Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Michigan Primary Results

Mitt Romney has won Michigan. Sort of, anyway. Since Michigan assigns its delegates to the Republican National Convention two per congressional district, Rick Santorum will win several delegates from the state. But beyond that, what can we make of yesterday's primaries?

We can't make much out of Arizona, as a Romney win was a foregone conclusion. It would be ill advised for either camp among the front runners to make too much of Michigan. Romney's win was not astounding and could be yet another signal of weak support. Santorum definitely looks better after his showing here, but it wasn't exactly a clarion call. What does it all mean?

Obviously, it means that Super Tuesday looms big. Either candidate could emerge next week the clear front runner, while a muddled result would indicate only more uncertainty among those claiming to be Republican voters. Gingrich really out to drop in favor of Santorum, to allow conservative voters a more clear option between Romney and Santorum. Still, why did the Michigan vote go as it did?

Several pundits say that it's because the economy is still the main issue in the minds of most voters, and they're probably right. Santorum has set himself as the man of traditional values, and it is interesting that, while he took the evangelical vote, his fellow Catholics went to Romney. We can argue about what exactly that means (we are skeptical that each and every voter who identifies himself as Catholic is an honest to God practicing, serious Catholic, while Evangelicals are pretty solid as a group) but it surely means something. That something is, quite frankly, vaguely sinister.

The economy is important; it would be stupid to argue otherwise. Still, we wonder if there's a point where the state of the economy becomes too important. When the complementary political issues become in fact secondary to the economy, we need to ask ourselves precisely what is gained and what is lost by that.

If a better economy were to automatically allow ourselves to become better persons then making it the primary bone of contention makes perfect sense. But if a better economy simply allows us to indulge ourselves in the various forms of gluttony, buying too much, eating and drinking too much, sex without regard to the sanctity of life, and all the other forms of selfishness and self indulgence which high times allow (without a proper self discipline, of course) then what do we actually have? Do we have a nation with a solid core of right and wrong, or one which will soon suffer an internal decay which will destroy us?

It is too much of the latter in the United States today, unfortunately. Why are so many voters, even and especially Republicans, so willing to ignore abortion or try to sweep the gay marriage questions under the carpet? Because they are issues which concern human well being in a way which does not address the economy. They get in the way of electoral victory, but, in a more telling way, the might just get in the way of the good times we can otherwise have in a strong economy. Putting economic questions completely separate from the moral ones speak to our baser and not our better instincts.

Such is not a recipe for a strong nation over the long term. Yet if that is the recipe of choice for modern Americans, so be it. Just don't be shocked at the taste it leaves.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ron Paul Stumps the State

Congressman Ron Paul made an appearance in Dearborn last night, and it seemed he was quite a hit. He called for the US to stay out of foreign military entanglements, and for greater liberties at home. They are ideas which certainly merit debate.

When to use military force is perhaps the most important aspect of the foreign policy of any nation the size and scope of ours. We have to agree with Rep. Paul, for example, about the Syrian situation. As bad as it might by for Syrian citizens, we cannot and should not play policeman in each and every trouble spot on the globe. But attacking Iran, which also says we should not do, is trickier. If they have or are close to having nuclear weapons, and given the radical nature of that country, a preemptive strike should not be off the table.

He criticized the Vietnam War as 'fruitless', pointing out that we have essentially won the peace there. But such opinions ignore the very real Soviet and communist threat which was behind the Vietnam War. US involvement there at least arguably (and we say arguable very loosely, for we think it pretty certain) helped drain the Soviets of their power and in the long run should be considered in that light. In short, Paul reeks of that libertarian strain which would allow virtually no military foreign action at all, if it ever even saw fit to engage in war. The fact is that we must sometimes use force even in areas which may not be immediate threats to us or our allies. We must consider our long term security, and that might mean aggressive action, dependent on circumstances.

The Congressman is on firmer ground with internal civil liberties and broader domestic policy. The auto bailouts were wrong and Obamacare merely adds an unnecessary layer to the doctor patient relationship. But what may be most telling in the article on his appearance which is in today's Detroit Free Press, Paul's anti-military comments seemed to be given greater prominence. It's as though the liberal press really wants to like him in certain areas (foreign policy) and not so much on internal questions such as health care. That's not surprising, but it does dilute their vaunted objectivity.

Paul says that 'both left and right undermine our liberties', and to a point he's correct. Unfortunately his ideas effectively undermine American independence and, in the long run, American liberty too. For that, he's bad for the US, and bad for Michigan. If he would moderate at least the more extreme of his views he might become palatable. Until then, he merits the third or fourth place finish he'll get today in our primary.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Anyone Can Understand Right and Wrong

It is often heard, from women who support birth control, that they don't see where a celibate clergyman ought to be judge to the issue because they can't really understand woman's rights. Yet those same women won't denounce a celibate clergyman who agrees with them on the grounds they're men.

Similarly, they say that men shouldn't legislate about banning abortion, because they can't really understand what that might mean to women. But they don't hold the same point with male lawmakers who vote for abortion rights, even though they presumably can't understand woman's needs either. Indeed, whenever a man supports a so-called woman's right in a way which women (or, should we say, liberal women) like, he is not condemned. But why should male affirmation mean any more than male denial if men cannot possibly understand a woman's position?

Two things come up here. One is that it is arrogant to assert that men cannot understand a woman's rights merely because they're men. Women sure don't mind respecting a man's opinion if it coincides with theirs; dismissing male opinion as automatically wrongheaded if it disagrees with a woman's is, simply, hubris.

Two, it is more likely that someone not directly involved in an issue would be more readily impartial than someone who wants a certain outcome. We have umpires and referees in sports precisely because, although they may not be the actual players, they are expected and indeed are more likely to be impartial than the players. An umpire says safe or out independent of the player, who would more likely rule his own way given the chance.

This isn't to say that all umpires are right and all players wrong each and every time. But it is to say that objective right is something anyone can grasp if they want it. Whether the rule maker or opinion giver is male or female means nothing to right and wrong about anyone or anything.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Michigan Issues on a Saturday Morning

The state of Michigan has put off a decision about putting an emergency manager in charge of Detroit for another month. If Lansing did it to keep the heat off of Republican candidates stumping the state ahead of Tuesday's primary, then the action is rather silly. Detroiters won't vote for the GOP anyway, and outstate areas likely support an emergency manager. Nothing is served by the delay, except perhaps keeping at bay a liberal media which might pounce on the juxtaposition of Republicans kicking a city while its down. But the media will harp at the GOP just the same, so the move still seems, well, cowardly.

The Democrats, Barack Obama, and the UAW are going after Mitt Romney even though he hasn't actually sewn up the GOP presidential nod just yet. Protests and adverts attacking his stance against the auto bailouts in 2008 have been abounding in the days heading up to February 28th. They should be careful what they wish for, if a defeat of the former Massachusetts governor is their aim. A true conservative challenging the President this fall would hurt them more than help. Romney isn't that guy.

About 100 people attended a session seeking comments about cuts to Detroit bus services (which are scheduled to take effect March 3rd) at the Northwest Activities Center. Their feelings were widely expressed through stenographers or at easels where they could write their complaints themselves. While we acknowledge that stripped down bus service could be a hardship for many, what strikes us as most interesting and even unfair in itself was the lament of one bus rider that 'they don't care' about those who depend on the bus lines.

Why the presumption that the powers that be don't care? Why not presume that it bothers them to do it, yet they have no alternative? We're not saying that that is necessarily the case either, but we do wonder why officials in charge and especially the vague yet readily available and obviously evil 'they' always 'don't care'. Maybe you are in an unfortunate position, and maybe charity does ask the rest of us to help. But things are what they are, and if city cannot afford bus service as it is, it hardly makes the decision makers bad people. For charity is not the obligation of the haves only, and everyone at times must make adjustments to their daily lives which they would prefer not to face. At the end of the day, we're responsible for ourselves. That sort of dignity goes beyond local issues, and is something everyone needs to strive towards regardless of circumstance.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Freep Endorses Romney

It should come as no surprise that the Detroit Free Press has endorsed Mitt Romney for the upcoming GOP Presidential Primary coming up this Tuesday. The left does not want a clear choice for the White House; it wants someone not that unlike the current occupant. Or, as this is actually rather sinister and underhanded, they want the person most likely to lose to President Obama, and are conniving to get Republicans to pick a weak candidate.

The paper berates the changes in Romney's attitudes during the primary season, but offers the excuse that he probably had to appear to have a sharp rightward turn in order to win the nomination. Shouldn't this be a reason not to support him, though? How can anyone trust a candidate who veers in any direction simply to garner votes? The idea that such rhetorical lip service is all that someone needs to qualify for President certainly ought to ring hollow in the face of the serious journalism the Free Press ordinarily claims to practice. Further, as that newspaper will almost surely endorse Barack Obama, why should it deign to help Republicans select their nominee?

The editorial writers save the sharpest stick for the others: Santorum is 'zealous' (Obama isn't?), Gingrich 'impulsive' and Ron Paul 'backward thinking'. Yet it easy to see why Romney is their guy: he was Barack Obama lite in Massachusetts and they expect he'll be that way again if President.

It is important that conservatives are not swayed by such talk. The Detroit Free Press cares nothing about who would make a truly good Republican president. Indeed, the writers there care nothing about what makes a truly good conservative. They care about what will keep the folks they like in power. As such, they want the electorate to vote for the GOP candidate most like them. It's a fail safe, really. It is in no way objective. It is in fact the worst kind of selfishness: fatal conceit disguised as virtue. Do not fall for it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent for Christianity in general, and Catholics in particular. It is a time of penance, something we all need. We all need to atone for our failures, for our sins.

Humanity is fallen; the world around us is fallen. That's why people do wrong, and genes mutate into cancers and such. Nothing in our universe is perfect, but there is a difference between we humans and dumb animals and the inanimate things nearby. We can choose. We can decide whether to do well or ill. It is what makes us special, and separates us from all else.

But surely these next few weeks aren't for Christians alone? It would seem that no matter what you believe, or whether you believe anything at all, you would still think it a good idea to improve yourself, or to do good things for those in need around you? Even if you cannot bring yourself to believe in something beyond humanity or beyond the universe itself, you can still make the effort to make yourself a better person and enrich the lives of those whom you come in contact with day in and day out. It's the one idea that the seriously religious and the secular humanists can surely agree with each other, don't you think?

So try to become a better person this Lenten season. Smile, help people, discipline yourself in habits of mind and body. You might be pleasantly surprised as the good habits formed become a part of you. The folks around you may be downright shocked. And we'll all be the better for it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Washington's Birthday

Today is Presidents Day. We are expected to celebrate our Presidents, even the ones who weren't that good or memorable. And we do that at the expense of the ones who truly do merit a certain reverence. Washington, Lincoln: you guys are as good as Millard Fillmore of James Buchanan.

To be fair, the official holiday is still known, at the federal level, as Washington's Birthday. That is how it should be. The importance of General Washington to our history simply cannot be overstated; it is widely held by historians that we would not have survived as a nation without his leadership. His demeanor, the respect he commanded: he was the one person Americans would unite under, and they did.

It is not fair to his memory that we are now expected to think of all the men who served as President. Many of then simply don't merit the recognition no matter what they may have sacrificed in gaining the office. It is not fair either that the Monday Holiday Law bounces Washington's Birthday around for the sake of convenience. Further, it is not fair that such days are marked more by sales, weekend trips, and days off work more than for what the holiday is supposed to represent: a reflection on important even ts and figures in our history.

Try doing that, instead of or before whatever else you want to do today. Think about what Washington means to our being here this day. Read a passage about him, even if it's simply on Wikipedia. Take a second and look at a dollar bill or a quarter and reflect on why we would put the image of an old general on our coinage. Remember while you do that that our ability to do all the things we take readily for granted are only so because of the work and sacrifice of men like our first President, and be even for the moment grateful.

Then go ahead and do what you like. We suspect that the General himself would approve of it.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Word on Conscience

Most everyone should be familiar with the current situation between the Obama Administration and the Catholic Church. The Church does not want to pay for insurance plans which offer contraceptive and sterilization services, as a matter of conscience. The President wants, well, somebody to pay for them, regardless of their conscience. It brings the whole question of conscience into the political field, and leads to some interesting questions.

The Church says that it cannot supply even indirectly such services, as a matter of conscience, and that no government can force it to do so. The President, seeing a very real constitutional issue (yes, that pesky Constitution, which makes it so hard for Barack Obama to save us) is dancing around the question, trying to change the emphasis in the hopes not to offend anyone else. The issue itself, though, is clear: Washington cannot make the Church or its members violate their consciences.

But can government ever make, or at least try to make, someone violate their conscience? Sheldon Richman of The Future of Freedom Foundation, says no, in an interesting article here: http://www.fff.org/comment/com1202j.asp . Of course, he says it with much libertarian bravado, offering beyond the current issue the 'forcing' of Americans to support the 'mass murder' in Iraq and Afghanistan. Says Mr. Richman: "Americans have been forced, without their consultation — much less permission — to finance mass murder."

This strikes us as hyperbole, but we'll set that point aside for now. What it puts before us, in comparing the Catholic situation with US foreign policy aims, is the idea that no one should ever be compelled to violate their conscience no matter what. And that is something we are not so certain about.

Theoretically, someone might form the Church of Fred and then claim no obedience to the laws of the United States or any other government as a basic tenet of their religion. Could the Fredites then be excused from participation in a nation's business, as a matter of conscience?

No, they could not. One idea which is readily ignored by liberals and libertarians alike is that the individual's say so isn't of necessity the final word on any given subject. Their word must be rational, and reason as such can be determined by means beyond the person. The Catholic Church, the Protestant sects; Islam, Buddhism, Shinto, and many others not named here, are clearly established creeds of long standing. They weren't formed in order to avoid any particular duty to any particular society but to nourish something else which is not itself necessarily the province of the body politic. The Fredites it would seem could be easily unmasked as a shallow rabble intended only to impede the larger nation in its duties.

Further, if the government cannot compel anyone to do things without necessarily having their personal consent, then we are faced with either anarchy or a democracy so complete as to be unable to move at all. No government, even the smallest of them, can or will ever get the support of 100% of the people anyway. Remember, there were those who objected to World War II. Yet that War had to be fought, for all the obvious reasons. Indeed, it is fair to ask whether the opponents of the Second World War had properly informed their consciences, as it is fair to ask anybody else at any other time whether they did theirs.

The bottom line is that the claim to conscience can only be invoked when that conscience is itself reasonable. The conscience of the Catholic Church is obviously reasonable with regard to the opinion of the current Administration. The idea that no government can do anything without the direct consent of every person is not. Such is not a matter of conscience. It is sometimes only a matter of self indulgent wordplay and must be seen as such.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

MEAP Standards Change: to what point?

Under new MEAP (Michigan Educational Assessment Program) standards, an awful lot of Michigan students are far from ready for college. This assertion is based on revised guidelines which purport to show that fewer students, in the lower grades especially, are proficient enough in math, science, reading, and social studies to be expected to do well in college.

Before the change, a student was considered proficient if he passed an exam with about 39% of the questions answered correctly. That standard has been hiked to 65%. Our first question is why anyone with a score of less than 40% (that's 6 out 0f 10 wrong, folks) could be considered proficient at anything. Before you draw the baseball analogy that .400 is considered a fantastic batting average, consider that physical sports aren't the same thing as mental acumen. No one is throwing curves and sliders at third graders. They're simply given them words on paper which the kid must interact with and manipulate.

Part of the trouble with measuring academic ability lies in the disparity between schools. Schools in poorer areas, schools with less parental involvement, are going to do poorly on standardized assessments. Some kids cannot or will not learn no matter where they are. Some areas have better teachers than others; we could go one, but the point is made. It is for these reasons that demands for 100% compliance with any standard, such as what is demanded of Michigan schools by 2014 under the No Child Left Behind Act, is patently absurd. Expectations must be realistic or they serve no purpose.

Yet one question which simply does not get asked is, why do all kids need a long regimen of formal training? If a kid is happy with the long range plan of doing whatever work doesn't actually, practically, require college or even, quite frankly, high school, why are we trying to force or shame them into things they don't care about? Spare us the arguments about how important math is in our daily lives: anyone who can do basic math at, say, at an 8th Grade level, can get along in the world. They don't need advanced algebra. True, those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it; but surely that only applies to those who make it. A plumber, carpenter, or store owner ain't gonna have much affect on history anyway.

In short, if education is all about training someone to be able to make it in the world, then maybe raising standards isn't really useful anyway. After a point: it's one thing for a guy to know addition and multiplication because he'll actually use that day in and day out. He doesn't need differential calculus or quantum physics, or even a seminar on the American Presidency. He just needs the basics.

So teach him, hard and fast, the necessary skills and then let him get on with his life. Leave the more exacting standards for those who move on to work which requires them. At the end of the day, we rather believe it would lead to happier, more productive and decent people. It would probably save us a few bucks in the cost of education as well. Those who scream against that you'll find are those with a vested interest in the education behemoth they've contrived to build. Are they protecting their students' best interest or their own jobs?

We'll leave that question hanging. We think you know the answer anyway.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Santorum up in Michigan

With two weeks to go before the Michigan Republican Primary and Super Tuesday waiting around the corner, recent polls show former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum ahead of Mitt Romney in his native state. One has Santorum up 33-28 percent, with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul trailing. Another, though one with a wider margin of error, has Santorum up a whopping 39-24%.

Two weeks isn't much time normally. Yet in politics it can be an eternity, and polling figures can ad do change dramatically. So we should not put too much weight in them today. That, however, doesn't mean that certain points aren't invalid right now.

Romney needs Michigan. Yes, he's lived out of state for a long time, so long in fact that calling Michigan his home state might be a stretch. But in politics, perception is too often reality. A loss in his 'home' state could be (and will be) construed as bigger than it might actually be, seen less sensational glasses. Mitt Romney surely will not be out of the race if he loses Michigan. But he would be on the slippery slope.

Santorum should not rest too easily, despite this analysis. If he comes to be perceived as the front runner he will come under increasing attacks due to that very perception. Ron Paul has already lambasted him for his voting record in the Senate; it will only be a matter of time that the other candidates begin attacking him as well.

The bottom line is that Santorum is riding the crest of a wave while Romney seeks to hold his ground. The race is far from over. But Michigan, for now, has the catbird seat.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Whither Libertarians?

Where are they? Where are all those libertarians who demand greater and greater individual rights for, it seems, everyone under the Sun with a gripe against society (even those clamoring for 'rights' which weren't held to exist not too long ago)? It appears that libertarians are all for personal rights. Until that person is a Catholic, anyway.

We have heard nothing from the liberaltarians about freedom of conscience or religious liberty even in light of the blatant attack on the Church and Catholics by the Obama Administration. But let someone who wants to marry someone of the same sex lament their lack of freedom, and the libertarian liberals are coming out of the woodwork in their defense. Let a Republican leader call for us to be on guard against terrorism, say, and all we'll hear about are the rights of the accused and about how the GOP and the conservatives hold the world and dissenting Americans in contempt.

It is instances such as these which lead conservatives to question libertarian ideals. They lack a consistency which belies, quite frankly, their lack of a sense of justice. They're for freedom: for their friends, and the ideologies they like.

That stinks. Yet we're the hypocrites on freedom and individual rights. Go figure.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Public School Arrogance

The state of Michigan currently has two 'cyber charter schools' in existence. But there is a bill making its way through the legislature which would allow for more. Needless to say, the idea has sparked debate in the most usual manner: the people who like them support them wholeheartedly, while those who feed from the public trough are appalled.

Supporters like the flexibility of schedule which such entities offer, and the fact that it givers parents more choice among schools. Choice, eh? It would be interesting to know how many educators are pro choice on issues such as abortion but not on questions of public schools, but that thought is a for another time.

The chief criticism of cyber schools, as it always is when the public school ox is at risk of being gored, is that they would take more money away from traditional public schools. As always as well, the correct response to that is, so what? That in and of itself simply should not be a factor. If our aim as a society is to educate our young then we ought to be willing to explore various ways and means of so doing even (or especially, given the performance of some public schools) at the, ahem, expense of traditional schools.

What we have here is another case of the education elite and the hypocrisy rank among them. How many times have folks in education urged everyone else to change? How many times in school, any school, really, were we exhorted to think outside the box? Yet as it turns out, public school supporters don't want to consider change which actually affects them. Thinking outside the box is great...until it's their box, paid for by your tax dollars.

This isn't to say that cyber schools should be embraced without reservation either. If they aren't performing well then we have to consider either ending or altering them. If you've got data which supports that, so be it. But kindly don't whine about them taking cash from traditional public schools because that argument simply doesn't wash. Public schools are not the lords of education. They do not own it, nor hold an exclusive right to dispense learning. They only think that way, which serves as a lesson itself.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Santorum Takes off the Gloves

Does he smell blood? Is he beginning to sense the potential swell of conservative sentiment more than willing to support someone like him? Is someone finally getting the message that Mitt Romney is shallow and weak, and starting to go on the offensive? It is beginning to look as though, if that guy exists, it's Rick Santorum.

Hydrofracking is the process of breaking rocks and what not as a means of forcing oil and gas from them. Santorum called the environmental hue and cry against it a 'boogeyman' and asserted that no ill will come from the process. He even went so far as to openly mock the environmentalists as fear mongers who politicize science. This after he told a crowd in Colorado that he never bought into the global warming hoax.

Wow. What is not to like when a conservative shoots from the lip like this? Especially as he's right on the money: global warming is bad science, indeed little more than a variation on the perpetual doomsday scenarios the fringes have spouted since the dawn of man. It's time to call it what it is.

Santorum certainly did that with his recent assertion that the left, the liberals, want to control you. They want to shame you into a false concern and childlike fear which will only keep them in power. It's all politics, aimed at keeping liberals in power and you and your liberty in check. It isn't about the environment. It's about them keeping you in place by keeping theirs.

We're really, really, starting to like Rick Santorum.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Kingmakers?

Rick Santorum has cruised to victory in three states: Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri. Sure, no delegates were awarded. But when one of your main rivals can win with majorities, not pluralities, in two of the states in question (and a solid plurality in the third) then Mitt Romney has to take notice.

It certainly shows that confidence in Romney is shallow, especially among conservative voters. Where he has won he's been expected to win: New Hampshire, Nevada, and Florida, and likely Maine this week. Yet that Caucus might become interesting if Ron Paul can make a strong showing there, as he plans to in any state with delegates granted proportional to the vote. If Paul can undercut Romney support there, it would be another chink in the Romney armor.

But what does this all mean for Michigan and Michigan Republican voters? After Maine's results are announced on February 11th, there are no more primaries or caucuses until the 28th, in Arizona, and right here in the Great Lakes State. With Romney hurting, might that put Michigan in a position to make a real difference in the GOP Presidential race?

How often have we been in such an ideal spot to perhaps crown a winner? Is it possible that Michigan could prove pivotal for the eventual nominee? Seeing as Super Tuesday, so called because of all the delegates awarded on that day of many primaries, etc., is the following Tuesday, March 6th, and seeing as momentum is tomorrow's starting pitcher, our fair state may play a more important role in an election than it ever has before. A weak Romney showing in Maine, or especially a Ron Paul upset of some sort, combined with, say, Santorum wins here and in Arizona, would leave Romney in the fight of his political life.

When we examine the states holding elections on Super Tuesday, we see that eight of the 10 are significantly conservative, although as it stands right now only Romney and Paul will appear on the Virginia ballot (for legal reasons local to Virginia). From our vantage point this far away, it would seem that only Vermont and his home state of Massachusetts are locks for Mitt. As such, wins by Santorum or Gingrich or Paul on February 28th might play huge in the long run. A brokered convention, the first since 1976, isn't all that outlandish of a thought.

Will that happen? We have to think no, unfortunately. But not solely because Romney is still the preemptive favorite. A win in Michigan could change the course of the race so much that a non-brokered convention might be someone's else's day in the sun. And we could have created their dawn, while being the gloaming of someone's else's hopes. It is a very nice stool on which we perch.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Obama Wrong on Health Insurance Requirements

Well, it seems that the separation of Church and State is a very strong belief among the liberals of our great nation. Very strong, indeed: until the state decides the Church must kowtow to it. We see no better example of this than in the Obama Administration's decision to make Catholic institutions pay for sterilization and contraceptives for their employees through the health plans of Catholic companies and organizations.

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron deplores the action as "discrimination against Americans exercising their right of conscience." He is quite right. To act within the bounds of our clear and certain consciences is as much of a right as freedom of speech and expression. If we cannot express our rights in our daily actions, then we are not free. The White House claims that the ruling is an effective balance of religious beliefs and women's health concerns.

Not in the eyes of the Church. But the eyes of religion don't matter when the eyes of the state are turned upon them. "We're being told to violate our conscience or be in violation of the law," says Msgr. Robert McClory, vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Detroit. He's quite right, of course. But right and wrong do not matter when a liberal wants his way. Liberals don't care about right and wrong. They about getting what they want. And what they want here is to bully the Church.

Perhaps, Mr. President, the Church already has determined the right balance of religion and health care issues. Perhaps women and men who work for Catholic societies should not be looking for the type of health care which they should not be seeking, if they are Catholics in good conscience. Yet these points are easily ignored when government, that supreme protector of the individual gets involved in areas such as health care. They hold the reigns, which must mean they know better.

This is one of the key yet less discussed matters when it comes to national health care, indeed of any government involvement in such intimate areas of life. When the government runs it, it gets to decide what is moral. You need no conscience when you have Washington in your corner. Barack Obama will take of that for you.

In light of all this, no Catholic in good conscience should vote for that man. If you have a problem with that statement, then perhaps you need to look inside yourself and find your conscience. That is, unless the conscience of Big Brother is good enough for you.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Another Earth?

SPACE.com reports that circling a nearby star (or, more precisely, an three start system) is a planet with potentially earth-like conditions, particularly that it might have water. Its orbit is right in the area which would allow water to be liquid, rather than burn off (if too close to a start) or freeze (if too far away). 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 of necessity (as the science fiction authors seem to believe) 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.

In short, the discovery cannot really been seen as, uh, earth shattering. Interesting, even fascinating, but not a blow to any rational view of life, the universe, and everything. Kept in that context, we see good science at work. To interpret any more than that from the new finding would, however, require a foolish leap of faith.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

No Minority Clout from Michigan?

The heat is on for the August elections in Michigan, and the most interesting races may just be in the new 13th and 14th Congressional Districts in and around the Detroit area. With the Democrats having been aced out of at least one seat as a result of the redrawing of districts based on the 2010 Census, Democratic incumbents Gary Peters and Hansen Clarke are facing a showdown against each other in the 14th. Meanwhile, the 13th features a battle between long time Congress man John Conyers and a Detroit State Senator, Detroit State Representative, and a Westland State Senator. Senators Bert Johnson of Highland Park and Glenn Anderson of Westland, along with Representative Shanelle Jackson of Detroit. Also facing off in the 14th are Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence and former State Representative Mary Waters of Detroit.

Gary Peters has the ability to outspend Clarke, and Mayor Lawrence is being called a tough campaigner. Representative Conyers may be facing the toughest challenge of his political career. But perhaps the most interesting possibility, with both districts being wildly gerrymandered, is that Michigan will not lose one but both minority representatives in Congress.

With the various voting rights laws in place, it was widely thought that Conyers and Clarke would be given relatively safe seats to defend. Yet with the 14th District wildly (and even absurdly) stretched narrowly along the Detroit River, through the Grosse Pointes then back across northern Detroit, and finally up into Oakland County before finishing in Pontiac, Clarke's fate is nowhere near certain. Especially with the minority vote possibly spread quite thin among three candidates for the primary, he appears more than vulnerable.

Conyers' district on the other hand is probably safer. He retains a huge swath of Detroit, from the southwest and central parts of the City through the northwest. But the new 13th also contains a large part of suburban Wayne County, through Redford, Westland and Wayne. If Senator Johnson can split the Detroit vote it might just open the door for Glenn Anderson.

Before blaming all this on the GOP, one should remember that it is the mass exodus from Detroit and the effective dispersal of the minority vote which is the real culprit here. A point is reached where mere statistical reality can make it impossible to create secure seats for any given person, let alone group. Demanding particular outcomes can never be certain anyway. Criticize the Republicans if you wish; the Democrats would have gerrymandered too, yet been subject to the same statistical realities.

In the end, expect Conyers to win and Clarke to lose. The seats themselves will stay Democratic, unless both Conyers and Clarke should lose. That won't happen.

But the GOP can dream, can't it?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Trouble with Equality

We are in this world almost daily deluged with calls for equality. It all sounds so good, and everyone seems to want it. But there's only one problem with it.

We are not, any of us, really equal.

This is not to say that we are not political equals. Yet even that phrase leaves a bit of uncertainty: we are only equal because my vote should count as much as yours. That doesn't strike us as equality. It strikes us as justice.

In the same manner, as we have employed this tactic when talking about freedom, education, peace, and so forth, so too do we find that we must apply it to any calls for equality. We need to ask what the supporters of equality really mean. Because any absolute and final equality of circumstances must actually be something which applies only in very, very few cases. Take equal pay for equal work, for example. Notice that we are asking a question whose answer only applies to very strict and definite circumstances. A woman cancer doctor, 50 years old, with 20 years of practice, who graduated from the same schools with the same grades as a complimentary male cancer specialist in the same place of work, and with the same proficiency of work, should get the same pay. No rational mind would argue otherwise. But the case is so limited that only one answer is truly right anyway.

As to the other facet of the argument, well, calls for equality must ring hollow because, again, we are not equal. A brain surgeon isn't equal to a plumber, no matter how much more we want the latter when the faucet breaks or the basement floods, and no matter which is male or female. As a matter of decency, we should not automatically look well on the surgeon nor ill on the plumber. But yet again, that's a point about justice, not equality.

We could refine the case further, but we trust the point is made. When we are demanding equality we are often (if not in fact always) demanding justice. We are asking that we be treated rightly and properly in light of the circumstances which surround us. We are not asking for equality. We are asking for justice.

So, and we are sure many people may have grown tired of us asking yet we must, when you demand equality, do you really want that? If so, how? Why? For we need to remember that the only sure way to make folks equal is downward, to the where no one is above the lowest common denominator.

That the average person means equality in the sense of true justice we don't doubt. Still, it is when we use terms wrongly that we have the greatest troubles. It is then when the radical fringe of any given group may take the day. Yet when we clarify our thoughts, when we strive to end misunderstanding by calling things what they are, then, indeed, justice wins out. Isn't that what we really want?