Thursday, September 27, 2018

Who Is Telling the Truth?

There has been enough coverage of the Kavanaugh hearings that I thought I wouldn’t write on it. But, after the hearings, completed almost three weeks ago, in which Brett Kavanaugh comported himself well, showed himself to be fully qualified for the task of weighing matters according to the Constitution, and also showed himself to be a man of particularly decent character—then the drama began.
Judge Kavanaugh at today's hearing.
screen shot from C-SPAN

So I think that, in the search of truth, there are things we ought to discuss.

Who I believe, and who others believe doesn’t much matter. What matters is what is actually, factually true, outside of belief. And if we can find that out, then we can act based on reality.

I will deal only with the allegations by Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford. There have been no other credible accusations; all additional accusations have been spurious, unsubstantiated, and clearly timed to harm rather than to enlighten. So we’ll dispense with those.

That is not to say that Dr. Blasey-Ford’s allegations are credible. I spent much of the day listening to her testimony and then to Judge Kavanaugh’s. As a truth telling person myself, I have a hard time seeing other normal seeming people lie. I used to watch a TV show called Lie to Me, in which the psychological consultants were able to read facial micro-reactions and tell a lot about what people were thinking. While there may actually be such a science, or talent, that show was fiction. I don’t have that ability. I have to use my other resources and discernment skills.

Did Dr. Blasey-Ford appear to be lying? Not that I could tell. But was she telling us what actually happened? I don’t think so.

The way this is being handled, Republican and Democrat committee members took turns asking questions, five minutes each. All of the Republicans ceded their time to an expert female prosecutor, Rachel Mitchell, with much experience getting stories from victims of sexual assault.

Note: Mitchell is a prosecutor. She interviews victims to get their stories as accurately detailed as possible so that perpetrators can be prosecuted and held accountable. She wasn’t there to trip up the accuser; she was there to get details out.
Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell questioned for Republicans.
screen shot from C-SPAN

The Democrat members of the committee did not ask questions to get out any true details. Not one. They each spent their five minutes telling Dr. Blasey-Ford that they believed her, and that she was brave and heroic for coming forward. And that the Republicans were meanies for not indefinitely postponing to begin an FBI investigation.

They embellished with several commentaries on the importance of character:
Senator Feinstein:  I hope the majority changes their tactics, opens their mind, and seriously reflects on why we are here.
Change out the word majority for minority, and then she’s saying something I can agree with. She also said what we’re about is “a real question of character.”

Senator Hirono: Does character matter? Do our values, our real values about what is right and what is wrong, and about whether we treat our fellow human beings with dignity and respect? Do they matter anymore? I believe they do.
Let’s just note that they say character matters, so what they’re doing says something about their character. I’ll come back to this later.

About the multiple calls to begin an FBI investigation. What happens in an FBI investigation? The FBI would get a statement from the accuser. Done. They would get a statement from the accused, under penalty of perjury. Done. They would interview witnesses, under penalty of perjury. Done. They would gather corroborating evidence from others who could shed light on the situation, people who knew the accuser and accused and witnesses at the time, and could have offered additional details. Done. In fact, there were six previous in-depth character investigations of Judge Kavanaugh prior to previous hirings.

Judge Kavanaugh has additionally provided a calendar identifying his whereabouts and activities during the given time frame. The calendar shows that, when the family was in town, he was involved in basketball practices and other typical activities. Parties were listed, including where and with whom. Names of some so-called witnesses were included, some at parties. But the other person accused, Mark Judge, was listed only in relation to a non-party event.

No one, not even the other female witness, Leland Keyser (her name was then) who remains a friend/acquaintance of the accuser, has any memory of the event. In fact, she goes as far as to say she knew of no party or gathering ever attended by Christine Blasey-Ford that was also attended by either Brett Kavanaugh or Mark Judge.

Dr. Blasey-Ford provided no explanation for why she attended this pre-party event, at a house that must have belonged to one of the other attendees but she doesn’t know whose, when she was two years younger than the others and attended a different high school. Her explanation was that it must have been a spur-of-the-moment event she was invited to at the country club they all belonged to. But what was her motivation to go to such an event, if she wasn’t dating any of the attendees, or was not a close friend of any of them? And there was only one other female? Who says those people were never at the same events?

Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford
screen shot from C-SPAN

She does not remember how she got there, or how she got home, although during questioning, which included maps of the area, she admitted that the distance meant she must have gotten a ride. She says her friend, Leland, did not even notice that she left, nor did she follow up or ask later, nor had she been aware of anything amiss going on upstairs at the house prior to the two boys careening drunkenly back down the stairs followed later by the young Dr. Blasey-Ford’s exit out of the house passing by all of them. Her exit wasn’t noticed, when in full view of all, even though they were supposedly the only females present?

Why didn’t she tell anyone? Not even whoever gave her a ride home? Because she was ashamed, she said. Of what she had done? Only in so far as she didn’t want her parents to know she had attended a party at a house with no parents present where there was drinking going on, of which she had partaken (one beer, she said; she was 15).

Could something—some kind of assault—have happened to her? Quite possibly. Was she assaulted, in the way she described, by someone else? She was offered that possibility in questioning, but insists she is 100% certain that the perpetrators were Brett Kavanaugh and his accomplice Mark Judge.
Yet Dr. Blasey-Ford’s accusations and corroboration are so thin that no charge could ever be brought, no warrant could ever be given. It is clearly, by every legal way of looking at it, so unsubstantiated that it could only do damage as rumor.

So calls for any additional investigation without any additional information from the accuser are fruitless. The leads have all been followed.

We know enough now, from the investigations and testimony, to look at the facts we do know:

·         Christine Blasey-Ford claims she was assaulted but not raped by a drunken Brett Kavanaugh when she was about 15 and he was about 17.

·         She offers no details about where, exactly when, with any corroborating witnesses.
·         So far no evidence of any kind beyond her personal claim has been provided or found.
·         Brett Kavanaugh categorically denies that this event ever happened, or anything like it, nor does he remember any social event that included Christine Blasey-Ford.
·         Mark Judge categorically denies in the same fashion.
·         The other two named attendees, including her female friend, deny any knowledge of anything like this ever happening, or that Kavanaugh ever even attended any of the same events as the accuser.
·         Everyone who knew Brett Kavanaugh at the time, and in subsequent years, has testified that, not only did they never hear of any such event, it would be totally out of character for the Brett Kavanaugh that they knew.
·         His calendar shows some meticulous detail—and was kept and accessible after all these years. On that calendar he included social events, but nothing that could have been this party appears.
·         Brett Kavanaugh further submitted to a media interview, along with his wife, where he explained that, not only was there no attempted sexual assault, he was a virgin at that time, and during college (when other accusations claim he did vile things), and for years afterward.
·         There is nothing in his subsequent life that would bring his character into question. He is a religious man, and his behavior with his wife and children, with his co-workers, and with friends and acquaintances leads one to believe that he is being truthful about his denial. There appears to be nothing to hide.

About his being a virgin, one news interviewee said that right there is proof he’s lying. But for religious—and studious—people, that would be the norm. I never dated anyone that wasn’t a virgin up to and through the time of our dating. That was totally normal in my high school and college life, in a religious community among studious friends. Also, if you read Coming Apart by Charles Murray, you see that this more conservative behavior is known and acted out in the most well off zip codes, similar to Kavanaugh’s.

Let’s let blind justice weigh the scales. Everything comes down in favor of Brett Kavanaugh. Everything.

Dr. Blasey-Ford claims her coming forward now in not politically motivated, but relates only to protecting the country from having a person who would do such a thing in such a high office. However, she did not say anything about him when he was elevated to various other courts, including the DC circuit court, where he has most recently been serving, often considered the second highest court of the land. And his name has been on the Federalist Society/Heritage Society list of acceptable judicial candidates since before President Trump was elected. She wasn’t worried about him possibly replacing Justice Scalia. She did not act, and did not mention Kavanaugh’s name to anyone, including her therapist, until July 2018, when his name appeared on the short list to replace Justice Kennedy.

Why now? is a valid question.

Senator Feinstein
screen shot from C-SPAN
She hasn’t been asked political questions. But she sought to put her story forward through political people, her congresswoman and Senator Feinstein. Whether she is outright lying about who assaulted her (if anyone), or whether she has, after all these decades, falsely remembered who did such a thing (think of A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster, in which an Englishwoman takes an Indian man all the way to court for attempted rape, unable to remember details, until she realizes that she was mistaken and it never happened), the people on the Democratic side have used her for their purpose of delaying confirmation of an eminently qualified judge with an impeccable character.

Their timing is peccable.

Senator Feinstein has had the information in hand now for 60 days. Dr. Blasey-Ford provided it to her congresswoman three months ago. Feinstein had it well before the hearing. She had it during private interview questioning. She had it during the hearings. During all of those opportunities, she did not even hint that she was questioning his character or wanted his side of any such story.

One would think that, based on the timing, this was a Hail Mary attack to delay the inevitable confirmation.

People are talking about the attempt to delay until after the midterms, in hopes that a different Senate might prevent any Trump nominee from getting confirmed. But more imminent is the hope to delay beyond this week, because Monday, October 1st, is the start of the new Supreme Court term. That is when they decide which cases to take up and what the schedule will be. The Democrats would much rather that happen with a 4-4 court than a 5-4 court.

In other words, the Democrat idea of “getting to truth” and paying attention to “character” includes falsely accusing a particularly decent man, destroying his life and livelihood, with false sanctimony on their faces.

This is evil.

Evil people, working among civilized people, take advantage of good people and their predictable behavior. Good people try to give people respect and the benefit of the doubt. Good people try to calm their anger and look for a reasonable explanation. They bend over backward to give someone with unsubstantiated claims the chance to be heard—just in case. They don’t want to appear unkind, or uncaring, or impolite.

That’s how you get what you’ve gotten in media the last couple of weeks and in today’s hearing. That’s also how we’ve gotten a president who stands up to those bullies simply by not caring whether he appears nice. I’m beginning to appreciate that willingness to fight back.

What we should have gotten was, “The burden of proof is on you, the badly timed accuser. If you can bring us a shred of evidence to help us believe there’s some truth to your story, despite its terrible timing, let us see it.”

And then you go ahead and confirm.

What else we should have gotten—and still should get—is a defamation of character lawsuit. Including Senator Feinstein. Including everyone else and their sleazy lawyers who have made additional allegations. Sue for jail time—so that Soros money cannot buy them out of the consequences.

If Judge Kavanaugh is not worthy of the Supreme Court, it means he is not worthy of his current district court position either. So what is at stake for him is a lifetime’s reputation and hard work, and the ability to make a living for the next thirty years. There is measurable harm to him. Even if confirmed (and I trust he will be), this has put a shadow of scandal over him, as has hung unfairly over Justice Thomas all these years.

The burden of proof—under these circumstances—must be on the accuser. Dr. Blasey-Ford wanted to remain anonymous, but you don’t get to do that kind of damage to another human being from the safety of anonymity. At best that is cowardly; at worst it is pure evil.

If she were telling what actually happened, there would be corroboration, including a pattern of behavior in the character of such a man, and she could find it. If she had no animus and is merely mistaking the identity of an actual attacker, that could be discovered. (The prosecutor today suggested the kind of interrogation that could lead to exposing what actually happened, but that her counsel failed to offer.) With no animus, there could be a non-jail settlement, as long as it exonerated Justice Kavanaugh.

But if the accuser is not held accountable for defamation of character under such high stakes, then the precedence is set for every Supreme Court nominee, and any other person nominated to an important position, that the Democrats do not agree with on policy.

They have done this before. I’m old enough to remember what they did to Robert Bork, which invented the term for thwarting a nominee. I also remember the Anita Hill accusations against Clarence Thomas.  And let me just point out that, while Hill has been lionized by the Democrats for her bravery, her testimony appeared then, and still appears to be, a false accusation. How do we know? Her behavior. And his. She continues to do whatever is necessary for her “leftist” causes, and has benefited from the notoriety. Meanwhile, Justice Thomas has remained an unimpeachable character, and has done his job of applying the law according to the Constitution, as he took an oath to do, even though the Democrats whisper continued lies about his character. They were never worried about someone with bad character being on the Court—these were people who supported Bill Clinton. They just didn’t want someone who would uphold the Constitution.
Senator Graham
screen shot from C-SPAN

Senator Grassley was too kind to Democrats today, but I do credit him with defending the investigative process by the Republicans. They gave the woman every opportunity to tell her story and provide evidence. She added none.

Senator Graham today, was downright feisty, something we don’t usually see from him (here, during questioning Judge Kavanaugh, and here and here to media between hearing sessions).

If we have any respect for basic principles like “innocent until proven guilty,” and the rule of law, we should see a vote on Friday to confirm.

If we get something else, then evil wins.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Change Is Possible

I was listening to/semi-watching the Michael Knowles show last Friday, when he announced a guest that caught my attention: Dr. Nicolosi. I knew that name from research on same-sex attraction. When I saw Dr. Nicolosi, I was surprised how young he looked, since I’ve been citing studies for close to twenty years. It turns out the interview was with Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, Jr., the son of the Dr. Joseph Nicolosi I’ve cited.[i] But they are in the same field—researching and helping people with same-sex attraction.

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, Jr. (left) and Michael Knowles
screen shot from the Michael Knowles Show, September 21, 2018
See video below.

The interview was about reintegrative therapy. That’s a new word to me. It isn’t reparative therapy, or conversion therapy. But the eventual outcomes sometimes have an effect of change in sexual orientation, when that is the desire of the client.

Michael Knowles introduced the segment by pointing out that the left, including Hollywood, portrays gay conversion therapy in very negative ways. There’s a new movie called Boy Erased, with Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, that shows it as horrifyingly abusive. And Vice-President Mike Pence, who is a religious person who favors traditional marriage, as I do, is accused of promoting electroshock therapy, which he has not. And that negative side would include reintegrative therapy as if it were those abusive horrors. So Knowles gives Dr. Nicolosi the opportunity to explain and clarify what it really is:

We need to differentiate between two things. One term is conversion therapy. Now, conversion therapy is a term that’s broad. It’s ill-defined. There’s no ethics code, no governing body. And it’s practiced by unlicensed individuals. This is the stuff that we’re seeing from Hollywood. Right.
In the work that we do, in reintegrative therapy, the client is in the driver’s seat. The licensed psychotherapist uses evidence-based mainstream treatment approaches, the same treatment approaches used in other clinics throughout the world to treat trauma and sexual addiction. And as those underlying dynamics are resolved, the sexuality changes as a byproduct. Our clients notice significant and lasting decreases in their same-sex attractions and increases in their heterosexual attractions.
Dr. Nicolosi goes on to talk about neuroplasticity of the brain, something that I have long thought should be important in dealing with unwanted LGBT issues:

There’s no so-called “gay gene.” But that’s science fiction. Here’s the science. We know that the brain is capable of something that we call neuroplasticity. It’s like, there’s a new study released basically every week demonstrating that the brain has this neuroplastic capability. Neuroplasticity is the idea that the brain can wire and re-wire itself based on our life experience. And with neuroplasticity in mind, why would everybody’s sexuality be set in stone? So, we see that there’s further and further evidence for this, and we also know that the regions of the brain that are responsible for sexual preference are the same regions of the brain that we know change over time.
The brain is changeable, but it requires creating new neural pathways with enough frequency, intensity, and duration that they become strong enough to be the chosen pathways. The difficulty has been with identifying the exercises that would create the new pathways. But identifying where the pathways began going wrong seems like a good starting point.

Dr. Nicolosi has observed a pattern:

I can tell you this. The hundreds of men that I’ve worked with, in our clinic, they tell me very remarkably similar patterns in their childhood experiences that they believe relate to their same-sex attraction.
He later talks a little more about those similar childhood experiences:

You know, so many of my clients who have never met one another, they describe remarkably similar backgrounds in their childhoods—things that are not being addressed by Hollywood. My clients consistently report having distant, detached, critical fathers; higher anxiety, sometimes intrusive mothers; and they themselves who were temperamentally sensitive. If you put these factors together, it seems to increase the probability that the boy will have difficulty making that gender identity shift away from the mother and toward the father that’s typical in young childhood. Oftentimes my clients had a bullying older brother. If you put these factors together, it makes it harder.
These individuals, my clients, when they were growing up, girls were their closest friends. They knew girls like the back of their hands. But boys, and roughhousing—my clients felt scared. They felt intimidated by these kinds of behaviors. They didn’t know how to connect with other guys. And their childhoods were filled with getting female attention, affection, approval, but no male attention, affection, approval. Eventually, in puberty, those underlying desires became sexual. This story is happening again, and again, and again.
I read a study offering this family dynamic causal suggestion almost twenty years ago. It seemed plausible, but it covered only a certain percentage—though pretty high—of those with same-sex attraction. What about the others? Another large percentage—and there was overlap—were boys who were sexually abused by older males[ii]. Some don’t claim this as abuse, because they saw themselves as willing, but if we were looking at adult males having sex with young females, we would call that statutory rape, at the very least. There are reasons young people are considered incapable of giving consent in such situations.

It appears that same-sex attraction, then, is a wiring problem. Sometimes the mis-wiring happens so early in life that the person doesn’t remember a time before thinking that way—hence the claim that they were born that way. Sometimes we can see that having an experience wires the brain in a certain way, deepening pathways that were only possibilities if the person remained celibate.

Any way you look at it, we’ve been right for a long time when we say it’s a mental issue, not a physiological fact, and it is changeable.

The term reintegrative refers to the idea that, when the young person is developing thought patterns, he (or she) separates out parts of the self, can’t see their own gender in a healthy way, and in a way dissociates from their wholeness. The therapy helps them reintegrate, or bring back together those hidden or buried parts of themselves, making it safe for them to be wholly who they are.

Some don’t want to change. Fine. This therapy—as most psychotherapy—is intended for clients who perceive a problem that they want to work on and change.

For those that want that change, there are good reasons. Dr. Nicolosi sees three categories:

One: Individuals that were sexually abused by someone of the same sex when they were young, resulting in conflict and confusion, and lingering effects of the abuse. And these are individuals who, as adults, say they want to resolve this. And we see that with standard trauma therapy, when we focus on treating the sexual abuse memories, these adults often describe their sexuality changing on its own.
The second is individuals, because of their closely held beliefs—maybe they’re Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists. These are all people who say, “I believe I was designed heterosexual.”
And the last is individuals who, they’re not religious—they’re not dealing with a deeply held belief. They’re not traumatized. But they’re here for pragmatic reasons. They say, “Look, I tried homosexuality. I came out ten years ago. I find homosexuality, homosexual relationships compelling, but at the end, not really fulfilling.” And they wish to explore heterosexuality. And I believe no one should interfere with that. That’s their right to pursue if they choose.
Ironically, the movement that says everyone ought to be able to choose the lifestyle they want to live is very hostile to anyone who chooses to leave.

Dr. Nicolosi was one of many who testified against a bill in California, AB 2943, designed to prohibit any and all treatments that could possibly lead to changes in sexual orientation. As it turned out AB 2943 was pulled by the assemblyman who sponsored it, on the very last day. Dr. Nicolosi said we might never know exactly why:

But it probably had a lot to do with a lot of individuals saying, “Look, I was sexually abused when I was young. Don’t take my right away to walk away from homosexuality. I don’t want to be kept in homosexuality against my will.” Or other individuals who say, “Well, wait a second, the client should be in the driver’s seat of their own psychotherapy, not the government.” And this is not the kind of legislation that would pass, I think, in court. I think it would get torn to shreds.
So, despite activism against options, there’s hope for change, for those who want to. In my religion that isn’t uncommon for young people with same-sex attraction. They sincerely pray for release from it. They don’t know where to turn. Not sure whether their parents or peers will understand their struggle—at a time when almost all the media says they can’t change, and shouldn’t.

Screen shot from the documentary Free to Love,
available at

There have always been ways. But I’m glad to see this particular approach—the same used for healing trauma or sexual addiction, which is a pretty good description of what same-sex attraction is, explaining why those in that lifestyle have manifold more sexual partners than healthy heterosexuals. And also it explains the co-morbidity, the existence of additional mental problems. Dealing with the underlying problems means healing, and then there’s an opportunity to choose.

I’m thinking this might be a better approach for gender dysphoria as well, because those underlying issues are still there after reassignment hormonal treatments and surgeries. In a sensible society, the obvious answer would always have been, “Let’s help you heal, and then we’ll see what you want to do,” rather than, “Let’s indulge your delusion and change the world and its reactions to you.”

If you’d like to know more about reintegrative therapy, I suggest skipping any and all Hollywood versions. There’s a documentary, available online, called Free to Love, that Dr. Nicolosi helped produce. You can find it at 

Here is the video of the Michael Knowles Show. The 15-minute interview with Dr. Nicolosi begins at about 17 minutes.

[i] Here are some of the Nicolosi references I have used:
·         Lack of long-term fidelity in same-sex males: Joseph Nicolosi, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1991), p. 111.
·         Pro-homosexual writers claim fidelity is a heterosexual norm and should not be expected of homosexuals: Ibid., p. 140.
·         The level of promiscuity amongst the gay population is also very different from mainstream society.  The Kinsey Institute published a study showing that 28 percent of male homosexuals have had sexual encounters with one thousand or more partners with over half having more than 500 different sexual partners in a lifetime: Ibid. p. 124.
·         Successful homosexual partnerships have embraced infidelity: Ibid., p. 125.
·         Evidence concerning change from homosexual lifestyle is abundant. Study concludes that “20% to 30% of the participants [in voluntary conversion therapy] said they shifted from a homosexual orientation to an exclusively or almost exclusively heterosexual orientation,” belying any assertion that homosexual orientation is “immutable”: Joseph Nicolosi, A. Dean Byrd, Richard W. Potts, “Retrospective Self-Reports of Changes in Homosexual Orientation:  A Consumer Survey of Conversion Therapy Clients,” 86 Psychological Reports 1071, 1083 (June 2000). 
·         Change therapy: Joseph. Nicolosi, “Belief and Practices of Therapists Who Practice Sexual Reorientation Psychotherapy,” 86 Psychological Reports 689-702 (2000).

[ii] Bill Watkins and Arnon Bentovim, "The Sexual Abuse of Male Children and Adolescents: A Review of Current Research," Journal of Child Psychiatry 33 (1992); in Byrgen Finkelman, Sexual Abuse (New York: Garland Publishing, 1995), p. 316. Also, a Child Abuse and Neglect study found that 59 percent of male child sex offenders had been victims of contact sexual abuse as a child." Michele Elliott, "Child Sexual Abuse Prevention: What Offenders Tell Us," Child Abuse and Neglect 19 (1995): 582.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Deny! Deny! Deny! So What?

There’s a pattern used by the opponents of liberty. It is to deny some behavior, or belief, that is clearly contrary to civilization. Deny repeatedly. And then, suddenly to admit the accusations were right all along, but to admit without shame, with smugness even, and a “so what?”

The timing of the denial is important, because it’s hard to maintain shock and outrage. So the repetition allows time to dilute impact. And then, when there has been enough dilution—then comes the “so what?” The admission, with the cynical barb that, anyone outraged by this is reactionary, prudish, “on the wrong side of history.”

I've written about rhetorical strategy before, covering a few examples. Today we'll do a little review and then add a new one.

First example. Back in the 1990s, Bill Clinton spent half a year claiming, “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.” And then, of course, he finally admitted to it, but added the "so what?” It was just his private life, nothing to do with his role as president.

But that wasn’t actually true. Having sex with a presidential intern, in the Oval Office, is abuse of power, an appalling evil in itself, but also opened the president up to blackmail or coercion. With the "so what?" he admitted to the abuse, but still refused to take responsibility by claiming it didn't matter.

One more disturbing thing is, people who started out agreeing that having sex with an intern was egregious departed six months later, mainly along party lines, giving that president a pass for his bad behavior—as well as his months of lying about it.

Second example. Pro-abortion activists denied, denied, denied that an unborn baby was a human life. Then, as technology makes the facts of life ever more clear—and literally gives us a clearer view of the growing baby—those science deniers start saying “so what?” Several years ago, a Salon writer said it was just too hard to go up against the “it’s a life” argument. So why not embrace that fact and just add “so what?” Sure, it’s a human life; but that doesn’t mean it’s worth protecting, because not all human life deserves protection.

Really? Innocent life doesn’t deserve protecting? Why? Because that life might be inconvenient?

Third Example. Socialism. All through the Cold War, and the first couple of decades following that standoff, we were able to agree that communism, and its synonym socialism, was evil. Socialism is incompatible with our constitutional republic.

So proponents of socialism, knowing that, would try to push their government control schemes without using that name. It would be a “social safety net,” or “progress,” or government providing for “positive rights,” such as housing, minimum income, redistributed income from higher earners, healthcare in the form of enforced purchase of insurance, regulating to control certain industries, and more. 

Now—meaning the last few years—socialists are giving up the denial and starting the “so what?” They’re saying, “Yes, we’re socialists, and we’re proud of it.”

Examples include Bernie Sanders and his followers in the last presidential election. Then more recently Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the socialist who won the Democratic primary in June of this year, defeating a more establishment Democrat, for the 14th Congressional District of New York. She has been a darling of the media since, and a target of conservatives, who look at what she says and can hardly believe anyone would go along with her, since she makes no sense.

This past week, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked her about a way to pay for the $40 trillion cost (an estimate provided by “left-leaning studies friendly to her cause.” She had no answer. She had previously suggested an increased tax on the wealthy and corporations that, assuming no change in behavior on the part of those earners, would bring in $2 trillion. What about the other $35 trillion?
Jake Tapper asks Ocasio-Cortez about a plan
to pay the $40 trillion cost of her planned programs
screen shot from here

She has no answer. Dig down enough, she believes you just tax the undeserving rich more. That of course won’t cover $40 trillion additional expenditures.

But she’s very Rah! Rah! about socialism, and is perfectly willing to call it by its name—leaving off, of course, the final result of granting government the power to take what it wishes from its people, up to and including their lives. 

Another “so what?” on socialism came from philosopher and erstwhile comedian/actor Jim Carrey. On HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher," Carrey said, “We have to say yes to socialism—to the word and everything. We have to stop apologizing.” 

Jim Carrey embraces socialism with Bill Maher
screen shot from here

Carrey was called out for it by a Venezuelan journalist, Laureano Márquez. Márquez was respectful, but better informed. He explained that many people believe socialism means “the antithesis of selfishness, synonym of concern for others…support for the weakest and their needs, of seeking health and education for all.” But in Venezuela, which just a relatively short time ago, was rich in resources, and one of the most advanced countries in the Spanish speaking world, “What we find is just that our regime is not—for God’s sake—the antithesis of selfishness.” Rather, he explained. “In Venezuela, dear Jim, from what I have just told you, there is no equitable distribution of wealth; wealth is concentrated, as rarely before in our history, in very few hands.” 

In socialism, someone decides—someone other than the person earning the money—how and where money will be spent, on what it will be spent, who gets to do what. Someone decides. And that person or group of persons has all the power over people’s lives. Those few elite deciders don’t go hungry when poverty strikes the general population. Those elites aren’t inconvenienced when the people can’t even get hold of toilet paper. Those people are the ones confiscating small amounts of food at the border that people were going to try to sell in exchange for needed medicine. Those are the ones enforcing a minimum wage that no one is receiving, because no business can afford to pay it.
But Venezuelan president Maduro dines on steak, during a visit to Istanbul. People were outraged, of course. But maybe that’s fine with him.

In a New York Times op-ed, Amherst College Professor Javier Corrales writes, "An extremist government like Maduro's prefers economic devastation to recovery because the misery destroys civil society and, with it, all possibility of resisting [the regime's] tyranny." 

At this “so what?” moment surrounding socialism, our society can go either way: shrugging our shoulders and deciding it was never all that evil in the first place, or standing up to it, because we know based on principle, and based on overwhelming evidence, that socialism is just another iteration of statist tyranny, which inevitably leads to loss of freedom and loss of life, and toward abject poverty and savagery.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Can We Keep It?

Two hundred and thirty-one years ago today, thirty-nine brave patriots signed the Constitution of the United States, which became our inspired form of government following ratification by the states.
As Benjamin Franklin responded to the question of what type of government the men produced for the new nation, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
The US Constitution
image from here

The question, all these years later, is whether we’re doing all we need to do to keep it.

This past week I attended the Christian Values Summit at a church north of Houston. Speakers included several pastors and government officials Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, US Representative Kevin Brady, plus several headliners: Rafael Cruz, Sarah Palin (both nights), and Dinesh D’Souza.

The theme overall seemed to be that people of conscious, mainly Christians, need to stand up and speak out.

Rafael Cruz, a pastor (at large, I believe; he doesn’t have a specific church where he presides) and Senator Ted Cruz’s father, gave some historical background. He pointed out that America is the only country founded on the word of God.

In the Mayflower Compact, the early pilgrim settlers proclaim they are forming their new land “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.” That’s a glorious heritage, he told us. “No other country has this history.

Of the twenty-six grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence, Cruz explained that those had been the subject of sermons during the previous ten years, calling out King George for the atrocities.
When Paul Revere made his famous ride, he was heading to the home of Pastor Jonas Clark, where John Hancock and Samuel Adams were staying. It happened that the battle of Lexington began near this same home.

There was a pastor named Peter Muhlenberg, in Woodstock, VA, who was preaching one Sunday around the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He tells his congregation, “There is a time for war and a time for peace.” Then he pulls out his musket from behind the pulpit and says, “This is a time for war.”

Muhlenberg had a brother, also a pastor, Frederick Muhlenberg, in New York, who chastised him for profaning the pulpit. But then, after the British burned Frederick’s church, he joined the revolution too.
Rafael Cruz
image from Christian Values Summit

Cruz reminded us about Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman who came to America about fifty years into the great experiment, and wrote Democracy in America. He said he found America’s greatness in her churches. He is famously reported to have said, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Cruz told us, “We’re at that crossroads today.” Then he went through some of the recent historical slippage.

In 1962 prayer was banned from public schools. In 1963 the Bible was banned from public schools. He reminded us that Congress printed the first Bible in America, to be the principle textbook. And this was how it was used for the first 150 years or so.

The bigger problem was that churches remained silent. They said it was a political issue.
Then teen pregnancy skyrocketed. So did violent crime.

In 1977 the Supreme Court “discovered” a right to abortion within the Constitution. Again churches remained silent. Sixty million murdered babies later, their blood is on the churches for their silent consent, he said. He quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: 
God will not hold us guiltless.
Not to speak is to speak.
Not to act is to act.
Cruz went on with his list. In 2015, the Supreme Court—not a lawmaking body, but a bare 5/4 majority of nine unelected judges—redefined marriage. That decision, Cruz attested, wasn’t just about same-sex “marriage”; it was a direct fundamental attack on the traditional family. And if you destroy the family, you destroy society.
My distant phone photo of Rafael Cruz
at the Christian Values Summit last Thursday

Next come the SOGI (sexual orientation gender identity) ordinances. Here in Houston we remember this attack against the people and the churches. The city council had passed an ordinance requiring that all bathroom and shower facilities be made open to anyone who chose to go in them, regardless of actual sex. Regardless of how you feel about transgendered persons and their “rights,” the ordinance opens up women and children to predators, and labels them as bigoted transphobes if they so much as complain about their fear or discomfort.

The people of Houston  gathered well over the required number of signatures to require that the ordinance be brought before the people. The mayor threw out enough of the signatures—without cause—to claim there weren’t enough. And she also subpoenaed all the churches to provide copies and transcripts of all their sermons, so that she could go through them and accuse them of interfering with government, if they so much as mentioned the issue.

This was one of those times when the churches rose up. Among the pastors was Steve Riggle, who hosted the Christian Values Summit at his northern campus. The churches were successful. And the law was on their side. The mayor had no right to the writings and speeches offered at churches. And churches can address issues; they are entitled to address issues that they believe affect the morality of the community, or for whatever reason. Judges slapped the now-former mayor for both the subpoenas and the throwing out of valid signatures. And then the people spoke, by voting, and ended the ordinance.

That’s what happens, even in a very Democrat city, when people who value morality speak up.
Other cities, and various businesses in other states, derided Houston and said they would boycott. But let me just note that, if they have actually stayed away, it’s their loss. Houston is better off without the ordinance, and has done fine without whatever business was lost, if any.

Here’s one more thing Cruz said, that you hear all the time that politicians cannot legislate morality. “That’s a lie,” he said. “It legislates morality all the time. The question is, whose morality?” The issues he listed: prayer and Bible in school, abortion, redefinition of marriage, and SOGI ordinances—all relate to the morality of the people. They relate to someone’s morality, just not ours. And not the morality the founders knew we needed.

During the break between speakers, just before Cruz's speech, they threw out T-shirts into the audience that said “Stand up / Stand out.” I caught one that came right to me. I pretty much never wear T-shirts with graphics on them, but I might just wear this one.

I’m also thinking about what I can do to persuade my churchgoing friends, and anyone else, to do just the little bit that it takes to be an informed voter—and then to get just enough better educated to know when and how to speak up.

I started my Spherical Model quote file with these words from one of my beloved church leaders:

The building of public sentiment begins with a few earnest voices. I am not one to advocate shouting defiantly or shaking fists and issuing threats in the faces of legislators. But I am one who believes that we should earnestly and sincerely and positively express our convictions to those given the heavy responsibility of making and enforcing our laws. The sad fact is that the minority who call for greater liberalization, who peddle and devour pornography, who encourage and feed on licentious display make their voices heard until those in our legislatures may come to believe that what they say represents the will of the majority. We are not likely to get that which we do not speak up for.
—Gordon B. Hinckley, “In Opposition to Evil,” Ensign, September 2004
The nation’s founders were farmers, shopkeepers, merchants, preachers. Not many of them were wealthy and powerful beyond their relatively small communities and states. Yet they stood up, and stood together. And the result is the greatest example the world has ever seen of how you get to freedom, prosperity, and civilization by good people governing themselves.

As larger portions of the society become less able to self-govern, it’s an experiment in danger of ending.

So I’m looking at what I can do, to enlarge my circle a bit. To speak up. To persuade good people to join together in the cause of liberty, for our country and for the world. That’s my resolve on this Constitution Day.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


There’s a feeling we had on this day seventeen years ago that we hadn’t felt three days earlier. There was compassion, hurt, worry, also resolve. And more than anything there was a sense of oneness. A sense that we are all Americans now. Party didn’t matter. Ethnicity didn’t matter. People around the world stood with us—not looking down on us, or pitying us, but loving us and standing alongside us in our time of distress.

Flag in the aftermath 9-11-2018
image from NBC News

There’s a feeling we had a year ago in Houston last year, after the 50+-inch deluge that came with Hurricane Harvey. Neighbors helped neighbors. And everyone was our neighbor. People came in from well outside Houston. The Cajun Navy, as they came to be called, were neighbors with boats that set out from Louisiana to bring their small fishing boats to help rescue flood victims. People fed one another, and housed one another. Sometimes long term, since it took from several months to more than a year to get many homes back to habitable—some are still not. People helped each other muck out the debris, and clean, and dry out, and then begin the rebuild. People gave of their time and money.

Nobody asked, before offering help, “Are you part of my tribe?” No one cared about race, ethnicity, religion, political party. We were all people. We were all Houstonians. Even people from far outside the city, and even beyond the country’s borders.

My friends Derrick and Gloria, after Harvey (their 3rd flood)
The photo is his.

Right now there’s a disaster about to hit the southern east coast, aiming at Georgia and the Carolinas. More than a million have been evacuated. Sometimes these things turn out to be less than predicted, but sometimes—as we know around here—the worst case scenario shows up. So right now we’re all sending our prayers that direction. I heard there was a call for the Cajun Navy to re-deploy. Again, no one will be asking whether those in need are of a particular tribe: color, party, ideology. We’re all Americans, all humans, pulling together for those of us in harm’s way.

radar screen shot from CBS News

Can we agree that the oneness we feel under these circumstances is a good thing? I’m assuming if you’re reading this, you’re civilized enough to believe this is true.

We know how to get the unity: suffer a calamity.

What we need to know is how to get the unity without the calamity.

I don’t know the answer. Well, not true. I do know. Choose life in the freedom, prosperity, and civilization zones. Live by the rules that get us there. Do it individually, and then share your ways with the next generation, and with your larger circle of influence.

So, individually choose ultimate good: that’s the way to move from the fragmented, tribal culture that is making us simultaneously less unified and less individual. Persuading people—many people persuaded one by one—to choose ultimate good, that’s the challenge. I’m not sure how we’ll accomplish that.

But, in my personal, very small crusade toward that end, here’s a review of the ways to get ourselves up into freedom, prosperity, and civilization, according to the Spherical Model.

The Political Sphere
·         Keep government limited to the proper role of government: protection of life, liberty, and property.

·         Ask these questions:
o   Is the policy being debated something that an individual has the right to do, and therefore has the right to delegate to his/her government?
o   Does the policy infringe in any way on the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights?

We’re born naked, impoverished, and inexperienced. It is by growth, hard work, and gaining in expertise that we try to overcome this condition throughout our life. We are born with the right to life, the right to live free (not enslaved), and the right to pursue our own path to overcome the naked impoverished state.
The Economic Sphere

Prosperity comes when we are free to work, build our wealth (the results of work beyond subsistence), and choose how to spend the results of our work. In short, we need a free market. Not a crony capitalist economy. Not a highly regulated economy with government favoring various players. Not an economy of monopolies. But a true free market.

Policies should always be guaranteeing the right to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Prosperity is tightly tied to civilization. Because we need people acting honestly, people who are trustworthy.

And we also need generous people who are willing to help those who cannot help themselves.
So the answer to prosperity is a free market—which is the engine for creation of wealth—combined with philanthropy.

Civilization requires a critical mass of people living the laws of civilization. These are simple but not easy things:

·         A religious people.
·         Strong families.

The religion we’re talking about is fairly broad and free. We need to believe that God is our creator, and we are held accountable to Him for how we live our life. He has provided a moral code that we are bound to follow.
The Social Sphere

The moral code is identified in the Ten Commandments, among other places: honor God, family, life, truth, and property.

These laws can be lived individually. But the smallest unit of civilization—living among civilized people—is the family. So we need to clarify what valuing family looks like.

Religious freedom is required for civilization. God is essential, because He is the giver of rights. Anything excluding God limits our rights to whatever the person or entity chooses to grant.

Civilized societies value family as the most important and basic unit of governance. Alternatively, a hallmark of totalitarian regimes, which are savage, is the replacement of the family with the state. Totalitarianism resents loyalty to any societal unit other than itself. And it is this absolute weakness that will always prevent a totalitarian state from offering true Civilization as you’d find it in a free strong-family society.

We have a lot of evidence, from thousands of years of history, to show that strong families, and hence strong civilizations, do not happen without protecting marriage: a man and woman committed and exclusive for life, raising their own children. Such families allow civilization to perpetuate, against the strong pull of chaos and tyranny.

So, if we’re going to be united, without being compelled by catastrophe, we need to do it by being a people who love freedom, prosperity, and civilization, and willingly live the laws that get us there.