The Bookworm Beat 4-28-15 — the “I’ve got a job” edition and open thread

Woman writingFor the next few weeks, I’m helping out at an actual office. This means that, as was the case today, I may not get to my computer until later in the day. You might want to consider my blog the place to go for afternoon and early evening reading. I’ve got a few articles saved from yesterday, and I’ll share them here before I start reading today’s material:

The Supreme Court and Gay Marriage

Traditionally, Supreme Court justices have worked on being inscrutable. It’s been part of the mystique. Even during oral argument, their questions aren’t necessarily an indicator about which way any given justice will decide a case. This is important, because it creates the appearance of impartiality and fealty to the Constitution, rather than to personal bias.

At least, that used to be the case. When it comes to gay marriage, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the worst writer on the Supreme Court, has also abandoned all pretense of impartiality of obeisance to the Constitution. Consider her an enthusiastic “yes” vote for gay marriage.

VDH outdoes himself analyzing the Clintons’ peculiar brand of utter corruption

Sometimes Victor Davis Hanson has an almost oracular quality, when his writing transcends ordinary opinion pieces and goes into some transcendent outer zone. He’s done it today with his take on the Clintons’ epic immorality:

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The Bookworm Beat 4-26-15 — the “writer’s block” edition and open thread

Woman writingI know this is going to surprise those of you used to my usual output of posts, but I’m suffering from writer’s block. The last few weeks have been so chaotic, my opportunities to write so random and infrequent, and the news of the world so overwhelming that, now that I finally have time to sit down and write, I’m frozen. After sitting her for a while, I decided that the best thing to do would be to clear my spindle. I know some of the contents are outdated, but they may still be of interest, and getting through the backlog may help spark my dormant (I hope, rather than extinct) yen to write.

Obama fiddles with Iran while the Middle East burns and Israel is forced to go it alone

All eyes may be on Obama and his desperation to get a deal with Iran (despite the fact that, in a sane world, the smaller, weaker, poorer Iran would be desperate to get a deal with Obama), but the fact is that the entire Middle East is a flaming disaster thanks to Obama’s habit of alternately meddling in and abandoning Middle Eastern affairs.

Bret Stephens explains that, thanks to Obama’s policies, it is now impossible for Israel to walk back the way in which he’s abandoned and isolated it:

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You’ll never guess this priest’s clever idea for conservative Christians asked to serve gay weddings *UPDATED*

Gay marriage wedding cake photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto, 26-1-2008.If you’re wondering why we’re suddenly hearing so many stories about conservative Christians (not Muslims, mind you, just Christians) being dragged before the thought-police for failing to bake cakes, make bouquets, or take photographs at gay weddings, you need wonder no more.

Coincidence is not at work here.  These small business people are being targeted. While the true civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s targeted the government that denied them their constitutional rights, as well as big businesses that cooperated with the government, we now have the flip side of that:  Those people pushing an agenda antithetical to individual citizens who claim their rights under the Constitution are working hand-in-hand with the government to destroy them.  The message from the institutional Left is clear: Get with the program or we will bankrupt you.

One priest, however, has come up with a clever idea that, if broadly applied, will bring that tactic to a complete halt. Father John Zuhlsdorf says that conservatives who don’t wish to have their freedoms of speech, religion, or association impinged upon by being forced to participate in ceremonies offensive to their core religious beliefs, don’t need to become martyrs.  Instead, with politeness and good cheer, they can disarm completely the Left’s economic terrorism:

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Some random last thoughts about RFRA and gay marriage

A friend sent me this poster:

Wedding cake ordered to make

I emailed my friend back, and thought I’d share with you the random thoughts the poster triggered in my fevered brain:

We know that gay lefties, each thinking of him or her (or its) self as a modern-day Rosa Parks, aren’t just stumbling into these bakeries or photographic studios by accident, but are, instead, deliberately targeting Christians. It’s the nature of the target, of course, that explains why these self-styled activists are no Rosa Parks. Parks targeted government discrimination. These lefties are targeting individual freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. Huge difference.

And here’s another “one more thing” to say about this gay mafia: Because they’re targeting good Christians, I can bet you the Lefties assume that the same people who place such value in their relationship with Christ would never dream of spitting in food — or doing something even nastier. If you watched that icky movie The Help, you remember that the black woman got audience applause for baking her own feces into a pie. The Left knows, however, that someone who will sacrifice a job rather than betray his faith won’t really do something like that.

Jesus would have supported RFRA

Jesus-and-Cross-BR550The useful thing about the Left’s willingness to expose its ignorance is that analyzing its errors often leads one to greater truths.  For me, the greater truth flowing from a poster highlighting Leftist stupidity is that Jesus almost certainly would have approved of Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as well as similar acts in other states and under federal law.

Being Jewish, I have to admit that I don’t usually run things through a “What Would Jesus Do” filter.  However, I started thinking along those lines when a large number of my Leftist Facebook friends got very excited about this Easter poster:

Flog a banker

My first thought was that, in general principle, the man who preached the Sermon on the Mount would not have approved of that poster. Jesus was not generally a fan of flogging:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

***

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

Still, there’s a grain of truth in that anti-Christian poster. Upon his entry into Jerusalem, Jesus did yell at the money changers and tip over their tables. What enraged him, though, wasn’t their profession, even though he did castigate their enclave as a “den of thieves.” Instead, he was upset because they were profaning the holy area of the Temple.  Matthew describes an angry man:

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

John describes a man willing to use the lash to clean God’s house:

And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

What Lefties, who are “instruction” learners, rather than “principle” learners, take away from John is very specific:  Flog people who handle money.  In fact, that’s completely wrong.  I’ve already noted that, as a general. matter, Jesus did not believe in using violence against his fellow man, even if said fellow man was doing something mean or sinful.  There was a bigger principle at stake here.  What drove Jesus to a violent frenzy was the desecration of the Temple.  Jesus had a clear hierarchy:  Treat your fellow man with love and kindness; but treat God, his house, and his words, with absolute reverence, untainted by government or commerce.

Jesus’s clear delineation between religious and secular matters appears again when he was called upon to talk about taxes. When hostile questioners tried to get Jesus to reject as a matter of faith the taxes that Rome imposed on Jews, he instead drew a bright line in the sand: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

The Founders, all of whom were steeped in the Bible even if they were not practicing Christians, knew about Jesus’s efforts to keep commerce and government away from the purity of faith. They were also aware of their own history: For more than 100 years, Christians and Jews had come to America to escape the stifling, and often deadly, restrictions imposed upon them by European governments because of their faith. It was in this context that the First Amendment came into being:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Thanks to the 14th Amendment, the individual states are also barred from making laws that impinge on religious freedom. The only exceptions are laws that advance a clearly compelling state interest. For example, assuming we don’t lapse into complete dhimmitude any time soon, our laws against murder would prohibit sharia’s insistence that gays are an offense to Allah and must be hanged, thrown off buildings, or beaten to death.  Outside of abortion, which is a discussion for another day, American morality has been such that the State’s compelling state interest is to protect people’s lives, if at all possible, not to take them.

Given that both Jesus and the Founders upheld an inviolable sphere in which people are free to practice their faith without the sullying influences of government and commerce, what would Jesus think of Indiana’s new RFRA laws?  My feeling is that he’d approve.

Rich Lowry sums up precisely what Indiana’s RFRA law is and what it is not:

All the Indiana law says is that the state can’t substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, unless there is a compelling governmental interest at stake and it is pursued by the least restrictive means. The law doesn’t mandate any particular outcome; it simply provides a test for the courts in those rare instances when a person’s exercise of religion clashes with a law.

The law does not mandate casting stones at gays nor does it require Christians to hate gays.  And interestingly enough, the vast majority of Christians did not cast stones at gays, nor do they hate them (although they disapprove of their sexual practices).

The only thing that the law does is to say, consistent with both Jesus’s teachings and the Constitution, that people of conscience cannot be forced to bring commerce or government diktats into their own inviolable area of faith.  Put another way, to the extent marriage is a core sacrament to the faithful, the law cannot force them to sell themselves out — in effect, to become coerced money changers in their own temple.

Incidentally, while I’m on the subject of the gay lobby pushing ever harder on Christians and Christian doctrine, let me say that all of this was predictable.  Years and years ago, I warned that gay marriage had nothing to do with marriage and everything to do with toppling religion.  Here’s what I had to say on the subject in 2009, when Prop. 8 (defining marriage in California as being between a man and a woman) was a hot ballot item:

As you know, one of my main reasons for supporting Proposition 8, which amended the California constitution to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, was because I believe that the move to redefine marriage has the potential to put the State and religious organizations — especially the Catholic church — into a head-on collision.

Liberals, when confronted with this notion, will often argue that, while the Catholic Church objects to abortion, that’s never created a constitutional crisis. What they ignore is the fact that, while the church is not in the business of providing abortions, it is in the business of providing marriages. ***

Keep in mind that, for Catholics, marriage isn’t just a white dress, cake and Mendelssohn’s wedding march. Instead, it’s a sacrament. A basic tenet of the religion is the joining of man and woman before God. Marriage is one of the sacraments.

So imagine this scenario: Two men go to the local Catholic parish and demand that it marry them. The priest, sympathetic to their love for each other, nevertheless states that he cannot, at a purely religious level, marry them. The men turn around and sue the Church for violating their Constitutional rights. Suddenly, the judicial system is called upon to examine doctrinal issues to determine whether they mesh with Constitutional issues. It’s a scary scenario for anyone who takes seriously the principle that government may not interfere with religious doctrine.

The RFRA fight is not about protecting gays from discrimination. While the ignorant sheeple who are going around screaming about boycotting Indiana are incapable of understanding this, the people spearheading the charge know perfectly well that RFRA is in essence a shorthand for the established constitutional principle that states may not impose on religion without a compelling reason.

These same operators have a clear ultimate goal, which is to see religion overturned. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, and all the other Leftists who took over Judeo-Christian countries understood that traditional religion, with its emphasis on personal responsibility, justice, morality, and grace, is the enemy of socialism and tyranny. In America, though, because the Constitution precludes direct attacks on Christianity, gay marriage represents a back door way to destroy both the faith and the faithful.  The tactic is working too, as Gov. Pence has already pretty much surrendered.

For more on the upcoming attacks on traditional religions, check out this Ben Shapiro post.

I can’t think of a better way to end this post than to quote Servo1969 about the nature of those groups that seek to overturn the Judeo-Christian tradition in this country — and their nature is not aligned with Christ’s principles about our responsibilities to our fellow man:

The thing to remember about all these modern “rights” groups is that no matter how much they use the word “equal” they don’t really mean it. They don’t want to be regarded as equal with their oppressors; They want to be regarded as better than their oppressors. They want to be given special treatment in all situations and they want it entered into law.

Modern radical feminists are actually female supremacists. They believe they are better than men and that men deserve to be punished collectively for their past transgressions against women.

Modern radical gay rights activists are actually homosexual supremacists.They believe they are better than Christians and that Christians deserve to be punished collectively for their past transgressions against homosexuals.

Modern radical [insert minority here] equal rights activists are actually [insert minority here] supremacists.They believe they are better than whites and that whites deserve to be punished collectively for their past transgressions against [insert minority here].

Christ, with his emphasis on the fact that we are all responsible for ourselves and all equal before God, would not approve.

Leftists: Damaged individuals who have formed a priesthood to take revenge on society at large

School-bully-001Near the end of his talk about American communists’ long-term plan (now coming to fruition) to flood America with a permanent Democrat majority through Hispanic amnesty, Trevor Loudon tossed in an interesting throwaway.  When someone asked him why Leftists would want to reduce the US to the status of a Latin American banana Republic, he said that, in a conversation with Tammy Bruce (a former hard Leftist herself), she told him “They’re all damaged individuals.”  That is, we have a powerful political movement made up of damaged people out for revenge.

That notion popped into my mind again today when I read on my Facebook stream the newest attack against the Tom Cotton letter.  (You’ll recall that the first attack was to call Cotton and the other signatories “traitors” and “Logan Act violators,” followed by efforts to claim that reserve officers violated various military codes.)  The newest claim that’s come to my attention is that Cotton and Co. are AIPAC’s puppets:

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The Bookworm Beat (11/15/14) — Time warp edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingWhy is this a “time warp edition”? Because even though I’m publishing it on Saturday, I actually wrote it on Friday. The reason delayed publishing is because I’m spending all day Saturday attending part II of my CERT training. I expect the training to be more of the same stuff as last week: really nice, well-informed, generous people inefficiently teaching four hours of useful information over the course of eight hours.

Rather than leaving my blog fallow for that time, I thought I’d prep a post in advance. The only reason I’m mentioning the 14-hour lead time is to explain why, if something dramatic happens in the news tomorrow, you won’t read about it at the Bookworm Room. And now, it’s time for yesterday’s news today!

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In Idaho, gay marriage is in direct conflict with religious rights under the First Amendment

(Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto)

(Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto)

Since the first minute gay marriage appeared on the horizon, I’ve steadfastly argued that gay marriage will inevitably create a clash between newly discovered Constitutional rights that the Founders could never have envisioned and core, explicit Constitutional rights, such as the “free exercise” of religion. I developed this idea most fully back in 2009, so I’ll just quote myself:

As you know, one of my main reasons for supporting Proposition 8, which amended the California constitution to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, was because I believe that the move to redefine marriage has the potential to put the State and religious organizations — especially the Catholic church — into a head-on collision.

Liberals, when confronted with this notion, will often argue that, while the Catholic Church objects to abortion, that’s never created a constitutional crisis. What they ignore is the fact that, while the church is not in the business of providing abortions, it is in the business of providing marriages. It also ignores the fact that abortion is a legal right, not a constitutional one, while gay marriage proponents have been framing their issue in the opposite way: they say gay marriage is a constitutional, rather than a mere legal right.

Keep in mind that, for Catholics, marriage isn’t just a white dress, cake, and Mendelssohn’s wedding march. Instead, it’s a sacrament. A basic tenet of the religion is the joining of man and woman before God.  Marriage is one of the sacraments.

So imagine this scenario: Two men go to the local Catholic parish and demand that it marry them. The priest, sympathetic to their love for each other, nevertheless states that he cannot, at a purely religious level, marry them. The men turn around and sue the Church for violating their Constitutional rights. Suddenly, the judicial system is called upon to examine doctrinal issues to determine whether they mesh with Constitutional issues. It’s a scary scenario for anyone who takes seriously the principle that government may not interfere with religious doctrine.

Whenever Leftists have heard my argument, they’ve essentially told me to stop worrying my pretty little head about complex Constitutional issues, because “it will never come to that.”

Well, as I predicted, it has come to that:

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers who oppose gay marriage, own the Hitching Post wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene. Early in 2014, a federal judge in Idaho ruled that the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, but the ruling was put on hold while the case was appealed. When the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, the ruling stood and went into effect.

The city of Coeur d’Alene has an ordinance that prohibits discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation, in public accommodations. It does have a religious exemption, but the Hitching Post is a for-profit company, not technically a religious organization, in spite of the Knapp’s deeply held personal beliefs.

[snip]

“On Friday, a same-sex couple asked to be married by the Knapps, and the Knapps politely declined. The Knapps now face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.” Note that jail time and the fine is per day, not per offense, The Daily Signal reports.

Most articles I’ve seen have discussed the Knapp’s situation with reference to freedom of speech or Idaho’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I believe that these articles rely on too narrow an interpretation of what happened in Idaho.

The Knapp’s situation is not the same as a Christian photographer being asked to take photographs or a Christian baker being asked to bake a cake. I think it’s unconscionable government bullying to force people to participate peripherally in a ritual that offends their religious sensibilities, but the government can (and invariably does) argue that it has the right to do so because the acts at issue are not central to the ritual itself.  To go back to my Catholic Church analogy, the photographer’s and the baker’s situation is similar to a scenario that sees the government insist that priests must drive girls to Planned Parenthood for an abortion.  That the government would force a priest to act in this way is appalling for any number of reasons, but the government still isn’t dictating what the priest can preach or the acts he can or cannot perform as part of his core ministerial duties (e.g., giving the last rites, administering the sacrament, take confession, or conduct a marriage ceremony).

Those who support Coeur d’Alene’s attack on the Knapps are trying to slot the Knapps case into that same metric as the photographer, baker or hypothetical priest-cum-chauffeur.  They contend that, because the Knapps get paid for offering a package deal of religious service and chapel rental, they are running a business, not engaging in matters of faith, making the town’s ordinance relevant and their own ordination irrelevant.

This is artful misdirection.  The real point is that the state is threatening to imprison ministers who are performing a core religious function — marriage — and who refuse to subordinate their doctrine to a state mandate.  The issue isn’t about whether the Knapps get paid for their services or profit from renting their chapel out along with their ministerial functions.  The real issue is that the Knapps are being told that, in their role as ministers, they must engage in acts that are completely antithetical to their religion’s interpretation of God’s word. Put another way, they’re like priests who are being told to perform an actual abortion.

It’s important to add here that the Knapps, like my hypothetical Catholic priest, aren’t crazy people who came up with their religion yesterday, while shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, and included in their brand new faith core doctrines demanding ritual Barbie doll dismemberment, mandatory bestiality, and 100% tithing. The Knapps, like my hypothetical priest, are interpreting Christian religious doctrine as it has been interpreted for 2,000 years. They are interpreting Christian religious doctrine as it existed when the Founders enacted the First Amendment. They are interpreting Christian religious doctrine in a way that meshes with most religion’s core doctrinal points right up until the last 40 years, when a bunch of churches and synagogues ran off into the far reaches Leftist swamp lands.

Under the First Amendment, those faiths that wish to marry same-sex partners should be allowed to do so.  And those churches that hew to traditional religious interpretations about marriage and do not wish to marry same-sex partners, should be left entirely alone — and that’s true whether they perform the marriage ritual for free or on a fee-for-service basis.  The issue isn’t money; it’s faith.

When Queen Elizabeth I of England came to the throne after decades of religious strife, she famously refused to resume religious inquisitions, saying, instead, “I would not open windows into men’s souls.” What’s happening in Coeur d’Alene isn’t just opening a window into men’s souls, it’s interpretation of its own ordinance is a rock thrown directly through that window in an effort to destroy men’s faith entirely.

Wednesday morning round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesWhether you devour this post in one fell swoop or nibble at it throughout the day, I can guarantee you a lot of food for thought:

The VA scandal is gaining traction, as word comes out that the VA already knew back in 2010 that hospitals were manipulating records. Robert Petzel, the top health official for the Department of Veterans Affairs, has resigned ahead of his previously announced retirement, showing that at least someone understands that part of taking responsibility for a job is that you look like you’re getting fired, or fire yourself, when you fail in that role.

Obama, who has never worked in the private sector, still hasn’t figured out that ordinary people, accustomed to private sector job losses for workplace malfeasance, believe it’s appropriate for heads to roll. How else can one explain that, not only is Obama keeping on VA Secretary Ric Shinseki, he’s praising him for a job well done.

***

The risks from the VA scandal extend beyond any immediate political fallout. Indeed, it may be more damaging than Obama & Co. ever imagined, not because it reflects badly on them but because it reflects badly on their entire world view — namely, Big Government:

Because the Democratic party simply is the party of government. It is the party that insists on the nobility, efficacy and intellectual superiority of government. The VA is at the intersection of all the things liberals insist are wise and good and just about government. It is government-run healthcare. It is the tangible fulfillment of a sacred obligation the government has with those who’ve sacrificed most for our nation. It is also the one institution and/or constituency that enjoys huge bipartisan support. The VA, rhetorically and politically, is more sacrosanct and less controversial than Medicare, Social Security, road building, the NIH, or public schools. We are constantly told that we could get so many wonderful, super-fantastic things done if only both sides would lay down their ideological blah blah blah blah and work together for yada yada yada. Well, welcome to the VA. How’s that working out for you?

***

Many commentators noticed that Jay Carney, when asked about the VA scandal, said the same thing he and the president have said about myriad scandals: “Hey, don’t ask us. We only learned about it on TV, just like the rest of you.”

You can tell that their feral little brains are thinking, “Yes! That should let them know that we had nothing to do with the scandal. It’s somebody else’s fault.”

It hasn’t seemed to occur to Obama or Carney that there’s another, better answer:  “The President was apprised yesterday about this issue and has already taken steps to deal with it.”  That answer would make the President sound like an executive, not an idiot. (Peter Wehner sees “epic incompetence” as the new presidential narrative.)

Jonathan S. Tobin sums up what the President’s chosen scandal tactic implies:

The fact that the White House resorted to what has become its standard second-term excuse for government scandal with a line about the president hearing about it on TV or by reading the newspapers raises serious questions about both his leadership and the intelligence of his staff. After all, surely it must have occurred to someone at the White House that using the same excuse about hearing of it in the media wasn’t likely to work after it had been employed with little success to distance him from the IRS and other scandals. Such intellectual laziness speaks to a West Wing that is both collapsing from intellectual fatigue as well as having acquired an almost complete contempt for both the press and public opinion.

***

While I’m on the subject of Obama’s incompetence, it seems that the intelligence community is pushing back against both that incompetence and the rank political dishonesty that sees that Obama administration falsely claiming that Islamic terrorism is declining, not increasing.

I feel very strongly that you shouldn’t get into pissing matches with the intelligence community because they probably know things about you that you would prefer no one else know. If this fight between the administration and intelligence heats up, I wonder if someone will start leaking interesting revelations about highly placed officials in the administration, including Obama himself.

***

James O’Keefe has an uncanny knack for exposing Leftist hypocrisy, corruption (financial, intellectual, and moral), and gross illegality.  He is back in spectacular style with a video showing three prominent Hollywood types agreeing to take money from an Arab oil sheikh (O’Keefe in disguise) in order to fund an anti-fracking film.

There’s nothing subtle about O’Keefe’s phony pitch, either. In a phone call with director Josh Tickell, O’Keefe explicitly states “My client’s interest is to end American energy independence; your interest is to end fracking. And you guys understand that?” Tickell is okay with that. “Correct. Yes, super clear,” he says.

While many people are shocked about environmentalists getting into bed with big oil in order to stop fracking, I was wondering more about their willingness to send money to Saudi Arabia, rather than to keep it at home.

Of course, O’Keefe just showed three fools in Hollywood. But what about the fact that real, not imaginary, Arab oil influence is huge in Washington, D.C. itself? Jeff Dunetz says that we need to pay attention to this very disturbing reality. Looking at the numbers, Dunetz points out that, not only is the UAE by far the biggest foreign lobby in D.C., the entire pro-Israel contribution (remember the “all powerful Jewish lobby” we keep hearing about?) is just 21% of the UAE’s contribution. Read the whole thing. It’s illuminating.

***

Chad Felix Greene, who is (I believe) gay, says that it’s not unreasonable for people to be wary of transgendered people. It’s not one of his best posts (he’s a very good writer, but this is a bit muddy because he tries to be respectful of all points of view, even as he challenges some of them), but my takeaway is this:

It’s not unreasonable to be dismayed when your chosen sexual partner reveals that he or she started out life as a member of the opposite sex.  This is true regardless of whether you’re homosexual or heterosexual.  Thus, both a man planning to bed a former man, or a gay man planning to bed a former woman, might be upset to learn about the partners gender history.

It is reasonable, however to refuse to deny the biological reality that underlies transgendered self-definition. Just because someone says “I am a woman,” doesn’t mean you have to pretend that the person once had or still has a penis. You can be respectful of that person’s self-identity (no bullying, teasing, or discriminating), but you don’t have to deny biological and historical reality.

***

Gay marriage is a done deal in America, folks. Although the Supreme Court addressed only the federal Defense of Marriage Act, courts across America are viewing that decision as a green light to overturn voters who said that, in their state, marriage is between a man and a woman. One really can’t blame the judges too much now that, years after those votes were originally cast, the same-sex marriage lobby’s endless advocacy means that 55% of Americans support gay marriage.

I’ve made it pretty clear that my opposition to gay marriage arises primarily because I foresee a coming clash between the First Amendment’s explicit guarantee that Americans have the right to exercise their religion freely and the newly created civil right to marry outside of the traditional boundaries of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. We already know that gay couples will sue business people who, for religious reasons, refuse to provide services for same-sex marriage ceremonies, although they are willing to do business with same-sex couples in all other matters. How long will it be before same-sex partners sue the Catholic Church or a Baptist ministry for violating their civil rights?

***

Spain has been Judenrein since 1492. That has done nothing to prevent the oldest hatred. (You can read more about Spain’s apparently atavistic antisemitism here.)

***

How can one resist Jonah Goldberg on “trigger warnings,” which are just the latest insanity to issue from America’s loony academic citadels? After noting that he doesn’t have a problem with obscure, privately run Leftist blog sites catering to every trigger from audio of snapping fingers to pictures of animals in wigs, Goldberg adds:

But as is so often the case, common sense is barely a speed bump for the steamroller of political correctness. Oberlin College’s Office of Equity Concerns advised professors to avoid such triggering subjects as racism, colonialism, and sexism. They soon rescinded it, perhaps because they realized that if such subjects become taboo, much of their faculty would be left with nothing to talk about.

***

While I’m quoting, I was just kvelling with glee over John Hinderaker’s masterful use of imagery and the English language in connection with Howard Dean’s lunatic claim that Republicans are no longer Americans:

A terrible sort of insanity has gripped the Democratic Party. On almost a daily basis, when you see the party’s leaders in action, you want to start edging toward the door, murmuring “Nice doggie. Nice doggie.”

[snip]

This is a very bad thing. We need two functional political parties, and these days the Democrats don’t get over the bar, no matter how low you set it.

[snip]

Reid and Pelosi are so low-rent that you feel embarrassed for them whenever you see them. Screening a video [about Charles and David Koch] that is sheer partisan libel in the United States Capitol–illegally, as best I can tell–is right up their alley.

Read the whole thing, please, both because it’s beautifully written and because it’s substantively informative and important.

***

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the fact that it was no surprise to me that the poorest of the poor aren’t rushing to sign up for Obamacare. Contrary to our middle class expectations, they don’t mind having the ER serve as their preferred provider. Getting top flight medical care for free on an as-needed basis is a better deal for them than having to pay a monthly fee (no matter how low) for some hard to reach little clinic that makes them jump through hoops just to see a dermatologist.

Thanks to Obamacare, it looks as if a significant number of formerly insured (i.e., people who lost their insurance because of Obamacare) are also finding that the ER is a good option. Some haven’t even tried to get new insurance. Some have gotten trapped in the Obamacare exchange. Some have been told that they’re the wrong sex. Some cannot accept the substandard care in their new, narrow coverage. Whatever the reason, they’re joining the bottom 1% in seeing the ER as first and best when it comes to medical treatment.

***

Monica Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon in Oregon, won the Republican party primary and will now challenge incumbent Democrat Jeff Merkley for Oregon’s Senate seat. No surprise, then, that Democrats have unearthed records showing that, in both a divorce and a contentious break-up with a boyfriend, the men contended that she was stalking, harassing, or even striking them. Neither sought restraining orders and the boyfriend has since become an enthusiastic (i.e., monied) supporter for her political campaign.

I’m dismissing the boyfriend stalking charge since he now supports her campaign. Whatever happened then, he clearly doesn’t think it affects Wehby’s ability to serve the people of Oregon and America.

The ex-husband charge (harassment and striking) intrigues me, because it reminds me very strongly of something that happened to a friend of mine. She and her husband were involved in a contentious divorce. Things came to a head when she went to his house (he owned it before they were married) to pick up some of her stuff. He refused to let her in, and said he would call the cops on her. She responded by yelling at him and swatting his chest.

You have to understand here that her soon-to-be ex stood at 6’2″ and was a burly man. My friend was 5’2″ and one of the physically weakest people I’ve ever met. She needed help lifting big binders. There was no possibility that she hurt or threatened him as she swatted him. Nevertheless, he had someone restrain her until the cops came along and then insisted that they arrest her.

My friend told me later that the cops apologized profusely for having to arrest her, because they recognized that the arrest was a travesty. Nevertheless, California law mandates that if a spouse says he was abused and demands that the alleged abuser gets arrested, then the alleged abuser must be arrested and prosecuted.

When the case went to trial, my friend was triumphantly acquitted and, I believe, the judge fined her ex for abusing both the divorce and criminal law processes.

That story makes me somewhat dubious about the claims from Wehby’s ex. In the context of a divorce, the problem nowadays isn’t just that one partner or another might become violent. It’s that one partner or another might lie about the other becoming violent.

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She murdered two people and then lied about that fact when she came to America, got citizenship, and became an influential activist for Islamic interests in America. You and I might think that the victims in this case are the two dead men and the American people. Au contraire, my naive friends. She is the victim (of course).

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The Marines are breathing a sigh of relief that one of their own finally got the recognition he deserved. Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter (ret.) will receive the Medal of Honor for throwing himself on a live grenade to save a comrade’s life. He was terribly injured in the blast.

Carpenter has mixed feelings about the honor:

“There are guys who I was with who didn’t come back, so it’s hard for me to wear this and have the spotlight on me the rest of my life when they lost their life on a hot, dusty field in Afghanistan and most people don’t even know their names,” Carpenter said. “Even at Walter Reed, I recovered with quadruple-amputees. How am I supposed to wear this knowing and seeing all the hardships that are much worse than mine that guys have gone through without any recognition?”

Carpenter sounds like a very worthy recipient for the nation’s highest military honor.  To fully appreciate just how worthy, check out this article and check out this video:

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And to leave things on an equally uplifting, but somewhat more cheerful-in-a-silly-way note, here’s an adorable dancing two-year old. What I like particularly isn’t actually his dancing but is, instead, his “Vogue-ish” posing between dance moves:

Monday mid-day round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesLooking at the headlines lately, I have the feeling we’re at a tipping point in America. I’ve had this feeling before, and it’s been an icky feeling, because my concern was that the slippery slope we were about to slide down would land America in the ditch. Now, though, I have a sense that what’s going to end up in the ditch, rather than being our whole nation, might just be is the Progressive agenda, as more and more Americans look at Progressivism unmasked and don’t like what they see.

Of course, until we have a strong conservative movement, all that will happen is that America will pull back just a little from the edge; it’s not yet heading in an entirely different direction. Moreover, events that are already in motion are still going to happen, so it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  Still, today, for the first time in a long time, I actually think things might get better.

And now, the interesting stuff:

George Orwell understood that one of the primary ways in which the left works is to pervert language. Case in point:  the demand for same-sex (or gay) marriage. For the entirety of human history, no matter the time, place, government, or religion, “marriage” has been a union of man and woman or, sometimes, man and women. The core nature of the word marriage is the societally-sanctioned coming together of male and female. To extend “marriage” to persons of the same-sex effectively strips the word of meaning. It can now mean anything. Humpty-Dumpty has taken over.

You’ve heard me on this point before, but it seems appropriate to repeat it here, after having read that the first openly gay Episcopalian Bishop is divorcing his husband after only four years:

“My belief in marriage is undiminished by the reality of divorcing someone I have loved for a very long time, and will continue to love even as we separate,” Robinson wrote. “Love can endure, even if a marriage cannot.”

You’ll notice that God and gospel don’t figure anywhere in this ordained bishop’s New Age homage to love.

I don’t think it’s any stretch to say that Robinson fully understood that what he entered into four years ago was not a “marriage.” It was, instead, a Leftist effort to destroy the church from within by leaching the sacraments, including the sacrament of marriage, of any meaning. And without sacraments, you don’t have a church.  And without a church, you have no morality and rules, creating a nice vacuum that the Progressive state can rush to fill.

Let me say again that I don’t have a big problem with civil gay unions, because it’s quite reasonable to extend certain civil benefits to long-term partnerships, regardless of their sexual makeup. I do, however, have a huge problem with the gay marriage movement, which sets out to destroy the meaning behind words as a predicate to destroying the existential meaning necessary to maintain very useful cultural institutions.

(For another example of the linguistic march through institutions, pay attention to the fact that the U.N., which is “investigating” the Vatican regarding it’s truly shameful sex abuse scandals, has included in its mission statement the claim that banning abortion constitutes a form of sexual abuse.)

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Thomas Lifson explains why Democrats are getting nervous about Benghazi. It seems to me that the Dems’ only hope is that, because the scandal isn’t about sex, the media can run interference by alternating burying it or claiming that it’s nothing but a partisan ploy. I remember back in 1998 the media’s claim (which I, a credulous Democrat, believed) that the Lewinsky scandal was a fake product of the vast right wing conspiracy. Unfortunately for the media, though, the sex factor in the scandal made it impossible to bury.  When the truth behind the little blue dress came out, the best that the media could do was to say that Clinton’s peculiar, immoral sex practices had nothing to do with his being president. That option isn’t open this time around.  Obama’s Benghazi passivity and lies have everything to do with his being president.

In 2014, with Trey Gowdy in charge of the House’s Benghazi investigation committee, and with the internet there to expose things the media wants to hide, Democrats may find it a bit harder to bury this scandal than when they tried, unsuccessfully, to do the same thing with Clinton’s erotic escapades.

I expect Gowdy to make good hay out of the White House’s threatened refusal to cooperate. The lawyer in me knows that when the other side refuses to play, it’s got something to hide.

Or maybe, per Michael Ramirez, there really was a video — a very specific video — driving what happened before, during, and after the Benghazi massacre.

***

Today is Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli version of Memorial Day, on which Israel remembers the many men and women who have died in the service of that brave and beleaguered country. Today is also the day that something peculiar happened:  Britain’s hard left Guardian newspaper ran a long article sympathetically retelling the story of the massacre Kfar Etzion, when Jordanian troops killed 127 civilians on May 13, 1948. Writing at Commentary, Tom Wilson points out how peculiar the Guardian’s article is:

“Massacre that Marred the Birth of Israel” reads a headline in theGuardian, and your heart sinks. This is the last thing one feels like reading as Israel enters into forty-eight hours of commemoration, celebration, mourning, and remembrance; today is Israel’s memorial day for fallen soldiers and terror victims, tomorrow Israel’s independence day marking sixty-six years since the reestablishment of the Jewish state. Yet, on closer inspection the headline might be thought a little misleading.

This column by the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont turns out not to be just another hit piece laden with the usual allegations of Zionist crimes against forlorn Palestinians. In a newspaper typically more inclined to give over its pages to stories about what Israel’s opponents call the Nakba—the catastrophe of Israel’s creation—it is rather disorienting, if refreshing, to find a piece so sympathetically recounting the macabre events of the Kfar Etzion massacre.

The Guardian’s uncharacteristic behavior goes back to that “tipping point” feeling I mentioned.  I’m wondering if some of the saner Leftists, peering into the abyss towards which they led us, are realizing that the West won’t tumble into some socialist paradise but will, instead, find itself in a poverty-stricken, sharia-compliant world.  And while the hard-core Leftists might not mind this, or are continuing to deny it, others may be troubled by that vision and may attempt to put the brakes on.

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A long time ago, I did a post called “Remembering when Jews were popular.” I’m not well-informed about Jewish culture, but I’ve definitely noticed how American popular culture has changed since I was a child, in the 1960s, when so much of the entertainment world was composed of Jews or was friendly to Jews. James Loeffler, more informed and erudite than I, sees the same changes, not at the overall cultural level (which was what I noticed), but amongst the Jews themselves.

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Yet another moment of tipping in the right direction? The head of a local teacher’s union is embarrassed to have been involved in administering Common Core tests to the students at his school.

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Read and enjoy Nigel Lawson’s splendid, truly humanist, take down of climate alarmism.

And while we’re on the subject of biased, bad “science,” it is absolutely fascinating to read how Ancel Benjamin Keys, the man who made us afraid of saturated fat, deliberately set up a biased study and then compounded that bias with ignorance and flawed research techniques. I love meat, and eat way too little of it since Mr. Bookworm, in thrall to “science,” gets agitated when meat enters our house. Just know that, if you ever come to town and want to join me for lunch or dinner, I’ll suggest a burger or other type of meat place, since those are my go-to dining out options.

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Considering that the Constitution gives Congress the sole authority to pass laws, it would seem to me that Congress has standing to sue when the chief executive usurps that power by unilaterally changing those laws. But then again, I’m not a constitutional scholar, nor am I a Progressive federal court judge, so my opinion doesn’t matter, does it?

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And a song I like, which expresses my feeling on a day when the tipping point might finally be tipping in the right direction:

Sleepy Easter round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesI thought my day would be busier, but it’s settled into a relaxing mode that makes enticing just a wee bit of blogging.  So that’s what I’m doing here — a wee bit of blogging.

First on the agenda is a freaky “pigs flying” moment from MSNBC.  NewsBusters caught a panel on the Chris Hayes show, including a writer from the far-Left Nationexpressing some queasiness about the way in which gay rights activists have been targeting individuals.  I’m sure the MSNBC/Nation crew will recover quickly from this brief lapse into sanity, but it sure does make for interesting reading.

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Pat Sajak has his own subtle comment about pressure from gay right’s activists.

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Sultan Knish on the moral vacuum of Progressive morality.

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I cited David Archibald this morning for his chilling look at the potential famine dogging Egypt’s heels.  I’m citing him this afternoon because of his trenchant post about solar activity and the scientific community’s resolute refusal to acknowledge the data lest it clash with their anthropogenic global warming narrative.

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I think there are few students of Tudor history who don’t prefer Queen Elizabeth I to Mary I.  Elizabeth was charismatic, beautiful, witty, and one of the first people in history to hold that a person’s religious beliefs should be private.  By contrast, Mary, although personally kind and warm, was lumpy, unattractive, often pitiable, and religiously fanatic.  It was she who brought auto de fe to England in her effort to turn back the Protestant reformation.  She succeeded only in creating martyrs and died knowing that her attempts to reinstate Catholicism had failed.  For her sake, though, I hope that there is a conscience afterlife and that she is enjoying the spectacle of a liberal Church of England denuding itself of parishioners even as the more stringent Catholic church witnesses an increase in its numbers.

My personal history helps me understand why the C of E is failing, despite abasing itself ever more before every Leftist social and political trend.  Although I grew up in a non-religious household, when it came to Passover, my family went all out.  We did the entire Passover in both Hebrew and English, complete with every ritual.  Even as children, we were expected to participate fully.  When I was an adult and far from home, a friend invited me to her family’s Passover.  They were reform.  The ritual was conducted in English, although the language wouldn’t have mattered, because no one was paying attention.  There was no reverence for this ancient celebration of the world’s first slave revolt.  I was bored and dismayed.  My feeling then, as it is now, is “If you’re going to be religious, be religious.  Unless you invest religion with meaning, why bother?”

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Occasionally, the New York Times shows why people still respect its writing.  At the very bottom of a movie review, where it sums up the reason the movie is given a specific rating (e.g., PG or R), the Times has this to say about Make Your Move:  “‘Make Your Move’ is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Language, drug and sexual references, brief violence and prurient tap dancing.” “Prurient tap dancing?” Is that Fred Astaire I hear rolling in his grave?

Gay marriage, taxes, and the law of unintended consequences

Gay-flowerLast year was a triumphant year for gay marriage in California.  That means that this year, for many newly wed gay couples, April 15 was the first time they filed their taxes as married couples.  I have it on very good authority that many of these newly nuptialed couples are extremely unhappy now that they’re dealing with the infamous marriage penalty.

Considering how politically powerful gay men have become, could gay marriage lead to lower taxes?

And while we’re talking about taxes, Bill Whittle offers a sensible tax policy, one that would give all citizens a stake in America, while ending the current policy of taxing the producers right out of existence:

Flat taxes, once I understood how they worked, were one of the stepping stones on my way to conservativism. Twenty years ago, a brilliant conservative managed to explain to me how an across the board 10% sales tax would work. When he first told me about it, I got ruffled, pointing out that this was regressive tax that would hurt poor people. He shook his head sadly at my ignorance and explained that the most that poor people would get taxed, if they spent every penny they had, would be 10%, which is a reasonable amount to pay to have a stake in this country. (This was 20 years ago, before 51% of Americans paid nothing at all.) Moreover, he said, the bulk of taxes would come from those who aren’t poor, because middle class and rich people buy more. Everyone buys staples, but it’s the classes above the poverty line who have always — as a practical matter — bought into the American dream.

A 10% tax wouldn’t be high enough to deter high income spending, especially if there were no other taxes, so middle and upper class Americans would have an incentive to invest in the economy through purchasing goods. In the meantime, a 10% sales tax might be high enough to encourage a poor person to save more, rather than to buy inessential products, helping the poor person to stay solvent.

Certainly, a flat sales tax (or any flat tax) would be cheaper to administer than our current tax system. If it unleashed a rising tide of prosperity, it would bring in more revenue. On the other hand, if it brought in less revenue, it would stop rampant government spending (this was also before debt ceiling wars).

Bottom line:  Anything more simple and more fair than what we have now is a better tax system.