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#civics | Vox Clamantis In Deserto

Is Sexual Orientation a Choice?

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So I was just pondering the statement that “straight” people don’t choose to be straight. Of course, the über-religious will say that’s because it’s the natural order of things…the way we’re created. But if someone is physiochemically wired a certain way, doesn’t that imply that God either makes mistakes or that God is a watchmaker rather than a timepiece? To avoid that theological quagmire, they equate homosexuality with sin and since sin necessarily depends on choice, sexual orientation must therefore be a choice as well. It seems to me that the blindly religious are spending way more energy trying to avoid the theological heavy lifting than it would take to just sit patiently and meditatively for understanding to come. Theophilosophy shouldn’t weaken one’s faith; it should strengthen and deepen it. As an axiom, a sovereign deity cannot err and all people must have the same free will. So shouldn’t it be the case that if heteros don’t choose to be hetero, homos don’t choose to be homo?

When Right ≠ Legal

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there have been times throughout American history where what is right is not the same as what is legal. Sometimes to do the right thing you have to break a law. Edward Snowden

More Enthusiasm for Sport Than for One’s “Neighbor”?

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I just stumbled upon a 1970s or 1980s Billy Graham crusade. He said: “here in this stadium when you have a football game, if you’re really for Texas Tech you’re really gonna shout loud when they make a touchdown and the man who loves his neighbor the most will fight all that hurts and deprives and oppresses his neighbor. Paul said, ‘who is offended and I burn not?'”Continue Reading

Simultaneous Misogyny and Misandry?

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I found myself in a brief conversation today about gender roles. Specifically, the topic was equitable division of labor in the family, that is, where one spouse or partner is the career breadwinner and the other is the homemaker. All available indicators point to the thriving gender bias that men are expected to be breadwinners and women, the homemakers. But this tacit social norm is simultaneously misandrist and misogynist. Continue Reading

On Capitalism & Socialism

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The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries. Winston Churchill

First Amendment Paradox

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There is no first amendment right not to be offended by another’s first amendment right to offend. (But the sissy millennials will always whine anyway.)

Adams v. US ex rel. McCann

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There is a very interesting quote in Adams v. US ex rel. McCann, 317 U.S. 269 (1942) that “What were contrived as protections for the accused should not be turned into fetters. [. . .] To deny an accused a choice of procedure in circumstances in which he, though a layman, is as capable as any lawyer of making an intelligent choice, is to impair the worth of great Constitutional safeguards by treating them as empty verbalisms.” (Id., at 280). The odd thing is that Adams is like a snake eating its tail. It’s not very useful in and of itself, but the phrasing is righteously potent.

What Is Gender Nonconformity?

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As noted in another post, sex and gender are not the same thing. Sex is typically seen as a binary trait that flows from reproductive function whether that be regarded as genital, chromosomal, gonadal, hormonal, or structural. There are, of course, biologically intersex persons born with karyotype disorders, androgen insensitivity disorders, and/or genital dysgenesis disorders. According to the U.N. World Health Organization, as much as 1% to 2% of persons are born intersex worldwide. Gender, however, is more complex and is not a monolithic construct.Continue Reading

Edmund Burke on Moral Duty

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Two intrinsically-linked quotes from Sir Edmund Burke:

1) The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

2) Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.

Well-Regulated Militia & Right to Bear Arms

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I have heard opponents argue that the second-amendment’s “well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state” is subsumed by the National Guard such that there is no right for citizens to organize lay-militia. Without expressing an opinion on lay-militia and para-militia groups, I’m not convinced that the subsuming approach is correct.Continue Reading

First-Amendment Inclusiveness

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The same First Amendment which guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of speech, also puts a qualifier on it as “the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. At first blush those words are taken to mean that citizens have the right to congregate, whether that be to exercise the First-Amendment freedoms or to seek government redress of grievances; however, those words could just as easily be read to condition all First-Amendment freedoms upon a righteous purpose Continue Reading

Amadou Diallo

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In February 1999, four plain-clothes New York City cops shot and killed 23 year-old African immigrant Amadou Diallo more than 40 times in the doorway of his own home. Diallo was unarmed. The cops were acquitted of second degree murder.Continue Reading

Human Life is Sacred: What the death penalty, abortion, birth control, and 9/11 can teach us about the intersection of homicide and suicide

Intersection

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For a couple of years now I have come to believe that the death penalty should not be enforced. By this, I am not saying that the death penalty should not exist or that the death penalty should be abolished. On the contrary, there are acts that are so heinous that justice demands a sentence of death! However, once pronounced, humanity must step in and commute death to life imprisonment…unless the offender consents.Continue Reading

On Knowledge and Ignorance

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America has (de)evolved to a point where ignorance of law is no excuse and knowledge of law is no defense! Vox

Live With Nature

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The country has lost its mind trying to control the uncontrollable. Trying to stop pathogenic dispersion is like trying to prevent California wildfires. Humans want to think that our evolved intellect empowers us to bend nature to our wills. The reality is that all animals–homo or otherwise–must live with and within nature. Human suppression of natural fire turns the surrounding nature into a tinderbox. Fire is a critical part of nature’s ecosystem. Pathogens are too. I don’t hear all the macroevolutionists Continue Reading

On Striving for Gender Neutrality

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I once experienced a freak Saharan heatwave with highs over 40° C while studying in Madrid. It was a dry heat, though, and very different from one recent 103° F July afternoon in south Georgia. I bounced to a thrift store in search of some well-worn (breathable) medical scrubs and that’s when I saw it: the plain, charred olive A-line mini. It struck me as the ultimate heatbuster and looked so sensible and professional that it triggered a brief flashback to my days in the corporate offices of a large regional bank and I wondered, as progressive as the bank was, if I would have been permitted to elect its female dress code. On second thought, I have no desire to cross-dress, but shouldn’t gender equality give men the option to wear skirts just as it gave women the option to wear pants many decades ago? As counterintuitive as it might be, I suspect the bank would have been much more cerebral than most universities in contemplating such questions. This being a summer break, I decided to test the waters and having donned various skirts for three weeks now, I reflect upon deeply disconcerting truths.Continue Reading

Pro-Life, Yet Not Pro-Health?

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Right-wing Christians grandstand on potentiating “unborn” lives with no apparent thought to the quality of those lives. I am this moment reminded of John 10:10 where Jesus said “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” How exactly can one be pro-life without also being pro-healthcare? Conservatives have (as should all) a distrust of government overreach and tyranny, but to be pro-life must necessarily also mean being pro-abundant-life. What use is it to have life without quality of life? And life cannot be narrowly classified as birth but as all those who have been born but not yet died. To be pro-life must mean (as the Catholic church teaches) opposing capital punishment. It must also mean making healthcare available to all—not just the wealthy, not just ‘the least of these’—but to all and to those between. And it probably also means dispensing the same quality and access to healthcare just as it means the equal right to live.

The Fundamental Flaw in HB2

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As do countless citizens and corporations, I fundamentally disagreed with North Carolina’s 2016 legislation now known commonly as HB2. It was as much hateful as it was an egregious violation of federal law. I have pointed out in other posts that treating all females as frail victims incapable of defending themselves or speaking for themselves is supremely misogynistic just as it is supremely misandrist to presume all males to be menacing predators. In fact, I argue that the same mental processes which make a particular person (man or woman) a predator are the very same mental processes that make a comparable person a hero. You see, while a predator perceives a given set of circumstances as a potential victim to be exploited, a hero perceives those exact same circumstances as a potential victim in need of defense. And in this the old cartoons got it right! The hero and the villain wear identical hats and the color merely reflected the content of their character. Apart from these extremes, though, most males just go about their own business and their presence is neither good nor evil.Continue Reading

On Securing Liberty

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He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.Thomas Paine (1795)

Hypocrisy of a “Christian Nation”

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It is ridiculous and incredible that as a popularly-styled “Christian Nation” American society requires laws compelling compassion and fairness (by way of example, Colorado’s and Washington State’s laws on public accommodations). While the government should not dictate the conscientious objections of private enterprise, neither should private enterprise be allowed to hatefully mistreat a class of people. Continue Reading

Brett Kavanaugh: The Standard For Confirmation Is Not the Standard For Conviction

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In my gut, I don’t want to see Brett Kavanaugh confirmed—and not just because Donald Trump wants him on the Supreme Court—that was just the first strike. Listening to the compelling testimony against him was the final nail in the coffin. But my gut was not without its heartburn for feeling that way. I disliked myself for judging a matured man for the offenses of his youth. Even so, his declaration (“I am innocent of this charge”) sounded too much like the famous “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” line. Continue Reading

Police Turning to UK to Learn De-Escalation

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Scottish police officers simulated a riot at the Jackton training center in Glasgow, Scotland, where police leaders from throughout the United States gathered to discuss department tactics.
“A difference long curious to Americans stands out: Most British police officers are unarmed, a distinction particularly pronounced here in Scotland, where 98 percent of the country’s officers do not carry guns. For them, calming a situation through talk, rather than escalating it with weapons, is an essential policing tool, and one that brought a delegation of top American police officials to this town 30 miles northeast of Glasgow.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/12/nyregion/us-police-leaders-visiting-scotland-get-lessons-on-avoiding-deadly-force.html

A Society of Speech

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Two days ago a man asked me why I was carrying so many papers with me. My response was not as articulate as I would have liked it to have been, so this is what I wish I had said: We are a nation built on words and the ideas which those words express, a nation that considers words the ultimate weapon. Of all the constitutional amendments, the very first one sets out to protect speech above all else. It is no accident that it is the first of all amendments nor that it is immediately followed by the protection of arms and a militia. We must speak first and fight second.

Second Amendment Restrictions

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Americans might be more willing to accept gun/ammo restrictions if such were applied equally to the militarization-thirsty (and qualifiedly-immune) police. The second amendment is substantively a repudiation and protection from the one law for me, another law for thee conduct of state actors. Let them lead by example by demilitarizing themselves before they ask citizens to demilitarize. Then there would truly be no need for such gear.

Primera Enmienda a la Constitución

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El Congreso no legislará respecto al establecimiento de una religión o a la prohibición del libre ejercicio de la misma; ni impondrá obstáculos a la libertad de expresión o de la prensa; ni coartará el derecho del pueblo para reunirse pacíficamente y para pedir al gobierno la reparación de agravios.

Marsh v. Alabama, 326 U.S. 501 (1946)

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Marsh v. Alabama is a remarkable decision in which a Jehova’s witness attempted to distribute literature in a township operated by a private company. She was arrested and charged with trespass. The Supreme Court reasoned that even though the township existed within the property rights of a private company, “[o]wnership does not always mean absolute dominion. The more an owner, for his advantage, opens up his property for use by the public in general, the more do his rights become circumscribed by the statutory and constitutional rights of those who use it.” The U.S. Supreme Court reversed Alabama on First Amendment grounds and vacated Marsh’s state conviction. Supreme Court opinions from the era are notably concise and this one is definitely worth the read.  Marsh v. Alabama

Idaho’s Stupidest Candidate Bob Nonini

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Earlier this year there was an AP story about an Idahoan Lt. Gov candidate who, as part of his stumping, asserted that women who undergo elective abortions should be prosecuted if Roe v. Wade is ever reversed. OK, without actually attacking his statement, let’s just examine the underlying stupidity that should disqualify him from public office. Continue Reading

More Thoughts on Death Penalty

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I just finished watching The Ted Bundy Tapes on Netflix and I am conflicted more than ever by the death penalty. How does homocide remedy homicide? To what degree is the death penalty entrenched in antiquated Judeo-Christian religiosity? And what do the evolved states of those religions say about the preciousness of life? Does the Talmud not teach that to save one life is to save the whole world? Did Christ not teach that even the most wretched life is still worth sparing? And to what degree is pronouncing the death penalty our attempt to vangloriously exalt ourselves to equality with God to decide who should live and who should die? I think that as a society the death penalty must exist as the ultimate repudiation and condemnation of intolerable crime. But as a civilization, should we not then immediately commute that death sentence to exile (which is to say, prison)? We euthanize animals in the name of compassion, but we refuse that same compassion to those agonizing in the throes of slow natural death. Yet we force death upon those we condemn in the name of justice for the victims. Is that just a reverse–and a perverse–euthanasia? Using death in the name of compassion, not for the one dying, but for the one already dead? More death does not reverse the finality of the a priori death. And no, I haven’t been the victim of anyone like Ted Bundy, but I can say that the natural death of the alcoholic who terrorized my childhood brought me neither pleasure nor displeasure. His death closed the cover of an open book, but it did not erase the contents of the chapters.

Senator McKoon, Tear Down Your Wall

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Georgia Senator Joshua McKoon has proposed a state constitutional amendment to require that all government business be conducted in English and it makes no good sense. As a citizen with one foot still in Georgia (and the other foot looking for better soil to trod), this moronic initiative bothered me when I first heard of it, but it has really stuck in my craw and I must now speak out.Continue Reading

The End of Net Neutrality Won’t Be An Apocalypse

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Net neutrality is a good thing, but its demise won’t be the apocalyptic threshold that many “Chicken Littles” prognosticate. There are just too many money-grubbing attorneys chomping at the bit for a juicy class-action suit. Then too, there is also the US Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Protections Bureau on deck to intervene if the existing laws and court rulings are violated.

Around 100 years ago, the Mann-Elkins Act of 1910 legislatively declared telecommunication networks to be common carriers subject to Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce. In 1974, MCI sued AT&T in federal court for violating Mann-Elkins after Illinois Bell (at the time a wholly-owned subsidiary of AT&T) severed all of MCI’s network interconnections. MCI won a $1.8 billion judgement (which was upheld, though reduced, in 1983 by the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals). But ever since the 1970s, telecommunication providers cannot (lawfully) deny network access to a party that is willing and able to pay for the service nor can telecommunication providers charge dissimilar access rates to competitors. In fact, MCI’s initial 1974 victory over AT&T was the very thing that led to the federal government’s antitrust action that resulted in AT&T’s unprecedented breakup.Continue Reading

Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971)

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During the Vietnam conflict/war, Paul Robert Cohen wore a (leather?) jacket bearing the words “Fuck the Draft” into the Los Angeles Municipal Court building. Upon entering an actual courtroom, however, he removed and folded his jacket over his arm. He again donned the jacket upon leaving the courtroom and a city officer thereupon arrested and charged him with violating California Penal Code § 415 which prohibited “maliciously and willfully disturb[ing] the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person . . . by . . . offensive conduct. . . .” Continue Reading

Laws & Outlaws

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I stumbled upon a politician’s Facebook meme yesterday that employed at least a hundred words to restate a very succinct bumper sticker of the 1980 : “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” This truth—that laws only regulate the law-abiding—is not true only of guns.Continue Reading

Constitutional Amendment

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Back in May 2016 in the wake of citizen killings by cops and the black lives matter movement, I had the idea to think up a new Constitutional amendment:

No executive agent of a State or of the United States acting under color of domestic law shall purposefully, capriciously, wantonly, negligently, or indifferently perpetrate or permit an abrogation of due process or substantial miscarriage of justice upon any person during a time and place of peace, natural calm, and civil order, and any executive agent who conscientiously refuses an order which would violate such protection shall be equally protected.

My idea was to reflect and protect civil rights. It could potentially open the door for 28 USC 2254 habeas relief on a freestanding actual innocence claim. And while conceived as miscarriage of criminal law, it remains open to allow federal courts to decide what other substantial miscarriages might exist such as employment, welfare, healthcare, or voting rights. It opens the door for international application as well on matters like extraordinary rendition.

When Coronavirus Gets Really Personal

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A number of people, quite understandably, have not taken fondly to my vocal fortress-of-fear / fortress-of-faith position. We shall now see whether that position is summarily disproven should I test positive. Of course, testing negative does not affirm my position, but a positive result would presumptively invalidate it. But when it is all said and done, I elected to self-isolate because, should I test positive, others should not suffer the consequences of my inadequate faith. To be absolutely clear, though, nothing I have stated, past or present, should be construed to suggest that those who contract corona are somehow lacking in faith. In this life, misfortunes do strike undeserving people. This does not mean that God intends for anyone to suffer or that God wishes to instruct us by way of suffering. While commendable for a suffering soul to be able to glean something positive from tragedy, God must be viewed as benevolent. God no more causes one to die of corona than God would cause one to die from an earthquake. There simply are natural forces at work that were long ago set in motion and which play themselves out. Earthquakes happen, hurricanes happen, mental illness happens, All of these can result in considerable tragedy and losses of life. Pure evil also happens (Pearl Harbor, 9/11, JFK).Continue Reading

On Opposing Evil

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The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke [disputed]

On Discovering Truth

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[T]ruth is best discovered by powerful statements on both sides of the question. Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)


N.B. Though often attributed to Lord John Scott Eldon (1751-1838), Eldon was, in fact, quoting Bacon.

On Teachers’ Striking Over Salary

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It has been said that the government which governs least also governs best. And as a libertarian, I think the government’s interference with those things which can be handled locally should be avoided. I have often remarked that the federal government should not be involved with school lunches. But the recent spate of teacher strikes makes me wonder where this nonsense will end.Continue Reading

Corporate Retailer Gender Policies

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USA Today reports that Target does not stand alone in its respect for non-cisgender persons. Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, and Hudson Bay (Sacks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor) all condone customer election of the facility that matches that customer’s gender identity. Sears (as well as its Kmart subsidiary) is not as outspoken, but condemns all forms of discrimination. Read the full print article here

And there is evidence that other companies agree. CBS affiliate KTVT reports that Ross Dress-For-Less and TJX (TJ Maxx, Marshall’s) also endorse facility election based on that customer’s gender identity. The station also reports that Walmart has no specific gender policy one way or the other. Read the full story here.

Heroes, Villains, and Toilets

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The old cartoons with the heroes in white hats and villains in black hats were pretty much right on the money. Heroes and villains can dress alike, look alike, and even act alike and if not careful, the hero can be lumped in together with the villain. Continue Reading

The American President ACLU Rant

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For the record, yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU, but the more important question is “Why aren’t you, Bob?” Now this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question, why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the constitution? Now if you can answer that question, folks, then you’re smarter than I am, because I didn’t understand it until a few hours ago.Continue Reading

Gender Equality in the Shadow of 1960s Civil Rights

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The outside temperature reached 103° F one recent July afternoon in south Georgia. I once experienced even hotter temperatures in Spain a decade ago, but the gulf humidity here is a beast of a different kind. I bounced to a thrift store in search of extensively used (i.e. breathable) medical scrubs. Little did I know that this simple mission would ignite a profound inquiry into gender equality.Continue Reading

Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451 (1987)

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Houston v. Hill is a remarkable U.S. Supreme Court case that tackles abuses of power by police departments. The Supreme Court decided 7-2 that a Houston, Texas ordinance that was routinely used to arrest citizens for merely “arguing, talking, interfering, failing to remain quiet, refusing to remain silent, verbal abuse, cursing, verbally yelling, and talking loudly” toward a police officer.

Not only did the Supreme Court rule this type of conduct to be protected First Amendment speech, but the Supreme Court also expressed that the right to question police conduct is a fundamental distinction between democracy and dictatorship.Continue Reading

Lewis v. New Orleans, 415 U.S. 130 (1974)

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Back in the 1970s, Louisiana had a statute making it “unlawful and a breach of the peace for any person wantonly to curse or revile or to use obscene or opprobrious language toward or with reference to any member of the city police while in the actual performance of his duty.” After much procedural harangue that included affirmation by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the United States Supreme Court held that such statute “is not susceptible of application to speech, although vulgar or offensive, that is protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15, 18-22 (1971); Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1, 4-5 (1949); Gooding v. Wilson, supra, at 520. Since [the law], as construed by the Louisiana Supreme Court, is susceptible of application to protected speech, the section is constitutionally overbroad and therefore is facially invalid.” Read the full opinion on Google Scholar.

On Civil Accountability

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I’m a private citizen with rights, but you’re a public servant with duties.vox

Lorie Smith, What Would Jesus Do?

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Does anyone remember the WWJD wristbands from the 1990s? Jesus opposed all that the pharisees stood for, yet he welcomed them into his gatherings. If they were not among the attendees, how were they have been there to pose questions to him? They tried to compel his speech about paying taxes to Caesar (Mt 22:17, Mk 12:14, Lk 20:22). But what did Jesus do? He got creative and avoided the very words that the Pharisees expected put in his mouth. Whether it is baking a cake or designing a wedding website, can we not love these neighbors as ourselves? Should a Christian refuse to love her neighbors by withholding alms from homeless lesbians? Should the Christian who pulls off the road to assist stranded motorists drive away when he adduces them to be homosexually-wedded men? Not every Christian is sufficiently spiritually mature to implement what I propose here, but why can’t Christians design a wedding website or cake while engaging in genuine loving prayer for the customer-celebrants? And shouldn’t a Christian do that for every such customer, even the heterosexual ones? Indeed, can the designer not imprint a resonant verse like “God Is Love”? (1 John 4:8,16) Does that not avoid the issue, love our neighbor, and plant a highly memorable seed that the Holy Spirit can cultivate over time? Tragically, high profile battles like Creative, LLC, and Masterpiece Cake Shop only injure Christianity’s message. I’m relieved that SCOTUS preserved free speech protections, but I wish this case had never been brought.

Umpires and Referees Are Better Impartial Observers Than Police

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It occurs to me just now, and I will develop this more in the future posts, but sports officials are better observers in their professions than police are in their professions. Just by way of comparison, what percentage of video replays show a referee or umpire was incorrect in his (now her as well) initial assessment of split-second events? What percentage of body and dash cameras show police were dead wrong on events that crescendo over a period of minutes? Yes, there are

Amber Guyger

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I’m going to predict that Amber Guyger will be (or should be) convicted of the lesser manslaughter. It is so bizarre. No explanation makes sense. I can believe that she was so tired as to go to the wrong apartment. I could also believe that she was doing blow or meth to stay awake and work those extended hours (which, btw, in and of itself is full of shit; plenty of departments work standard 12-hour shifts). Whether she was exhausted or not, the first response of any person is not to shoot. If I were in my home and someone walked in, yeah, it would be lights out. But if I walked into my home and immediately saw an intruder, I’d duck out as fast as I could and re-assess the situation from cover. If I came home and found my door ajar, I’m not sure what I would do. And maybe that’s what happened for her, but her always-right, never-wrong, bad-ass cop programming took over and she acted as if she had just responded to a burglary in process. But even then, she would have been justified in shooting if she saw a weapon or something that appeared to be a weapon. I am unaware of any such testimony. Whether she was mistaken or not, she was negligent. Her negligence caused the death of a person. That is manslaughter.