Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Trump, Reagan, Cruz and the "Eleventh Commandment"

Last Friday, the US Senate provided an electrifying moment for those who care. Ted Cruz, whose candidacy for the President I cannot currently support, took to the Senate floor and rendered an stunning rebuke of Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader. You can view that moment in the video below:

Senate Republican Leadership angrily responded. Orrin Hatch, the longest serving Republican in the Senate, took to the floor and rebuked Ted Cruz, albeit without mentioning his name:

Brit Hume, one of the talking heads on the Fox News Networks, took out his shillelagh and went after Ted Cruz. In particular, Hume assailed Cruz's character, calling him a hypocrite:

Is Hume correct? Is Cruz a hypocrite who obeyed Ronald Reagan's "Eleventh Commandment" when it suited him, and disobeyed it when the need arose?

We have become like tinder, those of us who have voted Republican with a view toward (1) shrinking government, (2) reducing taxes, (3) liberating the free market, (4) reversing the decisions of a peremptory Supreme Court.

In face of consistent, constant, and long-standing support for the candidates produced by the party, we have nothing to show for our efforts. Instead, we have Speaker Mitch McConnell LYING to the Republican Caucus on the question of whether there was a deal to bring the Ex-Im Bank question to the Senate floor for a vote. McConnell fended off a vote to defund Planned Parenthood, the unflattered object of a series of recent expose videos by the Center for Medical Progress.

We have a Speaker of the House that, if he were to die before Obama's term in office ended, would ask to have himself buried with his rear end sticking out of the ground so that Obama could have someplace to park his bike. Boehner has FAILED to defund the overreaching programs of the Environmental Protection Agency. Boehner has FAILED to impeach Obama over "executive amnesty," Benghazi, Fast and Furious, or his murder of an American teenager in Yemen, killed by an attack drone because (as Obama's spokesmouth put it, "he picked the wrong parents").

Into the dried tinder of our labors, our hopes, our aspirations, Donald Trump has breathed fire like Smaug. Of course support for Trump is erupting like wildfire. He says the things that need to be said by a candidate that wants us, the great unwashed base of the Republican Party, to give him our vote (he doesn't want our money, either, as he is financing his own campaign).

Trump does not mince words:

  • John McCain called folks that came out in droves to see Trump (and others) "crazies." In return, Trump cast doubt on portrayals of McCain as a hero. In Trump's words, he prefers heroes that "don't get captured."
  • Trump says we are not getting the best and brightest of the Mexican people when we tolerate illegal immigration from our Southern neighbor. In fact, he said we are getting murderers and rapists, and, he assumed, some good folks too.
  • After a fundraiser for Scott Walker referred to Trump as "DumbDumb," Trmp fired back on Walker, saying that Walker's Wisconsin was now a mess, "they projected a $1 billion surplus and it turns out to be a deficit of $2.2 billion."
  • Trump poked Texas Governor Rick Perry over his new glasses, suggesting they were an effort not to look stupid.
  • After Lindsey Graham accused Trump of "coming in like a wrecking ball" and risking the future of "his" Republican Party, Trump revealed Graham's personal cell phone number (a number Trump presumably was given by Graham who sought and got a campaign donation from Trump in his Senate re-election bid).
When Trump's remarks about John McCain were reported (albeit incompletely by most news outlets), some challenged Ted Cruz to join with other candidates, including Rick Perry, Lindsey Graham, and others, that have criticized Donald Trump. Cruz refused, and pleaded "Ronald Reagan's Eleventh Commandment:"

So, then, there you have Cruz invoking Reagan's Eleventh Commandment, "Thou shalt not criticize a fellow Republican." There you also have Donald Trump criticizing Republicans, both fellow candidates (Graham, Walker, Perry) and office-holders (McCain). And you have Cruz, after invoking the Eleventh Commandment to eschew criticism of Trump, exposing Senator Mitch McConnell as a liar on the Senate floor.

So, is Cruz a hypocrite?

I think not. And I think not for good reason, call it the North Carolina Corollary to the Eleventh Commandment.

When Ronald Reagan first invoked the Eleventh Commandment, he did it during his run for Governor of California, back in 1966. That run followed shortly after the 1964 election in which Barry Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson. Goldwater had been subjected to a barrage of criticism from East Coast Republicans, including Nelson Rockefeller, as too conservative

Whether it is speculation or true, the conclusion Reagan drew was that Rockefeller & Co. weakened the Republican nominee and insured LBJ's election. So, facing the same tough kinds of criticism during the Republican gubernatorial primary, Reagan invoked the "Eleventh Commandment," which he borrowed from California State Republican Party Chairman Gaylord Parkinson. In his autobiography, An American Life, Reagan later wrote:
The personal attacks against me during the primary finally became so heavy that the state Republican chairman, Gaylord Parkinson, postulated what he called the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. It's a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.
I voted for Reagan twice for president. I admired his service as President and appreciate his gift of Antonin Scalia to the Nation as a Supreme Court justice and his profound essay, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation. But, the truth be told, Ronald Reagan did not follow that rule "ever since." In fact, when it was necessary, to keep his 1976 primary campaign alive, in the face of mounting primary victories by Gerald Ford, Reagan took the kid gloves off and unleashed attacks on Ford's presidency. Moreover, the tactic worked sufficiently well to turn Reagan's campaign around, resulting in wins in the North Carolina primary and others following it.

So, as it turns out, not even Ronald Reagan viewed the Eleventh Commandment as a political suicide pact. When he concluded that disobeying the Commandment was necessary to change the outcome of the 1976 Republican nomination race, he abandoned the commandment. Does that make Reagan a hypocrite? And, thus, does that mean that Cruz too is a hypocrite?


Or, perhaps, the Eleventh Commandment is subject to some bending. If you need help understanding how it is that a "Commandment" can be bent, you might consider the examples of David taking the sacred "Shewbread" from the Tabernacle and feeding his mighty men with it, or the example of Jesus' followers plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath. Neither David nor Jesus would stand before you and say, "Rules were made to be broken." But Jesus did say, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."

In like vein, Republicans can and should see that something like the Eleventh Commandment, which is a rule pertaining to elections and candidacies, are not "natural laws" like gravity. They exist because they have been invoked for typically good reasons. In the case of the Eleventh Commandment, the good reason is to avoid so weakening the eventual candidate of the party that the party's candidate loses to the opposing party's candidate. And, the Eleventh Commandment must be understood to include Reagan's North Carolina corollary: if obeying the Eleventh Commandment strictly means losing, think of it as the Eleventh Suggestion.

Monday, July 27, 2015

More than Just Videos: Exposing the Ghouls at Planned Parenthood

The news broke three weeks ago, with video footage accompanying, that Planned Parenthood sells organs and body parts recovered from abortions that it performs. Last work, the bizarre story took a further, ghoulish turn when a Planned Parenthood official expressed her goal of funding the purchase of a Lamborghini from the sales of fetal remains. That official also discussed the possibility of using "less crunchy" methods of abortion so that viable tissue remains following abortions that, under usual methods, would not result in usable materials.

If you have not seen the videos, the Center for Medical Progress has them available, both the edited and unedited versions here.

Home Page of the Center for Medical Progress (

Among the hard and fast responses from Planned Parenthood is that there is no "profit" in the activity of tissue harvesting. Here are some indications that those that procure tissues are providing payments over and above "shipping and handling" costs:

Excerpted from a flier for StemExpress

Excerpted from Terms & Conditions from Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc.

Fee Schedule from Advanced Bioscience Resources, Inc.

There is that ghoulish moment in the second video when the possibility of employing a "less crunchy" abortion method, in order to procure intact "tissues" is discussed. I guess PP in Mar Monte will have to consider updating their forms.

And, lest you be left with the impression that this harvesting of tissue is something new to Planned Parenthood, the 2000-2001 Planned Parenthood Federation of America Annual Report describes new initiatives including "fetal tissue donation."

Ultimately, the expose videos, the supporting materials, all add up to one conclusion about Planned Parenthood:

Is the Sky Falling in America? Discerning the Difference Between Acorns and Asteroids

Some of us, as children, learned the story of Chicken Little. You may recall it. An acorn falls on Chicken Little. She, misinterpreting events, becomes concerned that the sky is falling. Doom impending, she begins to spread the word and the panic.

"The sky is falling, the sky is falling!" As she panics, and spreads the word, she is joined by a menagerie of other animals. Groupthink demands that the message of DOOM must be brought to the king. As the menagerie proceeds toward the castle, they meet a fox, who, on pretense of helping them make their way to the king, leads them into his den. None of the menagerie ever emerges again.

A ghastly tale, we learn from it, if we are good little groupthinkers, not to give into a panic induced by uninformed, anecdotal conclusions. The trick, of course, is to distinguish between an acorn and an asteroid.

Cultural Asteroids Do Strike From Time to Time: Just Ask the Jews

As a very young man, I discovered the horror of the Holocaust. I learned how a thing that started out as a kind of responsibility-shifting paranoid fear of Jews, grew over the course of a century or so, into a machine that slaughtered Jews, Gypsies, Poles, the mentally handicapped, the physically disabled. If, in the mid-1800s, as Prussian papers and journals carried stories about how the economy of the Nation was endangered by Jews, and a good Jewish "Chicken Little" had stood up and said, in yeshiva or a synagogue, that the current slandering would become the future holocaust, how likely would it have been to be viewed as anything other than "Chicken Little"-ing?

In the 1970s, as abortion spread its ugly self across our Nation, transmogrifying from an ugly, back alley act of depression, despair and self-loathing to a sacred rite of the Democratic Party, certain voices warned that legalized abortion was a gaping maw that would not be sated. Voices warned that disrespecting life in its nascency would culminate in a generalized disrespect for life. That such disrespect would allow a growing acceptance of infanticide, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. Liberal and progressive critics, of course, "Chicken Little"-d those voices, decrying the possible connections and doomed future of which they warned.

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's same sex marriage decision -- Obergefell v. Hodges -- some are celebrating, others are mourning. Still, others are warning about the potential fallouts of the Court's decision. Because I don't think that Obergefell is that last shoe to drop, I have posted an action sheet on my blog. That list provides a plan of action for Congress. It also portends the kinds of things that may yet grow out of the Supreme Court's mischief with the Constitution.

What kinds of fall-out might come from the decision finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage?

First, the category of individuals to whom special, elevated levels of protection are provided might expand to include groups identified by their sexual orientation, or their self-identification by gender. The Constitution expressly prohibits certain kinds of discrimination based on race or national origin. Federal laws (and some States' laws) have been drawn to expand those categories of protection beyond race and national origin to include religious identity, gender, and ethnicity.

Second, if the Fourteenth Amendment bars States from denying individuals of the same sex from marrying, it doesn't take "panic" to predict that the Obama administration would
  • restrict faith based organizations that provide government-funded assistance to the public from:
    • requiring that their employees conform their lifestyles and choices in accord with the teachings of their faith
    • communicating those that participate in such programs about sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation
  • require federal contractors to provide benefits to same sex married couples on the same basis as provided to opposite sex married couples regardless of the religious faith of the contractors.
Third, though it may seem a more distant possibility, the course of such things in England, in Canada, and in Northwestern Europe, shows that it will not be sufficient, ultimately, to change behaviors, but eventually, there will be pressure to silence voices that reject the Court's Obergefell decision, that teach that, even without regard to an inborn orientation toward the same gender in the matter of human sexuality, we answer to the Creator, who designed us to join in opposite sex, perpetual marital relationships.

Not An Acorn, Nor an Asteroid: A Meteorite Shower

News in my inbox tells me that the fallout is underway, and no, it isn't an acorn, it's a meteor storm and some of the meteors are actually hitting.

According to Liberty Counsel,  the Commonwealth of Kentucky Justice Cabinet's Department of Juvenile Justice  has decided to exclude a pastor from a volunteer counseling program, based on the pastor's refusal to ascribe to a set of principles adopted by the Department of Juvenile Justice regarding sexuality. That decision came in a letter to the pastor and his family from the Commonwealth. It stated:
Please be advised that your participation as one of our Religious Services volunteers must conclude. We sincerely appreciate your years of servioe and dedication to the youth served by this facility. 
However, due to your decision, based on your religious convictions, that you cannot comply with the requirements outlined in DJJ Policy 912, Section IV, Paragraph H, regarding the treatment of LGBTQI youth, I must terminate your involvement as a religious volunteer serving the youth in this facility per DJJ Policy 112, Section IV, Paragraph H, (8).
All volunteers must agree to comply with the policies and procedures of the Department of Juvenile Justice and Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center in order to become volunteers per DJJ Policy 112, Section IV, Paragraph E, (2).
You can read a letter from the attorneys representing the pastor, as well as the letter from the Commonwealth of Kentucky to the pastor here.

The dismissal carries into effect a policy adopted by the Department of Juvenile Justice in 2014. In pertinent part, that policy says:
DJJ staff, volunteers, interns, and contractors, in the course of their work, shall not refer to juveniles by using derogatory language in a manner that conveys bias towards or hatred of the LGBTQI community. DJJ staff, volunteers, interns, and contractors shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful, or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

If We Can Plan to Protect the Earth from Asteroids, Can We Protect Religious Liberties from the Impact of Obergefell?

Two movies from 1998, Deep Impact and Armageddon, portray efforts to protect the world and its occupants from the extinction level threat of asteroids and comets. Though fictional, they reflect a reality that NASA and other agencies around the globe are tracking space objects for their potential for harmful impact on the Earth.

If we can plan for, and, we hope, avert such a disaster, is there some reason why we cannot avert the harms of incoming missiles like the discriminatory policy of the Commonwealth of Kentucky's Department of Juvenile Justice?

Yes, we can.

Liberty Counsel's letter shows one of the ways to begin that process of asserting and defending these constitutional rights as a shield against federal, State and local interference. The constitutional problems with Kentucky's policy are manifold.

Liberty Counsel correctly notes in their letter three sources of federal constitutional harm:
  • First, the Department of Juvenile Justice is now enforcing its new orthodoxy, by which the Department has concluded that points of view that vary from that of the Department regarding homosexuality, gender identity, and sexuality are heretical and warrant banishment. 
  • Second, the Department's decision embodies the preference for one viewpoint regarding questions related to homosexuality, gender identity, and sexuality, and takes the position that viewpoints different from its own may be suppressed. 
  • Third, inquiry into the content of expression is, itself, a constitutional problem in the absence of compelling government interests and the crafting of narrowly drawn regulations.  
[These considerations seem technical and certainly require more words to communicate than the simple prohibition: "Congress shall make no law ...." I apologize for the seeming complexity. These standards are derived from long-standing decisions of the Supreme Court showing how it interprets and applies the First Amendment to various circumstances.]

Liberty Counsel also correctly notes that the policy enforced by the Commonwealth violates the Kentucky Constitution, which, like the federal one, protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Liberty Counsel has given the Commonwealth of Kentucky to the end of the month to retract its decision. It remains to be seen whether the Commonwealth will do so. If they do not do so, I imagine that litigation will follow shortly after that. The role of the Commonwealth in guiding spiritual content of communications between pastors and those they counsel is extremely limited. If the Commonwealth refuses to comport itself with the requirements of the federal and Commonwealth Constitutions, and does so in the name of isolating youths from any idea or message contrary to their current, perceived, or actual sexual orientation, it does so at its constitutional peril.

The dispute that Liberty Counsel has brought to light is just one such controversy.

Every August, I look forward to the start of the Perseid Meteor shower, when the earth passes through the debris trail of Comet Swift-Tuttle. We know that the Perseids will be back because prior experience tells us how to calculate the point in time when we will pass through the debris field again.

In the same way, we can look out over the cultural plain and predict that Kentucky's actions will not stand alone. Three States and the District of Columbia have passed laws prohibiting so-called "conversion therapy," and an additional 15 or so States have considered (or are considering) such bans this year in State legislatures. As the cultural struggle continues, it is the nature of such things that additional attacks on those who espouse traditional, faith-born views regarding sexuality will take place. So, it is a meteor storm that is coming.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Growing up with White Privilege: How A Fiction Destroys our Life Narratives

Good Morning, Students

We are ready to move on to our next composition assignment. As with previous assignments, you are limited to 2500 words. Make them count. I will, of course, grade for grammar and spelling, along with style (unless you're white, in which case, you get an "A").
Your task is to gloat about how you never had to study in school but got straight A's, not because you did well on assignments and tests, but because your teachers gave you good grades because you were white.
Then, spend some time talking about the sports programs, recreational or school-based, in which you didn't have to do weight training, calisthenics, running, or skill developments, but nonetheless won scholarships, not based on skills and achievement, but based on your whiteness.
Follow this with a brief history of entering the work force, how you were immediately selected as CEO for a Fortune 500 company, not because of an extended track record of successes in prior business ventures, but because of your whiteness.
I will be interested to read your stories.