Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama's State of the Union Address

As always, great job by for its analysis of President Obama's State of the Union speech last night. 


President Obama peppered his State of the Union address to Congress and the nation with facts, which were mostly right but sometimes cherry-picked, strained or otherwise misleading.

• He said “there are about 2 million Americans working right now” because of last year’s stimulus bill. But his own economic advisers say the total could be as little as 1.5 million, and independent estimates range down to as low as 800,000.

• He quoted the Congressional Budget Office as saying health care legislation could “bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion” over the next 20 years. But CBO has made clear that’s a soft and uncertain estimate.

• He said that when he took office, the deficit already was projected to total $8 trillion over the next 10 years. But the estimate is from his own Office of Management and Budget; the CBO put the figure at trillions less.

• He said he believes a Supreme Court decision will allow foreign corporations to spend in U.S. elections. Perhaps so, but it actually did not address a law still on the books forbidding any foreign-based corporation from spending on electioneering here.


This was the president’s first State of the Union address, but not his first speech to a joint session of Congress. We found a number of errors in his first one on Feb. 24, 2009, and also in his health care speech Sept. 9 (when a GOP House member shouted "you lie").

This time Republicans merely scoffed and grumbled at some of Obama’s statements. And while we found Obama strained the facts or cited uncertain statistics at times, we uncovered nothing we could show to be false.

How Many Jobs?

The president said the stimulus bill was responsible for "about 2 million" jobs, but that’s far from certain. Other estimates put the total as low as 800,000.

Obama: Because of the steps we took, there are about 2 million Americans working right now who would otherwise be unemployed.

The 2 million jobs estimate comes from the latest report of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. It said: "CEA estimates that as of the fourth quarter of 2009, the [stimulus bill] has raised employment relative to what it otherwise would have been by 1½ to 2 million." So his own economic advisers say the number could be as low as 1.5 million, but Obama took the higher number in their range. And the CEA report also cited fourth-quarter estimates from others, including the Congressional Budget Office and private economic forecasting firms, most of which are lower than the 2 million figure Obama used. The other estimates for job creation are:

• CBO: 800,000 to 2.4 million

• IHS/Global Insight: 1.25 million

• Macroeconomic Advisers: 1.1 million

• Moody’s 1.6 million

Furthermore, it’s difficult to say definitively what the employment situation would have been without the legislation, and the CEA report acknowledges that, saying: "As we have emphasized, measuring what a policy action has contributed to growth and employment is inherently difficult because we do not observe what would have occurred without the policy. Therefore, it must be understood that our estimates are subject to substantial margins of error."

Hopeful on Health Care

Obama touted an optimistic — and highly uncertain — estimate on how the Senate health care bill could affect the deficit:

Obama: And according to the Congressional Budget Office – the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress – our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades.

It’s true that the CBO’s admittedly rough estimate said the bill could reduce the deficit below its projected level by “as much as” about $1 trillion over 20 years — but it also said the reduction could be half of that amount. And it noted the estimate is subject to a great deal of uncertainty.

CBO normally gives estimates for 10-year periods, and the nonpartisan entity doesn’t like to go beyond that. It said the Senate bill could produce a net deficit reduction of $132 billion over 2010-2019. For the next decade, CBO said the reduction would be “in a broad range between one-quarter percent and one-half percent of GDP.” Senate Democrats estimated that would mean a reduction of $650 billion to $1.3 trillion.

But CBO emphasized how squishy that large range is: “The imprecision of that calculation reflects the even greater degree of uncertainty that attends to it.” Plus, the numbers count on a reduction in the growth of Medicare spending, of which CBO isn’t so confident. “It is unclear whether such a reduction in the growth rate could be achieved, and if so, whether it would be accomplished through greater efficiencies in the delivery of health care or would reduce access to care or diminish the quality of care,” CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf wrote.

Stretching Deficit Facts?

Republicans laughed when Obama described the huge deficits he had inherited when he took office.

Obama: At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. (Applause.) By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door. (Laughter and applause.)

Now — just stating the facts.

Despite the Republican scoffing, Obama’s claims are backed up by the historical record — mostly.

• Budget surplus in 2000: The Congressional Budget Office reported on Nov. 14, 2000, in its Monthly Budget Review: "Fiscal year 2000 ended with a total budget surplus of $237 billion."

• Deficit when Obama took office: By the time Obama took office, that black ink had turned to gushers of red. "CBO projects that the deficit this year will total $1.2 trillion," CBO said in its "Budget and Economic Outlook." That was released Jan. 8, 2009, days before Obama’s inauguration.

So the president actually understated matters regarding annual surpluses and deficits for years past, but he may have strained the facts when he spoke of what was being predicted for future years at the time he assumed office. He said he inherited a projected 10-year deficit of $8 trillion. But at the time, CBO projected only a $3.1 trillion deficit over 10 years (Table 4, page 15).

In fairness, that CBO figure assumed that all of President Bush’s tax cuts would be allowed to expire on schedule. And in reality, Obama and congressional Democrats supported extending many of the cuts, while Republicans supported extending all of them. Extending all of the Bush tax cuts would add another $2.9 trillion to that (Table 7, page 22), for a total of $6 trillion — still short of Obama’s claim.

His figure is based on a "baseline" projection issued Feb. 20 by his own Office of Management and Budget (Table S-2, page 115). The OMB projected a 10-year deficit of $8.9 trillion, including the $787 billion stimulus package that Obama had just signed.

So it’s fair to say that Obama was facing an ocean of red ink when he took office, but it could have been anywhere between $3.1 trillion (CBO’s unrealistically low estimate) to a bit over $8 trillion (OMB’s estimate minus Obama’s stimulus bill).

Foreign Corporations Donating?

The president claimed that "foreign corporations" could begin spending big money to influence U.S. elections under a recent Supreme Court decision.

Obama: Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections.

Justice Samuel Alito, who with the other justices sat at the very front of the chamber last night, was seen shaking his head and mouthing what appeared to be the words "not true" as Obama said this. Alito joined the majority in the 5-4 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision issued by the Court last week, which knocked down restrictions on corporate spending on elections.

But it’s unclear whether the court’s opinion will lead to allowing foreign-based corporations to buy campaign ads and engage in other electioneering activities. There is still a law barring foreign corporations from spending money in connection with U.S. elections (see 2 U.S.C. 441e(b)(3)), and that’s a matter likely to be litigated further. The court’s most recent decision explicitly didn’t deal with that question. But strictly speaking, Obama couched his claim as something "I believe," making it a statement of opinion and not of fact. So whether his view turns out to be right remains to be seen.


The president correctly pointed out that he signed a number of tax cuts for individuals and businesses as part of the stimulus package, and also said this:

Obama: And we haven’t raised income taxes by a single dime on a single person. Not a single dime.

That’s true, according to Bob Williams of the Tax Policy Center. But it’s not the whole story. As Obama himself later said, tax increases are coming, at least for some:

Obama: To help working families, we’ll extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, for investment fund managers, and for those making over $250,000 a year. We just can’t afford it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Great Catholic Blog!

Just stumbled on to a great Catholic blog, which features regular contributions from Fr. John Bartunek, LC, author of bestseller, "The Better Part -- A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer".  The blog, "Catholic Spiritual Direction" can be found here

I've also added it to the RC Blog's Favorite Blogs listing on the left.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Great Video by a Great American

This is a "must see" video. Enjoy! God Bless Col. North, the NRA, and America!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Supreme Court Rules In Favor of First Amendment Rights

Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in favor of the Constitution and our rights under the First Amendment. Special thanks to David Bossie and his staff at Citizens United for suing the Federal Election Commission in 2008. You know this decision is in the best interest of America when Left-Wingers like Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) almost cries during yesterday's news conference following the decision and makes outlandish statements like, "this is the end of democracy in America as we know it".

Click here for a copy of the Court's ruling.

The truth of the matter is that the playing field has now been leveled -- no more one-side dominance by unions, media conglomerates, and in terms of political advertising.

Yesterday's decision opens the door to ALL Americans, regardless of who they are or where they work, to have an opportunity to speak their voice and/or fund political advertisements.

This is why Chucky is upset. He could care less about democracy or voters. This is abundantly clear based on his Senate votes this year on issues that have minority support in America.

Here was an email sent out from Citizens United yesterday:

Today is a historic day for Citizens United, the Conservative Movement, and for all Americans who cherish the First Amendment.

I am proud to tell you that the Supreme Court announced its decision today in our case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and we prevailed!

Today's decision that allows Citizens United to air its documentary films and advertisements is a tremendous victory, not only for Citizens United but for every American who desires to participate in the political process without fear of government intervention. As our case amply demonstrates, campaign finance legislation over the last two decades has imposed, as Justice Anthony Kennedy put it, a "censorship . . . vast in its reach." By overruling Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and striking down McCain-Feingold's ban on so-called electioneering communications, the Supreme Court has made possible the participation in our political process that is the right of every American citizen - a right that had been severely curtailed under the McCain-Feingold law.

Here is a quote from today's Supreme Court opinion that, for me, perfectly summarizes why we took on this fight:

"When Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"The Truck" Is Coming to Washington!

In an improbable scenario just 15 months ago, Conservative Scott Brown defeated Liberal Martha Coakley in a U.S. Senate special election held yesterday in Massachusetts to replace former Senator/murderer/cheater Ted Kennedy who passed away in late 2009.

Throughout the short campaign, Senator-elect Brown took on the Massachusetts Liberal Establishment and ran a Conservative campaign to capture the seat by 5 percent of the electorate.

Brown campaigned throughout the Commonwealth in his old GM pickup truck with 200,000 miles and ran on Conservative values.

Of course, the Libs, unable to debate Brown on substance, constantly mocked and made fun of Brown for his truck references used in his advertisements and campaign stops.

How ironic that they are going after Brown and his truck since just a decade or so ago the same Libs thought it was so "American" to see former Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone during his campaign travel through the state, and ultimately to Washington, in an old green school bus.

What did Brown's victory yesterday mean? (1) American's do not want health care reform, as it is currently considered by Congress, (2) there is "buyer's remorse" with independents who voted for Obama, and (3) voters are willing to break trends (either direction) to send a message to Washington.

It will be very interesting to see how the Obama Administration reacts to yesterday's defeat. Does he pull a Clinton-like move and pull back on his health care reform ideas or just he buckle down and stick with his Socialist plan. Until he addresses jobs and the economy in a substantive way, he and the Libs can expect more defeats in future elections.

Old Ted must be looking UP and wondering what the heck is happening...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Please Help Haiti!

As everyone knows, Haiti needs everyone's support, in terms of dollars and prayers, following the massive earthquake that devastated the poor country earlier this week.

Here are two GREAT and reputable charities with extremely low overhead expenses that have done unbelievable work in the past in poor countries like Haiti and now have dedicated donation requests specifically for the Haitian relief efforts:

FOOD FOR THE POOR (more than 96% of all donations go directly to programs that help the poor)

CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES (93% of all donations go directly to programs that help the poor)

Please donate (and pray!)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fairfax Supervisor Pat Herrity to seek GOP nomination for U.S. House seat in Va.

From this afternoon's Washington Post on-line edition...

Fairfax County Supervisor Pat S. Herrity (R-Springfield) said Wednesday he will seek the Republican nomination against first-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), as both parties in Northern Virginia prepare for the 11th District contest.

Herrity, 49, an accountant whose father was chairman of the Fairfax board in the 1970s and '80s, had contemplated entering the race for weeks. Word leaked out about his potential candidacy, and on Wednesday, he called his announcement "probably the worst kept secret" in Fairfax County.

"Things have changed dramatically in the last four years," Herrity said at a press conference at the West Springfield Government Center. "Simply put, I believe our country is at a crossroads and I feel I am the best candidate who can provide fiscal responsibility in Washington."

Republican officials had pressured Herrity to announce his bid soon or risk falling behind in fundraising. Herrity's entrance into the race sets up a Republican primary battle with Keith Fimian, a wealthy Oakton businessman who has pledged to stay in the contest regardless of Herrity's decision. Fimian, 53, ran against Connolly in 2008 and lost.

Through the end of September, Fimian reported $269,000 in cash on hand, according to federal campaign finance records, and he recently received the endorsement of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.). On Wednesday, Fimian said his total fundraising amount was closer to $550,000 and his campaign released a statement soon after Herrity's announcement, labeling Herrity as an ambitious opportunist and "career politician."

"Instead of staying focused on the job he was elected to do, Herrity is again abandoning his job while drawing a taxpayer salary to seek another office," Fimian said. "This will be the third different office he has sought within four years. His ambition outruns his responsibilities."
Herrity successfully ran for Fairfax County supervisor in Springfield in 2007, and board chairman in 2008, narrowly losing to Chairman Sharon S. Bulova (D) by 1,206 votes out of 103,972 cast.

On Wednesday, he played down the looming primary contest, saying "competition was good" and calling Fimian's criticisms "unfortunate."

Republicans have already been preparing for a bloody primary battle between Herrity and Fimian. Anthony Bedell, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, and Becky Stoeckel, chairman of the 11th District Republican Committee, announced they have endorsed Herrity. Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart, who endorsed Fimian several months ago, said in an interview that he was "sticking to his endorsement but Pat is a great guy and I think he would be a great congressman."

Fimian dismissed the endorsements as coming from "party insiders." "The voters don't want an insider," he said. "They are looking for fresh ideas."

Herrity's announcement also came on the heels of Sen. David W. Marsden's surprising Tuesday night special election victory over Stephen M. "Steve" Hunt, a Republican former Fairfax County School Board member, in the 37th state Senate race. Republicans were optimistic for a win, especially after incoming governor Robert F. McDonnell won the district in November, and a host of statewide and local Republican candidates cruised to victory.

Democrats said Marsden's victory was a testament to strong party organization and an energized voter base. Attorney General-elect Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II (R) held the seat for seven years and Republicans had represented the 37th since 1992. Democrats now represent all 10 Virginia Senate districts that are at least partly in Fairfax County.

"Both state parties put a lot of money in this race, but this shows that Democrats here haven't given up," said Rex Simmons, the chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee. "November was a wake-up call and last night was a big victory for us."

Most important for Herrity is that Marsden (D-Fairfax) won right in his back yard; The newly elected senator carried Hunt in the Springfield district by 25 votes out of 10,569 cast.

"Republicans were almost gleeful after November," Connolly said. "They were rubbing their hands, licking their chops. And don't get it wrong, they were expecting a win so I imagine this is sobering."

Republicans attempted to play down the Democratic victory, with Herrity noting that Hunt was outspent and out-worked in the race to get absentee voters and Fimian calling it a "local election based largely on local issues."

In an interview, Connolly deflected any questions about the 2010 midterm elections and the prospective Republican nominee, saying he would announce his reelection plans in mid-March.
"I've been in office for 15 years and my voters know me well," Connolly said. "I've won election seven straight times and, if I run again, I plan on winning."

New Rasmussen Poll: 2% Margin in Massachusetts Senate Race

A brand new poll has come out from Rasmussen showing the Massachusetts Special Election for U.S. Senate is a dead heat.

The poll has Democrat Martha Coakley (49%)leading Republican Scott Brown (47%) by just a 2% margin. The previous Rasmussen poll had Brown surging but down 9%. This new poll shows the momentum continues to be with Scott Brown.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Democrats' Double Standard

Thanks to the RNC for this great analysis of the Harry Reid hypocracy...


Will These Dems Hold Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid To Their Own Standard?

Reid Called Obama "Light Skinned" And Said He Had "No Negro Dialect." "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada described in private then-Sen. Barack Obama as 'light skinned' and 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.'" (Philip Elliot, "Reid Apologizes For 'No Negro Dialect' Comment," The Associated Press, 1/9/10)


Congressional Black Caucus Defending Reid and "Brushing Back" Republicans. "Separately, the Congressional Black Caucus plans to issue a new statement Monday, defending Reid and brushing back Republicans." (Mike Allen & Jake Sherman, "Democrats Launch Counterattack To Save Harry Reid's Career," Politico, 1/11/10)

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA): "I Look Forward To Senator Reid Continuing To Serve As Majority Leader." "'Senator Reid's record provides a stark contrast to actions of Republicans to block legislation that would benefit poor and minority communities -- most recently reflected in Republican opposition to the health bill now under consideration,' CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said. 'I look forward to Senator Reid continuing to serve as Majority Leader to guide this important agenda through the Senate.'" (Mike Allen & Jake Sherman, "Democrats Launch Counterattack To Save Harry Reid's Career," Politico, 1/11/10)

President Obama Says "The Book Is Closed" On Reid's Comments. "Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry's apology without question because I've known him for years, I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice and I know what's in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed." ("Obama Accepts Reid's Apology," Politico's "44" Blog, 1/10/10)

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine Says Reid's Racial Remarks Were "Clearly ... In The Context Of Praising" Obama. "The Democratic Party chairman, Timothy M. Kaine, said on Fox that Reid's remarks 'clearly were in the context of praising' Obama, and that there is no need for the Senate leader to resign. 'The important thing is the president right away said, 'This is a closed book,' Kaine said." (Chris Cillizza, "Republican Leader Steele: Reid Should Resign Over Remarks," The Washington Post, 1/11/10)

Schumer "Quite Certain" Reid Will Survive His Racial Remarks. "Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat, is said to be quite certain Reid would ride out the controversy, particularly because Obama and the Rev. Al Sharpton had accepted Reid's apology and issued effusively supportive statements." (Mike Allen & Jake Sherman, "Democrats Launch Counterattack To Save Harry Reid's Career," Politico, 1/11/10)

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) Warned Opponents Not To Attack Reid over His Racial Remarks. "D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is warning Republicans against trying to make hay out of Harry Reid's comments about Barack Obama's skin color and lack of a 'Negro dialect.'" (Jake Sherman, "Eleanor Holmes Norton Defends Harry Reid, Warns Republicans," Politico, 1/10/10)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Claims "Clearly, This Was A Mistake." Feinstein: "Clearly, this was a mistake. Clearly, the leader misspoke. He has also apologized. He's not only apologized to the President, I think he's apologized to the-- all of the black leadership that he could reach. So the President has accepted the apology and it would seem to me that the matter should be closed." (CBS' "Face The Nation," 1/10/10)


Reid On Lott: "I Don't Know How In The World I Could Condone, Support Or Understand His Statements." "'As closely as I've worked with him, I don't know how in the world I could condone, support or understand his statements,' said Reid, the Senate Democratic whip. 'I think what he said is not good for America; it's repugnant what he said.' 'If Republicans think it's best for Democrats to keep him there, maybe they'll get rid of him,' Reid said." (Tony Batt and Jane Ann Morriso, "Ensign Continues To Back Lott As Majority Leader," Las Vegas Review-Journal, 12/17/02)

Reid: Lott Had "No Alternative" But To Resign. "Sen. Harry Reid said Republican Senate leader Trent Lott's decision to relinquish his post Friday came as no surprise. 'He had no alternative,' the Nevada Democrat and Senate minority leader said. 'Senator Lott dug himself a hole and he didn't dig it all in one setting. He dug it over the years. And he couldn't figure out a way to get out of it.'" ("Nevada Lawmakers Not Surprised By Lott Resignation," The Associated Press, 12/20/02)


Congressional Black Caucus Called For Formal Censure On Lott. "In the days since, Democrats have heaped criticism on Lott. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Senate Democrats were considering whether to call for a formal censure vote of the GOP leader, a suggestion first made Thursday by the Congressional Black Caucus and renewed after Lott spoke." (David Espo, "Lott Apologizes Again, Denounces Racism," The Associated Press, 12/13/02)

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY): Lott Should Not Be Renominated. "'My first hope is that he is not renominated,' Mr. Schumer said in an interview. 'The remarks that Senator Lott made come from the same type of insensitivity that we found in Judge Pickering and led us to the conclusion that he didn't merit promotion to a higher court. If anything, the reaction to Lott's comments reinforce that view.' If Judge Pickering is renominated, Mr. Schumer said, a rich Senate floor debate on race will be inevitable." (Neil A. Lewis, "Divisive Words: Judicial Appointments," The New York Times, 12/18/02)


Then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE): "You Cannot Be Insensitive To Race Issues from Positions of Leadership." Biden: "Well, I--I think the Republicans have to come to the milk and decide what they want to do. Look, one thing we should have all learned by now, you cannot be insensitive to race issues from positions of leadership. And unfortunately for Trent, his comments are not measured just in the context of the incident where he made them but in the context of his whole record. ... They've got to define for themselves what kind of face they want to put on their party. And my guess is out of their self-interest, they may very well decide that--that Trent has to go." (CBS' "Face The Nation," 12/15/02)

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) On Lott: We Need Healers, Not Dividers. "'We need political leaders who are healers, not dividers,' Durbin said. 'I hope that Senator Lott's apology will translate into action and that he will advance policies that bring us together as a nation rather than pull us apart.'" (Dori Meinert, "Fitzgerald, Simon Support Lott in Racial Controversy," Copley News Services, 12/13/02)

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) Called On Lott To Resign. "Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, urged Mr. Lott to resign as party leader because the remark would 'place a cloud over his leadership.'" (Stephen Dinan, "GOP Defends Lott's Intent," The Washington Times, 12/12/02)

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA): If A Democrat Leader Made Racial Comments, They Would Not Be Allowed To Keep Their Position. "'I can tell you, if a Democratic leader said such a thing, they would not be allowed to keep their position,' Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, said of Mr. Lott in 2002." (Joseph Curl, "Democrats Close Ranks Around Reid," The Washington Times, 1/11/10)

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR): Lott Is Out Of Touch With The Senate. "'The sentiments expressed by Senator Lott's words last week have no place in today's America,' Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat, said in a statement. 'If he truly believes a Strom Thurmond presidency would have been good for the country, then he is out of touch with the U.S. Senate and certainly with a great majority of Americans. Senator Lott owes the nation a thorough explanation of his words recorded in 1980 and again last week. Racism and bigotry once divided America and we cannot tolerate words that might send us back there.'" (Paul Barton, "Lott's Remarks Draw Arkansas Reproach," Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 12/12/02)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA): His Apology Doesn't Take Away The Sting Of His Remarks. Boxer: "His apology does not take away the sting of his divisive words, nor the pain inflicted on millions of African Americans under segregation." (Edward Epstein, "Bush Calls Lott's Remark 'Wrong'," San Francisco Chronicle, 12/13/02)

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) On Lott: His Comments "Demonstrate A Glaring Insensitivity To The Pain African-Americans Suffered As A Result Of Segregation And Discrimination." "Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland said Lott's comments 'demonstrate a glaring insensitivity to the pain African-Americans suffered as a result of segregation and discrimination.'" (Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Lott Repeats Apologies, Rejects Calls To Resign As Senate Leader," The Baltimore Sun, 12/14/02)

"Do as I say, not as I do"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ryan Zimmerman -- Mostly Unknown Commodity

I meant to post this great article a few weeks ago when I first read it on Fantastic piece on Washington Nationals all-star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman who won the National League's Gold Glove Award (best defensively at each position in each league) and Silver Slugger Award (best offensively at each position in each league) at third base last year.

I'm also posting for your viewing pleasure my home video of Zimmerman's game winning HR at Opening Night at the new stadium in 2008. It is the most watched video on YouTube for Ryan Zimmerman!


Zimmerman mostly unknown commodity

By Anna Katherine Clemmons
ESPN The Magazine

Ryan Zimmerman walks into an Arlington, Va., restaurant on a cold December afternoon. Dressed in jeans, a checkered button-down shirt and brown loafers, the 6-foot-3 North Carolina native looks like one of the many young professionals who populate the Washington suburb.

"Don't I know you from somewhere?" the host asks after greeting him, pondering Zimmerman's face for several seconds. "You look so familiar. College, maybe?"

"No, I don't think so," Zimmerman says, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders.

"OK. I'll think of it," the host says as he leads the Nationals' All-Star third baseman to his table.

Ryan Zimmerman was in the top 10 in the National League in home runs (33) in 2009.

A few minutes later, he returns with menus. "I think I've got it," the host says. "You know Whitlow's [a nearby bar and restaurant]? Do you go there? I bet that's it -- I used to work there."

Zimmerman pauses for a moment. He could tell the host the truth -- that this past year he won the Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Fielding Bible and "Baseball Tonight" Web Gem awards and held major league baseball's longest hitting streak (30 games) while being voted to his first-ever All-Star Game. Or, that since his arrival in Washington in September 2005, the 25-year-old third baseman has become one of the best players in baseball and the face of the franchise for the Nationals.

Chances are a New York City host wouldn't confuse Alex Rodriguez or David Wright with a college classmate. But this is Washington, D.C., and Zimmerman is the reserved, easygoing star of 2009's worst team in baseball.

"People in D.C. have a lot of other things going on," Zimmerman said in explaining why the Nats' fan base is sometimes criticized as less devoted than those of other major cities. "And when you win in this city, it's different."

The Nationals haven't had a winning season since his arrival. Yet Zimmerman showed his commitment to Washington last spring when he signed a five-year, $45 million deal through 2013.

"Few players stay in the same place their whole career," Zimmerman said. "It'd be a really cool accomplishment to have been here at our worst and see us through to our best. Hopefully, I can be that guy who's been here from the beginning and helped turn it all around."

Zimmerman's parents, Keith and Cheryl, moved their two sons (Ryan has a younger brother, Shawn) to Virginia Beach, Va., when Ryan was in the sixth grade. Though they didn't realize it, the family ended up in a baseball hotbed. Zimmerman's AAU league included the future major leaguers Mark Reynolds, B.J. and Justin Upton, and David Wright.

Zimmerman was much smaller in his teenage years, a self-described "late bloomer," and his September birthday meant he was younger than most of his classmates. Still, his talent was evident.

"I think we saw even from the early stages of Little League, he was a year or two above everyone he was playing with," Keith says. "He'd step on the field and literally change the outcome of the game."

Competing against future major league players also didn't hurt. "He could just always play and hit," B.J. Upton said of Zimmerman. "He's also a great teammate, and I think that's a key factor that people forget. For him, it's more than his play on the field. He's a guy who can be a leader and that makes things so much easier in the clubhouse."

Zimmerman wasn't drafted out of Kellam High School. He graduated 23rd out of 300 in his class and went to the University of Virginia on a baseball scholarship. Reynolds, a shortstop, was a year ahead of Zimmerman. The two battled as high school rivals but played together for two years at Virginia and remain close friends.

Even as a "late bloomer," Ryan Zimmerman's baseball skills began surfacing as a young player in Virginia Beach, Va.

"He was always an unbelievable fielder," Reynolds said. Zimmerman assumed his years at UVa would lead to a great education (he was a sociology major), not a sporting future. "I didn't really think I had a chance at being a pro," Zimmerman says.

UVa head coach Brian O'Connor thought otherwise. "It was a pretty spectacular thing to watch him," O'Connor says. "What also stuck out was his baseball knowledge, his understanding of the game. He was very confident and yet also very humble, which is rare in a player."

Zimmerman's humility also stemmed from his life at home. Cheryl was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Zimmerman was in high school and since 1995 has been in a wheelchair. "She hasn't been able to do a lot of the mom stuff, and I think that's helped him be as mature and responsible as he is," Reynolds says. "He's almost wise beyond his years."

Ryan and Shawn learned to do their own laundry, cook meals, work as handymen and repairmen, and transport themselves to and from practices. Zimmerman downplays the responsibilities, saying only that he learned from his mother how to take things in stride.

In 2006, Zimmerman began his ZiMS Foundation, raising funds and awareness in the fight to stop MS, which affects as many as 2.5 million people worldwide. His parents are on the board of directors, and the family hosts various events throughout the year in supporting the cause.

Zimmerman was called up to the major leagues by the Nationals in September 2005 after playing less than four months in Class A and Double-A and celebrated his 21st birthday later that month. Washington had selected him in the first round of the draft as the fourth overall pick that June, giving him a $3 million signing bonus.

Zimmerman hit .397 in the final 20 games of the '05 season, sharing time with the veteran third baseman Vinny Castilla. When Castilla was traded to the Padres in the offseason, Zimmerman solidified his spot as the Nats' starting third baseman heading into spring training.

Many sportswriters and Jim Bowden, the Nats' general manager at the time, dubbed Zimm, as he's known to friends and fans, the "face of the franchise" entering the 2006 season. For the reserved yet confident Zimmerman, the tag was a mixed blessing.

"The hardest thing for me was they wanted me to be that [face of the franchise] from day one," Zimmerman says. "People don't realize that I'm only 25 now."

When the Nationals drafted No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg in June, many wondered whether the "face of the franchise" tag would be passed on to the young pitcher. Zimmerman met Strasburg and spent some time with him this summer. "It seems like he understands things and has a good grip," Zimmerman says. "There's lots of pressure on him, which is unfair; one person can't change a team."

And yet, in many ways, that's what Zimmerman has tried to do. He led the Nationals in almost every offensive category in 2009: at-bats (610), runs (110), hits (178), doubles (37), RBIs (106) and total bases (320 -- he was the only Nats player to surpass 300). His .292 batting average trailed only Nyjer Morgan's .307 among team members with at least 100 at-bats.

Defensively, Zimmerman led all National League third basemen in assists, total chances, total outs recorded and games started. His 110 runs were second-best among league third basemen, and his 33 homers tied with Evan Longoria for second. His 320 total bases led all third basemen.

"He's just an all-around great player," said Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, a good friend of Zimmerman's. "He can hit bombs, but he also gets a lot of base hits. He plays smart, hardly makes any errors. He's the exact type of guy that you'd want for your team."

Especially a team that has continued to struggle. Washington's overall record last year was baseball's worst: 59-103. The Nationals finished tied for ninth among the 16 NL teams in batting average last year (.258). Their fielding percentage, however, was dead last at .977, and their 143 errors were also the most in the NL. Their pitching fared no better, compiling an NL-worst 5.00 ERA. Their 911 strikeouts were also the fewest among all NL teams.

Zimmerman's role as a clubhouse leader has developed gradually. He points to the style modeled by Derek Jeter, the perennial Yankees All-Star whose talent speaks for himself and whose role isn't overstated.

"Ryan was not a really vocal player," O'Connor said. "He won't go out and be the rah-rah guy, but he leads by what he brings to the field every day. His 100 percent consistent effort and attention to detail really was his leadership."

Zimmerman's evolution in Washington has also motivated the changing faces around him. When veteran Nick Johnson was traded away in August, Zimmerman admits that it wasn't easy losing an established veteran. But he points to trades like the July acquisition of Morgan as a smart long-term move for the team.

"He's always been one of those guys who'll look at the big picture, whether we're talking about what management group to use or what college to go to," father Keith said. "When he looks at the Nationals, they have a brand-new stadium, they're in a big-money market, and I think he sees the opportunity down the road. He's a patient enough guy to wait for it."

That even-keel persona is indicative of his personality both on and off the field. "We grew up at the beach surfing, and we always had that laid-back lifestyle," Reynolds said. "He can have an 0-for-15 slump and he'll snap out of it. I've never really seen him mad or fired up about anything."

"He doesn't let the highs or lows take over," Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein said. "In those pressure-packed moments, he can step outside and analyze the situation for what it is."

Eckstein points to a moment last spring during Zimmerman's hitting streak. Zimmerman had yet to record a hit as the game reached the final innings. He stepped up to the plate and worked the count before "he smokes the ball into right center, and our whole dugout erupted because he kept the streak alive," Eckstein said. "He had this big smile over his face. Everyone was pulling for him during that time."

ESPN and other national broadcasts interrupted regular programming and switched over to his at-bats during the streak. Upton says he followed the streak through stats and Web updates. Zimmerman says he never felt added pressure and still treated each game like any other. "You should feel like you're the best player out there, and you should tell yourself you are," Zimmerman said. "You should be the guy everyone thinks will get the game-winning hit."

Zimmerman says that baseball is full of "overthinkers." He chooses to avoid the cerebral jinx. "You have to have a plan, and the longer you're in the bigs, the easier it gets. Pitchers will set you up -- they're creatures of habit. If I'm facing [John] Smoltz, I'll look at film and see what he's done before. If I'm ahead and then [the pitcher] got me out throwing off-speed pitches, then I'll look for what he got me out on."

He also acknowledges that every plan can't be executed perfectly and that that's part of baseball's parity. "It's such a cat-and-mouse game -- if you're a hair late or early, your whole plan is out the window. You can have everything set up perfectly, but it's still so hard if you miss your pitch. Think about it -- three out of 10 is horrible in any other sport, but it's great in baseball. You're gonna be crappy sometimes, but you have to learn to get better from failing."

The Nationals' strength and conditioning coach, John Philbin, trains Zimmerman at his gym throughout much of the offseason. "I wish every player were like Ryan," Philbin said as he ran Zimmerman through a morning of intense upper-body workouts mixed with sprints and interval running. Zimmerman says that before Philbin's arrival, he had some "baby fat" to work off. But at 6-3, 220 pounds, he's in arguably the best shape of his life. In the offseason, he works out every weekday but gives himself the weekends off.

In January, he'll travel to Tampa, Fla., to work out with a group of fellow major leaguers. He'll stay through the start of spring training in Viera, Fla., and won't return to Washington until April.

After his rookie year, Zimmerman bought a three-bedroom townhouse in Arlington. The 3,000-square-foot house is three stories tall but not flashy -- the only extravagancies are a two-car garage and a small movie-theater room. Zimmerman is a self-professed movie nut (his collection hovers around 300 DVDs) and a Best Buy addict. "I joined that [Best Buy] Rewards card program and thought I wouldn't really use it much," Zimmerman says. "Then a month later, they're sending me all these $25 gift cards because I'm shopping there so often." Framed movie posters decorate the walls of the theater room, including signed posters from Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell.

Three years into his Arlington digs, he still hasn't finished decorating. Framed photos sit on the floor of his office. His uncle visited last spring to assemble a wall of photos and a shelf of signed baseballs, which Zimmerman collected earlier in his major league tenure. His French bulldog, Miley, also has free reign around the house.

A major reason Zimmerman chose to stay with the Nationals was to remain near his parents, who travel to Washington at least once a month during the season, and his friends. Zimmerman has had the same circle of close friends since high school and college, and they, too, often come up during the season and stay in his house for a long weekend. He spends much of December traveling with them to Atlantic City and other vacation destinations. Even his roommate, Jordan, is a good friend from UVa.

"He hangs around with the right kind of people," Reynolds says. "It's pretty tough to be that close to him, but I got an early start. His support group is a really good one."

Zimmerman is single and says that as he is recognized more often, dating is sometimes a challenge. "I'm not complaining about too many girls because I wouldn't complain about that, but it's different -- you have to watch yourself," Zimmerman said. He and his friends sometimes make up an alternative profession when they're out in bars, saying Zimmerman is a golf-course designer. His dry sense of humor is seen most often by those who are close to him.

Even when he hangs out with his teammates, they rarely talk about baseball. Adam Dunn joined the Nationals last spring, and although he's almost five years older than Zimmerman, the two have become good friends. "When we go out, it's zero talk about baseball," Dunn says. "We don't want to go home and talk about our job. Once we leave the field, we're done with it."

"People assume that's all you want to talk about," Zimmerman says. "But when I'm with my closest friends, that's usually the last thing we talk about."

Zimmerman has never ridden the Metro, Washington's subway system, and says that at this point, it's a source of pride to see how long he can go before riding. He's also never visited the Smithsonian museums, a goal for this past offseason that now will have to wait until next year. That's not to say he doesn't enjoy the spoils of living in the nation's capital. Zimmerman has toured Air Force One and the CIA's training facilities and has even participated in simulations undergone by the nation's secret service.

In 2007, he mentioned in a Sports Illustrated article that he'd like to meet the president. A few days later, the Nationals received a note from President Bush: "Tell Ryan I'm right down the street and he's welcome for lunch anytime." A lunch date was set a few weeks later, and Zimmerman brought teammates Austin Kearns and Nick Johnson. He has a framed photo of that day hanging in his office along with a signed note from the former president.

But even having a fan in the White House (though the current president is a well-known White Sox fan) doesn't necessarily fill seats. The Nationals' average attendance in 2009 was 22,716 fans, placing them 24th out of the 30 MLB teams. (Oakland was the league's worst, at 17,392.) But that's a large drop from 2008, the first year in their new $611 million ballpark, when the Nats averaged 29,005 fans per game.

"When it comes down to it, if you want fans there, you have to win," Zimmerman says. When fans recognize him away from Nationals Park, they often want to talk about the stats he's earning in fantasy baseball or when he thinks Teddy will finally win the popular President's Race held at the park each game.

Zimmerman appears at various community events but shies away from too much attention. "I'm really boring with the media here on purpose," he says. He also confesses that while he used to fear public appearances, now he doesn't mind them, especially if they involve working with children.

When he's not playing baseball or with his friends, Zimmerman enjoys watching the NFL. Cheryl is a Steelers fan, but Ryan cheers for the Redskins as a result of the friendships he's formed with Cooley, quarterback Jason Campbell and several other Redskins players. He also plays fantasy football with his Nats teammates, which he says is a nice way to stay connected in the offseason. He lives fairly modestly; when asked how he'd spend his signing bonus in 2005, the then-20-year-old said he'd probably buy a Slurpee machine. (He hasn't purchased one yet but says it may still happen.)

"He's the kind of guy you can build a franchise around, which the organization has done, and that's the ultimate compliment," Wright said. The two players' lockers were next to each other at the All-Star Game this summer, with Justin's a few stalls down, which Wright says was a really special moment for the Virginia products. "We're not rivals exactly, but we push each other because we want to outdo each other," Wright said. "We're almost baseball brothers in that sense."

Though it was an impressive year of personal accolades, Zimmerman says he still feels he has work to do. "This year, I had a 10 or so game stretch where I'd botch a throw on an easy play," Zimmerman says. "My goal defensively is to get rid of that."

"He is, in my estimation, a complete player who pushes himself every single day," Eckstein said. "He definitely has that level of never being satisfied, and that's one of the greatest attributes a player can possess."

His larger goal, of course, is still having a winning season and making the playoffs. "He's been on a team before where they get to a point and struggle and it takes a while for them to make it," Cheryl says. "I think he likes the challenge."

With the offseason addition of veteran Pudge Rodriguez behind the plate, as well as high-profile younger players like Strasburg in the system, that turnaround might happen as soon as this upcoming season. "He talks about how he loves it here and this is the place he wants to be," Cooley says. "When you're playing for the team you want to play for, that's awesome."

A slight smile spreads across Zimmerman's face as he looks back up at the restaurant host, his question still hanging in the balance. "Yeah, that must be it," Zimmerman said of the Whitlow's reference.

The host walks away, satisfied, and Zimmerman is content to keep his incognito status.

Because in a few years -- maybe even as soon as next season -- that will change. One of baseball's best players can stay hidden for only so long.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hunt/Marsden Race in Va. Senate Special Election Coming Down the Stretch; Marsden Carpetbags In District

Next Tuesday (January 12), Virginians in the 37th Senate District will vote in a special election to replace Ken Cuccinelli, who will be sworn in later this month as the Commonwealth's new Attorney General.

Steve Hunt, the Republican conservative and former Fairfax County School Board member, is taking on Dave Marsden, a Virginia Delegate from Fairfax.

As is typically the case with off-cycle special elections, it will come down to turnaround. RC Blog expects Hunt to win for a number of reasons: current political climate, enthusiasm within the Northern Virginia Republican Party thanks to leaders like Anthony Bedell, and Hunt's name recognition within the district.

What might surprise many voters, and readers living outside the Northern Virginia area, is that Marsden does not even live within the boundaries of the 37th Senate District. It's pretty sad when the Democratic Party in the 37th District cannot find one of its own to run against Hunt.

The Washington Post printed an article in yesterday's print edition on the issue. Here are excerpts from the article written by Derek Kravitz:

Del. David W. Marsden (D-Fairfax) owns a house right across the street from Virginia's sprawling 37th Senate District in western Fairfax County. He's so close -- a few hundred feet -- he can literally look out his window on Jackson Street in Burke and "throw a rock and hit the boundary line," he said.

As Marsden runs against Republican Stephen M. "Steve" Hunt in Tuesday's election to replace Attorney General-elect Ken Cuccinelli II (R) in the District 37 seat, some opponents raise the question: Where does Marsden live now? Is his primary residence the house with his wife and children outside the district or three miles south, in a guest bedroom in the district?

Marsden's living circumstances illustrate the complications sometimes caused by Virginia's residency requirements for elected officials.

To fulfill county and state residency guidelines, Marsden has rented the lower level of a house for $600 a month from Ronald L. and Paula J. Seward, longtime state Democratic Party donors who live in a four-bedroom on Stonecutter Drive in Burke, just three miles from his home of more than 25 years in the 34th District.

Ronald Seward, the president of a consulting firm specializing in government contracting, has given about $100,000 to Democratic candidates since 2002, according to the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project, including $3,725 to Marsden's first campaign for state delegate.

Marsden's opponent Hunt, a former Fairfax School Board member, declined to comment about the rental but told a podcast program in December that it was "minor." Anthony Bedell, chairman of the Fairfax County Republican Committee, was less forgiving: "It doesn't matter which party it is, to go ahead and hop, skip and a jump into a district in order to run is distasteful and disturbing," he said.

One voter, Anna Lee, a well-known Republican Party donor from Centreville, filed a complaint in December with the Fairfax Electoral Board, alleging that Marsden did not fulfill the district's residence requirement, and asking that his voter registration be canceled. County officials responded that they did not have the authority to revoke his registration.

Seward's neighbors said they have seen Marsden periodically, with his car that has delegate license plates parked in the driveway. One neighbor, Boudi Hayek, 55, said he has seen Marsden pick up his morning newspaper about 7:30 a.m. as Hayek walked his daughter to nearby school.

"We talked about Christmas lights, because both of our houses got hit by the same kids taking them," Hayek said.

His campaign manager, Mark Henson, pledges that Marsden, 61, is sleeping in the guest bedroom and that he goes back to his Jackson Street home, which is officially designated as his legislative office, every day to check mail and see his family.

"Dave Marsden has lived in Fairfax County for 57 years and moved three miles south, meeting all legal requirements to run," Henson said.

Marsden's new landlords said he is in every day, usually about 10 p.m., and wakes up with the Sewards about 7 a.m.

Marsden's campaign declined to answer more detailed questions from The Washington Post about the rental agreement and blog items and mass e-mails alleging that Marsden might not live at the Seward house, with Henson saying that the delegate "wanted to focus on the important campaign ahead."

Fairfax County officials are limited in what they can do to verify Marsden's living arrangement, said county Registrar Edgardo Cortés. Marsden filed change-of-address paperwork with the county on Nov. 23. His driver's license has also been updated with the new address.

"It's about consistency," Cortés said. "We're not going to do anything additional for him that we wouldn't do for any other resident of the county."

The Virginia State Board of Elections, which crafted a tougher voter residency policy in August after a task force studied the matter for four months, said the issue of candidates moving into districts to run for public office is a local one. The voter residency policy states that a residence must both be a "place of abode" -- a second home, a hotel, an apartment or even under a bridge -- and a "domicile," defined as the primary place where the resident intends to live his or her life. Essentially, many places can be an "abode" but there can be only one true home, said James Alcorn, deputy secretary of the state elections board.

"We recognize people can own multiple homes. You can live on 10 island countries and those can all be places of abode, but you can have only one residency," Alcorn said. "Still, it's very difficult to define. It's not very black and white."

"Reviving the Constitution" - A Town Hall Meeting Hosted by Hillsdale College

For those of you who missed last summer's Hillsdale College Constitution Colloquium in Washington, here's another opportunity! For RC Blog fans in the Washington/Northern Virginia area, only 100 in-person spots are available so sign up quickly.

“Reviving the Constitution”-- An Online Town Hall
January 30, 2010

9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.


Hillsdale College invites you to participate in a Constitution Town Hall onSaturday, January 30, 2010. This event, entitled “Reviving the Constitution,” is sponsored by Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for ConstitutionalStudies and Citizenship.

The Kirby Center, located in Washington, D.C., waslaunched in 2008 to teach and promote the principles and practices ofAmerican constitutionalism in the nation’s capital and nationwide. It is seekingwith this event to revive a town hall tradition in which enduring principles arethe focal point of conversation.

There are two ways to participate in this event--in person or by viewing a livevideo stream online. Advance registration is required for both forms ofparticipation.

Participation via live video stream (“webcast”) is free of charge; persons whowish to participate online will receive a link to the webcast upon registering.

In-person participation costs $10, and payment will be collected at the door(checks, cash, and major credit cards will be accepted). Lunch will be providedto those who register to be part of the studio audience. islocated at 4206 F Technology Ct. in Chantilly, VA, 20151. Although space islimited, groups are welcome.

Town Hall sessions include presentations on the following topics:

• The Declaration of Independence
• The Principles of Free Government
• The American Constitution
• The Constitution and the Civil War
• The Progressive Attack on the Constitution
• American Government Today and What Citizens Can Do to Revive the Constitution

Town Hall lecturers feature leading constitutional scholars including Hillsdale College President Larry P. Arnn, and they will leave ample time for questionsfrom both in-person and online participants.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Education, Economics, and Self-Government

From the latest issue of Hillsdale College's "Imprimis" newsletter:

The following is adapted from speeches delivered by Hillsdale College's President Larry P. Arnn in Indianapolis, Indiana, on September 24, and in Pocahontas, Arkansas, on October 19, 2009.

I HAVE BEEN ASKED TO talk today about education and economic development. The standard thing to say on this topic is that the former is vital to the latter. We live in the modern world, so we all have to be highly informed and highly skilled and understand the power of modern science. It is a task of the very first importance to train a workforce that will be able to compete in the global marketplace. That is the standard thing to say, and we hear it said often by education bureaucrats from the federal level on down. And of course it is perfectly true, as far as it goes. But there is more to be said.

The practical point of this standard thing to say is that America needs more technical education—more scientists and mathematicians. And of course we do need scientists and mathematicians. But I like to remind people when they say this that the word "technical" comes from the Greek word "techne," which means "art." And Aristotle points out that art is about making, and that the question of what one should make is always superior, in point of order and logic, to the question of how to make it.

What does this mean? Consider one of the greatest scientific achievements of the last century—the development of the atomic bomb. The question of whether to build an atomic bomb, and then the question of whether to drop it on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to end World War II without the need of invading and conquering the Japanese mainland, were more important questions—superior in order and logic—to the question of how to make the bomb. The brilliant physicists who accomplished the latter had immense technical training, but that training gave them no special knowledge about those more important questions. Or to put the point in a slightly different and more general way, a technical education can make a person wealthy and famous, but it does not teach that person what is best to do with wealth and fame.

So the first point I would make about education and economics is the importance of liberal arts education, which is the kind of education offered at Hillsdale College. Many think of liberal arts education as a broad education, but in fact it is a high education. We understand things to be arranged in a hierarchy. Hillsdale College has plenty of science and math majors, and our students go on to the very best graduate and professional schools. But whatever their majors, they learn the distinction I just made about questions of greater and lesser significance, and they study how to think about the very greatest ones.

The second point I want to make has to do with politics and education. The greatest example of economic development in human history was in the United States during the 19th century. At the beginning of that century, we were about five million people huddled along the East Coast. By the end of it we had grown at a rate of about 25 percent—much faster than China is growing today—and had settled an entire continent, largely without the help of modern science. To the question of how it was done, I think the short answer is the Homestead Act—the greatest piece of legislation I know. Signed by President Lincoln in 1862, the Homestead Act is short and beautiful—two qualities good legislation should have, and two qualities in which legislation today is utterly lacking.

What the Homestead Act did was to take the western land of the United States—surely one of the greatest assets ever held by any government in history—and give 160-acre plots to anyone with the backbone to live on them and work them. These plots of land were granted regardless of who someone was and with the certainty that no one settling on them could ever vote for this congressman or that. It is one of the greatest impartial acts of legislation in all of human history. It, and things like it, built America and the character of the people who spread across it.

How does this connect to my first point? It connects because the spirit of the Homestead Act, which led to unprecedented economic growth, could not be more different from the spirit of our legislation today. And the key to this difference is the difference between the education our leaders today have had, and the education students get at Hillsdale.

The principle that justified the Homestead Act has two parts, and both are found in the first 15 lines of the Declaration of Independence. The first is the idea of human equality—the idea that it does not matter what race or what family you come from, it only matters what you do—which has been the source of our greatest struggles in an attempt to live up to it. The second is the idea of the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God." At Hillsdale College, we study the Declaration of Independence as the greatest thing of its kind. The signers of the Declaration were risking their lives. There is a beautiful passage at the end of it where they write, "we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." But the document begins in an opposite mood, because the cause they are willing to die for is not specifically about them at all: "When in the course of human events"—that means not our time, but any time—"it becomes necessary for one people"—that means not our people, but any people—and then this sentence goes on to speak of the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," laws true always and everywhere.

Understood comprehensively, the Declaration points us to an unalterable law of God, visible in nature, that man is inferior to God and superior to the beasts, such that it is unjust for one human being to rule any other without his consent. And it is this same understanding of human nature on which Madison rests his case in Federalist 51, in explaining why government is both necessary and must be limited:

. . . [W]hat is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

This is the understanding that animates legislation like the Homestead Act. And note the humility in it. America's founders understood themselves to be bound and limited by something higher. And it is precisely this understanding that is missing among our political leadership today. Nearly 20 years ago now, when Clarence Thomas was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings, several senators questioned him about the idea of natural law, which seemed to them a foreign and dangerous idea. And why would it seem that way?

These senators have been taught to understand government as a means by which they can do marvelous things, changing society for the better in countless and unlimited ways. And in this light, the old-fashioned idea of natural law—which, as we saw in the passage from Madison, leads to the idea of limited government—becomes simply an impediment to progress.

President Obama is an impressive man, and there is much good to be said about him. But he falls firmly into this newer school of thought. Let me read you a passage from his book, The Audacity of Hope:

Implicit in [the Constitution's] structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or "ism," any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course. . . .

One can see immediately the practical results of this in the health care debate. Advocates of one of the latest plans are proud to place the cost at only $900 billion—apparently it takes $1 trillion to impress in this day and age! But consider that, in most of the plans that have advanced in the Congress, people making in the range of $30,000 to $80,000 a year will be forced to pay health insurance costs—or fines of about the same amount—that come to between ten and 20 percent of their income. They will be compelled to buy plans that have certain specific features. There will be an allocation of health care resources as part of the plan. And it will not be legal to buy or sell a plan that does not fit the criteria. Compare the spirit of this legislation with the spirit of the Homestead Act. There is a bullying spirit behind it. And that bullying spirit is becoming ever more pervasive.

The means are already in place for the federal government to control what people say in elections. As a recent example of how it tries this between elections, consider that Henry Waxman—a congressman of some power and influence—sent a letter in August to the CEOs of health care companies asking for schedules of all salaries above a certain amount, and of the conferences they had been to, and how much they cost, and who was there. Was it a coincidence that he wanted this information just as a health care debate was starting up? Could it be that he was trying to intimidate and silence potential opposition? One of the many "czars"—isn't that an ominous word?—in the Obama administration is Cass Sunstein, the czar of regulatory policy. Mr. Sunstein is a very smart man—a law professor, like the president—but he is on record saying that speech rights should be redistributed by government bureaucrats much as wealth is redistributed through post-New Deal tax and entitlement policy. This is not supposed to be a country where there are czars dealing with things like speech. But it is such a country right now.

The economic policies being proposed these days are very bad. But the principles behind them are worse. They represent a return to the idea that the American Revolution repudiated—the idea that some are equipped by nature or training to manage the lives of others without their consent. I have been making the point lately that people are wrong who accuse the Obama administration of being socialist. I take the president at his word when he says that he has no desire to own the automobile companies. Instead, he wants to control them—and the rest of us as well—through a regulatory apparatus overseen by czars and bureaucrats. And again, his intentions are good. What is bad is the view underlying them of what human beings are. Rather than looking on us as equal beings with a set nature—such that none of us should rule another in the way that God rules man or man rules beast—our political leaders today have been taught to see us as material to be shaped and perfected by experts who have the proper technical training.

It has been close to 100 years now that the majority of people teaching in American colleges and universities have agreed with Woodrow Wilson, one of the founders of the Progressive movement and the first to write explicitly that the Declaration of Independence is obsolete, and that we need to liberate the Constitution from the Declaration's restraints. This liberation leads to the idea of a "living Constitution," characterized by constant change or progress. Absolute truth, to the extent that ordinary people still believe in it, obstructs change or progress—which is why President Obama refers to it, in the passage I read, as tyrannical. But if change or progress is the rule, who is to determine what version of change or progress is good? And the logical problem here—as any Hillsdale student could tell you—is that once you deny the existence of absolute truth, the definition of "good" becomes subjective and the only standard of behavior is what we want—"we," in the political sense, meaning the government or bureaucracy. It reduces politics not to right, but to force. That is why there is this bullying spirit about our government today, and why so many Americans are worried.It is time for that to stop, and there are two conditions for stopping it. The first is for the ordinary folk of the United States to see in this the despotism that it is, and to rise up and repudiate it. The second thing is longer term, but equally vital: It is to replace leaders who have bad educations with leaders who have good educations.

This is our work at Hillsdale College. We aim to recover the meaning of the "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" and to place that meaning firmly in the minds and hearts of ambitious young men and women who have the courage to do something with that knowledge. And I swear that we shall not stop pursuing that task.

Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College

Monday, January 4, 2010

Why Glock is the Best

Below is a link to a great article by Laurie Lee Dovey featured in one of the recent issues of NRA's "First Freedom" magazine highlighting Glock and the success behind its semi-auto pistols. I am a proud Glock owner and would not consider any other gunmaker for home defense and/or concealed carry needs. 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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