Monday, June 29, 2015

Getting It Wrong, Part II

The sad news of the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling came out on Friday.

Normally on controversial rulings, I go through the opinions in this blog and consider the legal ramifications. But we’ve been through much of this already. Kennedy’s opinion ignored the law and came down to something about him personally not wanting homosexuals to feel lonely--not kidding. (He ignored his own recent ruling that marriage law was up to the states, not the federal government.)

The irony of the day was Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent about the majority ignoring the law—after he had done exactly that the day before on the King v. Burwell decision. All four dissenting judges wrote their own dissents—all worth reading. Again, Justice Scalia’s is the essence of clarity and truth.

Justice Kennedy is at fault—moreso than Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor—because the others are partisan hacks, but Kennedy swings, so the decision was his. He is like the independent voter, going by some personal list of criteria mysterious to those of us with real principles, with the hubris to believe that his mind workings are more evolved than the rest of us.

That single unelected person in a black robe decided for all of America that there is, somewhere hidden in the 14th Amendment, a heretofore unknown right for homosexuals to marry. Because he knows more than God.

He doesn’t actually know more than God. Reactions to the ruling seem to forget that.

The people's house, with a small sub-group's flag
superimposed on it, photo from

The White House cheered by changing the white lights to be a rainbow. They were able to accomplish that lighting change that very day. One might think that was planned for way ahead of time, almost as if they had control over the ruling. Author Brad Thor pointed out that this was practically the first time the White House wasn’t surprised by the news; practically everything else they claim to learn about as we did, on TV news broadcasts. 

We might note that the White House is the people’s house, not the Obamas’. Their “gay pride” in the face of more than half of Americans is intentionally offensive. No other flag has been represented in colored lights on the White House—not even red, white, and blue on the 4th of July. The LBGT flag gets special privileges, just as homosexuals insisted on special privileges concerning marriage.

In addition, the president gave a speech (also likely prepared well in advance of the ruling, as if he knew the outcome). Apparently forgetting that he deceptively campaigned in 2008 as a supporter of traditional marriage, he said,

Opposition in some cases has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs…. All of us who welcome today’s news should be mindful of that fact. Recognize different viewpoints. Revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.
But today should also give us hope that on the many issues with which we grapple often painfully real change is possible.…
Shifts in hearts and minds is [sic] possible…. And those who have come so far on their journey to equality have a responsibility to reach back and help others join them.
Let me translate: “You bitter clingers need to give up your religious beliefs; we’re right and you’re wrong, and we’ll force you into compliance. We might go easier on you if you submit to our superiority now.”

Here’s the thing: the president of this country is not more powerful or more all-knowing than God. Neither are any black-robed judges.

Contrary to popular belief, marriage—real marriage—didn’t change on Friday. Real marriage is older than all earthly governments, and it won’t change because people change their opinions.

It predates this earth. But on our planet it was instituted by God to our first parents. He gave Adam and Eve a covenant—between each other and the two of them together with Him—to sanction the behavior that they would need to experience (and hopefully enjoy) in order to multiply and replenish the earth, so that they would experience the joy of having posterity.

Marriage was a blessing to them from the beginning, and to all of us who have come after. Saving that sexual act until it is sanctioned by covenant offers many blessings: knowing who a child’s parents are, committing both parents to the raising of their children, economic stability, absence of sexually transmitted diseases, and more. There is nothing instituted in any culture at any time that is better for building civilization.

Marriage provides care for children during the years before they are productive. It provides support for women during childbearing and raising small children when they would otherwise struggle to be self-sustaining. It motivates men to more productivity in order to meet their family obligations. And it connects men and women permanently, to work together for the economic and social well-being of their family unit.

There is a detail about this that has been ignored in today’s society. Marriage is to sanction the procreative sexual act—before it takes place. It legitimizes no sexual act other than the procreative one. And it is understood that extramarital participation in that act is illicit: i.e., outside the law, not sanctioned by law.

In religious terms, any sexual acts outside of marriage is a sin. It is outside the covenant. God has not approved it. That’s why the terminology includes phrases like “illegitimate child,” “living in sin,” or “making an honest man (or woman) out of me.” 

Governments, which usually support the covenant, refer to the specific procreative act. This procreative act requires a male and a female. If you don’t believe this, your biological education is sorely deficient. A marriage isn’t consummated until the man and woman engage in the act. Failure to engage in it is grounds for annulment.

Homosexuals never, ever, world’s without end, engage in that act with someone of the same sex. It isn’t a physiological possibility. What they do is sexual, but it isn’t what is required for marriage. The Supreme Court can’t make it so; all SCOTUS can do is confuse the law, and take away the honor from real marriage that it has always had because of its benefit to society.

Furthermore, homosexuals are not entering marriage in order to place within the law any sexual act they have been refraining from; you may not find, in the entire history of homosexuality, a couple that keeps themselves pure and virginal up until the moment their government deems them married. They aren’t insisting on their alignment with God; they are insisting that society ignore what marriage is and honor their sexual act as equivalent to the procreative act—just because they want the honor.

Society has been duped.

This has been the result of a media campaign. If truth were given even half as much media, beliefs wouldn’t have been manipulated.

The issue has been framed as about fairness and tolerance. There may have been times, a century ago, when people were prevented from making a living or getting housing because of their homosexual lifestyle. That mostly disappeared long ago. Long before judicial activism stepped in to “help.” But the media campaign has portrayed anyone who points out the obvious—that real marriage is best for children, families, and societies as a whole—as bigoted homophobes. Name calling. As well as some sticks and stones in the form of ostracism and business ruin intended to instill fear.

What we’ve seen on social media this past weekend is a lot of bandwagon jumping. People want to pat themselves on the back for not being bigoted, so they put a rainbow on their profile photo. They think they’re meaning, “I’m open-minded; I’m a good person. Because I don't hate gays.”

But they’re actually falling into the trap of another meaning: “I don’t want to be seen as something the loud media calls bad, so I’m labeling myself the way the media wants. And I think we media-go-alongers know better than God. Those people who don’t go along with us will be labeled negatively and will be persecuted, as they should be, for not giving in with us.”

If you’re a go-alonger, you seem to have fallen for some things that are not true. Such as, homosexuality is a genetic reality; a person is made homosexual and cannot change or even refrain—and shouldn’t.

Let’s look at what this means to a Christian, since actual Christian believers are to be the target of the persecution. You go-alongers are saying that, while God requires obedience to His commandments for all heterosexuals, He made homosexuals exempt to His law, because no homosexual should be expected to refrain from sexual acts God’s law forbids. You are saying God must have made a mistake—because science (not real science, but pseudo-science) says homosexuality is natural, and inborn, and unchangeable—and that means they have no free will to control their behavior.

You are saying, either God has to change His law, or else He is unfairly excluding an entire group of people who haven’t done anything to keep themselves out of heaven except that sexual sin thing that you think shouldn’t apply to them. So God is just a big unfair meanie. According to you. Because you know better than God.

Can a real Christian be wrong on such an issue? Yes, we can all be wrong on a lot of things. But God is not wrong. So if you’re out of harmony with God, it is up to you to correct yourself. Christians who are in harmony with God on family and marriage will not persecute you; we will use persuasion, example, and patience. That’s what Christians do. That is what tolerance looks like. Not giving in, not celebrating sin. But with love trying to persuade all people to come unto God.

Tolerance does not look anything like coercing Christians to use their talents and abilities to celebrate what God has clearly declared to be a sin. So if you’re one of those who says, “Just go ahead and bake the cake already, you troglodyte bigot,” you’re on track to support tyranny. We’ve seen it before. Everywhere there has been tyranny.

Taking the side of tyranny for temporary safety from persecution might seem like a good idea to you now, but you will answer for it before God.

I call you to repentance, with gentle invitation, but firmly. I’ve taken a stand. And experience tells me I’m better off siding with God than with Obama, or Justice Kennedy, or even friends who put pro-homosexual flags on their profile photos.

PS: Son Political Sphere reminded me of an additional point. Justice Scalia has pointed out that every time Kennedy writes that something is safe, the next ruling he writes endangers that very thing. This time his opinion assured us that our First Amendment guaranteed freedom of religion is safe. That means the next thing you can expect from Justice Kennedy will be his explanation of why we do not have that right. We'll be watching.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Getting It Wrong

What happens when the Supreme Court gets it wrong? Because that happens.

Earlier this week was the 10th anniversary of the notorious Kelo v. City of New London decision. That was the one that defined imminent domain requirement of “only for public use” to the endlessly broad possible future “public benefit.” So, if a city decides it would rather get the tax money from a mall, it could seize the property (compensating at current market rate) and sell it to a preferred developer who might provide more tax revenue.

All of us regular thinkers could see clearly that the purpose of imminent domain should be something necessary, such as a road. It should be used carefully and sparingly, not extending beyond necessity, and always with the value of the land at its highest (if the road would make the property more valuable, then taking it before the value is added and depriving the owner of that increased value would be wrong).

Taking property from one owner to confer it to a preferred owner is theft. Pure and simple. It wasn’t just misconstruing the term “public use”; it was also a matter of disregarding all the Court’s precedent on property rights. It so thoroughly threw out the long-held understanding of property rights, as Sandra Day O’Connor said in her dissent, only a really “stupid staffer” could fail to come up with some “public benefit” from any government taking. (There’s a good review here.)

There was public outcry—across party boundaries. And some states have amended their constitutions to address the matter, to avoid such public seizures. But the Court has not done anything to reverse itself.
January 22 of this year was the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which found in the “umbras and penumbras” of the Constitution a right to privacy that is construed to guarantee a woman a right to kill her unborn child. It acknowledged that a state could have an interest in its citizens, including persons-in-being, which can be at odds with the between-the-lines right to abortion. So that led to the clarification referred to as the undue burden rule

Following that debate-ending SCOTUS ruling, no state has been able to outlaw abortion. But there have been some movements toward progress. Pro-abortionists are revealing themselves to be callous and cruel when they oppose each and every measure. As science becomes better able to show details of a growing fetus, laws in several states—still meeting the undue burden requirement—have managed to curtail partial-birth abortion, and even third-trimester abortions, or abortions after 20 weeks, the point at which pain is proven to be felt by the unborn. Eventually this abomination will be seen for what it is—no thanks to the Supreme Court.

Today we add to the list of SCOTUS errors. The King v. Burwell decision came down, a 6-3 decision claiming that a state exchange is equivalent to an exchange through the secretary of Health and Human Services. The law doesn’t say it. The law clearly says otherwise. But Justice Roberts, in his opinion, even though he could see that the law didn’t say what it needed to say, wrote that we should keep the law from failing.

Here is Justice Roberts’ explanation[i] of the situation (section C):

The Act requires the creation of an “Exchange” in each State where people can shop for insurance, usually online. 42 U. S. C. §18031(b)(1). An Exchange may be created in one of two ways. First, the Act provides that “[e]ach State shall . . . establish an American Health Benefit Exchange . . . for the State.” Ibid. Second, if a State nonetheless chooses not to establish its own Exchange, the Act provides that the Secretary of Health and Human Services “shall . . . establish and operate such Exchange within the State.” §18041(c)(1).
The issue in this case is whether the Act’s tax credits are available in States that have a Federal Exchange rather than a State Exchange. The Act initially provides that tax credits “shall be allowed” for any “applicable taxpayer.” 26 U. S. C. §36B(a). The Act then provides that the amount of the tax credit depends in part on whether the taxpayer has enrolled in an insurance plan through “an Exchange established by the State under section 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [hereinafter 42 U. S. C. §18031].” 26 U. S. C. §§36B(b)–(c) (emphasis added).
So, there are two types of exchanges, a state exchange and an exchange set up by the secretary of Health and Human Services. The law is clear that those who qualify for a subsidy must fit the requirement of income between 100-400% of poverty level and sign up through a state exchange. The law was written that way to pressure states into setting up the exchanges. No state exchange, no subsidy for citizens in need. It was assumed very few if any states would refuse to set up the exchanges. But they were wrong. Many states refused—34.  In addition to those refusing, some tried and failed. Several more are still trying but are on the verge of total collapse. So the secretary of HHS ended up providing exchanges for far more than expected.

And that’s why they (the IRS, directed by the administration) decided, even though the law doesn’t provide for it, to subsidize any low-income users of any exchange.

Roberts had a misguided purpose—again. He thinks it might subject the Court to disrepute to throw down a law that Congress duly passed—even though, if the Court has a purpose beyond being the final court of appeal, it’s purpose is to throw down as unconstitutional any law Congress passed that doesn’t meet the limited government standards clearly laid out in the Constitution. He knows it’s bad law. He says,

The Affordable Care Act contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting. (To cite just one, the Act creates three separate Section 1563s. See 124 Stat. 270, 911, 912.) Several features of the Act’s passage contributed to that unfortunate reality. Congress wrote key parts of the Act behind closed doors, rather than through “the traditional legislative process.” Cannan, A Legislative History of the Affordable Care Act: How Legislative Procedure Shapes Legislative History, 105 L. Lib. J. 131, 163 (2013). And Congress passed much of the Act using a complicated budgetary procedure known as “reconciliation,” which limited opportunities for debate and amendment, and bypassed the Senate’s normal 60-vote filibuster requirement. Id., at 159–167. As a result, the Act does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation. Cf. Frankfurter, Cite as: 576 U. S. ____ (2015) 15 Opinion of the Court Some Reflections on the Reading of Statutes, 47 Colum. L. Rev. 527, 545 (1947) (describing a cartoon “in which a senator tells his colleagues ‘I admit this new bill is too complicated to understand. We’ll just have to pass it to find out what it means.’”).
So, knowing the law is faulty, he says, “But that does not allow this Court to rewrite the Act to fix that problem.” And yet “fix” it (i.e., put in “the fix,” meaning “to influence the outcome or actions of (something) by improper or unlawful means: fix a prizefight; fix a jury)[ii] is what he does.

If there is a bright lining to this dark historical cloud, it is Justice Scalia’s scathing dissent, joined in its entirety by Justices Alito and Thomas. Scalia pulls no punches, and he doesn’t beat around the bush. This is his first paragraph:

Justice Antonin Scalia
(photo by Pete Marovich,/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom)
found here 

The Court holds that when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act says “Exchange established by the State” it means “Exchange established by the State or the Federal Government.” That is of course quite absurd, and the Court’s 21 pages of explanation make it no less so.
This exasperated explanation is on his second page:

This case requires us to decide whether someone who buys insurance on an Exchange established by the Secretary gets tax credits. You would think the answer would be obvious—so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it. In order to receive any money under §36B, an individual must enroll in an insurance plan through an “Exchange established by the State.” The Secretary of Health and Human Services is not a State. So an Exchange established by the Secretary is not an Exchange established by the State—which means people who buy health insurance through such an Exchange get no money under §36B.
If the subsidy would be given for any exchange, then would be odd to keep referring to the subsidy coming in relation to a state exchange under §36B. There are places in the vast law, cited by Justice Scalia, that refer to both the state exchanges and those provided by the secretary of HHS, and sometimes together those are referred to as “exchanges,” but never in relation to §36B (the subsidy, dealing with the IRS). Every time the subsidy is referred to, the full phrase includes “state exchange” and the reference to the part of the law. Not just a time or two, but I believe it was seven times. That’s not an accident; it’s clearly to delineate when such a subsidy can be given.

Here is one of the more important lines:

Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is “established by the State.”
Whatever else follows this decision, this is the precedent that was set: words in law no longer have meaning.

It used to be that a court would look at the clear understanding of the text—what the words mean to reasonably educated people. And if that left something ambiguous, then the court would look at context, to see if the ambiguity can be cleared up elsewhere in the law. And sometimes a law would define a term in a specific way—that would be designated in the law. (Example: for the purposes of this law, the term “duck” shall be referred to as “goat.” And then, for that law only, even if nowhere else, a waterfowl we normally refer to as a duck would be referred to as a goat.)

Roberts actually claims that he is viewing the term “state exchange” in the larger context, but Scalia schools him on that. Chief Justice Roberts just got told, “You keep using that word—state exchanges. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

One difference between Roberts and Scalia is that Roberts thinks he should “help” the lawmakers by ruling, “let’s pretend you wrote it better.” Scalia does the more natural thing: the law says what it says, and that’s all it can do. If you don’t like it, the legislature is free to change the law. As Scalia so aptly puts it:

Perhaps sensing the dismal failure of its efforts to show that “established by the State” means “established by the State or the Federal Government,” the Court tries to palm off the pertinent statutory phrase as “inartful drafting.” This Court, however, has no free-floating power “to rescue Congress from its drafting errors.”

They made Congress, not this Court, responsible for both making laws and mending them.
Scalia may be writing the dissent, but his lines will be most memorable. Maybe especially this one:

We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.

Son Political Sphere suggests it could aptly be called RobertsCare, since it is his two bad Obamacare rulings that leave us wondering what this administration is blackmailing him with.

Scalia adds,

This Court’s two decisions on the Act will surely be remembered through the years…. And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.
If the Chief Justice had as his purpose retaining respect for the Court, this decision was a big FAIL. His legacy will be that any time there’s a dispute over the meaning of words in law, the Roberts precedent will be cited: if it doesn’t mean what it says, we will say it means what we want it to mean.

That may be many ridiculous things, but it is not blind justice.

No good comes from a bad Supreme Court decision. Much bad can come from it. Hold onto your hats; we’ll have more to face Friday and Monday, the final days of this Court session.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Being a Dad

We spent yesterday honoring fathers, but I wanted to extend it one day, so I could share a couple of things.

What’s it like being a dad? I can’t specifically answer that question, being a mom and grandma, but I’ve seen fatherhood in action. And it’s kind of an awesome force for good in the world.

Have you seen The Skit Guys answer this question?

Imagine a world in which every lonely, confused adult going down the wrong road had had a dad that filled the role—maybe not perfectly, but with love, tenderness, and an unending will for the child’s life to go well. Not all the world’s problems would be solved; people still have free will, so some will just choose badly. But so many more will know what a good choice looks like. The holes in so many children’s hearts would be filled, and ready to pass that love along.

Good fathers make a difference.

Of all the titles of respect and honor and admiration that are given to deity, He asked us to address him as Father.—A. Theodore Tuttle
That is from a very good talk on fatherhood, from October 1973. Still true.

Thursday, June 18, 2015


Some people have more money than others. Some people have a lot more than others. Is there something wrong with that? Something evil that requires correction?

First of all, what is wealth, again? At the Spherical Model, this is the definition:

Wealth is not some mystical entity endowed by either government or birthright. Nor is it something that the haves enjoy by depriving the have nots of their fair share. Wealth, simply, represents the accumulation of the results of labor.
There is a total amount of wealth in the world—at this current moment. But that is an accounting detail, not a limit. There is no upper limit to wealth in the world. It is producible by every productive human individual.

There’s a section of The Lessons of History, by Will and Ariel Durant, on money, and disparity of wealth:

Since practical ability differs from person to person, the majority of such abilities, in nearly all societies, is gathered in a minority of men. The concentration of wealth is a natural result of this concentration of ability, and regularly recurs in history. The rate of concentration varies (other factors being equal) with the economic freedom permitted by morals and the laws. Despotism may for a time retard the concentration; democracy, allowing the most liberty, accelerates it….
We conclude that the concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution.
So, what we know is, there will always be differences, disparity of wealth. Because people are different. But the problem isn’t that wealth disparity exists; it is that poverty exists. As the Gospels say, “For ye have the poor with you always” (Mark 14:7, see also Matthew 26:11 and John 12:8).

It would be helpful to look at real root problems, rather than imagined problems.

Does a rich person’s wealth prevent a poorer person from generating wealth? Not in a free market. In a true free market, wealth is developed by producing more than the minimum necessary for survival. In the language of money, it’s when you earn more than you spend, and you accumulate the extra. And you might accumulate more if you invest it—low amounts in a savings account, possibly more with other investments—along with the risk of loss.

But what about the person who spends everything he can earn, and can hardly get by? What if he can barely cover his food, clothing, and shelter needs, with nothing left over for education, entertainment, or greater comfort? Is it fair that he works hard and lives this way, when another person works maybe only as many hours—and maybe at less physically taxing work?

Isn’t it evil for the rich person to accept so much money—way beyond what he needs—for work that is in many ways equivalent to a regular worker?

The Good Earth
That’s the kind of question that leads to discontent and sometimes to violence. 

In Pearl Buck’s novel The Good Earth, there’s a point where the poor are starving and growing daily more desperate, squatting along the walls of the wealthy, until things get so heated, the poor rise up and raid the property of the wealthy, looting and killing. That was a book of fiction, but the Durants’ book describes that as a typical cycle.

It might look like the problem is too much wealth at the top, but it’s really about too little at the bottom. When people are starving and suffering while the wealthy ignore their needs, that is an injustice that won’t stand indefinitely. Usually in that kind of situation, there are interferences going on that protect the position of the wealthy at the expense of the poor. There are class systems that keep people down. Or there are limits to who can do what work, or enter into certain businesses.

It is interference with liberty that leads, not simply to disparity, but to suffering by the poor with no apparent way out. More interference, even with the intention of making up for the injustice, will never solve the problem.

The problem isn’t that some people make more; the problem is that there are actual poor—those who, for no fault of their own, cannot earn enough to meet their needs—that aren’t being taken care of.

A Democrat friend (whom I am quoting without identifying, because I value the friendship, if not the ideas) recently posted this Jimmy Carter quote:

If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor—then stop saying that you want a country based on Christian Values, because you don’t.
And then he commented,

We are the government. We choose where the money is spent. If you hate government, then work to change it. A society is known for how it treats people. I choose to live in a society where we feed the poor and provide great education for people to succeed. I believe we should provide healthcare to all people regardless of what country of birth or ability to pay. These people are our brothers and sisters. If you want to turn away your brother and sister then send them to me. If you want to blame government for everything bad in this country, then blame your forefathers for setting up this system. I choose to work harder to make a difference.
I guess we need to mention that this is not the system of forefathers set up. I've read the Constitution. But this is an example of how many Democrats think. They would never vote for a Republican, because Republicans are mean and stingy, and out to make money for themselves and let the poor starve. But they’re wrong. Republicans, or conservatives in general, because they don’t assume that government has relieved them of responsibility, are much more likely to give freely, and are likely to find charitable organizations that make a real difference in the lives of those in need. need.[i]

Government is coercion. There is no charity in coercion, so government charity is a lie; it is the despotism of redistribution. In short, that means we are voting to allow government to take earnings from whomever it chooses and to give that confiscated money to whomever it chooses. In our individual lives, that is called theft. When our government does it, it doesn’t suddenly become noble; it is still theft.

The “we are the government” claim is a fallacy. We, the people, are sovereign, and grant to government only what we must, to perform specific security and infrastructure roles. When government takes our money to give to the poor, we aren’t being charitable; we are being robbed. And too often the poor aren’t helped out of poverty; they are lured into dependency on government, which is about government power much more than about helping people. If you assume that, once robbed by government you have no more responsibility to the poor, you might be making yourself feel good, but you’re not actually engaged in charitable giving.

Follow that “we are the government” idea to its logical conclusion, and it means any majority can do anything it wants: confiscate wealth, take businesses from those who own them (ask GMC dealers under threat of Obama), control what you produce and sell, control what you are allowed to do with your own property, decide whether you are a preferred person to get various opportunities, decide how you raise your children, decide whether you get health care and within what limits, and on endlessly.

The solution to poverty isn’t theft from earners. It has to be actual charity. People with enough to meet their needs need to feel compassion in their hearts and give freely, in ways that will help the poor, whenever possible, to move out of their situation and become self-sustaining, and on the way to building their own wealth.

Name calling about whether someone is Christian or not isn’t helpful. Start with tithes and offerings. A tithe is 10% of your gross income (you figure that out, if you’re a business; it can be after reinvestment in the business for future income). Then, on top of that, consider going without something, such as a meal or two while you fast, and giving that to the poor. If your church isn’t a good outlet for the entire amount of your charitable giving, then find the charities that work for you.[ii] If you’re not doing this minimal amount that God asks for, then don’t go pretending you’re more giving because you let government take your money for its purposes. [Note: the Democrat friend actually is a rare one who pays tithes, so at least he's not hypocritical on this point.]

Baby Social Sphere helps by making friends
at a nutrition screening in Peru
If you’re at the lower end but getting by, you can still give that percentage; the widow’s mite was the greatest gift left at the altar that day (Luke 21;1 and Mark 12:14). Seeing yourself as someone with extra to give can be mind-changing in ways that lead to wealth. You feel gratitude instead of covetousness. You recognize the value of what you have and take care of it. You feel generosity to care for the less fortunate. You cease to feel entitled to what others have earned and begin to feel confident in your own ability to meet your needs and offer value to the world.

Inculcating real charity, instead of resentment and covetousness, would get us closer to solving the poverty problem.

The problem isn’t disparity, so let’s not even worry about that. The problem is that some people are in need and really need help. The political solution isn’t more government control; it is more liberty. The economic solution isn’t forced redistribution and control, but free market with its opportunities. The real solution is something you need for civilization—real charity and voluntary giving.

[ii] I suggest Liahona Children’s Foundation, which offers nutrition-dense resources for poor children, a project daughter Social Sphere is helping with in South America the past couple of months.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


Hillsdale College has a growing list of free college-level classes online. Right now I’m into History 102, American Heritage, and lesson three is “Enlightenment and Natural Rights.” The lecturer is Hillsdale history professor Terrence Moore. He shares with us stories of the life of Benjamin Franklin as a kind of exemplification of the American Enlightenment.
Benjamin Franklin
image from Wikipedia

Ben Franklin’s life is always enlightening to learn about. I enjoyed the biography The Real Benjamin Franklin[i] some years ago. He was a marvel of creative thought and energy, as well as good humor. So the review of Franklin was interesting in itself. But there were connections made in the lecture that I think are worth looking at, especially in our day.

This is from the introduction:

Franklin was important in creating the American character and also the American ideas of self-government. And Franklin always started at the bottom, from the bottom up, you might say. He would form a library based on his friends’ needing books. He would conduct scientific experiments just with his friends that ended up being profoundly important in the history of electricity. Franklin never thought for a minute to write London for a grant to help him buy his jars and his kite and his key. Franklin never thought about writing London to deliver a bunch of books for free for these poor colonists. He scraped together what books he had with his friends, and that became a library. And they didn’t need an overarching directive from London telling them what to do.
If you look at the list of things that Franklin created, that in some cases had never been created before, even in London, you see that a native genius with a lot of freedom and with belief in oneself and one’s capacities of self-government can lead to great things.
We see some particularly American virtues in Franklin. He wasn’t content to be stuck in anything he didn’t enjoy. On a second or third try at apprenticeship, he learned the printing trade. When, at 17 years of age, he disagreed with his master (who was his older brother), he left Boston and showed up in Philadelphia. And worked his way up from the bottom—always confident that he could succeed.
He saw things that could be improved, and did something about them. He wasn’t a loner; he studied with other young tradesmen who also didn’t get to go to college, covering everything a college could have given them. When he had a good idea, he recruited others to his view, using the media and his own persuasive skill.

He grew, and learned, and flourished, and improved. And so did Philadelphia. And so did the American colonies. As Professor Moore says,

The larger point I wish to make is that Franklin’s many activities in Philadelphia were a microcosm of what was then taking place throughout the colonies, what we might call an apprenticeship in self-government. In fact, this apprenticeship of colonial Americans had been going on for some time. But in its later stages, as seen in the life of Franklin, the apprentice was beginning to surpass the skills of the master. The improvements and growth taking place in American civil society, unrecognized and unwelcomed by the mother country, would prepare the colonists to declare independence and go on to create a more perfect union.
Among Franklin’s scientific studies included what we now call demographics. He observed the growth rate of the colonies, as compared to the mother country, and realized that eventually there would be more Englishmen in the colonies than in Britain. He wasn’t, at that point, a revolutionary; he hoped there would be Englishmen smart enough to recognize the situation, and who would see the value of a mostly self-governing transatlantic empire.

But there were reasons that wouldn’t happen, mainly having to do with Britain’s, and all of Europe’s, premise of aristocracy.

It was assumed that men and women of birth were superior to those of humbler origin. The American colonies were populated overwhelmingly by men and women who did not have a social edge in their home countries, by younger sons of gentlemen, by the lesser gentry, by the various religious refugees, by what were called the middling sort of merchants and other professionals, and by artificers and servants.
Americans had the ability to rise—as high as their efforts and ingenuity could take them.

[Franklin] once said that in America, a man becomes known not for who his is—that is, what his name is, or his social pedigree—but by what he can do…. In Britain, to get anything done, no matter how worthy a cause or project, you almost always needed aristocratic patronage. In Philadelphia, as Franklin showed time and time again, all you needed was a good idea, some common sense, and a lot of hard work.
That sounds quintessentially American.

When the lecture started talking about the Enlightenment, I wasn’t sure exactly what that referred to. In Wikipedia, it is, in short: “an era from the 1650s to the 1780s in which cultural and intellectual forces in Western Europe emphasized reason, analysis, and individualism rather than traditional lines of authority.”

The Enlightenment had a different flavor in the American colonies, embodied by Benjamin Franklin. Kind of like Franklin’s self-education, there was an energy, a freshness, and an excitement to use the discovered truths to improve personal human lives. Not so much in Europe:

Whereas enlightened political and moral ideas were being generated by great European thinkers, those in charge of European institutions did not always take these new discoveries of old truths to heart. The Americans did.
Terrence Moore uses a drawing of a neoclassic structure, with the pillars representing parts of thought, to describe the American Enlightenment. Think of the architecture of Thomas Jefferson.

The neoclassicism shows that the American revolutionaries did not consider themselves to be inventing something new, but rather discovering things that had always been true though mankind had not always been able or eager to know them.
In Europe there was more skepticism, even cynicism, and a tendency to throw out essentials of a civil society—mainly religion. That was not so in America. Both continents move toward an increase in science, but we need to define that term, because it’s different from what comes immediately to mind:

We must be careful with this word, since in the 18th Century the term science still meant knowledge in systematic inquiry generally. It was not confined to research in the physical world. The Scottish philosopher David Hume, for example, set out to create a science of man; that is, an account of human and human activity in its social, political, and economic spheres.
This more than anything caught my attention here at the Spherical Model. How about that? What we’re about here is the science of man.

So, science, for Franklin and most educated Americans, studied both human and physical inquiries, as hobbyists, but also offering valuable discoveries. Moore reminds us that the foundation of scientific study was the great Isaac Newton. And that is a key point:

The importance of being Newtonians is that American colonists, and later the founders, thought of the universe as an ordered, balanced cosmos created by a benevolent deity who governed according to fixed and discoverable laws, “the laws of nature and nature’s God,” as Jefferson put it.
How vital Newton’s conception of the physical universe was may not be clear until you realize that the nation’s first progressive president, Woodrow Wilson, abandoned the authority of the Constitution by saying it was “accountable to Darwin, not to Newton.” In other words, the balanced world of Newton, in which natural laws were predictable, and in which men, by implication, could lead lives reasonably, was either a figment or fairytale compared to the survivalist nature of Darwin’s world, wholly indifferent to man’s well-being. Who, then, should remain faithful to a fixed constitution when mankind must continually reinvent himself just to remain alive? That was how the progressives thought, not the founding fathers.
That explains a lot. Progressivism (not to be confused with actual progress) has a hateful prejudice against the past, no matter how true and instructive. So there’s an assumption among them that the Constitution is irrelevant, just because it was created in the past. And they don’t believe in principles, so they throw them out for whatever new thing they want to try.

I remember a science class that introduced Einstein’s relativity. The teacher explained that there are situations in which Einstein’s physics are more accurate than Newtonian physics—such as when approaching the speed of light. But in normal circumstances, Newtonian physics is accurate enough for our typical human purposes. I don’t know enough to know if that is true. But the point is, Einstein’s theories added to, rather than wiping out, Newtonian theories of the physical world. So I’d assert that, if there were truth to Darwin’s theories, they would add to, not wipe out, known and ever useful truths.

So far, this covers only about 2/3 of the lecture. Much of the rest covers the four pillars of the American Enlightenment: religious liberty, political liberty, economic liberty, and moral responsibility. We could spend a full day on each of those; in fact, from time to time we have done so.

For now, it will do to be grateful that our heritage proves so many eternal truths: freedom, combined with self-control and moral responsibility, leads to growth, success, ingenuity, and human thriving. People like Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson lived the proof.

[i] W. Cleon Skousen and M. Richard Maxfield, The Real Benjamin Franklin (Vol. 2 of the American Classic series) © 1982.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

No Undue Burden

On Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the state of Texas relating to its abortion law, HB2, passed in 2013.  So it was a good day, correcting a previous bad ruling.

To review, HB2 had two pain pieces. First, it prevents abortion after week 20 of gestation—time point at which science has shown the fetus feels pain, and in line with many other states and nations. While pro-abortion cultists have fought this provision (remember the Wendy Davis filibuster), there has been no challenge to this provision in the courts.

This NYT graphic shows the pre-HB2 number of clinics, left,
and the current number of clinics, right,
with the open circles likely to close after the ruling.

The other main piece requires abortion clinics to have the same standards as other ambulatory surgical centers: doctors need admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles, and certain safety and cleanliness standards need to be met.

Back in October 2013, US Federal District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the admitting privileges requirement was unconstitutional because it poses an undue burden on women seeking an abortion and has no “rational relationship to improved patient care.”

We discussed the ruling at that time. There were several problems. The judge used the wrong criteria—strict scrutiny rather than undue burden.  He failed to notice that the law puts no undue burden on women at all; it puts the burden on the clinics and their doctors. All the state has to prove is that it has a rationale for the rule—which it does—and then it must not cause a significant and certain undue burden on women seeking legal abortions. I know that sounds convoluted, but it’s the way the Supreme Court has carved out laws and requirements, even though the Court technically has no lawmaking authority.

Texas lawmakers knew the requirements when they carefully crafted the law. If the clinics had their doctors get admitting privileges, there would be no closings. If the clinics met basic health and safety standards, there would be no closings. The state of Texas has singled out exactly zero clinics to close down regardless of standards. The clinics choose to close rather than meet the standards, which are both sensible and attainable.

There have been no plaintiffs, no examples of any woman actually suffering an undue burden. The judge made his ruling on the supposition that some hypothetical woman might someday be burdened, and declared that a significant and certain undue burden. He was overstepping, as activist judges do.

Judge Yeakel had the 5th Circuit throw out his ruling against Texas’s requirement for a sonogram to be shown prior to an abortion. Again, there was a rationale (fully inform the patient, as with other surgical procedures), and no significant undue burden (a quick sonogram procedure in a clinic that provides sonograms). So one needs to start asking, what was he thinking? Not about the actual law, but about his personal preferences. Judges like that are in the way of justice.

The ruling Tuesday wasn’t a total win for Texas. The Court carved out a single exception, a single doctor, in McAllen, Texas, is not required to get admitting privileges. That could only make sense if there is no hospital within a 30-mile radius that will allow that doctor at that singular clinic to have admitting privileges (for example, if all of the nearby hospitals are religion-affiliated hospitals who choose to refuse him). I don’t know for certain the circumstances yet.

There will still be around ten abortion clinics in Texas, spread out so that travel for a woman is not considered an undue burden. Note that Texas is not required to make sure there are any abortion clinics; the state is simply required to make only reasonable regulations of clinics; the clinics are free to meet the regulations or not do business. It may be that, even that excluded McAllen clinic will close if it chooses not to upgrade to the safety and cleanliness standards. The law will not have caused that; the free choice of the clinic will have caused that.

Governor Abbott predicted, at the time of the 2013 ruling, when he was Attorney General, that regardless of how the 5th Circuit ruled, it would be appealed to the Supreme Court, and that is the next step. But Texas’ new Attorney General Ken Paxton feels certain Texas will win. My guess is that, if the Supreme Court takes it up, it will be in the 2015-2016 term, with an answer by June 2016. In the meantime, the law stands and continues to function.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Habits and Thoughts of Prosperity

There’s a formula for escaping poverty in America, and entering the middle class, which we’ve repeated here a number of times: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here
  •        Don’t have sex before age 20.
  •        Don’t have sex until after marriage.
  •        Stay married.
  •        Obtain at least a high school diploma.
The economic problem is solved with social/civilization solutions.

A couple of contrasting articles came to my attention recently. The first, “Telling Poor, Smart Kids That All It Takes Is Hard Work to Be as Successful as Their Wealthy Peers Is a Blatant Lie,” explains why the poor are so disadvantaged that no amount of hard work can overcome their disadvantage. The other, “Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 15 Poverty Habits Parents Teach Their Children,”  explains the difference in ways of thinking between the poor and the wealthy.

The formula above is pretty minimal. Out of poverty means you’ve got housing, clothing, and food handled. But it might require a lot of hard work, lifelong struggle, and lack of the perks of wealth: travel; additional education; art and music for pleasure; luxuries and comforts; enjoying better foods, clothing, and housing.

Is that fair? People who think it is wrong for some people to enjoy things that all can’t enjoy are different from people who enjoy those things without guilt. And our beliefs determine a lot about our lives. So maybe those thoughts are worth looking at.

The you-can’t-get-out-of-poverty beliefs revealed in the first article are something like, “No one gets wealth just from hard work, good ideas, and social connections; they get that on the backs of the disadvantaged,” and “The deck is stacked against the poor, so no matter how hard they work, they’ll never get ahead.” The beliefs are self-fulfilling.

Changing thoughts can change the outcome.

There’s something to be said for social capital; it can make up for lack in a limited number of households. But if the larger community doesn’t have enough social capital, the disadvantages of social-capital-lacking families can be devastating.

The disadvantages can’t be overcome with money. Certainly they can’t be wiped out by taking money from the wealthy and giving it to the disadvantaged. Money is useful as economic capital, but it isn’t moral—it’s neutral.

The second article shows there's a difference in habits and ways of thinking that overcome the disadvantages, using a couple of lists. The first list contrasts habits of the wealthy and the poor. And the second describes what parents can do to teach the right ways of thinking that allow for wealth.
Here are a few of the contrasts (some of these I’ve paraphrased):
  •         80% of the wealthy are focused on at least one goal vs. 12% of the poor.
  •          83% of the wealthy attend/attended back-to-school night for their kids vs. 13% of the poor.
  •          67% of the wealthy watch 1 hour or less of T.V. per day vs 23% of the poor.
  •          9% of the wealthy watch reality T.V. shows vs. 78% of the poor.
  •          73% of the wealthy were taught the 80/20 rule vs. 5% of the poor (live off 80% save 20%).
  •          8% of the wealthy believe wealth comes from random good luck vs. 79% of the poor.
  •          79% of the wealthy believe they are responsible for their financial condition vs. 18% of the poor.
The wealthy have different habits, and think different thoughts. They live their lives differently.

So what is on the list of what to teach? All of it assumes teaching them the minimal formula of escaping poverty, listed above; that goes without saying. Then, some of it is clearly economic, but much of it is social (again, somewhat paraphrased).
  •          Limit TV, social media, and cell phone.
  •          Require educational reading, in addition to recreational reading.
  •          Get kids to physically exercise every day.
  •          Limit junk food.
  •          Teach goal setting—short-term and long-term.
  •          Expect children to work to earn money, and to volunteer.
  •          Teach children to save a large portion of their earnings and gifts of money.
  •          Teach manners, and gratitude.
  •          Encourage children to risk making mistakes, which can be used for learning.
  •          Teach children to manage their anger and negative emotions appropriately.
  •          Encourage sports and additional extracurricular interests.
  •          Spend time talking together as a family every day.
  •          Teach principles of good time management.

The poor need to learn that poverty can be a temporary place, and that within themselves lie great possibilities. Nothing keeps them in poverty more than thinking they’re stuck there, and then making decisions as though nothing they do matters.

Changing thinking would work better than taking all the money from all the top 1% of earners, and redistributing it to the poor. Those wealthy who are newly made poor are likely to recover, probably within their own lifetime, and certainly within an additional generation. Those given sudden wealth would remain in poverty, or return to it within a generation.

Prosperity requires certain economic practices, but it also requires living the principles of civilization. We don’t need ways to take wealth from those who have made it; we need ways to teach those who don’t have it what it takes to earn it. Teach them the habits and beliefs of prosperity.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Texas Legislature Roundup

Texas State Capitol in Austin
The 84th Texas Legislature adjourned the end of May. So it’s time to look at what happened, and what didn’t happen.

In our local Tea Party, I have the assignment of making a list of bills for us to follow. We take our list to all of the legislators who represent people in our group, which is about two visits a month for four months. We visit their local offices while they’re in Austin, although we did get a couple of visits with the legislators themselves, and some also visited us at our Tea Party meetings.
The Texas Legislature meets every other year, from mid-January to the end of May. So a lot of business gets compressed into these few months.
Our list was longer this year than in the past, with more people contributing bills they were interested in. So, while it was a bit more work to keep track, the interest is good. It means we’re awake, and we’re hopeful that our speaking up will have an effect.
Texas is a very “red” state, with GOP majorities in the House and the Senate. So you’d think it would be a breeze to get the right kind of legislation through. But that’s not totally true. There are thousands of bills filed during the session, sometimes several on the same issue, so finding the bill that will catch attention and move is a challenge. Also, the Democrat minority is still active in committees, and they have some influence over the House Speaker, who influences what moves.
This report today isn’t what the news thinks is most important. It’s my personal list plus the list of interests of other locals who spoke up. But I think it might be interesting to see what caught the attention of our little corner of conservatism.
First, here’s the list of principles our Tea Party has adopted, which we shared with our legislators:

Principles of Cypress Texas Tea Party 

·         We support the US Constitution and conservative principles in the Texas Constitution.
·         We support low taxes and limited government spending and oppose ever having a state income tax.
·         We support handling each issue at the most local authority possible—with individual and family decisions as the default authority.
·         We support asserting 10th Amendment states’ rights against usurpation by federal government.
o   We particularly oppose allowing national health care to be imposed on the people of Texas.
·         We support parental rights in the education and upbringing of their children, including local control over spending and curriculum in public schools.
·         We do not as a group endorse candidates, but we provide a platform for sharing information so our members can make informed decisions; individual members may endorse, work for, or become candidates. 

Now, instead of repeating the whole bill list here, I’ll mainly identify categories and issues. 

Immigration Law and Homeland Security
We were in favor of e-verify, a method for employers to verify eligibility of employees. If you’re going to hold employers accountable for hiring illegals, you have to give them a way to meet the law. Several bills were put forward. SB 374 passed.
We were against sanctuary cities; the bill we followed, SB 185, disallowed cities from proclaiming they would refuse to obey the law. The bill was approved in committee but died in Intent Calendar.
There are several calendars, and I’m not sure we ever fully understood them all. There’s Intent Calendar, Calendars (not specified), General State Calendar, and Constitutional Amendment Calendar. That last one was for joint resolutions that would be sent to the Secretary of State to be put on the November ballot, to be voted on in a general election. The others were about scheduling votes for passage of bills in the House and Senate at different stages. Calendars, generally, is where bills go to die. If they don’t get a scheduled vote, that’s the end. We probably need to pay more attention to who is on the various Calendars committees, and pressure them with phonecalls and emails. There’s always more to do.
In the last couple of months we became aware of some bills related to infrastructure safety—particularly the electronic grid—both from terrorism and natural disaster causes of an EMP. (I wrote about this here.) Protection would be relatively inexpensive and extremely valuable insurance. We appreciate that loca State Senator Lois Kolkhorst was a co-author, but the bill didn’t progress this session. You might be interested in the testimony by Frank Gaffney, for future reference:  

State and Citizen Rights Preservation
We followed several bills that were intended to assert our Tenth Amendment state’s rights. A couple of them simply asserted the Tenth Amendment. One was specific to declare through state constitutional amendment that Texans would not be subject to a federal requirement to purchase Obamacare. None of these bills progressed. That in no way means Texas won’t assert its Tenth Amendment rights. There are lawsuits underway, and there are other various approaches.
We became aware, about halfway through the session, of several attempts to impose “climate change” rules on Texas. We were against the junk science approach to limiting Texas’s economy. Fortunately, none of these bills progressed.
We followed some tax lowering bills, aimed at the homestead exemption and taxes on inventory located in the state prior to shipping. But they didn’t progress. We also followed some bills that could have raised taxes, including increasing gasoline tax while that industry is depressed, which we were against. Fortunately those failed. 

Article V Convention
The Article V Convention comes under states’ rights, but probably deserves its own subheading. I was not an expert on this issue, but we had a member among our legislator visitors who was, and he was quite persuasive. I still need to read Mark Levin’s book The Liberty Amendments to bring myself up to speed; I can’t yet explain the issue adequately. But the general idea is for enough of the states to propose a US constitutional amendment change, and then the US Congress would have to take up that issue. If the amendment passed, then it would be sent on to the states for ratification—a long and challenging process. Article V refers to that portion of the US Constitution that describes this possible remedy.
Two of the bills, HJR (House Joint Resolution) 77 and HJR 79 both were approved in the House and then died in the State Affairs Committee of the Senate. HJR 77, which was authored by a couple of our local representatives, Fletcher and Bohac, looked like it had possibilities, with a public hearing May 25, but it was left pending in committee, and then time ran out. 

Second Amendment
There were two issues we favored related to carrying firearms. One was open carry—which means that a person who is at least 21 and has a concealed carry permit is allowed to carry openly (not hidden). This puts us in the company of the majority of the states, and takes us out of the company of a half dozen anti-gun states the likes of California and New York. The bill passed.
Friends from out of state told me the news had characterized the debate as trying to make Texas allow open carry for anyone, regardless of mental state or criminality, like the Wild West—which people kind of think Texas is anyway. But, seriously, we’re not crazy. We’re just in favor of allowing the good guys to defend ourselves.
The other issue was campus carry—allowing concealed carry licensees to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. This passed, but with amendments. I think it was watered down so that each campus school board gets to decide. It sounds like a decent compromise, but it actually nearly nullifies the law. I can understand the argument against arming live-on-campus freshmen who drink too much or get depressed their first time away from home. But you have to be 21 to get a concealed carry license. On campuses like our local Lone Star Community College system, average age is 24+, and no one lives on campus. Nevertheless, only one or two board members are willing to allow these adults, coming from their jobs to classes on campus, to defend themselves and others—even though we have had incidents in which attackers had to be taken out by brave fellow students, because it took too long for security to arrive. So, this was a win that’s not quite a win. 

Marriage and Religion Protection
These issues are combined now, because everywhere marriage isn’t protected, religious freedom is lost. One bill would refuse to allow local judges to grant same-sex marriage licenses (or any license not allowed in the Texas Constitutional definition of marriage). Other states are trying this as well. It’s an assertion of the Tenth Amendment, which can be done regardless of this bill. But it was a declaration of Texas’s intent prior to a decision by the Supreme Court that could try to usurp Texas’s sovereignty. The bill didn’t move. Another reiterated that Texas would retain its state constitutional definition of marriage; this one got a public hearing and was approved in committee, but died in Calendars.
Another bill declared that Texas could only apply Texas law, and no foreign law. This was in reference to attempts to apply sharia law, particularly in reference to family/divorce law. This should be a given without the bill, but it has been an issue, even in Texas. What we really need is judges who apply the actual law. Again, the bill got a public hearing, was approved in committee, and died in Calendars. 

Hunting, Fishing, and Wildlife
I’m no expert in this, but we had a member who brought these to our attention. One bill, SJR 22, to protect the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, was approved and will appear on the November ballot. Another bill, HB 158, meant to use taxes imposed on the sale, storage, or use of sporting goods for parks and wildlife, passed as well. So that was good. 

Education/Parental Rights
We had a little success in parental rights. There was an HHS bill, meant to clean up and make more efficient in necessary ways, that had a provision that would allow state agencies to remove a child from home without imminent danger. We were against that. Fortunately, when that provision was brought to the attention of the committee, a substitute bill without that wording was put forward, and that passed. Other bills attempted to give the state agencies that power, but fortunately they didn’t progress.
Yet again there was an attempt to restore parental rights. The situation is that grandparents can sue for rights, and sometimes judges grant them access or custody, taking children from fit parents. The issues that bring on these suits are often related to the religion or education choices of the parents. These cases are always overturned at the Texas Supreme Court level, but getting there can cost millions, and some families lose control of their children when they are impoverished by the repeated lawsuits. This should be corrected and prevented in the law; fit parents should have the right to decide on the care and upbringing of their children.
Currently homeschool and private school students (with a single exception) are prevented from participating in UIL competitions—even though UIL was created at a time when nearly all students in the state were homeschooled or privately schooled. This needs to be corrected. The last two sessions this was referred to as the Tim Tebow Bill, because the professional football player had been homeschooled. Again this session the bill progressed. SB 2046 passed the Senate, but languished in the Public Education Committee in the House.
There was a success with SB 1543, which higher education discrimination against homeschoolers and non-traditional students. The bill passed.  

Voter Integrity
We watched a number of bills that could have allowed for greater voter fraud, including online registration, same-day registration, getting felons to vote, trying to dilute Voter ID, and trying to remove judges from party voting (so even less would be known about judge candidates). All failed to move.
There were others we were happy to see pass. HB 621 allowed for dismissal of a volunteer voter registrar that failed to follow the law. This is to prevent the Turn Texas Blue arm of ACORN from doing their fraud here. SB 795 creates a mechanism for interstate voter registration crosschecking, which is a common sense approach to preventing voting in multiple places.