Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Memorial Day: the last Monday in May. The day set aside for remembering our fallen heroes and, I'll add, to think about those currently serving in our armed forces. It is fitting and proper that we do this.

Forget for the moment that it like so many other holidays has been been given something of a second class citizen status. It once was held every May 30th, yet in our rush to celebrate special days more on our terms than as an honest retrospective of deserving people and ideals it has been shifted to the last Monday of the month. That is so we may have three day weekends to party over more so than a single, specially set aside day to actually contemplate what the day is supposed to be about. Nevertheless, it is still a great day on our calendar.

Great hardly seems the right word. It is sad that we have to have a day such as this, sadder still that willing souls have given us their all in order to make such times a need. But that is the price we pay for living in a world where evil exists. We must be thankful for those souls who have made it possible for us to be here and reflect on their actions.

So I will stand by the word great. It takes great people for us to have a chance to celebrate their deeds. It takes great people for us to realize that freedom is not free and liberty not a given birthright. It takes great people to give us the chance to grill and hoist a brew and spend time with our families and friends.

It takes great people to lay down their lives for their friends. Remember them, today and every day. They've earned the honor. The very least we can do is acknowledge them.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Barack and BP

The BP oil spill is fast becoming the President's Katrina. But is holding him responsible fair?

Probably not. But welcome to the Oval Office; if it happens and it's bad, it's the top dog's fault. Even if he isn't a corporate honcho.

Such is politics in America. One could almost feel sorry for Mr. Obama, except that it's his, or more correctly, his political ancestors', liberal policies which have led to the idea that the government is responsible for all things.

Oil and vinegar on your salad, Mr. President?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rand Paul on Immigration

U.S. Senate hopeful Rand Paul is at it again, only this time on more firm ground. He has said that the babies born here of illegal immigrants should not be granted citizenship. The point has merit and needs to be discussed.

The most immediate and glaring problem with the issue is no less than Paul's own vaunted United States Constitution. The 14th Amendment gives citizenship to everyone born in the United States, so it appears that it would take a Constitutional Amendment to alter that. Yet there are exceptions to that: people must be 'within the jurisdiction' of the United States for the 14th Amendment to apply. This exempts the children of foreign diplomats who may be born on US soil.

That may be the football which Mr. Paul and his associates are willing to run with, seeing as the parents are here wrongly and, at least arguably, not under the pure or complete jurisdiction of Washington. It certainly is not a matter which isolates Rand Paul from the pack. Ninety co-sponsors signed on to the proposed Birthright Citizenship Act introduced into the House last year, which would have exempted the babies of illegals from citizenship.

We're going to throw a little traditionally liberal constitutional argument out there for further consideration. How often do our liberal friends argue that the Constitution is a 'living document' subject to different interpretations through history? Quite often, they tell us that we should not see the Supreme Law of the Land as literal but fluid. Perhaps the amendment makers could not have anticipated the modern situation and would expect us to overlay our current view of what the 14th Amendment means over what they in fact meant. It may be chutzpah for libertarian conservatives to use this approach. But it would be, in this case anyway, delicious.

However the issue is addressed, there is a very real moral point at stake here: do people merit citizenship solely and completely on the basis of being born here? The answer is no. If the Constitution is unclear on the matter, then it must be cleared up. If it is clear but wrong, it must be changed. Rand Paul and his allies are no racists here, either. He was very clear that he doesn't mind people coming here to work and be part of the United States. If they come through the front door.

If there is a more rational and unbiased approach to immigration, we cannot fathom it. If you don't deserve to be here then you don't deserve to be here. It is time we stopped burning our resources on those who do not meet the legitimate standards of citizenship.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Europe Never had it so Easy

Europe: the bedrock of socialism. Europe: the shining light to the world for quality of life. Europe: the realm of leftist governments. Europe: where the future is the source of harsh reality, and the future is now.

For years it has been preached that Europe is where to look for the proof that progressively socialist governments raise the bar for everybody. Yet the continent is facing financial calamity, and has no one to blame but itself. It cannot afford the social experiments it has championed for decades.

Folks are living longer and birthrates are down. That means there are too many people living off the dole and too few to support it. Major changes are underway: Germany, for example, has raised the retirement age. There is talk of longer work hours and reduced health care and retirement benefits. All this from the Utopia across the pond.

The lesson for America, then, is simple. Don't follow their lead. Yet President Obama and his allies in Congress are doing exactly the opposite. They are attempting to Europeanize the United States. Such efforts can only be catastrophic for our children and grandchildren, as the children and grandchildren of the bulk of Europe are now seeing first hand.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Jocks were Different too.

Watching the Fox network show Glee the other night turned into an interesting experience very quickly. To give it its due, the concept is unusual enough to attract attention, and the show has the potential for decent entertainment. But in the end, admittedly only if that one episode if enough for a fair judgment, it is seriously flawed. The creators appear more intent on making statements ahead of entertaining an audience.

Nothing wrong with that so far as it goes. If the statement is rational. The one on Tuesday's episode certainly was not.

There is an openly homosexual student in the glee club in the school where the show is set. His dad asked his lover to move in with him, which involved the mother's straight son moving in too. The homosexual kid, it having already been made apparent he had designs on the mother's son, proceeded to make unwanted advances on him. Nothing overtly sexual, to be honest, but the implication was there. When mom's son reacted harshly, he was made out the bad guy for being intolerant of homosexuality.

Yet he was wrongly being put upon by his own mother, the other kid's dad, and the dad's son and nothing was made of that. The homosexual kid was making an awful lot of presumptions about what his straight (eventual) friend would like and acting on them without that kid's approval, but was in no way chastised for that. In short, beyond any questions of pure moral right and wrong, the straight character was not being treated fairly, and nothing was made of that. This is especially glaring as he was more in the right (although he may have handled it better) than the other three.

This was not a show intent on entertainment. This particular show was bent on delivering a message. Nothing wrong with that either, if it's a good message. But even on its own terms, the message was garbled and unfair. The straight kid's room got decorated in ways he didn't approve of by someone who did not seek his input. It was done without regard for what the straight kid may have liked. But the straight kid was completely in the wrong when he became upset with it.

The episode was about being different. We're expected to accept that it's okay to be different. Well, the jocks in the show harassing the homosexual kid were different too. Shouldn't we tolerate their being different, if being different is no sin?

You need more guidelines than that when determining the good from the bad. Glee, at least on this one night, was little more than shallow pop philosophy of the worst, most jaded type: sending a poor message in an obtuse fashion.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Nifty Zingers and Notes

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been sentenced to one to five years in prison for probation violations. It's about time. The man has flaunted the law for years; it is doubtful that a regular joe would have received the consideration he has over the length of this tragedy. Still, it wouldn't be shocking to see him rebound in the years to come. Voters can have surprisingly short memories, and the general disrespect he has shown them in recent years may be nothing more than history in their eyes within a decade.

The National Football League has suffered two blows this week, and one for certain was of its own making.

First, the Supreme Court has ruled that it is 32 individual money making enterprises rather than one large one, thus not granting the league the anti-trust status it sought. Justice John Paul Stevens, paving the way for Elena Kagan to replace him, said so. But to be fair to the retiring leftist jurist, he's probably right on this one. It would be interesting to see, however, whether the Court would find that the NFL Players Union ought to be broken up into 32 smaller entities, for if the teams are to be seen as individual factions, should not the Union be busted down into similar pieces?

The second blow comes by the League's own hand. The 2014 Super Bowl will be played outdoors in New Jersey. The powers that be in the NFL seem to have forgotten that it's cold in the mid-Atlantic in February. Do we really want to see a 3-0 championship game played in blinding snow and bitter cold? Stalwarts will point to the famous Ice Bowl game in Green Bay as an example of great games despite weather, but it fair to ask whether players or fans ought to be subjected to such harsh conditions for the sake of a game. It appears to be, at the least, a risky move.

A man in West Virginia is alleged to have burned down his house simply because his wife didn't have his dinner ready when he got home. There have got be easier and safer ways to grill.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Ignored Human Toll

11 men died when the oil rig blew up that lead to the current environmental disaster in the Gulf Of Mexico. But many people don't know that, because they care more for animals than humans.

Adam Weise, Jason Anderson (a father of two), Aaron Dale Burkeen, Karl Kleppinger Jr., Shane Roshto, Dewey Revette, Gordon Lewis Jones, Donald Clark, Stephen Curtis, Roy Kemp, and Blair Manuel. 11 real people with real lives and real families are lost to those families and friends. But what do we see in the major media?

Oil soaked birds. Such images do not even come close to an equal moral standing with lost human life.

This is not to say that what we are faced with isn't important. Even the families of those killed agree that the environmental accident must be contained and cleaned up as quickly as possible. But they fear, and rightly so, that their loved ones will be forgotten.

Say what you want, those men were out there helping to get the oil we need for our day to day lives. They lost their lives doing a great service, and at no small risk to themselves, as recent history has demonstrated. That wildlife has been harmed is sad too, but not nearly on the same level. That the local environment has been compromised is bad, but nowhere near as bad as the fact of dads not coming home after work. Even the extended human cost in terms of lost income for people in the region who live off of it is regrettable, but not so awful compared to the plights of the men who are gone, and their families. Nature is resilient; she will recover, with or without our help. The local economy will rebound eventually, and those still living have the daily opportunity to adjust. But these men will never be with us again. Their fates are sealed.

That is the salient point, which many forget or ignore or simply do not realize. We do no service to man or nature when we do not see things in the proper perspective.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost Ended Well

You probably shouldn't read this if you're a Lost fan and have not seen the series finale. But having said that, there is only one conclusion to be reached.

It was very good. Indeed, one of the best series finales there has been.

Some of the symbolism was a bit muddy. Yet that was more than made up for by the power and beauty of the episode on the whole. So often it seemed on the verge of dropping the ball, but good sense prevailed. The characters were, shall we say, purified by their experiences, and then moved on. Which is how life is supposed to work.

Ben Linus stayed outside of the Church, and that puts him in the position of humanity still waiting, still working it out. But he was nevertheless redeemed. At least, it sure appeared that way. He simply, again in the guise of human frailty, hadn't quite made it all the way yet.

There were a few interesting father/son things between Jack and Christian Shepard. Christian Shepard; you have to love that name, especially in the apparent context of the show.

It will take awhile to fully digest the meaning which can be gleaned from the show. That will probably require multiple viewings. But as things look today, they will be worth it. It certainly was worth the six year wait any way you slice it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Prejudging the Case

Seven year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones died in a horrible tragedy a few days ago, and her funeral was yesterday. Yet rather than lament the fact, we see only that the opportunists have arrived in Detroit to make hay for themselves at the young girl's expense.

Notables such as attorney Geoffrey Fieger and preacher Al Sharpton have come out of the woodwork supposedly out of concern for Aiyana's life and tragic death, and to raise awareness of the plight of such young innocents. But it is fair to ask how truly concerned they are for her and how much of their invective is driven by the personal incentive of staying in the limelight themselves.

This is not to say that there should not be a thorough investigation of the matter. If the Detroit Police officers involved acted rashly then such has to be addressed. Yet why is it so many involved have already presumed bad judgment on the part of the cops? The AOL News report on the funeral ends with Aiyana's young friend Roshell Johnson asking, "Why did the police do this to her?"

We don't know yet that the police did anything wrong. Even at that, we don't know how much the grandmother's actions helped or hurt the matter, and we ignore that the police were present in the first place to arrest a murder suspect living in the house. How much of the fault therein might lie with the household?

True, we don't know that either just yet. But everyone is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. Why don't the men and women in blue receive even that little amount of due consideration?

What we have here is a circus with Al Sharpton and Geoffrey Fieger in the center ring for reasons of their own vainglory. That does not serve the cause of justice. And it in truth mocks Aiyana Stanley-Jones' sad death.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Life Isn't Easy

A few months ago, a nun had been excommunicated for allowing an abortion at a Catholic hospital in Arizona. The participants in a similar case in Brazil have been excommunicated for permitting an abortion for a pregnant nine year old girl last year. These events have drawn particular focus on the issue of abortion, if it is possible that any greater emphasis can be placed on it.

Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted has put the question in proper perspective: there are always two lives at stake with a pregnancy, and each has equal moral value. The end can never justify the means, and one innocent life cannot be directly taken even to save another. It is as simple as that.

The circumstances may indeed be tragic. The girl in Brazil was the victim of such. The woman in Arizona, pregnant with her fifth child despite a known health issue, may also be, but the case is less clear there. Presumably she knew of her condition yet allowed herself to become pregnant, and that is most definitely a mitigating circumstance which must be considered. But the bottom line is that we are not dealing with the big bad Catholic Church acting without concern for human life. Indeed we at dealing with Her instructing the faithful in very real and human terms: addressing the issue of the sacredness of life itself.

The answers are not always easy, but, every Christian his cross must bear. We were never promised that life would be easy. The supporters of the nun's decision speak as though she and her associates did a great good; yet a life was lost, directly and by a conscious decision no less. That is not being readily addressed by the public, and it is the salient point. The matter is very grave, a point which certainly the principals involved would concede. Yet the only moral option was clear, and it was not followed.

Every Christian his cross must bear. We will not always like the result, but there are times where we have no moral choice but to let things play out. It's often sad, yes, even regrettable, but we live in a fallen world. We do not improve it by submitting to that fact. We only make it worse.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Sins of the Father

It seems as though the acorn does in fact fall close to the tree. Rand Paul, fresh off a victory in the Kentucky Republican Senate Primary race, has put his foot squarely in his mouth by addressing an issue which should not be an issue in the 2010 elections. He suggested in an interview with National Public Radio that he does not agree with at least part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Bad move, and poor judgment, which are exactly the reasons why the more libertarian among us cannot make greater electoral gains in the United States.

While a systematic and rational philosophy are important, indeed paramount, for the formation of good people and good law, libertarians tend to be far too unyielding when it comes to compromise. This does little more than keep them on the periphery, dismissed by conservative and liberal alike as marginal.

Mr. Paul had to know that the interviewer was attempting to paint him into a corner; he's surely intelligent to realize that. So why let it happen? Because he felt very strongly that the issue needed to be addressed, even as he conceded that it was an intellectual rather than political argument and would be used against him.

He could have and should have side-stepped it. He might have pointed out that such laws help business owners open their doors to everyone without any fear of private sanction against them: "Sorry, folks, the law is the law and I have to serve everyone." Instead he finds no concession on the matter, and rips open the proverbial worm can.

The whole incident is reminiscent of the diatribe his father Ron went on during the 2008 election season, about the North provoking the South into the Civil War. Not only was the elder Paul wrong in fact, but he allowed the creation of an issue centered on him which reduced his effectiveness as a counterweight to the status quo. It served no purpose to his candidacy, and could have been easily avoided.

Rand Paul is doing the same thing. He is letting a weak strand of his philosophy potentially torpedo his fledgling Senate campaign. He needs to remember that there is nothing wrong with small concessions, even if they taste bad (hint: they're going to). He needs to realize that concession is part of political life, and there's no point fighting battles you cannot win.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. So long as Rand Paul and his libertarian allies stick to such axioms, they cannot become the majority among the electorate. That's truly a shame, because so much of what they espouse is right. They merely need to learn to adapt, or at least shut up about what can only harm them. Especially when it's not all that wrong to begin with.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Korea

Now that it is plain that North Korea is responsible for sinking a South Korean warship, what's next?

The Korean War is technically live, a fact that many have forgotten or simply do not realize. And we have over 28,000 troops stationed on the peninsula. Any aggressive action there by either side necessarily involves us.

North Korea denies any fault for the sinking of the naval vessel Cheonan. That much should have been expected. But what kind of retaliation can there be without reigniting the ages old conflict? Clearly the North is attempting to provoke a reaction. But why, and to what end?

We should be prepared for war. Hopefully some kind of international accord can come from this short of fighting, but South Korea cannot be expected to wait forever for concessions from Pyongyang. Wars have started for much less than this in world history. An armed response from Seoul cannot be called wrong after this.

Time will tell, and we should pray that it is merciful.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Morning After

Rand Paul has won in Kentucky, Arlen Specter has lost in Pennsylvania, and Blanche Lincoln down in Arkansas still doesn't know where she stands as of this writing. So what does it all mean?

The Tea Party folks will surely tell you that Paul's victory is a win for them, as it came against establishment GOP support for Republican primary challenger Trey Grayson. They may well be right. As to how far the ripples may be felt, only time will tell. But if in a generation we will have seen a turn back towards the more traditional libertarian conservatism of the American right, then the course adjustment will almost certainly have begun in the Bluegrass State.

Specter lost in part due to anti-incumbent sentiments, no doubt, but in part, we like to believe, because he was a turncoat. If there ever was an instance of perceived political expediency at work, it was in the Senator's switch to the Democrats as he felt he couldn't win Pennsylvania as a Republican. He would have been reelected had he stayed in the GOP, given the relatively moderate outlook of the Keystone State's electorate, but he bolted, thinking it the only way he could keep his power. It seems his little fiefdom didn't want him on those terms.

Blanche Lincoln was painted, by no less than traditional Democratic backers such as labor unions and progressive organizations, as too much of a Washington insider to be that good for Arkansas. Again, we don't know her fate at this point, but one cannot help but wonder at how even certain segments of the left are painting a hero of the Obama Administration as a pariah. Is that perhaps the Democrats' best strategy for the fall, to pretend that even the supporters of their poster boy are in fact dupes? To call the scene interesting is an understatement, but perhaps there are platoons of even liberals who see that they have overstepped their bounds and need to retrench. Or at least, as they so often do, reduce themselves to their latent hypocrisy and claim they are something they are not.

The bottom line is the anti-incumbent furor has won again. The Dems should still be quaking in their boots this morning. They have the most to lose, and are lined up to lose it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More Politics as Usual?

Today is Super Tuesday. Sort of. It isn't expected to be anything like the Super Tuesdays which appear every four years in American presidential races, but merely as, perhaps, a portend of things to come.

Blanche Lincoln may lose her Senate seat in Arkansas if a predicted anti-incumbent furor continues to spread, and longtime Pennsylvania Senator and late coming Democrat Arlen Specter is on the bubble. Rand Paul, son of libertarian activist and longtime Republican Congressman Ron Paul, is looking good to win the GOP primary for a shot at the Senate seat in Kentucky made available by Jim Bunning's retirement.

The results will surely be overplayed and overanalyzed. Still, if all works out as anticipated, we will soon be in an even better position to see what November may bring. Will the tea partiers actually put something new on the table, or are they just attempting to rule by screams and threats, to paraphrase ousted Utah Senator Bob Bennett?

As if their screams are worse than the dictatorial style employed by President Obama and his lapdogs in Congress. But setting strident editorial comment (we include Bennett's sour grapes rant within that) aside, today will see either another stone set in the rebuilding of America, or leave a very muddled political landscape indeed.

How things look at 11PM this evening will be quite interesting.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Graffiti Art Ignores Reality

Banksy, a world renowned graffiti artist, has hit Detroit with a mural left on a wall at the old Packard plant on the near east side. A local artists group has moved the section of wall to their hovel, vowing to preserve and display it. All along, issues of private property and trespass go unanswered.

The group who took the mural, the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios, believes that graffiti art, or at least the art of this shadowy Banksy figure (he/she/they/it is apparently protecting their privacy, which is ironic considering their vandalism) must be protected no matter what the circumstances.

Setting aside arguments about street art needing to stay where it was originally or it loses meaning (even though they still beg questions of criminality) the taking of personal property not yours, even those things abandoned such as old factories, remains ignored by the so called preservationists. Does vandalism require protection?

Only in the minds of the fringe elements of society who take delight in thumbing their noses at the mainstream. Criminal acts are criminal acts, and declaring them art cannot morally save them. Indeed, it gives us a window into the mind of the modern artist, who believes that art is, well, whatever he says it is, and once said, deserving of societal protection and sanction.

In a pig's eye. Such an attitude is arrogance and, when put into action, subject to prosecution. At that point, give them a brush and let them paint the interior of their prison.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Playoffs are a Joke

The Philadelphia Flyers pulled out an amazing comeback against the Boston Bruins in the NHL playoffs, becoming only the third team to rally from a three games to none deficit to win a hockey playoff series. Do you know what that means?

It is yet another demonstration that playoffs are a joke. They are intended as nothing more than money grabs by the powers that be in the sports world.

We now are faced with the unreasonable spectacle of the seventh and eighth seeded teams, in the Eastern Conference of the NHL alone, playing for a shot at the Stanley Cup. That once supreme symbol of team dominance in sport is tarnished by this sort of competitive tragedy.

Not only are the Montreal Canadiens and the aforementioned Flyers the weakest teams in their conference, neither would have even made the playoffs had they played in the West. There were three Western Conference squads with better records, and one with an equal record. How fair can anyone claim playoffs to be when at least three better teams didn't even have a chance to show their stuff?

This is not to take anything away from Montreal, who ended the seasons of the first and third best teams in their conference, or Philadelphia per se. They won their games legitimately enough. But they never should have been there to participate. There were better squads on the outside looking in.

True, in the the West the number one and two seeds are playing. Yet that has happened for only the sixth time in the NHL since 1994. In short, generally speaking, after a grueling regular season the higher ranked teams regularly do not get the opportunity to play for a Cup. An opportunity that their dominance in the regular season should have earned them.

At the highest levels of play in any sport, any team can win a short series. When lesser teams even at that strata do, however, it lessens the importance of the long run. It moves competition from overall mettle into a leap at short term gains. That does not improve the aura of a championship. It diminishes it.

What the NHL has is a Stanley Cup Tournament, not an NHL Championship. They should at least have the decency to call it that. It would be better to simply seed all 32 teams and let each one have a crack at the Cup than to waste all the time they do on a meaningless regular season.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

2010: 1994 All Over Again?

It is not news that the Democrats in Congress are worried about the upcoming midterm elections while the Republicans are smelling blood. But what news there is about the issue is becoming clearer every day.

At AOL's Politics Daily, David Corn writes that despite numbers and issues which the Democrats could use against the GOP, such as the party being in bed with Wall Street, the polls indicate that the voting populace lacks any real feeling for the Dems. Anti-incumbent sentiment naturally will hurt those in office more than those out, and that seems to be the trump card which fate intends to play.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll gives the Republican Party a whopping 56 to 36 percent advantage over the Democrats as to who the public supports for November. Now, polls are not necessarily reliable, especially so far ahead of the actual event, but a 20 point differential is huge nevertheless. We may be rolling headlong into a repeat of the 1994 midterm elections.

True, the GOP suffered a setback in Utah, where incumbent Bob Bennett has apparently lost his Senate seat through in-party squabbling. Notice, though, that he has the dreaded I word associated with him, and that he is from a very conservative state. What happened to him means little to the tsunami the left faces.

So, to use the question which Mr. Corn asks, are the Democrats screwed?

Let's hope so.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Does Sexulaity Matter in Politics?

There is and will be much debate about Elena Kagan as the nomination process considers her qualifications for the Supreme Court. Many of the issues which have and will be raised are pertinent: if she is some sort of far left radical, the GOP should make as much hay of that as it can. But one of the most fascinating arguments surrounding her is the question of her sexuality.

Some think that she is lesbian. That's as may be; ultimately Ms. Kagan herself is the only one who can shed light on that. Yet it is interesting that many of her liberal friends, those who don't, on the surface, seem to mind about anyone in particular's sexual ethics, are very quick to defend her as not being gay.

Robert Shum writes in The Week that Kagan's handlers have been very quick to point out that she is straight, and has actually dated men. Why is it so important to draw attention to what surely is a mundane matter if sexual preference is unimportant for a high government post?

Their defense would be to protect the nominee from Republican smears. That only serves to reinforce the underlying issue: for well or for ill, sexuality matters in politics, and even those who purport to have no trouble with the issue do in fact have problems with it. No one, even on what amounts to be the mainstream left, wants their people to be seen as anything out of the ordinary.

Please, don't even try to say that such is only a recognition of reality in the battle against the prude conservatives of America. That is already a tired and shallow axiom. How often do true believers, folks who really and deeply accept what they preach, go against the grain anyway? If her gayness or lack thereof was unimportant, they would say so, loudly. If they actually meant what they said at other times and in other forums.

This is simply another display of that liberal hypocrisy so wanton in their ranks. It's right up there with the supporters of gay rights who after impassioned argument so quickly add, "Though I myself am not gay". We are, as a body politic, enlightened not by the quality of the rhetoric, but by the reservations of the speakers.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Is Arizona Looking for Controversy?

Arizona, it seems, has or is about to take another public relations hit. The state has passed a law banning ethnic studies in the state's public schools. Such a move will almost certainly bring out the protests, a la the recent immigration law. But would that be a proper reaction this time around, if indeed it was the right response over the first act?

The director of a program in Tucson says that the students relate better when literature and other content is from and about people like them. This is no doubt true, and it be wrong to say that anything is wrong with that on its own terms. All history, all prose, almost all of any given subject, is worthy of study for a variety of reasons. We can surely glean truth and insight from Indonesian history and literature as well as from the American or British counterparts. So surely Latino and African American literature merits study.

But necessarily in American public schools? We are, after all, in America. It would be absurd for US families to move to Berlin and demand that German schools adjust their curricula to American tastes. If we are to stay a cohesive nation, we need a common background of understanding for our own authors and institutions ahead of comprehension of other people and places.

This is not, emphatically not, any kind or attempt at condemnation of other folks and their reflections. It is merely a recognition that we live here, along with the reasonable presumption that the people who came or are here want to become like us. Then they need to study what other American youth study in public forums; it's as simple as that.

No one is stopping anyone from reading their own authors or about their own cultures at home or on their own time. The Polish and the Irish, among others, have done remarkable jobs of keeping the home fires burning as they became Americans. There is no reason other cultures cannot do as well. Indeed, they should, for their heritage is part of what they are.

But not as a matter of course when paid for by American taxes. To be sure, any study of literature as literature or history as history requires an overview and inclusion of the best writers and greatest events of all peoples and cultures. But is it the job of our schools to promote the rest of the world and its mores, or our own? Outside of true moral evils, the best advice is, when in Rome.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lost as to Lost

To all you Lost fans out there, I have to, uh, confess (seeing as the show certainly seems to like its Catholic symbolism) that I have no real idea what's up at this point either after last night's episode. Okay, it might just be the light of life...but the boys' 'mother' killed an innocent to protect it? I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that. It needs to be explained further if there is to be any feeling of justification for the act. And mother thanking the guy in black for killing her? It doesn't seem appropriate. Aren't we to presume that she was a special sort with special powers and insights?

Is Jacob a God figure? Perhaps, but a god would seem to have to have come about on his own or what's so special about him? Are we talking something like the Knights Templar here, where a series of people protect the most wonderful thing in the world? Is the mother supposed to be like Gaia? Okay, if you like that sort of mother Earth pablum, but otherwise it is fair to ask where did she come from? These seem to me critical explanatory questions.

Jacob appears to have developed significant powers: he can leave the island, apparently, for one. Where did they come from? That's too important of a question to be allowed to wallow in uncertainty.

A part that makes more sense to me is that his brother, in wanting to leave the island, was not worthy of it, so the light of life would have an adverse affect on him along the lines of devils reviling Heaven.

In the end, I guess what I'm saying is the light sure has a lot of darkness about it. Explaining that away would certainly be compelling, if it can in fact be done. But if Lost is to hold any long term satisfaction for its viewers, it cannot end on some kind of what does it all mean really? nonsense. If you're bold enough to broach questions on the meaning of life, at least be bold enough to offer a few answers. Even if they are shallow, at least they would be some attempt at clearing the air rather than keeping it foggy.

It will be an interesting, and hopefully not disappointing, final two episodes.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Little Bit of This, a Touch of That

It looks as though the protests against the Arizona immigration law are petering out. Two petition drives have been halted due to concerns about the timing and possible protections under the Arizona constitution should a measure pass on a public vote.

But the whole thing was much ado about nothing anyway. There is nothing wrong with an officer of the law, after stopping a vehicle or persons for other reasons, checking on the true identities of the folks involved. And as no one has the moral right to be here unless they come in the front door, there really is no significant issue at stake here. All else involved in the matter is padding, one way or another.

The residents of New Orleans are at the point where they can smell the oil spill which is a few miles off their coast. We can sympathize with them; who would want an odor of lighter fluid permeating their habitat? But as to those who currently mock the 'drill baby drill' sentiment heard lately and often from conservative Republicans, ask yourself this: where would you be without that oil? Until a better source of energy is found or developed, our nation runs on oil. That means we have to tap into the oil that's available. There will continue to be risks involved with that. But it's the best, indeed really the only, option we have for the time being.

You want innovation? Get government out of the way so that the free exchange of ideas might produce something better. Until then, drill baby drill.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Taken in by a TV Show

Lost is nearing the end of its run, a fact that has the more rabid fans of the show on their toes, and for all sorts of reasons. Some want a nuanced ending with many questions left unanswered, or answered vaguely. Others want a grand finale that speaks to the soul of humanity. Some would like a dramatic confrontation of good versus evil. A few may simply want all the questions simply answered, just to figure out what the whole thing is all about.

Over at salon.com, a purported fan, one Heather Havrilesky, has written that the one thing she does not want is to have wasted six years "in a Judeo-Christian allegory". She doesn't want it all to boil down into a good against evil story. She wants something more complex.

What's more complex than the challenge to determine good versus evil? The temptations, the uncertainty, the gut feelings and simple faith and conflicting emotions of plain old humans trying to figure out exactly what's going on and what they really should do in a world where right and wrong become central issues in virtually all that happens? Who in their right mind doesn't want to have the great questions answered in order to find out whether they truly have their heads on straight? Why are there folks who don't want issues of true and false sorted out?

Because they are more afraid of what that may say about them, perhaps? They don't want absolute answers because absolute answers mean they may be wrong, and they want to go about life doing what they want and not be bothered about actually examining their own actions and motives. They want shades of gray because it blurs the air; at that point, they need not bother to worry about truth.

That's the coward's way out, and nothing more. If you really care about people and things, then you really want to know that you're right in what you do. This doesn't mean that the insecurities, the uncertainties which you face day in and day out are not of little matter. They are part of who and what we are and how we face them is critical to the kind of individuals we become. But it is to say that if that's all we have or all we want, then our lives are pointless indeed.

Lost, hopefully, will end up a good old Judeo-Christian allegory. Let's hope it is in fact a good versus evil story. That's an ending which will give it punch, will give it meaning. Anything less will make the six journey a sham of false hopes and shallow divinity.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Much Ado About...What?

Greece is on the verge of collapse, and threatening to take the Euro with it. Well, gloom, despair, and agony on me.

We at The Sublime to the Ridiculous do not pretend to be experts on monetary policy issues. Quite frankly, they strike us as profoundly dull and boring. But nevertheless, there may be something of interest in the entire debacle.

Greece, as with many members of the European Union (16 out of 27, if memory and a quick Google search are to be trusted), has adopted the Euro as its means of exchange. Yes, we realize that a collective yawn has developed at the announcement of this striking news. But see what lies beyond it: when a nation using a currency held common with may other nations has a problem, then everyone associated with the crisis is in a deep hole too.

So we see the European Union, that fascist ideal of a world power, worrying that an economic collapse in Greece may bring them all down, and perhaps even take the world economy with it. This strikes us as fear mongering, yet such would not tell the entire story. The salient point here being that who controls the currency controls you. Should anyone want to give up control of their money to someone or something else, they are playing with fire.

Would a financial crisis in the relative backwater of Greece be so critical if the cash flow of so many other countries were not involved? Who knows for certain, but likely not. Centralization, among other things, centralizes problems. So rather than having one nation of dozens in Europe with a severe economic problem, we have many nations facing calamity. And the larger the problem in Europe is, the more likely it is to affect everyone else.

If Europe were to let Greece be responsible for Greece we might avoid the potential for widespread injury. But we must unite, we must socialize our political and economic processes. If we do not hang together we shall surely hang separately.

But at least then we would have to be taken to the gallows one at a time.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

It wasn't too bad after all. And I'm glad that I worked up the courage to do it.

I wasn't going to go to Comerica Park to view Ernie Harwell. I was afraid that I would lose my composure. Yet though the eyes did well up, it was okay, and I am glad I went.

My oldest son tagged along and got a few good pictures, and the company was welcome. The entire event, such as it was, was done tastefully and low key, sort of like you would assume Ernie would want it. We feared there would be vendors hawking stuff, and there weren't. There was free coffee and Gatorade, and that was it. It was a classy send off for a classy guy.

We didn't get there until about 9:30 in the evening and the wait was only about an hour. The line was still long when we left.

We said a little prayer at the coffin and signed the huge card outside. We had to lay on the ground to write, because there were so many signatures and well wishings that the only room left was ground level. We went back to the gates for one last so long, and came home.

An usher said they were expecting a crowd between 75,000 and 100,000. I have to believe they got it. Yes, the tears came. I could only manage a nod to the person at the end of the line who thanked everyone individually for coming. It was difficult, but I'm glad I was there.

Goodbye, Ernie, and Godspeed.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ernie Harwell

There are times when words cannot tell a story. This is especially ironic when the subject is someone who used words so very magically to enlighten an audience. When Ernie Harwell passed away Tuesday, we found ourselves at that crossroad.

What can you say about someone who said it all? He lived life well and did his job at a level far above the ability of most men. Ernie was clever and straightforward, painting pictures of ball games from inside little transistor radios all over Michigan, and much of the United States. When Ernie spoke, you were there.

There have been and will be uncountable and well deserved tributes to this icon of Michigan. When everyone shares such great experiences as we all did over the many summers Ernie created baseball for us, how can we not talk about them over and over?

God bless you, Ernie. You have earned your reward.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why Limit Miracles?

One of the best Gospel readings is centered on one the most famous stories from Scripture. It was St. John's account of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, a story so powerful and awesome that it is almost electric. It is one of the premiere miracles performed by Christ, in stature as well as in scope.

Yet there those who do not accept that it actually happened, even among Christians. Their take on it was that the crowd which had assembled saw Christ sharing food with his disciples learned to share themselves, with those had presumably brought something to eat then sharing with their neighbors. Christ was teaching them to share. Or, perhaps, shaming them into it. Either way, it rather takes the edge off the event, to say the least.

In the first place, are you ready to believe that no one, not one, of the 5,000 or so gathered had any inkling that it was a good thing to be kind to those around you? Secondly, It doesn't seem like a very profound thing for Our Lord to do. Not that everything He did had to have pow or zing, to be sure, but as He was trying to prove His Divinity I have to think he would do so in a stronger way saying, essentially, 'Be nice, now.' Any decent parent or teacher can do that.

I have likewise heard that many don't believe that the Red Sea actually parted for Moses in leading the Israelites out of Egypt. The tide was out for them, you see, yet it came back in a Pharoah's chariots become entangled in the seaweed, that's all.
No big deal.

It is a big deal. As with the loaves and fishes, it loses all its strength stripped of God's help. Besides, it would have had to be one unusual tide to have allowed Moses to get by while returning quickly enough to decimate the pursuing Egyptians. But my ultimate point here is that I can't understand why people who claim to practice and indeed even teach Christianity want the miraculous aspect of it purged.

I realize that there are parts of the Bible which can be taken literally while others are intended to be figurative. But the standard as what is what, I've always believed, is that whatever isn't obviously figurative is expected to be taken literally. As there is no reason to doubt these two tales, there is no reason that they ought not be taken as the straight truth, an accurate accounting of what actually occurred.

Unless you don't really believe that Christ is God. If so, then it doesn't matter. Yet if He is what He says, then you ought not cast aspersions on His work.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Family Guy and The Meaning of Life

Seth McFarlane has proven beyond doubt that he is not interested in anything or anyone save himself. This past Sunday's episode of Family Guy has proven it.

The episode was so unbelievably gross it is difficult to imagine that he truly sought to entertain his audience. He simply wanted to insult our decency and intelligence, first by employing such a repugnant storyline, and then by trying to make a statement on the meaning of life (or lack thereof) afterwards. There was no actual comedic purpose to the former, and no worthwile insight on the latter.

He clearly believes that as a Big Cartoon Producer he has the right to say and do whatever he wants, and that it should pass as decent intellectual fare. Or he is snidely playing his audience by going so far off the path of creative entertainment, knowing that they'll watch and praise his avant guarde attitude. Either way, it demostrates not artistic merit or any real concern for the folks in TV land. It is little more than the arrogance of a small mind.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Philosophy and Politics on Other Worlds.

The journal Nature reports that circling a nearby star is a planet with some earth conditions, specifically an atmosphere and water. While too hot to likely support life, as it has a surface temperature of about 250 degrees, the discovery bodes well for those who hope that there may be sentient life on other planets. Apparently there are at least two other so-called 'Super Earths' which have also been detected.

That these are exciting discoveries cannot be disputed. But where we have an issue about them is in the interpretation over how finding other life in the galaxy would shake our core beliefs here on our own good Earth. It has been said that we would have to completely rethink our philosophies, and even our religion.

Why? Would not the same God have created them too? Why would they not be as subject to sin and failure, the whole universe being imperfect, as we are? Further, why should we presume that the challenges they face aren't any different from ours? Getting food and shelter, worrying about how the kids are growing up; why should alien daily life be so much different than ours?

The best guess is that they would still have personal, political, and social struggles akin to ours. Granted, they may be superior or inferior to us in myriad ways and forms, but there is simply no reason to think that the cultures of another world would be, at their core, any different from ours.

So while finding Earth-like planets is certainly exciting, it should not change our outlook on the relationship between God and Man. It only means that He has seen fit to share Himself more generally than some may have thought. There would still be conservative and liberal viewpoints vying for attention, and their conservatives would still be as right as our liberals are wrong.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Musings

Lunatic, liar, or Lord. That, according to Aquinas, is our choice. Those are the only options which Christ leaves us.

If He was a lunatic or liar, then we cannot trust anything He says, even the stuff about love one another that cafeteria Christians adore so much. Such ranting would be as worthless as anything else He might have said.

This is a man who went up to complete strangers and said, "I can forgive your sins". How are we supposed to take that? He was lying, which many would say, He was crazy, which, on a purely human level, would make sense...or He meant exactly that.

Lunatic, liar, or Lord. What do you think? That may be the most important question you'll ever face.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Youth Wasted on the Young?

The Democrats are very worried about their chances this November, and with good reason. There's a significant part of the voting public simply fed up with the power surge in Washington, while President Barack Obama's ratings are, to say the least, stagnant. Still, discontent and poll numbers may be fleeting, and by themselves mean little this far ahead of game day. But that is not all which trouble our liberal friends.

The 2010 elections are midterm. Historically, midterm elections bode ill for the folks in power. That in itself forecasts something of a downer for the Dems. When you throw in the fact the people the President and his allies count on for support, the young and minority voters, have a strong tendency to ignore the middle elections, there is greater reason to fear the results. When those groups come out, it is often only for the big time.

To counter this, the Democrats are attempting to woo those groups into turning out en masse as they did in 2008 for Mr. Obama. But can the ploy succeed?

With unemployment still high and the spark from the President's electoral triumph gone, who knows? When you depend on a shallow electorate in the first place, the inspiration to vote will naturally be fleeting. Yet it may be the only card which the Democrats can play.

Older and conservative voters are the ones who tend to show up for the off elections. This, coupled with the other points herein, are what concern the Obama-Pelosi-Reid gang the most. It is all of these factors which spell disaster for them later this year.

Winston Churchill famously said, "If you are not liberal when you are 20, you have no heart. If you are not conservative when you are 50, you have no head." However true or not that may be, it is a saying which will be tested in November 2010. It is not an exam the Democratic National Committee feels it can pass.