The Bookworm Beat 10/23/16 — the culture war edition and open thread

4763390849_116dc9dd2e_gay-freedom-paradeAs I’ve said before, the real war isn’t between the candidates, it’s a culture war, one that pits against each other conflicting visions of America. The media is relentlessly attacking Trump because the Left understands that, when Americans see what’s happened to America in the last decade or more, they won’t like what they see. Here are a few examples of the ugly outcomes of America’s culture war, along with one little corner of hope plus, as an added bonus, a thoughtful analysis about American gun crime:

Federal court strikes a strong blow against religious freedom. Sweet Cakes was the Oregon bakery that objected to baking a cake specifically for a lesbian wedding because the bakery’s owners are Christians who believe marriage is only between a man and a woman. The couple seeking the cake, instead of simply depriving the bakery of their custom, turned them over to Oregon’s fascist government, which proceeded to destroy the bakery financially, driving it out of business.

Please understand that what happened to Street Cakes wasn’t about lesbians getting their wedding cake. If those lesbians wanted a cake in Oregon, they could have enriched God-alone-knows how many different bakeries. Instead, this was about destroying Christians’ right to withdraw voluntarily from a competitive marketplace in order to protect their religious sensibilities.

A recent lawsuit against an orthodox Jewish practice was more blatant about its goals:

In United Poultry Concerns v. Chabad of Irvine, a group of chickens’-rights activists petitioned a federal judge to prohibit a California Jewish organization, Chabad of Irvine, from engaging in Kapparot, a Jewish ritual. This tradition is associated with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and involves symbolically casting off one’s sins. Some Jews, including the defendants in this case, symbolically “transfer” their sins to live chickens. The chickens are then killed and, typically, donated to needy families.


In their briefing, the United Poultry plaintiffs lay out a vision in which private morality and individual conscience are replaced by a one-size-fits-all, government-mandated morality. Religious liberty stands in the way of their dystopian dream, and therefore they and their allies seek to diminish and ultimately eliminate it. For the same reason, every American who values living in a religiously tolerant country that respects individual conscience ought to oppose the plaintiffs’ project.

The plaintiffs (“chicken people”) are not subtle about their hostility toward religion and its role in American life. In their complaint, the chicken people caricature religious liberty as a matter of religious people asserting that “they are above the law and can conduct themselves as they wish because of their religious beliefs.”

The plaintiffs’ objections are not limited to the realm of law. They object to Chabad’s desire to “determine for themselves what is . . . moral conduct.” They argue that only the legislature can determine “legal and moral behavior in the State of California.” The plaintiffs do not want to control only Chabad’s conduct. They want to control its conscience.

The chicken people describe the Jewish tradition as a “societal evil” and mock Kapparot as “taking out vengeance on an innocent animal for one’s own shortcomings.” These are not quotes cherry-picked from the comments section of an anti-Semitic blog; they are quotes taken from a legal document that won a favorable ruling from a federal judge.

The plaintiffs are no more subtle about the scope of their ambitions. They acknowledge that their lawsuit is merely “the first step” toward their “ultimate goal” of banning the religious ceremony nationwide. The legal arguments advanced by the chicken people make it clear that they want American courts to view the exercise of religion as an ordinary activity enjoying no special legal, moral, or constitutional status.

You know what the worst thing is about the United Poultry case? It’s not the unconstitutional anti-religious animus driving it. It’s that the Court — a United States federal district court — agreed with the plaintiffs in the first instance:

The plaintiffs were not content merely to sue Chabad. They also asked the court to take the extraordinary step of granting a temporary restraining order to stop Chabad from exercising its faith while the lawsuit progressed. The chicken people expressly asked the court to rule on matters of Jewish doctrine and to determine that Chabad and Rabbi Tenenbaum would suffer “no harm” if they were prevented from exercising their religion in the manner that they desired.

In order to grant a temporary restraining order, a court must determine that the harm caused to the plaintiff absent the entry of the restraining order outweighs the harm that the order would cause to the defendant. In other words, the chicken people had to show they would suffer more harm if Chabad were allowed to exercise their religion than Chabad would suffer if it were prohibited from doing so.

One might assume that, in a country that considers the free exercise of religion a fundamental constitutional right, a prohibition to practice one’s religion would be seen as the infliction of a grave injury. Astonishingly, the plaintiffs did not see it that way. Even more amazingly, the judge, at least initially, agreed.

The plaintiffs openly dismissed the importance of Chabad’s fulfillment of its religious obligation as understood by Rabbi Tenenbaum. They argued that “the relative harm to Defendants” in preventing them from exercising their religion was “minimal.” The chicken people argued that not all Jews use live chickens for the ritual and that therefore doing so must be “completely optional” and a “mere preference.” They implied that Rabbi Tenenbaum preferred to use live chickens because doing so was “more lucrative.”

Whether the chicken people’s explanation of Jewish law is the only valid interpretation of Judaism — it is not — is beyond the point. Even if such a “single correct” form of Judaism existed, American courts would be neither qualified nor constitutionally empowered to settle such doctrinal disputes.

And yet, on October 10, the District Court for the Central District of California granted the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order, without explanation. In order to grant the request, the court necessarily accepted the plaintiffs’ argument that the rabbi’s religious practice was less important than he believed. Such a holding is ominous.

You need to be clear about this: What’s happening isn’t about gay marriage or chickens. It’s about driving the Judeo-Christian faith, and its attendant values, out of America. Worse, if the California-based federal district court is any example, our currently constituted federal government is on board with the plan.

Let me say again: This election is not about Hillary or Donald. It’s about an America that is still vaguely recognizable as a constitutional nation or an America that is another third-rate, socialized (at least for the little people) banana republic.

A reminder who Hillary and her cohorts think its okay to abort. One of the things that came up during the last debate was late-term abortion. Here’s what Hillary had to say:

CLINTON: Well, I strongly support Roe v. Wade, which guarantees a constitutional right to a woman to make the most intimate, most difficult, in many cases, decisions about her health care that one can imagine. And in this case, it’s not only about Roe v. Wade. It is about what’s happening right now in America.

So many states are putting very stringent regulations on women that block them from exercising that choice to the extent that they are defunding Planned Parenthood, which, of course, provides all kinds of cancer screenings and other benefits for women in our country.

Donald has said he’s in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood. He even supported shutting the government down to defund Planned Parenthood. I will defend Planned Parenthood. I will defend Roe v. Wade, and I will defend women’s rights to make their own health care decisions.

WALLACE: Secretary Clinton…

CLINTON: And we have come too far to have that turned back now. And, indeed, he said women should be punished, that there should be some form of punishment for women who obtain abortions. And I could just not be more opposed to that kind of thinking.

WALLACE: I’m going to give you a chance to respond, but I want to ask you, Secretary Clinton, I want to explore how far you believe the right to abortion goes. You have been quoted as saying that the fetus has no constitutional rights. You also voted against a ban on late-term, partial-birth abortions. Why?

CLINTON: Because Roe v. Wade very clearly sets out that there can be regulations on abortion so long as the life and the health of the mother are taken into account. And when I voted as a senator, I did not think that that was the case.

The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make. I have met with women who toward the end of their pregnancy get the worst news one could get, that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions. So you can regulate if you are doing so with the life and the health of the mother taken into account.

WALLACE: Mr. Trump, your reaction? And particularly on this issue of late-term, partial-birth abortions.

TRUMP: Well, I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.

Now, you can say that that’s OK and Hillary can say that that’s OK. But it’s not OK with me, because based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.

CLINTON: Well, that is not what happens in these cases. And using that kind of scare rhetoric is just terribly unfortunate. You should meet with some of the women that I have met with, women I have known over the course of my life. This is one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make. And I do not believe the government should be making it.

You know, I’ve had the great honor of traveling across the world on behalf of our country. I’ve been to countries where governments either forced women to have abortions, like they used to do in China, or forced women to bear children, like they used to do in Romania. And I can tell you: The government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith, with medical advice. And I will stand up for that right.

There are so many things wrong with what Hillary said. First of all, Roe v. Wade makes it very clear that, as the fetus develops, the government has an increasing interesting in protecting it. In subsequent rulings, the Supreme Court has obscured, but never overruled, that fact. Second, as we know, Planned Parenthood doesn’t do cancer screenings. If women’s health were really the issue, the Democrats would come together with Republicans to fund a health organization that doesn’t also provide abortions. That Democrats refuse to do so is pretty much all the proof you need that taxpayers fund Planned Parenthood to fund abortions. Third, Hillary’s lying about late-term abortions. Trump’s description is not “scare tactics.” That’s how it’s done. You take a living, viable baby and, one way or another, you kill it.

As to that last, I’d like to show you a picture of a baby who has utterly charmed Americans, too many of whom seem unperturbed that, in those states with unlimited access to abortion, this child could have as easily ended up in a garbage can as in a bassinet:


A photograph of 5-day-old preemie baby Freya Vinje, depicting the little one with a huge smile on her face, is going viral.

The baby girl, born Thanksgiving Day in 2014, only weighed 3 pounds and 14 ounces at the time, but despite her small size, she still had a lot of presence. Mom Lauren Vinje, who initially posted the photo to the Facebook group Love What Matters, wrote that she looked at this photo often while going through the “ups and downs of our NICU days.”

“Our first daughter at five days old. 3 lbs. 14 oz., she was happy to be alive!” Vinje wrote. “Life is so precious.”

In an interview with ABC News, Vinje says that at 28 weeks she began to experience preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy involving high blood pressure and organ damage. The development put the baby at risk, so Freya was delivered shortly thereafter via emergency C-section.

“I was talking to her and I had said, ‘Should we send a picture to Daddy?’ and right when I was about to take the picture, she had this huge smile,” she told ABC News. “It was a picture that I had always wanted to get out for people to see because of how it touched me [in] the way that it did. We gave a copy to the nurses, and when we went to have our second little girl, they still had it hanging up in their break room.”

Uh-oh. YouTube stars may be flexing their muscles. Let’s just hope the YouTube stars are smarter than the NFL and decide they’d rather keep all of their audience, and all of their money, than start alienating people:

Making the soldiers pay for the war.  This government horror story is one that, appropriately, is gaining traction:  During the peak of the war, in an effort to keep its numbers up, the California National Guard enticed recruits and those thinking about reenlisting with sizable bonuses. In reliance on those promises, men and women enlisted and reenlisted. Now, the Pentagon is claiming that those bonuses were improperly high. In other words, the enlistees were unwitting parties in a fraud.

Tough, right? Well, what’s really tough is that the same government that lets billions vanish in the VA, in the State Department, in its welfare system, etc., is demanding that the soldiers repay the funds that they took in good faith when they agreed to put their lives on the line for their country.

This stinks. There’s no other word for it. Moreover, it’s been going on in other states. The only reason we’re hearing about it now is because California is big enough for the story to gain traction. This is your Obama government at work, folks. And please don’t expect it to get better, more honest, or more efficient on Hillary’s watch.

An uber-Leftist women’s magazine takes a stand against . . . environmentalist insanity!  As I learned years ago from reading Myrna Blyth’s Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness — and Liberalism — to the Women of America, women’s magazines don’t just sell fashion and neuroses, they sell politics . . . and those politics are invariably to the Left. That’s why I was mightily surprised to see an article in Cosmopolitan, of all places, informing readers that most of their “holier than thou” environmental stances are pointless or even harmful. Really:

1. You buy only organic. Those friendly green labels do draw you in, don’t they? You’ve read rumors that they’re healthier or that they’re better for the environment, but held up to the light of science, all the rumors fade away. Organic is definitely not better for you, and it uses older, dirtier farming techniques that are, across the board, not as environmentally friendly. Contrary to rumors, organic farming uses pesticides, in some cases equally toxic pesticides that need to beapplied more frequently. Organic also uses more land to produce the same amount of food, and that means it’s spreading those pesticides, farming run-off (including manure, yum!), and agricultural waste over a larger area of land. Additionally, that extra land that organic farming uses could have been taken up by native forests and wildlife, and instead is being used for industry. The use of significantly more land for the same amount of produce wipes out any shred of credibility for the claim that organic is better for the environment. Save your money on the overpriced organic produce.

Read the whole thing. It’s interesting, informative, and the kind of thing we should encourage women’s magazines to publish.

A fact-filled argument favoring our Second Amendment. Next time one of your invariably unthinking Leftist friends goes on about guns killing people in America, direct them to this Facebook post:

Don’t forget that Trump is the NRA-approved candidate . . . and that Hillary has been consistent about only two things in her political career: unlimited abortion and disarming Americans.

Photo by Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors