Friday, September 30, 2005

ABA survey

While some expressed astonishment at the numbers, this came as no surprise to me at all.

The question the ABA doesn't seem to have considered, however, is whether this result is due to criticism of judges or activism on the part of judges. I would suggest that most judges are not activists. Most judges truly want to uphold the rule of law. But, and this is a big but, the judges who do promote their personally held values as opposed to the rule of law are both high profile and are doing so in cases that touch on hot-button issues. A case like Roe v. Wade or Lawrence v. Texas or Bush v. Gore makes one think that the judges deciding the case are making themselves the final arbiters, not of the law, but of how things will run regardless of the voice of the people.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI has many challenges ahead of him. Among these challenges is guiding the leadership of the Church through his selection of cardinals and bishops who will take to heart the exhortation quoted so often by Pope John Paul II to "Be not afraid."

On January 15, 2005, I traveled to Raleigh, NC to participate in the annual March for Life. It was a busy day, and seeing the hundreds of pro-lifers who turned out was quite inspiring. There was one fly in the ointment, however. The same day was the second inauguration of the first Catholic governor of North Carolina. Despite his Catholic faith, Governor Mike Easley is listed as "pro-choice" by NARAL Pro-Choice America.

During his homily at the Mass preceding the March for Life, Bishop Joseph Gossman emphasized the "seamless garment" of life issues. While I agree with many of the issues he mentioned, I was amused at the fact that a Catholic bishop would feel the need to include health care advocacy in his homily at a pro-life Mass. Most of the strongest advocates I have met (and most willing to dedicate their lives to the cause) for increased assistance for the impoverished and needy have been active in the pro-life movement as well. While pro-lifers are not often portrayed this way in media outlets, one would expect a Catholic bishop to know and see this facet of the pro-life movement.

One of the other comments Bishop Gossman made during the homily was that the abortion debate was not one that should be had at the Communion rail. While this question was a matter of some debate for Catholic churches in America during the last election, it struck me as odd that he would re-open the issue months after the election.

Later, it all made sense.

It turns out that, in the Diocese of Raleigh, it is not proper to have that discussion at a purely political event either. The invocation at the inauguration was given by Monsignor John F. "Tim" O’Connor of the Diocese of Raleigh. While the Bishop felt it was important to re-enforce the need for broader access to health care to a gathering of pro-life Catholics who were not elected officials, Monsignor O’Connor did not mention the need to care for the unborn to a gathering of the highest ranking elected officials in the state. I have transcribed the prayer he gave below. As one can clearly see, there is not even a veiled reference to abortion. The tape of this event is available by writing to UNC-TV.

That a Catholic priest would lend his credibility to a celebration for an elected official who supports abortion rights is a shame. That he would do so a mile away from the concurrent gathering of pro-life Catholics and other people of faith is a slap in the face.

I suspect that this is known by the powers that be in the Diocese of Raleigh, as I have been unable to find a single reference to Monsignor O’Connor’s role at the inauguration (he was one of only seven speakers on the dias (this number does not include those being sworn in)) in the press from the Diocese of Raleigh. One would think that a priest in a prominent role, sharing a dias with the elected leadership of a state (as well as Andy Griffith) would be cause for some positive press releases. Instead, there is a communications blackout.

Monsignor O’Connor is now giving interviews about his connections to Pope John Paul II.

What he fails to mention, and perhaps does not see, is that the leadership of Pope John Paul II spoke to, and presented an example for, leaders worldwide because it was based in a principled defense of Truth. Pope Benedict XVI is a stalwart defender of that Truth. The Catholic Church needs and deserves shepherds in this mold, not political climbers who simply cater to politicians who do not act to protect the most vulnerable in our society and defend the teachings of the Church in the public square.

What follows is the text of the prayer given by Monsignor Tim O’Connor at the inauguration of Governor Mike Easley. Those words that did not come through clearly are in brackets. Punctuation is mine.

Blessed are you, God of all creation. As we come together to celebrate a new beginning, we do so as a different people than when we were gathered here four years ago. Such events as 9-11, the war in Iraq, and the recent catastrophe in the Asian countries have changed us and how we see our world. As we pray for government leaders throughout this world, our president, and especially our governor, Mike Easley, and his staff, we do so with a new, or at least a renewed, sense of values. In a world which often lacks faith, we ask You to be a light for all leaders that Your spirit may be the source of their wisdom. In a world which often lacks hope, we ask that You be a beacon of hope that guides the direction of their legislation for the benefit of the people they serve, especially the poor and the [marginalized?]. In a world which often lacks care and concern, may the response of the world community to Asia’s disaster be Your loving reminder to them to do all they can with love. We ask that all leaders walk in a [manner?] worthy of the calling for which they have been called by those who elected them, and by those who did not elect them. May they lead with humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. We pray today as the people of North Carolina for our governor, Mike Easley, and those who will serve with him. Give them, O God, a heart large enough to match the breadth of our own souls, and give us the strength to follow their vision and wisdom; the desire to seek more than development for ourselves, though development that we hope for; more than security for our state, though security that we need; more than satisfaction for our wants, though [for] the many things we desire; the courage to work with other leaders to bring safety to the whole world; the ability to provide for the advancement for our state without taking resources from others to achieve it; the insight to be able to tell strength from power, growth from [greed?], leadership from dominance, and greatness from pretension; to trust to learn from those who speak in other tongues and the care for other parts of the world. May all of us, leaders and those who are called to support them, be a people open to good in all its forms that we may trust in Your providential care everyday. And we make these things today for our governor and for those who will serve him, now and forever, Amen.

Monsignor O’Connor would no doubt point out that as pastor of the parish to which Governor Easley belongs, he had a special call to minister to the governor. That is true. But he must also remember that, as pastor, he is responsible for shepherding the souls in his parish, and one cannot follow a shepherd who does not lead. He might also argue that it would have been impossible to promote the culture of life in that situation in a manner that would draw people in rather than send them away. Mother Theresa’s experience at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994 would belie that point.

I have seen the pro-life message accepted in unlikely places. I have seen reluctant advocates of the culture of life surprised when they speak out and receive a positive response. But the message cannot be accepted if it is never preached. Unfortunately, a golden opportunity to preach love of life was squandered in Raleigh this year.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Habeo Papam

Does that verb conjugation seem a little self-centered? After all, part of the universal nature of the Catholic Church makes the term "habemus" more appropriate (and, as anyone within earshot of a TV this past week knows, the term that was used in St. Peter's Square on Tuesday). I use habeo, however, because to my mind Pope Benedict XVI seems more likely to be of interest to individual Catholics than those of all faith backgrounds, as was his predecessor.

Pope John Paul II was a very public pope, and one of the comments that struck me in the coverage of his death and burial was that he had likely been seen and heard in person by more people than anyone else in history (I was fortunate to see him celebrate Mass at Camden Yards in the mid-1990s). Because of his travels and charisma, I have no doubt that this claim was true.
Pope John Paul II was one of a kind, and it would be unfair to expect that Pope Benedict XVI will have the same abilities. In stark contrast to the glowing coverage of Pope John Paul II, the coverage of the past week has made Pope Benedict XVI seem like a hard-edged inquisitor, anxious to persecute the heretics.

I heard similar complaints about then-Cardinal Ratzinger for years. A couple of years ago, I decided to pick up one of his books to read about this Cardinal's view of the faith in his own words. I read his text God Is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. Reading this book was an amazing experience. The words brought to life not only the subject matter, but also the passion this obviously well-educated, intelligent author had for his calling and the Church. Rather than a harsh, angry man, one sees a prayerful, holy man. Those who make him out as an angry man clearly have never read the man's theology.

Of course, I expect the new pope will be upset at abuses of the liturgy. I expect he will be upset at the failure of Catholic clergy and laity to live up to the demands of the faith. But that is part of the job of the pope, to pursue ever greater fidelity to the teachings of Christ. And frankly, anyone who has seen the scandals in the Church, both the public (child molestation) and the private (declining respect for the Eucharist), should want someone who will take a hard line against those who are continuing or allowing these abuses.

Pope John Paul II was a philosopher who, as a Cardinal, wrote about love and responsibility. Pope Benedict XVI is a theologian who, as a Cardinal, wrote about respect for the Liturgy. If Pope Benedict XVI can do (even a fraction) for the sacrament of the Eucharist what Pope John Paul II did for the sacrament of marriage, the Church will have a glorious time during his time as pontiff.

Monday, April 18, 2005

How to Pick an Issue that will not Resonate 101

Howard Dean is speaking out about the Schiavo case. I can't help but wonder is the good doctor has been prescribing himself medications that have altered his judgment.

We're going to use Terri Schiavo later on," Dean said ... "This is going to be an issue in 2006, and it's going to be an issue in 2008," Dean told about 200 people at a gay rights group's breakfast in West Hollywood, "because we're going to have an ad with a picture of Tom DeLay saying, 'Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not? Or is that going to be up to your loved ones?' "Dean, a practicing physician until he became governor of Vermont in 1991, added: "The issue is: Are we going to live in a theocracy where the highest powers tell us what to do? Or are we going to be allowed to consult our own high powers when we make very difficult decisions?"

I would love to see the political ad. Would Dean dare show footage of Terri Schiavo? I think not. Can you imagine? Schiavo looking about, then a deep voice says, "Republicans wanted this woman to get food and water. Tom Delay said that judges who removed her food and water should pay. Candidate X is better because he would never have supported her getting her feeding tube back."

Of course this is ludicrous. Dean must have had his head turned about. I have heard people of all political stripes voice concern about how Schiavo eventually died. This does not make them pro-life, and I do not mean to suggest that all or most people even agree with the political situation surrounding her death. In fact, I think the country was pretty deeply divided. That said, there are degrees of passion here, and if Dr. Dean really thinks that he can sway voters into changing political parties (or even turning out to vote in greater numbers) based on the Schiavo case, he is living in wonderland.

There are Christian conservatives who are reluctant to vote because they are (a) uninterested in voting for imperfect candidates (refusal to pick the lesser, or for that matter, either of two evils, as it were) and (b) uninterested in the political process as a whole, being more focused on the next world, rather than the current. I know of no such corollary among secularists as a voting block. Dr. Dean risks awaking the reluctant voters, with no gain I can determine, as I think it unlikely there is a non-voter who is moved to vote because of a passionate belief that Schiavo needed to die.

We'll see how this resonates in 2008, I guess. But I think Dr. Dean is signing a death warrant if he suggests candidates should run on a platform suggesting that Schiavo's death should be available to all.

UPDATE: Jon Stewart made a point on this while (as he would put it) "making the funny" tonight. Robert Reich was his guest, and Stewart, while discussing the reactive nature of today's Democratic party, said he wasn't sure what the Democratic party would do if it had control of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, other than run around the country pulling the plug on people.

Reich tried to spin this by saying the Schiavo case showed the true nature of the Rupublican party. Honestly, which seems more likely to resonate as a slogan?

Like it or not, this kind of classification is part of modern politics. Being the party that is labeled the "pull-the-plug" party is a recipe for disaster. People may believe that nutrition and hydration should be removed if they ever fall into such a state, but two things will still remain true. (1) People do not like to think about their own death, and a political party that reminds them of their own mortality will fail, and (2) people do not want to consider that their own family members could die the same way should an in-law decide their fate.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II

He has fought a good fight, he has finished his course, he has kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for him a crown of justice.

Surely he has just heard these words: "Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

Friday, April 01, 2005

Terri Schiavo

About fifteen hours ago, Terri Schiavo died of dehydration after having her feeding tube removed. This situation has impacted the nation in an unprecedented manner. There are a few aspects that struck me that will stay with me for many years, and shape my thoughts for a while to come.

I am amazed that a movie with the name Schindler in the title moves us all to say, "never again," while a person whose maiden name is Schindler is labeled a liebensunwerten Lebens and unnutze Esser.

I am puzzled that when Mrs. Schiavo starved herself due to a struggle with bulimia, we fought to save her life, then, when her life was in no danger, we starved her to death.

I see an unresolvable conflict in a system that fights to prevent a depressed 14 year old from death from suicide, then fights to enforce death on a disabled 41 year old.

I am amazed that I keep hearing that this was vetted thoroughly by the judicial system, all the while there was never a de novo review of the findings of fact of the case.

I am flabbergasted that people who claim to have followed this case, and are well versed in the importance of being precise and specific in language, claim that Michael Schiavo should make the decision, not Congress. It seems to me, if one paid attention, one would know that Michael Schiavo's wishes were never part of the legal analysis. His testimony regarding Terri Schiavo's wishes were the grounds for a finding of clear and convincing evidence that she would have wished to have the tube removed. Congress merely wished to have a second court review this evidence without having to overcome the burden of stating that Judge Greer's finding of fact was so erroneous that it was an abuse of discretion.

Most of all, I think I am saddened and puzzled by the many, many people who say that such a decision is a personal decision, but they know that no one would want to live that way. Which is it? Either everyone would make a personal decision, in which case each decision could be as unique as each individual, or everyone would make the same decision for the same reason. If it is the former, there is no point to be made, as Terri Schiavo could have made a very different decision than you, me, or anyone else would make. If it is the latter, please do not insult my intelligence by claiming this is a personal liberty issue, as no one would be exercising a free choice, but rather would be following our animal nature and wish to die.

But it is late, and I have dwelt on this too long to be good for my mental well-being. I merely add to the sadness of a human being's death by wondering how we as a society failed her, then hid behind the rule of law to comfort ourselves for our failure. So I will hope that Terri Schiavo rests in the arms of a merciful God tonight, and further hope that she asks that He might have mercy on us for our failings.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Putting it All Together

Mark Steyn writes on a few topics I've mentioned and put it all together. The whole column is worth a read, but I've pulled my favorite part:

But, on reflection, if the Islamists are banal in portraying the next world purely in terms of sensual self-gratification, we're just as reductive in measuring this one the same way. America this Holy Week is following the frenzied efforts to halt the court-enforced starvation of a brain-damaged woman for no reason other than that her continued existence is an inconvenience to her husband. In Britain, two doctors escape prosecution for aborting an otherwise healthy baby with a treatable cleft palate because the authorities are satisfied they acted "in good faith". ... Ah, the protocols of the elders of science. Odd the way scientists have such little regard for scientific progress. It's highly likely that many birth defects - not just the bilateral cleft lips - will be treatable and correctible in the next decade or two. But once you start weighing the relative values of individual lives, there's no end to it. Much of that derives from the way abortion has redefined life - as a "choice", an option.

In practice, a culture that thinks Terri Schiavo's life in Florida or the cleft-lipped baby's in Herefordshire has no value winds up ascribing no value to life in general.

The Paper of Record

The New York Times ran this priceless comment in an editorial:

The implications of Justice Scalia's remarks are sweeping. Many of the most central principles of American constitutional law - from the right to a court-appointed lawyer to the right to buy contraception - have emerged from the court's evolving sense of the meaning of constitutional clauses. Justice Scalia seems to be suggesting that many, or perhaps all, of these rights should exist only at the whim of legislatures.

So Scalia seems to suggest that these rights should only exist at the whim of legislatures.... I wonder if anyone can let me know if that is better or worse than these rights only existing at the whim of the judiciary?

I bet it depends on the makeup of the legislature and the judiciary. So, if the Supreme Court had five justices who wanted to eliminate, say, Miranda, would those rights be gone? If you think those rights are based on a clear reading of the Constitution, I think you need to do some re-reading.

And I know you're thinking, stare decisis will save those rights. Post-Casey, that claim looked pretty reasonable. Post Lawrence, not so much.

Blackstone

A link to Blackstone's Commentaries on the web was recently forwarded on to me by someone who thought I would be interested the commentary on the rights of unborn children.

I find one thing really fascinating in the older texts is the reference to quickening (when the woman feels the child stir for the 1st time - not "there can be only one, Highlander").

Reference to this logic gets thrown out all the time by some of the more rabid abortion defenders, arguing that we as a society have not always valued the unborn child from birth, but rather, only after a certain point of development.

That's true in part, but what it misses is the underlying philosophy was that abortion was wrong once a child was ensouled - the thought was that the movement of the child was due to the beginning of life.

As we know now, thanks to ultrasound, the child can move long before the woman feels it. And, from Mrs. Values Voter's experience (and other mothers I know with multiple kids), you can feel the baby move in subsequent pregnancies ealier than in the first pregnancy, because you know the difference between a kick and, say, stomach juices squirting around.

Also, as we know know, thanks to modern science, there is a moment where there is a change between egg and sperm to fertilized egg. This happens to be the same moment a unique DNA appears, and all the chromosomes for a human are present. there is no other change this drastic until birth - and even that is a change of location more than a change of essential nature of the being.

The underlying philosophy is just as sound, yet for some reason, greater knowledge of the nature of the unborn has made us less interested in protecting him or her - we have pushed back protection from quickening, instead of bumping up the date of protection now that we know quickening is really just a random date - the sensation of the mother feeling the kick means nothing about whether the child can actually kick.

For some reason, the absolute failure of logic here fascinates me almost endlessly.

Judges and Legislators

In England, a child was aborted because it had a cleft palate. There was an investigation, and an uproar. In America, Congress hears testimony that one abortionist performed nine partial-birth abortions because the baby had a cleft lip, and our Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, looks at the record and continues to require an extremely broad health exception.

Our democracy was not founded on the principle that five judges could write their opinions into law. But we have seen the Supreme Court slide down into taking cases best left to legislatures and impose mere opinion on the entire country. We are now governed by a determination that something is included in the "penumbras" in the Constitution to an embarrassing degree. Or to put it more bluntly, if I want it badly enough, I can find it in the Constitution.
And I don't say this simply out of policy differences with the Supreme Court. I think the death penalty is wrong, but this decision was based on such slippery legal reasoning that I could fashion any number of "rights" (or eliminate same) based on mere policy preference. This decision landed President Bush a first term. I voted for him, so I should be happy, right? I'm not. The Supreme Court has no business answering a political question. They had no business taking the case. The belief that they could settle the political dispute, preserve national unity and maintain faith in the political process was arrogant and in some ways was proven wrong by subsequent events.

These decisions and their ilk are the reason judicial selection now resonates as a political issue. I know that democracy is not perfect, and that sometimes the voters do not do the right thing. That said, I trust the people as a whole to do the right thing and to pressure their elected officials to do the right thing much more than I trust the ability of five elderly judges to legislate.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Terri Schiavo

The decision to remove feeding and hydration from Terri Schiavo has gotten quite a bit of attention in the news and online commentariat over the past few days (especially good comments here, here, and here). I am astounded that we as a society are willing to allow one man, with a pucuniary interest, make this kind of decision about a human life, despite the opposition of folks without a pucuniary interest.

As the Supreme Court said in the Cruzan case:

"And even where family members are present, '[t]here will, of course, be some unfortunate situations in which family members will not act to protect a patient.' In re Jobes, 108 N.J. 394, 419, 529 A.2d 434, 477 (1987). A State is entitled to guard against potential abuses in such situations."

It seems to me the state is more than entitled, it is required to so guard. If Terri were a hale and hearty 40 year old, totally self-sufficient, and her husband ran off on her, fathered children with another woman, then locked her away in a room with no food, the state would certainly act.

But because she is in a hospital, reliant on food and water from tubes to live, the state is prepared to allow her husband (who stands to gain both money and freedom to marry his current girlfriend) to make the determination that it is better for her to starve than to continue living. It is sad that society judges a certain life as not worth living.

It's odd to me that a post like this draws attacks from right and left, but to condemn the judge's reasoning in the Schiavo case is to be dismissed as partisan hackery (check out the references to Republican attempts and conservative Christian groups - did the writer poll the Christian groups? Then how do they know they are conservative? The protest is to encourage a court to err on the side of life in this case - hardly a position that should be unique to conservatives, right? Or maybe pro-life Christians are the very definition of conservative, regardless of their views on other issues).

Both the flogging and eventual killing mentioned in the "desert vampire" post linked above and the case of Terri Schiavo have the same thing in common. The dismissal of the humanity of a person. Volokh says it is OK to torture and kill a "monster." Judge Greer has decided it is OK to kill a vegetable.

Neither of these descriptions is accurate. A human being is not a monster, though he may have done terrible things. A human being is not a vegetable, though she may not be able to interact with others as you and I can.

It's a sad day when we have to stop to remember this basic fact.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

You've gotta fight, for your right (and responsibility)

A friend (thanks, Rob) emailed me this link.

One of the essential points made is that "rights imply responsibilities."

I have tried to interject this truth in conversations with some educated people, because lately it has been almost universally ignored in "rights" conversations.

It was sad how many "rights" academically advanced people were willing to grant without ever considering:
(a) what a right is
(b) where a right came from

I had a professor in a graduate course I took in politics who was teasing out this concept, and expressed horror that the grocery at which he shopped listed a customer's bill of rights. As he explained, those "rights" were not granted by the store, they were an inherent part and parcel of his shopping experience - for if they were granted by the store, they could be removed by the store.

Same with government granted "rights" untied to any responsibility - if the government grants (to use my favorite example) an unfettered right to abortion, they have (1) granted a right without responsibility, and (2) can take that right away. This is more frightening than it sounds, because when the unity of rights and responsibilities is ignored, we begin to believe that the government (in this case, the Supreme Court) holds the power to ultimately determine what rights we have - and what rights we do not have.

Interesting that the granting of a right to abortion (and other rights that are philosophically similar) is seen by so many as being an expansion of freedom, when, if understood correctly, is really a pretty severe limitation of freedom.

a long lonely lonely time...

I've been AWOL for a long time, so I'm going to post a long, rather rambling, commentary here.

This one post will couple several of the things I've noticed over the past 10 days.

This article discusses the wooing of Bob Casey Jr. Kate Michaelman’s quote is amazing.

"It is a problem when leading Democrats publicly recruit candidates who do not share the core values of the party," Democratic consultant Kate Michelman, the former head of the abortion rights group NARAL, said Thursday. "I don’t think you ever win in the long term by sacrificing core principles. The right wing has never done that."

Really? This, this, and this, to name a few, must be my imagination.

But seriously, she promotes abortion on demand as a "core value"? Wow. That should win votes in national elections.

*******

Richard Cohen wonders how "Scalia himself would feel if, instead of the Ten Commandments, a representation of another religion were placed in the courthouse lobby."

Gee, I wonder if we could look around the United States and find an example....

Well, how about a state with a religious symbol on its flag, state seal, police cars, etc.?

It’s called Utah, and the religious symbol is a beehive.

If you can find one example of Scalia suggesting that, despite the historical relationship between Mormonism and Utah, the beehive needs to be removed from state property because it may cause other denominations to feel excluded or offended, I’ll send a donation to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

In fact, if you read the Smith decision it is quite easy to draw a corollary to Catholicism and presume the rationale would hold true if a priest were to be prosecuted after serving alcohol to a minor at Mass.

Scalia’s jurisprudence is not easily pigeonholed as "If I want it badly enough, it must be written in the Constitution" and it is unfair for Mr. Cohen to presume it is. Perhaps this assumption on his part says more about his views of how a judge thinks than how Scalia actually does think.

*******

Teresa Heinz Kerry is back in the news. It is worth reading the whole article and realizing that Jon Stewart actually said it would be harder to make jokes about the administration if Kerry won the election. Come on! Mrs. Kerry gives three nights of material every time she opens her mouth.

Frankly, I thought marrying her was one of the most endearing things Senator Kerry has done.

Seriously. I’m not poking fun at her.

Anyway, she is quoted in the article complaining that "You cannot have bishops in the pulpit -- long before or the Sunday before the election -- as they did in Catholic churches, saying it was a mortal sin to vote for John Kerry."

Of course, that quote has to be out of context, right? Or maybe garbled. We "cannot"? Why?
Mrs. Kerry seems to have meant it, and she gives an answer: "The church has a right and obligation to teach values," Heinz Kerry declared. "They don't have a right to restrict freedom of expression, which they did."

So by speech (and only through speech - unless there is an incident where Kerry was actually turned away from the Communion rail that I missed), the Church has found a way to "restrict freedom of expression."

But interestingly, saying the Church must not say these things is not a restriction of their freedom of expression? Mrs. Kerry is free to say the Church must not speak against her husband’s stance on abortion, but she may speak against the Church’s speech on her husband?

That hardly seems fair, does it?

*******

OK, I stand corrected, not everything is a moral issue.

But procedural rules changes could be the exception that proves the rule...

*******

Here’s some interesting polling info on what is the "moral climate" - and posits that the red/blue divide may not be all there is to it.

*******

Why do I get the feeling that the far left feels it is OK to photograph these soldiers going for medical treatment to protest the war, but it is not OK to photograph, say, women going into an abortion clinic to protest abortion? I’ll be consistent and say that neither should be photographed.

But strange how folks who stand up for "privacy" are so willing to see it thrown away when convenient.

*******

This article calls for Democrats to embrace the moral values the right has sacrificed. Some of this article resonated with me, because (for example) compassion for the poor is something that the Republican party seems to have trouble evidencing (especially the "social liberals" who are "fiscally conservative"). But the he goes and blows his case with this comment:

"Jesus preached inclusion and compassion and included people who were considered outcasts in his society, such as lepers and prostitutes, among his followers. I am sure that he would have had compassion on gays and lesbians and would have condemned the recent effort to use the law to restrict their full rights as citizens."

Jesus did include lepers and prostitutes in his followers. But interestingly, they did not remain lepers and prostitutes. Mary Magdalene quit hooking. Lepers were cured. Tax collectors quit cheating people. Jesus taught that God’s love was open to all, yes. But God’s love did not excuse wrongs, rather it gave the strength to overcome wrongs.

Accepting this comparison of homosexuality and leprosy and prostitution for the moment (a disease and a lifestyle choice? Imagine if a conservative made this comparison! The gay rights movement would be on him or her in a heartbeat!), Jesus would have compassion on them, and expect what?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

U.N. Believable

Why do some people consider the U.N. an increasingly irrelevant, obsolete organization? Maybe this Reuters article gives us an answer.

I know some folks who attended the conference in Beijing ten years ago. Their stories of the lobbying in the halls by abortion advocates were unreal.

How far out there are the attendees of the conference? When U.S. delegate Ellen Sauerbrey stated "We have stated clearly and on many occasions ... That we do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our reproductive health assistance" she was booed. Re-read the statement. What about it is so objectionable? Is it that we (the U.S.), will not support abortion as birth control? Even setting aside the morality of abortion, this opposition could be based on strong medical grounds. Is it that we do not use U.S. tax monies to support abortion abroad (either through lobbying or actual payment)? I daresay if you were to give an option to Americans they would, in overwhelming numbers, refuse to send their money to abortion advocates and performers abroad. Democracy may be a problem for the U.N., but it is the best form of government humanity has devised.

Maybe I'm biased because I've held a sign in the streets of Baltimore supporting one of Mrs. Sauerbrey's gubernatorial campaigns. But I don't think that is the reason I find this whole story problematic.

We (in the U.S.) are accused of being cultural imperialists. We are blamed for our arrogance in trying to spread our culture and democracy through the world (especially after the invasion of Iraq).

But then we (the U.S.) are booed at a U.N. conference because we refuse to pay for lobbyists in Ireland, South America, and Muslim countries to change the law in those countries to more closely reflect current U.S. law.

It is sad that an organization with the potential for great good (the U.N.) is held so ideologically captive by abortion advocates that it cannot bear to hear common sense from a representative of the largest contributor to the U.N.

Stepped on a pop top

During the 2004 presidential race, Senator John Kerry was labeled a flip-flopper on various issues. To be fair, I thought the charge was unfounded - Kerry had more trouble articulating a clear position than a candidate should, but generally it was more because he pandered for votes than because he didn't have a clear position (and, to be clear, I mean to use the second definition of the term. If I were talking about the first meaning, it would probably be in reference an incident from the past of a different elected official from Massachusetts).

Now it seems there is someone else flip-flopping. Howard Dean spoke in Mississippi, and what he said was pretty different than what he said just a few days before.

It seems that some pro-life folks are right wing politicians trying to tell women what to do with their bodies. Others however, "care about kids after they're born, not just before they're born." One could be forgiven for thinking Dr. Dean has been reading former (Democratic) Governor Bob Casey's book.

After all, Casey points out that "[the exodus of Democrats over abortion has been] a boon to the Republican Party - in the south especially. And it remains a problem for Democratic leaders who are trying in vain to stem the tide."

His answer to the "moderate" Republicans Dean seemed so fond of? "'I'm a fiscal conservative and a social liberal.' We hear this more and more from Republicans.... An ample bank account is no substitute for a well-informed conscience. No re-ordering of the tax code, no trimming of the budget, no amount of economic freedom will solve our society's deeper troubles."

As Casey points out, the Republican party, without a strong pro-life conviction on abortion, has no need of a "big tent" because it would fit in a pup tent.

His reference to caring for children before and after they're born is right on the mark though. He is taking a page from President Bush's playbook - "There are some proper ways to say things, and some improper ways" in learning how to say things that will appeal to voters who focus on social issues. This is a much better way to address the issue than I have seen fom a Democrat with national stature in a long time.

Dr. Dean is an intelligent man, and one who knows how to appeal to a specific segment of voters. When one recalls that he was a huge DLC type when he was governor, then managed to draw the far left into his campaign, it would be a mistake to underestimate his ability to craft a message to a specific audience.

That said, Dr. Dean must be careful, because in this age of the internet, Matt Drudge, bloggers, and the like, comments like this, that plainly contradict previous statements, will cause a lack of faith.

Oh, and saying "The South will rise again, and when it does, it will have a D under its name" is a recipe for disaster. Sounding like this might play well in certain crowds, but it might also call to mind the the last time the South was solidly Democratic. I think Dr. Dean would agree that was not a good thing.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Just a little bit of history repeating ...

An article about Howard Dean includes some comments on social issues:

"The issue is not abortion," Dean told the closed-door fund-raiser. "The issue is whether women can make up their own mind instead of some right-wing pastor, some right-wing politician telling them what to do."

And Dean told the Hiebert fund-raiser that gay marriage was a Republican diversion from discussions of ballooning deficits and lost American jobs. That presents an opportunity to attract moderate Republicans, he said.

"Moderate Republicans can't stand these people (conservatives), because they're intolerant. They don't think tolerance is a virtue," Dean said, adding: "I'm not going to have these right-wingers throw away our right to be tolerant."

While one might be confused as to who the intolerant "they" are in the sentence that includes references to both conservatives and moderate Republicans, I'll go out on a limb and say that Dr. Dean thinks voters who oppose abortion and gay marriage are the intolerant ones (I'm glad he won't tolerate the intolerant - nothing worse than those who won't accept others, right?).

The important point here, though, is that history is repeating itself. We have been told again and again that the issue is not abortion. The issue is "choice". That formulation is a great political tactic, in that it diverts attention from the issue itself. But Dr. Dean must realize that the issue keeps coming up for a reason - the issue is abortion. Thirty-plus years, a string of judicial set-backs (from Griswold to Roe to Casey to Carhart - not to mention lesser known Supreme Court cases like Doe v. Bolton (though every time I hear the name Bolton now, I think of this)), and a roller-coaster ride of the legislative ebbs and flows of support, and still the pro-life movement is a factor in every election. This is not a mistake, this is not a one-time deal. This is the reality which you must face to win an election on a national level.

I'll go out on another limb and suggest that Dean's political calculus is different. I'll wager that he sees more of a loss than a gain to be had by supporting pro-life candidates. And, short-term, he's right. The Democratic party will suffer in the short term without the support (political and financial) of Emily's List, NARAL, PPFA, NOW, NAF and the like. And as the new kid on the block, Dr. Dean can not afford to take that hit. But, if he is worried about the long-term health of the party, he needs to push it to accept pro-life candidates and voters.

But let's take a look at the logic of the rest of the comments. Dean is interested in attracting Republicans who are not pro-life. He also thinks that he must "Set core principles that define the Democratic Party."

So, if you are a Republican because you are for lower taxes, which presumably means cuts to social programs, you might still fit into the "core principles" demographic Dean wants to define. But if you are pro-life, you are intolerant, and do not fit.

So Dean's vision of the Democratic party is a party where former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman (pro-family cap on welfare, drastic tax cuts on the state level that led to (less progressive) tax increases on a local level, but pro-choice) is welcome, but New Jersey Representative Chris Smith (anti-family cap on welfare, anti-death penalty, pro-union, pro-environment, but pro-life) is not?

Somehow I doubt that building your party on core principles like abortion rights and gay marriage, while being willing to sacrifice stands on social safety net programs is going to work. But maybe Dean's political calculus is different.

Of course, if the only value on which the Democratic party is willing to stand becomes defense of abortion, I guess this speech looks a little silly, huh?

Pregnancy and homicide

This story in the Washington Post discusses "the CDC's first national look at pregnancy and homicide." One thing noticeably missing from the article is a description of the typical murderer. When the Washington Post wrote this article, they pointed out that "Many women were slain at home -- in bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens -- usually by men they knew. Husbands. Boyfriends. Lovers."

Does it seem a stretch to presume that these men were largely the fathers of the child in utero? If murder is the leading cause of death of pregnant women, why do women's rights groups oppose tightening the law to protect these women and their children? (as seen in the quote from the National Women's Law Center in this article)

This exposes one of the great lies of the "pro-choice" movement. When you read this article, you see that time and again the woman does not choose to have an abortion. The father of the child does not want the responsibility of fatherhood, and so kills her.

We as a society tell women that there is no child, that it is their body, to do with as they will. We tell men that pregnancy does not have to result in fatherhood, or even child support payments, as a few hundred dollars for an abortion can eliminate all the pesky responsibility.

But everyone knows better. And the lack of support and protection for that child leads to a general disrespect for human life.

Our society's lack of respect for life, coupled with a desire on the part of some men to not be responsible for their children, leads to these deaths.

"It's very hard to connect the dots when you don't even see the dots," said Elaine Alpert, a public health expert at Boston University. "It's only just starting to be recognized that there is a trend or any commonalities between these deaths."

Maybe the desire to have legalized abortion has led to a refusal to see the dots for some organizations, and once the obvious becomes painfully clear, their eyes will be opened.

Too bad it will come too late for these women and their children.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

An explanation of an earlier post

Mrs. Values Voter has mentioned that my reference to the Hayes v. Taylor race in 1998 was a little obscure (OK - she said nobody would understand what I was talking about). On reflection, she was right.

So here’s the background. In 1996, the 8th district in North Carolina narrowly voted for Dole over Clinton, 46.2% to 46%. The people of the district are, by and large, very religious, and, while the district was politically pretty evenly split in 1998, the influence of the eastern part of the district provided a solid Democratic base.

Mike Taylor was the Democratic candidate who was pro-life. Robin Hayes was the Republican candidate, who was also pro-life. While it was an open seat vacated by a Democrat, Hayes had the advantage in name recognition and money. The national party did not provide fiscal support to Taylor until the final weeks of the race. Early on in the race, the reason given for this was that the money wasn’t there for a long-shot candidacy. Only as it became clear that the race would hinge on a few votes did the national money appear for Taylor. The final result: Hayes - 50.7%, Taylor - 48.2%, a difference of just over 3,000 votes. Had the national party supported this pro-life candidate earlier, he would likely have won. Instead, the money flowed to several candidates with less of a chance, with wider margins in their polling.

There’s a chance of a similarly tight race in Pennsylvania in 2006. Senator Rick Santorum is up for re-election, and there have been suggestions that Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. is interested in running against him.

Voters interested in social issues have had a bone to pick with Santorum despite his solid voting record because he backed Senator Arlen Specter in the primary last year against Pat Twomey. A pro-lifer like Casey, with his principled stands and name recognition as the son of a very popular former Pennsylvania governor, would, to my mind, be able to unseat Santorum. If the Democrats are interested in picking up that seat, they should offer early money to Casey to run, and throw every ounce of energy into getting him elected.

So far they seem to be making an effort. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. This would be a race with national implications, not just for the party balance of power in the Senate, but to see how open the party can be to pro-lifers.

Common ground?

The Boston Globe ran an editorial yesterday suggesting "common ground" be reached in the abortion debate. This modest proposal exemplifies the problems for pro-lifers when they hear the words "common ground."

The editorial begins by referencing Senator Clinton’s recent comments (which I blogged on here), stating, "Clinton's remarks offer a good opportunity to consider where common ground might be found on the polarizing issue of abortion without retreating on the essential right of a woman to choose."

What then, are the components of this "essential right" which must be defended? Well, first the Globe points at the restrictions: "More than 85 percent of counties in the United States have no practicing abortion provider." Now, the Globe doesn’t point this out, but maybe, just maybe, could it be that there is not the demand to support an abortion provider in these counties? As anyone who has driven through the Midwest and Western U.S. can tell you, there is an awful lot of space in this country. You can drive for hours without seeing people. Maybe the Globe writers think the rest of the U.S. looks like Boston, or maybe they think that abortion providers should be as plentiful as gas stations in the U.S.

The next sentence gives us a suggestion of what the editorial writers have in mind as a solution to the lack of demand. "Many poor women and all federal employees, including women in the military, cannot have abortions covered by Medicaid or federal insurance." Direct and indirect government subsidies should eliminate the lack of abortion providers. That’s a good compromise position for pro-lifers. Please take my tax dollars to pay for abortion.

Of course, my typical response when I hear people talking about the restrictions on abortion is to challenge them to look in the yellow pages under "abortion." My local yellow pages has an ad that offers "Reduced Rate Plans for Students, Medicaid & Military." They also accept credit cards. Another offers abortions from 3 to 28 weeks (do the math - 28 divided by 4 = 7 months pregnant). I think the most disingenuous is one that offers "referrals through 24.5 wks." Do you think they’ve ever refused a referral on a Saturday that they would have given on the Wednesday before? If so, why? Did the fetus somehow become something more (dare we say, a person) on that Thursday?

"Forty-three states allow hospitals and clinics to refuse to provide abortion services; 28 states include public hospitals." When I read this I was stunned. Seven states do not allow Catholic hospitals to refuse to provide abortion services? I can think of two possible results of this. Either Catholic hospitals in those states violate the deeply held convictions of the church that started and supports them, or they simply do not offer any OB/GYN services. Are either of these options something the law should support?

Next the Globe gives a litany of pro-life legislation that must be opposed. In doing so they list legislation like the Child Custody Protect Act and parental consent laws. They claim to oppose parental consent because it could require a minor girl to tell her rapist father that she was pregnant (though if you’ve ever read the Casey decision you would know this is a straw man. Parental consent laws require a judicial bypass to be constitutional). Maybe the editorial page writers at the Globe don’t recall, but one of the situations that the Child Custody Protection Act was drafted to remedy was that of a statutory rapist taking his victim across state borders to avoid parental consent laws in his home state. Is this what the Globe means when it advocates "helping a minor cross state lines?"

So we can see where the Globe thinks common ground can be found on the abortion issue. Increase the number of abortion providers nationwide, increase government funding for abortion, eliminate parental consent laws, and force religious hospitals to provide abortions. Sounds like a recipe for success for pro-lifers.

The Globe isn’t done yet though. They have three suggestions of other legislation that will provide common ground.

First, "Revers[e] ... outdated laws" that "still forbid adoption by unmarried or single parents and gay couples." Of course, as the Globe explains, these laws exist only in "some states." How many states, you ask? Three states ban gay adoption. Three. Suggesting that Utah, Mississippi, and Florida change their laws on this will bring everyone together.

Of course, before we jump on the Globe’s bandwagon here, maybe we should ask if this legal change is likely to be supported by values voters. After all, isn’t that the idea? Find legislation we can all support? And the Globe gives good reason to support this legal change in these three states: "to ensure that every unplanned birth can be matched to a loving adopted home." I wonder if the editors at the Globe know anyone who has ever tried to adopt. If they do, maybe they should ask them why the wait for a child was so long. We are not facing a crisis of a lack of prospective parents for infant children who need a home, rather, there are waiting lists for prospective parents to adopt across the country.

The second proposal the Globe offers is increased birth control to "reduce the need for abortion." Setting aside the term "need" for the moment, is it realistic to believe that the vast majority of unplanned pregnancies could have been prevented if only the parents had known what a condom was? Or maybe the Globe is suggesting that condoms are not available enough in the U.S. Or that there is a real barrier to getting birth control if you want it. They suggest having condoms available in high schools will help with this. So let me see if I understand. These high school students are ready, willing, and able to use condoms, and are mature enough to understand the consequences of sex and to use the condoms. The only barrier to condom use is these students are not mature enough to go to the drug store (or the men’s room of the local gas station) and spend a few dollars. Sounds reasonable to me. Bring out the tax dollars to give condoms away free.

The third proposal is a ban on the "family cap" laws that were suggested in states around the country and at the federal level to limit welfare benefits in the 1990's. Of course, if good political advice is what the Globe really wants to give, basing that advice on opposition to reform plans is not likely to inspire confidence in those politicians who want to win. On the merits, though, this is good advice. I oppose a family cap, and if the Globe did a little research they might find that this proposal was sunk at the federal level thanks in no small part to the efforts of pro-lifers.

When one reviews the Globe’s ideas on "common ground" it becomes clear that the best they can offer is a roll back of every pro-life measure passed since Roe, and support of three policy proposals, two of which are likely to turn away more pro-life voters than they bring in.

No thank you. But keep trying. It makes it easier to get pro-values candidates elected when the opposition is so clueless.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

I agree with Howard Dean...

Howard Dean, in becoming chairman, "said his party must find a more effective way to talk about the politically charged issue of abortion and do a more effective job of reaching out to people of all faiths. "

He's right. Now we can see if he can make the needed changes. Just a tip: You might need to do more than just talk. If you want a good primer on what not to do, look at the first race between Taylor and Hayes in the NC 8th district. Taylor had a chance to pick up an open seat, but could not get federal party money until late in the race. Now, because of the impressive job Hayes has done representing the needs of the district that seat is solidly Republican for as long as Hayes stays in office.

Pro-life candidates need early support to get the nomination and to run the race. With that support, the Republican party will need to fight to keep a seat they would have considered safe. Without that support, the Democratic party will be forced to write off certain districts - and at this point a pick up of any seat outside of the Northeast and West coast is a huge step.