Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Three Long Days

The nine current Supreme Court Justices -
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.
 We are now moving into the third day of oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court concerning the constitutionality of the Obama health care law. It has been quite an historic week for the Court, involving probably the most significant case to be heard in that body in my lifetime. Read a breakdown of the arguments here.

Also, read about the administration's botched defense of its law here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

That's What She Said, Mr. Romney.

It has taken me a while, but I've finally figured something out that has been bothering me for a while. I knew that Mitt Romney reminded me of someone, someone I knew I disliked, but could not think of who that someone was. Now I remember, and it makes enough sense that it is rather scary.

Mitt Romney, you remind me of Michael Scott, the pandering and hyper-socially-sensitive boss of the fictional paper company Dunder-Mifflin.

The overarching theme of Michael Scott's life (besides finding a woman who can stand him long enough to marry him) is the pursuit of the good opinion of others. He is obsessed with being liked for who he thinks he is (and is usually not in reality.) The situation calls for a cool and hip game of basketball with the mostly-black warehouse crew? He'll don a backwards baseball cap and blame his inability to shoot a basket on the net. He has to motivate his team to make a big sale? He'll make a video of himself talking gibberish about sales and motivation and awesomeness with himself as the star.

The result is Ricky Gervais-typical humorous awkwardness, an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of the audience's collective stomach that they will simultaneously never know this man at all and also that his soul is laid bare for all to inspect. Michael Scott is simple in the midst of the complexity he surrounds himself with. He wants to be friends with everyone, to be everyone's buddy, to be loved and revered by all. His actions achieve the exact opposite on most occasions; he is not respected or revered precisely because in the end he is nothing by trying to be everything.

Although every politician does this to some degree in order to increase their appeal, I have detected this same quality to an even more disturbing degree in the current front-runner of the GOP. Mitt Romney so desperately wants to be liked and loved that he will do most anything to make it happen. Like trying to dress in a "folksy" manner by wearing blue jeans instead of his normal suit, or talking about his dad's working class roots with a weird story about spitting nails, etc. They all contribute to an unflattering overall image of more than usual dependency on the current trend.

But then again, his stance on just about every issue displays that same sort of dependency. He was against guns, and then was all for guns; he disliked tax cuts before he claimed he supported them; has been on both sides of the fence about gays and marriage; has roundly condemned the work in stem cell research after giving it the thumbs up earlier. The list goes on and on.

He deserves little respect as a presidential candidate precisely because he is so half-baked. You can't like or dislike him, hate or love him, because in the end he is kind of nothing.

Much as I dislike bumper stickers, I have had an idea for a Romney sticker for a while now, and the impetus to create it only gets stronger by the day. It would simply say, "Vote for me! I've stood for your position at least once!" Or it might as well just say, "Vote for me! I'm the only candidate that has stood for every position at least once."

Even Obama couldn't make that second claim...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Star Wars, meet NASA.

This is one of the most incredible videos I've seen this year so far. It is a point-of-view video from the solid fuel rocket boosters of the (now defunct) Space Shuttle. Except this time they put microphones inside the booster to capture the sounds up close and personal. And then had Skywalker Sound (of Star Wars fame) master and clean up the sounds they captured. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Church's Contraceptive Position Explained

I was fortunate enough to run across this article about the HHS mandate and the Church's teaching, fortunate in that not only was it written by a friend of mine, but the professor being interviewed was a professor of mine back in the day. His mind is as sharp as a tack and he handles this question with his usual wit. Enjoy!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Intellectual Aid

While we were still on the topic of the Department of Health and Human Services and its clash with the Catholic Church, I thought it might be helpful for anyone who doesn't know the Church's real position to read this article. It serves to help eliminate the rampant guesswork and slander being tossed about concerning the Church's real position on the mandate.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Aluminum Foil Hats Off Now!

There is a wonderful book written by the great G. K. Chesterton, called The Ball and the Cross, which I read for the first time at college and couldn't put down until I was finished. It is the story of a hard-core atheist who is completely convinced of the truth of his atheism, and has a shop set up with inflammatory anti-Catholic posters in the windows in order to attract somebody of a religious persuasion to debate. The world passes him by for a good portion of his life, being too self-involved in its own ennui to give a care, until one day a Catholic man sees the shop and in a fit of righteous rage smashes the window, challenging the atheist to a duel in defense of the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The atheist is so happy to finally meet someone who will take him up on his challenge that he drops everything and the two try to find a nice quiet spot to duel with swords.

Only they never actually do much fighting at all, because they are constantly being interrupted by busybodies and the authorities. But the various people they encounter only fuel their passion to cross verbal and literal swords in a spiritual duel.

If you think I relate this story in order to defend or tear down one side or the other, then you would be mistaken, this time anyways. I do in fact believe one of these men's positions to be true and disbelieve the other, but at the moment that is unimportant. The point is that each man believed in his own position so thoroughly that they were willing to do what was necessary to defend it and propagate it, and that is what got them both in trouble with the rest of the world. They unfolded their philosophies to the bitter end and only one position withstood the test of truth. I will not tell you which, you have to read the book and find out for yourself.

Let us all take off our political, ideological, social, and religious aluminum foil hats for the moment and set them aside. The world has need of opinions and positions and views well enough, but it needs something else first, something that has been most desperately lacking in the modern world. Brutal, unforgiving honesty.

The Catholics of the United States received a shock of brutal, unforgiving honesty just a couple of months ago, when the Department of Health and Human Services declared that religious institutions were required to purchase services that they were morally opposed to. It was a backhanded slap in the face for anyone in this country who gives a damn about conscientious objection. But it was straightforward and out in the open, not underhanded and guarded. The president and his HHS secretary threw down the proverbial gauntlet and demanded that the Catholic Church comply. I can only imagine that this demand arises purely from the president's own ideology concerning what rights he thinks women have and how they are allowed to exercise said rights.

In a weird way it is a breath of fresh air. Now the spiritual fistfight can occur out in the open for everyone to see. Finally our ennui has been broken by a good old fashioned brawl. In the same spirit as the president, the Catholic Church and many other religious leaders have accepted the challenge with fighting words. Chesterton's passionate Catholic man in the book is against everything the atheist believes, and yet still calls the atheist a real man for being willing to do battle over those beliefs. We should respect our enemy in the same way.

In a similar way, a reputable medical journal has just published a piece putting forward a justification for the killing of children outside the womb, as opposed to simply in the womb like with an abortion. They use the rationale that we kill a child inside the womb, so what makes being outside the womb any more special? All one needs is a weak economic or psychological reason and voila! killing may commence. I actually applaud this piece of journalism, not for the good or evil of its content, but that the people who want to justify killing children have finally taken the intellectually honest step of justifying the killing of children at any stage, not just in the womb. If life has no sacred quality to it, who gives a damn where the killing happens, to whom it happens, and for what reason. Now these same people just need to go the next logical step and justify removing murder from the books as a crime, since every murder has an understandable reason and the life being taken is not sacred. Right? That would be the endgame of their line of thinking.

Can I be any more clear? If you are going to be one thing or the other, believe one thing or the other, then go the whole way with it and don't hold anything back. Don't be a half-hearted murder justifier, proclaim it from the rooftops! What's stopping you? If you are going to defend life at all stages, then make sure everyone knows it, whether you be labeled saint or lunatic. If you believe the rights of conscience should be trampled willy-nilly, then be as willy-nilly as you possibly can. If you believe in justice and the punishing of real evil, then pursue it with all your might. Whether your position unravels in the end is dependent on how much of the truth it contains, but intellectual brawling tends to squeeze out the truth.

If you are going to pick a position, then make it count and make it real. The president has done it, in many ways even as a hindrance to his reelection campaign, but he has done it. We may despise him or love him for it, but at least he is finally being honest about his disregard and there is no mistaking it. He is merely playing out his philosophy to its bitterly logical end. We should deign to answer that sort of honesty with our own.

Nobody should be afraid to do battle for what they believe. The catch is that we must know where that belief will take us and go the distance to make sure we follow through. Every argument has an end, let's be gutsy enough to battle to that point. We will all be better off if we do.

(I am saving my comments against the infanticide justification for a later date. It is a morally abhorrent case that needs answering; I simply wished to use it as an example of following one's own argument to its logical conclusion.)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hiatus Is Over! (Hopefully...)

Sorry everyone, I have been on a circumstantially imposed hiatus of sorts from writing for my blog. It's irritating, because writing here helps me to think more clearly (which is another way of saying that I haven't been thinking terribly clearly over the past two weeks.) Oh well, my sense of time management has hopefully returned and along with it the desire to pound out more ideas for everyone here to read.

So welcome back, and let's all burn some brain calories together!