Abortion – The Great Divide

Abortion is the largest issue dividing America, the world. The US Supreme Court is considering the biggest change since Roe. What to know?

American politics is as divided as it has been since 1856, when, in a premeditated assault, South Carolina Democratic Representative Preston Brooks beat Massachusetts Republican Senator Charles Sumner with his oak walking stick. Brooks was arrested but soon reelected, and after a prolonged recovery, Sumner also made his way back to the Senate. The issue then was slavery, and the issue now is abortion.

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Republican Political History of Raleigh County, WV

Explore some history about the Republican Party in Raleigh County, WV.

History is objective in that something real happened. It is subjective in that we often don’t have complete details on what happened, and we have few details about why. History has been used as a political tool since Cicero. At the same time, history provides a fascinating look at our forebears, and why we are where we are today. I have assembled a little history about the Republican Party in Raleigh County, WV. Whatever your political stripe, I encourage you to discover a little bit about the past as a way to inform the future. Politics is tough but it doesn’t have to be hateful.

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Calendars, Cultures, and Politics

People follow calendars, but they also create and use them to advance their personal and political agendas.

In the absolute sense, time is dictated by the rhythms of nature as determined by the Creator. In the past it was viewed as the distance in history (as opposed to geography) between events. In that mindset, the idea of saving time was ludicrous. Time progressed at its own rate and rhythm and man could do nothing to change those realities. Ancients often wanted tasks to be quick and efficient just like moderns do, and for many of the same reasons, to maximize the duration of pleasant experiences and minimize that of unpleasant ones. However, in the ancient mind time was not like money, which could be stored. It had to be used.

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Useful Quotations on Politics and Government

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

Ecclesiastes 10:2 – A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left.

2 Corinthians 13:1 – This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

“In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a Congress.” John Adams (1735-1826)

“Talk is cheap, except when Congress does it.” Anon

“Government is great fiction, through which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else.” Frederic Bastist (1801-1850)

“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” James Bovard (1956-)

“Vote early and vote often.”  Al Capone (1899-1947)

“Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.” Douglas Casey ()

“Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”  Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

“To see the right and not to do it is cowardice.” Confucius (551-479 BC)

“A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.” Confucius

“Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”  Winston Churchill

“I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” Winston Churchill

“In critical and baffling situations, it is always best to return to first principle and simple action.” Winston Churchill

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the prosperity. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.” Winston Churchill

“Justice is truth in action.” Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

“I begin by taking. I shall find scholars later to demonstrate my perfect right.” Frederick (II) the Great (1712-1786)

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

“For the greatest part of humanity and the longest periods of history, empire has been the typical form of government.”  Henry Kissinger (1923-)

“A great President must be an educator, bridging the gap between his people’s future and its experience.” Henry Kissinger

“Americans could be moved to great deeds only through a vision that coincided with their perception of their country as exceptional.” Henry Kissinger

“Statesmen, even warriors, focus on the world in which they live; to prophets, the “real” world is the one they want to come into being.” Henry Kissinger

“In politics, however, there are few rewards for mitigating damage because it is rarely possible to prove that worse consequences would in fact have occurred.” Henry Kissinger

“Confused leaders have a tendency to substitute public relations maneuvers for a sense of direction.”  Henry Kissinger

“Every king consoled himself with the thought that strengthening his own rule was the greatest possible contribution to the general peace, and left it to the ubiquitous invisible hand to justify his exertions without limiting his ambitions.” Henry Kissinger, speaking of Europe 18th Century

“Paradoxically, the absolute rulers of the 18th Century were in a less strong position to mobilize resources for war than was the case when religion or ideology or popular government could stir the emotions.”  Henry Kissinger

“Equilibrium works best if it is buttressed by an agreement on common values.  The balance of power inhibits the capacity to overthrow the international order; agreement on shared values inhibits the desire to overthrow the international order.  Power without legitimacy tempts tests of strength; legitimacy without power tempts empty posturing.” Henry Kissinger

“The basic premise of collective security was that all nations would view every threat to security in the same way and be prepared to run the same risks in resisting it.”  Henry Kissinger

“The weakness of collective security is that interests are rarely uniform, and that security is rarely seamless.  Members of a general system of collective security are therefore more likely to agree on inaction than on joint action; they either will be held together by glittering generalities or may witness the defection of the most powerful member, who feels the most secure and therefore least needs the system.”  Henry Kissinger

“The bargaining position of a country depends on the options it is perceived to have.” Henry Kissinger

“The public does not in the long run respect leaders who mirror its own insecurities or see only the symptoms of crises rather than the long term trends.  The role of the leader is to assume the burden of acting on the basis of a confidence in his own assessment of the direction of events and how they can be influenced.  Failing that, crises will multiply, which is another way of saying that a leader has lost control over events.”  Henry Kissinger

“Facing down a nonexistent threat is an easy way to enhance a nation’s standing.”  Henry Kissinger

“University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”  Henry Kissinger (1923-)

“Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions – it only guarantees equality of opportunity.”  Irving Kristol (1920-2009)

“What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.” Edward Langley (1928-1995)

“A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.” G. Gordon Liddy (1930-)

“Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap. Let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges. Let it be written in primers, spelling books, and in almanacs. Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in the courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation.”  Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Speech, 27 Jan. 1837, to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Ill.

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Speech, 19 May 1856, Bloomington, Ill.

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Autograph fragment, c. 1 Aug. 1858 (published in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 2, ed. by Roy P. Basler, 1953).

“No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Speech, 16 Oct. 1854, Peoria, Ill., in the first of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

“The Republican Party should not be a mere sucked egg, all shell and no meat, the principle all sucked out.”  Abraham Lincoln

“The man who can’t make a mistake can’t make anything.” Abraham Lincoln

“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail.  Without it nothing can succeed. He who molds opinion is greater than he who enacts laws.” Abraham Lincoln

“It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”  Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), “The Prince”

“A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts.” Harold Macmillan (1894-1986)

“Giving money and power to the government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” P.J. O’Rourke (1947-)

“If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it is free.” P.J. O’Rourke

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” Pericles (495-429 BC)

“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”  Plato (427-347 B.C.)

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: if it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)

“The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.” Ronald Reagan

“In matters of state, he who has the power often has the right, and he who is weak can only with difficulty keep from being wrong in the opinion of the majority of the world.”   Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642)

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” Will Rogers (1879-1935)

“I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat!” Will Rogers

The United States Constitution has proved itself the most marvelously elastic compilation of rules of government ever written.  Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), U.S. Democratic politician, president. Radio broadcast, 2 March 1930.

“The old parties are husks, with no real soul within either, divided on artificial lines, boss-ridden and privilege-controlled, each a jumble of incongruous elements, and neither daring to speak out wisely and fearlessly on what should be said on the vital issues of the day.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 6 Aug. 1912, at the Progressive party convention, Chicago.

“It is difficult to make our material condition better by the best law, but it is easy enough to ruin it by bad laws.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 23 Aug. 1902, Providence, R.I.

“No people is wholly civilized where a distinction is drawn between stealing an office and stealing a purse.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Acceptance Speech, 22 June 1912, Chicago, Illinois, upon his nomination for president on an independent ticket.

There is something to be said for government by a great aristocracy which has furnished leaders to the nation in peace and war for generations; even a democrat like myself must admit this. But there is absolutely nothing to be said for government by a plutocracy, for government by men very powerful in certain lines and gifted with the “money touch,” but with ideals which in their essence are merely those of so many glorified pawnbrokers. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Letter, 15 Nov. 1913.

“The government is us; we are the government, you and I.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 9 Sept. 1902, Asheville, N.C.

“A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

“The President has kept all of the promises he intended to keep.” Clinton aide George Stephanopolous (1961-) speaking on Larry King Live

“No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” Mark Twain (1835-1910)

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself.” Mark Twain

“The only difference between the tax man and the taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.” Mark Twain

“There is no distinctly American criminal class – save Congress.” Mark Twain

“In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.” Voltaire (1694-1778)

 

Political Correctness and Cultural Sensitivity

Sensitivity to others’ needs is good, but living life with good will is better. We should try not to give offense, but also accept that people make mistakes. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.  

Since you cannot have a discussion without first defining what you are talking about, let’s begin with definitions:

Merriam Webster online suggests that Political Correctness means “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.”

Wikipedia suggests that “Cross cultural sensitivity is the quality of being aware and accepting of other cultures. This is important because what is acceptable in some countries can be rude or derogatory in others.”

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US Elections – American Transitions of Political Power

Complain as you will about the American political system, our elections and transfers of power are the best in the world, and in history. 

Americans have waited long for this day to come; some because they are sick of the seemingly endless cycle of electioneering, and others because they are hopeful that their efforts will pay off, or at least their candidates and initiatives will succeed. Most people probably have a mix of these feelings. While understandable, such discomfiture is far better than the alternative. The purpose of elections in every country is to provide for a fair and stable transition of power from one person or group to another. Few countries in history have been able to pull this off.

Whatever happens today in any individual race, including the race for the presidency, power will change hands. The 112th Congress will give way to the 113th, some states will have different faces in their governors’ offices, and the legislative rolls will contain different names. Local governments also will not be the same in January as they are today. The amazing thing about America is that power changes hands with stability, if not civility, and money, not blood.

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The 2012 Presidential Debates

We have one television at home and generally watch only videos on it, because we have no cable, no satellite, and not even an antenna. With rare exceptions, we have lived without TV for over a decade. This year, however, with the Olympics in July and the presidential race in the fall we opted to buy an inexpensive cable package. One of the things that I anticipated watching was the series of presidential debates.

Elections are always a bizarre mix of truth and error, exaggeration and understatement, and bluster and bombast. Presidential elections are the most extreme. With little trust for the professional media, people seem to like debates because they feel that debates are the only unscripted and unstaged events in politics. Political conventions used to be raucous affairs with the outcome in doubt until the last ballot; now they are primarily pep rallies with the choice of candidate a foregone conclusion. Stump speeches and other events have more of the ring of a Hollywood production than of a chance to get to know the real candidate.

Stated another way, everything we know comes from our experience or the experience (and subsequent testimony) of others. We have ample personal experience with friends and family to feel that we truly know them. In the past, citizens roamed the White House and Capitol and interacted personally with their leaders. With the massive increase in the size and power of the Federal government in the past century, the US population growth, and the increase in security threats, this ended. People still feel like they should know governmental leaders but this has become impossible. Since we have little or no personal experience with the candidates, we rely on the statements of others about them. Unfortunately, those making the statements either have no experience of their own or largely turn these men into caricatures; so bad or so good as to belie the truth. Debates seem to provide a small but genuine personal interaction to each viewer.

I do not claim to be an undecided voter, but I hoped the first debate would be informative and civil. With modern attention spans measured in the minutes, not hours, I was not expecting a replay of Lincoln-Douglas (1858), though I would love to have seen it (yes, even the ridiculous portions, which have been around since before Cicero ran for Roman consul in 64 BC). The debate was a bit of a letdown, since it is hard to argue a point in a two minute long strings of sound bites, but I thought that each candidate performed well enough.

The next morning on the drive to work, the satellite radio channels erupted with exuberance (if the speaker was Republican) and drowned in despair (if the speaker was a Democrat). Apparently the commentators and focus groups felt that Republican challenger Mitt Romney had crushed Democratic Incumbent Barak Obama. Both sides reviled Obama for being “aloof”, “diffident”, and “weak”. President Obama explained that he had been too polite and promised to do better the next time.

If watching the first presidential debate was a bit of a letdown, watching the vice presidential debate was wearisome. This debate received our household prize for rudest and most arrogant of the year. My wife and I skipped the second presidential debate, recording it for my son, who wanted to watch it later. The next day he judged it “nothing but bickering and talking points”, summarizing that it was “not worth watching.” The thin, smile laden veneer failed to conceal the acrimony. Afterwards my son and I watched a clip from the Nixon-Kennedy presidential debates of 1960 and the Reagan Mondale debate from 1984. He asked “Dad, why can’t we have debates like that today?”

Radio commentators and focus groups, however, seemed to be quite satisfied. Many believed that the president and vice president made up for lost ground, showing “commitment” and “strength”. Democrats labeled the Republicans “wonkish” or “weak”. Behavior that would not have been tolerated in our home was lauded on satellite radio. Do we really think that such cacophony demonstrates strength? Is this behavior really useful in tense international negotiations? Is this how Nixon opened China, or what Eisenhower did at Panmunjom? By the third presidential debate my wife and I had regained our tolerance for 90 minutes of televised argument and rudeness, so we watched. My daughter, home from college, was fed up after 45 minutes. Nonetheless we persevered. On the whole, I found it better than the others.

Were these debates really what the American people wanted? They must have been what the media wanted because they droned on for hours with commentary and analysis. Perhaps election coverage is to the media what the Works Progress Administration was to workers in the 1930s; a source of some useful and much meaningless labor. The debates were clearly what some of the viewers wanted, as indicated by the recorded comments and the tenor of some of the social media coverage. If people wanted conflict, they got it, just like spectators at the Coliseum in Rome. Were the debates what the candidates wanted? One suspects that they were at least what they needed, because these ambitious and articulate men subjected themselves to this process. Perhaps that is why George Bush infamously checked his watch in the 1992 presidential debates; he had to perform but hated doing so. It is easy to conclude that many Americans got what they wanted in the debates.

People want their leaders to be successful and to care enough about them to help make them successful. People want their leaders to be enough like them to understand their problems and enough unlike them to solve the problems that they cannot. They want strong leaders to stand up to threats at home and abroad, and sensitive leaders who are touched at the sight of a mother grieving her fallen warrior son. They want a man who can deftly manage a civil war in Syria and equally manage the workplace rights of a breastfeeding mother. It is a tall order, and no one on earth can do it perfectly. The entire election process is the best that we, or anyone else, has devised to pick the man who can do it the best. The American style of government, republican democracy, is messy. But given the inherent corruption of man, it is the best possible government for providing the most good for the most people. The election process, including the wearisome debates, gives Americans a glimpse not just into the candidates, but into the glories, and absurdities, of republican democracy.

One last note, as citizens of the world, Christians must help shape the world to reflect the goodness of the One who created it. Justice matters, and believers in Christ should be the first to fight for it, just as the American Abolitionists, largely Christian, did 200 years ago. However as citizens of heaven, we must never put our hope in the world. God alone is sovereign, and regardless of the outcomes of elections, or any other event on earth, He is in control. Our ultimate trust must always be in Him.