Is the U.S. an Unjust Nation?

by Burt on December 18, 2014

Yes, but only if we are judged by a divine standard. Indeed, by that standard we have many imperfections. One of our nation’s sins, for example, is that at different points in our history we have almost fully denied natural rights to several different groups: Blacks, Indians, Japanese during World War II, and even rich people (who were socked with a 90+ percent income tax for over twenty years). One sad lesson we have learned is that if you have a system that can deny natural rights to one group, then no other group is really safe from the political power of its government.

If we compare the U.S. to other nations, however, then we are probably the most just and most compassionate country ever to exist in the history of mankind. Our legal system, though it has had some failings, strives to protect all people and judge cases on the basis of merit. Early in our history, the U.S. became a haven and melting pot for Jews and other groups fleeing European wars, racism, and famine.

In the 1900s, we twice saved the world from itself. U.S. food and aid stopped famine and disease that struck millions of Europeans after World War I and World War II. In the case of WWI, after we had fed war-torn Europe, we literally doubled our own national debt in order to forgive the nations of Europe the debts they owed us. After WWII, we spent billions of dollars to revive industries in Japan and Germany, the countries that had started the war and had killed hundreds of thousands of our soldiers. Where else in the history of war have we ever seen the victors reaching out the hand of friendship by pumping cash into the defeated nations?

Maybe, in fact, the U.S. is too generous. President Obama is now trying to renew economic ties with Cuba. All is to be forgiven. We cut ties with Cuba more than fifty years ago because Fidel Castro seized all U.S. property in Cuba and refused to pay Americans any of the almost $2,000,000,000 that he owed them. (In today’s dollars, that amount would be more than $10 billion.) Will any of that money and property be restored to the rightful American owners? If not, what lesson does that send to other Latin American nations, which also hold massive amounts of American money and American-owned property?

If we study the Bible, the U.S. does not measure up to God’s best standard. But if we study history, the U.S. does very well, and we can see why so many millions of immigrants have come here, and are still trying to get here. Those who criticize America as unjust are rarely willing to judge themselves by the same high standard they judge the U.S.

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Let’s Not Relive The Day After Pearl Harbor

by Anita on December 8, 2014

Posted by Anita Folsom

In recent years, we have discussed the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese:  December 7, 1941.  This event led to the entry of the United States into World War II.  On that day at Pearl Harbor, 2,403 Americans died, the U.S. Pacific fleet was severely damaged, and 188 aircraft were destroyed on the ground.

This year, let’s discuss the day after Pearl Harbor, 1941.  What was happening in the world on December 8, 1941?

American military commanders were trying to understand the extent of the disaster and to make necessary plans to protect the United States from invasion.  As reports came in that the Japanese were also attacking the Philippines, Guam, and Singapore, fears of attacks on the West Coast were widespread.

What could the United States do to mount a counteroffensive?  Did we have the weapons for an immediate counterattack?   The answer:  the United States couldn’t do much of anything for quite some time.  President Franklin Roosevelt had spent years pouring money into government “make-work” projects so that he could buy the votes of the public and stay in office.  He had slashed the funding for the military even more than his predecessor, President Herbert Hoover.  The U.S. Army was still training with Springfield rifles produced before World War I.  The Army Air Corps was flying slow, outmoded aircraft.  The U.S. Navy needed ships, tens of thousands of recruits to man the ships, and more experienced officers.  The U.S. didn’t even have enough planes to patrol the East Coast and hunt for German submarines lurking offshore.

In Washington, D.C., the sorry state of the military was obvious for the world to see on December 8th.  “During the 1930s, the lax atmosphere in the neglected military meant that few men wore their uniforms to work [in Washington], preferring civilian jackets and trousers.  On the day following Pearl Harbor, military officers in the nation’s capital were ordered to report in full uniform.  Journalist David Brinkley described the results as ‘a rummage sale called to war.’ Some officers were in uniform purchased years before, and two sizes too small.  Still others didn’t have the insignia for their current rank or job description. Military headgear of all types and descriptions, some dating back to World War I, appeared in Washington.” (FDR Goes to War, p, 122-23.)

More serious shortages meant disaster for our fighting men overseas on Guam and the Philippine Islands.  The soldiers there discovered that four out of five hand grenades were defective.  One platoon fired seventeen mortar shells only to find that thirteen were duds. American soldiers and Marines throughout the Pacific were soon taken captive by the Japanese.

The day after Pearl Harbor is not the type of day that we should ever experience again.  Yet today we have another president who has once again spent billions on “make work” government projects and slashed support and funding for the American military.  Our veterans haven’t received proper care in VA hospitals.  Those soldiers, Marines, and airmen on active duty often don’t have the most advanced weaponry because our government hasn’t funded research or replaced worn out  and outmoded weapons.

If we want to avoid reliving the day after Pearl Harbor, we should change the course of priorities in the U.S. government.  Military spending must become more robust and respect for the importance of a strong defense must grow.  Let’s avoid the mistakes of Franklin Roosevelt by cutting spending on ineffective social programs and instead fund a stronger U.S. military.


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Thanksgiving Peace In the Midst of Turmoil

by Burt on November 25, 2014

“A historic power grab!” “A naked political move to win over Hispanics!” “Unprecedented seizure of power!”

These are some of the alarmist cries that have filled the air waves after President Obama signed his executive order to legalize millions of illegal aliens. Pat Buchanan, an expert on presidential politics, called Obama’s power play the “beginning of the end of the United States as one nation.” Baloney.

Today, we also see the destruction in Ferguson, Missouri. Activists such as Al Sharpton are rushing there to express opinions. Sharpton often acts as though he speaks for America, even though he still owes $4.5 million in back taxes.

Will President Obama’s power grab – and Sharpton’s posturing – endure? What does history tell us?

Other leaders in our lifetimes have launched somewhat similar power grabs and all have failed–or at least have not dented America’s constitutional separation of powers.

First, President Franklin Roosevelt, basking in his landslide reelection in 1936, launched an effort to pack the Supreme Court–to add six new justices whom he would appoint. FDR wanted Supreme Court justices who would protect his New Deal programs from legal scrutiny. Throughout 1937, critics warned of executive tyranny, that FDR “the dictator” was carving up the Constitution. Gallup took a poll asking if voters thought we were headed toward dictatorship. Even as FDR offered key senators juicy subsidies for their states, Congress held firm and denied the president his new justices. Court packing was dead forever.

Second, FDR during World War II issued his infamous executive order to violate the constitutional rights of tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans and incarcerate them in relocation centers. He got away with it for over two years, but his cabinet demanded that it stop after FDR was safely re-elected in 1944. It was no precedent. It has never happened again, and in 1988 Congress granted $20,000 in reparations to each surviving Japanese-American citizen. Congress then denounced FDR’s actions as “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

Third, President Truman challenged the constitutional separation of powers in 1952 when he seized control of the nation’s steel mills and declared them under operation by the federal government. Truman did this because he wanted more steel output for the Korean War, and he was angry that the steelworkers union was threatening to go on strike and halt all steel production. Reporters and columnists fumed at Truman’s power grab, and some said it was the end of separation of powers in the U.S. But the Supreme Court rose to the occasion and struck down Truman’s decision in Youngstown Steel and Tube vs. Sawyer.

That result is likely to occur with President Obama’s effort last week to usurp power for his political ends. We Americans should give thanks this week for the enduring separation of powers in our legal system that has withstood repeated onslaughts by aggressive presidents. We still have a legal process that endures. The due process of law was followed in the Ferguson case. We are still a blessed nation.

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The big political talk of the last two weeks has been President Obama’s threatened executive order to grant amnesty to perhaps 4-5 million illegal aliens. The Republicans oppose this move, and cite their landslide election victories earlier this month as evidence that Americans want Congress to make laws according to the Constitution, not the president making laws according to his political desires.

Where do executive orders come from? The Constitution only gingerly treats the subject in Article 3, Section 3, where it says of the president: “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” How, in the case of amnesty, is the president taking care that the laws be faithfully executed by writing new laws into existence? What the president seems to hope is that by legalizing millions of Hispanic immigrants, the Democrats will gain votes and thereby bring Texas and other states into the Democratic party.

If President Obama decides to issue his astonishing executive order, he will rival FDR’s famous executive order 9066—which required Japanese citizens and non-citizens alike to be placed under armed guards in “relocation centers” during World War II. True, some military leaders in 1942 were concerned about the loyalties of Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. But denying tens of thousands of U.S. citizens of Japanese descent their constitutional rights was unprecedented. Francis Biddle, FDR’s Attorney General, called it “ill-advised, unnecessary, and unnecessarily cruel.”

Were those 120,000 incarcerated Japanese-Americans a threat to the U.S.? No, according to FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, whose spy system was designed to ferret out disloyalty. The FBI and Hoover concluded that Japanese-Americans were mostly very loyal to their adopted country. Hoover wrote FDR: “The necessity for mass evacuation is based primarily upon public and political pressure rather than on factual data.”

What was this “political pressure”? Mainly, racists in California, who disliked the effective competition the Japanese were presenting in bringing cheap food to market. With foreigners out of the way, Caucasian Americans could make more money. “We’re charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons,” said a leader of California’s Grower-Shipper Vegetable Association. “We may as well be honest. We do.”

FDR was sensitive to the politics of Japanese relocation, and he signed the executive order forcing them into relocation camps in February 1942. Leaders in FDR’s cabinet and those in charge of guarding the Japanese-Americans all tried to get FDR to release the internees. FDR only agreed to end the relocation after the 1944 election had passed, and FDR had won re-election. The Democrats had won four new House seats in California, but a tragedy had been inflicted upon Japanese-Americans.

FDR’s famous executive order, and the one being proposed by President Obama, have something important in common. Both involve using the issue of race for political ends—or at least partly for political ends. President Obama admires FDR, and both presidents have been artful and calculating in securing political gain. Keeping Americans divided by race has been a concern to both presidents. In FDR’s case, the Japanese-Americans were unpopular. Their removal gained votes for the Democrats. Thus, disfranchisement was FDR’s path to political victory. In President Obama’s case, enfranchisement is his path to victory. Hispanics vote strongly Democratic, so the key is to open borders, or at least not guard them carefully, and then make voters out of illegal Hispanic immigrants as soon as possible.

The Founders desired that the U.S. be a country of clear laws that explain rights and process. By playing games with race and immigration, both Presidents Roosevelt and Obama have chosen to put political gain ahead of rule of law. These two presidents may some day stand alone as the authors of the two worst executive orders in American history.

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The answer may be 1938. Seventy-six years ago, President Franklin Roosevelt, in the sixth year of his presidency, received a shellacking: 81 House seats and 8 Senate seats flipped to the Republicans. FDR’s drubbing resembles that received on Tuesday by President Obama, also in his sixth year.

First, economic stagnation plagued the country during FDR’s presidency. FDR had almost doubled the nation’s national debt, but lackluster growth and high unemployment still persisted. Voters were tired of failed stimulus packages and thinly disguised efforts to buy votes. Maryland was a case in point. In 1938, reporter Ray Clapper reported, “Roosevelt’s promise of a bridge on the eastern shore [of Maryland] didn’t make a dent, except as it affronted many voters.” FDR’s promise of large projects “stimulating” the economy proved to be hollow.

Second, the costs and complexities of bigger government began to alarm voters. FDR’s effort to use public works projects to buy votes also began to backfire. Thomas Stokes, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigation of Roosevelt’s WPA program called it “a grand political racket in which the taxpayer is the victim.” Millions of voters today would use Stokes’s eleven words to describe Obamacare, the college loan program, and the sharp increase in the number of Americans on food stamps.

Third, a huge growth in government always results in high taxes and scandal. Both FDR and Obama raised income tax rates and also added new taxes. Both presidencies also saw IRS scandals. We don’t know yet the extent of President Obama’s involvement in the IRS audits of his opponents—perhaps he is innocent. But FDR was not. “My father,” Elliott Roosevelt famously observed, “may have been the originator of the concept of employing the IRS as a weapon of political retribution.” FDR, through the Treasury department, launched IRS audits of political adversaries such as Andrew Mellon, Huey Long, and Moses Annenberg. He would also use wiretaps to secure information on his opponents. The formula seems to be this: Government programs are enacted, they often fail, they are then criticized, and the criticizers are then audited.

Fourth, the lackluster foreign policy of Presidents Roosevelt and Obama has weakened the image of the United States. One reason the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Manila, and Singapore in 1941 was because they thought the U.S. was too weak to mount much of an attack. Hitler had begun his long march through Europe in the 1930s, and ISIS began its expansion through the Middle East in 2014. Both times, the U.S. president has appeared to voters to be bumfuzzled over how to respond.

Fifth, once the 1938 and 2014 landslides occurred, both presidents took no responsibility for the outcomes. President Obama said in his press conference following the tsunami that he was unwilling to read the tea leaves to discern what happened at the polls. Roosevelt was more venturesome, but, in his mind, equally innocent. To his cabinet, he gave this alibi: “Well, I’ve been giving a lot of time to the study of the election returns and I find they demonstrate the result around the country was due in every case to local conditions.” 81 lost House seats for FDR and “in every case” it was “local conditions.”

One difference between the midterm elections of 1938 and 2014 is that President Obama cannot run for president again, but FDR did so—the only third term president in U.S. history. Even after his crushing defeat in 1938, he came back to win re-election in 1940. No, he didn’t change tactics and begin working with Republicans—an attitude similar to that of President Obama. Instead FDR exploited foreign crises to his advantage and used class warfare to tarnish the Republican brand.

Unlike 1938, however, in the aftermath of 2014 the Republicans will control both the Senate and the House; they have the exciting chance to create a program that will put the initiative in their hands. Instead of the president defining the Republicans, the Republicans can define Obama by sending him carefully crafted bills that cut government spending, increase freedom, and let Americans know that at least one party cares about the Constitution—and that following it can lead to the good society that we abandoned years ago for the New Deal and the Great Society.

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The First Amendment

by Anita October 29, 2014

Posted by Anita Folsom​​ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…. Thus says the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.   But Mayor Annise Parker of Houston disagrees. Earlier this month, Mayor Parker subpoenaed the sermons of five pastors to “investigate” what […]

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Who Was the Last President to Have a Great Second Term?

by Burt October 21, 2014

Calvin Coolidge (1925-1929). Since Coolidge only served part of a first term (after Harding died), his case is unusual. But Coolidge finished his second term with the lowest misery index (unemployment plus inflation) of any president in the last one hundred years. He lowered tax rates, cut federal spending, and had budget surpluses every year […]

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Should We Sometimes Ignore Mass Murder but Condemn Lesser Sins?

by Burt September 29, 2014

Oddly, progressives often say “yes” to this question, and have been doing so for almost a century now. At the United Nations, President Obama stated: “In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri—where a young […]

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What’s the Export-Import Bank, and Why We Will Be Happy, Happy, Happy If It’s Abolished?

by Burt September 18, 2014

“I don’t understand why my government finances my state-owned enterprise competitors in foreign countries. . . .” Thus spoke Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Airlines, who is frustrated with the billions of tax dollars the U.S. spends to help foreign governments compete with the U.S. Anderson’s prime target is the Export-Import Bank, which was created […]

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False Ideology

by Anita September 1, 2014

Posted by Anita Folsom Seventy-five years ago today, Germany invaded Poland, plunging the world into war. In the wee hours of September 1, 1939, Nazi soldiers brought convicts from German prisons – grimly referred to as “canned goods” – to the German-Polish border. The convicts were made to put on Polish army uniforms and then […]

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