Mary and the Ark

Perhaps I was a bit hasty in my recent Notice to Protestants about Mary. In the Baptist Standard, of all places, you can now read how Mary is The Coming of the New Ark to Jerusalem. It is nice to see non-Catholics recognizing the Blessed Virgin as more than just a kind of talking incubator for Jesus.

Unfortunately the Baptist writer, Bill Crittenden, does not follow his comparison to its logical end. He recognizes that the original Ark was no mere box: It was a chest built of acacia wood, a material that was considered worthy of housing God, everlasting and with no defect. Hmmm, could the New Ark also have some of these qualities? Crittenden doesn't say.

The parallels between Mary and the Ark are nothing new. Athanasius saw it in the third century. Steve Ray has an excellent article on the subject. As Augustine said: The New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is revealed by the New.

O Come O Come Emmanuel

Here is a nice video to close out your Advent. Merry Christmas to all!

Rick Warren, Inauguration and Gay Rights

Gay rights activists are up in arms because Obama asked Rick Warren to offer an invocation at the presidential inauguration next month. Warren is unacceptable, in their view, because he supported the Proposition 8 drive to outlaw gay marriage in California. They feel betrayed because they thought Obama was devoted to their cause. They forget he is also a politician who is keenly interested in attracting more Christian voters to his cause. This was a chance to do so and also reinforce his image as a unifier. I do not think it indicates any sympathy on Obama's part for conservative Christian beliefs.

For his part, Rev. Warren is getting it from both sides. The gay-marriage advocates consider him a bigot while many on the right consider him a turncoat for daring to participate in the inauguration. Personally I don't see the problem. It is appropriate and fitting that Christians pray for our national leaders - whether we agree with their actions or not. Warren has made his disagreements with Obama about abortion and gay marriage crystal-clear. Presumably, his invocation will not ask God's blessing on those parts of the Obama agenda that conflict with Christian belief.

What's interesting to me is how the Proposition 8 defeat has so galvanized gay activists in the last few months. Any Christian who disagrees with gay marriage is now a de facto bigot. The anger is palpable, and it is leading to all kinds of intimidating and even violent rhetoric against people who gave even casual support to Proposition 8. The Mormon church is a particular target of gay wrath. Rick Warren also endorsed the proposition, but was by no means a leader or even particularly vocal about it. Indeed, he is regarded as far too soft on the culture-war issues by many conservative Christian activists. No matter - he made the wrong choice, and now he has to pay. To get a taste of it, read this post by a liberal who found himself sympathizing with Warren, and then read the comments that follow.

Al Mohler rightly points out that the angry response to Warren's presence at the inauguration will not be the end of this battle. Gay marriage is quickly becoming an issue where everyone will have to take a stand - and there is no middle ground. It's going to get ugly.

Rick Warren has just found himself in the midst of a whirlwind. We must pray that God will give him wisdom as he decides what to do -- and what to say -- as he stands in this whirlwind. But every evangelical Christian should watch this carefully, for the controversy over Rick Warren will not stop with the pastor from Saddleback. This whirlwind is coming for you and for your church. At some point, the cost of being "cool" will be the abandonment of biblical Christianity. We had better decide well in advance that this is a cost far too high to pay.

Amazing Grace

Here is a stirring performance of Amazing Grace, including bagpipes.

The singers are a group called Il Divo. If it looks like they are in the Roman Colosseum, you're half right. They are in a Roman Colosseum, but in Pula, Croatia, not Rome. It's nice to see what was probably a place of martyrdom for some early Christians now put to much better use.

(Hat tip: Steve Ray)

Notice to Protestants

In the month of December, it is okay to display statues of the Virgin Mary as part of a larger Nativity scene. During this time no one will think you are promoting idol-worship. Images of Mary and other Biblical figures may even serve as a source of inspiration during the holidays. Candles are optional.

Following the Christmas season, all such statues will once again become idolatrous and must be hidden from view for another year.

Thank you for your cooperation. That is all.

Pray For Obama

Fox and MSNBC just called California for Obama, giving him the White House. If you just can't believe it, you're in good company. This is not what I wanted, either. For better or worse, though, the electoral process is what it is. We have to live with it.

Many of us prayed for a different outcome. Were our prayers ignored? No. God does not always give us what we want. He gives us what we need. The reasons may be beyond our comprehension right now, but we can trust that good will ultimately come from this apparent defeat.

What to do now? One word: pray. Specifically, pray for Barack Obama. When the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13 that "the powers that be are ordained of God," he was referring to the brutal empire that would ultimately have him beheaded. If that Caesar was ordained by God, then Obama is no less. I know it's hard to swallow this right now, but it's the truth.

Of course we can and should expect Obama to work within the Constitutional framework, and we don't have to roll over and accept everything he does. Yet he is ordained of God. The best thing we can do now is pray that God will change Obama's heart and give him the grace to lead with integrity and justice. Maybe he will surprise us.

Another thing to pray for is Obama's protection. With all due respect to the Secret Service, this president will have even more nutjobs than usual wanting to hurt him. Also pray for Michelle Obama and their two daughters. They will have their own challenges to face.

Easier said than done? Of course. Yet it's the right thing to do. Now is the time to start.

Election Day Thoughts

I haven't written much about the presidential election because in my view it is largely irrelevant. We are in deep trouble whether McCain or Obama wins the White House. With Obama we will get massive federal spending, increased government control of the economy, unjust wars and counterproductive intervention abroad, abortion, gay marriage, and suppression of free speech. With McCain we will get massive federal spending, increased government control of the economy, unjust wars and counterproductive intervention abroad, abortion, gay marriage, and suppression of free speech. Pick your poison.

Obviously I would never vote for Obama, whose ghastly support for infanticide knows no bounds, but the idea of John McCain as the conservative opposition is simply laughable. Eight years ago, even those who are now his most fervent supporters chose George W. Bush over McCain because, they said then, McCain was a liberal in disguise. Has he changed since then? Of course not. So why does he deserve your vote now? Is Obama that much worse than Gore would have been?

Speaking of Bush, if you want to blame somebody for what we are about to endure, GWB ought to be in your crosshairs. He is the one who set the precedent that on all matters remotely related to national security, the President's word is supreme, all-powerful, and beyond appeal, up to including the power to secretly imprison and torture anyone he wishes. Some of us warned against this and were drowned out by so-called loyal conservatives. Now that same unlimited authority will belong to Obama. Do you have any doubt he will use it? Good job, guys.

I've been told I should bite my tongue and vote for McCain for the sole reason that he will give us pro-life Supreme Court justices, which Obama will surely not. This argument might make sense if McCain were actually pro-life, but he's not. This is the man who wanted to place pro-abortion Joe Lieberman or pro-abortion Tom Ridge a heartbeat away from the presidency, and would have done so had political reality permitted. Now ask yourself: if you are truly committed to a cause, and you are a 72-year-old cancer survivor, would you not make absolutely sure that your hand-picked successor was equally committed to that cause? Of course you would. Yet McCain picked Palin only under pressure from the religious right - pressure that we won't be able to exert once he is safely in office.

The fact that McCain would even consider Lieberman or Ridge tells you everything you need to know about the priority he places on life issues. He is pro-life only for those babies who are big enough to be seen on an ultrasound, and who had the good fortune not to be conceived as a result of rape or incest. He's happy to see smaller and even more defenseless children shredded alive in the cause of medical experimentation. He will even use your tax money to pay for it.

Clearly McCain is not someone who is deeply committed to protecting innocent life. Like most Republicans, he just goes through the motions in order to get pro-life people to vote for him. Even in the unlikely event he wanted to nominate a pro-life Supreme Court justice, the chance of such a person getting through the Democratic Senate is nil.

In one strange way we are probably better off with Obama. As noted above, we will have a liberal in the White House no matter who wins. If it's Obama, congressional Republicans will at least make a mild effort to show some backbone. With the help of Southern Democrats, they may be able to head off some of Obama's worst proposals. If McCain is president and pushes the very same plans in consulation with his Democratic buddies - which he will - the GOP will meekly fall in line just like they did with Bush. And you can see where that got us.

All that said, I think we'll be okay for the next four years. If Obama wins, he is smart enough not to overreach. If McCain wins, the Democratic Congress will restrain his worst impulses. Tough times are coming in either case, but the world will keep turning. The real threat we face is a long-term decline in public morality and values. Our problems are much more spiritual than political. No president will solve them.

Maybe McCain will pull an upset tonight. We'll know soon. Whichever of the two wins, they will have done so without the help of my vote. I made the mistake in 2004 of voting for what I thought was the lesser of two evils. I forgot that the lesser evil is still evil. I won't forget again.

"They Screamed At Us, They Spat On Us"

So back in August, a feminist group in Neuquen, Argentina decided to hold a pro-abortion protest in front of the city's cathedral. Some Catholic youth, fearing their church would be desecrated, organized to defend it by surrounding the cathedral and peacefully praying. The following video shows what happened.

Here is a news story describing the event from a Catholic youth named Pablo.

“Everything lasted more or less an hour and forty minutes. It was terrible. They wouldn’t go away. They screamed at us, they spat on us, they threw cans and rocks, they tore up an Argentinean flag and burned it. We were only praying one Hail Mary after another, without stopping, praying for each one of them, praying for each aborted child, praying for our Church and her pastors, and also in reparation for the blasphemies,” Pablo said.

Despite the tension, “we felt an extraordinary peace, and all of us who were there agreed [it was] a peace that cannot come from anyone else besides our Lord and God. We felt his consolation in our souls.”

Asked if they felt tempted to respond to the aggressions with violence, Pablo responded that all the young people came with the intention of “resisting to the last drop of our blood. Some guys up in front became very upset, because they insulted the Virgin Mary, calling her a lesbian. You feel like doing everything, but we know that our testimony needs to be different, and the virtue of fortitude is more perfect when we resist than when we attack.”

According to Pablo, after that experience in Neuquen, the young people were more committed to “living life as it truly is: a battle, a war.” “I think it is time to wake up, we must be aware that if we don’t do it, nobody will. Nobody will bear witness to hope if we Catholics do not do it. The world is waiting, the world expects that we go out to find it and conquer it.”

Notice in the video how the first line of Christian defenders, those bearing the full brunt of the crowd's hatred and abuse, are all young men - and I do mean men, not boys, whatever their chronological age. This old-fashioned chivalry must have driven the radical feminists into even more of a frenzy.

Unless you hang out in front of abortion clinics, you don't see this sort of thing in the U.S. very often. Mark my words: you will, and maybe sooner than you think. American Christians are going to make some tough choices in the next few years. How many of us will have the courage shown by Pablo and the others in Neuquen on that night?

Centuries ago another Pablo - St. Paul - took full advantage of all the rights his Roman citizenship gave him to spread the Gospel truth and defend the helpless. Eventually he paid the price in blood. Yet he was not defeated; the empire that killed Paul fell even as Christianity thrived. The same will happen again, but not before some of us face the modern-day lions.

Bank Bailout: A Simple Explanation

Since my day job involves writing about finance and economics, I usually stay away from those subjects here. However the following cartoon nails what just happened so precisely I have to share it with you. It's been making the rounds on Wall Street this week. Here is a link to the original.

Obamaphobia Takes Hold

I have several friends and relatives who send me a steady stream of e-mails containing the latest news about the grave threat Barack Obama presents to America. Every time I get one of these, I wonder: what do they think they are accomplishing? They know there is the proverbial snowball's chance I will vote for Obama, and I am glad to tell anyone who will listen why I feel this way.

In this regard I have plenty of ammunition. For instance, Obama thinks it is fine if the law allows and/or encourages women to burn, dismember, and crush the skulls of their children, either before birth or shortly after. Against that, the fact that he used to hang out with terrorists or took donations from Fannie Mae is mere frosting on the cake.

The people who send me these e-mails know, on some level, that the "facts" they are trying to spread are not likely to change anyone's mind. So why do they do it? I suspect it is out of frustration. Time is running out and the polls suggest an increasing likelihood Obama will win. (Check out Dr. Steven Taylor's electoral college maps for evidence.) People are starting to face this reality and they don't like it. The crisis in the financial markets created a heightened sense of fear in the last few weeks, making the frustration on all sides even worse.

Personally, I think Obama's past associations with William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, and others are fair game. These kind of things come out in all campaigns. It is remarkable, however, that none of it is new. All these things were brought out in the Democratic primary, thanks to Hillary Clinton, and McCain himself refused to use them - until now. Why? Because he's losing and he really has not much else to say. On the overriding issue of the moment, the economy, he and Obama are largely in agreement. Both voted to approve the Hank Paulson bank bailout plan and appear to have no problem with nationalized large chunks of American industry.

It is worth noting, too, that many of the people who are so angry at Obama right now are the same ones who stood behind George W. Bush while he abandoned all pretense of budgetary discipline and smaller government, launched a war of choice, tortured prisoners and shredded the Constitution in order to concentrate near-unlimited power in the Oval Office. In this he was aided and abetted by a Republican-controlled Congress for six years. Some of us warned that those powers would someday fall into less trustworthy hands. Now it is about to happen. Having made their bed, the Bush loyalists are now upset that they might have to lay in it.

There is also the race factor. For most of the campaign it was bottled up, but now the dogs are getting loose. Some of it is thinly-disguised and some is quite overt. McCain can try to calm the crowds, but they are having none of it. This has moved beyond his control. Not everyone who dislikes Obama has racist motives, but some do. I suspect it is a bigger number than any of us want to admit.

We are on very dangerous ground here. If some nutcase takes a shot at Obama, it's not hard to imagine mass violence in large cities - and maybe beyond. Likewise, if we get into another 2000-type Florida recount fiasco, tempers will flare no matter who comes out on top. For this reason, I hope that whoever wins does so by an electoral and popular landslide. A close election is the last thing we need right now.

Conclusion: I highly suggest everyone turn down the heat, and quickly. The United States is closer to a breakdown in civil order right now than any time since 1968. For my friends on the right who think there is still a chance for McCain to win if only enough people can be told about Obama's sordid background: You Are Wrong. In fact, the more you talk about these things the better Obama does in the polls. You are accomplishing the opposite of what you want, and you may be opening a Pandora's Box that is best kept closed. The best thing you can do right now is shut up.

Yes, I realize that Obama supporters are saying some pretty vile things too. The personal attacks on Sarah Palin have been particularly shameless, but the fact that they are doing this kind of thing does not mean you can do the same. Ever heard of turning the other cheek? Now is an excellent time to practice.

Palin on Roe

I must confess I have been unable to force myself to watch the entirety of Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric. The parts I did see made me wince. So it was only today, via Rod Dreher, that I learned what she had to say about Roe vs Wade.

Keep in mind that, for social conservatives, the prime justification for having Palin on the ticket is that she is demonstrably and personally pro-life. For all McCain's faults, with Palin as VP we have a foot in the door at the White House, and maybe a chance to get one of our own in the big office someday. Right? Now read this:

Couric: Why, in your view, is Roe v. Wade a bad decision?

Sarah Palin: I think it should be a states' issue not a federal government-mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I'm, in that sense, a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. Now, foundationally, also, though, it's no secret that I'm pro-life that I believe in a culture of life is very important for this country. Personally that's what I would like to see further embraced by America.

Couric: Do you think there's an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

Palin: I do. Yeah, I do.

Couric: The cornerstone of Roe v. Wade.

Palin: I do. And I believe that individual states can best handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in an issue like that.

OK. Palin sounds like someone who has the right instincts. She does not sound like someone who has wrestled with the philosophical and legal basis of her beliefs. There are two huge problems with what she said.

First, she says abortion should be up to the states. This line of reasoning was wrong when applied to slavery in the 19th century, and it's wrong now. Government at all levels must defend certain fundamental human rights. These include - as the Declaration of Independence says - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Life is the foundation, and states have no right to take it away from innocent people. She is taking essentially the same position that Fred Thompson did in the GOP primary campaign. Plenty of us roundly criticized Thompson for it at the time. For the most part, Palin is now getting a pass.

Second, Palin thinks the Constitution contains a "right to privacy." Roe vs Wade notwithstanding, most legal scholars find no such thing and regard Roe's logic as laughable, even when they agree with its result. Yet we are told that Palin can be counted on to influence McCain's judicial appointments more in the conservative, originalist direction? I think not, if this interview reflects her judicial philosophy.

Abortion will almost certainly come up in tonight's debate, and I hope we hear something from Palin to clarify these remarks. Otherwise, I suspect a wave of buyer's remorse will sweep over the people who have so lionized her for the last month. The more we learn about Palin, the less she lives up to the reasons McCain supposedly picked her. This momentum needs to change, and it needs to happen fast, or else Obama will win in a rout.

The Value of Guilt

Sage thoughts from my favorite Dominican blogger-priest, Fr. Phillip Neri Powell, O.P. He is discussing the guilt feelings of people who were involved in abortions, but the principle applies to all kinds of sin.

In my experience, people often express horrible guilt over sin. They are shocked when I exclaim, "Good! You should feel guilty! Do you know what that means?" They usually say, "That I'm a bad person, a terrible sinner?" I say, "Nope. Just the opposite. Guilt tells you that you have a correctly formed conscience and that though you have sinned, you are not fundamentally a bad person."

We have been told for too many years now that guilt is bad and we must do everything to expunge it from our consciousness. In the pursuit of a guilt-free life, we have not eliminated sin in practice but rather made sin rare by making most everything permissible and therefore no longer sinful. No sin, no guilt. But guilt is one way we know that we are good people. If you cannot feel guilt over deliberately and directly killing an innocent life, then something is very seriously wrong.

John McCain Favors Cannibalism; Christians Fall In Line

More than a few people who, this time last month, were terribly disappointed at the thought of John McCain as the GOP nominee have had their minds changed by his selection of Sarah Palin as running mate. As I said at the time, McCain is still McCain. Now the evidence is beginning to mount that the Palin selection is nothing more than a cynical ploy to manipulate Evangelical voters. Consider this:

Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- John McCain won't attend a gathering of religious conservatives this weekend -- and the Republican presidential nominee won't have to ask forgiveness.

The Arizona senator's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate has appeased the evangelical and social conservatives who form his party's core voters. Now, they are letting him know that he doesn't need to further demonstrate his fealty...

McCain, 72, is now reaching out to other constituencies, including independents who may provide swing votes in a tight contest in November.

He also is trying to expand his Republican base. At his party's convention in St. Paul last week, he dispatched two emissaries to address the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group. Former Republican Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona said McCain has indicated that he would be open to a repeal of the military's ``Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' policy, which allows gay men and women to serve in the armed forces as long as they don't discuss their sexual orientation. [more]

Wonderful news, yes? Has McCain turned over a new leaf? I think not. He is the same 72-year-old cancer patient who desperately wanted to put pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage Joe Lieberman a heartbeat away from the presidency and was dissuaded only by political reality. Now we learn he gets along swimmingly with the Gay Republicans. And when it comes to gays in the military, John McCain thinks that the policy established by Bill Clinton is too conservative.

If that's not enough for you, check out the new McCain commercial discovered by Chelsea at Reflections of a Paralytic. "Change is coming" for stem cell research, it says. What does this mean? A McCain spokesman confirmed that the Senator is still in favor of embryonic stem cell research as well as adult stem cell research.

For those who may not understand the difference, here it is: adult stem cell research doesn't kill anyone. Embryonic stem cell research does. It is nothing less than medical cannibalism. The embryos that are destroyed in this research are living humans with their own unique DNA. They require nothing more than 1) time and 2) a supportive environment to develop into people like you and me. That is scientific fact that has nothing to do with religion. John McCain thinks it is okay to kill them in order to find cures for the diseases that afflict those of us lucky enough to already be born.

It is, of course, quite true that Barack Obama also favors this research, along with a variety of other ghastly practices that involve the destruction of innocent human life. This doesn't let McCain off the hook. What it means is that we have one candidate who is willing to kill babies at any time between conception and birth (and even afterward if the mother was trying to abort her child), and another candidate who is willing to kill babies as long as they are very small and their bodies can be used to nourish and extend the lives of adult humans. McCain would also, incidentally, permit the killing of those babies who were unfortunate enough to be conceived in the act of rape or incest.

So what we have here is a difference of degree, not of kind, between Obama and McCain. Both would allow innocent humans to die. They differ only in the details. Yet we are supposed to support McCain because Obama is even worse? Please. We do not accept this logic anywhere else.
  • If one man kills three people and another kills thirty, is the first one not a murderer?
  • If one man sexually assaults a child, and another sexually assaults three children, is the first one not a pervert?
  • If one man steals a hundred dollars, and another steals a million dollars, is the first one not a thief?
  • If Hitler had only gassed a thousand Jews instead of six million, would he be any less of a monster?
We could go on but you get the point. The lesser of two evils is still evil. The fact that McCain chose Sarah Palin as running mate is nice. It does not change who he is. Those who think he is somehow different now will live to be sadly disappointed, in my opinion. You are being used by a party that does not care about the things you think are important. It cares for one thing, and one thing only: the acquisition of power.

Seven Years Later

Palin Redux

As far as political convention speeches go, Sarah Palin did a good job last night. Considering that she had only days to prepare and was under enormous pressure, you could even call it outstanding.

She certainly has the base fired up. In this she is getting a lot of help from the media and the left-wing blogosphere, which recognizes the potential threat Palin creates and is determined to destroy her. This will surely backfire on them. Obama’s biggest advantage has been the moribund mood of the GOP faithful; now his own followers are stirring up a hornet’s nest. If Obama doesn’t get his followers under control soon, whatever lead he currently enjoys could vanish quickly.

I’m starting to like Palin. She seems genuine, she’s got a few good ideas, and she’s clearly a no-nonsense, get-things-done kind of leader. The problem is that she is still attached to John McCain, and we have no reason to think that she will have any particular influence on a McCain Administration’s policies. I fear she is being used as bait to draw the social conservatives back into the GOP fold and once in office McCain will revert back to his old ways. Daniel Larison is even more cynical:

Practically everything that you, the average conservative, like about Sarah Palin is opposed and negated by what John McCain stands for and has represented for pretty much his entire career, but still conservatives are reacting deliriously to a speech whose ultimate purpose is to co-opt them into backing a presidential candidate whose policies on vital national questions are antithetical to everything they value. Does her small-town ethos impress you and inspire some identification with her? McCain embraces the policies promoting globalization and mass immigration that are gradually transforming your small towns beyond recognition. Does her hostility to Washington elites please you? McCain serves and always has served the interests of those elites, and his immigration legislation was just the most recent and egregious form of this. Like the undead creature it resembles, the GOP establishment will feed off of every bit of the energy, vivacity and authenticity that Palin possesses in its bid to keep conservatives serving their goals. Do not help the creature to feed on its victim.

Likewise, Mark Shea points out that for all the good things we've seen, Palin seems to be in full agreement with John McCain's determination to continue the Bush/Cheney policy of endless war and prisoner torture. McCain remains someone who thinks it is perfectly OK to kill innocent children as long as they are invisible to the naked eye. Here's Mark:

I love Sarah Palin as a human being. I love her Capra-esque career. I think that, unlike so much of the GOP leadership, she's actually serious about prolife issues and has proven that in an intensely personal way. I think she's a sincere Christian who (with allowances made for her bad theological formation due to circumstance beyond her control) lives a life of integrity. But I also think she's also pretty much on the same page with McCain (and Bush) about Grand End to Evil ideology. I think that, like McCain, she will like talk the talk about torture but turn a blind eye to doing something about it as McCain has when actually confronted with a vote. She hasn't yet spoken to McCain's Lesser Cannibalization views, but (since she accepted the Veep position) it's obvious this will not get in the way of her supporting him. That doesn't necessarily mean she agrees with him and a Palin Presidency might show her to dissent from McCain. So I'm willing to wait on that.

Here is, I think, the best argument in favor of a McCain-Palin vote: it might put her in position to become president herself, one way or the other, and if that happens she might turn out to be someone who will do the right things most of the time. Anyway, Obama would be even worse. So the thinking goes. With all due respect to the people who think otherwise, I still can't buy it.

Leaving aside the fact that the lesser of two evils is still evil, there is a big risk for Palin and the pro-life movement. If McCain-Palin lose, the GOP establishment will need a scapegoat. There's a strong chance they will point the finger at Sarah Palin and those pesky pro-lifers. That will make it a lot easier for someone like Rudy Giuliani to get the nomination in 2012. Go ahead and laugh - but McCain differs from Giuliani only in degree, not in kind.

Conclusion: I like Sarah Palin, but the inescapable fact (for now) is that I cannot vote for her without also voting for John McCain. Since I can't trust McCain, it doesn't really matter how sound and reliable Palin is. She's still #2 to the guy who would much rather have had pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage Joe Lieberman at his side. I just don't see this prospect as anything to get excited about.

Ramadan Begins

[Taking a break from the all-Palin, all the time blogosphere:]

Today is the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month for followers of Islam. During this time Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. As-Salamu Alaykum to all my Muslim friends.

If you are not Muslim, keep in mind that the ability to convincingly pretend could be very useful at some point in the future. This is especially true for atheists and others who deny the existence of God, as well as those residing in Europe. Now is your chance to practice.

Palin Overload

Following up my first reaction to the Palin pick... does it seem odd to anyone else that some of the very same conservatives who have been so amused by the religious fervor surrounding Obama, are greeting Sarah Palin with Hosannas and Alleluias?

Be that as it may, we are starting to get some more sober-minded analysis of the Palin pick. Much of it focuses less on Palin than on what this decision tells us about McCain. Here are some links for you.

Politico has The Story Behind the Palin Surprise as well as Six Things the Palin pick says about McCain. I like #2: He is willing to gamble, big-time.

Let’s face it: This is not the pick of a self-confident candidate. It is the political equivalent of a trick play or, as some Democrats called it, a Hail Mary pass in football. McCain talks incessantly about experience, and then goes and selects a woman he hardly knows, who hardly knows foreign policy and who can hardly be seen as instantly ready for the presidency.

Joe Klein at Time says this illustrates McCain's gunslinger decision-making style - which may not be what we need right now.

Michael Dougherty at American Conservative likes Palin but thinks she is being thrown in over her head.

Like Bobby Jindal or Mark Sanford, I considered Sarah Palin a promisingly conservative, likable, and reform-minded governor. I wished desperately to spare her (and them) from association with the bellicose and ideological foreign policy of Bush-McCain. These three governors excite various parts of the conservative base but need time to prove themselves.

Ramesh Ponnoru at NRO questions Palin's experience and asks the obvious question: Can anyone say with a straight face that Palin would have gotten picked if she were a man?

No idea who this is, but somebody named Gatemouth has compiled a list of Republican women more qualified to be president than Sarah Palin.

Jim Lobe recalls that McCain has called the fight against radical Islam the "transcendent issue of our time." If that's true, why did he choose as his back-up and heir apparent a person with no experience in foreign policy, military affairs, or counter-terrorism?

Again, let me stress I like Palin. But I don't see a lot of upside to this pick because a) she does nothing to help McCain out of the hole he is in and may even dig it deeper; and 2) in the unlikely event she gets to be vice-president, there is little chance she will be able to influence the McCain Administration on the issues that matter most.

VP Sarah

I'm feeling a little left out today. Pretty much all my favorite bloggers are positively bubbling over with enthusiasm for Sarah Palin. A few examples: Caveman, CK, Rod, Gazizza, Texas Fred, Feddie, Red Cardigan, Darwin, Steve, Chelsea, and Pauli.

Unfortunately I have a hard time being so excited. Nothing against Sarah Palin; she is clearly a strong, talented woman with an impressive life story. She appears to be solidly pro-life. Furthermore, we should all be grateful McCain didn't go with one of his anti-life pals like Tom Ridge or Joe Lieberman. It could have been a lot worse.

Nonetheless, I do not see how having Sarah Palin on the ticket really changes anything of consequence on the issues I care about. The fact of the matter is that John McCain is not really pro-life. He says the right things sometimes, but it is not important to him. The fact that he would even consider putting Lieberman or Ridge a heartbeat away from the Oval Office tells you everything you need to know about McCain's priorities.

Having Sarah Palin as VP will accomplish one thing: we'll have a firmly pro-life president if McCain happens to die in office. Short of that, we (social conservatives) are no better off than we would be with Hillary Clinton.

Ah, some will say, having Palin by his side will give us a voice! She'll make sure he toes the line! Please. John McCain has been in Congress since Sarah Palin was in high school. He has a Washington power base that is both deep and wide. What reason is there to think he will place Palin - whom he met for the first time only six months ago - on top of the list of people who have his ear?

Yes, Palin is a strong woman. She took on the Alaska GOP establishment and is winning so far. Alaska has all of 600,000 people. There is simply no comparison to Washington, where Palin has no power base of her own. Her main influence will come from the fact that she will be in position to run for president herself someday. But unless McCain gives her significant responsibilities and a high public profile, she won't have any more luck than Dan Quayle did in that endeavor.

The reality is that Sarah Palin is on the ticket for one reason: to get John McCain elected. If he wins she will sent to the back burner, having served her primary purpose. She will make speeches to pro-life groups and sit in on Cabinet meetings. I just can't see her becoming especially powerful otherwise. Yes, she's a renegade like McCain. But if she renegades against McCain, she'll be sent to Dick Cheney's "undisclosed location" so fast it will make your head spin.

As a purely political matter, does Palin give McCain better odds? Again, I'm not so sure. She is obviously helping to excite the Republican base. But the fact that we're two months from Election Day and the base needs to be excited is not a good sign. The Democratic base is excited, too. Obama's convention speech got Super-Bowl type TV ratings.

Does Palin help with women? She alluded to this in her speech yesterday, repeating Hillary Clinton's words about cracks in the glass ceiling. The McCain people obviously hope to attract some of the disappointed Hillary supporters. I think they are smoking crack. The kind of women who wanted Hillary to be president or VP will vote for a Republican only on the day hell freezes over. They may stay home and not vote; but they're not going to push the button for John McCain or put a pro-life woman that close to power. Not.Gonna.Happen.

Palin brings one big downside: lack of experience. Yes, yes, she's at least as qualified as Obama. That's not the point. After they re-think their strategy, the Democrats will be smart enough not to bring up the experience issue. And with Palin on the ticket, McCain can't bring it up, either. He has just given up one of his primary offensive weapons. Moving the experience question off the table helps Obama much more than it helps McCain.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I suspect the social conservatives who are now gushing about Palin will start showing some buyer's remorse fairly soon. Let me repeat that I have nothing against Palin. I think she's a fine person with a promising future. She ought to complete her term as governor and run for president herself someday... and that's probably what will happen.

2008 is not a Republican year, and McCain's chances are not good no matter who he had picked. This election is all about a few swing voters in a few swing states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri, and maybe a few more. If the Democrats are able to frame the campaign around economic issues - and they're off to a good start so far - Obama will win. I saw nothing this week to change that calculus.

Using The Moment

Wisdom from Mark Shea:

Paul didn’t simply use Caesar for protection. He also sought to teach Caesar about Christ. Paul did not hesitate to speak to the civil authority about Christ and call him, like everybody else, to faith in Christ Jesus.

Paul looked at arrest and imprisonment as just another opportunity to spread the Gospel to whatever corner he found himself in. From Philippian jailers to Roman governors to the court of Caesar himself, Paul repeatedly grabbed hold of whatever life tossed his way and turned it to the spread of the Gospel. When he found himself on a storm-tossed ship driven toward destruction, he used the moment to bear witness to Christ — which astonished his guards. Washed ashore on Malta, his first impulse was to evangelize.

Immersed in a pagan culture that did nothing but talk about the latest ideas and, to hedge its bets, worship the unknown god, Paul took that as his cue to testify to Christ.

VP Joe

Okay, so I was wrong. Obama picked Joe Biden.

I actually kind of like Biden. Aside from his support for little things like, say, the legalized mass slaughter of unborn babies, Biden seems to be a nice guy. He's been around Washington a long time and will be able to provide some adult guidance in an Obama White House. Whether Obama will really listen to Biden is another question. I think probably not.

Religiously speaking, Biden is a contradiction in terms: pro-choice Catholic. The U.S. bishops have made crystal-clear that it is not possible to be both of these things. Having Biden on the ticket will re-ignite the whole politicians and communion issue for the rest of the campaign. Look for media stories about those bad old bishops who won't let good Catholics like Biden follow their conscience.

On a lighter note, it is Hollywood tradition for celebrity SuperCouples to merge their two names into one: Brangelina, Bennifer, TomKat, etc. What shall we call Barack Obama and Joe Biden? Here are a few ideas:

  • Jobama
  • Barjoe
  • Jarack
  • Babiden
  • Obiden
  • Bibama
  • Birack
  • Bamaden
  • Bidenack
Any others?

VP Hillary

It appears that Barack Obama will announce his choice for vice-president in the next day or two. I will go out on a limb and say that the three finalists being discussed in the media - Bayh, Biden and Kaine - are all a smokescreen. I think it will be Hillary Clinton.

Not that I care one way or the other, of course. Obama will never got my vote for dogcatcher, much less president, unless he has a truly remarkable conversion. His VP pick is irrelevant in that regard.

Dick Morris thinks that the Clintons have hijacked the Democratic Convention from Obama. But whatever else Obama is, he's not stupid. He is giving plum speaking spots to both Bill and Hillary for a reason. What better reason than the fact she is on the ticket? The plan was probably hatched months ago. It will be unveiled with great drama, and the media adulation will be amazing to behold.

If I am proven wrong on this, I'll gladly eat my words. But if I'm right, I expect lots of incoming links. :)

Saddleback Follies

I watched Rick Warren's back-to-back interviews with Obama and McCain at his Saddleback Church Saturday night. Three reactions:

First, it would have been nice to see some follow-up when the candidates dodged questions or gave nonsensical answers. The format had its advantages in asking the same questions of both Obama and McCain, but they were still able to wiggle out of some tough spots. For instance, McCain was quick to say that life begins at conception, but then admitted to support of embryonic stem-cell research. These things don't fit. If, by McCain's own definition, every fetus is human, why is it all right to kill some of them but not others?

Second, while McCain had the better night, I don't think it was quite the massive victory some commentators think it is. Republicans are supposed to do well in front of an Evangelical audience. Obama - repugnant though his positions are - at least showed up, talked about his faith, and got applause a few times. That's really all he needed.

Recall that in 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush had overwhelming support from Evangelicals and still barely won both times. In 2004 he was helped mightily by the presence of gay-marriage initiatives on the ballot in several states. Even so, John Kerry would be president today if a hundred thousand votes had gone the other way in a few key states.

Barack Obama doesn't need to get all the Evangelicals on his side. All he needs to do is peel off 5% or 10% of those who supported Bush four years ago. If those people vote for Obama, vote for a third party candidate, or don't vote at all, it is very bad news for McCain. Obama appears to be well on his way to achieving this goal. In that sense, the appearance at Saddleback was a big step in the right direction for him.

Third, McCain's answer that the United States must "defeat" evil makes me nervous. We must resist evil, of course, and sometimes fight it. But evil will not be defeated until Christ returns at the end of time. If defeating evil becomes our national policy, we will defeat only ourselves.

Nothing I heard at Saddleback makes me change my mind. I cannot vote for either Obama or McCain. The lesser of two evils is still evil.

The Greater Love of Maximilian Kolbe

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

When we think about the Holocaust, the first victims that come to mind are Jews. Yet the Nazis also killed many thousands of people from other undesirable groups: disabled people, mentally ill, Gypsies, homosexuals, uncooperative Christians, and others. Maximilian Kolbe was one of them.

Kolbe was born in Russia in 1894 to German and Polish parents. In 1907, he and his brother became illegal immigrants when they crossed into Poland and joined a Franciscan junior seminary. He was later sent to study in Rome and ordained a priest in 1918. While in Rome he founded an evangelistic group called the Militia Immaculata which still exists today. Fr. Kolbe returned to Poland and busied himself launching a new monastery, a seminary, a radio station and several religious publications.

In the 1930s Fr. Kolbe made several mission trips to Japan. While there he founded a monastery on the outskirts of Nagasaki. Against the wishes of the local Shinto people, he insisted it be built on the side of a mountain facing away from the city. This enabled the monastery to survive when most of Nagasaki was destroyed by the atomic bomb in 1945.

During the Second World War, Fr. Kolbe provided shelter to several thousand Polish Jews in his monastery and used his radio skills to broadcast secret messages about German military activities. In 1941, he was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

In July 1941, a man from Kolbe's barracks disappeared and was presumed to have escaped. Nazi practice in such cases was to execute ten prisoners for every escapee. Ten were chosen; one cried out in despair that his family needed him. Father Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and offered to take the man's place. His offer was accepted.

The ten were executed in a particularly cruel manner: they were placed in a bunker with no food and water and simply allowed to starve to death. Another prisoner who was forced to help with the execution later described what happened.

The ten condemned to death went through terrible days. From the underground cell in which they were shut up there continually arose the echo of prayers and canticles. The man in-charge of emptying the buckets of urine found them always empty. Thirst drove the prisoners to drink the contents. Since they had grown very weak, prayers were now only whispered. At every inspection, when almost all the others were now lying on the floor, Father Kolbe was seen kneeling or standing in the centre as he looked cheerfully in the face of the SS men.

Father Kolbe never asked for anything and did not complain, rather he encouraged the others, saying that the fugitive might be found and then they would all be freed. One of the SS guards remarked: this priest is really a great man. We have never seen anyone like him ..

Two weeks passed in this way. Meanwhile one after another they died, until only Father Kolbe was left. This the authorities felt was too long. The cell was needed for new victims. So one day they brought in the head of the sick-quarters, a German named Bock, who gave Father Kolbe an injection of carbolic acid in the vein of his left arm. Father Kolbe, with a prayer on his lips, himself gave his arm to the executioner. Unable to watch this I left under the pretext of work to be done. Immediately after the SS men had left I returned to the cell, where I found Father Kolbe leaning in a sitting position against the back wall with his eyes open and his head drooping sideways. His face was calm and radiant ..

The date was August 14, 1941. A few months later, another young Polish man entered an underground seminary to study for the priesthood. Like Father Kolbe, he was sent to study in Rome and later returned to Poland to serve the church. His name was Karol Wojtyla, and he went on to become Pope John Paul II. In 1981, the Polish Pope canonized Father Maximilian Kolbe as a martyr and saint.

Among those present at the ceremony was Franciszek Gajowniczek, the man for whom Father Kolbe died. Gajowniczek survived the war and returned to his family. He lived another 53 years before passing away in 1995. Every August 14, he returned to Auschwitz to honor the man who saved his life.

What about the man who escaped, causing the executions? His body was later found in the camp latrine at Auschwitz. He did not escape at all; he simply drowned and disappeared. Did Father Kolbe die for nothing? Certainly not. It is unlikely any of these men would have left Auschwitz alive in any case. They were, at least, allowed to die with Father Kolbe praying by their side.

People sometimes wonder why Catholic priests are celibate. There are many reasons, but one of them is so the priest can offer himself fully as a servant of God's people. Father Kolbe gave himself in the fullest possible sense. In so doing, he preached a message that will survive far longer than anything else he did in his life on Earth.

For further reading:
Catholic Online
Saint of the Day

Consummation Confusion

Last week I listened to the podcast of attorney Charles LiMandri being interviewed on the Catholic Answers Live radio program for July 28. (Listen or download here). LiMandri is heavily involved in the campaign to amend California's state constitution to prevent gay marriages. He brought up an interesting point to this debate that I have not heard anywhere else.

Historically, both civil government and most religions have said that a marriage is not valid unless it has been consummated. The meaning of this is clear when the two parties to the marriage are a man and a woman. There is no doubt about the particular responsibilities of husband and wife.

In a gay "marriage," on the other hand, consummation in the traditional manner is impossible. There are, instead, several possible acts that the putative spouses can engage in, based upon their own desires and preferences. More permutations are added by the particular role each putative spouse takes during these acts. The possibilities are also different for men and women. The requirement that a marriage be "consummated" becomes very complicated once same-sex unions are legalized.

LiMandri said that courts or legislators will inevitably have to step in and clarify this ambiguity. For instance, sooner or later there will be a gay version of Anna Nicole Smith who "marries" an elderly male and inherits a fortune - drawing protests from blood relatives. A court will then have to rule whether the marriage was "consummated." At that point a major goal of the homosexual activists will be accomplished: legal recognition that their sexual acts are equivalent to those of male-female couples. If you think this isn't one of their goals, you are sadly mistaken.

On a related note, recently I was in a situation where I had no choice but to listen to a radio station that I would normally avoid. I was trying to think of other things but one song had a particularly catchy tune. I was starting to actually enjoy it when the words of the female vocalist hit me: "I kissed a girl and I liked it..."

Whoa, I thought to myself. This can't be. Later a Google search revealed the complete lyrics. There is no profanity per se - which is why they can play it on the radio - but the message is clear: it's just a kiss. Your boyfriend won't mind. Try it. People seem to like it because the song is topping the charts.

Now I do not believe that listening to a song will make someone who is otherwise straight turn gay or lesbian. It will, however, start to infuse the idea that there is really no difference between the sexes and that experimentation is fine. This may not be what the artist, a Ms. Katy Perry, intends; in fact it appears she is probably just trying to create publicity for herself. Some gay people aren't happy with her, either. It is the result, though.

The bigger point is that our popular culture is slowly but surely coming to accept all varieties of sexual behavior as normal. If you're not shocked yet, just wait a few years.

How Not To Cut HIV Rates

From Bloomberg News:

Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) -- On a typical day, Robert Bailey has 20 to 30 men waiting to be circumcised at his clinic in Kisumu, Kenya. The men are enduring the pain because they don't want to get AIDS.

Since a study by Bailey in 2006 found the operation drops the HIV infection rate in men by 60 percent, the procedure most often performed at birth has become a popular elective surgery among grown men in southern Africa. The push has been fueled by $16 million from the U.S. for clinics, personnel and procedures, funding expected to double this year, and $10.8 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The operation, in which skin covering the end of the penis is removed, may help lower infections among men of the traditionally uncircumcised Luo tribe by more than two-thirds, to 5 percent, said Bailey in a telephone interview July 14 from the Nyanza Reproductive Health Society Clinic he runs. Widespread use could prevent 5.7 million African infections and 3 million deaths over 20 years, according to the United Nations. [more]

While I appreciate what Dr. Bailey is trying to accomplish, I doubt it will work. In fact, I predict it will actually increase HIV rates among these men. Why? Because they will view it as permission to continue and accelerate their promiscuous behavior.

It's the same principle as low-fat food. If you want to lose weight, low-fat drinks, snacks and sweets are rarely much help. The reason for this is that we see "low-fat" and give ourselves permission to eat twice as much. It's an unconscious process most of the time, but real nonetheless.

We should also note that the men showing up to be circumcised are probably not living in faithful, monogamous relationships. If they were, there would be no need to go through this pain because their chances of getting HIV (and a variety of other diseases) would be minuscule. Promotion of such behavior helped Uganda drop its HIV rates by 70% in recent years.

Despite the proven success, few other nations are interesting in copying Uganda's methods. Why? In their view, anything that stands in the way of maximum sexual pleasure is unacceptable. They seek the post-modern Holy Grail: complete sexual freedom without negative consequences.

As with those who sought the real Holy Grail for the wrong reasons, they will likely find only pain, suffering, and eventually death.

Another Reason To Avoid McDonald's?

We would all be well-advised to remove McDonald's food from our diet. Now there is another reason. The American Family Association is calling for a boycott of McDonald's over the company's financial support of the gay and lesbian political agenda. McDonald's is a "corporate partner" of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, a privilege it acquired by donating $20,000. A McDonald's executive now sits on the board of NGLCC and the company's logo is featured on the NGLCC web site.

It is important to note that the AFA is not asking McDonald's to refuse service to gay people, avoid hiring them, or to discriminate in any way. What they want is for McDonald's to simply remain neutral in the ongoing culture war. Given that NGLCC actively lobbies the government for things like same-sex "marriage," McDonald's is effectively taking sides in this battle. And it's the wrong side, in the view of many Christians and family groups.

What's interesting to me is the official reaction from McDonald's. According to LifeSiteNews, a company spokesman said the boycott is motivated by "hate" and they have refused to give an inch. What does this tell us? Presumably, McDonald's is not in business to lose money. If they thought the boycott was going to cost them a significant amount of business, they would give in immediately. They haven't. Why?

If affinity for one group risks losing the business of another, the larger group ought to get its way. That's the cold, hard reality of the corporate world. McDonald's has calculated that it has more to gain by courting gay and lesbian groups than it will lose by insulting Christians and others who wish to defend traditional marriage.

Other companies have reached the same calculation. Look who else is listed on the NGLCC web site as a corporate sponsor: American Airlines, Intel, Wells Fargo, Motorola, American Express, IBM, Kodak, Burger King, PepsiCo, OfficeMax, AT&T, and more. All these companies think there is some kind of value in supporting gay and lesbian causes. Obviously, they've concluded that gay people are more valuable than faithful Christians.

I don't like saying it, but the evidence is that we've lost this battle, folks. Yes, we have numbers on our side (for now). Unfortunately the gay marriage people are better organized and funded. They're going to get their way. It is only a matter of time.

As for the boycott, I'm really not sure how effective it would be anyway. Most of their locations are actually owned by franchisees who may or may not agree with what the decisions made by corporate headquarters. McDonald's does some good things, too. I understand the impulse to boycott, but the truth is that pretty much every large company has some kind of objectionable activity or policy. We can't boycott everyone. With all due respect to Donald Wildmon and the AFA, I think there may be better ways to get the point across.

Things I Don't Need To Hear

So one night this week, Mrs. D.O.T.S. had drifted off to sleep and I was still awake and reading. As usual, the TV was tuned to Fox News Channel but I wasn't really listening. Suddenly I was jolted by the sound of a young girl screaming for help.

I looked at the TV to find Greta Van Susteren playing the audio tape of a call to 911. The caption said it was a 9-year-old girl whose mother had just been stabbed by her father. The mother was bleeding, the deranged father was stalking around with a sword, and the little girl was calling for help while trying to care for a younger brother.

I was fascinated by this for a second. It was a kind of primitive reaction that I think is programmed into the males of most every species: child in danger - protect! But of course it was TV; there was nothing I could do. Once this thought registered, I started to feel uncomfortable. This little girl's life was being destroyed, and Fox News was replaying her experience for... what? Entertainment value? I, for one, did not feel entertained.

Let me be clear: this wasn't just a quick clip. It went on for two or three minutes as the 911 operator tried to get information and help the girl calm down. I finally decided I didn't want to hear anymore and turned it off.

Of course it is the mission of Fox News to report the news. Reporting the facts is one thing; replaying the worst moments of this girl's life for the entire nation to share isn't news. It is pure titillation and emotional manipulation. But the media isn't alone. They do these things because the public responds. We're all at fault.

The mother died and the father was arrested. Hopefully justice will be done and he won't be able to hurt anyone else. He's already done quite enough; two young children have lost their mother and their father in the worst possible way. The experience will haunt them for life. It's haunting me and I wasn't even there.

One good thing did come from the story: as I drifted off to sleep that night, I prayed for that little girl and her brother. I'm sure many other people did the same. Sadly, it was all we could do.

Seven Babies, One Coffin

This post hurts.

The tiny coffin in the picture below contains the bodies of seven aborted babies. The remains were found in a garbage dumpster outside an abortion clinic in Michigan. The rescuers named them: Rachael, Joshua, Victoria, Adam, Mary, Jacob, and Grace.

We do not know why the parents of these babies decided to abort them. Maybe they had no choice. Maybe they were misled. Or maybe they knew exactly what they were doing. It doesn't matter. What we know is that seven of God's children had no chance at life. But thanks to some wonderful people, at least they had a proper burial. Here are pictures of the funeral mass in Detroit. (Note: the link had lots of photos so it may take time to download.)

Abortion clinics wish to avoid such spectacles so they normally incinerate the babies as "medical waste." Somehow these seven slipped through. They represent many more.

Take a good look at that picture. This is what "freedom" gives us. It is the result of "choice."
Rachael, Joshua, Victoria, Adam, Mary, Jacob, and Grace did not die from a disease. They were not killed in accidents. Their lives were taken from them. They had no choice.

Rest in peace, little ones.

A Death in Cleveland

Anthony Waters didn't like to walk on busy streets in Cleveland because people sometimes threw rocks and yelled obscenities at him, his mother said.

So whenever Waters walked from the homeless shelter where he lived to his mother's house near Broadway, he cut through an industrial area until he got to East 55th Street, she said. Then he took side streets to get to his final destination.

On Wednesday night, his walk was fatally interrupted.

At least three teens beat Waters about 9:15 p.m. while he was in the 3000 block of East 55th, outside the G&M Towing Co., police said.

Waters suffered a lacerated spleen and broken ribs. He died at MetroHealth Medical Center from injuries he suffered in the attack, police said. MORE

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

I suspect Anthony Waters now has a Home where no one throws rocks or yells at him. As for those who so viciously took his life: may God have mercy on their souls. I do not think I could.

Vatican Home Theater

I think they should call in the Geek Squad next time.

(via Father Z)

Moloch, Inc. Rolls Out New Brand

From today's Wall Street Journal:

Flush with cash, Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide are aggressively expanding their reach, seeking to woo more affluent patients with a network of suburban clinics and huge new health centers that project a decidedly upscale image.

The nonprofit, which traces its roots to 1916, has long focused on providing birth control, sexual-health care and abortions to teens and low-income women. While those groups still make up the majority of Planned Parenthood's patients, executives say they are "rebranding" their clinics to appeal to women of means -- a move that opens new avenues for boosting revenue and, they hope, political clout.

Two elegant new health centers have been built, and at least five more are on the way; the largest, in Houston, will be 75,000 square feet. They feature touches such as muted lighting, hardwood floors and airy waiting rooms in colors selected by marketing experts -- as well as walls designed to withstand a car's impact should an antiabortion protest turn violent.

Planned Parenthood has also opened more than two dozen quick-service "express centers," many in suburban shopping malls. Some sell jewelry, candles, books and T-shirts, along with contraception.

"It is indeed a new look...a new branding, if you will," said Leslie Durgin, a senior vice president at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. MORE

All your church are belong to us

I'm not totally sure what to make of this very strange video, but it is definitely interesting.

If you are really confused after watching, this may help.

Hat tip to Mark Shea

Feline Evangelism

Hi folks. I'm still on my Blog Break. However the following photo was so touching I had to share it with you.

If only we all had such zeal. More cat missionary photos here.

I must say the members of this new order seem very dedicated. They have a project underway to translate the entire Bible into their language, as well as a philosophical argument for the existence of Ceiling Cat.

Peace and happy summer to all. I'll be back soon.

Blog Break

Attention Driving Out The Snakes regular readers:

You may have noticed I am not writing as frequently as in the past. This is because a number of other matters are competing for my attention, and the blog is a lower priority.

Also, I have to confess I’ve been short on inspiration lately. I need to put some thought into what I hope to accomplish here. To do this, I’ve decided to take a break from blogging for a few weeks.

If you’re subscribed by RSS or e-mail, please don’t cancel. I will be back soon. Also, I will continue to update the Shared Items widget on the sidebar. Check it out to see what I think is worth reading.

Thanks for understanding and have a great summer.

Hell on American Soil II

It occurred to me that certain Red-Blooded Patriotic Americans will look at my post yesterday regarding the treatment of immigration detainees and say something like: "So what? They shouldn't be here in the first place! They had it coming!"

There are two responses to this argument. First, it is not necessarily true that the people ICE has in custody are in the U.S. illegally. Many are being held pending the outcome of immigration proceedings. Sometimes they win and are allowed to remain here.

Second, the right-wing respect for "Rule of Law" is quite selective. We also have laws against abusing and neglecting prisoners. Why should people who break those laws get a pass?

If you don't have time to read the entire series of Washington Post stories, at least take a minute to read about Isaias Vasquez. Here is his story:

Vasquez had come from Mexico to the United States legally with his family when he was 2 years old. He served in the Army for two years until psychiatric problems ended his military career. Years later, when he was convicted on a drug-possession charge, he served the 1 1/2-year sentence at a Texas state psychiatric hospital. The government said the crime made him deportable, and immigration officers picked him up from the hospital and sent him to one detention center, then another. Records chronicle his paranoid delusions and auditory hallucinations.

He had been diagnosed with chronic paranoid schizophrenia in the early 1990s and had been hospitalized 18 times before he landed in Pearsall. But the staff ruled that he was not schizophrenic and cut off his medication.

Instead, on Nov. 29, 2005, they diagnosed him with an "unspecified personality disorder." Vasquez "insisted throughout session he was paranoid schizophrenic and needed medication," a social worker wrote in his medical file. But the evaluation team concluded that "his thought process and content was normal, logical and coherent." They suspected he was faking to keep his Social Security disability benefits.

They decided to take him off a drug for schizophrenia, and another for depression, and cut his dose of a second antidepressant in half. The effects were swift. A week later Vasquez was placed on suicide observation. He "smeared feces throughout the suicide observation room," his medical chart shows. The next day, "he announced in the dormitory that either he killed himself or God would do it for him, and he took all of his clothes off. Then he got down onto the floor and licked it."

The staff's response: They eliminated the last of his psychotropic medicine. "Mental health visits will cease at present time," says a Dec. 15 note in his medical file.


After another month, he was found sitting on his bed with only a blanket around his waist, reading a Bible aloud and screaming, "The world is coming to an end, but not until I finish using my red tape!" He refused his other medications for diabetes, high blood pressure and suspected tuberculosis.

In mid-March, Johnson stuck a handwritten note on Vasquez's cell window: "If you keep refusing to take your . . . medicines . . . YOU put YOURSELF at risk of BLINDNESS, AMPUTATIONS, HEART ATTACKS, KIDNEY FAILURE, STROKES and EARLY DEATH."

Vasquez "covered that area of the window with spit," Johnson wrote in his medical file. "I slid another copy under the door, and he turned it face down and slid it back out, and then he blocked the door with his clothing so I could not slide it under again."

On March 24, "[H]e had saved up 6 empty peanut butter jars and had some sort of yellowish liquid in them. . . . [T]he guards told him to give them up. He refused." The guards subdued him with tear gas.

They gassed him again two weeks later when he refused to give the guards the broken eyeglasses he had "tied to his head with an undershorts waistband. . . . When the room was repeatedly sprayed, he stood stoically."

Unable to persuade Vasquez to take his medicine, the staff discontinued it in late April. A final note on his behavior, from May 1, five days before his release, says he had "smeared feces on window to cell and threw water and feces under door of cell."

Even then, the staff did not reconsider its assessment that he was not schizophrenic or its decision to take away the psychotropic drugs. Their assessment of his problem: "Ineffective individual coping."

Vasquez had won his immigration case. When his common-law wife picked him up, she found him raving and gaunt. Gloria Armendariz drove him straight to the VA hospital. On the way, she recalled, "I had to cut the [car] speakers and put them in the trunk because he kept saying they . . . would listen and videotape him."

At the hospital, guards had to subdue him. He was admitted to the psychiatric ward, "which is where he needs to be," said his lawyer, Lee Teran. The next day, he was started on antipsychotics.

Helped by his medicine and no longer facing deportation, Vasquez, now 49, did something that, in his nearly five decades in the country, he'd never bothered to do: He applied to become a citizen. At the citizenship ceremony last fall, he wore a jacket, a tie and a broad smile.

Yes, the story has a happy ending, but is there any excuse for a human being to be treated this way? If a dog was forced to live in his own filth without medical treatment, people would be outraged. Yet as far as I can tell, no one at ICE has been punished or disciplined in any way for what they did to Isaias Vasquez. You can bet many more such stories remain untold.

This is the thanks our nation gives a sick veteran. God bless America.