Friday, December 24, 2010

The Wexford Carol

Performed by Allison Krauss and Yo Yo Ma

(via Western Confucian

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

National election poll stops asking respondents if they're married

Peter Hitchens is fond of claiming that the actual purpose of polling is not to measure opinion, but to change it.

More justification for that skeptical attitude comes from the Heritage Foundation. It reports that the National Election Pool (NEP) survey

...did not ask respondents if they were married. So instead we found out [2] that “Men with Children” preferred the GOP 58% to 40% while “Women with Children” preferred Democrats 52% to 45%. But there is a big difference between “Women with Children” who are married and “Women with Children” who are not. For example [3], more than a third of single mothers are poor compared to just 6.4% of married couples with children. Single-parent families with children are almost six times more likely to be poor than married couples. How did marriage affect voters’ preferences in 2010? We don’t know because the NEP stopped asking respondents if they were married.

The survey is used by the Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News.

And it's just obscured a key political phenomenon.

While much is made of the "gender gap" in voting, people in the know realize this is usually a proxy for a marriage gap. Married women are more likely to vote Republican and unmarried women are more likely to vote Democrat.

But with this change to a poll, that useful bit of information will be more obscured.

Other linguistic abuses: the poll is using the wordy phrases "men with children" or "women with children" instead of the briefer term "father" or "mother." And the Heritage Foundation unwittingly uses the phrase "single parent" to hide the fact that single mothers are more prone to poverty than single fathers.

These media decisions concerning what demographics to measure shape the way in which politicians and pundits view the country. A polling environment which treats marital status as irrelevant to voting habits is not only the product of a crooked newsroom culture. It is a generator of a crooked popular culture.

(via The Brody File)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tom Noel on Denver history

The University of Colorado-Denver professor was caught on video lecturing at the Denver Rotary Club:

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Activist media monitors Archbishop Chaput's Theology on Tap session

Last Friday Archbishop Chaput told a gathering of the Religion Newswriters’ Association (RNA) he thinks many of them view religion as a backward social force. He observes a “seeming collusion – or at least an active sympathy – between some media organizations and journalists, and political and sexual agendas hostile to traditional Christian beliefs.”

He sure knew what he was talking about!

Major media focused on the dispute following the speech between the archbishop and N.Y. Times reporter Laurie Goodstein, who was angry the prelate did not return her calls. At, we can read Archdiocese of Denver Chancellor Fran Maier say he was “intrigued” by “how little attention the attendees seemed to have paid to the actual text” of the archbishop’s speech.

The archbishop's full remarks are indeed newsworthy. And there is also news enough in a duel between authorities of the New York Times and of the Catholic Church.

But for Colorado observers, other big news is hiding in the lightweight commentary on the speech by John Tomasic of The Colorado Independent.

Writing as if it is odd that Catholics are obliged to be politically aware and active, Tomasic cites Archbishop Chaput’s words at Denver’s September Theology on Tap: “Politics is the embodiment of the Second Commandment: Love your neighbors as you love yourself.”

Constructing a frail straw man, Tomasic tries to make an issue out of the archbishop’s refusal to speak to the New York Times. In a desperate search for hypocrisy, he notes Chaput’s declared reading habits:

Chaput told the Theology on Tap crowd he stayed informed by reading the Denver-based Catholic News Agency website every day, four or five monthly magazines, that he listens to National Public Radio and to Fox News. He also reads two newspapers every day: The Denver Post and the Wall Street Journal. Unabashed right-wing Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, gets the lion’s share of the Archbishop’s attention. Because that’s how you find out what’s going on, kids!

Besides the obvious childishness of pretending that someone who listens to both NPR and Fox News is a Murdoch puppet, what’s so notable about this report?

The writer quotes Theology on Tap, but there is no written account of the event online.

The cited Theology on Tap session took place Sept. 10, while Chaput’s RNA address took place two weeks later. Tomasic links to the archdiocese’s recording of the event. The comments he quotes do not first begin until 46 minutes into the session, well into the “Q&A” section of the event. The final comments Tomasic cites take place at the 58:30 mark.

As a Theology on Tap attendee, this is astonishing to me. What kind of obsessive listens to the whole of an informal youth event like this to compile an information dossier?

A paid obsessive, perhaps. The Colorado Independent is part of the American Independent News Network, formerly known as the Center for Independent Media.[1] Under the former name, 2009 records show, the organization reported $2.1 million in assets and $4.1 million in revenue across its donor base and its half-dozen plus publications.

It's possible that The Colorado Independent had a writer in attendance. It is more likely that a staffer, even State Editor Tomasic himself, is assigned to listen to recordings of Chaput's political comments[2] and to summarize them for the purposes of intelligence gathering. These dossiers are then fodder for potential stories written in the style of a maiden aunt shocked that anyone could say such horrible things.

Now in a way it's good to know somebody is paying so close attention. Many a speaker wishes more people listened to his talks. The Archbishop of Denver is certainly a public figure so coverage of his public events can be legitimate.

But Theology on Tap is a young adult event where lips are supposed to be loose and candor is supposed to be prized. Only the most unflappable public figure will be unafraid to interact with the public when he knows his informal remarks are being monitored for "gotcha" quotes, while his real gems are thrown aside.

What kind of killjoy hears of an event like Theology on Tap and thinks “I can use this…”? Oh yes: a paid one.

The Independent’s Tomasic has written on Catholic topics in the past, reporting upon a men's conference in the Springs (with a non sequitur about the health care debate), repeating the attempted hatchet job on the Pope, and ranting about Chaput's recent comments on anti-Christian sentiment. Tomasic muddies the waters on the last piece by citing anti-Muslim activism. (Journalism 101: discuss what your subject said, not what you wish he said.)

In Tomasic’s latest piece, the writer examines the Colorado Catholic Conference through the lens of homosexual political causes. Considering that Colorado's richest gay activist Tim Gill’s Gill Foundation donated $150,000 to the Center for Independent Media in 2009, it’s clear why The Colorado Independent is watching Chaput.

Who else are they watching? And how many Catholics will side with the activist press when they decide to release their full fury against a Catholic archbishop?

(Comments follow these endnotes. ToT attendees, let me know if you noticed a reporter there. Photo taken from

[1] Adam Schrager and Rob Witwer’s book _The Blueprint_ suggest that the Center for Independent Media is likely linked to the Colorado Democracy Alliance, who often are the worst members of the present influential faction in the Democratic Party. As a young seminarian and then as a priest Chaput worked on the Bobby Kennedy and Jimmy Carter campaigns and is still friends with former Democratic state legislator Polly Baca. Present Democrat-leaning activists ran Chaput’s kind out of power -- and want to keep them out.

[2]One worrisome possibility is that The Colorado Independent is monitoring all the Archbishop's homilies, but I doubt it has that many people on staff. Its writing fellow Joseph Boven is a former researcher for Colorado Media Matters, an affiliate of an organization whose M.O. is listening to long recordings in hopes of finding something to type about with feigned outrage.

See also: other highlights of the Theology on Tap event

Archbishop Chaput’s Denver 2010 Theology on Tap: additional highlights

Various selections from the Sept. 10 Theology on Tap featuring the Archbishop of Denver, which was monitored by activist media:

“Anyone here who hasn’t noticed the despair in the world should go back to sleep, because you’ve been asleep until now,” Chaput commented.

“The Church in the United States has done a poor job, a genuinely bad job, of forming the faith and conscience of Catholics for more than 40 years. And that responsibility begins with the bishops.”

The clergy can be just as comfortable, self-satisfied, and lukewarm as anyone, he continued.

“I think that’s true about your bishop,” he told his Denver flock.

“Archbishop Chaput proclaims self comfortable, self-satisfied and lukewarm” is one of those headlines you should see at The Colorado Independent, but won’t.

Near the 35:00 mark of the archdiocese’s recording, Archbishop Chaput converses with a young man who thinks the Church-State arrangement of pre-revolutionary France was pretty cool. The archbishop, a reputed descendant of St. Louis IX, disagrees. Saying he’s never met anyone else who thinks so. Another Colorado Independent headline we’ll never see: “Archbishop disagrees with theocrat”

Near the 43:00 mark, he and an intelligent young woman discuss whether Nietzsche, St. John Chrysostom or Jesus said we should hate our friends. (Answer: All of the above!)

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Internet is not forever

"The internet never forgets" is one of those commonplaces used to instill fear, but also to comfort. Just remember the right Google keywords, we think, and we can find anything.

This is not true. Various algorithms will bury that crucial web page after only a month's time.

And human control can bury information, too.

I say this because Wikipedia is now considering for deletion its article on the short-lived journal The New Pantagruel. This would be a loss for everyone in its ambit, not just those of us who contributed.

My source suggests there are possible political motivations at work in the proposal to delete. He was not specific, but tNP former editor Caleb Stegall did represent Kansas Attorney General Phil Kline in a contentious abortion case.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thomas Molnar escapes utopianism. RIP.

Political thinker and historian Thomas Molnar passed away earlier this month. Those of us who have read through past issues of the Intercollegiate Review and related periodicals often enjoyed his deeply intellectual essays on philosophy, tradition, and modern society.

John Zmirak offers his appreciation at ISI, while Andrew Cusack pens his own tribute to Molnar.

Cusack writes: "Molnar and his work have become sadly neglected for the very reasons he detailed in his major work: the overwhelming triumph of ideology over the intellectual sphere."

His work Utopia: The Perennial Heresy decried utopianism's "nightmarish re-shaping of life":

It is a serious mistake to think that utopian literature is nothing more dangerous than scaling the heights of lyricism, for the cold fact is that there lurks behind each passage a terrifyingly inhuman situation in which naked force is combined with the most subtle indoctrination techniques. In such cases, utopia is revealed not as "a place which is not," but as a place of desolation and death.

The utopian "poses as a seer when he speaks confidently of the radical change which will restore mankind to its true dignity and of the future which will be incommensurable with the past." This is in fact a denial of true human freedom, treating progress as an inevitable mechanism.

It also ignores the tragedy that change is "not only gain but loss as well."

As one might guess, Molnar was a particular critic of the evolutionary dreamer Teilard De Chardin.

Cusack offers a choice quote from Molnar, late in life:

Around 1960 the power of the media was not yet what it is today... Hardly anybody suspected then that the media would soon become more than a new Ceasar, indeed a demiurge creating its own world, the events therein, the prefabricated comments, countercomments—and silence. … The more I saw of universities and campuses, publishers and journals, newspapers and television, the creation of public opinion, of policies and their outcome, the less I believed in the existence of the freedom of expression where this really mattered for the intellectual/professional establishment. For the time being, I saw more of it in Europe, anyway, than in America: over there, institutions still stood guard over certain freedoms and the conflict of ideas was genuine; over here the democratic consensus swept aside those who objected, and banalized their arguments. The difference became minimal in the course of decades.

Knowing that the state of man is disunity in a fallen world, Molnar knew that merely human efforts to restore this unity are doomed to failure, tyranny, or both. The deadening of public debate is part of this sham progress towards an empty ideal.

Let us pray that Molnar, a devout Catholic, will enjoy the true unity and freedom of the Beatific Vision.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The crazed author cackles...

A laugh break from the depressing topic below:

via Summa Minutiae

Friday, July 09, 2010

When the N.Y. Times called indifference to child sex abuse ‘heartwarming’…

The Easter-time controversies over Pope Benedict XVI's handling of sex abuse flamed out quicker than expected. The New York Times' attacks on the Pope quieted down following reports of exculpatory information in its primary sources, criticism concerning poor and inaccurate reporting, and the revelation that some key documents used in fact originated with a lawyer intending to sue the Vatican.[1]

Of course, these contrary reports lacked the prominence of the original Times stories. The damage to the papacy had been done. High-ranking prelates now have a credible example of an unfounded, sensationalist media attack. The cynical bishop will use the attack as an empty excuse for inaction; the naïve will explain the details of the attack without benefit to an unknowing public outraged by reporters’ half-truths.

Now the Times has tried to renew the controversy with another story from Laurie Goodstein, followed by a Thursday editorial.[2]

Religion journalist Mollie Hemingway of, herself a Lutheran, has critically examined the latest report and declared it to be "a hit piece." Other critics were also harsh.

As usual, the Times has posed as a moral authority and, like the Church it criticizes, it is slow to acknowledge its mistakes and errors.

But even as the Times appoints itself papal adviser and advocates a worldwide "zero tolerance policy" for the Catholic Church, it is useful to remember that the newspaper is selective in its attention and can show gruesome moral flexibility where the sexual abuse of children is concerned.

Take the October 27, 2007 Times op-ed "A True Culture War" by University of Chicago anthropology professor Richard Schweder.[3]

There, he recounts anthropologist Montgomery McFate’s efforts to help the U.S. military understand the cultures of Afghanistan. Citing an NPR news show story, Schweder adds:

Nevertheless the military voices on the show had their winning moments, sounding like old-fashioned relativists, whose basic mission in life was to counter ethnocentrism and disarm those possessed by a strident sense of group superiority. Ms. McFate stressed her success at getting American soldiers to stop making moral judgments about a local Afghan cultural practice in which older men go off with younger boys on “love Thursdays” and do some “hanky-panky.” “Stop imposing your values on others,” was the message for the American soldiers. She was way beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and I found it heartwarming. [my emphasis]

Prof. Schweder’s nauseating, flippant attitude should not distract from the very real threats facing young boys in Afghanistan.

In June 2008 allegations began surfacing that Afghan security forces were sexually abusing young boys at Canadian bases in Afghanistan. Soldiers and chaplains told military commanders of the incidents.

According to the Ottawa Citizen’s Sept. 21, 2009 story “Sex abuse and silence exposed,”[4] in 2008 Brig. General J.C. Collin, commander of Land Force Central Area, “passed on to the senior army leadership the concerns raised by military police who said they had been told by their commanders not to interfere in incidents in which Afghan forces were having sex with children.”

One reputed witness is former Cpl. Travis Schouten. According to the Toronto Star:

He says he was told by an Afghan translator about "Man Sex Thursday," a weekly routine in which Afghan soldiers, police and translators sexually abused young boys. Schouten is overwhelmed by guilt for not having intervened when he heard what he believes were the cries of boys being sexually assaulted, sounds he says were corroborated when he later saw a young boy, barely alive, with signs of rape trauma.[5]

The trauma was such that (this is not for the squeamish) the boy’s bowels had fallen out of his body. Cpl. Schouten himself suffers from post-traumatic stress.

“We allow rampant abuse of young boys at the hands of what is supposed to be their finest police officers and army officers, then what does that say?” the soldier told the Ottawa Citizen in 2009. [6]

That report continues, saying Defence Department records show military police were upset about such incidents but were told not to interfere. Army officers’ 2007 discussions of the issue had as their main concern that “the media would somehow find out.”

Another soldier told Canwest News Service that soldiers were informed the practice involved “consenting Afghans,” no one was raped, and the children involved were “given small gifts or money in return for sex.” Perhaps academic anthropology explained it all away.

For his part, Schouten rightly doubts the ability of six- to eleven-year-olds to consent. One of his translators apparently told Schouten how he enjoys the violent practice and also uses a knife on the youths.

Schouten’s words are a rebuke to Prof. Schweder:

“The Canadian Forces wants people to think it’s a cultural thing, that everyone is doing it, because it takes the onus of responsibility off them to stop it.”

“I do feel people should be held accountable and people should know this is what is going on over there,” he told the Ottawa Citizen.

And the New York Times’ response to these claims of cover-ups? A search on “Schouten” reveals no results. The Canadian charges are not on its radar.

In 2002 the Times did inform us that although the “puritanical” Taliban “tried hard to erase pedophilia… now that the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is gone, some people here are indulging in it once again.” [7]

The Times reporter interviewed 19-year-old Ahmed Fareed, who at the age of 12 was taken into a pedophiliac relationship with a 22-year-old. The piece concludes:

…he insisted that he does not regret being lured into a relationship by his older friend. When asked if he would do the same to a young boy, Mr. Fareed said, yes.

''I'm looking for one now,'' he said with a smile.

At least this Times writer had enough sense to recognize pedophilia as a “curse.” But what of his responsibility to report a professed child predator?

Both journalists and the military forces in Afghanistan have arguments for silence and a “don’t look, don’t tell” policy.

A journalist might say that reporting these likely criminals to authorities would compromise his special need for sources by making others less willing to speak to journalists. Informing could subject his pedophiliac source to harsh, even fatal punishment.

A military officer might say soldiers have a larger mission to run and it is not their role to intervene on an issue that could alienate allies.

But here we hear echoes of the bishop who did not report a priest to the authorities because of the special paternal relationship between him and the priest, or because of fears the priest couldn’t handle prison, or because of fears the publicity could adversely affect the Church’s mission.

And what of our love for zero tolerance policies? There is always something for which we, the fallen ones, will excuse or ignore crimes against children, whether we are clergymen, reporters or soldiers.

But at least let’s not declare to be “heartwarming” the intense corruption of our Afghan allies’ culture or the relativism of certain professors who write for the New York Times.

Twitter: @kevinjjones, @MZHemingway

[1] Phil Blosser's special blog on the 2010 sex abuse reportage is a useful resource.

[2] Church Office Failed to Act on Abuse Scandal and The Pope's Duty.

[3] A True Culture War.
Also note that the big controversy among anthropologists was not how to handle sexual abuse of children in the field, but whether cooperation with the U.S. military violates their professional standards.

[4] Sex abuse and silence exposed

[5] Post-traumatic stress disorder's hidden scars

[6] Former Canadian soldier speaks out against 'disgusting' child rape in Afghanistan

[7] An open secret: warlords and pedophilia.
Sympathy for the Taliban is hard for any American. But knowing of the wretches who practice these foul customs makes the Taliban’s reputed tyranny somewhat more understandable.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Elena Kagan thought ACOG statement turned out 'a ton' better than expected

The billowing controversy over Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan's consultation with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has prompted several reactions. Some see the problem as so severe that it will sink her nomination: political appointees have no business advising a supposedly non-partisan scientific fraternity on their true positions.

Jonathan H. Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy offers several defenses of Kagan, noting that she served the role of an advocate and was supposed to coach experts to say what was most useful to her employer, the Clinton White House. This interpretation sees ACOG's acceptance of Kagan's words, and not Kagan's alleged sock puppetry, as the most damning deed in this matter.

The nominee is in the unenviable position of defending actions 13 years after the fact. As EWTN News reports, she could not recall whether the memo in question resulted from discussions with ACOG.

According to EWTN News, Kagan doubted her ability to alter the ACOG statement at the Senate confirmation hearings. She stated “there was no way I could have or would have intervened.” She attributed the goal of the document to be a statement "consistent with the views we knew they had."

In light of Kagan's expressed lack of confidence, EWTN News reports a noteworthy fact:

In January 1997 Kagan sent a final version of the ACOG statement to Bruce Reed, assistant to the president for domestic policy. A copy provided in the "Bruce Reed Collection - Elena Kagan" section of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum shows Kagan's handwritten note to Reed about the document.

"It turned out a ton better than expected," she wrote, adding "I'll let you know in person what happened."

In another twist, Bruce Reed, her apparent superior in the Clinton administration, is now the CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). He even co-authored a book with present White House Chief-of-Staff Rahm Emanuel.

Considering this reported "in person" meeting, Reed should be just the man to consult to learn what really happened. Kagan's optimistic scrawl suggests she had more influence on ACOG than she remembers or says.

We'll see whether this story continues to develop.

(Disclosure: EWTN News is my part-time employer.)

Rebutting the is-ought 'problem' in five steps

Among the many philosophical puzzles that can captivate the aspiring thinker is the supposed is-ought problem. Originating with writers like Hume, it criticizes the supposed fallacy that one cannot derive an "ought" of moral obligation from a descriptive "is."

Obviously there is truth to this. Just because I am a blogger doesn't mean I ought to be one.

But some internet denizens have seized upon the problem and cite it with prodigality.

There are many responses to them, like the explanation of duty or teleological goal as inherent to existence. For such critics, it seems the is-ought makes a hard philosophical distinction out of a mere verbal distinction.

I am no longer in a position to judge most of these arguments, if I ever was. Yet I do appreciate a comedic rebuttal like that put forward by Deogolwulf.

In a long comment thread, he dismisses the purported problem as "a poor figment of an eighteenth-century philosopher's mind."

I. There is an is-ought gap.
II. A rational animal ought to accept what is.
III. I am a rational animal.
IV. I ought to accept that there is an is-ought gap.
V. Oh dear.

Because the is-ought problem is fundamentally an ethical one, it cannot be kept on the logical plane alone. By considering the personal obligation (and telos) of a rational creature, Deogowulf brings philosophy away from the mind games of the blackboard and the e-mail signature and back into life where it belongs.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Jacques Ellul on technology, freedom and moral judgment

Technology will not tolerate any judgment being passed on it. Or rather: Technologists do not easily tolerate people expressing an ethical or moral judgment on what they do.

But the expression of ethical, moral and spiritual judgments is actually the highest freedom of mankind.

...So whatever I say about technology and about technologists themselves is unimportant to them.

It won't deter them from what they are doing. They are now set in their course. They are so conditioned.

For a technologist is not free. He is conditioned by his training, by his experiences and by the objectives which he must reach.

He is not free in the execution of his task. He does what technology demands of him. That's why I think freedom and technology contradict each other.

-Jacques Ellul
The Betrayal of Technology: A Portrait of Jacques Ellul (~28:00 mark)

Ellul of course speaks broadly. After all, no matter their vocation few people tolerate moral judgment on their work.

One could debate what he means about the expression of judgments as the highest freedom. But it is certainly a higher freedom than that of instrumental reason.

The "conditioning" of technologists is not simply the kind of habit one expects of a virtuous man. Rather, it is a discipline bordering on the penal. Without conscious effort, efficiency and neutrality towards ultimate matters easily become the highest virtues. Here is a curious overlap between a technological focus, careerism and consumerism.

Especially in bioethical debates, technological experts and pretenders to expertise often appeal to freedom from moral censure. Ellul's often radical philosophy suggests this phenomenon is in fact the slavery of a man in servitude to his tools.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

CIA has plants in state governments, Jesse Ventura claims

Jesse Ventura's election as Minnesota governor was hailed as a refreshing change from the status quo.

As an independent, he was soon trapped in the gridlock of a friendless capitol and quit politics in disgust.

Now a host for a television show examining conspiracy theories, he seems to be discredited one-off. Any politician seriously proposing 9-11 "truther" arguments is doomed to become a footnote in U.S. history.

But then there's the question of how he became open to conspiracy theories in the first place. This video suggests a cause:

A debriefing with nearly two dozen CIA agents about one's unexpected election victory is surely an eye-opener. The CIA has even confirmed a meeting took place, though the details are not verified.

Ventura's tale of CIA plants in the Minnesota state government, known only to the governor and his chief-of-staff, is another concern. The man suggests his state was not unique, speculating it is standard operating procedure to plant permanent intelligence agents.

Despite the ex-governor's circumspection, he provides identifying information. The alleged agent, probably male, was in a deputy position in the state executive branch. He retired and was replaced while Ventura was in office.

On this point the news media have failed to do their job, as have conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones. True watchdogs would have already established likely candidates, if the facts do not contradict Ventura's allegations.

Ventura, a former professional wrestler and actor, is himself a showman. But attempts to dismiss his claims as a publicity stunt for his latest book would be more credible if somebody bothered to try to verify them.

In related news, are any readers familiar with plans to move the CIA's National Resources Division to Denver? The Washington Post reported on the move in 2005, as did the Denver Post. However, it is unclear whether the plans were acted upon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Does Tim Gill have an agent in the Scott McInnis camp?

Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis’ chief communications director is Sean Duffy. A former deputy chief-of-staff for Gov. Bill Owens, Duffy supported the same-sex “domestic partnership” referendum on the 2006 ballot.

A December 2006 article in National Review claimed that Duffy was hired for the referendum effort by Tim Gill, Colorado’s wealthy homosexual activist who with Jared Polis and others has tried to buy up the state.

Regardless of Gill’s exact role in appointing him, there is no question Duffy served as executive director for Coloradans for Fairness and Equality.

Duffy also attacked the 2006 Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Janet Rowland, as “a clearly homophobic choice” when she ridiculed the idea of same-sex “marriage” by asking whether a man should be allowed to marry a sheep.

He appears to have been motivated by loyalty to his homosexual sister, so the issue is personal for him.

A Gill ally, whatever his competence and personal character, really shouldn’t be the media face for a potential GOP governor. After all, Gill told the DNC that the GOP is “full of bigots” who should be driven from power.

What Colorado Republican should overlook a highly placed staffer with the opinions of a CU-Boulder diversity trainer?

Rocky Mountain Right has noted the same problem with Duffy.

As for McInnis himself, he spoke to KHOW’s Caplis & Silverman last year about some of his positions.

Asked about the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), for which he had voted as a Congressman, McInnis responded with both a commitment and a non-commitment:
“I oppose gay marriage, [I’m] very clear about that. Civil unions, that’s not a big issue. Gay marriage is a big issue.”

It’s increasingly apparent that civil unions are intended to shift the debate and depict conservatives, or even 1990s liberals, as extremists for opposing them. Unprincipled but well-meaning moderates think the push will stop there, but the legal unions just create another foothold for the cultural left to suppress opposition to itself.

McInnis isn’t going to prove much of an adversary to Gill and company.

Indeed, Duffy’s placement in the Owens administration and the McInnis campaign suggests that Gill’s cohort already has a significant foothold. Seen in this light, accusations of Republican bigotry look like mere political theater.

Republican activists show little seriousness about moral conservatism in their personal lives and their philosophies. Their public appeals to it are opportunistic and shallow. What better way for Gill to advance his agenda than through the pretense that these are the people standing in the way of his vision?

Depict those who are unlikely to reverse your agenda as your most formidable opponents. Convince your real opposition to rally around compromised and wavering leaders. After a few small skirmishes, for appearance’s sake, take control of the field and accept the phony general’s surrender.

There seem few obvious ways to counter this phenomenon, if it is indeed what is happening. But skepticism towards a compromised leadership should be a start.


These concerns would be made redundant if McInnis doesn't win the GOP nomination. McInnis opponent Dan Maes won the majority of votes at the state assembly, a surprise only to those who have not observed McInnis' cool reception among party regulars.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

U.S. govt. commits $2 million to back Kenya constitution permitting abortion and Islamic courts

The U.S. government's attempts to promote abortion are well known enough. The Cairo conference, population control efforts, and Mexico City Policy

Less known are the U.S. government's efforts to promote Islam, such as its ensuring that Islam was recognized in the Iraqi constitution.

And now the Obama administration has combined the two efforts, in the president's ancestral homeland no less.

The proposed Kenyan constitution would both broaden the cases in which abortion is permitted and would establish state-funded Islamic Kadhi Courts as part of the judiciary, Catholic News Agency says.

The U.S. government has pledged $2 million to promote the proposed constitution, which will be voted on in an upcoming referendum.

Some U.S. Congressmen have charged that this violates the Siljander Amendment, which prohibits lobbying for or against abortion using the funds made available in the appropirations act for the State Department and Foreign Operations.

While these congressmen have called for a federal probe to establish whether laws were violated, it appears not to have much traction yet.

The double standard is so common it is cliched to point it out: a U.S. effort to promote Christianity or pro-life clauses in a foreign country's constitution would not be tolerated by the chattering class or the State Department bureaucracy.

For those of us who still believe America is a good country, it is increasingly difficult to imagine that we are still a force for good.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is Beauprez endorsement of Lang Sias rooted in Ryan Frazier's social conservative problem?

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez's endorsement of retired Navy officer Lang Sias has perplexed Ben DeGrow of the People's Press Collective, who supports Ryan Frazier as the GOP candidate for CD-7.

In his comments, DeGrow sees the endorsement as a sign of Beauprez's dwindling relevance. In my view, he wrongly interprets the former Congressman's praise for Sias as an attack on Frazier. It could more easily be read as an attack on Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter, if indeed it is an attack at all.

However, on the matter of Beauprez's motivation, there is significant chatter among social conservatives about Frazier's credentials, or lack thereof. Some potential donors have even shied away from the candidate.

One of my sources, a sober social conservative who judges his words carefully, has written that the candidate is "definitely not pro-life and pro-family," quoting Westword:

"[Frazier's] markedly liberal stance on social issues is likely to put off his party's conservative Christian base. While he's not necessarily pro-choice, he noted that 'I am not a fan of abortion, but I struggle with whether it is the appropriate role of the government to place itself there.' He's also been very public in his support of benefits for same-sex couples."

My source spoke with Frazier and mentioned the Westword article to him. The candidate "bristled" when questioned, but he confirmed that it was "substantially true."

A candidate questionnaire from Frazier would appear to contradict this evidence. There, Frazier wrote "I am pro-life, from conception until natural death. I believe that there is no Constitutional right to an abortion. In fact, protecting life is a paramount duty of any lawful government... Every life should be allowed to come into this world."

However, my source plainly recalled that Frazier repeated the boilerplate "rape and incest" exceptions when explaining his position. He was caught short when challenged with the consistent pro-life position, as if he had never heard it before. So there too are ambiguities.

Many would tolerate his unclear "struggle" with legal protections for the unborn were he just a friend, but they will not tolerate that in a candidate.

Furthermore, Frazier's support for same-sex couple benefits represents a novel expansion of government power and a surrender to cultural leftism. Too many Colorado Republicans whine about Tim Gill, but then turn around and support the advancement of Gill's most cherished policies.

It is possible these grave betrayals of conservative principle are a factor driving Beauprez's endorsement, even though they go unmentioned in his letter. He is a former Catholic youth minister, after all.

DeGrow's comments include a standard appeal to the Future, saying the Beauprez endorsement "comes across more as a leading figure of the Colorado GOP’s stodgy Old Guard missing the boat on the enthusiasm and energy behind the fiscally conservative, pro-liberty 'New Way Forward' embodied in Frazier’s campaign."

These are typical PPC talking points, which (like the Frazier campaign website's issue section) lack a shout out to social conservatism.

Republican activists in the Denver area have shown themselves to be tone-deaf about SoCon concerns, to the point where a Denver Metro Young Republicans' meeting venue is a hamburger diner with homosexual camp themes. This suggests political incompetence and anti-conservative hostility as well as questionable principles, a point I have tried to drive home to them.

Social conservatives more often have familial, civic and religious duties. Thus they are generally underrepresented in the libertarian-skewed political debate.

If the Frazier campaign stalls on their issues, he won't stop the chatter and he won't attract their votes in the general election. His supporters can argue that Perlmutter's positions are more repellent, but that's not an argument that can sustain enthusiasm.

Twitter: @bobbeauprez @LangSias @RyanFrazier2010 @peoplespress @kevinjjones

Saturday, April 24, 2010

John Lukacs discusses conservatism, ideology and progress with Bill Moyers

The conservative is the "opposite of an ideologue." He is "profoundly aware" of human sinfulness, including among his own country and people, historian John Lukacs says in this interview:


"Patriotism is essentially defensive. Nationalism is aggressive. And our conservatives are nationalists, not patriots."

A reactionary is "somebody who thinks the clock has to be put back sometimes."

"American conservatism is now more enamoured with progress, and technical progress, than liberals and progressives were two generations ago."

"What the world needs is not growth, but stability."

Regarding President Nixon's comment that the USA is #1, Lukacs warns:

"When somebody has to say he's number one, it means he is not sure of himself."

"It is much more difficult to recover prestige than it is to recover power."

He suggests the modern idea of Progress is about improving the world according to our desires, and not about improving our desires to better accommodate human limitation and frailty.

His view that progressivism is a product of determinism appears counter-intuitive. How can a movement so devoted to the self-realization of human will possibly adhere to a philosophy subjects the will to forces beyond its control?

But some progressivisms put forward a certain type of human will, a will that is (or should be) unbound by "artificial" traditional institutions precisely because it is pre-formed and pre-determined.

For the progressive, this kind of human will is the authentic one. It should not and cannot be reformed, and therefore the world must be instead.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How to take your monkey through airline security

The Transportation Security Administration has a helpful guide on service animals:
When a monkey is being transported in a carrier, the monkey must be removed from the carrier by the handler prior to screening,

The monkey must be controlled by the handler throughout the screening process.

The monkey handler should carry the monkey through the WTMD while the monkey remains on a leash.

When the handler and monkey go through the WTMD and the WTMD alarms, both the handler and the monkey must undergo additional screening.

Since monkeys may likely draw attention, the handler will be escorted to the physical inspection area where a table is available for the monkey to sit on. Only the handler will touch or interact with the monkey.

TSOs have been trained to not touch the monkey during the screening process.

TSOs will conduct a visual inspection on the monkey and will coach the handler on how to hold the monkey during the visual inspection.

The inspection process may require that the handler take off the monkey’s diaper as part of the visual inspection.

The absurdity of the situation recalls the old SNL Sprockets sketches in which the surreal Dieter asks his guests if they would like to touch his monkey.

But it is disturbing to see the complacency of Americans before the demands of a government bureaucracy seemingly more effective in securing airplanes from bashful passengers than securing the borders from terrorist infiltration.

There have been few hints of concern for modesty in the proposals for full body scans for passengers. As Andrew McCarthy notes, only a few religious leaders have spoken out.

Even the Pope's supposed condemnation of body scans is hard to verify, as he never actually mentioned the scanners and we know the press is notorious for imagining that tangential papal comments fit their storylines.

Nakedness can trigger moral prurience and vicious curiosity. But it also has iconic significance: Christ showed God's total love by being crucified naked.

Lamentable is the silence of the clergy and other Christians in the face of another violation of modesty and another degradation of the religious sense.

TSA officers can strip you with technology, and they can strip you physically. But they'll not touch you, so long as you're a monkey.

Monday, March 29, 2010

'Pope not intimidated by petty gossip' is a media fabrication

The allegations about Pope Benedict XVI's handling of sexual abuse cases, discussed below, have produced astonishing press misrepresentations which have traversed the world. There is a building narrative about the "intransigent pontiff indifferent to abuse claims."

This false narrative needs to be halted both by those who care about the Catholic Church and by those who care about the credibility of the press.

The latest grave problem focuses on the Pope's supposed remarks about intimidation and petty gossip.

The problem apparently originates in coverage of Pope Benedict's Palm Sunday address. A Reuters piece written by Phil Pullella and linked by Drudge, titled Pope signals won't be intimidated by abuse critics,

Pullella's slant begins on the third paragraph:

"While he did not directly mention the scandal involving sexual abuse of children by priests, parts of his sermon could be applicable to the crisis he and the Roman Catholic Church are facing,"

That "could be" then becomes a basis for a load of inflammatory speculation as the Reuters writer presents himself as a reliable interpreter of these "signals."

His next paragraph reads:

"The pontiff said faith in God helps lead one 'toward the courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion.'"

The implication, of course, is that the Pope thinks the abuse allegations are "petty gossip" used to "intimidate" him. This is the hook most major media, including Reuters, used to attract readers and spin the story.

But looking at the whole address gives a much different picture.

Unsurprisingly, the Pope's comments are about Jesus Christ. The source for the quote about intimidation and gossip is at the close of the third paragraph:

But this external rout is above all an image of the interior movement of existence, which occurs in the following of Christ: It is an ascent to the true height of being human. Man can choose an easy path and avoid all toil. He can also descend to what is lower. He can sink into lies and dishonesty. Jesus goes ahead of us, and he goes up to what is above. He leads us to what is great, pure, he leads us to the healthy air of the heights: to life according to truth; to the courage that does not let itself be intimidated by the gossip* of dominant opinions; to the patience that stands up for and supports the other. He leads us to availability to the suffering, to the abandoned; to the loyalty that stands with the other even when the situation makes it difficult.

Without taking the grossest journalistic license, these comments are clearly not specific to the headlines of the day. The reporter made the common error (and trick) of treating the leading media narrative as the narrative at the forefront of his subject's mind.

Now bad headline writers, including the Drudge Report, think Pope Benedict dismissed the NY Times report as "petty gossip" intended to intimidate.*

This malpractice is a despicable form of misrepresentation.

But it gets worse. Now media outlets are asking those poor victims of sexual abuse how they feel about the Pope's comments, as spun by Reuters.

NBC News said the phrase "stunned" Boston victim Gary Bergeron, who responded:

"'Intimidation' is what we felt decades ago, as we started coming forward.’Petty Gossip' is what our claims were called."

So thanks to the media, a victim of sexual abuse now suspects the Pope is uncaring and intransigent because of a phrase that didn't even address the issue.

The papal curia has the public relations sense of a brick. It can be self-serving for them to see these reports as an organized (or unorganized) smear campaign.

But at this point, it's getting easier to agree with that diagnosis.

Media manipulation in this case won't help expose and correct genuine wrongdoings. Indeed, it will only confirm the curia's perception of a hostile and inaccurate press.

The media's own inaccuracy in reporting Pope Benedict's remarks is confirming their reputation as purveyors of "idle gossip." What an ironic twist!

* It is questionable whether the Pope even meant "gossip." Other accounts translated "gossip" as "chatter," which makes more sense to me. The Italian, "chiacchiericcio," derives from the root verb I learned to use in phrases such as "to chat on the internet."

The Munich allegations against Pope Benedict: unproven and poorly reported

The NY Times' recent story about Pope Benedict focused on records indicating that a sex abuser priest named Fr. Hullermann was transferred while the Pope was Archbishop of Munich 30 years ago. That monstrous cleric abused again and again.

As the allegations of oversight mount, some editorialists see a death knell for Benedict's papacy. But as with Reuters' claims that the Pope is "not intimidated by petty gossip", we see an article with a few facts clothed in uncertainty.

The NY Times article's second paragraph shows only that the then-Archbishop Ratzinger was "copied on a memo" that informed him the priest would be returning to pastoral work. (Of course, before e-mail and digital records, being CC'd meant something very different than today.)

The article continues:
An initial statement on the matter issued earlier this month by the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising placed full responsibility for the decision to allow the priest to resume his duties on Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy, the Rev. Gerhard Gruber. But the memo, whose existence was confirmed by two church officials, shows that the future pope not only led a meeting on Jan. 15, 1980, approving the transfer of the priest, but was also kept informed about the priest’s reassignment.

Sounds pretty damning. But then the NY Times takes away that certainty:

"What part he played in the decision making, and how much interest he showed in the case of the troubled priest, who had molested multiple boys in his previous job, remains unclear."

The fateful diocesan council meeting is also described as "a busy day" and its minutes "include no references to the actual discussion that day, simply stating that a priest from Essen in need of psychiatric treatment required room and board in a Munich congregation."

To the claim that the relevant memo was unlikely to have ended up on the archbishop's desk, the NYTimes said the judicial vicar of Munich "could not rule out that Cardinal Ratzinger had read it."

The paper adds:

"Father Gruber, the former vicar general, said that he could not remember a detailed conversation with Cardinal Ratzinger about Father Hullermann, but that Father Gruber refused to rule out that 'the name had come up.'"

So we repeatedly hear that it is unclear whether the Pope was informed, but that very uncertainty is being presented as evidence he was in fact informed, especially in sensationalistic rewrites of the NY Times story.

One letter cited by the Times supposedly has a "clear subtext" about the pedophiliac priest's problems and a "clear hint" about this unnatural lusts for boys. But the clarity is only obvious in retrospect, and subtext is precisely what got the Reuters writer in trouble.

It is obvious that damaging circumlocution and "protocol-speak" can infect a chancery, confusing the unwary and providing maneuvering room for a guilty party to cover great flaws. But this does not excuse a journalist's inability to nail down the facts.

The worst story would be that the Pope was informed and was inclined to incompetence, indifference or cover-up.

The Times doesn't show evidence of that, yet it chose to run the damaging story anyway.

The story may have been intended to flush out more sources or to provoke a response from the Vatican. (Or to sell papers, of course.)

Yet it's doubtful the NY Times would have run this story ten years ago. Casting doubt on the actions of a high profile figure requires very good reasons and very solid facts. Since these facts are still in doubt, the best the NY Times can do is hope that an unknown source steps forward or the media firestorm rages on to protect their shoddy reporting from close examination.

Public outrage is often a dial that can be turned up and down. When writers aren't clear about both the facts and their presentation of the facts, that outrage serves neither truth nor justice.

St. Augustine on the culture of a failing empire

As the flaws of the Western Roman Empire became too great to sustain, St. Augustine wrote:

'So long as it [the republic] survives,' they say, 'so long as it prospers, rich in resources, self-confident in victory, or, better still, secure in peace, what difference does it make to us? What matters is that there is money to be made to support our lavish style of life, and to give the stronger their hold over the weaker; that the poor treat the wealthy with compliance, to ensure their daily bread--the poor depending on the patronage of the wealthy for a quiet life, the wealthy calling on the poor for support to boost their public standing. Popularity should accrue not to those whose policies promote public welfare, but to the big providers of public entertainment.

Law should not be rigorous; low indulgences should not be proscribed. Rulers should not bother themselves with getting virtuous subjects, simply quiescent ones. Territories should view their rulers not in the light of moral educators, merely as economic managers and purveyors of satisfactions. It does not matter if they do not seriously respect them, so long as they treat them with a calculating and subservient fear. No one should be liable to court proceedings if he has not infringed or done harm to the property, real estate, or physical safety of another person without consent; but everyone should be free to do with himself, his dependents, and consenting associates exactly what he likes.

Sexual satisfactions should be freely available on the open market for those who want them, especially those who cannot afford to maintain facilities privately. Domestic architecture should be expensive and ornate, to accommodate large and lavish parties where anyone may game and drink all day and night, if he pleases, till he brings it up or sweats it out. The sound of dancing should be heard in every neighborhood, and theaters should be humming with excitement at their coarse amusements and their various brash entertainments.

Should someone disapprove of this perfect contentment, he must expect to meet public hostility; and should someone attempt to reform or abolish it, the spirit of popular freedom must know what to do with him: shut him up, pack him up, beat him up! Religion ought to make a case for itself by guaranteeing and perpetuating these conditions of life for the greatest number of people. Let the gods have all the worship they want, and all the games that they want, to enjoy them with (and at the expense of) their worshipers, just so long as they ensure this satisfactory state of affairs against threat from enemy, plague, or disaster.'

-City of God Book II Chapter 20

Perhaps excepting the shameless worship of strength and the poor man's servile compliance before the wealthy, all these vices are clearly dominant today.

Materialism, hedonism, libertarianism, even therapeutic deism. These are not ideologies but vulturous habits of mind that come at times of cultural disaster.

Their only unity comes in alliance against reformist critics.

The West has seen them before. Let us hope their age is coming to an end.

(via the Distributist Review)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Vatican now on Twitter

Joining the social networking trend of 2009, the Vatican has a twitter feed, according to Catholic News Agency.

Its account name is unpoetic but functional: News_Va_en

Having noticed the Italian-language announcement from Vatican Radio by way of Paolo Rodari, I was among the English-language feed's first twenty followers. However, I made the mistake of breaking the news via Twitter alone, not thinking to add a blog entry.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

White House tweets bad info on Catholic nuns in health care debate

Here's how Twitter can amplify the consequential media mess accompanying the health care debate.

NETWORK, a group claiming to represent 59,000 Catholic religious sisters, endorses the Senate bill.

The AP reports this endorsement, also reporting their claimed size.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs then tweets the AP story to 38,000 people, calling it an "IMPORTANT HEALTH CARE ENDORSEMENT." (caps his)

At least ten dozen people then repeat the press secretary's information via Twitter.

According to the (unreliable) stats for Gibbs' link, the link received 1,735 clicks and was tweeted 100 times. The AP story was shared 234 times on Facebook, where it collected 223 "likes" and 230 comments.

The Catholic bishops' spokeswoman then responds: “The letter had 55 signatories, some individuals, some groups of three to five persons. One endorser signed twice,” she added. “There are 793 religious communities in the United States.”

Let's see if either the AP or Gibbs follow up.

Associated Press: own your mistakes!

Secretary Gibbs: own your tweets!

(American Papist is also on the story. And technically the "nuns" are properly known as religious sisters.)

Twitter: @PressSec, @CnaLive, @AmericanPapist, @kevinjjones

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sen. Ted Harvey debates Kevin Miller's libertarianism

The Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara recently hosted a debate on social conservatism on his PBS KBDI 12 show Independent Thinking.

His two guests were State Sen. Ted Harvey, a Republican representing the south Denver suburb of Highlands Ranch, and Kevin Miller of the National Freedom Initiative, a new think tank.

Miller’s argument, also presented in a November newsletter of the Centennial Institute, held that the national scene was not the proper venue for social conservative policies.

Harvey proved more sophisticated than Miller. In a discussion of prayer in schools, he zeroed in on the contradiction in a libertarianism that would have the federal government forbid localities from acting as they see fit.

Miller floundered at this point, departing from his initial federalism to argue against the specifics of school prayer. This made clear his individualist stand on some local matters as well.

Jon Caldara, a libertarian himself, sniffed out Miller’s superficiality by asking for specific instances of social conservatism on the federal level.

This led Miller to attempt to associate anti-drug laws with social conservatives specifically. Harvey parried by defining that position as a social issue that has broad appeal.
Miller, noting that people disagree on the definition of virtue, simply asserted a principle of freedom except in cases of harm to person or property.

Of course people disagree on the definition of virtue, but they disagree on the definition of “liberty” and “harm” as well. The harm principle risks creating a split between a libertarian public persona and a conservative private life. At worst, the public persona overtakes private conservatism to the point where, as the joke goes, your morals are so private you don’t even impose them on yourself.

One weakness for principled thinkers is a tendency towards ridiculous extremes. One is always ready with an answer, even when one should take into account the particulars of a situation or the possibility that one’s principles are incomplete. Miller tended towards this error, an inevitable risk for a viewpoint capable of full description in an e-mail signature.

For his part, Harvey became stuck repeating the obvious fact that every law is a moral law. This was useful in parrying someone like Miller, but substantial defenses of individual matters are also necessary.

All involved in the discussion were too quick to claim social conservatives as natural allies of fiscal conservatism. They should read Lydia McGrew’s doubts about the existence of social liberals who are fiscal conservatives.

The Independent Thinking disputants seemed only half-conscious of the dominance social conservatism once enjoyed across party lines. Capitalist ideologues’ hatred for the traditional family is likely unknown to the parties.

The association of social conservatism with the Republican Party is in some ways an accident of history. Had feminists decided to stay with the Republicans, or had they not established dominance in the Democrats, social conservatism could have had better bipartisan prospects.

Miller’s National Freedom Initiative will work to keep social conservatives subordinate to libertarian concerns. This may be good for short-term Republican political prospects. However, this will hinder the long-term prospects for social conservatism.

Miller was more eager to make converts. Sen. Harvey’s hands-off attitude towards localities is useless if no one is willing to make positive arguments in favor of conservative ideals and customs.

Harvey himself realized this, saying “The reason why we have the problems we do is because the left has been successful in their virtue politics and the right has been… absent.”

Among the standard libertarian arguments repeated by Miller was the idea that social conservatives’ desire to “legislate virtue” provides an opening for left-wing attempts to give their own views the force of law. His Centennial Institute essay even suggests that the attempts to ban homosexual counterfeits of marriage could be a trap that allows “secularists” to pass laws branding “opposite-sex marriage as a ‘hate’ institution.”

This naïve libertarianism is an abdication of reason and politics. The fanatical secularist must be opposed on his own terms. Conservative laws may make secularists more zealous to overturn them, but they also create an obstacle to their progress. If they were still fighting public obscenity laws, they would be too distracted and powerless to shut down Catholic adoption programs.

The decline of social conservatism, not its non-libertarian principles, created the opportunity for leftist expansion. The collapse of the family and the decline of religion have taken place alongside the growth of the welfare state and the inability to self-govern.

Libertarians were accessories to these lamentable happenings, part of their long tradition of political obliviousness.

Some now support same-sex civil unions, or even “marriages,” as extensions of personal liberty. This allows liberals to pass a non-discrimination law at the city level barring government contractors from refusing benefits to civil partnerships. Then a few years later at the state level, they mandate that all businesses provide benefits to these civil unions.

In response comes a paltry libertarian protest, without the self-awareness that they helped bring this predictable government expansion to pass by rejecting conservative objections.

Without conservatism institutionalized in private organizations, businesses and governments, there are few bases of power to capably oppose cultural leftism. Harvey, though often a fine advocate for his cause, showed little awareness about building this institutional conservatism.

Miller showed strong, if unwitting, dedication to eroding its foundations. He has proposed that conservatives self-limit themselves when their liberal opponents show no such willingness. That is unilateral disarmament and a recipe for continued defeat in the culture wars.

Twitter: @joncaldara @TedHarvey @kevinjjones

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is Hispanic family unity being targeted by banking interests?

A disturbing comment on an interview with Patrick Deneen:

My brother once worked for a bank in the American Midwest. He was present at a meeting in which the board, all serious, believing Christians, discussed the need to increase lending opportunities in the Hispanic community by breaking down family ties. The Hispanic habit of communal saving and paying in cash was incompatible with the growth of bank profits.

Latino family breakdown is a problem enough as it is. Writers like Heather MacDonald are keen to warn about the family problems of Hispanic immigrants, especially as their children or grandchildren assimilate to the toxic wasteland produced by the pop culture industries.

This comment suggests there are more subtle business pressures on the Latino family, pressures which may also have been applied to all families.

The American consumer economy constantly tries to remove private economic functions into the public market, where they can be monitored, taxed, and made more efficient in quantifiable terms.

But the family should not be a mere locus for consumption. The good habits and strong bonds formed in extended familial financial planning surely have an importance we don't recognize until they are gone.

I would appreciate any leads to material about the anti-family strategies of the banks, which may not even realize how destructive their work can be.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Family dysfunction link to welfare causes kerfuffle in Colo. legislature

Last week when Rep. Spencer Swalm (R-Centennial) discussed the problem of family formation and welfare expenses. This inevitably sparked another minor controversy in the state legislature.

"Don't have kids out of wedlock," he said from the House floor. "If you're married, if at all possible, trya to stay married. Those are ways to lift families out of poverty."

He added that intact families do better than broken families, whose children are " almost guaranteed to be in poverty."

Democratic House Speaker Terrance Carroll reinterpreted the comments as an insult to "every single person who lives in poverty, who works their butt off every single day just to keep their head above water."

Democrats then pointed to Speaker Carroll's outlier success as not very convincing disproof of Swalm.

Bored by typing internet comments and not-quite-finished blog posts, I tried my hand at writing a letter to the editor. The Post now limits writers to 150 words, but my reply was published yesterday:

State Rep. Spencer Swalm’s commonsense anti-poverty advice to marry before having kids provoked ignorant outrage. The link between the decline of marriage and the rise of poverty is well-established.

Hollywood feminism pretends marriage can be ignored or redefined at will. But the traditional family is best for men, women and children.

Intact families benefit everyone. Americans were once forthright in preparing young people to be good husbands and wives. We told them to avoid premarital sex because of its moral, emotional and biological consequences.

Now, like an uncaring absent father, we just tell them to get condoms, abortions and welfare packages. We praise poor single mothers more than the hard-working housewives and upstanding husbands whose taxes support them.

Let’s build a family-friendly economy, politics and culture that reward those who have done right, or people will just keep doing wrong.

The word limit is excellent at encouraging confident writing, but it also risks reducing comments to bumper sticker sentiments.

Unfortunately, the Post cut my plug of Allan Carlson and, one of the best resources on the state of the family and family policy I know.

Carlson has discussed the social conservatism of the New Deal, much of which would be anathema to the party activists today.

While socially conservative government policy may have once been native to the Democrats, it is now homeless. Even Republicans who do not tend towards morally autistic libertarianism are incapable of designing social policy and a bureaucracy capable of benefiting married motherhood and fatherhood.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Connie Dover will go to the West

The 21st Annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering, a continuing Stock Show tradition, was held at the Arvada Center last month.

Among the performers were Connie Dover, who accompanied NPR regular Skip Gorman. Despite her hoarse throat, the quality was undeniable.

A sample of her work in the Celtic genre:

The Western half of "Country & Western" has always outperformed the southern Country variety, but its popularity peaked some time ago.

It was unfortunate the Arvada Center performance only attracted an older audience. There were even jokes about Will Rogers' horse Trigger, who died in 1965.

The performers' songs of lyrical landscapes may still have a hold on the outdoorsman crowd, but without a revival the genre will pass into further obscurity. Its last pop culture high point was probably Don Edwards' song "Coyotes" being played at the close of the documentary "Grizzly Man."

Here is Edwards performing live:

Alongside its enjoyable but predictable nostalgia, the genre has too much real emotion and dependence upon rural nature to succeed. Its frequent criticism of our technological, history-hating age isn't exactly a marketer's dream.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fred Phelps' crew to "protest" Boulder marriage debate tonight

Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church has announced it is protesting outside the venue of the debate between Maggie Gallagher and Jonathan Rauch tonight.

This will have the benefit of making Ms. Gallagher look like the moderate she is.

However, the debate will show a gaping hole between Gallagher's position and Phelps' that needs to be filled in public debates like this. You know the same-sex "marriage" debate is artificially limited because there are no open, non-kook representatives from the 40% of Americans who still support anti-s-domy laws.

Poor media coverage is pro-life leaders' own fault

This story happens every year. The mainstream media doesn’t cover the March for Life enough. And when it does, its coverage is incompetent or biased.

These complaints happen every year too. Why is that?

It’s not the journalists’ job to report on every event in Washington. They have a world to cover.

However, it is the job of pro-life leaders to secure as much accurate and favorable media coverage as possible. Media companies need to be convinced the March for Life is important.

Decades into the March for Life, they aren't convinced yet.

Are pro-life groups just dispatching a single press release to busy newsrooms and expecting reporters to notice? Sometimes it seems that way.

If CNN anchor Rick Sanchez doesn’t know who is sponsoring our largest event of the year, it's our own fault for not using the system right. Let’s stop coasting on lazy and self-excusing accusations of media bias.

Pro-lifers donate lots of money to support our movement's leaders. If we're still complaining about media coverage every year, these leaders aren’t succeeding at their jobs.

We need an audit to find out what we’re doing wrong.

EWTN is not enough. What are leaders in the pro-life movement doing to build contacts, working relationships and even friendships with mainstream reporters?

And what are the rank-and-file pro-lifers doing to make their leaders lead?


UPDATE: Sum of Change was doing some reporting and passes on a
a flyer to March bus captains that reads:
it is good to suggest to your Marchers that they
refrain from giving names and addresses to unknown persons,
and refrain from answering personal questions from people who
are, for instance, “with the press” or making a “survey.”

That blog also says:
So we are covering their event. However, after seeing the interviews, I can tell why they instruct marchers not to talk with the press: these folks have no idea what they are talking about. A literal quote, "We don't have to have facts or figures."

While it would be unfair to expect the average Marcher to be a good spokesman, wouldn't a little media preparation on the long bus ride be a helpful pasttime?

Twitter: @kevinjjones

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Maggie Gallagher and Jonathan Rauch to debate same-sex 'marriage' at CU-Boulder

UPDATE: This could get interesting.* Fred Phelps' crew is heading to Boulder for the debate.

*As James Poulos has noted: "The interesting is not the good."

On Monday, January 25, the Aquinas Institute for Catholic Thought, the intellectual outreach arm of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center, will hold the third annual “Great Debate” on the University of Colorado campus and host nationally-known speakers Jonathan Rauch and Maggie Gallagher for a debate entitled “Should the Government Approve Same-Sex Marriage?”

Last year’s “Great Debate” featured Dinesh D’Souza and Christopher Hitchens [KJJ: Not that great] and drew a crowd of over 2,400 people to CU’s campus to hear the debate on “Atheism vs. Religion.” Over 2,000 people are expected to attend again this year and tickets are currently on sale. Tickets are $10 per adult, $5 per student and can be purchased at or at any King Soopers.

Monday, January 25, 2010 at 7pm
University of Colorado-Boulder, Macky Auditorium Cristol Chemistry 140
All are welcome.

“The Roman Catholic Church has a long history of engaging in public debate on important ideas and issues of the time, even those controversial in nature. Given the growing national interest in the same-sex marriage debate, the Catholic Center has decided to provide a forum to openly discuss the merits of both sides of this issue, on the campus of Colorado’s flagship university,” said Father Kevin Augustyn, director of Campus Ministry at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center.

“In the tradition of the Catholic Center’s patron saint, St. Thomas Aquinas, who intelligently and fervently engaged the ideas and controversies of his day with age and grace, we hope to provide a stimulating intellectual discussion on the same-sex marriage debate.”

(Source: Jan. 12 Thomas Center Press Release)

The first debate featured Peter Kreeft and David Boonin on the ethics of abortion. See too my personal take on the debate and the fine work of the Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center.

Twitter: NOMTweets ThomasCenter kevinjjones

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Denver First Things readers' group to hold first 2010 meeting

With the happy link from the First Thoughts blog to the post below, I will take the opportunity to note that the Denver First Things Readers' Group will meet this Tuesday at 7:00 in the west Denver home of our organizer.

His contact details are at the ROFTERS page.

Twitter cross-references: @MicahMattix @ROFTERS @DRDRF @kevinjjones

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Walker Percy documentary in the works

The trailer:

Percy's novels and essays drew upon the oddity and despondency of modern life. At a time when every basic need seems met, when man can spy across the globe and amuse himself to death, man can think himself more miserable and solitary than ever.

In this paradox of success, Percy saw proof of man's transcendence. There the novelist found leverage for a Christian, existentialist and uniquely American aesthetic.