Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Hate Groups and Racism

            Hate is hate no matter what group is spewing it or their reasoning behind their hatred. I do not understand exactly why there is such clamor about the latest hate movement. It seems to me that the clashes by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, are no worse than the riots caused by members of Black Lives Matter. Both groups are demonstrating hate for members of a different race and causing division in the nation.

            I suppose that one major difference is that white people are coming forward condemning the actions of the white nationalists and no blacks have ever come forward condemning the riots and other troubles caused by blacks.

            Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro has been one of the most vocal whites to condemn the white nationalists when he sent out a 12-tweet message. He says that the white nationalists or “so-called `alt-right’ movement [is] a far-right political movement that rejects conservatism and embraces white nationalism.” He also says that the “alt-right movement” is “evil” and has “nothing to do with constitutional conservatism.”

            According to Shapiro, the mainstream media is attempting to make people think that the “alt-right” movement is bigger and more influential than it actually is. He compares the “alt-right” movement to a “replay of brown shirts vs. reds in Weimar Germany. They’re even carrying the same flags.” He says that the only way to end this “alt-white” movement is for everyone, including the White House and media leadership, to condemn it.

            This makes sense to me. However, the same treatment should be applied to every hate group – white, black, Hispanic, Muslim, etc. – across the board and in a unified way.

            President Donald Trump tweeted his condemnation the violence that took place in Virginia:
We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!

            I thought that the President sent a good message. “ALL of us are responsible to end this problem!” However, he was criticized because he blamed “many sides” did not specifically condemn the white nationalists and Nazis.

            Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee explained on “Fox and Friends Weekend” that there was little more that the President could have said because there was little information available when he sent his tweet. 

I think it was smart not to jump to a conclusion. We would have condemned him for that … Look, here’s the fact. No matter what Donald Trump said, there are going to be people who condemn his every word, his every action. Nothing will ever satisfy the Trump haters. And there are a lot of Trump haters within the Republican Party who jumped on him as well.

Let me just be clear. Donald Trump is no more responsible for Charlottesville than Barak Obama was personally responsible for Baltimore and Ferguson.

            All Americans are responsible to eradicate hatred and evil from the United States. Right or left, conservatives or liberals, we must come together and make it clear that we condemn violence and racism. We must be unified as Americans.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Kim Jung-un

            The news cycles are full of information about Kim Jung-un of North Korea and his threats to nuke the United States. I have not paid too much attention to his threats, but I decided to learn a little bit more about him. 

            Kim was born on January 8, 1982-84 or July 5, 1984. There is little known for sure about this man, not even his birthday for certain. He is son and second child of Kim Jong-il (1941-2011) and his consort Ko Yong-hui. He became the leader of North Korea on December 28, 2011, after his father’s state funeral. He holds at least five titles. He also holds two degrees, one in physics and one as an Army officer.

            The first leader of North Korea born after the nation was founded, Kim seems determined to hold onto his power. He ordered the execution of his uncle Jang Song-thaek in December 2013. He is believed to be behind the assassination of his brother Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia in February 2017.

            Many people find it easy to think that Kim is a crazy lunatic for threatening to crush the United States. Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, South Korea, and the author of several books on North Korea, says they are mistaken. He claims that Kim is a survivor, just like his father and grandfather before him. He states that the nuclear program in North Korea is for defense and that Kim acts crazy on purpose. 

Kim Jong Un sees the nuclear program as purely defensive. Conquering the South would be nice in theory, but this task is completely beyond his reach, both due to the U.S. commitment to protecting South Korea and Seoul’s own huge advantage in economic and technological power. He knows that any unprovoked North Korean attack against South Korea or the United States will end badly, perhaps in his death, and he is certainly not suicidal. However, he also presumes that no great power would risk attacking a nuclear state or sticking a hand into its internal strife – especially if it has delivery systems and a second-strike capability….

While North Korea’s nuclear program is defensive, it still makes sense to remind the world about its existence and use what President Richard Nixon once described as “madman strategy,” that is, to appear to one’s opponents to be irrational, volatile, and willing to disregard costs. That’s why North Korean propaganda uses such fiercely colorful language. When North Korean TV promises to “make Seoul into a sea of fire,” or threatens to nuke Canberra, or shows Kim Jon Un in front of a map of the United States with cities marked as targets of nuclear strikes, they are delivering the same message: “we are here, we are volatile, and will stop at nothing if our opponents do something threatening.”

            It appears from Lankov’s article that Kim’s threats sound terrible but amount to nothing more than letting the world know that North Korea has the capability of sending nukes to other nations. He is basically saying, “Do not attack us or mess with us!”

            I thought he might be trying to provoke an attack for some crazy reason, but I can understand why he feels the need to show power. As Lankov points out, Kim saw what happened to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, and Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya and wants to protect himself and his nation from a similar circumstance. This explains his desire for nuclear ability and his show of strength.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Amendment 25: Presidential Disability and Succession

            The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is Amendment 25 to the U.S. Constitution. The title of this Amendment is “Presidential Disability and Succession.” It was proposed on July 6, 1965, and ratified on February 10, 1967. Section 3 was used after President Ronald Reagan was shot and while he was in surgery and recovery. As Section 4 is relevant to our current day, I am including the entire amendment as follows.

1. In case of the removal of the President [Donald Trump] from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President [Mike Pence] shall become President.

2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate [Senator Orin Hatch] and the Speaker of the House of Representatives [Representative Paul Ryan] his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.

4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.

            This amendment is relative to the present time because liberals want to use Section 4 to remove Donald Trump from the office of President of the United States. The President’s opponents wish to have him “declared incompetent because they say he concentrates so much on his tweets and doesn’t properly take care of his presidential duties.” 
            Section 4 is meant to be used in cases of injury, stroke, dementia, or other illness of the President. Liberals wish to use it to escape from dealing with Donald Trump. They wish to have the President declared crazy because he is driving them crazy – as illustrated by performances by Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, John McCain, etc.

            Numerous people are calling for this amendment to be invoked to remove Trump, including television hosts, newspaper columnist, and even members of Congress. A bill to do this already has 23 Democrat co-sponsors. Section 4 of this amendment has never been invoked and most likely will not happen now. Invoking Section 4 would require the consent of Vice President Pence and more than half of the President’s cabinet, plus the consent of the Republican-controlled Congress.

            The idea that so many people want to use Amendment 25 to remove President Trump from office is frightening. Liberals have gone crazy since Trump won the election – or Hillary Clinton lost it, whichever way you wish to think about it. His opponents cannot accept the fact that Americans chose Trump over Clinton, and they are still fighting against him.

            On the other hand, the same Americans who put Trump in office are still supporting him. He is basically the same person that Americans saw on the campaign trail and liked. Trump is not the average politician, and Americans like that he is not.

            There is a right way to remove a President from office, and there is a wrong way. The 25th Amendment was put in place for an emergency, not for political purposes. If you do not like what the President is doing, then you should speak out against him, elect other politicians who will oppose him, and vote against him if he runs for re-election in 2020. Forcing him out of office by a coup or a civil war would make the United States no better than a Third World country.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Consecrating Our Lives

            The visiting teaching message for August is about living a consecrated life. I recently wrote notes to the sisters on my letter route, and I thought that I would share the message with my readers. I am using quotes from several members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as one from a former Relief Society leader of the importance of consecrating our lives and how to do it. 

            Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on this topic and gave a definition of consecration. “To consecrate is to set apart or dedicate something as sacred, devoted to holy purposes. True success in this life comes in consecrating our lives – that is, our time and choices – to God’s purposes.” (See D. Todd Christofferson, “Reflections on a Consecrated Life,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 16.) 

            Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles enlarged on this meaning when he said, “We tend to think of consecration only as yielding up, when divinely directed, our material possessions. But ultimate consecration is the yielding up of oneself to God.” (See Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance,” Ensign, May 2002, 36.) 

            We can increase our faith in Jesus Christ and in His atoning sacrifice as we consecrate ourselves to the purposes of God. We can become holy step by step as we live a consecrated life.

            Sister Carole M. Stephens, former First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, quoted Elder Robert D. Hales and then shared her understanding of consecration.

“When we make and keep covenants, we are coming out of the world and into the kingdom of God.”

We are changed. We look different, and we act different. The things we listen to and read and say are different, and what we wear is different because we become daughters of God bound to Him by covenant. (See Carole M. Stephens, “Wide Awake to Our Duties,” Ensign, Nov. 2012, 115-16). 

            Consecration is the covenant God makes “with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). We can bring our lives into harmony with God’s plan for us by living a consecrated life.

            My spirit longs to have the word of God written in my hearts, but my physical tabernacle is not always willing. However, I can see myself slowly changing and becoming more like Heavenly Father would have me be. I encourage you to consecrate your life to God and reap the blessings of doing so.

Friday, August 11, 2017

What I Like Best about My Siblings

            Families are strengthened when siblings have good relationships. Parents can encourage good sibling relationships by treating their children fairly and honestly. There is much truth in the title of a hymn, “There Is Beauty All Around when there’s Love at Home.   
            I received a different but interesting and appropriate gift for Mother’s Day. One of my daughters gifted me with a subscription to “StoryWorth.” The idea behind the subscription is for me to write the stories of my life. Each week my daughter will select a question, and the company will email it to me. I am supposed to write the answer to the question and send it back. The company will send the answer to my daughter as well as combining the answers into a book at the end of the year. Here is another picture into who I am.

            The question for week 12: What do you like best about your siblings? This is an easy question for me to answer because I love my siblings and love to be with them. The thing that I like most about my siblings is the unconditional love that I receive from them and feel for them. I enjoy being with my siblings more than anyone else in the world other than my immediate family. I know that they accept me and love me in spite of my many weaknesses and problems. I also know that they will support me at any time in anything that I might ask of them.

            I like the way that my siblings boost my self-esteem and make me feel good about myself. I like the way that our communication with each other is always positive. I like the way that we can joke and laugh with each other about the silly things we do and not be offended. I like the way that my siblings share their talents with me, whether it is family history work, quilting, or whatever.

            The only thing that I do not like about my siblings is that we do not have regular communication with each other. We tend to stick to our own lives and never make contact with each other unless there is a problem or need. If a telephone call is made, it is usually me that makes it. Even with the email and Facebook, it is like pulling teeth to get a response out of some of them. I wish that we had more frequent communication. I envy women who have regular outings with their sisters – which would include my sisters by marriage. My dream would be to live in a community with all my siblings and see them weekly or even more often. My dream would be to live in a community with all my siblings and see them weekly or even more often.

            Even without frequent communication and visits, the unconditional love that we have for each other makes us better people. Families are strengthened when there is unconditional love in the home. When siblings truly love each other, they are happier and the family is stronger. Strong families strengthen communities and nations.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Freedom from Pressure

            The liberty principle for this Freedom Friday concerns the pressure on older teens and young adults to attend college. I stand by the principle that everyone needs advanced training beyond high school, but I also realize that not everyone is capable of going the college route.

            Walter E. Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University, wrote an article on this subject. He gave some statistics in his article that should be considered by prospective college students and their parents.  

More than 18 million students attend our more than 4,300 degree-granting institutions….

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “when considering all first-time undergraduates, studies have found anywhere from 28 percent to 40 percent of students enroll in at least one remedial course. When looking at only community college students, several studies have found remediation rates surpassing 50 percent.”

Only 25 percent of students who took the ACT in 2012 met the test’s readiness benchmarks in all four subjects (English, reading, math, and science). Just 5 percent of black students and 13 percent of Hispanic students met the readiness benchmarks in all four subjects.

The National Conference of State Legislatures report says, “A U.S. Department of Education study found that 58 percent of students who do not require remediation earn a bachelor’s degree, compared to only 17 percent of students enrolled in remedial reading and 27 percent of students enrolled in remedial math.”

The fact of business is that colleges admit a far greater number of students than those who test as being college-ready.

            Williams, being the professor that he is, includes many other facts and figures in his article. I would like to know why there are so many students graduating from high school without knowing how to read, write, and do arithmetic. I would like to know why the students needing remedial college classes even want to go to college. I would also like to understand why any student is admitted to college without the capability of doing the academic work required at universities.

            The Professor says that high schools are delivering “grossly fraudulent education” when they allow a student to graduate from college when they are not capable of performing at even an eighth- or ninth-grade level.” I personally know a young man who graduated from high school without being able to read a third-grade level book. So, one reason we have students unprepared for college work is because the public school system has failed in their responsibilities to prepare them. Where are the high school counselors, and why are they failing these students?

            My next question concerned the motivation of unprepared students even wanting to go to college. If the student was not motivated enough in junior high school and high school to learn the high school subjects, why do they even apply for higher education? Are they reacting to peer pressure? Are all their friends going to college, and they feel left out? Are parents providing this pressure on their unprepared children?

            My third question is the motivation of the colleges and universities to admit students who are unprepared. Surely, the low percentage of graduation for students requiring remedial help (17 percent who needed remedial reading and 27 percent who needed remedial math) compared to the percentage of those graduating who needed no remedial assistance (58 percent) tells its own story. Williams cites a “study that more than a third of students showed no improvement in critical thinking skills after four years at a university.” In addition, many employers of those who manage to graduate from college report that their employees are not prepared to enter the work force.

            Williams suggests, and I agree, that it is a waste of time, effort, and money for some students to attend college. He says, “The bottom line is that college is not for everyone. There is absolutely no shame in a youngster’s graduating from high school and learning a trade.”

            Many people who learn a trade actually earn more money than their friends who have college degrees. I believe that everyone needs a high school diploma that shows that they completed work on a twelfth-grade level, but I do not believe that everyone can or should attend college.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What I Miss Most about Being a Child

            I received a different but interesting and appropriate gift for Mother’s Day. One of my daughters gifted me with a subscription to “StoryWorth.” The idea behind the subscription is for me to write the stories of my life. Each week my daughter will select a question, and the company will email it to me. I am supposed to write the answer to the question and send it back. The company will send the answer to my daughter as well as combining the answers into a book at the end of the year. Here is another picture into who I am.

            The question for week 13 is: What about being a child do you miss the most? The thing that I miss most about my childhood is the feeling of being carefree. I was reared in a home where I felt very secure. I knew that my mother and father loved each other, and I knew that they loved each of their children with all their hearts. I had no doubts that they would do anything in their power for me and my happiness, and I never worried about having a place to stay or food to eat except for one time.

            Something happened. I do not know the reason, but I decided to run away from home and even left the house. I had no plan, and I did not take any blankets, food, or extra clothing with me. I was about an eighth of a mile down the road when I considered my situation. I wondered what I would eat and where I would sleep, and I immediately turned around and went back to the house. I never ran away from home again.

            My family lived on a farm that provided much of our food and money. My father worked the graveyard shift at a gas station in town for extra income. We were poor, especially by today’s standards. We had the essentials for health and life but little more, and I understood enough to not ask for anything expensive. I wore mostly hand-me-down clothing until I was in junior high school and learned to make my own.

            I understood that my family did not have as nice of a house or the newest clothes, but I never felt poor. I did not have my own bedroom or even my own bed, but I did not think anything about it. I did have my own drawer in the dresser because Mom insisted that we each have a private space. Other than my own toys and clothes with a drawer to hold them, I did not really have much of anything that I could call my own. I remember being in about the fifth grade and receiving a briefcase-type bag to carry my papers and stuff to and from school. I was so proud of that bag!

            I did not have a bicycle. In fact, no one in the family had a bicycle. We either walked the mile or so to visit a friend, or we rode a horse. We had one old brown work horse that had the creative name of The Sorrel. He was one of a pair of horses with the other one name Blue. Guess what color he was? Blue died when I was almost too young to remember him, but The Sorrel was still living when I was a teenager. He was huge and gentle, and we rode him bareback.

            We could climb all over The Sorrel, and he would just stand there. We could put children on him from his tail to his ears, and he would carry them wherever they wanted to go. However, he sometimes got back at us in a sly way - but never when little children were on him. I remember several times when he pulled his trick while I was riding him. We would be trotting along and making good time. Then he would take a side step. I would keep going forward with the momentum and land on the ground. Then I would have to find a fence or something to stand on before I could get back on his back. I remember another time that he got back at me, but I do not think that it was intentional. I was putting a child on his back, and he stepped on my left foot. My foot hurt so badly! I thought he would smash it before I could convince him to lift his foot! He was a good horse even though he was old and fat, and I have many fond memories with him.

            I loved being outside even as a child. It could have been the small house with the large family or my need for space and privacy. I do not know the reason. I simply know that my favorite memories of living on the farm happened in the spring. I loved running through the yard and pastures with the winter snow barely melted and the March winds blowing their chill breath. I was free, and I loved it! I loved the freedom so much that even the chilly wind could not drive me back in the house. I would find a ditch or a low spot where I could hunker down to get out of the wind, and I would stay there until I was warm enough to run and play again.

            Even though I had a carefree childhood, I also had a few fears. My biggest fear was being afraid of the dark. It was not so much the dark that frightened me but what or who might be in the darkness. I was afraid to go to the outhouse any time because I thought Satan lived in the hole in the ground under the toilet. I particularly did not like going out there alone in the darkness. I did not mind walking the quarter of a mile to or from the meetinghouse in the darkness if I was with someone, but I was frightened to do it by myself. In the first place, badgers lived at “the little hill” that was about halfway between the church and the house. We knew they were there because various members of the family had seen them. So I was afraid of badgers even though I never personally saw one. I was also afraid of anything else that might lurk in the darkness.

            I still do not like the darkness. Why do I live in a place that has such long hours of darkness? I stay close to home at night, and I do not like to be home alone at night. I was okay being home with the children in the house and my husband traveling, but I feel quite different being here alone at night. Even now I calm myself by giving myself some serious counseling – “There is no one out there watching you!”
            My other big fear was missing the school bus. We watched for the bus every morning because we could see it coming over the hill above the farm. The call would go out, “The bus is coming!” We walked a quarter of a mile to the bus stop every morning, and the bus had one and one-half miles to travel from the time when we could first see it until it was at our bus stop. We had to do the farm chores - milk the cows and feed the animals – before we could get ready for school. If we got up late or something went wrong, we would not leave the house when we normally would. Then we would run. I remember running to catch the bus many times and the bus waiting for us. I still hate to be late, but I wonder if I developed my running speed because I had to run for the bus so many times as a child. I still have nightmares sometimes about running for the bus.

            There have been times in my adult life when I yearned to be back in my childhood years. I finally figured out that I wanted the security that I felt with my parents and siblings. When I understood my need for security, I could look at my life and figure out what I needed to do to feel more secure. Now that I am in my older years, I feel somewhat carefree again. It is good!