MLK On Freedom And Our Founding Principles





MLK Black President Destroyed Me

There have been too many relatively young men and women who have struggled for causes greater than themselves and whose lives have been cut short, leaving us, and their causes, prematurely. Oftentimes, their contributions and lives are embellished nigh unto sainthood by adulating adherents. Such is the case with Martin Luther King, Jr. But it shouldn’t be; for his example and teachings are of such grandeur and durability that they stand as monuments to his memory, requiring no inflation beyond the reality.

Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from MLK is validation of the principle behind Thomas Jefferson’s immortal citation, “One man with courage is a majority.” One person can make a difference, especially if truth and justice are on their side. When so principally armed, one person can affect an entire nation for good.

The nation that was divided by racial issues in MLK’s era is now polarized ideologically. Yet the precepts he espoused, and the doctrine he taught, can apply with as much pertinence and relevance to the ideological chasm that seems to be schismatically separating the right from the left today.

How ironic it is, therefore, that the principles he most ardently proclaimed are so demeaned by the left and the mainstream media in the context of today’s ideological divide. If MLK is to be extolled and praised for his principles, we must embrace all of those teachings that are at once indelibly impressed on our minds as self-evident truths.

Of those, his most oft stated were the appeals for morality and freedom. “If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values – that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control…When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Values, life, and liberty are perhaps the most repeated catchwords of the contemporary Tea Party movement. If those principles are self-evident truths, and accepted as such by MLK in the context of a civil rights movement, they are no less viable in the context of the current ideological movement, attempting to throw off the yoke of slavery of an omnipotent and omnipresent government.

MLK’s teachings were framed in a culture of racism and racial discord, but they apply universally to all Americans in the quest for individual liberty. As he said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Certainly, those are wise words of encouragement to those of us who object to the usurpation of individual freedom by a government seeking to micromanage its citizens.

He continued, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” Individual and universal freedom was fundamental to him. Not just freedom from racism, but freedom, period. Subservience to any form of societal or governmental despotism is anathema to a nation founded on individual liberty.

He reaffirmed this basic tenet when he declared, “I say to you that our goal is freedom, and I believe we are going to get there because however much she strays away from it, the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be as a people, our destiny is tied up in the destiny of America.”

These founding principles should be applied universally, not selectively or discriminately. But to do so, it is requisite that we collectively rise above the politics of self-interest. For as he said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” And as if to underscore this notion, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

Sounding very much like Edmund Burke, MLK declared, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Yes, one person can make a difference, when armed with the truths of freedom, life, and morality. MLK made such a difference; and every American can likewise stand for, and uphold, those eternal verities.

It’s rather disruptive to conventional ideological classifications when we realize such advocacy for individual freedom and liberty are met with as much animus and bigotry today as it was 50 years ago. Considering that our nation was founded on these precepts, they should be unifying, rather than divisive principles.

 

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at rlarsenen@cableone.net.

 





Media Bias On Full Display with Christie Coverage





Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (Creative Commoms)

The duplicity and hypocrisy of the mainstream media coverage of politicians, based on party affiliation, could not have been more in evidence than it was this past week. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s scandal was trumpeted across the headlines this week as if it were a five alarm fire, while much more serious scandals with national implications are often hardly reported at all.

It was revealed this week that members of Christie’s staff had intentionally closed four lanes of George Washington Bridge, connecting Manhattan to Fort Lee, New Jersey. Christie’s staff closed the lanes for four days to create a traffic quagmire to punish Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, for not endorsing Christie in his bid for reelection as New Jersey’s governor.

In a two hour, nationally televised press conference, Christie admitted he was “blind sided” by the revelation, and had no prior knowledge of the scheme. Ensuring that someone was held accountable, Christie fired his two aides complicit in the plan.

There are two aspects of this narrative that are immensely disturbing. The first is the media reaction to the story. According to Media Research Center, “In less than 24 hours, the three networks have devoted 17 times more coverage to a traffic scandal involving Chris Christie than they allowed on Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service controversy.” MRC documented 34 minutes and 28 seconds of coverage by ABC, CBS, and NBC dedicated to the Christie scandal, versus a scant “two minutes and eight seconds for the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups” over the past six months.

To a reasonable person, the story of potential political bullying by a governor, closing lanes on a bridge, can in nowise be 17 times more significant than a president who uses the most onerous agency of the federal government to do his bullying against his political enemies. To a reasonable and rational electorate, the obvious bias in reporting would cause a mass exodus from the mainstream media until they started reporting accurately and with equitability, without regard for party affiliation.

The media have been raising the question whether Christie can be believed when he claims he knew nothing about it. Yet they are unsurprisingly reticent when it comes to Obama’s inexorable “I didn’t know about it until I read it in the paper” soliloquies he employs to excuse his and his administration’s irresponsibility.

In fact, the mainstream media have been AWOL in reporting just the few foibles and lies listed here: “I will have the most transparent administration in history”; “The stimulus will fund shovel-ready jobs”; “I am focused like a laser on creating jobs”; “The IRS is not targeting anyone”; “It was a spontaneous riot about a movie”; “The public will have five days to look at every bill that lands on my desk”; “It’s the previous president’s fault”; “Whistle blowers will be protected in my administration”; “I am not spying on American citizens”; “It’s just like shopping at Amazon”; “I knew nothing about ‘Fast and Furious’”; “I knew nothing about what happened in Benghazi”; and perhaps the best of all, “I will restore trust in government.” If any of these claims had been uttered by our previous president, the press would still be harping on them.

After the copious media coverage of this event, the second most disturbing element is the public reaction. A resident of Fort Lee and one of Christie’s constituents, Robert Tessaro, raised a valid point. He said, “I hope this continues to haunt him. No matter what he knew and didn’t know, these were his people and the culture he created in the state, and it’s not right.”

If that principle applies to Christie, a state executive, shouldn’t it apply even more aptly with the executive leader of our nation? Why are so few of Obama’s constituents raising the same question? Why is Obama exempted from culpability in the creation of a culture of corruption and incompetence in the executive branch?

It was refreshing to actually see someone held accountable for something in government, as Christie dismissed those involved with what is now being dubbed “Bridgegate.” We have witnessed so many faux pas, blunders, mistakes, and outright lies over the past five years at the national level; and there has been little accountability. When people are hired, especially for the public good, and they, by their actions, tarnish the people’s trust in their integrity and competence, they should be held accountable.

Here are just a few of those who have contributed to the culture of corruption at the national level, by deceit and obfuscation, and have not been held accountable: Eric Holder, Timothy Geithner, Van Jones, Susan Rice, Lois Lerner, Hillary Clinton, and Kathleen Sibelius. In fact, books have been written documenting the culture of corruption in the White House. If Christie is to be responsible for the culture in his administration, shouldn’t Obama be held accountable for his, especially considering the gravity, breadth, and impact of the latter?

Holding a position of public trust requires responsibility and accountability. Not only has very little been shouldered by this administration, but also the media have done little to hold them accountable. It shouldn’t be too much to ask for the media to be equitable and fair in their coverage of elected officials, irrespective of party affiliation. And we, the people, should demand it of them!

 

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at rlarsenen@cableone.net.

 

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore (Creative Commoms)





Our Devolving Culture And Language





Photo credit: greeblie (Creative Commons)

Regrettably, our language seems to be devolving much like our social mores have been. In our increasingly morally relativistic culture, our language is morphing, adapting, and redefining each day, with fewer and fewer absolutes, and increasing laxity and less and less conviction.

This is not a surprising development; for in many ways, our language and speech not only mirror, but also magnify what is occurring culturally. Psycholinguists argue inexorably about whether language reflects our perception of reality or helps create it. It appears empirically that they’re concomitant.

American linguist Arika Okrent, has said, “The job of the linguist, like that of the biologist or the botanist, is not to tell us how nature should behave, or what its creations should look like, but to describe those creations in all their messy glory and try to figure out what they can teach us about life, the world, and, especially in the case of linguistics, the workings of the human mind.” If that is correct, contemporary language reveals a vacuous, illogical, and slovenly collective human mind in this twenty-first century.

I have marveled for years at the unintelligible gibberish that passes for communication today. Kids use “like” every third word as if it means something, while in reality, it seems to represent little more than a mental vacuity that exists in the mind of the speaker who can muster nothing more substantive to fill their sentences and paragraphs with. The same seems to apply to the use of “you know,” as employed ad nauseam by people of seemingly equal mental acumen.

I used to tease my children’s friends when they’d say, “It’s, like, cold outside.” I’d respond with, “Good thing it’s just ‘like’ cold, instead of just plain cold, otherwise you may need a coat, or, like, something.”

I’ve not heard anyone on the contemporary cultural stage capture this concept quite as concisely as comedian Taylor Mali, who has a laconic monologue dedicated to the principle. Says Mali, “In case you haven’t realized, it’s become uncool to sound like you know what you’re talking about. Or that you believe in what you’re, like, saying. Invisible question marks, and parenthetical ‘you knows’ and ‘you know what I’m saying,’ have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences, even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions.”

He continues, “Declarative sentences, so called because they used to, like, declare things to be true, as opposed to other things that are so totally, you know, not. They’ve been infected by this tragically cool and totally hip interrogative tone, as if I’m saying, ‘Don’t think I’m a nerd just because I’ve like noticed this, okay. I have nothing invested in my own personal opinions, I’m just inviting you to join me on the bandwagon of my own uncertainty.’”

Mali takes the concept to the next level, applying the linguistic vacuity to our relativistic society. He says, “What has happened to our conviction. Where are the limbs upon which we once walked. Have they been chopped down, like the rest of the rainforest, you know? Or do we have, like, nothing to say? Has society just become so filled with these conflicting feelings of nya nya, that we’ve just gotten to the point where we’re the most aggressively inarticulate generation to come along since, a long time ago?”

He concludes with a plea, “So I implore, you. I entreat you, and I challenge you, to speak with conviction. To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it. Because, contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to simply question authority. You’ve got to speak with it, too.”

This is perhaps not just symptomatic of American English and culture, for Terry Crowley in his book on historical linguistics observed, “It seems that in almost all societies, the attitudes that people have to language change is basically the same. People everywhere tend to say that the older form of a language is ‘better’ than the form that is being used today.”

Words are the communicative devices utilized by mankind to render meaning and common understanding to the mundane as well as the esoteric. Many of the words we use represent absolute concepts and principles, and cannot merely be redefined or altered in practical application without changing the absolute truths upon which they’re based. Words like truth, marriage, and liberty cannot simply be redefined by popular acclaim without vitiating the social conventions, legal institutions, and verities they represent. Otherwise, they become unintelligible gibberish, like the “you knows” and “likes” that are the bane of our contemporary communicative culture; meaningless, trifling, and relativistic.

Perhaps no truer words were uttered by Gore Vidal than, “As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too.” As with societal decadence, perhaps the only recourse for language purists is the heuristic “clinging” to absolutism; standing on linguistic and ethical solid ground while the rest of the world devolves to nihilistic relativism.

 

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at rlarsenen@cableone.net

 

Photo credit: greeblie (Creative Commons)





The Greatest Threat – Our Own Government





Burdened Gov

Our economy, and personal liberty, are under assault in America, The threat to the country is much more stealthy and incremental than that faced by our nation’s founders two centuries ago. According to a Gallup poll this past week, 72% of Americans see the burgeoning power of the federal government as our greatest threat. This should serve as a wake-up call to the statists in Washington who are continuously expanding the role of government in micromanaging our lives.

Much of this expanded control comes in the form of regulation. Since 1993, over 1.43 million pages have been added to the Federal Register that includes all new regulations, regulatory revisions, and presidential documents. The passage and implementation of the “Affordable Care Act” alone has added 10,516 pages to the Federal Register; that’s more than eight times the length of the Bible.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) 20th edition of “Ten Thousand Commandments,” which explicates the impact of the mountainous stacks of regulation on the country, estimates the cost burden of all this regulation at $1.8 trillion per year. To put that figure in perspective, that’s more than half the size of the federal budget, and nearly 12% of the entire U.S. economy.

The cost to the government in enforcing regulation is not that great, a relatively paltry $55.4 billion in 2010, according to the CEI. That allocation of the federal budget covers most of the cost of federal agencies and regulatory enforcement. By far, the greater cost is to the economy, and in abrogated liberty, whittling incrementally away at our individual freedom.

Critics of “big business” should take note that total business profits last year were just over $1.5 trillion, yet the $1.8 trillion in costs for regulatory compliance eclipses that figure. The cost of that regulation is not paid by “big business.” Technically, corporations don’t pay taxes, they just collect revenue from consumers and turn it over to the government. We pay those taxes to the corporations voluntarily in the form of higher prices for goods and services. Consequently, we, as consumers, paid $1.8 trillion more for our goods and services last year to companies just to cover the cost of federal regulation!

According to the House Committee on Small Business, the impact on small business is staggering, and the impact on the economy is perhaps incalculable. Small businesses don’t enjoy the luxury of simply passing on the cost of regulation to their customers, like big business does, but bear a disproportionate share of the costs themselves.

The SBA Office of Advocacy defines small business as independent firms that have fewer than 500 employees, of which there are an estimated 29.6 million in the country. These firms create seven of every ten new jobs, and they employ just over half of the nation’s private sector workforce. The Office of Advocacy calculates that small businesses create more than half of the nonfarm private gross domestic product, and have created over 64% of net new jobs over the past 15 years.

According to the SBA, small firms shoulder a regulatory cost of $10,585 per employee. This is 36% higher than the cost of regulatory compliance for large businesses. And since 89% of firms in the country employ fewer than 20 employees, the smallest businesses are bearing a disproportionate share of the regulatory burden.

The cost of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory compliance affects small businesses four times more than larger firms, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Foundation. They also indicate that the complexity of the tax code, and concomitant costs, disproportionately harms small businesses four times more than large firms.

At a House Small Business Committee hearing, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson said, “Tax code complexity has a direct impact on small business viability and job growth. The more time and resources a small business spends on tax compliance, the less time it will have to grow and hire employees.”

Government, and its hoard of agencies and bureaucracies, was not created by divine unction, and are not infallible. They are to serve the people, not rule over us in totalitarian fashion. The tsunami of governmental regulation is debilitating to the economy and job growth, as well as to individual freedom. And much of the regulatory expansion comes not from congressional acts, but by government agencies expanding and rewriting regulation.

Americans have just cause to perceive expanding government control as our greatest threat, and we’ve not even touched on the privacy and Fourth Amendment infractions posed by the domestic spying programs.

237 years ago our forebears retaliated against a perceived threat to personal liberty and “taxation without representation” by initiating a revolution against a monarchical power; one that was arguably the greatest power in the world at the time. It’s time for that same American spirit to rise again, this time against a domestic threat, in defense of liberty, and begin scaling back our onerous regulatory burden.

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at rlarsenen@cableone.net.

Photo Credit: Standard Compliant





The Broadening War On Christianity





Operation Christmas Drop

The First Amendment to the Constitution states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” While Congress may not be actively extirpating religious freedom from the public square, small, vocal, and pertinacious groups and individuals are succeeding through social and media pressure to do what congress is forbidden to do, aided and abetted by a sympathetic administration and a collaborative mainstream media.  This clearly constitutes an aggressive war on not just any religion, but specifically, a war on Christianity.

This observation may be subjective, but it’s supported by objective, quantitative data. In their September 2012 update on the “Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion,” Pew Research revealed, “The United States was among the 16 countries whose scores on both the Government Restrictions Index and the Social Hostilities Index increased by one point or more in the year ending in mid-2010. This was the first time scores for the U.S. increased on both indexes during the four-year period covered in this study.”

Pew revealed, that the “U.S. score on the Government Restrictions Index rose from 1.6 in the year ending in mid-2009 to 2.7 [a 57% increase] in the year ending in mid-2010, moving the U.S. from the low category of restrictions to the moderate category for the first time in the four years studied.”

The quantitative spike on social restrictions was even more significant. According to Pew’s study, “The U.S. score on the Social Hostilities Index also rose, from 2.0 as of mid-2009 to 3.4 as of mid-2010, moving the U.S. from the lower end of the moderate range of hostilities to the upper end of the moderate range. (Social Hostilities Index scores 3.6 or higher are categorized as high by this study.)”

While some governmental and social restrictions on freedom of religious expression are recorded against other religious groups, by far the most highly targeted are those of Christian faith.

For example, just last week the Navy removed nativity scenes from the dining hall at the Guantanamo Bay naval base because of a complaint. Earlier this month Pentagon lawyers forced the removal of a nativity scene at Shaw Air Force Base. A Texas school district made rules for a school “winter party” that proscribed any reference to Christmas, and forbade not only the use of a Christmas tree, but the use of the colors red and green.

The ESPN sports network would not air an advertisement for the Catholic Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation because of reference to “God’s healing presence this Christmas,” and “celebrate the birth of Jesus and the season of giving.” And to add insult to injury, the yearly NORAD “tracker” which tells kids where Santa is on Christmas Eve is also under attack.

Let’s put this war on Christianity into an empirically numerical perspective. In America apparently 92% of us celebrate Christmas, while only 6% claim they do not. And only 25% of those, according to the same Rasmussen survey, indicate that they celebrate a holiday other than Christmas at this time of year. When you do the math, that’s 92% that celebrate Christmas, 1.5% who celebrate a different holiday, 4.5% who don’t acknowledge any holiday this time of year, and 2% that don’t seem to know what they’re doing.

Yet in spite of the overwhelming celebration and support of Christmas, there seems to be no shortage of “Grinches” intent on dampening the spirit of the season, a very small sampling of which has just been listed.

Supreme Court case law is overwhelmingly supportive of overt Christmas celebrations, nativity scenes, Christmas programs in public schools, and even singing Christmas Carols, like “Silent Night” and “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” in public schools. Supreme Court decisions from Wisconsin v. Yoder and Widmar v. Vincent, to Florey v. Sioux Falls School District and Lamb’s Chapel v. Center Moriches Union Free School District have denounced efforts to force religion out of the public square. And there are literally dozens of cases proscribing such efforts.

The efforts to purge the country of Nativity scenes and Christmas symbolism and celebrations, whether on public property or not, is clearly illegal, based on the predominant interpretation of the “free exercise clause” by the Supreme Court. Such efforts, perpetrated by thin-skinned, bigoted, and selfish people and groups, are also as illogical and misguided as would be the forced removal of Pilgrims from all Thanksgiving festivities, or Old Glory from 4th of July celebrations would be. The icons and symbolism of holidays are fundamental to holiday observance, and are a part of Americana, or our cultural heritage.

To rational people, recognizing a national holiday that happens to have “Christ” in the name, no more constitutes an “establishment of religion” than a public prayer does. Yet efforts to thwart those outward expressions are clearly a violation of the free exercise clause, perhaps not by congress, but by intolerant and misguided malcontents exercising the tyranny of the minority.

As long as the official federal calendar says “Christmas Day,” then Christmas programs, Christmas trees, expressions of Merry Christmas, and the symbolism of the holiday are themselves politically correct, appropriate, and legal.

We can all play a part in preserving our free exercise of religion by resisting the efforts of the intolerant forces in our society and community through information, education, and assertion of our Constitutional rights.

And with that, I defy the tyranny of the vocal minority and anti-Christian crowd, and declare to one and all, Merry Christmas, and “God bless us everyone.”

Associated Press award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and coursework completed toward a Master’s in Public Administration.  He can be reached at rlarsenen@cableone.net

Photo Credit: Standard Compliant