The land of the formerly free 9

There may be something to the claim that all people want to be free. But it is a demonstrable fact that freedom has been under attack, usually successfully, for thousands of years.

So Thomas Sowell writes in a column titled Freedom Is Not Free. He argues that the thuggish Obama regime is implementing a totalitarian agenda. The evidence that individuals are being hounded by government agencies is enormous and mounting. He mentions a few examples.

The Federal Communications Commission’s recent plan to have a “study” of how editorial decisions are made in the media, placing FCC bureaucrats in editorial offices across the country, was one of the boldest assaults on freedom of the press. Fortunately, there was enough backlash to force the FCC to back off.

With all the sweeping powers available to government, displeasing FCC bureaucrats in editorial offices could have brought on armies of “safety” inspectors from OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], audits from the Internal Revenue Service and many other harassments from many other government agencies.

Such tactics have become especially common in this administration, which has the morals of thugs and the agenda of totalitarians. They may not be consciously aiming at creating a totalitarian state, but shameless use of government power to crush those who get in their way can produce totalitarian end results.

Too kind. We see clear evidence that Obama and his henchmen (and henchwomen) are consciously aiming at totalitarian power.

The prosecution of Dinesh D’Souza for contributing $20,000 to a political candidate, supposedly in violation of the many campaign finance laws, is a classic case of selective prosecution.

Thugs who stationed themselves outside a polling place in Philadelphia to intimidate white voters were given a pass, and others accused of campaign finance violations were charged with misdemeanors, but Dinesh D’Souza has been charged with felonies that carry penalties of years in federal prison.

All of this is over a campaign contribution that is chicken feed, compared to what can be raised inside of an hour at a political fundraising breakfast or lunch.

Could this singling out of D’Souza for prosecution have something to do with the fact that he made a documentary movie with devastating exposures of Barack Obama’s ideologies and policies? That movie, incidentally, is titled “2016: Obama’s America,” and every American should get a copy of it on a DVD. …

It doesn’t matter what rights you have under the Constitution of the United States, if the government can punish you for exercising those rights. And it doesn’t matter what limits the Constitution puts on government officials’ power, if they can exceed those limits without any adverse consequences.

In other words, the Constitution cannot protect you, if you don’t protect the Constitution with your votes against anyone who violates it. Those government officials who want more power are not going to stop unless they get stopped.

As long as millions of Americans vote on the basis of who gives them free stuff, look for their freedom – and all our freedom – to be eroded away, bit by bit. Our children and grandchildren may yet come to see the Constitution as just some quaint words from the past that people once took seriously. …

Arbitrary power is ugly and vicious, regardless of what pious rhetoric goes with it.

Freedom is not free.

You have to fight for it or lose it. But is our generation up to fighting for it?

So there may be no truth in the claim that all people want to be free.

Only a minority, it seems, will vote for freedom. Even fewer will fight for it.

What chance is there that such freedom as we still have will not be lost?

Posted under Commentary, government, liberty, tyranny, United States, US Constitution by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, March 4, 2014

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Government is bad for the economy 12

A truth that should be universally acknowledged is that everything a government does it does badly. Sure, there are some things only government can do, or should do: first and foremost, if not only, defend the nation and protect individual liberty. And those are two things Obama doesn’t want to do.

Government meddling in the economy is at the very least a brake on prosperity, at worst a wrecker. (Vide Greece and Detroit.)

Thomas Sowell writes:

Since this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty,” we can expect many comments and commemorations of this landmark legislation in the development of the American welfare state. The actual signing of the “war on poverty” legislation took place in August 1964, so the 50th anniversary is some months away. But there have already been statements in the media and in politics proclaiming that this vast and costly array of anti-poverty programs “worked.”

Of course everything “works” by sufficiently low standards, and everything “fails” by sufficiently high standards. The real question is: What did the “war on poverty” set out to do — and how well did it do it, if at all?

Without some idea of what a person or a program is trying to do, there is no way to know whether what actually happened represented a success or a failure. When the hard facts show that a policy has failed, nothing is easier for its defenders than to make up a new set of criteria, by which it can be said to have succeeded. 

That’s what has happened with the “war on poverty.” It has failed, but the government and its hallelujah chorus will pretend otherwise.

Both President John F. Kennedy, who launched the proposal for a “war on poverty” and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, who guided the legislation through Congress and then signed it into law, were very explicit as to what the “war on poverty” was intended to accomplish.

Its mission was not simply to prove that spending money on the poor led to some economic benefits to the poor. Nobody ever doubted that. How could they?

What the war on poverty was intended to end was mass dependency on government. President Kennedy said, “We must find ways of returning far more of our dependent people to independence.” The same theme was repeated endlessly by President Johnson. The purpose of the “war on poverty,” he said, was to make “taxpayers out of taxeaters.” Its slogan was “Give a hand up, not a handout.” When Lyndon Johnson signed the landmark legislation into law, he declared: “The days of the dole in our country are numbered.”

Now, 50 years and trillions of dollars later, it is painfully clear that there is more dependency than ever.

Ironically, dependency on government to raise people above the poverty line had been going down for years before the “war on poverty” began. The hard facts showed that the number of people who lived below the official poverty line had been declining since 1960, and was only half of what it had been in 1950.

On the more fundamental question of dependency, the facts were even clearer. The proportion of people whose earnings put them below the poverty level – without counting government benefits – declined by about one-third from 1950 to 1965.

All this was happening before the “war on poverty” went into effect – and all these trends reversed after it went into effect.

The more the government does to “fight poverty”, the more poverty grows and spreads. Year after year, under the Obama administration, the number who “need” government assistance has increased, so that, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) as reported by CNS News -

A record 20% of American households, one in five, were on food stamps in 2013 … and …  the cost of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), was at an all-time high.

The USDA says that there were 23,052,388 households on food stamps in the average month of fiscal 2013, an increase of 722,675 from fiscal year 2012, when there were 22,329,713 households on food stamps in the average month. …

In the past five years alone, the number of households on food stamps has greatly increased. In fiscal year 2009 – Oct. 1, 2008 through Sept. 30, 2009 — the number of households on food stamps was 15,232,115. Five years later, in 2013, that amount had increased by 51.3% to reach 23,052,388 households.

It should be remembered that most of “the poor” in America are comparatively well off,  the least poor of the world’s  poor.

But if government would stop interfering, the economy would grow faster and people would have a better chance of doing well, and even becoming really (maybe gloriously) rich.

Always, figuratively speaking, the fatter the government, the thinner the people.

Citizens or subjects? 1

On entering the new year, Thomas Sowell writes:

Whenever we stand on the threshold of a new year, we are tempted to forget the hazards of prophecy, and try to see what may lie on the other side of this arbitrary division of time.

Sometimes we are content to try to change ourselves with New Year’s resolutions to do better in some respect. Changing ourselves is a much more reasonable undertaking than trying to change other people. It may or may not succeed, but it seldom creates the disasters that trying to change others can produce.

When we look beyond ourselves to the world around us, peering into the future can be a very sobering, if not depressing, experience.

ObamaCare looms large and menacing on our horizon. This is not just because of computer problems, or even because some people who think that they have enrolled may discover at their next visit to a doctor that they do not have any insurance coverage.

What ObamaCare has done, thanks to Chief Justice Roberts’s Supreme Court decision, is reduce us all from free citizens to cowed subjects, whom the federal government can order around in our own personal lives, in defiance of the 10th Amendment and all the other protections of our freedom in the Constitution of the United States.

ObamaCare is more than a medical problem, though there are predictable medical problems – and even catastrophes – that will unfold in the course of 2014 and beyond. Our betters have now been empowered to run our lives, with whatever combination of arrogance and incompetence they may have, or however much they lie.

The challenges ahead are much clearer than what our responses will be. Perhaps the most hopeful sign is that increasing numbers of people seem to have finally – after nearly five long years – begun to see Barack Obama for what he is, rather than for what he seemed to be, when judged by his image and rhetoric.

What kind of man would blithely disrupt the medical care of millions of Americans, and then repeatedly lie to them with glib assurances that they could keep their doctors or health insurance if they wanted to?

What kind of man would set up a system in which people would be forced by law to risk their life savings, because they had to divulge their financial identification numbers to strangers who could turn out to be convicted felons?

With all the time that elapsed between the passage of ObamaCare and its going into effect, why were the so-called “navigators” who were to be handling other people’s financial records never investigated for criminal convictions? What explanation could there be, other than that Obama didn’t care? …

Those who have still not yet seen through Barack Obama will have many more opportunities to do so during the coming year, as the medical, financial and other painful human consequences of ObamaCare keep coming out in ways so clear that not even the mainstream media can ignore them or obscure them.

The question then is: What can be done about it? Nothing can be done about Obama himself. He has three more years in office and, as he pointed out to the Russians, he will no longer have to face the American voters.

ObamaCare, however, has no such immunity. It is always hard to repeal an elaborate program after it has gone into effect. But Prohibition was repealed, even though it was a Constitutional Amendment that required super-majorities in both houses of Congress and super-majorities of state legislatures to repeal.

In our two-party system, everything depends on whether the Republicans step up to the plate and act like responsible adults who understand that ObamaCare represents a historic crossroads that will determine what kind of people we are going to be, for this generation and generations yet unborn – citizens or subjects.

This means that Republicans have to decide whether their top priority is internal strife among the different wings of the party – another circular firing squad – or whether either wing puts the country first.

A prediction on how that will turn out in the new year would be far too hazardous to attempt.

We make no predictions today, but we thank our readers and commenters for their interest and contributions, and wish you all a Very Happy New Year!

Posted under Collectivism, Commentary, government, Health, Law, liberty, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, January 1, 2014

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Sowell speaks sagely (as always) 0

Picture from PowerLine, among others worth looking at.

Posted under Humor, Socialism by Jillian Becker on Sunday, December 15, 2013

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At what price? 1

Thomas Sowell talks to Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard about the differences between Liberalism (ie. statism) and Conservatism. (The video dates from 2010.)

Posted under Commentary, education, Videos by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, November 5, 2013

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Thomas Sowell said … 1

“The only way the Constitution can protect us, is if we protect the Constitution.”

And we hear many more wise words from Professor Thomas Sowell in this video made just before the 2012 presidential election.

 

Posted under Commentary, Conservatism, Economics, government by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, July 30, 2013

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White? Be ashamed and repent 1

It’s probably from Christianity that Socialism derives the idea that it’s virtuous to abase oneself. Sociological thinking and the leftist collectivist ideal of leveling require self-abasement.

Sometimes we come across statements or practices by leftist ideologues that sample for us all that is repulsive, anti-human, narrow and dumb about the Left.

Here for instance is a report, by Kyle Olson at Townhall, of just such a sample. It is about education officials prescribing self-abasement for Whites – as St. Paul did for Christians.

Wisconsin Education Officials Want Students to Wear “White Privilege” Wristbands.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction runs several programs that heavily emphasize racial issues in public schools …

Some feel that one of those programs – an Americorps operation called VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) – may go a bit overboard by encouraging white students to wear a white wristband “as a reminder about your (white) privilege.”  …

A  Gloria Steinem quote on the top of VISTA’s Facebook page reads ominously:

 “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”

The webpage also offers a series of suggestions for high schools students to become more racially sensitive. They include:

Wear a white wristband as a reminder about your privilege, and as a personal commitment to explain why you wear the wristband.

Confess, confess. Confess to being white. Hang your head and be ashamed. Make amends by abasing yourself.

Set aside sections of the day to critically examine how privilege is working.

Put a note on your mirror or computer screen as a reminder to think about privilege.

Examine your conscience. Repent being white.

The Wisconsin DPI also sponsors several similar programs, including CREATE Wisconsin, an on-going “cultural sensitivity” teacher training program which focuses largely on “whiteness” and “white privilege.”

Hating whitey sessions? After which the teachers will be better able to educate the children of Wisconsin?

An opposite way of thinking about race may be found in a column by the wise and great Thomas Sowell. He writes:

There are so many fallacies about race that it would be hard to say which is the most ridiculous. However, one fallacy behind many other fallacies is the notion that there is something unusual about different races being unequally represented in various institutions, careers or at different income or achievement levels.

A hundred years ago, the fact that people from different racial backgrounds had very different rates of success in education, in the economy and in other endeavors, was taken as proof that some races were genetically superior to others.

Some races were considered to be so genetically inferior that eugenics was proposed to reduce their reproduction, and Francis Galton urged [in tune with Marx and Engels - ed] “the gradual extinction of an inferior race.”

It was not a bunch of fringe cranks who said things like this. Many held Ph.D.s from the leading universities, taught at the leading universities and were internationally renowned.

Presidents of Stanford University and of MIT were among the many academic advocates of theories of racial inferiority — applied mostly to people from Eastern and Southern Europe, since it was just blithely assumed in passing that blacks were inferior.

This was not a left-right issue. The leading crusaders for theories of genetic superiority and inferiority were iconic figures on the left, on both sides of the Atlantic.

John Maynard Keynes helped create the Cambridge Eugenics Society. Fabian socialist intellectuals H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw were among many other leftist supporters of eugenics.

It was much the same story on this side of the Atlantic. President Woodrow Wilson, like many other Progressives, was solidly behind notions of racial superiority and inferiority. He showed the movie “Birth of a Nation,” glorifying the Ku Klux Klan, at the White House, and invited various dignitaries to view it with him. …

Now, instead of genes being the overriding reason for differences in outcomes, racism [has become] the one-size-fits-all explanation …  [for]  the same false premise — namely, that there is something unusual about different racial and ethnic groups having different achievements. …

Not only different racial and ethnic groups, but whole nations and civilizations, have had very different achievements for centuries. China in the 15th century was more advanced than any country in Europe. Eventually Europeans overtook the Chinese — and there is no evidence of changes in the genes of either of them.

Among the many reasons for different levels of achievement is something as simple as age. The median age in Germany and Japan is over 40, while the median age in Afghanistan and Yemen is under 20. Even if the people in all four of these countries had the same mental potential, the same history, the same culture — and the countries themselves had the same geographic features — the fact that people in some countries have 20 years more experience than people in other countries would still be enough to make equal economic and other outcomes virtually impossible.

Add the fact that different races evolved in different geographic settings, presenting very different opportunities and constraints on their development, and the same conclusion follows.

Yet the idea that differences in outcomes are odd, if not sinister, has been repeated mindlessly from street corner demagogues to the august chambers of the Supreme Court.

*

Here’s Thomas Sowell, with Peter Robinson, talking good sense on race, racism, and discrimination

The price of a theory 1

Experimenting with people’s lives is the occupation and preoccupation of the Left.

If leftists’ do-goodery does painful harm, they do not see it as a reason to abandon a theory that makes them feel good for believing in it.

Thomas Sowell writes at the National Review:

If there is ever a contest for the law with the most grossly misleading title, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 should be a prime candidate, because the last thing this act protects is the welfare of Indian children.

The theory behind the Indian Child Welfare Act is that an American Indian child should be raised in an American Indian culture.

Based on that theory, a newborn baby of American Indian ancestry, who was adopted immediately after birth by a white couple, was, at 27 months of age, taken away from the only parents she had ever known and given to her father.

Apparently, the tribe has rights under the Indian Child Welfare Act. If this child were of any other race, a court would be free to decide the case on the basis of whatever was in the best interests of the child. Instead, the child is treated almost as property, contrary to the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery. …

Anyone who would ruin a helpless child’s life in order to assert [his]  own legal prerogatives, or to protect the tribe’s turf, raises very serious questions about what kind of parent [he] is.

The question is not just which home is better, but whether the child will ever feel secure in any home again after the shock of being forcibly taken away.

The welfare of a flesh-and-blood human being should trump theories about cultures — especially in the case of a two-year-old child who has been torn away from the only parents she has ever known, and treated as a pawn in a legalistic game.

This little girl is just the latest in a long line of Indian children who have been ripped out of the only family they have ever known and given to someone who is a stranger to them, often to live on an Indian reservation that is foreign to them. This has happened even to children who have spent a decade or more with a family to which they have become attached and which is attached to them.

There have already been too many scenes of weeping and frightened children, crying out in vain for the only mother and father they know, as they are forcibly dragged away.

Whatever the merits or demerits of various theories about culture, they are still just theories. But too many people put their pet theories ahead of flesh-and-blood human beings.

One of the rationales for the Indian Child Welfare Act is that, in the past, Indian children were wantonly wrested from their Indian parents and sent off to be raised by non-Indians. But nothing we can do today can undo the wrongs of the past — especially not by creating the same wrongs again, in reverse.

While those who are most victimized by the so-called Indian Child Welfare Act are the children ripped out of their homes to satisfy some theory, they are not the only victims. Indian children without biological parents to take care of them can be needlessly left in institutional care when there are not enough Indian foster parents or adoptive parents to take them into their homes.

Less than 2 percent of the children in Minnesota are Indian, but 15 percent of the children in that state’s foster-care system are Indian. In Montana, 9 percent of the children are Indian, but Indian children make up 37 percent of the children in foster care.

What a price to pay for a theory!

Here is a young Thomas Sowell arguing against state welfare with a dyed-in-the-wool do-gooder – whose preferred policies have continued to increase poverty and dependency. (Milton Friedman is also there, smiling with delight – we guess – at Sowell’s exposition.)

The moral vanity of liberals 1

Liberals’ devotion to their ideology greatly exceeds their concern about what actually happens to flesh and blood human beings as a result of their ideology. 

With his usual clarity, Thomas Sowell explains how blacks are made to suffer from liberal policies which make only the liberals themselves feel good.

There is no question that liberals do an impressive job of expressing concern for blacks. But do the intentions expressed in their words match the actual consequences of their deeds?

San Francisco is a classic example of a city unexcelled in its liberalism. But the black population of San Francisco today is less than half of what it was back in 1970, even though the city’s total population has grown.

Severe restrictions on building housing in San Francisco have driven rents and home prices so high that blacks and other people with low or moderate incomes have been driven out of the city. The same thing has happened in a number of other California communities dominated by liberals.

Liberals try to show their concern for the poor by raising the level of minimum wage laws. Yet they show no interest in hard evidence that minimum wage laws create disastrous levels of unemployment among young blacks in this country, as such laws created high unemployment rates among young people in general in European countries.

The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals’ expansion of the welfare state. Most black children grew up in homes with two parents during all that time but most grow up with only one parent today.

Liberals have pushed affirmative action, supposedly for the benefit of blacks and other minorities. But two recent factual studies show that affirmative action in college admissions has led to black students with every qualification for success being artificially turned into failures by being mismatched with colleges for the sake of racial body count. …

In all these cases, and many others, liberals take positions that make them look good and feel good — and show very little interest in the actual consequences for others, even when liberal policies are leaving havoc in their wake.

The current liberal crusade for more so-called “gun control” laws is more of the same. Factual studies over the years, both in the United States and in other countries, repeatedly show that “gun control” laws do not in fact reduce crimes committed with guns.

Cities with some of the tightest gun control laws in the nation have murder rates far above the national average. In the middle of the 20th century, New York had far more restrictive gun control laws than London, but London had far less gun crime. Yet gun crimes in London skyrocketed after severe gun control laws were imposed over the next several decades.

Although gun control is not usually considered a racial issue, a wholly disproportionate number of Americans killed by guns are black. But here, as elsewhere, liberals’ devotion to their ideology greatly exceeds their concern about what actually happens to flesh and blood human beings as a result of their ideology.

Many liberal ideas about race sound plausible, and it is understandable that these ideas might have been attractive 50 years ago. What is not understandable is how so many liberals can blindly ignore 50 years of evidence to the contrary since then.

There is abundant proof that the welfare state, redistribution of wealth, regulation of individual lives by government, do not raise populations from poverty to prosperity, from misery to happiness. Could there be greater lessons in the fallacy of socialism, statism, collectivism – call it what you will – than the collapse of the Soviet Union, the ruin of Greece, the change to capitalism in China? Yet the Left clings to its formula of failure.

Why do liberals continue to pursue policies that not only keep people poor but make them poorer?

Because without underdogs they would have no cause. Without underdogs they would have no one to feel superior to. Since they cannot be unaware that their policies work against life, liberty. and the pursuit of happiness, the only conclusion to be drawn is that that is their whole idea: to keep the poor ever poor, ever dependent on government, so that – as Thomas Sowell says – they themselves may “look and feel good”.

There may be far fewer self-proclaimed Christians among liberals than among conservatives, but it is the liberals who keep the abasing values and moral hubris of Christianity alive and active in contemporary politics.

Dewey-eyed America must repent of its Zinn 1

“A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn is not so much a history, more a compendium of complaint. And (therefore) of every Leftist issue you could think of.

(We have written about Zinn before. See our post Zinn writes histories, December 11, 2009.)

The “People” in Zinn’s mind are a totally different species from the “fifty-five privileged white males whose class interest required a strong central government” and so wrote the Constitution and founded the Union. Those same fifty-five privileged white males of a species different from the People have continued to pursue their selfish material interests ever since at the expense of downtrodden masses. These masses, this vast victimized majority (he quotes Shelley at them: “Ye are many; they are few!”), consists of subordinated races, females, persons of minority sexual preferences (he doesn’t call them that), and people who would like to be rich but do not manage to become so (he doesn’t call them that).

Zinn milks pity from his readers (or tries to). He would have you feel bad if you are white, if you are male, if you are “privileged” (ie not poor), and if you are American; but implies over some 700 pages that you can redeem yourself from your badness if you will beat your breast frequently, cry ‘Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!” every day of your life,  and join with the complainers in bringing down those fifty-five imperial villains by becoming a violent radical socialist revolutionary or, more comfortably – well, he doesn’t say so in the book because it was published before the Occupy Wall Street movement emerged, but he would have said, by joining it.

Thomas Sowell writes at Townhall:

Schools were once thought of as places where a society’s knowledge and experience were passed on to the younger generation. But, about a hundred years ago, Professor John Dewey of Columbia University came up with a very different conception of education — one that has spread through American schools of education, and even influenced education in countries overseas.

John Dewey saw the role of the teacher, not as a transmitter of a society’s culture to the young, but as an agent of change — someone strategically placed, with an opportunity to condition students to want a different kind of society.

Or to put it another way: indoctrinate students to believe that a much better society – even a perfect one – could be planned and is only not being planned because “corporate interests” (a euphemism for the fifty-five immortals who founded the USA) will not allow it.

A century later, we are seeing schools across America indoctrinating students to believe in all sorts of politically correct notions. The history that is taught in too many of our schools is a history that emphasizes everything that has gone bad, or can be made to look bad, in America — and that gives little, if any, attention to the great achievements of this country.

If you think that is an exaggeration, get a copy of “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn and read it. As someone who used to read translations of official Communist newspapers in the days of the Soviet Union, I know that those papers’ attempts to degrade the United States did not sink quite as low as Howard Zinn’s book.

That book has sold millions of copies, poisoning the minds of millions of students in schools and colleges against their own country. But this book is one of many things that enable teachers to think of themselves as “agents of change,” without having the slightest accountability for whether that change turns out to be for the better or for the worse — or, indeed, utterly catastrophic.

This misuse of schools to undermine one’s own society is not something confined to the United States or even to our own time. It is common in Western countries for educators, the media and the intelligentsia in general, to single out Western civilization for special condemnation for sins that have been common to the human race, in all parts of the world, for thousands of years.

Meanwhile, all sorts of fictitious virtues are attributed to non-Western societies, and their worst crimes are often passed over in silence, or at least shrugged off by saying some such thing as “Who are we to judge?”

Even in the face of mortal dangers, political correctness forbids us to use words like “terrorist” when the approved euphemism is “militant.” Milder terms such as “illegal alien” likewise cannot pass the political correctness test, so it must be replaced by another euphemism, “undocumented worker.”

Some think that we must tiptoe around in our own country, lest some foreigners living here or visiting here be offended by the sight of an American flag or a Christmas tree in some institutions. …

American schools today are … undermining American society as one unworthy of defending, either domestically or internationally.

Which reminds us of what happened to Rome when it took on Christianity, the first Mea Culpa creed in history.

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