Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Commentary 15- DiIonno on Poverty

From the New Jersey Star-Ledger 01/22/08

A day devoted to a dream
Posted by Mark DiIonno January 21, 2008 9:12PM

In this, the feel-good year of the Politics of Inclusion, there remains the grim reality of the Economy of Exclusion.

Forty years after the assassination of Martin Luther King much has changed and the candidacy of Barack Obama is just latest example. But in the recessed corners of all the speeches and programs of the King holiday weekend, are disturbing questions.

Despite strides in civil rights and equality, why does poverty and all it breeds -- violence, ignorance, drug addiction and despair -- remain a malignant growth in our cities?

Despite King's message of love and nonviolence, why has the murder rate soared and value of human life plummeted on some of our cities streets?

Just last week in Newark, an 18-year-old girl was stabbed to death by a 15-year-old over a silly argument, the kind of street homicide that has civil rights leaders and scholars wondering why King's message, in some places, has faded like the footsteps of the millions who marched almost 50 years ago.

This kind of violence was not included in Martin Luther King's vision of the promise America held for African-Americans. Now, many leaders are asking themselves how to restore that vision and combat the violence.

Last night at Newark's Bethany Baptist Church, these were the topics a crowd of about 300 was asked to think about.

Bethany pastor the Rev. M. William Howard, who led his first voter drive in Georgia in 1961, invited Cornell Brooks, the young new head of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, to speak to his congregation last night.

In discussions before the event, both men lamented the stubborn concentrations of poverty that continue to plague cities. But they also asked why the desire for education -- and with it, enlightenment -- has fallen by the wayside in so many places.

"With poverty comes social isolation," said Brooks, a fourth-generation minister from Virginia and graduate of Yale Law School and the Boston University School of Theology. "We have a generation of young people who want the things emblematic of America, but don't have the means to get there. What we have is economic segregation in many of our cities."

Howard believes if King were alive today, he would have turned his attention to the "economic underpinnings that unravel the social fabric" of poor neighborhoods.

"Martin believed human rights and civil rights would always flourish in good economic times," said Howard, a founding member of the Newark Community Foundation and current chairman of the Rutgers Board of Governors. "But in American cities today, things are continuing to fall apart. The Newark economy, like many Northern cities, was based on manufacturing jobs. Where are those jobs now? We have exported our labor violations and environmental problems to other countries."

Still, opportunity remains.

"I'm not saying racism has been erased, but some of the doors are wide open," Howard asked. "Why aren't people rushing through them? I'm trying to understand where we went wrong. I'm trying to understand why education has become so undervalued to us. Poor people always saw a value in education."

Brooks says valuable lessons of King's self-improvement have been lost.

"The Martin Luther King today is becoming a two-dimensional character. Most people know a few lines of the 'I Have A Dream Speech,' but don't know the other parts of King.

"They don't see the sacrifice, and the time-honored practices of hard work and discipline that led to his success," Brooks said. "They don't see how he fought for his own education, or that he was a prolific writer, putting down every thought he had on whatever type of paper was available."

Brooks tells a story about how King was motivated to be a great orator after receiving a "C" in public speaking. "These should be inspirational, motivational stories."

Howard says his church members have been working recently decided that "education is key to all we will be doing" in the community.

"Nothing is more important to us in the world today than knowledge about everything that impinges on human life," he said.

"Health, family life, spirituality, employment, all hinges on knowledge," he said. "People have to see hope through education. We have to get back to trying to become communities of learning."

Howard asks hard questions of leadership in America today, specifically in the broken areas of the black community.

"What are we demanding, from the society and ourselves? What are the new frontiers to provide hope over despair?" he asked. "And where are our dreams? Somehow, we are losing our dreams, and if we don't admit that to ourselves, we do it at our own peril."

Original Referenced Link

My Commentary:

Zemack on 01/22/08 at 8:48PM

"Despite strides in civil rights and equality, why does poverty and all it breeds -- violence, ignorance, drug addiction and despair -- remain a malignant growth in our cities?"

Because man, every individual man, is a being of self-generated action based on his mind, i.e., his ability to think and reason, the answer to the above question lies in the field of ideas. What ideas have become ingrained into the minds of young people that causes them to turn to "violence, ignorance, drug addiction and despair"? In other words, they give up. Why?

A lead to the answer is hidden in the following statement by Mr. DiIonno:

"In this, the feel-good year of the Politics of Inclusion, there remains the grim reality of the Economy of Exclusion."

What is meant here by "Economy of Exclusion"? Excluded, by whom? What is this mysterious entity called "the Economy"? An economy is merely the sum of the efforts of all of the individual people who engage in productive work and trade, with the level of material success of each determined primarily by the extent of his ability, ambition, and personal choices. Each individual is an autonomous entity who can join the "economy" at any time, simply by deciding to. Yet, some are "excluded". What is the deciding factor? It is the ideas, whether conscious or not, that a person accepts.

Does a child learn that the world is a malevolent place where the deck is stacked against him, or does he learn that he has it within his power to control the course of his own life? Does he learn to use and enjoy the tools of logic he possesses, or does he give up his mind as impotent because, after all, there are mysterious forces out there that "exclude" him from the "economy"? Does he make the self-generated effort necessary to learn the skills that he needs to achieve his own welfare and happiness, or does he give up on that, too, because some power-seeking politician tells him there is some "other America" that he cannot enter except with government help, which will be forthcoming after the next election?

This is not to say that there are no other culprits. The government-run "public" school monopoly, the 40+-year old "war on poverty", the failure to control crime and gangs, anti-business tax and regulatory policies that chase away job opportunities, among other things, are all contributing factors to poverty.

But it ultimately boils down to the individual and his ideas. It's not true that "young people who want the things emblematic of America...don't have the means to get there". Every individual has it within his power to thrive. It's called his mind. The decision to think and act, or not, is a choice no one can escape. What it takes is the kind of entrepreneurial thinking that is exemplified in the movie "The Freedom Writers", the true saga of a determined and courageous young teacher who, against great odds, instills in her inner city "unteachable" students a belief in themselves and a respect for others as individuals.

Martin Luther King paved the way by destroying the legal impediments to an oppressed minority. It is pointless to blame "society", the "culture", the "Economy of Exclusion", the "two Americas", "economic segregation" or any other such illusions that create in the minds of the young the hopeless "despair" of the belief that dark, mysterious forces are conspiring to rob them of any future. In the end, there are only the individual and his fundamental intellectual premises.

A hard look at the self-esteem destroying ideas that are instilled in the young by parents, teachers, and political and cultural leaders is the place to begin to look now for answers to the kinds of questions raised in Mr. DiIonno's article. If we don't admit that to ourselves, we do it at our own peril.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Commentary 14- Somerdale Mom

Somerdale Mom Fights Ban From Kids' School

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Courier-Post Staff

When 11-year-old Matthew Dieterle played trumpet in the Somerdale Park School holiday concert, his father held a cell phone in the air so his mother, who was home, could hear him play.

When it was time for parent-teacher conferences, Laura Dieterle told her husband, David, what to ask their children's teachers. And for Matthew's first basketball game, David Dieterle had to cheer loud enough for both parents.

"It wasn't the same when my mom wasn't there rooting for me," Matthew said. "She always used to be there all the time, and now she can't come on school property. So yeah, it's tough."

In a move that some education law experts say may be the first of its kind, the Somerdale school board unanimously voted in September to ban Laura Dieterle, 37, from school grounds.

The board cited "health and safety reasons" and the district's attorney says that Dieterle has demonstrated "violent tendencies" after repeated confrontations with school staff.

But Laura Dieterle, who is a school crossing guard employed by the Somerdale Police Department, believes she is nothing more than an active parent who angered the district by asking about a lawsuit related to a sexual harassment complaint against the superintendent.

Two weeks ago, Dieterle sent a letter to the school board, which she hopes will be considered at a meeting Wednesday, promising to stay away from board meetings for the rest of the year if she's allowed to attend some activities.

"They're only little once, and this is the time they need us the most," Dieterle said, describing how she was even forbidden from dropping off medication for her 6-year-old daughter, Brittany.

In barring Dieterle, the district's attorney cites a ban, upheld last year by a federal judge, that limited a Shawnee High School father's presence at the Medford school after alleged threats to his son's wrestling coach.

In that case, the father could still attend his son's matches as long as he didn't speak to staff or students and notified school officials when he arrived and left.

"The only times I've seen where there's real outright bans on showing yourself at any school thing at all is when the person is a registered sex offender," said Tom Hutton, staff attorney for the School Boards Association in Washington, D.C.

Board attorney John Kennedy said Dieterle has been repeatedly confrontational with school staff and she failed to conduct herself in a "respectful or professional manner."

"And there was concern that she was doing this during school hours," said Kennedy, who represents the 470-student, one-school, K-8 district. "So there was concern with regard to the safety of not only the staff but the students."

The conflict between Dieterle and the school, documented in written warnings and legal threats from the superintendent and board attorney, reached a tipping point in November 2006, when the police were called.

Business Administrator Kelly Peters accused Dieterle of pulling off a storm drainpipe cover in front of the school. Dieterle said she saw the cover was loose over an open hole and, concerned about children's safety, she complained.

A confrontation followed, during which Dieterle called Peters a "wench," Peters told police.

No charges were filed at the time. Superintendent Debra Bruner warned Dieterle in a Nov. 6, 2006, letter that she could soon "lose all visiting privileges to our school."

Undeterred, Dieterle continued to attend board meetings to ask about a lawsuit against the district, board and superintendent filed by a former buildings and grounds supervisor, Joseph Fallon Jr.

Fallon claimed he was fired in 2003 in retaliation for a sexual harassment grievance he filed against Bruner claiming she repeatedly brushed her body against his and pet his arm.

The wrongful termination suit was settled in April and is sealed by the terms of the settlement, Kennedy said. Legal fees were $41,118.99. But, before it was settled, Dieterle made more than 75 copies of the lawsuit to pass out to residents.

And then in September, she did something she believes was the final straw that prompted the ban: She wrote about the case in white marker on three sides of her car, and then parked it at the building on the first day of school.

"I needed support from more people to ask, "Why are we paying for this lawsuit? How can I trust my kids are safe?' " she said.

That same day, the district filed a criminal mischief charge against Dieterle for the drain pipe incident 10 months earlier, and demanded between $300 and $2,000 for repairs.

Dieterle pleaded guilty to a lesser nuisance charge, which she said she now regrets. The restitution matter is still in court.

By late September, the school board voted 6-0 to ban Dieterle from school property. Kennedy denies that Dieterle's constant questions about the lawsuit had anything to do with her banishment or the drain pipe charges. He said there was a "confrontation" but he declined to go into specifics.

One ally, neighbor Tom DiPaolo Jr., who blogs about Somerdale for courierpostonline.com, described Dieterle as a "wonderful" person and mother.

"She's passionate about her kids, she's passionate about what goes on at that school, but she's not a danger to anyone," DiPaolo said.

Reach Matt Katz at (856) 486-2456 or mkatz@courierpostonline.com

Original Referenced Link

My Commentary:

The thing that bothers me about this case is that it highlights the dictatorial powers that school boards possess. Apparently without a court hearing, this woman was banned for "violent tendencies" and not acting in a "respectful or professional manner." Who determines the meanings of those vague, subjective terms? Since no objective proof was required to have been presented to any impartial entity like a judge, almost any behavior can be construed as exhibiting "violent tendencies" or acting in a "[dis]respectful or [non-]professional manner." Such is the nature of government-run schooling. Never-the-less, on this specific issue, it seems that this woman really pushed the envelope because she was given plenty of notice "documented in written warnings and legal threats from the superintendent and board attorney". Also, the school board vote was 6-0. You would think that if she was treated unjustly, at least 1 or 2 board members would have voted no.

This case highlights the contradictory nature of "public" education. Everyone has rights, yet no one has rights. The schools are owned by everyone and no one. As a taxpayer, and an owner, this woman has a right to act in any manner she chooses on her own property, short of physically assaulting someone. Yet the next person has a right, as a taxpaying owner, to demand that she not behave in a fashion she disapproves of on her property. Multiply this times every parent in the school and you have anarchy. So, you end up with an elected school board with the power to enforce its idea of everyone's proper behavior (among other things). Democracy, in other words. Everyone's freedom is subordinated to the latest majority whim as determined by six people. (Multiply this scenario times 300 million and you have a dictatorship.)

So this woman is separated from her child for at worst rowdy behavior, while her child remains in a school that she continues to pay for. But the school board has an impossible job. They must balance the rights of some at the expense of the rights of others. Public education. If this were a private school, none of these conflicts could occur. The owners would set the terms on the property that they, and only they, own. People who send their children there must observe the owner's rules. If the owner's rules of conduct are broken, the parent is in breach of contract and tossed out, along with her child and her money. End of said parent's obligation to the school, and vice-versa. The parent is free to seek out other educational institutions more to her liking. End of story.

The public school system is a bad system run mostly by good people. Maybe its time to question the not-to-be-questioned. I see many people, in op-eds, letters, etc., advocating school choice. A recent letter writer in the Star-Ledger called outright for the abolition of the public schools, to be replaced with a totally private, competitive school system funded by student vouchers. This is getting really close to my position. But this is the unmentionable. This is the "radical". And this is the solution.

Posted by: Zemack on Sun Jan 20, 2008 8:59 pm

Commentary 13- Taxes Destroy

From NJVoices

"The power to tax involves the power to destroy"
Posted by Joseph Racioppi January 17, 2008 9:22PM
Categories: Hot Topics, Policy Watch, Taxes
Note: This piece is best read while listening to the Beatles' "Tax Man", written and sung by the late George Harrison. See the lyrics here.

The quote in the title is from the great Chief Justice John Marshall in the landmark case of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819). Though that case involved a bank (not tolls), the phrase is obviously still relevant today. For a discussion of the case, see this article.

Call it what you want, but Governor Corzine's plan to increase tolls is a tax increase, and an unfair one at that. He is going on a twenty one county tour selling his plan. A couple of my friends asked me to go to the Governor's stop in Morris County on Wednesday night. I declined because I don't want to be sold something I don't want. His plan does not involve spending cuts or layoffs because they are not popular. Therefore, he is not leading or making the hard decisions that need to be made. A spending freeze in not a cut.

Here is the schedule for upcoming sales pitches if you want to attend and say yes or no to the plan.

"What's your plan then?" I was asked. I would favor a TEMPORARY hike in the gas tax to pay off the massive debt given to us by our representatives the past 20 years. Someday, the tax would be repealed but I don't know if that's possible given human nature. Wasn't the sales tax supposed to be temporary? Or was it the income tax, I forget. Taxes, like death, are permanent it seems.

Property taxes alone are destroying many people, or at least forcing them to move. A sales tax increase in 2006, now a massive toll increase, talk about leasing the turnpike; No, this excessive taxation must stop, along with "robbing from Peter to pay Paul" schemes. Now that the economy is tanking, the last thing the average Joe needs is more taxes in the shape of a toll increase.

Yes, the power to tax involves the power to destroy, something the politicians in the State of denial called New Jersey fail to grasp.

I'm getting tired of having to e-mail, write and speak to get our government to NOT do something. Last summer it was the immigration/amnesty bill the people stopped. Now this. Wouldn't it be great if we could just sit back and do nothing while our reps actually worked for us? In the meantime, we must keep e-mailing, writing and speaking out against bad medicine (see Bon Jovi lyrics here).

Maybe I will go to see the Governor after all.

Original Referenced Link

My Commentary:

Posted by Zemack on 01/20/08 at 2:41PM

"I'm getting tired of having to e-mail, write and speak to get our government to NOT do something."

Mr. Racioppi is on to something here. It is hard to fight for a negative. It's not that opposing bad policy is not a worthwhile fight. It's that one must be fighting for something in order to inspire people. So here's my suggestion. Bundle opposition to the Corzine scheme with a call for the abolition of the state income tax.

As the attached essay on taxes correctly points out, inflation and the income tax are the two most destructive taxes. They are, I would add, immoral as well. Inflation is immoral because it is a hidden tax. The value of money is in the goods and services that back it up. Every honestly earned dollar represents the production by the earner of some value traded on the open market. When the government inflates (i.e., prints money beyond the requirements of the productive efforts of its citizens), it is engaging in legalized theft. The dollars it creates do not represent actual products or services. They do not represent anything. When these worthless dollars are used to purchase actual goods and services, what the government is actually doing is taxing (stealing) the purchasing power of the people.

The income tax is immoral for a different reason. Since man can only survive and thrive by creating the things he needs, productive work is his means of survival. As the article points out, the income tax is a tax on current income, i.e., productive work. In other words, it is a tax on the individual's means of survival. It is inherently wrong.

Inflation is a Federal issue. The income tax, however, is also a state issue, which is relevant here.

Demonstrating the immorality of the income tax is important because people need to believe that what they are fighting for is not only practical but right as well. Ayn Rand believed that one could not separate economics from morality. I agree. The destructive and impractical nature of the income tax has been well documented by economists. Yet it survives and thrives. This is because most people have been convinced that it serves some worthy notion of government services or "societal needs", etc. So the first task is to make the case that it is wrong to fund "services" or "needs" through a tax on the means of survival, the incomes, of others.

The practical case should be easier to make. I am old enough to report that for the first ten years of my working life, there was no state income tax! When it was enacted, it was billed as the answer to our educational "needs". Yet here we are. The schools in "poor" districts that were supposed to benefit are, by most accounts, worse than ever. Worse still, the income tax has been primarily responsible for the explosion of special interest pressure groups battling in Trenton to grab a branch off of the income tax Christmas tree. On top of that, and despite more or less steadily rising tax rates, NJ is in its worst fiscal hole ever. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, the state income tax is not the answer to our state's problems, it is the problem.

The NJ GOP should counter Gov. Corzine's government growth plan with a real counter attack. It should lay out a plan to shrink government by attacking its main nourishment, the income tax. The plan would include the elimination or privatization of all programs currently funded by the income tax. As part of the phase-out, the existing tax can be temporarily replaced by a flat-rate wealth tax to pay off the current state debt that would automatically expire when that debt is retired. Imagine the incalculable benefits for the state's economy!

The "it can't be done" crowd will be out in loud force. Horrified opposition will come from both sides of the political isle. But this line rings hollow when one remembers that there was no state income tax as recently as 31 years ago! A bold and principled movement to abolish the income tax on the grounds that it is both practical and right to do so is a mantle maverick GOPers should pick up. Electoral gains might not come immediately, but the NJ GOP is irrelevant anyway. But it would sure change the dynamics of the debate and put the Trenton establishment on the defensive. It would also ignite demoralized Republicans, as well as many independents and likely draw in many new voters willing to fight for a big cause.

Only challenging the status quo, the accepted, and the hitherto not-to-be-questioned can reverse the fiscal and economic death spiral taking hold on our state.

Other Commentary:

Posted by cubcadet on 01/20/08 at 5:01PM

Hey zemack,
Very well put. I can remember when I was a little boy, going to the dime store and soda shop and buying a pop or a grilled cheese sandwich and not paying state sales tax. As a matter of fact, when one purchased something, at least in a small retail establishment, the prices were so low that they did not have to price things in a deceptive manner, ie., $4.99 instead of just plain $5.00.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Commentary 12- On the Electoral College

From the Courier Post Online Monday, January 14, 2008

Associated Press

New Jersey on Sunday became the second state to enter a compact that would eliminate the Electoral College's power to choose a president if enough states endorse the idea.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed legislation that approves delivering the state's 15 electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The Assembly approved the bill last month and the Senate followed suit earlier this month.

Maryland -- with 10 electoral votes -- had been the only state to pass the compact into law.

The measure could result in the electoral votes going to a candidate opposed by voters in New Jersey, which has backed Democratic presidential candidates since 1988. However, the compact would take effect only if enough states -- those with a majority of votes in the Electoral College -- agreed to it.

A candidate needs 270 of 538 electoral votes to win.

The compact has also passed both houses of the Illinois Legislature, according to the National Popular Vote movement, and has been approved by one legislative house in Arkansas, Colorado and North Carolina.

Governors in California and Hawaii, though, vetoed bills to join the compact.

The goal is to ensure that the national popular vote winner becomes president. Democrats who sponsored the bill have noted that their party's 2000 presidential nominee, Al Gore, won the popular vote that year but lost in the Electoral College.

Sponsors contend the agreement would ensure that all states are competitive in presidential elections and make all votes important. It also would guarantee the presidency to the person who received the most votes.

Corzine signed the bill privately Sunday, but spokesman Jim Gardner recently said, "New Jersey, like two-thirds of the nation's states, has long been on the sidelines of presidential races and this measure would help put the Garden State back into competition during a presidential campaign."

Republicans criticized the bill as undermining federal elections.

"This legislation is a constitutional travesty," said Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris. "It's a back door end run of the federal Constitution."

Original Referenced Link

My Commentary:

There are a number of reasons why the Electoral College must be preserved. The most important reason is the key role it plays in the Founders’ attempt to restrain the government through the process called the balance-of-power.

The balance-of-power doctrine applies to government and only to government. This is because the only institution that can legally use force in any society or geographical area is the government. Having a legal monopoly on the use of force is a necessary element for government to fulfil its proper and primary role of protecting the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the individual. This role includes protection against domestic criminals, foreign armed enemies and invaders, fraud, as well as the operation of the civil courts for the peaceful mediation of disputes among citizens, etc.

But the government, its only method of functioning being force, also represents a threat to a free people. So the legal monopoly that government holds on the use of force must, to prevent the rise of tyranny, be kept in check. In other words, a government is at once a vital guarantor of individual liberty and also its greatest threat. One of the tools the Founders conceived is the balance-of-power doctrine. The balance-of-power applies not only to the three branches of government at both the state and federal levels, but also between the states and the federal government.

The Electoral College is part of the balance between the state and federal governments. The crucial phrase in the constitution is in Article II which states;

“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature there of may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”

In other words, the President of the United States is, in essence, chosen by the elected legislatures of the states. They may choose the electors by popular vote, but they do not have to. Being elected representatives of the state’s voters, the legislatures can choose by vote the electors themselves, empanel a special commission for that purpose, or in some other “Manner as the Legislature there of may direct.” Notice also that “no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.” This completes the firewall between the executive branch of the federal government and the citizens of the states, thus preserving the balancing power of the states vis-à-vis the federal government.

Additionally, the state legislature can step in and override the popular vote for a variety of reasons. For example, in the case of an inconclusive vote due to voting machine breakdowns, massive fraud, terrorist attack, etc. the legislature can assert its authority to choose the electors and facilitate the smooth completion of the electoral process. In addition, state legislatures can nullify a popular vote in the unlikely event that an irrational, emotionally charged electorate were to choose a demogogue with dictatorial ambitions. It is entirely within the realm of possibility that the Electoral College process may someday prevent the rise to power of an American Hitler (who was elected by a 40% minority of the popular vote in Germany). Since the state legislatures are elected by the states voters, none of this represents a disenfranchisement of the electorate.

We have already weakened the states by switching to a direct popular vote in senatorial elections ( National Senators were originally chosen by state legislatures). The President is, under the Electoral College, beholden to the states for his election. A direct popular vote will dramatically weaken the states with the commensurate result being the further concentration of power in Washington. The balance-of-power protection against tyranny will have taken a body blow.

There are other strong reasons to preserve the Electoral College. This may be the most important one.

Posted by: Zemack on Tue Jan 15, 2008 8:37 pm

Other commentary:

Thank God there are still some people who understand the Constitution and what its all about.

When the Constitution was being drafted, the French Revolution was happening..... the mobs were guillotining the aristocracy and anyone else who displeased them.... and then they ended up not with any sort of demnocracy, but an EMPEROR.... Napoleon Bonaparte,,, and 20-30 years of what amounted to World War.

This country has been dumbed down to the opoint of idiocy...... you can sell most of the sheep anything..... the same media that gave us the Monkees (an artificial, created by the media and packaged to sell rock group) is now giving us Obama (an artificial, created by the media and packaged to sell politician).

The USA is in DEEP S**T

Posted by: phil552 on Tue Jan 15, 2008 11:14 pm


Well said Zemack.

I think people should understand the founding principles of this nation.
The nation was not founded on a pure popular vote principle, and precautions were added to prevent just that. Well said.

This nation is a republic, not a pure democracy.
Hate to quote an oldie, but, "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

And, Comrade Corzine, and the rest of the liberal socialists are trying to change that.

Posted by: jwbhammer on Tue Jan 15, 2008 10:01 pm

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Commentary 11- Moran on Corzine-Franks

From the New Jersey Star-Ledger 1/13/08

2007 July 2007 Crossing party lines to back a buddy
Posted by Tom Moran January 13, 2008 11:01AM
Categories: Politics
A most unlikely thing happened after Jon Corzine beat Bob Franks in the race for U.S. Senate in 2000 -- the two men found they genuinely liked each other.

The friendship grew over the years, as they worshipped together at Christ Church in Summit, attended football games at Giants Stadium with their families, and stole moments whenever they could to talk politics.

Now, that friendship offers the best chance in a generation for New Jersey to get past the ugly partisanship that has turned politics in this state into something like a playground fight.

Franks, a Republican, committed what many of his fellow party members consider an act of infamy last week -- he embraced the governor's plan to pay down the state's debt with a massive increase in highway tolls. And he agreed to campaign for it.

"People are calling him a traitor," says Tom Wilson, the Republican chairman. "I love Bob Franks myself. But I could not disagree with him more on this."

The irony here -- and it's a big one -- is that Franks has given his hapless Republican Party more influence than it has had in years.

It turns out that Franks, probably the most respected political strategist in the state's Republican Party, has been meeting secretly with Corzine for four months, grinding out the details during a series of about 20 meetings.

His terms were simple. If you want my support for toll hikes, he told Corzine, you need to freeze spending and put strict new limits on debt. Raising more revenue will do no good, he said, until the spending is under control.

"Bob entered this in a very early stage, and it was very clear from the start that he would engage us only if we addressed the spending part, too," says Maggie Moran, a senior aide to the governor.

That is the grand bargain that neither side has acknowledged until now.

For Franks, it was no easy sell. The governor had already spoken about the need to limit borrowing, but not a spending freeze. Franks says Corzine initially resisted, pleading that costs like health and energy are rising even faster than inflation. A freeze would force deep program cuts.

"I said, 'There is no other way to stop this arrogant overspending than for you to declare that it will stop -- no wiggle room, no ambiguity, no loopholes.'"

A few weeks ago, the governor finally agreed. And when you consider how much Corzine wants to spend money on health care, preschool and other new programs, that is no small feat.

Given that, all this Republican anger at Franks is remarkable. The man they are calling a traitor has fought a hundred wars on the Republican side. He engineered the campaign against former Gov. James Florio's tax hikes, which led to a decade of Republican control in the Legislature.

As a congressman during the 1990s, he helped draft the Contract with America and was on the budget committee that not only produced the first balanced budget in modern times, but paid down the national debt by about $500 billion. If politics were warfare, this man would have Republican medals for valor up and down his lapels.

And yet, he made the deal.

The reason, he says, is that New Jersey is in real trouble. The bill for all the reckless borrowing and spending over the last decade is finally coming due. And we don't have enough money even to repair our bridges.

Franks recalled the first meeting the governor invited him to attend, with more than a dozen lawyers and financiers at the governor's office in Newark four months ago. The learning curve was steep.

"I felt as if they were talking Swahili to me," Franks said. "But the governor was in his element. He was pointing fingers and asking questions and challenging people."

But over the weeks, in meeting after meeting, Franks became more and more resolved. This was the best of all the bad options.

Will he sway other Republicans? So far, there is no sign of that.

If Republicans stand solidly against this, Wilson said the party could beat Corzine over the head with this issue when he seeks re-election as expected in 2009. Wilson hopes that Republicans could regain power, just as they did when Florio increased taxes by $2.8 billion in 1990.

"This will be Jon Corzine's $2.8 billion tax increase," Wilson said. "It will be a significant focus of the 2009 campaign."

And there's the problem. We have lost the art of compromise, and put a reflexive opportunism in its place.

Yes, it's easy to hate this plan. It offers nothing but pain. In the next several weeks, we will undoubtedly find flaws that need repair.

But if Republican legislators present no substitute of their own, then it's fair to conclude they are playing politics with our future, looking to score points rather than solve problems. And that should be an issue in the 2009 elections, too.

As for now, Corzine has scored a coup. Plans are still taking shape, but Franks may even attend some of the 21 town meetings that Corzine has planned, and even appear in radio or TV spots.

Already, the knives are out. Some Republicans are spreading rumors that Franks is helping Corzine in return for the governor's veto of a wrongful death bill opposed by the pharmaceutical industry, which Franks now represents. Franks denies that, but he's been around politics long enough to know more of that may be coming.

So far, it seems, the man has gotten nothing but grief for his efforts. Except, perhaps, for the respect of a governor who is now most definitely his friend.

Original Referenced Link

My commentary:

Posted by Zemack on 01/13/08 at 4:50PM
The joint, bi-partisan effort by Governor Corzine and Bob Franks is commendable. Unfortunately, it completely misses the mark. Spending freezes and revenue-raising schemes ignore the fundamental cause of New Jersey's slide toward disaster.

The problem is the collectivist idea that the peoples' earnings are the property of the state, to be taxed away by the latest "man with a plan" to "solve" the problems of "society". The practical result is to open the floodgates for special interests of every stripe to stream through, each seeking to impose its agenda on everyone else by the coercive power of the state using other people's tax money. Always hiding behind the evasive rationalization of "the public welfare", politicians angle, deal and jockey for the chance to grab a piece of the loot for their particular constituents, as represented by these special interest groups.

If anyone wants to understand where his hard earned money goes after it is taxed away, look behind the phony, mawkish concern for "society" or the "public welfare" and you will see the naked essence of our mixed economy... what Ayn Rand called a non-violent "cold" civil war of pressure groups each battling over the spoils produced by the individual members of the "public".

The insidious idea that it is proper to solve our problems by force...i.e., by means of other people's tax money, has become the unmentionable principle. The given. The not to be questioned. The politicians and their special interest masters do not operate in a vacuum. They are a reflection of the immoral and unjust idea described above which we, the voters, have accepted without question. In a sense, we are all both victims and profiteers on this "system". We cheer the politician who vows to "fight" the special interest pressure groups, as long as it is the other guy's special interest pressure group.

The downward cycle can be broken only by rejecting the collectivist idea that a handful of government bureaucrats can "solve" society's problems by usurping the rights of society's components, the individuals who make it up. Every individual is an equal member of the "public". By using his own money to act on his own judgement, in pursuit of his own rational self-interest and personal welfare (and that of his family), he is, in effect, acting in the public welfare. There is no conflict between the individual and the public. The individual, every individual, is the public. To say that the individual citizen acting in his own self-interest, with his own money, in areas such as education and health care is contrary to the public interest is a blatant contradiction-in-terms.

Rather than worry about "how much Corzine wants to spend [other people's] money on health care, preschool and other new programs", we should be looking at ways to keep the money, and decision-making power, in the hands of the people who know their lives best... the people whose money he wants. Mr. Moran himself pointed toward a start in this direction in a previous column (Vouchers are the obvious choice) in which he advocated parental vouchers for pre-school to "break the monopoly of the public school system." I would build on this approach, but with tax credits rather than state-funded vouchers, in areas like K-12 education and healthcare. (Other related steps need to be taken as well, such as sweeping away state benefit mandates that drive up the cost of health insurance, and opening up the state to free market competition from outside plans.)

A person's earnings belong to him. No one has any fundamental right to the earnings of others. The hypocritical "activists" who seek to "do good" with the earnings of others and the power of government, and the pressure-group warfare they spawn is the fundamental problem. When we recognize this fact, we will be on our way to recovery.

As far the charge of Bob Franks being a "traitor" is concerned, there is unfortunately an element of truth to this claim. But not in the way the charge is being used. The Republican Party, by and large, wants to use the Governor's tax hikes as a path to power in Trenton, but not for any kind of principled purpose. By helping to "solve" the state's fiscal mess, he is seen as taking away a GOP weapon for gaining power for power's sake.

The real issue is that in using his influence to help the governor here, he is in effect helping to preserve the status quo in Trenton. Without a principled attack on the fundamental cause of the problems confronting our state, which I outlined above, he is simply clearing the way for a resumption of the expansion of welfare statism in New Jersey. This is his real "treason".

Other commentary:

Posted by notebene on 01/13/08 at 8:09PM
ZEMACK: polemics never trumps politics. Your answers are for long run structural reform. Right now it's trench warfare with the well oiled Wall Street high cost high risk Plan dreamed up to maximize available free revenues and provide Corzine with a major fiscal accomplishment suitable for his resume as potential Treasury Secy. This is raw politics and only raw local political revolution will suffice. Fill every county meeting with questions and more facts. Enlist private financial advisors to represent tax payers not the vested interests. This plan can be fully vetted and alternate strategies can be developed. Can you believe the arrogance of the Corzine "my plan or bankruptcy." He should know better that there is always a plan B that may in fact be more cost effective. Don't allow this rush to judgement. The people must demand the right to vote this plan up or down.

My Commentary:

Inappropriate? Alert us. Post a commentPosted by Zemack on 01/14/08 at 7:14PM

"ZEMACK: polemics never trumps politics. Your answers are for long run structural reform."

With due respect, NOTEBENE, you've got it exactly reversed. Politics does not operate in a vacuum. It is an effect, an end result, a reflection of the fundamental philosophical principles accepted by a culture or society. Whether one identifies those basic ideas explicitly or not does not negate this fact. Consequently, only by identifying and challenging the underlying ideas that brought our state to its current predicament can one begin to offer practical solutions.

The pragmatic, range of the moment, "practical" political "trench warfare" approach is what got us here in the first place and won't do any longer. Ignoring the long-term consequences of short-term fixes leads to long-term disaster. What's needed is ideological trench warfare, because only by reference to political philosophy can long-term consequences be intelligently discussed and predicted. This is what I am attempting to bring to NJ Voices. "Polemics" (a vigorous debate over political philosophy...i.e., the proper role of government, in this case) is just what the doctor ordered. "[L]ong run structural reform" is desperately needed and can only begin on the battleground of ideas. Identify your political-philosophical principles and then offer practical solutions tied to those principles.

"Enlist private financial advisors to represent tax payers not the vested interests."

Which taxpayers? Who are the "vested interests" if not taxpayers? Whom do they represent, if not taxpayers? Who would be responsible for paying the financial advisers, if not the taxpayers? Wouldn't these advisors then themselves become another vested interest, feeding off of the taxpayers?

Anyway, the "vested interests" are not the cause, but the consequence of a runaway Trenton taxing machine and the redistributive policies that it spawned. They are merely opportunists flocking to Trenton to grab a piece of the tax-funded honeypot.

To really put the "taxpayers" first, the Corzine plan should be inverted. Instead of freezing spending, a meaningless exorcise in window dressing, how about freezing state revenue intake from all sources at the current level. No new "revenue enhancers". Corzine wants to get voter approval for new state borrowing. How about a 2/3 voter approval for tax increases? Then, cut state spending until the budget comes into line with revenues, and freeze it at that level. This proposal could be a good starting point. Cutting or eliminating state programs to reach that goal will raise a lot of hackles. But a basic fact must be recognized. Production comes before consumption. Keep that principle in mind when you hear that it can't be done because the state's "needs" won't be met. Production comes before need. Sacrificing the productive (the taxpayers) to the "needs" of tax-funded beneficiaries is a moral and practical inversion. How will the state's needs be met after the economy implodes under the pressure of ever-rising taxes? Putting the productive ahead of the recipients of unearned benefits is a good principle to fight for, even if in many cases they are one and the same person.


Posted by TheBullhorn on 01/16/08 at 11:53AM

Warning: a quasi-Randroid has entered the conversation . . . not that I object, you understand. I happen to be a fan of political economy and philosophy and I do accept the notion that thought must precede action and that all political activity is based upon either overt or tacit acceptance of some basic principle of political philosophy, just as the Z-person suggests.

But hereafter, do expect some prolix prose in here.

[prolix means "given to or indulging in long and wordy discourses". I looked it up.]

Posted by Zemack on 01/17/08 at 4:17PM

Randroid! I like that, TheBullhorn. I think I might call myself Zemack the Randroid!

And yes, I am an admirer of Rand and her philosophy.

P.S.- You should see my comments before I edit them

Posted by TheBullhorn on 01/18/08 at 8:25AM

There are lots of people who are admirers of Rand and her ideas, however . . .

Judging strictly from the evidence provided by your writing, methinks you understate the nature of your attachment to Ms. Rand . . . I'd label you an adherent . . . a "Randroid" is the common label for your level of attachment.

Not only that, you apparently are a student of her ideas as well . . . I'll bet you've read her non-fiction stuff.

I suffered through all that stuff, too. Much to commend it. But have mercy: if all you're going to do is to repeat her thinking on the evils of statism and collectivism (at some length, I might add), why not just provide a link to her writing on the subject? Or at least, give her proper attribution . . .

Just a friendly suggestion . . .

Posted by Zemack on 01/19/08 at 1:47PM

I was under the impression that your "Randroid" comment was an attempt at humor, since I had never heard that expression before. Although you may not have intended it that way, that word has derogatory overtones. It means either (A) that one blindly and uncritically accepts Objectivism at face value, or (B) that one accepts (or "adheres" to) Objectivism fully and consistently based on long-term study, understanding, and reflection. The first is true of many, but certainly not me. Not after the 40 years since I first read Rand that it took me to come around to my current viewpoint. The second is true of me, at least as far as my understanding of the basic abstract philosophical tenets of Objectivism are concerned. If "Randroid" means the first, it is a disparaging term. If it means the second, then it is disparaging to anyone who holds a consistent set of principles, Objectivist or not.

As to "if all you're going to do is to repeat her thinking on the evils of statism and collectivism (at some length, I might add), why not just provide a link to her writing on the subject? Or at least, give her proper attribution . . ." My website intro explicitly explains that I am a "student of Objectivism" and that the opinions expressed by me are from an Objectivist perspective, as I understand it. Proper links and credits are given to Rand or anyone else I quote or refer to in my posts. The link to my blog is provided in my profile here for anyone interested, and I shouldn't have to document the genesis of the ideas I express every time I post a comment (you complain they are too long already!).

As far as "repeat[ing] her thinking on the evils of statism and collectivism" is concerned, give me a break, TheBullhorn. Whether one's ideas are his original thought or are inspired by someone else, is it not proper to advocate for one's beliefs? After all, what is the purpose of free expression and NJVoices?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Commentary 10- Moran on the Race Card

From the New Jersey Star-Ledger 01/11/08

2007 July 2007 Tossing the race card from the deck
Posted by Tom Moran January 10, 2008 10:46PM
Categories: Politics

Cory Booker, like Barack Obama, is a young and super-educated black politician with a golden tongue.

But the two share much more than that. They have walked the same political path, one in Chicago and the other in Newark. They both fought against older men with roots in the civil rights era, and bring an entirely new style of politics to the African-American community.

And when they sat down one day and compared their political bruises, they found a nearly exact match.

"He got lambasted as a 'white boy,' too," says Booker. "We've both grown up in a more racially complex time."

Two things have happened in America that make it possible we would actually elect an African-American president. One is that white voters are casting more ballots for black candidates, all across the country. Racism lives, but it isn't what it used to be.

The other is this new generation of politicians like Obama, the senator from Illinois, and Booker, the mayor of Newark. They steer clear of ideological fights and confrontations. They focus on solving problems. They build coalitions with white and Latino politicians. And they rarely, if ever, appeal to black voters based on narrow racial interests.

"It's a co-evolution," says David Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank focusing on black issues. "White voters have evolved. The other thing is, these black candidates are not your typical black candidates from the past. They have a broader message aimed at everyone. They tend to come from the best schools. And they are very nimble intellectually."

So Booker, with his law degree from Yale University, sat down last year with Obama, the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, at the Hilton in Newark. The two didn't know each other -- it was a blind date arranged by Oprah Winfrey's best friend, Gayle King.

Booker began the breakfast as a skeptic, wondering how much substance was behind the star from Chicago. But by the time the dishes were cleared, he was converted.

"He complete disarmed me and made me an enthusiast," Booker said.

The two swapped stories that rang familiar. Obama recounted his bruising loss in a primary race against Congressman Bobby Rush, a former Black Panther who ridiculed Obama by saying Obama knew little of the black experience in America.

"Barack is a person who read about the civil rights protests and thinks he knows all about it," Rush said.

The tone had to sound familiar. During Booker's losing 2002 campaign, Mayor Sharpe James often ripped into Booker as some kind of racial heretic. "You have to learn to be African-American," James once said. "And we don't have time to train you all night."

Try to imagine Booker or Obama making that kind of ugly racial pitch, and you can see how much is changing.

Booker has mixed feelings about the older generation. He's grateful that they broke down the doors that people like Obama and him are now walking through. But the political thinking, he says, has to change with the times.

"There is no Bull Connor in our way anymore," Booker says. "But there is still child poverty. And essential to solving that kind of problem is to build broad-based coalitions. Having Barack Obama bring us all together is important for that."

Along with Booker and Obama, Bositis says, this club of newer generation of African-Americans includes people like Washington Mayor Adrien Fenty, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former congressman Harold Ford, and Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

"They are all very ambitious," Bositis says.

Obama perhaps the most. It is a bold act to run for president with as little experience as he has in national politics. And his soaring rhetoric is simply not matched by concrete achievements in his career.

But the point is that race is not the first concern. Yes, some white voters will reject any African-American. But Bositis, for one, thinks that will not decide the race.

And that says something important about American politics.

"Merit matters, regardless of race," Bositis says. "If you are somebody who excels at what you do, there is great potential for you to be successful."

The dinosaurs, meanwhile, are gradually giving way. When the Rev. Jesse Jackson was quoted saying that Obama needs to "stop acting like he's white," his congressman son wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Sun-Times under the headline, "You're wrong on Obama, Dad."

Sharpe James, who stepped down as mayor rather than face a rematch with Booker, is now awaiting trial on corruption charges.

And Bobby Rush, who once ridiculed Obama as "an educated fool from Harvard," is now endorsing him.

Original Referenced Link

My Commentary:

Posted by Zemack on 01/11/08 at 11:04PM
"But the point is that race is not the first concern. Yes, some white voters will reject any African-American."

This is true. I would add that some people would vote for a black candidate because he is black. I believe these two groups of voters are relatively small and would more or less cancel each other out. Most people, I believe, care more about ideas than they are given credit for. But it is ideas that are sorely lacking in American politics. By ideas, I mean discussion of broad philosophical principles that enable voters to look beyond the narrow concrete issues that a particular candidate may be advocating. Instead, mostly what we get is evasiveness, sound bites, and platitudes that mean different things (or nothing at all) to different people. The reason is hidden in the following quote from Mr. Moran's article:

"They steer clear of ideological fights and confrontations. They focus on solving problems."

"Ideological fights" are exactly what this country needs, and the voters deserve. Instead, we get pragmatic politicians who "focus on solving problems", one at a time, without considering how that problem came to be in the first place, what the long term consequences of the "solution" will be, how a particular issue relates to other issues, etc. It is only by reference to political philosophy (i.e., ideology) that one can begin to answer such broad questions.

Yet principles are what the pragmatist disdains. In order to get support for his pet program, the pragmatic politician (which most of them are) must keep the people focused narrowly on the "problem" at hand, isolated from all other considerations or related consequences. A good example of this is the current move in congress to give the Federal Communications Commission the power to regulate "obscene and violent" content in the media (Protecting Children From Indecent Programming Act). Opponents of the bill properly point out that this new FCC power is a step down the road toward the ultimate enemy of a free society, censorship. The proponents counter with charges that they are "ideologues" who support smut and violence rather than children ("children" are a favorite prop these days for power-seeking politicians). What the advocates fear, of course, is precisely what the "ideologue" stands for...a principled position that dares to focus on the "forest" (the broad picture, the consequences), not just the "tree" (the concrete issue).

Pragmatism, of course, is itself an ideology. Specifically, it is an anti-ideology ideology. Pragmatism holds that only the current facts matter, that there are no absolute principles from which one can predict the consequences of ones actions, that abstract thought is meaningless, that issues cannot be related to one another, that each concrete issue is an isolated occurrence requiring "practical" actions that "work" without regard for the broad picture. The pragmatist hates the "ideologue"...the person who holds a firm, consistent set of principles that he applies to all issues.

To see pragmatism's practical results, one need only look at the state of American health care. Today's crises (and yes, it is a crises) was a long time coming. For the past 75 years, "pragmatic" politicians piled one coercive government intrusion after another onto American medicine at the behest of pressure groups forever angling to impose one more mandate onto everyone else. It is a system where 16% of GDP ($7000 per capita!) is spent on health care, of which nearly 90% of that represents people spending other people's money. It is a system where middle class earners are forced to pay, through both direct and indirect taxation (ex., corporate taxes), for the ½ that represents government spending (that's $3500 per capita, or $14,000 for a family of 4), yet can't afford to buy his own health insurance. It is a system where many two-income families have double coverage, one from each employer, yet have virtually no say on the terms or coverage included in their policies, because those judgements have been usurped by the employer and government mandates and regulations. The name of this absurd monstrosity is our government-imposed "third party payer" system.

It is only with reference to ideology (political philosophy) that the consequences of the steady abandonment of a free market in health care over the decades could have been foreseen, and possibly avoided. Today, America is nearing the dead end...a final collapse into a government-run health care dictatorship. And most Americans have no clue how we got here, or that a free market in health care ceased to exist decades ago.

What is desperately needed today is precisely what we are unlikely to get this election year...a vigorous ideological debate on issues like the proper role of government, the nature of individual rights, and the ultimate direction each candidate wants to lead us. The choice is statism or individual freedom. It is a choice that should be presented openly to the American voter. Sadly, Americans won't get that clear choice debated by its political parties, courtesy of the "non-ideologues" on both sides of the isle. And the default drift toward statism will continue.

Other commentary:

Posted by hglindquist on 01/12/08 at 8:23AM
Well said (written?), Zemack!

While I don't think the choice is statism vs. individual freedom in starkly delineated poles ... I think it is more of a spectrum between limits ... I do believe we need the "ideological fights" based on how we define our principles.

And I hope NJ Voices continues to "grow" as a place where we can engage each other over the issues from positions of principle.

For example, I agree with blarneyboy that the family is our "societal node" (David Brooks' seedbed) for growing the new generations to maturity. But not only have we been instituting policies that are proving to be destructive of the family -- and we should be coming to grips with what constitutes a "family" if for no other reason than we should if we base society on "families" -- we are also removing MAJOR economic decision-making away from families and putting it in bureaucracies.

For example -- and as you point out on healthcare -- If we have a family of four living in, say, an Abbott school district with 2 adults and 2 public school-age children then we have $14,000 in healthcare + 2 X $17,000 or $34,000 in public education for a total of $48,000 spent on that family as dependents of government bureaucracy.

Shouldn't we at least be talking about how that affects the political process around here? I'm not even making a judgment other than to say ... shouldn't we be asking? ... like who was it that told us that democracies self-destruct when folks start voting themselves goodies from the public purse?

My commentary:

Posted by Zemack on 01/13/08 at 1:37PM
"Well said (written?), Zemack!"

Thank you, Hglindquist, for the kind words.

"And I hope NJ Voices continues to 'grow' as a place where we can engage each other over the issues from positions of principle."

This is my hope, too. And we can start with:

"...and we should be coming to grips with what constitutes a "family" if for no other reason than we should if we base society on 'families'..."

With "family" and "family values" all the rage in the political arena these days, you bring up a very important consideration. Is the family the proper base or foundation of a society? There is no doubt that it is an important institution that provides the structure for proper child rearing. But it most definitely must not be a culture's fundamental unit of value.

The proper foundation, the "base", of any society must be the individual. America was founded on this principle, the primary Enlightenment idea, which is laid out in the Declaration of Independence. There is a crucial distinction here that should be understood.

The "family", like any group (the public, race, class, etc.), is not a separate entity but merely a collection of autonomous individuals each with his own capacity for self-generated action based on his own thinking and judgement. The particular structure of a family is not inherently good or bad, but is determined by the ideas and consequent actions and interactions of its individual members, especially of the parent(s).

Is a child raised in an environment where he is taught "its so, because I said so", or "God said so", with no further explanation? Is he told to act and behave according to what is "expected" of him by the "family", or "society", or "others"? Is the child forbidden to "go away to college" because he shouldn't leave the family? Is the child pressured to pursue a career, not of his choosing, but of his father's so as to "follow in his footsteps"? Is the child expected to conform to his family's traditions and customs rather than develop his own independent thought and course? Is a child to be shunned or disowned for independent actions that "dishonor" the family? In short, is the "family" a ball-and-chain around the developing character of the child, strangling his sense of self-esteem and self-worth in its crib and thus handicapping his ability to become a productive and happy adult?

If the family were considered the basic societal unit of value (which means that its individual members are subordinate to it), then the proper answer to the above questions (and others like it) would have to be yes. If one accepts the belief in the individual as the supreme unit of value, then the answers would be a resounding no. Instead, a different family environment emerges.

The child is taught to think for himself. He is encouraged to develop and use his innate mental tools of logic. For him, the words "why", "how", and "what for" are ingrained into his mental character. Mutual respect between parent and child is encouraged, rather than blind obedience. The parent seeks to advise and steer his growing child in the right direction, to the best of his knowledge and experience, but never loses sight of the fundamental fact that he is an autonomous individual. Rules, discipline, and other parental prerogatives are ever cognizant of this. The child begins adulthood with confidence and restless anticipation for the independent course that he will pursue.

The first example is likely to produce an adult full of self-doubt, fearful of acting on his own judgement, more apt to subordinate his thinking and goals to others while simultaneously resenting and envying independent, self-confident people he may encounter. The second example is likely to result in an independent adult who regularly acts on his own judgement, who neither sees others as a threat nor uses others for his own ends...i.e. one who respects and treats others as individuals.

The value-of-the-individual principle is the guiding philosophy of my wife and I. The result is a close family (despite a distance of up to hundreds of miles between us). We have two grown independent daughters and son's-in-law, six grandchildren, and a family relationship based on mutual love and respect for each other as individuals.

There is no doubt that a complete family unit with both parents at home is an ideal situation. But that is no guarantee of good child rearing. The idea that the family is the standard of value and the base of society is a form of collectivism, which is a throwback to a primitive tribal view of man and a denial of each person's independent mind, and will produce an authoritarian family environment unconducive to proper child rearing.

It is a matter of cause and effect. A culture whose dominant ideas recognize the individual and his rights as the standard of value will produce the proper type of family environment, and consequently a just and civil society.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Commentary 9- NJ Apology

Slavery: Is it time for New Jersey to apologize?

Posted by Kelly Heyboer January 03, 2008 5:30PM

If an apology comes 161 years late, does it still count?

That's the question lawmakers will be asking in Trenton today as an Assembly committee begins debating a measure that would make New Jersey the fifth state in the nation to apologize for slavery.

Assemblyman William Payne (D-Essex) is sponsoring the bill to make New Jersey the first northern state to express official remorse for allowing residents to own slaves. The measure calls only for an apology and does not advocate paying reparations to the descendants of former slaves.

"All that is being requested of New Jersey is to say three simple words: We are sorry," Payne said.

My Commentary:

Inappropriate? Alert us. Post a commentPosted by Zemack on 01/03/08 at 8:40PM
The bill before the New Jersey legislature to officially apologize, on behalf of the state, for slavery practiced in the 19th century is being billed as a step toward rectifying the lingering injustice of racism. Racism, it is said, is a remnant of the enslavement of blacks in the early years of America. It is said that by apologizing for whatever part early New Jersey residents played in regards to slavery, a step will have been taken toward ending this vestige of slavery. But this apology bill will do no such thing. In fact, it will only reinforce whatever racism exists in the minds of people.

This is because racism is not rooted in slavery. Slavery and racism, in fact, are two separate and distinct evils, although they share the same philosophical base... collectivism. While American slavery may have had racist overtones, it must be remembered that America, at its founding, inherited slavery, which had been practiced for thousands of years. One of the greatest contemporary historians, Thomas Sowell, said of slavery:

"Slavery existed all over this planet, among people of every color, religion and nationality....[A]nyone familiar with the history of slavery around the world knows that its origins go back thousands of years and that slaves and slaveowners were very often of the same race...Whites enslaved other whites in Europe for centuries before the first black slave was brought to the Western Hemisphere; moreover, Asians enslaved other Asians, Africans enslaved other Africans, and the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere enslaved other native peoples of the Western Hemisphere...[and] Thousands of free blacks owned slaves in the antebellum South." (These quotes were taken from two articles written by Mr. Sowell and published in the New York Post some years ago, although regrettably I don't have the dates.)

Racism, on the other hand, is a mindset that views other people not as individuals but as subordinate members of a group. 20th century philosopher Ayn Rand, the greatest defender of individualism, defines racism as follows:

"Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage--the notion that a man's intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.... [R]acism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty." (From her essay "Racism" in the book Return of the Primitive)

What racism and slavery have in common is that they are both rooted in collectivism. Collectivism is the philosophical doctrine, which holds that the individual has no value and that the standard of value in human affairs is the group to which he "belongs". The common traits that tie him to the collective (the tribe) may be nationality, religious belief, race, social or economic status, etc. When members of one group or collective take slaves from another, it is collectivism at work. The tribal warfare that goes on generation after generation in various parts of the world is collectivism in action...with the warring groups holding each other responsible for wrongs perpetrated centuries ago regardless of the fact that the individuals comprising these groups had nothing to do with the ancient events. The individual is held responsible simply by sharing certain characteristics of the group.

The logic behind the official apology being contemplated by the NJ legislature is derived from the same collectivist doctrine as racism and the institution of slavery. While it is being billed as an official act of the state, the implication is that the current residents are held to be guilty of the wrongs of their predecessors some 200 years ago, simply because of the color of their skin and their current residency. This implication is unavoidable since the NJ State officials who sanctioned the slave institution were elected by and acted in the name of the people of New Jersey.

If New Jersey adopts this bill, which is likely a precursor to the adoption of the even more evil "slave reparations", it would officially be adopting the same essential philosophical premises of slavery and racism. (Slave reparations would compel innocent people to make financial "restitution" to modern day profiteers on the injustice of past slavery, which would itself be a new type of slavery.)

The best thing any New Jersey resident, or any American, can do in protest against the evil of slavery is to do as I have done. Reject collectivism and adopt individualism as a moral and philosophical absolute. This means to pledge to treat every person you encounter as a sovereign individual and to judge him solely according to his own ideas, actions, and overall character, while never ascribing to anyone any sort of group identity. It further means to pledge to never accept any unearned guilt because of the actions of others.

If New Jersey "officially " apologizes for slavery; I hereby disavow any connection to this act. I will not accept any guilt or responsibility for the evil deeds perpetrated by those who came before me.