Monday, August 16, 2010

Getting a Constitutional Education – Questions for Student Discussion (Part 10)

It’s important that we educate our children on the topics of politics, government, and the Constitution which governs our nation. This nine-part series reminds us of some basic principles, lest they be forgotten by the next generation. The following questions provide material for homeschool and public school teachers to share, discuss, and test their students on each of the nine topics. The link to each article is included, or you may start through the series beginning at Constitutional Education – Free Homeschool Curriculum (a nine-part series, originally published in January/February 2009). The discussion
questions are divided up into three installments, beginning here.


1. Presidential Power (Part 1)

· Which Article of the Constitution deals specifically with the powers given to the President? [Article 2]

· Name two of the six specifically named powers given to the President [Commander in Chief of the military, authority over other members of the Executive branch, the power to grant reprieves and pardons, the ability to make treaties (with congressional approval), the power to nominate ambassadors and Supreme Court justices, and the authority to appoint Senate vacancies during recess periods]

· What is one danger of giving too much power to one person in government? [The founding fathers fled this very situation in England, because the king began exercising authority over areas such as religion – preventing personal freedoms]

· Does the Constitution give the Supreme Court the ultimate authority to rule on the interpretation of the Constitution? [Article 3 of the Constitution enumerates the powers given to the Supreme Court, as does the 11th Amendment. Nowhere in there can one interpret such powers as being given to the Court]

· What are your thoughts on the disagreement between Justice John Marshall and President Andrew Jackson on the power of the Supreme Court? [Jackson appears to argue correctly that the Court was exceeding its authority. Nevertheless, to this day, the Court behaves as if it is the ultimate arbiter on Constitutional law.]

· Extra – Look for news articles, postings or telecasts which may demonstrate the assumption of presidential or Court authority which is not given in the Constitution

2. States’ Rights (Part 2)

· A system emphasizing the idea of states’ rights is called what? [Federalism]

· Have United States Senators always been elected by the people every six years? When did this change, and what changed it? How were they previously selected? [No, U.S. Senators used to be appointed by state legislatures until the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913.]

· Do you believe that the founding fathers would place more importance on power emanating from the states or from the federal government? [It seems clear in reviewing the words of most founding fathers and documents such as the Constitution that they favored states’ rights. They seemed opposed to a great deal of authority at the federal level, probably because of their experience with the monarchy back in England. In fact, it took a Constitutional Amendment to change the appointment of Senators to a direct election. If they had to amend the Constitution to provide for this, it seems clear that it was not the founders intent.]

· Extra – In your opinion, is there an important difference between a state-appointed Senator and an elected one? Describe why. Consider what may influence their decision-making in each case.

3. Government Debt (Part 3)

· Does the Constitution allow the federal government to run a deficit and go into debt? [The Constitution does not specifically prohibit debt at the federal government level, and seems to imply that it can assume debt or establish new debt (as in Article 6).]

· Can we get an itemized tax bill from the government telling us exactly where our tax money is being spent? Why would this be a good idea? [Unfortunately, no. It would be good to be able to get one because it would cause the government to have more responsibility in where it spends our money if they knew they were going to have to tell us where every dollar goes. It is too bad that we don’t have this transparency from our government. Note that it doesn’t work the other way – we have to tell the government where we get and spend every dollar of our money when we fill out our yearly tax forms.]

· Does all tax money that is collected this year go only toward programs that happen this year? [No, the government uses a lot of this year’s money to pay for programs that were implemented years ago. Likewise, they use this year’s money to pay interest on borrowing that that did in the past.]

· Extra – What do you think the danger of an increasing national debt could be? [There may come a time when the debt cannot be paid because of a loss of prosperity. If that occurs, other nations who we have borrowed from (such as China) may feel obliged to get their money back through some other means. It also may mean that the world financial markets will switch from their standard currency – the U.S. dollar. This would put the United States on a lower-status financial footing. It may mean that the United States loses its position as a world superpower.]

· Extra – Do you think government spending and debt should be any different than personal spending and debt? Why or why not?


Next in the series
Back to the beginning of the Constitutional Education series

Friday, August 6, 2010

Radical Environmentalism – Which Is Worse, An Ecological “Disaster” or the Federal Government? (Part 13)

The Gulf oil spill news has certainly waned in the last few weeks. I guess people got tired of watching each drop spill on national television. And while I don’t approve of lackadaisical methods by companies such as BP, who are ultimately responsible for the spill and its cleanup, I also think we need to put the spill in perspective (see my previous tongue-in-cheek post about how long it would take to fill the Gulf with oil).

For me, a couple of questions stand out in relation to the spill. First, how bad was it for the environment? To be sure, some beaches were impacted, but I can’t find any lasting evidence that any were ruined – if they were, don’t you think the media would report the “loss of a national treasure” ad infinitum? I haven’t seen it on the news, so I must conclude that there is no story there.

What about losses to animals in the Gulf? According to Jonah Goldberg’s latest column, the losses in the bird population stand at less than one percent of losses during the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska back in 1989. That is remarkable, considering that this spill is larger and in a region which likely has more birds due to the warmer climate. And according to Goldberg, the total number of oiled mammal carcasses discovered to this date numbers only…three. Three? How many dolphins and porpoises died of old age during this period? And if this is not enough to make you think that a minimum amount of damage has been done, consider this article (from ABC News, no less), which claims that some clean-up crews are having a hard time finding any oil to clean up. “Even the federal government admits that locating the oil has become a problem”.

I concede that the oil is likely out there somewhere, breaking down over time as nature intended, but I refer you again to my calculations on the relative size of the oil spill (one or two grains of sand represent the relative size of the oil which has spilled, while the volume of the Gulf of Mexico can be represented by over 4,000 5-gallon buckets of sand). It’s going to be hard to find – and it’s going away more and more each day.

My second question is this – how bad was the spill for the economy? There is no doubt that the shrimping industry and the tourism industry have been hurt temporarily. And some families may not be able to weather the loss of half of their working season. That is sad.

But far, far more damage has been inflicted by the federal government’s intrusion into the economic policies of the Gulf region.

- An attempted moratorium by the Obama administration on new deepwater drilling in the Gulf (overturned by a federal appeals panel on July 9)

- The potential trickle-down effect of the above moratorium on things like boat shuttle service, and all of the industry that supports deepwater drilling.

- The potential passage of crippling federal economic laws that might come about due to this event – make no mistake, they are sorely tempted to limit America’s ability to drill for oil in the Gulf – though there is no corresponding decline in demand. This will simply open the door for others to replace that oil with oil obtained elsewhere on the planet, likely by non-U.S. companies. This would increase our dependence on foreign oil.

- The future “justified” shift to “greener” energy because of the oil spill – most of these so-called greener technologies are far more expensive, and many are not proven to be any better for the environment. But the federal government is pushing hard on these because of appearances, not because it is ultimately the right thing to do.

Finally, consider this. The Deepwater Horizon rig was incredibly difficult to shut down because it was in…deep water. The challenge of capping a wellhead that is a mile below the surface (where pressures are in the 2200 psi range) is far greater than if the well had been drilled in shallow water, and the drill bit allowed to tunnel sideways toward the oil reserve. But it is the very government which decries this disaster which then forces companies like BP out into the deep water areas to drill. Could it be that the government’s policy of forcing oil companies into deep water drilling is at least partially responsible for this “disaster”?

The oil spill is a nasty event. But it would appear that nature (designed by God) is already reclaiming the Gulf. When man (a.k.a. the federal government) thinks he knows more that he really does, bad policy is made. And the result of bad policy is ultimately higher energy costs, increased foreign dependence on oil, and a people with temporarily-soothed consciences who may later discover that much of the economic suffering was due to improper reactions to the spill, rather than to the spill itself.

Go, Gulf - I have a soft spot for the area since I grew up in Louisiana.


...and this was released a week after my article - "The Gulf Recover Obama Does Not Want To See"

Next in this series.......
Back to Part 1 of this series

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Communion Meditation – What Do You Really Need?

In just a minute, I’m going to make a bold statement about Jesus Christ – and I wonder how many can truly say they agree with it. I say this because it is a very difficult statement to hold to in our world and culture today. And it is a measure of where our hearts truly are.

We are surrounded by luxury and ease. Arguably, every one of us leads a life that is superior to any king or world leader up until a mere hundred years ago. We have air conditioning. We have access to healthcare that can easily cure diseases that were feared only a few decades ago – we can simply drive to the drugstore and pick up a bottle of pills that will fix the problem. Do you need something to eat? What if I said I wanted a spinach-leaf, strawberry, and pecan salad, topped with fresh Italian dressing – and I want it right now? That would have been unattainable on-demand not so many years ago. But now, I only need to get in my air-conditioned car, drive for five minutes to the grocery store, and pick up every single ingredient I need, no matter how rare or out-of season it is. I can be eating that salad in under a half-hour.

So what do I really need? When I’m surrounded by so much, it is easy to think that I don’t have need of anything. I could live for the rest of my life in relative ease and comfort, and fool myself into believing that I am missing out on nothing.

So this brings me to this statement – ponder it. Christ alone is all I need.

It sounds so peaceful. Christ alone is all I need. Do we believe it? Can we honestly say so, if everything else was removed from our lives – our comforts, our homes, our money, our cars…even our family? If all of that were taken away - and all we had was Jesus Christ - would we be able to say, “It is well with my soul”?

Philippians 4:19 tells us, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

If you could sum up the whole story of mankind in three sentences, it would go something like this. 1) God made man in His image and brought him into a perfect world – no sin, no death, no wants. 2) But man fell, and so was separated from God. And 3) God sent His Son as a sacrifice that each of us might regain what was lost. It is truly that simple.

Because of this, we each have access to the greatest gift imaginable - forgiveness and an eternity to spend praising God in heaven. Knowing that, it becomes much easier to say…Christ alone is all I need.


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