1Dr. Patrick Fagan, a sociologist and psychologist has said, “The family is the fundamental building block of society and predates the state and even the societies it builds…At the heart of the family is the mother and father who bring their children into existence.” This is a self-evident truth, regardless of who said it, and anthropologists, biologists, sociologists, and politicians have reiterated that very sentiment. The family is the building block of society and civilization, and the cornerstone to that foundation, or the genesis of it, is a mother and a father.

Foundations must be strong, and built to withstand the elements, corrosion, and the test of time. Otherwise, the structure built thereon will inevitably crumble. If a foundation is made with unmixed cement or just water, as same-sex marriage tries to do, the foundation is weak, and the structure (our civilization) built thereon will crumble. When we tamper with, and attempt to socially-engineer the foundational elements and institutions to civilization and our society, the results will be destructive.

Redefining marriage based on who one purportedly loves, is a spurious dilution of our societal foundation. At no time in human history, has marriage been legally based on who one loves, but has always been about perpetuating the species, and forming familial units that construct the foundation to civilization. Sometimes it has included multiple spouses, but always it has been based on propagational properties, whether age or fertility exceptions apply or not. Any semantic change to the definition is only that, semantic, and does not change the biological or anthropological verities etymologically embedded in the term. Such a change to accommodate same-sex “marriage” is therefore nothing more than creating a verbal counterfeit to the real thing. Referring to a snake as a swan doesn’t change it into something that it is not.

Family ConceptNor is there a “right” to marry whomsoever or whatsoever we please, or profess love for. Such a right is as most other “rights” claimed by those in our society who feel somehow shortchanged, slighted, or disadvantaged. The “right” is not codified in any legal document, much less our founding documents, just like the “right” to health care, or the “right” to a good job. Heterosexual marriage, however, is codified in natural law, as attested by biological and anthropological fact. The test is simple: try building a civilization or a society from scratch with anything other than natural law, heterosexual marriage. As an attorney friend of mine said, “there is absolutely no logical interpretation of the Constitution that can stretch sufficiently to include the definition of marriage as a judicially definable term.”

Founder of Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, has warned that the door to what can be legitimized as a legal relationship is now wide open. “This doesn’t just stop at heterosexual marriage or same-sex ‘marriage,’ but it also will extend to bigamy and incestuous marriage and all kinds of situations. If the government doesn’t have any interest in [marriage], then polygamy is permissible, polyamory is permissible.  We would have group marriages. Incestuous marriages are permissible. Marriages with … children as young as 8 or 7 or however low you want to go on the list — all of that becomes a free-for-all.”

francis-gay-marriageDr. Charles Krauthammer makes the same argument. “Traditional marriage is defined as the union of (1) two people of (2) opposite gender. If, as advocates of gay marriage insist, the gender requirement is nothing but prejudice, exclusion and an arbitrary denial of one’s autonomous choices, then on what grounds do they insist upon the traditional, arbitrary and exclusionary number of two?”

Other factors now become arbitrary and exclusionary as well. A Missouri man feels he was discriminated against when the state disallowed his marriage to his chosen “partner.” He says of her, “She’s gorgeous. She’s sweet. She’s loving. I’m very proud of her.” He can now employ the same charge of “discrimination” that is precluding him from “marrying” his favorite mare, Pixel.

Doug Mainwaring, an avowed homosexual, has made an astute observation regarding marriage. “Two men or two women together is, in truth, nothing like a man and a woman creating a life and a family together…Marriage is not an elastic term. It is immutable. It offers the very best for children and society. We should not adulterate nor mutilate its definition, thereby denying its riches to current and future generations.”

UnknownWords have meaning, and marriage, as the cornerstone to civilization, is copiously imbued with it. I have yet to hear a logical or cogent explanation as to why a binding homosexual relationship must be a marriage as opposed to a civil union or legal partnership. Rather than weakening and diluting the foundation to our society, we should be strengthening and encouraging it. After all, our future, and stability, as a society is dependent on it.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

America’s Oligarchy – The Tyranny of the Federal Judiciary

Two key decisions rendered by the Federal Judiciary this week severely challenge not only the foundational institutions of our society, but the fundamental operation of our republic.

Judicial_Tyranny-New_Kings.pngThe U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it opted to not hear appeals by five states regarding their traditional marriage laws. Utah, Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma all had laws on the books defining marriage as a contractual institution including a man and a woman that had been appealed to the Supreme Court from lower courts. The net effect is that judicial decisions at lower levels against those state laws will now stand, opening the way for same-sex marriages in those states.

The Supreme Court’s rationale to not hear the cases may well have been portended by Justice Antonin Scalia last month in Bozeman, MT when he said, “It’s not up to the courts to invent new minorities that get special protections that are not subject to the usual rule that you have to get the majority to agree with it.”

Even more disconcerting is the decision by three judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding Idaho and Nevada’s laws supporting traditional marriage. A three-judge panel from the 9th Circuit, consisting of Judges Stephen Reinhardt, a Carter appointee from Los Angeles; Ronald M Gould, a Clinton appointee from Seattle; and Marsha S. Berzon, a Clinton appointee from San Francisco, struck down state laws reaffirming marriage between a man and a woman. Since the Supreme Court will not hear state’s appeals on the issue, same-sex marriage is a fait accompli not only for Idaho and Nevada, but inevitably in all 50 states.

tyranny3Our federal judiciary has become, arguably and disturbingly, an oligarchy. When they rule on the “constitutionality” of an issue it is assumed to be the final say in whether a vote of congress or the vote of the people via referendum or initiative is legitimized or annulled. This is not how the Supreme Court and its substrata of appellate courts were intended to operate, nor is it de facto the way it should be.

The federal judiciary, as it has evolved, has unchecked and unlimited power over the nation by either of the other branches, the executive or the legislative, or even the people. Its members are not accountable to the citizenry, since most of their appointments are for life, and they cannot be removed from the bench by a vote of the people they purportedly serve. Their ruminations and the results of their decisions are insular and they often trump the will of the people with regard to key social issues. Their decisions are presumed to be final, even though they may be at odds with the democratic majority of our citizens.

c2dc1f723d791ab0369b9fdaec38e810Herein lies the fundamental problem about the present construct of our federal judiciary as it has evolved since the founding. If, as stated in the 10th Amendment, all “rights and powers” not specifically itemized in the Constitution are held by the people collectively or by the states, what right does a court have to negate the will of the people? As it relates especially to key cultural issues like abortion, public religious displays, and definitions of marriage, should not the final court be the court of public opinion, rather than an oligarchy of judges insulated from, and not accountable to the citizenry? In most of these cases, state courts have ruled, and appeals are then made to the federal judiciary.

Thomas Jefferson portended this judicial despotism. “To consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions [is] a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy. Our judges are as honest as other men and not more so. They have with others the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps. Their maxim is boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem [good justice is broad jurisdiction], and their power the more dangerous as they are in office for life and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control.”

Justice Scalia said recently, “I question the propriety, indeed the sanity, of having a value-laden decision such as same-sex marriage made for the entire society by unelected judges.” That sentiment is echoed by Chief Justice John Roberts. “Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules. They apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical. They make sure everybody plays by the rules. But it is a limited role. Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire,” he said. Clearly, though, the judiciary is doing just that, making the rules, when they essentially legislate from the bench.

According to Reuter’s research published in January, 2014, Democrat appointees to the federal bench are a slight majority, at 50.5% of the total federal judiciary. In their book “The Behavior of Federal Judges,” researchers Lee Epstein, William Landes, and Richard Posner, document how Democrat appointees rule on the bench more liberally than Republican appointees rule according to strict constructionist interpretations. Given that verity, and the growing majority of liberal judges in the federal judiciary, the continued unraveling of “democratic rule” by the federal judiciary in America is perhaps a forgone conclusion.

JudicialActivismJefferson clearly understood the system of checks and balances on the respective powers of the three branches of government. As he said in a letter to Abigail Adams in 1804, “The Constitution… meant that its coordinate branches should be checks on each other. But the opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action but for the Legislature and Executive also in their spheres, would make the Judiciary a despotic branch.” It has obviously become a despotic branch since it can overturn the will of the people as expressed even in referenda or initiatives.

Liberalism and progressivism have been able to successfully advance elements of their agenda through the judiciary that they have been unable to accomplish at the ballot box or through elected officials. Since federal judges are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, those positions should be recognized as the key to preserving the slight semblance of the American republic as envisioned by our founders. As it appears now, that vision is rapidly evaporating.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

Increasing Number of Youth Ineligible for Military

P1-BQ573_INELIG_G_20140627175409At a time when dependence upon our military for safeguarding the nation and our freedoms is increasing, it’s disconcerting to learn that an increasing number of young people are ineligible for our armed services. The reasons are manifold, and often overlapping, but most of them boil down to behavioral obstacles. Many more who wish to join the armed services would be allowed if they made better choices. The same kinds of issues often limit opportunities, even outside of the military.

The military’s prime recruiting age is 17-24 years of age, and according to data released by the Pentagon, over 2/3 of young Americans in that demographic would not be eligible for service. By far the greatest reason for ineligibility is obesity, but other reasons for disqualification include physical appearance, physical health, lack of educational preparedness, police records, and drug use. There are over 34 million young people who would qualify by age, but a full 71% of them would be declined if they applied.

Enlistment requirements vary slightly depending on the branch of the military, but the candidates must be between 17-34 years of age; have a high school diploma or GED with some college credits; have no felony convictions; no persistent illegal drug use; no insulin-dependent diabetes; meet height/weight standards for their age group; be a U.S. citizen or foreign national with legal status; have no ADHD medication for the 12 months preceding application; have no ear gauges and no tattoos on the fingers, head, or hands.

3805908_GEvery year approximately 180,000 new recruits, or about .5% of the prime recruitment-age applicants are added to our military branches. If all other requirements are met, they must also pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which provides an assessment of their English, math, and science skills, as well as their cognitive abilities. According to the Pentagon, about a quarter of applicants, who have graduated from high school, or have their GED, can’t pass the Qualification Test. Major General Allen Youngman says, “They aren’t educationally qualified to join the military in any capacity, not just the high-tech jobs.”

Although the military doesn’t release figures on how many applicants are rejected for service, the Defense Department does indicate that only about 1% of prime recruitment-age young people are both “eligible and inclined to have conversation with” any of the branches of the military. Crunching the numbers indicates only about half of those ultimately are admitted.

Would you hire me?

Would you hire me?

Major General Allen Batschelet, who serves as the commanding officer of the Army Recruiting Command, told the Wall Street Journal in June that, “The quality of people willing to serve has been declining rapidly.” Because of this, they have avoided a “zero-defect” mentality, which means they often consider cases individually, which has still allowed them to meet their recruitment objectives in recent years.

There are many, both in the military and out, who see this as a threat to national security. This acknowledgment led to the formation of Mission:Readiness, a nonprofit organization comprised of 450 retired generals and admirals. The group claims that, “Investing early in the upcoming generation is critical to securing our nation’s future. These retired admirals and generals understand that whether young people join the military or not, we must increase investments so that all young people can get the right start and succeed in life – whatever career path they choose. To ensure that we have a strong nation and a secure future, we need to help America’s youth succeed academically, stay physically fit, and abide by the law.”

Retired Major Gen. Allen Youngman, speaking on behalf of “Mission:Readiness, said, “We’re trying to make decision makers see this is a national-security matter—and they need to prioritize it.”

An increasing number of candidates are rejected because of tattoos. Recruiters around the nation are reporting that many recruits don’t advance beyond the initial visit to the recruitment office, since their tattoos are visible and out of compliance with military policy. According to military sources, the objective behind the tattoo guidelines is to maintain a “professional-looking Army.”

Or would you hire me?

Or would you hire me?

Here’s where the broader cultural and societal interests of the nation intersect with the military’s objective. The same conduct that precludes so many from joining the military likewise presents obstacles to employment outside of the military. Aren’t all of these qualifiers important whether one intends to join the military or not? Aren’t all potential employers invested in the idea of having well-educated, physically healthy, and professional-looking personnel? Common sense would lead us to believe that the enlisting qualifications for the military are not all that different for life outside of it.

Young people can choose to drop out of high school or approach their educational opportunities cavalierly. They can choose to not be conscientious about their overall health, or disfigure themselves with piercings and gauges, and paint their bodies with tattoos, if they choose to. But they should realize that their future options are limited by doing so. They certainly limit their opportunities with the military, as well as many future potential employers. We can choose what we do, for the most part, but we’d better think through what the consequences and ramifications are.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Islam Needs A Reformation and to Denounce Extremism

It must be extremely disconcerting to Muslims to see their religion defined by the extremists of their faith. Regrettably, history is replete with examples of small minorities of adherents defining public perception of a sect. Christianity is often disparaged for the violent crusades of the Middle Ages. But Christianity went through a reformation, renouncing genocidal practices engendered and fostered by theological dogma. Likewise, at some point, the violent extremism within certain fringe groups who claim to represent the ideals of Islam, must be rejected by the whole if it is to ever be believed to be the “religion of peace.”

islam_religion_of_peace_022It’s critical to make a distinction between the faith of Islam, and Islamic extremism. Islam, as a religion, is faith-based, while the sectarian-defined extremism of the Wahhabist movement, or Salafi, is more of an Islamo-Fascist political movement. Even though it has its theological roots in Islam the religion, they are more of a politically ideological sect within Islam that goes far beyond what is reasonable in their interpretations of key scriptures in the Koran and the Hadith or sayings of Mohammed.

Abdallah Al Obeid, the former dean of the Islamic University of Medina and member of the Saudi Consultative Council, confirms that this is politically ideological, rather than sectarian. He calls this extremism a “political trend” within Islam that “has been adopted for power-sharing purposes.” He says it cannot be called a sect because “It has no special practices, nor special rites, and no special interpretation of religion that differ from the main body of Sunni Islam.”

Lt. General Thomas McInerney, who serves on the Iran Policy Committee, said a few years ago in an interview, “Islamic extremism is an ideology just like Fascism and Communism, and it must be fought in much the same way. The West has not acknowledged this and consequently we have not educated our population that it is an ideology rather than a religion. This is confusing people because of our tolerance for the diversity of religion.”

Islam-DominationGeneral McInerney declared in the same interview, “Islam needs a reformation just like Christianity had, plus they need a cultural renaissance to bring them into modernity. This must come from within driven by moderate Muslims.”

Dr. Tawfik Hamid, an Egyptian scholar and reformed terrorist, who maintains that his religion has been hijacked by the extremists, wrote a historically insightful book titled “The Roots of Jihad” in 2006, where he describes our challenge with the jihadists. He wrote that Islamic Terrorism has the support of the majority of Muslims and that Islam must be reformed to become a religion of tolerance. Muslims are killing more of their own people than westerners, and until the Muslim world acknowledges this and destroys this cancer from within there will be continued conflict that will continue to spread. This, he states, is catastrophic for the Islamic religion.

Dr. Juhdi Jasser, who heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, expressed his frustration last week in an interview. He expressed consternation that the talking points of the administration have been based on the oft repeated line that “the Islamic State is neither Islamic nor a state,” referring to ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). The President, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have all reiterated the statement over the past week.

6a00d8341c60bf53ef014e60557d9c970c-600wiDr. Jasser takes umbrage at their fallacious premise. “Please, if anybody in the administration is listening, stop telling us Muslims what is Islamic. I mean, so he’s saying this is compounding the sin? How about when he shakes the hand and hugs the king of Saudi Arabia for their being the custodians of the Holy Mosque and yet they have imprisoned apostates, liberals, [and] Muslims. They’re a misogynistic nation that treats women as third class citizens. Or the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, or the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hundreds of millions of Muslims running governments all over the world that line their prisons and torture Christians and Jews and Muslims, and that’s Islamic? And ISIS sort of came out of thin air? ISIS is a by-product of those ideologies. And to deny it and dismiss it, they’re trying to bury us Reformers from having a seat at the table.”

Dr. Jasser continued, “The main laboratory that we can do our reform work against Sharian government and this draconian law that’s still in the 13th century is in the West. So if the West is too busy being labeled as ‘anti-Muslim bigots’ and is on the defense and we’re all victims as Muslims, you can never have this conversation. So moderate Muslims acknowledge that the Islamic State is a threat, that we don’t want to live in Islamic States. Moderate Muslims acknowledge that Sharia, as is interpreted today, is misogynistic, is anti-Western, anti-freedom. And the Islamists want to not have that conversation and want to marginalize us from the mosques and Islamist representation and our voices.”

Obama-With-MuslimsMuslims worldwide must eventually reject and foreswear the jihadists and their beheading, rapacious, and murdering tactics. The cry must be loud and strong from the faithful to reclaim their religion from the extremists who taint and tarnish it. Reformers like Dr. Jasser and Dr. Hamid must be embraced and supported by their Muslim brethren, as they attempt reformation, and adaptation to the Koran’s standards of moral behavior.

And this reformation must include educational curriculum as well, that teaches primary school children the terrorist mentality. They need to take the reigns of their faith, denounce the 72 virgin myth for martyrs, and expunge those who seek to murder and destroy. By so doing, they can reclaim the heart and soul of their faith. How best to show they are a “religion of peace” than by proving it.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

Article V Convention – Congress Will Not Act, So We Will

Government debt continues to amass at a dizzying pace. The federal government has displayed no discipline in reining it in and reestablishing a more sound fiscal footing for the future of the country. Our founding fathers, however, had the prescience to include in our Constitution the means whereby the states, and the people, could force the government to do what they have no appetite to do, to require a balanced budget.

Growth-Of-United-States-Government-DebtJust since 2006, federal government debt has shot from $6.7 trillion, to nearly $18 trillion. The largest segment of that spending occurred over the past six years with five years of deficits exceeding $1 trillion. Our government has been spending 60% more than it’s been collecting in tax receipts.

Those figures do not even begin to address our long-term debt due to non-discretionary entitlement programs. According to the General Accounting Office’s (GAO) 2013 annual report, unfunded debt including Social Security and Medicare is over $76 trillion, an increase of 8% over 2012 levels. Our national debt increases by an estimated $8.2 million per minute, and about $350 billion per month.

The GAO was explicit in its warning to the policy makers about our spending. They said in the very first paragraph, “GAO’s simulations continue to show escalating levels of debt that illustrate that the long-term fiscal outlook remains unsustainable.”

Budget-chartFormer Comptroller General of the United States, David M. Walker, has been sounding the clarion call of economic disaster for the nation if spending is not reined in, and politicians refuse to deal with fiscal realities of unabated spending. He describes America as a “sinking ship” in a sea of our own debt. He points out that, “The US ranks near the bottom of developed global economies in terms of financial stability and will stay there unless it addresses its burgeoning debt problems,” based on the Sovereign Fiscal Responsibility Index.

Something must be done before the dollar and our entire economic system collapses entirely due to our calamitous accumulation of debt. And the solution could be nestled in Article V of the Constitution. That Article declares how the document can be amended.

Debt-Ceiling-Cartoon“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress.”

That second option, referred to as an Article V Convention, or Convention of the States, has never been utilized. It’s been attempted before, but never to fruition. It was added to the document after four earlier attempts at language that would have opened the door to a full constitutional convention. The precise and narrow limitations of an Article V convention only allows for adoption of amendments, not a complete “con con” which could facilitate mischief in rewriting our founding document. In Federalist Paper 43 James Madison explained, “It guards equally against that extreme facility, which would render the Constitution too mutable.”

cg536b7ae12610aThis is validated by Nick Dranias, Director of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Constitutional Government, who has said, “Despite claims made to the contrary, the truth is that Article V does not provide authority for a foundational constitutional convention. The Founders specifically and repeatedly rejected efforts to substitute the current Article V language to allow for a foundational constitutional convention to be called.”

Currently there are active efforts to call an Article V Convention for at least two major issues: a Balanced Budget Amendment, and a National Debt Relief Amendment. Both are oriented toward forcing the federal government to get its fiscal house in order. The latter would disallow congress from increasing the federal debt without a majority of states approving an increase in the debt limit.

In order for such a convention to be convened, two-thirds of the states must pass resolutions calling for it, and then upon adoption of the specific amendments at the convention, three-fourths of the states must ratify. Therein lies the assurance that only viable and constitutionally sound amendments would emerge from such a convention.

Every citizen, and every state in the union has a stake in the solvency and fiscal stability of the nation, and should be actively embracing and supporting the Article V Convention process for these key issues. Hopefully an amendment will then be advanced for establishing term limits on congress, as well. Since Washington will not lead on these critical issues, it’s time for the people, and the states, to do so.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people”

One of the predictable effects of the secularization of our culture and our society is the debasement of our collective moral fabric, our social mores. The absolute and fundamental matrix of values that form the basis of our Judeo-Christian society have steadily eroded, and at an accelerated rate over the past few decades. This erosion of traditional values has contributed to proliferation of a moral relativism that is profoundly evidenced by displacement of social standards and individual religious belief systems.

c45c6c37e8873f733f2bbba629d700685a861605a5252b951e200da2d32d574cThe late Alan Bloom, professor of philosophy at Cornell, Yale, and the University of Chicago, wrote, “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.” If all truth is relative, all morality becomes relative as well, for the elimination of absolute truth claims absolute morality as its first casualty.

This moral relativism has coincided predictably with the secularization of our culture. Supplanting our Judeo-Christian value system, by effectively removing it from the public realm, has effectively left our society as a ship without a moral rudder.

Moral relativism ensues when ethical standards, morality, and positions of right or wrong are culturally based and therefore subject to a person’s individual choice. There are no absolutes. All morality is relative and up for individual interpretation. Fixed standards of value don’t exist aside from the changing whims of society, social trends, and sometimes even government regulation.

teaching-ethical-thinkingWilliam McGuffey, who authored the McGuffey’s Readers, which were the mainstay of America’s public school system for nearly a century, wrote: “Erase all thought and fear of God from a community, and selfishness and sensuality would absorb the whole man.” Today we witness the veracity of his statement with certitude.

Moral relativism weakens our collective cultural conscience. It weakens our ability to identify evil and our resolve to confront it as such. It leads to the perfidious exoneration of individual responsibility and culpability for perpetrators of evil, and seeks blame for such actions in social, parental, and educational failures. It prevents us from recognizing the evil in our midst that threatens our families, our neighborhoods, our culture, and our nation. And if allowed to continue unabated, it perpetuates the continued erosion of our entire civilization.

John Adams said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

qq1sgMosesMoralityBenjamin Rush, Signer of the Declaration of Independence said. “The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be [based] in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.  Without religion, I believe that learning does real mischief to the morals and principles of mankind.”

Noah Webster, for whom the Webster Dictionary is named, and often regarded as the father of American scholarship and education, echoed those sentiments. “The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government. . . . and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence.”

The First Amendment to the Constitution assures the free exercise of religion, yet due to fear of lawsuits from the ACLU and other malcontents, religion has been nearly expunged from the public square. The freedom of exercise clause has been consequently whittled to a sliver, as religious expression and any semblance of religious morality has been systematically extirpated from society in general.

secularismWe have become such a paranoid secular society due to political correctness that even the establishment clause of the First Amendment is incessantly challenged. And when you think about it, by far the most coercive element challenging the establishment clause is secularism itself, which is little more than a godless belief system that substitutes God with human intellect. A student uttering a Christian prayer at commencement no more violates separation of church and state (which isn’t even in the Constitution) than a secular commencement address. Neither violates the compulsory prohibition as expressed in the establishment clause, which disallows a state-sponsored religion.

moral-choicesLast November Rev. Billy Graham presented his final broadcast to the American people. In it he declared, “Our country’s in great need of a spiritual awakening. If ever there was a time this country needed the intervention of God, it is now. We can and should pray for America as a whole, but remember that when God sets out to change a nation, He begins by changing people. It starts with individuals.”

Former LDS Church President Harold B. Lee uttered a similar statement. “This nation, founded on principles laid down by men whom God raised up, will never fail…. I have faith in America. You and I must have faith in America.”

America was not founded as, nor was it ever intended to be, a godless country. Secularism is euthanizing the soul of the nation, challenging even the bedrock institutions of civilization. If we are to survive, it will be by turning to God and reaffirming the natural rights acknowledged and ostensibly assured by our classical-liberal founders, and by those of moral clarity and conviction being involved in the political process.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

GOP Must Move To the Right For Electoral Success

It is always entertaining to witness the unsolicited counsel pontificated from the left, telling the Republican Party what’s wrong with it. Since many liberals don’t view Republicans as simply different-minded Americans, but as enemies to be vanquished, isn’t that a bit like the U.S. being counseled by Russia? Republicans should be listening rather to the groundswell of grassroots conservatives who see where the country is headed and fear for our future.

125120_600Unlike the querulous ones barking from the left’s sidelines who cheer the current transformation of America, grassroots conservatives are calling for a return to the classical-liberal precepts upon which the nation was built; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not only is the country being fundamentally transformed into something it was never intended to be, but the economic and fiscal tipping points of debt and government intrusion are hastily approaching.

Republicans must disallow the liberals from dictating the premises of public discourse. When they shape public perception based on fallacious premises, the outcome will always to accede to the left. As it is now, rather than questioning whether we should have a deficit at all, it’s, “How much is too much of a deficit?” Rather than all human life is sacred and should be protected, it’s, “How many innocents’ lives are too many to abort?” Instead of government should not be bailing out any businesses, it’s, “How big is too big to fail?” And ultimately, instead of what government should be doing for (or to) us, it should be, “What is the proper role of government in a free republic?”

obama-media-bias-womens-vote-democrats-political-cartoonDemocrats do an excellent job of making promises to niche groups and demographics, and then, more often than not, failing to deliver. But they’re judged by their acolytes not based on results, but on their intent, and their expressed fealty to their objectives.

For example, the “Great Society” has redistributed trillions of dollars over the past five decades, and poverty levels remain, as a percentage of the population, about what they were when the “war on poverty” was declared. Promises to political niches are no more than efforts to buy votes, with someone else’s money. If Republicans want to win elections again, commit to doing what’s best for the country, and all demographic groups, rather than attempting to outbid for their votes, or dissect the electorate based on clichéd parsing of issues or catering to special interest groups. Return to the basic constitutional premise that government is to “promote” the general welfare of the nation, not “provide” it.

In our republic, government was intentionally granted specific, enumerated powers to maintain law and order, ensure our national security, protect life, facilitate interstate commerce, and preserve freedom. Government was never intended to be a panacea or balm for all the ills and travails of society. It was intended to provide a legal structure for the protection of liberty and rights that would allow individuals to get out of life what they were willing to invest personally into it. If Republicans are to succeed as a party, and save the nation from our self-destructive course, they must differentiate from the other side, based on correct constitutional principles, rather than competing to be “Democrat Lite.” Moving to the left will not save the Republican Party or the nation, but moving to the right will.

Question D3 on the bipartisan Battleground Poll conducted by George Washington University provides the evidence. It reads, “When thinking about politics and government, do you consider yourself to be… Very conservative, somewhat conservative, moderate, somewhat liberal, very liberal, unsure/refused.” Over the years the poll has been conducted, most Americans self-identify as conservatives. With just a point or two differential over the past ten years, 20% of Americans consider themselves to be very conservative; 40% somewhat conservative; 2% moderate; 27% somewhat liberal, and 9% very liberal; and 3% either didn’t know, or didn’t have a clue what the question even meant. Clearly, 60% of American voters consider themselves to be either very or somewhat conservative. Interestingly, these results were nearly identical in December 2012 after Obama won reelection, validating the obvious, that turnout of voter base is the determinant of electoral outcomes.

healthcarebillIn fact, according to a more recent poll by Harris, self-identified conservatives outnumber liberals in every state in the union, except for Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Republicans would succeed electorally much more if their appeals were based on constitutionally correct principles, and logically sound premises, rather than allowing the left to shape the debate.

Thomas Jefferson, who oxymoronically is heralded as the founder of the Democrat Party, succinctly stated, “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.” That is not the message promulgated by the party that claims Jefferson as their founder.

If the constitutional and logical premises of “good government” are well articulated and marketed, there should be no election out of reach for conservative candidates. That’s what the data tell us.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Obama’s “JV” Terrorists

It is not uncommon to find inconsistencies and even contradictions in U.S. foreign policy. Usually a few years of separation are required to reveal our inconsistency, as in the case of Iran. Rarely do we see such striking contradictions in real time as we do today in the Middle East policies of the Obama administration.

isis-iraq-war-crimes.siISIS occupies the center stage of our current iteration of contradictory policy. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which subsequently changed their name to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), apparently now wants to be known simply as The Islamic State (IS). This is the militaristic group that has emerged out of Syria, Al-Nusra, and merged with Al Qaeda of Iraq, to take over significant portions of eastern Syria and northern Iraq.

Threatening to violently take over all of Iraq and Syria, establishing an Islamic caliphate that would eventually cover the world, they have mercilessly spread their destruction from city to city. They behead or conduct mass executions against whoever opposes them (including American journalists), kidnap for ransoms to fund their operations, and have vowed to raise the ISIS flag over the White House. They are well funded from bank robberies, selling oil on the black market, and from kidnap ransoms. They are well trained, militant, and are well armed, predominantly with U.S. equipment.

rightThis is the Al Qaeda-linked group of terrorists that Obama referred to as “JV” (junior varsity) just a few months ago. In an interview with New Yorker magazine in January, the president applied a metaphor, saying of ISIS, that putting on a “Laker’s uniform doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” That “JV” group of militants, now figured to be 10,000 strong (including some westerners and as many as 300 Americans) is now perceived to be the greatest terrorist threat in the world.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, more than 32 times the president claimed Al Qaeda was “decimated” or “defeated.” To acknowledge their resurgence just two years later would not fit with his narrative as slayer of Osama bin Laden and vanquisher of his terrorist group. Consequently, their emerging threat had to be minimized.

But that’s just the tip of the ISIS iceberg for the administration. We have to realize that for the past few years the president has been actively engaged in toppling Middle Eastern regimes; Khadafy in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt, and Assad in Syria. In fact, just over a year ago the president was requesting $500 million to help the “freedom fighters” in Syria topple the Assad regime. The majority of those “freedom fighters” now go by the name ISIS, and the president was poised to fund them.

050913_ObamaBenghaziCoverUp_UFSCOLOREven worse, according to CNN last August, CIA sources have revealed that the Benghazi consulate attack of 9/11/12 was directly linked to a clandestine administration operation providing arms to the rebels in Syria. It wasn’t just the consulate compound in Benghazi that was demolished by the marauding jihadists, but the CIA facility two kilometers away, that housed the cash and weapons caches being smuggled into Syria. Jihadists got all of it.

This clarifies the need of the administration to fabricate a story about a YouTube video causing the “spontaneous demonstration” leading to the assassination of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Benghazi. In light of recent developments with ISIS, clearly the administration was displaying their naiveté, or, worse yet, intentionally downplaying the effects of surging jihadist groups, by willfully arming and funding them in their effort to displace Assad.

Clarifying the nature and ideological alignment of ISIS, last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that ISIS and Hamas are “branches of the same tree.” He explained, “Hamas is ISIS, ISIS is Hamas. They’re the enemies of peace. They’re the enemies of Israel. They’re the enemies of all civilized countries.”

RAMclr-062514-attack-IBD-COLOR-FINAL.gif.cmsThis brings us to current events, with the president now authorizing bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq, and leaving the door open to possible raids even into Syria. So now he’s bombing the same militants that he sought to legally fund through congress, was actively arming and funding through clandestine CIA operations in Benghazi, Libya, and that he has characterized as being “JV” terrorists. And let’s not forget that by leaving Iraq so hastily without a Status of Forces agreement, the administration created the vacuum facilitating the successful march of ISIS across northern Iraq.

Last week Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, “I think evidence is pretty clear when we look at what they did to Mr. Foley [the American journalist James Foley, beheaded last week by ISIS], what they threaten to do to all Americans and Europeans, what they are doing now, the — I don’t know any other way to describe it other than barbaric. 

They have no standard of decency, of responsible human behavior. And I think the record is pretty clear on that. So, yes, they are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else.” He concluded, “We’ve never seen anything like it before.”

"We are in your state. We are in your cities. We are in your streets."

“We are in your state.
We are in your cities.
We are in your streets.”

Those who maintain that the U.S. should embrace a non-interventionist foreign policy would have us believe that this is not a concern to us. In social media and elsewhere they promulgate an attitude of, “let them kill each other off.”

It could already be too late for that. Last week Texas Governor Rick Perry said, “There’s the obvious great concern that because of the condition of the border from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across, that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be [crossing the border] — and I think there is a very real possibility that they may have already used that.” Our southern border is not secure, and clearly anyone of means or resources could easily breach it.

There are signs that they have already done so. ISIS has posted and tweeted photographs of their flag flying in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, with the message, “We are in your cities.” Just this week, the United Kingdom raised their terrorist threat assessment from “substantial” to “severe” in response to the rising danger ISIS poses globally.

In the 1990’s, Al Qaeda declared war on the U.S. We didn’t take it seriously and dealt with terrorist attacks as incidents for law enforcement. We all remember what that led to. And according to Secretary Hagel, this threat is greater. Attorney General Eric Holder announced this week that the FBI would investigate the beheading of journalist James Foley. Is history repeating itself, due to incompetence and an ideologically driven approach to assessing and addressing our exogenous threats? Regrettably, it appears so.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

Ferguson Violence Is Symptomatic of Moral Degeneracy

There is only one injustice, thus far, that has occurred in Ferguson, Missouri. And it’s not the shooting of a boy, because the jury is still out (actually, it hasn’t even gone to a jury yet) on the events surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown. The injustice is being perpetrated by those who take it upon themselves to be judge, jury, and executioner against the innocent citizens of the town.

article-2727579-209B470900000578-273_634x354Two weeks ago, on August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, a 6’2” 300 pound 18 year-old, was shot and killed in the middle of the road in front of an apartment complex in Ferguson, Missouri. Police officer Darren Wilson, who shot the young man, has been placed on paid administrative leave as the investigation continues. No charges have been filed so far against the policeman.

“Eyewitness” accounts vary greatly about what transpired that hot afternoon on the Ferguson street. But we do know that Brown was stopped for jaywalking, not because he was suspected in a nearby store robbery. It is also clear that the youth was unarmed, since no other weapon was found at the site, and all six shell casings were from officer Wilson’s gun. One casing was found inside the squad car. The final, and apparently lethal shot, was about 35 feet from the car. Dr. Michael Baden, former chief medical examiner for New York City, who conducted an autopsy on behalf of the Brown family, said “This one [the fatal shot] here looks like his head was bent downward. It can be because he’s giving up, or because he’s charging forward at the officer.”

The response to the shooting has been understandably disturbing to many, and has resulted in two weeks of demonstrations, riots, as well as destruction and looting of local stores in and around the small Missouri town of 21,000 residents. What is not understandable, or condonable, is the violence that has dominated the news cycle 24/7 since August 9.

ferguson453723074I would be willing to wager that nearly everyone in the nation wants to see justice served. The problem is, at this point we don’t know what justice will look like. If Brown was shot while charging and threatening the officer, justice will look quite different than if Wilson shot the youth while surrendering with his hands in the air.

Neither judicial outcome justifies the idiocy of violence and destruction perpetrated against the town and its residents. The fact that charges have not been filed against Wilson heretofore is due to the judicial process being played out behind the scenes and gathering evidence for grand jury consideration, not because of prejudice or racism. Emotionally charged racial considerations should have no bearing on the expediency of due process, especially with the eyes of the nation so focused on the rulings made in the case.

While the cogs of justice are meshing forward, demonstrations are perfectly acceptable. In America, any demonstration, however fervent, should be the unabated right of any citizen. The impetus behind the demonstrations is inconsequential since it is a constitutionally assured right, whether protesting a cop shooting, or demonstrating against war or excessive government taxation. As an aside, the word “cop” is not a pejorative, which may come as a revelation to some, as it’s an acronym for “constable on patrol.”

WPTV_Ferguson_looting_damage_1408218776028_7402994_ver1.0_640_480But when demonstrations lead to riots, violence, and property destruction, law enforcement is justified in utilizing whatever force is necessary in quelling the mayhem, and restoring law and order. To deny them that function is to deny the most fundamental requirement of our constabulary.

Those closest to the victim have called for sanity and peace, while denouncing the perpetrators of violence and destruction. The father of the deceased said a few days ago, “We don’t want no violence. Michael would have wanted no violence. We need justice for our son.” His cousin likewise called for order to return, saying, “I just want everyone to know and understand that the stealing and breaking in stores is not what Mike would want, it is very upsetting to me and my family. Our family didn’t ask for this but for justice and peace…. Please let my family grieve in Peace (and) stop the violence in the street tonight, we don’t want this happening when we protest for justice for my cousin Mike Brown, please get this message out to the people that the Mike Brown family do not want this.”

mrz081714dAPCThe violence has nothing to do with justice being served, but everything to do with a level of moral depravity in the country that seeks to rationalize illegal and violent behavior as a proxy for real justice. In what sort of twisted sense of judicial propriety can violence be condoned or encouraged as a rational response to a perceived wrong having been perpetrated? In what bankrupt belief system is the destruction of property and attacks on others justifiable for a wrongful death? It would appear we as a society have learned nothing in the 22 years since the Rodney King Los Angeles riots. This is despicable behavior regardless of the age, orientation, or skin color of the perpetrators.

The days of leaping to irrational and unwarranted conclusions, based on the age or color of the victim, before justice has completed the investigative process, should be far behind us. Assumptions of guilt and innocence of all involved might justify demonstrations, but never riots and provocations to violence. For they are, after all, assumptions made without all of the facts on the table. The calm voices calling for peace and justice should always prevail over those whose lawlessness is an excuse for moral degeneracy.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration. He can be reached at [email protected].