Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Enemies Without ; Enemies Within

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Threats to our safety come from two sources: external and internal—those outside the nation and those within. People who clamor for gun registration and cry that we should deny gun ownership have naively ignored the potential for the internal threats to our well-being that make private ownership of weapons an absolute necessity. Multiple sources exist for these threats, from native born terrorists, thieves and rapists, to those who violently discriminate or act out grudges. Internal threats can also come from a government run amok.
Those who would “protect us” by taking our guns have failed to see that those we trust. whether they be neighbors,  those struggling with their own demons, or government officials and agencies, sometimes betray us. Gun restrictions, including registration of gun owners, invite our victimization by internal forces. Surely this is like protecting your property from mountain lions while ignoring the wolves in the front yard.
The following excerpts from Promises of the Constitution: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, pp. 232-233 explain the threat from internal forces.
Every successful, prosperous nation must defend itself against enemies, including those within the government. A major part of our protection comes from the Second Amendment, which reads: “Because a well-regulated state militia is necessary for the security of a free people, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed by the federal government.”
The Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, in its 1982 report entitled The Right to Keep and Bear Arms, investigated and reported the intent of the Founding Fathers on this topic. The subcommittee states: “The conclusion is thus inescapable that the . . . Second Amendment . . . indicates that . . . [the] individual right of a private citizen to own and carry firearms in a peaceful manner” is our constitutional right.
If the government takes weapons from peaceable citizens, it leaves them at the mercy of criminals and despots. History demonstrates that a nation sliding into despotism typically forces gun registration, then provokes an incident that “requires” the confiscation of weapons. George Mason, [a] drafter of the [Constitution and the] Virginia Bill of Rights, accused the British of having plotted ‘”to disarm the people—that was the best and most effective way to enslave them.”
History begs us not to forget that we bear arms to protect ourselves from enemies without, and within. The lessons of history, forged in ancient and modern nations across the globe, warn us: Citizens, be alert! Let watchfulness be your cry!
- Pam

Friday, May 17, 2013

Abigail Adams : Union of Love and Patriotism

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Among the many powerful forces that drove American liberty stands the union of John and Abigail Adams, America’s best known and perhaps most powerful marriage. Their union paralleled the rise of American independence. The long separations they endured in their sacrifice for American freedom produced voluminous correspondence totaling 1200 letters between two people who were best friends, intellectual equals, and stalwart patriots.
Abigail, 9 years John’s junior, stood barely 5 feet tall. John, balding and tending to roundness, stood five feet six inches—near average for colonial America. They married in her family parlor in 1774, the year America’s move for independence began. Abigail’s independent, well-formed opinions made her John’s perfect match to become deeply committed friends and marriage partners. She and John forged a partnership so united that she said of him, “When he is wounded, I bleed”, and he said of her, “I can do nothing without you.”
John was an ambitious country lawyer seeking to invest his erratic, excitable passions in the affairs of history. Abigail was his greatest asset; steady and supportive—an anchor for his aspirations; his ballast in the storm.
As the children came, John accepted ever-increasing responsibilities as a leading colonial activist. Their home in Braintree, Massachusetts was near Boston, epicenter of the American revolutionary movement. They were apart for years at a time in the cause of freedom. Geography and a lumbering mail system became boundaries to their communication.
Abigail managed their four children (a fifth died in infancy) and the family farm, shepherding them through the horrendous smallpox epidemic of 1775, which ravaged the nearby British and Continental armies during the siege of Boston. Busy mothers can feel her need for privacy during those harried years, as she said, ”I always had a fancy for a closet with a window which I could peculiarly call my own.” She wanted John at home, but accepted and shared the patriotic sympathies that trumped her pleas.
John and Abigail spent only four months together in a six year period, as John moved the American Revolution forward. They loved and conversed through letters—rich treasures, which open a window to their marriage and the emerging nation to which they gave themselves. During their four months together, Abigail became pregnant. She gave birth to a stillborn daughter, and bore the grief alone as the news travelled slowly to John, three hundred miles away in Philadelphia.
John’s role in history took its toll on their family. In 1778 he was appointed an American diplomat to Paris, leaving 10 days after accepting the appointment. He took their two oldest sons, 10 year old Charles and 13 year old John Quincy, but left Abigail, their youngest son and only daughter at home. Abigail was melancholy. She poured out her pain at his leaving in a letter to him the day he left, “My habitation, how disconsolate it looks! My table, I set down to it but I cannot swallow my food.” John and John Quincy would be gone 5 long years; Charles would return to his mother, sailing across the Atlantic alone at age 11, less than two years later. When Abigail next saw her firstborn she could recognize him only by looking into his eyes.
Letters sometimes took six months to reach their destination. Often they were lost at sea, as mail pouches containing sensitive diplomatic contents were thrown overboard if an American ship risked capture. John’s skilled diplomatic efforts produced advantageous treaties with the Dutch and the British, to end the war. Harried, he seldom wrote home, and Abigail went for over a year with no news whatever from John.
When John’s diplomatic skills carried him directly from France to Britain as ambassador, Abigail could bear the separation no longer. She trusted John implicitly, but knew their extended separations would inevitably weaken their deep commitment to each other. They had had enough separation. Sending her two youngest children to live with her sister, she brushed aside her chilling fears of the long ocean voyage and sailed for Paris, then London, with their daughter, Nabby (and the family cow, which died on the sea voyage). It would be four years before she saw her younger sons again. She played the diplomatic role so foreign to her personal tastes, re-knit the fabric of their committed relationship despite John’s distractedness, and rejoiced when they finally sailed for home.
John’s embattled four years as the second U.S. president, pummeled by the press and undermined by ambitious, previously trusted associates hungry for power, took their toll on both John and Abigail. They retired to Braintree for their last years together. While their somber son, John Quincy, established a solid political career and became our sixth president, the remaining Adams children had not fared well. Nabby married poorly and came to live with her children at her parents’ home before she died of breast cancer. Charles and Tommy became alcoholics; charismatic, charming Charles drank himself to death as a young man. Modern research on the extra burdens of children in fatherless homes raises the inevitable question: what were the effects of John’s protracted absences on his children? History provides no answer.
Abigail died in the 54th year of their marriage, leaving John alone for the last 8 years of his life. She had been the “ guiding planet around which all revolved”. In the dearth created by Abigail’s absence, John Quincy’s wife, Louisa Catherine, began a correspondence satisfying to them both.  Commiserating with his old friend, Thomas Jefferson, they mused about the life to come after death. Each believed in a certain reunion with loved ones gone beyond, and John waited for the day when he and Abigail could be together again.
John Adams died on July 4, 1826, exactly 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the birth certificate of the United States of America. He and Abigail left a legacy of sacrifice for the national good and perseverance in the face of opposition that is woven into our national character.   
- Pam

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Property and Freedom

Private Property is the Basis of Freedom

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“Take away my property and you take away my freedom.”  
It is through obtaining and managing property that we exercise our freedoms: where we work (our salaries), what we accumulate, what we invest attention and resources in, the lifestyle we live. If we remove property ownership, what would we exercise our freedoms on? If we can’t own food, we starve; if we can’t own clothing, we freeze; if we can’t secure a dwelling, we suffer the elements. Every goal we set, plan we draft, and item we create requires some form of property for completion.
When another owns the property we need, we are at his mercy—we do what he says or we cannot survive, let alone thrive. In a few generations, the loss of property rights in a society would create a mindless, gutless culture of individuals that do only what they are told to do.
This sobering fact is at the root of socialism and communism, its more violent form, to gain control of the production and distribution of all property. Control the property, control the people. The Communist Manifesto quotes it this way, “…the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: abolition of private property.” While the ultimate goal is outright possession, an intermediate level of control is accomplished with rules, regulations, taxation, welfare, zoning and licensing requirements. Taxes, fines, fees, and welfare redistribute wealth, while regulations, licenses, and zoning restrict activities not wanted by government. America has followed a freedom-destroying path, gradually descending into a morass of regulatory and taxation control. In the last decade, however, we have seen the government take outright possession of whole segments of our commerce and society. Usually this is done “for our own good”. This is socialism.
A free and honest government protects the property of its citizens; a dishonest government takes their property. A classic example involves the USSR and Ukraine, its fertile breadbasket. In the 1950s Stalin wanted money to build military might. He confiscated the entire grain crop of Ukraine to accomplish that objective, leaving the people without the means to survive. Between 5,000,000 and 8,000,000 people starved to death in Ukraine that year because the government had control of their property—in this case, their actual lives.
Our Founders well understood that property is freedom. They wrote that idea into the Declaration of Independence with this statement: “…all men are endowed by their Creator with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. (At the time, this last phrase was commonly understood to refer to property, as property, freedom and happiness were virtually synonymous.)
Our severe regulatory government, with its excessive taxation, has taken a major toll on our freedoms and wrenched much of our private property from our control. Make your elected representatives accountable to you for their past votes to increase taxation, bureaucracy and regulatory power. Tell them you don’t want socialism.
Make it stick at the ballot box.
- Pam

Monday, May 6, 2013

Is the Constitution Outdated?

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 The following is vignette 7.1 in

Promises of the Constitution: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow


Pamela Romney Openshaw

Some say that our Constitution no longer works. They call it unwieldy and outdated—a simple document for a simpler time They say that it is not effective in our modern, sophisticated world of instant communication and worldwide travel.
Our Constitution is not outdated. It is profoundly more than a statement of political rules. It is a document of human nature—a statement of man’s universal tendency to usurp and abuse power when given the opportunity.
History confirms the human tendency to abuse authority. The world has always contained individuals who want power. Some want it for worthwhile things. They reason that with power they could bring about much good. This may be the case initially, but the annals of history are filled with tales of those who began with honor and ended in corruption. Others began with dishonorable intentions and carried out their desires of misery and heartache for others.
Lord Acton of Britain expressed it best: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In our modern world, we would probably say: “Give someone an inch, and he’ll take a mile”—of our freedoms.
Our Founding Fathers were optimists but also realists. They recognized the human thirst for power—that all humans have both strengths and weaknesses. In the words of James Madison: “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain . . . distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify . . . esteem and confidence.” The intent of our inspired Founders was to create a government that encouraged the virtues in those who lead while restricting their vices.
The Constitution places limits on these tendencies through the application of checks and balances. It distributes power among the branches of government so that no one branch is given more than a limited and carefully controlled amount. This is the brilliance of the Constitution: while it creates rules of political operation, it also sets rules of human conduct.
Those who want power often accuse the Constitution of being slow and antiquated. For those in a hurry to get and use power, it is indeed slow, and for a very good purpose.
The original Constitution of the United States, as it came from the pen of the Founding Fathers, was a rich, perfectly balanced document that controlled the use of power. Its parts were crafted to create a marvelous working whole that distributed power rather than centering it in one individual or group. This distribution of power among government branches is part of the great genius of the Constitution and is known as the balance of power. Time proved this government structure to be both simple and durable.
Some have unwisely tried to readjust the Constitution’s balance of power. The Constitution as it stands today is an altered version, changed over time by unwise constitutional amendments and inappropriate Supreme Court decisions. Only with great thought, caution, and care should one alter such a carefully balanced entity. An investment of time and prolonged deliberation is required: if this changes, what will happen to that? Those who want a government that increases freedoms, protection, and prosperity must be sure of the results of their actions before proceeding. 
There are times when the race goes to the turtle. This is one of them.
- Pam

Friday, May 3, 2013

Good Welfare, Bad Welfare

(It is not the author’s intent to defame the genuinely needy. The following addresses the problems with the federally operated U.S. welfare system in general and abuses to it.)

To the tune of $1 trillion dollars annually, Americans provide welfare benefits to other Americans. The number of people on welfare now exceeds the number of workers in eleven states*, as dependence on government explodes. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), of the Senate Budget Committee, explains, “Converted to cash, we spend enough on federal welfare to mail every household living beneath the poverty line a check for $60,000 each year. Can anyone honestly say this huge sum of money is being wisely and effectively spent, that no improvements are needed?” What’s worse, while a staggering 50 million people now live below the poverty line, the Senate Budget Committee projects that welfare costs will almost double in the next ten years.

We give welfare to many who could provide for themselves. We do not require that funds be wisely spent, make little attempt to be sure recipients are genuinely needy, and have few checks to prevent fraud in the system. We make people dependent; we take from the productive and give to the unproductive, abusing both in the process. Our welfare system is unwise, ineffective, and wasteful.

It has not always been so.

Colonial America based its charitable assistance on biblical commandments to care for the fatherless, the widows and the needy. Charity came from those who recognized their Christian responsibility to give: churches, individuals, and organizations created to meet the needs of the indigent. Thousands of viable charities, scattered through all the major cities and manned almost solely by volunteers, cared for the needy. Along with assistance, recipients were taught frugality, industry and piety. Government was not involved; our Constitution does not delegate care of the needy to the political system. Government involvement came gradually, beginning in the late 1800s, from those we would call liberal progressives today. As government usurped this duty, individuals and churches backed away from their responsibilities.

Marvin Olasky, in his excellent book, “The Tragedy of American Compassion”, exhaustively details the success and wisdom of colonial charity, recognized by the fortunate as their responsibility before God. He explains that Americans were deeply compassionate when compassion was given voluntarily, rather than by compulsion. For hundreds of years, charitable institutions and individuals generously donated volunteer goods and labor. Women’s groups made supplies for the poor, shelters took in the needy, churches sought out members who were struggling in order to assist them.

Help was personal and immediate, rarely given as cash, which could be unwisely used. Conditions were attached--the obligation to use gifted resources wisely. Those with means supervised, taught, and counseled those they gave assistance to. Waste and laziness were met with loving reproof and, if necessary, temporary withdrawal of benefits to “school” the recipients. In was generally understood that help unwisely given spoiled people, making them lazy and irresponsible. One who gave assistance unwisely was considered irresponsible, himself.

Work tests were common: if a man requested food and a bed at a local relief house he was directed to the work box, filled with logs to be split. A few hours labor earned a meal and a night’s lodging. The truly needy worked; those wanting a free handout rarely did. The split logs went to those in need who were too feeble or old to split their own wood.

Women raising children without husbands were taught skills to provide for themselves—considered a mark of self respect. Relatives members were the first line of defense for the needy, but if none were available a family would be asked by their church to take the elderly, the infirm, the orphan into its home for care. A modest monthly stipend, paid by donations to the church, was provided. A compassionate Christian society did not leave the needy without care. Early America was remarkably compassionate—unique for the amount of service donated freely, without reimbursement.

When government began compulsory compassion, taxing us to give welfare to others, Americans tightened their charitable purse strings. Compassion became impersonal—the giving of a check rather than time and attention. Massive bureaucracies evolved to distribute unsupervised money given indiscriminately to those who claimed need, whether legitimate or not. Repayment was not required, creating a disconnect in the minds of recipients about their responsibility to help themselves.

Today’s welfare programs rarely encourage self sufficiency. The success of the program is measured by the number receiving help, not the number becoming self sufficient through help. Third and fourth generation welfare recipients are common among those who believe one needn’t work—he is entitled to goods. Government has become “daddy” to fatherless families, providing what the man of the house used to provide.

Huge industries have arisen to drain off resources intended for the poor—social services, bureaucrats, vendors of every hue and cry, and a host of others, all feeding at the federal welfare table. Little actually reaches the poor; special interests have discovered there’s money in helping the welfare state extend its reach. Government has expanded the definition of “poverty” to include more people and now advertises to increase welfare enrollment. One-third of Americans now receive some form of government assistance. Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced the welfare state with the New Deal in the 1930s and Lyndon B Johnson expanded it in 1964. Welfare spending today is 16 times greater than in 1964. The number of people on food stamps has almost tripled since 2000.

Our welfare state skews the political process. Those providing the most “goodies” to the people are more often elected. Freedom, politics, and government are now for sale in the welfare marketplace. Historians tell us this is the exact system that brought down ancient Rome, one of the most powerful civilizations to grace our planet.

From almost every perspective, our system is fraudulent. It harms the giver by forcing him to donate, taking away his freedom of choice. It harms the recipient by destroying individual independence, convincing him he cannot provide for himself. It harms the administrator by making fraud easy—a temptation many give in to. It is now deemed discriminatory to expect those requesting assistance to demonstrate their need. We give, regardless,  in a system that encourages and rewards deception. The salaried fill their cupboards with free food from food banks along with the deserving because there are no checks on the system. As a society, we actively teach our members that they need not work—that personal initiative is not connected to personal circumstances. This mentality simple cannot sustain itself.

How do we fix this broken system? Sometimes “helping” people hurts them and we have fallen into that trap. The best welfare plan is not a government plan, it is a strong growing economy—the only path to overcome poverty and diminish out staggering welfare state. We return to our original Constitution, with its honest money system and strong, responsible states who direct assistance at a local level where it can be supervised. With limited, wise government that is kept close to the people, we free businesses of excessive regulations and taxes to bring jobs back to America and put people back to work.

Compassionate citizens, motivated by genuine tenderness cultivated in a moral economic and government system, will resume the charitable activities that made America’s brand of help for the needy exemplary. We can then practice wise welfare.

*California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Maine, Kentucky, South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, New Mexico and Hawaii. In California, there are 139 “takers” for every 100 workers. Investor's Business Daily:
- Pam