Author Archives: Richard Larsen

How the Left Uses Racism, and Will Use Sexism, to Stifle Dissent

Ever since the junior senator from Illinois announced his candidacy for the presidency eight years ago, those who have criticized his politics and his ideology have been pummeled with a charge of “racism.” It’s been the perfunctory, knee-jerk response – devoid of intellectual integrity or factual relevance – to avoid the substantive issues, while attempting to simultaneously stifle dissent and silence critics. And it’s clear from early indications with regard to the 2016 presidential race, that the same modus operandi will be employed against those critical of Hillary Clinton. Only this time it will be gender based – the charge of sexism.

Tea-Party-RacistDuring the Obama tenure, the charge of “racist” has been unavoidable to any who were critical of the president. Whether it was criticism of Obamacare, lack of transparency, fiscal profligacy, inscrutable foreign policy, class-envy fomentation, and anti-capitalist policies, it didn’t matter. Regardless of the logic, data, facts, or strength of argument, if you opposed the administration policies and initiatives, you were a racist. At least according to the sycophants, who were either oblivious to logic, data, or facts, and had an empty logical quiver from which to fire back with anything except blanks.

And what’s pathetic, from a free speech, open discourse, and cogent political discourse perspective, is that it worked. The millions of Americans who flocked to Tea Party rallies, Glenn Beck confabs, and other conservative functions, were successfully labeled “racists” because of their opposition to the liberal, destructive policies of the administration. It didn’t matter what color, race, creed, or socio-economic status they hailed from, they were all racists.

democrats-racist-end-is-near-cartoonFor some reason, the fact that the policies propounded and foisted on the nation the past six years are not race-based seems lost on the vapid purveyors of the “racist” tactic. Big government, massive debt, onerous regulations, expansive government control, and the concomitant loss of personal liberty are naturally opposed not because they might be advanced by someone of a certain color, ethnic background, or native language. They’re opposed because they’re antithetical to the founding principles of our republic! It matters not who is foisting the destructive policies and ideology on the nation; it matters that they’re distinctly anti-American. Conservative Ben Carson’s current lead in the crowded GOP primary race underscores that fact.

racist_0What’s brilliant about the tactic, is that you don’t have to worry about any facts, data, or common sense to employ it. Just by hurling the accusation several things have been accomplished with one fell swoop. 1) The argument has been misdirected, so it’s no longer about the policies or the substance of the disagreement, it’s now whether the dissenter is truly racist or not. 2) It neutralizes and diminishes the objections of the dissenter, for now the greater issue is whether he is in fact racist, or not. And 3) it successfully stifles dissent, since no one, probably even real racists, likes to be called one, so why go out on a limb and face the probability of such an accusation?

And now it appears that Hillary Clinton supporters will use the same tactic. Just last month a pro-Hillary group, self-dubbed the HRC Super Volunteers, warned journalists that they were going to be watching vigilantly how the media reports on Hillary’s campaign. Group member and co-founder, John West, was thoughtful enough to serve as an early warning system on the words that cannot, I repeat, cannot be used to describe the probable Democrat candidate for president. According to West, “polarizing,” “calculating,” “disingenuous,” “insincere,” “ambitious,” “inevitable,” “entitled,” “over-confident,” “secretive,” “will do anything to win,” “represents the past,” and “out of touch,” are all apparently sexist code-words that the media are to not use when describing the candidate.

hillar_c_wordsAccording to West, “Already we have seen the coded language of sexism and innuendo used by major news outlets and we are not happy,” followed by a list of examples from major news sources and their egregious use of such sexist vernacular. As a student of language and etymology, I have to admit I was unaware those words and phrases were definitionally sexist.

But alas, I shouldn’t let myself fall into their misdirection and accusatory trap. It’s not that those words are sexist, it’s just that they’re so accurately descriptive of the presumptive Democrat nominee that using the terms will earn the consternation of Hillary devotees, hence justifying accusations of sexism. By couching those terms in a sexist context, they can as easily avert factual criticism of Hillary as they did in protecting Obama. Just like the accusations of “racism;” it has nothing to do with what is true or what is factual, it has everything to do with ensuring electoral success and neutralizing the opposition by attempting to shape and control the language.

UnknownThose of us who are bitter clingers to our freedom, our liberties, and the principles the nation was founded on, shouldn’t allow ourselves to be rebuffed or silenced by the non-thinking Alynski devotees who utilize these nefarious and polarizing tactics. And remember, if that’s their primary tool to fight back with, you know that logically you’ve already won, because their only defense is casting aspersions ad hominem.

There are two things even more disturbing than a group attempting to regulate political speech. One, that the liberal-biased media may well comply, and play their game; and two, that for a large segment of our unenlightened and uninformed electorate, their “sexist” tactic will work.

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].

Decades of Liberal Policies Have Decimated Baltimore

Culpability for the events in Baltimore over the past couple of weeks has perhaps inappropriately been directed exclusively at the police department. In all likelihood, the charges against the police involved in the tragic death of Freddie Gray are only symptomatic of the greater underlying problems of the once booming city. The greater tragedy is the destructive policies of over fifty years of liberal governance, which created the environment of disparity, poverty, and victimhood.

baltimore-riot-police-car-AFP-640x480The city has been hemorrhaging jobs at an alarming rate for decades. And the most hard-hit have been the city’s black youth. Over 37% of 20-25 year-old black males are unemployed, versus 10% for white males of the same age. Black household median income is nearly half what it is for white households, at $33,610 and $60,550, respectively.

City policies have shrunk the population of the city by heavily penalizing the productive and earning households. Steve Hanke and Stephen Walters of Johns Hopkins University wrote in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, “Officials raised property taxes 21 times between 1950 and 1985, channeling the proceeds to favored voting blocs and causing many homeowners and entrepreneurs — disproportionately Republicans — to flee. It was brilliant politics, as Democrats now enjoy an eight-to-one voter registration advantage.”

Rising Taxes and Declining Population

Rising Taxes and Declining Population

The result is a declining population, declining business enterprise, declining jobs, and severe blighting of the infrastructure. The city now has an estimated 16,000 vacant buildings and over 14,000 vacant lots. In the area of Sandtown-Winchester and Harlem Park, where Freddie Gray lived, more than 25% of the buildings are now vacant.

More than 40,000 residents have fled from the high tax, low job-opportunity confines of Baltimore, to the more favorable economic climate of Virginia. According to the Washington Times, they took a whopping $2.17 billion with them. No wonder Gallup found last year that 47% of the residents of the state said they would leave if they could. Interestingly, the only two states that registered higher in their 2014 poll were the states of Illinois and Connecticut, two more bastions of liberal tax and anti-enterprise policy.

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Over 16,000 Vacant Buildings in Baltimore

Hanke and Walters explain that in order to counterbalance the high taxes that have driven so many jobs out of town, the city has been attempting to lure “developers with subsidies, and the developers, in turn, contribute to politicians to stay in their good graces. This makes for fertile ground for the city’s corruption.” The city’s ruling elite for decades has been pumping literally billions of dollars into development projects that were to mysteriously “trickle down” to the impoverished sections of town.

One example is the highly anticipated Inner Harbor project. As Todd Krainin wrote in Reason magazine, “Instead of revitalizing the city’s fortunes, the rise of the waterfront has paralleled the decline of basic functions. Violent crime remains high, public schools underperform, and the cityscape is blighted by the presence of tens of thousands of vacant buildings.”

Yet the visionary liberals ruling the city are pinning their hopes on yet another big-ticket project. They’ve committed $400 million in public subsidies to Harbor Point, the latest boondoggle of the city fathers.

UnknownMeanwhile, city residents have been losing their homes at an alarming rate. Especially hard hit are those most involved in the looting and rioting after Freddie’s death. Baltimore County Public Schools reveals that they’ve seen a 28% increase in homeless student enrollment over the past three years. According to Labor Department Data, 61% of Baltimore’s children live in poverty.

President Obama was surprisingly accurate in his assessment of the underlying issues which fostered the failures in Baltimore. He suggested that “the police alone can’t solve the problems of communities where there are no fathers who can provide guidance to young men; communities where there’s no investment, and manufacturing has been stripped away; and drugs have flooded the community.”

But then his liberalism kicked in. “I’m under no illusion that out of this Congress we’re going to get massive investments in urban communities,” he said. “And so we’ll try to find areas where we can make a difference around school reform and around job training, and around some investments in infrastructure in these communities trying to attract new businesses.”

West.jpg.pagespeed.ce.NGkhqN1J13The ideology which has governed Baltimore, Detroit, Illinois, California, and the nation for the past several years, has always been to create a new policy or social program, or additional taxes and spending (aka “investments”) to address our socio-economic ailments. It’s not “school reform,” “job training,” or “investments in infrastructure” that elevate and strengthen communities, it’s a thriving economy. And nothing douses entrepreneurism and economic growth like the massive taxing and regulatory burdens the leftist ideology is so totally invested in.

Perhaps none have addressed the issue as frankly as former Congressman Allen West has. He said last week, “Yes, the dirty little secret that no one wants to admit is that Baltimore, and so many other urban areas and inner city communities in America, are a reflection of the abject failure of liberal progressive socialist policies as advanced by the Democrat party. The truth is that it is a culture of dependency … that has created what we’re seeing play out in Baltimore.”

The policies that have shrunk Baltimore’s economy, stymied the job market, and blighted the cityscape are liberal policies. The policies that have created a lack of trust with law enforcement are liberal policies. It is highly improbable that city officials would ever fess up to their ownership. It’s much more convenient to cast blame wherever they can make it stick, in an obvious obfuscatory misdirection to avoid culpability. Exactly like the president did blaming congress for his own failures in broaching those issues on a national 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].

Oral Arguments at SCOTUS on Same-Sex Marriage

The oral arguments before the Supreme Court this week stimulated vigorous legal discourse not just between the counsel for the represented parties, but amongst the justices themselves. The questions posed to counsel cannot reliably serve as tealeaves, prognosticating the court’s ultimate ruling, but they did indicate some of the struggles the court faces when they rule on same-sex marriage.

marriage_dictionaryAt issue is whether several state’s referenda or state statutes defining marriage as between one man and one woman shall stand. Based on public opinion trends on the issue, the ruling may be a moot point, but the legal arguments before the court clearly indicate why the rush toward a redefinition of marriage will have a significant impact on our society and the republic.

Justice Anthony Kennedy pointed out that thinking marriage is the union of a man and a woman “has been with us for millennia. And it—it’s very difficult for the Court to say, oh, well, we—we know better.” He went on to observe that even the concept of same-sex marriage has “only been around for 10 years,” and compared with human history, he conjectured, “I don’t even know how to count the decimals when we talk about millennia.”

Chief Justice John Roberts echoed that observation, by stating, “Every definition that I looked up, prior to about a dozen years ago, defined marriage as unity between a man and a woman as husband and wife.” He then correctly observed, “You’re not seeking to join the institution, you’re seeking to change what the institution is. The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship.”

700Making the case that the definition of marriage really has nothing to do with “discrimination,” Justice Stephen Breyer observed that the male/female definition “has been the law everywhere for thousands of years among people who were not discriminating even against gay people, and suddenly you want nine people outside the ballot box to require states that don’t want to do it to change … what marriage is.”

Justice Samuel Alito made the same observation when he declared, “There have been cultures that did not frown on homosexuality. … Ancient Greece is an example. It was well accepted within certain bounds. People like Plato wrote in favor of that.”And yet, ancient Greece and people like Plato never thought a same-sex relationship was a marriage. Alito concluded: “So their limiting marriage to couples of the opposite sex was not based on prejudice against gay people, was it?”

Justice Roberts clarified another significant issue as well, when he alleged that what the petitioners are arguing for in this case is not freedom from government, but government affirmation. Roberts explained that in a previous Supreme Court case, “the whole argument is the State cannot intrude on that personal relationship. Now people are suing saying “the State must sanction. It must approve that relationship. They’re two different questions.”

supreme-court-gay-marriage_mtJohn Bursch, the lawyer defending the traditional marriage laws in Michigan, echoed this point. Based on precedence, he noted that while “the government cannot interfere in private, intimate conduct, the Court cannot as a constitutional matter … force the State into these relationships by forcing them to recognize and give benefits to anyone.”

Bursch made another critical point in his oral arguments. He said, “the marriage institution did not develop to deny dignity or to give second-class status to anyone. It developed to serve purposes that, by their nature, arise from biology.” He pointed out that the same-sex marriage argument is significantly different. “Now, the marriage view on the other side here is that marriage is all about love and commitment. And as a society, we can agree that that’s important, but the State doesn’t have any interest in that.”

He continued by illustrating that redefining marriage to say that it’s primarily about emotional commitment would have consequences. “When you change the definition of marriage to delink the idea that we’re binding children with their biological mom and dad, that has consequences. The consequences of redefining marriage won’t happen overnight, but the law will have an impact. We’re talking about something that’s going to change the meaning of the institution over generations.”

Chief Justice Roberts tendered perhaps the most significant indicator on how the court may rule. He noted that a court-imposed 50-state solution would not lead to civil peace, but to anger and resentment. “If the Court unilaterally redefined marriage, there will be no more debate. Closing of debate can close minds, and it will have a consequence on how this new institution is accepted. People feel very differently about something if they have a chance to vote on it than if it’s imposed on them by the courts.”

MW3_My_Parents_Divorce_and_Video_Games1The premise of the same-sex marriage argument is that adults have the “right” to marry whomever they choose to, regardless of gender. But there is no such premise inherent in the institution of marriage. It is, rather, based in natural law, lex naturalis, which is the system of law that is determined by nature and is thus universal. Same-sex marriage is therefore, logically, preternatural. It has no logical basis in nature, nor can a presumed right can be extrapolated constitutionally, based on equal protection.

Based on logic and strength of arguments, and the types of questions the justices posed during oral arguments, it would seem the court may be inclined to defer such matters to the states respectively. If they do so, given the Roberts Court’s tendency to enjoin the legislative branch, they’ll likely encourage making provision for universal recognition of same-sex couples rights by states which uphold traditional marriage. But that’s logic, which can merely be presumed from the Court, based on precedence.

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].

Worshiping Gaia On Her Holy Day

Establishment ClauseEvery year at this time, schools at all levels and all across the nation violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution. That’s the clause that proscribes state-sponsored institutions from advancing any religious organization or movement, and is usually cited (though incorrectly) as the “separation of church and state.” Not only does academia fully embrace religion the week of Earth Day observance, but it actively works, knowingly or not, to indoctrinate a whole new generation of adherents to a pantheist green religion.

The notion that we are stewards of our planet, and that we must nurture and protect it as we utilize the resources she provides us is both logical and moral, and should be universally embraced. But Earth Day, and the environmental movement behind its evangelism, has advanced far beyond the logical and moral. It is now a full-fledged religion, a worship of Mother Earth, or Gaia.

gaia8838detailAs one Earth Day source proclaims, “Our Earth, as known in Greek mythology is Gaia. The Greeks were considering Earth acknowledgment years before we started our Earth Day Affair. The first Greek god was actually a goddess. She is Gaia, or Mother Earth, who created herself out of primordial chaos. From her fertile womb all life sprang, and unto Mother Earth all living things must return after their allotted span of life is over. Gaia, as Mother Nature, personifies the entire ecosystem of Planet Earth. Mother Nature is always working to achieve and maintain harmony, wholeness and balance within the environment. Mother Nature heals, nurtures and supports all life on this planet, and ultimately all life and health depend on Her. In time, Nature heals all ills.”

In 1979, a NASA employee, James Lovelock, formulated the Gaia hypothesis. It states that “all life, and all living things on this planet, are part of a single, all-encompassing global entity or consciousness” which he named Gaia. “It is this global consciousness, Mother Gaia, that makes our planet the mother of life.”

Worthip the Earth DayMany in the movement have elucidated the mystical relationship of man to Mother Earth. The British writer, William Golding, said, “We are the children of that great blue white jewel [Mother Earth]. Through our mother we are part of the solar system and part through that of the whole universe.”

The eco-theologian Thomas Berry has been perhaps most explicit in defining the divine-feminine relationship of Gaia to man. “What does the Earth Desire? I will put it in just a few short sentences… To be admired in her loveliness, To be tasted in her delicious fruits, To be listened to in her teaching, To be endured in the severity of her discipline, To be cared for as a maternal source from whence we come, a destiny to which we return. It’s very simple…As humans we are born of the Earth, nourished by the Earth, healed by the Earth.”

Clearly, Mother Earth, or Gaia, is ascribed theological properties, with teleological implications, including creation, veneration (worship), and a maternal relationship with earth’s inhabitants, her children.

UN Mother Earth DayThis relationship is even codified in the resolutions of the United Nations, a full listing of which can be found on the UN website under the title “Mother Earth Day.” These resolutions form the religious equivalent to a catechism on deference toward Mother Earth on a secular philosophical basis.

Another revelatory document from the UN even identifies the natural enemies or apostates to the green religion. In a document that was mandated by the UN-sponsored Convention on Biological Diversity, the Global Biodiversity Assessment, Christianity is explicitly identified as heterodox to Gaia. The document blames Christianity for subverting some indigenous people’s sense of “affinity with the natural world,” leading to destructive practices deemed crucial to saving the planet.

Christianity, to the UN, is therefore antithetical, and constitutes the ideological “root of ecological evil.” The document goes on to praise Buddhism and Hinduism as they “did not depart as drastically from the perspective of humans as members of a community of beings including other living and non-living elements.”

This should not be a surprise to any who are paying attention to the political correctness trends, which make Christianity and Christians acceptable targets as dregs of society and banes to civilization. That’s why it’s the only religion that is acceptable to be criticized, be the brunt of jokes, and even faddishly ridiculed by bigots and secularists.

Earth Our Home Not Our GodThe Mother Earth religion has its prophets, like Al Gore, James Hansen, Gaylord Nelson, Michael Mann, Kenneth Watt, and Paul Ehrlich. And the EPA appears to serve as the High Council to enforce and regulate all human activities to ensure fealty to Gaia, employing pseudo-science and half-truths as justification.

Unlike organized ecclesiastical organizations, however, Gaia’s followers, and supporting industries and academics, don’t just get a tax break from Uncle Sam. They actually do one better: they are on the receiving end of tax-free loans, seemingly endless tax-credits, and grants for “research” and industries that support the faith.

Some may scoff at the notion of this hallowed international holy day as representative of pantheistic dogma and a veritable religion. But as averred by the inductive-reasoning “Duck Theory,” if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is one. Educators and the government in general certainly should encourage responsible citizenship as it relates to the environment. But it’s gone far beyond that. The Mother Earth pantheism, the essence of a state sponsored religion, really should be treated no differently than any other religion.

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 Is No Longer the “Land of the Free”

Is America really the “land of the free?” We may have been initially founded and constructed as such, but each year the land of the free becomes increasingly the land of the regulated, oppressed, disparaged, and dependent.

Gallup Poll.tiffGallup regularly conducts global polls to assess citizen’s perception of their levels of freedom around the world. In 2006, 91% of US residents were satisfied with their “level of freedom,” which was among the highest in the world. Last year’s iteration of the survey indicated only 79% of Americans are satisfied with their level of freedom. Such a precipitous drop in a few short years dropped the US to 36th place among the 120 nations sampled. Cambodia, Uzbekistan, Paraguay, and Rwanda are among the 35 nations more satisfied with their levels of freedom.

This seems to be confirmed by Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, which has seen the U.S. slip to number 12 this year. Countries with greater economic freedom, based on ten criteria, from personal property rights to personal financial freedom, include Chile, Estonia, and Mauritius, none of which could be considered bastions of liberty, as the U.S. historically has been.

bl-economic-freedom-fiscal-cliffAmerica was founded differently than any other nation in human history, which is what we refer to as American exceptionalism. Our founding documents guaranteed rights of free exercise of religion, free speech, free association, freedom from government oppression and illegal searches and seizures, among others. These rights and freedoms, our founding documents asserted, were “inalienable rights” derived from God, not granted by government. That “all men are created equal,” and that among those precious rights were “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property).”

Every year those liberties are assaulted afresh by an ever-expanding governmental reach into our personal lives. Even those fundamental rights that are codified, by constitutional amendment as our Bill of Rights, are under assault. Freedoms of religious expression, speech, assembly, arms, illegal search and seizure, and due process are eroded with every congressional, legislative, and council bill, act, and statute, and are increasingly rarely upheld through judicial review.

imagesIn short, it seems that the machinations of government, politicians, and the courts, are arrayed broadly against the interests of individual liberty, personal accountability, and private freedoms. Our nation can only loosely be identified as a republic, where the enumerated powers of government are narrow and defined, with all non-enumerated powers residing in the states and the citizens, as the Tenth Amendment declares. The nation has morphed, and can be categorically and definitionally identified as a statist system, concentrating “extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty.”

This devolution of the republic and our individual liberties has only accelerated over the past several years, since the despicable attacks of 9/11. It was deemed necessary to relinquish some individual liberty for the defense of the realm, as the Patriot Act and other anti-terrorism measures sliced away at individual liberties for security purposes. In spite of the sunset provisions incorporated into that measure, they were extended in 2011, and have been expanded by NSA surveillance, more expansive monitoring of financial transactions, and even more circumvention of the 4th Amendment with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012. Sections 1021 and 1022 of the NDAA essentially classify the entire country as a battlefield, allowing extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, and enhanced interrogation against U.S. citizens here on American soil.

The omnipotence of government today certainly contrasts sharply with what our founding fathers envisioned for this “land of the free.” As Thomas Jefferson said,

Quotation-Benjamin-Franklin-freedom-security-trade-people-Meetville-Quotes-230658“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.” Or, in the context of abrogation of 4th Amendment rights, any government that is powerful enough to do everything we allow it, certainly is powerful enough to get away with everything it does.

Which also brings to mind Ben Franklin’s astute observation, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Clearly, the more ground we cede collectively as a citizenry to security, the less freedom and liberty there is. And that applies not just to issues of national security, but also to domestic fiscal policies as well.

Patrick Henry famously mirrored that sentiment, when he said, “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” I’m sure the good governor would be aghast at the sacrifice of liberty for thralldom to government that has ensued these past several years.

FoundersExtremists1Every election from here on out is a referendum on the future of our republic. Will we choose to elect those who embrace our founding principles based on liberty and freedom, or will we continue to cede our liberty for “security” provided by a statist government which is increasingly less attune to the concerns and interests of the individual citizen?

For those of us who are lovers of liberty, there has never been a more critical time to reassert our founding principles and the constitutional limitations of governmental power than today. If we want to have anything even remotely resembling the American republic surviving for future generations, it’s time to quit being a doormat to the politically correct progressive and statist agenda, and to proactively engage in the political process. Most of the statist “accomplishments” can be unwoven, but we need the electoral majorities to do it. Passivity and acquiescence are no longer options for those who would concur with Patrick Henry, “…give me liberty, or give me death!”

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].

Strong Nuclear Families Are Crucial for our Economy and Society

Our contemporary immersion into political correctness and assumed “rights” regarding the basic building block of society has cumulatively, over the past few decades, steadily eroded not only our sociological strength, but our economic viability as a country. The fundamental significance of the family unit, and the hard data evidencing the undeniable importance of the intact nuclear family, have been ignored, and the longer we pander to bad public policy based in political correctness, the more rapidly our society will degenerate.

phone-box-strong-family-strong-societyA few years ago, drawing heavily from government data and peer reviewed sociological and economic research, Robert I. Lerman and William Bradford Wilcox published an extensive research piece in The Economist confirming the fundamental role the intact nuclear family has on society. Lerman is a Professor of Economics at American University and a Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC., and Wilcox is a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia.

Their executive summary states, “All the latest evidence confirms that the institution of marriage is a key to productive adulthood, the cornerstone of a stable family, and the basic unit of a healthy community. Its effects go well beyond the married couple. It shapes our whole society, from workforce participation to economic inequality to the effectiveness of education. Children raised by married parents have better odds of succeeding in school, excelling at work, and building a stable relationship of their own.”

Quotation-Ashley-Montagu-society-quality-human-family-Meetville-Quotes-54321Drawing from Department of Labor data, they showed how American families experienced an average 80% increase in their real income from 1950-1979. Family income inequality was relatively low, and more than 89% of prime working age men were employed. All of those trends have reversed, and are accelerating to the downside, with the composition and structure of the family playing the most crucial role in this reversal.

In 1980, married parents headed 78% of households with children. By 2012, that had dropped nearly 20%. The researchers, again relying on hard primary data, showed why that was significant. “Married families enjoy greater economies of scale and receive more economic support from kin, and married men work harder and earn more money than their peers, all factors that give them an economic advantage over cohabiting and single-parent families.”

images-2The economic impact on individual family units, as well as society as a whole, cannot be overstated. Even adjusting for race, education, and other factors, if the share of married parents remained at 78% through 2012, “the rise in the overall median income of parents would have been about 22%, substantially more than the actual growth of 14%.” And if the post-1979 immigrants, coming mostly from low-income countries, are adjusted for, the “growth in median family income would have been 44% higher than 1980 levels.” They therefore conclude that the decline in the share of “married-parent families with children largely explains the stagnancy in median family incomes since the late 1970s.”

Traditional nuclear family units, including a mother, father, and children, have been proven to be more viable in almost every facet of sociological construct. As the researchers explain, “Family structure appears to matter for children’s well-being because, on average, children growing up without both parents are exposed to: More instability in housing and primary caretakers, which is stressful for children; Less parental affection and involvement; Less consistent discipline and oversight; and Fewer economic resources.”

imagesSociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, in summarizing their research on family structure, put it this way: “If we were asked to design a system for making sure that children’s basic needs were met, we would come up with something quite similar to the two-parent ideal. Such a design, in theory, would not only ensure that children had access to the time and money of two adults; it also would provide a system of checks and balances that promoted quality parenting.”

Lerman and Wilcox summarize, “The research to date leads us to hypothesize that children from intact, married families headed by biological or adoptive parents are more likely to enjoy stability, engaged parenting, and economic resources and to gain the education, life experiences, and motivation needed to flourish in the contemporary economy—and to avoid the detours that can put their adult futures at risk.”

Many of the forces negatively affecting the family are cultural and can be attributed to the gradual, yet accelerated, erosion of social mores. But many of the destructive contributors are driven by governmental policy, statute, and legal code, like the IRS “marriage penalty,” and welfare programs that facilitate the absolution of parental responsibilities. And some are couched in principles espoused by political correctness that defy empirical data, the most egregious of the latter represented by the redefinition of marriage, the cornerstone to the family unit, which only further dilutes and weakens the building block of society.

The viability of the American family is crucial for the survival of the republic, not only sociologically, but financially. We all cumulatively either contribute to, or detract from, the soundness of the familial units comprising our society. We must not only do our part in our familial microcosms, but electorally, to elect and support those who favor governmental policy that strengthens the family unit, and who don’t buckle to political correctness in redefining our societal building blocks.

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].

Easter – A Celebration of Hope and Rebirth

For Christians worldwide, Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ. While the eschatological doctrines associated with Christ’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection are a matter of faith, the attestation of primary accounts makes Jesus’ emergence from the tomb a matter of historical record. And many of the contemporary symbols associated with Easter date back centuries, and represent elements of this most holy of events from the life of one Jesus of Nazareth.

isaiah-scroll.lTo a historian, primary sources are the bedrock to validate or invalidate events or individuals averred to be historical. Princeton University History Department defines a primary source as, “a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event.”

Primary sources regarding the life of Jesus of Nazareth are plentiful. The eyewitness accounts of four contemporaries are recorded in the synoptic Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament. There are many secular primary sources that attest to the fact that Jesus lived at the time, including Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius, and the Jewish historian Josephus.

As a quantitative matter of fact, there are more primary sources confirming the reality of Jesus of Nazareth than there are of the Roman leader Julius Caesar. Yet to my knowledge, no serious historian of the antiquities questions whether Julius Caesar really lived. Validating this concept, Rylands professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at the University of Manchester, F. F. Bruce wrote, “The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar.” World historian Will Durant indicates that, to the best of his knowledge, “no Jew or Gentile from the first-century ever denied the existence of Jesus.”

images-1One of the most prolific classicists of our era, Michael Grant, has said, “In recent years, no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non historicity of Jesus’ or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.” In another of his works he states, “There are those who argue that Jesus is a figment of the Church’s imagination, that there never was a Jesus at all. I have to say that I do not know any respectable critical scholar who says that any more.”

The public death of Christ, by crucifixion, is also broadly accepted as historical fact. Michael Grant said of that event, as well as the account of his baptism, that those “two facts in the life of Jesus command almost universal assent.” Jesus’ public crucifixion is likewise referenced by secular historians of the age, Josephus and Tacitus.

Primary accounts of Jesus’ resurrection however, are exclusively non-secular. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John’s accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and subsequent resurrection, were canonized. Yet they were written, and widely promulgated, during the time when most of their contemporaries could have dismissed their accounts if they were perceived to have been fabricated or in error. F.F. Bruce confirms this perception, “Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective.”

Most of the original apostles died ignominious and horrible deaths as a direct result of their avowed faith in Jesus as Messiah. They died as martyrs for their convictions and testimony regarding the risen Christ. It is wholly unfathomable that someone would die a martyr’s death for a story thought to be no more than a fable. The fact that eleven of them, twelve including Paul of Tarsus, would do so only attests to the veracity of their witness statements. They forever sealed their testimonies with their blood.

blogger-image--1527425496Our contemporary iconography associated with Easter is colorful, literally, starting with the Easter bunny. Rabbits are widely known to be prolific procreators, and in some ancient cultures symbolized new life and fertility. The first Easter bunny arrived in America in the 1700s, courtesy of German immigrants, who perpetuated their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase, or “Oschter Haws.” German youth would make nests where the hare could lay its colored eggs, which later simply became decorated baskets for the multicolored eggs.

The egg itself represents new life. For Christians, Christ emerging from the tomb is symbolic of newborn life exiting an eggshell. Coloring and decorating eggs, according to some sources, dates back to the 13th century, undoubtedly with some pagan influence.

The timing of the Christian world’s Easter celebration is somewhat enigmatic to many, since it is observed anywhere from March 22nd, to April 25th. This is because early Christians felt that since the resurrection of their Lord occurred after the Passover, they always wanted Easter to follow that Jewish feast, which is based on solar and lunar cycles. The short explanation, roughly speaking, is that Easter is celebrated on the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon.

imagesWhether celebrated for its theological implications, or its secular treats, Easter represents new life and resurrection, as the Northern hemisphere springs to life following the dreary, darker, and shorter days of winter. The symbolism likewise can represent as much or as little as one desires, but traditionally links back to rebirth and new life. How we respond to the symbolism and the day itself is wholly up to each of us.

Former Cardinal Basil Hume said of Easter, “The great gift of Easter is hope.” And in a world of so much ugliness, evil, and negativity, we all need all the hope we can get.

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].

Destructive Effects of Multiculturalism

America has a rich history as a melting pot of cultures, ethnicity, and religion. Those who have come here over the past couple hundred years have sought a better life through the freedoms and liberties assured by our Constitution and the free enterprise system that fosters their “pursuit of happiness.” They’ve brought their culture, customs, and language with them, but they became Americans: learned English, learned our customs and conventions, and became encultured into the American way. America is great in large part because of the diversity of our people, and the richness of our cultural elements brought here. But multiculturalism has become much more than that, and is now more destructive than ameliorative, to American culture.

MulticulturalismIf the goal of multiculturalism was followed, which was to primarily facilitate the understanding and respect of other cultures, it would contribute, even add “seasoning” to our melting pot by encouraging our young people to compare and contrast, and then eclectically assimilate the best of all cultures. Instead, it has become an assailant to diminish Western values and advance ideologies distinctly anti-American. It has evolved, or devolved, to an illogical extreme that in academic and educational circles, attempts to vitiate the strengths and advances of Western civilization and promotes other cultures as preferable cultural paragons, regardless of their shortcomings.

Thomas Sowell, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University has said, “What ‘multiculturalism’ boils down to is that you can praise any culture in the world except Western culture – and you cannot blame any culture in the world except Western culture.”

Roger Kimball of the New Criterion has written, “Wherever the imperatives of multiculturalism have touched the curriculum, they have left broad swaths of anti-Western attitudinizing competing for attention with quite astonishing historical blindness.” Multiculturalism has led to the historical revisionism that paints Christopher Columbus as a nefarious European who initiated the transformation of a supposed paradisiacal Western hemisphere into the evil, corrupt America of today.

multiculturalism-poster-denigrationIt is multiculturalism that precludes Shakespeare from being studied by many university literature and English majors, because he was a “sexist and racist white man.” It is also the underlying principle engaged in revising history, including the historical roots of our contemporary observance of Thanksgiving and acknowledgement of the Christian principles prevalent at the time of our founding. Multiculturalism, in it’s extreme, is at the root of the removal of any references to Christ in the public square and public schools, even at the time we celebrate His birthday, for one characteristic of the movement is distinctly anti-Christian.

As convoluted as it may seem, Al Gore was perhaps correct when in the 2000 Presidential campaign he defined E Pluribus Unum as out of one, many, instead of the other way around. Multiculturalism in its extreme form seeks to divide rather than unify as Jefferson and Franklin intended, as emblazoned on the official Seal of the U.S.

A poll by the Pew Research Center a few years ago indicated that only 55% of Hispanics, living either legally or illegally in this country, consider themselves Americans. Another poll of Muslims in Los Angeles County indicated that only 10% of them consider themselves to be Americans. It seems the hyphenation of Americans is another social and cultural divider, rather than a unifier. A hyphenated American is just another symptom of political correctness.

Multiculturalism in its extreme weakens community bonds and reduces the motivation for new immigrants to participate in the common culture, the shared history and the common language of America: English.

The American concepts of freedom of expression, religion, human rights, liberty and democracy are distinctively Western values. As historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. has said, “These are European ideas, not Asian, nor African, nor Middle-Eastern ideas, except by adoption. There is surely no reason for Western civilization to have guilt trips laid on it by champions of cultures based on despotism, superstition, tribalism, and fanaticism.”

Teddy RooseveltThe pejorative aspects of multiculturalism have contributed alarmingly to a Balkanization of America, where differences are the focus instead of common values and ideals. Where culture and ethnicity divide us, rather than adding seasoning to our melting pot to enrich the entire culture.

President Theodore Roosevelt put the concepts of multiculturalism in perhaps the best context, although it was of course not known as such in 1907. He declared, “In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American…There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

As long as multiculturalism is an end in and of itself, or worse, as a means to continue to diminish western values and our history, and divide and weaken our country, we will continue to decline as a culture, losing those distinctively American traits that once made the nation unique. As it diminishes our value system, erodes our cultural strengths, and rewrites our history, the very meaning of what it means to be an American is perhaps forever changed.

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].

Be Informed and Watch Government “Like A Hawk!”

It’s inevitable that citizens would often feel frustrated with their elected officials. After all, it’s impossible to please all the people all of the time, and if they are, they likely aren’t doing their job. But there is one thing that likely is felt universally by constituents, of all ideological persuasions; our elected officials work for us, represent us and our interests, and they should never forget their role of serving in our behalf.

Goldie Hawn as "Sunny," In the movie Protocol

Goldie Hawn as “Sunny,” In the movie Protocol

Every once in a while something in our popular culture will capture such universally felt sentiments. Such was the case several years ago with a movie titled Protocol, starring Goldie Hawn (mother to actress Kate Hudson).

In the film, Hawn plays the role of a loveable, yet somewhat ditzy waitress in D.C., who happens to save the life of a visiting Emir from the Middle East. For her heroism, the State Department rewards her with a job serving in the Protocol Division, and then initiates a scheme to marry her off to the Emir whose life she’d saved, in exchange for a new military base to be constructed in the Emir’s country.

When the plan unravels and comes to light, Sunny (Hawn’s character) is hauled before a congressional committee to answer to her involvement in the scheme that has been affectionately dubbed “Sunnygate.” Her response is classic, and reminds us all of some of our responsibilities as American citizens.

As the committee chairman begins the hearing, he declares his intent to find out who was responsible. Sunny responds, “I’m responsible!” She then explained why. “You want to know something? Before I worked for the government, I’d never read the Constitution. I didn’t even begin to know how things worked. I didn’t read the newspaper, except to look up my horoscope. And I never read the Declaration of Independence. But I knew they had, the ones we’re talking about, the experts, they read it. They just forgot what it was about. That it’s about ‘We, the People.’ And that’s ME. I’m ‘We, the People.’ And you’re ‘We, the People.’ And we’re all ‘We, the People,’ all of us.”

160418204“So when they sell me that ten cent diamond ring or down the river or to some guy who wears a lot of medals, then that means they’re selling ALL of us, all of ‘We the People.’ And when YOU guys spend another pile of money and when you give away or sell all those guns and tanks, and every time you invite another foreign big shot to the White House and hug and kiss him and give him presents, it has a direct effect on ‘We the People’s’ lives.”

“So if we don’t, I mean if I don’t know what you’re up to, and if I don’t holler and scream when I think you’re doing it wrong, and if I just mind my own business and don’t vote or care, then I just get what I deserve. So now that I’m a private citizen again, you’re going to have to watch out for me. ‘Cause I’m going to be watching all of you. Like a hawk.”

There are some notable principles embedded in that inspiring response. First, was the concept of personal responsibility. How often do we see people, whether in public life or in their personal lives, not take responsibility for their actions, or their refusal to stand up against those who ultimately are culpable? It’s becoming as uncommon as common sense. Someone, or something, else is always to blame for poor decisions, bad plans, and/or ill-spoken words. And regrettably it seems most obvious in the realms of government, where all too few feel they’re accountable to the electorate for their actions.

jfkNext Sunny reminded us that, as citizens, it’s our responsibility to be knowledgeable and proactive citizens. If we let our elected officials get away with things that are unconstitutional or illegal, we’re at least partly to blame. After all, collectively, we are the ones who put them in their position of responsibility, and they are, or at least should be, accountable to us.

That’s one of the beauties of the American governance model, is we hire them to protect us and our interests, and our rights as citizens. If we’re not proactive, they can increasingly feel like they’re accountable to no one, least of all us. When they start feeling entitled to their perks of office, and taking us, their employers, for granted, they’ve outlived their usefulness and it’s time to retire them.

Such a level of proactivity will only be efficacious if we’re knowledgeable of our founding documents to know the proper role of governance, and if we keep ourselves apprised of what our government attempts to do for, and to, us. Too many of us are illiterate when it comes to our founding documents, and don’t bother to keep informed of what those in government are doing. I think this is what Winston Churchill was referring to when he said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”

I think FDR would have approved of Sunny’s response to the congressional panel, for FDR himself said, “Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.”

It’s unusual to garner anything substantive from movies, and so something like Goldie Hawn’s eloquent speech before a congressional committee stands out rather starkly. Although she’s a fictional character, Sunny represents what should be the best in all of us, as citizens, as we educate ourselves, keep informed, and watch our elected officials “like a hawk!”

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].

Right to Work States Have Healthier Economies

This week Wisconsin became the 25th state in the union to pass and sign into law so-called “right to work” legislation. Despite the pejorative light oftentimes associated with right to Work (RTW) laws, in reality all they do is proscribe the requirement that a worker join or pay dues to a union as a qualification for employment.

2015-Right-To-Work-States-Map-updated Unions often view laws removing compulsory union membership for work in the private sector as “anti-union,” while advocates of right to work laws maintain it’s a matter of personal liberty and economic freedom. They argue that workers in given trades or industries should have the option to choose whether to join a union or not. Arguably, if a union is doing a good job representing the interests of its members, it should not be threatened by the freedom to choose, as the benefits of union membership would be self-evident.

Even some union leadership supports such a sentiment. Gary Casteel, the Southern region director for the United Auto Workers, explains, “This is something I’ve never understood, that people think right to work hurts unions. To me, it helps them. You don’t have to belong if you don’t want to. So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, ‘If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong.’ Versus, ‘If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.’ I don’t even like the way that sounds, because it’s a voluntary system, and if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”

right_to_work_1One cannot be a student of history without recognizing the tremendous contributions unions made to the emergence of the middle class in early to mid 20th century America. They significantly improved working conditions, workweek hours, and compensation levels.

In today’s highly competitive economy, their focus seems to have changed, as they seem to be primarily political entities today, with compulsory union dues used mostly for amassing power in the political arena, and spent on candidates and causes that some members may object to. Even Bob Chanin, former top lawyer for the National Education Association, admitted that in his farewell speech a few years ago. “It’s not about the kids…it’s about power,” he said.

hohmanRTW-chart2According to Department of Labor statistics, only about 7% of America’s private sector workforce is unionized. In post World War II era, it was nearly 40%. The trend is reversed for public employees, where 60 years ago the unionized segment of the public employees workforce was less than 10%, while it currently is nearly 37%. Logic leads one to surmise that maybe all those “evil corporations” have gotten it right, and are providing pay and benefits at a level that employees are satisfied with. While the same logic might lead us to believe that, following those trends, it is “evil government” that is taking advantage of employees and must be represented by collective bargaining.

Average wages do tend to be slightly lower in right to work states, as reported by The Wall Street Journal last year. But the differences may be attributable to other factors. As the Journal explained, “Many economists say when differences in cost of living are taken into account, wages are roughly the same—or even higher—in right-to-work states.” When looking at a map of non-right to work states, geographical and cost of living factors seem to affirm that distinction.

GDP Growth Rate Strongest In Right To Work States

GDP Growth Rate Strongest In Right To Work States

Last year the National Institute for Labor Relations released a detailed study of right to work vs. non-right to work states. The research was based upon data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Census Bureau, United States Patent and Research Office and Bureau of Economic Analysis. Five economic factors were analyzed in right to work and non-right to work states in the Midwest, with the following statistical conclusions:

Job growth is twice as strong in RTW states. The percentage growth of non-farm private sector jobs (1995-2005)
in right to work states was 12.9%
while non-right to work states came in at 6.0%.

Perhaps surprising to some, poverty is actually higher in non-right to work states. Average poverty rate, adjusted for cost of living was 8.5% in RTW states, and 10.1% in non-right to work states. This may likewise have more to do with geography and cost of living factors, however.

New company and new product growth is significantly greater in RTW states. During that same period, annual percentage growth in patents granted was 33% in RTW states, and only 11% in non-right to work states.

500px-RTWmapcompleteIncome growth rates are higher in RTW states as well. The percentage growth in real personal income was 26.0%
in RTW states, while non-right to work states grew at 19.0%.

Even health insurance coverage in RTW states fared better. Note that this data was gathered before implementation of Obamacare. The percentage growth in number of people covered by employment based private health insurance was 8.5% for RTW states, and 0.7%
for non-right to work states.

Consequently, based on National Institute for Labor Relations research, right to work states create more private sector jobs, enjoy lower poverty rates, experience more technology development, realize more personal income growth, and increase the number of people covered by employment-based private health insurance. Clearly when looking at the big picture, the economy of a state is more likely to be more robust when the workforce has the freedom to choose.

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].

Some Fundamental Problems With Common Core

Common Core State Standards for education were advanced as a holistic reform intended to raise academic performance based on standardized achievement results. When reading the standards themselves, and the stated objectives, it’s inconceivable that anyone would take exception to them. Indeed, the education reform language sounds as idealistic and pertinent as any could. They were superbly crafted. Regrettably, in application, much is lost in translation, and Common Core is quickly becoming a significant detriment to our public educational system.

55319Achieve Inc. (a Bill Gates-funded educational consulting firm) created the standards, for the National Governor’s Association (NGA). And in 2010 when they were rolled out, adoption of the standards by the respective states was tied to the Race To the Top grants, funded by the massive Stimulus package of 2009. The granting of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers augmented inducement for states adopting the standards. The irony of the latter is that we’ve learned over the past ten years of NCLB that accountability and subsequent punishment of districts, schools, and teachers does not substantively improve the quality of education. Yet it’s a significant characteristic of CC.

Achieve, Inc. called upon 135 academicians and assessment experts, most with ties to testing companies, to draft CC. The standards had, prior to their rollout, never been fully implemented or tested in actual schools. This represented a sharp break from educational reform traditions of basing reforms on empirical data and calculable results. Very few of the 135-member team were either classroom teachers or current administrators. The other most conspicuous absence from the development team was parents. After the standards were drafted, K-12 educators were reportedly brought in to “tweak and endorse the standards” to “lend legitimacy to the results, according to the editors of RethinkingSchools.org.

race-to-the-top-common-coreBy contrast, when I served on the Excellence In Public Education Commission for Idaho in the 80s, almost all of the commission members were educators, administrators, and/or parents. All of the major stakeholders in public education were represented. Such stakeholder involvement was conspicuously, and suspiciously, absent when CC was drawn up.

Perhaps none have explained the problems with CC as eloquently and precisely as Carol Burris from New York. In 2010 she was named the New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association, and in 2013 she was named the New York State High School Principal of the Year. She has identified five key reasons CC is disastrous for education. She was extremely supportive of the objectives of CC, yet after thoroughly examining the program, realized the damage it would do to education. The following are some of her findings:

“Despite the claims of supporters, the standards are not built on sound research. They have never been field-tested nor proven to raise student achievement. The truth of the matter is research shows the rigor of state standards is not related to student achievement. In addition, a study of the state standards most like the Common Core by the Brookings Institution concluded that it is likely that the Common Core will have minimal effect on student learning. There is no research that supports the untested standards and practices of the Common Core.

Common-Core-question-21“The Common Core standards contradict what we know about the way young children learn. Louisa Moats, one of the few early childhood experts on the team that wrote the early literacy standards, is now an outspoken critic. Why? Because the K to 3 Common Core standards disregard decades of research on early reading development. Shortly after the standards were published, 500 early-childhood experts — pediatricians, researchers and psychologists — found the early-childhood Common Core standards to be so developmentally inappropriate that they called for their suspension in grades K to 3.

“The Common Core standards for English Language Arts promote the use of questionable strategies and over-emphasize informational text. One of New Jersey’s leading literacy experts is Russ Walsh of Rider University. Walsh, as well as other literacy experts, has become uncomfortable with the beliefs that guide the Common Core ELA standards, specifically that background knowledge does not matter for reading, “close reading” should dominate literacy instruction, and that students should be reading only grade-level texts. There is also worry that informational texts are crowding out literature in English Language Arts classes.

images“The Common Core tests are unreasonably difficult and will result in unfair consequences for students. Even as New Jersey begins the PARCC exams, some states have begun giving their own Common Core tests. New York’s students have taken Common Core tests twice. Proficiency rates dramatically dropped to the low 30s, with minimal improvement in year two. Results have been especially devastating for special-education students, English language learners, and students of color and poverty — with proficiency rates in single digits for students with disabilities who are poor.

“Low test scores have consequences for kids. Students are put into remedial classes. Test scores are used to decide who gets into gifted programs and into competitive schools. In a pro-Common Core report titled “Opportunity by Design,” The Carnegie Corporation estimated that due to the Common Core, the national six-year dropout rate will double from 15 percent to 30 percent, and the four-year graduation rate will drop from 75 percent to 53 percent.

“New York students took the Common Core algebra test, which is a graduation requirement, last June. Only 22 percent met the Common Core score that is being phased in as the new passing standard for graduation. Are these fair and reasonable standards? I think not.”

common-core-math-problemThis kind of top-down regulation of education is entirely the opposite of what is needed in education, and none can offer a better assessment of what works and what doesn’t than those with “boots on the ground;” the teachers, with parental input. The establishment of standards by bureaucrats and corporate sponsors, as CC was devised, is the wrong approach entirely.

Senator Mike Crapo’s (R-ID) Local Leadership in Education Act, Senate Bill 144, needs to be passed. This Act will “prohibit the Federal Government from mandating, incentivizing, or making financial support conditional upon a State, local educational agency, or school’s adoption of specific instructional content, academic standards, or curriculum, or on the administration of assessments or tests, and for other purposes.”

All efforts to roll back and rescind CC are advisable at this juncture, at the state and local level, as well. This is not a partisan issue. Something as crucial as our children’s education transcends politics, and bears substantive implications for the future of America, as a nation and as a people.

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].

“Global Warming” Objective Is Socialism

The primary objective behind environmental activism related to anthropogenic global warming (AGW), aka “climate change,” is apparently not climatological, but is rather economic. The revelation came not from “global-warming deniers,” but from the United Nation’s own Christiana Figueres, who serves as the Executive Secretary of the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At a press conference in Brussels earlier this month, the UN climate chief delineated the objectives of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations. She revealed, “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

Redistribute_Billboard_IPCC4She continued, “That will not happen overnight and it will not happen at a single conference on climate change, be it COP 15, 21, 40 – you choose the number. It just does not occur like that. It is a process, because of the depth of the transformation.”

Capitalism has been the primary economic model of the west since the industrial revolution. Therefore, the only logical conclusion, based on her stated objective, is the eradication of capitalism and free market economics, to be replaced with a model based on monetary redistribution. This we know by the redistribution calculations being developed by the UN’s IPCC for developed nations to pay “reparations” and “carbon offsets” to poorer countries based on carbon dioxide emissions.

While Figueres may have unintentionally disclosed the primary objective of the AGW alarmist movement within the UN, others are much less veiled. Naomi Klein, a self-defined “feminist-socialist,” environmental activist and author of the book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” is explicit in her denunciation of capitalism as the source of global warming. Her interview this week with Germany’s Der Spiegel underscored her denunciation of capitalism as the source of all evil in the world, including global warming. “The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.” Such a conclusion is easy to accept if the AGW alarmist premise is embraced blindly, sans scientific validation.

obama-funnels-billions-to-united-nations-for-climate-change-gree-dollars-un-fraudOttmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III, explicitly affirmed the economic objective. He said a few years ago, “Climate policy has almost nothing to do anymore with environmental protection…One must say clearly that we redistribute the world’s wealth by climate policy…The next world climate summit in Cancun is actually an economy summit during which the distribution of the world’s resources will be negotiated.”

A leftist global think-tank alluded to this a few years ago. The Club of Rome proclaimed, “The common enemy of humanity is man. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.”

One of the luxuries of basing a movement’s argument on quasi-science, including heavily doctored reports and “data,” is that bogeymen can be made of almost anything. And in the case of the AGW alarmists, it’s man, and capitalism. Once mankind is identified as the culprit behind climatic changes, his every activity can be justifiably regulated, controlled, and taxed. And once taxed, an omnipotent government that idyllically “cares” for the collective can redistribute it. And as Figueres and Klein evidence, it can provide the irrational justification for changing the global economic system.

ipccCoups, revolutions, and violent upheavals have worked only marginally to eradicate capitalism and replace it with socialistic economic models, all of which have failed, or are in the process of doing so. It would appear that the entrenched prevalent ideology of the UN has found a new way to fundamentally transform the world with the visage of Marx.

Considering the ultimate goal of the UN’s climate panels is to eradicate capitalism, it’s refreshing when a scientist who shares their ideology questions the quasi-scientific premises upon which the plan is based. Fritz Vaherenholt is a socialist, and the founder of Germany’s environmental movement. He was a reviewer of the IPCC reports, and while initially was supportive of them, found a host of scientific errors that proved to him the conclusions were defined before the scientific method was even attempted.

Vaherenholt’s recent book, “The Cold Sun: Why the Climate Disaster Won’t Happen, charges the UN’s IPCC with “gross incompetence and dishonesty… especially regarding fear-mongering exaggeration of human CO2 emission influences.” He expressed how stunned he was by the large number of scientific and computer-modeling errors he was finding in IPCC reports. He voiced his disapprobation in an interview with the German news publication Bild, “… IPCC decision-makers are fighting tooth and nail against accepting the roles of the oceans, sun, and soot. Accordingly, IPCC models are completely out of whack. The facts and data need to be discussed sensibly and scientifically, without first deciding on the results.”

But that’s precisely what has happened. The ideological plenipotentiaries in the UN, intent on implementing Marxist ideology, started with an objective, identified a human activity they could foment fear over, draw in like-minded “scientists” as apologists to “validate” their predetermined “consensus,” and fundamentally transform the global economy as an end result. It’s a brilliant strategy that has superbly garnered the support of virtually every left-leaning organization, media outlet, journalist, and academic across the country.

But the key to it all was reclassifying the atmospheric gas that facilitates photosynthesis and makes the world lush and green, and the gas emitted by mammals when we exhale, as a pollutant and a causal force in destroying the world. That’s a simple premise to accept when so much of the populace is either too acquiescent, uninformed, or ideologically aligned with the intended goal, to view it objectively.

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].

Surprise! Top Obama Aid Thinks They’ve Had No Scandals

David AxelrodDavid Axelrod, former top advisor to President Obama, made a revelatory comment on his book tour this week. In an appearance at the University of Chicago, touting his political autobiography, Axelrod said, “I’m proud of the fact that basically you’ve had an administration that has been in place for six years in which there hasn’t been a major scandal. I think that says a lot about the ethical strictures of this administration.”

Perhaps most surprising, Axelrod made the statement with a straight face. The only logical explanation for such a statement is that either he’s oblivious to what the administration has done over the past six years, or he’s completely detached from reality. At the very least, he clearly could have a promising future as an actor.

Equally alarming is the context within which Axelrod made the remark. He was responding to a question from an audience member on why Obama broke his promised ban on lobbyists in the White House. Axelrod replied that he didn’t “think that’s true.”

irs-tea-party-cartoon-mckeeLobbying scholar, Conor McGrath, has documented how inaccurate Axelrod’s perception is. In the latest issue of the Journal of Public Affairs, McGrath said, “President Obama’s public rhetoric on contact with lobbyists does not always accord with his private actions.” You’ll recall that on his first day in office Obama ostentatiously signed an Executive Order banning former lobbyists from working in his administration. That makes it even more difficult to disavow the reality that they hired 119 former lobbyists, including 60 in senior administration posts, according to McGrath.

hqdefaultSince Mr. Axelrod seems to be oblivious to the administration’s failure in regard to hiring lobbyists, he’s certainly left the door open to erroneous perceptions with regard to administration scandals, as well. So let’s take a look at some of the scandals that have not taken place over the past six years, per the former advisor.

Things like the IRS being used as a political enforcement arm of the administration in targeting opposition groups and taxpayers. And how about the three-fer of refusing to provide adequate protection of our ambassador to Libya, blaming his murder on a video that no one in Libya had seen before then, and then covering up everything from the State Department to the Pentagon and the White House to prevent the truth from being revealed.

Clearly Axelrod doesn’t think Obamacare’s a scandal, but there are a great number of Americans who believe differently. What else can it be called when a president promises our health insurance would drop by $2,400 and we could all keep the policies that we like, but then prices rise by an average of 78% in four years, and tens of millions of Americans lost that insurance they were promised they could keep? In a normal person’s lexicon, that would be considered scandalous, especially since it was all obviously based on a lie.

polcartoon_obama_greenAnd let’s not forget Axelrod’s “non-scandal” of dozens of our veterans losing their lives, and tens of thousands of them being deprived requisite healthcare because of internal politics within the Veteran’s Administration. When policies lead to one unnecessary and innocent death, isn’t that scandalous? So why is it not when it leads to over 40 deaths?

In banana republics, politicians giving money to their political cronies, and vice versa, is considered graft and corruption. This administration has proven one of two things: either the U.S. is now a banana republic, or such graft and corruption is now acceptable in the most powerful republic in the world. How else can we classify the billions of “stimulus” dollars that went to administration friends at Solyndra, NextEra, Ener1, Solar Trust, and dozens of other well-connected companies, which all subsequently went bankrupt?

103026_600Typically, when a government illegally (according to its own laws) operates a gun-running operation, putting guns purposefully into the hands of drug cartels and their goons, leading to the deaths of government law enforcement agents, it would be considered a scandal. Perhaps Mr. Axelrod just thinks that the DOJ’s “Fast and Furious” operation was just business as usual.

We could go on and on, including the EPA’s collusion with the green lobby, the 25 documented unconstitutional actions of the administration after taking an oath to uphold it, the massive debt and deficit spending that threatens our economic stability, and the Bowe Bergdahl fiasco of trading five of the most hardened jihadists for an army deserter. And then, in the case of the latter, having the temerity to claim the “Taliban is an armed insurgency; ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups.”

I’m sure that a major component to Axelrod’s ignorance of administration scandals is the fact that the mainstream media has virtually ignored all of them. To a media that has ignored the myriad of administration scandals, failures, lies, and incompetency, if they don’t report them, the scandals apparently never occurred. Kind of like the old philosophical question of a tree falling in a forest; if there’s no one to hear it, does it make any noise? To the media, if they don’t report it, it didn’t happen, and the administration affirms the nonevent.

Then again, perhaps it’s just a characteristic of sycophancy. If Axelrod denies the scandals occurred, they didn’t. For perception rarely approximates reality in a sycophant’s mind. Such detachment from reality may be laudable in Hollywood, but certainly not in the top echelons of government.

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].

Like Obamacare? You’ll Love what New FCC Rules will do to the Internet

Like a cancerous growth spreading throughout an otherwise healthy body, government overreach, regulation, and control of every aspect of our free-market system continues to expand, infesting and damaging economic activity one organ, or industry, at a time. The Internet, that bastion of freedom and entrepreneurship, is about to become the government’s newest victim.

fcc-chief-on-net-neutrality-trust-meFederal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman, Tom Wheeler, an Obama appointee, is presenting the president’s “net neutrality” plan for the commission’s vote in two weeks. As promoted publicly by the administration, even on the White House website, the concept sounds meritoriously egalitarian, preventing internet providers from doling out more bandwidth to some paying customers, like Netflix, than others. But it’s clearly designed to facilitate much more.

The administration’s plan calls for reclassification of the Internet, in toto, as a Title II telecommunications service. Such a designation would allow the government to regulate the Internet based on the Communications Act of 1934, just like the telephone industry.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai holding new Net Neutrality rules.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai holding new Net Neutrality rules.

The 332 page proposal has not yet been made public, though the recommendations are widely known. The “net neutrality” proposal wording was enough for one FCC commissioner to conduct a news conference this week to warn the public of the “secret plan to regulate the Internet.” FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said the plan was even “worse than I imagined,” and will invariably lead to “rate regulation and taxes.”

The full report and recommendation will not be released to the public until after the FCC approves it at their Feb. 26th meeting. FCC Chairman Wheeler must subscribe to the Nancy Pelosi regulatory and legislative mantra, that it has to be passed so we can know what’s in it. Yet another administration slap in the face of “transparency.”

As reported in National Journal, commissioner Pai acknowledged that the actual regulations take up just eight pages of the document. Another 79 pages are citations of the Communications Act, which will also dictate the practices of broadband providers. The rest of the document is a summary of public feedback and reasoning for the FCC’s decision, which Pai said is “sprinkled” with unofficial rules.

87293_600According to Pai, about the worst part of the proposal is exercising FCC dominion based on Title II. By implementing “net neutrality” under Title II, regardless of the prima facie reason for the new order, the FCC is “giving itself the authority to determine whether a variety of practices—including prices—are ‘just and reasonable.’” In other words, it’s the camel nose in the tent door metaphor. Pretty soon the camel (government regulators) occupies the tent and the providers are out on their ears.

The evidence seems to be on Pai’s side. He explains specifically, “The plan repeatedly states that the FCC will apply sections 201 and 202 of the Communications Act, including their rate regulation provisions, to determine whether prices charged by broadband providers are ‘unjust or unreasonable.'”

Commissioner Pai cautioned that not only does the proposal “open the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband,” but that with the Title II reclassification, technically the government could exercise control over content, as well.

net-neutrality-comic-3Current broadband consumption illustrates how ludicrous the proposal is. According to Sandvine data, “in home data consumption is approximately 150 to 200 times greater than mobile consumption. Google (including YouTube) and Netflix account for 45% of fixed broadband traffic. iTunes, Facebook, Amazon and Hulu account for 6% in aggregate. Google and Facebook account for 42% of mobile data. Netflix, Pandora and iTunes take an additional 14%.”

According to the new rules, broadband usage must be shared equally, without allowing providers the ability to adjust for consumption and demand, and other factors. So if you think you’re sick of seeing the spinning “buffering” wheel when watching video online, you “ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” Welcome to the world of net neutrality, a euphemism for broadband socialism – everyone gets their “fair share.”

These are the reasons John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, said, “To go back to a 1950s voice mentality with Title II and net neutrality would be a tremendous mistake for our country… this is a very bad decision. I think the whole country has to rally [against it]. This will cost the country jobs and economic leadership.”

The first step of governmental encroachment into an area of the private sector is always the most crucial. For once the proverbial foot is in the door, they just keep pushing and shoving until the door is clear off the hinges, and they control the industry. We’ve seen it time and time again, from banking, telephony, energy, manufacturing, and most recently, health care insurance. The promises are always minimalist, yet the eventuality always exceeds even extreme expectations. Consequently control increases, costs of production and services increase, and those costs are passed from companies in the private sector down to consumers. And the process always seems most costly and punitive to the middle and lower classes.

156139_600Ronald Reagan explained this governmental cycle years ago. “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Except in the case of “net neutrality,” they’re regulating it first, and then will come the taxation, the fees, and perhaps even control over accessibility and content.

We’ve seen just recently how governmental control over private sector services changes an industry dramatically, a la Obamacare. It appears we’re about to see “Obamacare” for the Internet, if the FCC rules go into effect. But don’t worry, they promise us that everything will be just fine. If you like your broadband, you can keep it. That sounds eerily familiar.

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 Defies Logic In Refusing to Identify Our Enemies

isis-obama-shhhhhhWhy is it so hard for this administration to call Islamic extremists what they are? Instead they parse and mince their appellations in every conceivable way to avoid identifying them as such. For that matter, how can the president maintain any semblance of credibility when he illogically avers that the Islamic State is not Islamic? By refusing to acknowledge, at least publicly, the enemy that has unleashed its destructive tactics against humanity, the administration appears incompetent, indecisive, and impotent against those who have declared jihad against America and the west.

It’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.”

unityThe rest of the world seems to have divested itself of the ineffable “Islamic extremism” label. After the horrendous murders of a dozen employees of the Charlie Hebdo paper in Paris last month, more than a million people, including 40 presidents and prime ministers, showed up for a solidarity rally against Islamic extremism. It was, as the New York Times reported, “the most striking show of solidarity in the West against the threat of Islamic extremism since the Sept. 11 attacks.”

No one from the Obama administration attended, even though Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder was in Paris at the time. The New York Daily News ran a Front Page headline, sending President Obama a message in type large enough he could have seen it 220 miles away in Washington, “You let the world down.” The (UK) Daily Mail headline read, “America snubs historic Paris rally.”

Nidal Hasan - "I am a Soldier of Allah."

Nidal Hasan – “I am a Soldier of Allah.”

Isn’t it interesting that the AG that has called us a “nation of cowards” for not having a discussion on race would capitulate to the political correctness of not having a discussion (or demonstration) against Islamic extremism? It appears downright cowardly. But it is his Dept. of Justice that still classifies the 2009 Fort Hood shooting as “workplace violence,” even though the shooter, Nidal Hasan, describes himself as a “Soldier of Allah,” and has petitioned to be classified as a citizen of the Islamic State. But Holder was undoubtedly just following the directives of his boss who declared a couple years ago at the United Nations, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet.”

Even in denouncing the Islamic State burning to death a Jordanian pilot this week, the president revealed the great lengths he will go to maintain ambiguity in identifying our enemies. In a taped comment in the White House, Obama said, “It also indicates the degree to which whatever ideology they are operating off of, it’s bankrupt.” Really, Mr. President. “Whatever ideology they are operating off of?” Are you the only one on the planet who doesn’t know where the jihadist ideology originates?

c22foThe matter became only more convoluted by White House press secretaries this week. ABC News’ Jonathan Karl asked Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz what the distinction was between terrorists and the Taliban. Karl asked, “You say the United States government does not give in to demands [and] does not pay ransom. But how is what the Jordanians are talking about doing any different than what the United States did to get the release of [Bowe] Bergdahl — the releasing prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay to the Taliban, which is clearly a terrorist organization?”

Shultz stammered in his obfuscating response, “As you know, this was highly discussed at the time. And prisoner swaps are a traditional, end-of-conflict interaction that happens. As the war in Afghanistan wound down, we felt like it was the appropriate thing to do…I’d also point out that the Taliban is an armed insurgency; ISIL is a terrorist group. So we don’t make concessions to terrorist groups.”

obama-islamSo the Taliban is an “armed insurgency” and not a terrorist group. What a relief it is to finally learn that the organization that harbored and protected Osama bin Ladin was not a terrorist group! I really thought they were, especially after their massacre of 130 school children in Pakistan last month! Maybe they’re just not “JV” enough to be considered outright “terrorists.”

I’m not sure that we could expect anything different from a cadre of ideological academics who had no real-world experience prior to running the sole remaining world super power. For as Dr. Lyle Rossiter explained in his book “The Liberal Mind,” the single greatest symptom of the liberal mindset is detachment from reality. And the proof that this administration is severely afflicted with it is most clearly exemplified by their inability to identify our enemies as Islamic extremists.

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].

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