Friday, December 28, 2012

Dear Gun Control Advocate

Dear Gun Control Advocate,

You are a hypocrite. I'm tired of listening to your whining about how the "safety of children" trumps the rights guaranteed us by the US Constitution. Your agenda has nothing to do with protecting children, and everything to do with your misguided belief that human beings are inherently flawed, and only the guidance of your superior intellect will make society work.

I'm sick of hearing how we have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in society, even at the expense of the desires or rights of adults. Where were you when 491 babies were left to die? That got no attention from you. Were those infants not "the most vulnerable"? Were their deaths less horrifying because it took them hours to slowly die of hypothermia and dehydration, rather than going quickly in a hail of bullets? Were the not just as worthy of protection as the children who died in Connecticut?

Apparently not, because you have nothing to say on the matter. And I suspect the real reason is that if you decide that the 491 reported murders (and God knows how may more are unreported, especially in this country where we don't keep any records on this sort of thing) - if you decide that we must take action to "protect the most vulnerable in society" the inescapable conclusion is to limit abortion "rights", not gun rights.

And that is a right you hold far too sacred to risk touching.

So if you want to legislate to protect innocent children, first do something about the 3,000 or so murdered each day in this country, whose lives and deaths you ignore, who to you aren't worthy of even a footnote let alone a headline. Then you can talk about guns.


Holy Innocents, you died before you were old enough to know what life means, pray for all children who die young that God may gather them into His loving arms.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In the Christmas mood

If, like me, you are spending this weekend preparing for Christmas, here's some music to help get you in the mood. Yes, I know it's still Advent, but it's only one more day.















Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Joke

For those who, like me, still need to get shopping done and decorations put up, I offer you a short joke this week, so you can get on with it and have time to spend with your friends and families.

What's the difference between America and England?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Despair and hope

I don't have any profound words in the wake of the tragedy which struck the school children of Connecticut yesterday, or the children of Henan Province. I have no political agenda to push in the minds of people who are grieving. I have no explanation, other than to say Satan is alive and well, but remember, so is Jesus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Free Speech

Leaders

Protector of human rights.

From my opposites series. For more information see Meeting the empress

[I could not find credits for the photo]

Tweeting


Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Joke

A traffic cop pulled alongside a speeding car on the motorway. Glancing into the car, he was astounded to see that the young lady, who was driving, was knitting.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Joke

With the feast of the Immaculate Conception just around the corner, I give you this joke to share.

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.

They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.  And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders.

Suddenly a small stone came whistling past Jesus and landed in the dirt at the feet of the woman.

Jesus turned around, sighed, and said "Aw mom, cut it out."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Bible

Survivors

I just read a chilling story. No, not a horror novel, but a news story that happened in Italy: Baby Boy Survives for Nearly Two Days After Abortion.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Joke

A man goes to his doctor and says "Doctor, I have been experiencing terrible memory loss. I can't remember things from one day to the next. I think it's getting worse!"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Children's Rights

I'm starting a new category, "opposites" for posts like this. I think my first was actually "The Uniform", which I posted back in July.


Violating Children's rights


Not violating Children's rights

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Joke

Mary and Joe are going out for the evening. The last thing they do is put their cat out.

The taxi arrives, and as the couple walk out of the house, the cat scoots back in. Joe returns inside to chase it out.

Mary, not wanting it known that the house would be empty, explains to the taxi driver, "My husband is just going upstairs to say goodbye to my mother."

Several minutes later, an exhausted Joe arrives and climbs back into the taxi saying, "Sorry I took so long, the stupid idiot was hiding under the bed and I had to poke her with a coat hanger several times before I could get her to come out!"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

HHS analogies part 2

This is a continuation of my earlier post, HHS analogies part 1. In this series I am refuting arguments supporting the HHS mandate via a set of analogies (hence the name).

A common argument in support of the HHS mandate is "the mandate helps poor women who need health care." There are numerous fallacies here. First off, abortion, sterilization and contraception are not health care. Secondly, they are completely elective - nobody needs contraception to live. In fact, to the extent that any aspect of these is actual health care, they are already covered by insurance, and not considered immoral. For instance, use of the birth control pill to control hormonal conditions is not immoral, and is covered by insurance.

But let's compare this to something which is unarguably necessary for life - food. Does anybody feel that contraception is more important to life than food? No? I didn't think so. So what is the Obama administration's position on access to food versus access to contraception?

Well, if you are below a certain income level you can apply for food stamps. Here's a summary of some of the requirements for receiving food stamps (this link has the full list).
Gross income limits are established by the federal government and adjusted annually.
A family may have liquid resources (cash, checking accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.) of up to $2,000.

If eligible, the amount of benefits received is determined by household size and adjusted gross income after deductions.

The SNAP Employment and Training program requires those applicants who are able to register for work and cooperate in seeking and keeping employment.

All SNAP recipients must report anytime their monthly gross income is over the maximum allowed for their household size.

All SNAP recipients are also required to complete a recertification (review) process once every 12 months.
In terms of what you get:
You can buy foods such as plants and seeds that will be used to grow food for the family to eat. You can also buy dairy products, meats, vegetables and fruits, and cereals and breads. Foods that are not allowed include hot foods already made, foods that are eaten in-store, medicines and vitamins, any paper goods, pet foods, cigarettes and alcohol. If you pay sales tax on an item, chances are that item is not an allowed food item. 
So, there are very strict limits on who can get free food. You have to be at or near the poverty level, have little to no money or assets, be actively seeking work, and the government monitors your income and other aspects of your life monthly and yearly. Only certain basic foods can be purchased. Fast food, restaurant food, etc. are not allowed.

In other words, in only the hardest cases can people get food stamps, and they will only provide basic nourishment. In fact, the current federal rules will be cutting the amount of food stamps starting January 1. This in a nation where one in six people are experiencing "food insecurity" (are in danger of not getting enough food to stay alive).

Now consider abortion, sterilization and contraceptives. Under Obamacare's HHS mandate they are totally free, in unlimited amounts, to everybody, regardless of income. And not just cheap contraception like condoms, everything up to and including the most expensive stuff is all free. Rather than making millionaires pay for a poor homeless person's contraception, middle class citizens are paying for millionaires' contraception.

If the administration was really concerned about the nutritional of citizens to the same extent it cares about putting money in the coffers of big pharma and big abortion, it would make all foods completely free for everybody. Homeless people could eat lobster and caviar on the public dime every night. Or conversely, it would only provide basic contraception coverage to the poorest of the poor, and the rest of the country would have to pay for theirs.

So in other words, the HHS mandate is not about "helping" the poor.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Joke

While cleaning the attic of his new house, Joe found an old stub for some shoes the previous owner had left at the repair shop 20 years ago. He looked in the phone book and found, remarkably, that the shop was still in business, He decided it would be interesting to go to the shop and see if the shoes were still there.

Joe went down town, located the shop and handed the stub to the repair man. The man peered at the stub for a minute, then disappeared into the back of the store. A few minutes later he returned and said, "They'll be ready on Wednesday."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

HHS analogies, Part 1

I had a recent "discussion" with a friend about the HHS mandate, and in formulating my case I came up with some analogies that I feel might be helpful in explaining some aspect to people. So here goes. Comments welcome.

One objection I keep hearing is "your tax dollars already pay for abortion, this is no different." It is. First off, according to president Obama no tax dollars pay for abortions, so right of the bat you are calling your president a liar. But truth be told, he is a liar, because on day 1 of his presidency in 2009 he abolished the Mexico City Policy, which forbade US tax dollars funding abortions in foreign lands.

But paying for these things remotely via tax dollars is very different from paying for them directly, and I think an analogy can illustrate why.

Let's say I buy groceries at the local grocery store. Now, the owner of that store is a psychopath, and takes the money from the register after I leave, buys ammo, and goes on a shooting spree at a nearby school. I might feel shocked, but I am not morally nor legally responsible.

Now let's say instead, the grocery store owner tells me he needs money to buy ammo to go on a shooting spree, and I hand him a $20 saying "this one's on me." I will be doing time as an accessory to murder. The law is pretty clear on when I am responsible for the evil committed and when I am not.

And so no - paying taxes, even if some of that tax money will be used against my wishes to pay for abortions, is very different in terms of moral responsibility from specifically paying for abortion through the HHS mandate. There is a fundamental difference in the degree of cooperation with evil.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What this election means

I'm hoping someone will look back on this post in a few years and say "boy, what a pessimist!" That said, I have a few thoughts and reflections on the election. Several people have posted things along the line of "God is punishing the US" or "His will was done." I can't agree with either sentiment.

First off, I don't think God needs to punish us. Sin brings its own punishment. When you swing the hammer at your own thumb and it hurts, there's no need to look to God to have brought the punishment upon you. The voters have shown that entitlements are more important than the freedoms written in our Constitution. We (collectively) will get what we deserve. Yes, bad things will happen to good people, and good things will happen to bad people. Read Job for a good theological basis for it all. Or for something more upbeat, read Genesis 37-50, especially noting Genesis 50:19-21:
But Joseph replied to them: "Do not fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve this present end, the survival of many people. So now, do not fear. I will provide for you and for your children." By thus speaking kindly to them, he reassured them.
So, if God will ultimately bring good out of the situation does that mean "His will was done?" No more than it was done to Joseph when his brothers plotted his murder. God does not wish us to do evil. Just because something happens doesn't mean God wills it, especially when the intentions of us sinners are involved.

These two phrases are used by some to justify anything they want to do (not that I think the people who posted this had this in mind, but in other situations I have seen this behavior). Abortion? Must be God's will, since it happens, therefore it is not evil. It's up to God to punish those who do such things. House burned down? He must be a sinner.

If we think of God as father, consider a similar situation with your own child. Little Johnny played with matches and burnt his finger. He blames you for it. Were you responsible? You might have been responsible if Johnny were 3 and you gave him the matches, but at some point you expect Johnny to take responsibility for his own mistakes.

So my reflection on the election is what the prophets have always said "Repent and turn to God." The death toll from this election will be in the tens of millions, but ultimately His will will be done. It is up to us to accept martyrdom, red or white. I know this doesn't sound very upbeat, but it is.

Mary, virgin most immaculate, patroness of the United States, pray for us.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Joke

It's election day tomorrow - get out and vote! To put you in the mood here's a joke.

Thinking that the President needed to show a more human side of himself before the election, his campaign chief advised him to visit an old age home. Walking into the room of an old man, with the cameras whirring, the President was surprised when the old man offered him some peanuts from a bowl on the table. “Thank you”, he said and began munching on a handful.

After being offered more peanuts for the 3rd time, the President asked “why don’t you have some yourself?”

“Oh, I can’t eat them” said the old man, “I don’t have any teeth.”

“So why do you keep a bowl of them in your room?” asked the President.

“Oh, I like to lick the chocolate off of them.”

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Joke

A tourist in Vienna, passing Vienna's Zentralfriedhof graveyard at night on October 31st, heard strange music softly playing.  Looking around, he saw nobody. Listening carefully, he discovered the sound coming from a grave with a headstone that reads: Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827. Then he realized that the music is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and it is being played backward!

Puzzled, he left the graveyard and looked for a police officer. After spending some time convincing the office that he is not crazy, the two return to the graveyard.

By that time the music has changed. Now it is the Seventh Symphony, played backward. Curious, the two men decide to find the caretaker of the cemetery and ask what's going on. The caretaker is quickly called and the problem explained to him.


"Oh, that's normal" says the caretaker. "He's just decomposing!"






As if that wasn't scary enough, I leave you with this:

Q: Why don't Jehovah's Witnesses celebrate Halloween?

A: They don't like strangers knocking on their door.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bedding Big Business

Since we're dealing with hypothetical situations, I have another one (with apologies to Exxon). Let's say that a particular state was given a federal grant to provide relief on energy costs, and that money went to Exxon every year. One year, the state discovered Exxon wasn't really doing anything for the money, and decided to give the money to promote alternative energies (solar, co-gen, whatever) that would be of more benefit to the people of that state.

Now let's say the President of the United States personally says that the money must go to Exxon, and if it doesn't his administration will sue. Furthermore, he cuts off the grant money completely, leaving the state without energy aid, until and unless the money goes to the Exxon, the company the president likes.

Let's say that president campaign specifically mentions Exxon as being vital to the nation, and his budget doubles the amount of money Exxon will get. Exxon forms a sister company, Exxon Action, specifically to support the president, and the president of Exxon takes a sabbatical to campaign full time for the president.

Do you think:

A) That's right. The president should support big business, and the most profitable companies in various industries should be best pals with him.

B) No conclusion can be drawn - it's all coincidence.

C) The president is in bed with the company. It is unethical, and should be stopped. Better yet, it's an election year, throw the bum out!

Well, change Exxon to Planned Parenthood. The president has supported Planned Parenthood, which is the largest and most profitable abortion provider in the US. He has lied knowingly to get them funding. When Texas decided to take their federal money and give it to providers who actually performed mammograms (Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms, and never has), the president cut off all federal funding for all women's health programs in Texas. The lawsuits to force Texas to give money to Planned Parenthood are continuing to this day. In other words, Planned Parenthood the company, is more important than women's health.

The Obama administration is also suing Arizona to fund Planned Parenthood, and overrode the state of New Hampshire to force taxpayers there to fund Planned Parenthood. In fact, he literally threatened to shut down the entire United States if Planned Parenthood did not receive the funding he wanted. In other words, Planned Parenthood, the company, is more important than the United States.

And Now, Cecile RIchards, president of Planned Parenthood has announced she will campaign full time for President Obama. Why is it that the media isn't raking him over the coals for this blatant unethical ties to a single company?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Joke

A man is stranded in the remote countryside when his car breaks down. After discovering his cell phone doesn't work, the man begins walking down the road.

After several hours' walk the man sees a monastery, and rings the bell. A monk comes out and invites the man inside use the phone. It turns out it will take hours for a tow truck to come, and so the monk invites the man to dinner. He gladly accepts the monk's offer.

Since it is Friday the dinner is meatless, and the man is served the most delicious fish and chips he's ever had. He decides to compliment the chef.

Entering the kitchen, the man asks the cook, "Are you the fish friar?"

"No," the chef replies, "I'm the chip monk."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Reducing Theft

Let's say we look at employee theft in department stores. Now, every department store will have some degree of employee theft, but all stores would like to minimize it. It hurts the bottom line, and makes people want to shop elsewhere.

Let's say there is one department store in particular, that institutes strict policies to discourage employee theft. Employees are not allowed to work without at least one other person watching them. Stores are watched closely and inventory is kept where it is under constant surveillance. There are strong protections for "whistle blowers".

Every employee has a background check for criminal records, and has to read and sign off on the policies against stealing.  Every employee also has to spend time at least once a year in a course outlining the policies of the store, the procedures to prevent employee theft, and encouraging them to report and handle it if it does occur. Entire departments in the organization are devoted to ensuring that the policies are adhered to, that the store works with authorities if theft occurs, and to create an environment where anyone can safely and anonymously report suspicious activities. Even the front page of the store's web site has links to report employee theft anonymously, and links to the store policies and procedures.

These procedures were designed by another company that specializes in detecting and reducing theft. They are expensive, and are the best of any store in its class. Over the next few years the number of employee thefts reported is a fraction of the number of thefts reported by stores of similar size which do not have such programs in place.

What can we conclude from this?

A) The store is serious about reducing theft and its procedures have been effective. Other stores should look into doing the same.

B) No conclusion can be drawn. They just got lucky.

C) The store actually has a secret policy that encourages theft. Theft is actually rampant within the company, much higher than in other companies, but they cover it up by punishing whistle blowers. Everyone who knows about this is on the take.

Got your conclusion? I'm going to bet it is "A", or if you are a severe pessimist, "B". But "A" is the more reasonable choice. In any situation when you change a parameter and the result changes, it is reasonable to conclude that there is a relationship between the two. That conclusion becomes even more reasonable if there is a distinct mode of causality.

For instance, if you see that buildings made of nonflammable building material have fewer fires than those made with flammable materials, you can infer that the choice of building material contributed to the difference, not just because the two are correlated, but because we can see a direct causal relationship. Likewise for the employee theft example. The store's policies were known to reduce theft, and so it is likely that it was a contributing factor.

Now replace "department store" with "Catholic Church" and replace "theft" with "sex abuse". Does your conclusion change? Why? Is your conclusion reasonable?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Scott Adams makes sense

If you're a geek like me you enjoy reading Scott Adams' popular Dilbert cartoon. And if you've been following the news you've probably read about what Scott Adams said about the upcoming election. Here's a piece of it (actually most of it - I wanted to give enough context to make my point - I encourage you to read the whole thing).
Let's say a CEO does a great job for stockholders; he increases profits five-fold, treats the employees well, and causes the stock price to skyrocket. He's a superstar. One day the public learns that the CEO killed a guy to get ahead in his career, but the CEO doesn't get convicted because his clever attorney gets him off on a technicality. Assume in this hypothetical situation that the public correctly believes the CEO killed a guy to advance his career. Should the board of directors allow the superstar CEO to keep his job? Or is killing a guy to advance your career always a firing offense?

Okay, keep your answer in mind.

The next question is for supporters of President Obama. Let's say your political views map closely to the President's positions. He's your guy. But suppose you found out he once killed an American citizen in the United States to help his reelection. And assume, as with the CEO example, that the facts of the killing are undisputed and the President found a legal means to avoid prosecution. In that hypothetical case, would you still vote for President Obama? Or would you say it is a firing offense for a President to kill a citizen to advance his career?

I predict that every one of you favored firing the hypothetical CEO for killing a guy to get ahead. My second prediction is that every Republican reader of this blog favored firing President Obama in the hypothetical and imaginary case of him murdering a citizen to get elected. My third prediction is that supporters of President Obama will quibble with the hypothetical example, or my comparison to the CEO, or say President Obama is still a better option than Romney. In other words, for most supporters of President Obama, I don't think there is such a thing as a "firing offense."

For the record, President Obama did not technically kill anyone to get elected. That was just a hypothetical example. But he is putting an American citizen in jail for 10 years to life for operating medical marijuana dispensaries in California where it is legal under state law. And I assume the President - who has a well-documented history of extensive marijuana use in his youth - is clamping down on California dispensaries for political reasons, i.e. to get reelected. What other reason could there be?
Mr. Adams is speaking about unjustly trumping state law and trampling the rights of American citizens rather than killing someone. And as he points out later in the post, while there is no guarantee Romney won't do the same, but he does claim to support about states' rights and it is likely that he will have a different policy in this area.

Now, I disagree with the state of California's legalization of marijuana, but I see parallels with the way federal law is trampling states' rights in the case of drugs, and the way federal law is trampling states' rights in the case of abortion.

But that isn't my purpose for this post. Mr. Adams points out something that Catholics and pro-lifers have been pointing out for a long time. There is such thing as a "firing offense." From a pro-life perspective, while President Obama hasn't killed with his own two hands and innocent human being, he has aggressively pursued policies and laws to increase the number of abortions in the US, and made abortin the most important point of his presidency. And so a pro-life analogy might be (with apologies to Mr. Adams for paraphrasing his point):

Let's say a CEO does a great job for stockholders; he increases profits five-fold, treats the employees well, and causes the stock price to skyrocket. He's a superstar. One day the public learns that the CEO supports KKK lynchings to get ahead in his career, but the CEO is a clever attorney who says clever sound bites like "that's above my pay grade" when asked if it's OK to kill black human beings. Assume in this hypothetical situation that the public correctly believes the CEO supports lynchings to advance his career. Should the board of directors allow the superstar CEO to keep his job? Or is promoting lynching to advance your career always a firing offense?

As some pro-lifers point out (as an excuse for support President Obama), Governor Romney doesn't have a coherent pro-life strategy, and undermines his platform by the exceptions he keeps talking about, but it is that he will at least not pursue the aggressive funding of Planned Parenthood (under the lie that it provides mammograms)? It is also likely that he will remove the laws supporting the HHS mandate that makes abortifacients free. He has pledged to reinstate the Mexico City policy.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

It's that simple

Found this short 16 second video on the HHS mandate.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Recording the end of an era

A friend showed me this cool time lapse video of the space shuttle moving across LA. The only thing that would have been cooler is if it included the trip across the country as well.

The moment is bittersweet, however, as it reminds me of how far we have fallen in our nation's goals. When I was a lad, the space age had begun and we were a nation eager to do more.

Things like rechargeable battery technology, hybrid cars, velcro, LEDs, artificial limbs, scratch-proof glasses, freeze dried foods, firefighting gear, water purification, solar panels, and literally hundreds of other inventions all came from the exploration of space. It is estimated that every $1 spent on space exploration resulted in $7 entering the economy through new jobs and new technologies.

Today, as a nation we have completely lost our manned space program. We have to rely on other countries to do it for us. The technologies developed have changed very little in 50 years, and again other countries have surpassed us in many of those areas. We have become a nation of followers instead of leaders. Instead of our national focus being on education and peaceful exploration, it is on free birth control and the erosion of our liberties.

If I keep talking I'll wind up crying. Why don't I just show the video already?


Watching it reminds me of an event that took place over 50 years ago, described in the book The Perfect Machine, when the 200" pyrex mirror for the Hale telescope was moved across country from the Corning glass works in NY to Pasadena, CA, and later to the Mt. Paloma observatory.

According to the Mt. Palomar web site, in 1936
The mirror blank, with only a rough flat front surface, is shipped across the country on a special train from New York to Pasadena, always traveling slower than 25 miles per hour.
The telescope project has captured the public imagination, and thousands of people line the train tracks to watch this special cargo. Guards are posted around the mirror during overnight stops to prevent any damage to the disk. The trip takes sixteen days.

The mirror was ground and polished over the next 11 years, removing about 5 tons of glass to perfect it's shape. In 1947
The 200-inch mirror is transported from Pasadena to Palomar on November 18-19, 1947. The 40 ton cargo requires three diesel tractors to push it up the mountain. Despite a storm, which nearly aborts the transport, the 125 mile trip is completed in 32 hours.
After removing the concrete disk (now located outside the dome) that was used to test the support structure, engineers install the mirror. Initial imaging results are promising but not ideal. It takes two years to finish polishing, aligning, and adjusting the mirror. 
I wish I had been there to see that move!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Joke

This one's courtesy Melanie on Plurk. Thank you. And hey, readers. If either of you knows any good ones please drop me a line. Without further ado...

An old, blind cowboy wanders into an all-girl biker bar by mistake. He finds his way to a bar stool and orders a shot of Jack Daniels.

After sitting there for a while, he yells to the bartender, "Hey, you wanna hear a blonde joke?"

The bar immediately falls absolutely silent. In a very deep, husky voice, the woman next to him says, "Before you tell that joke, Cowboy, I think it is only fair, Given that you are blind, you should know 5 things:

    1. The bartender is a blonde girl with a baseball bat.
    2. The bouncer is a blonde girl with a Billy-Club.
    3. I'm a 6-foot tall, 175-pound blonde woman with a black belt in karate.
    4. The woman sitting next to me is blonde and a professional weight lifter.
    5. The lady to your right is blonde and a professional wrestler.

Now, think about it seriously, Cowboy... Do you still want to tell that Blonde joke?"

The blind cowboy thinks for a second, shakes his head and mutters, "No...not if I'm gonna have to explain it five times..."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Voting and sin Part 3

This is part 3, of my series on voting and sin. In part 1 I spoke about whether it is a sin to vote for Governor Romney (as some Obama supporters have told me). In part 2 I covered whether voting third party is a sin, as many many people on both sides have told me. In this part I wanted to cover whether voting for President Obama is a sin. I've been putting off writing this, because I don't want what I'm writing to be true. However, I can't change facts, so here goes. But first, a disclaimer.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Are the unborn human?

Jimmy Akin, in his usual cogent and accessible style, addresses the issue at the core of the pro-life movement, whether unborn human beings are human beings.

If you read this blog, or know me in real life, you know this is a biggie for me. Too often in politics and in casual conversation people make the unsubstantiated claim that abortion is a "personal decision" or a "religious issue." It is neither.

Even our president said "that's above my pay grade." It is not, especially if you want to claim you are a constitutional lawyer and a "man of science."

Looked at objectively, scientifically, abortion is the killing of an innocent human being, in violation of our Constitution and the principles of civil society. But Jimmy is a far better speaker (and writer) than I.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Joke

Two friends, Joe and Mike, go on a hunting trip. They start walking from their car into the woods. After about an hour of walking, they sit down and take a rest.  Joe says "I'm not feeling so good".

Mike suggests they walk back to the truck.  So they start walking. About 15 minutes into the trip, Joe gasps, clutches his chest, and falls over. Mike immediately calls 911.

The operator answers "9-1-1, what's your emergency?"

Mike says "My friend collapsed with a heart attack, I think he's dead, what do I do"?

Operator says, "Well first make sure he's dead".

Mike says, "OK" and puts the phone down.

After a few seconds, the operator hears BANG!!!

Mike gets back on the phone and says, "OK, He's dead. Now what?"

Friday, October 5, 2012

Raise your hand...

...if you are as angry as I am. This came to my attention in an email form the Cardinal Newman Society. Apparently, a Missouri federal court dismissed in its entirety a suit against the HHS mandate brought by a Catholic businessman. Here is the reasoning, directly from the court order (emphasis mine).
Plaintiffs allege that the preventive services coverage regulations impose a similar ultimatum, and therefore substantially burden their free exercise of religion “by coercing Plaintiffs to choose between conducting their business in accordance with their religious beliefs or paying substantial penalties to the government.” Am. Compl. ¶ 40 [Doc. #19]. However, the challenged regulations do not demand that plaintiffs alter their behavior in a manner that will directly and inevitably prevent plaintiffs from acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. Frank O’Brien is not prevented from keeping the Sabbath, from providing a religious upbringing for his children, or from participating in a religious ritual such as communion.
So the First Amendment has been reduced from freedom of religion to, literally, freedom of worship. Hey, we'll still let you go to Church, so stop whining.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Joke

Thanks to Joni on Plurk for sending me this joke.

The local news station was interviewing an 80-year-old lady because she had just gotten married for the fourth time. The interviewer asked her questions about her life, about what it felt like to be marrying again at 80, and then about her new husband's occupation. "He's a funeral director," she answered. "Interesting," the newsman thought.

He then asked her if she wouldn't mind telling him a little about her first three husbands and what they did for a living. She paused for a few moments, needing time to reflect on all those years. after a short time, a smile came to her face and she answered proudly, explaining that she had first married a banker when she was in her 20's, then a circus ringmaster when in her 40's, and a preacher when in her 60's, and now - in her 80's - a funeral director. The interviewer looked at her, quite astonished, and asked why she had married four men with such diverse careers.

She smiled and explained, "I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, and four to go."

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Voting and sin, Part 2

A long time ago a friend told me this story, which I will paraphrase, since it's been a while.
A man intends to vote for a third party candidate. One day there's a knock on his door. It is the democratic candidate campaigning. He asks "Will you vote for me?"

"No" the man replies. I intend to vote third party.

The candidate then makes a good case, explaining how, if the man doesn't vote democratic, the republican candidate will win.

The next day the republican candidate comes to the door. "Will you vote for me?"

"No, I intend to vote third party."

The republican candidate then makes the case that if the man doesn't vote republican, the democratic candidate will win.

The next day, there's a knock on the door, and it's the third party candidate. "Will you vote for me?"

"I'd like to" the man replies, "but if I vote for you, either a republican or a democrat will win."
The story has stuck with me all these years because I believe in it.  As a person who tends to lean third party it strikes a chord. Of late I have had (presumably) well meaning people tell me that voting for a third party is a sin (their actual words) because if I do it is the the same thing as voting for candidate "X". Lest you think there's some partisan agenda, I have heard this from both republicans and democrats.

So is it a sin if I don't vote for one of the two major parties? Some would make the case that it is the same as voting for the winning party. Even worse, as I noted in my earlier post (Voting and sin Part 1) as a Catholic I am morally obligated to vote. If I vote for a third party, isn't that the same as not voting? The answer is "no" even if the outcome is the same.

If you think about it, unless I am the one voter who casts the vote that puts one candidate over the other, my vote does not change the outcome anyway. So to claim that my vote somehow "causes" someone to win or lose is false on a specific basis.

But how about in general? I am morally obliged to vote for the candidate whom I feel will do the most good (or least harm). I am not obliged to see that candidate win. As Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”

In my view, you don't get good government by voting for bad government. Voting for a lesser candidate simply because he's one of the big two parties is not voting for good government, it is participating in evil in order to achieve an end that is good. The ends never justify the means. In the general case, a third party candidate won't win only because enough people think he won't win. If we actually vote our (well formed) conscience, this country would be in a lot better shape than it is now.

In short, no, Virginia, it is not a sin to vote for a third party candidate.

[N.B. Part 3 can be found here.]

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Voting and sin part 1

I was in the middle of writing a blog post on voting and sin, when a friend sent me a message on Facebook:
I've been discussing,the USCCB guidelines for voting, and their synchronicity/consistency with a few of the papal encyclicals (Evangelium Vitae, for one), with a few priests and several people staunch Catholics...

So, since your FB post says "I vote pro-life first", I put it to you.... How can a Catholic vote for Romney if he is pro-choice in the case of rape/incest.
My blog post was getting too long, and rambling anyway, so I decided to answer his question as part 1 and conclude with more cases in part 2. Here is my answer to him (with a couple of minor tweaks).

OK, so here's the thing. As a Catholic is not moral to not vote, because you're abandoning your responsibility to serve society.

On the other hand, unless Jesus or Mary are running for office, you will be voting for a candidate who is involved in some kind of sin. So the question is can you vote for anybody? The answer is yes, you can and furthermore you must vote for the candidate who in your well-formed opinion will do the most good or, barring that, the least harm.

The reasoning behind that is the principle of double effect which says that you can allow some necessary evil to occur in performing an act providing 4 conditions are met.

1. The act itself must be at least morally neutral (voting is a moral good)
2. The good effect of the act must be intended, not the evil one.
3. The good effect is not produced by the evil effect.
4. The good effect is proportionally greater than the evil effect.

So if there are no pro-life candidates you vote for the one who would be the least pro-abortion. Some people would add that even if there is a pro-life candidate, if that candidate has no chance of winning, the best outcome morally is to vote for the least evil candidate who has a chance of winning. That is a prudential decision.

So it could be moral to vote for Romney even though he has exceptions in his pro-life stance if (a) there are no completely pro-life candidates on the ballot or (b) if you believe that the pro-life candidate would not win anyway, and you choose to use your vote to ensure that a worse candidate does not win.

By the way, Catholic Answers has a good Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics that covers these issues and more.

[N.B. part 2 and part 3 can be found at those links, respectively.]

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

to add a little beauty

To add a little beauty to your week...


Seyit UYGUR { Ebru Artist } from Oguz Uygur on Vimeo.
Thank y'all so much for the likes, comments and the follows. I am really humbled.

My parents perform this art (Ebru in Turkish, Paper Marbling in English) and the footage was shot for a promo piece I was working on back then and my dad asked me to put a video together for him. This is what came out of that.

For those who is wondering how it's done I'd recommend googling "Paper Marbling" there is plenty of info out there.

The song is "Charlotte Mittnacht" by DeVotchka

For more of my work:
http://oguzuygur.com

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Getting it all wrong

It was with some amusement that I read "Will Science Someday Rule Out the Possibility of God?" My amusement turned to dismay. Not because the article is right, but because it has it all wrong, and some people will actually believe what it says. Let's start with the opening premise.
Over the past few centuries, science can be said to have gradually chipped away at the traditional grounds for believing in God. Much of what once seemed mysterious — the existence of humanity, the life-bearing perfection of Earth, the workings of the universe — can now be explained by biology, astronomy, physics and other domains of science.
But of course science can't explain the existence of humanity, or even decide when humanity came into existence. Of the "life-bearing perfection of Earth", all science has to say is "it must be random" which is code for "we can't explain it" - science offers no explanations or even theories. The workings of the universe (I presume they mean cosmology) are likewise unexplained, except for some theories in want of actual facts to support them.
However, in Carroll's opinion, progress in cosmology will eventually eliminate any perceived need for a Big Bang trigger-puller.
As he explained in a recent article in the "Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity" (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), a foremost goal of modern physics is to formulate a working theory that describes the entire universe, from subatomic to astronomical scales, within a single framework. Such a theory, called "quantum gravity," will necessarily account for what happened at the moment of the Big Bang. Some versions of quantum gravity theory that have been proposed by cosmologists predict that the Big Bang, rather than being the starting point of time, was just "a transitional stage in an eternal universe," in Carroll's words. For example, one model holds that the universe acts like a balloon that inflates and deflates over and over under its own steam. If, in fact, time had no beginning, this shuts the book on Genesis.
So now these explanations are not a done deal but a goal.

I've no idea what Carroll's science chops are, but I can tell you he needs to study history and philosophy. In the early 1900s, with the discovery of quantum mechanics, along with Einstein's theory of general relativity, scientists had finally figured out everything - from atomic particles to the structure of the universe. God was no longer necessary, and the steady state theory neatly explained the origins of the universe. Matter was spontaneously being created from the vacuum, and all was neatly tied up.

Except there were these constants that couldn't be explained. One of them was the cosmological constant, a little number Einstein used to balance his equations. In 1927 Georges LemaƮtre, a priest and professor at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, wrote a paper in which he claimed that the universe had a beginning. Scientists mocked him. Cosmologist Fred Hoyle came up with a ridiculous, derogatory term for it - "Big Bang". We all know how that turned out.

Now cosmologists are theorizing, not on the basis of any actual data, but simply as an attempt to deny God, to return to a variation of the steady state. Matter is created not steadily, but in waves, either through a "multuverse" (multiple universes), a bouncing universe (the big bang becomes a big crunch, which begets a new big bang) or more exotic theories. What Carroll (and others, like Stephen Hawking) ignore (although they are well aware of the work, which was published in 2003) is the Borde, Vilenkin, Guth (BVG) theorum. This is a neat piece of reasoning that shows that any universe of system of universes that has an expansion rate greater than zero (which ours does - Edwin Hubble proved that long ago) has a beginning. Period. The only premise for this theorem is that the laws of thermodynamics are true.

But let's say that Borde Vilenkin and Guth are wrong and that there are multiple big bangs. Does this "shut the book on Genesis"? No, because Genesis does not claim that this universe is the only thing God created. Nor could any scientific understanding of the creation of the universe disprove the existence of God, as there are philosophical proofs, that don't rely on physics at all. Let's suppose that the laws of physics do spontaneously create the universe. Where did they come from? Oh, you say they were always there? Why? How?

The best answer proposed so far is that "the question is meaningless" which is also science code for "you're not allowed to ask that because we can't answer it."

The whole question of "why is there something rather than nothing" is something scientists don't "get". Hawking and Mlodminow, in their book " The Grand Design" state:
Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.
OK, assume they are right why is there a law of gravity? Where did that particular law come from? This is the question. If you're going to posit that laws of physics begot laws of physics, you wind up with "turtles all the way down" (which is a phrase Hawking himself used to mock religious creation stories).

I've seen many otherwise intelligent people argue that well of course matter can spring from nothing, because empty space isn't empty - it is filled with virtual particles that spontaneously create matter (they usually add something like "you idiot you", but in more derogatory terms). What they fail to realize is that I do realize that empty space is not empty - and I also realize that empty space is also not nothing it is something. When I say nothing I mean nothing. Not empty space, not a singularity, not some quantum thingy or string or field or particle or law or constant - nothing.

It is this failure to realize that there exists something other than physics (like logic, for instance) that makes all of these articles so painfully stupid that they are hard to read without feeling shame for the author. If these scientists tried to write articles about, say, baseball, and didn't understand what a foul ball was, they'd be laughed out of existence. But as a society, in general we are so woefully ignorant about philosophy and logic that people actually buy these ridiculous claims hook line and sinker.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Joke

The recent screeds by Bill Nye, Gary Trudeau and others about how belief in the Biblical creation narratives is harmful to children reminded me of a joke.

Many years from now, when scientist discover how to create life, they decide science has disproved God, so they select a scientist to go up to the top of a mountain to break the news to him.

The scientist shakes his fist in the air and shouts "God, we don't need you and we don't want you. We are masters of the universe. We can create life from dirt, just as you did."

"Show me" says God, with an amused tone in his voice.

The scientist begins scarping dirt together with his hands.

"No no" says God "get your own dirt."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sitting in the sun

My wife and my youngest son are terribly allergic to incense. Too much and they spend the rest of the day in bed with nausea and headache. And so it was with dismay rather than delight that we entered the church last Sunday to the strong smell of incense.

Thinking there was going to be more at this mass (for whatever reason, there wasn't - it was used only at the previous mass), my wife asked if we could sit in the back. I hate sitting in the back, for numerous reasons. First off, I like to sing and respond, and I like to hear the people around me doing the same. The people who habitually sit in the back are often not participating as well. And that's understandable, because with the sanctuary only raised a few inches it is difficult to see what's going on. Secondly, I think being immersed in the mass helps my kids to understand it better, and not to wander off into mental tributaries.

So we started the long trek to the back of the church. I suggested we stop halfway back, near a window that could be opened, but no dice. We wound up sitting in the last row. Now, at the time we got there, the last row was pretty much empty, so we had our choice of seats. Yes, my parish has seats, not pews. My youngest picked a seat that was in the sun. I told him to move over one seat and avoid the heat of the sun. He insisted that it would be fine, and I reluctantly allowed him to sit in the seat he chose.

All the seats around us filled in, until the mass was standing room only, and mass began a minute later. By the time we got to the first reading, my son was practically sitting in my lap. "Dad, would you switch with me?" he whispered. I thought about making him sit there for the whole mass. After all, it was his choice, against my good advice, and he should live with the consequences. It would teach him a lesson. But looking at how distressed he was, I just couldn't. I loved him too much to let him suffer. I switched with him, and spent the rest of the mass in the hot seat, being miserable.

It struck me that this is what God does for us. He loves us so much that He took it upon Himself to suffer the consequences of our bad choices, our sins, so that we don't have to. He could have said "you chose to sin, now suffer the consequences of what you've done to yourself." Instead, He dies on the cross so that we might have eternal life with Him.

Just as my son had to say "Dad, would you switch with me?" we too have to repent and ask for God's forgiveness. It is freely given, but not forced upon us. If we don't want to accept what God offers us we don't have to. He respects our will.

I know it's not a perfect analogy, but hey, when you're sitting in the hot sun, a thousand miles from the altar in a packed church, you think of these things.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The next time

The next time someone argues that "God made people gay" so we should just accept it, ask them how they feel about contraception and sterilization. Odds are they have no problem with those things. "But God made people fertile." So why should homosexuality (or pedophilia or incest or beastiality or whatever sexual act is being touted) be accepted as something that shouldn't be resisted?

But hey, why stop with sex only? Ask them how they feel about aborting Down syndrome babies? "But God made them with Down syndrome." Accept them as they are.

Or how about "I was born aggressive, I should be able to bully people." Oh wait, you say bullying isn't OK? But God made me that way.

There are reasoned arguments for supporting same sex unions - not correctly reasoned, but reasoned ones. However, the "God made people gay" argument has got to be one of the more ridiculous ones.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What matters

Under Obamacare, penalty per employee per year for employers who offer NO healthcare coverage whatsoever: $2,000

Under Obamacare, penalty per employee per year for religious employers who offer excellent healthcare coverage, but omit abortion, sterilization and contraception: $36,500

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Joke

A panda walks into a diner, sits down and orders a sandwich. The waitress is quite surprised, but decides to try to treat it like any other customer. It orders a sandwich and begins to eat. After it is done, it takes out a pistol, fires a shot into the ceiling, and starts to walk out without paying. The waitress says "Hey, what do you think you're doing?"

"Look it up!" snarls the panda, and tosses an encyclopedia on the counter as it walks out.

The bewildered waitress opens the encyclopedia, finds the entry for "panda", and reads:
The panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), is a bear native to central-western and south western China. It eats shoots and leaves...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Anti-Choice

"Celebrity chef" Jamie Oliver said, according to Yahoo News:

"We hear a lot about how we shouldn't be 'nannying' people with laws about how they live their lives, but with such a massive problem as the obesity epidemic to deal with, we are way past the point where [we] can trust people to make better choices. We have to help them make better choices."

According to a New York Times poll 60% of New Yorkers are opposed to the ban, and only 36% in favor. Yet another move of government to say it knows better than the people. Followed to its logical conclusion, the people can't be trusted to choose their representatives.

Reminded me of

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Cynical

I'm feeling cynical today, and so I'm posting a story I've tried to stay away from for a while. As you may remember, last year American Atheists, Inc. sued the 9-11 Museum to remove some wreckage of the WTC towers from it's display. The reason? The beams formed a cross. From "Are You Kidding?"
The cross is made of two beams found in the wreckage of the World Trade Center after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and American Atheists Inc. said last year, "The WTC cross has become a Christian icon. It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their god, who couldn't be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross. It's a truly ridiculous assertion. It will just be a Christian icon, in the middle of OUR museum. This will not happen without a fight."
The museum had planned to make the cross part of an exhibit called "Finding meaning at Ground Zero" but plans have been stalled due to the lawsuit. Apparently, it isn't enough that the atheists find no meaning, nobody else is allowed to find meaning either. Perhaps they should change their name to "Westboro Atheists, Inc."

Of course, they have a compromised solution - the museum could erect at 17 foot tall "A for Atheist" next to the cross. What would it mean? I suppose someone seeing it could think the "A" stood for some other word that starts with "A", but I believe the atheists would make sure that there was a plaque to explain it to the "non-brights."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Person

Monday Joke

Two avid fishermen go on a fishing trip. They rent all the equipment: the reels, the rods, the wading suits, the rowboat, the car, and even a cabin in the woods. They spend a fortune.

The first day they go fishing, but they don't catch anything. The same thing happens on the second day, and on the third day. It goes on like this until finally, on the last day of their vacation, one of the men catches a fish.

As they're driving home they're really depressed. One guy turns to the other and says,  "Do you realize that this one lousy fish we caught cost us fifteen hundred dollars?"

The other guy says, "Wow! It's a good thing we didn't catch any more!"