Saturday, January 31, 2009

Heritage Foundation Releases Research on Homeschooling

In December, the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics released new estimates on the number of American families homeschooling their children. The new report shows the growing popularity of homeschooling. In view of this trend, it is important that federal and state policymakers safeguard families' right to educate their children at home.

Growing Homeschooling Movement

The report shows that approximately 1.5 million children (2.9 percent of school-age children) were being homeschooled in the spring of 2007, representing a 36 percent relative increase since 2003 and a 74 percent relative increase since 1999.[1] One private researcher estimates that as many as 2.5 million school-age children were educated at home during the 2007-2008 school year.[2]

The homeschooling survey also reveals the most common reasons cited by families as the basis for their decision to educate their children at home. The most frequently referenced reasons included the ability to provide moral or religious instruction (36 percent), concern about the environment at other schools (21 percent), and dissatisfaction with the academic instruction provided at other schools (17 percent).[3] The number of parents reporting the ability to provide moral or religious instruction as a rationale for homeschooling their children increased by 11 percentage points (from 72 percent in 2003 to 83 percent in 2007).[4]

Additional reasons parents homeschooled their children included "other" reasons (14 percent), desire for nontraditional education (7 percent), special needs (4 percent), and physical or mental health problems (2 percent).[5] There was a 12 percentage point increase in the amount of respondents choosing "other" reasons, from 20 percent in 2003 to 32 percent in 2007. This increase could indicate an expansion in the types of demographic groups homeschooling their children.[6]

Benefits of Homeschooling

The available evidence suggests that homeschooling students perform as well as their non-homeschooled counterparts. In general, homeschooled students perform as well as--and in some cases outperform--their non-homeschooled peers.[7]

Homeschooled students succeed academically regardless of family income or teacher certification of parents.[8] Top-tier colleges and universities also recognize the academic abilities of homeschooled students, with Stanford, Yale, and Harvard among the institutions with the most homeschool-friendly policies.[9]

An additional benefit of homeschooling comes in the form of savings to taxpayers and school systems. Analysts have estimated that homeschooled students save American taxpayers and public schools between $4.4 billion and $9.9 billion annually.[10] Other estimates are as high as $16 billion.[11]

Trends and Anticipated Growth

Homeschooling may be the fastest growing form of education in the U.S.,[12] rivaled only by charter schools.[13] The 74 percent increase in homeschooling since 1999 alone suggests continued future growth. The homeschooling movement has also gained traction among minority students, which represent approximately 15 percent of homeschooling families.[14]

The continued growth in homeschooling is facilitated by organizations that assist families with needs ranging from curriculum and instruction to advancing legislation that ensures the freedom to educate children in the home. These burgeoning networks demonstrate that homeschooling is becoming an increasingly viable option for families.

Homeschooling continues to broaden and grow because of the vast array of education options and flexibility it provides for families. This crucial component of education reform creates an additional alternative for parents and students. It is estimated that more than 1 million children attend charter schools or benefit from voucher programs in the United States--a figure on par with the more than 1.5 million estimated homeschooled students. Economists have found that the competitive effects of school choice programs have prompted improvement in public schools.[15] While more research is needed, the homeschooling movement could be taking part in the same trend.

Protecting Homeschooling

Legal rights to homeschooling have been established nationwide, facilitating the growth of home-based instruction. Presently, homeschooling is legal in every state. Policymakers should protect parents' rights to homeschool their children and enact reforms that remove barriers to homeschooling. In order to provide meaningful protections to homeschooling families, Members of Congress should avoid restrictive regulations at all levels of schooling and offer tax relief to homeschoolers through education tax credits or deductions. Homeschooling families provide a valuable contribution to American education, often while incurring a significant financial burden in addition to their taxes paid toward public education. Policies should recognize the educational contribution of homeschooling and ensure that the freedom to homeschool is permanently protected and fostered.

In view of all the benefits that homeschooling provides to homeschooled children as well as society as a whole, lawmakers should enact policies that give more families the opportunity to participate in homeschooling. Federal and state policymakers should work to guarantee that families have the freedom to educate their children at home in the future.

(This report was produced by Lindsey M. Burke, Research Assistant in the Domestic Policy Studies Department at The Heritage Foundation)

[1]U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, "1.5 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2007," December 2008, at (January 6, 2009).
[2]Brian D. Ray, "Research Facts on Homeschooling," National Home Education Research Institute, July 2, 2008, at (January 6, 2009).
[3]National Center for Education Statistics, "1.5 Million Homeschooled Students."
[6]Janice Lloyd, "Home Schooling Grows," USA Today, January 6, 2009, at (January 22, 2009).
[7]A 1998 report by Lawrence Rudner of the University of Maryland found that homeschooled students performed well on tests of academic achievement, typically scoring in the 70th and 80th percentiles. Lawrence M. Rudner, "Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998," Education Policy Analysis Archives, Vol. 7, No. 8 (March 23, 1999), at (January 22, 2009). See Dan Lips and Evan Feinberg, "Homeschooling: A Growing Option in American Education," Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2122, April 3, 2008, at
[8]Ray, "Research Facts on Homeschooling."
[9]Home School Legal Defense Association, "Home Schoolers in Ivy League Universities," May 3, 2000, at (January 22, 2009).
[10]Lips and Feinberg, "Homeschooling."
[11]Ray, "Research Facts on Homeschooling."
[13]Forty states and the District of Columbia saw the introduction of 355 new charter schools during the 2008-2009 school year. Center for Education Reform, "Charter School Facts," September 18, 2007, at (January 27, 2009).
[15]Caroline Minter Hoxby, "Rising Tide," Education Next, Vol. 1, No. 4 (Spring 2001), at (November 2, 2007), quoted in Lips and Feinberg, "Homeschooling."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Who said, "Lobbyists won't find a job in my White House"???

President Obama promised during his campaign that lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House."

So far, though, at least a dozen former lobbyists have found top jobs in his administration, according to an analysis done by Republican sources and corroborated by Politico.

Obama aides did not challenge the the list of lobbyists appointed to administration jobs, but they stressed that former lobbyists comprise a fraction of the more than 8,000 employees who will be hired by the new administration. And they pointed out that before Obama made his campaign-trail promise, he issued a more complete - and more nuanced - policy on former lobbyists.

Formalized in a recent presidential executive order, it forbids executive branch employees from working in an agency, or on a program, for which they have lobbied in the last two years.

Yet in the past few days, a number of exceptions have been granted, with the administration conceding at least two waivers and that a handful of other appointees will recuse themselves from dealing with matters on which they lobbied within the two-year window.

“It would be more honest if they admitted they made a mistake and came up with a narrower rule,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Obviously, they can’t live with the rule, which is why they keep waving the magic wand and making exceptions. They’re saying one thing and doing another. It’s why the public is skeptical about politicians.”

But another watchdog, Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center, praised Obama’s rules as “a good starting place” and urged patience in judging their efficacy.

“Any good set of ethics rules has the opportunity for waivers, but if the waivers become the rule, rather than the exception, then you have to look at whether the waivers are being sought too frequently or whether there’s a problem with the rule,” McGehee said. “I don’t think we’re at that point yet.”

At the White House, spokesman Tommy Vietor insisted the president has been consistent.

“During the campaign, then-Sen. Obama put forth the toughest ethics and lobbying reform policy in history,” Vietor said, “and now he’s acting on it to reduce the influence of lobbyists in Washington.”

Here are former lobbyists Obama has tapped for top jobs:

Eric Holder, attorney general nominee, was registered to lobby until 2004 on behalf of clients including Global Crossing, a bankrupt telecommunications firm.

Tom Vilsack, secretary of agriculture nominee, was registered to lobby as recently as last year on behalf of the National Education Association.

William Lynn, deputy defense secretary nominee, was registered to lobby as recently as last year for defense contractor Raytheon, where he was a top executive.

William Corr, deputy health and human services secretary nominee, was registered to lobby until last year for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a non-profit that pushes to limit tobacco use.

David Hayes, deputy interior secretary nominee, was registered to lobby until 2006 for clients, including the regional utility San Diego Gas & Electric.

Mark Patterson, chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, was registered to lobby as recently as last year for financial giant Goldman Sachs.

Ron Klain, chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden, was registered to lobby until 2005 for clients, including the Coalition for Asbestos Resolution, U.S. Airways, Airborne Express and drug-maker ImClone.

Mona Sutphen, deputy White House chief of staff, was registered to lobby for clients, including Angliss International in 2003.

Melody Barnes, domestic policy council director, lobbied in 2003 and 2004 for liberal advocacy groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the American Constitution Society and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Cecilia Munoz, White House director of intergovernmental affairs, was a lobbyist as recently as last year for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.

Patrick Gaspard, White House political affairs director, was a lobbyist for the Service Employees International Union.

Michael Strautmanis, chief of staff to the president’s assistant for intergovernmental relations, lobbied for the American Association of Justice from 2001 until 2005.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

“Stimulus” 101 Update: The Trillion Dollar Spending Plan Passes House

On Wednesday, January 28, the House passed the single largest spending bill in United States history by a 244-188 vote. It remains to be seen where the stimulus is in this bill. Conservative alternatives exist that promise twice the jobs at half the cost, yet the Left continues to support a plan that does little more than advance an ideological agenda of nationalized health care and education.

Small victories have been won. First, we applaud conservatives for sticking together against a plan that offers no bipartisan solution to America’s economic problems. While bipartisanship was the talking point du jour this week, it was not evident in the actual language of the bill which was written by a precious few. Second, we applaud President Obama for asking Speaker Pelosi to rightly remove the provisions for family planning and re-sodding the National Mall. While countless other projects like this remain, it was a welcome sight to see the President in total agreement on these two, when pressed. Third, we applaud the bipartisan spirit in the U.S. Senate when they joined together to support one more year of relief from Alternative Minimum Tax. Despite the Obama Administration urging them not to do so, Senators from both sides of the aisle were able to see that protecting as many as 24 million working families from tax increases during these tough economic times, is the right kind of ’stimulus’.

Now the bill moves to the Senate where we hope it will receive more debate, more input and more relief for working families. While we appreciate the enthusiasm by the Left to enact their liberal agenda as quickly as possible, a stimulus bill should create jobs not push social programs. While Congress rallies against corporate bonuses and jets, they should also refrain from rewarding themselves with a One Trillion Dollar Signing Bonus.

Below is an updated ‘101′ index as to why Spending Does Not Equal Stimulus:


After Congress appropriates the FY’09 omnibus bill, they may have spent over $1.6 Trillion in less than one month! The current “stimulus bill” is on track to be the LARGEST SPENDING BILL EVER enacted by Congress, making the New Deal look small in today’s dollars. 2010 spending in this bill is more than double New Deal spending in 1936.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of borrowing this money is estimated at over $347 billion, bringing the total cost of the spending package to well over $1.1 Trillion.

The “Stimulus” Bills Your Family – $819 Billion is equivalent to borrowing $10,520 from EVERY FAMILY IN AMERICA. This borrowed money is equivalent to what the average family spends on food, clothing, and health care in an entire year.

If Government Spending solved recessions, we would never have recessions.


The hidden liberal policy agenda inside the ‘stimulus bill’:

Over $142 Billion in Federal education funds: Nearly double the total outlays for the Dept. of Education in 2007 – making good on Reid-Pelosi-Obama education promises to the NEA.
$87 Billion Medicaid bailout: If we keep bailing states out without any accountability, they will have every incentive to continue irresponsible spending. It forces fiscally responsible taxpayers in states, like Indiana, to pay for the fiscally irresponsible decisions by bureaucrats in states like Illinois.

Expanded Medicaid coverage and SCHIP: Congress is using the stimulus to push forward their liberal health care agenda. This incremental strategy will ultimately move the country closer the tipping point where government will control more health care spending than the private sector – leaving individuals and families will less control over their personal health care decisions.

Green Jobs?: The myth of ‘green jobs’ merely means replacing one job lost, with a new job that fits the left’s agenda. It is a zero sum game. More than doubling spending, the stimulus also has over $35 billion for the Dept. of Energy. DOE’s current budget is $23.8 billion.

Redistribution: Refundable “Make Work Pay” Tax Credits for people who don’t pay taxes

Pork Spending: TV Coupons ($650 M), Nat’l Endowment for the Arts ($50 M), Hollywood ($246 M)


No Jobs: While they have not been able to support these claims, Pelosi/Obama promise between 3 & 4 million jobs, yet House Tax Committee staff can’t estimate even ONE job will be created.

Ineffective: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 52% of the spending in the ‘stimulus’ bill can even be spent by the end of FY’10. Well short of the 75% benchmark.

“We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work.” – FDR’s Treasury Sec. Henry Morgenthau Jr., architect of the New Deal.


(1) Make the 2001 and 2003 Tax Cuts permanent, instead of raising taxes in 2011; Reduce Marginal Tax Rates for Individuals and Businesses by 10% creating new jobs. Adopting just this one proposal would create between 500,000 and 1 million jobs in one year.

(2) Reduce the Death Tax to at least 15% ($5 mil. individual exclusion)

(3) Enact long-term reforms and budgets for entitlement spending, putting long-term obligations from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, front and center in the budget process.

(4) Assess and enforce long term spending rules in Congress. Get us out of debt!

(Source: Heritage Foundation)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Calling All Fairfax Co., Va. Conservatives!

The Fairfax County Republican Committee has released the official registration form for the Virginia Republican State Convention on May 30 in Richmond. With the GOP Governor and Lt. Governor slots already filled, the focus of the convention will be to select the party's Attorney General nominee.

This process is much like the Iowa primary. A candidate can say they have majority support, but unless the delegates physically show up to the convention and vote, it is all for not. This year's AG race is between Northern Virginia State Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R.C. Blog endorsed), former U.S. Attorney John Brownlee, and former Arlington School Board Chairman Dave Foster.

The reality is that the race will focus mainly on Cuccinelli and Brownlee. The records for both gentlemen are impressive, but there is only one true Conservative in the race -- Cuccinelli. I strongly encourage all Fairfax Co. Conservatives who want to show the other 49 states that conservatism is NOT dead to sign up and head to Richmond on May 30 to nominate Cuccinelli for AG!

Click here to download the form for Fairfax Co. residents to become delegates to the state committee. Applications must be received by the party no later than March 7!

For those of who in other Virginia counties who also want to be a state delegate, please check with your county or city Republican committee or click here for more information.

For more information on the Cuccinelli campaign, please visit

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Profiles in Chutzpah

The latest from RC Blog Contributor Chris Stockel....

Thoughts from the Right Side
"Profiles in Chutzpah"
by R.C. Blogger Christian Stockel

God Bless Governor Blagojevich, he is the gift that keeps on giving. After thinking that I would only have hyperbolic and adolescent press coverage of President Elect Obama's inauguration to look forward to, old Blago comes out from the shadow of shame with both barrels blazing. He is the perfectly evolved symbol of the corrupt Chicago political machine. Young, brash, overly-confident, and has lots of big hair. His initial post scandal flair up speech was priceless. Despite quite detailed transcripts of phone conversations where Blago seems a bit “upset” at the low bidding price for Obama's open Senate seat, the Governor comes out defiantly and says he did nothing wrong. From his speech he stated:

"I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong. ...I'm not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob."

Classic. I watched the Governor's press conference at least three times soaking in the hubris and hypocrisy. It was Christmas morning all over again. A few days later, after much discussion in the press about pending impeachments and warnings from fellow Democrats not to appoint a replacement until all the legal matters could be settled, the Governor comes out with both barrels blazing and nominates former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris for Obama's vacant Senate seat!

Yes – it does get better.

The Governor will not be denied the 'biggest brass pair' award for 2008-2009. Still,it got even better as I watched the reaction of Senator Harry Reid when he stated he would deny seating Mr. Burris. Unfortunately for Senator Reid and Congressional Democrats, there was no legal standing to prevent Mr. Burris from taking the seat - regardless of the political controversy surrounding Gov. Blagojevich. The appointment was made before he was impeached and was clearly valid. As the week wore on, cracks appeared in the Democrat caucus and whispers and hints at some movement in Senator Reid's position indicating that he had accepted the inevitable. This political kabuki play illuminated the mendacity of Senate Democrats whose only concern was that they would receive a politically weak candidate - who failed previously in statewide elections - to take a seat that would be soon up for re-election. The obvious political calculations of Senator Reid was magnified by his overt willingness to seat Al Franken of Minnesota who – like Mr. Burris – had not received certification form Minnesota's Secretary of State. Hmmm, I wonder why Senator Reid gave such deference to good old Al Franken? Maybe he thought by doing so it could derail Senator Coleman's legal challenge to the recount? Or could it be worse? Some African American Democrats claimed that the refusal to seat Burris was tied to latent racism and not legal propriety. It was hard not to enjoy the uncomfortable position in which the Democratic leaders in Congress found themselves. Recognizing the inevitable, Reid changed course and agreed to seat Senator Burris. It seems the Governor from Illinois was smarter than the Democrat leadership in the Senate.

Corrupt Illinois politics and the bungling of Congressional Democrats aside, the real issue surrounding this whole event does not involve Gov. “Blago”, soon-to-be Senator Burris, or even Senator Reid. It involves President-elect Barack Obama and the mainstream media. As much as I laughed, almost to tears, at watching the political theater and even greater political incompetence, I was shocked sober after seeing how Barack Obama responded to this situation and how the press covered the whole event. There was a press conference where Reporter John McCormick of the Chicago Tribune asked Obama about the particulars of the Governor Blagojevich and his approach towards filling the Senate seat. Barack Obama just responded:

“John, let me just cut you off, because I don't want you to waste your question. ..We have done a full review of this. We will release the facts of this case next week. I don't want to get into the details of this case [before then].”

The reporter apologized and sat down. Interesting. Some astute members of the press have also picked up on a disturbing habit of President-elect Obama. It seems he preselects those reporters from whom he will accept questions as recognized in the Chicago-Sun Times.

“The Obama news conferences tell that story, making one yearn for the return of the always-irritating Sam Donaldson to awaken the slumbering press to the notion that decorum isn't all it's cracked up to be. The press corps, most of us, don't even bother raising our hands any more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day.”

Any bets on how many Fox News correspondents are included on that list? Let me give you a hint – its a number between -1 and 1.

So it appears that the press is being properly trained, sedated, and castrated in advance of the coming Obama administration. However, manhandling the press is not the only thing deemed acceptable in this brave new world. As President elect Obama promised, his team's internal report was released, during Christmas, week with all the “facts” deemed relevant. The conclusion was not unexpected. The 5-page memorandum stated that the contact between the scandal-plagued governor and the president-elect's staff was proper and limited in scope. The report added:

“The accounts contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the Governor or anyone from his office about a 'deal' or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the vacancy," the report, authored by White House Counsel-designate Gregory Craig, said.”

Of course the discerning, deep thinking, crack news team at MSNBC were quick to conclude that nothing untoward had occurred and Obama was in the clear. Obama had no contact – of course, Rahm Emmanuel did. However, there was no 'quid-pro quo'. Nothing was asked of them – nothing was offered. Similarly, the CBS News room parroted the findings of the report hinting there was no “there” there. They did make some mild references to the fact Obama's transition team refused requests from the media to release emails or notes of contacts with Blagojevich's office. They also noted that Rahm Emmanuel was not a target in the investigation. The rest of CBS' report focused on Gov. Blago's legal predicament and forgot about any potential connections between the Governor and Obama's team. It seems all is well in Obama's world. His team's report clears him and his staff of any wrong doing. That is the end of it. Of course, we haven't heard the last word from the prosecutor in this case – what's his name again? Oddly, that does not seem important.

Proper reflection of this series of events should cause those of us who are not in the Obama-mania camp to pause a little and dread. The self-proclaimed hero of “transparent government” and “change we could believe in” just told a reporter who was asking an uncomfortable question to “not waste his question” and back talked him into his seat while the reporter apologizes for stepping out of line. Obama has instituted a practice of preselect lists of reporters from whom he will take questions. The Obama transition team performs and “investigation” into their role – if any – in this scandal and quickly determines there was none. This finding is issued in a report released at 4:30 PM on the day before Christmas Eve. The main stream media does a thorough review and analysis of this report and concludes at 5:00 PM on the day before Christmas Eve that there is no scandal, the Obama team did nothing wrong, and the President-elect is clear of any suspicion. Will this series of events set a precedent for the next four years? Does Obama's handling of the press and outright refusal to address any issue - no matter how scandal tinged – not raise one single eyebrow in the press rooms of America? Will we continue to see the press prostrate itself before the Obama administration to such an extent that it will lay supine for the next four years and not question/probe any statement, claim, or position made by this administration?

I am writing this the day before the inauguration, as I tune into CNN, MSNBC, NBC, and CBS, its clear that Obama will have an easy ride for the foreseeable future. George Bush couldn't have ever imagined being treated like this by a press who made it a professional hallmark to question the truthfulness of any word spoken by the President and blame him for a host of world problems including global warming, war, terrorism, and male pattern baldness. One does not have to go back too far into recent history to see examples of the Bush derangement syndrome exhibited in the media. A tsunami devastates a remote land near the Indian Ocean – its Bush's fault. If the Russians invade a small ally in the Balkans and the press furrows their brows and struggles to determine what policy mistake Bush made to precipitate such a crisis. Somewhere there is an energetic young cub reporter at the NY Times busily trying to tie the failure of the Philadelphia Eagles to win the NFC championship to Bush's presidency.

I can only imagine the broad hyperbole that will be tossed around on the cable news programs covering tomorrow's inauguration events. I am sure Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann will be comparing Obama to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Joan of Arc. The only mystery I could imagine in the press' adulation of Obama's swearing in is which of Chris Matthew's leg will get a “tingle”. I don't even want to think what part of Keith Olbermann's body is tingling right now. God help those who believe in healthy dissent in public discourse. If the federal government decides to bail out struggling newspapers and becomes part owner in these enterprises, one doesn't have to use too much imagination to see shades of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro come out of that mess. I can only imagine the many possible mutations of the “Fairness Doctrine” that will emerge from this scenario.

For the record, I don't believe that Obama is implicated in Governor Blagojevich's effort to sell a Senate seat. However, I am troubled by his handling of the limited scrutiny he has received from the press and his approach top-down, closed-door process towards clearing “his team” of any wrong doing. Combine this arrogance with a compliant – nay subservient – mainstream press and there is the potential for future scandals to pass without scrutiny. More importantly, this lays the groundwork for potentially flawed public policy to be proposed and passed without the relevant information being provided to the citizenry or the required analysis and scrutiny from the fifth estate. As the nation looks to President-elect Obama for proposals on health-care, entitlements, the economy, national security, and a host of social issues – it should have confidence that the press will serve as a critical partner providing scrutiny to any and all proposals and asking the tough questions aimed at getting all the relevant information out into the public domain. As one flips through the satellite and radio channels, its clear that the press seems more interested in a smooth transition for a transformational and historic administration. It is a stark contrast to the tone and manner the George W. Bush presidency was given and hints at a hidden agenda to serve as a partner for the Obama administration and not an advocate for the people. Republicans in Congress should look hard at the landscape in the mainstream media and prepare a strategy for ensuring that their message is communicated accurately to the American people and that real information is provided to them in a way that shatters the alternative reality field being constructed before our very eyes.

Change is coming --- prepare for it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

'At Least Bush Kept Us Safe'

Sorry for the eight-day layoff from posting....

Fantastic column from Peggy Noonan in the Wall St. Journal in early December:

'At Least Bush Kept Us Safe'
The two words Democrats don't want tacked onto that sentence.

To drive through the suburbs of Northern Virginia is to marvel still at the widespread wealth, the mansions and mini-mansions that did not exist a quarter-century ago and that now thicken the woods and hills. It used to be sleepy here; it used to be horse farms. I remember looking at one of the new houses 22 years ago. As I explored the heavy, sprawling concrete basement, the agent said, "We think this would take a 40-megaton bomb." She meant it as a serious selling point. We were near Langley.

The other night, the big houses were strung with glittering white Christmas lights—not all different colors, as we do in other suburbs, but stately white—and from the Georgetown Pike, heading toward Great Falls, we saw a house with a big glass-walled living room that faced the street, and below it a glass-walled entrance room, and each had its own brightly decorated tree. "Two Christmas trees," murmured a companion, and it captured the air of prosperity and solid well-being of the area.

It reminded me: Government is our most reliable current and future growth industry, and the near suburbs of the capital are where those who run it, work it, lobby it, feed off it and finagle it live. "You have to go farther out to see the foreclosure signs," said a friend.

At a sparkling Christmas gathering of mostly Republicans, there was warmth, laughter and a mild sense of confusion: "Are we still important?" A handsome former senator, trimmed down and looking younger than he did in office, held forth in the entryway, near a sunny U.S. ambassador who was home for a few days. The ambassador joked that while the country to which she's assigned has long been peaceful, she still has a few weeks to go back and cause mayhem.

At such a gathering a month ago, there would have been some angry mutterings at John McCain, but not now. He's come quietly back to the Senate, where one of his colleagues told him of an amazing thing. The colleague had been touring the young democracies of Eastern Europe during the American election, and he found it wasn't so much Barack Obama that immediately knocked out observers but Mr. McCain's concession speech. This is the first American transfer of power they'd seen in eight years, and they couldn't get over the peacefulness and grace with which Mr. McCain accepted the people's verdict. "It really impressed them," the colleague told Mr. McCain, and later me. It gave them a template, a guide to how the older democracies do it. When he told me of this, I remembered the observation of a journalist who had covered Russia. The Russian newspapers had generally played down Mr. Obama's victory, she said, because it got in the way of the establishment line: that the corrupt American democracy is composed of two warring family machines that have the system wired and controlled with the help of their corporate oligarch cronies. It's not a real democracy but a pretend democracy, and a hypocritical one. This helps the Russians rationalize and excuse their infirm hold on democratic ways and manners. And then the black man from Chicago with no longtime machine or money is elected .

So the Russian press muted its coverage. Mr. Obama's victory upset their story line. They have to think up a new one now. They will.

Back to the Christmas gathering. There was no grousing about John McCain, and considerable grousing about the Bush administration, but it was almost always followed by one sentence, and this is more or less what it was: "But he kept us safe." In the seven years since 9/11, there were no further attacks on American soil. This is an argument that's been around for a while but is newly re-emerging as the final argument for Mr. Bush: the one big thing he had to do after 9/11, the single thing he absolutely had to do, was keep it from happening again. And so far he has. It is unknown, and perhaps can't be known, whether this was fully due to the government's efforts, or the luck of the draw, or a combination of luck and effort. And it not only can't be fully known by the public, it can hardly be fully known by the players at all levels of government. They can't know, for instance, of a potential terrorist cell that didn't come together because of their efforts.

But the meme will likely linger. There's a rough justice with the American people. If a president presides over prosperity, whether he had anything to do with it or not, he gets the credit. If he has a recession, he gets the blame. The same with war, and terrorist attacks. We have not been attacked since 9/11. Someone—someones—did something right.

But here is a jittery reality: We are living through the time of two presidents. Or, if you choose to see it that way, the time of no president, with one on his way in but not arrived, and the other on his way out and without full authority. Histories will be written about this moment, and about the administration's work with the president-elect's office. But it is jittery because criminals calculate, they look for opportunities and vulnerabilities. This is a delicate time, with a transition of power, a profound economic crisis, and a nation feeling demoralized around the edges.

We received a reminder of the gravity of the situation this week, with the bipartisan congressional report saying the odds are high the world will see a biological or nuclear terror attack in the next five years. It said, "America's margin of safety is shrinking, not growing," and "the risk that radical Islamists—al Qaeda or Taliban—may gain access to nuclear material is real."

Commission co-chairman Bob Graham, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an adviser to Mr. Obama's transition team, was sober in a Q&A with Newsweek. He said he was most surprised at the risk of biological weapons because of "the ubiquitous nature of pathogens"—anthrax, or a resurrected infectious agent such as the one that produced the 1918 influenza epidemic, which has been re-created in the laboratory.

The report hasn't received the attention it deserves, nor have its recommendations. Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat, accused the commission of playing the "fear card" and trying to imitate the Bush administration in alarmism and bellicosity. Mr. Graham, a Florida Democrat and former senator, would have none of it. "Our adversaries are gaining greater capabilities," he said.

Why does Congress prepare such reports? To inform, and to win support for new plans. To show they are doing something. And to be able to say, in the event of calamity—forgive my cynicism—that they warned us. This hasn't been the first such report. It won't be the last. But it comes at a key moment for Mr. Obama, because it gives him a certain amount of cover to be serious about what needs to be done. What's at stake for him is two words. When Republicans say, in coming years, "At least Bush kept us safe," Democrats will not want tacked onto the end of that sentence, "unlike Obama."

By the way, he should both reorder the Department of Homeland Security, that hopeless bureaucracy, and change its name. Homeland is a Nazi-ish word, not an American concept at all. And at this point "Homeland Security" is associated more with pointless harassment than safety. No one knows who came up with it. Probably some guy with two Christmas trees in Northern Virginia.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Father Richard John Neuhaus: A Man Animated by His Faith

Raymond Arroyo's editorial from today's Wall St. Journal:

On April 11, 2005, I entered St. Peter's Basilica in Rome with my friend Father Richard John Neuhaus to pay our respects to the recently deceased Pope John Paul II. After kneeling before the pontiff's body, I remarked at how small the pope appeared. "That wasn't him. He isn't there," I said. "No," Father Neuhaus said. "He is there. These are the remains, what is left behind of a life such as we are not likely to see again, waiting with all of us for the Resurrection of the dead, the final vindication of the hope he proclaimed."

As was his wont, Father Neuhaus was capable of delivering impromptu corrections with an eloquence and precision that would elude the best of us. When I learned of his passing yesterday at the age of 72, his words echoed in my memory. He was not only a great intellectual and an exemplary man of letters but, as his remark to me illustrates, he was a man who put his mind and his literary skill at the service of his church and the truths it protected. He was first and last a man animated by his faith.

Richard Neuhaus was born in Pembroke, Ontario, in 1936. Like his father, he would become a Lutheran priest. He eventually pastored a large black congregation in Brooklyn and in the 1960s and 1970s became a leader in the civil-rights and antiwar movements. Of his work with Martin Luther King Jr., he once wrote that God "used his most unworthy servant Martin to create in our public life a luminous moment of moral truth about what Gunnar Myrdal rightly called 'the America dilemma,' racial justice. It seems a long time ago now, but there is no decline in the frequency of my thanking God for his witness and for having been touched, however briefly, by his friendship, praying that he may rest in peace, and that his cause may yet be vindicated."

Where faith and his hatred for injustice led him to liberal activism, it would soon lead him away from it. In the wake of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, he left what he called "the movement" and started down a new, more conservative path.

In 1984, Pastor Neuhaus (then still a Lutheran) penned his landmark work, "The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America." It was an intellectual challenge to the trend of eradicating religious symbols and thought from America's civil life. He warned of a state that "drives out prophetic religion and establishes a monopoly on public space and public meanings. That is the circumstance referred to as the 'naked public square.' Which, as we must never tire of recalling, does not remain naked but is taken over by the pseudo-religion established by state power." His searing prose and well-reasoned arguments, infused with their own prophetic power, would attract legions of admirers in the media and government and among religious leaders of various denominations.

U.S. News and World Report in 1988 called Pastor Neuhaus one of the "most influential intellectuals in America." In 1990, he established First Things: The Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life. Within its pages Evangelical, Jewish, Orthodox and Catholic intellectuals contended with the primary issues facing America and the world -- matters of faith and their intersection with public policy. And though he enjoyed a series of presidential appointments, in the Carter, Reagan and first Bush administration, he never lost sight of his role as a priest. He would write: "Politics is chiefly a function of culture, at the heart of culture is morality, and at the heart of morality is religion."

In 1990, he converted to Catholicism and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest by Cardinal John O'Connor. Along with Chuck Colson he would lead an ecumenical initiative titled "Catholics and Evangelicals Together." It sought to underscore the unity of belief enjoyed by these diverse communities while soberly confronting the doctrine and practice that divided them. Father Neuhaus was an unofficial adviser to John Paul II on everything from ecumenism to democracy. He would also influence President George W. Bush's policies on stem-cell research and abortion.

For me personally, Father Neuhaus will forever be attached to the election of Pope Benedict XVI and, early last year, his journey to America. Father Neuhaus was my co-host for the Eternal Word Television Network's live coverage of those events, providing commentary that was erudite and occasionally cutting. When I announced to our viewers that the pope would be meeting with the American bishops in the crypt of National Basilica in Washington, Father Neuhaus quipped: "A fitting repository for the American Episcopacy."

When one steps back and looks at the turns of Father Neuhaus's life -- at his active engagement with social causes and, when American culture changed, with those "first things" that came to matter more than ever; at his willingness to forsake friendships and old alliances to pursue the truth -- it is ever more clear that he was willing to obey the promptings of his faith, no matter where they took him.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Let the Socialism Games Begin!

NEW YORK (Reuters) - President-elect Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats are considering a major expansion of government-assisted health care insurance and unemployment benefits as part of a two-year economic recovery program, The New York Times reported in its Sunday editions.

Proposals included extending unemployment compensation to part-time workers, subsidizing employers who must continue health insurance benefits temporarily for laid-off and retired employees and allowing workers who lose jobs that did not include insurance to apply for Medicaid, the Times said.

The proposals would be included with other economic measures like ramping up spending on infrastructure and other public works projects meant to stimulate job growth, the Times said.
Democratic aides said the House of Representatives is not expected to vote until next week at the earliest on any stimulus plan, with final action now unlikely before February, the newspaper reported.

Citing Obama advisers, the newspaper said the package, which could face resistance from Republicans and conservative Democrats, would cost at least $775 billion.

"This has really forced people to think outside the box," the Times quoted a House Appropriations Committee aide as saying, "because this is more money than anybody expected to be spending."

Obama is also likely to propose a tax credit of $500 for eligible individuals and $1,000 for couples, the newspaper said. Those earning too little to pay federal income tax would receive a check meant to offset Social Security retirement and Medicare payroll taxes.

Heritage Foundation's 2009 Resolutions for America

Big changes are coming to Washington in 2009 with a new administration in the White House and a new Congress. As we prepare for these adjustments, here are the things The Heritage Foundation hopes to see happen in the New Year.

TRANSPARENT GOVERNMENT: Congress will provide open and honest debate on Obama’s proposed $1 trillion economic stimulus plan, so that American taxpayers can be assured they are not funding projects such as a snow-making machine.

END OF TARP: Obama and the incoming Congress will end the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) and deny any requests to use the second $350 billion of taxpayer funds. Instead , lawmakers should reform the nation’s financial regulatory system, including the laws governing mortgage lending and other requirements on financial institutions that appear to have exacerbated today’s problems.

IRAN WITHOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS: Obama will work ceaselessly to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons and will lead an international coalition to impose the strongest possible economic sanctions and will mobilize allies to contain and deter Iran.

NO NEW TAXES: Obama will make all of President Bush’s tax cuts permanent, understanding that tax increases harm economic growth, tax cuts lead to greater economic activity and government spending has little effect on stimulating economic activity.

CHEAP ENERGY: The U.S. will authorize oil production in ANWR and other promising areas in the lower 48 states, remove restrictions on offshore oil drilling; reform the arduous permitting process for new nuclear power plants and avoid enacting global warming legislation that harms the American economy and increases the costs of energy for working Americans.

STATE DRIVEN EDUCATION: The incoming U.S. Secretary of Education will agree that it takes leadership at the most local level to improve the public education system, and will enact proposals that grant states greater autonomy and flexibility in how federal funds are used if they agree to maintain academic accountability and transparency.

NO SOCIALIZED HEALTH CARE: After a responsible amount of public debate and the rejection of both a Federal Health Board and a new government-run plan; the Congress and Obama will agree on real bipartisan health care reform that uses a consumer-choice system, like the one available to Members of Congress; provides incentives rather than government mandates and gives states the flexibility to be bold rather than imposing a national plan.

FREEDOM TO WORSHIP: Obama will protect the ability of faith-based social service providers to honor their religious ideals; ensure the availability of federal conscience protections that allow doctors to serve patients without violating their religious beliefs and provide an honest environment for public policy debate – including debates about marriage – without fear of intimidation or reprisal.

NON-ACTIVIST JUDGES: Obama will nominate judges who interpret the Constitution as written, rather than those who would treat it as living document into which they can read their own policy preferences.

MISSILE DEFENSE: Obama will understand the need for a strong missile defense, knowing that in 33 minutes or less a missile launched at the U.S. can hit any target it is programmed to destroy, and he will ramp up efforts to build a missile shield in the United States and place missile defense installations in Poland, providing stability and security to all Americans.

SUPPORT THE TROOPS: The Heritage Foundation hopes that in 2009, the U.S. continues its fight for freedom around the globe, and gives all of the support and resources necessary for our troops to bravely protect us and return home safely. God bless them, and to all of you, a Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

GOP Song Boneheaded, Not Racist

Fantastic article from Ruben Navarrette, San Diego Union-Tribune:

Here's a debate that strikes a familiar chord. When do song lyrics that are meant to be entertaining hit a sour note and become offensive?

Many conservatives think rap music crosses the line. In 1990, Republican officials in Broward County, Fla., declared obscene an album by the group, 2 Live Crew, and sheriff's deputies arrested members of the group after a performance. In 1992, the rapper Ice-T released an album featuring the song "Cop Killer," which President George H.W. Bush called a threat to police officers. After law enforcement associations boycotted his record label, Time Warner, Ice-T pulled the song from the album.

During those skirmishes in the culture wars, you would hear liberals defend the creative process, praise the First Amendment, and dismissively tell anyone who was offended by vulgar lyrics to "get over it" and develop thicker skins. Now those on the left have the chance to show us how it's done and walk it like they talk it.

And it's all thanks to "Barack the Magic Negro," a cheeky parody of "Puff, the Magic Dragon" that pokes fun at the jealousy and resentment that older black leaders initially exhibited toward Barack Obama.

Did you catch that? This is not a song that makes fun of Obama -- as some might assume from media reports -- but rather one that makes fun of those who claimed that Obama was not being black enough or appreciative enough of the struggles of those who came before him. Mimicking the voice of the Rev. Al Sharpton, the song -- which first aired on Rush Limbaugh's radio show -- starts off:

"Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C. The L.A. Times, they called him that 'Cause he's not authentic like me. Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper Said he makes guilty whites feel good. They'll vote for him, and not for me 'Cause he's not from the hood."

The "guy from the L.A. paper" is Los Angeles-based writer David Ehrenstein, who penned an op-ed piece that ran in the Los Angeles Times on March 19, 2007. Describing himself as "an African-American whose last name has led to his racial 'credentials' being challenged," Ehrenstein wrote that, besides running for president, Obama was also "running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination -- the 'Magic Negro' ... (who is) there to assuage white 'guilt' (i.e., the minimal discomfort they feel) over the role of slavery and racial segregation in American history." The only hiccup, Ehrenstein wrote, was "criticism (white and black alike) concerning Obama's alleged 'inauthenticity', as compared to such sterling examples of 'genuine' blackness as Al Sharpton and Snoop Dogg."

Why is Obama magic? Because like the dragon in the 1960s folk song, Obama is -- according to Ehrenstein -- not real. Instead, he's "like a comic-book superhero" -- "the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him."

That's radical stuff. It's basically a message to white folks that just because they've accepted Barack Obama doesn't mean they're off the hook for more than 200 years of oppression and discrimination against African-Americans and other minorities.

That's not the kind of thing you'd normally hear from the Republican National Committee, which finds itself embroiled in this controversy after Chip Saltsman, a former chair of the Tennessee Republican Party who is running for RNC chairman, sent fellow Republicans a CD that included "Barack the Magic Negro."

It was a boneheaded thing to do, if Saltsman really wants to lead a party that has managed to scare off or tick off just about every color in the rainbow and now finds itself with an ever-shrinking base of white rural voters right about the time that Census figures are telling us that whites are just three decades away from becoming a statistical minority.

But it wasn't racist. The racism is coming from those on the left, and their simpaticos in the media who twisted this story to fit the narrative of a GOP hostile to minorities. That story line lets the Democratic Party look progressive by comparison -- which allows it to rest on its laurels instead of doing its part to improve race relations.

That's how it is in the game of racial politics. Conservatives are often held to higher standards while liberals skate by on what we might call -- to borrow a phrase -- the soft bigotry of low expectations. is an independent site and is not affiliated with any official web sites, associations, or organizations associated with President Reagan. Any views expressed or content included on this site do not necessarily reflect the views, positions, or opinions of any of the organizations or individuals named, linked, or advertised.

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