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Charlie Hebdo Follow-up; Surrender

“Je Suis Charlie!” That was the hashtag activism that came out of the Islamic extremist attack on the offices of the French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo, in response to their cartoons of Mohammed. It was the most French many of us had ever spoken, defending a satire magazine that most of us had never heard of prior to that.

I don’t like it when cartoonists mock Jesus, but in America the First Amendment protects freedom of speech, and so they are allowed to. In France, this same idea was behind the Je Suis Charlie movement. We will not be intimidated by extremists.

Right up until we are.

Recently, the Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief, whose name is in the article in the show notes and which I will not attempt in case I butcher it, waved the white flag of surrender and said that the magazine would no longer draw cartoons of Mohammed. A dozen of his colleagues died for, and the world erupted in support of, their right to mock. All that was for naught. Violence prevailed. The terrorists won.

To be sure, you can understand their concern. Who wants to poke that particular hornet’s nest again? Why put yourself in that literal line of fire? But his reasoning seemed to be strained. He claimed, “The mistakes you could blame Islam for can be found in other religions.” Perhaps, although the offices were not shot up by enraged Evangelicals, cantankerous Catholics, agitated Jews, or belligerent Buddhists. In fact, the terrorism perpetrated worldwide has predominantly come from one particular religion, but it’s not politically correct to notice that. Oh, and interestingly, no word from Charlie Hebdo about no longer drawing cartoons mocking Jesus. They know perfectly well that the Christian response will most likely be a strongly-worded letter. #ReligionOfPeace

So just in case you were wondering whatever happened to all that solidarity and righteous indignation spent in the service of free speech, that’s what happened. The French surrendered.

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    I’ve not lived in a state that has the Whataburger chain, but I know that folks who do love their stuff. The Whataburger chain in Texas decided recently that it would not allow the open carrying of guns in any of its restaurants. Management said that some patrons felt uncomfortable being around someone with a visible firearm. They will, however, still allow those carrying a legal concealed weapon to enjoy their burgers on the premises.

    Let me just say that I will defend Whataburger’s right to deny service to open-carry patrons. It’s their right to determine who they will and won’t serve, or who they allow on their premises, even if what those patrons are doing is perfectly lawful. They can conduct their business as they see fit, and potential customers can choose to eat where they want. This is what we call “freedom” and “the free market”.

    But boy oh boy, if they are ever asked to cater a same-sex wedding, they’d better comply. It’s much less dangerous to the life of your business to exclude lawful gun owners. If you think it’s silly to create a hypothetical situation where someone would ask Whataburger to cater a wedding, just ask Memories Pizza in Indiana how silly it is to ask a hypothetical question about catering a same-sex wedding with pizza. But you may find that difficult to ask; their answer closed their business. #LoveWins?

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      Lessons From the Greek Tragedy

      Imagine, if you will, a guy who fills out a loan application, but lies on it about his current financial situation, or he tells the truth about his bad situation but signs a promise to get his financial house in order if he can get this loan. Now let’s say he doesn’t make the changes he promised, but spends the money on the same things that got him into the mess he was in before the loan. When it’s time to make payments on the loan, he complains he doesn’t have the money and wants to renegotiate the terms of the existing loan and get a new one.

      You’re the loan officer. What do you do? The guy’s telling you he needs the money to eat and to pay his other bills. But he didn’t change his free-spending ways like he promised and now he’s in a bind again. Is it prudent to give more cash to a guy who can’t change his spending habits, and can’t repay what you’ve already given him?

      No, it’s not. That’s not being heartless; that’s just being a good steward of the bank’s money. And if you keep giving this guy money, and he doesn’t repay it, what about the depositors who’s money it is that you’re handing out? When they need their money, where will it be?

      The guy I’m talking about is the country of Greece. And just like Margaret Thatcher’s description, their socialism was working great, right up until they ran out of other people’s money. You can only soak the rich for so long, and so they went to the European and international banks for bailouts. And more bailouts. But each time, though they promised to mend their free-spending, socialist ways, they didn’t and wound up in the same situation.

      There are 2 major problems that this situation has highlighted. First, the European Union has certainly caused state sovereignty to seep out of the individual countries, such that it’s understandable why citizens of Greece would be insisting that the EU be held at least partially responsible. If Greece must bow to the EU on some matters, the EU must be willing to help. With great power-grabs come great responsibility.

      But the other major problem is one that our own country needs to come to terms with. The Greek government got in over its head with promises it made to various groups. Welfare, pension, and other government payments got to the point where merely servicing those was drowning the country in debt. They made the promises, so they had to keep them. And when the government over-promised, the people voted in politicians who would give them more stuff, until the government had to tax and tax, and borrow and borrow, to keep up. And all that taxing and borrowing reduces economic growth and devalues the currency. So more taxing and more borrowing, and the death spiral continues.

      So then, who should pay for the bad choices of the Greek people? Should we allow the Greeks to default on their obligations, and then have the German and the French people have to bail out their banks? How in the world is that fair? “But what about the Greek people?”, those on the Left were asking when those Greek people voted to stiff their creditors. “Why should they be punished for the actions of their government?” Well, because they voted for the guy who squandered the money and walked into the bank to ask for more. And if the Greeks are let off the hook, there are other European countries looking to try the same ploy. I’m looking at you, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

      The problem is that the Greeks poked a big hole in their own boat, and no amount of bailing by themselves will keep them afloat. More bailers, if you will, would help, and the EU is going to continue to help in the bailing, but the Greeks need to agree to quit making the hole bigger, and take steps to plug it. That’s going to take some hard choices on their part, but that’s the problem with socialism. Once you get used to the idea of free money and benefits, you get to thinking that they are your “right”. Going back to fiscal responsibility is a much harder road to travel.

      The Greeks are learning that lesson. Well, I hope they are. I’m not so sure after they voted to default on their loans. I also hope that we’ll learn it, too. But I begin to wonder about my fellow countrymen when I see how popular presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is, who is an avowed socialist. “Ignore the News, Vote for Sanders!”

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        In June of 2013, the Supreme Court’s liberals declared that the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton, was unconstitutional, because, as they said, the power of the individual state in defining marriage is “of central relevance", and the decision to grant same-sex couples the right to marry is "of immense import." Basically, it’s the state, and not the federal government, which should determine what marriage is and license accordingly.

        Two years to the day later, those same liberals overrode those immensely important marriage laws in 14 states and proclaimed same-sex marriage from the federal bench. And it once again proves something I’ve said on this podcast so many times; for the Left, it is all about politics. Constitutional matters, federalism, and some supposed regard for the rule of law, all of it, take a back seat in order to get their political agenda passed. The individual state’s ability to define what marriage is, is of central relevance, right up until it isn’t.

        Chief Justice John Roberts, in his dissent, noted this, "This court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us.” Right, that’s what states were allowed to determine on their own, and in fact it was going that way with, as I said, only 14 states left holding on to traditional marriage.

        I will say, as an aside, that this thought by Roberts – that the court is not a legislature – was rather ironic, given his previous rewriting of ObamaCare. It’s like two, two, two Supreme Court chief justices in one!

        Let me ask you this; which would have been better? Should the Court have allowed same-sex marriage to work its way through the culture, gaining support as it had been doing, or do what it did and just impose it by judicial fiat? Before you answer, consider how well that worked for abortion. It is still a hard fought battle in the culture, and in the state legislatures as well. Rather than let it organically happen democratically, abortion was imposed, and the backlash has been with us ever since. I oppose abortion, and I also oppose a government that will override me and my state’s rights to govern ourselves. I oppose same-sex marriage, but again, the Court’s liberals (and if I may, it seems that liberals in general) have no problem holding state law immensely important one day, and the next day overruling them, so long as their political agenda is served. As I mentioned in the previous episode, the process is just as important as the outcome, and the process, both here and with the ObamaCare ruling, are deeply flawed and set a bad precedent for future courts to reinterpret words, and override the will of the people.

        There have been many predictions about what comes next. Some, on the pages of TIME magazine, are already pushing polygamy. That effort has been going on for years, but it got a boost with this ruling. There are those already calling for the abolishing of tax exempt status for religious institutions – churches and religious schools – that won’t teach the liberal orthodoxy about same-sex marriage or won’t perform them. These are likely coming down the road. But, as Erick Erickson noted, the first thing to come will be … silence. The day of the ruling, a newspaper in Pennsylvania said they wouldn’t print letters to the editor on the topic anymore. I have a friend who, when asked what the Bible says about homosexuality, gave a straight answer (so to speak) and was immediately pounced on for being bigoted and hateful. You don’t have to thump anyone with a Bible anymore; it just has to be in the room for someone to claim you’re evil.

        So silence will fall, but just because you don’t hear a particular opinion anymore doesn’t mean it’s not there. However, if a baker or a photographer can be put out of business for not participating in a same-sex wedding, how much more of a target are those churches that won’t perform them for what 5 justices have now deemed is a “fundamental right”?


        With the ObamaCare and the same-sex marriage rulings, the court has done two things. It has taken power away from you at both the federal and state level.

        If you ever complained that Washington, DC was unresponsive to the needs of the people, the ObamaCare ruling should bother you, at the very least. That is, unless you’re celebrating the topic of the ruling, then the process is likely nothing you’re concerned about. I’ve seen it in my Facebook feed. However, from this day forward, federal agencies like the IRS, and all the way up to the President, don’t have to restrain themselves to the actual wording of the laws Congress passes. ObamaCare said you got subsidies through exchanges established by the states, but an unelected federal agency changed that. Your representatives, and by extension you, have lost more influence. The government can do what it wants.

        And if you ever complained that your state government was unresponsive to the needs of the people, the same-sex marriage ruling should bother you, too. But again, the winners are too busy celebrating to see how this, too, has erased their influence and yours at the state level. It just takes 5 Supreme Court justices to invalidate anything a state does. Vote however you want, call your state representative as much as you want, but in the end, a majority of 9 unelected justices get the final say for over 320 million people. One man, one vote, indeed.

        If you celebrate these rulings, and if you’ve ever been a proponent of power to the people, or you’ve ever put forth the idea that every vote should count, you either have not been paying attention, or have no idea at all what those phrases even mean. At least, I’d really hope that this can all be explained by ignorance and apathy, because the alternative is worse; willful misuse of the founding principles of this country, and that will bring us down faster than any law you can pass.

        The Left loves the platitude “Government is just another name for the things we choose to do together.” Of course, by the phrase “choose to do together”, they mean “use a panel of 9 lawyers to force everyone to do what they want”. Platitudes are useful in the meantime, but in the end, for the Left, it’s all about politics.

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          The Supreme Court case, King v Burwell, was essentially a question of whether the ObamaCare law would be interpreted as written, or as it was meant to be written, as best as the justices could divine the intent of Congress. The particular issue was whether the IRS could provide subsidies to those who needed them in states where they had their own health insurance exchanges, or in all states, even if they didn’t have an exchange.

          What the law said was that the IRS would administer those subsidies through the exchanges “established by the states”. However, what the IRS did was to funnel them through state and federal exchanges, which is not what the law, y’know, actually said. They essentially reinterpreted the law to mean that exchanges not established by the states qualified as exchanges established by the states.

          Some states said, no, that’s an unconstitutional reading of the law. There are other places in the law where it specifically refers to the states and the federal government combines, but it does not here. That is true. Here’s something else painfully true; this particular wording was exactly what was meant when the law was written.

          How do we know this? Jonathan Gruber, the well-paid architect of the law itself, told us so. It was a classic carrot-and-stick approach. The carrot was billions in tax dollars. The stick was that if you didn’t set up a state exchange, you wouldn’t get any of it. There a link in the show notes to a video explaining all this and him saying, “I hope that that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges.”

          This was not a case of trying to read a crystal ball and discover the intent. This was not trying to reach into the minds and writings of the founding fathers and trying to glean what they meant on some obscure constitutional point. You can’t search YouTube to find out what Washington and Jefferson were thinking, But Gruber is all over the Internet, on and off the record.

          This was a game of chicken. Would the states blink first, and all setup exchanges, or would the feds blink and change the law. As it turned out, the fed’s blinked, but instead of changing the law, they just did what they wanted, and the IRS (which, last I checked, was not part of the legislative branch of the government) ruled that it would provide subsidies through the federal exchange as well.

          And Chief Justice John Roberts and his cohort said, “Eh, seems legit.” OK, the ruling was a bit longer than that – 21 pages longer – but in the end that’s what they did. They claimed that if the subsidies were stopped it would ruin the implementation of ObamaCare, ignoring completely that that was the point all along.

          Justice Scalia, writing in his typically entertaining dissent (which is basically the high point of this whole ruling), said that if an exchange not established by a state is actually an exchange established by a state, then words have no meaning. Truer words, that do have meaning, have never been spoken.

          I don’t think those who are celebrating and praising this ruling have any idea at all what it could mean in the future for the power government has over us. And by “those who are celebrating”, I mean, generally, Democrats. The process, however fatally flawed and upside down it is, doesn’t matter as long as they get what they want. It’s always about politics.

          From this point on, federal government agencies can now interpret the law any way they please. Really. Restrictions that were in place in the ObamaCare law were cheerfully ignored in furtherance of a political agenda, and the Supreme Court gave them 6 thumbs up. George Will, writing at the Washington Post, put it this way.

          The most durable damage from Thursday’s decision is not the perpetuation of the ACA, which can be undone by what created it — legislative action. The paramount injury is the court’s embrace of a duty to ratify and even facilitate lawless discretion exercised by administrative agencies and the executive branch generally.

          Theprocess has been butchered by this ruling. Sure, ObamaCare proponents got what they wanted, but at a price to their own power as a people that I’m sure they are blissfully unaware of. The political process of a government restrained by law, influenced by the people, which has been slowly eroding anyway, just did a nose dive.

          You say lobbyists have too much power? I’d agree, because they just had to go to one place – Congress – to spend their dollars budgeted for graft. Now, they can bypass the middleman and go straight to the IRS or any other federal agency and bribe an unelected bureaucrat. And that bureaucrat doesn’t have a campaign coffer he or she needs to keep funded, so it’ll be cheaper for the lobbyist. It’s a win-win! But remember, you don’t figure into either of those two wins.

          Some folks, when I bring this up, claim I’m just mad because my side lost. Well, I don’t deny that I don’t like the outcome of the ruling, but even beyond that, and looming larger, is the power grab I see in DC. Unfortunately, all I get in dissent is, “Blah blah blah. Too bad. You lost. I don’t care.” Yes, literally, those words.

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            On Wednesday evenings around the country, many churches hold mid-week services or children’s programs, or bible studies. Sometimes, all three. A few weeks ago, a pastor was leading one of those Bible studies when a visitor came into the church and sat in on the group. He was welcomed to join in. He requested to sit next to the pastor, and so he did.

            An hour passed by with readings from the Bible and discussion, perhaps about what the text meant, perhaps about how to apply it personally. Even, perhaps, asking for the visitor’s thoughts, though I would imagine that the group, not wishing to create an awkward situation, probably didn’t push him to participate in an unfamiliar setting, content to let him listen in, and yet willing to let him speak should he want to.

            I don’t know what was discussed, or what the passage was that was the topic of the evening, but the visitor later said that the people were very nice to him. So nice, he said, that he almost … almost … didn’t do what he had come there to do. But in the end, he did, and when he was done, the pastor and 8 others had been shot dead.

            Dylann Roof had come there to start a race war; to start an uprising that would supposedly boil over into a full-blown conflict.

            At this point, we can only guess what he imagined the sequence of events would be leading to that war. Certainly he had seen the news reports about riots in the streets in other cities when a white man killed a black man, so it’s conceivable that he thought his actions would create the same situation, only more violent, because unlike many of those other instances, these would be killings that were obviously pre-mediated, with no other explanation than hatred. He wouldn’t have any self-defense case. He wouldn’t be a cop who may, or may not, have thought his life was in danger. No, nothing would be murky about this. This would be a clear cut case of racially-motivated murder, possibly causing an even more violent reaction than those previously.

            But all his plans were taken apart piece by piece, because of who he targeted. He targeted those who believed that you should love your enemies, and pray for those that hurt you. He targeted those who believe that the merciful are blessed. He targeted those who are told to forgive as freely as they themselves have been forgiven.

            He targeted a Christian Bible study. And while he was committing those acts of hatred, of malice, of evil, he had no idea that he was also opening up the floodgates of the love that those he killed professed. Those that survived, and hundreds of others in Charleston, though undeniably hurting, expressed that love to him. A reporter covering the crowd that stood outside the arraignment had a difficult time keeping his composure in the face of such love.

            Inside the proceedings, instead of acrimony and hatred, surviving family members expressed the forgiveness that the evil had certainly not expected.

            I would like to note that the faith community in other cities with unrest – Baltimore, Cleveland, and others – did take a stand and tried to calm and heal the tensions in their area, sometimes meeting with gangs to come to a truce, sometimes with special services for those in need because of the riots. But because there were riots, they got the headlines, and the tweets, and the Facebook posts. But in Charleston, riots didn’t happen, so they didn’t mask what good things were happening.

            So now it can be seen, and it is surprising, amazing and, dare I say, perplexing many who see the love of God in action. It’s been there, perhaps in the background, not grabbing the front page, but it’s been there nonetheless.

            There are those that believe that God, or even just religion, isn’t necessary to express this kind of love. We can, so the idea goes, work this up within ourselves without any help, because the capacity is clearly there in people. I would say that, yes, the capacity is there, because we are made in the image of God, and since God is love, we too have that ability. But while we, within ourselves, might be able to approximate the appearance of such a love, it is but a dirty reflection of what is truly possible. If, instead, we let, not our love, but God’s love shine through us, that’s when you’ll see what it really looks like, and it will be surprising, amazing, and perplexing.

            Some will ask, “Where was God? Why wasn’t He protecting His church?” That question has been asked many times, in many situations, throughout history. Perhaps one of the earliest examples of an answer to this comes from a man who was sold into slavery by his brothers. Through a series of events, over the course of years, he became second in command of the biggest economic power of his time. And in that position, was able to return good for evil, and save his family from a major catastrophe. You may recognize the Biblical story of Joseph, the son of Jacob. Or you may recognize the musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. Either way, when his brothers felt extremely uncomfortable in the presence of the one they hurt, Joseph forgives them, telling them that, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…” We don’t always get to see the big picture – we may not live to see the big picture – but for those who trust Him, God uses the evil to work out the good. Dylann Roof intended to start a race war. He failed because God’s people let Him shine through them.

            If you’re wondering how such forgiveness and love can really happen, I have a suggestion. Somewhere near you, very likely, is a church. Now, you don’t have to jump in completely to their Sunday service. You might just want to test the waters. Try getting your feet wet at, perhaps, a Wednesday night Bible study. One of those almost stopped a gunman filled with hate. Imagine what it could do for you.

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              How One-Party Rule Has Affected Cities

              A few thoughts on this particular subject.

              Chicago, Illinois; the safest city in the US because of its strict gun control laws. Heh, no, not really. It’s got some of the highest gun crime in the country in spite of, or perhaps because of, it’s strict gun control laws. Gun control is one of those things that liberals insist works in spite of the reality to the contrary.

              Here’s another: in spite of Chicago being a liberal paradise – not having a single Republican governor for over 80 years since 1931 – somehow the city’s economy is crumbling. It’s Democrats who keep insisting that they, and not Republicans, know how to bring the poor out of their situation, and believe that if we only spend enough money on a problem, it’ll get solved by government. And yet Moody’s Investor Service, which rates, among other things, the municipal bonds of cities, has downgraded Chicago’s credit rating to junk level. It also said that the city’s future outlook is negative, which I guess means that someday the credit rating could drop to “extra junk”, “junkier”, or maybe “double secret junk”.

              I’ve mentioned Detroit, Michigan in the past. They’ve had Democratic mayors since 1962; about 30 years less than Chicago, but still over half a century. And yet the economy and infrastructure have seen better days. The city of Baltimore, Maryland was in the headlines for riots over the death of a black youth in police custody, and the state of its economy came to the fore during that; an economy where poverty was still rampant. And its mayors? Only 1 Republican since 1947.

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                What’s Your Opinion of Opinion Polling?

                The founder of our Stones Cry Out group blog, Rick Brady, was much more a student of polling than I, but I wanted to give a few observations of my own, such as they are.

                The science of polling the general public has had its good and bad times, and it appears it’s going through one of those rough patches at the moment. Mark Olson, who also blogs here, refers to polls as “cricket races”; basically a snapshot of where things are in a particular race, that has as much bearing on our lives as a race amongst crickets. If it’s a slow news day, release the results from a poll, and call it news.

                Some might put the word “science” in the phrase “science of polling” in scare quotes, not convinced that it’s much of a science at all. I do have some respect for those whose lives are in various statistical occupations. It seems like a black art, but, for example, one pharmaceutical client I worked for years ago had a Quality Assurance group that tested the products coming into the warehouse before they could be shipped out, and they explained quite a bit to me.  I couldn’t relate what they said now – I really can’t remember it all – but basically, given a good random sample, they could give you a good reading on whether or not the batch that just came in was good enough to ship out. Yeah, the only way to be totally sure was to test it all, but to get close enough to 100% sure without going overboard, there was a lot of science backing up their procedures.

                Sampling people, on the other hand, is nowhere near as straightforward as sampling pharmaceuticals. People can say one thing, and yet do another. Which apparently happened in a big way over in the UK recently, when the conservative Tories trounced the liberal Labor Party in national elections, gaining their first outright majority since 1992. This even though Nate Silver, the US polling expert, had a look at all the UK polls and proclaimed that a Tory win of a majority of seats in Parliament was “vanishingly small when the polls closed – around 1 in 500.”

                So much for that prediction. But the predictive value of polls is lessened when the pollsters themselves hide some of their results. It happened in the UK, and it happens quite a bit, apparently. No pollster wants to publish results that wind up being way out of line with those from other polls. No one wants to be the outlier, but that’s what happened in the UK. A last-minute poll by one group got the percentages virtually dead on to what the voting results were, but they didn’t publish it, “chickening out”, as the group’s CEO explained. It’s a herd mentality that we see in news coverage as well.

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                  Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act

                  The state of Indiana has come under fire for passing their version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA, as it’s called, was passed in response to court cases that eroded First Amendment protections of the exercise of religion. Religious freedom used to be judged on a case-by-case basis, considering whether each law had specific exemptions for religious groups. Charles Schumer, Democratic Senator from New York, introduced a bill in 1993 to set a standard on how religious freedom cases should be considered; using the same standard that another First Amendment protection – freedom of speech – was adjudicated. I’ll get to the details of that standard in a moment. The bill passed the US Senate 97-3, and by acclamation in the House. Bill Clinton signed it on November 16, 1993. Today, that same action at the state level is being called “bigoted” by Democrats.

                  States have been doing this ever since a Supreme Court decision said that the federal RFRA didn’t apply to the states. Most of the states that have one use language identical to the one Clinton signed. But while religious freedom used to be supported by Democrats, the rise of a particular protected class (and reliable Democratic voting bloc) changed all that; homosexuals. Once again, as we have seen so many times, politics trumps everything else for the Left, even, apparently, the Bill of Rights.

                  The fear being stoked is that this will allow Christian businesses to turn away gays just for being gay. Here are a couple of articles that are lists of frequently asked questions about the Indiana RFRA, and they explain, no, that sort of discrimination is not protected. If a Christian denies service to someone simply because they are gay, on the grounds that it’s a sin according to Christian doctrine, you would have a tough time proving those religious grounds in court. According to Christianity, we are all sinners. None of us are perfect. So that business owner would have to deny service to everyone, including him- or herself.

                  Participation, one way or another, in a same-sex marriage ceremony has been the typical cause of contention. And all of the examples that I’ve seen that have been taken to court are regarding business owners that would bake cakes, take pictures, or arrange flowers for a gay customer for any purpose other than a same-sex wedding ceremony. This is most definitely not discrimination against gays because they’re gay. It is, however, a religious objection to a ceremony that the business owner does not wish to participate in.

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                    It’s milestone time! Episode 100 of the Consider This Podcast has been released; conservative commentary in 10 minutes or less. (OK, but since this is a special occasion, that time limit has gone out the window.)

                    Well, I made it all the way to episode 100! If you’ve been listening, thanks so much. If you haven’t, might as well start now.

                    I start out the show with greetings and feedback from listeners. Yes, there are people out there actually listening to this, and I appreciate it very much.

                    Then we take a trip back to Camelot, as Mark Twain’s character did in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”. In that book, there is a short chapter about … economics. No, really. And it’s trying to teach a lesson that, over a hundred years later, we’re still having to relearn.

                    Let me know your thoughts on these or other subjects. Click on the link for the show notes and ways to send your feedback, including calling 267-CALL-CT-0 (267-225-5280) or emailing considerthis@ctpodcasting.com. Subscribe to the podcast in iTunesStitcherBlubrry, or Player.fm.

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                      (Yes, it’s been a while since I blogged here. I’ve been busy with my podcast “Consider This”. However, I just had to come out of blogging semi-retirement to comment on this.)

                      Being argued today at the high court is King v Burwell, a lawsuit against ObamaCare (also known in some circles as the Affordable Care Act). This is a set of questions and answers that I imagine many people have about this.

                      Q: What is this case all about?

                      A: The crux of the issue is a 4-word phrase inside the massive law; “established by the States”. The subsidies supplied by the IRS, according to the text of the law, were to only go to those who applied for insurance via exchanges “established by the States”. If they used the federal exchange (HealthCare.gov), that is not “established by the States” so the subsidies wouldn’t apply.

                      That’s according to the plain language of the law, and according to Jonathan Gruber, a major influence in the creation of the law.

                      What happened was that the IRS gave out subsidies to those without state exchanges anyway. The lawsuit is saying that the government broke the law in doing so.

                      Q: What case is the government making?

                      A: That the rest of the law, taken as a whole, makes it clear that withholding subsidies from those who didn’t get their insurance via exchanges “established by the States” was not the intent.

                      Q: Does it actually say in the law somewhere, specifically, that those people should get subsidies?

                      A: Not that I’ve read. In fact, those articles I’ve seen that have written in defense of the subsidies (like this article by Robert Schlesinger in USA Today) don’t cite any other text that would buttress that opinion. Rather, they argue about the results if the subsidies were overturned.

                      To me, that sounds like they’re arguing that a law should say what the implementers want it to say, regardless of what the law itself says. That’s a precedent I don’t think we want to create. For example, if a Republican President vetoes legislation, and a Democratic Congress overrides that veto, is the President free to implement the provisions of the law he or she likes and ignore others? I’d say No, and I think those arguing for the ObamaCare interpretation would agree with me if the parties today were reversed.

                      The IRS did issue a ruling saying that they would, in fact, give subsidies to those in states without exchanges, but as far as I’m aware, the IRS is not part of the legislative branch.

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                        Widespread Adult Stem Cells

                        Adult stem cells may be more plentiful than we thought.

                        With the plethora of research and published studies on stem cells over the last decade, many would say that the definition of stem cells is well established and commonly agreed upon. However, a new review article appearing in the July 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal , suggests that scientists have only scratched the surface of understanding the nature, physiology and location of these cells. Specifically, the report suggests that embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells may not be the only source from which all three germ layers in the human body (nerves, liver or heart and blood vessels) can develop. The review article suggests that adult pluripotent stem cells are located throughout the body and are able to become every tissue, provided these cells receive the right instructions.

                        No need for the ethical minefield that are embryonic stem cells.

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                          What Works and What Doesn’t: Health Care

                          (This is part of the script for the latest episode of my podcast, "Consider This!". You can listen to it on the website, or subscribe to it in iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Blubrry, Player.fm, or the podcast app of your choice.)

                          Liberal columnist Ezra Klein, writing in the Washington Post, June of 2009:

                          If you ordered America’s different health systems worst-functioning to best, it would look like this: individual insurance market, employer-based insurance market, Medicare, Veterans Health Administration.

                          Yeah, he really said that, and it was obviously untrue back then. But that didn’t stop his love of socialized medicine. Here he is again in 2011:

                          The thing about the Veteran’s Administration’s health-care system? It’s socialized. Not single payer. Not heavily centralized. Socialized. As in, it employs the doctors and nurses. Owns the hospitals. And though I think there’s some good reason to believe its spending growth is somewhat understated — it benefits heavily from medical trainees, for instance — accounting for that difference still means a remarkable recent performance.

                          He also called the VA system, “the program is one of the most remarkable success stories in American public policy.” Of course now everyone’s saying that the system has been awful for decades, so you can’t blame Obama for it. While that’s certainly true, you can blame liberal pundits who have been trying to suggest for years that the performance of the VA means that ObamaCare ought to work. It seems like they’ll say anything to get their policies enacted. Never mind reality.

                          And they’re making the same claim as a certain presidential candidate did 6 years or so ago. So in a sense, you can blame the President for foisting on us a system based on one that was, and is, a money pit and an abject failure, and which is utterly dishonest about those failures. They can, or should, be able to see what works and what doesn’t, but I guess Obama is going with the idea that this time, it’s gonna’ work.

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                            What Works and What Doesn’t: Gun Control

                            (This is part of the script for the latest episode of my podcast, “Consider This!”. You can listen to it on the website, or subscribe to it in iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Blubrry, Player.fm, or the podcast app of your choice.)

                            For the month of May, 2013, the number of shooting victims in New York City went up 43% vs. May of last year. New mayor Bill deBlasio is proud of this. Well, OK, not the statistic per se, but of the fact that he’s made the New York police force reactive instead of proactive. Sure, 129 people were shot last month, but hey, at least gang-bangers are free from having to be stopped and frisked. I mean really, you have to have your priorities, people!

                            OK, here’s the thing. If liberals like deBlasio think that guns are the problem, why are they against getting them off the street? I understand the personal liberty issues, and I think they are worth serious consideration, but was any judgment ever passed on them in this case? If not, the mayor is reaping what he’s sown. Well, actually the citizens of the Big Apple are the ones getting reaped.

                            Look into those questions, but meanwhile, if you see what works and what doesn’t, and still ignore it, you might be a Democrat. And sure enough, that’s what he is.

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                              (This is part of the script for the latest episode of my podcast, “Consider This!”. You can listen to it on the website, or subscribe to it in iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Blubrry, Player.fm, or the podcast app of your choice.)

                              Sometimes people ask what the real difference is between the Republicans and Democrats, and sometimes, for certain issues, I’m inclined to agree; not much. However, when it comes to promoting economic growth, there’s certainly a trend that favors one over the other.

                              It’s been said that the states are the laboratories of American democracy. Though more and more autonomy has been taken from them by the federal government, there is still enough that one can look across the country from sea to shining sea and see what works and what doesn’t. So what has the government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis told us about the year 2013?

                              Here were the top 10 states in GDP growth:

                              • North Dakota — 9.7 percent
                              • Wyoming — 7.6 percent
                              • West Virginia — 5.1 percent
                              • Oklahoma — 4.2 percent
                              • Idaho — 4.1 percent
                              • Colorado — 3.8 percent
                              • Utah — 3.8 percent
                              • Texas — 3.7 percent
                              • South Dakota — 3.1 percent
                              • Nebraska — 3.0 percent

                              This was all while the nation’s GDP growth was just 1.8 percent. Tom Blumer writing at the NewsBusters website noted that only Colorado and West Virginia could be considered something other than deep-red states — and despite having several prominent Democrats in statewide and national office, they both arguably lean red.

                              And let’s not forget, as I covered back in February, that Wisconsin, under Republican Governor Scott Walker, went from running a deficit to a $1 billion surplus by cutting taxes.

                              In all of this, you’d think that someone would have predicted such an economic outcome from these policies. Oh wait, they did, and those people are called “conservatives”. So if you indeed see what works and what doesn’t, and still ignore it, you might be a Democrat.

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