Thursday, March 28, 2013

Media feeding frenzy on gay "marriage" and Supreme Court.

Listening to the media is sounds like everybody is on board with gay "marriage" including the Supreme Court justices. I thought this column by Glen Stanton gives a different perspective on the justices treatment of the subject.

Of course, the questions they ask doesn't determine how they'll rule.  I suspect they don't want to be responsible for issues another Roe v. Wade, at least a majority of the justices don't.
The first day of oral arguments before the Supreme Court on same-sex marriage were watched very carefully by many Americans. Up to this point, one would be hard-pressed to find any instance of any notable personage who is not known as a traditional marriage proponent asking any tough questions about the larger social and familial impact of the effort to redefine marriage. Most assume there are no good questions.

But we saw something very different yesterday. The justices—and not just the conservative ones—were the first notable culture leaders who asked sound, tough questions. A few examples:

Justice Kennedy and others illustrated the historical imbalance between natural marriage and this new proposal. Kennedy expressed that he thinks “there’s substance to the point that sociological information [on same-sex parenting] is new. We have five years of information to weight against two thousand years of history or more.”

Later, Kennedy remarked again:
The problem with the case is that you’re really asking, particularly because of the sociological evidence you cite, for us to go into uncharted waters, and you can play with that metaphor, there’s a wonderful destination, it is a cliff.
Justice Alito also brought the questioning back to Kennedy’s “going blind in uncharted waters” remark as he said to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli:
But what is your response to the argument which has already been mentioned about the need to be cautious in light of the newness of the concept of same-sex marriage? . . .

[Marriage is] thought to be a fundamental building block of society and its preservation essential for the preservation of society. Traditional marriage has been around for thousands of years. Same-sex marriage is very new. . . . You want us to step in and render a decision based on an assessment of the effects of this institution which is newer than cell phones or the Internet? I mean . . . we do not have the ability to see the future.”
These questions were never really answered.

Chief Justice Roberts later asked another question of the Solicitor General Verrilli. He wanted clarity on what Roberts referred to as a “somewhat internally inconsistent” argument in the case for same-sex parenting.
We see the argument made that there is no problem with extending marriage to same-sex couples because children raised by same-sex couples are doing just fine and there is no evidence that they are being harmed. And the other argument is Proposition 8 harms children by not allowing same-sex couples to [marry]. Which is it?
Verrilli could only go to the stock “poor them” response which only made Robert’s question more relevant:
Their parents cannot marry and that has effects on them in the here and now. A stabilizing effect is not there. When they go to school, they have to, you know—they don’t have parents like everybody else’s parents.
So these kids show harm and no harm by living in such homes. How can that be?

When questioned about the procreative importance of marriage rooted in human history and experience, attorney Ted Olson dismissed the linkage. He said the issue was about alienating a group of citizens from the institution. Chief Justice Roberts interrupted him, remarking,
When the institution of marriage developed historically, people didn’t get around and say let’s have this institution, but let’s keep out homosexuals. The institution developed to serve purposes that, by their nature, didn’t include homosexual couples.
This, of course, is a very important counter to the ubiquitous claim that traditional marriage serves to exclude same-sex attracted people from society. When Olson stayed on the theme that Proposition 8 was inherently prejudiced, Roberts countered, asking if its motivation might have been something different: “Don’t you think it’s more reasonable to view it as a [reaction to the] change by the California Supreme Court of this institution that’s been around since time immemorial?”

This led Justice Scalia to ask the following foundational question:
I’m curious . . . when did it become unconstitutional to exclude homosexual couples from marriage? 1791? 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted? . . . Was it always unconstitutional?
Of course, the question is not of a legal nature, per se, but about how this topic has so abruptly become an issue of discussion, rising from an absolute silence over the centuries and millennia until the last few milliseconds of human experience, actualized for the first time anywhere in the world by the Dutch in 2001. As Alito colorfully remarked, same-sex marriage is “newer than cell phones and the Internet.” Why has this “fundamental human right” not been a long-debated (much less recognized) issue like slavery and the standing of women in society have been for thousands of years to varying degrees? It is a very good and central question.<

Olson answered, “It was constitutional when we as a culture determined that sexual orientation is a characteristic of individuals that they cannot control, and that that—” Scalia interrupted, asking, “I see. When did that happen? When did that happen?” Olson replied, “There’s no specific date in time. This is an evolutionary cycle.” Scalia then countered, “Well, how am I supposed to know how to decide a case, then . . . if you can’t give me a date when the Constitution changes?”

Justice Sotomayor asked the pointed question of where such a redefinition of marriage would lead us. Where and how do we set limits on how far this goes?
Mr. Olson, the bottom line that you’re being asked [this question]: If you say that marriage is a fundamental right, what state restrictions could ever exist? Meaning, what state restrictions with respect to the number of people . . . I can accept that the state has probably an overbearing interest on protecting a child until they’re of age to marry, but what’s left?
Olson, in his response, stated that multi-partner marriage raised obvious concerns about child well-being. How selective. Many—including the French—see the obvious well-being concerns with making motherhood and father merely optional and sentimental.

Olson frequently asserted this issue’s similarity with Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court decision striking down anti-miscegenation laws. It is a very emotional, but inapplicable comparison. Kennedy called him on it, curtly responding “that’s not accurate.”

Near the end of the day, Sotomayor asked a question that gave an indication where the court could go with this case: find a good reason to punt.
If the issue is letting the states experiment and letting the society have more time to figure out its direction, why is taking a case now the answer? We let issues perk, and so we let racial segregation perk for fifty years from 1898 to 1954. . . . And now we are only talking about, at most, four years.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ben Carson retiring from neurosurgeon career. Looks like politics is next on horizon.

Pediatric, neurosurgeon Ben Carson recently spoke at the the CPAC conference.  While there he announced he'll be soon retiring and it looks like he'll be pursuing higher office.

He has a powerful personal story, rising from deep poverty, raised by a single mother.  He went on to become a world renowned surgeon who's increasingly concerned with the direction our nation is going.

You can hear his speech here.

Here's a written account of it.
He noted that some of his critics have asked why a medical doctor would have any business weighing in on economic policy.  ”It’s not brain surgery,” he responded with a chuckle, and indeed much of his economic advice is a mixture of common sense (which Carson frequently praises) and the same brand of dispassionate analysis that informs surgical decisions.  For example, he observed there’s an awful lot of money floating around beyond America’s borders, and our government could bring it home by “treating businesses as friends, not as enemies” and recognizing they are private enterprises lawfully seeking profit, not welfare agencies.  He repeated his comments about truly fair taxation from the National Prayer Breakfast, advocating a low and flat tax system that punishes no one and exempts no one.

What horrifies Carson is the assertion that he had no right to voice his opinions at that February prayer breakfast because he has black skin, and stood in the august presence of King Barack I.  He explained that a brain surgeon is well-qualified to give testimony about how people are all the same inside, no matter the color of the skin stretched over their skulls.

As for the propriety of a doctor offering moral and political advice, Carson said this fell under the finest traditions of self-government.  ”This is a country that’s for, of, and by the people – not for, of, and by the government.  And if we turn it over to them, we cannot complain about what they’re doing… because this is the natural course of men, and we have to hold their feet to the fire.”

Angry criticism from the Left has not caused Carson to water down his critique of liberal policies.  If anything, he was even feistier at CPAC.  He explained that if he were an enemy of the United States, he would set about destroying the nation in four simple steps: create division among the people, encourage a culture of ridicule for basic morality, undermine the nation’s financial stability through excessive government debt, and weaken the military.  ”It appears, coincidentally, that those are the very things that are happening right now,” he observed.  ”And the question is, how do we stop it?  Can we stop it, or must we inexorably follow the same kind of path that other pinnacle nations have followed before their destruction?”

A major component of Carson’s plan to avoid doom lies in educational reform, which he and his wife have invested heavily in through their scholarship program.  Beaming with pride, Carson announced that one of his grantees had been accepted into the neurosurgery program at Johns Hopkins, where he has long been the director of pediatric neurosurgery.

“Education is a fundamental principle of what made America a success,” he declared, reviewing the importance of education (and a determined mother) in his own life, and pointing out that well-educated people are better equipped to pursue opportunity and provide for themselves, rather than lapsing into social safety-net dependency.  ”We can’t afford to throw any young people away,” he warned.

Carson sees the modern welfare super-state as an outgrowth of America’s innate generosity, but says it was a mistake to entrust that generosity to inefficient, self-interested bureaucracy over efficient, compassionate private charities.  He has a dim view of the ulterior motives held by some champions of the welfare state.  ”What you’re saying is that ‘I, the superior elite, will take care of you.’  Why?  Because, you see, that superior, elite group needs to feel superior and elite.  And they can’t be superior and elite unless you have a whole lot of people down there groveling around.  So you keep them down there by feeding them.”

As he did at the National Prayer Breakfast, Carson warned of the dangers of allowing government to control health care, which represents one-sixth of the economy.  ”If the government can control that, they can control everything,” he said.  Instead, he proposes that 80 percent of the interactions between doctors and patients could be easily handled through health savings accounts, a proposal discussed in more detail in his book, America the Beautiful.

Carson also entreated his CPAC audience to “resist this war on God,” the forced cleansing of religious and moral principles from public life.  He views this as an “absolutely absurd” assault on freedom of speech and religion.  ”Let’s let everybody believe what they want to believe,” he countered.  ”And that means, P.C. police, don’t you be coming down on people who believe in God and who believe in Jesus.”

This would interfere with the manufacture of division and paranoia among the people, which he cited as step 1 in his four-step plan to destroy America.  ”We need to understand that we are not each others’ enemies in this country.  And it is only the political class that derives its power by creating friction.  It is only the media that derives its importance by creating friction… that uses every little thing to create this chasm between people.  This is not who we are.  We have much more in common with other people than we have apart.  And we have to be smart enough to understand that, and we have to live by Godly principles of loving your fellow man, of caring about your neighbor… of developing your God-given talents to the utmost, so you become valuable to the people around you… of having values and principles to guide your life.  And if we do that, not only will we remain a pinnacle nation, but we will truly have one nation – under God – indivisible – with liberty and justice for all.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Are taxes too high? Liberal pundit Bill Maher thinks so..

Bill Maher, the who's expletive laced attacks on conservatives and people of faith are standard fare, is upset with something else.  It's high taxes in California.

According to this news story:
Even Bill Maher thinks California taxes are too high.

On his HBO show “Real Time” on Friday he was quick to jump in during a panel discussion on Washington budget proposals, Newsbusters first reported.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow slammed Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan as “a document that says the big problems in America right now are that rich people do not have enough money. They need relief from confiscatory tax rates. And poor people have too much access to affordable health care.”

But the liberal Maher disagreed.

"You know what?” Maher responded, “Rich people … actually do pay the freight in this country."

"I just saw these statistics. I mean, something like 70 percent. And here in California, I just want to say liberals — you could actually lose me. It's outrageous what we're paying — over 50 percent. I'm willing to pay my share, but yeah, it's ridiculous."
 It appears Maher has changed his tune from just a couple of years ago.
In 2010 Maher had a different outlook when writing on The Huffington Post, “I've done some math that indicates that, considering the hole this country is in, if you are earning more than a million dollars a year and are complaining about a 3.6% tax increase, then you are by definition a greedy a--hole.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Minnesota anti-bullying bill, free speech and PC code for Minnesota public schools.

The Minnesota legislative proposal, SF783/HF826, ostensibly designed to address bullying in our public and private schools, is getting quite a bit of attention across the nation for its proposed infringements on first amendment freedoms.

UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh, a constitutional law, free speech, religious liberty expert blogged on what he saw as its unconstitutionally vague definition of bullying which would invariably implicate free speech concerns.
Minnesota Bill to Ban K-12 Speech That Denies Fellow Students a “Supportive Environment”

That’s H.F. No. 826, which requires schools — including private schools that get any “public funds or other public resources” — to ban, among other things, “bullying” at school, defined as
use of one or a series of words, images, or actions, transmitted directly or indirectly between individuals or through technology, that a reasonable person knows or should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of interfering with the ability of an individual, including a student who observes the conduct, to participate in a safe and supportive learning environment. Examples of bullying may include, but are not limited to, conduct that:
  1. places an individual in reasonable fear of harm to person or property, including through intimidation;
  2. has a detrimental effect on the physical, social, or emotional health of a student;
  3. interferes with a student’s educational performance or ability to participate in educational opportunities;
  4. encourages the deliberate exclusion of a student from a school service, activity, or privilege;
  5. creates or exacerbates a real or perceived imbalance of power between students;
  6. violates the reasonable expectation of privacy of one or more individuals; or
  7. relates to the actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, national origin, immigration status, sex, age, marital status, familial status, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, academic status, disability, or status with regard to public assistance, age, or any additional characteristic defined in chapter 363A of a person or of a person with whom that person associates, but the conduct does not rise to the level of harassment.
First, what does interfering with “the ability of an individual ... to participate in a ... supportive learning environment” mean, exactly? Say that students are talking over lunch about how a classmate committed a crime, cheated, said racist things, treated his girlfriend cruelly, or whatever else, which causes people to feel hostile towards the classmate. That interferes with his ability “to participate in a ... supportive learning environment.” Presumably that’s now forbidden, right?

Second, what on earth does “creat[ing] or exacerbat[ing] a real or perceived imbalance of power between students” mean? What kind of power? Social power? Financial power? Power within student-run institutions, such as clubs or businesses that students set up?

Third, what does “violates the reasonable expectation of privacy of one or more individuals” mean? The disclosure of private facts tort doesn’t really tell us, because it is by design limited to speech said to a large group. Would a girl telling a friend that her ex-boyfriend has an STD violate the ex-boyfriend’s reasonable expectation of privacy? (What if the boyfriend is hitting on the friend?) Would revealing a secret qualify? Revealing an acquaintance’s religious or political beliefs, if the acquaintance views them as a private matter?

Fourth, “relates to the actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, national origin, immigration status, sex, age, marital status, familial status, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, academic status, disability, or status with regard to public assistance, [or] age ... of a person or of a person with whom that person associates” would require restrictions on a vast range of speech.

Condemning illegal aliens, Scientologists, people who marry too young, people who are flunking out of school, or people who are on welfare would have to be forbidden as “bullying.” That’s true whether one says this about a student, about the students’ family members (“person[s] with whom that person associates”), or presumably about the group as a whole: After all, even a general condemnation of illegal aliens might interfere with the ability of an illegal alien student who “observes the conduct” to “participate in a ... supportive learning environment.” (It’s not very supportive when people think that people like you should be deported, no matter how strong the case for deportation might be.)
Then he comments on its attempt to rope in all private schools, including private, religious schools.
Now public schools have broader authority to restrict student speech than does the government acting as sovereign. But even public schools’ authority is limited (see here for more details); and a public school policy that’s this broad would, I think, be unconstitutionally overbroad and thus invalid on its face, see, e.g., Saxe v. State College Area School Dist. (3d Cir. 2001) (Alito, J.). The government’s use of funds for private schools — even funds that amount to a small fraction of the school’s budget — as leverage to suppress a wide range of speech at those schools is even more constitutionally problematic, see FCC v. League of Women Voters (1984). And beyond that, the proposal’s overbreadth is bad policy as well as being unconstitutional.
The bottom line?  The bill is inviting a court challenge if it passes in its current form.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Libertarian Ron Paul defends unborn in Canada.

It was refreshing hearing libertarian former Congressman Ron Paul defend the unborn while on a trip in Canada.  He points out that libertarianism respects the individual and that should be extended to the unborn as well.
Speaking during a media availability at the Manning Networking Conference, the former Republican presidential candidate acknowledged that the issue of abortion is “difficult” for him as a libertarian, because he so strongly emphasizes individual rights and bodily autonomy.

“Yet I think that all liberty depends on life,” he said. “So, the question isn’t so much whether the individual has the right…to take the life of a fetus. The question is, well does the fetus have rights? And I’ve come down on the side to say that it does.”

“The libertarian position is you can’t commit aggression against any other person, and as a physician and an OB doctor, believe me, I had legal responsibilities to the unborn,” he added. “If I did something wrong, I could be sued for this.”

Friday, March 8, 2013

Bill Clinton, DOMA and Cynicism

Here's an insightful take on Bill Clinton and his now opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which he signed into law while president.  DOMA simply said marriage for purposes of federal law is one man and one woman and a state can't be forced to recognize a same sex union if they don't want to.  Now he says DOMA is discriminatory and unconstitutional. As Paul Mirengoff asks, then why did Clinton sign it into law.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Bill Clinton argues that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which he signed into law, is unconstitutional. This raises an obvious question: Why did Clinton sign an unconstitutional piece of legislation into law?

As slick as he is, Clinton can’t provide an answer. He does explain why he signed DOMA in 1996:
[At that time] in no state in the union was same-sex marriage recognized, much less available as a legal right, but some were moving in that direction. Washington, as a result, was swirling with all manner of possible responses, some quite draconian. As a bipartisan group of former senators stated in their March 1 amicus brief to the Supreme Court, many supporters of the bill known as DOMA believed that its passage “would defuse a movement to enact a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which would have ended the debate for a generation or more.” It was under these circumstances that DOMA came to my desk, opposed by only 81 of the 535 members of Congress.
Clinton appears to be saying that he signed DOMA to head-off a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. But that’s no excuse for signing unconstitutional legislation. After all, Clinton took an oath to uphold the Constitution. Unfortunately, oaths have never had much meaning for Clinton.

Clinton also says “I know now that the law is discriminatory.” But he also must know that not all “discriminatory” laws are unconstitutional.

Moreover, DOMA’s potential for “discrimination” was apparent when Clinton signed it. At that time, as he acknowledges, some states were moving towards legalizing same-sex marriage. DOMA meant that same-sex couples who married in these states would not have certain federal benefits available to other married couples. Yet Clinton signed DOMA into law.

I wonder what Bill Clinton hoped to accomplish through an op-ed in which he admits to another act of cynicism and lawlessness. Does he think that one or more of the five Supreme Court Justices who may be inclined to uphold DOMA will be moved by this op-ed to switch on the issue?

I doubt it. More likely, the judge Clinton has in mind is History. That arbiter already has him pegged as lawless cynic anyway. So why not try to explain away his endorsement of DOMA, and get on what he assumes eventually will be the prevailing side by hopping abroad the gay marriage express before it arrives at the station?
This reminds me of a cartoon of Clinton, probably when he was president, showing a band marching down one fork in a road while Clinton, formerly ahead of the band, goes down the other fork.  He turns around and sees they're going in another direction.  So he runs across country to get in front of the band.  

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Minnesotans don't support same sex "marriage", especially outstate Minnesotans according to Star Tribune Poll.

Here's a shocker, a Star Tribune poll found that 53% support the current one man, one woman marriage law while only 38% want it changed to recognize same sex couples.  An overwhelming 73% of outstate Minnesotans like marriage just the way it is.  A big proponent of gay "marriage", the Star Tribune usually produces polls which mirrors it's views on the issue.  It's surprising seeing them produce one which doesn't.
A majority of Minnesotans oppose legalizing same-sex marriage, the Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found.

Fifty-three percent of Minnesotans say the state statute banning same-sex unions should stand. Only 38 percent say legislators should overturn the law this year, while 9 percent are undecided.

The new poll offers a fresh snapshot of an issue that has deeply divided the state. It was just five months ago that Minnesotans rejected a proposal to put the ban into the state’s Constitution. Legislators now are considering bills that would make gay marriage legal.

House Speaker Paul Thissen said he found the poll results surprising, with stronger opposition than has been seen in other samplings.

“There have been a number of polls on the issue. The trend in general is moving toward acceptance of marriage equality,” said Thissen, a Minneapolis DFLer. “There will certainly be more conversation on this. Our members are talking to their constituents, which is more important than any poll.”

The poll of 800 Minnesotans, taken Feb. 25-27, shows that resistance is strongest in outstate Minnesota. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Outstate, 73 percent respondents oppose allowing gay couples to legally wed in Minnesota, with only 27 percent favoring such unions or undecided.
That 73 percent should give out state legislators pause if they were thinking of voting to redefine marriage.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Let's teach the Bible in the public schools.

Here's an interesting opinion piece on teaching the Bible in the public schools.  Of course some will react you can't do that.  Religion can't come into the public schools.  That's patently false.  In fact, the Supreme Court has clearly said the Bible can be taught as literature in the public schools. 

What's interesting is this piece is written by two people in the entertainment industry.  Mr. Burnett has a ten-part series on the Bible which is airing on the History Channel starting this Sunday.
Have you ever sensed in your own life that "the handwriting was on the wall"? Or encouraged a loved one to walk "the straight and narrow"?

Have you ever laughed at something that came "out of the mouths of babes"? Or gone "the extra mile" for an opportunity that might vanish "in the twinkling of an eye"?

If you have, then you've been thinking of the Bible.

These phrases are just "a drop in the bucket" (another biblical phrase) of the many things we say and do every day that have their origins in the most read, most influential book of all time. The Bible has affected the world for centuries in innumerable ways, including art, literature, philosophy, government, philanthropy, education, social justice and humanitarianism. One would think that a text of such significance would be taught regularly in schools. Not so. That is because of the "stumbling block" (the Bible again) that is posed by the powers that be in America.

It's time to change that, for the sake of the nation's children. It's time to encourage, perhaps even mandate, the teaching of the Bible in public schools as a primary document of Western civilization.

We know firsthand of its educational value, having grown up in Europe—Mark in England, Roma in Ireland—where Bible teaching was viewed as foundational to a well-rounded education. Now that we are naturalized U.S. citizens, we want to encourage public schools in America to give young people the same opportunity.

This is one of the reasons we created "The Bible," a 10-part miniseries premiering March 3 on the History Channel that dramatizes key stories from Scriptures. It will encourage audiences around the world to open or reopen Bibles to understand and enjoy these stories.

Without the Bible, Shakespeare would read differently—there are more than 1,200 references to Scripture in his works. Without the Bible, there would be no Sistine Chapel and none of the biblically inspired masterpieces that hang in countless museums world-wide.

In movies, without biblical allegories, there would be no "Les Misérables," no "Star Wars," no "Matrix," no "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, no "Narnia" and no "Ben-Hur." There would be no Alcoholics Anonymous, Salvation Army or Harvard University—all of which found their roots in Scripture. And really, what would Bono sing about if there were no Bible?
Teaching the Bible is of course a touchy subject. One can't broach it without someone barking "separation of church and state" and "forcing religion down my throat."

Yet the Supreme Court has said it's perfectly OK for schools to do so, ruling in 1963 (Abington School District v. Schempp) that "the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as a part of a secular (public school) program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment."

The Supreme Court understood that we're not talking about religion here, and certainly not about politics. We're talking about knowledge. The foundations of knowledge of the ancient world—which informs the understanding of the modern world—are biblical in origin. Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president known more as a cigar-chomping Rough Rider than a hymn-signing Bible-thumper, once said: "A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education."

Can you imagine students not reading the Constitution in a U.S. government class? School administrators not sharing the periodic table of the elements with their science classes? A driver's ed course that expected young men and women to pass written and road tests without having access to a booklet enumerating the rules of the road?

It would be the same thing, we believe, to deny America's sons and daughters the benefits of an education that includes a study of the Bible. Although we are both Christians, the list is long of ardent atheists who appreciate the Bible's educational heft while rejecting its spiritual claims. It is possible to have education without indoctrination. On this point, believers and nonbelievers should be able to "see eye to eye." (More Bible goodness.)

Interestingly enough, the common desktop reference guide "The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy" best sums up the Bible's value as a tool of cultural literacy. Its first page declares: "No one in the English speaking world can be considered literate without a basic knowledge of the Bible."
Can we hear an amen?