Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Fourth Revolution

Roger Kimball on the fourth revolution in American politics.

[I]n trying to emulate FDR and his other predecessors, who were operating under far different circumstances, President Obama made all of our current problems worse. His stimulus and budget packages added to the national debt without doing anything to stimulate economic growth. He spent his first two years passing an expensive health-care bill instead of focusing on steps to promote recovery and growth. By ramming all of these measures through on narrowly partisan votes, he destroyed the comity between the parties. On the health-care bill, he broke the longstanding agreement between the parties that important pieces of social legislation should be passed on a bipartisan basis. He has thus managed to divide the public without doing much to solve the problems he was elected to address. 
Many analysts expect President Obama to be reelected this November. Perhaps the odds favor him. After all, it is difficult to unseat an incumbent. Yet, the economy is still weak, his policies have not succeeded in turning it around, and he is not widely popular. No matter how it turns out, this year’s presidential election is likely to sharpen, rather than to resolve, political divisions in the United States. Despite all this, President Obama is unshaken in his presumption that he is a herald of a new era, a revolutionary on the models of Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR. But is it possible that he will instead turn out to be something much different, a modern day Adams, Buchanan, or Hoover—that is, the last representative of a disintegrating order? Such a denouement is not only possible but, in view of our situation, more and more likely.

I do sense that there are radical political winds blowing. The left is nasty and criminal as always, and there is a rage and defiance on the right-- most of it justified-- that I have not seen in my lifetime. The left-- the elites in our society-- have controlled government and media and academia for generations, certainly since FDR.

The internet has changed the game for the right. We can now circumvent elites and get our message out directly.

It's a game-changer. With the greed and criminality of leftist statism becoming painfully clear in socialist utopias in Europe, people are increasingly realizing that we are heading into the abyss and that there are ways to avoid it.

Hence the Tea Party. If there is to be a right-wing fourth revolution, the Tea Party movement will be at its heart. Think of it: constitutionally limited government that pays its bills.

Kind of like the first American Revolution. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Roberts' deep game?

If I were offered an opportunity to tar and feather the Chief Justice, I'd gladly chip in for the tar. His vote upheld Obamacare, including the individual mandate, a grossly unconstitutional act.

This issue has ignited the conservative sphere. Yet some conservatives are suggesting a different perspective than the "Roberts betrayed us" view to which I and most other conservatives are inclined. They make some interesting points.

George Will and Elizabeth Scalia have great posts on Roberts' 'strategy', and the clearest discussion is from Timothy Dalrymple in his essay Five Possible Silver Linings in the Obamacare Decision.

Dalrymple lists the bright spots:

1. I know a lot of conservatives are writing now on how the power of the federal government just expanded dramatically, and they may be right. But I think it’s possible that the long term effect will be rather to narrow — not legally but practically and actually — the sphere of government power. First of all, placing the ACA under the Taxation power instead of the Commerce power places greater limits on how that power can be used and dramatically softens the penalty for non-compliance (you simply pay a tax, you cannot be jailed or otherwise punished for failure to purchase health insurance). Congress cannot compel you to purchase insurance; it can only compel you to pay a non-extreme, non-coercive tax if you wish not to purchase insurance. Second, by laying waste to the Commerce Clause argument and making clear that this sort of thing can only be done through the taxation power, the decision may make it harder to pass these sorts of laws in the first place. You cannot hide in the subterfuge of the Commerce Clause — or, if you try, everyone will say, “No, we know better now, this is and must be a tax.” Roberts’ decision will press new social welfare initiatives out of the commerce clause and into the tax code — and passing a new tax is much more difficult as a political matter than passing a new regulation. 
2. By placing the ACA under the umbrella of the tax power, Roberts may have made the ACA easier to overturn by several orders of magnitude. The ordinary process, of course, requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. But when it concerns budgetary matters, including taxes (like the Bush tax cuts), 51 votes are sufficient to put the law on hold for 10 years. So, theoretically, 51 Republicans will be capable now of overturning the ACA at least for ten years (at which point it could be reviewed again). Fifty-one Republicans could have attempted this in any case, but now they can do so with much greater plausibility because this is a matter of taxing and spending and not regulation of commerce. 
3. The importance of the ruling on states and Medicaid should not be lost in all of this. The administration’s claim that it could remove all medicaid funding for the states that refused to expand medicaid in the way the administration wants was rejected. The administration can condition new, additional funding on states’ cooperation, but not the preexisting funding. This is a big difference. It will be much easier for states to opt out of the medicaid expansion. 
4. The spin war will be interesting to watch. President Obama and his allies clearly did not want to label the mandate as a tax – he denied it in unequivocal terms to George Stephanopolous. Now they will have no choice. President Obama and Congressional Democrats just became the owners of a considerable tax hike – what one of my colleagues is calling “The most deceptive tax increase in American history.” The Obama campaign will frame it as a tax on “the rich” — since you only pay the tax if you are a taxpayer who is capable of purchasing coverage but chose not to purchase it. But look for Republicans to start referring to the “Obamacare Tax.” This is one way in which this can redound to the benefit of Republicans: everyone from Romney on down can now press his opponent with the question, “Are you for the Obamacare Tax or against it?” 
5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I think this places the central issue of the election very clearly in front of the voters: Do you believe that the government ought to have more power over your life, or do you think it should have less? The Supreme Court is not going to save us against our own poor electoral decisions, if the people we elect go on to pass foolish taxes. Conservatives cannot rely on the Supreme Court as a backstop. So I think you will see the Tea Party movement revived, less focused on internecine battles and more focused again on the fundamental questions of the role of government.

The conservative revisionists suggest that Roberts is setting up the fools and crooks who pushed this monstrosity on us for a huge fall. How?

Roberts is telling conservatives:

'If you are to win, you must win in the political arena. You must not make the error the liberals have made in the past half-century, by fighting your fights in the courts (on abortion, school prayer, affirmative action, etc) and neglecting to build the political power to prevail legislatively. I am providing you with the framework to win this fight. Obamacare is a tax, a massive tax, on the middle class. It is not 'regulation of interstate commerce' or any such nonsense. Democrats must be forced to defend it at the polls. As a tax, rather than a regulation, it can be destroyed with 51 votes in the Senate, not 60. The way to beat Obamacare is not to go the easy way and get the courts to do your work for you. That's a half-solution. The way to beat Obamacare is to end the political careers of the gangsters who created it. I've given you some useful tools.'

Gary Hamilton likens Roberts' opinion to playing bridge:
Ever played Bridge? 
You bid the hand in such a way that certain things are communicated to your partner, and then you trust that your partner will understand the bidding and play correctly. During play, you play your cards both in response to what the opposition plays and in such a way as to take advantage of your partner’s position. 
Bridge is a complex game with a significant trust component. 
I believe Roberts is playing Bridge here. 
I’m guessing (yeah, I said I’m trying not to speculate) that his reading of the liberal justices was such that if he sided with the manifest majority, and struck down only the funding vehicle, the law would survive and be shored up through other, more devious measures.
By correctly classifying the funding vehicle as a tax, he has played a card that exposes the liberal reality and invites a response from Congress as well as the electorate. 
By acknowledging that the *electorate* is responsible for its political choices and therefore its politicians and therefore, ultimately, its laws, and by making it clear that bad law and bad policy may not, in fact, violate the Constitution, since the Constitution was not written with the explicit injunction that “legislators may not write stupid laws,” he plays the card that clarifies the path to eliminating not only the heinous Health Care Sabotage machine, but also the fools and crooks who gave it to us. 
Roberts is looking across the table at us now. 
He has to trust that the electorate and Congress will look at the cards and play correctly to win the hand and ultimately the game. He can’t signal us with a kick under the table or tap out a strategy with his pen or convey in any fashion what he meant by his play. 
Play now moves to us. 
He has given us clarity: Obama lies, taxes rise. Repeat that loudly. 
He has stated the uncomfortable truth: SCOTUS can’t save you if you insist on voting in stupid legislators and evil presidents; your salvation lies entirely within your own hands. 
It must have been tempting to side with the other conservative justices and strike down the vulnerable parts of the law, but that just allows the now injured monstrosity to limp along, doing massive damage as it tramples the economic structure of the nation. 
In Bridge, there’s a play error known as “trumping your partner” where you play a card in “trumps” to win a trick that your partner would have won anyway because your opponents have no higher value in the suit he played. It’s an error because you give up a play that would have won a later trick with that same card. It can make the difference in winning the hand. 
Let us not trump the Roberts decision with a bunch of emotional chaff that hands the ultimate victory to the fools and crooks. 
Our play is simple, really: change out the president, change out the bulk of the Senate, increase the House majority. Hey, I said simple, not easy. 
With the right legislators in the chairs and the right president in the Oval, the whole damned Health Care Sabotage law can be expunged. That, and a whole host of other fires this administration has started can be extinguished. 
SCOTUS can’t save us from stupid. That’s our job.

I'd still probably buy the tar, but the revisionists may be right. This may be a pyrrhic victory for Obama.

Roberts may be playing a deep game.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

"it's constitutional. Bitches."

That's the tweet from Patrick Gaspard, executive director of the Democratic National Committee. You're gonna buy what the DNC tells you to buy. Bitches.

They're popping the corks (and snortin' the blow) at the DNC.

Supreme Court upholds Obamacare

With some provisos, apparently. The Mandate is a "tax", not a requirement to purchase a product (could've fooled me). Despite the fact that Obama emphatically denied it was a tax, in order to provide political cover to get the bill passed...

The federal government can make you buy anything it wants, and just call it a tax. And the Supremes bought it. The Constitution is just an old piece of paper.

Looks like we're going to have to take back our freedoms at the ballot box.


Wilberforce, slavery, and social activism

RiShawn Biddle has a great essay on William Wilberforce, Christianity, and slavery, and the lessons we can learn from Wilberforce and his allies in addressing modern issues like education reform.


During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church constantly opposed slavery, particularly to the Muslim world, while in 1542, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V enacted the Law of the Indies, which declared that American Indians and other Natives in the New World were not allowed to be enslaved. But most did little to actively oppose it and push for the end of the peculiarly evil institution. This all began to change by the late 18th-century when a group of men and women began to recognize the moral and social damage the slave trade was wrecking. These evangelicals, influenced by the preaching of clerics such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley, who emphasized the importance of personal awakening and experience in becoming Christians (as well as the importance of actively saving souls through religious conversion), believed that all people were saved by God’s grace and Jesus Christ’s personal sacrifice on the cross. From where they sat, slavery was not only unacceptable, but an evil and affront to the Creator that could no longer be allowed to continue. So they could no longer stand idly by as some four million Africans died on slave ships and even more were subjected to the brutality of life in slavery...
For school reformers, there is plenty to be learned from Wilberforce’s example. And gleaning those lessons is critical to ensuring that systemic reform of American public education. It starts by embracing the moral force that drives our efforts, understanding that we are charged both by our Creator and by our obligation to our fellow man to overhaul all the systems that feed into the schools at the center of the lives of our children so that all of our kids can know their own names
Contrary to the arguments of some reformers, notably American Enterprise Institute education czar Rick Hess, we must be the conscience of men and women who should know better (and, for the sake of their own enlightened self-interest, make sure that both other people’s children and their own can get a high-quality education), and that means scolding those who do aid and abet practices that harm the futures of our children. At the same time, we must offer solutions that lead more people to live up to their moral obligations, and constantly articulate why transforming how we provide teaching and curricula to our children must change for the better. 
As reformers, we must also be advocates in all corners. This means grassroots work in communities, helping the 51 million single parents, grandparents, and immigrant families in their quests to provide their children with schools fit for their futures. It also means working in policymaking circles, from lobbying congressional and statehouse leaders to working with reform-minded governors to achieve our goals. And it involves strong political advocacy, supporting those candidates who will be reliable supporters of reform and working to vote out those politicians who don’t deserve another term.
Finally, we must always remember that systemic reform involves changing minds. This means working hard to convert those who are on the fence or oppose our views to our side. This means using every tool in our arsenal, including the power of media. As Choice Media TV founder Bob Bowdon has noted, the school reform movement has far too many Thomas Jeffersons creating ideas, and not enough Thomas Paines espousing them strongly in public. We need more Thomas Paines, Ida B. Welles, William Lloyd Garrisons, and Davis Guggenheims writing and filming on our behalf. Reformers must learn to embrace those outsiders who can serve as ambassadors for our cause and not alienate them by decrying them as being “simplistic” in their message. 
Being a school reformer means being an evangelical for our children. And all of us in the movement should embrace this role the way William Wilberforce and his fellow abolitionists did two centuries ago.

Wilberforce and his Christian allies are the paradigm for enlightened and effective social activism. In the 1780's, it was thought madness to propose that slavery and the slave trade be abolished. By 1810, the British Navy was intercepting slave ships and freeing slaves.  Wilberforce's accomplishment is astonishing. He changed the rules of the debate. Before his work, slavery was an institution as old as mankind, with enormously powerful interests defending it. After his work, slavery could nowhere be defended by rational well-intentioned people.

He changed minds, but more importantly he changed hearts. It was only then that laws changed.

We need to use his approach in defending innocent life, in assuring quality education for all children, in protecting marriage and family, and in protecting religious freedom and freedom of speech from their not-so-cultured despisers.

Something to contemplate during the Fortnight for Freedom.

NB: For readers who would like a beautiful intro into Wilberforce's life and work, the movie Amazing Grace is... amazing. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting with bated breath...

A thoughtful post on the Supreme Court's deliberation on Obamacare. The decision is due tomorrow.

May the unconstitutional idiotic corrupt power-grab go down in flames.


On the 50th anniversary of the school prayer ban

Peter Smith has a reflection on the 50th anniversary of Engle v. Vitale, the Supreme Court decision that banned prayer in public schools.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of one of the landmarks in that case law — Engel v. Vitale, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that school-sponsored prayer in a New York school district amounted an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
The prayer said:

“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.” 
A year later, there followed the decision (in which famed atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair was involved) banning school-sponsored devotional readings of Scripture. Later court precedents kept curtailing publicly endorsed expressions — including more recent ones banning student-led prayers at football games, Ten Commandments postings and the teaching of creationism as science. At the same time, such precedents have allowed students to meet voluntarily in Bible clubs and have “See You At the Pole”-type prayer activities.
Justice Hugo Black wrote the majority decision in Engle. Black rose to prominence in the Democratic Party as a cappo of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan, where he was Grand Kleagle for recruitment. He began his political career by providing pro-bono (and successful) legal representation with acquittal to a man who shot an unarmed Catholic priest to death. Black brought the Klan slogan "wall of separation of church and state", which was Klan-speak for "no Catholics or dogs allowed", into Supreme Court jurisprudence, an arena in which the unconstitutional "wall of separation" slogan of nativists had been notably absent since the nation's founding.

Smith quotes Black's opinion in Vitale:

“There can, of course, be no doubt that New York’s program of daily classroom invocation of God’s blessings as prescribed in the Regents’ prayer is a religious activity. It is a solemn avowal of divine faith and supplication for the blessings of the Almighty.”

“…The constitutional prohibition against laws respecting an establishment of religion must at least mean that in this country it is no part of the business of government to compose official prayers for any group of the American people to recite as a part of a religious program carried on by government.
Prayers have been composed by government officials at all levels of government at all times past and present, and will be composed in the future. Our monuments and speeches and national documents are slathered with God-talk. Our country is unrecognizable without it. The Declaration of Independence specifically attributes our rights to our Creator, and the Constitution specifically cites the Declaration as the founding document of our nation. The Constitution dates itself as being written in the 12th year of the independence of the United States of America-- that is, it dates itself to 1776.

In Cotting v. Godard (1901), the Supreme Court ruled:

The first official action of this nation declared the foundation of government in these words: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. "While such declaration of principles may not have the force of organic law, or be made the basis of judicial decision as to the limits of right and duty, and while in all cases reference must be had to the organic law of the nation for such limits, yet the latter is but the body and the letter of which the former is the thought and the spirit, and it is always safe to read the letter of the Constitution in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. No duty rests more imperatively upon the courts than the enforcement of those constitutional provisions intended to secure that equality of rights which is the foundation of free government.
Black ignored a mountain of American history and tradition, and the precedent of the Supreme Court itself. He substituted a KKK slogan for two centuries of American history, tradition and precedent, and against the overwhelming will of the American people.

Black again:
“… Neither the fact that the prayer may be denominationally neutral nor the fact that its observance on the part of the students is voluntary can serve to free it from the limitations of the Establishment Clause. … When the power, prestige and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain. But the purposes underlying the Establishment Clause go much further than that. Its first and most immediate purpose rested on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion.”
The Establishment clause prohibits an official federal religion, like the Church of England. A voluntary prayer in a school is not an official federal religion. Those who don't want to pray are free not to. They have no right to censor the prayers of others. Black's Establishment Clause jurisprudence is bigoted pap, unmoored to any history or scholarship or jurisprudence. Perhaps the eyeholes in his hood were too small to read through.

Smith quotes Justice Potter Stewart, the only dissenter in Engle:

“With all respect, I think the Court has misapplied a great constitutional principle. I cannot see how an ‘official religion’ is established by letting those who want to say a prayer say it. On the contrary, I think that to deny the wish of these school children to join in reciting this prayer is to deny them the opportunity of sharing in the spiritual heritage of our Nation.”   
I agree with Stewart, except for the "respect" part. No respect is due to those who use misrepresentations of the Constitution and of our nation's history as a cudgel to crush prayer and reference to God in our civic life. The only motivation for doing so is hate.

Those who ban prayer were, and are, hooded bigots.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The question abortion supporters can't answer

David Harsanyi asks it.


If abortion is an acceptable form of birth control, a matter of “reproductive health” rather than life and death, why are pro-choicers so touchy about the subject of sex-selecting abortions? If life doesn’t begin until a baby can feel pain or it can survive on its own (or whatever arbitrary, unscientific designation we’ve come up with), why is using abortion to determine sex any more detestable than using abortion for convenience sake? Does the intent change the reality of the act? 
...Planned Parenthood says they oppose sex-selection abortions. Everyone says they do. A 2006 Zogby poll found that 86 percent of Americans thought sex-selection abortions should be illegal. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank — while arguing that outlawing sex-selective abortion would turn Asian-American voters from Republicans — says it is a premise “with which just about everybody agrees: a woman shouldn’t abort a fetus simply because she wants to have a boy rather than a girl.” 
But why? 
What seems to offend many pro-choice advocates is that gendercide is typically aimed at baby girls — predominantly in Asia. Is it a problem in the United States? In some communities, yes. But in a wealthy nation, it seems to me that selective abortions wouldn’t skew much higher for one gender or the other, making it, well, just simple infanticide. Selecting sex is just another outgrowth of “choice,” is it not? What I want my family to look like is none of your business, right? It’s not like we’re aborting anything with consciousness or awareness, so what’s the problem? 
The real difficulty with the topic — already straining under the weight of euphemisms — is that it presents a massive logical and ethical dilemma. It forces pro-choice advocates to admit that abortion, in certain circumstances at least, is wrong. Why? I still haven’t found an answer.

Why is is ethical to abort a girl with Down's syndrome because she has Down's syndrome, but not ethical to abort her because she is a girl?

Why is it ethical to abort a girl because she interferes with her mother's desire for an education or for financial solvency or for social advancement, but not ethical to abort her because she interferes with her mother's desire for a boy? 

Why is it unethical to abort a child because she's a girl, but ethical to abort her because she is merely unwanted?

Why is "unwanted", unlike "a girl", a reason to kill a human being?

Monday, June 25, 2012

John Stossel on freedom of speech and corporate money in politics

John Stossel has a fine post on liberal/progressive intolerance for freedom of speech. He notes the liberal fury at the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision, in which the Court found that political expenditures by corporations (and unions) are constitutionally protected free speech.


Asking government to regulate political speech is a poisonous idea. Politicians naturally think that people who challenge their power should be restrained.

... political (and religious) speech is exactly what the Founders were eager to protect when they wrote the First Amendment. 
... The New York Times said the [Citizens United] decision "strikes at the heart of democracy." The Washington Post quoted someone saying it "threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions." 
The swing justice, Anthony Kennedy, was right to say: "When Government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful." 
He also said, "Political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it." 
The American Civil Liberties Union agreed, but most progressives condemned the Supremes for "judicial activism." I thought progressives favored free speech. I was wrong.
One need not be a fan of corporations to see that restricting anyone's speech is dangerous. One government lawyer said that even corporate-funded books favoring candidates could be illegal...
But the progressives' campaign goes on. The Supreme Court right now is revisiting this issue because Montana's Supreme Court ruled that Montana can ban corporate spending on state politics. Sens. McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse filed a friend-of-the-court brief claiming that allowing corporate speech would bring a "strong potential for corruption and perception thereof." 
Right, as though politicians don't routinely constitute a "potential for corruption" all by themselves. 
It is shameful that leftists let their hatred of corporations lead them to throw free speech under the bus. There is a smarter way to get corporate money out of politics: Shrink the state. If government has fewer favors to sell, citizens will spend less money trying to win them.

The government has no business regulating political (or religious) speech. That is the clear meaning of the First Amendment. The fact that people speak as a group (a corporation or a union or a school district) makes no difference. The federal government has no more right to limit the speech of Exxon/Mobil or your local school board than it has the right to limit the speech of The New York Times or the Democratic Party.

Ironically, liberals are responsible for the most corrupting aspect of corporate money and politics. The growth of government and the extension of government interference into myriad aspects of the economy and our private lives makes organized efforts to buy influence in government policy inevitable.

The best way to keep corporate influence out of politics is to minimize government involvement in corporate matters, so there are no favors to buy.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fortnight for Freedom

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have announced the Fortnight for Freedom Campaign, which began June 21 and will run to July 4th.

From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Fortnight For Freedom 
The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action will emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country have scheduled special events that support a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.

Freedom of Religion is our first freedom, given place of priority in the First Amendment. Free exercise of religion means the freedom of individuals and organizations to act in accordance with their conscience as formed by their religious precepts. It is an unalienable right. It is now under assault, most notably by the Obama administration's demand that religious institutions and private businessmen offer contraceptive and abortifacient coverage to their employees. It is a clear violation of human rights and of the First Amendment.

From Life News:

The Fortnight for Freedom campaign the nation’s Catholic bishops started against the Obama HHS mandate, which forces religious groups to pay for abortions and birth control drugs for their employees, begins Thursday. 
The United States Catholic bishops are readying American Catholics for what may be the largest campaign of civil disobedience since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. In addition to 12 lawsuits against the Obama Administration including 46 plaintiffs from dioceses, hospitals and universities, the US Catholic bishops are urging Catholics to openly defy the Obama HHS Mandate. 
The USCCB is distributing bulletin inserts nationwide, which reference Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his call for civil disobedience in response to unjust laws. 
According to the USCCB, “Bishops in their own dioceses are encouraged to arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. Catholic institutions are encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths and all who wish to defend our most cherished freedom.”
John Jansen of the Pro-Life Action League urges everyone to participate and commended the Catholic bishops for leading what is not a Catholic-only fight. 
“The U.S. Bishops have been steadfastly outspoken against the HHS Mandate’s assault on religious freedom, and their leadership and messaging has been widely praised by Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” he said. “As part of their response to the HHS Mandate, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has called for a Fortnight for Freedom—a time of prayer, education and action on religious freedom from June 21 to July 4.” 
“We wholeheartedly support the Fortnight for Freedom, and we encourage you to take part,” he added. 
Eric Schiedler, of the Pro-Life Action League, stressed the election component of the event. 
“As we approach the crucial elections in the fall all people of faith must make it clear to our leaders that we will not allow our religious freedom to be compromised,” he said.
Matt Smith, President of the Catholic Advocate, also urges people to get involved.
“It doesn’t matter if you live in Alaska, Montana, Florida, or Maine – you’ll be united with concerned citizens from all over America for 14 days of prayer, education, and action in support of religious liberty,” he said. 
Smith said people can get involved without having to leave their homes, such as with his group’sVirtual Vigil for Religious Liberty
“There are many ways for you to answer the Bishops’ call during the Fortnight for Freedom without leaving your home. There will be dozens of opportunities for you to get involved including: contacting your members of Congress to demand they vote in favor of legislation that defends religious liberty; sharing facts with your family and friends on Facebook and Twitter; joining fellow Catholics and people of faith in special prayers; and participating in many other activities to support our efforts defending religious liberty for all Americans,” he said. 
“The bishops have urged us all to consider the ‘Christian and American heritage of liberty’ during this time, and we think participating in our virtual vigil is one great way for people of faith from across the United States to come together,” Smith added.
“Our goal is to unite those standing for our liberties in a national way by their attendance at the virtual vigil in Washington, D.C.,” added Smith. “We also encourage participation in the various activities being hosted in dioceses across the country but for those unable to attend an event they can be a part of the fortnight through the vigil.” 
Brian Burch of, also urged people to join the cause together. 
“The Fortnight for Freedom is a powerful nationwide campaign launched by our Catholic Bishops. They are asking you and me to pray, study and engage in civil and responsible public action. The Fortnight is in direct response to the notorious HHS mandate that would compel all Catholic hospitals, charities and schools — and all private businesses — to provide health services in direct contradiction to Church teaching on human life,” he said. 
In addition, the Family Research Council has called for Two Weeks for Freedom,” a call for cooperation between all Christians in the fight for religious freedom.

Catholics and our Christian brethren have enormous power in this country. We have allowed a coterie of thugs to violate our Constitutional rights. The contraceptive/abortifacient mandate is merely the most recent instance of denial of rights to Christians. We have been censored in schools, in our public places, and punished for acting in accordance with our religious beliefs.

We are finally waking up to what is happening. We have enormous political power. Aside from the impact of a couple hundred million Christians in America organizing and working in concert to protect human rights and advance a Christian understanding of rights and justice in our laws, the Catholic vote (a quarter of all voters) is decisive in many of our elections at both the local and federal levels. In presidential elections, every candidate since 1952 who lost the Catholic vote lost the election (except Clinton in 1992).

Fifty four percent of Catholics (shamefully) voted for Obama in 2008. Millions of those Catholic voters won't make that mistake again.

This is a critical issue for our nation, and this is a critical year. Please join the fight to protect our most important freedom. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Joplin, a year later.

Thirty haunting images of the people of Joplin Missouri as they recover from the horrendous F5 tornado that destroyed much of their town and killed 161 people. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gay soldiers and the repeal of 'Don't ask don't tell'

You might have guessed, based on my rather strong opposition to gay marriage, that I would oppose gays in the military. I don't, though with some provisos.

My opposition to gay marriage is based on my view that marriage is a sacrament, an expression of God's love on earth, and that it is intended for heterosexual unions. I believe that homosexual sexual conduct (not homosexual desire or homosexual love without sex) is sinful. I strongly oppose any discrimination against homosexuals, and I have many gay friends and colleagues and patients for whom I have great respect and affection.

I'm no fan of gay culture, and I believe that marriage is intrinsically heterosexual. But people who are gay deserve (and generally earn) the same respect all people deserve.

What about gays in the military?

First, there have been countless gays in the military. In the U.S., there were gays at Valley Forge and Gettysburg and Omaha Beach and Kandahar. There were gays at Ground Zero on 9-11-- Father Mychal Judge, a priest and Franciscan friar who was the chaplain of the New York City Fire Department-- was gay, and he died as a hero, ministering to victims as the towers fell.

Military cemeteries have thousands of gay men and women who gave their lives so we could live in peace and freedom. I honor their sacrifice, and I'm deeply grateful for it.

The real question about gays in the military is: is it consistent with the military's mission to have gay soldiers who are openly gay? That's a real question, and it's the question that matters.

I am an Army veteran (enlisted man and medic in 82nd airborne division, 1973-1976 and a physician in the army reserve from 1987-1991). I never served in combat (thank goodness), but I know quite a bit about military life.

When I was an enlisted man, we had a number of gay soldiers. They were closeted, but were widely known to be gay. They were generally respected, and generally deserving of respect.  One of my sergeant majors at Ft. Bragg was known to be gay (he had a relationship with his jeep driver). He was also our best sergeant major; a humane and good man devoted to the welfare of the soldiers and loved by the troops.

I always thought that the administrative discharges given to gay soldiers who were exposed were unfair. Many of these folks were good and brave men and women who had served their country with great distinction. Exposing their private lives and throwing them out of the military was unjust.

But homosexuality in the military has its problems, if homosexual conduct encroaches on a soldier's performance. The danger to the military of gays serving openly in the military is two-fold.

First, while individual gay soldiers are generally good soldiers, the gay culture is not likely to help the military advance its mission. Gay behavior (like straight behavior) can be a real problem. Sexually transmitted diseases place a burden on military medicine, and AIDS is obviously a real problem. Heterosexual problems impair military performance. Why add homosexual problems?

Second, military life is often quite intimate, with soldiers sharing close quarters, showers, etc. Obviously men and women are not put in such intimacy, so why should openly homosexual soldiers be put in such intimacy, either with other homosexual soldiers or heterosexual soldiers? What about the rights of heterosexual soldiers not to be forced to be in intimate situations with soldiers who are openly sexually attracted to them? Is it really in the best interest of the military to add sexual attraction to the issues of personnel management and logistics in combat?

I believe that 'Don't ask, don't tell' was an enlightened policy. It accomplished two important things: it allowed gay soldiers to serve as long as their sexual interests did not become an explicit part of their military service, and it protected the military from encroachment of gay culture that could be quite a distraction from its mission.

Homosexuals will complain that the DADT policy violated their 'right' to publicly affirm their orientation in the military. I reply that they have no such right. If they want to say and do whatever they want, they picked the wrong career.

I think that openly gay service in the military is a mistake, not because gays don't contribute enormously to the military's mission (they do), but because the encroachment of a deeply problematic culture on military life will likely degrade the military's ability to perform its mission.

'Don't ask don't tell' was a better idea.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Even a liberal journalist is disgusted with liberal journalists

A seething post from Greg Kendra, a veteran broadcast journalist and winner of two George Foster Peabody Awards, two Emmy Awards, and four awards from the Writers Guild of America. Kendra is also a Roman Catholic deacon. He has long been a liberal, but he's furious with liberal media dishonesty.


I’m tired. Truly. I’ve grown weary of trying to defend the indefensible and explain the inexplicable. For years, people have stomped their feet and pounded their fists and snorted “Liberal media bias!” and I’ve always tut-tutted and shooshed them and said, “No, no. Calm down. They meant well. It was just a misunderstanding. A mistake. These things happen.” I spent over 25 years working in the oft-reviled Mainstream Media and I saw up close and personal how the sausage was made. I knew the people who wielded the knives and wore the aprons, and could vouch (most of the time, anyway) for their good intentions. 
But now? 
Forget it. I’m done. You deserve what they’re saying about you. It’s earned. You have worked long and hard to merit the suspicion, acrimony, mistrust and revulsion that the media-buying public increasingly heaps upon you. You have successfully eroded any confidence, dispelled any trust, and driven your audience into the arms of the Internet and the blogosphere, where biases are affirmed and like-minded people can tell each other what they hold to be true, since nobody believes in objective reality any more. You have done a superlative job of diminishing what was once a great profession and undermining one of the vital underpinnings of democracy, a free press. 
Good job. 
I just have one question: 
What the hell is wrong with you guys?

Good question. I have another question: what the hell is wrong with intelligent well-intentioned people like Greg Kendra who have defended these bastards for years, and only now are figuring out what was obvious to any marginally observant human being?

HT: Anchoress

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Another day, another liberal media fraud

A real jaw-dropper by BS MSNBC. They deceptively edited Romney's speech to make him look out-of-touch. Then these snobs sat around snickering at their own transparent lie.

This is really getting old. The leftie media is simply working for Obama 24/7. Monica Lewinsky is a duffer compared to the services these guys are providing to the president.

These hacks are not journalists. Thanks to the conservative blogsphere and Fox and the growing public awareness of media corruption, they're getting caught now each time they do it.

Payback is coming, in November for Obama. And ratings and revenues are collapsing for leftie media. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Happy Yom Ha'atzmaut 2012!

A tribute to our Israeli friends in honor of their 64th Independence Day (April 26, 2012-- I'm a bit late!)

Please pray for the safety and flourishing of Jews in Israel and around the world. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

"Thank God for the atom bomb"?

Libby Sternberg has a fine post in which she uses the passing of writer Paul Fussel to reflect on the agonizing decision in 1945.

Were we right to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

The justifications for doing so are strong. We insisted on unconditional surrender and occupation of Japan, which was a reasonable insistence, given our experience with a resurgent Germany following WWI. Yet Operation Downfall (the planned invasion of Japan) would have entailed almost inconceivable numbers of casualties. There would have been between a half-million and a million American and allied battle deaths. Upwards of ten million Japanese would have died, mostly civilians, not only from battle but from starvation and disease caused by the quarantine of the Japanese islands. Furthermore, mass killing of Japanese civilians was already underway. The saturation bombing of Japanese cities with conventional bombs had already killed several times the number of civilians who were killed in the atomic bombings. And Japan was unequivocally the aggressor in the Pacific war. Our participation in the war was a just reaction to aggression.

My father was a gunner on a bomber in the Pacific war, and would have been involved in the invasion of Japan. He may not have survived. He was a member of the occupation forces after the Japanese surrendered, and he developed a life-long love and respect for the Japanese people. Yet he told me that he supported the atomic bombing, as a tragic but necessary way to save Japanese and American lives.

The arguments in defense of dropping the atomic bombs on Japanese cities are clear and credible.

Yet they are utilitarian, and it is there that I disagree.

The problem with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is that civilians were the deliberate targets. That is also the problem with the conventional bombing of Tokyo and Yokohama and Toyama and Dresden and Frankfort and Cologne. And of course deliberate targeting of civilians was done in the bombing of London and Warsaw and Frampol and Rotterdam. Destite the yawning ethical gulf between the Allies and the Axis, both sides targeted civilians. Did targeting of civilians achieve military goals, that would otherwise be considered defensible? Sometimes yes (Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Sometimes no (London and Dresden).

The ethical breech is this: it is never ethical to do evil (intentionally kill civilians) in order to do good (win a war).  The magnitude of the good is irrelevant. For example, one may not save ten lives by killing an innocent person and harvesting all of his organs for transplantation. If the innocent person were to die accidently, it would of course be ethical to transplant his organs (with consent). But it would never be ethical to kill him in order to obtain his organs, regardless of how many lives would be saved.

Therein lies the problem with utilitarian ethics. It seduces us with an obvious good (organ transplantation or avoidance of battle deaths) by enticing us to commit evil.

If the evil is an unintentional and unavoidable by-product of the effort to do good, then the act may be ethical (principle of double-effect). If a pregnant mother has cancer, it is ethical for her to receive chemotherapy, even if it may kill the unborn child, because the intent is to save her life and the death of the child would be unintentional and unavoidable. If, on the other hand, the mother had eclampsia (high blood pressure and seizures associated with pregnancy), it would be unethical to abort the child, because killing the child is then intentional. It is never ethical to do evil as a means of doing good. This is the principle of double-effect, which is at the core of Catholic ethical teaching. An evil means never justifies an end.

The same applies in war. It is never ethical to intentionally kill non-combatants. Even the killing of combatants is ethical only if the purpose is to stop the enemy nation from doing evil, and no other way of doing so is feasible. Killing enemy soldiers out of revenge or hate is unethical. If civilian deaths in war cannot be avoided, the unintentional killing of civilians during a legitimate military engagement may be a tragic but defensible act. But the targeting of civilians with the intent of using that targeting to influence the course of the war is never ethical.

I will not make excuses here. Rejection of utilitarian ethics often means measurably worse outcomes. The refusal to condone torture of captured terrorists to obtain information is a clear example. It is undeniably true that torturing terrorists to gain information can save lives. Opponents of such torture have a responsibility to own up to the fact that acting on principle may cost other people their lives. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had the utilitarian effect of saving millions of lives. And I have great respect for the leaders who made these agonizing decisions.

I admit that if my moral view against the atomic bombing of cities had prevailed, many more people would have likely died in the ensuing invasion, including innocents. But some things are just wrong, regardless of consequences. Utilitarianism is deeply flawed ethics.

Targeting civilians in war is always and everywhere immoral. It was certainly immoral in World War II.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Real fatherhood

A palate-cleanser to stories about sperm donors and out of wedlock births and broken and abandoned families.

A story about a very smart mom, a very good dad, and a very blessed little boy.

A beautiful essay.

Happy Father's Day to all!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Tranquility base here..."

A wonderful interview with Neil Armstrong, who recounts his first landing on the moon and offers his thoughts on the future of NASA.

I'm a bit of a space buff. I watched the first moonwalk on TV, on that July night in 1969 (I was 14). I wanted to be an astronaut before I wanted to be a brain surgeon. My inability to tolerate carnival rides pretty much disqualified me for the astronaut corps (ironically I also got queasy at the sight of blood, but fortunately for my surgical career I got over that), but I remain an astronaut aficionado.

For readers who share my love of astronaut lore, the best book I've read on the Apollo program is Andrew Chaikin's Man on the Moon. Engrossing, funny, poignant. Highly recommended.

I really respect Armstrong. He has been reticent to speak publicly since the moon landing, and has maintained a dignified private life.

He's a quiet hero, and a class act. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

"Detroit is what liberalism’s end-game looks like."

From Kevin Williamson at National Review:

The Left’s answer to the deficit: raise taxes to protect spending. The Left’s answer to the weak economy: raise taxes to enable new spending. The Left’s answer to the looming sovereign-debt crisis: raise taxes to pay off old spending. For the Left, every deficit is a revenue-side problem, not a spending-side problem, and the solution to every economic problem is more spending, necessitating more taxes. The problem with that way of looking at things is called Detroit, which looks to be running out of money in about one week. Detroit is what liberalism’s end-game looks like...

One lesson to learn from Detroit is that investing unions with coercive powers does not ensure future private-sector employment or the preservation of private-sector wages, despite liberal fairy tales to the contrary...

The second important lesson to be learned from Detroit is that there are hard limits on real tax increases... tax increases are sure to have real-world effects on everything from investing to immigration. At some point, the statutory tax increases will not increase actual revenue.

The third lesson is moral. Detroit’s institutions have long been marked by corruption, venality, and self-serving. Healthy societies have high levels of trust. Who trusts Detroit? This is not angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin stuff. People do not invest in firms, industries, cities, or countries they do not trust. Corruption makes people poor.

Detroit is liberal Democrat government, distilled and clarified, put on display for all to see. We need to take note.

We need to vote these leftist-Democrat gangsters out.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"...partisanship is very much a part of journalism now."

In case you ever wondered if mainstream journalists were just left wing hacks.

President Obama attended a glitzy fundraiser Wednesday night at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Los Angeles. The event, which focused on the gay agenda, featured Ellen Degeneres and what the Los Angeles Times called "a who's who of gay Hollywood." Top officials from a number of gay activist groups were there as well, according to White House pool reports. 
Also attending was Les Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, who told the Los Angeles Times that Obama "has shown great leadership" on gay marriage. When the paper mentioned that the fundraiser was a partisan event and that Moonves oversees a broadcast network news division, Moonves said, "Ultimately journalism has changed…partisanship is very much a part of journalism now." 
"I run a news division," Moonves added, according to the Times. "I've given no money to any candidate." Why Moonves, a non-giver, was at a political fundraiser was not clear. 
Over the years, CBS News has often faced accusations of liberal bias, which it has steadfastly denied. Was Moonves suggesting a new policy? I asked network spokesman Dana McClintock whether Moonves, when he said, "partisanship is very much a part of journalism now," was referring to CBS News. 
McClintock sent back a four-word response: "No he was not." 
So: When the chief executive of CBS attends an Obama fundraiser and explains his presence in part by saying that "partisanship is very much a part of journalism now," he does not mean CBS. [Emphasis mine]

Sure. CBS news boss Moonves didn't mean that CBS news was overtly partisan when he told the Los Angeles Times that "Ultimately journalism has changed... partisanship is very much a part of journalism now" while attending a fundraiser for President Obama.

You'd be foolish to doubt the objectivity of CBS. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jim Holt on physicists and philosophy

Jim Holt has a fine essay on physicists who deny the centrality of philosophy in science.


Physicists say they do not need any help from philosophers. But sometimes physicists are, whether they realize it or not, actually engaging in philosophy themselves... 
As Bertrand Russell (himself no slouch at physics and mathematics) observed, philosophy aims at knowledge, and as soon as it obtains definite knowledge in a specific area, that area ceases to be called “philosophy.” And scientific progress gives philosophers more and more to do. Allow me to quote Nietzsche (although I know that will be considered by some to be in bad taste): “As the circle of science grows larger, it touches paradox at more places.” Physicists expand the circle, and philosophers help clear up the paradoxes. May both camps flourish.

The uprising of (atheist) physicists against philosophy is a remarkable feature of modern science. Of course the opinions expressed by the physicists are not scientific opinions. They are philosophical opinions. Specifically, they are philosophical opinions that philosophical opinions are irrelevant to science.

These half-educated technicians (which is what a scientist who doesn't understand the philosophical issues inherent to his science is rightfully called) are making a mockery of science. They don't even understand that assertions that philosophy is irrelevant to science are self-refuting. The assertions of irrelevance are philosophical assertions, not scientific assertions.

The reputation of science suffers for this. Deservedly so. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The lesson from Madison

Douglas MacKinnon has a great post on the lessons to draw from Governor Walker's victory in the Wisconsin recall election.


... It's a loud and clear pronouncement that big government and big-government giveaways to people who want something for nothing is over. Look at the actual results. Listen to the actual people of Wisconsin. 
Many were flat-out offended and angered that the far-left flooded into their state to attempt to overturn the voice of the people. These voters, like the majority of the American people, are tired of being fooled or even fooling themselves. They look at the life-destroying economic collapses in Greece, Spain, Italy, Illinois, New York and California and now know exactly the cause and who is willingly spreading the disease. 
The voters of Wisconsin know that the Democrat Party is for the most part owned and operated by corrupt public-employee unions that want to suck every last dollar out of their pockets to fund bankrupt pensions and health care plans for themselves and their members. 
The voters of Wisconsin have realized that these unions and the politicians who support them are literally stealing from them and endangering the economic future of their children...
Just as they have caught on to the dangers of the nanny state, especially in the hands of inexperienced "community organizers." It does not take much to read between the lines to realize that a number of Democrats with real-world experience see the wheels flying off the big-government wagon and its operators being exposed as the real problem of the moment. 
As Ed Rendell, former Democrat governor and head of the Democratic National Committee, just said with regard to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, "I think she would have come in with a lot more executive experience. I think the president was hurt by being a legislator only." 
OK, let's be honest. Obama was not even a legislator, and Rendell knows that. During his barely two years in the Senate, Obama was running full time for president. During his time in the legislature in Illinois, he was voting "present." Hardly a profile in courage... 
Americans are now choosing self-responsibility and fiscal sanity over the suicidal power grabs of the public-employee unions and their political protectors. Not only will these corrupt public-employee unions continue to take a pounding across the country but come November, Obama will too. 
That is the real "wake-up call" the far-left most fears.

There is a massive political shift beginning in the United States. It is made possible by the internet and alternative media. It's more and more difficult for political gangsters to hide.

The sorting out of all of this will be a new dynamic. No longer will the battle be between well-intentioned yet naive adversaries of the right and the left. The battle will be between the people who support the gangsters, with full knowledge of who and what they are, and the people who fight for integrity and fiscal sanity.

We should not underestimate how many Americans will fight for the gangsters. It will not be a majority of Americans, but it will be an army of organized and well-funded leftist thugs, and many scores of millions who get your tax money (i.e. a government check) when the leftist thugs are in power. Our politics is going to get ugly in the next decade.

How ugly? The gangsters are the unions and the hard leftists. Think union mobsters and the Weather Underground, panicked, with all of their corrupt power at stake.

Perhaps violently ugly. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Without free condoms, what will come of little girls' dreams?

The Democrats have produced a sweet little paean to the Sexual Revolution, starring our pre-teen daughters.

They're right of course. Contraception means a lot to women. Contraception makes the sexual revolution possible. Plentiful availability of contraception is indispensable to promiscuity and enables men to copulate without commitment, which seems just fine with men, for the most part. Male infidelity is less of a blessing for women. Women suffer disproportionately from the sexual adventurism that contraception enables. Contemporary poverty is mostly female, and mostly because of family dissolution.

Contraception unlinks committed love and sex. Sex usually wins. Women lose.

Talk about a war on women. The Party of Femicide reminds us just what free condoms mean to our little girls, who have been the primary victims, along with little boys with no fathers, of our promiscuous culture. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

How did we get the New Testament?

Timothy Paul Jones has a good essay on the criteria used by early Christians to select books for the New Testament.


[F]rom the first century onward, Christians viewed testimony that could be connected to eyewitnesses of Jesus as uniquely authoritative. The logic of this standard was simple: The people most likely to know the truth about Jesus were either eyewitnesses who had encountered Jesus personally or close associates of these witnesses. So, although Christians wrangled for some time about the authority of certain writings, it was something far greater than political machinations that drove these decisions. Their goal was to determine which books could be clearly connected to eyewitnesses of Jesus. 
I am fascinated by the study of the early Christian writings. Which gospel was written first? In what way are the gospels related? When were the gospels written? Why were they written? Did the authors actually know Jesus personally?

Much of the modern study of the New Testament has been corrupted by Higher Criticism, which is too often a veil for agnostic and atheist scholars who use pseudo-scholarship to advance their personal bias. One obvious example of tendentious scholarship would be the contention by most liberal scholars that Luke's gospel was written in the 80's of the first century and that Mark and Matthew were written in the 70's at the earliest.

Yet Acts ends with Paul's imprisonment in Rome, almost certainly before Nero's persecutions, which Luke never mentions. And Luke never mentions the most transformative secular event in that era of Jewish-Christian history-- the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 66-70. Thus, Acts was obviously written prior to the mid 60's, and Luke refers to his own gospel as a prior work, dating the gospel of Luke to the early 60's at the latest. And Luke refers to the works of others in his prologue, which almost certainly refers to Mark and perhaps Matthew, dating these gospels to prior to the 60's.

Why would liberal scholars ignore the obvious? The synoptic gospels were written prior to the mid-60's.

This is why: an early dating of the gospels enhances their historical reliability, because of proximity to the events and because of the existence of living eyewitnesses who could have, but didn't, point out mistruths.

Late dating of the gospels advances the atheist agenda. And of course atheists have no qualms about faking science to suit their agenda. It didn't start with Darwin. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wherein I clear up some misunderstandings about human taxonomy

I pointed out yesterday that it is a scientific fact that a zygote/embryo/fetus is a human being. There is no debate about the science. There is a debate about ethics-- at what point do human beings acquire the right to life ?-- but there is no scientific debate about the fact that a zygote is a human being.

Some of our commentors said things that suggest that they misunderstand the science. I can help educate them:

Commentor WR:

No. A fertilized human ovum is human, but it's not a human being, it's not a person. It has to develop to a minimum stage before it can be called a person. I personally would put that at no earlier than 24 weeks gestation, the earliest date that the fetal nervous system has developed anywhere near enough to be able to feel pain. Even then, it's still not viable enough to survive outside the uterus.

WR mentions three predicates-- human, human being, and person.

Human means relating to a member of our species. A skin cell from Cher is human. A human skin cell. But the skin cell is not a human being. Cher is a human being.

Human being means a living Homo sapiens. A zygote is a living Homo sapiens. It is what a living human being looks like at one minute of gestation. Terri Schiavo was a human being (before they starved her). She was a human being at conception, at birth, during childhood and adulthood, and after her brain damage. In classical terms, she was substantially a human being at every point from conception to death. Her accidents changed-- her size, intelligence, appearance, abilities, etc.

Persons are entities with rights under law. Most persons are human beings, although some laws endow corporations with personhood, and some animal rights advocates suggest that some animals be legally called persons.

The debate about abortion centers on the concept of persons. Are all human beings persons? Do all persons have a right to life? These are the questions that matter. Obviously abortion fans are uncomfortable with these real issues, and prefer to skew simple biology in order to confuse the debate. We must not let them.

Comentor anonymous:

So a zygote is a unicellular human being? And sometimes, after a few rounds of cell divisions, it becomes two human beings (monozygotic twins)? Does Jesus insert a second soul at that point or does the original soul divide into two? Is it a double murder to abort a zygote that is about to split?

A zygote is a human being. Sometimes it is more than one human being. It is never less than one human being.

I have no insight into the theological mechanics of twinning.

Commentor Anonymous:

So a zygote is a unicellular human being? Does it have a soul? And if it splits into two, a few rounds of cell divisions later, which of the twins gets the original soul?

A soul is the substantial form of a living thing. A soul isn't a spooky apparition. It's just the intelligible principle of a living thing. A zygote has a soul. When it twins, each twin has a soul (a substantial form). The zygote has undergone substantial change, so neither soul is identical to the original.

Commentor KW:

Early in their existence both the rat and human embryos undergo incredibly similar developmental processes. The development of features in both embryos at early stages is controlled by the same Hox genes expressed in virtually the same ways. These early embryos are indistinguishable without special equipment and training. The gene expressions that result in virtually all the differences between rats and humans come latter in gestation.

The embryos are quite distinguishable, even by rank amateurs. Here's how: rat embryos grow into rats, and human embryos grow into humans.

That's the salient fact. Morphological similarities are irrelevant to what embryos actually are. Rat embryos develop into rat adults. Human embryos develop into human adults. Always. They never switch. Just like mom's uterine tissue clump never magically switches into a new human being at 20 weeks of gestation.

Each embryo is what it is from the moment of conception. Rat embryos are very young rats. Human embryos are very young humans.

Biology 101, KW. You should have stayed awake in high school.

I find it creepy and morbid that Christians would invest so much energy and passion fighting for the “rights” of an embryo that developmentally, morphologically, and functionally is virtually no different than any other mammal embryo.
We are fighting to protect human life.

I acknowledge that the fetus develops more human fetures all the time, and I would be happy to embrace a grand compromise that bans abortion after an agreed-upon stage of development (18 -20 weeks?), if anti abortion forces would cease there assault on early abortions and stop opposing birth control. Of course Christians and their Muslin allies will never go for that.
We are fighting to protect human life. We will never accept an "achievement test" to define human beings. Human beings have rights based on who we are, not on what we can do. We are all human at conception, and remain so until death. All human beings have a right to life.


Its interesting that you take Myers' to task over his comments, but you don't actually bother to respond to his question. Specifically: "[W]hat are these “scientific qualifications”? List them, please." 
I suspect that you didn't because you cannot. And knowing that, you choose to obscure the issue by throwing up a pile of meaningless word salad instead.

The scientific qualifications by which a human zygote is a human being elude Myers, who is the only scientist in human history to be confused on this count.

Let me help. The qualification by which a human zygote is a human being is because nothing in biology makes sense if it is not.

Biological science depends on a coherent understanding of taxonomy, reproductive biology, genetics, evolutionary science, etc.

If human zygotes are not human beings, then a piece of tissue (what is it?) miraculously transmogrifies into a human being at 20 weeks or whatever for no apparent reason. Did it change species? Do human beings bud spontaneously from the uterine lining of females? Did the DNA suddenly mutate from 'blob DNA' to 'baby DNA'? What is the biochemical basis for the sudden speciation at 20 weeks? What is the physiological basis for the transition from abortionist cash-cow to mama's little prince/princess?

Do explain the science. Please. 


Dr, seriously, humor me here. What if instead of Terri Schiavo having a liquefied brain, her entire head was lost in an accident and her body from the neck down was being kept alive with advanced medical technology, would that body be a human being? Would there be any point in keeping it alive? I don’t think so. What do you think? Might the soul still be in there? 
Schiavo didn't have a "liquified brain". She was a handicapped person with brain damage. Much of her brain worked reasonably well. She needed care, of the sort a young child needs. She was handicapped. She lacked substantial intellectual capacity and motor control. She was not brain dead, or even close.

If she were decapitated and her body below the neck maintained artificially, it would be similar to a kidney that has been removed for transplant that is kept mechanically perfused until it is transplanted. The decapitated body and the kidney are human, in the sense that they are parts of human beings, but they are not human beings.

Keep the comments coming. This is fun!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

P.Z. Myers says something really stupid about science. The sun also rises.

P.Z. Myers comments on a pro-life argument that embryos/fetuses are human beings.

The blogger at the pro-life website argued:

A zygote meets all of the scientific qualifications of HUMAN life at the moment of conception.

Checkmate, Pro-Choicers
Myers replies:

How interesting. I’m always amused when I see these bozos insist indignantly that they’ve got science behind them. And what are these “scientific qualifications”? List them, please. 
The problem here is that there are scientific markers we could use to define whether something is of human descent, but they tend to be fairly reductionist and don’t provide a good indication of the kinds of sociological distinctions we want to make with the word “human”: it’s not just the zygote at the moment of conception that is human, but so is the sperm and the oocyte, as are cancers and HeLa cells. And when you look at cells as being of human origin, that still doesn’t help you in the slightest in determining whether a cell has rights. 
Waving a flippant hand in the direction of undefined “scientific qualifications” is useless. Tell me what the specifics are, and I promise you, I can shoot them down one by one. How do I know that? Because the people who put these lists together are ignoramuses, every time.

A human zygote/embryo/fetus (/infant/child/adult) is a human being. That is not a pro-life argument. That is not a Christian argument. It's not a conservative Republican argument.

It's not an argument of any kind.

It's a scientific fact. A mundane fact.

If a human zygote not a human being, what is it?

Here are the choices:

1) The zygote/embryo/fetus is part of the mother's body. Like an organ or something. 

Bullshit. If a zygote/embryo is part of the mother's body, then at some time during gestation, at a time determined by the Supreme Court or some abortionist, the maternal organ magically transforms into a new human.

Nineteen weeks-- uterine hyperplasia. Twenty weeks-- little Joey/Mary.

A new insight into human reproductive biology.

As I said, bullshit.

2) The zygote/embryo/fetus is another species, not human.
Yea. Homo abortus, until the third trimester. Then Homo abortus magically transmogrifies into Homo sapiens at 24 weeks.

A biological revolution! Evolution-- one species becoming another-- occurs with each gestation!

3) The zygote/embryo/fetus ain't nothin. It's unclassified. 

Not mom, not another species. It's just there. Whatever. You're a stupid fundamentalist for asking.

Here's the new taxonomy: human beings whom people want to kill are simply no longer classified as human beings.

Except it's not new.


Obviously a zygote/embryo/fetus is a human being. From the moment of conception. That's a scientific fact, like gravity, heliocentrism, and evolution.

There is no scientific debate.

It's also a fact that hacks like Myers will lie about the science to advance their politics. But we already know that.

The issue regarding abortion is whether all human beings have the right to life. I think they do. Myers thinks not.

That's what the debate is about.

The central thrust of the pro-choice movement is to make sure you don't know what the debate is about.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why are sex-selective abortions wrong?

Commentor Anonymous, who believes that women have a right to abortion (up to 20 weeks) opposes sex-selective abortion-- aborting more girls than boys.

"... Sex selective abortion should be banned. Some European countries have discussed the possibility of withholding the sex of the fetus in all cases if antenatal screening is performed. Couples I have known having antenatal screening, if offered news of the fetus' sex usually decline preferring to be 'surprised'."
Preferring males to females is a cultural problem, only to be solved by removing all discrimination against females...

Why would an abortion supporter oppose sex-selection abortions?

I'll not dwell on the Constitutional issue-- perhaps Roe supporters just found an "anti-sex selection clause" in the Constitution, right next to the "abortion is a right clause" and the "separation of church and state clause". Penumbras emanate.

Let's just look at Anonymous' two possible moral arguments:

Is sex-selective abortion wrong because it skews the population, or is it wrong because selectively targeting girls for the trash can seems unfair?

If it is because sex-selective abortion skews the population, then what if sex-selective abortions killed boys and girls equally? Some families abort their girls, some abort their boys? No population skew. That would solve the problem of population balance.

But that is to implicitly suggest that the current problem with femicide could be solved by killing more boys. Is that what pro-abort anti-sex selection folks really think would be a moral solution to population imbalance-- more dead boys, so they equal the number of dead girls?

Or do pro-abort-anti-sex-selection folks think that sex selective abortion is inherently wrong, regardless of population skew?

If so, why would the decision to kill a child in the womb be any more heinous if it were because the child is a girl (or a boy) than if the decision to kill was because the child was inconvenient or conceived unintentionally or handicapped or merely unwanted?

Police officer: 'Did you kill your daughter because she was a girl?' 
Woman: 'Oh no. I would never do that. I killed her because she would interfere with my social life (or my job or my finances or she was handicapped or because I just felt like it).' 
Police officer: 'Oh, well that's different. Have a good day.'

If you want to understand the intellectual and moral sewer of the pro-abortion stance, look no further.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What's at stake in the Wisconsin recall election today

Great essay on the ideas at issue in the recall election today in Wisconsin.


Prior to Walker’s reforms, state and local-government employees paid nothing or very little toward their pensions and paid only slightly more than 6 percent of their health-care premiums. According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the average Wisconsin government employee earned $71,000 in total compensation in 2011. That same year, average total compensation for employees of the state’s largest school district, Milwaukee Public Schools, reached $101,091. Walker helped close the state’s $3.6 billion deficit by requiring public employees to pay 5 percent of their salaries toward their pensions. He also required state employees to pay 12.6 percent of their health-insurance premiums — less than half the average both in the private sector and for federal-government employees.
But the most controversial part of Walker’s plan was its sharp curtailing of union power, and in particular collective bargaining. Prior to Walker’s law, all government workers were required to join unions and pay dues, and unions were able to negotiate all conditions of employment — wages, benefits, work rules. Walker made union membership optional, eliminated the automatic deduction of union dues, and ended collective bargaining for everything but wages. Today, the unions are still able to negotiate wages for all employees (including non-members), but governments may decide for themselves how to handle work rules and other forms of compensation, and employees may decide for themselves whether to give money to the unions.  
The issues at stake in the election are straightforward. Walker is insisting on good government, fiscal sanity and respect for the right of workers not to be forced by law to give money to unions.

This election is very important. I pray Walker wins.