Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

Do you want government to practice compassion so you don’t have to?

original article: How the government has changed the way we value our neighbors
February 23, 2017 by Kate Dalley

Kate Dalley talks about how government programs have changed the way we look and value others in our society. She states that the more the government provides services for us the less we do for each other, and the less we reach out to each other.

Kate explains how back in the 1800’s we looked after each other and relied on each other, because there was no backup plan. She feels we don’t need the government to step in with programs for us as we gain character through service.

listen to the podcast

culture, ethics, government, ideology, nanny state, socialism, unintended consequences

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Transgender laws may usurp the right to privacy

original article: Transgender bathroom laws have contributed to ‘voyeurism epidemic,’ says researcher
February 15, 2017 by Steve Weatherbe

A Canadian pastor who has researched 140 incidents of voyeurism in unisex and transgender-friendly spaces, says it is clear that transgender bathroom policies have contributed to the problem.

Paul Dirks of the New West Community Church in New Westminster, British Columbia, says his information, published on his WomanMeansSomething.com website, shows there is a “voyeurism epidemic.”

It also shows that policies establishing unisex or trans-friendly facilities are exposing biological women and girls to typical male crime and violence, he said.

“Policy makers and politicians need to understand that the push to open women’s spaces is taking place in the middle of a voyeurism epidemic,” Dirks wrote in The Federalist recently.

Most of Dirks’ cases involved male voyeurs using unisex washrooms, dressing rooms and swimming pool change rooms to video nude girls and women.

However, others involve men pretending or sincerely claiming to be “trans-women” who are behaving in typically male ways criminally.

Dirks was in Ottawa this week to lobby senators against Bill C-16, which would add gender identity and expression as protected grounds to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

One of Dirks’ most important gleanings from several hundred academic studies on transgenderism is that males who claim to be females commit more crimes than women do. They also retain male patterns of sexuality.

“One of their most frequent sexual behaviors,” Dirks told LifeSiteNews, “is to use their male gentials insertively into women’s vaginas.”

Dirks insists his data debunks the oft-heard claim that there is no evidence that open or unisex bathrooms pose a risk to the girls or women who use them. For example, Mic Network published a story in 2015 titled Statistics Show Exactly How Many Times Trans People Have Attacked You in Bathrooms.

The story’s lead sentence reads “Surprise: There are zero reported cases of this happening.”

It then sources the misleading claim: “Spokespeople from the Transgender Law Center, the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union told Mic that no statistical evidence of violence exists to warrant this legislation.”

But what Dirks’ data show is multiple cases involving unisex or transgender-friendly facilities where biological males captured images of women or girls with cell phones and miniaturized cameras. Dirks considers acts like these true violence. They leave victims with genuine psychological injuries.

Dirks’ database also contains many cases of male-pattern physical violence committed by “trans-women.” These include sexual and non-sexual assaults on women in prisons, women’s shelters, bars and taxis.

“There is nothing keeping a violent man or a sex offender from putting on a wig and entering a woman’s safe space, or making no change to their appearance at all,” Dirks writes on his website. But there is also “no way for a woman or a child to tell the difference” between a sincere “trans-woman” and one feigning a female persona for criminal purposes.

Dirks began his Women Means Something campaign only three months ago. Already he has made the unsettling discovery as he searched for news stories on retailers with unisex facilities that he was not alone. Voyeurs were on a similar hunt.

“I found forums for voyeurs where people were asking about good places to peep,” he said.

Dirks’ research has also uncovered a significant increase in voyeurism charges and convictions in the United Kingdom. Academic studies indicate that for each criminal charge there are dozens if not hundreds of actual incidents. These cases and the proliferation of recent incidents in his database are the basis for his claim of a “voyeurism epidemic.”

He has also found unexpected allies. “A significant number of de-transitioning women are coming to the fore,” Dirks told LifeSiteNews. These are women who once believed themselves to be men. They sometimes had their breasts cut off, their ovaries removed and their genitals reconstructed to cure their gender dysphoria. But it did not work. Now they are accepting their biological gender.

“In the midst of this grand social experiment, there are some horrible effects,” Dirks said.

Dirks’ womanmeanssomething.com website offers the video testimony of some of these women after they returned to identifying and living as women. “Officially, only 2 percent or 3 percent of female-to-male transgender de-transition,” says Dirks, but he believes the number and the percentage are both growing fast.

Dirks’ site offers links to feminist organizations that also oppose Bill C-16 and transgender activism. Because some feminists do not want to align with social conservatives, they have their own petition against the bill.

Dirks sees other signs that “the tide is beginning to turn.”

Academics and health professionals are waking up to the real and permanent physical injuries being done to teenagers with gender dysphoria through hormone treatments and surgery.

The immediate task for Dirks, however, is to defeat Bill C-16.

“I do hope members of the Senate want to do a good job actually dealing with some of these questions,” he told LifeSiteNews.

However, in British Columbia, there is another serious threat to the safety of children. The transgender agenda is expanding in public schools.

“I will pull my daughter from public school if she is put at risk from a biological male,” Dirks told LifeSite.

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What happens to societies that embrace a right to die?

Holland has been on the bleeding edge of the “right to die” movement, a movement employing Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS). Most people supporting this supposed right have never actually thought through the long term consequences on a grand scale, and that is true of such supporters in the U.S. as well as Europe.

Just last month the DailyMail reported a Dutch doctor killed an elderly patient, a woman over the age of 80. The patient at some earlier time expressed a wish to be euthanized, but later (several times) expressed her desire to live. When the doctor decided it was the “right time” to perform the medicalized killing she drugged the patient without the woman’s knowledge. But the patient unexpectedly awoke during the lethal injection and struggled and resisted so much the doctor asked the family to hold her down. The patient’s right to change her mind seems to have been entirely ignored. Or does the patient even have such a right?

During the court proceedings, the panel charged with handling the matter wanted the case to go to court not to prosecute the doctor, but to have “greater clarity” on the rights of the physician who engages in medicalized killing. Read the full article to see the horrific reasoning used to justify the situation. Those of you who didn’t have your head buried in the sand during the Obamacare debates may remember warnings of “death panels” and other dangers that corrupt health care by allowing elitist government bureaucrats to interfere. Keep in mind, the right to die movement is already here in the U.S. and is growing with the help of various left wing groups.

This is by no means the first incident of PAS where the patient was euthanized against their wishes. But when a society embraces the right to die, with not only the approval but also with the assistance of the state, any person capable of thinking past their own nose should see the obvious problems that will arise. In the name of a persons’s “choice” to die we are seeing government endorsement of medicalized killing without the patient’s consent.

How does government-endorsed medicalized killing go so wrong? Ryan T. Anderson examines this important question in his report Always Care, Never Kill: How Physician-Assisted Suicide Endangers the Weak, Corrupts Medicine, Compromises the Family, and Violates Human Dignity and Equality from March, 2015. It’s a lengthy report but touches on very important issues such as:

  • changing how society deals with the marginalized
  • fundamentally altering the doctor-patient relationship
  • compromising the nature of the family
  • damaging the essential premise of human dignity

It might be funny if this weren’t so serious hearing people pretend to be well informed on this issue while they insulate themselves from the anti-euthanasia side of the debate. When “thinking for yourself” involves intentionally avoiding a view you disagree with (which implies you may not actually know what you disagree with) it becomes a euphemism for not thinking at all. If you claim to care about people you should read the full report. And while you do, think about how compassionate a health care system is when the state is run by enlightened people who think overpopulation is one of the greatest dangers the world faces.

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New level of anti-diversity programming at college

original article: Stepford School: Princeton students forced to abandon individuality, freshman says
February 13, 2017 by JENNIFER KABBANY

Carrie Pritt, a freshman at Princeton University studying computer science, has penned a powerful piece illustrating the stranglehold political correctness has on her Ivy League institution.

Dysfunctional. Dystopian. Oppressive. Writing in Quillette, the picture she paints of her campus is chilling and creepy — think a Stepford School — with militant students and scholars creating an environment that ensures people say the right things, conform, avoid insulting others at all costs:

Like many other schools, Princeton has become disturbingly homogeneous because of this phenomenon. Not only that, but the pressure to respect other groups on and off campus is pushing my generation into left-wing uniformity. We are encouraged to mind our own business by mimicking politically correct values without ever thinking them through on our own. No one questioned the students and faculty members who disrespectfully walked out of Charles Murray’s lecture hall after he was invited to speak on campus this winter.

My teachers and classmates openly referred to Trump’s voters as uneducated bigots throughout the election season, while taking any criticism of Clinton as an attack against women. Anyone who dares to voice a religious opinion is regarded as unintelligent. The fear of being called racist draws our attention to a black woman’s skin instead of her character, and the fear of being called homophobic emphasizes a gay man’s sexuality over his personality. We have been trained to tiptoe around each other and distribute trigger warnings with generosity.

Where did this training start? Try mandatory freshman orientation. Pritt writes:

“Stand up if you identify as Caucasian.”

The minister’s voice was solemn. I paused so that I wouldn’t be the first one standing, and then slowly rose to my feet. “Look at your community,” he said. I glanced around the auditorium obediently. The other students looked as uncomfortable as I felt, and as white. ¨Thank you,” the minister said finally. After we sat down, he went on to repeat the exercise for over an hour with different adjectives in place of “Caucasian”: black, wealthy, first-generation, socially conservative. Each time he introduced a new label, he paused so that a new group of students could stand and take note of one another. By the time he was finished, every member of Princeton University’s freshman class had been branded with a demographic.

This doesn’t sound like a university — more like a re-education camp.

Writing about “Princeton’s Surreal ‘Diversity Training’ for Students,” Amelia Hamilton in Acculturated points out: “Academia is openly intolerant of diversity of thought, but exercises like the one Pritt experienced at Princeton are even worse. They strip students of one of the most important things for creating genuine diversity and intellectual rigor: individuality.”

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15 cases where the courts raped the law in 2016

original article: The top 15 court cases that wreaked havoc on America’s core values in 2016
January 1, 2017 by Daniel Horowitz

One of the breakthrough aspects of Conservative Review in 2016 was our increased focus on judicial tyranny up and down the federal judiciary. I was proud to accompany the release of my book, “Stolen Sovereignty,” with dozens of columns about the federal judiciary, demonstrating conclusively that its entire modern construction is irremediably broken.

Throughout the year, we explored specific cases from the Supreme Court and especially from lower federal courts showing how their entire conception of constitutional interpretation is irretrievably broken. What is regarded by settled law as a federal power, the courts give to the states; what is a state power they give to the Feds. What is an inalienable right enshrined into the Constitution, they read out of it; what is antithetical to our founding values or not discussed in the Constitution they enshrine as a fundamental right.

Moreover, we have concluded that the entire public perception of the role of the courts as the sole and final arbiter of constitutional questions is fundamentally at odds with every tenet of our founding values as a democratic republic. Congress has the full array of constitutional tools at its disposal to rein in runaway courts. Also, the legislative branch, along with the executive branch and the states, can use their powers to check and mitigate the damage incurred from bad court decisions as it relates to the actual execution of those decisions as national precedent for broad political and social issues.

I look forward to doubling down on the focus of judicial reform from a legal, constitutional, historical, philosophical, and practical perspective in the coming year. This is the year I hope that conservatives in politics will finally wake up and smell the stench of the judicial tyranny. With Republicans in complete control of the federal government and most state governments, we will only be playing defense in the courts. The legal Left will successfully place every political decision in the courts and will likely succeed in most cases. Although Trump can make a small dent in the mess by immediately filling some vacancies, we have shown how in the long run that strategy will never work to stem the entrenched and irremediable post-constitutional precedent already observed even by conservative judges, aside from the rare Clarence Thomas.

It is my hope that the coming judicial onslaught — from destroying state sovereignty and religious liberty laws to mandating rights for illegal aliens and codifying transgenderism — will serve as the inspiration for conservatives to finally restore the proper balance of power between Congress, the states, and the federal judiciary. Concurrently, with control of 33 state legislative chambers, hopefully this is the year when we finally gain critical momentum in the push for an Article V Convention of the States to reform the judiciary and the entire broken political structure from outside Washington, D.C.

To that end, I give you a partial year in review from our archives to look back at some of the craziest court decisions of the year:

1. A constitutional right to unsafe abortion clinics

In the landmark SCOTUS ruling of the year, Anthony Kennedy wrote a 5-3 opinion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt asserting that states can’t require abortion clinics to meet the health standards for ambulatory surgical centers, or require doctors at the facilities to have admissions privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The decision opened the door for lower courts to assail every common sense regulation states have implemented to prevent a repeat of Kermit Gosnell horror stories in abortion clinics. With this decision, the Court expanded the concocted right to an abortion to the right to an unregulated abortion clinic.

2. A license to discriminate … on behalf of the RIGHT people

While Anthony Kennedy and his ilk bastardize the Fourteenth Amendment and concoct phony rights that prevent states from defining marriage, enacting common sense abortion regulations, enforcing immigration law, and maintaining basic state powers over election laws, they allow states to actually discriminate on behalf of “minorities.” In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Kennedy and the other liberals said that college affirmative action programs that blatantly discriminate against whites are constitutional as long as they are necessary to achieve “the educational benefits of diversity.” Thus, the one true violation of “Equal Protection” was blessed by the Court, even as they strike down our history and tradition based on false applications of the Fourteenth Amendment.

3. States can’t require photo ID at the polls

Every circuit court that has heard cases related to photo ID laws have “struck down” those common sense laws as violations of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment. The most egregious was the Fourth Circuit ruling insinuating that black Americans are essentially incapable of obtaining photo ID, even when provided by the state of North Carolina for free. In addition, the Fourth Circuit mandated 17 days of early voting and all sorts of new constitutional rights, such as same-day registration, pre-registration of 16-year-olds, and out-of-precinct voting. Oh, and the court also said that North Carolina election maps were racist. The Supreme Court refused to stay the lower court decision, and only Justice Thomas would have overturned the ruling mandating that 16-year-olds be allowed to register to vote!

4. Court nullifies North Carolina elections and calls for new off-year elections

After originally “striking down” North Carolina’s state elections maps — an area of law over which states fully control — a federal district court mandated new state legislative elections to be held in 2017, in contravention to the state’s constitution. Together with many other rulings this year throughout the country, federal courts have crowned themselves king over state elections. They have effectively empowered themselves to create new election maps and even new elections, invariably benefiting Democrats.

5. Racist court rules blacks too dumb to use regular ballots in Michigan

Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations! District judge Gershwin Drain ruled that there is a Fourteenth Amendment right for voters to have the option of checking a party-line box on the ballot that automatically renders every vote down-ballot for the same party. The judge opined that simple “office by office ballots” are likely to increase voter confusion and miscast ballots in black neighborhoods because they evidently, in his estimation, can’t ascertain the Democrat candidate running for individual offices. The Sixth Circuit upheld his ruling.

6. Ohio can’t purge dead voters from its voter registration

According to the Sixth Circuit, states can’t even clean their voters rolls after employing a painstaking process of verification. In a 2-1 decision, which included a Republican-appointee, the Sixth Circuit forced the Ohio secretary of state to reinstate “voting rights” to 465,000 dead voters who were removed from the rolls through the very process required by the motor voter law. By misinterpreting congressional statutes to prevent states from fighting voter fraud, the courts are essentially abolishing free and fair elections, the underpinnings of our federal representative democracy.

7. Non-citizens voting is de facto law of the land

If dead Americans can vote, why can’t live foreign nationals vote in our elections? That is the conclusion we must draw from two court decisions this year. Both the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the Tenth Circuit blocked states from requiring proof of citizenship for voter registration, even when the U.S. Election Assistance Commission explicitly gave them permission to do so. With thousands of non-citizens erroneously registering to vote through motor voter laws, the courts have now blocked the only practical way to prevent non-citizens from diluting the integrity of our elections.

8. Transgenderism is settled law

Earlier in the year, the Fourth Circuit ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment and Title IX of the federal education code forces states and school districts to allow boys into female private dressing rooms. More recently, the Sixth Circuit ruled that transgenderism being enshrined into civil rights is already “settled law.” Earlier in the year, a federal judge in Colorado urged the State Department to adopt “gender neutral” passports. Thus, the most immutable laws of nature are now being settled by the courts as the very opposite of their nature. This coming year, the Supreme Court will rule on one of these cases, Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, in what is likely to be Kennedy’s transgender equivalent of Obergefell.

9. States MUST fund Planned Parenthood

Almost every district and federal court that has heard cases filed by Planned Parenthood this year have ruled in the group’s favor, forcing states to fund them. Evidently, private abortion groups under criminal investigation for trafficking baby organs now have an inalienable right to taxpayer funds — out of reach of the state legislature to regulate. The Tenth Circuit ruled that Planned Parenthood has a First and Fourteenth Amendment right to taxpayer funding! Judge Michael R. Barrett, a Bush-appointed federal judge in Ohio, ruled that the state cannot cut off funding because the butcherhood “will suffer a continuing irreparable injury for which there is no adequate remedy at law.” This has now dissuaded weak governors like John Kasich from even signing pro-life legislation into law.

10. The Bill of Rights prohibits the Ten Commandment monument!

A GOP-appointed judge wrote an opinion for the Tenth Circuit completely rewriting the First Amendment, essentially declaring secularism the national religion. They gave standing to a group of pagan polytheists to sue against a privately funded replica of the Ten Commandments placed on the city hall lawn in Bloomfield, New Mexico. How did they demonstrate injury-in-fact to successfully obtain standing against the monument? With a straight face, the judge opined that the plaintiffs suffer “irreparable injury” because they have to pass by the monument while paying their water bill! Meanwhile, states and law enforcement can’t obtain standing to sue when their suffer security and economic problems as a result of Obama violating immigration laws.

11. States cannot protect religious liberty

While a private abortion organization evidently has the right to taxpayer funding — even if it is violating the conscience of half the taxpayers funding it — a private business does not have the right to merely mind its own business and run its organization according to its conscience.  In July, Judge Carlton Reeves blocked the Mississippi legislature from enforcing HB 1523, a law protecting private organizations from being forced to service the homosexual or transgender agenda when it interferes with their “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” The Fifth Circuit, including a GOP-appointed judge, refused to stay the district judge’s ruling. Thus, the most sacred rights of conscience and property are shredded by the same courts that create rights to taxpayer-funded abortions.

12. Stolen Sovereignty: Judge turns 6 states into sanctuaries

By now you are seeing the pattern of how the courts have denuded states of any long-held powers. Yet, when it comes to the one legitimate federal power — immigration enforcement — the courts are siding with sanctuary cities that thwart federal immigration officials. On September 30, Judge John Lee of the Northern District of Illinois codified sanctuary cities into law by ruling that localities in six states may not cooperate with federal authorities to detain illegal aliens unless ICE can somehow prove that each random individual is a known flight risk. This is part of a troubling trend of courts overturning settled law and granting illegal aliens standing to sue for avenues to remain in the country against the national will. If nothing is done to block such meddling in congressional power over immigration, the courts will likely thwart every effective immigration enforcement measures conservatives are encouraging Trump to implement.

13. Driver’s licenses for illegal aliens

The Ninth Circuit codified Obama’s illegal executive amnesty by ruling that Arizona could not follow congressional immigration statutes and must instead grant driver’s licenses to those amnestied by Obama. The court ruled that illegals have a Fourteenth Amendment write to affirmative state benefits and that Arizona doesn’t even have a public interest other than “animus” to prohibit them from obtaining driver’s licenses, despite the rash of drunk driving incidents. Meanwhile, this same court refuses to recognize a true right for Americans, the Second Amendment. A few months later, a federal judge in Texas gave standing to illegal aliens to sue the state of Texas to grant their children birth certificates simply by showing Mexican ID cards, thereby stealing the birthright and sovereignty of American citizens.

14. SCOTUS opens door for retroactive release of thousands of violent criminals

The courts were responsible for the crime wave of the ‘70s. If nothing is done to stop them, they will spawn a new crime wave in the coming years. In Welch v. United States, with Justice Thomas as the lone dissenter, the Supreme Court retroactively invalidated a major statute which created a mandatory minimum 15-year sentence for those who had three prior convictions for a “violent felony.” Consequently, thousands of the worst criminals in federal prison are flooding liberal district courts with petitions to reopen their cases for potential early release.

15. Courts force pharmacies to carry every form of contraception

In a case where silence is deafening, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from a family-owned grocery and pharmacy store in Washington state that was forced by the lower courts to stock their shelves with Plan B morning-after pills. Justice Alito wrote a scathing dissent noting that the high court’s refusal to overturn lower court tyranny was an ominous sign that there are now five justices on the court who won’t even recognize the most foundational of inalienable rights. Even if Scalia’s seat is filled with a rock star constitutionalist, Anthony Kennedy has jumped the shark on religious liberty.

Indeed, we have a judicial emergency to contend with in 2017!

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When the shoe is on the other foot in politics

original article: God Bless Harry Reid
February 2, 2017 by CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER

Senate Democrats have Reid to thank for being powerless to block Gorsuch’s nomination.

There are many people to thank for the coming accession of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Donald Trump for winning the election. Hillary Clinton for losing it. Mitch McConnell for holding open the High Court seat through 2016, resolute and immovable against furious (and hypocritical) opposition from Democrats and media. And, of course, Harry Reid.

God bless Harry Reid. It’s because of him that Gorsuch is guaranteed elevation to the Court. In 2013, as then–Senate majority leader, Reid blew up the joint. He abolished the filibuster for federal appointments both executive (such as cabinet) and judicial, for all district- and circuit-court judgeships (excluding only the Supreme Court). Thus unencumbered, the Democratic-controlled Senate packed the lower courts with Obama nominees.

Reid was warned that the day would come when Republicans would be in the majority and would exploit the new rules to equal and opposite effect. That day is here. The result is striking.

Trump’s cabinet appointments are essentially unstoppable because Republicans need only 51 votes and they have 52. They have no need to reach 60, the number required to overcome a filibuster. Democrats are powerless to stop anyone on their own.

And equally powerless to stop Gorsuch. But isn’t the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees still standing? Yes, but if the Democrats dare try it, everyone knows that Majority Leader McConnell will do exactly what Reid did and invoke the nuclear option — filibuster abolition — for the Supreme Court, too.

Reid never fully appreciated the magnitude of his crime against the Senate. As I wrote at the time, the offense was not abolishing the filibuster — you can argue that issue either way — but that he did it by simple majority. In a serious body, a serious rule change requires a serious supermajority. (Amending the U.S. Constitution, for example, requires two-thirds of both houses plus three-quarters of all the states.) Otherwise you have rendered the place lawless. If in any given session you can summon up the day’s majority to change the institution’s fundamental rules, there are no rules.

McConnell can at any moment finish Reid’s work by extending filibuster abolition to the Supreme Court. But he hasn’t. He has neither invoked the nuclear option nor even threatened to. And he’s been asked often enough. His simple and unwavering response is that Gorsuch will be confirmed. Translation: If necessary, he will drop the big one.

It’s obvious that he prefers not to. No one wants to again devalue and destabilize the Senate by changing a major norm by simple majority vote. But Reid set the precedent.

Note that the issue is not the filibuster itself. There’s nothing sacred about it. Its routine use is a modern development — with effects both contradictory and unpredictable. The need for 60 votes can contribute to moderation and compromise because to achieve a supermajority you need to get a buy-in from at least some of the opposition. On the other hand, in a hyper-partisan atmosphere (like today’s), a 60-vote threshold can ensure that everything gets stopped and nothing gets done.

Filibuster abolition is good for conservatives today. It will be good for liberals tomorrow when they have regained power. There’s no great principle at stake, though as a practical matter, in this era of widespread frustration with congressional gridlock, the new norm may be salutary.

What is not salutary is the Reid precedent of changing the old norm using something so transient and capricious as the majority of the day. As I argued in 2015, eventually the two parties will need to work out a permanent arrangement under which major rule changes will require a supermajority (say, of two-thirds) to ensure substantial bipartisan support.

There are conflicting schools of thought as to whether even such a grand bargain could not itself be overturned by some future Congress — by simple majority led by the next Harry Reid. Nonetheless, even a problematic entente is better than the free-for-all that governs today.

The operative word, however, is “eventually.” Such an agreement is for the future. Not yet, not today. Republicans are no fools. They are not about to forfeit the advantage bequeathed to them by Harry Reid’s shortsighted willfulness. They will zealously retain the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominees through the current Republican tenure of Congress and the presidency.

After which, they should be ready to parlay and press the reset button. But only then. As the young Augustine famously beseeched the Lord, “Give me chastity and continency, only not yet.”

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Doctor who forcibly euthanized elderly woman ‘acted in good faith’

original article: Dutch gov’t panel: Doctor who forcibly euthanized elderly woman ‘acted in good faith’
January 31, 2017 by Claire Chretien

NETHERLANDS, January 31, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A Dutch doctor who forcibly euthanized an elderly woman without her consent “acted in good faith,” a euthanasia oversight panel decided when it cleared her of wrongdoing. The chairman of that panel has expressed hope that the case will go to court – not so the doctor can be prosecuted, but so a court can set a precedent on how far doctors may go in such cases.

This particular case was sent to the Regional Review Committee, which oversees the country’s liberal euthanasia regime.

The woman, who was over 80, had dementia. She had allegedly earlier requested to be euthanized when “the time was right” but in her last days expressed her desire to continue living.

Nevertheless, her doctor put a sedative in the patient’s coffee. The doctor then enlisted the help of family members to hold the struggling, objecting patient down so that she could administer the lethal injection.

“I am convinced that the doctor acted in good faith, and we would like to see more clarity on how such cases are handled in the future,” Committee Chairman Jacob Kohnstamm said. Taking the case to court would be “not to punish the doctor, who acted in good faith and did what she had to do, but to get judicial clarity over what powers a doctor has when it comes to the euthanasia of patients suffering from severe dementia.”

Society has “flipped everything completely upside down,” Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told LifeSiteNews. “This is a prime example of another upside down attitude in the culture.”

“Doesn’t someone have a right to change their mind?” he asked. “They sell it as choice and autonomy, but here’s a woman who’s saying, ‘no, I don’t want it,’ and they stick it in her coffee, they hold her down and lethally inject her.”

“It’s false compassion,” Schadenberg continued. “It’s killing people basically out of a false ideology” that treats euthanasia as somehow good when “it’s the exact opposite of what it actually is.”

“All signs say she didn’t want to die,” he said. “Canadians should take notice of this because this is exactly what we’re debating in Canada.”

A current debate in Canada is, “should they expand euthanasia to people who ask for it in their power of attorney…so if they’re incompetent, they can have euthanasia anyway,” Schadenberg explained.

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Abortion undermines the very principle of inalienable rights

original article: Why All Libertarians Should Be Pro-Life
January 26, by James Silberman

To justify their support for abortion, many small-government advocates cite their desire to see the state’s influence in our lives decrease. For example, the Libertarian Party platform on abortion says “government should be kept out of the matter, leaving the question to each person for their conscientious consideration.” However, this position is irreconcilable with the philosophy of liberty. To begin deriving why, we first must understand the ideological foundation for our rights.

There are two, and only two, possible sources of our freedoms. Either they come from the state’s generosity, in which case the state can rightfully confiscate them, or they are naturally assigned to each of us through being human, in which case they are inalienable and cannot rightfully be confiscated by the state. America’s founders were among the first in human history to acknowledge the latter as the source of our freedoms and implement that revolutionary idea into law.

It Starts with Unalienable Rights

The implications of this philosophical development are far-reaching. It not only means that government cannot rightfully deprive us of certain liberties, but also that it cannot treat individuals differently. Because we are equal in the eyes of our Creator, we must then be equal in the eyes of the law. The rights to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, those rights listed in the Bill of Rights, and the rest of the unenumerated rights are guaranteed to all of us equally. The government does not have the authority to give these rights to some while withholding them from others.

If our rights are inalienable, that means the role of government is to protect those rights. Once the concept of inalienable rights is accepted, government becomes a project we all share to ensure each person’s rights and freedoms are upheld. If any of these rights are withheld from any of us, government is obliged to step in and restore those rights to that individual.

However, abortion supporters uphold a different foundation for the endowment of rights. They used to argue that a preborn child was not a human person, but science has proven that objectively false, so they have been forced to apply a different argument. To them, the rights to life and liberty aren’t inalienable. These rights are assigned to each of us by our mother, father, grandparents, abortionist, or anyone else who has influence in the decision to abort or not abort us. Because those people assign those rights to us, they can rightfully deprive us of the right to life and liberty.

This fundamental difference is a direct threat to liberty because it is attempting to shift the foundation of where our rights come from. Abortion undermines the very principle of inalienable rights, which should scare all lovers of liberty, along with anyone who claims to be an advocate of human rights.

Each Individual Has Rights

No one owns anyone else. Not if you conquered them, not if you bought them, and not if they currently reside in your body. None of us are God. None of us gets to assign or withhold the inalienable rights to life and liberty from anyone else who is scientifically human. This aspect of libertarianism is crucial to the consistency of all libertarian thought. (The only exception to the absolute nature of these rights is self-defense. One can take a life if it is for the purpose of protecting oneself or someone else from imminent danger.)

It’s no secret that libertarians, conservatives, and all kinds of small-government advocates are losing the battle for the soul of the country. The expansion of government seems unstoppable, and those who speak out against progressives are mercilessly harassed. If we’re going to regain ground, we can’t be content to fight petty battles as the entire rug is swept out beneath us. We must restore the foundation of the concept of inalienable rights. If a government dictates who gets the right to life and who doesn’t, it does so from an ideological foundation of state-assigned rights. This ideology is an existential threat to liberty.

Conservatism, and especially libertarianism, comes from the idea that rights are natural consequences of human existence. As Ron Paul put it, “Everybody has an absolute equal right as an individual, and it comes to them naturally.” If we cede to the Left, including left-leaning “libertarians,” the idea that our rights aren’t naturally endowed, that rights are assigned to us from the generosity of our rulers, we will have lost the philosophical foundation for the entire spectrum of limited government ideology.

If we don’t fight to restore this foundation of our rights, government growth is inevitable and, detached from any philosophical anchor, puts us squarely on the road to serfdom. Whether libertarians like it or not, fighting for the philosophical foundation of liberty necessarily includes fighting for the right to life of the unborn.

abortion, culture, freedom, government, ideology, philosophy, unintended consequences

Filed under: abortion, culture, freedom, government, ideology, philosophy, unintended consequences

Billion$ spent to fix failing schools; fail

original article: Obama administration spent billions to fix failing schools, and it didn’t work
January 19, 2017 by Emma Brown

One of the Obama administration’s signature efforts in education, which pumped billions of federal dollars into overhauling the nation’s worst schools, failed to produce meaningful results, according to a federal analysis.

Test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment were no different in schools that received money through the School Improvement Grants program — the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools — than in schools that did not.

The Education Department published the findings on the website of its research division on Wednesday, hours before President Obama’s political appointees walked out the door.

“We’re talking about millions of kids who are assigned to these failing schools, and we just spent several billion dollars promising them things were going to get better,” said Andy Smarick, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has long been skeptical that the Obama administration’s strategy would work. “Think of what all that money could have been spent on instead.”

The School Improvement Grants program has been around since the administration of President George W. Bush, but it received an enormous boost under Obama. The administration funneled $7 billion into the program between 2010 and 2015 — far exceeding the $4 billion it spent on Race to the Top grants.

The money went to states to distribute to their poorest-performing schools — those with exceedingly low graduation rates, or poor math and reading test scores, or both. Individual schools could receive up to $2 million per year for three years, on the condition that they adopt one of the Obama administration’s four preferred measures: replacing the principal and at least half the teachers, converting into a charter school, closing altogether, or undergoing a “transformation,” including hiring a new principal and adopting new instructional strategies, new teacher evaluations and a longer school day.

The Education Department did not track how the money was spent, other than to note which of the four strategies schools chose.

Arne Duncan, Obama’s education secretary from 2009 to 2016, said his aim was to turn around 1,000 schools every year for five years. “We could really move the needle, lift the bottom and change the lives of tens of millions of underserved children,” Duncan said in 2009.

Duncan often said that the administration’s school-improvement efforts did not get the attention they deserved, overshadowed by more-controversial efforts to encourage states to adopt new standards and teacher evaluations tied to tests.

The school turnaround effort, he told The Washington Post days before he left office in 2016, was arguably the administration’s “biggest bet.”

He and other administration officials sought to highlight individual schools that made dramatic improvements after receiving the money. But the new study released this week shows that, as a large-scale effort, School Improvement Grants failed.

Just a tiny fraction of schools chose the most dramatic measures, according to the new study. Three percent became charter schools, and 1 percent closed. Half the schools chose transformation, arguably the least intrusive option available to them.

“This outcome reminds us that turning around our lowest-performing schools is some of the hardest, most complex work in education and that we don’t yet have solid evidence on effective, replicable, comprehensive school improvement strategies,” said Dorie Nolt, an Education Department spokeswoman.

Nolt emphasized that the study focused on schools that received School Improvement Grants money between 2010 and 2013. The administration awarded a total of $3.5 billion to those schools, most of it stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “Since then,” she said, “the program has evolved toward greater flexibility in the selection of school improvement models and the use of evidence-based interventions.”

“Here in Massachusetts, it actually took several years to see real improvement in some areas,” Duncan said at the time. “Scores were flat or even down in some subjects and grades for a while. Many people questioned whether the state should hit the brakes on change. But you had the courage to stick with it, and the results are clear to all.”

Smarick said he had never seen such a huge investment produce zero results.

That could end up being a gift, he said, from Duncan to Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary and is a prominent proponent of taxpayer-supported vouchers for private and religious schools.

Results from the School Improvement Grants have shored up previous research showing that pouring money into dysfunctional schools and systems does not work, Smarick said: “I can imagine Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump saying this is exactly why kids need school choice.”

bailout, bureaucracy, crisis, education, funding, government, nanny state, politics, public policy, reform, spending, study, unintended consequences

Filed under: politics, government, funding, education, spending, public policy, nanny state, bureaucracy, crisis, reform, bailout, study, unintended consequences

Where culture, politics, and religion meet in America

original article: Tocqueville and Democracy’s Fall in America
January 19, 2017 by Samuel Gregg

For Alexis de Tocqueville, American democracy’s passion for equality was a potentially fatal flaw—one that religion could help address. But what happens when religion also becomes preoccupied with equality?

Over the past year, lots of people, I suspect, have been reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (1835/1840) as they ask themselves how the United States could have found itself having to choose in 2016 between two of the most unpopular candidates ever to face off for the office of president.

Historical factors contributed to America reaching this political point. These range from profound inner divisions characterizing American conservatism to deep frustration with the political class, as well as preexisting philosophical, cultural, and economic problems that have become more acute.

Tocqueville, however, recognized that such problems are often symptoms of subterranean currents that, once in place, are hard to reverse. A champion of liberty, Tocqueville was no determinist. He nevertheless understood that once particular habits become widespread in elite and popular culture, the consequences are difficult to avoid. In the case of democracy—perhaps especially American democracy—Tocqueville wondered whether its emphasis on equality might not eventually make the whole thing come undone.

The Passion for Equality

When Democracy in America’s second volume appeared in 1840, many reviewers noted that it was more critical of democracy than the first volume. In more recent times, Tocqueville’s warnings about democracy’s capacity to generate its own forms of despotism have been portrayed as prefiguring a political dynamic associated with the welfare state: i.e., people voting for politicians who promise to give them more things in return for which voters voluntarily surrender more and more of their freedom.

This very real problem, however, has distracted attention from Tocqueville’s interest in the deeper dynamic at work. This concerns how democracy encourages a focus on an equality of conditions. For Tocqueville, democratic societies’ dominant feature is the craving for equality—not liberty. Throughout Democracy in America, equality of conditions is described as “generative.” By this, Tocqueville meant that a concern for equalization becomes the driving force shaping everything: politics, economics, family life . . . even religion.

Democracy’s emphasis on equality helps to break down many unjust forms of discrimination and inequality. Women gradually cease, for instance, to be regarded as inherently inferior. Likewise, the fundamental injustice of slavery becomes harder and harder to rationalize.

At the same time, as Tocqueville scholar Pierre Manent has observed, democracies gravitate toward a fascination with producing total equality. Democracy requires everyone to relate to each other through the medium of democratic equality. We consequently start seeing and disliking any disparity contradicting this equality of conditions. Equality turns out to be very antagonistic to difference per se, even when differences are genetic (such as between men and women) or merited (some are wealthier because they freely assume more risks). But it’s also ambivalent about something that any society needs to inculcate among its members: virtue.

The idea of virtue implies that there are choices whose object is always good and others that are wrong in themselves. Courage is always better than recklessness and cowardice. But language such as “better than,” or “superior to” is intolerable to egalitarianism of the leveling kind. That’s one reason why many people in democratic societies prefer to speak of “values.” Such language implies that (1) all values are basically equal, and (2) there’s something impolite if not downright wrong with suggesting that some purportedly ethical commitments are irrational and wrong.

But in such a world, who am I to judge that some of the values espoused by, say, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, or any other political figure for that matter, might reflect seriously defective evaluations of right and wrong? All that would matter is that “they have values.” The truth, however, is that democracies don’t need “people with values.” They require virtuous people: individuals and communities whose habits of the heart shape what Tocqueville called the “whole mental and intellectual state” of a people as they associate together, pursue their economic self-interest, make laws, and vote.

The Religion of Egalitarian Sentimentalism

At the best of times, living a virtuous life is difficult. This is especially true when a fixation with equality makes many people reluctant to distinguish between baseness and honor, beauty and ugliness, rationality and feelings-talk, truth and falsehood. Much of Democracy in America consequently seeks to show how democratic societies could contain their equalizing inclinations.

Some of Tocqueville’s recommendations focus on constitutional restraints on government power. He understood that the political regime’s nature matters. But Tocqueville also believed that the main forces that promoted virtue, and that limited the leveling egalitarianism that relativizes moral choices, lay beyond politics. In America’s case, he observed, religion played an important role in moderating fixations with equality-as-sameness.

Tocqueville didn’t have just any religion in mind. He was specifically concerned with Christianity. For all the important doctrinal differences marking the Christian confessions scattered across America in Tocqueville’s time, few held to relativistic accounts of morality. Words like “virtue,” “vice,” “good,” and “evil” were used consistently and had concrete meaning.

Christianity did underscore a commitment to equality insofar as everyone was made as imago Dei and was thus owed equality before the law. This conviction helped to secure slavery’s eventual abolition. Nevertheless Christianity in America also emphasized another quintessentially Christian theme: freedom—political, economic, and religious. In the United States, the word “liberty” wasn’t associated with the anti-Christian violence instinctively linked by European Christians with the French Revolution.

Religions, however, aren’t immune to the cultures in which they exist. So what happens if a religion starts succumbing to the hunger for equalization that Tocqueville associated with democratic ways? Most often, such religions begin abandoning their distinctiveness, as self-evidently false propositions such as “all religions are the same” take hold. Truth claims and reasoned debate about religious and moral truth are relegated to the periphery. Why? Because trying to resolve them would mean affirming that certain religious and moral claims are false and thus unequal to those that are true.

When Christians go down this path, the inevitable theological void is filled by a sentimentalism that arises naturally from egalitarianism. God is condensed to the Great Non-Judge in the Sky: a nice, harmless deity who’s just like us. Likewise, such Christians increasingly take their moral cues from democratic culture. The consequent emphasis on equality-as-sameness doesn’t just mean that liturgy and doctrine are reduced to inoffensive banalities. The horizons of Christian conceptions of justice also shrink to the abolition of difference. The truth that many forms of inequality are just, including in the economic realm, is thus rendered incomprehensible. In the end, Christian confessions that embrace such positions collapse into pale facsimiles of secular egalitarianism and social justice activism.

A Fatal Combination?

These religions are incapable of performing the role that Tocqueville thought was played by many religious communities in the America he surveyed in the early 1830s. Of course, the object of religion isn’t to provide social lubrication. Religion is concerned with the truth about the divine, and living our lives in accordance with the truth about such matters. However, if religion ceases to be about truth, its capacity to resist (let alone correct) errors and half-truths such as “values-talk,” or justice’s reduction to equality-as-sameness, is diminished.

There’s no shortage of evidence of just how far large segments of American religious opinion have drifted in this direction. We have political operatives demanding, for example, “a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic Church”—as if the dogmatic and doctrinal truths proclaimed by a 2000-year-old universal church should be subordinated to a twentieth-first-century progressive American conception of equality. Plenty of older Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox clergy offer political commentaries that owe more to John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice than to C.S. Lewis, Aquinas, the Church Fathers, or Christ. For many American Jews, Jewish faith and identity is the pursuit of progressive politics. Such religions cannot speak seriously about virtue (or much else) in the face of the relentless drive for equalization in democracy that so worried Tocqueville.

Politics is clearly shaped by culture. Yet at any culture’s heart is the dominant cultus. America’s ability to resist democratic equalization’s deadening effects on freedom requires religions that are not consumed by the obsession with equality that Tocqueville thought might be democracy’s fatal flaw. For Tocqueville, part of America’s genius was that religion and liberty went hand in hand. In the next few years, America is going to discover whether that’s still true.

culture, freedom, government, history, politics, religion, unintended consequences

Filed under: culture, freedom, government, history, politics, religion, unintended consequences

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