In many ways, Britain’s national history began when it left the Roman Empire. Throughout its many centuries, Britons have defined themselves as freedom-loving, independent people, very often resisting larger multi-national organizations or top-heavy systems of government. To choose just a few examples, King Alfred led his countrymen out of an encroaching Viking nation, Henry VIII removed his country from an increasingly tyrannical Roman Catholic Empire, William Wilberforce extracted Britain from the global slave trade, and Winston Churchill rallied his people to repel the ever-increasing Third Reich and then to beat it back from the lands it had swallowed up.
Despite this rich tapestry of freedom, I was a little surprised to watch as Britain voted itself out of the European Union yesterday. I’d seen so much fear and panic in the media, and so many English celebrities moping about how much costlier their vacations would be if the tiny UK left the utopic pantheon of European powers, that I wasn’t really sure if modern Britons would follow their ancestral heritage. Fortunately, they did… just barely.
As we watched the results being reported last night, the financial markets went wild. When it became apparent that little old Britain was probably going to paddle off alone into the Atlantic after all, the Pound dropped like a rock as investors swapped them out for safer currencies, like American Dollars, Yen, or gold. But despite deep pessimism about the UK’s future without the all-powerful EU, nobody was buying up Euros.
Last month, someone asked us if we were planning to educate James at home. There’s a lot of reasons why the answer is yes; mostly related to Biblical obedience. Heidi and I believe very strongly that it is our own personal responsibility to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Even if our current public school curriculum wasn’t fundamentally opposed to these things (and co-ed bathrooms are the least of our concerns, by the way), institutional education systems don’t leave the time or opportunities for us to set the examples for our children that we see Scripture describing for us, the parents.
But it goes beyond that. We’re not seeing home education as a burden we carry until our country’s messed-up schooling system gets fixed, and we’re not approaching it like a daily cross to bear (not until we get to Algebra, anyhow), but as a blessing! We may be a little nervous about our own personal abilities to teach, since this is our first time to do this, but we are genuinely excited about this. Why is that?
The best, clearest, most concise answer to that is simply that we were educated at home. I realize that lots of other homeschooled kids have rejected homeschooling, that not everyone who experienced homeschooling has the best attitude about it, and that we all had different parents and experienced a different process of homeschooling. And yet, there is no better way to explain why Heidi and I are just plain excited to teach our children at home than simply to explain that we have experienced it ourselves.
Our parents taught us to love God’s Word and God’s ways, and we want to do the same for our children. But it goes beyond that. We want to teach our children at home because we loved being with our parents and siblings growing up, and we want to allow our children to have that same wonderful experience. We’re excited about providing that experience to them and being a part of it with them.
Fact: private citizens are allowed to manufacture their own firearms, as many as they like, without having a Federal Firearms License, and without giving these firearms a serial number. It is only when transferring that firearm to someone else that it needs a serial number and paperwork, and so forth. Fact: the lower receiver is the part of the AR-15 that is legally classified as the firearm, and if that part is less than 80% finished, it is legally not a firearm. Many Americans buy these unfinished blank receivers freely on the internet, finish the machining themselves, and are technically the private manufacturers of the resulting firearm, which is perfectly legal for them to own.
Seems pretty simple, right? Not if you are the BATFE. Take the case of CA resident Daniel Crowninshield, who began renting out his CNC mill to folks that wanted to finish out their 80% lowers. In 2013, an undercover BATFE agent documented how Crowninsheild helped him build a jig for a lower, instructed him on how to fixture it in the machine and how to start and run that machine, and then (at the agent’s request) sold him more lower receivers. In 2014, Crowninsheild was charged with unlawful manufacturing and dealing of firearms, and five other charges. In 2015, the BATFE made a new ruling (2015-1) that more clearly defined Crowninsheild’s activities as unlawful firearm manufacture. Last week, he plead guilty to two charges, including unlawful manufacturing and dealing of firearms.
Last December, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife murdered 14 of his San Bernadino County Dept. of Public Health co-workers at a holiday party, and wounded 21 others. After leaving crude explosive devices behind in hopes of killing emergency responders, the two Islamic terrorists fled, and were themselves killed in a gunfight with pursuing law enforcement officers.
The subsequent investigation turned up lots of physical, financial, and computer evidence, but the FBI was unable to get into Farook’s encrypted iPhone 5C. Last month, they demanded, through a U.S. Magistrate Judge, that Apple, Inc. create a custom iPhone operating system, one with all security features disabled, which the FBI would use to recover all the data on the phone. There’s lots of good reporting on this case, so I’m mostly going to talk about the attitudes involved in the ongoing debate about privacy, encryption, and surveillance.
Despite FBI Director James Comey’s previous statements that Farook and his wife were not part of a larger terrorist cell, but had “self-radicalized” using freely available internet material, the need to get into the phone is described as of utmost importance. Despite former Counterterrorism Chair Richard Clarke’s observation that the NSA could easily crack the phone, the FBI demanded that the entire weight of Federal authority instead be used to compel Apple to create a reusable phone-breaking tool.
Last week a bunch of families from our church organized a tour of the Tennessee Capitol. While many state homeschooling organizations have annual rallies at their respective Capitols, it can also be helpful to show up more regularly, and to spend time with elected officials in smaller groups. Developing real relationships with legislators takes one-on-one time, but provides good opportunities to offer input and hold our representatives accountable.
We were able to do the usual field-trip stuff around Legislative Plaza, but we also got to talk to Senators and Congressmen, folks from the Comptroller’s office who tried to explain what our tax money was doing, and the Director of Non-Public and Home Schools. The highlight of the day was hearing from Rep. Mark Pody, who proposed the Natural Marriage Defense Act, but I think everyone had the most fun during our mock legislative session.
Our group was able to fill almost every desk on the House floor, and thanks to the assistance of the helpful clerks, we were able to use the mics for procedure and the buttons and board for voting. Since we didn’t have much time, we jumped straight into consideration of two fake bills, presented by a couple of sneaky devil’s advocates planted in the unsuspecting crowd…
I’m constantly amazed by Donald Trump’s ability to caricature himself beyond the bounds of satire. It’s becoming impossible to tell if we are watching a heavy-handed cartoon parody or a piece of officially authorized Trump Campaign media. Take this song, which opened Trump’s Florida rally earlier this month. Of course, this is not the first time kids have been forced to literally sing the praises of a political savior, but I would be less surprised to see this song in a Trump-mocking internet skit than an actual rally.
When I first heard this, I assumed that the girls on stage were a random selection of Trump staffer children. I was also pretty sure that its clunky lyrics had sprung from the pen (or stream of consciousness) of The Donald himself, so keenly representative of his flashing wit and deftly woven wordplay as it was.
After doing a little more research, it seems that the song was performed by the local girl group USA Freedom Kids, and written by their manager. I’m still convinced he swiped most of those rhymes from Trump’s Twitter feed, though (just like he swiped the melody and chorus from George Cohen), and that song made me realize who Trump has been reminding me of all these years: The Wind in the Willows’ highly self-celebrated Mr. Toad of Toad Hall.
I couldn’t help but notice that the internet is abuzz with much discussion on the subject of refugees this week. I’m trying to wrap my head around it, so allow me to generalize my observations of the political debate: Conservatives are opposed to immigration and refugees because they tend to believe that national prosperity and national security trump all else. Liberals, on the other hand, see immigrants and refugees as noble foot soldiers in the battle for multiculturalism and racial equality (and also as easily manipulated idiot voters).
When they argue, they’re completely missing each other’s points, because the conservatives won’t attack multiculturalism for fear of being called racists, and the liberals don’t want to talk about prosperity for fear of sounding like capitalists. But despite being on opposite wavelengths, it’s an argument that both sides really want to have, because conservatives like to deal with things that they are afraid of, like terrorists, and the liberals like to point out things that we all should be afraid of, like mean conservatives.
Then there is the Christian debate. I’ve read a few thoughtful articles and a lot of impassioned comments. I’ve seen memes and verses misused interchangeably, and have had a lot of people ask me which side I come down on: Should America shut down her borders to defend our families from certain death, or should the U.S. bring in any and every huddled mass and set them up with kind, loving Federally-funded financial support? Blind fear, or dumb compassion?
And the answer is: Neither. Let me explain why.
Heidi and I just got back from the Freedom Conference in Iowa. It was a great opportunity to be with friends that we hadn’t seen in a long time, and to make new friends. There were about 1700 people there, including presidential candidates, journalists, legal teams, and families that have been persecuted for their faith.
We heard some great lectures, had some great conversations, and really enjoyed the iron-sharpening-iron experience. We were also encouraged by the fellowship and testimonies of other believers, and a lot of our discussions sparked more questions than answers. I don’t have time to write a nice, neat article, but here are a few scattered thoughts:
Group Rights vs. Individual Rights
In reading various articles about this conference and particularly the criticisms, I noticed a common thread. Most of the critics of Christians gathering to discuss “religious freedoms” made the assumption that we were asking for special rights for our own little group. I can understand why they came to this assumption, since most political action seems to be demanded by special interest groups who want special specific privileges because of their own special minority status.
Opposing editorialists then usually explain that giving Christians “religious rights” would be wrong, either unfair because our special rights to not bake cakes will undercut the special rights of other groups to demand cakes, or unfair because Christians are not a minority. After all, Black pride, Gay pride, and Latino pride movements are good, but white pride rallies or Christian pride conferences are bad.
One of the three protesters that showed up had a sign that read “Religious Liberty is about more than the freedom to be a Christian!” Like most critics, he thought that our definition of “religious liberty” was some kind of exemption list for our special interest group alone; that our conference was trying to take some “religious liberty” high ground, and then Christians could use it to be mean to other religious groups. However, he couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, his slogan could easily have been the marketing tagline for the Freedom Conference.
The internet, like all technologies, is a double-edged sword. It can be used to edify, educate, and unite people. Of course, it can also be used to corrupt, misinform, and divide people. It is undoubtedly the most powerful communication and teaching tool since the printing press, but it also has incredible power to create emotionally-driven, uneducated mobs screaming for immediate action.
A perfect example of this is the furor that surrounded the SALT Gun campaign that was posted on the crowd-funding website Indiegogo. Last week, Chicago-based entrepreneur Adam Kennedy and his friends claimed that they had invented a brand new kind of gun, the world’s first safe gun. Instead of deadly bullets fired by violently exploding gunpowder, it shot harmless capsules of pepper powder propelled by silent compressed air. They marketed their product as the perfect, child-proof, safe home-defense device that could instantly stop any threat and, for the first time ever, offer a “a fear-free user experience.” However, these claims have a few problems.
The first problem is that they haven’t really invented anything. They are selling a completely unmodified Tippman TiPX paintball pistol; something that’s been sold in sporting goods stores for years at a fraction of the price. The projectile, which they claimed to have developed by “completely rethinking the bullet,” is also an off-the-shelf OC-filled paintball that has clearly been bought from Rap4. This combination of standard paintball marker and pepperball ammunition has actually seen real-world use, usually by law enforcement or corrections officers doing minor riot control outside.
I just saw an interesting article in The Washington Post, which criticized Dr. Ben Carson’s position on welfare programs and his desire to create an environment where government handouts are no longer required.
For those that don’t know, Dr. Carson’s mother refused to accept most of the government assistance that was available to her when she raised her family alone in the slums of Detroit. Washington Post columnnist Jim Tankersley says that this fact is irrelevant, and Ben Carson’s low opinion of public assistance is wrong, because his neighbors took lots of government money back then, and the people of Detroit still take lots of government money now, and they are still poor!
Somehow, the fact that Detroit is a bottomless money pit proves that these Government programs are not just needed but beneficial, even though Tankersley admits that success stories from its inner city are rare. One success story? After several decades of hard work, Sonya Carson’s son is now a a respected and successful neurosurgeon who has a decent shot among neurosurgeon salaries 2017, and at becoming President of the United States. To contrast, after several decades of State and Federal handouts, Detroit looks like this: