Saturday, December 31, 2005

Where's the Standard?

Troutsky made a comment to my post about swingers:

Interracial sex was consdidered degenerate not that long ago. Who gets to decide and based on what? In the past(and still), chastity and purity were more valued in the female sex so one aspect of the sexual revolution has been egalitarian in nature. This emancipation comes with risks for social structure and control.

Due to the incredible lack of volunteers, I get to decide. Actually, I will merely yield to the authority of the Church on this one. The Judeo-Christian ethic is clear when it comes to marriage. It is to be between one man and one woman. Thus, homosexual acts are disordered, as is pre-marital intercourse. Now, one could claim that this is too strict, but it is wholly consistent. The main end of marriage is children, though it also draws a man and woman closer together fullfilling a unitive purpose.

Thus, interracial marriage is perfectly acceptable. Opposition to it was founded in our country's racist past, which has thankfully begun to fade.

The problem with the sexual revolution is that it has no real vision. It wishes to throw off the old standards of Puritan love and replace them with something new. Of course, it is not so much something new, as something which only gives the appearance of being new. Having come to the right conclusion that sex was not a bad thing, they have come to the incorrect conclusion that sex is always good. Chesterton wisely calls progress "a comparitive of which we have not settled the superlative."

It is pretty sad that swinging is deemed even remotely socially acceptable. At first, the revolution pretended that it was about love. Pre-marital sex was okay because sex was an expression of love. It helped that birth control allowed those nasty side-effects to go by the wayside and Roe v. Wade allowed the momentum to continue. Next came gay rights, since gays too, just loved each other.

Well, swingers have done away with that nonsense about love. Yet there is no condemnation from anyone save a few from the old school of Christian chastity. This is actually not surprising. Having dismanteled the old guard of Puritanism, the new wave is supposed to be a panacea. Do not question the revolution.

The sexual explosion is everywhere. Eventually there will be a backlash. Tired of sex being profaned, it will again be made more sacred until the pendulum swings full the other way and sex is again thought to be bad. Then it will be time for another revolution.

I could be wrong, but the left has yet to provide a standard when it comes to sex. Anyone can point out that something is wrong, it takes a great deal more to say when something is right. Until then, we will go from extreme to extreme; it is the habit of human history: doing things incorrectly. We need to remember that life is a balancing act. Sex is no exception.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Your Body, My Choice

Pro-lifers take a lot of grief for supporting capital punishment. It goes without saying that there is a very large difference between the murder of an unborn child and the termination of life of a confirmed criminal. Tookie Williams may have been reformed--it is difficult to tell--but he was a murderer. Killing him may not have been a pro-life thing to do, but it is a far cry from abortion. After all, actions have reprucussions, and society would be less just if killers were allowed to roam the streets in a spirit of forgiveness.

In other words, the supposed hypocrisy of the pro-life movement is, if problematic, less of an issue than commonly protrayed. Of course, if we would just lock up all murderers, rapists and child molesters for life, we need not suffer this constant talk about hypocrisy.

Yet, for all this talk concerning pro-life inconsistency, the pro-choice movement suffers from a similar ailment. I should probably clarify that not all pro-choicers fit into the classification that will follow. The two-party system has given rise to a strange and often false dichotomy. Most individuals will not agree with their party on everything. Thus, the pro-choice hypocrisy will only apply to a limited number of leftists.

My home state of Minnesota is considering a statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants. While it is good that this issue is being decided by the states, I would have the state decide not to ban tobacco. A brief word from Minnesota Public Radio:

Minnesota could go smoke-free as early as this summer under a proposal to be introduced at the Legislature. A bipartisan group of lawmakers says momentum is building behind a smoking ban that would cover virtually all indoor public spaces. A similar measure failed last year, but several cities and counties have adopted various smoking restrictions that are creating pressure for a uniform statewide standard.

Apparently, counties have adopted conflicting standards for the ban. This may seem to illustrate the problem with local control. For those who set county precedent have realized what anyone with an even amateur understanding in free enterprise knows: if people wish to smoke when they drink, they will smoke when they drink. If Hennepin County wishes to prevent folks from choking down a couple of Marlboro Reds when they have a cold brew, they will travel to Washington County where they can legally indulge in both habits.

There have been a series of poor economic studies claiming that the smoking bans in these local counties has not hurt business. This is rubbish. Anyone with a second grade education know sthat kicking smokers out of bars is going to hurt the bars. By coming up with inconsistent standards, the counties are trying to force a statewide showdown.

This is all a bit of back story. My point was to demonstrate that pro-choicers should support the choice of individuals who are of legal age to smoke. After all, if "my body, my choice" applies to abortion, it should apply here as well. The MPR piece has a surprisingly selfish comment that illustrates the absurdity of the argument of the anti-smoking zealots.

Sarah Morales, 21, is a college student who's making ends meet by waitressing -- but she says the extra money may be taking its toll on her health.

"Unfortunately, because other people choose to make poor and unhealthy choices by smoking, I lose out," Morales says. "And it is my right that I shouldn't have to sacrifice my health in any workplace."

There are three things I would ask Miss Morales, as well as anyone who holds a similar opinion. First, why should you decide who gets to smoke? It makes much more sense that the person who will suffer should make the decision. This is the land of the free, dear, and if a grown man or woman wishes to pollute his or her lungs, sobeit. There is another person--not Morales--who should have a say in this, and that is the proprietor of the restaurant. Legislators forget whose choice is most being run over, and whose livelihood is most harmed by these egregious bans.

Secondly, didn't you know that waitressing in a restaurant would mean an exposure to the always dreaded secondhand smoke? Why would you take the job if you knew it would be unpleasant? Is it perhaps, because the sacrifice is in fact worth it? After all, waitresses make much more than those who work in fast food or at the equally dreaded Wal-Mart. If you wish to avoid secondhand smoke, I suggest you find a new job.

Thirdly, have you read anything about the effects of secondhand smoke? Or do you simply believe the rhetoric that the anti-smoking zealots spew? Secondhand smoke may be unpleasant, but it is not the hazard to health it is often portrayed as. The World Health Organization's website's search function wasn't working, so I got this from a page from some Wisconsin fellows. It's reputable because I've heard this study quoted multiple times from different sources.

The largest study ever made on [secondhand smoking] was conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Agency on Research on Cancer (IARC) extending over 10 years and 7 countries. In October 1998, the results were published, showing no statistical relationship between environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and lung cancer. The American media and the anti-smoking zealots has ignored the results of the WHO study choosing to cite the EPA study. This in spite of the fact that the EPA study has been thoroughly debunked by science and legally vacated by a federal judge, it is still regularly quoted by government agencies, charity organizations and the anti-smoking movement as if it were legitimate.

Shocking. Smoking may not be as evil as once thought. For the sake of the argument of the anti-smoking crowd, I will grant that secondhand smoke is a health concern. Yet it needs to be determined just how big a health concern must be in order to allow government intervention. Terrorism, so-called conservatives argue, demands we let go of some civil liberties. Evidently secondhand smoke allows the government to revoke the right to use a legal product. Yet cars kill many more people per year than secondhand smoke. Will there come a day when the government takes away our right to drive to save us from ourselves?

The ban on smoking is tyranical. If cigarettes are that bad, we need to make them altogether illegal. This won't happen because of the tax revenue involved. It's unfortunate that this simple liberty is going by the wayside because we need to protect ourselves. What is even more unfortunate, is that liberals are the culprits in this preposterous scheme. I thought that if anyone understood the danger of giving away liberty, it would be my friends to the left. Evidently the right to smoke is less important than the right to privacy. Is it only the libertarian who considers them the same?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Swing Away

On a recent night out on the town, Michel and Chantal Delbecchi left their suburban Montreal home and drove to the L'Orage Club in the city's east end, where they had sex with a couple they had never met before.

This strikes me as curious. My dates typically take the form of a dinner and a movie. I am not here to defend my modest and uncreative romantic maneuvers, such that they are. Swinging appears to be so much more fascinating.

Though dinner and a movie are accepted by millions, I have no idea just how popular swinging actually is. The phenomenon has come into the news recently because it is now legal in that wonderful hoser-ridden land to the north, namely Canada.

In a landmark decision on Dec, 21, the Supreme Court of Canada lifted a ban on swingers' clubs, ruling that group sex among consenting adults is neither prostitution nor a threat to society.

The ruling sparked outrage, largely in English-speaking parts of Canada, where critics said it would erode limits on indecency or obscenity, encourage prostitution and even contribute to the corruption of minors.

This is one of those times when the libertarian in me shrugs, while the Catholic side goes beserk. Strictly speaking, the ruling makes sense. It is not so much that consensual sex between individuals is not a threat to society, so much as it cannot be stopped. It is not prostitution so much as mutual degredation of the sexual act, but this is a moral principle, one that could not be held up by any legal scrutiny.

There is a case to be made that free loving types--swingers being only one sub-set of this group--do pose a threat to society, but that case is not particularily solid. Facts such as higher divorce rates, fewer traditional homes for children to grow up in, as well as infidelity are problems, but ones that tend toward moral. There is also the curious exception in the case of swinging of mutual infidelity. That's a new one.

Which brings me to my main point, or rather, my main question: what is the new goal of the sexual revolution, that appears to continue to this day? Not long ago, there was an incorrect notion about which said sex was itself bad. The revolution asserted that sex was good, which is correct. But it forgot something important. Just because something is good does not mean we should always engage in it, or that there are not limits to the circumstances surrounding this good thing. Chocolate is a good thing, but eating it constantly is bad for the body. Alcohol, likewise, is a good thing, some would say that it is even better than chocolate. For that very reason, the abuse of alcohol is a very bad thing.

In my last post I discussed a wrong thinking done by members of the right. The left does mean well, even if it would seem otherwise. Likewise, this sexual revolution was supposed to be good for us. Does anyone else think that swinging is not a degenerate behaviour? It is time the pendulum swung back a bit in the direction of chastity and purity.

There is one other bit from the article which exposes a fallacy of modern liberal thinking.

As for Michel and Chantal, a 25-year-old woman has become their mutual lover and all three plan to move in together early next year. Despite that new relationship, the Delbecchis expect to continue exchanging sex partners in Quebec clubs.

Said Michel: "At the club, we have sex with people. At home, we make love."

Someone please explain the distinction.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Life Trumps All

A couple of weeks ago, I was discussing the topic of abortion with a friend of mine. I always enjoy talking about one of the "bigger issues", and the fact that it meant a diversion from the studying we were supposed to be doing only kindled my desire. I made the point that regardless of the kind of life the child would live, I would rather he or she be born than be aborted. My friend told me to hold on, as he was not sure. I am sure, and I am sure of another thing. This basic divide in value systems is one very big reason that the debate on abortion never goes anywhere. While I do not claim to be able to cause the rift to disappear overnight--if at all--I may be able to shed some light on some of the values of the pro-life idealogy I hold dear.

A common critique of the pro-life position is that we are not actually pro-life at all. We are anti-abortion zealots who hide behind a friendlier moniker. I, for one, have no qualms with being construed as an anti-abortion zealot. The problem with the term "pro-life" is that we all consider ourselves to be in favor of life. We differ in the value placed on life at different stages. We also differ in the ways we go about favoring lives. Traditional pro-lifers put an emphasis on ensuring that all forms of life are protected. There is a bit of a strange exception when it comes to capital punishment, but for the most part, the right tries to ensure that life, at a minimum, is allowed to exist. The left places a higher emphasis on the quality of life.

There is a tremendous fallacy in considerations of the idea of "pro-life". Ann Coulter, who, though witty, tends to win few awards for class and tact, likes to claim that the left likes to kill babies. While they do kill babies, if this was all they were concerned with they would also purge the land of all infants under, say, the age of two in Herod-like fashion. The vast majority of pro-choicers are ignorant of the evil they commit. Perhaps it is a simple matter of allowing me to sleep better at night, but I cannot believe that every woman who has an abortion wishes to kill her child. Humans may tend towards evil, but the prospect of half of American society incurring the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah seems too frightening. Judge not.

There is a similar fallacy that often trips up the left. Pro-lifers may not always favor massive wealth redistribution at a federal level, but that does not mean that we are immune to the cries of the poor. In fact, it may be more "pro-life" to oppose welfare programs as they dehabilitate the human spirit by rendering the recipient addicted to financial aid. If my view of human nature is to remain constant, I cannot believe that everyone who receives a welfare check wishes to cheat the system. Yet the left owes the right the same consideration. Most conservatives do not wish to tread upon the already down-trodden. We disagree about the best way to create a more just society. We do not, as a whole, disagree about the value of justice. Again, judge not.

Now I am afraid I must introduce an element of Christianity into all this. I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is more that I try to make most of my arguments from a purely rational point of view, or, as near to purely rational as possible. When I introduce an element of Christian faith, I do not alter the truth, but it does not ring true to those who do not believe. Yet I see no way around it, thus, Jesus enters here.

In a bit of round about fashion, I start with my own family. My father and mother are orthodox Catholics who have not used--to my knowledge--birth control. The Church position on birth control is quite clear, and my parents following of said teaching is one reason I have seven younger brothers and sisters.

I have long struggled with the prospect of bringing life into the world as well. Since my attempts at romance have been notable failures, this won't be an issue for some time. Yet I have come to terms with it. It is a simple matter of faith. Just as God thought it worthwhile to create us, so we should have the same faith to create new life--in the context of marriage of course. God knew that we could turn our back on him. He did not have to give us free will, and doing so brought us closer to the brink of disaster. Indeed, it brought some of us--of our own volition of course--to eternal damnation. It is the same dread, I am sure, which fills parents at each time they contemplate the future of their children. But to focus on the dread leaves out the wonderful joy of life, especially the joy that comes with being a parent.

Chesterton claims that Christianity is a giant paradox. In other words, he says it is much like a cross. We are to be pessimistic about this life but optimistic as well. It is not a matter of the summation of optimism and pessimism--or the stoic life--it is the wonderful encapsulation of both. In the end, although we often suffer in this world, our belief in the existence of the next world makes this life a good thing. This applies regardless of the status of the life. Be it physical or mental impairment or insufficient means to meet the basic needs of human existence, a human life is still worth living. It is still, in the words of the Creator, "very good".

Thus, we have the lack of concern for the material things of one's fellow man on behalf of the pro-lifer. I would have the right send more money to Africa and less money to stop the liberal war on Christmas, but that is me. Christ warned against the spiritual dangers of wealth, not poverty, and it is the third world that has been most receptive to the message of Jesus. It is through our sufferings that we are united to him and his cross. Further, too much wealth allows us to pretend that we are in charge, or that security and peace can be found apart from him.

It doesn't matter what kind of circumstances the baby will be raised in. It is morally repugnant to kill the "fetus" to prevent it from reaching legal personhood. Groups associated with social justice, though well intentioned, sometimes miss the greater point. As long as we continue to wipe away the lives of millions of the unborn, all gains made to better society will pale in comparison. Life comes first of all. Without a basic right to exist, justice is a non-issue.

The Value of a Good Christmas Homily

It is Christmas day, a time when the many millions and millions of Christians come together to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. It is a time to be with family and friends, a time to be merry. Pessimist though I am, I will try to refrain from too much melancholy on such a joyous day.

From time to time I have contemplated a vocation as a priest. There are certain aspects of the job which I think I might enjoy, but the matter is more serious than that. There are not many shepherds for an increasingly needy flock, and I would hope that my priest signed up for more reasons than because it seemed enjoyable.

There is one task for which I do not envy the priest. Ordinarily, giving the homily seems like it would one of the more exciting details in the job description. Yet Christmas--like Easter--provide the Priest with a full church. Hand in hand comes much pressure. Dubbed C & E Catholics, the pews are full of families who come bi-anually to pay their respects to Jesus. I have long felt that Father must agonize over his sermonon these days; a good one just might bring back some lost sheep.

I attended Mass last night with my family, taking up an entire pew as per usual. As the homily drew near, my anticipation grew. Father began by recounting a story of a parishioner from a former parish who died at the young age of seven. The child's body was unable to fight off infection easily and so died young, but the "little trooper" was still a model of faith in God's will. The priest then read a children's book written in memory of the youngster.

He invited the little ones up front and took his place at the foot of the altar. The story was short and simple. St. Francis of Assisi was bemoaning the hustle and bustle of his little town, worrying that the people were missing the real reason for the extravagance. Fortunately, with a little help from his dear animal friends, Francis was able to create a manger scene for the people to view. The absence of a child in the manger, reminded them that they too, had been missing something in their lives. The story closes extoling the readers to share the message with their families. Of course, we had all heard the story as well, so sharing was a little redundant, but children have a way of reminding us of things we are so good at forgetting. If only for the one hour of mass, we could all concentrate on the "reason for the season". The fact that it is cliched does not make it untrue.

I was a bit surprised at the simplicity of the sermon, but pronounced it good. The Christmas story is quite evident, and a firm but gentle reminder is all the laity need on such an occasion.

After all, there is little Father can do to bring people back to the pews. An amazing homily may encapsulate the audience and compel them to attend the following week, but just as easily a stunning pre-game show may keep them away. Augustine reminds us that faith is a gift, but living that faith is a personal choice--even if God's grace helps therein as well. If Christ came to earth to save us from our sins so long ago, we aren't going to think twice about attending weekly mass. If Christ is not Lord, there is no argument anyone can make to ensure a surge in post-Christmas attendence. It should be noted, too, that mere attendance at Mass does not a good Catholic make. Faith in Christ plus good works is still the formula for salvation, protestantism notwithstanding.

It may be a bit silly to take this angle regarding the celebration of Christ's birth, but I have a penchant for silly angles. While it may be fair to criticize those who attend church as part of a social obligation twice a year, it is absurd to think that even casual attendance is worse than abstaining completely. In light of the recent scandals, it does good for people to see the Church in a good light for a change. If Christmas mass--complete with glorious hymns and with church in full celebratory decor--can't cast this light on Christianity, no sermon in the world can. Stuart Chase put it best when he said, "For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible."

May the light of the world which has so graced my life one day grace all of yours as well. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Happy Holidays in Jesus' Name

I didn't think it was a slow time of year for news. We've got Bush listening into phone conversations of American citizens, things don't look so pretty in New York, and there's that whole war thing, not to mention the wonderful Patriot Act. Forgive me for not taking up sides on the alleged War on Christmas.

I'm a personal fan of the late Savior of the world, but the holiday has become pretty secular. While Linus reminds us of the true meaning once a year--between commercial breaks of course--Christmas just isn't about Christ anymore. This is unfortunate, but worrying about semantical considerations is a petty thing to do. Wishing someone Merry Christmas doesn't change the fact that Jesus is probably not exceptionally pleased with the way we celebrate his birthday.

This being said, there is another story of late in which Jesus is heavily involved.

To pray -- or not to pray -- in Jesus' name is the question plaguing an increasing number of U.S. military chaplains, one of whom began a multiday hunger strike outside the White House yesterday.

"I am a Navy chaplain being fired because I pray in Jesus' name," said Navy Lt. Gordon Klingenschmitt, who will be holding 6 p.m. prayer vigils daily in Lafayette Park.

The hunger strike is intended to persuade President Bush to issue an executive order allowing military chaplains to pray according to their individual faith traditions. The American Center for Law and Justice has gathered 173,000 signatures on a petition seeking an executive order.


Mr. Baugham said the 350 chaplains he oversees are concerned about a new set of guidelines issued in August after complaints about Christian evangelism at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. The Air Force guidelines allow "a brief, nonsectarian prayer" during military ceremonies "to add a heightened sense of seriousness or solemnity, not to advance specific religious beliefs."

"So, to what deity do you address your prayer to?" Mr. Baugham asked. "No one knows. And who gets to write the prayers? Once the government becomes the approving authority, the poor chaplain is forced to be an agent of the state."

This one reaches the level of absurdity. I am not sure who is behind this nonsensical policy. Lest we forget, these kids are out there dying. If someone who is going to take a bullet for me wants to pray to the smurfs, and a chaplain can help him out in that regard, by all means pray away. Who on earth is complaining about this kind of thing?

This has got me razzled. I know I've said this before, but I think we've all lost our minds. As I recall from history class, the pilgrims came over here for religious freedom. The reason our soldiers go to fight--in theory anyway--is to protect these and other freedoms. Just how on earth we are worse off if a chaplain prays to Jesus is utterly beyond me. I just don't get it.

It's a wonder we still have people who wish to die for this country at all. It shouldn't take an executive order from Bush to get this mess straightened out. We just need a little common sense, we are absolutely lacking. Jesus, err.... God help us.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Rush: Civil Liberties Don't Actually Matter?

I made the mistake of listening to Rush today. I was wondering whether or not he would call out Bush for this nefarious business about the wire-taps. I hoped that Rush would prove that he is more than a public relations fellow for the Republican Party. I was wrong.

Rather than criticize Bush for acting like a tryant by listening into the telephone conversations of average Americans, Rush actually defended the policy. Since I couldn't remember what he said word for word, I took a quote from his website.

We don't go to war to protect our civil liberties; we go to war to save our lives. Our civil liberties are worthless if we are dead. If we have all assumed room temperature, folks, our civil liberties don't count diddly-squat.

What happened to "better dead than red", El Rushbo? If Bush allows us to become a left-wing utopia to win the war on terror will Rush say anything then? Bush has made winning a war on terror--an impossibility--the goal of his administration. Evidently, Mr. Limbaugh agrees. As long as the terrorists don't win, civil liberties be damned.

There are two major problems with this line of thinking. First, if we lose all civil liberties, we are no longer a country worth defending. It does no good to defeat the terrorists abroad if our government is becoming tyranical at home.

The other problem with Rush's defense is that it is the furthest thing from conservative. It is entirely possible that Bush has only used his wire-tapping privelege to fight terrorism. Assuming this slightly large possibility exists, violation of civil liberties is still an idea that is anti-conservative.

For conservatives are frightful of the government. It is naive to think that Bush--you can hear the cheers from Rush, "he's on our side"--can be given a power and will give it back once the reason for the particular power is over. If Hillary becomes president with Patriot Act powers, it will be interesting to see if Limbaugh changes his tune.

Benjamin Franklin carries the day. "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Position: No Position

After an exhausting week of finals that treated me none to well, I am back. Did you miss me?

With Bush stumbling all over himself because of Iraq--he hasn't sounded this humble in... forever--the Democrats should be able to capitalize, right? Not according to the Washington Post.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq, calling the war a matter of individual conscience and saying differing positions within the caucus are a source of strength for the party.

This makes a lot of sense Nancy. It's only the biggest issue of the 2006 elections. Ignoring the elephant in the living room is a brilliant move. The Republicans are vulnerable, but rather than try to win a few games, the Democrats are throwing in the towel and playing for a draft pick. After all, Reggie Bush is one heck of an athlete.

"There is no one Democratic voice . . . and there is no one Democratic position," Pelosi said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors.

That's why you keep losing, Nancy. The Democratic party is a hodgepodge of special interests, often enough only divided against the Republicans. Maybe if Reggie Bush runs with Barack Obama... no pun intended of course.

In all seriousness, there is a reason for Pelosi's party not taking a stance on the most important issue of the election. Simply put, they cannot afford to.

If they come out in support of this war, they end up copying the Republicans, losing any chance to capitalize on Bush's mistake and alienating the liberal base at the same time.

If they say although we shouldn't have invaded Iraq, we should go ahead and try to finish now that we're there--the correct position--the Dems have some questions to answer. First, why didn't Congress declare war? Why wasn't debate raised about Iraq? Why was Feingold the only one among you with balls enough to vote against the Patriot Act?

Bush may be a rotten president with a poor excuse for foreign policy, but the Democrats are, by and large, cowards. Too scared that opposition to a war or an unconstitutional act decmicating personal liberty would mean an end to the eternal term in Congress, the Democrats played along.

One had hoped they have learned a valuable lesson, but meanwhile, we the people are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Republicans and the Democrats are not fit to lead this country, and the time is more ripe than ever for a viable third party to fill the large gap. Good luck to us all.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Benedict Defends the Virtuous Life!

In a stunning move, Pope Benedict XVI has declared that the virtuous life is not "boring." Apparently, poor Christians can't shake the stigma of being lamewads who posess no propensity for fun. While there have certainly been sects of Christianity that have done their best to hide their mirth, to assume that living morally is boring is a bit of a stretch. The Pope missed an excellent chance to quote Chesterton, who said "The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice." It is safe to say that the deceased theologian and the current Pope are on the same page.

There must be people who still feel that Christians are some sort of fun police, preventing the good pagans from having an enjoyable time. This is not the case at all. Augustine, who was himself a good pagan, demonstrates this rather nicely, as he too fell prey to this fallacy. In one of his most human and slightly amusing moments, he notes in his Confessions that he would pray, "O Lord, help me be pure, but not yet."

Augustine knew full well the pleasures of the flesh, and was hesitant to give them up for dreary celibacy. Yet, ultimately he did. If we go earlier in the same Confessions we hear, "Late have I loved thee. O Beauty so ancient and so new! Too late have I loved thee." Obviously it was worth the sacrifice.

Christianity is misunderstood, even by many of its members. Christianity does not make everything all rosy on this earth. Although Woody Allen's classifications of life as things "horrible" and "miserable" is a stretch, cheery Christians should remember that we have been kicked out of Eden. It is hope that ensures us that things will be better in the next world.

All this does not mean that we must suffer through this life. Christianity is more than a pot of gold at the end of a miserable rainbow. It is a common misconception that freedom means the ability to do whatever one wants. True freedom is found in obedience to a moral code. It is knowing that what one is doing is worthwhile, holy and good.

Is it really so hard to believe that their is more to the Church than sadism? I eagerly await something a little more earth-shattering from the new Pope.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lode 12-7 II

The abortion front again....

As I write this Samuel Alito, Bush's nominee to replace justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, has yet to be confirmed. The Democrats and a handful of pathetic "moderate" Republicans, most notably Arlen Specter, are worried that Alito may allow his personal views to seep into his judgments. For you see, Mr. Alito is a Roman Catholic and this could theoretically mean an end to abortion as we know it.

Whether or not Roe is overturned, pro-choicers have a good reason to fear. Abortion is immoral, and one not be of the Judeo-Christian persuasion to see this. Though it is currently legal, other evil practices—slavery comes to mind—have been held sacrosanct by law. Legality aside, the "fetus" is actually a human life and deserves constitutional protection. Those who wish to remain clinging to the silly tenants of the faith of modern liberalism need tread no further. Earnest seekers of truth are free to continue the journey in a spirit of open-mindedness.

First, the "fetus" has unique DNA, giving it individuality. Hence, it does not belong explicitly to the women. This is indisputable. What is presently up for debate is the value of the fetus. I contend that it is a human life. If it is not human, I shudder to think what monstosity it could be. If it is not a life, then someone is going to have to explain to me how on earth it is growing. The only logical point at which life starts is conception, for there is nothing that can change its nature at a whim.

The law has settled on the easy—but incorrect—conclusion that location determines the value of a human life. When put plainly, it is preposterous. If the fetus is in the womb, it can be terminated for it has no value. If, some hours later, it is outside the womb, it deserves the full protection of the law as an American citizen. It is like claiming that driving one's car out of a garage transformed it into a dragon. The law is consistent; it is consistently wrong.

In an effort to defend their sorry philosophy, pro-choicers claim that the fetus is not a child because it cannot survive on its own. They forget that a newborn baby cannot do this either. There is no need to spell out what kind of society we would find ourselves in were self-sufficiency the only means for determining the value of a human life.

The case against abortion is quite clear. Yet it does not need to be. If there is even a remote possibility that a fetus is a human life, we must outlaw abortion and proceed with caution. The burden of proof is not—as it is commonly supposed—on the pro-lifer to prove that the fetus is a human life. Responsibility hinges on the pro-choice side of the debate. If abortion proponents are unable to prove that the fetus is just a meaningless clump of cells, we cannot allow abortion.

At worst, abortion has resulted in the deaths of over forty million human beings since that awful day when Roe became American law. At worst, abortion is morally ambiguous. Prudent and intellectually honest individuals must concur that anything shy of treading softly on abortion is reckless. The fact that pro-lifers are construed as extremists is very telling. Believing that the fetus is not a human life is a tremendous act of faith. I am sick of pro-choicers forcing their beliefs upon me.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Great Evolutionary Debate

"Intelligent Design" has been in the news as of late. Yes, I'm late on the bandwagon for this one, but there is a good reason. First, I've never claimed to be cutting edge. Secondly, and more importantly, the subject bores me.

I have read a book called "Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds" by Phillip E. Johnson. Before reading the book I was skeptical evolutionist; I am still a skeptical evolutionist. Johnson pointed out a lot of holes in the fossil record. Alleged holes aside, evolution remains our best theory as to the origin of the species to date. Some day I'll actually get around to reading Darwin's earth-shattering book of the same name, but for now, I'd prefer to concentrate my attention on more important matters.

Still, there is something that needs to be said surrounding all the nonsense over ID. Intelligent Design is not a theory at all, and teaching it is a dangerous measure. The Religious Right is making a big mistake when it pushes for ID to be taught over evolution in school for two reasons.

First, evolution in no way contradicts Christian teaching. As Thomas Aquinas points out, a first cause and a first mover is still needed to set the whole affair in motion. That role falls to the Most High. God can, presumably, do what he wishes when it comes to enacting his plan for salvation. If he wishes to allow humans to evolve from ape, it does not undermine his supremacy.

The other reason ID is problematic is that it sends very mixed signals to young Christians. Science is not actually at war with religion. It is not an "either-or" choice. In fact, it is through science that we understand God's creation--err, evolutionary masterpiece. Christian students should be encouraged to enter into scientific fields to add further to the incomplete picture we have of God.

An irrational fear of science has turned this discipline into an almost secular field. With issues such as human cloning, stem cell research and now facial transplants becoming important issues, it would do society well to have a handful of Christians among their ranks. That is, of course, largely a personal preference as I am not enthusiastic about plunging over the slippery slope of amoral scientific discovery.

There is one more reason that Christians should not make war on science. It helps prove us right from time to time. Just one example has been the development of 4D ultrasound to demonstrate--albeit thus far unsuccessfully--that the fetus is a child. If a belief has truth in it, that truth will be confirmed by the world. Though God does break the natural law from time to time--in the form of miracles--he plays by the rules most of the time. An understanding of these rules can lead to an understanding of him.

I was watching a documentary concerning this very thing this morning. The History channel had a two-hour special on Marian Apparitions, that is, times where the Virgin Mary has appeared on earth to simple humans. Although I missed the first hour, the show was fascinating. There were lengthy bits on Fatima, Lourdes and Medjegorie.

The show would have clips of experts on apparitions and the like. While most of the people confirmed the appearances, there was a skeptic who was wonderfully funny. He would come up with the most far-fetched and asinine explanations to cover up for these miraculous occurrences. I am biased to be sure, but I think that it would be more difficult to believe his explanation than simply taking at face value what millions profess to be true. Sometime atheists can have very stalwart faith.

One of the experts was an elderly Catholic priest. He said that, "For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible." To a large extent, this is very much true. The so-called intellectual conversion is a rare thing. Yet the world is the portrait for a master painter. The study of his painting tells about him, and miracles do this in a very profound way.

Atheists will continue denying that the miraculous takes place. That is an integral part of their creed. Yet it behooves Christians to be a bit more open-minded. If Christianity is outright contradicted by science, Christianity is not real. The pathetic depth of faith of the modern Christian is readily evident when he fails to put his dogma up to scrutiny, even if it is only the docile and non-contradictory scrutiny of a fellow named Darwin and his disciples.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hard Times for Good Causes

I have a weekly Bible Study with some of the guys from my school. One of the guys is a graduate of the university and teaches physics at the local high school. We know him through frisbee, and he joins us for our Thursday get togethers. He had something to share tonight. It seems his dad is going to be sentenced to a three to sixth month jail sentence. The crime: trespassing at the School of the Americas.

Formerly known as the SOA, in typical beareaucratic fashion it has been renamed and now falls under the moniker Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and is located in Fort Benning, Georgia. The school has come up on the radar of many a human rights group. Indeed, it was difficult to find information on the school amidst all the protest sites.

The renamed institute's official purpose is now: provide professional education and training to eligible personnel of nations of the Western Hemisphere within the context of the democratic principles set forth in the Charter of the Organization of American States ... while fostering mutual knowledge, transparency, confidence, and cooperation among the participating nations and promoting democratic values, respect for human rights, and knowledge and understanding of United States customs and traditions.

I am a bit flabbergasted that the Army would have the audacity to pretend an emphasis on human rights. The record of abuses of graduates of the school is long and horrid. SOA Watch is one site which claims otherwise, and proudly stating that "We Are Going to Close the SOA!" Though they are a bit left-leaning for my tastes, I wish them luck. The school is, at a minimum, and egregious waste of taxpayer dollars. Closer to the truth though, it is our stamp of approval on state-sanctioned murder. I'd rather that were not on my conscience.

This from SOA Watch:

Over its 59 years, the SOA has trained over 60,000 Latin American soldiers in counterinsurgency techniques, sniper training, commando and psychological warfare, military intelligence and interrogation tactics. These graduates have consistently used their skills to wage a war against their own people. Among those targeted by SOA graduates are educators, union organizers, religious workers, student leaders, and others who work for the rights of the poor. Hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans have been tortured, raped, assassinated, “disappeared,” massacred, and forced into refugee by those trained at the School of Assassins.

Not exactly a good track record. Still, this is old news for the most part. My point is not to call into question the SOA. That has been done many times, and much better than I could do in this space. Instead, I want to come at this one from a public relations angle. My friend's father is no doubt a bit perturbed that his protests are not getting anywhere. This is the third time he has trespassed; this is the reason for the pending prison term.

Yet, without a close link to the event, the school would have remained in the far reaches of my mind. There are two parallels that can easily be drawn that should serve to show the inefficacy of protests, at least at times.

The Libertarian and Green party presidential candidates were arrested in a mostly symbolic effort to draw attention to the nonsense surrouding the debates. Debates between two people who mostly agree are boring. Unfortunately, had I not visited the Libertarian website, I would not have known of the protest.

In like manner, every year there are protests outside the Minnesota state capital--as well as others--on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. My dear mother never feels we get enough press, and I cannot say I disagree with her. One would think that several thousand abortion foes marching in the snow would get a news story, and we do. Although, in an effort to show both sides, the cameras are inevitably filled with the handful of token protesters with their tired cliches of "my body, my choice".

The point of course, is the power the media has. Bloggers love to claim that we are changing this, but that is mostly rubbish. Dan Rather notwithstanding, the news media still runs the show most of the time. Without cameras, protests can be ineffective. Blogland is still but a fantasy realm, yet to wage a real war.

Still, it's worth taking a stand for the important things in life. We are not judged by the battles we win, but by the ones we choose to fight. Although the school may not be closed any time soon, that dear soul can rest peacefully behind bars, knowing he's doing something. One cannot but admire that kind of courage, and wonder where the rest of us are hiding our own.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Making an Example of Abortion

I have found myself arguing against the nonsense of abortion as an acceptable form of birth control recently. Raised Catholic, I have always been pro-life, but recently the abortion issue has attracted by attention for several reasons. First, with the appointment of Roberts as well as the pending--perhaps ever pending--nomination of Alito has gotten the left all in a tizzy. It's a pity they couldn't raise as large a stink over the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq or the budget deficit. I've beat that drum often enough, but the inadequacy of the Democrats to do a thing on the few issues they have some credibility is disappointing, if expected. I digress.

Secondly, it occured to me not long ago just how pathetic the argument for abortion really is. The pro-choice side is wallowing in a tragic inconsistency, unable to define "life" in a way that makes sense. Science is a wonderful thing when it comes to discussing evolution, but when it comes to heartbeats and brain waves, platitudes are spouted about coat-hangers and back-alleys. To be sure, there are plenty of pro-lifers who couldn't argue their way out of wet paper bag, but at least they have the luxury of being right.

Lastly, I have confirmed what I have long believed: Republicans pay lip serivce to abortion, but do not care to do anything about it, at least at the federal level. The party loyalists may actually give a darn about the greatest moral crisis in our lifetimes, but the "representatives" insist on nappung through the calamity. Bush's failure to nominate solid pro-life justices despite his party's control of the Senate marks him as a coward and a traitor in my book. Lacking a real voice in Washington, I have turned to screaming quietly from my little soap box. Here's to re-occuring themes.

The LA Times, which leans so far to the left it has all but fallen over, had an interesting piece on abortion recently. Though they were scarecly able to keep their great fear that Roe will go tumbling spectacularily down, they did provide some intriguing bits for me to chew on, spit out, and tread all over.

Harrison warns every patient he sees that abortion may be illegal one day. He wants to stir them to activism, but most women respond mildly.

I should explain that Harrison is the abortionist. I should also explain that he has very good real reason to fear that abortion will again be illegal. Pat Buchanan would tell us to turn to the dying West as Europe's near future is coming to the United States. A declining birth rate--brought to you by birth control and abortion--spells the writing on the wall for a people. I, too, have beat this drum before. Suffice it to say that unless Harrison has an idea to reverse the birth trend, the government will have to pay women to have children and scrap abortion just to survive.

If this piece was only another chance for me to bemoan the state of the Republican party and the Union at large, my readers would have a reason to be disappointed. Fortunately, Harrison illustrates some liberal short-comings which need to be pointed out.

He calls himself an "abortionist" and says, "I am destroying life."

But he also feels he's giving life: He calls his patients "born again."

Lesson one: the ends justify the means. I do not even know where to begin with this one. Cold-blooded murder can never be deemed morally acceptable. Never. It is foolish to think that there can be any gain in voluntarily throwing out a life so that another life can be continued. The woman is usually not as any sort of risk of dying, and allowing her to terminate her pregnancy in order to not impede on the woman's life style. Mother Teresa steals the day admirably. "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish. "

"We try to make sure she doesn't ever feel guilty," he says, "for what she feels she has to do."

Another liberal fallacy is that guilt should be removed from life. Evidently no one remembers the lesson of dear Pinnochio. For when we make our conscience our guide, we do feel guilt from time to time. If one commits murder and does not feel guilt, that would be a problem. It is not unhealthy to feel shame incurred from committing an immoral action.

Oh, and for the record, many women do feel a terrible sorrow after their abortion. Norma McCorvey, the woman behind Roe has now turned to fight to overturn the law she helped enact. According to a pamplet put out my pro-lifers, up to 62% of American women that have had an abortion experience suicdal thoughts. How's that for guilt Harrison?

"There's things wrong with abortion," she says. "But I want to have a good life. And provide a good life for my child." To keep this baby now, she says, when she's single, broke and about to start college, "would be unfair."

The woman speaking is "an 18-year-old with braces on her teeth" who has just had an abortion. I do wonder how the fetus would feel about the fairness of her decision. After all, isn't a mediocre life better than no life at all?

The Declaration of Independence asserts a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson had the order right even if moderns have gotten it all wrong. Perhaps this is only a staple of Christianity, to value life above liberty and property. A life in the gulag, or a tortured existence in dire poverty beats the hell out of non-existence. It is easy for me to say this from the safety and comfort of my own home, but the point remains.

Liberals tell me that conservatives only care for a person until he is alive, and then do not care about him until he reaches draft age. There is very little truth to this, and an opposition to social programs does not mean that a conservative does not care for people. It simply means he values a person's existence over the comfortable existence--surely a pipe dream if there ever was one--that liberals would garnish upon us all.

For the few women who arrive ambivalent or beset by guilt, Harrison's nurse has posted statistics on the exam-room mirror: One out of every four pregnant women in the U.S. chooses abortion. A third of all women in this country will have at least one abortion by the time they're 45.

"You think there's room in hell for all those women?" the nurse will ask.

Parents love to ask their children if they would jump off a bridge if their friends did. The question is irksome, but pokes at an obvious truth. Just because everyone is doing something does not make it right. There is something wholesome to be said for those who enter by the narrow gate.

I hope and pray that women who have an abortion repent and save themselves from hell. Yet, Judgment is mine sayeth the Lord. It is good to remember that. Pretendint to be able to cast one's opponents into hell makes for bad debate. Arguing emphatically, using evidence, and exposing the liberal position on abortion as the selfish facade that it is, on the other hand, is a better tactic. Whether or not the pro-life sides suceeds any time soon remains to be seen. Unforuntately.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Balancing Capitalism

Troutsky has my wheels turning again, as always. In a discussion over at his own Thoughtstreaming, he asks: "...why does capitalism tend towards monopoly?"

He goes on to answer his own question. "If it is an intrinsic tendency (as I believe) and markets are simply a clever, manipulative device to channel wealth and support for them is embedded in a power structure extremely resistant to change,the best reformers can hope for is Keyensian initiatives designed to avoid social unrest.The mechanisms (such as a bloated bureacracy) can be as bad as the cartels, in terms of democracy and freedom."

I must confess, I know little of Keynes. I attempted to read one of his books, as recommended by Saving Aeneas, but found it so dry and dull that I could not get through it. If anyone knows of anywhere I could get a quick round-down of Keynesian economic theory I would greatly appreciate it. Claiming ignorance then, I will not discuss Keynes, but merely throw in my own two cents in another manner.

The key with capitalism, as with a most things, is moderation. On one hand, the system must allow for growth. A business that provides an economic good or service at a viable price should be able to expand. If I, for example, can make and sell widgets cheaper than anyone else on the market, and if my widgets are good, I will go far. Further, as long as I am not paying my workers insufficient wages--a matter of subjectivity--it behooves society to let my widget making spread.

This, of course, is where monopoly comes into play. Ignoring the strong possibility of a decrease in the value of the monopolized product, which is surely a bad thing, does monopoly itself pose a problem? Troutsky seems to suggest that it does. Insofar as a monopoly is total, he is most certainly right. If a monopoly is incomplete, however, the water becomes a bit muddy. Lacking the time to calculate the exact formula for such a thing, I will make a generic statement that seems to fit the bill. The government's role is to ensure that the market remains competitive. Doing so will often cause it to limit monopoly.

This is where I have a bit of a beef with the true libertarians. The whole of libertarian philosophy is founded on a solid principle. Man is corrupt, and the more power he has, the more corrupt he will be. Lord Acton's famous maxim is merely the doctrine of original sin applied. Understaning this as they do, it is unfortunate to see them apply the rule to its full extent. For though the government if given too much power will become corrupt, so too will the private sector. A free market is a wonderful thing, but it is like something of a fairy tale. Remove the government and there is nothing to stop one corporation from ruling all. You will have replaced the tyrannical rule of the government with the equally tyrannical rule of the corporate elite. At least in this democracy of ours we have a vote.

This brings us back to the moderation I mentioned earlier. The government must not be too weak, as the true libertarians would like or we have the articles of confederation all over again. Better still, we would have the industrial revolution, complete with Standard Oil and the like. At the same time, the government must not be too strong. It is possible that a very strong government could stifle growth. But even a government that is not as strong as that of a totalitarian state can still cause problems. We have such a government in America today. Although the feds do have the power to regulate the private sector, they instead cater favors with the corporations. At least in a "free market", the corporation which rises to the top will have done so because of the viability of her good or service. In today's system, it seems to be based more on an insidious ability to cater to our wonderful elected servants.

The whole trick, then, is a balancing act. The government must fit into the nice seemingly conflicted edges of a paradox. It must be strong enough to prevent the private sector from ruling all. It must also be weak enough to never be able to usurp all the power for itself. It must not become an attractive whore, with which businesses will lie down with--for business, and especially big business, is amoral. But it must not be too pathetic to fight back against the dirty capitalists who would have their way with the rest of us. It must be a protector and a defender, indeed, a great hero and not a whore, but one with the dignity and humility to rule justly for ages to come.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Lode 11-30

The song says that there are twelve days of Christmas, but if all the shopping days are counted, the season lasts for about a month. No reasonable person will argue that the over-commercialization of Christmas is a good thing. Yet beneath all the tinsel, candy-canes and mistletoe is a very wholesome thing. The ritual of buying presents for loved ones is the most sensible thing to do to celebrate December 25th, and doing so brings us closer, not further, from the true meaning of Christmas.

Even without the early-bird sales, Christmas marks a very important time of year, especially for Christians. When God became man to pay the penalty for our sins, he showed his great love for mankind. Although we can in no way repay Christ, we ought not keep the joy we have found to ourselves. It makes sense to pass it around. It makes even more sense to wrap it up in the form of a present so that the joy takes the form of a surprise.

No doubt there are those who cannot see how the giving of simple gifts has anything to do with an impoverished child's birth in ancient Judea. There will always be unfortunate souls who would spoil what is in itself a wholesome thing. Yet scrapping the affair of gift-giving because of the occasional holiday mayhem is akin to throwing out the newborn babe with the bathwater.

Indeed, it is charming to think of the deep symbolism so many miss each year. The wrapped presents, poking playfully from under the tree that bring mirth to small children will one day lead to that far greater joy the child-like shepherds had, when they too, found a present. For they found the most precious gift of all, and it too was wrapped, not in paper, but in swaddling clothes.

The (Shattered) American Dream

It occured to me recently, just how silly the "American Dream" really is. I would not define the American Dream as a white picket fence near a big house in the suburbs with two cars and two and a half children for a husband and a wife. I would say that it is much simpler than that. It is the simple act of creating a life for one's children that is easier and more comfortable than the one you had. Typically, this applies mainly to the material.

There has been a backlash against the remnants of the American Dream since before I was born. To cite just one example, Jello Biafra, the lead singer of the hardcore punk band The Dead Kennedys has some thought provoking things to say in his song "Terminal Preppie".

I go to college
That makes me so cool
I live in a dorm
And show off by the pool

I join the right clubs
Just to build an impression
I block out thinking
It won't get me ahead

My ambition in life
Is to look good on paper
All I want is a slot
In some big corporation

John Belushi's my hero
I lampoon and I ape him
My news of the world
Comes from Sports Illustrated

I'm proud of my trophies
Like my empty beer cans
Stacked in rows up the wall
To impress all my friends

No, I'm not here to learn
I just want to get drunk
And major in business
And be taught how to f_ck

Win! Win!
I always play to win
Wanna fit in like a cog
In the faceless machine

I'm a terminal terminal terminal preppie
terminal terminal terminal preppie
terminal terminal terminal terminal
terminal terminal terminal terminal

I want a wife with t_ts
Who just smiles all the time
In my centerfold world
Filled with Springsteen and wine

Some day I'll have power
Some day I'll have boats
A tract in some suburb
With Thanksgivings to host

Clearly, Mr. Biafra is not buying into the dream. It is interesting, though not surprising, that the hardcore movement sprung from the suburbs. Although I do not disddain captitalism as much as many in the movement, having lived for most of my life in the suburbs, I do share some of Biafra's disdain. We suburbanites have generally had things quite well. It is safe to say that I have done very little suffering in my life time, even if I bemoan the minor wrongs that I undergo occasionally, often blowing them completely out of proportion. Yet there are a great many of my classmates and others, even some of my close friends, who seem--if they may forgive my pretentiousness--to wish to live the life of the terminal preppie, forgetting something crucially important. A lack of real suffering is not synonomous with happiness.

If I may quote one of the dying breed of the movement, the band Rise Against has something revealing to say.

We’re meant for something more than living just to put food on our plates
I can’t help but wonder--why should we participate?

Indeed. There are those of us who are wondering why we must buy into this American Dream. There is, of course, nothing that says we "must" buy into this charade. We are then left wondering, is it better to break out of the system, or to fight it from within? I believe fighting is called for, but that is a bit of a different topic, left for another day.

To stay on point, there is a good reason that the Dream has failed. Progress, insofar as material possessions are concerned is not an easy thing to define. Having more material comforts is, one would assume, a good thing, but there is clearly a line of sorts which it is best not to cross. Material things can bring joy, but they cannot in and of themselve bring any sort of lasting happiness. What is most interesting, is that any reasonable person will assuredly confirm this. And yet our culture is still belligerently drunk on materialism.

Since the punk rockers have had their say, I will now give Christ a shot.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

This is good, solid advice. As long as this is taken to heart, there is nothing wrong with creating a good life foryou and your loved ones. Yet it is easy to let this timeless truth fall to the wayside, especially in today's world. Advertisements incessantly demand that we fulfill our insatiable appetite for useless junk, useless that is, if we wish it to bring us meaningful happiness.

It is time for another American Dream. One that can bring happiness. I do not wish to get preachy, for that seldom does much good. Yet it should be noted that Jesus had some other practical things to say as well. The punks often missed this, and to a large extent that is why the whole movement failed. Until we, as a people, shift the focus of that misguided dream, we too will end in failure.

Where your treasure is....

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

On Catholic Misunderstanding

As a conservative Catholic, I have noticed a stong bias in the "mainstream" press in regards to traditional Catholic idealogy. Admittedly, I have an emotional attachment on anything regarding my Church. Let the reader decide then, whether or not the sky is falling.

The Vatican says homosexuals who are sexually active or support "gay culture" are unwelcome in the priesthood unless they have overcome their homosexual tendencies for at least three years, according to a church document posted on the Internet by an Italian Catholic news agency.

Almost shocking. The Church apparently wants its leaders to express some devotion to the doctrine it espouses. This is analogous to a public school accepting only English teachers who can read and write. A trite story perhaps, but no bias yet.

Estimates of the number of gays in U.S. seminaries and the priesthood range from 25 percent to 50 percent, according to a review of research by the Rev. Donald Cozzens, a former seminary rector and author of "The Changing Face of the Priesthood."

I've heard percentages as high as 60. Homosexuals in the priesthood is the proverbial elephant in the living room for Holy Mother Church.

In September, Vatican-directed inspectors started visiting all 229 American seminaries. Part of their mission is to seek any "evidence of homosexuality" at a time when some Catholics have put forward the highly contested premise that gay priests were more likely to be responsible for criminal behavior such as serial, same-sex molestation.

Note the "highly contested" remark. Head on over to the New Oxford Review to see just how contested this really is. First, as the NOR has highlighted, there are actually more crime committed by homosexuals as a percentage of their representation within the priestly class. In other words, homosexuals are causing a problem in the Church.

This actually makes a whole lot of sense. As the article later points out, the Roman Catholic Church holds homosexuals are "intrisically disordered". Is it any surprise that someone suffering from such a disorder would act disorderly?
The article then closes with a stange statement.

The church, however, says gays and lesbians should be treated with compassion and dignity.

That "however" is curious to me. The world sees a tremendous inconsistency with loving the sinner and hating the sin. There is nothing contradictory about it. The reason for loving our neighbor is obvious enough. The reason for hating the sin is just as obvious.

Sin separates us from our God. The Church understands this, and vehemently despises sin as it has always done. It is too bad, the press, and the world, seems to miss this. Still, it is not surprising as it has always done this. I recall John saying something to this effect, "the reason the world does not know us, is that it did not know Him."

Charming to be right, perhaps, but misunderstanding gets a bit old.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Where Does This Go?

This one has been long in coming. It's not eloquent, or even all that clear. Troutsky, I'm going to need your help on this one.

All around, there are signs of despair. Welcome to the American capitalist culture. Don't ask what is wrong. Ask how on earth we could pretend there wasn't anything wrong all along. All around, corporations selling us things we don't need. Happiness comes wrapped in a comfortable package. It comes to us, without us asking. Compelling us to buy, reminding us of how unhappy we are, how unhappy we must be.

Were we always this unhappy? Or does the lie only seem like the truth if repeated often enough? We must buy, for we need it. It does not matter what it is. It doesn't matter that there is no way we need it. Humans can be bought, and so can, apparently, happiness. I want to scream. I don't need this trash. The system is broken... the system is broken... the system is broken. I create my own mantra to combat the one the world preaches at me. You're unhappy—no I'm not. You need this to be complete—shove off. Everyone has their breaking point. The world wins every time.

It's not just me, I swear. If it was only me, I'd grin. I'd bear it. I would shut up and man up. But I'm not alone. Go to the store, the retail store you know you hate. The one where we all buy our useless crap, the kind of things we need to go on living this silly existence which the world tells us we need to live. They make the rules, we play. The people who sell us our happiness are not happy. I see it. Do you?

Go into the store. Look around. Ask the old man where he keeps the toothpicks. We need those. Watch him sigh, he doesn't care where the toothpicks are. He doesn't care where anything is. He's just waiting to get home and pour a beer. See if he can figure out where it all went wrong. Turn on the tube, maybe, and just forget that we have to care. Try not caring about your life and staying alive. No, I mean really alive.

Next time you ask him for your damned toothpicks, why don't you ask him a different question. Ask him how his day is going. Remind him that you're in this together. You don't like buying toothpicks anymore than he likes selling them. Maybe then he'll smile. The soft kind of smile, the one that almost breaks your heart. It makes you smile, not in happiness, but in comradery. The kind of connection that we all have, that the world tries to make us forget. It's still there. Don't forget.

Tell him you want to help. Tell him you're trying to find the way out. Tell him if you do, you'll be sure to come back and tell him. But you're stuck, too. You've got to get to work. You've got to go to a job you hate. You have to go sell somebody something. It may as well be toothpicks. Just forget I told you this. It's not going to matter. So you'll make his day. Maybe. Until you can pull him out of this mess, don't fill his head with illusions of a way out.

The only way out is temporary. Call it a beer and the TV. It's all the same. Except when you drink that beer, you're helping to perpetuate the system. Except when you watch the TV, you're doing the same. Continue the broken cycle. Don't fight it. Nope, that would really be silly. Run away? Don't be absurd.

Running never changes anything. This problem is just a huge noose around our necks. If we run long enough, we can pretend it's not there. Like our shadow, it follows, haunting us. Running is not an option.

There are those who fight. They tell us not to pollute the earth. I say don't pollute the soul. Root out the materialsm, but not for the sake of the earth. We're the victims. Not the damned planet. She doesn't have feelings, she doesn't have a soul. At least in theory, we do.

I guess this ends my love affair with capitalism. Goodbye Adam Smith, we had some good memories. Some good times, too. I won't forget. As for now, I think I'll try to find something new. Oh, no, I won't become a socialist. That's not going to happen. Maybe I'll come up with something unique. The way things are looking, someone has to. Could be me I suppose. Atlas shrugs.

Lode 11-16 II

A week from tomorrow, my all-time favorite holiday comes around. It's not called turkey day, and although it begins the Christmas shopping season—whatever that means—Thanksgiving is an important feast all by itself. It would remain so, even without the cranberries and football games. Holiday stuffing aside, yet still in a celebratory spirit, I will make a list of some of the things I am thankful for. I encourage you all to do the same.

The national debt. I, for one, threw a massive party the day it surpassed the eight trillion dollar mark. This was sometime back in October; it was a really big party, so I kind of forget the exact date. It's going to be sweet when taxes skyrocket to pay for all the I.O.U.'s left by the wonderful folks in Congress.

The Iraq War. When I was a little kid, my dad told me my country had never lost a war. Wow, was I pumped. I'm really glad that America is keeping up her winning streak by liberating Iraq. I really hope we make the playoffs; I hear we get to play Iran.

Social Security. People who make fun of pyramid schemes are cretins. The only economic investments I like to make are poor ones. That way, I don't feel bad about making a profit. Ayn Rand had it all backwards. It's a good thing the government understands all this and lets me be part of the federal pyramid scheme. Heck, I didn't even get to choose to be part of it. How awesome is that?

Supreme Court nominees. While it may be true that the founding fathers set up a republic, we've done away with that folly. It's a good thing, too. Who in their right mind would want leaders held accountable by the people they govern? That's so Jeffersonian. Things are so much better now that nine unelected judges decide all major social issues for “we the people”.

Television. If there is one thing I hate, it's having to think for myself. Fortunately, the only decision I have to make is to decide what channel to watch. Thank goodness my Tivo tapes all the shows it knows I'd like, saving me from having to make even that one decision.

Consumerism. The meaning of life is so simple. Whoever has the most toys when he dies wins. There are so many toys, I'll never be completely happy, leading me to continually seek an unacheivable goal. But I'm going to win some day. Thank you, America.

I am also thankful for sarcasm.

On a serious note, I am actually very thankful for this great—so the theory goes—country of ours. We have the ability to do something about the shenanigans going on in Washington in our name. We do not have to buy into the shallow propaganda spewed forth by corporations, emanating from the television. While the terrorists do not actually hate us for our freedom, we've still got enough of it that we aren't resigned to becoming terrorists ourselves.

Lastly, I am thankful for everyone who still thinks for themselves. If we wish to leave for our children a country we can still be thankful of, we've got a lot of work to do.

And yes, I'm thankful for the opportunity, too.

Lode 11-16

The historian Carl N. Degler once wrote, "The metaphor of the melting pot is unfortunate and misleading. A more accurate analogy would be a salad bowl, for, though the salad is an entity, the lettuce can still be distinguished from the chicory, the tomatoes from the cabbage." He does not say what to do when the tomatoes make war on the lettuce who have always lived there.

The riots have died down in France, but in their terrible wake they have left an important lesson. Assimilation is always spoken of in ugly tones, with diversity being the catch phrase du jour. Yet it was nothing more than the beautiful diversity of largely Muslim immigrants which caused peaceful France to become tumultuous for over two weeks.

Consider: there are an estimated five to seven million muslim immigrants in France, mostly from North Africa. The riots occurred in immigrant neigborhoods, where the unemployment rate surpasses forty percent in some areas. In other words, there are a great many angry immigrants who reside in France. It is equally safe to say, they do not regard France as a comfortable home. After all, only an irrational man would start a fire in his living room. It is more likely that the man who started the fire was not doing do so in his own home.

The whole irony of the melting pot debate is that assimilation is not only good for the host country—ask bleeding France—but for the immigrants as well. Having not lived in France, it is unclear to what extent xenophobia and racism have effected the employment rate of muslim immigrants. Yet some blame rests with the rioters. "Liberté, égalité, and fraternité" apply only for those who are, in fact, French.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Lode 11-9

I had the privilege of reading an Abraham Lincoln biography this summer. The man is widely regarded as one of the best presidents in U.S. history. The reason for this is quite simple, if paradoxical. Lincoln’s primary qualification for the presidency was that he realized he was unqualified for the job.

Lincoln never forgot the great responsibility that rested in his massive hands. It is true that Lincoln was faced with the unenviable task of preserving the Union; yet even without a civil war, the presidency is but a “splendid misery” in the words of Thomas Jefferson.

The presidency is still far too big for one man to handle; yet the system remains in place, even if the candidate cannot remove the sword from the stone. What is most surprising is that the candidates do not realize just how firmly entrenched the sword is. Kerry and Bush gave the impression they could actually perform the job well. I mean no disrespect when I say that both were quite wrong.

It goes without saying that we could use another Jefferson or a Lincoln to lead this republic of ours. We need a humble man who understands that the presidency is a burden that is impossible to carry, and because of this, he does not want it.

We would all be better off having a president who knew he could not do the job. At least we could respect his honesty.

This is, unfortunately, never going to happen. It requires too much work and energy for a genuinely good man to run for any major office, let alone the presidency. If we wish this to change, we ourselves must adapt by encouraging good men to run and only accepting candidates of a humble nature.
Until then, we will be stuck with ambitious men who have the audacity to feel that they are qualified.

Scrap Roe

I wrote this for the paper. They didn't have room for it, but I couldn't rob my readers of this.

Bush has just nominated a new justice named Samuel Alito, and, as is to be expected, the folks in Washington are falling all over themselves at the news. The democrats are making sure he's not too too pro-life, while the republicans are panicking lest he not be pro-life enough. In an effort to avoid partisan squabbling—or perhaps to agitate those who happen to be wrong—I will now explain why Roe v. Wade is a preposterous decision and needs to be overturned. Moreover, I will do all of this without mentioning God or quoting the Bible. Prepare to be dazzled.

To understand Roe v. Wade, we must look at an earlier case, Griswold v. Connecticut, in which a Connecticut law preventing the sale of contraceptives was found to be unconstitutional. For the record, reading Supreme Court decisions is actually more boring than General Chemistry. Nonetheless, I battled through it to find a couple of quotes to sum up the opinion. Writing for the majority, Justice Goldberg writes:

The entire fabric of the Constitution and the purposes that clearly underlie its specific guarantees demonstrate that the rights to marital privacy and to marry and raise a family are of similar order and magnitude as the fundamental rights specifically protected. Although the Constitution does not speak in so many words of the right of privacy in marriage, I cannot believe that it offers these fundamental rights no protection.

This landmark decision established a right to marital privacy as found in the “penumbra”—whatever that means—of the constitution. This led the way to the court's decision in Roe v. Wade. Since the court determined a state could not tell a woman she couldn't use a certain product, they could not tell her she couldn't have a certain medial procedure. Somehow though, the sale of certain drugs is still an illegal act and snuff films are likwise forbidden. That whole “my body, my choice” rhetoric only goes so far, at least in respects to the high court.

There are two ways to take this assumed and nonsensical right to privacy, and both lead to disaster. Either the marital right to privacy must be fully extended or this entire supposed right was simply made up. A carte blanche right to privacy will mean a vast restructuring of the current system. From the Patriot Act to the census, from drug laws to the federal income tax code, the government frequently invades our privacy. The big government liberals who subscribe to the pro-choice philosophy may not be so pleased when their favorite programs cannot be funded. The tragedy of applying a principle consistently.

Griswold is assuredly a blow to states' rights—which I am continually told died with the civil war. Many people seem to shrug off states' rights, so long as the court sides with them. What pro-choicers seem to forget, is that a court which can make up a right to privacy to legalize abortion can just as easily make up another right which would make abortion unconstitutional. It is immensely important to set aside any personal feelings concerning contraception and look at the principle that has been cast aside by the court in Griswold. The high court is not appointed to set every silly law right. Justice Stewart dissents admirably, saying

But we are not asked in this case to say whether we think this law is unwise, or even asinine. We are asked to hold that it violates the United States Constitution. And that I cannot do.

He goes on to mock the other members of the court who over-turned the Connecticut law. In order to conjure up a right to privacy, the court participated in some brilliant legal nonsense, citing no less than six amendments to assert a right that is never mentioned explicitly by name. It seems that if one takes the first amendment times the third amendment, added to the fourteenth, raised to the power of... well, you get the idea. Seeing how the court determines rights by complex mathematical operations, someone better make sure that Alito's algebra skills are up to par.

As silly as it might seem, this is actually the basis for Roe v. Wade. A right to privacy applies when a fetus is to be aborted, but not in regards to the imprisoning of, say, Japanese Americans during WWII. I'm pretty sure the latter is a more appropriate interpretation of the “due process” clause, but then again, in my haste to use reason I did forget to carry the fourth amendment.

When it comes down to it, the reason for all the excitement concerning abortion is simple. The pro-life side thinks—correctly—that the fetus, possessing a beating heart and detectable brain waves, is a human life worthy of the protection we should afford any other person. Obviously one can see why the pro-life side is angry about abortion. Several million murders would get anyone fired up. Even if they disagree, pro-choicers should understand the reason pro-lifers react with such passion.

The pro-choicers feel—wrongly—that the fetus is just a lump of tissue and that women should be able to abort whenever they wish. I have already dismissed the right to privacy which gives rise to a right to an abortion, but there is another reason the government must not interfere with a states' right to restrict, or even abolish, abortion. If there is even a possibility that the fetus is a child, we must react with restraint. The burden of proof is not on the pro-lifers to prove it is a human being, it is on the pro-choice movement to prove it is not. Intellectually honest individuals must grant that point.

In the end, we will contnue to squabble over something that should be a fairly simple issue.
When people let their emotions take hold, rationallity falls to the way side; it is human nature. The constitution was meant as a strict guarantee of what rights the federal government must afford us. When it becomes a living and breathing document—something it was never intended to be—penumbra spring up, giving us rights the founders never willed us to have. For while it may seem liberating to give women the right to choose, the court may one day take an altogether different line.

When the supreme court struck a blow to property rights earlier this year, it was the justices who took a “living breathing” approach who let the ax fall. A court that gives can also take away. It behooves those who support abortion as a legitimate choice to realize that. The choice was given illegitimately, and if we ever get a rational court again, Roe will be scrapped. For we are a rebublic, and the people decide how they must live their lives. Some of the more cautious founders were leery of the president becoming kingly and lording his power over the people. Let us not forget that tyranny from the bench is still tyranny.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Christian Bands

As a Christian, I listen to a good number of "Christian" bands. The term is a bit ambiguous, as many of the bands I listen to do not mention God in any of their songs. Others do, but I tend to avoid the preachy bands, if only because they aren't as good.

Anyway, one of the Christian groups on campus has 13k with which to bring a band up here. Thinking that they would go big, they contacted Switchfoot. For those who may not know, Switchfoot is a pretty popular band, recently having "crossed over" from Christian to secular markets. Having done so, they can command a good deal of money.

Thirteen grand was evidently not enough to land Switchfoot. The band wanted 100k.

As a Christian this greatly offends me. I cannot fathom demanding that much to preach the good word.

I'll be stewing over this one. At least Tom Petty keeps his ticket prices low.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Lode 11-2 II

Last week I argued against the wisdom of adopting "hate crimes" legislation, stating: "If we wish to bring esteem for protected minorities to the level of the majority, at least in regards to the law, we cannot place different values on people. A homosexual is not less worthy of protection than a heterosexual to be sure, but neither is he nor she more worthy. A human life is a human life and should be cherished as such."

In other words, hate crimes are unjust. That is a fact that—I thought—could not be disputed. Evidently I was wrong. A reader informed me of this, noting:

"When was the last time you sat down with a 'minority group' and asked their opinions on hate crimes legislation? Wouldn't that be appropriate if you didn't want to be seen as merely a "heterosexual white male from suburbia". At the very least it would help you make a stronger argument for your case. I would think that would be appropriate, considering your misconceptions written in the article. In my opinion, "Anything else," like your article,"is pure rubbish, and should be rejected as such.""

There are several points of interest here. First, minorities have—apparently—a monopoly on the standard for justice. It does not matter what I have to say on the matter because I am a heterosexual white male. My opinion would only have weight if I belonged to a special group deemed worthy of societal protection. My opinion is dismissed as "pure rubbish" merely because I did not feel the need to ask a minority what he or she thought of hate crimes. The open-mindedness is almost suffocating.

To be quite frank, I do not care what minorities think of this legislation, any more than I care what Haliburton thinks of the war in Iraq. It is just as sensible to ask NBA stars if they think the salary cap is fair. Or better yet, ask the CEO of dreaded Wal-Mart if his business practices are ethical. We can all argue that the system has it in for us, and at times, it does. Yet a philosophical concern for justice for all demands we do not bow to to the petty concerns of every individual. We cannot allow a subjective viewpoint to dominate something that must be decided objectively because it effects us all.

When it comes to these questions of justice, one need not be a protected group member to find the answers. One need only be a human being. Racism, homophobia and misogyny—or, for that matter, any other form of hatred based on silly characteristics—are abominable because they treat humans as less than such. Yet it is no less deplorable to have a law in place which does the exact same thing, even if its aims are noble.

The most interesting thing about the reader's reply is that there is so little substance. There are several fronts—albeit only moderately tenable ones—from which hate crimes legislation can be defended. One can argue that these laws will rectify previous wrongs and bring about a greater good. One can say that in order to strongly discourage the reprehensible behavior of narrow minded goons, the penalties mush be made stiffer. What cannot be done is to pretend that this legislation is moral. It is quite the opposite. It only takes a simple human being—any will do—to see such a simple truth.

Lode 11-2

It is no great secret that the feminist movement has failed, and done so spectacularily. Alleged wage inequality aside, women have been unable to make ground on another front. Rather than break the rigid mold of physical perfection set by men, women have been more than happy to lift this too heavy burden.

It is, of course, one thing when I say this. It just so happens that Maureen Dowd concurs. Speaking on the topic of standards of beauty in the New York Times, she expressed regret that the situation has gotten worse. To add insult to injury, women seem to have no problem playing along. “A lot of women now want to be Maxim babes as much as men want Maxim babes.”

This truth is as unfortunate as it is apparent. Doubters need only stop by a grocery store and stoll by the checkout. Cosmopolitan—the number one selling magazine on college campuses among women—and similar rags shout out the dozens of ways to please men. Though not a frequent peruser of such publications, it is assumed that possessing a brain is nowhere to be found on said list. Of course, possessing a brain is also not a stipulation for purchasing Cosmo.

The irony of the whole situation is almost hysterical. It is not the antiquated white male CEO's who are holding women back. Instead, it is your average Cosmo reader.

But don't get mad at me, ladies. Instead, take the time to read something that is intellectually stimulating. Woo a man with your ability to think for yourself. You might be surprised with the results. Then again, maybe it's better to polish up on your sex techniques. There is no surer way to win respect for a man than becoming an object at his disposal.

If the movement is still stuck painfully in neutral forty years from now we will all know who is to blame.