Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rocked Out

The town band I play with has performed the annual Fourth of July concert for years. Of late, we’ve had a lot of competition with the local deejay, pounding out popular, but not particularly patriotic (or unpatriotic), rock hits.

The last few years, Mother Nature has gotten in on the act, producing her own spectacular fireworks that precluded any fireworks from the local fire department or cymbal crashes from our band. Seeing the “fireworks” approaching, we hastily packed up our metallic instruments and headed for home.

This year, the town has seen fit to engage not one but three rock bands. They were having trouble finding a place for the traditional town band on the schedule. Finally, they e-mailed our secretary last night and told him, ‘Just forget about it.’

This event is largely billed as a teenie carnival, catering to roller coaster kids who would roll their eyes at a rollicking march by Sousa or Fillmore. The venue is at the middle school, with the only field in town big enough for this kind of crowd or a safe fireworks display.

That pretty much explains why the town band is out and three rock bands are in to play music that has nothing at all to do with the Fourth of July.

I must admit to being disappointed, even though I am “concerted out”. Patriotic concerts are fun to do. Everyone knows the music, there’s lots of musical fireworks with clarinets whirring, trumpets blaring, and cymbals crashing, and we get to see the fireworks at the end of the show.

One year, the music and the fireworks kind of collided. We in the percussion section found the fireworks falling among our chairs.

This year, though, we’re out. According to the weather reports, however, Mother Nature is still planning to show up. From 4 o’clock on, there are predictions of thunderstorms. If the rock musicians want to stand out there, with all their electrical equipment, and brave the elements, they and their fans are welcome to it.

The other band is still on for its Fourth of July concert, however, barring equally bad weather. This year, the program is totally patriotic. No rock and roll. Sousa, not Springsteen. Karl King, not KISS. Those guys are fine for a summer youth concert, but what do they know about Mom, apple pie, and patriotism (Ted Nuget notwithstanding :) )?

If you want to hold an anti-war rally or a big love-in, drug-in, you call in a rock band. When it comes to patriotic, Fourth of July concerts, we brass (and woodwind) bands are the experts. The piccolo obbligato in Stars and Stripes just doesn’t sound the same on an electric guitar.

Keeping His Eye on the Job

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s political stock rose considerably yesterday. When Fox News’ Neil Cavuto questioned him about a bid for the presidency, Christie responded, “Not going to happen.”

No way. No sale. If Sarah Palin had refused the same offer, had she remained in her office as governor of Alaska when offered the vice presidency, she might now be a viable candidate for future president of the United States.

Christie is doing a fantastic job, far better than any conservative voters expected when he was still a primary candidate. But the battle, as he knows well, is far from over. The unions are strongly entrenched in this state, with a considerable media army willing to do their bidding.

New Jersey is a Big Government, socialized state, with far too many public sector workers willing to vote the Democrat line to keep their cozy bureaucratic jobs and plush pensions. They’re not just going to go away overnight. Christie will have to slash their budgets and lower business taxes in order to attract private sector companies back to the state.

It’s a tall order. He may not be able to do it in one term. It certainly won’t happen if he lets all this great conservative press go to his head and abandons his responsibility to New Jersey. Fortunately, he vowed emphatically not to do so. He will not grab prematurely for the brass ring the way Palin did. He intends to tough it out.

He cited not only his dedication as governor of the state, but as a family man with roots in the Garden State, a stance that will play well with the many family men and women whose support he needs. He has children here, friends, activities. New Jersey is worth fighting for.

Christie needs help in the Assembly to bring New Jersey back from the brink. Voters are going to have to wake up, stop drinking the communist cool aid, believing that government is the answer to all problems. We need to elect conservative state legislators to back the governor up.

State politics are important. Since 1912, the focus has been on federal leaders. It’s the 17th Amendment that Glenn Beck has complained about – the popular vote of U.S. Senators, as opposed to their selection by their state legislatures. This effectively cut the input of the states out of the governmental process, expanding the federal government’s powers considerably.

Only now are states like New Jersey, Arizona, and Louisiana fighting back against federal encroachment. We can see the results in Arizona, with Obama threatening the state with a punitive lawsuit (for wanting to follow federal law, of all things), and in Louisiana, with the president blocking every remedy to the oil spill threatening Louisiana’s shores.

Liberals appeal to populist sentiment, encouraging a broad, but impossible, participatory democracy that the general public has neither the time nor the background to engage in. When it fails, they assure us that Big Government will handle everything. They point to individual instances of corruption as a failure of representative government, as though a huge, bureaucratic governing body, accountable to no one, would serve the public better.

My grandfather used to attend every town hall meeting and gave them such a verbal drubbing that the town fathers begged my mother to keep him from attending (there was nothing my grandmother could do with him – she was glad to be rid of him for an evening).

The national tea party organizations encourage members to go to the big venues – their state capitols, the national capitol, where they’ll get the most media exposure. But Gov. Christie hasn’t had to go beyond the bounds of his own state and his own job to make an impact.

Politics begin in your own backyard.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Knowing When to Fold 'Em

What were Gen. McChrystal and his staff thinking, inviting a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine to bivouac with them? McChrystal is one of those generals, in the mold of Patton, MacArthur, and Benedict Arnold, who all had problems with authority figures. They’re better at being authority figures than answering to them.

What the RS reporter recorded were off-the-cuff remarks made primarily by McChrystal’s staff during off-hours. Only with reporters, there’s no such thing as off-the-record, off-the-cuff, or off hours, especially reporters from such anti-military publications as RS.

McChrsytal manned up and arrived at the White House with his resignation in hand. What else could he do? He went on record criticizing his commander-in-chief, a big no-no in the armed forces. What else could Obama do but accept it?

Apparently the U.S. Army needs the U.S. Navy’s equivalent of “Loose lips sink ships” to keep their soldiers from shooting themselves in the feet. Or lips.  Shooting from the lip is the way to lose a war.

• Loose tongues scorch lungs?
• Liberal nerds bend words?
• An elbow bent is trust rent.
• Booze to nooze is the way to lose

When in doubt, shut up. When it comes to reporters, there should be no doubt: they’re the enemy. During the planning stages of the Normandy Invasion, the invasion forces were kept locked up for weeks, in case one of them got into a bar and started blabbing.

No one blames McChrystal for his frustration with Obama’s approach to the war, particularly the ROE – Rules of Engagement – in which civilian casualties must be avoided at all costs, making it virtually impossible to engage the enemy and put a real end to the conflict in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, it is not McChrystal’s resignation we need, but Obama’s. That, of course, is not going to happen. He cannot be disposed of by force. To rid America of this dangerous, freedom-hating dictator, citizen-soldiers, ala the Tea Party, must take to the streets – where they’re visible, not hiding in library rooms or restaurants, and denounce the policies of Obama and the socialist Liberals in every legal, non-violent way possible.

He’s given us plenty of ammunition. Health care reform, financial “reform”, nationalization of industries, the attempted shutdown of the Gulf oil fields, illegal immigration, terrorism. To sum all these policies and more up, he is the worst president the United States has ever had the misfortune to occupy the White House.

We need to send him, and the Liberal Congress, packing, post haste. He needs to be called on the national carpet and redressed by the American people. He needs to know that the American people have no confidence in him, his policies, or his leadership, nor Congress’, either.

The sooner he understands that his tenure in the White House is going to be very short, that he’s about to be history himself, the better for the future history of the United States of America. The sooner America understands that it elected a loser for President, the sooner we can replace him with a winner.

The Regents Exams

The Regents Exams are tests required by The Empire State for students to pass the eighth and twelfth grades. My parents had to take them, being New York State residents. We avoided them because our parents moved us to New Jersey.

But New York State is considering making the history Regents “history”. Here’s a sample of the questions from the January 2010 exam for high school students:

2 The Mayflower Compact and the Virginia House of Burgesses are most closely associated with:

(1) abuses by absolute monarchs
(2) establishment of religious toleration
(3) steps toward colonial self-government - X
(4) adoption of universal suffrage

4 In order to win ratification of the United States Constitution, supporters agreed to:

(1) add a bill of rights - X
(2) admit new states to the Union
(3) establish an electoral college
(4) give the Senate the power to ratify treaties

5 Which action did Alexander Hamilton support during the 1790s?

(1) restrictions on trade with England
(2) distribution of free land
(3) creation of the national bank - X
(4) elimination of the whiskey tax

7 One way in which the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions (1798) and the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification (1832) are similar is that each:

(1) claimed that individual states have the right to interpret federal laws - X
(2) formed part of the unwritten constitution
(3) supported the federal government’s power to declare war
(4) provided a way for new states to enter the Union

13 In 1862, the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railway Act were passed primarily to:

(1) achieve Northern victory in the Civil War
(2) develop the Midwest and western parts of the Country - X
(3) improve the lives of freed slaves
(4) expand overseas markets to Asia and Europe

21 Which factor is most closely associated with the decision of the United States to declare war on Spain in 1898?

(1) isolationist policy
(2) labor union pressure
(3) yellow journalism - X
(4) unrestricted submarine warfare

23 The “clear and present danger” doctrine established in Schenck v. United States (1919) concerned the issue of

(1) freedom of speech - X
(2) the right to bear arms
(3) the right to an attorney
(4) separation of church and state

26 Which economic factor contributed most directly to the start of the Great Depression?

(1) low worker productivity
(2) high income taxes
(3) decreasing tariff rates
(4) buying stocks on margin - X

28 What was a guiding principle of the New Deal economic policies?

(1) Pro-business tax breaks would solve the problems associated with urban poverty.
(2) Antitrust legislation would destroy the free market economy of the United States.
(3) Rugged individualism must be allowed to solve social inequality.
(4) Government must assume more responsibility for helping the poor. X

33 In the 1960s, which issue was the focus of the Supreme Court decisions in Mapp v. Ohio, Gideon v. Wainwright, and Miranda v. Arizona?

(1) freedom of the press
(2) racial segregation
(3) rights of the accused - X
(4) interstate commerce

40 The United States Congress can check the executive branch of government by

(1) appointing ambassadors
(2) overriding vetoes - X
(3) nominating judges
(4) declaring laws unconstitutional

49 The passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, the McCarthy hearings in the 1950s, and the passage of the USA Patriot Act in 2001 created controversy because they

(1) required large sums of money to enforce
(2) raised questions about the protection of civil liberties  -X
(3) created alliances with foreign governments
(4) limited the power of the executive branch

For the most part, they’re not too terribly difficult, unless you’re a poor history student. However, examining the examination questions, there’s clearly a creeping Liberal bias within them. Still, the Regents demand enough coherent knowledge of U.S. history and civics in general to make a scholar wonder why New York wants to abandon these rigid tests? Looking over the annual tests, they don’t change substantially from year to year.

Are the questions simply too irrelevant for the little dears? Is it too much work for the instructors to teach the subject? Perhaps soon it will no longer matter that the United States Constitution gives the House of Representatives (not the president, state legislatures or Supreme Court) the power to impeach a federal government official such as the president of the United States.

So many of the later questions are such indoctrinaire questions that, once our socialist government is established, students will no longer need to brainwashed into socialist history. Today’s youth are so willing to go along with whatever their socialist teachers dictate that tests will be superfluous.

In the August 2004 Regents, this was question No. 5:

In 1788 and 1789, a major controversy between the Federalists and the Antifederalists focused on

(1) expansion of slavery into the territories
(2) the wisdom of creating a two-house legislature
(3) division of power among different levels of  Government - X
(4) the issue of allowing women the right to vote

In the 2004 Eight Grade test, students were asked these questions:

11 Which statement best illustrates the principle of federalism?

(1) The president has the power to veto bills.
(2) Congress is divided into two houses.
(3) The Supreme Court has the power to review laws.
(4) Power is divided between the states and the national government. X

21 Which Civil War event occurred first?

(1) Battle of Gettysburg
(2) Firing on Fort Sumter
(3) Assassination of President Lincoln
(4) Emancipation Proclamation

These are the few – very few - actual history and civics question. There aren’t many specific questions about historical figures during the Revolution or even the Civil War (about the only Revolutionary figure mentioned is Alexander Hamilton), but plenty of names are bandied about when they get into 20th Century, progressive history.

Some of the questions are simple. Some are tougher. But on the whole, they tend to go on and on about women’s rights, civil rights, and social justice. Tests mandated by the state government, about government’s role in our lives. I’ve been in many seminars where at the end of the session, the organizers would distribute evaluation sheets to estimate whether their message is being conveyed.

January 2010 H.S. Regents Exam -

So the students can pass, marginally, even for a tough test like the Regents. The Supreme Court questions are difficult, i.e., Mapp v. Ohio (unreasonable search and seizure). Marbury v. Madison isn’t explained properly: The Supreme Court, in its very first ruling, gave itself the right to declare a law “unconstitutional.” They don’t need to know who the 19th President was (Rutherford B. Hayes). They don’t need to know the First Continental Congress met in Philaldelphia in 1774. They don’t need to know how Patrck Henry addressed the Virginia Convention in 1775 “Give me liberty or give me death.” There’s nothing about the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty in 1784 between Britain and the U.S., formally recognizing American independence.

There’s nothing personal about the history they’re required to learn. The students don’t need to know any of this, do they? Or if it’s so important, they can read about it on their own, just as long as they know about Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points defending World War I, the failure to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, the demand of costly reparations from Germany which bankrupt the country, and the failure of the League of Nations?

It’s all a piece of American history, to be sure, but only the Progressive piece. The only selections of American history the Liberals want students to know are the negative portions.

Our present president is no expert on history. He’s claimed, among other things, that there are 57 states and that the car was invented in Detroit (it was invented in Germany). The Liberals want to telescope history to a narrow view of the victories of socialism over freedom and liberty.

The surest way to accomplish that goal is to throw away American history books and stop testing Americans on their knowledge of their own country. When Americans fail American history, they fail America.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day 2010

This column ought to have been written yesterday, but as I was trying to rest up from my cold before the onslaught of the new workweek, I let it slide.

It’s been many years since I’ve had anyone to say “Happy Father’s Day!” to. My maternal grandfather died in 1985. That’s 25 years, I guess. My father died many years before that.

So I spent yesterday, on the couch, watching a show called “The World’s Strictest Parents,” where misbehaving urban urchins are sent to live with rural families to learn to mind their manners and so forth.

Often from single-family homes, and usually (though not always) only children, these teens learn the penalty for breaking the rules is always noxious and unpleasant. Smoke, swear, or procrastinate on your chores, and you can find yourself digging postholes or cleaning out the chicken coop.

There’s nowhere to run, as these teens find out, being far out in the country and, in one case, out in the cold. One young lady who refuses to clean her bathroom finds herself in a stand-off with her foster father out on the porch one cold, cold night. He, in his down jacket, is prepared for the long-haul. She, in pedal-pushes and a hoodie, is not.

She has a choice – clean out the horse paddock, to fulfill her punishment, and be at last allowed to use the indoor plumbing – or freeze her pedal pushers off and trudge out to the outhouse.

Some teens are more incorrigible than others. Miss Pedal Pusher soon sees the light but the young fellow, unrelated to her, also staying with the family, is immovable in his bad relationship with his mother. The foster father admits there are some teens who are just in need of more professional help.

My brothers and I were indeed fortunate in our choice of fathers. Or I should say, my mother’s choice. He had us rather late in life – he was already in his forties when my older brother was born. He wasn’t a cool or fun dad.

But he was a good man and father. That was never more evident than one hot, steamy summer night in – I guess the year was 1966 or 1967. We were too poor for air-conditioning. We’d been sent to bed but being too warm, I couldn’t sleep.

My window faced the street and I climbed up to look out my window at the neighborhood. Our house was on the crest of a knoll, overlooking all the other houses on the street. The sun had gone down; it was twilight, but the houses were still visible.

From each house, I could hear a distinctive thwack, thwack, thwack, followed by a piteous, infantine weeping. The sound made a circle round the neighborhood. In one house, the thwacking was followed by an audible whump! – something being thrown against a wall.

I shrank down from the window. My own house was quiet. What tumult usually came from my brothers’ shared room, where they held nightly fights. Bing-bang-boff! until my father’s heavy tread was heard in the hall, come to put a stop to the battle.

Our house was a castle in the air, a fortress of relative peace (and this was the suburbs, not some gritty, blue collar city) amidst a sea of chaotic ignorance. My parents never hit us. They yelled, but never struck us. My father taught us to read, taught the boys to be play chess and to be men. He taught us to love our country and play by the rules.

My mother said that any parent who had to hit their child to teach them, who couldn’t outthink a child, was a pathetic excuse for parenthood. My father agreed. We tried them severely, but they never faltered in their duty towards us, teaching us the right way.

We frequently went on vacations to the Adirondack Mountains. In 1969, we were on our way up the New York State Thruway to Saranac Lake. We noticed the traffic heading for Woodstock. My older brother was 13. He wanted to know why we couldn’t go to Woodstock.

My parents were in the front seat. I remember how they sat ramrod straight, not turning to answer him even when they told him we were going to Fairy Tale Forest instead and our family vacation. They kept their eyes straight ahead, focused on the right road ahead of them, as good parents should, and our destination, moaning, sulking, and pleas not withstanding. Not even the merry sight of hippies in a Volkswagen van beside us deviated them.

My mother would later tell me it was a matter of trust. Whom did I trust? A mother and father who had cared for me all my life, or people I didn’t even know who were trying to mislead me into things I knew were wrong? Did I think they would care what happened to me? Or did I trust people who loved me enough to tell me things I didn’t want to hear?

Well, the answer was obvious to me. My father is long since gone, but I’ve upheld his principles as best I can, led on in the fight for freedom he carefully taught me, trusted his wisdom about America. Road to Serfdom, which Glenn Beck has advertised, was one of those books my father had wanted me to read someday along with Atlas Shrugged, though at the time he and my mother mentioned it, he felt I was too young to comprehend it, except to remember that my mother said it was a book people had risked their lives to read.

So I treated myself to the two books for Father’s Day, as a testament to my Dad and his belief in freedom and the values he taught us.