Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A TREND I'D LIKE TO SEE STOP
One of the tings that always bugged me about Clinton was how whenever he signed a somewhat controversial bill, he would surround himself with the most sympathetic beneficiaries of that bill. So, if he were to sign a bill limiting appeals for death row inmates, he might surround himself with the families of murder victims. If he were to veto it, he might surround himself with people whose murder convictions were later reversed. The message was, "You can oppose me if you want, but then you'd also be opposing these poor people here, and you wouldn't want to do that, would you?"

It seems that Bush has taken this tactic to the next level, by doing his "address to the nation" from a military base surrounded by soldiers. The implicit message is, "If you oppose what I'm saying here, you're opposing these great men and women who are working hard and risking their lives." And I think it stinks.

I wish presidents would let their words speak for themselves, rather than feel the need to draw capital from good people.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

ON THE CCD EXPULSIONS
As a PSR teacher, I can say that very few things are as frustrating as teaching lessons to kids when you know those lessons aren't being reinforced at home. This is especially frustrating teaching 7th and 8th grade, which is the end of the line in PSR, knowing that it might be the end of the line for these kids. And it's not fair to the kids and parent who are interested in learning, and do reinforce the messages. We have to speak at a "lowest common denominator" level, which isn't going to be that exciting to kids who know this stuff. So, I can understand the sentiment behind the policies.

Still, I find this troubling (and like many commentators, I'm confident this policy was enacted as a last resort). The main thing is the discussion of parish boundaries -- from what I've read about people, the parish boundaries aren't about binding individuals to attend a certain parish as they are about binding the parish to minister to the people in that area. And it's hard for me to see how simply kicking the kids out of CCD is fulfilling that obligation.

True, parents made a promise at their children's baptism to be the "First Teachers" of the faith. One hour a week of catechism class isn't supposed to be the sum total of a child's religious education. Very true, very true. But just because a situation doesn't conform to the ideal doesn't mean we abandon them. We don't stop ministering to a single parent family just because their situation is ideal. We don't refrain from feeding a hungry child because she should really be fed by her parents. It seems to me in those situations, we should be doing more, not less.

Maybe, these children should be "tracked" into a CCD class held on Sunday morning that includes attendance at Mass. It would take more work by the parish, and I'm sure the parents would complain, but it seems like this would be an approach more consistent with the parish's mission. (Again, maybe this was tried and failed; I don't know).

Just my $0.02; I could be wrong.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

WHAT SACRIFICE
I think lot of the rhetoric about how this is a war being fought only by the poor and wealthy is overcharged.

But I'm getting increasingly annoyed reading blogs by commentators who in one post scream how "This is war, damnit!!!" and while it golly sure would be nice if we could fluff these detainees' pillows and read them night-night stories, the fate of our nation and my cute daughter is at stake, so everyone needs to put aside their moral objections and be OK with us kicking a few detainees. Then in the next post, talk about the shipment of DVD's that just arrived at their house, or complain about some very minor irritation compared to being shackled to the floor in your own filth, or display pictures of their vacation taken with their brand new digital camera.

Am I wrong to detect a bit of dissonance here? Now, it would not be a simple matter to translate fewer DVD purchases into a more effective war on terror. Nevertheless, it seems strange to me that our moral principles, our commitment to civil rights, must be the first thing many of us will sacrifice for the war effort. And that this sacrifice is borne mostly by those who aren't so sure these military options are such a great idea.

I'm just not inclined to respond favorably to requests that I set aside my moral principles by people who are not making any apparent sacrifice themselves.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY
Can you imagine a stroy like this running the opposite way running on Mother's Day? Nope. I can't.

I've said this before -- it's a great message we send to young men. We want you to be dedicated fathers and husbands, but if you do, you have to remember that you will always be in second place, even on the day set aside for you, and be given a guilt trip for the generations of me that go before you.

And then we wonder why we have a problem of absent fathers in this country.

Monday, June 20, 2005

NOTE TO JAMES LIKEKS
Just because some liberal critics get overblown and compare Guantanomo to the Soviet gulags, or Nazi concentration camps, or Saddam's prisons, does not make "not as bad as the gulags" or "not as bad as Nazi concentration camps," or "not as bad as Saddam's prisons" the new moral standard for how prisoners are treated.

Cherry-picking some passages...


There was just something ineffably sinister about a detention camp. Never mind that the people sent there were “Unlawful combatants,” a phrase that would seem to bestow, well, a lack of adherence to the very notions of international law the Gitmo-detainee advocates hold dear.


The problem with this designation is that it's a tad tautoological. Who's "illegal?" Whoever we say is.


nyway. Here’s the deal. We decide what constitutes torture, and identify it as the following: insufficient air conditioning, excess air conditioning, sleep deprivation, being chained to the floor, and other forms of psychological stress. The United States is free to use these techniques against hardened terrorists. Those who disagree with the techniques sign a register that records their complaints. When the terrorist finally spills the details of a forthcoming attack, on, say, Chicago, the people who signed the register and live in Chicago are required to report to the Disintegration Chamber. Very simple. Everyone’s happy.


Huh? So, the deal is that the US gets to use these techniques, and we get to die if they work? What, pray tell, is the consequence if thse techiniques are applied to someone who is not a actually a "hardened terrorist?" (there's another one of those tautological terms again). What are the consequences if using these techniques turns more law-abiding citizens into "hardened terrorists?" What if one of these "hardened terrorists", desperate to end this hostile treatment, gives false or misleading information, wasting the US's time and resources?

If I were a proponenet of the Iraq war, I'd excercise a little bit more humility before expecting people to take my claims of who is a hardened terrorist, and "When the terrorists finally spills the details..." at face value. Maybe we should find Saddam's WMD's first before spelling out what your critics should do when your next claim turns out to be true.

Oh, that's right...

Friday, June 17, 2005

NBA FINALS THOUGHTS

  • I wish Al Michaels would spend less time trying to convince me why I should be excited about the series, and more time actually being excited. Is it too late to bring in Marv Albert?
  • There must really be a dearth of interesting stories on the Pistons. Last night's supposedly heart-rendering tale about the Pitons' 12th man was quite thin indeed. And before that, we got the same, "Rip Hamilton's from working-class Coatesville, PA, and he hasn't forgotten it, which might explain why he plays with such relentless energy" story we got 10 times last year.
  • Did anyone else barf when Stuart Scott remarked how Larry Brown "always puts family first" because he interrupted an interview with him to chit-chat with David Robinson? Isn't this the same Brown who has worked in 10 different cities in the last 25 years, and is contemplating another move? How is that putting his family first?
  • Ok, if you're Hubie Brown, you just finished coaching, and you're back doing TV analysis for the first time in a few years. You want to make a good impression, and show that you still know what you are doing, so you do all of your analysis in the second person. (Yes, stolen from Bill Simmons, but it's hard to think of anyone who talks that way so consistently.
  • Interesting story about Robert Horry in Slate today, even though it follows the Sports Nut formula of telling sports fans they're stupid to get excited about something. But one point is that it's hard to think of a someone being labeled a "goat" in basketball for missing a shot, or even for making a stupid coaching decision. Nick Anderson is the only one that springs to mind. Baseball and football are full of them -- Bill Buckner, Scott Norwood, Donnie Moore, Mitch Williams, Grady Little, Eugene Robinson, etc. But if you brick a game-winning shot in basketball, everyone just shrugs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

SEARCHING FOR MIDDLE GROUND
There's got to be some middle ground between James (if it's not as bad as what the terrorists do, then it's OK) Lileks, and Sylvester (if liberal groups are complaining, then it must be a dark time in history) Brown, Jr.

As for Lileks, here's a typical barb...

This is how articles are written, conventional wisdom chopped pressed and formed: the techniques Rumsfeld Â?balked atÂ? Â? meaning, I assume, did not permit Â? did not include actual suffocation, but the use of a wet towel that would induce the misperception of an emanation of a penumbra of suffocation. NEVERTHELESS. Key word, that. Lines crossed not in fact but in spirit. He balked at fake suffocation, aye; NEVERTHELESS the climate of pain and retribution did not forbid men from freely dumping bottles of Dasani on the heads of the detainees. Why, it was a game to the interrogators. Â?Drink Water or Wear it.Â? Spiritually, itÂ?s a first cousin to SaddamÂ?s game, Â?Use Tongue Then Lose It.Â?


Is that the standard now? If Saddam did something demonstrably worse, then it must be OK for us to do it?

Sorry, if you're looking to defend the policies and actions of the US, you're going to need a better measuring stick than Saddam Hussein.

Lileks wants to have his cake and eat it to. He wants to paint Saddam and others as depraved and unquely evil, justifying merciless tactics, and at the same time use them as a standard by which to measure our own action. No sale.

And then, just when I'm ready to cast my lot with the anti-war croidiocy see idocy like this...


Under former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, the FBI was given sweeping new "domestic spying" powers that allow agents to monitor political gatherings, Internet sites, chat rooms, libraries and churches without evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The ACLU has documented and challenged thousands of cases, including those in Missouri, where it says the new rules infringe on civil liberties and attempt to silence dissent.

The FBI's covert actions against American citizens in the past were fueled by paranoia. We've been here before. Hopefully, when talking with my grandchild, it'll be a discussion about another long-gone era when America went nuts.


Now, it's the ACLU's job to challenge very case, push every boundary, and complain about everything. That doesn't make them bad, but it also means that it would be incorrect to use complaints by the ACLU as a basis for concluding that we're living in dark, "nuts" time in history. Was there a time when the ACLU wasn't complaining about something?

This passage is telling...


Jones' office e-mailed me information about some of the local people involved in the lawsuit. The stories are disconcerting. Familiar names from local faith-based and political organizations and environmental groups fill the pages. There are tales of mysterious white vans following activists, police and FBI infiltration, strip searches and illegal confiscation of personal property


This looks like just plain lazy reporting to me. Basing a column of an e-mail form a source with an axe to grind, taking all allegations at face values, not investigating the other side of the story. And it makes him an easy target for someone like Lileks, who can demonstrate that Brown's rhetoric is out of perspective, thus we don't need to be concerned about torture.

Is there a middle ground. Aren't there people who are a bit troubled by the actions of the government, but don't think that means that we're no better then Nazi Germany?

Friday, June 10, 2005

COMMON GROUND ON THE DEATH PENALTY
I think that cops should be allowed (even encouraged) to shoot murder suspects on sight. If those opposed to capital punishment are really interested in reducing the number of executions, then they should get behind this initiative. If they fail to, it will demonstrate that they're just basking in their own righteousness, and don't care all that much about reducing the number of executions.
MORE ON THE PROBLEM
William Saletan almost gets it. He recognizes that the million abortions a year are a moral tragedy. He sees a lot of the pro-choice rhetoric as the bunk that it is. But he just can't make the leap...
Then Keenan's communications director, David Seldin, leans in with a better answer. "Responsibility isn't something that's enforced by politicians," he says. "It's personal."

Now you're talking. For the first time, I'm hearing my reason for keeping abortion legal. I've always agreed with pro-choicers that the government is incompetent to regulate abortion. But I've never liked their aversion to moral judgments. If they'd just admit that abortion's legality doesn't make it right, or that some women take it too lightly, or that every abortion is tragic, I'd be so relieved. "Responsibility" gives me something to hold on to. It reassures me that the moral substance of life, which ought to take place in the personal and family spaces where government has no wisdom, really is taking place thereÂ?or at least that pro-choicers think it should. It's much easier to say no to legislation when conscience, not complacency, is the alternative.


Whew -- That was close -- Saletan almost had to align himself with the likes of Tom DeLay. But now he's got this responsibilityy" straw to grasp, so he can pretend to recognize the horror of abortion while maintaining his pro-choice views.

This is I think our main problem -- people don't like abortion, but they like pro-lifers even less. So they grasp at straws and come up with any excuse they can to maintain a pro-choice view in the face of this Truth. And nothing gets done.

I'm not sure what it would take to turn these folks around. Surely, the media is complicit by portraying most pro-lifers as rabid mouth-breathing extremists, but blaming the media isn't going to do it. Any ideas?

Friday, June 03, 2005

JUUUUST CURIOUS
What would be the reaction if it were Mel Gibson, coming from his Traditional Catholicism, rather than Tom Cruise, coming from Scientology, who said something like:

"When you talk about postpartum, you can take people today, women, and what you do is you use vitamins. There is a hormonal thing that is going on, scientifically, you can prove that. But when you talk about emotional, chemical imbalances in people, there is no science behind that," the actor told Access Hollywood.

"When someone says [medication] has helped them, it is to cope, it didn't cure anything. There is no science. There is nothing that can cure them whatsoever," Cruise said.

But Scientologists don't oppose abortion or contraception, so this type of misogyny and insensitivity is OK.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

ONE MORE THING
Remember all those folks who were so deeply concerned that the Palm Sunday legislation establishing federal jurisdiction over the Terri Schiavo case was the end of federalism and the separation of powers? And wondered how Congress could pass legislation that would only be applied to one person?

Well, where are these folks now when COngress passes legislation funding a very specific form of medical research, in direct vonflict with a standing executive order?

UPDATE: I should add the "mere cluster of cells" argument makes having special legislation about using it for research even more specious. If there's nothing special about the embryo, what's all the fuss over?
HMMM
Via HMS blog, one thing that bugs me about Kathryn Jean Lopez's commentary on NRO is that she seems to be a conservative first and Catholic second. Thus, she stresses the importance of electing a Republican pro-life incumbent over a Democratic pro-life challenger.

I'll use my energies in promoting pro-life candidates over pro-choice ones. (Even thought that doesn't seem to get us anywhere.
AFFORDABLE FAMILY FORMATION
I'm late to this (I have a good reason), but this article that seeks to explain the GOP's success in red states only gets half the picture.

The article states that the success is due to Republican policy's that make it more affordable to buy a house and raise a family. It discounts "values issues," and proposes tighter immigration policies as what the GOP should take to ensure its future.

But that's only part of it. There's more that makes it difficult to raise a family than just the monetary cost. If the public school is handing out condoms everyday, doesn't that make it more difficult to raise a child with more traditional sexual values? Or if abortion is universally celebrated as a "right"? Or if marriage laws say that same sex couples are the same as their parents' relationship?

There's more to life than pocketbooks.