Sunday, January 29, 2012

Now That's an Idea!

Now That's an Idea!
by David Trumbull
January 27, 2012

Every year since 1991 the Pioneer Institute has conducted a "citizens' idea contest" that seeks out and rewards the most innovative public policy ideas. The 2012 competition will focus on federal programs that can be devolved to the states - with benefits like cost savings, more effective delivery of services, or innovation as a result.

Sample topics include:

Regulations - Are there federal regulations that can be devolved to the states, resulting in job creation or increased economic vitality?

Urban Redevelopment - Are there federal programs aimed at helping revive older, industrial cities that would be better provided by state and/or local governments?

Transportation - Currently the federal government collects taxes and redistributes transportation funding back to the states with strict limitations on expenditures. Is there a better way?

Interstate Commerce - Are there federal restrictions on interstate commerce that harm job creation?

Banking and Finance - The Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank laws aimed to address failings in the banking and financial services industries. Could a state-based approach be more effective?

Health Care and Insurance - Since World War II, the federal government has expanded its role in financing and regulating health care delivery and insurance. Are there more effective ways to insure and care for Americans through state policy?

Education - Since its establishment in 1979, the U.S. Department of Education has gained control over reporting, spending, behavior, academic content, testing, special education, and more. Are there better ways to achieve common goals at the state and local level?

The Competition grand prize is $10,000; three runners-up receive $1,000 each. The contest is open to all people and organizations-academics, non-profits, entrepreneurs, government officials, and all concerned citizens. Entrants from outside Massachusetts are eligible. Ordinary citizens will not be at a disadvantage, because Pioneer Institute will work to provide quality entrants with the resources to develop their ideas.

All applications must be postmarked or e-mailed by Monday, April 9th, contact the Pioneer Institute for details.

Got an idea for better government? Here's your chance to promote it, and maybe even win ten grand!

Common Sense About the Economy

Common Sense About the Economy
by David Trumbull
January 20, 2012

Twenty-five years ago the United States and Canada finalized a free trade agreement ("FTA") between these North American neighbors. It was only the second free trade agreement the U.S. was party to -- the first was the U.S.-Israel FTA which. It would lead, in 1994, to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which abolished tariffs and other barriers to the free flow of goods among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.

The Canadian and Mexican agreements marked the beginning of a new regime in Washington, with both major parties pushing for more and more bilateral and regional FTAs. We now have FTAs with 20 nations: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Peru, Singapore, and South Korea

Our government has also begun negotiations on FTAs with Botswana, Brunei, Ecuador, Lesotho, Malaysia, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa, Swaziland, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.

Elimination of U.S. import duties has been going on for 90 years. There was a brief reversal in the late 1920s when a Republican congress and president brought tariffs back up near their 19th century levels, but the Democrats undid that starting in the 1930s.

Students of American history know that tariffs were the largest source of federal revenue from the 1790s until World War I. That's when the income tax became -- as it is now -- the principle source of funding our over-bloated bureaucracy. Through the 19th century the tariff protected American industry (and, therefore, the American worker). Since we were blessed with ample natural resources and a large labor force America could produce most everything she needed internally, making the tariff, in effect, a voluntary tax that could be avoided by spurning foreign imports. Under that American System we quickly passed the British, who practiced free trade, and became the most prosperous nation.

Now both parties in Washington are totally in the grip of free-trade ideologues who believe that we should get all our goods and services from workers in other nations (or from illegal aliens within our borders); rely on an intrusive and abusive system of direct taxation; and pay for the whole thing through personal and public indebtedness. Common sense tells us that we cannot borrow our way to prosperity. Sadly for our future, none of the leading presidential candidates in either party seems to have common sense.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Four Hymns at Mass, and Only the One by a Protestant was Unobjectionable

This evening I attended the vigil Mass at the local Novus Ordo parish. As usual, the hymns were a mini lesson in what is wrong with the music in American Catholic churches.

We started with "Now We Gather" by Eugene Castillo in which the congregation congratulates itself for being saved. God does manage to make a cameo appearance -- in fact he shows up 15 times in the four verses plus refrain -- but is no match for the congregation, with the first person pronoun employed 39 times. The best that can be said of "Now We Gather" is that the tune is so unsingable that there is little risk that hymn will ever become anyone's favorite.

At the offertory we were assaulted with Dan Schutte, whose work can always be counted on to offer a memorably unpleasant musical experience. The hymn, "You Are Near," was an adaptation of the psalm Domine, probasti (Ps. 139; Ps 138 in the Vulgate, and, coincidentally, one of the Psalms at Evening Prayer today in the Book of Divine Worship) and the words, being true to the original, cannot be disparaged. As for the tune, if one can call it that, it is typical Schutte, in otherwords, the congregation has long since learnt that there is no point in even trying to actually sing this musical abortion.

The post-communion hymn, "Come, Worship the Lord," was also a paraphrase of a psalm, in this case the psalm Venite, exultemus (Ps. 95; Ps 94 in the Vulgate). Again the words, being faithful to the original cannot be objected to. As for actually singing, well, the irregular meter assured that there was no risk of congregational participation.

Thank God for Protestant clergyman Henry Van Dyke and for his 1907 hymn "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee," which, set as is customary to the "Ode to Joy" of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, offered us one hymn that could be sung with gusto, feeling, and joy.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

In 1815 We Took a Little Trip…

Res Publica
In 1815 We Took a Little Trip…
by David Trumbull
The governor shall annually… issue a proclamation setting apart January eighth as New Orleans Day… to the end that the memory of the services of the soldiers and sailors of the war of eighteen hundred and twelve, and the lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of our arms in that war, may be perpetuated. 
-- General Laws Part I Title II Chapter 6 Section 12F
For many Americans of my age the strongest association with the January 8, 1815 Battle of New Orleans is the song of the same title which, as performed by Johnny Horton, was the Grammy Award "Song of the Year" in 1960 The song was written by Jimmy Driftwood (June 20, 1907–July 12, 1998), who based the melody on a traditional American fiddle tune, "The 8th of January."

One of the great American popular songs of my youth aside, quite a lot came out of the War of 1812, sometimes called the "Second War of Independence."

The Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 to September 3, 1783) ended with the King of Great Britain acknowledging, in the Treaty of Paris, the independence that the United States had asserted on July 4, 1776. The War of 1812 ended foreign interference with Americans on the seas and also ended British support of American Indians seeking to limit westward expansion of the young nation.

The Battle of Baltimore and the defense of Fort McHenry (September 12–15, 1814) was an important American victory and the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to pen the "Star Spangle Banner," which, set to the tune "To Anacreon in Heaven," was a popular unofficial national hymn well before congress, in 1931, made it our official National Anthem.

The Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, in its Tenth Article stated that: "Whereas the Traffic in Slaves is irreconcilable with the principles of humanity and Justice, and whereas both His Majesty and the United States are desirous of continuing their efforts to promote its entire abolition, it is hereby agreed that both the contracting parties shall use their best endeavours to accomplish so desirable an object."

The United Kingdom and the United States both, in 1807, had, by law, abolished the slave trade. The American law took effect on January 1, 1808, the earliest date possible under Article I Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. law called for forfeiture of property and monetary fines. Following the Treaty of Ghent, congress strengthened the law to make the importation of slaves punishable by death. Having twice fought for our liberty, Americans were more and more awakening to the evils of slavery.

If most of us remember from school anything of the Battle of New Orleans, it is that the Treaty of Ghent ending the war was signed on December 24, 1814, but the sailing ships of the day did not get the message to New Orleans for some weeks. That is why the last battle of the war was fought two weeks after the end of the war!

Finally, here's Johnny Horton performing the song on the Ed Sullivan Show, (Season 12, Episode 38, Aired June 7, 1959) enjoy!