Saturday, April 27, 2013

Episcopal Bishop Criticizes Detroit Archbishop

An openly gay and retired Episcopal bishop has denounced Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron for his remarks that those Catholics who support gay marriage should not receive communion. He basically accuses the Church of 'profaning' the Sacrament and was very quick to assert that the Church has not made similar calls for sexually abusive priests to refrain from communion themselves. It would seem that the bishop in question, Gene Robinson, has really allowed his own biases to get in the way of his judgment.

To begin with, Archbishop Vigneron's statement quite obviously includes, by an easy logical extension, Catholics of any stripe who have been sexually abusive. It reads: “If a Catholic publicly opposes the Church on a serious matter of the Church’s teaching, any serious matter -- for example, whether it be a rejection of the divinity of Christ, racist beliefs, support for abortion, or support for redefining marriage -- that would contradict the public affirmation they would make of the Church's beliefs by receiving Communion.” Vigneron was merely giving examples of the types of behavior which should preclude a Catholic from receiving communion; it was certainly not intended be an exhaustive list but rather a representative example of such behaviors. The implication is that any serious breach of Catholic doctrine, any serious sin, ought to inform a Catholic, any Catholic, that it would not be proper to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. Besides all that, there are no examples of a serious Catholic publicly supporting pedophilia or sexual abuses anyway; Bishop Robinson is mixing things up for the sake of muddying the waters, of causing confusion on a very important matter.

Why would he do that? Likely as not because his own biases are at work. It is not surprising that an openly gay man would support gay rights. But as he claims to be Christian, it becomes fair to ask whether he has taken a key point of Christianity to heart. Has he questioned his motives; has he seriously considered that, perhaps, he is wrong? If Christianity does nothing else, it certainly calls on believers to examine their consciences and reform their lives.

It is all to easy to feel one way and justify that feeling into doctrine. We are after all dealing with a prelate who belongs to a church founded merely so that a king could get a divorce. If there is a secular church in the world, it may well be the Church of England. We ought not be surprised when its leaders, even retired ones, feel that secular wants should triumph over Divine. They began the whole process of watering down Christianity way back in the 1500s.

If what you want are secular values to rule a secular world, so be it. But be honest about it, and kindly do not disparage a Catholic leader supporting a Divine rule. All that does is make all of Christendom less Christian.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Words Have Meaning

We live by definition. Many folks will disagree with that, and it's interesting to wonder whether all they're doing is living under a different definition. It would seem so, despite the fact that, very often, they attempt to live a banner of no definition.

What purpose can that serve? For starters, all it really does it put them into the category of relativists. All kinds of fun can be had with factoid, but we'll set aside for now. There's a more ominous idea at work under the auspices of no definition. If people cannot be defined, then no human action can be called wrong as there would be no definition to fit it.

That's why so many folks now believe that marriage can be between any two people who love each other. It takes away from marriage by making the term meaningless, that is, without definition. It throws the point into the realm of love, whatever that means, as it is also a term used rather loosely these days. How many of us actually consider what love might be, or what it actually might demand of us? Very few, because it is now a term used merely to justify what we want to do and with whoever wants to do it with us.

Words mean things. At least, they're supposed to. There the only way in which we can effectively communicate, and they can only be effective when we define them. This is hardly a new concept. The ancient Greeks insisted that we must define our terms before discussing matters; more recently, Rush Limbaugh opined that, well, words mean things. If we are truly serious about understanding other people and other cultures then we have to be able to understand what is being said by ourselves and others. If we are really serious about ending war and injustice or merely making our local community a better place, then we must admit that our words must be well defined in manners comprehensible and acceptable to all rational people.

If we do not do this, then we are simply banging a gong when we speak. Such is nothing more than a metallic din which can only drown out those who really want a better world.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Making College Cheaper

We are constantly lambasted with the news that around one in three Michigan high school graduates are not ready for college. To be sure, the data varies from district to district. Yet even the wealthier areas, the areas where the schools are supposed to be so much better than everyone else because they have so much more money which they oh so willingly throw at their charges, show a rather high rate of graduating students who need remedial work in a university setting too. Bloomfield Hills schools show that slightly over a fifth of their pupils require extra lower level work in order to be prepared for college. The Grosse Pointe Schools show that 16% of their grads need it too.

What can we make of these facts? To begin with, money probably isn't what makes good schools good. The key difference between poorer areas and wealthier is almost certainly in the areas of parental involvement and family support structure and not in the fact that there's more cash to toss around. Even in the richer parts of town, one in five and one in six rates of poorly trained graduates (considered solely in terms of preparedness for higher education) seems rather high.

That isn't necessarily the fault of the schools or the teachers themselves, however, any more than poor performing schools absolutely reflect bad schools or bad teachers in less affluent neighborhoods. What we are facing here is the simple fact that not everyone wants to go to college. Or should.

How do we address that in a way fair and equitable to everyone? The most obvious answer would be to stop pushing the inane idea that college is for everyone, or worse (as is so often implied) that a degree makes you more special or more fulfilled than someone without one. That's nothing more than the arrogance of the credentialed, and a disgusting and shallow breed of haughtiness it is indeed. Let those who do not want college feel no pressure to attend.

While we're at it, why not drop the nonsense about needing college to make more money. Yes, we know what the statistics say. We also know plumbers and electricians and business owners of many stripes who make as much as their lawyer and teacher friends while working no more hours. Individual initiative and not university is often, if not generally, what makes for better salaries.

It might help us to notice two others areas which also play into the college scenario. The first are the amount of jobs which require a college degree yet, in a better and perhaps saner world, would not. To become a title abstracter you need a anything. Yet when we contacted an abstracter, he told us that an intelligent eighth grader could do his work. So why college for it?

Then, even where we would concede college necessary, couldn't we make it cheaper by having universities drop silly and stupid courses? Michigan State offers a course in surviving Zombie attacks; Siena Heights University has had classes on The Simpsons and Philosophy; and Wayne State University offers ballroom dancing, all for college credit. This isn't to pick on MSU, WSU, or Siena, as we're sure other Michigan universities have similar curriculum shortcomings. Yet even the supposed core curriculum subjects could be paired; why must an engineering major take a history course? It is safe to presume the schools could cut plenty of spending themselves to make a university degree, where necessary and prudent, more affordable.

Many of the economic stats simply reflect the fact that some jobs pay less than others, as ought to be expected. What else ought to be expected yet is not is that some people are perfectly happy with those chores. And a good thing too: how many good and needed things would go undone without them? Those who elect to do such jobs, or even feel no option but to take them on, are surely not second class citizens. They or their jobs should not be treated as such.

In short, the remedial needs rates of recent high school graduates are not of themselves cause for panic or concern. They may simply reflect the desire of some people to do things other than what society may think they ought. As such, we have but one duty: to get out of their way and let them live their lives. It's something we could easily do by merely shaving an inch or two off the ivory tower and the attitudes which feed it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

This and That on a Saturday

Should a big deal be made out of the fact that the Boston Marathon bombers were Muslim? Surely even the most reactionary conservative would agree that such horrible tragedies are only played out by the people on the fringe of a group rather than encouraged by a group's mainstream members. Still, it may matter, depending on exactly what the perpetrators had in mind. Did their religion, at least in their minds, compel them to do what they did? It bears remembering that with Islam there is no real hierarchy from which it is easy to glean what exactly it stands for or works against. As such, who really knows what it means.

Global warming, huh? Detroit woke up to freezing temperatures, snow on the ground, and a half an inch of ice on car windows. Yes, yes, yes, one day doesn't prove anything and we had absurdly high temperatures in March 2012. Yet winter is not letting go this year, and isn't it the most recent things which matter in the world of pop science? Can't you feel the nuclear winter approaching?

Gay rights activists seem to believe that the Church ought not be so obstinate about things, that She should be willing to change. But aren't they obstinate and unwilling to change as well? And as any appeal to God or faith calls upon us to question ourselves and our motives, doesn't it seem that the burden of examining one's conscience means questioning one's own motives and desires? When all of Christendom has for centuries said one thing while those opposed to certain issues have only really spoken up in the last 80 years or so (and are in the definite minority among Christians at that) it seems that change out to come out of the individual rather than the institution?

And please don't bother about the things which the Church has supposedly changed over the years; truth has not changed but has only become more readily understood. Yet some issues have already plainly and clearly understood, and one of those is that conjugal relations are supposed to be between a man and a woman. That's hardly even a point of faith. It's obvious to anyone after a moment's thought.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

McFarlane's Regrets Ring Hollow

Seth McFarlane has proven beyond doubt that he is not interested in anything or anyone save himself. His cartoons, Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show regularly prove it.

Episodes are often so unbelievably gross and so downright crude that it is difficult to imagine he truly sought to entertain his audience. He more likely wants to insult our decency and intelligence, first by employing repugnant story lines, and then by trying to make a statement on the meaning of life (or lack thereof) afterwards. There is no actual comedic purpose to the former, and no worthwhile insight on the latter.

Yet he has the gall to complain about what someone has done with an unaired episode of Family Guy centered around one of his characters massacring runners during the Boston Marathon. While his anger is understandable after this week's tragic events, it is all the same hypocritical in light of his routine and uncharitable lambasting of people, events, and institutions which he has displayed through his aired episodes of Family Guy and his other creations. He would not have been upset with the entire version of his show if nothing unusual had happened at this year's Boston Marathon; why is he upset that a cropped version gets spread around the web? Because it's crass? That hasn't stopped him before.

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? Where has his arrogant attitude gone now, now that his work might be immediately offensive? Either way, it demonstrates not artistic merit or any real concern for the folks in TV land or folks in general. It is little more than the arrogance of a small mind.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We are Right, if so for the Right Reasons

Well, what do we have here? An innocent event of longstanding tradition becoming something tragic. And who is at fault?

Someone wishing us to stop us living as we do, by making us afraid to go about our everyday activities.

They do not seem to realize that one of our everyday activities involves doing what can be done to make the everyday activities of our compatriots safe. They do not realize that that is our strongest quality: the one which will defeat them, those who oppose the mere safety of all involved merely because they do not like that we revel in such simple pleasures. Our strongest quality is that we deign to strive for a world free of such selfish acts.

This is a selfish act. As such, it will be shown, in the end, to be no threat to our way of life. And why?

Because it is not. If, that is, what we strive for is right and true.

The cowardly threaten; they sometimes act. Yet they will never prevail. It is that simple. If, or course, we really believe our way of life to be just and true, and for just and true reasons. If we don't believe that, then what they want and what we want are pretty close to the same. If all is actually up to the individual, then we have no ground with which to argue with terrorists. Their being individuals as well as we are, then this act is as likely to be right as our reaction to it. Yet if truth is beyond the person, they are wrong in what they did. If truth is beyond the person, we are right.

On which side of this question do you stand?

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Evil GOP

"Republicans? They evil."

It should not be shocking to hear such commentary, especially after some twenty five years of political commentary. It's reflective of a lower class, knee jerk view of the political scene, an attitude of which liberals take full advantage.

You must understand that the speaker of that quote, we know by first hand knowledge, is not the sharpest tack in the box. He's 'a bubble off plumb' as a mechanical contractor would say. But no matter: the salient point is that the man clearly does not think things through properly. He wants what he wants because he wants it, and someone should just give it to him. He believes what he believes because it suits his belief system, and nothing more. This is the very definition of modern liberalism. And no fair asking questions about whether it is deserved or moral or merited. Society should simply give him what he wants because he wants it. Yet those evil Republicans won't give it to him.

Liberals play to this mentality, obviously enough, by promising him everything he wants. That's essentially how Barack Obama became our president, though Republicans not being conservative enough over the last few years surely helped. The left craves power and they get power by relying on the basest aspect of humanity: jealousy. It's not fair that other people should have what I don't. It's not fair that better paying jobs go to other folks. It's not fair that I should have to work for what I get. It's not fair that a rich woman can get an abortion and I can't, that farmers can sell their land to developers when I think that land (which I'll never see) should be kept pristine or that polar bears in the Alaskan wilderness should be hampered by oil rigs. If it ain't what I want, it's not fair.

And if you don't accept this train of thought?

You're evil.

Here we thought it was the Christians who had the holier than thou market cornered. You learn something new every day.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

This and That on a Sunday

Liberals believe in freedom of speech. Is that correct, Ben Carson? Are the people who are against bullying bullying the bullies? For those who support peace at any cost we ask, North Korea? If anyone should fight for people as hard as they fought to keep a 300 year old tree alive in Romeo, Michigan, the world might actually be a better place in which to live. Is human safety more important than a tree? Before answering, refer to the previous statement. Is this all there is to talk about on a Sunday morning? No, but it will do.

Monday, April 8, 2013

So He's a Nice Guy

"This is a nice man, what does it matter?"

- quote from a parishoner about an openly gay man, 'married' to another man, who is now banned from parish duties at his Catholic church.

There is no easy way to write this. How can you write against a nice man? It is a question which resounds in the secular world, a question which the secular world apparently interprets as THE question. Is he a nice man? Yes? Then why can't he do whatever he wants?

Well, perhaps because niceness does not equal moral.

It is a legend among the Catholic faithful that if one should meet the Devil Himself on the street, one would like him. He would seem 'nice'. A good neighbor. The kind of guy who kept his lawn mowed neatly, with nice crisp trim lines along the sidewalks. He would appear to be all that is good, to the point of going to Church and talking to fifth graders about their confirmation. An all right Joe.

And that's the trouble with evil. It is enticing. It promises so much which seems so good: satisfaction, pleasure, and a certain self assurance. It seems so good; all our wants addressed in one neat little package, if only we should do, or allow someone to do, something. Anything. In this particular case, what someone wants to do without introspection, without a consideration that he, an otherwise good Catholic, ought maybe to question his own motives. He's a nice man. Why shouldn't he do whatever he wants, provided, of course, that it doesn't hurt anyone else?

But does it not? When an immorality is accepted, even an immorality which we of course would not do but if someone else should want to do it, well, what's it to us, how does it not affect us, our children, and our community? If a man was an island, such might be fair questions.

Yet a man is not an island, is he? It takes a village, does it not, Mrs. Clinton? And what should that village do when raising the young? Instruct them on what is right and good, or ask them if their conscience is clear on a matter, any matter, and thus allow it? How does that make them grow? Satisfied, pleasured, and self assured, perhaps?

Indeed it will. But where should such thought leave them as individuals? As nice ones, or good ones? That's the real issue, and the one which gets ignored far too often in the secular and even, it seems, the religious world.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Detroit Treats Veterans with Disrespect

Do you want to know why the City of Detroit needs an emergency manager? All the broad and general points have been made and debated furiously. Perhaps a single example of a single person might demonstrate the point. Detroit needs an emergency manger because it is so terribly disorganized that the city doesn't even know its own rules.

A veteran who served his country for all of 2007, 2008, and 2009, who was otherwise a lifelong citizen of Detroit, and proud of his citizenship while so very many people who professed belief in Detroit skipped town (and yet somehow feel the right to defend it against the EM), received a letter asking for his Detroit Income Tax payments for 2007 and, interestingly, 2009. The letter explained that the city was trying very hard to maintain fiscal solvency and that it would help if he would pay his taxes. And, you may ask, what's wrong with that? Why shouldn't everyone, even soldiers, pay their fair share?

Although paying their fair share is an important question for anyone, one wonders why such inquiries aren't answered well enough by the statement: because he was serving his country (and, by extension, his hometown) while earning his pay in 2007 and 2009? Might that be enough of a fair share? Yet even such issues are made worse by other salient facts, not the least of which is that Detroit's own income tax regulations exempt the pay of those in the military on active duty from paying the city income tax. It's all there on the city's own Frequently Asked Questions section of their website dealing with the city income tax: Just read the answer to question 11. It might help to mention that such facts are found on the instructions to Detroit Income Tax forms from 2007 and 2009 as well.

All righty then, how was the city to know that said soldier was in the active military? Well, perhaps because the letter knew what he had earned during 2007 and 2009 and thereby knew what he owed in taxes, which was supposedly about $2,000. How might Detroit know such intimacies? Perhaps from his W-2? But from where would it get the information from his W-2? Oh, yes, of course: his employer. The United States Army.

Should we even ask now why there was no demand for income taxes from 2008? Or did the City of Detroit Finance Division somehow realize that that would have been smack in the middle of this veteran's three year service period?

This is a very simple question to get right, and Detroit got it wrong. Did someone not look at his W-2s? Could they not make a phone call or two whilst trying to eliminate confusion? Could they not cross reference the city's own income tax laws and determine why our loyal veteran paid no city income tax for the years in question? Did they, whoever decided that a letter must be sent dunning this soldier for payment, even look over the pertinent documents before authorizing the letter?

Apparently not. And this is why the City of Detroit needs an emergency manager. The right hand doesn't know what the left is doing, nor does it have the sense enough to check. Detroit needs an emergency manager because it is either sick or stupid. Hopefully the former; such would at least offer a better excuse for the poor treatment of one of its nation's finest.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why Not a First Strike?

The North Koreans are preening like peacocks this week. Their threats are raining upon South Korea and the United States like a tsunami. Everyone expects that they are hollow. They probably are. Yet with each step towards taking actual action, from moving a missile around which has the capacity to reach South Korea, Japan, and even Guam, up to and including the supposed authorization of their army to use nuclear weapons against the United States, isn't it fair to consider when we and our allies ought to perhaps do something more than talk, or merely move around our defensive weapons and systems? Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel insist that we are doing all they can diplomatically to lessen the pressures. Let's presume they are; how long might it be before the North Koreans actually do something? Isn't it fair to wonder whether they may really mean to do something this time? It is far too easy to believe that they would never do anything suicidal; but might they one day become convinced of their own rhetoric, or reach the point where they feel they cannot back down and manage to save face? It is with great consideration and soul searching that any nation should approach the war option. But approach it, at times, a nation must. Are we reaching the point where it might make sense to take a page from Israel's book? Might we at least begin to consider a pre-emptive strike? Who knows? One well placed missile might cool the North Korean rhetoric; it may even fuel a rebellion there, and end the threat to world peace of evil regime in Pyongyang. Surely this thought is at least at the back of the minds of Secretaries Kerry and Hagel, and even President Obama. It ought to be if it is not. Morally, we do not have to wait for an actual attack to defend ourselves or our allies.

Monday, April 1, 2013

No Labels Mean to Deceive

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, along with a host of other political workers and aspirants, are behind what is supposed to be a bipartisan group, No Labels. The organization wants to form chapters in all 435 Congressional districts, with its goal being an end to political polarization, electoral reform, the federal deficit and energy independence.

Where to begin? For starters, no group can exist without a label. Labels, quite frankly, tell us who or what we are and what we support, at least within general parameters. So in this case, No Labels stands for centrism, whatever that may be. The issues listed above seem to hit the mark as to that concern. Those issues are, by the way, more liberal than conservative, although there surely is a conservative flavor mixed into deficit questions.

Add in the fact that the vast majority of the organizers are Democrats, and it is easy to see that the new group is no honest cross the aisle organization. What they are doing is trying to play on the presumed will of certain Americans who are further presumably sick and tired of partisan politics and want the bickering to end. So they hypocritically, ahem, label themselves No Label to attempt to seem out of the mainstream.

It is interesting to note that Mayor Bloomberg, having spent more of his own money than anyone else to win and keep his office, indeed having had the system changed in NYC so that he would not be term limited, should be one spouting electoral reform. That by itself hardly strikes us as nonpartisan. It seems like a man with an agenda, which is exactly what marks most certainly any political movement. The No Label thing betrays itself by its own actions.

So what we have is a center/left partisan group deigning to call itself nonpartisan in order to attract attention and, in some way, it would seem, votes. The question then becomes, why doesn't the left want to be called liberal?

Conservatives don't mind being called conservative. Indeed, they quite insist on it. They don't mind people knowing who they are and what they mean. They don't hide behind political showmanship. They like their label.

Do the No Label people like their more generally accepted label, again, liberal? Apparently not. From what, then, do they wish to hide?