Monthly Archives: April 2004

John Kerry, the Catholic Church, and Abortion

According to the NY Times a few days ago, a “high-ranking Vatican cardinal” says that a Roman Catholic politician (a.k.a. John Kerry) who supports abortion “is not fit” to receive communion. Now from the way the first sentence of this story is phrased, it is not clear whether the Cardinal was condemning the support of abortion (as the article actually says) or whether he was condemning the support of pro-choice policy. The whole article, in fact, keeps talking about “pro-abortion” politicians. Now, I’ve known a lot of pro-choice people in my life, and I can’t think of a single one who could rationally be called “pro-abortion.” Abortion is a terrible thing. It is traumatic for the woman and obviously detrimental to the fetus. (We won’t touch with a 10 foot pole the issue of whether or not the fetus is human.) It is possible from the NY Times story that the cardinal recognized this, but it is far from clear.

So, I want to make the point here that one can be anti-abortion and still be pro-choice. I can state this pretty much as a fact because I, myself, am both anti-abortion (in the sense that I would like for there to be as few abortions as possible in the world) and pro-choice (in the sense that I believe abortion should be a legal medical procedure). Ampersand over at Alas, A Blog explores this issue from the point of view that countries with less restrictive abortion laws actually have lower abortion rates. That’s cool and all, but I think that a broader point can be made.

It is possible to believe that something is immoral and still believe that it should be legal. To say this another way: you can’t (or at least you shouldn’t) legislate morality. I think that writing and distributing vile, racist, sexist essays is immoral. Yet, I don’t think it should be illegal because I think that the right to free speech must encompass the right for others to say things that I find immoral. Making it illegal to distribute essays which are sexist and racist might increase the number of such essays which are distributed or it might decrease the number. I don’t really think it matters. One’s beliefs about issues of legality need not coincide with one’s beliefs about issues of morality. Several of my friends back in Ithaca believed that supporting the war in Iraq was immoral. Yet very few of those people would turn around and claim that it should be illegal for you to support it.

Thus, I can believe that abortion is A Bad Thing (TM) and still believe that the government ought to keep their grubby hands out of it.

Blogs

For a good long while, I was reading a number of the most popular, widely read blogs on the internet. Then, I stopped. I just got tired of the echo chamber, and of reading all the same old crap again and again. Now, the number of blogs that I read is way down, and I pretty much only read blogs of “real people.” These blogs typically have low readership (though perhaps higher than my elite group of readers) and are written by people with whom I have a fair amount in common. I know some of them in real life, but most I don’t. I just ran across their blog and kept coming back. It’s much more pleasurable than the old way. I hope the big guys are having fun in their echo chamber. I prefer it here in mine.

Here’s an undiscovered gem for you from a buddy of mine: Blog Ho!

Mindfulness

A variety of influences lately have pointed me towards trying to live my life more mindfully. First, this is a point hit upon repeatedly by Robert Boice in his book Advice for New Faculty Members. Boice’s approach is strictly secular, but he believes that mindfulness is necessary to the success of young faculty. He has quite a lot of research to back that up, too.

Second, I have just recently started adapting David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology to manage my time. Allen says that the ultimate goal of his methodology is to have a “mind like water.” This is (according to Allen) a martial arts saying referring to the fact that water responds perfectly to anything thrown into it. It does not overreact or underreact; it responds exactly appropriately to its circumstances. Another way of looking at this (and I think Allen uses this word too) is that the goal is to be mindful in ones work and life, always responding appropriately to our circumstances. (For many years I have tried to apply Steven Covey’s methods. Although I learned a lot from Covey, Allen’s methods seem to work better for me so far.) Allen’s mindfulness is also strictly secular.

Finally, I encountered the weblog Unlearned Hand. The author of this weblog, a law student, is also a student of Zen Buddhism. He tries to use Saturday as a “Day of Mindfulness” and often posts a weblog entry related to Zen Buddhism on that day of the week. Although I had encountered “mindfulness” in the other two contexts above, Unlearned Hand’s entry on A Day of Mindfulness, from The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh really brought it home for me.

Although I’m not a Buddhist and I have no plans to become one, it is amazing what one can learn from those on other paths. How’s that for a bit of a different weblog entry?

A Moment for Reflection

Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Rememberence Day began yesterday evening and ended today. If you haven’t done anything to mark this solemn occasion, I would encourage you to do so.

WiMax Much

WiMax is getting lots of press, but the press don’t seem to really understand the differences between WiMax (a standard for wireless broadband) and the wireless LAN standard known as WiFi. Here’s a good article which sums up the main differences. It even makes a passing mention to IEEE 802.20 which is still in the very early stages of development. My own feeling is that both the IEEE and consumers might be better served by a one-size-fits-all standard rather than the hodgepodge of standards we seem headed towards at the moments.