Posts Tagged rights

When in the Course of Human Events


This is the time of year when Americans celebrate the anniversary of our declaration of independence from Great Britain.  It is ironic that the United Kingdom itself a few days ago found it necessary “for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.”  By leaving the European Union the British people have reconfirmed that the longing for liberty is an eternal emotion.

Meanwhile, here in the colonies, the very document that ensured our rights as a free people has been under relentless attack.  The Constitution of the United States has withstood the test of time. After the Articles of Confederation failed to provide the framework for an effective federal government delegates from the 13 colonies met in Philadelphia and in September of 1787 put their signatures to the document which, at least theoretically, remains our nation’s ultimate authority.

On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify theConstitution which then took effect on March 4, 1789.  The document was, however, viewed as incomplete and several states insisted on the inclusion of ten amendments, which became known as the Bill of Rights.  Those amendments were ratified and became effective on December 15, 1791.

That the Bill of Rights was necessary is evidenced by periodic efforts throughout our nation’s history to disregard, water down, or remove them entirely.  Perhaps no amendment has been so violated as the tenth which limits the power of the federal government.  Congress and the president, frequently with complicity by the Supreme Court, have consistently throughout the ages infringed on this right.  Today the assault continues, especially upon the second amendment governing our right to keep and bear arms.  The non-existent “right” of freedom from religion has replaced the “free exercise of religion” guaranteed in the first amendment.

It is safe to assume that the founding fathers would place in the first amendment those rights that they viewed as most vital to a free people.  It is here that the Constitution guarantees our right to freedom of speech and of the press.  Now obviously there was no electronic media or internet back in 1787, but freedom of speech and of the press clearly applies to all means of communication.

A free press was instrumental in our nation’s founding.  The only method of mass communication was through the printing press producing formal newspapers, pamphlets, and broadsides.  From Thomas Paine during the revolution to the Federalist Papers, the expression of opinion via the printed word was a vital means of exercising free speech.  Throughout our history we have depended on a free press to keep government in check, such as it did during the Watergate scandal of the 1970s.  So vital is a free press that it is often referred to as the “fourth estate,” or fourth branch of government.

It is therefore disturbing to see candidates and elected officials from the national to the local level trampling this vital right.  In just the last few weeks, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has banned the Washington Post from covering his campaign events.  Here in Penn’s Woods, the Democratic mayor of Harrisburg, Eric Papenfuse, has revoked the credentials of the capitol city’s newspaper the Patriot News/Penn Live. Papenfuse’s actions are especially curious in that he is the owner of a prominent bookstore, so you would think he might have some loyalty to the unfettered circulation of the printed word.

My goal here is not to defend the content of these publications – whose left-wing ideology frequently taints their reporting of the news – but to stand up for their right to do so.  If elected officials, from mayors to presidents can decide who can cover the news they can also then control the news.  This is not only a violation of the media’s constitutional rights, but an existential threat to our democracy and ultimately our individual liberty.

As we celebrate our freedom with fireworks and back yard barbecues let us always remember that the trampling of one right is the trampling of all rights.  The loss of any one right puts us on a very slippery slope which will ultimately lead to the loss of all rights.  From freedom of the press, to freedom of religion, to our right to keep and bear arms, we must fight to protect our God-given rights against those who would take them away.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Epic Failure in Baltimore


The real victim of the riots in Baltimore is the Left-wing philosophy of cradle-to-grave big government that has inevitably collapsed under the weight of its own faulty theories and inept implementation.  It wasn’t just a drug store that went up in flames; it was generations of nanny state public policy that got incinerated in Lord Baltimore’s burg.

If ever there was a poster child for a progressive Utopia it would be the city of Baltimore.  Nestled by the bay of the most liberal state in the union, Baltimore has been ruled by Democrats of the most Leftist variety for a half century.  As a majority black municipality, Baltimore is governed by an African-American mayor and city council.  The police chief is African-American as are three of the six officers involved in the tragedy that sparked the violence.

There is no way to claim racial under-representation.  Yet mostly young blacks took to the streets out of frustration to protest, and then riot in a desperate bid to be heard. With race not being a factor, the only conclusion that can be reached is that those governing the city, and the policies they champion, have failed.

Let us set aside for now the fact many of the rioters were simply taking advantage of the situation, and that the mayor’s handling of the riots was incompetent.  Rather, we should examine the root causes of the city’s failure, of which there are at least four:

The most significant factor contributing to the crisis is the decline of the family unit.  It is rare in such an instance of societal meltdown for one image to encapsulate the solution to the problem.  The mom who saw her son rioting, went out into the street, literally smacked him upside the head (repeatedly) and then dragged him home represents the ultimate solution.

Young people need somebody who cares; somebody who will be both a mentor and a disciplinarian.  The skyrocketing rate of out-of-wedlock births has deprived many children of a stable two-parent household, and sadly in all too many cases, not even one responsible adult is present.  Policies that foster stronger family ties, rather than seeking to replace the family with government programs are a foundational step that must be taken.

Second, it is time to admit public education in our cities is a failure.  Federal, state and local school district spending on public education has far outpaced the rate of inflation for decades, yet our inner city public schools continue to fail.  Teacher unions and bloated bureaucracies, rather than students have been the prime beneficiaries of this taxpayer largess.  In some cities – Washington, D.C. is a prime example – charter schools have provided students and parents with choices.  But union opposition has kept charter schools from realizing their full potential and trapped students in under-performing schools.

Third, good job opportunities are a must.  The unemployment rate among African-Americans is more than double the national average, worse in urban cores.  Decades of overtaxation and hyper-regulation have driven business and industry out of cities.  As the good jobs have left, so too have the people qualified to hold them; leaving a largely unskilled workforce which serves as an additional disincentive to economic development.

And speaking of disincentives, our system of public welfare must be reformed to encourage recipients to seek the education or training that leads to employment.  Arcane and complex public assistance formulas often create welfare “cliffs” that make it more profitable for recipients to stay on welfare than to enter the work force.

The time has come for a complete reassessment of urban public policy.  Decades of experimenting with government centered solutions have clearly failed.  These progressive policies that trap people in poverty must be tossed out and replaced with a realistic approach based on time-proven principles that will help people move from poverty to prosperity.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolnisntitute.org)

Permission to reprint is granted provide author and affiliation are cited.

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Tampering with Transparency


Transparency has become a buzzword, one of those principles that politicians of all stripes pledge fealty to, but often in practice fall short.  For those who value the ability of We the People to know what is happening in our government, the past couple of weeks in Penn’s Woods have been bad ones.

For starters, the grand jury investigating whether Attorney General Kathleen Kane leaked confidential court information recommended the state’s Shield Law, upholding the right of journalists to keep confidential sources confidential, be changed to remove that protection when it relates to grand juries.

In a misguided effort to preserve the secrecy of such proceedings, the jurors placed blame for the leaks on the reporters writing the stories rather than on the individuals – including possibly the Attorney General – who actually leaked the information. Weakening a critical protection of journalistic freedoms is akin to blaming the escaped horse for the farmer having left the barn door open.

Shield laws are important because officials – elected, appointed and hired – who see to hide information from the public generally are willing to use the power of their position to harass, punish or otherwise frustrate the news media to prevent transparency from occurring.  Simply put, the ability to protect the confidentiality of sources makes it possible for journalists to do their job precisely at the time it is most important for them to do so.

The other hit to transparency came just days after Governor Tom Wolf took office when he attempted to fire the director of the state’s open records office.  Since its inception over six years ago, the Office of Open Records has become a vital tool for the media, watchdog groups, citizen activists and concerned voters to obtain information from governments at all levels that seek to deny access.

Although the state’s Open Records Law can and should be strengthened, it has brought about a higher level of transparency to government.  It is critically important for the independence of that office to be maintained, free from interference by both the executive and legislative branches of state government. That independence was honored by governors, Democrat and Republican, until now.

Former Governor Ed Rendell appointed Terry Mutchler as the first director of the Office of Open Records. The law states that executive directors shall be appointed for a six year term.  So, when Republican Governor Tom Corbett took office she continued in her job – actually past the six year mark as Corbett did not act immediately to name a replacement when her term expired.  That move came in early January during the waning days of his administration when Mutchler resigned and Corbett named Erik Arneson as the new executive director.  Arneson, a former state senate aide, played a key role in crafting the Open Records law making him eminently qualified for the job.

Within days of his inauguration, Governor Wolf, objecting to the timing of his predecessor’s action, fired Arneson.  Arneson’s dismissal triggered a firestorm of protest from senate Republican leaders who have correctly asserted that the job is not an “at will” position, but rather an appointment to a fixed term.  Arneson, claiming he could not be fired, showed up for work the next day as did the acting director appointed by Wolf.  A court battle now looms.

Setting aside the political stupidity of starting a turf war his first week in office, a lot more than a battle between a Democrat Governor and Republican Senate hangs in the balance.  If Governor Wolf succeeds in turning the Office of Open Records into a political fiefdom it will become impossible for it to fulfill its mission.  Above all, the Office of Open Records must remain free from political pressure.  How willing would an executive director who serves at the will of the governor be to grant open records requests which the administration wants to keep information hidden?

Candidate Tom Wolf ran for office promising a “fresh start.”  But by seeking to politicize the Office of Open Records, Governor Tom Wolf has fully embraced the worst aspects old fashioned politics.  There are many ways for a governor to confront a legislature, but tampering with transparency is a foolish way to begin.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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One Nation?


Since the beginning of our republic there has been a great debate on the role and scope of the federal government and its relationship to the states.  We did not begin as the United States of America, we began as 13 individual colonies each with their own unique socio-economic system and each wary of federal entanglement.

That federal entanglement has grown to a degree never imagined by our Founding Fathers and, safe to say, they likely would be appalled by how powerful and invasive the national government has become.  The Constitution of the United States was developed not to empower the federal government, but rather to protect the rights of the several states and their inhabitants.

Before agreeing to ratify the Constitution, a number of states insisted on what has become known as the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments that more clearly and specifically protect the God-given rights of we the people and of our state governments.  To put an exclamation point on the issue the framers added the tenth amendment which reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Excepting during the Civil War, presidents largely adhered to the limitations of the tenth amendment until the early part of the 20th century when America emerged as a global power.  From that point on, the reverse has been true: the federal government has assumed those powers not specifically prohibited rather than those specifically delegated.

A parallel to the issue of states’ rights played out recently in the United Kingdom when Scotland entertained the notion of seceding from the union.  In the end, the three century old United Kingdom survived – but not until the British version of a federal government agreed to grant sweeping new power and more autonomy to Scotland.  Other parts of the kingdom, Wales and Northern Ireland and even England itself are eyeing more powers of self-governance.

In the run-up to the Scottish vote Reuters conducted a public opinion poll in this country and discovered an astounding 24% of Americans would like to see their state secede from the union.  In the mid-Atlantic region, including Pennsylvania, 21% favor secession.  Secession fever runs highest in the American southwest, where Texas – which generally considers itself to be a nation/state – particularly favors secession.

Secession has not been seriously entertained by any state since the Civil War, nor is it likely to at any point in the near future.  But the Reuters analysis of their poll offered this conclusion: “By the evidence of the poll data as well as these anecdotal conversations, the sense of aggrievement is comprehensive, bipartisan, somewhat incoherent, but deeply felt.”

The analysis further explained that those favoring secession from the United States were entering a “protest” against “a recovery that has yet to produce jobs, against jobs that don’t pay, against mistreatment of veterans, against war, against deficits, against hyper-partisanship, against political corruption, against illegal immigration . . . against government in general – the president, Congress, the courts and both political parties.”

In short this is more evidence that federal government intrusion into virtually every aspect of Americans’ everyday lives has reached a point where it can no longer be controlled, effectively administered, or even be viewed as being for the public good.  As a result, nearly one-quarter of all Americans believe they would be better off if their state seceded from the union and governed itself.

Rather than have states secede, we need to get back to two fundamental governing principles.  First, the primacy of the tenth amendment must be restored and the federal government must be shorn of those functions not specifically designated to it by the constitution.  In other words, we must pare down government to its essential public functions.   Second, those tasks that are legitimately the function of government should be performed at the lowest governmental level possible.

Only by returning to these core principles can we right-size government, make it truly effective and efficient, and restore a public confidence which has clearly been lost.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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The Pendulum Swings


When history looks back at the just completed term of the Supreme Court of the United States it will view it as the end point of the pendulum swing toward an imperial presidency and the beginning of a return toward a government more respectful of constitutional rights.

In an amazing set of landmark decisions handed down by the high court during the last week of its term the justices have placed limits on executive power, upheld the constitutional prerogatives of congress, reaffirmed the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, validated religious freedom, and protected Americans from forced association.

It is an enduring tribute to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers that the government they established during the Constitutional convention of 1787 and the subsequent addition of the Bill of Rights devised a system of government that, however tenuous, works to this day.  In this case, a president found that although he has a pen and a phone, the constitution is a more powerful instrument.  And, even when a feckless and inept congressional leadership allowed itself to be run over roughshod by an autocratic administration, the third branch of government – in this case the judiciary – stepped forward to reassert the primacy of the constitution.

Individually the court decisions covered a wide range of issues with each case posing a threat to constitutional rights. The common thread was in every instance the court did what the founders envisioned it doing and protected the liberties granted to us by our Creator and spelled out in our nation’s governing document.

While most of the cases were decided by narrow 5-4 majorities, a cause for concern moving forward, the Justices did unanimously rule against the President’s usurpation of congressional confirmation powers by upholding the right of the U.S. Senate to decide for itself when it is in fact in session.  At specific issue were appointments to the National Labor Relations Board made by the president while the senate remained in session but not fully present in the capitol.  The president argued that was a recess during which time he could make appointments without senate confirmation.  The court ruled otherwise, bringing to a close the presidential end-run around congress and the constitution.

In a major win for individual rights, the court held that the federal government cannot require family-owned corporations to provide contraceptive benefits to employees if it violates their religious beliefs. Under the Affordable Health Care Act the administration had sought to force the national craft chain Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Products in Lancaster County to provide such benefits despite their religious objections.  While the ruling was narrowly applied to corporations in which the corporation is indistinguishable from the family that owns it, it did mark the first time the high court has extended religious freedom protections to corporations.

The court also issued a sweeping ruling protecting the privacy rights of every American by requiring law enforcement authorities to obtain a search warrant before looking at the contents of an individual’s cellular telephone. Chief Justice Roberts humorously observed that “the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy.”

President Obama was not the only one reeled in by the court’s recent rulings.  Ruling in an Illinois case the Justices collared public sector labor unions that had been forcing thousands of in-home health care workers to pay union dues. The court held that practice violated the first amendment rights of workers who might disagree with union policy and political positions.

Thomas Jefferson once observed that: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time by the blood of patriots and tyrants.”  In his time there was little recourse to obtain liberty than by armed rebellion to win and protect it.  He and his compatriots embarked on a Great Experiment to provide a peaceful means of refreshing our God-given rights.  This past week, for the time being at least, the experiment worked.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and 

host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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This Week on Lincoln Radio Journal: Tom Shaheen on Women’s Right to Know Act


Radio Program Schedule for the week of March 10, 2012 – March 16, 2012

This week on Lincoln Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Tom Shaheen of the Pennsylvania Family Institute about the proposed Women’s Right to Know Act
  • Joe Geiger from the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations has Cheryl Hiester from Get Literate of Lebanon/Lancaster Counties in the Nonprofit Spotlight
  • Col. Frank Ryan, USMC (Ret.) has a Lincoln Radio Journal commentary on why Federal Reserve policies are leading us into an economic depression

This week on American Radio Journal:

  • Lowman Henry talks with Vern McKinley author of the new book Financing Failure: A Century of Bailouts
  • Andy Roth of the Club for Growth has the Real Story behind the defeat of Congressman Dennis Kucinich
  • Adam Tragone of Human Events has an Off the Cuff look at Super Tuesday results with Political Editor John Gizzi
  • Frank Ryan, USMC (Ret.) has an American Radio Journal commentary on why the Federal Reserve must return interest rates to market levels

Visit the program web sites for more information about air times. There, you can also stream live or listen to past programs!

http://www.lincolnradiojournal.com

http://www.americanradiojournal.com

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