Lacey Smith

Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

Living our national religion

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Today’s post is about America’s national religion.

There’s been some drama recently about the Pledge of Allegiance, especially with the term “under God”.

Also, for a number of years there has also been a debate about whether or not America is a Christian nation.

This is not a post on either of those.

In fact, this is not a post on religion in the traditional sense.

Instead, this is a post on a system of belief held to with ardor and faith. This post is on America’s national religion.

The tenets of America’s national religion are laid out in the Declaration of Independence. They include a belief in divinity, unalienable rights, and the security of those rights by government. It is honor, integrity, individualism and a firm reliance on divinity.

Our national religion includes the belief that we can tear down and create a new government if it does not protect our rights.

It is a belief that our states ought to be free and independent. It is pledging to ourselves and others our lives, fortunes and sacred honors to defend and support our national faith.

I wonder how many people actively practice our national religion. I wonder of those who don’t are even aware that there IS a national religion.

Our schools, our government, special interest groups, political parties are all trying to destroy our national religion. Not EVERY one of them, some of ALL of them are actively seeking the destruction of our national religion.

“Practicing” a religion is a concept that is foreign to a lot of people, even those who are religious, but America’s religion has to be practiced.

Watching The Revolution mini-series it struck me the way the people invested in the ideals of America. They practiced their religion.

Now, military service is about paying for college or getting “real-world” experience. Civil service is about power, political climbing or money. So much is done because of the “what’s in it for me” factor.

America’s national religion is lived only on the premise of selflessness.

We must instill American values in our children. We must infuse them into our lives and we must inject them into our souls.

I believe in America. I believe in our national religion. I believe in the promises of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That is why I spent about an hour on Sunday talking with friends about political philosophy. It is why I’m working with Glenn Beck’s people to organize a Utah gathering for Restoring Courage. It’s why I’ve written letters to the editor, gone to political events and was honored to spend time as a page in the Idaho Legislature.

And yet, I know I don’t live my religion nearly as well as I should.

With this upcoming holiday weekend, I’m asking you again to evaluate your life. Do you believe in America? Do you believe in the tenets of our faith?

If you do, are you living it? Are you defending it?

The soldiers of the Continental Army did it through snow and bullets for only the promise of pay from a nation that didn’t exist yet and might not ever. What we must do is far easier than that.


Public opinion and war

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2011 at 3:26 am

I’ve been watching a History channel mini-series called The Revolution recently on Netflix. And while it is riddled with inaccuracies I wouldn’t recognize if I didn’t know my history, I’ve been impressed with a number of things.

Something that especially stood out to me is the cyclical way that the people supported and opposed the war for independence.

When there were victories, Washington was a hero and the war was good. When there were defeats, support waned and people were out for Washington’s blood.

In particular, when the people had a villain, the swell of troops into the militia was intense but when there was no villain public opinion turned apathetic and along with that came a reduction in money and military supplies necessary to wage a war.

I think what struck me so strongly about that was how little things have changed.

We are currently fighting not-wars in no less than three foreign countries. They are increasingly unpopular.

There are many reasons, perhaps even dozens, that we should be withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and should end our support of the Libyan conflict.

The president recently caved to that pressure and announced a quicker withdrawal of soldier from Afghanistan than his military advisers would have liked.

I got to wondering what would have happened if Washington had folded to public opinion like the president did.

I’m not a big supporter of the conflicts in the Middle East. I think we should bring soldiers home from posts all over the world.

(It’s more than a little amazing that foreign countries would allow us to have bases within their borders. Can you imagine the American outcry if the British stationed troops in Kansas?)

What I think doesn’t really matter though. I don’t know the situation in Afghanistan and whether the draw-down is safe or the best strategy.

I believe that South Korea can and should take care of itself, but I don’t know what would happen if we withdrew troops from the DMZ.

I am not, thank goodness!, the commander-in-chief. The safety of America is not placed squarely on my shoulders.

The president should do as good a job as he can at explaining the wars we are in to the American people, assuming they are necessary.

However, he should not bow to party pressure or to the people when managing the military overseas.

Can you imagine what would have happened if Washington and Congress had said to the people, “You know, you’re right… this war is unpopular and so we’re going to dissolve the army and let everyone go home”?

Some of our greatest political leaders would have hung for treason. We might still be under British rule and everything that America is would be gone. If not, we would have had to still fight for our independence later, costing more of all we sacrificed.

We need to be more cautious of getting into wars in the first place, but it’s important we see things through.

The commander-in-chief needs to do what is best for our country and our military, even when it’s not popular. We should appreciate that we don’t know everything and be patient, even during unpopular wars.

We can’t know everything, which is why we elect representatives. We need to elect ones we trust and then we need to trust them cautiously and let them do their jobs.

Freedom Fridays: The Preamble (pt 4)

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I know today isn’t Friday but I’m still catching up. I also feel like it’s really important to keep posting the Freedom Friday posts which focus primarily on the things that help guarantee our freedoms.

These posts are by far the most work and least read, but are so important I feel like they are worth it.

Today’s post continues my analysis of the Constitution. After today we will be 1/3 the way through the Preamble. The material in this 52 word paragraph may be the best commentary on the purposes of government of anything ever written.

So far, we have gotten to the 16th word: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”

The next purpose of the American government is to “establish Justice…”

Justice is “the maintenance or administration of what is just…” and “the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity” (Miriam-Webster Online).

Justice is elemental in a republic. By definition, a republic is rule by representatives who “[govern] according to law…” (as in a constitution).

This is different than a democracy because in a democracy the rulers are not subject to a base set of laws on which  everything must be based.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a country where the people making the laws are subject to law.

As I was researching, an interesting element about justice caught my attention. As justice is the maintenance of what is just, I also looked up that definition.

In addition to other meanings, something just is “acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good.”

As a libertarian, I have always leaned away from legislating morality. However, working through the definition of this single word has caused me to reevaluate my stance on a number of moral issues and even on the scope of government.

Of course, legislating morality gets really scary unless there is a significant amount of agreement on what all parties feel is moral.

When I look at the world around me, I feel like justice is a very American ideal. There are many other nations that have a form of justice, but in no other nation that I know of (except maybe Israel) is justice such an essential part of the national fabric.

Justice really is the single underlying reason that the revolution occurred. Americans did not feel England was treating them in a way that lined up with what they thought was just and protected their rights as English citizens.

The founders wanted to protect the justice they purchased with blood and treasure and preserve it for the future.

This goal helps fulfill the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and protects the our rights.

Establishing justice is in our blood. It’s part of why we feel the need to rescue the world. It is a core American ideal and we must defend it.

Time magazine gets a lot wrong, some right

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2011 at 3:53 pm

There’s a new and controversial cover article in Time magazine that asks if the Constitution still matters.

It’s a ridiculous question, since our government is founded on the principles that are laid out in the Constitution. All of the rights and freedoms we enjoy, though not given by the Constitution, are protected by that document.

That Time would even ask that question is audacious and shows how out of touch the writer and editors are with mainstream America and have no understanding of our government system.

Time does get a few things right and once I got through the first page and a half I found the article fairly well reasoned.

Unfortunately, by the time the author makes it to page 2, he has so damaged his credibility that even his logical premises are invalid. You can’t build a real house on a house of cards and expect it to stand.

He makes statements like Washington didn’t even dream a man could fly (given his relationship with Benjamin Franklin I doubt that claim – though I have no proof), that the Constitution protects democratic freedoms (it actually protects republican freedoms) and that the founders prevented women from voting (some could and did; that prohibition came later with political partisanship).

The article also includes thinly veiled insults about the Tea Party’s “almost fanatical” interest in the Constitution and presents the House’s recent reading of the complete Constitution in a negative light. I can’t figure out why that would be a bad thing.

He doesn’t present the same negative tones about the liberal legal scholars who believe in a looser view of the Constitution.

Finally, near the end of the article is the assertion that “we cannot let the Constitution become an obstacle to the U.S.’s moving into the future…” This sounds to me like the author believes that if the Constitution is in the way of progress we should throw it out.

I do tend to lean towards a stricter view of the Constitution but recognize that not everything is clearly laid out. There has to be some flexibility and elasticity in the document.

However, elasticity and complete disregard for the Constitution are completely different things.

I happen to believe that change for the sake of change is stupid and moving “forward” without a clear understanding of potential consequences is reckless.

On so many levels this article was irresponsible but it once again illustrates how much we lack understanding in this country.

The Constitution absolutely still matters. I think the founders would understand (and foresaw) a lot more than we give them credit for.

I think if the Constitution gets in the way of “progress” it’s probably not progress I want.

I’m completely happy being a curmudgeonly, backwards regressive if it means sticking to the Constitution. I believe in our founding document, even if Time does not.

America’s oldest child syndrome

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2011 at 1:17 am

In President Obama’s most recent speech (Wednesday, on the new strategy & troop withdrawal in Afghanistan), he said it was time to stop nation building abroad and start nation building at home.

That’s a great thought and I’m all for that if it means we are going to take the money we’re spending and put it towards tax reform and deficit reduction.

I don’t think that’s the kind of nation building the president was talking about.

More than that, I don’t think for one moment that bringing troops home stops nation building abroad.

America is spending billions of dollars to fund American contractors all over Afghanistan and Iraq as well as to provide aid for dozens of other countries.

While the deficit clock ticks and ticks well over 14 trillion dollars, we continue to spend money we don’t have, both nationally and internationally.

Even if all the spending domestic was justified (it’s not), we cannot justify all the international spending. Especially for countries like Ireland and Greece who are in trouble by their own doing, the Obama administration’s international bailouts are particularly frustrating.

The American government has a serious oldest-child/hero complex.

As an oldest child, I know all the signs. It’s easy to spot another oldest child.

As the modern world’s first and only truly free nation, the government shows all the signs of an oldest child.

We (and I use we in a loose form) keep trying to help other countries and every person in America.

We who have so much keep trying to hand it out to everyone else.

This is unsustainable, though. We are bankrupting our country and we need to stop the rescue.

The most important thing water-rescuers are taught is not to jump in the water after someone actively drowning because they will pull you under too. You cannot save someone if you are drowning.

Lest anyone thinks I’m saying we should not provide any aid, that is not true. But I don’t think anyone or any nation should be on a government dole.

By rescuing everyone we are not only harming ourselves, we are harming the ones we are trying to help.

The whole world relies on America to play hero because we have always been there in the past. On our current path we will not be able to save the world much longer and they will have to figure it out themselves.

As an oldest child, I have had to learn I can’t help everyone. Our government needs to learn that lesson too. It’s time to say no to saving the world. We simply do not have the resources to keep doing it.

Pres. Obama was right. It’s time to stop nation building abroad – ALL nation building abroad – and fix our own problems first.

We need to look somewhere else for solutions

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 12:00 pm

In my last post I wrote about finding things to be outraged about.

I’m not really encouraging you to be angry, but there are many things we should be really upset about. America is full of problems.

That is the nature of our country, though. We have always faced major issues. In 1776 it was fighting the oppression of England. In 1786 it was reforming our constitution. In 1812 it was another war against England, this time for trade rights, expansion and impressment.

From the Revolution to the Civil War, WWI to the invasion of Iraq, America has been involved in wars for a major part of our history.

And military conflict hasn’t been our only issue. We’ve faced trade issues, terrorism, race relations, political drama, regime changes, corruption, rebellion, recession, depression and more.

America is clearly a problem-riddled nation. For a country founded on an experiment, it’s amazing we’ve survived, much less thrived, so well for so long.

I think largely the success of America so far is the freedom we enjoy and our unique individualism.

America is suited better than any other country in the world to face the challenges we have encountered. We have a level of freedom unlike any other nation and the republican form of government centers around the rights of the individual.

This freedom has allowed us to be innovators and entrepreneurs and create solutions to the frequent problems we’ve faced.

Our solutions have never come through the government.

And that’s a fact we seem to be forgetting a lot.

When we look at all the problems America is currently facing, we ask what the government is going to do. We look to the president especially for answers.

But the answers aren’t really coming, and they can’t.

All Washington can do is get out of the way of Americans and let us create solutions ourselves.

Any other solution takes money out of our pockets (because tax dollars are OUR dollars), makes the government pick winners and losers, increases our deficits, reduces our freedoms and/or a number of other things.

We will be far better off if we find  the answers ourselves instead of relying on Washington.

Government is good for some things, but American rule was not designed to be all things to all people. We make a critical error when we expect it to be.

America needs to look somewhere else for our solutions.

NBC’s Pledge blunder shows we need to care more about what actually matters

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2011 at 1:18 am

I’ve been struggling with some writer’s block recently and have struggled since last Thursday to come up with something new to write.

Until I came into work yesterday and saw the controversy NBC had lit off.

In case you’ve missed it, NBC aired the U.S. Open over the weekend and sometime during the show they aired a patriotic montage that include the Pledge of Allegiance… or part of it.

On two separate occasions, NBC had edited out the phrase “under God, indivisible” and the second time they also left out “one nation”.

This upset so many people that before the three-hour broadcast was over the anchor issued an apology of sorts. It also, predictably, really ticked off many on the right.

Here is the video (along with the apology that inevitably followed):

I don’t know if it was a left-wing, anti-God agenda-driven statement or if it was simply a complete (and stupid) error in judgement by an out-of-touch news organization. I wouldn’t be surprised either way.

Unfortunately, NBC didn’t explain, and so we can only speculate. They also didn’t really apologize for their actions, the anchor just said he was sorry if anyone was offended and that wasn’t their intention.

Frankly, I don’t understand what NBC was trying to accomplish. I don’t think that a sporting event is patriotic and I their video seems a little strange.

I am disturbed by NBC’s choice to edit the pledge, but the general upset over it is what really caught my attention.

There were clearly enough people who immediately and very vocally shared their displeasure with NBC that the network responded quickly – within the broadcast.

This tells me that there are still things that upset Americans and prompted me to start wondering: where is the outrage on all the other things?

What NBC did in the end doesn’t really hurt anyone. On the issues that do matter, the things that may hurt us, where is our voice?

Where is the anger, the outrage? Why aren’t we speaking? Where are the emails, visits to congress, phone calls, personal contacts, attendance at town-halls and caucuses and primaries?

I think it’s because we are lazy.

It is so much easier to shoot off an upset email to NBC or comment on Facebook or Twitter how displeased you are than it is to really make a difference.

So on the important things we stay silent because it’s too hard.

We are selling our freedoms, our heritage and our futures because we are apathetic.

After watching the outrage over NBC’s Pledge blunder, I was left with the sense that we are penny wise but pound foolish. We care far more about thing that don’t really matter than things that do.

If you were upset at NBC, it’s time to get upset at Congress, at the President, at the Supreme Court and others and then take that upset and turn emotion into action.

There are thousands of insults worse than cutting out five words from the pledge that happen every single day. Where is our outrage on that?

Freedom Fridays: The Preamble (pt 3)

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2011 at 3:30 am

Yes, I know it is technically Sunday morning, and that I didn’t get a post out Friday or Saturday but I’m giving you one now. These aren’t posts I rush through writing and since I’m currently on vacation and didn’t get one written before I left… well, excuses stink but it’s what I’ve got.

Last week’s post focused on the first seven words of the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution. This week’s focuses on the next eight (we are humming right along… we might get through the Preamble by the time I’m 30… no, not really).

This next phrase, “in Order to form a more perfect Union” is the first purpose of the Constitution.

To understand what this means, why it was so important to be placed first and what importance it has today, we have to understand the history.

Between 1777 and 1787, the American colonies/states were relying on a unifying document called the Articles of Confederation. Although it’s actually a fairly good document, it gave Congress no real power over the states.

The states, adjusting to their newly gained freedom ended up more divided than confederate. There was infighting, increased debt and other financial concerns, and unequal representation in Congress, among other problems.

Essentially, the Articles of Confederation were about as enforceable as the treaties between Israel and Palestine.

In 1786, Shays’ rebellion spurred the need to alter the Articles of Confederation. The delegates who attended this convention went there to fix the Articles, not to write a new constitution. That’s the official line anyway.

Many of the delegates knew before they got to the Constitutional Convention that the Articles of Confederation were not going to be able to achieve what needed to happen. If any didn’t know, they soon found out.

And so they set out to create a more perfect union.

One of the biggest obstacles to the new constitution was convincing people that such a strong central government was necessary. Remember that these people had just escaped the tyranny of England’s monarchy. They weren’t anxious to be under the thumb of another strong central government.

However, the Articles of Confederation were inadequate. In today’s political world, they look like anarchy.

The Constitution was never designed to create the kind of central government we have today. In fact, what we have now is exactly what they were worried about then. It just took us longer to get there than they feared.

The stronger government laid out in the Constitution was designed to accomplish that primary purpose: to form a more perfect union.

The states had a union, but none of the other goals of the Constitution could be completed without having a union that was better and a central government that was stronger.

We would not have survived as a country without a stronger central government, but now that government has overstepped and become the thing it’s creators and detractors feared for.

There is so much to understand about these eight words that I can’t put them into a blog post. I would have to spend days to explain it all. Go do your own study. Then you can come back and read the Constitution with understanding.

Establishing a more perfect union was the next goal of their day. Ours is to defend then restore then maintain it.

We have to realize that the balance is very fine and that either a too weak or a too strong central government makes a less perfect union and diminishes our ability to fulfill the other goals.

That is the message of this phrase, rich with historical undertones. Knowing all the history gives us a clear view of what type of union was “more perfect” to our founders and we must decide if that is the kind of union we want or if we want to rewrite the Constitution.

Those are our only two option. For me, I think the Constitution does it’s job. It doesn’t have to be completely perfect to be more perfect than anything else.

It’s up to us if it stays that way.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”

Post today delayed

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm

There will be no post until late this evening or early tomorrow. Please check back later for today’s Freedom Friday on the Preamble (pt 3).

Prepare: 3 Months of Savings

In Uncategorized on June 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

The last step in my short-term preparation suggestions is to build three months worth of savings.

This is not new advice, and three months will hardly see you through long-term unemployment, but it’s a good start.

Especially when coupled with three months of food storage and three months of regular debt payments, three months of savings puts you in a solid place to weather up to six months (or possibly even more, depending on what you save for and how you ) of hardship.

Let’s use the same numbers as we used yesterday. Let’s also suppose you’re going to need this three months savings for a job loss or another situation where you are not earning income.

You’re expenditures every month won’t include income tax and you’ll rely on the three months that you’re ahead on your car and mortgage payments to get you by, so what’s left is media ($200), entertainment ($50), groceries ($300) and utilities, gas and insurance ($500), a total of $1050 a month.

If you decide to live on your 3 months of food storage, it’s $750/month.

From yesterday’s numbers, there is a $470 “surplus” that will be totally freed up eight months from now when you’re not paying ahead on your car and mortgage. This goes toward your savings.

It will take five months to build $2250 in savings, and you’ll have an extra $100 left over, which you should use to celebrate.

From here, I suggest you add an extra $900 to your savings (which would take an additional two months, with 40 leftover) to go towards the grocery bill so you can preserve your 3 months of food storage.

One additional note – you’ll want to put this money some place you don’t have immediate daily access to it (i.e. don’t try “saving” it in your checking account). You may want to even open up a completely different account or put it into a CD with no withdrawal penalty.

Thirteen months from now, all of us could have three months worth of food storage and emergency savings and be three months ahead in our debt payments. This would be a huge step towards self-sufficiency and go a long way to fixing our long-term economic problems.

It’s not the only solution; it won’t bring back jobs or solve the country’s debt crisis; it IS part of the solution and would be a dramatic shift in national attitude.

Possibly the biggest obstacle to our ability to do something like that is our attitudes, but if want to be part of the solution we will evaluate our attitudes and adjust if we need to.

This week I’ve focused on things we can do to increase our self-reliance. I really believe that we’re the solution, not the government. When we remember that and trust ourselves I think things will start to work out.

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