Rights 101: The Individual in Indiana

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“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

It is a sad testament to the lack of social progress to see so many cultural and political issues reemerge into the fleeting gaze of the public spotlight.  An issue appears, as quickly as a speck in your vision, and just as it becomes clear, it vanishes from view.  The public no wiser, the politicians no better, the country no stronger.

I have been writing these “articles” for just a little while and I already find that I have sufficient material to regurgitate topics from the archives.  Just add a dash of my patented snarky ketchup to the pre-prepared topic casserole du jour and, voila!.  What was once old becomes new!!

But that wouldn’t achieve one of the primary goals of The Last Best Hope: to expunge the detritus that settles between my ears.  So let’s take those leftovers and really whip up something divine!

A few months back I’d written about two gay guys who walked into a bakery.  (I made the same joke then too, as you can find here)  The gist is that they wanted the baker to make them a wedding cake and the baker said “no” due to his religious convictions.  The men pressed a lawsuit and said baker was compelled to make said cake, decorations and all.  My position on this was, and is, that government compulsion of behavior is an invalid role of the state and that everyone deserves the right to direct or withhold his or her own work.  There is little quite so demoralizing as a job you take no pride in doing.

Which, of course, brings me to the great state of Indiana.  The Hoosier State has become the new Cuba, with trade and travel restrictions accompanying a general disgust for its leader, Mike Pence, who apparently hates homosexuals so much that, along with the state legislature, just made it legal to discriminate against those of same-sex orientation.

Or not.

Despite the rampant criticisms of certain reporters, the mob mentality, and of course Al Sharpton (just know that if Sharpton is on your side then you’re doing it wrong.  And by it, I mean Life) Indiana did not pass a sweeping reform to bring back the gestapo in white hoods.  What Indiana lawmakers drafted, and what Governor Pence signed into law, (and has done an admirably atrocious job of explaining) is a protection of the limitations on government as articulated in the first amendment, because, as 19 other states have found sans protest, the federal protection does not extend to the states.

And, in the spirit of leftovers, this federal protection, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), was signed into law in 1993 by that fastidiously fellatio-ed fellow, former President Bill Clinton.  It was supported by then senator Barack Obama in the Illinois legislature (although Indiana does not have the same legal discriminatory protections of Illinois), along with a 97-3 vote in the Senate and unanimous support in the House. (that’s right, EVERYONE)  Simply put, this was not a controversial bill and times have not changed that much.  Gay marriage is on the rise but not universal and religion is still a bedrock of American culture.  I have yet to find a town of any substance without a church of some kind…or a liquor store.

The federal bill has been used to protect native americans, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Jews and followers of Santeria.  The feds, and subsequently the states, like Indiana, have altered the way that courts approach cases where there are competing rights and possible governmental interests in the protection of those rights.  The laws are now “requiring a “compelling state interest” justifying a ban on religious practice, an action “narrowly tailored” to that interest, and the “least restrictive” means of pursuing it.”

The question now becomes (and has been) which rights are paramount and deserve protection?  Is a Jewish printer required to create recruiting pamphlets for the Aryan Brotherhood?  Should a devout Muslim photographer be compelled to shoot the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition?  Is a homosexual florist mandated to provide ornamentation for the opening of the new Westboro Baptist church?  And should an evangelical Christian be made to bake a cake for a ceremony that fundamentally violates her beliefs?  No, no, no and NO!

The abilities of every human being are the result of experience, dedication and hard work.  Religious beliefs provide a sacred foundation for how to live this life and prepare for the hereafter.  And sexual orientation is a basic component of all human beings.  But, when one person, couple, group, church, magazine or psycho-outfit demand that an individual act against his conscience, that individual deserves protection.

Yes, stores and restaurants are places of public accommodation and being that the owners of such establishments have opened their shops in such a legally-mandated climate, they are NOT allowed, under Senate bill 101 or any other, to openly discriminate.  The baker must still bake a cake for a gay customer.  But, the baker is not compelled to partake in any part of the wedding ceremony of two gay men.  There is a subtle and vital distinction.  It will be up to the courts to decide when to use which of the aforementioned rights to whom applies… etc. etc.

The First Amendment is the most basic of all protections against government that the citizens of this nation possess.  It protects the most endangered and discriminated group of all…the individual.

Some people have deplorable views based upon nothing more than a shallow upbringing, vapid stereotypes, and, in the absolute worst cases, unsubstantiate-able hate.  And some of those people own businesses.  Personally, I believe that much like one’s house, one’s business is one’s property and the owner should determine how to conduct business in said business.  Allow the free-market to determine who succeeds.  In most cases, as displayed by one aspect of the outcry in Indiana,  people support each other and will serve whomever walks in the door.  And those who don’t will suffer the wrath of fierce competition.  Let the creative destruction begin!

But no one should be compelled to act against his or her own will by government forces in violation of religious beliefs.  One person can never have a right to another’s time or ability.  That is not a right, that’s slavery.  Senate bill 101 will see some added language to specifically prohibit discrimination but such additions are catering to the wrong forces.

Don’t be like so many people, inclined to believe what is spoon-fed, flown into the hanger, when it fits comfortable, intellectually lazy preconceived ideas.  The mob is rarely right and never interested in truth.  It is the most base reaction to forces that, on most days, it can’t be bothered to attempt to understand.  Just check out voter turnout for the biggest elections.  Within the lifetime of anyone who might be reading this, the highest turnout among the voting age population was in 1960 at 62.8%.  In 2012 it was 54.9%.  That means that on the best of days only have of any of those people marching have any idea of what they protest.  The rest are acting on emotion alone, too busy chanting to be bothered with the details.

Learn and seek truth, not support for the opinions you already possess.  The world will open in ways that you can only now imagine.

“Buy the Truth…and sell it not.” – Proverbs 23:23

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The Humble Victor: CO Prop 104

teachers-fistJust like Ron Burgundy, the election last Tuesday was kind of a big deal.  There were some deficient observations like Tom Brokaw opining, “a lot of this has to do with the fact that he [Obama] gets hammered 24/7 by Fox News on the right and by talk radio…”, as though Fox wasn’t around 2 years ago when Republicans were on the losing side.  As though there aren’t major networks in support of Barack Obama.  And as though talk radio has the reach of television news.

Side Bar- Isn’t it fascinating, yet wholly predictable, how these “objective” news anchors like Tom Brokaw and Walter Cronkite come out as committed liberals after they retire.  Makes you think,  “But that would mean…the WHOLE TIME!”

The unabashed truth is that the Democratic Party received a shellacking due to a repudiation of the policies of both the party itself and an overreaching Obama administration.  The tales of a Republican war on women, war on minorities and the demonic pervasiveness of Fox News had grown tired.  When the Democrats were asked “What else you got?  Economic success, foreign policy?”  the awkward answer was…umm… and then a blurted response, in suave Burgundy fashion, “I wanna be on you, I wanna be on you” .  Ironically, it was a good night for Hope and Change and an opportunity to engage in some good ole’ fashioned schadenfreude.  Now, if only Republicans, these Republicans, can govern…

Now that much has been said and re-said about this election, I will leave the national stage to look at the local success that was Proposition 104 in Colorado.  I would like to raise a metaphorical glass to the unsung heroes of this election and the work they did to affect change in our society.  We who value freedom and wish for more limited government are indebted to John Caldera and the Independence Institute for their work and financial support in getting this proposition on the ballot and passed.

Proposition 104 asked the voters, “Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes requiring any meeting of a board of education, or any meeting between any representative of a school district and any representative of employees, at which a collective bargaining agreement is discussed to be open to the public?”  And in the wisdom that so often accompanies corrective elections, the voters said Yes, with over 70% in favor!

It has been a couple years since Douglas County, CO elected a conservative majority on the school board and did away with the teachers union entirely.  The recent hubbub in Jefferson County relating to the changes of a new school board reflects another positive transformation in public education.  Proposition 104 is one more huge step towards ending the dominance of the teachers union and restructuring an educational system that will truly benefit the kids, along with the rest of us.

Ask any voter, look at any poll and you will find that people of all stripes value a good education.  Providing children with the opportunity to succeed is a path to parental pride and national prosperity.  Politicians have thrown money at the problem and found little improvement.  Public schools mandate that children attend specific institutions, regardless of the ability of a specific school to offer a path to success, and kids still struggle to compete with their global counterparts.  In short, the manner in which we have been operating does not work.  The passage of Proposition 104 is exactly the kind of common sense action that can ameliorate the condition of public education.

Proposition 104 in the most basic sense, is oversight of the government by the people.  This change will allow the public to monitor the negotiations of collective bargaining agreements up close.  Everyone can hear the astonishing specifics regarding compensation, regardless of performance, and benefits that are currently an unfunded liability to the taxpayer.  I believe that the public forum will lead the taxpayers to discover what so many workers already have: that unions, especially public sector unions, are a self-serving burden and that teachers (along with all other employees) are better off without these groups.

Unions are already a dwindling group, but still cling to the public sector.  According to Pew Research, “only 11.3% of wage and salary workers belonged to unions, down from 20.1% in 1983”.  This percentage drops even further when comparing the public and private sectors.  “While the unionization rate among public-sector workers has held fairly steady over that 30-year span (just over a third of government workers are unionized), it’s plummeted in the private sector — from 16.8% in 1983 to 6.7% three decades later”.

The reasons for the initial rise, and the relatively recent decline, of unions varies and the benefits can be debated all day long.  However, the fact is, that when it comes to education, the teachers unions have a monopoly on public education that is failing the children in the United States.  Parents cannot choose where their children will learn without paying more money than they already do in taxes.  Tenured teachers rest easy with little fear of job loss regardless of any personal promiscuous proclivities or failing performance on-the-job.  (Links to: the corruption and rubber rooms in Los Angeles or the rubber rooms in New York City)  If parents like the schools their children attend, that’s wonderful and no change need be made.  But if the schools cannot offer a proper education, parents ought to be able to take their child and their money elsewhere.  That’s fair, that’s freedom and that’s what the unions fear most.

Disregard the hype and know that public sector unions do not serve the public, the kids or the teachers.  They live a parasitic existence, leeching off of the taxpayer.  They ought to be outlawed and now that the public can observe their ludicrous business dealings, that idea is closer to reality.

As a final thought:  Unions ostensibly serve to protect workers from aggressive employers; so if the teachers work for a government, tasked to protect us all, why do they need specific job protection?  Proposition 104, the only state-wide initiative to pass, is a success for the people of Colorado and a further sign to the nation of things to come.

An Education in Rebellion

Student-Protest-US-History-7Crayola colored cardboard signs adorned with bland, opaque rhetoric meant to embolden the civil disobedient in you.  Matriculated, misguided minions manipulated into ditching an education in order to protest in the name of freedom.  The goal being, that they may learn “unpurified, uncensored” US history in the classes that they are skipping.  A fawning media encouraging the future Gandhi Thoreaus to speak Truth to Power, demonizing the constitutionally empowered (Art 9 Sec. 15 of CO Constitution empowers school boards to take responsibility for curriculum) and ELECTED, conservative school board and its job to take responsibility for curriculum. An entitled teachers union, willfully blind to the value of a pay for performance system; deaf to the calamitous crash of fiscal reality.  Ignorant parents.  Naive teachers…  And community organizing rabble rouser Saul Alinsky maniacally laughing whilst his fingertips touch, framing a fiendish smile.

Here is a video of students explaining the protest.  Please watch this as it really exposes the naive mindset of the students: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0lAX5OuIoo

What the ongoing protests in the school district of Jefferson County Colorado amount to is that one side won an election, which means the other side lost.  This is the fallout.  The voters in Jefferson County chose to elect a slate of conservative candidates who promised to implement new policies, contrary to those supported by the previous board and the activist teachers union.  The new school board, taking its constitutional powers seriously, has created a PROPOSAL (not a law or act of some conservative, vengeful God as one might think after witnessing the protests and hearing or reading media accounts) to create a panel entrusted to make decisions regarding curriculum, in this case what materials will be included in the advanced placement course on the history of the United States.  This review is a direct response to the proposed curriculum for AP US history by the College Board.  Supposedly the College Board values input from local school boards regarding curriculum.  However, the perspective of the College Board cannot withstand the influence of the all too familiar “blame America first” crowd that dominates modern academia.  Here is a statement made about the goals of the review board that has caused much controversy:

Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.

Meanwhile, union supporting activists, conflating different issues, have engaged and manipulated the sympathies of the naive student body to create the illusion of kids protesting in the name of their own education.

Read the actual board proposal here

Make no mistake.  The union goons have an endgame to oust the current school board, repatriating members “bought and paid for” and entirely sympathetic to the agenda of the teachers union.  The faux issue of censored history is but smoke and mirrors.  The students hardly grasp the causes that they are being used to support.  Ironically, the Denver Post notes that the movement began on September 19 when 50 teacher skipped out on work to protest a proposal requiring effective, successful results in order for teachers to receive a raise in pay.  This pay for performance system directly opposes the classic, union supported algorithm where everyone with X amount of years on the job and Y amount of degree training receives Z dollars regardless of whether or not they give a damn about the job.  The security blanket of tenure further solidifies teacher pay and job security, insulating teachers from the consequences of poor behavior and on the job performance.  It is astounding and yet entirely predictable that the teachers union, who ostensibly values students and education above all else, would use these kids as misguided pawns in a struggle against the democratic process, as evidenced by the voter supported actions of an ELECTED school board.

This ELECTED school board and the proposal for review seek to implement a balanced approach to US history while promoting national pride and good citizenship.  No one seeks to ignore the civil rights movement, slavery, or the Trail of Tears.  Those are all vital components of our history that document dark times.  This history also demonstrates the ability of our nation to overcome.  What is to be avoided in the AP curriculum is the omnipresent tendency of leftist doctrine such as marxist Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, still used as an objective textbook, that dwell upon the negative aspects of the United States.  “It’s very difficult, given the dominance of liberal perspectives in college and high school history departments, for faculty committees to avoid unintentionally muting, eliding, or obfuscating the perspectives of the right,” Trevor Packer, senior vice president of the College Board.

A proper education encourages students to develop ideas and discover the truth in all things.  Mentors along the way, parents, coaches and teachers, are charged to present information and nurture the desire to learn, not indoctrinate young minds with a leftist leaning liberal “curriculum” that portrays our country as an evil, imperialistic nation empowered by white privilege.  There are certainly elements in our history that fit that description, but it is not the entire story.  These students want to do ‘right’, as evidenced by their passion for justice.  However, inexperience in politics and controversy has allowed for misguided, misplaced faith in “good natured” educators with union ties.  The good intentions of the students make them unwitting supporters of a biased anti-Americanized curriculum.  This is, ironically, tragically, what the civil disobedience that these students so prize is meant to stand against.  Educationally speaking, they are working towards their own demise.

When taught, history should be a balancing act.  The United States has been the greatest national force for good that the world has ever known.  The Last Best Hope for mankind on Earth.  This is where the world looks when the lights go out everywhere else.  Our story is dominated by a narrative that should be a positive source for pride, despite the negative, undeniable acts of shame.  Students should hear this side of history and be encouraged to be a part of that narrative for the future.  It is in the knowledge of their own heritage, history and culture, that students will become empowered to affect the future and in so doing, shape history for the curriculum of future students.