Author Archives: Richard Larsen

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].

“Everything Seems Upside Down!”

A friend lamented to me recently, “The whole world seems upside down. What should be considered bad is now good, and vice versa.” He went on to detail how laws of economics are violated domestically, expecting an outcome different than the natural law of cause and effect would dictate. I concurred with him, and found myself reflecting on some of the wisdom of yesteryear that is ignored, thought impertinent to a new “enlightened” era, or not applicable to our advanced society.

UnknownCertainly some of the challenges facing our nation and our society currently can be seen through the lens of proven wisdom. In this light I thought I’d pick a few of those nuggets of anecdotal verity that have been validated by history to provide a little sagacious insight for the context of what our politicians have been inflicting upon the nation.

Winston Churchill once declared, “For a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” With 20 new taxes added with the passage of Obamacare, and the significant increase of six other taxes with the passage of the “fiscal cliff” Continuing Resolution two years ago, it seems our government is attempting what Churchill described, with incredulity. Even the great communist Vladimir Lenin understood this principle. “The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.”

For a quasi free-market economy, we’re stuck in a moribund GDP growth rate that is constrained by the yearly removal of over $3 trillion of capital from the citizenry. The surefire way to reduce activity is to tax it, which not only stifles the respective economic activity (such as the investment of capital) but removes significant assets from the private sector. In light of government’s spending and taxation excesses of the past few years, Churchill’s statement seems, well, “Churchillian.”

quote-government-s-view-of-the-economy-could-be-summed-up-in-a-few-short-phrases-if-it-moves-tax-it-if-ronald-reagan-151737The “great communicator” Ronald Reagan, observed the practices of government, and summarized, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” If that doesn’t capture the mindset of our government over the past several years, I don’t know what does. The spendthrift ideology that gave us a decimated Detroit, a nearly bankrupt California, and bankrupt cities across the nation, has sought to impose the same centralized governmental control on a national level in the name of “social justice,” with devastatingly destructive results. If America is to return to financial greatness, it will be by reversing the expansive trend of economic fascism, where government has control of the means of production.

The brilliant Austrian economist, Friedrich Hayek understood this threat. Said he, “While an equality of rights under a limited government is possible and an essential condition of individual freedom, a claim for equality of material position can be met only by a government with totalitarian powers.” The best thing government can do is create an environment that is conducive to growth, with reduced taxes and a regulatory environment that facilitates private sector growth. That is far from our present reality.

George Bernard Shaw, although a self-avowed socialist, was nonetheless bright enough to observe, “A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” That is until Paul runs out of money, as Margaret Thatcher’s logical postulate avers, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Since economic fascism is just a few steps removed from socialism, the outcome is only separated by a few degrees of economic ruin.

In his inimitable cynical style, writer and journalist P.J. O’Rourke once wrote, “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free!” Although Obamacare fell short of the drafter’s goal of a single-payer plan, we’re observing the results of our massive step toward it. As the Washington Times reported in October, “The Affordable Care Act was supposed to make health care more affordable, but a study of insurance policies before and after Obamacare shows that average premiums have skyrocketed, for some groups by as much as 78 percent.”

quote-government-big-enough-to-supply-everything-you-need-is-big-enough-is-big-enough-to-take-everything-thomas-jefferson-370415Thomas Jefferson warned over 200 years ago, that, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.” It appears increasingly that’s the kind of government we’re headed toward. He further warned, “My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” This bodes ill for us all with the increasingly strident notion that the government should regulate every aspect of our lives, from what we drive and what we eat, to how much energy we consume.

Perhaps the best idea for governing was uttered over 2000 years ago by Cicero. He said, “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.” I wonder if Roman leaders wish they would have listened to him.

My friend was regrettably correct; the whole world does seem upside down. If we fail to learn from history, and the wisdom of yesteryear, are we destined to repeat the failures and collapses of history? It’s entirely up to us!

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

That Was No SOTU – It Was A Populist Wish-List

It is regrettable that we no longer have a true “State of the Union” (SOTU) speech. Rather than hearing a recapitulation of the condition of the nation and where it’s headed, we get what appears to be little more than another campaign speech replete with a veritable Christmas-list of populist proposals and recommendations. Predictably, there were errors, omissions, and outright prevarications, and very little mention of the problems that have been exacerbated over the past several years, in the president’s speech this week.

barack_obama_state_union-14First, however, a confession of sorts is in order. I didn’t watch the speech. When I was in college, I loved being lectured to by my ISU professors who were knowledgeable, competent, and capable. After all, that’s what I paid them for. Likewise, we pay our governmental leaders to be knowledgeable, competent, and capable and to keep their oath of office, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. When all they do proves their incompetence, and they obviously lied when they took the oath, I’m not going to subject myself to their self-aggrandizing propaganda. After all, I’m not a masochist, and I find it increasingly difficult to resist the impulse to throw things at my TV in response to superfluous rhetoric, grandstanding, self-congratulations, and mendacity. So I read his speeches, instead.

color-obama-st-of-union-webMuch of Obama’s lecture Tuesday night was dedicated to his inexorable class warfare theme, pitting the middle class (who have been most adversely affected by the policies of the past six years) against the wealthy (who have done better than anyone during this administration). In advance of the delivery, he media had hyped this iteration of the SOTU as his “Robin Hood” speech. The metaphor hardly seems appropriate. Since Robin Hood stole from the Sheriff of Nottingham (not the rich from whom the sheriff had extorted the funds). As the head of the government, the President is essentially the Sheriff of Nottingham, who’s doing the extorting.

The President said, “Tonight, after a breakthrough year for America, our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999.” It would be wonderful for the nation if his policies had been conducive to our economic recovery and accelerated job growth. However, as we’ve documented before, these are occurring in spite of his policies, not because of them. It’s amazing what capitalistic economies can do when new obstacles are no longer being hurled in the way to thwart and stymy them!

stateoftheunion“We are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years. … Today, America is number one in oil and gas. … And thanks to lower gas prices and higher fuel standards, the typical family this year should save about $750 at the pump,” Obama declared. Again, this is with no help from his administration. The massive growth in domestic oil production has been primarily on state and private lands, while his administration has done everything possible to curtail it on federal ground and waterways. And it’s been primarily with technology opposed by his party and his administration. And there’s the power of capitalism again – simple supply and demand benefiting the consumer with increased competition.

Enigmatically, the President queried, “Will we allow ourselves to be sorted into factions and turned against one another? Or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward? … A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other.” It’s pretty difficult to take this counsel from one who has spent the past six years polarizing and dividing, based on income, party affiliation, ideology, and color.

sotu“In two weeks, I will send this Congress a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan,” he said. This is encouraging. If he comes through on the promise, it will be the first time he’s offered anything to congress in six years that isn’t partisan. We won’t hold our breath.

“In the past year alone about 10 million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.” This reminded me of an email I received from a friend last year that summarized the 2700 page ObamaCare legislation in four simple sentences. A. In order to insure the uninsured, we first have to un-insure the insured. B. Next, we require the newly un-insured to be re-insured. C. To re-insure the newly un-insured, they are required to pay extra charges to be re-insured. And D. The extra charges are required so that the original insured, who became un-insured and then became re-insured, can pay enough extra so that the original un-insured can be insured, free of charge to them. That explains a great deal of the President’s “10 million” figure.

“I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college — to zero.” I’m always amazed at the liberal mind that struggles with economic realities. The cost doesn’t go away, it’s just redistributed, or paid by someone else. And to the liberal politician, it’s always the taxpayer! Never mind that the cost is a scant $60 billion. What is that to a politician who can make a grandiose promise – and make someone else pay for it?

obama-hot-air-453x604It really would have been nice to hear an actual analysis of the State of the Union. But alas, we just got another populist campaign speech. And even as such, it wasn’t much different than the hand-dryer in the lavatory that had a sticker attached which declared, “Press button for a speech from the president.”

 

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].

Speaker Vote Brings Out Worst in Some Conservatives

CompromiseThe recent reelection of John Boehner as Speaker of the House brought to light a disturbing trait among some who self-identify as “conservatives.” Boehner has been perceived as a thorn in the side of conservative interests since his first election four years ago, as he has continually acquiesced, or as some say it, “caved” to the left in his chamber, and to the president. The sentiment is captured in a landmark political cartoon showing an elephant reaching across a dangerous precipice toward an indifferent president, titled merely, “The Compromise.”

The sentiment is understandable, and shared by nearly all of us on the right of the political spectrum. But what was disturbing was the reaction of some toward their own congressmen who supported Boehner.

John-Boehner-debt-showdownRaul Labrador (R-ID) won reelection from Idaho’s 1st Congressional District in November and is as steeped in his conservative ideals, and the classical liberal precepts the country was founded upon, as any conservative in Congress. There can be no question that his loyalties lie with the Constitution, the enumerated powers of the federal government, and the rights ostensibly assured thereby.

But after it became known publicly that Labrador had voted for the Speaker, an outpouring of obstreperous denunciations ensued. Comments on Labrador’s Facebook wall accused him of being a traitor, a turncoat, of betraying his conservative values, and betraying all conservatives who voted for him. Many declared they would never support him again, while others called for his recall.

Anyone with a modicum of political savvy, knows, or at least should know, that our chosen candidates, and elected officials, are not always going to vote the way we want them to, or the way we would if we were there. But the very notion of removing, or refusing to vote again for, the congressman because of one vote, even though he may a Freedomworks conservative rating of 90, on a 0-100 scale, is nothing short of idiocy.

This is a dangerous mentality that seems to be common at extremes of any ideology. “Unless you agree completely with me, or refuse to vote precisely the way I would have you vote, I’m not going to support you.” The only way to assure that your representative votes precisely as you want them to is to hold that position yourself. No one sees issues and solutions precisely the same way, except perhaps pure ideologues.

Working together to Build Bridges

Working together to Build Bridges

The derision heaped upon Labrador for his Speaker vote is a perfect example of how illogically and ideologically rigid some can be. Labrador’s conservatism is indisputable, and yet because of one vote, he’s called every pejorative epithet in the book, and many who share his ideological orientation throw him under the bus. This is where the ignorance of governance is so blatantly manifest. A viable educational tool might be to consider what other forms of extremism employ the same tactic that ostracizes and divides based on ideological “purity.”

A critical component to our efforts in working together in this democratic experiment is the didactic process of refining tactics based on efficacy. That includes identifying the destructive tactics that preclude the very notion of compromise, (which is essential in a constitutional republic), and contribute to the increased polarization of the body politic. This is clearly one of the most detrimental tactics; when we are so rigid in our ideological convictions that we destroy the relationship shared with others who think mostly as we do. It’s destructive to the political process, and its nascence and impetus, is based in ideological rigidity.

saul-alinsky-obama-luciferIt’s also a tactic of some on the left, as superbly promulgated by Saul Alinsky. “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Conservatives should realize that the consequences of implementing the tactic on themselves vitiates the advantages of a conservative voting block by dividing and parsing tranches based on perceived fealty to our founding principles. The result basically culls the “nonbelievers” from the “believers,” by lashing out, maligning, and condemning those who are perceived to not agree entirely, essentially ostracizing those who should be our allies.

It should be disturbing to conservatives when they learn that they employ the same tactic as other extremists, but many seem to revel in it, as if it’s a badge of honor of how “conservative” they are. That’s not a measure of political ideological integrity – it’s a measure of political ignorance of how the system works and how we have to work together in this republic of ours.

We should express our disapprobation to our elected officials when we disagree. But it’s totally illogical, and self-destructive, when we marginalize and alienate those with whom we share values, but may differ occasionally on specific votes. There aren’t many affirming or positive adjectives that can be used to describe someone who can only be supportive of, or civil to, someone with whom they agree 100% of the time.

If conservatives continue these tactics, they will succeed only in splintering and dividing themselves, granting the left victory after victory at the polls. It’s so often quoted that I hesitate to say it again, but apparently some need the continual reminder. As Ronald Reagan once said, “He who agrees with me 80% of the time is not my enemy.” Or his variation on that theme, “My eighty-percent friend is not my twenty-percent enemy.”

Capitalism Survives, In Spite of Obama, Pelosi, et al

As we embark on a new year, positive economic indications are abundant. Having experienced the worst recession in modern financial history six years ago, the U.S. has slowly but surely emerged on more sure footing heading into the New Year. What has precipitated economically over the past six years cannot causally be attributed to any policies or governmental programs. Recovery has occurred in spite of government efforts, and is a testament to the free market capitalistic system our economy is based upon.

BG-not-looking-for-work-2014-chart-2-825In December the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through the 18,000 level for the first time ever, capping a 7.5% gain for 2014. Due to lower gas prices, we saved approximately $14 billion in energy costs for the year. And our moribund Gross Domestic Product (GDP) finally started to show signs of life with a 5% annualized growth rate in the third quarter. These data have significantly improved consumer sentiment, which is a measure of economic optimism. The latest reading of 92.6 represents a marked upward move from a third quarter reading of 82.

Due primarily to these factors, there’s even been improvement in the job market. Nonfarm payrolls have risen 26 consecutive months through December, averaging about 210,000 per month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job growth is critical to economic growth since 70% of our economy is consumer driven, and more people with jobs, and especially good-paying jobs, augments growth sustainability.

ft110705-fig10The employment data still do not indicate a full recovery, however. According to the BLS Table A-15, 11% is closer to the real unemployment rate than the present headline figure of 5.8%. Item U6 indicates that the “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force,” is nearly double the headline figure. There are too many still underemployed or only working part-time, who are looking for better jobs.

The Participation Rate is too low at 62.8%, which is near all-time lows for employable adults holding jobs. Pre-recession Participation Rate was over 66%. Currently, there are 6.9 million fewer Americans in the work force, either working or looking for employment, than there were six years ago. Those who have given up on finding a job are no longer counted in the headline household unemployment rate. Consequently, with 6.9 million fewer Americans working or searching for work, a significant percentage of the drop in unemployment since 2009 is largely due to those who have given up on finding a job. According to the BLS, demographic factors explain less than one-quarter of the decreased labor force participation.

When we look for causal factors for this recovery, however tepid, we cannot find any from the government. Nothing done by the Executive or Legislative branches of government have contributed to the recovery. With but a couple of exceptions, everything government has done in the past six years has thwarted economic growth and recovery.

b2482_chart1_600pxThe three major governmental accomplishments over the past six years have restricted and constrained our economic engine. The “Stimulus” of 2008 did not stimulate. According to the Wall Street Journal, over half of the $850 billion ($1.1 trillion, including interest) “stimulus” bill could be more correctly classified as discretionary spending. The Congressional Budget Office “scoring” of the stimulus package indicated that only 12 cents of every dollar would have a stimulative affect on the economy. The scoring process clearly indicated the impotence of the “Stimulus” for creating positive, let alone sustainable, economic growth.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) doesn’t stimulate the economy, for it is laden with new taxes and fees imposed on individuals and employers to be implemented over the next few years. And actually when the full impact of those new taxes hit, the adverse effect on the economy will be considerable. For as Christina Romer, former chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, revealed last year, “Tax changes have very large effects: an exogenous tax increase of 1 percent of GDP lowers real GDP by roughly 2 to 3 percent.”

Likewise, the FinReg, Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform is a deterrent to growth. It solidifies the crony capitalistic relationship between Wall Street, the major banks, and Washington by assuring further government intervention with institutions deemed “too big to fail.” The costs of implementation at the private sector level have resulted in higher fees, charges, and interest rates for financial institutions to recoup the implementation costs. Anything that takes from producers and savers to pay for regulatory overreach is antithetical to economic stimulus.

econsnap-1Those three governmental “successes” were all passed before 2010 when leadership of the House changed hands. This was perhaps the most effectual event leading to economic recovery. After 2010, with a divided congress, less has been done governmentally to interfere with the economy. Consequently, business owners, CEO’s, and employees have adapted to the new “normal” of higher costs of regulation and are gradually digging themselves out of the morass. The greatest benefit of a divided congress is less governmental intervention.

This should be perhaps the greatest measure of a successful government or regime. Rather than measure productivity based on how much legislation is passed, measure it based on how little they encroach on our liberty and our capitalistic economy.

The great economist and Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, once said, “Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. When government– in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the costs come in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.”

The objectivist philosopher, Ayn Rand, echoes this sentiment. She wrote, “America’s abundance was created not by public sacrifices to the common good, but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. They did not starve the people to pay for America’s industrialization. They gave the people better jobs, higher wages, and cheaper goods with every new machine they invented, with every scientific discovery or technological advance — and thus the whole country was moving forward and profiting, not suffering, every step of the way.”

It appears at least ostensibly that the intent of the 114th Congress will be to roll back some of the onerous regulatory burdens conceived by their predecessors. If they are successful in doing so, the growth potential of our economic engine could be unleashed for significant expansion. After all, look at how far we’ve come in spite of their predecessor’s efforts to stifle free enterprise in our capitalistic system.

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].

A Glimpse at Some of the Idiocy of 2014

While recently rereading a classical literary piece from a century ago, I realized anew how each person is a microcosm of the demographic group or society to which he or she belongs. Truly, no man is an island, and we all bring to our society characteristics, traits, and attributes which contribute to the whole. When we analyze some of the notable events from the past year, we can’t help but realize how our individual contributions either ameliorate, or vitiate, the cumulative character of our society.

Weeds in our cultural "garden."

Weeds in our cultural “garden.”

The book, As a Man Thinketh, by the English moralist James Allen, abounds in insightful truisms and verities. The following is but one of many such gems. “A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”

As much idiocy as we observed playing out on the public stage this past year, it’s obvious that there are too many minds not being planted or cultivated with ennobling or productive seeds. And, according to Allen, the evidence is manifest behaviorally. Not unlike the timeless wisdom of Forrest Gump, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

3034486-poster-p-1-hands-up-dont-shootCase in point, the “Hands up, don’t shoot,” social phenomenon that was spawned, and perpetuated, based on fictitious accounts of the tragic shooting of a young man in Ferguson, MO. The fact that such a fallacious mantra would gain such traction among the race-baiters, celebrities, misinformed, and even professional athletes, does not portend well for our culture. But why bother with facts and evidence, when a fabricated story can be so superbly spun for the sake of advancing an ideological narrative, or inciting riots and precipitating violence? This provides evidentiary validation of Allen’s thesis, that “an abundance of useless weed seeds” can bear sway in the absence of “useful,” and I might add, informed and fact-based “seeds.”

On a par with that evidentiary validation, but much more consequential in its long-term implications, is the request by law students at Columbia, Harvard, and other law schools, to postpone their final exams. They felt they had been “traumatized” due to their protests of the Ferguson and New York grand jury decisions to not charge policemen for perceived wrongful deaths. Would anyone even consider hiring an attorney who felt “traumatized” because they protested too strenuously, and felt themselves to be incapable of taking tests as a result? Aphorisms aplenty seem to apply in such an instance, primary of which is simply to “grow up.”

Poverty Rate since "Great Society"

Poverty Rate since “Great Society”

As we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Great Society “war on poverty,” the nation’s redistribution of over $22 trillion is one of those governmental policies that evokes great emotion yet, as inefficacious as it has been, clearly is bourn of ideological “weeds.” Our poverty rate is about the same today as it was fifty years ago, which means our wealth redistribution has accomplished nothing, and has not addressed the underlying societal issues which are causal to poverty.

Another example is regrettably provided by our president, who, after claiming that all of his policies were on the midterm electoral ballot, was thoroughly trounced as voters rejected his legislative and ideological pawns who supported his policies. Yet, in the aftermath of such a drubbing, became increasingly pertinacious, clinging to his rejected ideology, and claimed to hear what those who didn’t vote had to say. The mainstream media should have had a heyday with such vapidity, yet, as has been their wont over the past six years, gave the president a pass on his vacuity.

2014-12-12-e6b16298_largeEqually vacuous was the president’s reference to the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph in an amnesty speech delivered last month. He may want to break down and actually read the Bible, if he’s going to “quote” from it. Mary and Joseph were not illegal aliens, and, contrary to his other “quote” from the Bible in the same speech, the Good Book says nothing about “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” It’s bad enough when our fellow countrymen fill their ignorant voids with uninformed “weeds,” but when our president does it, and he gets away with it, it does not bode well for our media or our society.

That such ignorance, bourn of ideological “weeds,” can flourish in our “enlightened” culture is indeed discomfiting. It’s enough to make one wonder if “The Walking Dead” TV series is more reflective of our collective consciousness, rather than simply apocalyptic TV fiction.

Celebrate Christmas – Don’t Be Offended By It

“I’m offended every time I hear a Christmas Carol, or see a nativity scene, or see a cross, especially if it’s all lit up. Even the Santa Claus and decorations bug me because I know that it all has to do with Christmas.” Such was the comment made on a California radio talk show a few years ago, by a fellow who chose to take offense at the season, rather than look for the good.

It really is disconcerting that there are some who suffer great angst over a national holiday that is intended to acknowledge not just the birth of Jesus Christ, but our humanity and commonality.

RV-AJ582_BKRV_C_G_20130208124716Calvin Coolidge said, “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” When explicated in those terms it’s hard to imagine anyone taking umbrage at the celebration of Christmas.

Some are quick to take offense at various elements of our culture, and this time of year such relapses seem to increase significantly. Confucius is credited with saying, “He who takes offense when none is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a bigger fool.”

That seems appropriate consideration for any who take offense at what is not intended to offend. Some, like the aforementioned caller, take offense from displays like nativity scenes or menorahs, appellations like “Christmas Trees,” or greetings like “Merry Christmas,” and even music that may make reference to He whose birthday we celebrate as a national holiday. No offense is intended, but a free and open expression of anything with a hint at religiosity creates an anxiety for some even as our celebration of Christmas continues to morph into more of a secular celebration.

MerryChristmas2012Each of us determines for ourselves whether we will be offended. And it’s not just about Christmas or religious expression; it’s about everything in life. When we are offended, we’re making a conscious decision to grant someone else control over our attitude. If we allow others to offend us, whether intentional or otherwise, we sacrifice control of our attitudes to someone else.

Contrast those who are so quick to take offense at the drop of a “Merry Christmas,” with an atheist philosophy professor I had an ongoing discussion with on a blog a couple years ago. After commending him for wishing readers “Merry Christmas,” he responded back, “By the way, if there’s a ‘war on Christmas,’ I’m not part of it. It’s fine with me if people want to put a manger scene in front of City Hall. Being an atheist doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy holidays and traditions.” What a healthy, mature, and tolerant attitude! He obviously has learned the great lesson of life that he can choose to be offended or not, it’s strictly voluntary, and that going through life with a chip on his shoulder, just waiting for someone to knock it off, is no way to live.

I appreciate Coolidge’s perspective on Christmas, for certainly there is an increase in sensitivity to others at this time of year in spite of the often-hectic schedules we maintain as we shop for just the right gift for each of our loved ones. But the foundational motivations for finding that gift are love and gratitude. That principle of love can and should be shared by all people, not just this time of year, but throughout the year. If there were a way of packaging this spirit of love and sharing that as our gift to everyone, think how much better the world would be. Surely, most of the world’s problems could be solved.

imagesCharles Dickens, in 1843, penned the now immortal “A Christmas Carol,” that played a significant role in making of our Christmas observance the overt celebration that it is today. But it was also instrumental in transforming a holiday from one disavowed by many Christian sects because of its communal hedonistic excess to one of personal goodwill and compassion. If one man can, through his creativity and power of communication, do so much to transform Western holiday observance, how can we deny the potential of each of us, within our spheres of influence, to create such a transformation of our Christmas observance?

Surely we can each be “Dickens” in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities, by redoubling our focus on the charity that is at the heart of our observance. Surely we can, through our individual acts of kindness, and increase in sensitivity, mollify the malcontents, touch the lives of those who may think they are forgotten or unappreciated in our society, and somehow ameliorate the temporal conditions of those who may have less than we.

Said Dickens of Ebenezer Scrooge, “…he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us.” A fitting end for his tome, and a noble goal for each of us.

Regardless of your theological beliefs, may the spirit of Christmas fill your home, so you can find joy in extending charity, service, and heart-felt comfort in reaching out to the lonely and the needy. Even the secularists amongst us would be hard pressed to criticize our observance of Christmas if it translated to such universal, humanistic altruism, which is what He whose birthday we celebrate would desire of us. To each of you, Merry Christmas, in the full, inclusive context of all the good that Christmas represents.

Senate Democrats Increase Threat to the Nation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing to Be Grateful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Obamacare Is Based on Fraud, Says Architect of the ACA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obamacare Approval

Obamacare Approval

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

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

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

Obama’s Policies Rebuffed by Midterm Elections

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

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

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

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

2014 Elections Congressional Map

2014 Elections Congressional Map

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

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

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

2014 Gubernatorial Elections

2014 Gubernatorial Elections

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

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

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

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

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

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

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

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

 

Reject Obama’s Policies At All Levels of Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Same-Sex “Marriage,” An Illogical Counterfeit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

America’s Oligarchy – The Tyranny of the Federal Judiciary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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