30 October 2012

Pondering the Debates (part 6)

Here I go again...

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

I'm working toward the bottom of the 6th page of the transcript today, still on debate #1. But hey, at least it's the second half of the first debate. And, surprisingly enough, I'm finding that I'm really enjoying going through and really examining closely what the candidates have to say. Twisted? Maybe. But I'm learning quite a bit, and that's a good thing. The parts of the Constitution pertaining to Congress have been where my understanding is the strongest; I've done the most study there. Doing these debates and the reading that I've been doing in that America's Constitution book has made me look more closely at the Presidency. I might even (someday) figure out what the Founders were aiming for when they created the Electoral College, and what sort of changes have been made since then. Figuring that out would be cool! But in the mean time, looking closely at the Presidency is pretty interesting, and this has been an instructional exercise for me.

Obama: Social Security is structurally sound.

Good grief. Really? Does he really expect that anyone will believe this? Why would you even say it, when it's a regular feature of the news that Social Security is under water, they've been taking from the trust funds, and the money's going to dry up? I certainly have no expectation that I'll ever receive a red cent. Social Security is a tax, not an insurance fund. It is important to note that the Supreme Court decision Helvering v. Davis(1937) held that Social Security is Constitutional only because the funds go into the general fund, like income taxes do, and are not earmarked in any way, so Social Security, like Obamacare, is [dubiously] Constitutional under Congress's power to tax. So, maybe what Mr. Obama is saying here is that he approves of the use of Social Security for the collection of tax moneys. I don't know. But, if you are playing along with the fiction that Social Security exists to help the poor and the elderly, as sort of a public insurance fund, then this comment makes no sense whatsoever.

Now there is a whole bunch of back and forth about ways that they want to (or don't want to) change Social Security, Medicaid, and how the other guy's going to cause huge expense and loss to a lot of deserving people. The two of them sound very much alike on this topic. They differ on the exact means, and Mr. Romney does seem to support more private involvement than Mr. Obama, but in general, both seem to be saying, "Federal involvement is necessary and here is how I think it should happen." I've already said that I think that Federal involvement is unconstitutional and explained my reasons for that opinion, so I'm pretty much skipping this section, except to say that I realize that fixing our nation so that we both care for our elderly and poor and also obey the highest law of our land isn't easy. And it's probably not something that can be fixed overnight. The New Deal started us on this path 100 years ago; we're not going to be able to turn things around over night. But I think we can - and should - look for ways to do away with government entitlement programs. Private entities, faith groups, and families are those who should be stepping up to this challenge. I think that we will all stand a little taller and be a whole lot more free if we do it. And I believe that we can do as good or better job without the inefficient, wasteful, corrupt government dictating to us what kind of care we are giving and receiving.

So. On to page 7 and a new question.

Question: what is your view about the level of federal regulation of the economy right now? Is there too much? And in your case, Mr. President, is there — should there be more?

Ah, yes, this is a good question. I am of the opinion that a huge portion of our federal government is unconstitutional and, if those things are to be done by government at all, they should be done by the States, in ways that the individual States deem best. Since all federal bills originate in Congress, the first place that I look to see if it's something that ought to be done is Article I Section 8, the Powers of Congress. I quoted it in full in part 5, but Madison summed it up this way:

Madison: The [federal government] will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

It is useful to understand that the reason we call our states, States, is because that's what they are. At the time of the Declaration of Independence the colonies claimed nationhood. Massachusetts and Virginia and the rest asserted their right to be as independent and sovereign as England, Spain and France. And, although we speak of them as the colonies and then as the beginning of the United States, there was a period where there were thirteen individual nations here on this continent. Which is, as I understand it, why we use the same word for our States as you might use for the State of Uganda: it was the same sort of entity. This was such a revelation to me when I realized it! It changed the whole way that I think about the States that make up our nation. They were independent states which decided to unite together for certain, specific reasons outlined in the Preamble, who very deliberately and specifically retained the right to sovereign internal rule. This idea was so important that two of the amendments in the Bill of Rights deal with it.

Amendment IX: The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people
Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it it the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

As free and independent States, each of the States already had the sovereign right to govern themselves - and, according to Madison's quote above, they would largely retain that, yet choose to present a united face to the world under the Constitution. They also agreed to play nicely among themselves. It's my understanding that the reason that the Congress was able to regulate trade among the States that joined the Union was to avoid things like interstate trade wars. Look at the limited nature of the trade authority that the states delegated to the federal government (Article I Section 8) when it was created:

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes...

Constitutionally, the answer to a question that boils down to, "How big should the government be?" should be very interesting. Let's see what the candidates have to say. Mr. Romney got to go first on this question.

Romney: Regulation is essential. You can't have a free market work if you don't have regulation. As a businessperson, I had to have — I need to know the regulations. I needed them there. You couldn't have people opening up banks in their — in their garage and making loans. I mean, you have to have regulations so that you can have an economy work. Every free economy has good regulation. At the same time, regulation can become excessive.
 Lehrer: Is it excessive now, do you think?
Romney: In some places, yes. Other places, no. ... No, it can become out of date. And what's happened with some of the legislation that's been passed during the president's term, you've seen regulation become excessive, and it's hurt — it's hurt the economy. Let me give you an example.
Dodd-Frank was passed. And it includes within it a number of provisions that I think has some unintended consequences that are harmful to the economy. One is it designates a number of banks as too big to fail, and they're effectively guaranteed by the federal government. This is the biggest kiss that's been given to — to New York banks I've ever seen. This is an enormous boon for them. There've been 122 community and small banks have closed since Dodd- Frank.

Now, banks are not an area where I have much background knowledge. The first thing that I need to know is, "What is Dodd-Frank?" So I'm looking at Wikipedia's entry. Turns out that Dodd-Frank is a major reform to the financial sector, and it arose out of legislation that the Obama Administration recommended to Congress. Mr. Obama intended it to be a "sweeping overhaul of the United States financial regulatory system, a transformation on a scale not seen since the reforms that followed the Great Depression." Wikipedia's entry has a criticism at the top, saying it is too technical, and I found it to be so. Taking Mr. Romney's statement about banks being ruled "too big to fail" and "effectively guaranteed by the federal government" at face value, I'd have to say that I question if those provisions are Constitutional. But his overall point here, illustrated by the specific example of Dodd-Frank, is that while some regulation is needed, too much is damaging. In general, I'd have to agree with that point, and some of that regulation could legitimately take place at the federal level, given how much of finance takes place across State lines, though as I understand it, all activity that takes place exclusively within a State should be the exclusive domain of the State government.

Mr. Obama comments on the Dodd-Frank example, and then he says this:

Obama: And so the question is: Does anybody out there think that the big problem we had is that there was too much oversight and regulation of Wall Street? Because if you do, then Governor Romney is your candidate. But that's not what I believe.

Now, I'll be upfront here: I'm a small government girl. I don't really understand what they're talking about, but I'd rather err on the side of small government. It has been my observation that our government is, generally speaking, many times larger than the Founders intended it to be. Orders of magnitude larger. So my personal bias is to go with the small government option while I learn things; I find that tends to be more in line with the Constitution, once I figure out the question enough to have a fully-formed opinion on the matter.

Next up: Obamacare. I think that one's going to deserve its own post, so I'll end here.

Fierce Cookies

So, since we're out of town a lot, we miss out on a bunch of the cool projects that we could do; a hotel room is just not conducive to mummifying chickens or building dress-up clothes of various sorts. And we're out often enough that I'm not in the habit of always even checking to see what we could be doing. But this time I did. And there was a cool project: build the crumbling towers of Rome out of sugar cookie dough.

Yum. I  love playing with cookies! I made some cool ones for my sister's bridal shower and I have been known to make waaay too many cookies for Christmas. And ship them to my family. Cookies are my friends, and I have tons of cookie making toys. And my frosting toys from that time I almost made a fondant cake for a wedding? They work great on cookies too. So one of today's projects was cookies. Only, we sort of got distracted from making the crumbling pillars, and we ended up with gladiators and ferocious animals instead. It was cool.

Roll it out between sheets of wax paper; it sticks less.

Gingerbread girls cutters can make gladiators in togas. Then we added weapons.

Hero was having a good time!
For the first part of the activity, Dragon was outside helping Daddy rake leaves. He thought that would be more fun than playing in the kitchen with Mom. When the leaves were taken care of, he wanted to "help" with the dishes. Worked for me. This particular project is still a bit over his head, and he wasn't really interested.

Later, during nap time we got out some frosting and decorated them. I thought they looked pretty awesome just like they were, but Hero wanted to frost them, and cookies do taste better when they have frosting on them. So we decorated them. And it was fun. 

It's been a while since we did this kind of thing in the kitchen. Both boys help me out pretty regularly, but it's been a while since I worked with only Hero, and we haven't done cookies for a bit. I was pleasantly surprised at how much he was able to handle. It was such a pleasure to play in the kitchen with him! My little guy is growing up.

27 October 2012

Pondering the Debates (part 5)

Here I go again...

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I'm working toward the bottom of the 5th page of the transcript today, still on debate #1. But it's not election day yet, so I may yet get through some more.

 Obama: The oil industry gets $4 billion a year in corporate welfare. Basically, they get deductions that those small businesses that Governor Romney refers to, they don't get.

I have issues with saying that permitting companies to keep money they earn is "corporate welfare." Bailouts are corporate welfare. Those companies actually got money from taxpayers to add to the corporate bank accounts. But deductions are taxes not paid. That's not the same thing. Not in the least. Not that it has a lot to do with the Constitution, but it strikes me as a dishonest way of looking at things. How generous. The government graciously allowed them to keep that deducted portion of their earnings. Balloney! That money rightly belongs to the person that earned it, or to the corporate shareholders. It doesn't belong to the government! This kind of thinking drives me crazy.

So, in part 4, I looked at where Mr. Obama accused Mr. Romney of wanting to send Medicare to the states. And, sending it to the states is a Constitutionally sound idea. But apparently that's not what Mr. Romney had in mind:

Romney: And, finally, Medicaid to states? I'm not quite sure where that came in, except this, which is, I would like to take the Medicaid dollars that go to states and say to a state, you're going to get what you got last year, plus inflation, plus 1 percent, and then you're going to manage your care for your poor in the way you think best.

I supposed that you could say that at least the States are controlling what happens with this money, but the reality is, the entire Medicaid program is unconstitutional. There is nothing in the Enumerated Powers that permits Congress to spend money on that stuff. I went over the Enumerated Powers in part 3, but maybe it's time for a recap. The candidates certainly seem to need to review it.

Article I Section 8 outlines the powers of Congress, sometimes called the Enumerated Powers. These include the following, and only the following:

  • The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States:
  • To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
  • To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;
  • To establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform rules on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
  • To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
  • To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;
  • To establish post offices and post-roads;
  • To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;
  • To constitute tribunals inferior to the supreme court; 
  • To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses on land and water;
  • To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;
  • To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;
  • To provide and maintain a navy;
  • To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
  • To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
  • To provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the appointment of officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
  • To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, be cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings; And,
  • To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

James Madison said this in Federalist 45, in response to fears that Congress would overstep its bounds:

Madison: The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

In other words, if it ain't on the list, they're not supposed to do it. And charitible efforts, such as Medicare, are not on the list. And in case that list isn't clear enough, Mr. Madison specifically addressed this sort of question:

Madson: I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.

Mr. Madison being the "father" of the Constitution, it seems to me that he would know what is and is not Constitutional. Until we change it, the highest law of the land does not allow this sort of program. Certainly this has been ignored for a long time now, but that doesn't make it right. So, while returning control of the money to the States is a step in the right direction, returning the whole thing to the States would be even better. However, both candidates are clear: this is not what they are trying to do. It is worthy of note here, I think, that in that potential 30% reduction that Mr. Obama is worried about loosing if control is given back to the States is going to be a huge amount of bureaucracy and red tape. That stuff is very expensive, and contributes nothing to the quality of care people are getting, so I'm thinking that the reduction that he's accusing Mr. Romney of supporting (though Mr. Romney says he does not) would not be nearly as catastrophic as Mr. Obama would like voters to think. I think it likely that, between the reduced tax burden increasing the self-sufficiency of voters, and the reduced bureaucracy, it might even be a change that increased the quality and availability of care while reducing costs. Government is legendary for its inefficiency and corruption, and on those grounds alone a poor choice for our charitable dollars.

On to page 6.

Romney: But — but the right — the right approach is one which relies on the brilliance of our people and states, not the federal government.

This principle is key to understanding the Constitution. The whole concept of our government was radical in that the Founders' theory of government is that the powers of government are derived from the body of the people - not the other way around. I've been reading from America's Constitution: a Biography again, and Mr. Amar has this to say about the presidency, as outlined in Article II of our Constitution:

Article II obliged the Founders to venture deep into uncharted territory. The young continent needed a president who would be far more than a legislative presiding officer, a state governor, or a prime minister, but far less than a king. Nothing quite like this new office had ever existed. Nevertheless, as Americans in 1787 tried to envision a republican head of state who could protect them against the old King George without becoming a new King George, they did have a particular George in mind. (page 131)

Our president was never meant to be a king. In fact, he was specifically, deliberately NOT a king. And his powers, rather that being derived from "divine right" or intrinsic to the office in some other way, are delegated powers which originate in the People, rather than in the government. This concept is crucial. It is the hinge on which the question, "Is this proper for government to do?" swings upon. In his essay, The Proper Role of Government, Ezra Taft Benson said it this way:

Benson: The important thing to keep in mind is that the people who have created their government can give to that government only such powers as they, themselves, have in the first place. Obviously, they cannot give that which they do not possess. So, the question boils down to this. What powers properly belong to each and every person in the absence of and prior to the establishment of any organized governmental form? A hypothetical question? Yes, indeed! But, it is a question which is vital to an understanding of the principles which underlie the proper function of government.

So, in his comment above, Mr. Romney got things absolutely, exactly Constitutionally right. Relying on the brilliance of our people and the States is precisely what the Founders had in mind.

Weekly Wrap-up: the miscellaneous one

One thing that doing these wrap-up posts does is it makes me aware that we don't have all that many "regular" weeks. Still, there is learning in every week, and good overall progress, so what we're doing seems to be working, even if it is a bit crazy from time to time. And that pretty much describes this week too. A little crazy, but some good things happened.

One of the awesome things going on is that Hero is getting so much better are reading, and it's so exciting to me! Just this afternoon, he got out his box of easy books, sat down, and started to read. He still likes the security of having someone next to him to help with hard words, so it didn't take him long to ask me to join him, but I was so excited that he was taking that initiative to start the process in the first place! Seems like every book he reads, he starts out uncertain because it looks "hard" but by the end he's got it handled and it's no problem. We're well into All About Spelling 1 now, and finally getting to the point of having words to learn, and it's so fun to see him laughing because "You can't even fool me, Mom! These are easy!" That works for me. We'll buzz through the easy stuff and slow down a bit when we get to something that's more challenging. And in the mean time, it's offering a nice review of the CVC words. After all the work on vowel pairs we've been doing, revisiting CVC words is a both a needed break and a valuable review.

The boys are getting along so well. This picture is actually from last week, when I was feeling sick and the Daddy was out of town going to our new nephew's baby blessing. I really wanted to have the house tidy not wrecked when he got home, but just the bare bones was all I could really do. So I offered Hero a couple dollars to clean the living room, and he not only did it, he did it well, and he let his little brother "help" with the vacuuming. What an awesome kid!

Another thing that we did since my last "wrap-up" was we made bread again. A friend of mine was complaining that the hard cider he made in his home-brewery tasted like bubble gum, and was trying to figure out what happened. He mentioned that he'd gotten the "pitching rate" wrong, and me being incurably curious, I asked what is a pitching rate. He told me it's the amount of yeast you use. He also mentioned in passing that when you use cold yeast it doesn't rehydrate properly, and you get deformed yeast cells that can't do their job. So I tried warming up my yeast before I bake to see if it makes much difference in bread. Wow. Does it ever. I got 2 loaves instead of one, and the crust was perfect, and the bread was soft and light, and my kids raved over it. All I did was measure my yeast onto a saucer and then ate half a bagel with Nutella before I put it in the warm water. Definitely going to add that little bit of delay to the routine. And, yes, that's bread dough around Dragon's mouth. For whatever crazy reason he thinks it's tasty to eat raw bread dough. Ick. But it doesn't seem worth it to fight him on it. He calls it "cookie dough" and it can't be any worse than eating that stuff!

Let's see. Other fun stuff we did. We watched some YouTube videos about the space station. I didn't keep track of which ones this time, so I can't share them. Seems like we never get history and science to work in the same week, so there's not much going on in history right now. But we learned about the shuttle and the space station and even bumped into the Hubble telescope. Always fun. We're supposed to do some moon stuff next week. And we're supposed to finish off Rome in history. We'll see what I actually make happen.

I had another ultrasound this week, and this time I actually got some pictures digitized so I can post them! She's getting bigger, and looking more and more babyish all the time, and it's so exciting! Both my sisters have had their babies now, and I'm getting close to the beginning of the third trimester. For whatever reason, this time I'm just ready to be done and have the BABY already. But she's got to finish baking and it's sort of driving me crazy. Such is life. I don't really want her to come early (she threatened to do that; it was stressful). I read Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, and it starts with all these lovely stories about people coming to see Ina May and then going on walks in the woods while they labor, and I was thinking, "That sounds great! I wonder if I can convince the Daddy to take me to the park to wander around when I'm in labor, before we go to the hospital?" And then I remembered: this baby's due in February. And we live in the North. And suddenly laboring in the woods didn't sound so lovely anymore. I guess I'll just stay at home where it's actually cozy until it's time to go. Maybe next time the baby will be due in a season that is Not Winter. Cuz I still think that the woods would be an awesome place to do the first parts of birthing.

Let's see. Other interesting stuff with school. We didn't do much history, but we did a bunch of science. I have the worst time getting those two things to coexist in the same week! But this week we learned about the space shuttles and the space station, and we even bumped into the Hubble telescope. Next week we're supposed to do some fun stuff with the moon. I've got a fun art project in mind; hopefully I can be organized (and the family can be healthy!) enough to get it done. And also finishing up Rome. We're starting the Middle Ages in history, but it's turning out to be a pretty slow start. However! My books are getting organized, bit by bit. I'm hoping to give them their own post here shortly.

My friend CH came back from her trip to Europe a few days ago (it was a sort of study abroad thing, and she had a great time), and her family and ours got together for pumpkin carving. Of course, there has to be a photo like this one. So she kindly posed for me. And then we got down to the serious business of carving cool pumpkins. I spend too much time on Pinterest, so I knew just what I wanted to do: those big pumpkins eating little ones are hilarious. So I did one. And Hero had to do one like mine, so he and the Daddy did his. And the Daddy did one. And poor little Dragon wasn't allowed to touch the knives, which he thought was meanness. But we did let him pull out pumpkin guts, and he liked that. Did you know that pie pumpkin guts are considerably ickier than carving pumpkin guts? I didn't ether, but they are. Ick.


 The other big thing we did was go hiking. (When I'm planning school it's called "nature study".) And that was awesome. We were traveling with the Daddy while he did some work in a neighboring state, and when we do that we like to visit their state parks. This was a particularly successful outing. The Daddy took Hero and they went on a long hike. Sadly, I don't have the pictures they took, so I don't have any of Hero for this event. But I took a couple of Dragon on the little hike we went on, after he was done playing on the swings we found. We had a great time! We listened to chickadees and nuthatches, and then we hiked down to the little waterfall -Dragon's first- and on the way back he discovered moss. He wasn't so sure about touching it at first, but after he'd tried it once we had to make several more stops to investigate moss. Along with rocks. And sand. And logs. It's so fun to see the little things that are fascinating to little kids. Reminds me to be amazed.

 That's pretty much our week. If you'd like to see what other folks are talking about, you can find more wrap-ups over at Kris's place!

21 October 2012

Pondering the Debates (part 4)

I am not keeping up with the sheer mass of debate material. It's not going to happen. But I like looking at the debates, and a number of my friends have said kind things to me about the posts I did about the debate, leading me to think that it's useful to others when I share my thoughts, so I thought I'd have a go at another section here on my blog. If you're a real glutton for punishment, you can have a look at the previous installments too:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

So. Here goes. I'm starting on page 5 of the transcript.

Obama: It means that Governor Romney talked about Medicaid and how we could send it back to the states, but effectively this means a 30 percent cut in the primary program we help for seniors who are in nursing homes, for kids who are with disabilities. And — and that is not a right strategy for us to move forward.

Alright. I've said before, I am firmly convinced that government is not only not the best way to deal with doing charitable works, but it's not a particularly moral method of getting that important work done. (Please note, this is NOT the same as saying that it's not important; it is.) In addition, it's not Constitutional. There is no authorization in the Enumerated Powers for Congress to do this sort of thing. I laid out the details in part 3. But, as a quick recap, I offer the Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Constitutionally correct course of action is to return this power to the States. Mr. Obama is, Constitutionally speaking, out of line in his comments. And, he's invoking some very emotional imagery in his arguments, which is a tactic I never appreciate. While compassion is important, it is very easy to become blinded by emotion when discussing these things, and to the extent that emotion rules, reason is excluded and nothing constructive can happen. Calm collected reason gets a bad rap, but it doesn't need to be uncompassionate, whereas, the mind ruled by emotion cannot think clearly. I consider it bad form for Mr. Obama to make such a blatantly emotional appeal, particularly when he does so in defiance of the highest law of our land.

Next question: Governor, what about Simpson-Bowles? Do you support Simpson-Bowles?

OK. I first have to figure out what is "Simpson-Bowles." Turns out that it's a plan for reducing debt. I read a Business Insider synopsis here, and they have a link to a more technical synopsis here. It comes from a commission created by President Obama, and Mr. Ryan served as a member. They suggest avoiding our debt crisis by both cutting back government and raising taxes. Apparently, neither party likes it at all, but some version may be used anyway to try to avoid the looming financial cliff at the end of the year, according to the Business Insider synopsis.

Romney: I have my own plan. It's not the same as Simpson- Bowles.

He never says any more than that about his own plan, other than he doesn't want to see taxes raised; he's distracted by talking about Mr. Obama's performance and plan, so I can't say anything here about how Constitutional his plan is, other than to point out (yet again) that the President, alone, has no power to raise or lower taxes. He can only sign or veto the bills that Congress sends him. Other than that, it's not his job.

Lehrer: Mr. President?
Obama: Well, we've had this discussion before.
Lehrer: About the idea that in order to reduce the deficit, there has to be revenue in addition to cuts.
Obama: There has to be revenue in addition to cuts.

I'm not sure what this means in relation to Simpson-Bowles. Once again, Mr. Obama is more interested in talking about Mr. Romney's plan than his own. He does this a lot. At least this time, he's saying what he wants to add, rather than just saying that Mr. Romney's plan is a bad one. And he's making the same Constitutional misstep that Mr. Romney just made: the President doesn't really have the power to say he will raise or lower taxes. That's Congress's job. Unless they are both talking about the use of the signing and veto powers, this is a conversation that belongs in a Congressional candidate's comments or debate.

Once again, Mr. Romney feels like Mr. Obama is misrepresenting his position, so he clarifies. He does want more revenue, just not from raising taxes. He wants to see existing taxes pull in more. I don't know what this has to do with Simpson-Bowles, but it's useful information for the voters nonetheless. 

Romney: Look, the revenue I get is by more people working, getting higher pay, paying more taxes. That's how we get growth and how we balance the budget. But the idea of taxing people more, putting more people out of work, you'll never get there. You'll never balance the budget by raising taxes.
Spain — Spain spends 42 percent of their total economy on government. We're now spending 42 percent of our economy on government. I don't want to go down the path to Spain. I want to go down the path of growth that puts Americans to work with more money coming in because they're working.

Spain recently got another bailout, and is struggling. But even without that example, 42%?? Oi. (It's worthy of note that the candidates don't really get to look up their figures to make sure they're perfectly correct, so there is likely some human error on both sides.) If that figure is even close to correct then we are in serious need of some major cutbacks in the size of our government. I knew it was bad, but I didn't realize we had that much government. Oi. That is not cool.

But, now that I think about it, it's also not surprising. We have a number of whole departments, entire agencies that are not authorized by the Constitution. Among them are the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency, and there's others as well. Basically, if you can't find it in the Enumerated Powers, the feds shouldn't be doing it. It sounds here like Mr. Romney is looking at reducing the size of government, but he doesn't say how. There's no specifics. Politically, it's a smart move; people say they want less, but when it comes right down to it, lots of folks are pretty attached to "causes" that they feel are only possible through our oversized government. So, reducing or eliminating some of these unconstitutional departments is perceived as an attack on children (the Department of Education) or the environment (the EPA), and is usually also denounced because it does create some temporary job losses. However, if you are to reduce the size of government, that must inevitably mean that some people are going to have to move from the public sector to the private, and not necessarily on their own time table. But Mr. Romney doesn't really go into any detail here, so there's nothing to approve (or disapprove) of, other than I think that the idea of reducing government is excellent and likely very Constitutionally sound.

OK. It's late again. This is interesting, but I've gotta sleep; those boys of mine will be needing me.

12 October 2012

Weekly Wrap-up: the one where we potty trained

This week has been intense! And that intensity is probably going to keep right on going through the weekend: we are potty training Dragon. He's doing great. On day 2 he was dry from naptime clear until bedtime. Turns out that, now that he's got it figured out what he's supposed to be doing on the potty, those M&Ms are pretty motivating. Daddy took Hero out for the morning on day 1 (Wednesday), and Dragon and Mom stayed home and just worked on peeing in the potty. He loved it when I got out my camera! I got some great ideas for doing it this time around here. Last time, with Hero, it was a process and he sort of grew into it. This time, Dragon had everything: he wanted underwear, he had control, he understands rewards... he just wouldn't pee in the potty. We got it done though! And now he's doing awesome. We're just doing days for now; when I asked him the one time if he wanted to pee in the night (he'd come into my room and was "awake" already) he just cried and cried. But daytime trained is great for a little boy just past 2! And, once the new baby gets here my budget will really appreciate not needing to diaper them both.

We had a bear that "peed" too; a medicine dropper helped create the illusion.

Hurray for salty snacks and "Daddy Soda"!

Jiggle that pee down; JUMP!!

In spite of all that craziness early in the week, we still got some good school done, especially late in the week. (We took Monday off to recover from General Conference before doing any serious work, Tuesday was full of appointments and a visit to Grandpa and Nana, and Wednesday was Potty Training Day.) We were supposed to finish up Story of the World volume 1, but we're not quite done. Still, Hero did a couple of great narrations. This is one of them:

One of the paragraphs in the story talked about the size of the battle. It was huge. There were 100,000 Celts, and only about 10,000 Romans, yet the Romans won. I didn't think that this had made any impression on Hero, so while he colored his picture of Boadicea I got out our base-10 blocks and our cuisenaire rods. And I showed him what it looks like to be outnumbered 10 to 1. He was suitably impressed. And we talked about how the organization of the Romans helped them, while the Celts just charged in without any plan. Still. Just imagining looking at a force like the blue one coming at your little white guys... intimidating. No wonder Washington was so adamant about the importance of discipline to the army!

Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable;
procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.
-George Washington

We'll clean up a bit of math on Saturday, but otherwise, things are looking pretty good. Dragon is (mostly) staying dry; Hero got a good amount of school in this week, even if it wasn't on our usual schedule. His reading is coming along so nicely. I'm going to have to start getting some "Step 2" books to have around so that as he feels a bit more secure in the "Step 1s" and other easy books we've got, he's got something to grow into. One of these days, I'd like to take a trip up to Half-Price books to browse their easy readers all by myself. And, in the mean time, I'm making slow progress on organizing and cataloging my bookshelves. We're getting there!

Check out how other homeschoolers' weeks went at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers:

08 October 2012

Pondering the Debates (Part 3)

If you're a real glutton for punishment, you can have a look at the previous installments too:
Part 1
Part 2

Otherwise, you can just read part 3 of my attempt at responsible citizenship. I'm looking at the debate and trying to measure the candidates' positions against the Constitution. I still consider myself a student of the Constitution, but even a student can make an effort! This is mine. I'm still working from page 3 of the transcript.

OK. So I'm still waiting for Mr. Obama to say something of substance, but in this section he's talking about Mr. Romney's plan, rather than his own. Much to Mr. Romney's frustration, since he feels like Mr. Obama is misrepresenting his position. But really, neither of them say anything new, and particularly not as it relates to the Constitution, for the rest of page 3. So. On to page 4. Aaaand the rest of the section on this first question is all back-and-forth. He's going to do this. No I'm not. Well, he's going to do this. Nope, that's not it. It's really not very interesting.

Obama: Bill Clinton tried the approach that I'm talking about. We created 23 million new jobs. We went from deficit to surplus. And businesses did very well.

I'm going back onto page 3, trying to figure out what this "approach" is that he's supposedly talking about. It's hard. Mostly he's talking about how Mr. Romney's plan won't work. There is this, from the bottom of page 3:

Obama: Now, Governor Romney and I do share a deep interest in encouraging small-business growth. So at the same time that my tax plan has already lowered taxes for 98 percent of families, I also lowered taxes for small businesses 18 times. And what I want to do is continue the tax rates — the tax cuts that we put into place for small businesses and families.

Here we have Mr. Obama taking credit for an act of Congress. It's a pretty typical way for Americans and their Presidents to speak; we credit the President with far more power than he should have- and in the process our language gives him more power than he should have, because it sets up expectations, and then over-reach feels very normal because it matches those expectations. Language matters. That's one of the reasons that one of the final steps in creating the Constitution was a committee on style, and one of the members was a very good with grammar. In any case, IF those taxes did come down (and I said in part 2 that I'm pretty skeptical about this), then that's something that he needs to share credit for. The President of the United States, Constitutionally speaking, does not have the power to wave a magic wand and make taxes lower. (Though they get away with murder in those executive orders.) He can suggest, and then if Congress passes his bill, he can sign, but he certainly does not do it all by himself. He is overstating his role here, at the very least. And, this claim makes me want a fact-checker. Quite frankly, I don't believe him. Can these tax cuts he refers to possibly be enough to make a net lowering of taxes after one factors in the tax increase that is Obamacaree? I find that unlikely.

Unfortunately, I don't know enough about Mr. Clinton's presidency to be able to tell if this is the approach that he says that he's talking about either. Mr. Clinton served prior to my interest in politics; I was still in high school when he took office. This reference is frustratingly vague.

But here comes the second question:

And the question is this, what are the differences between the two of you as to how you would go about tackling the deficit problem in this country?

This question is somewhat better than the first one (see part 1). But still, the question relies heavily on the President making recommendations to Congress that Congress actually acts upon. Or, he could veto bills that are too expensive. I don't hear about a whole lot of action for the veto pen. But it could probably be used pretty effectively to reduce our deficit. Make Congress pass by super-majority the stuff the President felt was going to run up the deficit. The problem that makes that not very practical is that they make these huge mega-bills that run to 1000 or 2000 pages have so much crammed into them that there's always something in there that the President can be crucified for vetoing. So. Still a flawed question, in my opinion. But better than the first. Let's see what the candidates have to say. Looks like Mr. Romney is first this time.

Romney: Good. I'm glad you raised that, and it's a — it's a critical issue. I think it's not just an economic issue, I think it's a moral issue. I think it's, frankly, not moral for my generation to keep spending massively more than we take in, knowing those burdens are going to be passed on to the next generation and they're going to be paying the interest and the principal all their lives.
And the amount of debt we're adding, at a trillion a year, is simply not moral.

I'm going to agree with what he says here. It's not moral to go into debt for someone else. That's slavery. The Founders, those "wise men, raised by the Lord," would not be impressed.

George Washington: Avoid occasions of expense. . . and avoid likewise the accumulation of debt not only by shunning occasions of expense but by vigorous exertions to discharge the debts, not throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. 

Alexander Hamilton: Allow a government to decline paying its debts and you overthrow all public morality — you unhinge all the principles that preserve the limits of free constitutions.Nothing can more affect national prosperity than a constant and systematic attention to extinguish the present debt and to avoid as much as possibly the incurring of any new debt.

Benjamin Franklin: When you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty.

It's that power over liberty that concerns me, both my own liberty, and that of my children and future grandchildren. The Founders knew that sometimes the nation would need to take on debts, but they are clear that they hoped it would always be short-term. The fact is, our debt should be telling us that, as a nation, we are living beyond our means. When other nations buy our debt, we are giving them power to dictate our actions - lest the stop buying, or require payment unexpectedly. It also places us over a barrel if they stop buying the debt. What does the household, behind in its credit, do when the creditors say, "That's enough?" It's never very pretty. What will happen when it's not a household, but our nation itself? These sorts of cuts are not fun, but they have to happen. So. Mr. Romney elaborates on his plan for reducing our debt:

Romney: So how do we deal with it? Well, mathematically, there are three ways that you can cut a deficit. One, of course, is to raise taxes. Number two is to cut spending. And number is to grow the economy, because if more people work in a growing economy, they're paying taxes, and you can get the job done that way.
The presidents would — president would prefer raising taxes. I understand. The problem with raising taxes is that it slows down the rate of growth. And you could never quite get the job done. I want to lower spending and encourage economic growth at the same time.
What things would I cut from spending? Well, first of all, I will eliminate all programs by this test, if they don't pass it: Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? And if not, I'll get rid of it. Obamacare's on my list. ...
I'm sorry, Jim, I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually like you, too. But I'm not going to — I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for. That's number one.
Number two, I'll take programs that are currently good programs but I think could be run more efficiently at the state level and send them to the state.

I think Mr. Romney's test makes a lot of sense: "Is the program so critical it's worth borrowing money from China to pay for it?" But I think there should be another one, even before this test: "Is it Constitutional?" We could save a ton by getting rid of unconstitutional stuff at the federal level. Both of the examples that he cites, Obamacare and PBS, are things that fail both of these tests. He also talks about sending stuff back to the States. Again, I like this. It's in line with the Tenth Amendment, though he doesn't actually cite that as part of his reasoning. In not doing that, he leaves some question in my mind: is this a purely practical move, or is it motivated by a desire to conform to the Constitution? I don't think he's going to answer that question here; that sort of question is not popular to ask, and it makes politicians very uncomfortable to talk about it. (It's amazing the number of "cite your Constitutional authority" letters that I send to Congress that never get answered.) They don't like it.

Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Romney: Number three, I'll make government more efficient and to cut back the number of employees, combine some agencies and departments. My cutbacks will be done through attrition, by the way.
This is the approach we have to take to get America to a balanced budget.

This is something that I think that he could actually do, without needing Congress. It'll cause a whole lot of kicking and screaming, because although nearly every single person I've ever talked to agrees that government is too large, when you start looking at what to cut the consensus seems to be, "Not in my backyard!" When it comes right down to making the actual cuts, people are inevitably happy with the specifics. This is short-sighted. Government produces nothing. People whose jobs in government are eliminated not only are contributing to a reduction of the tax burden (that's where their pay and benefits come from), but they are also returned to the private sector, where they can get a job, or start a business. Either one of those things will contribute to economic growth. If, along with cutting employees, Mr. Romney also reduced the regulatory burden of red tape and hoops that businesses have to jump through, he would ease the transition of these displaced workers back into the private sector.  Doing this thing by attrition isn't very efficient, but it would effectively reduce the backlash of the reductions. 

Next is Mr. Obama's turn. He starts with some mushy, "those increases aren't my fault" rhetoric. And, to a point, there's some legitimacy in that. It was Mr. Bush who started the bailouts. I was stunned at how seamless the hand-off was on those bailouts. The inauguration of Mr. Obama never caused a single hiccup in the process, near as I could tell. But he could have stopped them. There's been scandal after scandal come out of those bailouts. At the end of the day, making my neighbor pay to keep my failing business open isn't right. If I try to do that on my own authority, it's called theft or extortion or something similar, and I go to jail. But, those who support the bailouts want us to believe that it's somehow morally OK when the government makes my neighbors pay to prop up my business. I don't buy it.

Obama: When I walked into the Oval Office, I had more than a trillion-dollar deficit greeting me. And we know where it came from: two wars that were paid for on a credit card; two tax cuts that were not paid for; and a whole bunch of programs that were not paid for; and then a massive economic crisis.
And despite that, what we've said is, yes, we had to take some initial emergency measures to make sure we didn't slip into a Great Depression, but what we've also said is, let's make sure that we are cutting out those things that are not helping us grow.

Constitutionally, there's problems with these bailouts -the "initial emergency measures"- as well. The Constitution does not authorize that kind of expenditure. Article I Section 8 outlines the powers of Congress, sometimes called the Enumerated Powers. These include:

  • collect taxes, duties, imposts & excises, pay debts; provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States
  • borrowing money
  • regulating (as distinct from engaging in) commerce between the States
  • establishing uniform rules for naturalization and bankruptcies
  • to coin & regulate the value of money, and standardize weights and measures
  • punish counterfeiting
  • establish post offices and post-roads
  • establish copyright law
  • create inferior courts
  • define and punish felonies  on the seas and against the laws of nations
  • declare war, grant letters of marque & reprisal, and decide what to do with captures
  • raise & support armies, with a 2 year limit on appropriations
  • maintain a navy
  • create rules for military forces
  • organize & regulate the militia
  • all legislative powers for Washington DC and other federal properties
  • make laws needed to execute these powers

James Madison said this in Federalist 45, in response to fears that Congress would overstep its bounds:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

 In other words, if it ain't on the list, they're not supposed to do it. And, regarding the money they collected in taxes, the Constitution specifies that, "all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States." They can get away with the income tax being uneven because the scammed the people into approving the Fourteenth Amendment:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

It's my understanding that the income tax, when first approved, was to apply only to the top 1% or 5% or so, and the reasoning was that they could afford it, so they should "contribute." Funny how the tax has migrated down to where around 53% are paying now, and the language hasn't changed: "Let the rich pay their share!"

In any case, I'm not seeing any justification for the bailouts in the powers of Congress. I don't see a moral justification for it either. As I said before: we do not force our neighbors to pay for our failing businesses, which is exactly what happened with the bailouts. The companies just had a government middle-man doing the collecting of the money they used to prop up failed businesses. It's theft. Certainly, had Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama and the Congresses serving with them allowed the propped up companies to fail, things would have been unpleasant for a while. Likely very unpleasant. But I don't believe that it would have been the absolute disaster that they claim. There would have been people who would have stepped in to fill the vacuum. New companies, with business models that actually work would have appeared and, given the opportunity to behave like a free market, the market would have righted itself. And we would have avoided a whole lot of unconstitutional action by our government. Even had the President recommended a law authorizing the bailouts (and I don't know where the thing originated, but I'm looking specifically at the presidency here), the Congress should have checked him. They should have said, "This is beyond the scope of our Enumerated Powers; we cannot do this." Instead, the whole lot of them, including both presidents in question, violated their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution. And, in the process, we got a whole lot of bad investments and a huge increase in debt that we now have to pay off.

Obama: So 77 government programs, everything from aircrafts that the Air Force had ordered but weren't working very well, 18 government — 18 government programs for education that were well-intentioned, not weren't helping kids learn, we went after medical fraud in Medicare and Medicaid very aggressively, more aggressively than ever before, and have saved tens of billions of dollars, $50 billion of waste taken out of the system.
And I worked with Democrats and Republicans to cut a trillion dollars out of our discretionary domestic budget. That's the largest cut in the discretionary domestic budget since Dwight Eisenhower.
Now, we all know that we've got to do more. And so I've put forward a specific $4 trillion deficit reduction plan. It's on a website. You can look at all the numbers, what cuts we make and what revenue we raise.
And the way we do it is $2.50 for every cut, we ask for $1 of additional revenue, paid for, as I indicated earlier, by asking those of us who have done very well in this country to contribute a little bit more to reduce the deficit.

I'm not impressed when he talks about "saving tens of billions of dollars." According to the Debt Clock people, we're adding some 3.9 billion in debt per day. And, since we haven't had a budget passed in a couple years now, I'm not sure what he's talking about when he says that they've cut a trillion dollars from the "budget." There hasn't been one to cut or add to or anything. Our national finances are a dismal mess, and to make up the slack? They print more money. (Which is another thing that's probably unconstitutional; I don't see any authorization to delegate the making of money. But that's Congress's bust, and that's another post for another day.)

Mr. Obama's last line from this section could use some additional scrutiny:

Obama: You can look at all the numbers, what cuts we make and what revenue we raise.
And the way we do it is $2.50 for every cut, we ask for $1 of additional revenue, paid for, as I indicated earlier, by asking those of us who have done very well in this country to contribute a little bit more to reduce the deficit.

Now, when you look at the original text of the Constitution, they have a principle in there to govern the money collected: equality.

Article I Section 8: The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States. (Emphasis added)

This principle was abandoned with the Fourteenth Amendment, but the wisdom of the Founders was that we should be equal before the law, even when they came collecting. At least, that's the way I understand it. I admit to being a bit fuzzy on the specifics of all those different ways of raising money. Isn't it strange how often the people who say they champion "equal rights" do it only in specific cases? So very often, those are the same people who howl the loudest, a la Occupy Wall Street and other similar movements, for the rich to "pay their share." What happened to equal protection for the rich? And, what is the motivation for working hard to become rich (and employ people) when you know that you can't keep what you make?

One of the thinkers that the Founders looked to, and that Ezra Taft Benson quotes repeatedly in his essay, The Proper Role of Government, is Frederic Bastiat. He had a name for this sort of take-from-the-rich behavior: legalized plunder. I blogged about it in more detail here and here.  If it's a concept that you're not familiar with I highly recommend giving it some serious thought. The basic idea is that theft is theft, whether you do it yourself or you get the government to do it for you.

Bastiat: See if the law takes from persons what belongs to them and gives it other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

Thomas Jefferson: “To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”

In short, what Mr. Obama proposes may, in fact, be Constitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, but it still violates the spirit of the original document. It's not just, and, according to the Preamble, establishing justice is one of the primary purposes of the document. It's not the way that honest, free men ought to behave. We can do better than that. We must do better than that. We can fix our finances without resorting to bullying and stealing from those who have done well for themselves.

That brings me to the end of page 4, and I think it's quite enough for one post.

05 October 2012

Weekly Wrap-up: the one with the Books

This week has been all about books. I'm working on organizing my bookshelves, which is a huge job. And, of course, there's schoolwork to be done. Turns out this week we've focused on reading. Funny how putting shelves in order encourages that! Plus, I did some sewing, and in the midst of all that, I have to be careful not to do too much or I get contractions. At 22 weeks, that is Not OK. But, when I went in to get checked over the verdict is that the contractions are not doing anything, so no restrictions at this point. Still, I take naps every afternoon that I can manage it, since that is the single most effective way I have to turn them down or even off for a while. Makes life interesting! The other exciting thing with the pregnancy this week is that Hero was the first person to feel the baby kick besides me! I wish that I'd been able to get a picture of his grin; he was so pleased.

As I started organizing our books, the very first thing I did was get a bin for "easy books." It's been wildly successful. Hero can choose any books he likes for his quiet time. The first day I had books in it Hero chose them for his quiet time. And then he sat there, all by himself, and read them!! I was laying down too, trying to get some rest as well, but listening to my boy read books of his choice, and really read them, I sure was one Happy Happy Mama!

"Keeping a Nature Journal" I got out to show him some of the cool things that he can put into his new nature journal that we just started taking with us when we go out to the park. Turned out that it was a fruitful book twice: not only did he like looking at the picture, but we also had a conversation about how art is a skill that is developed over time, so if he wants to draw like the author (and he says he does), then he needs to keep practicing and be patient with himself. One thing that really surprised me when I started drawing was how much it is a skill, and how, like any skill, it can be honed with practice and study.  So often, people think of art and music as talents: a thing that either you've got or you don't, and I don't believe it. After teaching music lessons, I am convinced that for the garden-variety musician, the one who plays for personal enjoyment and maybe helps out at church a bit,  persistent practice is way more important that raw talent. The most talented student I ever taught refused to practice and dropped out after just a few months, and so she does not play piano. The one that scared me the first time I taught him, because that first lesson was so awful and I wondered how we would ever get anywhere, turned out to be the best practicer that I ever had and he went places. I want to use this knowledge to my children's advantage, to teach them that if they work at it, they can draw, or play, or pretty much whatever it is, and do it well. Maybe not world-class, but well.

History's going well too. Not a lot of hands-on stuff this week, but lots of reading and that sort of learning. We're still exploring Rome, and he's loving it. He brought me the "How To Be a Roman Soldier" book and asked me to read it to him, and we've done a page or two at a time till we're nearly through the book, all because he keeps asking for it. Pompeii is a beautiful book with some awesome illustrations, and we're also doing it a little bit at a go, and he's loving that one as well. We also watched this BBC documentary about the last day in Pompeii. I was expecting something about the archeology of the site, but it's about what it was like for the people living through the last day, experiencing the eruption in the city. Pretty intense. One interesting thing is that there's no word for "volcano" in Latin: they had absolutely no idea what was happening, so many didn't even try to run away until it was way too late. But it sounds like even those who ran didn't fare very well. The power of that volcano is ... intense. Hero handled the video, but he thought about asking me to turn it off, even though I was there snuggling him while we watched. I did try to take the edge off when they were talking about some of the children who died by reminding him that those kids went straight to Jesus. It seemed to help. Still. This one definitely warrants some parental guidance, more so than other documentaries we've watched. 

This one was much more of archaeology, and deals with some of the problems of preservation. It's got some beautiful scenes of what the buildings in Pompeii and Herculeum look like today. It was long, but that let me work on a shirt I'm sewing.

On Wednesday we headed to the local children's museum. We recently purchased a membership, so we've been able to go more often, and that's fun. The other good thing is that, since it's an annual membership, I don't feel like I need to stay the whole day to make it worth the expense of going. Plus, since we were there during school hours, there was hardly anyone else in the building, and it was so nice to be able to get turns - long turns - on some of the most popular exhibits that are always super busy. Hero's never had so much time on the crane, and he was making some great progress on figuring out how to make it do what he wants.

I'm noticing that there is a certain ebb and flow to the way that our school work gets done. There for a while, math was the thing to do. Hero was going great guns, and we got tons of math done, but phonics moved along slowly. Now that reading is taking off, we've backed off the math somewhat. When we do a lot of history there tends to be less science. In general, I think this is OK. It allows us to come at what we are studying with a fresh mind and strong interest, and then to take a rest while we focus on other topics. I do try to keep things from sliding too much, particularly core things like math and phonics. This week we returned to fractions in our math. A couple weeks ago, when math was peaking and taking up tons of our time, we started to explore fractions. Then, as the reading took off they took something of a backseat. I'm glad we didn't let them sit any longer; Hero was starting to show signs of forgetting the stuff that he was finding easy previously. But with a very little bit of nudging to get him going, he did great. I love the flexibility of Miqan-style math that allows us to explore math and follow where his interests take us to a large degree. Fractions aren't the usual fare for a 6 year old, but he's doing great with them.

It being so close to an election, politics is on my mind, and has, with the books, taken up a good amount of time. I blogged about Reid's claims that Romney "sullies" our faith, and also have been trying to compare the debate comments of the candidates to the Constitution. So far, I have a part 1 and part 2 for that. We also added the Catechism on the US Constitution to our memory work. That's going to be a very long-term project, but I think that it will be well worth it to go through and talk about the government that way. There are some parts that, due to amendments, will need tweaking. But overall, I'm excited to have found such a great tool for teaching government in a way that even young children can understand.

Check out what other homeschoolers have done this week with Chris, over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers!


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