Tuesday, October 7, 2008, 12:40 PM
Gloria Cipollini Endres, a friend and correspondent, has written a charming reminiscence of being part of the first class at Saint Maria Goretti High School in Philadelphia. The piece, appearing in the Philadelphia Daily News, is a wonderful glimpse of life in better times:
The first principal, Father Tracey, was a stickler for ladylike decorum, especially at social events. Although Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando and James Dean were the sex symbols du jour, and “Bandstand” might be an “occasion of sin,” we were expected to remain chaste.
Our sex education consisted mostly of “cross your legs, wear mid-calf skirts and keep a phone book on the car seat between you and your date!” Even with all that, some girls dropped out quietly to await what was quaintly dubbed a “blessed event.”
Discipline was relentless. There was a rule against opening textbooks in the cafeteria, for example. Once, feeling unprepared for a post-lunch Latin test with Sister Mary Agnes, I sneaked a peek at my book.
I was caught by one of the disciplinarians and immediately handed a detention slip. Imagine! Others were disciplined for such far-out infractions as striking the “forbidden” backspace key on the typewriter or daring to apply lipstick in the lavatory at dismissal.
Talking back could get you suspended or expelled to the (shudder) public schools.
We can laugh now, but we were in awe of those religious women. (Mrs. Kane, our gym teacher, was the only lay person.) Other schools had college fairs—we had a “convent fair” in the cafeteria with booths competing for applicants to the many communities of nuns that staffed the school.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008, 2:20 PM
A reader wrote in yesterday chastising me for claiming that many on the left seem to “hate” Sarah Palin. I’ve given enough examples to believe that I’m on safe ground here, but just in case the reader wasn’t convinced, here’s a piece by a University of Michigan professor (mentioned earlier today by Nathaniel Peters) likening Palin to Muslim fundamentalists in general and Hamas in particular—just in case any overly tolerant readers didn’t automatically conflate Islamic fundamentalism with terrorism.
I’ll stand my ground with my insistence that many on the left hate Sarah Palin in a very real way.
Friday, September 5, 2008, 1:21 PM
Some friends have written in to ask whether or not it’s hyperbolic to suggest that the left “hates” Sarah Palin, as I suggested yesterday.
As an additional data point, I offer this essay from Salon. The author begins by repeating the smear that Trig Palin is not the governor’s son, and saying that the rumor makes sense, before declaring glibly that he doesn’t believe it. But that’s not the worst part. The author, a medical doctor, claims that Palin’s decision not to kill Trig in utero is “a sign of her hypocrisy.”
If this isn’t a symptom of deranged hatred, I don’t know what is.
Thursday, September 4, 2008, 4:31 PM
There are reasonable criticisms that can be made of Sarah Palin, both as governor and a vice presidential selection. Yet little of what we have seen in the last six days has been either reasonable or critical (in the traditional sense of the word). Instead, much of the left and many in the media simply lashed out at Palin, particularly at her family.
And not only the fringiest parts of the political fringe: A writer at the Washington Post attacked Palin for the fact that her seventeen-year-old daughter was going to have a baby. A writer for The Atlantic openly questioned whether or not Palin’s four-month-old baby, who has Down’s Syndrome, was actually hers. The utterly unfounded suggestion was that the baby was Palin’s daughter’s and that the governor had faked her pregnancy. Proof of the baby’s birth was demanded.
Again, we are not talking about an anonymous blogger at Daily Kos—this is the commentary from the Washington Post and The Atlantic Monthly. And there was more—much more—where that came from.
So why? What is it about Sarah Palin that convinced so much of the left to objectify and assault her so quickly, and with such manifest maliciousness? There are many reasons, but four of them stick out in particular, each having to do not with Palin’s politics, but with her family.
1) Trig Palin’s Down’s Syndrome is a challenge to their ideas about what represents worthwhile life. The fact that this Down’s baby was carried to term and not aborted is statement that his life has the same value as all life. This is an idea with which the left vehemently disagrees. Here is the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus discussing her own opinion of Down’s babies in an online chat earlier this week:
I had my children at ages 37 and 39, old enough that the risk of Down syndrome was elevated, as it was for Palin, and my doctor recommended amniocentesis. Had the results indicated any abnormality, I have little doubt that I would have made a different decision than did Palin.
As such, the left sees Baby Trig as a provocation. Note today the commentators complaining that Trig has become a “prop” for Palin’s candidacy simply because the family took turns holding the four-month-old in public last night. (Perhaps these observers simply have no understanding of how infants are handled and cared for.) Instead of being viewed as just another baby, Trig is seen by the left as a little Terri Schiavo—an assertion of the value of all life and an affront to their belief that there are differences in what constitutes meaningful life.
2) Which leads, of course, to abortion. Palin’s family is a double-rebuke to the culture of abortion. First, there’s Palin’s decision not to kill Trig because he has Trisomy 21. Then there is seventeen-year-old Bristol Palin’s decision to not to kill her baby.
Contrast this with Barack Obama’s statement that he would keep abortion legal so that if one of his daughters were to “make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” This statement is freighted with meaning: Obama views out-of-wedlock pregnancy as a mistake (which is sensible); he views such a resulting baby as punishment (which is less so); and he has strong feelings that should such a situation occur, he would not want his daughter to carry the baby to term. It is, objectively speaking, a pro-abortion statement.
3) Then there are Palin’s religious views. She is a lifelong Christian who belongs to an evangelical church. No further explanations should be needed about the provocations which emanate there from.
4) Finally, there’s the fertility. The Palin family’s five children would have been unexceptional forty years ago, but today constitute something of a fertility freak show. They’re the type of people for whom the epithet “breeder” was invented. The U.S. fertility rate sits just below the replacement level and is only that high because of the greater fertility of Hispanic immigrants. According to the most recent census data, only 1.1 percent of non-Hispanic white women bear five or six children over the course of their lifetime. By contrast, 22.5 percent of these women never reproduce. The percentage of childlessness among women rises in a straight line with educational attainment.
Why the worry about this? First, there’s the fact that few of Palin’s tormenters can understand the fact of her large, traditional family. That is certainly not the way in which they have structured their lives.
Second, there is the left’s long-standing concern about overpopulation, which has become a staple of modern environmentalism, beginning with Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 best-seller The Population Bomb. Ehrlich preached a Malthusian near-future in which hundreds of millions would perish by famine as the world’s unchecked population growth spiraled to infinity. As it happens, Ehrlich’s predictions were entirely incorrect: Not only has increased food production reduced famine to a weapon of political conflict, but the world’s population growth has slowed to a crawl. Fertility rates around the globe are falling and world population will peak around nine billion by 2050. From there, we will experience population contraction.
But Ehrlich’s prognostications never fell far out of favor, particularly with environmentalists who take it as an article of faith that the planet is already overcrowded. To them, the prodigious Palin family is surely seen as taking more than its fair share.
And finally, there is the concern that the amped up fertility of people such as the Palins will lead to a less progressive future. In an influential 2006 essay in Foreign Policy, demographer Philip Longman warned of the “Return of Patriarchy” as religiously orthodox and fundamentalist populations were reproducing at much higher rates than post-modern and secular populations. The result, Longman worried, will eventually be a return to a less politically and culturally progressive era.
As you can see, each of these facts about Sarah Palin touches upon deep sources of antagonism. Her opponents quickly intuited that the particulars of Palin’s story, on their own, stand as challenges to some of the most integral parts of their worldview, whether or not she ever makes them explicitly.
It isn’t any of Palin’s specific policies or ideological beliefs which have so antagonized the liberals (although they surely dislike her for policy reasons, too). They simply hate her for who she is.
Sunday, August 17, 2008, 9:25 PM
America’s best hope for a medal in boxing, Demetrius Andrade, the reigning welterweight world champ was upset in a quaterfinal bout on Sunday. After the fight Andrade exhibited astonishingly poor sportsmanship by leaving the ring before the referee announced the official decision.
So it was particularly surprising when, only a few moments later, Andrade displayed a nice bit of theological sophistication. Asked by NBC’s Jim Gray to describe his inner sense of disappointment, Andrade said (I paraphrase), that he didn’t really have any way to express it, but that he thanked God for taking care of him and getting him this far.
This is a small point, to be sure, but when’s the last time you saw an athlete thank God for his grace in defeat?
Many athletes have the annoying habit of thanking God for their victories and accomplishments, often in such a manner as to suggest that God was favoring them against their opponent. (Tennis’s Michael Chang was one of the worst offenders throughout the early 1990s.)
To be sure, very little human accomplishment is begotten without the help of our Lord. But his ways are opaque to human eyes and it is wrong-headed to think that in, say, a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles, God has chosen a side.
(Actually, that’s a bad example, since the Lord has obviously been punishing Philadelphia’s teams for the city’s sins during the last twenty-five years. But you get the idea.)
The proper way to understand the role of the Almighty in athletics is to recognize his grace in your performance, not in the outcome, and to trust that whatever result occurs is part of the Lord’s plan for you. Very few professional athletes seem to understand this. Demetrius Andrade is a pleasant exception.
Saturday, July 5, 2008, 2:33 PM
I don’t mean to be contrarian, but I suspect that the remake of Brideshead Revisited which Nathaniel mentions may not be as promising as he thinks. I wrote a little bit about the outrageously silly trailer: The new adaptation seems remarkable mostly because Emma Thompson’s Lady Marchmain is re-imagined as the villain of the piece.
It’s an open question as to whether the new version of Brideshead excises the Church from the story (as I’ve heard) or worse. A friend sends me this astonishing essay by screenwriter Jeremy Brock, who penned the new adaptation. It’s worth reading in full, but here’s a taste:
The moment you read Evelyn Waugh’s novel, you discover how fresh and contemporary its themes feel. Though set in the rarefied world of the aristocracy between the wars, it still speaks directly to many of the issues that count as “current”: religious fundamentalism, class, sexual tolerance, the pursuit of individualism. . . .
Contrary to some reports, God is not the villain of our adaptation. The villain is man-made theology; the emotional and moral contortions forced on to individuals by their adherence to a particular set of codes and practices. Inevitably, as in Waugh’s novel, the film debates the merits and demerits of such belief systems in people’s lives.
As for the sex, I’ve always believed there’s a visceral relationship between a yearning for spiritual bliss and sexual ecstasy. Look no further than Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St Teresa. Like laughing and crying, sex and religion are twins. The film will not shy away from that.
But in the end, my reason for taking on this adaptation was simple. Waugh’s novel is a gloriously subtle and original love story that deserves the big-screen treatment.
Spend your $10.50 at your own risk.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008, 11:00 AM
Over the weekend, the Washington Post carried a piece about Washington’s National Cathedral. It seems that a few years ago the cathedral was given a $7 million bequest. The dean used the funds to expand all sorts of services, but now the money has run out, and new funding never materialized to support the expanded projects. So the cathedral is cutting back on programs and laying off staff.
Nothing particularly noteworthy here, except, perhaps, for the types of projects the dean used the bequest to launch. From the Post piece:
[Dean Samuel] Lloyd has used bequest funds to help launch an array of new programs with international, national and local reach that have given the cathedral a more activist bent.
“We came to believe that because we are the nation’s church . . . certainly at critical moments in our life, we’re then granted an opportunity to be a big public voice — a public megaphone — for a thoughtful, generous, respectful Christian faith that has important things to say in the public conversations of the day,” said Lloyd, who came from Boston’s Trinity Church to the cathedral as its 10th dean.
As part of its new international outreach, the cathedral has opened the Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation, which describes itself as focusing on poverty, social justice and peacemaking initiatives around the globe.
The cathedral has held interfaith conferences on global warming and started an effort to reach out to clerics in Iran. It raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring in participants for an interfaith conference on women and global poverty in April that featured former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell and former Irish president Mary Robinson. Lloyd has also launched a Sunday forum that has brought in high-profile guests such as Rick Warren, a megachurch pastor and best-selling author, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. Cathedral leaders say the series attracts an average of 400 to 500 people each session.
The piece goes on to list some of the programs which are being shuttered—they include building the church’s congregation, the church’s famous greenhouse, and a “Family Saturday” initiative, which brought familes with young children to the cathedral. One can’t say for sure from the piece, but the impression is given that the more “activist” programs will not be cut.
Thursday, June 5, 2008, 12:54 PM
Having previously noted the techno-/theo- logical dream of transcending death through science, I’m almost pleased to note that some futurists are now throwing cold water on the idea of The Singularity. (That’s the moment when AI surpasses human intelligence, Skynet becomes self-aware, and nanobots give Glenn Reynolds the physique of an American Gladiator.)
A publication called IEE Spectrum, which playfully calls The Singularity “the Rapture for geeks,” suspects that Wired‘s piece on Ray Kurzweil’s bid for immortality is bosh:
Why should a mere journalist question Kurzweil’s conclusion that some of us alive today will live indefinitely? Because we all know it’s wrong. We can sense it in the gaping, take-my-word-for-it extrapolations and the specious reasoning of those who subscribe to this form of the singularity argument. Then, too, there’s the flawed grasp of neuroscience, human physiology, and philosophy. Most of all, we note the willingness of these people to predict fabulous technological advances in a period so conveniently short it offers themselves hope of life everlasting.
This has all gone on too long. The emperor isn’t wearing anything, for heaven’s sake.
More demystifying follows. This is the techno version of Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great, only funny, entertaining, and incisive. Enjoy.
Thursday, May 29, 2008, 4:17 PM
Being the product of a relatively sequestered New Jersey Catholicism, I wasn’t aware that men like Father Michael Pfleger existed. Silly me. Power Line points us to video of Fr. Pfleger preaching—not at a Catholic church, it seems—about the duty white Americans have to make reparations for slavery. His tone—red-faced, screaming—is not something I’m accustomed to seeing from the more staid priests in my orbit.
Nor is his message, which seems to be that white people are all the beneficiaries of slavery and that we must abandon our 401K funds, throw away our trust funds, and leave the jobs which we were handed by the old boys’ network in order to atone for “what our ancestors did.” He rails against “white entitlement” and “supremacy.”
It may come as little surprise that Fr. Pfleger is a supporter of, and friend of, Barack Obama. Or that Fr. Pfleger invited Rev. Wright to deliver a blessing from his church, Saint Sabina, in March, during the height of the controversy over Wright’s bizarre and hateful racism. He uses “damn” as an expletive in the course of charging Hillary Clinton with being a racist.
If only the Catholic Church really was the conservative, absolutist organization that its liberal critics charge it with being . . .
Tuesday, May 13, 2008, 7:55 AM
While trawling the comments on a Volokh Conspiracy post on the voting ID requirements for nuns in the Indiana primary, I stumbled on this remark:
“Presumably the nuns would vote Republican, so the ID requirement may help Democrats after all.”
Something tells me the commenter hasn’t met all that many nuns.
Thursday, April 17, 2008, 4:56 PM
One of the best bits of reporting I’ve seen during the coverage of the Holy Father’s visit is this fantastic Hank Stuever piece in the Washington Post. It’s an exposÃ© on the giant clash within the American Catholic Church—is schism too strong a word?—over . . . liturgical music. Nearly every observation and quote Stuever makes rings true and while it might surprise non-Catholics, the divide is between older Catholics who cling to casual, guitar-and-tambourine ’70s music and young Catholics who want Latin, Palestrina, and Gregorian chant.
“You know, just today I received a publication from a mainline Catholic music organization, and there are aspects of it that seem like the musical version of the AARP quarterly, if you know what I mean,” says Jeffrey Tucker, 44, a choir director who lives in Auburn, Ala., and is the managing editor of Sacred Music, a journal of the Church Music Association of America. “There is no question that we are talking about a generational issue here. The young priests and the young people just can’t seem to get ‘hep’ to the whole 1970s thing, and the old people just don’t understand why.”
Tucker encounters this all the time, and blogs about it frequently. At a recent conference, a jazz pianist confided to Tucker that he’d been playing at church, but there was a new, young pastor who had taken over and “he said, ‘You know what that means.’ [And] I said, ‘Well, I’m not entirely sure.’ So he added, surprised that he would have to clarify, ‘That means he wants Gregorian chant!’
The kids these days!
Friday, March 28, 2008, 2:36 PM
Having recently attended Jody’s Georgetown lecture on death and politics, I was primed for this Wired piece on Ray Kurzweil, who believes in AI, the singularity, and immortality.
There’s all sorts of Skynet-ish goodness in the piece, but the most interesting (by which I mean disturbing) passage is this one, where Kurzweil and his anti-aging doctor, Terry Grossman, outline how immortality is going to be achieved:
According to Grossman and other singularitarians, immortality will arrive in stages. First, lifestyle and aggressive antiaging therapies will allow more people to approach the 125-year limit of the natural human lifespan. This is bridge one. Meanwhile, advanced medical technology will begin to fix some of the underlying biological causes of aging, allowing this natural limit to be surpassed. This is bridge two. Finally, computers become so powerful that they can model human consciousness. This will permit us to download our personalities into nonbiological substrates. When we cross this third bridge, we become information. And then, as long as we maintain multiple copies of ourselves to protect against a system crash, we won’t die.
I’ve watched enough Battlestar Galactica to be suspicious of any scheme relies on robotic self-awarness, even if it comes in the form of Tricia Helfer. (Actually, if our robot overlords wind up looking like Tricia Helfer, I might pull a Kent Brockman . . .)
Obviously, I have no deep thoughts the subject, but I’m sure Jody does and perhaps he’ll read the Wired piece over the weekend and share them with us on Monday? It would give me something to look forward to next week.
Monday, March 17, 2008, 10:32 AM
I tend to maintain that, despite everything, the New York Times is a tremendous civilizational achievement. Yet sometimes (often?) it publishes bits of such revealing self-parody that you almost think the paper is pulling your leg. Exhibit #14,576 is this Peter Steinfels piece, headlined “Resurrection Is Often Misunderstood by Christians and Jews.” Here’s his lede:
As Christians in most of the world approach the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection, it is startling to find three distinguished scholars, all known for scrupulous attention to theological tradition and biblical sources, agreeing that the very idea of resurrection is widely and badly misunderstood.
Misunderstood not just by those whose contemporary sensibilities restrain them from saying much more about resurrection than that it symbolizes some vague (and probably temporary) victory of life over death. But also misunderstood by many devout believers who consider themselves thoroughly faithful to traditional religious teachings.
Ah, the poor rubes.
Thursday, March 13, 2008, 12:57 PM
Wired has the most (un?) intentionally funny line I’ve seen all morning in this interview with Paul Ehrlich:
Ehrlich, now head of Stanford’s Center for Conservation Biology, has always had a knack for seeing the big picture, even if his specific predictions haven’t always panned out.
I understand that it’s unfair to tag big thinkers for missing a detail here or there. And Ehrlich has (sort of) admirably (kind of) disavowed his demographic classic, The Population Bomb. But he did write that “the battle to feed all of humanity is over . . . In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.” And then, when that didn’t work out, he wrote another book positing the same basic thesis, The Population Explosion, in 1990.
In fact, we now know that the biggest demographic problem facing the world is a population collapse, which looms on the other side of 2050. If fertility rates don’t change, then world population will peak somewhere between 9 billion and 12 billion and then sharply contract within the next 75 years.
Paul Ehrlich may be an interesting thinker, but the opposite of what Wired postulates is true: While he may have gotten a few details right here and there, he’s demonstrated a real knack for never understanding the big picture.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008, 9:56 AM
Anthony, you’re clearly on to something in noting that one of the key aspects of success, historically, with Best Picture winners is some modicum of box-office success. The great William Goldman summed it up best when he likened the Academy Awards to the American automotive industry. Imagine, Goldman posited, that Ford, Chrysler, and GM gathered at the end of each year to hand out prizes to celebrate the best cars in production. How often would they shower praise on a Toyota model? Or on some small, niche model of their own?
If you want to really, really dive into the weeds, the excellent website BoxOfficeMojo.com has all sorts of wonderful indexes, including the numbers for past BP winners and this wonderful all-time index, which even allows you to look at grosses in constant dollars.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 4:14 PM
I don’t know when they launched it, but the New York Times has put a very nifty graphical representation of box office returns up on its website. If you’re looking to waste an hour—and get a sense of how longevity and opening weekend have changed in importance in the industry—you could do worse than playing around with this.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008, 9:28 AM
Stephen Webb amusingly asks whether or not the High Church of Obama is a cult. At least Paul Krugman thinks so. Yesterday he said that the Obama campaign “seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality.”
Mind you, almost all presidential campaigns are, to some degree, cults of personality. Especially among staff, but also among (at least) their primary-election supporters. But having spent an awful lot of time following Obama around, I’d submit that his campaign is a bit more so than the average. Nothing wrong with that; it’s just an observation, not a value judgment.
However I do wonder, from an electoral standpoint, what that means for Obama’s future. Is this sort of cult of personality sustainable? Certainly, if the media have anything to say about it, it will be. Bill Clinton was right that Obama’s press is at least fawning and perhaps bordering on the porno-hagiographic. And from time to time, giant figures really are able to dominate politics by the sheer force of their personalities. Perhaps Obama is one of those rising giants.
However it seems equally possible that the High Church of Obama is a bubble, a craze, or a fad that at some point will become outmoded. All of which is to say, that as he is pushed further along, I wonder how well his personality will wear.
Friday, February 8, 2008, 3:09 PM
The Farrelly brothers are known for their profitable, occasionally droll, gross-out comedies, notably Kingpin, Dumb & Dumber, and There’s Something About Mary. In 1999, they wrote and directed the disastrously earnest, and bad, film Outside Providence, based largely on their personal experiences growing up in Rhode Island. It took in a total of $7 million at the box office. Noting this misstep, a studio head later observed (I’m paraphrasing here), “Inside every filmmaker’s heart is one deeply personal and important story that they want to tell. My job is to make sure those movies never get made.”
I was put in mind of that wisdom reading the new issue of The Atlantic, a magazine for which I have enormous affection. But the editors there have done a grave disservice to writer Lori Gottlieb by publishing her long piece arguing that women should “settle” in marriage.
I’m unfamiliar with Ms. Gottlieb’s work, but it can’t possibly be as parochial, self-serving, and offensively useless as this essay: Gottlieb is a single forty-something who, facing no marriage prospects, decided to become pregnant through the use of a sperm donor. Her piece is a crushing epic explaining why she probably should have just married some schlub and had a traditional family instead. She then extrapolates her own experiences and regrets and uses them to formulate a thesis—”Marry Him!”—which she says women ignore at their peril. She relies for her argument on a string of personal reflections and comments from friends and acquaintances. Here is a sample:
Oh, I know—I’m guessing there are single 30-year-old women reading this right now who will be writing letters to the editor to say that the women I know aren’t widely representative, that I’ve been co-opted by the cult of the feminist backlash, and basically, that I have no idea what I’m talking about. And all I can say is, if you say you’re not worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying. In fact, take a good look in the mirror and try to convince yourself that you’re not worried, because you’ll see how silly your face looks when you’re being disingenuous.
Well who could argue with that.
Gottlieb tells us nothing in 5,000 words that Charlotte Lucas does not explain in a few sentences. But she does tell us an uncomfortable amount about Lori Gottlieb. The editor’s most important and fundamental job is to, when needed, save their writer from himself. For everyone’s sake, I wish The Atlantic had done its duty.
Thursday, February 7, 2008, 3:44 PM
Over at The Campaign Standard, Jody seems to think that the Super Tuesday numbers on the Catholic vote leave his thesis that there is no distinct Catholic vote in tatters. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that Jody is being overly harsh on his own thesis. There’s actually much in the data that seems to confirm it, although enough contrary evidence to make it worth examining anew. All in all, it’s an interesting question and one which I’m looking forward to Jody revisiting.
In other political news, the great George Will has a classic line today: He notes that “the Republican Party’s not-so-secret weapon always is the Democratic Party.”
And if you’re looking for still more to read on the election, don’t miss Michael Barone’s astute analysis in the WSJ.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008, 9:36 AM
Although the beginning of Lent calls us to more important matters, it’s worth spending a moment to consider some of the results from yesterday’s Super Tuesday voting.
Everyone understands the big contours of the results: McCain the presumptive nominee, Romney in flames, Clinton a mild favorite over Obama in a race that should go the distance. So let’s zero in on one bit of minutia—how Catholic voters went.
(Four years ago Jody proposed that the “Catholic vote” had become somewhat mythical and no longer represented much of a distinctive political presence. If you’re only going to read one thing about Catholic voters this morning, skip this post and go read Jody’s piece.)
I won’t drag you through all 22 of the states that voted yesterday, so let’s take six of the more important ones—CA, IL, MO, MA, NJ, NY. (I’m picking them because they’re the 6 largest Catholic populations and are 6 of the 8 largest states from yesterday. All exit data can be found at CNN’s site. And I’m leaving Huckabee numbers out only to simplify my life, not to slight him. He had a great night.)
California: Clinton won 52% to 42%. Catholics made up 32% of the Democratic vote. Clinton won them by more than 40 points.
McCain took 42%, Romney 34%. Catholics made up 27% of the GOP vote. McCain won them by about 12 points.
Illinois: Obama won 65% to 33%. Catholics made up 33% of the Democratic vote. Obama had a slight edge (51 to 48) among Catholics who attend church weekly; Clinton had a slight edge (51 to 46) among Catholics who attend less regularly.
McCain took 47%, Romney 29%. Catholics made up 31% of the GOP vote. McCain won them by just under 20 points.
Missouri: Obama won 49% to 48%. Catholics made up 19% of the Democratic vote. Obama won them quite narrowly; he was +8 among weekly churchgoers and +2 among the rest.
McCain took 33%, Romney 29%. Catholics made up 20% of the GOP vote. Big split in the Catholic returns: McCain won weekly church attendees 54 to 20; Romney won less-often attendees 44 to 33.
Massachusetts: Clinton won 56% to 41%. Catholics made up 45% of the Democratic vote. Clinton was a bit more than +30 among them.
Romney took 51%, McCain 41%. Catholics made up 41% of the GOP vote. Romney won Catholics 55 to 39.
New Jersey: Clinton won 54% to 44%. Catholics made up 27% of the Democratic vote. Clinton won them by 40 points.
McCain took 55%, Romney 28%. Catholics made up 57% of the GOP vote. McCain won Catholics by about 26 points.
New York: Clinton won 57% to 40%. Catholics made up 37% of the Democratic vote. Clinton won them by about 35 points.
McCain took 51%, Romney 28%. Catholics made up 45% of the GOP vote. McCain won Catholics by more than 27 points.
Thursday, January 31, 2008, 9:23 AM
Barely a week goes by when I don’t recommend Jody’s “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” to someone—it’s one of my five favorite pieces ever to run in
First Things. I did so at a dinner last night when the conversation turned to the divisions that still exist among American Catholic clergy. My friend was lamenting how a priest told her husband that if the two of them wanted to live together before marriage, it would be just fine. I would say that this attitude seems fairly common among many of the priests I’ve encountered, at least in my little corner of Washington, D.C.
My friend then showed me the bulletin from her new church, St. Stephen Martyr, near Georgetown. In the bulletin, Fr. Edward Filardi notes, concerning the Sacrament of Marriage:
Please call or come by the parish office with inquiries. Six months preparation is required. Living together before marriage is sinful, harmful to future marriage, and a cause of a scandal.
It’s pleasing to note that there are still a few hard-liners left, even at this late date.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 4:06 PM
I wrote a short essay for The Weekly Standard that describes an encounter Barack Obama had with a group of anti-abortion protestors who disrupted one of his campaign events in New Hampshire. Obama was thoughtful and level-headed. He displayed admirable strength of character in defending the anti-abortion protestors from the jeers and sniggering of his pro-abortion audience. It was an impressive moment and it spoke well of his temperament and intellectual seriousness.
Obama’s email statement today on the anniversary of Roe is less so:
Thirty-five years after the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, it’s never been more important to protect a woman’s right to choose. Last year, the Supreme Court decided by a vote of 5-4 to uphold the Federal Abortion Ban, and in doing so undermined an important principle of Roe v. Wade: that we must always protect women’s health. With one more vacancy on the Supreme Court, we could be looking at a majority hostile to a women’s fundamental right to choose for the first time since Roe v. Wade. The next president may be asked to nominate that Supreme Court justice. That is what is at stake in this election.
Throughout my career, I’ve been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
When South Dakota passed a law banning all abortions in a direct effort to have Roe overruled, I was the only candidate for President to raise money to help the citizens of South Dakota repeal that law. When anti-choice protesters blocked the opening of an Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic in a community where affordable health care is in short supply, I was the only candidate for President who spoke out against it. And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president. . . .
But we also know that Roe v. Wade is about more than a woman’s right to choose; it’s about equality. It’s about whether our daughters are going to have the same opportunities as our sons. And so to truly honor that decision, we need to update the social contract so that women can free themselves, and their children, from violent relationships; so that a mom can stay home with a sick child without getting a pink slip; so that she can go to work knowing that there’s affordable, quality childcare for her children; and so that the American dream is within reach for every family in this country. This anniversary reminds us that it’s not enough to protect the gains of the past—we have to build a future that’s filled with hope and possibility for all Americans.
Even by the standards of pro-abortion thought, there is nothing here which rises above cant. “Reproductive justice”? Daughters having the same opportunities as their sons? Bragging about ratings from NARAL? This is the type of mindless boilerplate you expect from any generic progressive pol.
Obama does not recognize that abortion, even if one favors its allowance, is a destruction of life. He does not reflect on the toll abortion has taken on society—and in particular the African-American community. He does not even dare approach the Clintonian formulation of wanting to see abortion safe, legal, and rare.
I’m not naÃ¯ve enough to think that Barack Obama would move to protect the unborn. But based on his prior appeals to thoughtfulness and decency, I did expect him demonstrate a progressive commitment to defending abortion that was tempered by an understanding of the seriousness of the issue.
Instead, there’s nothing here but a full-throated defense of abortion on demand. It’s a disappointment.
Friday, January 18, 2008, 12:41 PM
Driving around Las Vegas this morning and listening to the radio, I heard a news item on Bobby Fischer’s death, which reminded me why conservatives are so often infuriated by National Public Radio: The news reader noted Fischer’s death, called him the greatest chess player of all time, and then said that Fischer had, later in life, become “critical of the American government” and moved to Iceland. The abstraction made Fischer sound like a stately dissident, not the anti-Semitic, mentally ill crazy he actually is. I suppose that for NPR, being critical of the American government is enough; the how or why is unimportant.
Stephen Barr’s item about Fischer here on the First Things website is quite excellent—and much more thoughtful.
In other NPR news, the item immediately following the Fischer notice was a summary of Andy Roddick being upset early this morning at the Australian Open. They said that Roddick was “picked apart” by an “unheralded” German player.
With my body still stuck on East Coast time, I stayed up and saw most of the match. It was a thrilling 5-set affair, going 8-6 in the fifth. It was also some of the highest level tennis you’ll ever see: Roddick finished with more than 40 aces and both players had something like 4 winners for every unforced error. I was a little bleary, but I think there were only three breaks of serve for the entire match. It was the type of epic match that will be talked about for years; nobody got “picked apart.” Oh, and the “unheralded” German was Philipp Kohlschreiber, who’s actually the 29th seed and the most promising German player since Michael Stich.
Not that any of that matters, I suppose.
Monday, January 14, 2008, 12:03 PM
In case you missed it, the WSJ had an interesting item recently on China’s continuing enforcement of their one-child policy. It seems that many Chinese elite have been flouting it and the government has cracked down, revoking the scofflaws’ Communist Party membership. Don’t be dazzled by the pre-Olympic hoopla; this is modern China:
“More party members, celebrities and well-off people are violating the policies in recent years, which has undermined social equality,” Yang Youwang, director of the Hubei family-planning commission, told the official Xinhua news agency, which reported the penalty yesterday.
Officials in Hubei province found that 93,084 people, including 1,678 officials or party members, had additional children, in violation of the policy, according to the Xinhua report. As China’s economy booms and incomes surge, especially in urban areas, the Communist leadership has become concerned that special treatment of the rich and powerful could aggravate mounting social tensions and shake its grip on power. . . .
“There is a concern on the part of [the government] that things are out of control, that rich people and powerful people are violating this: The rich people, they just pay the fines [for breaking the rule] and get away with it,” says Kate Zhou, a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii who has studied the policy.
Prof. Zhou found through her research that for those who can’t afford the fines, the government may still force women to undergo sterilization surgery in addition to confiscating whatever assets they can. “They take your pigs, your water buffalo. They take everything so you have nothing,” she says.
Reports still surface of family-planning officials, who are often under intense government pressure to ensure that births in their districts don’t exceed certain quotas, forcing women to have abortions.
Without discussing the morality of the one-child rule, it’s worth reflecting on the enormity of its consequences. Nothing on this scale has been attempted in human history and the societal effects of eliminating the extended family—overnight—are likely to be bigger and more far-reaching than we can imagine.
Consider: A relatively traditional society that, in the course of 40 years, completely atomizes the individual by fiat. There are, literally, no brothers or sisters, no aunts or uncles. People will forget what those relationships even mean. The population, after expanding for hundreds of years, will collapse in size. Each worker will be forced to support two pensioners. The one-child policy is the great under-reported story of our time.
For those interested in getting their arms around the subject, Nick Eberstadt’s 2004 essay “Power and Population in Asia” is an excellent start.
Thursday, January 10, 2008, 3:03 PM
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You’ll recall that Mitt Romney was a socially liberal governor who realized that he was socially conservative just about the time he decided to run for president. He then campaigned as a movement conservative, until he lost the Iowa caucus. Looking around, Romney noticed that Barack Obama, who won the Democratic race in Iowa, had campaigned on a theme of “change,” Romney altered his campaign and ran as the “change” candidate in New Hampshire.
After losing New Hampshire, Romney noticed that Hillary Clinton had won the Democratic primary there because, many observers concluded (incorrectly), she had cried in public and declared that the issues in this race were “personal” to her.
Here’s Mitt Romney now, out on the hustings in Michigan:
We’re going to make sure this state gets on the move again,” Mr. Romney said. “I care about Michigan. For me, it’s personal. It’s personal for me because it’s where I was born and raised.”
Earlier in the day, after hearing from a voter who recalled his father, Mr. Romney choked up momentarily, according to a pool reporter who was present.