July 2015 Archives

Because of its involvement in providing and promoting abortion, for its corruption of the morals of American youth through its sexual education programs, for its trafficking in the organs and limbs of unborn children, Planned Parenthood is a loathsome organization, and I would love to see it deprived of all public funding. I would love to see an awakening of the consciences of private donors, so that they ceased to fund Planned Parenthood's atrocities.

But because of unintended but foreseeable consequences that could hurt good non-profits, I can't support Congressman Jim Bridenstine's proposal to exclude companies who donate to Planned Parenthood from eligibility for federal contracts. Here is his press release:

Congressman Jim Bridenstine Introduces Legislation to Prohibit Government Contracts to Companies that Donate to Planned Parenthood

Washington, DC, July 28, 2015


Today, Congressman Jim Bridenstine introduced the GRACE Act, a bill to prohibit federal government contracts from going to companies that donate to Planned Parenthood. He is already sponsoring numerous other bills to cut direct government funding to the organization.

Congressman Bridenstine said, "The government should not do business with companies that facilitate Planned Parenthood operations. Every child has value. Every person has a purpose. Most Americans are horrified at the thought of expertly crushing the bodies of pre-born, living babies and 'harvesting' organs."

Planned Parenthood has been exposed in recent days as not only a major provider of abortions but also as a marketer of baby parts harvested from their victims. This horrific practice is funded by the American taxpayer at a rate of more than $1.4 million per day. The $528 million Planned Parenthood received from government grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements in fiscal year 2013-2014 accounted for 41 percent of their overall revenue. An additional 30 percent of revenue, $392 million, was received from private contributions and bequests.

Bridenstine added, "This organization promotes itself as a great protector of women's health and provider of choice. In truth, the choice they offer is abortion. In 2013, Planned Parenthood performed 327,653 abortions which comprised 94% of their pregnancy services, while prenatal care and adoption referrals amounted to 5 percent and 0.5 percent respectively. According to their own reports, Planned Parenthood performed 174 abortions for every adoption referral. If the public knew these facts, on top of the recent video revelations, their donation funding would dry up, too.

"It is sad that both parties in Congress are complicit in continuing to fund Planned Parenthood through last minute, massive spending bills like CRs (continuing resolutions) or omnibus bills. I have not and will not vote for any spending bill that sends one cent to Planned Parenthood."

Congressman Bridenstine's bill would prohibit federal contracts with any entity that donates or matches employee donations to Planned Parenthood Federation of America. For more information, see the legislation at Bridenstine.House.gov.

Data Source: Planned Parenthood 2013-2014 Annual Report, http://issuu.com/actionfund/docs/annual_report_final_proof_12.16.14_/0

I agree completely with Bridenstine's description of Planned Parenthood and his desire to cut off their sources of funds, but his action would set a dangerous precedent that could be used in the future to hurt companies owned by conservatives and the churches and conservative institutions to which they donate. President Obama has already, by executive order, forced federal contractors to add "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the list of protected categories in employment. Leftists are already proposing to end tax exemptions for non-profits that don't adhere to the Sexual Revolution's ideology and to ban federal financial aid to students who attend colleges that adhere to the natural, scientific, and historical view of human sexuality. It is not farfetched to imagine an executive order banning federal contracts to companies that donate to such organizations -- churches, crisis pregnancy centers, Christian schools.

It's also a mistake for Bridenstine to target matching-donation programs. These are programs where employers let their employees' giving direct the company's charitable contributions. An employee files receipts for gifts to 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, and the employer matches those gifts up to a certain amount per employee. I have no data, but I strongly suspect that these programs put a significant amount of money into socially conservative organizations. As a rule, big corporations making centralized donation decisions are going to give to big, politically-correct non-profits. But if a big corporation has a matching-donation program, some of the company's charitable budget is going to support small local causes, including churches, Christian schools, and other conservative religious organizations, because their employees are giving to those causes. Here again, it's not hard to imagine a precedent that forces federal contractors to ban matching contributions to Planned Parenthood being extended to ban matching contributions to conservative causes.

Government contract offices should not be in the business of policing the charitable giving of government contractors. When government pays a contractor for their work, the contractor should be free to spend that money as it sees fit.

Instead, I'd encourage Congressman Bridenstine to focus on blocking federal money from reaching abortion providers. Pass a bill that says federal grant money (e.g. Community Development Block Grants) can't go to organizations that perform abortions. Get rid of the spending programs that are used to funnel money directly to Planned Parenthood.

Last week TRIP, a national transportation research organization, released its annual urban roads report, ranking U. S. cities by percentage of major roads and highways in poor condition and on the cost to drivers resulting from the bad roads. Tulsa and Oklahoma City ranked 17th and 16th respectively on the first measure -- in each city, 45% of the streets are in poor condition. Tulsa's cost per driver for bad roads was 4th in the nation at $928, slightly worse than OKC, in 5th at $917.

TRIP describes the basis for this additional cost measure: "Driving on roads in disrepair increases consumer costs by accelerating vehicle deterioration and depreciation, and increasing needed maintenance, fuel consumption and tire wear." The numbers come from TRIP's analysis of 2013 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) statistics.

Only 7% of Tulsa's major road and highway miles are considered to be in good condition, 8% in fair condition, 40% mediocre, and 45% poor. The classifications correspond to ranges of numeric ratings: The International Roughness Index (IRI) and the Present Serviceability Rating (PSR). Poor means an IRI above 170 or a PSR of 2.5 or less.

Compare Tulsa's numbers to the national breakdown:

An analysis of 2013 pavement data found that 28 percent of the nation's major urban roads - Interstates, freeways and other major routes - had pavements that were in substandard (poor) condition. These are roads and highways that provide an unacceptable ride and are in need of resurfacing or more significant repairs. TRIP's analysis of federal highway data from 2013 also found that 41 percent of these major urban routes provided an acceptable ride quality and were in either mediocre or fair condition. The remaining 31 percent of major urban highways and roads were found to provide good ride quality.

Here are links to TRIP's full urban roads report and appendices.

In that report, TRIP has recommendations for improving the longevity of roads, beginning with foundations, better construction materials, and early preventive maintenance (crack sealing, overlays). It's the sort of thing Tulsa's former streets commissioner Jim Hewgley has been saying for years.

It would be interesting to trace back to the locally collected data that informed the FHWA's numbers and ultimately TRIP's analysis. I suspect that much of the mileage covered by the numbers in the Tulsa metro area is the responsibility of ODOT, rather than municipal or county authorities. ODOT seems rather fond of new construction (e.g., the Oklahoma CIty I-40 relocation, the upcoming I-35/I-240 rebuild) and not so fond of maintenance.

Soundies from 1946, featuring Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. This is the same lineup as the early Tiffany Transcriptions sessions: Tommy Duncan and the McKinney Sisters (Dean and Evelyn) on vocals, Bob Wills, Joe Holley, and Louis Tierney on fiddle, Noel Boggs on steel guitar, Millard Kelso on piano, Junior Barnard on guitar, Alex Brashear on trumpet, Johnny Cuviello on drums, Luke Wills on bass. The songs are "Texas Playboy Rag," "I Betcha My Heart I Love Ya," "San Antonio Rose," and "Goodbye Liza Jane."

That's quite a guitar solo on that last number. Here's a nice tribute to the man responsible, innovative guitarist Junior Barnard.

And here's a bonus, a collection of unreleased Bob Wills Big Band sides from 1941 -- "La Paloma," "The Girl I Left Behind Me," "Liebestraum," "When It's Honeysuckle Time in the Valley," and "Maiden's Prayer."

As many conservatives attempted to explain to their libertarian-leaning friends, the push for "gay marriage" was never about liberty; it's about coercion -- forcing Americans, under penalty of law, to treat same-sex pseudogamy as the equivalent of natural marriage.

Five black-robed tyrants have imposed their religious views of human sexuality on the nation, but the implications of their ukase are only beginning to be worked out. Individuals and institutions who hold to the natural, scientific understanding of human sexuality and the family, the understanding that was universal among civilized societies for thousands of years, and who seek to continue to give special honor and consideration to natural marriage, will find themselves under attack by the agents of the Sexual Revolution, who will seek to use the power of the State to compel dissenters to conform to their totalitarian worldview.

Think that paragraph is over-the-top? Let me remind you of the answer Donald Verrilli, Solicitor General in the Obama Administration, gave to a question from Justice Samuel Alito:

Justice Samuel Alito asked Verrilli whether a religious school that believed marriage was the union of husband and wife would lose their non-profit tax status.

The solicitor general answered: "It's certainly going to be an issue. I don't deny that. I don't deny that, Justice Alito. It is it is going to be an issue."

Already it would appear that some Christian colleges are caving to the pressure. But I'm happy to report that that isn't the case up US 75 in Bartlesville.

Last weekend, Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, posted an insightful and forthright statement on the matter:

I was just asked by my senator to provide a statement on OKWU's position of providing married housing for "married LGBTQ students."

Here's what I said:

At Oklahoma Wesleyan the issue of married housing is irrelevant.

All OKWU students, regardless of where they live, sign a contract as a condition of their enrollment to live in full compliance with all OKWU behavioral codes and expectations. All students, thereby, agree to abstain from any unbiblical sexual behavior which would clearly include sodomy and any other homosexual acts. A "LGBTQ couple who marries" would be, by definition, out of compliance with their signed behavioral agreement and would, therefore, be in breach of contract and subject to the corresponding consequences as outlined in the Student Handbook.

I would like to add that OKWU does not and will not accept the government's premise of one's sexual inclinations somehow equalling one's sexual identity. There are many things a human being may be inclined to do that he/she should choose not to do. We are created in God's image and, thus, have volitional free will and corresponding moral culpability. Men and women are much more than the sum total of what they are inclined to do. One's personhood is much, much more than one's proclivities. Moral discussions and dictates (sexual and otherwise) have always assumed we can and should rise above our instincts and appetites. At OKWU we refuse labels like "LGBTQ" and consider them to be an ontological insult to the very understanding of what it means to be human.

Pay attention to that last paragraph. The stormtroopers of the Sexual Revolution insist that one's sexual appetites constitute the core of one's being. Dr. Piper expresses the understanding that was once common to all civilized societies. Appetites can be indulged or restrained, as an act of the will. Appetites can and should be cultivated, trained toward the good. His last sentence gets to the heart of the issue: This dispute is about the very nature of being, and its implications go far beyond this specific issue.

Note, too, his phrase "the government's premise." The Supreme Court has made a radical, unscientific notion of human nature the official doctrine of the United States. Adherents of that false doctrine have shown themselves to be very zealous and inclined toward using all power at their disposal to suppress the truth. We need to pray for and stand with courageous leaders like Dr. Piper who will speak and act on the truth despite the pressure to surrender.

MORE: Also during oral arguments in the Obergefell case, Chief Justice John Roberts asked Solicitor General Verrilli specifically about the issue of married student housing. Al Mohler reported and commented on the exchange:

The second exchange was between Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Solicitor General Verrilli, also arguing for same-sex marriage. The Chief Justice asked: "Would a religious school that has married housing be required to afford such housing to same-sex couples?"

The Solicitor General did not say no. Instead, he said that the federal government, at present, does not have a law banning discrimination in such matters on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. As for the states, "that is going to depend on how the States work out the balance between their civil rights laws, whether they decide there's going to be civil rights enforcement of discrimination based on sexual orientation or not, and how they decide what kinds of accommodations they are going to allow under State law." He went on to say that "different states could strike different balances."

Make no mistake. The Solicitor General of the United States just announced that the rights of a religious school to operate on the basis of its own religious faith will survive only as an "accommodation" on a state by state basis, and only until the federal government passes its own legislation, with whatever "accommodation" might be included in that law. Note also that the President he represented in court has called for the very legislation Verrilli said does not exist ... for now.

Verrilli's answer puts the nation's religious institutions, including Christian colleges, schools, and seminaries, on notice. The Chief Justice asked the unavoidable question when he asked specifically about campus housing. If a school cannot define its housing policies on the basis of its religious beliefs, then it is denied the ability to operate on the basis of those beliefs. The "big three" issues for religious schools are the freedoms to maintain admission, hiring, and student services on the basis of religious conviction. By asking about student housing, the Chief Justice asked one of the most practical questions involved in student services. The same principles would apply to the admission of students and the hiring of faculty. All three are now directly threatened. The Solicitor General admitted that these liberties will be "accommodated" or not depending on how states define their laws. And the laws of the states would lose relevance the moment the federal government adopts its own law.

While that answer may give some hope that institutions would be protected in conservative states and by a Republican-majority Congress prepared to block such legislation, we've seen here in Tulsa how faux conservatives like Dewey Bartlett Jr and G. T. Bynum and openly liberal Republicans like Blake Ewing are quite willing to impose such laws on their conservative constituents, and how quick alleged conservatives like Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson were to cave to pressure from big businesses to drop religious liberty protections. Even if such legislation is blocked, you can expect that someone would file a federal suit claiming unjust discrimination and citing Obergefell as a precedent.

In that same column, Mohler describes warnings first sounded ten years ago about the conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty by Marc Stern, then of the American Jewish Congress, and George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley:

Back in 2005, long before the movement to legalize same-sex marriage had gained cultural momentum, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty held a forum on the question of gay marriage and religious freedom. The forum included major legal theorists on both sides of the marriage issue. What united most of the legal experts was the consensus that same-sex marriage would present a clear and present danger to the rights of those who would oppose gay marriage on religious grounds.

Marc D. Stern, then representing the American Jewish Congress, put the matter directly:

"The legalization of same-sex marriage would represent the triumph of an egalitarian-based ethic over a faith-based one, and not just legally. The remaining question is whether champions of tolerance are prepared to tolerate proponents of a different ethical vision. I think the answer will be no."

That was a prophetic statement, as we can now see. Stern continued:

"Within certain defined areas, opponents of gay rights will be unaffected by an embrace of same-sex marriage. But in others, the impact will be substantial. I am not optimistic that, under current law, much can be done to ameliorate the impact on religious dissenters."....

The crippling effects of a loss of tax-exempt status was acknowledged at the Becket Fund event by Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School. "The debate over same-sex marriage," he explained, "has become for the twenty-first century what the abortion debate was for the twentieth century: a single, defining issue that divides the country in a zero-sum political battle."

Consider his words:

"Many organizations attract members with their commitment to certain fundamental matters of faith or morals, including a rejection of same-sex marriage or homosexuality. It is rather artificial to tell such groups that they can condemn homosexuality as long as they are willing to hire homosexuals as a part of that mission. It is equally disingenuous to suggest that denial of such things as tax exemption does not constitute a content-based punishment for religious views."

Okie Boogie remix

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A reader sends along this interesting remix of "Oakie Boogie" by a Bristol-based DJ called Howla. (That's Bristol, England -- another indication of the international audience for western swing and related genres of American music.)

The song "Oakie Boogie" (spelled "Okie Boogie" after the "a" was dropped from the toponym), written by western swing vocalist Johnny Tyler in 1947:

It was a #3 hit for Jack Guthrie the same year. Here he is singing "Oakie Boogie" in his only film appearance

Five years later Ella Mae Morse, accompanied by legendary steel guitarist and sometime Tulsan Speedy West, recorded a version, arranged by Nelson Riddle, that reached #23 on the charts, and that's the version sampled by Howla.

A word about the songwriter, Johnny Tyler: The same year he recorded "Oakie Boogie" with his own band, he did a couple of recording sessions with Luke Wills and His Rhythm Busters for RCA. Luke Wills, the third-eldest of the four Wills brothers, helped meet the demand for Bob Wills music with his own touring band covering California and the west. Many of the Texas Playboys performed and recorded with Luke's band, moving between the two bands as needed -- the Luke Wills discography includes Texas Playboys greats like guitarists Eldon Shamblin and Junior Barnard (sometimes together!), pianist Millard Kelso, fiddlers Joe Holley and Cotton Thompson, drummer Johnny Cuviello, and Tommy Duncan's little brother Glynn Duncan. When Bob Wills hired Herb Remington in 1946 to play steel guitar, he sent the incumbent steel player, Roy Honeycutt, to Luke's band.

When RCA signed Luke to a recording contract, they paired him with vocalist Tommy Doss for several sessions. While Doss later found fame as a cowboy balladeer, taking Bob Nolan's place when he retired from Sons of the Pioneers, his nasal, tremulous voice wasn't a good fit for western swing:

(This page claims that Bob Wills discovered Doss in 1948 and hired him to tour with the Texas Playboys to replace the recently fired Tommy Duncan. But Doss had recorded "At the End of the Lane" and "Moonlight on the Prairie" with the Texas Playboys on the May 30-31, 1947, Tiffany Transcriptions session in San Francisco, and he recorded with Luke Wills in July, October, and November 1947, so he would have already been well known to the extended Wills musical family.)

After the July 1947 session with Tommy Doss on vocals, Luke Wills moved Doss to guitar and Johnny Tyler from guitar to vocals for the October and November sessions. For a direct contrast, Here's Tommy Doss with Luke Wills and His Rhythm Busters on "High Voltage Gal," preceded by "Cain's Stomp" -- a new version of "Osage Stomp," the first song the Texas Playboys ever recorded.

Now here's the same song and same band, with Johnny Tyler on vocals. (Embedding is disabled so you'll have to go to the link.)

The Center for Medical Progress has begun releasing video and documents from its two-and-a-half-year investigation of Planned Parenthood and the sale of body parts from aborted babies.

The first undercover video released is of a lunch meeting with Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Senior Director of Medical Services, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. While enjoying a glass of wine and a salad, she casually discusses the care taken in dismembering a baby so that the desired parts can be harvested, using ultrasound to decide which parts to crush. Nucatola describes changing the "presentation" of a baby to breech position to make it easier to extract the baby's head -- "calvarium" as she euphemistically calls it. What she describes is essentially the same techniques used in illegal partial-birth abortion. The sale of fetal tissue is also a violation of Federal law.

As expected, pro-abortion ghouls claim that the video has been misleadingly edited, so CMP has released unedited footage -- the full 2 hour, 42 minute, 22 second lunch meeting. You can read the transcript of the unedited footage here.

On the documents page, CMP presents original source material -- orders and fulfillment for fetal body parts, ads enticing abortion clinics to enter into "financially profitable" partnerships with companies that are seeking the organs of aborted babies, help-wanted ads and bonus payments for body-part harvesters.

Commenting on the news, columnist Matt Walsh points out that Planned Parenthood's harvesting and transfer of organs undermines a common pro-abortion talking point: "It's only a clump of cells!"

The fact that body parts are being "donated" clearly indicates that the child has a body with parts. It is not a blob nor a lump nor a ball nor a clump. It's a body. With organs. And limbs. A body. A body that is living. A body belonging to a member of the human species. A body that must be caused to stop living through a method that is commonly referred to as "killing."

Writing at RedState, Leon Wolf draws some conclusions about the fact that this practice is occurring and that so many Americans will defend it:

For decades, our elected officials and political leaders have indulged the polite fancy that conservatives and liberals both have similar, good-natured wishes for America at heart, with but honest, good-faith disagreements about the best policy means to achieve those shared ends.

It's time for that happy horsecrap to end....

And here is the problem - a pretty significant part of the country is essentially okay that this is happening. How do I know this? Because a sufficient mass of people in America sent back to office essentially the same cabal of Congresscritters who couldn't vote to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011, and furthermore re-elected the President in 2012 who campaigned in their favor. Get it? Forget taking actual legal action against Planned Parenthood, we (as in, the people who vote in elections in America), cannot even muster the will to elect politicians who will stop our tax dollars from going towards it.

What do people possessed of basic human decency have in common, politically or culturally, with the portion of America that can watch this video and either be actually glad about what it contains, or dismiss it with a shrug of the shoulders and a hearty "meh"?

Nothing at all, and it's time we stopped pretending otherwise.

Wolf closes with an excerpt from Richard Selzer's Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery about the lingering horror of encountering the remains of aborted babies on a city sidewalk, the result of a mishap in the disposal of "hazardous waste" from a hospital.


Douglas Wilson says the pro-life public needs to join in the pursuit of this story, turning up the heat on companies and non-profits who donate to Planned Parenthood and politicians who work to direct taxpayer dollars to them:

When Congress reconvenes this fall, we will no doubt have a pitched battle over federal funding for Planned Parenthood. This is as it should be, and a lot of money for PP is at stake. Compared to a military campaign, that battle will be the equivalent of besieging the capital city. But like a capital city, the walls there are thick and well-reinforced. Because we are ostensibly a democracy, that fortress is configured to look like it is open to your input. But for the most part, whenever an uproar starts, they are prepared to withstand it. They do withstand most of them. Most "marches on Washington" end, everybody goes home, and the Beltway Natives go back to being themselves. But sometimes real changes do happen. We want this to be one of those times.

So the principal of pursuit needs to be observed before the ultimate political battle is joined. Between now and then, we need to go after certain designated soft targets that are directly related to all this. Does your corporation give money to Planned Parenthood? In the light of these videos, you are certainly in a position to ask why. So why not ask why?

The moment is right, and the momentum is good. Nobody wants to defend what is going on in those videos. Look at the candidates for the Democratic nomination -- that's a crew that is willing to defend truckloads of indefensible things, and on this subject all of them have their heads down to study patterns in the carpet. And so the question must constantly be posed - do you want to support what is going on in those videos? The only possible answers are, "no, we should quit supporting them," or "yes, we should support them." But nobody wants to say "yes, we should support them." So ask the hard questions that require one response or the other....

A profile of David Daleiden, the young man who headed the 30-month investigation into Planned Parenthood and the marketing of organs from aborted babies:

"It is a paradox that we can't have laws that recognize unborn babies as human, and yet, it is their very humanness that makes them valuable for experimentation," Daleiden said in an interview last week with the Register.

"It is as if they [the biotech companies] are going on a treasure hunt for the heads or hearts of babies, but how much more valuable would those heads and hearts be if they were allowed to grow up and be a part of society?"...

It was while majoring in government at Claremont McKenna College in California that Daleiden received his first hint that the abortion industry was selling parts from aborted babies.

"I was working as a research assistant and attended a stem-cell conference as part of my job," he said. "The presenter mentioned using cells from an aborted baby for research. That got my attention. I thought, 'Wait a minute -- what?'"

Although he had been active in the pro-life movement since high school, before that moment, he had not thought about aborted babies being used in research.

That thought stayed with him. He continued his pro-life work, which included working as a citizen journalist investigating the abortion industry, and became the director of research for Live Action in 2008.

In 2013, at the age of 24, he founded the Center for Medical Progress to investigate in-depth bioethical issues. "Human Capital" is its first project....

According to Daleiden, although the biotech company incurs all the work and expenses involved in procuring the body parts, Planned Parenthood still charges a "specimen fee" for each one.

"Our investigators spent almost three years deeply imbedded with Planned Parenthood and their affiliates," Daleiden said. "And we heard from their own mouths, over and over, again and again, that they make money off of selling the parts of aborted babies and have a profit motive in doing so."

"Turning aborted babies into a revenue stream is an inhuman exploitation of the not fully dead," Daleiden said.

"They are saying that some unborn babies are more valuable dead than alive. It's a terrible, barbaric place for a democratic society to go."

On his HBO show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver provides an entertaining and enlightening encapsulation of America's ridiculous habit of taxpayer subsidies for sports stadiums.

MORE: The new Major League Baseball commissioner, perhaps inspired by the NFL holding LA relocation over the heads of existing NFL cities, sees the value in developing hungry potential new markets that can be used as a threat to get existing cities to pony up for new stadiums (emphasis added):

Manfred said MLB has compiled a list of cities that might be viable options through expansion or possible relocation from existing markets. Tampa Bay and Oakland have been mentioned as markets that could eventually risk losing their teams if their ongoing stadium issues are not resolved.

Manfred said the league remains hopeful that the Rays and Oakland Athletics will be able to obtain new ballparks without relocating, yet will examine other markets in case a team needs to move or the sport decides to expand.

The sport intends to "examine their viability, think about what we can do to make them more viable, so that we have business alternatives that are available to us," Manfred said.

Montreal, Charlotte, North Carolina, San Antonio, Portland, Oregon, Las Vegas, Oklahoma City, northern New Jersey, Mexico City or Monterrey, Mexico, are among the markets that could eventually land on baseball's radar as potential locations for new or relocated franchises.

From Wayne Sparkman's Today in PCA History blog, a talk on mountain climbing by J. Gresham Machen, founder of Westminster Seminary and what became the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Here are a few excerpts:

Can the love of the mountains be conveyed to those who have it not? I am not sure. Perhaps if a man is not born with that love it is almost as hopeless to try to bring it to him as it would be to explain what color is to a blind man or to try to make President Roosevelt understand the Constitution of the United States. But on the whole I do believe that the love of the mountains can at least be cultivated, and if I can do anything whatever toward getting you to cultivate it, the purpose of this little paper will be amply attained.

One thing is clear--if you are to learn to love the mountains you must go up them by your own power. There is more thrill in the smallest hill in Fairmount Park if you walk up it than there is in the grandest mountain on earth if you go up it in an automobile. There is one curious thing about means of locomotion--the slower and simpler and the closer to nature they are, the more real thrill they give. I have got far more enjoyment out of my two feet than I did out of my bicycle; and I got more enjoyment out of my bicycle than I ever have got out of my motor car; and as for airplanes--well, all I can say is that I wouldn't lower myself by going up in one of the stupid, noisy things! The only way to have the slightest inkling of what a mountain is is to walk or climb up it.

(Did you catch that excellent burn of FDR?) Machen details his many Alpine expeditions, his injuries and mishaps, concluding with his climb to the top of the Matterhorn in 1932, which led him to this meditation on the history of the lands he surveyed from that summit:

There, in that glorious round spread out before you, that land of Europe, humanity has put forth its best. There it has struggled; there it has fallen; there it has looked upward to God. The history of the race seems to pass before you in an instant of time, concentrated in that fairest of all the lands of the earth. You think of the great men whose memories you love, the men who have struggled there in those countries below you, who have struggled for light and freedom, struggled for beauty, struggled above all for God's Word. And then you think of the present and its decadence and its slavery, and you desire to weep. It is a pathetic thing to contemplate the history of mankind.

...It does seem to me that there can never be any true advance, and above all there can never be any true prayer, unless a man does pause occasionally, as on some mountain vantage ground, to try, at least, to evaluate the age in which he is living. And when I do that, I cannot for the life of me see how any man with even the slightest knowledge of history can help recognizing the fact that we are living in a time of sad decadence--a decadence only thinly disguised by the material achievements of our age, which already are beginning to pall on us like a new toy. When Mussolini makes war deliberately and openly upon democracy and freedom, and is much admired for doing so even in countries like ours; when an ignorant ruffian is dictator of Germany, until recently the most highly educated country in the world--when we contemplate these things I do not see how we can possibly help seeing that something is radically wrong....

What will be the end of that European civilization, of which I had a survey from my mountain vantage ground--of that European civilization and its daughter in America? What does the future hold in store? Will Luther prove to have lived in vain? Will all the dreams of liberty issue into some vast industrial machine? Will even nature be reduced to standard, as in our country the sweetness of the woods and hills is being destroyed, as I have seen them destroyed in Maine, by the uniformities and artificialities and officialdom of our national parks? Will the so-called "Child Labor Amendment" and other similar measures be adopted, to the destruction of all the decencies and privacies of the home? Will some dreadful second law of thermodynamics apply in the spiritual as in the material realm? Will all things in church and state be reduced to one dead level, coming at last to an equilibrium in which all liberty and all high aspirations will be gone? Will that be the end of all humanity's hopes? I can see no escape from that conclusion in the signs of the times; too inexorable seems to me to be the march of events.

But there is hope, expressed in a paragraph that deserves being committed to memory:

No, I can see only one alternative. The alternative is that there is a God--a God who in His own good time will bring forward great men again to do His will, great men to resist the tyranny of experts and lead humanity out again into the realms of light and freedom, great men, above all, who will be messengers of His grace. There is, far above any earthly mountain peak of vision, a God high and lifted up who, though He is infinitely exalted, yet cares for His children among men.

In recent years, social media has facilitated the rapid spread of outrage. A few representative cases:

In nearly every instance, a difference of opinion within a community becomes a topic of conversation for outsiders, who amplify the issue, creating a "shame storm" that pressures the community's leaders, unaccustomed to worldwide scrutiny, into acting precipitously. In some cases, the outrage has its origins entirely outside the community.

For example, the Deborah Brown School hair code case: The affected student was upset, because the code forbade wearing dreads. The parents backed the student rather than the school and called a local TV news, which was happy to have a juicy controversy to broadcast. The local news story was shared through social media, where posters vented, characterizing the African-American leadership of the school as a bunch of self-hating racists, insisting that the school's rules were unreasonable, and demanding that they be changed at once. Perhaps under pressure from donors or from the sponsoring university, the charter school caved and changed its rules.

Bloomberg columnist Megan McArdle wrote recently about the "shame storm" phenomenon:

Twitter makes it absurdly easy to shame someone. You barely have to take 30 seconds out of your day to make an outraged comment that will please your friends and hurt the person you've targeted. This means it is also absurdly easy to attack someone unfairly, without pausing to think about context -- or the effect you are having on another human being much like yourself. No matter what that person did, short of war crimes, you probably would not join a circle of thousands of people heaping abuse upon a lone target cowering in the center. But that is the real-world equivalent of what online shame-stormers do.

This sort of tactic may buy silence, though it is likely to be the most effective on people who already agree with you and simply said something infelicitous. What it cannot buy is community, beyond the bonds that build between people who are joined in collective hate. With the exception of Lehrer -- who clearly realized he'd done something wrong without needing to be told -- the people whom Ronson interviews do not think that they were the victims of perhaps excessively harsh justice; they think they were victims of abuse. They often recognize that they did something stupid, but they don't think they deserved to be fired after having their lives dissected and their character impugned by thousands of people who had never even met them.

Writing at The Federalist, Mark Fitch advises that the Internet amplifies the apparent size of the community of the outraged and that those claiming to be offended often are pretending -- what they really feel is a lust for power:

It is often quite easy to feel that you are greatly outnumbered and that the entire world is against you, particularly if you have the gall to air your beliefs in the public realm (or be caught in it, in this situation). Social media can seemingly explode with anger at your mention of a political or cultural position that goes against whatever the Video Music Awards are advocating this year. You are beset by Legion.

But are you, really? Two thousand people is a drop in the bucket of the overall population, but when they all turn and look at you it can feel overwhelming. While outrage is nothing new in cultural or political fights, the Internet's ability to allow individuals to reach people they have never met or places they have never been perpetrates an illusion. Memories Pizza was deluged with one-star ratings by people who had never been to the establishment or sampled its pizza.

It was recently revealed that nearly 70 percent of the criticism lobbed at Rush Limbaugh (which is ample) comes from a small group of activists that have devoted their lives to attempting to make his miserable. However, to view coverage of Limbaugh in television and Internet media, you would think that the entire country is listening and vastly offended at everything he says. You would see and hear what appear to be great swaths of civilization amassing against this radio host. But this is an illusion born of spirit, not of substance, and it is meant to influence the spirit of others. It is necessary to separate the corporeal reality from the illusory zeitgeist.

Few people have time to be so incensed, and those that do should not drive culture. Their offense is an illusion. Their feelings may matter to them, but need not drive discussions and certainly shouldn't attain such grandiose proportions. Ideas can be debated and talked through, and individuals who maintain a decorum of objective detachment can often find common ground. But fight with a spirit, with irrational rage, and there is no way to find commonality.

The anonymity of the Internet allows this illusion to truly reach its greatest power as a single individual can assume any number of Internet personas that can spew any amount of nonsense and vitriol with no accountability or personal reflection whatsoever. The pseudo-anger and the Internet's ability to instantaneously connect users can often give the impression of widespread outrage, when really hardly anyone has noticed.

We should treat the purveyors of social media outrage as the tantrum-throwing toddlers whose tactics they have adopted. The more they fuss, the longer it will be before their demands are considered (if ever).

Businesses and other organizations should proactively put in place policies that require an inviolable cooling-off period prior to action taken in response to public outcry. Leaders of organizations caught in the crosshairs of a social media frenzy need to insist calmly that any changes will be handled through the organization's normal processes, after the mandatory cooling-off period -- no sooner than 30 days after the frenzy has died down, which should be long enough that the mob gets distracted by the next outrage du jour and the organization can consider the matter carefully.

The organization should then calmly examine the consider the issue in terms of general principle. Is there a consistent principle or rule behind the demanded action? If we apply that rule consistently, what other actions would be required and what precedents would be set? If we take all those consistent actions, is the result really desirable, or should the rule be modified?

During the Brady Street / Brady District controversy, I suggested that the city appoint a commission to look at the history behind all of Tulsa's names, decide on criteria that make a name unacceptable, propose substitutes for unacceptable names (preserving, I hope, Tulsa's orderly street-naming and numbering system), and propose a means for covering the cost of renaming. The public would adopt or reject the renaming and its attendant costs by an up-or-down vote. I went through a catalog of names that, by the standards applied to Brady Street, would have to be changed.

Of course, the mob will resist any effort to generalize or take a deliberative approach to the outrage du jour. They are practicing Rule 13 of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals:

Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and 'frozen.'...any target can always say, 'Why do you center on me when there are others to blame as well?' When your 'freeze the target,' you disregard these [rational but distracting] arguments....

Local news editors can help dampen the effect of the mob by declining to "doorstep" the targets of these frenzies, pressuring them for a response. They should put themselves in the shoes of the business and organization leaders that have been targeted by the mob. Someday they may be targeted; wouldn't they want to be given space to respond after due deliberation?

One more thing: Most people who fly the Confederate flag nowadays do not do so to express hate. When the Confederate flag was painted on a car named "the General Lee" for a TV series it was not intended to express hatred toward anyone, but pride in Southern accents, Southern cooking, Southern folkways, and Southern hospitality. That an online mob can so quickly cow politicians and corporations into bowing to their will, based on the meaning they impose on this symbol, is a frightening thing, not a great day for America.

Who gets to decide what a symbol should mean? The Nazis used the Star of David as a symbol of shame and persecution. The Israelis took that star and fly it proudly on their national flag. The enemies of Israel consider that flag and that star to be symbols of racism and oppression. If the enemies of Israel demand the suppression of the Israeli flag and star, should retailers cooperate?

Happy Independence Day!

Take 10 minutes to listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence, from the Monticello website, read by Thomas Jefferson Williamsburg re-enactor Bill Barker.

founding.com has an annotated version of the Declaration of Independence, with links to explanations of the the specific historical context behind the text.

As today's 239th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence approached, I observed some ambivalence about the usual celebrations among conservative writers. In the last month, we have seen the rule of law turned on its head, with the judicial branch rewriting Obamacare to save it and inventing a new right while discarding precedent after precedent the legal basis upon which substantive due process claims were considered in the past. Like the Red Queen of Wonderland, the Court majority screamed "Sentence first, verdict after!" Having determined the desired outcome, they invented a tortured legal path to their destination. The ability of the people to decide their own laws was swept away. The people seem to have no recourse, no defense against this supra-legislature, this Washington oligarchy which not only fails to defend their rights but attacks them.

We may take a bit of comfort in the fact that this victory was achieved by deceiving the American people: Had the President been honest about his desire to redefine marriage, he would not have been nominated in 2008, much less elected, and would not have been in a position to advance to the Supreme Court lawyers who lied, under oath, about their opinions on the topic.

But there was deception on the other side, too. Americans kept electing Republicans who talked big about defending our liberties and reforming our runaway Federal government, but time and again they have demonstrated what might be generously called a lack of courage but what we fear is really intentional betrayal.

From Thomas Sowell:

When any branch of government can exercise powers not authorized by either statutes or the Constitution, "we the people" are no longer free citizens but subjects, and our "public servants" are really our public masters. And America is no longer America. The freedom for which whole generations of Americans have fought and died is gradually but increasingly being taken away from us with smooth and slippery words.

From law professor John Yoo:

Obergefell short-circuits the political process. Instead of campaigning to persuade majorities in each of the 50 states, as it had done in some states, gay-marriage advocates only had to convince five justices to impose a single rule on the nation. While many may welcome Obergefell's result, its method takes a fundamental question away from the realm of democratic self-government and transfers it into the hands of five men and women who never stand for election and hold their jobs for life....

But instead of allowing the political process to run its normal course, the Supreme Court decided to rewrite Obamacare. On behalf of a six-justice majority, Roberts concluded that Congress could not possibly have intended such a draconian limit on tax credits. It must have meant to give the subsidy to everyone, because that would have made for a more effective overhaul of the health-care system. In other words, the court ignored the plain text of the law passed by Congress to write a better one. The justices may have better legal talents than the average legislator, but our Constitution does not give them the responsibility to make the compromises and judgments reserved to the legislative process.

Sadly, Roberts penned the central dissent in Obergefell on the ground that the majority was rewriting the Constitution. "Under the Constitution," he wrote, "judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be." But if he wonders where his colleagues got the idea to assume the power of a supra-legislature, he need only look at his own opinion in King v. Burwell. This fault, however, is not his own, or in our stars, but is common to a court that is slowly, but surely, taking away the right of our democracy to govern itself.

Even at the local level we see elected officials, the Fairfax County, Va., school board, in this case, acting like an oligarchy, insisting upon using the public schools to indoctrinate children in the mores of the Sexual Revolution, over the protests of the public that put them into office.


Should we celebrate this 4th of July?

Luma Simms, who immigrated from Iraq as a child, says she's celebrating the 4th differently this year:

After the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision, I've been ruminating over my naturalized home and wondering if there's a way to give my children a better life, the way my parents assumed that coming to America would give me a better life. The morality of Obergefell is one issue. But beneath all that, what has deeply concerned me is the stark lawlessness of it all....

The fourth of July celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was never just an excuse for a backyard barbecue for me. It was a day I observed with deep gratitude and a certain amount of solemnity. It was a celebration of what our predecessors in this land had done, the course they had set us on and the paths they had opened for us.

The Declaration of Independence says some truths are self-evident. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court say that we make up our own truths....

The Declaration of Independence says we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court overlook the real and true rights human beings possess and say that man gives man rights--worse, that they as the high court of this country are the ones which posit what is a right and what is not, as their reality changes faster than any written law they might be called upon to interpret....

The Declaration of Independence says that among the rights our Creator God gives us are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Five justices of the Supreme Court of these United States have said and continue to say that life is not a universal right. That women can end the life of a child in their wombs. They have upheld and continue to hold to decisions that undermine the life of the weak, the poor, and the outcast. They say: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life," yet they deny those being killed the right to even suggest they might have a concept of existence that includes themselves. In short, these five reduce the "pursuit of Happiness" to access to sex without boundaries.

The Declaration of Independence says government derives just power from the consent of the governed. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have trod upon the people's voice and have usurped power for themselves.

So, as I read the Declaration this year, I boldly affirm its words. There has indeed been "a long train of abuses and usurpations" by this court. They have undermined and invalidated the legal and ethical foundations our Founders went to war to win for us, their posterity. And this makes my celebration this year more a focus on the inspired spirit of man that would stand and recite to the world not only the litany of injustices that its "leaders" exercise upon the people daily, but the logical conclusion of these injustices: that the people could suffer them no longer.

The blogger called "Weirddave," who has been writing a series on fundamental concepts at Ace of Spades HQ, acknowledges the problem:

There is really no argument about it, the fundamental principles upon which this nation was formed have been eroded or eclipsed to the point where the greatest Democratic Republic in history, a model for the world and a beacon for freedom, is now nothing more than another damned dirty Oligarchy, impoverished peons subservient to a greedy ruling class. In short, we've reverted to the norm. American exceptionalism is dead because America isn't exceptional anymore, we're just like all the rest of the countries in the world, just like all the rest of the countries throughout history. We are no longer sovereign citizens, we're are subjects of a ruling elite.

...The Fourth of July holiday celebrates the Declaration of Independence, the document where America declared it's freedom and boldly stated it's grievances against an out of touch ruling elite. We'll have fireworks, fellowship, celebration, and community. Flags will be raised, rockets shot, anthems sung and BBQ eaten. It's all one great big orgy of Americana, and although most people aren't even aware of it, they are celebrating a dead letter, an antiquated concept, an ideal that has been killed by an unelected cadre of black robed tyrants, cowardly legislators more interested in power than oaths and an executive drunk on the power to destroy everything that he is honor bound to safeguard. It's Independence Day! Time to celebrate our independence from the values that made us great! Who cares? It sure feels good, don't it?

You don't buy the idea that America is ruled by an oligarchy alienated from its people? How else would you describe a situation where five robed judges dismiss the opinion of the majority of the public, an opinion shared by nearly every age and society, as grounded in irrational animus, and use that contempt as a basis for invalidating laws passed by Congress and a majority of the states.

The writer calls on Americans to remember their birthright, as set out in the Declaration of Independence, and he urges his readers to Read the Whole Thing. After reprinting the text of the Declaration, he continues:

That document was written 239 years ago by an assembly of the brightest human minds ever joined for one purpose in the history of mankind. Those men accepted the challenge presented by an uncontrolled aristocracy seeking to rule over all people, as had been the case throughout history, and calmly and clearly destroyed the idea of an oligarchy. What a brilliant victory for mankind, for liberty, for freedom for self expression.

Unfortunately you and I are living in the era of Revolution 2: The Oligarchy Strikes Back. Make no mistake, the oligarchy has struck back, hard. Most of the freedoms guaranteed to We The People by the follow up document to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, have been abandoned or overturned.... A small cadre of elites, both elected and unelected, has managed to almost completely gut the rights that we are born with. They have succeeded because we have been too busy to notice, or too lazy, or too afraid. The majority of us, Nock's "Mass Man" (what we call LIVs today), have been complicit in their own enslavement. All of this has already come to pass. It is done. Over. Finished.

He urges us to reread the catalog of tyrannies, the facts the Founders "submitted to a candid world" and to note how many apply to us today.Then he challenges us with the memory of the Founders and those who followed in the defense of liberty:

We stand metaphorically on a dusty battlefield of American history. Around us lie the tattered remains of various flags that other Americans have held high as they did their bit to establish or preserve the birthright; Gadsden. Goliad. Gonzalez. Culpeper. 1st Naval Jack. Appeal to Heaven. Behind us the dark eyes of those who came before us watch, in each eye a silent question burns: "What are you made of?". The time has come. We must answer that question with our Lives, our Fortune and our sacred Honor.

A reader asked columnist Matt Walsh to write something upbeat for Independence Day, something to remind everyone that America is still great. Walsh demurred:

I could write patronizing, pandering nonsense telling you everything is fine, this country is awesome, and the future will be bright and filled with lollipops and puppy dog farts. But what good would it do, besides win me some PR points? If you want hope, it needs to be planted firmly in truth, or else it's like administering morphine while you die of kidney failure. It'll make you feel better for a time, but it won't save you....

Walsh cites a long list of indicators of cultural decline and argues against any claim to national greatness based on the past or any hope for future greatness based on a vain belief in national destiny:

But it's a matter of historical record that America was a great country, and an exceptional one. And it's also a fact that the historical record is just that -- history. We have to stop resting on the laurels of our great-grandparents and pretending that somehow, because they came off the boat from wherever and persevered through the Depression, we get to mooch off their greatness for eternity. Frankly, our great-grandparents would be disgusted at our country now, and ashamed of it, and of us. Their greatness was their own. We don't deserve it and have not earned it....

Yesterday someone on Twitter told me that America will "always" be great, no matter what happens or what we do. Others have insisted it's divine destiny that America reclaim its greatness. But this kind of talk isn't patriotic; it's paganism. It paints this country like it's literally the Kingdom of God. As if, out of all the thousands of countries that have existed since the dawn of time, ours is the first that really will last forever. This is to make Americanism into a religion. It's idolatry. It's foolishness, especially considering the Romans and the Greeks felt exactly the same way yet even they were evidently wrong.

We have no guarantees, nor should we seek them. The Lord, in His wisdom, might see fit to smite America from the Earth, like Sodom and Gomorrah. Can't say I'd blame Him. Or maybe He will lead us through this dark age to true greatness. I don't know.

(Looking at the history of the 20th century, it's as if we suddenly decided, sometime after World War II, that civilization was nice and all, but it's hard work, so let's chuck it.)

We ought to celebrate Independence Day for the sake of honoring and being stirred to action by the memory of those who put everything at risk for the sake of liberty, while humbly and soberly acknowledging that we have fallen far short of preserving their legacy.

We ought to celebrate Independence Day, because the Declaration of Independence represents ideals worth celebrating, ideals that are opposed by the architects of our national decline.

A writer at Vox posted yesterday that we should regard American independence as a tragic mistake. The post was riddled with historical inaccuracies, but the gist of it was that this whole checks-and-balances thing gets in the way of Progress like restrictions on fossil fuels.

Yesterday, a friend who works in Christian campus ministry posted an approving link to a Native American activist who blogged about how he made a stink about a chain restaurant's display of the Declaration of Independence. He made a stink because the Declaration includes the words "Merciless Indian Savages," which he claims means that the "foundations of the United States of America are blatantly unjust."

When our server, who was also Native, came to the table, I asked if I could show him something. I stood up and pointed out that 30 lines below the famous quote "All men are created equal," the Declaration of Independence refers to Natives as "merciless Indian savages."

The irony was that the restaurant was filled with Native American customers and employees. And there in plain sight, a poster hanging on the wall was literally calling all of us "savages."

That's literally untrue, and it's telling that he chooses not to quote the entire sentence containing that phrase:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

It is the last item in the Declaration's list of grievances against King George III, and from "has endeavoured" to the end of the sentence, the words are straight out of Thomas Jefferson's "rough draught."

George III had, through his agents in America, stirred up rebellions among slaves and attacks against the colonists by certain Indian tribes. This was not out of any British love for slaves or Indians; these groups were convenient proxies to harass the colonists. This statement is an indictment aimed at George III, not Indians. (Ignore the commas, which were not applied in 1776 with the same rules used today.) The phrase "merciless Indian savages" is qualified by the restrictive clause "whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."

This sentence tells us what the Continental Congress thought of the particular Indian nations who were incited by the British against the settlers; it says nothing about what the Congress thought of other Indian groups or about Indians generally. The same American founder who wrote the phrase in question wrote the following in his first State of the Union:

Among our Indian neighbors also a spirit of peace and friendship generally prevails, and I am happy to inform you that the continued efforts to introduce among them the implements and the practice of husbandry and of the household arts have not been without success; that they are becoming more and more sensible of the superiority of this dependence for clothing and subsistence over the precarious resources of hunting and fishing, and already we are able to announce that instead of that constant diminution of their numbers produced by their wars and their wants, some of them begin to experience an increase of population.

Those are not the words of a bigot or a racist.

And yet the activist in question stretches a specific phrase referring to specific people who had attacked innocent settlers so that he can conclude that the "Declaration of Independence is a systemically racist document" along with the rest of our founding documents, and therefore of course the whole system must be overthrown.

The institutions of this nation may be systemically racist, but I do not believe a majority of the citizens are. However, in a nation that is systemically racist, anti-racism is less about personal racist attitudes and more about a willingness to change the system.

(He also misreads the apportionment clause of the Constitution to bolster his case. But Indians weren't counted toward apportionment not because they weren't seen as human, as he claims, but because they were citizens of other sovereign nations and therefore not taxed. And he claims that American settlers, including the Protestant dissenters who settled Plymouth Colony, were really carrying out a 15th century papal bull to subjugate the pagans.)

It is sad that a manipulative misreader of American history with a radical political agenda can gain a hearing among goodhearted people like my friend. Does this also indicate a problem with modern American evangelicalism -- having internalized the Leftist guilt trip and anxious not to seem wedded to political conservativism for the sake of reaching Millenials, must they credulously accept whatever Leftist grievance-mongers claim?

The only antidote is for Americans to understand our history -- not the malevolent caricature concocted by the Left, but the original documents and context -- and to be unafraid to correct the misconceptions being promoted by professional ax-grinders.

In a similar context in 2007, Michael Medved wrote:

The notion that unique viciousness to Native Americans represents our "original sin" fails to put European contact with these struggling Stone Age societies in any context whatever, and only serves the purposes of those who want to foster inappropriate guilt, uncertainty and shame in young Americans.

One of the most urgent needs in culture and education for the United States of America is discarding the stupid, groundless and anti-American lies that characterize contemporary political correctness.

Rush Limbaugh, Jr., father of the radio talk show host, wrote an essay on the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, "The Americans Who Risked Everything":

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

It is reasonable to be disappointed in the direction of our national culture, but we should rekindle the Spirit of '76 in our own hearts. We should reacquaint ourselves with the words of the Declaration of Independence and the brave men who signed their names to it, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, and we should resolve to be as bold in the defense of our liberties as they were.

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