Tuesday, March 28, 2017

When the Devil quotes scripture to his purposes

Jeff Jacoby writes below.  He is a fine fellow and I often quote him.  He was Anti-Trump but so were a lot of people.  So it's amusing to see a gap in his basic cultural knowledge.  He quotes Shakespeare below but seems unaware of the  Bible background that Shakespeare was referring to. It is in Luke 4:10-12, where the Devil tempts Jesus in the wilderness.  But Jeff is Jewish so a lack of familiarity with Christian scripture can readily be forgiven

"THE DEVIL can cite Scripture for his purpose," says the wealthy Antonio to his young friend Bassanio in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice."

So can the politician, he might have added. And the party activist.

When the Trump administration released an outline recently of its forthcoming budget proposals, many on the left expressed dismay. The White House wants to reduce spending on the State Department, environmental programs, arts and broadcast subsidies, and housing initiatives, while significantly increasing outlays on defense, homeland security, and veterans' health care.

Cue the Scripture-citers.

Rachel Held Evans, a liberal Christian author, took to Twitter to decry proposed cuts to the Meals on Wheels program. "There are few things the Bible is unambiguously clear about," she tweeted, "but from Hebrew Scripture to Matt. 25, care for the poor & needy is one of them."

Nicholas Kristof used his New York Times column to craft a pastiche about Jesus and "Paul of Ryan," with the former speaking familiar lines from the New Testament — "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God," "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required" — while the latter disdainfully swats those teachings away. "Oh, come on, Jesus," the Ryan character sneers, "don't go socialist on me again."

On Monday, a story from the Religious News Service was headlined: "Trump's Budget Slashes Aid To The Poor. Would Jesus Have A Problem With That?" The piece recounted the "scriptural smackdown" pitting conservative blogger Erick Erickson against liberals condemning Trump's budget scheme as religiously "immoral" and downright "evil."

On a different tack, liberal activist Jay Michaelson weighed in with a bizarre biblical defense of the National Endowment for the Arts — God's appeal to the Israelites in Exodus 35 to donate precious metals, jewels, fabrics, and spices for the construction of the Tabernacle and its vessels. "Public art projects like the Tabernacle of the Israelites," writes Michaelson, demonstrate "what our civilization stands for" and why taxes should fund it.

Debating government spending is standard fare in Washington. Sanctimony is, too. But the posturing grows a little too pious when pundits and politicos, brandishing a line from the Bible, declare that Jesus would never reduce spending on X or that God must be in favor of budget hikes for Y — and imagine that that settles the debate.

Some of these Biblical invocations are just silly. The Tabernacle described in Exodus was not a "public art project," it was religious infrastructure used for priestly sacrifices and to house the Ark of the Covenant.

More importantly, the Bible is a sacred text, not a Cliffs Notes for federal budgeteers. No one can deny that Scripture is replete with exhortations to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and be compassionate to the downtrodden. But those injunctions are personal, not political. If they constitute a moral mandate, it is for the action of private individuals guided by conscience, not for government programs created by the state and collectively imposed through the pains and penalties of law.

I would never argue that American politics should be devoid of religious influence. This has always been a nation of Bible-readers and churchgoers. "In God We Trust" is the nation's motto. God appears four times in the Declaration of Independence. His blessing is entreated in every state constitution, and in countless presidential proclamations. It is altogether fitting and proper that religion has played so prominent a role in America's great social movements, from independence to abolition to equal rights.

But the nation's deep current of religious influence does not mean that public policy can be made by pointing to Bible verses. It is reasonable to read (for example) Jesus' words in Matthew 25 — "Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me" — as a reminder that the ethical test of any society is how it treats its most vulnerable members, and a call to each of us to extend a hand to those in need. It is not reasonable to claim that every faithful Christian must therefore endorse Meals on Wheels or defend public housing vouchers from budget cuts.

The temptation to quote the Bible for political purposes is bipartisan: Republicans and Democrats do it; conservatives and liberals do it. The impulse may be sincere. But flaunting a verse from Scripture to promote a political purpose ends up tarnishing the one without elevating the other.

By all means, study the Bible. Take its lessons to heart. Let those lessons guide how you live your life. Just don't confuse the word of God with a partisan political agenda.


Typical Leftist thuggery

They seize their right to demonstrate but want to deny it to others.  These are seriously bad people

A fight broke out on a Southern California beach on Saturday night as supporters of President Donald Trump clashed with counter-protesters who doused organizers with pepper spray.

The violence erupted when the "Make America Great Again" march of about 2,000 people at Bolsa Chica State Beach reached a group of about 30 counter-protesters.

The counter-protesters, dressed in black, created a wall to stop the rally. A masked man began spraying the irritant in the face of an organizer, said Capt. Kevin Pearsall of the California State Parks Police.

The masked counter-protester using the pepper spray attempted to flee the scene but was quickly detained by highway police.

Pearsall added that two additional male counter-protesters were arrested on suspicion of illegal use of pepper spray and a third female counter-protester was arrested on suspicion of assault and battery. Two people suffered minor injuries that didn't require medical attention, he said.



Thanks to Trump, Pruitt, Gorsuch, and Goodlatte, the Constitution Is Back in Business

America has begun the process of reclaiming the Constitution.

This week, the Senate is taking up the confirmation Judge Neil Gorsuch, one of many Trump nominees known for his dedication to constitutional government. This follows the Senate confirmation of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA — a federal agency he has sued not once, not twice, but fourteen times.

Pruitt’s appointment could not come at a better time. During the past eight years, the Obama administration has passed well over 25,000 regulations. These regulations cost taxpayers a whopping $890 billion, or about $15,000 a household. And of that $890 billion, the EPA is responsible for $344 billion — more than any other agency.

This kind of power goes directly against the framers’ original intent. These regulations are not openly promulgated on the floor of Congress by elected legislators who serve a set term. Instead, they are quietly passed by unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.

Not only do they affect matters at the federal level, but they also impact states, regions and even other countries. When Obama signed the Paris Agreement last year, he did so entirely of his own accord and without the necessary ratification in the Senate. Shocking as this is, it’s only a symptom of the ongoing erosion of the Constitution’s separation of powers.

Administrator Pruitt has spent his career fighting against this erosion. He created a “federalism unit” in Oklahoma to defend the states against federal overreach and sued the federal government over the enactment of Obamacare. His confirmation is a strong first step towards restoring the vision of the Founding Fathers — but it is only a first step. If the Constitution is to be revitalized, the executive agencies must continue to concede their excess power and the other branches must step up and claim what is constitutionally theirs.

Since his inauguration, President Trump has done just that. At the end of January, he signed an executive order that directs the agencies to repeal two regulations for every new one they pass. The order also prohibits the agencies from spending any more money this year on regulations unless they receive a direct mandate to do so from Congress or approval from the Office of Management and Budget. Such radical restrictions on regulation would have devastated Obama’s cabinet, but leaders like Pruitt will use them to effect change in a conscientious and constitutional way.

This week’s confirmation hearings mark Trump’s most significant step in restoring the Constitution: his selection of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court seat left empty after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year. Many have noted the similarities between the two. By and large, they both favor a strict and literalist interpretation of the Constitution. But Gorsuch takes it one step further than Scalia did: he openly opposes Chevron deference.

Chevron deference is the reason that the EPA has the kind of power that it does and could spend the kind of money it did. It is the result of a 1984 Supreme Court case Chevron USA v. the National Resources Defense Council. The court, in a remarkably self-defeating decision, ruled that the courts should defer to an agency’s interpretation of legislation or statutes. The result was that agencies were free to interpret any vagueness or ambiguity in legislation as they saw fit — without review from the courts.

Gorsuch opposes Chevron deference because of its blatant violation of the separation of powers. He has made no bones about his position: in his opinion in Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, when he argued, “There’s an elephant in the room with us today… Chevron… permit(s) executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design. Maybe the time has come to face the behemoth.”

The time has indeed come to face the behemoth — if the legislative branch can work up the courage to challenge it. The Senate has already shown its mettle in confirming Pruitt, another avowed enemy of agency overreach, to lead the most overreaching agency of all. Congress at large will have two more opportunities to confront Chevron in the months to come. The first is on March 20, when Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings will begin. Speedily confirming him will be another step towards regaining the power lost to the federal agencies in Chevron.

The second opportunity lies in a piece of legislation currently sitting on the floor of Congress. Introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the Regulatory Accountability Act combines several pieces of previously passed legislation to roll back the power of the agencies. It forces agencies to adopt the least expensive rule and to publish electronically all the evidence (transcripts, exhibits, etc.) used in crafting a rule. It demands that agencies research and report on the effect their regulations will have on small businesses, which are often sunk before they start by the exorbitant legal fees necessary to deal with federal regulations. But most importantly, it overturns Chevron deference and restores the separation of powers that makes up the beating heart of our republic.

In the 1940s, with his artery-clogging alphabet soup of agencies, Franklin Delano Roosevelt expanded the size and scope of the federal government more than any other 20th century president. But he was aware of the health risks, and worried “that the practice of creating independent regulatory commissions, who perform administrative work in addition to judicial work, threatens to develop a ‘fourth branch’ of Government for which there is no sanction in the Constitution.”

The result was the Administrative Procedure Act, a 1946 piece of legislation that attempted to keep the agencies in check via judicial review. Whatever the act attempted to do has been undone by years of executive overreach that cripples American companies and crushes American citizens.

But no more. President Trump’s executive order explicitly mentioned the Administrative Procedures Act and commands the agencies to abide by it as they begin to slash old regulations. Between Trump’s surrender of executive power, Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court, and Congress’ passage of the Regulatory Accountability Act, the U.S. has the chance to return to the kind of government the founders imagined — namely, a three-branch government that genuinely promotes the general welfare without risking the blessings of liberties either for ourselves or for our posterity.



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