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In response to the Orlando terrorist attack, David S. Cohen penned Buy Fildena which was published on Rolling Stone’s webpage.  It’s title, “Why It’s Time to Repeal the Second Amendment” is refreshing for its honesty.  Statists who wish to further empower government at the expense of individual liberty usually do so in small doses, with suggestions of ‘reasonable’ impositions on our liberties in order to give the government ‘just a little’ more authority over us in order to fix some perceived problem.  The goal is usually to induce us to take that first step out onto a slippery slope where we will then be expected to acquiesce to further incremental losses of our liberties.  Cohen’s call for the complete repeal of the 2nd Amendment is refreshing because it is honest.  No slippery slope here – he wants you to agree to an outright repeal of your right to keep and bear arms.

Unfortunately, the honesty is confined entirely to the title.  The body of this short article is filled with unsupported leftist propaganda.  Included are inaccurate criticisms of the Founders (they “enshrined slavery into the Constitution in multiple ways”); straw-man arguments against the perpetual perfection of the Constitution (no one seriously argues that the Constitution is perpetually – or temporarily – perfect); a leftist checklist for how the Constitution might be improved (an equal rights amendment, Senate representation based on population); and misdirecting arguments about gun control which avoid discussing the reason the 2nd Amendment was proposed and ratified (firearms are capable of more damage than the founders could have imagined; the risks of the right to keep and bear arms now outweigh the benefits; though Cohen offers no analysis or comment on what the benefits are).

Though Cohen has posited several assailable propositions in just a few sentences, one who wishes to clearly and demonstrably refute them is forced to do so in substantial detail.  The refutation necessarily takes more time, and words, than does the statement of the simple proposition.  For that reason, I’ll limit my criticism to only one aspect of Cohen’s article…the conflation of ‘liberty’ and the ‘right’ to be safe and secure.

Statism cannot prevail for long where liberty is understood and appreciated.  Statists know this.  For that reason, they’ve gone to great effort over the years to muddle the definition of the word ‘liberty’ in order to introduce confusion. We see this tactic utilized in Cohen’s article.  He wrote:

“Gun-rights advocates like to make this all about liberty, insisting that their freedom to bear arms is of utmost importance and that restricting their freedom would be a violation of basic rights.  But liberty is not a one way street. … It includes the liberty to…go anywhere and feel that you are free to do to so without having to weigh the risk of being gunned down by someone wielding a weapon that can easily kill you and countless others.  The liberty of some to own guns cannot take precedence over the liberty of everyone to live their lives free from the risk of being easily murdered.”

Cohen misunderstands and therefore misrepresents liberty.  ‘Liberty’ connotes the relationship between government and citizens.  It involves the question of what impositions the sovereign can place on the freedom of citizens.  It has no place in any discussion regarding citizens’ actions among each other. The usage of the word ‘right’ in the context of interactions both between and among individuals and between individuals and government has possibly helped to further this confusion.  A good case in point is the 2nd Amendment itself which provides that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Thus, the right to keep and bear arms, like the right not to incriminate oneself, and the right to free speech, is a liberty because the government is restrained from limiting or regulating our autonomy in that regard.  In contrast, the right not to be murdered by a fellow citizen is not a liberty because it does not involve the misplaced force of government.

When Cohen attempts to place the ‘liberty’ to keep and bear arms in the same context as the ‘right’ not to be murdered, he implies a false equivalency between liberties (from government intrusion) and rights (vis-a-vis fellow citizens).  These concepts are not one in the same.  Statists hope that the casual or uncritical reader will accept this false equivalency and perform their own balancing test between a real liberty (the government can’t infringe on gun ownership) and a right mislabeled as a ‘liberty’ (not to be murdered by a fellow citizen).  Faced with that deceptive choice, some would quickly determine that that the ‘liberty’ not to be murdered is more important that the liberty of keeping and bearing arms.  Thus, statists hope that the failure to understand and appreciate the difference between liberty from governmental intrusion and a right not to be murdered by a fellow citizen will lead one to embrace the notion of voluntarily yielding liberty in exchange for a mere promise of better security and safety.  While some would suggest that such a trade-off is advisable, one should come to that conclusion only after coming to a full understanding of what the tradeoff is – real liberty for a mere promise of security – rather than what Cohen portrays it to be – yielding one liberty to enhance or protect another.

Once properly understood, the proposition that the 2nd Amendment should be repealed gives rise to some obvious questions which should be carefully considered before yielding a liberty which has been held inviolate since the founding of the country.

  • How will the government meet its promise of providing better security?
  • What basis does the government have to suggest that we will be safer without the right to keep and bear arms?
  • If we yield our right to keep and bear arms, we’ll be less secure in our own homes.  How will the government replace the personal security we can now provide for ourselves and our families?
  • Once we amend the Constitution to eliminate our right to keep and bear arms, it will be very difficult if not impossible to turn back.  What if it doesn’t work and we end up less secure as a result of the fact that we may be prohibited from owning guns to protect ourselves?

Finally, we must keep in mind the real reason the 2nd Amendment was ratified in the first place – not for hunting, target shooting or even home defense, but to safeguard against tyranny.  Just a few short decades ago authoritarian tyranny was rampant in the world.  Today it still exists, though in smaller, often ignored pockets.  But throughout all of human history, authoritarian tyranny has prevailed.

Over the course of the decades since World War II, democratic governments across the world have acted to restrict the liberty of their citizens to keep and bear arms.  As such, America stands as the last major western democratic nation where the people have retained that liberty.  We once learned and should now remember the horrible consequences that can befall an otherwise free people when their liberty to keep and bear arms is breached.  We should not be so cavalier as to yield our liberties when times are such that they may not seem to be crucial.  The liberty to keep and bear arms is crucial and will always be crucial because times change. History is not static.  We must maintain that particular liberty in order to have any hope of maintaining all our other liberties should the day come when it is necessary to defend them.  If we yield the liberty to keep and bear arms, all others will be placed in a state of perpetual jeopardy and we will have willingly exposed ourselves to all that history should by now have taught us to guard against.

 

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Judging from social media comments, there is a lot of misunderstanding concerning the recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Peruta v. County of San Diego.  The purpose of this article is to clear up the some of the confusion and to call attention to a potential scenario whereby the question of the 2nd Amendment ‘right to carry’ might ultimately be used by the left in an effort to damage the Constitution beyond the 2nd Amendment.

In Peruta, the 9th Circuit ruled that there is no 2nd Amendment right to carry a firearm in public.  The states comprising the 9th circuit are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.  Because Peruta is a decision by the 9th Circuit, it affects only those states.  Importantly, it does not make carrying a firearm illegal in those states.  It doesn’t nullify or void or de-constitutionalize any 9th Circuit member states’ laws permitting citizens to carry.  It merely states that there is no individual 2nd Amendment right to carry a firearm.  Thus, states may choose to disallow carrying a firearm, but they are not required to do so.  Any state in the 9th Circuit which chooses to permit carrying may do so.  That has not changed.  And the 9th Circuit decision has no direct legal effect at all in any state outside of the 9th Circuit.

Of course, that is not so say that the Peruta decision is no cause for concern outside of the 9th Circuit.  If a citizen’s rights are infringed, we should all be concerned.  Similarly, anytime an American court attempts to justify perceived impositions upon constitutional rights, we rightfully worry about the rule of law and the continued diminishment of our Constitution.  Finally and most importantly, the practical ramifications of the 9th Circuit decision might be more profound and much more imposing than would initially appear.

In the event the Peruta decision is accepted on appeal by the Supreme Court, or a similar case from another Circuit results in such an appeal being accepted by the Supreme Court, then the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to decide for the entire nation what, if any constitutional right individuals have to carry firearms.  Were the Supreme Court to issue a decision in accord with the holding in Peruta, there would be virtually no individual constitutional right to carry a firearm, whether concealed or open carry.  Any state could legislate stringent restrictions or virtual bans.  But again, they would not be obliged to do so.  A rights respecting state would still have the ability to enable individuals to carry firearms despite the ruling that they have no 2nd Amendment right to do so.  There is however a larger concern in the event all three branches of government align.

‘The Supremacy Clause’ of the Constitution is contained within Article 6 which provides in part that the “Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof…shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”  The Supremacy Clause made perfect sense when drafted because there was an expectation that the powers of the Federal government, limited as they were by the Constitution itself, would remain limited.  The founders expected that any significant attempt by the Federal government to illegally expand its power would by rebuffed by the states and by the people.

The New Deal era ushered in a new age in Federal Government power.  As I wrote more extensively Fildena 150 mg, a Supreme Court which had been a stalwart protector of the Constitution against overreaching New Deal legislation, became compliant to Congress and FDR almost overnight.  Where it had typically used judicial review of federal legislation to limit the Federal Government to its constitutional sphere, it began reinterpreting the now ‘living’ Constitution so as to enable a massive expansion of Federal Government power.  One of its favorite and well-worn avenues for doing so was the misinterpretation of ‘The Commerce Clause’ of the Constitution.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution specifies Congress’s powers.  Included is the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.”  The Commerce Clause was intended to enable Congress to regulate trade among the states so that it could be normalized and in order to avoid trade conflicts between and among the states.  For decades that’s how it was utilized and interpreted.  Only after the advent of the ‘living’ Constitution, did the Federal Government use the Commerce Clause to justify the widespread intrusion upon myriad private economic and personal relationships between and among individuals – and the Supreme Court rubberstamped virtually every expansion for decades.

Finally, in 1995 the Supreme Court decided the case of Lopez v. United States.  In Lopez, the Court considered the constitutionality of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990.  The Act made it a crime to knowingly possess a firearm at a place that the person knows, or has reasonable cause to believe is a “school zone”.  The statute in no way purported to regulate a commercial activity, nor did it require any link between the possession of the fire arm or the fire arm itself, to interstate commerce.  The sole basis asserted for constitutional authority was that possession of a firearm in a school zone ‘substantially affects’ interstate commerce.

In its effort to defend the statute, the government argued that a firearm may result in violent crime and that violent crime in and around a school could be expected to affect the national economy in two ways.  First, the costs are substantial and those costs are ultimately spread throughout the entire population.  Second, violent crime reduces the desire or willingness of individuals to travel to areas deemed unsafe.  Also, guns in and around schools could damage the learning environment ultimately resulting in a less productive economy.  Based on this reasoning, the government contended that Congress had a rational basis to conclude that the statute would substantially affect interstate commerce.

The opinion was authored by Justice Rehnquist.  Justices Thomas, O’Connor, Scalia and Kennedy joined in majority for the decision.  The opinion  identifies several prior cases where the Court found Federal legislation to be authorized under the Commerce Clause and argues that each involved an economic activity that substantially affected commerce.  Specific examples provided are Hodel (“intrastate coal mining”), Perez, (“extortionate credit transactions”), Katzenbach (“restaurants utilizing substantial interstate supplies”), Heart of Atlanta (“inns and hotels catering to interstate guests”) and the infamous Wickard v. Filburn (“consumption of homegrown wheat”).  The distinguishing factor in the Court’s decision to disallow the Gun-Free School Zones Act was the notion that the activity regulated was not commercial or economic activity.  With Lopez, the Court finally drew a line in the sand beyond which it would not permit to Congress to use the misinterpreted Commerce Clause to legitimize an expansion of Federal power.  If activity isn’t commercial or economic, the Commerce Clause won’t be read to authorize Congress to regulate it.

To be sure, the statists who desire an ever expanding Federal Government would like nothing more than to overturn Lopez and return the misinterpreted Commerce Clause to its former status as an infallible and infinite source of federal power – which brings us back to Peruta and its potential aftermath.  One can foresee a two stage effort statists might employ to simultaneously achieve two goals; erode the 2nd Amendment and overturn Lopez.

The first stage would employ an appeal to the Supreme Court in an effort to nationalize the Peruta decision or some variation of it.  The end goal would be a Supreme Court decision declaring that there is no 2nd Amendment right to carry a firearm, whether concealed or open carry.  If that effort succeeds, the second stage would employ Federal legislation, purportedly authorized by the Commerce Clause, to make concealed carry illegal nationally.  Because of the Supremacy Clause, any such legislation would override any state legislation recognizing the legality of concealed carry.

Of course, the Federal law banning carrying nationwide would necessarily result in an appeal to the Supreme Court based on Lopez.  It’s one thing for the Supreme Court to have ruled in the first stage that there is no 2nd Amendment right to carry.  It’s another thing altogether for Congress to assert the authority at the Federal level to ban carrying firearms.  Lopez established that there is no such authority under the Commerce Clause.  Thus, the left would seek to overturn Lopez.  If successful, the statist effort could result in a Supreme Court decision that both recognizes the legitimacy of Federal legislation outlawing the carrying of firearms and overturns Lopez thus reopening the font of illegitimate federal power that was the misinterpreted Commerce Clause.

I’m not predicting this scenario will come to pass or even that statist forces will make the effort.  But if the day comes when statists judge that the Supreme Court would seriously consider nationalizing the Peruta decision and overruling Lopez and that Congress would pass national concealed carry legislation, it would be extremely naïve to believe that they wouldn’t make the effort.  The left is nothing if not patient and should be expected to make this effort when the time is right even if not for many years.  Those who would defend the Constitution, federalism and individual liberty should be mindful of such a strategy and vigilant if circumstances develop which tend to indicate such an effort is underway.

 

 

 

 

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I live in West Virginia where state government is embroiled in a budget battle.  Tax revenues have dropped substantially.  Through the regular legislative session and 12 days of a special session, the legislature could not agree on a combination of spending cuts, tax increases and/or the use of ‘rainy day’ account funds capable of gaining a majority of both houses.  Finally, on Friday, a budget passed both houses.  It’s now on the governor’s desk.  Most anticipate a veto.

Partisan positioning based on ideology has been prevalent.  For the first time in my memory, the legislature is reflective of a two-party system and the ideological divisions that come with that distinction are still somewhat of a novelty here.  In the past, whenever revenues dropped off, the only responses likely to be considered involved revenue enhancement, i.e., tax increases.  Now, a Republican disdain for tax increases is running head long into the unfortunate and nearly universal political desire to not cut spending.  That struggle is largely new to West Virginia and the legislature has floundered in the effort to find majority support for any combination of the available approaches to deal with the reality of falling revenue.

Partisan squabbling based on achieving political advantage in the November general election has been rampant; who is ‘at fault’ for the delay in achieving a budget…who should ‘have seen this coming’ and planned for it better…who doesn’t care about the state employees who may see their pay cut or might be subjected to a furlough…who doesn’t care about education…who wants to single out smokers for taxation, etc…

Social media has been very active with budget discussions and debates among the politically inclined and those who may not typically be policitally interested but are compelled to the debate in an effort to protect their personal ox from being gored.  Local newspapers and websites have been laser focused on the daily machinations, reporting every suggested resolution and each inevitable opposing response.

Though I have no data, I’m certain delegates and senators are hearing from their constituents in a loud and clear fashion exactly how they feel about various aspects of the budget dispute.  And no doubt, those delegates and senators are feeling the electoral pressure that flows naturally from an interested and attentive citizenry.

And it’s all been a good thing.  That’s not to say that each suggested resolution, each response in opposition, each transparent effort at political posturing and every hateful private debate made public by virtue of the internet has been a good.  But what has been a very, very good thing is the process – the forest, if not each of the trees.

I’m happy for the opportunity to finally live in a state where political solutions are not forgone conclusions and therefore not subjected to public debate.  I’m happy to finally live in a state where the push/pull between balancing revenue and spending is a real contest for public opinion.  But most of all, I’m happy for the reminder which witnessing this process provides as to what self-government can and should be.

The United States was founded in part on federalism.  The federal government and the states were to share sovereignty.  The federal government was to have very limited and specified powers.  James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 45 that “The powers delegated by the Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined.  Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite.” 

 There were a number of reasons for this approach.  Practically, the states could not be expected to ratify a Constitution that didn’t preserve for them broad powers.  Individuals generally identified the state in which they resided as where their allegiance lay.  Many were skeptical at the notion of granting the central government any additional authority beyond those anemic powers specified in the Articles Of Confederation.  Simply, the Constitution could not have been ratified were it not for the fact that the states retained substantial sovereignty.

Fundamentally, the framers recognized that there were only certain functions the central government could perform effectively.  They recognized that effective self-government implies local government and that representative government requires the people to have access to their representatives with respect to the issues that matter most in their lives.  The more local the government, the more likely the public to remain engaged, the more likely self-government would truly be ‘self-government’.  As Madison wrote, “The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

Since the 1930’s the Federal Government has acquisitioned the constitutional authority of the states through many mechanisms.  The Supreme Court has regularly and intentionally misinterpreted the Constitution in order to enable the expansion of federal power.  More directly, the Federal Government has ‘purchased’ state sovereignty by returning taxed money to the states, but only with strings attached – strings which force the states to act or refrain from acting as directed by the Federal Government.  The result is an ever more powerful Federal Government acting as puppeteer, manipulating the states to yield their constitutional sovereignty in exchange for a return of moneys previously funneled from the people to Washington via the taxing authority.

That centralization of power in Washington is rendering Madison’s vision of the states legislating in all matters most important to the people a broken promise.  And as power is moved from state capitals to Washington, it’s only natural that the people become disengaged politically.  As I previously wrote Fildena super active reviews, “Centralization of everything from healthcare to public education to speed limits on local highways slowly engenders a defeatist attitude in the mind of the civically interested individual.  Her political voice, once easily heard on a local or even state level, has become a mere whisper, taking a back seat to the special interests groups and cronies who have the financial wherewithal to amplify their voices loud enough to be heard in Washington.  The ever growing and seemingly all powerful regulatory and administrative state is even worse, often leaving individuals with feelings of helplessness and inevitability.”

The West Virginia budget debate, though difficult, fraught with political infighting and subject to varying opposing perspectives, is representative government in America as it was intended to be.  Concerned citizens can be heard and can participate.  Politicians hear the voices of their constituents and expect to be held to account.  Regardless of the outcome of the debate, West Virginians should take satisfaction in the fact that their voices and their votes matter to a degree which cannot be replicated at the federal level where individual citizens are dissuaded by design from becoming involved and, when they do decide to speak, find it extraordinarily difficult to be heard.  Citizens of every state should keep this in mind when confronted with Washington’s next, inevitable effort to usurp constitutional sovereignty from the state capitals to Washington D.C.

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Tracie Happel, a veteran teacher from South Carolina, authored the following letter wherein she logically and concisely lays out the reasons for her objections to standardized testing and requests that her students not be required to take the two standard assessment in South Carolina. While New York teachers have been the vanguard of the effort by educators against the testing monstrosity, teacher support from the rest of the country is much needed and welcomed. Ms. Happel’s motivation for taking a stand against testing is obvious. While her deep concern for her students does her credit, her willingness to speak out demonstrates real courage and commitment to their education and well being.  Kudos to Ms. Happel.  Here’s to a thousand more like her.

 

I have had the immense fortune of being able to be in front of children for 25 years, as of this year, as a teacher in many different capacities. It truly humbles me to know that for 25 years, parents have entrusted my professionalism, training, care, creativity, and judgment when it comes to their children. My experiences include both regular/general education, and special education. I’ve been able to teach in public schools but I’ve also taught two years in private schools, as well as overseas in New Zealand and China. I’ve been in front of children, college students, and adults. I have loved almost every minute of it.

We all know teachers tend to be a bit more caring than others’ are required to be in their jobs. We are the ones to kiss little boo-boos from the playground, give hugs when a best friend is mean, help tie shoes, do some hand-over-hand guiding when those darn scissors get the most of a little second grader. We are the ones to offer some tough love when writing is not up to par, or math problems can be done better. We are the ones who wipe tears, offer hugs, and offer empathy and part of our lunch when a little one comes without breakfast.

For most of my career, I have taught kids who have special needs; mostly kids with what the profession calls “specific learning disabilities.” This means my students are below the achievement gap, as indicated by ability testing, in reading and/or math. In some schools, they are pulled out for either or both classes and taught a separate or modified curriculum. In some schools, they are mainstreamed, or in the regular class along with me, where I accommodate their lessons according to their learning needs. But no matter the learning environment, the one thing I have consistently heard from my student with learning disabilities is, “I am stupid.”

One of my students this year had tears in his eyes when he asked me why he was “retarded.” I told him he wasn’t at all…he just learned differently. His response was, “Then why am I in the retarded class and all my friends are in the other class?” My students get angry that we are reading texts written for 2nd and 3rd graders when their friends are reading big, fat, thick chapter books. But what big, fat, thick chapter book is out there for kids who read at such a low level? My students KNOW they are different, and from that, they conclude they are retarded, or stupid. And when they say “retarded,” they are talking about the purest sense of the word, not the slang, unacceptable colloquialism that is so common today.

Everyday part of my job is to remind my students they are beautiful, smart, capable, amazing, creative, and worthy. Everyday I work HARD to show them the ways they CAN instead of the ways they can’t. They are all too aware of how they can’t. And it’s not right. Our educational system is set up to show kids what they can’t do. Especially when it comes to testing.

My middle school students, who read between a high first grade level to a high third grade level will have to sit for hours and weeks being forced to read material on a test in all core subject areas: reading, math, science, and social studies that will give them a score. Sure, we can say the score doesn’t matter. We can say it doesn’t affect the kids, and only has meaning for the school or the administration or the teachers. But in reality, we all know kids want to make adults happy. Especially adults who care. My students know I care about them, and when they sit in front of that test, trying their hardest to make me happy and do their best, they will only be reminded that they are stupid. That they can’t read. That they are behind their peers. And their feelings of inadequacy or being retarded will only be pushed further into their heads. For a student who is capable of reading Junie B Jones and being forced to read about Ansel Adams, taking this test will only make them feel worse about themselves. I love what Diane Ravitch says, “Sometimes, the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine on standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds.”

My students are far from standardized. Just look at their IEPs. Even better, come spend a few hours in my classroom and see how they can draw, hear how they can rebuild an engine, how they take care of their sick mothers or grandmothers, how they handle a horse no one else in their family can handle, how they can cook for their family of eight. As a matter of fact, come spend a day with any student in any school and see how not one student is standardized. Isn’t that what we teach them all the time? That they are unique and individual, and not like any one other person on this planet? Why would we change our tune for testing? We shouldn’t change it.

Some people will argue this and say testing shows achievement. It shows learning. As a teacher, who has taught for a very long time, I am here to tell you it does not. And if you are an educator, you already know that. If you are a parent, or a community member, you need to hear and understand it. It is one test. Taken in one day (mind you, each subject area is taken each day, culminating into days and days of testing). Results are not given to teachers in a timely manner, and if/when they are given, they are not diagnostic or useful. They only give us one moment in time showing us either Johnny failed or shined on that day. Nothing more, nothing less. There is no achievement in testing. Just pure, and total failure.

The following are reasons that I object to standardized testing in general and especially for the learning disabled children I serve as it developmentally, psychosocially, and professionally wrong to test these students on an academic level we know is well above their ability. I object to the inhumane test environment imposed upon us. This single test will potentially rank and sort children so that labels of failure may be applied and the door will open for takeover of public schools by private interest groups in the name of ‘accountability’.

I object to treating my students like guinea pigs in an experiment that has not produced any real learning gains but will increase drop-out rates, decrease motivation and will increase anxiety disorders leading to what we’ve already seen: increased suicide among teenagers for the incredible pressure they are put under. I object to the use of Pearson’s set “cut-scores” predicting ⅔ of our kids. These scores will not inform our instruction but will discourage the incredibly hard-working school staff and diminish brave innovation in coming school years. I object to the lack of trust in classroom experts which has been replaced by faith in test publishers devoid of teaching experience and who deny the whole child’s uniqueness. I object to the time stolen as testing becomes the main goal of my reading, writing and language instruction. I object to the fact that SC PASS and SC READY because by failing this test students will lose faith in their individuality, self-worth and higher education or career prospects. Confidence is key to perseverance. I object to the use of SC PASS and SC READY or any standardized assessment that directly correlates to family income. Students of color, English learners, and those with low socio-economic status are disproportionately harmed by standardized testing and yet we continue to increase it-often IN THE NAME OF CLOSING THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP. This is ludicrous. I object to the lack of transparency on test items and scoring mechanisms; that teachers and parents are not permitted to view the test or the answers their students write is insulting to the people who know a child best. Teacher assessment data and report cards are disregarded by accountability ‘experts’ who strive to label students for their own purposes. I object to the misuse of precious revenue spent on SBA scoring, on practice tests, on required test materials, on contracts with test-prep corporations’ consultants and on staff time for training to teach to the test as well as training for administering the test.

I object to how financial backers for the corporate takeover of education are funding campaigns for candidates who will support SBA testing using billions of dollars earned on the backs of hard-working taxpayers whose children are harmed by this test. I object to the undemocratic process of adopting testing and South Carolina State Standards whereby members of society, notably parents and educators, have not been engaged in ethical discourse around the ultimate purpose of public education and whether or not new standards may or may not solve the real problems impacting education.

I object to the socialist approach to the methods used before and during testing with our families, and students, and in our classrooms, where parents have a right to opt out of other school activities such as field trips, and students have the right to opt out of other school activities such as pep rallies, but neither have a right to object to testing.

I object to forcing children to sit through hours of bubble tests when they don’t even understand what they are doing and why they are doing it. This is inhumane.

I object to children who are just learning to speak, read, and write in English being forced to take standardized tests using English academic language and culturally biased language.

I object to forcing children with special needs to take standardized grade level tests when they have already proven to be 1 ½ to 2 years behind typical peers via a formal evaluation using standardized tests.

I respectfully request that my students not be required to take the SC PASS and SC READY, which goes against my professional conscience.

 

With Best Regards and in Sincerity,

Tracie Happel, M.S., ABD

Teacher

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Donald Trump’s brash, non-political celebrity and outspoken approach have introduced, for better or worse depending on your perspective, a new dynamic in presidential politics.  Prospective voters can choose from any number of hot button political topics and love or despise him for his position, or perhaps just as importantly, for the manner in which he articulates his positions.  While I have personally enjoyed the metaphorical thumb he intentionally and repeatedly sticks into the eye of those who insist on political correctness, I have many concerns with regard to how he might govern.  Chief among them is a concern that he doesn’t respect or understand the Constitution or its structural mechanisms which limit and disperse governmental power.

Trump made two public comments this week which perfectly illustrate the basis for my concern.  In a CNN Town Hall this past Tuesday night, Trump was asked a question from the audience regarding what he considers to be the top three functions of the federal government.  In response, he listed national security, healthcare and education, in that order.  The following day Chris Matthews asked him how he would go about banning abortions.  Trump didn’t have an answer, but the discussion led to a follow-up question regarding whether women who have an abortion should be punished, presumably through some criminal sanction.  Trump asserted that yes, “there has to be some form of punishment”.

While I fully expect a statist Democrat candidate or an establishment Republican candidate to assert that the regulation of healthcare and education are properly within the powers of the federal government, I continue to hold out hope that the Republican Party might identify and nominate a candidate who not only understands, but appreciates that the federal government has only limited and specifically enumerated constitutional powers and that they decidedly do not include the regulation of health care or education.  Though Trump ultimately stated that responsibility for education policy should be returned to the states, one gets the distinct impression that this opinion is based on something other than an understanding that the federal government has no legal authority in the education arena.  That impression is bolstered by the fact that he continues to advocate for a substantial federal role in healthcare without any apparent regard for the question of constitutional authority.

Similarly, the abortion question is simply not a policy concern for any president who is a constitutionalist.  Why?  Because the regulation of abortion is exclusively within the constitutional authority of the states.  Were Roe v. Wade overruled tomorrow, the question of abortion would return to individual state legislatures.  If a state were to outlaw abortions, it would also determine whether women and/or doctors receiving or performing illegal abortions would be subject to criminal sanctions and, if so, what those sanctions would be.  Simply, there is no constitutional role for a president in determining the legality of abortion or the penalty for violating any state law outlawing abortion.  In the media aftermath of the abortion comment, Trump has clarified his initial comments to suggest that only doctors who perform illegal abortions should be punished and not the women who receive them.  The clarification only reconfirms his misunderstanding – or disregard – of the Constitution’s limits on federal authority.

If we are ever to return the country to a condition of deep and widespread individual liberty, we must pursue constitutionalism.  The separation of powers among the federal branches and between the federal government and the states left individuals in a far better position to protect and defend liberty than the current paradigm where so much unconstitutional power is concentrated in Washington, out of reach – often even out of sight – of the populace.  The president is uniquely situated to lead the country toward constitutionalism while putting constitutionalism out front and center as a matter of public debate.  Those who cherish liberty should seek and embrace a presidential candidate who understands and appreciates the Constitution and the manner in which it distributes governing authority and should shun any who promise to wield unconstitutional power, regardless of how appealing the policies advocated by that candidate may appear.  Constitutionalism is the way to liberty in America.  Any other path holds only the empty promise of temporary policy victories while maintaining the status quo of unconstitutional power consolidated in Washington.  Any other path offers only diversion and a delay from the ultimate goal.

I’ll continue to keep an open mind with respect to Donald Trump.  I’ll wait for him to demonstrate an understanding of the Constitution and a commitment to constitutionalism.  So far, he has tended to demonstrate the opposite at most every opportunity.

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The Republican Party ‘Establishment’ is beside itself.  Whether conducting a private island meeting off the coast of Georgia attended by the likes of Karl Rove, Bill Kristol, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and several other GOP members of Congress, or the dusting off, winding up and marching out of Mitt Romney to throw down the gauntlet against the Trump candidacy, the Establishment’s recent actions bespeak desperation.

Accustomed to taking turns at the White House with the Democrat Party, it seems the Establishment either did not recognize, or did not take seriously, the risk that its hold on the GOP might be meaningfully challenged.  It attempted to follow the tried and true strategy for success (at the primary stage if not the general election).  Just hand pick one of its own with a career in mainstream republican politics and a record of embracing big government, stuff his pockets with millions in campaign contributions, and wait for the money/marketing machine to grind the political bones of the rest of the field.  This time it was Jeb Bush’s turn; but there were signs almost immediately that the strategy wasn’t working.  With each passing week, the Establishment’s concern must’ve grown more dire.  By the time it became apparent that Jeb Bush would not be able to gain ground, the Establishment found itself without a viable champion and facing the reality of massive voter support for an anti-establishment candidate in Donald Trump.

Enter Marco Rubio.  Whether Marco Rubio is a ‘dyed in the wool’ establishment Republican is subject to serious question.  But it’s clear that the Establishment has now cast it’s lot with Rubio’s campaign.  Though not its first choice, Rubio is the candidate the Establishment has determined gives it the best chance of maintaining control of the Party.  John Kasich likely fits the mold well, but he was running far behind Rubio when the Establishment was forced to shift its support from Bush to another candidate.  Kasich was simply much longer odds than Rubio at the time.

Ted Cruz could never be its candidate, having demonstrated on multiple occasions that he stands on his own principles and won’t play by the Establishment’s rules.  Recall for example his highly criticized filibuster against the ACA and his reference on the Senate floor to Mitch McConnell as a liar for paving the way for the reinstitution of the Export-Import Bank.  The Establishment’s rejection of Cruz as its candidate has been obvious – his name is roundly omitted by Establishment talking heads as an alternative to the front running anti-establishment candidate Donald Trump, and none in the media or in the Party suggests that Cruz is meaningfully supported by any of the Establishment contingent.  And as Trump has eagerly pointed out, until very recently none of Cruz’s fellow senators had endorsed him.

The primary election process has revealed the severity of the Establishment’s problem. Thus far, the popular vote of the four remaining GOP candidates is as follows:  Trump: 4,339,971 votes, Cruz: 3,576,646 votes, Rubio: 2,399,505 votes and Kasich: 1,088,865 votes.  Counting only the votes cast in favor of these four remaining candidates, the anti-Establishment candidates have commanded 69% of the popular vote against 31% for Rubio and Kasich.  Again, whether Rubio is truly an establishment candidate is subject to debate.  Assuming for the sake of argument that he is, the anti-Establishment candidates have a near 7 to 3 margin over the establishment candidates at this point in the race.  Take Rubio out of the equation and the Establishment fares far worse.

In a recent cheapest place to buy viagra online, Bruce Bartlett, a former treasury official who self identifies as a Republican despite the fact that he voted for Barack Obama, wrote that he voted for Trump in order to destroy the GOP.  “I believe that only when the GOP suffers a massive defeat will it purge itself of the crazies and forces of intolerance that have taken control of it. Then, and only then, can the GOP become a center-right governing party that deserves to occupy the White House.  The death of today’s Republican Party is, therefore, necessary to its survival, in my opinion. And Donald Trump can make it happen, which is why I voted for him.”

The popular vote thus far does not support Bartlett’s thesis.  The results demonstrate a disdain for the Establishment so severe that a loss by populist Donald Trump in the general election in November may be more likely to give rise to a subsequent movement toward Cruz’s constitutional conservatism or Rand Paul’s libertarianism than a resurgence of the Establishment.  Rather than a “center-right”, corporatist, statist Republican in the White House come 2020, Mr. Bartlett might have to be satisfied with a Constitutionalist or Libertarian who believes the Federal government should be a fraction of its present size.  Or perhaps the throngs of GOP voters who are obviously sick and tired of the Establishment will just stay home the next presidential election cycle.

Any of these scenarios foretell doom for the Establishment, at least with respect to the presidency.  Perhaps it’s time for the Establishment to consider the possibility that the grass roots is simply leaving it behind. An ineffective, if not compliant Congress, both houses of which have been controlled by the Establishment led GOP, has rendered the faithful angry and looking for alternatives.  There’s no immediate reason to expect they’ll change their minds and embrace the Establishment so long as it stands for cronyism, corporatism and cooperation with Democrats in continuing the expansion of the Federal government and in ignoring the desires and demands of such a large portion of the Party.

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When it comes to an Article V convention of states to propose amendments to the Constitution, there is no shortage of opinions.  Mark Levin’s The Liberty Amendments and the existence of serious and well organized efforts to achieve an Article V convention such as Compact For America and Convention of States have induced public debate for many months.  More recently, Texas Governor Greg Abbott came out with his own plan for an Article V convention.

Some who might otherwise sympathize with the government limiting objectives of these efforts criticize the idea due to concerns over a ‘runaway convention’.  They argue that there is no effective way to limit the convention to specific topics and they fear that a convention might propose radical and dangerous amendments.  Such arguments ignore the Compact For America approach which leverages consensus among the paritipating states to build in safeguards at every stage in order to prevent the convention from so much as discussing an amendment outside of the specific text of a pre-drafted amendment.  More obviously, they ignore the requirement that three fourths of the states must ratify any amendment such a convention might propose before it could take legal effect.  The likelihood that 38 states would ratify a radical and dangerous amendment is remote in the extreme.

But the most dangerous perspective often advanced by these Article V naysayers is found in their explanation of what should be done to reinstitute constitutionally limited government.  buy cheap viagra online australia by Mark Pulliam, a contributing editor of Law and Liberty, typifies this fatalistic thinking with respect to the viability of the Constitution as the definitive statement on the limits of government power.  After making the usual arguments regarding the supposed dangers of a ‘runaway convention’, Mr. Pullium offers the following as the proper way to re-establish constitutional fidelity:

(T)he ultimate solution to our current dilemma lies in the election of a conservative President and a principled U.S. Senate, who would appoint and confirm a majority of sound, committed originalists to the U.S. Supreme Court. We don’t need to amend the Constitution. We need to enforce it. Our nation has been led astray by feckless legislators and progressive jurists who for generations have failed to follow the Constitution that was ratified in 1789. It is time for voters to restore the Constitution, at the ballot box, by insisting on constitutionalists–elected officials who will respect the Constitution and the rule of law. (emphasis added)

Unfortunately, this attitude is not uncommon among those who desire a return to constitutional fidelity. It’s danger exists in the fact that it necessarily implies that the Constitution is not only already a dead letter as the supreme word on the limits of the federal government’s authority, but that we should not attempt to rejuvenate it – rather, we should rely on the electorate as the ultimate check on federal power.

The Constitution was drafted and ratified as the definitive articulation of a sovereign people’s creation of, and delegation of power to, their new government.  The very specific point of the Constitution was to preserve individual rights and limit the federal government so that it could not interfere with those rights or with the sovereignty of the states.  The founders believed that majoritariansim was to be avoided because individual rights would be non-existent if exposed to the whims of electoral politics – rights subject to the will of the majority are reduced to mere privileges.  As a result, the founders made the expansion of the government’s powers “off limits” to normal electoral politics.  No mere majority could infringe on the unalienable rights of others by voting the government more power.  The idea was to limit the government’s powers subject only to expansion, or reduction, by amendment pursuant to Article V.

The great and terrible victory of the progressive movement was to circumvent Article V and achieve vastly expanded federal power by judicial fiat.  ‘Living constitution’ theory permitted judges to amend the Constitution from its original meaning by reinterpreting it so as to expand federal power based on society’s perceived ‘needs’ as determined by judges and the politicians who appointed them.  This extra-legal revision of the Constitution by ‘interpretation’ fundamentally transformed the nature of the Constitution from a permanent charter of individual liberty chiseled in granite to a hunk of soft clay subject to easy manipulation.  As federal power has expanded, our ability to effectively limit it has been shifting from the Constitution to the ballot box.  Where we once could simply appeal to the Constitution itself to negate any attempted expansion of federal power, we’re now too often forced to the ballot box where, if sufficient numbers exist, we might induce the government not to exercise power (as opposed to establishing that the power does not exist at all)Accordingly, we now often find ourselves in a situation the Constitution was specifically designed to avoid – appealing to the sympathies of voters as our last line of defense in restraining governmental power.

Thus, the notion that we could “restore the Constitution, at the ballot box, by insisting on constitutionalists–elected officials who will respect the Constitution and the rule of law” is a fallacy.  Just as an addict cannot be rehabilitated by overdosing, the Constitution cannot be “restored” at the ballot box.  Subjecting the Constitution’s limits on government power to the ballot box is the problem; it cannot be the answer.  We must return the Constitution to its status as the definitive statement on the limits of government power.  When the government is once again effectively constrained by the Constitution without reliance on electoral politics, we will again have our real Constitution and the constitutional republic envisioned by our founders.  We should defy all efforts to continue our metamorphosis into a majoritarian republic where the people might once in a while (and temporarily) be convinced to return to first principles.  ‘Restoring the Constitution at the ballot box’ is a contradiction in terms.  Pretending otherwise serves only to invite further erosion in public respect for the Constitution as the definitive word on federal authority and to usher in the representative majoritarianism which naturally follows.

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Only a small fraction of the news coverage and hand wringing over Donald Trump’s suggestion that non-citizen Muslims be temporarily barred from entry into the United States has addressed the policy’s merits. The question of whether it is necessary or helpful to temporarily bar non-citizen Muslims from entry in order to protect the homeland from terrorism has been largely overlooked. Instead, the focus has been on whether such a policy, if implemented, is a betrayal of American values, or worse, indicative of racism or a step toward ushering in fascism.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the focus has been on the subject of our American values rather than the efficacy of the suggested policy. Focusing on the values question enables media and politicians the opportunity to demonize disfavored candidates while shoring up their own ‘political correctness’ bona fides. There’s more opportunity for widely broadcast soundbites and for political mileage to be gotten out of debating the moral qualifications of a disfavored candidate than debating whether his policy is simply wrong or unnecessary. Moreover, by now we should all be accustomed to the fact that politicians and the national media live inside of the elite media echo-chamber where every word written or uttered is examined through a prism of political correctness. Washington elites almost instinctively pounce upon anything that smacks of political incorrectness. Lindsey Graham called Donald Trump “a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot” in response to Trump’s call for such a policy. Because politically correct positions are seldom challenged, there was no need for Graham to explain why Trump’s position on this border policy is sufficient to conclude he is a bigot.

Which brings me to the question I wish to address — assuming that one has made an honest assessment and determined that temporarily closing the borders to all non-citizen Muslims is necessary or helpful to ensuring the safety of the homeland against terrorism, does suggesting the implementation of a policy in accord with that assessment constitute race-baiting, xenophobia or bigotry? Is the implementation of such a policy ‘un-American’? Does suggesting such a policy indicate a lack of appreciation for American values? I’ve concluded the answer to each of these questions is ‘no’.

The United States of America, exists for the benefit of its citizens. The U.S. government has no higher obligation than the safeguarding of American citizens within our borders from external threats. No non-citizen has a right to cross our borders. We should permit non-citizens to enter only when it is in the interest of our citizens to do so.

We can objectively recognize that the vast majority of the terrorism with which we have been threatened and to which we’ve been subjected has been threatened or perpetrated by persons who identify themselves as Muslim and claim that their actions are perpetrated in the name of that religion. At a time when we have heightened concerns over terrorism from abroad, if the information available as to whether persons seeking to cross our borders intend us harm is insufficient for us to make a determination, excluding the larger set (Muslims) from which the smaller subset (terrorists) comes, may be a necessary and intelligent policy reaction.

Under those circumstances, the implementation of the policy is not racist or bigoted, because it is not motivated by hatred or unfounded bias. Rather, it is motivated by the objective facts. That the United States has not implemented such a policy in the past should demonstrate that it has no ill-regard toward Muslims. It may be proper to implement such a policy now, not because we have developed an unfounded bias against Muslims, but because it has become necessary to our security. Excluding those Muslims who cannot be vetted from entry does not make us bad or evil. It does not mean that we’re deviating from our values. We can fully recognize the dignity and decency of the vast majority of Muslims who might wish to cross our borders while implementing the policy as a necessary reaction to the unfortunate circumstances we face — we cannot identify which of those seeking entry are terrorists. The implementation of such a policy is not intended to offend Muslims; nor should it, given the objective fact that terrorists almost exclusively come from their ranks.   Under such circumstances, a policy excluding from entry all non-citizen Muslims who cannot be properly vetted simply reflects the reality that we have no other way to ensure the security of Americans at home. Those who wish to portray the suggestion of such a policy as necessarily based on racism or a broad disdain for Muslims are either ignorant or trying to spin a political agenda.

Many have expressed surprise that Donald Trump’s support among the citizenry does not appear to have eroded as a result of this policy suggestion. I suspect that surprise is born of the echo-chamber, where punishment for violations of the code of political correctness are swift and harsh. Forgotten is the fact that the electorate does not live in the echo-chamber and is therefore untainted by its perverse effects. Individuals know the content of their own hearts. They understand their own desires and motivations. They are acutely aware whether they harbor a nefarious, unfounded disdain for a people unlike them or whether they are merely making a rational judgment concerning the events taking place around them. As a result, no amount of slick marketing or amplified and oft repeated politically correct dogma can convince the American people that a policy suggestion which makes common sense to them is actually an expression of racism or bigotry. Because the American people are not racists or bigots, because they do not harbor hatred or disdain for Muslims in their hearts, they are able to accept Trump’s policy suggestion for what he represents it to be — an unfortunate, but potentially necessary, common sense approach to safeguard American citizens.

 

 

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In his formal statement on the terrorist attacks in Paris, President Obama said that “Paris itself represents the timeless values of human progress.”  By this statement, Obama betrayed the actual status of the debate over values and human progress and the daily struggle to bring humanity to a real consensus regarding these important concepts.

President Obama’s statement is capable of two interpretations.  He either believes that ‘human progress’ has values or that humans have two or more values which are generally perceived by mankind to be directly related to ‘human progress’.  The first interpretation obviously makes no sense because ‘human progress’ is a concept.  Only a living being can have values.  A concept cannot have values of its own.  So he must have intended the second interpretation; that there are two or more values which are ‘timeless’ and which are so directly related to the concept of ‘human progress’ that an otherwise nondescript phrase – “the timeless values of human progress” – is sufficient to convey the meaning he intends.

But it doesn’t.  Because I know very well Mr. Obama’s politics, I’m certain that his notion of what are values directly related to human progress are not the same as mine.  In fact, I’m certain we would have some fundamental disagreements on what constitutes ‘human progress’ and what does not.  Even those values which we might suppose he would identify as ‘timeless values of human progress’, such as liberty and freedom, are so subject to differing and nuanced interpretations that I’m certain his notions of those values are not the same as mine.  I do not believe that those values as he would define them are directly related to my notion of ‘human progress’.  In fact, I believe the implementation of his conceptualization of what liberty and freedom mean into public policy often run directly counter to human progress as I would define it.

Some may suggest that a statement made by a U.S. President in response to the attack shouldn’t be subjected to such scrutiny; that it is only meant to convey to the French our solidarity against those who have perpetrated the crime.  I disagree.  His statements in such situations are heard and read by the entire world.  If he wishes only to express solidarity, then he should limit his comments to such expressions.  What humans value, or should value, is perhaps the most important theme underlying all of human history and experience.  At such times, when the focus of the world is upon him, he is peculiarly situated to illustrate this point.  At the very least, he should not obscure it.

That there are ‘timeless values’ generally understood or accepted to result in ‘human progress’, is simply not true.  What are the worthiest values and what is ‘human progress’ are questions debated intellectually and politically every day in civilized countries throughout the world.  Indeed, those questions constitute a substantial component of the debate over what has led to Islamic terrorism and to its expansion.  When we pretend that consensus exists among mankind as to what ‘values’ result in ‘human progress’, we only avoid these important debates and thereby any opportunity to draw humanity toward a true consensus regarding what values really result in human progress, and how human progress should be properly understood.

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