Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the September issue of Townhall Magazine.
In 2008, the Romeike family had a big decision to make about the future of home schooling their children: stay in Germany, where the practice has been banned since 1918, and risk losing custody of their children, or seek political asylum in the United States.
As many are aware, they chose the latter.
By January 2010, all seemed well for the devoutly Christian family. A U.S. immigration judge made an unprecedented decision to grant the Romeikes asylum on religious freedom grounds, saying that Germany’s policy of persecuting homeschoolers is “repellent to everything we believe in as Americans,” and that the family was being denied “basic human rights that no country has a right to violate.”
But the victory would be short lived. The decision was challenged and overturned by the Obama administration, and by 2014, after years of uphill legal battles in the American court system, it looked as though the family may be deported to Germany.
Thanks in part to significant political and media attention, however, the administration suddenly relented in March and granted the family permission to stay in the country indefinitely.
The outcome of the Romeike family’s case was one of the Home School Legal Defense Association’s greatest successes in recent years, William Estrada, HSL- DA’s director of federal relations, tells Townhall. HSLDA, which represented the family, has been advocating for the constitutional right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children since 1983.
“It was an incredible victory for the Romeike family and it really showed Germany is out of the mainstream in the way they do not allow any home schooling in their country,” he says, pointing out that even Russia and communist China allow the practice.
Although home schooling may seem like a deep-seated right in America, it was not long ago that HSLDA was fighting for its very survival in this country.
“The first 10-15 years [of HSLDA’s existence] you could say was actually the battle for home schooling’s survival, that was where we were defending families who were in prison; we were fighting to make home schooling legal,” says Estrada, a home-school graduate. “When we were founded in 1983 only a handful of states allowed home schooling. In pretty much all of them, home schooling was a criminal offense because it would be a violation of the truancy laws.”
By the early 1990s when home school- ing was legal in all 50 states, HSLDA transitioned to national work: battling H.R. 6 of 1994, which would have required all teachers, in all types of schools, to be certified in every subject area they teach; trying to keep the federal government from encroaching on home school- ing freedoms; and working to stop U.N. treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Home schooling is very bipartisan. It’s grown and is now recognized by everyone, and what we’re fighting for is more of a long-term defense to protect parental rights, Estrada says.
The numbers alone demonstrate its increased acceptance.
When the U.S. Department of Education first started conducting a quadrennial report in 1999, there were roughly 850,000 home-schooled students. Now, however, there are approximately 1.8 million students, according to its latest report of the 2011-2012 school year.
As the number of home-schooled students has grown, so too has the diversity of the population choosing this education option.
“When home schooling started in the ‘70s and ‘80s it was primarily fundamentalist Christian families who were home schooling because they didn’t like the direction the public school was taking as far as religious issues,” he says. “We are seeing home schooling rising across the board, among secular families, people who are home schooling who think the school is too conservative or too religious, and that has really started to swing the demographic.”
In addition to religious reasons, parents who choose to home-school most often cite concerns about the school environment and the academic content of the public school, the Department of Education has found. There are also sizeable minorities of people who home- school for other reasons, such as military families or families who have a child with a disability.
And Estrada says that anecdotally at least, dissatisfaction with Common Core has contributed to increasing numbers of home-schooled children in the last year or two.
“The good news is that Common Core does not apply to home-schools,” he says, “the bad news is if we’re unable, and I mean public school, private school, and home-school parents, if we’re unable to stop Common Core, we’re very concerned about the future of home schooling. You know, down the road there will be pressure on home schooling to conform.”
College acceptance could become harder for students who have not gone through Common Core, requirements to receive federal student aid could change, and so could standardized testing. For all these reasons, HSLDA remains actively engaged in the fight against Common Core.
There’s no question home schooling- has come of age, but that doesn’t mean HSLDA’s work is over. The association actively promotes home-school-friendly legislation on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures across the nation, and continues to provide invaluable home-schooling-related legal advice and representation to its more than 84,000 member families.
“We have the greatest members and that’s why we’ve continued to be able to fight for home schooling, for parental rights—those freedoms that are so dear to all parents,” he says. •
Democrats are using the tragic shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri earlier this month to mobilize black voters ahead of the midterm elections. It could impact the races in Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Arkansas, where black voters represent a significant part of the electorate. African-Americans represent thirty percent of eligible voters in Louisiana and Georgia alone. The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin indicated that African-Americans “played a pivotal role” in 1998 elections. Yet, trying to drive up voter turnout will be tricky since the states that will determine if Democrats keep the Senate are in the south, where Obama is deeply unpopular (via NYT):
With their Senate majority imperiled, Democrats are trying to mobilize African-Americans outraged by the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., to help them retain control of at least one chamber of Congress for President Obama’s final two years in office.
In black churches and on black talk radio, African-American civic leaders have begun invoking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, along with conservative calls to impeach Mr. Obama, as they urge black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, in which minority turnout is typically lower.
“Ferguson has made it crystal clear to the African-American community and others that we’ve got to go to the polls,” said Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia and a civil-rights leader. “You participate and vote, and you can have some control over what happens to your child and your country.”
The push is an attempt to counter Republicans’ many advantages in this year’s races, including polls that show Republican voters are much more engaged in the elections at this point — an important predictor of turnout.
[T]he terrain is tricky [for Democrats]: Many of the states where the black vote could be most crucial are also those where Mr. Obama is deeply unpopular among many white voters. So Democratic senators in places like Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina must distance themselves from the nation’s first African-American president while trying to motivate the black voters who are his most loyal constituents.
While minority turnout traditionally declines in nonpresidential election years, there have been midterm elections in which Southern blacks played a pivotal role. An example occurred in 1998, when President Bill Clinton was, like Mr. Obama, under fire from Republicans and nearing the end of his White House years.
The last point Martin makes is kind of odd. I would agree that it would’ve been pivotal if Democrats took back the Senate in 1998, but they didn't. There was no swing in the Senate composition at the end of the night; Republicans held 55 seats and the Democrats occupied 45. Each party lost and gained three seats.
Democrats took out Republican incumbents in New York, North Carolina, and Indiana, while Republicans booted Democrats in Ohio, Illinois, and Kentucky. These elections would usher in Chuck Schumer and John Edwards into the U.S. Senate.
In Arkansas, Democrats were able to keep the seat Democratic with Blanche Lincoln and incumbent Sen. Paul Coverdell was able to hold the line for the Republicans in Georgia.
So, what’s so “pivotal” about a draw? Not only that, but a draw that ended with Republicans keeping their ten seat majority.
Also, are Democrats really so desperate that they need to politicize someone’s death? Then again, we’re talking about the political left; seldom do they exude any form of shame. Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that exploiting death to drive up voter turnout is, well, abhorrent.
Or what could be the Democrat mantra: Racism for thee but not for me.
Little flash-based web games have been around for nearly as long as the internet itself, and distraction-like games are common for political causes. The National Republican Senatorial Committee released "Giopi: Mission Majority" this week to wide coverage across the web. But is it any good?
I beat it in one sitting, in about fifteen minutes, and I can tell you: it's a mild disappointment. You play as Giopi the elephant, whose job is to collect keys and turn light switches in order to win back the Senate for the Republicans. Trying to stop you are two kinds of enemies: "taxers," which walk back and forth and injure Giopi on contact; and "mudslingers," large blue-grey blobs. Both can be defeated by jumping on their heads. When you jump on them, they let out little soundbites, like "phoney scandals" or "what difference, at this point, does it make?"
Also, 8-bit Joe Biden shows up
Which brings us to the most problematic part of the game: the controls. Admittedly, I was playing on my work PC, not a high-end gaming machine, so lag might have been a problem, but Giopi controls pretty poorly. You have to get used to a microsecond lag between when you tell Giopi to jump and when he actually does. Additionally, the hit-boxes on both the Taxer and Mudslinger are oddly wide; this caused poor Giopi much more injury in my playthrough than he deserved.
The little papers are "Taxers", and the grayish blob at the bottom is a "Mudslinger"
The stages themselves are pretty indistinguishable. There isn't even a color swap to tell them apart. In the first level, Giopi collects keys and stomps on Taxers. In the second and third levels, he collects keys and stomps on both Taxers and Mudslingers. In the fourth stage, he flicks light switches.
I'll say this: the game is slightly more competent and entertaining than I was expecting. That might be a low bar, though. As Asawin Suebsaeng wrote at the Daily Beast, partisan flash games have a checkered history:
In 2008, John McCain’s presidential campaign launched a Facebook game called Pork Invaders, which spoofed the arcade staple Space Invaders with a pork barrel-spending theme. In 2004, the Republican National Committee launched John Kerry: Tax Invaders and Kerry vs. Kerry, the latter a nod to the Democratic candidate’s reputation for flip-flopping on key political issues.
But look, the point of Giopi is not to make a good game. It's to get your email address or social media information (one of those must be given as a condition for playing the game) so that the NRSC can market and solicit donations from you.
Still, the game is a mild disappointment. It's a shame, because Giopi is an adorable little mascot. There's a lot of character stuffed into those little pixels! His tanktop is awesome!
Oh, and you can merchandise featuring the little guy as well
I'm not asking for the Emogame, perhaps the greatest flash game of all time. But even just tightening the screws and a little paint job in a few different places could have turned Giopi: Mission Majority into a hit. Especially with that little mascot.
In covering the tragic story of a young girl accidentally killing her range instructor with an Uzi, my colleague Matt Vespa predicted that the anti-gun lobby would exploit this story to promote their agenda. It appears his prediction has been proven true. This past Thursday, Geraldo Rivera, a noted proponent of gun control, posted the following anti-Second Amendment message on his website and Facebook page: (emphasis added)
Like I always say, the 2nd Amendment, the provision that gives every American the right to keep and bear arms, is blind and stupid. In its relentless pimping for the gun industry, the NRA has unleashed an avalanche of deadly weapons on this gun-crazy country. Just as protects access to weapons for cops and hunters, it also protects access to weapons for domestic abusers, mental patients, jerk-offs on the no-fly list, all-around dim bulbs, and now little children.
As the father of a sweet, smart nine year old daughter myself, the latest example of gross excess is the image of that pony-tailed New Jersey girl accidentally killing her gun range instructor. It is obscene and uncivilized to let a third grader shoot a fully automatic Uzi machine gun. What was she training for, revolution? Invasion? Service in the coming post-apocalyptic social disorder? Stupid, but just another of countless examples of how far into insanity we have let the gun nuts push us.
As Matt noted in his article, there's a general consensus that the shooting range behaved negligently in allowing a young child to shoot a fully automatic weapon.
I actually agree with most of Rivera's second paragraph: it was absolutely irresponsible for a young child to be shooting an Uzi. I disagree, however, with the assertion that it is the "gun nuts" fault that the girl was on the range. It's not uncommon at all for a child to learn to shoot at a young age, whether it be for hunting or sporting purposes. Giving an Uzi to a child, on the other hand, was absolutely ridiculous and this tragedy easily could have been avoided.
While it's not exactly a shock that someone against guns thinks that the Second Amendment is "stupid," it is somewhat troubling that in Rivera's eyes the amendment being "blind" is also a negative quality. The U.S. Constitution applies to every citizen regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sex and intelligence level. It would be thoroughly anti-American to have a set of Constitutional rights only for people who meet certain intelligence (or other arbitrary) qualifications.
This incident was a preventable tragedy, no doubt. But it's not an appropriate tool for outrage against the Second Amendment.
Is Sen. Ted Cruz considering a 2016 presidential bid? Politico insinuated that Sen. Cruz's new hires might have been made with 2016 in mind. But, of course, his staff tried to quell rumors:
Ted Cruz is beefing up his political staff as speculation heats up that the Texas senator may run for president in 2016.
Joel Mowbray, a consultant for a foreign policy think tank, has been volunteering for the political operation and “will end up playing a role” on the paid political staff, the adviser said. Nick Muzin, a former top House Republican Conference aide that now works in Cruz’s congressional office as a deputy chief of staff, will be working on coalitions building and outreach for Cruz’s political operation.
Jason Miller, who’s advised prominent conservatives like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), has been brought on to “to put together a more robust communications operation,” the adviser said, while longtime GOP presidential campaign hand and Axiom Strategies founder Jeff Roe has been brought on board to build out the political organization. Lauren Lofstron will work on fundraising. Those three hires were first reported by the Washington Examiner.
Chip Roy, Cruz’s chief of staff, also received $1,100 in July for political consulting for the senator’s leadership PAC — though this is not Roy’s first work on the political side for Cruz, the adviser said. Both GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida have moved their chiefs from their congressional offices to their political operations — but Roy isn’t going anywhere yet.
Several Cruz aides sought to dispel rumors that Roy is stepping away from Cruz’s congressional office to engage in politics full-time. Roy remains Cruz’s chief of staff, they said.
His address at Defending The American Dream Summit over the Labor Day weekend had some on Twitter predicting that he will toss his hat in the ring. It’s about half an hour. Sen. Cruz’s mantra of “retiring” Harry Reid was a hit with the attendees. He said 2014 is about defending our constitutional rights, namely the right to bear arms, defeating Common Core, protecting the First Amendment, ending the IRS targeting of conservatives, and holding the overly-politicized Department of Justice accountable. He called for the impeachment of Attorney General Eric Holder.
He added this election is also about defending the Fourth and Fifth Amendments’ right to privacy. I’ll let you debate if that’s a bit of a stretch. There is no explicit right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution.
Sen. Cruz also eviscerated Obama’s foreign policy and our lack of leadership around the world, specifically with how we’re dealing with ISIS and controlling Russia’s current belligerent state in Eastern Europe.
He gets the base energized. He surely got the freedom fighters attending Defending The American Dream excited, but is this setting the stage for a 2016 campaign? His address was very 2014-centric, but a lot remains to be seen. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who's name's been floating around as a potential 2016 candidate could be taken out of the running if he loses re-election this November. Rep. Paul Ryan will probably want to stay in Congress to be the point person on policy. Sen. Marco Rubio's immigration stance could be a liability with base voters. Regardless, let's do one election at a time. We can start to speculate after November 4.
Remember when President Obama touted the Affordable Care Act by claiming if you "liked your plan you could keep it"? He earned Politifact's 2013 "Lie of the Year" for that whopper. Amazingly, several other Democrats made the same false promise. Knowing what we know now, wouldn't you want to expose any politician who stood behind that misleading statement? Well, if someone uttered those words in the state of New York, you may now be forced to let it slide. A new law in the Empire State, which some are calling the 'shut up rule,' could allow such lofty claims to go unchallenged.The New York Board of Elections, in an attempt to regulate political spending by special interest groups during campaigns, has enacted "emergency regulations" that would make it much more difficult to challenge political speech:
The new regulations require individuals and groups spending on races -- independently of candidates and political parties -- to register with the state as a political committee and file financial reports that list so-called “independent expenditures.”
If citizens fail to register as a political committees when trying to voice their political opinions, the Board can fine them at least $1,000.A $1,000 fine. For exercising your First Amendment right.
New York may be trying to reign in campaign spending, but it doesn't justify suppressing New Yorkers' free speech. Critics say that the regulations would even affect someone simply trying to hand out fliers in his or her neighborhood.
When politicians stretch the truth - either by falsely accusing their opponents of wrongdoing or exaggerating their own accomplishments - they should be held accountable by their constituents. Yet, in New York, it seems like it's about to get a whole lot easier for politicians' to get away with outright falsehoods. Thanks to this new law, I guess we'd have to accept as fact whenever a politician claims they "took the initiative" in creating the internet.
When conservatives criticize the Obama administration over the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks, much of the attention is trained on the security failures preceding the raid, the dishonest public spin campaign after the fact, the lack of accountability nearly two years later, and the still-unanswered questions on a host of fronts. But that lethal event was merely a symptom of the White House's broader, unraveling foreign policy. The president intervened in Libya in 2011, deploying US military resources to help a rebel fighting force depose and dispatch murderous dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The Libya conflict was paradigmatic of Obama's approach to war: 'Leading from behind,' aerial bombardment, extremely light footprint. War from the air. War without Congressional approval. And war, in this case, with no clear strategic objective. The result of that conflict was, in Obama's judgment, an example of how the international "community is supposed to work," as he declared at the time. Lesson: Libya was a model of how "smart power" leads. Well, the struggle to fill the power vacuum triggered by Gaddafi's fall has raged ever since the US "won" in Libya. The victors, it appears, are many of the radical Islamists that America aided in toppling the regime. The country has been awash in hardcore radical elements, with Benghazi emerging as a Jihadi hotbed. When terrorists sacked the US compound on 2012's anniversary of 9/11, that massacre was merely the most high-profile evidence of Libya's descent into ungovernable chaos. Today, several years on, the journey to full-blown failed state status seems to be complete. Radicals have seized control of much of Libya's capital city, including the international airport, and -- as Matt noted over the weekend -- the abandoned US embassy:
As events cascaded, Obama juggled rounds of vacation golf with public statements addressing the conflicts. But his cool demeanor, and the split-screen imagery of a president at play and at work, seemed ill-matched to the moment. Then came a Thursday news conference and a comment that only reinforced criticism of a president neither fully engaged nor truly leaning into world problems. Speaking of the Islamic State, he said, “We don’t have a strategy yet.” The statement may have had the virtue of candor, as Obama weighs the military and diplomatic components of a U.S. response and seeks support from other nations. But it hardly projects an image of presidential resolve or decisiveness at a time of international turmoil….events seem to have spun out of his control, and Obama must react to the actions of others. Putin’s aggression in Ukraine has sparked the greatest East-West crisis since the Cold War. Islamic State advances have swallowed up a large swath of the Middle East and threaten a global upheaval far beyond the shock of al-Qaeda’s 2001 attacks.
Jim Lindsay, senior vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Obama’s inability to inspire confidence among critics has more to do with the complexity of the problems than the president’s leadership style. “He has a sort of perfect storm of messy problems, lousy options, ambivalent allies and a skeptical public,” he said….[Historian David Kennedy] said that Obama, in dealing with multiple crises, also is trying to change perceptions of what U.S. leadership and any president can realistically accomplish. “It’s difficult virtually to the point of impossibility to have a grand strategy in a world that is so fluid and in which we no longer yield the power we once had. In a sense that is Obama’s strategy, a recognition of that fact. So that rhetorically as well as in reality, he’s trying to diminish the expectation that we can control events.”
What would you do if you found out your money—the money you spend buying coffee at Starbucks, furniture at IKEA, and gas at Exxon Mobile—was being used to fund abortions, advertise for Common Core State Standards, and limit our Second Amendment rights? Would you change your consumer habits to align them with your voting values? A new innovative app called "2nd Vote" gives you the power to decide.
Launched in October, the free application contains scorecards for more than 450 commonly used stores and companies such as Netflix, Whole Foods, CVS, U.S. Airways, and Ford Motor. The app explains the scoring in its "How to Use" section:
"Higher score = more conservative. Lower score = more liberal. Scores are based on financial support to third part organization."
One of the core founders of 2nd Vote helped conceptualize the app after he was told that March of Dimes, a pro-life organization to which he was making donations, actually sent funds to Planned Parenthood. This shocking discovery made him wonder what else his money was unconsciously funding.
"When we started taking a look and building our database we realized that it's not just March of Dimes; it's Starbucks and Levi's jeans, and Apple, " 2nd Vote Executive Director Chris Walker told Townhall.
"All of the companies that we shop with on a day-to-day basis typically fund a lot of left-wing causes. What we wanted to do is figure out how we can educate people and show them that 'look, where you're shopping with your second vote is funding causes and issues that you may not support on your own."
The non-profit organization is currently run by a team of individuals who have a background in politics and public policy. They dig to uncover each company's financial support on issues of pro-life, marriage, the second amendment, the environment, and education. The work is often very labor intensive, Walker stated.
"We look at tax documents, 990 forms for non-profit organizations, we go through a lot of public statements made by the leadership or by the company itself. A lot of times the companies will put right on their website who they support and why."
In the future, 2nd Vote wants to create scorecards for thousands of companies and provide the general public with information they need to actively hold their dollars accountable. So pull out your phones, and here's to snubbing the claim that conservatives are missing the tech wave.
Why is Labor Day so important to us?
That's a good question. Perhaps it's because Labor Day gives the American worker a chance to spend some additional quality time with friends, family and loved ones. It’s also, supposedly, the last day you’re allowed to wear white, and, as Karl Rove points out, it's “the unofficial start of the fall campaign season.”
These are all good things, or at least good things to know. But its true meaning and purpose is actually quite fascinating (via the US Department of Labor):
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
I don't think Labor Day has quite the same pop as other national holidays. But it is a federal holiday nonetheless, one meant to honor and celebrate American individual achievement and accomplishment:
The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.
So there you have it. That’s why we celebrate Labor Day. It isn’t to honor Big Government or organized labor, as some might believe; it's to "pay tribute" to individuals working for -- and fighting for -- the American Dream.
So, from all of us here at Townhall, we hope you have a safe, relaxing, and work-free holiday.
Enjoy the day off.