Thursday, June 28, 2012

I agree

Just want to post my agreement with Pat Archbold when he writes:
I have been thinking about this. As a result of today's decision that the individual mandate is a tax, the HHS contraceptive/abortifacient mandate is more likely to survive SCOTUS review.

Why, you say?

Because now that SCOTUS has turned the law on its head and declared it a tax, it undercuts objections to the HHS mandate.

Now the Obama administration can make the argument that you don't have to buy a healthcare policy, if you object on religious or any other grounds, fine. Just pay the tax. Not a penalty, a tax. As we all know, there are no recognized religious objections to paying your taxes. If this merely a tax now, there is no reason to object to it.
Read the rest.

I fear he's right. Catholic businesses wouldn't be "fined" or "penalized" for being Catholic, just "taxed." The amount of the tax would put most Catholic charitable organizations out of business, but that wouldn't matter.

But so long as we're willing to buy the idea that Congress has the right to tax individuals and groups for failing to purchase something, we're going to be stuck with this assault on our freedom.

Not proud to be an American

Officially, I'm still on blog break, but I didn't want to skip commenting on today's Obamacare ruling.

Just about everybody knows the Lee Greenwood song, Proud To Be An American. The refrain's lyrics say this: "And I’m proud to be an American,/where at least I know I’m free...."

Well, if "freedom" now means that the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution of the United States (or, rather, Congress's right to tax us apparently with no limits) can be interpreted to mean that the Federal Government has the right to force individual Americans to purchase a consumer product (or face a heavy, heavy tax for failing to do so), then we're still free, and can still be proud. Otherwise? Not so much.

What do you think our founding fathers would have thought of the idea that freedom means being forced to buy something (or face a huge tax as a consequence of failure to do so)? Oh, I know the argument: health insurance isn't just "something." It's not a normal consumer product, like toothpaste or ice cream, but a super-duper special consumer product that only works if everybody has to buy it. Kind of like when the Mob wants every small business on a block or street to buy "protection;" protection's not guaranteed so long as the Vietnamese noodle shop in the middle of the block refuses to pay. It's all or nothing.

In his famous Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln said these words:
...It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Mr. Lincoln, government of the people, by the people, for the people did not go out with a bang in a battle of that Civil War--it went out with a whimper in the wretched chambers of the Supreme Court, still reeking and putrid with the blood of fifty million dead American children who perished at the hands of pusillanimous and craven judges, the fitting predecessors of today's ignoble body. Not only does Obamacare make us all accomplices in similar murders yet to come, but it solidifies the principle that America has become and will forever be a government of the Ruling Class, by the Ruling Class, and for the Ruling Class--because it was the Ruling Class, alarmed that their stock options were being dragged downward by health care costs, who went to their lackeys in the government and demanded that a way be found to force middle-class and working Americans to pay for the care of those who cannot or will not pay for themselves, lest the billionaires and multimillionaires be forced to forego some of their exquisite pleasures and pay a tad more to help the poor, whose jobs they have colluded in sending to China.

No, I'm not proud to be an American today. Who can be proud of serfdom? Is there any other name suitable to give a system in which we must bend in one direction to let the government rifle through our wallets (oh, but it's just taxation, and we even have representation to show for it!) and then the other to pay more at the doctor's office for care we've been paying for all along?

And as a Catholic American, I'm worried. If the interstate commerce clause (sorry; taxing authority of Congress) gives the Feds the right to force us to pay for things, then I have an uneasy feeling this Court will decide that the principle of religious freedom outlined in the Bill of Rights only means that the State should be free of religious people and their bothersome consciences, and order--in the name of religious liberty, of course--the Catholic Church to pay for the hellish birth control the Ruling Class wants the masses to take, lest they grow too much in size to be manageable.

Let's face it. Expecting the Supreme Court of the United States of America to rule on principles backed by the Constitution is a vain hope in an era where decisions like this one are clearly drawn from ideas emanating from the penumbras of the Court's collective posteriors.

UPDATE: Just to clarify, yes, I realize that the Court pretended that the commerce clause had nothing to do with this and that it's Congress's power to tax that makes this thing legal. However, since that argument means that Congress apparently has the power to tax economic inactivity, that is, the failure to purchase something, I fail to see how commerce is not involved.

UPDATE 2: To make it even clearer, I'm amending the original post, with amendments in red so latecomers can see them.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

About that book...

Violating my self-imposed blogging ban to share a bit of good news about my efforts to fix formatting issues and get my intermediate children's science fiction book ready for my grand adventure in self-publishing. I hope to have more news about The Telmaj soon!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Two week blog break ahead!

Hello, all!

After promising to go to a sort of summer blogging mode in which I would post only occasionally, I have completely ignored that promise, failed to live up to it, and continued to blog on a very-near-daily basis.

Sigh. I have no discipline when it comes to writing.

So, I'm putting myself on a blogging time-out, so to speak. I have tons of things to do right now, including real-life stuff, blogging/writing stuff, and a long-neglected project which is nearing completion, but would have been done a long time ago were it not for the dreaded evil known as Microsoft Word (tm). (Oh, and Ed, I owe you an email! For now, let me say that most of your tips were really helpful, esp. the auto-hyphenation one. Still can't order the dumb program to go to left justification for the last line of each paragraph, and so have no choice but to hand set each last line or line of dialog that is less than one sentence long to left-justify. It's taking forever.)

And besides, it's summer, which means that my blog hits, esp. the Google Reader ones, are dropping like a rock--because all of you have better things to do than sit inside and read blogs, too.

Blogging tentatively scheduled to resume Monday, July 2! Hope to have lots of good things to report by then. Of course, I reserve the right to pop in here, especially if any major news stories break and are of the sort where I spend all night writing blog posts in my head anyway...

Happy summer!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

There I go again...

Can you imagine the outcry if the Romney camp did something like this?
LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - Anna Wintour is becoming quite the fashionable fixture on President Obama's campaign team this election season.

The Vogue editrix hit Chicago on Tuesday - flanked by supermodels Iman and Chanel Iman, designer Rachel Roy and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina - for an evening of haute fund-raising at Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios.

Wintour was on hand to preside over the Windy City debut of the "Runway to Win" collection, a line of Obama-themed clothes and accessories by designers like Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, Marc Jacobs, Beyoncé & Tina Knowles, Tory Burch, Tracy Reese and Narcisco Rodriguez - several of whom are favorites of First Lady Michelle Obama.

Tickets ran from $150 for a guest pass to sip cocktails and shop the collection to $1,000 for a VIP package, including a photo reception with Wintour and Iman (aka Mrs. David Bowie) and a limited edition bag, to $2,500 for access to the show, the reception and an exclusive dinner party at Oprah's Harpo headquarters. Donations benefited the Obama Victory Fund, according to a dedicated page on Obama's website. [...]

Wintour has been ramping up her involvement, and her visibility, in the president's reelection effort of late. Proving she's good for far more than dispensing fashion tips to FLOTUS, Vogue's longtime editor-in-chief has emerged as one of President Obama's top boldfaced bundlers, raising over $500,000 for his second run on the White House.
Yes, my Democratic friends, as the Obama campaign keeps schmoozing with top-drawer fashion designers and Hollywood A-listers, keep telling yourself that the Democratic Party is the party of the people, of the poor and downtrodden, of those who've been without jobs for--oh, wait. Let's not bring up the Specter of Unemployment; he's only scary when a Republican is in the Oval Office. Because everyone knows that Republicans care only about wealth and privilege and power and being with the Right Sort of People, while Democrats care about Hope and Change and Healing the Planet and Jobs and...oh, sorry, did I mention "jobs" again? How gauche of me. Forget about it.

In the meantime, in a spirit of friendly nonpartisanship, I offer the link to the Obama Store where you, too, can own your very own Obama themed clothing and merchandise: a Marc Jacobs-designed dog tee shirt for $40 (and isn't your Democratic puppy worth it?), or an Eddie Borgo button (at least, I think it's a button) for a mere $50, or a Vera Wang tote bag for $85, or perhaps even an Alexander Wang zip-front sweatshirt (just what a Texas Democrat needs this time of year!) for the amazingly low price of $95. Of course, these things will only seem like a steal if you're better off financially now than you were four years ago, and indeed are actually still employed...oops, there I go again...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Catholic Democrats: you can't be pro-choice on gay "marriage"

Last week Mark Shea said that while he's happy to see that some (presumably religious) Democrats are leaving the party over the issues of the HHS mandate and gay "marriage," he's a bit surprised that it's taken them this long, given that they put up with the whole pro-abortion thing all this time.

I commented over there, but have been continuing to think about this, and have decided to turn my expanded thoughts into a post. (Recycling is good, right?)

Many years ago Catholic Democrats decided that they could continue to be enthusiastic supporters of the Party of Abortion so long as they created a sort of moral dodge around the issue: the "personally opposed, but..." dodge that we're all familiar with. The idea is simple, and is reiterated by Catholic Democratic politicians all the time--it goes like this: As a Catholic, I accept my Church's teaching that abortion is morally wrong. I would never personally have (or ask my wife to have, etc.) an abortion. But America is a secular and pluralistic nation, and we simply can't impose our Catholic understanding of morality on those who disagree.

In point of fact, the "personally opposed, but..." dodge is rather a bit of incoherent moral nonsense, as can be easily demonstrated by substitution. For example, no one would say, "I'm personally opposed to slavery, but I can't impose my morality on those who wish to own slaves," or "I'm personally opposed to rape, but I can't impose my morality on those who wish to rape," etc. Nor does the "personally opposed" dodge work well from the pro-abortion point of view: if there's nothing wrong with abortion, and if it is really no more morally significant than the removal of a kidney stone or one's appendix, then why would anyone be opposed to it, personally or otherwise? And if there is something wrong with abortion that requires one's personal opposition, what exactly is that? A serious "pro-choice" person who tries to answer this question will quickly find himself without a "personally opposed, but..." left to stand (sit?) on.

Despite those problems, though, the "personally opposed, but..." dodge has been a way for left-wing Catholics to ease their consciences or at least pacify the churchgoers on the abortion issue. They may be pro-choice, but they're emphatically not pro-abortion! No, sir. They see abortion as something vaguely evil, though it's best not to ask them why. They'd never have one (or want their wives or daughters to have one, etc.). But in our secular nation, and given how much more important economic issues, war and peace issues, etc. are than concerns about the negligible million or so Americans disappeared by abortion every year, why, they have to belong to and support the Party of Abortion and vote for pro-choice candidates and abortion funding initiatives and so on. Because the alternative is just plain unthinkable.

And the rank and file Catholic Democrats went along with their "personally opposed, but..." politicians and agreed that while abortion may be terrible, the right-wing GOP clinic bombing abortion protesters were tons worse, and that it's better to swallow this one tiny matter than desert the party of JFK over a little thing like abortion.

But now, as the article Mark Shea linked to pointed out, that uneasy compromise of religious Democrats (especially Catholic Democrats) on social issues like abortion may be starting to unravel. Democrats who parroted the "personally opposed, but..." line for years on abortion are drifting away from the party over things like the party's strong support for gay "marriage." And I think that this isn't really so hard to understand.

Try to imagine a conversation in which a Catholic Democrat says to a secular Democrat that he is personally opposed to gay "marriage," that he accepts Catholic Church teaching which says that homosexual sex acts are intrinsically and gravely morally evil and that children are entitled to a mother and a father, and that thus he can't get on board and work with the party to pass gay "marriage" laws in all fifty states. However, he says, he's "pro-choice" on gay marriage in that he is willing to live and let live, to respect that other Democrats are committed to legalizing gay "marriage," so long as his own deep personal opposition to gay marriage and his belief that it is fundamentally evil is respected. How long do you think such a Catholic Democrat would last in his local party organization?

The truth is, the idea that you can be "pro-choice" about things that you know to be evil is, and always has been, an illusion. To the extent that this faux compromise has "worked" regarding the abortion issue, it has done so because unlike gay "marriage," abortion is not a public act. Teachers are not required to teach in classrooms that having an abortion is exactly like giving birth, outcomes and all; co-workers are not pressured to go from Jill's baby shower to Jane's abortion shower (in which Jane is given "still not a mom!" gifts and applauded just as much for killing her unborn offspring as Jill is for having the baby); and no one is threatening to force the Catholic Church or any other church to offer post-abortion proxy baptisms in which plastic baby dolls represent the dead child and the mother is praised for having made the wise and compassionate decision to abort the baby for his or her own presumable good.

None of that is true regarding gay "marriage," which is, as I said, an intentionally public act. It is not about what people are doing in the privacy of their own homes, but about the public recognition gay couples want to be told that their sterile unions centered around intrinsically immoral sex acts are exactly like heterosexual marriage with its gender differentiation, male/female dynamic, chaste sexual consummation, and, for the vast majority, procreative potential. And gay couples don't merely demand that society be structured and act in ways that affirm this absurd notion, but that those who refuse to do so be punished for their "bigotry."

The bottom line is that neither Catholic Democrats nor any other religious Democrats will retain their right to be personally opposed to gay "marriage." You can't be "pro-choice" on gay "marriage," because to imply in the tiniest way that you think that two men having sex with each other or two women having sex with each other isn't the same thing as a marriage is to be tagged with the "bigot" label, marginalized, and excluded from further consideration. You have to approve of gay "marriage" and be ready to celebrate it, to insist that kindergartners be taught that having two mommies is way awesomer than having a mom and a dad, to demand that fifth-graders learn how to perform same-sex oral and anal sex acts correctly in their sex ed. classes along with all that dull stuff about human reproduction, and to force on society the notion that any objection to homosexual sex acts from a moral perspective is nothing but a throwback to the bad old days when people thought that shellfish and mixed fabrics were evil, too.

No, Catholic Democrats, you won't be allowed to be merely "pro-choice" on gay "marriage." As Mark Shea would put it, you MUST approve. Or be ready to face the consequences.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Hatchick!

Today our youngest daughter, whose blog nickname, "Hatchick," reflects her love of wearing hats on all sorts of occasions, is turning 14!

Yes, that's right--my youngest child is turning 14 today. Sniff! Oh, but I love my teen girls, and am proud of them all.

Hatchick is a smart, talented young lady with so many different interests I can't list them all. But to give you a hint, we nicknamed this her "steampink" birthday to reflect the reality that about half of her birthday gifts fall into the "pink and girly" category, and the other half into the "robotics" category--because if there's one thing Hatchick loves more than cute hats and awesome outfits, it's robots.

She is still drawing the "Sneaky Ninja Dude" comic; I shared an example of it here a couple of years ago. Here's a recent one:



And this is one with more "comic book-style" art:


And now, as has been our tradition, I turn the blog over to Hatchick! Here she is:

Hello!

This year I have been having fun drawing comics, as well as animating small videos by using still frames. After making a 1 minute animated video to a song, and now working on completing a three minute one, I have developed a deeper appreciation for cartoons and animated films that I have never realized before. When you watch something like that you notice the style and the artwork, but you mostly pay attention to what the story is, or what the characters are saying. You never stop to think about how the lines move. I'll say this now: animating someone moving is a lot harder than it has credit for. It takes a long time to get the movements just right, and it takes a lot of slides to make it work.

Recently I took a picture, changed the eyes on it maybe 20 times, and each time made the eyes go lower. When it was finished I placed the 20 slides on the software that I was using, then, I placed the 20 slides backwards. When it was played, (which was only about 15 seconds) the character's eyes closed, and opened, making it appear that they were blinking. You never really think about that when you watch something. While the character talks and moves, they also periodically close and open their eyes. It's a natural thing of course, but on each slide the artists must change not only the hand, or arm that the character is moving, but the eyes and the mouth as well. Played back, it should seem smooth and quick. If there is any shaking or displacement of the lines it's back to the drawing board, literally!

The same thing goes for comics. To get a really polished comic like the one above, you have to draw it, then go back over and fix any hugely obvious mistakes. You may still leave some, but perfection comes with practice.

I am, as my Mom said, 14 years old. A video that I did a few years ago compared to the ones that I do now seems different. I am still working on the comics, and maybe someday I can make a short animated film with Sneaky Ninja Dude!

As she also mentioned, I LOVE robots!!!! I like various ones such as Honda's Asimo, (Ashimo in Japanese) Aldebaran Robotics's Nao robot, Tsmuk's T-52 Enryu, and many more.

That's all for now, see you next year!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Redheads and dentistry: a brief study in pain managment

Went back to the dentist today to have the permanent crown fitted. Here's how it went:

Oh (said the assistant) you won't need to be numbed or anything. We're just taking off the temporary crown and fitting the new one...

Hmmm. You can feel that? And it hurts? Maybe we should go ahead and numb your mouth...

Wait. You can still feel that? Let's get a second shot in here...

Oh, my. You can still feel that? I'm going to have the doctor give you several shots right around the tooth...

Okay, wait, you can still feel it? Maybe the dentist should remove the temporary crown himself...

Hmmm (said the dentist). I'm going to try this a different way. Maybe instead of pulling the crown off with these pliers, we can sort of wiggle it off with one of the other instruments...

Yay! That worked! Now let's get this new crown fitted...

...

...and that part went relatively smoothly, thank goodness. :)

And that's all the posting energy I have for today! Tune in tomorrow for Hatchick's birthday!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi!

Well, for us Ordinary Form Mass attendees, that is; I know you Extraordinary Form Mass attendees already had Corpus Christi earlier this week.

But I just wanted to wish all my Catholic readers a joyous feast, since the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Christian life.

I had the privilege of singing Cesar Franck's version of this piece solo for the first time at Mass today. I really enjoyed doing it--it's a piece I've always wanted to sing at Mass. And the violin and piano accompaniment were so gorgeous I had to remind myself to start singing the second part instead of just listening to all the lovely music! :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

In favor of simple weddings

It's June, which means that along with graduations and Father's Day planning there are some young brides and grooms out there about to get married. And they'll be spending even more than ever:

Despite a still weak economy, American couples are spending more on weddings. The average nuptials cost $27,021 in 2011, up from $26,984 in 2010, according to a survey by wedding planning website TheKnot.com. But weddings occur at every price point, and almost every couple (recently wed Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg might be the exception) tries to make the most of limited dollars.

While there is great variety on what kind of wedding you can put on, Laura Ursin, a wedding consultant who runs Brides on a Budget, in Madison, Wisconsin, has a rule of thumb for figuring costs: "When you plan your wedding, add two zeros to your guest list." It typically costs more than that in bigger cities.

Many Catholic parishes these days simply assume that young Catholic couples are spending what everyone else is spending--which is why parishes think nothing of asking $600, $1000, or even more from a couple planning their wedding for "mandatory" parish fees. But what would happen if Catholic brides--and serious Christian brides as well--just walked away from the Wedding-Industrial Complex (and its slavering eagerness to start selling its services to gay couples because of all that lovely money they're currently missing out on)? What would happen if Catholic brides and grooms rose up en masse and said, "Enough!" to the ridiculous idea that one has to spend upwards of $27,000 on a one-day party to celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony with one's family and friends? What would happen if the bride and groom--or their parents--or both planned a simple celebration for the same sort of people they would invite to a family baptism, first communion, or confirmation instead of feeling pressured and/or obligated to invite casual acquaintances, business colleagues, third-cousins twice-removed who live three states over and haven't seen the bride since before she had teeth, and the groom's college roomate's extended family? If all of those people are truly close to the bride and groom such that they'll all show up for the baptism of the couple's first eventual baby, that's one thing--but why do so many people think that weddings must be some kind of extravaganzapalooza above and beyond any party the family would normally host or, indeed, can even afford?

And then there's all that other financial pressure: the groom should spend two month's salary on the bride's diamond (never mind the ethical issues involved in diamond-buying today, or the fact that diamonds are egregiously overpriced); the bride should treat herself to the most expensive dress that strikes her fancy; a limo to take the couple three miles from the church to the reception is a non-negotiable; the only meal appropriate to serve is a several-course, sit-down dinner preferably involving expensive meats and/or fish and/or both; even though it's possible to create and print your own invitations it's important to pay for engraved ones; the church and reception should resemble a flower garden no matter what the cost; and on and on and on.

The truth is that many couples--yes, even Catholic ones--get their priorities exactly backwards when it comes to getting married. They spend all or most of their time and effort (and money) planning for a big wedding party, and considerably less time and effort contemplating the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony into which they are about to enter, the responsibilities, duties, and sacrifices required of their soon-to-be vocations, and the importance of their shared faith to their upcoming new reality as two-become-one. And when the lavish party is over and the guests have gone home, the couple has to face a pile of bills right at the outset of their new life together, bills for a wedding day that has come and gone in the blink of an eye.

I would love to see a movement in favor of simple weddings rise among Catholic couples. If we take our faith seriously, then we also take its view of materialism seriously. It is possible to throw a very real, heartfelt, sincere celebration of the entrance into Holy Matrimony of two young people without wasting thousands of dollars on things whose purpose is ostentation, showing off, creating envy or jealousy in others, or otherwise going beyond the mere desire to share convivial hospitality (for which no one ever needed an ice sculpture or monogrammed cocktail napkins). As our sick, secular culture of rampant materialism and naked greed continues to twist the meaning of "marriage" to the breaking-point, as people are sold an even bigger bill of goods about wedding "must-haves," wouldn't it behoove Catholics and other serious Christians to turn a contemptuous shoulder to all of this obscene triviality, and recreate weddings in which the dignity of the sacrament and the simple grace of good hospitality rise above the tacky din of the dove-releasing, "wedding as Oscar night," showy vulgarity of the "typical" wedding--you know, the one that now costs upwards of twenty-seven thousand dollars?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gratuitous cute cat pictures

Just because. (And hey, I said summer blogging might occur.)




Emmett asleep with his beloved tennis ball.







Smidge, plotting his attack on the lunch meat (cue the Jaws theme).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mere merchants

I posted yesterday about the growing crisis of unemployment in America, but predicted that people would still spend more time and energy arguing that two gay males have just as much right as a man and a woman to be husband and wife to each other...oh, wait. I'm sorry; I'm using the old, archaic definition of marriage that defines it as a legal union of husband and wife.

Anyway, it would appear that I'm right, given that two of the big news stories so far this week are as follows:

1. The idiotic 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider a ruling striking down Proposition 8, because apparently gay "marriage" is up to the states, unless the states decide to ban it, in which case such bans must be overturned by judicial fiat; and

2. Not content with destroying their business by rolling out a confusing new pricing model (which I thought was interesting, at first, but quickly found less charming when I realized it amounted to a de facto price hike for us bargain shoppers) and appointing Ellen DeGeneres (whom, I'm sorry, strikes me as the least charismatic person in America, and it has nothing to do with her sexual orientation and everything to do with her dull and annoying speaking voice) as their spokesperson, JC Penney continues its slide toward possible future bankruptcy by ticking off the One Million Moms group with yet another gay "parent" set featured in their "Father's Day" ad. Because, I don't know about you, but nothing brings fond thoughts of fatherhood to me like contemplating two gay males hiring a reproductive prostitute to sell them her reproductive services and act as a human incubator and then hand over her child or children to them to raise! And saying that there's something wrong with this, that children need mothers, and that there's a reason evolution decided that parents should come in male/female couplings is nothing but plain old hateful bigotry (and, hey, if the little boy in the gay "dads" picture grows up heterosexual and can't relate to women because he's never had a mom, well, there's always online gaming to keep him happy).

Simcha Fisher had an interesting post today about how hard it's getting for us serious Christians to navigate the minefield that is corporate America today. Do we buy the cookies sold by children whose troop is heavily entangled with the group that wants to give explicit sex lessons to kindergartners, or do we support a different girls' organization which...wait, they also give to Planned Parenthood. Hmmm... Do we shop at the store that is shoving gay "marriage" into its customers' faces, or do we shop at the other store that...wait, they're also supporting gay "marriage," and are pretty openly anti-Catholic, too...

Decisions, decisions.

What I would like to know is this: when the hell did it become the job of mere merchants who sell me stuff to attack my faith, patronize my values, belittle my morals, ridicule my deeply-held beliefs, and openly seek to marginalize those of us who don't want this crap forced down our gullets every time we need a pair of shoes, a set of sheets, or a cup of coffee? When the hell did the expression change from "The customer is always right!" to "The customer is probably a Christianist bigot in serious need of Big Brother-style reeducation, served alongside his order of fries or his purchase of a tee-shirt!"?? When the hell did it become the job of some megalomaniacal soulless corporate sack of nothing to convince me that my morals are socially incorrect, when we all know for certain that the same megalomaniacal soulless corporate sack of nothing would push equally hard for the North American Man-Boy Love Association, a Cannibal Rights Group, or the Society to Unplug Grandma Before Her Care Costs Us Too Much To Let Us Gratify Every Consumerist Whim the minute holding any of those positions seemed like a good bet in terms of the soulless evil corporation's bottom line?

If the Mere Merchants whose sole purpose for existing is to sell stuff, make profits, and pacify the unreasonable demands of stockholders think it's their job to do any of the above, I've got news for them. They are nothing at all to me, nothing but insignificant sniveling upstarts who are only useful to me as long as I decide they are, and not a moment longer. None of the sheer crap they peddle is absolutely necessary to me or to my family or to our well-being or our ability to survive and function. They can be replaced by companies who want my business enough to know their place, to realize that I'm not about to be lectured or scolded by the likes of them, and to keep their mouths shut about their desired social engineering.

They can be replaced, and they will be. Starting with JC Penney, yet another store to make my Do Not Enter list in the recent past.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The growing crisis of unemployment in America

I was shopping with my girls in a local big-box store this weekend; one of the girls needed some new summer t-shirts and so on, and when you live in a climate in which you wear short-sleeved knit shirts nine to ten months out of the year, you quickly get over the idea that buying "nicer" tees will save money in the long run. It doesn't. They just cost more up front--money we don't have to waste--and by the time they've been washed and worn for nine or ten months, the shirts I've spent more money on look just as faded as the ones we picked up at big-box stores (and that's not counting the damage Smidge, our auxiliary back-up cat, does to knit fabrics with his back claws anytime he doesn't feel like being picked up and held--which, for the record, is any time he's picked up and held. But he's cute. So we pick him up anyway. But I digress).

Smidge, destroyer of knit fabrics, is worried that he's about to be picked up and held.

Anyway, as we were selecting a couple of colors from the tee-shirt shelf, I overheard a woman who appeared to be in her late forties or early fifties talking to her friend. I was not trying to hear; the woman was speaking rather loudly. But her conversation interested me nonetheless.

She was telling her friend that after several trips to the doctor, her doctor told her she had anxiety, and asked her why she was so stressed lately. Because, the woman told her doctor, I'm about to lose my job. We're being laid off. And I've worked there for twelve years, and I'm single, so I have to find work to support myself.

As her friend made supportive comments, we finished up our shirt selections and left. But I kept thinking about the woman--I couldn't get her words, and the anguish in her voice, out of my mind.

There are just so many people in this situation right now. There are those who have been unemployed so long that they've given up hope of finding work. There are those who used to have decent, career-level jobs who have had to settle for underemployment at entry-level jobs with few to no benefits; there are young adults who can't get those entry-level jobs because those jobs are being filled by people with ten or twenty years' career experience.

Some people think that because the media isn't focusing on the jobs news, that things aren't actually all that bad. The American news media may be ignoring the growing crisis of unemployment in America, but foreign media seems to have the stats--consider this article which lists six reasons why America's jobs are in a terrible state:

1. The headline rate

The US economy added 69,000 jobs in May. The figure is awful all on its own. To cope with demographic shifts, the US needs to add more than 100,000 jobs a month just to hold steady. Three years into a "recovery", adding 69,000 jobs a month is truly depressing.

Between December and February, the economy added an average of 252,000 jobs each month. March (150,000) and April (115,000) numbers were not great, but OK. Until now...

2. Downward revisions

Perhaps the most depressing figures in May's jobs report actually belong to April. April's far from sparkly 115,000-strong jobs growth has now been revised down to 77,000. March's figures were cut from 154,000 to 143,000. In short, the present is weaker than expected and the past was worse than we thought.

3. Long-term unemployment

There are now 5.4 million people in the US who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more, up from 5.1 million in April. The median duration of unemployment increased to 20.1 weeks from 19.4 weeks.

As we reported here, long-term unemployment is devastating for the people it affects, reducing not only their chances of finding work but their health and the future prospects of their children.

Read the other three reasons here.

While our media talking heads act as though the Right Sort of people care only about whether or not Bill and Steve will finally be able to have their long-desired fairytale wedding in any state they'd like sometime this year, the real story of the real pain out there is being buried. But the people behind those awful unemployment numbers, the people out of work or barely scraping by on salaries too small to support families and pay debts, the people who can't find jobs and can't afford training and education for new careers as their old jobs are relentlessly outsourced or given away to H-1B workers, the college students drowning in student loans and unable to find jobs that pay much more than minimum wage, the people who have downsized and consolidated and simplified and belt-tightened as much as they can and are being told to do even more with even less--they're very real, and they are starting to express the sort of anguished despair I overheard from the woman in the store this weekend.

The growing crisis of unemployment in America is the story nobody wants to talk about--nobody except those swept up in that crisis. And I have a feeling they're about to start shouting too loudly to be ignored.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Perverse urges

Surprising absolutely no one at all, yesterday a three-judge panel of a federal court in Boston, the state that decided marriage was "gay," decided that Congress doesn't have the power to define marriage. The judges included the following:

--Michael Boudin, a leftist whose sister was a member of Weather Underground (she served time in prison for taking part in an armed robbery which killed three people);

--Sandra Lynch, a left-wing activist judge who ruled that Massachusetts parents could not exempt their children from public school classroom discussions of homosexual sex and/or "gay" parent-partner families on religious (or any other) grounds;

--Juan R. Torruella, a "moderate" judge who ruled against a New Hampshire abortion law which required parental notification.

(Oh, and only Judge Lynch was appointed by a Democrat, so the idea that electing Republicans will "fix" the court situation is clearly nonsense.)

Meanwhile, Mark Shea yesterday linked to a heartbreaking blog written by a woman who was married for over a decade to a gay man. She's not in favor of gay marriage, and has some interesting things to say (though some of the language isn't safe for work or children). This post, for instance--I think it's worth reading, but I know some readers would prefer not to open it with children in the room, or may be too sensitive to handle a realistic look at what gay sex acts involve. One post I can share here, and find really thought-provoking, is this one:.

So. Is homosexuality or is it not a mental illness?

Frankly, given the history of civilizations in which same-sex activity is ubiquitous – and that means every civilization except the Judeo-Christian world – I’m not sure that diagnosis was quite honest. I find it hard to imagine cultural mental illnesses, national mental illnesses.

That does not mean that mental illness is excluded from the reality of homosexuality. Permit me to explain:

Psychiatry must be secularized, and as such it does not recognize the real issue behind homosexuality: that it is a very grave sin. What Catholics call a mortal sin.

Which means – if I may use this analogy – that homosexuality is like a bomb blast in the soul. Once one has yielded to the temptation and engaged in the act (and it is the act, not the temptation, which is a sin), then the damage is immediate and catastrophic, in the same sort of way that a bomb blast decimates a building or causes immediate and visible damage.

I observed in my ex-, and I’ve heard friends speak of their family members who’ve floated in and out of the lifestyle in the same way – that when he entered the lifestyle after we separated, his personality and character changed. He became more bitter, more sarcastic, more supercilious, haughtier. He became more insulting of me, of women in general, of his own mother (whom he’d not been very respectful of, before). An angry and defiant edge seemed to develop in him. He became deceitful, openly dishonest, and paranoid, and he even demonstrated an explosive temper that I’d not seen before.

In fact, I would go so far, based on basic observation, to suggest that in this case the egg (the orientation) definitely came first, and the chicken (the mental illness) followed.

It's worth pondering, as we rush ahead with society's plan to insist that two men or two women are just like a man and his wife--even when the man contemptuously leaves his wife to satisfy his perverse urges.