Monday, June 30, 2008

Man's Life Worth 400K

From FoxNews:

SYDNEY, Australia - A man who auctioned his life - his house, his car, his job, even his friends - on eBay said Monday he is disappointed with the selling price: almost $384,000.

Ian Usher, a British immigrant to Australia, put everything he owned as well as introductions to his friends on the online auction site after a painful breakup with his wife prompted him to want a fresh start.

Bidding closed Sunday and reached nearly $384,000 - an amount Usher said his house in the western city of Perth was worth on its own.

"I guess I'm a little bit disappointed at the final price, I'd hoped it to be a little higher than that," Usher told Nine Network television on Monday. "But I am committed to selling and moving on and making a fresh start."

He declined to reveal the buyer's identity, or what his next step would be.

Usher said he had hoped to get at least $480,000 (a half-million Australian dollars) for his life — his house and all its contents, car and a motorcycle, a jet ski, skydiving gear, an introduction to friends and a trial period in his sales job - but that the final result was enough for him to make a new start in life.

That's 400K in Aussie dollars. I can understand the guy's disappointment, but I have two comments:
  1. He says his house alone is worth 400K. Rule 1 of capitalism: the (economic) worth of any given thing is exactly what someone is willing to pay for it at the moment. No more; no less.
  2. He's lucky he's a grown man. Were he still unborn, his life today wouldn't be worth a plugged nickel.

French Defeat Selves, Can't Surrender

Excerpted from an article in FoxNews:
PARIS - A military shooting demonstration in southeast France on Sunday left 16 people wounded, including children, when real bullets were used instead of blank ones, officials said.

Four of the wounded were in serious condition, including a 3-year-old child, Bernard Lemaire, chief of the regional administration in Aude, said on France-3 television. Fifteen of the injured were civilians.

A Defense Ministry official said the incident occurred during a demonstration of hostage-freeing techniques at the Laperrine military barracks. The official said investigators will look into why real bullets were used.

Some moron packed fulll metal jackets for a public exhibition. Yeesh. That's inexcusable. And the liberals worry about citizens carrying guns? I can go pick any random 12-year-old at the range with his dad and not have to worry about a fubar like that!

Rumor has it that the French are going crazy trying to figure out to whom they should surrender.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Spaniards Equate Themselves to Monkeys

Excerpted from Reuters:

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's parliament voiced its support on Wednesday for the rights of great apes to life and freedom in what will apparently be the first time any national legislature has called for such rights for non-humans.

Parliament's environmental committee approved resolutions urging Spain to comply with the Great Apes Project, devised by scientists and philosophers who say our closest genetic relatives deserve rights hitherto limited to humans.

"This is a historic day in the struggle for animal rights and in defense of our evolutionary comrades, which will doubtless go down in the history of humanity," said Pedro Pozas, Spanish director of the Great Apes Project.

Spain may be better known abroad for bull-fighting than animal rights but the new measures are the latest move turning once-conservative Spain into a liberal trailblazer.

Spain did not legalize divorce until the 1980s, but Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government has legalized gay marriage, reduced the influence of the Catholic Church in education and set up an Equality Ministry...

So the Spanish government puts its own citizens on the same footing as gibbons. How progressive of them. I wonder if it's legal to give two married lesbian chimps an abortion?

I have three questions:
  1. Since all life is biologically related by common ancestry, what possible justification is there for putting a dividing line between apes and other knds of critters? It is one thing logically to divide the (single) human species from other species; that is the way most species divide the world - you are either (a ) a member of my species (one set of responses), (b) a predator (another set of responses), or (c) food (yummy set of responses). Any other division is ultimately arbitrary. Why should apes have rights that are not extended to, say, marmosets? If it is murder for me to kill a chimp, why is it not murder for a chimp to kill and eat a baboon (which they do)?

  2. If apes have human rights, are they therefore subject to uman laws? If a chimp gets hacked off and eats my face (which has happened recently - not to me, fortunately), can I file charges or bring a lawsuit? I obviously can't recover damages from the owner, since it is no more permissable for a chimp to be owned than for a human to be owned.

  3. If a leopard or a lion can kill and eat a chimp, or if a tiger can kill and eat a gibbon or orang that it finds on the ground,then why the heck can't I? Not that I'd necessarily want to - eating closely related organisms can be a bad idea, especially if they're not cooked very well - but why not logically?
On the other hand, I suspect Spain would do better if the people replaced their current government with Bonzo the Chimp.

Supreme Court Goes to Heller!

From SCOTUSBlog:

Answering a 127-year old constitutional question, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to have a gun, at least in one’s home. The Court, splitting 5-4, struck down a District of Columbia ban on handgun possession. Although times have changed since 1791, Justice Antonin Scalia said for the majority, “it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”

Examining the words of the Amendment, the Court concluded “we find they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weaons in case of confrontation” — in other words, for self-defense. “The inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right,” it added.

The individual right interpretation, the Court said, ”is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment,” going back to 17th Century England, as well as by gun rights laws in the states before and immediately after the Amendment was put into the U.S. Constitution.

What Congress did in drafting the Amendment, the Court said, was “to codify a pre-existing right, rather than to fashion a new one.”

Justice Scalia’s opinion stressed that the Court was not casting doubt on long-standing bans on carrying a concealed gun or on gun possession by felons or the mentally retarded, on laws barring guns from schools or government buildings, and laws putting conditions on gun sales.

The Court took no position on whether the Second Amendment right restricts only federal government powers, or also curbs the power of states to regulate guns. In a footnote, Scalia said that the issue of “incorporating” the Second into the Fourteenth Amendment, thus applying it to the states, was “a question not presented by this case.” But the footnote said decisions in 1886 and 1894 had reaffirmed that the Amendment “applies only to the Federal Government.” Whether the Court will reopen that issue thus will depend upon future cases.

In District of Columbia v. Heller (07-290), the Court nullified two provisions of the city of Washington’s strict 1976 gun control law: a flat ban on possessing a gun in
one’s home, and a requirement that any gun — except one kept at a business — must be unloaded and disassembled or have a trigger lock in place. The Court said it was not passing on a part of the law requiring that guns be licensed. It said that issuing a license to a handgun owner, so the weapon can be used at home, would be a sufficient remedy for the Second Amendment violation of denying any access to a handgun.

Justice Scalia’s recitation from the bench of the majority’s reasoning continued for 16
minutes. Justice John Paul Stevens followed, for seven minutes, summarizing the reasons for two dissenting opinions — his and one written by Justice Stephen G. Breyer.

The decision was the final one of the Term and, after issuing it, the Court recessed for the summer, to return on Monday, Oct. 6. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., said that concluding orders on pending cases will be released by the Court Clerk at 10 a.m. Friday.

Hooray, at least in part. In some ways, it’s a pity that they did not incorporate the amendment to the states. Heller didn’t really have anything to do with incorporation, however, since it doesn’t even involve one of the states, let alone a state’s right to legislate firearms possession. And, since I live in one of the Free States, it doesn’t make too much personal difference to me. I have just never understood how you can incorporate some of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights without incorporating all of them.

The only thing that stuns me is that the decision was 5-4. The Bill of Rights is not the least bit ambiguous about the matter.

I’m not at all stunned that it was the last opinion of the term. Knowing the flak they will get from the tolerant-and-progressive folks, they probably wanted to be in their cars on the way out of town before the poo hits the fan blades.

I may still pick up a few AR-15’s over the next year or so. The current presidential nominees and the existing congress don’t fill me with confidence regarding attempts to reimpose the “assault weapons” ban.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Planned Parenthood Goes Upscale

From The Chronicle of Philanthropy (say what?):

Planned Parenthood is building new, more stylishly appointed health centers as part of an effort to attract more-affluent victims patients and increase its revenue, but some critics say that Planned Parenthood is drifting away from its original mission, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Planned Parenthood has built two large new health centers, with at least five more on the way, and has opened more than two-dozen “express centers,” which offer faster service and sell merchandise. Many of the centers are located in suburban shopping malls.

Last year, the organization altered its mission statement, which used to say that all individuals have the right to “reproductive self-determination” regardless of income. Its statement now reads that the group will “leverage strength through our affiliated structure to be the nation’s most trusted provider of sexual and reproductive health

Claire Keyes, an abortion provider in Pittsburgh, criticized the move, saying, They’ve made a decision to go after the young and the hip and the affluent, and they’re leaving poor women behind.”

But Planned Parenthood says that by attracting people who can afford to pay full price out of pocket for services and contraception, the organization can afford to support health care for poor people, sex education for teenagers, and advocacy work. The group generated $1-billion in revenue in its most recent financial report and has $115-million in surplus cash.
Words fail me - a phenomenon which doesn't occur very often. An "express center" in the shopping mall? What are they going to call it? How about some catchy name like Ex Utero? Or Kwik Slurp? Instead of wasting gas on multiple errands, you can get your hair styled, your nails groomed, and your uterus vacuumed in one fast trip.

By the way, a gigabuck in revenue and 115 meg in cash is pretty good for a "non-profit" organization.

Agnus Dei, qui tollit peccata mundi, miserere nobis!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Alert! Austin Byzantine Catholic Mission in Trouble!

The following article was posted on Creative Minority Report:

There is a scene in the classic John Wayne / Maureen O'Hara film The Quiet Man. In this scene at the end of the movie, the local protestant minister in a mostly Catholic town, the Rev. Playfair, is in danger of being re-assigned to a someplace else because his congregation is so small. He doesn't want to leave because he dearly loves the town of Innisfree. The Rev. Playfair's Bishop is visiting Innisfree to assess the situation. The local Catholic priest, Father Peter Lonergan (played by Ward Bond) is sympathetic to Rev. Playfair's predicament. So Fr. Lonergan gathers all the Catholics in the town to line the streets as the Rev. and his Bishop drive by so that the Bishop will think that the Rev. Playfair has great support in the town. To sell the ruse, Fr. Lonergan urges the Catholic townsfolk to give it all they have and says "Now I want yous all to cheer like Protestants! " Classic.

Well if you live near Austin Texas, I want you to pray like Byzantines! I received an email from Geoffrey, an occasional commenter here at CMR, alerting us to a similar situation for Eastern Catholics at a Byzantine Mission in Austin Texas.

Well, the mission is in trouble, and it's the only Byzantine Catholic misson available in Austin. If it gets shut down, there will be no way for Catholic Austinites to have access to the Divine Liturgy of St.John Chrysostom, within the fulness of our sacred Faith. Now, it is true that there are other Byzantine Churches in Austin, but none of them are in communion with our holy father.

Up until now, the mission has held services every Sunday at 6:00 pm. However, due to low attendance, we've been cut back to having Liturgy on Saturday night at 6:00 pm, on the 2nd and 4th weekend of each month. As you might imagine, this is quite a blow.

If our prospects don't change soon, the mission will dissolve. If it dissolves, it is most likely that many members will leave communion with Rome and join a nearby Eastern Orthodox Church.
Geoffrey reminds us that even if you are a Latin Rite Catholic you can still help.
Latin Catholics are free to join and participate in Eastern parishes. The Church is perfectly okay with this, and Pope John Paul the Great even encouraged it. For those of your readers who do not live nearby Austin, I want to let them know that if there's an Eastern Catholic parish around where they live, their help would be greatly appreciated.
So if you live near Austin, why not pray like a Byzantine.

The Austin Byzantine Catholic Mission is located at:
Our Lady's Maronite Catholic Church
1320 E 51st St
Austin TX 78723-3037
I used to regularly (I almost said "religiously") attend the Wednesday Evening Maronite service at Our Lady's. Working hours prevent me from going these days, and I have been seriously missing my weekly dose of Eastern Catholicism. I had been planning on attending the Byzantine service on Sundays ever since Father Don told me about them some weeks ago, but illnesses and my Earthly Masters have conspired to keep me away. Saturday evenings should work, and I will make plans to start attending. I would urge anyone else in the Austin area to start doing the same. A Mass is a terrible thing to waste.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm From the Government, and Jesus Wants Me to Take Your Money!

An article (whole thing here) today in the (wildly liberal) British church paper Ekklesia regards statements by the Catholic bishops on matters of poverty and climate change. It states, in part:

In the run up to the G8 summit in Japan, presidents of nine Catholic Bishops’ Conferences have called on G8 nations to honour their commitments to reduce global poverty and tackle climate change.

In a letter to the G8 leaders, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Cardinal Keith O’Brien along with the other seven presidents of Catholic Bishops’ Conferences in G8 countries called for the promises made at Gleneagles in 2005 and in Heiligendamn in 2007 to be reaffirmed and built upon.

Responding to the letter Prime Minister Gordon Brown today (Thursday) praised the Catholic Church for its outstanding leadership in tackling global poverty and climate change as he called for a re-doubling of efforts across the world to address these issues.

In 2005, the world’s richest countries promised to spend an additional $50 billion per year on development assistance by 2010, with half that amount going to Africa. The Catholic leaders stress that these commitments must be met “and additional commitments should be made in the areas of health care, education and humanitarian aid.”

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said: "Our religious and moral commitment to protect human life and promote human dignity moves us to be particularly concerned for the poorest and most vulnerable members of the human family, especially those in developing countries. The experience of the Catholic Church in serving the needs of poor communities leads us to applaud the forthcoming G8 Summit’s focus on development and Africa."

I'm all in favor of a reduction in global poverty, and - to the extent that it's real - ameliorating man-made climate changes. What I have issue with in the article are it's assumptions about the role of governments - mainly, that governments have the right, let alone the obligation, to sieze the wealth of the people for distribution as they see fit. How did the Church get to the point of believing that wealth belongs to governments and not to the people? If a group of governments can pledge to spend $50 billion, it means that those governments have the right to extort that $50 billion from their populations.

It is not just the Roman Catholic Church that is guilty of this confusion; Protestant groups are always lobbying congresses and parliaments to tell them to spend on one issue or another. When did it become fashionable for churches to start lobbying governments to sieze money rather than lobbying people to share money? And if that's what the church does, then why can't the church be replaced by a government agency?

A lot of modern governments seem to want to do just that. They can grab the funds, and if they can replace the church with a "humanitarian agency," then they won't have to listen to the church talk about all that Jesus crap any more. And the churches can look in the mirror to see where the blame lies.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What's Wrong with this Picture?

From USA Today:

ELYRIA, Ohio (AP) — A judge in Ohio says the state's method of putting prisoners to death is unconstitutional because two of three drugs used in the lethal injection process can cause pain.

Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge said Tuesday the state's lethal injection procedure doesn't provide the quick and painless death required by Ohio law.

Burge said Ohio must stop allowing a combination of drugs and focus instead on a single, anesthetic drug.

The ruling is likely be appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court.

Ohio has executed 26 inmates since it resumed putting prisoners to death in 1999.

My first assumption was that the picture had been PhotoShopped. I checked several times to make sure it really was USA Today.

I wonder how often Che provided a "quick and painless death" to his victims?

Back in '67-'68, when I was in High School, we hosted an exchange student from Bolivia. Fernando had actually graduated, and was doing his stint in the army chasing Guevara all over the mountains of Bolivia. When The Great Hero of the Glorious People's Revolution finally took a dirt nap, he wanted to throw a party. Now people name their kids after the butcher, and this guy is a judge.

I'm Baaaaccckkkk

Don't know how often I can update, but we'll see....