Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Want to See This Film

Nestled deep in the postcard-perfect French Alps, the Grande Chartreuse is considered one of the world's most ascetic monasteries. In 1984, German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they were ready. Gröning, sans crew or artificial lighting, lived in the monks' quarters for six months—filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. This transcendent, closely observed film seeks to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one—it has no score, no voiceover and no archival footage.

Monday, October 27, 2008

What are the Moral Obligations of the Pro-Life Voter?

What are the Moral Obligations of the Pro-Life Voter?

The purpose of this essay is not to explain or justify a Pro-Life position but rather, to deal with the political and moral responsibilities of the Pro-Life citizen. I am a believing Catholic, I accept the whole of Catholic moral teaching, I am not only opposed to the Culture of Death in all its manifestations but I specifically oppose abortion. The question that I am dealing with here is what, as a Pro-Life voter, are my political options?

Can we get rid of abortion?

Americans overwhelmingly favor legal access to abortion.
Perhaps as many as two-thirds, but certainly more than 60%, of Americans believe that abortion is a private matter and that discretionary abortion should be available to women in the first trimester. Not only are these numbers are simply insurmountable, but they have not changed in thirty years! The idea that a Pro-Life government could be elected, much less impose a ban on abortion, is naïve at best.

Support of abortion rights is cultural and a culture cannot be changed by government fiat.
Since the advent of reliable contraception in the early 1960’s, women have come to expect that they will no longer have to plan their lives around pregnancy. They can delay marriage, take lovers, space their children as they please, pursue careers — all in complete disregard to the fertility that constrained the choices of previous generations. Most women, especially educated women, are not about to resume older modes of life. They expect — they demand — high-powered careers, exciting sex, and conveniently planned pregnancies. No amount of reasoning, moral or spiritual, will affect their essentially materialistic world-view. Similarly, the effects of medical developments, popular entertainments, and secular education cannot be reversed by government dictate. These ideas are fostered by the content of movies, books, academic curriculum, news reportage and everyday conversation. They cannot be fought at the ballot box.

A woman’s “right to choose” enjoys constitutional protection.
Whether or not you believe Roe v. Wade is good law, the fact is neither this nor any other Court is going to overturn it. The Court that ruled on Roe v. Wade was largely composed of Republican appointees, and newer Republican appointees (made by the supposedly Pro-Life Reagan and Bush) have shown no willingness to tamper with this decision.

Only a constitutional amendment can overturn Roe v. Wade.
No realistic effort exists to introduce, much less ratify, a constitutional amendment. Today, the legal situation is so nearly frozen that only nuisance laws can be passed and upheld. Laws that actually limit abortion are routinely struck down. I doubt that any law, passed at any level of government during the last thirty years, has actually prevented a single determined woman from obtaining an abortion.

Why have the Republicans
done nothing?

Where is the legislative effort?
Not only have the Republicans failed to start the process of amending the Constitution, but they have limited their efforts to banning a particular method of third-trimester abortion (“partial birth”) that would have left dozens of other methods available.

Why has impeachment not been tried?
Our Constitution provides Congress with the means to redress judicial malfeasance: impeachment. If, as is so often claimed, the Republican party thinks that Roe v. Wade constitutes a miscarriage of justice, then we must ask: Where is the Republican-led effort to impeach those justices “legislating from the bench”? The G.O.P. moved quickly to impeach a recent President over a tawdry dalliance with an ambitious tart, yet thirty years have passed without an effort to impose constitutional discipline on the High Court.

Only by perpetuating abortion as an issue can the Republicans hold captive a block of voters who find this practice abhorrent.
Certainly, some Republicans sincerely believe abortion is a crime, have done all they can to combat this evil, and do not court popularity with callous disregard to the sanctity of life. But the party as a whole has been calculating and manipulating the Pro-Life voter. By perpetuating the notion that this issue is in play, the Republicans have held Pro-Life votes captive for thirty years.

What are my duties as a citizen?

To function properly, a democratic government must respond to the will of the people.
If a sizeable block of voters take themselves “out of play” over one issue, then the government will simply stop responding to them. While some issues are dead (for example: prohibition, the gold standard, segregation) others are alive and being decided in the halls of government. A responsible citizen does not cast a “dead vote” based on issues that are off-the-table, but instead actively participates in the issues of the day. Tax policy, the environment, peace and war are all issues that change — and change dramatically — depending on the party in power. A vote for or against NAFTA, for or against school vouchers, or for or against increased environmental protections might actually affect these pressing issues. But a vote for prohibition, for the gold standard, for segregation — or against abortion — is simply wasted! I know cloistered monks who read the newspapers and vote according to the actual state of the world. Why then should secular citizens act like ostriches with their heads buried in a dead issue?

What should the Pro-Life citizen
when voting?

•An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that some forms of abortion should remain legal. Unless and until these attitudes change, an anti-abortion vote is a futile gesture at best!

•As the courts now hold abortion to be a constitutional right, only amendment or impeachment can serve as remedies.
And, as Congress controls both of these processes, abortion is irrelevant to the office of President and to any state or local office. Choosing a presidential candidate based on the his abortion stance is simply nonsensical.

•The Republican party has done nothing to actually reduce or eliminate abortion and we should not expect a change of course at this late date.
A vote for Republicans on the strength of this issue is a vote for mere lip-service.

What should all responsible citizens consider when voting?

•Since 1972, wages have fallen dramatically
by at least 15% (though perhaps as much as 30%). Family income has risen only because the number of hours worked has risen, typically because married women have been obliged to work. The policies that caused this constitute an assault on the working classes, something unjustifiable to a Christian morality that holds it a sin to defraud the working man of his wages.

•Since 1980, the tax burden has been shifted from the wealthiest, to the 60% of Americans in the middle, both by the drastic reduction of tax rates on the very rich and by an increased reliance on payroll taxes. This, too, constitutes an assault on the average working citizen, as there is no link between low marginal tax rates and economic growth.

•We are engaged in an immoral war.
Iraq had no ties to Al Quida and no weapons of mass destruction, yet we were given these reasons, whether through deceit or ignorance, as a justification for war. This war has been condemned by the Pope, the United Nations, and most of the nations that we once considered our closest allies. We are hemorrhaging both blood and money, our civil liberties are being eroded, and all decent Americans are ashamed of what happened at Abu Ghraib. A vote against this war might actually save lives.

• Global warming is real.
Ask any scientist — geologist, botanist, or even ichthyologist — and, if he doesn’t work for an oil company or conservative think tank, he will tell you that global warming is a clear and growing danger. A vote against this and other forms of environmental degradation is a vote for all the babies born today.

• The death penalty is a live issue.
The Pope is against it (albeit, not dogmatically) and the record of false conviction is disquieting. Make up your own mind and your vote just might affect things.

• The bottom has fallen out of the minimum wage.
If we adjust the minimum wage of the mid-1960’s for inflation, it works out to about $11— an hour! What percentage of American workers are making even this figure, much less a real family wage?

• Our manufacturing base is gutted. Our manufacturing capability is down about 35% since 1980, our primary steel industry is virtually gone, and we no longer produce such American-invented products as microwave ovens, tube-socks, and superheterodynes.

• Other life issues actually are in play.
Stem-cell research, cloning, euthanasia — these issues are going to be decided in the next several years, but Pro-Life voters will not influence the debate if they are still captive to the issue of abortion.

• Our health-care system is inequitable, costly, and inefficient.
Health-care expenditures in all other industrialized nation are lower while life expectancies are higher. Insurance premiums and Medicare taxes are going up, while doctors’ salaries are going down, yet genuine reform is nowhere in sight.

• The economics of abortion.
Many abortions are had by women who feel they “can’t afford the baby.” Such a thing was inconceivable when a typical workingman’s wage allowed him to keep his wife at home with their kids. We can probably do more to save innocent life by restoring the income of workers to a viable “family wage” than by pursuing the forlorn hope of a ban on abortion.

• We must reclaim our political system.
Current polls show that 80% of Americans favor drastic reform of our health-care system, 70% of Americans believe that immigration should be reduced, and at least 60% of Americans oppose GATT and NAFTA, yet neither party supports these positions. We will not compel action on any of these problems as long as we are captive to a moribund issue.

Think and Vote!

Compromise or Chäos — a reply to my friend Rob

If we are living in the world, the question is never are we going to compromise or are we going to remain pure. The question is always how much are we going to compromise. Ideally, if we had perfect discernment, we would know exactly how much to compromise to get as much of what we want as we can, but I haven’t perfect discernment, I only have opinion.

I am certain that you yourself have already compromised, possibly without thinking about it.

The Pill is well known as an abortifacient, you know that and I know that, but no one in this day and age is talking about banning hormonal contraceptives. Even Evangelical Christians, who are with us on the abortion issue, are against us on this one. And so I am sure you don’t even bother asking if a candidate favors banning the pill. I in fact recall, hearing Alan Keyes mention on a radio show here in Chicago, back when he was running for Senator, that he favored Natural Family Planning and thought it should be taught in the schools. Yet even he, whose pro-life credentials are among the best, made no mention of banning the Pill.

Similarly, we are both aware that fertilized embryos are routinely destroyed, discarded, or turned over to medical research because they have been harvested but not used for In Vitro Fertilizations. Think you can ban I.V.F.? It is way too popular and most people don’t even think of these embryos as babies.

If you would only vote for a candidate who was truly pro-life, and opposed the Pill, and the I.U.D. (which works by not allowing fertilized embryos to implant), and I.V.F. — would you have anyone to vote for?

I think not.

And this time around, are you voting for Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party? He promises that his presidency will end abortion. Or will you be voting for McCain, a waffler on the abortion issue.

You see — you have already compromised to what you know are political realities.

These are some political realities as I see them:

• Abortion isn’t going away.

We can cite polling figures from morning until night but at the end of the day they don’t count for anything. What does count is actual votes at the ballot box. And if South Dakota, one of the most conservative states in the union, rejects an anti-abortion measure by a large majority, then what makes you think that the rest of the country, which is far more liberal, would accept such a thing?

The political situation right now is that pro-aborts feel pretty secure in their position and only pro-lifers tend to be one-issue voters on that subject. Abortion has never really come before the American people as an up or down proposition and I fear you would be disillusioned if it did. Every so often we hear about how “young people are pro-life” but then this never translates into a pro-life vote ten years down the line. Why? Because it is very easy for a fourteen year old virgin living with her parents to adopt a hard-line pro-life position, but once she gets out in the world and has a few lovers, she decides that she’s not so eager to walk that tight-rope without a net. It is telling that, among women, only the very young and the post-menopausal (or those women who don’t “need” abortion) are pro-life. There is simply way too much self interest at play to get a working majority of Americans to agree to abolish abortion.

• It can’t get any worse.

America has just about the most liberal abortion laws in the world. Where else can you get a completely discretionary abortion in the ninth month? I like to shock my kids by pointing out that, five weeks after my Bean-Girl was born (she was premature), we could have legally aborted Pod-Man or Pumpkin who went full term. I show them photos of Bean-Girl asleep two weeks after she was born and point out that, were she still in the womb, we could have had her killed.

There’s really not much Obama could do to make things worse. FOCA only makes Roe v. Wade federal law, it’s completely redundant. Yes there are things he could do at the margins. He could reverse the Mexico City Policy and he could try to repeal the Hyde Amendment, but these are relatively minor. Most Federal employees, the Army and Navy, are already receiving tax-payer funded abortions and it is my understanding that the funding for abortion in the Third World that we do not provide is made up for with funds from Western Europe that would otherwise be going to digging wells and buying seed corn. Money is fungible, you know.

The Republican position on stem cell research and human cloning is not that they are against it,merely that they will spend no government money on the project. This is a crass calculation on their part that these are going to be very lucrative fields and they want their rich friends to cash in on it, not the taxpayer. [Just as their Medicaid prescription benefit was a huge give-away to the drug companies.] The Republicans are no more principled here than they are about anything else.

Lives will not be lost by a vote for Obama. I doubt if even a dozen more abortions will take place because of changes he puts through, yet I firmly believe that McCain’s warmongering will cost many, many lives. I believe the net gain is worth voting for.

• The Republicans have done nothing.

Why do you keep rewarding them for bad behavior? When will it be time to teach them a lesson?

Nine of the last eleven Supreme Court appointments were made by Republicans, and yet only two, Thomas and Scalia, are demonstratively pro-life.

More importantly: if I think they are lying, then why am I required to vote for them?

You have stated elsewhere that I am reluctant to mention Obama by name, and this is true. Because my message here is that the issue of abortion is not in play. I earnestly believe that no matter who we vote for the abortion issue is not going to change in the near-term. I am not trying to sway voters who favor Republican policies on the war, the economy, or any of the actual issues that are in play, to vote Democratic. I am merely point out that voting for the Republicans because you think they will do anything about abortion is a fool’s errand.

• Extremism leads to bifurcation and bad government

Back in 1952 and again in 1956 America had a choice between Adlai Stevenson and General Eisenhower. They were both decent, capable, patriotic Americans and either would have made an excellent president. They both spoke to the center, the differences between them were slight,they probably agreed on most principles and disagreed only in degree, in judgement, and in execution. And our democracy was much healthier for it.

Since then (and going into the why of this would take volumes) we have been splitting as a nation. Now we have two extremists running for office, campaigns are nasty, filled with lies,punctuated by dirty tricks. Our Supreme Court has been disgraced by its partisanship in the election of 2000.

I favor democracy, not because I believe that a majority of Americans define what is right and true, but because every dictatorship know to modern man has proven to be more repressive than any democracy. If we can’t make democracy work (as Weimar Germany, Republican Spain, or Kuomintang China couldn’t) then we are doomed to something worse.

And, democracy is the surest guarantee of religious liberty.

Compromise is the essence of the democratic process. A compromise on abortion would not only save lives, but it might just save our democracy.

Or, let’s put it this way: Stalin was pro-life; he banned all forms of abortion in the Soviet Union. Would you vote for him before Barak Obama?

• I am not like Biden or Pelosi.

I affirm the teachings of our Catholic Faith. Life begins at conception. It is a sin to destroy life. Neither Obama nor Biden represent my views on abortion. I have tried to instill in my children a horror of abortion. I have written frequently of my opposition to abortion and of my own experiences with it. I have gone to the protests, said the Rosaries, counseled my friends against it. By my efforts I have brought at least two people into the Church (both were radical feminists when I met them). I have done my best to toil in the Lord’s vineyard.

On election day I will be voting for peace and you for life, not because you don’t want peace, nor because I don’t want life, but because we both think we can get only the one and not the other.

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Answer to My Friend Rob

Recently, my buddy RobK wrote a reply to one of my posts:

Dutch, I notice that you like to compromise on this issue - and convince others to do the same.

The battle over life is the most fundamental human rights battle that we have ever faced as a people. Yet, you call those who are standing up and fighting the good fight "extremists." You have defended voting for the most extreme pro-abortion presidential candidate ever put forward. You suggest supporting a law that includes the notorious "health of the mother" exception is good enough. No one could accuse you of being an extremist on the right to life. Perhaps lukewarm?

Christ was seen as an extremist. Many of the saints, particularly the martyrs, were seen as extremists. They refused to compromise the truth, the values at their core. Yet you are willing to compromise for political expediency.

My friend, your political stance on abortion is flat out wrong. Whenever I cling to something wrong (as I once did on this very issue), it was because of my own sin and my wanting to be god. What are you clinging to that lets you make this compromise? Whatever it is, I pray you can let it go. You may not recognize it, but you are doing the work of the wrong side on this.

I was very touched to get this reply, especially by the last paragraph. From what I can tell, Rob is a great guy, he runs the Catholic Dads Blogspot, which is a wonderful resource, and I don’t doubt for a minute that he wrote this to me in a spirit of genuine friendship. Being called “lukewarm” in the Pro-Life cause was quite a rebuke, one that I hope I don’t deserve; because if it is true, then I will have to answer, not to Rob, but to my maker.

Rob is right in saying that I have been urging compromise on this issue. We have been batting the issues in this campaign around for some time now, and I don’t think that they need one more re-heating. What I would like to do here is address the issue of compromise itself, and why it is necessary.

We Must Not Compromise Our Faith

Rob is quite right in pointing out that the Saints never compromised and that is why they are Saints: they rendered unto the Lord what is the Lord’s. It is my fervent hope that I am as true in my faith as even the least of God’s Saints. Though I am a sinner, I am not a blasphemer, nor an heretic, nor a schismatic. I accept in its entirety the Teaching Authority of the Church and try to form my conscience in line with its teachings on faith and morals.

In a Free Society, in fact, in order for it to be a Free Society, everyone must have absolute religious liberty and, for the most part, we have that here. Jews are allowed to run Kosher butcher shops and to refrain from working on Saturdays. Dry Baptists are never forced to drink spirituous liquors. Jehovah’s Witnesses are never forced to accept blood products. Even during Prohibition, Catholic priests were allowed to use real wine when celebrating the Mass.

The only thing that I could see that would make me refuse to compromise on some issue is if it would not allow me to practice my Catholic faith in peace.

Democratic Government is About Compromise

There are thousands of sects, denominations, cults, and independent churches in the United States and I am free to go to any one of them. However — there is only one government and I have to share that with my fellow citizens. And the way Democracy works, when it works, is to arrive at a consensus position on the pressing issues of the day that most citizens can accept. In order to be good citizens we must participate in the process of arriving at this consensus. When this process of arriving at a consensus breaks down, then democracy ceases to work and the whole system is in danger of failing.

Take for instance Prohibition. This was put through on a wave of patriotism during the Great War. There was alleged to be a grain shortage because of its diversion to make spirituous liquors, drunkenness was alleged to be dragging down productivity in war plants, and, frankly, the spirit of the times didn’t allow “wets” (ho actually formed a majority) to publicly advocate their position. So an ill-conceived law was put into place and, precisely because there was a widespread consensus against it, the result was lawlessness.

Our Democracy Has Broken Down On The Issue Of Abortion

Are you against the pill and the IUD (both of which are abortifacients)? Are you against in vitro fertilization (which usually results in one or two births for every ten fertilized blastocysts)? Of course you are, and so am I. But society is not. Support for these things is simply overwhelming, so large that no one even bothers to collect polling data on them. The civic anti-birth-control leagues mentioned in Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt (1922) are a thing of the past. Everyone knows what Roe v. Wade is, but I doubt if even one in twenty registered voters has even heard of Griswold v. Connecticut. Will you admit that the battle here is lost?

Surely, you are not holding out for a candidate who is against every crime against the un-born, are you? No — you realize that an overwhelming majority of Americans want birth control and IVF, too many to be denied, and that they will have them. Similarly, a supermajority of Americans favors first Trimester Abortion.

But as soon as you get to third, or even second trimester abortion, support vanishes and even larger majorities favor outlawing these particularly horrific practices.

So why then do our laws not reflect this? A quick look at abortion law around the world shows ours to be the most liberal. Most countries have rather tight restrictions on late-term abortion, yet we do not, and I believe that this is because our democratic system has broken down on this issue.

The Democratic party is held hostage to a fanatical feminist pro-abort faction who will not stand to see the law changed, while the Republican party gives lip-service to the social conservatives that make up their coalition, while most Americans want this issue to be resolved with a compromise position (according to polls, only 29% feel there is no room for compromise on this issue).

Since we probably have no chance of getting an out-and-out ban on abortion, why not try to get a ban on late-term abortion? After all — it might just save a few babies!

Would A Ban On Abortion Be Effective?

Many years ago, I met a very nice, very carefully brought up, filthy rich widow. She told me that back when she was young, in the 1920’s, that girls in her “set” were so woefully ignorant of birth control that they just got pregnant and when to their society gynecologist for a “menstrual extraction.” She had had several of these, and it was years before she realized that this was just the polite euphemism for an abortion. Quite illegal at the time. You see — the rich have always had their abortions. The poor have always had them too, though usually at a higher cost in mortality. And we should add that a survey of Chicago Police blotters from the first three decades of the last century revealed that the most common form of homicide in Chicago at that time was infanticide. That’s right, even during the lawless days of Prohibition gang-wars, half of all murders in Chicago were committed on the newborn.

Abortion is completely banned in Chile, El Salvador, and the Philippines, yet they have some of the highest abortion rates in the world. Belgium, which has laws almost as liberal as ours, has the lowest.

Ask yourself: how best can we save babies? By enacting a lot of laws that will be dodged? Or by trying to change the culture?

We Must Change the Culture

We cannot vote in a new culture. We cannot vote away lust, or promiscuity, or the glamour of evil. These things are the fruit of the soil of culture. Movies, television, novels, popular songs — these are the things that shape the morals of a nation, not the ballot box.

Back when we were kids, broadcasters had a sense of public responsibility. Pre-marital sex was taken to be forbidden, a lot of “flesh” was not shown on TV, bastardy was stigmatized, criminal behavior was not glamorized, drugs were understood to be soul destroying. Now — I guess anything goes.

Okay — I don’t know what we can do about the pervasive degradation of our culture, but I do know that’s where the problem lies and, in a democratic society, we can’t change cultural attitudes at the ballot box.

The Failure of Democracy Is Possible

In July of 1932 the elections in Germany brought 319 Communist and Nazi deputies into the German Reichstag. This was more than half. This meant that a majority of deputies were committed to destroying the system, and that’s just what happened. By January of 1933 Hitler was Chancellor. It took him just over a year to completely dismantle German democracy. The extremists had won.

Now, I’m pro-life, but I’m not an extremist. Yes, I accept the Church’s teachings on this. Yes, I want abortion to be banned. In fact, I have an horror of abortion. But I am also well aware that the public does not agree with me on this.

We are, in this country, becoming very polarized. From my point of view (and, yes, this is a Democratic point of view) I am shocked at what I am seeing. Virulent postings on YouTube accusing Obama of not being an American citizen, of being a crypto-Moslem, of being in league with terrorists. I hear the shouts of people at McCain and Palin rallies calling for Obama to be killed, and don’t hear either candidate denounce such threats. I remember how the election of 2000 was essentially stolen by the Supreme Court and how Kerry, who had actually served in Vietnam, was slandered by Swift Boat Veterans as a coward, while Bush, a draft dodger, was let off.

A few weeks ago there was an ugly crowd in front of Chicago’s historic Water Tower. They held placards that said, “Don’t Make It the Black House” (try telling me that isn’t racist!) and they were yelling at anyone with an Obama button: “Baby Killer!” (Rob, would you yell that at someone? Anyone?)

What this country needs to do is to come together.

Not everyone who supports the war is a genocidal imperialist, any more than people who want peace are in league with the terrorists.

People who favor social justice are not fostering “class envy,” any more than people who are concerned about economic growth are merely being selfish.

And — there are people of good will on both sides of the abortion divide.

What Is To Be Done

I don’t think that any vote I could make this fall will end abortion, but I do think that we can vote for, and get, peace.

I, for one, am voting for peace.

Rob — I hope that this analysis has clarified my thinking to you, perhaps even made you see that I am not “lukewarm” about being pro-life, but whatever you think, please let us remain friends in Christ.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Top 10 reasons not to see The Da Vinci Code

Leaving mass yesterday, I mentioned to my buddy John Jansen that I had been one of the people who went to protest the opening of The Da Vinci Code movie a few years back. I told him I had compiled a list of Top ten reasons not to see The Da Vinci Code and protested with them listed on a big sign. John thought the idea was hilarious and asked to see the list.

Here it is:

Top ten reasons not to see The Da Vinci Code:

10] No one looks good in a mullet, not even Tom Hanks.
9] An albino villain is just not “PC.”
8] “Mrs. Jesus?” That’s not even in the Gnostic Gospels!
7] Seeing Audrey Tautou in this will ruin “Amélie.”
6] The Priory of Zion is Pierre Plantard’s hoax, but the Priory of Brion is Robert Plant’s new band.
5] You already wasted $24.95 on the book, why send good money after bad?
4] “Andy, you’ve got to do something! Opie’s gone and made a blasphemous movie!”
3] Tom + Audrey = all the chemistry of “Gigli!”
2] You’re going to see that when “Hoot” is on the other screen?
1] Why risk damnation over a lousy movie?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What does Judie Brown want?

Judie Brown is, for all pro-lifers, a very familiar name. She is not only the founder of the American Life League, but she is a widely published writer whose opinions frequently appear in Catholic and (conservative publications. I have written before about her "no compromise" stance on abortion and now I feel compelled to write again.

In 2006, a strong anti-abortion measure was put on the ballot in South Dakota and soundly defeated, loosing 55 to 45%. Anti-abortion activists responded by introducing Measure 11, a ballot initiative that would restrict abortion, making exceptions for the health of the mother, rape, and incest. The idea being that perhaps voters would accept a more lenient law than the one that was proposed two years ago.

(Think about it: this is how democracy works. Responsible statesmen look for compromises that most of the people will accept and then enact those compromises into law. It is authoritarian systems that dictate to the people what public policy will be in complete disregard of public opinion.)

Now, to my mind, this compromise saves babies. Sure, some abortions will be allowed, but many, if not most, will not. For that matter, even if only one baby would be saved, I would support this measure.

But Judie Brown and South Dakota Right to Life think differently. Judie Brown has written:

What this measure exemplifies is surrender to political polling and public opinion that will cost the lives of — only God knows how many — preborn children. It has always been my view that we who are leaders in the pro-life movement are supposed to set a standard of hope, confidence in truth and joy in defending it, regardless of polls, politics or pundits.

And regardless of political realities as well?

Does Judie Brown really think that voting for this measure will cost the lives of more pre-born children than voting against it? Is she delusional? Perhaps this measure is not perfect, but it is undeniably an improvement over the way things are now! Perhaps a stronger measure would be better, but what is to prevent us from voting in these restrictions now and then voting in additional restrictions later?

But no extremist ever favors a workable compromise, do they?

I suspect that what Judie Brown really fears is that a substantial improvement in the abortion laws would simply make the issue go away, and would make her leadership in the pro-life movement irrelevant, and that she likes being a demagogue more than she cherishes the lives of babies.

106-year-old Nun to vote for Obama

"I'm encouraged by Senator Obama," Sister Cecilia Gaudette, a member of the Religious Sisters of Jesus and Mary born on March 25, 1902. "I've never met him, but he seems to be a good man with a good private life. That's the first thing. Then he must be able to govern." Asked about her hopes for the US under an Obama presidency, she says: "Peace abroad. I don't worry about the Iraq war because I can't do anything about it. Lord knows how it will end."

Gaudette said the last time she voted in an American presidential election was in 1952 and she cast her ballot for President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Total Disaster?

From time-to-time I check out Catholic pro-life activist Matt C. Abbott’s blog. Recently he posted the following quote:

"It would be a total disaster if Obama were elected — abortion and homosexuality will go totally out of control. I understand that John McCain is not a perfect candidate, but if we don't stop Obama, he will put the nail in the coffin."
— Father James Farfaglia,
pastor of St. Helena of the True Cross of Jesus
Catholic Church in Corpus Christi, Texas

Now, “total disaster” brings to mind catastrophes along the lines of Hurricane Katrina, where lives and property are destroyed by an irresistible force, and calling an Obama presidency a “disaster” is well past hyperbole. Let’s look at the record.

Roe v. Wade makes just about every abortion, under any circumstance, legal. Unless we allow post-birth infanticide I really don’t see how things could be worse. And have the Republicans done anything about this? Aside from nuisance laws and completely marginal regulations (the Partial-Birth Abortion ban hasn’t prevented a single abortion) they have done nothing for the last thirty years. The record makes clear that we cannot expect McCain to actually do anything about abortion, and I don’t see how an Obama presidency would change anything about the status of abortion in America.

Homosexuality totally out of control? Like what — it’s illegal now? Does the good pastor really think that allowing same-sex marriage (which, for the record, I am against) would make homosexuality so attractive that myriads of otherwise straight men and women would go gay all of the sudden? Sure, social pressure can restrain homosexuality, but there is also a saturation point where all of those with homoerotic desires are “out” and active, and we have reached that point. Further liberalization would do nothing to increase the numbers of homosexuals and we cannot legislate a social climate that would bring back the social mores of the 1950’s.

How about the banking crisis? Is that a disaster? People are losing their homes and jobs, after all. Almost forty years of de-regulation, of dismantling the safety mechanisms that were put in by the New Deal has led to wild speculation and an inevitable crash. McCain promises us more of the same, would that be a disaster?

The war — that’s a disaster, isn’t it? Some 4,000 Americans lives wasted so far in a war based on lies and deception. McCain promises us another hundred years of imperialist adventuring, would that be a disaster?

Nearly 47 million Americans are without health insurance and this undoubtedly leads to higher rates of morbidity and mortality. Our for-profit healthcare system has left 16 percent of our population without access to health care, yet costs twice as much as the single-payer systems that every other civilized nation has. Yet McCain wants “the market” to solve this problem. How many have to die before that’s considered a disaster?

Friday, October 10, 2008

By The Numbers

Here is a chart of the composition of the Supreme Court by party affiliation since Roe v. Wade in 1973:

You will note that it was then, and has remained, overwhelmingly Republican. That's right
— Roe v. Wade was put through by a court that was 2/3 Republican! Since then, the balance has gotten even more lop-sided, why, there was a period there when Byron White was the only Democrat on the court!

So — do you expect me to believe that one more Republican appointed justice might just tip the balance? That we have to vote Republican to keep the Supreme Court from "going Democratic?"

Let me assure you that, based on the record, we can count on Republican justices to:

• Not over-turn Roe v. Wade. (e.g.
McCorvey v. Hill)

• Undermine the rights of citizens to sue corporations (
e.g. Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc.)

• Undermine our Bill of Rights (e.g. ACLU v. NSA)

• Steal elections from the people (e.g. Bush v. Gore)