Trump, Gorsuch, & The Supreme Court: Will Progressives Act in Good Faith?


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Democrats should hold confirmation hearings and approve President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, in a respectful, timely way. In other words, they ought to act in the way Republicans should have acted with President Obama’s pick, Merrick Garland. How Liberals and Progressives respond to this nomination will show whether their ongoing protests and anger are truly principled or are just aimless expressions of emotion.

Most every action Trump has taken since becoming President has been abnormal, irresponsible, immoral, incompetent, or counter-productive. He is, in my opinion entirely unfit for the office of President, and has not the moral, intellectual, nor executive substance that this office requires. Yet I am in the electoral minority. Donald J. Trump is the President now, and even if he does not treat the Presidency with the respect and dignity it deserves, the rest of us should.

All of the Opinion pieces I’ve seen so far that have argued for Democratic obstruction of the Gorsuch nomination, do so on two primary grounds: the Republican travesty of blocking Obama’s pick for the past year, and the Conservatism of Gorsuch. Both of these reasons come up short.
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Law & Grace, Law & Grace | Genesis 12:10


When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.”
Genesis 6:18

Those Lutherans are on to something. God really does seem to come at this on the front end with some works and law, and then does the covenant switcheroo.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Repeal the 4th Amendment! (and a few other quick & dirty items)


american-flag-waving-sunsetLast week, I wrote up a post with several short and random items just listed out with some thoughts brought up by the NSA Surveillance leaks. I had a few ideas that I forgot to put in last time (and it would have made the post too long anyway), so here they are.

Egypt. Firstly, in the midst of continuing NSA leaks, and even the Director of National Intelligence admitting he lied under oath to Congress, is it wrong of me to be a little frustrated at Egypt right now? I mean, they’re taking up all of the news cycle coverage. Can’t we get a little time for a Constitutional crisis here? Stop stealing the spotlight.

(You too, Snowden, although I know it’s not all your fault.)

Law vs. Constitution. This is one I forgot to say last week. Everyone keeps wanting to stress that these surveillance and wiretapping programs were legal and law-abiding; that Congress and the Judiciary were fully aware of it.

Well, I already mentioned last week about the Judciary part of this, but as far as Congress goes, they’re right–it is indeed legal for the Executive branch to have been doing this stuff. But, there are two caveats to that.
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Proud to be an American: a blow to Voter ID Laws


spanish-voter-stickerToday, the Supreme Court found unconstitutional Arizona’s law requiring extra ID when registering to vote, saying that States can’t regulate federal elections to that degree, because that is under the authority of Congress, not the States.

Admittedly, I wish the legal reasoning was more specifically on the principal of extra voting requirements rather than just a Federal vs. State’s rights issue. Technically, the basis of this decision would still allow for federal election committees to create a national Voter ID requirement for registration, the prospect of which I’m not excited about.

And, it also need to be pointed out that this case was not about the state laws requiring people to present Voter ID on election day, but rather just when they register to vote. But either way, this is a small win for America today.
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ACLU of Pennsylvania Files Suit Against Voter ID Law


I’ve not hidden my opposition to the recent wave of Voter ID laws being passed and pursued across the nation. I have written about this on this site, posted articles on the topic, and argued extensively on Facebook about this.

I have offered a simple mathematical challenge that no supporter of these laws has been able to meet: if it can be shown that more fraud would be prevented than voters being disenfranchised, I’ll change my mind and support these issues.

As I said, no supporter of these laws has been able to demonstrate this. They have given anecdotal evidence of random voter fraud, they have appealed to philosophical reasons behind this policy, and to try and show how the voters that would be disenfranchised wouldn’t deserve to to vote anyway because they would not be “enthusiastic”, “eager”, or “self-motivated” (because apparently every person without an ID  only ever votes because liberal social activist organizations manipulate and pay them to vote Democrat).

Yesterday, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, among other organizations, officially filed suit against the Commonwealth, claiming that the Voter ID law passed by Governor Tom Corbett violates the Commonwealth’s Constitution. They seem to have a pretty good case.
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A Death Penalty Follow-Up


Last week, I wrote a post about the recent case of Troy Davis and how this had inspired me to rethink and reconsider my position on the use of Capital Punishment by the government to punish those convicted of crimes they deemed worthy of such a response. In my attempt to be nuanced, I fear I may have given a wrong impression of where I stand now.

I think some people may have walked away from the post thinking that I believe that the government should have the right to bring the death penalty to bear upon some criminals, but Christians shouldn’t actually do it (or something like that). This isn’t quite the case.

Let me restate what I’m thinking even more clearly and simply: I don’t see a justification for Christians supporting the use of Capital Punishment by the government in any case. 

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Troy Davis, Capital Punishment, & the Death of Conscience


This is a tough one to write. And it’s long. I broke almost all of my personal blogging rules in this, but I just need to get this out. I’ve spent the past two days with this post and it’s central ideas rolling around in my head and even now as I sit to type, I have little knowledge how it’s all going to come out.

Today, for the first time in my young life, I shed tears for a man that was executed at the hands of the State. Two nights ago, Troy Davis was finally executed in Georgia for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer. Questions still abound concerning his guilt and innocence, the politics at play in the various boards and courts that refused to change their minds, and the calcification of a seemingly dispassionate justice system  that renders helpless the voices of those it presumes to protect. This New York Times article perfectly captures the complexity and tension that exists right now over this topic.
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The Bible, Slavery, & Atheism: Part 1b


this is real (I did it myself)

The next post is pretty much done, but I wanted to send out this quick note before moving on. The previous post revealed a lot of things that I neglected to make clear. My fault. Sorry.

First and foremost, the last post was not meant to settle the question on slavery and the Bible. I just wanted to get out what the Bible actually says about it. The most I wanted to accomplish toward addressing the issue was to let people see a clear trajectory within Scripture wherein no part is inherently contradictory to the parts before or after it, no more than a seed is contradictory in nature or form to a fully blossomed flower. I also wanted to give a sense of the complexity of the issue. In every passage that lies out even the most comprehensive sets of morality and ethics for the Israelite people, you never see slavery there. It was never an action that was consistently seen as something moral. It’s not a freedom that the Israelites are free to use whenever they desire; it’s used sporadically, meaning that there must be something else going on beyond some explicit commentary by God on the moral nature of slavery. The New Testament is clear that the crucifixion of Christ was something that was foreordained and ultimately brought about by God, but this neither expunges the moral responsibility of the people that actually did it, nor says that God is all about crucifixion and thinks it is “morally neutral” or “ethically okay”. He clearly thinks it is wrong and evil, and yet He clearly ordained it, allowed it, and used it to bring about his promised redemption to the world.

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Of Google, Books, & Alexandria


google_book[Sorry, previous version of this got cut off and I didn’t know it]

I know, I know.  I shouldn’t.  But I do.  I trust Google.  Really.  They are a great company that gives great products for free and really seems to care about their customers.  Yes, it is creepy they know so much about me, but their mission statement is akin to “we want to organize the world’s information.”  To do that wonderful, good, and noble task, one needs resources.  For Google, that’s advertising, and I feel that the information they know about me is a means to an end rather than some weird technoglomeration scheme to take over the world.

That’s why I didn’t have a problem with Google’s plan to scan the world’s books and post them online (and searchable).  God knows how many times I’ve been reading a book and have longed to press the non-existent “Ctrl + F” function to just look for a keyword.  Also, I’ve hated Amazon’s posturing of themselves as a future monopoly of the ever growing market of E-Book readers.  With proprietary formats, proprietary hardware, and a proprietary means of distribution, Amazon is fixing to rape the publishing industry of all that is left making it a worthy venture.

That’s why they’re scared and have joined other companies like Yahoo in a lawsuit against Google, to prevent them from creating a digital library of all the world’s books, most of which would be downloadable for free in formats that most other e-Book readers can in fact use (but the Kindle cannot).  So, in short, Google wants to exert huge resources to provide us with both incredible access to information and to save Capitalism as we know it in the literary world.

But, in the wrangling over this deal, a judge has indefinitely postponed the settlement of the issue.  I really want to see this deal go through.  It is just such an incredible opportunity for us on every level.  What has stoked my passion over this?

This wonderful article by Tim Wu of Slate magazine outlining the legal issues involved here. He writes:

…if the settlement dies, it will be researchers, not Google, who will be hurt. It’s unlikely that anyone else will take on a money-losing project to scan millions of low-value volumes. If the Justice Department pushes too hard now, one day we’ll be asking, “Who lost Book Search?”… A delivery system for books that few people want is not a business one builds for financial reasons. Over history, such projects are usually built not by the market but by mad emperors. No bean counter would have approved the Library of Alexandria or the Taj Mahal…[So] if you want to put Google in its place, the book project is the wrong way to do so…To punish Google by killing Book Search would be like punishing Andrew Carnegie by blowing up Carnegie Hall.

In short, we have an opportunity to build the new Library of Alexandria; except this time, it is a searchable, downloadable, bigger, and more comprehensive library that will be available to children, the poor, the third world, the rural, the scholar, researcher, and the like. As the article says, historically, projects like this are more the product of crazy geniuses than government intervention. It should be done. It should be supported. And it should be done now.

The bigger danger here (I think) is Amazon, not Google. Google is actually trying to open the market, while Amazon is trying to close it. Google is trying to accomplish a noble mission, Amazon is trying to make a profit. Google is trying to let little known books and authors get distribution, exposure, and money (if they want); Amazon is trying to market the corner so they can dictate prices to publishers in order steal money from authors, and fix their prices lower. Google is not the enemy here. They are willing to lose so much money and do pain-staking work to bring future inevitabilities to the present.

Do I think this little blog post will save Google Book search? No. But I’m just doing my part to hopefully change one or two people’s minds, maybe inspire someone else to right a blog post or talk to their friends, or perhaps just cause a conversation that might be the proverbial butterfly flutter helping to bring about a hurricane we all will ultimately benefit from.

Save Google Book Search.