A Stable Upbringing is Important for a US President - The country’s recent experience with Presidents, may indicate that a stable childhood is essential for stable behavior in the White House. Consider the two most recent occupants: Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. They both had very difficult childhoods and both manifested shocking behavior in the White House.
Bill Clinton, whose real father left the family when he was quite young, was raised by an alcoholic step father whose behavior was erratic and created an unstable home life for young Bill. Bill’s mother was a nurse anaesthetist and provided what stability there was in the household. Clinton throughout his adult life has been a womanizer. This fault has, of course, led to other sins such as lying to Ken Starr about his womanizing with an intern and the earlier raping of a woman in Arkansas who was trying to stop his unwanted advances. As President, Bill Clinton, authorized the wholesale bombing of civilian targets in Serbia in a successful attempt to get the Serbian Army to evacuate the Serbian province of Kosova, where Serbia had earlier in the 19th century won its independence from the Ottoman Empire, and where the Serbia Orthodox Church was founded by St. Sava in the thirteenth century. Is there proof that Clinton unstable upbringing led to his unstable behavior as President? No, but it is something of a concern.
George W Bush had the experience of losing a younger sister to leukemia before he was old enough to go to grade school. This loss was not explained to young George, she just disappeared from his life. His father was busy on government business traveling and staying in Washington. Young George’s mother entered a long period of mourning which young George was aware of but unable to relieve. He became a “cut up” at school and was known for his tendency to torture and kill small animals. In college he took to branding fraternity initiates with hot iron. He became an alcoholic and, when threatened with divorce, he got religion and stopped drinking. As President, young George has been known for his willingness to lie, violate laws against torture, and to engage in pre-emptive, unprovoked war. Although he has killed more people than Bill Clinton did, he has not engaged in extra marital sex. Again, George W. Bush’s difficulties in the past did not necessarily prefigure his failures and sins as President, but a thoughtful citizen has to be weary of those with bazaar childhoods.
Today America is taken with Sen. Obama. This US Senator had a very troubled childhood. His black father and white mother did not get along and split up when he was two. His mother took up with an Indonesian, and the young Obama spent his childhood dividing his time between Hawaii where his mother’s parents lived, Indonesia where his mother lived, and Kenya where his father lived. By his own admission Obama was a confused youth attending an upscale prep school in Hawaii where he never really fit in. Later Obama, as a State Senator, tried to kill a bill which would have outlawed the practice of letting live babies die for lack of food and water. (The bill had been introduced because certain late term abortion clinics where letting babies die if they happened to come out of their mothers living and breathing.) Sen Obama had used his power, as chairman of the committee which had jurisdiction over this bill, to sit on the bill and not forward it to the floor for a vote. Later, when the bill finally did get to the floor, Obama voted “present”. To vote “present” when the matter of infanticide was being considered indicates a profound insensitivity at minimum or, more likely, severe mental instability. ..................... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 1/24/2008)
The Catholic Church Must Attack Obama Vigorously if He is Nominated - The Roman Catholic Church has strong prohibitions against abortion and infanticide. Obama in his short career as an Illinois legislator supported both. His record will assure that the Catholic Church will oppose him vigorously if he becomes the Democratic nominee.
The proceedings will be truly pitiable. Letters being read from every pulpit at every Mass leading up to the election will requiring Catholics to abstain from voting for the first black man to gain a major party nomination for President. The Church, which was in the vanguard of support for integration in American cities and even in such southern cities as New Orleans, will be put in the difficult position of opposing Obama in the strongest terms. The prospects for significant conversion of blacks to the Catholic Church will be set back at least a decade.
The Church in America has really been trying to get the attention of the black community (1) Catholic Charities operates extensively in the inner cities, (2) Many Catholic Dioceses maintain and support Catholic churches and grade schools in black neighborhoods where the number of Catholics do not justify the expense, but they do this so black parents have alternative places, other than the public school, to educate their children and so black youngsters get some exposure to the Catholic Faith, and (3) Catholic high schools provide financial help, tutoring, and sometimes even housing so non-Catholic blacks can successfully attend these high schools.
What a shame that all this Catholic effort will be squandered because the Democratic Party might run a Presidential candidate that has supported infanticide inside of late term abortion clinics. But the Church with its strong, Christ centered, moral compass will have no other choice. What a revolting development this is? .................... (prepared by Hugh Murrau on 1/28/2008)
The Allure of Group Sin - Adam and Eve in Genesis are induced to steal and eat the forbidden fruit. The allure was to become as powerful as God. Much later Augustine and some friends go on a late night lark and end up stealing pears which they don’t want or need and which they end up giving to some hogs. These two incidence while very different have a couple of interesting characteristics in common. These common characteristics are the focus of this paper.
First, most human activity has a definable purpose. Whether the activity is licit or illicit it is usually possible to set forth a reason for the activity. A man goes to work to earn money so he can support his family. Or perhaps he steals a car in hopes that he can take parts off the car and sell them in the black market. But in the case of the apple and the pears there really is no practical reason for the theft. Adam and Eve, with even a moment’s thought, could have figured that matching God was not going to be accomplished by consuming a piece of fruit. In like fashion, the gang of boys stealing pears had to realize their was no benefit to be realized. Yet in both cases they went forward in defiance of the law. They went forward to spite the law. They went forward to defy authority. In the case of Adam and Eve, God had specifically forbidden them to eat fruit from that tree, so he expelled they from the Garden to Eden, and suffered all their decedents to endure the consequences of original sin. In the case of Augustine and his friends, they were not caught but at least one, Augustine, suffered pangs of conscience for the rest of his life. So it is correct to say that one allure of sin can be to simply defy authority, with no other practical purpose.
Second, most human sinning is a solo activity. Think of all the covetous thoughts either desiring someone else’s wife or someone else’s property. Think of all the shop lifting, fraudulent expense account entries, office supplies that end up at home, company vehicles used to run personal errands, etc. But in both our present examples the sinning was a group activity. The couple, Adam and Eve, gave each other false courage to go forward. The gang operating at night in the pear orchard developed a group courage that allowed them to complete their robbery. This idea of group reinforcement seems to be particularly important when the sin is basically irrational. A sinner operating alone might follow through with a sin that offers some prospect of benefit to the sinner. But a sinner acting alone is far less likely to follow through with a sin that offers nothing but a chance to defy authority with the accompanying risk of being caught.
An example of a group sin in today’s world is the practice of Mexican gangs in Southern California that kill random black people found at night in their gang’s territory. These killings offer no possibility of accomplishing anything for the gang and yet they do it anyway almost certainly out of some kind of distorted group psychology reinforced by group bravado.
Recently, a asphalt man, named “Cookie” Thorton, in Kirkwood, Missouri, who felt harassed by local officials, walked into a City Council meeting and shot and killed five city officials before he was shot and killed. Some might say this is a counter example, showing that single people can commit stupid sins without group reinforcement. But in this case the man was most certainly insane and therefore not responsible for his sins. ...... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 2/16/2008)
Medical Centers in America Have a Duty to Prepare Their Patients for Eventual Death - The health care system, particularly during a person’s final six months, is failing miserablly to help people transition from this life to the next life. There is no conflict between working for a heathy today while psychologically preparing for the coming after life. It is, not only the high dollar cost to the Medicare system of providing state of art care during a person’s last six months, but it is also the pain and suffering to the patient and their relatives during the final illness as they clutch at various medical straws while gripped by an irrational fear of death. Why is hospice resisted so long? Why aren’t people more accepting of the inevitable?
The fact is they have irrational fear because they have not been presented with death as a positive inevitability.
The modern American medical center has people of all ages and degrees of wellness, there are athletes with sports injuries, young mothers ready to give birth. There are also people with sever chronic conditions. There are people recovering from by-pass surgery or cancer treatments that are very aware of their frailty, and finally there are those who are clinging to life trying to find a way to live just another 60 days. All these groups need positive exposure to the idea of eventual of death; so they can begin to reoriented themselves, either quickly or slowly, to this inevitability.
Patients need to understand that life is a transition, a process, not a steady state. Truly each life is precious, but each life on earth has a beginning and an end. Time is a secondary consideration. People should be helped to accept life's end just as they accepted and used the gift of life from its beginning.
If medical centers began educating their patients on this issue, the final stage of desperately ill people grasping at medical straws might be truncated and a more comfortable stay in hospice substituted.
The key is how does a medical center accomplish this without driving patients away. The beginning stage might be wall signs and brochures placed around the hospital and doctor’s office buildings that mention death or the next life in positive terms. The medical center’s mission statement might be “We are here to spread God’s love to you .... we are here to facilitate God’s healing of you ..... and we are here to promote understanding of God’s eternal plan for you.”. For patients in the hospital pastoral advisors should mention all the phases of life as they counsel at bedsides whether it be an expectant mother, or person on the verge of death. The advice might include urging each to find a religious tradition to embrace if they don’t already have one. Even atheists might be encouraged to see death as a way to end their pain and suffering. All this should be done with a pleasant upbeat attitude, and it should be mixed with a message of God’s desire to cure and heal the sick, just as God also desires to have all people eventually with Him in heaven. ..............
(prepared by Hugh Murray on 2/16/2008)
The Catholic Teaching on War - The Catholic Catechism discusses war. This essay will attempt to apply Catholic a just war theory to a few examples of war from American history.
Five critical points made about going to war and conducting war need to remembered as the rest of this essay unfolds. 1) The acts of the aggressor must have lasting, grave and certain consequences to the other side, 2) all other means of solving the grievance have been tried and have proved ineffective, 3) there must be serious prospect of success, 4) the war must not produce more pain and disorder than the immediate evil being eliminated, and 5) civilians, their homes, and cities must not be destroyed indiscriminately.
The four wars taken from American History are the Civil War, the Second World War, the Cold War (as though it had turned “hot”) and the Iraq War.
The Civil War - Was the attack by the South on Fort Sumpter and/or the south’s secession going to have a major long lasting damaging effect on the North? Were protracted discussions with the southern leaders tried in an attempt to limit or end hostilities? Did the North have a serious prospect of success? Was the evil created by the preservation of the Union at the expense of States Rights too great and could the evil of slavery be eliminated in a less bloody way? Were civilians killed, were their homes and lands raised leaving them susceptible to starvation and disease? Each American has their own judgement, but it looks like the Civil War gets four “no’s” and one “yes”, that being on the prospect of success by the North.
WW II - Were the Axis Powers a grave, serious, lasting threat to the Allies? Were negotiations pursued fully or was the “bulldog” Churchill unable to negotiate? Perhaps millions of Jews might have been spared? Were there prospects for success? Was the war likely to produce more or greater evils than it would solve? Was the war conducted with a eye to keeping civilian casualties and destruction of cities to a minimum? Here the consensus would probably be 3 “yes’s” and 2 “no’s”. The two “no’s” being the “producing greater evil” point and the “failure to protect civilians and their property”. Remember the repression of eastern Europe under the USSR that followed VE day, and the wholesale destruction of Axis cities by the Allied bombers.
The Cold War (as if it had turned hot) - This war never really became a fighting war. The two sides essentially blustered and negotiated for so long that one society finally changed and the great hostility subsided. But if it had become a hot war by the USSR attacking the US these would have been the considerations. Was the USSR a grave threat to the US? Were negotiations exhausted? Was there a serious prospect of the US succeeding? Would a greater evil have ensued if there had been a nuclear exchange? Would civilians have been unduly affected? Here there are three “yes’s” and two “no’s” but the two “no’s” are unthinkable. Massive destruction of civilians and cities in both countries, and of course, the likely destruction of all human life from fall out.
The Iraq War - Was the “coalition of the willing” really gravely threatened by Iraq? Had all other means such as the embargo and over flights exhausted their usefulness? Was there a prospect of taking Bagdad and capturing Saddam? Was a greater evil likely to emerge such as sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods? Were civilians unduly affected considering that only ten percent of the population has been displaced and only about 50,000 have been killed? Here there is one “yes” and four “no’s” . The single “yes” was the US’s likely ability to take Bagdad and capture Saddem.
Setting the Cold War aside because it never became a “hot” war; the US comes off poorly on these five measures are applied to these three war situations. Five “yes’s” when the Catholic Church would require fifteen “yes’s” to go forward. The weakest showings were the Civil War and the Iraq war. The best showing was WW II. But none made it to the acceptable threshold.
The actual handling of the Cold War is the best example of how to handle serious international conflicts. This essay must acknowledge this great American success.
In the area of “hot” wars actually fought that were just, the Korean War is probably the best example of a just American War. It is possible that this war would get five “yes’s” if subjected to the analysis used above.
................(prepared by Hugh Murray on 2/24/2008)
American Science Must Come to Terms with Christianity - (Preparatory note: Lawrence Krauss, Prof of Physics and Astronomy at Case Western Reserve delivered a lecture titled, “Science and Anti-Science.” on 2/11/08 at the Am Enterprise Inst in Washington. He addressed scientific illiteracy among the public and among elected officials. He expressed concern about the effects of scientific illiteracy on the teaching curriculum, military decisions, confusion about global warming and stem cells research, and support for the scientific research that can preserve U.S. economic competitiveness. Many of the statements set out below about the conflict between science and religion are taken from his talk which can be found at C-SPAN’s archives.)
American Scientists complain that Americans are anti-science. Fifty percent of Americans don’t believe in evolution. Fully 85% of Americans believe God was actively involved in creation. A large number of American feel that scientists are irreligious. While many scientists complain that many Americans do not embrace scientific education; they also wonder why the Congress does not provide more funding for basic research; they wonder why religious leaders in many Christian Churches refuse to accept the scientific version of “truth”.
The areas of disagreement are numerous and very fundamental. The issues at stake are such things as the humanness of an unborn human fetus, the role of God in the origin of the universe, when and how did life begin on earth, and most profoundly the creation of man and how did man gain his special faculties that separate him from animals. Was there an intelligent design behind the universe we see around us or did it simply evolve?
Scientists are unwilling to support, indeed they will oppose, any public school teaching about God or His involvement in creating the world and establishing the rules by which the world runs.
Many adults are inclined to discourage children from deep involvement in and with science particularly since it looks like deep understanding of science is antithetical to religious belief. Most adults in America believe in God, and most believers feel that it is sinful to encourage children toward activity which might cause a child to abandon their belief in God.
America is desperate for more scientists to keep America at the cutting edge of technical development. Washington has moved America’s manufacturing jobs offshore and placed the country's bets on advancements wrought by science. But openings in America’s graduate programs in science are more and more being taken by foreigners.
But can society blame young Americans for avoiding science courses. After all they have been told that their faith is at risk, that science is irreligious.
So what needs to be done to bring the two distrustful sides together? What can be done to bridge the gap?
Scientists need to accept the reality that order in nature points strongly to an ordering mind. To understand the difference between normal people and scientists take an example. If a person is driving on a elliptical route going first north, then east , then south and finally west. And that persons sees many signs pointing toward the center of the ellipse saying this way to XYZ Village. The scientist might say "I can’t say that XYZ Village exists till I actually go there and check it out". The average person would say "I’ve seen many signs and can say with confidence XYZ Village exists".
The Courts, in general, and the Supreme Court, in particular, have contributed to this problem regarding the split between believers and scientists by issuing decisions that forbid teaching about the existence of God in public schools. Protestant ministers particularly those of a fundamentalist persuasion are steady, loud denouncers of the these court decisions. Some school boards have ordered the teaching of “intelligent design” concepts in high school science classes, and the courts, supporting rules that required strict scientific proofs, have ordered that “intelligent design” can not be taught until God’s existence can be proved using scientific methods.
If scientists want better relationships with the average American and his children, the scientific community must accept and support the teaching of some form of “intelligent design”. Scientists don’t have to say “we believe in God” all they have to say is “there are dozens of signs that indicate the existence of an ‘intelligent designer’ of the universe therefore such a designer probably exists and it is rational to believe”. They should issue “friend of the court briefs” saying it is important that “intelligent design” concepts be taught along with hard science in school. They could point to the recent book by Cardinal Schorborn of Vienna, entitled Chance or Purpose: Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith , as a good guide for sorting out how faith and science can operate in the same space. (A closing note: C-SPAN covered a presentation given by Schorborn at the Dominician Graduate School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkley CA on his book. That presentation is in the C-SPAN video archieves.)
.............(prepared by Hugh Murray on 3/17/2008)
Two Christian Images Send Conflicting Sensations to Non-Christians - In the Christian calendar there are two great feasts, Christmas and Easter. The image for Christmas is Mary holding the baby Jesus with Joseph, the Angels, and the sheep herders looking on. Artists always depict Mary as a beautiful, pleasant, young women full of peace. She is pictured as content with her situation.. She has to know that momentous events are ahead, great suffering will soon be hers to embrace.
The second great feast is Easter which marks the day that that little baby, now a grown man, will demonstrate his godly power by rising from the dead. But the image that most marks this day is not the image of His resurrection rather it it the image of his death on a cross 48 hours earlier on Good Friday. This image is found everywhere Christians gather, it is the Crucifix, the cross with Christ’s died body hanging by three nails a crown of thorns surmounting his bowed head.
These two images the content Mary readying herself for the pain to come is everywhere juxtaposed against the dead Christ hanging lifeless from a cross. The believer is first called to thank Christ for taking on the sins of the world (including his own sins), but very quickly the believer senses that the loving Mother of Christ has a special place not only in the story of Christ during his earthly life but continues to have a special place in the on going salvation story that is playing out day after day in every man’s life. Not only was Mary Christ’s mother but she is also our Mother. Mary was not only God’s chosen passage by which Christ came to humanity, but she is also an intercessor that can facilitate the delivery of our prayers to God. She was given a special role on earth and she retains a special status in the next.
Since the middle ages, Christians have said the Rosary, a series of prayers put together by Saint Dominic, to help the faithful recall the words of St. Elizabeth and the Angel Gabriel and to remind them to ask Mary for intercessory help with to God.
.............. (prepared by Hugh Murray on 03/28/2008)
Election Controls Require Both Simplicity and Stability - The breakdown of election controls in the US is a scandal of monumental proportions.
The 2004 Presidential election is the textbook case of wholesale vote transferring from Kerry to Bush in perhaps half a dozen states. Ohio was most flagrant where about 5% of the votes cast were simply electronically moved to Bush.
There have always been election “irregularities” but these have generally involved hundreds or perhaps a thousand votes but now with electronic totally via the Internet in central locations the system allows corrupt programers to steal ten of thousands of votes in an instant by changing as little as two lines of computer coding.
In the past, election controls involved duplicate workers doing all jobs in the system, typically a Democrat side by side with a Republican. This works fairly well until technology arrives which average people can’t understand. Then a highly trained specialist is needed, and it is not feasible to have two highly trained people on staff on a full time basis for a few elections that a county conducts.
But the urge to cheat, and cheat big, will always remain so the counties must return to simpler technology that ordinary people can understand, particularly system that involve physical ballots.
Another problem is the need to keep voting systems stable. Poll workers and voters learn a system and shouldn’t have to learn a new system any oftener than perhaps once every twenty years.
Probably the best system available today is optically scanned ballots with a compulsory manual count of 5% of randomly selected polls after each election to validate that the computer programs summarizing the vote have not been tampered with. If any randomly selected poll shows a variation of more than 2 votes on any race the entire election would be manually recounted. For such a system to work the ballot created by the voter would have to be entirely machine created with no possibility for human errors such as voting for both straight party lines and individual candidates, such as voting for two candidates for an office when only one should be selected, such as sloppily marking a ballot so intent is not clear, etc.
.................. (prepared by Hugh Murray on 03/28/2008)
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