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Is it 2016 already?

Halloween displays are looking stale in the stores and Christmas decorations are already starting to appear. Time to decide who we’re going to vote for in November 2016 before it’s too late!

Having a couple of kids has made writing… and remaining fully informed… and, to be honest, caring about politics as much… more difficult. I’m planning to use this space to keep notes on my thoughts as they occur, and open them up for discussion.

First off, the driver of this clown car. I can’t. I just can’t. Donald Trump, really?

Polls show the top three GOP frontrunners are all three of the non-politicians in the race. Republicans nationwide have said, “Anyone, ANYONE but another politician!” Yesterday’s announcement by Speaker Boehner is encouraging to me. It implies that there is, maybe, finally, an awareness in the Republican party that GOP voters are fed up with the way Republican officials have behaved. Enough of politics as usual, right?

I get that. No more of this nonsense, let’s throw the bums out. Anyone but a politician. I’m sympathetic to that point of view.

But Trump!?

Here’s what I would #askTrump. If I hadn’t missed it. After two debates and a bunch of interviews, he’s made it clear that he isn’t deeply familiar with many of the potential issues facing our next President. His response has consistently been, I’ll be an expert by the time I sit in that chair, just you watch. And I’ll hire the best people.

Mr. Trump: would you, as a businessman, hire a CEO to run one of your companies, if the candidate demonstrated a lack of familiarity with the business and the industry, but insisted only that he’d become familiar after you agreed to give him the job? Would you be impressed by his confidence, or would you laugh at his arrogance as you show him the door?


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Why I’m Catholic

Hey, this is a political blog!

And, a defunct one, at that.

But over at the Anchoress, the formidable Elizabeth Scalia put forth the following, here and here:

Let’s do this! If you’re Catholic and have access to a web-page, a radio program, a Facebook page, whatever, take a few minutes, and tell the world why you are remaining a Catholic in an era where doing so seems not only counter-cultural, but also counter-intuitive and even, perhaps, a bit risky?

It stuck in my head. Because frankly, this is way more important than politics. And I’ve been wanting to write again anyway. So next time, politics. But right now, let’s talk about something bigger. This isn’t going to be my personal faith story, just the conclusions I reached.

Why am I Catholic? It’s simple, really. One reason. It takes many shapes and has infinite facets–that’s the beauty of it–but it’s one thing. It’s true. And I’m convinced of that.

Belief in God is reasonable. Why is there something rather than nothing? Something explains existence, or there is no logic to the universe. There is no philosophical ground on which nonexistence just becomes existence. If, on the other hand, there is something that contains within itself the reason for its existence–a more principled bit of logic–whatever that is, is God. So without yet worrying about the nature of God, the simple existence of a creator is just logic.

Next. What is this God like? Is God outside the universe? Is everything, this tree, that person, that galaxy, a manifestation of God? Is Nature God? Is God like the Force, impersonal, mindless energy?

The universe isn’t mindless. It stands to reason that if the universe is intelligible, it was created by intelligence. If reality is logical, and it is, then God must be logical.

Which brings us to Jesus. If God exists, and is a Person, then it makes sense that He would want us to know Him. This is a huge topic, and the details are beyond this post. For now, the point: the propositions that Jesus really is God, and lived in history, and rose from the dead, are utterly reasonable–and are far more likely than alternate explanations.

Finally, the Church. If Jesus is God, and came to reveal God to us, what do we do about it? Well, Jesus told us that too. He built a Church, and He gave that Church real authority and a promise of divine guidance. He said that He would remain with the Church forever. He also gave particular men the authority to forgive sins in His name, and told His followers that in order to have life, they need to eat His body and drink His blood. He didn’t write a book, but He did tell specific people to go and teach the whole world about Him, passing on the traditions they were given. Some of those people wrote down some of these traditions, which became the New Testament. But the Church today is the same Church that Christ founded 2,000 years ago upon the Apostles, headed by St. Peter, and nobody else can credibly make that claim. So while only Christianity makes sense of these questions of existence, only the Catholic Church makes sense of Christianity.

That’s it. God exists. Jesus really is God. He started a Church, which still exists today, and still speaks with His authority, which is the Roman Catholic Church.

I could talk about each of these points in detail for days. I could talk about how Catholic truth finally made sense of things in the world and in my life that never made sense. I could talk about the beauty of our Corpus Christi Mass yesterday and seeing the entire church with the servers and our priest kneeling as one before the monstrance, and hearing the choir sing a piece written in the 13th century for this very feast. I could talk about the universality of the Church, knowing that across the world, hundreds of millions of people were at the same celebration, receiving the same Eucharist. Or, I could talk about the universality of Catholic truth, the seamless garment that weaves together without contradiction the goodness of life, and love, and all of creation, as expressed in the Church’s teaching on God’s love, grace, and mercy; the Church’s embrace of science and philosophy; the Church’s embrace of every one of us, sinners all; the deep understanding of human nature and the difficult, but beautiful, teaching on everything from forgiveness to charity to human sexuality.

I could talk about how the Mass and the Sacraments have fundamentally changed my life and given me strength to fight some deeply destructive tendencies in myself. I could tell about how I tried to live a Christian life outside of the Church, without the Sacraments, and it simply did not work. Or that I came to believe that Jesus really was God, but I can honestly say that I did not come to know Him until I returned to Mass, and that I can not, really and truly can not imagine ever going through life without the Sacraments again. All of these things are good, true, and beautiful, but all rest on one very simple Truth.

That’s how truth often looks: simple, but deep. If you drop a bowling ball, it falls. That’s how gravity works. Simple. But start trying to understand and explain gravity, and you can end up talking about time travel and virtual particles, because this simple thing just goes so deep into all of reality. Theology is like that. Simple- God exists. He loves us. But that simple truth is the foundation on which all of reality rests.

That doesn’t make it easy. The Catholic faith is not for weenies, as various thinkers have pointed out. It’s not the path of least resistance, for certain. It is counter-cultural today, it’s heroic, it’s radical. But it’s true.

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This Might Be Why People Dislike Unions

I have been meaning to write on the topic of unions for some time.  I still don’t have all my thoughts lined up, but I just sort of love this story.  It’s a few days old now, but in case you missed it, from comes this union protest at a Subaru dealership in Wichita:

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Followed by the dealership’s response:

subaru 2

Check out the original, linked above, for details. But what I want to ponder here (beyond this dealership’s pitch-Hipsters Local 312perfect reaction) is the nature of the union protest. The job went out for a competitive bid. The dealership gave the contract to the lowest qualified bid. Carpenters Local 201 lost. They simply lost the bid, that’s all. Someone else got the job. Let this be perfectly clear. The term “labor dispute” conjures up mental images of management breaking contracts, failing to pay agreed-upon wages, things like that. That is not what happened here. They simply put out a contract for bids, and hired the people they thought best, and those that didn’t get hired are responding by attempting to harm their business in revenge. In what context is this acceptable? Is this grade school? Are unions run by children?

When I graduated college, I applied for a slew of retail and service jobs. I got called by some, not by others. Would it have been reasonable for me to then blow up one of these rats in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble?

I imagine I would get arrested. Or sued. And I would deserve it.

I don’t necessarily have any sort of ideological or philosophical problem with private individuals unionizing. I do have a problem with individuals being coerced into joining a union against their will. And I do see major problems in the nature of a public sector union, as did progressive pro-labor pioneers such as Franklin Roosevelt and Fiorello LaGuardia. These are topics I hope to look at in greater depth.

I definitely have a problem with bully tactics meant to intimidate. Can we at least all agree that blowing up a giant inflatable rat to scare off customers and intimidate employers–just because they hired someone else–is unacceptable? I’m always hearing about how bullying is bad. Let’s lead by example, ok?

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Illinois Primary thoughts

Just a couple of thoughts on primary day for those of you here in Illinois. It’s a work day, so I’ll be quick.

I’m hearing a lot about Kirk Dillard and how he’s awful because he has some union support. Much seems to be coming from Rauner staffers calling into radio shows claiming to be regular guys. Whatever, that’s fine, we all know that goes on. Here’s what I keep thinking in response.

All these Rauner paid staffers supporters keep saying that they can’t wait to vote for Rauner because he’s an “outsider.” Give me a break. He might be a great guy, and I like the fact that he knows business. But let’s all admit that he is where he is today, at least in part, because he is well connected in Chicago. The Chicago machine does not consist of only elected officials, and just because Rauner has never held office before does not mean he’s not been a part of the machine for a long time. He’s buddies with the Chicago power brokers, he’s donated to Democrat campaigns and he’s pulled a Democrat ballot before. He’s pro-choice and he’s already racked up a couple of self-contradictory statements that make him seem like more of a politician than the career politicians he’s running against. As a conservative, I can’t expect him to represent my views just because he’s a businessman that’s never held office before. That’s ridiculous.

Now on Dillard. People are complaining that he’s successfully courting some union voters. Listen to yourselves. This is Illinois. We have had one-party rule for ever and ever, amen. Look where it’s gotten us. Now Kirk Dillard is getting some Democrats to come across the line and vote for a Republican. Isn’t that exactly what we need to happen!?

Dillard is a career guy that’s been in politics since before he was born, and that bothers some people. But guess what–none of these options is great. Look hard enough and you’ll find a reason to dislike each of them. Dillard is strong on life and strong on the 2nd amendment, two issues close to my heart, and he has the same basic economic plan as the rest of the primary field. Consider this a late Basic Conservative endorsement. Disagree? Have it out in the comments!

Now go vote!

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The New Abolitionists

Every fifty years or so since the founding of our Republic, there seems to be a major societal revolution.

The founding itself took place in a revolution, and our nation was built on revolutionary ideas (such as a constitutional government which rested on natural law and popular sovereignty) which today are taken for granted. A little more than a half century later, we fought a bloody civil war, and a revolutionary idea, equal protection under the law, began to be put into practice. In the beginning of the 20th century, the country was split over giving women the right to vote; again, justice prevailed. Almost fifty years later, segregation’s time was up, and a revolution in civil rights took place once again.

We look back today at the men and women who fought these battles–the abolitionists, the suffragettes, the civil rights activists–as the heroes that they are. Their courage and actions changed the world. In each case, they were defending a vulnerable group against injustice from those in power. In each case, as the arc of history bent towards justice, they were the benders. And their heroism lies in no small part due to the fact that in each case, they faced a culture that was split around the issue; by standing up for what they knew to be right, they faced widespread public derision, possible rejection by their own family and friends, even violence.

If the pattern holds, we’re due for another of these cultural shifts.

We also look back today at 41 years of legal abortion, and at 56 million dead children. Again the country is split. And again, an abolitionist movement is gaining strength.

It amazes me how the pro-choice arguments mirror so closely the old pro-slavery arguments. “They’re not people. You can’t give them the same rights as real people.” “They’re really better off this way. What kind of life would they have if you got your way?” In any event, the slave owners and their supporters were simply trying to protect their freedom to choose to own slaves. That is, if you don’t like slavery, then don’t own slaves. But how dare you take away someone else’s right to choose based on your beliefs! Right?

I don’t want to belabor this too much. It doesn’t need it. This is a simple issue (don’t kill kids) and momentum is already on the side of justice. Just allow me one little harangue. Look to the examples I listed above. We are in our revolution. It is taking place now. We are today’s abolitionists. History will look back at today and see either courage, or cowardice. People will look back at us and admire those who stood up to protect the vulnerable from the powerful, just as we look back with admiration for those who have fought this battle before. They fought on different battlegrounds, but justice is the same today as it was yesterday; and it makes the same demand whether the victim is a slave or an infant.

"Thousands" gather for the 2013 March For Life*

“Thousands” gather for the 2013 March For Life*

So to my harangue. Be the person today that you will look back at with pride, knowing that you stood up when it was hard to do. Don’t be silent. Remember that “don’t kill kids” will one day be as obvious as “don’t make people slaves” is to us today. Don’t be afraid. The tide has already turned. Speak up. Most Americans are with you, even if the news won’t report it.

*Image stolen without asking from Yes, I used a 2013 picture despite today being the 2014 March For Life. This is just such a fantastic picture. Today’s pictures are all full of snow.

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The Simplistic Nelson Mandela

So everyone has an opinion on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela.

The coverage and commentary I’ve seen over the last few days has pushed something to the front of my mind which has been percolating semi-consciously for a while: the universal human tendency to reduce complex things (like people) to simplistic things (like bumper stickers). In particular, I have watched with fascination and frustration the political manifestation of this tendency, the reduction of a real, complex human being to either a Saint or a Demon.

This isn’t a partisan post, because this isn’t a partisan issue. If you, whatever your views, think that only the Other Side does this, or even just that the Other Side does it WAY WORSE than your team, you are wrong, and go sit in the corner and think about what you have done. Everybody does this, and it’s never acceptable, and it’s never helpful, and we all need to stop it.

So on to the current case. I’m not an expert on Mandela. But I know enough to know that everything I have read so far from all sources is criminally simplistic. I know to expect this to some degree, but I would hope that on the occasion of the death of the respected 95-year-old South African statesman, we could wait at least a couple of weeks here in the US before starting to make this all about us.

To those making Mandela out to be a saint: calm down. The man was the founder of a terrorist group. This fact is not in dispute. He was imprisoned for attempting to violently overthrow the government via this group, for which he was guilty. He was friends with Fidel Castro and Muammar Gaddafi, violent dictators that as a matter of policy murdered their own people. He was married to a woman for almost 40 years who was found by South Africa’s own TRC to be both “accountable” and “responsible” for “gross violations of human rights.” He was proudly Marxist throughout his life. He remained in prison for part of those 27 years because he refused what was in at least one offer the only condition he was presented: that he “unconditionally reject violence as a political weapon.”

To those making Mandela out to be a demon: calm down. The man successfully navigated the end of apartheid and saw South Africa to its first truly democratic election. He personally held Marxist views, yes, but did not follow through on his early goals of nationalizing much of South Africa’s economy. He was committed to nonviolent means of protest for many years until he became convinced by the grave injustice and violence he constantly witnessed that sometimes there may be no other way to prevent future violence. This is the same justification given by any hawk for military action. While in prison and after his release, he seems to have attempted to exert what influence he had over the ANC to end the violence. After his release and as President, he was deeply committed to racial reconciliation and forgiveness for both sides, so much so that some of the violent revolutionaries he used to lead turned on him.

Finally, to those yelling at each other over this: calm down. It’s fitting and proper to celebrate the good things Mandela accomplished. They are real, and they are significant. It’s also fitting and proper in a political and historical context to remember accurately his violent past and his controversial positions. There is nothing racist about the above paragraphs.

All of these things can be true at the same time because–and if you’ll remember, this is what prompted me to write this whole thing–people are not simplistic. People are complex. They live in real life and make real judgments with real consequences. Sometimes they change. Another of Mandela’s friends, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, had the following to say about him: “Before Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, he was an angry, relatively young man. He founded the ANC’s military wing. When he was released, he surprised everyone because he was talking about reconciliation and forgiveness and not about revenge.”

Let’s all think about that as we reflect on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. Let us keep some decorum, and let us remember that he was a man, not an ideology, neither a saint nor a demon. He was complex. He was not a bumper sticker. Let us strive to live up to that description ourselves.

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Moving On

I’ll say it, so I can move on to more productive things. Okay. I’m disappointed.

There’s a ton of post-election analysis out there, but I don’t want to get in to that too much. I will say that I don’t think this is a sign that America is lost, or found, or anything. This does not mean that America has rejected conservative values or that Republicans will never win the White House again, any more than 2010 meant that America had rejected liberalism, or that 2006/08 meant that America had rejected conservatism, or that 2004 meant that America had rejected liberalism… hopefully you see my point. This is how it goes.

I also don’t think that this is a sign that Romney and the GOP went too far towards radical right-wing extremism, or anything of the sort. People are saying that the Republican party needs to give up on social issues, that Republicans lost because the party went hard-line and embraced people like Todd Akin. These people are wrong; the Republicans rejected Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, not the swing voters.

Romney carried Indiana by almost 11%, but Mourdock lost Indiana by over five points. Romney won Missouri by around 9%, and Akin lost the same state by over 15%. It was Republicans that voted against these guys. Commentators are claiming that the GOP needs to learn from this election that the “independent voters” will reject them unless they moderate on social issues. Nonsense. Mourdock’s opponent was a staunchly pro-life Democrat who even co-sponsored the controversial “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act” which defined the now-infamous term “forcible rape.” Indiana wanted a pro-life Senator. Mourdock wasn’t rejected for being pro-life, and he wasn’t rejected by the moderate swing voters. He was rejected by conservative Republicans for saying something deeply stupid which made us all look bad.

Which is my point. Romney didn’t lose because people rejected conservatism. Romney lost because people don’t know what conservatism is. Romney lost because a lot of people thought things about conservatives that aren’t true. Romney also lost because he said and did some very stupid things himself (I’m looking at you, DREAM act), but that’s not the central issue, because all politicians say stupid things here and there. President Obama successfully convinced a lot of groups that, if you’re a part of X group, you’re betraying people if you don’t vote Democrat. Women have to vote Democrat because Democrats care about women, and Republicans don’t. Same for various minority groups, ethnicities, industries. Young people think that Democrats “get” them and Republicans just don’t care about them. Whereas Romney and the Republicans didn’t talk to groups or ethnicities or genders as if we are all fighting each other. They preached a message of caring about, and doing what’s best for, all Americans–all of us together, since we’re all in this together–but people didn’t hear. America was unconvinced.

But where others see an obstacle, I see an opportunity. That’s the point of this blog. Conservatives have been awful at communicating why conservative policies help everyone, regardless of color or class, and far too many people really believe we’re all in groups and classes that have to fight and take from each other in order to get ahead.

So I’m working on a new series: Conservative Myth vs Fact. I want to take on these fallacies. I want to discuss like adults why the right sees things the way we do, things like public sector unions, taxing the rich, education reform, social security reform, and others. And I do hope for a real discussion. I know many of my readers disagree with my point of view, and I hope you will join in. If you have a specific topic in mind you’d like to bring up, post it in the comments here. And I look forward to the process.

Onward and upward!

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