The Political Animal

Here I generally explain, rant, or think out loud about everything from Human Rights to petty politics. I hate empty rhetoric of partisan jargon, the dumb ideas of single-minded activists, the ratings-minded information that has overwhelmed regular news sources, and the tabloid nature of most internet blog sites. I want to create an oasis of common sense on the internet. I also want you to comment on the posts you read. I always like comments.

The Worst App in the History of Apps.

So, I found this crazy sexual consent app, tried it out (ahem… not completely, just all the technical parts), and wrote a review of it on its page in the App Store. This is my first iPhone App review, so first read the short article and watch the short video in the link below, and then let me know how I did on my review.

Title: The Worst App in the History of Apps

Description: It is difficult to express show terrible this app is, but I will try. Let’s start at the beginning.

Problem 1 - Total Lack of Purpose. This app’s purpose is to make consent to sexual activity clear by selecting yes, confirming you are not drunk, typing in your phone number, and confirming your yes with a verification code. However, NEVER ARE YOU ASKED IF YOU WANT TO HAVE SEX!!! (This seems to be rather important for sexual consent.)

Problem 2 - Unbelievable Ambiguity. Instead of clearly asking for sexual consent, the app asks, “Are we Good2 Go?” While this COULD mean “Do you want to have sex?”, it is ambiguous enough to also mean “Do you want to pay for this Uber with my nifty app?” The user never is told, and honestly, the format is more conducive to a variation on Uber.

Problem 3 - The App Does Not Verify Intoxication Levels. This is important. The app claims it gauges your intoxication level, but it merely asks a survey question. There ARE products out there that CAN verify you blood alcohol content like (like the BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer), and this is NOT that. Instead, a drunk person is asked if thy want to have sex, if they say yes, then they are asked if they are drunk, and even if they are honest, and then get rejected, they can try as many times as their drunk ass needs until they get what they want in the drunken moment: drunken sex. This also does not clear up the ambiguity in Problem 2, because drunkenly paying for someone’s Uber is also something that you’d want to avoid.

Problem 4 - An App for Manipulation. There is nothing in this app that keeps one individual person from holding his phone, selecting all the right “yes” answers, and then entering the verification consent number himself. This is especially true, because the verification text is short enough to where YOU CAN SEE THE SECRET NUMBER ON THE SMS PUSH NOTIFICATION, EVEN IF THE iPHONE IS LOCKED!!!! There is no privacy in that, and there is no verification in that either. If the man has your phone number and your phone, he can make you electronically consent to sex even if you never let him inside your phone.

Problem 5 - An App for Rapists. That’s not an exaggeration. While I’ve given a long diatribe about how this app DOESN’T confirm consent, in that it DOESN’T ask for sex and DOESN’T confirm someone is sober and DOESN’T confirm the user is even the user, what it DOES do is allow some slimy rapist to have some mechanism to say to a hung-over girl or an investigating official, “No, no! She DID consent! See!? We did it right here! I have this app! I took a screen shot! See the time? Check her phone records! There! Right there! See? It was her!” Now while this could be overcome in court using the problems I identified before, the real trouble is that the girl might not know that, and it might even be too embarassed or confused to report it for precisely that reason. So screw you, Good2Go. You’re now officially part of the problem.

Problem 6 - Terrible Liability Problem. I caught this one since I’m in law school, but this is actually the good news for the world at large. You see, when you download the app, it makes you sign a terms and service which contains some fairly boiler-plate Cover-Your-Ass language, saying “You specifically acknowledge that Good2Go shall not be liable for user submission or the defamatory, offensive, or illegal conduct of any third party and that the risk of harm or damage from the foregoing rests entirely with you.”

The problem is, you don’t have to read or agree to this language to use the app. All you have to do is receive a text message (or have somebody else receive, on your unknowing behalf) by looking at your phone screen, and then entering ina code on the OTHER person’s phone. That means, the person who could be damaged on Problem number 5 did NOT agree to this and did NOT waive any liability. Therefore, they COULD sue for some injury that aided the illegal act of a third party from the use of Good2Go. Not only is it bad product design, it’s bad lawyering! Hopefully, in the darkest cloud (Problem 5), this could at least be something of a silver lining.


http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/app-lets-users-give-consent-raises-privacy-concerns-article-1.1958177

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The Catholic Contraception Constitutional Crisis

I am a Protestant Christian. Therefore, my religious stand on contraception is “Wrap it and tap it to your heart’s content (as long as you’re married).” However, the current Catholic Contraception Constitutional Crisis before the nation at large should concern me just as much as it should concern a Catholic, or anyone else for that matter. If you only to stand against abrogations of the Constitution when they directly subjugate you, by the time it directly subjugates you, there will be no one else left to defend you. A threat to the Constitution anywhere is a threat to the Constitution everywhere.*

There has been a progression to this crisis. Things change, and I’m sure they will keep changing, but it all began with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) on March 23, 2010. That is how the government first became involved in forcing people and organizations, including Catholic organizations, to buy health insurance that matches certain rules which the government sets. One of these rules, which Obamacare lets the Executive Branch set, is the source of the crisis regarding the Free Exercise of Religion regarding Catholic Hospitals.

 It’s worth making a historical note that when anti-Federalists in the late 1700s were arguing for the Bill of Rights as a condition for approving the Constitution, the counter-argument from the Federalists was not that the Bill of Rights was bad, but that the Constitution gave no authority to the government which would make it possible for these rights to be violated. Furthermore, the Federalists said that if you put a fence around certain important freedoms (the Bill of Rights) it will lead to an assumption that the government may expand in all other areas not listed. In other words, you will be fighting your battles at the fence of the Bill of Rights, when the battle should never even approach that fence.

Now, of course I’m glad that the anti-federalists won this argument about the Bill of Rights, because the Federalist counter-argument was incredibly short sighted on how easy it is for the government to violate rights and how loose future generations have been on the Constitutional limits on government authority. However, it is worth noting that there are two issues at play in this debate: First, “How could the government so blatantly ignore the Free Exercise rights of Catholics that many will be pushed to civil disobedience against this rule to satisfy their conscience?” Second, “Why is this issue even being argued, as the Constitution gives absolutely no power to the federal government to decide what particular things should be in health insurance policies and who must buy those policies?”

The remainder of this piece will focus on the first question, but take note of the second question and realize why this crisis even exists. It is good that millions are standing up for their First Amendment Free Exercise rights against the President of the United States, but it is horrible that they have to do so in the first place.

The next stop in the timeline is when the rule suggestion, approved and strongly supported by the Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius, came that all employers must cover contraception and abortifacient drugs at no cost to the employee. Churches and other houses of worship were exempt, but religious organizations such as Catholic hospitals were not exempt.

It is curious why one type of Catholic organization gets an exception, but another type of Catholic organization does not. It could be, as Joseph Knippenberg argues on the First Things blog, that the Obama administration takes the same view that was argued by his administration in the Hosana-Tabor Supreme Court case, where the solicitor general stated that the government’s power was not subject to Free Exercise constraints of the religious school in question because, in their words, the fact is,

this is not a church operating internally to promulgate and express religious belief internally.  It is a church that has decided to open its doors to the public to provide the service, socially beneficial service, of educating children for a fee, in compliance with State compulsory education laws.

In other words the government did not see the Hosana-Tabor School as the real church, just like the government does not currently view Catholic hospitals as the real church either. Real churches promulgate and express religious belief internally. As soon as you open your doors to the public to provide a socially beneficial service, you drop your Free Exercise rights which allow you to guide your actions by your religious convictions. To keep those Free Exercise rights, you must operate “internally to promulgate and express religious belief internally,” a telling grammatical redundancy. If you keep to yourself, stay out of the public, and only do things internally, then there will be no Free Exercise problems.

Huh? By this logic, caring for the sick in society at large is not a proper function of a real church. After all, the hospital goes out into the public to provide a service. So what if Christianity commands its followers to care for the sick? They’re offering a public service; therefore, they don’t get any exceptions. What about evangelistic organizations? They seek to promulgate and express religious belief, but they intend to do it externally. Are they also not “real churches”? The ignorance of religious practice here is astounding. When the government, not individual organizations or individual people by their own conviction, decides what is actually religious and what is not, then the thing we used to call “The Right of Free Exercise of Religion,” is diminished from God-given to hypothetical.

Before, the way it worked was that Catholic organizations bought health insurance for their employees that did not include coverage for contraceptives, while those individuals who did not agree with that church doctrine would have to find and buy contraceptives on their own. This was the compromise already in place. This allows the organization to allow its religious belief guide the way it spends its money, and it allows women to buy contraceptives themselves if they disagree with the organization on this stance. However, this compromise is being taken away because the administration believes, as President Obama said in his press conference on the contraception compromise (more on that later), that every woman deserves access to the care they need. In fact, many other supporters of this rule have said that women have a right to this care.

This is the biggest and most over-looked farce in the entire argument. Since when does “access” mean that someone else buys something for you at no cost? I always thought that having access to something meant that you merely have access to it, not that it is thrown at you for free. And even if it is a right, which I think is a striking misunderstanding of what rights actually are, does any other right even come close to this type of “access” which the president claims for contraception? I have a right to free speech, but does that mean the government will pay for me to print a newspaper? Will it even buy me a newspaper? (For the record, a one year subscription to the New York Times is about as expensive as a year’s worth of birth control, depending on where you live and what type of birth control you buy.) I have a right to access the housing market free from discrimination, mistreatment, or intimidation, but will the government buy me a house? This is ridiculous, but this is what is truly striking: an invented right based on a questionable definition of the word “access” is being used to nix the very real, foundational, widely understood, and God-given right to the Free Exercise of Religion. The incompetence demonstrated here regarding Constitutional freedoms is astounding. I think this is perfectly fair to call this an assault on religious freedom.

And that’s exactly what the Catholic bishops did. Good for them. Because of the backlash of such a wide range of Obama supporters, from big-time backer and former DNC chair Tim Kaine, to the tingly-feeling-up-the-leg newscaster (who apparently also listens closely at mass) Chris Matthews, Obama had to do something. And what did Obama do? Well, it was pretty much nothing, but he tried to make it look like something.

Now it is difficult to determine what exactly will happen, because right now all we have is a press conference with no detailed explanation behind the words spoken. But we do have word from the White House chief of staff that there will be no more debate on the question and the issue is closed.

So, I’ll just have to parse the words spoken to figure out what is happening. Apparently, women will still have access, which somehow means “free of charge,” to contraceptives. However, religious organizations will not have to pay for them. Instead, the health insurance companies will have to pay for them. They must offer these contraceptives to women “no matter where they work” so that the competing interests of religious freedom and free contraceptives “access to contraceptives” are both respected.

The glaring problem here is that President Obama believes that he can just get something for free. The health insurance companies are going to provide free contraceptives to their customers, but who pays the health insurance companies? Will the drug manufacturers who make The Pill donate their product or will the money paid by Catholic organizations to health insurance companies fund contraceptives? It’s a word game and accounting trick. Catholic organizations will not be billed for “Contraceptives,” but they might be billed for “overhead,” “miscellaneous coverage,” or “government compliance.” And is it that hard to decipher what that will actually be? Is this what President Obama equates with following the dictates of your conscience?

The other glaring problem is the declaration that health insurance companies must provide these services to women “no matter where they work.” Before, there was an exception to churches and other “real” houses of worship. Now, unless this rule allows those same organizations to somehow block contraceptives from going to their employees, that exception no longer exists. Instead, they will have to be satisfied with the word game and accounting trick which asks for “overhead,” “miscellaneous coverage,” or “government compliance.” And religious organizations are supposed to be happy with that? The only thing keeping the compromise from being worse than the original problem is a word trick and trust in President Obama to satisfy the Catholic religious conscience.The inexperience making deals between opposing viewpoints here is astounding.

Are President Obama and Kathleen Sebillius so ignorant that they do not recognize that this “compromise” makes the situation worse? Is Free Exercise a word game? Are invented rights based on questionable definitions able to trump the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights? Can Barack Obama be serious?

The tyranny of ignorance, incompetence, and inexperience is astounding. I am no critic of contraception, but I intend to get mad about this one. I will get mad and stay mad so that when my own Free Exercise is threatened there will still be people around to stand with me. I encourage you to do the same.

Feel Free to Pass this along
-J Caleb Jones
MrCalebJones@gmail.com

*It is worth noting that this rule also includes abortifacients which many prolife protestants (including me) believe paying for would be against their religious conviction. This is also important and equally worth getting angry over. However, it has not received the same coverage as the Catholic contraception issue, and both purposes can be served by arguing the more visible aspect of this crisis.

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Jones v. Souter


Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter recently gave an excellent speech at Harvard University’s 359th commencement ceremony. I don’t call it excellent because I agree with what he said. Actually, I vehemently disagree with virtually everything he said. Instead, it is an excellent speech because it clearly explains and defends Court activism and liberalism. It differentiates his position, what many people would brand activism and legislating from the bench, from conservatism, which is what he identifies as a simple (and to him, a simplistic) “fair reading of the Constitution.” Such speeches are needed if political debate is to move from calculated struggles between predetermined camps to something better. If persuasion, not activism, is to be the most powerful political agent, then we will need many more speeches like David Souter’s. Please read what he said. You can find it here.

But in the spirit of persuasion, I must disagree with the Honorable Justice Souter, and explain myself in response. I feel quite nervous pitting myself against former Supreme Court Justice who now has an honorable doctorate from Harvard University to add to his two previous Harvard degrees, but I believe I can and I must. I can do so because the extremely implausible chance of Justice Souter ever noticing me makes up for my relative inferiority, and I must do so because I am too impatient to wait for an angry Justice Scalia to rumble out of wherever he lives to meet Souter’s challenge.

While you must read Justice Souter’s speech to get the clearest picture of his argument, I can sum up his main points here. Souter’s first defense against a straight reading of the Constitution is the claim that constitutional questions that come before the Court are too complex to be solved by simply turning to the appropriate page in the Constitution. Many of the provisions of the Constitution are open-ended and ambiguous. Certain judgments must be made about vague phrases like “due process” and “unreasonable searches.” As Souter explains, “over time the various examples turn into rules that the Constitution does not mention.”

Souter’s second point is that competing claims in the Constitution make a flexible view of wording necessary. He cites the famous Pentagon Papers case, in which the government tried to prevent several classified documents from being published in the Washington Post and New York Times. In that case, the government argued that while the Constitution clearly stated that there would be “no law” abridging the freedom of the press, a severe enough threat to national security would negate that command. In such a case, “no law” would not mean “no law.” It would need flexibility to balance competing interests of the nation for liberty and security. While the government lost this particular case, the Supreme Court accepted the line of reasoning. If the risk of danger is great enough, if the D-Day plans for the invasion of Normandy were to be published, if nuclear holocaust were an imminent outcome of a particular press revelation, then the government would be entirely justified in preventing such a publication. In such case, “no law” no longer means “no law.”

Souter’s final point is that evolving standards of society necessitate a flexible interpretation of words. His key example is the change of decision from Plessy v. Ferguson to Brown v. Board of Education. Few of the facts changed during the sixty years between these cases, but the outcomes could not have been more different. Souter’s explanation is worth quoting at length.

While Plessy was about railroad cars and Brown was about schools, that distinction was no great difference. Actually, the best clue to the difference between the cases is the dates they were decided, which I think lead to the explanation for their divergent results…    [T]he members of the Court in Plessy remembered the day when human slavery was the law in much of the land. To that generation, the formal equality of an identical railroad car meant progress. But the generation in power in 1954 looked at enforced separation without the revolting background of slavery to make it look unexceptional by contrast. As a consequence, the judges of 1954 found a meaning in segregating the races by law that the majority of their predecessors in 1896 did not see.



This evolving standard of progress is what allows the 1954 Court to make a decision at odds with the 1896 Court without being an activist judiciary.

These three points are crucial to this debate, and they show the degeneration of agreement between conservatism and liberalism from general harmony to complete disagreement about judicial philosophy, the proper function of the Supreme Court, and the very nature of the world. But let’s start with the agreement.

Souter’s first point is that constitutional questions are complicated and require complicated answers. One cannot simply look up the appropriate page in the Constitution like a manual. Rules do arise that the Constitution does not mention. In this, he is undoubtedly correct. That is what the practice of common law is. The point is so obvious, it almost unnecessarily made. Defining what words like “unreasonable” mean in specific situations is precisely what the practice of common law is. Few people have ever heard of the Lemon Test, of strict scrutiny, or of prior restraints, but they are the tools that have been used in our legal system since before the United States ever existed.

The second point is not as harmonious between our two camps. Souter has taken great pains to show that the words “no law” in the Constitution do not mean “no law” in our legal system, and for good reason. But Souter seems to believe that disbelieving the meaning of the phrase “no law” is the only way to make needed compromises in order to protect the public. But this is simply not the case. There are other parts of the Constitution that explicitly state the goals of promoting the common defense, most notably in the preamble. Instead of taking the meaning of “no law” lightly and basing the restrictions of government upon a judge’s sense of what is needed at the moment, one can simply take the other words of the Constitution at face value, as well.

It is strange the Souter sees a conservative view of the Constitution as simplistic, because it is actually much more complex than the living Constitution view. To continue Souter’s the example of the Pentagon Papers case, it is clear that the phrase “Congress shall make…no law restricting the freedom of speech, or of the press” in the first amendment is very clear in what it says. That is why the documents that the government wanted to prevent from being published were allowed to be published. The goal of promoting the common defense is also important. But as a general constitutional goal, and not a specific statement of constitutional law, it would take extraordinary circumstances for it to supersede the explicit imperative of the First Amendment. That is why the Court cited extreme circumstances like a nuclear holocaust or the endangerment of over 2 million servicemen at Normandy as the bar for a constitutional phrase to overcome the First Amendment.

The straight reading of the Constitution requires an extensive and complex hierarchy of rights, principles, and restrictions that must be balanced against one another when they meet. A conservative judicial philosophy is a complex and orderly web of values and precedents that only appears simple because of the predictable nature words have when they retain their meaning. A liberal judicial philosophy is sporadic and the appearance of complexity only comes from the unpredictable ground on which it is built. It is based on justices’ opinions about the current society’s opinion about a given standard at a particular time. In the end, the decision rests on the judge’s personal assessment of a situation. Subjective decisions are only complex in appearance.

Souter’s final point is his strangest. From the quote above, it seems that Justice Souter thinks that the 1896 Court made the Plessy segregation decision because segregation was a positive step on the road to progress. It assumes that progress was the express goal of the 1896 Court. Strangely, he seems to see Plessy v. Ferguson as morally acceptable, or at least morally neutral, because the Court thought it was something a little better for blacks than the condition the justices could remember: slavery. As long as there is some sort of progress that matches the changing standards of society, then the decisions of the Court can be justified.

I find this reasoning frightening. It is also directly contradictory to a conservative view of judicial philosophy and the world. Souter believes that changing standards of decency demand a flexible reading of the Constitution. A conservative view says that changing standards of decency demand a rigid reading of the Constitution, because society’s standards can either progress or deteriorate. After a brief moment of moral clarity when the federal government stated in the 14th Amendment that no state should deny any person within the United States equal protection under the law, society deteriorated and did just that with the institution of segregation. The decision in Brown did not say, “While Plessy was a step in the right direction and beneficial in comparison to the previous state of affairs, new steps needed to be taken for society to progress.” No, Brown said that separate is inherently unequal. Brown said that the reasoning of Plessy v. Ferguson is wrong. Such reasoning believes that the words “separate” and “equal” have meaning and that those meanings are opposed to one another.

It is only a conservative judicial philosophy that can openly and honestly call something wrong, as was done in Brown v. Board of Education. The liberal view can only say something has not progressed far enough, as Justice Souter did with Plessy v. Ferguson. The reason this is exclusive to conservatism, is that conservatism believes that words have fixed meanings, those fixed meanings can be organized in a Constitution which creates a standard, and competing claims can be measured against that standard using logic, argument, and reason to come to a conclusion of truth or falsehood. There are many reasons that one can miss truth or falsehood: facts can be confused, motives can be corrupted, and the constraints of a society can prevent someone from acting on what they know is right. But the standard exists, and it is waiting to be found. A liberal judicial philosophy rests on shifting ground, on a standard of a judge’s opinion about what society thinks at a given time. None of these judges seem to wonder if their view of society’s opinions is not reflective of society’s opinions, and nobody has even thought about asking if society thinks something that it shouldn’t.

One fault of Souter’s argument is that he does not seem to understand a conservative worldview. Souter seems to think that those in favor of a fair reading of the Constitution are merely reacting to stimuli that they do not understand. Souter thinks that the intricate nature of case law and the largely unknown practices of constitutional tests are the source of conservative frustration with the high court. This is simply not the case. Conservatives do not reject confusing language or precedents. Instead, they reject the Court’s tendency to abjure its responsibility to apply the Constitution to particular cases. Conservatives are angry because of instances like Roe v. Wade, where the Supreme Court refused to apply the 14th Amendment’s protection of life by stating, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins….the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer” (410 U.S. 159). One may be tempted to think that Justice Blackman, by stating that the judiciary “at this point” was unable to speculate as to when life begins, was taking a page from Souter’s idea about Plessy of incremental societal progress. This is impossible to believe, however, because the remainder of the decision not only speculates, but clearly defines when life begins by dividing pregnancy into trimesters and mandating when abortions are available to be regulated based on the mother’s right to privacy. It is not that conservatives do not understand the intricate nature of case law. Conservatives instead clearly perceive that the Court demolished an express principle written in the Constitution about the protection of life and raised a principle about the right to privacy to a greater level of importance even though the phrase does not appear in the Constitution and even though the legal principle of privacy has at best a morally questionable application to cases involving the unnatural end of a human life. The hierarchy of rights and values was destroyed and in its place was erected a standard based not on precedent or case law or the constitution, but on the judge’s opinion of the importance of privacy. The destruction of the hierarchy of rights with the Constitution at the top is what conservatives get angry about.

A shift from concrete standards, where words have meaning and positions are either right or wrong, can come quickly like it did in Roe v. Wade. It can also come slowly like it did in Kelo v. City of New London. In Kelo, the city of New London, Connecticut was allowed to seize land from property owners and give it to a private developer using the clause in the Constitution that allows government to take land for “public use.” Despite Kelo’s controversy, it was simply the last in a string of cases which established that a taking is for public use if the government believes that it will be for the public good. That case may have been built on a string of previous decisions, but it they reached a point where words of the Constitution, which have a real and concrete meaning, were at odds with the case law. In such a case, the Constitution should take preference.

Souter was one of the five justices who sided with the city in the Kelo case. It was a case decided by a strong tide of case law. Souter is by no means ignorant of case law. He was a Supreme Court justice, for goodness sake. If one reads his writing and his argument, it is clear he does not lack reason, either. The divide between conservative and liberal judicial philosophy is not based on knowledge or reason. It is rooted in the conservative’s belief that words have a fixed meaning, and that legislators who write laws with words mean what they say and not what we want to think they said. The liberal belief says that it is better to adjust what legislators write to create better meanings for a changing society. The fault of judicial liberalism is its conviction of its own superiority over all who have come before.

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This Just In: Obama Is Not Persuasive

I think I’ve finally concluded that Obama is not persuasive in the least bit, and this is bad news, even if you’re a Republican. The confirmation of my growing suspicion of his rhetorical ineptitude was confirmed with the elimination of Chicago as host from the 2016 Olympic committee on the first ballot. They received the least amount of votes among all the cities, despite the fact that the president, the first lady, Oprah, and a other white house officials all went to Copenhagen to campaign for Chicago. If you’re wondering when the last time a comparable Olympic push ever took place, the answer is “never.” Worse than just being embarrassing, it illustrates the fact that President Obama has shown himself unable to secure even superficial gains for the United States within the international community. Republicans may take this opportunity to have a nice chuckle about an awkward moment for a political rival on a superficial subject, but stop and think about all the substantive issues that the United States must resolve today to protect its interests and world stability. Yeah, I stopped chuckling, too.

What is on the plate of America in the world? Well, aggressive Russian policies in Asia and Europe, stability of oil prices and supply from the Middle East, the credit stability of the American economy, the dominance of the American dollar on the world market, and the continuation of good relations among NATO allies in a faltering Afghan War are all important, but those are relatively minor. An aggressive Iran seeking (and getting) technology to make nuclear weapons and delivery systems, a defensive Israel planning strikes and preventative measures in retaliation, and the indifferent countries of China and Russia regarding economic consequences for Iran’s breached agreements are the real issues on our plate. Where have we gotten on each of these issues? For most of them, we have gotten nowhere. With some others, we’ve gone in the wrong direction.

The reason Obama doesn’t persuade is because he doesn’t know how to persuade at home or abroad, with Iran or with reasonable countries. Good looks and charm have gotten him nowhere on healthcare here at home, because he believes that more and more television face time will get him more and more support. What Obama doesn’t realize is if you have nothing new to say or if no one can understand what you are talking about, then public appearances will get you nowhere with the American public. What Obama doesn’t realize internationally is that foreign policy for the most part is driven by either a country’s gains of military or economic power, the avoidance of military or economic loss, or by cooperation based on shared interests and values. We are using the tools of “please” and “pretty please” to deal with Iran and the key players for sanctions, and ignoring the real foreign policy sticks and carrots.

Obama should take the time to read Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy. It would help him. It would also help to realize in the realm of international politics that scintillating phrases backed up by magnificent settings are not effective, but the U.S. Army and Marine Corps backed up by the U.S. Navy and Air Force are. Obama should stop practicing his tone of voice and breathing pauses to maximize the persuasive effect. Instead, he should learn how to position United States’ power and United States’ allies in an extremely influential manner.

Iran speaks Farsi. Iran doesn’t speak English. “Hope,” “Change,” and “Yes we can!” do not translate with the same rhetorical luster. But luckily, everyone understands the dangers of sanctions, warships, and precision strikes. “Speak softly, but carry a big stick” was one of the great strategies in America’s foreign policy history. Today, Obama seems to believe he can speak magnificently and throw away all of his sticks, big and small. History says that doesn’t work, and all Americans should take note.

Feel free to pass this along.
-MrCalebJones@Gmail.com

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Anger, Government, Guns, Toys, Politics, and Oppression

I’m angry again. This should be evident to all by the fact that I am writing something. I don’t think I’ve ever written something while I was happy. Being happy means I’m content. Being content means I don’t need to write. Being angry means I need to vent. Venting means writing and spreading my anger over the series of tubes we call “The Internet.” A therapist might call that directing my anger towards constructive purposes. Since politics is usually the thing that makes me angry, I call it plotting the overthrow of opposing factions. I don’t always know about the morality of these perceived ends, but I do know that it is definitely more fun than “constructive purposes.” But I digress…

What’s got me so worked up today is these far flung assertions about what government should be doing. I have heard it in my classes, on the news, and in conversations with friends and with random people. What a government should be doing is directly tied to what kind of thing Government is. You can’t answer one without answering the other (or at least implying an answer to the other). And nearly every person I’ve seen, read, heard, or heard of is totally off on what Government is. That’s why I’m so mad.

Government is the power to make people do what it wants them to do whether they want to or not, at gunpoint if need be. Government is the power of the Gun. If a government doesn’t have this power, then it’s not governing; if it’s not governing, then it’s not Government. The usual thing I hear is that right now, our government should be helping people because of these times of trouble. This implies that Government is an institution that helps people. Now sure, Government CAN help people, but it is wrong to think of it as an institution that helps people. Government is only power and the use of power. When people believe Government is about helping people and treats Government as such, it is comparable to a child who believes a pistol is a toy and plays with it as such. Somebody’s going to get hurt. You could very well hurt yourself.

“Government is the power to make people do what it wants them to do whether they want to or not” makes Government sound like a bad and oppressive thing. Not necessarily. Of course, this opens the possibility of Government being oppressive, but sometimes you need to force people to do things. Sometimes people don’t want to refrain from stealing; Government can make them do that. Sometimes people want to encroach on people’s rights; Government can make them stop. Sometimes another nation may want to invade your nation; Government can keep this from happening. These are very good things that Government can do, and I applaud these righteous uses of force. However, keep in mind that Government can always seize your property, tax you however much it wants, and even take your life, without answering to anyone but itself. If you disagree, you are met with the barrel of a gun. This isn’t always a bad thing, but it should always be taken seriously. Taking Government seriously is why we have checks and balances (so Government answers to itself responsibly) and representatives of the people (so we can do our part to direct the use of force) in our government. But people don’t take government seriously anymore. They become complacent; they surrender more and more power to people “who know better,” oftentimes because of apathy or, sadly, a generally bad education. In every instance, they treat Government as a nice, respectable, and genuinely decent entity. They are playing with toys when they should be handling firearms.

Now I must move from Government, which is power, pure and simple, to Politics, which is the process by which individuals strive for and acquire that power. People often get confused, equating great politicians with great humanitarians, going out into the fray to help people and bring them Hope. (No, that is not a veiled reference to Barack Obama and his supporters. It is open and unabashed finger-pointing at Barack Obama and his supporters.) Now yes, politicians can do good work because Government can do good work (see above), but they are anything but humanitarians. If a politician’s goal was to help people, he should quit his job and start a charity. Charities are far more efficient and helping people than Government. And they have the added bonus of being able to do their work without pointing guns at people, a necessary part of Government that tends to de-legitimize the whole “humanitarian” persona of any politician.

America as a whole has largely forgotten how to guard against encroachments on their liberty. Mostly they either don’t care or don’t know when it’s happening. This is largely because we been so good at guarding it. There’s a reason Eastern European powers, so recently liberated from oppressive communist rule, cling so fervently to freedom and democracy while long established Western powers build up socialist programs and giant bureaucracies for “everyone’s benefit.” The former has lived through oppression and is fiercely aware of the fragile nature of liberty. The later has lived in the luxury of liberty for so long that it has forgotten what oppression and injustice even look like.

If these conversations I’ve been in, if these dispositions I continually encounter, and if these widely held attitudes toward Government don’t change, then one day this nation will find itself entwined in an oppressive and unjust mesh of regulations, strategic taxes, socialist welfare programs, and other great governmental humanitarian endeavors. Our complacency will turn to frightened confusion as we find ourselves being forced at gunpoint to do things we do not wish to do. Even though the ballot never went away, even though our legislatures were never disbanded, and even though no occupying armies ever showed themselves, we will find that the political individuals we trusted took control of Government, and now they wield the Gun as they wish, by law. Our complacency and infantile trust gave them power to do what they wished, whether we want them to do so or not. Worst of all, we will continue to wonder how it all happened.

It happened because we forgot what kind of thing Government is. Stop playing with toys. Learn how to handle a Gun.

Feel free to pass this along.

MrCalebJones@Gmail.com

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How to be a Bad Teacher

I am currently enrolled in a class called “Diverse Learners” at Louisiana Tech University. I had no clue what diverse learners were walking into the class, so I kept an open mind. Then, I actually looked at the book and heard the professor talk, and the perceived legitimacy for the class fell to zero. The class is actually one of those “Nobody’s views are any better than anyone else’s views” classes of which I had always heard about on talk radio or in certain conversations, but which I never thought ACTUALLY existed. Truth be told, they do. Now, you can tell that I’m going to rip what was said in this class to shreds in this post, but since some people who will read this will know exactly what class and what professor I’m talking about, I need to make a disclaimer. By all accounts, the professor seems to be talented and genuinely concerned about his students. These are two very good things for which he should be applauded. So far, I think he will be a good professor that I will like. I like him now, even though he frustrates me sometimes. But just because he’s talented and concerned, that does not mean that the entire “diversity” thing that he must teach is anything but silly.

Let me take you down the course of my first class period to explain my growing angst. The first thing that the professor says is that none of his opinions or thoughts in the class are more valuable or more valid than any of our opinions and thoughts. We are just as important as he is in the learning process. This strikes me as odd, because I still do not know what Diverse Learners even are at this point. If his thoughts are just as valid as mine, then he must be a terrible professor, because I have no clue to what this class is supposed to be about. And if I’m just as important as him in this classroom, it looks like I will be a vibrant part of screwing up everyone else’s learning experience, too. I hoped he was kidding.

He was not kidding. Almost the very next thing he says relates to how teachers should act in the classroom and how you should never add your two cents to what a student says, how you should never try and restate what a student says, and how you should always let a student’s statement stand on its own without comment. After all, when you comment on it, you slightly change the idea, and that is not good, because these students, whether they are in first, fifth, eighth, or twelfth grade, have very important things to say.

Oooh…. This grates against my soul. You see, sometimes in class, kids say dumb things; sometimes in history or math class, kids say blatantly false things; sometimes in English or Literature class, kids are trying to say smart things, but are so bad at communicating those things that it comes across as dumb; sometimes kids in class say brilliant things that are deep and thought provoking, but not on the subject of the Home Economics course in which you are presently engaged. In all of these cases, any teacher that is worth two cents will correct false statements, will refine poorly communicated statements to make them clear, and will redirect off-subject statements so that attention is given to the task at hand. Teachers should ALWAYS be making slight changes to students ideas in order to make them BETTER. A teacher should change the idea that the Civil War began in 1889. A teacher should change a student’s delivery if no one understands what is being said and offer alternative means of communicating the idea. A teacher should direct conversation in the classroom to the direction it should take. That is what a teacher does. If a teacher is not doing it, they need to get out of the class and distribute their salary evenly among the students.

After this brief section on how to be a bad teacher, we moved to the part about diversity and values. During one section of the long conversation on diversity, we talked about teaching non-English-speaking students English in our public schools, and we questioned if it was good or bad. His position is that mandating English to graduate high school is saying that English is better than Spanish, Chinese, Navajo, or any other language. Therefore, it’s bad, and we should not do it.

Now true, there is nothing inherently better about English. It’s just a language. But in America, English IS better and here’s why. My job as a teacher is to equip students with the tools they need to navigate society, to understand the world around them, and be better citizens. How can you NOT teach a child English and pretend that you have done this? Teaching proper English is not mandating that people USE proper English. Just walk down the street in New York, find someone speaking Italian, German, or Yiddish and ask them a question in English. If they answer in English, that means they were taught English but that they choose not to use it. They can choose not to use it in their homes, on the street, or even in their businesses. That’s the way America has always been. We don’t have a language police in the United States like they have in France. Teaching makes sure that they KNOW English, and knowing English is for their own benefit. It is the tool that gives them the freedom to choose their work, to move about freely in the country, and do almost all other things that Americans do. Knowing English is almost like a Civil Right if you think about it (See Post on Human Rights Part I). Of course English should be taught in our schools!

Next, the talk about morality and values came. In my Human Rights and Absolute Truth mind, the class hit rock bottom at this point. I learned that no values system is better than another values system, and that as a teacher, you should not push your values on a student who does not share them. The teacher said that just because you think something is wrong, that does not mean that it is wrong. It means that you think it is wrong. Therefore, you should be tolerant of other morals and values.

Now, this is 1 part truth, 24 parts crap. The inkling of truth is the statement that just because you think something is wrong, that doesn’t make it wrong. This is true. I can be very mistaken about what is right or wrong. But what this statement is meant to do is imply that since I can be mistaken, there is no such thing as something actually BEING wrong.

The truth is that some values and moral beliefs ARE better than other values and moral beliefs. They are more correct, and EVERYONE believes this. I have yet to find any circumstance where people DON’T believe this. Notice how this position ends: “You should be tolerant of other morals and values.” There are billions of people on this earth who would not agree with that statement. Nearly the entire Muslim world (1 billion people) is just one category of these people. Being tolerant of other morals and values IS a value. The fact that I am sitting in a class that teaches tolerance and that I will NOT be sitting in a class that tells me to “get in your place” means that this class is based on the belief that being tolerant is BETTER than not being tolerant. I really would not get very worked up if someone said “Tolerance of all things IS the right thing!” I might disagree, but I wouldn’t get very worked up. We can argue about what is right at another place and time, but at least they are being coherent. What kills me is when someone says “No values or morals are better than any other values or morals. Oh, and by the way, be tolerant.” It just makes no sense.

The last way that I will rip on this class is to bring back the statement, “As a teacher, you should not push your values on a student who does not share them.” Now that sounds all fine and dandy on paper, but it is terribly incoherent. I truthfully do not agree that a teacher should not push their values on a student who does not share them. Yet I am having that value (which I do not share) pushed on ME! Do you see how self-contradictory this entire tolerance philosophy becomes once it meets disagreement? If the professor would just come out and say that I am wrong and that his brand of tolerance is straight up better than my view, I would not be so worked up. We would disagree. But at least we could agree to disagree, rather than the present state of pretending there is no disagreement.

The truth is, teachers SHOULD push good values on students, because sometimes students can have very terrible values. “I’m just going to get what’s mine.” “It’s not wrong if you don’t get caught.” “Why do I have to do this if I’m probably not going to use it?” “Since I don’t want to do it, I’m not going to do it.” “You can’t tell me what to do.” These are all examples of terrible values that students actually communicate and that need to be changed. Other values of giving into laziness, not doing your best, selfishness, thinking grades don’t matter, unkindness, disobedience, lack of respect, ignorance of responsibilities, and basing your morals on “whatever I want to do” are all sub-standard values that are widespread and which MUST be confronted, resisted, and pushed OUT of students by anyone even hoping to be a good teacher.

So far, Diverse Learners is total crap. Only nine more weeks left in the quarter…

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Immigration and the Republican Party

Well, I thought the election season was over, but I was mistaken.
There are actually run off elections this Saturday in Louisiana for
Congress in Districts 4 and 2. I heard a radio commercial for one of
the candidates in the District 4 runoff election that dealt with
immigration. And it stirred some repressed political angst within me.
I get angry when people do dumb things. It grates against my soul.
This is why I get so frustrated when I hear a Republican figure,
whether it is Rush Limbaugh or Mitt Romney, talk about illegal
immigration.

The battle cry of the conservative wing of the Republican Party
regarding immigration chants predictable slogans about illegal
immigrants stealing jobs, about the need for “No Amnesty,” about
immigrants getting back in line, about getting them to learn English,
and about preserving our American culture. Now, I truly believe that
preserving our American culture is an extremely important endeavor.
The melting pot of America has created the most free, most open, and
most prosperous nation in the history of the world. That is definitely
something worth preserving. However, accusing illegal immigrants of
stealing jobs, screaming “No Amnesty!” at every opportunity, and
insisting that they learn English before they come, and making all
immigrants get back in line, or else, are some of the worst possible
ways to preserve the American culture.

Each of these individual points of the immigration debate has its
individual issues and circumstances, but first I want to address what
seems to be the gist of all of the Republican talk on immigration. It
appears from the jabber I hear on the radio and in campaign speeches
that millions of Mexicans (and all other brands of Hispanics)
streaming into the Southwest and into our cities is a bad thing.

This is a bad thing? When has it ever been a problem for millions of
people to want to get into our country? We have Hispanics jumping
fences, scurrying across deserts, and generally risking their life and
welfare for what? They do it to mow your lawn, cook your restaurant
order and pick some carrots in California. Really? Yes, really.
Imagine someone risking everything to pick carrots in California. That
doesn’t sound like a problem for America. That sounds to me like
America is still the land of opportunity, that it is still great, that
it is still a shining city on a hill. It looks like there is still
evidence of America’s inherent goodness, America’s optimistic promise,
and America’s hopeful dream.

On the interior of the Statue of Liberty, the words from the poem “The
New Colossus” are inscribed as context for the effigy. It reads in
full,

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Wow. That is an extremely high standard for a nation, yet we’ve done
it. We have taken in the tired, the poor, and the rejected. We have
allowed them to prosper and become full citizens and we are still
reaping the benefits of this immigration over a hundred of years
later. And we are AFRAID of Mexican immigration? We are afraid of day
laborers outside of Home Depot? So, this is OUR country and not some
Spanish speaking suburb of Mexico? Say what you will and speak what
you believe, but I call that cowardice; I call it the storied pomp of
ancient lands; I call that rejecting the high calling of our history;
I call it devastating our American culture.

Now, that’s a critique of a general attitude toward immigration. I’m
sure that many people are reading those last few paragraphs, liking
what they hear, but still have great worries about the state of
affairs regarding immigration. That is okay. This is where we talk
about specific details of the illegal immigration issue. Trying to fix
specific things involving immigration does not mean that you have a
cowardly and pompous view of immigration. It means that you want to
fix a specific situation. That is a good thing. However, the
ineptitude of Republican’s ability to fix specific situations leads me
to suspect a xenophobia mindset over a real public service mindset.
Let me explain.

We hear “No Amnesty!” all the time, but what does that even mean? I
know it means that we will NOT allow illegal immigrants to stay here
scot-free, but what does it mean that we WILL do?
I’m getting conflicting answers to this question of what Republicans
WILL do. The first answer I hear to this question is nothing. As a
matter of fact it is more accurate to say this is the first answer I
do NOT hear. Instead of answering the question, many Republicans just
scream “No Amnesty!” even louder. Ignoring the question does not solve
the problem.

The second answer I hear is deportation. Now, I give you kudos for
actually answering the question, but an “F-” for giving a dumb answer.
The current estimates for the number of illegal immigrants in America
runs around 12 million. It could be as high as 20 million. How on
earth would we even deport one million people from the United States?
I don’t want to even think about 12 or 20 million. If we even tried
this, it would be so inefficient and sparsely enforced that it would
merely be a pitiful footnote of the immigration conundrum. Also, we
would still retain all our immigration problems.

The third answer to this immigration question actually has the
possibility of doing something, but it could have some rather severe
side effects. This involves putting pressure on employers, through
fines and revoking business licenses, not to hire illegal immigrants.
Once there is enough pressure on employers, there will be no jobs for
illegals, therefore they will go home. Now, this looks closer to the
market to solve problems than a pure government fiat like “Deport
'em!” so it might actually work. But what will an effective strategy
of forcing employers not to hire illegal aliens look like?

Well, first I must say that it will not reduce the number of illegal
immigrants. By reduce, I mean none of them will pack up and go back
home. They may get fired from their jobs, but they will just have to
find different jobs that are untraceable: the kind of jobs for which
you apply by standing outside Home Depot all day waiting for pick-up
trucks to pass by. Now of course everybody wants less illegal
immigration, but this course of action does not offer more or less
illegal immigration. These people scurry across the desert in the dead
of night to get to the land of opportunity. Do we honestly imagine
them scurrying back to Mexico, a place where drug lords are currently
waging war with the government, because there are no legal jobs here?
This course of action has nothing to do with sending immigrants back
home. It merely offers the choice more illegal immigrants with jobs or
more illegal immigrants who are poor, out of work, and desperately
searching for the means to acquire money. Which sounds worse for our
country?

Now, remember our original goal: to preserve our American culture. If
we scare immigrants away from getting legal, tax-paying jobs by
heavily cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants and if
we scare immigrants away from reporting crimes to police that happen
within their neighborhoods because their naturalization status could
be questioned, how will these people ever assimilate into our American
culture? Won’t they just stay in their crime-ridden Spanish-speaking
neighborhoods? Some may say that they should learn English before they
come to America, but how is a dirt-poor laborer supposed to learn
English BEFORE he gets to America? When have we ever forced immigrants
to learn English before they got here? Travel to New York City, you’ll
find that some immigrants who came at the turn of the 20th century
STILL speak Italian or German or Yiddish or Hindi or whatever
normally. And how are Hispanics supposed to learn English if they are
restricted to their own immigrant neighborhoods in order to guard
against deportation? How can they become accustomed to the Land of
Opportunity when that land is primarily concerned with deportation,
green cards, fluent English before employment, and other forms of red
tape?

I am sure that there are some readers who have become angrier and
angrier as they have continued to read because I am ignoring the
central issue of illegal immigration: since these people came over
illegally, it destroys any semblance of a rule of law. To this, I
agree. I see it silly and dangerous that breaking the law is more
common that following it regarding immigration. The question is not
"Should the pattern be changed?" but instead, "Who do we correct?" Why
do we want to correct millions of Hispanics for wanting to come to the
Land of Opportunity, to better their lives through hard work and the
sweat of their brow? Many people say that they should have gotten in
line, but what does that involve? Most Americans don’t know. We’ve had
so many proposed laws, so many rejected laws, so much talk about guest
worker programs, and so much hot air about Green Cards, that I’m
starting to be confused about what the real path to citizenship is.
And if I’m confused, just think about your average illegal immigrant.
Whose fault is this?

I have a general rule about these things. Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me 12 to 20 million times, there is
probably a federal agency somewhere in the mix. If it is so easy to
cross the boarder that hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants
come into America every year and if it is so difficult to get
citizenship that millions of immigrants who want to get citizenship
either cannot afford to do so or are backlogged on waiting lists, why
is our criticism aimed at the illegal immigrants who are coming across
the border? It seems like we should be yelling at the federal
government. True the Republican Party has been yelling at the federal
government about this, but the main things we have been yelling is “No
Amnesty!” “No Amnesty” is an empty phrase that usually means nothing.
Occasionally it does mean something, but it means something really
dumb like mass deportation, scaring immigrants back into the secluded
corners of immigrant neighborhoods, and shutting off legal, tax-paying
employment opportunities like guest worker programs. Apparently, we
don’t want illegal immigrants to get back in the line to citizenship.
We want them to get back in line to go back to Mexico. How else can we
explain the resistance to various proposed “paths to citizenship,”
which include fines, tax-paying jobs, and an end to illegal status
which is a mockery of the rule of law? When the federal government
tries to act, they are met with a barrage of angry voters who haven’t
really thought through the issue. It seems that the inaction and
ineptitude that many conservative Republicans find so despicable in
Washington are due to conservative Republicans themselves.

I am also a political animal. It makes me angry when I see tired,
poor, and huddled masses turned away at the golden door, but it also
makes me angry when I see my party committing political suicide. If
you notice, Barack Obama made significant inroads among Hispanic
voters in November. So I ask: Since when are socially conservative,
hard-working, middle class citizens, like the legal Hispanic
population, turned off to the Republican Party? Since Republicans got
so ardent about “No Amnesty,” that’s when. Many Hispanics match so
well to Republican principles, it tears me up that so many Republicans
have been duped into championing stupid phrases which drive away our
closest political allies. I think “No Amnesty” beats “Yes We Can” for
Dumbest Political Phrase of the year.

That’s all I have to say about that. I’m getting so angry I’m becoming
a little incoherent.

-J. Caleb Jones

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Human Rights, Part II: Objections to God-Given Human Rights

Previously, I gave an overview of what God-given rights are and what the government’s role is regarding these rights. Specifically, I stated that Rights are universal laws on what SHOULD be, and they do not change based on time or place. I also stated that governments cannot create Human Rights. They can merely recognize those Human Rights that already exist, turning “what should be” into “what is.” By doing so, governments gain legitimacy, according to the Declaration of Independence, and when they do so, they create Civil Rights. Civil Rights are the methods that people have determined are the most useful means of preserving Human Rights, and they change according to the circumstances of time and culture. Such are God-given Human Rights, and the government roles relating to those rights.

Now it is necessary to meet some objections that arise against God-given Human Rights. I mean to take on two main objections to this interpretation. The first objection is an atheistic objection to God-given rights. It’s not difficult to see where this is going: Rights cannot come from God, because God does not exist. The second objection I have heard comes from Christians. Christians claim that it is incorrect to assume that God gives Rights. The Bible does not speak of “Human Rights” and to demand our “rights” before God is impious, selfish, and false. Let’s get started with the first one.

Atheists object to God-given human rights because that reduces all their Rights to a religious appendix of society. The objection states quite bluntly that rights are based on a false pretense: God. Now, I don’t intend to answer this objection fully, for it would require arguing on the existence of God. This is neither the time nor the place for that. Instead, I would like to make a short defense of Human Rights: Rights that are above fickle human opinion, that are universal, and that are merely recognized, not given or created, by the government. We could call them morality based rights, Law of Nature rights, or something like that. In short, they retain all the characteristics of God-given rights without the God. Perhaps it is not good enough to come to an actual agreement, but hopefully it is enough to agree on the importance and the effect of these universal Rights.

The most important point about Human Rights is that they do not come from people or governments that people create. Rights exist over and above mankind, and mankind can recognize those Rights through reason, thought, and logic. By these methods, people can know what “should be.” While it could be possible that Rights come from mankind and not something over and above mankind, I believe a little reflection will show how this is certainly not the case. So now for arguments sake, we are entering the hypothetical realm where the people of the world determine rights. Could there be an instance where all the people in the world are united in supporting something that SHOULD NOT happen? If we find this case, that means that either Rights are not determined by humans, or our interpretation is wrong, meaning that what we originally thought “should not be” is truthfully perfectly fine. I think it is possible to find one of those circumstances in history.

The easiest example of something bad, meaning that it should not have happened, that the entire world accepted is the slave trade from Africa. Objections to the slave trade existed, but most of these objections consisted of “Don’t trade OUR citizens as slaves.” There was not any serious consideration of not trading other citizens until Great Britain outlawed the slave trade and slavery in the early 19th century. Until that time, Europe traded slaves, the Americas used them, the Muslim world traded and used slaves, and the wars of African tribes produced many of the slaves through internal and tribal wars. The only culture not involved in the African slave trade was China, but it is difficult to prove they had any objection to it. It seems that their non-participation was due to distance, not opposition to something that “should not be.” Therefore, we have the entire world, or at least a hefty majority of the world, united in supporting the trade and use of African slavery, naming it something that “should be,” even though we know it should not be. If we are to take objection to this, we would either have to say that the Rights of those African slaves exist over and above (due to perhaps morality, reason, the Laws of Nature, or if we are really bold: God) all of mankind, for mankind was united in acknowledging it, or we would have to say that it was really no big deal, that no wrong was perpetrated, and that our firm objections against those acts are merely our personal opinions on someone else’s rightful business of enslaving human beings. I hope that is not your conclusion

This is a strong proof that Human Rights, whether they be from a universal morality, from the Laws of Nature, or from God, exist over and above the opinions and decisions of human beings. “What should be” exists over and above “what I want,” “what I think,” or “what I’m feeling at this moment.” If I were to disagree, to say “what should be” does not exist, to say that “what people want or decide for themselves is right,” and apply this disagreements to real world situations like the African slave trade, I would become something that most people refer to as “a terrible person.” Can anyone honestly say that this period in history was right? That is was just? That everything was fine and dandy? Because your vote counts just as much as mine, I sure hope not.

Next I need to answer the Christian objection that God does not give us “Rights” to which we are entitled. The claim is that if we are to cling to our “Rights” before God, it would be impious, selfish, and false. Frankly, it would be wrong. That would be something that “should not be,” which throws the thinking about what Rights are on its head. While I believe this objection is founded on a good disposition to do our duty before God, I think it is misapplied and has the potential to do more harm that good to mankind.

This objection forgets one main idea about Human Rights: Rights speak about the right and wrong way for humans to treat each other. Of course we cannot cling to our “Rights” before God. Rights do not apply to how God treats humans. Rights apply to how humans treat humans. Remember the point that if government gave Rights, then government could take them away? Well, God gives rights. That means God can take them away.

This shouldn’t be alarming to those who agree with the view of Human Rights that we have taken thus far. God taking away Human Rights does not mean other humans take those Rights on behalf of God. Imagine if a government took away human rights of liberty or property or belief for our own benefit. Communist governments took property away from the bourgeois and proletariat alike for “their own benefit.” The Church during the Inquisition took away the Right of belief from people for “their own benefit.” Do we trust mankind with that power? Is that acceptable behavior for a government or people? Of course it isn’t! The fallible nature of human beings makes this a terrible practice.

But now Christians should think of God, the all good, all-knowing, and all-powerful, creator of the universe, taking away Rights. In God’s providence, he took away Joseph’s right to be free from false accusation in Potiphar’s household; he took away the apostles’ right to freedom considering their almost unending chain of prison sentences; He continually denounces our rights to property and wealth when he commands us to give to the poor. God has the authority to take away our Rights, and he has the wisdom and goodness to do it for our benefit. That is a power exercised by and reserved for God alone, not any government or person.

But not only is there an objection to keeping our Rights before God, which we already covered, but there is also the objection that God never specifically addresses Human Rights in the Bible. Therefore, some declare it a stretch for us to claim something is God-given if his Word never explicitly says so.

Now, it is true that the Bible never specifically mentions God-given rights. However, the Bible never specifically mentions the Trinity, either. Of course it mentions the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost individually, but it never expounds in detail about what that entails. Neither does it expound on the divine nature of Christ: fully God and fully Man. This divine nature is a central belief of the Christian faith, just like the Trinity, but not explicitly stated and explained in the Bible. If Christians are to utterly reject anything that has not been explicitly stated and explained in the Bible, they will find themselves rejecting many things which are core to Christian doctrine. In this same spirit, Human Rights are not explicitly stated or explained in the Bible, but by looking at the things the Bible says, it can easily be implied from scripture.

Let’s get specific. The Freedom of Thought and Belief is a great example for observing the balance between God’s authority to stipulate something with no “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” and Man’s duty to make way for Human Rights. Included in the Freedom of Thought and Belief is the Freedom of religion, which is the choice of belief regarding the spiritual and divine. God himself clearly comes down with only one right way, and he occasionally forces his way on certain people, such as Saul on the road to Damascus. But what example does the Bible give regarding human religious interaction with other humans? It’s vastly different. Sure God said to “make disciples,” but look at the way the Bible shows this is supposed to happen: Paul ARGUES on Mars Hill, Jesus PREACHES the Sermon on the Mount, Peter gives WITNESS to the Jews in Jerusalem, Philip EXPLAINS the scriptures to the Ethiopian eunuch, and Peter tells us to be prepared with an ANSWER to those who ask. Is there any way possible to say that it should be done by forcing, conquering, mandating, or legislating? Christianity puts forth a religion of BELIEF, and free belief at that.

Think about how badly trying to mandate Christianity has worked (for instance the mid 17th century European wars of religion, the Inquisition, and the Byzantine and Papal unification of Church and State). Christianity runs counter to religions based on culture, based on rites, duties, and conquest. Christianity (and its message on the proper interaction between humans relating to religion) speaks volumes to the Freedom of Thought and Belief. The same can be said for nearly all human rights, and even if there is a Right for which the Bible does not put forth an example, I challenge someone to find where it condemns the Right.

Therefore, here I conclude that God-given Human Rights are legitimate under Biblical teaching. Also, even void of a belief in God, universal Human Rights still by necessity carry the same characteristics and moral weight. Previously I concluded that God-given Human Rights are universal, unchanging maxims about what SHOULD be. Government can only recognize them, not create them. This thinking was essential to our nation’s founding, and it is the foundation of our liberty. My suggestion to everyone is that if you value your freedom, know what it entails.

Feel free to pass this along.

J. Caleb Jones
-MrCalebJones@Gmail.com

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Human Rights, Part I: God-given Rights and Government Roles

Recently, I wrote a short message that spurred some talk about Rights. And I noticed that there is not a little confusion about precisely what Rights are. That’s why I believe it is high time to fully discuss the subject, and weigh contrasting views on the issue. Here I will talk about what exactly Rights are, and next I will talk about ways that thinking about Rights in this way can be approached by Christians and non-Christians alike. As you may notice from reading this, I come down very strong on this issue. I believe that the way Human Rights are interpreted by the Founders in the Declaration of Independence is true and the best guard against the encroachment of liberty.

First, we should cover our bases. This is where the original American philosophy of Human Rights is put forth in the Declaration of Independence, second paragraph:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

So, breaking this down, it is important to note that self-evident means that they can be perceived through reason and reflection, free of any fiat, divine or temporal. “All Men” of course means all mankind, including women and even Black slaves. The reason of the Founders conceded to what they knew to be right, even if the discrepancy between rhetoric and action showed inconsistency.

In the next phrase, we see that all Men are given unalienable rights from their Creator. This is very important to understand. Before, in the pre-Revolutionary War period, the colonies continually argued for their rights as Englishmen. Now they claim to have rights as Human Beings. Not only this, but these Rights come from the Creator, God, and are unalienable, which means they cannot be taken away by anything other than the source of those Rights: God. Before the Parliament gave them Rights as Englishmen, but the King took them away. They pleaded with the King citing the Parliament, but both were not interested in hearing it. Those rights were stripped. Therefore, they appeal not to any government or earthly power, but to the Creator and their own rights as human beings. That means that neither a King, nor a Parliament, nor a Congress, nor a President can take these rights away. They are unalienable.

Next, it is noted that among these Rights are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. These are not all the rights to which men are endowed. This is merely a short sample. To find out other Rights, we simply need to search for other self-evident truths about the way all Men should be treated.

To stop some confusion, many people will object and say that these rights are obviously not inalienable. They can be taken away, and they are taken away quite often. As a matter of fact, the situation which brought about this statement in the Declaration of Independence was precisely the alienation of these inalienable Rights. Doesn’t that seem like a contradiction? Yes, it seems like a contradiction, but it is not. Rights speak about the right and wrong way for humans to treat each other. Even if something is right, you CAN do something else: wrong. But even if you CAN do wrong, you SHOULD do right. It is the SHOULD that is inalienable. No matter how powerful a tyrant, no matter how many people have been brainwashed into thinking differently, no matter if the entire world is united in unreasonable and unholy thinking that you (for example) CAN enslave another human, it is still wrong. It SHOULD NOT ever be done, because humans SHOULD be free. That maxim, that rule, that justification, that universal law about what SHOULD BE stays constant. It is inalienable. It never changes.

The role of government is to recognize and secure these rights. A government of the people (instituted among Men), by the people (from the consent of the governed), and for the people (to secure their rights), has only one purpose: to recognize and secure the Human Rights of its citizens. The job of the government is not to “look after its citizens’ best interests” or “provide opportunities.” Some of this is included in recognizing rights, and some of this is a frivolous tangent from government’s actual purpose. Confusion and inconsistency ensures when we deviate from the belief that government should secure Human Rights.

Many say that Human Rights come from government. It is possible that this is true, but on further reflection, I believe that we can see that they certainly do not. If a government gives Human Rights, then a government can take them away. If a government cannot take them away, that means they did not give them in the first place. If there is no “should” behind what government does or does not do, then there is no justification for criticizing what they chose to do. Sure we can scream and holler because we are mad about what government does, but there is no real reason for our anger. It’s just a feeling. For instance, if the American government actually did only give freedom to White people, and not to Black people before the Civil War and 13th and 14th amendments, there is no reason to complain about the treatment of Blacks. There was no violation of Rights, because those Rights did not exist. The government did not give them to the Blacks. If these sentences grate against your soul, that gives further credence to the fact that Human Rights come from God and not from government.

Some may agree in theory so far, but still be stuck on this question about government not giving Rights. It seems very plausible, but there is something that does not fit. I hope to clear up the remaining misunderstanding with the following distinction.

Here I will make a distinction between Human Rights and Civil Rights. Human Rights are unalienable, self-evident through reason, unchangeable, and uniform across all humanity. Civil Rights are the methods that humans devise (through the government and by the consent of the governed) to best secure their Human Rights. Remember that it is the right of the people:

to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

Here, the Declaration is talking about Civil Rights. The methods, the organizations of government’s powers, are the ways the people have found to best secure their rights. These Civil Rights, like the right to a trial by a jury of peers or the right to vote, are the methods that have been found to best secure the Human Rights, like the right to be free from false accusation or the right to alter your government. They are indeed very important, but distinct from Human Rights.

Next we need to identify an often overlooked consequence of this distinction. You don’t necessarily HAVE to have Civil Rights to retain your Human Rights. For example, it is a Human Right to be free from false accusation. Humans should not do that to one another. The Civil Right that we have devised to best secure this Human Right not to be falsely accused is a trial by a jury of your peers. Throughout history, some people have been tried by juries NOT composed of peers. Some people have not had trials by juries, and some have not even had trials. Yet, IF they were not falsely accused, their human rights were not violated. Maybe that non-peer jury came to the right conclusion. Maybe that single judge actually had a good sense of what was going on. Maybe that vigilante with a gun actually made a good call on his action. It’s a risky business covering your bases like that, and I definitely wouldn’t recommend these practices as healthy policy. But you don’t HAVE to have the American pattern of Civil Rights to still retain your Human Rights.

I’ve got to admit, the American pattern for securing Human Rights has been AWESOME. Even when there have been glitches in our recognition of Human Rights (slavery, the civil rights movement, or abortion for example), corrective actions have been or are correcting the wrong. But the American system is not the ONLY way. The various changes of our Constitution should prove this. Civil Rights can change; Human Rights stay the same.

Next, I will talk about the way that Christians and Non-Christians need not object to this theory of inalienable Rights given by God.


Feel free to pass this along.

-J. Caleb Jones
MrCalebJones@Gmail.com

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Thoughts on Proposition 8 Passage and Backlash

I’ve been reading some articles on the backlash that has happened from the passage of California’s Proposition 8, which banned homosexual marriages in the state. As many people may know, I do not get all that worked up over contrary positions. Many people have very good opinions on certain issues that are completely different from mine. Only a lack of information determines whose position is actually valid. However, I do get quite annoyed when people really have no clue what they’re talking about. That’s my problem with this whole Proposition 8 thing.

We have to define this issue before we can comprehensively talk about it. The groups who were against Proposition 8 and those that are reacting to its passage are saying that it is wrong for a people to be “taking away fundamental rights from fellow citizens.” This I agree. Fundamental rights are given by God and are a consequence of being a human being. Majority votes are child’s-play compared to the moral weight that inherent human rights hold. But we need to think about this further. What rights are being taken away from Gays and Lesbians in California? What rights do I, as a straight person, have that they, as a Gay or Lesbian person, not have?

Well, they are claiming that they do not have the right to marry. And I, as a straight person, do have that right. Now I hate to get nit-picky, but Gays and Lesbians do have a right to marry. A Gay man can marry a Lesbian woman if they want it. There are no laws against that of which I know. I know this comes from a Jay Leno joke, but it’s true. That right has not been taken away from them. They just don’t want to exercise it. So the “right to marry” has not been infringed. I see it very difficult to argue against this point. Some people may be screaming that I’m shortchanging the issue with this statement. Don’t worry: I agree, and I’ll explain the issue further.

Now, to be fair, I don’t think that Gays and Lesbians are simply fighting for the right to marry somebody of the opposite sex, which they already have. They are fighting for the right to marry somebody of the same sex. Is this a fundamental right? Do straight people have this right while Gays and Lesbians do not? I think it’s a No on both counts. First, I’ll take this opportunity to comically point out that I, as a straight man, cannot marry another man. So this is not a right which straight people have and which Gays and Lesbians do not have. And to the first question, “Is marrying somebody of the same sex a fundamental right?” I think I would also have to say, “No.” But to explain this point, I’m going to have to tie it into the next paragraph.

An explanation of the issue closer to what Gays and Lesbians are describing would be this: Straight people have the right to marry the person that they WANT to marry while Gays and Lesbians do NOT have the right to marry who they want to marry. For the most part, this is true. I’m currently seeking an available straight female who likes me (plus a few other qualifiers), and when I find one, we will be able to marry. A Gay man looking for an available gay man cannot marry him once he finds him. This is why marrying somebody of the same sex is a right deprived for Gays and Lesbians. This is definitely something that straight people have and homosexuals do not have, but is this a right? Sorry guys, but No. Humans have never had the right to marry WHOEVER they want, with no qualifications on who that may be. You do not have the right to heterosexually marry your first cousin (and some people DO want that), you do not have the right to marry your daughter (and some people DO want that), and you do not have the right to marry multiple people (and lots of people DO want that). So if we say that being able to marry whoever you like is a Fundamental Right, intrinsic in our make-up and self-evident through reason, we will have a hard time putting this together with the fact that it has never ever been recognized as such throughout all time. If this right is so BASIC and FUNDAMENTAL as the homosexual marriage proponents claim, how come it has never happened before in human history?

We’ve never had homosexual marriage (the legal and religious binding of two people into one) in all of human history (before now, of course), but we have had homosexuality for millennia. Homosexuals and rumored homosexuals are not few or far between as you trace history back. But in every instance, homosexuality was always something that you DO. It was never something that you ARE. I have no idea why we have suddenly changed into thinking that people ARE homosexuals. I think it has something to do with the acceptance of “group rights” as the protector of liberty instead of “individual rights,” but I don’t have the time to get into that. Needless to say, this manner of thinking has created quite a conundrum in our modern political debate.

Even if you look back to ancient Greece, which was before Christianity’s anti-homosexual influence and perhaps the most openly homosexual culture in history (with Sodom, Gomorrah, and San Francisco obtaining honorable mention), you STILL see homosexuality deemed as something that people just DO instead of ARE. Aristotle (the foundation of all of Western culture) in book seven of his Nichomachean Ethics describes how homosexuality is usually the result of being abused as a child. Plato’s Republic brings up homosexuality, talking about “boyfriends” in the ideal city that they are constructing, and decides that they are not very desirable for a good city. And that’s coming from people who might have BEEN homosexuals in a culture accepting to homosexuality. Lets not even begin to think about the social norms in Christian or Islamic cultures throughout history.

Ouch. History does not look good for the homosexual. You know, this article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/14/AR2008111403508.html?hpid=topnews) shows how homosexual marriage groups are really getting angry at the Mormon church on this whole issue. The ironic thing is, Mormons had their own troubles between the law and the marriages they wanted. That was polygamy, and the Mormons lost that battle with the Supreme Court, and from that, they changed their entire position on the issue. Oddly enough, Mormons are now one of the biggest opponents to the belief that you can marry whoever you want.

Gays and Lesbians are doing much better than the old Mormons, though. Lawrence v Texas was a win for Gays and Lesbians, and it struck down all state laws banning homosexuality. Those laws were merely based on hundreds of years of mores regarding socially accepted behavior (just like anti-child molestation laws today). This new-found tolerance has created one of the most accepting cultures to homosexuality in over two thousand years. That’s quite an accomplishment. But before you shoot for the moon and demand for the outright equivocation with heterosexual relationships, you should get your facts straight on the rights that you are pushing for.

“It is my fundamental right to marry whoever I want.” Come on, when you want to break all the precedents of history, you are going to need a better and more coherent battle cry than that.

Feel free to pass this along.

-J. Caleb Jones
mrcalebjones@gmail.com

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