Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Advice for Sarah Palin

By now, most people have seen clips from the various Sarah Palin/Katie Couric interviews, including this last one where Palin was joined by Senator McCain. Much has been said about Palin's underwhelming performance in these interviews; there's a growing return to pessimism and despair on the right, especially from the political punditry class which has a tendency to equate a good TV persona with leadership, however illogical that is.

I myself don't quite know what to make of Palin just now. I'd like very much to believe that she is ready, that she can get up to speed in time for Thursday's debate and be the polished and confident politician she was in Alaska. But it's been somewhat difficult to see that as time has gone on, and the Couric interviews, as well as the Gibson interviews, have caused many people to become quite gloomy over Palin's prospects.

The truth of the matter is that we still don't really know whether Palin is up to the challenge, because the same news media that ignores Obama's gaffes and fawns all over him, running puff piece after puff piece while letting him get away with glaring inaccuracies and downright untruths about his record, has been in "attack dog" mode re: Palin from day one. If the Republicans have made some mistakes in terms of grooming Palin to speak to the press, I think their biggest mistake was in thinking for one minute that either Gibson or Couric were going to be "friendly" interviewers, and were going to set aside their fierce pro-Democrat, pro-abortion partisanship long enough to give a pro-life Republican governor a fair hearing.

Long ago I took Rita Marker's Human Life Issues class. One of the things that struck me was the way she talked about pro-lifers and the media, and how, when, and whether we should agree to talk to the news media, whether at the local newspaper level or the national or even international level about issues pertaining to abortion, euthanasia, and other human life concerns.

While I can't quote Mrs. Marker from memory, I do remember enough to paraphrase her advice, which was roughly as follows: the media isn't friendly to us or to our views. They will go out of their way to photograph a frumpy elderly frowning woman with a rosary at a protest rally or in front of a clinic--even if there are dozens of young, attractive, trendily-dressed people there who are smiling and calm as they pray or speak out for life. They will interview five or six people and only run one clip from someone who said something stupid (or they will shorten the clip to make an otherwise intelligent statement sound stupid). They will quote you out of context to make your views sound extreme, and if they run a newspaper article which attributes to you things you didn't even say, the most you will get is a correction buried inside the section two weeks later when the damaging and inaccurate article has already run.

So, based on that, here's some completely unsolicited advice for Sarah Palin:
1. The mainstream media hates you. They hate you personally, they hate your family, and they hate everything you stand for. While there might be one or two sympathetic people out there who actually do like you, none of them work for the major networks, and none of them will be interviewing you or asking you questions or otherwise helping you along. When you are in front of a camera you are surrounded by enemies.

2. Since this is the case, you must remember that it is not your job to make these people like you. They will never like you. Most of them are so committed to the abortion agenda that they would be hostile to the Pope, if he graciously deigned to allow any of them to talk to him. They will be hostile to you, and the only way for you to handle them is not to waste time being friendly.

3. Though they are hostile and unfriendly, television "talents" are also two things that you should remember because you can turn these to your advantage: self-interested and cowardly. Don't bother cramming all the details of every major piece of legislation passed in the last fifty years into your head so that the next time a Couric or a Gibson calls you out on some obsure fact you'll be ready; instead, learn everything you can about Couric or Gibson (or anybody else who might interview you). Intersperse bits of that knowledge into your answers (e.g. "You know, Katie, John McCain does think we need to fix health care, and as someone who has so tragically lost family members to cancer I know you agree. We may need to work out the details and differences and John McCain can do that in a bipartisan way, but we all know that health care needs fixing" etc.) Some references will flatter them, and others may alarm them, but on the whole knowing that you know about them will impress them more than knowing that you know the history of Smoot-Hawley and its connection to our current global finance issues and solutions proposals or some such thing.

4. When they get aggressive, asking you the same question over and over, don't think this is a good-faith request for clarification; it isn't. I know you already know this ('gotcha' journalism) but don't fall for it on the one hand, or identify it too often on the other. Instead, play the interviewee's favorite trump card, and answer questions like these with questions of your own. (e.g., to Couric's insulting "Are you sorry you said it, Governor?" you might say, "Why do you think I should be sorry, Katie? We've already explained that we're on the same page here, so why do you think I should be sorry?" etc.). Frankly, I'd like to see a lot more Republicans use this method: when silly, stupid, or insulting questions get asked the best response is, "Well, now, why would you ask me that?" Your supporters will get it, you'll turn the tables on the interviewer, and they'll be the ones fumbling for an answer, because they can't say the truth, which is, "We hate you and want you to fail."

5. Go on the offensive in general. I know everybody's been telling you to do this, but do it. The MSM interviewers and reporters are like the meanest, stubbornest, most pig-headed PTA members you've ever encountered, the ones who got hung up on petty bureaucratic questions and were ready to start World War III over school snacks or a change in the recess schedule. I have a feeling you know perfectly well how to steamroll over people like that, so go for it!
Now, I'm perfectly aware that Sarah Palin will never see what I've written here, and I know that I'm probably not saying anything that plenty of other people aren't telling her. I'm just not ready to write off Sarah Palin--not when I feel as though the only time I've seen the real Sarah Palin was during her speech at the GOP convention. And that's frustrating--because I liked that Sarah quite a bit, and was excited about the influence she might eventually have on the party--but it would be maddening to see her lose that chance before she ever really had it.

A Pro-Life Petition

A reader sent me the following petition from the organization C-FAM, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, which lobbies the United Nations on behalf of the rights of the unborn and of families. I visited the website and signed the petition, which only needs your name, country, and an email address (no further info is required, and you can opt-out of additional mailings if, like me, you can't keep up with organizational emails in your inbox.

Rather than email this petition to everyone on my contacts list (who will probably do what I generally must do with fwd: fwd: fwd emails and delete the petition without reading it), I thought I'd put the text of the letter below. If you'd like to visit the website and consider signing the petition so that on the anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights the UN can be reminded that a lot of us consider the right to life from conception to natural death to be a fundamental human right, please click through the links in the text below.

September 29, 2008


Dear Friend,

The UN will celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this December 10th.

To celebrate this occasion, radical pro-abortion groups intend to present the UN General Assembly with petitions calling for a universal right to abortion.

The largest, richest and most powerful pro-abortion groups are even now planning their attack on the unborn at the General Assembly.

Campaigns are being waged right now by International Planned Parenthood Federation and Maire Stopes International, the two groups responsible for more abortions than any other groups in the world. Both are beloved of the powers that be at the UN; and their efforts to promote an international right to abortion are welcomed by many UN Member States, perhaps most of the UN bureaucracy, and powerful US foundations that give millions to promote abortion at the UN and around the world.

We must stop them this December.

I am writing to ask you to sign a petition calling on UN Members States to interpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as protecting the unborn child from abortion. Did you know that the Universal Declaration calls for a right to life? Did you know that UN committees now interpret that as a right to abortion? We can stop them.

Please go HERE to sign the petition which we will present at the UN on December 10th, the celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the very least we must match what the pro-abortion advocates will present to the UN that day! They will present thousands and thousands of names. WE MUST MATCH THEM!

Go HERE to sign the petition and then please send this email to all of your family and friends. Our goal is to present 50,000+ names to the General Assembly. We need your help right now to block the pro-aborts from making huge progress for abortion at the UN.

We are going to run this campaign for the next six weeks. There is plenty of time to get this petition to everyone in your address book and all around the world. This is an international right. Please help us now.

Imagine the look on their faces when we slam down 50,000 names! Be a part of that. Sign the petition HERE and send this all over the world.

Yours sincerely,

Austin Ruse
President
C-FAM
(The only pro-life group working exclusively on UN social policy)

Monday, September 29, 2008

How We Celebrated the Angels' Feast Day




With angel food cake and these pretty pictures to color. The girls say, "Thank you, Auntie!"

After Math

It's not a stretch to say that math isn't Kitten's favorite subject. She works hard, but has always found math to be difficult. I have lots of sympathy for this, as you might expect from an English major.

Tonight, though, Kitten was looking at a clothing catalog that arrived at our house (yes, I signed up to get off catalog's mailing lists, but was told it could take a few "mailing cycles" for the request to be processed. I'm thinking a "mailing cycle" is roughly as long as a campaign season). She was ooohing and ahhing over some pretty turtleneck sweaters. "Are they twenty dollars for two?" she asked me.

"No," I said, pointing to the text of the advertisement. "It says, buy any two, and they're twenty dollars each."

"Hmm. How much are they normally? Oh, it says twenty-five dollars. So if you buy two for forty dollars you've saved ten dollars...a pretty good deal, I think," she mused.

I just shook my head. To think that all this time I was under the impression that numbers were her enemies.

The 777 Club

In a stunning display of bipartisanship, both Democrats and Republicans put their own parties and their own political futures ahead of the country today, failing to iron out the problems with the bailout bill, failing to pass the bill, but not failing to blame each other with bitterness and carefully aged vituperation (with shades of calumny and a note of venom) for the mess.

In other words, it was business as usual:

Democrats and Republicans argued bitterly over who was at fault for the 228-205 vote that torpedoed a compromise bailout plan that would have allowed the Treasury Department to buy up toxic assets from struggling banks.

Lawmakers shouted news of the plummeting Dow as they crowded on the House floor during the roll call, which dragged on for roughly 40 minutes as leaders on both sides scrambled to corral enough of their rank-and-file members to support the deeply unpopular measure.

Ample “no” votes came from both sides of the aisle, but Democratic leaders managed to persuade more than 60 percent of their members to back the measure, while more than two-thirds of Republicans balked at spending so much taxpayer money just before the Nov. 4 elections. [...]

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the Financial Services Committee and a leading negotiator in crafting the compromise bill, blamed breakaway Republicans for killing the plan.

Frank noted comments by some Republicans who said a floor speech shortly before the vote by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was needlessly partisan and said he had not “computed that level of pettiness” across the aisle.

“Sixty-seven percent of Republicans decided to put political ideology ahead of this nation,” he said. “The numbers of deeply offended Republicans turned out to be the number you would need to defeat the vote.” [...]

But Republicans who voted against the bill objected, saying the measure did not do enough to protect individual investors and bank account holders.

“New York city fat-cats expect Joe Sixpack to suck it up and foot the bill for their excesses. I think not,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.

Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said he had three insurmountable problems with the bill: It was too expensive, it rewarded Wall Street firms by guaranteeing private profits with public funds and it did not address an antiquated regulatory system.

“This throws a life jacket to Wall Street, but it doesn’t teach them to swim and prevent this from happening again,” Kingston said.

I would like to believe that the Republicans are taking a principled stand, here--but this is, as the article says, a "deeply unpopular" bill and it is an election year. I would like to believe the Democrats aren't exploiting the situation for political gain, but I can barely type that with a straight face: the Dems want the White House so badly, and if they're going to sell soft socialism to the American public how better to do so than to call it "the Change we need?"

To the Democrats, I'd like to say: Nice try. You've wanted to turn the markets over to the government since those heady days in the sixties back when most of you still had hair and thought the world's problems could be solved with a little peace, love, understanding, and recreational drug use. You'd like to vote yourselves in as head of healthcare, so it's understandable that you'd seize an opportunity like this and run all the way to the bank with it. Unfortunately, your plan only makes sense to fellow travelers and/or those who never stopped using recreational drugs.

To the Republicans, I'd like to say: Nice try. You've been pretending for a long time now that "The Market" (insert golden trumpet fanfare) will always guarantee the economic safety and security of this nation, that free trade which hands everything to foreign economies and punishes our own is really "free," and that government subsidies in the form of huge corporate tax breaks for giant-large-mega-huge multinational corporations which owe America no loyalty and care little whether we rise or fall is an example of "letting the market work," even though all you're really doing is artificially creating a market where small businesses and family-owned concerns can't compete with the big guys. Well, guess what? This is your so-called Market at work. The crash we're seeing is the natural result of letting the big guys do whatever they want while craven opportunists on both sides of the aisle pocket the chump change in the form of campaign contributions these big guys spread when they're in the mood to share the largess--and when they've attached a sufficient quantity of string to it.

We don't have a Congress anymore. We have a little clique of smiling enablers and yes-men who will do whatever it takes--to keep getting elected. We ought to forget about names like "House" and "Senate" and call them, instead, "The 777 Club."

California's Parental Notification Initiative

It looks as though the State of California is poised to pass a ballot initiative that would require the parents of minor girls to be informed before the girls have abortions:
The initiative would require parental notification, not consent. When a girl younger than 18 asks a doctor for an abortion, the doctor must send a letter to her parents. No matter what opposition a parent might have, an abortion can still be performed 48 hours later.

For those who support parental notification, most said they believed parents needed to be involved or parents "have a right to know."

"My heart aches for any woman who has to go through that," said Velma McIntire, 54, of San Jose who participated in the Field Poll and supports parental notification. "I've had friends and relatives who had an abortion at a young age and they are going through so much counseling now. If a mom has gone through that and their daughters are pregnant, they can say, 'You know? Been there, done that.' So I'm real passionate about that."

She also believes the measure might deter teenagers from indulging in risky behavior if they think their parents might find out.

Predictably, Planned Parenthood and voters in Democrat strongholds oppose the measure, despite the fact that it does not stop girls from getting abortions, contains procedures for girls from abusive homes to avoid the reporting of the abortion, and so forth. Pro-life voters would probably agree that though it's worth supporting a measure like this one, such measures are relatively weak in terms of their ability to deter or stop any abortions from happening--but the idea that even one thirteen or fourteen-year-old girl might be talked out of an abortion by her parents is enough to send shivers down the spines of the radical pro-death-ers who just can't get enough of the killing of unborn humans.

It may seem extreme to say that. But how else can we interpret opposition to a common sense measure like this one? An abortion is not something you can "take back." Once it's done, it's done. The child you've killed will stay dead forever, and if, years later, you are no longer a scared fifteen-year-old but a thirty-year-old mother of two, will you be haunted by your living children's eyes as you think about their brother or sister whom you had killed?

And scared fifteen, or sixteen, or seventeen, or thirteen, or fourteen etc. year olds need their parents. They need someone to say to them, "It's okay. I'm disappointed but I still love you. We can help you decide how to take care of this baby, whether you are going to raise him or we are going to raise him or some loving family who yearns for a child is going to raise him. There are lots of good, positive, life-affirming choices we can make together that don't involve you having someone kill your baby, our grandchild." They need the people who gave them life to show them how it's possible to bring new life into the world, and how that new life will always transform us.

No one but a radical pro-death, abortion-always person could possibly oppose a ballot initiative like this one. Sadly, many who favor abortion are far more extreme in their pro-abortion, no choice for life views than they like to admit.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Abortion and Men

Do you remember the old pro-life slogan, "When they say abortion is between a woman and a doctor, they're forgetting someone?" It was often written on posters that showed an unborn baby in utero, and was a simple reminder that it's not the woman's body that's going to be ripped apart, destroyed, killed in an abortion.

One thing I've been thinking about lately, though, is that the posters might have mentioned two someones being forgotten when a woman has an abortion: the baby, of course, but also the baby's father.

Googling things about abortion and men will bring up sites like this one which mentions some ways that abortion hurts men, or this one which contains the text of an article about the emotional toll that abortion can have on a man. There are websites wading into the issue of post-abortive men and the sort of help they might need. So far, there don't appear to be many resources for men who have suffered the pain of the abortion of their child, though.

And there is pain.

Think of it: it is perfectly legal for any woman, married or not, to kill a child without even consulting the child's father. The father has no rights to stop an abortion from happening, even though the law insists that he must pay child support if the woman chooses not to kill the child. Despite the fact that the child is as much his as it is hers, she may kill the baby, and he can't do anything about it.

Sometimes, though, men are caught up in the abortion mentality as much as women are. They consider the pregnancy a "problem" and an abortion the "solution." Only years later does the buried trauma of having participated in the decision to kill their own child resurface, and sometimes when it does marriages fail, relationships shatter, and men who seemed to have it all together fall completely apart.

I think that pro-life organizations need to target men, perhaps to a greater degree than has been done so far. So many times when I read the heartbreaking stories of women in crisis pregnancies who aborted, only to regret it and suffer terribly later, this motif recurs: I wanted our baby. I thought he would want our baby, too. But he wanted me to have an abortion, and threatened to leave me if I didn't have one.

The men who make such threats are sometimes truly dysfunctional and even abusive people. But often they are just as terrified and confused and unsure as the women. They are afraid of commitment, afraid of the future, afraid of what people will think. Abortion seems easy; fatherhood seems mind-bogglingly difficult. And if they're caught up in the irresponsible lifestyle of sex without consequences, the hardest thing, I think, for many men to face in this situation would be the notion that all of that would be about to change forever.

So pro-life men need to give strong witness, about duty and obligation and sacrifice, about love and responsibility, about the rich blessings and joys of commitment and fatherhood, and how the shallow easy life of irresponsible sex and meaningless physical contact is an illusion created in Hell and marketed on Madison Avenue. They need to remind their younger brothers that being a man means taking responsibility for one's actions; only a weak and immature boy runs from his problems, hides, and chants "Make it go away!" until something amusing and distracting comes on TV or pops up on YouTube. If they haven't been living according to the dictates of chastity, and if they have participated in the creation of a new human life, then it's up to them to welcome that life and do whatever it takes to make sure that child will not suffer for his or her father's bad choices.

By making abortion a "women's issue," we're playing right into the notion that fatherhood is irrelevant and that men should be free to have sex without consequences for as long as they want to--if pregnancy occurs, the woman can "deal with it." Abortion is not just a woman's issue, though, and every one of those nearly fifty million dead American babies has left behind a father. And considering the pain a post-abortive man may suffer, many of those fathers have learned in grief and sorrow that there were consequences, after all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Evil And Cheap

A reader sends along this link:
Be a Part of Defeating South Dakota's Abortion Ban!

With less than two months until Election Day, South Dakotans are neck in neck in the fight of their lives to protect reproductive freedom. Voters will be heading to the polls on November 4th to decide whether to ban virtually all abortions in the state. This is not the first time an abortion ban has appeared on the ballot. As many of you know, two years ago South Dakota voters defeated a similar ban.

The Campaign for Healthy Families needs your help to persuade South Dakotans to vote against the abortion ban. The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota will be sponsoring volunteers to go to South Dakota and talk to voters.

Join us the weekend of October 3rd- 5th in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

We're looking for volunteers who can arrive in Sioux Falls late Friday afternoon. We will phone bank Friday evening, knock on doors, and talk to voters all day Saturday and again on Sunday before traveling back Sunday afternoon (leaving Sioux Falls at 4 p.m.).

Travel, and most meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including vegetarian options) will be provided. There will also be lots of hot chocolate, coffee, and cookies for those hitting the streets and turning the tide in this critical election effort.

I don't know about the rest of you, but if I were selling my soul to the devil to make sure that babies in South Dakota will still be slaughtered on the altar of Choice as an offering to the powers of darkness, if I were participating in such a wicked, hideous, and evil campaign as to go door to door trying to convince other people that baby-killing is some kind of fundamental right and that the murder of the unborn should stay legal in a state I don't even live in, I'd want--literally, now, I'm not swearing--a Hell of a lot more than travel, meals, and hot chocolate and cookies.

It profits a man nothing if he gain the whole world and loses his soul; it's pretty darned stupid to trade one's immortal soul for a few snacks and a trip to South Dakota.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Not Up For Debate

I watched tonight's presidential debate. I'm not going to talk much about it, for fear of violating the Geneva Convention's prohibitions on torture; surely the deliberate infliction of a painful-yet-soporific state qualifies as torture, doesn't it?

Technology is sometimes a wonderful thing, but I'm starting to think that the various "liveblogging" efforts that go on when something like tonight's event happens are doing to television what television did to radio, and what radio did to newspapers. This is especially noticeable when you are talking about a political event, like a campaign speech or a debate.

Once, in order to hear a politician speak, you had to go where he was speaking. Only then could you see any hesitation, hear any oddities about his voice, see whether he was perspiring, judge his image as well as his words. If you couldn't go in person to such an event, you had to learn about the candidate in the newspapers; you had to read the speeches in crisp black and white, and you wouldn't hear them at all. The politicians knew that, and they spoke with eloquent flourishes that would sound good to the listener but also to the ones who only read the words.

When the radio was invented and became popular you could actually hear these speeches. If I had to guess, I'd say that the biggest change was that speeches, or debates, became somewhat shorter. When a crowd gathered to hear a politician in the old days, the length of the speech and the stamina of the one making it were part of the entertainment. Even at Gettysburg the principle event of the day was not Lincoln's now famous Gettysburg Address, but the two hour speech given by Edward Everett just before, which, according to various historical accounts, was very well-received by the crowd.

But on the radio, a two-hour speech meant that the listener had approximately one hour, fifty-nine minutes and thirty-eight seconds to change the channel; if the speech wasn't shorter than that, if it wasn't interesting, if it wasn't delivered in a crisp, attention-getting way, if there wasn't some likelihood of amusement, then nobody would listen, with the possible exception of the most fiercely partisan of each candidate's supporters.

Even then, though, the words were still important. When you are hearing a speech you only have the words to focus on, and you can pay close attention to what is being said. The words still need substance.

Television changed the game yet again, and that, too, made a difference. Now we could see, from the comfort of our own homes, whether "our" candidate looked and spoke like a confident man of the people, or like an arrogant buffoon who shouldn't be trusted to run a used car lot, let alone a nation. Suddenly the words didn't matter as much; smooth phrases delivered with a strong gesture and a bright smile would get more political credit than hesitant sentences delivered with a furtive glance and a frown--even if the hesitant sentences ended up being right about the policy or issue in question, and the confident ones just dead wrong.

And the trend toward liveblogging or Twittering or texting or otherwise commenting in, or near, real-time on these television debates has the potential to make changes, as well. Now, instead of worrying about how they look or what they say, what image they project or what soundbite will be played in an endless loop on CNN, the candidates have to come up with such things as "YouTube shots" or "combox fodder" for the bloggers and typing heads of the new media. Which means that watching the debates will seem increasingly like a foolish and painful waste of time--why put yourself through the agony of viewing ninety minutes of meaningless posturing and sentences which express no particular thought except to cram as many talking points as possible into Jim Lehrer's idea of two minutes, when you can painlessly scan a couple of your favorite blogs later to see what your favorite writers thought of it all, and maybe read a transcript?

Hmm. Reading the speech or debate transcript, along with a journalist's comments. Perhaps we've come full circle.

Sadly, though, we haven't, because the new technology will probably make people's attention spans even shorter, so that before long debates will be conducted on wireless keyboards, and will consist of exchanges like this:
Dude.



Dude?



Dude...



Dude!



Dude, dude, dude.



Duuuuude...


Then again, maybe that would be an improvement over the current reality of campaign events like speeches and debates. At least the torture would end well before the ninety-minute mark.

Religion and Politics

Is the demand that pastors not discuss or endorse specific candidates from the pulpit a reasonable expectation given churches' tax exempt status, or an unlawful intrusion into the rights of free speech and freedom of religion? This could get interesting:

During sermons this Sunday, some 35 pastors across the country will tell their congregations which presidential candidate they should vote for, "according to the Scriptures."

Their endorsements represent a direct challenge to federal tax law, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations from engaging in partisan political activity.

The clergy have embraced that risk, hoping their actions will trigger an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, which would then enable a Christian legal advocacy group to take the IRS to court and challenge the constitutionality of the ban.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative legal group based in Arizona, recruited the pastors for "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" to press their claim that the IRS tax code violates the free speech of religious leaders.

"I have a First Amendment right to say whatever I want to say, and I've never thought it was appropriate that as a pastor I could not share my political concerns with the congregation," says the Rev. Gus Booth, pastor at Warroad Community Church in Warroad, Minn.

Mr. Booth will endorse Sen. John McCain on Sunday, and has already told his congregation that as Christians, they could not vote for Sen. Barack Obama due to his position on abortion.

I think that this is a generally a good thing for these pastors to be doing, and I'd support it even if they weren't endorsing McCain--thought the endorsement of Democrats by pastors goes on all the time, and nobody talks about removing the tax-exempt status of the pastors who mix religion and politics and come up with a decidedly leftist brew. Pastors and other religious leaders shouldn't have to censor themselves when they are preaching; if a candidate's position on moral issues is clearly opposed to the church's teachings, the pastor should feel free to say so.

That said, aside from issues with direct moral ramifications I don't think pastors or priests or ministers or rabbis should be overly concerned with politics in their preaching. I can't imagine St. Paul in his various epistles going off on a several-page tangent about the Roman Empire's acquisition of some new territory, or loss of some other; it would have been out of place, and it still would be. Those who preach the Gospel should be watchful in regard to the world, but not unduly concerned with purely worldly matters; the temptation to abuse the power of the Cross for temporal gain, especially political gain, is hardly a new phenomenon.

Still, in treading with due caution and for serious reasons into the realm of the political, I'd rather trust religious leaders than secular ones. A religious leader who finds that he has foolishly endorsed a candidate not worthy of endorsement can always repent; a government which takes it upon itself to censor religious expression may not stop at the political, but may, indeed, reach out to stifle that call to moral correction contained in speech against abortion, contraception, homosexual activity, same-sex marriage, and the like until the Gospel may no longer be preached without being muzzled.

Something to Think About

It's looking more and more like harvesting embryonic stem cells was never necessary:
Harvard scientists yesterday reported a new way to turn adult cells into stem cells, without using harmful viruses that can cause cancer.

Using a type of virus employed in gene therapy to deliver genes to mouse cells, researchers were able to transform adult cells into embryonic-like stem cells - capable of developing into any cell in the body. That virus had not previously been used in stem cell production.

"A consequence of this is that you can now make mouse and human [stem] cells that are safer. They don't have genetic alterations, which in mouse models has been shown to be harmful, and cause cancer," said senior author Konrad Hochedlinger of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University.

The work is the most recent in a flurry of discoveries aimed at advancing development of induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, which are seen as an alternative to the stem cells harvested from human embryos. Japanese researchers first reported two years ago that it was possible to create such cells by infecting adult cells with a cocktail of viruses carrying genes.

Of course, the scientists would still like to play with--and destroy--human embryos, because they stubbornly cling to their faith-based notion that these cells will magically cure disease and be much stronger and safer than the adult-cell and ethically acceptable alternative. Poor scientists--I can't imagine having such blind faith in something for which there is absolutely no evidence.

But there's never been a good reason to destroy some lives in order to save others. And it looks as though there was never any need for scientists to kill human embryos in their quest for cures to diseases. So perhaps at some point during the next president's tenure the question of using federal funds for ESCR will be a moot question, made outdated by the strides made in adult stem cell research. Of course, if Obama is the next president, the fact that embryonic stem cells aren't needed won't stop him from spending your money and mine to kill these helpless tiny humans in the name of science.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Let Them Rent What??


I apologize for not getting to this sooner; I promised yesterday to blog about the financial crisis a bit more, but the day slipped away from me before I could do so.

Reader John Jensen brought to my attention this article from First Things in which R.R. Reno takes the position that when it comes to greed, we're all guilty. Spiritually speaking, I'm sure that's true for most of us; few of us are really content with what we have, and the prospect of making more money than we deserve to with little or no effort on our parts is something most of us would find alluring.

Still, I couldn't really agree with much of the article, which seems to posit a moral equivalency between the average homeowner and the banks and financial institutions who bent the rules and enticed some, even many, people to buy more homes than they could afford--or to buy homes in the first place when they weren't really qualified. Reno seems to think of the banks as crack dealers and the people buying houses as their user customers; or perhaps of homeowners as being willing to "prostitute" their home mortgages to get easy money and thus being as guilty as pimps for selling what wasn't theirs to eager banks who got all the pleasure of the loan fees with none of the risks associated with long term servicing. (Ahem, Patrick Archbold, that's as close as I'm getting to the phrase employed in the combox yesterday.)

Consider this section:
But that’s not what folks mean when they denounce Wall Street greed. Instead, they are suggesting a juxtaposition. Main Street, they imply, is somehow modestly and virtuously self-interested, while Wall Street is a place of arrogance that guides an insatiable, perverse desire for money. In other words, it’s not people like me who are responsible for the mess. It’s all the fault of moral monsters who feed on innocent lambs.
This reaction is both implausible and self-serving. By my reckoning, one finds plenty of blind greed on Main Street. What could possibly motivate a person to buy a lottery ticket other than a greedy desire for a payoff that any rational calculation would show laughably unlikely? Who doesn’t know someone who bragged on and on about how much his or her house was worth during the recent go-go years of the housing bubble? Yes, children, there is great deal of panting after profits in Anywhere, USA.
And not just greed, but also stupidity. Anyone who bought a house in the last two years was as stupid as the Bear Stearns traders who bought and held securities backed by sub-prime mortgages, which means very stupid. Buy a house in Florida for $600,000 with 5 percent down in 2006, and you’re pretty much in the same sinking boat. What could have possibly motivated such a stupid purchase? Are rentals unavailable? Did you really believe that house prices would continue to go up at two and three times the rate of increase of family incomes?
We don’t need a degree in psychology in order to know why people bought houses at the peak of the market. The dollar signs clouded vision. The go-go hype from the real estate agents and media and friends who made tons of money buying and selling houses was overwhelming. Anyway, you gotta live somewhere, and the government lets you deduct the interest payments. Banks were intensely eager to give you the money. “And what the heck,” we tell ourselves, “it can’t ever really go down too much, because there are too many home owners like me for the government to let it all go to hell.”
There's a sort of "Let Them Rent Crap!" (if the ghost of Marie Antoinette will forgive me) about this whole section. Some people I know got married or had kids in the last two years--of course they bought a house. Especially the ones with kids. Do you know how hard it can be to rent anything that isn't a slum house when you have kids? Depending on where you live, it can be well-nigh impossible. And as housing prices went up and up and up, guess what? So did rents.
The real problem is that people used to qualify for a home mortgage on one income (okay, well, the real problem is that people used to be able to buy or build a home without a mortgage in the first place because a house didn't take thirty years to pay for, but we'd be going back quite a ways to talk about that). But since more and more people qualified for homes on double incomes, houses--even basic starter homes--could, and did, get more and more expensive. Eventually incomes were going to stagnate, as they've been doing for the past several years, and suddenly the house that was easily affordable became an albatross around the neck for too many homeowners--and this is before we start talking about ARMs and "creative" financing.
So the house you once could afford easily on two incomes you couldn't buy--but you still needed a three-bedroom house because you had kids. So you started to look at these creative ways to buy a house, and they looked pretty good, and you didn't think there was much risk, and your company owed you a raise anyway...
...but you didn't get the raise, and the cost of living went up, and the balloon rate started to balloon...
And you add in the single income families struggling to pay for a tiny house in a bad neighborhood under much the same conditions, and the people who got sent by their corporate overlords to a place where houses cost 40% more than they did where you came from (though the overlords generously gave you a 2.3% salary increase to offset things) and gas prices started to go through the roof and your commute was twice as long as it used to be because the only house you could afford was forty-five minutes away from work on a good traffic day, and....
Where's the greed in all that? Where are the families thinking they'd cash in and make easy money on the place they called "Home?"
I don't see it. Maybe for a tiny handful of investment-property-minded types, this was the case. But most people didn't see the mortgage market as an opportunity to get rich quick, just a bit of a lifeline in an already-brutal economy where jobs have disappeared into the black hole of outsourcing and where living in a home at all was starting to seem like an impossibly greedy dream.
I don't blame Main Street, because the thing about Main Street is that its people want to keep living there. They're not the ones who wanted to gut the neighborhood, sell all the valuables, and turn the rest into a strip mall. They never are.

In the Name of Choice

It's hard to imagine that this is true, but here it is:
HARTFORD, Conn. - Attorneys general from 13 states on Wednesday protested a proposed Bush administration rule that would give stronger job protections to doctors and other health care workers who refuse to participate in abortions because of religious or moral objections.

In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services, the states said the rule is too vague in defining abortion, and may be interpreted to include dispensing birth control.

"It threatens to drastically discourage and even deter a woman's right to choose," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. "This proposed rule unconscionably puts personal agendas before patient care ... failing even to acknowledge the rights of rape victims and others to access birth control and related vital health services."

Other states joining Connecticut in protesting the rule are Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont.

Do you get this, my fellow Catholic Americans? Do you hear what they're saying, my fellow pro-life Christian Americans? Are you listening, my fellow pro-life Americans who are Jewish or Muslim or from other faiths that strongly oppose the murder of the unborn? Our deeply held, centuries-old, fervent and rooted religious beliefs are being labeled "personal agendas" by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. And we're being put on notice that it is unconscionable for us to expect that these beliefs will be respected and that we, especially any of us who happen to work in a medical field, have the right to refuse to participate in the murder of the unborn.

When an unjust law is passed, soon that unjust law is the only law. All other laws, all other rights, all other freedoms shrivel into nothingness; the unjust law is a Medusa's head that turns reasonable objection and the expect for that objection to be accommodated into stone.

Our right to choose not to kill unborn humans is being taken away from us. Our right to expect that among our medical professionals there are some who will not condone or participate in the killing of unborn humans is being taken away from us. Our right, if we have any connection to the medical profession--and so many Catholics and Christians and other pro-life Americans do--to refuse entirely to facilitate the murder of innocent unborn humans is being taken away from us. Soon, it will be impossible to be a doctor or a nurse or a pharmacist in the United States of America unless you are a bloodthirsty abortion enthusiast. And it is being done in the name of "Choice."

It couldn't possibly be more ironic than that, because what we're talking about is removing the right to choose. Doctors won't have the right to choose whether or not they want to kill unborn humans. Nurses won't have the right to choose whether or not they want to help in the killing of unborn humans. Other hospital workers also lose their right to choose whether or not to be associated with the abortion butchers who like to be called "Doctor" as they perform their works of unadulterated evil. Pharmacists lose the right to choose to ask someone else to fill an abortifacient "morning after" prescription. Everyone loses the right to choose life under the kind of scenario the attorneys general of a coven of states would like to see passed.

And under Barack Obama, under the Freedom of Choice Act, this scenario is exactly what we get.

Pray for America. Pray that the right to choose LIFE will remain available to all who oppose the culture of death, especially our medical professionals.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Without Consequences

I can't pretend to understand all of what is going on in the financial crisis that is threatening our nation. My math brain is limited at the best of times, and it doesn't take long, when I'm reading about high finance, before my eyes glaze and I start rereading sentences over and over in a futile attempt to understand the concepts behind the quotes and charts and numbers.

But I do know that St. Paul was the first to warn Christians that the love of money was the root of all evil. And I do know that our speculative way of making money out of nothing as Wall Street is wont to do is not always a wise or sustainable way to conduct ourselves.

The bad mortgages which appear to be at the root of this crisis show how the system may be exploited: take something which is usually a sound investment, change the rules so that the people taking the mortgages are no longer reasonably expected to be able to repay them, continue to sell the unsound mortgages as if they were the same sound investment they always were, collect an obscene amount of profit, and leave someone else holding the bag and screaming to Congress for relief. No matter what Congress does or does not do, the people who unethically and immorally exploited the weakness in our financial system and grew extremely wealthy are not the ones who will be punished. They got theirs, after all. They made the "smart" moves, financially speaking. They raked in the cash. And now that the whole system is tottering on the rotten pillars of these unsound investments masquerading as sound ones, they return to the scene with their hands outstretched, promising to fix things for good, so long as they get more money from the taxpayers and can count on legislative support from our enablers and charlatans in public office.

It could be argued that the biggest flaw in the communist system of government was that communism was always godless communism; the unjust confiscation by the government of private property was part and parcel of the way an atheistic system was going to work. But if that is (possibly) true, it may be equally true that the biggest flaw and danger in capitalism is that here in America it has become godless capitalism, or at the very least secular materialistic capitalism.

Why does that matter? Why would capitalism work among a God-fearing people, and fail to work among a people who accept no reality aside from the material universe?

I think this is true because a capitalist economy, while not a moral evil like a communist system, is nevertheless not a morally good economic system; I'm not sure given our fallen world whether there can be a truly morally good system outside of a voluntary community structure like a monastery or convent. That is, that it is possible to exploit capitalist principles cynically and unjustly, and to create wealth at the expense of the poor, or by ignoring the costs to the public, to taxpayers, to the environment etc. of one's means of making capital, and so forth. A person who believes in God and wishes to treat people justly will be a judicious capitalist, putting his money only where he can be sure his values are reflected, and refusing to invest in or fund any enterprises which are shady or which cause harm to the people, or which are exploitative by nature.

But when a person is indifferent about God, does not believe in Him, or claims belief without actually seeking to live in a manner befitting a believer, he is less likely to care about the ethical ramifications of his investing so long as his investments are growing his wealth at a rate that, however impossibly large, is satisfactory to him; moreover, he will continue to demand that same rate of return even when economic conditions no longer make that rate of return a realistic expectation, at which point he may be tempted to participate in some temporary investments which he knows may well be unsound in the long run, but which he hopes to unload at a profit long before the crash comes. For this type of person, it's a dog-eat-dog world, and his own bottom line is the only thing that counts; the total devastation of large parts of the financial industry which looms may indeed concern him somewhat in the abstract, but such abstract concerns are still centered around his own profits, and so long as he can figure out a way to keep making money once the bottom drops out of the market he will keep playing the game.

When the majority of investors are more like the second person I described than the first, when few people concern themselves with questions like "right" or "wrong," "good" or "evil" and the like, when everyone involved puts his or her own self-interest ahead of notions like just and reasonable profit or avoidance of the shady and underhanded, then you have a situation where enough people can act in an unconscionable way to pillage and plunder and walk away from the smoking ruins (or, as I said above, return in emergency gear demanding money to help rebuild). Many innocent people have been caught up in this, and don't bear the ethical responsibility, but the crisis couldn't have happened in the first place without a "me-first" mentality and a love of money so all-encompassing that love of neighbor was drowned out in the cacophony of the closing bell.

In many ways, this crisis reminds me of another crisis of morality, the crisis many refer to as that which was brought about by a "sex without consequences" mentality which underpinned the so-called sexual revolution. That crisis, too, threw aside age-old notions of honor, commitment, honesty, integrity, and morality in favor of shameless temporary physical contact with no thought whatsoever for the moral and emotional damage being done; the innocent, the children especially, suffered all the consequences their parents thought they could avoid by avoiding the old notions of marriage and family, which were not avoided at all, but only delayed.

And so it is with the financial crisis: the quick gratification of instant wealth was a siren whose song couldn't be ignored, and the allure of "wealth without consequences" became a powerful temptation to far too many people. But there are always consequences to our bad actions. It may be that the innocent will suffer more than the guilty, or that the consequences will be delayed by as much as a whole generation--yet sooner or later, the bill for sin will come due, and will cost far more than we ever gained from our sinful actions.

Forty Days for Life

Today marks the beginning of the Forty Days for Life campaign. I encourage everyone to visit the website, see what is happening in your area, and consider joining either with your presence, or with your prayers and fasting, for the purpose of ending abortion in America.

In addition to praying for many lives to be saved and for many to turn away from abortion over these next 40 days (today till November 2) I'm going to write at least one blog post per day on the topic of abortion and respect for human life from now until November 2.

I'd like to begin by taking a look at the word "choice."

Yesterday, while doing some research on Barack Obama's positions and on NARAL's endorsement of him, I visited NARAL's website. I'll be honest: I said a quick prayer before doing so; I firmly believe that demonic forces are at work in the area of abortion and the destruction of innocent human life, and I didn't want to enter a site full of people who think killing unborn humans is just dandy without some spiritual protection.

I gathered the facts I needed and then left, deciding against linking to them in my post. But I noticed something which I've noticed before: they almost seem to worship the word "choice," considering how often they use it.

Abortion isn't "abortion;" it's choice. Pro-lifers aren't "pro-life," according to NARAL; they're antichoicers. Doctors and nurses who choose based on moral and ethical standards not to train for, provide, or refer for abortions aren't making a respectable ethical decision, in NARAL's world; they're simply interfering with women's choices. And on and on it goes.

This is not new, of course. But it's pretty astonishing when you visit an organization whose initials used to stand for "National Abortion Rights Action League" and realize that they can't even bring themselves, most of the time, to use the word "abortion."

The sad thing is that the word "choice" doesn't even remotely mean what they think it does. Choice, or the act of choosing, implies a selection between two options; in the moral sense, when one option is morally good or even morally neutral, but the other option is actually evil, then the only legitimate choice is to choose the good or neutral option and turn away from and reject the evil one.

Every abortion is a choice for death. Every abortion is a choice on the part of a woman that her child must die, be ripped from her womb, perish without ever seeing the light of day. It is a profoundly evil choice that poisons all who are affected by it.

Sadly, many women make this choice in favor of evil and death without really knowing what they are doing. They buy into the lies of abortionists and abortion-enthusiasts like NARAL or Planned Parenthood who tell them than they are not really choosing to kill, that the life inside them isn't really a life, that the child they are destroying is not really a human worth protecting but a problem to be solved, even if the solution is the execution of the innocent for the "crime" of existence. Motivated by shame or panic or fear, they turn to abortion and are rushed through the process before they ever have the chance to change their minds; real choice, in terms of knowing all their options, being given information about the child's level of development, and having a chance for a waiting period that might make them change their minds is denied to many women--and will be denied to all women if Barack Obama has his way.

Because God chose in His goodness to give us, His creatures, free will, we always have a choice between good and evil. But He is clear: there are consequences for choosing evil, and no one may ever be said to have a right to do so. As He says to us in His Word:
"I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live,
by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land which the LORD swore he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." (Deuteronomy 30: 19-20)
God is just. If we choose death, whether for our own children or for those of other women, then He will give to us what we have chosen: eternal death. There is no place in the soul for evil choices to flourish without killing that promise of eternal life to which we are all called. Those who make this evil choice, and those who aid and abet them by their work like the people at NARAL do, must repent sincerely of their evil actions and turn to God while there is still time; for even if they live a long, comfortable, and seemingly prosperous life, they will still one day stand before the Almighty and be asked to account for themselves; and what horror and anguish then, for those who worshiped the false god of death they decided to call "choice."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Moral Questions About Voting

In recent days Catholic bloggers, myself included, have been tackling the question as to whether a Catholic may support John McCain to the extent of voting for him. This question seems to hinge on whether one believes that McCain's support for ESCR creates a moral mandate for a Catholic to avoid voting for him, lest the Catholic voter commit an act of mediate remote material cooperation with intrinsic evil in the absence of proportionate reasons.

My position on this matter is that I don't think it can be said absolutely and without fear of refutation that there are no proportionate reasons which would make a vote for McCain morally acceptable. I think that this is where the debate tends to get stuck, because proving this lack of proportionality beyond the shadow of a doubt seems to be elusive. Some may end up convinced that this lack of proportionality indeed exists and mandates a vote for a third-party candidate or no one at all, while others may remain convinced that the need to keep Obama from taking office and beginning his term by keeping his promise to resurrect the horrific "Freedom of Choice Act" which would increase the number of abortions in America.

I respect both notions, and find sympathy with both viewpoints. But it can be disheartening to remember that many of our fellow Catholics aren't worried at all about the morality of voting for McCain, because they intend to vote for Obama. Doug Kmiec's new book, titled Can a Catholic Support Him? is talking about Obama, not McCain; Kmiec is currently traveling the country as part of Obama's "faith tour," an effort to convince religious people in battleground states that it's morally fine to vote for the most rabidly pro-abortion and even pro-infanticide candidate ever to run for the presidency.

In the article above Deacon Keith Fournier argues against Kmiec's flawed position in favor of Obama. Kmiec responded, and his response was also printed here. I'd like to take a look at one section of it; responding to a notion that he is ignoring what various spiritual leaders have said Kmiec replies:
Not so, I have relied upon these fine teachers of the faith in order to undertake the proper inquiry into whether there is proportionate reason allowing the choice of a candidate who has an alternative way of promoting human life other than a thus far futile, and in any event, insufficient effort to criminalize some, but not all, abortion practice.
But Kmiec has apparently missed this recent report which says that abortion rates are at a 30-year low, or this one which highlights the drop in teen abortion rates precisely because of what he calls a "thus far futile, and in any event, insufficient effort to criminalize some, but not all, abortion practice..."

The bald truth is that abortion rates will increase under a President Obama. He plans to tear down all of the laws that have successfully been passed which have incrementally reduced abortions in some states; he has always opposed parental involvement laws which might arguably be the biggest reason for the drop in abortion rates that we see at present; he plans to create a culture where opponents of abortion might face federal fines and even prison time for peacefully protesting abortion; he plans to elevate judges to the Supreme Court who will ride roughshod over abortion opposition, and entrench the pro-death position so firmly and irrevocably in our laws that nothing but a collapse of the Republic itself will undo it.

There is, in my mind, no justification whatsoever for a Catholic to cast a vote in favor of Barack Obama. If proportionate reasons are difficult to find for Catholics to vote for the pro-ESCR McCain, I can't even imagine what possible proportionate reasons could exist that would allow a Catholic to vote in good conscience for the most pro-abortion candidate since the advent of legal abortion on demand in America. I've heard people try to justify such a vote on the grounds that it is imperative that we end our involvement in Iraq (a position I agree with), but given that Obama's former adviser, Samantha Power, said that her candidate couldn't be held to his initial timeline I wonder on what optimistic grounds people think Obama will be more competent in getting us out of the Middle East than McCain will be? So on mere hopeful speculation, some Catholics are apparently willing to vote for and support a man who doesn't think a woman's right to an abortion ends with the birth of the baby.

At least when I'm arguing with Mark Shea or Zippy or others over whether a Catholic might or might not vote for McCain without committing a sin, I have some idea where they're coming from. The Catholics who want to support Obama are Catholics I find impossible to understand.

Ten Things I Learned While Cleaning Out My Kitchen

Sorry for the late blogging today; I'm finally returning to my decluttering efforts, which were interrupted by the blazing enervating relentless heat we call summer here in Texas.

I began with my kitchen. I'd love to say that it's all done now, but I can't even type that with a straight face; I've run into dinner hour and will have to quit--probably until tomorrow, since the laundry isn't going to fold itself, more's the pity.

Still, it was a productive hour or so. And I learned some things, ten of which I'm sharing:

Ten Things I Learned While Cleaning Out My Kitchen:

1. Just because your microwave oven broke months ago and you decided you'd rather live without one doesn't mean you remembered to find and throw away that last half-used package of microwave popcorn.

2. The last tiny bit of dried bulk pinto beans you forgot to use up will look pretty dusty--considering that according to the label you purchased them in 2005.

3. No matter how many boxes of cereal you currently have on hand, at least two of them will be at least 99.99275% empty. Nobody ever wants to throw away, or use up, that last 0.00725% of the cereal.

4. Canned goods will be plentiful to the point of frustration until or unless some emergency occurs that causes you to need them; at this point, you will suddenly have only two cans of tomatoes and a can of pumpkin on your shelves.

5. If the shelf where you usually keep plastic wrap and/or waxed paper is unaccountably empty, both you and your husband will keep buying both plastic wrap and waxed paper, until you clean out your cabinet and realize that all the plastic wrap is hiding under that shelf behind the seldom-used waffle maker--and now you have enough plastic wrap and waxed paper to keep Alton Brown or Rachel Ray supplied for a couple of months.

6. You will also find all the "good" hot pads and oven mitts hiding down there because the drawer they're supposed to be in keeps dumping them into the cabinet below, which is why whenever you have a really hot dish coming out of the oven all you can find is a rather thin Christmas snowman-shaped mitt that wouldn't be enough to allow you to touch the oven door safely let alone remove the dish without burning yourself.

7. There was some good, sane, comprehensible reason for you to save a box of pasta that had only three lasagna noodles left in it. Just because you can't imagine what that reason was or what it possibly could have been doesn't mean you didn't have one.

8. If you keep a plastic pretzel container because it will be such a good place to store brown rice, don't be surprised when you discover it nearly empty shoved toward the back of the cabinet shelf just because the brand of brown rice you buy started being sold in plastic containers instead of easily ripped bags (smart move, rice sellers!).

9. It is possible to own a "hot pad sleeve" for a fajita pan handle and not actually own a fajita pan.

10. If you're very good and clean out an entire cabinet or so, you may discover that you forgot about a bag of chocolate chip cookie mix that's still perfectly good to use! :)

Tomorrow I tackle the pantry. Or, as I like to think of it, the "Land of Ten Thousand Lidless Plastic Food Containers." Maybe I'll learn a few more things!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Faint Praise

From the "Strange Bedfellows file" comes this report of Bill Clinton praising Sarah Palin, albeit backhandedly:

Speaking to reporters before his Clinton Global Initiative meeting, the former president described Palin's appeal by adding, "People look at her, and they say, 'All those kids. Something that happens in everybody's family. I'm glad she loves her daughter and she's not ashamed of her. Glad that girl's going around with her boyfriend. Glad they're going to get married.'"

Clinton said voters would think, "I like that little Down syndrome kid. One of them lives down the street. They're wonderful children. They're wonderful people. And I like the idea that this guy does those long-distance races. Stayed in the race for 500 miles with a broken arm. My kind of guy."

Palin, the governor of Alaska, became an overnight star when Republican presidential candidate John McCain tapped her for his running mate. Her family, including her Down syndrome baby, Trig, her pregnant 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, and her husband, Todd, four-time winner of the 2,000-mile Iron Dog snowmobile race, have garnered intense media interest.

"I get this," Clinton said. "My view is ... why say, ever, anything bad about a person? Why don't we like them and celebrate them and be happy for her elevation to the ticket? And just say that she was a good choice for him and we disagree with them?"

There's an art to putting one hand on the shoulder of your enemy while stabbing him in the back with the other; it's an art at which former president Bill Clinton excelled, frankly. My favorite poet would have called this an instance of damning someone with faint praise; in one fell swoop (nodding at another favorite poet) Clinton manages to dismiss Sarah Palin as a political trick while also dissing those voters too simple and naive to see through the charade. Since nobody wants to own up to being a rube, this is an effective bit of work on Bill's part; he's like the smiling neighbor in the front row of the magician's show at a traveling carnival, gently pointing out the wires and the misdirection to the simple fools who thought they were really seeing something.

If every Democrat were following Bill's lead, the Republicans might have something to worry about. But the Democrats so far continue to miss the mark in their extreme hatred for Sarah Palin and the normalcy she represents, too blind to understand that the voters Bill is gently calling dupes are the ones that the rest of them are attacking.

Parental Involvement Laws Work

What happens when parental involvement laws, which require a minor seeking an abortion to tell her parents first, are passed? Let's see:

The study for the Family Research Council was conducted by Michael New, a University of Alabama political science professor and senior FRC fellow. And it comes as abortion, as well as the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, has emerged as a more prominent campaign issue since the vice presidential nomination of Republican Sarah Palin, who opposes the procedure even in cases of rape and incest. [...]

New analyzed national data from 1985 to 1999, compared the types of state parental involvement laws, and attempted to assess their effect on abortion rates. In the period studied, the overall abortion rate fell 50 percent, New says, suggesting that "parental involvement laws are an important causal factor" in the decline. He says his most dramatic finding was the drop in the rate of abortions among minor girls. Between 1985 and 1999, the abortion rate for girls between the ages of 13 and 17 dropped from 13.5 for every 1,000 girls, to 6.5 per 1,000.

Thirty-six states currently have parental involvement laws, ranging from requiring minor girls contemplating an abortion to notify a parent, to compelling them to obtain consent from both parents - currently the law in three states. The states with the most stringent consent requirements, New says, have been the "most effective in reducing abortion rates among minors."

Parental involvement laws work. They enjoy support even among some Americans who describe themselves as "pro-choice." Yet Barack Obama voted "No" to prohibit minors from crossing state lines for abortion and he voted against notifying parents of minors who get out-of-state abortions. Illinois has a parental notification law, yet this law, which was passed in 1984, has never been enforced and continues to be held up in court. So in Illinois a pregnant thirteen-year-old girl, whose pregnancy is proof of statutory rape under Illinois law, can get an abortion without her parents even knowing about it--yet this same thirteen-year-old Illinois girl cannot get a piercing without written permission from her parents, or a tattoo at all!

It is absolutely insane for girls to be put at risk of infection and even death from an abortion without their parents even knowing they've had one. It's bad enough that they're being encouraged to engage in sexual behavior from the time they hit puberty onward; it's bad enough that they're indoctrinated to believe that killing their own child is no big deal and that "better" birth control will "solve" this problem in the future. But the fact that their parents are being shut out at a time when these troubled and confused young women need them the most, and are being sacrificed on the altar of Sex Without Consequences as the price we pay for so-called adult liberty to engage in every manner of temporary, meaningless physical contact that Planned Parenthood can dredge up from the depth of their perverse and foul imaginations and force into the unresisting minds of pure and innocent children is beyond outrageous.

Parents should have a right to be informed when their minor daughters are pregnant and are considering an abortion. Most Americans would agree with this, but not Barack Obama. The fact that parental involvement laws work to reduce abortions is terrifying to the lackeys of Planned Parenthood; every time abortion rates drop, Planned Parenthood and the other purveyors of death lose serious amounts of money, money which then can't flow freely into the coffers of their accomplices in Washington.

Parental involvement laws don't infringe at all on the so-called "right to choose," yet the rabidly pro-abort legislators and politicians oppose them just the same. Abortion is big business; the merchants of death don't want any loving families and welcomed (if early) grandchildren eating away at their profits. And Planned Parenthood's pocket-legislators know only too well that if they want the campaign dollars to keep rolling in, they'd better oppose such common-sense abortion-reduction measures as well.

Looking for God on Wall Street

The recent and continuing gloom among America's financial movers and shakers has led some of them to turn their backs on Mammon and seek a different spiritual reality:

Religious leaders said attendance was up at lunchtime meetings in New York's financial district last week, with many more people in business attire than usual.

That is hardly surprising, said Reverend Mark Bozzuti-Jones of Trinity Church Wall Street, given that people don't know if their employers will survive from one day to the next.

"The economic financial crisis is a reminder that we cannot put our faith in riches, that we cannot put our faith in money," Bozzuti-Jones said in his sermon at lunchtime on Friday, which he devoted to coping with the financial crisis. [...]

"People are just sitting there, praying or crying and definitely exhausted. There has definitely been an increase in the number of people who have come in," he said in his office after the service.

The church was putting on special workshops and seminars over the next few weeks including "Coping with stress in an uncertain time" and "Navigating career transitions."

While I would never raise an eyebrow at anyone's sincere desire to find God in the midst of crisis, I can't help but think of the parable of the sower when I read stories like these.

It's a human response to want God's comfort in times of distress. But the rush to church in the midst of disaster is sometimes a bit like what happened when the seeds fell on rocky ground; the seeds sprang up at once, but their roots could not go deep enough to sustain them, and they were scorched and withered by the sun.

The impulse to go to church during hard times--but never at any other time--is like this. It isn't a deep or rooted faith, but a mere human need for comfort, that prompts this impulse, and unless a deeper faith can supplant the relatively shallow one this faith will not endure during the good times.

Because while hardships and tragedies can test our faith, and while depth of suffering sometimes leads people to give up on God, it is one of the mysteries of life that the opposite is often true: that those who suffer, and endure tragedy, and accept tribulation at the hands of the Lord often have the deepest roots of faith; and many a man has fallen away from the religious habits and practices of his youth because times are good, and money is plentiful, and pride and self-centeredness lead him to believe that all the good things in his life are solely his own doing. Did he not make wise and judicious investments? Did he not plan his future, build his grain silos, capitalize on every opportunity, accept a certain amount of careful risk all for the increase of his own financial position? Has he not reached this pinnacle of wealth and material success on his own, with no help from anyone, and certainly not from a God he has almost come to despise as a kind of mythical excuse for weakness and carelessness on the part of those who haven't reached a similar level of success?

So when Wall Street falters, and fortunes are lost in a moment, and even the wisest and most careful of investments begin to look like foolish speculation, it's a good sign that some of those affected first by this reality will turn to God--a good sign, but not a great one. For as it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, it's also much, much easier for rich men to seek this Kingdom when their own kingdom is crumbling around them, and when the enemy is at the gate; but for a truly miraculous event, the men of Wall Street would have to be looking for God in the midst of plenty, and seeking Him while their own kingdoms of money and power were perfectly intact, perfectly placid, and perfectly capable of meeting all of their material needs.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Little Bro!


I would like to take this opportunity to wish my youngest brother a very happy birthday!

I hope when I called earlier this evening that you were out celebrating and having a terrific time. We all love you and wish you'd eat some extra cake for us since we can't be there to share it with you.

Happy birthday with love!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Breakfast of Chumps

I've really been enjoying the "Eat This, Not That" blog feature at Yahoo, even though it falls under the category of "Men's Health." Let's face it, the inability to judge accurately the calorie and fat content of a restaurant meal is hardly a male-only problem.

And this recent entry was particularly interesting:

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of eating breakfast. Studies show that people who take time for a morning meal consume fewer calories over the course of the day, have stronger cognitive skills, and are 30 percent less likely to be overweight or obese. Beyond that, people who skip breakfast are more likely to drink alcohol and smoke, and they’re less likely to exercise.

But just because breakfast is the most important meal of the day doesn’t grant you permission to go into a feeding frenzy. But that’s exactly what many of the country’s most popular breakfast joints are setting you up for, by peddling fatty scrambles, misguided muffins, and pancakes that look like manhole covers.

These foods are loaded with unhealthy fats, added sugars, and refined carbohydrates, which catapult your blood sugar, sap your energy levels, and tell your body to store fat. [...]

Worst Pastry
Cinnabon Classic Cinnamon Roll
813 calories
32 g fat (5 g trans fat)
117 g carbs

You wouldn’t start your day with three brownies, would you? As far as your body knows, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you wake up with this cinnamon-swirled disaster area. In fact, because Cinnabon offers no healthy alternatives, you’ll have to invite friends (or enemies?) to share the risky roll, or steer clear of Cinnabon altogether.
I used to work at Cinnabon, years ago. We employees probably ate at least one of these things each shift. Given my height and normal activity level, that thing constitutes about half of my daily calorie allotment. But if I'd ever thought about it, I probably would have assumed a cinnamon roll wasn't any worse than a blueberry muffin, when it's nearly three times worse!

Of course, it was pretty sobering (read the whole article, do!) to find out that a certain golden arches' combo breakfast had 1360 calories, or that a popular restaurant's specialty pancakes topped the "worst breakfast" list at 1543 calories, with enough sugar and fat to feed a small village in the third world for a month. I'm exaggerating. By a week or so.

I know that stay-at-home, homeschooling moms probably aren't eating out as often as the rest of the country, but it's pretty amazing to find out just how bad for you some of the restaurant food out there really is. I'm appreciative that the authors of this feature, David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, are shining some light on a source of caloric and dietary danger that many of us take for granted--especially when we actually do go out to eat.

Another Joe Altogether

Are Catholics abandoning Obama? Is Joe Biden the reason? Gerald Warner thinks so:
More, as promised, on Senator Joe Biden (why should Sarah Palin get all the coverage?). Remember, you read it here first: on September 11 this blog reported a mounting backlash from Catholic bishops against Biden, Barack Obama's "Catholic" pro-abortion running mate. At that time I estimated eight bishops had come out to denounce Biden; the total is now 55. Beyond that, Biden is being trashed across every state of the Union by Catholic newspapers, TV and radio stations, and blogs. It is a tsunami of rejection. [...]

Archbishop Chaput of Denver had already announced Biden should not receive communion because of his pro-abortion views. Defiantly, Biden took communion in his home parish in Delaware in late August. On September 2 the Bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania (a crucial swing state) banned him from communion in his diocese. That is effective excommunication. Then came the crucial provocation. On NBC's Meet the Press programme on September 7 Biden grossly misrepresented the Catholic Church's teaching on abortion and audaciously cited St Thomas Aquinas in his own cause.

That did it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had already done the same thing on the same programme, in her instance citing St Augustine. Even the torpid US bishops could not have false doctrine glibly broadcast by public figures, misleading their flock. So the counterattack described here last week began, culminating in a statement from the US Bishops' Conference. The bishops of Kansas City have also issued a pastoral letter on the subject. It is open season on Biden.

It may be that Catholic voters, willing--however reluctantly--to vote for Obama despite his rabidly pro-abortion views, find those same views (as they should) totally unacceptable when articulated by one of their own, who should presumably know better. It may be that after John Kerry's ill-fated run any aura (always false) of the interesting, thoughtful dissenter that once clung to pro-abort politicians has been tainted with that stench of opportunistic self-interest that even a kindergartner would find off-putting. It may be that Catholics are actually listening to the Church, and notice when bishops who before now had never met a Democrat they didn't appear to like all of a sudden have, and have been vocal about their disapprobation. It may even be that Catholics recognize that Joe Biden isn't necessarily a good representative of the faith, given his endless ability to get things about our faith completely, embarrassingly wrong on national television.

Sadly, there's a part of me that suspects that there's only real reason Joe Biden is being abandoned by those Catholic voters who usually vote Democrat is because he's not Hillary Clinton. Sobering as it is to realize, Hillary's husband would never have won two terms in the White House if not for our fellow Catholic voters, who twice helped hand him the victory.

A Public Service Announcement

In my interest in the issue of candidates who do/do not support the government funding of abortifacient contraception, I wrote to a few third-party candidates to see what they had to say about this matter.

The only one I've heard from is Joe Schriner, who sent me the following in an email:
"I would be opposed to this (federal funding of abortifacient contraception--EM), in line with our strong stance on Life in general. If you would, would you send me more on the particular details of this. Thanks... Joe Schriner"
So if you are looking for a doomed quixotic third-party candidate to support, and if your state allows write-in candidates, you can rest assured that Mr. Schriner does not support any form of abortion including the government funding of abortifacient contraception.

For those who can only vote for candidates on the ballot (those six states which don't allow write-ins) I'm still hoping to hear back from Chuck Baldwin's campaign headquarters. I will let you know if I do.

In the meantime, I think it's good to remember that we're all wrestling with "Decision '08" as the news media likes to call it; no good Catholic is careless about his vote, and all of us want to do what God wants us to do to promote the culture of life and work to end abortion. Though we may reach different conclusions based on our understanding of prudential concerns, we're all in this together.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Great Temptation

As I've been discussing the question of morality and voting with Zippy Catholic over at Mark Shea's blog, and specifically the question of whether voting for a pro-abort or pro-ESCR candidate involves the mediate remote material cooperation with evil without a proportionate reason to justify it and is therefore objectively sinful, I must admit that I find it nearly impossible to weigh this possibility dispassionately.

I want it to be true, for my own selfish reasons.

I want it to be true, because then I can turn my back on this thing called "voting" for the foreseeable future, and retain the moral purity of never, ever, ever voting for anybody again in either major party (because we know that neither major party will ever, ever run a 100% pro-life candidate who eschews all abortions including in cases of rape, incest, life of the mother; all abortifacient contraception; all aborted-fetal-cell stem lines in government funded vaccines, and all use of ESCR).

I could then feel free to rain down bipartisan imprecations on both parties with the equanimity of someone who is beyond such mortal foolishness. I could sit in my lofty tower of moral abstraction and say, when the candidates get more and more pro-abortion with each succeeding election, that it's the fault of all those benighted fools who keep voting when our government has clearly moved to such a level of bloodthirsty support of child-killing that we ought never to give them the slightest stamp of approval, not even when one candidate pledges to end most abortions and the other pledges to make abortion a near-mandatory rite-of-passage for teen girls. I could have "Don't Blame Me" engraved on our car's bumper, and I could write witty aphorisms like "Don't Vote; It Only Encourages Them" and then design and sell merchandise at Cafe Press for the select few wise enough to keep company with me. I could write lengthy, cantankerous letters or e-mails to my congresspeople to express my dissatisfaction with their willingness to overlook the abortion holocaust, giving specifics, and then rest in the comfortable certainty that at least I've done something.

I could then, no matter who is elected, express my deep dissatisfaction with all of their policies without ever having to answer the question, "Did you vote for him?" in the affirmative. I could denounce the government on Monday for failing to protect our allies in "A," chastise them on Tuesday for threatening to go to war with "B" to protect "A," call them cowards on Wednesday if the saber-rattling dies down, and by Thursday have two essays prepared, one of which will excoriate them for idealistic non-interventionism, and the other of which wittily yet soberly compares the spread of Democracy to the spread of a rash, so that whatever happens over the weekend I'll be ready on Monday to say whatever needs to be said.

And I won't have to apologize for "our guys," because there no longer will be any "our guys." Sure, there might be some professional presidential candidate living in his mother's basement between elections who espouses policies of dazzling moral purity with only the slightest whiff of kookery in the details whom I can humorously call "my guy," but everyone will know that I don't mean it in any truly vulgar partisan sense.

I know this about myself. I'm not necessarily pleased to admit it, but there it is: the desire to be an above-it-all postpartisan snob has always been within me, and it was never strongest than when I cast votes for various third-party candidates with the supercilious glance of pity on my way out of the polling booth to that obvious gloomy Democrat over there, or that equally obvious jingoistic Republican speeding through the touchscreen menu as if he were ordering fast food (which, by the look of him, he did too often, poor man).

Mystery writer Dame Agatha Christie knew human nature pretty darned well, and she once had a character express the idea that the beginning of evil came with the thought "I am not like other men," because in one blow the person thinking such a sinful thought had lost two of the chief virtues: humility and brotherhood. So against the mediate remote material cooperation with evil that a vote for McCain might be, I have to wonder: is the potential damage to my soul from voting third-party, or sitting home in quiet contemplative comfort of the foolishness of the American voter on election day, a proportionate reason for me to vote for McCain? Would this reason also apply to people like me who would find this same great temptation a seductive reason to drop out of the political process altogether?

It's an honest question. I'm not looking for reasons or excuses to vote for McCain or not vote for him, or even not to vote at all. But I have to admit that my first thought in realizing that I might not have to show up and vote this time around was a kind of relief, a sense that for once I could skip the folly of the polling-station without committing the sin of apathy out of prideful indifference.