When I attended primary and secondary school — during the 1940s and '50s — one didn't hear of the kind of shooting mayhem that's become routine today. Why? It surely wasn't because of strict firearm laws. My replica of the 1902 Sears mail-order catalog shows 35 pages of firearm advertisements. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped.
Dr. John Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime," reports that until the 1960s, some New York City public high schools had shooting clubs where students competed in citywide shooting contests for university scholarships. They carried their rifles to school on the subways and, upon arrival, turned them over to their homeroom teacher or the gym coach and retrieved their rifles after school for target practice. Virginia's rural areas had a long tradition of high-school students going hunting in the morning before school and sometimes storing their rifles in the trunks of their cars that were parked on school grounds. Often a youngster's 12th or 14th birthday present was a shiny new .22-caliber rifle, given to him by his father.
President Obama's latest news conference was further confirmation that his voracious appetite for spending was not satisfied but whetted by the fiscal cliff deal, which he views as an appetizer.
We were told that the GOP achieved a coup in the fiscal cliff negotiations because they lured Obama into an agreement to lock in the Bush tax rates except for the highest-income earners. Never mind that Obama agreed to no spending cuts or entitlement reform after demanding a "balanced approach" to deficit reduction; they told us he'd be forced to address those matters in a couple of months in the debt ceiling negotiations. They argued that by agreeing to make the Bush rates "permanent," Obama had tacitly admitted that he couldn't sustain the welfare state through tax increases on the middle class and that he'd now have to — grudgingly or not — turn his attention to spending cuts and entitlement reform.
On Nov. 29, 1766, Benjamin Franklin wrote for the London Chronicle: "I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. — I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer."
I love seeing and hearing stories of people rising above adversity. Here is a story of one of those special people.
Official Washington hailed the deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff as a significant bipartisan accomplishment. However, voters around the country viewed the deal in very partisan terms: Seven out of 10 Democrats approved of it, while seven out of 10 Republicans disapproved.
Just a few days after reaching that agreement, an inside-the-Beltway publication reported another area of bipartisan agreement. Politico explained that while Washington Democrats have always viewed GOP voters as a problem, Washington Republicans "in many a post-election soul-searching session" have come to agree. More precisely, the article said the party's Election 2012 failures have "brought forth one principal conclusion from establishment Republicans: They have a primary problem."
Nearly two years ago, U.S. News & World Report came out with a story titled "Educators Implicated in Atlanta Cheating Scandal." It reported that "for 10 years, hundreds of Atlanta public school teachers and principals changed answers on state tests in one of the largest cheating scandals in U.S. history." More than three-quarters of the 56 Atlanta schools investigated had cheated on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, sometimes called the national report card. Cheating orders came from school administrators and included brazen acts such as teachers reading answers aloud during the test and erasing incorrect answers. One teacher told a colleague, "I had to give your kids, or your students, the answers because they're dumb as hell." Atlanta's not alone. There have been investigations, reports and charges of teacher-assisted cheating in other cities, such as Philadelphia, Houston, New York, Detroit, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Washington.
Recently, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's blog carried a story titled "A new cheating scandal: Aspiring teachers hiring ringers." According to the story, for at least 15 years, teachers in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee paid Clarence Mumford, who's now under indictment, between $1,500 and $3,000 to send someone else to take their Praxis exam, which is used for K-12 teacher certification in 40 states. Sandra Stotsky, an education professor at the University of Arkansas, said, "(Praxis I) is an easy test for anyone who has completed high school but has nothing to do with college-level ability or scores." She added, "The test is far too undemanding for a prospective teacher. ... The fact that these people hired somebody to take an easy test of their skills suggests that these prospective teachers were probably so academically weak it is questionable whether they would have been suitable teachers."
Egypt's terror-coddling President Mohamed Morsi has repeated his arrogant demand that America free convicted 1993 World Trade Center mastermind Omar Abdel-Rahman. I'd like to report that President Obama repeated his unequivocal rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood leader's entreaties. But as of this writing, no such public statement or restatement yet exists.
That's right. Obama has kept mum about Morsi's vociferous lobbying on behalf of Abdel-Rahman, the "blind sheik," who is serving a life sentence at a maximum-security prison in North Carolina for seditious jihad conspiracy. The commander in chief's silence speaks volumes.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tells us the tax issue is behind us and that we can now move on to spending. Really? What makes him think the GOP will succeed this time when it couldn't last time?
The just-concluded fiscal cliff deal included no material spending cuts, which the GOP justified by saying it had achieved locked-in rates for most of Bush's tax cuts, which would force Obama to seriously discuss spending cuts and entitlement reform as part of the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations.
George Washington warned us in his Farewell Address about a time in America's future when we might be tempted to discard the pillars of civility: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them."
Let me give a great example of what Washington's words look like in action.
I hate to break it to those deniers who believe that President Obama's tax-guzzling capacity has somehow been diminished by the fiscal cliff provision to fix "permanent" tax rates. You're dreaming.
Several smart columnists and respected conservative editorial pieces tell us that a major silver lining in the crisis deal just concluded is that by agreeing not to reinstitute the Clinton tax rates (and leave the Bush rates in place) for all but the "wealthy" (income of $400,000 for single filers and $450,000 for marrieds), Obama and the Democrats made a major concession. They argue that if Democrats couldn't do better after Obama was just re-elected and when the debt is so high, they'll never be able to. They'll have to realize that they will never be able to sustain their desired welfare state through raising taxes alone and have to come to the table on serious spending cuts and entitlement reform.
HONG KONG -- We read about famous people like French film star Gerard Depardieu, who moved to Belgium to avoid a 75 percent income tax on millionaires proposed by France's Socialist government (a measure rejected last week by a French council, though French leadership has vowed to resubmit a similar proposal). Then there is Eduardo Saverin, who took the extreme step of giving up his U.S. citizenship and could see a savings of $39 million on his Facebook investment, according to the research firm Wealth-X. He says business reasons, rather than high taxes, were his primary motivation.
I had read about financially motivated expatriates but never knew one who had taken the ultimate step until I visited with my longtime friend "Sam" (I'm withholding his real name to protect his current employment). Sam works for a large investment firm. He has lived here for the last 25 years.
President Obama will kick off the new year the same way that he kicked off the old year: by demanding that the wealthy pay their "fair share" in taxes. But while millions of small-business owners, struggling entrepreneurs, inventors and investors brace for a double whammy of fiscal cliff tax hikes and new Obamacare taxes, the class-warrior in chief's richest pals are getting a pass.
It's a Golden Pass for liberal millionaires and billionaires who support higher Obama taxes for everyone but themselves. Meet the Democratic tax evaders of the year.
I wonder, as we begin 2013 and look forward to four more years of this insufferable poseur in the White House, where Sandra Fluke might be. Miss Fluke is the lady who made birth control a matter of national security, in particular her own personal supply of pills and God knows what else. Prior to her appearance on the national scene I always thought it was a male?s responsibility to supply condoms, as the occasion warranted. Yet Miss Fluke enlightened me. Actually she never told us what she used these items for. I suppose I am jumping to conclusions. She might be an artiste, and they may be part of her palette. There are all sorts of things birth control devices can be used for. At any rate, she brought birth control to the fore in American presidential elections at least four decades after they became a fixture in America. In that respect she made history.
Prior to Miss Fluke's public campaign for birth control, those who follow national politics had believed that elections revolved around the economy. But in 2012 we had an economy in a feeble condition. After four years in the White House, President Barack Obama presided over the weakest recovery from a recession on record. He had given Keynesian economics a bad name, even with many Keynesians. He had enlarged the federal government to almost 25 percent of GDP, from its traditional size of 18 or 19 percent. He was running deficits of a trillion dollars a year and promised them for years to come.
I am bored with politics, refuse to pay attention to the news and am watching only True Crime TV shows and Turner Classic Movies these days. With the Democrats controlling the Senate and presidency, nothing good can possibly come out of Washington for at least another two years. So I thought I'd start the new year with something useful, like a short list of bad inventions.
(1) SILENT DISHWASHERS
Are people installing dishwashers next to their beds? I've checked my "Top 500 Daily Irritations" list and dishwasher noise is not on it.
What possible benefit derives from having a dishwasher that makes absolutely no noise? Was that gentle whooshing sound driving some homeowners bonkers? Is this a product designed by the same people who gave us the electric car, a vehicle so silent that the first sign of its approach is the sound of your pelvis breaking as the car hits you?
Everything that everyone loathes about Washington was present in the "fiscal cliff" bill just passed by Congress. It is 153 pages long; most members probably hadn't read all of it before voting on it; it was delivered in the middle of the night; it was loaded with pork -- the mother's milk (to mix a metaphor) of politicians -- and while the country is already swamped with massive debt, it contains massive giveaways to satisfy interest groups and campaign contributors. Did I mention the bill raises taxes on top of the coming Obamacare taxes, but does nothing -- nothing -- to address the debt problem?
As with previous congresses, this one (again) delayed the debt issue for two months and will have to face it again, along with what to do about the debt ceiling. Only expletives that can't be printed in a family newspaper accurately characterize this bunch, so I'll have to settle for pathetic, unprincipled and irresponsible.
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings, said: "The British are not coming. ... We don't need all these guns to kill people." Lewis' vision, shared by many, represents a gross ignorance of why the framers of the Constitution gave us the Second Amendment. How about a few quotes from the period and you decide whether our Founding Fathers harbored a fear of foreign tyrants.
Alexander Hamilton: "The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed," adding later, "If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government." By the way, Hamilton is referring to what institution when he says "the representatives of the people"?
When President Barack Obama was re-elected, the winds waned behind many patriots' ships' sails. My wife, Gena, and I felt that sock in the gut for our country and posterity, too. But instead of cowering in defeat, I believe we need to discard conventional (unsuccessful) strategies and advance in new directions.
The future of our country is going to hinge not upon the Republican Party's reinvention (as so many think) but upon each of us patriots asking what isn't working about our approach and modifying our attacks for greater impact in the culture and political wars. You don't fight and win unconventional wars with conventional weapons; that's why we lost in November.
The year 2012 is about to expire. It was a blank in my judgment — poof and it is gone. We have the same sorry vacuity in the White House, bereft of knowing how to run the government. Just now he is off to Hawaii to loll in the sun, having left behind questions as to how to avoid our "fiscal cliff." Yes, he wants to raise taxes on the top two percent, but how do we reduce the deficit and finish off the tax bill? He has headed for the beach — and practically no one remarks on the amateurism of it. The president is a poseur.
Not much more can be said for the rest of the leadership in Washington, in Congress, in the media, strutting down the halls of government. As year chases year, I have come to the conclusion that this whole town is abundant with poseurs or worse. The blandness of the Washington and New York City scenes is maddening to anyone familiar with American history, a history filled with great figures.
Here's the first paragraph of my last year's column "Democracy Is Impossible":
"After Moammar Gadhafi's downfall as Libya's tyrannical ruler, politicians and 'experts' in the U.S. and elsewhere, including French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, are saying that his death marked the end of 42 years of tyranny and the beginning of democracy in Libya. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said Gadhafi's death represented an opportunity for Libya to make a peaceful and responsible transition to democracy. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, 'Now it is time for Libya's Transitional National Council to show the world that it will respect the rights of all Libyans (and) guide the nation to democracy.' German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that 'Libya must now quickly make further determined steps in the direction of democracy.'"
HANOI, Vietnam -- It has been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy ordered U.S. "advisers" to South Vietnam to help battle the communist North and 37 years since the end of that divisive war and the country's unification under Communism.