Saturday 8/27/16

  1. Presidential timber
  2. Altering the bastard’s birth certificate
  3. Rulings against transgender students and employees
  4. America’s Cathedrals — NOT!
  5. IVF, ART and the quest for cures
  6. Moral Hazard
  7. Breitbart

1

I’ve been doing a meta-survey of the opinions on the relationship of Hillary and the Clinton Foundation and can synthesize their credible conclusion: sleazy as hell but not technically illegal. (A dissent.)

That’s classically Clintonian, like Bill’s famous “lie” about sex with Monica (which I agree was not a lie, but a calculatedly misleading equivocation): he did not have “sexual relations” with her (because sexual relations involves putting Tab A in Slot B, whereas Bill put it in Slot C).

Charles Krauthammer, a columnist I don’t “follow” but who sometimes catches my eye with a headline, spells out the indictment of Hillary and then — the exoneration:

It’s not until a Rolex shows up on your wrist that you get indicted. Or you are found to have dangled a Senate appointment for cash. Then, like Rod Blagojevich, you go to jail. (He got 14 years.)

Yet we are hardly bothered by the routine practice of presidents rewarding big donors with cushy ambassadorships, appointments to portentous boards and invitations to state dinners.

The bright line seems to be outright bribery. Anything short of that is considered — not just for the Clintons, for everyone — acceptable corruption.

It’s a sorry standard. And right now it is Hillary Clinton’s saving grace.

2

The U.S. Constitution, according to the Supreme Court, guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry. The Virginia constitution begs to differ — as do constitutions in 29 other states. In Virginia, two lawmakers are trying to change things.

The Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges last summer made gay marriage legal across the United States. That was already true for Virginia: In 2014, the high court chose not to take up a challenge to a lower court’s ruling that the state’s ban was unconstitutional. But an amendment to Virginia’s constitution still defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. So does a state law. State Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria) and Del. Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax) have introduced bills to change both, The Post’s Patricia Sullivan has reported.

Scrapping dead-letter laws is mostly a symbolic move. But the symbolism is meaningful to the thousands of gay Virginians entitled to equality in every aspect of their lives and in their state’s laws. What’s more, by giving democratic backing to an edict handed down by the Supreme Court, a legislative rollback of restrictions on same-sex couples would lend additional legitimacy to what is already the law of the land.

(Washington Post Editorial, emphasis added) I’m grateful for the tacit recognition that Obergefell is illegitimate, but “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” Let them stand as a reproach — to SCOTUS, I must add.

3

This story … does cover a lot of ground in some 700 words. It reviews the lawsuit, brought by 13 states and two school districts, protesting Obama’s directive. And it adeptly summarizes both the basic question and the mechanics of enforcement:

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s 38-page order said federal agencies exceeded their authority under the 1972 law banning sex discrimination in schools. The injunction applies nationwide, and follows a number of other recent court rulings against transgender students and employees.

The Texas ruling, issued late Sunday, turned on the congressional intent behind Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which requires that “facilities provided for students of one sex shall be comparable to such facilities provided for students of the other sex.”

“It cannot be disputed that the plain meaning of the term sex” in that law “meant the biological and anatomical differences between male and female students as determined at their birth,” the judge wrote. “Without question, permitting educational institutions to provide separate housing to male and female students, and separate educational instruction concerning human sexuality, was to protect students’ personal privacy, or discussion of their personal privacy, while in the presence of members of the opposite biological sex.”

One quick complaint on my part: the phrase “against transgender students and employees.”

The ruling is not worded as opposing transgendered people as people. It simply says the government overreached in interpreting the federal educational law. Judge O’Connor even went out of his way to say that state governments could pass their own laws requiring transgender facilities. (And although this article doesn’t say so, it sounds like the U.S. Congress, too, could pass a law with the same provisions.)

Thank you, Jim Davis, for that “quick complaint.” Politicizing a clear court decision as being “against” some certified victim group instead of against Executive branch overreach is probably (I’ll at least assume it) a reflex, not a conscious decision to deceive. But it helps to illustrate how the press biases skew our perceptions.

4

I like our national parks. My brother and sister-in-law recently spent weeks visiting many of them. Great pictures.

So I note the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service with appreciation — but also with a quibble.

The parks are not “the nation’s cathedrals.” Not even the portentously-named “National Cathedral” is the nation’s cathedral.

If you’d never call the Parks our cathedrals again, I’d appreciate it, since I’d like to continue enjoying them for what they are instead of viewing them with suspicion as emblems of an alternate religion.

5

Embryonic stem cells are harvested from embryos so microscopically small that you literally cannot see them without a microscope. You can say that this doesn’t matter—that even embryos are human beings with a right to life. But then, if you’re being honest, you have to deal with what follows. The embryos used in stem cell research come from fertility clinics, which routinely produce multiple embryos for each attempted pregnancy, to improve the chances of success. The excess embryos are disposed of or, ludicrously, frozen until someone can figure out what to do with them. Logically, if you’re going to ban research using embryonic stem cells, you also have to ban the entire fertility industry, which destroys far more embryos in the normal course of business than stem cell research ever will. But political pressure to shut down fertility clinics is nonexistent.

(Michael Kinsley, Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide)

A person is a person, no matter how small.

(Dr. Seuss)

Kinsley has had Parkinson’s Disease and has high hopes for palliation or cure from embryonic stem cell research.

At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, (1) I agree with the Kinsley block quote except for the “nonexistent” part and (2) I would love to see the abolition of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technologies (ART) that produce “surplus” embryos — for exactly the reason he adduces and others harder to articulate.

But I recognize that public sentiment is nowhere near supporting me. I also suspect that the Supreme Court would declare abolition unconstitutional on some further extension of its expressive individualist jurisprudence, especially now that there’s a cadre of “married” people who cannot “have a baby together” without ART. The idea that procreation is not integral to marriage, one link in the case for same-sex marriage, will be sent down the memory hole in favor of a rule that procreation is integral to marriage and that denying babies to intrinsically infertile erotic pairings is bigotry.

6

Three elderly retirees are sitting on the beach in Florida. One of them asks the other two, “What brought you here?” Second guy says, “I had a small factory up north, but it burned down in a mysterious fire. So I took the insurance money and retired to Florida.” Third guy says, “Me too. Owned a factory. Mysterious fire. Insurance money. Florida.” He turns to the first guy. “And how about you?” First guy says, “Same story, almost. My factory was wiped out in a huge tidal wave, so I took the insurance money and moved to Florida.” The other two look at each other, and finally one says, “Gosh, who do you go to for a tidal wave?”

(Michael Kinsley, Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide) I think Kinsley would admit that he didn’t make up this one; I’m virtually certain I’d heard it before.

7

Breitbart Rises From Outlier to Potent Voice in Campaign

  • The renegade opinion and news site has become a rallying spot for disaffected conservatives who propelled Donald J. Trump to the nomination.

(New York Times) I do so wish that the press would stop using “conservative” to describe anything about Trump or his supporters. But Breitbart apparently is “alt-Right” so I protest in vain.

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.