You Can Keep The Change

Do you begin to see why I don’t want to write about politics anymore? Look where we are. After the Florida primary Edwards and Giuliani are out of the race. Rudy’s demise is cause for slight celebration, but hold that thought for now. Mike Huckabee's claim on Isaiah 54 appears not to have been well-received before the Great White Throne. At best, he may be able to play a spoiler role at the convention and/or get himself on the ticket as VP. Yippee.

So now it appears that one of four people will be your next president. All are war-mongering statists, to slightly varying degrees. There is some variation on the issue of abortion. Specifically:

  • One candidate is in favor of letting babies die even after they are born, as long as the original intent was to abort them.
  • Another favors aborting babies up to and including the moment just before they are born, even if it means sucking their brains out with a safe & legal vacuum cleaner.
  • Yet another says he is against aborting babies, but was in favor of it not so long ago and conveniently changed his mind just in time to run for president. He also created a health plan making abortion available to the sexually crazed residents of his state for the bargain price of $50.
  • The last one is against aborting babies but favors using your tax dollars to cannibalize tiny unborn humans for the purpose of extending and making more pleasurable the lives of we humans who were lucky enough to escape being aborted ourselves. Furthermore he fought in court for the power to keep you from telling other people which politicians support such things.

These are the choices the democratic process gives you. Happy now?

What’s really funny is that this year’s campaign buzzword is “change.” In fact, the last thing any of these four will give us is change. All are zealous defenders of the status quo. None will do anything to disturb the stranglehold the Culture of Death has on America, or to end the idolatrous and global “End to Evil” war set in motion by our current Caesar, or to reduce the crushing debt that has accumulated thanks to our willingness to sell our votes to the highest bidders. Not going to happen. They're all different voices singing the same meaningless song. Here's the video evidence.

So I'm back where I started. Because he refuses to join the deceptive game the so-called "viable" candidates are playing, Ron Paul has no chance of being elected president. He is, however, a man I can support without also enabling some form of intrinsic evil. He will have my vote in the Texas primary, and maybe in November as well (even if I have to make it a write-in). Hopefully enough people do the same to demonstrate there is still a Remnant that will stand up for truth.

If the result is we have to face the lions, so be it. My conscience will be clear.

Behold Your Next President

Over a year ago I posted this picture of Billary Clinton and now it's suddenly getting hits from all over the world. Since everyone seems so interested, here is another version for you to enjoy. Sorry if it gives anyone nightmares.

American Idol Misses Out

So American Idol is holding auditions around the country. A young man named Bruce Dickson came to the Dallas try-outs. Bruce is 19, Christian, and comes from a home-schooled family. He made it past initial screening and went before the Golden Trio of TV judges: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell.

As you can see from the picture here, Bruce is an attractive, athletic guy, and apparently has some musical talent as well. Before his chance to sing, Bruce was asked to share something interesting about himself. His response: "I've never kissed a girl." He went on to explain that he has made a pledge to remain chaste until he is married.

The three judges, accustomed as they are to Hollywood hedonism, almost fell out of their chairs. This just didn't compute. It was like Siamese twins had showed up and asked to sing a duet. Needless to say, Bruce did not get a chance to go on to the next round. Randy Jackson's parting advice: "Go kiss some girls."

It was the voice-over narration by Ryan Seacrest that really makes me mad, though. "Maybe next year he'll come back less a boy and more a man."

So let's get this straight. Because, unlike most of his peers, Bruce chooses not to sleep with every girl who will have him; because he actually seems to understand the meaning of love and commitment; and because he refuses to go along with the pelvic obsession of American culture, he isn't really a man. He's still just a boy. That is the way Ryan Seacrest sees it.

I'll be a gentleman here and not question anyone's manhood, except to say that I think Bruce has nothing to be ashamed of. I also think he's probably better off staying out of the Hollywood spotlight. It's hard enough to maintain purity in places like Bastrop, Texas, where Bruce lives. In the kind of cesspool American Idol glorifies, I'm sure it is almost impossible.

Lydia at WWWtW makes a good point: the very goal of shows like American Idol is to create sex objects for the titillation and pleasure of the audience. Is this the kind of thing a Christian who values chastity should want to compete in, much less win? Maybe not. On the other hand, aren't we called to engage the culture and try to change it for the better? It's a tough call.

Generic Churches

Last week Rod Dreher had this post about the question of Baptist churches taking the word "Baptist" from their names. This is a growing trend in Evangelical Christianity. Many large "megachurches" either have no denominational affiliation at all, or downplay it if they do. Ditto for thousands of tiny storefront churches that can be found throughout the U.S.

Why is this? Moreover, why do independent churches seem to be growing so quickly? I have a theory. When a local congregation aligns itself with a denomination, whether Baptist, Lutheran, or whatever, they are making a statement. The statement is this: "We are part of something bigger and broader. There are certain things about this church that are distinctive and non-negotiable. This is who we are."

This sort of thing is not consistent with modern American culture, in which we expect everything to be customized, adaptable, and personalized. When a church has "Baptist" in its name, people think this: "If I go there, they might say things I don't want to hear! I won't be re-affirmed in my desire to do whatever I want! I may even be told there are parts of my life I ought to change!"

It is far easier and more pleasant for most people to go to a church that doesn't ask much of them. The generic churches offer entertainment and a sense of community. In many cases they do a lot of good work by helping people deal with life and its problems. This is great - but is it enough? Shouldn't there be something more? Something transcendent and eternal? Something that goes beyond this life and anticipates the next one? Is the generic church really the church Christ founded?

No, it isn't. Christ gave us one Church, and He didn't intend for it to be some squishy "I'm ok, you're ok" concert hall where everyone has a good time and believes whatever they want to believe. He prayed at the Last Supper that we would be one, that we would be brought to perfection as one. The Apostle Paul wrote this:

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Paul did not endorse generic Christianity. He said that the Church of the Living God is the pillar and foundation of the truth. Pillars aren't supposed to break. Foundations are supposed to be firm. You don't want your pillar and foundation shifting itself around because it thinks "circumstances are different now."

A church with no foundation is no church at all. Yes, it may look strong enough for now. Yet it will not last. Human weakness will let it start to crumble, and time will bring down its walls. The true Church is built on a rock and the the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Christ Himself told us so. Any church not built on that rock will not last - no matter what it calls itself.

Tired of Fox News

Apparently this is the week for TV anchor people to make idiots of themselves. First we had ESPN's Dana Jacobson with her drunken tirade against Notre Dame. Now John Gibson of Fox News is dancing on Heath Ledger's grave. Check this out. (via Mark Shea)

I don't have any particular affinity for Heath Ledger. I didn't see Brokeback Mountain, but I liked him in The Patriot and A Knight's Tale. Whatever kind of person he was, he's dead now and his family and friends are grieving. Making his death the butt of jokes is a low-class thing to do. I expect such things from shock jocks, not the author of The War on Christmas who is a popular figure on the "conservative" news network. At least Jacobson had the excuse of being drunk; Gibson was sober when he said these things, and probably even wrote the lines in advance.

I used to be quite a Fox News junkie. Over the last year I've grown tired of their fixation on celebrity gossip and grisly crime stories. The political coverage is still good but I've lost interest in that, too. Guys like Gibson and Sean Hannity now strike me as little more than blowhard shills for the Rubber Hose Right. I don't miss them at all.

Maybe I should start a support group for ex-Fox News addicts. Anyone else out there feel the same?

Wait Just A Doggone Minute

Pro-abortion folks constantly accuse us of imposing our religious beliefs on them. "Keep your rosaries off our ovaries," they say, among other clever things. So this story (via Mark Shea) confuses me.

SCHENECTADY -- To commemorate Tuesday's 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling that affirmed a woman's right to an abortion, clergy blessed this city's new Planned Parenthood clinic in a ceremony dubbed "On Sacred Ground."

"Today is more than about the building and about bricks and mortar," Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Linda Scharf said. "It's a blessing to demonstrate the support of the clergy."

...the blessing occurred at the newly constructed 18,000-square-foot building at 1040 State St. that opened in September to replace a facility on Union Street.

"Clergy have long supported Planned Parenthood's mission and believe women are moral decision-makers, and they trust their right to make a personal decision based on their moral beliefs and whether ... we concur ... we still need to respect that decision," Scharf said.

"The clergy were instrumental in getting abortion services legalized in the United States and right here in Schenectady," she added. "I know a member of the clergy who was part of an underground who directed young women to safe abortions before Roe v. Wade."

Apparently, it is OK to bring religion into the abortion issue, as long as the religion is used to celebrate the Glory and Goodness of this Sacred Sacrament. I'm not kidding. Read on:

At Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson, an affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Rev. Larry Phillips of Schenectady's Emmanuel-Friedens Church declared the ground "sacred and holy ... where women's voices and stories are welcomed, valued and affirmed; sacred ground where women are treated with dignity, supported in their role as moral decision-makers ... sacred ground where the violent voices of hatred and oppression are quelled."

The minister has been affiliated with Planned Parenthood going back more than 30 years, Scharf said. About three dozen people gathered at the facility, known as the Evelyn & David Sencer Center, to offer prayers during the half-hour ceremony.

The Rev. Abby Norton-Levering led the group in prayers for the center's doctors and staff. "We pray that you will make this a place of safety and give a sense of sanctuary," she said.

Rabbi Matt Cutler of Temple Gates of Heaven blew the shofar as "a renewal of commitment to keep reproductive rights in the hands of women."

The Rev. Bill Levering, senior pastor of First Reformed Church of Schenectady, said the right to privacy is endowed by God.

"There are some decisions that are left to the individual. Even God respects the right of privacy. We make women into children when we say they cannot control their own bodies," Levering said.

Phillips led everyone outside where they laid their hands on the brick and limestone as the minister declared, "This is sacred ground."

Just reading this makes me gag. "Sacred ground," according to Reverend Phillips. "A place of safety," Reverendette Norton-Levering calls it. Egads.

Here's the truth: this place is perfectly safe for everyone except the young humans who will be shredded, scalded, and incinerated on so-called sacred ground. What God do these "clergy" think they represent?

March For Life Touches Young and Old

As is usually the case, the 225,000 people at the March for Life in Washington DC got only minimal coverage in the mainstream media. One blogger who was there has an interesting story about her interview with a Japanese TV crew. The Washington Post surprisingly printed a nice article.

In many ways, the march resembled a gigantic pep rally, with smiling teenagers in matching scarves or sweat shirts holding school banners high as they moved along Constitution Avenue NW toward the Supreme Court. But the individual signs they clutched told of their commitment to a cause: "Give Life, Don't Take It" and "Your Mother Was Pro-Life."

"It's illegal to kill someone walking down the street, so it should be illegal to kill someone in the womb," said Topher Boehm, 17, a member of the Pro-Life Club at the Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas. "This is the social justice issue of our era, and I want to do something about it."

Kelsey Wilson, 16, and Michelle Caulder, 17, along with their group from a Catholic church in Indianapolis, waved "Defend Life" signs as they maneuvered through the crush of people. This was their third Washington march, and they plan to keep coming, they said, until abortions are outlawed.

Things like this are the true value of such events. The Supreme Court does not (and arguably should not) base its decisions on the number of protesters outside its doors. Yet the March For Life is still worthwhile because of the impact it has on young people. The kids quoted above will grow up, marry, have families, and move on with their lives. Like most of us, they may not be able to leave their other responsibilities to go to these things. But they will always remember the experience - and they'll tell others about it.

Young people aren't the only ones marching, of course.

"We make the journey every year -- this is a very important part of our commitment to saving lives," said Mike Conroy, 67, a retired pilot from Wexford, Pa., who was attending his ninth March for Life with a Knights of Columbus group. Attached to his baseball cap was a tiny pair of gold feet, three-eighths of an inch long, that he said was the size of an unborn child's feet at 10 weeks.

Thomas Peters has some great photos and videos of the march on his blog. Chelsea has a great reflection on why so many young people were attracted: they survived. If you are reading this and were born in the U.S. after 1973, count yourself fortunate: 50 million of your peers never had a chance to live.

Boorish Anchorwoman Begs For Lightning

This sounds like a delightful woman. I'd like to meet her someday.

[from AFA] ESPN and its parent company, ABC, have refused to take any action against ESPN anchorwoman Dana Jacobson for her hateful, slurring remarks against Jesus, saying "F-- -- Jesus."

On January 11, Jacobson was speaking at a celebrity roast in Atlantic City, N.J., when she unleashed a profane tirade, saying, "F--- Notre Dame," "F--- Touchdown Jesus" and finally "F--- Jesus."

"Touchdown Jesus" is the popular moniker for a statue of Jesus raising his arms, located on the Notre Dame campus.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue spoke with ESPN about the attack and received an e-mail from Jacobson which basically treated the incident as a non-event. The statement said, in part, "I respect all religions and did not mean anything derogatory by my poorly chosen words."

Jacobson's comments were at a public event where she was representing ESPN.

The fact that neither ESPN nor ABC has taken any action against Jacobson indicates they have a bias against Christians. Donohue said that Jacobson should be fired.

This anti-Christian bias of the networks is becoming commonplace. Actress Kathy Griffin used her appearance on the Emmy Awards program to tell Jesus to "suck it," responding to athletes who thank Jesus when they achieve certain levels. No action was taken against Griffin.

Bill Donoghue's latest post reports that ESPN has suspended Jacobson for a week, but he appears to have initially thought her insult was directed only at Notre Dame - not Jesus Himself. Apparently there is a video of the event that ESPN refuses to release. Donoghue wants the video made public so we can all know exactly what was said. Newsbusters has more details. Here is what ESPN has to say.

As usual, Notre Dame responded with class.

Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said, "While we in no way condone Ms. Jacobson's comments, we're aware of the circumstances in which they occurred, and in the interest of forgiveness, trust that she and ESPN will address the matter in an appropriate way."

I am not in the least surprised that an ESPN anchor would say such things. This is the network that glorifies the vile exploits of athletically-talented gangsters who in a more civilized society would be placed behind bars where they cannot serve as objects of adulation for impressionable teenagers. That we live in such a society is only partially the fault of ESPN, of course. TV networks air the things they think we want to see. Ms. Jacobson is simply a reflection of our neo-pagan culture. Nonetheless, there is no reason for Christians to patronize a network whose stars feel free to fling curses at our God and institutions like Notre Dame that are dedicated to His service. There are better things to do with our time anyway.

Ms. Jacobson is also a coward. If she really wanted to stir up trouble she would have directed her insults at Mohammad. She did not - and if she had, ESPN would not need to be pressured into taking action. Jacobson would have been fired within microseconds and told to leave the building quickly before the car bombs could get there. This double standard says all we need to know.

UPDATE: David Kuo - and apparently most of his readers - think Christians are just whining about this incident. Why are these people even reading a site called "beliefnet?"

Also, I forgot to mention that ESPN is owned by Disney. I'm sure Uncle Walt would be proud.

UPDATE 2: Bill Donohue now says after further discussions with ESPN he now feels the network has taken appropriate action, and he considers the matter closed. Sister Mary Martha has a few words.

Respect For Life Begins At Home

Lam Luong, a native of Vietnam now living in Alabama, stands accused of killing his four young children by throwing them off a bridge into the Gulf of Mexico. He appears to have done this in reaction to an argument with his wife, and is now being held in jail pending murder charges. [News coverage]

Clearly this is a despicable crime, and a horrible situation for the family. What strikes me as odd, however, is that Mr. Luong would be a free man today had he helped his wife exercise her "choice" to get rid of the children prior to birth. Indeed, he would be honored by some people for doing his part to reduce the impact of humanity on our fragile planet.

Plenty of men do exactly this: impregnate women then take them (willingly or not) to have abortions when an inconvenient baby has the nerve to implant itself in the woman's womb. For whatever reason, Mr. Luong waited too long. Maybe he just wanted to give his children a merciful death. A plunge into icy waters is probably less painful than being chopped into pieces, burned alive with saline, or having your brains sucked out with a vacuum cleaner - all without the benefit of anesthetic.

Such things were made possible in this country exactly 35 years ago. It was January 22, 1973 that the Supreme Court discovered, in Roe v. Wade, that the Constitution grants women the right to kill their unborn babies. States have henceforth been prohibited from stopping this ghastly practice. Tens of millions of babies died as a result.

Tomorrow the pro-life movement gathers in Washington for the annual March for Life. It will be an amazing event - far larger than most mass protests in this country - but chances are you will see nothing about it in the media. It's just not newsworthy, you see.

I'm totally in favor of all political efforts to reduce abortion. At the same time, I think we have to acknowledge that the real battle is in the culture. If Roe v. Wade is reversed, the only result is that states will regain the right to regulate abortion as they see fit. Most will doubtless continue permitting abortion in some fashion. I don't like it either, but that is the political reality in 2008.

What we really need to do is change the culture. We need to regain a respect for humanity and human life, from its natural beginning to its natural end. We need to teach young men and women to respect themselves and respect the natural connection between sexuality and procreation. We need to once again make parenthood a noble and honorable vocation that people want to experience, instead of a chore to be dreaded and postponed.

It's a long way from where we are now to a real Culture of Life - yet every journey begins with a single step. For Evangelical and Catholic Christians, a great place to start is with ourselves. Are we respecting life and helping our children grow up to do the same? Are we teaching the sanctity of life in our churches? Are our actions consistent with the values we claim to hold? Until we do those things, our success in reforming the rest of the culture will be limited. Respect for life begins at home.

Man Survives 47-Story Fall

This is amazing.

Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Alcides Moreno sat upright, barely conscious, amid the tangle of cables and twisted aluminum of his window-washing platform, a few feet from his brother's corpse. The pair had plunged 47 stories down the smoked-glass side of a Manhattan apartment tower, and one of them was alive -- for now.

His brain swelled against his skull, building pressure that could kill him. Blood gushed from rips in his internal organs, filling his chest. The temperature hovered around freezing, and hypothermia was setting in as New York City paramedics arrived.

The physics of a perfect fall, slowed by the platform's wind resistance, may have been the only reason Moreno survived, scientists say. Next it would take a flawless medical rescue to keep him alive.

"If you are a believer of miracles, this would be one,'' said Philip Barie, chief of critical care at New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, four blocks from the alley where the brothers landed. [more]

Yes, indeed. Mr. Moreno was saved by "physics" and "a flawless medical rescue." It couldn't possibly be a "miracle" unless you are one of those superstitious "believer" folks, says the doctor who works at a Presbyterian Hospital, which just happened to be four blocks away from the scene.

It is, of course, legitimate to ask what kind of miracle saves one man while letting his brother die. We cannot know the answer to that question. Maybe the laws of nature combined in such a way that Mr. Moreno survived without supernatural intervention. Yet to think that the laws of physics work in such perfect harmony by random chance is insane.

The universe itself is a miracle - so it's not hard to believe this was one, too.

U.S. Abortion Rate Plunges

Here is some truly good news.

Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. abortion rate fell to its lowest level in more than 30 years as the number of doctors who provide the operations continued to decline, a study found.

There were 1.2 million abortions, or 19.4 for every 1,000 women of reproductive age, in 2005, according to research by the Guttmacher Institute in New York, a New York-based non-profit group focused on reproductive health. Those numbers compare with a peak of 1.6 million abortions, or 27.4 per 1,000 women, in 1990, the researchers wrote. [more]

The Guttmacher Institute is an offshoot of Planned Parenthood, so no one can say this is right-wing propaganda. The article goes on to speculate that the drop is a result of either decreased availability (thanks to all you nasty demonstrators and theocratic politicians), or possibly caused by more widespread use of contraceptives. I would like to think it is a sign that the prayers of the pro-life movement are being answered.

Whatever the reason, this report is cause for joy. It is not victory, though. 1.2 million is still a staggering number. We're losing the equivalent of a large city's population every single year. If terrorists did this to us everyone would be outraged. Instead, most people don't care. We have a long way to go.

To all those fighting for life in so many ways, congratulations. Your efforts are being rewarded. Be not afraid.

Pentagon Prepares For Hillary Takeover

The Race is Over

I haven’t posted much on the presidential horse-race because it has, quite frankly, become boring to me. I still intend to vote for Ron Paul in the Texas GOP primary, but I’m under no illusions he will win the nomination. Nor would I really want him to be president. What I want to do is send a message to the party establishment that I’m unhappy with all their so-called “mainstream” candidates.

Having said that, who would I like to see on the ballot in November? Frankly, there are no good choices in either party. At this point the winds are blowing in a Democratic direction, so there is a good chance either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will be our next president. I know this is a depressing thought, but I suggest you start getting used to the idea. I think either of them can beat whoever the Republicans nominate. Hillary may be slightly less threatening than Obama, whose rhetorical skills might enable him to actually get large parts of the liberal agenda passed into law.

The Republican race is more wide-open. Excepting Ron Paul, my next choice would have to be Huckabee. I think he is more reliably pro-life, but I fear he will be little different from George W. Bush in most other respects. McCain and Giuliani scare the daylights out of me with their eagerness to bomb and/or torture everyone in sight. (McCain, to his credit, is against torture.) As for Romney, I can’t believe a word the man says. Fred Thompson puts me to sleep, which wouldn’t be all bad in a president but I also don’t believe he is really pro-life.

My guess is the GOP race will come down to McCain vs. Romney. After his distant third-place showing in Michigan, Huckabee is probably past his peak. This is sad in a way because I think Huckabee is probably the only one with a fighting chance to beat Hillary or Obama. The GOP power brokers would apparently rather lose the election than get behind one of those wacky Christians.

Rod Dreher has an interesting scenario: McCain gets the nomination, makes Huckabee his running mate and they then lose in November. This would set up Huckabee to be the GOP presumptive nominee in 2012, by which time the Democrats may have screwed up enough to make a GOP victory more realistic. We'll see.

In any case, for me this election cycle is probably over. There is no chance of a good outcome, from my perspective, so the best I can do is pick the lesser evil. Since the lesser evil is still evil, I can't get excited about it any more.

Why Vote Pro-Life?

I wish I had written this. From Red Cardigan of And Sometimes Tea:

No issue that America faces can possibly be as grave as the hideous injustice that is abortion. No clearer sign of the degradation of our culture exists than the ease and almost-indifference with which the innocent unborn are killed, four thousand of them every day. The other issues that plague us, serious though they may be, do not contain within them the moral imperative demanding their resolution that abortion does; the innocent voices cry out to Heaven for vengeance, and God Who hears these cries will not long spare our nation from the consequences of these decades of hideous depravity, where the death of the child in the womb is seen as of no more moral weight than the removal of a tooth or the choice of a haircut. We ignore this issue at our peril....

For those whose chief objection to my position here is to say that we will never overturn Roe v. Wade, or that we will never completely outlaw abortion, I can only point to our ancestors who kept working to end slavery even when decisions like the Dred Scott decision seemed to settle the question on the pro-slave side, once and for all. I know one thing: America can endure as a nation, or abortion can endure as the public policy of this land. Both will not endure. Either abortion will one day be viewed with as much horror as we now view slavery, or America as a country will cease to be. If we cannot bring the justice of men to end this barbaric practice on our native soil, God's justice will prevail.

Well said. Read the rest.

Rebuilding Gomorrah on Reality TV

I have created a new tag on this blog called Rebuilding Gomorrah. Many people, I think, don't quite comprehend the depths of depravity our society has reached, and how near it is to all of us. Click the link to see what I mean.

Today's example comes from the Czech Republic but will soon be on a screen near you...

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- If you want to watch Nick having sex with a prostitute, he's happy to let you.

The 36-year-old bank-security technician drove eight hours from his home in Metz, France, to Big Sister, a Prague brothel where customers peruse a touch-screen menu of blondes, brunettes and redheads available for free. The catch is clients have to let their exploits be filmed and posted on the Internet.

``Sex is no taboo,'' Nick says, though he asked that his last name not be used. ``You have to free your mind.''

Big Sister is marrying 21st-century technology with the world's oldest profession to profit from the public's appetite for ever-more graphic reality TV. Since 2005, more than 15,000 men have taken up the offer of free sex in return for 15 minutes, or less, of fame, according to the brothel. Big Sister is now expanding into the U.S. with a local version of its Web site.

Visitors to the virtual brothel pay 29.95 euros ($43.88) for a one-month subscription to a smorgasbord of sex listed by position, preference and number of people. Big Sister also produces cable TV shows that air on Sky Italia and the U.K.'s Television X, as well as DVDs such as ``Sex Hyenas'' and ``Voyeur's Eye.''

``Our goal is to attract as many people as possible to catch the first reality sex TV,'' says marketing manager Carl Borowitz, who goes by the name Carlos. ``This is National Geographic for adults. Everyone's curious to watch their neighbor.'' [more]

(How, you might ask, did I happen to find this story? It was at the top of the Bloomberg "Most Read" list today. It's happened before.)

I'm not sure who is more depraved: the people who manage this enterprise, or its customers. A liberal-minded person might argue that it's all voluntary and no one is harmed. I beg to differ.

Consider poor Nick, who is quoted above (something tells me that Nick isn't exactly a Don Juan back home in France.) This 36-year-old, unmarried "bank security technician" isn't doing himself any favors with this activity, especially if he has any visions of ever settling down with a woman. And there is probably a woman in France who would like to settle down with a guy like Nick - but she won't get to do so because he has taught himself that women are nothing but sex objects. She's a victim, too.

Then there are the prostitutes. They may be well-paid, but at what cost to their dignity, their health, and their self-image? Finally there are the thousands of people, mainly men, who view this material and become addicted. Many marriages are destroyed in this way, leaving wives and children shattered into pieces. From there the trail of destruction expands geometrically.

Yes, pornography has been around for a long time. The difference is that now it travels at the speed of light. It's a big problem in society, in our churches, and in many families. There are some good resources here and here for people who are touched by this evil. And make no mistake - it is evil.

Rudy's Answer To Everything

Positioning yourself as The President of 9/11 appears not to be the best strategy, at least in Iowa and New Hampshire. It will take a miracle to get him back in the race now. This video says it all.

Hat tip: Elizabeth Andrew


Reports today suggest that Barack Obama may be on the verge of a big breakout in New Hampshire. I'm not a Democrat and who they nominate is their business. Here are some random thoughts, though.

First, after Obama's big victory in lily-white Iowa some people got all misty-eyed about how far we've come in race relations, that finally a black man is a legitimate candidate, etc etc. Please, pull yourselves together. It is precisely because he is black that Senator Obama has been so successful as a candidate.

As Daniel Larison says, would a white first-term Midwestern Senator with little prior experience and a ho-hum liberal voting record be getting the adulation that Obama does? Even if he gave a stemwinder of a speech? I think not. Obama is good, but his race is the main reason people give him a second look. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but spare me the talk about America finally turning color-blind. We're not there yet.

Second, we should not forget that Obama is arguably the most pro-abortion presidential candidate ever. That's what Terry Jeffrey of Human Events said on EWTN last week. Obama opposed the ban on partial-birth abortions, and even worked to kill a law in Illinois that would have mandated babies born alive after botched abortions be given medical care. For all his soaring rhetoric about change and responsibility, Obama might be better described as the candidate of infanticide.

Third, there is an outrageous e-mail floating around about Obama and his alleged Muslim heritage. Click here if you haven't seen it. The origin of the message is unknown but it appears Hillary Clinton supporters have taken particular glee in forwarding it to everyone they know. Among the charges is that Obama is some kind of closet radical Muslim and that he insisted on taking his oath of office on the Koran rather than the Bible.

The message invites readers to check for verification. I did so, and Snopes actually debunks most everything the letter says. Click here and here to see for yourself. There are a few grains of truth and things that can't be proven, but for the most part the e-mail is a political hit job of the lowest kind. There are plenty of reasons to oppose Senator Obama's presidential aspirations; his history on abortion alone guarantees he will never get my vote. There's no need to spread lies about his background.

The message about Obama and Islam reminds me of another one that asked "Can a good Muslim be a good American?" I dealt with it here.

Vengeance is Whose?

Several states now have laws making sexual assault of children a death-penalty offense, even if the victim is not murdered as well. One man in Louisiana has actually been sent to death row on this basis. The Supreme Court just agreed to review his case to see if the penalty is constitutional. LaShawn Barber hopes they uphold the sentence.

Any sort of sexual assault on a child is, of course, a heinous offense and the impulse for vengeance is understandable. Yet like most impulsive decisions, it's also wrong and potentially counterproductive. I explained why here some time ago.

Among other reasons, consider this: in most cases of rape there are no witnesses except the victim. If we make the rape itself a capital crime, then what incentive do we create for the rapist? Answer: kill your victim. If he's lucky he will get away with the crime because now there are no witnesses. If he gets caught anyway, then he is no worse off because the additional crime of murder brings no added punishment. The only one who is worse off is the victim, who now gets to die after being raped.

The deterrent effect of such laws is also questionable. Anyone who would rape an eight-year-old girl, as the man in the Louisiana case did, isn't thinking clearly in the first place and probably has some kind of mental illness. Even if they are able to cognitively process the existence of such laws, the prospect of execution doesn't seem likely to stop them from acting on their perverse desires.

Rape is a crime that is also uniquely vulnerable to false prosecution. Just this week I read (via Mark Shea) about a man from Dallas who served 26 years in prison for a rape that DNA evidence now proves he did not commit. When we have prosecutors like Mike Nifong in this country, it's easy to believe some innocent people will be executed as a result of laws like these.

I had a personal brush with the death penalty many years ago and told the story here. I'm not totally against capital punishment - but I think the cases where it is truly justified are extremely rare.

Now The Gloves Come Off

So Huckabee and Obama won the Iowa caucuses, by surprisingly big margins in both cases. I watched Obama's victor speech last night. While I disagree with him on pretty much everything politically, I have to admit he's good. Rhetorically, Obama will easily outshine any of the Republicans if he gets the nomination.

Meanwhile the pundits have already settled on a party-line for Huckabee: he won big in Iowa because of the large evangelical Christian population, and won't be able to duplicate it in bigger states. A lot of people are pointing out that Pat Robertson won the Iowa caucuses in 1988. True enough, but Huckabee seems to be connecting with people outside the Christian right, too. His populist rhetoric may be very well-timed with the economy weakening.

Also, I think there is a substantial amount of resentment among social conservatives who feel the GOP has taken advantage of them and given little in return. Darth Beckman said it best:

The Republican Party treats religious conservatives like the high school quarterback treats the homely girl - he's happy to make out with her behind the bleachers, but he doesn't want to be seen in public with her. Huckabee was dead on when he said the party expects us to show up and vote, but is horrified at the prospect of actually responding to our desires. I've always known the party leadership felt this way, but now every religious voter knows it.

The thing both Obama and Huckabee have in common is that they represent a firm rejection of their respective party establishments. Democrats are tired of Clinton. Republicans are tired of Bush. Neither wants more of the same, and large numbers of people see Obama and Huckabee as a break from the past. Whether this is actually true or not isn't the point. The point is that people have that impression and are acting accordingly.

The establishment candidates aren't going to give up easily. Now is where the real fun begins. I predict you will see dirt flying in the next few days. It will be well-disguised but you can bet the Clinton and Romney campaigns will bring out the sharpest knives they can find. It may well backfire on them, but with the stakes this high they will do what it takes.

I'm not counting out Rudy Giuliani just yet, either. His campaign appears to be on life support at this point, but if the others damage each other badly enough Rudy could still be the last man standing.

And so it begins.

Mandatory Safe Sex IV

Last year I had a series of posts (here, here, and here) about Texas Governor Rick Perry's attempt to force parents to administer the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil to all young girls. The political support and contributions Perry received from the drug's manufacturer was pure coincidence, of course. Ultimately he gave up under pressure from the state legislature. Parents are free to have their children vaccinated if they wish, but it is not mandatory.

At the time Perry's opponents argued that the vaccine was untested and not proven safe. Today's news suggests they may have had a point.

Health officials have touted the Gardasil vaccine as an important new protection against a cancer-causing sexually transmitted virus. In recent months, they've also noted reports of pain and fainting from the shot.

During its first year of use, reports of girls fainting from vaccinations climbed, but it's not clear whether the pain of the cervical cancer vaccine was the reason for the reaction....

Officials at Merck & Co., which makes the vaccine, acknowledge the sting. They attribute it partly to the virus-like particles in the shot. Pre-marketing studies showed more reports of pain from Gardasil than from dummy shots, and patients reported more pain when given shots with more of the particles.

Meanwhile, U.S. health officials have noticed a rise in reports of vaccine-associated fainting in girls. From 2002-2004 there were about 50 reports of fainting; from 2005 until last July, there were about 230. About 180 of those cases followed a shot of Gardasil, which came on the market in 2006.

Keep in mind that the virus Gardasil supposedly prevents is caused exclusively by sex. It doesn't spread by casual contact. The reports of pain and fainting make the whole idea of giving it to sixth-grade girls even more ludicrous.

Anticipating 2008

At this time of year we are always treated to a flurry of predictions for the new year. Unfortunately I cannot join the fun because my crystal ball is out of order. For your enjoyment, however, here are a few things I suspect will dominate the headlines for the next twelve months.

U.S. Presidential Election: If you're already tired of the endless campaign, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Tomorrow nigh week real people in Iowa will actually start selecting delegates to the national party conventions. Then things will start to happen really fast, and we ought to know who the two nominees will be sometime in the next few weeks. Then we will be treated to fun of a different kind as the two finalists spend months slinging rocks at each other. There's a good chance that one, and possibly both, candidates will be senators, which means every single vote in the U.S. Senate will become a presidential campaign issue. Congress may just grind to a complete halt - which wouldn't be such a bad thing, actually.

Troops Withdraw From Iraq: The "surge" strategy may or may not be working, depending who you ask and how they measure success, but one way or the other the U.S. military commitment in Iraq should start to fall significantly this year. The Pentagon simply can't sustain current troop levels for another year unless they lengthen tours beyond 15 months. Hopefully the force reduction will be orderly and the Iraqis will be able to maintain order on their own.

New War Fronts: The troops who leave Iraq may not get much rest before finding themselves in another hotspot somewhere around the Gulf. Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey are all potential destinations. Iraq will not be the last campaign of the War on Terror.
Geopolitics: Apart from the Middle East there are plenty of other trouble spots. Radical Islam is moving into Asia and Africa, for instance. It will be interesting to see how Russia develops when Putin moves from president to prime minister. North Korea, Venezuela, and other potential enemies will bear watching. The summer Olympics in Beijing will have vast political implications.

Pope Visit U.S.: Pope Benedict XVI will visit New York and Washington in April. He is scheduled to address the United Nations and meet with President Bush. The publicity surrounding this will be intense and coming in the midst of the presidential campaign it will inevitably turn political.

Culture War: The movie and TV writer's strike, if it drags on, may have the pleasant side-effect of sparing us from Hollywood's worst indignities, at least temporarily. Don't applaud too quickly, though; they will find new and innovative ways to pipe garbage into your home.

Bolt from the Blue: It's the things you don't expect that always matter the most. The possibilities are endless: another 9/11, nuclear war in the Mideast, bird flu pandemic, economic collapse, you name it. At some point in 2008 we'll get an ugly surprise, and maybe more than one. Should we worry about it? No. Just be ready. You can save time if you start praying now.

I can say with complete confidence is that this time next year, things will be a lot different. In what ways? I'll get back to you on that.

New Day's Resolutions

I've never been much for New Year's resolutions. I know they will fall by the wayside within a few weeks, if not days, so it's easy to say "Why bother?"

Jen has the answer in another excellent Et Tu post. It comes to us from Pope Blessed John XXIII, who wrote something called the Decalogue for Daily Living. This is a kind of ten commandments, with a twist: you just have to follow them for just one day. We can handle anything for just one day, right? With that success under your belt, just do it again the next day. Breaking the big challenges into small pieces makes success a lot easier.

That's the theory, at least. It's plausible enough that I feel like giving it a try this year. Here's the list:

Daily Decalogue of Pope John XXIII
  1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life all at once.

  2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.

  3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.

  4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.

  5. Only for today, I will devote ten minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.

  6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.

  7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure no one notices.

  8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.

  9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.

  10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for twelve hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

Admittedly, anyone who actually manages to do all these things even for one day ought to be a candidate for sainthood. Nonetheless they are worthy goals for 2008. Give them a try. And be sure to read Jen's post for some more good thoughts.