Weather-Free Links (For Those Who Are Tired of the Irene Coverage)

Does contraception afford women greater freedom? No, not really:

Can contraception make America better?
by Carolyn Moynihan @ Mercator.net

It’s in this market setting, described by economists, that we confront the failure of the other contraceptive agenda: liberation. Men in fact still have the upper hand in sex and women find themselves paying a high price, materially and emotionally, for the relationship they hope for. And that’s to say nothing of the cost that children bear. Increasingly for the lower middle class, that relationship is likely to fall short of marriage, not last, and, if it produces a child, to result in one parent leaving the home by the time the child is 16.

Rather than doing their research among their pals in the birth control industrial complex (the “science and existing literature”), Drs Obama, Pelosi and Sibelius should have got out into Middle America and confronted the damage that contraceptive culture has already done. They should have interviewed some of the women stalled in uncommitted relationships and feeling they must risk the birth of a child anyway before it is too late, or trying a second or third gamble in the sexual market; the women who must be asking themselves, “Is this all?”

Paul VI truly was ahead of the curve when he wrote Humanae Vitae.

*****

Badass of the week:

Joseph Lozito

(Language warning!)

Lozito took down a spree killer on the New York subway and is now being celebrated as a prime example of traditional American masculinity.

*****

The pathetic Wisconsin left battles on. Their target this week? A Catholic school:

Locks superglued prior to protests of Governor Walker at local school

MILWAUKEE – Protesters crowded the street outside Messmer Preparatory School in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood as Governor Walker visited the school Friday to read to children.

The protests came just hours after someone vandalized the school ahead of the Governor’s visit.

“Some of these folks super glued our front doors at the prep school,” said Br. Bob Smith, OFM, the president of Messmer Catholic Schools, about the school on the corner of North Fratney and East Burleigh Streets.

He told Newsradio 620 WTMJ that a woman was walking in front of the school Thursday, asking people to protest.

According to Br. Smith, one protester said ” ‘Get ready for a riot,’ because they were going to disrupt the visit.”

This is why you keep losing, you union goons. When you pull these stunts, people logically conclude that you don’t actually give a crap about anyone other than yourselves.

*****

And lastly, Obama’s super-rich champion is a hypocrite (naturally):

Warren Buffett’s taxing hypocrisy
@ NetRightDaily

What likely got the Administration’s attention was Buffett’s oped in The New York Times. Buffett proposed that “It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.” He implied he would like to see the capital gains be treated equally as income.

To wit, he wrote of the so-called “super-rich,” which he apparently defines as households earning $1 million or more a year: “Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.” Isn’t that nice of Mr. Buffett?

But if he were truly sincere, perhaps he might simply try paying the taxes the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says his company owes? According to Berkshire Hathaway’s own annual report — see Note 15 on pp. 54-56 — the company has been in a years-long dispute over its federal tax bills.

And thus we discover why raising taxes on the rich doesn’t work. The very rich, you see, have high-priced tax attorneys.

Responding to Annoying Liberal Remarks on Facebook, VIII

When you drive up to a red light, you’re supposed to stop until the light turns green. That’s the general law of the land. Yet on a daily basis, I run red lights without getting ticketed. Why? Because there is an exception to the rule: you can run a red light if you are turning right.

The fact that there is an exception to the red light rule does not invalidate the rule in general. The fact that I can turn right on red doesn’t mean I should feel free to run red lights in all circumstances. Similarly, the fact that there are couples out there who are infertile does not automatically invalidate the Catholic Church’s conservative position on contraception. But try explaining that to a Facebook acquaintance of mine who is all too ready to accuse us Catholics (and our allies) of believing things we don’t actually believe. As he states:

“It’s about controlling women, about the Puritanical urge to make sure no one has sex except to make babies, even if you don’t want any.”

To which one of his friends replies:

“IF they get their way, they’ll eventually try to outlaw ANY sex that’s not for making babies–which means people who can’t have babies will have to live like monks.”

As I stated above, these two statements are so patently false that I don’t even know where to begin. But let’s start by explaining what the Church actually teaches about sex. You see, I have read a fair amount of the late (and Blessed) John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” and no where do I see it stated that sex has just a procreative function. Actually, the Holy Father acknowledges two vital functions of sex – the procreative and the unitive – and states that both must work in concert. It is just as much a sin, in other words, to have sex for the sole purpose of creating an heir, say, as it is to have contracepted intercourse. The first case ignores the unitive; the second case ignores the procreative.

Obedient Catholics can have sex without having babies, but it involves cooperating with God’s plan instead of imposing your own will upon it. Consider the infertile married couple. The fact that their sex results in no issue does not in fact make their sex a sin because it is not their fault that they are infertile. That is what God has decreed for them. Similarly, an elderly couple is still allowed to have sex despite the wife’s menopause because, again, menopause is a part of God’s plan for female human beings. And then there is Natural Family Planning. God has designed the female human body in such a way that each woman has both fertile and infertile periods, and NFP allows a Catholic couple to follow this cycle to either prevent or enable pregnancy. In each of these three cases, the couples are still open to God and His desires for us. That’s the true key. This idea that the Church simply wants us to pump out rugrats is a monumental distortion of her teachings.

(And by the way, to head off the usual objection, NFP is effective provided you receive training from a licensed specialist and are motivated to follow God’s program. Science has pushed NFP far beyond the oft ridiculed “rhythm method.”)

In my estimation, it is highly, highly unlikely that the Catholic Church and her allies will go so far as to “outlaw sex that’s not for making babies” even if they do gain the power to do so. In addition to all the exceptions to the rules noted above, the Church explicitly teaches that we Catholics must work within the larger civil society, and if that means making compromises, we must make compromises. I think the Church understands the extent to which the sexual revolution has taken hold in our culture, and I think she understands that we will never be able to put the genie entirely back in the bottle. Will the Church do everything she can to mitigate the effects of that revolution? Yes. But that is not the same as demanding that we outlaw non-procreative sex, and all honest people know it.

And while we’re on the subject, what are we to make of the effects of the sexual revolution? My Facebook acquaintance clearly considers it axiomatic that sex is more fun when it has no limits. But is that actually the case? No. As the social science reveals, married couples have more fun, perhaps because they feel more secure in their relationships. It is also quite clear that “free love” has been disastrous for our children. Children both desire and need stable families, and they are less likely to have them so long as we adults ignore our responsibilities to selfishly pursue our own transient pleasures.

And as for the issue of control, my rejoinder is this: Who’s controlling whom? As far as I’m concerned, you leftists are the most controlling people on the planet when it comes to sex. If you are an unborn human being? Sorry, but we only care about your mother’s freedom to have sex without consequences. Your rights don’t matter. If you are an OB/GYN who doesn’t approve of abortion? Sorry, but we don’t care about your personal beliefs. We will force you to perform a procedure with which you don’t agree. If you are a Catholic pharmacist who doesn’t wish to sell the birth control pill? Too bad. We leftists have decreed that women have an absolute right to get birth control at every pharmacy in the U.S. regardless of what individual pharmacists think about the matter. If you are a pastor who doesn’t believe in gay marriage? You are a bigot, and you have no right to decide which marriages your church will and will not endorse. If you are a Catholic adoption agency who places children only with heterosexual married couples? We leftists will use the power of the state to compel you to place children with gay couples. Who exactly is anti-liberty here when all is said and done? If these leftists were actually frank with themselves, they would realize that they are just as eager to impose their peculiar sexual morality on everyone else as they accuse us Christians of being. Their talk of “rights” and “freedom” is pure bunk.

No – It’s Not Hypocritical to Oppose Legal Abortion and Support a Conservative Budget Policy

There’s a certain complaint that my leftist acquaintances trot out all the time, and it goes a little something like this:

“These stupid tea baggers are always complaining about the intrusiveness of government, yet they’re perfectly happy to allow government to tell us what to do when it comes to things like abortion. What hypocrites!”

Unfortunately, this line of argument has turned out to be very powerful. Many conservatives have drifted over into the fiscally conservative/socially liberal camp precisely because they cannot effectively answer this charge. But they should not have conceded ground in this way. There are ways to strike down the left’s childish claims of hypocrisy, and if you’ll permit me a little time, I can demonstrate what I mean.

First of all, the argument above is based on a highly debatable premise. It assumes that the decision to have an abortion is similar to any decisions we may make in the economic realm. But we in the pro-life movement believe that the decision to have an abortion belongs in an utterly different category. We believe that the fetus is a human being just like all of us who happen to be walking about and that he or she therefore deserves to be accorded the very same right to life that the rest of us enjoy. Having an abortion is not like deciding whether or not to buy an electric car; in our view, it is murder — a murder which takes place under many guilt-mitigating circumstances, but a murder nonetheless. And from this basic premise, we logically conclude that it is right and proper for government to seek to curtail the practice of abortion, just as the government correctly seeks to discourage other forms of murder.

But what about other instances in which the right attempts to “legislate morality”? Well, that brings me to my second argument: that the left fails to understand how the conservative philosophy fits together — how it is all of a piece. As I discussed in my series on the federal budget, a conservative believes in at least four different levels of government – 1) the individual/family/immediate community level, 2) the municipal/local level, 3) the state level, and 4) the federal level – and it is absolutely critical to our model of governance that all of these levels be in working order. How does morality fit in to all of this? Well, in our view, those moral standards that we conservatives are so keen to enforce are what truly allow the first level – the individual/family/immediate community level – to operate. Without those standards, families and communities fall apart and ever larger government entities are forced to pick up the slack.

Now, I suppose we could let people run riot on the bottom floor and let the upper floors take over, but in the real world, that turns out to be an inefficient – and often degrading – strategy. Would you rather have a representative of the federal government tell you to eat right and exercise on a regular basis, or would you rather have your own mother give you that advice? Well, if we allow the left to bully us into conceding that traditional marriage isn’t really necessary after all, pretty soon, very few will have the chance to pick the latter option. Mom, now husband-less, will be too busy working.

In the end, we conservatives believe our opponents have it completely ass-backwards. Leftists see something in the socioeconomic sphere that legitimately offends their sense of justice – sexual harassment, for example – and decide we must have more and stiffer federal laws. In other words, when they see thousands of young children drowning in a raging river, they immediately jump in the water to save all the children they can see and don’t worry over whether that’s really the most prudent or efficacious course of action. Conservatives, on the other hand, see the same injustice and wonder whether some sort of moral breakdown – a fault in the first link of the government chain – might be a contributing factor; in the case of the sexual harasser, for example, a conservative will note – correctly, I feel – that it is difficult to train young men to treat women with respect in the meat-market that is the post-sexual revolution dating scene. In other words, when conservatives see thousands of young children drowning in a raging river, they tell at least one of their number to walk upstream to see who’s throwing the children in the water to begin with. (And if that particular conservative is of a military bent, he’ll probably kick the child-murderer’s ass.)

We can’t write public policy solely to assuage our own feelings of indignation, and we can’t write public policy to satisfy some ridiculous standard of ideological purity. We have to write public policy that works first and foremost. And as far as we conservatives can see, the leftist plan to slacken the reigns on our morality while tightening the reigns everywhere else simply doesn’t work. It sends our society into a tailspin that a constantly expanding government bureaucracy can’t possibly arrest.

A Note to the Republican Leadership:

If in fact the federal government does shut down, you need to head to every talk show and news program in existence and repeat until you’re blue in the face that the Democrats refused to make a deal in order to protect Planned Parenthood. And you need to be clear that the Democrat position is the extreme position. The Republican House is not proposing that we outlaw abortion. The Republicans are proposing that we allow tax payers to decide for themselves whether they want their hard-earned money to fund the practice. And if people start whining about health care for women, you need to give Abby Johnson the floor so she can shoot down that tissue of lies. Yes, there are individual Planned Parenthood employees who do care for the well-being of women, but that is certainly not the goal of the organization in general. If Planned Parenthood were truly concerned about women, they would work much harder to prevent the sexual exploitation of underaged girls. Moreover, if what they do for women is so wonderful and necessary, then surely they can ask for funding from their supposed scores of fawning supporters.

Again, Republicans, when you speak to the American people, frame it this way: The Democrat Party wants to force us to fund a key entity in the national abortion industry whether we agree with abortion or not. That is what is at issue here. As with PBS and the NEA and a host of other pet liberal programs, the Democrats have decided that abortion is a public good that must be funded, and if you disagree, you are a mean, evil person who eats babies, kicks little old grandmothers, and cheers whenever a woman dies of breast cancer. As far as the Democrats are concerned, when it comes to Planned Parenthood, those of us who happen to be conscientious objectors should just sit down, shut up, and take it up the rear. We should refuse to stay silent. (/rant)

After Action Report: The Mass for Life

If you watched the mass on EWTN, you didn’t see the half of it. After a long subway ride and a several-block walk uphill in a freezing, blustery wind, I arrived at the basilica in the early afternoon (T-minus five hours or so), and the place was already jam-packed full of (mostly teenaged and young-adult) pilgrims. It was like being at Atlanta’s Dragon*Con, only it was Catholic and the pilgrims were wearing normal street clothes instead of anime costumes.

I bought a pro-life t-shirt and bracelet at the gift shop, met a group of Catholic graphic novel writers (as I said, it was much like Dragon*Con), then snagged a sandwich in the crypt-level cafeteria, where I shared a table with a Byzantine Catholic from Chicago. He was not in town for the March for Life – he was actually in DC on business – but he was pro-life and agreed with my assertion that the existence of legal abortion is merely a symptom of the increasing selfishness of our society.

After lunch, I decided it was time to go save a seat in the upper church. No chance. By the time I made my way up there, the seats in the pews had already been claimed and young pilgrims in matching sweatshirts (presumably, they dressed alike so they could identify each other in the crowds) were setting up camp on the floor. I went back down to the crypt level and saved a seat in front of one of the big screen televisions in the memorial hall. At T-minus 2 hours or so, I got to meet Fr. Pavone and shake his hand.

To my left, a group of pilgrims from Illinois congregated on the floor of the memorial hall. A couple from Buffalo sat to my right. Not only was the upper church at standing room only, but every single nook and cranny on the crypt level was full. All the little hidden shrines? Full. The crypt church? Full. The memorial hall? Full. I think ten to twenty thousand people showed up for this mass. It was insane. Some people passed out and had to be carried out on stretchers.

The opening procession took upwards of half an hour; the number of seminarians, deacons, priests, and bishops filing into the church was absolutely extraordinary. Unfortunately, my ankles and knees began to hurt after the first ten minutes, so I had to sit; thanks to my rheumatoid arthritis, I’m just not equipped to endure that much pageantry. By the way, Sub Spike, I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear that they didn’t stint on the “smells and bells” – and they used the long form of the Eucharistic Prayer.

Cardinal DiNardo’s homily focused on the need to present a united front to the larger culture. The cardinal also seemed especially pleased that so many young people were getting involved in the pro-life movement. I privately agreed with the sentiment.

I was very impressed with the team of Eucharistic ministers who were charged with the task of offering communion to everyone in the overflow areas. They were very swift and efficient (relatively speaking – it was still a very long mass). I was less impressed with the AV team, though. We couldn’t hear what was going on upstairs until they were half-way finished with the second reading, which I personally found very frustrating.

Still, even with the aforementioned technical bugs, this mass was a very worthwhile experience — though I think I’d like to return to the basilica on a quieter day so I can do some more exploring.

The National Prayer Vigil for Life

I will be attending the Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC tomorrow night. This mass will be shown live on EWTN at 6:30 PM Eastern Standard. Look for me!

(Actually, I’m kidding. I doubt you’ll be able to see me among the thousands of pilgrims in attendance. LOL!)

Another Abortion Related News Item

I’m a few days behind on this one, but Sub Spike reminded me this afternoon that this was going on in his home state:

Philadelphia Abortion Doctor Charged With 8 Counts of Murder
@ Fox News

An abortion doctor who catered to minorities, immigrants and poor women was charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a patient and seven babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Williams said during a press conference Wednesday that Gosnell “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord.”

The district attorney also said patients were subjected to squalid and barbaric conditions at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society.

“There were bags and bottles holding aborted fetuses scattered throughout the building,” Williams said. “There were jars, lining shelves, with severed feet that he kept for no medical purpose.”

The clinic was shut down and Gosnell’s medical license was suspended after the raid.

This is sick. Where were the regulators?

Debating Abortion, Part III

Okay – now that I have some time, allow me to continue the argument begun in part II by discussing Maddox’s second and third criteria for sentience:

Self-Awareness

Picard has a pretty easy time demonstrating that Data is self-aware; all he has to do is ask the android a few questions and let Data’s eloquent responses speak for themselves. But what do you do with a pre-verbal infant — or an emergent talker? Again, a little creativity is required.

One common test of self-awareness is the mirror test. Smear a little make-up on a little kid’s nose and then put him in front of a mirror. Does he try to rub off the rouge? Researchers have found in repeated trials that children generally don’t react to the make-up until about the middle of the second year of life. This doesn’t mean, of course, that infants are completely without self-awareness; researchers have also found, for example, that a days-old baby is more likely to display the rooting reflex when another person touches him on the cheek than when he accidentally touches his own cheek, which suggests that even a newborn can tell the difference between his own body and the environment. Still, the fact that babies fail the mirror test indicates that self-awareness, like intelligence, evolves over time.

In the literature I’ve come across, several stages of self-awareness are recognized. First, there is self-environment differentiation, which is present to some extent at birth but becomes more and more sophisticated throughout the first year. Secondly, there is the development of one’s “body schema” – in other words, an internal map of one’s body – which is demonstrated by those children who pass the afore-described mirror test (18 months seems to be the age at which most researchers observe this ability in toddlers). Third, young children eventually come to recognize themselves at different points in time; in other words, they develop an enduring sense of self. This does not occur until a child is around three or four years of age.

Lastly – and perhaps most importantly of all – young children must learn to understand how others see them. The ability to lie, the ability to understand the actions of characters in story books, the ability to understand why another child may be upset — all of these depend upon the ability to separate one’s own mind from the minds of others (called “theory of mind” in many developmental psychology texts). A workable theory of mind is usually developed during the preschool years, but there are some adult autists walking around today who are still profoundly impaired when it comes to understanding the thoughts, motives, and emotions of others. Are these autists less than human?

After surveying all the information I have on self-awareness, I can only ask pro-abortion activists one question: If self-awareness is going to be our criterion for personhood, precisely where should we draw the line? Even if we declare an individual a self-aware “person” once he’s passed the mirror test, we still run into problems. Some animals can pass the mirror test, after all; should we protect dolphins and large apes and not protect human babies who are younger than the 18 month cut-off? Unless you’re a radical animal rights proponent (like Peter Singer), you should be appalled at the very suggestion.

Consciousness

I’ll be brief with this one, as I feel like I’m repeating myself.

Consciousness, like the previous two criteria, is quite variable. When we sleep, for example, we are largely unconscious. There are also many periods throughout our waking lives in which we are not completely “with it”. Have you ever made a decision to go to the grocery store, but found yourself heading into work instead a few minutes into your drive? In my family, we call that “automatic pilot,” and it appears to be a pretty universal phenomenon among human beings.

In order for “consciousness” (or “intelligence” or “self-awareness”) to serve as a criterion for “personhood,” it has to be clearly defined. And who’s going to do the defining? The powerful. And that’s pretty much the core problem with any definition of “personhood” offered up by the pro-abortion movement. G.K. Chesterton once argued that in order for a society to be truly democratic, it must take seriously the conclusions of previous generations. “Tradition,” he wrote, “means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” I would extend the inimitable Mr. Chesterton’s sentiment this way: The anti-abortion movement not only respects the opinions of our ancestors, but also gives a voice to those who are not yet born. Anti-abortion activists refuse to submit to the elitist oligarchs who self-servingly draw up definitions of “personhood” that favor only those who can speak for themselves.

I think I’ll also echo Louvois here and say that what pro-abortion activists are really questioning is whether an unborn baby has a soul. That’s something we’ll never really know for sure. But this doubt should be a reason to err on the side of life, not death.