Sunday, January 3, 2016
Clash of the Titans...
By Joe Armendariz

In January of 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio appeared on all four of the big conservative national radio shows to dispel the myths and discuss the principles of what would eventually become the legislative language in the so-called "Gang of Eight" bill (S-744).

All four radio hosts would came around to believe that the comprehensive immigration reforms Senator Rubio was proposing were sound public policies and would comprehensively fix our broken immigration system.

Some of these radio-talk titans, especially Laura and Rush, questioned the need to focus on the issue of immigration at all, but all of them came to understand that a lot of factually inaccurate information being circulated around by the left and the right, were just that, factually inaccurate.

Ultimately, and sadly, the legislation was doomed to the hyper politics surrounding the divisive issue of immigration reform. And so we continue to have a broken immigration system that continues to grant what amounts to de facto "amnesty" to over 11 million people living here illegally. This is the status quo.

The immigration reform bill that Senator Rubio signed onto, and would later get crucified politically for supporting, would have been a tremendous improvement over what we have today, and would have made our nation not just safer, but more prosperous economically. Stay tuned for a future column where I will lay out the facts on why this is the case.

To his credit, Senator Ted Cruz authored amendments to S-744 that would've tightened up the language in the bill by addressing some of the flaws dealing primarily with border security, as well as legal immigration, via expanded H1B visas, and increasing the number of green cards. Those amendments failed on a party line vote in a Democrat controlled Judiciary Committee of which Sen. Cruz is a member.

It's reasonable to assume had Sen. Cruz' amendments been adopted, and included in the underlying immigration reform bill, Cruz would have voted for S-744 and wouldn't be able to play the sort of political game he played at the GOP debate as it relates to granting “legal status” to those who are here illegally.  Sen. Cruz was prepared to vote for S-744 and said so on the floor of the U.S. Senate in June of 2013. You can watch his speech, as I have, on YouTube.

Those amendments and what they represented in terms of Cruz' support for, or opposition to, S-744, were at the heart of Cruz and Rubio's pointed exchange in Las Vegas. As I said, in June of 2013 Senator Cruz stood on the floor of the U.S. Senate and said these words: "I support comprehensive immigration reform", and then went on to explain why he supports more immigration in the United States. A position that is now sacrilegious in the age of Trump, and the aftermath of Paris, and San Bernardino.

Today, from Ann Coulter, to Laura Ingraham, to Sean Hannity, to Mark Levin, Ted Cruz is seen as a “purist” on immigration, and Sen. Rubio is somehow considered "weak” on immigration, or in “favor” of amnesty...Rubio is not, nor has he ever been, in favor of amnesty. S-744 did not grant anyone here illegally amnesty. It is utterly dishonest to suggest as much, and Sen. Cruz knows this to be true.

It's fascinating to me that someone is able to hide behind the legislative machinery in the United States Senate to obfuscate what they actually stand for on any given issue...which often times allows them to be for and against a piece of legislation simultaneously by cleverly manipulating the Senate rules as it relates to offering amendments. Democrats do it, Republicans do it.  In other words, politicians do it.

Mark Levin said of Sen. Rubio in January of 2013 that he was a "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington"...because he was simply motivated by wanting to do the right thing. That was then, this is now. And politics, as the old saying goes, ain't bean bag. 

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Monday, June 22, 2015
Order In The Court
 It seems that hardly a day goes by that we don’t learn of some aspect of our laws that is determined by the court(s), as opposed to being established by the various legislatures around the country. 

Why is that?

Is it because we are not able to agree on anything?  Or perhaps it’s because issues have become so complex that it’s necessary to have a third party, such as the courts, sort them out for us?

One issue that made headlines is a federal court decision that California’s Proposition 8, which defines marriage as being between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional – because it violates the constitutional rights of gay people.  Judge Vaughn R. Walker noted, “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license…Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.”

Apparently over 50% of California’s voters thought differently at the time Proposition 8 was passed in 2008, but the federal court stepped in to tell them that they were wrong.

However, this is just one of many legislative actions that now find their way into the courts to be resolved.

The ink was hardly dry on Obama’s health care bill before it was being challenged in the courts on a variety of grounds.  One was in the state of Missouri, which took the position that Obamacare is unconstitutional because it requires American citizens to buy health insurance.  The state’s claim is that this is an overly broad interpretation of

the “Commerce Clause” in the U.S. Constitution.

Another issue that will ultimately be decided by the courts is the dispute over Arizona’s SB 1070, which the Obama administration claims is discriminatory. Many states have been lining up on both sides of the issue, and Department of Justice immediately entered the fray by filing an action in the federal courts.

It also looks as though the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which is the basis of the so-called “anchor babies” may be challenged in the federal courts.  The legal issue involved is based on the presumption that anyone who is born in the United States automatically becomes an American citizen.

Ann Coulter noted, “In fact, this alleged right derives only from a footnote slyly slipped into a Supreme Court opinion by Justice Brennan in 1982…The 14th Amendment was added after the Civil War in order to overrule the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, which had held that black slaves were not citizens of the United States. The precise purpose of the amendment was to stop sleazy Southern states from denying citizenship rights to newly freed slaves -- many of whom had roots in this country longer than a lot of white people.”

Other issues we are seeing decided by the courts include the right of eminent domain. Government over-reach in taking such actions as exercising the right of eminent domain was exemplified by the Kelo case, in which the city took private property for the benefit of a private developer for the sole reason that a proposed project would generate significantly increased tax revenues for the city.

There are many more examples of the growing power of our courts, too numerous to detail in this short commentary, but the result of all the litigation over the meaning or intent of legislators and/or government officials is placing ever more of the decision making in this country in the hands of the courts. 

Of the three branches of our government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial, it would appear that the courts have been steadily assuming increased authority over much of the decision making that our Constitution contemplated would be made by the other two branches.  If this is allowed to continue, we may eventually find ourselves in the position of being “ruled” by the nation’s judges, many of whom are not elected and therefore are not accountable to the people, and it is almost impossible to remove those judges who are appointed for life.

It would seem that many of the judges in our courts are now beginning to believe that they know what it best for the American people, but they are wrong.  If we do not recognize this threat to our liberties, we may ultimately find ourselves ruled by our courts.  The fix is relatively easy, if our legislators are willing to do it.  Congress has

the authority to act and must do so before they completely surrender the power that is vested in them.

© 2013-15 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved

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Monday, June 22, 2015
It’s Not Nice To Fool Mother Nature
We live in a wondrous age of medical technology that our ancestors surely would have thought magic. 

Routine medical treatments that are taken for granted today most certainly would have been considered witchcraft or miracles in an earlier time. 

To me, many of them still seem that way. 

Consider some examples that are now not only commonplace but have become routine: cataract surgery, heart bypass surgery, angioplasty and artery stents, hip and joint replacements, antibiotics, organ transplants, in vitro fertilization, surrogate birth, arthroscopic surgery, CAT scans and MRIs.

The list seems endless. 

Americans tend to take it all in stride, accepting and embracing each startling new medical breakthrough that comes along as if it is simply part of our birthright.  

A while back, I was struck by another application of technology in medicine, the development of a tiny camera, so small that the patient can swallow it.  As it travels through the body, it sends the data it gathers to a hard drive that is worn on the patient’s belt.  The camera takes two pictures every second. There are no tubes and no wires. 

One important use of this amazing technology is to locate the source of internal bleeding.  The camera makes it possible to pinpoint the exact location of trouble in just a few hours, thus enabling surgeons to operate in precisely the right location without having to look for it.  This miracle of technology is called “capsule endoscopy.”

An obvious benefit of our many astonishing advances in medical technology is the longevity we enjoy in this country today.  As recently as the early 1900s, the average lifespan for Americans was only about forty-four years.  A hundred years later, for babies being born today, it is around eighty.  A remarkable accomplishment by any standard.

But, there is a much larger question involved in all of this: Does anything go?  Is everything new beneficial simply by definition, no matter what it is or does?  How are we to know which technological advances in medicine are truly desirable?  Or ethical?  Or moral?  And, who will make such choices on our behalf? 

The popular TV commercial that used to say, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature,” may have been telling us something.  Just how far do we really want to carry medical technology? 

Will the six million dollar man actually become a reality?  Cyborgs?  What about genetic engineering?  Cloning to replace a lost child?  Using other species as a source of replacement organs? 

Pig or chimpanzee hearts, for example.  Do we really have the moral right to use other animals this way? 

How about cloning humans for the purpose of harvesting the parts?   Does anyone worry about the possibility of unintended consequences?  What if the result turns out to be something no one anticipates or wants, such as severe deformities?  Is another form of Thalidomide baby, or worse, somewhere in our future again?

I am reminded of the movie, “Soylent Green (1973),” which was based on the proposition that, due to overpopulation, food in the world of the future will become so scarce that the government resorts to feeding people with a green cracker-like product that is supposedly made of soy beans or plankton, but in fact is made by recycling humans.  It’s a horrifying idea to contemplate, and I still remember how shocked I was at the time I saw the film, as you probably are reading this. 

Yet, given the pace at which modern technology is advancing, the rate of worldwide population growth and the situational ethics that exist today, can we completely rule out the possibility that something like this could happen in the future?

Just because we can do something does not necessarily mean we should.  The mere fact that it can be done does not make it right.  Or does it?

As we move further into the new millennium, advanced technology will force us to confront ever more dramatic choices about health care, ethics and morality.

The first face transplant in France is a good example: In 1994 a nine-year-old girl’s face was “ripped off when her hair was caught in a thresher.” 

The headline on a June 13 YAHOO article, “Surgeon promising first human head transplant makes US pitch,” really got my attention.  The notion of such an operation is beyond my comprehension and raises a number of bizarre issues.  I’ll leave it to you to “fill in the blanks” for yourself.

Are we really equipped to make every life and death decision that may be made possible by advanced medical technology but that may be considered unethical, immoral or just plain playing God?

Where do we go from here?

© 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved

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Monday, June 22, 2015
About Marriage
Marriage is defined as “a relationship between or among individuals, usually recognized by civil authority and/or bound by the religious beliefs of the participants” (Wikipedia).         

It has generally been thought to be a relationship of one male and one female, the primary purpose of which is to produce and rear children. 

That’s the model that has traditionally been adopted by Western societies, although historically many other societies have allowed some form of polygamy.

Wikipedia also tells us, “In one form or another, marriage is found in virtually every society.  The very oldest records that refer to it speak of it as an established custom.  

Despite attempts by anthropologists to trace its origin . . . evidence is lacking.”

With the advancement of gay rights and the drive to legalize same-sex marriage, Western societies, where marriage has generally been defined as a monogamous union, may well be evolving into cultures in which the definition of marriage will be expanded beyond the traditional joining of one man and one woman to include same-sex couples.

This year, National Public Radio (npr.org) covered the issue of same-sex marriage extensively with a number of reports, some of which were headlined as follows:

Gay Marriage Issue Looms over Colorado Race (Oct 15, 2006)

Mass Judge: Out-of-State Gay Couple Can Marry (Sep 29,2006

Gay-Marriage Advocates Regroup After Latest Defeat (Aug 2, 2006)

High Court Rulings and the Future of Gay Marriage (July 18, 2006)

New York, Georgia Courts Disallow Gay Marriage (July 6, 2006)

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that gay couples must be accorded the same rights as heterosexual couples and that the state legislature has six months to either grant gays the right to marry, or come up with another civil-union type system.

In addition, the California General Assembly became the first state legislature to approve same-sex marriages.

Those who oppose such unions on religious or moral grounds are often called “bigots.”  But, it seems to me that bigotry is in the eye of the beholder.

A “bigot” is defined (by Wikipedia) as “a prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles or identities differing from their own.”  The word is commonly used to denigrate those who are unwilling to change their opinion(s) even when faced (presumably) with evidence that they are incorrect.

My own view is that the word “bigot” has become an epithet that is used to attack people who disagree with a particular point of view, belief or value. However, to paraphrase Forrest Gump, a bigot is as a bigot does.

Is any person who does not agree with you (or me) a “bigot”? 

I think not.

It seems to me that what’s missing in the definition is the element of prejudice, that is, bigots are prejudiced against another, or others, for a variety of reasons, i.e., race, ethnic background, religious beliefs, education (or lack thereof), social or economic status, moral values, or almost any aspect of their ideas, attitudes or principles.

But, those who so easily label others as bigots are often guilty of the same conduct, that is, they themselves are bigoted against anyone who is unwilling to accept their particular point of view.  As I said earlier, “a bigot is as a bigot does.”

 The painful truth is that everyone is bigoted to some degree about some things, which is to say that they have strong opinions about certain matters and are unlikely to change them, even in the face of what others may consider proof positive that they are wrong.  It’s inescapable.  But, if we did not have opinions, we would be nothing more than walking marshmallows.

So, where does that take us in the matter of marriage?

Well, for one thing, the education establishment has endorsed homosexuality as a “lifestyle” and is promoting a variety of school programs and activities

that are designed to teach children that homosexuality is not only acceptable, but that it is a matter of equal rights and fairness to “educate” children, some as young as the third or fourth grades, about the benefits of the “gay lifestyle.”

Parents who are not paying close attention to what’s happening in the schools are likely to wake up one day and find that their children have been taught things they strongly oppose.

Linda Harvey, president of Mission America, writing for CSNNews.com, noted that the American Federation of Teachers, the American School Health Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the American Association of School Administrators have all signed on to the concept of teaching students about homosexuality.  She further observed, “…the National School Boards featured a glowing article in a recent newsletter about the great benefits of ‘gay’ clubs in schools.”

Some 2,000 homosexual clubs have already been established in American schools.  Groups like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) have articulated a goal of establishing “clubs in as many elementary schools as possible using the rationale that these students, who they imply were probably born this way, need ‘support systems’ to avoid harassment and discrimination.”

Can gay and lesbian dolls in toy stores, children’s books and school teaching materials be far behind?  Gay personalities and characters that are featured

in media, movie and TV stories have already become commonplace.

Those parents, grandparents and citizens in general who overtly resist the effort to normalize gay relationships will no doubt be labeled as “bigots.”  But, are they?  Or are those who are pushing the “gay lifestyle” bigots for being unwilling to accept the reality that most parents want to be the judge of what their children should be taught about things that are considered to be a personal matter of religious belief, ethics and morality?  Which brings us back to the issue of same-sex marriage.

The drive by gays for equal treatment under the law has already led to civil union that extend most if not all the same rights and privileges to same-sex couples, even if a Constitutional amendment is adopted that defines “marriage” as one man and one woman.

Most of the issues in same-sex couple relationships, such as hospital visitation and health care rights, inheritance, property rights (including division of assets in dissolutions), spousal and child support, etc. have been resolved.

About the only thing I can see that will be different is the fact that same-sex marriages are not being religiously sanctified, although some form of marriage ceremony is being conducted  by gay or sympathetic clergy.

As for bearing and rearing children, that’s also already happening, either by means of In Vitro Fertilization (in the case of women), surrogate birth or adoption.

 Where we go from here, no one knows for sure, but it’s easy to predict that we will see more intense and aggressive efforts in Western societies to force the acceptance of the “gay lifestyle” and same-sex marriage on the population in general.

© 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved

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Thursday, May 21, 2015
There Oughta Be A Law
It’s amazing to me how often we read or hear stories about the number of laws that Americans are required to obey. When you take into account all the federal, state and local laws that are on the books, it adds up to tens of thousands. The latest example of the sheer volume of laws that the public must observe was the 2011 year-end report in the media that, effective January 1, 2012, some 40,000 new laws will be added to the sheer volume of laws we are expected to obey. So, what are we to do? It’s easy to say “Obey them,” but who can possibly know them all. Not ever the brightest, most well informed attorney can possibly know every law. How often do we hear the lament, “There oughta be a law,” about some perceived wrong or societal need? But, one of the major problems in America today is that there are too many laws and too much regulation. One assault on common sense occurred in California (surprise, surprise), where a state legislator proposed a law that would have made it illegal for parents to spank (read discipline) children age three and younger. There are many notable examples of legislators who either have no sense or somehow lose it in the exalted halls of government. For instance, Kentucky law mandates that people must bathe once a year. Not to pick on Kentucky, but like most states, they have a number of crazy laws: Throwing eggs at a public speaker is punishable by up to one year in jail; it is illegal to dye or color a baby chick, duckling or rabbit unless six or more are for sale at the same time; or if a horse dies in front of a residence, the owner (of the horse, that is) must remove the dead animal within 12 hours. If it is not done, then it becomes the homeowner’s responsibility. That may have made sense in the 1800s, but it hardly seems necessary today. One city had an ordinance that required the sheriff to shoot dogs whose owners did not pay a local tax on their animals. Consider the number of jurisdictions with boards, councils or commissions that legislate and the number of laws they adopt annually. There are over 3,000 counties in the U.S., ranging in size from 41.6 square miles (Arlington, VA) to 141,398 square miles (North Slope Borough, Alaska), along with almost 19,500 municipalities, in addition to the 50 states. That adds up to some 22,500 entities in addition to the Federal government, all putting laws on the books, presumably to correct problems or to influence or regulate behavior, that is, make people do things the legislators want. In California, the legislature adds upwards of 5,000 laws to the state’s code books every year. In the inimitable words of Will Rogers, “Congress met. I was afraid they would,” can probably be said to apply to all legislative bodies. Obviously, a certain amount of this is necessary. For example, local ordinances for such purposes as regulating traffic, land use, or taxation. In addition, advances in technology bring new problems and with them the need for new laws. The rapid development of computers and the Internet have brought new opportunities for mischief with them, such as Internet fraud and identity theft. And bio technology is presenting society with moral and ethical challenges that never would have occurred to earlier generations. Who knew? However, America has more lawyers than the rest of the world combined, and our society is suffering the consequences. Lawyers are hired guns. They will argue any side of any issue, and they write the laws and interpret them. In addition, peoples’ wants are insatiable. They never seem to be able get enough of whatever it is they think will satisfy them. Sometimes it’s strictly for personal advantage, sometimes for the greater good, or so they seem to believe. Environmental activism or unbridled business practices are good examples. Whatever the reason, legislators respond to special interest groups that want to impose their particular need or desire on the rest of society, and this results in thousands of new laws and regulations to implement them. “For the people in government, rather than the people who pester it, Washington is an early-rising, hard-working city. It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money.” (P. J. O’Rourke (b. 1947), U.S. journalist. Parliament of Whores, “The Winners Go to Washington, D.C.” - 1991). Furthermore, we can be prosecuted for breaking laws we don’t even know exist. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” has always been a traditional mantra, but it has been reported that Americans are now subject to over five million laws. How can anyone possibly know and obey them all? And, they keep piling up. Every legislative body, municipal, county, state and Federal, is constantly making new laws, and nothing ever seems to be taken off the books. So, if ignorance of the law is really no excuse, then we are all charged with specific knowledge of the millions of laws that regulate us. That’s impossible and is undoubtedly one of the reasons why many Americans have grown increasingly cynical about the law and justice in this country. And, if five million laws are not enough, there are also hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of rules that are superimposed on top of them – by OSHA, EPA, IRS, HUD, EEOC and a host of other alphabet soup agencies. The Internal Revenue Code is a perfect example. The plethora of tax laws and regulations that have been adopted by Congress and the IRS require over 72,000 pages to codify. No one, not even the most brilliant CPA or tax attorney, knows or understands all these laws and rules. They can’t even agree on what various provisions may mean, yet it is possible to be prosecuted for fraud for violating them. Legal precedent has also added to the burden of excessive control and regulation that are strangling our society. Hundreds of thousands of court cases are used to interpret the laws and comprise entire libraries of additional rules we are expected to abide by in our daily lives. The sheer weight and complexity of all this breeds contempt for the law, evasion and deliberate lawbreaking. Ronald Reagan is credited with having said, “I have wondered at times about what the Ten Commandment’s would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress?” How much longer can we continue to function under this burden before the system ultimately grinds to a halt? Will it end only when America finally goes the way of the Roman Empire? There ought to be a law against the sort of fiscal ignorance and irresponsibility we are witnessing just about everywhere we look in government today. © 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved
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