Archive for the Politics Category

Anyone paying attention to the news knows that 2010 is shaping up to be a Republican year.  A growing grass-roots backlash against the Democrats is reflected in both election results and polls.  But one should never underestimate the ability of the GOP to blow an advantage, and here’s an example of why — they don’t understand the power of narrative.  The left is expert at setting up narrative lines that provide the structure for media coverage of events.  Facts that play into the narrative get picked up, repeated, elaborated.  Facts that run counter to the narrative are ignored, suppressed, abandoned.  And the narratives are almost always ones that benefit the left and damage the right.

One of the narratives the left has been setting up recently is the classic “conservatives are just a bunch of racist rednecks”.  They’ve been particularly anxious to set this frame up around the Tea Party movement in the hopes of scaring off and/or driving away the independent voters who have been attracted by the Tea Party’s message of fiscal responsibility, but they’ll use it on mainstream Republicans too.  It never gets old.  Now, if you want to fight a narrative line, you must not do anything that feeds into it and gives it credibility.  Any fact that even seems to support the narrative may be seized upon, repeated endlessly as ‘proof’ of its accuracy, and used to cement its power in the upcoming news cycle.

In light of the above, I now present to you Bob McDonnell, the recently-elected governor of Virginia.

Idiot.

Rick Moran writes, of the Tea Parties, that he has “been very critical of those in the tea party movement who seek to use anger and fear as a wedge to gain support for their cause.”  The implicit assumption here is that anger is somehow an inappropriate response to recent political events.  Excuse me?  Let’s take one example: ObamaCare.  In my judgment, the Democrats passed a bill which was:

  • Profoundly immoral.
  • Ruinously impractical.
  • Defended mendaciously.
  • Supported corruptly.
  • Enacted through procedural abuse, in the face of strong public opposition.

Exactly which of these things should I not be angry about?  Anger is a response to perceived injustice.  Condemning anger means one of two things: either the object of the anger is not in fact an injustice, or we should be emotionally indifferent to questions of right and wrong.

Moran goes on to note that “that reason wins a lot more converts than screaming” — which is true.  But reason and anger are not mutually exclusive.  The appropriate response to our current political situation is anger, rationally grounded. It is the rational identification of the facts which gives rise to the anger, and the anger provides the motivation to act to correct the injustice.  This is not an academic exercise.  Our lives are, quite literally, at stake.  If we’re not allowed to get emotional about that, when is anger appropriate?

I just received the following e-mail from my father, which I assume is circulating around the underbelly of the Internet. (I have edited it lightly, mostly by removing repetitions of the line about “Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. I got the point the first time, thanks.)

Subject: This makes sense to me!

I think we should print this off and send it to our congressmen…..over and over again until they “get it”!!!

THIS IS HOW YOU FIX CONGRESS!!!!!

Congressional Reform Act of 2010

  1. Term Limits: 12 years only, one of the possible options below.
    1. Two Six year Senate terms
    2. Six Two year House terms
    3. One Six year Senate term and three Two Year House terms
  2. No Tenure / No Pension: A congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.
  3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security: All funds in the Congressional retirement fund moves to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system; Congress participates with the American people.
  4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan just as all Americans.
  5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
  6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
  7. Congress and the President must equally abide in all laws they impose on the American people. Signing statements will not be used nor honored.
  8. All contracts with past and present congressmen are void effective 1/1/11. The American people did not make this contract with congressmen, congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

If you agree with the above, pass it on to all in your address list. If not, just delete.

I thought that, as a list of proposed solutions to the problems afflicting our government, this largely misses the point.  Herewith, my response.

That stuff feeds an emotional desire for vengence, but doesn’t really address the fundamental problem.

The Founding Fathers envisioned a government whose sole function was the protection of the individual rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness; the purpose of the Constitution was to establish such a government, with powers limited to those necessary and proper to the fulfillment of that end.  Our government has thrown off those restrictions, arrogating effectively unlimited power to itself.  Our leaders are contemptuous of the very idea that the Constitution limits their power — you may or may not have noticed the derision with which House Speaker Pelosi dismissed a question regarding the constitutional authority enabling a government takeover of the health care system.  (She said that “wasn’t a serious question” and refused to answer it.)

Unsurprisingly, the power we have allowed our government to amass attracts unsavory people, whose personalities are marred by narcissism and power-lust.  Is it surprising that such people fasten themselves to jobs that give them the power they lust for, refuse to give them up, and proceed to act as rulers while treating the American people as serfs?

As long as you have a pot of honey, you will have flies attracted to it.  You can’t stop the process by putting a lid on the pot — you have to get rid of the honey.  Restore the limitations on the government’s power.  A Congress that has no authority beyond protecting the individual rights of the people would be a Congress with no ability to dispense favors to favored constituents or special interests.  Such a government would not need multi-trillion dollar budgets, and would not be in a position to bail out the connected or punish the productive when they refuse to abase themselves.

It is widely acknowledged today that our government is thoroughly corrupt — but what does that really mean?  A government action is corrupt when it directs government power and resources to an inappropriate end.  But since the proper end of government is the protection of individual rights, this means that any government action not directed to that end is inherently corrupt — and that is 90%+ of what the government does today.  Corruption is the norm, not the exception, and the problem is not structural, but functional — specifically, that our government officials have lost their understanding of what their proper function *is*.

If we wish to reclaim our government and halt the ongoing theft of the liberties envisioned for us by the Founders, this is the issue we must push.  We must insist that our Congressmen understand the purpose of their jobs, and we must replace those who reject that purpose with new Congressmen who do.  This job starts by finding such candidates and supporting them in the upcoming primaries, wherever possible.  I suggest contacting your local Tea Party organization as a good starting place.

Look, cretins.  They’re either money, or they aren’t.  You don’t get to have it both ways.  Or at least you wouldn’t, if the world hadn’t gone insane and decided the law of identity is politically negotiable.

I assume the motivation here is that the state government has financial obligations it can’t fob off with IOUs; if they were to accept them for tax payments they’d get eaten alive by Gresham’s Law.  Still, I have no sympathy.  If you go long enough spending wealth that doesn’t actually exist, you burn through your savings and go bankrupt.  Reality wins.  Every time.

One of the criticisms surrounding Barack Obama is whether or not the man is actually eligible to be president.  The US Constitution states:

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Obama’s biological father was Kenyan.  His mother was born in Kansas and has always been an American citizen.  All very well.

‘So what’s the problem?’ you might well ask.  That’s pretty much what I want to know.

But there are a number of people, apparently enough of them to form a named group (“Birthers”), who claim that Obama is not a natural-born citizen.  The primary claim, as far as I can tell, is that he was born in Kenya.  This, despite the fact that the man has a birth certificate from Hawaii (which is where he was actually born) and that the certificate’s authenticity has been verified numerous times by multiple parties.

Birthers claim the Hawaii certificate is forged.  Okay, then where is his Kenyan one?  Assuming, of course, that there is even any evidence that the Hawaiian one is a forgery.

Here’s the best part: it doesn’t matter if it is.  Obama’s mother, being an American citizen at the time of his birth, makes him a natural-born citizen no matter where in the world he is born.  That’s the way American law works.  No one disputes Ann Dunham’s citizenship (as far as I’m aware).  His father’s country of citizenship doesn’t matter.  It wouldn’t even matter if Obama had been born in Kenya.  He’d still be a natural-born citizen.

But Birthers are pretty adamant about this:

These people are crazier than squirrels with their heads stuck in a dog food can.

But it got me to wondering.  In the face of such obvious evidence, to persist in their vitriol suggests that the real motive for their anger is not Obama’s country of birth.  It must be something else.  In this video, the touchstones are “my ancestors fought in wars for this country” and the Pledge of Allegiance (the meaning of which obviously escapes these people).

Are we seeing nothing more than pure racism?  “I don’t want a nigger for President”?  But they know they can’t say that out loud.  Or, more precisely, they’re afraid to admit to themselves what really motivates them.  Is this apparent insanity the logical manifestation of a culture where it is believed that changing how people talk will change how they think?  Outlawing the word “nigger” doesn’t make people stop being racist.  It just sends that racism underground, to seethe and foment and seek other avenues of expression that are more acceptable.

I don’t know a great deal about Delaware’s social customs or cultural origins, but I wouldn’t generally call them Southerners (despite the accent of the shrill woman in the video).  The Southerners I’ve encountered over the years are pretty blunt about their racism (if they are racist, which most of them are not) and are not afraid to use the words that go with it.

Birthers are, then, a possible window into the consequences of a culture where speech is regulated (and don’t kid yourself about that).  They may also be an example of jingoistic craziness, which is also still alive and well in this country.

This irritates me:

A Canadian astronaut on a six-month stay aboard the international space station said on Sunday it looks like Earth’s ice caps have melted a bit since he was last in orbit 12 years ago.

Bob Thirsk said that there is a “very thin veil of atmosphere around the Earth that keeps us alive … Most of the time when I look out the window I’m in awe. But there are some effects of the human destruction of the Earth as well,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

“This is probably just a perception, but I just have the feeling that the glaciers are melting, the snow capping the mountains is less than it was 12 years ago when I saw it last time,” Thrisk was quoted as saying. “That saddens me a little bit.”

It’s “probably just a perception” and he “has a feeling”, eh?  Oh that’s solid scientific evidence right there.  He actually used instruments from space to somehow measure the amount of ice on the surface of the earth?  No?  Yeah that’s what I thought.

Why is this bullshit even reported?  Why is an astronaut, supposedly a highly trained, intelligent, scientifically-minded individual, offering a totally subjective opinion about something that he is in no position (figuratively or literally) to have information about?  His education is in mechanical engineering and medicine (he’s an MD).  What the hell does he know about polar ice?

Naturally, we can expect the viros to latch onto this throwaway opinion as “evidence” of global warming or some shit.

Interestingly, we don’t really need that evidence.  It is true that the data show a general warming trend over the past 100 years or so.  It is also true that polar ice volumes are changing, apparently getting smaller, and that glaciers are moving and losing volume.

What is NOT clear, however, is the cause.  The link between global CO2 levels and global temperatures is actually reversed from what is commonly believed.  That is, the temperature went up, and THEN the CO2 levels increased.  CO2 increase is not causal.  And yes, I am aware of the so-called refutations of this conclusion:

The reason has to do with the fact that the warmings take about 5000 years to be complete. The lag is only 800 years. All that the lag shows is that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend. The other 4200 years of warming could in fact have been caused by CO2, as far as we can tell from this ice core data. 

So basically, this guy is saying that a warming cycle takes 5000 years to complete, and yet we have somehow concluded that the earth is warming up because of human activity just within the past 100 years?  That makes no sense.  Also, the assertion that warming “could” have been caused by CO2, is dishonest, because it is speculation with no data to support it.  I’m not a geoscientist, but the article in question seems intentionally circuitous and misleading.  If anyone cares to explain more clearly the position being advocated, I’m interested.

Then there’s the famous “hockey stick graph” that supposedly shows a dramatic increase in global temperatures over the past thousand years.  It is highly flawed, one might even conclude intentionally so, and is no longer considered valid.

So what exactly is my point here?  My point is, the data we have indicate that we are in the early stages of a trend that is normal for this planet over many past millennia.  Whether or not human activity is contributing is something we are not able to discern.  Astronaut Thirsk is showing an unscientific and unsupportable bias in his statements that serves no purpose other than to be inflammatory and perpetuate an irrational belief about human civilization and the planet we live on.  It is beneath him as a scientist and a human being to speak this way, given his highly public occupation.

You folks may be aware of an incident that happened in Cambridge, Massachusetts recently.  A Harvard scholar named Louis Gates, Jr. was observed by a neighbor shoulder-forcing the door of his own home at night after returning from a trip and being unable to find his keys.  Crucial of note here is the fact that the neighbor didn’t know that it was Gates himself, and that Gates is black (and apparently famous even though I never heard of the guy).  The cops show up, responding to a possible break in at a residence.  Gates refuses to show identification (according to the police report) and becomes belligerent.  He calls the cop a racist, pulls out the “do you know who I am” card, and finally gets arrested for disorderly conduct.

There are a number of interesting details about this story.  One is that Gates is supposedly some famous Harvard “black scholar”, whatever that exactly means.  Another is that the cop refuses to apologize for how he conducted the situation:

Crowley, however, has refused to apologize, and he told the radio station he did nothing wrong. He added he was surprised that a man as educated as Gates would start yelling epithets about Crowley’s mom, part of the incident that never made it into the police report.

“That apology will never come. It won’t come from me as Jim Crowley. It won’t come from me as a sergeant in the police department,” Crowley told WEEI. 

“I know what I did was right. I have nothing to apologize for,” he added.

This is 100% pure awesome.  This is exactly how the cop should respond to this situation.  Indeed, he did nothing wrong and acted properly.  I mean come on.  Somebody reports a guy busting into a house, the cop knows a lot of things could await him at the scene.  A burglar might be there.  The homeowner might be in trouble.  It’s entirely possible that people could still be in the house without the homeowner’s knowledge after the cop arrives.

The officer has to make sure he knows who he’s talking to.  That requires ID.  He’s checking to see if the person he’s dealing with is, in fact, the resident of the home.  Then he has to check the house to make sure nobody unauthorized is there.  Officer Crowley was alone when he first responded, so he had Gates come outside onto the porch, for his safety and for Gates’ safety, and waited for backup.

But the only thing on Gates’ mind is that some white cop is hassling him for being a black man, and he won’t shut the fuck up about it:

“I can’t believe that an individual policeman on the Cambridge police force would treat any African-American male this way, and I am astonished that this happened to me; and more importantly I’m astonished that it could happen to any citizen of the United States, no matter what their race,” Gates wrote.

“I would sooner have believed the sky was going to fall from the heavens than I would have believed this could happen to me. It shouldn’t have happened to me, and it shouldn’t happen to anyone,” Gates continued.

You would think, from the level of whaargarbl in this response, that the cop had randomly stopped him while he was walking down the street and proceeded to arrest him for being a negro in the wrong part of town.  The officer responded to a disturbance, acted in the best interest of everyone there, and this is the thanks he gets?  What if it hadn’t been Gates, and the officer had ignored the call and the house had been robbed?  What if Gates was being held hostage by armed thugs in his house?  He could be dead, or worse.

The whole thing got worse when Obama decided to offer his totally unnecessary and uninformed opinion on the matter:

Asked about the incident, Obama, who is friends with the professor and documentary filmmaker, told reporters at a Wednesday night press conference that he didn’t know all the facts. But he said, “the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.”

Later, a press secretary tried to spin it to be a little less insulting:

“Cooler heads should have prevailed. That’s what the president denoted,” he said. “He was not calling the officer stupid. The situation got out of hand.”

No, I’m pretty sure that this comes perilously close to Obama simply calling the cop a racist without actually saying it in those words.  As for Crowley being surprised that Gates would insult his mother, call him a racist, and say “You don’t know who you’re messing with”, he shouldn’t be.  Gates is just one of that class of elitist, leftist oligarchs in our society who thinks that everyone should recognize him and accord him some kind of deference based on that.

The fact that Gates has a PhD in English Lit and a BA in History (neither is from Harvard, he just teaches there) is no guarantee that he has manners, or, ironically, class.  It’s not even a guarantee that he has any common sense, wisdom, or sense of fucking perspective.

So, Officer Crowley, you go right on ahead telling people to shut the hell up, including the President of the United States.  You acted correctly and Gates is being a whiny bitch whose shit suddenly got real.

Kyle tends to give good advice. Following my message to the White House conveying my displeasure regarding Obama’s support of Zelaya, Kyle suggested that I balance that out by letting the Honduran Embassy in DC know that I support their decision to remove Zelaya from power.  So I sent the following message:

As an American, I want to let you know that not all Americans support President Obama in his attempts to return Manuel Zelaya to power. We know that Zelaya is a criminal, that he was trying to circumvent the Honduran Constitution, and that he is no friend of freedom or the rule of law.

I am angry that Obama supports Zelaya, but not surprised. I have sent a message to the White House expressing my disapproval. Hopefully my countrymen will do the same.

Hondurans, take comfort in knowing that not everyone is against you. Many of us support your decision to remove Zelaya. You are doing the right thing, and his removal is just. He should not be allowed to return. Ignore the rest of the world; they are fools who believe in dictators. Stand strong and do not give in.

I do not know if the sentiment will be appreciated, but I feel better for sending it.  Balancing the negative with the positive — it’s good for me as well as for them.

I just sent this letter to the White House through their comment form at whitehouse.gov.  I am thoroughly disgusted with the United States’ support of that socialist thug.

Mr. President,

I am angry and disappointed that your administration supports Manuel Zelaya in returning to power in Honduras.  It is clear that Zelaya violated Honduran law in his failure to enact properly passed legislation in Congress, and it is also clear that as a friend of Hugo Chavez and Raul Castro, he is an enemy of freedom and democracy. He sought a referendum that would have removed term limits in the Honduran Constitution, thus cementing his power as dictator of that nation.  How can America support this?  Further, why are we interfering in what was clearly a legal and proper removal of a criminal from government?  They even managed it without anyone getting hurt.  Zelaya tried to return, and they blocked his plane from landing. They could have simply shot it out of the sky, and would have been fully justified in doing so, yet they did not.

You say that we should be impartial regarding other nations’ form of government. I disagree. We can and must be vocal defenders of liberty, and we should take every opportunity to denounce socialism and leftist thuggery no matter where it is found.

Mr. Obama, we should not be attempting to return Zelaya to power. We should be supporting the just rule of law in Honduras, and congratulating them on their successful defense of democracy in removing Zelaya.

I feel a sense of despair in being just one voice in this nation. I debate the merit in even sending such comments. Kyle points out that positions are counted, and the government does tally such things.  I presume this is true.  I have to, otherwise I succumb to apathy and disinterest like so many of my countrymen.

Yesterday, Anne and I swung by the San Jose Tea Party protest.  We didn’t have time to prepare anything, so we simply wandered around taking pictures and chatting with people.  I was fairly impressed with the turnout, considering that San Jose is a fairly liberal city in a very liberal state.  I know nothing about estimating crowd sizes, but the San Jose Mercury News reports the turnout at 1000.  (I’ve been told that the local talk radio station estimated 2000, but since they helped organize they’re likely to skew high.  So I’d guess somewhere in the middle.)  We don’t have a decent panoramic shot, but here’s a couple of the crowd:

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There were a lot of signs, ranging from the clearly home-made to the professionally printed.  The overall theme was, sadly, political, with objections to taxation, excessive government spending and rapidly increasing debt.  There was a lot of talk about what people were against, but much less about what people were for.  That’s a problem, which I’ll talk about a bit more towards the end of this post.

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Congress took some well-deserved hits for passing the so-called stimulus bill without actually reading it first.

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There were some people with a more positive message.  Nice to see a good word for capitalism.

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I didn’t see any giant puppets, but large revolutionary-era flags are always a winner.

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These guys probably win the award for “Longest Trip To The Protest”.  It must be scary to flee socialist oppression in one’s homeland only to witness the same thing rising in your new country, aided and abetted by people who should damn well know better.

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In spite of the attempts by the port side to present the Tea Party movement as a purely partisan affair, it isn’t.  George W. Bush and profligate Republicans took a fair amount of smacking right along with Obama and the Democrats.  There’s discontent brewing here, but it isn’t going to automatically turn into votes for the GOP on election day unless they take steps to earn them.

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Not everything was serious.  This guy wanted Obama to help him.  Well, sort of.

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Get a group of a thousand people together and there’s always going to be a few people who are off-message.

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(For those who don’t follow sports, the Sharks are San Jose’s NHL team.)

Speaking of folks who were off-message, we had a small group of left-wing counter-protesters show up.  Oddly enough, their focus was on amnesty for illegal aliens, which is just weird given that the Tea Party was about fiscal policy.  I don’t know if they were hoping to provoke a fight with the racist right-wingers who turned out for the Tea Party in their minds, or what, but the people I talked to were mostly bemused.  There was some back-and-forth chanting, but for the most part we ignored them.  This guy pretty much sums up my reaction.

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The Mercury News writes that:

the protest turned tense when a competing group of about 40 people began circling the tax protesters, banging drums, shouting epithets, screaming about immigrant rights and promoting anarchy. At one point, the smaller group stormed the stage of the tax protesters, and more than a dozen San Jose riot police separated the groups. Meanwhile, dozens more officers stood guard on mounted patrol, in police cars and on foot to maintain peace. No arrests were made.

I didn’t see the charge on the stage, but that does sound like the kind of behavior I expect from leftists.  There was a point later in the rally when the police were separating the lefties from the rest of us, but both groups were just standing there.

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The Tea Party people I spoke to were almost uniformly calm, friendly, smiling and open to discussion.  (I did chat with one hard-core religious nut who was, frankly, scary.  I’ve got an invitation to a class on Biblical Prophecy.  I won’t be going.)

Here’s me in black next to the woman with the pro-capitalism sign.  I want one of those tri-corn hats.

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There were a couple of other Objectivists around who had taken the time to put together signs.  Here they are in Q&A format.

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No literature, though.  I understand that the Golden Gate Objectivists had something a bit better prepared for the San Francisco Tea Party.

Overall impression: the people I saw and spoke to are very unhappy with where they see the country going, but they lack ideas to explain why the country is going that way.  Lots of outrage, little reasoning.  This is a serious problem, because ultimately it is ideas that drive cultural and political change.  If you can’t explain why you’re outraged, what would be a better alternative to the status quo, and why, you’re dead in the water.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that people are looking for the answers they need.  This suggests that bringing literature to these protests for free distribution should be a high priority for the next wave.  Literature at multiple levels of information density would be even better, ranging from simple one-page fliers at the low end, to pamphlets and article collections in the middle, all the way up to copies of Atlas Shrugged at the high end.  On this note the Ohio Objectivist Society did something brilliant, collecting together a number of excellent articles on aspects of the current crisis, its roots and Ayn Rand’s relevance to the solution into a reprint booklet called The Portable Objectivist.  (They also have a web version.  And yes, they got permission from the copyright holders — Objectivists respect property rights, and try to practice what we preach.)  Something I’m hoping will emerge from the various write-ups I’m seeing is a set of ‘best practices’ for working future protests.  There’s a learning curve here and we need to move up it, fast.

I was very pleased to read that a number of Objectivists spoke at various Tea Parties.  Rational Jenn had a short recorded video which was played before the 16,000 people at the Atlanta Tea Party.  Greg Perkins of Noodlefood was the kickoff speaker at the Boise Tea Party, and on short notice at that.  John Lewis gave a good speech focused on moral fundamentals at the Charlotte Tea Party, and there’s YouTube video of that that I can’t resist using to wrap things up.  More like this in Boston on the 4th of July, please.

Ok, I lied… there’s also a post-speech interview with Dr. Lewis, and I’m going to wrap up with that instead. He’s bang-on… we need a moral change if we’re going to get a sustainable political change. The American people are divided in spirit, and we send inconsistent signals to our elected officials — we want free stuff, but we don’t want to pay for it ourselves and we don’t want to go into debt for it either. Something there has to give, and if we want to avoid a total loss of freedom it had better be the desire for free stuff.