April 30, 2010
Neo-neocon: Obama and Congress vs. the citizens of the United States
If you're not reading Neo-neocon, you should be. She's a lot more reflective and in ways intellectual than I am. Her essays on her journey from left to right (see sidebar) are worth the entire blog. I like her piece on immigration so I'm reprinting it in it's entirety:
Used to be that when the leaders of Congress said they would move on a certain bill (or not move on a certain bill), you could kinda sorta believe them. Now trying to figure out what's really happening is like being a Kremlinologist back in the USSR's heyday.
Reading between the lines, it appears that, with the defection of the lone Republican previously on board, Lindsay Graham, the Democrats have lost their already-shaky claim to bipartisan cover. This leaves them with the problem of placating their Hispanic supporters and trying to make Republicans look bad, which points to their adopting a strategy of pushing a bill they know is unlikely to pass, just so they can say they tried and the Republicans didn't. This might be especially helpful to Harry Reid, who needs to appeal to Hispanic voters in his home state of Nevada.
The issue is complicated by the fact that Arizona forced Congress's hand somewhat by passing its own attempt at handling the problems of illegal immigrants, and that the Arizona law is very popular nationwide. Despite this popularity (or perhaps because of it; who knows any more?) the Justice Department is contemplating challenging it, extending the Obama administration's continuing war against the opinions and wishes of its own citizens:
Although it was the federal government which ignored Arizona's repeated pleas to help patrol the border and thus caused the state to feel the need to pass the bill in the first place, Obama and Holder would dearly love to stop the state from implementing its solution. Such an action by the administration would be shocking and unprecedented--words that keep coming up in describing the actions of Obama et al:"It's relatively rare for the federal government to directly challenge a state law," said Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law expert at George Washington University Law School, who could not cite a comparable example. "It's even more rare when there is no shortage of people challenging the law." A coalition of civil rights groups announced Wednesday that it is preparing its own suit against Arizona, and officials in Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff said they are considering suing the state...
"It would absolutely inflame people," said Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for NumbersUSA, an Arlington group that calls for tougher immigration enforcement.
"Arizona passed this law because the federal government abdicated its enforcement responsibilities on immigration," said Jenks, a lawyer who says the new law is constitutional. "To now have the federal government come in and say 'You can't do that' is going to outrage a whole lot of people."
"A whole lot of people," indeed. For example, there are reports that seven other states are considering legislation similar to that passed by Arizona. The majority of the people of the United States want this, and their own government wants to stand in their way. And remember, what the Arizona law does is to empower state officers to enforce federal laws already on the books, because the federal government refuses to do so--not to go beyond the law or to violate it.
April 29, 2010
Obama to Water Down Iran Sanctions: What a Surprise
A month ago I told you this was going to happen and got nothing but grief for it in the comments:
White House seeks to soften Iran sanctions: Wants exemption for firms based in China and Russia The Washington Times by Eli Lake April 29, 2010
The Obama administration is pressing Congress to provide an exemption from Iran sanctions to companies based in "cooperating countries," a move that likely would exempt Chinese and Russian concerns from penalties meant to discourage investment in Iran.
The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act is in a House-Senate conference committee and is expected to reach President Obama's desk by Memorial Day.
"It's incredible the administration is asking for exemptions, under the table and winking and nodding, before the legislation is signed into law," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and a conference committee member, said in an interview. A White House official confirmed Wednesday that the administration was pushing the conference committee to adopt the exemption of "cooperating countries" in the legislation.
The mullahs' are licking their chops! If you haven't been to Israel, go quickly before it's too late.
Via NRO, a new group called "Keep Israel Safe" summarizes the danger to Israel:
But it's not just Israel that's in danger. Liz Cheney's and Bill Kristol's Keep America Safe:
A new estimate sent from the Defense Department to Capitol Hill puts the date at which Iran could threaten the U.S. homeland with a ballistic missile at 2015. That replaces the May 2009 National Intelligence Estimate (which Obama officials cited as the reason for cancelling the Eastern European sites) timeframe of 2015-2020. Actually, "replace" is the wrong word. "Revert" is better, since an earlier estimate placed the range at 2012-2015. (The Weekly Standard)
This whole thing is headed nowhere good.
Yes yes, Bush didn't solve the problem either, yada yada yada. One, all conservatives and I criticized him for it ( I wrote time and again that our best course of action would be to use one means or another to overthrow the Iranian regime), and two, I thought Obama would usher in a new era of world cooperation and all that. If so he'd better get a move on.
What's Obama's plan for Iran? There isn't one
(yeah the video is a few months old but nothing's changed). We're coming down to either an Iranian nuke or military action by the U.S. or Israel. Either way, it's going to be ugly.
April 28, 2010
Arizona Law S.B 1070 and Illegal Immigration
Here are the types supporting or excusing illegal immigration:
- Certain business interests. They want to exploit cheap labor so as to increase profits. Some of these are traditionally Republican, and some are Democrat. It's a myth that "business owners/leaders" all vote Republican.
- Liberal suburban yuppies consumed with White Guilt. They'd never help a poor person themselves, but they've always lived the good life, make lots of money, and feel guilty about it. They relieve their feelings of guilt by voting for big government handouts. Because they make good incomes higher taxes don't really affect them much.
- Open borders ideologues. These folks think we stole land from Mexico (we didn't, Mexico never really owned it). These are the transnationalists who don't like traditional concepts of American power. They want to dilute our sovereignty and increase the power of international institutions.
- The racial solidarity crowd. Groups like La Raza typify this type.
- Democrat strategists who are looking to increase their voting base. They correctly think that the vast majority of illegals will vote Democrat if they could only get an amnesty bill through Congress.
Now that we've cleared that up, lets' get on with the controversial new law in Arizona, S.B. 1070. The link in the previous sentence goes to the text of the bill. In addition, the Arizona State Legislature has a fact sheet on the bill which you can read.
More interestingly, Kris W. Kobach, professor of law at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, has an editorial about S.B.1070 in today's Washington Times. Kobach was Attorney General John Ashcroft's chief adviser on immigration law and border security and was one of the principal drafters of Arizona S.B. 1070:
On April 23, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law S.B. 1070, sponsored by state Sen. Russell Pearce. The law makes it a state crime for an alien to commit certain federal immigration violations while in Arizona. However, based on the hyperventilating reaction of the open-borders left, one would think Arizona had constructed a police state.
Protesters took to the streets in Arizona displaying Mexican flags, chanting "Si se puede" and carrying signs saying, "Legalize Arizona." Media hound Al Sharpton declared that he would organize "freedom walkers" to challenge the law. Not wanting to miss a chance to play to his liberal base, even President Obama got into the action. He called the Arizona law "misguided" and said that it threatens to "undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans."
Mr. Obama's reaction was true to form. Just as with the Cambridge, Mass., arrest fiasco last year, he rushed to the microphone without knowing the facts in order to stir up and capitalize on accusations of racial profiling.
However, far from inviting racial profiling, the Arizona law actually makes racial profiling less likely. But that doesn't fit the story the left would like to tell. There are numerous inaccuracies in what critics of the law are saying, the most prominent of which are the following.
Myth No. 1: The law requires aliens to carry identification that they weren't already required to carry. On the contrary, the law simply penalizes aliens who fail to carry the registration documents that federal law already requires them to keep on their person. These federal crimes (8 United States Code Section 1304(a) or 1306(e)) have been around since 1940. The Arizona law simply adds a layer of state penalty to what already was a crime under federal law.
Ironically, the open-borders crowd has for years insisted that we use the term "undocumented" when referring to illegal aliens. Now, when a state takes seriously the documentation requirements of federal law, that crowd becomes apoplectic.
As for U.S. citizens, the law does not require them to carry any identification whatsoever. Indeed, the law cannot possibly be applied against U.S. citizens; only an alien can be found guilty under the Arizona statute.
Myth No. 2: The law will encourage racial profiling. The terms of the act make clear that such profiling cannot occur. Section 2 provides that a law enforcement official "may not solely consider race, color, or national origin" in making any stops or determining an alien's immigration status. In addition, all of the normal Fourth Amendment protections against racial profiling still apply.
Moreover, the law actually reduces the likelihood of racial profiling by forcing police officers to contact the federal government to verify a person's immigration status when they suspect a person is an illegal alien. It already was permissible for police officers across the country to make arrests for violations of federal immigration law where reasonable suspicion existed that a violation had occurred. Now, in Arizona, officers will have to make a phone call to Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) 24/7 hot line to confirm that any aliens in their custody really are present unlawfully. Officers can no longer proceed based solely on their own assessment of a person's immigration status. In this way, the Arizona law takes any consideration of race out of the equation - strengthening the protections against racial profiling.
Myth No. 3: The law will require Arizona police officers to stop and question people. Here again, critics of the law are failing to read it carefully. The law only kicks in when a police officer already has made a "lawful contact" with a person, such as stopping him for breaking another law. The most likely contact is during the issuance of a speeding ticket. The law does not require the officer to begin questioning a person about his immigration status or to do anything the officer would not otherwise do.
Only after a stop is made, and subsequently the officer develops reasonable suspicion on his own that an immigration law has been violated, is any obligation imposed. At that point, the officer is required to call ICE to confirm whether the person is an illegal alien. Are critics seriously suggesting that local law enforcement officers should ignore the violations of federal law that they see at that point?
In sum, the law doesn't make any radical changes. Rather, it is a reasonable step that gives Arizona police officers another tool in their toolbox when they come into contact with illegal aliens during their normal law enforcement duties. It also prohibits Arizona cities from implementing sanctuary policies that prevent their officers from contacting ICE.
Arizona police officers need the tool that S.B. 1070 provides. Arizona is at ground zero with respect to illegal immigration and its criminal consequences. Arizona has witnessed hundreds of violent crimes committed by illegal aliens. Most recently, the brutal murder of rancher Robert Krentz on his own property by a suspected illegal alien shocked all Americans. Phoenix is now the kidnapping capital of North America and the hub of human smuggling into the United States. Three Phoenix police officers have been shot by illegal aliens since 1999.
Arizona is in a state of crisis. No wonder 70 percent of Arizonans support S.B. 1070, with rank-and-file police associations voicing their approval as well. Meanwhile, Mr. Obama accuses Arizonans of having racist motivations and declares his intention to push for an amnesty - which would only trigger an even larger flood of illegal immigration.
Will Mr. Obama recognize his mistake and hold a beer summit this time to atone for his rash accusations? I'm not holding my breath.
If you don't like S.B.1070 that is fine, but tell me how you would end illegal immigration into this country another way. If you think we should do nothing about illegal immigration because you think that we should just let unlimited numbers of poor people into this country that's ok too, but please just say so. Don't hide behind various quibbles over the law, or "profiling," or whatever.
One of the main reasons Arizona went to the extent it did was that people are frustrated by the inaction of the federal government. This issue has been ignored for too long, and the problems have built up to crisis level. People along the border are tired of the crime brought by illegals and the expense of having to deal with them. If the federal government had done something about it the Arizona law would not have been necessary.
A country can have illegal immigration or a large welfare state, but not both. We are spending ourselves into oblivion as it is. Bringing massive numbers of poor people into the system will hasten the fall.
Yes yes, some Republicans are guilty of ignoring the problem or even promoting amnesty. President Bush and Senator McCain famously pushed such a bill in 2007. But it will be recalled that it was the conservative base that screamed bloody murder and stopped it. The bill would have sailed through if the Democrats had their way. While some Republicans are in favor of doing nothing or granting mass amnesty, almost all Democrats are for it.
I want to help the poor of this world. I put my money where my mouth is less than two weeks ago. The way to help the poor is to improve conditions in their home countries. Even if we really did just open the floodgates and didn't worry about the financials, only a tiny fraction of the world's poor would make it. So you're not really solving the problem. Let's have your ideas, then, on how to improve the lot of people in the Third World.
So lets be honest; all of the hyperventilating about how S.B.1070 will lead to civil rights violations, or that those supporting the bill are racists, nazis, fascists, etc, is all a big smokescreen. Some people just like illegal immigration for the reasons I outlined above. Others want to enforce the law because, well, it's the law, and because we're going broke as it is and letting lots of poor people into the country will only hasten our downfall.
Soon Obama and his Democrats will tell us we need "comprehensive immigration reform." They'll tell us that they promise to seal the border but we have no choice but to grant mass amnesty to illegals already here. If it passes, they'll deliver on the latter but not the former.
I think all of the "racists, nazis, fascist" talk from the left is a sign they think they're losing this debate. Many politicians and business leaders want amnesty, but the majority of Americans do not. The left is scared silly that other states will adopt laws based on S.B. 1070.
April 24, 2010
Mission to Guatemala
Guatemala is a country behind a wall. Every house, every family, every community, every business, exists behind a stark concrete brick wall. This holds true in the cities, towns, and countryside. Those who can afford it put coils of razor wire on top. Others affix shards of broken bottles and pieces of glass, the sharp angles stuck up in menacing fashion. Most walls are some 7 to 15 feet high. All property save large plots of farmland is enclosed. Mostly the walls are painted an off-white.
Most doors to these are a simple piece of corrugated sheet metal attached by some sort of hinge system. Those with money install steel gates of the sort you see anywhere, and hire a guard to operate it. If it's a business of any size as often as not there will be one or two guards nervously fingering a pistol-grip shotgun.
Driving down the street of a Guatemalan town or village is to drive down a tunnel. Did I say the streets are narrow with only the smallest of sidewalks on each side?
All windows have bars on them. Not just in the cities and towns, but all of them everywhere.
Inside the compound may be up to a dozen families. The poor, who make up the vast majority of this country live in concrete block or reed houses. Sometimes the houses are separate buildings, but often just a maze of rooms and courtyards.
Some doors are kept open during the day, a family member setting out a box or two of fruit to sell. Others set up "mini-marts" inside a (very) small room that opens onto the street. Superstores are rare.
Cooking is done over a wood fire inside the reed or concrete block house, which usually has a dirt floor. The smoke makes it almost unbearable to be inside while this is happening, but they seem not to notice.
Maps indicate the country is forested or woodlands. Not. Most of it has been cut down to fuel cooking fires or provide land for farming.
The country is a giant trash dump. Miles and miles of trash by the side of the road. Look over a fence and you'll see a lot more. The byproduct of our advanced manufacturing produce is a lack of biodegradable packaging, the result of which is in full view everywhere in this country.
Stray dogs are everywhere. Many were fearful of humans.
Pet lovers are advised to steel themselves or not visit such places. Inside the compounds we visited were dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, parrots and other birds as pets. All were in dreadful condition. All so terribly sad.
Most people seem to keep chickens. All were scrawny. One family kept a rabbit, which was large and healthy. It was kept in netting in the lower branches of a small tree. Carrot and other vegetable scraps lined the ground below it.
Almost half the population is Mayan Indian. Traditional dress is the norm among the women, especially in the poorer villages. It's amazing how much they can balance on their head.
The poverty is numbing. Not pockets of it as in the United States, but miles and miles of the most abject conditions.
The smell of vehicle exhaust is everywhere, no matter how far into the countryside one goes. Many vehicles spout a visible black smoke. The rest don't seem to have anything in the way of pollution controls, something that becomes obvious if you find yourself near an exhaust pipe.
The drivers are nuts. Pedestrians run every which a direction. People walk everywhere, and think nothing of cutting across the busiest highways. The death toll must horrifying.
American school buses get a second life in Guatemala. Brightly painted for identification (most Guatemalans can't read), they are run by independent operators who provide the "public" transportation system for the country. They're everywhere. And the drivers are crazy.
Paradoxes abound. One day we went to visit a Mayan friend from the last year's mission in one of these compounds in which a family lived in typically appalling conditions. Only the wife was home. "Where is Ferdinand?", we asked. "On the mountain working his field," we were told. She pointed off into the distance, and after a bit we could make out a spec on the side of what must have been a 45 degree slope. "I'll get him" she said, and whipped out her cell phone.
In among a typically ugly and poverty-stricken town was an artificial-tree cellular tower. I was stunned. It was like perfume on body odor, like a flower in sewer. Who could think that such a thing would make any difference? Was it the result of some misguided grant from a well-meaning Western company? Was it in the yard of a politically-connected crony? Or just the result of an incompetent government so unfortunately typical of these counties?
A bad photo of the tower. If you're sure what type of cell tower I'm talking about, go here.
Welcome to the Third World.
Don't get me wrong; I roughly knew what I would encounter, and I've seen what I thought was serious poverty on mission trips around the east coast of the U.S. I wasn't so much shocked as numbed from seeing so much of it.
More, I am fully aware that Guatemala a few steps up from the worst our planet has to offer. We're not anywhere near African refugee camp here. As measured by GDP per capita the International Monetary Fund ranks Guatemala 108 out of 180 nations, the World Bank 100 out of 170, and the CIA World Factbook 110 out of 191 (see link for explanations).
Ten of us went from Cornerstone Chapel church in Leesburg, Virginia. We were in partnership with the missionary team of Forrest and Carol Kendall of Servants 4 Him
The Kendalls live in Antigua in a compound where the houses are up to Western standards. Antigua, a town of some 34,000 people at about 4,900 feet, is in the central highlands of Guatemala and is surrounded by three volcanoes, most of which are active. This sight greeted me one morning:
This marks my fifth mission trip, and ninth foreign country. Other mission trips were to Cumberland MD, Marion VA, Camden NY, and Scotland. On the first three we rebuilt houses, and in Scotland we taught a Vacation Bible School class. The first three were with a church in Vienna VA and Scotland with Cornerstone Chapel. The Foreign countries I've been to are (not in order of visitation) Canada, the UK (two trips; Scotland and a separate trip to London), Ireland, France, Belgium, Russia, Greece, Israel, and now Guatemala.
In addition to this blog, you can read the posts at the Cornerstone Chapel blog for additional perspectives. I wrote the one for day two, the one about our dental clinic and visit to Fernando's house.
Our primary work project was to build and rebuild some houses in a compound where the Lopez family lived, some 12 adults and 10 children total. The entire area was maybe a quarter acre at most, and held some four small houses. Two were all concrete block, one half block with a (rotted)wooden upper-half, and the fourth made of reeds. the roofs on all was corregated steel.
We brought with us many items that we donated/gave and used in our various projects. Basically we used our two checked luggage bags to bring team materials, and relied on our carry-on for all personal items. Some of the team materials were
- Hundreds of used children's shoes and clothing
- Hundreds of toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Fun and games materials for the kids; coloring books, crayons, soccer balls, etc
Yup, we maxed out the weight limit on each bag.
Ten of us came from a church in Loudoun County, split evenly between men and women. We worked with a husband-and-wife missionary team permanently stationed in Antigua, Guatemala. The compound was in a small village inhabited by Mayan Indians maybe an hours drive from their house.
Our schedule was as follows
Thursday - travel
Friday - visit to Santiago Atitlan, a remote Mayan village
Saturday - dental clinic
Sunday - church in Guatemala city and free afternoon
Monday through Thursday - work in the Lopez family compound in a small village near Antigua
Friday - travel
The missionaries host teams from around the United States on a regular basis. The work projects are kind of an ongoing thing, so what one team starts another finishes. We did not finish all of the work in the Lopez family compound, for example, leaving some of it for the next team. More on this below
More on this later, but missionary work is a combination of spreading the gospel and doing good works. Essentially we show our faith through works. Missionaries do works to lead people to Jesus. The families in this compound were Christians, the result of efforts by the missionaries in the previous months.
As I was laying concrete block one day one of the Mayan men, tapped me on the shoulder. "Follow me," he indicated through sign language.
He took me over to his house, which was a reed hut measuring maybe 20 by 8 feet. The roof was corrugated steel, held on by nothing more than gravity and a few bricks on top. The door was at one corner of the rectangular structure.
The reed hut is the structure to the right, and the door is swung open
Immediately to my left as I entered was a concrete sink, where two children played in water of dubious quality. In another corner a wood fire smoldered, over which the family was cooking their lunch of tortillas. Towards the back was some bedding, all on a dirt floor. The wife was sitting, and was holding one of her four children in a sling around her neck. Another child sat nearby, and the youngest, maybe a year or so old, sat by the woman's feet, eating, or rather sucking on, a mango. They indicated I should sit, which i did.
I went back and took these photos after the event
The odor wasn't exactly overwhelming, but it wasn't where you'd want to be. I shouldn't have to say that these we're folks who've never seen, much less taken, a bath or shower. And I'm not too proud to admit that at that moment I was glad I'd made sure I was current on my vaccinations before I left the states, and gotten a few extra of the sort you only need while in a third world country besides.
It was your basic Third World hell.
The ability to learn a foreign language has never been one of my skills, and even though I've memorized a few phrases my Spanish is pretty bad. Nevertheless, we introduced each other, and as always I used the Spanish "Tomas" as my given name. The Mayan adults were Jorge and his wife Candida, children Sara, Elsa, Jessie, Presley, and Isirisa (spellings unsure). The man's brother (I think), Valeniano, was also there.
We went through some hand signals and some pidgin Spanish and one of the men brought out two small fans. He pointed to a bundle of reeds in the corner, and to the fans, and indicated they had made them. A few of the kids took them, fanned me, and they communicated that they were there gift to me for helping rebuild their community.
Despite the circumstances I was quite touched by the gesture.
Understand that I may as well have been part of an "away team" from the Starship Enterprise to these people. Although we had tried to communicate it as best we could, they had no conception of what the United States was or really where I had come from. They'd never been more than a few miles from their place of birth, and had maybe a few years of schooling. Most were illiterate. Their universe consisted of their valley, a few mountains beside them, and a nearby town or two. For all they knew this was the entire planet.
So on the one hand I was just part of a team of strangers who showed up every morning for a few days who helped rebuild their compound. They didn't really understand that I live in riches beyond their conception. Surely from my clothes and tools they knew we lived better, though from what I was told few if any of them had seen the inside of a modern home. So although I saw it as a dirt-poor family with nothing to give take the time and effort to make something that they could give as a token of appreciation to someone far richer, they no doubt didn't see the contrast as starkly as I did.
Nevertheless, they did think they had to give us something as a token. All of us on the mission team got these fans.
The fans back home
Now, all this said, it's quite possible that there was another motive behind the gift. We were not scheduled to rebuild the reed house that week, and I did hear word that Jorge (or one of them) had asked us to do so. So the gift could have been a sort of bribe or incentive to see if they could get us to do their house also. They didn't say anything to me about this at the time, but then again my understanding of what they were saying was spotty. Call me cynical, but I discuss the issue of Westerners being "taken in" in more detail below.
In the end I prefer to think that the gift was just that; a gift. I certainly hope it was, and that's how I'm going to remember it. After all, I'm not a newspaper reporter, writing a Ph.D. dissertation, or trying to justify a grant from some organization.
1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Shining as Stars
12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
14Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16as you hold out[c] the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. 17But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. 18So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
v 1-4 is what do to
v 5 is how to do it
v 6-11 is as clear a statement of Christ Jesus as you'll find anywhere in the Bible.
v 12-18 is how to serve; "your attitude should be ____"
Did our team always meet the standard? Of course not. Do I? Don't be silly. Do all Christians? You know the answer to that.
But we try.
Not the Noble Savage
Don't think I have illusions about the Mayans. They have their petty squabbles and jealousies just as anyone else. One of the men who lived in the compound where we were working asked some of us on the team for various personal items several times. We told one of our missionaries, and she said that yes, he had a problem about this sort of thing and she'd have to speak with him about it.
I'm also fully aware that history is littered with the carcasses of Western intellectuals who have made fools of themselves by being utterly taken in by their hosts during a short visit to a foreign country.
"I have been over into the future, and it works"
Lincoln Steffens, 1921, after a visit to the Soviet Union
Paul Hollander wrote an entire book on this phenomenon; Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society . It's the story of Western intellectuals who traveled to communist countries, and came back and said they had found paradise. Two things contributed to this result: One, they let their preconceived notions determine their conclusions, and Two, their hosts went all out to pull the wool over their eyes. Of course our trip to Guatemala was different, but the lessons are still worth keeping in mind.
I try and remind myself of Hollander's book whenever I visit a foreign country. If nothing else, you need to keep in mind that by definition you're going to get a limited perspective from a short visit.
So I'll stick to a few quick observations. The Mayans are a short people, and not a woman I saw was more than 5 feet tall, with most being a lot shorter than that. They're an attractive people. I saw a few that seemed almost half-Korean, which made me look twice. Like other Indians, they came across on the land bridge from Asia after the last Ice Age, so my off-the-cuff theory is that it's a gene popping up every now and then.
There's not a lot of desire for upward mobility, we were told. It's as if they have a sort of "slave mentality," one that dates back to the days of true Spanish persecution. They're cultured to believe that they just can't get ahead, so there's no reason to try.
Don't Drink the Water
We've all heard the adage: "Don't drink the water in Mexico or you'll get Montezuma's Revenge!" And it's true, if you drink the water in any Third World country you'll be sorry.
What usually goes along with this advice is something to the effect that "the locals have built up a resistance to the bacteria so they're unaffected."
This second part is most certainly not true. The truth is that they're sick their entire lives. Ok, they do have some resistance so it's not quite so bad for them as it is from us, but they have diarrhea from the day they're born until when they die. That's the part they're used to.
One of the projects our missionaries do is install water filters. It's a sand filtration system, which long story short traps the troublesome bacteria and viruses and makes the water safe. The missionaries drink the water from them, though I didn't have a chance to.
When they drink clean water, and their bowels function normally, they think they're sick. They have to be informed that's the way it normally works.
The Hairy Beast
On Friday the 16th we visited a remote Mayan village called Santiago Atitlan. The town is on the edge of a lake called Lago de Atitlán, and is only accessible by boat ride from the town of Santiago Atitlan. The lake is situated between two volcanoes, and is at 5,105 feet (1,556 m). It was a several hour drive to Santiago Atitlan, and maybe an hour boat ride to our destination.
Once their, our interpreter hired a small pickup, and 10 of us piled in the back, standing up and hanging onto a system of bars they'd installed as handholds, and off we went.
We came to the courtyard where there was a church surrounded by some of their homes. We were in the poorest part of the village.
A few dozen kids aged maybe 2-8 came up and we played with them a bit. Then it was inside the church for some fun and games.
This would be me, surrounded by a dozen children.
Apparently the kids only spoke a Mayan dialect, because while Christie, one of our Guatemalan friends, led the events in Spanish, a Mayan girl of maybe 12 translated everything she said into another tongue.
During a lul in the activities, one of the children looked at my arm, and put his hand out and ran it over my arm feeling the hair. Another child did likewise, then another. Realizing what was up, I lifted my pants leg to my knee, revealing what was to them more body hair then they've ever seen. A dozen children said "Ohhhhhh" all at once, and several hands went forth to feel what was to them the leg of a hairy beast.
A View to a Drilling
The next day we set up a dental clinic in Santiago Zamora, which was within a half hour drive of Antigua. It was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I've been on several mission trips, and to several foreign countries, and each one has been unique. Each time God has decided He wanted to show me something special, and to use me in a special way to fulfill His plan. As I should well have expected, today was no different.
The plan was that our team would have fun and games with the kids as Duck-Duck-Goose! while they and the adults waited their turn for the dentist. We taught them songs and games about Jesus, color in pictures with crayons, and do a variety of all the sorts of arts and crafts that we do in the states for Sunday School.
Other team members taught the children how to brush their teeth, and then we distributed the toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste that we'd brought from the states.
Meanwhile, inside one of the school rooms we'd set up a dental shop. And we had one amazing dentist.
Dennis was his name, so of course he was "Dennis the dentist" for the rest of the day. A Guatemalan, his regular practice is at the church were is father is pastor. He brought his whole family, and two of his kids acted as dental helpers. The daughter, the eldest, held the tools required for that operation on a tray, while the son prepared the novocaine shots and handed other instruments as required. Meanwhile, his wife took over operations outside, choreographing the games and other activities. Each one, husband, and wife, were masterful at their respective ministries.
One of our number from Loudoun was a professional dental assistant, so she would help the dentist just as happens in a regular office. She sat right beside the operating table the entire time, handling suction and all those things that the dental assistant does back home.
Then, just as we got ready to start, a little problem crept up. The light that Dennis was going to wear on his head wouldn't work. The schoolroom was somewhat dark, and without a direct light there was no way he could see into the his patent's mouth well enough to work. We fiddled with it for a bit, changing batteries and such, and several of us guys all had a whack at it (stop laughing ladies, you know we all like to fix stuff). But try as we might we couldn't make it work.
Finally, I went outside to ask our team members if they by chance had a flashlight on then, and lo and behold Tim had one! It was just perfect, an LED with a sharp beam.
Thing is, Dennis couldn't wear Tim's flashlight on his head. So yours truly held that flashlight for about 8-10 operations until a new headlight could be brought in.
Patient after patient filed in, and Dennis drilled, filled, and extracted. And I got to watch the whole thing from about two feet away.
Dennis' wife leading the activities outside:
What it's Really All About
In the end, though, it's not about good works per se. Oh yes, we're there to help people, to make their lives a little better, don't get me wrong. And indeed we show our love for Jesus through the works that we do. It's just that there's that thing called eternity that is just ever so slightly more important.
So while all this dentistry was going on, and the children and adults were learning outside, God was at work all around us.
You see, it wasn't us doing that work. It wasn't through our foresight, abilities, or organizational skills that made it all happen. It was the Holy Spirit at work in that room that made those things happen.
Which leads to our next story
There but for the Grace of God go I
Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.
As the work at the clinic wore down, several of us took a walk to visit a Christian family in the town. There we met Fernando and his family.
Let's just tell it like it is: Fernando and his family live in what we would consider appalling conditions. A few small shacks in a courtyard of maybe a 1/4 acre, a dirt yard, no furniture except what passed for a bed, and a bunch of scrawny chickens in a pen.
Fernando is the man on the far right
Fernando was uneducated but obviously smart. He worked with us at the main job site (more on that below) and he had construction skills. It was impossible to tell his age but he was physically strong. Born in another time or place he could have been a vice president of sales or... a dentist himself.
And it could have been you or me in that house of his instead.
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
1 Timothy 6: 7
The people we met today may not have a single thing on this earth that you or I would consider treasure, but they have treasures in heaven that would be the envy of King Solomon himself. Can I say likewise for myself? It is a question we should all ponder.
Latinos, Ladinios, and Gringos
We say "Hispanic" here in the states, but they don't use that term in Guatemala. The term for (relatively) pure Spanish folks is "Latinio." For those who are of mixed Spanish and Mayan heritage, it's "Ladino."
And much to my surprise "Gringo" is not a derogatory term, but just an every day description for Caucasians. We therefore had much fun calling ourselves "gringos" in various situations.
Barry the Builder
One of the men on the team, Barry, was a professional builder by trade, so he and Fernando ran the show. The other guys and myself had office jobs of of no practical value so we basically did as we were told all week. I learned how to build various rebar cages, pour footings, and do brickwork.
Monday through Thursday we built and rebuild the houses on the Lopez family compound. As mentioned above, it wasn't necessary for us to complete all of the projects, as the next team from the states would do that. From the Cornerstone Chapel blog
We had planned on rebuilding two kitchens, that grew to three. We had planned to replace a toilet, "bano", not only are we replacing one toilet, we are adding two more, complete with bathrooms (not as we know them), and added a shower. Today (day 6) we connected the kitchen sink "pilla" of one home to the community drainage system. Until now, it has had no connection at all, but ran right out onto the ground. We are also giving them a toilet, their first.
Get the sisters house finished and under roof (done), 2. Frame out the two new kitchens on top of the blocks we had laid so the Lopez family could have "open air" kitchens on their new stoves (done), 3. Pour concrete slabs around the plumbing completed yesterday for another toilet, shower, and pilla (done). Even though we are leaving with much yet to completed, the transformation of the Lopez families property is amazing. It is such a vast improvement and Fernando and other laborers Servants 4 Him will hire will complete the project after we are gone.
In addition, the women on the team led the painting efforts, sewed and hung curtains, organized and facilitated the shoe and clothing distribution program, and purchasing and distributing other gifts.
Here are a few construction photos
Digging the foundations
They wanted their houses painted pink on the outside and lime green on the inside, so we obliged. It certainly livened things up
Fernando laying a foundation
One of the rebuilt houses. Now it just needs to be painted and curtains hung. It has a single electrical bulb and two outlets.
So that they didn't have to cook over an open fire, here is one of their new stoves, purchased by people who donate money to Servants4Him.
I'm writing this after jason left his comments below, and it made me think I needed a specific section on just this topic. Basically, I echo all of his comments about the people of developing, or third world, nations.
The men of our team drove to work each day with about four or more of us in the back of a pickup. The sight of several 'gringos' sitting in the back of a pickup on their way to/from what was obviously manual labor got many looks as it was no doubt quite an unusual sight, but when we smiled waved to the people they all smiled and waved back.
The fact is that once you got out of Guatemala City almost all of the people we met did seem happy (big cities do something to people, I'm convinced). All of the Mayans I met were gentle, kind, and happy. They had the smiles and dignity that jason noticed in the parts of the world he visited (see his travelblog, Alexa and Jason's World Travels).
The families we helped neither wanted to be charity cases nor were embarrassed that we had come to help them and do things that they could not themselves. In my mission/work trips to parts of the U.S. we did encounter both attitudes, and frankly it was both disturbing and annoying. It was a pleasure to experience a completely different attitude this time.
From the Cornerstone Chapel blog
The entire week, our team never thought of themselves as special or as the rescuers for this poor Mayan family. Nor, did the Lopez family heap superfluous praise on our team. Instead, both our team and the Lopez family articulated that all that took place was from God and for His glory. We had come out of obedience and love and they received all that we did with thanksgiving in their hearts for God's provision. God was truly glorified!
Both the men and women of the Lopez family did what they could to help us. The men mixed the concrete and mortar and did so quickly and efficiently as soon as we told them we needed more. They helped carry bricks and other supplies as needed. The women kept the children away from areas where we were working (safety as much as anything) and they were quick to help in other ways by picking up a stray tool or such as required.
We shared our lunch with them every day.
Again, their attitude was neither that of dependency (the "gimme gimme gimme" that we see in the West), nor were they embarrassed that they could not build or afford new homes themselves. They took it all in course as just the way things were. How utterly refreshing.
Another interesting thing to note was that when they went out of their compounds the Mayan women tended to dress very nicely. This may seem a disconnect; living in abject poverty yet taking the time to put on one's good clothes and jewelry when going out, but it's really not. Look at photos of street scenes in the United States from 100 years ago and you'll notice that most or many men have on a suit and the women a dress. Today, most of us have on very casual clothes no matter what our income. In my life I've seen office attire go from tie required to business casual to every-day dress in some officers. We're much wealthier in the modern United States, yet we dress like slobs.
The explanation is simple; we all want to have some dignity and dressing relatively nice is an efficient way to do it if you don't have any money and live in bad circumstances.
The Shoes! The Shoes!
As stated above, we brought with us many things to donate both to the Lopez family and the other projects our missionaries were working on.
Before the trip team members gathered used children's shoes from friends, and toothbrushes and toothpaste donated by local businesses and hotels. We were truly blessed that so many good people and businesses gave so much!
We outfitted the Lopez family with new shoes and clothing, and here are some photos of the distribution.
Did We Do Any Good?
The poverty is so widespread, pervasive, and overwhelming that I partially feel like what I did was so minor as to be insignificant. Even all of the many projects Servants 4 Him do is insignificant in the big scheme of things.
Some people, though, do have better lives, and have a shot at a better future. We can't save the world but we can help a little part of it.
But as mentioned before we weren't there to simply build houses.
Temporary Goodbyes: That Little Thing Called Eternity
On Thursday we gathered our tools and finished our projects. It was time to say goodbye. For now.
We distributed photos of ourselves and them that we'd taken during the week. We'd also brought pictures of our families from home that we gave the Lopez'. We even had them laminated so they would last.
The women on our team stared some songs, but before long the Lopez ladies took over and led us in Spanish
I really do need a new camera, one that will do better in low light.
Although I didn't know the words to the songs, it was evident by the way they pointed upwards a few times what they were about. The emotions grew heavy as we/they sang more. Hugs and kisses went all around before we finally had to leave.
I do truly believe that I will see those members of the Lopez family again in heaven one day. I believe I'll see my own family members, and indeed pets, again one day, and it's thoughts like those that keep me going.
This isn't a religion blog, so I won't hammer this point too hard. You either believe this or you don't, but I hold the Christian belief that it's faith in Jesus that gets you into heaven. Works are fine and good, but in the end it's eternity that counts.
Links and More
All of my photos can be found on my Photobucket site.
April 14, 2010
Off to Guatemala!
I'll be on a mission trip with my church until the 23rd. We'll be in Mayan Indian villages in Guatemala. We'll be working with our local missionaries, building water filter systems, stoves, working at a dental clinic, and of course bring the word of God to the people there. I'll post a full report with photos on the 24th. Until then, have at my other posts, as you've got free reign until I return.
Saturday April 24
I'm back! I'll have a post up by 9pm EDT today.
What is the Job of a Supreme Court Justice?
Wesley Pruden sums up what I've been thinking about the role of a Supreme Court Justice
Chance for 41 votes and a spine
The Washington Times
by Wesley Pruden
April 13, 2010
President Obama probably isn't looking for another "wise Latina" to put on the Supreme Court to replace John Paul Stevens, but he's apparently looking for a rabble-rouser. He promised on his return from Prague that he will nominate someone who knows "that in a democracy powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens."
Ordinarily, this sort of boiler-plate civics-lesson blah-blah is easily dismissed as a politician's instinctive blather, but this is community-activism writ large, reflecting what Barack Obama actually believes and wants to impose on the court if he means what he says.
The voices of ordinary citizens are important, and it's important to make sure their voices aren't "drowned out" by "powerful interests," but once upon a time that was not the job of judges. The job description for a Supreme Court justice was about allegiance and dedication to the Constitution, which would take care of the citizens, ordinary and otherwise. A justice of the Supreme Court understood that he was to look to the law and leave community organizing to someone like Barack Obama.
Alexander Hamilton thought "the judiciary will always be the least dangerous institution to the Constitution" because it has neither "the sword nor the purse." He never imagined that judges could, or would want to, steal from Congress the power and authority to write the nation's laws. Robert Yates, the chief justice of the New York Supreme Court, tried to warn the constitutional convention of 1787 of what the U.S. Supreme Court might come to because "a court of justice" had never been invested "with such immense powers, and yet placed in a situation so little responsible." The Supreme Court, he warned, could "extend the limits of the general government gradually ... and melt down the states into one entire government for every purpose."
And so it came to pass. The states -- with Congress going happily along -- have been "melted down" so that presidents with a majority can now expect his senators, whose first allegiance is to party and partisanship, to rubber-stamp whomever he chooses. Some Republicans promise a rousing opposition to Mr. Obama's nominee if he (or more likely she) is a nominee outside the "mainstream." But more likely the Senate, a weak and skulking lot of badgers and hedgers, will indulge their usual appetite for debate and discussion, which is to say, none at all. Orrin Hatch of Utah, ever eager to argue that he and his fellows aren't quite as bad as everyone thinks they are, set the tone for the loyal opposition with his hint that he might endorse Hillary Clinton, if the president is tempted to use the court as the town dump, as presidents before him have done to rid themselves of ambitious allies.
With 59 sure votes, the Democrats could confirm a melancholy Dane, an imam or a Hottentot if the president insists, but with 41 votes, a spine and the threat of a filibuster the Republicans could make the debate over the nominee a teaching moment, particularly with the November elections casting a dark and deepening shadow over the proceedings. The nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, the "wise Latina," ultimately succeeded, but the debate unfolded as the teaching moment the conservatives intended. They can repeat this modest success again.
The Republicans in the Senate will be tempted to resign themselves to contributing polite argument and then polite applause, to sit back in the warm embrace of self-satisfaction for the job they imagine they have done on the president, his agenda and his party over the past year. The polls show the president's approval ratings continuing the slide; the passage of health care "reform" has only accelerated the slide. The Republican pols imagine they did it, that all they have to do now is coast toward November and reward.
But the unraveling of the Obama myth is the refining work of reality, which is a harsh teacher who grades on a steep curve. The Tea Party protests, much maligned by polite and prissy folk, have turned the nation's politics upside down and there's scant sign that anything will turn them aright again. The meek and mild Republican strategists have been neutered by the accusation that theirs has become "the party of No." Indeed it has, and for one brief, shining moment it has the old politics on the run. This is no time to go wobbly.
April 11, 2010
Obama's Foreign Policy: Alienating Our Friends, Encouraging Our Enemies
Victor Davis Hanson describes the absurdity of Obama's foreign policy and where it will lead us:
During the 2008 campaign, the Obama group argued that Bush & Co. were insensitive to allies and had acted in clumsy, unilateral fashion, permanently damaging our stature in the world. Given the first 15 months of foreign policy in the new administration, we can see now that Obama's critique largely meant that we had damaged relations with supposed belligerents like Cuba, Iran, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela -- inasmuch as right now, British, Colombian, Czech, German, Honduran, Indian, Israeli, Japanese, Polish, and South Korean leaders might privately prefer the good "bad" old days of the supposed cowboy Bush. All of which raises the question: Why Obama's shift in foreign policy? I offer four alternatives, uncertain of the answer myself.
a) Obama in 2007 and 2008 created a campaign narrative of Bush the cowboy, and then found himself trapped by his own "reset button" rhetoric, which meant he could hardly credit his maligned predecessor by building on the multilateral work that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had established from 2006 onward (cf. the similar quandary of libeling Bush as a war-mongering anti-constitutionalist and then using new, kinder, gentler anti-terrorism euphemisms to mask the adoption of embracing Predators, tribunals, renditions, wiretaps, intercepts, and continuance in Iraq and Afghanistan);
b) Obama sincerely believes that states that were pro-American under Bush are now somewhat dubious, while other states' anti-American rhetoric during 2001-08 was understandable and so rightfully now earns them empathy and attention as a reward;
c) Obama genuinely believes that those abroad who are more statist and voice rhetoric that dovetails with his own equality-of-result efforts at home are sympathetic, inasmuch as they too define "freedom" in holistic terms of state entitlements rather than individual liberty, free markets, and free expression -- so to the degree a leader casts himself as a "revolutionary," he finds resonance with an equally progressive Obama; or
d) Obama has no idea of what he is doing, and wings his way from one embarrassment to another, from snubbing Gordon Brown to gratuitously insulting Benjamin Netanyahu to abruptly changing the terms of commitments with the Czechs and Poles to constructing nonexistent Islamic historical achievements to browbeating Karzai to courting Putin to bowing to the Saudis, etc., all as he sees fit at any given moment -- with an inexperienced but impulsive Hillary Clinton and gaffe-prone Joe Biden as catalysts rather than arresters of Obama's own haphazardness.
Whatever the reasons, I think the seeds have been sown and the harvests will soon be upon us. Any initial delight that the world's masses found in a post-national, post-racial, charismatic young American president will begin to be eclipsed by their leaders' realpolitik calculations, both old friends and enemies -- namely, that the U.S. will probably not assist (other than in soaring rhetorical cadences of empathy) any past ally in its hour of need, and will probably not oppose (other than in meaningless deadlines and melodramatic contextualization) any past enemy in its newfound efforts to readjust regional realities. (If only Obama treated Iran or Syria as he does Bush, Sarah Palin, and the top 10 percent of American taxpayers.)
So as the U.S. completes its metamorphosis into a much larger version of the EU, we should expect to see something of the following:
Karzai or Allawi will look more to Iran, which will soon become the regional and nuclear hegemon of the Middle East.
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics had better mend fences with Russia.
The EU should finally start on that much-ballyhooed all-European response force.
Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Korea should strengthen ties with China.
Buffer states in South America had better make amends with a dictatorial, armed, and aggressive Chavez.
Israel should accept that the U.S. no longer will provide support for it at the UN, chide the Arab states to cool their anti-Israeli proclamations, remind the Europeans not to overdo their popular anti-Israeli rhetoric, or warn radical Palestinians not to start another intifada. (In other words, it's open season to say or do anything one wishes with Israel.)
As for bankrupt, wannabe national defaulters, don't worry -- we are rapidly catching up, and have neither the credibility nor the desire to lecture you about artificial constructs like "debt," "bonds," "trust," and other archaic financial euphemisms manipulated to protect the international capital of an overseer class.
Sowing a new crop takes a while, but the sprouting has begun and the bitter, 1979-like harvests will soon be upon us.
April 10, 2010
Forget About Useful Sanctions on Iran
All of you hoping that Obama would somehow usher in a new glorious era of international relations have been played for fools. Russia, for example, isn't about to agree to serious sanctions on Iran. From Friday's Washington Post:
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told President Obama privately Thursday that there remain limits to his country's support for sanctions on Iran, even as the move for united action to restrain Iran's nuclear ambition accelerates. ...
In his remarks, Medvedev said he agrees that nations cannot "turn a blind eye" to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and said he "cannot disagree" with what Obama said. But he made clear that Russian support for sanctions will be conditioned on their intent to change Iran's behavior, not to punish its people.
"Let me put it straightforward," Medvedev said of his discussions with Obama at the meeting at Prague Castle. "I have outlined our limits for such sanctions."
Officials from both countries said later that Medvedev privately offered a broad range of objections to sanctions, including actions that would create economic hardship for Iran, foment financial chaos or lead to regime change.
Translation: We're going to let Iran get nukes because we don't care.
If Obama thought that signing a new START treaty with Russia was going to get him anything he's dumber than I thought. The Russians don't care about Iranian nukes because everyone knows they'd blow any country that nuked them to kingdom come. Everyone also knows that with this president, and may potential Republican ones, we'd dither and agonize of this or that moral question until the cows came home.
Bush punted the problem to Obama, who has fumbled the ball. Once again, so much for hope and change. The bottom line to those who still obsess over what Bush should or should not have done is that we are where we are. I've long advocated a policy of regime change, but that option is probably past us as well. We're not going to get useful sanctions, so a U.S. military strike is the only thing left.
Israel does not have the capability to do the damage needed. They'll only get one strike, then international "outrage" will prevent further action. Their F-15s and F-16s are limited in the ordinance they can carry, and they don't have that many aircraft to begin with. Finally, we've refused to sell them the newer bunker busters that are really needed to get the job done.
Only the USAF and USN in a sustained weeks long campaign can get the job done, and I don't see the political will for a strike. Given that the Obama Administration isn't serious about pushing Russia or China for meaningful sanctions, and doesn't have the stomach for a fight, it looks like they have accepted the inevitability of Iranian nuclear weapons.
But Is It Constitutional?
All three are disturbing, but the first is the worst.
Congressman Phil Hare (D-IL):
Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI):
Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)
One, not a single one of these congressmen has the foggiest notion of what is actually in the Constitution.
Two, none of them care.
Congressman Phil Hare blatantly says "I Don't Worry About the Constitution'
Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI) thinks "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is in the Constitution when it is in the Declaration of Independence
Congressman Frank LoBiondo confuses Article 1 Section 1 with the First Amendment
This is disgraceful. The current attitude is "if we can pass a bill it must be constitutional."
Does The Constitution Matter?
Does the Constitution matter as anything more than a schedule for holding elections? We're all concerned with the Bill of Rights, especially the First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, and we talk about them all of the time.
But what about the "welfare clause", which states that
Section. 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
Or the "interstate commerce" clause
Article I, Section 8, Clause 3. To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
Or, finally, the "necessary and proper" clause
Article I, Section 8, Clause 18. The Congress shall have Power ...To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
For that matter, what about the 9th and 10th Amendments
Amendment IX - The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X - The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The truth is that to most of our politicians, both Republican and Democrat, none of this matters a whit. They trot out the Eighth Amendment when they want to ban the death penalty, or the Second when they want to defend our gun rights. The First, Fourth, and Fifth get a lot of attention too. Otherwise, a dispassionate observer can be excused for thinking that our government document provides little more than a schedule for holding elections.
This said, it is true that liberals, progressives, Democrats, whatever term you want to use, are the most blatant in their distain for using the Constitution as any sort of guide as to what laws Congress can or cannot pass. It is they who have twisted the interstate commerce clause out of all recognition, and why buy into a theory of a "living constitution" that essentially says "we're going to make it up as we go along."
If liberals want to bring up the Patriot Act or some such, fine, I'll trade you a Patriot Act for your health care legislation. I'll make those trades all day.
Progressives tried and failed to get FDR's Second Bill of Rights incorporated into the Constitution, they just decided to achieve the same set of objectives through legislative fiat and hope that they could get enough sympathetic justices on the bench who would approve. We've seen the results in everything from Roe v Wade to our current health care legislation.
Which brings us to Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Delegate Bob Marshall
Defenders of the Constitution
Many attorney generals around the U.S. (15 by last count) have filed suit against certain provisions in the Democrat health care bill. Since I live in Virginia, I'm going to concentrate there.
Former state senator Ken Cuccinelli was elected Attorney General last November, and wasted no time in setting forth a Constitutionalist agenda. He explained his lawsuit against Obama Care in an article in National Review yesterday:
There are very good reasons that the federal government has never, in the last 221 years, used the Commerce Clause of the Constitution as a vehicle for requiring citizens to purchase goods or services from other citizens.
The first is textual. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides that "the Congress shall have Power . . . To regulate Commerce with Foreign Nations, and among the several States." Although there have been disputes about just how far this should reach into commerce that is entirely intrastate, until now, it has been recognized that this constitutional provision deals with regulation of commerce -- that is, with the use of law to impose reason and order on the voluntary commercial actions of citizens, as well as on activities that substantially affect commerce. An individual mandate to purchase health insurance is not regulation in that sense.
Another good reason this has not been done before is that it turns the Commerce Clause into an alternative, off-books funding mechanism. According to the "findings" section of the law itself, the mandate achieves economies of scale, but in reality, it achieves income redistribution. The law caps the amount that insurance companies can charge based on age, and forbids them to exclude those with pre-existing conditions. As such, the young and healthy people the law forces to buy insurance are overcharged for the purpose of subsidizing the old and those with pre-existing conditions.
Fortunately, Virginia's governor and legislature acted decisively -- and in a bipartisan fashion -- to adopt Virginia's new anti-mandate law, the Health Care Freedom Act. The law states that in Virginia, citizens cannot be compelled to purchase health insurance against their will. It is in direct conflict with the federal health-care bill, and we have filed a lawsuit to defend it.
AG Cuccinelli discusses his lawsuit and how if Virginia loses it will mean the end of federalism in the United States
Also see this Q & A about the lawsuit on the website of the Attorney General.
Virginia Delegate Bob Marshall (R-VA-13) is the one who wrote and introduced the legislation AG Cuccinelli referred to above: HB10, Virginia Healthcare Freedom Act, which bans a mandatory federal health insurance mandate. The act was passed by the legislature with large bipartisan supportand signed into law by Governor McDonnell on March 24.
If you actually watch the video you'll learn that HB10 is not about '"nullification," so let's not have any silly comments comparing Bob Marshall to John C Calhoun or some such.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:
1. That the Code of Virginia is amended by adding a section numbered 38.2-3430.1:1 as follows:
§ 38.2-3430.1:1. Health insurance coverage not required.
No resident of this Commonwealth, regardless of whether he has or is eligible for health insurance coverage under any policy or program provided by or through his employer, or a plan sponsored by the Commonwealth or the federal government, shall be required to obtain or maintain a policy of individual insurance coverage. No provision of this title shall render a resident of this Commonwealth liable for any penalty, assessment, fee, or fine as a result of his failure to procure or obtain health insurance coverage. This section shall not apply to individuals voluntarily applying for coverage under a state-administered program pursuant to Title XIX or Title XXI of the Social Security Act.
The bottom line is that it's not the government's job to provide you with health insurance. And it sure can't force you to buy a policy. Get over it.
We're not going to repeal all of the horrendous Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Care bill through lawsuits alone. In the end we've got to elect true conservatives to both the Congress and White House. But perhaps we can get rid of some of it's more onerous regulations through lawsuits, and at the very least we can get this country talking about the Constitution once again. It is more than a schedule for holding elections, it does limit the power of the federal government, and there is a growing consensus on these matters.
April 7, 2010
John Lewis, McCarthyite
Post updated at bottom
This story has been making the rounds on leftist blogs
Sat Mar 20 WASHINGTON -- Demonstrators outside the U.S. Capitol , angry over the proposed health care bill, shouted "nigger" Saturday at U.S. Rep. John Lewis , a Georgia congressman and civil rights icon who was nearly beaten to death during an Alabama march in the 1960s.
The protesters also shouted obscenities at other members of the Congressional Black Caucus , lawmakers said.
"They were shouting, sort of harassing," Lewis said. "But, it's okay, I've faced this before. It reminded me of the 60s. It was a lot of downright hate and anger and people being downright mean."
Lewis said he was leaving the Cannon office building across from the Capitol when protesters shouted "Kill the bill, kill the bill," Lewis said.
"I said 'I'm for the bill, I support the bill, I'm voting for the bill'," Lewis said.
A colleague who was accompanying Lewis said people in the crowd responded by saying "Kill the bill, then the n-word."
"It surprised me that people are so mean and we can't engage in a civil dialogue and debate," Lewis said.
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver , D- Mo. , said he was a few yards behind Lewis and distinctly heard "nigger."
Wow. Sounds pretty serious.
Never mind for the moment that Andrew Breitbart has offered to send a $10,000 check to the United Negro College Fund if Rep Lewis can prove, by either taking a lie detector test or providing audio/video proof that the N word was hurled at him, and that the check remains unwritten. No, forget for the moment that there is absolutely no proof that the incident occurred as Lewis said it did.
In discussing the supposed hate crime that Reps. Andre Carson, Emanuel Cleaver, and John Lewis imagined for the benefit of the press corp when they marched to the Capitol to approve Obamacare, Mark Steyn sounds surprised that Rep. John Lewis would engage in such behavior. But he should not be.
The so-called "icons" of the civil rights movement who have gone into politics have proven on many an occasion that they are willing to slime their opponents with false claims of racism for political gain, including John Lewis. When I was nominated to the FEC, Lewis claimed I had "downright contempt" for the law and the "voting rights of Americans" and that I wanted to suppress the votes of black Americans. My crime? Supporting state laws that require voter identification at the polls, a requirement that the Supreme Court has found to be perfectly constitutional. In fact, I had committed the unspeakable act of publishing a law review article on the subject! (I kid you not). Yet because I held a view of the law that the Supreme Court agreed with, Lewis basically accused me of being a racist, someone in the same class as the hateful segregationists he fought against half a century ago. My experience with him and civil rights organizations like the NAACP and the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights is that they are willing to say or do anything, no matter how false or malicious, against anyone they perceive as their political opponents.
Well then. If Lewis will accuse someone of being a racist over this, he's at one with Joe McCarthy himself.
Ever since I could first vote I've had to show identification when I voted. It's seemed like a commonsense way to avoid fraud. Yes yes, in the past we had the poll tax, and I'm sure requiring an ID was used to prevent black people from voting. But it's 2010, for pete's sake. I'll support a law giving people free ID's if that's what it takes. But in this day and age if advocating voter ID makes you a racist, then the term has no meaning.
Democrats Reek of George Wallace
The Washington Times
By Ray Hartwell
April 7, 2010
Charges of intolerance are leveled routinely at those who question the administration's policies. To listen to the accusers, one would think the entire history of racial discrimination and discord in this nation were properly laid at the feet of Republicans. History teaches otherwise.
I grew up in the Deep South, a John F. Kennedy Democrat....
The shameful politics of racial division were practiced skillfully by the demagogues of the day. They were all Democrats...Sen. Al Gore Sr. of Tennessee and other Democrats, filibustered against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for 57 days.
It was the Democratic Party that conceived, implemented and perpetuated the pernicious system of racial discrim- ination and preference that arose early in the last century and finally crumbled in the 1960s. They did this in order to sustain their own power. It worked for them, but not for the people. The Jim Crow system not only was morally reprehensible and responsible for much injustice over many years, but also clearly retarded economic growth. This hurt whites and blacks alike for decades.
As of 1963, the Republican Party had a long record of support for civil rights legislation - not so the Democrats. Republican support for the major civil rights legislation enacted during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson was stronger than that of the Democrats...
There was a time when majorities in both parties (even if narrower among Democrats) endorsed the equal treatment of all Americans, without regard to race...
Sadly, however, the ascendancy of "colorblind" politics in the Democratic Party was fleeting. The Democrats were the masters of racial patronage; with hardly a hiccup, they took the game to another level. Where once they played on the fears and prejudices of whites, they found new "victim" constituencies to "protect" with pledges of government largesse and favoritism.
So, blacks and perhaps Hispanics, among others, became the new and increasingly dependent beneficiaries of racial preference. Other "peoples of color," such as Indians and Asians, perceived as intent on self-reliance, generally were not among the favored. Thus, the same old game resumed, with a cynical new arrangement of pieces on the playing board. Once again, the Democrats sought gain through divisive means, playing on fear and resentment.
Then as now, opponents were attacked personally. For a Wallace supporter, it was easier to brand someone as an "agitator," or worse, than to engage in a substantive discussion about the virtues and vices of racial segregation and discrimination. Better to smear the opposition, especially when your position on the merits is weak.
Today, many Americans are unhappy that Congress has enacted, in a dramatically partisan fashion, sweeping "health care" legislation that entails unprecedented federal interference in doctor-patient relationships, an array of new and higher taxes, and unsustainable increases in government spending. Similarly unwelcome are the union sweeteners, the student loan takeover and the "expert" panels that will restrict access to medications and treatments...
In response, the Democrats revert to Jim Crow tactics: Change the subject via personal attacks. They hurl accusations of "racism," and use the vulgar sexual innuendo "tea-bagger" to assail fellow Americans who oppose the administration's aggressive expansion of federal power.
In fact, in all of the issues raised by the dissenters, there is not a trace of race. Would people be equally concerned if Hillary Rodham Clinton were in office and moving forcefully to implement the same agenda as President Obama? I think so. Or, would people march in protest if a President Colin L. Powell or Condoleezza Rice were pursuing more moderate policies? I think not.
I don't know that "Jim Crow tactics" is exactly right, but that's quibbling. Our modern-day Democrats are certainly McCarthites.
While we're at it, let's define our terms. The Free Dictionary defines McCarthyism thusly
1. The practice of publicizing accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence. 2. The use of unfair investigatory or accusatory methods in order to suppress opposition.
Seems like what John Lewis and others like him are doing.
April 6, 2010
Time for Michael Steele to Go
Time for a true confession; I enthusiastically supported Michael Steele for Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Little over a year later, I wish he'd go away.
Today's latest was the last straw
Chief of staff resigns from Steele's RNC: Fundraiser also quits as criticism mounts
The Washington Times
April 6, 2010
By Ralph Z. Hallow
Republican National Committee Chief of Staff Ken McKay, frustrated with inaction by his boss, has resigned and will be replaced by Mike Leavitt, a former campaign aide to embattled RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele, The Washington Times has learned.
Wealthy veteran RNC fundraiser Sam Fox, unhappy with the negative publicity the RNC has received under Mr. Steele's command, has also resigned as the top volunteer for the RNC's major donor fundraising program, The Times has learned.
The twin blows to Mr. Steele came Monday, the same day he said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" that his race was at least in part the motivation for the virtually unrelenting criticism he has received from fellow Republicans, including some of the most respected former national party leaders.
Also Monday, Republicans on his national committee, including a staunch Steele defender, disputed his assertion that he and President Obama suffer from a double standard - a higher performance bar - because they both are black.
It's become one thing after another with Steele. From the beginning he stuck his foot in his mouth at every opportunity. Credible allegations of lavish spending. And now this.
It's time for Steele to go.
The issue is this: You simply cannot have a chairman who is constantly embroiled in controversy. It almost does not matter whether all of the charges are true or not, because one of the jobs of chairman is to control the agenda, get out in front of stories, and push the stories you want in the news. Instead, Steele is reacting to stories about him, his management abilities, and the last silly thing he said.
Add to that the fact that he's now resorted to playing the race card, and he's gone one offense too far.
We had some experience with a chairman gone bad here in Virginia last year. Jeff Frederick, a delegate to the statehouse, was elected chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia in May of 2008 over the wishes of the party establishment, including then-Attorney General and now Governor Bob McDonnell. It didn't take long for him to become embroiled in controversy, and calls for his resignation soon followed. He refused, and was ousted by a lopsided vote of 57-18 by the state Central Committee in April 2009.
The charges surrounding Frederick were complicated, and although I read both them and his response the truth is that it was all more than I had time to decipher. But I did know a few trustworthy people on the RPV Central Committee, and it was their opinion that the charges had merit. Frederick was the hero of the uber-conservatives, who in my opinion continued to support him mostly because of ideological reasons.
Anyway, the point is that Frederick had become a serious liability because he was constantly in the news for all of the wrong reasons. I decided at the beginning of 2009 that he had to go because the last thing I wanted was to go into the campaign season with him hanging around our necks. At the time we could not know that the Democrats would field such weak candidates and that ours would be so strong, and so a continued chairmanship of Jeff Frederick seemed like it might cost us the election.
We're at the same point with Michael Steele. We may or may not do well in 2010 and 2012, but he has become a liability, and as such a risk that we do not need.
Mona Charen echos my thoughts when she urges him to go quietly:
How to put this politely? Michael Steele is a man of considerable talents -- it's just that he conspicuously lacks those required for his present position. He's energetic, personable, and articulate. But those are not the qualities most required of a party chairman. The job demands an administrator, a behind-the-scenes schmoozer, and a tactician. Showboating is a hindrance. It's a job that requires the talents of a stage manager, whereas Steele likes to be the star.
At a time when the Republican party is the indispensable vehicle for thwarting the disastrous policies of the Obamaites, Steele is a costly distraction in more ways than one.
Political parties are not college seminars, and leaders needn't be saints. But the Republican party is just clawing back to respectability after the irresponsible spending of the Republican congressional majorities, the Foley scandal, and the perceived weaknesses of the Bush presidency. More importantly, the country is faced with a profound challenge from the Left. If the (Social) Democrats under Obama/Pelosi/Reid are not stopped, and if the Republican party is unable to attract the energy and passion of the tea-party movement, the country will be irreversibly changed for the worse.
At this moment, the Republican party needs more than ever to present a sober, serious, and ethical face to the public. Voyeur was the last straw. It would be an unselfish gesture for Steele to step aside.
April 5, 2010
WikiLeaks - A New Fifth Column Trying to Undermine Us
Post updated at bottom
Late in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, the Nationalist General Mola was advancing on Madrid with four columns of soldiers. During a radio address he was asked which one would take the city, which was held by Republican forces. He replied that a "fifth column" of hidden supporters within the city would undermine the government from within.
In a October 20, 2004 post titled The New Fifth Column I wrote that "we are today faced with a new Fifth Column in the War on Terror. One that is working to undermine us from within." Already it was clear that there were those within our ranks who would work to undermine us from within.
We saw this during the Cold War, especially during it's latter stages, with the rise of the "anti-anticommunist" movement on the left. These people were not communists themselves, and if you put them on the rack they'd eventually admit that "ok, communism isn't so great," but their real enemy, and the people they spent their entire time denouncing, were the anti-communists of both the right and left (yes they existed on the left).
So once again the phenomenon has surfaced. We can call them anti-anti-terrorists, or anti-war, or whatever. Like their anti-anti-communist forefathers, they are not terrorists nor do they defend the ideology of jihad. But they spend their entire time attacking the West in general and the United States in particular. To them, if we fight at all, we must conduct the perfect war.
The latest example of this type is WikiLeaks. From their website
The Sunshine Press (WikiLeaks) is an non-profit organization funded by human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public. Through your support we have exposed significant injustice around the world-- successfully fighting off over 100 legal attacks in the process. Although our work produces reforms daily and is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including the 2008 Index on Censorship-Economist Freedom of Expression Award as well as the 2009 Amnesty International New Media Award, these accolades do not pay the bills. Nor can we accept government or corporate funding and maintain our absolute integrity. It is your strong support alone that preserves our continued independence and strength.
Basically they release whatever secret documents they can find and then congratulate themselves.
Bunch of goddamn traitors is what they are.
Here's their latest piece of disinformation
And here's what they say about it:
WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad -- including two Reuters news staff. Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded. For further information please visit the special project website www.collateralmurder.com.
Of course, it's all a big lie. Military expert Bill Roggio analyzes the video and concludes that:
Baghdad in July 2007 was a very violent place, and the neighborhoods of Sadr City and New Baghdad were breeding grounds for the Mahdi Army and associated Iranian-backed Shia terror groups. The city was a war zone. To describe the attack you see in the video as "murder" is a sensationalist gimmick that succeeded in driving tons of media attention and traffic to their website.
But of course.
Yes yes, I know, we're all supposed to believe that the people at WikiLeaks are fighting for truth and justice and the American Way. We're supposed to think that they're only trying to hold the government, corporations, and the powerful to account for any misdeeds. And hey, if they haven't done anything wrong, what's the problem?
If you haven't watched the whole video yet, please do so. The editorial comments before, during, and after the intercepted video make it clear that it's all just hate-America propaganda.
In case you're still in doubt as to the vile sort of people we're dealing with, this is the crowd that in 2008 publishedscreen shots of Sarah Palin's emails from her hacked Yahoo account.
Would they have published Obama's emails if someone had hacked into his account? Or that of Joe Biden? I think we know the answer.
People who do this sort of thing are beneath contempt.
In November of 2009 WikiLeaks also published hacked emails from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. They should not have done this either.
For what it's worth, my distain of global warmers and disbelief in their theories has nothing to do with these hacked emails, and not liking the situation I never blogged on them.
What About Investigative Journalism?"
Don't be silly. Of course there are times when leaked documents and such should be published. But it's clear that the people at WikiLeaks are out of bounds.
The Adversary Culture
In his 1992 work Anti-Americanism: Critiques at Home and Abroad, 1965-1990 Paul Hollander summed up these people to a T:
The people I have in mind - who belong to this broader adversary culture - can be identified by a number of beliefs. Among them is that American intervention almost anywhere in the world is without moral justification. They also aver that the United States bears the lion's share of responsibility for the sufferings of the poor in the Third World. They include prosperous white middle-class people who voted for Jesse Jackson, those who would not register for the draft (or who support and encourage nonregistration). They are citizens for whom all American military expenditure is wasteful, who claim to have sleepless nights over the prospect of nuclear war and press for making their towns "nuclear free zones"(and "sister cities" of those in the USSR and Nicaragua), people who in any conceivable conflict between the U.S. and other powers instinctively place the blame on the U.S., those among the college educated who are persuaded that Orwell's1984 captures most aptly the characteristics of contemporary America. They can also be identified by sporting bumper stickers proclaiming "US out of North America" and "This Country Was Build on the Bones of Indians." They are inclined to believe that the United States is a uniquely hypocritical and destructive society that failed to live up to it's promises. They are for the most part people of goodwill amid frustrated idealism, persuaded that in no other country are social ideals and practices so far apart as in the United States of America
Change the nouns and you have the modern left. Instead of obsessing over nuclear war it's global warming. Different decade, same type.
NRO's The Feed:
Julian Assange, a WikiLeaks editor, acknowledged to Fox News in an interview Tuesday evening that "it's likely some of the individuals seen in the video were carrying weapons."
Assange said his suspicions about the weapons were so strong that a draft version of the video they produced made specific reference to the AK-47s and RPGs. Ultimately, Assange said, WikiLeaks became "unsure" about the weapons. He claimed the RPG could have been a camera tripod, so editors decided not to point it out.
"Based upon visual evidence I suspect there probably were AKs and an RPG, but I'm not sure that means anything," Assange said. Nearly every Iraqi household has a rifle or an AK. Those guys could have just been protecting their area."
And as Greg Pollowitz of NRO's The Feed says,
In this history of man, no army has done more to minimize civilian casualties than what's gone on in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'd expect that hundreds, if not thousands of American lives have been lost because the R.O.E. are as strict as they are, not the opposite as WikiLeaks claims.
It's as if the more we try to minimize civilian casualties, the more strident the criticism becomes. You'd think that the folks at Wikileaks wanted to eliminate our ability to make war completely or something.
Professor Donald Douglas has a must-read post on his American Power blog appropriately titled Exposing the WikiLeaks/Communist/Media Alliance He not only provides armfuls of evidence that WikiLeaks is all wet, but exposes WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange as a convicted computer hacker and communist activist.
It'd be a grave miscarriage for U.S. military personnel, who meticulously observed ROE, to be charged with violated rules of war; and it'd be an even greater injustice to truth and common decency should this communist propaganda campaign gain even more domestic and international legitimacy than it already has.
Military expert and blogger Bill Roggio has another article up in which he concludes that that the Military Investigation Matches What Is Seen On Baghdad Strike Tape
The U.S. Army investigated this incident after it occurred and cleared the Apache crews of wrongdoing. And if you read the investigation and watch the tape, you'll see the findings of the investigation are consistent with what you see on the video.
If you follow any of these links, go to and aread all of Bill Roggio's two articles.
Other good posts (via the professor)
...what shouldn't stand without comment is a demonstrably false accusation (made in the "collateral murder" version of the video) that the children - unseen until that moment - were denied treatment in an American medical facility.
Author Bob Owens goes through the video, providing context and refuting various WikiLeaks allegations, so follow the links for his entire analysis. As with me, he questions their motivations:
The organization happens to be attempting to raise funds now. Claiming the need for an operating budget of $600,000, the group states they have only been able to raise $370,000. The implication seems both sad and obvious. Desperate for both attention and funding, WikiLeaks carefully constructed a propaganda video designed to raise their profile and increase donations....
The WikiLeaks video and "Collateral Murder" website seem calibrated for the express purpose of accusing soldiers of murder for the purposes of fundraising.
If they would like to continue to be though of as a non-partisan whistleblower organization, WikiLeaks must retract the inflammatory "Collateral Murder" short video, shut down the identically titled website, and provide critical and historical context -- not partisan framing -- around the events depicted.
The WikiLeaks fundraising effort "Collateral Murder" is not an accurate reflection of what occurred that morning in 2007 and manages only to slaughter the truth.
Sunday Update - Wiki Deception: Iraq "Collateral Murder" Rebuttal