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Out of the Shadows

Breaking News!!! You’ll be relieved to know that the General Assembly is finally addressing the issue of illegal turkey toe and feather transportation and utilization in tool and utensil manufacture. Delegate Manoli Loupassi has introduced House Bill 360 which states: “Turkey parts. Allows the use or transportation of turkey feathers and toes taken from legally harvested turkey carcasses for the purposes of making tools or utensils or selling such tools or utensils.”

The War on Turkey Toes is over. The underground market can come out of the shadows. No longer will people have to go to street dealers to get their toes and feathers. Parents won’t have to wonder whether their children are buying “dusters” at school and using them in their rooms. No more will turkey toe and feather kingpins terrorize our communities with gun violence as they defend their turf, or “pens.”

Now people will be able to safely buy their turkey toes and feathers, as well as turkey toe and feather tools and utensils, in retail outlets. The toes and feathers will be inspected and, thus, be much safer than those purchased from unscrupulous street dealers. Plus, the commonwealth will bring in millions in much needed revenue as it taxes the huge turkey toe and feather market dealers have been exploiting for decades. Hats off to Loupassi!

 

Seriously, is this a real bill?  If so, why on Earth has it been illegal to transport turkey toes and feathers anywhere?  What tools and utensils have people been making out of turkey toes and feathers?  Why hasn’t the 6:00 news shown trucks on the side of the road with handcuffed people in dirty tee shirts on the ground while police pull turkey toes and feathers from the trunk?

There must be a contest in the General Assembly to see who can write the most bizarre bill.  Delegate Loupassi, you have won.

Correction

I just looked at the full text of the bill, and it’s actually an amendment to a law regarding hunting.  Here is the relevant section.

10. To hunt, trap, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess, deliver for transportation, transport, cause to be transported, by any means whatever, receive for transportation or export, or import, at any time or in any manner, any wild bird or wild animal or the carcass or any part thereof, except as specifically permitted by law and only by the manner or means and within the numbers stated. However, the provisions of this section shall not be construed to prohibit the (i) the use or transportation of legally taken turkey carcasses, or portions thereof, for the purposes of making or selling turkey callers, or using turkey feathers or toes for making tools or utensils or selling such tools or utensils; (ii) the manufacture or sale of implements, including, but not limited to, tools or utensils, made from legally harvested deer skeletal parts, including antlers,; or (iii) the possession of shed antlers.

It still looks weird to me.  I can understand the limitations of the hunting season, which this sections seems to allude to.  I can even get that people make turkey callers out of turkey bones, though I can’t imagine how.  I still can’t picture people making tools out of turkey toes and feathers.  Feather dusters, maybe?  I’ve never hunted.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve never heard of people making tool or utensils out of turkey toes and feathers.

More Corrections

After further research, the story is weirder than I thought.  There is a solid rationale for the law.  A few years ago, Kevin Baker made a bow out of turkey toes and a copperhead skin.  Just how big are these turkeys?  Yes, I’m trying to visualize that, but we’ll take it as read.  Baker is one of those guys who can live off the land by making his own tools and weapons and killing his own food.  He makes stone knives and uses turkey toes for the handles.  If the zombie apocalypse were to happen or our electrical grid were taken out, you’d want to be around somebody like Kevin.

When Kevin made his bow, it was against the law to use parts of animals one had killed, legally or illegally, for tools.  I guess that it had something to do with conservation.  Maybe more people would hunt because they would want to make turkey toe knife handles, and the wild turkey population would plummet.  The authorities found out about Kevin’s turkey toe/copperhead skin bow and gave him two tickets.  Kevin decided to fight back.  Three years later, the law lifting the ban against using turkey toes and feathers for tool making is being debated by the oldest continually serving legislative body in the Western Hemisphere, the Virginia General Assembly.  Only in America.

 

 

 

Executive Orders

I was a terrible husband last month. Engrossed in a book, I ignored Mary while she was talking to me. (sound of hand slapping wrist) Bad husband! Baaad husband!!

Tom Clancy’s Executive Orders justifies such bad behavior, some could argue (Not me! slap slap slap). Clancy knew how to tell a story. The chapters show espionage, terror attacks, and large battles happening step-by-step from multiple perspectives. Finding out what happens next becomes suspense crack.

Clancy’s President Jack Ryan handles America’s enemies, shall we say, firmly. The ayatollah and de facto leader of the United Islamic Republic kills several thousand Americans with biological weapons and prepares to invade Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Ryan brings together an alliance to repel the invasion. After the allies neutralize the invaders, Ryan goes on television to pronounce the hostilities over. As he speaks, they ayatollah’s residence appears on camera, which Ryan identifies as two bombs drop, destroying the residence and killing the ayatollah.

It’s too bad that Ryan is a work of fiction in a conservative fantasy world. Real life doesn’t work as tidily. Nevertheless, he’s a welcome contrast to the American foreign policy we’ve endured over the last quarter century. We desperately need a leader who can clearly articulate a foreign policy marked by strength and resolve.

The Clinton years were marked by tough talk and far too little action. Islamic terrorists continually attacked American targets with no response from us. They bombed the Twin Towers in 1993, our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, our military barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, and the USS Cole in 2000. Each time, Clinton promised to hold the bombers accountable, and each time nothing happened. He very effectively communicated that terrorists could attack America with impunity.

The Bush administration mishandled the War on Terror with needless controversies about torture and poorly thought out exit strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan, but at least there was a war. Once Bush took the war to the terrorists, there was no successful attack on American soil the remainder of his presidency.

Obama’s foreign policy has made America’s position in the world much weaker. He declared victory and left Iraq, creating a power vacuum that ISIS filled. He drew down our forces in Afghanistan, and the Taliban quickly retook several provinces. He worked to remove dictators, such as Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Syria’s Bashar Assad who, while bad actors, were allies of a sort in the war against Islamic extremists. He made a treaty with Iran that gave them the ability to develop nuclear weapons and get back over $150 billion in frozen assets that they will no doubt use to fund terrorist operations. He refused to support democracy activists in Iran. Our enemies no longer fear or respect us, and our allies no longer trust in our support.

What would a strong foreign policy look like? First, it would unambiguously address our most immediate threats. We would craft and then follow a strategy to destroy ISIS.   Most likely, it would mean working with France, Jordan, and our other allies who have also been attacked by ISIS. It would undoubtedly require putting American boots on the ground.

People associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and like-minded organizations, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, would be removed from government positions or access to military or diplomatic intelligence. Frank Gaffney has documented these organizations’ infiltration of our government back to the Bush administration.

Our borders would be secured. The long-promised fence on our southern border would finally be constructed.  Government agencies responsible for enforcing immigration law would more closely screen immigrants, monitor those in America on visas, and arrest and imprison illegal aliens who have hurt or killed American citizens. In other words, the federal government would actively work to protect American citizens from enemies without.

Our military would be well equipped and large enough to handle multiple conflicts. They would be trained in modern weaponry and strategies for modern warfare. Our diplomacy would be based on strength and clarity. We would unambiguously support our allies and unapologetically defend our national interests abroad.

All this is much easier said than done. Carrying out the first responsibility of government—defending the citizens—will cost serious money. Taking care of that and reducing the deficit means making difficult funding decisions. We need a president who not only practices strong foreign policy but is prepared to work with Congress to get our government’s financial house in order so that we actually pay down the national debt and deal with $127 trillion in unfunded mandates. Between now and November we need to choose a president and congress who will take our national security and financial health seriously.

That means taking a long, honest look at the candidates before we vote in the primaries this spring and the general election this fall. Which men and women will do the job they will be hired to do, the job they promise to do when they swear to defend and uphold the Constitution? We need to listen not so much to what they say but look at what they’ve done the last ten years or so. What is their record in Congress or as governor? What positions have they advocated for a long time?

We live in what some people describe as “interesting times.”   We can’t afford to choose leaders who are not prepared or willing to do what is necessary to protect our nation.

This is hopefully the first time that I’ve been deceptive with my readers.  There is no smackdown in this post.  I just said it to get some traffic.  We’ll see.

I wrote a column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which didn’t get much of a response.  Only one reader, Norbert Mayr, cared enough to write me, and we had (I thought) a good debate about big government and small government.   He graciously allowed me to post our discussion.  I’m  including a link to the original column so that you can see where we are starting from.  I promised Norbert the last word, so I won’t answer any of his last responses.

http://www.richmond.com/opinion/their-opinion/guest-columnists/article_fd728b13-8413-530e-91db-24c63f90083d.html

Craig, just finished reading your libertarian-inspired rant in the RTD (“Comess: My new helper, the federal government”). Let me ask you this, has there ever been a place on earth where Libertarianism has either been tried or worked? If not, what keeps folks like you touting this inane pipe dream as if it were achievable? Sheesh, but you folks are ever so lame.
Norbert Mayr
Prince George VA
Norbert,

     Thanks for your response and your question.  So that I know exactly what you mean, could you tell me how we know when a political/economic system is working.
Craig
On Sunday, January 3, 2016 6:18 PM, Norbert <nmayr@comcast.net> wrote:
When it has achieved some maturity and has proved its staying power. Political systems have their ups and downs, but systems that work are durable enough to weather the odd storm. I would suspect that you are a Libertarian, which basically means that your ideal is a system so tenuous in nature that to date there has not been a society crazy enough to try it. That might seem harsh to you but feel free to point me toward a world where it has ever been tried, much less worked.

Sent from my iPhone

Norbert,
       I was looking for something a little more concrete than that, but I’ll give it a go with what you gave me.  The kind of government I want, and what most libertarians I know want, is the government that was given to us in the Constitution.  That government worked pretty well, with some serious flaws, up until about the 1920’s, which is about 130 years, which I think showed some maturity and staying power.  It originally didn’t work in terms of giving equal rights to women, blacks, and Indians, but that was corrected over time.  It did give the maximum amount of freedom with the necessary power to the federal government to do its jobs of protecting Americans from foreign and domestic threats.
       The challenge with constitutional government is that it requires that most citizens live responsible lives, taking care of themselves, their families, and their neighbors.  It requires that we govern our government by actively participating beyond voting and paying our taxes.  We need to understand what Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court are doing, and the same with our state and local governments.  When government does what we should be doing for ourselves, it will necessarily take some of our freedom to make that happen.  In the process, it will hurt a lot of people.  Consider how many children will go to sleep in single parent homes tonight and the damage that tends to follow those situations.  Paternalistic government is partly to blame for that.
        Just to clarify, I’m more of a conservative with libertarian and reactionary tendencies.  Where do you stand politically?  What type of government do you believe is best?
Craig

nmayr@comcast.net

To

Craig Comess
Jan 4 at 2:27 PM
Norbert,
      I appreciate your thoughtful answer.  You may be right that we libertarians, as you identify me, may merely snipe from the sidelines as government continues to grow and makes more of our decisions for us.  The people will choose at least that much.  I also realize that we won’t change each others’ views.  I’d like to suggest a few things to think about.
1)  Isn’t it a false dichotomy to say that we either have big government or we end up like Somalia?  If our federal government stuck to its constitutional knitting and the state and local governments handled everything else their citizens wanted them to handle, I don’t think that we would devolve to civil war and become an exporter of terrorism.
2)  Is it so much that the Constitution began showing cracks at the end of the 19th century, or did we start becoming a people less suited to self-government?  Industrialization didn’t require that we send small boys into mines.  It did and does require that employers be more or less moral people who care something about the welfare of their employees.  Freedom requires that we be responsible for ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.  If we can’t be, we’re not capable of governing ourselves.  We then need government to manage much of our behavior.  Is that what you want?
3) Government did successfully prosecute World Wars I & II.  Was the government huge in those eras?  How well did big government handle Vietnam, Iraq and Afganistan?  Incidentally, I’m very in favor of having a strong national defense which is capable of protecting Americans and American interests around the world.  I think that national defense should be the biggest item of the federal budget.
4)  Big government has accomplished much, including the National Park Service.  You might want to rethink using the National Park Service as an example of the advantages of big government.  You might want to check out A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson to see what a moderate or progressive (I’m not sure where he stands) has to say about how helpful it is in terms of taking care of America’s wild places.
5)  Can we or any other country afford big government?  The federal government has spent somewhere around $24 trillion over the last seven years, and we had to borrow eight of that, bringing our national debt to almost $19 trillion (http://www.usdebtclock.org/), which is larger than our economy.  We pay about $250 billion a year in interest to finance our debt.  That’s in addition to $127 trillion in unfunded mandates we have to pay over the next 30 years or so.  Until at least a few years ago, most of the socialist European countries not only had higher taxes, but they had to keep adding debt to finance their welfare states.  Americans pay an average of 25% of our income in taxes now.  How much more of our incomes should we be forced to pay to partially finance big government?
Do you mind if I put this discussion we’ve had on my blog?  People might find it interesting, and it will give people something to think about.  If you want to respond to my questions, I’ll let you have the last word.
All the best,
Craig
Norbert answers my questions point by point here.  I’m leaving the questions so that you won’t have to flip back and forth between e-mails.
1)  Isn’t it a false dichotomy to say that we either have big government or we end up like Somalia?  If our federal government stuck to its constitutional knitting and the state and local governments handled everything else their citizens wanted them to handle, I don’t think that we would devolve to civil war and become an exporter of terrorism.
Government of a modern nation is a very involved and complex business and requires a huge machinery, it can’t be done any other way. It would be like running GM as a mom and pop organization. It literally requires millions of people (3.2 million teachers all by themselves) and multi-trillion dollar budgets. Can you name any modern ountry that is run the way you describe it?
2)  Is it so much that the Constitution began showing cracks at the end of the 19th century, or did we start becoming a people less suited to self-government?  Industrialization didn’t require that we send small boys into mines.  It did and does require that employers be more or less moral people who care something about the welfare of their employees.  Freedom requires that we be responsible for ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.  If we can’t be, we’re not capable of governing ourselves.  We then need government to manage much of our behavior.  Is that what you want?
Sorry, but this is non-sense. Of course it required employers to send kids into mines and so long nobody interceded on their behalf the parents were so poor that they needed the few pennies their kids earned. Nobody but government could stop that. Or do you think we should have relied on the inherent kindness of capitalism to stop these abuses? It was cheaper to retrain a new employee after the cotton wolf tore off the arm of a cotton mill worker than it was to install safe equipment. It took big government to put factory safety rules in place. The same thing holds true for anything else that reined in rampant greed at the expense of the workers. Freedom is great but without some rules the employer will make workers eat their young to keep wages low. To think otherwise is near-idiocy (or libertarianism).
3) Government did successfully prosecute World Wars I & II.  Was the government huge in those eras?  How well did big government handle Vietnam, Iraq and Afganistan?  Incidentally, I’m very in favor of having a strong national defense which is capable of protecting Americans and American interests around the world.  I think that national defense should be the biggest item of the federal budget.
WWI and especially WW II were the greatest expanders of the federal government (the civil war probably a little more so than WWI). The US was the arsenal of democracy and its combined force kept Germany and Japan from eating our lunch.
4)  Big government has accomplished much, including the National Park Service.  You might want to rethink using the National Park Service as an example of the advantages of big government.  You might want to check out A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson to see what a moderate or progressive (I’m not sure where he stands) has to say about how helpful it is in terms of taking care of America’s wild places.
Big government has done much more than that. Almost every achievement of the modern age is tied to the “big government.” Westward expansion, food surpluses, prosperity, the automobile, infrastructure, space travel, most education (especially higher education), the internet. Name any invention in America and you will see the government’s fingers in it somewhere.
5)  Can we or any other country afford big government?  The federal government has spent somewhere around $24 trillion over the last seven years, and we had to borrow eight of that, bringing our national debt to almost $19 trillion (http://www.usdebtclock.org/), which is larger than our economy.  We pay about $250 billion a year in interest to finance our debt.  That’s in addition to $127 trillion in unfunded mandates we have to pay over the next 30 years or so.  Until at least a few years ago, most of the socialist European countries not only had higher taxes, but they had to keep adding debt to finance their welfare states.  Americans pay an average of 25% of our income in taxes now.  How much more of our incomes should we be forced to pay to partially finance big government?
the reason we have high national debt (which is not as bad as it sounds) is because we are undertaxed, especially n the really high brackets. In the 50s and 60s those who made over $400,000 paid over 90% in federal income taxes. Our middle class was strong, national debt largely unknown, poverty was low. Today we have billionaires who pay virtually nothing in taxes. (Incidentally, we pay 250 billion in interest but 150 of that goes as income to Americans).

More Executive Overreach

If you didn’t hear about it, another politician has decided that he is an elected dictator, a law unto himself, free to ignore or make up any laws or policies he wants in order to further his ideology.

Without even consulting the General Assembly, Attorney General Mark Herring of Virginia has unilaterally decided that the commonwealth will no longer recognize the concealed-carry permits of 25 other states.  The Washington Post article about his decision is linked below.

Attorney General Herring has long used his office to promote his ideology rather than to defend and enforce the laws enacted by the legislature, which is his job.  If he doesn’t agree with a law, he circumvents the legislature’s intent by one means or another.

That’s not the way our form of government is supposed to work.  The legislature, otherwise known as the representatives of the people, enacts laws, while the executive branch is supposed to execute those laws.  The executive branch (president, governor, attorney general, etc., etc.) is not supposed to ignore or circumvent the laws passed by the legislature or otherwise set broad policy.  That is a violation of the separation of powers, one of the means by which the Founders put in our Constitution to limit the power of any one branch of government.   When an executive violates the separation of powers, he is acting as a tyrant with no legal limits on his power, not as an elected officer of a constitutional republic.

Had most of the citizens of Virginia demanded more gun control laws, the legislature, as representatives of the citizens, would have passed them.  When Herring set policy all by his lonesome by no longer honoring the concealed-carry permits of citizens from other states, he took upon himself legislative power.

Herring follow the example set by President Obama.  When President Obama cannot get a policy enacted by Congress, he decrees that policy by executive order.  Obama has repeatedly violated the separation of powers by legislating through executive order.  Unfortunately, Congress has supported these unconstitutional orders by funding them.

Congress could eliminate Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders by refusing to fund them.   The General Assembly could overrule Herring’s illegal decision through the legislative process.  A bill for this purpose has already been submitted and will be debated next month.

We the people also have a role in enforcing the constitution.  We can let Herring know that we expect him to stop circumventing our representatives’ decisions.   Delegate Rob Bell provided a link to the Attorney General’s office for just that purpose which I embedded below.

Here is what I wrote to Herring.

Attorney General Herring:
      Your decision to have the Commonwealth of Virginia no longer recognize the concealed-carry permits of 25 other states astounds me.  I wasn’t aware that the attorney general has the authority to make laws or otherwise set policy.  As I understand it, the General Assembly sets policy, and the attorney general, along with the rest of the executive branch, executes it.  At least, that is how our republican form of government is supposed to work.  I demand and expect you to announce that you have no authority to set such a policy and will refrain from doing so in the future.  
      In addition, your job is to defend the constitution and enforce the laws passed by the General Assembly whether you agree with them or not.  You chose to break your oath and not do your job when it came to the marriage amendment.  If you feel that you cannot in good conscience defend the Virginia constitution or enforce the laws passed by the representatives of the citizens of Virginia, i.e. do your job, then you should resign your position and not take the citizens’ money for a job not done.  It would be the honest thing.  
      If you believe differently, please contact me and explain how you have the legal authority to make law, set policy, or choose which sections of the Virginia constitution or laws passed by the General Assembly you will enforce and defend.       

Craig Comess

We can also contact our delegate and senator to let them know we expect them not to let Herring get away with legislating through fiat.  Their contact information should be on the General Assembly’s website.

If we don’t want our governors and presidents to become tyrants who decide to ignore our elected representatives by circumventing the law, we need to let them know.  We also need to let our representatives know that we expect them to prevent executive overreach by guarding their powers.  It’s the only way we’ll keep our freedom.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/va-attorney-general-mark-herring-delivers-blow-to-gun-rights-advocates/2015/12/21/d72ce3d0-a821-11e5-9b92-dea7cd4b1a4d_story.html

http://ag.virginia.gov/ContactUsForm/ContactForm.aspx

Do the Research

Fifteen years ago or so, I went to a psychiatrist to see if I had ADHD.  He said that if I did, I was borderline and medication was not worth all of the side effects I would have to deal with.  A friend of mine had a very serious case of it and was a lab rat for two years while his doctor got the medication right.

I bought a couple of books about ADHD to see if there were any compensating strategies that I could use.  One of the books discussed how ADHD patients or parents of ADHD patients have to actually do research on the disorder.  It was still the wild, wild west of ADHD treatment, and a lot of new treatments were being researched.  Doctors were not aware of all of these treatments or what the research said about them.

In the same way, as citizens we need to do some research for ourselves if we want to know the truth about our government.  We can’t depend on politicians or the media to give us the complete and unbiased truth about controversial issues.  Given the sizes and various levels of our governments, it’s impossible for anybody to know everything about every issue.  If we want to know the truth about this or that issue, we’ve got to do at least some of the research for ourselves.

The Center for Medical Progress has put out six videos that seem to show that Planned Parenthood abortion facilities are selling body parts from aborted babies for profit.  Is that true, or is the Center for Medical Progress putting out videos edited to distort the truth and make Planned Parenthood look bad.  See for yourself.  The web addresses to two of the videos are posted below.

Planned Parenthood and its defenders claim that abortions are only three percent of what it does; the other 97 percent is comprised of supplying contraception and medical health procedures such as mammograms.  Is that true?  Do they have documentation to support it?  Can you call a Planned Parenthood clinic and schedule a mammogram or a Pap smear?  Again, check it out for yourself.

Conservatives claim that entitlement spending (Medicare and Social Security) and Medicaid are about a dozen years from taking the vast majority of and then all of the federal budget, causing annual deficits of over a trillion dollars again.  We won’t have any money to pay for government operations, defense, or any other basic government functions, they say.  Links to an interview with Dave Brat about that are posted below.  He refers to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) several times.  I’ve placed the link to its website below.

Should we stop giving taxpayers’ money to Planned Parenthood because they’re breaking federal law by selling aborted baby parts for profit?  Should we do something about entitlement spending to avoid budgetary disaster?  We could listen to what the media and politicians tell us, we could bury our heads in the sand, or we could find out for ourselves.

Planned Parenthood videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egGUEvY7CEg&oref=https%3A%2F 2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DegGUEvY7CEg&has_verified=1

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCiD9_ICt44

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABzFZM73o8M

Dave Brat interview clips

https://soundcloud.com/davebrat/dave-on-the-rob-schilling-show-81215-part-one

https://soundcloud.com/davebrat/dave-on-the-schilling-show-81215-part-two

https://soundcloud.com/davebrat/dave-on-the-schilling-show-part-three-305

Congressional Budget Office website

https://www.cbo.gov/

Most people have probably forgotten the Planned Parenthood controversy by now.    The killing of Cecil the Lion has taken up much more of the media’s time, so much so that they’ve gone almost silent on Planned Parenthood.  Here is a reminder.

The Center for Medical Progress took some undercover videos of meetings with Planned Parenthood officials where they discussed the sale and price of aborted baby body parts.  They released four short videos and two unedited videos. These videos make it appear that Planned Parenthood officials sell these body parts for maximum profit. This is important because selling aborted baby body parts is illegal under federal law and many state laws as well.  Additionally, most people would consider killing and dismembering a baby barbaric and wrong.

The videos have made a lot of people uncomfortable, particularly Planned Parenthood and StemExpress, one of the firms that buys aborted baby body parts.  They became so uncomfortable that they got judges to issue orders that the Center for Medical Progress not release any more of the videos.

Now why would Planned Parenthood and Stem Express not want any more videos released?  Is it perhaps because they reveal that they traffic in aborted baby organs and skulls and hands and legs? They and their defenders claim that the videos are heavily edited and  take people’s words out of context in order to make it appear they are doing something wrong.

Of course the short videos are heavily edited.  All short videos that appear on the news and on investigative televisions programs such as 60 Minutes are heavily edited.  Does that mean that all heavily edited videos take people’s words out of context.  I think not.

What I or anybody else thinks, however, or what the Center for Medical Progress, Planned Parenthood or Stem Express claims should not matter at all to anybody who wants to know if the claims are true.  We have the videos on Youtube.  In research terms, these are known as primary sources, the most immediate and valuable evidence for evaluating a truth claim.  Anybody can watch the videos and decide for themselves.  I’ve put the Youtube addresses of the videos below.  The last two videos are the uncut footage.  A look at those will determine whether or not anybody’s words were taken out of context and whether or not Planned Parenthood is in the business of selling aborted baby body parts for profit.  I’ve also included the address for a StemExpress website and catalog.

Incidentally, some may object to my use of the phrase “aborted baby body parts.”  Perhaps they would be more comfortable with “fetal body parts.”  That doesn’t make much of a difference considering that “fetus” is just Latin for “little one.”

http://stemexpress.com/shop/

Something very interesting occurred the other day.  Ted Cruz, Gary Bauer, and others organized a protest of the Iran treaty.  Code Pink, an anti-war group, attempted to disrupt the protest by shouting down Cruz’s remarks.  Cruz responded by inviting a spokeswoman from the group to debate the issue.  It wasn’t perfect.  Cruz had to remind Code Pink several times to give him the same respect and consideration as he spoke as he was giving them.  Cruz did speak over their spokesperson once or twice.  However, each group was allowed to express its views and question the other.  They even found some common ground.  Watch the video for yourself.  We need to repeat this–every side on a political issue needs to listen to and show respect for opposing sides.  Who knows?  We might all learn something and actually fix some problems.  Commendations to Code Pink and Ted Cruz.

http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/07/23/ted-cruz-leads-protest-against-iran-deal-highlights-four-americans-held-hostage-by-regime/

Lawless Laws

On days like today, I wonder what was in the manila envelope some “security” firm personnel handed to John Roberts. Was it photographic evidence of an affair? Was it a copy of the trial record on which the discrepancy was circled which led to the proof that Roberts murdered somebody? Was it a record of his having been in a rehab center for cocaine addiction under a fake name?*

I have to believe that blackmail is involved, because the alternatives make no sense. John Roberts has gone out of his way to support Obamacare, either pretending he can’t read or indulging in some Post-modern school of literary criticism where words have only the meaning we ascribe to them at the moment. The first time he supported Obamacare, the states’ argument was that the federal government had no constitutional power to fine people for not purchasing a product. The Obama administration argued that it did, emphasizing in oral arguments that the penalty for not purchasing health insurance is a fine and not a tax.

Roberts knew that fining people for not purchasing something that is not even alluded to in the Constitution is blatantly unconstitutional. What he did to get around that was to call the penalty for not purchasing health insurance a tax.

Well, that makes the situation so much better. Fines are now taxes. I guess that I went to the courthouse to pay my speeding tax. Corporations that commit federal no-no’s suddenly have to pay enormous federal taxes.

Even more special is that Congress can now require us to do anything as long as they “tax” us for not doing it. This is an expansion of the already expansive taxing powers of the federal government. In 1934, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins was concerned that the proposed Social Security Act had no constitutional basis, which it didn’t. At a tea party, Supreme Court Justice Harlan Stone in 1934 told her “The taxing power of the Federal Government, my dear; the taxing power is sufficient for everything you want and need.” Apparently because the federal government has the power to tax, Congress can levy any tax they want on anything we do and, now, anything we don’t do. That’s a new definition of freedom.

Apparently, John Roberts and the rest of the majority didn’t think that the power to tax was flexible enough. Constitutionally, Congress, the elected representatives of the people, is also known as the legislative branch because they are entrusted with making law. The President and his administration are also known as the executive branch because their job is to execute, i.e. put into practice and enforce, the laws that Congress writes. That’s known as the separation of powers. Congress has the power to legislate; the President has the power to execute.

SCOTUS’s decision in King v. Burwell ends all those inconvenient constitutional formalities. The ironically named Affordable Care Act as Congress wrote it reads that federal subsidies to purchase health insurance are available to people who purchase their insurance in public exchanges “established by the State.” About 14(?) states established state exchanges for purchasing health insurance. The other 36 states chose not to, so their residents had to purchase health insurance through the federal exchange.

It would seem to me that, based on the wording of the law, only people who purchased their insurance through state exchanges were eligible for federal subsidies. I claim some expertise on this subject since I have an English degree and I taught reading, writing, and grammar for almost 24 years. Unless we’re purposefully using figurative language, words mean what they mean. They have denotations—dictionary definitions. It is this agreement about what words mean that allows us to communicate clearly. When Congress writes a law, it is communicating to the President what it is directing him to do, which he is constitutionally obligated to do.

President Obama and his Administration don’t agree with this principle. They believe that they can change laws when it suits them. In 2014, mandates to employers of 50-99 employees and of 100+ employees to provide health insurance for most or all employees were supposed to go in effect. The Administration, without any congressional authorization, decided to delay the mandates until 2015/2016. The ACA, as written, provides health insurance subsidies only to those who purchase their insurance exchanges “established by the State.” The Administration decided, through the IRS, to give subsidies to people who purchased their health insurance through the federal exchange contrary to the law that Congress passed.

In its decision on King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court essentially codified the Administration’s ability to “interpret” (read as “change”) a law any way it wants regardless of what the law plainly states. No matter what law Congress passes and the President signs, if he doesn’t agree with it or find part of it convenient, he can change it.

How are we supposed to live in a country where the laws as written can be changed arbitrarily by the President or the Supreme Court. It’s like playing Calvinball from Calvin and Hobbes. For those who don’t know or remember, Calvin and Hobbes would play a game and constantly change the rules based on what would give one advantage over the other at the moment.

The Court has just expanded the President’s powers exponentially by removing the separation of powers. The President can now rewrite legislation as it suits him. He can ignore the plain will of the Congress—the people’s representatives.

This process of expanding executive powers is similar to what happened to the Roman Republic. At the beginning of the Republic, the Senate wrote the laws, and the Consuls (chief executives) carried them out. Over several decades, the consuls gained more and more dictatorial powers. Augustus Caesar recognized this reality and took upon himself the title “emperor.” Rome became a republic in name only. The Senate still met, but their deliberations meant little.

As I was writing this, the news broke about the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage. They overruled the voters of 30 states who voted for marriage amendments based on a new constitutional right they just found in the Constitution.

Well. It seems we don’t need Congress or state governments anymore. The way matters are proceeding, we’ll just look to the President and the Supreme Court to tell us what to do.

*I am not accusing John Roberts of anything. I am speaking hyperbolically.

Esau Jardon had a rough couple of weeks—all because he spoke his mind.

It began innocuously enough. Jardon, a Christian jeweler in Canada, made a pair of wedding rings for a lesbian couple. Nicole White and Pam Renouf. They were so pleased with the service and the price that they recommended Jardon’s services to friends. One of those friends went to buy an engagement ring and saw this sign in the shop: “The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let’s keep marriage between a man and a woman.”

When White and Renouf heard about the sign expressing Jardon’s belief about marriage, they were very upset and demanded their money back. Initially, Jardon refused to refund their money. As White and Renouf had said, Jardon had treated them very well. They demanded a refund because his expressed beliefs about marriage offended them.

Unfortunately, others were also upset with Jardon’s expressed beliefs. Jardon received hundreds of hate messages, some including threats. One message read, “you better give them the money back or you will be very, very sorry.”1 Jardon eventually gave in to the threats and refunded the couple’s money. Well.

Political correctness is chipping away at our freedom of speech. About half of Americans think that we should have tougher hate speech laws according to The Economist.2 Although the poll, specifically narrowly defined hate speech as “public comments that advocate genocide or hatred against an identifiable group based on such things as their race, gender, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation,” not everyone sees hate speech as so limited. One person’s expressed belief is another person’s hate speech, which must be punished if Jardon’s experience is any indication.

Another attack on free speech is the attempt by Islamists to impose Shariah law on our speech. Pamela Geller recently held a Muhammad cartoon contest which, predictably, incited jihadists to attempt to kill the participants. Geller has refused to back down or apologize for her exercise of free speech   A Vermont restaurant took down a sign advertising bacon because a Muslim vegan found it offensive. Oxford University recently recommended that writers publishing through Oxford University Press not mention bacon or pork or words that could be construed as referring to bacon or pork for fear of offending those offended by bacon or pork. I’m going out on a limb and suggesting that those potential offendees would be Muslims as Jews have never had a problem with writing about bacon or pork.

In light of the attacks on free speech, I’ve made a decision. I will continue to exercise my right to free speech regardless of unconstitutional laws or people being offended by it. I won’t deliberately go out of my way in order to offend people. However, if some people find what I have to say offensive, that’s their problem. I will not be silenced by intimidation or social pressure of any kind.

Consequently, I will defend everybody else’s right to free speech. As Beatrice Evelyn Hall wrote in her book about Voltaire—The Friends of Voltaire—“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I’m a Christian. If someone wishes to disrespect Christ (I did as a teenager), they can have at it. People have been cursing and mocking Him for millennia. Somehow or other, the Gospel still gets out, and Jesus rescues many of the mockers from sin and Hell. I know that from personal experience.

I’m a conservative with libertarian and reactionary tendencies. Want to make fun of conservative positions or call me an idiot for holding them? Go for it. I just assume that people who do that can’t support their own positions with logic and evidence.

So here’s the deal. Everybody says what we want to say, except threats, libel, and slander.  If anybody doesn’t like it, that’s too bad for them.  We silence nobody.

 

 

  • Dreher, Rod. “Heads LGBTs Win, Tails Christians Lose.” The American Conservative. N.p., 21 May 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.

 

  • Power, Louis. “Jeweller Says He Has Been Bullied, Threatened.” The Telegram. Transcontinental Media GP., 18 May 2015. Web. 26 May 2015.
  • Frankovic, Kathy. “America Divided on Hate Speech Laws.” YouGov: What the World Thinks. Economist, 2 Oct. 2014. Web. 26 May 2015.

Some well-meaning person a couple of centuries ago laid down the etiquette dictum never to discuss religion and politics.  That makes no sense for Christians or those living in a self-governing republic.  And that’s putting it in the kindest words I can come up with.

First, the politics.  Can effective citizens not discuss politics?  Do political ads or the media tell us everything we need to know about candidates for office or important legislation being considered?  I think not.  Making informed votes and giving meaningful input to our representatives about important legislation require enough accurate information.  Listening to other people, especially those we would normally disagree with, gets us out of the echo chamber of our favorite channels and websites and gives us a look at candidates and legislation from different perspectives.

What about religion?  Isn’t that a personal, private matter not appropriate for the public square?  It could be, for a personal, private religion.  For religions people did not make up just to experience some kind of peace or joy within themselves, silence fails.  Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, and Muslims would be incredibly selfish to be silent about the only way to escape a present or future Hell.*  For Christians and Muslims, it would also be disobedient.  They are adherents of missionary religions–though the methods are quite different–which command that the believers tell others about their respective ways of salvation.  To expect or demand that believers be silent about what and who they believe is ridiculous.

But won’t people get upset and argue about religion and politics?  Some will.  We can choose, however, to behave like mature, thoughtful adults.  We can listen to other points of view without feeling so insecure in what we believe that we can’t handle any challenge to it.  Who knows?  We might even learn something.  Perhaps we’re not 100 percent right about everything.

Here are some ways of mixing religion and politics for Christians.  I won’t speak about mixing the other religions’ adherents’ political and religious responsibilities mainly because I don’t know them well enough to do so.

The best place to start is to look in the Bible for what God has to say about Christians’ political responsibilities.  I could be a liar or talking through my nose, so it’s better to check what I say against the ultimate authority.  Good books to look through for political principles are Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Judges, Ist Samuel through Nehemiah, the Gospels, Acts, and Romans.

The sine qua non of Christians’ religious responsibilities is to pray.  Everything else we do–vote, discuss politics, contact our legislators, campaign, write, run for office or what have you–are pretty useless if we don’t.  If we want God’s blessing on America, we need to ask for it.  The Bible discusses a couple of specific ways for us to pray.

We need to pray for our leaders.  Paul commands this in 1st Timothy 2:1-3.

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,…

Notice that this does not say to pray for leaders who we agree with or even good leaders.  Paul lived in the Roman Empire under some very nasty emperors and governors.  We might think that this or that president, governor, judge or congressman is awful, but we still need to pray for him or her.  In fact, we need to pray for bad leaders all the more.

We don’t have to agree with everything that a leader does.  We can pray for a president and still discuss how we disagree with a particular policy or decision.  If we believe an official is doing something illegal or unconstitutional, speaking out against it is not only permissible but necessary.  Our leaders are only human beings.  They can make mistakes or hold immoral policy positions like anyone else.  When a leader promotes injustice or immorality, we must speak out about that particular issue, while we are praying for him or her.

We also need to remember the most important leaders:  the citizens.  We live in a self-governing republic.  That means our government works for and answers to us.  Every election, we have the choice to keep the current leaders or elect new ones.  The citizens are in charge.  Therefore, we are to pray for the citizens just like we pray for any other leader.

This post went in unexpected directions.  Maybe that’s a good thing or a God thing?  In any case, this subject requires another post or two.

*  I can’t speak about Jews’ missionary efforts because I’ve never heard a clear teaching about either a command to tell other people about Yahweh or heaven and hell.  I don’t intend to denigrate Judaism in anyway.  I was brought up a Jew and later was dragged kicking and screaming into faith in Christ.

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