Friday, June 28, 2013

Marriage Rulings

It was a bad day for black robes. It is said that our freedoms are never safe when the legislature is in session. You could say something similar about when the Supreme Court is in session. Wednesday was the last day of this session, so, at least for a few more months, we can say “phew,” and stop fearing the daily onslaught.

At some future point I’d like to do a scorecard on the SCOTUS, but today the news about marriage is too heavy to cover more than that. Wednesday’s two rulings were on DOMA and Prop 8. (I wrote about the cases and issues at stake on April 1st.) Let’s start with this declaration first, because the news is creating less than truthful headlines: neither ruling declared “same-sex marriage” the law of the land. Both rulings, while not going the way I thought they should have, were minimalist in effect. 
Supreme Court
photo from NPR

A portion of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was struck down as unconstitutional. The law—which was brought forward by a Republican Congress, but was signed by Democrat President Bill Clinton, and his Democrat controlled Senate, and which Obama claimed to support until a few months ago—had definitional purposes. As far as federal law was concerned, marriage would be defined as a contract between a man and a woman, and spouse would be defined as one of the marriage partners, the opposite sex of the other spouse. The change brought about by Wednesday’s ruling is to eliminate a federal definition, meaning the federal government will use the definition allowed in any particular state. Essentially the outcome is that federal employees in states that allow for same-sex “marriage” can receive spousal benefits. There will probably be other eventual outcomes, and further confusion, but at this point that is the limit of the definition elimination.
The unfortunate part of the ruling is the reasoning. The majority opinion claims that the reason the definition needed to be eliminated was that its only purpose had been to harm certain less popular citizens. There was no legal rationale; there was only the supposition that the justices could divine the motives of the Congress, Senate, and President who codified into law what had been assumed to be true for the entire history of the country—and indeed for the entire history of civilization—and somehow discern that it was based only on hatred against a particular innocent group.
Scalia (may he live long!) wrote a scathing dissent. It was around two dozen pages; here are a couple of excerpts:
But to defend traditional marriage is not to condemn, demean, or humiliate those who would prefer other arrangements, any more than to defend the Constitution of the United States is to condemn, demean, or humiliate other constitutions. To hurl such accusations so casually demeans this institution. In the majority's judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. To question its high-handed invalidation of a presumptively valid statute is to act (the majority is sure) with the purpose to "disparage," "injure," "degrade," "demean," and "humiliate" our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homosexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it hostes humani generis, enemies of the human race.
He’s right. The real concern is the condemnation of all of us in the majority who still hold to the age-old definition of marriage as enemies of the human race. Condemning the masses as sub-human simply for disagreeing with the current liberal cause de jour is certainly not the intended purpose of having a judicial branch. Scalia adds this:
It takes real cheek for today's majority to assure us, as it is going out the door, that a constitutional requirement to give formal recognition to same-sex marriage is not at issue here—when what has preceded that assurance is a lecture on how superior the majority's moral judgment in favor of same-sex marriage is to the Congress's hateful moral judgment against it. I promise you this: The only thing that will "confine" the Court's holding is its sense of what it can get away with.
Considering how correct the liberal court feels itself to be, they were restrained in their result. They failed to claim there was a constitutional or basic human right to same-sex “marriage,” and instead allowed continued federal government confusion at the mercy of state differences. If they thought they could have gotten away with acting more strongly against the majority of Americans, they probably would have done so. 

Prop 8
The Prop 8 ruling was, as feared by both sides, a punt. The case was dismissed because the Supreme Court preferred not to grant standing to a private organization to defend a state law. Here’s a summary, again, of the situation.
The people of California long ago (around 2001, I believe) voted to continue defining marriage as a man and a woman; the state legislature overruled the people’s will. So the people responded through the initiative process and codified the traditional definition of marriage to overrule the legislature. This was Prop 8, which won in 2008 with 52% of the vote (a clear majority, and if you look at the voting, you see that only a few urban masses voted against the proposition, while nearly all counties had majorities voting in favor). Despite the win, a few judges flouted the law and “married” same-sex couples, and a judge decided to overrule the people from the bench and say that was lawful, because he thought it should be (he was a homosexual judge with an agenda, but refused to recuse himself or even be objective). The state of California was required to defend the law against this judicial behavior, but it refused. So the organization that had supported Prop 8 asked for standing. The case has been making its way up through district and circuit courts on its way to the Supreme Court.
outcome of Prop 8 vote
graphic source: Wikipedia
The Court said Wednesday that, because the Court had never before allowed a private entity to defend a state law, it would not do so now. In the process it overturned the 9th Circuit ruling and essentially said the law needed to be defended by the state of California. If the state continues to refuse to defend the law, that probably means judges may choose to “marry” same-sex couples afoul of the law, and there will continue to be confusion about the validity of those “marriages.”
But any way you look at it, the Supreme Court ruling fell short of approving same-sex “marriages” in California, and also gave a ruling that can only be applied to that particular state.
The aftermath isn’t good for real marriage, but it is worse for the initiative process for those states that have it. It says, “Sure, you can have an initiative process, but the outcome is irrelevant if the state government doesn’t happen to agree with the outcome.” The will of the people was seriously degraded with this ruling. 

Flotsam and Jetsam
While it could have been worse, the outcome for civilization was negative from these rulings. More than laws, however, which were only minimally affected, the opinions flamed the hateful vitriol against supporters of traditional marriage.
A comparison was brought to my attention, in a piece by Ben Shapiro for Breitbart. It was a case with Bob Jones University, back in 1983. That private university, a religious institution, had a rule against interracial dating. I never understood the belief against interracial dating or marriage. It seems odd and archaic today, but there were parts of the country (mostly southern) that held to separation of races longer than other places. So, while we may clearly disagree with Bob Jones University’s beliefs on that issue, they weren’t unheard of at the time. Their non-profit tax-exempt status was removed—not because they suddenly became a for-profit organization, but because their beliefs weren’t politically correct:
Government has a fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating racial discrimination in education … which substantially outweighs whatever burden denial of tax benefits places on [the university’s] exercise of their religious beliefs.
The Court decided against the University based only on its beliefs. So the question is, could the Court do the same with churches, schools, businesses, and other organizations that hold what they deem is an “enemy of the human race” belief?
The tactic of the tyrannical hemisphere has been to control the language, the message. To move popular opinion until people think what they used to know instinctively isn’t so anymore. And anyone who still has the old common sense are labeled the “enemies of the human race.” At least we have a Supreme Court justice who spelled out what is happening, so there’s a record for historical anthropologists to someday dust off and discover.
I tend to consider the relationship to civilization when history happens before our eyes. I came across this quote during the days’ post-decision reading, and it seemed apt:
This time, however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another—doubtless quite different—St. Benedict.  Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue 

Hopeful Extra
Thursday the 10th Circuit Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, which refused on religious grounds to provide medical coverage for abortifacients (abortion inducing drugs), just in time to keep them from having to pay fines of $1.3 million a day, that were set to start July 1st. Courts don’t always go wrong. Not yet.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Scandal Scramble

Name any three letters; chances are good they represent an agency of the federal government currently under scrutiny for scandal.

I came across a couple of funny collections over the past week I wanted to share—because laughter is one of the reactions we can choose under difficult circumstances.
Last Wednesday, June 19, Guy Benson and Mary Katharine Ham were filling in on radio for host Hugh Hewitt. This was a piece of their conversation:
NYT Crossword June 19
Guy Benson: Someone tweeted me during the break—this is funny, someone tweeted, New York Times Crossword Puzzle today [June 19, 2013]. It was the clue 65 down, three letters: “organization in 2013 scandal,” and I tweeted back all the possibilities for correct answers in the crossword puzzle: DOJ, NSA, DHS, IRS, EPA…. People are chiming in on twitter: ATF, FBI, CIA, HHS.
Mary Katharine Ham: It’s a very hard question.
Guy Benson: Apparently the correct answer was IRS. But it could have been any of those.
A day or two later (and several times since) on Facebook I came across this fictional conversation (I copied from Mitt Romney Central’s page, but I’d seen it elsewhere and can’t identify the original author):
Multiple Scandals 

Bob: "Did you hear about the Obama administration scandal?"
Jim: "You mean the Mexican gun running?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean SEAL Team 6 Extortion 17?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the State Dept. lying about Benghazi?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the voter fraud?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the military not getting their votes counted?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the president demoralizing and breaking down the military?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the Boston Bombing?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the president wanting to kill Americans with drones in our own country without the benefit of the law?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "You mean the president arming the Muslim Brotherhood?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The IRS targeting conservatives?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The DOJ spying on the press?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "Sebelius shaking down health insurance executives?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The NSA monitoring our phone calls, e-mails and everything else?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The president's ordering the release of nearly 10,000 illegal immigrants from jails and prisons and falsely blaming the sequester?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The president's threat to impose gun control by Executive Order in order to bypass Congress?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The president's repeated violation of the law requiring him to submit a budget no later than the first Monday in February?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The president's unconstitutional recess appointments in an attempt to circumvent the Senate's advise-and-consent role?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "The State Department interfering with an Inspector General investigation on departmental sexual misconduct?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "HHS employees being given insider information on Medicare Advantage?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "Clinton, the IRS, Clapper and Holder all lying to Congress?"
Bob: "No, the other one."
Jim: "I give up! ... Oh wait, I think I got it! You mean that 65 million low-information voters stuck us again with the most corrupt administration in American history?"

So far, here’s the difference between what’s happening here and third-world dictatorships or historical tyrannies: we are able to hear about these things and still speak openly about them (although not necessarily without reprisals). We may not be able to trust that there will be government solutions to disinfect, although congressional hearing abound. And mainstream media is mostly silent (except about the sweeping and specific spying on news reporters). But we nevertheless know about much of the violations of law by our government, and so far we can still talk about them in various alternative media outlets—including this one.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Customer Service Week

This is a decade-old story, part of family lore now. Finally getting written down.

Let me say first that I prefer the civilized society where we can have individual mailboxes, at the curb, or attached to the house. Without worry that someone will come along and steal the mail. Those were the good old days. They still exist here and there. But not here.
Here we walk down to the end of the street and around the corner to the collective set of boxes where our mail is delivered, when there is no error, in our own locked box. (Our neighborhood has parallel streets; there are seven houses on different streets with our house number, which makes it a bit challenging for the mail carrier.) It is out in the Houston rain and sun, including the occasional tropical storm. It gets weathered.
lovely neighborhood mailbox station
This was in the early 2000s; I can’t remember the year or date exactly. We were having trouble getting our mailbox open. The key would go in with difficulty, but it took a lot of muscle to turn it. I mostly gave up trying to get the mail and let the giant men in the family do it. It needed fixing. So one day when I was at the post office for another purpose, I asked if we could get repair done on the box. They said, “This isn’t your post office; you’ll have to go to the post office assigned to your zip code.” I thought that was the one I was at, a few minutes from my house through the neighborhoods. The postal worker didn’t know where the right place would be.
A few days later I set out on the mission of getting the mailbox repaired. I started by looking in the phone book—back in the day when that’s how we looked things up. The list of zip codes was there, but the instruction was to call a number to ask what post office was assigned to your zip code.
The phonecall started with a recorded message, using about two minutes of my time, telling me that it was customer service week, and they were glad they could be of service to me. Eventually I got to ask a person where the post office was for my zip code. It was about 11 miles from home. We are apparently at the edge of a zip code boundary, and the post office is shared by several zip codes.
I got the name of the street, which is one I recognized. But I couldn’t tell by the address where along that street the post office was. This was in the days before GPSes in the car. We had maps. And in Houston, the road map is a 280-page book. You get used to it. But sometimes it takes several turns of the page to see all the portions of the road you need. I knew I could start out on the road at the place where we had occasionally been to a branch of the city library. The map looked like the road was continuous through to where I would find the post office. The problem was, it dead-ended and re-continued further on. The dead end occurred at the edge of a page, so there was no way to tell that by looking at the map.
So I hit the dead end and then wandered in and out of neighborhoods, trying to find a route. It wasn’t easy. It took me nearly an hour that day to get to the post office. Then there was a line—a single line. No way to skip the line and get to someone who would just handle a question. So I waited in line 45 minutes.
When I got to the counter, a pleasant and sympathetic postal worker said, “Oh, no, this isn’t your post office. You got changed to the newer one, probably five years ago.” That would have been before we arrived in Houston. And yet the postal service themselves, after taking two minutes of recorded message time to tell me they were celebrating customer service week, had not known where my post office was. This pleasant worker gave me the address and drew a sort of map for me, to be helpful.
Have I mentioned Houston weather? Every time I get in the car, after leaving to stand in line for 45 minutes, the car heats up to well over 120 degrees, and it takes a while for the air conditioner to recover from that. It causes wilting.
I got back on the road. The post office I was now sent to was a bit closer to my house, but oddly placed. The entrance to the little street it’s on is approximately under the intersection of the Northwest Freeway and the Tollway. You have to be on the freeway feeder road to get to the street. (A feeder road is like a side road, parallel to the freeway, several lanes wide, so you can maneuver onto the freeway onramp or over to the sides after an exit. It’s a fast road, like a freeway with occasional traffic lights.) If you miss your street, you probably have to follow the feeder road to the next exit, do a U-turn under the freeway, come back and go beyond what you need, so you can do another U-turn and try again. It took me more than one try—because address numbers aren’t real common right under a freeway, so it’s hard to guess where you are. The first try I didn’t even notice it was a street and not a driveway.
Eventually I got to my actual post office—which I had never been aware of before. Again, there was a line. Multiple lines, but nothing just for answering questions. I just had to pick a line and wait and wait and wait. Forty-five minutes later I got to the counter and reported that I needed a repair on my mailbox.
“Give us your key, and we’ll get to it in a few days.”
“You want me to give you my key so I can’t get my mail for several days?”
“You said you couldn’t open it anyway.”
I can’t. But my very strong son and husband can muscle it open. I didn’t bring the key with me.”
At this point, my face was getting red. I had been away from home for close to three hours. In my defense, let me say that I am not as calm as I ought to be when my blood sugar has dropped. I also have a difficult time standing in lines. I can walk relatively long distances, but standing makes me woozy. So I was good and woozy by this point. And I was more than a little put out—especially knowing that IT WAS CUSTOMER SERVICE WEEK.
I do not swear. I don’t even yell in situations like this. But I can and have raised my voice just enough, with enough intensity, that someone might worry that I am going to “go postal.” I’m sure I did not make their day more pleasant, and I hope no one I know witnessed it. (My kids missed this episode, fortunately, but heard enough about it that they go to lengths to help me avoid putting myself in similar circumstances.)
This exchange I had with the postal worker went on for some time. He offered no solution other than “Go home, get your key, drive back here, stand in line for another 45 minutes, and wait several days for us to get around to fixing your mailbox, during which time you will not have access to your mail.”
Vogon bureaucrat (from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
That was not acceptable to me after what I’d already been through. I asked to speak to a manager. They refused. I insisted.
Eventually the postal worker went to get a manager. Another postal worker stepped toward me and whispered, “Listen, just put some lubricant in the lock. That’s all they’re going to do anyway. It’ll probably fix it.”
At this point I was actually stunned to find someone offer a helpful solution. I thanked her and left—no manager was about to arrive anyway.
It worked, by the way. I wish I’d thought of it myself. (Or I wish the fix-it men in the family had thought of it.)
This is Houston where weather must cause this sort of problem with mailbox locks frequently. A worker at the first post office, near my house, could have said so—or at least could have said, “You’ll need to turn in the key to get the box fixed.” The person on the phone after the two-minute recorded message about how happy they were to serve me, especially during customer service week, could have told me about the lubricant—or at least have mentioned about the key. The sympathetic person at the post office I was wrongly directed to could have told me those details. The person I waited in line for at my actual post office could have offered the helpful advice about the lubricant—especially when told I didn’t have the key with me.
But only one person knew how to help—and only from experience, not from postal service training. And she only felt safe in offering me that help when the person failing to serve me walked away, so she could whisper it, because apparently giving actual help to customers—did I mention this was CUSTOMER SERVICE WEEK?—is against protocol.
What is to be learned from this? Avoid lines. Avoid low blood sugar. And especially avoid functionaries.
Functionaries—bureaucratic workers—do not think about solutions; they do not think of ways to help, or offer service. They think of procedures and protocols to cover themselves from blame, get required tasks done, and just get through their hours of work. Only occasionally among them do you find a human being willing to see you as another human being, and think about being of service.
That is why the important things—health care, educating our children, making personal financial decisions, and other things related to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—should be kept as far away from bureaucratic hands as possible.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Border Lines

Earlier this month I got a call from an organization with “conservative” in their name, asking me my opinions on the border and the legislation being considered. It was not a money-raising call. And it wasn’t a poll. What they do is help people draft letters, possibly in ways they agree with; I don’t know. It’s a rather time/work-intensive approach.

So they took notes on what I said and then drafted a letter from that, from me. They sent me three copies of it: one for my representative, one for me, and one for them—after I had made any edits or changes. I’m not exactly in need of help in drafting a letter to my representative. But I was curious about how they would attempt to draft my opinions. I got that just a few days ago, kind of late in the process. And in the meantime, I’ve learned more and my positions are not the same. I should say I have not changed my opinion against amnesty, for border security, and for a less disastrously bureaucratic mess for people to get through to try to come legally. But I was willing to see what the bill was about, and now I know enough.
So, I’m redrafting the letter, here, as an exercise. And I may also send it (probably by email at this late date) to my representative. And if I get my printer working, I may also send the re-draft to this organization. [Note: while I was writing this, the organization called to follow up. I told them their letter had fairly well represented my stated opinions the day we talked, but my opinions on the bill have changed enough that I am redrafting the letter. They offered to write a new draft for me, but I don’t think there is time for them to get a new draft to me before my representative needs to see my opinion. So I’m not sure they will actually write me a new draft. I’m still uncertain whether their purpose was to support the bill, or whether their purpose was just to help citizens send their opinions to their representatives. I am allowing them to send me a newsletter, so I can eventually learn if they’re truly conservative.]
If you find parts of this letter useful, feel free to adapt it to send to your representative.
Dear Representative Poe,
I’m writing today concerning the immigration reform bill. I recognize that the immigration system needs reform; I was cautiously optimistic for a while that this bill might be a useful effort. I no longer believe that. As a sovereign nation, we must be able to control our borders. There are current laws requiring a solid wall to be built on our southern border—since 2006. Only a few dozen miles have been built so far.
This bill, in any version, seems to say, “OK, we’ll consider doing something about the border—if you give in on every other comprehensive reform we ask.” There’s a “trust us” implication; but there’s no reason to trust when the federal government has already proven that a law requiring border enforcement will be ignored.
Of course there are other immigration issues we would like to have dealt with. We should streamline the process to encourage legal immigration. I have known people who have gone through the very difficult process of being married to a foreign national that had trouble getting permanent legal status; two families I know were separated for as long as 18 months.
And then there are families like the Romeikes, a German family that sought asylum here in 2008 because they wanted to homeschool their children, which is illegal in Germany. They were given permanent asylum by a judge in 2010, and then out of the blue the Justice Department decided to overturn that ruling and deport them, which will mean a huge fine for the Romeikes, and possibly prison terms for the parents and loss of custody of their children. Our President says it’s the right of Germany to do that to this family. Yet this same President instructs his DOJ to allow illegals to live here without repercussions, and sues the state of Arizona simply for asking about legality when someone is in custody for some other reason. Our current government either cannot tell or chooses wrongly who should be allowed to come here.
We should have the ability for employers to verify the legality of employees (e-verify is probably a good idea). And at some point we may need to deal with the illegals who remain here, who drain our resources for education, healthcare, welfare, and law enforcement. But this bill doesn’t effectively deal with any of these issues. It seems to have as a singular purpose legalizing those who came here illegally, with no improvement to the overall system.
What we must do is secure the border. Until there is a will to do that in both houses of the legislature—as well as proven enforcement—nothing else can be improved.
I suggest, rather than yet another unreadable 1100-page bill, a bill with just a few words:
Inasmuch as laws are on the books requiring border security and legal immigration, those laws should be enforced. At such time as enforcement is verified, then additional legislation can be considered concerning other immigration system issues.
I am no longer naïve enough to believe that any other approach will lead to the essential beginning point we need. Please vote against any and all versions of the current immigration legislation.
Thank you for your efforts.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

On the Court

During last week’s look at the Best of the Spherical Model (Part I, Part II, and Part III), I left out one piece that is actually among the most re-read: Supreme Court Voting Patterns. My son Political Sphere had collected data to look at the Supreme Court’s voting record up to the point just before the Obamacare vote. It was topical, which is why I didn’t include it last week. But enough has come up about the Court this week that I’m thinking it would be good to update the voting record chart in the near future.
In the meantime, a couple of recent rulings are worth looking at.
Monday, June 16, the Court ruled on an Arizona Voter ID case, about whether a state can require verification of citizenship for voter registration when federal law does not require such verification. The short answer you’re hearing in the news is that the Court favored the federal government’s view, and limiting states. But the more complicated, actual ruling is that on one of five issues (the least relevant), the Court sided with the federal government, but on the other four issues, the Court verified states’ rights—which is a good thing. J.Christian Adams, former DOJ attorney and author of Injustice, has been working with voter integrity issues for a long time. His assessment is an excellent summary.  The Heritage Foundation also covers the ruling.
Back on June 3rd, the Court ruled on the collection of DNA evidence. Justice Scalia dissented from the majority—along with three of the liberals on the Court. Nevertheless, I think as usual Scalia is right.
Here’s the scenario from the case: a man was taken into custody for assault in Maryland in 2009.  DNA taken during his arrest for the assault became evidence in new charges against him from a 2003 rape, because his DNA matched a rape kit kept from that earlier case. An evildoer is caught; that should be a good thing.
Here’s the problem: the Court ruled that DNA could be taken at the time of arrest, because it is essentially an identifier, like fingerprints. What they could foresee was that, if a prisoner needed to be moved, the DNA would prove that the correct person was being transported. But that isn’t actually how ID-ing a prisoner would work. His fingerprints would indeed be a quick and accurate identifier. Taking a fresh fingerprint and using a fingerprint database would take no more than half an hour. But taking a DNA sample for that purpose would never be done. The sample would need to go to a lab, where it could take, at best, hours (and more likely weeks) to compare to the existing record of that prisoner’s DNA. In the case in question, the DNA wasn’t looked at until four months after arraignment.
And even then it wouldn’t be infallible. DNA results show whether there’s a high likelihood that two DNA samples match. It’s a matter of probabilities, not certainty. We can’t say no two humans have the same DNA. Identical twins occur in about 11 births per thousand, and they share identical genetics. But even identical twins have different fingerprints.
So, for greater expense, longer time, and less accuracy, why use DNA instead of fingerprinting?
The Court seemed to agree that collecting the DNA for the purpose of using it as a fishing expedition to tie the suspect to other crimes was not right. The DNA, when collected for use in the case where the person is a suspect is a reasonable gathering of evidence. But what if the suspect is exonerated of that crime? Should his DNA be kept, and used to compare to other crimes? Is he required to provide evidence against himself for unknown, unsuspected crimes, on the off chance that something might be found someday? The Court halfway said that couldn’t be the reason. But, if you think of the DNA not as evidence, but as just an ID, like a fingerprint, then it was OK. (And then, if it happened to be used in some other way, that wasn’t the Court’s concern.)
If one were to assume a corrupt government (just hypothetically speaking), it would be difficult and improbable for some official to place a political enemy’s fingerprints at a crime scene in order to frame the person. But placing DNA at the scene could be in the form of a hair, a fingernail, a bit of saliva left on a drinking glass. The person kind of has to be there to leave his fingerprints, but he doesn’t necessarily have to be there to have his DNA placed there.
Even without a corrupt government, we do have a fourth amendment protection that is at issue. As Scalia summed it up: "Solving unsolved crimes is a noble objective, but it occupies a lower place in the American pantheon of noble objectives than the protection of our people from suspicionless law-enforcement searches. The Fourth Amendment must prevail." Yes, those amendments—they keep coming up.
Meanwhile, in a slightly related issue, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has just come out with a book, Why JohnRoberts Was Wrong on Obamacare.  He lays out the case that the Chief Justice changed his opinion midstream concerning Obamacare, coming up with the tortured ruling that it was OK if it was a tax, which it was declared not to be by federal government lawyers on days it was convenient to say that, but declared as a tax—by the same lawyers on other days when that was convenient.
available here
I haven’t read the book yet. From what I’ve seen covered, I think it implies there may have been pressure on Roberts to change his opinion. Most of us who were looking on at the time thought that was the case. There was quite a lot of evidence, just in the way the dissent was written, as if it had been the majority opinion, that he had changed his mind. So the question we all had was why. I think we’d all still like to know: was Justice Roberts coerced? Were there threats to his reputation or his person or his family? Was he more subject than we thought to political pressure or the desire to be liked in Washington? We’d like to know, because his vulnerability to pressure, for whatever reason, coupled with the power to determine binding law, has consequences for all of us.
Even when our justices are wrong, we want their opinions to come from their best understanding of the Constitution, not some tortured effort to reach a pre-desired outcome.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Motherless Princesses

I love Disney, and I love fairy tales. Put them together, and I’m as happy as my granddaughter when she talks us into watching—one more time—whichever princess video is her current favorite.

Disney Princesses
But have you noticed that there’s a pattern of missing mothers?

·        Snow White: her mother has died (from childbirth?), so she faces the evils of a jealous stepmother. Where is her father, the king? Not helping rescue her from scrubbing floors.
·        Cinderella: her mother has died (cause and timing unknown), so she faces the evils of a jealous stepmother, pushing forward her own unpleasant daughters. Where is her father? In some versions, he’s just incompetently unaware; in others (the Disney version), he has also died before the story begins.
·        Aurora (Sleeping Beauty): technically she has both parents, but she is separated from them at birth, for her own protection, raised by a trio of good fairies, until she’s old enough to have outlasted the dangerous curse following her 16th birthday.
·        Ariel (the Little Mermaid): her mother has died (cause and timing unknown), and she defies her father, who can manage the entire underwater world except for this headstrong daughter.
·        Belle (of Beauty and the Beast): her mother has died (cause and timing unknown), and she has mostly raised herself, because her loving father is preoccupied with his inventions.
·        Pocahontas: her mother has died (cause and timing unknown), and she is subject to her father, the chief, who is loving, but not listening.
·        Jasmine (from Alladin): her mother has died (cause and timing unknown), and she is raised by a loving but ineffectual father, who becomes subject to the evil influence of the Vizier.
·        Mulan—a rare exception, who has both parents, both loving. She doesn’t, however, emulate her mother, but goes to war as a man, to act in her father’s place.
·        Tiana (the Frog Princess)—another rare exception, but her father has died. She doesn’t emulate her mother, but strives to fulfill her father’s dream.
·        Rapunzel—her parents are alive, but she was kidnapped in infancy by an evil witch who poses as her mother, with more scary guilt-inducing manipulation than just about any arch nemesis. She’s probably going to need therapy after reuniting with her real, loving parents.
Is there a conspiracy? Not exactly. It is understood that fiction needs opposition for the main character to face and get through. Lack of a mother is sufficiently trying that, getting along without a mother and turning out OK declares character strength in itself.
What would be good to see in literature would be a daughter growing up with two healthy parents, influencing her appropriately, so she can face odds with something better than either the lucky timing of a rescuing prince or having to act like the rescuing prince herself.
And, speaking of princesses, I want to add a couple of other thoughts. At last week’s book club, we discussed The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale. It was a re-read for me; I read the whole Books of Bayern series when there were only three (just learned I’m missing one). In this story, the princess is sent to marry the prince in a larger nearby kingdom, to ensure peace. Her lady-in-waiting and some henchmen decide to do away with her and substitute for the sake of their own power hunger. She escapes and hides out, becoming a keeper of the royal geese in the kingdom of Bayern. She learns and grows her own abilities and talents (which include some magic, this being a fairy tale). Much good is done because she lives as a commoner and comes to understand their needs and desires.
While I was at the library getting a copy of that book, I also picked up Princess Academy, Palace of Stone, the sequel to Princess Academy. The princess in this series is only a supporting character. The main character is a (motherless) young girl named Miri, who is learning all she can and discovering singular ways to help her people. In this second book, she and friends are spending a year living at the palace and learning according to their various interests.
There is a fair amount of tyrannical confiscatory taxation going on in the kingdom, as well lack of freedom of speech, lack of representation, and other things common in monarchical tyrannies. People are on the verge of revolution. Miri likes the ideas of changes that will help her people, but she also comes to recognize how rebellion is likely to affect her friend, the princess, and others. She seeks a way to persuade people without violence—doing surprisingly well for a teenage girl raised in the hinterlands. Again, there’s a bit of magic involved; it’s a fairy tale. I enjoyed the story, quite a lot, as a light summer read. But, while it shows that character matters for all individuals, it doesn’t quite leave the princess dream for the American Dream.
I think we tell our girls they are princesses, because we mean they are special, and valued, and we treasure them. But we don’t mean to be telling them, “You’re born better than everyone else, so feel free to be petulant and selfish and look down on others.” We never admire princesses (or anyone) with those characteristics. Not even in books.
We’re Americans; we believe everyone is equal before the law. No one is given special treatment because of aristocratic birthright. And we can move from class to class based on effort, learning, and other measures of success and character. It is not enough to sympathize with those beneath us. We need to know that, in God’s eyes, everyone is His child—greater than any princess, in truth. What we need to do is live up to that birthright, and teach our daughters who they are and who they can grow to be.
I’d like to see a story, as entertaining and readable as any fairy tale, that shows the love of God through the example of loving parents in an intact family—a rare story in literature. And I’d like the egalitarian princess to come to value her God-given individuality, not the luck of birth or outward beauty, or the replacement of feminine gifts with male behavior instead.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Best of Spherical Model, Part III

This is the third in our series celebrating the 400th Spherical Model blog post. Part I covered the basics of the Spherical Model concept, as well as posts about the Political Sphere. Part II covered posts from the Economic Sphere. Today will look at the Social Sphere, or Civilization, which is the goal.
Civilization requires a righteous people; the self-government of freedom also requires a righteous people; and a prosperous free market also requires a righteous people. Freedom, prosperity, and civilization all hinge on having a critical mass of people willingly living the rules of civilization and not giving in to savagery.
So I probably write more on the Civilization Sphere than the others. Choosing favorites is a challenge. Sometimes I have written series on topics that underlie civilization: valuing life, valuing family, parental responsibility for education, and others. Today’s list would be even more unwieldy than it is if I include those here. So my plan is to limit today’s posts to some favorites; I’ll guide you to the various series some other time. The list is in chronological order, as the lists of the past couple of posts. The * means it’s one of the most re-read posts.
·        *Peanut Butter News (March 24, 2011)
·        Speaker for the Dead and Civilization (April 28, 2011)
·        Why I’m Not Quite a Libertarian (May 17, 2011)
·        Words on Civilization (July 11, 2011)
·        *Community Service Is Better Than Community Organizing (July 19, 2011)
·        *Ultimate Questions (September 6, 2011)
·        Ultimate Right and Wrong (September 14, 2011)
·        Two Revolutions (September 28, 2011)
·        The Way Back Up to Civilization (October 3, 2011)
·        Charity (October 6, 2011)
·        Ye Shall Know Them by Their Fruits (October 13, 2011)
·        *Two Hundredth Post [on the First Amendment Freedom of Religion] (January 13, 2012)
·        War on Women and Children (March 19, 2012)
·        *He Is Risen [celebration of Easter] (April 6, 2012)
·        More on Marriage [A list of posts on family from the first year of the blog—Most of June 2011 was dedicated to family and marriage] (April 23, 2012)
·        Overruling God [on abortion] (June 11, 2012)
·        Happiness Quotients (July 9, 2012)
·        Belonging (September 7, 2012)
·        Parents Bring About Civilization (October 15, 2012)
·        *Think on These Things (November 7, 2012)
·        *Each Life That Touches Ours for Good (December 3, 2012)
·        Life Matters (January 28, 2013) and Another Word about Life (January 30, 2013)
·        Civilized Manliness (February 25, 2013  and Women Who Civilize (February 27, 2013)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Best of Spherical Model Part II

Today we celebrate the 400th Spherical Model blog post. We’re celebrating all week by collecting some of the better examples of the Spherical Model in the three categories: political, economic, and civilization. Monday we covered both the definition of the Spherical Model and the Political Sphere. Today we’ll cover the Economic Sphere. Then the next post will cover some of the Civilization Sphere.

I started having fun with economics as a freshman in college. It was a basic econ class, but specialized for honor students (which anyone willing to take on the challenge could take). That meant the teacher was actually the person who wrote the book. And it turned out he was funny and delightfully entertaining. As a result I have always thought of economics as the fun numbers science. And I continue to find my favorite economists to be fun and entertaining: Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Milton Friedman, and Greg Mankiw, for example. Plus I have had the advantage of a son who graduated with a degree in economics, so when I have technical questions, I can turn to him. My understanding remains basic, but adequate for looking at principles in our real world.
Separating out topics for this Best Of series has been challenging, because there is so much about economics that ties into political freedom and the kindness and honesty of a civilized society. But there are some I want to recommend reading or re-reading. Some are series or are paired together. Starred ones are among the most popular re-reads:
·         Anything Evil about Capitalism, Part I (March 29,2011), Part II (March 30, 2011), Part III (March 31, 2011), Part IV (April 1, 2011)
·         Atlas Shrugged and the Sphere, Part I (April 13, 2011); Part II (April 14, 2011); Part III (April 15, 2011)
·         Global Money Supply and Debt (July 11, 2011)
·         Making Money (August 29, 2011) and The Glooper (August 30, 2011)
·         Numbers Don’t Lie; People Do (September 5, 2011)
·         Econ Lesson (September 20, 2011)
·         The Case for the Free Market (October 17, 2011) and *In the Interest of Brevity (October 20, 2011)
·         * Parabolas (November 21, 2011) and *The Trampoline Effect (March 23, 2012)
·         * Laffer Curve Primer (November 28, 2011)
·         * Bain Basics (January 16, 2012)
·         Fun with Economics (March 21, 2012)
·         Poster Household (April 11, 2012)
·         Low Taxes Don’t Cause Recessions, Part I (July11, 2012) and Part II (July 13, 2012)
·         Dave Built That (August 22, 2012)
·         Marriage: Anti-Poverty Weapon (September 28, 2012)
·         Old Words New Again (January 9, 2013)
·         Simple Math above His Pay Grade (February 20,2013)
·         Glass Breaking Fun (March 13, 2013)
·         Lessons from Economic Sphere (April 26, 2013)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Best of Spherical Model, Part I

This is my 399th blog post. The next post is the 400th. That’s a lot of words in about 2 ¼ years. I think my son Political Sphere is probably the only person to have read every post. But there are a growing number of regular readers. For those of you who are just recently dropping in, I thought this milestone might be a good time for review, which I'll do in three posts this week.
Today I plan to review the Spherical Model idea, and cover a few favorite posts related to the Political Sphere. Wednesday I plan to cover favorite posts related to the Economic Sphere. And Friday I’ll cover favorite posts related to Civilization. Some posts can’t be separated out, so there’s likely to be some overlap.
I recognize this will be too much reading for one sitting (or several). So I suggest making a note of the posts this week for reference, to get back to when you want a little more idea food about freedom, prosperity, and thriving civilization.
If you like what your read, please share. My purpose is to offer ideas that I believe will help people. My prayer is that those who need to see these ideas will find them, and find them useful.

The Spherical Model
The Spherical Model is a way of looking at the interrelationships of political, economic, and social ideologies. It is an alternative to the inadequate left/right paradigm. It’s a little more complex than that oversimplification, but it is still relatively simple and easy to visualize. The ideas are presented in more detail on The Spherical Model website, where you’ll find an introduction page, and then sections for the political, economic, and social spheres. The social/civilization sphere is big enough that it is covered in two articles. The total is probably about 50 pages of reading. So that’s a good starting place. The blog is to support, and to look at how the ideas can be applied in our real world
So, to understand the Spherical Model, I suggest these:
· (all parts)
·         First Blog Post (March 4, 2011)
·         One Hundred (July 29, 2011)
·         Political, Economic, and Social Sphere Interact Some More (November 17, 2011)
·         Year Two Begins (March 5, 2012)
·         What Is the Spherical Model (March 1, 2013)
o   Economic Sphere Basics (March 4, 2013)
o   Basics of the Civilization Sphere (March 6,2013)
o   Recognizing Savagery When We See It (March 8,2013)
·         Amplify the Love (April 29, 2013) 

The Political Sphere
The basics of the Political Sphere concern the principles put into our basic law, the US Constitution. These include limiting the role of government to its proper role as protector of God-given rights. Here are a few favorites.
·         *Role of Government (March 8, 2011)
·         Leaders vs. Power Mongers Parts I, II, III (March 11, March 12, March 14, 2011)
·         *Political Commentary from Gulliver’s Travels (September 13, 2011)        
·         Constitutionalism (September 22, 2011)
·         * The Hunger Games on the Spherical Model (March26, 2012)
·         The “Keep Us Free” Game (April 4, 2012)
·         The Proper Role of Government—Again (July 18,2012)
·         Happy 225th Birthday (September 17,2012)
·         Measuring Rulers (January 24, 2013)

·         You Might Be Living Under Tyranny If...Parts I and II (May 15, May 17, 2013)

* Among the most popular re-reads.