Thursday, January 31, 2013

Euthnasia Insults Human Dignity

A set of twins in Belgium, where euthanasia is legal, were allowed to be euthanized on the grounds that their lives were destined to be intolerable. They had been deaf since birth and were going blind but were not terminally ill or suffering physically. They simply could not stand the thought that they would lose further communication with the world and each other.

To have a basic human sympathy for their plight is understandable. Yet to think it all right for them to die merely because they feared the future says something even more about their outlook on life, and of the real value of human life that societies which allow euthanasia actually hold. It says that a human life can be judged not worth living for any reason at all, even such a one as inconvenience.

Yet all lives have their inconveniences, don't they? All lives have pain and suffering, or, at least, ample opportunities for horrible conditions. If someone at some time can end their life simply because conditions grieve them, then shouldn't we all end our lives as they will all at times and invariably be hurtful? Are not all of our lives, strictly in terms of suffering, not worth living? What point is there to suffering anyway, again strictly in terms of suffering?

Did anyone say Helen Keller to these guys? Why do you have to have full command of all your senses in order for your life to have value? Does it show a defect in American society and the broader world that we (generally) do not allow euthanasia? Or does show a defect in those who want to be euthanized? It's a fair question to ask, no matter how many folks may think it crudely put. Is it okay to kill someone, even yourself, merely because you don't like your life for any reason?

We euthanize animals, don't we? Yes, but essentially because they are not sentient, they are not self aware. They do not have the obvious gifts which human beings do. They are below us. Their lives do not and cannot have the meaning ours can and do. They react; we reflect. We have an idea of the value of life; they do not. Equating people with the lower animals only goes to prove our point further: too many in modern times simply do not believe that human life has a dignity which badgers and beavers do not.

Did you have a choice in being born? No? Then why should you think you have a say in when you die?

We are not talking here about people taking actions, soldiers, for example, which might result in their death. They are not willing themselves to die but are rather willing to risk death for a cause greater than themselves. We are not mere animals; we are sentient, thinking beings on a much higher level. The voluntary risk of death by some is in fact a recognition that there are things about human society which must be preserved. Why? Because of our right to life, and our responsibility to live well and rightly.

In the end, our lives are not ours anyway. If so, we would have willed our births and not simply have had them foisted upon us. As it is, it is below the dignity of human life, even a willing human life, to kill itself merely to avoid anything, even suffering. Our lives are not so shallow as to be ended as with the dumb animals. Assisted suicide as such is not justice. Further, it is respect for the dignity of human life in any way, shape or form. It is killing a human being. Killing one. Society dresses the issue in prettier language simply because to state in in plain English might cause people to actually realize the evil inherent in such acts.

It is evil to pretty up death by suicide. Especially selfish ones which are below our intellect.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Faith and Good Health

Metro Detroit doctor Earlexia Norwood prays. She prays for guidance while diagnosing illnesses, and sometimes prays with her patients. It's because she believes that faith helps the healing process, and that medicine can't do everything.

There has been much research on the connection between faith and healing. Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of Duke University's Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, says that there have been many studies into the issue of religious belief and curing the sick, and that around two-thirds of them find a healthy correlation between the two.

It is fascinating to hear Detroit physicians and surgeons so accepting of the role faith plays when treating their patients. True doctors, those open to the fact that they can't do it all medically, are more than willing to give the higher powers of religion their due. After all, they became doctors to help people. The desire to help is naturally unselfish and welcomes any aid which it may get. It makes you wonder how much healing we might receive in any and all walks of life if we were self effacing enough to put faith at the center of curing all societal ills and not only the physical.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Truth Will Rise

Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the candidate for Vice President on Mitt Romney's ticket during the 2012 Presidential election in the United States, gave a speech yesterday in which he encouraged the GOP to pick its battles in the coming four years against President Barack Obama. Basically, he said that the Republicans need to oppose the President outright at times, compromise at times, and make the President's proposals (alliteration can be cool) more conservative when they can be so made. It is good advice.

What else can be done save to work with what we've got? And what we've got is four more years of President Barack Obama. He can, if he has the spine, and evidence shows he has more than that, veto what he does not like. And his vetoes will hold. Despite the control the Republican Party has on the House of Representatives, the Democrats hold the Senate. No veto will be, can be, overridden until at least 2015.

What does this say of the obvious majority? The majority which exists, obviously, in the fact that Republicans control most state houses and governorships. The United States is a conservative nation; it was founded on what today would be called conservative principles. We are a conservative nation. What do we do?

We wait. In the meantime, we do what we can, and we wait. We delay what seems inevitable (only seems, remember) and do what we can with what we've got to hold at bay the true evils which infect our country.

Such is not surrender; such is not an admission of defeat. Reality imposes certain restrictions; yet they are nothing more than restrictions of the moment. A 'tactical readjustment of the lines' may be necessary from time to time, from point to point. We are still winning the battle of the spirit.

It is a battle we will win. We will win it because human beings in their hearts see and understand it. It is a battle we will win because everyone, every man, woman, and child, sees it and fights towards it.

We will win it because it is in our nature. We will win it because it is what we believe. We will win it because it is right, and we know it.

We know it. That is our strength and our comfort. We know it.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cut Teachers a Break

It is the issue which won't go away; indeed, we have here spoken of it several times ourselves. We are talking about, again, the way in which we measure teacher performance.

There was a while back a voluntary survey conducted by the Detroit Free Press which has concluded that 30%, or just about 1 in 3, Michigan teachers have felt pressure to cheat. A few have even admitted altering grades.

No one condones cheating. Yet that does not mean that we ought not have a certain sympathy for those of us caught in difficult, if not dire, situations. This is specially true when the rational argument can be made that they are being judged under circumstances over which they have little, if any, control. Educators have little control over who ends up in their classrooms. They have even less say, if any at all, in the home and personal lives of their students.

Claiming that a good teacher can teach anybody is nothing more than a flippancy. It simply ignores reality. Not everyone can learn nor is everyone willing to learn, and such obstacles are not easily overcome. Pressuring teachers, who have their particular lives and pressures to worry over, is bound to invite bending rules among the less stout of heart. Yet with our insistence on finding or developing some sort of almost scientific manner upon which to grade our instructors, methods which basically ignore the obviously non-scientific factors listed here and elsewhere, there seems no leeway except to call teachers on the carpet over matters they cannot affect. That is simply absurd.

There seems two ways ultimately to approach the problem. One is to back off the teachers who work in the tougher areas which will, no offense intended but said only to reflect reality, produce a talent pool of lower ability. The other, and this will seem ironic, reduce the amount of public support for education. Yes, we mean cut funding. Even further, perhaps, than it has been. Those who can learn will learn with less cash being spent on them. Those who can't or won't learn won't be helped either way.

But the trouble with each approach lies in that fact that conservatives, rightly enough, so far as it goes, want an idea about return on investment. They want to measure, as quantifiably as they can, whether the money spent is well spent. This ignores that there are areas where the ROI simply isn't going to be good no matter what. Liberals, being liberal, simply want to throw more money at the schools. They forget that continuing to do what doesn't work will not make it work, and the amount of money spent means nothing in that light.

Neither of these ideas will come to life. And the only ones who will be hurt in the meantime are the ones caught in the middle of the game: the teachers.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monday Holidays

Today is Martin Luther King Day! Of course, today really would have mattered little to him, as it isn't his birthday or anniversary or anything important to him or his life. But thanks to the Monday Holiday Law, most holidays are celebrated on the Monday after a truly important day, if it falls on a Sunday, or on the nearest Monday if it happens to fall at a different time of the week. Why do we do it? So that workers may enjoy an extended weekend several times a year. Perhaps too so that it may make the work week easier to plan if we simply get the day off at the start of the week rather than as an interruption to the flow of things on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

But have we ever considered that such a practice is immeasurably insulting to the people and the events and the causes which we celebrate? We are speaking about people who gave their lives so that we could be here today to grill or watch ballgames or what have you, causes which speak to the soul, and events so important to our history as a nation that without whose remembrance we commit a great affront to our collective memory. And what do we do?

Shove them around the calendar for our convenience.

Wow. That Dr. Martin Luther King was such a great guy, let's make his birthday a holiday. Only let's make it on the nearest Monday if January 15th inconveniently falls on a Tuesday this year, so that we can enjoy a prolonged vacation. Whatever we do, we better remember our heroes in the way which suits us best: by us taking time off to do as we please. That's what matters: our convenience.

That's simply wrong.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

There is good, and evil, in the world

Perhaps the most vexing problem in the world today is the idea of evil. It is so vexing that most of the world, the vaunted Western world anyway, attempts to ignore it. There are no evil people, it says. There are only people trying to get along the best they can with the resources they've got.

Such is certainly true so far as it goes. We have to work with what we've got, intellectually and incidentally, according to our position in life. But how far does that go, really? What can it say of innovation and drive, indeed, of free will? What can it say of the chance that we may recruit allies and make things better? What can it say about what our opposition may do, to thwart our plans?

Not very much. If we are all simply stuck with what we've got, with what we are born with, shall we say, what hope is there of improvement? On the other side of the coin, what prospect exists of doing real harm to the world and its peoples either? If we are born only what we are, how can we progress or regress? Truly said, if there are no evil people, can there be good people? And if we cannot know that we are doing is good, what is the point of doing it?

Yet we know by experience that we, as individuals and societies, both progress and regress, daily and through history, individually and collectively. But by what right can we even call progress progress, or regress regress, without a knowledge that we may be progressing or regressing? And if we are really progressing, really making the world a better place for persons and nations, wouldn't that be called good? Similarly, if we are actually regressing, would that not be called evil?

This becomes dangerously close to calling some people evil, which is really what the world wishes to avoid. Wouldn't it be better if we all saw each other as moral equals doing only what we can with what we've got? Wouldn't it?

No, it would not. For in so doing we would only give mission to those who would do wrong. We would only be sanctifying their will. If there is no good and evil, if there is no right and wrong, then our actions do not matter. If our actions do not matter, then it does not matter what we do. And that, by itself, is evil, because it allows those with power to do with the rest of us whatever they want, despite our protests. It allows the individual as well to do as he sees fit without regard to what effect that might have on those around him. And we cannot protest, if there are no angels and devils, no good and evil, within us. How may we claim our own rights, if the devils among us are as apt to be as right and good as the supposed angels?

If good does not believe that it is good, then evil has won. If good will not call itself good, then evil has won. Still, calling the good good and the evil evil does not necessarily mean that the people involved are good or evil. But it must mean that their causes are one or the other. Which means that we must choose whether we are with the one or the other. We must choose whether we are trying to be good and do good, or trying to be evil and do evil.

So make your choice. But spare us the platitudes which only assert that our choices do not matter. Such platitudes only serve the cause of evil. Do you want to feed or starve that cause?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Obama's Hypocrisy on Abortion

Well. When living children who reach the age of six or so are shot to death, they are mourned. As well they should be, of course. As well they should be. Yet should their mothers had elected to terminate their young lives in the womb, or, perhaps, a scant few seconds after they had left the womb, well, that is Momma's choice. Or Barack Obama's, as the case may be, given the legislation he and they supported?

How many children died during the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month? How many would have died before their births six years or thereabouts prior should theirs mothers and Barack Obama had chosen their deaths?

Pretty much about the same numbers.

Yet Adam Lanza is a cad, and Barack Obama a hero as he pronounces new gun control legislation. The pot calling the kettle, dare we ask?

Dare we ask. Dare we ask.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Gun Control Debacle

Suffer the little children to come unto me. That could be the mantra of Christ Jesus admonishing his followers to allow children to approach Him freely. Yet it could also and easily be the mantra of President Barack Obama, who summoned children as a backdrop to the announcement of his gun control plans.

What is the difference? One is not using children but, rather, wanting them to approach him for their own good. The other is a political hack employing children as an emotional backdrop to his own selfish pandering towards an electorate, he says, which wants answers.

Well, what answers are there? There is nothing in the President's ideas which would have prevented the Sandy Hook massacre or Aurora, Colorado theater attack. Nothing. The plain fact is that the only type of gun control which may, and we stress very much the word may, actually affect violent acts would be to ban guns entirely. That, of course, can only be brought about by totalitarianism. Even then, would there not be a black market, and underground movement of guns and attack paraphernalia. In short, those intending to do great harm to their fellows will still be quite readily able to do so.

By what sense can it be usefully argued that adding hardships to innocent citizens will make any given thing better? To be sure, there are times when we must try: laws against murder must be on the books despite the knowledge that murders will still be committed, as a symbol of what we stand for as a nation truly interested in the well being of the person. What will all these Executive Orders and what not really do? Nothing except to impose additional and unwarranted difficulties on the law abiding.

?The situation isn't much different from what Americans face daily as the result of the border hassles brought on by 9/11. In the name of fighting terrorism we have made it harder for law abiding citizens to do something as simple and straightforward as visiting Canada. There is no particular reason to believe that making things tough on legal gun owners (or even potential legal gunholders) will keep savagery at bay in the future.

But the government has to do something, right? Barack Obama can't just sit there while all sorts of bogeymen lay in wait for the children, can he? This is political grandstanding at its very worst, for the worst of all possible reasons: one man's legacy.

The President is using children as deflector shields in his continuing assault on the Constitution. Such is not admirable. Yet it could very well be despotic.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Legal Doesn't Always mean Moral

Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal. Never forget that everything the Founding Fathers did was not.

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Much hay is made over the idea that legality equals morality. Yet one moment's reflection by any person of serious thought can demonstrate that such is not necessarily the case.

We must be very careful with any premise which asserts that simply because the leaders of any given nation at any given time or in any given place say something is okay that it is in fact okay. The supporters of atrocities such as abortion regularly and flippantly assert that as it is legal it is moral. Well, as the old saw goes, slavery was once legal. Does that mean slavery, when legal, is moral?

Of course not. Only a fool would build a system of right and wrong on such an axiom. It would result in nothing short of an ethical house of cards, subject to the violence of the summer breeze and the whims of the short sighted and thoughtless soul.

Still, we have essentially done just that in the United States today. The issues involved are not even so heinous as abortion or national health care, either: it is patently immoral to take one man's money to give to another man so that that man can buy a car. Period.

The problem is that when we stray in one area it is too easy to stray in another. To avoid this, we must begin doing what is right because it is right and avoiding wrong because it is wrong. Until we can make that distinction and act properly, we are on the high road to political and social extinction.

The first step in recognizing that is accepting that the best laws are in fact also moral. The first step away is thinking that the legal changes the moral. That is nothing less than Orwellian, and marks nothing less than our doom.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Audacity of the President

“Implicit . . . in the very idea of ordered liberty... is a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or ‘ism,’ any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single unalterable course . . ."

-The Audacity of Hope, by President Barack Obama

Well, there you have it, and about as concisely as can be had. Barack Obama doesn't believe in anything. It's no wonder that he believes that he can do as he pleases without regard to that pesky Constitution. All that document did was to lock future generations into a certain course. Never mind that the ride, on the whole, has been rather fruitful. The Constitution represents an 'ism'.

Guess what, Mr. President? You have an ism yourself. Everyone has an ism. Yours is relativism, and it is by far the worst ism out there.

How can you, Mr. Obama, assert the truth of the need for national health care if you don't see at least a bit of an absolute there? Doesn't everyone, of all times, at some point or another, need health care? Surely you would not have pushed for it if you did not see the benefit for all times and all places? Conservatives don't agree with you, of course. But we would have a greater respect for you if you were to argue that national health care, done well, will be a benefit for this and all following generations. As it is, all we can conclude is that you forced it through for selfish and self serving purposes: to win elections and create a legacy.

Then we have the obvious retort to your written philosophy: how can you be sure that your ideology, and it must be stressed that it is an ideology, be true if nothing is true for all times and all ages? Do you, can you, can any rational and intelligent being, really believe that? It seems that if they did, they would be little more than narcissists, or worse. Why bother about other people if nothing is true for all times and all ages?

Are we to presume, Mr. President, that, as nothing is true for all times and places, that there are, will be, or have been, periods where rape and child molestation are or were moral? Yes, we are quite sure you would say no to that. Yet as soon as you do, you have violated your own creed. By what legal or philosophical justification must rape and child molestation be wrong, anywhere and everywhere, unless we want to to bind the hands of future generations on the grounds that these things are and always will be wrong?

Ye speaketh with forked tongue, Mr. President. If nothing is right or wrong for all ages, then nothing is right or wrong today. But that suits your purposes just fine, doesn't it? You like the tyrannical consistency of relativism. That's how you can support abortion but cry for the children of Newtown, Connecticut. It's all relative.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

CYO Football and GIrls

Leave it to the Catholic Church to cause controversy over an issue which most of society would see as unimportant, or as having been decided long ago. We say that as a compliment, however. The general society needs a better conscience that it actually has, and the Church offers that to those who listen objectively. You can read a basic (and biased against the Church) synopsis here:

Caroline Pla has been told that she can no longer play CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) football in a league sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The Archdiocese has determined that girls should not play contact sports with boys, at least in football. The usual clamor has been raised in an attempt to make the powers that be in the Church in Philadelphia change their mind.

She's a great player, she's great teammate, and she's a role model for young girls are among the platitudes said on her behalf. The trouble is that none of those things matter. When you get down to brass tacks, not even any given boy has a right play in any given sports league, particularly one which is private. If boys don't have an inherent right to play, why should girls?

Then there is the religious aspect. This is another case of the religious right to conscience being ignored by much of society. No individual, and we mean absolutely no individual, has the right to violate the rights of the religious. Of course, that point shall be dismissed. Liberals believe they have the moral authority to force anything on anyone. That includes the religious conscience. The left is only for rights they believe exist.

We hope that the Archdiocese sticks to its guns and will not relent. But whether it does or does not, it is good that it has called attention to such matters. The question of whether should play contact sports with boys isn't really being considered properly. Neither is the issue of religious rights. What is it that so many people, particularly on the left, say? Open your mind when seeking answers. That doesn't seem, however, to apply to their thoughts.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The NHL Returns; So What?

The National Hockey League is back. Or, rather it will be, sometime around January 15th. Are we supposed to be impressed by this?

We shouldn't. Millionaires arguing with other millionaires over how a multi-billion dollar pie should be split. Isn't it a bit absurd that such a thing should matter to the fans who foot that bill?

This is not to single out hockey. It is a situation which every major sport faces from time to time, and equally absurd in the other prime sporting arenas. The fact is that sports and games have become too important to us, and the sports people know this. They know they can play the fans because they know the fans will come back. They would rather see NHL players stalking each other on the ice while they cheer in their blood lust.

It would be nice to talk about integrity here, but there really isn't any. Last minute deals such as the new labor agreement (doesn't it seem somehow an insult to real laborers that such sporting agreements are seen as involving labor?) in the NHL reek of self serving needs. They have to get a season in somehow and someway or they might lose their money. That isn't integrity. That's selfishness. There would be greater integrity in continuing the strike. The parties involved could then at least pretend that it was all about principle.

To be sure, a return to play will help the local businesses which rely on big sports to keep themselves afloat. That is perhaps the biggest reason for happiness over the NHL's return. That is perhaps the biggest reason for having huge and pricey sports leagues and teams, that they help the general economy. Yet none of that really matters to the sports magnates and their stables of players. If it did, there would not have been a strike to begin with.

Ah well. Let the games begin. Maybe a few fans will actively protest and not support the product, but that ain't likely. Bone jarring checks mean more than principle, more than the personal embarrassment of admitting that you've been gamed. The sports leaders know you better than you know yourself. The National Hockey League's return to play will demonstrate that.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Truth about the Minimum Wage

A recent study based on the Basic Economic Security Tables for Michigan has concluded that people can't live on minimum wage.

Shocked? You shouldn't be. Yet what is so often forgotten is that no one generally has to live on it. The overwhelming majority of minimum wage earners are exactly those who don't need to live off of it. They are teenagers and others on the first step of the employment ladder, or the second wage earner in a traditional household. In short, they are, generally speaking, those just getting their feet wet economically. They're getting job experience; what ought they expect when just starting out?

But that is not the real intent behind the study. One of the people it focused on was a 23 year old unmarried mother of two, trying to support herself and her kids working two jobs which paid between $9.50 and $13 bucks an hour. Another is a single mother of three who makes $7.54 an hour as a telemarketer. Single mothers... is anyone willing to stand up and point out that these are not traditional families?

How did they become single mothers? It doesn't matter, because we will be told that that's none of our business as a society. Yet when these single moms want sympathy, and a liberal organizations such as Wider Opportunities for Women and the Michigan League for Human Services, who created the report using public data, want attention to their views on how the government ought to run the economy, then their lot in life is supposed to be our concern.

To call that effrontery is to understate the point. Yet simple common sense says that if these single moms had waited to have kids until they were in a more stable and traditional home environment, or at least until they had gained the skills themselves to qualify for better jobs, then their current wages wouldn't be such an issue.

This is not to disparage all single moms. Some are in that position through no fault of their own, to be sure. But as to the ones who are in such circumstances as the direct result of free will actions of their own, it is fair to wonder exactly how much society ought to change for their benefit. Simple Christian charity indeed calls on us to help...but more for the sake of the children involved. They are the innocents. Their mothers are all too often merely insisting that they be allowed to act any way they want, then demanding society help hold the bag.

It is a point which should not be lost on the larger society when considering wealth and poverty issues.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tolerate Torii!

It has been reported that new Detroit Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter is in trouble with the politically correct police. He has said that he would be uncomfortable with a gay teammate, because active homosexuality is against Christian and Biblical instruction and he's Christian. The media hasn't really gone after him, although it has pointed out that he has made controversial remarks before. He once called Latin baseball players 'imposters' for appearing to be African American when, supposedly, they are not. They want to impugn his character by implying he's racist as well as homophobic.

So where do we go from here? The obvious first response, to the media and not to Mr. Hunter, is, well, racism and being against active homosexuality are not the same thing. One is a hatred based on something which the person cannot control (his skin color) while the other is based on something which someone most certainly can control (his sexual activity). The second is to wonder whether the people of different races ought to be insulted by having sins against them seen as equal to sins which involve mere personal conduct. They should be if they aren't. But thirdly, hmm, let's backtrack a bit, into the deeper recesses of the question at hand. What is one of the key reasons we are supposed to support gay rights?

Isn't it that homosexuals can't help being who they are?

Granted that point, we have the follow up question which is rarely if ever asked.

Shouldn't we tolerate Torii Hunter, being as he can't help who he is either?

Explain that conundrum away, and we would be willing to discuss gay rights. But until then, we have no use for the argument for acceptance based on being born that way. It is ultimately a downright stupid argument, and utterly useless for public debate.