Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Sanctity of Life: Truth or ‘Preference’?

180-movie

From the 180 Movie Facebook page, this sobering statistic:

Annually Abortions KILL more Children than the entire population of Texas, New York, and Colorado COMBINED.

Almost as disturbing, to me, was this statement:

According to Wikipedia, in the USA an estimated 95% – 98% of Down Syndrome babies are aborted when the condition is detected from a screening.   

Hitler also killed Down Syndrome children.

Right after I read that Facebook post, I picked up Eric MetaxasSocrates in the City (and if you don’t know who he is–check out his website, AND the Socrates in the City website; it’s a treasure trove of thought-provoking material).  This book is a set of transcripts of talks by some of the most important and influential guests to appear at these events held in Manhattan over the past 12 years or so. I’d been reading it, slowly–there is a lot to digest here.  (Try skimming a lecture by Sir John Polkinghorne or Richard John Neuhaus.)  I started the transcript of a talk by Jean Bethke Elshtain, entitled “Who Are We?  C.S. Lewis and the Question of Man,” which she gave in September 2005.  I had no idea who Elshtain is, but I’m a huge C.S. Lewis fan, so I figured it was worth tackling.  Turns out, Dr. Elshtain is a professor of political and social ethics at the University of Chicago.  Her resume is rather impressive (you can click on the link later…your head will spin).

Almost the first thing she said was to reference an issue of New York Times Magazine from June of that year, which printed an article entitled “Euthanasia for babies: is this humane or barbaric?”   Naturally, she had my attention.  On the next page I read the following paragraph, which eerily echoed that Facebook post I mentioned earlier:

For example, so overwhelming is our current animus against the less than perfect that nearly 90 percent of pregnancies that test (positive) for Down Syndrome are aborted in the United States today.

She went on to reference C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man, which appeared in 1944.  Its premise is that there is a “doctrine of objective value–the belief that certain attitudes are really true and others are really false to the kind of things the universe is and the kinds of things we are.” This understanding of universal values is found, says Lewis, in Platonic, Aristotelian, Stoic, Christian, and some Eastern religions.

By contrast, Lewis saw a logical positivism at work in his generation which classified all values as sentiment or emotion, and therefore irrelevant.  This “ghastly simplicity” (as he put it) has reappeared in this generation in the social sciences.  Elshtain tells us that it is called rational choice theory, and that it

trivializes all statements of values.  They have no truth warrant or claim…within this world, everything, in principle, can be commodified.  Everything, in principle, has a price rather than a value.  Any restrictions societies draw on where human preference might take us are really arbitrary–there are no intrinsic goods or evils. Nothing is valued for its own sake.

We’ve come a long, long way from the group of men who could all sign their names to a document which asserted that certain truths are “self-evident”, notably…

“…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In a world where everything is a commodity, including life, and is evaluated based on its utility and on personal preference, rather than objective truth claims…then infanticide, mandatory sterilization, selective abortion for any reason, and euthanasia of the elderly are all possible.

No, not possible.  Let’s not mince words.  All these barbarisms are probable.

Please watch this movie, if you haven’t already.

In fact, even if you’ve already seen it, watch it again. It’s Sunday.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!” says the Lord.  (Isaiah 49:15 NIV)

Obama’s latest: How to hijack a wedding

Obama wedding registry is one turkey of an idea…

Retailers need to entice, lure, romance their customers, as JTR noted about retail giant IKEA, and their maze-like, trance-inducing stores, where people buy what they never intended to before they wandered in.

But when you’re the president, apparently you feel you’ve earned the right to just ask anyone for money, any time.  Alice Roosevelt once  famously said that her presidential father, Teddy Roosevelt, wanted to be “the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.”   But she was talking about his need for attention.  Obama, on the other hand, just wants all your presents.   Thanks to a Facebook friend for directing me to this article at Breitbart.com.  I’ll confess I still didn’t believe it until I actually visited Obama/Biden’s campaign website.   This is the actual text.  I am not making this up:

Got a birthday, anniversary, or wedding coming up?

Let your friends know how important this election is to you—register with Obama 2012, and ask for a donation in lieu of a gift. It’s a great way to support the President on your big day. Plus, it’s a gift that we can all appreciate—and goes a lot further than a gravy bowl.

Yup.  Who needs a toaster anyway, when one could have the satisfaction of donating to the Obamaniac re-election fund?  I wonder if those marriages will last as long as his presidency?

Before you go shopping today…

….you may wish to check out Kathryn Blaze Carlson’s excellent article in the National Post from earlier this month. It touches on something that we all know in our hearts, but we usually feel we’re smart enough to avoid: Marketing.

The marketers are everywhere: Google, the supermarket, where we buy gas…….we can’t escape ’em. To deal with being constantly saturated by marketing, we simply believe we’re so savvy that we can see through all of the marketer’s ploys.

Yeah, right. Guess again.

From Canada’s National Post:

Robb Engen weaves back and forth through the maze, following his wife in what he calls “zombie mode.” He submits to her and the labyrinthine Calgary retail outlet, wandering along as she adds this and that to their shopping cart. By the time they finally reach the exit, the Alberta couple has almost always bought more than they had planned.

“We go there with a list and with the intention to leave with what we planned on buying, but something about that store makes it so you can’t help but leave with a few extra things,” Mr. Engen said.

The 32-year-old father and personal finance blogger is, of course, describing a typical visit to IKEA, the iconic Swedish retailer that attracts 734 million shoppers annually and which has just announced plans for its largest North American store in Montreal. At 464,694 square feet, the store will knock the Berlin IKEA from its ranking as the fifth-largest in the world.

By the time customers wind through 54 “inspirational room settings,” three full home settings, the so-called market hall, and a restaurant that seats 600, they will have shopped for 1.5 kilometres. Most will have spent an entire Saturday afternoon zig-zagging back and forth and up and down, all for the privilege of passing a gazillion items they had no intention of buying but suddenly realize they must have.

—–

So shoppers might think they buy a particular item because they decided on their own that they want it, but they also buy because stores use tactics that make it almost impossible for them not to: From the oversized shopping carts proven to make us spend more, to the escalators that take us deeper into a store only to force us across the entire retail floor to go back up or down, to the pie crusts in the grocery store fruit section that inspire us to bake on a whim, to the placement of staple foods toward the back of a supermarket so we have to pass everything else on the way.

—–

But IKEA, with its maze that winds shoppers first through a series of inspirational room settings and then through the market hall, is the retailer that stands out in its almost backward and yet highly successful approach. When Mr. Engen said there is “something about that store,” he was right.

(**Click the map below to ENLARGE**)

According to one expert, the flow of the store disorients customers, it coaxes them past every household item imaginable [unless they access the shortcuts], it tempts them to put items in their cart “just in case I want it” for fear of having to try to find it again later, and it gives them license to impulse-buy.

“By the time you get [to the market hall] you’ve already gone backwards and forwards on yourself through the showrooms, past every [inspirational] setting, and you’ve probably spent half-an-hour,” said Alan Penn, a University College London professor who, together with a former graduate student, used the school’s virtual reality centre to study how shoppers navigate and buy at IKEA. “Only then are you allowed to start buying, and I think you feel licensed to sort of treat yourself.”

Carlson’s article is more in-depth than just the sampling included here, and covers other retailers Abercrombie & Fitch (and why you either love or hate it), and Costco. She also discusses how music and scents are connected to your moods and your purchasing habits.

Very well written, and certainly worth a few minutes.

AND: It just might save you $$$$ this weekend when, armed with this new knowledge, you manage to NOT buy that new duvet, some framed prints of fruit, or a ceramic monkey, despite thinking how nice they would look in your house.

Hey, you laugh now, but when you’re in the store later today, …you’ll be thanking me.

Internet freedom vs. the U.N.

The United Nations is one of those topics that causes one of three reactions: (1) strident defense from the Left, (2) snarling disdain from the Right, …and (3) bored, yawning shrugs, which come from pretty much everyone else.

I understand the reason for all three, of course. The Right sees the U.N. as thieves and backers of every tin-pot dictator in the world, and I happen to agree. The Left adores the U.N., since its primary aim appears to be stealing from those mean old Western nations, (whom they resent) and giving to the poor, third-world dictatorships, socialist regimes and tyrants (whom they love). And everyone else sees it as some ethereal-yet-benign body, which doesn’t have anything to do with their daily lives.

If the U.N. gets their way, that last description will change, and in a hurry.

From cnet.com:

The United Nations is considering a new Internet tax targeting the largest Web content providers, including Google, Facebook, Apple, and Netflix, that could cripple their ability to reach users in developing nations.

The European proposal, offered for debate at a December meeting of a U.N. agency called the International Telecommunication Union, would amend an existing telecommunications treaty by imposing heavy costs on popular Web sites and their network providers for the privilege of serving non-U.S. users, according to newly leaked documents.

The article goes on to explain the costs associated with this and how it could cripple the internet forever. But this time there is a more insidious goal than simply money.

From wsj.com:

It’s easy to understand why countries like Russia, China and Iran would want to rewire the Internet, cutting off access to their citizens and undermining the idea of a World Wide Web. What’s more surprising is that U.S. diplomats are letting authoritarian regimes hijack an obscure U.N. agency to undermine how the Internet works, including for Americans.

—–

The U.N. process is mind-numbing, but as Vincent Cerf, one of the founders of the Web, recently told Congress, this U.N. involvement means “the open Internet has never been at a higher risk than it is now.”

—–

The broadest proposal in the draft materials is an initiative by China to give countries authority over “the information and communication infrastructure within their state” and require that online companies “operating in their territory” use the Internet “in a rational way”—in short, to legitimize full government control. The Internet Society, which represents the engineers around the world who keep the Internet functioning, says this proposal “would require member states to take on a very active and inappropriate role in patrolling” the Internet.

This is indefensible, but par for the course with this bunch. I could list other such U.N. meddling for days without once repeating myself:

…and the list goes on, and on, and on.

Boy-oh-boy, do I miss John Bolton.

The fact that the United States of America is the largest financial supporter of the U.N. since that organization’s founding in 1945 (providing roughly a quarter of their annual budget) gives us the right to question this international assemblage of thugs, which consistently manages to undermine freedom at every turn. We need to get a handle on what is being misspent by them, how, and why…and then stand up for freedom as we used to do….or we must seriously consider getting out altogether.

Because if we don’t choose one of those options, and quickly, we will be funding our own demise.

PIXAR’s “Luxo, Jr”: The behind-the-scenes version….

I only vaguely recalled ever seeing this originally, so I did some time-consuming and extensive research (…OK, I Googled it…) and found the following:

Luxo Jr. is the first film produced in 1986 by Pixar Animation Studios, following its establishment as an independent film studio. It is a computer-animated short film (two and a half minutes, including credits), demonstrating the kind of things the newly-established company was capable of producing. It was the second Pixar short to release with a Pixar film (Toy Story 2, in 1999) after Geri’s Game was released with A Bug’s Life in 1998.

Continue reading

Refreshing our memory: What integrity looks like

Tonight I came across this post from my Winnowing blog.  I wrote it back in March of 2008.  This week, while we drown in news about Eric Holder and Jerry Sandusky, I thought it might be nice to remember what genuine integrity looks like:  Integrity does what is right, even when no one is watching, and a lie would serve you better. 

In the film Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, the famous golfer from the 1920s is playing in a championship when to his dismay he accidentally causes his ball to move before he has actually swung. He immediately calls the official over and informs him of what he’s done. Jones’ primary competitor declares that he didn’t see it happen; the official didn’t see the action, and after polling the spectators it seems that no one else saw it either.

Continue reading

What is truly ‘Offensive’…

So little time, and so many examples…

Yesterday we looked at “Sneaker-Gate”, where two different gym shoe companies knuckled under to cries of ‘That’s Offensive!’ and scuttled the production of the proposed shoes. After I wrote it and had some time to think further, I was reminded of a cartoon that I saw many years ago, which summarized almost perfectly this entire problem:

This is so accurate. Not that long ago, there was a general agreement on what was considered offensive, and there was an implied threshold for what would qualify. It has now become trivialized, diluted of its original definition and come to mean merely “stuff or people I don’t like“.

To paraphrase one of the memorable lines from The Incredibles: “When everything is offensive, NOTHING is”.

Meaning, there are still plenty of occurrences in the world that can and should be termed “offensive”. For instance, no right thinking person would hesitate to describe the Holocaust as offensive, and rightly so. But when we assign the visage of Hitler to every politician with whom we disagree, it cheapens the horrors of the Holocaust.

It’s no wonder that so many of the youth today don’t even know who Hitler was or the genocide he orchestrated.

And genocide is the ultimate offense. Whether it is genocide in Rwanda, Turkey, the Ukraine, Bosnia, or Cambodia, it all amounts to the same thing: the slaughter of the innocent.

We are experiencing another genocide, this one on our own shores. It is happening in plain sight, with its opponents labeled extremists or fascists, which is rather ironic when you think about it. And so I will take this opportunity to, again, ask you to view the following movie which logs in at just over 30 minutes.

Because if this doesn’t qualify as offensive, then the term truly has no meaning.

(**Click on the image below**)

Former First Lady Laura Bush wins award, despite protest

From the Huffington Post, of all places:

22 women have written a letter to a museum protesting an award to Former First Lady Bush. The award, the Alice Award, is to honor a woman for advancing women. This year’s recipient is the Former First Lady.

I can’t decide if the 22 protesting women are ignorant or mean spirited — or worse, both. (I would love to know what each of the 22 has done for women!)

Author Greta van Susteren then goes on to detail a number of ways Laura Bush has helped women’s causes, among them:

  • Many trips to the Middle East to promote breast cancer awareness (beginning long before she was the first lady;
  • Hosting literacy events;
  • Public and private work connecting struggling Afghan women with successful American businesswomen to mentor them in starting their own businesses;
  • Speaking at the UN about the plight of Burmese patriot Aung San Suu Kyi, who was still under house arrest at the time.

Van Susteren makes it a point to stress that this is NOT, nor should it be, a partisan award.

This blog posting is not a Republican/Democratic issue. Breast cancer hits women of both parties. I know Democratic women with it and Republican women. Likewise… literacy is not a partisan issue. It is a human rights issue — you can’t get along in life if you can’t even sign your name.

These are projects Mrs. Bush has been pushing for years….
Frankly, she is not like the 22 women who took a pot shot at her. She likes to help. She is decent in that way. She was using her platform (and continues to do so) to help women who desperately need and needed help. She did it because she gives a damn…

The only partisan aspect… (is) the 22 women who signed the letter and lack the decency to step back from their mean spirited partisanship and just look at the FACTS. Facts matter.

Wow.  This is wisdom.  Frankly, I can’t really imagine a group of women of any stripe filing a complaint because a liberal-leaning woman won such an award.   To my mind, if the Sewall-Belmont House Museum wanted to give the award to Dora the Explorer, I’d say they’re within their rights…it’s their award to give.   This is a very encouraging commonsense point of view.  I hope the 22 (who include Sonia Pressman Fuentes, co-founder of the National Organization for Women) take it to heart.