Jul 31

Abortion clinic toll includes the living.

What happened to Planned Parenthood workers to deaden their sensibilities about human life? Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass wrote this piece after the first of now four videos, some terribly graphic, that reveal the abortion industry giant’s business practice of marketing baby body parts.

When we think of evil, we think of something violent or demonic, something filled with hatred and wretchedly hungry to devour the good.

But what if evil eats a salad at lunch and is polite, speaking rationally with nice table manners?

I’ve just seen a video where evil casually spears lettuce on a fork and calmly, scientifically, discusses the market for the body parts of aborted fetuses, while sipping a glass of wine.

“I’d say a lot of people want liver,” Dr. Deborah Nucatola, senior medical director for Planned Parenthood, says in the video…

This absolutely horrific video was recorded last year by investigators from the Center for Medical Progress, a California-based group that is opposed to abortion.

They allege that federally subsidized Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider and abortion rights advocate, is illegally selling body parts in violation of the law. The group said it plans to release other video in coming days.

They have. There are now four available for viewing, all over the internet. Like here.

John Kass characteristically spoke from the heart, and said what so many Americans have said, on every social media platform they have, after these videos started coming out.

What’s chilling is the absolute calmness in her voice.

I’m certain Dr. Nucatola — enjoying a nice lunch of salad and red wine and discussing organ harvests of the unborn — doesn’t consider herself to be evil. Perhaps you don’t either.

But I do. I have no other way to see it…

You’re free to go online and see for yourself. You might see things differently. But the way I see it, the way I hear it, is that this is the way evil works best, not as a growling beast crouching in the darkness, but in a rational, scientific voice. It is the way it’s always worked, the way it worked years ago, the way it works now…

Conservatives are publicly angry, but liberals haven’t handled this well at all. Some have argued for a more strident defense of Planned Parenthood’s organ policy. It’s obvious that they’d like a good dose of righteous moral indignation. But how do you invoke morality to defend this?

The left has recently celebrated Roman Catholic Pope Francis, who shares their position on global warming. They’ve used the pope as a cudgel in political debate, to mock those who think “climate change” is little more than a slogan for big government and redistribution of wealth.

So here’s my suggestion: Why doesn’t the left call the Vatican and ask Pope Francis to weigh in on this one? Ask him when life begins, and if there’s any morality in harvesting the organs of fetuses for research.

One evolving argument of Planned Parenthood, parroted by their media and political advocates, is that if no profit is made, then it is legal to sell the parts for research, since payment goes to defray expenses in transportation of the fetal organs and other costs.

But who cares if it’s legal? I don’t care if it’s legal. Slavery was legal once too, and not just in America, but just about every other country in the world. The powerful have always legalized their subjugation of the less powerful. And in our the modern world, there is nothing less powerful than life in the womb.


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Jun 30

Read this open letter to the Gay Community from a loving daughter.

She wonders why there isn’t more attention on the rest of this story, namely the children raised by two mothers or two fathers.

Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter. That it’s all the same. But it’s not. A lot of us, a lot of your kids, are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.

I grew up surrounded by women who said they didn’t need or want a man. Yet, as a little girl, I so desperately wanted a daddy. It is a strange and confusing thing to walk around with this deep-down unquenchable ache for a father, for a man, in a community that says that men are unnecessary…

I’m not saying that you can’t be good parents. You can. I had one of the best. I’m also not saying that being raised by straight parents means everything will turn out okay. We know there are so many different ways that the family unit can break down and cause kids to suffer: divorce, abandonment, infidelity, abuse, death, etc. But by and large, the best and most successful family structure is one in which kids are being raised by both their mother and father.

And she wonders why gay people’s kids can’t be honest in talking about the realities, for them, of gay marriage.

It promotes and normalizes a family structure that necessarily denies us something precious and foundational. It denies us something we need and long for, while at the same time tells us that we don’t need what we naturally crave. That we will be okay. But we’re not. We’re hurting.

She notes that children of divorced parents, adopted children of biological parents they never knew, are “allowed” to speak out about their pain, suffering, longing, feelings.

But children of same-sex parents haven’t been given the same voice. It’s not just me. There are so many of us.

One of the first to publish such an account was Robert Lopez, and his account of being ‘raised by two moms’ clearly reveals his love for his mother, but also the long term impact that home life had on him. It opened the door for many other children of same-sex parents who were afraid to speak up because they loved them and didn’t want to hurt them.

In the past couple of days, that link has become inaccessible, and the online journal that published it has been dealing with technical issues. Which may or may not be related to the silencing Heather Barwick referred to in her honest, open letter.

If we say we are hurting because we were raised by same-sex parents, we are either ignored or labeled a hater.

This isn’t about hate at all. I know you understand the pain of a label that doesn’t fit and the pain of a label that is used to malign or silence you. And I know that you really have been hated and that you really have been hurt. I was there, at the marches, when they held up signs that said, “God hates fags” and “AIDS cures homosexuality.” I cried and turned hot with anger right there in the street with you. But that’s not me. That’s not us.

That’s not most of us. It’s the extreme left and right doing the most outright condemnation. Most of us who are trying to engage at all, are trying to do so reasonably and charitably. Many of us make efforts to speak clearly and listen closely, with the courage of conviction and respect for the dignity of those who challenge and even try to silence our beliefs, beliefs which at core witness to human dignity.

So Heather Barwick closes her letter to the Gay Community in which she was raised, with which she identified most of her life, who she understands with great compassion, and appeals to now as a children’s rights activist, with this:

I know this is a hard conversation. But we need to talk about it. If anyone can talk about hard things, it’s us. You taught me that.

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Jun 28

The court didn’t interpret a law. It invented a right.

And it turned on the feelings and thoughts of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion and proved to be its pivotal player. No matter how prepared the experts in jurisprudence I’ve dealt with for years thought they were for this decision, they were all stunned when it came out, so sweeping was its usurpation of judicial power and lack of recourse to history and tradition.

So historic and pivotal a moment as this requires full examination, there are so many angles and issues. For now, start with law professor Helen Alvare’s early assessment of what happened, and especially whether and how the ruling considered a largely overlooked population of people generally left out of gay marriage debates: children.

Regarding children’s interests, until the first same-sex marriage opinions began to emerge in the states, every state and the US Supreme Court had grounded marriage recognition in the state’s interest in linking children with their parents. Adults received rights respecting marriage and parenting, because they first had duties — duties to the children the vast majority of marriages produced.

Today, the Supreme Court rules instead, however, that marriage is about adults’ “defin[ing] and express[ing] their identity,” adults’ desire for “nobility,” “fulfillment,” “aspirations,” “autonomy,” “self-definition,” avoiding of “loneliness,” and desire for “companionship and understanding”. The list goes on.

Regarding children? Who have now been stripped completely out of any definition of marriage that any state is permitted to have? The majority opinion assumes that there will be trickle-down benefits for children. But of course it could offer no evidence on this point. In fact, the vast majority of children (86%)[1] reared in same-sex homes have a legal mother and father and will not be affected by the new marriage rights of the same-sex couple in their home; they were conceived in a prior heterosexual relationship by one of the now-LGBT partners. And the testimony of now-adult children reared in same-sex homes reveals their deep longing and loss respecting the absent parent of an opposite sex, even as they often loved the adults who raised them.

More on that to follow here in the days ahead, with adult children of same sex parents now speaking out in greater numbers.

As for Helen’s footnote [1], here it is:

[1] Gary J. Gates, Family Formation and Raising Children Among Same-Sex Couples, Nat’l Council on Fam. Rel.: FAMILY FOCUS, Winter 2011, at F1 [hereinafter Gates, Family Formation] (“[One research study] suggest[s] that offspring of lesbian and gay parents are more often the product of different-sex relationships that occur before individuals are open about their sexual orientation.”); GARY J. GATES, WILLIAMS INST., LGBT PARENTING IN THE UNITED STATES (2013) (providing a statistical summary of the demographics of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) households); Ronald Bailey, “The Science on Same Sex Marriage,” The REASON FOUND. (April 15, 2013),  (“Nearly 20 percent of same-sex households . . . reported having children, and 84 percent contained children biologically related to one of the householders.”).

Links are on the Crux post of her opinion piece, which should be thoroughly read.

So should this piece by Professor Alvare.

Today’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, which invents a constitutional right to same-sex marriage applicable to the 50 states, is a story of judicial pride, successful marketing by same-sex marriage groups, and the triumph of modern therapeutic individualism. It is not a legal story. It has “nothing to do with” the Constitution, as Chief Justice Roberts so accurately states in his dissent…

Roberts warned same-sex marriage advocates that they had “lost, and lost forever: the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice of their cause,” because such opportunities require legitimate democratic process, not constitutionally illegitimate fiat.

This is only the beginning of a better understanding of what’s happened here. And what is about to.

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Jun 25

That’s how the Wall Street Journal described the second Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act, as written.

Which is precisely what was at the heart of the case before the justices yet again, what the AFA said. Here’s the later version of the WSJ story, though the news alert that dropped into my inbox said this in opening summary:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Obama administration can continue to subsidize health-insurance purchases by lower-income Americans across the country, a decision that preserves a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act.

The ruling marks the second time President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement has survived a near-death experience in the courts, and leaves the law on a firmer footing for the remainder of his time in office.

And thus

rescuing for the second time the most ambitious social program in nearly 50 years and ensuring that the law’s ultimate fate will be in the hands of the political process.

Which nearly everything is, these days. In the hands of the political process, that is. Except for those matters  in the hands of the judiciary, though that wing has long been bending in the direction of the prevailing political winds.

As usual, there’s a lot of coverage out there, something to fit any viewpoint. Though I’m a legal and policy wonk, my angle is of a purist, how carefully we adhere to the truth and meaning of language of law, policy, and everything else from political promises to social realities, scientific statements to biomedical facts, faith claims to gospel teachings, and all things as they uphold human dignity.

So the key issue for me is how words were so central to this case and final ruling. Leaving aside the specifics of the AFA, otherwise known as Obamacare, I believe everyone deserves health care. How that is best delivered is debatable. Interestingly, two allegedly conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, differed widely (and wildly) in their views of how to handle the Obamacare wording and challenge to it. And the wording of the opinion and dissent.

The WSJ reports:

The 6-3 ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, upheld a signature achievement of President Barack Obama’s tenure. In buttressing the health law’s legal foundation it raised the odds that it may become as entrenched as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The case turned on wording, as the WSJ and any other responsible media reported, no matter how else they reported it. In particular, four words: “established by the State”.

Carrie Severino explains at NRO:

On the Chief’s appeal to context, Scalia points out that context “is a tool for understanding the terms of the law, not an excuse for rewriting them.” But, as Scalia explains, the Chief’s opinion does not merely redefine the words “established by the State,” it effectively deletes them from the statute because the majority’s position is that they add precisely no meaning to the law. Yet Congress used this apparently meaningless phrase over and over. “It is bad enough for a court to cross out ‘by the State’ once. But seven times?”

To which dissenting Justice Scalia went to great lengths by delivering his lively and blistering dissent from the bench, which is unusual.

To mention just the highlights, the Court’s interpretation clashes with a statutory definition, renders words inoperative in at least seven separate provisions of the Act, overlooks the con­trast between provisions that say “Exchange” and those that say “Exchange established by the State,” gives the same phrase one meaning for purposes of tax credits but an entirely different meaning for other purposes, and (let us not forget) contradicts the ordinary meaning of the words Congress used. On the other side of the ledger, the Court has come up with nothing more than a general provision that turns out to be controlled by a specific one, a handful of clauses that are consistent with either under­standing of establishment by the State, and a resemblance between the tax-credit provision and the rest of the Tax Code. If that is all it takes to make something ambiguous, everything is ambiguous. (emphasis added)

There was a lot of buzz about judicial activism on this ruling. NRO’s Peter Augustine Lawler posted this in response.

I’m sympathetic with Roberts’s statesmanlike view that the judiciary is not the branch of government equipped, all alone, to save us from Obamacare. So he refuses an opportunity for “judicial activism.” But, from another view, he turns out to be quite the activist, telling Congress what it really meant by its incompetently drafted, screwed-up law. And so if judicial activism is a synonym for judicial legislation, that’s what we have here. Someone might say that Scalia was uncharacteristically the activist for wanting to strike part of the law down. But he claims to be doing the least activist thing by sending the law back to Congress. It should figure out what it really meant and then say that…

All in all, there are some interesting separation-of-powers issues here, as well as the one about the extent to which the Court should scope out the political environment before deciding whether or not to strike a law down.

Yes. Which is precisely the point. It was the point when the Blackmun court wrote abortion into law and cited the Constitution as grounding for it, making that up as it went. It was the point going back to the Dred Scott decision on slavery. Both issues involve classes of human beings denied human rights by the high court.

With this ruling, Justice Scalia said in his dissent, “words no longer have meaning”.

How that atmosphere impacted the decision on how the definition of marriage was deliberated and decided is about to become clear. The task of restoring the meaning of language in communicating human truths is as vital as ever. The merits of Justice Roberts majority opinion may be understandable to many people. But Justice Scalia’s clarifying blast is a valuable call for truth in justice.

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Jun 18

And the costs are prohibitive.

Things are getting worse, too. Look at the incident at Chicago’s Northwestern University that prompted this editorial from the Chicago Tribune editorial board.

Universities were meant to be places where ideas can be voiced and debated without fear, where the search for truth has no artificial limits, where no assumption is beyond challenge. Their motto could be the line by the 17th-century poet and philosopher John Milton: “Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”

How archaic that sounds now, sadly.

In February, communications professor Laura Kipnis wrote an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education titled “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe.”

That started a chain of events that blew up the academic arena of ideas where challenge and response should be the norm, and everyone should be intelligent and mature enough to engage in that arena with reason. Read the editorial to see how far short of that ideal the university fell when things started flaring up over Professor Kipnis’ article.

Geoffrey Stone, a First Amendment scholar and former provost of the University of Chicago, wrote in The Huffington Post that Northwestern had committed an “embarrassing” betrayal of “the core principles of academic freedom.” Kipnis’ sole offense, he said, was “writing an article that upset some students.”…

The article Kipnis wrote was in the best tradition of spirited inquiry. Northwestern’s rough treatment of her is bound to have an intimidating effect on professors who see the danger of expressing any opinion that could offend anyone.

Just ask Sir Tim Hunt, formerly esteemed scientist at University College London. Who had an incident of misspeaking in a clearly clumsy setup for a talk before a world conference of science journalists, which he may forever regret.

As jokes go, Sir Tim Hunt’s brief standup routine about women in science last week must rank as one of the worst acts of academic self-harm in history. As he reveals to the Observer, reaction to his remarks about the alleged lachrymose tendencies of female researchers has virtually finished off the 72-year-old Nobel laureate’s career as a senior scientific adviser.

What he said was wrong, he acknowledges, but the price he and his wife have had to pay for his mistakes has been extreme and unfair. “I have been hung out to dry,” says Hunt.

His wife, Professor Mary Collins, one of Britain’s most senior immunologists, is similarly indignant. She believes that University College London – where both scientists had posts – has acted in “an utterly unacceptable” way in pressuring both researchers and in failing to support their causes.

Certainly the speed of the dispatch of Hunt – who won the 2001 Nobel prize in physiology for his work on cell division – from his various academic posts is startling. In many cases this was done without him even being asked for his version of events, he says. The story shows, if nothing else, that the world of science can be every bit as brutal as that of politics.

That’s an important component of this case study to note. It’s pervasive now.

Sitting on a sofa with his wife, Hunt tries to explain why he made the remarks that got him into trouble while Collins groans in despair as he outlines his behaviour. Hunt had been invited to the world conference of science journalists in Seoul and had been asked to speak at a meeting about women in science. His brief remarks contained 39 words that have subsequently come to haunt him.

What in the world could have caused so much trouble, in so few words? Here’s what he said in the now infamous, awkward setup on the topic of women in science.

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry,” he told delegates.

Just as an aside, I’m a woman and longtime investigative journalist who worked for two decades for one of the nation’s leading news magazines interviewing thought leaders, including a Nobel laureate the day he won the prize, and members of a presidential administration, among other dignitaries. Had I been sitting in that audience, I would not have laughed, smiled, or shown any glimmer of reaction, probably thinking ‘that was a stupid thing to say‘, and waiting for him to get to the important stuff.

But it was a tougher crowd.

Hunt may have meant to be humorous, but his words were not taken as a joke by his audience. One or two began tweeting what he had said and within a few hours he had become the focus of a particularly vicious social media campaign. He was described on Twitter as “a clueless, sexist jerk”; “a misogynist dude scientist”; while one tweet demanded that the Royal Society “kick him out”.

The next morning, as he headed for Seoul airport, Hunt got an inkling of the storm that was gathering when BBC Radio 4’s Today programme texted requesting an interview…

After Today was broadcast, and while Hunt was still flying back, Collins was called by University College London. She is a professor and a former dean there, while Hunt was an honorary researcher.

“I was told by a senior that Tim had to resign immediately or be sacked – though I was told it would be treated as a low-key affair. Tim duly emailed his resignation when he got home. The university promptly announced his resignation on its website and started tweeting that they had got rid of him. Essentially, they had hung both of us out to dry. They certainly did not treat it as a low-key affair. I got no warning about the announcement and no offer of help, even though I have worked there for nearly 20 years. It has done me lasting damage. What they did was unacceptable.”

The story appeared in newspapers round the world under headlines that said that Hunt had been sacked by UCL for sexism. Worse was to follow…

Hunt is under no illusions about the consequences. “I am finished,” he says. “I had hoped to do a lot more to help promote science in this country and in Europe, but I cannot see how that can happen. I have become toxic. I have been hung to dry by academic institutes who have not even bothered to ask me for my side of affairs.”

This is now standard operation procedure for academic institutions, political ones, elite media and activist organizations influenced by “the illiberal left”, as Kirsten Powers calls it, in her challenging book The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech. She was my guest on radio twice recently, each time eager and ready to engage, and we had lively conversations about the need for engagement of diverse opinions in the arena of ideas, with respectful debate and intellectual engagement. I also share her deep concern over vanishing civil discourse and a dominant culture of intolerance, shutting down debate and even discussion.

It’s an important book, for its intellectual honesty  and insight by a professional political strategist well-known as a liberal who worked in the Clinton administration, and a current commentator on Fox News. She has accumulated a full package of insights from all that experience, which started in a childhood immersed in news and political affairs. Much like mine. We share a deep appreciation for the art of the argument, and the need for robust public debate between proponents of different ideas. That’s not only not what’s happening, she worries it’s becoming increasingly threatened by the bully forces of “the illiberal left.”

The behavior of the illiberal left flies in the face of decades of jurisprudence forged by liberal Supreme Court Justices who argued for an expansive view of the First Amendment and treated free speech as a precious commodity to be guarded jealously…

Supreme Court Justice William Brennan Jr. – a liberal lion known for his outspoken progressive views – was perhaps the strongest First Amendment advocate of the modern era.

Powers cites what was likely Brennan’s most well-known free speech opinion, in which he defended “a profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open…” But, she says:

The illiberal left does not share this commitment. Their burgeoning philosophy in favor of government power to curtail freedom of thought, speech, and conscience is troubling.

Because it’s brutal, with a ‘mob mentality’ enforcing silence where free speech laws still protect those still willing to speak out. However, Powers says:

The illiberal left knows that delegitimization works. It’s their strongest weapon in a country with unparalleled free speech protections. If you can’t suppress views you don’t like with repressive laws, then delegitimize the people expressing them.

While we still have free speech laws in place…

deligimization through demonizing and intimidation remains the illiberal left’s most effective tactic…The illiberal left seeks to short-circuit this process (of debate). They don’t want to defend their views, nor do they want to allow forums for other people to present views that are at odds with the conclusions they have drawn on an array of issues. Sometimes, the mere suggestion of holding a debate is cast as an offense.

And this is early in her book. It’s filled with case studies backing up everything she says, and she says a lot that needs to be said.

Under a section titled ‘Age of Un-Enlightenment’, she says what so many have been afraid to say, which she does throughout the book.

The illiberal left isn’t just ruining reputations and lives with their campaigns of deligitimization and disparagement. They are harming all of society by silencing important debates, denying people the right to draw their own conclusions, and derailing reporting and research that is important to our understanding of the world. They are robbing culture of the diversity of thought that is so central to learning and discovery…

When people are afraid to express their opinions because they’ve seen other people as deviants deserving of public shaming or worse, they will be less likely to speak freely…This is not the kind of world we want.

No, it isn’t. We’re in a Paul Revere moment in our history in the US, and a pivotal one globally. Whoever hears the call to stand up to the assault on free speech should be emboldened to engage, challenge, present and defend truths about human rights and dignity that the “illiberal left” work to discredit or eliminate altogether.

This battle goes back to Plato, who battled the Sophists of his time. In Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, Josef Pieper described how they so deftly worked at retooling vocabulary and rhetoric to change the meaning of words to justify anything. Pieper explicitly described the results.

 The place of authentic reality is taken over by a fictitious reality…deceptively appearing as being real, so much so that it becomes almost impossible anymore to discern the truth.

We’re getting darned close to that place.

For the general public is being reduced to a state where people not only are unable to find out about the truth but also become unable even to search for the truth because they are satisfied with deception and trickery that have determined their convictions, satisfied with a fictitious reality created by design through the abuse of language.

Powers makes the point from current politics:

What sets the illiberal left apart are their campaigns to delegitimize people who deviate on even one issue by openly engaging in racist and sexist attacks, all the while presenting themselves as the protectors and representatives of all women and non-white people.

This is going to be a rich and robust presidential campaign season for the next year and a half. So much is at stake.

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Jun 14

Or does it just seem that way all of a sudden, from high profile news stories?

Gender and race have featured prominently in media lately under the whole category of the ‘trans’ movement.

A few thoughts…

What does the transgender movement do to the feminist movement? The Federalist considers.

A central theme of modern, or third-wave feminism is that women should not be treated merely as sexual objects. A central theme of the trans movement is the presentation of trans women as hypersexual objects. Feminism is not big enough for both of these themes. Either being a woman is essentially defined as being alluring to men, or it isn’t. Either the playboy bunny defines the essence of womanhood, or it doesn’t. At the moment, the trans movement opposes more than a century of feminism on this point. Third-wave feminists, in their eagerness to be allies, have abandoned this basic tenet. It must be reclaimed.

How have we arrived at a point in which feminists fundamentally alter their definition of womanhood to accommodate men?

This is a good examination of conscience for the feminist movement, among others, but chief among others.

There is nothing male about pants, muscles, and short hair. Just ask Rosie the Riveter. The social constructs of feminine and masculine are totally up for grabs, and that’s fine, but a masculine woman is still a woman, and there’s nothing wrong with that, or with that woman living however she wants to. The same goes for feminine men.

The problem here is how Annie Leibowitz and Vanity Fair set about showing us that Jenner is truly a woman. They did it by painting precisely the pinup we teach our daughters to reject as their central aspiration. The sexual objectification of trans women is used as proof of their womanness, but the sexual objectification of non-trans women is considered demeaning because it associates their primary worth in relation to male desire. Being oppressed by men is being oppressed by men, even if those men are wearing dresses.

Speaking of oppression, the Rachel Dolezal story took social identity politics to a whole new level.

A prominent civil rights activist who heads a Washington state NAACP chapter has apparently been identifying herself as African-American for years despite being white, her mother revealed Thursday.

Rachel Dolezal, president of NAACP Spokane and adjunct professor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University, is a leading voice in the local black community, and was even invited by the city to chair a police oversight commission.

So, a white lady posing as a black lady, better to identify with blacks, is bizarre. And unnecessary, as her mother attests.

Rachel’s mother attributed her daughter’s behavior to being raised among four adopted African-American siblings, during which time Dolezal began to “disguise herself.”

“Her effectiveness in the causes of the African-American community would have been so much more viable, and she would have been more effective, if she had just been honest with everybody,” Ruthanne Dolezal told the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Those high profile identity stories breaking as close together as they did in news cycle time led some commentators to draw comparisons. First Things Magazine’s Carl Trueman was one.

To him,

the point of comparison is rather obvious: If identity is a matter of psychological conviction and can override and even directly contradict biology, then we have no basis to privilege the soft biology of race over the much more significant biology of sex. Nor can the possession of a history of oppression lead to such privileging. Talk to any feminist. They can tell you something about oppression.

Into the upheaval came Pope Francis, steeped in the long history of human anthropology, and usually with something to say that applies them to these confusing times. Especially about the transgender movement, so widely covered in recent days and weeks.

One week after Bruce Jenner appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair wearing an ivory corset declaring he is a woman, Pope Francis again denounced gender ideology as an aberration.

Speaking to the bishops of Puerto Rico on Monday, June 8th, during their ad limina visit to Rome, the Pope said the ideology is among the most pernicious threats to marriage and family life.

“Let me draw your attention to the value and beauty of marriage,” he said. “The complementarity of man and woman, the crown of God’s creation, is being questioned by so-called gender ideology, in the name of a freer and fairer society.”

But “the difference between man and woman is not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and procreation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God,” he said…

Pope Francis explained that while contemporary culture has opened new opportunities for understanding the sexual difference, it has also introduced “many doubts and much skepticism.”

“For instance,” he said, “I wonder if the so-called gender theory is not also an expression of a frustration and resignation, which aims to eliminate the sexual difference because it no longer knows how to face it.”

“The removal of the difference, in fact, is the problem, not the solution.”

(Where did that get covered in big media?)

He therefore urged the bishops of Puerto Rico to “safeguard the treasure” of marriage, which he called “one of the most important of Latin American and Caribbean peoples.”

The Pope also called on the bishops to defend and protect the family from the many social problems that afflict it, including: “the economic situation, migration, domestic violence, unemployment, drug trafficking, and corruption.”

Always directing attention to the existential peripheries, Francis took this opportunity to say, in so many words, that certain First World ‘ideologies’ are remote from the realities of tragic Third World struggles unimaginable to the privileged political classes and cultural elites in the West.

We have poverty, joblessness, lack of access to education and opportunity, community safety and solidarity, and the existential peripheries here too. We just have to focus attention on these social problems. Which should be easier once we recognize how connected they are with the stories grabbing headlines for other, more sensational reasons.

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Jun 02

Marketed under terminology crafted to trigger sympathy and compliance, it still is what it is.

The former Hemlock Society changed its name to Compassion and Choices. Sounds nice and fuzzy. So does Death With Dignity, though less so Aid In Dying although that still softens the fact that someone is ending someone else’s life. At least Mercy Killing uses the word, though softened with the spiritual concept of charity.

Working closely with Terri Schiavo’s family and some of their legal and spiritual counselors during that ordeal which erupted on the national and then international consciousness in early 2005, I did investigative reporting that turned up facts, claims, contradictions and records that mostly didn’t make it to big media reports on the story, though my radio network covered it all. Someone sent me a letter from a man in the Netherlands warning that if America let this woman die by court ordered starvation and dehydration, Dutch euthanasia would come to this country. How prescient that was.

Not long after, Hollywood gave the euthanasia and assisted suicide movements huge momentum, though not without warning there, either. Hollywood professional Barbara Nicolosi laid it all out here.

The evidence is undeniable: Somewhere in the middle of the Terri Schiavo tragedy, Hollywood and the cultural left climbed aboard the latest human-killing bandwagon and have since thrown the weight of their talent and creativity behind it. As with abortion, the forces of darkness are outmaneuvering the forces of good on what will certainly be the moral issue of the 21st century.

If we lose the fight on euthanasia, we lose our souls. By removing suffering and the meaning of suffering from our culture, we make the final step in denying and defying our creature-hood. Once again, the seductive lie of Eden will trip us up: “If you will do this thing, you shall be like God.”

Our response to the mercy-killing machine must be more than an occasional op-ed piece; we need a shrewd and all-encompassing cultural strategy if we are going to make a good fight in the euthanasia war.

Shrewd means that we fight smart. It means appealing to the emotions of the masses through stories, not non-fiction tomes. Songs, not philosophical tirades. Heroes, not pundits.

That was 2011, we’ve had heroes and storytellers since then, but we still need that shrewd and all-encompassing cultural strategy. Because death has been peddled as an available and increasingly acceptable option, through semantic engineering. Barbara Nicolosi, one of the heroes, swung for the fences in this appeal to awareness and action, sanity and reason.

If we’ve learned anything from the abortion wars, it’s that the words “choice” and “right to choose” set our cause back decades. We need an emotionally winning language for this fight. The other side should not get away with christening themselves “mercy killers”; they are “death dealers,” “elder abortionists,” “needlers.” Please, not “death with dignity”; let’s get there first with “medical murder” and “unnatural death.” Not “end-of-life clinics” but “human garbage pits.” We need slogans like, “Make your insurance adjuster’s day; let him kill you.” Or, “Everything we know about euthanasia we learned from the Nazis.”

We must be aggressive in exposing the deceptions driving the euthanasia movement — lies like the implication that personhood can somehow disappear from a wounded human body. Or that a human life could ever lose its value. Or that suicide can be a courageous act. We must contradict the notion that suffering is the worst thing that can happen to a person.

That message got a lot of currency with the sad and tragic Brittany Maynard story used to the advantage of the assisted suicide movement and sensationalized by complicit media. What didn’t get so much coverage were the stories, names, faces and voices of others who faced and knew extreme suffering, and tried to witness to the truth of Nicolosi’s message about human life, dignity, and living through suffering.

Like the seminarian who kept trying to reach Maynard through Facebook posts and interviews, mostly in pro-life media, with true compassion. Philip Johnson had the same diagnosis and knew the pain.

And Lauren Hill, the determined teenager, who played her beloved sport of basketball even through pain and increasing disability, because her motto was “never give up.” If you don’t click on these hyperlinks to check out the stories, at least read this short one on her legacy, written on a Marine news site by Pfc. Ned Johnson.She was a basketball player — an athlete. She scored legitimate points for her junior college. But more importantly, she scored a lot of points in life.

Hill was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Cancer. In high school. At 18.

That’s when Hill proved she was more than many of us could ever hope to be. She went to college with this tumor. Then she made the basketball team, scored 10 points across four games before her body became too weak for her to continue.

She started a fundraiser that raised more than $1.5 million for pediatric cancer research…

There are many others who witness to courage and hope and true dignity, through their own suffering. Mark Davis Pickup is one, and he’s appealing to California legislators to consider the gravity of the bill before them this week, and the consequences of their vote.

I am a Canadian. As you know Canada’s Supreme Court recently struck down my nation’s laws against assisted suicide, opening wide the gates for physician assisted killing of suicidal sick and disabled people. Please do not take California down a similar path. It is not the hallmark of a “civil society”. There is nothing civilized about euthanasia or assisted suicide. Do not be fooled by euphemisms for killing like “death with dignity”. Dignity is not bestowed on people by injecting them with poison when they are at their lowest point. That is abandonment not dignity. Death with dignity is not an event, it is a process, the end result of having lived a life with dignity, benefiting from the best 21st Century palliative care (which is capable of eliminating physical pain), and being surrounded by loved ones.

Someone may say “What about those who do not have loved ones?” Precisely! What about them? Is the answer to euthanize them or seek to include them within the tender embrace of community? Another person may say, “I should have the autonomous right to determine the time and place of my own death.” Really? That presumes decisions only affect the individual making them. That is not true. Our decisions always impact others. The idea independent personal autonomy is diametrically opposed to the concept of interdependent community.

If I choose suicide (assisted or otherwise) it will not affect just me: It will affect my wife, children and grandchildren. It will impact my community and my doctor for I will ask her to stop being my healer and become my killer. And it will affect my nation by helping to entrench the notion that there are some lives unworthy to be lived.

Doctors, patients and healthcare experts are appealing likewise to California lawmakers and the people who elected them to protect and defend human life at all stages. That state’s lesislature is poised to vote one way or the other on the assisted suicide bill before them. Stephanie’s Journey puts a personal face and family on a profound call for care taking in this delicate process. Carolyn Moynihan covered it well here.

Disability Rights & Defense Fund expert Marilyn Golden testified before the California State Senate Health Committee with this comprehensive, riveting report, so lawmakers at least would make an informed vote.

I’m covering this on radio Wednesday with a California expert speaking for the disability community, to hear what he’s been saying in calls to legislative offices in the state, and hearing in response.

Because as Terri Schiavo’s family continues to proclaim, in carrying on her legacy and give voice to the voiceless, where there’s life, there’s hope.

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May 21

But they’re missing the most important threat to their lives.

Nail salons proliferate across America. Probably much of Europe and the elite stops of the world as well. Speaking from the US, I can say they’re so ubiquitous, these strip mall, storefront shops are competing with established hair salons and day spas for business to a degree that’s had the bigger, established businesses worried for years. Even former big salon workers opening their own breakout small nail businesses are concerned, as much about sanitation and regulation as by competition. I knew this already from some scattered experiences with one of them, as a woman professional with an increasing public event schedule that required an encounter with such places for a more ‘polished’ appearance, when time allowed.

I also learned the story from the other side, when I either had to run into a strip mall shop for an impromptu visit without appointment for a hurried nail polish before a special event, or when I was surprised by a guest on human trafficking on the air on radio who turned the conversation to what goes on in strip mall nail salons. Most of these are run and/or staffed by Asian women and even young men, most to my knowledge are Vietnamese (at least in my area around Chicago). The atmosphere in the only shop I visited was ‘off’ for some reason, one that made me instinctively uncomfortable for some reason I couldn’t discern.

I was shocked when international human trafficking expert Liz Yore was on my show for headline news, and delved deeper into the issue raising the disturbing fact that many suburban nail salons in America are staffed by victims of human trafficking. As we delved into the topic, we got a caller from Minnesota, a member of the police force in his city who affirmed what we were saying and expressed gratitude that we were making it public. Law enforcement can only address problems that are suspected, reported or identified. That takes a community effort. But the community has to be aware in the first place. So we did all we could, in a few different radio shows, to address this, and continue to, in the many ways people are being victimized by traffickers.

So now, along comes news stories in big media on nail salons , and I’m hoping the truth is finally coming out about that hidden, dark secret keeping so many people enslaved. Turns out they’re about the health hazards of the products used in nail salons, and the working conditions and wages.

Like this New York Times article. It goes through the conditions of the salons, and the reactions of Korean and Hispanic workers in them, to the fact that regulations were finally being addressed, and they were finally being informed.

But overlooked in the story is still the darker one, of human trafficking. Liz Yore put together this list of questions, to help identify possible sites for follow up investigation. The warning signs she spoke of on my show fit the workers in the salon I dropped into a couple of times. Though I do simple nail polish myself these days, I think of the workers I encountered those times, and how uncomfortable it would be to ask them these questions.

Thinking through it further, I realize how unfortunate, unjust and possibly tragic it would be if customers knew the questions, but were too uncomfortable to ask.

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May 21

Free to be bound only to the Communist Socialist State.

Really? Really.

China’s president warned in a key policy speech that religions must be independent from foreign influence, as the government asks domestic religious groups to pledge loyalty to the state.

Which keeps ‘influence’ in domestic, socialist hands.

China is ruled by the officially atheist Communist Party, and Beijing attempts to control a variety of religions and their spread.

“We must manage religious affairs in accordance with the law and adhere to the principle of independence to run religious groups on our own accord,” Xi said at a high-level party meeting that sought to unite non-Communist Party groups and individuals. His comments were widely reported in state media.

There’s an oxymoron for you.

“Active efforts should be made to incorporate religions into socialist society,” Xi said, adding that the party’s religious work should be about winning over the hearts and minds of the public for the party.

Which proves wholly and completely, if such proof were necessary, that such (or any) totalitarian ideologies are totally incoherent. Say whatever you will.

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May 11

No case for rights of any sort can be made by those who insist on the lawful ability to kill babies.

It doesn’t get more basic than that.

Feminist author Naomi Wolf made an important and intellectually honest statement of fact in her 1995 article “Our Bodies, Our Souls: Re-thinking Pro-Choice Rhetoric”. I cited it in my book Non-Negotiable: Essential Principles of a Just Society and Humane Culture.

But to its own ethical and political detriment, the pro-choice movement has relinquished the moral frame around the issue of abortion. It has ceded the language of right and wrong to abortion foes. The movement’s abandonment of what Americans have always, and rightly, demanded of their movements–an ethical core–and its reliance instead on a political rhetoric in which the foetus means nothing are proving fatal…

By refusing to look at abortion within a moral framework, we lose the millions of Americans who want to support abortion as a legal right but still need to condemn it as a moral iniquity. Their ethical allegiances are then addressed by the pro-life moevement, which is willing tos peak about good and evil.

But we are also in danger of losing something more important than votes; we stand in jeopardy of losing what can only be called our souls. Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: callous, selfish and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life.

This comes to mind now as Congress prepares, again, to vote on the so-called ‘20 Week Abortion Ban‘.

Pro-life leaders are applauding the US House of Representatives for scheduling a vote this week on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy…

Eleven states have approved similar measures to H.R. 36. The New York Times reports that 37 new rules on abortion have been enacted in 11 states already this year. Arkansas alone approved six new laws. On Thursday, Wisconsin legislators proposed banning any abortion after 20 weeks.

In clearer language, abortion on a five month old baby.

In the meantime, while much of the new legislation focuses on waiting periods, counseling, and what doctors can say to patients, The New England Journal of Medicine last week published a study showing that severely premature newborns at age 22 weeks (some weighing 1.1 pounds at birth) may survive with intensive treatment with few lasting developmental problems.

Which wound up on the front page of the New York Times last week in a revealing article accompanied by a compelling photo of a young girl on a swing, fully healthy and alive, who represented those babies born so prematurely who received such life-giving treatment and clearly not only survived but thrived.

The issue of ‘viability of the fetus’ is a turning point in this debate over when abortion is ‘acceptable’ and must be protected as a ‘right’, and when it pushes the limit.

Abortion pushes the limit of what civilized society should allow from the very beginning of life when that society fights so many other battles to serve vulnerable minorities of other sorts in other conditions to secure their rights. Before they are whatever other identity in a protected class, they are first human.

This vote Wednesday better happen, and pass. Until the deception and insanity of Roe v. Wade can be undone, incremental common sense laws establishing long overdue limits have to work their way forward to protect the most innocent, youngest class of brothers and sisters among us. It is the civil rights movement of our time.

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