Friday, July 17, 2009

With VOA Left Voiceless, Obama Fails to Reach Russian Public

President Obama’s foreign policy thus far has been marked by an emphasis on public diplomacy. As a result, successfully engaging foreign publics has become a top priority of his administration. The President himself has taken an active role in this effort, delivering several high-profile speeches to audiences around the world. His July 7th oration in Moscow, which focused on the importance of media freedom and human rights, was one such occasion.

But Obama’s message failed to reach his intended audience- the Russian public. On Russian television, which is tightly controlled by the Kremlin, Obama’s remarks were largely ignored, receiving hardly any air-time.

To make matters worse, a crippling cyber-attack had rendered the international websites of Voice of America (VOA) useless. As a result, VOA, the federally-funded broadcast service congressionally mandated to provide objective, accurate news to foreign audiences, was utterly incapable of offering the Russian public unbiased coverage of the President’s speech. VOA’s loss of web-based capabilities might have been less damaging if not for the fact that its oversight, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, decided in 2008 to completely do away with VOA’s Russian language radio and television broadcasts into the country.

VOA has demonstrated its ability to circumvent anti-American state-media and deliver objective news programming, most notably in Iran following the June 12th election. However, the internet-only approach in Russia, and the inability to provide sufficient security for this service, allowed Kremlin-controlled media to undermine Obama’s attempt to connect with the Russian public. Unless the Obama Administration takes the necessary steps to ensure the vitality of VOA and similar programs, our nation’s outreach to foreign publics will continue to be rebuffed by unreceptive governments.


For the past two summers I have worked at a state-run residential treatment program for troubled teenage girls. The girls are picture examples of who might be called "products of the system" as the average girl who comes into this program has had 12 previous home or institutional placements. Each "client" is either court-ordered or placed by social services into this program for problematic behavior and almost all of the clients' pasts are riddled with abuse, sexually abuse, drug use or neglect. As you might imagine, these rough backgrounds yield rough personalities and, being that I work as a dorm staff member, I have lots of face time with these kiddos.

Of late, the use of words in my work environment has given me much to stop and think about. More often than not, words that I hear and use while at work hold no real, personal meaning to me. On the average work day, I am cussed out, insulted, bullied, threatened, or ignored by the clients. Coming from any non-client, these might distress me; however when at work I typically let these roll off of my back, recognizing that the girls are "just saying words." When a girl remarks that she hates my ugly guts and hopes that I die, she is just saying words-wanting to get some kind of attention from me for saying these words. When another girl cusses me out, saying words that I could never repeat here, she is just saying words-expressing anger or frustration with herself or indignation about the fact that she is not going to get her way. Someone else tells me a glorious story about the uber secret and complex code that she and her mom communicated through, she most likely is just saying words-compulsive and impulsive lying runs rampant. Or, if a girl tells me that she appreciates me and that I am her favorite staff ever, she is just saying words-yes, she might think well of me, however she also is trying to butter me up to get something else.

In a recent conversation with a co-worker, we were discussing a particular client and her background of abuse and neglect. My co-worker was describing how much she enjoyed working with this particular girl not only because of her much calmer temperament in comparison to other clients, but also for her endearing quirks. When the conversation came around to discussing the girl's mother, my co-worker said, "Her IQ about two points higher than a rock. She should never have had kids."

This comment struck a deep nerve within me. On the one hand, this was not a very charitable thing to say--but it happens sometimes when you work with troubled teens (troubled background + adolescent hormones = Ugh) that you need to vent every so often. On the other hand, a declaration such as "She should never have had kids," by extension, would imply that my co-worker thought this particular client in question should never have been born. I do not think my co-worker fully realized what she said, especially being that she thought so well of this child. However, my "just saying words" mantra could not work in this situation.

I won't deny that there are some people in the world who are simply not well-equipped to be be entrusted with the overwhelming demands and responsibilities of child-raising. Indeed, and most unfortunately, about 65% of the children with whom I work come from such backgrounds. However, this could never mean that any of them should not have been born.

Most of the girls with whom I work probably will struggle for the rest of their lives to overcome or at least cope with the crosses they currently are facing. In the process, they will rely upon the generosity of the state, and thus tax-payers, for housing, medical care, and the like. For many of them, it will appear as if we are wasting our time and resources on them and we might feel inconvenienced by them. The words "She should never have had kids" will be very tempting to think.

So, where am I going with this? Right now, I cannot quite put my finger on it yet--Where do words-said fit into how I experience the world? On the one hand, we should not take all words at their face-value--sometimes people are just saying words for the sake of saying something. Yet, on the other hand, especially when we are dealing with the reality of the dignity of the human person, we cannot allow words to desensitize us to reality because words so easily influence how and what we think, which further affects how we act. Though I might disregard a fair amount of the words said by the blossoming young ladies with whom I work, I cannot do this at the expense of their personal dignity and my respect thereof. For, if I do that, what is the point of my doing this job in the first place?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What are Notre Dame Kids Reading this Summer?

Carl A. Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Father José Granados co-authored Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II's Theology of the Body.

Published in April, this book provides a fresh perspective to the 139 audiences given by the Pope. The authors' emphasis differs from Christopher West's, complementing the commentaries already available. They explore how, through the family, a civilization of love flourishes.

Notre Dame, Our Mother

In honor of the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel:

O beautiful Flower of Carmel, most fruitful vine, Splendor of Heaven, holy and singular, who brought forth the Son of God, still ever remaining a Pure Virgin, assist me in this necessity.

O Star of the sea, help and protect me!Show me that Thou art my Mother.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee!

Mother and Ornament of Carmel, Pray for us!

Virgin, Flower of Carmel, Pray for us!

Patroness of all who wear the Scapular, Pray for us!

Hope of all who die wearing the Scapular, Pray for us!

St. Joseph, Friend of the Sacred Heart, Pray for us!

St. Joseph, Chaste Spouse of Mary, Pray for us!

St. Joseph, Our Patron, Pray for us!

O sweet Heart of Mary, Be our salvation!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hey There Obama (Drink the Kool Aid)

(All right, the Michelle comment was unnecessary, but I thought it was pretty funny. Hope I'm not detracting from the more serious minded posts...)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Fun Fact

If Sotomayor is confirmed (as she most likely will be with a filibuster-proof Democratic majority), there will be 6 Catholics on the Supreme Court, although the White House acknowledges that Sotomayor is not a practicing Catholic. Catholics represent 24% of the US's population, but their growth outstrips the other religions due to the growth of the Hispanic populations (of which I am a member).

The other Catholics are Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Scalia, Kennedy, and Alito. (Those are also the 4 and swingvote identified with the Conservative side of the court).

Ginsburg and Breyer are Jewish (again far-outstipping their size in the US population only 2%) and Stevens and Souter (who is being replaced by Sotomayor (most likely)) are Protestant (51% of the US Population).

There have been 11 total Catholics on the US Supreme Court in its history (out of 110) counting Thomas who converted while serving on the court. The first was Chief Justice Taney appointed in 1836 by Andrew Jackson. Taney most famously wrote the majority opinion in the Dred Scott case upholding the legality of slavery. For a little more background:

Hat tip to Yahoo News:

Abortion: Eugenics

As Rush Limbaugh (someone I don't normally listen to, much less heed) pointed out today on the issue of abortion:

Keeping in mind that Planned Parenthood was originally created by Margaret Singer to decimate the black population of America by wiping out its children, there was an interview with Justice Ginsburg, a former NOW lawyer and large, liberal supporter (and Supreme Court Justice) in the New York Times:

"Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion. Which some people felt would risk coercing women into having abortions when they didn’t really want them. But when the court decided McRae, the case came out the other way. And then I realized that my perception of it had been altogether wrong."

That's the quote in its entirety, the context was a question asking : "Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid for abortions for poor women?"

Directly quoted, it sounds like Justice Ginsburg acknowledges the usage of abortion to get rid of selected populations. Limbaugh tied this to the liberal push to fund abortions with medicare - the welfare program that assists poor in America - a predominantly Black and Hispanic group.

More coverage at:
At the conservatice Catholic, Catholic Exchange
And at conservative columnist, Michelle Malkin


This past weekend President Obama met with Pope Benedict XVI following the G8 conference, I'm sure they had a nice little chat. Of course the American Media saw fit to cover this occasion, as they should, and this nice little editorial made an appearance in Newsweek.

In which, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the daughter of Robert Kennedy, former supporter of Hillary Clinton in 2008, and I'm sure a grand representative of Catholicism herself, promoted "Obama's agenda is closer to their [American catholics] views than even the pope's."

Its good to see the media rallying behind a man so holy, so chosen, and so hopeful - someone who has cried out the truth all while creating or saving 3 million jobs. Yes, many of Obama's policies agree with Catholic teaching - just as did many of Bush's - but to have the gall to say that it concurs more than the Pope's and then assert that through the Pope's recent encyclical, is jarring even for the travesty that has become American journalism. As Matthew Balan, a consevative blogger, points out, its especially presumptous to ignore the pro-life elements of Charity in Truth - those put at the front of the encyclical.

I can just see the headlines come Christmas: "Obama more representative of Christians than Jesus."

The Audacity of Pope

I said earlier that I wasn't qualified to comment on the new encyclical.

Here is someone (Ross Douthat) who is:

"But Benedict’s encyclical is nothing if not political. “Caritas in Veritate” promotes a vision of economic solidarity rooted in moral conservatism. It links the dignity of labor to the sanctity of marriage. It praises the redistribution of wealth while emphasizing the importance of decentralized governance. It connects the despoiling of the environment to the mass destruction of human embryos.

This is not a message you’re likely to hear in Barack Obama’s next State of the Union, or in the Republican Party’s response. It represents a kind of left-right fusionism with little traction in American politics.

But that’s precisely what makes it so relevant and challenging — for Catholics and non-Catholics alike."

Do read the whole thing.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Need another reason to love Aquinas?

"It is against reason to be burdensome to others, showing no amusement and acting as a wet blanket. Those others without a sense of fun, who never say anything ridiculous, and are cantankerous with those who do, these are vicious, and called grumpy and rude."

--Summa Theologica, II-II.cxlviii.4