Monday, October 27, 2008

Who's the dope, and where's the rope?

I mentioned before that this campaign is playing out like a boxing match, with Obama appearing to have the upper hand, while McCain occasionally makes fairly significant attacks that have clear impact in the polls.

I just recalled (don't know why it took so long) Muhammed Ali's name for this strategy: rope a dope. Oddly enough, Andrew Sullivan used it in reference to Obama's strategy against both Hillary and McCain.

The way Ali always used it was to encourage his opponent to expend energy while he rested on the ropes. Then he would come back with an unexpected flurry of punches when the oppinent was at his weakest and end the fight.

Are we in the flurry stage? There are punches coming in from all sides, and the lead seems to be slacking.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

McCain as POW

This video comes from an interview done shortly after McCain was taken prisoner.

HT to Blackfive.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Bleg for All Seasons OR Charitable Giving

I'm stepping up my donation requests in an effort to actually make this blog useful.

I've mentioned to you previously about the needs of the Salesian Technical School in Bethlehem, and the assistance that Salesian Missions is providing to help funnel funds to this school.

You can help by sending your donations here:

Salesian Missions
2 Lefevre Lane
New Rochelle, NY 10802-0030

Please put Code AX in the memo section of your check.

You can also donate online or by phone at 1.888.608.2327.

You might notice that the story on the technical school is hosted on the Catholic Near East Welfare Association site, a papal charity that works specifically for needs in the churches and people of the near east.

Another organization under the authority of the Holy See is Aid to the Church in Need.

If you want to follow up your prolife votes with prolife action, visist the Several Sources Shelters site. This organization provides shelter and aid to unwed mothers.

One of my preferred prolife organizations is American Life League.

If you haven't heard of FOCUS, it's an outreach ministry to Catholic university students.

Finally, if you want to support a growing Benedictine monastery in Tulsa, see the Clear Creek Monastery site. And to be fair, here's one for the Sisters of Life.

If you have any charities to suggest, please let me know.

UPDATE: Here's an interesting article on charitable giving by political affiliation.

USCCB Clarification on "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship"

As mentioned in the update to the bumped post below, Cardinal Rigali and Bishop Murphy came out with a much more direct statement today concerning the obligation of Catholics to actively work to reverse Roe vs. Wade:

Roe v. Wade is a clear case of an “intrinsically unjust law” we are morally obliged to oppose (see Evangelium vitae, nos. 71-73). Reversing it is not a mere political tactic, but a moral imperative for Catholics and others who respect human life.

They note that much headway has been made, but that a threat looms:

Bans on public funding, laws requiring informed consent for women and parental involvement for minors, and other modest and widely supported laws have saved millions of lives. Laws made possible by reversing Roe would save many more. On the other hand, this progress could be lost through a key pro-abortion proposal,
the “Freedom of Choice Act,” which supporters say would knock down hundreds of current pro-life laws and forbid any public program to “discriminate” against abortion in providing services to women.

Obama has promised to sign the “Freedom of Choice Act” if he gets into office.

The authors could not be more direct without telling us how to vote, which of course, they can't.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

BUMP: Catholics for Obama?

There have been numerous statements concerning Catholic social teaching during this campaign season. The USCCB released its latest advisory on the subject in May. Several bishops (Bsp. Farrell of Dallas, Bsp. Vann of Ft. Worth, and Bsp. Finn of Kansas City) have all come out with more specific statements. Thomas Peters has the scoop here.

I have heard numerous people recently talking about well-formed consciences and the role on conscience in terns of our moral obligations. Sometimes, I get the impression that people think that forming their conscience has to do with getting in touch with their feelings or being "compassionate," but that's not what it means to form your conscience. The USCCB puts it this way in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship:

Conscience is not something that allows us to justify doing whatever we want, nor is it a mere “feeling” about what we should or should not do. Rather, conscience is the voice of God resounding in the human heart, revealing the truth to us and calling us to do what is good while shunning what is evil. Conscience always requires serious attempts to make sound moral judgments based on the truths of our faith.

Not judgments based on our feelings, the secular mindset, the national consensus, but on "the truths of our faith."

The same document goes on to explain intrinsically evil actions and the relationship between the right to life and other human rights. As the bishops state,

The right to life implies and is linked to other human rights—to the basic goods that every human person needs to live and thrive. All the life issues are connected, for erosion of respect for the life of any individual or group in society necessarily diminishes respect for all life.

In short, without a primary right to life, the right to these other goods is in doubt. The right to life precedes them and is necessary for them. On the hierarchy of rights, it is the preeminent right, and the others derive from it.

The next few paragraphs are where people get tripped up:

27. Two temptations in public life can distort the Church’s defense of human life and dignity:

28. The first is a moral equivalence that makes no ethical distinctions between different kinds of issues involving human life and dignity. The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed.

29. The second is the misuse of these necessary moral distinctions as a way of dismissing or ignoring other serious threats to human life and dignity. Racism and other unjust discrimination, the use of the death penalty, resorting to unjust war, the use of torture, war crimes, the failure to respond to those who are suffering from hunger or a lack of health care, or an unjust immigration policy are all serious moral issues that challenge our consciences and require us to act.

So we are required to make our decisions based on all factors, not on a single factor. We need to balance all good and evil to make our determination.

Next, they get to the crux of the disagreement:

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

We can't dismiss issues on either side but must consider all together.

36. When all candidates hold a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, the conscientious voter faces a dilemma. The voter may decide to take the extraordinary step of not voting for any candidate or, after careful deliberation, may decide to vote for the candidate deemed less likely to advance such a morally flawed position and more likely to pursue other authentic human goods.

This is the position that Mark Shea has been talking about heatedly at Catholic and Enjoying It. He takes the former position, and I the latter. Both are principled and acceptable positions based on Church teaching, and I think people should get off his back. He knows what his conscience tells him. I'm still a bit of a neanderthal and might need more convincing to accept his position, but I can't fault him for voting as he sees fit.

Finally, they sum up our responsibility and the moral weight of particular issues:

37. In making these decisions, it is essential for Catholics to be guided by a well-formed conscience that recognizes that all issues do not carry the same moral weight and that the moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts has a special claim on our consciences and our actions. These decisions should take into account a candidate’s commitments, character, integrity, and ability to influence a given issue.

Now, here's where things choices to go awry. Some people use the war and the "traditional" advocacy for the poor by the democrats as an excuse to dismiss the intrinsically immoral positions regarding life issues (abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, abortifacient "contraception"). I'm not going to defend the decision to go to war in Iraq (although I would absolutely insist that we have an obligation to stay there and try to rebuild). However, even if all war were intrinsically evil (it's not, or we wouldn't be able to have just wars for defensive purposes), the Iraq War specifically has not come anywhere close to causing the number of deaths as one year with the abortion indsutry in the U.S.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the tally for 2005 was 1.21 million abortions were performed, "down from 1.31 million abortions in 2000." One year of abortions in the U.S.—the richest nation in the world—where childless couples frequently struggle to adopt children and often have to go overseas.

The casualities in the war in Iraq? For all U.S. and Coalition troops, 4499. Iraqi military and civilian casualties are 7412 and 43528 respectively. I find that last number appalling, and its unclear whether that includes Iraqi insurgents. However, even if it doesn't, you simply cannot compare the morale weight of the deaths of 55439 innocent and not-so-innocent people over a three year period with the deaths of 3 million of the most vulnerable during the same period.

There are many other issues: preferential option for the poor, health care, living wages, immigration, high-paying jobs. For each of these, there are proposals for addressing them on both sides—some good, and some bad. We have prudential judgment on how to address these issues, so long as we attempt to address them. The whole point of rbinging up moral equivalency was to highlight this point. A bunch of prudential judgments do not outweigh supporting an enormous intrinsic moral evil.

While the USCCB didn't come out and say that directly, the aforementioned bishops did:

Bishop Finn: "A candidate who asks us to add our weight to such a destructive momentum in our society, asks us to be participants in their own gravely immoral act. This is something which, in good conscience, we can never justify. Despite hardship, beyond partisanship, for the sake of our eternal salvation: This we should never do."

Bishops Vann and Farrell: "But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils. No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweight a candidate's unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of 'abortion rights.'"

How about other intrinsic moral evils such as embryonic stem cell research and torture*? The rule then is to weigh proportionality (to choose the lesser evil) or to do what Mark Shea has done. I'm willing to say I tried to reduce evil in my voting. Mark may well be a better man than me, but I think God will accept that we both are trying to do our best. I agree with Mark the torture in intrinsically immoral. The fact that it was part of Bush's policy does not mean it will by part of McCain's.

We have a duty to weight these decisions proportionally. Unfortunately, the evil and impact of abortion is disproportionate to most if not all other issues.

*McCain's position on ESCR has always been a bit dodgy, but he essentially allows for it only on existing lines or on nonviable embryos. This isn't good enough, but it's better than a wholesale acceptance. On torture, McCain is against it for military personnel but again, a bit dodgy on how intelligence agencies figure into the picture. I think he needs to "just say no."

UPDATE: A met with a Baptist friend of mine the other day, and she was under the impression that most Catholics were pro-choice. While I know there are some who are, I don't believe support for abortion is the norm among Catholics. (I've personally known only one who was outspoken in her support for it and a few others who didn't consider it as big of a deal. That's still too many.) However, I did mention that some Catholics will vote for pro-choice politicians for other reasons, typically when they lack an understanding of the matter of proportionality.

UPDATE 2: Here's an excellent testimony from an abortion survivor from the Feminists for Life organization.

UPDATE 3: This just in from the Bishop of Scranton:

“No social issue has caused the death of 50 million people,” he said, nothing that he no longer supports the Democratic Party. “This is madness people.”

UPDATE 4: The USCCB is now coming out with a much clearer statement because apparently, too many Catholics are getting misinformation.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Meet Joe the Plumber

If you haven't yet, his chance encounter with Obama has netted him with both more than his allotted 15 minutes of fame*, but also an undeserved liability that may cost him the ability to continue in his career.

Here's the encounter:

So, Obama walks up to this guy's house and addresses him, and this man is being dressed down for not being a licensed plumber? Around here, someone who does plumbing and does plumbing is called a pipefitter, but what they usually do is the same thing.

It's appalling. A man who is acosted on the street and dares to voice his opinion is threatened with the loss of his livelihood because of his opinions. This is the man that Sens. Obama and Biden claim to be standing for. He wants to buy a business that grosses more than $250K, and for that and his willingness to voice his opinion, he is trashed.

What the hell? I don't respond this way often, but this is one of those inexplicable intersections of data that don't make sense. This is a guy who does a typical, blue-collar job who is simply trying to move up and has a simple question. Yes, he recognizes the dangers of an Obama predidency, but doesn't he have a right to voice that opinion?

Please let me know if you know how we can support Joe Wurzelbacher. Let's get behind him and let the left know that this won't fly.

UPDATE: The take on Hot Air. I suspect this chance incident may be pivotal.

UPDATE 1: What the hell? "

Trying to represent someone in the working class is now suspect?

I'm still trying to get enough info to discern just what Sen. Obama was trying to say.

Don't Lose Heart

It would be easy to give up right now because the sound of defeat seems to be ringing in our ears. However, things may not be as bad as they seem.

This from RedState.

This from Townhall. (Yes, I know. I'm not always wild about Coulter's approach, but she is insightful.)

And this from Hot Air.

I mentioned the way this campaign is starting to look like the last few rounds of a boxing match a few days ago. I think the little pieces of the strategy are starting to fall into place. The last thing is the market. If that will settle down, McCain can launch fully into the FannieMae/FreddieMac connection without looking like he's being "erratic" (which is how it would look right now).

UPDATE: My wife and I just watched the comments from both candidates at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Charity Dinner. Both were funny, but I think McCain had the edge. He has quite a schtick going when he does those townhall meetings, and it should tonight with his deadpan delivery. That's not to say Obama wasn't also quite funny, particularly when he noted that his political views resembled Alfred E. Smith's and his ears, Alfred E. Newman's. He made a few comments that clearly seemed to make the audience (mostly Manhattan deomcrats) a bit uncomfortable. McCain applauded Obama's good lines, and Obama occasionally acknowledge when McCain had delivered a good one as well. Both gave gracious closing statements.

You know, many of us (perhaps most of us) don't dislike Obama. We just think he's so profoundly wrong on the basics. Given some of his stances and associations, we have reason to wonder about his character. While I will never vote for him (based on his dismal prolife voting record, his clear preference for socialistic methodology, and his penchant for liberation theology), he would do himself a favor by clearing the air, unless he really does have something to hide.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cult of Personality

I've been reading Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, which notes the rather interesting fact that fascism in the U.S. has always been a phenomenon on the left and is, in fact, still closer to socialism than to U.S. conservatism.

Just tonight, I was thinking about one of my favorite bands form the late 80s, Living Color and one of their hits, Cult of Personality. Seems that the band was prescient in its recognition of this fact. To whom does the song specifically refer? Kennedy, Mussolini, Ghandi, FDR, Stalin. Hmmmm. Mostly the same people mentioned in Goldberg's book (with the exception of Ghandi, I thik, but I'm only halfway through).

I noticed that the ending of the video shows two little boys crossing themselves—a traditional blessing for Catholics and Orthodox Christians. While most of the other images seemed militaristic and showed average everyday citizens acting in mob-like fashion, this one image appeared at the very end. I grappled with why this image was saved for last, but then it made perfect sense.

When we as Catholics encounter something from which we want protection or when we say a spontaneous prayer or encounter a sacred space or object, we cross ourselves. The final image is of two innocents putting their faith in God's hands. Fascism is the opposite: rejecting God and putting faith in the corporatized government.

Thursday, October 09, 2008



Do you remember that comment that McCain made about Obama not knowing the difference between a tactic and a strategy? So right now, the McCain camp is throwing a lot of small shots that could be damaging but are mostly just getting the Obama camp off balance. The second debate gave the Obama camp a reason to increase their expectations, but the Ayers question and the new NP relationship are starting to make waves. Sarah Palin was presented to the MSM in one fashion, then set loose to upset the lowered expectations. And, of course, the relationship with ACORN is drawing more scrutiny.

Those are all tactical maneuvers. I think McCain is correct. The Obama campaign has had an overall strategy of not engaging directly in negative politics while allowing surrogates free reign. But they haven't shown the kind of intentional thrusts one would expect from tacticians. They're thinking globally, but not locally.

The McCain campaign has gone through some periods of what seem to be frustrating complacency. They often have information that they withhold and use later. They often seem to feint and then draw back, and then later attack more powerfully on those lines they see as successful. The McCain camp is treating this campaign like a boxing match. The Obama camp is acting like this is Rover Red Rover, where you intentionally call over the girl on the other side who will fail to crash through and then come about and hold your hand.* There are no tactics, just a plan based on wishful thinking.

I think we'll begin to see the real thrust at the final debate.

*I don't know if this was your tactic, but it was mine—at least it was in fourth grade.

UPDATE: Funny, Jay Cost is using the same conceit, but in the opposite sense. I think it is like a boxing match, which are cumulative but also subject to immediate resolutions.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Obligatory S.M. Stirling Post

Dale Price is reviewing some of S.M. Stirling's latest offerings, in particular the follow-up to the Sunrise Lands, The Scourge of God and a collection of short stories. I've previously commented that Steve Stirling is a essentially a fantasy crack dealer, a description I suspect Steve finds rather amusing. That post also just happens to be one of the few that draws traffic.

Yes, I will be buying both, when I actually have time and funds to do so. Currently, I'm reading Liberal Fascism, which is both scary and fascinating, and The Children of Húrin, which I think is a rather interesting episode in the Tolkeinien universe.

And if Steve decides to visit Boise to get an accurate sense of the geography here, I will be happy to show him around.

The Character Issue

John McCain and Sarah Palin are finally going after Obama on the questionable relationships he has and his connection to the subprime mortgage debacle. Conservatives have been saying, "It's about time." Many have not been happy with the lack of aggressiveness on these issues.

I'm wondering if the timing was intentional. A few bloggers have commented that this is pretty much the last week in which campaigning will have any real influence. If so, wouldn't it make sense to hold your best attacks for the moment at which they'd do the most damage? Tactically, it make sense. If I'm in a sparring match, I take my time until I get my opponent tired, off-balance, or cocky. That usually happens when they think the end is in sight. That's when you pull out the big moves, when they do the most good. McCain has had all of this information for months (if not years). Would anyone have heard him a month ago? Last week? Would the Obama team have time to smooth over the bumps if he had?

Catholic Organizations that Support Obama

Inside Catholic and Catholic Citizens are both reporting on a Catholic agency affiliated with the USCCB, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, has been supporting the Alinskyian community organizing done by Obama and ACORN. If you aren't aware of Saul Alinsky and his model of activism, see this and this.

Make sure to let your bishop know how you feel about this organization and its efforts.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What the Heck...

Let's help this thing go viral.

The Democrats have been using the conomy to bash Bush. I'm not a fan of Bush (never voted for him), and I'm not affiliated with either party, but the Bush administration didn't put us here. If anything, he tried to address the situation in 2003, and McCain has brought this problem up more than once.

UPDATE: Here's another with clips from C-Span. Hmmmm. Certainly, the person who spliced the video together had a specific agenda, but it sure doesn't reflect well on the democrats in the video.

(HT to Belmont Club)

Complaining as Vocational Discernment?

The Ironic Catholic thinks it may be so.