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.

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?

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.

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.

The New Cold War

From the grave, Alexander Litvinenko blamed Vladimir Putin for his death from polonium-210. The Crown Prosecution Service wants Andrei Lugovoi tried for his murder. Russia refuses to hand him over.

Today the Government announced that it is expelling four Russian diplomats in response to the Kremlin’s refusal to cooperate. The Opposition is supporting the Government’s approach.

Lugovoi claims that either MI6, the Russian mafia, or Putin opponent Boris Berezovsky had carried out the killing. None of these is credible. After all Berezovsky was an ally of Litvinenko who has himself survived several assassination attempts including a bomb that decapitated his chauffeur.

What seems much more likely is that the Kremlin was involved. What we have here is bully Russia punching above its weight. Putin he can play the same smoke-and-mirrors game as the old Soviet Union, pretending to be a superpower. The difference is that everyone can see that Russia is in a shambles. All it has left is cloak and dagger intrigue.

All sides recognise that relations between the UK and Russia are at the lowest point since the end of Cold War. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “In London they should clearly realise that such provocative actions masterminded by the British authorities will not be left without an answer and cannot but entail the most serious consequences for Russian-British relations.”

Let the Russians play chicken. We don’t need to flinch. It’s the equivalent of a head-on crash between a bicycle and a Mack truck.

That’s Entertainment

I don’t live anywhere near London, but I’ve found a political race I can really enjoy. Boris Johnson is running for mayor of the captial city.

London has only had a mayor since 2000 (not to be confused with the Lord Mayor of the City of London, a ceremonial office held by one of the aldermen of the Square Mile), a position held since that time by Ken Livingstone. Red Ken, as he is affectionately known due to his extremely leftist views, is still the mayor despite his promise to only serve one term. Of course that was after he went back on his promise that he would not run if he wasn’t chosen as the official Labour candidate.

Ken has a reputation for shooting off his mouth and getting himself into hot water. He compared a Jewish reporter working for the Evening Standard to a concentration camp guard and then said the paper was “a load of scumbags and reactionary bigots.” When the US Embassy refused to pay the London Congestion Charge because it is a tax and not a charge for a service, he called the US Ambassador a “chiselling little crook.” He invited Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London to speak on schoolgirls wearing the hijab, despite al-Qaradawi’s support for suicide bombers in Palestine.  The list goes on and on, really.

Boris has the larger-than-life personality that can take on Ken. He’s a Tory front-bench spokesman, former magazine editor, columnist for the Daily Telegraph, popular TV personality, and extremely prone to gaffes.  As the Wikipedia article about him accurately describes, “Johnson has an image as a self deprecating, straw-haired eccentric, disorganised and scatty (he once explained the lateness of his work by claiming that, “Dark forces dragged me away from the keyboard, swirling forces of irresistible intensity and power”).”

He’s had two high-profile extra-marital affairs (in the aftermath of the first one, he was locked out of his house in front of reporters), called the Papua New Guineans cannibals, said Liverpudlians have a “deeply unattractive psyche”, and said Portsmouth is “one of the most depressed towns in Southern England, a place that is arguably too full of drugs, obesity, underachievement and Labour MPs”.  Despite all this and more, he is a very popular character. It is just very difficult not to like Boris.

Yes, if there is anyone who can go toe to toe with Ken Livingstone, it is Boris Johnson. It will be fun to watch.

The New Secret Police

When children are removed from their parents due to false or unprovable allegations, it is becoming increasing unlikely that they will ever return.

The Government has set targets on the number of adoptions it wants to see. Local councils, responsible for social care, are paid millions of pounds in cash bonuses to see that goals are reached.

It is hard to report on these cases, because secrecy laws prevent any party from even identifying themselves in the press. However, despite this, one family came forward to the Sunday Telegraph. This is the way it works:

The family’s ordeal began in late 2005 when they took their first daughter to hospital with abdominal pains. Doctors concluded she had been sexually assaulted weeks before.

Three days later, vanloads of police officers arrived with social workers at the couple’s flat to seize the girl, who was placed with foster carers. When her sister was born just weeks later, she too was taken away.

Police launched an investigation, tearing apart the couple’s flat in the hunt for clues. Suspects included a babysitter, some of the mother’s relatives, and the couple themselves.

The parents even agreed to separate after they were told by social workers it would give the mother a better chance of getting the girls back. Yet even while the criminal investigation was going on, a family court judge agreed to a social services request for a forced adoption.

At the hearing last autumn, the judge concluded that the mother, who had been abused by her own family as a child, needed a year of psychotherapy before she could look after children safely, which, he said, would leave the girls in limbo for too long. He also told the children’s father that they could not live with him because he had left it too late to submit his application to the court. Police cleared both parents in January this year, telling them there was insufficient evidence to proceed. However, they have been told by social workers the outcome makes no difference.

That same month, the girls were moved from foster care to live with the prospective adopters, and the mother received a voicemail message from social workers telling her all visiting rights would cease. [All emphasis mine.]

There is clearly a case of abuse here. This is an abuse of so many areas of the legal system and foundational principles of law in this country that it boggles the mind. I have said in the past that the Government here is an elected dictatorship. This is the work of a totalitarian regime with no regard for the rule of law.

Five-Minute Education and Five-Day Indoctrination

Any hopes that a Brown Government would stop fiddling with the education system have quickly been deflated. It just gets crazier. Perhaps its down the new departments – with the higher education and adult education split off from schools, the schools minister needs to find things to do with his extra time. So how many ways can he make a bad thing worse?

From yesterday’s Daily Telegraph:

Secondary school pupils will be taught in lessons lasting just five minutes under a radical shake-up of the curriculum that introduces a raft of subjects including Mandarin Chinese and lessons on debt management, it was announced yesterday.

Schools are being encouraged to tear up their timetables and introduce new ways of teaching such as quick bursts of mental arithmetic or spelling and topic-based teaching lasting up to a week. There will be an emphasis on British identity, citizenship and challenges facing the world, such as global warming.

That’s right – five minute lessons. Though still a stretch for the attention span of some, I have to wonder how this will work. So it takes five minutes for them to get to a lesson on the other side of school, five minutes to get them settled, then – oops, lesson over – five minutes to get to the next lesson.

So we have five minutes of mental arithmetic, a bit of Mandarin, and a week of global warming. Am I the only one who thinks this is nuts?

We did a topic-based week last month while the Year 10s were on work experience. In line with the spirit of the age, it was on the environment with enough carbon footprints and anthropogenic global warming to make Al Gore proud. With 2/5 of the school out and only three years of timetable to tear up, it was incredibly difficult, taking hours of cross departmental planning. And that was just for one week.

But that’s what the Government wants. It is much easier to indoctrinate children to a particular agenda if the entire school is tell them the same thing at the same time.

The positive thing about all this is that the Celtic Fringe should be spared. Because Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have a lot of control over their own education systems, it will probably only apply to England.

Shameful

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I didn’t see what all the excitement was over the Hindu prayers in the Senate. Apparently members of Operation Save America did.

In a shameful, God-dishonouring way, Ante Pavkovic, Kathy Pavkovic, and Kristen Sugar disrupted the proceedings of the Senate just to demonstrate for anyone who might have missed it that baptism is not an innoculation against stupidity. I rephrase what I said previously to ask where they were when Muslims and Jews have prayed in the Senate (or any other legislative body in the US).

And even being convinced in all their bone-headedness that their objections should not be lodged in a lawful manner, surely they could have quietly chained themselvs to the doors of the Senate or something. No, their goal was not to stop the prayer, but rather to make a spectacle of themselves.

Being involved in such a high profile incident just spreads the shame further.

Wigging Out

With all the constitutional changes and stripping of tradition brought in by Labour Governments since 1997, the latest developments should come as no surprise. The Lord Chief Justice announced today that in all but the criminal court, the wigs and gowns are to be abandoned. The change will also include the ceremonial full-bottomed wigs. Thus ends tradition dating back to the reign of Charles II.

This is more modernisation for the sake of it. There is no real need to turn lawyers into just more men in suits. It seems the wig would make it easier to say “M’lud” to the occupant of the bench.  The costume also creates an atmosphere reflecting the seriousness of the proceedings.

It seems almost pointless that one of the other changes announced is that solicitor-advocates (solicitors who have gained the right of audience in the higher courts) will be allowed to wear the traditional costume of the Bar.  Instead, barristers without their wigs, wing collars and bands will be indistinguishable from the solicitors instructing them in the civil courts.

The change will have a negative economic impact. There are several firms that specialise in making legal wigs. Job losses are expected.

Directionless Civic Prayer

There seems to be a bit of a kerfuffle about the Senate session tomorrow being opened with a prayer by a Hindu. This will apparently be the first time a Congressional day will begin with polytheistic supplications.

I don’t know what the big deal is. The Senate has had prayers by others who do not name the name of Christ. There have been a number of prayers by Jews and Muslims. There doesn’t seem to a national outcry when one of these is on the agenda.

No doubt this is because of the idea that there is something special about monotheism. This the proposition that as long as you are praying to “God”, someone is bound to hear you. I suppose if you praying to multiple gods, then there is a degree of uncertainty as to whether a specific deity is looking over the Senatorial proceedings.

The fact is that the business of the Senate is not going to be consciously guided allegiance to Jesus or Ganesh or Lakshmi or Devi. It’s all form over substance.  Were the Senate to invoke the name of Jesus and actually see it’s work as delegated by God with a responsibility to act according to His will, the official supplications offered on it’s behalf might be something worth getting right.

The Gay Debate

Not surprisingly, the first Presidential debate solely on gay issues will be a Democrats-only affair. This has been brought to my attention by The Grit, who also predicts the candidate positions on these matters.

I wondering if there should be other Presidential debates based on other minority special interest groups. Any suggestions? The only one I’m sure no group of candidates will touch would be a white, heterosexual male debate.

Or on the other hand, there could just be a campaign based on those things we all have in common. You know, one where no one panders any whiny group convinced that it is somehow disenfranchised, whether by sexual proclivities, or gender, or race, or whatever.

Rotherwas Ribbon E-Petition

If you are a UK citizen or resident, you can sign the 10 Downing Street E-Petition to save the Rotherwas Ribbon.

Go on then!

A* Results While Lacking Basic Skills

I have been saying it for a long time, even though many of my colleagues have denied it. Educational standards have declined to the point that even some of the best students lack basic literacy and numeracy.

The Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has been running research trials on new functional skills tests to be introduced in 2009 for English and 2010 for maths. These trials have shown that students predicted A* grades in their results next month cannot handle percentages and angles, or full stops (periods) and commas.

As noted in the Sunday Telegraph:

Ministers fear that if the new tests are included in revamped GCSEs, the proportion of pupils gaining good grades in the two subjects, currently about half, will plunge, exposing dire standards – and the genuine achievement level – among schoolchildren.

The newspaper also quote from a letter sent to the schools minister from the QCA chief executive:

Research undertaken during the second phase of the trial indicated that candidates with actual or predicted GCSEs at grade C or above did less well than might be expected in trial assessments for functional skill.

In other words, “Even though we write the National Curriculum and vet all of the national examinations, we were not prepared for just how illiterate and innumerate the brightest pupils have become.”

I know this is true from personal experience. I teach a subject which requires 14 to 16-year-olds to write essay answers. Getting past the problem that many of them have near-illegible handwriting (because that is a skill that has been abandoned for many years here), is it often nigh on impossible to read even after the words have been deciphered. Try reading an essay with only the occasional full stop, when there is no use of capitalisation to figure out where a new sentence might be beginning. Some students have heard of the comma, but appear blissfully unaware that the art of punctuation extends beyond these two marks. Admittedly. some are familiar with the one used for exclamation, because once they have discovered it, they can’t help but use it.

The problem extends beyond punctuation. You may recall I mentioned a few days ago that out of an entire class of middle-ability Year 10s, not one pupil knew what a prefix or a suffix was.

This is the group to whom many in the Government want to extend the right to vote when they reach the age of 16. I can only think their reasoning is that by dumbing down the education system, young voters will choose how to vote because they can read “Labour”, but “Conservative” will be too big a word with too many syllables.

Fred Has What Hillary Lacks

Hillary Clinton apparently has one big problem winning the Presidency: people don’t like her. According to a recent poll 56% of men have the good sense not to vote for her under any circumstances. They may not consciously be avoiding an Isaiah 3:12 situation, but they know a bad thing when they see it. In addition to that, she’s got 47% of women who won’t vote for her under any circumstance either.

She’s lacking what soon-to-be GOP front-runner Fred Thompson has by the bucketful: charm.

Thompson is so nice, even his ex-wife and former girlfriends are campaigning for him. They may not want to live with him, but they sure do like him.

Some commentators have suggested that women might not like the fact that his current wife (who he met many years after his divorce)  is 24 years his junior. Liberal bloggers and their combox choirs call it an “ick factor”. It probably doesn’t help that Jeri Thompson looks like she is 40 going on 25. I think the “ick” factor probably mostly comes down to jealousy. Programmed by TV and magazines, middle-aged women wish they could look as good as Jeri.

Of course the men who would never vote for Hillary would also like to high-five Fred.  Not that Fred would reciprocate, because he’s much to genteel and chivalrous and would not find it becoming of the lady’s honour.

I laughed reading liberal bloggers who otherwise have no moral values saying it looked “predatory” for Fred to have married such an attractive younger woman.  I can’t imagine a 35-year-old woman in a successful political career (she worked for the Senate Republican Conference and the Republican National Committee before become a political media consultant and all before marrying Fred) being preyed upon, just because her suitor is in his late 50s.

Fortunately the voting public isn’t particularly swayed by the rants of liberal bloggers. They do like charm, however.

More on Rotherwas

Apologies to anyone who commented on or linked to yesterday’s post about the Rotherwas Ribbon. It was rather hastily deleted rather than edited, as my tagline says, I don’t change things nisi sponsa dissentit.

I can still update things and whilst not mentioning some sensitive things, there is more information in the public domain. As usual we find the local council talking out of both sides of their mouth.

They had announced that there would be special viewing today of the heretofore secret location, but it would limited to 200 people. This was in the local paper which comes out on the Thursday, but which we didn’t get until Friday. By then all the tickets were gone.

Despite news of the Rotherwas Ribbon even reaching my parents’ local newspaper, they have tried to keep this extraordinary discovery very low key. They have been determined not to let this stand in the way of the Rotherwas relief road, a £12 million spur to the local industrial estate that has been built against the wishes of, and without any funding from, central government. The council are already being sued in the High Court because they are building through one of the villages.

Our local paper carried the full front page headline “Rotherwas find as old as Stonehenge – but . . . The road will go on”. The county archaeologist, who clearly knows who writes his cheque supported the covering it over with sand and a membrane before the tarmac is poured and hundreds of heavy goods vehicles drive over it daily for the foreseeable future. The person who just days ago said this was an extraordinary find unique in all of Europe modified his views saying, “We live on a crowded island, with and extraordinarily rich and lengthy history and the landscape is littered with these remains, but we cannot move everything around to avoid them.”

English Heritage, who advise the Government on scheduling monuments, are to view the site Monday. I have no doubt the local council will be with them every step of the way, lobbying against it.

Last night, the Council issued a press release indicating that due to public pressure they will be allowing for more viewings, to be booked through a special hotline number that will be announced next week. They are still determined, however, to “preserve” it in such a way that nobody alive today will be able to see it again.

It is true that the Rotherwas Ribbon might not have been discovered but for the relief road construction. However, the Council have have been just a little disingenuous about the value of their “preservation” plan: “In many ways we’re lucky to discover this before the bulldozers moved in – it was not far below the surface and had we not uncovered it as part of the archaeological work associated with the new access road, the strong possibility is that at least part of it might have been destroyed through ongoing farming practices.” The farming practices have been ongoing for just about all of the several thousand years this thing has previously been covered.

What is also clear now is that the original 60 metres uncovered is only an indeterminate portion of the overall serpent. At least 75 metres has been uncovered extending beyond the original roadway area and there is no indication of where it might end on either side.

There is now a website for the local campaign to properly save the this ancient landmark.

Copycat Cameron

David Cameron has been completely outflanked by Gordon Brown.

The Prime Minister has revamped the Cabinet to reflect his approach to government.  He has followed this up by doing the unthinkable and handing power from himself to Parliament. This is exactly the opposite of what Tony Blair did. He is showing just how different he is.

Cameron has reshuffled his front bench to try to match the Government and at the same time reward loyalty and punish dissenting voices. Since he took over the Tory party, he has tried to “modernise” it and thus make it more appealing to the masses.

As a result he has appointed the first Muslim to an Opposition front bench. But once again this was reactive. It followed Brown appointing Shahid Malik as the first Muslim minister. The difference is that Brown appointed an actual MP to governmental post. Cameron had to give a peerage to an unsuccessful parliamentary candidate because Sayeeda Warsi was the first Asian woman selected to fight a parliamentary seat.

Cameron now has a 40% disapproval rating amongst Conservative activists. I guess they don’t want to be a mirror of the Labour Party.

The Common Lord Chancellor

Gordon Brown has announced his Cabinet. In addition to moving or removing every Cabinet Minister except Des Browne at Defence (though he’s been given the Scotland portfolio as well), Brown without the “e” has chopped, changed, and renamed some departments.

This is not particularly uncommon with incoming Governments, though I have to wonder how quickly new premises can be secured, stationery and phone number changed, and civil servants shuttled around.  However, one thing has caught me quite by surprise and I’m not exactly sure how can even work constitutionally. I say that realising that Labour has heretofore defied just about anything else that would have otherwise seemed unconstitutional.

Though it hasn’t been mentioned in any news report that I have seen, I was looking at the official list of He Majesty’s Government on the Parliament website and discovered that Jack Straw is Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor.  I knew that prisons were being shifted into the same department as the courts and away from the Home Office. The Lord Chancellor is no longer the head of the judiciary under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. He isn’t even speaker of the House of Lords anymore. But he’s still the Lord Chancellor.

“And that is that. The end.”

So ended Tony Blair’s political career. Those were the last words he said in public as Prime Minister, at the close of Question Time.

Thanks to the ingenuity of the technical wizard at school, I was able to see the end of PMQs and the Blair’s trip to Buckingham Palace during lunch time. With a TV possibly built by John Logie Baird himself and a spoon as an antenna stuck into the back of the VCR, he tuned in BBC2.

With all my excoriating of TB, I have to say that I still almost teared up as tributes were paid to him from other parties, especially from normally very dour Ian Paisley. There is something about the high moments in the drama of politics that is emotive.

I think Tony is going to a job for which he is well suited. All sides have praised him for his work in pulling together the agreements in Northern Ireland. Anyone who could bring Ian Paisley to the same table with Sinn Fein has to be commended for it. He may be able to make significant progress in the Middle East.

Too Conservative for the Conservatives? Join Labour

A former member of Iain Duncan Smith’s Shadow Cabinet, Quentin Davies defected today from the Conservative Party to Labour.

He told Tory leader David Cameron, “Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything. It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda.” Sadly, I couldn’t agree with him more. Were I to become a citizen of the UK, until recently I would have never questioned that I would join the Tory Party. I don’t have an affinity for any other party, but the Conservatives have very little that is conservative about them.

Cameron would not publicly address Davies’ defection. He sent shadow industry spokesman Alan Duncan to make an immediate response and to appear tonight on Newsnight. Duncan insisted that Davies has defected because he doesn’t like the Tories green agenda and because he’s “social illiberal”. Yes, it’s true: the Conservative Party is no place for someone not swept up in the green thing and certainly no place for someone with traditional values.

Duncan said this plainly, “The Conservative Party has changed. Quentin Davies is old fashioned and doesn’t like it.” Duncan’s personal disaffection for Davies may have something to do with Davies’ opposition to gay marriage. Duncan is the first voluntarily open gay Tory MP.

Bush, Britain, and Values Clarification

I was at a social event recently and everything was going along swimmingly until someone said to me, “Do you like George Bush?” I realised at the time this was meant to be phrased, “Of course you don’t like George Bush, do you?” Nonetheless, I said, “Yes, I suppose so.”

If there is anything that a random gathering of British people do not want to hear, it is that someone might, in some way, or for any reason, support Bush. The only other whole sentence I managed to utter was, “Just like any other President, his administration has policies with which I agree and those with which I disagree.” Otherwise, any time I started to get more than one word out, I was shouted down.

When someone said, “What about the war in Iraq?” I said, “What about it?” When they said, “Where were the weapons of mass destruction?” I didn’t get a chance to say, “I suppose they all got used up on the Iranians and Kurds.” After all, there was no question that Saddam had used them in the past. Not that I care about WMD or their role in the overthrown of Saddam’s regime.

After all, if after the swift war victory, all sides had said, “Thank you very much. We’ll set up a civilised government from here,” it would have been hailed a success and no one would have cared whether or not there were WMD. It would have been like war is supposed to be – superior armies fly over and subdue the enemy with precision bombing, then armies walk in. If there are any casualties, they do not happen to us.

It’s not that I would have been any less attacked or ostracised for supporting Bush. He is a Republican and talks openly about God. He isn’t slick as Clinton, nor does he share the same personal values. Brits still presume to know better about the American presidency than Americans.

When it come to American presidential politics, the only thing I pay attention to less than Brits is opinion polls and their approval ratings. After all, whether it’s a 88% approval or 28% approval or 7% disapproval or 66% disapproval, it’s still the same president. It’s the people who are changeable.

Throughout four or eight years, the course of human events brings what it may. Some things are handled better than others. Throughout it all, an administration represents certain values and principles. In this sense, perhaps Brits have a better vantage point. The repugnance with which they treat Bush has little to do with day-to-day policy decisions. Britain also represents certain values and principles which have little in common with Bush or most people in the red states that elected him.

If in terms of values I have to choose between Bush and Britain, I have to go with Bush every time.

More on Ron Paul

It may not be evident from the comments, but apparently one way to spike viewing figures is to write something about Ron Paul. This is perhaps more evidence of his popularity in the viewing figures.

I like Dr Paul. Anyone in Congress with the nickname “Dr No”  has got to have something going for him. If you are looking for a constitutional strict constructionist you really need look no further.

Does that mean I would vote for him for the GOP nomination? Hmm . . .  Not sure. This is partly because despite the ground swell of support on the internet, I don’t know if he can win it. I’m also not so sure he’s the most electable candidate against the Democrats. I’d also hate to see him give up his Congressional seat in an ill-fated Presidential primary run.

At this point, I’m still with Fred Thompson. I just wish Fred would stop putting his finger in the political wind and just get in the race. He won’t needs as much money as Guilani or Romney, but he needs to get his machine going soon enough.

After that I’m in the anyone-but-Guliani camp.

Being a permanent resident of the UK, I have say I’m jealous that Americans actually have someone (if not several people) worth voting for. Over here, we are trading one socialist for another next week. We have another one waiting should the Tories get elected next time. In fact, if the Tories get elected we will get someone more like Tony Blair than if we keep Gordon Brown.

Disestablishmentarianism

In just a week’s time, a member of the Church of Scotland will have the right to appoint the bishops in the Church of England. However, it is a rare thing when a politician wants less power. Gordon Brown has no interest in controlling appointments in the C of E, not because of his own Presbyterianism, but because he wants to reform the whole relationship between Church and State.

He realises that this is something that should be introduced gradually, feeling the temperature of the water before plunging in. The General Synod will be meeting next month. It will vote on whether to remove the appointment of cathedral deans from the patronage of the Prime Minister.  If this is successful, more changes will be plausible.

Eventually, this will probably lead to disestablishment. First the deans, then the bishops, then the removal of the senior bishops from the House of Lords – it will all take time. Certainly outside the C of E there will be little resistance, but there is no need to provoke a Constitutional crisis.

This is typical of what I expect from a Brown premiership. There will still be change and the crumbling of the traditional institutions. Unlike with Blair, this will be more methodical. When Labour came into power, Blair fell all over himself trying to change everything at once. Brown has the same values but a different approach.

Ron Paul’s Waves Reach This Shore

It will cheer strong supporters like the young fogey that Ron Paul’s presidential campaign has merited mention in the Daily Telegraph.

Dr Paul is getting a lot of mileage because of internet-savvy aides who have taken the low-budget approach. I don’t think he will manage to get the nomination, because there are still too many people more influenced by the mainstream media and its advertising power. However, he does have the potential to shake things up a bit.

He really irritates the left-wing media, so much so that when viewers overwhelmingly considered him the winner of the June 5th GOP debate, CNN pulled its post-debate blog and re-directed the link to the June 3rd Democratic debate.

Ron Paul is my parents’ congressman and now represents the district in which my father was the GOP candidate in 1976. Ron was in Congress in ’76 representing a different district that included his Lake Jackson home at the time, but like my father lost in November.

Insanity in Islam

Christianity may have its share of crackpots, but if you are looking for the best value in insanity, pound for pound, you won’t find more than in Islam.

The British Government, in the name of the Queen, has made Salman Rushdie a knight of the realm. Now we could argue about whether his services to literature are really such that this is a deserving honour, but that would involve rational discussion and considered opinions, with diverse views on tastes for various genres of fiction. But how very un-Islamic of us to think this way in a post-Christian secular nation (albeit where Christianity is still the established religion).

Can you believe that the Government of this country considered honouring a Muslim citizen of this country without getting the approval of the religious courts and authorities of another country? How dare we.

You think I’m being silly and sarcastic. I wish I was. I wish I was talking nonsense. According to Pakistan’s religious affairs minister, the bestowing of the knighthood was so grave an offence that any Muslim anywhere in the world is be justified in taking violent action. He specified, “If David’s Daily Diversions › Edit — WordPresssomebody has to attack by strapping bombs to his body to protect the honour of the Prophet then it is justified.”

This wasn’t just an off-hand comment. It was made to the Pakistan National Assembly. Later he told a news agency that Pakistan should sever diplomatic ties with Britain if it did not rescind the knighthood. He actually said:”We demand an apology by the British government.” In case you aren’t clear on this, Rushdie is not, nor ever has been, a citizen of Pakistan.

This didn’t stop about 100 Muslim students in the city of Multan burning effigies of the Queen and Rushdie and shouting, “Kill him, kill him”. Burning effigies. Shouting for murder. Sane? Hmm . . .

And it isn’t a matter of one loose cannon in government. The Majlis-e-Shoora, the Pakistan Parliament, voted unanimously in favour of a resolution calling on Britain to withdraw the knighthood because it is an insult to “the sentiments of Muslims across the world” and has created religious hatred. I will agree that it has exposed religious hatred, but I really think that a problem for the haters and not the hated. I’m afraid that the idea that someone else is causing hatred and causing suicide bombing is patently nuts. In that the entire unanimous Pakistani Parliament is nuts, I’m afraid this is evidence that Islam has an awful lot of insanity on offer.

Leaving a Mark on Society

If you spank your child hard enough to leave a mark in this country, you can go to prison for five years. That’s the way the law was left in 2004 after an attempt to ban all chastisement whatsoever. But they’re back. The Government has announced a full review of the law.

There will be a public consultation period. It will include polling to assess whether attitudes to smacking – and the limits of state intervention in parenting – have changed in recent years.

A number of well-meaning completely misguided children’s charities favour a complete ban. Colette Marshall, the UK director of Save the Children, said: “Children are vulnerable and are currently treated unequally.”

The key piece of information Ms. Marshall is missing is that children are treated unequally because they are, in fact, unequal. Ms. Marshall is missing the very same information as a number of students I teach. I am sometimes told, “You can’t speak to me like that!” or “If you can this, so can I!” I frequently have to explain that I am an adult and they are a child; that I am a teacher and they are a pupil; that I’m in charge and they are not. This seems to come as a complete surprise to some. They seem incredulous that different rules apply to me than to them.

It is this idiocy – complete barmy lunacy in the face of empirical evidence – on the part of the left that has led to the smacking ban in schools and motivates the same move to ban it in the home. We might as well remove the age limits to buying alcohol and tobacco, for driving, and for voting as well. In fact, we probably put society in less danger by doing this than by furthering the smacking ban.

Killing in Iraq

Someone else’s bad news may be good news. I came across a liberal blog that was complaining that Congressional Democrats have withdrawn legislation to require abortifacients to be stocked on all military bases. Foeticide activists are outraged.

“The situation is unconscionable,” says Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation (NAF). “If you are a military woman in Iraq, and you are raped, it is this country’s obligation to make sure you have access to emergency contraception.” Something tells me that Saporta would feel the same way if you are a military woman in Iraq and can’t keep your legs closed. After all, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that the NAF favours the absolute right to abortion on demand.

Saporta is concerned about this because a survey paid for by the US Defense Department found that almost a third of military women reported being the victim of rape or attempted rape during their tenure in the military. Of course this raises two issues that she doesn’t address – why aren’t a third of male soldiers being charged with rape or attempted rape and what are women doing in a war zone? Resolving the latter might solve some of the problem – forget the silliness that women belong in combat situations with men.

But back to the main issue. Cases of pregnancy from rape are very rare. Nonetheless, this is always dragged out as an excuse for protecting foeticidal rights. It’s emotive, but philosophically useless. One crime is unrelated to the other. If every new life is uniquely its own, the circumstances under which it was created are irrelevant.

I suppose the NAF can’t make an strong a case if they say men and women living together in close proximity, in an emotionally charged atmosphere is asking for at least the same level of fornication as you get in civillian society. They don’t want to say that if we are going to pander to those who can keep their pants on outside the service, then we should at least equally provide for them in the service.

I just have to mention one other thing about the NAF. Their website has lots of information on how to stop Crisis Pregnancy Centers.  Instead, the NAF has a toll-free hotline which “offers women unbiased, factual information about pregnancy and abortion in English, Spanish and French.” Did I mention that the NAF is, openly and by its own admission, a professional association of abortion providers. Surely they have no vested interested in shutting down CPCs and anything they tell you about abortion (except about the wads of cash they are stuffing into their pockets and what they do with the chopped up little bodies) is trustworthy.

Online Regulation

Tony Blair is taking his final pot shots before leaving office in a fortnight. He unloaded on the media today.

What worries him most is the online media. He wants a new online journalism regulator.  He said it in such a logical way. Currently the newspapers have the PCC and the broadcasters have OFCOM. As Tony said, “As the technology blurs the distinction between papers and television, it becomes increasingly irrational to have different systems of accountability based on technology that no longer can be differentiated in the old way.” He called online reporting “more pernicious and less balanced”.

The problem is that the newspapers are owned by huge media companies. Likewise, the broadcasters are huge organisations. Once it covers online journalism, every blogger becomes subject to Government regulation.

Once Government regulation steps in, freedom of the cyberpress is in danger. It is not big media giants that will be stepped on – the Government has to grovel at their feet to assure that they are favourably reported. For the small fry, the protection is not there. For a Government that has shown increasing tendency toward totalitarianism with an emphasis on the restriction of, and tailoring of, information, the temptation to squash objectionable independent reporting and commentating may prove too strong.