An Open Letter To Generation Z

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on September 30th, 2012)

Young Americans, Members of the iGeneration,

I’m not going to beat around the bush. Things look pretty bad for you and your classmates, your bffs, your compatriots, and your little brothers and sisters. In fact, let’s be perfectly honest. You’re in a whole mess of trouble.

Earlier this week, we heard an annual report from College Board, the administration that organizes the SAT test. What they had to say was pretty chilling news. According to their analysis of this year’s college entrance exam results, most of you who have made plans to go to college are going to have a really rough time. The College Board report says that 57 percent of you aren’t going to be able to maintain even a B-minus average during your first year of higher education. Indeed, only 43 percent of your peers managed to clear the test’s 1550-point college and career readiness benchmark this year. This is bad news for a lot of reasons.

One of these reasons is that it means more than half of you haven’t been equipped with the skills you’re going to need to pursue the education and the careers you’re planning on working towards. Another reason why this is bad news is that it means a whole bunch of you are going to invest a load of money into a degree program for which you have not been prepared. Many of you are going to go into debt in order to finance this education, and then many of you are going to fail to complete it. Sadly, the failures that are looming in your future have not only been anticipated by your government, but will be used by it to saddle you and the rest of your generation with a massive burden of debt.

For a large number of you, this will be debt that you acquire without receiving anything of value to accompany it. And that warning applies not only to the 57 percent of you who are on track to drop out of the fields of higher education, but also to the 43 percent who are on track to make at least a B-minus in your first year. Contrary to what you’ve been told by the education industry, even those of you who conquer the odds and graduate triumphantly with your $100,000 degrees may not be getting what you thought you were going to get when you forked over four years of your life and a bundle of money you don’t have.

College At Home has put together an infographic that effectively communicates the facts about the plight of the future college graduates among you. It explains how hard it’s going to be for you to get jobs that will recompense you for the work you’ve put into earning your degree – or even to get jobs that will not. This spring, 53 percent of college graduates were unemployed or underemployed, working jobs that didn’t even require a bachelors’ degree.

Unfortunately, all of this talk about careers and college is peripheral. I am calling this problem to your attention not because it is the problem, but because it is a symptom of a far bigger problem. The bigger problem is that the world has taken advantage of you. The bigger problem is that you have been lied to.  

The universe has not been presented to you as a riddle to unravel, a code to crack, a question to which there is an answer. Your education has not consisted of widening your prospects, nor of sparking a fire in your brilliant minds. Your minds have not been allowed to know their power. Your vast mental capabilities have been reigned in, relegated to the narrow fields of passing tests and bringing in bacon. Consequently, your potential has been smothered, your minds have not been encouraged to grow. You struggle even at the labor of fetching that bacon. What’s more, the materials that you need in order to grow yourself have been withheld from you.

The average score on the reading portion of the SAT test fell this year to 496 out of a possible 800. And that score doesn’t take into account those of your number who have dropped out of highschool or who are not planning to attend college. Let’s just say it like it is. A lot of you are not educated. You have not learned the most important skill that schools can possibly teach you – reading. You have not acquired the tool that you must have in order to unlock every other field of knowledge, in order to be qualified to make momentous decisions, in order to protect your rights. You have not acquired literacy.

Literacy , (n): the ability to read for knowledge and write coherently and think critically about the written word.

Without literacy, your career prospects are invariably going to be grim. And even assuming you do make it to your dream job, your quality of life will be poor because you have not been equipped to live well. You will be vulnerable to fads and demagogues. You will pay for everything you have not been given, for everything that the generation before you has stolen from you.

Please note that the blame we are calling down on your predecessors does not excuse you for the work you have failed to do. Nor does it imply that literacy and education are rights which are inherently yours. On the contrary, they are privileges. Unfortunately, your countrymen paid handsomely to ensure that these privileges would be yours. The fact that you never profited from all of their sacrifice or received the gift they thought to leave you means that someone else has profited, someone else has stolen that gift. Someone has robbed the inheritance that the thinkers and the men of letters left for you.

Generation Z, you’ve been swindled. You’ve been cheated. And by the time you’re in a position to take action, most of the people who are responsible for exploiting you won’t be around anymore. Your choice is clear. Either you will become a statistic and fall into mediocrity, or you will decide to give yourself the discipline, the training and the learning that others did not give you.

If you choose the second alternative, you’re going to be mostly on your own. You’re going to have to do your own research and your own studying. Fortunately, you live in the Age of Information. You are the Net Generation and everything you need is at your fingertips. You have no shortage of resources. Unfortunately, just because you have access to this information doesn’t mean you have the self-discipline to pursue it.

You may find a wise person who will invest time in helping you– by all means seek for such people with all of your being. However, it will be up to you to develop good study habits. You’re going to have to master your past and your natural tendency towards lethargy. You’re going to have to make up for lost time by devoting yourself to uncovering the truth which is contained mostly in old books that are difficult to read.

You have a lot of work to do. Most of you are probably not going to do it. Unfortunately, your only alternative is poverty and eventual slavery.

Chances are you’re reading this letter on an electronic device of some sort, probably with facebook open in another browsing tab, maybe with twitter chattering away, cramming the www with noise. Do the truth a favor and share this letter with the rest of a generation that is teetering on the brink of vast disaster.

Here’s to wishing you all the very best of luck – you’re going to need it.

(First posted at The College Conservative)

KY Senator Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul's lonely foreign aid filibuster shows Senate Republicans' true colors

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on September 26th, 2012)

Dr. Shakil Afridi, the CIA informant sentenced to 33 years in prison for his role in hunting down Osama Bin Laden, spoke to Fox News in an exclusive interview earlier this month, describing the brutal torture and interrogation he has undergone at the hands of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Dr. Afridi stated that he was burned with cigarettes and subjected to electric shocks while in the custody of the ISI. He was also blindfolded for eight months and handcuffed with his hands behind his back for 12 months.

In addition to providing these disturbing details, Dr. Afridi made some sobering claims regarding the ISI’s attitude about America. “They said ‘ The Americans are our worst enemies, worse than the Indians,’ he told Fox News. “I tried to argue that America was Pakistan’s biggest supporter – billions and billions of dollars in aid, social and military assistance -- but all they said was, ‘These are our worst enemies. You helped our enemies.’ It is…indisputable that militancy in Pakistan is supported by the ISI. Pakistan’s fight against militancy is bogus. It’s just to extract money from America,” Afridi said.  Pakistan has received over $20 billion from the US since the 9/11 attacks.

This is a state of affairs that Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wants to remedy. On the day that Afridi’s interview with Fox News was released, Sen. Paul issued a statement declaring that he meant business.

"I will continue to work tirelessly to keep this issue front and center. America should not give foreign aid to a country whose government is torturing the man who helped us kill Osama bin Laden. We should not be giving foreign aid to any country that is not clearly our ally. This must end, and this week I will renew my push for a vote on this issue, including holding up Senate business to accomplish this goal.”

Sen. Paul also sent a letter to Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, asking Reid to work with him on scheduling a vote for his bill S.3576, which would have placed restrictions on foreign aid and effectively cut aid to Libya, Egypt and Pakistan in the event that those countries do not agree to abide by terms set forth in the bill. The terms for Pakistan included the release of Dr. Afridi.

Sen. Paul, however, was not able to get what he wanted without a filibuster. The result was twofold. A skewed schedule for the Senate, which ended up holding a midnight vote in the dark hours of Saturday morning. And an epic, hour-long speech on the Senate floor for Sen. Paul, who delivered a compelling and resounding address exploring the disastrous failures of unconditional foreign aid, and tugging at the hearts and minds of Americans who stayed up late to watch the performance on c-span.

This fascinating and eloquent speech began with the tragic story of Zairian dictator Mobuto who embezzled billions of dollars from his own government throughout the course of his 32-year reign and yet was funded by U.S. taxpayers. Mobuto subjected many of his personal enemies to horrific tortures and took elaborate shopping trips to Europe while his own nation was without basic energy provisions.

Paul then went on to cite similar examples of dictators who were supported by the US in their oppression of their own people, including that of Saddam Hussein

“It’s sad to contemplate what despots and dictators have done and are doing to their people,” said Sen. Paul. “It’s sadder still to realize that they’re being subsidized in this behavior with your money. Those who say, ‘Oh, I just simply want to help people. I want to help poor people around the world by sending them money,’ – it is stolen by their leaders. It doesn’t get to the poor people. And besides, you may have heard, we’re a trillion dollars short in our own budget here. How are we sending money overseas?”

Paul said that while supporters of foreign aid assert the aid is necessary to ensure good behavior on the part of foreign powers, he doesn’t see that unconditional aid is bringing about those results or can even be reasonably expected to. Instead, he suggested that aid, when it is provided at all, should be a reward for loyal allies of the US.
In further remarks that seemed calculated to appeal to the patriotism of fellow conservatives, he stated,

“I think the real question and the image that you have to have in your mind is, when you see ten thousand people outside the embassy in Pakistan, burning the US flag, can you imagine that we would send them more money? Can you imagine that we would not place restrictions on this money?”

Despite the magnificence of this impassioned speech, Paul didn’t seem to be harboring any illusions as to how his bill would be received by his colleagues in the Senate.
“Foreign aid is a bipartisan project,” he said near the beginning of his talk. “If I get this vote, you watch, the vast majority of the Senate is going to vote for unlimited, unrestricted foreign aid. I will probably lose this vote. But if you go home and ask your friends, ‘should we be sending money to countries that disrespect us? To countries that burn our flag?’ I think you’ll find that eighty to ninety percent of the American people wouldn’t send another penny. But that may also be why congress has about a ten percent approval rating…in fact, many people who claim to be conservatives are for foreign aid.”

When it came time to hold the vote, Senators John Kerry and John McCain stood to oppose Paul’s bill, while South Carolina Senator and Tea Party leader Jim Demint rose to speak on behalf of S.3576. Demint was particularly incensed at what he considered shockingly unfair treatment of Sen. Paul by Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Demint explained that earlier in the day he had met with Paul to discuss some of his misgivings about the wording of the bill. Demint shared that Paul had been very willing to accommodate him and had spent some hours re-writing the bill to make it even narrower in scope. However, when the two had come up with an amended bill that they were both pleased with, Reid refused to allow Paul to amend the bill. Demint said that Senators had always been allowed to amend their own bills and that the practice was common in the Senate. He said that although he didn’t think the bill without the amendments was perfect, he would still be voting for it and encouraged his colleagues to join him. 

Only nine of his colleagues joined him in the vote to support the bill, one of these being Sen. Paul himself. Only nine votes for the American taxpayer, for fiscal conservatism, for sanity in foreign affairs. Only nine votes for ending aid to the sworn enemies of the American people. Only nine votes for cutting payments to oppressive rulers in third-world countries, for removing the burden of foreign dictators’ debts off of the backs of American children. Only nine votes for justice, for political prisoners suffering in confinement, for friends of freedom serving jail-time in their homelands. Only nine votes for Dr. Shakil Afridi.

It sounds to me like there 90 seats in the US Senate that are in need of new owners.

(First posted at the Washington Times Communities.)
The United Nations Flag

The controversial UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities is pushing for a September vote in the US Senate

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on September 20, 2012)

At the end of July, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved a controversial UN treaty: The Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities (CRPD), which has been fought by family rights groups and defenders of US sovereignty for months. What exactly are the concerns being raised by the opponents of the UNCRPD? The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) summarizes them succinctly in a helpful list which breaks down the most disturbing elements of the treaty’s wording.

While one of their main concerns is the sovereignty issue raised in Article 4(1)(a), which demands that all American law on the subject be conformed to the standards of the UN, implied threats to parental rights are their biggest fear.  They explain on their website,

“Article 7(2) [which states that ‘in all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration’] advances the identical standard for the control of children with disabilities as is contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This means that the government—acting under UN directives—gets to determine for all children with disabilities what the government thinks is best.

Additionally, under current American law, federal law requires public schools to offer special assistance to children with disabilities. However, no parent is required to accept such assistance. Under this section the government—and not the parent—would have the ultimate authority to determine if a child with special needs will be homeschooled, attend a private school, or be required to accept the program offered by the public school.”

At the bottom of this heap of words lies a question hidden like a neon-orange hunter’s jersey walking around in a green field. Whose responsibility will it be to determine what is in the best interests of a disabled child? This is the question with the frightening answer that changes everything.

The HSLDA has also called attention to Article 4(1)(e), which demands that “ every person, organization, or private enterprise” must eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability. “On its face,” warns the HSLDA, “this means that every home owner would have to make their own home fully accessible to those with disabilities. If the UN wants to make exceptions, perhaps they could. But, on its face this is the meaning of the treaty.”

There were nine total witnesses at the July hearing which was held by Sen. John Kerry. Only two people opposed to the treaty were permitted to testify. These were Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation and Michael Farris of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. 

Farris expressed his concern, calling the hearing “a carefully-orchestrated attempt to get this treaty ratified without any serious consideration, adding,It appears some in the Senate are counting on citizens’ ignorance of the Constitution. [They are] trying to downplay the impact of this treaty by arguing that ‘a treaty is an empty promise with no actual substance.’ Wrong. The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution overrules State Laws if it is ratified.”

Judging by the extensive video footage of the hearing, Sen. Kerry did indeed imply that the treaty would not place legal restrictions on the US, stating, “since the treaty is not self-executing in the United States, it’s hard for me to understand, given the reservations and declarations and understandings, there would be a change needed.” 

However, Mr. Farris’ understanding of the matter appears to be the correct one, under this provision of the US Constitution:

“This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

It’s hard to see how that very lucid passage leaves any room for further debate regarding the binding nature of the UNCRPD, if ratified by the US Congress – even if it could be shown to make any ethical or logical sense to sign treaties that we don’t intend to abide by in the first place.

Following the Senate Committee Hearing and the subsequent ratification of the treaty by the Committee, there ensued a period of rest for the embattled partisans on both sides of the UNCRPD debate. This week, however, the issue reared its head again, with Tim Lambert of the Texas Homeschool Coalition sending out an alert warning that the convention is pushing for a September Senate vote on the treaty and urging defenders of liberty to not only contact their senators’ offices via phone but to visit them in person in order to stress the magnitude of the situation.

(This piece was first posted at The Communities at the Washington Times)

Sacked Christian Counselor Gary McFarlane

will the EU Court of Human Rights define religious freedom and how will their decision impact the rights of Christian employees in the UK?

(Posted by Bryana Johnson on September 15, 2012)

Sometime next year we’ll hear rulings from the European Court of Human Rights on two landmark cases that may set the tone for the future of religious freedom in European workplaces and outline the rights of businesses in disputes regarding employee practices. In a showdown that has the potential to become a fascinating clash of ideals, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) legal firm will be representing four aggrieved UK plaintiffs who claim they were discriminated against by their employers as a result of their Christian faith.

One case, Eweida and Chaplin v. United Kingdom, involves plaintiffs Nadia Eweida and Shirley Chaplin who were both ordered to either cover up or remove cross necklaces at their places of work. Nadia Eweida worked at the British Airways check-in counter at London’s Heathrow Airport while Shirley Chaplin worked as a nurse at a government-run hospital. The ADF claims that in both cases accommodation was made for some employees of other faiths, but not for these women. ADF attorney Paul Coleman said
in an interview with OneNewsNow

"When other members of the workforce were given accommodations for their religious symbols-- be it the Hijab or the Sikh turban -- Christians were told they were not allowed to wear the cross."

The second case, Ladele and McFarlane v. United Kingdom, deals with plaintiffs Lillian Ladele and Gary McFarlane who were fired from their places of work for declining to perform services involving same-sex partnerships and counseling. Ladele, a marriage registrar for Islington Council in London, “was disciplined after she asked to be exempt from registering same-sex civilpartnerships.” McFarlane was a counselor who was fired after he “declined to unequivocally commit to provide same-sex couples with psycho-sexual therapy.”

"In both of those cases, they could have been easily accommodated," Coleman told OneNewsNow. "There could have been timetables worked out; there could have been various ways that the issues could have been resolved, but instead, the employees were dismissed for gross misconduct."

What are the possible rulings that could come down from the Court of Human Rights and how would they affect our era’s raging debate regarding workplace discrimination and freedom of religious expression? A quick look at the cases might seem to suggest that the court can only rule in one of two ways: either against workplace discrimination or in favor of business rights.

If the court were to rule against workplace discrimination, Christian conservatives would rejoice at having their values upheld. If the court were to rule in favor of business rights, Christian conservatives would have at least as much cause to rejoice, as Christian business
owners have often expressed dismay at being hampered by government intervention from running their businesses according to the dictates of their faith. They might even eventually find themselves freed from being forced to provide accommodations for same-sex couples at their Bed and Breakfast establishments, and wedding services for same-sex marriages at their churches and entertainment venues. However, the fact of the matter is that these cases are far more complex and a far more disturbing ruling is likely to be the issue of this conflict.

UK law has provisions in place to respect the religious freedom rights of employees and to handicap businesses from prohibiting certain religious attires and behaviors. These laws, however, are not definitive. An individual is not allowed free reign simply because he or she claims religious reasons for his or her behavior or dress. It is left to the courts to determine how much religious observance is mandated by the religious teachings of an employee’s creed.

Thus, the 2010 Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled against Shirley Chaplin, the nurse who was ordered to remove her cross necklace, citing “health and safety guidelines.” The Tribunal
ruled againsther claim because it said Christians "generally" did not consider wearing a cross as a requirement of their religion.

As long as adherents of other faiths are held to the same standards, this is certainly an understandable ruling on the part of the Tribunal. Was the hospital in fact discriminating against Chaplin due to her Christian faith? I certainly think it likely. Perhaps the court could have investigated whether other employees were permitted to wear necklaces of the same size as Chaplin’s. Perhaps they could have probed into the hospital’s safety and health guidelines to figure out exactly how a small crucifix could be considered a violation of these. However, in the end, UK law says that Chaplin’s freedom to wear her necklace is not protected and that she must be subject to her business’s code of conduct. Even if it could be proven that her business is discriminating against her solely because of her faith, this would not make any difference. The Tribunal’s decision was that Chaplin’s necklace was not mandated by her religion.

 Let’s take a look at the original UK court ruling against Gary McFarlane, the disappointing outcome that prompted him to take his grievance before the European Court. The case opinion
is summarized as follows:

“A relationship counselor dismissed for refusing to counsel same sex couples on sexual matters because of his Christian beliefs did not suffer discrimination under the
Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. Although the law protected a person's right to hold or express their religious beliefs, it did not protect the substance or content of those beliefs on the ground only that they were based on religious precepts.”

In this situation we have a far more arrogant ruling issued against the plaintiff, because the court has refused to accept that McFarlane considered his actions to be mandated by his religion. Indeed, the ruling has sidestepped this crucial issue altogether. Justice Laws stated in his judgment,

“The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot …be justified. It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective.”

So suddenly, in the eyes of the court, this case is no longer a matter of whether or not McFarlane’s employer was asking him to contradict his own religious beliefs, but has become an issue of whether or not a religious belief is protected if the court doesn’t like it. Contrary to what Justice Laws implies by his statements, McFarlane’s actions were in no way jeopardizing the rights of same-sex couples to receive counseling services at his firm.
Explained Andrew Marsh, campaigns director for Christian Concern, 
“What lies at the heart of this is that no-one has been harmed by the choices these four wanted to make, no-one had had a service denied to them. This is an issue which really resonates with people on the ground, and is much wider than just a Christian issue.”

Thus the ruling issued by the UK court was in no way a protection of the rights of same-sex couples, but merely an attack on Christian religious freedom. It is this form of authoritarianism and bigotry that the European Court of Human Rights has the power to enshrine in the case of Ladele and McFarlane v. United Kingdom. The free world waits with bated breath to see what the verdict will be. Will diversity and religious liberty be upheld, or will these sad words of Andrea Williams, Director of the Christian Legal Centre, prove true?

"It seems that a religious bar to office has been created, whereby a Christian who wishes to act on their Christian beliefs on marriage will no longer be able to work in a great number of environments."


The RNC Power Grab


Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus

The RNC Power Grab:
Ignoring GOP injustices makes 'us' as bad as 'them.'

(Posted  by Bryana Johnson on September 03, 2012) 

Due to some technical difficulties with our server, this post cannot be displayed here currently but is available over at The College Conservative. Apologies for the inconvenience.

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