Sunday, October 31, 2010

Catholics, Life Issues and the Election

I posted an article with this same title two years ago when Barack Obama was on the verge of winning the presidency. A lot has happened in the last two years and, for various reasons, now Catholics are shifting toward the GOP in this year's midterm elections.

The role of Catholic voters is still the focus of attention by Pope Benedict XVI speaking to the bishops of Brazil, which is having its own major election today and by Archbishop (and Cardinal designate) Raymond Burke, who spoke out strongly in a videotaped interview recently.
"No," Burke answers. "You can never vote for someone who favors absolutely the right to choice of a woman to destroy a human life in her womb or the right to a procured abortion."

He adds that voters "may in some circumstances, where you don't have any candidate who is proposing to eliminate all abortion, choose the candidate who will most limit this grave evil in our country. But you could never justify voting for a candidate who not only does not want to limit abortion but believes that it should be available to everyone."

Kathryn Jean Lopez, in reflecting on Pope Benedict's September visit to the UK and his 2008 visit to the US, sees current political developments as part of a more sweeping cultural movement.
Freedom is very much on American minds, frequently served these days, with tea. The tea party movement, such that it is - a dispersed, grassroots political phenomenon. It isn’t an explicitly religious movement, by any strength. But if you talk to people who show up to the rallies, if you listen to some of the candidates who have showed up to run for office this year -- to serve -- it’s hard to escape this is a cultural movement of people who feel called to something greater than themselves. They dare to hope, to believe that we can be better than we have been.

Of course, they dare to hope that we can be better when it comes to government spending, better when it comes to seriousness about homeland security, better when it comes to making people freer to make choices that are best for their families, and so on. But in reality, it’s so much more.

Marco Rubio, Republican Senate candidate (who is Catholic) running in Florida is among those who give a most compelling voice to people’s fears about the future of the American idea, the experiment that Pope Benedict spoke with respect and admiration of when he came here to visit. It’s an experiment we’re losing hold of.

And about that used and abused word "hope": Peggy Noonan, in her column this weekend, notices a detachment about tea party activists when it comes to individual candidates. Their hope is not the candidate they are campaigning for. The audacity to hope is not a campaign theme or a book title. And the tea party - and politics itself - are not the venues by which to acquire hope.

Rather, these things, rightly ordered, must be in service of He who is hope. And as Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput reminds us, it "assumes and demands a real, unbending spine in believers."

Ted Sorensen, RIP

Ted Sorensen, President John F. Kennedy's prime speech writer, died today at age 82. He helped craft JFK's stirring inaugural address and his other speeches, including those in times of great crises. He presumably had a hand in the 1961 speech to Congress that included the commitment to reach the Moon by the end of the decade and this stirring and poetic speech on space given at Rice University in 1962.
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there."

Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.

Happy Halloween (All Hallows Eve)

Happy Halloween to all the little ghosts and goblins who will be out tonight and to all who enjoy consuming and/or giving out sweet delights.

Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, Texas offers a positive reminder of the Christian aspect of today's festivities.
In the Middle Ages there was a popular belief that on All Souls Day the souls in Purgatory could appear on earth as will-o-the-wisps, witches, ghosts and all sorts of things to those people who had wronged them during their lifetimes. At some point, these customs slipped into the All Saints Celebration called Halloween.

So this weekend when the little ghoulies and ghosties are out they remind us of the suffering souls in Purgatory who need our prayers.

We should all remember our beloved dead and pray for them regularly and for those who have no one to pray for them.

Cure for Disease as Cure for Health Care Crisis

James Pinkerton points out how curing disease, in this case, Alzheimer’s, could go a long way toward solving, or at least mitigating, the financial challenges facing the health care system. I would think that the same would be true for curing other major maladies such as heart disease and cancer.

The author seems to claim that this would make the current health care debate almost irrelevant, but I still see the critical need to repeal or at least neutralize ObamaReidPelosi care in the interest of allowing cutting edge medical research to go forward and allowing patients to access that research's results when they need them. (I'll probably just refer to "Obamacare" after Tuesday, when hopefully Reid and Pelosi will no longer be relevant.)

Nevertheless, Pinkerton's primary point is well taken. Let's think big and take a can-do attitude toward solving society's problems in ways that liberate human persons rather than restricting them.

Working toward Space Settlement

NASA, Artist concept by Denise Watt.

If I were not so focused on the election and had not spent so much on travel already this year, I'd likely be in California this weekend for the Space Studies Institute's Space Manufacturing 14 conference (resuming after a hiatus since 2001). Topics include technology , transportation, resources and energy related to human expansion into and settlement of places beyond Earth.

Blogging and Tweeting of the conference is being provided by Rand Simberg, Clarke Lindsey, Jeff Foust and Doug Messier, among others.

Historical Undercurrent of Current Campaign

While the focus of most involved in this year's election campaign is understandably on economic issues, history may record how this year's politics may yield significant movement on the protection of human life.

When the Issues Don't Work, Make It Personal

Negative campaign tactics are a perennial part of politics that members of both parties engage in. But Jim Geraghty notes the particular frenzy with which the Democrats are going personal with their attacks on Republican opponents this year.
Meanwhile . . . after telling themselves for decades that their ideas are better, and that if the election is about ideas, they win, what are liberals running on?

The DCCC is running ads about Kristi Noem’s speeding tickets, Keith Fimian’s home-inspection business, Jaime Herrera’s business-card expenses. Tennessee Democrat Lincoln Davis accuses his opponent of "a history of violent and threatening behavior."

As we all know, Jack Conway is running an ad on the Aqua Buddha. The DSCC is running an ad saying that because Pat Toomey did work for a Chinese company, "maybe he ought to run for Senate . . . in China. (Gong noise.)" We all know how much of the DSCC attacks on Christine O’Donnell have been about her personal finances, and how much fun they had with Linda McMahon’s wacky on-camera performances as part of the WWF. And the White House, of course, is screaming from the rooftops that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce must prove their innocence over their unsupported charge of using foreign money.

They could just tell us how great that health care bill they passed is going to work out. Oh, never mind!

Security Threat Remains Top Issue

While the run-up to Tuesday's midterm elections has centered primarily around economic issues, we're reminded once again that other things matter as an attempted terrorist operation is thwarted.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It ain't Over 'til It's Over

RealClearPolitics can be a interesting gold mine for political junkies to analyze election trends. For example, let's look at three prominent Senate races, those in Pennsylvania, California and Delaware.

Clicking on each link, you can see that, according to the RCP averages of recent polls, Toomey is slightly ahead in PA (Go Pat!) and Boxer is slightly ahead in CA (Please CA, take her back and send us Carly!), while in Delaware, Chris Coons is shown with a solid 17.2 % lead over Christine O'Donnell. But take a closer look at when the polls were taken. While the PA and CA averages are from polls taken within the last few days, the Delaware average comes from polls that were taken no later than Oct. 14, nearly two weeks ago. (This is as of 10 PM Wednesday evening. By the time you read this, the averages may be updated with more recent polls that either confirm or change the status of any of these races.)

So, did the major polling organizations stop polling this race in mid-October? (No doubt there are likely internal and local polls still being taken.) Aren't they being a little presumptuous if they've stopped polling because the think this race is over? So what is going on in this Delaware race this week?

I know Christine O'Donnell is facing a steep challenge in this race, but don't count her out. Besides, history shows us how presumed outcomes aren't always confirmed by reality.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Politically Correct Foolishness Just Keeps on Coming

The publicly funded National Public Radio (NPR) has embroiled itself in an immense controversy (and a possible funding crisis in the next Congress) by firing news analyst Juan Williams over comments made on Fox News, where he will go on to fill an expanded role.
Ailes, in making his announcement, said, "Juan has been a staunch defender of liberal viewpoints since his tenure began at Fox News in 1997. He’s an honest man whose freedom of speech is protected by Fox News on a daily basis."

Apparently, much more nasty speech is tolerated by NPR when it is directed at conservatives.

Of course, those who deem their liberal views as so much more enlightened and tolerant than those who disagree with them will just continue to rail against Fox News and other "right wing" media.

The Moon Becomes Still More Interesting and Useful

NASA today revealed new information about discoveries made during last year's LRO/LCROSS mission that impacted the lunar south pole. Substantial amounts of water plus a number of other useful resources were confirmed. The Moon will play an increasing role in the future human economy. More links here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Speaking (and Showing) Truth to Power Rocks the Capital

Missy Smith is running to replace Eleanor Holmes Norton as DC's non-voting Congress member. She's unlikely to win the seat but may have more impact on our society than any other candidate running this year.

Missy Smith is taking advantage of an obscure federal election law to bypass media censorship of the gruesome reality of abortion. Jill Stanek explains further here with video links to the graphic ads.

These powerful and moving ads have already run on several local news and late night comedy shows, starting yesterday.

I've donated to Missy Smith's campaign to run the ads at her campaign web site. I know presenting the graphic reality of abortion is a controversial issue even among prolife people, but I think we've been blessed with a rare opportunity to cut through the BS of misleading euphemisms and political cliches to challenge those in power with the brutal consequences of the policies they defend.

This campaign in our nation's capital may go down in history as a start of a turning point in the long-running struggle over abortion. Please consider supporting this effort.

Comercial Space News from NM Conference

The International Symposium on Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) 2010 is underway in New Mexico and a steady stream of reports are coming out. Clarke Lindsey was unable to make it there this year but is doing a tremendous job of capturing reports from those who are there.

Most interesting are the reports coming out about Bigelow Aerospace and its plans for commercial space habitats. They have now booked six countries as first customers and are addressing a whole range of issues including launch sites for getting customers to the space stations. Wallops Island, VA is one of the sites Bigelow is considering.

Doug Messier has posted a number of pics of Bigelow's exhibit at the conference.

New Cardinals

Congratulations to Archbishop Donald Wuerl (of my Archdiocese of Washington) and Archbishop Raymond Burke, who is an outspoken leader on moral and political issues, and the 22 others who were designated by Pope Benedict XVI today to become cardinals of the Catholic Church.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Weeks and Counting

The midterm election that seemed so long in coming is now only two weeks away. While I'm cautious about making predictions, it's looking like the Republicans are holding on to a lead that could bring to substantial gains in Congress. One race nearby that would have seemed most safe for the Dems may actually be making a leading Democrat very nervous.

What's most exciting about this race is that even the Republican establishment is not in control of events. The rise of the Tea Party movement is not only taking on establishment politicians but also the establishment media, which for so long has portrayed events to its consumers through the lens of its own assumptions (fantasies) of what the world should be like.

Now President Obama thinks this political climate is a result of we the people being too fearful to think clearly enough to accept his obviously superior ideas and plans for us.

Those who think they are so much more intelligent and morally superior have recently given us more priceless gems than I can keep track of, but here is the latest howler.

China's Mineral Embargo

This developing story that China is withholding shipments of key rare earth minerals to the West may or may not precipitate an immediate economic and security crisis, but it is an ominous reminder of the fragile position we find ourselves in in a not always friendly world.

We're Finding Out What's In It

Among the most recent gotchas coming out of ObamaReidPelosi care include its negative impact on employees' health benefits and its role in the closing of some Catholic hospitals.

There is a bright side however. In the Monday hearing on Virginia's suit challenging the constitutionality of the plan's mandate for individuals to have health insurance (not the only state challenge to the plan), it was noted that the plan has no "severability" clause. In their rush to pass this monstrosity before anyone could find out what's in it, the plan's proponents forgot to include a usually standard clause for complex legislation stating that a finding that one part of the legislation is unconstitutional does not invalidate those parts that are not ruled unconstitutional. Thus, a ruling that the mandate is unconstitutional could threaten to bring down the whole plan.

In the meantime, many of those in Congress that voted for this debacle are discovering another gotcha: their pink slip to be delivered on November 2.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The 33 Chilean miners trapped below ground for over two months have been safely brought to the surface. (The final rescue team member will soon be enroute to the surface as I write.)

Give thanks to God and credit to all who were involved in planning and conducting this rescue. Assistance was provided by NASA to the rescue effort.

Monday, October 11, 2010

O Signs the Bill

President Obama today signed the NASA authorization bill that provides direction for a balanced plan for NASA to conduct exploration, attempt to develop affordable heavy lift, engage the commercial sector and develop new technology for advancing the frontier. Of course there's a lot of work to be done to see that Congress appropriates funds to back up the new direction and that NASA implements the plan effectively.

Virgin Goes Free Flight

Virgin Galactic carried out the first free flight glide test of its SpaceShipTwo commercial suborbital spaceship on Sunday. This test is an important step in the vigorous test program that must be carried out in order to meet Virgin's stated goal of providing paying passenger flights in eighteen months.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

It's Not "Either/Or"

Dick Morris & Eileen McGann write that fiscal and economic issues are the sole driver behind the Tea Party movement at the expense of "social issues" (abortion, gun control, gay marriage, etc.).
This shift in Republican priorities is opening up the way for social moderates and libertarians to back Republican candidates in the 2010 elections. The libertarian strain in the American electorate has long been neglected by the mainstream media. But, through the Tea Party, it has gained ascendancy on the right. Those who want the government to stay out of both boardrooms and bedrooms have come to dominate the party and its nominating process.

Not so fast, say Kathryn Jean Lopez and Ramesh Ponnuru.

As Ponnuru says:
As for social issues not counting in the primaries, let’s look at the results of seriously contested primaries. Many of the pro-life establishment candidates won (McCain, Fiorina, Ayotte); none of the pro-choice establishment candidates did (Castle, Murkowski, and you could even count Crist and Specter depending on when you start the review). In three states establishment pro-life candidates lost (Lowden, Greyson, Norton) but in each case to pro-life insurgents. That none of the tea-party candidates in these races has been pro-choice is a fact so obvious that we don’t even think about it.

And as KJL says:
I actually believe we’re at this beautiful moment where people are in such a mood for common sense in governing that things like a universal Hyde Amendment and de-funding Planned Parenthood are absolutely coalition wins. Fiscal conservatives and the most dedicated anti-abortion activist can agree here. That’s not losing clout. It’s travelling the road to victory on the human-rights issue of our time.

I particularly like that last line as I've always been a little uncomfortable with abortion (and other direct threats to human life) being vaguely defined as a "social issue" when it is really "the human-rights issue of our time".

Finally, a poll released this past week actually indicates a high degree of overlap between Tea Party activists and "social conservatives".

It's the Policies, Stupid!

When faced with leadership that is seriously endangering the country (and the world) because it is trying to implement some awfully flawed ideas, it is important not to get excessively sidetracked on personal flaws. It's not about Obama, Reid or Pelosi as persons, it's the policies they are implementing, according to Charles Krauthammer, that is motivating the public to once more seek change this election year.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Renn Fest

I spent Sunday at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. The weather was overcast and cool but comfortable with a jacket (until it started raining at the end of the day). There was plenty of good food and drink and lots of good music performances for Celtic weekend. Particularly intriguing and powerful with an Australian accent was the music of a band called BROTHER.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Space Developments Keep Coming

With all of the nail biting intrigue leading up to Wednesday night's Congressional approval of the NASA authorization bill, we don't want to overlook some other interesting and significant recent space news events:

_ China launched its second lunar probe, Chang'e 2, on Friday. The Moon remains a prime object of interest among Earth's spacefaring nations, including the United States.

- A "potentially habitable" planet has been discovered around a nearby red dwarf star, Gliese 581, 20 light-years away. (That's right in the neighborhood by galactic standards.) It's been almost 15 years since the first confirmation of planets around other stars was announced, and these discoveries are only going to get more interesting over time.

- Sir Richard Branson says his company Virgin Galactic will start offering suborbital tourist flights in eighteen months. Meeting that schedule will require an aggressive program of test flights between now and then, but these passenger flights will surely raise a new level of excitement about this emerging industry.