Category archives: Uncategorized

Common Ground or Not, Lets Do Whats Right

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 29, 2012

The brilliant commentator, George Weigel, has written a probing, almost wistful column on the difficulty of putting together a broad coalition on religious liberty. Using as context the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, he argues that at one time, an encompassing religious freedom consortium was possible. He says that it is no longer.

He quotes religious leaders as suggesting that homosexual “rights” and sexual promiscuity have vitiated the broad, liberal-centrist-conservative consensus. Why? Because homosexuality - jammed into cultural prominence by a dedicated minority of activists, aided by friends in the media, the entertainment world, and politics - has become, as one rabbi said, “an irresistible force against an immovable object.”

In other words, there is no middle ground around which a diverse coalition coalesces. While there can be compromise on a host of issues grounded in principle, honorable compromise, and prudence, there can be no compromise on whether two same-sex partners should receive legal recognition of their “marriage.” In public judgment and also at the polls, one side wins and the other loses.

This battle must never engender hate or a desire to win that surmounts Christian ethics. Rather, supporters of traditional marriage should enter the contest with compassionate tenacity and kind-hearted truth-telling. But with that said, to deny the strife over homosexual “marriage” is a battle is to ignore social and political reality.

Weigel also notes the comments of a Catholic Bishop that “the protection of believers rights and consciences … is in direct conflict with the ideology of the sexual revolution. Thats why the flashpoints in the current religious freedom battles have been abortion, contraception, sterilization and marriage.” Put another way, when liberal religious leaders support President Obama’s decision to require Christian hospitals and colleges, as well as businesses operated by persons of Christian conviction, to provide abortion services and abortion-inducing drugs in insurance plans they offer, they are making a profound moral statement: That one’s sexual conduct, however irresponsible or dangerous or contrary to biblical teaching, merits higher legal consideration than the exercise of the conscience and of one’s deeply-held convictions.

Again, there is no common ground between one side and the other. In the absence of such ground, constructing a framework for common agreement and mutual effort becomes impossible.

Finally, Weigel says there is a third reason why a broad coalition for religious liberty cannot be formed: the willingness of religious intellectuals, including the Catholic Theological Society of America, to sacrifice a robust understanding of religious freedom on the altar of what they believe to be other social goods, including the expansion of the welfare state. In other words, so what if you have an Administration that wants Uncle Sam to subsidize abortion? Thats part of the price you have to pay to more widely redistribute income.

He ends his piece with some haunting questions:

America began with the assertion of deep truths written into the human condition by Nature, and Natures God (as the Declaration of Independence put it). In an election season likely to be dominated by very practical (and important) questions about the economy, it will be well to keep a deeper, more searching set of questions in mind: Are we still a nation dedicated to certain moral truths? If so, how do we recover an ability to talk about those truths together? And if not, what have we become?

Some well-meaning souls are calling for Christians to stand-down in the battle for our culture and simply be nice to everybody. In practical terms, this means abandoning the unborn, their mothers, marriage and the family, and religious liberty to those who would harm them.

Weigel asks the right questions. At least part of the answer to them is that Christians must assert that understandable and definitive truth exists and should be applied in public policy, truth that is accessible to Christian believers and non-believers alike. We must serve humbly, persuade graciously, and contend ethically.

Yet not to work for both good legislative and political ends and also not to turn the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens from one worldview to another would be unloving. If truth is what it is, it merits application to public policy. To make that application requires effort, and that means contention and potentially persecution.

Is this to say that no common ground exists between Right and Left, to use Whittaker Chambers clear dichotomy? No; but it is to say that the size of that ground is shrinking by the day.

We can make inroads through quiet, unassuming, authentic displays of Christian love, dispelling stereotypes and surprising those who believe conservatives are rigid, harsh, and simplistic. We can appeal to the law written on the heart (Romans 2:15), touching the conscience within each person to sway opinions and encourage sound action.

Yet we must always bear in mind that Paul, Peter, and many of the early Christians were thoughtful, articulate, gracious - and martyred. Are we ready to follow in their stead?

 

Anybody Who is against the Muslim Brotherhood is Not Safe in Egypt.

by Chris Gacek

August 24, 2012

John Batchelor had an important, news-making interview last night (8/23/12) on his radio program. He broadcasts live after 9 p.m. on WABC radio (WMAL in Washington). In the 10 p.m. hour (second hour), Batchelor and Malcolm Hoenlein interviewed Dr. Asharaf Ramelah, founder and president of Voice of the Copts, a human rights organization that defends Coptic Christians. (On the recording, start at 9 min 30 sec / 39:56.)

The conversation focused on dangerous changes in Egypt that are taking place after the Muslim Brotherhood gained power with the inauguration of Mohammed Morsi as president. The interviews conclusion was alarming. Batchelor: Right now, the Copts in Cairo, are they safe tonight? Ramelah: Nobody is safe in Cairo. No Copts, other Muslims are also not safe. Anybody who is against the Muslim Brotherhood is not safe in Egypt.

So much for the Arab Spring.

[From Voice of the Copts/Who Are the Copts: Copts are by far the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Ninety-five percent of Copts in Egypt are Orthodox and the remaining population is divided between Catholic and Protestant denominations. Copts living in Egypt represent between 15-20% of the total population of Egypt today.]

Porn: Another Executive Branch Security Problem

by Chris Gacek

August 15, 2012

Well, if there werent enough societal problems presented by pornography, an article by Professor Lori Handrahan (American University) reminds of the national security risks associated with porn consumption:

[Recently,] the Pentagons Missile Defense Agency warned its staff not to view porn on U.S. government computers.

She notes that Bloomberg News talked to a computer security expert who stated that the Missile Defense Agencys use of porn is concerning because many pornographic websites are infected and criminals and foreign intelligence services such as Russias use them to gain access and harvest data.

Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg) provides additional, important information not even confined to porn sites:

There are great dangers in interacting with any site that has high-quality imagery, whether its pornographic or not, or a lot of links, said Chase Cunningham, chief of cyber analytics at Sterling, Virginia-based Decisive Analytics Corporation, in a telephone interview yesterday.

Using what is called steganography, Cunningham said, a programmer can embed malicious computer code that infects computers, opens ports, steals data or gains access to networks when photos, videos or other files are downloaded.

That shouldnt come as a surprise, but we should be stunned that employees in defense agencies would expose the nation to such dangers. It is hard to believe that the federal government cant find software vendors who can block access to these sites. Here are some smart Israelis they can talk to for some ideas.

Nearly 90,000 Orthodox Jews Celebrate Completion of Seven-Year Talmudic Study

by Chris Gacek

August 3, 2012

While much of America was focused on the statement of religious support for Chick-fil-A exercised by hundreds of thousands of Americans, that same day 90,000 Orthodox Jews were celebrating the completion of a 7 and 12 years course of study in the Talmud in New Jerseys MetLife Stadium. This excellent New York Times article by Sharon Otterman provides many fascinating details:

The more than $2 million celebration, whose cost was covered by ticket sales, was organized by Agudath Israel, an umbrella organization for Orthodox Jews in America. The organization has carried the Daf Yomi, the regimen of daily study, from the mind of a single Polish rabbi, Meir Shapiro, in 1923, through the trauma of the Holocaust to its current resurgence.

About 70,000 to 80,000 Jews worldwide now participate in the daily learning sessions, said Rabbi Gedaliah Weinberger, the chairman of the Daf Yomi Commission, and septennial celebrations like the one here have grown bigger with each cycle.

If you would like to hear a short discussion of about the event, you can listen to the John Batchelor Show via WABC Radios podcast page (go here, and start listening at 10 min 30 seconds (of 39:48)).

Religious freedom is a beautiful thing.

The College Debt Story Gets Worse: Medical School Graduates

by Chris Gacek

July 24, 2012

And I thought things were bad for recent college grads with outstanding debt (average for undergrads about $25,000). Now comes a great article from the Seattle Times by Suzanne Monson about an ophthalmology resident, Dr. Sharel Ongchin. She appears to be a brilliant physician carrying $240,000 in debt with an interest rate of 4.9% — the annual interest payments alone would total $11,760. The article provides this important information:

… One recent study by the American Association of Medical Colleges shows that more than 86 percent of med-school graduates have debt; the average 2010 debt for newly graduated docs was $158,000.

In fact, the AAMC reports that the cost of private medical schools rose 165 percent while public med-school costs soared 312 percent over the past 20 years. Figures from the American Medical Association show that these costs far outpace the rate of inflation.

These are staggering facts. Specialists like Dr. Ongchin probably, as she does, have a higher level of indebtedness on average. When one considers the uncertainty that Obamacare has cast over the healthcare industry, one has to wonder who would be willing to assume this debt risk to attend med school and then work under government-mandated wage controls.

Missing Chief Justice Rehnquist

by Chris Gacek

July 3, 2012

Last weeks switch in time by Chief Justice John Roberts that saved the socialist takeover of healthcare in America made me reminisce about former Chief Justice William Rehnquist (1924-2005). The point was driven home even further by an article in The Atlantic featuring a lengthy 2007 interview with Chief Justice Roberts that should have raised a lot of red flags. (One should have been raised marking Roberts really poor historical acumen.) For example, it contains this jarring observation: Roberts suggested that the temperament of a chief justice can be as important as judicial philosophy in determining his success or failure. Seriously?

William Rehnquist was known for being a great administrator of the Court and an excellent colleague, but I dont think he would ever have misunderstood that a justices primary duty lies in being consistently faithful to the original meaning of the Constitution in some sense. Apparently, Justice Roberts believes he swore an oath to the Supreme Court not the Constitution. It is unimaginable that William Rehnquist would have behaved as Roberts did in the Obamacare case.

It seems to me that in the past fifty years only Ronald Reagan was a more significant conservative than William Rehnquist. One good thing, perhaps the only good thing, to come out of NFIB v. Sebelius (the Obamacare decision) is that conservatives will begin to better appreciate how much that great Chief Justice accomplished and how courageous he was for decades.

One Nurses Travails with Student Debt Paints a Bigger Picture

by Chris Gacek

June 26, 2012

Its not very often when I spot a great article on college debt and then see it posted by another writer who focuses on this social disaster. However, that is what happened yesterday when I read Ken Serranos article (Massive College Debt Can Burden Graduates for Decades) which appeared in USA Today and soon saw a link to it on Glenn Reynolds Instapundit cite. (Reynolds is quoted in the article.)

Most poignant is the story of Kathleen Bijas, 27, an emergency room nurse from New Jersey who makes $60,000 per year and has $160,000 in student loans. Her monthly loan payments total $1,608. Two paragraphs capture much about the financial situation in which she now finds herself:

Saddled with $160,000 in student loans, the emergency room nurse from Ocean Township uses about half of her take-home pay to whittle down her debt, she said. At 27, she lives at home with her parents while the $1,608-a-month payments take their toll despite a stable job and comfortable salary.

I wont be able to buy a home. I cant buy a car, said Bijas, who now makes about $60,000 a year. The idea of getting married and getting kids is frightening. If I can’t afford to move out of my parents house, how can I afford to raise someone? Its all going right out the window.

Ms. Bijas really hits the nail on the head. College loan indebtedness will affect the housing industry, the auto industry, and the formation of families for decades. It will slow any economic recovery.

It is time to stop increasing loan amounts and produce cost-saving alternatives to bricks-and-mortar colleges. As Professor Reynolds notes in the article, You shouldn’t have to borrow six figures to get a college education.

 

Some Interesting Info on College Debt at Michigan State

by Chris Gacek

June 5, 2012

Michigan States newspaper (The State News) has an informative article by a recent graduate, Caron Creighton, who accumulated $30,000 in debt. She writes, The American expectation that a student simply can get a summer job to pay for college and graduate with limited debt and countless job prospects is completely skewed and not at all applicable to todays society. She also points to information published by Bridge Magazine which presents a snapshot of college debt at Michigan State. It turns out that the change in the total amount of student loans at Michigan State increased 49% from 2007-2010.

Another Chinese Activists Story of Persecution

by Chris Gacek

June 1, 2012

The Friday (6/1/12) Washington Times carries an important article by Charles Hutzler (AP) giving an overview of how intensively dissidents are watched/harassed in China. (See Targeted Dissidents Closely Watched: Activist Teacher Not Allowed in Classroom; Survillance Posted Outside Home.) The story describes the intensive surveillance of a school teacher, Mr. Yao Lifa, whose misdeed is decades of campaigning for democratic elections.

State surveillance is increasing not decreasing:

While China has long been a police state, controls on these nonoffenders mark a new expansion of police resources at a time the authoritarian leadership is consumed with keeping its hold over a fast-changing society.

Co-workers, neighbors, government office workers, unemployed young toughs and gang members are being used to monitor perceived troublemakers, according to rights groups and people under surveillance.

Social activists that no one has ever heard of have 10 people watching them, said Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher with Human Rights Watch The task is to identify and nip in the bud any destabilizing factors for the regime.

According to the article on any given day from 14 to 50 people are on the local payroll for Yaos surveillance. Furthermore, in a far southern county, Yunan, more than a quarter of its 6,700 officials are on the stability payroll, the magazine Caijing reported last year.

This story helps put the oppressive security around Chen Guangcheng in perspective: it is not an accident or isolated incident.

 

The Origins of Forced Abortion in China

by Chris Gacek

May 29, 2012

Last week, the Washington Times carried a powerful op-ed by Robert Zubrin, a senior fellow the Center for Security Policy, tracing the intellectual roots of Chinas brutal one-child policy to the population-control movement including the Club of Rome. (The author has a longer article in the The New Atlantis which is an excerpt from his recently published book on this topic.) Zubrins op-ed contains this chilling description of the policy in action:

Thus began the most forceful population-control program since Nazi Germany. Qian Xinzhong, a Soviet-trained former major general in the Peoples Liberation Army, was placed in charge of the campaign. He ordered all women with one child to have a stainless steel IUD inserted and to be inspected regularly to make sure they had not tampered with it. To remove the device was deemed a criminal act. All parents with two or more children were to be sterilized. No pregnancies were legal for anyone under 23, whether married or not, and all unauthorized pregnancies were to be aborted.

Women who defied these injunctions were taken and sterilized by force. Babies would be aborted right through the ninth month of pregnancy, with many crying as they were being stabbed to death at the moment of birth. Those women who fled to try to save their children were hunted, and if they could not be caught, their houses were torn down, and their parents thrown in prison, there to linger until a ransom of 20,000 yuan - about three years income for a peasant - was paid for their release.

[The description continues….] It was this mind-boggling abuse of women that the blind human rights activist, Chen Guangcheng, documented and pursued leading to his arrest by Chinese authorities. It is hard to imagine the extent of the police state needed to enforce such a policy.

China still mandates the one-child policy this is not part of the past but the present.

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