17 July 2015

Observe What Tolerance Is Left

Zoey Tur physically bullies Ben Shapiro for saying "Sir"

During a panel discussion on Dr. Drew about ESPN honoring "Caitlyn" (ne Bruce) Jenner, a transgendered panelist physically threatened conservative author and media figure Ben Shapiro.

Shapiro pointed out that Jenner had not yet undergone any gender reassignment surgery.  Nevertheless, such a medical procedure still does not change one's DNA which is either male or female.

To drive home the point, Shapiro asked his trangendered panelist Zoey (ne Robert) Tur "What is your genetics, sir?".  Of course, that was an uncomfortable scientifically based question.  But what seemed to set off Tur was the use of the title "Sir". Thus, Tur put a hand on Shapiro's shoulder and threatened to send him home in an ambulance.

 Aside from the fact that Tur's threat was not a very ladylike of a response, it underlined the thesis of Shapiro's book "Bullies: How the Left's Culture of Fear and Intimidation" (2014).  Shapiro was outnumbered on the panel and was physically threatened for stating his opinions, which are scientifically unimpeachable.

It should be noted that Tur is the father of Katie Tur, the NBC News reporter who recently conducted a hard hitting extended interview with Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump  So Zoey Tur's indignation may not have only be based on honorifics but also pent up partisan frustration.

Several years ago, after the 2011 Tuscon shooting which seriously wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ 8th), Democrats like President Barack Obama pushed for civility in public discourse. This Dr. Drew dialogue again shows that so called civility is but a one-way street.  Those not espousing the current progressive shibboleth are targeted to be bullied and silenced. Even liberal pundit Camille Paglia condemns the fascistic tendencies among liberals which imposes silence on those who are not politically correct.  Alas, as Tom Nichols suggests in "The New Totalitarians Are Here", progressives want more than silence, but the expect not only to win arguments but make the loser love it.

What makes Tur's threats remarkable is that they were done physically on camera with a principled person who will not back down.

16 July 2015

Remembering Trinity

Robert Oppenheimer on Trinity

Robert Oppenheimer, the American theoretical physicist from the University of California at Berkeley, headed the Manhattan Project since 1942 thus he was dubbed "the Father of the Nuclear Bomb" or Doctor Atomic. 

 The Manhattan project moved from New York City to Los Alamos, New Mexico in order to maintain great secrecy for the American World War II effort. Eventually, the remote, desert like compound grew to more than 6,000 people.  

No one was sure what would happen when testing "the bomb".  Some worried that the detonation would light off the atmosphere.  But on July16th, 1945, the Manhattan Project achieved a success with the detonation of the first nuclear bomb near Alamagordo, New Mexico (code named "Trinity")

 When reflecting upon the successful explosion of the Trinity bomb, Oppenheimer mused that he thought of a Hindu verse from the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I become death, the destroyer of worlds." Oppenheimer may have internally mused that verse, but Oppenheimer's brother was an eyewitness to Doctor Atomic's reaction, and all he said was "It worked." Brigadier General Thomas Farrell was also an eyewitness to Oppenheimer's reaction in the Trinity control bunker, and Farrell observed:
Dr. Oppenheimer, on whom had rested a very heavy burden, grew tenser as the last seconds ticked off. He scarcely breathed. He held on to a post to steady himself. For the last few seconds, he stared directly ahead and then when the announcer shouted "Now!" and there came this tremendous burst of light followed shortly thereafter by the deep growling roar of the explosion, his face relaxed into an expression of tremendous relief.
This was the only bomb that the Manhattan Project possessed.  However, within three weeks, two atomic bombs were ready for use in the Pacific theater to try to obtain unconditional surrender from the Japanese. 

In 2005, composer John Adams premiered an opera "Doctor Atomic"  with the San Francisco Opera in which  much of the libretto was based on declassified American government documents about the Manhattan Project.  

09 July 2015

Pope Francis and the Condundrum of the Communist Crucifix

Pope Francis on the Communist Crucifix

On the second leg of his trip to South America, Pope Francis traveled to Bolivia. The Holy Father made a courtesy visit to  Eso Morales at the Palace of the Government in La Paz.  Pope Francis only made a short four hours visit in La Paz as the 4,000 meter altitude was difficult for him to breath as he has only one lung. 

As is customary when heads of state meet, the President and the Pope exchanged gifts. Pope Francis gave the  Bolivian president a mosaic of the Marian icon of the “Salus Populus Romani". For his part, Bolivian President Eso Morales gave the Holy See  a crucifix based on a hammer and sickle, essentially a communist crucifix.  This was not the only politically charged gift. Morales also gave Pope Francis "The Book of the Sea" a tome bemoaning Bolivia's loss of access to the sea in the 1879-93 War of the Pacific.

As for the gift of religious art, Pope Francis shook his head as the Socialist President gave him this communist styled crucifix and audibly said: “No está bien eso”.  As this exchange was filmed for transmission throughout the world, the Holy Father's embarrassment seemed visible.

Aside from his Socialist politics, Eso Morales gift had some symbolism associated with Catholicism, as this hammer and sickle crucifix was modeled after one carved by Jesuit missionary Fr. Luis Espinal Camps, S.J.. Espinal Camps  was abducted by the paramilitaries loyal to the Bolivian dictatorship, tortured for five hour and shot 17 times in 1980.

Shortly after arriving in Bolivia Pope Francis' motorcade stopped along the highway where Fr. Espinal Camps was abducted.  Pope Francis prayed:

"Remember one of our brothers, a victim of interests that didn't want him to fight for Bolivia's freedom,.  Father Espinal preached the Gospel, the Gospel that bothered them, and because of this they got rid of him."

Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, tried to walk back from this diplomatic faux pas by claiming that Pope Francis was unaware that the gift was inspired by Fr. Espinal Camps crucifix and that the Holy Father meant to say: "I didn't know" instead of "This is not right".  That explanation is courteously convenient but seems spurious considering the Pope's actual words and his visible embarrassment over the gift.

For all those  Catholic criticasters who claim that Pope Francis' beatification of Blessed Oscar Romero was an embrace of liberation theology or that the environmental encyclical Laudato Si was a Marxist manifesto, how do they reconcile Pope Francis' exclamation: “No está bien eso”?  

During his remarks to grassroots groups helping the marginalized in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Pope Francis addressed head on the charge that he is a communist. "When I talk about this [Land, Lodging and Labor], some people think the pope is a communist, They don't realize that love for the poor is at the center of the Gospel."

No doubt that Pope Francis believes in a evangelical option for the poor, as do many contemporary Jesuits and that he walks the talk on social justice.  But if Pope Francis were the Red Pope, why would he recoil at a communist crucifix?

Perhaps the Bolivian visit highlights the conundrum of Pope Francis' disposition towards social justice.  Austral University Historian Roberto Bosca noted that Jorge Bergolio (later Pope Francis) opposed liberation theology during the 1970s, but that he accepted the premise of liberation theology (especially the preferential option for the poor) done in a non-ideological fashion.  But as the rhetoric meets reality, as demonstrated by Eso Morales photo op, secular socialists (and communists) may strive to exploit this sympathy for their own atheistic advantage.

07 July 2015

Judging the Judge

In reaction to King v. Burwell (SCOTUScare previously known as Obamacare) and Obergefell v. Hodges (which imposed Same Sex Marriage through out the US) by the US Supreme Court, Senator Ted Cruz offered a modest proposal to remedy judicial activism without recourse--judicial retention elections.


Richard Kopf, a US District Court Judge for the District of Nebraska and publisher of the blog Hercules and the Umpire: The Role of the Federal Trial Judge, wrote a piece which scathed Senator Cruz and his "modest proposal".

Judge Richard Kopf reacts to Senator Cruz on Judicial Elections

Kopf's piece was provocative and engaging for a policy wonk.  However, an article which Judge Kopft titled:"Senator Ted Cruz is not fit to be President" seems to go beyond responding to a policy proposal and directly into the political field.

One does not have to slog through sometime like Judge Kopf's 474 page opinion in Carhart  et ali. v. Ashcroft (2004) which struck down Partial Birth Abortion bans to read Canon 5(A)(2) of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges which states: "A judge should not . . . make speeches for a political organization or candidate, or publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office."  Even the hoi polloi without law degrees can understand that a article like "Senator Ted Cruz is not fit to be President" falls under Canon 5(A)(2).

This illustrates Senator Cruz's point about checks on the judiciary.  In a Congress which can not muster 60 votes to block an Attorney General like Loretta Lynch who vowed not to follow certain lawbreaking by the Obama Administration (such as on immigration), impeachment is unlikely.  So there are black robed politicians who can participate in the political process and even legislate from the bench without recourse by "We the People". 

It could be argued that  some slack can be cut for  Kopf as the 68 year old Judge  assumed Senior Status in December, 2011.  However, Kopf's public opposition of a candidate for public office seems to be a clear violation of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.  As a senior status judge, Kopf receives full salary with a reduced case load.  Hence, a senior status is not an honorific emeritus title. So a compromised jurist is still sitting on the bench, unless Judge Kopf does the honorable thing and resigns.

As people become more frustrated with judicial tyranny, reformers may find ways to remedy usurpations of the Constitution.  While it is dubious if judicial retention elections would work on a federal level, Judge Kopf's case epitomizes that the system is broken and the rule of law is unreliable as things stand.

UPDATE 07/09/2015

 Judge Kopf offered a half hearted apology for his "Ted Cruz is unfit to be President" piece.  In a letter to Professor Orin Kerr (also published on Judge Kopf's blog)  Judge Kopf acknowledged the analysis by The The Volokh Conspiracy on the  Code of Judicial Ethics Canon (5)(A)(2). However, Kopf insisted that a Second Circuit ruling in Calabresi was not strictly speaking  precedent in in the District of Nebraska. Still Kopf anticipated that the same standard might be applied in his Eighth Circuit.  So, Kopf wrote:  " Consequently, apologize to you, Senator Cruz and everyone else for my error."

Yet rather than have to good grace to admit an error and be gone, Judge Kopf pressed his point about judicial elections of Supreme Court Justices, insisting that such commentary fell under Code of Judicial Ethics (4)(A)(1).   Some apology. I was wrong for going too far but I'll still stand by my political pontifications.

Violators of civil infractions do not get to just say "My bad" and be done.  While an apology is appreciated, it is insufficient. Judge Kopf demonstrated that he does not (or no longer) exercises judicial temperament to have violated such a basic tenant of the profession.  If there were any justice, Judge Kopf would resign his senior status and no longer preside from the bench.  He seems to enjoy publishing.  May he continue to opine on Hercules and the Umpire and enjoy his retirement since he has trouble operating under judicial ethics.