Monday, February 29, 2016

Presidential politics and the death of character

from Crisis Magazine....

In his 1974 book, The Roots of American Order, which he viewed as his contribution to America’s Bicentennial, the great scholar Russell Kirk said that the virtue and dignity of a great president like Lincoln was “still respected by the American democracy.” In the 2016 presidential campaign so far, it is not so clear that such considerations are still in the minds of many American voters.

The Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, has assembled a substantial following in the electorate that is so unwavering in its support that he boasted that he could shoot someone in the middle of New York City and it wouldn’t hurt him. While his example is hyperbolic, it not only illustrates his point but also indicates the degree to which attention to character has slipped off the radar screen in our current politics.

Trump has not only had multiple marriages, but a background of serial adultery—which he virtually boasted about in his first book. He has made a sizable amount of his fortune on the back of human weakness, with gambling casinos. His Atlantic City casino featured a virtual strip club. His massive business successes have been accompanied by shady business practices (many of which have led to lawsuits), questionable associations, loan defaults, using political connections and maneuvering to get what he wants (as with the much-publicized attempt to have eminent domain invoked—he also did it elsewhere—against a widow who wouldn’t sell her property so he could expand his Atlantic City casino operation), and a tendency generally to use pressure tactics on those who get in his way.

One notable example was the massive lawsuit he filed against the Miss USA beauty pageant contestant who went public with evidence that the results were predetermined. Trump has admitted that his life has not been one of moderation, and it certainly hasn’t been characterized by humility. When asked about why he was justified in receiving compensation of two million dollars per year for being board chairman of a company that went bankrupt, he said, “Because I’m a genius.” He has over the years made many similar statements. While he contributes to charity, it’s not so clear that being service-oriented has been a high priority for him. He said he got into real estate simply because it’s lucrative.

Trump is hardly the only 2016 presidential candidate that serious character questions can be raised about. The public widely views Hillary Clinton as dishonest, but she’s still the Democratic frontrunner. The Clinton shadiness is almost legendary. Her behavior in the Benghazi episode, the mounting evidence about misuse of her personal email accounts when Secretary of State in apparent violation of espionage laws (which would easily by now have gotten a lesser figure indicted), and the issues concerning foreign contributions to the Clinton Foundation and influence buying seem to have done little to hurt her politically. It’s almost as if for a significant enough of a segment of the electorate all this is irrelevant.

Her opponent, Bernie Sanders, apart from his radical past, lived a “hippie” existence, divorced his first wife after giving her the life of living in a shack, fathered a child out of wedlock with another woman whom he cohabited with, had an irregular work history before being elected to public office when nearly forty, has a reputation for improvidence, and is now married to a woman who identifies as a Catholic and was also previously divorced and had children (I don’t know if she ever got an annulment or is practicing).

The fact that he has fervently clung to his socialism throughout his adult life perhaps says the most about his character. It indicates a resistance rooted in the will to getting a sound intellectual formation, being attentive to history, and properly shaping one’s views about the world. The literature about the evils of socialism and the historical record of its failures is abundant. Sanders, with his Catholic wife, could have started by reading the encyclicals Quod Apostolici Muneris and Quadragesimo Anno. I doubt he ever has.

The term of the year in the Republican race has been “liar.” While this is a serious charge to make against someone in any context, a few of the candidates don’t seem to blink an eye about it. They seem to be following one of “rules for radicals” of Barack Obama’s inspiration, Saul Alinsky: say something enough times so people will start to believe it whether it’s true or not. Actually, doing this says a lot more about the character of the accuser than about the person he’s trying to tarnish. It seems as if these candidates—who call themselves Christian—have never heard of the sins of calumny and disparagement. It seems as if Ted Cruz has been the most frequent target of the “liar” slur. Regardless of whether one supports him and whatever his other shortcomings, upon examining the subjects that have elicited this attack on him I’ve found, frankly, that it hasn’t been warranted. Is it good to have people who could become president making strident and untruthful attacks on their political opponents?

Cruz also took heat for his flyer that, in effect, “shamed” voters who haven’t turned out in the past as a way to get them to the Iowa caucuses. To be sure, it’s not a tactic I care for. However, both parties have used this approach in elections in various states, apparently to try to counter voter apathy. That didn’t stop Rubio from trying to convince voters that it shows Cruz is “unethical,” even though he did a similar thing. That would have been a perhaps deliberate case of rash judgment, not far from the sin of disparagement, even if it were not also hypocritical.

Charity, another quality of character, certainly hasn’t been a hallmark of this campaign season, either.

Confusion from a CNN report led to the Cruz campaign erroneously telling caucus-goers in Iowa that Ben Carson may be withdrawing given his decision not to actively campaign in New Hampshire after the Iowa caucuses. Even though it almost certainly didn’t affect the result and Cruz explained why it happened and publicly apologized to him—and even expressed his personal admiration of him—Carson kept hammering Cruz about it. It was hardly a charitable response.

Speaking of humility, while it’s understandable that candidates want to stress their accomplishments, all the candidates embellishing of themselves—such as by claiming to have led this or that fight in Congress—doesn’t exactly demonstrate it.

The campaign so far has been anything but an exercise in civility. That’s another thing that tells us something about the character of the candidates. At a time when the country cries out for civility, what we need are politicians who can promote it while at the same time standing unflinchingly for sound principles (a rare combination, to be sure).

Distinct character flaws clearly weakened or undermined three presidents of recent memory. LBJ’s egotism and unwillingness to take criticism led to a Vietnam policy that was his undoing. Nixon’s sense of insecurity, secretiveness, and tendency to see critics and opponents as enemies led to his Watergate disgrace and resignation. Bill Clinton’s inability to control his sexual impulses, along with his dishonesty, led to his impeachment.

Character, then, has made or broken various presidencies. Its deficiency has caused ensuing agony for the country. It is the essential starting point for any public man or woman and the basis of integrity in politics. So why do voters currently seem so oblivious to it?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Are Democrats really the champions of minorities?

Following Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Hillary Clinton declared that any Republican opposition to President Barack Obama’s justice nominee is because of racism. Proof of this supposed racism isn’t necessary because Democrats have been doing it for years: Portraying their party as the enlightened, loving group that wants to help the black population, and Republicans as the heartless bigots. But depending on your definition of the word, just how are Democrats “helping” black Americans – or any American for that matter?

Ever since Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law, Democrats have represented themselves as the champions of the black race. But they never publicize the fact that it was Republicans who had to convince LBJ to sign the 1964 legislation, which passed with a higher percentage of Republican over Democratic votes.

Today’s Democrats also bury their own history that documents their fierce opposition to every law or amendment from 1862 to 1964 that would abolish slavery, lynching, and obstacles to citizenship for black people. Instead, it was the Democrats who gave us Dred Scott, the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws, and who opposed school desegregation.

Citing the “Southern Strategy”, some argue that ideologies have shifted, meaning today’s Republicans actually hold the racist views that history’s Democrats did. But they cannot speak for me and every other conservative Republican who identifies with Republicans precisely for their historical record on helping black citizens gain freedom and equality, and for conservative Republican support for the smaller government, lower taxes and border security that open the way toward justice and opportunity for all Americans.

Despite Democrats’ deplorable historical record, what about now? There is no doubt racism exists regardless of political affiliation or race itself, but what’s being addressed here is the co-opting of an issue in order to win votes. So what exactly are Democrats doing that helps the black American, or any American for that matter?

Just a few points to consider:

War on Poverty: While Republicans absolutely support help for the truly down and out, before Johnson’s War on Poverty launched in 1964 (about which he was famously reported as saying would cause black people to “vote Democrat for 200 years”), the black poverty rate was in decline. It began rising steadily after 1964’s launch of massive welfare, and then seven years after President Bill Clinton signed the Republican-sponsored Welfare Reform Act of 1996 which stipulated a work requirement, the U.S. Census Bureau reported black poverty declined to its lowest levels in history.

Under President Obama, however, who essentially gutted the welfare work requirement, black poverty in particular has again risen, according to Pew Research Center, from 25.8 percent in 2009 to 27.2% as of 2014, and welfare recipients in general are at an all-time high, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Worse is the devastating changes we’ve seen in the black family since 1964. Despite good intentions, welfare programs act as disincentives for parents to stay together. A single mother will receive far more from welfare if there is no employed husband. Over time, welfare effectively renders the father irrelevant.

The effect on black families is clear: As of 1964, 82% of black citizens lived in married, two-parent households. Today, the OECD reports that an astonishing 72% of black children are born into single-parent households, which, according to a 2009 U.S. Census Bureau report, significantly increases a child’s probability of living in poverty.

Unemployment/economy: While Obama likes to present himself as the anti-Reagan answer to, well, Reaganomics, the fact is that President Reagan reduced the maximum tax rate on job creators by 60%; Obama has increased it by 17%. According to a Cato Institute study, under Reagan, adult black unemployment fell by 20%, but under Obama, it has increased by 42%; black teenage unemployment fell by 16% under Reagan, but has risen by 56% under Obama. Rather than scale back on the policies that are worsening things, however, Obama remains steadfast in his support for increased regulations, taxation and welfare spending.
 Minimum wage laws: For a long period after the Civil War, white unemployment exceeded black unemployment. That changed with the first federal minimum wage law, the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, which was used openly to price black workers out of the job market. Today, it continues to do harm because wage laws can only set wages, they cannot guarantee that employers can afford to offer jobs at those wages, which means young, low-skilled workers are less likely to get such jobs. In fact, the Employment Policies Institute reports that from 2007-2009, young black Americans lost more jobs because of minimum wage hikes than from the recession. 

Illegal immigration: Though black citizens face higher unemployment than whites, many Democrats actively encourage open borders and amnesty for illegal workers (a.k.a. potential Democratic voters). As attorney Peter Kirsanow states, “The obvious question is whether there are sufficient jobs in the low-skilled labor market for both African-Americans and illegal immigrants. The answer is no.”

Voter ID laws: Despite accusations of racism, a recent Rasmussen poll of various races found that 8 out of 10 voters support showing photo ID when voting to reduce voter fraud. If anything is racist, it’s depicting black people as incapable of obtaining photo ID – or that they’ve never withdrawn money from a bank, written a check at a store, or traveled on an airplane, all of which require photo ID.

Decimated cities: Look at the worst cities across America, including Detroit and Flint. Who has controlled them for decades? Democrats. Yet Democrats continue to blame Republicans for minorities trapped in these decaying communities while promoting the very Democratic policies that have led to their ruin. 

Crime: Every year thousands of black people are murdered by black people, predominantly in the inner cities run by Democrats. But rather than focusing on this very real problem, Democrats, like President Obama, prefer to sensationalize random stories that involve blacks being killed by non-blacks, such as the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, MO.   

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is campaigning on the idea of “systemic racism”. Besides promising “investments in education, healthcare and jobs” to combat the issue with little detail on what she actually would do, Hillary talks emotionally about the broken system, noting that “too many encounters with law enforcement end tragically.” Of course demonizing the police helps Democrats in their push for a nationalized police force, while the black people they claim to care about remain exposed to high rates of black-on-black murder. 

Abortion: Planned Parenthood was founded by Margaret Sanger, who notoriously launched the “Negro Project” to reduce the black population. Today, the Guttmacher Institute reports that nearly 80% of Planned Parenthood abortion mills are strategically planted in minority communities, and abortion is the leading cause of death among black people. Yet Democrats happily support funding Planned Parenthood with over one million dollars daily in taxpayer money. Apparently not all "Black Lives Matter". 

Disagreeing with a position based on principle isn’t racist or wrong. What is wrong is blaming Republicans for the problems brought on by Democratic policies and then calling Republicans racists for disagreeing with bad policies, all in order to court voter support. Isn’t it time we start holding Democrats accountable to this?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Golf, Cuba, Hawaii? Yes. Respect for Justice Scalia? No.

Obama has time to golf after Americans are publicly decapitated by Islamists. He has time to go to Hawaii. He has time to fly to L.A. to go on the Ellen Degeneres show. He has time to visit the vehemently anti-American Communist country of Cuba next month. But he’s not quite able to find the time to attend the funeral of a Supreme Court Justice. 

I am sure Obama and his wife feel that visiting Justice Antonin Scalia as he lay in state yesterday at the Great Hall of the Supreme Court was sufficient. 

But if that was enough, why are Obama's defenders scrambling to point out that a president or vice president have only attended four of the last seven funerals for a Supreme Court Justice? What Obama's henchmen leave out though is that six of those seven justices had already retired to private life when they died. Of the previous six - Rehnquist, Burger, Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun and Powell -- only Rehnquist was a sitting justice at the time of his death. President George W. Bush made a point of attending his funeral, not only out of respect, but out of presidential duty. 

Justice Scalia was of course also a sitting justice, but Obama has better things to do with his time. If Obama doesn't respect the man, that's his prerogative. But as president, he should at least respect the office. 

For a man who talks so frequently about healing the divide in America and how respect is key to that goal, Obama shows once again that he has absolutely no desire to heal anything. What a disgrace.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A public school wants to give what to 6th graders?!

From National Catholic Register:

San Francisco schools may soon start distributing condoms to students in middle schools – or to those who want them anyway. A final vote by the school board is scheduled to take place in the next two weeks.

Imagine your 11-year-old son or daughter walking into the school nurse’s office and walking out with condoms! Perhaps the school district expects parents to be reassured by the fact that students would also have a one-on-one information session with the nurse.

The proposed new policy was introduced by Superintendent Richard Carranza to the Board of Education, as “part of an overall effort by the district to further prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy among minors,” according to the San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco schools already have a Condom Availability Program for high school students. The revised policy, if approved, would not only expand the program into middle schools, it would eliminate the “opt out” choice for parents of both high school and middle school students.

So the school nurse might know that your 6th grader is engaging in sexual intercourse and you wouldn’t. And the school nurse would have the right to give your child condoms and you’d have no say in the matter.

First of all, if educators in San Francisco or anywhere else were truly serious about making an effort to prevent STD’s and pregnancy among minors, they wouldn’t be proposing handing out condoms. They’d deal with sex as a health issue. o school is going to tell kids, for example, that if they’re going to smoke they should smoke low-tar cigarettes. Or hand out Tylenol for hangovers in case students drink too much. Or adopt a “they’re going to do it anyway” attitude about drugs. But that’s exactly what they do when they hand out condoms.

Dr. Miriam Grossman, in her book “You’re Teaching My Child What? A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Education and How They Harm Your Child,” writes that it’s time to declare war on teen sexual behavior. “Yes, war – just as we’ve declared war on smoking, drinking and transfats.” 

Just consider some statistics from the Centers for Disease Control on STD’s. Every year there are ten million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases among young people ages 15 to 24. As of 2008, one in four teenagers had an STD. We know that the most commonly transmitted STD, human papillomavirus or HPV, can cause cancer of the head and neck. And while condoms can reduce the risk of the transmission of HPV and other STD’s, they don’t offer 100% protection.

Why are we willing to advise teens to “Just Say No” to drugs – for the sake of their health and safety – but we’re not willing to do the same when it comes to sex?

Catholics and other parents of faith who are trying to promote chastity before marriage are already fighting an uphill battle with the culture. The last thing we need is to establish a social norm of middle-schoolers having sex. Schools that take a “they’re going to do it anyway” attitude about 11-year-olds having sex have got it wrong. It may not be a moral issue for public school educators, but it should  be a matter of public health. To say nothing of common sense.’


It’s one thing if a child obtains a condom on their own and finds the opportunity to use it, then gets pregnant and/or contracts an STD. It’s quite another thing if an adult prescribes a condom to a child and that happens, in which case the adult becomes complicit in the outcome. 

Then again, this is coming from Pelosi land and the city that now has public, open air toilets. Hard to imagine what comes next. Well, maybe not hard, just frightening. 

My heart breaks for today’s children. They’re being completely exploited and abused in order to advance the godless, immoral, sex-obsessed agenda of the Left.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Rest in peace, Justice Scalia

I am saddened by the loss of a 'great American, defender of our Constitution and a devout Catholic — Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. 

A couple great examples of what made me admire him can be found in a speech he gave to the Knights of Columbus several years ago where he said:

"If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world."

"God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools ... and he has not been disappointed."

Justice Scalia stayed true to his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution despite the political winds of the moment. On many occasions he did so with provocatively expressed legal arguments which earned him the respect of political conservatives and the enmity of the liberal legal establishment.

One of his greatest dissents was in the recent 2015 Supreme Court opinion, Obergfell v. Hodges, making same–sex marriages a constitutional right.

Insights he shared on that ruling include the following:
“I write separately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy.”

“Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.”

“This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”

“This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. 

“A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”

“To allow the policy question of same-sex marriage to be considered and resolved by a select, patrician, highly unrepresentative panel of nine is to violate a principle even more fundamental than no taxation without representation: no social transformation without representation.”

“What really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch.”'

A great mind has been silenced indeed. My thoughts and prayers are with Justice Scalia's family. May he rest in peace. 

From Thomas More Law Center

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Anti-life crowd proves its disdain for the unborn

A commercial for Doritos that aired during Sunday's Super Bowl has the pro-abortion crowd in a tizzy because the ad dared to depict a baby inside its mother's womb during an ultrasound.

What's so great about ultrasound technology is that it gives us a window into the womb, showing just how active the baby is while it awaits birth. And that's precisely why abortion activists hate ultrasound technology so much: It makes it pretty difficult to deny that vibrant human life inside the womb exists.

The pro-abortion group NARAL Pro-Choice America (formerly National Abortion Rights Action League) kicked things off with its Twitter response excoriating Doritos' nerve in depicting human babies as, well, humans. “#NotBuyingIt – that @Doritos ad using #antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses & sexist tropes of dads as clueless & moms as uptight. #SB50,” NARAL tweeted.

Not sure how showing a woman who clearly is choosing life is anti choice, but not everyone is following NARAL's rant.

“If NARAL is scandalized by the notion that a human fetus is human, then they are scandalized by science,” Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with The Catholic Association, said. “We know children in the womb have distinct and human DNA. We also know that they exhibit all sorts of human behaviors in the womb such as yawning, thumb-sucking, and even dancing thanks to tremendous advances in ultrasound technology.

"But groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood rely on a denial of these scientific realities better suited to the Dark Ages to maintain their rabid insistence that those unborn babies are undeserving of basic human rights."

When you have no ground to stand on, you have to resort to denial. All NARAL really succeeded in showing with its rant is that it rejects science and human life itself. After all, why else would an innocent ultrasound image spark such anger unless the thought of a baby inside a womb sickens you?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Why does the UN want to block anti-terror efforts?

As reported by C-Fam, 'something truly strange is being proposed at the UN. In the name of humanitarianism, UN staff want to convince the US and European governments to bypass laws aimed at stopping the financing of global terrorism so that donations could flow faster and easier to humanitarian emergencies. 

This is part of a “grand bargain” being proposed by UN staff where governments would take away barriers to humanitarian aid and the UN would promise greater transparency and accountability.
“We recognize that the anti-money laundering, counter-terror financing legislations can create some obstacles to the transfer of funds. It is important to seek ways to reduce these barriers so that humanitarian aid workers are able to deliver aid in some of the most volatile and crisis-affected parts of the world,” a panel of experts and UN staff announced last week.
The barriers governments use to hobble terror financing include earmarking funds, limiting the sums that can be transferred, and tracking them to ensure lawful use. UN staff view these as barriers since they limit and slow down transfers to crisis spots. Money earmarked for one purpose such as fighting a disease can’t be used for an emergent need such as shelter or food.
In their report launching the “grand bargain,” UN staff acknowledged that only two of the four UN agencies that transfer the bulk of all humanitarian aid track funds to their destination. Most of those funds are going to Syria, the occupied Palestinian territories, Sudan and South Sudan according to the report.
Initiatives taken this week by the European Union and Germany provide examples of the types of anti-terror limitations that rankle UN staff. Germany said it plans to limit the amount of cash transfers to around $5000. The EU announced a plan that included limiting the use of pre-paid cards and large bank notes.
UN staff also want to tap into the informal contributions that all Muslims are asked to make. Estimated at $560 billion a year, “Just one percent of zakat [alms] would make an enormous difference to the scale of the global funding deficit for the year 2015,” according to the report.
But, those funds were at the heart of an elaborate drug trafficking and money laundering ring used to fund terrorism in Syria by Hezbollah that US and EU officials just broke this week. According to the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Hezbollah used the informal Islamic money transfer system to make payments to South American drug cartels, which in turn financed terrorists.
While anti-terrorism financing plans have taken years to put into place, UN staff want nations to agree to the new humanitarian financing plan, released last week, by May 24 at a meeting in Istanbul.
Last week four of the five top donors to global humanitarian efforts raised concerns at a briefing with UN staff, questioning that any consensus could be reached in such a short time, especially since the UN staff is not allowing any intergovernmental consultation before May.
Japan went farthest, rejecting the “grand bargain” and saying it would have to study it further.'
At a time when terrorism is on the rise, should we really be entertaining anything that could hamper our fight against it - and at the very least, shouldn't we allow more time to look at the proposal more closely? Something doesn't seem right here, to say the least.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Fluff piece - I don't get windchimes

Hi Everyone - I hope you are having a great day so far. This isn't really an official "blog post" - am just venting about nothing important whatsoever. I am merely perplexed by something. I've been traveling the past few weeks and am currently working from a wonderful home in Florida. It's an airy, sunny, beautiful house situated on a golf course and overlooking a lovely large pond - and is certainly a nice change of scenery from my last stop in cold, snowy New York.

Today is warm, partly cloudy and just wonderful. I am sitting out on the back screened-in porch (the lanai) looking out at the golfers across the pond. I have the windows open, enjoying the sunshine, warmth and the sound of birds. Then - when what would otherwise have been a delightful breeze comes rustling through - clang, clang, clang! The neighbors' metal windchimes go berserk!

I don't understand windchimes. I don't mean the wood ones, or the cute little shell ones that make such soft sounds. I'm talking about the big metal ones. How is clashing metal sticks somehow considered relaxing?

To each his own, I guess -- I just wish I didn't have to listen to it. But if this is the "worst" thing that happens today, believe me, I know how blessed I am. For now, I suppose I'll just go back inside. I cannot concentrate with the heavy metal concert going on just outside the window now that the wind has really picked up. But at least I can still see the beautiful view from inside:-)

Have a great day!