Aw, Come on Al!

Al Gore didn’t help those who would like to overlook the abortion question, in his remarks tonight.  He reminded us that the next president could potentially appoint up to three supreme court justices, and they could potentially vote to overturn Roe V. Wade–if folks vote for McCain.

I was trying to tell myself that abortion is not really a presidential issue–it was the supreme court who overturned the states’ rights to regulate abortion–and in spite of twenty years of Republican presidencies, we haven’t got a court that is conservative enough to send the question back to the states.

The republicans don’t have any enthusiasm for their own candidate.  James Dobson–in spite of his 30 years of opposing abortion–has said he probably can’t vote for John McCain, even though McCain claims to be pro-life.

I wanted to celebrate the fact that 45 years after Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, our country is getting close to being color blind.  I wanted to be proud of a candidate with connections to my own state.

But then Al Gore reminded me of why the governor of my own state was probably scratched off the list of potential vice-presidential candidates.  The pictures of her embracing and accepting money from one of the few providers of late-term abortions in the nation, would be too controversial, too distracting from the message of change.

And former vice president Gore reminded us that the issue has not gone away.

Faith of an Almost President

Mark Tooley reviews God and Hilary Clinton by Paul Kengo in Front Page Magazine.

Here is a brief excerpt from the review:

Freshly espousing that Social Gospel directly to the teen-age Hillary was the Rev. Don Jones, a new graduate from Drew Theological Seminary in New Jersey, whose first job was youth minister at First Methodist Church in Park Ridge.  The flashy young minister, darting about in his red convertible, introduced Hillary and the other youth to his weekly Thursday night “University of Life.”  Starting in 1961, he literally brought the 1960’s to Hillary and her church, in Kengor’s words, teaching about “existentialism, abstract art, beat poetry, and even the radical politics of the counter-culture.”  He showed them art house films, shared Bob Dylan music, hosted a debate with an atheist, and discussed teen age sexuality.

What’s a Pro-Life Voter to Do?

The archbishop of Denver criticized Nancy Pelosi for misrepresenting catholic teaching on abortion (here).  She claimed that the church was ambiguous on the question of when life begins.  Archbishop Chaput answered that the church has never been ambiguous about abortion–it has always condemned the practice.  Archbishop Chaput even quotes the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said,

“the destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”  (From Bonhoeffer’s Ethics)

Candidate Obama has voted against restrictions on late-term abortions and even against a law protecting infants who survive unsuccessful abortion procedures.  A nurse from Chicago has testified under oath several times that she has witnessed this phenomenon several times.  Babies (that’s what everyone calls fetuses after they are born) have been left to die after surviving induced abortions (here).

We are not talking about subtle nuances here–whether a fertilized egg is a person–we are talking about near-term fetuses or even babies surviving outside the womb.

So how can a pro-life voter support a candidate who opposes any restrictions on late-term abortions?

But there is another life-issue–war.  The other candidate says he will keep us in Iraq for one hundred years, if necessary.

Looking back on these two issues, we are really talking about elective abortion and elective war.  No one on the pro-life side wishes to deny abortion when it is medically necessary to save the life of the mother. What bothers so many is when abortion is not necessary, but a choice, an elective option.

The same is true of George Bush’s war in Iraq.  It was an elective war.  We were not under attack, nor were we in imminent danger of attack from Iraq.  Even had it been true that Saddam Hussein was still trying to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction, no one believed he had a missile ready to launch.  So this was an optional war–not a war forced upon us but a war chosen to accomplish a good cause–eliminating a tyrant, bringing democracy to the Middle East–but not a war undertaken for immediate self-defense.

Only one candidate had the judgment or courage to vote against that war.

Help me out readers.  Am I being selfish to think of my own family? In sixteen years my grandson could be sent to Iraq.  Maybe he will be told that the Iraqi government is almost ready to stand on its own–they just need a little more time.  Right now we don’t have a draft–but the current system is unfair to those who enlisted, and there have been senators calling for a reinstatement of conscription.

I assume that all those who enlist for active duty or in the reserves are motivated by the desire to serve their country.  I assume they believe they will not been sent into optional or elective wars.  They will not be called upon to enter harm’s way unless it is absolutely necessary.  In that case we will want a president with a proven record of good judgment.

So here is my problem.  How can I vote for a candidate who supports elective, optional late-term abortion?  How can I vote for a candidate who supports elective, optional war?

You might say the answer is either don’t vote or vote for a third party candidate.

The problem with that for me is that it would be avoiding my responsibility.  Barack Obama or John McCain will be our next president (of course, barring unforseen tragedies or divine intervention).  I have a responsibility to choose one of these candidates.  Which pro-life issue is more important?  Or do I call it a draw and vote on the other issues?  In that case, the choice to me is clear enough.

That’s Not Journalism

Cousin Eric documents the lies and wild conjectures presented as facts in the best selling book Obama Nation (here). The antidote to bad journalism is better journalism.

By the way, good for Rick Warren for presenting a civil forum for the two presidential candidates to express their positions and answer. Pastor Warren called both candidates his friends, and later on the Larry King show, he called the talk show host a good friend. Warren has taken some criticism for advocating progressive causes such as fighting poverty, AIDS, and global warming. I think his ministry is a good model of what the church should be doing, bringing people together rather than causing divisions.

On the CNN interview both candidates gave direct answers to some tough questions. A lot of questions are very important, but as I see it, the most important questions are those that relate to life. And here’s the dilemma: war and abortion both relate to the value of life and both candidates express different views on both issues.

(For more on the interview, click here.)

Who Says Latin is a Dead Language?

Latin is not dead in Kentucky.  Milena Minkova and others are keeping it alive at UK.  Bryn Mawr reviews notes two textbooks on Latin Prose Composition, one co-authored by Minkover, and another her own work.  (here and here)

I remember speaking with two older farmers in Kansas about studying Latin in school back in the day.  One told me, “I never had any trouble with English after I took Latin.”  The other one said, “It was tough at first, but the fourth year it all came together when we read Caesar.”

Sonja and I were in Kentucky recently and we picked up an old Latin grammar along with an elementary English reader at a flee market.  We talked about the high standards that once were the rule in public schools.

For two or three decades now Marion Polsky has been teaching Latin to inner city kids.  She finds it is an equalizer–no one has an advantage because their parents speak it at home.  She uses creative methods, including having the kids dress up in togas.

In the 1970s and ’80s, the U.S. government funded Latin classes in underperforming urban school districts. The results were dramatic. Children who were given a full year of Latin performed five months to a year ahead of control groups in reading comprehension and vocabulary. The Latin students also showed outsize gains in math, history and geography. But Congress cut the funding, and nearly all the districts discontinued Latin.

More recently though, some schools are giving it a second chance.  (More here and here)

Vivat sermo Ciceronis!

How We Look to Outsiders

An Australian transplanted to Scotland, Michael Bird, takes a humorous look at American politics through imagining the reaction of ten of them upon arriving in heaven, here.

Committing Journalism

Committing Journalism in Zimbabwe

Back in April, Barry Bearak was arrested in Zimbabwe and charged with the crime of “committing journalism.” Most countries are more subtle when they suppress the news, but the authorities told Bearak he was guilty of “gathering, processing, and disseminating the news.” Bearak was eventually released due to the incompetence of the local police; they didn’t have the proper documentation to prove that he had in fact committed journalism.

A local friend once made a comment that still has me shaking my head. He quoted Spiro T. Agnew on the three threats to American Democracy.  According to the naysayer of the nattering nabobs of negativity,

The greatest threats to our nation are Communism, Socialism, and Journalism.

Agnew had reason to complain about the press. It was investigative journalism that brought down his boss, Richard Nixon, and led to criminal charges against Agnew. He had taken bribes while governor of Maryland and eventually pleaded guilty to failing to pay taxes on his extortion income after resigning as vice president.

But it’s hard for me to understand why an ordinary citizen would want to see the press suppressed.

Yet right-wing commentators like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh continue to make a good living using the media to blast the media and the press.

The last time I listened to Rush, he raised the question, “Are we better off?” after the news of Abu Graibes was published. The news of the abuse of prisoners set back the war efforts in Iraq. It brought retaliation; it was good publicity for Al Qaida.

Rush’s question implies that the problem was not the abuse of prisoners but the truth. And truth is dangerous. His question implies that “we the people” are better off being kept in the dark, better off not knowing. In the war on terrorism, do we have to destroy democracy in order to save it?

Prison Writings of Red Hog are another case of someone being prosecuted for committing journalism. Eric Alterman (no known relation, but we affectionately refer to him as “cousin Eric”) has written a book called What Liberal Media? He documents how the major news media have been consolidated and controlled by corporate interests, how investigative journalists have been laid off, and how these developments are a threat to democracy. Bill Moyers recently made similar observations.

Partly related, yesterday was the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. I was taught the “official version” in school, that the murder of civilians was necessary to save American (and Japanese) lives by bringing the war to an early close.

I wasn’t taught that Truman’s own Generals and Admirals (Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Leahy) condemned the bombing as unnecessary and barbaric (Ralph Raico, here).

I wasn’t taught that American newspapers were forbidden to report on the radiation damage, and that one reporter who did publish the truth was prosecuted (John PIlger, here).

What do you think? Are we better off being shielded from the truth? Do we need more or less journalism?

The Free Market Is Working

I admit, I’m reluctant to call it a free market when one of the parties is a Cartel. By definition a Cartel is a small organization of suppliers whose reason for existence is to manipulate prices by controlling the supply. I am also reluctant to call the market free when government policies subsidize oil companies and the manufacture of SUV’s–not to mention the fact that government policies subsidize highways rather than mass transit.

But I will admit, no one is taking a gun, putting it to my head, and forcing me to buy gasoline, so there is some freedom for the law of supply and demand to operate.

And, it’s working. We as a nation are driving less. Highway deaths are down. Presumably we are also walking more, or engaging in conversation with our neighbors and families; so it all has to be good. The market has forced us to do some things we needed to do anyway. And, miracle of miracles–the price at the pump is going down (more here).

So why are the champions of free markets whining? Why are they calling on the government to do something? Why aren’t they saying, “Trust the invisible hand of the market–it will take us where we need to be”?

Beside expensive gasoline, there is another problem with our dependence on automobiles. Our infrastructure is crumbling. The past week saw the anniversary of the bridge collapse in Minnesota. It turns out that on average, our bridges are built to last 50 years–and they are about 43-47 years old. Yikes!

It is going to take about 180 billion dollars to fix all those bridges, according to CBS. One problem is that since we are starting to use less gasoline, there is less gas-tax money available for highway and bridge projects. So, someone is going to have to find a way to pay for new bridges.

A higher gas tax might give us the additional shock needed to further reduce our consumption. The long-term result would be that the price of oil would drop further and the tax would be absorbed. But few politicians have the political will to support any kind of new tax.

Or maybe we should follow the “free market” idea all the way. The nation’s bridges could be privatized and sold to the highest bidder, who could then recoup their investment in the form of tolls.

The alternative is to admit that the free market can’t do everything; there is a place for some public projects. But then, if we admit transportation is a public need, maybe we could rethink the kind of public transportation we subsidize.

Meanwhile, some Christians are calling on God to intervene. They are starting a pray at the pumps movement. I guess that’s not wrong, since we are taught to “cast all our cares on him.” Since most of us have to fill up the tank to get to work and earn our daily bread–we could even add an addendum to the Lord’s prayer,

“Give us this day our daily bread, and the gasoline wherewith to drive to the place of earning thereof.”

Or maybe we should pray for the discipline to shake off our dependence on cars.

(Related article in Time)