Saturday, March 28, 2015

Movie Review: The Drop Box


"When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me."
Psalm 27:10

[Verse inscribed above "drop box" outside Pastor Lee's home]

Caring for babies and children with special needs, or who come from economically difficult circumstances, is a task pro-lifers often face.  Across the globe, we accept this reality and move forward to do good.  For cultural reasons, these challenges are especially acute in Korea.

The Drop Box tells the story of Lee Jong-rak, a Seoul pastor who runs a ministry for abandoned children.  In Korea, when they aren't aborted, babies born to teenage mothers or with special needs are often abandoned to die.  Pastor Lee founded the Jursurang (God's Love) community to give young mothers another option.

Pastor Lee's story begins with his biological son, Eun-Man (God's Grace).  Born with crippling cerebral palsy, Eun-Man spent most of his first 14 years in hospitals.  At one point, the financial strains were so severe that the Lee's had to sell their home and move into the hospital.  During this time, caring for Eun-Man metamorphosed from being a burden to a blessing as his parents learned first hand the value of life.  As they spent many long days in hospitals, other disabled children would come up and befriend them.  Over 14 years, Pastor Lee and his wife adopted an additional four special needs children.

Last decade, Pastor Lee took Hanna into his home.  The brain damaged daughter of a 14 year old who had abused drugs during her pregnancy, Hanna wasn't expected to survive more than a few months.  She ended up living another six years.  During this time, Pastor Lee vowed to do everything he could to help disabled children.  He installed the Drop Box in 2009.

In the film, we meet several of the children under Pastor Lee's care.  There's On-Ew, who recently learned to walk even with down syndrome.  Gi-Ri, a precocious boy, has survived multiple heart surgeries since being abandoned.  Ru-ri, ten years old, has a special talent for Tae Kwan Do and was recently elected class President.  As the film says, "God sent every one of them to Earth with a purpose."

Our biggest unresolved question following the film was "how does he pay for it"?!?  Obviously, children are expensive.  Children with special needs are even more so.  In addition, the film alludes to conflicts with the existing adoption bureaucracy.  For example, we learn about Pastor Lee losing certain government benefits after taking in children.  Unfortunately, the film does not go into detail on either subject.  It's a shame, doing so would have painted a more complete picture of God's grace and provision.

While drop boxes, and ministries like Pastor Lee's, are helpful, they are not the ultimate solution.  As Pastor Lee says "I always pray that there will be no more abandoned babies in this country and no more in our baby box. That’s all I want.”  Ultimately, this is a matter of the heart, and we need to restore a culture of life across the globe.  As the film explains, "it's not only Korea that has this problem."  That being said, until Christ returns and redeems fallen humanity, ministries like Pastor Lee's are crucial to show Christ's love to a lost and dying world.  The Drop Box is a life-affirming story that celebrates adoption and provides a model for pro-Lifers globally.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Lawrence Billy Jones III discusses censorship at North Texas Islamic Conference


"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."
Ephesians 6:11

Texas State Capitol -- Lawrence Jones of the Blaze discussed being shut down when attempting to cover the recent "Stand with the Prophet" conference in Garland, TX:



Highlights:
  • Texans don't give up.
  • "Texas will not go out without a fight."
  • At recent event: "At first, they didn't even want to let us in the building."
  • "If this is the religion of peace, let us in."
  • "The information we are discussing is way too sensitive."
  • After they kicked us out, we don't know what they did.
  • "ISIS is real, the Muslim Brotherhood is real."

New Austin City Council does something right


"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice;
But when a wicked man rules, the people groan."
Proverbs 29:2

In case you were still skeptical that the new council is light-years better than the old one:
Intersection improvements. Better signal timing. And a crackdown on drivers who block intersections.

Austin officials announced a slew of efforts Friday morning targeted at reducing the traffic congestion, ranging from immediate fixes to longer-term undertakings. Officials hope the cumulative effect will ease some of the pain felt by commuters each day.

“It’s time for us to start trying new things,” Mayor Steve Adler said.

Among the efforts drivers should notice first: Police officers stationed at key intersections to help keep traffic moving; a crackdown on delivery trucks blocking critical roads during commuting periods; limiting the places for mid-block left-turns that can cause traffic to back up; and an aggressive “Don’t Block the Box” campaign to remind drivers not to pull midway into an intersection, only to block traffic when the signal changes.

Other initiatives will take more time. The city plans to ramp up efforts to use “smart signals” and other technology to adjust signal timing based on traffic flow, coordinate signal timing along corridors and adjust the timing to keep buses rolling through green lights.
Austin no longer has the craziest local government in this state; if that's not proof miracles really happen, we don't know what is....

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: Hands Off My Gun, by Dana Loesch


"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[a] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."
Ephesians 6:12-13

Did you know that Martin Luther King Jr. was denied a permit to own a handgun "as a result of gun control laws put into effect by white male Democrats" (146)?!?  Neither did we.  Then we read Hands Off My Gun: Defeating the plot to disarm America, Dana Loesch's cogent, succinct defense of the second amendment.

Loesch's 2014 release is one stop shopping for those who support the Second Amendment but don't have all the facts memorized.  While the entire book is worth reading, the most riveting chapters detail the degree to which anti-Second Amendment advocates hire private security, the ability of women to use firearms to protect themselves from rape, and the origins of gun control in the Jim Crow south.  Historically, disarming the target population has been a pre-condition for other attacks on civil liberties.

Loesch's zeal for the Second Amendment gained a sense of urgency in 2009 (7), when her family still lived in St. Louis.  That summer, during the first round of Tea Party protests, a man named Kenneth Gladney was beaten by Union Thugs outside of a Missouri congressman's town hall (8).  While the story made national headlines, for those of us outside St. Louis it faded into the background.  Loesch, however, was living it.  After the national media moved on, as she continued to cover the story locally, Loesch received threats and was followed around town (9).  Then, they threatened her children (10).  To understand's Dana Loesch's commitment to the Second Amendment, you have to understand that story.

Women's self-defense is one of the strongest motifs in the book.  As Loesch explains, firearms are "the ultimate equalizer for women" (140).  She details several examples where women have used firearms to prevent assault and, sadly, others where disarmed women were left to the mercy of their rapists.  Unfortunately, women's safety is unimportant to anti-Second Amendment politicans.  Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo's recent comments are a representative example:



Hands Off My Gun lists more facts than we can include in a seven-paragraph review.  Many of them were new to this author.  Examples include:
  • The mother of the Sandy Hook shooter, Nancy Lanza, "had failed to properly and safely store her guns."  (29)
  • "Three Sandy Hooks take place every month in Chicago, the progressive model for gun control." (39)
  • All of the victims of the Columbine shooting "were killed within the first 15 minutes of the shooting." (109)
  • That "anti-gun extremists don't even want our troops to carry on base, which has resulted in several massacres over the past few years on our military bases, twice at Fort Hood." (144)
  • The anti-Second Amendment reasoning behind the Dred Scott decision. (152)
  • The goal of taxing firearms ownership in the Jim Crow south "was a set of laws that made guns too expensive for black Southerners to afford." (157)
  • During the revolution, "the patriots were armed from the start of the war with the British Brown Bess, which was the firearm of choice for the British Army." (168)
Our only beef with the book is that it fails to discuss abortion.  It's not a secret that some of the loudest anti-Second Amendment advocates, who hide behind "protecting children," are also some of the most rabidly pro-abortion.  Michael Bloomberg is a case in point.  Personally, we've always found this reprehensible.  That being said, we understand why it would not be considered germane to a discussion of the second amendment.

Citizens are responsible for their self-defense.  While law enforcement and the corrections system aid public safety (most of the time), they are inherently reactive.  Protection, by contrast, is proactive.  This is even more true for women.    Unfortunately, anti-Second Amendment Extremists have targeted our civil liberties.  Defending them requires us to be armed with truth.  Hands off My Gun, by Dana Loesch, is a fantastic place to start.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Senate Passes Tax Relief; House Wastes Day (hears shady stuff late)....


No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Luke 16:13

(Author's Note: The belated hearing of the Texas House State Affairs Committee can be viewed here.)

Texas State Capitol -- When the Texas House released it's schedule for today, it said the Committee on State Affairs would convene at 10:30 A.M.  The committee was scheduled to hear testimony on four AWFUL bills and one good bill.  We found it strange when we saw the Texas Tribune report that the full house would convene at noon.

As we approached the hearing room, an ideologically sympathetic friend informed this author that state affairs had been delayed until after the full House adjourned from the floor AND that they were going to consider the texting while driving ban.  In other words, the committee hearing was postponed until the end of the floor debate on a controversial topic.  Gotcha.

The state affairs committee was scheduled to hear several bills related to campaign finance and donor privacy.  By scheduling the hearing to commence at 10:30 then scheduling the House to convene at noon to take up a controversial topic, Chairman Byron Cook knew he'd be able to postpone the hearing on the shady legislation until evening.  Byron Cook was making a delay play.

(Sidenote: As we type this sentence, at 8:23 P.M., none of the important bills have even started.)

After a long lunch, we stopped into the House gallery around 12:45pm, where they were passing multiple resolutions honoring firefighters.

Then we decided to check out the Senate!!!

They were talking TAX RELIEF!!!

The Texas Senate was in the process of passing the largest tax cut in Texas' history out of the full chamber.  As part of the process, they were 'hazing' Sen. Paul Bettancourt as he passed his first bill.  Apparently, when a new Texas Senator passes their first bill out of the body, the other Senators ask obnoxious nit-picky questions as a rite of passage.

As we said in a text message:
Everything you need to know about the two houses: Senate debating tax relief; House passing "we love firefighters" resolution.... (12:56 PM)
At 1:22 PM, we returned to the house gallery.  They were beginning to debate the texting ban.  Then we had the amendments.

The House debated over a dozen amendments.  Nothing wrong with that.  It was a lousy bill to begin with, so why not attempt to improve it?!?

But the full House slow walked the amendment process; the only interesting part of this debate was that the Black Democrats and the Tea Party, led by Harold Dutton and Jonathan Stickland, worked together to defeat the bill.

As we said in text messages:
  • It would not surprise me if they keep taking amendments on this texting bill for a couple hours.  (3:20 PM) 
  • They're going slooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow.  (3:23 PM)
At 4:14 PM, we received an e-mail from the Lt. Governor's Office:



At 5:07 PM, we received another e-mail from the Texas Public Policy Foundation:
TPPF Statement on Passage of Senate Tax-Cut Package

AUSTIN – Today, the Texas Senate passed a tax-cut package, which includes Senate Joint Resolution 1 and its enabling legislation Senate Bill 1, an amended version of Senate Bill 7, and Senate Bill 8.

SJR 1 and SB 1 provide property tax relief by raising the homestead exemption for school districts from $15,000 to 25 percent of the statewide median home value. SB 7 cuts the business margin tax rates by 15 percent and the amendment calls for a study on full repeal of the margin tax with a report due to the Legislature next September. SB 8 raises the revenue exemption level for the margin tax from $1 million to $4 million.

Texas Public Policy Foundation Vice President of Research and Director of the Center for Economic Freedom Bill Peacock issued the following statement:

“Today was a first step in the process of giving Texans badly needed tax cuts,” said Peacock. “The $4.6 billion in property and business tax cuts adopted by the Senate moves us in the right direction. However, we continue to support the complete elimination of the state’s onerous margin tax.”
Around the time we received the e-mail from TPPF, the house voted to pass the texting ban.

That's when this author left the Capitol.

Just before 6PM, Byron Cook called the state affairs hearing (originally scheduled for 10:30 AM) to order.

Then they went through fluff bills for three hours while we wrote this blog entry.

Just fifteen minutes ago, we received a text message:
Marriage up first (8:55 PM)
That's the good bill, which deals with marriage; that means, as we write this sentence at 9:12 PM, the Texas House's State Affairs committee has yet to hear the five AWFUL bills that restrict your first amendment, campaign finance, and donor privacy rights.

To summarize today in the Texas Legislature: Dan Patrick's Senate passed record tax relief.  Joe Straus' House passed frivious nanny state regulations.  As you read this (Straus lieutenant) Byron's Cook is attempting to curtail your first amendment and donor privacy rights under the cover of night.

Chairman Byron Cook: (512) 463-0370

Watch the hearing livestream here.

-----

Update (3/26/2015, 9:16 AM): The hearing was still going on when this author fell asleep around 1;30 AM last night.

Paxton Rebukes local Austin special interest group


"Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord,
But a just weight is His delight."
Proverbs 11:1

Multiple Level Awesomeness:
A dispute over whether the Downtown Austin Alliance should have given $440,000 to last year’s failed light rail campaign, money that overwhelmingly came from a tax on downtown property owners, has moved to the Travis County courthouse.

But as is often the case with such matters, the legal argument is centered on a side issue — whether the alliance is a “governmental body” — and the resolution, when it comes, will not specifically address or bar such campaign contributions in the future.

The nonprofit alliance, under its formal name of Austin DBO Inc., on March 10 sued Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, asking the court to overrule a March 3 “letter ruling” by Paxton that the alliance is a governmental body and thus must surrender records requested in December by Austin activist Brian Rodgers. The case is pending, as is a nearly identical suit the alliance filed last year in response to a similar ruling by Paxton’s predecessor as attorney general, now-Gov. Greg Abbott.

....

The alliance was founded in May 1992 by a group of downtown property owners as an advocacy group for the central business district. Responding to a petition from downtown property owners, the Austin City Council in 1993 formed a “public improvement district” roughly bounded by Interstate 35, MLK Jr. Boulevard, San Antonio Street and Lady Bird Lake (although the Austin American-Statesman property and the Hyatt south of the lake are also in the district). The city levies an additional 10 cents per $100 of property value in that area, exempting the first $500,000 on each property, and forwards that tax money four times a year to the alliance.

That tax supplied about 98.3 percent of the alliance’s $3.3 million budget in 2014, according to the alliance’s annual report. Travis County contributed another $25,000.

Last year, the alliance made four donations to Let’s Go Austin, eventually providing about 40 percent of the $1.1 million the group spent to support the city’s light rail referendum. The alliance’s then-executive director Charlie Betts (he has since retired) said that the donations were legal and that the group had given to earlier issue-oriented campaigns (though not individual candidates) such as school bond elections and the Central Health vote for a University of Texas medical school.

....

Bill Aleshire, Rodgers’ lawyer and a former Travis County judge, said that if Rodgers prevails, he expects the records will generate anger from the public and legislators. That alone could discourage the alliance from making such contributions in the future, he said.
Read the whole thing here.

Bottom Line: If you have taxing authority, you are a governmental agency for purposes of open records laws.  Kudos to Attorney General Paxton for recognizing this distinction.  Double kudos for recognizing this distinction in the context of last year's urban rail boondoggle.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

First Amendment Tuesday: Week 10


"and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,"
Ephesians 6:19

First Amendment Tuesday hit it's high-water mark for attendance this session earlier today.

Tony McDonald (Empower Texans):



Highlights:
  • Citizen activists are not lobbyists.
  • Amendment process
    • You can't do it with any bill.
    • Prevents Massive "Christmas Tree" bills a. la. D.C.
    • Bills have to be limited to one topic.
    • Ultimately, the members decide a point of order.
  • Members frequently leave legislation pending after a committee hearing; you shouldn't get suspicion until it's been left pending over a week.



Highlights:
  • Religious liberty amendment borrows language from Hobby Lobby case.
  • Religious liberty involves telling government TO STOP ACTIVITY.
  • Jason Villalba dropped religious liberty amendment, Matt Krause picked it up.
  • Bill in State Affairs on Marriage tomorrow.



Highlights:
  • Recaps toll and marriage rallies.
  • "Without marriage, America implodes."
  • HB 1745 by Bell, hearing tomorrow.
  • American laws for American Courts (ALAC) getting hearing today.
    • 10 other states have passed it.
  • "A test is valuable, an 'assessment' is devious."



Highlights:
  • CWA also supports ALAC.
  • ALAC is about protecting women.
  • School choice hearing at 9AM Thursday.



Highlights:
  • Parental rights restoration
    • Protects single parents.
    • Grandparents frequently do this in cases of homeschooling.