Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Catholic Websites Spinning the Pew Research Center’s Recent Data on Abortion Opinion

January 31, 2013

Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum reflects on the impressive turnout at San Francisco’s recent Walk for Life:

How frustrating it must be for [pro-choicers] to see history moving decisively (despite the setbacks of the current regime in Washington) in the pro-life direction.

Howbutwhatinthewhat? Here, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, is a snapshot of current opinion:

Record-High-Support-for-Abortion-1

The results of the recent Pew Research Center poll are probably even more authoritative and also show robust public support for Roe v. Wade. The PRC’s numbers have caused quite a stir on conservative Catholic websites. Contributors to online magazines like The Catholic Thing, Crisis, and First Things have been scrambling to somehow spin or deny the fact that only 29% of Americans want to see the 1973 ruling completely overturned, while 63% support it. The data also reveal a slow but steady increase in support over the past 20 years, from 60% in 1992 to the current 63%. Opposition has declined more significantly during that period, from 34% to the current 29%.

abortion-poll-1The Church’s propaganda elves are working 24-7 to convince us that the PRC report is flawed. Roe v. Wade‘s provisions are not widely understood, they say, or the PRC’s polling questions were misleading. Or they bring in other polling data—some out-of-date and some from dubious sources—to confuse the issue.

Thus, Kenneth D. Whitehead, writing for Crisis Magazine, claims that “many people [including the poll respondents] do not understand that Roe v. Wade actually allows abortion on demand throughout the entire length of a pregnancy for any reason or for no reason.”

This is demonstrably false. Roe’s central holding is that abortions are permissable until the fetus is viable (from 24 to 28 weeks, or about six to seven months). After that, the State may proscribe abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.

Here’s what the law actually says:

During the first trimester, “the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician.”

After the first trimester,”the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health.”

After viability, which occurs at around the beginning of the third trimester, “the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”

If Whitehead can sow enough distrust of the Pew findings, he may be able to persuade us that a poll conducted by the Knights of Columbus is more reliable. Yes, you heard me right. He’s citing a Catholic fraternal service and lobbying organization that is famously dedicated to upholding Catholic teachings on abortion. Their finding is that “no less than 83 percent of Americans now favor some restrictions on abortion.” Even if reliable, this finding is not necessarily at odds with the PRC’s. Roe v. Wade does not, in fact, allow unrestricted access to abortions.

Jon A. Shields, writing for First Things (“Debating Roe’s Legacy,” 1/30/13) claims that (1) “young Americans are suddenly less pro-choice than older Americans,” and that (2) “young Americans are not only less pro-choice than any other age group, but they are also markedly less pro-choice than any young cohort in any previous decade.”

His first claim is false and the second is only half-true. While it appears to be true that Americans aged 18 to 29 are still trending slightly toward anti-abortion views, they are not currently “less pro-choice” than older Americans (if “pro-choice” is taken to mean supporting Roe v. Wade and if “older Americans” means “Americans older than 29”). Shields does not disclose the actual PRC numbers, which, at best, show a pro-choice lead of only one percentage point in only one of the three “older” cohorts (the 50-64 year-olds). And the difference between the support and opposition figures is still very significant in all four age cohorts:

Ages 18-29: 41 percentage points (difference).

Ages 30-49: 30 percentage points.

Ages 50-64: 43 percentage points.

Ages 65+: 16 percentage points.

(In all of these, the percentage supporting Roe v. Wade is the higher of the two.)

Using the PRC’s polling data, 68% of the 18-29 year-old cohort are opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade, compared to only 27% in favor. Note that in the next age cohort (30-49 years old), the figures are 61% and 31% respectively. Significantly, the 50-64 year-old cohort is slightly more opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade than the 18-29 group, with the numbers at 69% (opposed) and 26% (favoring).

No wonder Shields doesn’t show us the numbers.

Shields’s related claim was that young Americans (aged 18-29) are also “markedly less pro-choice than any young cohort in any previous decade.” This is true only if we replace the word “markedly” with “slightly.” While it is true that the 2009 Gallup poll showed a 12-percentage-point decline in the numbers of young pro-choice Americans since the early nineties (from 36% to 24%), that number had not declined at all since the eighties, and it had dropped only two percentage points since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

I think we would be entitled to conclude that young Americans’ position on reproductive choice has not significantly changed since Roe v. Wade. What is perhaps more significant is the slow but steadily growing overall support for the ruling.

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View PRC’s “Abortion Support slideshow” here.

Read: “Roe v. Wade at 40: Most Oppose Overturning Abortion Decision” (PRC, January 11, 2013)

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Top GOP Pollster Tells GOP: Change Course on Gay Issues!

May 12, 2012

Jan van Lohuizen, a GOP pollster widely respected by high-ranking Republican ideologues, warns the GOP that they must reverse course quickly if they are to avoid hitting an iceberg on gay issues.

In a memorandum circulated to GOP leaders today (5/11/12), Lohuizen points to the rapidly growing support for same-sex marriage. In the years before 2009, support was growing at the rate of 1% per year. Beginning in 2010, it accelerated to 5% per year.

Support levels are increasing not just among Democrats but also among Republicans, and not just among young people but also among the elderly.

Lohuizen ties support for gay rights to conservative fundamentals:

As people who promote personal responsibility, family values, commitment and stability, and emphasize freedom and limited government we have to recognize that freedom means freedom for everyone. This includes the freedom to decide how you live and to enter into relationships of your choosing, the freedom to live without excessive interference of the regulatory force of government.

Read more of this story here.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s Budget Proposal: Catholic Subsidiarity or Social Darwinism?

April 14, 2012

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee

Gil Bailie of The Cornerstone Forum (Facebook page) prompts the following discussion by posting a link to an article from The California Catholic Daily of 4/12/12. The article, entitled “Subsidiarity is Really Federalism,” includes an interview in which U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, explains how his Catholic faith guided him in drafting his 2012 Budget proposal. Raph Martin is the first to respond:

Raph Martin He hasn’t studied his Catholic faith well enough!!! What he proposes is the contrary of the Church’s social teachings which is always concerned about the needs of the poor and needy. I would suggest he do a serious reading of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical On The Development of Peoples (Populorum Progression). What had at one time been viewed as the “third world” is now on the home front!

The Cornerstone Forum Thanks Raph. The goal of lifting the poor out of poverty and empowering them to live productive lives is one that is shared by serious liberals and conservatives. The issue on which they disagree is how best to do that. The results to date of the efforts of recent decades doesn’t constitute an indisputable case for the liberal approach. A full debate on these things, sans the stereotypes, is long overdue. Thanks again. My best.

Doughlas Remy Paul Ryan and other Catholic free-market fundamentalists have seized on the word “subsidiarity,” from Catholic social teaching, to further their own aim of transferring even more wealth to the one percent. This is not the kind of “wealth redistribution” that Jesus had in mind when he counseled the rich man to give all that he had to the poor. (Ryan must have got it backwards somehow.) And it is not what Pope Benedict XVI had in mind when he addressed the issue of poverty in his 2009 encyclical (“Charity in Truth”) and later through the Pontifical Council’s document of October 2011 (“Toward Reform in the International Financial and Monetary System in the Context of Global Public Authority”).

Jesuit Thomas Reese described the 2011 document as “closer to the view of Occupy Wall Street than [to that of] anyone in the U.S. Congress.” Meanwhile, right-wing neoliberal Catholics Nicholas Hahn and George Weigel actually railed against Vatican document, questioning its authority and calling it “incompetent babble.”

The idea of “subsidiarity” doesn’t call for a dismantling of government services for the poor. It only claims that nothing should be done by higher authorities that could be done at lower levels of participation. There is certainly some wisdom in this idea, but the question in our era of globalization and macro-economics is how efficiently and effectively can local charities address the problems of poverty, hunger, and homelessness? And if they can address these problems, why aren’t they doing so? And should government programs be dismantled before local charities have proven themselves?

The Vatican document is very critical of neoliberalism (or market fundamentalism), as espoused by Paul Ryan, Weigel, Hahn, and others. It supports government regulation as a means of controlling greed.

Over 90 percent of government assistance for lower-income people consists of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid nursing-home care for seniors, school lunches, Head Start, preschool programs, environmental and financial regulations, Pell grants, and mortgage guarantees.

These are all losers in Paul Ryan’s budget. And who are the winners?

The winners are the dogs of greed and militarism. Ryan’s budget includes tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and for corporations, cuts Medicare and Medicaid spending, and does little to get military spending under control.

We know what the Vatican would think of Paul Ryan’s budget. And there can be little doubt about what Jesus would think.

Yes, it’s time for a conversation about this.

Ayn Rand

George Dunn Is this the same Paul Ryan who has publicly expressed his admiration for Ayn Rand and her gospel of selfishness? Do you share Ryan’s admiration for this avowed foe of Christianity?

Doughlas Remy @George: Thanks for bring this up. It’s dynamite. The Ryan-Rand connection totally overshadows the Ryan-Jesus connection in every way. Jesus was obviously NOT an important part of Ryan’s moral development.

He says, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.” [um…not Jesus?]

For anyone not familiar with Rand, one of her central tenets is that financially successful people are inherently superior and that government should not redistribute any of their wealth to the poor, who are, I guess, inherently inferior. Jesus, of course, constantly exhorts his followers to aid the poor.

As one measure of how important Rand is to Ryan, he requires his staffers to read her novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

I read it myself many years ago and always thought of it as the antithesis of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount.

Any thoughts, Gil?

Doughlas Remy I highly recommend the following article from The New Republic: “Ayn Rand and the Invincible Cult of Selfishness on the American Right.”

Raph Martin The 1%ers, it seems to me, don’t have a clue about people struggling to exist without food, shelter, a job, health care, survival, and basic ordinary needs. Add to their tampering with ecology and the rape of the earth for oil, natural gas, water rights in addition to its ongoing pollution by groups that only see dollar signs as a measure of progress and turn away from the basic needs of the billions of poor people living on this planet. Where’s the vision for a sustainable environment and society? Cutting expenditures to and from the needy poor as Ryan proposes we do- while mouthing Catholic social justice ethics under the rubric of “subsidiarity” shows how far he is from Jesus’ radical vision to “love one another.” Catholics need to be wary of the Paul Ryans of our society who align themselves with power politics, militarists, and the corporate world and then try to silence their critics-yes, even by quoting scripture and claiming Catholic theologians on their side. (Ayn Rand resurrected?) Let’s take a lesson from history: Many German Catholics, rather than critique their bishops when Hitler came to power, followed the lead of their bishops who didn’t see Nazism as a challenge to the Church. They chose to “save their souls” rather than “lose them” and showed Catholicism as aligned with the state rather than the gospel. It seems to me that once again Jesus’ message got lost in the transition.

Brian Graham I see no way to reconcile Ryan’s peculiarly self-serving views with Pope Benedict’s magnificent call to a profound cultural renewal based on charity, holistic understanding and “a new humanistic synthesis” in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate. I trust linking this article was meant to facilitate a robust discussion about the relationship between Catholic faith and politics, rather than an endorsement of this particular point of view. To me, Ryan’s comments suggest he has not given serious consideration to the Encyclical at all. He vainly attempts to build a Catholic argument to support his political views, but one has to completely overlook the encyclicals in order to get there. No thanks.

Doughlas Remy Religious leaders have slammed Ryan for using his Catholic faith to justify cutting programs that help the poor:

It’s the height of hypocrisy for Rep. Ryan to claim that his approach to the budget is shaped by Catholic teaching and values,” said Fr. John Baumann, S.J., founder of PICO National Network. […] “A central moral measure of any budget proposal is how it affects “the least of these” (Matthew 25). The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first.”

Read the full article here.

The Cornerstone Forum Ayn Rand? If only we could adjudicate the question of how to help those who cannot help themselves by critiquing a third-rate, crackpot, Libertarian novelist who has been read by a tiny fraction of one percent of our fellow citizens, even if one of these was Paul Ryan. Have you read Ayn Rand? Neither have I, for the same reasons you and hundreds of millions of others haven’t. How much more convenient it must be to go on and on about Ayn Rand than to face the realities with which Paul Ryan has been grappling for the last few years. Who wants to take a long hard look at the actual effect on the poor of the liberal programs designed to help them or the tsunami of debt that will soon bankrupt those programs? Ryan, to his credit, has tried to address these issues.

My point was – and is – that Paul Ryan has introduced into our political vocabulary arguably the most salient word in the lexicon of Catholic social teaching, and that this should be celebrated. To have an argument about what subsidiarity is and how it should work is a huge step in the right direction. I’m all for that argument, even though I have no special contribution to make to it. But to jump at the chance to pillory the man who is trying to incorporate the concept of subsidiarity into our political discourse because of his taste in literature hardly helps. The more we can argue about subsidiarity, the better.

The question – not the theological question, of course, which is a bigger question, but the public policy question – is how to empower those who stuck in poverty to become economically productive members of the middle class? When it comes to that challenge, getting one’s knickers all twisted about Ayn Rand is as useless as anything I can imagine. I haven’t read Paul Ryan’s budget proposals; I haven’t time to do so; it’s not what I’m called to do, but he’s actually trying to address some problems that won’t go away, and all he is getting for his efforts is carping from those who find it easier to criticize his proposals than to come up ones of their own.

“Subsidiarity respects personal dignity by recognizing in the person a subject who is always capable of giving something to others,” Benedict XVI wrote in Caritas in Veritate. “By considering reciprocity as the heart of what it is to be a human being, subsidiarity is the most effective antidote against any form of all-encompassing welfare state.” The pope insisted in that same encyclical that the effort to help the poor “is always designed to achieve their emancipation, because it fosters freedom and participation through assumption of responsibility.”

Here, then, are a few more terms we need: emancipation, freedom, participation and responsibility. My wife volunteers at a center for the homeless. When she hands someone in need a meal or clothes, both she and they recognize that an act of generosity has taken place, and both she and they feel grateful for having been present when it did. The principle of subsidiarity insists that not every exchange can take place on so personal a level, but that efforts should be made to have them take place at the most intimate and local level possible.

In my opinion, moreover, and in light of the manifest inadequacy and unsustainability of current entitlement programs, those whose responsibility it is to help the poor need to address things like the actual statistics about the effect on the poor of public policies which – despite the good intentions of their advocates – incentivize the disintegration of the family – from which flows almost all the intractable social, moral, economic, and political problems of our society. We need to take a long, hard look at the social science data on the correlation between second or third generation welfare dependency and high school drop out rates, substance abuse, delinquency, criminality, out of wedlock births, the paucity of employable skills, and so on. Most of the kneejerk reaction to real efforts to do something that both works and that our currently bankrupt society can actually afford seems to assume that there is nothing wrong with the status quo that can’t be fixed by throwing more money at it – someone else’s money. Tragically, that is not so. It has failed many of those it was intended to help, and if nothing is done to change their plight, they will suffer further degradation when the money runs out, as it soon will. Serious adults are trying to find a better approach. It’s not as if the looming collapse of the European social welfare state isn’t providing a glimpse of where things are headed if we fail to find more workable solutions.

All this is just a little PS. Greetings to any who might want to keep at it, but I’m finished.

George Dunn Ryan’s affiliation with the Ayn Rand cult is merely a matter of his “taste in literature”? Would you regard it as equally trivial if he expressed the same deep admiration for Friedrich Nietzsche or credited Nietzsche as the inspiration for his entry into politics? Surely Rand’s rabid hatred for the Christian virtues exceeds anything found in Nietzsche, whose critique of Christianity was nuanced and qualified. Don’t you see that? Oh, that’s right. You haven’t read her! Well, as someone who has, I can assure you that her philosophy is vile in ways that must turn the stomach of anyone who loves the gospel. Read her yourself, Gil, and see what I mean. Then think about the fact that her “philosophy” is the real inspiration for the economic programs you so naively laud.

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Why I Skipped Mass Today: A Practicing Catholic Objects to the Bishops’ Arguments Over Birth Control

February 15, 2012

Reproductive health politics are controversial enough, but they are even more so for a family of practicing Catholics. My spouse begged me not to put my name on this, concerned about our son, who is scheduled to receive First Holy Communion in a few months. Certainly, neither of us want him to be hassled, or to have his standing jeopardized because of his parents’ dissent toward an increasingly politicized Church. So please excuse the anonymity of this editorial.

There is a really cool website called Bible Gateway that serves as a Google-style search engine for the Christian Bible. Any visitor can search for key words in 46 languages, and the English options includes 31 different versions representing a wide variety of religious traditions, from the21st Century King James Version to Young’s Literal Translation. What kind of words can you look up? Anything, really. As a Catholic, my Bible Gateway is set to the New American Standard Bible, the same that is listed on the Vatican’s website. It’s interesting to note that, excluding articles, conjunctions, prepositions and other small words, the most common word in the Bible is Lord (6,726 times) and God is second (4,188 times). I have to admit that I was surprised that Jesus comes up only 990 times, but I am sure it’s a contextual thing.

Continue reading…

Elizabeth Warren Defends Taxing the Rich

September 23, 2011

This video has been going viral, and with good reason.

Texas-Size Lies from R. Perry

September 23, 2011

Pants on Fire

Bob Cesca calls out Rick Perry for his Texas-size whoppers about President Obama’s stimulus.

The GOP: Political Party or Religious Movement?

September 12, 2011

Andrew Sullivan, author of The Conservative Soul, looks deep into the soul of GOP and finds it has become a religious movement.

Excerpt:

“If your view of conservatism is one rooted in an instinctual, but agile, defense of tradition, in a belief in practical wisdom that alters constantly with circumstance, in moderation and the defense of the middle class as the stabilizing ballast of democracy, in limited but strong government … then the GOP is no longer your party (or mine).

“Religion has replaced all of this, reordered it, and imbued the entire political-economic-religious package with zeal. And the zealous never compromise. They don’t even listen.”

Read the entire article here.

Rick Perry Slashes 2011-12 Texas Firefighting Budget by 29.4%

September 10, 2011

Wildfires around Bastrop, Texas, early September 2011

Fire fighters in Texas are routinely buying their own fuel and gear, according to a report in today’s Huffington Post. Apparently, Governor Rick Perry signed off on a 29.4% cut to the state’s 2011-2012 firefighting budget. Locally, assistance grants to volunteer fire departments have been cut by 55%.

Also see this article by Rachel Farris on Alternet.

Richard Dawkins Slices and Dices Rick Perry Over Evolution Remark

August 28, 2011

As anyone who has ever listened to Richard Dawkins is aware, the man does not suffer fools gladly. Fortunately, he doesn’t need to, for he’s a scientist, not a politician. In today’s Washington Post Q&A “On Faith,” Dawkins slices and dices the new fool on the block, Texas governor Rick Perry—and with what exquisite and finely-honed skill. It’s like watching a sushi master chef fillet a salmon with a set of Shun knives. Here’s the full article, and here are some choice excerpts:

There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand’) is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.

***

A politician’s attitude to evolution is perhaps not directly important in itself. It can have unfortunate consequences on education and science policy but, compared to Perry’s and the Tea Party’s pronouncements on other topics such as economics, taxation, history and sexual politics, their ignorance of evolutionary science might be overlooked. Except that a politician’s attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well. Evolution is not some recondite backwater of science, ignorance of which would be pardonable. It is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today.

Texas Governor Rick Perry Speaks to God at Houston Prayer Rally

August 6, 2011

The American Family Association (AFA), classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, financed a prayer rally held yesterday at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The event drew more than 8000 visitors and was televised live to about a thousand churches across the U.S. It was hosted by Texas Governor Rick Perry, who spoke directly to God from the podium, addressing Him as “Father.”

Though the event was named “The Response,” there was no audible response by God to Perry’s prayers. This has led to speculation that God was not in fact present at the rally. Numerous biblical literalists who viewed the broadcast believe God may ignore prayers that are delivered publicly. They cite Matthew 6:5-7, where Jesus tells his disciples,

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Many Christians who insist on a strict and literal reading of scripture claim to have found abundant support for their belief that God does not favor public displays of piety. They believe there may in fact be an inverse correlation between the size of the audience and the responsiveness of the deity. Others hold that God is completely deaf to public prayers and that the pious are simply wasting their breath. There is in fact no evidence that God responds in any way to public prayers, with many Christians speculating that He may in fact react perversely to prayers that are not delivered in the prescribed form. They cite Governor Perry’s call to Texans, last April, to pray for rain for their drought-stricken state. Four months later, the state is still in the grips of the worst drought in its history, and meteorologists do not expect any relief until September at the earliest.

For more about The Response, view Rachel Maddow’s segment on Rick Perry’s prayer partners, and the Texas Observer’s article about Rick Perry’s “Army of God.” Right Wing Watch also has a “Fact Sheet on Governor Rick Perry’s Extremist Allies.”