Friday, October 31, 2008

Pro-Life Link

I found this lovely site and wanted to share it for today's 40 Days for Life post; it seem appropriate given tomorrow's feast day. Excerpt:


Patron Saint of Mothers with Health Problems

Saint Gianna Beretta Molla: (1922-1962). A deeply spiritual wife and mother, and doctor of pediatric medicine in Mesero, Italy, Gianna also served the elderly and poor through the St. Vincent de Paul Society. In 1961, Gianna elected to continue her life threatening fourth pregnancy rather than abort her unborn child. Seven days after her daughter was born, Gianna died. See this link for more information.

Patron Saint of Unwed Mothers

Saint Margaret of Cortona: (1247-1297). Born of poor parents in Laviano, Italy, Margaret left home as a young teen to live with nine years with her young lover, bearing him a son out of wedlock. When her lover was murdered by his enemies, Margaret underwent a conversion and embraced a live of penance, prayer, and apostolate, living the Rule of 1221. "I have put thee as a burning light," Our Lord said to her, "to enlighten those who sit in the darkness.--I have set thee as an example to sinners, that in thee they may behold how my mercy awaits the sinner who is willing to repent; for as I have been merciful to thee, so will I be merciful to them." See this link for more information.

PATRON SAINT OF MOTHERS IN DIFFICULTY

Blessed Anna Maria Taigi: (1769-1837). Born in Siena, Italy, Anna Maria married a butler named Domenico. Always living on a financial brink, Anna supplemented Domenico's meager income with various jobs while raising their six children, tolerating Domenico's jealous outbursts and impatience, and caring for elderly parents who came to live in the cramped family quarters. Anna Maria became a Third Order Trinitarian and practiced many penances as well as had a deep prayer life. Many, including bishops, sought her counsel.


Do visit this lovely site for pro-life prayers and links--and have a Happy Halloween!

The Great Halloween Dilemma

Happy Halloween, everyone! Oh, wait. Happy All Saints' Eve! Er...happy vigil of the feast of All Saints' Day?

You know where this is going, don't you?

Every October 31st, Catholic families, especially homeschooling ones, wrestle with the question of just what to call the day, and just how to celebrate it. Is Halloween pagan and evil? Is Halloween silly harmless kids' fun? Is Halloween overly-commercialized to the point where it will soon be the Christmas of October? Is Halloween too gruesome and scary these days? Is it better, more holy, more spiritual, more right, to celebrate All Saint's Day instead?

In point of fact, since Halloween is just a shortening of All Hallow's Eve, which itself pretty much means the vigil of the feast of All Saint's Day, I don't think it really matters all that much what you end up calling it. So, Happy Halloween, everybody!

But all those other questions remain. Now, I don't think you can make the claim that Halloween is pagan and evil; at least, I can't make that claim. I realize that serious scholars dispute the pagan connections to the day's celebrations, and just how many of the old rituals got wrapped up in the new ones--but then, we have the same fight every year about Christmas, and whether the tree or the lights or the various Christmas foods are somehow a continuation of some kind of old evil paganism, and what Real True Christians (tm) should do about it all. The point is that regardless of which of the scholars of antiquities are right about how much or how little influence the various pagans (Druids get blamed a lot) had on our present celebrations, unless you're busily stirring a cauldron full of foul-smelling stuff and chanting Druidic (or would-be, fake Druidic) spells, you're not practicing paganism by celebrating Halloween (or Christmas for that matter); you can't be a pagan by accident.

It's pretty clear, too, that the intention of Halloween is for it to be silly harmless kids' fun. Whether the kids in question dress up as superheros and go door to door looking for goodies, or whether the kids in question dress up as saints and have a blast at an All Saints' party, the point of the evening is hardly forging chains of thralldom to the evil underworld, is it?

So far, I've been pretty neutral about Halloween. The truth is that we've celebrated it in two different ways: costumes and trick-or-treating, and saints' outfits and an All Saint's Party. The reasons I got tired of the first way of doing things and started participating in the second way had to do more with the next two questions in the third paragraph: Halloween as over-commercialized, and Halloween as gruesome and scary.

I may not be the crunchiest of crunchy-cons, but I've started to feel unsettled about our nation's way of celebrating holidays. As soon as the back-to-school clothing and items disappear from the store shelves (in early to mid July) the first glimmerings of Halloween merchandise start to show their black and orange glory in the "seasonal" aisles of the big-box stores; and long before Halloween even arrives we can see the Christmas trees and other "holiday" goods being set up in the hopes that the longer the items are on display, the more of them will be purchased by eager consumers who can't get enough of red and green plastic. If Halloween were just candy and costumes it would be bad enough to have these items on display from before August through the end of October; but now we have Halloween goods in every section of the store, as if people can't celebrate October 31st without hanging pumpkin-face towels in their guest bathrooms and purchasing the matching hand-soap dispensers and other accoutrements with which to festoon their homes long in advance of the actual holiday.

And nearly all of those goods are made overseas, most of them in countries under Communist rule, where the young people--many of them women--work fifteen hour days seven days a week for a salary that equals a few hundred dollars a month. Reporters are digging into the toxic working conditions and other exploitative business practices that characterize these workers' lives--but as long as there is demand for these kinds of cheaply made, worthless seasonal goods, the goods will be produced.

Granted, the average Catholic homeschooling family isn't really contributing to this problem--few of us go out and snap up silly "seasonal" items, and many make and re-use costumes even if they are choosing to celebrate the "trick-or-treating" way.

But the other disturbing trend in Halloween is the trend toward the gruesome and scary--really scary, not "silly green-faced witch on a broomstick" scary--aimed and directed at our children by the marketers behind the masks and costumes.

In a big-box retail store last night I saw a little boy, younger than any of my children, gleefully playing with a fake knife his parents were buying for him, making stabbing motions with it. Now, I'm well aware that little boys can turn almost anything into a weapon, and I have no problem with toy knives or even toy guns--but this thing was grotesque: the "blade" part was clear plastic, and every time the boy made the "stabbing" motion dark red fluid like fake blood filled the blade, so that it looked as though he was holding a knife drenched in blood. The boy thought this was great, and was having fun aiming it at his little sister.

Is it just me, or is that way too graphic a "toy" for a child to be playing with?

I've heard from parents who can't even take their children in or near the "Halloween" aisles of the stores: from the truly horrific monster masks to the Frankenstein statue whose motion sensor makes him rip his own head off every time someone gets close, this stuff is the stuff--literally--of nightmares. By the time a child is old enough not to find these things frightening, he's almost too old to be trick-or-treating anyway.

Our girls went trick-or-treating the first few years we lived in this neighborhood. It always seemed like a bit of an anticlimax: all that costuming and preparation, followed by about an hour of going door-to-door for too-much candy, not all of which they could even eat (allergies, alas). So when my sister-in-law, whose littles were even littler than my girls, suggested a family All Saints' party as a substitute we jumped at the chance to celebrate in a way that would last longer and be more fun for everyone.

At this point, two of my girls feel like they're "too old" to trick-or-treat anyway (boys seem to enjoy this aspect longer, don't they?). So getting to dress up like a saint or a virtue and then going to a party with games, food, fun, and a really awesome cake (at least, when it's Aunt's turn; they can't wait for the pumpkin cake roll!) is much more fun than going door-to-door for candy.

Now, is it better, holier, more spiritual, etc.? I'd never say so. Not everyone has the opportunity for a party like our family party, and there's certainly nothing wrong with the "trick-or-treat" variety of celebration. We decided to do what we're doing because this really is what works best for our families, and it's turned out to be a lot of fun, and to be a way to keep Halloween special and exiting long past the age when trick-or-treating seemed like the most fun thing in the world (which seems to be somewhere between five and eight, but that's probably just at our house).

The truth is that there's no one "right" way to celebrate Halloween. This really is a holiday for which the Bean Principle, "Do what works best for your family," seems to be operative. However you celebrate All Hallow's Eve, have a happy celebration--and a wonderful All Saints' Day tomorrow!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another List. Most of it Just Plain Silly.

I've got just about enough time for one more list post, so here are some things I've been wondering and thinking about, in no particular order:

1. If Obama's elected and he reinstates the so-called "Fairness Doctrine," does that mean that in 2012 it will be illegal for one presidential candidate to host his own thirty-minute infomercial without allowing the other candidate thirty minutes of equal airtime?

2. If John McCain is the moral equivalent of a mass murderer for his ESCR support, what does that make Barack Obama for his support for this sort of thing?

3. If Rod Dreher writes, "Fluorescent lighting is like the taste that stays in your mouth when you eat a snack cake with creme filling from the vending machine. It's the hydrogenated vegetable oil of lighting." and Maclin Horton comments "Great simile in your last line there." a) is it a sign of the apocalypse, b) did Maclin like the simile in the penultimate line, c) did Maclin like the metaphor in the last line, or d) am I a total English major weenie? :)

4. If Jen at Conversion Diary writes a lovely post about consumption and asceticism, is it really horrible that I remember this? (Okay, maybe not horrible, but definitely showing my age.)

5. Will the Stuff Catholics Like blog ever resurface?

6. Will I ever attain the intellectual level necessary to understand half the posts at this blog, and if I do, will it be necessary for me to determine beforehand a) how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and b) whether, if a tree fell in the forest where no one could hear it, it would still be mediate remote material cooperation in evil without a proportionate reason for the tree to vote for McCain?

7. If Cardinal Egan posts a beautiful picture of an unborn baby, and people still can't see the baby's inherent dignity, obvious humanity, and intrinsic sanctity of life, how worried should we be to live among such people?

8. If we can get rid of some ugly modern music by the Vatican's ban on the use of Yahweh to represent the Tetragrammaton, what are the odds that we can expect a future ban on the use of songs where the singer takes the place of God and sings such things as "I the Lord of Sea and Sky" etc.? 'Cause that would take care of about 3/4ths of the problematic stuff.

9. If a strategy for continued weight loss during Halloween week depends on one's inability to eat chocolate without it triggering a migraine, and all sorts of evil candy companies start making white chocolate coated versions of the good stuff, how many extra minutes of exercise a day will be necessary to maintain equilibrium?

10. How late will we be up next Tuesday night--and how are we going to feel come Wednesday morning?

A List or Two

I don't have a lot of time to write this afternoon, so I thought I'd write a couple of list posts.

This first one is about lists--grocery lists, to be exact. I'm generally a "list" sort of person, and like to organize my thoughts or keep track of things by using lists; unfortunately, though, that habit hasn't carried over into my grocery shopping habits.

I really only have one way of grocery shopping: the guerrilla shopper method. It works like this:
  1. Think of one to ten things I need at the store.
  2. Go to the store.
  3. Stagger out of the store an hour and a half later with eight to twenty grocery bags whose contents cost anywhere from twelve to fifteen dollars a bag.
  4. Get home, unpack groceries, and realize that anywhere from one to nine of the things I went to the store for didn't end up being purchased.
  5. Repeat steps one through four the next time I get to the store.
Not exactly the best method, as you can imagine.

With budgets being what they are, and so on, I've been wanting to improve my grocery shopping efficiency. A while ago I found a list generator online (which has probably been shared by others before) and I bookmarked it; there were two things I didn't like about it, though, so I didn't try it. Those two things were:
  1. It came from a "working mother's" website and had "working mom"** in its title;
  2. I didn't write it myself, so the categories were arranged differently from how I would have done it.
I thought I would use it as a template for the creation of my own perfect organized shopping list, but since that never happened, I decided to try it today. The generator is here for anyone who'd like to try it, too.

It really couldn't be easier to use: clickable items, big boxes to type in your own items, and then a "submit" button which creates your own trip-specific list for you to print. The categories are still arranged in a way I find slightly counterintuitive, but with the ample space to add your own things and the ease of creating different shopping lists every time it's not a bad list, overall. I did find one big flaw: the list doesn't mention toilet paper at all, which is a pretty big omission--though that's one item I don't usually forget to buy.

Is it any easier to use than the old-fashioned half-sharpened pencil and back of random envelope? Only in that the categories are a helpful reminder of things you know you're out of but aren't thinking about: I knew I was out of ginger, a spice I use frequently, but I wouldn't have thought to write it down if I hadn't been using this list.

And if it cures the "guerrilla shopping" habit, I'll let you know!

**UPDATE: No offense to the moms who work outside the home meant. I just hate the phrase "working mom," because it seems to imply that moms who stay at home with their children and even teach them somehow don't work. We're all working moms; the only non-working moms I'm aware of are the ones who both stay at home and can hire full time live-in help, and I don't know any of them personally. :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Pen is Mighter Than the Sword, But Only if the Pen is Held by Chuck Norris

God bless Chuck Norris, who wrote an amazing pro-life essay published on World Net Daily. Excerpt:

Some people think after 35 years of ceaseless controversy since the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade that abortion is an "old" issue better dropped. I do believe the economy is the issue in this election, but it's certainly not the only issue. We can't just be concerned about our finances. We must also be concerned about America's future, and those who occupy it. Our posterity matters. Their rights matter. And that includes their "unalienable Rights," with which have been "endowed by their Creator," and among them are the quintessential rights: "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Abortion is not about a woman's "right to choose." It is about a more fundamental "right to life," which is one of three specifically identified unalienable rights in the Declaration (and the Constitution through Article VII and the Bill of Rights). And it is a violation of government's primary purpose: to protect innocent life.

We can couch our action in terms like "abortion," "termination" or "a women's right to choose," but it's still the killing of an "inconvenient" human life. And it won't end there. As my friend and prolific author Randy Alcorn wrote, "Abortion has set us on a dangerous course. We may come to our senses and back away from the slippery slope. Or we may follow it to its inescapable conclusion – a society in which the powerful, for their self-interest, determine which human beings will live and which will die." [...]

The truth is: If Obama is elected, we will place a man in the highest office in the land who has the most liberal views and voting record on abortion of any president in American history. As a state senator in Illinois, he led opposition three years in a row (2001-2003) to a bill similar to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, which prevents the killing of babies unintentionally left alive by abortion. He also opposed the ban on partial-birth abortion and strongly disapproved of the Supreme Court decision upholding the partial-birth ban. He does not support the Hyde amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion through Medicaid. He also voted to block a bill that would have required a doctor to notify at least one parent before performing an abortion on a minor girl from another state. Before a Planned Parenthood action fund last year, Obama promised to give first priority as president to the signing of the Freedom of Choice Act, which would make partial-birth abortion legal again. Strangely, Obama even once said he would not want his daughters to be "punished with a baby" due to an unwanted pregnancy. With the next president likely adding two justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is clear that, as president, Obama will appoint and support the most liberal judges and legal eagles, resulting in a pro-abortion advantage in our courts that will push abortion liberties to every extent of the law and land.
Do read the whole thing. Or Chuck Norris will find you and make you read it.

Seriously, the one good thing that has come out of this election season has been the uplifted voices of so many people, from bishops to public figures to celebrities to ordinary men and women, all of them saying in the face of the ugly reality of abortion and the hideous disregard for human life our national laws permitting abortion on demand from conception until birth (and perhaps even after, if Obama has his way): Enough. Enough of this madness, this destruction of innocent human lives, this infliction of pain and psychological trauma on the women left to grieve a loss they dare not even acknowledge in the face of the world's approval of their "choices."

Let's keep that going, whomever is elected next Tuesday. Let's keep focusing on the blood of the innocent shed every day in this country, in the name of "choice." Let's recommit to ending abortion in America.

A Sneak Peak at the Obama Infomercial

Int. Living Room Set

We see "Bibi Brown" and "Mick Michaels" seated in comfortable leather chairs; the camera pans toward them as the intro music fades.

BIBI

Hi, I'm Bibi Brown...

MICK

...and I'm Mick Michaels...

BIBI

...and we're here today to tell you about the latest, most exciting, and most all-around amazing new development in Presidential Candidate technology. Isn't that right, Mick?

Mick stands up and walks toward the camera.

MICK

That's right, Bibi. You know, I've been a voter for fourteen years, now, and I can't remember ever seeing a new product in the Presidential Candidate line as exciting, as innovative, and as all-around fantastic as..

MICK/BIBI

(together)The Obama-matic!

Bibi stands up, and gestures toward a television which is playing video footage of Barack Obama's campaign.
BIBI

You know it, Mick! You see, unlike other, limited Presidential Candidate models, the Obama-matic stands for whatever you say he does! There's no messy weighing of complicated issues--just elect the Obama-matic and wait for all that good audacity to kick in. It's like magic!

MICK

With today's busy families and their complicated lives, voters just don't have the time to figure out a candidate's past, who he really is, or what he really believes. In the old days, you might have to read hundreds of actual newspapers to find out all of that! And even today, when our newspapers and TV journalists make it easy by saying the exact same thing and staying away from all that tiresome objective reporting, some voters still feel compelled to look to their church, their civic organizations, or other resources to find out which candidate supports their views.

Cut to Bibi, who is now wearing glasses and holding a stack of disorganized papers.

BIBI

My church says to vote pro-life, my garden club says to vote for the environment, my neighborhood association says to vote for lower property taxes--it's all just TOO MUCH!

She dumps the papers into a trash can which has the word "Issues" circled and crossed out in red.

MICK

It is too much, Bibi.

BIBI

So what is a voter to do, Mick?

MICK

I think we both know the answer to that...

MICK/BIBI

(together) The Obama-matic!


BIBI

Unlike traditional boring candidates with actual positions on hundreds of complicated issues, the Obama-matic candidate is for just a few simple things, like "Hope" and "Change!"

MICK

It can't be as easy as that, Bibi.

BIBI

But it is, Mick! Obama-matic stands for hope and change, and that's all you need to know!

MICK

Wow! I already knew that the Obama-matic model of the Presidential Candidate was amazing, but hearing it over and over again just makes him sound even better!

BIBI

And that's not all. Once you elect the Obama-matic to be the new President of the United States of America, you'll find that the built-in rationalization you get from voting will help keep you excited and approving of every single thing he does as President!

MICK

You know, Bibi, some of our audience has already tried voting for the Obama-matic. Let's take some calls to see just how much they liked it...caller, you're on the air with Mick and Bibi!

CALLER

Hi.

MICK

Hi. Tell us your name, and what it was like to vote for the Obama-matic.

CALLER

My name is Keith, and voting for the Obama-matic...well, wow. Wow!

MICK

Wow, hey? That good?

CALLER

Thrill up the leg good. Everybody should vote for the Obama-matic. He's going to change everything.

MICK

Thanks, Keith. Do we have someone else, Bibi?

BIBI

We sure do! Hi, you're on the air with Mick and Bibi!

CALLER

Yes...um...I have a question about the Obama-matic.

BIBI

Okay, caller, what's your question?

CALLER

I've heard he comes pre-installed with the abortion feature, and I really don't want that feature, so...should I still vote for the Obama-matic?

BIBI

Well, remember, the great thing about the Obama-matic is that he stands for whatever you believe he does. So if you believe he's really going to reduce abortions even though he says he's for them, then...guess what?

CALLER

Then I can believe he's going to reduce abortions?

BIBI

Absolutely.

CALLER

Okay, thanks, then.

BIBI

You're welcome, and enjoy voting for the Obama-matic!

MICK

Bibi, we're almost out of time, here, and we've spent so much time talking about how great the Obama-matic truly is, but I want to make sure our viewers know how to get the experience of helping to elect the most innovative new Presidential Candidate model in history.

BIBI

That's right, Mick! Voters, all you need is a voter registration card, and the experience of voting for the Obama-matic is yours!

MICK

And if you don't have a valid voter registration card, the nice people at ACORN will help you get one.

BIBI

Or, if you live in Ohio and aren't verifiably deceased, then you can vote, too!

MICK

There are just so many ways to take this great opportunity to vote for the Obama-matic. But remember, you absolutely must take advantage of this offer before November 4th.

BIBI

And like all Presidential Candidate models, the Obama-matic comes with a four-year guarantee. If you're not absolutely delighted with the Obama-matic, just wait four years, and you can replace him with somebody new.

Music begins to play and the camera pans slowly away from Mick and Bibi.

MICK

That's all the time we have for now! Bye folks!

BIBI

Bye! And don't miss your chance to vote for...

MICK/BIBI:

(together) The amazing Obama-matic!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Because I Said I Would

I wasn't really serious about this. Not really.

But then another commenter named Aaron wrote this brilliant bit:

"Song of the Voters of America"
Chorus:
We have come to plug out noses
We have come to punch a chad
And we all agree the choices both are bad


We would like to vote third party
Show the GOP the door
But remember this, Obama scares us more

So I thought it might be fun to do what I said I'd do:

Voter's Anthem:

Refrain:
It is time, we have chosen
We'll go vote for one or other,
We're not happy with our choices
But we'll go vote anyway.
Campaign signs, VP blunders,
ESCR--what a pain!
We don't like him, we don't want him
But we still pick John McCain.

Then how can we stand justified? How can we vote this way?
No one else we can support now, we'll just vote against The One
Who's the guy for Big Abortion, who'll sign FOCA before long,
Who thinks he can heal the planet, who's all wrong. (Refrain)

Then how are we to stand at all, shills for the GOP?
No; we all hate ESCR, but we still have to defeat
That same guy for Big Abortion, who'll sign FOCA before long,
Who thinks he can heal the planet, who's all wrong. (Refrain)

No paeans to John McCain from me; no uncritical unthinking partisanship. Just an unhappy acceptance of the reality of this election, and a hope that we won't find ourselves fighting to save the pro-life movement from a legion of legal restrictions and a gaggle of pro-abort SCOTUS judges by the time this is all over.

The Price of a Life

Today is day 35 of the 40 Days for Life campaign. According to the 40 Days for Life blog, at least 384 women are confirmed to have changed their minds about abortion and decided to keep their babies during this campaign:

And that’s why we continue to rejoice in the many reports we’re hearing of saved lives.

The latest tally of confirmed lives saved as a result of this fall’s 40 Days for Life campaign is up to…

…384!!

Here are just a few of those stories:

“Another turnaround!” notes Major in Huntsville, Alabama. “That makes six here since 40 Days for Life started. This one was 18 to 20 weeks into her pregnancy. Please pray for her!”

“A pregnant woman came to speak to me after having left the abortion clinic,” said Joanne at 40 Days for Life in Providence, Rhode Island. “She changed her mind because people were praying outside. She has decided to have the baby.”

A couple spoke to a 40 Days for Life volunteer outside the abortion facility in Louisville, Kentucky, then went in. A while later, they two came back out and the man said, “You got to me. We couldn’t do it!” Jenny said there is so much to be thankful for. “Isn’t it so humbling that God has called us to be a part of this?”

I've been writing about the election for the most part for these past several days--with just one week to go from today I suppose that's understandable. But consider this for a moment:

Under an Obama presidency, efforts like 40 Days for Life may very well become illegal, since they'll be defined as "interfering with access to a woman's fundamental right to an abortion."

Anyone who thinks a President Obama would allow peaceful protests of clinics, sidewalk counseling, and the like to continue as they do today hasn't been paying attention to what the Democrats and their masters in the abortion industry really want: they want to shut down the pro-life movement altogether.

Each of those 384 canceled appointments is a cause of rejoicing for us: 384 babies will be loved and celebrated instead of murdered in the womb. But for abortionists, those 384 live babies means a loss of about $160,000 in income (according to the Guttmacher Institute, which puts the price of an average abortion at $413). And with Obama completely in the pocket of the big abortion providers, rest assured that steps will be taken to guarantee that abortion clinics don't lose money just because someone cares enough to talk confused and anguished women out of paying $413 to have someone kill their babies.

As we head into next Tuesday's election, let's keep these three hundred eighty four women and their babies in our prayers. And let's hope that it will still be legal to pray and counsel in front of abortion clinics this time next year.

Partisanship in the Press

So, you think the media's way too biased in this election? Think they're being unfair in their coverage of the campaign? Apparently, they agree:

We were all set to dismiss Harris’ mother as a crank. Same for VandeHei’s: a conservative dismayed by what she sees as kid-glove treatment of Barack Obama. Then along came a study — funded by the prestigious Pew Research Center, no less — suggesting at first blush, at least, that they may be on to something.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s researchers found that John McCain, over the six weeks since the Republican convention, got four times as many negative stories as positive ones. The study found six out of 10 McCain stories were negative.

What’s more, Obama had more than twice as many positive stories (36 percent) as McCain — and just half the percentage of negative (29 percent).

You call that balanced?

OK, let’s just get this over with: Yes, in the closing weeks of this election, John McCain and Sarah Palin are getting hosed in the press, and at Politico.

And, yes, based on a combined 35 years in the news business we’d take an educated guess — nothing so scientific as a Pew study — that Obama will win the votes of probably 80 percent or more of journalists covering the 2008 election. Most political journalists we know are centrists — instinctually skeptical of ideological zealotry — but with at least a mild liberal tilt to their thinking, particularly on social issues.

So what?

The writer goes on to say, hey, it's not our fault that the Obama campaign has been a paragon of well-managed messianic fabulousness, while the McCain campaign has devolved into nothing but endless bickering between The Crank and The Hick Diva; we're not responsible for the reality, no sir; it's just our job to report it. So what?

So what, indeed.

It's as if a group of colorblind people insisted that blue was really orange, and any perception to the contrary was merely the bias of all those people who thought otherwise. It couldn't possibly be the bias of the colorblind people who couldn't actually see the reality, could it? No; of course not.

So media bias in favor of Obama is a sham, according to the media; it's not their fault at all that Obama's so mind-bendingly, thrill up the leg terrific.

Right.

Thankfully, a few actual reporters are giving the rest of the MSM a run for their money. We had Barbara West in Orlando, asking actual questions instead of mouthing praise and worship to Joe Biden; now Bill Sammon of Fox News reports the following, according to Drudge:

Barack Obama laughs off charges of socialism. Joe Biden scoffs at references to Marxism. Both men shrug off accusations of liberalism.

But Obama himself acknowledges that he was drawn to socialists and even Marxists as a college student. He continued to associate with Marxists later in life, even choosing to launch his political career in the living room of a self-described Marxist, William Ayers, in 1995, when Obama was 34.

Obama's affinity for Marxists began when he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles.

"To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully," the Democratic presidential candidate wrote in his memoir, "Dreams From My Father." "The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists."

Obama's interest in leftist politics continued after he transferred to Columbia University in New York. He lived on Manhattan's Upper East Side, venturing to the East Village for what he called "the socialist conferences I sometimes attended at Cooper Union."

After graduating from Columbia in 1983, Obama spent a year working for a consulting firm and then went to work for what he described as "a Ralph Nader offshoot" in Harlem.

"In search of some inspiration, I went to hear Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely Carmichael of Black Panther fame, speak at Columbia," Obama wrote in "Dreams," which he published in 1995. "At the entrance to the auditorium, two women, one black, one Asian, were selling Marxist literature."

Obama supporters point out that plenty of Americans flirt with radical ideologies in college, only to join the political mainstream later in life. But Obama, who made a point of noting how "carefully" he chose his friends in college, also chose to launch his political career in the Chicago living room of Ayers, a domestic terrorist who in 2002 proclaimed: "I am a Marxist."

Also present at that meeting was Ayers' wife, fellow terrorist Bernardine Dohrn, who once gave a speech extolling socialism, communism and "Marxism-Leninism."

It's absolutely outrageous that now, just one week before the election, American voters are finally learning the truth about Barack Obama and his political leanings. Frankly, Obama's past Marxist associations and affiliations with people who espouse those views ought to have been front-page news way back during the primaries, and they would have been, had Obama been a Republican or a less-liked Democrat. But since he was the MSM's anointed one, they decided to give him a pass on all of his past, frequently chastising anyone who did try to discuss any of that as a racist.

It is, apparently, racist in America to raise questions about the past beliefs, statements, and associations of an African-American presidential candidate; that, anyway, has been the MSM's magic bullet used to kill any story that might have delved into Obama's past without the admiring adjectives and glossing-over of any inconvenient truths. But as members of the MSM try to wrap themselves in the garment of objectivity, pretending that the only reason they've been all but cheerleading for Obama is because he's just incontrovertibly fantastic, they should remember that the rest of us can see right through those gossamer threads--and we're apalled by their naked partisanship.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Avoiding the Oscar Option

Now, I promise that I'm not going to badger people who've decided they must abstain from voting or vote third-party this time around. We're all doing the best we can under difficult circumstances to decide how best to vote as serious Catholics, and though we may reach different conclusions we are still striving for the same goal. I wish I could say the same about Catholic Obama voters, but the best I can come up with is that they must be uninformed; the bishops have taught with such clarity this year that we can't draw parallels between abortion and other issues that would create the false illusion that abortion is no different, from a moral gravity perspective, from these other issues. Those of us who either vote for McCain despite our misgivings, vote for a dq3, or leave the presidential race blank on our ballots, are at least all trying to accomplish the same goal of limiting evil; we've just decided this means different things.

Having said that, though, and having struggled myself with the "what to do" question, I want to address one point that the dq3/blank ballot Catholics keep making, and which I came to reject as not quite true, or at least not true in the way they seem to think it is: the notion that we will ultimately influence the major parties by our actions in abstaining or dq3 voting.

Astonishing though it is to realize, if you add up all the votes for all third party candidates for the presidential elections from 1980 through 2004, they total 43,929,518 votes--not generally enough to win a single election, even if these had all been cast by unique voters, which they were not. That is, people who voted third party in 1980 might have voted the same way in 1988, and so on; the forty-three million votes took seven elections to accumulate. Even more astonishing is the fact that more than twice that many, or roughly one hundred million, Americans don't vote at all in most elections. So while the "message" ought to be that roughly one hundred six million (averaging the third-party votes over seven years) eligible voters find neither major party candidate even remotely worth supporting, that's not the message that is being received; the major parties simply concentrate their efforts on those who are likely to vote, and ignore the ones who don't--whether those are principled Catholics waiting for better choices or apathetic atheists who find voting as amusing and meaningless as the other ritualized behaviors of a specific carbon-based life form which is only slightly more intelligent than a chimpanzee, or anyone in between.

It doesn't matter to the major parties, in other words, why the non-voters don't vote, or why the handful of dq3 supporters vote for third-party candidates, with the possible exception of those few candidates who have garnered more than a few million votes in a single election; I'm sure Ross Perot's nearly twenty million votes got the attention of the two big parties, but I doubt anyone else in recent memory has garnered anywhere remotely close to that level of interest. We can deplore this, we can write about it, we can refer to the dangers of the two-party system, all of which I've done myself on occasion; but we can't, by mere magical thinking or ill-placed optimism, create a different reality from the reality that actually is.

None of this means that we should accept, with a defeatist air, that the flawed two-party system is the only way. But if we're serious about wanting other choices, then we have to stop pretending that we can somehow effect change on the eve of a hotly-contested election by sitting it out or voting for some relatively harmless kook who would never get our vote if he actually were a major party primary candidate.

We have to get involved.

Part of the problem is that some of us are people who love to hate politics. We enjoy bashing both parties for their shortcomings, but we'd never consider joining either major party, getting involved in a local race in order to help a really good candidate advance through the party ranks, getting involved in the pro-life arm of the party, or otherwise working to make things better so that four years from now we won't be stuck with the same sort of choices all over again.

Or perhaps we really, truly believe that a third-party is the way to go, but we have yet to pick one or create one and throw our energies and efforts into that party, helping them to get established and maybe convincing the party leadership to concentrate on state and local elections first, instead of aiming for the moon by running for the presidency from day one.

I know the objections: we're already involved in non-political good works, there's no time, political solutions aren't the answer, etc. But we can't pop out of our trash cans once every two or four years like Oscar the Grouch, complain that there's just no good choices, abuse the election participants as easily deluded saps on happy pills, and then slam the lid down to wait for the next opportunity for some cathartic public grouching about it all.

If we're serious as Catholics in a troublingly flawed era in a nation which seems to be forgetting the whole "under God" part, if we really do want to use Catholic social principles to help shape a more just and more righteous nation, if we really do believe that the law must not fail to protect the unborn, uphold traditional marriage, and otherwise protect the family as its foundational unit--then we can't leave to chance the idea that perhaps next time around one of the major parties will run a good candidate, or if not, at least they'll get the message that we're displeased which we will send by our continued lack of participation.

I think the only message they'll get will sound like the lid slamming down on the trash can of a notorious malcontent--and they'll ignore it as they always do, and move on.

Good Company

If you can, read this whole opinion piece from philly.com by Christine M. Flowers, an area lawyer:

You've heard of Joe the Plumber - well, this is Joe the Bishop.

Joseph Martino is head of Scranton's Catholic diocese, which may hold the key to at least one battleground state. Catholics are a good bellwether for national trends. And Bishop Martino is trying to make sure his flock trends in the right direction.

He recently issued a letter warning that "being 'right' on taxes, education, health care, immigration and the economy fails to make up for the error of disregarding the value of human life."

This is a swipe at prominent cafeteria Catholics and noted theologians like Nancy Pelosi who've tried to argue that Catholics shouldn't be one-issue voters. Knowing that many Catholics tend to be squeamish about the party's stand on abortion, Democrats have tried to appeal to this important demographic by playing bait-and-switch - if they can divert our attention from their support for the abortion lobby, we'll be able to pull the lever for Obama.

That might work with the I'm-personally-against-but-don't-want-to-impose-my opinion types. But they can't hoodwink Joe the Bishop. Martino has enunciated the church's beliefs by emphasizing that if you don't respect life at its most defenseless and elemental, concern for the rest is meaningless. [...]

Barack Obama, despite the backpedaling he's done on the campaign trail, is NARAL's best friend. While Joe the Senator is more reticent about his support for abortion rights, saying that, for him, life begins at conception, Obama has long made it clear that Roe is sacrosanct.

He voted to block legislation to mandate medical care for babies who survived botched abortions because he felt it infringed on the right to choose. He's also promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act if elected. Among other things, FOCA would let tax dollars be used for abortions, gutting the Hyde Amendment. [...]

Last week, a miracle came into my life. His name is Alexander Christian, and he's my nephew.

He's more precious than anything at the Barnes Foundation. I'm sure that if Obama had the chance to hold Alex, he'd flash that radiant smile of his and talk about my nephew's right to a bright future.

But Bishop Martino knows Alex had a right to that future even while nestled in my sister's belly.

And while Catholics can run from that truth, they can't hide.

At least not in Scranton.

This was well written, a quick run-down of the reasons why Catholics shouldn't vote for Obama. And the writer seems to have made the same calculation I did: if you're against Obama, you should at least consider voting for McCain, who won't drive the country even further in the direction of the culture of death.

I understand that this election requires a lot of soul-searching, a lot of prayer as we decide what to do. But if we can stand idly by and watch someone so rabidly pro-abortion as Obama is elected to the office of the presidency, and, in effect, shrug and say "If the GOP expected us to stop him, they shouldn't have insulted us by offering such a deficient candidate on their side," then I wonder just how evil a presidential candidate would have to be in the future for us to rethink that formulation.

For now, I feel pretty good knowing that my McCain vote puts me in the company of people like Christine Flowers. Seems like good company, to me.

Another Obama Video

A lot of people have now seen this video, thanks to the Drudge Report's highlighting of it; I think it's amazing that Obama's past views and opinions are just now beginning to surface. Whatever else happens in this election one thing has become brilliantly clear: the mainstream media did not even remotely do their jobs in regard to Obama and his past; while Sarah Palin has been scrutinized to the microscopic level and John McCain had to present his birth information to show that being born in the Panama Canal Zone didn't make him ineligible for the presidency, information about Obama's views would still be unavailable were it not for the dedicated efforts of citizen journalists who are tracking down these old interviews and unearthing Obama's stated positions on issues.

Here's another video--and audio--showing Barack Obama's view of race relations and reparations, giving an insight into the philosophies of a man who may very well be our next president:



This is scary stuff. Since when do we pay taxes "to" our fellow citizens? Since when has America not been willing to make "sacrifices" to advance the common good? Oh, but we're not talking about the common good: we're talking about a paradigm that still sees African-Americans as being fundamentally unable to get the same educations, make the same choices, have the same careers, and have access to the same success as other Americans, despite years of civil rights successes, mandated diversity programs, quotas in higher education and in jobs, and so on. In Obama's view of America only by taking the wealth of the highest earners, the "white executives in the suburbs," and redistributing it to inner-city children and other "powerless" people, can we truly bring about what he calls on this tape "a new day and a new age."

Why do I get the feeling this "new day" and "new age" are the same old day that hit Russia at the turn of the last century? Why does this sound so wearily familiar, the utopian ideals that we can solve poverty and racism and crime and all other social problems by applying Marxist principles and redistributing wealth?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It Came Down To This

After all the writing and hand-wringing and agonizing--all of it genuine, no matter how inconsistent and incoherent and seemingly contradictory it has been--I went and voted today, participating in Texas' generous early voting opportunities.

I have to say, Texas homeschooling moms, if you go vote during off-hours on a Sunday or a quiet weekday and the nice volunteers are handling a few people at a time, it's quite likely that a really, really nice couple of grandparent-like people will insist on showing your children the "instructional" touch screen machine, letting each one of them "cast" fictional "ballots" for Abe Lincoln or Grover Cleveland or Mark Twain (can you imagine Twain in the Senate?). They enjoyed the learning experience tremendously, especially the one who is studying American government this year.

There was a lone Obama pamphleteer outside the polling place; I have to wonder if she was really far enough away to be legal, but she probably was. The same nice volunteer who showed the girls the touch-screen demo machine kidded us about not bringing our registration cards; we could show a photo i.d., or...er...a president's face on paper...though he was more direct, and I joked back that I was gonna tell on him. ;) It's nice, though, that we've moved so far as a nation that poll taxes and other disenfranchisement tools can be joked about in polling places; I wouldn't really have it any other way.

So I got my computer access code (wondering about the security of touch-screen voting and whether that's ever going to be the problem some say it will), went to the machine, and voted...

...for John McCain and Sarah Palin.

I expect the Real Catholic Bloggers (TM) to revoke my Catholic blogging creds any day now.

Seriously, though, I weighed all my options, thought about what Zippy Catholic and Mark Shea and Amy Welborn and others have said about this whole confusing election scenario, thought about honesty and truthfulness and what I really meant by my vote, if I voted for someone else but still hoped McCain would defeat Obama only because of how truly bad for the pro-life movement I know Obama will be; I thought about telling our Lord, "My Jesus, You know I don't like McCain's ESCR position; I hate it. But I really did prefer him over Obama, so I lied when I said I preferred this other person or left the ballot blank." Because I would have to tell Him that, if I didn't vote the way my conscience was directing me to vote.

And why? Why would my conscience direct me to vote for someone who supports something I know is evil?

Because his opponent supports much more evil, and will do more evil. And I had to think of it this way, to be truly honest with myself: If McCain does win, will I be glad I helped him with my one tiny vote to defeat the evil that Obama will undoubtedly do? Yes. But if Obama wins, will I find some consolation in knowing that I did the one tiny thing I could do to stop him, regardless of whether I could be effective all on my own or not? Yes.

I know it will not come down to the same thing for everyone who reads this. The disgust with the Republican party for what has happened in these last eight years with a president who didn't really appear to support any intrinsic evils at all is palpable and real, and the fears that a pro-ESCR president will push the party further away from protecting innocent unborn life is not an unwarranted one (though McCain's choice of the truly pro-life Sarah Palin instead of Lieberman or Tom Ridge to run with him is a note of encouragement in that respect). Some are already convinced that the battle for unborn lives has been lost in the political arena, and that we waste our time voting for this or that supposedly pro-life candidate; I disagree, but I respect the argument so long as it's not defeatism dressed up as pragmatism as it sometimes can be.

I admit that the more esoteric arguments about how voting is really symbolic or civic ritual and one's vote is worth zero or less than zero are over my head; I have a feeling that if I were to go hunting with Zippy, and he shot just to the left and just to the right of a deer, he'd triumphantly claim to have hit it, as the old joke about hunting with statisticians goes. A handful of people may really understand Zippy's argument, and a handful of that handful may believe him to be right; but I'm not one of either handful, so again, I'd be acting dishonestly if I voted according to Zippy's principles instead of my own.

We have a little over a week to go before the general election, and I know that prayers and fasting and other efforts that God's will be done are going forth; these may indeed be more efficacious than mere voting. But what I kept uncovering myself in prayerful consideration was: decide what will do the most good, and then act honestly. My own decision was that the most good possible in this present election would be defeating Barack Obama in order to protect the greater number of unborn children who will die as a direct result of his liberal abortion policies; once I had decided that, the only honest thing left for me to do was to vote for McCain, because the only way Obama can be defeated is if McCain is elected. I have the utmost respect for those who may reach different conclusions, and will never think less of anyone who decides they must sit this one out, or that they must vote for a dq3 candidate, because their conscience so dictates. One thing is certain: after next Tuesday has come and gone, and the election has become a part of history, we will need to grasp hands and work together to create a culture of life; we can't afford to let voting or politics stop us from our untiring efforts on behalf of the unborn.

The Blank Ballot Option

Continuing our look at voting options, I notice that I've left out an option that has, at some times during the course of this election cycle, been the most attractive to me: leaving the boxes beside the presidential candidates blank, and only voting for state and local candidates and ballot initiatives.

Our ballots do not have a "none of the above" option; would that they did. There are plenty of times, especially in local races, where that's the option I'd like to select. For example, we have a pro-abort Republican U.S. Representative in our district. Primary votes have not removed this candidate. So when this candidate is up for reelection I simply leave that race blank.

And in Texas we elect judges, and I finally reached the point where I decided my philosophical opposition to an elected judiciary compelled me to leave these races blank, too. There are several reasons I'm opposed to an elected judiciary, but two of the biggest are: judges can more easily be corrupted if they have to run for election/re-election constantly; and it is pretty well impossible to determine for sure what a judge thinks about issues like abortion, gay marriage, and euthanasia, since judicial impartiality prevents them from answering direct questions like that. I give credit to some pro-life groups who have asked judicial candidates which recent presidents they most admire or which present SCOTUS judges they most resemble, but then you have the problem of still not knowing exactly what they mean (e.g., one lists Roberts, another Scalia, another Thomas--which of the three is the most likely to be truly pro-life? etc.). Even if you select someone who is described as a strict constructionist who admires Scalia and Reagan, you don't really know what they will do from the bench: the judge in Florida who ordered Terry Schiavo's death, Judge George Greer, is an elected judge and a Republican who is himself disabled, all things which would make a voter think he'd be the last person to promote euthanasia--and we see how that turned out.

But back to the presidential race: I was struck by a comment from Lydia McGrew over at WWwtW (it's down a bit on the page):
P.P.S. To all: Newsflash from VFR--Chuck Baldwin is some variety of 9/11 truther. Why does "third party" have to mean "kookball"? It's a shame, really.
I've voted for third-party candidates, even for the presidency, in the past. When I have done so, it has been in situations where the Republican candidate was someone I didn't much want to see elected and where the Republican candidate was either winning hugely or trailing the Democrat by a significant margin long before election day. In particular I point to the Clinton/Dole election: Dole was disappointingly "moderate" in many ways, Clinton was up for re-election and had already done the damage he was going to do to the pro-life movement (Mexico City policy in particular), and Clinton was enjoying such a comfortable lead that there wasn't really any hope of stopping him. The third-party candidate I voted for then was someone I wouldn't have minded seeing elected if by some miracle he had been, so my vote was an honest vote in favor of a principled conservative whom I admired.

But as I said in the post about third-party candidates, there isn't such a person among this year's selection of dq3 candidates. There isn't someone whom I could support in such a way that if some miracle allowed the person to be elected I'd be very happy about it. Some in the WWwtW thread I referenced said, in essence, that "Pastor Chuck" may be a bit of a kook, but they like what his party stands for--and I thought, well, John McCain is a disappointment, but I like the Republican Party platform better than I have in years, so is it really different? (And yes, I know, the "John McCain supports intrinsic evil" is the difference; I'm not trying to make light of that.)

For me, personally, though, a vote for the two most pro-life candidates, Baldwin or Schriner, would essentially be a lie: I'd be saying I want one of them to be president, when in all honesty I don't have the same admiration or respect for them as I have had for the dq3 candidates I've voted for in the past. Even if it were possible to send a message to the major parties with one's dq3 vote, I'm very much afraid that the only message one may send by supporting someone who's just a bit "kooky" is that one isn't a serious voter.

But the blank ballot option avoids all of that question of lying with one's vote, or supporting someone one wouldn't wish in a million years to see running one's local city council, let alone the country. (And let me just say, again, to avoid hurting feelings, that I emphatically do not characterize all dq3 votes as "lying" or otherwise acting dishonestly. If you truly do wish Joe Schriner or Chuck Baldwin to be our president, or anyone else for that matter, you ought to vote accordingly. It is neither lying nor wasting one's vote to vote for the candidate you honestly wish would be elected, practical considerations aside.) So if you are unhappy with the two major party candidates but equally unimpressed with the third-party choices, you can certainly decline to vote in the presidential race; we are supposed to participate in our civic life as Catholics in society, but that doesn't mean "vote in every race on every ballot in every election that comes up" ought to be the template for participation.

Having said all of that, though, I had to consider some things that Mr. M., among others, discussed with me about the blank ballot option: could I honestly say that in this year's election the choice of the president was a matter of indifference to me, or that I saw both men as equal to each other in terms of their support for intrinsic evil? Was this really a good election for the blank ballot option?

I realized that several of my unthinking criteria for the blank ballot option didn't actually exist in this election. For example:
  1. This is not an election whose conclusion is foregone (despite the wild polling). It is still possible for either candidate to win.
  2. This is not an election in which the candidates are undistinguished from each other. We don't have a "moderate" Democrat running against a "moderate" Republican; we have an "extreme left" Democrat running against a "center-to-right" Republican.
  3. On the issue of life, it is possible for Obama to create an environment that is extremely inimical to the right of the unborn to live--he really can, singlehandedly, set the pro-life movement back about thirty years. From FOCA to SCOTUS appointees to "health care" mandates that will increase government funding for abortion and curtail the rights of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers to refuse to participate in abortions Obama has actively promised to create a nightmare world for pro-life citizens. While I am, and remain, deeply disappointed with McCain's ESCR position I believe it's a kind of sophistry to equate it with Obama's clearly destructive and anti-life viewpoints and intended policies.
  4. While I kept saying to myself, "But I'm not in a swing state!" Mr. M. pointed out that I can't say that for sure. Polls, after all, can be wrong in either direction. Worse, wasn't I really saying that of the two men who can actually win the election, Obama or McCain, I hoped McCain would win in that I hoped Obama would lose--but I was unwilling to say so myself, relying instead on others to say so on my behalf?
  5. I can't improve on Daddio's words, here. It's true that we can't specifically vote against a candidate (again, would that that were an option!) But we can, as Daddio says, vote FOR the guy who is AGAINST Obama. Leaving the ballot blank does nothing to defeat Obama, and given how much our bishops have written to us this election season about their own deep concerns for the unborn, I can't help but think that "voting in such a way as to limit the greater evil" is the same thing, more elegantly phrased perhaps, as "voting for the guy who is against the guy that we're against."
Now, this is where my thinking has been; I realize that each person may come to a different conclusion. But if you are in a situation where you truly cannot support John McCain in good conscience, but truly can't support a dq3 candidate either, the blank ballot option is still a valid choice; it's the closest thing we have to a "none of the above" vote.

Balderdash

I know, I know, why bother getting riled up over something printed in the National Catholic Reporter in the first place? From high school on my Wanderer-reading friends and I referred to the paper as the Distorter, since their unofficial motto seemed to be: "Promoting the writing of unabashed heretics since Day One!" So it's not really a surprise to see this rag publishing an editorial about how the United States Bishops' efforts to remind Catholics that we're not permitted to overlook the abortion issue when voting is really a "narrow anti-abortion effort" that "hurts the pro-life cause." Consider:
Another presidential election cycle is nearly ended, and once again the Catholic bishops in the United States have sadly distinguished themselves for the narrowness and, in too many cases, barely concealed partisanship, of their political views.

Cycle after cycle they have promulgated the same message: Abortion trumps all other issues and the only credible approach to fighting abortion is voting for candidates who express a wish to overthrow Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

We have persistently criticized the American bishops on this page for such a limited political strategy. For more than a quarter of a century they have generally used whatever political capital they might have in attempts to deliver the Catholic vote to whomever is making the most agreeable promises that year.

Year after year, however, the bishops get little in return for their antiabortion political endorsements, while often aiding in the election of politicians who have little regard for the rest of the church’s social agenda.
The abortion rate has been going down steadily in America, from a high of 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15-44 in 1981 to 19.4 abortions for the same demographic through 2005, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

No one has the definitive answer on why the rate is decreasing. Depending on political persuasion and which side of the debate one falls on, the possible reasons range from more emphasis on abstinence programs to better education and more funding for prevention of pregnancy. Undoubtedly, one unquantifiable element is continuing education about the reality of abortion and the sacredness of life that has persuaded some to bring pregnancies to term.

No one, however, is suggesting that politicians promising to overturn Roe had any influence on a woman’s choosing to bring a child to term.

I know my readers are a talented and well-educated bunch, but it's just possible that a few among you might not speak "Progressive Catholic." I was, sadly, immersed in it in parochial schools until my parents courageously took us out of school and taught us at home, where I learned to my astonishment that such concepts as "mortal and venial sin" "male priesthood" and "respect for life from conception until natural death" had not, as my "progressive" teachers insisted, been done away with by a new church that was being sung into being, albeit by tone-deaf singers wailing truly unfortunate songs.

I did, however, become relatively fluent in "Progressive Catholic," and will translate the above paragraphs into ordinary English (warning to the progressives among us: I may even use non-inclusive pronouns!!):

Paragraph One:

Although only a little more than a quarter of U.S. bishops have urged their flocks to remember the unborn when they are voting, we find this an alarming trend away from the narrowness and, indeed, naked partisanship of former ages, when we could count on the U.S. bishops all but endorsing the Democrat candidate. We've never had a problem with bishops talking about preferential options for the poor, a "seamless garment" ethic, illegal immigration and access to health care, and so long as it was tacitly understood that all of these issues in the balance scale outweighed the whole abortion problem we were fine with bishops being narrow and partisan. But this new trend of 1/4 of the bishops failing to be narrowly partisan in favor of the Democrats is alarming to us, since we've believed for ages that only the Democrats correctly reflect Jesus' social Gospel of wealth redistribution.

Paragraph Two:

Though this is the first time in living memory so many bishops have pointed out that when a choice exists between two candidates one of whom is a much greater enemy to unborn human life than the other, Catholics must place abortion as an issue of primary importance in making their selection, we know some bishops have consistently done so (probably the malcontents who don't like liturgical dance and yelled at Sister Helen when she offered to give the homily). Even though it's pretty foolish to pretend that bishops have routinely counseled their flocks to remember what we owe in solidarity to our unborn brothers and sisters when we vote, since if they had done so all these years we'd probably be closer to outlawing abortion altogether than we are now, we're going to assert this anyway. After all, we feel as though it's true.

Paragraph Three:

This descends into utter ridiculousness. If the bishops over the past twenty-five years have expended any political capital at all, it has been in the "peace and justice" arena, and has involved bishops withholding their taxes to protest nuclear weapons and sternly lecturing their flocks about the need for amnesty for illegal aliens. No one can credibly make the claim that the American bishops have been in the pocket of the Republican party for the last twenty-five years--or at any other time. Still, we feel justified in engaging in pure snit because we feel abandoned and betrayed, and are this close to talking about brokenness and nourishing each other. We mean it--don't push us.

Paragraph Four:

This paragraph contains the money quote, which, in case you missed it, was this sentence: "Year after year, however, the bishops get little in return for their antiabortion political endorsements, while often aiding in the election of politicians who have little regard for the rest of the church’s social agenda." This is our unshakable paradigm: Democrats are true Christians in every way (even if you have to squint to get past that speck in their eye called abortion) while Republicans take as their model the innkeeper at Bethlehem, whose concern for his evil profit margin made him put the Holy Family in a stable and made the Baby Jesus cry. Democrats champion the oppressed; Republicans try to figure out new ways of oppressing the poor, coming up with such evil strategies as objecting--can you believe it!--to giving federal income tax rebates to people who don't actually pay federal income taxes in the first place. Since it is perfectly clear (to us anyway) that Jesus would have insisted on wealth distribution and community organizing "power" strategies as the only basis for a just Christian society, we can't understand how the bishops could possibly let concern for the unborn trump all of this.

Paragraphs Four (b), Five and Six:

Of course, the abortion rate has been going down. But it's not because the bishops keep talking about it, and it's certainly not because pro-life politicians have been elected and continue to be elected. We don't know why the abortion rate has been going down--education, maybe? We like teachers, so we'll call it that. Of course we're ignoring the abstinence-focused education programs pushed by those pro-life politicians, because we know that had absolutely nothing to do with the decline in abortion. We mention it briefly, but we don't want our readers to stop and think about it, because if abstinence education works, and if abstinence education is proposed by pro-life Republicans and hated by pro-abort Democrats, then our entire premise that the bishops are shilling for pro-life political candidates without getting anything in return is as faulty as a lay-led liturgy workshop at a bishops' conference. Lucky for us, our readers aren't terribly strong in making logical connections--if they were, they wouldn't read our paper for very long.

Having carefully translated most of the NCR editorial for the benefit of And Sometimes Tea readers who may have escaped the "Progressive Catholic" dialect in their own youths, I'll just repeat the title of this post in summation: balderdash.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama: Charismatic Demagogue, Enigma

This piece by Mark Levin on National Review's The Corner blog is a must-read. I'll probably refer back to it during the course of this next week, but for now I want to get it out here. Excerpt:
There is a cult-like atmosphere around Barack Obama, which his campaign has carefully and successfully fabricated, which concerns me. The messiah complex. Fainting audience members at rallies. Special Obama flags and an Obama presidential seal. A graphic with the portrayal of the globe and Obama's name on it, which adorns everything from Obama's plane to his street literature. Young school children singing songs praising Obama. Teenagers wearing camouflage outfits and marching in military order chanting Obama's name and the professions he is going to open to them. An Obama world tour, culminating in a speech in Berlin where Obama proclaims we are all citizens of the world. I dare say, this is ominous stuff. [...]

But beyond the elites and the media, my greatest concern is whether this election will show a majority of the voters susceptible to the appeal of a charismatic demagogue. This may seem a harsh term to some, and no doubt will to Obama supporters, but it is a perfectly appropriate characterization. Obama's entire campaign is built on class warfare and human envy. The "change" he peddles is not new. We've seen it before. It is change that diminishes individual liberty for the soft authoritarianism of socialism. It is a populist appeal that disguises government mandated wealth redistribution as tax cuts for the middle class, falsely blames capitalism for the social policies and government corruption (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) that led to the current turmoil in our financial markets, fuels contempt for commerce and trade by stigmatizing those who run successful small and large businesses, and exploits human imperfection as a justification for a massive expansion of centralized government. Obama's appeal to the middle class is an appeal to the "the proletariat," as an infamous philosopher once described it, about which a mythology has been created. Rather than pursue the American Dream, he insists that the American Dream has arbitrary limits, limits Obama would set for the rest of us — today it's $250,000 for businesses and even less for individuals. If the individual dares to succeed beyond the limits set by Obama, he is punished for he's now officially "rich." The value of his physical and intellectual labor must be confiscated in greater amounts for the good of the proletariat (the middle class). And so it is that the middle class, the birth-child of capitalism, is both celebrated and enslaved — for its own good and the greater good. The "hope" Obama represents, therefore, is not hope at all. It is the misery of his utopianism imposed on the individual.
Do read the whole thing; Levin is identifying something important, here, something which has caused me to worry about an Obama presidency in a way I never really worried about Clinton (though I found his policies deplorable and his person despicable, to say the least).

Bill Clinton was, and seemingly still is, a deeply flawed person whose social liberalism and big-government politics were frequently upsetting to conservatives like me. But I don't recall schoolchildren chanting for Clinton; the media was sympathetic to him but no where near as brazenly partisan in his favor as they are in regards to Obama; and when all was said and done we may not have liked Clinton at all, but we did know who he was and what he stood for (even if some of us would sum those things up as "small-time crooked politician who hit the White House jackpot and carried on like a younger, slightly slimmer Boss Hogg the whole time he was there).

We are one week away from the election, and we still don't know:
-why Obama held dual citizenship (U.S. and Kenyan) until his 21st birthday,
-whether he ever actually practiced the Muslim religion, even as a child (which most of us wouldn't consider a disqualifier, but shouldn't we know?),
-why none of his student records including his senior thesis have ever been released,
-why the only samples of his writing extant before his polished, highly literate first autobiography was published are some extremely bad poems,
-what his involvement with Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers and his wife, Rev. Wright, and other mentors or important figures in his life actually means,
-why he has continually lied about the import of his BAIPA vote, even when records demonstrating the truth have been made public,
-why he so often voted "present" instead of taking a stand on the legislative matters before him,
-what exactly he means by "change," and just how much taxes are going to go up for people whose incomes are between $50,000 and $250,000--because if you believe he intends to keep his promise about lowering taxes...well, that's another topic.

And these are just for starters. And we have a little over a week to go.

I'd appreciate a little feedback from readers who are so inclined: can you think of a single presidential candidate in your lifetime about whom so little was known just a week or so before the election? Because I can remember a few elections, now, and I can't think of anyone who revealed so little about himself but created such an aura of inevitability about his candidacy.

Like Mark Levin says, it's really rather frightening, when you come to think about it.

Now, THAT'S More Like It! Or, Biden Meets Actual Press

Two members of the American media have restored my belief in the possibility of a free press: anchor Barbara West and news director Bob Jordan of WFTV-Channel 9 in Orlando, Florida, who conducted this interview Thursday (HT: Drudge Report):



There was a time when presidential candidates could expect to be asked hard, direct questions like these from any news reporter they allowed to interview them. Today, this kind of questioning is only acceptable if you're interviewing Republican candidates--and especially if you're interviewing Sarah Palin. Biden's "deer in the headlights" look says it all: he expected the usual puffball questions such as "Senator, could your running mate just absolutely positively be more to-die-for fabulous than he already is?" Instead, Biden got asked the kinds of things people are thinking and talking about--such as just how socialist Obama's "share the wealth" tax plan really is, and whether ACORN's illicit activities tarnish Obama's image given his level of involvement with ACORN and other community organization groups in the past.

It would have been nice if the mainstream media would have managed to ask a few of these questions long before now, since the election's only a little over a week away. Still, since the MSM has already anointed Obama and given him the full measure of their approval, it's nice to know that a couple of journalists in Florida still remember what journalists are supposed to be.

What We're Fighting For

I'm sure by now you've seen Cardinal Egan's letter with the beautiful picture of the unborn baby at twenty weeks gestation:
Have you any doubt that it is a human being?
If you do not have any such doubt, have you any doubt that it is an innocent human being?
If you have no doubt about this either, have you any doubt that the authorities in a civilized society are duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if anyone were to wish to kill it?
If your answer to this last query is negative, that is, if you have no doubt that the authorities in a civilized society would be duty-bound to protect this innocent human being if someone were to wish to kill it, I would suggest—even insist—that there is not a lot more to be said about the issue of abortion in our society. It is wrong, and it cannot—must not—be tolerated. [...]
But what about the being that has been in its mother for only 15 weeks or only 10? Have you photographs of that too? Yes, I do. However, I hardly think it necessary to show them. For if we agree that the being in the photograph printed on this page is an innocent human being, you have no choice but to admit that it may not be legitimately killed even before 20 weeks unless you can indicate with scientific proof the point in the development of the being before which it was other than an innocent human being and, therefore, available to be legitimately killed. Nor have Aristotle, Aquinas or even the most brilliant embryologists of our era or any other era been able to do so. If there is a time when something less than a human being in a mother morphs into a human being, it is not a time that anyone has ever been able to identify, though many have made guesses. However, guesses are of no help. A man with a shotgun who decides to shoot a being that he believes may be a human being is properly hauled before a judge. And hopefully, the judge in question knows what a "human being" is and what the implications of someone's wishing to kill it are. The word "incarceration" comes to mind.
Now, I agree with the cardinal's argument: if it's wrong to kill an unborn human at twenty weeks gestation, then it's also wrong to kill him or her earlier. He or she is human, and deserving of life.
That said, the abortion rights extremists often complain that since most abortions are performed early, many between week six (when mom finds



out she's pregnant in many cases) and week twelve, it's not a bad idea to show the humanity of the unborn child even earlier. Sometimes pictures are worth thousands of words:







Week five or six:








Week eight:
Week ten:
Week twelve:

(Note: Above pictures removed because I couldn't verify that they were not copyrighted.  Thanks for understanding.)


Every one of these photos shows a human being between five or six and twelve weeks gestation. Most abortions occur before week twelve, with over half occurring in the first nine weeks and another 37% taking place between week nine and week twelve. Surgical abortions are not done before six weeks gestation, meaning that these photos show the ages of development at which most unborn babies are killed in utero.
Though so-called "medical" abortions using the vile RU-486 can be done earlier, the reality, as Cardinal Egan points out, is that the humanity of the unborn doesn't depend on how human he or she looks. There is no point from conception onward that the little one in utero deserves to be killed, or should not be protected. These tiny humans deserve the same right to life as the rest of us; when we deny that, we deny our common humanity, and may eventually reap the consequences of that terrible denial.

Friday, October 24, 2008

And Speaking of Bishops

Apparently, over a quarter of the American bishops have now said or written that abortion is the chief concern in this election (HT: Lifesite News):
A quarter of America's bishops have said that the most important issue for voters in the forthcoming presidential election is abortion - comments that may help boost the fortunes of Republican candidate John McCain.

Some 50 out of the nation's 197 active bishops have published articles or given interviews during the run-up up to the election urging abortion as the key issue on which voters should decide which way to vote. [...]

Among the bishops who have intervened is Bishop Robert Hermann of St Louis who last Friday wrote: "the issue of life is the most basic issue and must be given priority over the issue of the economy, the issue of war or any other issue." His comment came in a column for the archdiocesan newspaper that appeared hours before Mr Obama addressed 100,000 people in the heavily Catholic city.

In Missouri - a normally Republican state where Mr Obama has taken a lead in the polls over recent weeks - Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St Joseph wrote in his diocesan newspaper that "despite hardship, beyond partisanship, for the sake of our eternal salvation", Catholic voters "should never" support a candidate who favours the continued legalisation of abortion.

In Colorado, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver made national headlines after calling Mr Obama "the most committed abortion-rights presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision". Later that same day, saying that he was speaking solely as a "private citizen", Archbishop Chaput told a dinner for a Catholic women's organisation in his archdiocese that the assertion by his Catholic supporters "that Senator Obama is this year's ‘real' pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse".

I'm glad my local bishop is one of the fifty. If yours isn't, perhaps a respectful letter to him on the subject before election day might be possible?

Like I said below, the attention the bishops are paying to the abortion issue this election is truly unprecedented. We should be deeply thankful as Catholics for this wise guidance, and pray for the continued leadership from our shepherds on this grave moral issue of our times.

A Look at Doomed Quixotic Third Party Voting

Continuing the conversation about voting, I want to look today at the third-party option, often called in Catholic blogging circles the "doomed quixotic third-party" vote, or the dq3 vote to make typing it over and over again much easier.

There are a few assumptions I want to look at more closely about this kind of voting, especially as it pertains to presidential elections; bear in mind that there are often strong third-party candidates for state and local office, and there's no "doomed" or "quixotic" involved in voting for those, since it is completely possible for them to win the office for which they are running.

I'd like to start by saying, as I have many times before, that a dq3 vote for the presidency isn't at all a "wasted" vote; I've never said that, and never will. People who select a dq3 candidate to support for whatever reasons are no less entitled to their legitimate choice in an election than anyone else is, and voting dq3 is an honorable and worthy way to cast one's ballot.

Having said that, though, I will admit to being very unsure that a dq3 vote is the most moral or best possible use of one's vote, which is what is being claimed by many Catholic dq3-ers in this election. The reasoning goes something like this:

-Barack Obama supports intrinsic evil (abortion, partial-birth abortion, infanticide, FOCA, etc.).
-John McCain supports intrinsic evil (ESCR).
-A Catholic voter may vote for John McCain to limit the greater evil, as the bishops have said.
-However, given various prudential realities about one's vote and the speculation that voting for McCain will continue the slide of the Republican Party away from life and toward death, a truly Catholic voter should stand on principle, refuse to participate in the two-party charade any longer, and vote for someone who however unelectable does not support intrinsic evil at all.
-The failure of truly Catholic voters to do this is a direct contributing factor to the continuation of the two-party charade and the reason we keep having such dismal choices.
-So, to vote for virtue, so to speak, Catholics really ought to avoid voting for McCain and throw their vote instead to a dq3 candidate until things change for the better, even if that never actually happens.

As you can imagine, I have a few problems with this.

The first problem is that John McCain is not Barack Obama, even if he very regrettably takes the wrong position on ESCR. It is hard to disprove the reality that the right of the unborn to live will be so terribly eroded under an Obama presidency that we may lose our chance forever to give them the legal protections they deserve as their fundamental human right. To pretend that McCain's wishy-washy support of ESCR is exactly the same thing as Barack Obama's total commitment to evil in regards to abortion is to blur a few pretty solid lines; moreover, the threat Obama poses to religious freedom, especially that of medical professionals who could lose their licenses if they conscientiously object to participating in abortions or in the dispensing of abortifacient contraception during his administration, is chilling to contemplate. I would not call John McCain the best choice for president, or even a "good" choice all things considered, but I would say that he is more likely than Obama to limit evil, and that it takes a lot of mental gymnastics to deny that.

The second problem is that this viewpoint seems awfully dismissive of what the bishops are saying and how they are saying it: all over this nation, for the first time that I can remember, the bishops of America are saying, in effect, that we can not overlook Obama's firm commitment to the evil of abortion nor draw false equivalences between abortion and such issues as war or poverty when casting our votes. Are the bishops telling Catholic voters to vote third party, or even strongly hinting that we ought to do so? Not at all; a priest of deep integrity whose wisdom and holiness I trust greatly said months ago that despite the grave misgivings we all have about McCain, the absolute damage Obama would do to the Supreme Court was, in his mind, compelling enough reason to vote for McCain--if only to limit that damage. So it's quite hard to weigh such advice against the repeated statements of bloggers, some of them anonymous, who insist that there is not and can not be proportionate reason to vote for McCain.

The third problem I have with this is one that is somewhat personal; I know there are dq3 voters who are all fired up with enthusiasm for Joe Schriner or Chuck Baldwin, and I have no quarrel whatsoever with that. I, myself, am not. I admire the Constitution Party in many ways and have voted for their candidates in the past, but have some doubts about Pastor Baldwin's qualifications; I admit to being even less sanguine about Mr. Schriner, who I am sure is an admirable gentleman, but who ought (in my opinion) to consider running for local public office as a way of getting started, instead of running for president in three consecutive election cycles without any proof that he can run much of anything. Since I've raised the same sort of objections to Obama's candidacy I hope I won't be accused of elitism or unfairness in pointing out this defect in Mr. Schreiner.

So for me to cast a vote for a dq3 candidate in this election would be the moral equivalent of a lie: I'd be saying "I would like this person to be president," when in point of fact, I wouldn't, actually. It's not that I don't admire their views and philosophies--but I have grave doubts that either one of these two gentlemen would have the necessary administrative qualities to settle things in Iraq, keep Congress in hand, set foreign and domestic policy, deal with foreign heads of state, show leadership on budgetary and economic issues, and otherwise do the day-to-day business of running the country.

Now, some might object: "But that's not the point of a dq3 vote! It doesn't matter if the dq3 candidate isn't qualified to be president! The point is to express our displeasure with the major party choices, to send a message, and to keep our souls unstained."

We'll get to the "souls unstained" part momentarily, but let's look at the idea that a dq3 vote sends a message or expresses our displeasure in any way at all:

Most of the time, it does nothing of the sort.

Let's stick with Mr. Schriner and Mr. Baldwin for the moment; if there are any other dq3s that Catholics find acceptably pro-life, please be assured I'm not leaving them out intentionally--these are just the names I've heard most often from my fellow Catholics.

Chuck Baldwin has qualified to be either on the ballot, or to be a formally recognized write-in candidate, in all but three states according to this website. In Texas he is a write-in candidate. A vote for Chuck Baldwin will most likely be counted and recorded eventually in those states where the Constitution Party is on the ballot; will it "send a message" to the major parties?

Well, in 2000 the Constitution Party candidate received 98,020 votes, or 0.1% of the votes cast. In 2004 they received 143,630, or 0.12% of the votes cast. Prior to that, in 1996 as the US Taxpayers Party they received 184,820, or 0.2% of the votes--the most they ever received, since previously as the US Taxpayer's Party they had only received 0.04% of the vote. I'm not all that certain that a strong message of any kind is being sent by vote totals significantly below 1% of the popular vote.

At least these votes are counted; candidates who receive less than 1/2000 of the popular vote are lumped into one category as "other" votes, which would include Joe Schriner; in 2004 he received about 142 recorded votes, though some states may not have recorded votes for him as he didn't qualify to be on the ballot or to appear as a recognized write-in candidate.

The bottom line here is that if you are a Catholic unhappy with our two-party system and want to send a message, it's entirely possible that you can send the same message by simply leaving the presidential race blank on your ballot; voting for a dq3 is truly a symbolic act, whatever other kind of voting might or might not be.

But let's get back to the "souls unstained" idea, which is my fourth problem with the "dq3 votes are more moral and more holy than limiting-evil by voting for deeply flawed candidates" way of looking at all of this.

If there were truly a moral danger to the faithful; if it were truly the case that it is morally unacceptable or even sinful to vote for McCain, the bishops would be saying so--that can especially be stated given that the bishops have said that it is morally unacceptable to vote for someone who wholeheartedly approves of abortion as Barack Obama does! In fact, one bishop is being investigated for denouncing Obama's position on abortion:

In a letter sent to the IRS on Wednesday (Oct. 22), Americans United for Separation of Church and State accused Paterson Bishop Arthur Serratelli of illegal partisanship for lambasting Obama's support of abortion rights.

In a column posted on the Diocese of Paterson's website and published in its weekly newspaper, Serratelli also compared Obama to King Herod, the biblical monarch who ordered the death of John the Baptist.

The bishop did not refer to Obama by name but only as "the present democratic (sic) candidate." [...]

Serratelli wrote that Obama has pledged, if elected president, to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, abortion-rights legislation the Catholic Church vehemently opposes.

"If this politician fulfills his promise, not only will many of our freedoms as Americans be taken from us, but the innocent and vulnerable will spill their blood," Serratelli wrote.

Since I don't believe our bishops are overwhelmingly biased in favor of Republican candidates and policies, I have to believe that if our bishops saw similar dangers to the souls of the faithful in voting for McCain, they'd say so.

And so, to me, this matter of "real true Catholic voters (tm) only vote for approved doomed quixotic third-party candidates regardless of the fact that these candidates can't possibly win and in no way will limit the evil of an Obama victory" starts to take on shades of other "Real True Catholic (tm)" controversies, from the "RTCs only go to Latin Masses" to "RTCs only homeschool" to "RTC women only wear skirts and dresses" to "RTCs think NFP is as bad as birth control even if the Vatican won't admit it" and so on.

This is so long that I think I need to conclude by saying, once again, that voting for a dq3 doesn't mean you're one of the people who believes it's the only moral way for a Catholic to vote. If you truly, enthusiastically support Baldwin or Schriner or your next-door neighbor who runs every year in a state that counts all write-in votes or whomever, then you needn't apologize to anyone for your thoroughly non-wasted vote. My remarks here are directed toward those who are convinced that even though the Church says we may vote to limit evil when both candidates support evil to some degree, especially when one candidate supports evil to a much greater and more damaging degree than the other, we still ought to insist that this is an impure and borderline-sinful way to vote. To those who hold this view, I say: my friends, when the Church says so I'll cheerfully line up behind you to vote for a dq3 whom I can support in good conscience. Until then, I refuse to condemn those who, however flawed they believe and even know McCain to be, are standing steadfastly against the much graver harm they are convinced Barack Obama will inevitably do, especially to the unborn.