Freedom of Religion – Episode 6 (last)

Freedom of Religion – Episode 6

The dismantling of the true meaning and intent of the first amendment – the last episode but not the final say 

This is the story of Freedom of Religion in the United States and the subsequent attempt at its subjugation by the concept of “Separation of Church and State”

The fundamental right of Religious Freedom struggles against the imposition of the concept of “Separation of Church and State”.  The latter concept as it was and is invoked in the conduct of our lives and in our societal affairs is a falsehood, a misrepresentation, that spread throughout the nation before the truth got its boots on, and is now regarded by most as a factual truth. Paradoxically, neither the term, nor the concept of “Separation of Church and State” appears in the U.S. Constitution.  Yet, the overreaching, misguided and zealous invoking of the concept of Separation of Church and State, as if it were the law of the land, has effectively served to diminish the actual free exercise of religion specifically provided for in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

We left Episode 5 of the Freedom of Religion series in the mid 1940’s. Having helped liberate Europe, Americans were ready to again enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  We were still under the protection of the First Amendment and able to enjoy the free exercise of the Christian religion as they had for over 150 years. The bible and prayer were still commonly used in our schools. The Courts had declared that we were a Christian nation.  Christmas was celebrated in the public square, there was prayer to open public meetings and the Ten Commandments were engraved in the Supreme Court Building and in court houses around the nation.  And then came:

A radical turn by the Supreme Court 

Recall the initial words of first amendment as they pertain to freedom of religion: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Also recall the Colonial history of there being “state” churches and how it was clearly described in Episode 3 that the first phrase in the First Amendment, “the establishment clause”, pertained specifically to restricting the Federal Government from establishing a “state” church.  That intent was clear. That understanding and the free exercise of religion flourished from the time the Bill of Rights was written (1789) until 1947.

In 1947, the U.S. Supreme Court made a 180-degree turn from past history and precedent. Without citing a single precedent, and ignoring 150 years of historically consistent rulings, the Court decided that the First Amendment “establishment clause” had a much broader meaning than not establishing a state church and announced that; “The wall of separation between church and state must be kept high and impregnable”. Invoking this concept was a radical departure from the past. With that statement by Justice Hugo Black, the myth of separation between church and state was born.  Before that time the phrase “separation of church and state” was hardly know, it did not even appear in the World Book Encyclopedia until 1967.

So exactly what happened.  How did this change come about?

The genesis of the change resulted, rather innocuously, from a Supreme Court case that actually came down on the side of religious freedom. In Everson vs. Board of Education, Arch Everson, challenged a 1941 New Jersey Law that allowed local school districts to provide students transportation to school.  In Everson’s township both public and private (parochial) students were provided transportation.  A total of $357 for the year was allocated by the township toward the transportation of parochial students.  Everson alleged that this indirect aid to religion violated the New Jersey Constitution and the First Amendment. Everson’s lost the case in the highest New Jersey State court and then was taken on to the U. S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled against Everson, on the basis of the majority opinion, written by Justice Hugo Black, that: “ … the state bill was constitutionally permissible because the reimbursements were offered to all students regardless of religion and because the payments were made to parents and not any religious institution.”  Sounds reasonable and in accord with the First Amendment, right? –  What was being authorized certainly could not be considered as the Federal Government establishing a state religion.

But Wait!!    In the write up of the majority opinion, Justice Black stated that:

“ —-The ‘establishment of religion’ clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance.”

So far so good. These statements follow the true intent of the two Freedom of Religion clauses of the First Amendment, the “establishment clause” and the “free exercise clause”.  But Justice Black then added this statement, perhaps without contemplation of the future expanding reach of the government or the devious interpretation that would be made linking “tax” and “funding”.

No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.

This statement, followed by Black’s closing statement in the majority opinion that “the wall of separation between church and state must be kept high and impregnable”, opened a pathway for future courts to rule against allowing any religious expression to be associated with activities that had any government funding.  But the separation concept was just plain made up. There is nothing in the First Amendment clauses that suggest separation or a wall or taxes and nothing in the conduct of our country for 150 years that suggested separation.  The separation of church and  state was not conceived of or established by the founders, nor was it part of our national heritage.

In 1962, the innocuous seeds of the Everson case burst into full bloom and began their invasive attack on America’s Christian population.  Black’s words became controlling precedent for Engle v. Vitale–the case that removed prayer in public education by ruling voluntary and denominationally neutral prayer unconstitutional. The actual prayer that was ruled on was rather benign: “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon thee and we beg thy blessings upon us and our parents, our teachers, and our country.” Tragically, Engle v. Vitale started a domino effect of court rulings that threatened to remove our religious heritage from the public arena, especially from education.

In the 1963 decision of Abington v. Schempp, the Court removed Bible reading from public education. The Court’s justification? “If portions of the New Testament were read without explanation, they could be and have been psychologically harmful to a child.” Simply amazing!! Suddenly, the best- selling book of all time and the most quoted source by the founding fathers was unconstitutional and psychologically harmful. The honorable court certainly didn’t share the religious values of the founders nor the sustainers of the Republic. Abraham Lincoln said, “But for the Bible we would not know right from wrong.” Exactly. One of the reasons moral bearings have been lost in the country is that the objective values of right and wrong have been removed from children’s education.

In 1969, it became unconstitutional to erect a war memorial in the shape of a cross (Lowe v. City of Eugene, 1969). The Court carried that same religious intolerance into a 1994 case in which a cross in a San Diego park had to be removed.

In 1976, it became unconstitutional for a board of education to use or refer to the word God in any official writings (State of Ohio v. Whisner). In 1979, it became unconstitutional for a kindergarten class to ask whose birthday was being celebrated in a Christmas assembly (Florey v. Sioux Falls School District).

By 1980 this incredibly twisted approach made it unconstitutional to post the Ten Commandments on school walls. According to Stone v. Graham, “If posted copies of the Ten Commandments are to have any effect at all it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps venerate and obey the commandments; this is not a permissible objective.” James Madison, the man most responsible for the U.S. Constitution said “[We] have staked the future of all of our political Constitutions upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”20 Once again, the honorable Court is completely out of step with the founding fathers. Madison was absolutely right–the pathetic condition of our culture reflects the inability of individuals to control themselves. While the Ten Commandments hang above the chief justice of the Supreme Court, they are hypocritically censored from the halls of our schools. George Washington said that apart from religion, there can be no morality.

In 1985, Wallace v. Jaffree, the Supreme Court in the ultimate absurdity outlawed allowing a “moment of silence” in Alabama schools.  Ruling a state law, providing for a moment of silence, as unconstitutional. Several states had gone this route in response to the outlawing of school prayer. The reach of the Federal Government now being taken to extremes.  The rationale for the ruling was that any bill (even those which are constitutionally acceptable) is unconstitutional if the author of the bill had a religious activity in mind when the bill was written. In this case the Court carried the separation of church and state concept beyond belief. In addition to applying to religious activities, words, and symbols, along with anything else that might cause someone to think about God, now the mythological wall may be brought to bear on an author’s thoughts while penning a bill.

Why did the Courts make such a drastic departure from our roots? The answer is two-fold, on the one hand there are mean spirited, anti-Christian, intolerant individuals who use the freedom’s granted in the Bill of Rights for their purpose of hurting others and secondly there are the social activist judges who have a complete disregard for the Constitution’s intent. Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes illustrated his personal contempt for the original intent of the Constitution when he said, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what judges say it is.” The words of Supreme Court Justice Brennan are more inflammatory:  “It is arrogant to use the Constitution as the founding fathers intended, it must be interpreted in light of current problems and current needs.”

The arrogance really lies in these liberal judges not interpreting the Constitution as the founding fathers intended but, rather, in reinterpreting the Constitution to meet their personal ideas. It takes brazen audacity to ignore the intentions of the founding fathers and to turn one’s back on the Constitution / Bill of Rights and 150 years of American history that faithfully followed it.

In a 2014 speech Justice Antonin Scalia criticized members of the Court who champion a more evolving, “living” view of the Constitution — a judicial philosophy he has previously said only an “idiot” could believe. “Our {the Supreme Court’s} latest take on the subject, which is quite different from previous takes, is that the state must be neutral, not only between religions, but between religion and non-religion,”. “That’s just a lie. Where do you get the notion that this is all unconstitutional? You can only believe that if you believe in a morphing Constitution.”

If Americans want a more secular political system that guarantees those distinctions, they can “enact that by statute,” Scalia said, “but to say that’s what the Constitution requires is utterly absurd.”

Progression of the Myth of Separation from the Courts to Daily Life

The court case rulings cited above and the associated thought metastasized rapidly. With the aid of a liberal media eager to publicize the demise of traditional values and an increasingly liberal educational system, the vast majority of the US population became convinced that the concept of separation of church and state was a fixture of the Constitution. Further, many school administrators, teachers and municipal leaders considered that mentioning or observing anything to do with Christianity was off limits. Thus, celebration of Christian holidays or even mentioning God in public schools could result in law suits or discipline. The country was literally traumatized. But paradoxically, while the free exercise of religion relative to Christianity was being drastically curtailed, tolerance as an ethic was being pushed. Open mindedness toward others religions was being advanced by social justice activists. No problem with discussing Islam in the schools.

Likewise, evidence of Christianity in the public square was being shut down. Boycotts, dismissals, and protests would occur against companies and individuals who dared to publically express / display their Christian beliefs. Businesses and employers removed any references related to Christianity and adopted non-descript substitute greetings to avoid offending no-believers. This change was: (1) being driven by protests from atheist individual or groups bringing, (2) being supported by those who were now being taught the validity of the concept of “separation of church and state” and (3) being accepted by people of faith who now believed (incorrectly) that “separation of church and state” was part of our heritage.

But all is not lost – truth is on the side of the real meaning of the First Amendment!

Fighting Back to regain the Free Exercise of (Christian) Religion

Although he was in the minority in the “silent prayer” decision in 1985, Justice William H. Rehnquist, penned a bitter dissent to the case in which he attacked the reasoning in the 1962 Ever­son case. “There is simply no historical foundation,” Rehnquist wrote, “for the proposition that the Framers intended to build the ‘wall of separation’ that was constitutionalized in Everson.” Rehnquist called Everson’s lofty rhetoric “useless as a guide to sound constitutional adjudication” and labeled Jeffer­son’s wall metaphor “useless as a guide to judging.”  Other high court justices, notably Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, have since joined the attack.

In general, the Supreme Court began to become more conservative with the appoints by Presidents Reagan and President Bush (the elder) so the extremely liberal decisions under Justice Earl Warren’s Court (1953-1969) did not continue.  A list of decisions that are more favorable to religious freedom are listed below covering the period 1984 -2014.  However, there were many others that were not favorable as the Court has continued to follow the precedents and tests that had been established during the Warren years.

There are a number of groups that have formed to defend Freedom of Religion (Christianity) such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Center for Law and Justice, and the Heritage Foundation.  It is my understanding that these groups have overwhelmingly won the frivolous cases brought against schools where school principals have banned or atheist’s groups have challenged the singing of Christmas carols and against towns putting up displays.

There has been a fairly strong backlash against the efforts to remove Christ from Christmas and the nativity from Christmas displays.   Progress has been made in recent years and religious freedom has even been a hot topic in the Republican presidential primaries. But the struggle for the free exercise of the Christian religion goes on.  The dissent to this point of view is embedded in the myth that the founders intend there to be separation of church and state.  That is wrong!

All the founders wanted to achieve by the first two clauses of the First Amendment was to ensure (1) that there would be no Federal Government specified religion for the nation (no specific Christian denomination) and (2) to allow everyone the freedom and privilege to choose and participate in their own denomination (or none art all) without interference or control by the Federal Government.   That the first simple provision specifying that the Federal Government could not designate a state church could be twisted by the Courts in such a way that it generated blatant Federal Government interference and in so doing decimated the free exercise provision is unconscionable.  The original and continued “reinterpretation” of the establishment clause of the First Amendment by the Supreme Court was and is an effrontery to the founders and is a great injustice to the American people.

Our job – Spread the Truth that the concept of “Separation of Church and State” is not part of the U. S. Constitution, is not a correct interpretation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment and its imposition on our lives and on the Right of the free exercise of religion is a travesty.                         Thanks for Reading – Larry Von Thun


Court Cases since 1984 which upheld Freedom of Religion for Christians

Lynch v. Donnelly (l984) The Court upheld a nativity display among other symbols in a public park “to celebrate the Christmas holiday and to depict the origins of that holiday.”

Board of Education of Westside Community Schools v. Mergens (1990) The 1990 Equal Access Act, which required that public schools give religious groups the same access to facilities that other extracurricular groups have, was upheld. Allowing religious clubs to meet did not violate the Establishment Clause.

Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board v. Pinette (1995) A cross placed by a private group in a traditional public forum adjoining the state house did not violate the Establishment Clause, as the space was open to all on equal terms.

Mitchell v. Helms (2000) The federal government could provide computer equipment to all schools—public, private and parochial—under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The aid was religiously neutral and did not violate the Establishment Clause.

Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001) Religious clubs were allowed to meet in public schools after class hours as other clubs were permitted to do. Allowing religious clubs to meet did not violate the Establishment Clause.

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002) A government program providing tuition vouchers for Cleveland schoolchildren to attend a private school of their parents’ choosing was upheld. The vouchers were neutral towards religion and did not violate the Establishment Clause.

Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow (2004) A father challenged the constitutionality of requiring public school teachers to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, which has included the phrase “under God” since 1954. The Court determined that Mr. Newdow, as a non-custodial parent, did not have standing to bring the case to court and therefore did not answer the constitutional question

Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001) Religious clubs were allowed to meet in public schools after class hours as other clubs were permitted to do. Allowing religious clubs to meet did not violate the Establishment Clause.

Zelman v. Simmons-Harris (2002) A government program providing tuition vouchers for Cleveland schoolchildren to attend a private school of their parents’ choosing was upheld. The vouchers were neutral towards religion and did not violate the Establishment Clause.

Van Orden v. Perry (2005) A six-foot monument displaying the Ten Commandments donated by a private group and placed with other monuments next to the Texas State Capitol had a secular purpose and would not lead an observer to conclude that the state endorsed the religious message, and therefore did not violate the Establishment Clause.

Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation (2007) After the Bush Administration created the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for the purpose of allowing religious charity organizations to gain federal funding, the Court ruled that taxpayers cannot bring Establishment Clause challenges against programs funded by the executive office

Town of Greece vs Galloway (2014) Held that the New York town could continue opening legislative sessions with sectarian prayers.


Pushing a Narrative – and Losing Perspective

Pushing a Narrative – and- Losing Perspective

Going into the 2nd Republican National Convention William H. Seward, former Governor of New York and two term United States Senator was the overwhelming favorite to win the presidential nomination.  He had New York’s 70 delegates and a 100 or more from other states.  In 1860, 233 delegates were needed for nomination. There were several other “favorite son” contenders including Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase, Pennsylvanian Simon Cameron, Edward Bates from Missouri, and Abraham Lincoln from Illinois. None were considered strong challengers to Seward.  On the first ballot it was Seward 173, Lincoln 102, Cameron 50, Chase 49 and Bates 48.  Lincoln worked to become the “second choice” of many and detractors such as Horace Greeley had raised doubts about Seward’s electability – so on the second ballot it was Seward 184, Lincoln 181.  And then on the third ballot many delegates shifted to Lincoln and he led Seward 231 ½ to 180.  Ohio announced a shift of 4 delegates from Chase to Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln became the nominee and the rest is history.  History also records the nomination of Democrat James K Polk that took until the 9th ballot to best the prohibitive favorite Martin Van Buren. History also records the 3rd ballot nomination of Thomas Dewey in 1948 over Taft and Stassen neither of whom would throw their support to the other and the leader coming in to the convention secured the nomination.  There have been several other Conventions that took more than one ballot to nominate the party’s candidate.  The term “contested” convention used when more than one ballot is required is misleading.  It is the logical outcome under certain situations, such as this year when there are multiple candidates.   The parallel to the current year’s situation with the Republican presidential candidates and the nomination process is evident and instructive.

However, as if clueless to history, math and reality – the twin charlatans, “sensationalism” and “story line”, have plagued the multitude of journalists, TV and radio commentators and political analysts this year.  The media failed to keep things in perspective.  The obsession of the news reporters focusing on the alluring narrative or “story line” of Donald Trump’s atypical campaign and its result ran the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.  As it becomes the focus of attention an incessant narrative can lead, or more accurately mislead, the audience by omitting other information.  Below is the history and current story of this year’s Republican candidate race put into true perspective.  But this factual analysis is not intended to be about an evaluation of the candidate per se; it is about the nature and effect of the reporting.

Donald Trump in mid-June, 2015 announced his candidacy, slamming our lack of immigration control, promising to build a wall and brashly condemning the capabilities of the current leaders in the U.S. with respect to making economic and foreign policy agreements. He immediately garnered great support for “telling it like it is” on several high profile issues (immigration, trade, Iran).  Fine.  In a very crowded field of 17 candidates he surged to the front with about 21% of potential Republican voters supporting him*.  Trump leading the field was a story.  A real story!! A valid story.  Not mentioned, and legitimately so at this point, was that 79% of the potential voters supported other candidates.

But after his initial issue based pyrotechnics and generic condemnation of leaders, Donald Trump began personally insulting and demeaning fellow candidates.  Including their physical appearance. As his personal attacks continued Trump’s base stayed firm, even grew, but most people (including a majority of potential Republican voters) appeared dismayed at these personal attacks. (Just as they did later with Rubio).   Trump’s belittling of Carly Fiorina’s appearance was reflected in the September polls. And after Trump’s persistent, (patently non-presidential), behavior in Sept. the reality was clear that the voting now represented not only a choice among the many candidates, but also a “Trump” and a “not Trump” vote.   See representative month by month percentages below:

Trump –        July: 21% Aug: 26% Sep: 23% Oct: 27% Nov: 29% Dec: 36% 2016 Jan: 36% Feb: 35%               Not Trump –      N/A         N/A         Sep: 77% Oct: 73% Nov: 71% Dec: 74% 2016 Jan: 64% Feb: 65%          The disdain was also evident in national polls where Trump had a 60% unfavorable rating among voters, the largest un-favorability rating among any presidential candidate ever.

But in the media Trump’s poll leading position and insult ridden sensationalism dominated the Republican presidential race news.  With three consequences; (1) Trump dominated the airways (with the other 12 or so candidates relegated to sharing any leftover time), (2) the “story line” that Trump was the poll leader, that he was the presumptive nominee, and that there was no way to stop him, continued ad infinitum, and (3) that Republicans and conservatives in general were being painted with a Trump’s position brush.  The reality, and ultimate importance with respect to the nomination process,  that about 2/3 of Republicans supported other candidates than Trump never seemed to register among the media and was rarely mentioned until the last debate.

As primary voting and caucusing began to take place “wins” – and not delegate distribution became the focus, and “sensationalist” narratives continued.  The purveyors of news and commentary were focused on: (1) continuing their (non-mathematically supportable) narrative of predicting / declaring the early leader (Trump) as the eventual nominee, (2) postulating when and how some hypothetical “establishment” force would step in and forestall Trump’s “rightful” victory, (the non-descript term “establishment” was being used in nearly every sentence by the political analysts.), and (3) predicting chaos at the convention.  From personal “grass root” experience, I can report that at my Colorado precinct caucus (made up of neighbors, the majority of whom had never been to a caucus) everyone voted in our straw poll for either Ben Carson or Macro Rubio.  This is a micro-anecdotal experience but it supports my contention that the sentiment discussed above is a “common conservative” sentiment not an “establishment” imposed sentiment.  In fact, it has been stated by the Republican Party leadership that no untoward attempt to influence the nomination outcome would take place and further it is recognized by nearly everyone that any such attempt would be counterproductive.

The news reporters and analysts should be explaining and educating the populous on how an actual, legitimate and necessary nomination process is intended to work when there are several candidates with delegates and none with a majority. This year’s nomination contest is unique and will require patience and understanding to be resolved.  Eventually the news reporters will catch on that like Seward’s 41% of the delegates in the year of Lincoln’s nomination, that 43% of delegates (Trump’s current (March 8, 2016) percentage) is not a majority and is not a dominate lead over the 34% that Cruz now holds.   Further the Convention has a rules committee made up of one man and one woman from each state delegation (plus 12 other members).  Any proposed nomination procedure rule changes must be made before the convention starts and must be approved at the start by the convention delegates. Changes may need to be made due to the unique character of this race. Currently Rule 40 (made in 2012) requires that only candidates with the majority of delegates in 8 states can be placed in nomination.  Because of the number of candidates and the split in support, right now no candidate has the majority of delegates in any state.  So to recognize reality and also to give the delegates the chance to select who they think would ultimately be the best for the party, that rule is likely to be changed.  Each state has its own rules about when their delegates, can vote for any candidate after the first ballot.

Objective, reality based reporting with respect to the nomination process has been lacking. News reporters, commentators and analysts have been caught up in a very unusual phenomenon and “pushed” a story line” that early on lost perspective.   Not only can a lack of proper perspective have the potential to unduly influence the outcome by excessive media attention to a single narrative, it also can build false expectations.   At the last debate, all the candidates (who all must indeed recognize the likelihood of a multi-ballot convention) selflessly and wisely pledged to support whoever the nominee will be.  It is my hope that the media can put out enough clear and unbiased education to allow people to understand and accept the process that will take place.  There is still time to do that.  The hand writing of the need for that is on the wall.  Maybe even tonight they will start to figure it out.

Thanks for reading this — Larry Von Thun

*The percentages given are taken from polls, and while poll numbers are recognized as variable and inaccurate, for the purposes of this analysis that is not important because it was polls on which the reporting being discussed was based.

My Tax Plan

My Tax Plan

There!! – I have finished my Tax Plan, my True Caring for Veterans Plan, my Balanced Budget Plan, my Armed Services Restoration Plan and my plan for Free College Tuition for Seniors — now I am ready to tell the American public what I will deliver as their President.  The Tax Foundation (, the Tax Policy Center ( and the Heritage Foundation have all graded my tax plans as they have done for the other 24 candidates, and mine ranks right up there.

We are on the debate stage now and my head is swirling, every candidate has just announced what they will do.  I start, just as they have, making promises of what will happen under my Presidency with regard to taxes and it suddenly dawns on me that:

  • The “Ways and Means Committee” in the House of representatives and the “Joint Committee on Taxation” must write the actual legislation.
  • That Article 1, Section VII of the U. S. Constitution, declares “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives”
  • That the Revenue Bill must pass both the House and the Senate and then go through a resolution committee before it takes its final form and comes to me to sign.

What was I thinking??  I cannot promise that my tax plan will go into effect.

So I make a decision right on the spot.  I will give it to the people straight.  I will tell them the principles for which I stand and what I will work to get accomplished through Congress**.

  • I will tell them that as President, I will lead the country with the principles of truth and virtue,
  • I will, as the head of the Executive arm of the government see that the laws of the country are carried out,
  • I will, as Commander in Chief provide for the common defense and,
  • If elected I will not have the power of a king or dictator and thus, unlike the other candidates here, I cannot and will not make illusory promises and misleading claims regarding legislation over which I do not have direct control. Our country is to be governed by a clearly defined and balanced separation of powers as per Montesquieu’s* guidance.

The debate moderators gasp and the audience sits in stone silence – then gradually as reality seeps in, a few start clapping and eventually all in the auditorium are standing and cheering.  The reporters do some fact checking and find out that sure enough we do have three branches of government and all the questions that they have been asking about the details of the various tax plans were an exercise in futility.  The next day the TV newscasters proclaim and the headlines state:


I wish!!

Every four years for the last several decades I have been amazed by the fact that the presidential candidates emphasize in their campaign rhetoric all the things that they are going to do, and, this year as well, what they are going to give away.  So much of the debate and so much of what people beg to hear does not relate to the President’s actual functions and roles.  Even more surprising is that for years on end the television anchors, reporters, political commentators and the debate moderators do not question the reality of these assertions but rather buy into them entirely and guilelessly – gleefully pitting one’s set of promises against another’s – as though one or the others plan will be the reality depending on who is elected.  And then the most distressing thing of all is that the vast majority of the voters listening or receiving their information from the news, neighbors, or others sources accept what is said by a candidate as a fait accompli. As though, if their candidate is elected, or if their opposition is elected, that that is what would actually happen.  It is no wonder that so many campaign promises go unfulfilled.

I selected the tax plan offerings to illustrate the miss-portrayal of reality offered to us every four years.

However, this is not to say that the messages delivered by the candidates are absent relevant information with respect to how they would lead and for what principles that they stand, far from it. There are indeed many matters that are under the President’s direct “Executive” or “Administrative” control.  For example, the assertions related to rescinding or extending executive actions and getting rid of or adding regulations are realistic for a candidate to make.  Also, declarations on the manner in which the Commander in Chief’s duties (i.e. those not requiring legislative action) would be carried out are legitimate. This year, for example, with such things as the terrorist threat at home and abroad and the discussions on the impact of regulations on the economy there is indeed considerable basis for candidate statement and voter discernment.

So what is required of us (and should be expected of our news organizations and debate moderators) is keen judgment on whether what is promised by candidates as an outcome that they will produce is realistically within their function as President.  If this were consistently demanded, then candidates may learn to speak to fundamentals and reality and our country could elect Presidents on the basis of Principle, Character, and Competence rather than on politically expedient but imprudent promises.

Thanks Larry Von Thun


* Montesquieu’s writings were a major influence on the formation of the American governmental system. His works were cited by the founders in pre-revolutionary literature on government and politics more than any source save the Bible.  Montesquieu’s philosophy that “government should be set up so that no man need be afraid of another” reminded James Madison, “The Father of the Constitution,” and others that a free and stable foundation for their new national government required a clearly defined and balanced separation of powers.  (adapted from Wikipedia)

** The book “The Quiet Man” by John Sununu relates the work done by a Republican President (George H.W. Bush) in working with a Democratic Congress in getting important legislation passed in a bi-partisan manner.


Global Warming – 102

Global Warming 102 – Global Temperatures – Past, Present and Future

Background — After a sustained period of cooler global temperatures from 1944 to 1980, the earth began to steadily warm again in accordance with the current long term warming trend (since 1650 and a matter of NASA record since 1880). As we moved into the late 1980’s the earth’s temperature was getting increasingly warm, reaching temperature levels nearing the high temperature peaks indicated in the earth’s previous cooling/warming cycles (see figure 1).   People were beginning to get concerned.   It was known that manmade emissions of CO2 had been increasing greatly (since about 1945) and it was known that the CO2 in the atmosphere is a contributor (albeit a minor one) to keeping heat from escaping the earth.  Thus, it was reasonable to hypothesize that the large increase in CO2 emissions by human activities was increasing the rate of global warming.  This was a hypothesis and like any hypothesis it needed to be examined, tested, and verified before it is accepted as fact. The hypothesis was challenged in Global Warming 101 based on empirical records showing extended periods of global temperature cooling concurrent with steadily rising emissions of CO2.   

In Global Warming 101 using a graph showing the avg. annual global temperatures since 1880 and a second showing the rates of increase in human source carbon dioxide emissions, three basic conclusions were reached: (1) the earth is in a period of global warming and has been warming for a very long time, (2) though there is overall warming there are long periods (tens of years) of cooling or of  relative stability in global temperatures, and (3) the existence and rate of global warming is not being significantly influenced by human source CO2.

In Global Warming 102 you will be provided with four basics relative to the global warming and “climate change” discussions.  These factual data will give you a foundation to help you read, understand, interpret and evaluate the truth or lack of it in the rhetoric heard and in the articles written on this subject.  Most of such communication commonly seen is to persuade for political or advocacy purposes. However, there have been, since the late 1980’s, a plethora of technical articles on the subject written supporting the theory that CO2 emissions are responsible for global warming.  The articles of this bent that I have reviewed tend to be narrowly focused and very analytical, or they have been written to specifically counter some aspect of the technical opposition to this prevailing theory.  Similarly, the articles opposed to the human caused argument for global warming present their viewpoint and are biased toward that point of view.  Thus, it becomes difficult to assess the situation.  My objective is to provide you with easily understood factual data that helps in this regard.

Long Term Cyclic Temperature Record –  The first essential is to understand the context of the current discussion with respect to the very long term and the extremely long term temperature record of the planet.  We all know about glaciers and how they advanced and retreated.  The last glacial period started about 110,000 years ago and ended about 15,000 years ago.   During that time period there were about 8 advances and retreats of the glaciers as the earth alternately cooled and heated within the last glacial period.   Now, looking at the very long term there are extended periods or cycles of warming followed by extended periods of cooling.  Figure 1 shows how those cycles look based on ice core data from Antarctica.  Note how the cooling trends last for a very long time and how the warming trends tend to shoot up rapidly (speaking in terms of geologic time).  Also note how the past 3 peaks were much sharper and higher than the current peak. The reason for this is not known.

Temp cycles

Figure 1 – Temperature changes over a period of 400,000 as derived from Antarctica ice core ( Note: similar data has been derived from ocean sediments)

Many people with knowledge of glaciation and of this long term cyclic record of the earth’s temperatures, which goes back 800,000 years, did and still do question the man caused global warming assertion promulgated by the United Nations Climate Committee in the late 1980’s.

Terminology –The second piece of basic information to understand is the relationship of the term Global Warming to the now popular but imprecise term “Climate Change” and the “non-obvious” implication of this term and, as an important detail, the ways the average global temperature is determined.

Global Warming means the year to year increase in the “average” global temperature. This “average” temperature is now measured in two ways.  (1) The first, and oldest, means of establishing this average is via a land – ocean array of sites. It is the one used in the NASA Global Temperature Index for Land & Ocean shown in Global Warming 101. (2) The second, is the average temperature of the lower troposphere (near surface layer) obtained from satellites passing over the array of measuring locations around the globe twice a day.  The satellite array (established in 1978) has the intended advantage of removing the effects of the “urban heat sinks” present in the land-ocean array.  The satellite data, are interpreted and published by two different groups that are referred to as RSS and UAH.  The UAH plot is by the University of Alabama at Huntsville and the RSS data is from Remote Sensing Systems (RSS), a scientific research company located in Northern California, specializing in satellite microwave remote sensing of the Earth.  Although the analysis techniques for interpretation of the data are different the results are quite similar.  Figure 2 shows the history of the average global temperature record since 1979 from the UAH source.  As in the land-ocean record there was a peak in 1998, however in the satellite data the peak was very sharp and since that time the satellite data show that that the 1998 average global temperature peak has not been exceeded.  That is why you will hear it reported that the “earth has been cooling for the last 18 years” and at the same time hear reports, (like President Obama’s statement in the 2014 State of the Union address), that 2014 was hottest year on record. Both statements were true, they are using different data sets.  According to the satellite data, 1998 is the hottest year on record, 2010 is next and then 2015.  According to the land-ocean data the 1998 temperature represented a local peak and since then the trend is slowly creeping upward, however there was a big increase in 2015 and that might be seen in 2016 as well as it is another El Nino year.

UAH 1979-2014

(1)     Figure 2 – Global temperatures from satellite data since 1979 (UAH_LT_1979 Through Dec 2014) A global temperature high (as measured from satellite data in the lower troposphere) was reached in 1998 and since that time (17 years and counting) global temperatures have been at or below that peak level.

Climate Change — This term is now used as a euphemism for “anthropogenic global warming” – i.e. global warming  being caused by humans.  The term appears to have been intentionally adopted as a means to focus attention on and engender concern about the recognized adverse physical effects of global warming – glaciers retreating, polar ice diminishing, and the range of plants and animals being impacted, and at the same time shrewdly imply or infer that the cause of these physical effects is human source CO2, as though the question was settled.  It is an imprecise term technically, that has obscured the real question of whether the current warming is “anthropogenic”, or is due to natural forces.  Use of the term effectively discredits, in the public eye, the many climatologists scientists and technical people who challenge the CO2 – anthropogenic global warming assertion.  This public media discrediting is easy because it infers that the “skeptics” or “deniers”  are arguing that the  “climate change” physical effects are not occurring and it makes them look totally unrealistic and out of touch.

Climate Models – The United Nations established the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. The IPCC was charged to obtain, scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change.”  Notice that it appears that the IPCC was not charged with investigating the hypothesis of whether or not global warming was being influenced by human source CO2, but rather to start with that assumption and show the risks.   And as it turns out the IPCC is fulfilling their charge by conveying that there is considerable risk. The IPCC panel concluded in their first assessment report in 1990 that: anthropogenic climate change will persist for many centuries.   The IPCC funded an abundance of studies, resulting papers and climate models that supported their initial conclusion and a positive feedback loop developed that led to the IPCC’s subsequent assertion that human generated carbon dioxide emissions are the major cause of global warming.  The global warming models sponsored / paid for by the IPCC typically integrated or incorporated in their analytics a very adverse effect due to rising CO2 levels.  As can be seen in Figure 3, the models greatly overestimated the actual global warming that has occurred since 1998.   The results of these models were a primary rationale for the IPCC’s ominous warnings to the international community on the expected increases in global warming and associated adverse impacts (e.g. rising ocean levels).  These results were a prime driver of the global efforts to take action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions such as the Kyoto Protocol.  Now clearly seen as overestimates, IPCC models are still being used to justify warnings.   Note that although these models clearly appear to be inaccurate because of their emphasis on incorporating  assumptions about the dramatic effects of CO2, this is not to say that there will not be another sharp rise in global temperatures as there was post 1933 and post 1976.  The pattern of relative stable global temperatures since 1998 could well change in future years due to natural forces.

models vs actual temp

Figure 3- Climate models under IPCC auspices give projections of warming far exceeding the actual level of global warming as recorded post 1998 by the two official interpretations of the lower atmosphere temperatures based on satellite data (RSS – Remote Sensing Systems and UAH – University of Alabama at Huntsville).

World Wide CO2 EmissionsThe fourth essential to be aware of is the worldwide distribution of CO2 emissions. For a variety of reasons US and European human source CO2 emissions have increased only marginally since 1965 and since about 2007 are declining (see Figure 4).   Emissions from Asia-Pacific countries (primarily China) have been greatly increasing, keeping the overall global human source CO2 emissions advancing at the steady, high rate observed in the graph presented in global warming 101.  This illustrates the  irrational efforts to restrict United States CO2 emissions to effect “climate change” when such restrictions, (1) are based only on theory and have no verifiable evidence of a positive effect, (2) are offset many fold by the emissions being produced by Asian countries, and  (3) can adversely impact the U. S. economy and people’s livelihoods.  The first point, that there is no demonstrable empirical evidence that CO2 restrictions can have a meaningful effect on reducing average global temperature appears to me to be irrefutable.  This is because CO2 emissions are on the rise and have been on the rise for more than a hundred years.  Thus, there has never been a sustained time period with reduced CO2 emissions to allow such evidence to be obtained.  Of course the fact that there has not been the chance to really test a global reduction in CO2 does not prove that it would not have an effect, it simply illustrates that such evidence is lacking.  Further, it does not preclude cutting CO2 based on a confident belief or hope that it would have a positive effect. However, evidence does exist that while human source CO2 emissions were increasing 4 fold over a period of 24 years (1944-1978), global temperatures decreased. Such evidence casts serious doubts about the efficacy of cutting CO2 to reduce global temperatures.   Regulations that would cut CO2 emissions would  make only a small reduction in the US contribution and as can be seen from the rate of rise in Asia Pacific emissions the US cuts would pale in comparison to the increases by the developing countries on which restrictions are not being placed.

CO2 rise around world

Figure 4 – Emissions of CO2 since 1965 – in the United States, Europe and the Asia Pacific

Based on what is known and can be observed from the historic temperature records, the long term trend of global warming will continue for an unknown time period. The trigger or triggers that have caused the global temperature cycles to reverse direction (see figure 1) are not known. Based on actual empirical evidence there is no reasonable expectation that reducing CO2 emissions will have any significant effect on global warming, even if it could be accomplished, which appears very unlikely based on the emissions of developing nations.

The bottom line is that global warming is continuing at an irregular pace and does not appear to be significantly influenced, positively or negatively, by human produced CO2 emissions based on empirical evidence.  Thus, with respect to global warming our nation’s efforts should be directed toward assessing and addressing the potential adverse impacts of global warming. The burning of fossil fuels should not be discounted as a problem but rather be addressed relative to the actual pollutants released by that activity.    Alternative energy sources should continue to be developed because it makes sense to do so.

Human caused global warming and the reduction of CO2 emissions to slow or reverse global warming were and still are hypotheses.  These hypotheses can be countered and shown to be doubtful using empirical data.   An impending, human induced “climate change” calamity continues to be presented to the American people and the world as if it were absolute reality, and as if something meaningful could be done to abate it.  There are apparently many in the scientific and technical community who belief this to be true. In future episodes we will examine the rationale for that belief.  There are many who simply accept that what most in the technical community believe must be true.  And there are some who use their belief in the “climate change” scenario for socio-political and personal economic purposes.  For my part, I see the empirical evidence painting a different picture.   I am trying to provide what I believe to be the factual information related to this subject. So many in the public eye talk about this topic but have no idea what the basic facts are.  I invite you to join Global Warming 103, where with this foundation of factual data as a base we will begin to trace the history of the rise of the global warming concerns and learn about the Al Gore’s “convenient omission” that led so many astray on a very important point.    Thanks, Larry Von Thun

Truth has its boots on!

The title of this blog is derived from the saying: ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.’   This saying was attributed (in 1919) to Mark Twain. However, a quick search shows that there are numerous variations on this “proverb” that go all the back to 1710. In 1840 Thomas Jefferson was credited with saying: “falsehood will travel over the country, while truth is pulling on its boots”, and in an 1855 sermon, Charles Spurgeon a London preacher said, “If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is as light as a feather, and a breath will carry it. It is well said in the old Proverb, ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.’

Regardless of the origin, the reality of this premise has been observed by many. I have witnessed this phenomenon numerous times, including several instances just in the last few years. Misconceptions, misunderstandings, falsehoods, and downright intentional lies are spread rapidly by several means and there a number of reasons why that happens. Acceptance, based on emotion and misplaced trust in the source, rather than on rational study and evaluation, is the root cause. A misconception or lie can spread due to fear, excitement, worry, gossip, or misrepresentation (intentional or unintentional). Once it is individually or globally endorsed or accepted the false narrative becomes “conventional wisdom”. Overturning the error and correcting a falsely imbedded impression is a challenge but it can and has been done, but not necessarily with 100% success.

For example, in the 1700 hundreds a false narrative was spread that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites and that “fact” became well known and well accepted. It took a long time for that assertion to be recognized by almost everyone as invalid. In the last century in the United States the “idea” of separation of Church and State, has supplanted the actual, documented “first amendment right to free exercise of religion”. This misconception has via judicial autocracy and “conventional wisdom” become an accepted fact by the greater part of the populous.

My goal in the missives of this blog is to set the record straight – to put the boots on the truth and get it out !    Complex topics, where history and details are important will come in short installments.   Hopefully, each installment of these more complex topics will put you on the edge of your seat – eager for the next episode.

Getting and verifying the facts surrounding a topic leads down many roads and often those roads are filled with interesting information that I yearn to share – but may make the story too long.  Thus,  I have attempted to provide two choices on some of the topics – a more concise version for those who like that and a “full” version for those wanting more detail.  Thanks for joining with me in this effort to PUT THE BOOTS ON THE Truth!!  Larry Von Thun