Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Invictus: Lessons from Mandela

I enjoyed the new movie Invictus. Morgan Freeman did a stellar job of portraying the early years of Nelson Mandela's leadership in post-apartheid South Africa. Mandela's willingness to forgive the past and embrace a rugby team that had been a symbol of the oppression for so many is inspiring.

Mandea's leadership provides some clues to a better future for our nation. I am not a fan of our current president, but I do pray for him to have wisdom and to be a man of integrity. When I hear echoes of the street fighter from Chicago ("You lost. Get over it.") and the leftist organizer (the recent apology tour in the presence of foreign monarchs), I become alarmed. This is not the politics of inclusion and embrace, of forging a way past partisanship. Recent arm-twisting and payola in the Senate only confirms that nothing has changed.

Mandela risked his safety and alienated the Communist elements of the ANC when he chose the pathways of forgiveness and reconciliation, of accountability and integrity (contra Mugabe in Zimbabwe to the north). He lost his marriage, upset those who wanted payback for suffering and chose the long-term course of systemic change instead of the immediate gratifications of newly-held power.

My Christmas prayer for President Obama is that he would rise above the radical imprinting of his college years and the reactionary policies of current leaders, especially his Chief of Staff. His Nobel speech was decent, but it still contained too many inflammatory implications of global governance to reassure conservatives. Mandela understood that wealth had to be created privately even while better services were delivered to the long-neglected Black public. Mandela understood that a budget still mattered and the opinions of his opponents were heard. President Obama, will you listen - not to the shrill personalities - but to the concerned citizens and leaders who represent the people who actually create wealth, contribute a higher percentage of income to charity and pay most of the taxes?

Two groups have profited from the terrible spending policies of the last 40 years: those at the top of the ladder and those connected with the government. This includes some of the academic and entertainment elites who support certain policies and the lobbyists who represent global interests. Two groups have lost ground: the middle class and the working poor.

The answer is not to overtax the productive, but create space for new business, decentralize the delivery of social services and apply the genius of the 21st century "Imagination Age" to corrupt, outmoded government systems. Where is the Steve Jobs for our government agencies?

When our elected officials get the same medical and pension benefits of private citizens, when government unions are compelled to be reasonable and business leaders held to the highest ethics, there is hope.

Mandela stood against his radical party members, reminding them that he was the leader of all South Africans.

My prayer is that President Obama will find the courage to do the same. We can do better on health care and balance a budget. We can bring our troops home and secure our safety. We can have real borders and have compassion for those working hard. The key is to not be the servant of any one interest, but the interests of all.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Peacemaking in an Age of Anger

I recently had the honor of spending some time with Dr. Peter Kusmic, one of the world's ecumenical leaders, a scholar and a man known for his peacemaking efforts in the Balkans. Peter is the brother-in-law of Dr. Miroslav Volf, a professor who anchors the Center for Religion and Culture at Yale. Both of these men take the words of Jesus seriously, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."

As we spoke about ethics, politics, missions, business and other current world issues, we found much common ground, even while we approached issues a bit differently. It is hard for Americans to comprehend the ethnic hatreds and suffering in the Balkans, in the Sudan, in Zimbabwe and other regions. Peter is a Pentecostal Christian in a region torn by strife between Serbian Orthodox and Croatian Muslim, with other traditions on both sides of the ethnic divide!

Out of these conversations, I want to propose some ways forward on highly divisive issues. These thoughts will not please the hard-core Left or Right, but perhaps they can be a starting point for forging consensus that leads to practical help for the broken and vulnerable among us.

International cooperation is not an option. We live in an interconnected world and cannot retreat from reality. But international coercion and a one-world governing elite would be a disaster for freedom. My conservative friends, the UN does have a place - a place for debate and discussion, for moral outrage, humanitarian help, and for peacemaking. My liberal friends, surrender of national sovereignty is antithetical to democracy and economic development. The 20th century is proof that central planning does not engender liberty.

Climate change, global warming, a coming ice age, limited resources and a burgeoning population - what do we believe and what do we do?

My conservative friends, shouting, "free markets and less regulation!" is not enough. Ethical constraints and environmental limits on capitalism are vital if we are going to prosper and have a planet for our grandchildren to enjoy. My colleagues on the Left, your foundation dollars and government salaries have to come from somewhere - it is called for-profit business! We do not need to "de-develop" the USA - we need to foster wealth creation within reasonable environmental limits, with as little government control as possible.

Government regulation is NOT the same as government administration, control and even ownership. I urge all socialists to take a look at the environmental consequences of 70 years of Soviet planning in Eastern Europe and the USSR. At the same time, the rapacious policies of several multinationals in Latin America continue to keep that vibrant continent from real prosperity.

Will we permit real, open public debate on the climate? What do we have to fear? At the same time, will all climate-change advocates who have been raking in millions in grants and profits please stand up and be counted and allow their lifestyles to be examined? Meanwhile, global corporations must be held to account for how they treat the environment. Such accountability can take place without an one-world government, if nations will negotiate in good faith.

My business friends, we must think about sustainable enterprises that bring reward for risk and return good to the world.

For over 40 years both political parties have failed to restrain spending. My Republican friends, I join you in opposing much of the new spending proposed by the current administration. However, conservatives must be willing to have every part of government spending scrutinized - including the military and the subcontracting of security to private firms. I have family members and friends that were and are part of the defense industry and all of them, in honest moments, admit that there is much waste. George Will years ago said that conservatives like to rail about less government while taking full advantage of all her benefits. Let's get honest and understand that smarter thinking and streamlined processes will not be easy.

I challenge all elected, appointed and career federal officials to get off their special gravy trains and be part of the same medical and retirement programs the rest of us have. While scores of my friends look for work, the federal salaries are rising and the bureaucracy is growing - not a good sign.

We must be honest about history. FDR's policies did create temporary jobs and build infrastructure. But the real turnaround came as private and public agencies geared for war and the new technologies it spawned fueled the prosperity of the post-WWII generation. So we may need some government help to stimulate some sectors - but not permanent control of large portions of the economy.

Let's decide to balance the budget over the next three to five years. "It is not that simple," many say. Why not? Where is the courage to take on ALL the special interests, from arts to education to subsidies for agriculture, to military programs and pet projects in particular districts. (I read that the recent spending proposed in Congress has over 5000 earmarks. We are waiting for your pencil, Mr. President!)

Wall Street avarice created the current crisis. But government policies encouraged "flexible" lending practices and the people we entrust our hard-earned tax dollars to refuse to change their habits. Several governors are leading the way in budgeting - let's learn from them.

Peacemaking is our theme. Howard Dean, capitalism is not the enemy and socialism is no solution. Sean Hannity, repeating conservative mantras will not move us forward either. Wealth creation moderated by sound ethics and governmental policies is the way forward. Private initiative must be primary - in business and charity, with governmental help when needed.

Now to the two social issues that raise voices before anyone is heard.

Abortion ends the life of a human being, whether she is defined as actual or potential, a fetus or a baby. Let's stop the verbal nonsense and once and for all expose the real issue: many folks do not want to live with the consequences of their decisions. If the sexual intimacy was consensual, then the unborn child deserves our protection. "A woman's right to choose" includes the choice to have consensual sex with her partner. My liberal friends are already screaming, "it is not that simple. Some impoverished women really do not have choices and some scared teenager deserves her life back. You are so insensitive!" My conservative friends are already angry because i used the word consensual as a qualifier.

Apart form rape or incest - and we need to create a climate where these can be exposed while protecting the victims - abortion is rarely a medical necessity, physically or psychologically. The small percentage of cases where a mother's life is in danger deserve compassion and perhaps the permission of a tragic moral choice; however, this is not a large number of the more than 40 million dead since Roe v. Wade. The victims of non-consensual sex who courageously carry to term and either raise the child or release to adoptive parents deserve all our support. For those who have had abortions, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation is the order of the day.

Even if my position is not the majority opinion culturally or legally, doctors and nurses who refuse to perform elective abortions should not be ostracized or penalized. This is intolerance from the other side of the debate.

I recently heard one male point of view in a coffee shop: "Abortion is OK. If I want to have a one-night stand I should not have to pay for it the rest of my life, and oh, yeah, neither should she." What a sad window into the hedonism of our day.

Gay marriage is the other hot potato. Most world religions affirm the sanctity of monogamous heterosexual marriage. The Judeo-Christian marriage ethic has been the core of our Western Culture for centuries. In the last 40 years gay activists have been crying our for full equality. How do we reconcile these two very divergent perspectives?

A little anthropology, biology, history, psychology and sociology helps. Clans and communities, nations and empires throughout history have honored heterosexual marriage as a social contract, a religious sacrament and an essential foundation for the future. My GLBT friends, your call for civility and tolerance of your private adult sexual activity is one thing, overthrowing the sacred traditions of world faiths is another. In fact, the GLBT agenda continues to morph from toleration of private activity in the 1970s to benefits for domestic partners in the 1980s and 1990s to the strident call to redefine marriage in the 2000s.

Here is a way forward: Other forms of domestic partnership can have legal status without the title marriage. Adult partners can still have benefits, create ceremonies and legally bind themselves to each other; however, marriage is reserved for monogamous heterosexual unions that have proven to be the key to health and stability and remain the ideal for billions all over the world.

There is no place for intolerance or violence toward any person, regardless of orientation. But toleration does not mean a person must agree with another person's choices. Clergy must never be forced to marry or unite people against their faith. If a particular group dissents from the rest of their particular religion or sect, they are free to create their own community - but they should not hijack or subvert the faith of others in the process.

Traditionalists must live at peace with non-traditionalists without being forced to agree with them. This is the genius of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. My neighbors live together as an unmarried couple. I would love them to marry and come to faith; however, they are great folks and I am happy to know them. We help each other and have fun discussing all types of topics. They are smart enough to know we disagree about the (what we view as) incomplete nature of their union; we know that they are made in God's image and bring good to the world and deserve our love and respect.

Defending traditional marriage will be on better ground if those who claim faith and fidelity practice it. Hypocrisy and scandal are grist for the subversive mill.

Public education must not replace one form of perceived intolerance with another. Religious children should not be forced to listen to "education" that is a mask for moral relativism, promiscuity and sexual experimentation outside of an adult relationship. At the same time, no student should be afraid if they are "different." Wherever possible, Christians should be the best friends they can be with the people they disagree with most.

Emperor Julian (called "the Apostate" in the 360s because he sought to revive paganism against the growing influence of Christianity) lamented that the Christians far surpassed their pagan neighbors in sacrificial service to poor, whether Christian or not. If only this was the testimony of the non-religious today.

Peacemaking is arduous, halting and takes time. It cannot fit a 20 second sound bite and it will rarely be understood in its early stages. But it is worth the effort. We can have Zimbabwe or South Africa; we can have the Balkans or Ireland. In the USA we can shout, "Foul" to all the ideas of our opponents, or start with the values we share and build from there.

As we honor the Prince of Peace, let's resolve to be people of peace.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Euphemisms for Totalitarianism

Finally, EU and UN officials are coming clean and speaking of "global management" and "global governance" as the aims of the Copenhagen climate summit.

I am not against voluntary international cooperation.

I am deeply worried about a new elite "managing" our lives down to our electric meters.

China, India and Russia are already, "Nay" on any serious controls over their economies.

The EU leaders are outright hypocrites on energy policy, since a large portion of their electrical power in nuclear. (The USA has not built a new plant in more than two decades.)

The only guarantee of real liberty is decentralized governance, with maximum personal freedom and affirmation of regional uniqueness.

Does anyone notice that almost none of the 57 Muslim nations are saying anything about "climate change"?

Recent scandals in England and more than 31,000 scientists opposing the "conclusions" of other scientists should cause us to pause. Follow the grant money.

Al Gore's organization (he is about $100M richer since he left office to peddle his nonsense) is aware that they need a new crisis to further global control - and the choice is plastic waste.

Our Founders in 1789 understood that the role of government was to safeguard personal liberties and create peaceful space for human flourishing with minimal control.

The real planetary crises are structural poverty, AIDS and other preventable diseases and the violence that that accompanies petty tyrannies. The UN would do well to address these issues instead of feathering its anti-American nests with more exploitation of hard-working Americans.

America is cleaner now than in 1970. Both Democratic and Republican leaders have created private-public partnerships that enable enterprise to continue while making sure we do not deprive future generations of resources.

By the way, it was Governor Sarah Palin that took on Big Oil and the Republican machine in Alaska and forged balanced policies that enrich citizens while protecting wildlife. If an non-white Democrat had done the same in any state, the Left and the UN would lionize them with a Nobel Prize.

We must refuse to ratify anything that comes from Copenhagen or smells like Kyoto, Buenos Aires or any other global elite gathering.

Voluntary cooperation for the welfare of all is good; the compulsory transfer of wealth to corrupt nations reverses the tides of freedom and enslaves millions more.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Mr.. President, Please Define "Victory" in Afghanistan

Our President is sending 30,000 more soldiers to the same dangerous deserts that Persian, Greek, Mongol, British and Russian Empires could not completely subdue.

The small number, coupled with a timeline for withdrawal will not secure freedom for Afghans or safety for the West.

What should our policy be?

Victory and vigilance.

We must strike a decisive blow and destroy the forces of terror and then be prepared to intervene if they attempt any kind of comeback.

We do not need to be a long-term occupier nor do we need to impose our culture.

We need to defeat our foes decisively, with military success and a treaty of surrender. Then we need to have our forces ready to strike at the first sign of violation.

The major mistakes in Obama's policy are the proposed timeline ending our involvement and the passive language about our aims. "Impeding momentum" is not total victory. Al-Queda and the Taliban only understand one language: brute force.

I respect the President for attempting to gather international support. The problem is that there is no clear goal and no consensus on process shared by NATO allies or any of the 43 nations involved.

It is also disconcerting to see the blatant politics of the timing of the first troop withdrawals: just before the 2012 elections. Obama is trying to position himself as a pragmatic moderate while winking to his hard left supporters. He can blunt conservative attacks by appearing martial and presidential while "ending" a war before the next votes are cast.

Mr. President - send in the troops with a mandate to win and we will celebrate with you their rapid return.

Mr. President, stop bowing to foreign royalty and stop apologizing for American uniqueness.

Mr. President, respect the brave State of Israel and stop marginalizing her. She is the only pluralistic democracy in the Middle East and as soon as Palestinian leaders guarantee her sovereignty, she will sign a real peace accord and welcome a second Palestinian State.

You can be an outdated ideologue or a statesman. i hope you choose the latter.

P.S. One more thing, Mr. President: End this health care fiasco and stop appropriating the resources of hard working Americans. Use your bully pulpit to empower municipalities, counties and states to find public-private partnership solutions to health care and other social challenges. Your legacy could really be amazing if your will unleash wealth creation and lessen federal control. Eschew your tired playbook from your university days, read some Tom Sowell columns on economics and watch our land flourish again.

P.P.S. Go to Copenhagen and tell the fear mongers and global governance folks to take their questionable science and go home.

Nothing to Fear

As a historian, my interest grows as I see commentary on the "New Atheism." The "Big Four" - Dawkins, Dennett, Harris and Hitchens (sounds like British law firm) - have created a stir that stimulates skeptics to be more militant and religious apologists to fire up their debating skills.

There is absolutely NOTHING new about any of the ideas brought forward any of these or other atheists. They are part of a generational cycle of reaction against religion that characterizes the academic and chattering classes of the West. From the first "free thinkers" of the 17th century to today's militant atheists, hatred of religion will always have adherents and auditors, especially if there are a few juicy scandals among some religious groups.

There are four basic tactics of the anti-religious elites. Some are presented with honorable intent, while others cynically exploit ignorance or use the tools of propaganda to influence their hearers.

Tactic Number One: Vilify the awful things done in the name of religion in order to distort the beliefs of that religion. It is amazing how the same historical events come up, with no attempt to read multiple accounts of the same events.

For example: The Crusades of 1095 to 1291. The standard atheist screed is, "Look what religion does! It promulgates violence and intolerance and it merely the tool of the political elite."

Response: The Crusades were a complex series of geopolitical events that involved Christians, Muslims, Jews and above all, the economic and political concerns of competing civilizations. The losers were the pious of all faiths and the winners were the rich and powerful. None of these events "proves" or "disproves" the Divine.

The fact is that the new atheists are really out to destroy Christianity and hope Islam will go down in flames someday. The creator of the recent movie 2012 was happy to destroy the holy sites of Judaism and Christianity because he hates religion; however he did not want an Islamofascist fatwa on his head, so the Dome on the Rock and Mecca were spared!

Tactic Number Two: Create a huge divide between religion and science and assert that science represents intellectual and moral progress while religion is regressive and intellectually infantile. All the radical atheists consider their perspective the only tenable one for "fully informed and sane people." Obviously, only these "brights" should be in charge!

Response: The vast majority of scientists before 1900 were not atheists and even today most scientists argue that these are separate domains. Science does not aim to destroy religion and most religious adherents respect the hard work of the scientific community. The problem arises when a scientific theory (Darwinian Evolution) becomes more than an explanation of natural processes. In the hands of the impious and unscrupulous, it becomes an excuse to exclude God from Nature or to justify ethnic supremacy or other totalitarian ideas.

Most religious folks can live with a world older than Bishop Ussher's chronology. They will not, however, yield the ground of meaning and morality to chaotic, impersonal, random and violent forces.

Tactic Number Three: Question the validity of key Christian beliefs, especially the resurrection of Jesus. If met with intelligent responses, question the historicity and veracity of the Bible. To add a bit of spice, attempt to reduce Christianity and Judaism to an amalgamation of beliefs culled from other faiths and philosophies, with no need for any supernatural intervention. In fact, go back to science and roundly affirm the impossibility of verifying any miracles.

Response: Yes, there is a measure of faith for any theist. Yes, Christianity (along with Islam and Judaism) shares some ideas and moral precepts with other systems. But this is not the same as declaring the resurrection impossible, Jesus barely a historical figure or the growth of Christianity merely a natural phenomenon.

Jesus of Nazareth is a historical figure verified by multiple accounts, sacred and secular. His followers were transformed and became zealous missionaries because they believed in Jesus' literal resurrection. The growth of Christianity, accompanied by its ethical, social and spiritual good, is not possible if it is only an amalgamation of other belief systems.

Tactic Number Four: When all else fails, hold God hostage for not intervening to prevent evil in all circumstances and/or his (apparent) failure to talk to us like any other person.

Response: The problem of evil is vexing for anyone, skeptic or theist. The most passionate believer can not explain fully why a "sneer was found across the universe"(G.K. Chesterton). In an of itself, though, evil is not a proof or disproof of the Divine - it is a problem that God and humankind must face. Once again, the atheists miss the point. By holding God accountable to humans, we are missing the very definition of God that is part of Monotheism.

Theists must clarify their thinking, speak boldly and humbly, and above all, live lives of exemplary love and service. There is nothing to fear from the new brand of atheism - it is the old ideas repackaged for a gullible, narcissistic consumer culture. Atheism is the preserve of cultural elites.

There is no room for smugness. Real faith and the communities it creates must be renewed continually. We must be alert to the forces that seek destruction of the Divine in humanity. All this said, we have nothing to fear is we "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

My Debate with Atheists at MSU

On November 20, 2009 I was part of a three-person panel debating the question, "Does God Exist?" against three atheists, two of which are part of the nationally-known circuit of militant naturalists campaigning against religion in general and Christianity in particular. My teammates were Dr. Zachary Manis, a brilliant young philosopher and Dr. Greg Ojakangas, an astrophysicist and neuroscientist. We were opposed by Dr. Richard Carrier, a historian and prolific writer and Dr. Victor Stenger, physicist and author of several books "proving" God does not exist. The third atheist was J.T. Eberhard, a leading young local atheist organizer.

All of made a presentation and then there was open discussion. The atheists could not resist attacking Christianity while we kept the debate focused on the topic. They also did not respond to our major points and kept to their script which can be summarized as 1) Science can or will explain all phenomena of human experience; 2) Why doesn't a good God intervene all the time and talk directly to us? and 3) Theists have no testable proofs of their hypothesis. Interestingly, after I gave my presentation (which is given below), the only remark Dr. Stenger gave was, "Nice words, but no proof." He missed the entire point of my work - but that is to be expected of folks who live in the small world of scientific naturalism.

The atheists have no good answers (except to attack religion) when theists contend that it takes as much - or more - faith to believe that something can come from nothing as it does to believe in a Creator. Dr. Stenger claims that he has "proven" mathematically that something can come from nothing. But "nothing" is not really nothing and there was quantum tunneling that produced a "spontaneous phase transition" that kicked off the evolutionary process.

In the end, the atheists resorted to attacking God for not preventing evil and even calling Jesus "immoral"! They love to shoot down the Bible and Jesus and ignore the gaps in their thinking.

Before I give my remarks, I must say clearly that theists do live with paradox and that we do not have tidy answers to all mysteries. I like the thought of Bishop N.T. Wright when he says that we cannot fathom why evil exists, why (in the words of G.K. Chesterton, a "sneer was found in the universe" at Satan and humankind's rebellions) evil exists, but we believe that God in Christ is overcoming evil and that God invites us to partner in the healing and reconciling process.

Here are my opening remarks at the debate:

Theism is a coherent and intelligent worldview that continues to animate human life with meaning and purpose. Many sane and informed people embrace theism.

I had the privilege of growing up in a home of free inquiry, moral integrity and respect for faith in God.

My neighborhood was filled with all types of friends. There were Hungarian refugees from the 1956 Revolution, a Jewish family behind us, and Catholics, Protestants and skeptics were coaching Little League and attending PTA meetings.

When I was 12 years old my father wrote in his 25th Anniversary Harvard University Alumni Journal that I was, "a fiery humanist and repressed basketball star (too short)."

My pilgrimage toward authentic, intelligent theism led me to embrace (the Christian) faith as a young adult and I continue to examine the evidence for all faiths or none to this day.

I am a regional signer of the Williamsburg Charter, a celebration of the genius of the First Amendment. The first sixteen words therein ("Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof") allow people of all faiths or none to live peaceable with there deepest differences, even while we debate them passionately. My name is alongside Eli Weisel and Norman Lear, Coretta Scott King and Billy Graham, atheists and believers.

In the audience today are thinkers asking the important questions and testing long-held assumptions. Let's read voraciously, listen deeply and ponder humbly. My Cowell College motto at U.C. Santa Cruz is, "The pursuit of truth in the company of friends." I hope that I make some new friends of all persuasions today.

As theists, we answer today's question, "Does God Exist?" with a resounding, "Yes!" contending that religious belief is reasonable and warranted by a fair examination of the phenomena of human experience.

Dr. Richard Carrier has asserted that given enough time, all we experience is or will be explainable by natural processes and that we do not need any supernatural intervention.

Dr. Victor Stenger considers belief in God a failed hypothesis, and that religious people have been indoctrinated. A fully liberated and thoughtful person will choose atheism if given an opportunity free from the debilitating effects of family and religious communities. (A note here to Dr. Stenger: you will be much freer when you are liberated from the narrow confines of scientism)

I think cumulative arguments for justifying religious belief are valid and I want to touch on several pointers to God's existence...

I agree with A.N. Wilson that theism is a "deeper, wiser, more rounded" perspective.

The thoughtful
person's cry for justice, in the words of N.T. Wright, is one echo of the divine voice that seems universal and is not reducible to biology. The companion to this cri de coeur is our capacity for altruistic action and sacrificial love. The moral argument remains compelling. From C.S. Lewis to Francis Collins, the road from atheism to theism is paved with the query, "Why do I know there is a moral law?"

Atheist Kai Nelson said, "Pure, practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality."

R.Z. Friedman declares, "respect for persons and survival of the fittest are mutually exclusive."

Atheist Richard Carrier's best grounding for morality: "You should be moral because you will be happier as a moral person overall than if you become another sort of person."

Our love of beauty and extravagant creativity is another pointer to God. Beyond anthropological attraction for a mate...beyond religious rituals...humans create! We paint on cave walls, we sculpt figurines and we devise new technologies. Our capacities for innovation point to God, a Divine Creator whose creative instincts we naturally image.

Our self-awareness or self-consciousness seems to distinguish us from our fellow-inhabitant of our planet. (By the way, the "hard problem of consciousness", raised by our own Dr. Ojakangas, was never answered by the atheists.)

Our spirituality and capacity for supra-rational experiences is another reflection of God. We cannot reduce the ineffable dimensions of life to mere neurons. Our opponents want to invalidate all transcendent experiences, reducing them to epiphenomena of our biology and environment. My opponents have argued that there is no proof for the supernatural and that there are millions of proofs of natural phenomena; therefore there is no need for God. In response I will only say that just one unexplainable miracle invalidates reductionist naturalism. Carrier argues that supernatural phenomena are so scarce and so improbable that they are not worthy of wasting time on. Come with me to Africa, meet some Bishops with Ph.D.'s who are dealing with the supernatural everyday and see if your world remains the same!

The infinite detail of the microcosmic and the vast expanse of the macrocosmic often awaken in inquiring minds the possibility of a Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. This is just as plausible as something coming from nothing or the eternal existence of quantum particles. Information does not self-assemble and the apparent absence of evidence (for God) is no the same things as the evidence of absence!

Our opponents see chaos, randomness, violence and waste in the evolutionary process and state categorically, There is no God." Theists look at the same evidence and say, "What a wonderful but fallen world we live in."

The limitation of our knowledge is a call to humility. My opponents point toward our advances in scientific knowledge as a sign of no longer needing a God-hypothesis. I think our advances in knowledge are wonderful, but the explosion of knowledge in our Internet Age has not transformed our character, ethics or relational abilities.

The greatest pointer to God's existence is Love. When we seek the good of others more that our own, we are choosing beyond pleasure, narcissism or survival. Such love is not the preserve of the religious, but it is an indication that we are more than biology and physics. Nurturing a baby, ameliorating suffering and remaining faithful in relationships all posit that we are more than accidental and destined for more than decay.

Atheist Matthew Parris, after watching religious relief workers in Malawi, commented on their sacrificial compassion, that it "confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit into my worldview and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God."

The best atheism can offer is faith in science and some notion of an accidental, random cosmos. I think it is wiser to humbly believe and then choose to be partners with God in making our wonderful world even better.

My next post: We have Nothing to Fear from Militant Atheism!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Living with Paradox

As I prepare for a civil and lively debate with atheist scholars this week, I am struck by the number of paradoxes thoughtful folks live with all the time. As a celebration of being human, let's ponder the following:

We are capable of amazing altruism and stunning depravity. In the same village one family rescues a Jewish refugee while another sells her neighbor for a price.

We encounter breathtaking beauty and life-taking tsunamis.

The same event moves some into church and tears others away from faith.

Wonderful neighbors lose their jobs while overindulged athletes "renegotiate" a contract that represents more money than many will see in a lifetime.

We awaken with a sense of destiny and then discover a friend has cancer.

"The starry heavens above and the moral law within" bolster our faith and then we receive a "No" to certain prayers as someone else is chosen for that position.

The reason for such tensions is not the absence of God or meaninglessness in the universe.

We live in a world that is simultaneously glorious and fallen, full of the fingerprints of God and the signs of cosmic rebellion. When I consider the cumulative evidence of the Divine, I am filled with wonder. Why is there something and not absolute nothing? Why do we dance, sing, paint and rejoice for no reason except sheer delight? Why do we cry out for justice for the poor and feel the pricks of conscience about our own selfishness? Why do we shake our fists in anger at God one day and praise him the next?

Committed atheistic materialists will define all such experiences and paradoxes as the random consequences of evolution and invalidate any transcendent meaning or purpose. That is their prerogative and there is a cold logic to some of their assertions.

As we approach Thanksgiving, it seems to me that the pathway of humility and wonder leads to clearer thinking, deeper passion and courageous service for others. God is able to handle our questions and tears, our spontaneous praise and our reflective doubts.

I thoughtfully choose belief and I defend the right of my neighbor to choose unbelief. Let's be thankful we live in a nation where civil debate is possible and neighbors live peacefully next to others who see the universe very differently!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Culture of Deception and Hiddenness

We almost have a Health Care Reform Bill - a massive missive of almost 2000 indecipherable pages that few of our elected officials will even read.

Regardless of opinions of the role of the federal government, aren't the following facts disturbing?

The bill will not be posted in sufficient time for public review before a vote.

The "opt out" option for states is unclear and expensive.

Private citizens will face coercive economic pressure to join in.

The details are vague enough so that proponents can call opponents "paranoid."

The cure seems worse than the disease - another federal program with more jobs for bureaucrats.

The Obama Administration promised an open, non-partisan (even "post-partisan") culture of honesty and transparency. What they are delivering is Chicago street-politics that disregard and discard all opposition and entrench their cronies in positions of power.

Consider the concerns of conservatives - labeled "crackpots" by the smirking commentators on shows with low ratings - real people with real values who want to help people:

Why are their so many radicals in positions of power with social ideas way to the left of the campaign slogans?

Why has Obama spent nearly $2M to keep all his formative records sealed - from birth all the way through graduate school?

Why did Obama vote, "present" more than any leader in history when he was a Senator, both in Illinois and Washington, D.C.?

Why are the deficits out of control, despite promises to "watch every line" of the budgets?

Why can't we have the government help with health care subsidies so that uninsured and under insured can afford care provided by current private and public entities?

Why is the government providing billions to agencies and companies that will never create a single job?

Our current crises are NOT the fault of the Democrats alone. They are the result of more than 40 years of bad leadership and mismanagement from both parties.

Eisenhower was prophetic when he warned about the power of "the military-industrial complex."

Kennedy was handsome, but his foreign policies were often disastrous and he is to blame for the Vietnam debacle.

Johnson was foolish to think that we could have all the butter and guns we want with no consequences.

Nixon played the "China card" - and we are experiencing the effects today.

Carter was a poor leader and naive to think that lowering standards on mortgages would be helpful long-term.

Reagan won the Cold War but lost the domestic battle for a balanced budget.

Bush I and II failed to complete legitimate but limited military goals and, like all predecessors, failed to stem the red ink.

Bill Clinton succeeded more than most in achieving domestic compromises and progress, but set the bar even lower for character.

We need honest and open debate, not polemic name-calling. I do not want to be one more conservative bashing the current Administration, but I am not being shown any reasons to support current policies.

My progressive colleagues have told me to "shut up - you lost, so deal with it." Wow - this sure sounds post-partisan, eh?

On the other side, conservatives are not helped by pundits who just spout platitudes about values but offer no realistic solutions for the crises we face.

We have a short time to reign in spending, find solutions that bring our troops home, and create an atmosphere of cooperative engagement. I hope we will find the courage to forge new directions in discourse and policy before it is too late for our civilization.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Words Matter

Today I noticed an item online that signaled another subversion of the moral framework necessary for a free and well-ordered society. Apparently, some new marriage certificates are being issued with the category, "Opposite-Sex Marriage."

In our PC world, various elites will simply say that this is a way of equalizing all adult unions, so what is the problem?

The problem is that there is a best way to define marriage: one man and one woman. Anthropology, biology, history, psychology and sociology all support the superiority of this model. Though I affirm the sanctity of marriage as a Biblical Christian, I do not need to appeal to religious texts to make my case.

The vast majority of Americans - of all faiths or none - intuitively know what marriage is. An almost equal number are willing to support other types of domestic partnerships. Private and public organizations and legal systems all confirm the mutual responsibilities of adults living together.

This is not as essay on marriage. This is an essay on the power of words and the implications for society when words change their meaning and are redefined by particular interests.

History demonstrates that words are redefined over time. An 18th or 19th century "liberal" believed in capitalism, free-trade, and small government. Once these became part of the cultural fabric early in the 20th century, they became "conservative" values pitted against the rising tide of Marxism.

In the West, "tolerance" has evolved from, "I won't kill you" in the 16th century, to "You are welcome to your private convictions" in the 17th-18th century, to the breakthrough in liberty enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This is great progress, and our nation has been an inspiring experiment in how we can live peacefully with our deepest differences.

But is the late 20th and early 21st century, "tolerance" has devolved into, "You must affirm alternative moral positions even if they violate deeply-held convictions." When I state my objections to redefining marriage, I am libeled as "homophobic." I am accused of intolerance and "forcing my beliefs" on others.

The intolerance of my opponents far exceeds any narrowness on my side. By compelling me to agree with a position that violates both empirical data and deeply-held moral beliefs, I am the one being coerced, not the other way around!

"Opposite-Sex Marriage" is a categorical shift that paves the way for normalizing all adult unions as marriage. Again, let me be clear: I affirm the right of adults to arrange their domestic affairs within the bounds of civil order. That is not the same thing as affirming the morality of every action or allowing marriage to be redefined.

In our government documents, we need three categories: single, married and domestic partner. Though I believe it is best when singles are celibate and that men and women live in lifelong monogamous union, I will not impose that "demand" on others, provided my opponents will not impose their redefinitions on an unsuspecting society that intuitively knows what marriage should be.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Is Civil Discourse Possible?

I am tired.

No, I am not giving up on life, nor have I lost my passion that people "think deeply and act decisively."

I am tired of shrillness substituting for soundness and name calling replacing careful argumentation.

The critical ideas of Left, Right and Center are being lost in the current climate of in-your-face polemics.

Polemical writing is easy: find the weaknesses in opponents' arguments, demolish them and declare victory (at least in your own mind).

Attacking people rather than their propositions is another cop-out for lazy, media-soaked persons. Over-generalizing and facile labeling ("Fox News is no news...right-wing talk radio is harmful...all Democrats are Marxists...") keep us from examining issues well and arriving at reasonable solutions.

America's Founders were not immune to heated debate and personal insults. In fact, it was heated debates that led to The Declaration of Independence, and, later, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We need to take a lesson or two from the eighteenth century for the twenty-first if our experiment in freedom is going to move forward.

Here are some thoughts that may help us sort through the current maze of confusion. We have troops dying overseas, domestic budgets out of control, rival nations rejoicing in our demise while our idealistic or pragmatic allies look on with concern, and a media sowing more confusion than clarity, with no apology for bias.

First, we must affirm that underlying principles and our vision for the future really matter. How we see the universe, ourselves and our future is important. I am NOT calling for uniformity here - just honesty. If we can get genuine answers from politicians about their deepest concerns and how they envision the future, we can start understanding why they are passing certain laws. President Obama, what does America 2020 or even 2050 look like to you? Conversely, the same question can be asked of Governor Palin. Thomas Jefferson imagined a nation of farmer-intellectuals, property owners who would love to learn and improve society. He did not envision the current Leviathan we call the federal government.

Second, what we believe about individual responsibility makes a world of difference in the world we want to see. Do we legislate fat grams in food, but not sexual practices? Do we allow unbridled capitalism with no regard for environmental concerns? Are abortion and euthanasia rights, but conservative free speech on college campuses can be controlled by the mob? What should the government regulate and what is up to us to self-regulate? Is charity private, public or both - and to what extent should a government divest me and invest in others? These are real, not theoretical questions. Are we ready for a fresh articulation of Lockean principles of liberty, or will we capitulate to Hobbes's vision of an all-powerful state?

Thirdly, freedom of conscience and religion are the first freedoms secured by our First Amendment. For the first time in history, the state was not controlling, supporting or influencing the religious choices of its citizenry. Our new Republic had Deists, Freethinkers, Catholics and Protestants all fighting for freedom. Jews were allowed to assemble and worship without fear. Yes, we were a de facto Protestant land, but with no religious test for office and no state enforcement of conscience, people of all religions or none could live together. Applied today, we see that with few exceptions, no conservative Christian wants a Theocracy. In fact all religious adherents need to defend the rights of other religions as if they were their own. Militant atheists are mounting an assault on religion, especially the Monotheism of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The intemperate attacks of polemicists such as Dawkins and Hitchens would be humorous except that some people actually take them seriously. There is a place for real debates about God, the universe, morality and religion. But these need to be civil, not accusatory and they must be carried out with deep mutual respect for the importance of the matters at hand.

Horrific things have been done in the name of religion. All manner of oppression and violence have been perpetrated by people who thought they were serving their god. Atheism's record is no better; in fact, the 20th century is proof that the loss of religious restraint can unleash even greater slavery and violence. For every atheist bemoaning the Crusades, I offer a believer grieved by Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot on the Left and Hitler and his imitators in the Right.

Debating about God, truth and the meaning of life is needs to be done in a manner that moves us toward clarity and a greater ability to live with our deepest differences, not a uniformity of thought! Will we have the courage to do this?

I am less tired now that I have penned these first thoughts on a more civil future.

Our Founders were imperfect people. Many were ambivalent or supportive of slavery. In their world, women did not vote (though that would have changed if Abigail Adams had the floor!) and the federal government stayed as small as possible. For the past 220 years we have been slowly living out the implications of the liberty we were endowed with at our nation's birth. Will be prove ourselves worthy of our Founder's sacrifices?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beyond Either/Or - Again!

We live in a dangerous world and history is unkind to leaders who refuse to see the gathering storms.

Equivocation in the face of evil spells disaster. Conversely, ideological bigotry can prevent transformational solutions to real issues.

The American Presidents of the 1850s showed little courage to create an environment that would lead to the emancipation of slaves and preservation of the Union. Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan are in the Presidential Hall of Shame.

Warren Harding was undone by the corruption of his own advisers in the early 1920s.

Neville Chamberlain's capitulations to Hitler in 1938 are the embodiment of appeasement.

Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon lied to themselves and the American people about Vietnam, from our reasons for intervention all the way through the farcical "peace process" that led to the enslavement of Vietnam and Cambodia.

President Carter's inability to inspire a nation and act decisively when confronted by terrorism helped accelerate Islamofascist activity against Israel and the West.

Presidents Bush I and II both failed to live up to their domestic economic promises. They failed to act decisively in both Gulf conflicts, prolonging the agony of the local populations and increasing the body count of American soldiers.

President Obama continues and amplifies this legacy of wishful thinking. His combination of hubris and ignorance is appalling and dangerous. Flowery rhetoric and lofty hopes do not impress leaders bent on the destruction of the USA.

Getting rid of torture is admirable, but it will not end Iran's headlong rush to lob a nuclear bomb on Israel.

Calling on the world to pay attention to climate change (in spite of contradictory scientific reports) is noble, but it does not rid Africa of the warlords that keep Western aid from reaching the starving millions of that troubled continent.

Unless domestic governmental spending is controlled and new opportunities for entrepreneurs to flourish are created, the USA is rushing into economic and political oblivion within this generation.

As I pen these words, the dollar is in free fall and our enemies and erstwhile allies are looking for a new standard for international trade.

We are at a serious crossroads of history. The following thoughts are offered as ways to get beyond the campaign speeches of the current Administration and the histrionics of its opponents.

We can have economic growth and environmental sanity. Each helps the other. Left-wing control and right-wing greed need to yield to private-public stewardship. The USA should drill for oil AND develop new energy sources. We should learn from Europe's clean nuclear examples and work on alternatives. It does us no good to impoverish ourselves ("de-develop" is one Obama official's term)while the rest of their world improves its standards. There is enough for all on our abundant planet if we manage wisely.

We can fight terrorism without being a colonial/occupying power. We should have bases with troops and weapons capable of destroying terrorist dens while avoiding offending the sensibilities of those we aim to serve.

We can fight terrorism without granting civil rights to enemy combatants and without torture. We must not bring terrorists to US civil courts. We do not need to reduce ourselves to the terrorists immoral level in order to fight them successfully.

We can have civil rights for all and uphold traditional marriage. Marriage is a defining institution and no civilization in history has equalized heterosexual and homosexual unions. On the other hand, consenting adults are free to enter into domestic partnerships. Companies private and public can offer benefits as they choose.

We must avoid the either/or fallacy that plagues modern discourse.

We can have a strong Israel and a second (the first was Jordan) Palestinian State - if the Palestinian leadership will guarantee Israel's right to exist and not force the return of refugee descendants to locales within the agreed-upon boundaries of Israel.

We can be alert to climactic and environmental realities without capitulating to fear and losing necessary liberties. We DO have a profound impact on our world. When I was a child, no one could swim in the Great Lakes or San Francisco Bay. Today, they are destinations that are much cleaner and teeming with new life.

We can have good health care for all citizens and legal aliens without bankrupting our government and creating one more bloated, ineffective federal program. Remember City Hall and the State Capital? Let's rediscover local government and create new ways to act locally on universal concerns.

Political discourse is rough-and-tumble and to castigate opponents as "partisan" while refusing to work with them does no one any good. Labels such as "Communist" and "Nazi" need to be eschewed in favor of real debate on how to get things done.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Beyond Reaction

It is easy to criticize the foibles of philosophical and political opponents. The current Administration is so out of touch with the Constitution and the deepest values that have forged our nation.

It is also easy to list "talking points" about What Must Be Done, as long as the author has no real responsibility to do anything!

We must get beyond reaction to substantive action that will actually improve the lives of American citizens, and, indeed, people around the globe impacted by American policies.

I challenge Conservatives and Republican leaders to show wisdom as well as passion and forge partnerships and policies that have a chane of working. I challenge Progressives and Democrats to confront history and recognize that bigger, centralized agencies do not work well and end up oppressing rather than serving.

Here are some thoughts to move us forward:

* Health care is not a Constitutional Right. It is, however, the compassionate prerogative of a civilized society.

* The Federal and State governments should regulate the licensing and practices of health care providers, ensuring that they are fair, honest and qualified.

* The government - at all levels - should not be the direct administrator of health services.

* No citizen should be without medical coverage. I do favor some type of grant to help the unemployed and underemployed have access to decent care other than an emergency room. BUT, this is not the same as current "public options" which are a mask for the long-term Progressive goal of single-payer care.

* Illegal aliens need to be placed on a road to legitimacy or deported. Of course, emergency care needs to be - and is - available to all people. Citizenship and legal residency need to matter again.

* Any illegals incarcerated in our systems need to be deported.

* We need to have well-prepared Delta Force soldiers on bases withing striking distance of terrorist strongholds. We do not need to be an occupying force in any nation. Let's bring the troops home, but let's keep a presence that will be able to confront these fanatical nests of evil.

* We need to live within our means. With our huge budget, this means a 10-15% cut in all spending, with no increases. Impossible? Not at all! Every department, every salary, every expense budget is affected. Only then will reality come home to our "public servants" at all levels. The only areas uncut are the actual resources for the poor (food stamps and direct aid monies) and for front-line troops (blanket and bullets) in the field.

* We need to stop being a wholly-owned subsidiary of China and other financial barons. Lowering the deficit, insisting on fair trade and lowering taxes on new enterprises will help restore our economy.

* Urban blight is not solved by more money. Washington D.C. itself is worse than some developing nations. How can abject poverty exist just blocks from the Capitol? It is time to forge real partnerships with religious communities, charities, social service providers, businesses and educators. It is time to get past all the PC language and posturing and create hope, jobs, safe environments and a culture of civility and moral rectitude. This must not be a new federal program, but authentic partnerships among those who live and work in the neighborhoods themselves.

* I challenge all Conservative and Progressive Foundations to give an accounting for where all the money goes and an assessment of organizational effectiveness. The results will be startling.

* It is hypocritical to promote abortion-on-demand and then criticize some cultures who choose to abort certain babies. When will we choose to be advocates for all the vulnerable: the unborn, physically/mentally challenged, the poor and marginalized and the infirm and aged? Only when we have a fully pro-life ethic will our compassion be more than words.

* It is time to celebrate small business, private property and success. Karl Marx hated England's shopkeepers. Hitler and Stalin hated private industry, but made private deals with select industrialists anyway. Mao killed millions and did not "leap forward" well. We can have private enterprise without environmental rapaciousness. We can care for God's world and watch it produce new wealth.

* We must be vigilant for the First Amendment - even when it offends our sensibilities. Preaching morality in churches, mosques and synagogues is not "hate speech." Conversely, Atheists have a right to assemble and critique religion - as long as they can handle losing the public argument most of the time. Opposing government funding of some expressions is NOT censorship - artists and authors can find other ways to communicate besides my tax dollars. Direct threats to our security should be taken seriously and Islamofascism must not be allowed to grow.

We will continue this list of forward thinking soon. The questions for all of us are, "Am I willing to do something for the good of others locally? Will I get involved nationally and globally, securing the same opportunities for others that I enjoy for myself?"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Joe the Heckler

Last summer before the 2008 Presidential Election, Joe the Plumber made quite a splash with his criticisms of then-candidate Barack Hussein Obama. The attempts to destroy him have failed and Joe the Plumber remains an interesting voice in the public square.

Last night we were introduced to Joe the Heckler who rudely interrupted the President's speech on health care reform with two words, "You lie!"

A shocked political class and their media minions are aghast with such effrontery. Today's apology is not quelling their quest for blood - and a quick opportunity to pick up votes for a bill no one can define.

I do not endorse the rude behavior, though I am bemused by the historical amnesia of those in power regarding their responses to President Bush's speeches. In today's America, run by the current crop of elitists, it is OK

* To force conservative speakers off platforms at universities.

* To call all Republicans a variety of names.

* To boo President Bush during State of the Union speeches, but be shocked by last night's outburst.

* To laugh about the details of bills you are passing, suggesting that more lawyers are needed to understand them, but who has time for such work? (Thank you Mr. Conyers)

* To denigrate your opponents as "extremists" and "Nazis" while designating your own leftist leaders as "progressive."

* To watch Arab students on more than 600 campuses call for the destruction of Israel while commending the "peaceful" religion of Islam.

* To claim pro-choice credentials while bemoaning the abortion of girl babies in China and India (thank you Secretary Clinton).

* To excoriate anyone questioning Obama's eligibility for President while ignoring the sealed records of most of his background before becoming a state senator, questioning John McCain's eligibility, and spending hundreds of thousands in legal fees to keep the records sealed and marginalize dissent.

* To defend the regimes of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro and neglect the tens of thousands imprisoned or killed by these thugs.

To criticise military torture (a valid point) while ignoring the trail of hundreds of destroyed people who tried to stop the Obama juggernaut.

To attack and marginalize Governor Palin while sidestepping every question of how the mounting deficits will be confronted.

Joe the Heckler was out of order. But Joe the Heckler was correct: our President is lying to us about the nature and scope of his plans for our nation's future in general and the breadth of health care reform in particular.

Right now, anyone who needs urgent care - with or without "documents" - can receive it in an emergency room. This is not a good long-term solution, but the idea that at least limited care is not available is wrong.

The current Administration is bent on destroying our traditional concept of citizenship. Technically, any health benefits will go to citizens, but in the name of "compassion" the "undocumented" will be eligible, especially if they are paying something into the government coffers.

The Obama Team is aided by agribusinesses that refuse to update their technology and therefore need a supply of cheap labor. Joined by "activists" and compassionate folks, these unlikely allies are eroding our financial and political stability. By the way, recent polling notes that many unemployed American citizens would be willing to work at the so-called "jobs no one wants." It is cheaper to break the law for business owners. Consider the following:

* California's overcrowded prisons could become a model of cleanliness and space if all illegals were deported forthwith.

* Much of the public debt of several states would be reduced if illegals were deported.

People from all nations except Mexico have to go through a gauntlet before being able to work and vote in the USA. When are we going to get over the misplaced guilt of 1848, reaffirm our borders and tell the Mexican government to use their vast oil wealth to take care of there own people, clean up their drug trade and stop killing the illegals on their southern border?

Joe the Heckler spoke for millions about the Democratic Leadership's real agenda: permanent power, socialism and the global elites controlling our destiny.

"Keep saying it is so, Joe!"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Unholy Alliances Then and Now

Exactly 70 years ago (August 22-23, 1939 to be precise), Germany and the USSR stunned the world by signing a non-aggression pact. In a moment, years of animosity had to be covered and new propaganda created to explain this shocking development. Two bitterly opposed totalitarian states working together? How could this happen? This pact sealed the fate of Poland (with the secret protocols dividing the nation) and ultimately plunged the world into another World War.

Each dictator hoped to gain time to consolidate power for what they knew would be a showdown in the future. When Germany violated the pact on June 22, 1941 and launched Operation Barbarossa, she invaded the Soviet Union and launched a war of extermination unparalleled in history. Stalin was stunned. Stalin was not expecting an invasion so soon and his own military was eviscerated by the recent show trials and massacres of the military elite. Hitler miscalculated Germany's ability to deliver a crippling blow to the USSR before winter. Germany's ultimate defeat was sealed in the snow outside of Moscow.

These facts are well-known. What makes them important for 2009 is the parallel between the Hitler-Stalin agreement and the current tacit understanding between the radical Left and militant Islam. Paraphrasing Jonah Goldberg, we have liberal fascists joining arms with religious reactionaries in order to undermine centuries of democratic development. Each side thinks it can co-opt the other to serve its agenda.

I am not accusing all liberals of fascism or suggesting that most Democrats do not want democracy. This would be as unjust as those who call opponents of current health care plans Nazis. I am also not suggesting that most Muslims support the violent Islamic radicals.

With these caveats, I am making a direct parallel between the unholy alliance of ideological powers in 1939 and the bizarre capitulation of the Western Left to Islamofascism. The Left will berate Judaism and Christianity, question the US Constitution, create a European Union with no reference to any religious heritage and protect the rights of those who preach the literal destruction of Israel and the USA. Meanwhile, a combination of demographics and slick propaganda are preparing Europe to come under the Crescent in the next few decades.

We must debate policies and we can differ greatly, but the citizens of freedom around the world must be on guard against the inflexible totalitarian ideologies that threaten liberty. The strong monotheism and morality of Judaism and Christianity are guarantors of freedom because they inspire a self-regulating and virtuous citizenry. If we do not wake up and put our moral and political house in order, American and Western civilization will be a historical memory very soon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Third Way

My last blog was a polemic against the totalitarian tendencies I see in the current administration.

Today I want to offer a way forward for our nation that draws on the brilliance of our Founders and the ingenuity of today's citizens. I still believe that the USA is the greatest experiment in freedom and that we do not have to change our foundational principles to continue this adventure into the 21st century.

In all the debates on economics, health care and infrastructure, we are forgetting one Constitutional principle and one lesson from our history.

Our Constitution clearly enumerates the limits and responsibilities of the federal government. All other prerogatives and rights are left to the states or the people (Amendments 9 and 10).

Why does this matter?

For 80 years the influence and power of the federal government has been overtaking the responsibilities of local and state government and well as individual citizens. It is one thing to defend the inalienable rights of millions (the Civil Rights Movement); it is quite another to legislate services as rights.

The federal government exists to protect us from foreign attack and secure our basic natural rights. It does not exist to provide all the goods and services we need. From our founding, political leaders have argued about the scope of government. The Hamilton-Jefferson debates are profoundly important. Neither of these men would be happy with the power and size of our current federal system.

Our President does have a bully pulpit - to influence citizens, local and state leaders to do the right thing on a number of issues. Congress can mandate ethical oversight of a variety of arenas. These hortatory and regulatory actions are consistent with our Founders' vision. What is tragic about today's federal system is the amount of inefficient and oppressive agencies. George Will was right when he argued that much of government seems to exist for an academic class that cannot make it in the real world!

What we need is a serous public dialogue on how local and state governments can provide the services that their citizens deem important. It is OK if there is a difference between the policies of Missouri and California. People in power forget that their budgets come from real money earned by real people.

Mayors and governors need to sit down with health care providers, corporations and public employees and create viable solutions that fit the particulars of their region. The federal authorities can help by providing ethical oversight and - please note this - resolving the immigration issue!

If we removed the illegal immigrants from California prisons, we would have no overcrowding issue and we would solve some of the budgetary problems. If we create a legal process of assimilation toward citizenship and/or guest worker status, we can improve fiscal health nationwide and be fair to those who want a chance to be part of our great nation. Of course, unscrupulous Democratic politicians who want cheap votes and unethical Republican business leaders who want "undocumented" labor must be called to account!

The historical principle that needs revival is private-public partnership. It is possible to make money and offer reasonable services. It is possible to deploy brilliant entrepreneurs to solve our infrastructure issues without capitulation to rapacious capitalism. Again, local and state governments need to solve most of our issues. Federal "cap and trade" will only stifle our economy and force more people to become dependent on government largess.

Democrats and Republicans share equal responsibility for the issues confronting us. Both parties have forgotten their basic principles - principles embodied in leaders like Eisenhower and Truman. We can have ethical oversight of free enterprise. We can have lively but civil debate on issues. We can oppose all forms of totalitarianism at home and abroad while being accountable for our actions. We can love our nation and want to make her better at the same time.

We need to argue about the role of government. We need to argue about all types of issues. Conservatives must not assume all advocates of nationalized health care are
Communists. Liberals must stop using the "Nazi" of "Fascist" moniker for all opponents of Barack Obama. Is anyone ready to debate fully the merits of the plans before the Congress? More importantly, are we ready to take personal responsibility to work with local and state leaders to provide the services we deem compassionate?

I am a conservative. I reject abortion, infanticide and active euthanasia. I affirm the brilliance of the free market system. I do not believe, Mr. President, that our Constitution was flawed because it did not address the issue of wealth distribution. The only flaw in our Constitution cost us a Civil War.

More than being a conservative, I am a thoughtful Christian and I believe that we can unite freedom and compassion. We must care for single moms and children. We must tend to the elderly and infirm. We must hold business leaders responsible for their ethics and all health care providers have a moral obligation to offer the best possible services to all their clientele. We must renew urban neighborhoods with the help of clergy, business and civic leadership. We must see the complexity of some issues (like certain farm subsidies) and the simplicity of others (like 99% of abortions).

During these hot August nights I worry that these real issues will be avoided while the chattering classes scream at each other.

Arguments created our Constitution. Civil debate can renew our liberties and unleash creativity. Let's engage for the good of our nation and the world. Oh, and by the way, we have to live within our means.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Some Forty-Year-Old Medicine

The Democractic leadership is displaying a palpatable arrogance unparalled in U.S. history. Marginalizing anyone who disagrees with them as "Nazis" and suggesting that the grassroots protests are no more than "astroturf" are tactics designed to hide their grasp for totalitarian power.

Let the record show that it is Democrat operative Axelrod who created the "astroturf" genre of public manipulation.

There are real debates on how to improve health care that are not taking place because the ideologues are in power rather than competent public and private leaders working together to improve American life.

We DO need government regulation of the ethics and standards of medical care.

We DON'T need government administration of health care - it will only become a greater nightmare than it already is (for some).

Health care is not a right - it is a service best provided for by local and state agencies. We do not need a national debate - we need concerned people working hard to create care without another federal agency.

President Obama had the arrogance to take credit for the recent (small) improvements in the economy and he is using the mistakes of a few to aggrandize power for his chosen few. We do not need "a new foundation" for economics - we need to root out dishonesty and corral the corrupt politicians and business leaders.(Are you listening Barney Frank?)

The Democratic leadership screams, "Foul!" when a town hall is disrupted by protestors. I do believe in civil discourse, but I also think that the Dems are guilty of sour grapes!

When leftists are disruptive, it is "free speech" - even when condoms are thrown in churches and conservative speakers booed off college platforms.

When conservatives get feisty, they are called "Nazis" even though Hitler's minions hated business, loved socialism and created the largest welfare state in Europe.

When ACORN intimidates, it is called "grassroots agitation."

When conservatives protest, they are either ignored or marginalized - the arguments are never refuted!

Obama and his court - yes, his attitude is closer to Fidel than JFK - have forgotten that America is more than an urban elite or masses to be manipulated. America is a diverse land of individuals who want effective government to protect them from tyranny, not impose it.

We must remember that

* Obama is the most liberal politician ever elected.

* Obama continues to suppress information about much of his past and gloss over the outright lies in both his narcissistic autobiographies.

* Obama is pro-death - his own votes and recent appointments affirm that he has never met an unborn or newborn that cannot be killed.

* Obama's vision of what America should be is so out of touch with our history that our Founders would shudder at his interpretations of their work.

* Obama has never renounced his radical roots or friendships or displayed any willingness to compromise on any legislation.

* Obama maintains distance from all legislation, making vague promises while boasting that he has not read all of the bills. I guess he took a lesson from Senator Conyers who caustically stated that the bills would take "two lawyers and two days" to read and understand. Gee whiz, Mister Senator, you find the time to travel around the nation screaming at conservatives. Why don't you just read the bills - and maybe make them clearer? By the way, dictators throughout history have allowed agencies to fight while they stayed above it all.

* I hope I am on the new White House "enemies list" that Obama is creating as he calls on people to inform the Administration of anyone making "strange arguments" against his policies. The spin is that they want to refute the arguments - the reality is that they will try to destroy anyone who is a serous opponent.

* Obama is determined to remake the economy and force Americans into collectivist and globalist molds, ignoring our liberty and deliberately risking our financial future by increasing deficits so much that is places us at the mercy of the powers who control him.

* Obama does not have any personal experience with anything resembling real work, so he cannot understand what small business folks experience.

* Obama and his fellow-elitists refuse to solve the immigration problem because they do not believe in national sovereignty and they see endless power through an endless stream of poor workers in the system.

To all thoughtful Americans, Democrat, Republican and any other affiliation (or none): There are real issues that deserve serious debate. We can avoid real estate bubbles again - if both business and government leaders decide to live ethically. We can provide health care for all through public-private partnership. Obama loves to speak about the selfishness of doctors and medical providers and how they either run too many tests or turn down claims. Yet he offers no solid solutions and current legislation would reduce the quality of care for most people who have (and pay for) health insurance!

To my fellow thoughful-folks: let's stop calling names, overgeneralizing and putting blame on our favorite demons, whether they are left or right. What we must do is renew our commitment to the Constitution. Primary power is with the people and the states. The role of the federal government is protection of rights, not the bestowal of largesse.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Unbelievable Arrogance

"The sky is falling!" "Doom, despair and destruction!" "Floods and famine!"

Such are the histrionics of the current Democratic leadership as they attempt to coerce Congress into passing the worst piece of legislation is U.S. history. Never in our years as a Republic has such a blatant attempt at total centralization of economic and social policy come before us.

In addition to being immoral, unconstitutional, ineffective and globalist, this "Climate Change" bill (notice the nuanced transition from the discredited phrase, "global warming" to the vaguer "climate change" now that science has confirmed a cooling trend since 1998) is baseless, manipulative propaganda, designed, in the words of Al Gore, to move the USA toward "global governance."

Finally, we have some honesty in the midst of the elitist manipulation of the masses. The real winners are the new multinationals dedicated to "green" industries that cannot make money without a massive transfer of private wealth to the public sector!

The unbelievable arrogance of the neopagans running the show is almost too much to take.To think that humankind has control over nature is the height of pride and a contradiction of the "simple" life they claim to desire. Think about these incongruous ideas, side-by-side:

* Abortion on demand, but save the slug.

* Regulate all kinds of emissions, but the elite can have a personal 747.

* Make the USA accountable to the world, but allow the greater polluters - Russia, China, and India - generations before they are regulated.

* Tax all the productive citizens, but make back room deals with bankers and watch the bonuses flow.

* Claim to care about the "regular citizen" but create legislation so complex that the people voting on it do not understand or even read all of it!

* Excoriate the oil companies while subsiding unproven and unproductive technologies.

What is the agenda of President Obama and friends? Nothing less than centralized control of everyday life and ultimate global governance.

This train wreck must be halted in the next two elections or historians will declare 2008 the end of the American experiment in freedom.

Friday, July 03, 2009

July 4, 1776 and July 4, 2009

On July 4, 1776, John Hancock was the only signer of the Declaration of Independence. The rest affixed their names on August 2. For most, the pledge of their, "lives, fortunes and sacred honor." would mean catastrophic loss and, for some, the ultimate price.

Our Founders sorrowfully parted with England after years of debate. The intractable King George III and Lord North would not listen to the wise words of Edmund Burke and others in Parliament who called for compromise in 1774 and 1775.

The American Revolution was radical - in a very conservative sort of way!

The Founders thought long and hard about independence and when they did declare it, they argued that it was England's violation of her own legacy of political freedom and representation that prompted the Revolution.

John Adams, later our second President, quipped that the Colonies were one-third for revolution, one-third against and one-third indifferent. Historical research confirms that a majority of free citizens supported the cause of freedom, while large numbers could not break their Loyalist ties, including Ben Franklin's son, William.

In today's confusion and ignorance, it will surprise many that the colonists were fighting for LESS government interference in trade and an economy unshackled by the 18th century equivalent to centralized socialism, which was mercantilism.

Our Founders believed in God-given natural rights and that the role of government was to protect these rights, not bestow them! For nearly seven years, war raged in various spots and with the help of Dutch and French money and naval support, Washington secured victory. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 brought independence and official recognition of the USA. The War of 1812 briefly raised British hopes of re-conquest (or at least humbling their former colonies), but the Treaty of Ghent in 1815 secured our liberty and ended British interference in North America.

Since these early days, America has been the greatest experiment in self-correcting liberty in world history. The failure to deal with slavery in the 1780s ultimately brought a Civil War. The great Civil Rights Movement finally aligned our land with the highest principles of her Founders. Reformers, animated by our Declaration and Constitution, have helped Americans confront injustices everywhere, from voting rights to labor laws to criminal law. There is much to be proud of as we celebrate the Fourth of July this year.

But there are ominous signs that the sacrifice of two centuries is about to be squandered by the subversive ideologues now in power and pulling the purse strings.

Whether it is the completely unconstitutional interference in the marketplace, the radical favoritism of the current Hate Crimes Bill or the President sanctifying June as a special month for GLBT practitioners, we are faced with our greatest crisis of identity in our history.

Our Founders understood that freedom rested upon a virtuous citizenry and that virtue flowed from timeless moral and religious principles that were not subject to legislation. The Founders specifically forbade any religious test and the first sixteen words of the First Amendment affirm non-interference an all matters of religion.

When we survey the situation on July 4, 2009, we see an inversion of all our Founder's values. Government takeover of companies and industries and federal favoritism of chosen lifestyles marks a new, terrifying chapter in our descent into the abyss of totalitarianism. "Cap and Trade" is another manifestation of this willful ignorance of our basic principles.

Attorney General Comrade Eric Holder specifically notes that neither military personnel nor Christian clergy would be protected by the current Hate Crimes Bill. He notes that the Bill's purpose is to redress historic crimes against particular groups, but he could not cite a single instance where a victim of a hate crime did not receive justice in the courts. In other words, if an Iman, Rabbi or Minister speaks out against homosexual behavior and they are assaulted by a radical activist, this is not a hate crime. However, if a member of these religious groups assault a GLBT person, it is a hate crime! Equal Protection is gone forever and the Era of Special Preferences begins.

Let me state unequivocally that any crime against any person, regardless of class, ethnicity, gender, gender preference or religion must be prosecuted fully. By the same token, the accused must receive adequate defense counsel and a fair trial.

Even more ominous that these economic and legislative gambits are the educational agendas of the the radical activists in the Obama Administration. There are serious calls to end Mothers' and Fathers' Day and to indoctrinate on alternative lifestyles beginning in kindergarten. In fact, there are calls for "re-educating" parents who are too narrow for the Brave New World envisioned by the current elites.

I have spoken with the survivors of "re-education" camps in Cambodia and Vietnam and tortured dissidents from Cuba and Venezuela. The moment government officials start dictating the most cherished matters of conscience, morality and religion, liberty is vanquished and the American Experiment is over.

As we barbeque and enjoy fireworks, debate the issues and enjoy our liberty, let's be alert to the voice of our Founders and stop the aggrandizement of freedom in the name of "progressive" thinking.

My father is in his 80s and has lived through the Depression, WWII, and all the upheavals of the past three-quarters of a century. As we shared the other day, he mentioned five things he looks for in public officials regardless of their party. I think Dad captures well the spirit of our Founders when he says that Awe, Compassion, Courage, Integrity and Responsibility represent the foundation of public service and our nation.

My Dad and I argue much on policy and we do not agree on many areas, but here we find profound common ground - the kind discovered by Truman and Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan, and even Abraham Lincoln and Unionist Democrat Andrew Johnson. Adams and Jefferson reconciled in their dotage and spent years forging points of unity to preserve the uniqueness of America.

I pray we can capture that same spirit before it is too late.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Compassion and Control

Every day I wake up and see a facet of my beautiful country marred or destroyed by the current totalitarian regime.

I think many of out current leaders want to be compassionate and helpful, but their ideology, philosophy and strategy, if unchecked by principle and reason, will subvert our freedoms and subjugate America to powerful forces beyond her control.

Compassion for our current administration means huge increases in government spending and jobs for middle class graduates in community studies and government. Compassion means federal control of what were local and state concerns. Compassion is the forcible redistribution of wealth from the productive to the dependent, with little regard for the complexities of business and wealth.

If the current policies were not so tragic, they would be laughable. Yes, we need to help folks get medical help. While illegal aliens are funded by bankrupt states, hard-working Americans are told to "not have the surgery - take the pain medication" as if an official with no medical training knows all about what only a doctor and patient should do.

Compassion defined this way will destroy our medical systems, ration care and ultimately sanction abortion, euthanasia and a host of nanny-state directives from nutrition to exercise. In the end, such intrusion erodes our freedoms and violates every tenet of the Founders' beliefs. We should not be surprised - we have a President who thinks the Constitution is flawed because it did not address the distribution of wealth!

The only flaws in our Constitution have already been addressed:

* The failure to eradicate slavery lead to the Civil War and the issues arising there led to the Civil Rights Movement - the last universal public crusade all people of conscience agreed on.

* Suffrage became universal in 1920 and for all adults over 18 in the 1960s.

* Presidential power was checked with a two-term limit after WWII and the War Powers Act.

The vision of our Founders was limited government that provided protection for natural rights and defense of the nation. Today's bloated government and regulation of minute personal domains would remind our ancestors of the absolute monarchies of the Continent.

What is the agenda at work in "Cap and Trade"? Nothing less than the destruction of current processes that provide us with affordable energy and products. In the name of the environment, we will see the creation of "green" alternatives that will put billions into the hands of a new elite while strangling the average consumer.

Everywhere I hear that we need to stop "partisan" bickering about "minor" issues such as abortion and stem cells. "Partisan" is the term the dominant powers use to squelch dissent. We are also supposed to assume that climate change is the greatest crisis of the day and demands accountability to transnational authorities.

Here the real collectivist and globalist agendas are exposed.

Abortion is about choice and life. It is too fundamental to our identity as human beings to be ignored. Our current administration is sanctioning murder, period. It is one thing to make tragic moral choices and permit some abortions for non-voluntary conceptions. it is quite another to destroy a baby in the womb, in the birth canal, or, if Peter Singer is heard, any time in the first month or so!

Adult stems cells have proven therapeutic value. Embryonic ones are not needed to go forward in healing. At the root of this debate in narcissism - the great plague of our day and our our current administration.

Isn't it fascinating that the phrase, "man-made global warming" has been exchanged for "climate change that we need to do something about." The fact that thousands of scientists question the last 20 years of computer models means nothing to those bent on control - and appropriation of billions of dollars. The hubris of climate change advocates is stunning. The idea that humankind is in control of nature is utter folly and reminds us all of the Tower of Babel, where people thought they could live independently.

Should we be concerned about the environment? Of course - we are stewards of a uniquely abundant planet that is endowed with all we need for everyone to prosper. We need to help China, India and Russia learn basic ecological management. We need to awaken to the realities of global interconnection and work together to liberate millions from the tyranny of governments and ideologies that keep basic necessities from flowing to those who need them.

Communism does not work - in any form. The harshest killed millions in China and the Soviet Union while barely delivering goods and services. the "softer side" of Marxism - European socialism - works for a limited time, but is now being adjusted in nations that want a thriving economy. Europe is headed for cultural and economic implosion with a declining birthrate, subversive Islamic radicalism and global competition.

We need to argue again about real issues. In a pluralistic democracy we can live with our deep differences and forge compromises that liberate the energies and wisdom of all people.

Republicans utterly failed to live up to their core principles during the twelve years of Bush I and Bush II. It is their own inconsistencies that opened the door to the current totalitarianism.

Democrats are not exempt. Their inability to reign in spending and their hypocrisy of taxing the productive while shielding their own wealth needs to be exposed and ended.

In Marxist theory and practice, the small farmer, the landlord and the shopkeeper are the enemies of a centrally-controlled state that is in theory egalitarian, but in reality favors the approved ideologues and government operatives. Capitalism often exploits the poor for the some of the rich. Marxism exploits the productive for the new elite.

The way forward is simple: We must recapture our moral center, call for accountability and create partnerships that liberate instead of control.If we do not intervene in the elections of 2010 and 2012, they may be the last free ones we have.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Germany 1933 and the USA 2009

Amidst the smiles and self-congratulatory parties among the elites, we are watching our nation slide into the abyss of totalitarianism.

Before you assume that this is another "bash Obama" piece and stop reading, I urge you to continue and realize that what I am about to say has little to do with the current President and everything to do with the moral condition of our nation.

Totalitarians Left or Right can only thrive in a vacuum of moral and political courage. 20 years of Bush and Clinton reflect the ambiguity that is in our public square. We have people on the Right so angry at Clinton for his personal peccadillos that they cannot see the 1994-1996 domestic negotiations that did improve some policies. The same folks defend Bush for his (mostly positive) national security policies, while refusing to see the spending habits that brought bankruptcy to our fiscal house.

Some on the Left are so anti-Bush that they are willing to forget the agenda of radical Islam, ignore the shouts of genocide against Israel and even secretly hope that the "Amerikan Empire" comes to an end. They fail to see that the hard work and moral self-regulation of their predecessors bequeathed the freedom to self-destruct.

Germany in 1933 was financially, morally and psychologically adrift. The ghosts of WWI (think Vietnam) roamed the hallways and streets and moderate voices could not be heard above the din of Communist and Nazi banners. Hitler's party never won a majority of seats, but formed a coalition with other nationalist groups (who thought they could control him). Everyone thought things would "moderate" after the first flush of victory. After the death of President Hindenberg in 1934, there was no barrier to total control.

Behind the scenes, the Nazis cut deals with key industrialists and took control of the unions. They created the largest welfare state ever and until 1945 most Germans enjoyed a better standard of living than the rest of Europe. Of course, this came at the expense of millions in the nations around Germany.

Lenin made similar arrangements with domestic and foreign business concerns in the early 1920s in the new USSR, admitting he needed the "useful idiots" of world capitalism.

When a significant number of people look to the national government to "do something" about concerns that used to be local or personal, we have come to a historic "tipping point" that will not be easily reversed. When key financial leaders (Buffett, Soros, et. al.) are mute or supportive, we see the handwriting on the wall for a full nanny-state to emerge.

I am NOT suggesting that our President has genocide in mind or the end of democracy. In fact, I think what is frightening is that he and his circle think they can pull off democratic socialism better than others, in spite of all historical evidence and in the face of some current dismantling of European experiments.

We must evaluate and either support or oppose policies on their own merits. I am deeply concerned that once the government owns any piece of any company that they will never let go. When Obama says, "Sacrifice!" he means higher taxes and the forced redistribution of wealth. When Obama says, "Partnership" he means government regulation. When Obama speaks to the Muslim world, he extols his Islamic experience; while insisting that Christian symbols are covered at a Georgetown University event.

Obama and his elite believe they are wiser than the hard-working Americans who generate the wealth and jobs that sustain us.

Obama has the hubris to think he can dress down Israel. I hope he is not listening to the senile voice of Jimmy Carter who thinks Hamas needs to be off the terrorist list!

Enough about Obama's philosophy and policies. He is a self-aggrandizing Chicago politician who has spent 20 years preparing for power and he is determined to push his reactionary agenda. He is not really progressive, for his education and formation came at the feet of thinkers who spent a lifetime reacting against the values and vision that formed our nation.

The real enemy of our future is us.

"We the People" must decide that moral and spiritual renewal is the top priority for our nation.

Our government exists to protect our natural, God-given rights, not bestow them!

The Lockean vision of our Founders saw people flourishing with little interference or intervention by the federal government. Except for times of war or emergency, the Town Hall and State House are supposed to be more important than Foggy Bottom.

If we want to arrest this descent into totalitarianism, we must decide that

* Parents are responsible for their children and need to place their needs above their own impulses. Adultery and pornography are wrong and the next generation deserves Mom and Dad at the helm of the home. The alternative is your local elementary school controlling the family agenda!

* Government is at its best when it regulates, not administrates. Employee work conditions, environmental standards and reasonable trade practices have a long, positive history. But ownership and regulation of pay and profits for enterprise are ultimately self-destructive of initiative. An interesting historical note: 1942 was the first time food production returned to the 1914 level in Russia. Stalin allowed private plots! Collectivism was a massive failure.

* Local and State governments must learn to work leaner and smarter. The goal is not jobs for Community Studies majors, but delivery of essential services in a fair and timely fashion.

* Business leaders need to sit down with local and state leaders and design initiatives to renew cities and towns that reward risk, care for the environment and create sustainable enterprises. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful may find a place in the 21st century.

* A Pro-Life Ethic includes opposition to abortion and active euthanasia - and much more. Pro-Life means that all phases of life matter and caring for the poor and vulnerable is a moral obligation, not just a government program. The current totalitarian policies, if left unchecked, will result in millions of elderly and infirm unable to receive care. Former Governor Richard Lamm told the terminally ill that they had a duty to die. Will we see "Soylent Green" in our lifetime?

* Free Speech includes integrity and presenting the multiple sides of any issue. The current polarization and politicization of our media does not serve our nation well. President Bush was excoriated for every move he made. He was portrayed as dumb, ignorant and wicked - all in the fine tradition of rough and ready American politics (just read about the 1828 elections sometime!). President Obama is getting more than a free pass from the media - he is co-opting their resources and running a 24/7 campaign for power. Where are the muckrakers of the 21st century asking the hard questions, especially about the bailout $$?

* Religious leaders need to stop pandering to base passions and proclaim their doctrines and disciplines with grace and without compromise. We can live with our deepest difference while we call for conversion, debate the important issues and watch America's diverse religious life thrive. Atheism and agnosticism are free to flourish in the minds of adherents - but they are not free to suppress free expression, public debate and manipulate school curricula.

* Finally, we must all take stock of our own lives and choose to live for the good of others and our posterity. Only then will we possess the courage to resist the tide and reverse our course. Our aim is not the "good old days." Our aim is a bright future of freedom rooted in personal virtue and civic responsibility.