Archive for March 2013

FBI surveillance tool is ruled unconstitutional ~ Washington Post   Leave a comment

It’s about time. Any small victory for liberty is worth celebrating.

Posted March 29, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Why Is Government Even Talking About Marriage?   4 comments

Yes, this is germane to what I’ve been talking about because it touches on the administrative state.


I’m a Great Commission Baptist Sunday School teacher. Most people call us Southern Baptist. I describe myself as a nonpartisan conservative with libertarian leanings. Today I will be playing the part of a social conservative with libertarian leanings.

I believe marriage involves a man, a woman and God. It does not involve two men, two women, groups of men and women, or humans and animals. It also doesn’t involve a man and a woman without God. I base that belief on the Bible’s teaching. No, you won’t change my mind. Homosexuals can live together, have sex, raise kids, and jointly own property and their civil union is still not a marriage, because marriage is a sacred relationship instituted before and under God before the community. You will never convince me that the government deeming sin to be equal to a sacred relationship is good for society.

So far, I’m playing the role of a social conservative to a T, right? Now for the controversial – libertarian – leanings.

First, history records that we would probably not have an establishment clause if not for the Baptists of Rhode Island, who were tired of being pushed around by other, more politically connected denominations. They demanded the Constitution protect their right not to be Episcopalians. The Southern Baptist Convention has been politically supportive of socially conservative issues, but many of its members oppose theocracy in all its shades, harkening back to our forebears. We introduced separation of church and state to these shores. While we don’t accept that religion has not place in the public square, we know that imposed morality is tyranny.

I am not going to either defend or oppose homosexual marriages because the government being involved in marriage is against the founding principles of the United States. There are proposed constitutional amendments that would put morality under control of government and effectively violate the principles of separation of church and state. Social conservatives who want to make Christianity the official religion of the United States might want to think long and hard on what exactly that means. Government has no role in defining religious values.

A constitutional amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman would put the government, not God, in charge of marriage. It would undermine the separation of church and state and de-sacralize marriage.

The purpose of good government is to create a rule of law that protects people and allows them to live together peacefully. There is an unfortunate desire among some of my friends to see government as a means to force others to believe or pay for something we want. The founders were worried something like this would happen.

Traditionally marriages were blessed by religious officials or elders of a community in public ceremonies that created community recognition of the union. In the U.S., the states did not get involved in marriages until after the Civil War. If a couple did not seek a religious ceremony or blessing by God, a ceremony would be performed by a local justice of the peace. Such justices were local community officials. If couples cohabited for more than seven years, their marriage was often considered a “common law” marriage. States were not involved in marriage.

States became involved in issuing marriage licenses in extreme cases after the Civil War when white and black couples could not get a local religious official or magistrate to perform the ceremony. That problem no longer exists, so why is the government still involved in marriage?

State power grows. It’s rare for it to retreat. No matter how unconstitutional a state power may be, no matter that its purpose has long become invalid, it is rare for it to be eliminated. The Founding Fathers created the Supreme Court to strike down unconstitutional legal practices. The courts have been derelict in this duty, usually succumbing to social fads and seldom striking down unconstitutional legislation or legal practices.

In 1921, the US government became involved in the recognition of marriage when a dispute over miscegenation laws was appealed to the Supreme Court, opening the door for the U.S. to begin suing estates for inheritance taxes. The encroachment on marriage by the states and the Federal government parallels the encroachment on personal property with the passage of the 16th Amendment a few years earlier. These laws represent the process in which a bottom-up flow of power from people to government became replaced by a top-down flow of power where the people were effectively changed from citizens to subjects of the state.

Marriage is a cultural institution based on the love and fidelity of people for one another. It is properly blessed by religious and cultural institutions. The government was brought into marriage originally to provide a vehicle for the expression of this love when no social institution could be found to bless a marriage, or when lower governments sought to deny people rights based on interracial marriage. This was the result of the failure of cultural institutions to exercise responsibilities appropriate for the cultural sphere.

Today there are plenty of cultural groups that are willing to bless interracial and homosexual marriages. If a church won’t do it, you can easily find someone else. In Alaska, we allow pretty much anyone to perform a legally binding marriage ceremony. The need for government involvement to force this issue no longer exists. State and federal governments should withdraw from definitions of marriage and allow people the freedom of marriage and assembly as they choose.

Yes, that will complicate family law for a while. We’ll need to set up new ways of dealing with inheritance, for example. Some lawyers will no doubt make some money until that is settled. Government getting out of marriage will not end the social and religious debate over homosexual activity. It simply removes government from the debate and allows marriage to remain a sacred tradition that does not force Bible believers to violate their conscience.

Some Pigs are More Equal than Others   2 comments

The notion of human equality was always a hard sell. Experience teaches us that we are incredibly unequal in a myriad ways. I’m too short to be a basketball player, and there are people way smarter than I am. Oh to have the business acumen of Richard Branson or the moral integrity of Billy Graham. None of us is equal in all ways. Most of the Founders believed all men are made in the image and likeness of God, thus human equality resonated with them on a deep moral level. The rest yearned for equal treatment under British law because they had read John Locke.

It did not take long for their paradigm to be challenged by interest and “science.” In 1787, the delegates at the Constitutional Convention had been clear that they were setting up a system for the gradual elimination of slavery in the United States. That was the purpose of the apportionment of representation and even the southern delegates understood that. By the 1820s, the best London journals began promoting the idea that different breeds of animals and plants produce inferior or superior results and slave owners began citing the negroes’ deficiencies to argue that they should remain slaves indefinitely. Others were reading Ludwig Feuerbach’s rendition of Hegelian philosophy, in which Biblical injunctions reflect the fantasies of alienated human beings. Others were familiar with the young Karl Marx’s formulation that ethical thought is “superstructural” to material reality. By 1853, when Sen. John Pettit of Ohio called “all men are created equal” “a self-evident lie,” much of America’s educated class had already absorbed the “scientific” notion (which Darwin only popularized) that man is the product of chance mutation and natural selection of the fittest. Accordingly, by nature, superior men subdue inferior ones as they subdue lower beings or try to improve them as they please. While believing in freeing the slaves and improving them, many abolitionists also insisted that Southerners must be punished and Southern society reconstructed by force. As the 19th century ended, the educated class’s religious fervor turned to social reform, certain that man is a mere part of evolutionary nature, so could be improved, if they, the most highly evolved of all, were the improvers.

Thus began the Progressive Era. When Woodrow Wilson in 1914 was asked “can’t you let anything alone?” he answered with, “I let everything alone that you can show me is not itself moving in the wrong direction, but I am not going to let those things alone that I see are going down-hill.” Wilson spoke for the thousands of well-off and largely idle Americans progressives who imagined themselves the world’s examples and the world’s reformers. They gathered in Appalachian spas and Altantic boardwalk resorts to dream big dreams of establishing order, justice, and peace at home and abroad. They weren’t shy about their desire for power. Wilson was the first American statesman to argue that the Founders had done badly by depriving the U.S. government of the power to reshape American society.

World War I and the chaos at home and abroad that followed it discredited the Progressives in the American people’s eyes. Their international schemes had brought blood and promised more. Their domestic management had not improved Americans’ lives, but given them a taste of arbitrary government, including and especially Prohibition with all of its unintended consequences. The Progressives, for their part, found it fulfilling to attribute the failure of their schemes to something deeply wrong with America. The American people had failed them because democracy in its American form perpetuated the worst in humanity. The Progressives, if they didn’t already, began to look down on the masses, to look on themselves as the vanguard, and to look abroad for examples to emulate.

The cultural divide between the “educated class” and the rest of the country opened in the decades between the great wars. Some Progressives joined the “vanguard of the proletariat,” the Communist Party. Many more were deeply sympathetic to Soviet Russia and/or Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The Nation, the New York Times and National Geographic encouraged imitation of these regimes because they promised energetic transformation of their peoples’ traditions and to build “the new man.” Our educated class was bitter about America. In 1925 the American Civil Liberties Union sponsored a legal challenge to a Tennessee law that required teaching the Biblical account of creation. The ensuing trial was radio broadcasted nationally and then followed by the hit movie Inherit the Wind. It was a grand occasion for the spa class to drive home the point that Americans who believed in the Bible were willful ignoramuses. As World War II approached, some American Progressives supported the Soviet Union (and its ally, Nazi Germany) and others Great Britain and France, but they all agreed the approaching war should be blamed on the majority of Americans, because they had refused to lead the League of Nations.

Franklin Roosevelt brought the spa class into his administration and began the process that turned them into rulers. FDR described America’s problems in technocratic terms. He chose a “brain trust” to fix America’s problems and his New Deal’s solutions — the alphabet-soup “independent” agencies that have run America ever since — turned many Progressives into powerful bureaucrats who later became lobbyists.

They came to Washington to do good and stayed to do well.

As their number and sense of importance grew, so did their distaste for common Americans. Believing itself “scientific,” this Progressive class sought to explain its differences from its neighbors in “scientific” terms. The most elaborate of these attempts was Theodor Adorno’s widely acclaimed The Authoritarian Personality (1948). It invented a set of criteria to define personality traits, ranked these traits and their intensity in any given person on what it called the “F scale” (F for fascist), interviewed hundreds of Americans, and concluded that most who were not liberal Democrats were latent fascists. Herbert McCloskey’s Conservatism and Personality (1958) defined conservatism in terms of answers to certain questions, then defined a number of personality disorders in terms of other questions, and ran a survey that proved “scientifically” that conservatives were maladjusted ne’er-do-well ignoramuses.

Though few of today’s bipartisan ruling class ever heard of Adorno or McCloskey and cannot probably explain the Marxist notion that human judgments are “epiphenomenal” products of spiritual or material alienation, the notion that the common people’s words are mere signs of pain, pleasure, and frustration with little more meaning than grunts is axiomatic among our ruling class. They absorbed it without even realizing it from their education and companions.

Example: After Barack Obama described his opponents’ clinging to “God and guns” as a characteristic of inferior Americans, he justified himself by pointing out he had said “what everybody knows is true.” His is a confident “knowledge” that “some of us, the ones who matter,” have grasped truths that the common herd cannot. These truths direct the special class he belongs to, because grasping these truths entitles the ruling class to discount what the ruled say and to presume what they mean. This attitude is what made our Progressives into a class long before they took power.

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This goes with what I’ve been writing about the administrative state and America’s ruling class.

Two Heads are Better Than One

Steven Lathrop and his neighbors had a problem, which the government had identified and then inexplicably refused to solve for decades. Steven Lathrop, using his own money, finally took matters into his own hands. He bought an eyesore of a dump and used the land to save his entire neighborhood from debilitating floods.

Steven Lathrop stepped up when no one else would. Steven Lathrop is a hero, by any reasonable person’s definition.

too much governmentAnd our over-regulated Federal Government crushed him, leaving him near bankruptcy.


Lathrop’s home of Granite City, Illinois, regularly suffered from storm flooding that damaged his neighbor’s homes, and even cost the taxpayers money in federal disaster aid.

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Posted March 27, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

American Ruling Class   2 comments

That America has a ruling class may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but not to anyone who has been paying attention. Since Alexander Hamilton and his cohorts tried to draft George Washington into becoming the King of America, there has always been a strain of American society that thought we would be better off if they ran the country. We’ve kept that strain in check through a robust populous spirit. In recent decades, however, it has become increasingly clear there are people who wish to dictate policy and dominate society and are largely getting their way over the objections of at least a plurality of Americans.

Who are these rulers? How did they come by the right to rule? How and when did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?

The most widespread answers are read on the editorial pages of the New York Times.  Supposedly, modern society became so complex and productive and the technical skills to run it so rare that it called forth a new class of highly educated officials and cooperators in an ever less private sector. Edward Goldberg suggests that America is now ruled by a “newocracy”: a “new aristocracy who are the true beneficiaries of globalization — including the multinational manager, the technologist and the aspirational members of the meritocracy.”

The Occupy Wallstreet crowd believes it has to do with wealth. The heads of the class do reside in our big cities’ priciest enclaves and suburbs, from Montgomery County, Maryland, to Palo Alto, California, to Boston’s Beacon Hill as well as in opulent university towns from Princeton to Boulder. It’s easy to assume that the wealthy form this oligarchy, but truthfully, the American ruling class are no wealthier than many Texas oilmen or California farmers who are categorically not part of the ruling class, and they are surrounded by wealthy neighbors with whom they do not associate. Regardless of where they live, their social-intellectual circle includes people in the lucrative “nonprofit” and “philanthropic” sectors and public policy.

What really distinguishes these privileged people is that their careers and fortunes depend on government. They vote Democratic more consistently than African Americans. These socioeconomic opposites draw their money and orientation from the same sources as the millions of teachers, consultants, and government employees in the middle ranks who aspire to be the former and identify morally with what they suppose to be the latter’s grievances.

Professional prominence or position will not secure a place in the class any more than mere money. In fact, it is possible to be an official of a major corporation or a member of the U.S. Supreme Court (cough – Justice Clarence Thomas), or even president (Ronald Reagan), and not be taken seriously by the ruling class. Like a fraternity, this class requires comity — being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the “right” side, and joining in despising the “outs”. Only an official or professional who shows that he shares the manners, tastes, and interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, can move profitably among the American establishment elite.

Do you want an example? In 1984, Laurence Tribe, Harvard professor of law and leftist pillar of the establishment, “wrote” a book using student assistant Ron Klain as a ghost writer. In the 1990s, Klain admitted to writing some parts of the book and reviewers found other parts came from a book published in 1974. Tribe claimed his plagiarism was “inadvertent”. The Law School’s dean, Elena Kagan, appointed a committee that included former and future Harvard president Derek Bok and issued a report that “closed” the incident”. Kagan is now a justice on the Supreme Court. None of these people did their jobs. Tribe didn’t write the book himself. Klain plagiarized the material rather than researching it. Kagan and the committee did not hold Tribe accountable. Nobody in power objects and these people end up in powerful positions and being given accolades. Yet when scientists with distinguished careers, like Richard Lindzen, Syun Akasofu and Fred Singer, question “global warming” they are not taken seriously because they are not members of the ruling class.

Although members of the American ruling class often have college degrees from the best universities, high academic achievement is not a requirement. Getting into America’s “top schools” is not dependent upon passing exams so much as having an attractive social profile and, according to an Alaskan friend who graduated from Dartmouth on his grades, if you don’t have the attractive social profile, you’d better not be a freedom-loving Alaskan who didn’t know to keep his mouth shut as a freshman.

Contrary to its own assertions, the American ruling class is not a meritocracy. It recruits and renews itself by absorbing people who are committed to fitting in. The most successful members of the ruling class do not write books or papers that stand up to scholarly criticism (cough – Barack Obama) and they do not release their academic records (cough – John Kerry, Barack Obama). Yet, even as it has dumbed itself down through negative selection, it has defined itself by a presumption of intellectual superiority.

This attitude is key to understanding the bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that “we” are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained.

So much for the Founding generation’s paradigm that “all men are created equal”!

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Malcolm’s post is running along the same lines as what I’m thinking about right now.

Malcolm's Corner

Removing the Velvet Glove

A lifetime ago, in a college political science course, I remember spending an inordinate amount of time studying the concept of ‘legitimacy’, how people come to believe in the authority of government and what makes them obey or feel loyal toward their governments. In earlier times legitimacy may have been conferred by, say, a belief in the divine right of kings or an averred social contract between the ruler and the ruled. But, in the U.S. today, legitimacy stems from a belief in one of the central tenets of the Declaration of Independence, that “governments derive their only just powers from the consent of the governed”.

Without significant legitimacy governments would quickly collapse, overwhelmed with the task of using brute force instead of voluntary compliance to ensure implementation of their program (see Syria today).  Consequently, most governments go to great lengths to bolster their legitimacy, surrounding their leaders with the trappings of wealth and power, ensuring…

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Posted March 27, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

TSA Creepy Stalker-Like Behavior   3 comments

Does anyone besides me feel as if the government just dug through their underwear drawer?

They thought they could present it as a convenience and then discovered that people really felt violated. Wow! You cannot make this stuff up!

No Representation   Leave a comment

The 2012 election exposed a telling problem in the United States electoral system. In the four years between 2008 and 2012, pollsters asked Americans whether they were likely to vote Republican or Democrat in the 2012 election. Republicans led in the polls for most of those four years. But when pollsters added the preferences “undecided,” “none of the above,” or “tea party,” these win handily, the Democrats came in second, and the Republicans trailed far behind. If you didn’t follow Rasmussen, you wouldn’t know that most voters who call themselves Democrats say that Democratic officials represent them well, while only a fourth of voters who identify themselves as Republicans tell pollsters that Republican officeholders represent them well.  Non-partisan conservatives like me, when presented with a poll that asks if I’m a Republican or a Democrat, will select Republican, but we aren’t Republicans. Here in Alaska, we can register our non-partisan status, but in many states, if you want to vote, you have to be a member of a political party, so you choose the one that most closely resembles your political stance, even if it doesn’t really. The polls suggest that most voters are conservative, but that the GOP doesn’t really represent conservatives.

Democratic politicians represent the ruling class while two-thirds of Americans lack of legitimate vehicle in electoral politics. The Republicans thought if they just moved toward the Democrats by nominating candidates like Mitt Romney they could capture more of the electorate. Instead, many dissatisfied conservatives who are registered Republicans stayed home and allowed Barack Obama to win.

Sooner or later, well or badly, that majority’s demand for representation will be filled. In 1968, George Wallace’s taunt “there ain’t a dime’s worth of difference” between the Republican and Democratic parties resonated with only 13.5 percent of the American people. In 1992 Ross Perot became a serious contender for the presidency simply by speaking ill of the ruling class. Today, few speak well of the ruling class. Not only has it grown in size and pretense, it has undertaken wars it has not won, presided over a declining economy and mushrooming debt, made life more expensive, raised taxes, and talked down to the American people. Americans’ conviction that the ruling class is as hostile as it is incompetent has solidified. The polls tell us that only about a fifth of Americans trust the government to do the right thing. The rest expect that it will do more harm than good and are no longer afraid to say so.

While Europeans are accustomed to being ruled by presumed betters whom they distrust, the American people’s realization of being ruled like Europeans shocked this country into near-revolutionary attitudes. We’ve only begun to wake up to how deeply the ruling class had sunk its roots into America over decades. The disease that afflicts us would have been easy to treat early on while it was difficult to discern, but it may be virtually untreatable by the time it becomes obvious to most people.

Let’s Join PETA   Leave a comment

Posted March 26, 2013 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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America’s Ruling Elite   Leave a comment

I’m taking a break from the administrative state, but not really. I’m just shifting my focus to the divide in our country that has allowed the administrative state to grow.

America started with a simple idea – all men are created equal. No, we didn’t have that all worked out at the time of the Founding. Some people like Thomas Jefferson thought blacks ought to be included in that, but they couldn’t make it happen in the 18th century. Some people like Abigail Adams thought women should be included in that, but they couldn’t make it happen in the 18th century. It’s been a long road to where we stand today and, truth be told, we aren’t at “all” yet. If America’s ruling elite has its way, we never will be. Then as now, those who favor subjects over citizens prefer that some of us are not equal.

The administrative state is a symptom of America’s growing ruling elite. The United States was never meant to have a ruling class. If you look at the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, they were a mixed group with diverse ideas and very few of them had any intention of ruling the United States. George Washington was a perfect example. He could have become king. He didn’t want to and so retired back to Mount Vernon. Alexis d’Toqueville was impressed by our lack of ruling elite. People served for a time and then moved on, went back to farms and businesses and let others take their place. He warned that we should hang onto that.

We didn’t. Don Young, representative from Alaska, has been in Congress since 1972. I like Don personally and professionally and I’ve voted for him several times. When I say personally, I mean that. I met him a bit more personally than a meet-and-greet at the local mall; that is the nature of Alaskan politics. My votes for him were heart-felt, as are my votes against him. I have voted against him in the GOP primary the last three times because I firmly believe that he needs to retire. He’s been in Washington DC too long. It’s not that he doesn’t care about Alaskan issues or that he’s doing a bad job for us — although I might argue that his big government ways are doing a bad job for the United States that is bound to cause problems for Alaska later. It’s that we — as a state and as a nation — need a change that is more than a political slogan. I didn’t buy into Obama’s Change platform because I believe we need to break up the ruling class and water the tree of liberty with fresh new energy rather than fresh blood.

Don’s certain re-election is a symptom of something more concerning, I believe. Good candidates have run against him in the primary, but he still wins 70% or more of the vote because the electorate has become lazy and they vote for the name they know. Ted Stevens, another progressive Republican who did well by Alaska for 40 years, wasn’t beaten by a Democrat. Mark Begich won by less than 1% of the vote a week after Ted Stevens was wrongfully convicted in federal court. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to think there’s something odd about that. Except for that last election, Ted Stevens never failed to get more than 60% of the statewide vote — in a state that prides itself on roguish behavior and voting for character over party.

The ruling class is something we the people have inflicted upon ourselves. How many of those in Congress have been there for decades? Why? Who are the ruling class and how did we end up giving them virtually lifetime control over the government of we the people?

Regardless of which major party you look at or favor, both are remarkably similar in their tastes, habits, opinions and sources of income. Office holders and their retinues also show a similar presumption to dominate the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class. It does not matter which party they belong to.

Yes, after the election of 2008, most Republican office holders argued against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, against the subsequent bailouts of the auto industry, against the several “stimulus” bills and further expansions of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens. You do know they were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition, right? After all, Republicans were happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind. Moreover, 2009-10 establishment Republicans sought only to modify the government’s agenda while showing eagerness to join the Democrats in new grand schemes, if only they were allowed. No prominent Republican challenged the ruling class’s continued claim of superior insight, nor its denigration of the American people as irritable children who must learn their place. The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.

There has never before been so little diversity within America’s upper crust.  In times past, some Americans have been wealthier and more powerful than others, but America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all, as was “social engineering.” The schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust had not yet imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, American history, and how America should be governed. That’s changed.

Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner never held a non-government job. He’s not alone. America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.

The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century’s Northerners and Southerners — nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, “prayed to the same God.” By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God “who created and sustains us,” our ruling class prays to itself as “saviors of the planet” and improvers of humanity.  Politically, they’d like Americans to believe there is class conflict between those who have and those who don’t, but in reality, the clash is over “whose country” America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. We face divisions similar to the Civil War and as Lincoln did at the time, we might observe from the Gospel of Mark that “if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

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