How it should be
Americans who have been put through the wringer by the TSA when they travel by air might like to reflect on the following report from a New Zealand mother (and her husband) arriving home after a trip overseas with her 2-year old daughter (Hannah) in her arms.
We landed home in Queenstown to a cold but sunny day with Daylight Saving on its last day. Having Hannah in our arms always gets us through customs quickly as security sends us through the express line and we were greeted by customs with a smile, after reading our arrival card she said "welcome home".
Wouldn't we all like to be treated like that by officials? I think it is arguable that New Zealand is the last outpost of civilization. Maybe there's some remnant of it in small-town America. My favorite New Zealand story is here.
Obama double standards again
Some media types these days don’t like “Bible thumping.” But there are times when, as the author of Cultural Literacy, Prof. E. D. Hirsch noted, the Bible can be a useful communications tool. Let’s take that Jesus phrase, “swallow camels while straining at gnats.” That’s a pretty succinct way of describing our all-too-human tendency to commit huge mistakes in judgment while getting choked up on lesser things.
Take the current controversy over sequestration. Our colleague, Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, notes that the Obama administration is releasing prisoners who have entered the U.S. illegally. But this Obama administration wants to deport a family of German refugees who are living a quiet and godly life in Tennessee.
Swallowing camels—releasing actual lawbreakers—straining at gnats—trying to harass harmless Christian parents and kids. Nothing so well describes the absurdity of government action under the Obama administration. The Romeike family (roh-MIKE-uh) fled Germany and sought asylum in the U.S. in 2008. This is because they are not allowed to homeschool their children in Germany. The Romeikes were initially granted refugee status, but the Obama administration is opposed to this and is seeking their deportation
Fortunately, the Home School Legal Defense Association (www.hslda.org/Romeike) is raising an alarm. This pioneering group has a long history of defending parental rights. HSLDA is asking us to sign a petition to the Obama White House to stop the cruel and unjust persecution of the Romeikes.
HSLDA recognizes that the position being taken by the Obama administration poses a grave threat to religious freedom for all Americans. The Obama view has recently been advanced that “freedom of worship” may be conceded, grudgingly, but freedom of religion—a broader right—is seriously questioned. The Obama administration went before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 in a critical case. There, a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod school was trying to defend its historic doctrine that Christian teachers are ministers. The Obama administration said, no, we will decide who is and is not a minister in your church schools.
The U.S. Supreme Court slapped down the Obama administration on a rare vote of 9-0. Even Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan voted to reject the extreme secularist views of the Obama administration. We can all be grateful that the High Court could not swallow that particular camel! But here they are again, persecuting these modern-day Pilgrims. The Romeikes and their children are as inoffensive and law-abiding a group of refugees as you could want.
Just contrast this hounding of the Romeikes with the slap-dash performance of federal officials who allowed dangerous terrorists to enter our country prior to 9/11. As our friend Terry Jeffrey wrote some years ago, the 9/11 Commission Report sharply criticized the failures to check Saudi visa applications thoroughly:
"In fact, the hijackers submitted a total of 24 U.S. visa applications, of which 20 were retained in U.S. State Department files. “All 20 of these applications,” a 9/11 Commission staff report concluded, “were incomplete in some way, with a data field left blank or not answered fully.” “Three of the hijackers submitted applications that contained false statements that could have been proven to be false at the time they applied,” said the staff report, entitled “Entry of the 9/11 Hijackers into the United States.” “During their stays in the United States at least six of the 9/11 hijackers violated immigration laws,” said the report. According to the report, the 9/11 hijackers who were given visas to enter and stay in the U.S.: “Included among them known al Qaeda operatives who could have been watchlisted; Presented passports ‘manipulated in a fraudulent manner;’ Presented passports with ‘suspicious indictors’ of extremism; Made detectable false statements on their visa applications; Were pulled out of the travel stream and given greater scrutiny by border officials; Made false statements to border officials to gain entry into the United States; and Violated immigration laws while inside the United States.”
The Obama administration today wants to boot dad Uwe and mom Hannalore Romeike and their children out of the United States because “homeschooling is not a fundamental right. ”Therefore, Obama officialsargue, these refugees are not really facing persecution at home.
We praise German Chancellor Angela Merkel for saying that Christians throughout the world are suffering the greatest persecution of any religious group. She’s right about that. But her own government has a blind spot when it comes to homeschooling.
The reason why Germany’s history was so tragic for a hundred years—from the 1840s to the 1940s—is because their government failed to recognize the fundamental religious freedom of their people. Our Supreme Court said it well as long ago as 1925: “The child is not the mere creature of the state.”
Therefore, we all need to rally to the Romeikes. Our own religious freedom depends upon it. If the Obama administration succeeds in trampling parental rights, we will see our government continuing to swallow camels.
Reverend Leon and Obama Wrong on Easter
A controversy exploded into the national forum when President Obama and his family crossed the street to attend Easter services at St. John’s Church, an Episcopal church attended by every President since James Madison. In the end both the Reverend who delivered the sermon and the President were wrong.
In the sermon, Reverend Luis Leon lurched into a political diatribe against conservatives. He is quoted as saying “It drives me crazy when the captains of the religious right are always calling us back…for blacks to be back in the back of the bus, for women to be back in the kitchen, for gays to be in the closet, and for immigrants to be back on their side of the border.”
First, Leon is wrong on the facts. Maybe he needs a primer on history. As for Blacks, he could just watch the recent movie Lincoln where he would see it is Republicans who lead the fight for the emancipation of Black people. He could go back to 1964 where the people stonewalling against The Civil Rights Act of 1964 were Democrats. Or he could take measure of the recent Supreme Court case regarding Gay Rights. The centerpiece of the case was a woman who was unable to inherit her partner’s assets upon her death in the same manner as heterosexual couples. The Reverend should look at who has tried to eliminate the Death Tax and which party has kept Gays from equal rights on inheritance – Democrats. Lastly, Leon should point out the Conservative or member of the religious right that has ever spoken negatively about legal immigrants to this country. He would be hard-pressed to find one.
The more important issue focuses on why Reverend Leon delivered this sermon in the first place. As a Jew, I am not an expert on Christian customs. But it would seem to me there are two days where religious leaders might keep their opinions on public policy to themselves – that would be Christmas and Easter. One would think they could stick to the subject at hand because it would seem those days are like the Super Bowl of Christianity. But Mr. Leon could not help himself and had to divert from the discussion of the Resurrection to assert himself into the national debate.
Now we do not believe that President Obama had anything to do with the inappropriate behavior of the Reverend as he used the opportunity of having the leader of the Free World to pontificate. Instead of taking a position of principle and state that as a Christian he would have preferred to hear a strictly religious sermon, Mr. Obama sent his spokesperson out to flop and flounder defending the non-defensible. Another instance of no leadership from this President.
That there are people that are upset about the Reverend doing this is almost laughable – to Jews. We have been abused by this political rhetoric at the Jewish High Holy Day services for years. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur would seem to be sacrosanct times where Rabbis would reserve their comments to be focused on the Torah, Israel, and a commitment to Jewish Life. Just as frequently Rabbis see their biggest crowd of the year and think it is their opportunity to educate the flock on great Jewish issues like Climate Change. When George W. Bush was President, many Rabbis railed against whatever Bush had recently done that irritated them.
A bigger-picture question has to be what makes these people qualified to be religious leaders in the first place. Certainly we have seen religious leaders like Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan -- a man of massive abilities and leadership. The new Pope appears to be that way. But there are a lot of people entering the clergy who are doing so to further their public policy positions. Many of the candidates coming out of rabbinical school seem as impressive as wet noodles.
We have had some discussions with experienced rabbis who are summarily unimpressed with young Rabbis. When we asked what the credentials are for getting into rabbinical school, it certainly seemed like it was not high standards. More importantly, they are not drawing the cream of the crop of Jewish youth. Many are deeply confused about a central tenet of Jewish life today – Israel. They are not becoming Rabbis because they have heard a calling, but as we said to advance their favorite social issues.
What I saw of Reverend Leon fit right into this class of political leader. He seems entirely unimpressive as a man and deeply confused about what he should be doing in front of his parishioners. Unfortunately, our President did not see the clear rationale to set him straight. Easter is a holy day. Keep your political opinions off the pulpit.
Fight for the right to grow raisins
The Supreme Court could soon end one of the federal government's most archaic practices.
Since the 1930s, the Agriculture Department has turned California raisin growers into pawns of its Raisin Administrative Committee, which can commandeer up to half of the farmer's crop and then pay them little or nothing for the product.
Marvin Horne, a 67-year-old raisin farmer in Fresno, Calif., was fined almost $700,000 for refusing to surrender control of much of his harvest to the government committee in 2002. Horne, who has been growing raisins for more than 40 years, has battled the raisin committee for more than a decade and describes its regime as "involuntary servitude."
His challenge -- which is supported by many California raisin growers -- landed in front of the Supreme Court last month.
According to the Obama Administration and USDA, the Raisin Administrative Committee needs vast power to protect farmers against themselves. Otherwise, farmers might sell too many raisins and cause a plunge in prices. Justice Antonin Scalia aptly described USDA as offering farmers a choice: "your raisins or your life." Since farmers chose to sell their crop in interstate commerce, the government claims that it is entitled to nearly unlimited sway over the harvest.
The Obama Administration and USDA insist that, even though the government commandeers raisin farmers' harvest, there is no "taking" because the seizure drives up the price of the remaining raisins.
Justice Stephen Breyer was dumbfounded by this argument, declaring that "I can't believe that Congress wanted the taxpayers to pay for a program that's going to mean they have to pay higher prices as consumers."
Breyer apparently never heard of USDA's sugar program, which intentionally inflates prices and costs consumers billions of dollars a year. Actually, the raisin regime is even more perverse -- since it intentionally dumps allegedly "surplus" raisins on world markets at firesale prices. Foreigners often pay much lower prices for California raisins than do Americans.
Justice Elena Kagan suggested that 1937 Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act, which authorizes the raisin restrictions, could be "the world's most outdated law." Though purportedly created to serve farmers, the act creates endless administrative hoops and legal tripwires for its beneficiaries. Brian Leighton, one of the lawyers for the dissident raisin growers noted,"Thieves, murderers and rapists have far greater rights of due process and speedy appeal than do farmers regulated under USDA marketing orders."
There is nothing about unique about raisins that requires nullifying the constitutional rights of raisin growers. Markets for raisins are volatile -- as are the markets for hundreds of other farm products grown in the U.S. The raisin committee's sweeping powers have failed to prevent vast swings in prices farmers receive. Many California farmers have simply given up, and the acreage devoted to raisin production decreased by 75,000 acres since 2000.
"All we want to do is pack our raisins and sell them," Marvin Horne recently declared. "The only thing I wanted, along with my group, was to be free." Free markets are not perfect but they are far superior to the iron fists of government committees that scorn both farmers and consumers. If the Supreme Court cannot smack down the raisin racket, then it should forfeit any pretense of safeguarding Americans' rights and liberties.
Nederland in trouble too
Ironically, the Netherlands, widely viewed as a model economy, is facing the kind of real estate crisis that has only affected the United States and Spain until now. Banks in the Netherlands have also pumped billions upon billions in loans into the private and commercial real estate market since the 1990s, without ensuring that borrowers had sufficient collateral.
Private homebuyers, for example, could easily find banks to finance more than 100 percent of a property's price. "You could readily obtain a loan for five times your annual salary," says Scheepens, "and all that without a cent of equity." This was only possible because property owners were able to fully deduct mortgage interest from their taxes.
Instead of paying off the loans, borrowers normally put some of the money into an investment fund, month after month, hoping for a profit. The money was to be used eventually to pay off the loan, at least in part. But it quickly became customary to expect the value of a given property to increase substantially. Many Dutch savers expected that the resale of their homes would generate enough money to pay off the loans, along with a healthy profit.
More than a decade ago, the Dutch central bank recognized the dangers of this euphoria, but its warnings went unheeded. Only last year did the new government, under conservative-liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte, amend the generous tax loopholes, which gradually began to expire in January. But now it's almost too late. No nation in the euro zone is as deeply in debt as the Netherlands, where banks have a total of about €650 billion in mortgage loans on their books.
Consumer debt amounts to about 250 percent of available income. By comparison, in 2011 even the Spaniards only reached a debt ratio of 125 percent.
The Netherlands is still one of the most competitive countries in the European Union, but now that the real estate bubble has burst, it threatens to take down the entire economy with it. Unemployment is on the rise, consumption is down and growth has come to a standstill. Despite tough austerity measures, this year the government in The Hague will violate the EU deficit criterion, which forbid new borrowing of more than 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc
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