Thursday, October 28, 2010

Well, this was inevitable

Police have arrested a man for waterboarding his girlfriend:
OCTOBER 28--After accusing his girlfriend of cheating on him, a Nebraska man allegedly tied the woman to a couch in their apartment and waterboarded her, according to police.

Trevor Case, 22, has been charged with domestic assault, false imprisonment, and making terroristic threats in connection with the bizarre incident early Saturday morning at the Lincoln home he shared with the 22-year-old victim.

Police allege that Case stuffed "hospital socks" into Danielle Stallworth's mouth and bound her wrists with belts and hair ties before placing a shirt over her head and dousing it with water, according to a Lincoln Police Department report. “He poured a pitcher of water on her head, and she started freaking out and thought she wasn’t able to breathe,” cops noted.

The waterboarding practice, of course, leaves victims with the sensation that they are drowning. [Link in original...E.M.].

Well, thank goodness he didn't torture her. (Sarcasm alert.)

One of the commenters under the article appears to blame...the liberal media. 'Cause, you know, if they'd kept their mouths shut about all that Enhanced Interrogation so vital and necessary to national security, then only professionals would be doing it, and we wouldn't have these "back alley enhanced interrogation" situations (a phrase which, alas, didn't occur to the commenter, though it does to me).

Maybe they can charge this man with impersonating a federal agent.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One big (happy?) family

Yesterday, Pope Benedict announced the "theme" for next year's World Day of Migrants and Refugees, January 16, 2011: One Human Family.

Essentially, he notes that our nature as human persons, created in God's image and likeness, is foundational to all our ethical and (therefore) political decisions. A migrant or a refugee is, first and foremost, a brother or sister in Christ.

Here's the heart of it:
Venerable John Paul II, on the occasion of this same Day celebrated in 2001, emphasized that "[the universal common good] includes the whole family of peoples, beyond every nationalistic egoism. The right to emigrate must be considered in this context. The Church recognizes this right in every human person, in its dual aspect of the possibility to leave one's country and the possibility to enter another country to look for better conditions of life" (Message for World Day of Migration 2001, 3; cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Mater et Magistra, 30; Paul VI, Encyclical Octogesima adveniens, 17). At the same time, States have the right to regulate migration flows and to defend their own frontiers, always guaranteeing the respect due to the dignity of each and every human person. Immigrants, moreover, have the duty to integrate into the host Country, respecting its laws and its national identity. "The challenge is to combine the welcome due to every human being, especially when in need, with a reckoning of what is necessary for both the local inhabitants and the new arrivals to live a dignified and peaceful life" (World Day of Peace 2001, 13).

Yes, he said that migration is a human right. It is not a privilege or a civil right bestowed by human government.

At the same time, that right (like all rights) comes with responsibilities. A migrant is responsible to respect the laws and customs of their host country. That includes the immigration laws. At minimum, this is simple courtesy. Taken to an extreme, it's recognizing the difference between a guest and an invader.

Refugees are a challenge, but in most cases I'm aware of they are covered by national and international law. If someone is fleeing a threat in their home country, then the human community as a whole has a responsibility to provide a safe haven for them.

Now, all this said, it doesn't directly address the issue prominent in our own country: that of large numbers of illegal economic migrants.

I'm in no place to suggest a particular policy, but I would note that there are some basic principles that we must insist upon:
  • Migrants are human persons, and must be treated with dignity and with respect for their basic human rights

  • A just solution includes, not only enforcement of our border security, but also enforcement of workers' rights, penalties for employers who put profit above their legal obligations

  • A just solution must also include some kind of provision for the millions of migrant families here illegally - especially the children

This last is probably the stickiest sticking point for some, but it follows directly from the first.

We already make provision for law-breakers; in many cases, it's called prison.

I'm not suggesting that we imprison illegal immigrants; but I am suggesting that their humanity precedes their criminality, and that it may not be possible to punish the crime without committing a greater crime against their families.

In other words, immigration reform really must be comprehensive: it must shift the whole legal and economic structure toward greater justice, and it must provide a practical way to do so without committing further injustice.

It's a tall order. If I find a solution, I'll let you know. In the meantime, let's pray, and let's keep our arguments clean and focused on finding a solution.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

What are we going to do?

Our loyal reader who goes by the handle lovethegirls asks:
How do you take usury out of a market grounded on usury? How do you take materialism out a market grounded in materialism?

That's the $64M question, now, isn't it?

The good news is, we're free to establish a market grounded on another foundation than usury, say, a foundation of justice or of the common good. Nobody's going to stop us. America is indeed a free country.

The bad news is, at this point in history, in twenty-first century America, it will require a great deal of sacrifice to do so.

But the sacrifice is not life and limb; the sacrifice is comfort, and "standard of living."

There are some products we just won't be able to get without patronizing those who exploit their workers for profit, or without partnering with usurious banks or other institutions. We'll have to do without them.

There are some services that will be closed to us. For example, I'm not sure it's possible to find internet access that isn't dependent on usury or some other form of injustice. (I'm at a public library right now; even this is a mixed blessing.)

In terms of contributing to society, we'll face an uphill battle: government regulations are written assuming the current inhumane standards for economics; massive corporations founded on this materialistic economic theory control most of the resources available for producing goods and getting them to market.

And yet, I'm convinced that God never asks the impossible of us. lovethegirls continues to say:
In other words, I don't think there are any solutions which can be imposed, but that the solution is to wait for a "A Catholic approach" to evolve organically"

I hope he doesn't mean to suggest we just wait on our duffs for something new to miraculously appear. It seems to me that we can and must look for whatever good changes we can make to our own economic habits, and look for ways to spread the gospel of human dignity, in whatever way we can. If we offer our best efforts, if we make real sacrifices and offer them to our Lord, we can trust his Holy Spirit to guide us in seeking a solution. The solution will probably bear little resemblance to whatever systems or notions we have in mind now; but so long as we are seeking God, we will eventually arrive at the solution he provides.

Catholic college, pro-torture professor?

In my internet meanderings, I came across a video about a protest of torture memo author John Yoo speaking at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis/St. Paul. I discovered that Yoo's co-author on those memos, Robert J. Delahunty, is on the faculty there, and the advertised lecture was billed as a kind of reunion for these Bush-era advisers.

Now, I'm under no illusions that Catholic higher education actually holds and teaches according to the Catholic faith these days. I thought it was idiotic of Notre Dame to bring President Obama to speak, and I think it's scandalous how many Catholic campuses roll out the red carpet for the propagandizers of abortion and sexual license.

But this is no less scandalous: that a Catholic university, listing "We respect the dignity of each person" as a "Conviction" and as a component of their mission, should choose Delahunty as a formator of their law students, and should invite Yoo to address their community, without answer or contradiction.

I had thought that torture, at least, was one area that Catholic academics could get it right.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Is government the best way?

I don't agree with everything Pat Buchanan says here, but it's still an interesting read:

What a changed country we have become in our expectations of ourselves. A less affluent America survived a Depression and world war without anything like the 99 weeks of unemployment insurance, welfare payments, earned income tax credits, food stamps, rent supplements, day care, school lunches and Medicaid we have today.

Public or private charity were thought necessary, but were almost always to be temporary until a breadwinner could find work or a family could get back on its feet. The expectation was that almost everyone, with hard work and by keeping the nose to the grindstone, could make his or her own way in this free society. No more.

What we have accepted today is a vast permanent underclass of scores of millions who cannot cope and must be carried by the rest of society – fed, clothed, housed, tutored, medicated at taxpayers' expense for their entire lives. We have a new division in America: those who pay a double fare, and those who forever ride free.

We Americans are not only not the people our parents were, we are not the people we were. FDR was right about what would happen to the country if we did not get off the narcotic of welfare.

Of course, a less affluent America could still build their own homes (as my grandfather did) without being forced to abide by laws and building codes and safety requirements put into place for huge home builders. And own these homes outright. And commute to work, to the grocery store, and to Church every Sunday without needing a car. And...well, the point is that the change to modern living has been expensive, and we're still all paying for it.

But, on the other hand, as I wrote on my other blog recently, there is something somewhat troubling about seeing people rely on entitlement programs as a needed part of their "incomes," rather than a temporary safety net. This is especially troubling when the entitlement is seen as something "free" which is coming from the "government" instead of as something which costs my neighbor something, and which is confiscated from him, diminishing his ability to pay for his own family's needs.

No Catholic would deny the need for sound, practical, regular, efficient ways of providing for the needs of the poor. But are government entitlement programs the best way? Is there, as Buchanan says, a danger that a person's own natural and laudable desire to work and to provide for his own and his loved ones' needs might be destroyed by such programs? Do the programs contribute to the destruction of marriage and the family--or are they merely necessary in a culture which sees both marriage and the family as disposable?

What do you think?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The disservice 10:10 does to the environment.

Others have noted the gruesome video posted by the British wing of the environmental group 10:10. I won't link to it here, because it really is disgusting; but here's a good summary of the controversy. In short, it's a series of scenes in which a teacher, a boss, a football team, and so on "suggest" that people reduce their carbon emissions by 10%. They ask who is on board, and who isn't. "No pressure." Then they push a little red button and those not on board explode, covering everyone else, and the camera lens, with blood and guts.

Now, environmental stewardship is one of the important features of Catholic morality: we are here to keep and tend the garden, after all. But ads like this betray a bizarre and anti-human attitude among some environmental activists. It's vital to realize that humanity is itself part of the environment, and the part for which we have the greatest responsibility to protect and respect.

In other words, environmental protection only makes sense as a life issue, and when you throw out the connection to human dignity you end up in the culture of death.

Other Catholic responses:
Mike Flynn
Mark Shea
Jeff Miller

The Curt Jester on hyphenated-Catholics

Jeff Miller makes some great points while critiquing the idea of a "Catholic Tea Party" as too limiting and politicizing for the Catholic Church or her members. The heart of it:
When you confuse the faith with a political party it makes it easier for someone in the other party to dismiss you.

Fighting against abortion is not a conservative thing, it is a protection of the truth that we are created in the image of God and that the innocent can not be murdered. Doing what we can to help the poor is not a liberal idea, but again the protection of the truth that we are created in the image of God and that we can not limit the scope of the world neighbor.

"The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Tim 1.15) That is, people like me, and like you, and even those poor schleps who get involved with politics.