Friday, October 31, 2014

2014 should be good for Republicans

The 2014 off year elections are fast approaching, coming up this Tuesday, November 4th. We fully expect that the day will bring good news for the Republican Party, seeing as we have a decidedly unpopular Chief Executive at the helm. When dozens of members of your own party are distancing themselves from you, you aren't being held in particularly high esteem. When you factor in that the party seen as out of power generally gains ground in the biennial vote, this promises to be quite a good year for the GOP indeed.

Other factors almost certainly help the minority too, not the least of which is that the non-presidential election years usually bring out the more serious voter. Many people tend to view the presidential elections as the elections; after that, nothing much matters. What this means is that the low information voter came out in November 2012 and will reappear in late 2016. He is less likely to bother with this coming Tuesday.

Why does this help Republicans? First Lady Michelle Obama pretty much answered that: Democratic voters tend to be lazy voters. Lazy voters are not easily fired up, as opposed to the voters who are more passionate about democracy and getting their party in power. The more conservative voter shows up at the polls more consistently because the vote matters more to him. The liberal voter only cares about the big time. It's significant that most big Republican gains have occurred during the off year elections.

Yes, there are lazy and uninformed right wingers among the electorate. But we will go on record as saying that they are fewer and farther apart than their opponents. So while this year will be no 1994, we expect that November 4th will be a very good day for the Grand Old Party.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Catholics and Humor

You gotta hand it to the Catholics. They have a sense of humor about themselves. Of course, so do conservatives in general, but that is an issue we'll take on another time.

What brings this up is the discovery of a funny little website called Eye on the Tiber. It promises to deliver all Catholic news as it happens, when it happens, and before it happens. And it does a very good job of it. Check it our for yourself:

You don't have to be Catholic to find Eye of the Tiber hilarious. That might help at times, yes, such as the article which tells us that Irish bishops are lengthening opportunities for Confession into 8 hour blocks due to 'gargantuan' demand, a manner which neatly lampoons supposed Church authoritarianism and Irish guilt at the same time. Then there's the piece about the Mars Rover discovering a Jesuit seminary...but we digress. The point here is that serious Catholics can joke about themselves. Let's face it: they aren't expected to by the world at large. Catholics are supposed to be staid, stolid types.

But there are greater points than that at work. Perhaps first on that list is how the site demonstrates how little the media know or understand Catholics and Catholicism. How often in recent months have we heard the media chirp that Pope Francis is leading the Church in a new direction, into the 'modern' world, away from all that mythology and God stuff. He isn't, of course, and EOTT cleverly mocks that attitude. There's a recent article, if that's the right term for it, which gleefully reports that Francis has split with the past in announcing that gravity is true. This comes on the heels of media assertions that the Church had traditionally opposed evolution when the Holy Father said that it was compatible with Catholic doctrine. Yet Pius XII said so in 1950; what's up wit dat?

Simply that the media and the population at large don't understand Catholics and Catholicism. In fact, it's probably safe to say that they don't care to understand religion beyond their own straw men which they use to knock it. To actually take religion seriously would require a feat which they would not find humorous at all, because it might challenge their lifestyle choices. It might make them have to become introspective. They don't want to have to answer the questions that that might entail.

Yet the people who try to answer those questions honestly about themselves are the ones with a comic streak about something very dear to them. We believe that that tells us all we need to know about the secular world, and that it should instruct the secular world on the real Church.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

No Explanation Possible for Irrational Acts

“Can you ever explain something like this?” asked Susan Bibeau, the mother of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who attacked an unarmed guard at a war memorial in Canada before assaulting the Canadian Parliament. Zehaf-Bibeau was killed by Kevin Vickers, the Parliament sergeant-at-arms.

The sad answer to this anguished mother's question is, no. There is no explanation for things like what happened in Ottawa this past Wednesday. There might be thanks that it was not worse, there may even be reasons in the sense of why Zehaf-Bibeau acted they way he did, but no explanation which might prompt someone to say, 'Oh, so that's why'. Irrationality is on its face not rational.

But we must face it every day of our lives. Throwing aside extremist ideologies of any type, we simply cannot know how everyone else is going to act on a given day or at a given time. Not to sound trite, but perhaps Bilbo Baggins expressed it best: it's dangerous to leave your home each morning. Yet we cannot do that. We cannot live our lives sitting on our hands and worrying about what's outside. We have to go out and face what's there.

The Canadian response has been grand, indeed sublime in its grandeur: watching the procession of slain Corporal Nathan Cirillo as he makes his last trip home from roadsides and overpasses as his hearse returns him to Hamilton, Ontario. You can see many images of such quiet bravery here: It is the very definition of Lest We Forget.

So let's not forget that we have jobs to do, just as Cpl. Cirillo and Kevin Vickers did so laudably. We honor them both, the living and the fallen heroes, by continuing to do what they are and were protecting us so that we can do: live our lives freely, even in the face of those who would do us wrong.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Evil Empires and Ottawa

What happened in Ottawa on Wednesday is indeed tragic. It is tragic on many levels and in many forms. It displays to each one of us, and in a very direct manner, that no one is safe. One deranged lunatic can ruin your whole day.

But how do we stop them? What can we do to prevent this happening again? There must be some answer.

Alas, there is not. We cannot prevent evil from happening, no matter how hard we wish we could and no matter how hard we try. We live in a fallen world. People are weak; we all are subject to fall prey to the lowest forms of humanity. That's simply how it is. In an imperfect world such as ours, that's simply how it is.

Yet we cannot stop trying to prevent evil. That is a very politically incorrect way to say something, yes. But there is good, and there is evil, in the world. And calling evil evil is the first step we must take in pursuing the goal of doing all we can to eradicate evil from our lives. Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an evil empire, and was derided by many in the the public forum for being so blunt. Yet the Soviets are no more, and President Reagan has superhighways and airports named after him.

We will lose many battles. We will, in fact, lose the war, so far as we may fight it on Earth. Yet we have something on our side which is above the Earth, above all the tiny thoughts we as individuals may think to ourselves. We have truth, those of us introspective enough to see it, on our side. The Canadians see it; they have witnessed it every bit as much as we did on 9/11, they have witnessed it first hand of late, and they have the right attitude. They say, we have seen what evil can do, and we will fight it to the ends of the Earth. It will not go unpunished. This is an excellent attitude to have.

Because of it, the Canadians will win in the long run. And we will too.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pulling Demand Forward?

Automakers are worried that lower financing costs on new cars might cause a drop in used car prices in the coming years. As more new cars are sold there will be more used cars in the future, and as we all know, when there is greater supply than demand, prices fall.

And this bad why?

Okay, perhaps it is for car producers. With stiffer competition from used car lots new car lots might suffer. But then, why should those who want used cars be expected to pay, indeed arguably to underwrite, new car dealers and manufacturers simply because they want greater sales?

Analyst Adam Jones frets that ... "we are taking consumers out of the normal trade cycle, pulling forward demand from the future." We're not really sure what that means in part because we're not sure that there is such a thing as a normal trade cycle. But if it sounds like buzzspeak it likely is buzzspeak. In this case, it sounds like car makers, or those most interested in new car manufacture perhaps, wanting to protect what they view as 'their' turf. They can't have too many used cars available because that will, naturally enough, affect new car sales. That would be bad.

But for whom? All those associated with new cars of course. Yet that says nothing about those who cannot afford or merely do not want new cars. Those latter groups simply should not be expected to buy new just because it helps the automotive industry or even, by specious argument, society as a whole. We don't live in Terry Gilliam's Brazil; we live in the real world where we have options, one of which is that we are not obliged to buy new anything merely because it helps those associated with the production and sale of that anything.

There's nothing wrong with buying a new car if that's what you want. But there's nothing with buying used cars either. So how about if we just the markets decide such issues? Why not force the new car industry to deal with the pressure of used car sales? We might actually get better, cheaper new cars anyway. It sounds to us like the best of both worlds.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Obama decorative headstone is poor tase

Halloween is upon us, and that means decorations which have begun to rival, at least in terms of scope, Christmas, appear routinely on our streets and in our shops. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, so long as they are kept to within at least some bounds of civility. Given that most of the season's decor is macabre, that can no doubt be a chore. But, we believe anyway, the effort ought to be made, and can be made successfully. Indeed, that the effort really must be made when decorations are public.

Which brings us to a complaint by a neighbor about a home in Oklahoma which adorns its lawn with gravestones as part of its, well, we suppose celebration would be the word, Halloween fun. That itself isn't the issue: fake headstones are all over the place in October these days, and most of them (the ones which ask, Izzy dead?, for example) are innocuous enough. Yet these folks have amidst their front yard graveyard a stone which says across the top "Obama" with fake blood running down its face, and a question mark rather than a date of birth or death. The homeowners say it has been there for years and meant as a joke about the President's birth, and thus a question about his eligibility to be President. A new neighbor feels it is too disrespectful of our Chief Executive.

We have to side with the neighbor on this one. We are no fans of the President but he is the President just the same. Anything that hints at the wish of his death, which a fake tombstone by its very nature surely must, is in taste too poor to be displayed. This isn't to say that the force of law should be used to remove it, of course. But it is to say that people ought to police themselves better about whatever they put on public display. And if it's on even your own property but well in view of passers-by, you have an obligation to be considerate of that.

We would apply this principle to any President, so it is wrong to apply it with regard to Barack Obama. Good taste should never be set aside, even with so eerie of a holiday as Halloween has become in these United States.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Starting Black Friday Sales on Thanksgiving Morally Wrong

Fortune Online has proclaimed it: Macy's, the famous New York City department store, has 'thrown down the Black Friday gauntlet'. The store has announced that it will open at 6 PM Thanksgiving evening for the sake of the Thanksgiving Friday madness. Many other retailers are sure to follow.

This is a prime example of why unfettered capitalism, of why a completely free market, is on this Earth a moral wrong. Forcing, yes, forcing, people to work on holidays, outside of essential services, is an affront to their human dignity. And please don't bother about trying to argue that no one is being forced. Most of Macy's, and Target's, and Toys-R-us, and Sears employees, most likely a significant majority of them anyway, need their jobs. They have little option but to work at such absurd times when the powers that be say they must. Further, don't go on about them just getting other jobs. That ain't so easy, folks. Certainly it isn't so easy as the laissez-faire academics (who live in an idealist, abstract, and therefore unworldly, paradise) want us to believe. The world isn't perfect. Neither then will be the application of the theories of its denizens, no matter how good they look on paper.

Which is why some government regulation of the markets is good and necessary. There would be nothing wrong with a reintroduction of something like the old Blue Laws, used to prohibit nonessential services from being performed on major holidays anyway (or absurdly early on the days following them). People need time off, and the people who demand those folks' time need to reevaluate their needs. This includes more than the big shot business owners. It includes the selfish buyers who want what they want when they want it, and consideration of their fellow man be damned.

The Catholic Church has the right word for it: consumerism. At its extreme, it is a moral evil. People simply do not need everything they think they need. They certainly don't need it at the expense of another citizen's well deserved relaxation, or their time with family and friends. Your new big screen TV can wait until tomorrow, or the next sale, and if you don't get it at all, well, poor baby. Your life must indeed be awful.

If you want to talk responsibility, then let's talk about man's inhumanity to man and go from there, because responsibility doesn't begin with market forces. All too often they merely stomp responsibility and, in fact, our obligation to others. Obligation is not inherent in amassing goods.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hate doesn't make a crime worse

When someone is beaten up or killed, the attacker is usually charged with a crime appropriate to the situation. A killing may be murder one, or perhaps simply manslaughter, depending upon the circumstances surrounding the act. There are various gradations of many other crimes as well. All of that is fine, so far as it goes. It gives the judicial system the leeway necessary to ensure that criminal acts are justly prosecuted. Any decent approach to criminal justice requires that all things relevant to someone's ill conceived or stupid action be considered. Yet more than anything else, the main reason we have the laws we do is to protect human lives, because each human life is immeasurably valuable.

Yet we have now added to the mix the specter of hate crimes. If the crime someone has committed was driven by bigotry, by a hatred of minorities or, as seems more generally the case, homosexuals, (although depending on the area where the incident takes place there can be many other inclusions within the hate crime arena), then an additional charge is often leveled at the accused. They will be charged, essentially and additionally, with hating the attacked.

The first glaring error within such a line of thought is that the motivation for a crime is seen as the same as a crime. But while we recognize that impure and spiteful thoughts of any kind are morally offensive, merely thinking such and such a way can never truly be considered a crime. We would all merit jailing if that were the case, for we all from time to time think things we shouldn't. It is simply Orwellian to make thoughts criminal.

Yet that is perhaps not the worst aspect of hate crimes or, as they are sometimes more benignly called, bias oriented crimes. The most galling aspect of them is in how they, however inadvertently this may be, treat those killed or beaten or robbed without hateful motivation as essentially less human than a homosexual or minority or whomever attacked because of their skin color or sexual preference.

This is nothing less than an insult to the victims of crime who do not happen to fall into one of the hate crimes categories. They are no less human than those people who have the added glory of hate crime given them.

Murder is murder. Period. A irreplaceable human life has been taken. The reason hardly matters, for we have grounds enough to condemn to at least life imprisonment the murderer on that fact alone. To add anything more to that merely because the victim may be of a certain ilk beyond his control is nothing less than making those people more important, well, merely because of incidental circumstance. It truly insults the attacked who had no such special (and it cannot be stressed enough, incidental) extension of themselves while actually patronizing the supposed victim of whatever hate crime is at issue. We act as though a crime against them is worse merely because of who they are.

That isn't justice. That's an immorality upon itself. We must cease to see motive as criminal. Only then shall we truly see a crime as a crime, and only then will all be equal in the eyes of the law.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gender Identity is Obvious

What's wrong with gender? Why can't we be boys or girls, seeing as that's what we all really are?

A Nebraska school district has issued a handout which purports to deal with 'gender identity issues', whatever that means. We've labored under the impression that your gender is what you're born with, but apparently we need to discover our 'authentic selves', whatever that means. The handout was developed by a group calling itself (itself seems the appropriate term here) Gender Spectrum. They're the ones seeking their authentic selves, unlike the rest of us simple males and females who aren't seeking anything like that. Indeed, if we have a decent sense of self, we aren't seeking anything like that at all.

There are times when we don't know what to say. This is one of them. What do you say to someone who doesn't know what they are, when the choices are pretty obvious? You're a guy or a gal; it doesn't seem necessary, or wise, to go beyond that. Quite honestly, it doesn't seem as though there can be any confusion about that. Unless, perhaps, you want to be confused.

And there's the rub. What we have here is a prime example of the tyranny of the individual: I'm whoever I say I am. I won't be defined by society. I won't even by defined by my DNA. I'm me, gosh darn it, and no one is going to place a definition on me except me.

Well, sister, or brother, or, or, it, we've got news for you. Society is going to define you, and the terms it will use will be accurate if not pretty. Only decorum prevents us from printing them here. But trust us: the labels are indeed accurate.

Monday, October 6, 2014

SF sugary drink tax immoral

Conservatives get a bum rap for wanting to control people. To be sure, and this really applies to almost any political group when you think about it, there are degrees to which we right wingers do attempt to control human behavior. Being against abortion and gay marriage come quickly to mind, for example. But then, any rational person understands that there are areas where attempts to control others are necessary for the public good. We could not have laws against murder, theft, or kidnapping if we didn't accept that society must try to control some human behaviors. Yet there are truly not that many areas where conservatives wish to control the public actions of others.

Enter into this line of thought Proposal E, which will be on the San Francisco city ballot this November 4th. It would place a tax of two cents per ounce on sugary beverages. Two cents per ounce. That's 24 cents per twelve ounce can. A buck-twenty eight on a Super Big Gulp at your favorite 7/11. Another California city, Berkeley, is to consider a penny an ounce tax on such drinks. We will grant that these measures will not end the consumption of soft drinks. You could still drink them, you'll just have to pay through the nose for the right.

This is worse than any conservative actions against any supposed civil rights, quite frankly. This is micromanaging; this is nagging; this is the very definition of the nanny state, and it runs deeper than right wing beliefs that a fetus is a child or that marriage is one man to one woman. Initiatives such as these indicate a desire to control all aspects of human activity. These proposals indicate the desire by some to control all parts of human endeavor: don't think for a moment that your right to an abortion would be safe if these powers begin to think it beyond your capability to decide for yourself about childbirth. Look at China: they'll tell you you must have an abortion if the state thinks you should.

We don't actually believe that that is at the front of the minds of the San Francisco establishment which wants this measure enacted; they're not thinking that far ahead. They're simply trying to do something for the 'good' of the masses, or maybe trying to find a new revenue stream (like that will work: people will simply stop buying Coke in San Fran stores or restaurants). But is a direction which can be taken over, in the long run, by those who do think in the long run about questions of social engineering. Or more to the point, about people who believe that humanity must be formed in their image. Those folks, contrary to popular belief, are not conservative.

Proposal E is not merely wrong on its face. It is insulting to anyone who actually believes that people are responsible for themselves. Those people are conservative. The real libertarians.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Respect Life Sunday 2014

Today is Respect Life Sunday. It is a day which the Catholic Church has set aside each year to remind people that life must be respected from the moment of conception. Naturally enough, the aim is to convince everyone that abortion, and things such as assisted suicide, are moral evils.

It cannot be said enough that being against abortion is a philosophic and not inherently religious stance. Society likes to dismiss it as merely religious so that it can justify the deed. Separation of Church and State and all that, you know. It's funny how they don't mind religious action on other matters, such as poverty and capital punishment, but that is a question for another time.

Human beings have human babies. Common sense tells us as much. Science, if you simply must have everything interpreted empirically, tells us as much. When a couple decides to have a child, they fully expect a human child. Even in the despicable cases of rape and incest, we cannot set aside the question of personhood involved with the child simply for the sake of the unfortunate (in terms of having a crime committed against her) mother. We know that a pregnant woman is carrying a human being. To deny that is intellectual dishonesty, or worse: a moral evil perpetuated by those who benefit from the act of abortion. This must include the men and women who happen to want one merely because a child would cramp their style.

Likewise, assisted suicide and any form of euthanasia must be seen too as abhorrent. Did you put yourself on this Earth? No; indeed, you had no say on the matter. Why ought you have in say in how and when you leave? We have addressed the question philosophically, without an appeal to any higher authority. This before we get into the question of someone helping you...which means that someone helping you check yourself out must be doing something wrong too.

These conclusions can be derived by logical argument and inference without any reference to religion. It is time that we as a society accept it as such, and act accordingly. Short of that, we are simply savages.

Finally, you must respect life from conception if you expect your life to be respected equally. We are less than human otherwise; you are less than human otherwise. If you will not respect someone else's life simply because it is their life, on what grounds can you demand respect for yours? Because you're already here? Listen to how selfish that sounds. Where's the respect in such attitudes?

All right, this is harsh. But it's less harsh than denying a human being humanity.

Respect life at all times. Especially at its weakest and most defenseless.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Are Libertarians Lying about their Political Positions?

One area which libertarians pride themselves on is that they hold few positions on the issues. As such you can, in theory, be both Catholic and libertarian. You just can't force your Catholicism on others. This is very true when issues which are wholly Catholic are the focus, such as, say, confessing your sins to a priest (which is an entirely religious point). Still, libertarianism is sold to conservatives in general on other political and social questions as being without political position. One can be for example anti-abortion and still be libertarian because there is no libertarian position on abortion. It sounds good, and if it weren't for one teensy trifle we might actually accept the premise.

The trifle, you say? Well, simply that libertarians do hold positions on the issues and to truly become libertarian, you must hold those positions too.

Yes, and we say so emphatically, libertarians do hold positions on the issues. Let's use the question of abortion again. As a group, they overwhelming think a woman who wants one should be allowed to have one. This is not a neutral stance: this is being pro-abortion. It's no different than the tired liberal saw (which many if not liberals all seem to accept) which states, "I'm personally opposed, but..." If you believe that abortion should be allowable then you are in favor of it and that's you're actual position on the matter. To say anything less is disingenuous, quite frankly, and arguably deceitful.

Abortion is but one example, so there's no point running down the litany of the various political positions. Yet there is a further problem involving things such as abortion. If we as persons can't work against it through the law and remain libertarian, then libertarianism becomes noxious to the very individual it purports to admire. It asks us to give up on a very basic principle through which by surrendering we have violated our most basic and essential beliefs. It asks us to give up not only the vaunted individualism which the creed champions (a pretty obvious point when you think about it). It really asks us to give up our souls. How can we be people who believe in the dignity of others if we have no yardstick by which to grade human behavior? How can we be individual if we so decisively negate our selves?

Libertarians have positions on the issues; there could be no libertarian thought or movement if this were not true. It's time they acknowledged as much, and played fair with Right Reason and human intellect.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Carson and 2016

Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and darling of conservatives as well as a potential Presidential candidate, has said that, you know, there might not even be elections in 2016. With "...a rapidly increasing national debt, a very unstable financial foundation, and you have all of these things gong on, like the ISIS crisis, that could very rapidly change things that are going on in our nation." You can read more here, if you like: But we will say this: it really only makes him sound as though he is already running for the White House.

Most of the rest of the story has Dr. Carson saying only that the 2016 elections could not happen. And, to be fair, they could not happen. Yet we must always remember that could is a word which belongs, basically, in the category of 'if'. It really doesn't mean much.

In fact, his very use of such rather arbitrary polemics is disappointing. Conservatives almost universally express a positive belief in America and America's future. Yes, America will come to an end one day; all things must pass. But in saying such things, especially in the off the cuff manner in which Carson expressed himself, doesn't actually add anything to the debate about who should lead our nation after the current Chief Executive. It doesn't do much except lay the seeds, however also unlikely in the next two years, for panic. And panic, especially in the public arena, only helps someone who is trying to get something. In this case, that would be Ben Carson trying to become President of the United States.

The move seems too calculated to be taken at face value. Carson can only be saying it to create a sense of urgency which, he hopes, will propel him to the Republican nomination in 2016 and the White House in 2017. It is too much of a political move, an outsider's move, to be taken seriously.

We like Dr. Carson. We think he would make a good President. But there's no need for panic. He would be better to frame the debate over 2016 in terms of hope rather than the macabre. Our nation needs a Ronald Reagan, not a Chicken Little.