I’ve Moved

I am now blogging at davidholford.com

It’s Nothing to Do With Equality

The Supreme Court of the United States is currently hearing oral arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry in which the issue presented is “Whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the State of California from defining marriage as the· union of a man and a woman.”

Let’s get beyond whether the Supremes will extend the 14th even further beyond all intent, stretching until it has got to finally snap. The Nine – and their various incarnations over the last 50 years -have  made the 14th into whatever they have want to fashion it. And one may argue that they can do so. The 14th Amendment is a creation of the people of the United States and those who are the lawful representatives of the United States, whether in matters legislative, executive or judicial, will do what they may.

What all the “fair-minded people” in front of the Supreme Court building and all of their friends in the blogosphere have missed is that whilst the 14th Amendment is the creation of the people, marriage isn’t it. Marriage isn’t the creation of any people, “fair-minded” or not.

I can understand why there might be some confusion by those who think that either marriage laws or individual marriage licenses create marriage. From at least  the time of Moses, there has been civil regulation of marriage. The Biblical concern was degrees of consanguinity. In more recent times, there have been age regulations and occasionally health precautions. All of these are concerned with the core purpose of marriage: procreation.

Likewise the purpose of a marriage license is to prevent those who should not procreate from doing so and to register the initiation of the marriage, should such information be needed later in the case of a dissolution. That there are those who will procreate unlicensed does not invalidate the purpose. After all, the law formerly addressed adultery and fornication to curb that factor.

But we need to get this clear: marriage was created by God and is merely regulated by the State. That marriage was created by God to be between a man and a woman is patently clear from Scripture. It’s very institution is linked to the creation of woman as distinct from man. Scripture never suggests that it could be otherwise. All of human history until this most recent blink of an eye has been a universal witness to this. This is, of course, not surprising, as this is the only means of procreation.

And what of the constant cry that we shouldn’t stand in the way of two people loving each other? Love only enters into the matter within the bounds of the institution itself. There are many loves in the world that are not the love of marriage. Each of those must respect the bounds of the type of relationship in which the love grows.

Our affections for other people do not define us. Our desires do not define us. Love itself is not subject to our definition. It is an attribute of God and a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

The legislatures of the several States have the authority to create a type of contractual relationship which persons of the same sex can enter into that carries with it the same legislated advantages that marriage has in the eyes of the law. These legislatures can pass laws regarding real property ownership, taxation, and intestacy.  If the 14th Amendment were going to apply, it would be that these new contractual relationships would be allowed to heterosexual fornicators as well.

So once again, let us be clear. Marriage equality is not about marriage equality. All marriages are equally marriages. However, to declare something a marriage outside of the inherent definition of marriage in creation is to directly defy the Creator. We can throw ourselves on the floor and have a tantrum and say, “But it’s not fair!” all we want. “Fair”, along with “righteous,” “just,” and “true,” are not ours to decide or define.

If the Supreme Court of the United States decides that the State of California is prohibited from defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman on the basis of the 14th Amendment, it will really be saying states must recognize the marriage of any two people – though logically the next step must be to overturn polygamy laws – but I’ll leave that for now. This is not really about the 14th Amendment or equality before the law. It is about who or Who has the authority to define marriage.

One Statesman in the Field

In the GOP Presidential debates, one candidate continues to stand out. He stands out because unlike the others, he is a statesman. I know this is a term that can have several meanings, but especially among conservatives one of the definitions from The Free Dictionary is the most popular: “A male political leader regarded as a disinterested promoter of the public good.” That man is Rick Perry.

Rick Perry stands out by being willing to do two things. He admits when he is wrong and he sticks to what he believes is right even when the majority disagree with him.

With regard to the former, he has readily admitted that he should have done things differently with regard to his executive order regarding HPV vaccination. Despite this, Michelle Bachmann continues her attack unabated. She even lies when she attacks him, because she talks about a vaccine being imposed on little girls. The Gardasil vaccination had a parent opt-out provision. No child was forced to be vaccinated. It would have been better to have had a legislative mandate combined with an opt-in policy. Perry openly says this, even if it doesn’t stop his opponents and detractors from ignoring it.

The only other chink in his armor is his support for a law he signed which allowed for non-citizen children domiciled in Texas without immigration documentation to be considered Texas residents for the purposes of paying college tuition. From the boos in the crowds it was apparent that most Republicans nation-wide do not support this. Nonetheless, Perry explains very clearly and carefully why he signed what was a veto proof bill passed with four “no” votes out of 183 Texas legislators, with Republicans in firm control of both chambers.

But here’s what Yankees like Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum don’t get. Texas is not the only state that has done this. New Mexico and California have as well. Not surprisingly, Arizona is the only state with an actual border with Mexico that hasn’t. In addition to Arizona, only three other states prohibit in-state tuition for children with undocumented immigration status. However, in addition to Texas, New Mexico, and California, eight other states specifically allow it. These include Kansas (passed with a Republican supermajority in both houses), Nebraska (non-partisan, but with a supermajority of members who were otherwise Republicans), and Utah (again, with a dual supermajority of Republicans), New York (split control), Oklahoma (Republican House and even split in the Senate), as well as Illinois, Washington, and Wisconsin (Democratic simple majority in both houses).

Now you may be thinking to yourself, if only four states have prohibited state universities from considering undocumented students as residents, and eight have specifically permitted it, what about the other thirty-eight?  They have not legislated on the matter at all. What is not prohibited is allowed.

But back to Perry. He gets the elephant in the room. His opponents – and the debate watchers that were interviewed afterwards – have nothing to contribute to the discussion. They only have a mantra that is isn’t right for all residents of Texas to receive benefits that non-residents of Texas don’t get. Remember that it is Texas legislators who overwhelmingly chose to consider all residents of Texas as residents for the purposes of in-state tuition, at state-funded Texas universities. What his opponents don’t want to discuss is what happens if you prevent Texas residents who are undocumented from getting an education. Rick Perry tells it like it is. His opponents will never address the issue head on. They can’t and they won’t.

Perry understands the concept of a secure border. He can talk about his reasoned views. I agree with him that it is impossible to build a 2000-mile fence, but disagree that the border can be policed with “enough boots on the ground” as he likes to phrase it, making it the heaviest fortified border in the world.  Nonetheless, he also realizes that the oft-repeated sound bite that we have to secure the borders before we deal with the issue of undocumented immigrants already in the country is a bunch of nonsense.

A child who has been brought into the United States and is growing up does not have the leisure to wait for nothing substantive to be done about the border, even before nothing is done about her situation. She is growing up. She will work hard in high school while her parents work hard doing jobs for $3.00/hour that citizens won’t do at any wage. She may very well have to do this at several schools while her parents (who may be part of the 80% of agricultural workers in the U.S. who are undocumented) move around for work. They and she will work hard just to get enough money for in-state tuition – probably not at the University of Texas, like Mitt Romney wants to say – but at a small, cheap, local college. This is the real face of undocumented children. This is the person that Rick Perry’s opponents and those booing in the audience want to keep in the margins of society. Ideally they want to “send her back where she came from” (a country with no effective government run by drug cartels murdering at will in the most gruesome ways), but barring that, at least make sure she makes nothing of herself.

I will say it again (and probably not for the last time): this is the real face of undocumented children. Rick Perry gets it and it willing to talk about it, whether it is popular or not. Rick Perry gets it and Rick Perry gets my vote.

Defrauding the Church

Recently I was looking at the résumé of a famous preacher who was outed as a adulterer some years ago by another famous preacher (who was himself then outted in the same way). I was looking mostly because he calls himself “Dr.” Under his education he lists “Correspondence Courses Continuing Education – Berean School of Bible”, then an honorary MA (who gets an honorary MA?), two honorary doctorates, and what purports to be a Ph.D. in Religion from North Carolina College of Theology. I had never heard of this institution, but you, dear reader, can probably can probably smell the same rat I did. It is just a bit unusual to go from correspondence courses with no certificate, diploma, or not to mention degree, straight to a Ph.D.

How do you get a doctorate from NCCT? Let them tell you how in their course catalog (spelling, capitalization, grammar and punctuation, including random elipses, from the original):

The North Carolina College of Theology does award degrees for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE. The specific requirements for LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE Degrees are outlined in this catalog. NCCT DOES NOT sell degrees…Qualified applicants must submit proof of verifiable time in ministry in order to receive the degree for which he or she has applied….All applicants must meet NCCT requirement with approval of the President and Executive Board. Each individual application is assessed with consideration of various jobs and positions in which an applicant has worked within the church or ministerial realm. Many pastors and five-fold ministers are NOW deserving a Doctorate, and should rightfully be awarded. NCCT LIFE-EARNED DEGREES are identical to the degrees that are issued to students who graduate from the Satellite Extension Program or “Individual Study Program”. It is the desire of the NCCT President, Board, Staff, and Faculty to be a blessing to those in the field of ministry and offer confirmation of education to the many deserving men and women of God.

That’s right. If you have been in full-time ministry for ten to fifteen years, and you have $2,750.00 plus $60.00 application fee, plus $100.00 administration fee, plus the $860.00 graduation fee, you deserve a doctorate. They would like you to write a 25,000 word paper, which they even have the gall to call a dissertation, but that can be waived. That will get you a Doctor of Biblical Studies. If you want to have a Ph.D. you need to have been in ministry 20 years, have bought one of the other doctorates, and it will cost an additional$5,500.00, plus all the other fees. Because you deserve it. And because you have a ministry that can afford to spend the $10,290.00 in total from the offerings you have received from other people. The one thing NCCT is very clear about: no money, no degree, and absolutely no refunds if you ever realize that you paid for a worthless piece of paper.

From whence comes this idea that a degree of any kind is deserved? A degree is earned through a demonstration of academic achievement in a field of study.

NCCT will tell you not to worry about the value of your LIFE-EARNED EXPERIENCE degree, because it is accredited. According to the course catalog, NCCT is accredited through Accrediting Commission International, Inc. of Beebe, Arkansas. ACI is run by non-trinitarian Pentecostal preacher “Dr.” John Scheel who is the bishop of the Lighthouse Pentecostal Jesus Name Church of Beebe. “Dr.” Scheel got his Ph.D. from Toledo Bible College and Seminary, which had to be re-branded when it was run out of Ohio by the authorities. ACI is also a rebranding of the International Accrediting Commission (IAC) which was run out of Missouri after a sting operation.

But why have one fake accreditation with four is better? A real college doesn’t need the approval four accrediting agencies, but according to the NCCT website, they are accredited by three other bogus accrediting agencies in addition to ACI.

NCCT likes to keep things tightly controlled. The President is “Dr.” J. L. Cook. The Senior Vice-President is “Dr.” Judy Cook, the wife of J. L. Cook. The Executive Vice-President is “Dr.” Jon Cook, the son of J. L. Cook. The rest of the Executive Board includes “Dr.” W. L. Baltimore with two diploma mills doctorates, including one from NCCT;  “Dr.” Varnie Fullwood, who got his Bachelor’s from diploma mill Zoe University (also accredited by ACI) before getting his Master’s and Ph.D. from NCCT; “Dr.” Stephen Thomas, with two diploma mill doctorates, one from Rhema University (accredited by one of ACI’s competitors and not to be confused with Rhema Bible Training Center, which does not offer degrees) and one from NCCT; and Revs. Dan and Tim Cook, who bears a striking resemblance to the other Cooks and each other.

All of the Cook sons, Baltimore, and Thomas also serve on the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board, though how the two Cook non-doctors serve on a doctoral dissertation review board further boggles the mind. Ever other member of the Thesis/Dissertation Review Board about whom I can find any further information also appears to their doctorates from NCCT or another mill.

NCCT is just one of many purveyors of bogus theological degrees. I just picked them out by chance, due to their association with Marvin Gorman, mentioned in the first paragraph. I’m sure there are others who are making just as much money out of spreading false credibility throughout the Church. But be clear about this: it is fraud and it is rife.

It may be found predominantly, but not exclusively, in Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Baptist circles. Does that mean that there is anything wrong with these groups within the Church? Absolutely not. It does mean that there is a need to be extra vigilant. Does it mean that someone has to have a real doctorate or even a real degree of any kind to minister in the Church? No. God uses all sorts of men from all sorts of backgrounds and all levels of formal and informal education.

It does mean that no one should represent that they possess formal educational achievement that they have not earned. I don’t care what else they want to say about how great their ministry is, or how fruitful it is in whatever way their group acknowledges fruitfulness, they are defrauding the Church.

Intellectual Dishonesty

I have recently discovered how plagued the Church is with deception. I’m not talking about people wandering around in false doctrine, though there is plenty of that about. I’m talking about Christian ministers — some in high profile ministries — in collusion with faux educational institutions, deliberately deceiving others with regard to their academic qualifications. The real scandal is that it is not a scandal.

I just thought it was a bit silly when I saw the late Kenneth Hagin calling himself “Dr. Hagin” after Oral Roberts gave him an honorary doctorate courtesy of ORU. But one preacher, however popular, flaunting his honorary degree does not a scandal make.

Recently I was looking at the websites of various leaders involved in what is known as the “Apostolic-Prophetic” movement. A disproportionate number of them seemed to have doctorates. Cindy Jacobs even has two. It didn’t take long to discover that all of these doctorates were from “schools” of theology started run by their friends. Cindy Jacobs got her honorary first doctorate from Christian International Ministries, run by Bill Hamon. Hamon “earned” his bachelor’s and master’s from his own Christian International School of Theology before allegedly receiving an honorary doctorate from an unnamed university.

Beyond those who are using honorary doctorates to call themselves “Dr.”, there are those who are claiming to have earned doctorates. They have them from organizations like the Wagner Leadership Institute. They get credit for attending each other’s meetings and conferences or watching each other’s videos. They take two-day and three-day courses like “Discovering Your Destiny through the Fivefold Ministry Gifts” and “Apostolic Breakthrough”.  Each of these equates to “training units”. Get enough training units and you get a doctorate. Or as WLI states on their website:

WLI  desires to remain unhindered from traditional higher-level educational requirements and is not an accredited institution. WLI offers three diploma tracks: Bachelor, Master, and Doctor of Practical Ministry. Diplomas do not certify levels of attainment, but rather accumulation of training units.

You can’t get your training units simply by attending a seminar or webcast or listening to a CD or watching a DVD. You have to write a 3-5 page paper. Within 90 days. Unless you bought a CD or DVD, in which case you have one year. The paper should not have anything to do with demonstrating knowledge of the “course” content. It is only a self-evaluation. “Students fail a course only when they neglect to turn in papers on time.” Not academically up to watching a DVD and taking a year to say what you got out of it? “Students may also receive training unit credit for on-going ministry, writing books, mission trips, and pre-approved self-studies.” It is nice that WLI admits that its diplomas are essentially worthless.

However, do those who attended conferences and other meetings and sit under the teaching of these “doctors”, know where their spurious credentials were obtained? Or do they trust that Dr. Chuck Pierce or Dr. Cindy Jacobs or Dr. Bill Hamon or Dr. Rus Jeffrey or Dr. Don Lynch or Dr. Jim Goll or hosts of others have legitimate claims to use the title?

To put oneself forward as having what a reasonable person would expect to be academic credentials in the promotion of Christian ministry, when no such credentials exist, is nothing less than fraud. It is deception. Fraud and deception are not condoned by the apostles and prophets of the Bible, those who claim to be such today notwithstanding.

I wish that the rot in worthless academic credentials ended with this particular infestation, but it runs deeper and wider in the Church. Of this, more later.

You Shall Not Bear False Witness

As a conservative Republican, I get sent a lot of email from like-minded friends attempting to expose the foibles and failings of the current presidential administration. As the 2012 election campaign heats up, the mail volume has increased, even including various virals that have been around for a couple of years now.  These get passed on and on and on as if they are the Gospel truth.

It appears that a reckless disregard for the truth is okay as long as it is against the other side. The ends justify the means. In some of the hundreds of blogs and forums where these virals have been reproduced, any challenge to them is met with venom.

While I may disagree with President Obama on most issues and will undoubtedly vote for his opponent in the next general election, I cannot condone the rampant behavior of sending emails and posting any combination of personal attacks and false information. No Christian should condone it either.

If you feel so opposed to President Obama that you consider him an enemy, then you are to love your enemies.  That love is described in I Corinthians 13. It sound wonderful when being read in a wedding service, doesn’t it? Loving your enemies is when it is actually put to the test.

You are to pray for those in authority over you. It is difficult to hate someone for whom you are praying, unless you are just using your prayers to vent your feelings, like those people who try to preach sermons with their prayers if called upon during a church service. God isn’t impressed in either case.

And let’s not forget the Ninth Commandment: you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You must not lie about other people. Even Democrats. Even President Obama. Even if you think he has lied to you from time to time. There’s no quid pro quo when it comes obeying God. Even if you are a hard core theonomist and you wanted to invoke the lex talionis, an eye for an eye isn’t a lie for a lie.

To demonstrate just how bad the problem is, I am going to reproduce the contents of a viral unleashed with renewed vigor recently. However, I independently researched each claim made.  This is the list of all of Obama’s “czars” – heads of policy areas that report directly to the President.  If you care about the truth, read on.

Read more of this post

Why We Don’t Need Caylee’s Law

In the wake of the Casey Anthony verdict, a number of state legislators have proposed, either in their elective bodies or in the press, the enactment of a so-called “Caylee’s Law” to create or enhance penalties for not reporting death of one’s child. This is a bad idea for several reasons.

First, it has nothing to do with what happened to Caylee Anthony. It only has to do with what the Casey Anthony defense said happened to Caylee, which no one believes anyway. However, since murdering a child is already a crime and often an enhancement toward a death sentence, even when someone who might have done it gets away with it, the only new law available is one that covers what didn’t happen.

Second, what didn’t happen doesn’t happen very often. That’s what made Casey’s defense so unbelievable. It’s not what people do. Why do we need to create legislation for a non-existent need?

Because it meets a wholly different need. We need to feel good about ourselves. We need to feel that even though the law couldn’t do something to help Caylee, if we pass a law in her name, however remotely connected to actual events, we are creating some sort of justice for her. Is the need to feel good about ourselves, however ephemeral, a reason to enact laws?

Third, legislation by knee-jerk reaction is pretty much always a bad idea. Let me give an example from my other country, home to the Mother of Parliaments and the Mother of All Knee-Jerk Reactions. In August 1987, Michael Ryan, a mentally unstable man with a fascination for firearms, perpetrated what became known as the Hungerford Massacre. He killed 15 people  using a Beretta 9mm pistol, a Chinese version of the AK-47, and an M1 carbine. This is the first time that anyone in Britain had committed this sort of gun crime.

In response, Parliament outlawed all semi-automatic and pump action rifles and shotguns, any shotguns other than single shot or double barrel, and any shotgun with less than a 24 inch barrel. Remember, a shotgun was not even used in the crime. Also outlawed were any revolvers other than muzzle-loaders. Remember, a revolver wasn’t even used in the crime. At this point, it probably won’t surprise you that they also outlawed rocket launchers and mortars. To top if off, the Home Secretary (the cabinet minister in charge of law enforcement) was given the power to prohibit any firearm or ammunition not on the list, should he find it wise (or ideologically congruent) to do so.

All this legislation didn’t stop Thomas Hamilton from killing sixteen 5- and 6-year-olds in Dunblane, Scotland in 1996. The obvious answer was more legislation. The Conservative government wouldn’t do it, but lost in a landslide the next year. The first legislation by the Labour government was to outlaw all of the weapons left out of the previous ban and impose a mandatory five-year sentence for owning a gun.  As a result, gun crime in the UK has steadily climbed, from one-off incidences to regular occurrences.

So why do I give a worst case scenario for knee-jerk legislation? Surely the Caylee Anthony case and response is nothing like that. The problem is that we become accustomed to accepting knee-jerk reactions. We become accustomed to finding our national salvation in legislation, whether it is moral or economic, like destroying an economy with massive government debt in the pursuit of fixing a problem that was caused by massive debt in the first place.

Governments always over-react and when they over-react quickly, they tend to over-react disastrously. Even in the case of Caylee’s Law, look at the domino effect already in motion. The non-reporting of a child death is suggested in one case in Florida. I currently know of proposals for a Caylee’s Law in Alabama, Oklahoma, Maryland, Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and of course Florida. One organization is pushing for a federal law.

This is all with a matter of days after the Casey Anthony acquittal. Had Casey been found guilty, these proposals would never have been considered. Justice would have been seen to have been done and everyone would have felt good about themselves. What does this say about the need for Caylee’s Law?

Three Years is Not Six Days

It seems moral outrage does strange things to math skills. What is it with all the outrage over Casey Anthony being released next week? Headlines suggest that she is serving less than a week for lying to police. Twitterers and bloggers are beside themselves.

No one seems to realize that she’s actually being punished rather harshly. First, she’s gotten the maximum sentence. Second, she’s been sentenced to serve the penalty for each of the four count consecutively. Third, Florida is very stingy with time off for good behavior.

So many people seem to want the three years she’s been in prison to be substitute punishment for the murder she probably committed. It just doesn’t work that way. If she’s declared not guilty, she can’t be punished in a backhanded way. If her liberty has been deprived and she is found guilty of anything, she has to be credited for the time. That’s the way the law works for everyone else, and everyone is equal under the law.

I know it is hard for the public to stop rubbernecking at the train wreck that is the dysfunctional Anthony family and the tragedy of Caylee Anthony’s death. Surely there is another personal tragedy somewhere for people to latch onto and invest emotion. Let the law to its job.

Three years is three years.

Move along…

Disingenuous Interference in the Humberto Leal Case

Reading and listening to the news media, the uninformed might think that the international issues surrounding Humberto Leal’s execution have only just been uncovered. It might appear that the Obama administration has some sort of leg to stand on. These impressions are entirely without merit.

The whole issue Leal’s lack of access to Mexican consular officials after his arrest has been litigated.  Let’s set aside the facts that Leal never revealed his Mexican citizenship after his arrest and that his lawyers never raised the issue before, during or after trial, including his first trip up the habeas corpus ladder. When he filed a petition based on President George W. Bush’s order to the states that they review the cases of the 51 Mexican citizens on death row across the country at that time, that was fully litigated and denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the highest criminal appellate court in Texas). He then filed a second federal habeas petition which was denied by the district court, appealed, and rejected by the Fifth Circuit in 2009 (573 F.3d 214).

The current administration and the media have tried to bolster their position (and yes, it is the same position) by suggesting that Bush endorsed the ruling of the International Court of Justice that led to his order that the states review the Mexican cases. Rather, Bush only ordered the review because he thought he was duty-bound to do so, because the US was a signatory to the Optional Protocol Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes to the Vienna Convention, which says that ICJ decisions are binding on the parties before it. He was under the impression that the Optional Protocol was binding on the states. However, in 2008 the US Supreme Court said no, in Medellín v. Texas (552 U.S. 491). Since the Supreme Court, not the Executive Branch, decides what is and isn’t the law, it didn’t matter what President Bush thought and it doesn’t matter what President Obama thinks.

The Supreme Court said no because the Optional Protocol is not self-executing. In other words, it requires enabling legislation. Now at the last minute, the Administration is arguing to the Supreme Court that enabling legislation has been filed in Congress and the Court should wait to see if it passes.  This is the only arrow left in the quiver of the Administration and it is blunted, bent, splintered and missing fletchings.

Congress has had three years since Medellín to pass enabling legislation. It chose not to do so with the proposed Avena Case Implementation Act of 2008, introduced into a Nancy Pelosi-controlled House of Representatives by four liberal Democrats. It never made it out of committee, not to mention across the Capitol.

Now Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced S. 1194. It has no chance of passage, despite the Administration’s repeated assertions that it’s strong support makes a difference. I seriously doubt it would get through the Senate, but it doesn’t have the tiniest hope of getting through the House. It is telling that amicus brief goes on and on about the Senate and does not even mention the House of Representatives.

It is not even as if the passage of S. 1194 would have any effect on the execution of Humberto Leal. It might give him a chance to have a court determine whether not having had consular access unfairly prejudiced his case. The chances of success in such a challenge are infinitesimal. Leal’s guilt in perpetrating a gruesome crime is indisputable. Even the Mexicans admit that.

The last shred of his case, if the Supreme Court were to stay the execution, and if the Congress were to pass S. 1194, is a court might find that had the Mexican government hired the right attorneys for him (if they even would have done so at the time), those attorneys would have presented evidence in his punishment phase differently so that the jury would not have given him a death sentence. The Administration insists in its brief that unless this charade is played out, relations with Mexico will be irreparably damaged and all Americans traveling abroad will be put at risk. There is simply no credibility in any of this.

Unlike the characterizations by the Administration and media, this case has nothing to do with Texas refusing to follow international law. The Supreme Court answered that in 2008. This cases had been litigated and re-litigated, examined and re-examined, for years. It is time for the sentence to be carried out and the Obama Administration to stop interfering.

What the Casey Anthony Trial Says About Us

Casey Anthony is not guilty. I didn’t say she was innocent. The former is a legal declaration, while the latter is a moral state. But what does the trial and the public reaction to the verdict say about us?

It tells us that the media likes pretty people and good story. And that we are easily led. Caylee Anthony had what in the UK could be considered the Madeleine McCann factor. Madeleine was the three-year-old British girl who abducted while her family was on holiday in Portugal in May 2007. She has never been found, but she has never been out of the headlines. She’s a pretty little girl with attractive parents who are doctors. Madeleine was certainly not the only British child to go missing  in 2007, but it would be hard to realize that from the media coverage.

How many other small children have been murdered in the United States since Caylee Anthony in 2008? How many have been neglected and abused? Sadly, most of them aren’t as photogenic as Caylee with mothers who act as bizarrely as Casey, or maybe they would have been noticed by the world at large. Maybe we would have been just as outraged when the parents were let go, often without the scrutiny of a trial or other judicial process.

I could give you examples from my own client list when I had a small inner-city neighborhood general civil and criminal practice that would make you upset and angry.  That is, if you were so incline to have a fraction of voyeurism that America at large has had for the Casey Anthony trial. However, I don’t have pictures and video and live court proceedings with celebrity commentators. None of the perpetrators or victims were particularly photogenic. It is unlikely that there will be any demand for me recount my stories and change the names to protect the guilty.

Yes, Caylee Anthony’s death was a terrible thing and Casey Anthony’s trial may very well have ended up in a miscarriage of justice. Many people have felt the need to vent their righteous anger. Most don’t realize it is anger they never would have had, but for the opportunity cable news channels found to grab advertising revenues.

But what are we doing about the terrible things that are happening much closer to home? What would happen if we invested the emotional effort expended on a family tragedy in Florida in praying for the needs around us? Into whose lives can we invest our time, so that they do not become a statistic unworthy of notice by FoxNews, CNN, and Court TV?

The Information Age, with instant access to the whole world, can be a good thing. It can also mess with our priorities. You can’t change a thing about Caylee and Casey Anthony. You can change the lives around you.

On Violent Video Games and Strict Constructionism

When the Supreme Court issued their opinion in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association on June 27, there was an outcry of despair for the future of America and its youth. How could the Court rule in favor of children having access to violent video games? What the commentators, conservative and otherwise, missed is that they didn’t.

Those who wanted a conservative response from the Court got it and now many of them don’t like it. Let’s summarize what the opinion of the Court, written by Justice Scalia, said:

First, a legislature cannot create new categories of speech unprotected by the First Amendment simply by weighing the value of the new category against its social costs and then prohibit it if it fails the test. Unlike sexual content, there is no American legal tradition of protecting children from violent content. Second, because the California law in question imposes a restriction on the content of protected speech, it is invalid unless the state can demonstrate that it passes the strict scrutiny test. In other words, it has to demonstrate a compelling government interest and has to be narrowly drafted to serve that interest. California said the compelling interest was helping parents who wish to restrict their children’s access to violent videos. Scalia said no, parents can choose what their children watch and the voluntary rating system is there to help them. And stores don’t have to sell the videos to children. Thus, children are already protected.

As might be expected, Scalia strictly construed the First Amendment. If some other form of speech were before the Court, we would be glad that he did. We would be glad that he and the justices in the majority hadn’t created a new legal tradition. The view taken by Justice Alito, concurring in the judgement but not for this reason, and syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, is that the framers of the Constitution could not have anticipated modern technology and so we have to fill in the gaps for them. How many times have conservatives decried that very principle being applied in the past? We want a conservative, strict constructionist court unless it is inconvenient.

As to the second line of argument, Scalia said that if California had a compelling interest in keeping children from watching violence, it would have to outlaw Saturday morning cartoons, which for generations have depicted extreme violence. Likewise, it would have to outlaw violence in movies available to children. However, instead of comprehensively addressing the issue, it simply responded with a knee-jerk reaction to a new distasteful form of depiction.

The decision was 7-2 because even Alito and Chief Justice Roberts recognized that California had not drafted the legislation strictly enough to pass constitutional muster. “For better or worse, our society has long regarded many depictions of killing and maiming as suitable features of popular entertainment, including entertainment that is widely available to minors.” (Alito concurring in judgment, slip opinion at 6)  California would have had to have been very specific about exactly which kinds of depictions were illegal for minors and then demonstrated the compelling reason to “help” parents with regard to those depictions.

Finally, I need to address some flawed reasoning floating out there in the op/ed columns by writers who are convinced that they are much more in touch with the real world that the justices. For convenience, and since I’ve already linked to him, I’ll use Cal Thomas as an example. Thomas writes:  “Justices should step out of their safety zones and experience life on urban streets where mortal combat is for real and shootings are as commonplace as corrupt politicians. Where do armed teenagers in roving gangs get the idea that life is cheap and can be so easily taken without regard to social mores?” Thomas fails to recognize that gang violence far pre-dates the latest (or even the earliest) round of video games.

In this case, Scalia notes, the State of California tried to use psychological studies that

purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, nearly all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology. They show at best some correlation between exposure to violent entertainment and minuscule real-world effects, such as children’s feeling more aggressive or making louder noises in the few minutes after playing a violent game than after playing a nonviolent game. (slip opinion of the Court at p. 12-13, internal citations omitted, emphasis mine)

Does this mean that disgusting violent video games are good, for children or otherwise? No. Are they offensive to Christian morality in suggesting that life is cheap and disposable? Certainly. However, we don’t use a combination of our disgust and specious arm-chair psychology to cut a chunk out of First Amendment jurisprudence.

The Supreme Court did not rule in favor of children having access to violent games. Rather, it ruled in favor of parents controlling access to violent games.

I will venture to suggest that as a father of nine, Justice Scalia knows a bit about raising children. He also knows a bit about the Constitution. I agree with him that it is better to keep the latter out of the business of the former.

Above the Parapet

After four years of blogging pseudonymously, I have come back to my real name. Now that I am no longer a school teacher, hopefully I will not have to fend off abusive comments and denial of service attacks.

I considered clearing out the archive, but I have left the old posts up because I think there some worthwhile things to read. I’m sure there are a few clunkers in there somewhere and a bit of radicalism that may have since mellowed in my middle age. I might go in later and clean things up, but maybe not.

I hope to blog about things are productive for the various ventures, professional paths, avocational interests and spiritual walk I pursue, some of which are looming on the horizon as I enter into a very big new phase of life.

Deadline

The Taleban have granted an 24-hour extension on the lives of the kidnapped Korean missionaries in Afghanistan, set to expire anytime now.

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The terrorists and their captives are surrounded by US and Afghan troops. Continue to pray for their release.

Free At Last

The continuing saga of the Bulgarian nurses in Libya is finally at an end. Through a deal brokered by the EU with the help of Qatar, the nurses and their Palestinian doctor colleague have flown to Bulgaria. They were released under a 1984 prisoner exchange agreement

The Bulgarian president and prime minister both met the plane as it landed. The former hostages (let’s call it like it is) were travelling with the wife of the French President and the European Union foreign affairs commissioner. They were immediately officially pardoned by the president, who has even gone one step further and is putting them up at the presidential residence. This includes the doctor, who was granted Bulgarian citizenship last month.

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Libya agreed to release them after the EU agreed to take care of all of Libya’s HIV children in European hospitals for the rest of their lives. The Libyans were also offered normalised relations with the EU. I’d say they managed to pull of a good deal. Find some Christians who have come to your country to help people, arrest them on ludicrous charges, see that they get sentenced to death, and it is amazing how much leverage you can have.

While we rejoice in their freedom, let us not forget that there are other Christians imprisoned, killed, and otherwise persecuted for their faith by Islamic (and other anti-Christian) regimes around the world.

The Cost of Littering

You have to wonder when Revenue and Customs workers finally starting thinking something might be up. Charlene Ostle kept ringing them up and changing the number of children she had, thus entitling her increased benefits.

She told them she had three sets of twins and two sets of triplets, all before reaching the age of 26. At one point she had given birth to five children in three months.

Even though she knew what she was doing was wrong, she said her pride kept her from asking from help. What? She had no shame in claiming to have had all of these children out of wedlock and no shame in asking the Government for help.

It got her £30,000 in benefits and remarkably only a nine-month suspended sentence. She was spared jail in part because she is actually pregnant with her third child.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

There is really only one news story today. The Shire is surrounded by disaster areas. While we are not as badly affected here, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire have seen the worst flooding in at least 150 years – and it’s getting worse. The River Severn hasn’t just breached its banks. In places it is five or six times wider than it was last week.

Over 150,000 of homes are without water because the water treatment plant has been flooded. An electrical substation has been shut down, cutting off power to 43,000 homes. The military has been called in stop another substation from flooding, as it would cut off as many as a further 500,000 homes.

The eastern part of the the Shire has been similarly affected, with a pumping station flooded and water cut off since midday yesterday. There is more water coming down the Wye and the rain continues. The worst affected may be the soft fruit farmers, with the polytunnels flooded it could ruin the late summer crops. Parts of Hooterville that have never flooded in living memory have been covered with water. Even though we live much closer to the river, we have not been affected so far.

Apologies

Checking my stats tonight, I saw that I had referrals to this site from stantonythegreat.org.uk. I thought this a bit strange, since I don’t have a link on that site. Then I realised that through all my messing around with my domain name, I had messed up that site, which is set up to reside in my old hosting account.

The site has been moved to new hosting and the links have been fixed. My apologies to anyone who might have though the views on this blog represent in any way the views of the Herefordshire Orthodox Fellowship of St Antony the Great.

Differentiating Martyrdom

As if it weren’t self-evident by now, the Taleban are once again showing why they must be eradicated and extinguished from the face of the earth. They have kidnapped 23 Korean Christians (including 18 women) and will murder them unless all South Koreans leave Afghanistan.

If you think this is a ploy to get a Coalition country to remove its troops, you’d be wrong. South Korea has no troops in Afghanistan. There are 200 Koreans there, but they are engineers, doctors and medical staff.  They are trying to rebuild the country and keep its people alive. But then the Taleban have never been big on keeping people alive.

The Koreans have been specifically targeted because they are Christians. Even though they were on their way to work in a hospital in Kandahar, they are accused of evangelism, which carries a death sentence under the Taleban – though must be remembered things are not much better under the elected government of the country. Thus, I would not expect a lot of help from President Hamid Karzai in negotiating their release.

Their plight will not come as a surprise to them. Many of the Korean missionaries who go into the Muslim-controlled countries speak of a desire for martyrdom – exhibiting a ferver reminiscent of various Roman persecutions. But in an age where the desire for martyrdom is only ever seen in an Islamic context, the world cannot understand those who give their lives willingly without explosives strapped to themselves and who hope to see the face of the Saviour and not 72 virgins.

No Forwarding Address

I seem to have a lot of emails that have just disappeared into the ether between the earth and the moon (a location frequently referenced by my Evidence professor in law school).

I bought some genuine web hosting a couple of days ago (not for this blog, but for some other stuff) and decided to point my holford.org.uk domain at it to restore the old HolfordWeb site. Bad move. When I changed name servers, I lost the MX records where the domain is hosted here. This is bad because the web hosting can’t provide mail service just by me changing name servers on a domain.

So I brought the domain back over and pointed it back to this blog (go ahead, try it) and confirmed all of the mail forwarding. Now sending test emails they don’t kick back as errors, but neither do they forward through. I tried to ring my domain host, but they have been shut for two days because of the flooding, as they are located next to the River Severn.

So I’m stuck in email limbo. The only good thing is that I have been getting a lot less spam.

New Bed

The entire day today has been spent getting and constructing Aidan’s new bed. Mrs H had been wanting to get him one with the bed on the top bunk and a sofa and desk underneath. The going price is about £800, which is just a little out of our budget range.

That’s why eBay is such a great thing. We got one several years old, but in perfect condition, for 10% of the cost of a new one. We did have to hire a moving van to get it up here, but that’s why grandfathers are such a good thing.

Before we even drove down to pick it up in just outside Grampy’s town, the children were buzzing with excitement. Once we got it home it was impossible keeping them out of the room while we put it together. As soon as it was finished they were all over it. They wouldn’t even eat their dinner because it was too exciting. It wasn’t even ordinary dinner – they abandoned pizza and garlic bread and pop.

If you thought there was any chance the Abby wouldn’t be staying in Aidan’s room, you’d be wrong. Even if we tried to make her stay in her bed, she would stay up as long as it took to successful sneak in there, impervious to hell, high water, and any sort of punishment. There are some battles not worth fighting.

We freecycled Aidan’s old bed and it has ended up with the same family who took Bubby off of our hands.  We got a thorough report on how she is doing. She is much happier than she was having to stay in the hutch. She has the run of a small fully enclosed garden.

Financing the Dictatorship

Over 90% of the world’s rubies come from Burma. Virtually all the the world’s jade does as well. If they are lucky, the miners earn about 41p (80 cents) for a twelve-hour shift in very dangerous conditions where the mines often collapse.

Not surprisingly, the military junta has substantial ownership in the exporting business.

The Daily Telegraph has an article about this, even though their reporter had very little access due to the tight controls. Gem auctions are by invitation only.

I’d boycott Burmese gemstones, but if you really can’t afford something you really can’t call it a boycott.

Extended Binge

In another spectacular failure for the Government, the introduction of 24-hour drinking laws has resulted in a trebling of drink-related cases in the A&E (ER) department at a London hospital.

In March 2005, there were 79 night time cases involving patients with an alcohol-related problem. By March 2006, there were 250.  In addition to this, there were 27 alcohol-related assaults treated in March 2005. In March 2006 there were 62.

This is just one hospital. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport says that it is not representative of the country. The DCMS seems to have missed this from last year:

A report by the Centre for Public Health said binge drinking is overloading hospitals, reducing life expectancy and fuelling violent brawls.

At the beginning of the year a survey found that hospitals were having to deal with a significant rise in alcohol-related injuries in the wake of 24-hour drinking laws.

It revealed that many casualty departments have seen a greater volume of patients hurt in booze-fuelled fights or accidents.

Accident and emergency units are also finding problems extending much later into the night – increasing the demands on already hard-pressed staff.

The Government said the open-all-hours approach would end binge drinking, because none one would need to quickly quaff before closing time. Instead, the binge just goes on longer. Too many British drinkers just have no self-control.

Stick a Fork in Me, I’m Done

The summer holidays are finally here! Not that you would know from the November weather.

Rather than usual end of school wind down with wine and leaving speeches, the day ended rather abruptly. We have had torrential rain all day and flooding, so the school shut early and all staff living in affected area were encouraged to make themselves scarce.  That included me.

Some pupils went out of their way to let me know how glad they were to see me leave. Fortunately a few actually let me know they were sad to see me go.

Next year it will be a new school with new responsibilities.

Radio

This week I have been showing most of my classes the same film. Under normal circumstance we don’t just show videos in RE – despite the reputation of the subject in some circles. And theoretically we shouldn’t show them in the last week of the year, as this detracts from the work ’em to the last minute ethic.

I was originally just going to show it to my Year 10s, but I realised that it has a message that all of my year groups could use and with only one lesson left to leave one message in their heads, I chose to show them Radio with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ed Harris. I wanted them to realise that they have the chance to make a difference to the world around them. They need to see a positive example of how the way we treat others can change us as well as them. And they can see that even someone who society might otherwise reject can make an impact on the world around them in a positive way.

Unfortunately I wasn’t surprised to learn that many of them cannot even sit and watch a movie without being unbelievably disruptive.  I had to abandon it altogether with one group because I couldn’t even get it started. Because it is longer than the lesson period, I offered to show it at lunch for anyone who wanted to finish it. I had some top set Year 9s take up that offer, but no others.

That doesn’t mean I’ve changed my view of the potential of the film. I’m trying to work it into my schemes of work in my new school. I think it deserves to be shown over two or more lessons, with opportunity for feedback and analysis.

If you are familiar with the film, you might be interesting in the page about James “Radio” Kennedy on the T. L. Hanna High School website, or the official site of Radio and Coach Harold Jones.

Ransomed

The Bulgarians nurses I wrote about in May have had their death sentences commuted. They have not been freed, but rather merely given life imprisonment for crimes which research has shown the could not have committed.

They have been convicted of intentionally infecting 438 children in Libya with HIV. Even though the accusation is ludicrous, foreign experts with no vested interest in covering up the problem of AIDS in a Muslim country have determined that the infections started before the Bulgarians even arrived in Libya. They made confessions, but these were aided by the usual Libyan methods of torture.

In the end, it wasn’t just all of the foreign pressure from the civilised world that worked. It was the blood money that was raised. More than £200 million of it to be paid to the families. There were sweeteners for the Libyan government like all of their debt to Bulgaria written off. You know a country is in pretty bad shape when they are in debt to Bulgaria.

Now the pressure should not be let up until they are released.

Giant Role Model

Ever-perceptive, the Grit explains why Homer Simpson is a better fertility symbol than the Cerne Abbas Giant, despite the fact that Pagans are upset Homer has moved in next door.

More From the Cretins in the Kremlin

It beginning to feel a bit like a James Bond film, but there’s no fiction involved. More and more evidence is emerging that the Kremlin has revived its policy of assassinating enemies wherever the can be found around the world.

As noted in The Times:

Twelve months ago the Duma passed a law allowing Russian security agents to pursue “terrorists” overseas and to kill them if they were deemed a threat. The clear aim was to assassinate Chechen fighters who had sought refuge in neighbouring countries. But the law also allowed the FSB to resume a practice that had been officially halted since the disbandment of an organisation (well known to James Bond readers) called Smersh, an acronym for Death to Spies, that was set up by the USSR to hunt down and destroy its enemies around the world.

Putin opponent Boris Berezovsky said that there had been an attempt to assassinate him and Scotland Yard acknowledged it was true, but that they had sent the assassin back to Russia a couple of days after they arrested him. You have to wonder what was going on there, but the Yard wouldn’t divulge anything else.

Russia has also been flexing its atrophied military muscle. Two bombers were headed into British airspace yesterday from their base in on the Kola Peninsula. RAF jets were scrambled to intercept them and Tu95s turned back before reaching British airspace. The RAF characterised it as a rare incident.

The Kremlin seems to think they are on the moral high ground become the British will not allow for the extradition Putin political opponents wanted for “corruption” in Moscow, but the British Government knows that there is no such thing as a fair trial in Russia and once convicted, opponents of the State will be subjected the worst violation of human rights in Siberian labour camps.

We won’t be bullied by the Russian bear. We cannot tolerate the revival of the their tactics. The Russians will just have to keep sending over hit men. The police and MI5 will just have to catch them and bring them to British justice.  At the same time, Russia needs to be diplomatically isolated – something it really can’t afford.

Forcing the Profane on the Holy

The local Anglican bishop was taken to an employment tribunal recently for turning down a gay man for a job as a youth worker.

Reaney was not denied the job because he is gay. Rather, the bishop made it clear to him during the interview that a person in a committed sexual relationship outside of marriage, whether they were heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transgender, would be turned down for the role. This seems to be a rather conservative view for Anglicans, especially in a diocese that has led the way in the ordination of women.

Nonetheless, the employment tribunal said Reaney was discriminated against “on the grounds of sexual orientation”. This has massive ramifications. First, it means churches must hire people whose sexual orientation they may believe is incompatable with a particular position. Second, it equates orientation with activity. This means church must hire people openly engaged in immoral behaviour (whether homosexual or heterosexual), even as youth workers. Third, this will logically and necessarily include those who have been hired while demonstrating good moral character but who susequently make different behavioural decisions. The Church in this country effectively has no way of preserving and living out its teachings about living holy lives.

Information Superhighway Robbery

It’s rip-off Britain once again.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has compared UK broadband with service available elsewhere in the world. In terms of low cost, we are 19th out of the 30 richest nations in terms of what we pay to our providers. The average British price is £14.50 per month. Not surprisingly it is less than £8 per month in the States, just over £8 in France, and apparently averages a mere £5.40 in Sweden (the my Swedish resident namesake will have to confirm this).

Again, not surprisingly, we are getting less for our money. Our 8Mbs maximum speed is apparently the internet equivalent of molasses. And were that we all got 8Mbs! I’m paying for 8 but tend to get a bit under 2. I should be getting 5.5 (because after they sell you 8 they tell you to only really expect 5.5), but thanks to line noise at the exchange box, it ain’t happening. BT seem to have no motivation whatsoever in cleaning up the noise, as this would probably mean spending money.

In Japan, they get 100Mbs. In case you haven’t done the math, that’s a bit over 50 times what I’m actually getting.

I’m not saying I’ve haven’t made progress. I started with a 1200 baud modem on a 8088 machine in 1989. Things have changed a lot since I got on the actual Internet with a 14.4 on a 486 in 1993. Nonetheless, the world is passing me by.

Thought Conviction

The thought police aren’t just out there, they’re getting convictions.

A Scottish man who made a website with sick jokes about blacks, Muslims, homosexuals, disabled peopled pleaded guilty to committing a racially aggravated breach of the peace by producing and managing the website.  He only avoided jail by having no previous convictions and quickly admitting his guilt. Instead he gave 160 hours of community service. That’s a month of full-time unpaid work. Plus, he forfeited 12 pieces of computer equipment.

He didn’t make fun of any specific people, other than Simon Weston, the disfigured Falklands War veteran.

I’ve just been reading up on that amorphous area of the common law called “breach of the peace” and even as ambiguous at it can be, I can’t see how the website breached the peace. Breach of the peace is a catchall that the police seem to use when they have nothing else to go on to accomplish their goal. In this case, Andrew Love seems to have done something people find really distasteful, but he didn’t actually do it to anyone.

No one is forced to see his website and they are certainly free to immediately surf away from it the moment they find something they don’t like. No children or animals were harmed in the making of the website.

 According to the Daily Telegraph, ‘Alistair McSporran, prosecuting, said officers found “numerous” items on the website “that had gone beyond the realms of bad taste”. These included a phoney Islamic jihad group and a picture which showed an American police officer being offensive to a young black child in a toy car.’ This is beyond the realm of bad taste?

While I don’t condone Mr Love’s choice of humour, neither do I think it should be a criminal offence.