Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage ruling is case of emperor having no clothes

Today’s news of the landmark Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage the law of the land confirms what many Americans have long known: On a host of issues, American society and government have become almost totally divorced from reality.

In 1837, Hans Christian Anderson published a story called “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The story told of a vain emperor who ordered a suit of clothes from a swindler. The con man claimed that the suit was woven from a magical fabric that could not be seen by anyone who was “unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.” Of course, no one could actually see the clothes. They didn’t really exist. But no one wanted to admit that they couldn’t see them, because doing so was a tacit admission that they were unworthy.

Finally, as the emperor walked in a royal procession before his admiring subjects, a child cries out, “But he hasn't got anything on!” Nevertheless, the emperor keeps up the pretense and “walked more proudly than ever,” totally naked through the town.

In 2015, America is like the emperor who has no clothes. The most obvious example is the current craze for changing one’s gender identity. While most Americans probably understand that gender comes in two flavors, male and female, many are now uncomfortable stating such an obvious fact because of pressure to see gender as fluid and changing, rather than something that is set at birth. A February 2015 poll by Fusion magazine found that half of millennials believe that gender is a spectrum, rather than being defined as a male or female. ABC News reported last year that Facebook now offers 58 gender options for creating a profile, rather than two.

The country’s fascination with Bruce Jenner and his claim that, “For all intents and purposes, I’m a woman” on ABC’s 20/20 earlier this year is a representative example. Jenner is obviously male, but the country has chosen to become complicit in his delusion that his “brain is much more female than it is male.” When Americans fawn over Jenner for his courage and refer to him as “Caitlyn” and with feminine pronouns, they might as well be telling the emperor how glorious his new clothes are.

Men can never become women and vice versa. Men like Jenner, even if they undergo sex-change surgeries, will still be men, albeit with surgically mutilated genitalia. Their DNA is still male DNA. He can never bear a child or have a period (at least not without massive medical intervention). Without heavy doses of pharmaceuticals, his body regresses to his own more masculine form.

The same is true for women who choose to “become” men. Their DNA will always be that of a woman. Biologically, they can never father a child, the one true test of maleness. They can look and act like men, but they are a pale imitation of the real thing.

The redefinition of marriage is another case of Americans paying court to the emperor and his invisible, regal robes. A vestige of my pre-internet days as a student is a 1989 Webster’s dictionary on my office bookshelf. It defines “marriage” as “the institution under which a man and a woman become legally united on a permanent basis.” It is only this generation that has suddenly decided that what worked well for thousands of years is no longer good enough and that the underpinnings of society must be radically altered in the name of fairness.

The current generation has decided that men and women are interchangeable and that a family can be anything. There will be no consequences for children – or the nation as a whole – if children are raised by two men, two women, one woman, or a village. Aren’t the emperor’s new clothes grand!

There has been little study of what effect this headlong rush to marriage “equality” will have on children, families, or society in general. Some of the more rigorous scientific studies, like the New Family Structures study, suggest that children from gay families don’t fare as well as their counterparts in traditional families. Activists respond by attacking the researchers.

The child’s father in the story asked, “Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” Proponents of redefining marriage answer critics with “Did you ever hear such hatred?”

The bottom line is that judges and politicians may be able to redefine the legal definition of marriage, but they cannot redefine the inherent marital relationship between a man and a woman. Two men or two women may be able to legally enter a relationship that is now called marriage, but what they have is not marriage at all, but an imitation of the real thing. Changing the definition of marriage changes the institution into something different. The emperor has no clothes.

Now the process of stifling dissent of those who point out the emperor’s nudity will continue. Already we have seen attacks on the freedom of religion as religious beliefs come head-to-head with newfound sexual liberties. There will be more attacks on those who choose to exercise their freedom of conscience to say that the emperor is naked and who choose to not participate in the royal procession.

President Obama’s head of the EEOC, Chai Feldblum, quoted in National Review, famously commented that, in the conflict between the constitutional freedom of religion and sexual freedom, “Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that’s the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”

If you adhere to the traditional belief of every major religion that homosexuality is sinful, she’s talking to you.

For years, liberal activists called for tolerance toward gays. Now, as homosexuality has been decreed to be on par with heterosexuality by the nation’s highest court, calls for tolerance have vanished. Instead, the leftists call out to diminish and silence those who disagree with their viewpoint and the ruling of the Court. Harassment, ridicule and mandatory recognition – nay, approval – at the point of a federal gun are the order of the day. The emperor doesn’t like to be told that he is naked.

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It's time to lower Confederate flag

In the wake of last week’s mass murder in Charleston, SC, amid the usual calls for gun control has come a secondary demand that South Carolina remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds in Columbia. For perhaps the first time, conservative Republicans such as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Senator Lindsey Graham have joined the calls to remove the flag. As a lifelong Southerner and staunch conservative, I agree that the time has come to lower the Confederate flag.

I grew up respecting the heroes of the Confederacy. As a native Georgian, I learned family lore about my ancestors who had fought for the South, including one great-great-grandfather who was captured at the Battle of Spotsylvania in 1864 and then interned at the notorious federal prison camp in Elmira, NY. I still hold a great deal of respect for Confederate leaders such as Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.  

There is disagreement even on the nature of the flag in question. Some defenders of the South Carolina flag point out that it was not the national flag of the Confederacy. In reality, the rectangular “Southern Cross” was the Confederate navy jack and was similar to the Confederate battle flag. The flags of the Confederacy can be seen on Both the battle flag and the navy jack were a Confederate flags and, in the minds of most Americans have come to be the Confederate flag.  Photos of the South Carolina flag appear to be the Confederate battle flag, a square version of the Southern Cross carried by the Confederate army. In the end, the exact version of the flag is irrelevant.

Confederate apologists have long made the claim that the Civil War (which should more properly be called the War of Secession) was about state’s rights, not slavery. There is some truth to this argument. The rub is that the state right in question was the right to keep slavery, the South’s “peculiar institution,” legal. This is made abundantly clear in the declarations of causes passed by the seceding states. These declarations are available for review on

South Carolina, the first state to secede, cited “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery” as their reason for leaving the Union. More specifically, the Carolinians charged that “non-slaveholding States… assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.”

In Georgia’s declaration, its delegates cite slavery as the reason for secession in the document’s second sentence: “For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.”

One must conclude not only that secessionists were leaving the Union to protect slavery, but that they were proud of their pro-slavery stance. Given that the Confederacy was born to protect slavery, it is also a given that the Confederacy was a racist institution. Therefore, the Confederate flag must be a racist symbol.

Proponents of the flag also argue that the United States flag must also be a racist symbol because Old Glory flew over legal slavery for longer than the Southern Cross. This statement is in error for several important reasons. First, slavery was never a federal matter. It was always subject to the individual states. A timeline of slavery by Mount Holyoke College shows that Vermont banned slavery with a constitutional amendment in 1777, one year after the Declaration of Independence. Other northern states had banned the practice by 1804.

Additionally, the Constitution itself reflects American uneasiness about slavery. The Three-Fifths Compromise is often incorrectly interpreted to mean that the Constitution considered slaves to be three-fifths of a man. In reality, the Three-Fifths Compromise laid the foundation for the eventual abolition of slavery by providing a check to the power of the Southern slave states.

Likewise, the Constitution granted Congress the power to prohibit the importation of slaves after 20 years, an action that Congress took in 1807 when it passed the Act to Prohibit the Importation of Slaves. In the South, even though slaves were no longer imported, the slave trade persisted as children of domestic slaves were separated from their families and sold to new owners. After the slave trade was declared to be piracy by Congress in 1819, the US Navy took an active role alongside the Royal Navy in bringing slave smugglers to justice and ending the slave trade in the Atlantic Ocean.

In contrast with the Confederacy, the United States took strong action to hasten the end of slavery. Even though the American flag flew over slavery for almost 100 years, slavery was never the official policy of the United States. In the end, secession hastened the end of American slavery. The 13th amendment, which abolished slavery, was ratified on December 6, 1865, much earlier than it is likely to have been passed without the war.  

The racist association of the Confederate flag did not end with the war. The flag was raised above the South Carolina statehouse in 1961 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Civil War according to Daniel Hollis, the last surviving member of the centennial commission. Hollis doesn’t recall a racial motive behind the raising of the flag, but South Carolina politicians, mostly Democrats, were fighting against desegregation at the time. In fact, South Carolina’s delegates seceded from the national Centennial Commission to protest President Kennedy’s decision to move the ceremonies to Charleston’s navy base rather than exclude black delegates who had been refused entrance to the segregated Francis Marion Hotel. The brouhaha was referred to as the Second Battle of Fort Sumter.

The South Carolina statehouse flag may not have been explicitly associated with segregation, but elsewhere the Confederate flag was adopted by anti-civil rights activists. The Georgia Encyclopedia notes that the inclusion of the Southern Cross on the Georgia state flag in 1956 was prompted by the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decisions in 1954 and 1955. Rep. Denmark Groover said, after the new Georgia flag was adopted, that it “will show that we in Georgia intend to uphold what we stood for, will stand for and will fight for,” a reference to preserving segregation.

The South Carolina flag was moved from the top of the statehouse to a different site on the statehouse grounds as part of a compromise in 2000. The Georgia flag was changed in 2001.

The best argument for keeping the Confederate flag is as a memorial for Confederate soldiers. An estimated 260,000 Confederate soldiers died in the war. This was almost five percent of the total non-slave population of the Confederacy. Another 194,000 were wounded and 31,000 taken prisoner. It is appropriate to fly Confederate flags at war memorials. It is not appropriate to give the flag a place of prominence on the state capitol grounds or on a state flag.

The bitter truth is that Confederate soldiers, even the majority who did not own slaves, fought to preserve a racist system, even as they were protecting their homes. After the fall of the Confederacy and the abolition of slavery, the flag became the symbol of racial segregation in the form of “Jim Crow” laws and “separate-but-equal” treatment of blacks. As such a racist symbol, the Confederate flag has no place in a modern American government.

This is not to say that the Confederate flag should be banned. Freedom of speech dictates that people should have the right to fly the flag on private property, wear it on their clothes or paint it on their cars a la “Dukes of Hazzard.” It would also be improper to attempt to erase all vestiges of the South’s Confederate history from society. Slavery, the Confederacy and the Civil War happened and that history should be openly acknowledged and discussed.

There is a vast difference, however, between a state government endorsing the Confederate ideals by prominent placement of the flag and flying the flag at a memorial or displaying it at a museum. By keeping such a divisive symbol, states marginalize 30-40 percent of their populations. If the flag keeps alive the memory of Confederate soldiers, it is fair to say that it also keeps alive the memory of slavery and Jim Crow for black Southerners. It hearkens back to the 1960s when Klansmen could murder a black army officer, as they did not far from where I grew up, and all-white juries would unanimously acquit the killers. Bringing down the Confederate flag would be an important step in putting this racist part of our past behind us.

An addition to being good for country, lowering the Confederate flag would be a good thing for conservatives. Democrats never miss a chance to imply (or state outright) that Republicans are racist. Quite often, conservatives step right into these liberal traps.

To many minority voters, defending the flag of a 150-year-old failed racist nation makes conservatives seem like racists themselves. Conversely, hauling down the flag would remove a roadblock to increased minority participation in the GOP. If Republicans want to win future elections, they must find ways to reach out to minority voters rather than alienating them over trivial issues. In 2015, the Republican Party can either spend political capital trying to rehabilitate the Confederate flag, a lost cause in itself, or wooing minority voters. It cannot do both effectively.

Opposition to the Confederate flag spreads across racial lines. Rasmussen found that by a three to one margin, voters oppose having the Confederate flag continue to fly in front of the South Carolina statehouse. Outside of white Southerners, themselves a minority, support for the Confederate flag is thin.

South Carolina’s Confederate flag will come down, whether now or in the not-too-distant future. If the flag, hoisted by Democrats in both 1861 and 1961, is taken down now, under the effort led by Governor Nikki Haley, a woman who is herself a member of an ethnic minority, today’s Republicans will be completing the job that was started by Republican Abraham Lincoln more than 150 years ago. The irony will be delicious. 

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Photo credit: eyeliam/flickr

Friday, June 5, 2015

Settlement in Kolfage lawsuit with alleged trolls

Two years ago, the conservative internet community was in the midst of a campaign of harassment by a group of liberal “trolls” who called themselves “goats.” “Trolling” is an internet term that essentially refers to cyber-bullying, harassing people online and, sometimes in the real world as well. The secret group was led by a shadowy figure known as “Busta Troll.” Now the law may have caught up with some alleged trolls.

Last year, Senior Airman Brian Kolfage, a conservative activist and owner of, filed a lawsuit against seven of the alleged trolls. The lawsuit alleged assault, slander and libel against Kolfage. Kolfage, who lost both legs and one arm in Iraq in 2004, became a frequent target of the goats and trolls online according to The harassment allegedly even extended to harassment of the Kolfages and their relatives at home, school and work.

Kolfage declined to be interviewed for this article citing ongoing legal proceedings and court orders, but spoke last year to Fox 10 Phoenix, saying, “The same people would write stuff on my Facebook page, and the stuff they would write is just horrendous. They would say they wished I had died, they said I was a drain on the government system, just really nasty stuff. I started sharing the comments, and it went viral. Because I was just fed up with it.” He added, “And once they brought my family into it, and tried to do things against my family, and ruin my wife's career, I decided I needed to take legal action to stop it.”

Court documents reveal that five of the seven recently reached an agreement with Kolfage and his wife. The settlement agreement was reached between the Kolfages and Nathanial Downes of Puyallup, WA; Justine Grant of North Fort Myers, FL; Paul Loebe of Nashville, TN; John Prager of Wheeling, WV; and Kenneth Vanderzanden of Beaverton, Oregon. Three of these defendants are reportedly bloggers for Addicting Info, a popular liberal site.

Two defendants, Louis Caponecchia of Toledo, OH and Darren Remington of Nashville, TN, did not join in the settlement. The lawsuit against these defendants is still proceeding.

As a result of the agreement, the lawsuit was dismissed while keeping in place an agreement that required both sides to not “disparage one another going forward in the future and that they won't take action through third parties to disparage one another. And that to the extent that they have the power to affect, they will, in good faith, attempt to remove anything that is disparaging that's within their control” from the internet. The agreement stipulates that all parties would call the settlement “equitable.”

An additional agreement between the Kolfages and Paul Loebe requires Mr. Kolfage to write an acknowledgement for publishing the personal information of Jan Vrotsos in retaliation for her alleged post calling him “a worthless fake hero” among other things. Mr. Kolfage also agreed to express regret for anything said or done to Vrotsos as a result. This acknowledgement will be delivered to Mr. Loebe by June 30. Ms. Vrotsos has since been shown to be innocent of posting the remark.

A blogger pointed out that some of the defendants may have violated the terms of the agreement with posts after the lawsuit was dismissed, but these posts have since been deleted. At this point, seems that both sides are trying to live up to the settlement agreement.

An attempt was made to contact the defendants and the Kolfages for more information about the case. The first response was from Darren Remington, whose case is still pending. Remington alleges that it was Kolfage who aggressively stalked and intimidated critics online. He and his partner have filed a suit against the Kolfages, their attorney and another conservative blogger, Scott Kuhnen. Remington denies that he has ever been a “goat” or a “troll” and says that he is a “registered conservative Republican.”

Louis Caponecchia also denies being a goat or a troll, saying, “I never hid my identity.” He also claims to have been the victim of harassment by conservative fans of Kolfage, who he says, “purchased a background report on me, called my military service fraudulent, he and his father and others prank called my father, mother and sister, as well as my cell phone dozens of times a day.” He alleges that the Vrotsos post was fabricated and asserts a willingness to debate at any time. According to Politichicks, Kolfage stated in 2014 that he had also come to the conclusion that Vrotsos was innocent.

Caponecchia says, “Kolfage will never win, nor get one penny. And when its [sic] over, I'm going to punch Brian Kolfage in the face numerous times, and laugh as he flails his one arm around, screaming for help.”

Paul Loebe, who also denies being a goat or a troll, calls the settlement fair and says that he has offered Kolfage the “opportunity to help me amend, retract, or correct any mistakes in the new article. He has tacitly refused my offer and sent my wife threatening messages towards her and my daughter as a result.” When asked for details, Loebe declines to comment, but says, “I would like to resolve this without court proceedings if at all possible.”

Loebe also discusses the case in a May 31 article on Patheos, two days after the final order in the case. In his blog, he alleges that the lawsuit “did not appear to be a way to stop the bullying he stated he was receiving. Instead, it gave the appearance as a way to quell any dissent.” Loebe claims that he did not know the other defendants until they met through the lawsuit.

Nathaniel Downes also denies being a troll, saying he has a “prejudice against trolls in general” after having been trolled himself. He calls the settlement “a meeting of the minds.”

“I may not agree with the Kolfages' politics or positions,” Downes says, “but remember your Heinlein, ‘I never learned from a man who agreed with me.’ I wish them luck in their future endeavors and a long, peaceful life.” Downes says that he is writing a detailed book about the lawsuit.

John Prager also denies being a goat or a troll. It should be noted that all of the defendants denied guilt in the harassment of Kolfage and his family. The court did not determine guilt or innocence of the parties.

A blogger pointed out that some of the defendants may have violated the terms of the agreement with posts after the lawsuit was dismissed, but these posts have since been deleted. At this point, seems that both sides are trying to live up to the settlement agreement.

The best lesson from the lawsuit may be that people should remember that they are dealing with real people when they argue online. Tempers flare and, in the anonymity of the social media world, people say and do things that they would not in a face-to-face confrontation. This is especially true of those who use fake online personas. As the legal world catches up to technology, it is likely that there will be more cases involving cyber-bullying and stalking. People will be forced to pay a price in time, worry and legal fees to defend things that they said or did in online rants. The best answer is to think before you type.

Last year, Kolfage’s lawyer, Logan Elia, told Fox 10, “He did everything he could beforehand to get these people to stop. He begged them to stop online, he attempted to clear his own reputation. Nothing he did led them to backing off, in fact they just became more aggressive in their pursuit of him.” If Kolfage’s goal was stop the harassment and to have the defamatory posts removed, the lawsuit can be judged a success since both sides seem to be enjoying a fragile online peace.

DISCLOSURE: David Thornton’s Examiner articles are republished on Brian Kolfage’s