Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Minnesota local government officials can't be required to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples.

The Alliance Defending Freedom sent out legal memo advising Minnesota officials they can't be required to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples if it would violate their religious beliefs.
Alliance Defending Freedom is advising officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Rhode Island and Minnesota that they do not have to violate their faith or conscience by personally issuing licenses to applicants who are of the same sex.

Two new legal memos issued Wednesday in Rhode Island and Minnesota advise officials that they can delegate responsibility for issuing the licenses to deputies or assistants who don’t have conscience-based objections to issuing the licenses to same-sex applicants.

“No American should have to choose between their conscience and their job in America,” said Litigation Counsel Kellie Fiedorek. “The First Amendment protects Americans from being coerced to give up their careers to maintain their religious freedom. Religious freedom is guaranteed to every American, including those issuing marriage licenses.”

Fiedorek explained that the government can respect the faith and conscience of officials while providing no impediment to carrying out the law.
A few Minnesota officials have already said they will not issue marriage licenses.

The Pope and homosexuality. Is he now open to only gay priests? The mainstream media hopes so.

The mainstream media believes comments by Pope Francis suggests he's now open to gay priests.  Or they wish.  In fact, his comments in no way supports that observation.

Here's what Pope Francis said:
But returning to your question more concretely: in this case [Ricca] I did the required investigation and we found nothing.  That is the first question.  Then you spoke of the gay lobby.  Agh… so much is written about the gay lobby.  I have yet to find on a Vatican identity card the word gay.  They say there are some gay people here.  I think that when we encounter a gay person, we must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good.  They are bad.  If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?  The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this point beautifully but says, wait a moment, how does it say, it says, these persons must never be marginalized and “they must be integrated into society.”

The problem is not that one has this tendency; no, we must be brothers, this is the first matter.  There is another problem, another one: the problem is to form a lobby of those who have this tendency, a lobby of the greedy people, a lobby of politicians, a lobby of Masons, so many lobbies.  This is the most serious problem for me. And thank you so much for doing this question. Thank you very much!
What did he say and mean?   I see nothing even inferring he supports gay priests, only homosexual men serving as priests.

I think somebody like Cardinal Dolan would have a better take on the Pope's thinking.
Pope Francis’ comments about gays may have signaled a change in tone within the Catholic Church, but they did not reflect a break in church policy, a leading American Catholic cleric said Tuesday.
The church teaches to treat everyone — including gays — with dignity, even if they do not approve of the relationships they have, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“What the pope is saying is, don’t forget there’s another element to God’s teaching, namely that we treat everybody with dignity and respect, that we don’t judge their heart, that we love and respect them,” he told TODAY’s Matt Lauer.

On Monday, Pope Francis surprised church observers with his comments about homosexuality during a news conference.

“If a person is gay, and looks for the Lord and had goodwill, who am I to judge them?” he said.
Dolan said the pontiff’s comments didn’t surprise him, but everyone’s reaction did.

“This is no way could this be interpreted as a change in church doctrine or the church’s faith and morals. It is a change in tone," he said.

“It’s been a pretty clear teaching of the church based on the words of Jesus that we can’t judge people; we can judge actions,” he said.

 “Homosexual people deserve love respect and dignity, while homosexual acts are immoral,” Dolan said. 

“The church’s teaching, which is based on the Bible and God’s revelation, is that sexual love is reserved only between a man and woman in the life-long, life-giving relationship of marriage and any relations outside of that, hetero or homo, would be less than God’s intention," he said. "That hasn’t changed."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Chair of Republican Party say prolife and marriage are important and talks about God and New Testament.

The chairman of the national Republican Party Reince Priebus made a strong statement in support of the party's pro-life and pro-marriage platform positions.

He said:
“I do believe, and I still will tell you that our party believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. Our party believes that life begins at conception. I think those are foundational issues that aren’t going anywhere but what I have said, which I don’t think should be controversy at all and I would think that Christians and pastors and everyone in between should agree that our principles have to be draped in the concepts of grace, love and respect and that’s not code language. That’s the New Testament so I don’t think there should be any problem with that thinking in our party. If you’re looking at the evidence, what you will see is a party that embraces life, a party that embraces marriage and a chairman that understands that there’s only one sovereign God and that we ultimately aren’t dependent on what happens in politics. ”
I think as significant as his comments in support of marriage and life is the basis on which he makes these statements: God's standards and the New Testament.  As we've always said marriage is designed by God and life is sacred.  We are sadly mistaken to think we have the right or the ability to change what God has established.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Religious Liberties and refusal of business person to endorse gay "marriage". Public says yes according to Rasmussen Poll.

With the passage of gay marriage in Minnesota and the refusal of the legislators to protect religious liberties, it puts Christian and others with a conscientious objection to same sex "marriage" in the crosshairs of state anti-discrimination law enforcers.  Objectors are at risk of fines and even jail come.  Yet a Rasmussen poll shows strong public support for protecting religious liberties.
Will an interesting poll by Rassmussen showing 85% of Americans believe a Christian photographer should not be forced to shoot a gay ceremony.  And Christian and other business owners should have greater say on how their businesses are operated.

Americans draw a fine line when it comes to respecting each other’s rights. If a Christian wedding photographer who has deeply held religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage is asked to work a same-sex wedding ceremony, 85 percent of American adults believe she has the right to say no.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 8 percent disagree. There are current court challenges involving such cases.

The poll also showed that Americans favor business owners’ rights to set their own rules on a wide variety of issues. For instance, 53 percent of survey respondents said that a bar owner should be able to set the drinking age at his or her establishment at 25 rather than the legal age of 20.

Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed said that the Orthodox Jewish owners of a deli have the right to require that their patrons dress modestly. And most respondents said it’s OK for real estate developers to restrict some properties to people 55 and above and to let bars offer half-price drinks to women during happy hour.

A majority of poll participants said Christian campus organizations should be allowed to select only Christian leaders and gay and lesbian organizations should be allowed to select only leaders who support equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Progressives often dismiss Rasmussen as a shill for conservative Republicans. Its polls just before the 2012 presidential election showed GOP nominee Mitt Romney ahead by four percentage points.

The survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on July 7-8 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95-percent level of confidence.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Don't say "There are no atheists in foxholes" if you're an army chaplain. Or else you could get into trouble.

Another example of political correctness run amok in the army. An army chaplain's essay entitled, "There are no atheists in foxholes." was removed from the base's website after an anti-Christian group complained.  The quote which was made famous by President Eisenhower in 1954.
Lt. Col. Kenneth Reyes is a Christian chaplain currently serving in the U.S. Air Force. He is stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. As an ordained clergyman whose duties are to provide religious instruction and spiritual counseling, he has a page on the base’s website called “Chaplain’s Corner.”

Reyes recently wrote an essay entitled, “No Atheists in Foxholes: Chaplains Gave All in World War II.” This common saying is attributed to a Catholic priest in World War II, made famous when President Dwight D. Eisenhower said during a 1954 speech: "I am delighted that our veterans are sponsoring a movement to increase our awareness of God in our daily lives. In battle, they learned a great truth that there are no atheists in the foxholes."

As reported by Fox News’s Todd Starnes, when Reyes referenced this famous line in his essay, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) contacted the base commander, Col. Brian Duffy, demanding he take action on Reyes’s “anti-secular diatribe.”

MRFF’s letter says that by Reyes’s “use of the bigoted, religious supremacist phrase, ‘no atheists in foxholes,’ he defiles the dignity of service members.” They accuse him of violating military regulations.

My legal research on this issue uncovered no regulation prohibiting Reyes’ speech, which looks like expression protected by the free speech and religious freedom provisions of the First Amendment. Military leaders did not respond to Fox’s inquiries asking the Air Force to identify any such rules.
Nonetheless, only five hours after MRFF’s complaint, the essay was removed from the website. Duffy has profusely apologized to MRFF for not stopping this religious leader from sharing religious thoughts.

But this response—which again appears to be a violation of Reyes’s First Amendment rights—is insufficient for MRFF. They said, “Faith based hate, is hate all the same,” and, “Lt. Col. Reyes must be appropriately punished.” (Emphasis added).

So MRFF is saying that the coercive power of government must be used to punish a military officer, who is also an ordained Christian minister, for making ordinary religious references consistent with his faith.

Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council—one of the leaders of a new religious liberty coalition for the military—responded, “A chaplain has been censored for expressing his beliefs about the role of faith in the lives of service members… Why do we have chaplains if they aren’t allowed to fulfill that purpose?”

MRFF is activist Mikey Weinstein’s organization. He called observant Christians “fundamentalist monsters” seeking to impose a “reign of theocratic terror,” and he described sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in the military as an act of “spiritual rape” that makes believers “enemies of the Constitution” who are committing an act of “sedition and treason” against this nation.

The Obama-Hagel Defense Department and Air Force have met with Weinstein and MRFF over a period of four years and recently told Congress that there are no problems with suppressing religious speech in the military. However, because this growing wave of anti-Christian extremism has been exposed to the public, the U.S. House has inserted new religious liberty protections for military members in pending legislation.

President Obama threatens to veto the legislation. Reyes's story makes it more likely that Congress will stand its ground and fight to protect the religious liberty of him and countless others in the military, as those service members continue risking their lives to fight for all Americans.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Phil Mickelson won the British Open but the government won as well.

Phil Mickelson won the British Open tournament and with it the winner's purse of $2 million.  But it really wasn't a $2 million win.  That's because taxes took a 61% bite out of his profits.  And may even be closer to 30% tax home pay.
Mickelson capped a dominant fortnight in Scotland by shooting a final round 66 to come from behind and win The Open Championship. He also won the Scottish Open the previous week. For his two weeks of play, the world’s best golfer (rankings be damned) earned £1,445,000, or about $2,167,500.

The United Kingdom, which has authority to set Scotland’s tax rate until 2016, graduates to a 40% tax rate when income hits £32,010 then 45% when it reaches £150,000. Mickelson will pay £636,069 ($954,000, or 44.02%) on his Scottish earnings.

But that’s not all. The UK will tax a portion of his endorsement income for the two weeks he was in Scotland. It will also tax any bonuses he receives for winning these tournaments as well as a portion of the ranking bonuses he will receive at the end of the year, all at 45%....

The UK is one of few countries that collects taxes on endorsement income for non-resident athletes that compete in Britain (the US also does). The rule has kept track star Usain Bolt from competing in Great Britain since 2009, outside of the 2012 Summer Olympics when the tax was suspended as a condition for hosting the Games. Spain’s Rafael Nadal has also allowed UK tax policy to dictate his tennis playing schedule.

The good news for Mickelson is that he can take a foreign tax credit on his US return so he is not double-taxed at the federal level on this income. The bad news is that the credit does not cover self-employment taxes (2.9%) or the new Medicare surtax (0.9%). Additionally, California does not have a foreign tax credit so he will have to fork out 13.3% there as well. Although he receives federal deductions for his California tax and half of his self-employment tax, these deductions do not benefit him on this income because as they reduce his federal tax they reduce his foreign tax credit.

Without considering expenses, Mickelson will pay 61.12% taxes on his winnings, bringing his net take-home winnings to about $842,700. When expenses are considered (10% to caddy Jim “Bones” Mackay, airfare, hotel, meals, agent fees on endorsement income/bonuses—all tax deductible here and in the UK), his take-home will fall closer to 30%.

At what point do regressive tax policies disincentive people to work?  While Phil is certainly happy to win the British Open and he makes lots of money from endorsements, such tax policies hit other people as well.  Not only are there disincentive problems but moral problems with redistribution of income which these heavy tax burdens and welfare policies are all about.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Evolution, God and Americans.

Here's an interesting poll on Americans believes regarding evolution and God. 
A new poll finds that a majority of Americans believe that God played a part in the evolution of humans.

YouGov survey shows that 62 percent of Americans believe God helped create humans.

Thirty-seven percent of those believe God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years while 25 percent believe human beings evolved from lesser life forms over millions of years but God guided the process. Only 21 percent believe that God did not play a part in human evolution.

Seventeen percent of those polled were not sure if God played a part in the existence of humans.

YouGov found that more people favored having creationism taught in schools than those that opposed.

Forty percent of those polled believe that intelligent design – the belief that God created the universe – should be taught in public schools, while 32 percent opposed such teachings. Twenty-nine percent of Americans were not sure if creationism should be taught.

The poll also found that those who say God played no part in human evolution rose from 13 percent in 2004 to 21 percent in 2013, an 8 percent increase.

YouGov surveyed 1,000 people on July 8-9. According to its website, YouGov is a professional research and consulting organization to help deliver insight for political and media organizations.

Despite the continued hostility to belief in God in the public school system, a good majority still believe in Him.  That He's involved in the creation of mankind.  And a plurality think Intelligent Design should be taught in the public schools.  I suspect many of the 21 percent who say God played no part in human evolution may still believe in God but somehow think he wasn't involved in evolution.  (Not sure how that would work if he's the "supreme being" who created all things, including evolution.)

What's the solution to those who believe God shouldn't be shut out the public schools and those who do?  A true, across the board choice in education system.  Let parents decide.  Not educational officials or judges.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Does America need a spiritual revival? Senator Ted Cruz: Without a doubt.

Senator Ted Cruz was asked by CBN interviewer David Brody where America needs a spiritual revival.  Cruz was clear we do and concise on the consequences.
David Brody: Do you believe that spiritual revival is needed in this country?

Sen. Ted Cruz: Without a doubt.
I think we’re at the edge of a precipice. If we keep going down this path we’re risking losing our nation. We’re risking losing the incredible oasis of liberty.
My response is Cruz is spot on.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A laundry list of problems facing Detroit. They won't be solved by a financial bailout.

The decision by the city of Detroit to seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy has been in the news.  The city has been slowly imploding for several decades.  (When I was a graduate student in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the mid 80s and it's population was round 1 million, people were wondering if the city had hit bottom.)  Here's article listing the problems facing Detroit. 
It is so sad to watch one of America's greatest cities die a horrible death.  Once upon a time, the city of Detroit was a teeming metropolis of 1.8 million people and it had the highest per capita income in the United States.  Now it is a rotting, decaying hellhole of about 700,000 people that the rest of the world makes jokes about.  On Thursday, we learned that the decision had been made for the city of Detroit to formally file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.  It was going to be the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the United States by far, but on Friday it was stopped at least temporarily by an Ingham County judge. 

She ruled that Detroit's bankruptcy filing violates the Michigan Constitution because it would result in reduced pension payments for retired workers.  She also stated that Detroit's bankruptcy filing was "also not honoring the (United States) president, who took (Detroit’s auto companies) out of bankruptcy", and she ordered that a copy of her judgment be sent to Barack Obama.  How "honoring the president" has anything to do with the bankruptcy of Detroit is a bit of a mystery, but what that judge has done is ensured that there will be months of legal wrangling ahead over Detroit's money woes. 

It will be very interesting to see how all of this plays out.  But one thing is for sure - the city of Detroit is flat broke.  One of the greatest cities in the history of the world is just a shell of its former self.  The following are 25 facts about the fall of Detroit that will leave you shaking your head...

1) At this point, the city of Detroit owes money to more than 100,000 creditors.
2) Detroit is facing $20 billion in debt and unfunded liabilities.  That breaks down to more than $25,000 per resident.
3) Back in 1960, the city of Detroit actually had the highest per-capita income in the entire nation.
4) In 1950, there were about 296,000 manufacturing jobs in Detroit.  Today, there are less than 27,000.
5) Between December 2000 and December 2010, 48 percent of the manufacturing jobs in the state of Michigan were lost.
6) There are lots of houses available for sale in Detroit right now for $500 or less.
7) At this point, there are approximately 78,000 abandoned homes in the city.
8) About one-third of Detroit's 140 square miles is either vacant or derelict.
9) An astounding 47 percent of the residents of the city of Detroit are functionally illiterate.
10) Less than half of the residents of Detroit over the age of 16 are working at this point.
11) If you can believe it, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.
12) Detroit was once the fourth-largest city in the United States, but over the past 60 years the population of Detroit has fallen by 63 percent.
13) The city of Detroit is now very heavily dependent on the tax revenue it pulls in from the casinos in the city.  Right now, Detroit is bringing in about 11 million dollars a month in tax revenue from the casinos.
14) There are 70 "Superfund" hazardous waste sites in Detroit.
15) 40 percent of the street lights do not work.
16) Only about a third of the ambulances are running.
17) Some ambulances in the city of Detroit have been used for so long that they have more than 250,000 miles on them.
18) Two-thirds of the parks in the city of Detroit have been permanently closed down since 2008.
19) The size of the police force in Detroit has been cut by about 40 percent over the past decade.
20) When you call the police in Detroit, it takes them an average of 58 minutes to respond.
21) Due to budget cutbacks, most police stations in Detroit are now closed to the public for 16 hours a day.
22) The violent crime rate in Detroit is five times higher than the national average.
23) The murder rate in Detroit is 11 times higher than it is in New York City.
24) Today, police solve less than 10 percent of the crimes that are committed in Detroit.
25) Crime has gotten so bad in Detroit that even the police are telling people to "enter Detroit at your own risk".
The author points out the pension problems facing Detroit aren't unique to Detroit but facing many major cities.
It is easy to point fingers and mock Detroit, but the truth is that the rest of America is going down the exact same path that Detroit has gone down.

Detroit just got there first.

All over this country, there are hundreds of state and local governments that are also on the verge of financial ruin...
"Everyone will say, 'Oh well, it's Detroit. I thought it was already in bankruptcy,' " said Michigan State University economist Eric Scorsone. "But Detroit is not unique. It's the same in Chicago and New York and San Diego and San Jose. It's a lot of major cities in this country. They may not be as extreme as Detroit, but a lot of them face the same problems."
A while back, Meredith Whitney was highly criticized for predicting that there would be a huge wave of municipal defaults in this country.  When it didn't happen, the critics let her have it mercilessly.
But Meredith Whitney was not wrong.
She was just early.

Detroit is only just the beginning.  When the next major financial crisis strikes, we are going to see a wave of municipal bankruptcies unlike anything we have ever seen before.

And of course the biggest debt problem of all in this country is the U.S. government.  We are going to pay a great price for piling up nearly 17 trillion dollars of debt and over 200 trillion dollars of unfunded liabilities.

All over the nation, our economic infrastructure is being gutted, debt levels are exploding and poverty is spreading.  We are consuming far more wealth than we are producing, and our share of global GDP has been declining dramatically.

We have been living way above our means for so long that we think it is "normal", but an extremely painful "adjustment" is coming and most Americans are not going to know how to handle it.

So don't laugh at Detroit.  The economic pain that Detroit is experiencing will be coming to your area of the country soon enough.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

An atheist professor and the Puritans.

Here's an interesting article by historian Thomas Kidd on the death of Edmund Morgan, a Yale history professor who in his 65 year writing career wrote extensively on the Puritans.  He was noted for his fair and interesting interpretation of the Puritans.  For instance, the Puritans were formidable thinkers and had loving families.  They weren't necessarily "puritanical" in the pejorative sense of the world.  What's interesting is Morgan was a self-identified atheist.
Last week we lost one of the titans of American history writing, Yale’s Edmund Morgan. His publishing career spanned an incredible sixty-five years from his first book (1944) to his last (2009). His topics ranged widely across colonial and Revolutionary American history, but if you have read anything by Morgan, it is likely The Puritan Dilemma, his biography of John Winthrop, still often used in history survey courses as a model of historical writing.  An atheist, like his famous Harvard mentor Perry Miller, Morgan nevertheless took the Puritans’ religious ideas seriously. Morgan saw history as a craft rather than a vehicle for ideology or polemics, and he was simply one of the best academic prose stylists America has ever produced.

What book of Morgan’s might I recommend to start with? You won’t go wrong with any of them, but I particularly admire Morgan’s trilogy of Puritan histories, The Puritan Dilemma, Visible Saints: The History of a Puritan Idea, and The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England, a book I recommended in an earlier post on the “Best 5 Books on the Puritans.” Miller and Morgan were perfectly, if ironically, placed to lead a mid-20th century renaissance of Puritan studies – when two Ivy League atheist professors insisted that the Puritans were weighty thinkers worth studying, you somehow knew they had to be right...

Morgan was especially good at counter-intuitive history, showing a skeptical generation of intellectuals that the Puritans were formidable thinkers (and had loving families, to boot). American Slavery, American Freedom showed the civil rights era that racial inequality was entwined with the soaring ideals of the American founding – yet it did not have to be that way, he implied, if racism did not precede slavery.
Morgan once wrote an essay, “Cultivating Surprise,” for the magazine of the Huntington Library on his historical method. They re-posted part of it last week.  It is a glimpse into the methods of a historical genius, offering wise words for any writer.

If you have studied any part of history enough to be curious about it, enough to want to do some research, you already are aware of the generally accepted views, the orthodox views, the controversies among the experts in the field, what is taken for granted and what is in dispute. You want to learn a little more about some question, and you go to the source materials that are presumably the foundation of the orthodox views. You come across something that you had not known about, something that surprises you a little. Cultivate that surprise. Do not say to yourself, “Oh, I didn’t know that,” and go on with your reading. Stop right there. Ask yourself, Why did I not know that? Is it contrary to what I had been led to expect? Is it because I did not know enough? Or is it because the people who crafted the orthodox interpretations did not know enough? Or perhaps their angle of vision was limited by what came before….

I could cite…examples of cultivating surprise from most of the books I have written. But I want to offer a couple of other pieces of advice. First, and probably most idiosyncratic, try to forget philosophies of history and theories of historical causation: Marxist, Straussian, postmodern, or whatever. You probably have one, conscious or unconscious, but try not to let it get in your way. Cultivate that surprise when the documents don’t seem to support your views. Next, try to keep your research and your writing together. Don’t wait until you think you have entirely completed your research before beginning to write. As soon as you begin to see connections between things that you had not noticed before, start writing what you think you have found out about them, even if these writings seem fragmentary. Don’t get too systematic. Don’t make elaborate outlines with headings and subheadings. Don’t spend a lot of time arranging your notes. Stop stalling and start writing.
It strikes me that he believed a search for the truth was important in writing history, wherever that truth might lead him.  He wasn't driven by ideology or a particular agenda.  Unfortunately, that's counter to so much of modern academia.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Zimmerman verdict, God and state of public higher education in America

Emotions and feelings are running high after the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.  Some responses are over the top.  A case in point is the response by a University of Pennsylvania religious studies professor.  From this account, this is also a commentary on the state of higher education.
It should come as no surprise that some of the very worst rants about George Zimmerman’s acquittal are coming from an Ivy League professor. The competition is stiff, but will be hard-pressed to keep up with Anthea Butler, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Zimmerman verdict has caused Butler to conclude that God is “a white racist god with a problem” who “is carrying a gun and stalking young black men.”

There are conclusions Butler could have reached short of equating her caricature of Zimmerman with God. She could have settled for the less flamboyant view that there is no God. But flamboyance, one suspects, is what landed Butler the Ivy League gig and appearances on CNN and MSNBC.

Butler might also have concluded, years ago, that God is a black god with a problem who guns down young blacks. After all, there is a near-epidemic of shootings of young African-Americans by other African-Americans.

But Butler didn’t land that Ivy League gig and those cable news appearances by calling out blacks.
Speaking of the Ivy League gig, what do Butler’s students think of her teaching? According to the Daily Caller, her student reviews are abysmal:
“Pathetic,” reports one unhappy student. “This teacher is pathetically bad at her supposed job. Do not give this untalented instructor any more classes.”
Another student describes her as a “loudmouth idiot with crazy Don King hair” and “poorly substantiated and academically unsound” opinions.
And that was before her latest epiphany.

Whatever her shortcomings as an academic, though, Butler is a marketing genius. Thus, she’s actually a perfect fit for left-wing cable outlets and, regrettably, for the back bench of the Ivy League.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

People don't want health insurance?

Here's an interesting article on what's happening regarding Obamacare and Medicaid.  It turns out millions of people who could get health either free or inexpensively aren't doing it.  Of course this has significant implications for Obamacare where they need people to enroll in the exchanges to make it work.
Actors. Actresses. NFL football players. Baseball players. Librarians. Mayors. City councilmen. Members of AARP.

The Obama administration is looking far and wide, leaving no stone unturned in a relentless search for…well…for help.

Help with what? Help with getting people to enroll in health insurance plans this fall.

And why is that? Because the administration is facing the very real possibility that its signature piece of legislation may fall flat on its face.

Last week’s announcement that the employer mandate will be delayed for a year and that income verification for people getting subsidies will also be delayed are the latest signs of trouble. The next shoe to drop may be the failure for people to obtain (ObamaCare) insurance — even if it’s free or highly subsidized.

Consider this:

· About one in every four individuals who are eligible for Medicaid in this country has not bothered to enroll.

· About one in five employees who are offered employer-provided health insurance turns it down; among workers under 30 years of age, the refusal rate is almost one in three.

Think about that for a moment. Millions of people are turning down (Medicaid) health insurance, even though it’s free! Millions of others are turning down their employers’ offers. Since employees pay about 27% of the cost of their health insurance, on the average, millions of workers are passing up the opportunity to buy health insurance for 27 cents on the dollar.

You almost never read statistics like these in the mainstream media. Why? Because they completely undermine health policy orthodoxy: the belief that health insurance (even Medicaid) is economically very valuable, that it improves health and saves lives, and that the main reason why people don’t have it is that they can’t afford it.

Welcome to the huge disconnect in health reform. On the one hand there are the people who are supposed to benefit from health reform. On the other hand there are the people who talk about it and write about it. I think it’s fair to say these two groups almost never meet.

Study after study has purported to have found that health insurance improves health, saves lives, makes people happier, etc., etc. But these studies almost always ignore two cardinal facts:

· We have made it increasingly easy in this country for the uninsured to obtain health care after they get sick.

· We have also made it increasingly easy for people to get health insurance after they get sick.

Both developments reduce the incentive to spend time and money enrolling in a health plan.

I have described before the experience of emergency room care in Dallas:

“At Parkland Memorial Hospital both uninsured and Medicaid patients enter the same emergency room door and see the same doctors. The hospital rooms are the same, the beds are the same and the care is the same. As a result, patients have no reason to fill out the lengthy forms and answer the intrusive questions that Medicaid enrollment so often requires. At Children’s Medical Center, next door to Parkland, a similar exercise takes place. Medicaid, CHIP and uninsured children all enter the same emergency room door; they all see the same doctors and receive the same care.

Interestingly, at both institutions, paid staffers make a heroic effort to enroll people in public programs ― working patient by patient, family by family right there in the emergency room. Yet they apparently fail more than half the time! After patients are admitted, staffers go from room to room, continuing with this bureaucratic exercise. But even among those in hospital beds, the failure-to-enroll rate is significant.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Texas passes strong pro-life legislation.

While some states are drifting to the left on same sex "marriage", there's steady movement to the right on abortion.  This is evidenced by the Texas legislature which recently tightened its laws on abortion.
The thousands who came to support or protest the bill banning abortion after 20 weeks knew it would ultimately pass. But they came out anyway in hopes that their voices would influence a growing movement of pro-life legislation around the country.

Republicans passed the bill 19-11 just before midnight Friday, with all but one Democrat voting against it. The measure passed the House earlier this week and now heads to Gov. Rick Perry, who has pledged to sign it.

In addition to banning abortion after 20 weeks, the bill will require abortionists to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital and require all abortions to take place in surgical centers. Only five out of Texas' 42 existing abortion clinics meet the surgical center requirements, and many clinic owners say they can't afford to upgrade or relocate, so they’ll have to close their doors. 
Today, more people consider themselves pro-life than pro-choice.  This has resulted from a 40-year effort caring for women with crisis pregnancies and ongoing public education efforts.

There are some analogies to the marriage issue.  First, efforts to strengthen and support marriages needs to be instituted on a broad national basis.  And second, there needs to be ongoing public education efforts.  When these start happening we'll see movement in the other direction.  Ultimately, the truth will prevail.  But it doesn't happen overnight.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Identical twin studies point to homosexuality not being genetic.

Here's an interesting piece on twin studies and homosexuality.  According to a New Zealand researcher, who's reviewed twins studies done over the past 20 years, the results suggest that homosexuality is not genetically based.  This is of course significant because many people assume it is and use that as either an explicit or implicit basis for saying society should embrace homosexuality.
Eight major studies of identical twins in Australia, the U.S., and Scandinavia during the last two decades all arrive at the same conclusion: gays were not born that way.

“At best genetics is a minor factor,” says Dr. Neil Whitehead, PhD. Whitehead worked for the New Zealand government as a scientific researcher for 24 years, then spent four years working for the United Nations and International Atomic Energy Agency. Most recently, he serves as a consultant to Japanese universities about the effects of radiation exposure. His PhD is in biochemistry and statistics.

Identical twins have the same genes or DNA. They are nurtured in equal prenatal conditions. If homosexuality is caused by genetics or prenatal conditions and one twin is gay, the co-twin should also be gay.

“Because they have identical DNA, it ought to be 100%,” Dr. Whitehead notes. But the studies reveal something else. “If an identical twin has same-sex attraction the chances the co-twin has it are only about 11% for men and 14% for women.”

Because identical twins are always genetically identical, homosexuality cannot be genetically dictated. “No-one is born gay,” he notes. “The predominant things that create homosexuality in one identical twin and not in the other have to be post-birth factors.”
The predominant things that create homosexuality in one identical twin and not in the other have to be post-birth factors.

Dr. Whitehead believes same-sex attraction (SSA) is caused by “non-shared factors,” things happening to one twin but not the other, or a personal response to an event by one of the twins and not the other.

For example, one twin might have exposure to pornography or sexual abuse, but not the other. One twin may interpret and respond to their family or classroom environment differently than the other.

“These individual and idiosyncratic responses to random events and to common environmental factors predominate,” he says.

The first very large, reliable study of identical twins was conducted in Australia in 1991, followed by a large U.S. study about 1997. Then Australia and the U.S. conducted more twin studies in 2000, followed by several studies in Scandinavia, according to Dr. Whitehead.

“Twin registers are the foundation of modern twin studies. They are now very large, and exist in many countries. A gigantic European twin register with a projected 600,000 members is being organized, but one of the largest in use is in Australia, with more than 25,000 twins on the books.”

A significant twin study among adolescents shows an even weaker genetic correlation. In 2002 Bearman and Brueckner studied tens of thousands of adolescent students in the U.S. The same-sex attraction concordance between identical twins was only 7.7% for males and 5.3% for females—lower than the 11% and 14% in the Australian study by Bailey et al conducted in 2000.

In the identical twin studies, Dr. Whitehead has been struck by how fluid and changeable sexual identity can be.

“Neutral academic surveys show there is substantial change. About half of the homosexual/bisexual population (in a non-therapeutic environment) moves towards heterosexuality over a lifetime. About 3% of the present heterosexual population once firmly believed themselves to be homosexual or bisexual.”

“Sexual orientation is not set in concrete,” he notes.
Most changes in sexual orientation are towards exclusive heterosexuality.

Even more remarkable, most of the changes occur without counseling or therapy. “These changes are not therapeutically induced, but happen ‘naturally’ in life, some very quickly,” Dr. Whitehead observes. “Most changes in sexual orientation are towards exclusive heterosexuality.”

Numbers of people who have changed towards exclusive heterosexuality are greater than current numbers of bisexuals and homosexuals combined. In other words, ex-gays outnumber actual gays.
The fluidity is even more pronounced among adolescents, as Bearman and Brueckner’s study demonstrated. “They found that from 16 to 17-years-old, if a person had a romantic attraction to the same sex, almost all had switched one year later.”

“The authors were pro-gay and they commented that the only stability was among the heterosexuals, who stayed the same year after year. Adolescents are a special case—generally changing their attractions from year to year.”

Still, many misconceptions persist in the popular culture. Namely, that homosexuality is genetic – so hard-wired into one’s identity that it can’t be changed. “The academics who work in the field are not happy with the portrayals by the media on the subject,” Dr. Whitehead notes. “But they prefer to stick with their academic research and not get involved in the activist side.”
In many respects, the debate over genetics and homosexuality should be irrelevant regarding society's stance towards homosexual behavior.  That's because behavior is always a choice.  Sometimes a difficult choice but a choice nontheless.  I don't deny that many people experience same sex attractions which they didn't choose and can not remove, but that's different from acting on those attractions.  That's where choice comes into play.

Again, the genetic argument plays into public perceptions about homosexuality and many people assumes genetics is determinate on how society should respond.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Why teens turn to atheism.

There was a fascinating article in Atlantic discussing why college age kids identify with atheism.  Here's an example of one student interviewed.  The results aren't what one would expect.
Using the Fixed Point Foundation website, email, my Twitter, and my Facebook page, we contacted the leaders of these groups and asked if they and their fellow members would participate in our study. To our surprise, we received a flood of enquiries. Students ranging from Stanford University to the University of Alabama-Birmingham, from Northwestern to Portland State volunteered to talk to us. The rules were simple: Tell us your journey to unbelief. It was not our purpose to dispute their stories or to debate the merits of their views. Not then, anyway. We just wanted to listen to what they had to say. And what they had to say startled us.

This brings me back to Phil.

A smart, likable young man, he sat down nervously as my staff put a plate of food before him. Like others after him, he suspected a trap. Was he being punk'd? Talking to us required courage of all of these students, Phil most of all since he was the first to do so. Once he realized, however, that we truly meant him no harm, he started talking -- and for three hours we listened.

Now the president of his campus's SSA, Phil was once the president of his Methodist church's youth group. He loved his church ("they weren't just going through the motions"), his pastor ("a rock star trapped in a pastor's body"), and, most of all, his youth leader, Jim ("a passionate man"). Jim's Bible studies were particularly meaningful to him. He admired the fact that Jim didn't dodge the tough chapters or the tough questions: "He didn't always have satisfying answers or answers at all, but he didn't run away from the questions either. The way he taught the Bible made me feel smart."

Listening to his story I had to remind myself that Phil was an atheist, not a seminary student recalling those who had inspired him to enter the pastorate. As the narrative developed, however, it became clear where things came apart for Phil. During his junior year of high school, the church, in an effort to attract more young people, wanted Jim to teach less and play more. Difference of opinion over this new strategy led to Jim's dismissal. He was replaced by Savannah, an attractive twenty-something who, according to Phil, "didn't know a thing about the Bible." The church got what it wanted: the youth group grew. But it lost Phil.

An hour deeper into our conversation I asked, "When did you begin to think of yourself as an atheist?"

He thought for a moment. "I would say by the end of my junior year."

I checked my notes. "Wasn't that about the time that your church fired Jim?"

He seemed surprised by the connection. "Yeah, I guess it was."

Phil's story, while unique in its parts, was on the whole typical of the stories we would hear from students across the country.

The article then lists some of the characteristics of these young people.
They had attended church

The mission and message of their churches was vague

They felt their churches offered superficial answers to life's difficult questions

They expressed their respect for those ministers who took the Bible seriously

Ages 14-17 were decisive

The decision to embrace unbelief was often an emotional one

The internet factored heavily into their conversion to atheism
This article of course begs the question what should the church's response be.  Quite simple.  Jesus' call to discipleship.  "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross daily and come follow me."  It's not by softening the message as some seeker friendly churches try and do.  But rather laying out the challenge, excitement and joy which comes from giving oneself fully to Christ and His Kingdom.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A look at immigration reform from Jeb Bush's perspective.

The debate on immigration reform is heating up after passage of a bill in the Senate.  Jeb Bush in a WSJ column, coauthored with Clint Bolick, points out that the current system is unacceptable.  Bush has an important perspective given his experience with the Hispanic community in Florida, and he's billed as one of the frontrunner's for the Republican nomination for president in 2016. 
No Republican would vote for legislation that stifled economic growth, promoted illegal immigration, added to the welfare rolls, and failed to ensure a secure border. Yet they essentially will do just that if they fail to pass comprehensive immigration reform—and leave in place a system that does all of those things.

To grow economically, the nation needs more young workers, as the population is aging and its growth is slowing. Yet only 13% of the immigration visas each year are issued for work or special skills. Nearly two-thirds go to relatives of existing residents, under an expansive definition of family preferences that includes not just spouses and minor children but parents, siblings and unmarried adult children.

Family preferences crowd out the work-based immigration this country needs. In particular, America's educational system produces only a fraction of the high-skilled workers required for technology jobs.

U.S. universities still attract the world's best and brightest, but few foreign students are allowed to remain after graduating. Many return home or go on to other countries with more sensible immigration policies. Canada has one-tenth of our population—yet it issues far more high-skilled visas (more than 150,000) yearly than we do (65,000).

Illegal immigration results now because there are too few lawful low-skill job opportunities for immigrants. But in both high- and low-skilled industries, the actual alternative to importing workers is not hiring more Americans but exporting jobs.

Today, working-age immigrants contribute to the economy and more to social services than they consume. America needs more of them. Doubling GDP growth to 4% from the anemic 2% that has become the new normal would create more than $4 trillion in additional economic activity in the 10th year—more than the entire current GDP of Germany. It would also add $1 trillion in recurring tax revenues.
 They like many aspects of the Senate bill.
The Senate immigration reform addresses most of the flaws of the current system. It reduces family preferences, increases the number of high-skilled visas, expands guest-worker programs, and creates a merit-based immigration system for people who want to pursue the American dream. It also offers a path to citizenship for those who were brought here illegally as children, and dramatically increases resources and tools for border security.

The bill also invites people who came here illegally to come out of the shadows through a provisional resident status. It does not provide an amnesty, that is, a pardon. The Senate bill creates a 13-year probation during which those who came illegally must pay a series of fines and back taxes, undergo background checks, are ineligible for most social services, and must work continuously.

Overall, the bill satisfies a criterion that is essential to the rule of law: It makes it easier to immigrate legally than illegally.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the Senate bill would reduce the budget deficit by more than $1 trillion over 20 years, boost the economy and increase productivity, without reducing the wages of U.S. workers. In short, it advances Republican economic growth objectives.
 Here are some areas which the House can improve upon it in their estimation.
Still, the House can make several important improvements. These include clearer and more objective border security "triggers" to assure that the flow of illegal immigrants has been curbed, and a stronger E-Verify system to ensure that only people who are here legally are working. The House also can create more opportunities for work-based immigration by limiting family preferences to spouses and minor children, as most other countries do.

Importantly, the House can increase the artificially low guest-worker numbers included at the behest of labor unions in the Senate bill. The best antidote to illegal immigration in the future is a functioning system that allows workers to come and go legally.

Moreover, the House should beef up civics education requirements for new citizens. Currently, immigrants need answer only six of 10 civics questions correctly to qualify. New citizens should be required not only to learn English but to fully understand the nature and workings of our democratic and free-enterprise systems.

The necessary overhaul of the immigration system cannot be achieved piecemeal. The most important changes—reducing family preferences, creating a robust guest-worker program, and increasing border security—cannot be enacted with Republican votes alone. That means compromise and a comprehensive approach—or the perpetuation of the status quo that has all of the detriments of amnesty without any of the economic benefits of reform.
And of course they emphasize the political dimensions for Republicans who by passing immigration reform will appeal to Hispanics.
Such reform is commended by both sound policy and principle. And it will also earn goodwill among citizens of Hispanic and Asian descent. In the 2012 presidential election, Republicans received only 27% of Hispanic votes—down from 40% only 12 years earlier. Fifty thousand Hispanics turn 18 and become eligible to vote every month. Republicans did even worse among Asians—now the largest group of immigrants every year—receiving only 26% of their votes.

Immigration is not the only issue on which Hispanics or Asians vote. But it is a gateway issue. Republicans have much in common with immigrants—beliefs in hard work, enterprise, family, education, patriotism and faith. But for their voice to penetrate the gateway, Republicans need to cease being the obstacle to immigration reform and instead point the way toward the solution.
Resolving the immigration issue is a justice issue, economic growth issue, and a security issue all rolled into one.  The current situation is unacceptable.  We just can't make a bad situation worse under any new law.  Where the Senate bill does that then the House can make the necessary changes and make sure those changes are incorporated into the final version.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

In light of Supreme Court's decision on DOMA, where do we go from here in the battle for marriage?

Here's an excellent summary by Ryan Anderson of what happened with the Supreme Court and it's 5 to 4 decision striking down the federal DOMA provision.  He also provides good points for moving ahead.

The Court's decision was clearly a power play and as Scalia wrote the majority will try to get away with whatever it can.
To defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements …. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. … All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence — indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.
Anderson then comments: 
Scalia writes that he does not mean “to suggest disagreement with the Chief Justice’s view” about the confines of Kennedy’s opinion. But Scalia tells us to be clear-eyed: “I promise you this: The only thing that will ‘confine’ the Court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with.”
The battle certainly needs to be waged in legislative bodies and the courts but just as importantly in the broader culture.  To date, the redefinition folks have had the run of the field in the media and entertainment worlds.

I have a suspicion that will start to change.

The assault on marriage is now starting in states.

With the Supreme Court's decision ruling part of DOMA unconstitutional, many expect that decision will be used to attack marriage laws and amendments in states.  It looks like it's already starting in Michigan.
Michigan's voter-approved gay marriage ban will face a trial after a federal judge declined a motion by the state to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges the prohibition. Citing last week's Supreme Court decision that effectively gives federal marriage benefits to same-sex marriages in states where they're already legal, the judge declared that the "plaintiffs are entitled to their day in court and they shall have it.” It looks like this is one of what will likely be many court challenges to state gay marriage bans in the wake of the SCOTUS decisions. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Health Insurance prices set to shoot up under Obamacare.

The reality of Obama's vision for life with big government will be evident when Obamacare starts to kick in.  According to this Wall Street Journal article, insurance rates could double and triple in cost.
Healthy consumers could see insurance rates double or even triple when they look for individual coverage under the federal health law later this year, while the premiums paid by sicker people are set to become more affordable, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of coverage to be sold on the law's new exchanges.
Healthy consumers could see insurance rates double or even triple when they look for individual coverage under the federal health law later this year, while the premiums paid by sicker people are set to become more affordable. Louise Radnofsky reports.

The exchanges, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's health-care law, look likely to offer few if any of the cut-rate policies that healthy people can now buy, according to the Journal's analysis. At the same time, the top prices look to be within reach for many people who previously faced sky-high premiums because of chronic illnesses or who couldn't buy insurance at all.

Several big provisions in the law taking effect in six months affect rates for the estimated 20% of Americans who don't have coverage through an employer, Medicare or Medicaid. Plans must be available to consumers regardless of their health and must cover certain items such as hospitalization, maternity care and prescription drugs. The exchanges are set to open Oct. 1 selling plans effective Jan. 1.

A review of rates proposed by carriers in eight states shows the likely boundaries for the least-expensive and most costly plans on the exchanges. The lower boundary is particularly important because the government wants to attract healthy people to the exchanges, and they may choose to pay a penalty and take the risk of going without coverage if they believe they can't get an acceptable deal.
For a 40-year-old single nonsmoker—in the middle of the age range eligible for exchanges—a "bronze" plan covering about 60% of medical costs will be available for about $200 a month in most places, the proposals show.

Though less generous than "silver" and "gold" plans on the exchanges, a bronze plan would still include fuller benefits than many policies available on the individual market today.

The challenge for the law is that healthy 40-year-olds can typically get coverage for less today, especially if they are willing to accept fewer benefits or take on more costs themselves. Supporters of the law say tighter regulation on insurance practices gives consumers more protection and is worth the extra cost, but they have to persuade people who don't have an immediate need for health care of that. If only sick people buy into the new insurance pools, prices could shoot up.

Bob Laszewski, a Virginia health-care consultant and former insurance executive, said the new offerings were likely to anger people who had preferred lower-cost products that were no longer available.

"If a person in 2013 has a choice of buying a Chevrolet or a Cadillac health plan, and in 2014, they can only buy a Cadillac…are they going to be upset? I think the answer is, yes," he said.
Should we be surprised?  Not at all.  When government starts making decisions instead of the millions of individuals operating in a market system this is what we can expect.  Socialism results in equality, e.g. everybody is poorer, worse off together.  Now Obamacare isn't full blown government run health care but it's a huge step in that direction so the results will be similar.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Roe v Wade of marriage

Back from vacation last week and ready to comment on what happened on the recent Supreme Court decisions on marriage.  It looks like the Supreme Court issued a Roe v. Wade type decision on marriage.  At least that's what some commentators are saying.  Here's one by professor Hadley Arkes who references Scalia's dissent.
These decisions, handed down by the Court today, affect to be limited in their reach, but they are even worse than they appear, and they cannot be cabined. They lay down the predicates for litigation that will clearly unfold now, and with short steps sure to come, virtually all of the barriers to same-sex marriage in this country can be swept away. Even constitutional amendments, passed by so many of the states, can be overridden now. The engine put in place to power this drive is supplied by Justice Kennedy’s “hate speech,” offering itself as the opinion of the Court in U.S. v. Windsor. Kennedy wrote for the Court in striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the part of the act that recognized as “marriage,” in federal law, only the union of a man and woman. 

In Kennedy’s translation, the Defense of Marriage Act showed its animus in its very title: The defense of marriage was simply another way of disparaging and “denigrating” gays and lesbians, and denying dignity to their “relationships.” As Justice Scalia noted so tellingly in his dissent, Kennedy could characterize then as bigots the 85 senators who voted for the Act, along with the president (Clinton) who signed it. Every plausible account of marriage as a relation of a man and woman can then be swept away, as so much cover for malice and blind hatred.
 As Scalia suggested, that opinion can now become the predicate for challenges to the laws on marriage in all of the States. A couple of the same sex need merely go into a federal court and invoke Justice Kennedy’s opinion in the DOMA case (U.S. v. Windsor): The Supreme Court has declared now that a law that refuses to recognize same-sex marriage is animated by a passion to demean and denigrate. Any such law cannot find a rational ground of justification. As Kennedy had famously said in Romer v. Evans, those kinds of laws can be explained only in terms of an irrational “animus.”
In summary, the decision is another power grab by our liberal elites in the judiciary and expands the cultural wars on the marriage front.  And it opens the door to further attacks on religious liberties - one of the chief reasons for our break with Britain during the Revolutionary War period.  In my estimation the left will not be satisfied until they stifle all dissent.  They'll use the use of tax codes and anti-discrimination lawsuits with the threat of fines and more to achieve their goal of silencing dissent from leftist/liberal orthodoxy.