America’s abortion extremism

Hard to be the shining beacon of human rights and dignity with this record.

Somehow, Planned Parenthood has remained powerful, heavily funded and very influential among the power brokers of politics and culture: government, media, academia and Hollywood. Somehow, the abortion mentality has pervaded even believers in religion and absolute truth and moral order, convincing roughly half of them to accept the decades long, slick marketing slogans that it’s about empowering women and respecting women’s rights and protecting particularly their right to choose.

Choose what? Planned Parenthood gives women, particularly in minority neighborhoods, a lack of choice but easy access to abortion.

Having frequent conversations with expert guests on radio covering these issues –  especially lately with congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, the abortion giant’s social media campaign in reaction and response to the possibility of losing federal funds, the recent vote in Congress to ban abortions of five month old babies in the womb, and the administration’s move last week to roll back the HHS mandate requiring birth control pill coverage in health insurance plans for Christian and particularly Catholic groups like Little Sisters of the Poor – the point has come up more than once that the U.S. is among the seven countries in the world with the most lax and extreme abortion laws.

The Washington Post editors must have found that hard to believe, and so submitted it to their well known ‘fact checker‘. This is how it opened:

Seven out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.”
statement of Trump administration policy, Oct. 2, 2017

 

The House approved a ban on 20-week abortions this week, and this dramatic statistic caught our attention…

It’s about time. What brought it to WaPo’s attention now? That House of Representatives ban on the ‘Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act’, which prompted this response from the White House, which included the attention grabbing statistic contained in this fuller snip than WaPo led with:

The United States is currently out of the mainstream in the family of nations, in which only 7 out of 198 nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Worse still, the United States is in the top (or worst) four:

Here’s a look at the seven countries. We sorted them from the most liberal on gestational limits to the least:

 

North Korea and Vietnam: No specified gestational limit, though regulatory mechanisms vary.

 

China: “Abortion is virtually freely available in China, and there are no defined time limits for access to the procedure,” according to Pew Research Center. China now has a “two-child” policy, and human-rights advocates have criticized China’s population and family planning laws.

 

United States: No federal ban on gestational limit, but 43 states have prohibitions on gestational limits, from 20 to 24 weeks, or the point of “viability,” according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research group. There are some exceptions made, usually for the life or health of the mother.

Then come Canada, Netherlands and Singapore.

Only North Korea, Vietnam and China are ahead of the United States in abortion extremism.

“Our nation does not belong in that disgraceful club”, the Susan B. Anthony List declared in a statement after the House vote.

The 20 week abortion ban bill now goes to the Senate for a vote, and SBA List is running a grassroots campaign in states with vulnerable pro-abortion senators up for re-election in 2018 in states favorable to common sense restrictions to otherwise liberal abortion laws.

My home state of Illinois just got a major setback of unprecedented proportion when Governor Bruce Rauner broke his promise to pro-life leaders and voters, state clergy and even Chicago’s Cardinal Archbishop Blase Cupich and signed into law the first binding legislation passed by an elected state official, ensuring that abortion will remain legal in the state of Illinois even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and that state taxpayers’ dollars will pay for abortion, violating consciences, and religious and other deeply held beliefs of citizens who have no say now.

At least, until the next election.

HHS mandate rolled back, Little Sisters exempted, government overreach revealed

“The new rule is a victory for common sense.”

Last Friday, the Trump administration issued new HHS mandate interim rules finally giving relief to the Little Sisters of the Poor and many other religious and faith based groups and institutions burdened by the Obama era mandate to provide contraception in their health care plans, or pay prohibitively heavy fines if they didn’t.

They have been in courts on all levels in many states and at the federal level for the past five years secure protection from coercion to violate their consciences over a ‘contraception delivery scheme’ made up under the guise of ‘women’s preventive health care’. The only thing it prevented was a healthy woman’s natural reproductive cycle.

Becket Law has represented many or most of those cases, and provided ‘HHS Central’ info updates for years. Friday’s new rule changes provided the latest welcomed victory in a string of many.

The rule aligns with the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling last year protecting the Little Sisters in Zubik v. Burwell protecting the Little Sisters, which says the government cannot fine the religious groups for following their faith. The contraceptive mandate issue went to the Supreme Court five times, and each time the Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting religious groups.

 

“The new rule is a victory for common sense,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel with Becket. “The previous administration pursued a needless and divisive culture war. It was always ridiculous to claim you need nuns to give out contraceptives. This new rule shows that you don’t.”

That it took a government administrative rule to override a previous administrative rule to prove the obvious is a sign of how far the dictatorship of relativism has reached in its grasp of public consciousness, or at least the control of public opinion by government, media, social media and entertainment media, all of which work together often to advance based more on ideology than science and fact.

For facts, this is the best one stop source I’ve found so far, but I’m a footnote reader and you have to read the footnotes to appreciate the scope of research it covers.

In brief, it counters everything the Obama administration claimed in the original ‘federal fiat’ known as the HHS mandate, based on nothing demonstrable.

1) The HHS Mandate is ineffective, even counterproductive.

2) HHS has no meaningful data to support its claims that free contraception causes
improved women’s health.

3) The mandate is unconstitutional.

4) The Mandate is misleading and irresponsible regarding women’s health.

5) The Mandate is demeaning to women…

Each of those points has sub-points, deeply grounded in footnoted source documents, so everyone has access to the full truth to engage in robust public debate.

Becket Senior Counsel Mark Rienzi declared:

“It should be easy for the courts to finalize this issue now that the government admits it broke the law. For months, we have been waiting for Department of Justice lawyers to honestly admit that fact, like the President did in the Rose Garden five months ago,” said Rienzi. “Now that the agencies admit the mandate was illegal, we expect the leadership of the Department of Justice will cooperate in getting a final court resolution so the Little Sisters can stop thinking about lawyers and mandates and return to spending all their energies caring for the elderly.”

 

With an interim rule now in place, the ongoing court battles between religious groups and the federal government may be resolved soon. The interim rule acknowledges that the earlier mandate violated the Little Sisters’ religious liberty and that there are many other ways to obtain contraceptives.

And that’s another statement of the obvious. The Little Sisters of the Poor, and all the other groups defending their rights to religious liberty guaranteed under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, have not intended, nor tried, to take birth control away from women nor keep women from obtaining it in the myriad ways available to them before the Obama HHS mandate was issued 2011. (The fact sheet tells the fuller background story.)

That’s common sense. So is this comment from a woman following coverage I provided on radio Friday with a Becket Legal Counsel about the new HHS rules restoring religious freedom and conscience rights to the Little Sisters and others by exempting them from having to provide birth control and other potentially abortifacent drugs, under the guise of health care.

I’ll never understand why insurance companies want to pay for medication that is not used to treat a disease or disorder but is given to try to “fix” something that works perfectly! Most contraceptives are elective and should not be covered. Women take them because they want to, not because they are sick.

Another said this, echoing many such expressions over the past five to six years.

What about the struggling mother who needs blood pressure meds, antibiotics, or other medication? Why mandate free birth control and no other meds? It doesn’t treat illness, but is a carcinogen that thwarts nature. There were just two reasons for the HHS mandate: population control and the elimination of freedom of conscience.

As courts have ruled, and the administration has now agreed, government had no right to compel people, groups, organizations or institutions to provide those birth control and emergency birth control medications. And as Mark Rienzi echoed, the new interim rule was a victory for common sense.

Don’t use the flag and national anthem to protest

Tis the season to protest in America. The president and sports celebrities take it too far.

How this all started and how it escalated is less important than the weekend blowup that engulfed America, when average folks count on taking a break from tensions of the week at work and in the news and enjoy the diversion of sports events. Now it’s all blurring together and social tensions have invaded the sporting arena.

Sports have become more political for a long while now, but this is that on steroids (which is another story altogether).

The case of Donald Trump vs. the players of the National Football League is emblematic of our political moment: At its heart is a very serious issue, but that issue is wrapped in so many layers of celebrity, stupidity, opportunism, social-media hysteria, and crassness that it is nearly forgotten.

What is that issue? It’s embedded in the Pledge of Allegiance, a pledge to ‘one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all’. And in the National Anthem, focusing on the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ yet waving ‘O’er the land of the free’…

One very serious issue is how indivisible we really are, and how we use the freedom we have. But overarching that two-part concern is the thick-as-blood honor we pay to those who have fought for generations, paid a great price or the ultimate sacrifice, to preserve the rights and freedoms of the United States. And the flag and National Anthem represent that. The flag drapes the coffins of Members of the Military Services killed in action, it flies at half staff in memory of those who gave their lives in service, it famously was captured in an iconic photo as it was being raised at Iwo Jima by six Marines in World War II. Which turned into the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington DC.

Most Americans probably don’t know how the National Anthem even came to be the opening of major sporting events. In fact, as a Chicagoan, I didn’t even know the Chicago Cubs were part of that history. It’s edifying to see a nation united in that respect for its shared history, rough as some of it had been. Rough as it is now.

So is it the flag athletes are disputing, or the anthem? No. But they’re using that ceremony at the start of major sporting events to protest other grievances and injustices, and that has all of a sudden become a national big deal. Because President Trump posted some jabbing tweets that baited both his opponents and his base into reactionary behavior that would play to visceral emotions already deeply felt. Alas,

This fad may have petered out naturally after a few more months; Trump’s all but guaranteed that we’ll get it through the 2020 election.

After the weekend of ‘national anthem protests’ across the nation and the National Football League, everyone was wondering how the nationally beloved Monday Night Football game would handle it. It was pretty amazing to see, when it played out. Just before the National Anthem, a gigantic American flag was unfurled from one side of the football field to the other, cover the whole playing field. Kind of hard to protest that. And the players and owners didn’t want to, after all.

“I made my mind up on this issue,” (Dallas Cowboys Owner and General Manager) Jerry Jones said…”that I wasn’t going to comment other than I am very proud of the fact that the Dallas Cowboys and our players have always stood for the flag and the recognition for the flag always. What is important is to figure out that to show the kind of respect and the perception of respect. How can (the team) in front of a national audience show unity and a statement of equality. (The team) wanted to do that. It evolved throughout the organization, particularly over the last two days, and it was executed.

 

“I can’t say enough about the understanding and the awareness of our team and these young men, if you will, that basically said, ‘You know, that makes sense.’ There’s no need for us to talk about unity and equality and have 60 percent of this country mad at you because you’re not being perceived as honoring the flag. And this was a way to do both.”

As NRO editors figured this…

Of course football players and other professional athletes should stand for the national anthem. Not, as the critics so often put it, because America has been good to them, but because America is good. That the American way of life generates so much prosperity that young men can grow vastly wealthy playing a children’s game is not the least of the nation’s virtues, but it is not the most important of them, either. The United States of America has been, and continues to be, a force for liberty, decency, justice, peace, and prosperity both within its own borders and around the world. “The Star-Spangled Banner” may be an infamously difficult song to sing, but the sight of the flag it celebrates has meant liberation — and life itself — to millions of people around the world, from those looking through the fence at Buchenwald to those looking over the railing of a ship at Ellis Island. That is why you stand for the national anthem…

 

We have no doubt that most of those kneeling in protest during the singing of the national anthem are sincere in their concerns, and that they mean to use their high-profile positions in the service of the public good as they perceive it. Goodness knows professional athletes have been in the news for worse reasons. But making a spectacle of themselves during the national anthem disrupts an all too rare moment of civic comity, a time to meditate on our blessings rather than our grievances. There are a dozen different ways athletes and other celebrities might be of good service and bring attention to the issue at the center of this controversy…

 

Of course athletes have the right to protest. Their employers also have the right to set standards of professional conduct, and football fans have the right to change the channel. The president has the right to tweet. This is not a question of rights but a question of judgment, which was, unhappily, in short supply over the weekend.

Let’s get back to the business at hand. The president needs to work on national issues and geopolitical affairs and North Korea especially. Celebrity athletes need to play sports to the best of their abilities. And the rest of us have our assorted family and work obligations to fulfill, and community and charitable needs to address, especially in the ongoing need for relief in disaster struck areas hit by back to back hurricanes and earthquakes.

It’s humbling – or should be – that for people who survived such devastation, who are subsisting on absolute basics, having lost most of what they had with little to sustain them until substantial relief arrives and relief workers help to rebuild their lives, homes and communities, the American flag on the arm patch of the Coast Guard or Army Corps of Engineers, on the helicopters and trucks delivering supplies and flagpoles left standing after the storms, represents hope. It’s up to the American people to deliver on that.

We are at our best in disaster relief

Nature keeps sending disasters. People keep sending relief.

We’re still learning the extent of the damage Hurricane Irma did to the homes, neighborhoods, communities and fundamentally the people of the state of Florida from the Keys to Jacksonville in the north, with access to some areas cut off for days, and therefore, delivery routes of relief. Irma devastated Barbuda.

Now, Hurricane Maria threatens destruction in Puerto Rico.

The Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 175 mph (281 kph) will smash into the Virgin Islands Tuesday night. It has already obliterated parts of Dominica and killed at least one person in Guadeloupe.

 

Puerto Rico will get hit hard Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said, and the storm could be catastrophic…

 

Puerto Rico sheltered many of the evacuees who fled from other Caribbean Islands during Hurricane Irma earlier this month. Now those evacuees and native Puerto Ricans are bracing for devastation.

 

“This is an event that will be damaging to the infrastructure, that will be catastrophic,” (Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo) Rosselló said. “Our only focus right now should be to make sure we save lives.”

That has been the focus for weeks now of people across the United States. When Hurricane Harvey was still beating down on Houston, whatever had been dividing Americans politically or culturally dissolved or got sidelined by the force of nature and the ‘force more powerful‘ than destruction, love and charity impulsively and instinctively passing from person to person.

Numbers of people beyond counting have been showing up in this ‘army of compassion’ descending on sites of destruction even while they’re still being battered. Especially then, which shows the real magnanimity of regular Americans. Houston’s ‘Mattress Mack‘ is emblematic of this spirit of unity and generosity, and the humility that, to a person, seems to define the motivating impulse driving people from their comfort zones to the place they’d rather be in an emergency: with the people under siege. They have offered what they have to those who need anything.

Magdalena Marez, 27, and her fiancé Zachary Gasser, moved into their apartment a few months ago. They went furniture shopping at a handful of Houston-area stores, but they’d never stepped foot into a Gallery Furniture store until early Tuesday morning. They wandered in, soaking wet, just after evacuating from their apartment.

 

Floodwaters were ankle deep, and they struggled to make the drive.

 

When they arrived at the showroom volunteers handed them dry clothes, toothbrushes, soap, shoes — and a mattress still covered in plastic. Marez is moved by McIngvale’s generosity.

 

“We never stepped foot in (one of his stores) and now I’m just like, wow, I mean, they opened up the doors. Like nothing. He didn’t even second guess it,” she says. “He was just like, ‘Let me help you.'”

 

McIngvale is also paying for portable showers so evacuees can have their first hot shower in days.

 

Marchione, the employee, says his boss has opened the store to evacuees and is providing meals because it’s his way of giving back to a community that has brought him success over the past 36 years.

 

“This is Houston,” Marchione adds. “That’s how Houston rolls.”

Jim McIngvale was my guest on radio, because he answered my call with the generosity he shows to all calls on his time and attention. Media had descended on ‘Mattress Mack’, he agreed to brief exchanges with them while working, mainly to put the word out that all help for evacuees was needed and welcomed. He told me that a reporter for some big media outlet asked why he was doing all this work in his big company store, housing and feeding so many people. He said “because I have to”, but the reporter replied “no you don’t”. He quickly corrected “yes I do”. It’s what he knows, it’s what he lives.

“I was raised as a Catholic,” he told the local KENS5 news in Houston. “I continued my Catholic faith throughout my life, trying to do the right thing and hopefully, you do the right thing and help people along the way.”

His Gallery Furniture business is still helping, in the cleanup phase and beyond.

The Miami Herald editors published a fervent wish for such charitable goodwill for Floridians before Irma hit: “Be kind, send help, rebuild“.

 

Nerves are frayed, to say the very least. But South Floridians have always risen to the occasion during difficult times, extending a generous helping hand, with no hesitation, with no expectations of reciprocation.

It is one of the Editorial Board’s most fervent wishes — but only one — that in the pre-disaster hunt for plywood, water, gas, and hotel rooms, we remain civil, empathetic. Remember Connect Miami? April’s successful community-wide initiative to encourage residents to engage with people unlike them? To hear their stories? To find commonality? Irma will be put this initiative on steroids.

People from everywhere have been quick to step up, show up and reach out, not even knowing they’re part of a national rapid response team. They didn’t ask what identity group the afflicted belonged to, nor what political party,nor how they voted in the last election. The only questions they asked and are asking are ‘What do you need?‘ and ‘How can I help?

 

I’ve had several guests on radio these past two weeks somehow involved in disaster relief and recovery, charitable organizations and government aid, professionals, spiritual directors, people trying to help people and connect with the best ways to get things done.

Some of them said something I’ve been thinking, hoping, saying on my show, that we should be able to keep this going. See ‘the other’ as a person to engage, to serve, to share a vulnerable moment with and find ways that encounter can benefit both. And build or rebuild the nation that’s made up of people, known to be fiercely independent, but who are remembering how interdependent we truly are.

The upside of a crisis

It took a natural disaster to do what no movement could, in a few days.

Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas and hit Houston particularly hard over the past several days, claiming lives and destroying homes and properties beyond counting at this point. Because at this point, it’s not over.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Administrator Brock Long said. “Texas has never seen an event like this.”

That’s what my guests on radio said Monday, after three days of Harvey’s battering set new records with torrential downpours measured in feet, not inches and caused catastrophic, life-threatening flooding ‘of biblical proportions’ according to ongoing accounts and projections for the near and even long term future.

Long said earlier that FEMA will likely be in Texas for years, and that Harvey will require one of the largest recovery housing efforts the nation has ever seen.

 

Harvey will likely surpass 2008’s Hurricane Ike and 2001’s Tropical Storm Allison, two of the most destructive storms to hit the Gulf Coast in recent memory, he said. Millions of people from Corpus Christi to New Orleans were under flood watches and warnings Monday as Harvey’s storm bands repeatedly pummeled the same areas.

 

“The word catastrophic does not appropriately describe what we’re facing,” said US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. “We just don’t know when it’s going to end.”

 

Early Monday, Harvey was barely clinging to tropical storm status, but the danger is far from over. The storm is forecast to head southeast toward the Matagorda Bay and Gulf of Mexico, where it will pick up additional moisture before sliding back over Galveston and Houston, cities it has already hammered…

 

Even when the rain is gone, dangers will persist, said National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini, because “the flooding will be very slow to recede.”

 

The Pentagon is also identifying resources, including trucks, aircraft and troops, that can be dispatched for hurricane relief if the request comes, defense officials said, and Gov. Greg Abbott has activated the entire Texas National Guard, roughly 12,000 Guardsmen, he said Monday.

Throughout Tuesday, the crisis grew. The slow moving storm had shattered records for rainfall and heights of floodwaters, and sheer numbers of desperate citizens in need of relief. And that was before Hurricane Harvey was expected to swing back for a second landfall on the same battered Texas region by Wednesday.

People are battered along with the land. They have crisis fatigue, they’re frightened and have lost personal property, possibly everything they had, have stood on roofs or tops of cars or waded through waist high water with all sorts of hazards underneath, just to survive. Life has taken on new meaning. And so has the sense of what is important.

This comes when the country has crisis fatigue. We’ve had months of politically charged partisan and ideological battles not only without common sense or common ground, but with people focused distinctly on not ceding ground to political or ideological opponents. It has been bitter, divisive, toxic and noxious.

In the first few days of a natural disaster that threatens more harm to people in its path, Americans of all sorts have raced from their homes and towns to help fellow Americans suffering from the wrath not of political, social or cultural storms of hatred or discrimination or intolerance but of the sheer force of a raging storm of nature. The ‘Us’ grew to all people in harm’s way, and the ‘Other’ was the relentless invading Hurricane Harvey.

With news crews planted and traversing the storm ravaged areas to update reporting on latest damage estimates and newest surge of floodwater and worst areas hit by relentless rain, horrified viewers couldn’t miss the battalions of relief workers also pouring in, and average citizens racing private boats and trucks to the scene to rescue people and deliver supplies and bring relief.

In a flash one particular moment, I remembered a comment from my sons’ childhood when Fred Rogers of ‘Mister Rogers Neighborhood‘ fame told an interviewer this:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

That has been a saving grace in these scary days, the countless people helping countless people, without a clue to their identities or politics, ethnicity or religion.

This is the way it should be. And the way it is. Read that, all of it. And it’s only a glimpse of a much larger presence of helpers.

There’s the ‘Cajun Navy‘, among so many other relief workers.

The Cajun Navy is part of an armada of private boats that have descended on the Houston area after authorities asked for help from those who could potentially navigate the treacherous floodwaters across a massive swath of southeast Texas in search of residents. Many boaters from east Texas and west Louisiana streamed to the outskirts of the disaster until they could drive no more, switching over to boats to go door to door seeking out the stranded.

 

Painful and haunting memories of Hurricane Katrina run deep in what’s informally known as the “Cajun corridor,” between Texas and Louisiana. During Katrina, hundreds of Texans did just what Bloodsworth did, crossed the border and even the Sabine River to help rescue teams in New Orleans…

 

“I vividly remember that many Texans came to Louisiana’s aid, which was incredible to me,” said Taylor Aucoin, who is in Baton Rouge working with an app, called Zello, that allows her and her husband to radio in rescue requests to volunteers on the ground in Texas. “I can’t really describe the heartbreak that I feel now for Texans. It’s a very small thing we can do from here to kind of repay the favor for the help we received last year and countless other times.”

The headline of that news story said they’re ‘paying it forward’.

“It’s just what we do for each other.”

Said one member of the Cajun Navy.

“Just the way we were brought up,” he said. “You help your neighbor.”

And keep the effort going.

Toxic identity politics ‘in these tribal times’

Is what unites us still stronger than what divides us?

Where and how America is divided is far more evident these days than where and how we’re united, given the still growing public tensions over symbols, words, gestures and fundamental identities. And media coverage amplifying the worst of it all.

The ‘poison of identity politics‘ is not new.

The politics of white supremacy was a poison on the right for many decades, but the civil-rights movement rose to overcome it, and it finally did so in the mid-1960s with Martin Luther King Jr. ’s language of equal opportunity and color-blind justice.

 

That principle has since been abandoned, however, in favor of a new identity politics that again seeks to divide Americans by race, ethnicity, gender and even religion. “Diversity” is now the all-purpose justification for these divisions, and the irony is that America is more diverse and tolerant than ever.

 

The problem is that the identity obsessives want to boil down everything in American life to these categories. In practice this means allocating political power, contracts, jobs and now even salaries in the private economy based on the politics of skin color or gender rather than merit or performance. Down this road lies crude political tribalism, and James Damore’s recent Google dissent is best understood as a cri de coeur that we should aspire to something better. Yet he lost his job merely for raising the issue.

 

A politics fixated on indelible differences will inevitably lead to resentments that extremists can exploit in ugly ways on the right and left. The extremists were on the right in Charlottesville, but there have been examples on the left in Berkeley, Oakland and numerous college campuses. When Democratic politicians can’t even say “all lives matter” without being denounced as bigots, American politics has a problem.

Rod Dreher addressed this in a sobering look at opposing evils.

Looking and and listening to the neo-Nazis and right-wing radicals at the march is not the same as reading about them. Evil has a face, and a voice, and it is chilling….

 

But let’s not “excuse or diminish the real threat to our politics from the violent left-wing agitators of antifa (anti-fascists). You may be tempted to sympathize with them because they punch neo-Nazis…”

But not so fast, or reactionary, Dreher cautions

For a while, antifa has remained on the fringes of the Left, smashing up storefronts to protest globalism, and things like that…

And then, the money quote:

The legitimization by mainstream people of violent political action is a Rubicon. Mark my words, it will be followed by the same thing on the Right.

 

So here we are. And Dreher asks the big question core:

Where are the restraining forces against radicalization on both the Left and the Right?

Exactly. Lately, on radio and elsewhere in conversations, I’ve been calling for voices of authority on both center-left and center-right (or whoever could be a moderating force) to call out the fringes on both sides. But they aren’t on the same side, and conservatives have asked media to stop calling white supremacists and neo-Nazis ‘far right conservatives’, since they don’t share conservative values and principles.

Who speaks for America right now? With the ability to amplify one’s own voice through social media platforms and unprecedented access to the arena of ideas, the people have to speak up and speak out.

Dreher says:

The media should talk about every instance of people on the Left and the Right, especially authority figures (pastors, politicians, academics, and so on) legitimizing violence as a way to solve political disputes. And the rest of us should fight hard to make it taboo, to establish it as a line we as a society will not cross. We have to stop with whataboutism, the habit of responding to revolting things your own side does with “but the other side does it too!”

That’s a point for an examination of conscience for all the people who take recourse to that explanation for the ‘slingshot’ effect of unrest from devolving into 1968 type of riots and demonstrations, says Dreher,

…it is time for people in authority — whatever authority they have — to speak out forcefully and repeatedly. Not just people on the Right, but people on the Left. If we are going to stop this spiral into political violence, we have to start somewhere. It doesn’t matter who’s worse, antifa or the neo-Nazis. Both are capable of doing severe damage to our democracy, because they both hate the political order, and they both love violence.

Denounce it, all of it, civilly and with the counter love of people, community, the common good, human rights and dignity, freedom and justice for all.

Which sounds a lot like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s rousing talk ‘Our God Is Marching On!’ in 1965.

 

If the worst in American life lurked in its dark streets, the best of American instincts arose passionately from across the nation to overcome it. There never was a moment in American history more honorable and more inspiring than the pilgrimage of clergymen and laymen of every race and faith pouring into Selma to face danger…

For fellow countrymen.

The confrontation of good and evil compressed in the tiny community of Selma generated the massive power to turn the whole nation on a new course.

We need to redirect ourselves there now.

Senator McCain’s scold

He told fellow senators, essentially, to get over themselves and get serious.

There has been so much manufactured drama in politics and political punditry for so long now, it’s refreshing when events that happen in real time for Americans to witness firsthand are naturally dramatic and actually inspiring. Sen. John McCain’s return to DC from surgery following a brain cancer diagnosis, his appearance coming just in time to cast the pivotal vote on a measure to continue debate on repealing and replacing Obamacare, restored maturity to the floor of the Senate. And much needed gravity.

Here’s what he said, in full.

“I’ve known and admired men and women in the Senate who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics. They came from both parties, and from various backgrounds. Their ambitions were frequently in conflict. They held different views on the issues of the day. And they often had very serious disagreements about how best to serve the national interest.

 

“But they knew that however sharp and heartfelt their disputes, however keen their ambitions, they had an obligation to work collaboratively to ensure the Senate discharged its constitutional responsibilities effectively. Our responsibilities are important, vitally important, to the continued success of our Republic. And our arcane rules and customs are deliberately intended to require broad cooperation to function well at all. The most revered members of this institution accepted the necessity of compromise in order to make incremental progress on solving America’s problems and to defend her from her adversaries.

 

“That principled mindset, and the service of our predecessors who possessed it, come to mind when I hear the Senate referred to as the world’s greatest deliberative body. I’m not sure we can claim that distinction with a straight face today.

 

“I’m sure it wasn’t always deserved in previous eras either. But I’m sure there have been times when it was, and I was privileged to witness some of those occasions.

 

“Our deliberations today – not just our debates, but the exercise of all our responsibilities – authorizing government policies, appropriating the funds to implement them, exercising our advice and consent role – are often lively and interesting. They can be sincere and principled. But they are more partisan, more tribal more of the time than any other time I remember. Our deliberations can still be important and useful, but I think we’d all agree they haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately. And right now they aren’t producing much for the American people.

 

“Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.

 

“Incremental progress, compromises that each side criticize but also accept, just plain muddling through to chip away at problems and keep our enemies from doing their worst isn’t glamorous or exciting. It doesn’t feel like a political triumph. But it’s usually the most we can expect from our system of government, operating in a country as diverse and quarrelsome and free as ours.

 

“Considering the injustice and cruelties inflicted by autocratic governments, and how corruptible human nature can be, the problem solving our system does make possible, the fitful progress it produces, and the liberty and justice it preserves, is a magnificent achievement.

 

“Our system doesn’t depend on our nobility. It accounts for our imperfections, and gives an order to our individual strivings that has helped make ours the most powerful and prosperous society on earth. It is our responsibility to preserve that, even when it requires us to do something less satisfying than ‘winning.’ Even when we must give a little to get a little. Even when our efforts manage just three yards and a cloud of dust, while critics on both sides denounce us for timidity, for our failure to ‘triumph.’

 

“I hope we can again rely on humility, on our need to cooperate, on our dependence on each other to learn how to trust each other again and by so doing better serve the people who elected us. Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.

 

“Let’s trust each other. Let’s return to regular order. We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle. That’s an approach that’s been employed by both sides, mandating legislation from the top down, without any support from the other side, with all the parliamentary maneuvers that requires.

 

“We’re getting nothing done.

Right. Thank you for stating that so starkly and honestly. Each election cycle, general or mid-term, national or local, brings another round of promises to change things that never change. McCain has been in government long enough to know that and see the best and worst of it all. And he delivered a ‘come to Jesus moment’ to his colleagues, a ‘for crying out loud’ plea to return to civility and honor and statesmanship.

That was so needed, even though it didn’t seem to make a difference, in the end, since the repeal failed. McCain’s speech was ennobling, it was heard, written into the record, and noted by many people and commentators looking for leadership.

Sen. John McCain on Tuesday in the Senate gave one of the great speeches of American history. Its content was an almost perfect distillation of the career-long themes of this remarkable, infuriating, courageous, temperamental, wise, headstrong, indefatigable patriot.

 

McCain has always seemed to operate according to an internal logical consistency whose existence few could doubt but even fewer could fully fathom. The logic’s premises all seem to reside in a five-dimensional Rubik’s Cube, its colored tiles always shifting around, inside McCain’s mind and psyche.

 

What is discernible in this enigma, indeed obvious, is that the logic’s lodestar, the lodestar of McCain’s very existence, is an almost heart-breakingly deep love of his particular country – not because it is his country, but because it is a noble one…

 

But this speech, this raw but contemplative message to colleagues and countrymen, contained the clearest and most accessible exposition of McCainism imaginable.

It is a “privilege,” he said, “to play a small role in the history of the country I love.” He paid homage to senators “who played much more than a small role in our history, true statesmen, giants of American politics.”

Yes. Focus on statesmanship. This was a ‘civic homily’, says Quin Hillyer.

The final passages of McCain’s civic homily came straight from the very soul of a man who, though self-admittedly flawed, has served this nation with a steadfastness and grit beyond most imagining. He served it because, with every fiber of his being, he believes it, believes us, to be morally worthy of selfless service.

 

He is right about that, too. To wit:

 

“America has made a greater contribution than any other nation to an international order that has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have been the greatest example, the greatest supporter and the greatest defender of that order. We aren’t afraid. We don’t covet other people’s land and wealth. We don’t hide behind walls. We breach them. We are a blessing to humanity.”

 

Yes, we Americans are a blessing to humanity, no matter how many academics and agitators mendaciously say the opposite. And for some 60 adult years of sharp-elbowed, sharp-tongued dedication to what he likes to call “a cause greater than self,” John McCain has been a sometimes cantankerous, more-often captivating, blessing to America – and thus a blessing to a whole world made better by America’s presence in it.

 

And he’s not finished serving — no, not yet.

Hopefully, he has inspired many colleagues in the Senate to start.

“Just another day in paradise”

Donald Trump, working the media.

Who would have thought that after his first two months as president in daily public combat with big media over everything he said and did, at the end of the day of what was reportedly his biggest political setback, President Donald Trump would make a couple of spontaneous, surprise phone calls to reporters at the two biggest newspaper outlets perpetuating what he labeled “fake news”, to chat about it?

My first thought was ‘seems like what Pope Francis has been doing since he was elected pope‘, in February 2013. Really. Early. And often. And to popular media. It’s a way to control the message, even though both leaders have media handlers.

President Trump had to have thrown the New York Times off their footing when he phoned them to talk about the failure to get the GOP health care reform bill to a vote on Friday. ‘He’s blaming Democrats’, the Times said in this story about the call.

The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, was preparing to tell the public that the health care bill was being withdrawn — a byproduct, Mr. Trump said, of Democratic partisanship. The president predicted that Democrats would return to him to make a deal in roughly a year.

“Look, we got no Democratic votes. We got none, zero,” Mr. Trump said in a telephone interview he initiated with The New York Times.

“The good news is they now own health care. They now own Obamacare.”

Mr. Trump insisted that the Affordable Care Act would collapse in the next year, which would then force Democrats to come to the bargaining table for a new bill.

“The best thing that can happen is that we let the Democrats, that we let Obamacare continue, they’ll have increases from 50 to 100 percent,” he said. “And when it explodes, they’ll come to me to make a deal. And I’m open to that.”

To some degree, this had to have flummoxed Trump’s most hostile detractors.

“I’m not disappointed,” he insisted. “If I were, I wouldn’t be calling you.”

The Washington Post had a great attention-grabbing headline: ‘Hello Bob’: President Trump called my cellphone to say that the health-care bill was dead‘. Well known journalist Robert Acosta recounted the moment the call came in, and the exchange he had with the president when he answered it.

At first I thought it was a reader with a complaint since it was a blocked number.

Instead, it was the president calling from the Oval Office. His voice was even, his tone muted. He did not bury the lead.

“Hello, Bob,” Trump began. “So, we just pulled it.”

Trump was speaking, of course, of the Republican plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, a plan that had been languishing for days amid unrest throughout the party as the president and his allies courted members and pushed for a vote.

Before I could ask a question, Trump plunged into his explanation of the politics of deciding to call off a vote on a bill he had been touting.

The Democrats, he said, were to blame.

“We couldn’t get one Democratic vote, and we were a little bit shy, very little, but it was still a little bit shy, so we pulled it,” Trump said.

Trump said he would not put the bill on the floor in the coming weeks. He is willing to wait and watch the current law continue and, in his view, encounter problems. And he believes that Democrats will eventually want to work with him on some kind of legislative fix to Obamacare, although he did not say when that would be.

I’m trying to picture Bob Costa at that moment, and those cold calls from Pope Francis kept coming to mind.

In sports, an artful move can result in ‘wrong footing’ an opponent. It means a player is lunging right when the ball goes left, or vice versa. You are thrown off your game. I thought of that, too.

These calls had to have thrown off two of the major media outlets Trump and Press Secretary Sean Spicer and other surrogates have targeted for perpetuating “fake news”. They and their entertainment media have played that up, to the point when Saturday Night Live’s string of opening skits satirized White House spokesman Spicer among others, and then Spicer refers to it in his daily press briefings, sometimes playing it up and using lines from the SNL skit, other times fitting right into that caricature. To the point where one TV news roundtable participant said he didn’t know whether it was ‘art imitating life, or life imitating art imitating life, or what’.

Which raises the real consideration of what is news, really. And Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation. The chapter titled ‘The Implosion of Meaning in the Media’ opens with this quote:

We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.

Provocatively, he explores and analyzes basically what we’ve been seeing, experiencing and consuming in news media for decades.

What is news, and what is reality?

Politics right now seem to be operating more feverishly on perception becoming reality. Whether that played into President Trump’s calls to the Times and Washington Post, or to what degree it did, is hard to tell, he’s such a wild card.

But his call to Robert Costa at WaPo was certainly interesting. And lengthy. It’s a back and forth exchange on the politics of trying to get, or stop, health care reform done and who tried to stop it and what comes next, and later down the road, and what it would take to get anything done.

And then Trump said this:

“Well, look, you can say what you want,” Trump said. “But there are years of problems, great hatred and distrust, and, you know, I came into the middle of it.”

So Costa says he wanted to get some clarity before wrapping up the call. It”s easy to imagine how head spinning this was at that point.

As Trump tried to hang up the phone and get back to work, I asked him to reflect, if at all possible, on lessons learned. He’s a few months into his presidency, and he had to pull a bill that he had invested time and energy into passing.

What was on his mind?

“Just another day,” Trump said, flatly. “Just another day in paradise, okay?”

He paused.

“Take care.”

It’s all in how you take it.

When family life bursts in on work life

Family prevails. And the video of it goes viral.
Sorry if you’ve seen this dozens and dozens of times. I posted it on my personal Facebook page as soon as I saw it last week, and stopped laughing long enough to “share” and add a personal note. Since then, so many media folks with a big following in social media have shared it as well, adding their personal comments to the tweet or post or other commentary, it’s grown into a phenomenon of the moment. And one with a message.

Mollie Hemingway does the best job of capturing what happened here.

The setup:

This morning the BBC interviewed Dr. Robert Kelly, an associate professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University in South Korea. The topic of the interview — the impeachment of Korean President Park Geun-hye — was interesting. But Kelly’s children stole the show.

It has to be watched first, then read about. Hemingway’s Federalist piece puts our universally shared reaction to this spontaneous moment in context.

She lists the 8 (updated from 7 initial) best things about the children taking all the attention from Dad during his BBC interview. There was a ‘marching toddler’ and a ‘rolling baby’, and viewers had their favorites. One tweeted

Enter every room like the kid who interrupts the BBC Skype interview.

Another

Y’all, the baby rolling in got me crying.

I actually laughed to that point of tears. Hearty, knowing, laughter.

Here’s another happy tweet

I legit can’t stop watching this.

Then there’s the mom who realizes what’s happening in real time, and she comes tearing around the doorway into the room, ducking to avoid the camera (or so she thinks) and grab the kids, and we can’t help but laugh with them, to the point of tears.

Mollie Hemingway and her husband frequently do media interviews and manage their family life at the same time.

By the time the mom rushes into the room, realizing the kids have gone rogue during their dad’s very important interview, the comedic value is unquestioned. She goes low — and speaking as someone who does these types of interviews and who is married to someone who does Skype interviews, I can assure you this is a natural instinct.

…having been interrupted by the chaos of life while on air, I know how stressful it is for children to enter the scene. I have never handled it as well as this guy, who keeps his composure as he tries to signal to his toddler to get out of the room. But he’s also totally laughing it off.

Which is refreshing, when we see the utter humanity of happy family chaos break in on structured, managed and reasonably controlled circumstances.

Television is so well-produced that we rarely see real life interrupt our broadcasts. When the toddler walks in, the interviewer is forced to acknowledge this, breaking down the wall we normally preserve between work and home life.

Or at least the perception of it. When one lives in their office and works in their home, this can happen. For all of us who do that, this provided huge comic relief.

The Wall Street Journal was among the major world media whose follow up coverage outdid the initial intended interview.

The buzz has even overshadowed the major news Mr. Kelly was on air to discuss: the impeachment of South Korea’s president.

“It’s a comedy of errors,” Mr. Kelly said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.

He also said he and his wife “immediately feared the worst, assuming that he wouldn’t be contacted again to appear on TV.” This is easy to picture:

“We said to each other, ‘Wow, what just happened?’ ” Mr. Kelly, said, adding the blame was entirely on him for not locking the door….

“I made this minor mistake that turned my family into YouTube stars. It’s pretty ridiculous,” he said.

That’s right.

He immediately wrote to the BBC to apologize, but within 15 minutes the broadcaster asked if it could put a clip of the interview on the internet. The couple initially declined, feeling uncomfortable that people might laugh at their children. But they were eventually persuaded that the video would show they were just a regular family.

Within a couple of hours, it became clear to them that the video would disrupt their lives…

Yes, that’s because it “had been viewed over 84 million times on the BBC Facebook page as of Tuesday morning U.S. time. It has been covered by media from Uruguay to Nigeria to Australia, and dissected in thousands of news articles and social media posts around the world. Many have expressed warm feelings toward the family…”

Proving that this brief sequence of events in the life of a family doing what they do in their routine at home, spontaneous chaos and all, brought us together in ways punditry and social science brilliance never could.

Watch both videos, the one on The Federalist site, and aftermath family discussion with the Wall Street Journal here. They’re so human, so endearing.

Mr. Kelly describes his reaction (to the initial disruption) as a mixture of surprise, embarrassment and amusement but also love and affection. The couple says they weren’t mad and didn’t scold the children. “I mean it was terribly cute,” Mr. Kelly said. “I saw the video like everybody else. My wife did a great job cleaning up a really unanticipated situation as best she possibly could… It was funny. If you watch the tape I was sort of struggling to keep my own laughs down. They’re little kids and that’s how things are.”

The otherwise cool, calm, collected Dad laughs and says “This is my life, man!”

This is a life more of us can relate to, exactly, as we ‘do media’ in setting where family, or pets, or neighbors pets or lawn mowers or snowblowers just outside the door or window can cause significant distraction or interruption.

But that’s what made this more than another foreign affairs interview on a global network covering so many stories of the moment, we can’t keep up so most people don’t even try. This interview was supposed to be about the impeachment of South Korea’s president. But wound up in the Wall Street Journal as this: “When the Children Crash Dad’s BBC Interview: The Family Speaks”.

And that’s what the world needs to hear. And see.

When a man in a woman’s restroom is finally seen as wrong

And a proudly progressive mom calls for a reality check.

After opening the blog post she felt necessary to write by saying that she was reluctant to write it, as a tolerant person who would likely be labeled and derided as intolerant, ‘The Get Real Mom’ stated clearly: “This is a story about a biological man in the women’s restroom.”

Innate sensibility prevailed when a startled young mother was disturbed enough by her own experience at a Disneyland women’s restroom when a man walked in, and stayed, while women and children nervously looked for someone to say or do something. But…not…them.

First, she felt the need to establish liberal bona fides.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for over a decade and have seen my fair share of transgender/gender fluid people. They in no way offend me. I’d consider myself pretty progressive and tolerant of most things…how transgender people feel, how they choose to dress or any surgeries they get, don’t infringe on any parts of my life, so I support their decision to live as they see fit. I’ve also seen my fair share of transgender women in the women’s restroom before. Not ALL the time. But over the past few years, I’d say 4-5 that I noticed. Men…who were in some stage of transition and making every attempt to be a woman from mascara to heels. Transgenders who certainly felt comfortable in the women’s room and probably frightened to go into the men’s. At these times, I smiled…I peed…and life went on. But 2 weeks ago something very different happened.

She and her friend took their young sons to the park for an outing, stopped for lunch and headed for the women’s restroom before the next adventure. They took turns, each watching the children for the other.

I was off to the side waiting with the two boys, when I noticed a man walk into the restroom…He took a few more steps, at which point he would’ve definitely noticed all the women lined up and still kept walking. My next thought was, “Maybe he’s looking for his wife…or child and they’ve been in here a while.” But he didn’t call out any names or look around. He just stood off to the side and leaned up against the wall. At this point I’m like, “…Am I the only one seeing this?” I surveyed the room and saw roughly 12 women, children in tow…staring at him with the exact same look on their faces. Everyone was visibly uncomfortable. We were all trading looks and motioning our eyes over to him…like “what is he doing in here?” Yet every single one of us was silent. And this is the reason I wrote this blog.

Somebody has to be willing to speak up, and they were all afraid. She realized that reality, as one who had been among the unwilling to be considered judgmental, or to call any behavior or boundary crossing wrong. Until clearly it was.

We had been culturally bullied into silenced. Women were mid-changing their baby’s diapers on the changing tables and I could see them shifting to block his view. But they remained silent. I stayed silent. We all did. Every woman who exited a stall and immediately zeroed right in on him…said nothing. And why? B/c I…and I’m sure all the others were scared of that “what if”. What if I say something and he says he “identifies as a woman” and then I come off as the intolerant ass… at the happiest place on earth? So we all stood there, shifting in our uncomfortableness…trading looks. I saw two women leave the line with their children. Still nothing was said. An older lady said to me outloud, “What is he doing in here?” I’m ashamed to admit I silently shrugged and mouthed, “I don’t know.” She immediately walked out…from a bathroom she had every right to use without fear.

This was more than a dawning awareness. It was sudden. “I’m ashamed to admit I silently shrugged…” shows the revelation this woman had in that moment that ‘the culture’ has ‘bullied us into silence’, but we still have our sensibilities, and they come alive in a moment when visceral reaction tells us what’s wrong is wrong, no matter what anybody calls it.

And let me be clear, my problem wasn’t JUST that there was a man in the restroom. Its that he wasn’t even peeing, washing his hands or doing anything else that you’d do in a restroom. He was just standing off to the side looking smug…untouchable… doing absolutely nothing. He had to of noticed that every woman in the long line was staring at him. He didn’t care. He then did a lap around the restroom walking by all the stalls. You know, the stalls that have 1 inch gaps by all the doors hinges so you can most definitely see everyone…

So yes… there were women and small children using the restroom and this man was walking around knowing no one would say anything.  So here I am…writing this blog, because honestly I need answers. We can’t leave this situation ambiguous any more. The gender debate needs to be addressed… and quickly. There have to be guidelines. It can’t just be a feeling… this notion that we’re shamed into silence b/c we might offend someone, has gone too far.

There are answers. People, experts and organizations and rights groups, have been engaging this debate for a long time, and she’s right in calling out those who have been trying to bully them and everyone into silence about saying what is true and right and good, and what is wrong.

There was a man who felt entitled to be in the woman restroom, because he knew no one would say anything. There were 20-25 people by the time I left, who were scared and uncomfortable by his ominous presence. And the only thing stopping us, was our fear of political correctness and that the media has told us we don’t know what gender is anymore. I never want to be in the position again. Im not asking for permission to tell transgender people to get out my bathroom. I need to know it’s ok to tell a man, who looks like a man, to get…out. Gender just can’t be a feeling. There has to be science to it. DNA, genitals, amount of Sephora make up on your face, pick your poison, but as a very progressive woman…I’m sorry it can’t just be a feeling when theres but a mere suggestion of a door with a peep hole separating your eyes from my…or my children’s genitals.

There is science to it. Here’s an exceptionally good and thorough report in The New Atlantis for anyone who didn’t encounter it before, and is willing to now, like ‘The Get Real Mom’. We don’t need to listen to or obey the media, or the culture, or prevailing forces in politically driven movements. We don’t need permission to tell a man hanging out in the women’s room to leave. It’s not about feelings. It’s about human truths and dignity, and the courage to stand for them.