The Truth About Truth

Time Saving Truth From Falsehood and Envy, by Francois Lemoyne (1737)

Time Saving Truth From Falsehood and Envy, by Francois Lemoyne (1737); in retrospect, perhaps it’s a bit of political irony that the day after completing this piece, the artist tragically committed suicide

Last night, while channel surfing, I happened upon a documentary about the flooding of Venice, Italy. According to one city official interviewed on the program, about 100 times a year the tide rises higher than normal and floods the city. The waters of Venice are beautiful when they stay in their canals, but troublesome when they visit themselves upon homes, businesses, and historic cathedrals. Never mind that the Venetians have had problems with their lagoon for centuries or that their city rests atop wood pilings. The producers of this video claimed to know the cause and they proclaimed it passionately. Venice is undoubtedly flooding, they said, because of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. It’s worse than that, however. In their own words, “the world is sinking.”

I sympathize with the good people of Venice. But they’ll find an answer to their water problems as they always have. Their history is loaded with past examples of flooding (and taxation to pay for its remedy). In great part this is because its underwater foundation slips a bit lower every year. Even those who believe in human-caused global warming have to admit that “the greatest threat to the city” for most of its history has been “earth subsidence.” In other words, its wooden foundation is slipping deeper and deeper into the mud below.

As a popular science-fiction program once reminded us with the start of every episode, “the truth is out there.” Yes, it certainly is. But to get to it there are a few things you need to understand about the truth. In other words, there is some truth about truth that you need to know–truly!

First, let’s realize that we humans are “wired” to find explanations for things. That, along with our advanced brains, has given us a biological advantage over the other species on the planet. They may be bigger and stronger, but we’re smarter. We’re driven to find answers.

Before you become too proud of your genetic superiority, remember a second important point. We humans are also, in a sense, sociological herd animals. We move in psychological “packs.” Rather than doing the hard work of thinking for ourselves, we often accept what others believe. This can happen for any number of reasons (affection, political preference, religious belief, admiration, physical attraction, etc.). I confess to having a strong distaste for this tendency. As a child, when I did stupid things, my father wisely challenged me. His challenges stuck with me. When I see a parade of others following a “Pied Piper” of any sort, I shy away to watch … and to learn.

A third truth about truth that we must recognize is that money changes everything. Even truth–or what is presented as truth. There are plenty of people who would sell their souls for money. There are even more who would manipulate data for money or accept funding with “strings” attached. When billions and billions in government funding is involved, there simply is no way to know how deeply the influence and corruption have drilled themselves into a search for truth. Big money can come from big government or big corporations. Sometimes both.

Finally, let’s remind ourselves that there is no such thing as pure objectivity. Perhaps Leonard Nemoy’s Mister Spock came close, but even he was half human. We humans are motivated by all sorts of things, and not all of them are bad. Please don’t interpret my words to suggest that I’m a pessimist or misanthrope (a people hater). I’m not. But I am a realist. Call it sin, or imperfection, or simply human reality–but let’s face it. We humans aren’t perfect. Sometimes we respond to our base instinct for self-preservation. Sometimes we’re selfish or greedy. Other times we act with real generosity. Quite often we are a mix of “good” and “bad” at the same time. (As an aside, it strikes me as odd that when government starts doling out money to those “in need,” our human failings are no longer suitable for discussion.)

Lack of objectivity isn’t a bad thing. It’s a very human thing. The problem isn’t that objectivity is lacking. The problem is that we’re not honest about its absence. Wouldn’t it be nice if people claimed their biases so that when they speak of their greatest beliefs and philosophical commitments we can understand where they’re coming from?

Imagine a Fox News broadcast beginning like this:  “Good evening. We here at Fox believe that Barack Obama is the devil. Now on with the news.” Or imagine that CNN begins its nightly programs in this way: “In the interest of honesty, the broadcasters of CNN wish to remind you that we believe that conservatives, Republicans, and Tea-Party people are selfish bastards who want to screw Mexican immigrants and the poor. Here are this evening’s highlights.”

I always find such honesty to be quite refreshing, actually. It’s one of the reasons I named this blog “The Liberty Professor.” If you’re looking for absolute objectivity, you won’t find it here. The truth is that you won’t find it anywhere. But I’m honest about that. Get it?

With all of these caveats in mind, here are a few of the so-called “truths” that I have rejected. I speak only for myself, but I do so after reasoned reflection and research. Each of the issues described is what Patricia King and Karen Kitchener refer to as an “ill-defined problem.” If you’re a teacher or have a philosophical bent, you might enjoy their book entitled Developing Reflective Judgment. In it they argue that an ill-defined problem has more than one possible outcome (as opposed to a well-defined problem with an easy solution).

Let there be fanfare and the blast of trumpet … here are some “truths” that I robustly reject!

1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was intended by its creators to lower healthcare costs and “fix” what’s wrong with America’s healthcare system. Nope. Not even close. It was designed to move us toward a single-payer healthcare system in which the federal government is financier and supervisor. Promises were made about how much it would cost and how much freedom would be granted to those who already have health insurance. Guesses, estimates, and even lies were offered to us for our mental consumption. The most recent estimate I heard is that it will cost three times as much as promised in the first ten years. In addition, its thousands and thousands of pages of regulations are going to cause premiums to go up for nearly everybody, especially young men. Remember the promise of Barack Obama about your own health insurance? “If you like it, you can keep it,” he insisted. Maybe. If you can afford it. Most of us won’t be able to. We–along with our employers–will be forced to drop private coverage to move into the single-payer (federal) system. The entire law was designed with this in mind. As they say, “out with the old and in with the new.” Don’t forget the words of Barack Obama to the Illinois AFL-CIO in June of 2003: “I happen to be a proponent of the single-payer, universal healthcare program.”

2. Federal gun-control initiatives are being designed to reduce crime and protect our children from violent criminals. Even I have to say that this sounds nice. It’s a feel-good proposal if ever there was one. But that’s not the primary factor for the unconstitutional gun grab taking place before our very eyes. (It has hit some temporary road blocks, but as with Obamacare, its proponents won’t stop until they get what they want.) The real goal is to have a nation in which guns are in the hands only of government officials and to outlaw them for everyone else. When that happens the government will have little to fear from dissenters, and only outlaws will be armed. Everyone with a weapon, whether it’s used in a crime or not, will be subject to arrest and punishment. In addition to maneuvers in Washington, international pressure is being put upon Mr. Obama to sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty. That treaty, like all treaties, will require Senate approval. We can look for one heck of a mud slide when that battle comes. Obama is widely expected to sign the treaty since it moves us one more step toward his goal, and since it provides cover for the confiscation of many types of civilian-owned weapons as well as a UN-supervised, international gun registry. That’s right. According to the president of Iowa Gun Owners, if allowed to keep my .38-caliber pistol I’ll have my name on a UN list as well as a US list.

3. IRS officials did nothing wrong when they targeted conservative groups,Tea-Party organizations, and groups favoring Israel for special scrutiny. Oh, really? That must be why IRS division director Lois Lerner invoked her Fifth-Amendment right against self-incrimination when called to answer questions before Congress. That’s a constitutional perversion of the highest order. Here’s why: She is a government employee called before the people to answer for her actions. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution was enacted to protect the people from the government, not the other way around. She and her minions at the IRS have the power to pry, to search, to seize, to confiscate, and to order the arrest and imprisonment of citizens. They carry guns. When we, the people, call her to an accounting she suddenly wants to invoke her constitutional rights. She needs to be held in contempt of Congress and the investigation into the matter must continue. Without a doubt, the trail will end in the Oval Office. White House visitors’ logs already demonstrate this.

4. Global warming is a rising disaster caused by human industrial and economic activity. Look, I reject this proposition. But I don’t reject the idea that we should be responsible stewards of our environment. Another of Dad’s witty and wise sayings recognizable to many fellow Southerners is that one should never put fecal material on the handle of the water pump! But the global-warming hype isn’t being controlled by reasonable people who care for the environment. It’s being directed from the upper echelon of government for the sake of raking in more tax money, penalties, and fees to fund bigger government. The “science” behind human-generated global warming is tainted with government money. As some very bright but mistaken academics have argued, the scientific consensus is that human-caused global warming threatens the planet (not just Venice). They insist we need severe limits on economic activity, travel, and energy production; we need more taxes and government-controlled carbon credits. My own research brings me to the conviction that global warming is entirely natural and that the recent warming trend is tapering off. We are probably entering a new period of global cooling. It wouldn’t be the first time, as historians recognize from recent history. Perhaps our children and grandchildren will be subjected to overblown predictions of a new Ice Age!

5. The solution to our economic problems and social injustices is to be found in more government activism. So said Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and a veritable host of central planners. But when central planning fails it fails big. Guns are needed to keep people in line. Perhaps you’re seeing a pattern? American constitutionalists do not reject all centralized government activity. The Constitution makes provision for the activities of the federal government. But once it’s engaged, the power at the top tends to be centripetal. In other words, it exerts a pull toward itself. Power exercised at the top tends to increase and multiply toward the top, or toward the center of power. The founders of the United States recognized this fact. They had overwhelming historical precedent for it. That’s precisely why power was invested primarily in citizens organized by states, not in the federal government. It’s also why they chose a federated system and not a national government (there is a difference). Only a small number of powers were granted to the federal government. Was it a perfect system? No. It didn’t recognize the rights of slaves, for instance. But its inspiration (that everyone is “created equal” in rights, not abilities) would eventually blossom to repair this immorality as well as other defects.

6. Fatty foods are making us fat and high blood cholesterol is putting us at risk for heart attack. So says an official US government blog and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC). There is even a new government push to monitor the cholesterol of children and to put them on statin drugs if necessary. Research is moving us rapidly away from this thesis. Fat isn’t making us fat. Carbohydrates and sugar are making us fat. They increase inflammation and cause heart disease. Among the scientists and medical doctors now arguing for a new approach to the matter can be counted Dr. Jonny Bowden and Dr. Stephen Sinatra. Check out their excellent and well-researched book, The Great Cholesterol Myth. According to them, the “four horsemen” of the cardiac apocalypse are inflammation, oxidation, sugar, and stress. Dangerous statin drugs, they insist, should be used only by those who already have heart disease. They show strong evidence that statins are useful only because of their anti-inflammatory properties and that lowering cholesterol isn’t the proper approach for stopping heart disease. In their opinion statins should never be given to children. To get the updated research full disseminated, the tie between big pharmaceutical companies and big government must be broken. And doctors who treat patients should never be paid advocates for particular companies or brands. The ties between these entities amount to a contemporary medical mercantilism or corporatocracy–similar to the military-industrial complex that guides so much of our foreign policy.

7. If you love someone you’ll never hurt their feelings. Well, you might not hurt their feelings intentionally–but that’s a whole different matter. Love isn’t a feeling. As Jesuit theologian William O’Malley has pointed out, love is a conscious and active commitment to the well-being of someone. I bring up this point because too many people these days, when arguing politics, seem to be guided less by intellectual consideration and more by emotion. They decide what’s right based upon how their proposals make them feel. The Christian virtue of love is shared by many religions. One doesn’t have to foist one’s Christianity on others to love them, but love nonetheless is a terrific guide for making political decisions. Too often our political debate is framed as if it’s a choice between the people who care for others (the “liberals”) and those who don’t (the “conservatives”). That’s just downright stupid. There are people on both sides of that divide who genuinely care to increase the well-being of others. My complaint is that we can’t decide what’s best based upon how it makes us feel. We need to think and think hard.

So there they are. Seven “truths” that I reject because I don’t think they are true at all. There are others, such as immigration reform (the real reason for which is to secure votes). Each of these is an ill-defined problem with adherents who passionately argue that I’m wrong. So be it. As Martin Luther is reputed to have said, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” But my stance isn’t based upon any attempt to be hard-headed or belligerent. It’s based upon my appropriation of the best information I can find. Don’t take my word on any of it. Do your own research. If I found the information, you can find it as well. I make my own choices and live with the consequences. You must do likewise. Gosh, we don’t hear that too often, do we?

In the final analysis, remember one thing, please. Only in a free society can divergence exist when it comes to values, beliefs, and ideologies. Wherever you stand on the issues, I beg you to be consistent and to be honest with yourself. Don’t give a pass to politicians or government bureaucrats just because they share your preferred political agenda–especially not if they have the privilege of carrying government-issued sidearms.

Avoid schadenfreude. That German word describes the human tendency to take pleasure in the suffering of someone else. If it pleased you to see certain groups targeted by the IRS, remember that it may one day be a group you admire. It could even be you. Political winds blow where they will.

Tyranny hurts us all. Even when it’s applied to our political adversaries.

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Dying to Go Green

imagesCA9FYLJTI’ve never been one for fads. As kids, my brother and I were challenged by our parents to think about our choices and to reflect on our relationships. I suppose that’s why “everybody’s doing it” was never an argument that meant much to me.

So I’m a bit of a skeptic when political leaders say that we have a looming crisis. It usually sounds too convenient. Another crisis mostly means we have to act now, that we don’t have time to wait, and somebody’s liberties are about to be curtailed in a significant way. Or more of their earnings are about to be seized by the government, supported by force of arms. (Some of my readers don’t like it when I put it like that, but it’s quite true; if you doubt me, stop paying federal income taxes and see what happens.)

Skepticism isn’t a bad thing. The word skeptikoi was originally applied to followers of the ancient Greek philosopher Pyrrho, meaning that they didn’t adhere to the latest thinking but tended toward reflective inquiry instead. Sounds like good advice for everything coming out of government these days, but it’s almost impossible to stay on top of it all. From medium-sized towns like my own Ocean Springs, Mississippi, to state governments and all the way to the nation’s capital, the motto of government is “get things done.” Erected on the backs of taxpayers, powerful political empires have been built in which the vision of those at the top is always more important than the freedom and income of those at the bottom.

Let’s take the environmental fads that bombard us every day. The Weather Channel preaches them. The White House preaches them. Our children come home from school and preach them as well after hearing them from their teachers. Well, here’s some news for you. Some of those fads are turning quite deadly.

All around the world cities are banning the use of plastic grocery bags. In the US, San Francisco is reported to have been the first. In a study recently released, two professors say that the ban is actually killing people. Their research was a joint project of the law schools at Pennsylvania University and George Mason University. Here is a brief statement of their findings, taken directly from their published abstract:  “reusable grocery bags, a common substitute for plastic bags, contain potentially harmful bacteria.” In areas that have such bans they say that visits to hospital emergency rooms and deaths have spiked by 25%. The culprits are coliform and E.coli, deposited into reusable bags from the foods carried in them, and then transferred to other foods when reused again.

Remember the congressional ban on incandescent light bulbs (those inexpensive bulbs we’ve been using for generations)? In their place we see millions of energy-efficient new bulbs, also known as compact flourescent lamps (CFLs). They’re better on all counts except one: they contain deadly mercury.

While writing this post I went to my utility room and opened the drawer containing our household lightbulbs. The new energy-efficient bulbs contain a warning about what to do if we break one. It sounds rather ominous: “Manage in accordance with Spills, Disposal and Site Cleanup Requirements.”  The warning then directs me to an EPA site-cleanup website.

When I entered the website address in my URL line, I was redirected to a different page on the EPA website. It seems that the cleanup page for mercury light bulbs has been moved. Perhaps there were too many terrified citizens voicing their outrage. To see the site for yourself, click HERE. In case you don’t believe me, click directly on the link provided by the lightbulb package from my utility drawer:  www.epa.gov/cflcleanup. Either way, you’ll get the same results.

With a little effort, I eventually found the appropriate EPA instruction page. Click HERE, but prepare yourself to be startled. Then allow yourself some righteous anger when you realize that in place of a simple and safe incandescent bulb, your federal officials have now dictated to you that you’ll soon be using only the most dangerous of chemicals around your loved ones and inside your home when you just so you can see in the dark.

How dangerous are these bulbs? Read the EPA webpage on CFL cleanup for yourself. If you shatter a bulb, you’re advised to turn off your A/C system and remove children and pets from the area … not for fear of broken glass, but because toxic mercury may be floating around your kitchen or living room. Near the bottom of the webpage we’re assured that the amount of mercury is small (“less than 1/100th of the amount in a mercury thermometer“). Still, millions of these bulbs are going to end up in landfills. We can soon expect groundwater–and our own drinking water–to be contaminated with mercury, thanks to our federal government.

As an interesting aside, an entirely separate EPA page gives further warnings of what to do with a mercury spill. Clothing and shoes that have come in contact with this dangerous neurotoxin should be permanently disposed of. Sadly, this statement does not appear on the page on CFL breakage warnings. God help the poor homeless person who digs in your garbage and thinks himself fortunate to find a new shirt or new tennis shoes.

Here is even more startling information. The Federal Environment Agency of Germany (that country’s version of the EPA) warns that airborne mercury levels are frighteningly higher than suggested or allowed for up to five hours after the bulb is shattered. If you’re still not convinced of the danger, check out the warning given by Mercury Instruments, a Colorado firm specializing in the cleanup of this powerful substance:  after a bulb shatters, “there is absolutely no way to know that you have removed the mercury unless you screen the area with a mercury vapor monitor.”

Sponsored by Bowling Green University, the Ohio EPA and others, a startling video of how mercury vapor quickly spreads is also available on the company’s website. To see it, click HERE. Take note that in the second example shown on the video, the amount of mercury is only about half of what the EPA says is found in most CFLs. It’s also important to be aware that mercury vapor spreads naturally through exposure to the air. It doesn’t take much to cause its rapid dissemination.

Children are familiar with the Hatter, a character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He and the March Hare are both pronounced “mad” by the Cheshire Cat. What those children probably don’t know is that the term “mad hatter” came from the practice of using mercury to soften fur hats. With the proliferation of CFLs in the name of environmental stewardship we may be producing an entirely new generation of mad characters.

Perhaps the issue of environmental management doesn’t belong in the hands of crisis-oriented political elites. Maybe skepticism is a moral virtue. We hear constantly from “nanny-state” politicians that our liberties are being infringed upon for the sake of our own safety and welfare. Is that just a convenient slogan?

Once again, the old proverb seems to prove itself. Exchanging liberty for supposed security still sounds like a rotten deal to me.

A Shanty Town Called “Obamaville”

Symbol of hard times: Nickelsville, a tent city located in Seattle WA

Symbol of hard times: Nickelsville, a tent city located in Seattle WA

“Shanty” is a word that has fallen into disuse these days.  You seldom hear it in the US.  According to Etymonline (a delightful etymological dictionary), it’s derived from the Canadian French word chantier, referring to a rough wooden cabin used by lumberjacks.  During the economic upheaval of the Great Depression, the shanty came to represent the plight of the average American who had lost home, work, and all but the most basic of sustenance.  Using whatever they could find, homeless families built their shanties while waiting for the economic turnaround that would make it possible to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.

During the depression years of the 1930s, shanty towns peppered the American landscape.  They were often known as Hoovervilles, a derisive way of referring to the man who sat in the Oval Office at the start of the depression:  Herbert Hoover.  Even the powerless in our society have their way of getting a small bit of revenge.  In this case, who can blame them?

What you may not know is that makeshift homeless communities are back.  Only this time they’re not composed of wood and metal shanties, but inexpensive camping materials.  Tent cities have emerged across the nation, inhabited by homeless families and even their pets as they endure the same economic waiting game faced by earlier Americans seventy-five years ago.  For two stories about this sad reality (one from the east coast and the other from the west), click HERE and HERE.  These stories stand as bookends of shame, marking just how low our financial and economic strength has deteriorated.

As a child, I read of the plight of depression-era Americans.  I heard the stories my father told of those difficult times.  A nickel or a fresh egg was something to be cherished.  To this day, Dad doesn’t feel he’s had a meal unless it includes at least a little bit of meat.  That sense of loss goes all the way back to his experience of the Great Depression.  It marked him forever, and I suspect in part that it turned him into the successful and compassionate businessman that he became.  Hearing those stories as a child, I never dreamed I would live in an America where it’s happening again on a large scale.

Is it any wonder so many of our nation’s citizens are turning to government for help?  Franklin Roosevelt promised help rather than pushing free-market reforms that could have ended the depression.  Barack Obama does likewise.

Our choice is not between the average American worker or the rich tycoon.  That’s a false choice that has been proposed to us by the politicians who get rich on the arguments that divide us.  Our true choice, the one we must make and that we must use to help us choose elected leaders, is between more government interference in the market or a genuinely free market where people decide for themselves how to use their economic power.

Government is a bed where two lovers sleep.  Their names are Power and Money.  They can always be found together.  This has always been true and it will always remain the truth.  Power needs Money to get into office and to remain in office.  Money needs Power in order to gain an unfair advantage.  There are only two ways to prevent their relationship from damaging the economy as a whole.  First, we must elect truthful representatives of the greatest integrity who tell us what we need to hear, not what we long to hear.  Second, we the people must take back the power that has been amassed at the top by self-serving politicians who feather their nests while throwing crumbs to the rest of us.  The federal government must be cut in size, scope, power, and spending.

Power belongs to the people only when it’s diffused.  And there is no greater way to exercise your personal power than to make your own choices about where you’ll live, where you will work, and how you’ll spend your earnings.  There will always be those among us who will sacrifice leisure time to work harder.  There will always be those who prefer to relax more, drink more wine, spend more days at the beach.  I say that with no moral judgment because I recognize both to be good options.  But the choice belongs to those who make it.  The choice for others is not mine to make, nor does it belong to the government.

In this world there are no perfect economic systems; the closest thing we have is the free market.  A truly free market is nothing more than personal liberty exercised in an economic way.  (Do yourself a great favor and read Liberalism by Ludwig von Mises.  It will change you forever.)  What made America the economic power house that it used to be?  Invention, new ideas, creativity, ingenuity. Where do we find these unleashed in such a way as to build strong nations?  Only in the free world.  Countries with centralized, socialized planning are weaker for it.

Our jealousy that someone else might have a bit more than we have has turned us into slaves who are willing to give our government masters more control.  They wield that control gladly, evidently convinced of their moral superiority, and they are well paid for it with salaries, perks, pensions, healthcare services, and speaker’s fees.  Occasionally, a liberty-minded candidate invites us to emerge from that slavery, to walk in the golden sunshine of economic and personal freedom, but the bright beams of liberty frighten us back into our shanties.  “No,” we cry, “it is better to take the certain crumbs of our government overlords than to face the uncertainties of our own decision making.”

We no longer have Hooverville shanty towns in America.  Today we have Obamaville tent cities.  A review of the economic times might demonstrate the accuracy of my point.  Barack Obama, a believer in centralized planning and former member of the socialist New Party, was elected in November 2008.  Where have his leadership and his policies brought us in four years?

Well, let’s start with the prices you’re paying at your grocery store.  In 2011 alone they increased dramatically.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, coffee went up 31% in price.  If you paid $3.00 for your pack of coffee, it went up to $3.62.  Here are some other increases for 2011:  peanut butter 22% increase, margarine 18%, flour 16%, potatoes 14%, orange juice 12% and bread and pasta 10%.

When it comes to the average price of a gallon of gasonline, the increase is more than 100%.  That affects not only your ability to get to work, but the cost of public transportation for those who use it, and the cost of every single item that is moved by gas-powered vehicles or farmed with gas-powered vehicles.  In response, President Obama has doubled down on the very policies that are causing gasoline prices to increase.  He is waging a war on the producers of our energy and that energy is costing more at every step of the production and delivery of the items we need every day.

At the Democrat National Convention this summer, Obama said that America is not in decline.  Oh, if only that were true.  To be fair, the decline began before he took office.  But the big-government, massive-bailout, vote-buying policies that started this mess have only increased under Obama.  We’re standing in an economic sinkhole.  Our government goes deeper while telling us that we’ll somehow see light of day if we just keep digging.  A disastrous third round of “quantitative easing” recently began (QE3).  An already deflated dollar will sink further.  Nations will increasingly avoid the dollar, even as they are already doing.

Are we really that stupid?  Or are we just blind and fearful?  The blinders must come off.  And when Mitt Romney takes the oath of office we must keep them off.

America isn’t a shanty town after all.  It’s a tent city.  Either way, it’s the middle class and the poor who are moving into those tents among the ruins of their former lives.  The buck stops there, Mr. President.

Welcome to Obamaville, everyone.

EPA = “Exaggerated Power & Authority”

Honestly, I think the EPA logo is downright charming.  I might even be tempted to call it “cute.”  It’s also imaginative.  Everybody likes flowers, blue water, lush green landscapes.  All of those things are suggested by it but let’s not be fooled.  The Environmental Protection Agency is a mighty federal bureaurocracy with far-reaching powers that its minions are not afraid to use.  Its new war cry, found prominently displayed on its blog website, is “Environmental Justice in Action.”  I’m not afraid of the motto, but it scares the heck out of me to hear about the actions being justified in its name.  You see, the problem with government slogans and logos is that there are always men and women with badges and guns standing behind them.

It’s not necessary to repeat the litany of problems associated with the excessive power exercised by the EPA.  For a terrific synopsis, I recommend an article by Sen. Rand Paul from August 2011.  To read it, click HERE.  If the article doesn’t give you chills, then something is wrong with your nervous system.

The Founders of our nation would be devastated by news like that in Paul’s commentary.  They would find it difficult to understand how the private property of a Hungarian immigrant could be controlled so severely by bureaucrats in DC that he was jailed for spreading topsoil and sand.  Where did such authority come from?  It certainly does not exist in the Constitution.

Typically, we get two options from the main political factions when it comes to the Environmental Protection Agency.  On the Left we are told that the federal power to control, fine, and even jail citizens is a necessity if we are going to protect the environment that makes life necessary.  On the Right we are often told that the EPA should simply go away–it should be abolished.  Perhaps so.

I would like to ask what would happen to our ideas about the EPA if we put them into the context of the Constitution as it was intended by those who brought our Republic into existence.  Why?  Because the Constitution is the highest law of the land.  As an American I make no bones about it:  my greatest civil loyalty is to the Constitution.  While I mean no disrespect to our country’s governmental system or its national symbols, the Constitution comes before the Flag, the courts, and every office in the land.  It delineates rights believed to be pre-existent to the existence of the State.  It guarantees those rights but it does not grant them because the authority for their existence is higher than the Constitution.  It resides with Providence.  It resides with the very nature of what it means to be human.

The Founders knew that unforeseen problems would arise in the nation.  They never intended to prevent the federal government from handling those situations.  Liberals often take unfair jabs at the Constitution by calling it insufficient or out of date.  Back in February, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg told an Egyptian interviewer that Egypt should not look to the US Constitution as an example for its government.  (One wonders why she took a vow to uphold something she finds inadequate.)  Our Constitition is only out of date to those who want a bigger, more powerful federal government–though it is already evident that big government has been the rule for far too long anyway.

Could the EPA function in a truly constitutional sense, in a way that is faithful to the limitations the Founders put upon the power of the central government?  Yes.  But you can only understand this if you understand the constitutional paradigm:  power belongs primarily to the People and the States.  In a constitutional sense, the EPA can be a valuable tool only if it serves the States and the People.  It cannot dictate to the States and the People.

Let’s use an example close to home.  There is an electricity-producing facility in Gulfport, Mississippi, known as the Jack Watson Generating Plant.  It is owned by the Southern Company.  Should the EPA be able to tell the plant owners how to operate?  I would argue that it cannot.  That authority is reserved to the States and the People by the Constitution.  There is much wisdom in this.  If citizens see a problem with the Jack Watson Plant they can approach their representatives whose offices are just down the street or, in the case of the state capital, never more than just a few hours away by car.  This is a direct, simple, and democratically-inspired methodology for handling environmental issues.

Speaking hypothetically, what if the good people of Louisiana (just next door) discover that there are pollutants in their air or water that they believe to be caused by this plant?  By the limitations of the US Constitution, they should approach their own officials in Louisiana, not the federal government.  Then the State of Louisiana could open a conversation with the State of Mississippi for a resolution.  Should they come to a quick resolve, all is settled.  If they are unable to do so, however, they could turn to the EPA for assistance and arbitration.  Constitutionally, the EPA could not intervene unless invited by both parties.  If that were not possible then the matter would simply go to a federal court.  In this hypothetical example, if the EPA were a servant agency to Louisiana and Mississippi as a objective mediator, it’s possible that litigation would be avoided and the taxpayers of both states could save millions of dollars in court costs.

I’ll go one step further in my argument.  I believe the problems in Europe are compounded by the fact that when the European Union was formed the individual nations (in the US we call them “States”) ceded far too much power to the centralized government (the European Parliament).  I was shocked when I visited Italy a few years ago after being away since the early 1990s.  The pride of Italy was palpably wounded.  The Italian tricolor flag took second place to the EU flag.  Italians know best what Italy needs.  Mississippians know best what Mississippi needs.

Cooperation is good.  Unity between nations (States) is good.  Centralized concentrations of power not so much.  In the US, we need to return to constitutional thinking.  The paradigm of the US Constitution is effective and powerful.  If you aren’t convinced, it’s probably because you haven’t seen it in action in your lifetime.  It remains a potent source for renewed economic and political vitality if only we would reclaim it and once again make it our own.

Bad Omen For Democracy: When Truth is Less Important Than Power

Enshrined on the crest of Harvard University and many other educational and religious organizations is the Latin word Veritas, “Truth.”  Nothing matters more than truth.  That which is true is also good and holy.  It is authentic.  It inspires, builds, transforms, and makes it possible for the human species to advance.  The search for truth is the very foundation of all the sciences, from mathematics and physics to philosophy and theology.  Nonetheless, it is not a new phenomenon to see people in positions of authority sacrificing truth at the altar of power.  This has been going on since the first time that one human was given–or seized–authority over another.

This is why the Founders of our nation wrote into the Constitution that all powers not specifically given to the federal government must be understood to belong to the states and to the people.  Basically, they wrote in that sacred document–the Contract of Liberty–that the national government is authorized to do only a few things.  Regarding all other things it was construed to have no authority whatsoever.  Thomas Jefferson could probably have been speaking for all of the framers of the Constitution when he wrote the following:  “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms [of government] those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”  How prophetic!

In the interest of discovering the truth, let’s analyze the recent comments of President Barack Obama concerning the high cost of gasoline in this country (now twice what it was on the day he took office).  Two weeks ago Mr. Obama scoffed at the notion that he wants higher gas prices.  Like all psycho-social bullies, he’s an excellent scoffer, by the way.  He doesn’t have to physically threaten his opponents because he uses his carefully-crafted rhetoric to portray them in ways that make them seem like idiots to his willful listeners.

In his mocking tone, Obama asked Fox reporter Ed Henry, “Do you think the President of the United States going into re-election wants gas prices to go up higher? Is there anybody here who thinks that makes a lot of sense?”  The comment came at a time when Newt Gingrich and others were making the accusation that Obama actually does want to see higher gas prices in the interest of pushing his radical and uncomfortable energy policies.  He refers to those policies as an “all-of-the-above approach,” but the “all” is actually weighted by power and funding against fossil fuels and more toward the green-energy industries presided over by his political cronies (the ones who are bankrolling his re-election campaign).

So how are we to find the truth here?  That’s easily done.  Mr. Obama’s past comments betray his current falsehoods.  He does want higher prices and he has wanted them for a long time.  It doesn’t matter how much those higher prices hurt the poor, or the middle class, as long as his one-sided, extreme agenda is rammed into action.  My assertion deserves evidence.  I duly offer it here.

Back in June of 2008, then-candidate Obama told a CNBC interviewer that the US has been “slow” in implementing necessary energy reforms.  Obviously, what he meant was that powerful people with radical energy agendas must force reform upon the nation by causing gasoline to be too expensive to afford.  When asked if high prices help the nation, Obama replied that he prefers “a gradual adjustment.”  So, yes, he wants higher gas prices–he just wants them to come at a pace that will allow us to get used to them.

Now let’s take a look at the man who serves as Secretary of Energy.  He was appointed by Obama, of course.  They are birds of a feather.  In 2008 Steven Chu commented that he wanted to see gasoline prices in the US as high as those in Europe.  Though he has publicly backed down from the remark because of recent political opposition, he refuses to say that he regrets it.

The simple fact is this:  while Obama and Chu claim that they aren’t happy with current gasoline prices, it’s not true.  They may regret that they are high at this moment, with the presidential election looming in a few months, but in the long term they want to see gasoline prices continue to spike in order to make it more painful for average Americans.  In their world of political idealism and control of the masses, they believe they know what’s best for the nation and the world.  They care not how painful, or difficult, or stressful it is to ordinary working people.  They care only about renewing their control of power.  Clearly, they’ll tell us what we want to hear now.  If re-elected, their policies will reflect what is in their hearts.

Obama says there is no “silver bullet” for gas prices.  That is pure, unadulterated nonsense.  A pro-drilling policy that doesn’t undercut the fossil-fuel industry will result in lower oil and gas prices.  It’s a simple fact of economics.  While it is true that prices spiked under George W. Bush, he took action to loosen up restrictions on the industry and prices dropped back to bearable levels.  Obama has done the opposite.  He is strangling and damaging the oil securement industry and it’s costing us all.  Gas is going up.  Food is going up.  Durable goods are going up.  Everything that is moved or produced by way of the consumption of oil must increase.  It’s simple economics.

The liberal press continues to take the side of Obama, against all possible expressions of common sense.  Time magazine (which would be better titled Time to Make Obama President-for-Life) has proclaimed that it’s not Obama’s fault that gas prices are high.  Others, those same others who tried to crucify Bush, are rushing to Obama’s defense.  They think we have forgotten the past.  Sadly, many of us have.

Make no mistake.  The truth is that Obama wants higher gas prices.  He just doesn’t want you to know that he wants them, and he doesn’t want them at this exact moment as people are deciding how to vote in November.  Go back to the comment to the Fox interviewer, above.  Obama gave himself away when he inferred that no president wants high gas prices “going into re-election.”  He spoke truth in that moment, but for the long haul he needs higher gas prices to force his agenda upon the nation.

He’s still on the political stage and his most pressing need right now is to ensure that he gets to direct Act Two of The Remaking of America.  Truth be damned.

Dick Durbin Does the Democrat Two-Step for Barack Obama

I happened to catch a bit of an interview this morning with Dick Durbin on CBS This Morning.  “Trickie Dickie” is the senior senator from Illinois, the bastion of political purity and honesty.  (OK, now I’ll take my tongue out of my cheek.)  Dick is also the Senate Majority Whip, responsible for keeping Democrats in line with the marching orders issued by Harry Reid and Barack Obama.

Let’s face it:  Democrats have long been better at the political game than Republicans.  I’ve been a Democrat and I know that from the inside.  As a master politician and an avoider of truth, Dick did such a good job of peddling dishonesty this morning that I quickly lost my appetite and I failed to eat breakfast.  Here are a couple of gems from his commentary.

He lashed out at Paul Ryan (R-WI) for his budget-cutting plan entitled A Roadmap for America’s Future.  In my estimation, it should be entitled A Different Roadmap for America’s Future because the Obama regime already has a map and it includes a sharp decline as the nation goes over a financial cliff.  That being said, there is much in the Ryan plan that is admirable.  But Durbin criticized it for its lack of balance.  You know the complaint:  Republicans don’t want to increase taxes. 

What Durbin failed to say is that the solution must be proportionate to the problem.  The nation does not have an income problem … what we have is a spending problem.  This is precisely why the Democrat-controlled Senate, under Harry Reid’s frightening and irresponsible leadership, refuses to pass a budget (it’s been more than 1,060 days).  Any realistic budget will have to make cuts, and cuts always anger somebody.  So the Senate dodges the problem in order to give the Democrats an edge in the next election (Obama included).

Honestly, when it comes to taxes, I understand that they’re necessary.  Any community of persons that spends as a corporate body must have a system for the financing of community interests.  What we have now, however, isn’t healthy.  Spending choices have more to do with keeping large blocks of voters happy so that politicians can be re-elected.  It’s dangerous.  It will be the end of the nation as we know it.  As we move rapidly toward socialism it will mean less wealth for most of us, but more for the powerful elites in office and more for their cronies in industry and in Hollywood.

Durbin really showed his dancing abilities when the CBS interviewer asked about gas prices.  In line with the Obama mantra, he talked about alternative fuels and efficiency.  That’s all fine and good, but it’s tough to pay almost $4.00 a gallon for gasoline while you’re driving on top of enough underground resources to provide fuel for the next 100 years.  Oh, Durbin also got a chance to get to mention the re-election line that is destined to go down in history:  Obama can fix all our problems if we just give him another term.

God help us if this becomes the case.  I suspect that the 2012 election is our last chance to slow the economic blood-letting.  Make no mistake, dear reader, the election of Mitt Romney (which I predict will take place) will not change our course dramatically.  But it will slow the economic death march on which we’ve embarked.  What I fear, however, is that it’s too late to avoid some of the most difficult consequences of our past mistakes.  If the economic chickens come home to re-roost after we put a Republican in the White House, the popular tide may change again and we may quickly return to Democrat control of Congress and the Presidency.

An honest plan of real cuts to spending is our only hope.  It’s not enough to talk about cuts to future growth in spending–we need cuts now.  Many Republicans are afraid to say it, and this includes my own congressman, Steven Palazzo (R-MS).  He calls himself a conservative and certainly appears on track to be re-elected now that he has taken the Republican primary victory.  Compared to Obama he is a conservative.  In the court of common sense and national salvation … not so much.

I suppose such realities are the reason that I voted for Ron Paul in the Mississippi presidential primary.  I still harbor concerns about his foreign policy.  He’s not a perfect candidate; none of them are perfect.  But I suspect that Paul’s sense of urgency is so overwhelming that he would make immediate changes upon assuming office.  Those changes would be much like a U-turn on the interstate.  One way or the other our Ship of State has to come about.  At some point the plug in the tub will pop and the ship will sink if we remain on our present course.

Friends warned me that a vote for Paul was a wasted vote.  Perhaps.  But it sends a signal.  Nearly 13,000 of us in Mississippi cast our vote for Ron Paul.  I think we’re trying to send a message:  “it’s time to change course.”  With every passing day I am more confident that my prediction of a Romney nomination will come to pass, but signs of disappointment abound.  Illinois Republicans turned out in very low numbers.  They are not excited about Romney.  Interestly, though, Ron Paul received twice as large a percentage of the vote in Illinois as he did in Mississippi.

Our nation is at a “hinge moment” in its history.  Let’s follow the course over the next few months and let’s remember to pray for our country.  Feel free to offer your own comments on this blog, even if you disagree.  I don’t have all the answers.  Please invite your friends to join us here as well.  I suspect we’re going to be surprised by some of the things that take place between now and November.  We need a place for reasoned debate on the significance of those events.

The Coming War for Oil

This post is a bit of an epilogue, or follow-up to an assertion I made in a post from two days ago.  At that time I asserted that the lack of vision and preparation for this nation’s future energy needs by the current occupant of the White House is setting us up for global conflict.  This is a grave accusation and I stand by it.  With this post I extend the accusation also to the majority of Democrats in Congress.  The energy-related policies of Barack Obama and his Democrat allies in Congress are making global conflict more probable, not less.

It’s not that I want war or that I despise peace, but ensuring peace is something that takes wise calculations, planning, and preparedness.  Peace isn’t just a slogan.  It requires that those who would use violence to aquire their political ends be dissuaded by the realization that any such attempt will be met with a frightening totality.  It’s inspiring to speak of peace, but it’s hard work to prepare for it.

As a Catholic theologian, I have studied the Just War Theory.  This isn’t a college classroom, so I won’t go into excessive details.  Suffice it to say that religious believers who are also great thinkers have long argued that war must be a last resort.  It must be engaged as a tool for change only when the failure to go to war allows for more injustice than the effort to wage war itself.  It must not be entered into lightly.  Though I have never seen warfare first hand, the scars carried by friends and loved ones who have suffered through it convince me that such limitations on the validity of warfare are necessary.

Have you ever seen a busy office worker with a sign on her desk that says something like, “Your failure to plan does not constitute an emergency for me”?  Something like that is at work here.  The failure to make adequate plans for future energy needs will not be a morally sufficient reason for us to wage war when the failures of our present political leadership finally become obvious in this regard.  The reason?  Because those leaders should know better.  They probably do know better, but political power appears to be more important than morality and peace.

Thus I stand by my assertion that in their refusal to allow a bold, comprehensive, strategic, and generous approach to drilling at home and networking with our friendly neighbors, Democrats are setting us up for a future unjust and preventable war over oil.  It’s that simple.  They’re too busy keeping their political support together to plan for our nation’s (or the world community’s) long-term well being. 

Their failure to lead on this issue now won’t make such a future war just, at least not in my opinion.  It does, however, make it more probable.

How likely is my tragic scenario?  Well, look at present tensions with Iran and its upcoming military exercises in the Persian Gulf.  Those exercises are widely believed by military analysts to be organized around the closing of the Strait of Hormuz, the most vulnerable area of the Persian Gulf.  Such a closure would put strain on the world’s oil supply. 

My good readers may argue that I’m just being pessimistic.  These tensions, after all, have been around for decades.  That is precisely my point.  By now, our leaders should understand that our most plentiful “strategic oil reserve” isn’t the one kept under lock and key by the federal government–it’s the one that has yet to be drilled, locked within the earth and underneath our seabeds. 

Drill here.  Drill now.  Or run short of supply later and fight over there.

Many environmental extremists argue that they represent the only righteous, the only just position when it comes to drilling and transporting oil-related products.  I beg to differ.  Avoiding a future unnecessary and unjust war is the more ethical of choices.