Monday, September 30, 2013

The Devil's in the Details

Back in the 1970s and 1980s there was a wonderful Professor of Philosophy at the University of Detroit named Dr. Carlo Grassi. He was one of those teachers who made you want to learn simply by his own excitement about the subject. Perhaps that is why we think of him now; but that is also a point for another time. Right now we want to consider one question which he frequently asked. He didn't really ask it in search of an answer; it was a question meant to provoke thought. And that it did quite well. The question was: as government takes over more and more charitable works and taxes us to pay for them, how responsible does that leave the person for being charitable?

The most obvious inference, and one he readily conceded, is that it lessens the person's obligation to help others. We're biased, perhaps, but we agree with that. The next question becomes, is that a good thing?

Do we really care for people when we ask (and increasingly demand) that someone else, not me, of course, but, in this case, the government, do what we ought to do ourselves? What kind of person will that make us? Will we become more considerate, more, ahem, charitable, in our dealings? Our will we become less truly concerned with others, because someone else should deal with them, another obvious inference in demanding government aid to whomever? Or worse, will we become actually more intolerant of them?

In that last point we can see why the left, who wants more government and less individual responsibility for caring for others, wants to limit trans fats and soda consumption. Now that their ally, the government, is paying for so many things and their taxes are footing the bill, then they have the right to monitor what people eat and drink. In short, in the name of helping the people, they begin to despise and terrorize them in the minutiae of their acts.

This is not to say that all government charitable works are evil. But it is to say that the devil's in the details. Do we like the details when governments being to assert that abortion is okay but you better not let yer kid have a 20 ounce Coke? Should we like them?

The devil is in the details. Chew on that for awhile, and then let's have a serious discussion about charity.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dam the War of 1812 and Obamacare

Today the Detroit Historical Museum celebrates, if that's the right word, the day the British left Detroit during the War of 1812. Two hundred years ago today British forces left Detroit and have never returned. It seems that Fort Wayne did its job rather well.

The Detroit Free Press reports this morning that many of Michigan's dams are in need of replacement or repair, having approached the ends of the their useful lives. In the next decade or so, about 9 of 10 dams will be beyond their designed engineering expectation. But what's the real trouble here?

Lack of money. Why is that so? There are surely many reasons which those politically concerned would cite, yet one reason which likely trumps all other objections and because of that it will not be cited. Simply put, if the state government would get out of funding things which it should not, there might actually be money for the general interest. The general interest is the forgotten idea that what the government does ought to be helpful to all of society in general. Don't bother about that, though, You'll only hear it here.

Will it or won't it? Will Obamacare be funded this year or next? Will a government shutdown doom us all?

To that last question, probably not. Most of us probably won't even notice any effect. But we like the idea of delaying the implementation of Obamacare for a year. Have it go into effect right before the 2014 biennial elections. That would be the ideal time to see what the people really think about it. Hey, if it's good for the people, they'll support it at the ballot box, right?

We believe that the Democrats don't want that, and exactly because of the fear of repercussion. If it goes into effect Tuesday as planned, a whole year will pass before the election, and opposition will wane as time has its effect. The electorate doesn't mind new things once its become accustomed to them. The left and the Democrats are banking on that.

So long for now.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Are Liberals Out to Control Us?

As conservatives, we are often accused of trying to run everyone's lives. We quibble with that presumption. To be sure, there are aspects of conservatism which may well seem to dictate to people; abortion and same sex marriage come to mind. But do conservatives try to run the lives of the others so much as their friends on the left do?

We ask: who is telling you how much soda you can drink? Who is on the march against trans fat? Who is telling you that you must get health care insurance? Who is telling you what days you may cut your grass or gas up your car? Who wants you to take the bus rather than drive your own car? Who asserts that the environment is more important than the person? One answer to these and a great many other questions is this: it ain't conservatives.

Yes, the few issues through which the right does try to dictate terms are big ones. Yet they aren't actually about control. They're about preserving the dignity of the person in very important areas, areas which would help to make a better society. What dignity for the person is there within the nanny state?

The government is not our mother. Conservatives know that. Liberals don't. And that may well be the key difference between those broad groups.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Michigan Senate should resist Common Core

The Michigan House has approved the Common Core State Standards for education, as have 43 other states. But as is also happening in several other states as well, the Michigan Legislature is sowing seeds of revolt against them, asserting that the CCSS are little more than another intrusion by the federal government into state areas. Education has traditionally been a local rather than national issue in these United States.

But dare we ask: what's wrong with national standards in education? Surely math is math and science is science; history and literature do not vary, do they?

Not as such, perhaps. But indeed there is some variance: which history do we teach, and whose literature do we read seem valid questions. Still, there are core values beneath them. History teaches us cause and effect no matter which history we deign to enlighten students with, and good literature inspires in myriad ways no matter the source material. Even in the hard sciences and mathematics, it isn't necessary to teach everyone with the exact same problems and questions, is it, so long as the principles involved are understood?

Yet is that the issue? Truth is truth no matter the font from which it springs. But who controls, or ought to control, the flow of information? Does that matter?

Of course it does. Truths from a parent matter more to a child than those from a teacher; truths from afar less than truths from a neighbor. The source is important. Even if the essential truth is the same.

The Michigan Legislature ought to resist the Common Core initiative. Not because it may be all that wrong in content; it probably isn't terribly bad for our kids in that sense. It ought to resist it because it does, or attempts to do, exactly what the state legislature fears. It takes learning away from the near and dear and thrusts it into the abyss of the all knowing yet shimmering mass of the far off. It makes education something from on high rather than from the personal and intimate.

Education should be personal and intimate. After all, it's meant for the person, isn't it?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The GOP Stands on Valid Principle on Obamacare

The Republicans in the House of Representatives have voted for, what, the 42nd time, to defund the 'Affordable Care Act', which is popularly known as Obamacare. Only this time, they've tied the vote into a demand that would cause the government to default on its loan obligations unless the defunding is sustained. There are a lot of people out there who call this stupid.

We prefer to call it principled.

Isn't this what we want from our leaders, to stand on and fight for principles? Is it not regularly lamented throughout the land that what we need are leaders who lead, who believe in certain things and work towards them, yet we do not get such leaders? Well, the House GOP has elected to stand on principle and has the support of an awful lot of Americans behind them to boot. That strikes us as the ideal confluence of political will and popular support. What's not to like?

Granted the President and Nancy Pelosi don't like it. But you will notice that they don't like it for very partisan reasons: it threatens to gore their ox. All the while they too will assert they are standing on principle. If they are, well, then, wouldn't we have two groups dedicated to principle? If fighting for what you believe in is a principle worth defense, then we have it on both sides now. Isn't that good?

Not particularly. What we have here is yet another in that series of shallow words and shallow thought. People believe we ought to stand on principle. Unfortunately this isn't any different than being for education, peace, or freedom. Without asking all the corollary questions, what principles, why, how do we enforce them, and so on and so forth, we are asking for we don't know what. And all that that will get us is we don't know what.

Naturally, we support the GOP here because their principles are more sound. The federal government should not be in the health care business, the Supreme Court be damned. Yet it is interesting to see how President Obama and former Speaker Pelosi react when they don't like when folks stand on principles contrary to theirs.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pope Francis is still Catholic

If you believe the mainstream media, the Catholic Church finally has a Pope who is living in, well, at least the 20th Century if not quite the 21st. After all, in an interview which took place in August 2013, Pope Francis has said that divorce and remarriage is okay, that gay marriage is okay, that abortion is okay, and maybe even that the Houston Astros will be the surprise winners of this year's World Series.

The only trouble is he didn't say those things. He said, in a nutshell, that God loves everyone. He did not say that practicing homosexuals were all right in their behavior; he did not say that abortion was okay. In fact, he said that Church teaching was 'clear' on these and other things. He says that we must preach salvation first, as a start, not as a recognition of rights which do not exist or of sins which are not sinful. We must preach love first. We must get folks in the door first.

He calls the Church a 'triage' unit: as the sick go to hospitals, the spiritually sick go to Church for the Church's help and guidance. The obvious inference, especially in reading the whole article and reflecting on the Pope's digression about the a hypothetical repentant woman who had had an abortion, is that the Church must be open to active homosexuals not on their merit or the merit of their actions, but so that She can help them. It's really no different than Christ's remark that he came for the sinners and not for the healthy. So gay rights, abortion, divorce, and women's ordination are not on the table. There is no rational inferring that through this interview, found in full here: http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview

That the Church must be open to everyone is nothing new. If the door is eternally shut for those who at any given time are outside of the grace of God, then She cannot be of service. Note, however, that an open door doesn't mean that everyone will enter or that anyone must enter. It only means that access to the Church must be available to all who want access and that an open door requires courtesy and charity so far as they can be had. If she does not clearly and unequivocally have such open doors, She fails Her mission.

The tale of the prodigal son comes to mind. His father gave him everything, yet the boy squandered it. Yet when he came to his senses and saw the error of his ways, his father welcomed him back. What kind of father would not, if he is any decent sort? Likewise, repentant sinners today ought to be welcomed back.

It strikes us that what the Pope is doing too is reminding us that there are other sins in the world which also require attention and instruction. This is something which, perhaps, the conservatives within the Church need to hear. But such is not to say that we must drop our concerns about gay marriage and abortion, but only to remember that there are other evils in the world. It would be nice to hear a similar paternal chastisement of the liberal churchgoers who think that the only sins out there are hunger, racism, sexism, or the improper exploitation of the environment. Still, not every word from the Pontiff's mouth must cover every issue. If today Pope Francis is gently chiding the right wing (and don't bother about him not considering himself right wing; he should not, nor left wing either) because he feels the need, then our job is to reflect upon his cautions. Be fair: we can be overzealous, friends.

Remember as well that in this same interview he laments the prospect of an unrestrained populism. “And, of course, we must be very careful not to think that this infallibilitas (infallibility of the Church in belief) of all the faithful I am talking about in the light of Vatican II is a form of populism," the Pope says. To wit, the eternal ideals which the Church defends are eternal; there is no going back on them by way of whatever the currently fashionable thought may be.

Pope Francis reminds us that every human life has tremendous value. It is that value which the Church recognizes and wishes to both preserve and increase within the person. If a person squanders his life, if he does not accept the grace of God through the Church instituted for him, well, that's on that guy. Yet if he squanders in part because he does not find a loving Church who really has his best interests in mind, then we are answerable to God ourselves at least so far as that goes. We must love even when it is not returned; we must love even when our motives are questioned and the world frowns upon us. God Himself loves even the souls in Hell. Why ought we not show love to those souls around us?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

France Does what we Ought to.

A report on today's Huffington Post says that the French Senate has has voted to bar childhood beauty pageants because they sexualize girls too early.

Ya think? About the only surprising thing here is the idea that France might be ahead of the curve on any issue.

Let's face it: beauty pageants for 6 and 8 year olds, well, let's just say that what happens with them could be construed as child porn, at least arguably. There's something genuinely sick about dolling up toddlers as though they're college age beauty queens. But when we institutionalize it with TV shows such as here in the US with Toddlers & Tiaras, we should not be shocked when young contestants blithely state (what can be safely taken as) ugly kids better not be put on display because they're losers. So that too is an aspect of the problem: pageants may institutionalize arrogance.

This says something about America today, and what it says isn't anything to be proud of. People who subject their own kids to such scrutiny need parenting classes. People who watch these shows need psychiatric care.

To be fair, part of the interest is probably like watching the proverbial train wreck. At times, things are so outlandish that we can't believe our eyes, and that does make it a challenge to avert them. Still, what have we become as a nation when such drivel passes as entertainment on any level for any reason?

The so-minded among us will comment that no one makes them do this, it's a free country, blah, blah, blah, none of which makes what's actually happening in this or any other arena right. The only reason to oppose censorship of such nonsense is the fear of what might happen if the wrong people control the censorship panels, because in a better world pageants for kids and television shows about them would be scornfully dismissed as the dangerous tripe they are.

The whole thing is just sad. But that's the downside of the almost absolute freedom of expression which plagues the United States and the western world these days: it allows the ghouls as well as the sane their day in the sun.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Nations are no more Equals than Persons

No world order that elevates one nation or group over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.

-President Barack Obama, in a speech to the United Nations

Here we have, in a nice and concise form, President Obama's foreign policy. If it sounds the least bit treacly, well, it should. It is a variation on what has now become the old theme of why can't we all just get along. It is an assertion that all nations, just like all people, you know, are at heart the same. Yet before any of you begin to dismiss this as a preamble to a rant on the glories of America, let us toss out for you to consider two examples of world nationhood: Canada and North Korea.

Is there anyone willing to argue that those two countries are of equal stature in the family of nations? Can anyone, seriously, and with a straight face, assert that each has the same moral validity? Do they each deserve an equal say in world affairs? Oh, sure, we may have to deal with the one simply as an exercise in practical politics. Yet the Canadians seem a reasonably reasonable people.

We do hope that that went over as the wry, humorous comment in the spirit of which it was intended. Because, of course, it is much easier in reality to deal with our northern neighbors than it is with the despotic regime in North Korea. Which is, of further course, the point. The nations of the world are no more equal in form and substance than individual human beings are. It is silly to act as though they were, and contrary to any rational foreign policy aims. Of any given nation, not only of the United States.

Seeing nations as moral equals merely by the evidence of their nationhood is bad policy. Even the United Nations doesn't believe it: it has, many times, sanctioned foreign intervention when it sees fit.

We must make judgments about the actions of nations in the same way as we must make judgments about the actions of people. Some people will simply refuse to do the right thing. So will some nations. The difference is that the former don't have the capacity to threaten entire regions, if not the entire world. We will have no security until we take off the rose colored glasses which see a false equality among nations.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Religious Freedom and Adoption

The Michigan Legislature is considering a bill which would allow adoption agencies to refuse to adopt out children to people whose beliefs violate the creed of the adopting agency. Supporters say this is a reflection of protecting religious liberty. Opponents say it would institutionalize discrimination.

Of course it would institutionalize discrimination. But every law does that, doesn't it? The laws which make us drive on the right side of the road discriminate against those who would prefer to drive on the left. Yet that is surely a minor point on large issues such as this. The bigger point is that of religious freedom versus secular values; must religious institutions or persons and companies which have decidedly and sincere religious convictions operate under what the secular world considers right, or under what their creed tells them is right?

At one time the answer would have been obvious: of course they do. We no longer believe that to be the case. The secular world is steadily encroaching on private rights. Freedom of religion is the least protected, and seen as the least important, of the five freedoms within the First Amendment. That's if it is seen as important at all; it's very easy to believe that that is the exact view of the opponents of measures such as these.

But this isn't about religion, opponents might say. "The state of Michigan with regard to child placement has a duty to focus on, first and foremost, what is in the best interest of the child," said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan's LGBT Project. Well, the seriously religious believe that the best interests of the child preclude being raised in a gay household. Never mind for the moment whether you think they are right to believe that. Consider instead whether anyone can be truly free in their religion if they cannot practice it, up to and including not placing children into situations which they judge would not be in the child's best interests.

Or does the ACLU and their libertarian and liberal allies think that a child can be raised just any which way and become a good person? Clearly not, or it would not be speaking essentially in favor of gay adoption. They see that option as okay. Whether they see placing a child in a religious household as at least equally as good is murky, to say the least.

As you cannot truly be free unless you can can practice that freedom through where you live, what you do, and how you use your property and so forth (providing, of course, that you do all of these things within a reasonable moral framework), you cannot be be free in your religious practice unless you can practice it completely (and yes, within a reasonable moral framework). That means practicing it freely and completely through whatever agency: your personal life or you business life. If this right is not respected, then neither is your freedom of religion. At that point, quite frankly, it hardly matters where adoptive children are placed. A more important right will have been violated.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Media must find Zimmerman Guilty of Something

They simply have to find him guilty of something, don't they? George Zimmerman, presumes the media, is an evil man. There must be something which can be hung on him to sustain that belief.

Recently, it's been a domestic dispute. A dispute which itself has become something of a dead end: the police say they've completed their investigation, his estranged wife is less willing to press charges, and there is apparently no clear evidence about what exactly has happened surrounding the whole episode. Yet the story is still a lead article on the Huffington Post.

But why? Merely because Zimmerman must be an animal of some sort. If he a racism charge can't be held against him, then the media will go after the next best thing: domestic abuse, which is generally akin to sexism.

Let it go, liberal media. Take a breath, pump the brakes, and accept that you just aren't always right. Or at the least, that in both this incident as well as the Trayvon Martin case, the available evidence is insufficient enough for you to sustain your cause. Stop trying to create news; if the Martin incident had never occurred, you would have zero interest in the Zimmermans' imploding marriage.

That, perhaps, tells us all we need to know. The media needs causes; it lost one in a not guilty verdict. It is trying desperately to create guilt somewhere else. This is not objectivity. It's a witch hunt.

But we don't believe in witches anymore, do we?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11, 2013

A dozen years have now passed since what may become the defining point of a generation. Ten years, almost to the minute as this is being written, terrorists attacked the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and were overcome by the passengers of an airplane over the hills of Pennsylvania. Twelve years, and we still cannot make any sense of it.

The trouble is that there is no sense to be made. To be sure, we can understand the reasons for even such terrible actions, in the same way that we can understand the reasons Hitler did what he did. Yet that is not the same as understanding.

How do we, how can we, come to actually understand rape or murder or thievery, mass murder or any any other evil which may be added to such a gruesome list, if we are to be decent human beings ourselves? It is only in a warped mind where such heinous acts may be justified. As such, reasonable people simply cannot understand them. It is beyond their ability; it is, in their minds and as it should be, pure nonsense.

So the goal today should be to remember what does make sense. Remember the victims and their families, remember the countless acts of heroism that day, remember even the perpetrators of such despicable carnage if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that such twisted souls do exist, seeking the ruin of those those not in lockstep with them. But hopefully, remember even so that their redemption may be possible. If we are the good people we claim to be, even that shouldn't be so difficult of a task on so difficult of an anniversary.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Keep Your Change

Embracing change is easy. Embracing Orthodoxy is the real challenge.

-a paraphrase of Mr. G. K. Chesterton

We hear it all the time, don't we, fellow conservatives? We hear the importance of embracing change, of being willing to change, of the need to alter our beliefs and desires to the will and whim of the current society. That's all we need to do is embrace the change which the modern society wishes us to do.

If they meant for us to change in the sense of becoming truly better persons, of changing from bad habit to good, of learning to like what we ought and dislike what we ought as well, of becoming more truly and usefully charitable and kind, there would be no problem. But they don't mean that. They mean, 'accept our ways of thinking and acting'. Or, more precisely, accept the change we want imposed on you.

But the trouble with accepting change merely as it is change, merely because it is what modern society may want rather than what may really help both the individual and the world at large, it that it will leave us we know not where. For accepting it is simple. Do nothing, reflect on nothing, question nothing, and change will occur. There's no effort involved.

Yet embracing Orthodoxy, and we capitalize it on purpose, accepting and living by proper traditions, now that's the challenge. That's where we grow and nurture our selves and our souls. That's how we create better people and a better world. By living right according to the just precepts which have been with us since the dawn of time. Change is all right, yes, if done to that purpose.

Otherwise, it will happen anyway. But would you rather do what you can to control change, or merely be stuck in its tight and unwieldy (and worldly) groove, as Mr. Chesterton also suggests? For you will lose control of yourself by merely agreeing to eternally change. Yet tradition works. That's how it became traditional in the first place.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Left and Religious Sentiment

The left does not understand religion. It cries for the separation of Church and State on the one hand yet demands that religion do its job on the other. Well, you can't have it both ways.

When it comes to feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and providing medical care, liberals very easily remind Christians of their Christian duty. It's almost droll: when these issues are raised, you know you're supposed to be doing this and that, aren't you, Christians? Yet mention the right to life or the sanctity of marriage, and Christians are scaling that false wall of separation.

It simply cannot be both ways. If you're going to insist that the Church live up to Its call then you cannot also tell Her that She cannot preach the entire call. If feeding the hungry is a moral good despite, perhaps, being a duty in which religious practice is steeped, then so too is defending the unborn. If housing the homeless is a moral good based to a great degree on religious sentiment, then so to is the recognition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

Likewise, you cannot demand that Christians leave their duty to their creed at the voting booth curtain. If you expect them to vote for government solutions when the question of worldly poverty arises, then you must expect them to vote their religious duty towards ending abortion. We simply aren't talking about wholly religious issues on things such as poverty and life. We're talking about basic moral questions the answers to which define ourselves as a society. And as moral persons.

Yes, and define ourselves as Christians. If we are expected to be whole Christians then we must live up to that. And society must allow it if it is to be just, civil, and moral.

What those do when they demand we not vote our creed in practical application is nothing short of effrontery. It is insulting and immoral in itself. The left doesn't get that. That's why it's so critical that, come any election, we vote our creed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

We can Pledge but we can't Pray?

Is it good to fly the flag in public schools and to recite the Pledge of Allegiance? 43 states say yes; Michigan is included in that number. Students would not be compelled to recite the Pledge. That's okay, too; no sense offending those or their parents with serious and rational objections to it.

Yet the first question which comes to mind is: why can't we have voluntary school prayer under the same guidelines? The answer: because that makes non-Christian students feel pressured to become Christians (or Muslim or Buddhist, perhaps, depending on the locale; inserting any creed here will make the point). Wouldn't recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance by many if not all others effectively 'pressure' non participants into affirming allegiance to the United States?

We certainly are not against the Pledge. It is a good and noble thing to love your country (so long as your country is good and noble) and such sentiments should be encouraged. We are likewise not against things which encourage allegiance to any right and proper cause, or to instilling a decent sense of nationhood within the citizenry. But what we are against is the relative hypocrisy on the matter. The state can, well, at least attempt to compel its wards to love, honor, and support the state. The trouble is that the state is, after all, is an institution of mere human design.

Why can the state, in even so modest of a fashion, try to make elementary and high schools students love and support it while not allowing those willing to love and support something of greater importance than a simply human construct express open and public support for it while in view of all?

We will leave the question at that. We're simply throwing it out there for the consideration of body politic. Yet we strongly suspect that the answer from that body will tell us all we need to know about the state indeed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day 2013

Labor Day weekend is upon us, and that means many things to many people. Mostly, it seems, it is meant to be a relaxing time with family and friends. There's nothing with that, of course. But what is Labor Day really, and how does it relate to conservatism?

It is intended, most would say, as a celebration of the labor of the working men and women of our country. Fair enough; labor in all its forms is the backbone of our economy. Further, a fair days' work is something which ought to be prized and seen proudly. The contributions which we make to society when we engage in wholesome work should be satisfying to workers and the beneficiaries of work on about the same plane.

Yet the honor of Labor Day is felt with particular pride in and around Detroit and Wayne County, and why not? As the cradle of the automotive industry and the famed arsenal of democracy during World War II, among other contributions to Americana, we should feel good about our place in history. Then too, with our local economy being so hard hit by the recession, we may well feels the pangs of economic restriction more keenly than many other places in the country.

So where does this leave us with regard to the right wing? Simply that, seen in the, ahem, right light, conservatism is a great friend to the worker. Conservatism respects the rights of all, particularly, believe it or not, those most susceptible to economic strife. Conservatism recognizes the value of work and of the worker, and more, of the rights inherent in work. We respect the right of the individual to seek gainful employment in an open arena of job seekers and employers working freely and respectfully towards everyone's best interest. Conservatism, if allowed to become fully operational, would let the market works its wonders, and everyone would benefit, as they did in the Reagan years and also, truth be told, in the Clinton years under a Republican Congress which did more for the general welfare than our philanderous ex-President.

In short, conservatives are for labor. With the right amount of consideration in return, we could see this current mess ended quickly and spectacularly.