9

2012 Election – The Senate (Part 2)

Minnesota – Republican: Kurt Bills. Democrat: Amy Klobuchar (Incumbent).

Minnesota feels like the mirror image of Arizona. It’s a state that a lot of people keep expecting to turn more purple, but it just never does. While Romney could eek out a victory here if the presidential election turns into a blowout, Klobuchar is quite safe. Prediction: Democrat hold.

Mississippi – Republican: Roger Wicker (Incumbent). Democrat: Albert N. Gore.

Yes, Gore is indeed a distant relative of the former Vice President. And he has about as much of a chance of winning here as the other Gore would. Prediction: Republican hold.

Missouri – Republican: Todd Akin. Democrat: Claire McCaskill (Incumbent).

Originally thought to be one of the Republican’s surest pickup opportunities, Akin had to go and open his mouth. Despite pleas to drop out of the race, Akin stubbornly stayed in and seemingly doomed the GOP here. Of course he had a secret weapon ready to deploy: his opponent. The fact is, McCaskill is a deeply unpopular Senator who is far too left-wing for her state. Throw in some corruption, and suddenly Mr. Legitimate Rape has a shot. With the polls narrowing, Republicans will have no choice but to throw some money Akin’s way. Looks like he’ll have the last laugh. Prediction: Republican pickup.

Montana – Republican: Danny Rehberg. Democrat: John Tester (Incumbent).

Tester defeated incumbent Conrad Burns by less than 3,000 votes in 2006, and it looks like this is turning out to be another nail-biter. With Montana and North Dakota having close Senate elections, we might be up late on election night wondering who has control of the Senate long after the presidential race has been decided.  Rehberg is the at-large Representative for Montana, so he is as familiar face with the electorate as Tester. Considering that this is a more favorable year for Republicans than 2006, I think Rehberg will win a squeaker. Prediction: Republican pickup.

Nebraska (open D) – Republican: Deb Fischer. Democrat: Bob Kerrey.

This race was decided the day Ben Nelson decided to accept the “Cornhusker Kickback” in exchange for voting for Obamacare. The Democrats had to pluck Bob Kerrey out of retirement in New York in order to even pretend that they had a chance, but this is the one GOP layup for the evening. Prediction: Republican pickup.

Nevada – Republican: Dean Heller (Incumbent). Democrat: Shelley Berkley.

The polls have been narrow throughout, but Heller has maintained a consistent edge in the range of 2-5 percent. Most worrisome for Heller is that he has only cracked 50% in one poll, which is always a danger sign for incumbents. Once again the momentum of the presidential race might determine the ultimate outcome, but it looks like Heller should be able to hang on. Prediction: Republican hold.

New Jersey – Republican: Joe Kyrillos. Democrat: Bob Menendez (Incumbent).

Every now and then New Jersey tantalizes Republicans. Once a fairly strong suburban stronghold for the GOP, it has become a solid blue state since the Clinton years. Though Republicans have done well on the gubernatorial level, and though they do actually have an even split with Democrats in the House caucus, the GOP just has never been able to breakthrough in the Senate. That will not be changing this year. Prediction: Democrat hold.

New Mexico (open D) – Republican: Heather Wilson. Democrat: Martin Heinrich.

New Mexico has been the one semi-swing state that hasn’t turned towards the Republicans this cycle. President Obama seems safe here, and Heinrich has opened up a comfortable double-digit lead. Prediction: Democrat hold.

New York – Republican: Wendy Long. Democrat: Kirsten Gillenbrand (Incumbent).

Believe it or not, but when I was a kid growing up in New York the Republican party in the state wasn’t a joke. Prediction: Democrat hold.

North Dakota (open D) – Republican: Rick Berg. Democrat: Heidi Heitkamp.

For the second cycle in a row, a Democrat retirement has opened up an opportunity for the Republicans to pickup a Senate seat in North Dakota. Unlike last time, this will not be a cakewalk for the Republican candidate. Congressman Rick Berg is running against Attorney General Heitkamp. The polling here has been sparse, so it’s difficult to know how the race stacks up. Even though Romney will win here fairly comfortably, and even though the state trends pretty heavily towards the GOP, this is far from a lock for Berg. I predict he will pull it out, but this is going to be very close. Prediction: Republican pickup.

Ohio – Republican: Josh Mandel. Democrat: Sherrod Brown (Incumbent).

Mandel had this race close, but then Brown started to pull ahead after the Democratic convention. The race has tightened up again, but Brown has a decent-sized lead. Once again, though, Brown fails to poll above 50%. Since Ohio could be viewed as the Democrats’ firewall for both the presidency and the Senate, I do not envy anyone living in the state. My advice – turn off the television. At any rate, though Brown is far to the left of the majority of the state, he is a tough guy to beat. I think Brown will hold on, but this race could easily shift towards Mandel in the closing moments. Prediction: Democrat hold.

9

2012 Election: The Senate

Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems that even the Senate races are getting less attention than usual this year. I live in proximity to one of the most hotly contested Senate races in the country, and it’s gotten relatively little attention. It’s all the more amazing considering that almost half of the races are fairly competitive, and the gap between the parties is small. Currently, Republicans hold 47 seats while Democrats have 53 (including two independents that caucus with them). If Mitt Romney is elected, Republicans will need to pickup a net of three seats in order to win effective control of the Senate. Considering recent Senatorial history, Republicans would do well to win a few extra seats.

Since Democrats have to defend two-thirds of the seats up for election this cycle, it would seem that Republicans should have a good chance of winning back control of the Senate. Unfortunately a couple of key retirements and several inopportune gaffes have made the Republican road to Senate control all the more difficult.

All that said, I will briefly analyze each of the Senate races. With 33 seats up for grabs, I will be splitting up these posts in batches of 11 each, working my way through them alphabetically. So let’s get to it. Continue Reading

8

Great Depression II

 

Hattip to Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.  Steve Rattner, Obama’s former car czar, explains in the video above how economic growth under Obama is in the toilet along with Obama’s re-election prospects.

Steve Rattner, the former “car czar” for Barack Obama, explains why voters may have narrowly given Obama the edge in the debate on Tuesday night, but give Mitt Romney a 31-point advantage on the economy.  You have to go all the way back to the 1930s, Rattner explains after Willie Geist presses the point, to find a President with a worse record on economic growth in a first term. Continue Reading

59

Barbed Laughs

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney appeared tonight at the Al Smith Dinner and gave the usual humorous speeches.  A few observations:

1.  Romney the Standup Comic-I was surprised at how well Romney did.  Comedy and Mitt Romney would seem to be mutually exclusive concepts, but he had good timing and delivered an effective series of jokes.  Funniest joke:  A reference to the Cardinal, because of Obama’s troubles with the Church, turning Obama’s wine into water.

2.  Flat Obama-Four years ago I praised Obama’s speech at the Al Smith dinner as being hilarious.  Not this year.  Most of his jokes fell flat and he seemed to be going through the motions.  Funniest joke:  He said at one point that for the third debate he was going to train as he did for the first debate.  Pause.  He then said that he was just kidding, that he only wanted to make Axelrod sweat.

3.  These Guys Really Hate Each Other-Both Romney and Obama at the end of their speeches gave unfelt praise to the other.  Their other comments dripped venom for their opponent, especially Romney’s comments.  No love lost here at all.

4.  Romney on the Attack-The usual humor at an Al Smith dinner is self-depracatory.  Romney had a bit of this but most of his humorous comments were fairly hard hitting attacks against Obama.

5.  The War on the Church-Romney was not shy in mentioning Obama’s attacks on the Church.  He joked that Obama has found a way to soften the attitude of the Church to the HHS Mandate:  the rules will be in Latin. Continue Reading

7

Did Joe Sleep Through the War With Iran?

In the above video our beloved National Clown lauded our veterans who served in Iraq and Iran.  What do you think?

1.  Bone headed Biden being bone headed Biden.

2.  Give Joe a break, they both begin with I!

3.  Joe let the cat out of bag in regard to the October Surprise!

4.  Sure there was a war with Iran.  That is where “Blood and Guts” Biden got his brain injury!

5.  Biden was unable to plagiarize in his Geography course in college. Continue Reading

4

Soon To Be Released Polls Show Religious & Midwest Voters Moving To Romney

Just a quick update to my post of some two weeks ago; I exchanged e-mails with two prominent pollsters who told me that not only are religious voters moving toward Governor Romney in a big way (we expected that) but so are voters in the Midwest. One of the pollsters read my article on The Data and Demographics That Detail Why Romney Defeats Obama in Ohio.

He told me he was “amazed” at the shifting demographics in Ohio in areas of the state that would help Governor Romney and hurt President Obama. He indicated that many pollsters hadn’t taken this into account (lots of population shifts since the Economic Upheaval of 2008.) This particular pollster, who you probably have seen on TV and or read his highly respected polls, is currently working on polls in Ohio and other Midwest states.

The other pollster told me that the religious vote which strongly went for Senator McCain in 2008 will be easily surpassed by 2012 totals. Now anything can happen from here to election day, yet as Don explained in his post on the Fat Lady Warming Up these are not bounces but surges. As I indicated in my just released book, The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn, the religious faithful are persistent and though they certainly don’t hang out with the pop culture and media movers and shakers and because of this are often overlooked, that doesn’t mean they won’t be heard at the ballot box on Election Day.

3

Language & Determinism

I have been obsessively reading articles on neuroscience, determinism and free will lately. Much of what I read is fascinating, but it is what I haven’t read that I find even more interesting. As I type these words, I am making, with each word, what I would call a choice. Some choices are easier than others, obviously, if I want my post to follow the basic rules of spelling and grammar that currently govern the English language.

I am doing something more than that, however. I am also assuming that what I write will be read by people who can also make choices. If I am merely disseminating information, there won’t be a choice I am imploring you to make. If I am attempting to convince you that one position regarding a controversial topic – free will vs. determinism, perhaps – is correct and the other is false, I am certainly acting as if you have a really-existing capacity of choosing. You will take the information I supply, sufficiently reflect on its implications for your value system, and decide it is worth acting upon or at least considering. That is the hope, at least.

It is a hope that is undeniably present in virtually every appeal for determinism I have read. Here is one of the more blatant offenders:

 We have or are capable of two sorts of attitude, and thus we may respond to determinism with dismay or intransigence. But we can also attempt to respond in another way. We can attempt to change our feelings. We can see what we must give up, and what we can keep, and the value of what we can keep. This can be called the response of affirmation.

Really? We may? We can? How? How might we do that? What faculty enables me to do these things? I call it free will. If free will is something other than this faculty, I don’t know what free will is.

Here is another example, this time of an author spelling out the implication of determinism:

What we should discard is the idea of punishment as retribution, which rests on the false notion that people can choose to do wrong.

I scratch my head in awe and wonder that someone who just insisted that free will is an illusion and choice a myth can make appeals to reason, to an imagined faculty of choosing. In many of the articles I read, the determinists are always described as “rational” or even “hyper-rational”, they’re so rational that they are bursting and oozing with rationality from every pore and orifice.

And yet there is no rational form of communication that can convey their most fundamental premises and beliefs. Advanced human communication, verbal and nonverbal alike, presupposes the capacity to choose. Articles by determinists are filled with moral exhortations for positive action, for changes of heart and attitude, for compassion towards the poor sinners who couldn’t have chosen not to sin.  These are not the grunts and groans of mindless animals, but the deliberately and freely chosen words of conscious beings who would like to see people behave and think differently than they currently do.

There is something deeply wrong with a worldview that must continually acknowledge that its premises sound absurd from the standpoint of human experience  but are justified by “the science.” Free will isn’t the false idea here. It is physicalism. Free will is how we describe what occurs millions of times in the life of millions of human beings every day. Physicalism is how presumptuous opposition to anything even resembling the supernatural or religious ought to be described. But who will have the courage to challenge physicalism instead of merely defending the constantly experienced reality of free will?

 

 

6

Review of the Lincoln Trailer

The idea of reviewing movie trailers I find somewhat humorous, but I think that Grace Randolph in the above video does a good job of attempting such a review in regard to the Lincoln movie by Spielberg being released in November.  In an earlier post last week, which may be read here, I took issue with Spielberg’s historical ignorance and/or political bias regarding how, in his view, the Democrat and Republican parties have switched positions.  This will not deter me from attending the film, as I attempt not to allow the politics of those involved with a film to influence my opinion of the film.  Having said that, like Ms. Randolph I have concerns as to whether Daniel Day-Lewis will create the suspension of disbelief to allow us to view him as Lincoln in the film. Continue Reading

18

The Fat Lady Hasn’t Sung Yet, But You Can Hear Her Warming up at the Mike

 

 

Gallup today was Romney 51-Obama 45.  Polls come and polls go, but this one is significant for several reasons:

1.  50% and up-It is the first time that Romney has gone above 50% in the Gallup tracker.

2.  Surge Not a Bounce Initially it was thought that Romney got a bounce from the first debate.  Bounces fade.  What this poll demonstrates is that Romney for the past two weeks has been enjoying a surge.

3.  Incumbent Forty Blues-It is electoral death normally for an incumbent to be under 50% in a Presidential race this late in the election season, due to the fact that most undecided voters break for the challenger.  Obama in the mid-forties is looking at a ceiling for his support well under 50%.

4.   October Winner-The candidate ahead in mid-October has almost always gone on to win.  The only exception I can think of is Reagan in 1980, and Democrat blather to the contrary Obama isn’t Reagan.

5.  One More Debate-The events that can have a major impact on the election are running out.  Just one more debate and that is on foreign policy, probably not the President’s favorite subject in these Benghazi haunted days. Continue Reading

2

New Catholic Convert

From over at John Wright’s place, I heard mention of a guy who went from being the head of the Secular Free Thought Society (no jokes, please, they write themselvers) to converting to Catholicism, as told in State Press Magazine:

Imagine society’s collective shock if Hillary Clinton were to join the National Rifle Association…

Josh Horn’s friends were hit with a shock wave of that magnitude when Horn, then an ardent atheist, announced his resignation as president of the Secular Free Thought Society, an ASU club known for its skepticism of religion. Horn had committed the ultimate taboo and sealed his self-imposed excommunication with one act: he decided to become a Catholic.

Welcome home!

11

Some Quick Post Debate Thoughts

President Obama’s performance in the first debate was, unarguably, pretty lethargic, and he took a big hit in the polls shortly afterward. The general wisdom drawn from this, especially on the democratic side of the aisle, seemed to be that what was really needed in the debates was, thus, more aggression. Biden delivered this in his own unique way in the Veep debate, to such an extent that one wondered at times whether he would have to be removed from the stage in a straight jacket, still alternating between wild cackling and angry shouting, but at last he ran out of gas and calmed down in the last 20 minutes. Obama has a sense of personal dignity that Biden lacks, and so although he certainly came to the debate in a pugilistic frame of mind, he didn’t make himself silly in the way that Biden did. Nonetheless, despite the fact that the debate was supposed to feature the candidates answering questions directly from voters, it instead was most notable for intense bouts of the candidates rhetorically hammering each other.

The common wisdom is that this kind of thing turns undecided voters off. I saw some anecdotal evidence of this in the reactions of my less partisan friends on Facebook, one of whom posted in indignation:

Dear Gov Romney and Pres Obama,
Every time you keep talking when you are reminded that a normal citizen has a question for you, you reinforce that you think what you have to say is more important than the concerns of the people of your country. You both lost my vote tonight.

This aside, though, I think the focus on rhetorical dominance and aggression has probably been misplaced. Was it really that Obama’s performance in the first debate was so sluggish that cost him so much in the polls? I don’t think most Americans care whether the president is a skilled debater or not. Continue Reading

11

Candy Crowley Grudgingly Admits That Romney Was Right

Last night I lambasted Candy Crowley for this:

“3.  Crowley Hearts Obama-Candy Crowley attempted to come to the rescue of the President in misstating that Obama blamed the Benghazi attack on terrorism in his rose garden statement.  That is incorrect.  The operative phrase in Obama’s statement:   Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.  We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.  None.  The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.  Crowley’s intervention indicated that she was not a moderator but rather an Obama partisan.” Continue Reading

17

Scoring the Debate

I was a little disappointed to see some mainstream conservative pundits declare Obama the victory of the debate “on points.”

Obama, to his credit, performed much better this time around. He kept pace with Romney and landed a number of critical blows. He came out ahead on the Benghazi exchange, though as other pundits noted, the story tomorrow may not look so good for him. But I don’t think Obama can be declared the winner of the debate.

Each issue ranks differently on the list of importance for voters. I think many of us would agree that the economy is by far the most important issue for most voters, including the undecided voters who were present at the debate and in the post-debate focus groups. Given this, it follows that winning an exchange during the debate on the economy ought to be weighted more heavily than winning an exchange over other issues. Of course almost all issues can be related back to the economy, but some are more “purely” economic than others.

On those issues, I thought Romney emerged the clear victor. I think he presented himself as someone with a superior working knowledge of business and economics, and probably inspired more confidence in his ability to handle the nation’s economic problems than the President.  Double Romney’s points for every answer that created the impression that he knows more about economics than Obama, and he becomes the clear winner of the debate.

I may just sleep through the foreign policy debate, though. My regular readers know why. I’m a Paulbot anti-American isolationist! No one represents my views. Oh well.

12

I Was Watching a Townhall and a Fight Broke Out

 

 

 

Predictably Obama was very aggressive tonight.  Less predictably perhaps, Romney was just as aggressive.  Here are some thoughts:

1.  Wired Obama-Obama came loaded with talking points and spoke rapidly throughout the debate to get them all out.

2.  Face Time-Classic political theater with Obama and Romney having a few face to face clashes during the debate.

3.  Crowley Hearts Obama-Candy Crowley attempted to come to the rescue of the President in misstating that Obama blamed the Benghazi attack on terrorism in his rose garden statement.  That is incorrect.  The operative phrase in Obama’s statement:   Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths.  We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.  But there is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence.  None.  The world must stand together to unequivocally reject these brutal acts.  Crowley’s intervention indicated that she was not a moderator but rather an Obama partisan.

4.  Romney the Good-Romney gave another good debate performance and I expect he will do just as well in the third debate.  If Obama is hoping for Romney to stumble or commit a gaffe, I think he will wait in vain.

5.  Boxing match-Although the back and forth got a bit tiresome to me after a while, I did like the way in which both candidates talked directly at each other.  Romney did make the mistake of asking too many questions of Obama, as if he were going to get any forthright answers. Continue Reading

8

Sexennials at St. Louis University…

 

Formerly when a professor was granted tenure, it meant that this individual enjoyed “a lifetime, permanent appointment to conduct research, teach, and provide service.”  Tenure was intended to protect academic freedom, so that faculty could pursue the truth with impunity, wherever the facts led.  Tenure did so by making it extremely difficult for administrators to remove a professor, short of personal and/or professional misconduct.

 

However, if the Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) at St. Louis University (SLU), Manoj Patankar, has his way, every tenured professor will undergo a sexennial review.  In essence, this will require SLU’s tenured professors to demonstrate anew what they had demonstrated prior to being granted tenure.

When Patankar floated the policy proposal this past summer, the critics responded immediately.  According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the critics maintained  the policy “would harm the university’s ability to hire and retain quality faculty.”

The critics’ response was to be expected and there’s some merit to it.

Why would a professor ever come to SLU to earn tenure and then have to undergo post-tenure reviews—and the potential for non-renewal—if her work doesn’t “measure up” to some future standard of judgment?  That professor could select another university, earn tenure, and once it’s earned, that’s it.  Finito.  No more reviews.

Based on this criterion alone, the “best and brightest” likely wouldn’t choose SLU.

The critics eventually prevailed.  VPAA Patankar withdrew his proposal in September.

That wasn’t enough for the critics, however.

The Faculty Council of the College of Arts and Sciences and SLU’s Faculty Senate proceeded to pass  two overwhelming no confidence votes, in effect demanding that SLU’s President, the Reverend Lawrence Biondi, SJ, fire Patankar.

Yet, despite those votes, Biondi backed his VPAA.

That was also completely unacceptable to members of SLU’s Faculty Council of the College of Arts and Sciences.  Last Thursday they cast a 35-2 vote of no confidence against President Biondi.  This was the first no confidence vote ever passed against SLU’s President.
A  faculty leader of this no-confidence effort, professor of political science, Timothy Lomperis, said:
[SLU] has now become a place of tyranny.  If we don’t take a vote today, this will be interpreted by the administration as a defeat and the momentum will be lost.

 

That sentiment smacks of radicalism, pitting the faculty against the administration rather than engaging  in authentic dialogue that’s aimed at resolving differences.

There’s a more sober assessment of Patankar’s policy proposal.

Without doubt, tenure can lull a professor into lethargy.  Once granted, the motive to perform at a high level would have to be intrinsic not extrinsic and, it may very well be that the overall quality of work declines after tenure.  Perhaps not immediately, but over the years and decades, and inevitably for many professors.

The downside of tenure, then, is that some (and perhaps many) tenured professors will sit back, relax, enjoy life, and collect a good salary and benefits as well.  Where that’s the case, students don’t receive the education they deserve and the overall quality of the faculty declines.

It could be argued that Patankar was seeking to hold tenured professors more accountable.  His policy would provide a bit of extrinsic motivation for tenured faculty who aren’t intrinsically motivated to demonstrate ongoing achievement every six years.

Patankar’s proposal raised a legitimate policy point that SLU administrators and faculty should debate and resolve.  However, the rhetoric of professors like Timothy Lomperis indicates that what they really desire is confrontation.  They want  to force administrators to knuckle under to their demands, not to engage in a robust and public debate where the merits of counter arguments are carefully weighed, assessed, and a decision is made.

If it ends up that SLU administrators backtrack and don’t engage faculty leaders in debating the issue, it is likely that the number of battles over tenure at the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges—pitting faculty against administration—will increase in a short time.

But not about the issue Patankar is attempting to resolve.

No, these battles won’t be over sexennial post-tenure evaluations to rid the faculty of non-performers.  That will be the  “presenting issue.”  Belying the rhetoric are professors who desperately want tenure to continue insulating them from any possible intrusions on their freedom to express political, social, and moral views without rebuttal and, in particular, views at variance with Catholic teaching.

It may well be the case that these “tenured radicals” don’t want administrators implementing any policy that might silence their voices inside U.S. Catholic higher education.

 

 

To read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, click on the following link…
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/no-confidence-voted-by-slu-faculty-unit-on-biondi/article_f0d6d525-b995-525c-968f-6e38897d5da1.html

6

Debate Advice-Round Two

 

 

 

I posted debate advice for Mitt Romney prior to the first debate which may be read here.  My advice for round two is as follows:

1.  Don’t Get Cocky-You had an exceptionally good first debate.  Enjoy it and forget it.  That was round one of a three round fight, and who is left standing at the end of the third round is how you determine the victor.

2.  Don’t Sit on a Lead-  That is what Obama tried to do in round one and it was a disaster.  Don’t make that elementary mistake.

3.  This is a Townhall Meeting-We have Joe and Jane Citizens asking the questions and that is a challenge.  The media is predictable, ordinary citizens are not.  Listen closely to the questions and answer them. Ignoring questions at a townhall can be ruinous, especially if they are inane.

4.  Aggressive Obama-After his fairly passive performance at the last debate, Obama will probably come out full of fight.  That can work to your advantage at a townhall if Obama comes across as over the top before a live audience.  After the Biden debacle I think he will probably avoid this, but don’t be surprised if he has flashes of temper and be ready to capitalize on them.

5.  Jobs, Jobs, Jobs-You can bet that almost every person in that townhall will have a friend or relative who is either unemployed or underemployed.  Pledge to turn the economy around and put America be back to work.  Be detailed as much as time allows.  People were impressed the first go round at your breadth of knowledge and your ideas.  Play off of those strengths. Continue Reading

2

Dyspeptic Mutterings

 

I am happy to see that Dale Price has resumed blogging regularly at his Dyspeptic Mutterings.  I stop by every day to read some of the wittiest blog writing on the internet.  Here is a recent sample:

I am building a giant cybernetic war badger in my basement.
I love the music of Marty Haugen.
I am receiving locutions from Krishna.
I think Obama is the only permissible electoral choice for Catholics in 2012.
I don’t think women should ever wear pants or breastfeed in public.
OK–they can do the latter if they’re wearing only pants.
Janeway is way better than Kirk and Picard combined.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to win the next three Super Bowls.
Or the Washington Redskins–whichever you hate more.
Yes, that outfit makes your ass look fat.
The best Stooge was Shemp.
Only Anglican orders are valid.
–I mean, seriously–is this thing on? Traffic is allegedly going up, but I’m feeling like a performance artist here. Continue Reading

2

2012 Election: The House

With it being a presidential election year, it is easy to lose track of the fact that there is an institution called Congress. You may not have heard, but as is the case every two years, approximately one-third of the Senate and all 435 House seats are up for election. I hope to look at the Senate races in the coming week, but this post is for the House of Representatives.

The least suspenseful aspect of the 2012 election are the House races. Certainly there is some drama within individual races, but in the aggregate, the Democratic chances of recapturing the House are somewhere between slim and are you kidding me. Real Clear Politics already has the GOP at 226 seats with lean-R and likely-R districts, with an additional 26 races listed as toss-ups. No matter what happens with the presidential election, Republican control of the House is a near certainty. The main question with regard to the House is how big will the Republican majority be? Even though the Republicans had an historic mid-term pickup, there were a number of close elections that Republicans lost in 2010, many of them in districts favorable to Republicans. Throw in post-census re-districting, and the GOP should retain a fairly strong majority.

I’m not going to go into detail into every tossup race. Consider this an open invitation for those of you either in swing districts or neighboring swing districts to inform us how things are shaping up in your neck of the woods.

I’ll kick things off by taking a look at the People’s Republic of Maryland. Currently two of Maryland’s eight House districts are held by Republicans, which is just too many for the overwhelming Democratic majority in the state. In attempt to knock off the longest-serving Republican – Roscoe Bartlett in the sixth district – the Democrats drew up a laughably gerrymandered map. This is actually a map of Maryland’s 8th district, currently served by Democrat and Nancy Pelosi lackey Chris Van Hollen (click on 2012 map). What they’ve done is place a part of heavily Reublican Frederick County in the northern part of the state and magically patched it with Maoist Montgomery County to the south. At one point the district basically just runs up I-270. The area to the west is the sixth district, which now combines portions of Montgomery County with the more conservative northwest section of the state. In other words, they’ve taken one heavily Democratic district and one Republican district and converted them into two Democratic-leaning districts. The gerrymander is so ridiculous that it is one of the five major state-wide ballot initiatives in Maryland. (Even if the voters decide to reject the altered districts, those elected will serve the districts as currently designed for the next term, and the Democrats just get to re-draw the lines).

Bartlett is facing challenger Joe Delaney, and things do not look good for Bartlett. It would be the ultimate justice if instead of ousting Bartlett, the re-drawn eight district winds up in the Republican column. Ken Timmerman is challenging Van Hollen, and has drawn the support of luminaries such as John Bolton. The district is now “only” 50% Democrat, which means that instead of this being a lock-solid Democrat district, it’s just a very strong Democrat district. Timmerman is going to have to pull a lot of independents to have any chance, but stranger things have happened. In the end, it looks like the state of Maryland will be a net pickup of one for the Democrats.

58

Why are Catholics Praising the Nobel Prize Stem Cell Technology?

Source: “Shinya Yamanaka – Biographical”. Nobelprize.org. Creative Commons Attr. 2.0 Generic license

It’s been all over the news lately, particularly in the Catholic and conservative spheres, how Dr. Shinya Yamanaka won the Nobel Prize in medicine for reprogramming adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). People praised this research for creating new pluripotent stem cell lines to study without creating or destroying embryos. They claimed that the process doesn’t require any morally tainted source cells. They announced the feat as an achievement of great ethical significance, a beautiful and ethical science. They pointed out that the process does not pose ethical issues because embryos are not manipulated, and that embryonic stem cell research will soon be largely put out of business. What a moral victory!

However, digging into and decoding the scientific methodological explanations reveals that what is being praised is definitely not so praiseworthy. It reveals something quite significant, and it mostly hinges on one word — reprogramming. Did anyone notice that in all the cheering, little was explained about the method itself?

How is this reprogramming done? How did they “turn back the clock” on adult stem cells? How does a mature cell become immature again? Well, it’s not magic. The adult stem cell gets introduced to genetic material from other young cells — very young cells. Specifically, Dr. Yamanaka’s group used cells grown from the kidney of an electively aborted healthy child in the Netherlands.

The cells used are named HEK-293 (human embryo kidney), and often referred to without the HEK part as PLAT-A, PLAT-E, and 293FT cells. This Yamanaka paper in Cell journal explains how these cells were used in the methods section, Lentivirus Production and Infection, and elsewhere.

293FT cells (Invitrogen) were plated at 6 × 106 cells per 100 mm dish and incubated overnight…

They are purchased from Invitrogen.

The 293FT Cell Line is a fast-growing, highly transfectable clonal isolate derived from human embryonal kidney cells…

So, where did these 293FT cells come from again? It is instructive to read the troubling words of the doctor who collected them. In this transcript from 2001, the doctor explained their origin to the FDA because the use of aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines has long been controversial for moral and safety reasons. See page 81 of the FDA document, beginning on line 14:

“The kidney of the fetus was, with an unknown family history, was obtained in 1972 probably. The precise date is not known anymore. The fetus, as far as I can remember was completely normal. Nothing was wrong. The reasons for the abortion were unknown to me. I probably knew it at that time, but it got lost, all this information. The kidneys of the fetus were then isolated and the kidney cells were isolated in the so-called still air cabinet. There were no laminar flow hoods at that time, and this, is simply a still air cabinet that was also used all over for tissue culture and worked quite well. There was UV lights in it just to sterilize it, and that was all.

 

“So as we did also for the rat kidney cells, the surrounding membranes were removed as completely as possible, and the kidneys were then minced with scissors, trypsinized, and the cells that were recovered after removing the trypsin were cultured in medium containing bovine serum, calf serum. That is what we know.” (Report to FDA, 2001, p. 81, line 14)

How’s that for moral sources? Read on, there were all kinds of questions about contamination from DNA, viruses, and mutant material, a problem that still plaques the use of aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines because it is unknown how the contaminants affect small infants. You may also remember these fetal cell lines from the PepsiCo boycott when it was discovered they were used to develop flavor-enhancers. Same cells.

Still find this Nobel Prize winning technique praiseworthy? Yes, some still shrug at even this. They say that the use of the morally illicit materials doesn’t matter because the cures could improve so many lives. In other words, they say the ends justify the means.

What about parents who use vaccines grown in aborted fetal cell lines? Some are of the opinion that since the aborted child was killed so long ago and the researcher did not cooperate in the abortion directly, that he is justified in using these cells to try to find life-saving cures for people today. Continue Reading

4

When Fake Messiahs Bleed

 

There is a great scene in Kipling’s story The Man Who Would Be King.  Two British adventurers take over  a fictional kingdom, with one of them pretending to be a god.  The whole exploit goes pear-shaped when the “god” attempts to marry a local girl.  She belts him and he begins to bleed.  The local pagan priests seeing this yell out, “Neither God nor Devil but a man!” and things head badly south for the two  conmen.

 

Something similar has happend to the erstwhile South side Messiah since his first debate with Romney.  Byron York interviewed a young woman who, I think, speaks now for many in her generation:

 

Danielle Low, a 22 year-old preschool teacher in Lebanon, is the quintessential Romney target voter.  In 2008, she was newly eligible to vote, and she chose Barack Obama. “But then I gave birth to my first son, and I knew we needed a change,” Low said. “We bought a house in ’09 and we’re struggling every day, my husband and I are.  I just want to see things turn around.  I want to be able to afford to have another child.  I want to be able to afford to buy a house where we want to live, and right now, with the economy the way it is, we can’t do that.”

“I think President Obama tricked me into voting for him,” Low continued in an impromptu discussion that could have doubled as a Romney ad.  “I feel like he lied to me.  He made promises he couldn’t keep.  He played on my young emotions.  He played on me because I was young and naïve.  I didn’t know anything about the world.  I believed that he was going to give us a change.  I just feel like he made a lot of promises — there’s no way he followed through with them.  I haven’t seen any change.  I’ve seen change for the worse, not change for the better.  So I hope Mitt Romney can carry us through the next four years.” Continue Reading

3

We Didn’t Mean Intellectual Diversity!

 

Don’t you see the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the language of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it.

George Orwell, 1984

You know that you are living in topsy-turvy times when the most close-minded institutions are colleges and universities which are purportedly dedicated to free inquiry.  A hilarious example of the type of brain-dead ideological conformity enforced at most laughably described “institutions of higher learning occurred last week:

 

Angela McCaskill was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., a school for the deaf and hard of hearing. She has now worked at Gallaudet for over 20 years, and in January 2011 she was named its chief diversity officer. Last year, she helped open a resource center for sexual minorities on campus. But she has now been placed on leave because of pressure from some students and faculty. Her job is on the line.

McCaskill’s sin? She was one of 200,000 people to sign a petition demanding a referendum on a law recognizing gay marriage, which was signed by Maryland’s Democratic governor, Martin O’Malley, in March. The referendum will be on the ballot next month, and the vote is expected to be close.

 

McCaskill’s signature became public when the Washington Blade posted a database online “outing” all those who had signed the petition. Even though her signature indicated only that she wanted the decision on gay marriage to be made by the people and not by the legislature and the governor, her critics declared that it demonstrated “bias.”

 

Gallaudet University’s president, T. Alan Hurwitz, announced that he was putting McCaskill on paid leave because “some feel it is inappropriate for an individual serving as chief diversity officer” to have signed such a petition. “I will use the extended time while she is on administrative leave to determine the appropriate next steps,” said Hurwitz, “taking into consideration the duties of this position at the university.” Just last year, Hurwitz had praised McCaskill as “a longtime devoted advocate of social justice and equity causes.” But she is apparently not allowed to have private political views. Continue Reading

4

October 14, 1912: Theodore Roosevelt Shot!

(I couldn’t resist reposting this on the hundredth anniversary.  If Theodore Roosevelt were a fictional character, this passage would be rejected by an editor as being impossible!)

A recording of a speech by that force of nature otherwise known as Theodore, he hated being called Teddy, Roosevelt during his “Bull Moose” campaign for president in 1912.  Note the clear delivery and diction.  Note also his references to French history:   politicians did not assume that they had to talk down to the average voter in those days.  By splitting the Republican vote, Roosevelt getting the larger share, Roosevelt’s third party campaign ensured the election of Woodrow Wilson.  Although he failed to win, during the campaign Roosevelt established beyond doubt that he was one of the toughest men ever to be president.

On October 14, 1912, Roosevelt was giving a speech in Milwaukee.  A deranged saloonkeeper, John Schrank, shot him in the chest.  Roosevelt refused to cancel a scheduled speech.  His opening is perhaps one of the most memorable for any speech:

Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.

Only after he completed his speech, he spoke for 90 minutes with blood running down his shirt, did he consent to go to a hospital.  The bullet could not be removed from his chest and he carried it in him for the rest of his life.  He was off the campaign trail for a scant one week, a week in which his opponents, sportsmanlike, also left the campaign trail out of respect for him.  What a man!  No matter one’s political views, and Roosevelt held a diverse group of views certain to both offend and inspire virtually all portions of the American political spectrum today, it is hard not to admire him.  As one of his enemies once said about him, “A man would have to hate him a lot, not to like him a little!”

Of course, after his heroics in the Spanish-American War, such behavior was only to be expected.  In 2001 Roosevelt was finally awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the battle of San Juan Hill.  Here is the citation: Continue Reading

14

The Unconscionable Conscience of Joe Biden

 

There is probably no clause more misinterpreted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church than the conscience clause.  CCC #1790 states:

A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed.

“There,” some will say, “The Catechism says I am always to obey my conscience, and my conscience tells me that [insert heresy here] is okay.”  Of course, there is significant danger in tearing #1790 out of context from the other 19 paragraphs that surround it.  These are pretty important paragraphs, as it turns out.  They say things like:

Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths (#1776).

and

Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings (#1783).

and then the is this:

This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin. In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits (#1791).

and finally

A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity proceeds at the same time from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith (#1794).

So here’s the deal in short.  We are in fact called to obey our conscience, but we are also called to make sure that our conscience is formed according to the mind of the Church.  There is a spectrum between the formation of conscience and an act itself on which one can fall.  The best place to be, of course is to form one’s conscience properly and then act in accordance with that conscience.  One could also fail to form the conscience, and then act in accordance with the malformation.  This is tragic, and certainly sinful if the choice to not inform the conscience was deliberate, but it is not the worst place in which one can be.  The worst scenario is one who forms their conscience according to the mind of the Church and then deliberately acts against it.  This is a grave sin indeed, and its perpetrator puts his soul in serious danger.

This is where Vice President Joe Biden falls on the conscience spectrum, at least according to his response in the recent debate as to how his Catholic faith informs his politics.  Here are the Vice President’s words:

My religion defines who I am, and I’ve been a practicing Catholic my whole life.  And has particularly informed my social doctrine. The Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who – who can’t take care of themselves, people who need help. With regard to – with regard to abortion, I accept my church’s position on abortion as a – what we call a de fide doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church’s judgment. I accept it in my personal life.

But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the – the congressman. I – I do not believe that we have a right to tell other people that – women they can’t control their body. It’s a decision between them and their doctor. In my view and the Supreme Court, I’m not going to interfere with that.

Of course, we don’t know exactly what is in Joe Biden’s head – that is between him and God – but we do have his words in front of us, and we give the Vice President the benefit of the doubt that he expected this question, so he was not caught off guard.  His response, therefore, is both premeditated and an accurate representation of his position.

If we can cut through the prose, the key points are two: (1) Mr. Biden accepts the teaching of the Church that life begins at conception, and (2) he refuses to implement this in his public policy.  In other words, the Vice President has formed his conscience according to the Church and is actively going against it.  We return at this point to CCC #1790:  “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself.”

The response will undoubtedly be that there is a difference between the principle and the forcing of the principle on others.  For instance, while I believe that it is a mortal sin for a Catholic to miss Mass on Sunday, I would not support a law in which Catholics are yanked out of their beds on Sunday morning by the local police in order to force them to attend their local parish, (as entertaining as that may be).  The implementation of the principle is something distinct from the principle itself.

The problem is that this does work on issues of life.  For these issues there the implementation is the same as the principle itself.  In order to see this, imagine if Joe Biden had continued to use the phrase “murder” in his response.  After all, he has admitted his acceptance of the de fide teaching of the Church on when life begins.  His response would look something like this:

I accept my Church’s teaching that life begins at conception, and therefore that abortion is the murder of an innocent human life.  However, I refuse to impose that view on others.  The decision to murder an innocent human life is a decision between a woman and her doctor.

It simply doesn’t work.  In fact note that the above argument could easily replace the word “abortion” with infanticide and remain relatively unaffected.  In other words, if Joe’s argument is valid for life in the womb, then why can’t it be applied in the proverbial fourth trimester:

I accept my Church’s teaching that life begins at conception, and therefore that taking a three-month-old’s life is the murder of an innocent human life.  However, I refuse to impose that view on others.  The decision to murder an innocent human life is a decision between a family and their doctor.

Joe is trying to play the old, “You can’t legislate morality” card.  The problem is, we always legislate morality.  This is why theft, murder, and fraud are illegal.  Where Joe runs into real trouble, though, is when he leads off with his acceptance of the Catholic position.  At least the politician who claims that life’s beginning is an unsettled question is only guilty of bad science.  Mr. Biden is guilty of far more than that.

The Vice President’s final problem is that he does not actually present the Church’s teaching accurately.  He states only that the Church believes life begins at conception.  He misses the other important parts.

1.  Life begins at conception.

2.  Therefore, abortion is a grave moral evil.

3.  Laws must protect life at all stages.

4.  Laws that conflict with the divine law must be opposed.

That is the Catholic position, and the Vice President, in his comments at the debate, is guilty no only of the sin of violating his own conscience, but also of the grave sin of scandal by misrepresenting the Catholic position.
Finally, I can’t resist pointing out the irony of Biden: while he is so adamant about not forcing his abortion stance on the public, he seems to have no problem taking his position on free contraceptives and forcing on Catholic employers.  Odd, right?
19

Oh Deer!

The Blaze gives us the background to the call featured in the above video:

Calling into the Y94 Morning Playhouse radio show, Fargo-area resident “Donna” aired her frustrations about a number of deer-related car accidents she has been involved in recently – three to be exact.

Donna believes the North Dakota and Minnesota Departments of Transportation are responsible for the problem, however, she told the radio hosts that she has written local news outlets about her grievance and they refuse to take her seriously. It’s extremely frustrating to Donna as she believes she has crafted a very simple and effective solution to her problem.

Well, let’s allow her to explain in her own words:

“My frustration is that, Minnesota and North Dakota Departments of Transportation would allow these deer crossing in such high traffic areas. I mean, I’ve even seen them on the interstate,” Donna began. Continue Reading

5

The American Revolution at Sea

I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.

Captain John Paul Jones, November 16, 1778

Yesterday was the 237th birthday of the United States Navy.  On October 13, 1775 the Continental Congress passed the following resolutions:

Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruize eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.

That a Committee of three be appointed to prepare an estimate of the expence, and lay the same before the Congress, and to contract with proper persons to fit out the vessel.

Resolved, that another vessel be fitted out for the same purposes, and that the said committee report their opinion of a proper vessel, and also an estimate of the expence.”

Congress thus threw down the gauntlet against the mightiest sea power in the world.  Vastly outnumbered by the Royal Navy, the United States Navy gave a good account of itself, raiding British commerce, bringing desperately needed supplies to Washington’s Continental Army, shipping diplomats like Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to Europe to enlist the aid of France and other sympathetic countries, and demonstrating to an astonished world, again and again, that it was possible to beat a British warship in battle, as John Paul Jones did commanding the USS Bonhomme Richard against HMS Serapis on September 23, 1779:

Continue Reading

10

Socialism: The Poor Get Poorer

 

Thomas Peterffy came to this country as a penniless refugee from Communist Hungary.  He could not speak English when he got here.  Currently he is worth five billion dollars.  It is obvious that almost all of the immigrants to this country have not succeeded materially in the outstanding fashion that  Peterffy has, but it is also safe to say that almost all have greatly bettered themselves materially, while enjoying freedom, the birthright of all Americans.  He is not the first refugee from Communism I have read about who has pointed to unsettling parallels between what he experienced in the nation that he fled from and what has been going on in this nation for the past few years.

8

Bishop Jenky: Obama’s Threat to Religious Liberty

My Bishop, Daniel Jenky of the Peoria Diocese, is a big, jovial bear-like guy.  It is hard not to like him, but I have never been prouder of him than I have been this year.  He has been one of the bishops standing up and constantly sounding the alarm posed to our religious liberty by the Obama administration.  Go here to read a speech he gave on the subject earlier this year. Continue Reading

Conquest of Paradise

Something for the weekend.  The song Conquest of Paradise from the movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise (1992), which retold the story of Christopher Columbus and his discovery of a New World:

At two o’clock in the morning the land was discovered, at two leagues’ distance; they took in sail and remained under the square-sail lying to till day, which was Friday, when they found themselves near a small island, one of the Lucayos, called in the Indian language Guanahani. Presently they descried people, naked, and the Admiral landed in the boat, which was armed, along with Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and Vincent Yanez his brother, captain of the Nina. The Admiral bore the royal standard, and the two captains each a banner of the Green Cross, which all the ships had carried; this contained the initials of the names of the King and Queen each side of the cross, and a crown over each letter Arrived on shore, they saw trees very green many streams of water, and diverse sorts of fruits. Continue Reading

4

With Apologies to Mr. Lincoln

Smitty at The Other McCain has a brilliant riff on The Gettysburg Address in regard to the debate last night:

Four score and five interruptions ago our zany uncle brought forth on this continent a new indignation, conceived in contempt for liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created to serve the state.

Now we are engaged in a soft civil war, testing whether that indignation, or any indignation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great debate-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a blog post for he who here gave 90 minutes of his life that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should blog this. Continue Reading

10

Sister Blandina and the Original Billy the Kid

Rose Marie Segale was born on January 23, 1850 in the small village of Cicagna in Italy.  When she was four she and her family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, part of the initial wave of immigration from Italy to America.  From her earliest childhood she was determined to be a sister and frequently told her father that she wanted to join the  Sisters of Charity as soon as she was old enough.  She began her novitiate at the age of 16.  When she professed her vows she took the name of Blandina Segale.  She taught at Steubenville and Dayton, and in 1872 she was ordered to Trinidad for missionary work.  Initially she thought that she was being sent to the island and was thrilled.  Instead, she was sent to Trinidad, Colorado in the western part of that state.

What she found when she got there, was a town that was frequently visited by outlaws and where lynchings were common.  A fairly rugged environment for a 22-year-old sister!

Nothing daunted, she began to teach.  Soon after she got there she stopped a lynching by convincing a dying man to forgive his assailant, the father of one of her pupils.  Sister Blandina and the sheriff brought the accused killer from the jail where he was being held to the bed of the dying man, through the midst of an angry lynch mob.  The dying man, very generously I think, forgave the man, the lynch mob dispersed, and the man’s fate was determined by the court and not the mob.

One of the many outlaws who terrorized the area was Arthur Pond aka William LeRoy, sometimes known as Billy the Kid, and who was celebrated as the King of American Highwaymen by the “penny dreadful” novelist  Richard K. Fox who released a heavily fictionalized biography of him immediately after his death, conflating his exploits with those of the more famous Billy the Kid.  (Sister Blandina in later life confused LeRoy with William H. Bonney, the more famous Billy the Kid, who operated in New Mexico a few years later.  Sister Blandina had known the outlaw only by his nickname and didn’t realize that there were two Billy the Kids, who died within months of each other in 1881.)  A member of his gang had been accidentally  shot by another member of his gang and left to die in an adobe hut in Trinidad.  Learning this from one of her students, Sister Blandina went to the outlaw and nursed him back to health, answering his questions about God and religion.   When Billy the Kid showed up in Trinidad one day, intent on scalping the four doctors who refused to treat the man Sister Blandina had been caring for, he thanked Sister Blandina and at her request reluctantly spared the physicians. Continue Reading

55

VP Debate: Not What I Expected

I’m sure many of you will disagree with me, seeing as how this is a mostly conservative blog, but I do not think Paul Ryan won tonight’s debate. In fact, I was disappointed in his overall performance, particularly his weak answers on abortion.

Yes I’m glad he raised the religious liberty issue, but he should have taken a moment to insist that opposition to abortion is rooted in the belief that all innocent human beings, born and unborn, deserve protection under the law. We all know that “life begins at conception.” The question is not when life begins, but when the right to life begins. Ryan’s hands may be tied to a certain extent by Romney’s position, which admits for various exceptions – conditions under which it is ok to butcher an innocent unborn child. Even so, he could have answered much better than he did.

That aside, I believe Biden dominated the debate. I know I am not the only one making this comparison, but it looked like a Thanksgiving dinner. To some it looked like mean old uncle Joe trying to beat up on nephew Paul, who held his own. To others, including myself, it looked like mean but knowledgeable Uncle Joe schooling a somewhat intimidated whippersnapper.

What I think, fortunately, doesn’t matter. Some post-debate polls, such as CNN’s, said Ryan won the debate, while others, such as CBS’s, had Biden winning. It appears that the debate was a tie game, with Biden having met his primary objective and Ryan having (mostly) stood his ground. Perhaps I am more disappointed than most because I expected much more from Ryan. I didn’t expect him to be a foreign policy whiz, but I expected more fight out of him on economic issues and certainly a whole lot more on social issues, particularly abortion.

Maybe he could take lessons from Ron Paul on how to respond next time (if there is a next time, in 2016 perhaps).

 

8

Veep Reax

Alright, I’m in full political crack monkey mode from here on till the election, so I’ll be the one to throw up the instant reactions thread.

My take: This was not the total blowout that the first presidential debate was. Ryan was calm and professional the entire time. Biden brought his Cerberus-style split personality, one head Cheshire Cat, the other head rabid attack dog. He called Ryan a liar in the very first exchange and kept it up all night, at one point even accusing the moderator of lying. Then, during the last fifteen minutes Biden meds ran out and he fell back on the gravely “I’m so concerned” voice for the rest of the debate.

Overall, I’d rate it a draw. I think partisan Democrats are mostly elated, since all they’ve wanted for the last week is to see someone interrupt a Republican and call him a liar, and Biden did indeed do that constantly. Republicans had nothing to cringe about in Ryan’s performance. Ryan remained cool and collected throughout and scored the one audience reaction line of the night in defusing Biden’s attempt to demagogue the 47% quote.

What Independents will have thought I honestly can’t say, though I see a CNN poll of undecided voters called it for Ryan by a 48 to 44 margin. My guess is, this does nothing to help Obama claw back from his collapse with the ordinary voting public, but it does help the Dem campaign by soothing the utter panic which has gripped much of the left over the last week. I’d guess we’ll see basically consistent poll numbers (between a tie and Romney up one) for the next week until the next Presidential debate. Then we’ll see. The big problem for Obama is that the next debate is strictly foreign policy and the one after that is a town hall meeting, so he never gets to imitate Biden’s mad dog routine on domestic policy.

2

Laughing Hyena v. Gentleman Ryan

 

 

If, as I expect, the Obama-Biden ticket goes down in flames on election day, Biden in his debate performance has ended his political career with a bizarre coda.  How bizarre?  Let us go point by point, along with my other thoughts on the debate.

1.  Hyena Joe- Throughout the debate when Ryan was talking Biden was laughing and smirking.  I assume Biden forgot about the split screen coverage on television.  Judging from the talking heads post-debate, it made a very bad impression.

2.  Manic-Depressive-Joe began the debate very manic as if he had swallowed a crate of jolt cola.  By the end he was completely wound down, like a wind up toy at the end of its cycle, or someone had shot him with an animal tranquilizer.  Very odd.

3.  Canned Responses-Biden obviously had a checklist of points he had to mention:  47%, check, etc.  The problem with having a checklist is that it takes fairly quick wits to put the list seamlessly into a debate performance, and I thought Biden’s interjections were far from seamless.

4.  Joe Making Things up Again-As he has throughout his career,  Biden simply made things up when he was in a tough spot in the debate.  In response to the Libya question which clearly had him flustered, Joe claimed that the intelligence community initially thought that the Benghazi attack was preceded by a protest over the Mohammed  video.  That is completely at variance with the facts.

5.  Wildman v. The Professor-Obviously the Democrats were reacting to passive Obama from the first debate.  Biden was always interrupting, some 82 times or thereabouts. The”moderator” was completely useless.  Ryan was too much the professor in manner and should have reacted more to the out of control Biden. Continue Reading

11

Is Intrade Really a Valuable Predictor?

Intrade is an online trading platform where participants actually place (legal) bets on the outcomes of certain events. For close to a decade political pundits have been using it as a reference to predict election outcomes. Indeed it seems to have a good record, correctly predicting the outcomes of the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, and getting all but two states correct in 2008. Currently, Intrade gives Barack Obama a 62.4% chance to win re-election.

So is Intrade a valuable resource that can be relied upon to accurately predict election outcomes? Not in the least.

This Business Insider article sums up several of the problems with Intrade, and hits upon the point that has bugged me the most about it, namely that all it does is distill current conventional wisdom. Take, for example, that 62.4% number above. Sure that looks good for Obama, but over a week ago that number was well over 80%. In other words, as Obama’s poll numbers moved down so did confidence by Intrade investors. As Joe Weisenthal put in when discussing the Republican primary:

So why ignore InTrade? Well, basically, because all it does is distill conventional wisdom. Seriously, what good is it to know that on InTrade Mitt Romney is far ahead, and that Hermain Cain doesn’t have a chance? All you have to do is read any DC-based political pundit, and they’ll tell you the exact same thing.

And when the conventional wisdom changes, so does the market.

Rick Perry is down in the dumps on InTrade now, but back in August — when everyone was talking about how he was the frontrunner — he was the frontrunner on InTrade as well.

Weisenthal then tracks Perry’s chances on InTrade, and notes how they basically just mirror Perry’s poll numbers.

Even the 2004 and 2008 results aren’t that impressive in retrospect. When people woke up on election day 2008, did anybody really doubt that Barack Obama would win, other than people who clung to fleeting hopes of a miracle McCain victory? And in 2004, Bush’s chances were just over 50% – meaning that the market as a collective was leaning the same way as most polls which, with a few exceptions, generally gave Bush a slight edge. In fact, if you look at Intrade activity on election day itself, Bush’s chances plummeted as early exit poll leaks suggested a Kerry victory, and then rose again as actual election results came in and a Bush victory became more apparent. In other words, Intrade just reflected the polls. And while the state predictions seem impressive, again, how many states were truly up for grabs? Intrade was therefore no more useful a guide than any reasonably informed individual with access to polling data.

Some fans of Intrade like to point out that participants literally have to put their money where their mouth is. I don’t really see how this makes the platform any more valuable as an index. Bookies all over the country would be the ones fearing having their legs broken if money induced wiser gambling behavior – and Intrade is, in essence, simply a gambling platform.

Long story short, Intrade offers no more insight into how the election will play out than some cranky guy writing on a blog who can look at the Real Clear Politics average of polls (which has Romney up by 1.3 percent, incidentally). So then why do pundits insist on citing it, and why do people continue to think it has any meaningful predictive value?

 

24

Prudence: The Lost Virtue

What does it mean to exercise “prudential judgment”? In recent years this phrase has been thrown around quite a bit in Catholic circles. I recently read a Facebook update arguing that prudential judgment is to the conservative right what “the demands of conscience” (I paraphrase) are for the liberal left. In both cases, so it is said, you have cafeteria Catholics putting politics over doctrine, and using these phrases to cover-up their misdeeds.

Of course there is some truth to this idea, but not a lot. When we speak of “prudential judgment”, we are almost always speaking of the most efficient way to attain a given objective. The moral mandate to care for the poor is non-negotiable, which is why we must reject the vicious anti-altruism of someone like Ayn Rand. Even if this is agreed to semantic disputes are unavoidable. What does it mean to “care for”, and who qualifies as “poor”? Obviously there are radically different and in some cases mutually exclusive concepts behind these words in different camps. Even if understanding can be achieved here, there will still be disputes over how this is to be done. This is where we exercise prudential judgment.

The bigger problem, in my view, is the presumption that prudence and morality are somehow distinct. Prudence is a virtue, after all. To deliberately ignore prudence and pursue whatever policy sounded the most righteous as it was being proposed isn’t moral at all – in fact, such behavior ought to be denounced as recklessly immoral. The act of prudential judgment itself is not something distinct from moral behavior, but is in fact essential to moral behavior. The possibility that more harm than good will be done if a particular policy is pursued is always worth considering, no matter how morally justifiable it appears in the heat of the moment.

Continue Reading

8

Defeat in Afghanistan and Against Al Qaeda

Lara Logan of CBS News gave an incredible speech earlier this week in the video above detailing the lies of the Obama administration regarding defeat in Afghanistan and the resurgence of Al Qaeda throughout the Middle East.  One of the more mindless mantras of the Obama re-election team was Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.  That is why the Obama administration was in fraudulent denial for so long that the Benghazi attack was a result of terrorism and instead attempted to blame the Mohammed video.  Rather than destroying Al Qaeda the Obama administration has presided over a debacle in the Middle East where the jihadists are rising in strength with Benghazi being a symbol of their renewed power.  Bravo to Lara Logan for putting Journalism first and leaving politics aside. Continue Reading

19

The Catholicism of Joe Biden and Paul Ryan

The differences about to be exhibited in the Vice Presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan couldn’t be more striking, and no I don’t mean in just the political arena but in the religious realm as well. The Vice President proudly states he was never a “John Paul II guy, I was a John XXIII guy.” He relishes the fact that in class he openly doubted such central teachings of Transubstantiation during his Catholic school days. He tells us that when he went to Rome his mother told him; “don’t kiss the Pope’s ring.”  (Boy it is a good thing Mrs. Biden didn’t know my soft spoken mother, otherwise she would have received an uncharacteristic earful. Heaven help her if she met my German grandmother (my mom’s mother) who would have undoubtedly pulled a rolling pin, a frying pan and whatever else she could come after her with to put the fear of God into her.)

Congressman Ryan comes from generation John Paul II and is not afraid to tell us so. Faithful Catholics of Congressman Ryan’s age see the Joe Bidens of the world and roll their eyes. As one young woman once told me, “if they (Joe Bidens of the world) had any decency they would just tell us the truth; the only thing they believe in is their self absorbed, distorted views of their world. They should really leave since they are being disingenuous for staying in something to which they don’t believe.” she said. Well many have and the Joe Bidens of the world would have us believe that it is our fault for not “evolving.” This is a common word in Catholic liberal (and secular) parlance to describe their views on the world from abortion to same sex marriage.  In the case of the Joe Bidens of the world, if you can question the tenets of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular, the beliefs of the Founding Fathers outlined in their landmark documents are hardly safe from revision.

In my just released book; The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn, I delve into the rise in vocations, devotions and the fast growing orthodox Catholic college campuses like Franciscan, Ave Maria, Benedictine in Kansas, Wyoming College and St. Thomas Aquinas. Folks like Joe Biden just don’t get it. To them Notre Dame is too conservative for in their view how could the university lose $120,000,000 in alumni contributions and face such opposition among student groups and the Holy Cross Seminarians concerning the controversial visit of and award given to President Barack Obama. Continue Reading

12

Historical Ignorance Thy Name is Spielberg

 

 

As he unveiled his Lincoln biopic that is being released next month, director Steven Spielberg proclaimed that he did not want the film to be a political football and then promptly made it into one with this remark:

“Because it’s kind of confusing. The parties traded political places over the last 150 years. That in itself is a great story, how the Republican Party went from a progressive party in 1865, and how the Democrats were represented in the picture, to the way it’s just the opposite today. But that’s a whole other story.”

This would be funny if the historical ignorance were not so vast.  The Republican party, from its inception, has held that the government may not discriminate on the basis of race.

From the 1856 Republican platform, the first Republican platform:

Resolved: That the maintenance of the principles promulgated in the Declaration of Independence, and embodied in the Federal Constitution are essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions, and that the Federal Constitution, the rights of the States, and the union of the States, must and shall be preserved.

Resolved: That, with our Republican fathers, we hold it to be a self-evident truth, that all men are endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that the primary object and ulterior design of our Federal Government were to secure these rights to all persons under its exclusive jurisdiction; that, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished Slavery in all our National Territory, ordained that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, it becomes our duty to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it for the purpose of establishing Slavery in the Territories of the United States by positive legislation, prohibiting its existence or extension therein. That we deny the authority of Congress, of a Territorial Legislation, of any individual, or association of individuals, to give legal existence to Slavery in any Territory of the United States, while the present Constitution shall be maintained.

Resolved: That the Constitution confers upon Congress sovereign powers over the Territories of the United States for their government; and that in the exercise of this power, it is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism — Polygamy, and Slavery.

The Republican party has been true to this position throughout its history.  From the Republican platform of 1932:

The Negro

For seventy years the Republican Party has been the friend of the American Negro. Vindication of the rights of the Negro citizen to enjoy the full benefits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is traditional in the Republican Party, and our party stands pledged to maintain equal opportunity and rights for Negro citizens. We do not propose to depart from that tradition nor to alter the spirit or letter of that pledge.

From the 1944 Republican platform:

Racial and Religious Intolerance

We unreservedly condemn the injection into American life of appeals to racial or religious prejudice.

We pledge an immediate Congressional inquiry to ascertain the extent to which mistreatment, segregation and discrimination against Negroes who are in our armed forces are impairing morale and efficiency, and the adoption of corrective legislation.

We pledge the establishment by Federal legislation of a permanent Fair Employment Practice Commission.

Anti-Poll Tax

The payment of any poll tax should not be a condition of voting in Federal elections and we favor immediate submission of a Constitutional amendment for its abolition.

Anti-Lynching

We favor legislation against lynching and pledge our sincere efforts in behalf of its early enactment. Continue Reading

19

New Study Says Free Contraception Causes Abortion to Spiral

The results of a new study have just been released, and the researchers conclude that when women are allowed to chose any version of contraception they want for free, the abortion rate decreases. Spirals even.

Specifically, more than 9,000 women in St. Louis area, ages 14 to 45, were given free contraception for three years, and the abortion rate dropped lower than the national rate to 4.4 – 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women compared to 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women nationwide.

The implications? According to The New York Times, the study is evidence that the HHS Mandate should be enforced, although CNN understands that is controversial for religious groups. NBC says these findings will have many implications for society although “the Catholic Church is unlikely to be moved.”

Damn right.

The comment of a 26 year old graduate student named Ashley at Washington University is revealing. She participated in the project and opted to forego her $90 a month birth control pills for the free intrauterine implant. She said the implant gives her better peace of mind.

“No one had ever presented all the options equally,” she said. “It’s not telling you what to do. It’s giving you a choice unhindered by money.”

Liberal progressives argue for this kind of care because they want women to believe the government cares for them. Government caring for you is a tenet of liberalism. The problem is, governments cannot care for people. People care for people. Governments are big, nameless, faceless institutions that, if allowed, seek to sustain themselves by growing in power. But how do you communicate this to someone? You bring it down to the personal level they think it is.

Suppose you are the government and Ashley is your daughter. Is her statement really the kind of statement that makes you proud of your parenting skills? Do you want her to go to college making choices about anything — especially her choices about who she lets have sex with her — unhindered by money? That just teaches her poor discipline and puts her in danger.

The study also found a drastic reduction in teen births. Among teen girls ages 15 to 19 the annual birth rate was 6.3 per 1,000 girls compared to the national rate of 34.3 per 1,000 for teen girls. Is this the solution for teens? Have sex unhindered by money? Say that out loud a few times.

Continue Reading

9

Big Bird and Scared Obama

 

When a political campaign gets spooked, the campaign often does foolish things.  Attempting to make Big Bird, Big Bird!, an attack vehicle for the Obama campaign has to be the stupidest move I have seen by any campaign this year.  Why is it stupid?   Let us count the ways:

1.  Big Bird Don’t Play That Game-PBS, predictably, has asked that the ad be taken down, and that is becoming the controversy rather than Romney’s vow to take the knife to PBS funding.

2.  Too silly- The attempt to claim that Romney views Big Bird as a bigger threat than white-collar thieves is too ludicrous for words.

3.  Bernie Madoff, Democrat Donor- Starting off with a mug shot of Bernie Madoff was  a laugh, since Madoff has given over two hundred thousand to the Democrats since 1991.

4.  Big Bird is a Big Issue?- With the country having a real unemployment rate, when discouraged former workers are included, of 14 percent, the Obama campaign is wasting time trying to make Big Bird an issue?  Seriously?

5.  The Count Responds- The Big Bird ad allowed the Republicans to fire back using the Count. Continue Reading

7

The Subtle Art of Political Advertising

Back in graduate school a professor of mine discussed the 1984 campaign. One of the national nightly news telecasts (I believe it was ABC) ran a segment basically running down the Reagan economy. It was one of those voiceover features that had a lot of stock footage of Reagan in various places: the Rockies, Mount Rushmore, and other locations featuring Reagan speaking. It was meant to be a devastating piece, but one of the members of Reagan’s campaign team called ABC afterwards and thanked them for the feature. Why? Because the visuals were all of Reagan in these fabulous settings, and in a visual world what appears on screen often trumps the content of the spoken word behind it.

That all crossed my mind when I saw this Barack Obama ad attacking Mitt Romney. Watch this video with the sound down first:

The content of course is absurd. “Partisan experts on our payroll say that Mitt Romney will raise taxes on the middle class to pay for the tax cut for the rich he’s not proposing.” Whatever. It’s par for the course for the Obama administration, and it’s an attack that is resonating less and less each day.

What struck me were the visuals. It shows an authoritative Mitt Romney at the debate. He’s talking in what appears to be a very passionate and confident manner. Meanwhile, President Obama is nodding along with his head down. It just seems like such a bizarre image to portray to the electorate. It’s an almost submissive, timid looking Obama being lectured by Mitt Romney. Considering how people drown out the content of these ads, it’s a visual that essentially reaffirms the post-debate sentiment that Mitt Romney took Barack Obama to school. No matter what was actually said in the ad, the voter is left with a visual image of a beaten-looking president being shown up by an energetic challenger.

Obama may have had a very successful fundraising month, but he might want to reconsider how is money is being used.

Update: Just saw this from Aaron Goldstein where he also ponders why Obama keeps running ads that seem to help Romney.

4

Now Who Is Second Guessing the Polls?

Last week, before the debate, I noted that Democrats were mocking Republicans for trying to explain away Romney’s poor performance in recent polling (while themselves showing a certain lack of reality in their assessment of the economy.) The debate came and Romney routed Obama on the debate stage in a way that exceeded my wildest hopes. Now we see an unprecedented post-debate surge for Romney in the polls, with Gallup and Rasmussen both showing Romney in a tie with Obama and a post-debate Pew poll showing Romney beating Obama by 4% among likely voters, a twelve point swing from Pew polling a month before in which Romney trailed Obama by 8%.

And just to show that the desire to fight the data is bi-partisan, now Democrats are trying to explain away the polls, with Jonathan Chait arguing:

Polls have very low response rates. Sometimes short-term events that dominate the news cycle excite partisans and make them more likely to answer pollsters — it happened when Romney picked Paul Ryan — but they don’t reflect a deep remaking of the public opinion landscape, which remains fairly settled.

Of course, that’s true. Polling is a very uncertain science, and there are lots of unknowns like partisan differences in response rates. Of course, that’s equally true whether your candidate is ahead or behind, but it’s something that people usually only emphasize in the latter case.

Romney certainly doesn’t have the race in the bag. There’s a month to go, and the Democrats will be going for Romney’s metaphorical jugular with everything they’ve got. But there’s enough polling floating around right now to suggest that the candidates are now even or else Romney is ahead. (As I go to hit “post”, I see a PPP poll sponsored by DailyKos and the SEIU is out showing Romney up 2% over Obama among likely voters.) It may not last, but I’m hoping it does and enjoying it while I can.

9

Biden Notes for Veep Debate

 

 

Here at The American Catholic we occasionally receive unsolicited items.  We are currently in possession of what purports to be Biden’s notes in preparation for his Veep debate with Paul Ryan this Thursday.  Here they are:

1.  No gaffes?-Obama told me not to make any gaffes.  I told the big guy to f—–g relax, because I never make any gaffes.

2.  No F-Bombs-Sheesh, Obama can be loud when he’s upset!  No F-Bombs, OK.   As if I ever swear in public!

3.  No biker chicks-Yeah, I don’t want to have to sleep on the couch again for a week after the debate.

4.  Lie, Lie, LieAs truthful as I am, this will be hard for me to do, but I will do my best.

5.   No foreign accents-A guy puts on an Indian accent one time, and he never hears the end of it. Continue Reading

13

Coming soon to the USA…the latest in ecclesiastical raiment…

 

The Telegraph is reporting a thoroughly modernizing event nicknamed “The Ideal Church Show.”  It’s part of a  two-day confab, the Christian Resources Exhibition, an annual church suppliers convention.

More important than the  church lighting displays, the  parish computer systems, and coffins is the “Righteous Runway”.  It features models (seven of whom are ministers)—called “Clergy on the Catwalk—revealing the latest in haute couture for ministers designed by Juliet Hemingray, Hayes and Finch, Cross Designs and J&M Sewing.

Anticipating the event, the  Bishop of Middleton, the Right Reverend  Mark Davies, said:

It will be interesting to see the variety of clergy robes produced by contemporary designers.

The church has modernised so much in the past 20 years and what clergy wear reflects that change.

Gone are the 50 shades of grey and in has come a spectrum of colour and design which can be seen in everything from a Church of England royal wedding to the humblest Christening in one of our smaller churches.

To wit:

More teal vicar? Colourful clergy show off new robes on catwalk

 

One of the ministers participating in the event, Taffy Davies of Macclesfield, said:

I have always longed to be a model cleric but I guess I’ll just have to settle for being a clerical model.

 

According to the Telegraph, it’s expected that the new ecclesiastical raiment will communicate that the traditional, stodgy Anglican church is modernizing and will be effective in attracting “younger audiences.”

 

6

Romney 49 – Obama 45

 

 

The latest Pew poll shows Romney up four points among likely voters, 49-45.  This poll was taken October 4- October 7 after Romney’s debate win:

Mitt Romney no longer trails Barack Obama in the Pew Research Center’s presidential election polling. By about three-to-one, voters say Romney did a better job than Obama in the Oct. 3 debate, and the Republican is now better regarded on most personal dimensions and on most issues than he was in September. Romney is seen as the candidate who has new ideas and is viewed as better able than Obama to improve the jobs situation and reduce the budget deficit.

Fully 66% of registered voters say Romney did the better job in last Wednesday’s debate, compared with just 20% who say Obama did better. A majority (64%) of voters who watched the debate describe it as mostly informative; just 26% say it was mostly confusing.

In turn, Romney has drawn even with Obama in the presidential race among registered voters (46% to 46%) after trailing by nine points (42% to 51%) in September. Among likely voters, Romney holds a slight 49% to 45% edge over Obama. He trailed by eight points among likely voters last month. Continue Reading