Monday, April 28, 2014

To Secure These Rights

“After theology—economics is the most important science to study
because the two things that impact everyone are God and the market.”[i]
The political, economic, and civilization spheres interrelate. If you've come across this blog, maybe you already know that.

In case you’re not aware, Hillsdale College is offering yet another free online course. It’s Constitution 101 again, but with new lectures. Sort of like taking the same class again, with different teachers, so you pick up different details.
Already they have lecture nine available, but I’ve been going through at my leisure and recently listened (and then re-listened) to lecture 5: “To Secure These Rights: Economics, Religion, and Character.” Here at The Spherical Model, the connection between economics and social behavior was bound to perk my interest.
The lecturer is Thomas G. West. This section of the lecture begins about 29 minutes in:
It seems strange to us that a political society whose purpose is to secure life, liberty and property, should concern itself with citizen character. Harvey Mansfield formulates the paradox nicely. “Liberty and virtue are not a likely pair. At first sight, they seem to be contraries, for liberty appears to mean living as you please and virtue appears to mean living not as you please but as you ought.” But, morality is not something that government can choose either to concern itself with or to ignore. The moral law, in the founders’ view, is not intentioned with or supplemental to the natural law theory. It is its foundation. The founders tended to equate the moral law with the law of nature.
A large part of this final portion concerns maintaining the family, the basic unit of civilization:
The connection between laws on sex and marriage and government’s duty to secure the natural rights of all is today probably less well understood than almost anything else in the founding. These laws all had one main object: to encourage people to get married and stay married. The integrity of the family was believed to be necessary to the protection as well as the happiness of human beings: men, women and children alike. The love of married parents for their biological offspring was judged the most reliable motivation for the sometimes unpleasant duties of providing suitable care for children.
Although it was written some years after the founding, an 1836 essay by Joseph Storey, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Madison, sums up the founders’ view very nicely. “Marriage is an institution which may properly be deemed to arise from the law of nature. It promotes the private comfort of both parties. It promotes the private comfort of both parties. It tends to the procreation of the greatest number of healthy citizens, and to their proper maintenance and education…. It promotes the cause of sound morals by cultivating domestic affections and virtues.”
This next portion concerns the definition of marriage today:
This older, child-centered view of marriage has been replaced, in our time, with a sentimental, romantic love view. The idea of same-sex marriage makes perfect sense in a world where marriage has effectively been redefined as a partnership of people who love each other and who feel justified in splitting up if love happens to fade. As marriage collapses throughout the western world, children’s support comes increasingly from more productive men coerced by the state into transferring money either by court-ordered child support or by taxation that funds welfare and other benefits, to less productive mothers who choose to live apart from their children’s fathers.
Professor West doesn’t claim that legislation has redefined marriage; it’s more a matter of pop culture changing the definition through propaganda, and then pushing legal institutions to “stay with the times.” Anyone who says, “Wait, what’s wrong with the definition we’ve had all along,” they get accused of hate and bigotry. The cost for giving in is the decay of the very basic necessary building material of society.
I have a major portion of  the family section of The Spherical Model that relates to the ways of dealing with the results of sex outside marriage, if society is to maintain the integrity of the family. It is helpful, of course, if laws support the family, but it is more essential for families, extended families, churches, and communities, to encourage the correction of behavior, so that the value of family is maintained. And also so that the damage to society from family decay is not transferred onto the larger society.
Professor West describes the founders’ approach to be similar. Laws and policies might seem harsh today, but in reality, harshness only applied when “the misbehavior became open and notorious.” Loving, caring friends and family are better at encouraging valued behavior than threat of legal punishment. But underneath both private and public policy was an understanding of how essential family strength was to economic prosperity and happiness in society.
As I was writing this today, I came across information about a documentary coming to theaters this weekend, called Irreplaceable, about the economic and social value of fathers in the home. Is it time to re-define marriage downward? Not unless you want more poverty and unhappiness for the foreseeable future. Here's the three-minute trailer:

[i] Deacon Patrick Moynihan, Head of LCS [Louverture Cleary School], comments on the importance of teaching economics in Haiti; the quote comes from . I found this quote in  Harvard Economics Professor Greg Mankiw’s blog 4-9-2014, .

Thursday, April 24, 2014

So It Has Come to This

One of my most entertaining friends finds occasion to say this, and shared the comic. It’s true; it works in more situations than you would expect.
I was thinking about this, to lighten the mood following a book I recently read for book club. I can’t recommend the book as great literature. It was, however, a novelized way of discussing a scenario maybe we need to look at. The book was One Second After, by William R. Forstchen. It’s about what could happen following an EMP strike, or electromagnetic pulse.
by William R. Forstchen
In case that term doesn’t mean anything to you, here’s a definition from the foreword:
When an atomic bomb is detonated above the earth’s atmosphere, it can generate a “pulse wave,” which travels at the speed of light, and will short-circuit every electronic device that the “wave” touches on the earth’s surface. It is like a super lightning bolt striking next to your house and taking out your computer, except infinitely worse, for it will strike our entire nation, most likely without warning, and could destroy our entire complex electrical grid and everything attached into that grid (pp. 11-12).
The book explores what would happen if we were suddenly plunged into a pre-electrical world. Cars stop running and roll lifeless to the sides of roads (or until crashing into something stops them). Planes fall from the skies. Communication ceases. Water pumps—gone. Refrigeration—gone. Sources and transport for food and medicine—gone.
Some of the gruesome parts of the book happen at nursing homes and hospitals, where death in disgusting lack of dignity ensues. There's also gang warfare and mayhem of various savage sorts.
People have to come up with new ways to survive, to ration resources, to protect each other and the resources. They have to rethink all kinds of ethical issues, often on life and death issues.
I don’t really like conspiracy theory worries. (This book was, coincidentally, mentioned just a couple of days ago on Glenn Beck’s show, which sometimes goes that direction: here, if you're a subscriber.) So a few weeks ago I asked son Economic Sphere, who has interest and information on such things, hoping for assurance that this was unlikely. Instead he said, yes, it could happen. And it could conceivably take from a few months up to one to three years to rebuild technology to where we are now (if unhindered in the effort to rebuild). So that was disturbing.
Meanwhile, I happened to read the March issue of Hillsdale College publication Imprimis, with an article by Brian T. Kennedy, called “Early Warning: The Continuing Need for National Defense.” Kennedy mentions several recent attacks as evidence. One was The San Jose Attack. I only vaguely remembered this news story:
Last April 16, just outside of San Jose, California, a group of terrorists or soldiers, operating on American soil, attacked the Metcalf transmission substation in a military action aimed at disabling a part of America’s electrical infrastructure. The operation began at 1:00 a.m., when the attackers cut underground fiber optic cables, disabling communications and security systems. Thirty minutes later, using high-powered rifles, they began a 20-minute assault on the substation’s extra-large transformer and the cooling system that supports it. Police arrived at 1:50, but the shooters disappeared into the night. To this day there is no trace of them.
John Wellinghoff, then chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, would call this attack “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involved [America’s electrical] grid that has ever occurred.” Obviously it was a professional operation by skilled marksmen… with training in reconnaissance, stealth, and evasion. That the plan went undetected, the casings from the spent shells bore no fingerprints, and the perpetrators have not been caught, suggests a high degree of intelligence. Damage to the facility forced electricity to be rerouted to maintain the integrity of power transmission to the Silicon Valley, and repairs took several months.
The political response to the attack ranged from an immediate dismissal by the FBI of the idea it was a terrorist act—puzzling given its sophistication and its proximity in time to the Boston bombing [the day before]—to recognition by a bipartisan but small group of U.S. Senators and Representatives that defending America’s electrical grid is an urgent priority….
Kennedy also mentions the EMP possibility:
Such an explosion placed over the center of the U.S. could destroy the infrastructure that distributes electricity to consumers and industrial users in every state except Alaska and Hawaii. This phenomenon has been well understood sing the 1960s….
He also mentions that a severe solar storm, called Coronal Mass Ejections, could cause similar damage, and we’re overdue for such a storm. We had a near miss just last July.
Why should we worry? According to a 1990s EMP Commission, without electricity the US “has the industrial infrastructure to provide for only 30 million of its 300 million citizens.” Let that sink in a moment. Kennedy adds this question:
Given the potentially devastating consequences of failing to defend our sophisticated but vulnerable electrical grid, citizens might well wonder how it is that our government, which doesn’t bat an eye at spending billions of dollars on the most frivolous and wasteful projects, fails year after year to do so.
So, what can we learn from this electrical vulnerability?
·         Government isn’t reliable to “take care of” all our needs.
·         We’d better learn to be self-reliant and prepared.
In Forstchen’s book, he looks at what might have been:
Anyone with even the remotest understanding of EMP and the threat to the nation should have been going insane before it hit….The threat was a hundred times worse [than the possibility of saboteurs during WWII] and they did nothing, absolutely nothing….
If people knew the simple things to do on Day One, [a leader] already trained to react to an EMP, mobilize his forces and react quickly…if they had but a few simple provisions stocked away, the same way anyone who lives in hurricane or tornado country does, would they be in this mess?...
Food, bulk food, just a fifty-pound bag of rice or flour, shoes, batteries, an additional [insulin] test kit… dog food, a water filter so they didn’t have to boil what they now pulled out of the swamp green pool…I should have had those on hand (p. 258).
At least this makes me feel a little better. We live in hurricane/tornado territory. Especially since 2005 when Katrina hit, followed a couple of weeks later by Rita, people have paid attention. Plus, our Church has spent the last century encouraging members to gather a store of food. Start with a three-day emergency supply, a 72-hour kit. In fact, it was our Church that first taught people at the annual hurricane preparedness conference, about 72-hour kits. Now everybody seems to have caught on, and most people have some version of a go-bag for emergencies.
We were also taught to build up a month or two of stuff on hand. And then build up to a year’s supply. We were told it would be today’s version of Noah’s Ark, to have that supply on hand. Obedience, rather than fear, is the motivation. But, still, there’s some fear involved.
We resupplied our food supply back when we had the larger family living with us. There’s still some fear involved for me; I can’t eat any grains. There aren’t very many canned foods I can eat. Some that I used to be able to eat are now (just recently) starting to explode in my pantry. So I have some re-supplying to do.
We have a good freezer, but that requires electricity. During Hurricane Ike, 2008, when we lost power for eight days, we used a generator to keep our freezer, and our neighbors’, going for about ten hours a day. But we still lost a lot of food. Mr. Spherical Model says next time he will evacuate me, because I’m a lot of trouble to worry about.
That was short-term. It’s hard to picture getting through one or more years. And, while we garden, it’s not easy here in the clay-soiled back yard. Still, Mr. Spherical Model has a lot of experience as a Boy Scout leader and camper. He’s resourceful. We wouldn’t be the first to go. Although, I might need a couple of medical miracles once my three-month supply of certain things run out.
My real concern is civilization. It would take some serious readjustment to live without technology. But people have done it before—most of the millennia mankind has existed. And we have people among us with needed experience. Civilization is helped along by infrastructure, but it isn’t dependent on it. Civilization requires a people who are accountable to God first, and good to each other—by choice. In order to rebuild, we will need a people who choose to be good, and caring toward one another, and willing to work together.
Government could help protect us, better than it does. But, failing that, it’s not likely we can turn to government to inculcate us with needed humanity. We have to find that within ourselves.
It’s harder to be kind and thoughtful of others when we’re stressed, hungry, tired, hot or cold. We get irritable. We might get desperate. So, maybe we can use this relatively secure time to build our reserve of inner civilization—so it will be there when it’s most needed.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Look Up

A week ago I got to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I wasn’t always a Captain America fan; I wasn’t a comic book fan. But I was totally won over with the first movie. So much fun! And, better, so much love for truth, justice, and the American way. In other words, love of civilization, which works for every country, for every group of people, that tries it. I know there’s a lot of fighting and mayhem in these movies, but that’s just for entertainment; the underlying idea here is very pro-civilization.
The villain in this latest movie is played by Robert Redford. He played it pretty much as always—likable and believably self-justifying, which he does whether playing a bad guy or not. We liked him as a thief in The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In this one he’s calm, “reasoning,” and politically slick. His character, Alexander Pierce, is described on this way:
A high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and personal friend of Nick Fury, Alexander Pierce is respected and politically connected. Often the person who interfaces with prominent world officials, Pierce is polished and well spoken, and presents a credible face to the world on behalf of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
They’re avoiding spoilers, but I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to just come out and say he’s the villain. You can see from the trailer, if you’re paying attention, that Captain America doesn’t trust him, and that’s all you need to know.
What interested me was the character’s common error, that there are only two choices: chaos or control—and of course any power monger wants to be among the elite exerting control. Here’s how it shows up in the trailer (definitely not from one continuous scene).
Capt. A: I joined S.H.I.E.L.D. to protect people.
Pierce: Captain, to build a better world sometimes means tearing the old one down. And that makes enemies…. Look out the window. You know how the game works: disorder, war. All it takes is one step.
Fury: We’re gonna neutralize a lot of threats before they even happen.
Capt. A: I thought the punishment usually came after the crime…. This isn’t freedom; this is fear.
Pierce: “Your work has been a gift to mankind. You’ve shaped the century. And I need you to do it one more time.
Then, before Captain America even leaves the building, Pierce declares him an enemy of the state and sends his team to take him out, which they attempt to do without questioning orders.

Pierce fits the same mold as Lenin, Stalin, Hitler: use chaoscreate it if necessaryso the people will crave order and turn to anyone who offers it. Putin is doing essentially that in Ukraine this month: send in Russian operatives; claim there is disorder within Ukraine, and unfairness to the ethnic Russians who have been living within Crimea and eastern Ukraine; and then send in forces “to offer order” of the type and style Putin personally prefers, regardless of what people living in the region might want. (In response, we could use more Captain America and less ineffectual.)
In the Captain America movie, the protector of civilization doesn’t carry out a philosophical conversation with the power monger. He doesn’t use Spherical Model language, saying, “You don’t understand; there’s a whole northern hemisphere you’re ignoring. Chaos and control are not the only two options. We can have freedom, prosperity, and civilization—all we need is a critical mass of people choosing to live according to the known northern hemisphere principles.” I admit I kind of wished he had. But the movie was probably more entertaining as written.
Captain America doesn’t use a lot of words; he acts. But always according to principle. And in this movie the civilizing principle includes loyalty to an old friend, and forgiveness along the lines of “forgive him, for he knows not what he does.” And there are hints at the end of the movie that this good-heartedness is going to pay off in the future. If you’ve read the comic book series, maybe you already know.
What we can know, in the real world, is that choosing freedom, free enterprise, and civilization leads to better outcomes—every time—than choosing between chaos and control with their associated savagery. That ought to be obvious. But it takes looking up. As we see with Captain America, doing the right thing simple but not always easy. But you do it because it’s right.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Week, Part III

[If you saw this a week ago, yes, it is the same. I don't know why my attempts to schedule posts go awry, but I'm reposting Part III, on the day it should have posted, instead of on the same day as Part I.]

This is the third in a three-part series leading up to Easter. I hope these posts will help make your Easter celebration more meaningful this year.

We’re doing more music again today.

I’m a big fan of The Piano Guys videos. I stood for three hours last summer to see them in concert, in a standing-room-only venue. “The Mission/How Great Thou Art” is their latest video, just out a couple of weeks, filmed in Brazil, at the Christ the Redeemer statue. No words, but powerful music.


Back in the late 1970s I was in one of the several Brigham Young University choirs when we performed the oratorio The Redeemer, by Robert Cundick, for the first time. I’ve always loved the final piece, “He Is the Root and the Offspring of David,” with words coming from Revelations 22:16-17. It not only celebrates the resurrection, but the approaching Second Coming. The music is stunning. It’s also challenging, which my little choir is finding. But our intrepid little group is trusting that the Lord will help us do it well enough to bring the Lord’s spirit to our Easter celebration. Here is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir doing it.



Monday, April 14, 2014

Holy Week, Part II

This is Part II in a three-part series celebrating the week coming up on Easter. Monday’s post shared videos telling the story of that historic week. Today we’re highlighting some music. I think I’ve mentioned before, music is a big part of my life. So when I celebrate big things, like Christmas and Easter, music is shows up a lot.
Today is just a small sampling of music that I hope will help you feel the spirit of Easter.
“O Divine Redeemer” is a piece I first learned in high school. I’ve done it in choirs. I’ve done it as a solo. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir is probably a quintessential version.


“Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” is kind of a southern spiritual. My church choir is working on this one for Easter, with a soloist and violin. I don’t know what should be the definitive version, but I like this one, by the Annie Moses Band.


“Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” is one of my favorite Easter pieces in our hymnbook. I’m scheduled to play the organ—and lead the choir—on Easter Sunday. But Mr. Spherical Model also plays the organ, and he wants to play that day, because he likes to really play the organ with this hymn. So I might let him. This is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir again.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Holy Week, Part I

The greatest force in the world for bringing about freedom, prosperity, and civilization is a group of people striving to follow Christ the Savior. We’re coming up on the day we celebrate His resurrection. Christmas, when we celebrate His birth, is a big time of year too, but the resurrection—that’s even bigger. Nothing more significant in the entire history of our universe.  Because He overcame death, we can follow Him and return to heaven to live with our Father and our loved ones for eternity. Everything is so much bigger and more abundant than we can grasp.As the Lord said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
So I like to celebrate Easter. Last year I did a post in preparation for Easter, with some artwork being used for a countdown. I thought I’d do something similar this year with music and videos. That’s the plan for today and next week’s posts. Not a lot of reading in these posts, just a lot of beautiful feelings, what I hope is a nice respite from the daily heaviness we so often have to face. It is my hope that this Easter celebration will help us all choose the more abundant, more civilized way of living.
Today I’d like to share a beautiful short video, produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called “He Is Risen.”   

There are others in this series of videos, some showing more details of the specific events:
·         The Last Supper

·         Jesus is Laid in the Tomb


Monday, April 7, 2014


This past weekend was my Church’s twice-a-year worldwide conference. We tune in by TV, satellite, or internet for two
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints General Conference
days to listen to a lot of wisdom, which we reread and learn from and share with one another in the months to come. The three leaders in the First Presidency, as well as the 12 members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, echoing the organization Christ set up following His resurrection, are considered prophets, seer, and revelators. That may not have a lot of meaning to you, but to me it means that I listen, expecting to hear words inspired by God, and I pay attention to see if I feel the spiritual impression of truth.
Back in the mid-1990s, these prophets gave us “The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” which at the time seemed not that remarkable, because we’d understood the concepts about family all our lives. But within a very short time, every line in that document has been under attack—in international policy meetings, in media, in other churches, in politics.
So when the prophets speak, it gets my attention. For the past year I’ve been hearing them say that we need to stand up for religious freedom. That has made me take notice, and indeed there are many cases in the courts, responding to our government’s and other pro-savage/anti-freedom groups’ attacks on our First Amendment rights.
So, on Saturday, I took notice when just about every talk mentioned the word courage, mainly in relation to standing up for what we believe, regardless of attacks from disbelievers.
Jeffrey R. Holland said (from my notes—I don’t have a transcript yet), “You will be called upon to defend your faith, or endure personal abuse…. Defend your beliefs with courtesy and compassion—but defend them.”
Neil L. Andersen talked about tornados in Oklahoma, and compared them to the spiritual whirlwinds we must face. Toward the end of his talk he let us know one thing we will need to stand strong for, despite the whirlwind of opposition: “The Lord has not redefined marriage.”
Russell M. Nelson said, “Even if everyone is doing it, wrong is never right.”
Richard G. Scott referred to the courage and commitment of his wife, Jeannine, for making all the difference in the happiness in their lives.
Robert D. Hales said that rationalizing doesn’t change God’s law, and that obedience makes us progressively stronger.
President Thomas S. Monson said we need “the courage to say no when we should… and to do the right thing because it’s right…. We will almost certainly be called upon to defend what we believe.” He added, “The call for courage comes constantly to each of us. Every day of our lives courage is needed.” He quoted Robert Louis Stevenson, “Everyday courage has few witnesses. But yours is no less noble because no drum beats for you and no crowd shouts your name.” And he quoted Christian author Charles Swindall, “Courage is not limited to the battlefield…. The real tests of courage are much quieter; they are inner tests, like remaining faithful when no one is looking, like standing alone when you’re misunderstood.”
President Thomas S. Monson
President Monson added, “This inner courage also includes doing the right thing even though we may be afraid, defending our beliefs at the risk of being ridiculed, and maintaining those beliefs, even when threatened with loss of friends or social status. He who stands steadfastly for that which is right must risk becoming, at times, disapproved and unpopular.”  And, “It is impossible to stand upright when one plants his roots in the shifting sands of popular opinion and approval. Needed is the courage of a Daniel… in order for us to hold strong and fast to that which we know is right…. We will all face fear, experience ridicule, and meet opposition. Let us, all of us, have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God’ approval.”
This call to courage for our beliefs overlapped news this past week of the CEO of Mozilla-Firefox, Brendan Eich, being forced out of the corporation he helped found. His unforgivable crime? Six years ago he donated $1000 to the Prop 8 campaign in California, to keep the original definition of marriage—along with a majority of California voters, and in line with what President Obama claimed was his position at that time (evidently a position Obama held only for the political popularity of that position during an election year). Eich offered an apology, but that would not suffice; he had to be ousted as well. (My son Political Sphere said it was flagrantly anti-speech enough to cause him to give up using Mozilla from now on.)
Brendan Eich, formerly of Mozilla
photo credit: Heritage
Eich isn’t the only one who has suffered this type of persecution for holding a belief—that the majority holds—in opposition to the vocal, teeth-gnashing pro-homosexual lobby. This vocal mob has tried to equate love of family and traditional marriage with hatred and bigotry toward homosexuals. They claim that we who believe in the civilizing power of traditional marriage are evil, and are forcing our beliefs down the throats of others. Meanwhile they are hating us, and forcing their beliefs down our throats—against our First Amendment rights of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
This particular case got people’s attention in ways that the aggregate of cases involving bakers and photographers refusing to service “same-sex marriage” ceremonies has not. I’m not sure why. But it is suddenly obvious who the haters are.
Bill Maher, who is almost always wrong, being a liberal, but is at least honest about his beliefs, referred to them as the “gay mafia,” saying, “If you cross them, you get whacked.”
Matt Walsh, my current favorite blogger, wrote a positive response, “Hey gay rights fascists: in spite of your Mozilla victory, you will still lose.” He begins,
Dear gay rights militants, dear progressive tyrants, dear liberal fascists, dear haters of free speech, dear crusaders for ideological conformity, dear left wing bullies:
You will lose.
Matt Walsh speaks colorfully. Here’s his description of the attack:
So, you’ve tracked another dissident and skinned him alive. You’ve made an example of Brendan Eich, and now you dance joyously around his disemboweled carcass. You have his head on a spike, and you consider this a conquest in your eternal crusade to eradicate diversity and punish differing opinions. You launched your millionth campaign of intimidation, and now another good man has been dragged through the mud, to the sounds of taunting and jeering and death threats.
Why does he think this is evidence they are losing?
Don’t you people read? Haven’t you learned anything from history? ‘Advancements’ earned through tyranny never endure. You can only win a debate by suffocating your opposition for so long. Your strategy is doomed for failure, because it has always failed.
I think he’s right. But I don’t know about timing. I don’t know how many more will be tyrannized first. It depends on who we’re dealing with. Gandhi won out by simply standing firm for his beliefs, without violence, because he was up against the British, who in most ways were seeking to be civilized and just needed to be forced to see that what they were doing was uncivilized. It’s said that if Gandhi had been going against Stalin, he’d simply be dead, and India would have remained under the oppressive regime.
But as far as the ideological argument of the "gay mafia" is concerned, something about this case has turned the tide, according to Matt Walsh:
You might have fooled society forever if you’d just kept singing about love and kindness, and never started bombarding Christians with your bitter hate and hostility. You might have gained some lasting ground if you hoisted your banner of free love, and never used it to diminish free speech.
But the proverbial cat is out of the bag. You’ve been made.
Because of your own behavior, when people like myself tell the world about the vicious death wishes and vulgar hate mail we receive from your kind on a DAILY basis, everyone will believe us. It’s no secret anymore. Without question and without exaggeration, the ‘gay rights movement’ is the angriest, most ruthless, most controlling, most intolerant of all the ideological enterprises in the country. Now, everyone knows it.
I hope he’s right about everyone knowing it. In the end—the very end, when Christ returns to reign personally upon the earth—I know that good wins out over evil. I don’t know how much courage in the face of bullying we will need to withstand in the meantime. But I do know that standing with courage is a better way to live than giving in to tyranny.
I continue to stand. Please read my Defense of Marriage collection.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Court Kudos

It’s nice to be able to praise a court for getting things right. Last week the 5th Circuit Court reversed the district court ruling, of October 28, 2013, that had claimed Texas’s HB2 law was unconstitutional. This was the law passed last summer, which got notoriety for Wendy Davis, for her “pro-feminist” filibuster, which caused the legislature to go into special session to pass it—which did indeed pass easily. An emergency stay of the district court’s order two days after the ruling kept the law from being enjoined (in other words, HB 2 continued to be treated as the law), since the state showed likelihood of success upon appeal.
The 5th Circuit pretty well gave a smackdown to the district judge. It might be interesting to note that the three-judge panel was made up of three career-women, and the district judge was a man. The assumption that all thinking working women must be automatically pro-abortion is clearly false.
To review, the law did mainly two things: 1) prohibited abortions after 20 weeks, the point at which we now have evidence the fetus feels pain; and 2) required abortion providers to meet the health and safety requirements of other surgical centers.
The first point was not disputed by the plaintiffs: Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Surgical Health Services, along with other Planned Parenthood entities and other abortion providers in Texas. The 20-week mark is only a few weeks before the previously set “viability” limit. It has been upheld in other states, and is the standard limit in most of Europe. So they didn’t even argue that main purpose of the law.
The second purpose had several provisions: doctors needed to have hospital admitting privileges; surgical centers needed to meet health and safety and cleanliness standards; and medication abortions must be held to the FDA requirements for use of those substances.
The plaintiffs took issue with the provision of the law regarding admitting privileges and limit to use of medication abortions. They presented four grounds for invalidating the law: violation of patients’ substantive due process rights, violation of physicians’ procedural due process rights, unlawful delegation of authority to hospitals, and vagueness. The opinion goes through each of these, explaining in pretty clear terms (considering it’s legal language) why the district court was wrong.
The state maintains the district court erred in these four ways: 1) granting standing to abortion providers to assert physicians’ and patients’ rights vis-à-vis the issues raised; 2) facially invalidating the admitting-privileges regulation; 3) creating a “broad and vague ‘health’ exception” to the medication abortion regulations; and 4) enforcing an injunction beyond the rights of the plaintiffs in this case.
While the ruling covers each of these carefully, the meat of the opinion relates to the requirement for admitting privileges. The standard is based on several cases that have essentially set abortion law requirements: Roe v Wade, which found a “right” for a woman to end a pregnancy by abortion; Casey, which ruled that the state had an interest once the fetus was viable, but couldn’t impose an “undue burden” on a woman seeking an abortion in earlier weeks; and Gonzalez, which added to the “undue burden” rule that the law must have a rational reason.
The plaintiffs claim, but fail to provide convincing evidence, that the requirement will limit availability to abortions by closing down. Much of what they provided was supposition without any actual cases. There were indeed specific clinics they showed would close down. But when they went through the specific clinics, there were doctors who couldn’t qualify because they were too old (already over age 65), unlicensed in obstetrics and gynecology, or unwilling to be recruited to the abortion industry in the first place (or, in the case of one doctor, unwilling to come to Texas to do abortions because of fear of anti-abortion sentiment here).
There were some hospitals—Catholic hospitals—that refused access to abortion service providers, but essentially all public hospitals are required to allow admitting privileges if abortion service is the only disqualifier.
That answered one question I had: why did they assume they couldn’t get admitting privileges if they hadn’t tried? Abortion providers who apply for admitting privileges must get them at most hospital if they meet all other requirements—but they might not qualify, or might not want to try, reasons that hardly show dedication to women’s health. Essentially, if a woman expects an OB/GYN physician to perform her surgical abortion, and to have him be her physician if an issue arises that requires hospitalization—as happens to 210 Texas women annually—Planned Parenthood says she should have no such expectation, and can just go to an emergency room, because her abortionist is done with her.
The state showed that there is a loss of care when a patient is handed over to a doctor who does not know her medical history. That is the reason other out-patient surgeons are required to have admitting privileges. So the rational basis for that provision of the law was met.
The plaintiffs tried to say that the number of abortion clinics that would be forced to close would cause a third of abortion clinics in the state to close. They added that this could prevent 22,286 women who were seeking abortions. They failed, however, to show that those numbers were scientifically derived; in other words, they were found to be speculation, just pulled out of thin air.
The district court opinion had found that the claim of  “24 counties in the Rio Grande Valley would be left with no abortion provider because those abortion providers do not have admitting privileges and are unlikely to get them” was invalid:
[The district court’s] opinion invalidated the admitting–privileges provision as it pertains to the entire state of Texas, but its only recitation of evidence concerned “24 counties in the Rio Grande Valley,” which it predicted would be left with no abortion provider. As an initial matter, the statement that both clinics in the Rio Grande Valley will close may be disregarded as clearly erroneous based on the trial court record. Hagstrom–Miller and Ferrigno each testified that there were two clinics in the Rio Grande Valley, yet the district court accepted testimony regarding only one of them. Even if we were to accept that both clinics in the Rio Grande Valley were about to close as a result of the admitting privileges provision, however, this finding does not show an undue burden. To put this “finding” into perspective, of the 254 counties in Texas only thirteen had abortion facilities before H.B. 2 was to take effect. The Rio Grande Valley, moreover, has four counties, not twenty-four, and travel between those four counties and Corpus Christi, where abortion services are still provided, takes less than three hours on Texas highways (distances up to 150 miles maximum and most far less). In addition, Texas exempts from its 24-hour waiting period after informed consent those women who must travel more than 100 miles to an abortion facility (pp. 20-21).
Yeah, it had been that badly ruled. I don’t know what was going through the district court judge’s mind, but he was clearly going above and beyond the law to try to ensure abortion under any circumstances, regardless of risk to women’s health.
I’m glad the 5th Circuit got this one right. I wish we didn’t have to so often depend on courts to decide these life and death issues. But I’m glad when they use the rule of law.
There’s always more to say against abortion. I came across a piece this week, written I think over a decade ago, from the Ethics and Public Policy Center, detailing some of the negative costs to society of abortion. A lot of data, worth considering: “The Socioeconomic Costs of Roe v. Wade.”