Monday, February 28, 2005

Progress for women's rights in the UN.

For those who think that President Bush can't work with the UN and doesn't care about women's rights, this article is a wonderful corrective. The suggestion of "Dubya for Attorney General" is a great idea too (if we can stomach Kofi Annan until 2008).

History being made in Lebanon

The government of Lebanon has resigned. It looks like a new democracy is brewing in the Middle East. Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon (and Egypt too, it looks like) - President Bush's foreign policy is bearing some remarkable fruit (HT Roger L Simon)

More from the always-worth-reading Mark Steyn, who is justifiably glad to say "I told you so..."

Pray for Terry

Pray for Terry Schiavo and for us - we are doing a terrible thing.

Surprised that "The Passion" didn't get an Oscar?

me neither...
What bothers me is not that my own personal pick for best movie of the year didn’t get an Oscar nomination. That happens all the time. What bothers me—and a lot of others as well, I believe—is that about 95 percent of the population would have been deeply shocked if the film had received a nomination. And that prediction had absolutely nothing to do with its artistic value.
(HT relapsedcatholic)

Basset hounds rather than bassinettes...

For those interested in an analysis of the process by which the movement to legitimize "gay marriage" has become powerful, here's an analysis:
It is in truth the cultural devaluation of marriage that explains why some homosexual activists have reacted to the recent push for homosexual marriage by asking, "Why should we scramble to get onto a sinking ship?"[60] But most of homosexual couples now seeking to be married are doing so precisely because so much of the traditional freight of marriage—complementary gender roles, work in a real home economy, childbearing, sexual fidelity, permanence—has been thrown overboard as the marital ship has settled ever lower in the water. The strangely de-natured and deracinated thing that marriage has become now appeals to homosexuals because it now offers insurance, employment, lifestyle, and government benefits, while imposing almost none of the obligations it once did. Opponents of homosexual marriage speak the truth when they protest that America makes a mockery of wedlock if it licenses vows for couples who can never have children (without resorting to surrogate mothers or sperm donors), will not resist the temptations to extramarital affairs, and will not preserve their union for a lifetime.[61] But the mockery of wedlock began decades ago when hundreds of thousands of heterosexual DINK couples started buying basset hounds rather than bassinettes, started indulging in extramarital affairs, and started fulfilling divorce attorneys' dreams of avarice. It was indeed by trivializing the marital traditions of fertility, fidelity, and permanence that heterosexuals so completely changed the character of marriage that homosexuals finally wanted to claim the very odd thing it had become.
Read the whole article

Still a source of contention.

Reading Psalm 80 this morning, I was struck by the statement addressed to God in verse 8, "You have made us a source of contention to our neighbors and our enemies mock." This was said by the Israelites some 2500 years ago, and it remains true today. Rarely has a people ever attracted such hostility over such a prolonged period, and perhaps never has a nation survived such hostility. It is interesting to note that the rescue the psalmist contemplated was for God to "let your hand rest on the man at your right hand, the son of man you have raised up for yourself." Perhaps it was the king of Israel at the time that the psalmist was speaking of, though Christians would say that the son of man that God raised up for himself was (and is) Jesus. In any case, the Jews have not yet been overwhelmed, and perhaps will not be until God answers for them the final prayer of the psalm: "Restore us, O Lord Almighty; make your face shine upon us that we may be saved."

Victor Davis Hansen on federal action items.

With his usual insight and clarity, Victor Davis Hansen proposes a number of action items here that ought to be able to garner bipartisan support and move easily through Congress, to the great benefit of the country. Let's hope that disagreements over federal judges and foreign policy don't get in the way...

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The return of shame?

One thing in the Sunday L. A. Times that can often be good is the Parade magazine. This week's cover article is on the question of whether shame can be a good thing. What's really being spoken of here is the return of the virtues of modesty, decency, courtesy and humility, and with them the feeling of shame that we ought to experience when we violate them. Since the 60s, Western society has been on something of a jihad against traditional restraints, to the point where we now can scarcely find any restraints left to rebel against. The result has been a corresponding loss of romance, honor, dignity and respect in our relationships with each other, leaving a flatness and ugliness in their place and causing a proliferation of violence and pornography in an effort to restore interest to otherwise boring relationships. I'm glad people are beginning to see that this is not a good thing and that we ought perhaps to consider returning to a older, more restrained and more attractive lifestyle.

Check here for the article (which will be posted after March 7th) and here for a book that makes this point in much greater depth.

The Sunday Funnies awards

In honor of the Oscars (which I don't plan to watch), I am launching my own awards program to recognize excellence (and its opposite) in the Sunday Comics of the L. A. Times. Since these are the only sections of the paper I consistently read, they are the only sections I'm qualified to speak on. Based on their merit as impartially determined by me (and perhaps with some lobbying from SpinMom or our SpinSons), the following awards will be given:

%- excellent, something to share with others
&- very good
5- good, about par for a decent strip
4- neutral, about like reading an advertisement
6- fair, not quite clear why the author bothered
q- mixed, somewhat funny but having other negative strands in it too
h - sick
!- toxic, attacking without any humor

And now, with no further ado (trumpet fanfare, please), I present to you the first weekly Sunday Funnies awards,

Comics I

  • Zits & (of course I'm prejudiced, since I have sons like this too)
  • Foxtrot 5 (amazing how things can change that way)
  • Get Fuzzy % (lovely puns on the songs and a beautiful putdown of that cat)
  • Frazz & (cute and fun, as it usually is)
  • Baby Blues & (good, and SpinMom likes it...)
  • For Better or Worse 5 (curious...)
  • Jump Start 5 (the lead frames are in some ways the best)
  • Brewster Rocket 4 (pretty typical - which isn't saying much)
  • Drabble 5 (mom gets her turn)
  • Peanuts4 (maybe someone who has taught kids will find it funny)
  • Garfield4 (nothing special)
  • Mutts & (sounds like some kids I know)
  • Heathcliff 5 (not bad)
  • Marmaduke 5 (if you have a packrat around you'll sympathize)
Comics II
  • Doonesbury !! (bitter and toxic - Trudeau will be the tragic figure, not those he names)
  • Opus h (sick and clueless - oh well...)
  • Cathy q (do we laugh or cry?)
  • Ballard Street 6 (if there is supposed to be something funny here, I'm missing it)
  • Blondie 5 (typical Dagwood)
  • Momma q (is it just me, or is the punchline almost cruel?)
  • Herman 5 (not a bad lawyer joke)
  • Boondocks ! (he always manages to see something bad even when it's not there)
  • Dilbert 5 (ouch!)
  • La Cucaracha 5 (ok)
  • Mallard Fillmore 5 (typical Oscars joke)
  • In The Bleachers 5 (decent for this strip)
  • Non Sequitur 4 (even if this is an intro to a topic, it needs something more)
  • Prickly City & (getting too close to home - put this on the front instead of Doonesbury!)

Update: fixed some font issues. Mozilla doesn't appear to like the webdings font, but Internet Explorer is handling it properly.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Making Of A 9/11 Republican

From the San Francisco Chronicle - this article is a must-read for those wanting to understand the a critical part of the dynamic that lead to Bush's victory (thanks to Wizbang).

Why do good?

In his comment on "The Good Hunger" below, dan said:
I recall the words of a co-worker as he told me of his Uncle the philosopher who waxed on about how everything we do in life is based purely on greed, even good deeds and such, because it makes us feel good about ourselves and/or gives us something good to speak of about ourselves. I don't know, maybe he was right, but I thought: "what a miserable way to look at the world!".
One thing I'd ask "Uncle" is why he bothers to say any of this - is it just to make himself feel good about himself? And what proof does he have of such a broad assertion - has he looked into the minds of everyone and discovered that they all have no better motives for their good deeds than to bolster their self-esteem?

At one level, of course, "Uncle's" statement is a tautology - no one intends in advance to feel bad about anything he does, so it follows that we intend to feel good about all we do. But the question is whether the intent to feel good about an action is the primary cause of the action, or a result of the awareness at another level that we have done something that is worth feeling good about. But how do we know that an action is worth feeling good about?

I discuss this below in my first posting (credit Hugh Hewitt for the stimulus to begin blogging), where I ask if there is an external moral standard or whether our own happiness is the final moral arbiter. If our happiness is the ultimate norm, then "Uncle" is right - the things that are right are what make us feel good and that's why we do them. But if there is an external moral standard, then it is possible to do something not chiefly to feel good, but because we are trying to conform to a moral standard that we know is right. Of course it may make us feel good to make such an effort, but we would make the effort even if it did not, simply because it is the right thing to do.

But there's a risk to acknowledging an external moral standard - your friend's uncle may call you a legalist or a hypocrite.

Touchstone on Terry Schiavo

The case of Terry Schiavo tells us a lot about our understanding of the value of life and where we as a society are headed. Touchstone magazine is one of the best sources I know for input on these kinds of issues. Check here for their take on the subject.

Social engineering in the UN

UN funds and staff at work to drive the radical feminist agenda...

The good hunger

This morning I read "The laborer's appetite works for him; his hunger drives him on." (Proverbs 16:26), and it got me thinking how often I try to blunt the pain of others when it actually would be better to let them deal with it themselves. I feel sorry for the hungry person or my financially strapped son and I want to plunge it and fix it so they'll feel better. And sometimes this is necessary; to not act now could result in disaster later - starvation or a serious financial crisis. But other times my intervention short circuits the natural process which drives the hungry person on to feed himself. In these situations, I end up doing more harm than good, creating dependencies that make it harder in the future for a person to take the necessary initiative to care for himself. There are times when I need to ask myself "am I wanting to help this person because he really needs the help, or because it makes me feel good to be a helper?" and, if it's the latter, to stick my money back in my pocket and let him take the actions on his own that will ultimately help him to grow up into a healthy responsible maturity.

Update: It's worth saying here that my son hasn't asked me for any help. He's handling his financial issues very responsibly. My desire to "help" is more a wish to "spare him the pain," which reflects more on my needs than it does on his.

Friday, February 25, 2005

McClellan or Grant?

Today Hugh Hewitt asked the question "Does the Senate GOP Go McClellan or Grant if Harry Reid "Goes Gingrich?" This is a question regarding the strategies of both parties surrounding President Bush's nominations for federal court seats - read his post to get the details. In a nutshell, if the Republican majority changes the rules to prevent filibustering judicial nominees and then takes an up-or-down vote on the slate, Senate minority leader Harry Reid has threatened to effectively shut down the Senate as Newt Gingrich once did. If this happens, should the Senate spend its energies posturing but never really fighting, as General McClellan did in the Civil War, or should it dig in like General Grant and fight to win, however long it takes and whatever casualties may accumulate?

It seems that the Democratic leadership has already taken its position in this issue; it "goes Grant" over the issue of pro-life or conservative religious judicial appointments. Whatever it may cost the Democratic party in terms of loyalty in the red and battleground states and whatever the loss in terms of other necessary business the Senate fails to conduct as a result, they will dig in and fight unyieldingly to prevent any judges with clear conservative religious convictions or pro-life sympathies from ever being nominated to the federal courts. If this is so, then no amount of posturing or negotiating will ever secure a change of heart in this matter and to "go McClellan" over it is simply to acquiesce to the Democrat's stand until and unless such a time comes that they lose a sufficient number of seats in the Senate that they can no longer sustain a filibuster. While the Democrats claim that changing the rules would be to "go nuclear" on this option, their own strategy in response looks truly nuclear in comparison, not merely shutting down discussion over judical appointments but shutting down all discussion over any issue and effectively holding the Senate hostage until they get their way.

Why has abortion become such a crucial issue for the Democratic Party that they are willing to go to s
uch an extreme to defend the pro-abortion ideological purity of the federal courts? Perhaps because it is a test case for the entire worldview of those who have influence within the party. When confronting moral issues, one can start from one of two premises; either moral standards exist apart from our consent or desire, or moral standards only exist to the extent that society agrees that they do. Any attempt to undermine abortion rights is implicitly an affirmation of the first premise against the second, for it says that the unborn child has rights that society is obliged to respect and protect regardless of the mother's consent or desire.

But if this is true, then many other issues that have been thought by some people to be settled are called into question again. If an external moral standard exists that protects the unborn child, might it not also restrict the definition of marriage, or the practice of euthanasia, or one's freedom of divorce, or one's right to distribute pornography? Might such a standard require us to intervene on behalf of the oppressed even if it means engaging in an unpleasant war? When discussing these and many other issues we might need to ask ourselves not merely what we like or want to do, but what we ought to do in a given situation, and we might have to accept the possibility that what we ought to do isn't at all what we want to do. We might have to admit that our own happiness isn't the final arbiter in moral decision making and that we might have to make decisions that in some sense make us unhappy but are nevertheless the right decision to make because they conform with the authoritative external moral standard.

But to deny that individual happiness as the final arbiter in moral decision making is inceivable to many, for it would bind us (it is claimed) in the strait jacket of traditionalism, fundamentalism or superstition. If we are not governed by a desire for our own happiness then we must be morally bound (it seems) by the rules imposed either by our own ignorance or by force exerted by others who are stronger than we are. This is intolerable, and to prevent this from happening, it is a small thing to shut down all business in the Senate, if by so doing we may stand against the tyranny of the other and insist that in abortion rights, as in all things, my desire is the ultimate moral arbiter.

But what if the real tyranny is slavery to our own desires? What if an endless pursuit of our own desire is simply an addiction as destructive and unbreakable as cocaine, or even more so? Is it possible that we might find in a true external moral standard not slavery but freedom? It might be a painful freedom, yes, but still one worth having in preference to a slavery to the endlessly escalating demand to do what makes me happy. The prospect of having a baby may not make the mother happy, but perhaps her happiness isn't the biggest issue here. The battle in the Senate is finally over this issue; is our happiness the biggest concern in deciding what we ought to do and what we are prohibited from doing? If the Senate GOP leadership "goes McClellan" over the judicial nominees, then the answer will be what the Democratic leadership has already decided it must be, namely "yes." If instead the Republicans "go Grant," and, after what could be a long and bloody political battle, finally prevail in this issue, they will be acknowledging that we have a higher standard than ourselves to which we accountable.

And that will be the right answer.