Thursday, January 22, 2015

January 22, 2015

On this, the anniversary of one of the most heinous Supreme Court decisions in our history (it's right up there with if not more awful than Dred Scott) we must take a moment and consider what our nation has become since then. Do we really support life when we give of our money and time to soup kitchens and homeless shelters yet will not protect people at their most defenseless?

We do not. What the liberals who have approached me over the abortion question always seem to fall back on is that I need to put all 'life' issues on the same plain. I need to find a balance, of which, they assert, abortion is only one issue.

It may well be only one issue, yet if it is it is the issue. It is based on the dignity of human life, which is what drives any respect for humanity in general. Why should the poor be helped? Because of their dignity as human beings. Why should people not be murdered or stolen from or raped or kidnapped? Because of their dignity as human beings. Where does this dignity begin?

It begins in the womb. Simple Reason tell us as much: human beings have human children.

If you won't support life at its beginning, when it can do nothing for itself, how can I trust that you really will support human dignity later? How can I even trust what you call human dignity? If I can't trust you on that, then, quite frankly, your opinion on education and the environment and our role is world affairs must be held suspect as well. If the dignity of the human person isn't first in your thoughts, then I have difficulty believing in your sincerity on lesser causes.

End abortion now. Work for and vote for the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Then we might discuss, with some promise, what to do about ancillary questions.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Girls have no right to play football with boys

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and hate crimes

Okay, we realize that we've railed a lot about the Charlie Hebdo lately, but then, hasn't most everyone? So we almost hate to write about it again today. So we won't: we'll write about an interesting tangent.

France has announced that it will crack down on 'hate crimes'. This means that, according to French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, '...reprehensible words or acts of hatred or contempt made because of religious affiliation must be fought with the utmost vigour,". What are we to make of that?

If we're supposed to identify with Charlie Hebdo on free speech grounds and freedom of speech is supposed to be absolute, how can the western world justify a condemnation of any words, even the reprehensible ones? Isn't that why so many people support Hebdo to begin with, that even though much of what they have said is reprehensible, they have a right to say it, print it, and yell it from the mountaintops? How is it that the French Justice Minister no less can call for a 'vigourous' prosecution of any speech under these or any given circumstances?

The fact is that the right to freedom of speech, just like any other right, is not absolute. There are legitimate parameters which can be placed against it: we recognize that in our laws against libel and slander, for example. Without that understanding, how can we condemn hateful speech? Isn't that what Charlie Hebdo was itself practicing?

What we have here is a prime example of how the West has lost its moral grounding. When we preach that there are no boundaries to personal behavior, at least within supposedly and wholly personal matters, we ignore that it's a hop, skip, and jump towards someone saying: Well, if it's all about me and what I want, why should I care about what anyone else thinks or does? I'll say what I want...and perhaps do worse.

We are no longer shocked at extremism of any kind. It feeds quite naturally upon the moral confusion which the West, especially Europe, has foisted upon itself. When society tolerates disgusting things such as Charlie Hebdo, you're going to bring all the extremists out of the woodwork.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Boy and His Dog

I remember the old red dog. He was, I think, a northern fiest, with red hair and a black snout. He would listen to my Grandpa Joe with whatever command that aged man would speak. He was obedient that way, responding as his master would command. A good dog. "Hey dog! Hey dog!" Joe would demand, and that old dog would respond, cowering while seeking acceptance, wishing to please his master. He cowered often, as would both his children and their progeny. Old Red dog would run full on towards his target, which was the lock of his Master's old shop, where we worked. He would respond that all was well. Joe taught Red well. A boy and his dog.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and responsible speech

Personal responsibility is important; that goes almost without saying, as it is really a truism of the finest sort. But does personal responsibility mean more than responsibility for one's self? Perhaps the Charlie Hebdo incident can offer us enlightenment on the question.

Ahmed Merabet, A French Muslim police officer, was killed as a result of the attack on that satirical publication's offices. He was by all accounts simply doing his job, and was viciously murdered as he lay wounded on the ground. This part of the attack plays firmly into the matter, as we will see in a moment.

What is the principle right spoken of with regard to our friends at Charlie Hebdo? The right to freedom of speech and expression. This right is praised by the left and the libertarians, and even some conservatives we fear, seemingly without regard to whom and by how it may affect people. Basically, they are defendind free speech without regard for what responsible speech may mean.

Charlie Hebdo routinely attacked not just Islam, but religion in general, with cartoons and remarks which can only be viewed by any civil society as rude if not downright vulgar. Indeed, by what any rational standard of decency would label repulsive. The publication can only be seen as acting, or, perhaps better, wallowing, in its own brand of self righteous tyranny. As such, the question as we see it becomes, was Charlie Hebdo acting personally responsible for those around them? Did it ever consider how its actions might affect others? Did it ever ask whether the staffers had obligations towards others, either out of charity or respect?

This brings us back to Officer Merabet, one of the real true heroes of the attack. We are going to ask two questions about him. Did Charlie Hebdo have any responsibility towards him as a person? And, would he be alive today if the magazine had acted with the proper restraint we should expect of anyone seriously concerned with the betterment of society?

Please do not misinterpret this: Charlie Hebdo is not directly responsible for his murder nor the murders of anyone else, even of their own. We cannot stress that enough, although we guarantee that we will be accused of it and worse. Yet there are also other things which we cannot stress enough. One, there is a huge and significant difference between attacking Islam, the Jews, Christianity and what not, and merely criticizing or chiding those or any given creed. Two, our rights to speech and expression do not mean that we are not responsible for where our actions may even unintentionally lead. If we do not judge what our actions might mean towards others, then we use our rights poorly indeed.

We will go on record for not the first time that it is senseless to speak of rights without speaking of responsibilities. Charlie Hebdo and its supporters seem only to recognize the first part of that statement as legitimate. It would do us well to remember that more than a dozen people are dead, at least indirectly, due to that attitude.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Three Things on a Saturday

One sign of a failing Presidency is when it begins to offer small time ideas in a world of big time controversies. President Barack Obama is doing exactly that with his idea about free community college. Against a backdrop of worldwide terrorism, the answer for him is access to low level college.

Please. Don't we have enough schools of higher education taking enough public money as it is? Why not free up the bonds which education imposes upon us and open up the job markets to the poor? How many jobs actually require college anyway? Formal education isn't necessarily the answer to individual economic woes, friends. Getting on the economic ladder to success, learning how to do for yourself in the real day to day world, is the key to prosperity, not guaranteeing jobs for sociology teachers. That's all that colleges are, really, with their core curriculums and all: jobs factories for those who major in areas of little general interest. More of that will not help the poor. It will simply stifle their need to better themselves.

Je suis Charlie? Not us. True, the crime against the twelve murder victims was heinous and despicable, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice (as almost all of them at this writing have been). But when you consider that the writers and editors at Charlie Hebdo were themselves a mean spirited, anti-religious, provocative and proudly secular humanist rabble, it is difficult to defend their publication itself on any rational grounds. We may have to tolerate such drivel, but only because the alternative of state censorship is a worse evil. We are human, and as such have a stake in preventing murderous actions against any other human beings. But we are decidedly not Charlie. We want responsible speech, not self serving cartoons meant to inflame passions and drive sales. That's hardly in the human interest, and not in truth a legitimate liberty.

Mitt Romney says that he's thinking about running for President again in 2016. Third time's a charm, Mitt? We're not so sure. Yes, he would certainly be better than Hillary, and if he were to get the GOP nomination we would vote for him out of necessity. But isn't it about time that the Republicans become, at least symbolically, a broader party by nominating a Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio? Might it be a good idea and move a bit towards the libertarians and look deeply towards Rand Paul? This next election might be the critical one in US History, given the general direction of the world as well as our nation as a whole. Might it be time to show that conservative/libertarian ideals are the right ones, and give the people a real choice that November?

Just our two cents on three current events issues. Have a nice day.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech

We Americans boast routinely about free speech, being so proud of the right that we put it smack at the top of the Bill of Rights. So, perhaps, it should be. But there are unfortunately degrees to which it must be seen negatively. This seems especially true in light of the recent attack on the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. The attack is of course indefensible. But an underlying and important questions is: does anyone have the right to offend simply for the sake of offense?

There are folks who opine that free speech means the right to say offensive things. They forget that there are two ways in which someone is offended: either when the listener is a fool, or when the speech in question is genuinely offensive.

No one has a moral right to voice offensive remarks solely for the sake of making offense; that is simply rudeness at best and insulting and vulgar at worst. To say that they have such a right under the guise of free speech is really only to hide irresponsible behavior behind a pretty face. As rights only grow from responsibilities, it is reasonable to argue that the right to speak freely comes from the obligation to speak truthfully, in the reasonable interests of ourselves and the general society, and considerately, so far as circumstances may allow.

Still, the only way to really stifle morally offensive speech is censorship, and the problem with censorship is that it is only good when good people are in charge. When bad people hold the reigns, then good and necessary free speech will be prohibited. It is a risk we cannot take.

In the end, though, no one has the right to say offensive things, but merely the practical option of expressing them freely. No one has the right to be wrong in the truest sense of the term, but only the free will to be in the wrong. Until we understand that, we really won't understand the importance of a well regulated freedom at all.

Be all means, the French and the free world must search for and bring to justice the perpetrators of such inhumanity as what was wrought against the staff of Charlie Hebdo. But we should careful about defending the victims too easily on free speech grounds. The crimes committed against them are crimes against their humanity, not against their supposed right to provoke merely to be provocative. We need to understand the difference between free speech and truly offensive speech if we are to have any humanity in us at all.

Friday, January 2, 2015

For 2015, stop worrying so much

Now that we're into 2015, we are also obviously into the expected norms which a blank slate supposedly offers. We get a clean, fresh start. So in the spirit of things, let's talk about the New Year's resolutions which we're supposed to indulge in as part of the self cleansing process. In fact, let' start with a big one, perhaps the big one: let's stop worrying so much!

An article in this morning's version of AOL (does anyone say America On Line anymore?), found here: asserts that most cancers are simply bad luck. Given that most first heart attacks are fatal (the heart just poops out for whatever reason) we wonder if, perhaps, we're worrying about our health a bit too much. Not that we shouldn't do what we can to become and stay healthy, of course. But the point is, why fret it too much if much of it is beyond our control anyway?

But it's more than health issues which cause us fear. We worry about coping with high gas prices, for example, then worry that low gas prices are bad too (see here: ). We worry about the need for alternative energy but then worry about the alternatives (wind power is bad for the birds, for example, as they might be hurt in the windmill blades while making for a bad vacation photograph). We worry about terrorists and terrorism even though such horrid things are truly beyond our personal control. And so on and so forth.

Maybe for 2015 we should vow to deal with only what we can control while leaving everything else to whatever forces control them. This isn't to say ignore all the rest: you should still exercise, eat right, and vote well on local and national issues. Go ahead and pen that letter to the editor but remember that it will likely fall on either deaf or partisan ears with no huge effect. But do what you need to do for you and yours and let the rest happen as it may. We wonder if you will be all the happier for it. So long, that is, as you strive to be the best person which rational analysis demands. Isn't that what it's all about, really?

Now go out and have a productive 2015.