Farewell for now…

Posted in blognews on January 9, 2009 by Randy Streu

After much soul-searching, I have decided that the Society for Independent Thinking Blog will shut down indefinitely.  The pages will stay up as archives while I consider the future of the site, and of SIT itself.  It may well be that we return in a different form, or with a different, or better-defined, mission.

Until then, you can catch the contributors at our various local political or personal blogs:
Randy Streu (r2streu)
NightTwister

Tim Ambrose

I would like to thank our readers for participation, and discussion, and my fellow contributors for their friendship and quality work.

Until we meet again.
-Streu-

Conservatives Create Opportunities, Not Programs: Education

Posted in education, My Government with tags , , on December 29, 2008 by nighttwister

This is the first in a series of conservative solution proposals. I have no idea how many more I will do. I just know that we have to have an answer to the programs the liberals and conservatives have been implementing for the past couple of decades.

For the past eight years (some might say twenty), conservatives in government have been acting like democrats. We’ve seen program after program implemented, give more and more control of our lives over to the government. This flies in the face of the true conservative principle of limited government. This, I believe, has been our greatest failure, and has resulted in being marginalized and beaten at the voting booth. We will never be able to out-program the Democrats.

Nowhere is this as evident as it is in education. Federal spending on education has increased at an alarming rate since 2000, with little measurable benefit. The following hockey stick graph from a Department of Education website shows the increase in K-12 federal spending since 1966.

Too many students continue to fail to meet minimum standards in basic subjects, even with this dramatic increase in federal spending. State spending also has been trending up at a concerning rate. The following graph shows the increase in spending broken down by local, state, and federal government.

You’ll note in the graph that local spending has risen at a more reasonable and consistent rate. This is expected, since people have more control over the rise of local taxes than they do for state and federal.

As if this weren’t enough, not nearly enough of this money is making its way back to the classroom. It’s difficult to obtain information on how much money makes its way to the local school districts, the Heritage Foundation reports that New York City’s public schools revealed that only 43 percent of the city’s total education funds was used for direct classroom expenditures. The simple fact is, most government programs are run like the DMV. Anyone that doesn’t realize this is either incredibly ignorant, or is someone that benefits from the system.

Another thing conservatives often do is to promote solutions that don’t have enough support. In the case of education, vouchers is a good example. While I think there are some great possibilities with them, I think there are also some negatives. And let’s face it; if the issue can’t win in Utah, it’s not going to win elsewhere. We simply can’t continue to take an all-or-none approach when presenting conservative solutions. The best conservative solution is the one that brings opportunity, while at the same time emphasizing responsibility and accountability. I wrote about this recently in a blog called The Three Parts of Freedom. I’m not usually one to link to my own work, but for those that want a deeper understanding of the philosophy I propose, it’s an important read.

Opportunity

Opportunity begins with choice. Choice brings competition, which is absolutely necessary for success. You’d have a difficult time finding a successful small businessman that didn’t want fair competition in their marketplace. It not only benefits the customer, but it also pushes them to continue to improve and stay sharp.

The two most attractive opportunities in education today are Charter Schools, and School Choice. There’s no question that Charter schools have been successful where they’ve been implemented. The State of Colorado released the School Accountability Report this month. Four of the top five high schools are charter schools, including Fort Collins’ Ridgeview Classical School which came in at number three with a score of 2.33. Eight of the top ten middle schools were also charter schools, including Liberty Common School in Fort Collins.

The Charter School concept is simple. Families in a local community meet together to determine how they want their children to be educated. This is the conservative way; keeping control over government programs at the lowest level possible. This keeps both responsibility and accountibility (to be discussed later) where it belongs.

School choice drives competition, even among traditional public schools. Examples in my community are Lesher Junior High School, which is involved in the InterBaccalaureate (IB) program, and my son’s school Kinard Junior High School, which uses the Core Knowledge educational approach. My older son attends Centennial High School here in Fort Collins, which is an alternative school that specializes in educating kids that have difficulty in a traditional school environment. They use the Discovery Program approach. Having the ability to choose among programs such as these is important to parents, who have the ultimate responsibility for their children’s education. This leads me to,

Responsibility

To take advantage of the opportunities of school choice, there are certain responsibilities we all must bear. Government’s primary responsibility is to promote educational choice. It must not continue to be manipulated by education associations and teacher unions into believing that children are best educated without choices. These same associations and unions would be better served supporting educational choices which would improve the system for everyone, including them.

Parents also must take responsibility for the education of their children, and that does not simply mean getting them to and from the school building. It includes attending school board meetings, talking with school administrators and your children’s teachers. It also includes volunteering at your school. Most school districts have a list of volunteer opportunities to help fill in gaps in education. They are usually of such a variety that most anyone would be able to help out somewhere. One of the greatest needs is helping students read, or reading to them. This doesn’t require any special skills, yet can make the difference for that student whether or not he succeeds.

Local businesses can help out here too. Often, businesses complain that the workers they hire are not sufficiently educated to do the job required of them, yet how many of those same companies are willing to allow their workers a little time off each month to go help those future workers? A blogger at RedState kansasconservative wrote a very good blog recently on this subject.

Students are not free from responsibility either. When someone else is paying for something for you, you not only have the responsibility to do your part, but demand that others do theirs as well. That means doing your work, getting help when you need it, and helping others that need a little extra help with their work. A community only works when all of its members do their fair share.

This involvement by everyone is what can lead to greater gains. As people see that educational choice leads to better educated students and a better community, voters will be much more willing to consider things like vouchers.

Accountability

Schools still need to meet certain standards, regardless of the desires of the local community. This is where government standards can make sure that all schools are working towards the same goal, and that students that graduate from any type of school can compete in the marketplace. Unfortunately, too many government programs like NCLB and others have failed. All accountability without choice gives us is a list of schools that aren’t meeting the necessary criteria, without the impetus to create real change.

Parents need to hold school and State administrators accountable to providing the opportunity for education for their children. We need to hold our government legislators accountable when they try to take away or prevent educational choice.

The final thing that is necessary for this to be successful is to be able to present it to the public in a simple way. People aren’t going to read a several page position paper to be convinced that an idea is worthwhile. Heck, I’m surprised any of you made it this far in such a long blog post. It seems to me though, that will all of the talented conservatives around, the idea of opportunity, responsibility, and accountability should be able to be communicated in a 30-second commercial.

We’re never going to win the battle of programs with the liberals. Theirs is always going to sound better because there’s less for the individual to do. We have to win the battle of philosophy, which for conservatives means we promote freedom, opportunity, and responsibility. It is there where we will win back the hearts and minds of the American people.

Night Twister

Merry Christmas

Posted in blognews on December 24, 2008 by Randy Streu

Howdy, folks.  Merry Christmas from the Society for Independent Thinking bloggers.  Hope you enjoy the time with your families, and that you think on the true meaning of Christmas: the Grace and Hope to be found in Jesus Christ.

As for me, personally, I’ll be finishing out my semi-hiatus, and be back to work come January, as we prepare for the Obama presidency, and begin to look toward the possible futures for this country.  I do hope you stay tuned.

Also, we are still looking for SIT bloggers — both to contribute to our page here, and to be a part of the Independent Thinking blogging network, which I hope to introduce more thoroughly in January, as well.  Whether or not you already have a blog, you’re always welcome to blog here (just send an email to r2streu(at)gmail(dot)com) and tell me about yourself, your political views, and where I can view a sample of your writing (which helps us better gauge where you’re coming from).

‘Till January, then… God Bless you, and Merry Christmas!

The Three Parts of Freedom

Posted in My Government with tags , on December 15, 2008 by nighttwister

During the Presidential campaign, I made a comment on someone’s blog about why Sarah Palin garnered so much support by people from all walks of life. I’ve been wanting to expand on this for some time, but haven’t had the time do to so until now. That comment was,

Conservatives want to help those that can’t help themselves. Liberals want to help those that won’t help themselves.

Palin’s popularity shows that the majority of American people still support conservative values and freedom. This blog is not intended to be a rallying cry for Palin, but rather an introspective look at what Americans really want from their elected leaders, and why Republican candidates continue to fail. More importantly, I believe it can be a road map back to relevance and respect for our Party if we choose to follow it.

It should come as no surprise that Sarah Palin comes from the last frontier in the United States. Alaska is still a place where the independent, self-sufficient spirit still lives in our nation, at least to some degree. This spirit includes working hard for what you earn, and sharing with others that are less fortunate or have had a bad break. What really brought this to the forefront was her efforts to champion the cause of Down’s Syndrome children. For once, we found a politician that had genuine care about those that could not care for themselves, instead of just looking out for themselves our those that paid them to get there. But that’s the second part of freedom. I’ll get to that later.

The First Part of Freedom is Opportunity.

Opportunity is freedom. This simple truth has been proven countless times throughout out nation’s history. Now, there have certainly been times when opportunity has been denied to various groups of people during that time, but that only shows why we need to work towards making it available to everyone.

Opportunity offers the best avenue to success, but that avenue can also lead to failure. There are some that believe that the possibility of failure needs be eliminated if we care about people. The thing is, they go hand-in-hand. If you remove the possibility of failure, you also take away the possibility of long-term success.

Failure is one of the greatest teachers. Without it, we would be doomed to repeating our mistakes over and over again. It is also those failures that make our successes even more worthwhile. It also allows those around us to lend a helping hand in our time of need so we can get back on our feet again. This is what community is supposed to be about.

Our elected representatives have completely forgotten this over the past eight years. Democrats and Republicans alike have passed spending bill after spending bill, offering temporary help to their friends and supporters, while at the same time taking away everyone else’s opportunity at freedom. Rather than acknowledge the problem they’ve created, they only seek to exacerbate it by continuing to believe that they can prevent failure. This only delays the inevitable, and will hurt everyone even more. Almost everyone knows it, many acknowledge it, but it has become like a runaway train that no one seems to be able to stop.

The Second Part of Freedom is Responsibility.

Freedom isn’t free. It takes the commitment and sacrifice of every one of us to maintain it. Protecting freedom isn’t just for soldiers deployed halfway around the world, although they provide us with a wonderful example of what need to be doing here at home. Protecting freedom, means looking out for and helping those that are unable to help themselves.

How many of us complain about the public school system, but never offer to volunteer to help those that need a little extra guidance and support? Not every kid in town has the same wonderful, supportive parents that I’m sure you are to your children. The most treasured possession I have other than what my kids have given me is a bookmark I received from the parent of a special needs young girl that attended our summer vacation bible school a few years ago. As always seems to be the case, I know I received much more than she did in the exchange. For those of you that wonder why some of us are so adamantly pro-life, this is a primary reason why. We want to help those that are unable to help themselves. They have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness every bit as much as we do.

Our liberal representatives however, believe that these people are expendable. They want to give rights to terrorists who’s choices led to taking away the freedoms of so many, while at the same time doing everything they can to take away the rights of those that cannot obtain them for themselves. These people were given the responsibility to protect our rights, but seem to have forgotten that almost from the day they arrived in D.C. Reality has been turned in its head

The Third Part of Freedom is Accountability.

There are those that will tell you that all we need to do is trust the basic goodness of man. Most of us don’t really believe that though. It’s what we say to try to convince ourselves that we aren’t all that bad. Character is what we do when no one is watching. All too often we know that we fail ourselves and others when no one is looking.

Many of us that have come to this realization know that the only way we can do something about that is to make ourselves accountable to others. Knowing that we have someone to answer to when we’re alone causes us to think twice about what we’re doing.

For far too long now our representatives have failed to live up to their responsibilities. But who can blame them? We have failed to hold them accountable time, and time again. You can’t pick up a paper these days without reading about corruption at some level of government somewhere. Sure, we can point to a couple of recent instances where we tossed them out on their ear, but for those stories there are many, many more where we continue to send the same people back once again for expediency’s sake.

Perhaps its because we’ve forgotten that these people represent us. For those that have forgotten what that word means, here’s a handy definition.

To portray or depict; present the likeness of, as a picture does.

Perhaps we would do well to consider this definition of represent then next time we vote someone into a government position, whether a local school board member, or federal representative. For those that we’ve already sent, it is imperative that we hold these people accountable. Not only with their personal actions, but their votes. We can no longer stand idly by and let them give away our freedoms anymore. Technology offers us the ability to know what they’re doing and how they’re voting. Let’s use it for the good of ourselves and others.

Freedom. It’s difficult to obtain, easy to lose, and even more difficult to get back once we’ve lost it. Fight for it. For yourself, but more importantly for those that cannot fight for themselves.

Night Twister

Exploring the Roots Corruption: How did we get here, and how do we get out?

Posted in Constitution, Elections, Get Active!, News, politics with tags , on December 12, 2008 by Randy Streu

Though it is not completely without a sense of schadenfreude that I watch the Chicago Democrat party implode, this recent Blagojavich scandle has gotten me thinking about the nature of political corruption in general.  And about the simple fact that, as much as we’d like it to be, the Republican Party is not immune to the corruption of power, any more than the Dems appear to be.

In recent years, voters have seen more than our share of corrupt politicians, engaged in everything from prostitution and sex scandles to buying votes on the senate floor to the pay-for-play antics like those of the Chicago Gov. 

But where does it come from?   Frankly, I believe it comes, primarily, from two places.  First, as the saying goes, “power corrupts.”  You’d have to ask a psychologist about the effects being voted into a position of authority can have on the ego.  But I think we can agree that those effects are certainly evident in many cases.  Secondly, put simply, we the voters allow them to get away with it — often with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, and occasionally, without even that.

Let’s explore this second point first, because I know some readers will have several probelms with the idea that we, the voters, are to blame for party and government leadership not holding politicians accountable.  Do you remember Bill Clinton?  That big, overblown scandal that occurred just because Bubba got a little head in the Oval Office?  People claimed that too big a deal was being made about the President’s extra-marital affairs.  Those merits can be argued (though, personally, I believe our leaders ought to be held to the highest of standards), but to do so misses the point entirely.  The problem wasn’t that he violated the sanctity of the Office, and potentially posed a national security risk by letting his intern go down on him in the National Holy of Holies.  The problem was simply that he broke the law.  He lied under oath.  That is a crime.  It is a small, white-collar crime, but illegal, nonetheless.  But the Gatekeepers of popular opinion (AKA the Mainstream Media), Congressional Democrats and even many voters chose to ignore this simple fact because, after all, he was the most powerful man in the world.  Surely such a small thing shouldn’t take down such a powerful person!

And it is precisely that attitude which allows corruption to flourish in state and national power center coutry-wide.  Those in a position of power should not be held to lower standards than the public, but higher.  Leaders lead.  When they fail to be good leaders, it becomes the duty of the citizen to disqualify them from the role.  And, if it is others in power to whom that duty falls, and they also fail in it, then it is our duty to vote them out as well, in favor of those with a correct view of authority.

The other problem goes back to that quote I mentioned: “Power corrupts.”  True enough.  But there’s that pesky follow-up: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  As more information about Blagojavich comes out, we find people talking about his “instability,” as though this were something about which many of those who helped get him into power already knew.  So why is it that they still worked to install him into the Governor’s chair?  Basically, because he was a Democrat. 

If it is indeed true that “power corrupts,” and that “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” it must also follow that the more power given to a person or entity, the more potential for corruption exists.  In short, the most basic reason corrupt officials keep getting elected is because we don’t have any other options.

The Party system controlling American politics ensures that only a select group are presented to the voters for election, and of that group, only two are actually serious contenders for a given election.  George Washington warned of exactly this circumstance, and has since been poo-pooed by even Conservatives as “out of touch.”  Nonetheless, it is indeed the Party system which denies the voter a real set of options, and continues to make possible the re-election of those who would sell us out for financial gain, those who disrespect the office to which they are called to serve and those to dishoner their country and fellow countrymen by acts unbecoming leaders.

I will go into greater detail on the party system and how it has corrupted American government at a later date.  For now though, we work with what we have. 

And what we have is a dirty system, peopled by dirty politicias.  It is time for a cleansing, in every party.  It is time, if we must deal within a party system, to stop allowing those who disgrace America leadership to continue to do so.  They are not serving us, but themselves, and it is high time they were routed out.  It is time for voters to make it our business to know what our elected officials are up to, what they know and what they do with that information, who they talk to, and what decisions they are making.

It is time to clean house, starting with Blagojavich, and anybody we can take down with him.  And when we’re done with him, it’s time to move on to national politicians.  Get mad, folks.  Get very mad.  And then, get even.

NPR: Wal-Mart Tragedy is… Wait For It… BUSH’s Fault!

Posted in Economy, News, politics, Stupid Media with tags , , on December 5, 2008 by Randy Streu

Are there actually people who think this way?

According to NPR’s “Poet on Call,” Andrei Codrescu, the trampling to death of a Wal-Mart employee has been a long time coming — well, at least since 9/11.

And it wasn’t because of our collective sense of entitlement, borne by years of political correctness and official excuse-making for criminals, or because of our society’s loss of value in human life.  Of course not.

No.  It’s because George W. Bush told Americans to go shopping — and Americans, who disapprove of Bush, according to the Press, in near-astronomical numbers, all rallied to the cause with such fervor that they simply didn’t notice they’d killed a man.  They were too busy “Following orders.”

I’m astounded beyond words that this idiot is given a microphone.  Freedom of speech is one thing, but do we really have to encourage the mind-bogglingly stupid by paying them to talk in public?

Life’s Not Fair; Get Used To It

Posted in politics with tags , on November 10, 2008 by nighttwister

From the time my children were little, I’ve worked hard to get them to understand this concept. I’ve repeated it so many times that I know they now cringe any time they say “That’s not fair!”, because they know what’s coming as soon as those words leave their mouth. It’s something that I believe we’ve forgotten as a party, and need to embed in our political subconscious.

For as long as I can remember, the mainstream media organizations have treated the parties differently. They are only too willing to cover stories for one that they are also perfectly fine with ignoring for the other. I give you three examples of this phenomenon.

Breaking the Public Trust
Over a year ago, William Jefferson (D-LA-2) was indicted for accepting bribes. Six months ago, Ted Stevens (R-AK) was indicted for accepting for falsely reporting income. Both leaders have broken the public’s trust, but Congressman Jefferson’s bribery charges are much more serious. Yet, even before Senator Stevens’ conviction, the media treated his the more serious, while mostly ignoring Jefferson’s problems.

Sexual Misconduct
Consider the difference between how congressman Barney Frank, who’s partner was convicted of running a prostitution ring from his house was treated vs. congressman Mark Foley who sent inappropriate emails and instant messages to underage congressional pages. Personally, I consider the latter to be worse since it involved minors, but even senator Larry Craig was treated worse by the media for his actions.

Gaffes
The recent Presidential campaigns highlighted the differences in how the candidates were treated when they misspoke. Every gaffe from Obama (57 States) and Biden (TV in 1929, 3 Words) were mostly ignored, while the media was more than willing to invent things and propagate rumors about missteps by McCain and especially Palin.

The fact is, we are not on an even playing field, and we never will be. The media is now openly the propaganda wing of the Democratic Party; the general public admits this, yet it makes no difference in how they vote.

This is the political arena in which we toil, and it is not going to change any time soon. Some think it is enough to enlighten the masses. Surely, once they realize how unfair the playing field is, they will demand that it change. As we have seen in the last election, this just isn’t the case. We need a new strategy to work in this environment. To that end, I make the following proposals:

Stop whining about how unfair things are.
People don’t like to hear others whine, even if they have a legitimate case. Sure, the traditional media is against us. Whining about it not only doesn’t change that; it just turns people off. Instead, we need to do our best to get our story out in other ways, such as letters to the editor, blogs, conservative radio, and word-of-mouth. We can also use these means to answer the slurs against conservatism in general, and our candidates in particular.

Find a modern way to tell our ancient story.
Sure, it’s a cliché, but I think everyone here will agree that conservatism works every time it’s tried. I’ve heard many times over the course of the past few months that it’s much easier to sound-bite liberal talking points than conservative ones. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. We must find a way to communicate conservative points, and why they are better than liberal ones, in thirty seconds. It won’t be easy, but I believe it can be done.

We need to hit some singles first.
Sorry for the baseball analogy, but it is my favorite game. When you’re down eight runs, it’s not the time to hit the long ball. There aren’t any eight-run hits in this game. We’re down about as low as we can be, so it’s time to concentrate on the issues we think we can win. This means we’ve got to stop whining when our pet issue isn’t being addressed. For instance, how about we concern ourselves with making sure that women considering abortion have access to all the information they need before making that decision instead of going straight to the Human Life Amendment? There are other examples I could give, but I believe you get the point.

We need to be positive.
I hear people all the time saying we need to stop the negative campaigning. Sure, people love a good train wreck, but ultimately the positive message won this time (empty as it may have been). We’ve got to stop talking about what’s wrong with the other side and start talking about what’s right about ours. We need to constantly promote the positive conservative message of freedom, opportunity, and prosperity.

We have to break up the circular firing squad.
We need to stop attacking each other. Every issue cannot (and doesn’t need to) be addressed at the same time. That means your issue may have to wait. If we continue to attack each other when we don’t get our way, or disagree over the minutiae of each minor point, we’re never going to progress. Also, we also need to call out conservative pundits when they aren’t being conservative. We need to do what we can to let people know that certain experts don’t represent us. We have to be relentless about this like RedState was about Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic for supporting the other side. We’ve either got to run these people out of business or force them to fully and openly admit they are not of us.

I believe we’ve got to constantly remember that life’s not fair, and we had better get used to it, otherwise, we’ll never be able to promote the freedom and opportunity that conservatism brings again.

Night Twister