A Turd By Any Other Name…

…would still like a Democrat.

So Arlen Specter is changing parties. My thoughts on that are best summarized in a post from Mark Hemingway over at National Review where he said –

I read that he was switching parties, but I was disappointed to learn he’s still a Democrat.

Magnificent Monday Quotes – George F. Will Edition

“A politician’s words reveal less about what he thinks about his subject than what he thinks about his audience.”

“A society that thinks the choice between ways of living is just a choice between equally eligible ‘lifestyles’ turns universities into academic cafeterias offering junk food for the mind.”

“Americans are overreaching; overreaching is the most admirable and most American of the many American excesses.”

“As advertising blather becomes the nation’s normal idiom, language becomes printed noise.”

“Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.”

“Being elected to Congress is regarded as being sent on a looting raid for one’s friends.”

“Childhood is frequently a solemn business for those inside it.”

“Conservatives define themselves in terms of what they oppose.”

“Football incorporates the two worst elements of American society: violence punctuated by committee meetings.”

“If you seek [Alexander] Hamilton’s monument, look around. You are living in it. We honor Jefferson, but live in Hamilton’s country, a mighty industrial nation with a strong central government.”

“If your job is to leaven ordinary lives with elevating spectacle, be elevating or be gone.”

“In the lexicon of the political class, the word “sacrifice” means that the citizens are supposed to mail even more of their income to Washington so that the political class will not have to sacrifice the pleasure of spending it.”

“Leadership is, among other things, the ability to inflict pain and get away with it – short-term pain for long-term gain.”

“Pessimism is as American as apple pie – frozen apple pie with a slice of processed cheese.”

“Politicians fascinate because they constitute such a paradox; they are an elite that accomplishes mediocrity for the public good.”

“Politics should share one purpose with religion: the steady emancipation of the individual through the education of his passions.”

“Some parents say it is toy guns that make boys warlike. But give a boy a rubber duck and he will seize its neck like the butt of a pistol and shout ‘Bang!'”

“The future has a way of arriving unannounced.”

“The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised.”

“The pursuit of perfection often impedes improvement.”

“There may be more poetry than justice in poetic justice.”

“Today more Americans are imprisoned for drug offenses than for property crimes.”

“Voters don’t decide issues, they decide who will decide issues.”

“World War II was the last government program that really worked.”

Eloquence At Notre Dame

I ran across a post on The Corner at National Review Online about a speech that was given by Bill McGurn for the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture and the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life. The full text of the speech is below:

“A Notre Dame Witness for Life”

William McGurn

April 23, 2009

Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture

http://ethicscenter.nd.edu/

The Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life

http://ethicscenter.nd.edu/lifefund.shtml

Good evening.

It is an honor to be with you on this campus. It is a joy to be here under the auspices of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture – and the Notre Dame Fund for the Protection of Human Life. This date has a special resonance for me: 13 years ago today, in a hotel room in a far part of the world, Chinese officials put a beautiful baby girl in my wife’s arms – and I became a father.

The precipitate cause of our gathering tonight is the honor and platform our university has extended to a President whose policies reflect clear convictions about unborn life, and about the value the law ought to place on protecting that life. These convictions are not in doubt. In July 2007, the candidate spelled them out in a forceful address to a Planned Parenthood convention in our nation’s capital.

Before that audience, he declared that a woman’s “fundamental right” to an abortion was at stake in the coming election. He spoke about how he had “put Roe at the center” of his “lesson plan on reproductive freedom” when he was a professor – and how he would put it at the center of his agenda as president. He invoked his record in the Illinois state senate, where he fought restrictions on abortion, famously including one on partial-birth abortion. He said that the “first thing” he wanted to do as President was to “sign a Freedom of Choice Act.” And he ended by assuring his audience that “on this fundamental issue,” he, like they, would never yield.

These were his promises as a candidate. His actions as President – his key appointments, his judicial nominees, his lifting of restrictions on federal funding for abortion providers overseas, the green light given to the destruction of human embryos for research, his targeting of “conscience clause” protections for healthcare workers – all these actions are fully consistent with his promises. It is precisely this terrible consistency that makes it so dispiriting to see our university extend to this man her most public platform and an honorary doctorate of laws. There are good men and women working for an America where every child is welcomed in life and protected by law – and when they lift their eyes to Notre Dame, they ought to find inspiration.

So tonight our hearts carry a great sadness. But we do not come here this evening to rally against a speaker. We come to affirm the sacredness of life. And we come with a great hope: That a university founded under the patronage of Our Lady might be as consistent in the defense of her principles as the President of the United States has been for advancing his. In a nation wounded by Roe … in a society that sets mothers against the children they carry in their wombs … we come here tonight because however much our hearts ache, they tell us this: Our church, our country, and our culture long for the life witness of Notre Dame.

What does it mean to be a witness? To be a witness, an institution must order itself so that all who look upon it see a consonance between its most profound truths and its most public actions. For a Catholic university in the 21st century, this requires that those placed in her most critical leadership positions – on the faculty, in the administration, on the board of trustees – share that mission. We must concede there is no guarantee that the young men and women who come here to learn will assent to her witness – but we must never forget that the university will have failed them if they leave here without at least understanding it. That is what it means to be a witness.

This witness is the only real reason for a University of Notre Dame. We believe that there are self-evident truths about the dignity of each human life, and that this dignity derives from our having been fashioned in our Creator’s likeness. In this new century, these beliefs make us the counterculture. One does not need to be a Catholic to appreciate that abortion involves the brutal taking of innocent human life. To argue that this is a Catholic truth, or even a religious truth, is to overlook what science and sonograms tell us – and to insult the Protestants, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and, yes, even some atheists, who appreciate that a civilization which sanctions abortion as a human right is in some essential way writing its death warrant.

Over the years, the whole idea of truth – much less our ability to know it – has been rendered doubtful by the slow advance of a soft agnosticism that has itself become orthodoxy at so many universities. Not so at Notre Dame. All across this wondrous campus, we pass imagery that sings to us about the hope born of a Jewish woman in a Bethlehem stable. Yet we kid ourselves if we believe these images are self-sustaining. Without a witness that keeps these signposts alive, our crosses, statues, and stained-glass windows will ultimately fade into historical curiosities like the “Christo et ecclesiae” that survives to this day on buildings around Harvard Yard and the seal that still validates every Harvard degree.

For most of her life, Notre Dame has served as a symbol of a Catholic community struggling to find acceptance in America – and yearning to make our own contributions to this great experiment in ordered liberty. We identify with those who are poor and downtrodden and on the margins of acceptance because that is where the Gospel points – and because we remember whence came our own parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

If we are honest, however, we must admit that in many ways we – and the university that nurtured us – are now the rich and powerful and privileged ourselves. This is a form of success, and we need not be embarrassed by it. But we must be mindful of the greater responsibilities that come with this success.

For years this university has trumpeted her lay governance. So what does it say about the Notre Dame brand of leadership, that in the midst of a national debate over a decision that speaks to our Catholic identity, a debate in which thousands of people across the country are standing up to declare themselves “yea” or “nay,” our trustees and fellows – the men and women who bear ultimate responsibility for this decision – remain as silent as Trappist monks? At a time when we are told to “engage” and hold “dialogue,” their timidity thunders across this campus. And what will history say of our billions in endowment if the richest Catholic university America has ever known cannot find it within herself to mount a public and spirited defense of the most defenseless among us?

In the past few weeks, we have read more than once the suggestion that to oppose this year’s speaker and honorary degree is to elevate politics over the proper work of a university. In many ways, we might say that such reasoning lies at the core of the confusion. As has become clear with America’s debates over the destruction of embryos for scientific research, over human cloning, over assisted suicide, and over other end-of-life issues, abortion as a legal right is less a single issue than an entire ethic that serves as the foundation stone for the culture of death.

With the idea that one human being has the right to take the life of another merely because the other’s life is inconvenient, our culture elevates into law the primacy of the strong over the weak. The discord that this year’s commencement has unleashed – between Notre Dame and the bishops, between members of the Notre Dame community, between Notre Dame and thousands of discouraged Catholic faithful – all this derives from an approach that for decades has treated abortion as one issue on a political scorecard. This is not the road to engagement. This is the route to incoherence, and we see its fruit everywhere in our public life.

Twenty-five years ago, on a similar stage on this campus, the then-governor of New York used his Notre Dame platform to advance the personally-opposed-but defense that countless numbers of Catholic politicians have used to paper over their surrender to legalized abortion. Eight years after that, the school bestowed the Laetare Medal on a United States Senator who had likewise long since cut his conscience to fit the abortion fashion.

Today we have evolved. Let us note that the present controversy comes at a moment where the incoherence of the Catholic witness in American public life is on view at the highest levels of our government. Today we have a Catholic vice president, a Catholic Speaker of the House, a Catholic nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, and so on. These are America’s most prominent Catholics. And they have one thing in common: The assertion that the legal right to terminate a pregnancy – in the chilling euphemism of the day – must remain inviolable.

For those who think this a partisan point, let us stipulate for the record one of the curiosities of the Republican Party. Notwithstanding the party’s prolife credentials, at the level of possible Presidential contenders, the most prominent pro-choice voices in the GOP arguably belong to Catholics: from the former Republican mayor and governor of New York, to the Republican Governor of California, the Republican former governor of Pennsylvania, and so on. Notre Dame must recognize these realities – and the role she has played in bringing us to this day by treating abortion as a political difference rather than the intrinsic evil it is.

In his writings, Pope John Paul II noted the awful contradiction of our times, when more and more legal codes speak of human rights while making the freedom to deprive the innocent of their lives one of those rights. Several times he uses the word “sinister” to characterize the enshrinement of abortion as a legal right. And he states that all pleas for other important human rights are “false and illusory” if we do not defend with “maximum determination” the fundamental right to life upon which all other rights rest.

Maximum determination. Ladies and gentlemen, the unborn child’s right to life represents the defining civil rights issue of our day – and it ought to be a defining civil rights issue on this campus.

This is not a popular witness. In our country, those who take it must expect ridicule and derision and a deliberate distortion of our views. In our culture, so many of our most powerful and influential institutions are hostile to any hint that abortion might be an unsettled question. And in our public life, one of the most pernicious effects of the imposition of abortion via the Supreme Court is that it has deprived a free people of a fair and open debate. Notre Dame remains one of the few institutions capable of providing a witness for life in the fullness of its beauty and intellectual integrity – and America is waiting to hear her voice.

Those who say that as Notre Dame engages the world, she cannot expect her guests to share all her beliefs are right. But that is not the issue. The issue is that we engage them. Think of how we would have treated an elected Senator or President or Governor whose principles and actions were given over to seeing that segregation enjoyed the full and unqualified protection of American law. We would have been cordial … we would have been gracious … we would have been more than willing to debate – but we would have betrayed our witness if ever we brought them here on the idea that all that divided us was one political issue.

My friends, the good news is that the witness for life is alive at Notre Dame. We see this witness in the good work of teachers here in this room. We see this witness in the new Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life. I have seen this witness in a very personal way, on the cold gym floor of a suburban parochial school on the outskirts of Washington – where 200-plus students spent a freezing January night just so they could raise the Notre Dame banner at the annual March for Life. These are but a handful of the wonderful things going on at this campus. And we know that this witness exists too in the other, unheralded acts of love designed to ensure that the unwed sophomore who kneels before the Grotto with an unexpected pregnancy weighing on her mind has a better choice than the cold front door of a Planned Parenthood clinic.

Unfortunately, people across this nation – and perhaps even here at this university – know little of these things. And they do not know because the university keeps this lamp under a basket. In her most public witness, Notre Dame appears afraid to extend to the cause of the unborn the same enthusiasm she shows for so many other good works here.

If, for example, you click onto http://www.nd.edu, you will often find a link for the Office of Sustainability, which happily informs you about all the things Notre Dame is doing to be green-friendly. You will find another link that defines the university with a series of videos that ask, “What would you fight for?” Each home game during the football season, NBC broadcasts one of these videos. They are more than a dozen of them – each highlighting members of the Notre Dame community who are fighting for justice, fighting for advances in medicine, fighting for new immigrants, and so forth.

Imagine the witness that Notre Dame might provide on a Fall afternoon, if millions of Americans who had sat down to watch a football game suddenly found themselves face to face with a Notre Dame professor or student standing up to say, “I fight for the unborn.”

Even more important, imagine the larger witness for life that would come from putting first things first. So often we find support for abortion rights measured against decisions involving war, capital punishment, and so on. All these issues deserve more serious treatment. But the debate over these prudential judgments loses coherence if on the intrinsic evil of abortion we do not stand on the same ground. What a challenge Notre Dame would pose to our culture if she stood united on this proposition: The unborn belong to no political party … no human right is safe when their right to life is denied … and we will accept no calculus of justice that seeks to trade that right to life for any other.

Now, there are different paths to this witness – and many who say they share it maintain their only problem is with the prolife movement itself: It’s too Republican, it’s not effective, it’s too militant, and so forth. We who are prolife must admit that some of these criticisms have an element of truth. Yet those who advance them must also acknowledge that in practice such criticisms often serve not to strike out a bold new path for a more informed witness, but to rationalize a preference for remaining on the sidelines.

Tonight I ask our prolifers to open up the dialogue to your professors and classmates. Invite them in. Say to them: “Brothers! Sisters! We are not perfect, and we will be much improved by your participation. We are holding a place for you on the front lines. Come join us – and let us walk together in our witness for life.”

I appreciate that for some people, the idea of Notre Dame as an unequivocal witness for the unborn would be a limit on her work as a Catholic university. The truth is just the opposite. The more frank and forthright Notre Dame’s witness for life, the more she would be given the benefit of the doubt on the many judgment calls that the life of a great university entails. At this hour in our nation’s life, America thirsts for an alternative to the relativism that leaves so many of our young people feeling empty and alone. This alternative is the Catholic witness that Notre Dame was created to provide … that Notre Dame is called to provide … and that in many ways, only Notre Dame can provide.

Let me end with a story about one of our family. His name is John Raphael; he belongs to the Class of ’89; and he’s an African-American who runs a high school in New Orleans. He’s also a Josephite priest.

In his ministry, Father Raphael knows what it is like to answer the knock on his office door and find a woman consumed by the understandable fears that attend an unplanned pregnancy. He says that one of the greatest lessons he learned about how to respond to these women came from a friend of his, who had come to him in the same circumstances. The woman was an unmarried college student, and she told him what had surprised and hurt her most was how many friends greeted her news by saying, “Oh, that’s terrible.”

“That young lady taught me something,” says Father Raphael. “She taught me that what these women need first and foremost is to have their motherhood affirmed. For too many women, this affirmation never comes. We need to let these mothers know what their hearts are already telling them: you may have made a mistake, but the life growing within you is no mistake. That life is your baby, waiting to love and be loved.”

My young friends, this night I ask you: Make yours the voice that affirms life and motherhood. Be to those in need as the words of our alma mater: tender … strong … and true. And in your every word and deed, let the world see a reflection of the hope that led a French-born priest in the north woods of Indiana to raise Our Lady atop a dome of gold.

I thank you for your invitation. I applaud your courage. And as we go forth this evening, let us pray that our beloved university becomes the Notre Dame our world so desperately needs: a witness for life that will truly shake down the thunder.

God bless you all.

Happy Earth Day!

I have two kids that looooove Spongebob Squarepants (I have to admit that I like him quite a bit too) and I have been a bit disturbed by the indoctrinating green programming that the Nickelodeon channel has been running in the run-up to Earth Day. Who knew that John Stewart and Lewis Black would have also noticed this and would have the same feelings about it that I have?

On a positive note for all you greenies out there, I am going to take my kids to the Disney “Earth” movie and am looking forward to it as I love a good nature documentary.

On the downside I plan on saving all my family’s coke cups, popcorn bags and candy wrappers from the movie and throwing them in a pond as I drive home in my SUV.

Insensitive to Scope

Jeez-Louise. I’ve seen a bunch of stories about Obama sitting his cabinet down and telling them that they’ve got to take a “hard look” at their agencies’ budgets and come with $100 million in budget cuts. Really? Is he being serious? I mean, I’m really bad at math but even before I read this post I knew that $100 million out of $ 3 trillion is insignificant. Here are the significant illuminating numbers quoted in the post (emphasis added):

Today, President Obama called for $100 million in budget cuts. Out of a $4 trillion in spending this year, this is the rounding error of a rounding error:

It is 1/40,000 of the federal budget;

It is 1/7,830 the size of the recent “stimulus” bill;

It would close 1/1,845 of this year’s budget deficit;

It is the amount the federal government spends every 13 minutes; and

For a family earning $40,000 annually, it is the equivalent of cutting $1 from their family budget.

The linked post also mentions that this is being done to make Obama seem like he cares about cutting government spending. And that he’s been talking to “behavioral economists” who say that when it comes to large numbers like this, people generally are “insensitive to scope”. Which means that most of us are just too stupid to do the math and realize that Obama’s budget cuts are infinitesimal in relation to the bloated Federal budget.

Ah, Sweet Irony

It makes me giggle like a little school girl to read that since Bush left office the amount of people that believe that “global warming” is man-made has dropped significantly. In this post over at National Review Online’s Planet Gore, Lawrence Solomon postulates that people were only on the global-warming-is-man-made bandwagon because George Bush was against it. Now that Obama’s in office they don’t care anymore. While the answer can’t be that simple, it makes me happy. And isn’t that all that matters really? My happiness?

Magnificent Monday Quotes – Entertainment Edition

(From Curb Your Enthusiasm) –

Donald: You know what you are? You’re a self-loathing Jew.
Larry David: Hey, I may loathe myself, but it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m Jewish.

“You know you’re getting old when you get that one candle on the cake. It’s like, ‘See if you can blow this out.'” – Jerry Seinfeld

“Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake.” – W. C. Fields

“Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.” – W. C. Fields

(An ironic quote from Disney considering I just had to buy The Little Mermaid 15: Ariel’s Great-Great-Great Granddaughter Returns To The Sea Because Of Global Warming) –  “I do not like to repeat successes, I like to go on to other things.” – Walt Disney

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” – Walt Disney

“I believe entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you’re an idiot.” – Steve Martin

“I’d be curious to find out, but I don’t think people in the entertainment industry are proportionally more or less serious politically than anyone in the landscaping industry.” – David Cross

“It’s important to remember that, first and foremost, if not only, this is entertainment. ‘The West Wing’ isn’t meant to be good for you.” – Aaron Sorkin

“Movies and television shows based on comic books constitute the worst single genre in the history of filmed entertainment (with the exception of porn).” – John Podhoretz

“Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!” – John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit

“Life is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid.” – John Wayne

“Women have the right to work wherever they want, as long as they have the dinner ready when you get home” – John Wayne

“If everything isn’t black and white, I say, ‘Why the hell not?'” – John Wayne

“It’s much easier, for example, to play a heroin addict and you’re withdrawing – you tear the ceiling off – that’s much easier than it is to come in and say, ‘Hello.’ Or, ‘I love you’. When you judge it in that way, the heavy isn’t as difficult.” – Jimmy Stewart

Let’s end this edition with some quotes from one of my favorite actors, Gary Cooper.

[February, 1942, accepting his Academy Award for Sergeant York (1941) from James Stewart] “It was Sergeant Alvin York who won this award. Because to the best of my ability, I tried to be Sergeant York. Shucks, I`ve been in the business 16 years and sometimes dreamed I might get one of these things. That`s all I can say … Funny, when I was dreaming I always made a good speech.” – Gary Cooper

“Nan Collins, my manager, came from Gary, Indiana and suggested I adopt that name. She felt it was more exciting than Frank. I figured I`d give it a try. Good thing she didn`t come from Poughkeepsie.” – Gary Cooper

[on turning down the role of Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind] “Rhett Butler was one of the best roles ever offered in Hollywood and my screen character saw himself emerging from the film as a dashing-type fellow. But I said no. I didn`t see myself as quite that dashing, and later, when I saw Clark Gable play the role to perfection, I knew I was right.” – Gary Cooper

“Until I came along all the leading men were handsome, but luckily they wrote a lot of stories about the fellow next door.” – Gary Cooper