The First Amendment

by Anita on 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 they may be saying about homosexuality, gender identity, or the mayor herself.

Who are these five pastors scrutinized by the mayor?  A look at their personal histories reveals Christians who are working to make a positive difference in their world:

Hernan Castano was born in Columbia but his parents brought him to America when he was five months old.  His prison ministry reaches up to 10,000 prisoners in the U.S. every month.

Khanh Huynh has pastored the Vietnamese Baptist Church in Houston for twenty years.  He fled Vietnam on a raft with other “boat people” and watched six of his fellow refugees die on the raft before reaching safety in Indonesia.

David Welch founded the Houston Area Pastors Council in January of 2003 and has been its president since. Welch is also the founder and executive director of Christian Coalition of Washington and the national field director for Christian Coalition.

Magda Hermida was born in Havana Cuba and is the founder of a 20-year Houston-based ministry called Magda Hermida Ministries, which operates under the cover of Dr. Doug Stringer, the founder and president of Somebody Cares America and of Turning Point International ministries.

Steve Riggle is the founding pastor and currently the senior pastor of a Houston-headquartered megachurch, Grace Community Church, and is an executive member of the Houston Area Pastors Council. Riggle also runs the evangelist organization Grace International.

Riggle’s Grace Community Church will host the “I Stand Sunday” event on Nov. 2 that will give opportunity to supporters from all over the country to stand with the five pastors.

Mayor Parker has been forced to back off–for now.

But on October 21st, USA Today ran an op-ed by “religion” professor Mary Zeiss Stange entitled “Beware of Christian Extremists.”  Beware of what?  Ministering to prison inmates?  Feeding the hungry?  Providing a community to Vietnamese immigrants?  Stange says that domestic terrorism is not the biggest threat to Americans, but Christian extremists are.

In societies with repressive government, attacks on high-profile pastors are nothing new.  In the 1930s in Nazi Germany, pastors were early targets of intimidation and repression if they protested the behavior of Hitler and his Nazi thugs.  Lutheran pastors Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemoller were both arrested for criticizing the Nazi regime.  Bonhoeffer was executed three weeks before the end of World War II.  Niemoller survived.

Today, Christians in the United States have the constitutional right to discuss the issues of the day without fear of arrest or intimidation, but Stange and Mayor Parker reflect the growing attacks on Christian life in the United States.  The church in America must provide a unified response.  The liberal left know that they have two more years of the Obama administration, and they mean to make the most of Obama’s unqualified support for their attack on our constitutional rights.

 

 

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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 of his presidency.

Seven presidents since Coolidge (Obama will be the eighth) had second terms, and these second terms showed mixed success at best and more often disastrous problems.

FDR in his second term tried packing the Supreme Court. And when the Senate shot that down, he then tried “purging” those Democrats who opposed him by campaigning against them for re-election. However, almost all of his Democratic opponents won anyway. The next two-termer was Harry Truman, who fought the Korean War during his second term, and ended his presidency with almost the lowest approval ratings in modern U.S. history. Eisenhower had a recession in his second term, and his party lost 47 seats in the off-year elections during that beleaguered term. Nixon, of course, had to resign during his second term. Reagan’s second term was a mixture of good policies and the problems of Iran Contra. Clinton was impeached during his last years in office. George W. Bush lost control of both the House and the Senate during his second term, and his approval ratings were barely better than Nixon’s and Truman’s.

Unlike most of our last seven two-term presidents, Coolidge did not get a big head when he was re-elected—even though he won in a landslide vote. He did not try to expand the federal government, and when others tried, he vetoed their bills. Under Coolidge, and his predecessor Warren Harding, the federal budget was cut in half and tax rates were slashed across the board. Most Americans under Coolidge paid no income tax at all, and yet revenue from income taxes increased because the economy expanded so rapidly under his quiet, but effective leadership.

In the 1800s, those two-term presidents who, like Coolidge, supported limited government often had successful presidencies as well. Andrew Jackson, for example, cut federal spending so effectively in his second term that the U.S. for the only time in its history eliminated its entire national debt and began running budget surpluses. President Grant, in his second term, signed a bill called the Specie Resumption Act that backed our Civil War greenbacks with gold—a bold move that protected our nation from inflation.

President Obama seems determined to do much expanding of the federal debt during his second term, but the history of the presidency over the last hundred years tells us that those presidents who do that do so at their peril. Calvin Coolidge may not be glamorous, but he fared well by stressing freedom for his countrymen, not “signature spending programs” to “enhance his legacy.” For more information on Obama’s “legacy” read my latest book, Uncle Sam Can’t Count.

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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 man was killed, and a community was divided.”

Many listeners were jolted by the seeming comparison of a sad but unpremeditated killing in Ferguson with the Russian invasion of Crimea and the ISIS mass murder and beheading of those who disagree with them. According to Victor Davis Hanson, “Here is one of the staple dogmas of the Progressive mind: the sins and crimes of America that require apologies and reparations, even as the millions of dead, tortured, and imprisoned in other nations are shrugged off.”

In my own research on entrepreneurs, I’ve been surprised to hear progressives sometimes deplore the tactics entrepreneurs sometimes use as “greedy, immoral, and intolerable.” The passing of more laws is deemed urgent. But if thousands of immigrants cross our border illegally, or the food stamp rolls increase by 18 million people in six years—threatening to drown the nation in debt—progressives shrug their shoulders and focus on alleged improper behavior of businessmen.

When I wrote The Myth of the Robber Barons in 1987, some progressives told me regardless of the good done by John D. Rockefeller, his wealth should have been capped because it displayed too much inequality in society. Those progressive critics preferred Matthew Josephson’s book The Robber Barons, a progressive critique of the capitalists who pushed America into first place in the world economy. Josephson said of his book: “I have tried to give a candid description of their most ruthless actions, their conspiracies and their plunderings; for they accepted no ethics of business conduct.”

Josephson published The Robber Barons in 1934, and it became an instant bestseller. However, when the book came out, Josephson was in Russia at the time reveling in what he said were the wonderful accomplishments of the Soviet Union, which he said, “seemed like the hope of the world—the only large nation run by men of reason.” Josephson went on to say, “Before people pass judgment on Comrade Stalin they ought to come here and see his Works, his Opus Major, in many volumes with their own eyes. It is very impressive; and few other statesmen in all history have so much to show.”

Stalin, however, was starving millions of Ukrainians and sending thousands of others to the Gulag in 1934, the year Josephson uttered those words. When Josephson finally left the Soviet Union and returned to America, he lamented, “How can I continue to write books merely for a living, when the form of society in which I live is repugnant?”

Josephson’s question 80 years ago brings us to President Obama’s comparison of Ferguson and ISIS. How can progressives condemn problems in America with such vehemence and yet ignore, downplay, or explain away the worst horrors and the most striking personifications of evil the world has seen in the last century?

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“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 80 years ago to promote American exports through subsidies to help with financing. But if Delta Airlines has to buy its Boeing planes at retail, and other countries get them at discounts (through loans or gifts from Ex-Im), then American taxpayers are putting their own airlines at a disadvantage to help Boeing and various foreign countries.

The issue of whether or not to continue funding the Ex-Im Bank is supposed to come to a vote in the House in less than two weeks—but the vote is so politically charged it may be delayed until next year. Either way, it will be an excellent test of whether Republican congressmen are more loyal to corporate donors, who often want Ex-Im loans, or to helping tax payers and abiding by the Constitution. Which way the Republicans will go is not certain, but the debate within the party is intense.

Throughout the 80 year history of the Ex-Im Bank, it has usually been more swayed by politics than by sound economics. Boeing, which frequently receives more than half of Ex-Im’s loan guarantees, is a good example, From 1998 to 2005, Boeing received $33 billion in Ex-Im loans or gifts—more than half of Ex-Im’s total funds. Under President Obama, Boeing’s share of the Ex-Im pot has increased even more. In 2012, for example, Boeing grabbed 82.7 percent of all loan guarantees awarded by Ex-Im–$12.2 billion out of Ex-Im’s $14.7 billion total went to subsidize Boeing’s sales.

Boeing’s political contributions to the Obama administration, according to reporter Tim Carney, are strong. David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager in 2008, was a “management consultant” to Boeing and other companies after Obama became president. Bill Daley went from the Boeing board of directors to White House chief of staff in 2011. And when Gary Locke, Obama’s former secretary of commerce, was governor of Washington, he signed more than $3 billion to Boeing in state subsidies in one legislative session alone. For special help, Boeing hired as lobbyists Linda Daschle, the wife of former Democratic senator Tom Daschle, and the Podesta Group, co-founded by John Podesta, Obama’s transition director.

The crony capitalism here is alarming—and the Democrats exploit it as much as many Republicans do. If, as a nation, we ever go broke by defending ourselves or by feeding the poor, that is pure tragedy. But if we go broke giving foreigners our money to compete against us, that is pure folly. Let’s abolish the Ex-Im Bank.

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False Ideology

by Anita on 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 killed on the border.  Their dead bodies were “evidence” to the world that Poland had attacked Germany, giving Hitler a pretext for invading Poland.  Germans also took over a Polish radio station and, pretending to be Polish, briefly broadcast a threatening message to Germany to complete the deadly hoax.  As the sun rose on September 1, German troops rolled into Poland across a wide front.

I just finished reading an excellent book about the German army in eastern Europe and Russia:  In Deadly Combat:  A German Soldier’s Memoir of the Eastern Front, by Gottlob Bidermann.

Bidermann offers the unusual perspective of serving in World War II as a member of a Nazi anti-tank crew in Russia and the Baltic states.  He was a teenager when the Germans pushed into Poland, but by July, 1941, he and his anti-tank unit were on their way to southern Russia to fight the communists.

Bidermann’s narrative makes plain that when the war began, he considered his fight to be a worthy struggle against the godless communism of Stalinist Russia.  German leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Goebbels had told the German people that communism must be defeated–it was the right thing to do. Biedermann and millions of other German believed them.

What Hitler didn’t point out was that he and his Nazi henchmen had reduced Germany to a dictatorship.  Individual rights had disappeared under the stifling control of Hitler’s centralized, big government regime.  And Hitler intended to do the same for the rest of Europe.

As the war continued, Bidermann became disillusioned with the goals and plans of the leaders of the German nation, primarily Adolf Hitler. He discovered that he was taking part in a war effort that was doomed to fail, due to Hitler’s maniacal plans.  By the end of the war, Bidermann realized that Nazi party hacks were part of his unit, not to fight the communists but to prevent any talk of anti-Nazi action or thought.

Bidermann had followed leaders who promoted a criminal ideology:   for the good of Germany, the rights of the individual must be trampled underfoot to implement evil Nazi plans.  By mid 1945, 50 million people had died during World War II, and Gottlob Bidermann was a prisoner of war in the Russian gulags.

What ideology do you follow today?  Is it based on facts or falsehoods about what will benefit society?

So many American leaders currently proclaim that big government is the answer to society’s problems, but the data doesn’t support this claim.  Usually, the more money that is spent by the government, and the more intrusive government policies become, more problems grow larger for the individual.  Obamacare is a prime example of this, but there are many others.  Government interference in drilling for oil continues as gasoline prices skyrocket.  In states where government red tape hinders new business start-ups, unemployment is higher and the population is decreasing because residents are moving to other communities to find work.

Seventy-five years ago, millions of Germans were duped by their leaders, with disastrous consequences.  Today as Americans, let us find the path that leads again to a lawful society with a strong economy.  The facts of history and the data of former successes are there to show us the way.

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The Progressives Are On The Wrong Side Of History

by Burt August 26, 2014

Who is “on the wrong side of history,” progressives or conservatives? Progressives often insist they are “on the right side of history,” but their ideas failed 100 years ago. Today, for example, progressives have opposed fracking and have halted the building of the Keystone Pipeline to bring cheaper oil from Canada through the United States. [...]

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The New AP U.S. History Standards Earn a Grade of F

by Burt August 18, 2014

Sadly, the best and brightest of American high school students will be taking Advanced Placement (AP) United States history courses this fall. I say “sadly” because the AP committee has expanded its History Standards, which will guide the teaching of this course to millions of students in the fall and in years to come. These [...]

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Why Do So Many Know So Little About History?

by Burt August 14, 2014

The problem starts in the schools, and with the content taught (or not taught). If, for example, most high school students today don’t know when the Civil War occurred, or why it occurred, how will they understand what it accomplished? The Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school are important because they attract the best [...]

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Who Really Cares For the Poor?

by Burt August 7, 2014

The Wall Street Journal reported today (“Stimulus for Clunkers” Aug 6, p. A12) the financial and environmental failure of the president’s “Cash for Clunkers” program in 2009. It was touted as “very nearly the best possible countercyclical policy,” but instead it was costly and ineffective. Why do the good intentions of political do-gooders always seem [...]

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The Disaster That Was World War I

by Burt July 28, 2014

One hundred years ago today, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia–which soon engulfed Europe in World War I. A complex system of alliances among the countries of Europe meant that dozens of governments had declared war within a few days. Sadly, the Great War, as it was then called, is not much remembered today. But it [...]

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