Quick Thoughts on The Court’s Decisions

My initial reaction:  I don’t think I exaggerate when I say we’ve seen the end of self-government in these United States.  All the executive of a State has to do to void an law he or she doesn’t like, but also doesn’t have the balls to veto, is to not defend it when challenged.

The next Dem governor of NC will see to it that the marriage amendment is gone by not mounting a defense to a challenge.  All it will take is a plaintiff alleging “animus” (in Mr. Justice Kennedy’s words [no relation, that I know of]) to file a case, and the Governor not performing his or her duty.  Poof!  Same-sex marriage crammed down the throats of the people of NC.

An Article V amendment convention or secession.  Those are the choices left to those who want to govern themselves.

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Another Source of Fear

In my previous post, I said fear is one thing holding you back, and gave some reasons for fear.  Today I want to briefly explore another reason we have fear:  We don’t think we know enough about something, so there’s just no way we can succeed.

(Hmm…on second thought, this is really just an excuse.  But let’s keep going and see where it takes us.)

First, consider this:  no one knows everything.  If perfect knowledge of is needed before you try something, you’ll never actually do anything.  No one would.  We’d spend all our time studying and not doing any productive work.

Second, this is really a symptom of fear of failure.  You’re using the excuse of “I don’t know enough” to avoid taking any risks.

Let’s say you’re a martial arts student, and your instructor just told you you’re testing for the next belt at the end of the month.  You start to worry that you don’t know the material; you’re going to fail!

Now, your instructor wouldn’t let you test if she didn’t think you’re ready.  She’s not in business to set you up to fail.

But let’s assume you’re right: you actually don’t know enough.  Let’s even say that you don’t even know what you should know!  So what you do?

First, ask someone who should know!  Your instructor probably has a list of requirements for the next belt.  She’s not going to tell you, “Oh, I’m sorry; I can’t tell you what you need to know for first gup.”  (If she does, demand your money back!)

And don’t be afraid to ask.  One thing I’ve learned is that most people really want to help.  They really, really do.  We get satisfaction from helping our fellow man.  So go ahead and ask!  (Of course, use some common sense.  If the person is obviously busy, or in a conversation, hold off on the question until he or she is free.)

The second thing you need to do is to study on your own.  In the martial arts, there are literally hundreds of books you can read, ranging from books on katas and forms to the mental aspects of martial arts.  Making the effort to study and learn outside the studio pays off in both the short term and the long run.

So there you have it.  If you don’t think you know enough, ask and study.  You’ll surprise yourself with what you learn!

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Two Things Holding You Back

What keeps you from moving forward in your job, your career, your life?  What keeps you from achieving your goals and dreams?

I believe there are really only two things holding us back.  They are fear, and giving up.  These two factors prevent us from moving forward, indeed, keep us in our place.


There many ways fear keeps us locked in place.  We’re afraid when trying something new.  Fear of looking foolish is a big one for me, or that I’m obviously new at everything and people laugh at me.  I’ve been afraid to apply for better position because of an irrational fear that everyone will discover fraud because on day on I’m winging it.

See that word up there?  “Irrational.”  This fear has no real basis.  No one will be hurt or killed.  No one is even aware.  I forget to point this out to me, but most people are so wrapped up in their own lives and work that they never give you a second thought.  Harsh, but true.  As my dear wife tells me “get over yourself.”

So how do you overcome fear?  By just soldiering on.  Note that you may fail at first, her look foolish, but just do it.  It may feel as if you’re going through hell, but as Churchill said “when you’re going through hell, keep going!”

Giving Up

That brings us to the second thing that holds us back: getting up.  I’m tempted by this all the time.  But things get hard, and there’s no payoff in sight, it’s easy to think that you should quit.  It even seems rational: “I’ve expended all this effort and I got nothing.”

And yet…

Maybe you just haven’t done enough yet to get to the payoff.  Maybe success is right around the corner, and you get there if you don’t give up.  If you have ability and can compete and you don’t give up his stand a good chance of success.  Walt Disney said “the difference between winning and losing is frequently not quitting.”  So don’t quit!  Look on those less successful days as lessons.  Edison tried nearly 1,000 different materials for the filament in a light bulb.  After the first 400 so failed, Edison said “I now know 400 things that don’t work.”

Have Edison’s attitude.  Don’t quit!

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More on Real Self-Esteem

In my last post, I defined what “self-esteem” really means, and briefly touched on how to instill it.  I want to go into a bit more detail on what it takes to build true self-esteem, using the martial arts as an example.

Right now you may be thinking “Oh, so that’s what you meant by ‘self-confidence’.  You mean that if my kid can beat someone up, he’s gonna feel good about himself.  You want my kid to be a bully.”

Well, no, that’s not the aim here.  Nor is it the aim of the martial arts.  Let’s look at a typical student’s progression through an art and see what actually happens.

When the student begins training in the martial arts, he generally begins as a white belt.  His training starts with the basics: middle punch, front kick, horse stance, etc.  Maybe there will be a simple form or kata, some simple self-defense.  All of these are basic and relatively simple, but challenging to the new student.

(If you don’t believe me, get into a good, deep horse stance and throw some middle punches for 3 minutes.)

After a few weeks the student can do most of the exercises without too much thought.  His thighs don’t burn as much when he does his horse stance.  He is comfortable with the class. Now the instructor may introduce another kick, or work on simple blocks.  This continues until the student tests for his next rank.

Keep in mind the student knows and can do everything required to advance.  But he may still fail the test if he performs poorly on testing day.

Let’s assume he passes his test and is now a yellow belt.  What happens now?  Well, he starts learning new skills for the next belt.  The skills are more difficult, but he knows that hard work will help him learn what he needs to pass his next test.

Note that it’s the possibility of failure that makes this work!  If the student can’t fail, then he doesn’t learn and experience a real achievement.  Nothing is risked, so nothing is gained.

This continues throughout the student’s career in the martial arts.  A true inner confidence and peace grows within the student.  He knows he has achieved something worthwhile, and esteems himself.   No bullying necessary.

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How to Create Real Self-Esteem

We all know parents like this:

  • “Brianna, you sing like an angel!”
      • (Brianna’s singing makes dogs run for cover and neighbors stick chopsticks in their ears.)
  • “Sally, you’re so smart!  You’re going to go to Harvard!”
      • (Sally couldn’t spell “cat” if you spotted her the “c” and the “a”.)
  • “Billy, you played so well in the ball game!”
      • (Billy rode the bench until the seventh inning, then he struck out, he threw the ball over the first baseman’s head, and he lost a ground ball in the sun.)

When you ask these parents why they do this, they say:

  • “I just want Brianna to feel good about herself.”
  • “Sally needs to have a good self image.”
  • “I don’t want Billy to have low self-esteem.”

Now, this is a very strange concept, at least to me:  you help a child “feel good about herself” by lying to her.

And don’t kid yourself.  The child knows you’re lying.  Billy knows he didn’t play well.  Sally sees that the other kids don’t struggle like she does.  If you think kids don’t can’t see these things, you just don’t know children.

Let’s Define Our Terms

I think it comes down to figuring out what the typical parent means when she says “I want Mary to have high self-esteem.”  Should Mary think she can do no wrong?  That every one knows she’s great?

No, what Mom really wants is for Mary to have confidence in her abilities, and not be afraid to try new things.  Mary’s experiences should give her this self-confidence.  And there’s no secret to building confidence in children or adults.  Hell, the military has been doing it for centuries!

Simply challenge the kid.  Give him problems and obstacles to overcome, where failure is a real possibility.  But not so hard that only a “super kid” can succeed.  But Billy has to work at succeeding.  No participation awards.  Don’t cheer him for simply trying.  Push him to really work and do well.  All of a sudden, he’s hitting the cutoff man every time.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Keep feeding a child these types of challenges, and before you know it you’ll have a young man or woman who knows he or she can overcome obstacles, ’cause it’s been done!

As a wise man once said, “If you want to esteem yourself, do something worthy of esteem.”


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Critical Thinking? Not So Much

My daughter and I had an interesting conversation over the weekend.  Somehow, the topic of gay marriage came up.  She started citing polls that “show most people are in favor of gay marriage.”

(NOTE:  I do not care to hear about your position on this, dear reader.  Gay marriage is just a “McGuffin”.  Stay with me.)

I told her those polls are wrong.  I don’t need to see the methodology behind the poll, I don’t need to know who commissioned the poll, if it says that a majority of the general population favors gay marriage, the poll is wrong.  Then I asked her why I’m so certain of this.

She started saying that I’ve been listening to propaganda, or the religious right, or any of the left-wing bugaboos about this topic.  I again asked how I know the polls are wrong, without looking at them.  She finally said she didn’t know.

I told her that every time the question went to the voters, it was soundly defeated.  Even in California.  Those polls have to be flawed; they don’t reflect observed reality.

Now, schools nowadays claim to teach “critical thinking skills”.  They do this instead of teaching what used to be called “facts” and “knowledge”.  Indeed, many “educators” say that teaching facts gets in the way of imparting these critical thinking skills (CTS for short).

Well, supposedly among these skills is “the ability to evaluate evidence through observation and place it in context.”  One would hope that on hearing a claim that obviously does not reflect observed reality, a student with CTS would conclude that the claim is false.  But that’s not what is happening, at least in my experience.  What should be an obvious conclusion was completely missed.

Why do the government schools claim that their goal is to impart critical thinking skills? Perhaps it’s because a measurement of a student’s CTS is by definition subjective and open to interpretation.  If you ask a 10th grader to name the two major alliances in WWI, and he tells you “The Central Powers and the Triple Entente”, it’s clear the teacher did her job.  CTS can’t be measured as easily, so there’s every opportunity to obfuscate and argue that the school really did its job.

But when a product of the system can’t tell when a press release doesn’t match reality, something has gone off the track.  The system failed at what IT claims as its basic mission.  And if we citizens don’t hold the schools accountable, we have failed as well.

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Are You Really Wearing That to Work?

Yesterday my manager forwarded me an e-mail from our HR contact.  The subject line read “Halloween costumes.”

The e-mail said that HR has already received questions about Halloween costumes, and that upper management is not supportive of the wearing of costumes in the workplace.

Is this what we have come to in these days of permanent “business casual,” first naming your bosses, and general non-formality in the workplace?  Employees who are allegedly adults, some with advanced degrees, actually think it might be appropriate to come to their place of business in Halloween costumes?

What happened to the idea that one should dress in a manner consistent with one’s age, station in life, and employment?  Adults should not seek to dress up at their offices!  A certain level of professionalism is needed.  A customer doesn’t want to walk into a bank and find the staff dressed up like the third-grader he or she put on the bus that morning.  Let’s not even get into the need to define what costumes are acceptable and not offensive (to avoid legal troubles).

Mark Steyn once wrote that in the 1950s, at a certain age “a man put on a suit and hat and went to work until he died.”  That’s standard we should seek to live up to, not the standard of the TV show “The Office.”  Leave the childish things to the children.

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About Last Night – Why Didn’t Romney Pounce?

During last night’s debate, Pres. Obama made the following statement:

“…a teacher that I met in Las Vegas, a wonderful young lady, who describes to me – she’s got 42 kids in her class.  The first two weeks she’s got them, some of them sitting on the floor until finally they get reassigned. They’re using text books that are 10 years old.”

While there are many who say this is a deplorable situation and the federal government needs to send more resources, Gov. Romney missed an opportunity to differentiate himself and explain a different philosophy of government.

Gov. Romney should have said something like:

“The citizens of Las Vegas elected their school board, who put in place the current district management.  If the district is mismanaged to this extent, the voters of Las Vegas can replace the school board, or vote to tax themselves more to provide the needed resources.  What they should not be able to do is to go to the federal government and ask that they take money from citizens in North Carolina to pay for their teachers and books.  The voters in North Carolina had no say in how the Las Vegas district was managed.  Why should they have to pay?”

I think that an answer along these lines shows clear commitment to republicanism.  The people of Las Vegas made certain choices in their self-governing.  They must live with the results of these choices, and work their way out.

It’s too bad no one ever said something like this before.  Oh, wait a minute

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Article V Convention – Final Thoughts

At the close of my previous post, I posed the question of why, if it is clear that Congress must call a convention, they haven’t done so.  Why haven’t the other branches done anything to force the hand of Congress?

In the case of the other branches, it seems to be that the Supreme Court ruled that Congress has sole power and jurisdiction over the amendment process.  That may be the case for those amendments proposed by Congress; they can attach whatever restrictions or conditions they desire (e.g., a seven year time limit for ratification).  But it is clear that the Congress must call a convention once two thirds of the states request it.  There is no discretion allowed.

Be that as it may, the executive branch has no power in this.  There doesn’t seem to be any provision for congressional refusal to carry out one of its responsibilities.  There is no way to impeach the entire legislature.  Perhaps the Founders thought that we would remain a federation of republicans, and hold our representatives accountable at the polls.  At any rate, the Federal Government appears to want nothing to do with this.

What about the states?  I believe that the state legislatures have the best chance for securing a hearing and debate on this.  They have legal standing: it is their applications that are being “micturated upon,” as the Big Lebowski put it.

I think it is likely that state legislators misunderstand the point of an Article 5 Convention.  Most people think it would be a constitutional convention.  But it is not.  It is a convention to propose amendments.  Even if the convention proposed one “super amendment” to replace entire Constitution, 38 states would need to ratify it.  That ain’t gonna happen!  Nevertheless, that’s the propaganda: if you are in favor of an Article 5 Amendment Convention, you must want to throw out the entire Constitution!  (I suggest you visit the Friends Of The Article 5 Convention website for more detailed background on this.)

There may also be some fear of Federal power.  There are some Supreme Court cases seem to say that Congress can order the dissolution, by military force if necessary, of state legislatures that oppose the ratification of amendments (historically, the 14th Amendment).  Again, I refer you to the Friends Of The Article 5 Convention website for more information and analysis.

In the meantime, I urge you to write your state legislators and members of your state’s Congressional delegation.  Explain to them that Congress is ignoring its duty, and ask where they stand on an Article 5 Convention.  I truly think that the states are where we will find a way out of this.

Finally, what amendments would I propose?  I have a few, some needing work by wordsmiths more skilled than I.  Here they are:

  1. Repeal of the 16th amendment
  2. Repeal of the 17th amendment
  3. Removal of the “general welfare” clause from Article 1 Section 8.  Add language making it clear that Congress’s power is limited to those enumerated in Article 1 Section 8.
  4. Clarification of the commerce clause to severely restrict the power of the federal government.
  5. An amendment stating that states have the right and power to secede from the union.  Any state so seceding may not apply for readmission for 75 years.  (I think that the states always have the right to secede, certainly under the 10th amendment.  But our understanding of this has been polluted by the historic tie of secession to slavery.  It is best to state it explicitly.)
  6. An act of Congress or decision of the Supreme Court can be nullified the decision of two thirds of the state legislatures.
  7. Provide for a legislative veto over executive orders.

That’s my list.  What’s on yours?

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Article V Convention – Part 2

In the previous post, I noted that states have applied to Congress for an Article V amendment convention.  How many states have applied?  One would assume that fewer than 2/3 of the states have applied since no convention has been called.

One would be wrong!  There have been over 400 applications for an amendment convention.  49 out of 50 states have sent applications to Congress.  By some counts, Congress was duty-bound to call a convention back in 1911.

Even if one holds that applications must be on the same subject, 39 states have submitted applications to repeal the 16th amendment.  You know, the one that allows an income tax.  I wonder why Congress never called that one?

So why has this gone on so long?  One reason is that Congress never kept track of how many applications have been submitted.  The applications are not stored anywhere.  Since the first Congress, all that has been done is to “memorialize” the application in the Congressional Record.  Nothing is entered in the National Archives.  To get an accurate count, someone would have to go through the Congressional Records and make a list.

Well, someone actually has done this!  The “Friends Of The Article 5 Convention” website has extensive lists of all the applications they can find.  (The numbers of beginning of this post come from that website.)  Their research shows that Congress is currently duty-bound to call a convention.  Even allowing for recessions, which may not be allowed since they are not mentioned in Article V (but may still be a legitimate exercise of state power under the 10th Amendment), there are still 38 states with applications outstanding.  This is well above the two thirds necessary to call a convention.

So why hasn’t Congress called a convention to propose amendments?  Well, the reason seems obvious to me: if the convention is called, there’s an excellent chance that the amendments coming out for ratification would greatly restrict the powers of the Federal government, and return power to the states.  As I mentioned in the previous post, why would Congress ever do something that would restrict or take away power?

Okay, fair enough, you say.  So why haven’t the other branches of the states done anything to force the hand of Congress?  Another good question, and the topic for the next post!

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