Tag Archives: Abortion

#308: Assembly Candidate Edward Durr Interview

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #308, on the subject of Assembly Candidate Edward Durr Interview.

I received a letter from Edward Durr, seeking my support for his candidacy for New Jersey State Assembly in the 3rd Assembly District.  It was one of those fortuitous mistakes–he was contacting churches, and Google Maps somehow has determined that there is a church at my address.  Yet as Chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild I am in a real sense clergy, and TheExaminer never, to my knowledge, revoked my title as Newark Political Buzz Examiner, even though I no longer write for them–I simply don’t submit articles, and since I don’t do that I don’t get paid for them.  However, as I sent Mr. Durr an e-mail to explain the mistake, I recalled that in 2015 I published interviews with several New Jersey candidates for House of Representatives.  Although I am not actively going to attempt to contact all the candidates for State Assembly in this election cycle (with eighty seats and two party candidates plus some number of independents for each, there must be near two hundred of them), I will commit to interviewing any candidate for state office who contacts me.  Mr. Durr was pleased to do so, and I sent questions within a couple days which he answered promptly.

Thank you, Mr. Durr, for taking the time to answer a few questions.

First I want to thank you for taking the time to do this and provide me the chance to share with your readers my position.

Next I want to take this time to wish you and yours and Happy 4th & may it be safe.

You are running on the Republican ticket for New Jersey State Assemblyman in the 3rd Assembly District.  Looking at the map (correct me if I’m mistaken), it appears that this includes all of Salem County and parts of Gloucester and Cumberland Counties including the cities of Glassboro and Bridgeton. I’m assuming you live in the district; have you lived here all your life, or when and why did you come here?

Yes you are correct about the counties and district.  Yes I live in the district however I grew up just a little north of where I live. I was born and raised in NJ and grew up in Gloucester city where I lived til I was 18 when my parents moved where they live now in Logan [T]wp.

Two years ago you ran for that seat as an independent, and did fairly well for an independent in a heavily party-oriented state, drawing about one half of one percent of the vote.  As far as I can tell you have no other political experience.  What prompted you to run this time?

I ran as Independent in 2017 because I jump[ed] into it after primary so I was made to list that way.  I decided to run again because I still believe NJ can be turned around.  Yes it is true I have no political experience but I do not think that should be considered a negative.  So I approached the NJGOP end of last year letting it know I wanted to run again and they welcomed me in giving me full endorsement.

Although in national politics district 3 has been something of a swing vote (supported Trump in 2016, Obama in 2012), Democrats have rather solidly held the Assembly seats for quite a while.  One of your incumbent opponents has been in the Assembly since 2001, and the other has been there since he was appointed to replace a predecessor in 2015.  In 2017 the incumbent Democrats defeated their Republican opponents by a three-to-two margin, and while incumbency certainly has a lot to do with that, an unknown Republican candidate has an uphill battle here.  What prompted you to run as a Republican?

I am conservative so only natural for me to run as [R]epublican.  I believe in fiscal responsibility I am firm believer in the constitution and all it entails including the right of self defense including the owning and bearing of firearms.  Yes I am fighting an uphill battle but I believe my fight is needed.

Online information suggests that you have worked as a carpenter and a truck driver, but is a bit sketchy otherwise. What about your experience do you think qualifies you to serve in the State Assembly?

I have had a number of jobs over my life.  It is true I am not a lawyer or doctor or have a PHD but I do not think that is needed to understand that our state is in trouble.  Look at all the lawyers and doctors and executives in Trenton and consider the job they have done I think maybe we should not worry about degrees so much.

I’m going to ask you about three issues you listed on Ballotpedia as your top priorities.  The first is cutting taxes, which appears primarily to mean reducing property tax rates.  As I understand it, the State spends every penny it collects and is not permitted to borrow money without approval by the voters.  That means to reduce taxes you have to reduce spending.  Do you have any specific ideas on how to do that?

Yes I believe we need to cut taxes.  I believe home owners are in desperate need of tax relief.  Yes we have many pork items in the spending and should be cut.  Lets go with first no legal aid for illegal aliens or free college aid.  I also do not think we should be funding Plan Parenthood.  Tax payer money should not be used for abortions when as a society we are split on issue.  [It w]ould be like funding the NRA when many citizens are not in favor of guns.

Second on your list is concealed carry for law abiding citizens.  Our State has quite a few locations in which gun violence is a problem, and it is growing–I recently read that there was a drive-by shooting in so small a city as Vineland.  Why should we permit concealed carry?

I believe the 2nd amendment says it all[:]  “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”.  The constitution is for all 50 states, name me another amendment that we need to pay to exercise or be told from state to state what we are allowed.  No man has the right to tell me how I should defend myself, my family or my property.  It is not why we should allow, we already have the natural right of self defense by any means, spelled out in the 2nd amendment.  It is why we should stop infringing upon people[‘]s rights.

Perhaps the most controversial of your positions is support for a Heartbeat Bill, which has passed in some of the more conservative states, essentially saying that an unborn child is a person protected by law as soon as there is a detectable heartbeat.  If my information on fetal development is correct, that is generally about the twenty-fourth day of pregnancy, which would make abortion for practical purposes impossible, save for methods which prevent implantation.  Do you think this position has popular support?

Yes the topic of abortions is very controversial but that does not mean we should not discuss it.  The states that have passed the #HeartBeatBill use the guide lines between 8 & 12 weeks the heart is detectable.  I feel this allows those who are against abortion the comfort of curbing abortion while not outlawing it altogether. Abortion is not healthcare.  I do think the democratic party [] went too far with abortion so I do feel my stand on having a #HeartBeatBill is reasonable and would have support.  When Roe v Wade was passed it was intended for 1st trimester which is about 12 weeks I believe and rare after that.

Perhaps connected to that, you were contacting churches in the area for support for your candidacy.  Some would say that churches, as non-profit organizations, should not support or endorse political candidates; others would say that to have a voice in the political world Christians need to be politically organized, and their churches are the best starting points for that.  How do you view this disjunction between church and state?

First I want to say that people always go to separation of church and state.  That statement was taken from Thomas Jefferson and what he was actually intending was that he wanted government to stay out of people’s religion.  If you recall in England Henry VIII created the church of England when he could not get his way with the pope.

Plus no one seems to have issue with non profits like Plan[ned] Parenthood or SPLC or AARP pushing their political interest.  So yes I think churches do need to start getting involved.  They have every right just like others to make their voices heard.

What else do you think the voters should know about you, personally, or your positions politically?

I believe things need to change in Trenton and the only way that can happen is if the voters make the change.  People talk all the time about “term limits” yet they continue to vote the same people in year after year.  What is the definition of Insanity:  [“]Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.  I want the voters to know I am not looking to be a ruler, I want to be a voice for the people.  And I promise I will work hard for every one to make NJ better.

You appear to be running alongside someone named Beth Sawyer, about whom there is even less online information than about you.  She slightly outpolled you in the Republican Primary, but has no other reported political experience.  Do you know her or know anything about her that you would share with the readers?

Yes I have met Beth and she is a nice person.  I did not know her before the primary, I really can not tell you anything about her except I know she is in real estate.

If readers want to know more about you or want to contact or support you, what are the best means to do this?

They can find me on all sorts of social media.  My web page is http://www.3D4NJ.com  Twitter @edwarddurr1  Instagram edward.durr.9  Facebook.com/ED4NJ/ and email is edward_durr@yahoo.com.

Thank you for your time.

I thank you for this opportunity and hope to hear from you again.

Thank You.

As previously said, I am not seeking candidates, but will gladly interview any candidate for state office who contacts me.  Facebook is the most efficient means of doing so.

#282: The Fragility of Unborn Life Argument

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #282, on the subject of The Fragility of Unborn Life Argument.

Sometime during the explosion of legal news surrounding the Supreme Court session (much of which still awaits my attention) I somewhere encountered the notion that aborting the unborn is permissible because so many of them die anyway.  Unborn children have such a high mortality rate, why would killing one be a big deal?

Talk about kicking a man when he’s down, this seems so wrong on so many levels.

I certainly recognize the fragility of unborn life.  We went through enough miscarriages that pregnancies became an occasion more for dread than hope.  Yet the fact that someone might die, even has a good chance of dying, is not ordinarily a good argument for killing him.

Consider baby seals.  People get all upset about other people killing them, when it is obvious that baby seals are a primary food source for sharks.  Seriously, what is the life expectancy of a baby seal?  O.K., part of the objection is that the methods used by seal hunters are perceived as particularly cruel, so maybe that’s not the best example.  I don’t know that being clubbed to death is more painful than being torn apart by a shark, but I understand the objection.

However, children also have a high mortality rate.  We have lowered the rates of infant mortality significantly in western countries, but they are still high in third world countries.  Should we say that the killing of children in undeveloped nations is not a big deal because they were likely to die anyway?  Indeed, how likely to die would be enough to put someone in this category?  Obviously unborn children do not all die, and apart from abortion a great number of them survive to be born–more now than ever before, again because we have improved our ability to keep people alive.

After all, fragility is relative.  People die all the time.  Many die suddenly of heart attacks, anaphylactic shock, strokes, traumatic accidents, often with no warning.  If a person is having a heart attack and can’t get medical attention, there is a high probability that he will die.  Does that make it O.K. to kill him?  If a person is struggling to escape from a burning vehicle and not likely to succeed, can I shoot him?

Seriously, what chance of death meets the minimum requirement for killing someone?  Is it thirty percent?  Is it sixty percent?  I am sure that the mortality rate of unborn children does not reach eighty percent, but would that be high enough?

It is one hundred percent likely that you will die.  After all, everyone does, eventually.  It probably won’t happen for a while–many years, if you’re lucky, but is that a long time?  You are unlikely to live to one hundred years.  Does that mean that killing you is not a big deal, because you were going to die soon enough anyway?  If the world were run by artificially intelligent machines, we mere humans would be short-lived beings probably perceived as wastes of resources–we die, and everything we have learned is lost.  To them, we are not better than insects, brief lives of limited ability who are going to die.  They might as well kill us now, because we are likely to die fairly soon anyway.

Why should that argument apply to the unborn, and not to you?

My Judeo-Christian scriptures tell me to protect the weak.  I see none weaker than these.  If someone wants to kill the weak, I am obligated to defend them.  Yet apart from this, I see that it is in my own self-interest to do so.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran minister and writer arrested by Adolph Hitler in World War II, said (perhaps paraphrasing–I cannot find the original quote),

When they came for the Federalists, I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Federalist.  When they came for the Jews, I didn’t speak up because I was not a Jew.  When they came for the Catholics, I didn’t speak up because I was not a Catholic.  When they came for me, there was no one left to speak up.

You are also among the weak who are likely to die anyway, so why should society not be able to kill you?

Be careful of your judgements.

#278: The 2018 Recap

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #278, on the subject of The 2018 Recap.

A year ago I continued a tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #219:  A 2017 Retrospective.  I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable.  Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.

For example, on the second of January, the same day I published that retrospective here, I also posted another chapter in the series of Multiverser novels, at which point we were at the twenty-third chapter of the fourth book, Spy Verses (which contains one hundred forty-seven short chapters).  We had just published the first of seven behind-the-writings web log posts looking at the writing process, but all of that is indexed at that link.  Also on that same day the Christian Gamers Guild released the second installment of the new series Faith in Play, but all of those articles along with all the articles in the RPG-ology series are listed, briefly described, and linked (along with other excellent articles from other members of the guild) in the just-published Thirteen Months in Review on their site.  That saves recapping here two dozen more titles in the realms of Bible/theology and gaming, many of them excellent.  It should also be mentioned that six days a week I post to the Chaplain’s Bible study list, finishing Revelation probably early next week, and posting “Musings” on Fridays.

Spy Verses wrapped up in October, and was followed by the release of an expansion of Multiverser Novel Support Pages, updated character sheets through the end of that book, and by the end of that month we had begun publishing, several chapters per week, Garden of Versers, which is still going as I write this.

Now would probably be a good time to mention that all of that writing is free to read, supported by reader contributions–that means you–through Patreon or PayPal Me.  If you’ve been following and enjoying any of those series, your encouragement and support through those means goes a long way to keeping them going, along with much else that has been written–and although that may be the bulk of what was written, there is still much else.

Since on January 10th the first of the year’s web log posts on law and politics appeared, we’ll cover those next.

#220:  The Right to Repair presents the new New Jersey law requiring manufacturers of consumer electronics to provide schematics, parts, and tools to owners at reasonable prices, so that those with some knowledge in the field can troubleshoot and repair their own cell phones and other electronics, and none of us need be at the mercy of price-gouging company stores.

#221:  Silence on the Lesbian Front addressed the ramifications of a Supreme Court decision not to hear a case against a Mississippi law permitting merchants to decline wedding services to homosexual weddings.

#222:  The Range War Explodes:  Interstate Water Rights arose at the Supreme Court level when Florida claimed Georgia was using too much of the water that should flow downstream to it.

#225:  Give Me Your Poor talks about our immigrant history, the illusion that it was entirely altruistic, and the question of what we do going forward.

#229:  A Challenge to Winner-Take-All in the Electoral College looks at a federal lawsuit claiming that the standard electoral college election system violates the one-person-one-vote rule.

#230:  No Womb No Say? challenges the notion that men should not have a say in abortion law.

#231:  Benefits of Free-Range Parenting discusses the recent idea that parents who do not closely monitor their kids are not being negligent.

#241:  Deportation of Dangerous Felons considers the Supreme Court case which decided that the law permitting deportation of immigrants for “aggravated felonies” is too vague.

#247:  The Homosexual Wedding Cake Case examines in some detail the decision that protected a baker from legal action against him for refusing service to a homosexual couple, based primarily on the prejudicial language of the lower court decision.

#251:  Voter Unregistration Law examined a somewhat complicated case upholding a law that permits removal of non-responsive voters from the registration lists.

#253:  Political Messages at Polling Places presented the decision that non-specific political clothing and such cannot be banned from polling places.

#255:  On Sveen:  Divorcees, Check Your Beneficiaries examined a convoluted probate case in which a law passed subsequent to a divorce dictated how life insurance policy assets should be distributed.

#259:  Saying No to Public Employee Union Agency Fees is the case the unions feared, in which they were stripped of their ability to charge non-members fees for representation.

#261:  A Small Victory for Pro-Life Advocates hinged on free speech and a California law compelling crisis pregnancy centers to post notices that the state provides free and low-cost abortions.

#270:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Ballot was the first of two parts on the election in our state, #271:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Results providing the second part.

#274:  Close Races and Third Parties arose in part from the fact that one of our congressional districts was undecided for several days, and in part from the fact that Maine has enacted a new experimental system which benefits third parties by having voters rank all candidates in order of preference.

One post that not only bridges the space between religion and politics but explains why the two cannot really be separated should be mentioned, #224:  Religious Politics.

My practice of late has been to put my book reviews on Goodreads, and you’ll find quite a few there, but for several reasons I included #223:  In re:  Full Moon Rising, by T. M. Becker as a web log post.  I also copied information from a series of Facebook posts about books I recommended into #263:  The Ten Book Cover Challenge.

There were a few entries in time travel, mostly posted to the Temporal Anomalies section of the site, including Temporal Anomalies in Synchronicity, which is pretty good once you understand what it really is; Temporal Anomalies in Paradox, which is a remarkably convoluted action-packed time travel story; Temporal Anomalies in O Homen Do Futuro a.k.a. The Man From the Future, a wonderfully clever Brazilian film in which the time traveler has to fix what he tried to fix, interacting with himself in the past; and Temporal Anomalies in Abby Sen, an Indian film that is ultimately pretty dull but not without some interesting ideas.

In the miscellaneous realm, we had #227:  Toward Better Subtitles suggesting how to improve the closed captioning on television shows; #228:  Applying the Rules of Grammar encourages writers to understand the rules and the reasons for them before breaking them; and #273:  Maintaining Fictional Character Records gives some details of my way of keeping character information consistent from book to book.

This year we also began a subseries on the roots of Christian Contemporary and Rock Music, starting with #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor in March, and continuing with

  1. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael
  2. #236:  Reign of The Imperials
  3. #238:  Love Song by Love Song
  4. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark
  5. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch
  6. #244:  Missed the Archers
  7. #246:  The Secular Radio Hits
  8. #248:  The Hawkins Family
  9. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist
  10. #252:  Petra Means Rock
  11. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands
  12. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive
  13. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn
  14. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus
  15. #262:  First Lady Honeytree of Christian Music
  16. #264:  How About Danny Taylor?
  17. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire
  18. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts
  19. #272:  To the Bride Live
  20. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.

Looking at our Bible and Theology posts, the first of the year landed in the end of March, as #233:  Does Hell Exist? attempts to explore how the modern conception of hell compares with the Biblical one; #245:  Unspoken Prayer Requests finds theological problems with asking people to pray without telling them what to pray; and #267:  A Mass Revival Meeting explains what is really necessary to bring about a revival.

There were also a couple of entries related to gaming, including the republication of a lost article as #237:  Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials–the first article I ever wrote to be published on someone else’s web site.  There was also a response to some comments made by #239:  A Departing Member of the Christian Gamers Guild, and a sort of review of a convention appearance, #249:  A 2018 AnimeNEXT Adventure.

A couple previously published pieces appeared in translation in the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, which you can find indexed under my name there.

So that is a look at what was published online under my name this past year–a couple hundred articles, when you count all the chapters of the books (and more if you count all the Bible study posts).  In the future, well, I have a lot more to write about Christian music, I’m only getting started with Garden of Versers and have another novel, Versers Versus Versers, set up and ready to run, several Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles are in the queue (one publishes today), and there’s a study of the Gospel According to John ready to post and the Gospel According to Mark being prepared to follow it, plus some preliminary notes on Supreme Court cases, an analysis of a time travel movie that’s taking too long to finish, and more.

Again, your support through Patreon or PayPal.me helps make all of it possible.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.

#276: Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #276, on the subject of Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.

The rumor was always that Jimi Hendrix claimed Phil Keaggy was the best guitarist in the world.

The way I eventually heard the story, Hendrix was being interviewed and was asked what it was like to be the best guitarist in the world, and he replied, “I don’t know, ask Phil Keaggy.”

Keaggy always maintained that Hendrix never said he was the best in the world, and I suppose you could take that version of the story in a way which doesn’t say that.  On the other hand, Keaggy was and still is an amazing musician.

He began with a band called Glass Harp, and they were a more than moderately successful ensemble–they recorded a live album in Carnegie Hall sometime in the early 1970s, but it wasn’t released until the late 90s, after Keaggy was more than established.  For most aficionados his first Christian album was the breakthrough, and the title song What a Day put him on the map, showcasing his lead stylings.

It was again the title song of his next album, Love Broke Thru, which caught the ear; it was also recorded by its co-writer, still ahead on our survey, and although people still debate which version is better, the song propelled both of them into the spotlight.  It led to a tour and concert album with 2nd Chapter of Acts, under the title How the West Was Won, a good album which never achieved the greatness of To the Bride.

This was followed by a more fusion-styled album, The Master and the Musician, from which the only track I remember was the instrumental Agora (The Marketplace).

Not long after I arrived at the radio station, Ph’lip Side landed on our desk.  It was a much-played album, from the rocky opening A Royal Commandment to the gentle mostly acoustic closing I Belong to You, but the big cut for us, coming out when a major movement was bringing a Crisis Pregnancy Center to our local city, was Little Ones, still one of the most powerful songs in defense of the unborn.

I don’t recall ever having seen, let alone heard, the album Town to Town, but somewhere I still have a vinyl copy of Play Through Me, and whenever I think of Keaggy the first song that comes to my mind is probably the opener of that album, Happy, which is instrumental for probably four-fifths of its run.  Obviously, if I owned the album I heard it, probably many times, and would probably recognize any of the cuts from it, but the only other title that rings a bell is Nobody’s Playgirl Now.

Keaggy is still recording, so there’s a lot of his stuff I’ve never heard; but there was one more album he released in that last year before I left, and as 1983 came to an end I put it on a list of the ten most significant Christian albums of the year.  The album was double-titled, The Private Collection Volume I (there doesn’t appear to have been a Volume II) and Underground.  I recognize one track title from it, What a Love, but the quality of the music or the memorability of the songs was not what was significant with this.  It was the way it was produced.

TEAC, one of the leaders in recording equipment of the era, had released an all-in-one recording studio that used two cassettes–that’s right, cassettes, those tiny little tapes that were always getting chewed up inside the players but which abruptly produced a remarkable audio quality with the development of “metal tape”–to record four tracks on each and permit mixing from one tape to the other.  Keaggy sat at home and laid track upon track, drums, guitars, bass, multiple vocals, all using this gadget, and came up with an album that was at least passable by the standards of the day.

I say passable, but in a sense it wasn’t.  Sparrow Records, which at the time was contracted as Keaggy’s label, felt it was below their production standards, and if you listen to the album on good equipment and attend to the background tracks, you can hear the kind of distortion one gets from copying one tape to another repeatedly (I’ve done it, using a pair of TEAC 3340 reel-to-reel decks and a Tascam 3 mixer; alas my children destroyed those tapes).  Sparrow found itself in a bind, because the music was excellent but the production was below par, so they created a new label, Nissi Records, for the purpose.  I understand the label eventually carried more of Keaggy and several other artists, but I was no longer in touch with the industry so I don’t know the details.

To me, though, this was significant.  In the late 50s and very early 60s it was still possible to record a song in your garage on a small reel-to-reel recorder and have it break through to be a national hit.  By the early 80s hourly rates for studio time for the quality required to make a major label record ran six digits.  Keaggy’s record was the first glimmer of the possibility that it was still possible to make good recordings of good music at home at a not completely unreasonable cost.  It was well outside my budget as a barely-above-minimum-wage Christian radio DJ and PD, but it was not impossible to imagine being able to afford such a thing, even though I never could.

To wrap up, in college I knew someone who said that Keaggy was technically brilliant and undoubtedly impressed other musicians with his skill, but he found the music boring.  He did impress other musicians.  I attended a live solo concert of his in the early 70s, and he would perform these incredibly difficult pieces, and then give an embarrassed laugh and comment that he should have practiced that one.  However, I recently encountered evidence that Phil might just be the best guitarist in the world, in his live rendition of True Believers (video begins with an extended spoken intro).  He is obviously using some fancy equipment on his acoustic guitar, such as one or more ditto boxes, but even so the performance is technically brilliant, and the audience recognizes it.  He does things I’m not sure I could even tell you how to do, and I’ve been playing for almost as long as he has.

*****

The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.
  20. #272:  To the Bride Live.

#261: A Small Victory for Pro-Life Advocates

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #261, on the subject of A Small Victory for Pro-Life Advocates.

The United States Supreme Court has ruled in National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra 585 U. S. ____ (2018), in favor of pro-life Crisis Pregnancy Centers who, under the California Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act (FACT Act), were required to communicate to their clients that the State of California was ready to assist them in obtaining abortions.

It should be understood up front that the Court did not actually rule that the FACT Act was unconstitutional.  That was technically not what was on appeal.  The National Institute for Family and Life Advocates, NIFLA, had raised a challenge to the law and requested an injunction preventing its enforcement while the case was being heard.  The lower courts ruled that NIFLA probably could not win and so was not entitled to an injunction; the Supreme Court granted the injunction, stating that NIFLA probably could win on the merits and so enforcement should be stayed until the case had been heard.

Justice Thomas wrote the opinion of the court, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Alito, and Gorsuch.  He observed that the law appeared to be targeted specifically at clinics and similar services which focused on alternatives to abortion and attempted to encourage women to give birth to their babies, often providing prenatal and post-natal care for such mothers.  Clinics run by licensed professionals or run under a state license were required to deliver a notice consisting, in English, of forty-two words (one hyphenated) plus a phone number (top notice in the picture), informing clients that the State of California was ready to help them kill their unborn babies if they so wished.  This notice had to be prominently posted in large letters within the facility, included as a full-sized document with any papers given to clients, and included in any advertising.  Further, this notice had to be delivered in every language recognized by the local county as a major spoken language within the county–at least English and Spanish, and in Los Angeles County thirteen distinct languages.

Thomas observed that this was requiring an organization whose very purpose was to reduce the number of abortions to communicate the reverse message, that abortions were readily available elsewhere.  He further observed that this was a controversial message, and that the weight of the requirement was excessive–if such a licensed organization decided to post a billboard in Los Angeles County that said “Choose Life” with a phone number, that billboard would also have to have that forty-two word notice in thirteen languages in the same sized print as the core message, overwhelming the intended message with what amounts to paid advertising for their competition.

It would be something like requiring all politicians of any party to include in their paid advertising equal space promoting each other candidate in the same race.

Facilities serving the same purpose that were not licensed or run by licensed personnel were required similarly to post a shorter notice, again in all the same ways and places, stating that California has not licensed them as medical care providers.  Again, it was to be posted prominently, included in all advertising, and given to clients in printed form.  Further, the legislation was worded such that the requirement would only apply to pro-life organizations.

So egregious was this animosity toward pro-life organizations that Justice Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito and Gorsuch, attacking the “viewpoint bias” of the law.  The legislative history made it clear that legislators were attempting to force opponents of abortion to publish material contrary to their views.  He observed that the official history included a self-congratulatory statement that the Act was part of California’s legacy of “forward thinking”, and then wrote,

[I]t is not forward thinking to force individuals to “be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view [they] fin[d] unacceptable.” Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U. S. 705, 715 (1977).

That amounts to religious/political discrimination, and again a violation of the First Amendment.

*****

Writing the dissent, and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, Justice Breyer makes several significant points.

The fact is we regularly require organizations to post informational signs at least obliquely relevant to their purpose.  One example leaps to mind.  A few years back New Jersey had a problem, that several newborn babies were rescued from public trash cans because young parents did want them and could not care for them.  Today, all emergency rooms and many other care clinics have signs on the walls informing anyone who enters the building that there are safe drop points where you can abandon a child no questions asked.  Obviously that notice is irrelevant to the majority of clients in those facilities; just as obviously such locations are good choices for reaching persons who need that information.  We might debate whether such a program fosters teen-aged irresponsibility (a mother who would never dream of putting her baby in a trash bin might abandon it at a safe drop point if made aware of such, and so free herself of the task of caring for the child), but creating and promoting the option saves lives.  Other notifications are posted; the lawfully-required notices on tobacco products and in tobacco ads are clearly counter to the interests of tobacco companies.

However, Breyer attempts to sweep away the aspect that these laws were carefully tailored to target pro-life organizations.  He tells us that organizations that are not pro-life don’t need to be required to tell women about the availability of abortions, as they are probably already doing so.  That’s hardly a sufficient basis for a distinction regarding compelled speech.

For the moment, all that NIFLA has won is a delay, that the law cannot be enforced until the case has been heard.  However, the majority opinion and the significant concurrence are filled with good reasons for the law to be overturned, and as the case returns to the lower courts NIFLA has a good chance winning, probably without another Supreme Court intervention.

#230: No Womb No Say?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #230, on the subject of No Womb No Say?.

I read an excellent article by the President of Care Net, Roland C. Warren (pictured), addressing the question of how men who oppose abortion should respond to women who say that because they are incapable of becoming pregant they have no right to an opinion on the subject.  Warren provides an excellent response, including first that those who use this argument want to include the opinions of men who agree with them but exclude opinions of men who oppose them (and in so doing agree with other women), and second that there are many issues on which people who are not directly affected still deserve to express opinions because we are indirectly affected.  However, I felt that there was a very strong argument that he missed.

Let me be clear that, as I have previously expressed, men are not on equal footing with women once there is an unintended pregnancy; women have all the advantages.  I note that I have never met a woman who was sent to jail for failing to pay child support for an unwanted pregnancy, but have known several men for whom it has happened and others who lost drivers licenses and went into hiding because they were unemployed and that’s a sure ticket to jail.  Even if abortion were off the table, women would still have more options than men under current law.

Certainly men could say that.  Yet I think there is a much more potent argument.  I would ask whether men are permitted to have an opinion about vaginal rape.

I certainly think that vaginal rape is wrong, and I think it ought to be a crime.  That’s not because of some sort of medieval ownership of women notion; it’s because, as I said in the other article, “anyone who has been raped has had rights fundamentally violated, quite apart from the problem of potential pregnancy.”  The fact that I do not have a vagina should not mean I’m not permitted to have an opinion on the subject.

I recognize therein that the fact that my position against vaginal rape is my opinion means that others might have a contrary opinion.  We have previously noted that the Marquis de Sade believed that rape was a correct and morally praiseworthy act, because nature made men stronger than women and it is therefore right that men exercise that strength against women.  He managed to persuade some women to believe that as well, apparently.  That there exists a minority who honestly believes rape is good does not mean that the majority of us cannot express our opinion against it and based on that opinion enact and enforce laws against it.  Perpetrators of rape might think we ought not be entitled to our opinion, but victims and potential victims are likely to appreciate our support.

Part of that lies in the fact that the opinion that vaginal rape is wrong and therefore ought to be criminal is an opinion that defends a usually weaker victim against the assaults of a usually stronger attacker.  We generally applaud those who come to the defense of the weak, even if they only do so by words and the support of public policies and laws.

Yet when it comes to the question of abortion, those of us who would defend the weaker party against the attacks of the stronger are told it is not our business.  If the accidental but capable mother decides she wishes to kill the completely defenseless unborn child, the opinion of someone else supporting that defenseless child should not be considered relevant.

Yet if the powerful and cunning rapist decides he wishes to ravage the weaker almost defenseless woman, suddenly an opinion in defense of the woman matters.

Go figure.

#221: Silence on the Lesbian Front

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #221, on the subject of Silence on the Lesbian Front.

Sometimes what the Supreme Court does not say is as significant at what it does say.  There is much speculation as to why they declined to hear a suit against a Mississippi law protecting a first amendment right not to support same sex weddings and similar matters.  The lower court ruling at this point is that the plaintiffs do not have standing, that is, none of them can demonstrate that the law has caused any of them actual harm, but the question behind that is why the court didn’t want to grab the case and decide the issue.

One possibility is that no one knows how it would fall, and no one wants to risk setting a precedent against their own view.  The conservatives would undoubtedly support the law, which makes it unlawful to bring any criminal or civil penalties against someone who for religious reasons refuses to provide services in support of acts they consider immoral, and particularly homosexual weddings.  The passage of the law invalidated local laws in Jackson and other metropolitan areas of the state that had protected the supposed rights of the homosexual couples.  Meanwhile, the liberal wing wants to normalize homosexual conduct, and have the law regard treatment of homosexuals as equivalent to treatment of blacks and women.  So we have an almost even split among the justices–but that there are an odd number of justices.

The swing vote is almost certainly Chief Justice Roberts.  He has been strong on first amendment rights, but has also sided in favor of homosexual rights.  If either side were sure of his vote, they would probably have accepted the case as a way of establishing a precedent favoring that position.  It thus may be that his position is uncertain, and neither side wants to take the risk.

On the other hand, the court has agreed to hear the cake case, in which a baker claims that a state law requiring him to make wedding cakes for homosexual weddings is an infringement on his religious liberty and freedom of speech.  The speech issue seems to be the one that is carrying the most weight with the justices, but it may be that the rejection of the Mississippi case is hinting out an outcome here.  If in the cake case it were decided that a state law could compel service providers to treat homosexual weddings the same as heterosexual weddings, it would still be an open question as to whether a state law can prevent any such compulsion, and the Mississippi case would matter.  However, if the Court were to decide that the baker cannot be compelled to create a cake for a homosexual wedding, that inherently supports the Mississippi law, saying that no one can be so compelled.

So the fact that the Court did not accept the Mississippi case could mean that they are leaning toward judgement in favor of the baker in the cake case, or it could mean that the position of the court is too uncertain for them to take case on the same issue so soon.  What it does not mean is that the Court has the votes to overturn the Mississippi law and wants to do so.

#219: A 2017 Retrospective

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #219, on the subject of A 2017 Retrospective.

A year ago, plus a couple days, on the last day of 2016 we posted web log post #150:  2016 Retrospective.  We are a couple days into the new year but have not yet posted anything new this year, so we’ll take a look at what was posted in 2017.

Beginning “off-site”, there was a lot at the Christian Gamers Guild, as the Faith and Gaming series ran the rest of its articles.  I also launched two new monthly series there in the last month of the year, with introductory articles Faith in Play #1:  Reintroduction, continuing the theme of the Faith and Gaming series, and RPG-ology #1:  Near Redundancy, reviving some of the lost work and adding more to the Game Ideas Unlimited series of decades back.  In addition to the Faith and Gaming materials, the webmaster republished two articles from early editions of The Way, the Truth, and the Dice, the first Magic:  Essential to Faith, Essential to Fantasy from the magic symposium, and the second Real and Imaginary Violence, about the objection that role playing games might be too violent.  I also contributed a new article at the beginning of the year, A Christian Game, providing rules for a game-like activity using scripture.  Near the end of the year–the end of November, actually–I posted a review of all the articles from eighteen months there, as Overview of the Articles on the New Christian Gamers Guild Website.

That’s apart from the Chaplain’s Bible Study posts, where we finished the three Johannine epistles and Jude and have gotten about a third of the way through Revelation.  There have also been Musings posts on the weekends.

Over at Goodreads I’ve reviewed quite a few books.

Turning to the mark Joseph “young” web log, we began the year with #151:  A Musician’s Resume, giving my experience and credentials as a Christian musician.  That subject was addressed from a different direction in #163:  So You Want to Be a Christian Musician, from the advice I received from successful Christian musicians, with my own feeling about it.  Music was also the subject of #181:  Anatomy of a Songwriting Collaboration, the steps involved in creating the song Even You, with link to the recording.

We turned our New Year’s attention to the keeping of resolutions with a bit of practical advice in #152:  Breaking a Habit, my father’s techniques for quitting smoking more broadly applied.

A few of the practical ones related to driving, including #154:  The Danger of Cruise Control, presenting the hazard involved in the device and how to manage it, #155:  Driving on Ice and Snow, advice on how to do it, and #204:  When the Brakes Fail, suggesting ways to address the highly unlikely but cinematically popular problem of the brakes failing and the accelerator sticking.

In an odd esoteric turn, we discussed #153:  What Are Ghosts?, considering the possible explanations for the observed phenomena.  Unrelated, #184:  Remembering Adam Keller, gave recollections on the death of a friend.  Also not falling conveniently into a usual category, #193:  Yelling:  An Introspection, reflected on the internal impact of being the target of yelling.

Our Law and Politics articles considered several Supreme Court cases, beginning with a preliminary look at #156:  A New Slant on Offensive Trademarks, the trademark case brought by Asian rock band The Slants and how it potentially impacts trademark law.  The resolution of this case was also covered in #194:  Slanting in Favor of Free Speech, reporting the favorable outcome of The Slant’s trademark dispute, plus the Packingham case regarding laws preventing sex offenders from accessing social networking sites.

Other court cases included #158:  Show Me Religious Freedom, examining the Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley case in which a church school wanted to receive the benefits of a tire recycling playground resurfacing program; this was resolved and covered in #196:  A Church and State Playground, followup on the Trinity Lutheran playground paving case.  #190:  Praise for a Ginsberg Equal Protection Opinion, admires the decision in the immigration and citizenship case Morales-Santana.

We also addressed political issues with #171:  The President (of the Seventh Day Baptist Convention), noting that political terms of office are not eternal; #172:  Why Not Democracy?, a consideration of the disadvantages of a more democratic system; #175:  Climate Change Skepticism, about a middle ground between climate change extremism and climate change denial; #176:  Not Paying for Health Care, about socialized medicine costs and complications; #179:  Right to Choose, responding to the criticism that a male white Congressman should not have the right to take away the right of a female black teenager to choose Planned Parenthood as a free provider of her contraceptive services, and that aspect of taking away someone’s right to choose as applied to the unborn.

We presumed to make a suggestion #159:  To Compassion International, recommending a means for the charitable organization to continue delivering aid to impoverished children in India in the face of new legal obstacles.  We also had some words for PETA in #162:  Furry Thinking, as PETA criticized Games Workshop for putting plastic fur on its miniatures and we discuss the fundamental concepts behind human treatment of animals.

We also talked about discrimination, including discriminatory awards programs #166:  A Ghetto of Our Own, awards targeted to the best of a particular racial group, based on similar awards for Christian musicians; #207:  The Gender Identity Trap, observing that the notion that someone is a different gender on the inside than his or her sex on the outside is confusing cultural expectations with reality, and #212:  Gender Subjectivity, continuing that discussion with consideration of how someone can know that they feel like somthing they have never been.  #217:  The Sexual Harassment Scandal, addressed the recent explosion of sexual harassment allegations.

We covered the election in New Jersey with #210:  New Jersey 2017 Gubernatorial Election, giving an overview of the candidates in the race, #211:  New Jersey 2017 Ballot Questions, suggesting voting against both the library funding question and the environmental lock box question, and #214:  New Jersey 2017 Election Results, giving the general outcome in the major races for governor, state legislature, and public questions.

Related to elections, #213:  Political Fragmentation, looks at the Pew survey results on political typology.

We recalled a lesson in legislative decision-making with #182:  Emotionalism and Science, the story of Tris in flame-retardant infant clothing, and the warning against solutions that have not been considered for their other effects.  We further discussed #200:  Confederates, connecting what the Confederacy really stood for with modern issues; and #203:  Electoral College End Run, opposing the notion of bypassing the Constitutional means of selecting a President by having States pass laws assigning their Electoral Votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

2017 also saw the publication of the entirety of the third Multiverser novel, For Better or Verse, along with a dozen web log posts looking behind the writing process, which are all indexed in that table of contents page.  There were also updated character papers for major and some supporting characters in the Multiverser Novel Support Pages section, and before the year ended we began releasing the fourth novel, serialized, Spy Verses, with the first of its behind-the-writings posts, #218:  Versers Resume, with individual sections for the first twenty-one chapters.

Our Bible and Theology posts included #160:  For All In Authority, discussing praying for our leaders, and protesting against them; #165:  Saints Alive, regarding statues of saints and prayers offered to them; #168:  Praying for You, my conditional offer to pray for others, in ministry or otherwise; #173:  Hospitalization Benefits, about those who prayed for my recovery; #177:  I Am Not Second, on putting ourselves last; #178:  Alive for a Reason, that we all have purpose as long as we are alive; #187:  Sacrificing Sola Fide, response to Walter Bjorck’s suggestion that it be eliminated for Christian unity; #192:  Updating the Bible’s Gender Language, in response to reactions to the Southern Baptist Convention’s promise to do so; #208:  Halloween, responding to a Facebook question regarding the Christian response to the holiday celebrations; #215:  What Forty-One Years of Marriage Really Means, reacting to Facebook applause for our anniversary with discussion of trust and forgiveness, contracts versus covenants; and #216:  Why Are You Here?, discussing the purpose of human existence.

We gave what was really advice for writers in #161:  Pseudovulgarity, about the words we don’t say and the words we say instead.

On the subject of games, I wrote about #167:  Cybergame Timing, a suggestion for improving some of those games we play on our cell phones and Facebook pages, and a loosely related post, #188:  Downward Upgrades, the problem of ever-burgeoning programs for smart phones.  I guested at a convention, and wrote of it in #189:  An AnimeNEXT 2017 Experience, reflecting on being a guest at the convention.  I consider probabilities to be a gaming issue, and so include here #195:  Probabilities in Dishwashing, calculating a problem based on cup colors.

I have promised to do more time travel; home situations have impeded my ability to watch movies not favored by my wife, but this is anticipated to change soon.  I did offer #185:  Notes on Time Travel in The Flash, considering time remnants and time wraiths in the superhero series; #199:  Time Travel Movies that Work, a brief list of time travel movies whose temporal problems are minimal; #201:  The Grandfather Paradox Solution, answering a Facebook question about what happens if a traveler accidentally causes the undoing of his own existence; and #206:  Temporal Thoughts on Colkatay Columbus, deciding that the movie in which Christopher Columbus reaches India in the twenty-first century is not a time travel film.

I launched a new set of forums, and announced them in #197:  Launching the mark Joseph “young” Forums, officially opening the forum section of the web site.  Unfortunately I announced them four days before landing in the hospital for the first of three summer hospitalizations–of the sixty-two days comprising July and August this year, I spent thirty-one of them in one or another of three hospitals, putting a serious dent in my writing time.  I have not yet managed to refocus on those forums, for which I blame my own post-surgical life complications and those of my wife, who also spent a significant stretch of time hospitalized and in post-hospitalization rehabilitation, and in extended recovery.  Again I express my gratitude for the prayers and other support of those who brought us through these difficulties, which are hopefully nearing an end.

Which is to say, I expect to offer you more in the coming year.  The fourth novel is already being posted, and a fifth Multiverser novel is being written in collaboration with a promising young author.  There are a few time travel movies available on Netflix, which I hope to be able to analyze soon.  There are a stack of intriguing Supreme Court cases for which I am trying to await the resolutions.  Your continued support as readers–and as Patreon and PayPal.me contributors–will bring these to realization.

Thank you.

#179: Right to Choose

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #179, on the subject of Right to Choose.

It made the news this past week, that a teenager in Arizona (her name is Deja Foxx, and her stated age is 16) challenged Republican Senator Jeff Flake with the statement, condensed in headlines as “Why is it your right to take away my right to choose?”

Senator Flake, Photo by Gage Skidmore
Senator Flake, Photo by Gage Skidmore

Let’s be fair to Miss Foxx.  What she actually said, according to transcripts of the town hall meeting, is

So, I’m wondering, as a Planned Parenthood patient and someone who relies on Title X, who you are clearly not, why it’s your right to take away my right to choose Planned Parenthood and to choose no-co-pay birth control, to access that.

That’s a little different, and a considerably more defensible question.  I also want to examine the more fundamental question, though, the one presented in the headlines, because that question comes up quite a bit, particularly in arguments about abortion:  why does anyone have the right to take away anyone else’s right to choose?

The first thing to say is that law is fundamentally about taking away the right to choose–or more precisely, about creating negative consequences for choosing conduct we as a society want to prevent or discourage.  You do not have the right to choose to help yourself to retail products off the shelves of a store without paying for them.  As much as you might wish to do so, you don’t have the right to kill your annoying little brother.  You don’t have the right to operate a motor vehicle on public roads while under the influence of an intoxicating substance.  You can, if you wish, choose to do any of these things; if you are caught, you will face penalties for doing them.  Whether or not you have the right to do things, in our society, is defined by the laws on which we, through our legislatures, executives, and judiciaries, agree.

So the people of Arizona who elected Senator Flake to office gave him the right to take away some of our rights, to curtail our freedoms, to put limits on what we can and cannot do.

Yet that is not quite what Foxx means.  She had prefaced her question with a tirade about how she, as an underprivileged homeless black girl trying to finish high school, was dependent on Title X (read “ten”) funding for Planned Parenthood, recently cut by a new law barring funding for any family planning center that also provides abortions.  She was fundamentally asking what right America has to refuse to pay for that; she would not have put it in those terms, but that’s the essence of the question.

There are a lot of questions we could ask in response to this.  What right does she have to expect that we are going to fund her promiscuous life choices?  When I was sixteen I did not need any funding for birth control.  I knew, and everyone I knew knew, that if you had sex you risked having children, and there were a lot of consequences to that.  There were ways to reduce the risk, but it could not be entirely eliminated.  Most of us made the intelligent choice:  we did not have sex.  If you want the privilege of making stupid choices, you should expect to bear the costs of that yourself.  If you stupidly steal from grocery stores, expect to go to jail.  If you stupidly drive while intoxicated, expect to lose your driving privileges.  If you stupidly engage in sex, expect to face the risk of pregnancy (which is clearly a risk for boys possibly even more so than for girls).

Of course, hidden in both sides of that is the fact that the new law has not terminated funding for low-cost no-co-pay birth control.  It has cut funding to organizations that fund or perform abortions.  There are other programs that provide birth control and birth control advice that do not promote abortion in the process.  Further, Planned Parenthood could continue receiving as much money as it has been receiving simply by terminating all programs related to terminating pregnancies–and in the process would have more money for the other birth control programs because none of its funds (which as we previously noted are a fungible resource) are going to those cancelled programs.  The government is not providing less money for birth control services and advice; they are only refusing to provide that money to or through those who would advise you to kill your unborn baby, and who would help pay for that.

So if the question is who has the right to decide that American taxpayer money will not be given to organizations that kill unborn babies, the answer is that American taxpayers have that right.  In fact, American taxpayers technically have the right, if we so chose, to refuse to provide any kind of support for teenager promiscuity.  It is American generosity that provides those things; Foxx has no superior right to expect them from us, whatever she thinks about supposed entitlement arising from her lack of privilege.

There is, though, the other level of all of this, the level hinted by the headline, the question Foxx was not asking but which Planned Parenthood undoubtedly wants us to hear in her question:  what right do people like Senator Flake, people like me, people like roughly half the American population plus anyone else who agrees with them, have to tell a pregnant woman that she cannot abort the preborn child she carries?  What right does anyone else in the world have to tell that woman that she does not have the right to choose whether to give birth to that child or not?

And let me agree that for millions of women, their choice of what they do with their own lives, their own bodies, is not my business.  Should they want facelifts or breast implants, stomach banding or tattoos or piercings, however they wish to improve or mutilate their own bodies, my approval or disapproval is immaterial.

However, your own body is where that right ends.  If you want to kill that annoying little brother, I think he has a right to object to that–and I think the rest of us have a responsibility to protect his right.  Indeed, if you want to kill your own annoying preschool child, that child has a right to choose to live, and we have a responsibility to intervene on behalf of that child.  Further, if that child happens still to be inside you, it has the right to choose to be alive, and we the corresponding responsibility to speak on its behalf to protect that right.  We certainly have the right to refuse to help you do it.

So ultimately the question

who gave you the right to take away my right to choose?

is one that every unborn child can ask of its mother, and of Planned Parenthood and anyone else who becomes involved in deciding that the child does not have the right to live.

Jefferson wrote that we were endowed with inalienable rights–rights that no government could take from us without just cause and due process–and the first of these is life.  They, those unborn children, have the right to choose life.  Who are you, to take that right away from them?

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#137: Conservative Penny-pinching

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #137, on the subject of Conservative Penny-pinching.

Over a year ago, I addressed the the notion that people who are against abortion claim to be concerned for the lives of the unborn up to the moment they are born, but after that they no longer care.  Then just over two weeks ago I was at a gathering where someone made exactly that claim, and I realized something–something I hadn’t felt when it was merely arguments on a page:  the assertion that people who are against abortion are unwilling to do anything to help the born is not only untrue and irrelevant, it is insulting.

Why it is untrue and irrelevant is covered in that previous article, web log post #9:  Abolition.  Because of the way the meeting dissolved then I was unable to call his attention to that response; knowing, however, that I would see him again, I printed it and delivered it to him two weeks later.

img0137pennies

His response was civil, even friendly.  However, he kept saying that “they” were taking all the money away from helping people, from helping young girls who were just children having children.  I asked him who “they” were, and he said “conservatives”; I pointed out that the people mentioned in the article, working hard to provide assistance to exactly those people, were in the main “conservatives”, but his feeling was that it was not “those conservatives” but some other group of “right wing conservatives”.  Having worked with those people, I observed that some of them were certainly “right wing”.  Yet he insisted that there was this conservative effort to take money away from helping the people who needed it.  It was not at all clear just who was taking what money from whom, but he was certain it was being done, and being done by “conservatives”.

If we’re honest, we have to admit that there are a lot of people who don’t care about the poor, and indeed many of them are “conservatives”.  At the same time, many of them are “liberals”–I don’t see a lot of Hollywood millionaires giving ninety percent of their income to charities, or spending their evenings working in soup kitchens or at homeless shelters.  There are also a lot of people who do care, at both ends of the spectrum and through the middle.  Not every liberal politician who argues for aid to the poor does so because he cares; some do it because they want votes.  Wealthy liberals who call for more government spending on welfare programs are not really offering to give their own money to these, but suggesting that the government should give them more of yours.  Conservatives are wrong to think that all liberals pretend to care about the poor in order to use them to advance socialist and progressivist policies; yet it is equally wrong to think that this is not true of any.

However, in our conversation I couldn’t help feeling that, at least in part, he meant conservatives were taking money away from Planned Parenthood.  You don’t have to be too far to the right of left-wing progressivists to believe that the government should not be funding an organization that in turn promotes and funds the slaughter of children.  The argument has been made that Planned Parenthood spends none of its government-granted money on abortion services, but as we noted in post #2:  Planned Parenthood and Fungible Resources, no matter how they do their accounting it is evident that they could not spend as much on abortion as they do were their other programs not subsidized by federal money.  Certainly people who believe that killing unborn babies should be criminal are going to cut funding for any program that promotes the practice.  That does not mean that these people have no interest in helping pregnant teenagers and others struggling with unexpected pregnancies, any more than that those who want to bring an end to capital punishment and stop funding executions have no interest in stopping murders and other violent crimes.  You will say that it’s not the same thing, and in a way you’re right, and in a way you’re wrong.  If you tell me that grapefruit juice is not orange juice, you are certainly correct; if you tell me that because grapefruit juice is not orange juice it therefore is not citrus juice, you are mistaken.  It is quite possible to be very much in favor of a stated objective, whether it is helping pregnant women or reducing violent crime, and still object to a specific method of achieving that objective, whether it is killing unwanted children or terminating murderers.  It is quite possible to want to do something about a social problem without resorting to an extreme measure like killing people.  It is also possible to believe that such an extreme measure is appropriate and necessary for one type of problem but not for another.  The problems are not identical; only the solutions are similar.

Of course, some people argue that the unborn are not actually people.  To his credit, he did not suggest that; he rather suggested that they were unwanted human beings that should not be forced to come into a world that does not want them.  It strikes me that this is very like an ambulance crew saying they’re not going to take this injured homeless person to a hospital because he’s a worthless human being and he might as well just die anyway.  It is rather arrogant for any of us to put a value on someone else’s life, whether or not that person has yet smelled air.

Perhaps, though, he is not talking about abortion funding; perhaps he is talking about welfare.  In thinking about this issue I did a bit of research, and learned that the Federal debt is presently increasing by about one trillion dollars each year.  The population of the United States is a bit above three hundred twenty-five million, so that’s about three dollars for every person–every man, woman, or child, legal or illegal, in the entire country.  Of course, those who are in the country illegally aren’t going to pay that, and there is not much logic to expecting those who are receiving the benefits to pay part of that.  At some point we are going to have to stop spending as much or find a way to collect more.

So where could we cut it?

The total federal budget for 2017 is just above four trillion dollars–that’s four thousand billion (4.1472 trillion).  Sixty percent of that–about two trillion five hundred million–goes to what is loosely called “welfare”, that is, money that goes to taking care of people who can’t afford to take care of themselves, that “safety net” about which we are always talking (2.4971 trillion).  In fairness, the biggest piece of that–a bit less than one trillion–is social security (972.6 billion), which includes all those retirement checks and the federal disability program (and the salaries of the people who run it), giving a meager income to people who genuinely cannot or can no longer work.  More than a trillion goes to medical assistance, that is, Medicare (605.0 billion) and Medicaid (527.4 billion) including the Obamacare expansions, providing health services to people who cannot otherwise afford them.  Less than half a trillion goes to everything else we loosely consider “welfare”, social support services (392.1 billion).

It is argued that we should cut our outrageous military spending, but that outrageous military spending is less than a trillion dollars (0.8536 trillion), less than the medical care spending, less than Social Security.  We’ve been working on reducing military spending for a long time, and it is a much smaller portion of the budget than it was in the past–but in that time our “entitlements” and “welfare” programs have exploded to take the largest share of the budget.  Together, that’s over eighty percent of the budget; all other programs combined come to only seven hundred ninety-six and a half billion dollars, less than twenty percent, less than the military portion.  Saving money there is a bit like trying to make a package lighter by using less tape to seal it.

It is not unkind for me to cut my son’s allowance in order to pay the utility bill; he might think I should pay less to the utility company, but he would be upset if we said we couldn’t afford to run his video games or heat the water for his showers.  That national debt that’s going up another trillion dollars this year is very nearly twenty trillion already–sixty dollars for every person within our borders.  We keep saying that we’ll pay it off when things get better, but they’re getting worse and the amount is increasing like a bad debt owed to a loan shark.  Economists argue about whether it is bad for nations to go into debt, just as they argue about whether it’s bad for people to go into debt, but although we’ve at times managed to reduce the debt we have not paid it off entirely in a long time, longer than my lifetime, and the people who are lending us the money (what, did you think we borrowed it from God?) are beginning to think maybe we’re not so good a risk as they once thought.  Many economists assert that a high national debt depresses the economy, raises the prices of goods, and reduces the availability of jobs.  Somehow we have to reduce our spending.  It certainly is important for us to help the poor, but this ongoing forced philanthropy might not be helping so much as we want to think, and can’t continue at this level forever.

One way or another, there is going to be less money for those in need, because the way things have been going there has been less and less money for all Americans.  We laugh when in Fiddler on the Roof Nahum the Beggar complains to Lazar Wolfe about the smaller donation he gave this week, “So if you had a bad week, why should I suffer?”, but the truth is that when the rich have less money, everyone has less money, and when we make the pie smaller everyone’s piece gets smaller.  Not everyone can work; not everyone can contribute to the productivity of the nation–but if we don’t find a way to get more people working productively, there won’t be enough money for those who can’t.

Someone once challenged the original Mr. Rockefeller that his millions (which were then worth a lot more than they would be today) should be shared among everyone.  Rather than arguing the point, Rockefeller agreed, reached into his pocket, and handed the man a dime as his share.  If you stripped the top one percent of everything they owned and gave it everyone else, it would be a small amount divided so many ways, and there would be no comparable wealthiest people to rob the next year.  You cannot feed the poor by robbing the rich; you have to teach them to fish, that is, give them jobs, not money.  How to do that is much debated, but it seems that part of it has to be to reduce the amount the government is spending, and the obvious place to do that is where it is spending the most.

That hurts, but it may be necessary.

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