Friday, June 28, 2013

Junk Food Junkies

Under new guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture, schools will have to offer healthier snacks beginning with the 2014-2015 school year. The regulations, titled 'Smart Snacks for Schools' basically eliminate junk foods from school cafeterias and vending machines.

This is an assault on freedom, plain and simple. Does that sound like hyperbole? Well, it isn't. If parents don't mind their kids eating whatever they want, providing it isn't immediately dangerous or stupid, then it isn't any business of government. Especially the federal Department of Agriculture; aren't they supposed to be concerned with the quality of food products as they are produced and sold rather than with who consumes them? Even that is more of a threat than people realize, but it at least allows, for now, those who want salty snacks to have them.

It is or will be argued that it is in the best interests of the nation to do this. To be fair, that might be true. A healthier people would be a better people. Yet when people are, not quite compelled, yes, but certainly stigmatized by an agent of government to eat yogurt or granola rather than Fritos, are we really that far from being told that if you don't eat right, no health care for you?

That's the real threat: small and almost innocuous encouragement now (eat fruit) can develop into you don't get the best medical care you can when you're 50 because your high blood pressure is your fault you moron and the rest of us (society) don't have to help you.

The solution? Private schools and private health care. If someone wants to eat poorly yet can be encouraged through a market approach to take better care of themselves by simply allowing medical insurers to charge higher premiums to higher risks, if schools were not under the domain of government, freedom would be rightly expanded. As it is, far too many citizens will merely nod their heads and quietly agree that eating healthy is everyone's business anyway. That attitude will last only until their way of life becomes questioned similarly.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps by then they will be completely indoctrinated, and will accept that they have earned the punishment they receive. Big Brother will indeed have won, and be loved at the same time.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tolerate me; I'm diverse

We have pointed out many times the number of empty words, words often used without real meaning such as peace, freedom, and education. There are also words used with very definite intentions even though they appear to be innocuous. Perhaps first and foremost among them are 'diversity' and tolerance'.

We are told that we ought to embrace diversity and that we ought to be tolerant. Interestingly enough, the very first problem with these term is no different than testing the use of calls for education or peace or freedom. When someone asks us to accept diversity and become tolerant, we must ask: tolerate what? Tolerate it why? Accept what type diversity? All of it, or only parts of it? For of course all that diversity really means is that A is different from B, and all tolerance means is allowing something to happen or be. It is only through the answers to these question that we can really know what the person is talking about or what they want us to do.

So you see, to actually understand what the preachers of tolerance and diversity want we find ourselves in the same boat as our friends who preach freedom: once we begin the discussion in detail, we aren't talking about toleration or diversity. We're talking about, at the least, acceptable personal and social behavior, and, at the most, good old right and wrong. For surely in asking those necessary questions we aim to draw conclusions about propriety or morals. Indeed, even the person asking for diversity must mean that they want you to accept what they support as right and true. If your compliance didn't matter to them, they wouldn't make any demands upon you.

Another and better question to ask is, if all it's really about is accepting people as they are (which, you may notice, in itself only begs the same questions as descriptive words alone do) then why don't you tolerate me? I'm diverse. All right, so maybe I am intolerant of your creed. Well, then. Put that in your pipe and smoke it too, if it's all about tolerance.

But, as we all know, it isn't about tolerance and diversity. It's about making the more conservative among us accept what we cannot. The fact of the matter is they surely do not appreciate our diverse opinions; they most certainly do not wish to tolerate us. And why? Simply because we disagree with them, and have the audacity to say so.

That leaves us with one final question. Who between us is truly audacious?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Girls have no right to play on boys's teams

Leave it to the Christians 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.

Maddy Blythe has been told that she can no longer play football in a league on a team based in a Christian school. The school 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 school 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 or sports team, 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 school 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 who 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.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mow Your Lawn Today!

We are now well beyond the start of the Ozone Action Day season, according to SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. And although today is not an action day, SEMCOG's website reminds us to be aware of them and to check frequently about when they occur. People are encouraged to not gas up their cars or mow their lawns on Ozone Action Days.

Go ahead and do it anyway. Indeed, look for such days and gas up and mow on them precisely because our local government has said we should not. Nature is incredibly resilient and will survive what little real effect gassing up and cutting grass may do. But more than that, it would serve as a protest against precisely the kind of government intrusion into our lives that is evidence by declaring such days.

To be sure and fair, avoiding certain things on Ozone avoidance days has not been made a point of law. But that step is surely somewhere down the road. The first step is to condition people that the government knows best, that SEMCOG is smarter than and better than you and ought to be obeyed. The slippery slope is exactly how basic human freedoms are the surest way eroded.

So look out for them, and purposely violate them. You're serving a purpose by asserting your authority over your property.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Red Wings new Playground should be Privately Funded

It seems as though Mike Ilitch and the Detroit Red Wings are going to get a brand new hockey arena. After all, the Joe Louis Arena is clearly not a good place to play hockey, and at around 34 years old, well, it's just ancient. No self respecting major league franchise should have to play in a building which is sliding out of the prime 18-34 demographic. It would be an embarrassment.

Before going on, it is only fair to acknowledge the commitment and the good the Ilitch family has show the city of Detroit. It is even right to admit that new arenas and the nearby Comerica park and Foxtown developments have been nice additions to the northern downtown area. But what has been done well in the past cannot mean that the rich and powerful should get special help from government in the future. What would make this new arena really great is exactly what will not happen: completely private funding.

Not one dime of taxpayer money should go towards it. Not one. It's your hockey team, Mr. Ilitch. You will reap the prime benefits of the new arena. Therefore you should foot the bill. Indeed, we wouldn't even be talking about an arena without your ownership of the Red Wings. You ought to pay for their playground. We know of no family who received government help to build a sandbox in their own backyard for their own children. Neither should your children in the winged wheel get privileged treatment from the government trough.

Yet they will. And while the wealthiest of locals gets his corporate welfare many Detroiters will not have working streetlights or improved city services. That's just how it is when the rich pull the strings, isn't it? How it should be, Mr. Ilitch?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Law cannot be Fluid

Mike Duggan can't run for mayor of Detroit...for now. Yesterday's ruling by a Michigan Appeals Court has declared as much, and until the State Supreme Court is called look into the matter that is where it sits. For now, the most interesting discussion of the issue may not be over Duggan's candidacy itself but of the legal questions behind the ruling.

Stephen Henderson of the the Detroit Free Press says that he respects the court's literal ruling yet feels it violates the 'inclusive intent' of Michigan election law. Not being lawyers, we're not certain what he means by that, but we have our suspicions. We suspect that Mr. Henderson, as do so many of the liberal bent, believe that the law should be fluid or 'alive', as is our Constitution according to their view.

But what's the point of fluid law, of laws in motion? The only realistic approach to such a scheme of order can only be chaos, can't it? If the law is allowed to flow according to the will of those immediately involved with it, in this situation Mr. Duggan, how can we have fairness and justice? The Appeals Court has said that the Detroit Charter is unambiguous on the point; isn't that what we want in the law, proclamations which are so well enunciated as to be beyond interpretation? Isn't that the only real way to have every citizen equal before the law?

If the law is bad, there are mechanisms in place to change it. But it shouldn't be changed while the game is in play; that would be like changing baseball rules to have runners must circle the bases clockwise while one is caught between second and third. The game could not be played seriously without respect for the rules as they are whilst it is being played. You may well, for its own good, alter the rules between matches so that everyone who plays later can understand it and play it as best they can. To do so during a match would mock the very sportsmanship and fairness which sports are supposed to promote.

In the same way fluid law mocks the whole process of fairness and justice. If the Charter needs altering, it must come later, not while an issue is in play, and not by courts and their clients seeking whatever they may want simply because they want it.

If that isn't fair to Duggan, and arguably it may not be, the best which can be done is to fix things for the future. Yet as even Duggan and his supporters ought to have been able to predict that the courts might well see things as they have, it hardly seems credible that the whole thing treats him wrongly.

We need unambiguous law. Only our freedom will suffer without it. Our need for the greatest possible and rational freedom is far more important than any potential injustice towards Detroit mayoral candidates in 2013.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

High Gas Prices the Fault of the Public

Gas prices in Michigan are falling. They've dropped 27 cents very recently and are expected to drop further in the coming weeks. That is, of course, if storms in the Gulf Mexico don't cause problems. And if refineries don't have production issues. And if there's no threat of a popular uprising in a nation marginally connected to the oil supply chain. And if a tin horn dictator doesn't get looked at crosswise by an infant. And so on and so on.

Why does fear seem to affect oil prices so much? If we understand the situation correctly, oil prices are based on 'futures' which basically are the anticipation that various factors may affect the oil market in unforeseen ways. Stripped to its essentials, oil prices are set based on the predicted availability of oil in the future. Oil isn't produced in the same way as cars or plumbing supplies but is refined as it moves along the supply line, and that supply, so much of it being controlled by persons and factors beyond normal controls (think the tin horn dictators) can seem more uncertain than the delivery of steel to an auto plant. It makes a certain sense, yes.

It also lacks a certain sense. Why should fear drive, or, perhaps, be allowed to drive, a market so important to our overall economic welfare? Do we not have the moral fortitude, the backbone, to resist panic? If it's panic causing prices to shoot up, and that sure seems to be the case if we take our oil purchasers at face value, then courage ought to be the call of the day, oughtn't it?

The next pertinent question is, why are we in such a predicament to begin with? The answer is as obvious as it is easy. Because we aren't allowed to drill our own oil.

Why haven't the Arctic regions been opened up to the fullest degree? Because environmentalists who will never see that supposed pristine wilderness don't want it 'spoiled'. Because Americans who believe in animals over human beings don't want caribou trails interrupted. Why don't we tap into our more local resources? Because folks don't want oil derricks in their back yards. We get that...but we also get that that won't happen. Local ordinances and local pressures won't allow it. That's simply panic driven by members of the general public more than oil buyers.

There are three solutions to our oil needs: stop panicking, drill from our own supply, and come up with new energy sources. The first two should be easy enough to obtain. The last will only come when the oil is gone and is dependent on the first two.

It's up to you, Michigan and the broader United States. Make up your minds to do what we must, or leave the oil under the control of others and suffer the consequences. But if you choose that second option, kindly shut up about how badly gas prices fluctuate, because that's ultimately on you and not the tin horns nor ExxonMobil.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mulberry Season 2013

Funny, isn’t it, how we sometimes identify people with certain times, places, or things.

In the alley behind our old family repair shop there is a row of mulberry bushes which have been there for years. My grandfather would, in the late spring or early summer when they were in season, always stop and treat himself to a few of the little fruits as he went to and from work.

Little? Well, mulberries are small compared to most fruits. In context, they’re like raspberries who have spent a lot of time in the gym; a scant few are a handful. They’re juicy and sweet, and Grandpa Joe liked them. I remember vividly his picking and popping them into his mouth as he made his way down the alley, as though he were a kid again.

Time passes, and so, sadly, did Grandpa Joe. Yet the mulberries still grew, and I couldn’t help over the years but develop a liking to them myself. As I hike to and from work nowadays I’ll stop and have a few. As it were, my daughter also came to know and like the mulberries too. Often we’ll take bowls and go fill them with the little purple black fruits, snacking as we pick, and my wife will make pies out of those which make it back home. I like the idea that three generations of a family have been able to enjoy those berries ripening on the same bushes.

Now, I’m not all that naive; I know that Joe Cosgriff was ornery and arbitrary, with a hair trigger temper. I know it from the tales my Dad and his siblings have told, and from the personal experience of having worked with him for a good 15 or 18 years. I know too that there was a part of him which was somehow kind and appreciative, and that there were moments when these came out despite, perhaps, himself. There were good times and trying ones, and lasting impressions. I find as I grow older that, in the end, it is the good times which matter more than the difficult, even if it seems there were more tough days than easy. I believe too that the smallest, almost innocuous, memories can also be the greatest insights into the honest character of someone.

What prompts me to write this? It’s June, and the mulberries are in. And I’m thinking about you, Joe.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

What Price Peace?

From time to time in my life I have heard people remark that they are against war, all war; indeed that they oppose any kind of violence at all. They are for peace. Peace solves everything.

I beg to differ. It is a wholly untenable position to hold. Would no sane man or woman knock a criminal on the head with a rock if it meant the saving of lives? Would no country with any claim to a good moral standing not go to war to prevent a tyrant's rule? While violence and war must always be a last resort, it is, sadly, almost exclusively by violence and war that evil is kept in check. It is generally the threat and use of force which keeps people in line. For people will do bad things if they think they can get away with them, and will do so often enough despite the chance of violence against them hanging over their heads. If we approach them with no intention of eventually having to aggressively force them into right behaviors if need be, and they know that, we will soon enough have no stable society worth our participation. We surely will not have peace.

Peace did not end the Holocaust or drive Hitler from power.

Peace did not bring about the end of slavery in the United States.

Peace does not apprehend criminals nor rehabilitate them.

Peace only works among the peace loving. It almost never will turn the heads of those who hate for the sake of hatred, no matter what the treacly entreaties of the peaceniks assert.

Seeing as we live in an imperfect world, one which, quite frankly, shall never be perfect without divine intervention, the price of peace must ultimately be anarchy. At that point, will the Department of Peace flower, or simply become a seed crushed against the ground and bake, exposed, in the sun?

The cost of war is, needless to say, grim. But from the greatest human costs come the greatest things, if properly driven, and without any loss of human dignity. Indeed, I rather believe that our dignity is enhanced when we stand for the greatest things. We stand for nothing when we stand for what will not work.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Education for Diversity or Propaganda?

An ongoing debate within the political sphere, one which has indeed been carried on since the dawn of the Republic, has been about the extent and nature of public education. it is time that we addressed the issue squarely, by stating unequivocally and emphatically that public education is not a right.

For starters, seeing as education is ultimately the obligation of the individual (if mature enough) or of the parents of young children, then it is up to the person or their moms and dads to see to their learning as much as to their housing, clothing, and food. Society should only step in when the individual or the family needs help, just as it does with housing, clothing, and food. This needs to be said emphatically and forcefully: if you are able to provide for your or your child's education then you should have to provide for it, not the rest of us.

Indeed, with all the blather which the purveyors of teaching at the public trough give towards such ideas as diversity, how much more diverse can you get than to leave education to parental judgment and inquiry? Imagine a world where parents send their kids to schools they like based on their ideas of right and wrong rather than having them indoctrinated by the often errant views of the general society, a society whose 'views' are all too often dictated by judicial and legislative fiat rather of by the rational analysis of the individuals who are more concerned with true education (it is their children involved, you know) than passing fancy? How much more diverse can you get?

Or is diversity not what they truly want? Is their real aim the propagation of erroneous creeds and disreputable acts? To wit, do they want diversity as diversity, which is really only different folks acting different ways with no regard to the value of those acts (something of which even traditionalists should be wary), or do they in fact want indoctrination, the acceptance and living of the acts they, the education elite, deem worthy? Do they really want diversity, or the interpretation of ideas in their own light?

But the bottom line is that education is not a right so much as a duty. When we live up to that, we live well. When we don't, we get whatever comes along. And exactly what we would deserve.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Who Really Has the Hangup?

We are told that conservatives are hung up on issues of sexual morality. But isn't it the liberals who are in fact tied in knots over such questions?

The right wing, it is also said, is hung up on matters of sex because of religious qualms. Yet how many liberals would not steal, murder, or dishonor their parents? They agree with religious sentiment except when it comes to sex. So again, who is really all too concerned about the matter?

The left does not attack religion over ideals it believes in. Indeed, say the phrases 'social justice' or 'health care' and you will hear all sorts of appeals to religious sentiment. This is a rather convenient sense of justice, considering that the moral relativists of the left tend to be more sexually active.

The question, then, is: do their actions follow their beliefs, or do their beliefs follow their actions? Do they act they way they do out of real and honest conviction, or because it is how they wish to act, and then attempt a justification for it?

Just asking.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Dingell's Popularity is Artificial

So, John Dingell of Michigan has become the longest serving member of Congress ever. He's been around since 1955, having taken over a seat his father held, and has now spent over 20,000 days on the job. What, really, are we supposed to make of this?

Has he done that great of a job that such longevity merits accolades? The answer to that of course will depend on your political leanings. He certainly has amassed great power over all those years, and that is the essence of being a member of Congress: the longer you're there, the stronger you are. Not that that is a good thing, quite frankly. No individual ought to have too much power in our government. That's why we had a revolution in the first place.

What actually explains his long run in our nation's capital anyway? Is he in truth all that good at what he does? Or has he simply hung around a long time, and gained a veneration not actually reflective of his talents?

We'll go with that. This isn't to question his work ethic or commitment to whatever he believes in; seen strictly in political terms he has certainly been a good tin soldier for the Democrats, and we honestly don't doubt that he puts in his days' work. Still, we can't help but feel he's popular only because he's been around the block a few times. And why is that?

Simply put, the lazy voter. Everyone knows how much name recognition means in politics. Counting the years his father, John Dingell, Sr., served, there has been a Dingell in the House of Representatives from somewhere in southeast Michigan for 80 years. That's about one-third the life of the entire Republic. It boggles the mind to believe that a family which has spent that much time in Washington hasn't done enough to merit at least an occasional electoral loss. The only obvious reason this has not happened is that people every even year November have become so comfortable with the name that they effectively refuse to consider his reelection qualifications on their own merit.

Surely other factors are involved, but surely too this is the primary one. People see a name they know, they feel good about it, they cast their ballot. Everyone seems to win. As such, no one questions it. That isn't democracy, folks. It is however blind support for a petty royalty without the ermine robe.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Religious Liberty Under Attack

A teacher, fired from a Catholic school in Cincinnati, has been awarded $171,000 for wrongful termination. She was fired for having a child out of wedlock via artificial insemination, which is a violation of Church doctrine. An actively lesbian teacher has been fired from a Columbus school because her lifestyle violates Catholic teaching as well. There's no word on any potential lawsuit, but there has been significant public outcry.

Why ought there be shock and anger at such things? Anyone who knows anything about Catholicism surely knows they violate Catholic doctrine. It's hard to believe that the principles involved themselves did not realize it when they hired into their respective schools. Yet the one sues anyway, and the other is 'heartened' by the support she has received.

But more than that. The cases represent exactly what's wrong with America today regarding religious rights. The lawsuit is particularly galling: while religious groups cannot prevent free speech as demonstrated through the petition supporting the Columbus physical education teacher, the legal action has resulted in a clear violation of the First Amendment. Religious institutions certainly have the moral right to inculcate their doctrine within their own institutions, especially educational ones. On a practical level, there is simply no point in having a religious institution if not to promulgate that religion.

This must mean that authorities and employees within the religious institutions must reflect the beliefs of that religion. When they do not, they forfeit their right to work within that institution.

Rights of conscience are not merely individual. They are also institutional. The Supreme Court has recognized this with regard to political contributions and political speech. The nation needs to recognize as much with regard to religious liberty.

It does not matter what the secular world may think about the given religion. What matters, if the secular world is really intent on being true to its own espoused values about rights, is that religious rights be respected even should it disagree with the particulars involved.

That won't happen. Why? Because the secular religion rising within these United States is as unilateral, arbitrary, and authoritarian as it has often accused any Church in the world to have been. The difference is that secularists are led by nothing but raw power. That power will eventually be the death of all human rights.

Sacrifice religious rights if you must. Just remember that the powers that be will soon enough come for your pound of flesh as well.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Capital Punishment and Abortion Separate Issues

In the great and ongoing debate about abortion, it is often suggested that opposition to abortion and opposition to the death penalty go hand in hand. Perhaps so; capital punishment should no longer be a shirt sleeve issue for Catholic conservatives, seeing as Rome has spoken so forcefully about it in recent years. Still, it does appear that the one question does not so easily blend with the other.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

"If however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.

"Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity are very rare, if not practically nonexistent." (#2267)

While this is obviously a very strong statement against capital punishment, it does not condemn it. Indeed it seems to say that, though 'practically nonexistent' the right of the state to use the death penalty does exist. It almost sounds like the admonition against violence or war: it should be used as a last recourse, when no other option exists.

So tying abortion to capital punishment, especially in a state such as right here in Michigan, where capital punishment has not existed since the middle of the 19th Century, indeed to place the death penalty under the umbrella of 'life issues' seems nothing short of a brazen attempt to call conservative anti-abortion activists hypocrites. Don't misunderstand this: if getting rid of capital punishment would in turn rid us of abortion, then we should do it.

But it won't. It would only force the pro-abortion crowd to find another bad name to call the right wing. Because they, unlike the Church and true conservatives, do not want what's right. They want what they want because they want it. They want it, not on grounds of true morals, but on the selfish grounds of mere human will.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Detroit stews in its own Kettle

Many Detroiters are unhappy with the situation the city now faces: a multi-billion dollar bill in current and future debt. The situation is so bad that the State of Michigan has appointed an emergemncy manager to solve it. The EM, Kevyn Orr, wants all city assets inventoried to see what can be done to cover the deficit. This, of course, has raised eyebrows, if not outright anger.

Why? Because inventorying every asset means looking at what the city's museums may be able to sell to get cash. It could mean selling the Detroit Zoo or the animals within, Belle Isle, or even the half of the Detroit-Windsor tunnel which the city owns. It may mean selling classic cars owned by the Detroit Historical Society. In short, as an analysis of what must be done to save Detroit from bankruptcy, anything and everything which might bring in money is on the table.

They should be, of course. And before all the liberals and Democrats begin whining about how wrong this is, they need to honestly answer one question: who put Detroit in this position? And, further, who did you vote for, Detroit residents? People who would run the city well, or the people who did this to the city?

It was not the GOP or the conservative movement, folks, who did this to Detroit. Detroiters, overwhelmingly liberal and Democrats, did this. Lansing did not do this. Rick Snyder did not do this. The Republican dominated legislature did not do this. You did, Detroit. And now you must face the facts.

City jewels, things which actually give city residents a proper sense of pride, may have to be sold off. Should it happen, should things of real social and cultural value be liquidated, it's on you, Detroit. And no one else.