Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thou Shalt Cause Divisiveness

It is no secret that Bush, and the Republicans with him, are in big trouble. Apparently, the reason is simple. When in doubt, blame the religious right.

Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri and an Episcopal priest, met with students during a seminar and held a luncheon talk at the graduate school.

"I think that the Republican Party fairly recently has been taken over by the Christian conservatives, by the Christian right," he said in an interview after his talks. "I don't think that this is a permanent condition but I think this has happened, and that it's divisive for the country."

It is obvious that the religious right tends toward the "right" of the political spectrum. In the present political clime, this means the Republican party. However, since the Republicans have seem reticent to do anything blatantly Christian--Jesus never said to cut taxes, invade foreign countries or increase deficit spending, even if Bush says otherwise--it seems odd to find fault with the religious right for causing trouble.

In fact, the problem seems to lie in the fact that the religious right doesn't cause nearly enough trouble. If they did, if they were truly as powerful a force as everyone seems to think, the country would be a Christian utopia by now, at least legally speaking. We are not in this new paradise, and as such, the religious right should be more, not less, divisive. At least until Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the religious right should be marching from sundown to sun-up, peacefully sowing discord wherever they may be.

There is a modern misconception concerning Christians, and it is a big one. We are told to be happy and loving and tolerant all the time. While it is true that we are to "love our neighbor" one should not forget that Christ became rather angry at the traders in the temple. There is such a thing as righteous indignation and it is, as its name would suggest, quite acceptable as Christian behaviour.

Even more important though, is this fallacy concerning divisiveness. It was Christ who said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies will be the members of his own household." (Matthew 10:34-36) How's that for divisive?

Later, Danforth makes another wonderful comment that also happens to be completely wrong.

"Nothing is more dangerous than religion in politics and government when it becomes divisive," he said. "I'll give you examples: Iraq. Northern Ireland. Palestine."

A fellow I used to work with said much of the same thing in the form of a bumper sticker that read: "The last time we mixed politics and religion people got burned at the stake." It could just as easily be written:

"Nothing is more dangerous than secularism in politics and government when it becomes divisive," he said. "I'll give you examples: Russia, China, North Korea." or "The last time me mixed politics and secularism people got shipped to the gulag."

The problem with the bumper stickers is that they are historically inaccurate. Both religion and secularism have been mixed with politics since these events. Religion in politics, divisive or otherwise, does not necessitate a pejorative effect. Abraham Lincoln was a religious man, if not the most fanatatical. Likewise, most of our presidents had some sort of religious leanings, and while some were bad presidents, some, like Lincoln, were rather good ones.

Mixing religion with politics is simply unavoidable. Most human beings are religious, even if they do not know it. There are atheists who are terribly religious people, even if their religion has no god, no light, and none of the pomp and pleasure of a good holiday.

The problem enters in when men, religious or otherwise, act in ways that contradict some of the basic standards we humans share. Bush's war in Iraq is immoral, but not because he is waging it according to the alleged command of God. It is immoral because it is unecessarily causing blood to be shed. It would be just as wrong if a non-religious--in the classical sense--president had done the deed. There are some who may argue that Bush, being a Christian should have known better. This is insulting to every man of every other faith, be he agnostic, atheistic, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise. The facts of the universe are sometimes just that simple to observe.

Lastly, all of this hubbub over Christians seems out of place. If the charge was that Christians were not behaving like Christ, the claim would be a sound one. But it is nothing of the sort. Instead, Christians are, presumably, chastised for causing divisiveness over the very topics they should be most divisive. It would be much more unfortunate if the Republicans chose to give up the few good positions they hold in the effort of getting along like good little Christians. Compromise on principle is always a weakness, no matter what the creed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Lode 10-26 II

Should special groups receive legal protection above and beyond the standard given to the rest of the populace? The answer illustrates whether one is a liberal—accoring to modern parlance—or a rational human being. For those off you who answered yes, let me explain in simple terms why you are emphatically wrong. The specific topic is “hate crime” legislation.

At first glance, it might seem like a good idea to protect African-Americans, women and homosexuals by mandating stiffer penalties for crimes against minorities. In actuality, is in insulting to every human being, protected minorities included.

As a side note, it is interesting that women are included as minorities even though they represent 50.9 percent of the US population according to the 2000 census. Evidently, one need not be a minority to be a minority. Tell me that's not confusing.

Ignoring the fact that hate-crime proponents cannot read census data—or, apparently, understand certain words in the dictionary—the fact remains that hate crime laws are immoral. The theory goes, that in order to correct the wrongs done to women, we are going to treat them better than men. To do away with discrimination against African-Americans, we are going to give them preferential treatment over their white brothers and sisters. In order to rectify homophobic behavior, gays and lesbians will be legally elevaleted over heterosexuals.

To be sure, racism, homophobia and sexism are not only deplorable, but unfortunately still with us. But two wrongs have never made a right, and no matter how it is spun, preferential treatment is always at the expense of someone else.

At this point, proponents of hate crime legislation like to remind me that I am a heterosexual white male from suburbia. Evidently I am only looking out for number one. While I am not a minority, the point is still one of principle. Discrimination is still discrimination. Sixteen thousand Americans were murdered last year. Ostensibly, most were not victims of “hate crimes”. Yet each victim is just as dead. They are no more dead if they were killed because of race, sex, or sexual orientation than if they were mudrdered because of a robbery gone awry. Try telling the mother of a white teenager that because her son was not the victim of a hate crime, his killers will get a more lenient sentence than if he were.

Why should the murderers of Matthew Shepard—the homosexual who was brutally murdered for being gay—be treated any differently than the perpetrators of any other murder? 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 more worthy. A human life is a human life and should be cherished as such. I thought that's what Martin Luther King's “I have a dream” speech was about, but what do I know? As an unprotected minority, apparently the value of my opinion is reflected as such.

I wouldn't have such a hard time taking all these “civil rights” movements seriously if they would simply be consistent once in awhile. If a group wishes to live with the majority, it must leave nonsensical classifications aside and accept that we are all human beings, no more, no less. Anything else—like hate crime legislation—is pure rubbish, and should be rejected as such.

Lode 10-26

Noam Chomsky—a liberal writer and professor—came under fire when he decided to write the introduction to a book that denied the holocaust ever took place. The reason he wrote the piece, was not that he believed the holocaust never took place, but because something far greater was at stake. Freedom of speech is sacred to someone like Chomsky and this freedom is in most need of protection when the speech is inflammatory. Much like Chomsky, this week I will defend a very important principle.

In Kansas, the Supreme Court has recently over-turned a law that punished underage homosexual acts more harshly than heterosexual acts. The law gave a homosexual teen seventeen years in prison for an illicit act with a fourteen year old boy. The problem comes in the fact that if one of the boys had been a girl, the maximum sentence would have been fifteen months. The court said that “moral disapproval" was not a good enough reason for the law to exist.

Let it be known that I am well aware that the Kansas law is not fair at all, but that is not the point. In fact, I would argue It remains to be seen whether or not the free people of Kansas can come up with a law to govern themselves. In other words, are we still a republic at all?

President Lincoln sums up the whole of my argument nicely: “I believe... that each community as a State has a right to do exactly as it pleases with all the concerns within that State...”

It is easy to get caught up in the absurdity of the Kansas case and overlook the larger picture. It is a people's right to come up with the rules which they will live by, no matter what a handful of appointed justices may say. This republic is ours to keep, so long as the courts do not fritter it away.

Frank(en) Partisanship

This summer I almost had the opportunity to meet Al Franken. We were both at a banquet of sorts for the reunion of the 1965 AL champion Minnesota Twins. I passed within a foot or two of the fellow, but saw no reason to make an introduction.

Franken seems to be much like Ann Coulter in that they both do a very good job of preaching to the choir while angering the people in the pews. I have not read any of his material, but he seems to do a good job at angering conservatives while causing liberals to blush with pride, patting themselves on the back about how right they are.

Since I have not read anything by Franken, I will instead use Coulter to illustrate a point. I picked up "Slander" at a book store a few years ago and read it. The idea behind the book was to show how liberal rhetoric is so shallow that it consists mainly of calling conservatives names. The book consisted, oddly enough, of some witty and humorous name-calling on behalf of Coulter. It is doubtful if her mud-slinging is increasing the size of the conservative fold substantially.

This would seem to apply equally to pundits of the "mainstream media"--whatever that means--as well as humble little folks like myself over here in blog-land. Despite Hannity's claims of people who have become "Hannitized", I am not sure how many have been. And in fairness, Hannity's is more tactful than Coulter, if also less witty.

The reason that we have so many pundits is that there are no shortage of people who spend a great deal of time convincing themselves they are right. While in and of itself not problematic, it does one good to read something disagreeable from time to time. While reading a Coulter book may prove entertaining, it is unlikely that it will change my mind on a lot of issues, namely because I agree with Ann on quite a lot of things. Reading a Franken book on the other hand, will possibly allow me to see the other side more clearly, even if it does not change my mind.

Of course, it should be noted that I am at least a bit hyprocritical on this front. There is not a single liberal columnist I read on a regular basis namely because most of them drive me mad as they are wrong about most everything. Indeed, the three columnists linked here are all conservative authors.

The reason for all this is Al Franken's new ad. It is not bothersome because it is offensive, for it is not, but because it is not funny at all. Franken is, supposedly, a funny man, but this ad was not. It is also, seemingly, a bad way to promote one's book. The liberals who are going to read the book already know who he is. The conservatives, whom the ad is targeted at, are supposed to become enraged and buy the book. Rather than trying to get more flies with honey, Franken is trying to attract bears with bee stings.

It has been said that there is no such thing as bad advertisement. In other words, all public relations is good public relations. And of course, the mere fact that I would take the time to write this means that Franken's advertisement worked, at least in some small way. Yet the goal of a political author is, ostensibly, not just to sell books, but to change minds. The question is one of effectiveness in rhetoric.

But the irony of this whole situation is truly the best part. While Franken and Coulter--to keep the token partisans--rarely see eye to eye, the two parties they belong to do, and often. Just as Franken would have the Democrats rectify all the errors left in the wake of Republican rule, so would Coulter lead the Republicans to prevent the blunders the counfounded Democrats keep on committing. Despite their intentions, it must be remembered that the old definition no longer apply. Conservative no longer means Republican any more than liberal equates with Democrat. In fact, the thing closer to the truth is that a Republican could very easily be mistaken for a Democrat.

As a third party supporter, it becomes frustrating seeing the partisan bickering occuring over trite affairs. With both parties beholden to corporations and special interests, the fighting is ineffective at best. At worst, it distracts us from the few things even the most blatant partisans should be able to agree on, be it elimination of deficit spending, protection of basic liberties, a sensible immigration policy or term limits for our representatives in Congress.

Five will get you ten more people will talk about this silly ad around the water cooler than will bemoan the minute difference between the two parties. Either I am missing something rather important or else I desparately need Franken's advertising crew.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Alarmingly Disinterested

For those of you who do not know, I live off campus in Houghton, home of Michigan Technological University where I attend school. I also work for the college radio station and had to record the news this afternoon. The station is located in one of the dormitories. While there, a fire alarm went off. I begrudgingly left the building, a bit later than I was should have. As I walked out, I noticed that I was not the only one who decided to lackadaisically exit the building.

Our school, much like many others, has gone safety mad. I am not sure that is a legitimate expression, but it is the best way of summing up the university's behavior. The idea behind fire drills was to ensure that people knew how to get out of a building safely, which is a fine thing. Unfortunately, because the school has so many fire drills, no one takes them seriously any more. Call it the law of diminishing returns or the boy who cried wolf, the result is the same: a waning attention to something that should be treated as important.

Whether this is a sign of human beings in general or simply an expression of cultural A.D.D., the example applies in many instances. I could take this any of a thousand directions, but I'll use it to discuss the Iraq War as part of our "war on terror".

As someone who is a bit of a news junky, it is interesting to observe the apathy I've had towards world happenings as of late. This is especially true in regards to whatever may be going on in Iraq. I would simply like the troops should home and the job done as soon as possible. It remains to be seen whether or not that is an attainable goal, but ideally, we'd all like mission accomplished--for real this time--and our soldiers safe in this still great country of ours.

It is fair to say that I do not have a monopoly on unconcern for specifics on the Iraq war. There are two reasons for this. The war has gone on long enough that every reasonable person has come to a conclusion over whether or not we should have invaded, and those that have not may be undecided until we really have defeated terror.

The other reason is what was alluded to earlier. It is a simple fact that one's attention to a topic fades over time. This is especially true in the saturated media environment we live in. Those unfortunate souls who spend a significant portion of time in front of the television daily aren't going to have the ability to sit through the speech explaining why we went to war, let alone determine the legitimacy of such a claim.

Poor Cindy Sheehan seems to be going crazy trying to get people to pay attention. I cannot say that I like the woman, for though I am saddened that her son died in this war, she seems to be a slimy opportunist. Regardless, her antics will probably be largely ignored, especially since all the new shows started this fall.

"I'm going to go to Washington, D.C. and I'm going to give a speech at the White House, and after I do, I'm going to tie myself to the fence and refuse to leave until they agree to bring our troops home," Sheehan said in a telephone interview last week as the milestone approached.

"And I'll probably get arrested, and when I get out, I'll go back and do the same thing," she said.

Good luck to her. There is no way Bush is going to listen. But the American people have other things to worry about.

We're tired Cindy. Sure, almost two thousand U.S. soldiers have died since we tried to liberate Iraq, but seriously, can't she see that we have more important things to worry about?

Monday, October 24, 2005


I just started reading Chesterton's "Heretics" again. After getting in about seventy pages, I handed it off to my housemate who has yet to read it. It's a very good book, in which he blasts the "heretics" of his day, that is, those people whose philosophy differs from his own.

After he wrote it, George Bernard Shaw--who was a good friend of Chesterton's--chided him for giving no account of his own philosophy. After all, it is very easy to attack something for being wrong, but Chesterton himself point out that one must have a standard in mind. The reply was Chesterton's best, and most famous work, "Orthodoxy" which our confounded library does not have. Regradless, it is interesting to note that sometime between the two books, he converted to Catholicism.

What makes "Heretics" so fascinating--besides the brilliant style, charming wit and good humor--is it's timeliness. Though the references are out-dated--it is unlikely that many of today's readers are familiar with Kipling's philosophy, and though H.G. Wells's books are still read, his belief structure is perhaps less known--the heresies are still committed frequently.

I'll not recant the book, or even dwell on a whole lot of it. It would be a shame to spoil it for anyone who can take the opportunity to read this fascinating work. Instead, I will examine his premise, which is a very basic and seemingly obvious one. And that is this: each man is as orthodox as the Catholic Church--even if not as right--and those whose philosophies differ from that man are heretics.

The coarseness of the word "heretics" as well as the undesirability of "orthodoxy" might lead the reader astray. Yet, if any sensible man was asked about his view of the universe he would admit--perhaps cautiously and humbly--that his view was the right one. To think otherwise is to be guilty of moral cowardice, or foolishness. If one believes that he has found truth and will not say so, he is a coward. If a man does not believe that his view is correct, it would behoove him to find the correct view quite quickly.

Of course this all seems to ignore agnosticism. Admittedly so, for the agnostic has yet no view of the universe, and in honesty, he does not particularly concern me. That is certainly callous, but I will assuredly pray for the man to figure all of this out. We have all been, indeed are born as, agnostics, but at some point man must get off the fence and jump into the existential abyss or explore the confines of deism, based on the truth he has perceived in this short life.

But back to heretics. The ancient man understood all of this quite well. And while it is common to look with disdain upon our ancestors, one must remember that not only do we behave quite pathetically--two world wars in half a century for starters--but the same blood runs through us as well. The savage was out of line in burning the blasphemer on the stake, but he was right in calling him a blasphemer. If what a man, even our savage, knows about God and life and the world is true, another man, even an enlightened modern, would do best to check his philosophy at the door of the cave, at least in the savage's estimation.

The point has been made thoroughly and probably redundantly. It is always difficult to explain something that is readily obvious. Regardless, the point is now ready to be applied. Let us have no more of people who say that they are "spiritual, but not religious". This phrase irks me because it reeks of, with all due respect, complete idiocy.

I will disagree with the materialist because he is wrong, but I'll not invite him to get himselg a church because his view of the world does not require one. Yet when a man realizes that he has a soul--I think correctly--he must see this observation to its logical conclusion. Once one has leapt into deism, it is imperative to examine the nature of this diety.

If the churches of this world do not suit a man he owes it to himself to found one. Examine the nature of God, worship him as you see him and state your beliefs. In other words, become orthodox, and enlighten us poor heretics. To benignly state that you are not religious and leave it at that, is to live life dispassionately. Most humans would agree and deem that heretical.

It is of course well and good for me to hide behind the orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic Church. It is not very courageous perhaps, to stand with one billion other believers and shun the rest of the world. I do tend to think that the size of the fold speaks to the congruity and truth of the banner we march under, but that is not the main point. I am orthodox, precisely because I say so. This does not make me arrogant. However, it may make me wrong, and it would be good if you heretics could calmy tell me so I could straighten myself out.

One can be assured that the rest of the world needs to watch out. Chesterton may have left a large gap when his three hundred pound frame expired, but there are still some of us orthodox fellows left.

In any case, read his book. It is certainly thought-provoking.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Some of my housemates and I have the habit of debating the existence God late at night. While our philosophy sessions cost us a great deal of sleep, they are invaluable, at least to me. One of the fellows has a bad habit of getting hung up on semantics. If I say, in reference to God, that "he" did such and such, or "he" had such and such a trait, he informs me, quite passionately that we cannot refer to God as he. Apparently he--my friend, not God--is unaware that in a very real sense, "God" is too small for God. In truth, the whole cosmos is quite full of "him" and seems ready to burst.

It goes without saying, that God is not a "he" in the sense that God is only a he. But, left to the inadequacies of language and metaphor, he seems a good enough name for me, for two reasons. First, God became man, at least according to Christian tradition. And while the most important reason that Christ became man was to open the gates of heaven for mankind, God, being God, could have enacted his plan of salvation in other ways. I tend to think that he chose to become a man for a very good reason, namely, to help us better understand something that is uncomprehensible to the pathetic human mind.

The other reason I do not mind calling God a he, is that, as previously discussed, there is no word that adequately sums up the essence of God. Thus, to squabble about how God is not a person, and is more of a spirit or an idea, really misses the mark. I do not care how one defines God for the consideration of his fellow man. I care a great deal about the characteristics of the nature of this God.

My friend speaks well of Islam, precisely because they do not get hung up on semantics. Being a Christian, I am well aware of our semantical devotion, and will readily defend it, but I am almost wholly ignorant of Islam, something that it quite regretable. Lacking any basis for judgement of my own, I will accept his point for now. He further expressed resentment at the Christian's idols, or icons, devoted to God. I, too, will defend these.

Very few Christians, I would imagine, really pray to a crucifix. If our number did express cult-like devotion to mere material things, I would demand at once that we destory these golden calves. The cruifix is important, because although it does not embody the Christ, it does represent him. In prayer, one must meditate on something. It makes a great deal of sense to focus on a cross rather than to stare idly off into space, or focus on something internally.

In the oft quoted passage, the Bible tells us that "God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who so ever believed in him, may not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) The Christian is well aware that he cannot thank God enough for his gift of eternal life, but God deserves thanks for something else, too. In sending his son as a man, he has allowed for us to further our understanding of him.

He is compassionate to the point, not only of giving up his life for us, but even to take on the miserable existence we share. It is difficult to determine which is the grander sacrifice.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Lode 10-19 II

In last week's column, my colleague Ray Molzon argued that the problems with our judicial branch are overshadowed by the problems with the other two branches. While I would agree with him that the legislative and executive branches are less than perfect, judicial activism is actually, to use his term, at a crisis stage.

In a Republic such as ours, we the people have the ability to vote for legislators as well as the President. Thus, if the legislative and executive branches are not acting in accordance with our wishes, the blame lies squarely on our own shoulders and that of our fellow citizens. If, by his estimation, Bush and the Republican Congress are running the government into the ground, I encourage Molzon to vote them out of power. The beauty of a democratic system is that our representatives are accountable to the voting populace.

This same luxury does not apply to the judicial branch, and this is precisely why judicial activism is so troubling. It is literally impossible for the citizens to rein in an irresponsible court. There have been plenty of preposterous cases of judges legislating from the bench in in the last fifty years. In the interest of space, I will cite just three.

Firstly, in Roe v. Wade the court determined that there was a Constitutional right to privacy giving women the ability to terminate pregnancies, even though the Constitution mentions neither abortion nor privacy. Interestingly enough though it does regulate things not mentioned—like abortion—to the states and the people. So before pro-choicers jump right down my throat something must be asked. How would you have felt if the court had deemed abortion to be unconstitutional? The question is, of course, rhetorical, and abortion should again be decided by the people via the states just like it was pre-Roe, just like the Constitution demands.

Secondly, in Gonzales v. Raich a California law allowing the use of medicinal marijuana was overturned by the court. Evidently that same “right to privacy” does not apply in this case. Ironically, it was not the conservatives who were legislating from the bench against pot on this one. Instead it was liberal justices who see no problems with a living and breathing Constitution which may trump the will of the people at any moment. Those poor hippies are going to have a tough time deciding who to vote for next election.

Most recently, in Kelo v. City of New London, the court has determined that the government may confiscate privately held land if it can be used for promote “economic development”. Evidently the right to property guaranteed by the fifth amendment can be ignored when deemed convenient. This doesn't come as a surprise to someone like myself who actually fears the high court, but it was again the liberal justices who decided to expunge the most basic right in our economic system.

With nine un-elected officials writing the law of the land on abortion, doing away with basic property rights and overturning a state law that allows people to toke up before croaking—all without any consent of the people—one has to wonder how it is possible not to be concerned with the Supreme Court.

Don't get me wrong, most of the folks in Washington seem to be doing a grand job of making a mess of our affairs. Yet our ability to replace the legislature and the President is reason enough fear of the judiciary trumps other beltway concerns. To focus on Bush and Congress at the expense of the judiciary is to make a grave mistake.

Lode 10-19

This one is a bit of a joke. Still, I had a great deal of fun with it. Just don't take it too seriously.

JFK once noted, “Dante said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.” A moral crisis that tugs inexorably at men's hearts is here and it takes the form of little pieces of copper-coated steel. For those of you who do not follow the news or happen to be unemployed, I am speaking of the penny.

The biggest threat to freedom is not the terrorists; it is not even the Patriot Act. It is the worthless unit of currency we stubbornly cling to under the guise of tradition. It is high time the penny meets the same fate as its evil twin of the last century, slavery, and is abolished.

Now that I have your attention, I wish to clarify something. The analogy just used was of course a huge stretch. So kindly put down the lighter and refrain from issuing me death threats.

Every one of my readers—all three of them left—is ticked that I have wasted their precious time, to say nothing at making light of serious crimes against human beings perpetuated by our ancestors. Yet is not the penny an equal waste of time? In fact, any cashier will rehash horror stories of customers who have bought things exclusively with pennies.

Penny apologists will chide that without the penny we will have to use the nickel and everything will have to priced in increments of five cents. These same fools opposed the good riddance the British showed the halfpenny over two decades ago.

All those who value their time in any manner must at once spring for the abolishment of the penny. When it comes right down to it, time is all we have on this earth, and I'd rather not waste mine digging for a pittance on a candy bar.

But then this is just my two... err... five cents.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Christianity and Consumerism

Troutsky had this to say in regards to Al Gore's speech:

I think he may have some valid points concerning an expanded media and a rejuvinated democracy but it may have to be the next generation that learns they
dont have to buy something just because the ad told them to.

It comes as no big surprise that I am not a fan of consumerism. The fact that I am also pro-capitalism, if not gung-ho a la Ayn Rand, provides an interesting paradox, if not outright contradiction. My reasoning for capitalism is that there is no other tenable economic systems that protect against tyranny resigns me to the current system. Then again we've got a plutocracy to contend with now, so maybe it's a toss-up.

Anyway, while we can have disagreements about the economic system until the proverbial cows come home, consumerism is a bigger and more tackleable problem. It seems to me that Christianity offers a very good philosophy to avoid the pitfalls of consumerism. Of course if one looks at America, which is, supposedly, a nation of Christians, my point may seems to be invalid.

The reality is that there are many bad Christians, and I would have to say that many times I fall into the group. Yet the philosophy remains sound. Christ puts it nicely in Matthew, chapter 6 verses 19-21:

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.

Assuming this advice is followed, consumerism has no hold on the Christian's heart.

To Troutsky, and others: what is another buffer against consumerism, for someone who may not be Christian? How can this plan be implemented since, clearly, Christianity does not appear to be taken to heart?

Your replies are much appreciated.

Conservative Activism

It is no secret that the right has been up in arms over the Miers nomination. There is a good reason for the indignation, yet this reason needs to be clearly laid down.

Miers may turn out to be a moderate, or even a liberal judge. The truth is, we just don't know what she will do--assuming she is even confirmed. Drudge's latest headline sensationally paints Miers as a controversial candidate, but the actual article is actually pretty dull.

Q. . . . . In your capacity as an at-large member do you think being involved in such organizations might assist you in having a perspective that – bring a perspective to your job that you don’t have?

A. I attend meetings designed to give me that input. However, I have tried to avoid memberships in organization s that were politically charged with one viewpoint or the other. For example, I wouldn’t belong to the Federalist Society any more than – I just feel like it’s better to not be involved in organizations that seem to color your view one way or the other for people who are examining you. I did join the Progressive Voters League here in Dallas during the campaign as part of the campaign.

Hardly something to be afraid of, save for one thing. It is not just that conservatives are by definition cautious, and skepticism is, supposedly, a staple of the idealogy. Quite simply, conservatives need to be honest.

In an ideal world, it would be great if the judges could lay off, abide by the constitution and simple let the states run things as the founders intended. Needless to say this world is far from perfect. Thus any realistic conservative--and isn't realism the only defense of conservatism?--should want, not just a non-activist judge, but one who, if activist does so conservatively.

This is a curious one and must be clarified. Strictly speaking, the conservative approach to making decisions would be a hands-off approach, giving power to the states. Yet if the high court is going to come down on the abortion issue--to use an example--it is no secret which side the conservatives will align themselves with.

The right should say what it wants, and Bush should give it to them. Miers is a silly distraction, and should not be confirmed. Chances are, she won't, but it remains to be seen just how pro-life Bush is and whether or not he shares his bases position on activism, which appears to be defined solely in the eyes of the beholder.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Lode 10-12

Sometimes I draw the short end in point-counter-point. Here's my column anyway.

In recent news, the Senate passed a Pentagon appropriations bill by a vote of 90-9, but it wasn't the 440 billion dollar spending package that caught the evil eye from Bush. Instead, it was an amendment which banned “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment of prisoners.

Bush's White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, defended the proposed veto by reasoning that the amendment “would limit the President’s ability as commander-in-chief to effectively carry out the war on terrorism.” Though the reasoning is slightly lacking, banning torture is nothing more than good intentions, falling several steps short of practicality.

After all, war is hell. Every veteran who has seen a fight will say this phrase with a reverence that ensures the listener that the phrase somehow does war an injustice. Banning torture in war seems a bit like trying to take bath without getting wet. It is okay to bomb a soldier's headquarters, but give him less than three square meals a day and that is a torture we must be rid of.

Let us assume for the sake of the argument that the Iraq War is necessary, something it is not. Under this presumption, if in any way torture helps us achieve the end of this war while minimizing U.S. casualties, if the only negative effect of torture is a couple of angry ACLU lawyers and a sad terrorist, I've got no sympathy.

When we do decide a war is necessary, we should fight it furiously with the intent of obtaining our objective and minimizing U.S. casualties. As General George S. Patton—who knew a thing or two about war—once said, “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”

The truth is cold and brutal, but to say otherwise is folly.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Why Kerry Lost

I typed this up for a friend, and I figured my readers may appreciate it... maybe.

There are several reasons why John Kerry lost the presidential election in 2004, not the least of which, was of course, that he got less votes in the prestigious electoral college. The biggest problem with Kerry was that he had no admirable qualities, no outstanding qualifications, no exemplary tributes save one: he was not Bush.

There are very few people who agree with everything Bush has done, and all of them are unabashed political hacks who would vote Republican if he reinstates slavery. I am being slightly facetious of course, but there is very little Bush could do that he has not already done to upset the party loyalists.

But the loyalists do not comprise a majority of the voting electorate. There are always swing voters in any election, and 2004 was no exception. Kerry failed to win over enough of these moderates—obviously—and he lost. Why though? Bush was certainly not a strong candidate. There are two issues which are particularily telling in regards to a national election, namely war and economy. The economy was rolling steadily along, though certainly not booming, and the war had begun to sour. Bush was ripe for a defeat.

Unfortunately, Bush could not be attacked on either front. The economy was not bad enough that blaming Bush would be an effective tactic. Though cliché, September 11th should have wrecked the economy, and Bush deserves, at the very least, credit for keeping the wheels of the nation turning.

On the war, where he was vulnerable, Kerry could not strike a blow. There were many who called Kerry a “flip-flopper”, but I did not think then, nor do I now, that that is fair. A flip-flopper is someone who changes positions, and it is true, that in a sense, Kerry changed positions, but it is a sort of false change. He never committed to a side enough to enrage that side when he betrayed it. The man was quite literally a second-rate mercenary.

This was unavoidable though. If Kerry came down against the war, the American public would have reason to wonder why he did not oppose funding the war. If this war was so abomidable, as Kerry and the democrats said from time to time, why then was there so little vocal opposition at war's start? It's true that members of the rank and file marched in the streets, but opposition to Bush in Washington was almost non-existent. The votes of his party came back to haunt him, preventing Kerry from enacting a legitimate anti-war defense.

That left Kerry tepidly supporting the whole of Bush's war on terror. Yet he offered no reason he could win the war, aside from high-minded platitudes. Sure, he talked about getting the U.N. involved, but that was nothing if not confusing. If the war was immoral, or, at best, a necessary evil, why would we bring countries over to fight along side us?

The just of it, is this: Kerry was not deemed to be an effective leader by the people he depended on for his job, that is, the American people. We would, apparently, rather follow Bush, even if it were off a cliff than stick with Kerry, masquerading hither and thither. Confidence, even cockiness is a very American thing, and Kerry forgot this. Perhaps it is regretable that a cautious leader—say, like Lincoln—could not govern the land today. Yet as a poltician, it is his job to gauge the political landscape and place his bet. And in a very real sense, Kerry never placed his bet at all. The rest is, as they say, history.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Al Gore

Al Gore recently had some things to say about democracy in America. The speech is well-worth reading. He's not right about everything, but it is rare to find myself agreeing with Mr. Gore as often as in his latest speech.

Turn off the TV. Any further commentary on my part diminishes the fine points he makes.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Lode 10-5 II

This week, Bush nominated White House counsel Harriet Miers to replace the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor as justice of the Supreme Court. Though little is known about her judicial philosophy, there are certain things about Miers that should raise red flags, especially to conservatives.

Firstly, Miers has never been a judge. Having never issued a decision, this makes it terribly difficult to predict how she will vote when and if she is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. In and of itself, it is not problematic that she has no judicial experience. Rehnquist had not been a judge before he became a Supreme Court justice, and, from a conservative perspective, he turned out to be a stellar selection. However, just because it turned out well with Rehnquist does not mean that Miers will be an equally sound pick. In fact, most wild-card candidates—Souter, O'Connor, Warren, just to name a few—have turned out to be moderates at best and disastrous for the Republican party.

Precedence alone demands that the prudent conservative react cautiously to Bush's appointee. Further, there is more troublesome news that should make the right—specifically the religious right—flinch. It seems that when she was running for the Dallas City Council in 1989, Miers, expressed full support for civil rights for gays and lesbians. Strictly speaking, her stance on gay rights is of no concern to anyone. However, if her personal viewpoint corrupts her interpretation of the law, her personal views becomes important.

To the religious right there are two very important issues, and taking the wrong stance on either of these is an unpardonable sin. These issues are, of course, abortion and gay marriage. Miers is on record as committing the unpardonable sin.

As an attempt to sell Miers to the base, the administration has spouted off platitudes about how much of a constitutionalist Miers is. This may be so, but there is

no proof she will judge with a conservative mentality. Add this to the fact that she supports gay rights and that she is at best moderately opposed to abortion; conservatives have a good reason to remain skeptical.

Quite simply, George Bush has betrayed his loyal base. With control of the Senate, Bush should have had no problem nominating a genuinely conservative justice, one who passes the litmus test of the religious right. Bush has forgone another opportunity to reshape the court in a conservative fashion, opting instead for a supposedly easy confirmation in the Senate.

Compromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a loaf is better than a whole loaf,” wrote G. K. Chesterton. It goes almost without saying that Miers is half a loaf. Conservatives can only hope that the Senate rejects her. Maybe next time around Bush will adequately feed his followers.

Lode 10/5

It is no secret that there is a priest shortage, especially here in the United States. Equally well known, and more embarrassing to the Church, is the scandal surrounding pedophilic priests. As a gut reaction to these problems, certain people—even those within the church—are pining for reform, specifcally the ordination of female priests and an end to priestly celibacy.

The Catholic G. K. Chesterton once said, “The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.” It is clear that the Church needs more shepherds for her flock, and some of the current shepherds are very bad at herding sheep. But, allowing priests to marry and women to join the priestly ranks isn't going to fix the problem; it will, in fact, make things worse.

The Church is constantly told that it needs to get with the times—as if Truth itself were not timeless. The Church has not lasted these many years because she bows to the whims of the world, but precisely because she does not. When Christ founded the Church on Simon, himself a man, he changed his name to Peter—meaning rock—for a very important reason. The Church was founded on a rock and has remained rock-like for almost two millenia.

The shortage of Catholic priests is not due to people dismissing the Church for being too steady. It is from people dismissing her as too volatile. The most conservative dioceses have had the most vocations to the priesthood, and it is not hard to see why. The beauty of the Roman Catholic Church is that she does not move with the world, but stands anchored to the Truth upon which she was founded, that is, on Christ. It is only through a reaffirmation of her standing in the world, or rather, apart from the world, that the priest shortage will be solved.